If you were near Fleming Park last Saturday morning (21st April) you might have seen a number of tutu-clad people – both male and female – heading to or from Dragonfly Park. What was going on? Was it a flash-mob performance of Swan Lake? A group of half-hearted entrants to a drag-queen competition? Take-your-ballet-dancer to work day?
The reason was far more exciting than those possibilities. It was the occasion of the 400th Eastleigh parkrun, and the event organisers thought that a tutu-wearing event would be a good way to celebrate. They weren’t far wrong, as many of the 280 runners obliged. Even if some got the wrong end of the stick and wore this Tutu …
… rather than this one!
The weather has not been kind to Eastleigh parkrun this winter and spring, and the 400th run has been a long time coming. The ground has been so wet and muddy that this was only the sixth run this year. parkrun is very conscious of its obligations to both participants and parks and will not take place if there is a risk of damage to one or the other.
The runners take these cancellations in their stride (no pun intended), taking up the opportunity for some ‘parkrun tourism’ – visiting other events in the area. One of the great things about parkrun is that you can take your barcode and run at any event in the world, where you will always be guaranteed a warm and enthusiastic welcome.
In the “Eastleigh Tourism Season” I have run at Southampton, Portsmouth, Netley Abbey, and Whiteley. Other runs within a similar distance I could have tried include Winchester, Lee-on-the-Solent, Fareham and Southsea.
The success of Eastleigh parkrun
The first Eastleigh parkrun was held on 8th May 2010 at Lakeside Country Park and attracted 54 runners who were helped by 7 volunteers. Saturday’s 400th, at Dragonfly park, attracted 280 runners and 34 volunteers. Those figures testify to the success of parkrun.
In those 400 runs:
- 9,190 different people have run at Eastleigh parkrun, completing 69,598 parkruns between them. That’s a distance of 348,490 km (217,806 miles) – over eight times round the equator – not that I’d recommend anyone to run around the equator; a spring morning at Dragonfly park is quite warm enough.
- The most runners at an event was 430, on 6 May 2017 and the least was 9, on 18 December 2010 (maybe that was a particularly cold and wet day).
- The fastest times have been 15:18 (male) and 18:02 (female). For those who like figures in old money, that’s average speeds of 12.2 and 10.3 miles per hour respectively. I think I’d struggle to cycle at that speed!
But what these statistics don’t measure is how many people have been introduced to running by parkrun; how many have progressed to more frequent runs and/or longer distances; and the general benefits to the health and wellbeing that parkrun has brought them. Because that is the ethos of parkrun. It’s not a race; it’s a run. It doesn’t have winners; it has first finishers; it’s not about being fast; it’s about taking part. It doesn’t have runners and non-runners; it has parkrunners.
The success of parkrun worldwide
The annual parkrun run report was published recently. parkrun was proud to report that the average time to complete a parkrun is gradually increasing. At first, that statement seems oxymoronic – being proud that people are getting slower. As with many statistics, the story behind them is more important than the figures themselves. Regular parkrunners may well increase their fitness and speed. But this is counteracted by the thousands of previously inactive people have used parkrun as a start to a more active and healthier lifestyle. And that is something to be proud of.