Held every Saturday on the Rock Creek Trail, parkrun is a totally free 5k race. You register online to receive a barcode that you use to check in at the race and to claim your finish time. It’s always run on the same course, and finish times range from 16 minutes to 70 minutes; and there are usually 25-50 participants (more in the summer).
Usually, people come by themselves or with their friends, but on Saturday, February 22, parkrun is hosting a Club Run Day. If you’re part of a club, team, or just have relay teammates that all have the same shirt, come on out! Club Run Day at parkrun is still free, just with an added element to make it more fun. There are a lot of teams in the area that will likely duke it out, so get your friend groups together and make your own head to head competitions!
Our local parkrun is organized by a small group of about eight volunteers, including Chris Cullen, who discovered parkrun in 2013 while he was living in the U.K. Afterwards, he started one here because of “how unhealthy the U.S. is,” and because he liked the concept: a free run, held on a consistent schedule, accessible to anyone who wants to come. Cullen has been to nearly all the events, sometimes as a runner but usually as a volunteer.
parkrun, although it’s free, does have some costs – equipment such as volunteer vests and flags aren’t free, and someone’s gotta have a computer for timing. The parkrun organization manages the website and registration software, so there’s a $5,000 start-up fee for each location. (Side note: if your business wants to make a donation to help with this fee, contact us and we’ll put you in touch with Chris. In the U.K. there are some national sponsors that have covered the bulk of costs. Likewise, if you’re interested in starting up another parkrun in the metro area, Chris would be happy to share the Rock Creek group’s experience.)
Chris says that many of the participants come almost every week. “parkrun becomes a staple in people’s weekly schedule,” he says. “I know if has now for me, and I actually enjoy volunteering as much as, if not more than running it now. That is partly due to all the new friendships many of us have made. That is something which distinguishes parkrun from commercial races. People get to know each other since parkrun is weekly, and you look forward to seeing each other each week. We always go for coffee afterwards to chat and process the results too.”
With the weather getting nicer, there’s no better time to check out parkrun. Dogs are welcome, the path is stroller-friendly, and it’s a great time to bring your young runner and make it a family affair! And even if you don’t have a club or team, the February 22 event should be a lot of fun to run and watch the competition. And if you can’t make it this weekend, or next weekend … parkrun happens every Saturday, year-round!