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Parkrun: What to expect

Want to give parkrun a go? Here's everything you need to know for your first time.

Doing anything for the first time can make you a little nervous, but you shouldn’t be worried about doing your first parkrun. parkrun organises weekly, timed, five kilometre runs in parks throughout Australia, and they’re for all ability levels. The only race you’re running is the one against your time from last week.

This September, we want everyone to give parkrun a try as part of Personal Better Day. We think that once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked.

To help ease your concerns, we sat down with parkrun General Manager, Tim Oberg, to get some answers to common questions people have about parkrun.

What running level to do I need to be at?

parkrun is for everyone! From walkers and beginner runners all the way to Olympic athletes, the parkrun community is for anyone who wants to be involved.

Who’s the oldest and youngest competitor you’ve had in parkrun?

Our youngest is 4 years old and our oldest in their 90s. Earlier this year we had a 91-year-old, Norm Phillips, complete his 100th parkrun, making him the oldest person in the world to achieve that milestone.

“We never pack up parkrun until the final walker is finished, and there’ll always be someone there to cheer you over the finish line.”

What’s the goal of parkrun?

Our mission is to provide a free, weekly, timed 5 km run to every community that wants one, thereby increasing levels of physical activity, strengthening community connections, and aiding the fight against the spread of chronic diseases.

How do I register for parkrun?

You only have to register once, and it can be done online. Once you’ve registered, you’ll receive your athlete ID number and athlete barcode via email. Print these out and you can take them to any parkrun event in the world.

How long does it take to run 5 km?

The Australian record is 14:23 set by Olympian Scott Westcott in October 2013, but the average time is about 31 minutes. Walkers, who are most welcome, tend to take between 45 minutes and an hour. We never pack up parkrun until the final walker is finished, and there’ll always be someone there to cheer you over the finish line.

What should I bring?

Your athlete barcode, and a smile!

What should I wear?

Wear something comfortable to get around the 5 km in. You don’t need to spend hundreds on activewear, but you should make sure you’ve got a good pair of shoes.

Where can I leave my stuff?

We don’t have formal bag drops or similar, so it’s best to leave your valuables at home.

How does parkrun keep track of my time?

We have our own custom-made digital timing system that utilises a stopwatch, handheld scanner, your athlete barcode, finish tokens, and our results processing software.

But does my time matter?

No and yes. No, in that parkrun doesn’t celebrate performance – our focus is purely on participation and having a go. It does matter, in the sense that time is often a gauge of progress, and we love to see people improve. We want you to race yourself.

What’s the atmosphere like?

It’s impossible to explain the atmosphere at parkrun. It’s a vibe that really needs to be experienced first hand, and we really hope you do get to experience it. If I had to describe it in one word though, I’d say ‘happy’.

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