What are parkruns?

There are currently 548 parkruns across the UK (www.parkrun.org.uk). Participant numbers vary from parkrun to parkrun with some having an average of 50 whilst others sometimes have over 1000. They take place on Saturday mornings (at 9am in England and Wales and 9.30am in Northern Ireland and Scotland) and are free, weekly, timed, 5k ‘runs’ that are a great way to improve your fitness and engage with your local community. People of all ages and abilities take part with as many people walking or jogging as running. At every parkrun there is always a ‘tail walker’, so although it is possible for you to be 1st – if you can run really fast! – it is not possible for you to be last. There are also often ‘run buddies’ if people want some extra support and encouragement and sometimes ‘pacers’ if people are aiming to finish in a specific time.

Goalball player Louise Simpson at Fulham Palace parkrun with her guide runner

How does it work?

About 10 minutes before the start of the parkrun (so 8.50am or 9.20am), participants gather at a designated meeting point for a ‘Briefing’. This will include a description of the course (which is also available on each parkrun’s website), some safety messages, a welcome to any new parkrunners and any parkrun ‘tourists’ (i.e. visitors from another parkrun) and recognition of any significant milestones (e.g. if someone is doing their 50th or 100th parkrun) or celebrations (e.g. birthdays and anniversaries).

Some courses are single laps, some are multiple laps and some are simply ‘out and backs’. Regardless, there will be a steady flow of people to follow (unless you are leading!) and marshalls all around the course directing you where to go as well as providing lots of encouragement.

Dogs, not just guide dogs, are welcome at the majority of parkruns but if you do have a guide dog and don’t want to walk/jog/run with them, there will be a volunteer available to ‘dog sit’.

When you cross the finish line, be it after 20 minutes or an hour, a volunteer will immediately hand you a ‘finish token’. You then take this to another volunteer who will ‘scan’ your finish token and then your barcode (see below) which will record your time.

Afterwards, there is usually a designated café (in the park or nearby) where participants can have a drink and socialise (if they wish).

Anthony O'Keefe at Hillsborough parkrun with his guide runner on the day

What is ‘parkrun to the Paralympics’?

In preparation for the new goalball season, we want to encourage as many Goalball UK members as possible to go along to their nearest parkrun. We want this to become a weekly habit rather than just a one-off event (which will help raise awareness of goalball within the parkrun community and therefore hopefully attract potential new players, coaches, officials and volunteers to the goalball community.)

So, on Saturday 25th August, we are launching our ‘parkrun to the Paralympics’ campaign. This particular date has been chosen as it marks exactly 2 years to the start of the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. The idea is that, collectively, we are going to try and virtually run the distance from our HQ (at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield) to the Makuhari Messe Hall (in Tokyo) where the goalball tournament is being held – this is 9440km which equates to 1888 parkruns!

Our progress will be tracked on a weekly basis with prizes being awarded to the members who complete the most number of parkruns (between August 2018 and August 2020).

So what do I need to do?

Firstly, you need to register on the parkrun website (https://www.parkrun.org.uk/register/) and print out your unique barcode. You then need to find the nearest parkrun to you (https://www.parkrun.org.uk/events/events/). If you need help with any of the above, or require a guide to walk/jog/run with you, please let Kathryn know (Tel. 07795 263642 or email kathryn@goalballuk.com). There is also a VI parkrunners facebook group that you can join (https://www.facebook.com/groups/parkrun.for.people.living.with.sight.loss) to ask questions and find answers.

A couple of hours after you have finished your parkrun, you will receive a confirmation text and/or an email. Please forward this to Kathryn who will add your 5k to the collective distance. Remember that the time in which you complete the 5k is irrelevant, it is completing the 5k which is important.

You can also get your family and friends involved as well. If they don’t want to walk/jog/run they can volunteer (for a variety of different roles) because, like with goalball, parkrun isn’t possible without volunteers.

The Goalball UK staff team will be launching the campaign on Saturday 25th August at Concord parkrun in Sheffield – which is the nearest to the EIS. If you would like to come along and join us, picks up from Meadowhall Interchange at 8.30am can be arranged. Alternatively, go along to your nearest parkrun ………..and then again the week after, and the week after, and the week after!

If you have any questions whatsoever, contact Kathryn or Steve (Tel. 07706 286584 or email Steve.Cox@goalballuk.com) who are both parkrun ‘addicts’! Likewise Louise Simpson and Anthony O’Keefe (both from South Yorkshire Goalball Club), Phil Green (West Yorkshire Goalball Club), Andrea Logan (Glasgow Goalball Club) and the Payne family (from Derbyshire Ducks Goalball Club) are all regular parkrunners and will be able to offer you advice.