23 Jan

Diagnosis: Parkrunner's High!

parkrun spirit

Everyone has heard about the feel-good endorphins responsible for the 'runner's high'. Now a new variant has been formally recognised by a team of experts: the parkrunner's high!

The first weekend of 2018 saw a new global record for parkrun participation as 236,000 people ran, jogged or walked the free, weekly events and 19,000 heroes volunteered their services to make it all happen safely and smoothly.
 
What started as a timed run for a few friends at Bushy Park in 2004 has blossomed into the worldwide phenomenon that is parkrun today. It is still primarily about running 5k at your own pace and checking the results for any sign of improvement but a recent study suggests that parkrun may be much more than just a run in the park.
 
Researchers from Nottingham Trent University have found that people who participate in parkrun feel they belong to a supportive community which encourages conversation while exercising together; enhancing wellbeing; promoting social togetherness and having fun.
 
The study - reported in Leisure Sciences - found that 94% of people who attended a parkrun more than three times a month felt a real sense of community and this feeling of belonging became an important and positive aspect for them attending. Runners taking part in parkrun at Colwick in Nottinghamshire were interviewed as part of the study.
 
The study also found participants felt no pressure to perform but the competition element was important to them and seeing their finish time recorded on the website gave them a sense of aspiration. Further positive aspects of parkrun included the chance to exercise and interact with others as equals; accessibility of parkrun and the convenient time; the encouragement of others and the improved confidence that engendered, especially in first timers. 
 
Dr David Hindley, senior lecturer in Sport Education in the university’s School of Science and Technology, said: “Whilst it is important not to lose sight of the instrumental health benefits that accrue from exercise, the findings draw our attention to the value participants place on the social features in the parkrun experience. Moreover, when reflecting upon the implications of this study, it is important to consider the key design characteristics of parkrun which serve to minimise barriers, whilst facilitating initial engagement, social support, cohesion and helping others.”
 
Today's parkrun has evolved enormously and it means different things to different people. To discover what the parkrun experience might mean to you click here to find your local event.
 
Image courtesy parkrun