• Rachel

The only crime of parkrun, is not to parkrun

Really interested to hear how HMP Buckley has embraced the power of parkrun, thanks to an interesting article by David Collins in today’s Sunday Times (7/10/18) ‘The prisoners are on the run, and a killer is hard on my heels’.

Collins reports that HMP Buckley, along with two other adult prisons, have joined the parkrun movement and host a weekly timed 5K run within the prison complex. Unlike all other parkruns, I think participation at HMP is by invitation only, but Buckley has a regular cohort of 30 runners who take on the eight-lap course around the inmates garden, accommodation block and courtyard. It’s brilliant to see the power of parkrun being harnessed to give inmates the opportunity to achieve on a level playing field, albeit with two killer hills on the Buckley course.

Although running at my local Kingsbury Water Park parkrun is a million miles away from the inmate experience, I do experience my own feelings of being punished – but that’s self-imposed thanks to my own competitive and over optimistic expectations of how quickly I can run 5k after a Friday night curry and bottle of wine. The frustration of being overtaken by a small child, several dogs and a mum with a buggy, is forgotten on the finish line and the satisfaction that you’ve got out and done something good for your body and your mind is awesome.

Collins article is really timely, coinciding with yesterday being International parkrun Day, marking 14 years since the very first event took place in London’s Bushy Park. Since then, parkrun has grown to more than 1,650 events each week in 20 countries worldwide, with around 270,000 walkers, joggers, runners and volunteers every weekend.

As well as helping people take their first steps in tackling a 5k, taking part in parkrun also can inspire people to be a bit more community minded, with volunteering encouraged to make sure the free parkrun events can continue. I’ve volunteered once and it was a great experience (there was no running for a start!!), I found that lots of people actually warm up before parkrun starts – I’m normally keeping my powder dry, but I got to see the whole field, from the flyers who get round in 18 minutes, to those that make the most of parkrun and enjoy a leisurely hour.

The thought of joining the parkrun is probably scarier than parkrun itself and I hope that I can encourage anyone that needs help getting their health and wellbeing on track, whatever their age, size or ability will give parkrun a go. I can’t comment on how the inmates of Buckley feel, but for my own part, before I started parkrunning I was feeling pretty fed-up, frustrated and my esteem was pretty low. With twelve runs under my belt now I’ve shaved eight minutes off my PB and its kickstarted a fresh start to my own health and wellbeing.

If parkrun inspires a fresh start to the inmates at HMP Buckley, it’s a pretty awesome way to get offenders back on the right track, but happily this is an opportunity for life for everyone.

Find more about parkrun here


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