Parkrun clubs mix world class and weekend warriors

Wed Oct 8, 2008 3:50pm EDT
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By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Forget billions of pounds worth of "2012 Olympic legacy" - the perfect model for grass roots sports participation in and around London is already firmly in place in the form of the thriving "parkrun" movement.

What began four years ago as a dozen friends meeting for a regular weekend 5 km run over the same course in one of the country's most beautiful parks, has developed into 11 weekly events around Britain, all run by volunteers and all completely free of charge.

Standards range from world class - Olympians Sonia O'Sullivan of Ireland and Australian Craig Mottram are the holders of the respective course records of 16.22 and 14.00 - to those who need a sit-down to help them round.

The procedure could not be simpler. Anyone wanting to take part registers once online at and after that merely needs to turn up and run at 9 a.m. every Saturday.

There are no numbers to pin on, no registration, no I.D. or club membership checks, no security, no portable toilets -- no hassles.

Once you finish you are handed a disc with your finishing position, you give that to a volunteer with a laptop and are home, spiritually and physically uplifted, in time for breakfast.

Later that day you will get an email with your time and position while the website carries full historical results with all sorts of added information.

There has never been a race cancellation, though a temporary re-routing once became necessary once when a huge herd of Bushy Park deer took a shine to the finish area. Sunshine or snow, the race is run, with a Christmas Day special also surprisingly popular.   Continued...

<p>Joggers run past a barrier which shields London's Olympic Park building site from view next to a canal August 24, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Winning</p>