The final Saturday of July will mark the first anniversary of Dartford parkrun – a weekly Saturday morning timed run around Dartford’s outstanding Central Park.
The parkrun movement started in October 2004 in Bushy Park, Teddington, before slowly branching out to other venues and countries. There are now over 330 parkrun locations in the UK (as well as over 300 more across the world), and we finally acquired our own parkrun in July 2014, when myself and a team of local runners and co-ordinators worked in partnership with Dartford Borough Council to install the event here in Dartford.
I’ve had the unique privilege of meeting hundreds of people through Dartford parkrun, and seeing them realise achievements they might have thought were out of reach. Although the idea is so simple – a run, jog, or brisk walk round the park with like-minded people, it has inspired hundreds to attend on a regular basis to increase their fitness, score a new Personal Best, and meet new people in the process. A countless number of people have told me that they’re ‘not really a good runner’, yet they come along each week, and before too long, they’re completing a 5km run in times that they wouldn’t have thought possible. A lot of them go on to join a local running club, and take part in other events, and it was no surprise at all that a lot of the regular parkrunners, whose running began with our weekly run around the park, completed the Dartford Half Marathon earlier this year.
Since July 2014, over 1,200 different people have completed over 5,000 parkruns in Dartford alone. Or to put that differently – we’ve run the circumference of the entire planet together in just one year in Central Park!
The fundamental key to the success of parkrun isn’t that we give any coaching or advice to the parkrunners. We simply create a safe, supporting environment, in which everyone is welcome regardless of their background, and with the runners taking turns to volunteer to support the event through course marshalling and timekeeping etc, we can pass on the benefits of an organised running event absolutely free to the participants. All we ask of the runners is that they remember to bring their unique printed ID barcode, and we’ll do the rest of the work required to organise a timed running event, and give the runners their results and stats on our website. And because parkrun has so many venues now, each registered parkrunner can visit any other parkrun venue, and enjoy the same experience for free.
Here’s the questions and comments I get asked all the time by those wishing to take part:
- “I’m not fast enough” – Don’t worry. You can take as long as you like. There really is no minimum ability requirements, as long as you’re fit and well enough to run, jog or walk 5km.
- “I don’t want to come last” – You won’t come last. We have a tail-runner every week so that nobody gets left behind, and they’ll be finishing last!
- “I’m not good at getting up early on Saturdays!” – Maybe if you just changed this one thing, then all sorts of other changes could follow?
- “Isn’t this just something for young people?” – No. The youngest participants have been 4 years old, and the oldest was 81!
Please visit www.parkrun.org.uk/dartford for more information on how to take part. Runners may take part from the age of 4 upwards, but must be accompanied along the run by an adult until they are 11 years old. Runners may bring one dog each, as long as they remain on a short lead.