WHENEVER I mention to someone that I parkrun the question I almost always get in return is ‘what is parkrun?’ Reporter Jessica Nico explains.
I can give you the official spiel, that parkrun is a free weekly volunteer-run 5km event held in 34 places around WA where attendees can run, jog, walk, dance or even cartwheel their way across the course, with no pressure to beat anyone or the clock.
But to me, and many others across Perth, parkrun is so much more.
I stumbled across the concept in August last year when I attended the launch of the Tamworth Wetlands course in Baldivis, purely to see whether I could do it.
Up until then I was used to walking around the neighbourhood but I was too embarrassed to jog, ashamed of my body shape, running style and speed (or lack thereof).
When I started that first event my prevailing thought was “Why am I here?” but little did I know that by the time I crossed the finish line I would be hooked.
Now with more than 30 parkruns under my belt and having also volunteered a handful of times, I see why those who told me to try it had raved about it so much.
Rain, hail or shine the happy atmosphere at parkrun is infectious, high-fives are readily given and everyone is smiling and shouting words of encouragement.
In the end that’s why people parkrun. Not only do they get the physical benefits of starting their Saturday morning with some exercise, they also get a great mental health boost, are welcomed into an accepting community and make some great friends along the way.
TAMWORTH WETLANDS PARKRUN
With just 47 runs ticked off and an average of 90 attendees a week, Tamworth Wetlands parkrun in Baldivis might be smaller than neighbours Rockingham, but run directors Sharon Chetwynd and Gerry Ligtermoet say they offer one of the most unique courses in the state.
“Parkrun is for everyone, the walkers, the parents with prams and kids, the runners just wanting to run 5kms or the super speedsters looking for a personal best,” Ms Chetwynd said.
“Tamworth Wetlands parkrun is special as it’s not a paved or bitumen pathway, it’s a trail parkrun.
“Tamworth Wetlands is a reserve and therefore home to a great number of native birds and wildlife and kangaroos are a common occurrence on parkrun mornings.”
Mr Ligtermoet, who uses walking poles, said he was concerned his health wouldn’t allow him to do 5km but more than 50 parkruns later he had proved himself wrong.
“I gave it a go. My first ‘run’ took 1 hour 5mins with a rest half way, but I came back a second time and reduced my time.
“After 59 runs/walks I have a personal best of 47 minutes.
“Give parkrun a go as it is a family friendly way to challenge each other and help kept yourself fit.”
Rockingham is one of the most popular courses in the southern suburbs, providing a picturesque backdrop for the scores who turn up each week.
One of the biggest in WA at an average of 220 parkrunners per event, run director Liz Robinson said she had also fallen in love with it almost immediately.
“I’ve always enjoyed running on my own but after a friend told me about about Rockingham parkrun I gave it a go and was immediately impressed by the friendly community spirit,” she said.
“I think the thing that keeps people coming back week after week is that whether people jog, run or walk it doesn’t matter, everyone is supportive of everyone else.
“The existence of parkrun is vital to give our community the feeling of being a valued part of something special, experiencing the enjoyment and mental wellbeing of exercising outdoors, getting people out of the house once a week to see familiar faces, and all for free.
“We’d love you to come and give Rockingham parkrun a go, you’ve nothing to lose and before you know it you might be there every Saturday morning swapping your lazy lay-in for fresh air, new friends and fun.”
DESCRIBED as an attractive tourist event, Cottesloe’s parkrun attracts not only local residents who love a jog along the coast but also overseas travellers.
Event Director Ally O’Rourke said a unique selling point of Cottesloe parkrun was its coastal route and it being the only event that offers an 800m run along the beach.
“It was cold two weeks ago and we had 120 people turn out,” she said.
“We have a lot of people from overseas here in summer who join in.”
Ms O’Rourke became part of the Cottesloe parkrun family in 2017 and has completed 47 runs and jogged a total of 235km.
She was first introduced to the community event when she was going for her regular jog in Cottesloe on a Saturday morning.
“I used to jog in the mornings and witness all these people jogging,” she said.
“I wanted to meet people and be committed to doing exercise at the same time.”
Ms O’Rourke said she has also participated in parkrun’s in Europe, Singapore and the UK.
PERRY LAKES PARKRUN
PERRY Lakes parkrun is less than a year old and already has about 156 runners turning out for an early Saturday morning jog every week.
Event Director Jon Storey, who founded the first ever parkrun Claisebrook Cove in East Perth, has taken part in 86 different parkrun’s in six different countries around the world.
Mr Storey has completed 335 parkrun’s and jogged a total of 1675km, taking part in the weekly event for 10 years.
“I immigrated to Australia in 2012 from the UK and set up WA’s first ever parkrun and then I started getting inquiries from other people whether they wanted to help or set up more and now there are 34 different parkrun’s in WA,” he said.
“In 2009 I trained for the Great Manchester 10km run for six months and after doing that I looked at what I could do next.
“One of my colleagues who ran with me during that run found a parkrun in Greater Manchester and I gave it a go.”
Mr Storey said each parkrun provides a family atmosphere, no matter which one you attend.
“I now take part in parkrun every week – I do it with my wife, son, daughter and dog Holly,” he said.
BIBRA LAKE PARKRUN
Bibra Lake is one of the most popular courses in the southern suburbs, providing a picturesque backdrop for the scores who turn up each week.
