Parkrun: much more than just a run in the park
A review of Debra Bourne's fantastic new book
If you’ve got the parkrun bug, you’re going to love Debra Bourne’s new book. Telling the tale of how parkrun has evolved from 13 runners setting off in Bushy Park in 2004 to a global phenomenon involving 10 different countries, the book looks at the compelling history of parkrun, whilst offering an engaging insight into the importance of this Saturday morning revolution to the lives, training, health and happiness of thousands.
The book explores the reasons behind the UK’s addiction to the phenomenon– how a Saturday morning 5K has dragged tens of thousands of runners out of their beds and into their local parks. Key to the book’s exploration of parkrun is a look at its inclusivity encouraging runners of all ages and of all abilities to run in whatever park they like – even abroad, by use of a simple printed-out barcode.
The power of parkrun to develop runners’ abilities is also central to the narrative. From inspiring those ‘who were not, and never wanted to be, runners’ to not only run but to try and smash their PB, week in week out, to allowing elite runners such as Liz Yelling benchmark her fitness, the book looks at how parkrun has become integral to a runner’s training for both beginners and Olympians.
A fantastic aspect of the book is Bourne’s investigation into the ‘numbers game’. Though, as Bourne explains, parkrun attracts runners in their thousands for being ‘free and friendly’, key to its popularity is the fact parkrun is timed. Bourne’s look at the way parkrun gets runners obsessive with PBs couldn’t be more engaging as she describes the weekly cries of ‘I got a PB!’ echoing across UK parks every Saturday morning.
Bourne’s exploration of the impact of parkrun on people’s health and happiness is likewise awe-inspiring featuring anecdotes from regular park runners revealing the positive impact parkrun has had on their lives. Stories of how parkrun has helped individuals overcome depression is just one of the narrative’s highly emotive and engaging explorations.
If you’re a parkrunner yourself, you’re guaranteed to see a glimpse of yourself in every chapter – or at least relate to the impact this phenomenon has had on others. An interesting and highly engaging read, you won’t be disappointed.
Star rating: *****