Park Run – a healthy passion or an unhealthy obsession?

I’ve got a mixed relationship with park run.

As a concept, it’s brilliant. The Olympics 2012 get inspired legacy may not have met with a huge amount of success but Park Run does a phenomenal job of mobilising people to do exercise.

(The last time I ran in a park was either doing reluctant cross country at primary school or chasing after Sophie when  she legged it after a duck!)

However, ever since my wife’s great friend Sarah introduced her to it a few years ago, she has become utterly hooked.

And that’s where I’m going with this post…

First and foremost, hats off to her. She’s done bloomin’ good.

She chalked up her 50th run at the weekend – more if you count the times she didn’t have a barcode or she forgot her tag. Not bad at all for somebody who is 29 weeks pregnant.

If I was carrying a baby inside me, I reckon I’d probably manage to run about 29 steps and then I’d need a sit down. I am extremely proud of her for the achievement.

Once this baby has come and gone I know she’ll be straight back out there, week in week out, pounding the park footpaths in search of quicker and quicker times.

Good luck to her.

50 not out - congratulations girls!

50 not out – congratulations girls!

Huge thanks as well to Sarah and her family for encouraging her, for Kate and many others for being running partners and spurring her on and just to all the South Manchester organisers who volunteer and put the event on across our city. Without all of these people, she wouldn’t have a highly creditable PB, the opportunity to run for free each week and the beautiful scenery of a variety of local parks to keep her interested.

All that being said, I do have a gripe with Park Run. And it’s quite a significant one.

It’s hugely addictive! Forget Pokemon Go. Park Run and its “stats” pages are the ultimate obsession for my wife – and plenty of others – and it’s this which has got me questioning it.

For a start, the passion for personal bests can become all-consuming.

Pre-pregnancy, my wife would wait hungrily by her phone, subconsciously hypnotising it into spewing out the Park Run email which carried her time for that week.

Greedily, she would pore over the statistics, occasionally pausing to let me know just exactly how close she was to her PB, where that run ranked in her overall scores and where she came in this week’s 25-29 category.

Happily, she would proclaim how she’d “beaten last week’s time” or morosely, she would reveal that she “wasn’t as fast this week.” For the next seven days, she would psyche herself up, ready to destroy the previous week’s time, regularly attaching herself to pacesetters just to be sure she was inside it.

Now, her statistics check has been realistically reduced back to “ah, well that was better than last time at least”, but the obsession still remains.

Frankly, despite being her biggest fans, Sophie and I have stayed out of it, preferring to gather statistics silently in the background and engaging in our own favourite pastimes, namely Gymnastics and Football (and food shopping?) on a Saturday morning.

However, we were there on Saturday to watch “Mummy do well!” and shout “Yay Mummy” as she raced round her 50th.

And, in all honesty, it’s been a real joy to watch her perform superbly and set a really fast PB. I know I wouldn’t stand a chance of beating it even if I really gave it my best shot.

So, to sum up, Park Run’s stats may be overwhelming, but the reality is that it’s a fabulous initiative and my wife’s high standard of running and commitment to the event is inspiring.

Good luck to it in the face of Council opposition and good luck to her on the other side of baby.

Can’t wait to watch that PB drop even lower!


  1. This is so true Joe. Firstly congratulations on your next soon to be arrival and secondly to your wife for completing 50 park runs. I’ve just started the phenomenon of park run. I’m on holiday this week and located the nearest one to where we are staying – thankfully only 2 miles down the road. Whilst only a novice at 6 runs, I expectantly wait for 10:30ish on a Saturday to see if I have a PB. I am in awe of those who have a t-shirt with 50 or 100 dreaming it will be me one day! I’ve also signed up my husband to volunteer on my behalf – frankly I think he’s more than happy to do this as he’s relieved that I’m not make him run it. In summary I’m delighted I’ve joined but admit I’m an addict already!

    • Joe

      August 9, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      One day Katie – one day! That’s impressive work on your holiday. Hope it goes really well and that you smash your PB this week

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