At an average of 139 parkrunners per event, which easily climbs to more than 200 during the warmer months, event directors April Morgan and Tay Alers say they both had their reasons for joining parkrun but agree they had fallen in love with it almost immediately.
“There’s a really strong feeling of community – seeing other people want to improve, people enjoy themselves, it’s a feel good thing,” Mr Alers said.
“When I started it was just me trying to push myself for a good time every week,” Ms Morgan added.
“Now my whole family come, some of my closest friends are people I’ve met at parkrun.
“I love that when I go to a new city, I can find a parkrun and instantly find like minded people and see a different part of a town or city.”
They said it was one of the only activities where people of all ages, sizes and abilities could join in and have fun.
“Our course is really flat, and unlike other parkrun events is one directional – a lot of the newer courses involve a turn around point or two,” Mr Alers said.
“Parkrun isn’t a race but most of us like a personal challenge, whether that’s participating a certain number of times to reach a milestone or volunteering or visiting different parkruns around the state or country,” Ms Morgan said.
“Once you get to know the parkrun community it’s very hard to be anywhere else at 8am on Saturday morning.
“It’s such a simple concept but so brilliant.”
With 121 runs ticked off and an average of 51 attendees a week, Calleya parkrun might be smaller than neighbours Bibra Lake, but event director Julie Carter says all great things usually came in small packages.
“I love the ‘family’ we have created at Calleya,” she said.
“The camaraderie and support that everyone there gives each other, the feeling of being out there on a Saturday morning, of knowing that I have done some exercise even if it is only walking at a brisk pace.
“We are a three lap course which makes for awesome high fives from the volunteers and makes it a fabulous course for pram runners and the little ones if they need to stop before the finish.”
She said her initiation into parkrun had come at the hands of her sister, who was visiting from England.
“She called me one day to tell me she had registered me and that we would do it together,” she said.
“My reply to her was, you have to be kidding me, I cant even run 500m let alone 5km.
“I never thought I would be able to complete 5k in an hour yet my personal best is 32.12.
“You never know what you can do if you don’t give it a go.
“We are such a fun and welcoming group , whether you are a runner, jogger, walker or even recovering from injury or even surgery, you can come along and try it out.”
THE organisers of Applecross parkrun believe they have Perth’s version of the craze and it is not just because of their pristine location along the river.
“The reason that we are the best is because we give out the most high-fives,” run director Sarah Burgess said.
“We just celebrated our second birthday on May 4 and we had a Star Wars-themed celebration.
“We have up to 130 people but usually about 100 people turn up.
“It’s an inclusive activity, all ages and abilities are welcome and you don’t even have to worry about doing the whole 5km.”
Applecross parkrun takes place at Jeff Joseph Reserve on Saturdays at 8am.
People take part for free but are asked to register via www.parkrun.com.au/applecross before their first run.
BURSWOOD PENINSULA PARKRUN
THE Burswood peninsula has been visited by parkrun runners on a Saturday morning for the past ten months
Burswood Peninsula parkrun spans a 5km trail off Camfield Drive on Saturday at 8am.
Lathlain resident Clinton Bishop said he was inspired to start a parkrun in Burswood and became the event director when it started in August last year.
“A friend invited me along a few years back and I went to the Canning river park run for their first park run,” he said.
“We’re not yet a year old…it’s central and it’s close and people like the idea.”
Mr Bishop said parkruns weren’t about the fastest runners but for the social gathering with the river backdrop behind them.
“I’m not a great runner necessarily but everyone is having a go and improving on their own performance,” he said.
Burswood Peninsula parkrun has an average of 75 runners for each session and boasts 1263 runners in total.
CLAISEBROOK COVE PARKRUN
THE East Perth chapter of parkrun was WA’s first, and has been hosting runners of all ages for almost seven years.
The 5km course begins in Mardalup Park, winding around by the river before ending up in Victoria Gardens, with spectacular views of the Matagarup Bridge and Optus Stadium throughout.
Volunteer run director Stephanie Stepkowski has been heading to the course for the past year with her little ones.
“My sister is involved in parkrun in Bathurst in New South Wales, she started the run there,” she said.
“When we went to visit, we did it a couple of times.
“I wanted to be doing some exercise here so found a parkrun, and this one is beautiful.”
Before long, Ms Stepkowski was volunteering and helping to run the event.
Any age can join in the event, with kids able to officially register from four years old.
“The girls love helping me [organise the event],” Ms Stepkowski said.
“When we do it, the girls call it being boss of parkrun. They’re very heavily involved and enjoy it.”
Ms Stepkowski said the best thing about the event was the community.
“I love the fitness part of it, but once you start coming along and know faces and names, it’s so fun,” she said.
“It’s that sense of belonging to something.”
The Claisebrook Cove runners are set to celebrate seven years of parkrun on August 3, and aim to draw their biggest crowd yet.
What do I need to parkrun?
– Visit www.parkrun.com.au to find an event near you and to register
-Print off your barcode and take it with you to the event
-You will receive a finish token when you complete the course, take that and your barcode to be scanned
-Congratulations, you’ve finished a parkrun and will be emailed your time
-Don’t forget to take your barcode every time you do a parkrun
— Reporter Jessica Nico fell in love with the global parkrun craze.