Running revolution taking hold in Suffolk as parkrun breaks 1,000 runner barrier
It started out with fewer than 100 early-morning runners in Ipswich almost three years ago – but now a running revolution is truly gathering pace across the county.
For the first time in Suffolk, the number of people taking part in a parkrun event broke the 1,000 barrier last weekend.
There were 1,020 runners taking on the 5k challenge at the six parkruns across the county last Saturday and Sunday morning, in addition to the 188 volunteers.
Rory Marriott, event director of Ipswich parkrun, described the rise in popularity as “phenomenal”.
“Without doubt there is a running revolution in Suffolk and across the country,” he said.
“There are now over 75,000 people taking part every week across the country. It is just getting huge.
“I thought Ipswich would have around 150 on a regular basis. To have 250 or 300 every week is completely unexpected. It is all excellent news.”
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All parkruns are largely seen as non-competitive community events in which participants encourage others to become fitter and healthier.
They take place at 9am every Saturday morning and each runner has their time published on the relevant parkrun website (The Ipswich junior parkrun takes place on Sunday morning).
The origins of parkrun trace back to Bushy Park, south-west London in October 2004, when 13 people took part.
It launched in Suffolk at Christchurch Park in Ipswich on September 8, 2012, with 95 runners.
“By the end of last year, the best day we had was 679, and now that we are hitting over 1,000 just shows how phenomenal the growth has been,” Mr Marriott said.
“It’s impossible to say how far parkrun can grow. There is still two parts of the county that don’t have an event.
“We have got one that is going to launch very soon in Lowestoft and that leaves Suffolk central, and I imagine once we have got another in there, there is no reason why we can’t be looking upwards of 1,500 taking part every week.”
The breakdown for last weekend was: Ipswich: 297; Bury St Edmunds: 214; Kesgrave: 211; Great Cornard: 128; Brandon Country Park: 80; Ipswich juniors (Sunday morning): 90.
Mr Marriott added: “Parkrun is a regular event that they know is going to take place whether they are there or not. It is free to participate, and it really is open to everybody so people don’t feel intimidated.
“They receive a warm welcome, whether they are a 15-minute super-fast runner or a runner who takes more than an hour. It is that inclusivity that makes it so appealing to everyone.
“We see people drop their times very quickly. We have seen people who take over 50 minutes when they initially started who are now regularly under 30 minutes.
“There is no real reason not to come along and sample the friendly atmosphere that each of the events generates and to start on that long road to fitness.”