4 reasons to try Parkrun, the free global running event, this weekend

Whether you're a seasoned pro or a relative newcomer, Parkrun is an inclusive, fun and free way to exercise

A multi-generational group of runners
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The pandemic threw our fitness routines off-course in early 2020, when most gyms, fitness centers and exercise classes were forced to close their doors. Fortunately, these measures are starting to ease, so you might have returned to the gym, rejoined in-person exercise classes, and got your fitness goals back on track. 

Now, there's good news for runners as the community Parkrun events have returned in most locations. Parkrun is a free 5km run held each Saturday at locations around the world, including the UK, US, Europe, Russia, South Africa and Japan.

There are more than 2,000 locations worldwide, so you should be able to find one nearby. So, set your alarm and lace up a set of the best running shoes for men or the best running shoes for women, as here are four great reasons to give Parkrun a go this weekend. 

1. You don't have to be a pro runner

If someone mentioned running a 5K race, you probably imagine elite runners, training regimes and a precision diet. Fortunately, Parkrun is different. The Saturday event is open to all levels of experience, whether you're a seasoned runner or you've never gone out for a jog before, with an estimated 350,000 people turning up across the globe each weekend. 

In fact, you don't even have to run at all, as 'Tail Walkers' do the route while walking, chatting and making sure everyone is having a good time. 

So if you've been looking for how to get fit, the Parkrun community can help you stay motivated, and you might even make some new friends. Parkrun is inclusive, too, as you can complete the route with a pram, your dog or in a wheelchair. 

2. It improves your health

There's no doubt that exercise is good for you. Regular physical activity improves your overall health, reduces the risk of disease, counters the effects of depression and anxiety, helps reduce stress and promotes weight loss, especially if you use the best exercises for weight loss. But you probably already knew that.

So, what about Parkrun specifically? In 2019, the organization commissioned an independent survey of over 60,000 participants. An incredible 91% said they felt a sense of personal achievement, 89% saw improvements to their fitness, while an impressive 69% said attending Parkrun improved their mental health. 

3. There's no pressure to hit time targets

To participate in Parkrun, you only need to register on the website and keep your unique barcode with you. Volunteers scan your barcode at the start and end of the run to record your time. Some people attach it to their top or keep a printout in their wallet. You can even choose to get it printed on a wristband to wear each Saturday.

These results are later uploaded to the Parkrun website so you can monitor your performance over time. If you find this a bit overwhelming, you can still take part without a barcode, and you won't have your time recorded. And, if the public results put you off, you could privately monitor your performance with one of the best running watches instead. 

4. It's free

If you've ever taken out a membership to a fitness center, you'll know that it can quickly become an expensive habit. Many outdoor running races even charge somewhere between $10 and $50 for entry. Parkrun, however, is entirely free; all you need to do is turn up. 

There's no additional cost for the time tracking either, just register on the website and make sure you have your barcode with you each Saturday. Though, it's always worth having one of the best water bottles handy to keep hydrated around the 5km route. 

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.