Parkrun chief ‘proud’ of charity’s growth as they celebrate their anniversary… with popular 5km runs which started at Bushy Park now taking place in countries including Australia and New Zealand

  • The parkrun charity’s weekly runs are hugely popular across UK and abroad
  • Their first event was held in Bushy Park, London and has grown in popularity
  • This year, 35,221 people have volunteered for the first time at 18,696 parkruns

Parkrun’s global CEO says that he’s proud of the charity’s continued growth as it celebrates its 19th anniversary today.

The charity’s weekly 5km runs are hugely popular across the UK and further afield in places like Australia, and New Zealand.

Russ Jefferys admits such a milestone provides a perfect opportunity to look back on how far the organisation has come since its first event in Bushy Park, London, in 2004.

‘What parkrun has achieved over those years is pretty extraordinary,’ Jefferys told Mail Sport. 

‘It’s nice to have an opportunity like the anniversary to reflect on some of those achievements. It’s almost like watching your children grow up, I think you blink and miss it.

Parkrun is celebrating its 19th anniversary after growing from a run in Bushy Park (pictured) to further afield in countries like Australia and New Zealand

‘It’s amazing to think back to when it started in Bushy Park. I think some of the very best ideas tend to be created by people that are trying to solve a problem that they’ve got.

‘But what Paul [Sinton-Hewitt, parkrun founder] didn’t realise was [how big] the need is for weekly physical activity and being together with your mates. 

‘That sense of belonging isn’t unique to Paul, we all need that. I think that’s probably why it’s a good reason why it’s been so successful.’

One man who is all too aware of those benefits is John Liddle, co-run director at Hillsborough parkrun in Sheffield.

‘It’s two or three hours out of their time every Saturday morning – we have the run, then we go to a coffee shop and have a slice of toast or a piece of cake we chat about life.

It’s a lot more than just a 5km run, jog or walk in the park, it is a community. We’re in the north-west of Sheffield. It’s blue-collar working class and there’s nothing wrong with that. It is a nice thing to do because it’s free of charge. It’s just a great thing to put on which benefits the local community and the volunteers.’

So far this year 35,221 people have volunteered for the first time at 18,696 parkruns across the UK. A total of 791,288 people have volunteered globally since parkrun’s inception.

Hundreds of thousands of people have volunteered for their local parkrun events since 2004

Hundreds of thousands of people have volunteered for their local parkrun events since 2004

Jefferys says without volunteers giving up their time, it would not be feasible to deliver parkruns across the world.

‘We worked out very roughly that every event, every weekend costs us about £83 to deliver,’ he said. ‘[That’s] course design, insurance, volunteer management, risk assessment, results processing

‘It’s an astonishingly cost-effective model made possible by the massive contribution of volunteers, which is central to the whole model.

‘I think the challenge for us is to help people understand that whilst it is free to participate in, it is not free to deliver. We can’t and shouldn’t be motivated on trying to reduce the cost of event delivery. But if we are to be double in size over the next five years, we’ll need to be having double the revenue in five years’ time too.’