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Bushy Park parkrun is on cloud nine
From its humble beginnings in south-west London, parkrun has sparked a world-wide phenomenon.
The Bushy Park parkrun celebrated its ninth birthday on Saturday, an occasion celebrated around the world by international parkrun day.
The movement which started life in the royal park in 2004 has grown to feature more than 300 events worldwide from Poland to Australia and the United States to New Zealand – with 220 UK 5km parkruns serving more than 30,000 people every Saturday morning.
Founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt was a keen marathon runner recovering from an injury when he set up the first meeting to keep in touch with friends from the running community.
“It was called the Bushy Park time trial at first, we would try to record the time and get it published in the newspaper, and that evolved into the websites.
“I thought it would just be friends, I had no idea it would turn out how it has. I did not have any aspirations of a big countrywide or international operation.
“It was simply giving something back to the runners.”
The first meeting attracted 13 runners, but soon athletes were coming from all over the country to take part and Sinton-Hewitt and his fellow organisers suddenly had questions to answer.
He said: “We had to ask ourselves ‘What are we going to do? How are we going to fund it, are we going to charge?’
“It took two years to form the policy of what is parkrun – what does it stand for, why are we not a race? At the same time, we decided we would never charge.
“It was only in 2007 we decided we’ve got something here that needs to be replicated and nobody seemed to be doing it – so I thought it is going to be up to me.
“I started the Wimbledon meeting and in 2007 we went from one event, to seven events. It gave us the tools that we needed to replicate what we had.
“The growth has been phenomenal. It has captured people’s attention and imagination. We don’t try and own the runner, we just make the playground available so they can run.”
Of the 500,000 people registered on parkrun, it is estimated that 200,000 have ran a total of one million races.
“There is no question that parkrun is a fundamental tool for wellbeing in this country. We account for 50 per cent of all running, and 90 per cent of recreational running in the UK,” Sinton-Hewitt said.
“I did not have an image of what it would be like now. We’ve made a lot of decisions along the way, some poor, but mostly good and we’re just very lucky to have got to this stage.”
Bushy Park regular Anthony Jackson finished first on last week in a time of 15 minutes 59 seconds, while Ruth Hutton clocked 19:45 to be the first woman home in her first parkrun since a back operation.