Why the Ginninderra Parkrun is leading the way in free sporting events
Australians are known for their skills and passion when it comes to sport. People are encouraged to participate in sport whether that be at school, socially or on the weekend playing for a sports club. So it is no wonder a weekly sporting event like parkrun has become increasing popular over the years in Australia.
I took the opportunity to attend the Ginninderra parkrun, a weekly free community event where participants run a course and aim to improve their times each week. There are a total of 350 parkruns across Australia and the Ginninderra parkrun is one of six runs in Canberra. Ginninderra is one of the more popular courses, with just under 200 people of all ages and fitness levels coming to participate on the day.
At the event I spoke to the Ginninderra parkrun event directors Sally and Gregor Sutherland to ask them what makes the parkrun so successful and whether free sporting events are encouraging more sporting participation. Both Sally and Gregor have been involved in the Ginninderra parkrun since April 2012. Although they are both very busy with work and home life they see running the parkrun as their favourite hobby.
The Ginninderra parkrun numbers are constantly growing each year and during summer they can have over 300 people attending the Ginninderra course. I learned that the parkrun is not funded, does not advertise and relies heavily on weekly volunteers and word of mouth to promote its events.
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When speaking to Sally we talked about how the parkrun is so beneficial to people who are looking for free community based physical activity. Sally explained that she finds the parkrun is good for those who may be unable to afford to play in organised club based sports or those who have little free time.
Sally spoke of one lady who has a full time job and two children but is still able to bring them along and participate in the run every Saturday morning.
Sally says that, “We do have a big range of participants from different groups at parkrun.”
Because parkrun is a free community run event, it allows people from all backgrounds and financial situations to come exercise, meet new people and get involved in the community. This was extremely evident when I attended the Ginninderra runs.
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It is clear that the run is not just about exercise. It is about building a community and helping new people meet each other, while improving their physical and mental health. While I was there, there were hundreds of conversations taking place, people of all ages were talking, people were introducing their dogs to others. It was a very rich community atmosphere that I enjoyed quite a lot.
Sally said, “It’s not just social socioeconomic disadvantage but also social isolation. It’s a big thing that is often highlighted in our newsletters, where people who have been battling depression for example, parkrun was the first crack in that”.
I was informed that some councils and local governments help to fund their local parkrun, but this is not mandatory or regulated. But if the government were to introduce more free and easily accessible sporting events, then more Australians would have the opportunity to participate.
As a whole, the Ginninderra parkun was amazing. I could easily see the community spirit and people were laughing and talking nonstop. Even as people ran, jogged or walked they were chatting and all the dogs who attended had a wonderful time.
If you would like to learn more about Parkrun Australia or to sign up, click here.