Free 5k runs | All you need to know about Parkrun events

If you're a runner in the UK, chances are you’ve heard of parkrun. The free event takes place at 9am every Saturday and sees thousands of people descend on locations around the country to walk or run 5km on a closed road course.

Parkrun is an inclusive and safe environment where you will get more active, meet new people and improve your 5k time. For most people, the distance is the perfect entry point into running or walking for fitness, being both accessible and offering a challenge for more seasoned runners.

What is parkrun?

The first parkrun took place in London’s Bushy Park in 2004 with just 13 runners and 3 volunteers. Since then, the event has grown to almost 800 locations in the UK, as well as an increasing number of new events in countries around the world.

To date, almost 3 million people have taken part in a parkrun, and many locations see hundreds of walkers and runners turn up every Saturday to be part of the community. This inclusive environment makes running fun, no matter your experience or ability.

What’s so special about parkrun?

Every event is free to enter and volunteer led, making it the perfect place to start your running journey. Inclusive and welcoming, parkrun is a great place for runners, joggers and walkers of all abilities to meet likeminded individuals looking for a fun way to stay healthy.

Parkrun is as much about the social side of exercise as it is the running. Built on the community of runners who make it possible, parkrun encourages you to cross the finish line and share the joy of running with friends and family.

How does parkrun work?

Each parkrun takes place on a closed road course, normally in a park or green area. Runners and walkers start the route at 9am and complete it in their own time. After crossing the finish line participants can scan their barcode and their online account will be updated with their time, meaning you can easily measure your progress week by week.

Who organises parkrun?

Parkrun is organised locally by volunteers. Without these volunteers and people giving up their time freely, parkrun events wouldn't be possible.

Each event has a core group of volunteers who liaise more closely with the central Parkrun charity and the location/landowner to put the event on. After this, volunteers can sign up on the Parkrun website to help with setting up, marshalling, barcode scanning at the finish line, pacing, or tail walking.

How can I get involved in parkrun?

To join the community, find your closest parkrun (you can search the handy map tool on the event website and enter your details to sign up.

The Parkrun website allows you to see how difficult each course is, how many people take part and the finishing times of other participants.

There is also a junior parkrun that takes place at select sites up and down the country. This event is 2k in length, giving 4- to 14-year-olds a more accessible distance to run, jog or walk. You can find out more about junior parkrun on the junior parkrun event finder page.

Parkrun is organised by volunteers around the country and offers plenty of opportunities to get involved and support your local community, from scanning people’s barcodes at the finish line to pacing runners and walkers around the course. To find out about volunteering at your local parkrun you can find more information on the website.

What can parkrun help with?

Parkrun is a great way to get into running and has helped thousands of people improve their health and wellbeing since 2004. See below to find out how running and parkrun can help you:

  • Weight loss
  • Improve circulation
  • Flexibility
  • Improve confidence in an inclusive and friendly environment
  • Mental health
  • Stress relief

Where does parkrun take place?

There are 780 parkrun locations across the UK taking place in cities, towns, and villages.

Although many are held in parks, the terrain can cover trails, coastal paths, athletics tracks, and even a bridge connecting England and Wales.


The hardest parkruns in the UK

Some of us just love a challenge. If you’re looking to tick the most difficult parkruns in the UK off your running bucket list, look no further.

Do people run parkrun every week?

Parkrun has a very active community of regular runners who attend their local event every week. There are no fees to be paid, and no obligation to sign up for anything on the day. It's just a great place to socialise with runners of all abilities whilst getting fit and healthy in the process.

What happens on the day?

It's normal to feel a little nervous when you take part in your first event. The number one thing to remember is that parkrun is meant to be fun. Whether you run or walk it, the friendly atmosphere and supportive volunteers will help to make sure it's an experience you enjoy and want to come back to. Each parkrun also has a tail walker volunteer who will always be at the back of the group, so nobody ever finishes last.

If you're a runner and you've used a plan to guide your training up to this point, you should feel ready to tackle the 5k distance. If not, take it nice and slow and find a comfortable pace. Remember that sticking to a consistent pace is better than setting off quickly at a speed you can't maintain.

What's next after parkrun?

Parkrun is a great place to start if you're getting into running. If you're looking to use the events to improve your 5k time, a dedicated 5k training plan is a great way to trim time off your personal best.

Alternatively, if completing the 5k distance has got you in the mood to run even further, click here to see our 10k training plans.

Last updated Thursday 12 October 2023

First published on Thursday 6 July 2023