On 02 October 2004, a group of 13 mates decided to get together at their local park and go for a run. The venue was Bushy Park in Teddington, an affluent suburb in South West London, and the group decided that 5K would be long enough to make it a challenge but short enough to be achievable for everyone.

14 years later, in October 2018, the five-millionth park runner signed up. Parkruns take place in countries across the globe, including Australia, the USA, Russia, Japan and even Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), to name but a few. The internet has proved to be instrumental in the success of parkrun. Just as you can log on to Unibet to check the odds or ESPN to catch up with the scores, you can check the finishing times for each and every Parkrun from the Parkrun website.

Humble beginnings

For the first couple of years, Parkrun remained a weekly event at a specific location. All that really changed between 2004 and 2006 was that more and more people started to turn up. As the word spread, it was easier to get volunteers to help out with the organisation, administration and timekeeping. Paper-based records shifted online and the organisers created simple finish tokens to replace the washers from the DIY store that were handed out to winners in the first few weeks.

By the end of 2006, over 300 people were regularly turning up for Parkrun, and more than 9,000 ran over the course of the year. It was time to scale things up.

The gradual roll out

Parkrun was clearly a winning formula, so identical events were arranged at parks in Wimbledon, Banstead and Richmond, which are all London suburbs, as well as Leeds, in northern England, and Brighton on the south coast. The number of runners also increased to almost 25,000.

A global phenomenon is born

The first parkrun to take place outside the UK was in Zimbabwe in 2007, although this no longer operates. Denmark joined the fun in 2009, and Parkrun made its Australian debut at Main Beach on the Gold Coast in 2011. There are now parkrun events taking place every week across the country. In 2012, Parkrun launched in the USA and annual runner numbers exceeded the magic million.

An event for everyone

Go to any park run and you will see serious runners who turn up every week and try to smash their PBs and defeat their rivals. After they have gone streaking by, however, you see the fun runners, the kids, the mum’s pushing pushchairs, the people with dogs, the grandparents with walking sticks and more. Whichever event you attend, anywhere on the globe, the ethos of inclusivity is plain for all to see, and this is what has made Parkrun such a successful institution.

If Parkrun has not reached your local park yet, then why not do something about it? All you have to do is provide some details online and you can get the ball rolling.