The UK has seen a running boom in recent years. parkrun’s free, weekly timed 5km runs in hundreds of locations across the UK have been a big part of this. But why is parkrun so successful and what factors make people engage with them?
Dr Clare Stevinson, Senior Lecturer in Behavioural Aspects of Physical Activity and Health, at Loughborough University has jointly published research that aimed to identify factors contributing to initial and sustained engagement in parkrun.
The research found that people’s reasons for taking part initially were slightly different from their reasons for continuing to participate. Reasons for starting included the simplicity of entry and recognising that all abilities, ages and backgrounds are equally welcome. Participants also mentioned that anticipating there will be some fitness, health or weight improvement was a strong motivator for beginning.
When it came to considering reasons for sustaining their participation people’s motivations went wider. Social interaction and friendship opportunities were seen as a big motivator as well as, feeling motivated by time and attendance goals. Participants also mentioned that increasing their confidence and ability as a runner over time helped motivate them to continue taking part. Others were motivated by becoming involved in different ways in addition to running such as volunteering to sustain the event or fundraising for the event or park.
Commenting on the findings Dr Stevinson said: “People’s motivations for being active will always be personal to them but we did find that there are reoccurring themes in people’s reasons for beginning and continuing to take part in parkrun.
“These include the accessible, inclusive ethos, achievement opportunities, and inherent social support along with the outdoor natural settings and integrated volunteer system. The inclusion of these elements in other community-based interventions may increase their success in initiating and maintaining physical activity.”
Stevinson, C., Wiltshire, G. & Hickson, M. Int.J. Behav. Med. (2015) 22: 170. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-014-9431-5
parkrun offers free, weekly, timed 5km runs at hundreds of locations across the UK. For more information visit www.parkrun.org.uk
Other physical activity opportunities
Couch to 5K
Free learn to run podcast/app
Free conservation & fitness (70 locations in UK)
Free outdoor fitness classes (lots of locations in London)
Local Free weekly running events (18 locations in UK)
Free or low cost safe supportive running groups (various locations in UK)
Combining running and community projects (40+ locations in UK)
Run anywhere anytime to earn medal & support charity
British Military Fitness
Boot camp (130 locations in UK)
Immersive team games (13 locations in UK)
Points and rewards for walking