Lisa Stephenson - National walking month 2023-01

parkrun to the Long Run - Celebrating 75 Years of the NHS

As part of National Walking Month and ‘Move it May’, we asked Lisa Stephenson, Digital and Social Media Assistant to talk to us about her experience of parkrun and its benefits.

parkrun is a free 5-kilometre running event started in 2004 and is facilitated entirely by volunteers. With people of all abilities joining in, it has grown to see almost 3 million finishers having taken part. The community itself means such a lot to people, and with no time limit and a guarantee that no one finishes last, there is a lot to like.

My venture into running started properly after I had my son in 2012. I had always enjoyed fitness and dance classes but knew that type of exercise would take more time to fit in than I had. Keen to do something for my fitness levels, and even keener to carve out five minutes for myself, I turned to running.

At this point, parkrun and running 5k seemed laughable. That was for ‘proper runners’ and I certainly wasn’t one of those. Running is one of those things though, with its repetitive, meditative steps and endorphin buzz that gets you hooked. Trusting the process of a couch to 5k plan meant that before I knew it, I was nervously standing on the start line of my very first parkrun in my local area. Thinking back, there were people of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels all gathered and ready to go. I didn’t really take any of this in at the time, hiding, assuming I’d be exposed as a non-athlete at any moment. Having no clue about pacing and entirely without assessing the hilly course, I set off. I could not have felt prouder of myself as I crossed the finish line, and the applause from marshals and other runners made it feel very special.

I soon learned that those Saturday morning runners at parkrun are really a community in their own right. Meeting for post-run coffees, celebrating birthdays and running milestones, and embracing people from all walks of life. With parkrun not only being nationwide but now in 22 countries, parkrun tourism is even on the rise. Seeing people take on various challenges like completing the parkrun alphabet!

With all these things combined, it was a place I wanted to be. Some of the people I met encouraged me to run other races and distances. I went on to join a local running club, even running marathon and ultra-marathon distances, something I never dreamed I could do. I still run now for all the same reasons, albeit shorter distances and still take part in parkrun. These days my son and I even attend junior parkrun on a Sunday, and it has the most wonderful inclusive message that sport is for everyone – he loves it!

Running is a great way to exercise on your own terms, a way to be out in the fresh air, and a phenomenal way to create a sense of accomplishment. So, no matter how fast or slow you are, whether you’re challenging yourself to walk the distance, or even need to run with a buggy - there is something at parkrun for everyone. If the sense of community sounds good to you and you’d rather volunteer, your local run director will be delighted to have you there.

 You can find out more about a parkrun or junior parkrun near you and download your barcode.

It’s often a great idea to have a goal in sight, and what better time to join in than the NHS 75 collaboration events to be held on 8 and 9 June?! A chance to celebrate all staff and volunteers who have made the NHS what it is today, as well as share that special parkrun atmosphere.