parkrun came to book club

A different theme this month here in Bowness when we were proud to say that parkrun came to book club.

Our guest was the founder of parkrun, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, CBE FRSA. He was in conversation with local author Eileen Jones who has written two books about parkrun.

Paul and Jo Sinton-Hewitt with two of our book club guests, Bethany and Louise Duffy

A paragraph to skip if you already know: parkrun is a free, weekly, timed run or walk that starts every morning at 9am at more than 1200 venues across the UK, and many more across the world in 22 countries. Some eight million people worldwide have signed up to take part since it was started in Bushy Park, London, 19 years ago.

We have several nearby to us here at the Burn How and guests who stay regularly visit Rothay parkrun in Ambleside, Fell Foot parkrun at the foot of Windermere, or Keswick parkrun. Our guest this time went to run in a forest; more of that later.

Paul talked about the early days, when he asked friends to come and meet him in the park when he was injured and couldn’t run. He held the stop-watch while they completed a 5k time trial. And he announced that the same thing would happen the following week…and for ever. Every week. The idea grew slowly, with other parks joining in, but now it’s a global movement which aims to increase health and happiness, as well as providing a regular slot for exercise.

The organisers are proud that, over the years, the average finishing time has grown slower and slower, proof that it’s a truly inclusive event, and it doesn’t matter how slow you are. There’s been an initiative to encourage people to parkwalk. And there’s been a lot of academic research that proves the social, health and wellbeing benefits of just being at parkrun, as a participant or a volunteer. Every event is managed by volunteers locally.

Lots of details about this, and all sorts of aspects of parkrun, are covered in Eileen’s books, How parkrun changed our lives, and p is for parkrun: a journey from A to Z .

Paul Sinton-Hewitt and author Eileen Jones with book club guests Jan and Paul Hawgood

Our audience … regular book club members and a flood of parkrun fans … chatted with Paul about how parkrun works, about the barcode system, and why he, as founder, isn’t number 1! Then the next morning we took him and his wife Joanne for their first visit to Whinlatter Forest parkrun where they used cutlery on the table in Cafe Ambio after the run to explain the multi-funnel finish at Bushy Park.

Our book club is held every month and unlike others we don’t expect visitors to have read a particular book. But we do invite guest authors to tell us about their work, and next month (Weds October 18) we will welcome the writer of psychological thrillers, Paul Teague. We gather that he’s a parkrunner, too!

Paul Teague