The thought of waking up before 9am on a Saturday may fill most of you with dread. Why on earth would anyone want to be up at that time of day? Well, if you ask that exact question to the 700+ people who make the trip to Endcliffe Park at the end of Ecclesall Road every Saturday, they will say just one thing in reply: ‘Parkrun’.
So what is it? Well Parkrun is a weekly 5km run that starts on a Saturday at 9am. It’s a completely free event run solely by volunteers.
One of the most important things to note is that, although the event is timed, Parkrun is a run NOT a race. This means that anyone, of any ability, can take part. It doesn’t matter if you want to walk, jog or run, everyone is welcome.
It can be really intimidating running alongside others, especially if you are not experienced. That’s the great thing about Parkrun, there are people running it of all abilities. The fastest runners complete it in less than 18 minutes, with others taking up to over an hour. One of the best things about Parkrun is that it is designed for everyone and anyone. Young children take part with their parents, people run it pushing buggies and even being pulled along by dogs – anyone can take part.
5km itself can also seem really far for some people. A great place to start is to do the NHS Couch to 5km program. You can download it as a podcast and it gradually builds you up over time to be able to run 5km, starting with walk-running and building up slowly. But don’t forget, you can also walk the whole 5km at Parkrun, there is no obligation to run at all! A ‘Tail runner’, one of the volunteers helping with the event, stays with the last person the whole way around the course, so you will never be left to run alone. And if you can’t manage the full 5km, there is no commitment to finish, you can stop whenever you want.
So what should you do if you want to take part? You can just turn up at any of the Parkrun locations ready for the 9am Saturday start, line up at the start of the course and of you go. But if you want a time, you need to sign up on the Parkrun website. It hardly takes any time and you will receive a personalised barcode. Once you have printed this, you can then get a time at Parkrun. So when you start the run, someone starts a timer. Someone is then timing each runner who finishes the event and they receive a position token with their position on. Volunteers with barcode scanners (think of a little version of the ones they use in shops) scans your position token and your personalised barcode. Then, give it a couple of hours and you will receive a text and email with your position and time.
And don’t forget, it is always great to get involved on the volunteering side too. You can be a Tail Runner, Timer, Token Giver Outer, Barcode Scanner, or other roles including Marshals, they’re there to help along the course if needed, or just to cheer you on as you go around. If you volunteer 25 times, you receive a free Parkrun purple volunteering top. There are milestone tops for runners too.
If you want to take part, there are various Parkruns dotted around Sheffield. For first year undergraduates living at Endcliffe Village the closest is definitely Sheffield Hallam Parkrun at Endcliffe Park. You could roll out of bed at 8 45 and probably still make it on time for the 9am start. A couple of weeks ago, Jessica Ennis-Hill even turned up to the Encliffe Park event, and ran around with everyone else!
However, there are other events all around Sheffield, all happening at 9am on Saturdays. There is Hillsborough Parkrun in Hillsborough Park, Sheffield Castle Parkrun in Manor Fields Park towards the South East of the city, Graves Parkrun in Graves Park towards the South of the city and Concord Parkrun in Concord Park North of the city.
And if you get the Parkrun bug, the events run all over the UK and even the rest of the world. So when you aren’t in Sheffield, you can always try doing some Parkrun ‘tourism’ (visiting a different Parkrun).