Consider a free event, organised by welcoming volunteers, where you can run, jog, or walk your way through some of the loveliest scenery in your local area. Does that sound like you? parkrun are free community events, run by volunteers all over the world including the west.
Conceived in the UK by Paul Sinton-Hewitt as a community response to the public health challenges that sedentary lifestyles pose, parkrun events are held in more than 22 countries each week. Events in the west started around 2016, and despite an interrupted schedule due to pandemic cancellations, popular locations such as the Maribyrnong parkrun usually attract more than 200 participants, even in the winter cold.
There are quite a few locations around the west and you can find out all about each on the parkrun website. Run in the beautiful Newport Lakes Reserve, shuffle around the Werribee Park Mansion, jog along the Werribee River and through the Presidents Park in Wyndham Vale, amble along the Skeleton Waterholes Creek in Point Cook, race along the beach and foreshore in Altona, trot around Cyril Curtain Reserve in Williamstown, pace along the Maribyrnong River in Maribyrnong, or stride around Brimbank Park in Brimbank.
Just being outdoors can improve your mood, reduce stress, and help you feel more connected – so you receive health benefits from parkrun even if you are volunteering or spectating.
Event Director at Altona Beach parkrun, Jane Gibbons, says the Altona Beach parkrun attracts walkers, as well as joggers, as the course follows the paved bike path and is ideal for families with prams and older participants. The circular route has a large car park and dog park at the start and dog water bowls placed along the route, making it an ideal parkrun to do with your dogs. Attracting between 80 and 100 participants each week, Jane, a keen runner, says that parkruns are well organised, so that it was an easy task to take on her voluntary role at Altona Beach after retirement.
Merryn Steel, a regular Maribyrnong parkrun participant and volunteer, has 129 parkruns under her belt. ‘I’m not a runner, so when it gets tough, I distract myself by looking at the scenery. It’s a beautiful way to start the day, and a good community to be part of.’
Starting local, Merryn has extended her parkrun experience throughout Australia and as far as Singapore. Merryn has participated in parkruns at Kalgoorlie, Busselton, Mandurah, Geraldton, Bundaberg and Echuca. Some courses are along a beach, others are forests or dry open inland tracks, but Merryn says all provide a natural beauty and moments of active reflection.
To get your first parkrun under your belt, visit the website, fill in a basic registration form to get your barcode. Whenever you participate at any location, show your barcode at the end to get results lodged online in your personal account. If you’re not keen on doing the course, join the many volunteers who line the course and enrich the whole experience with their encouragement.
Visit parkrun.com.au for more details