The Journey to junior parkrun

Like most great ideas the idea of setting up a junior parkrun in my home town of Exeter came to me and a running buddy in the pub!  After a great, sunny Killerton parkrun on that Saturday morning the conversation turned to running (As it always does when you are with running friends) and how much our children enjoyed it too but found the 5km a little too far,  We had heard a little about junior parkruns and that they had begun to pop up over the country and by last orders we had pledged to set one up in our own local park.

Myself and Owen another fellow teacher are both members of a team called Heavitree Parklife who are a community charity trying to take over the control of our local park from the city council to develop more community based projects and activities and make it a community hub.  With Parklife we felt the venture was a true goer!  So the next task was to get the ball rolling.

At this point we had no idea of what we would need to do to get to the start line of our first run but a quick call to the parkrun team made that much clearer:

  1. Choose a venue that you have access to (You need to get written permission from the owners)  Luckily Exeter City Council are very keen to get ‘Fit City’ status so were more than helpful to get the ball rolling and have continued to throughout.
  2. Check that you can get a 2km run in safely in your venue.  We had to do this by having a 2 lap course which worried us but it has worked well. This needs to be measured with a trundle wheel.
  3. Raise £3000 as part of the set costs and commitment.  To set up a parkrun it roughly costs £6000 to set up, so you have to raise half to show a commitment.  Luckily once again Active Devon (Local County Sports Partnership) were very keen to help and also the Exeter City Council helped with money from their Rugby World Cup Legacy fund (Exeter is a host city)  Active Devon were great at taking this stress from us so money was not a worry.
  4. Meet you local parkrun rep.  Our local rep, John has been fantastic.  He met with us on several occasions as well as he was on the end of a phone to talk through any issues.  Mainly things about logistics, volunteer numbers and paperwork!
  5. Make it official! several emails and documents were sent back and forth to show our commitment and then we were all systems go! Heavitree junior parkrun was born.
  6. Create your Team & do the Training!  You definitely need a team.  We have 2 Event Directors (Me and Owen) 5 Run Directors and a team of over 20 regular volunteers.  With systems to learn, Safeguarding and Paperwork to fill in and create this took a little time!
  7. Receive your equipment. parkrun send everything you will need to run a run, laptop, scanners, hi-viz, signs, cones as well as having an on-line resource for common documents/support.  We spent a night getting our kit ready, tieing signs to stakes, sticking labels onto tags.
  8. Set a date.  parkrun only like to launch 2 new runs each month so this was a little harder than first thought.  You need to run a practice event with a few Guinea pigs before you run you first run and they ideally need to be a week apart.
  9. Get Running!  The stress of the first run was quite huge!  Will we have enough Volunteers?  Will it go OK? will children turn up?  However it went very smoothly with 72 runners.
  10. Enjoy, Improve and Grow  We are now on run 7 and are continually tweaking our organisation and event.  Children are now coming along with friends and we are averaging about 85 runners a week.  parkrun are very keen for runs to grow organically, as a competitive person I struggled with this but I can see why.  We have grown in numbers each week, this has allowed us to develop our organisation and systems over time rather than being at DEFCON 1 on the first morning!

Setting up in the mornings has gone from 45 mins to 20 in the last 3 weeks and the numbers of runners grows on a weekly basis and we hope to beat the magic 100 this Sunday.  Our team has grown and we are training new run directors up so Owen and I do not need to lead each week, volunteers are coming back week on week and the sun has shone so far! (we know this will change!)

So do I regret that evening in the pub? Not in your Nelly! Seeing those smiling faces on a Sunday morning and knowing I’m helping to keep the next generation interested in being healthy and to love running makes the early Sunday mornings and missing my own run time truly worth while!

Happy Running! 😉


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