If you’re looking to be more active, parkrun is probably your best bet

4 min read


Welcome, random Critical Hit reader! Do me a favour won’t you? Step into this time machine for a moment- we’re going to go out for a bit. Hold tight!

Here we are in 2012 or so, in the beautiful suburban town of Kensington. Pay attention now, for this is important. In the next minute or so, a much younger Matthew is going to come around that corner in a sweaty heap of misery. Look closely at his face won’t you? Take note of the pain and anguish that’s etched into every little pore on it.

And there he is, right on time. Younger Matthew has only jogged a kilometer or so at this point, but he’s already hating life, if you hadn’t already noticed. His energy levels are sapped, and he’s dragging his legs along as if he has anvils tied to them.

Next week, he’ll make an excuse to skip this activity. He’ll do the same the following week, and the one after that, and the one after that, until he completely gives up and decides that running just isn’t his thing. The poor lad, he really tried!

Right, fast forward back to 2017, and we have me, a completely changed man. I’m now an addict – one who now runs regularly (two to three times a week), one who has run four half marathons (21km a pop), and one who plans on tackling a full one by the end of this year. My biggest goal for 2017 though is to have run a total of 1000km.

How on earth did this happen you ask? If you had stopped the younger me a few years ago and said that I’d grow to love running, I’m guessing I would’ve laughed hysterically before punching you in the face for telling such an awful lie.

To go back to the question, the solution to getting me, and countless others to actually fall in love with running, is parkrun. Here’s what it’s about:

Parkrun (styled as parkrun) is the name given to a collection of five-kilometre running events that take place every Saturday morning in fourteen countries across five continents. Each Parkrun territory has its own sponsors. Events are run by volunteers, and participation is free of charge.

Runners are required to register online in advance for a unique athlete number and to print their own identification barcode for use when taking part. Runners’ results in each event are processed and uploaded online after the run by volunteers. Each registered runner has an individual page cataloguing the details of each event in which they have participated

South Africa has its own thriving parkrun community. I joined an event near me (the Modderfontein one) toward the end of 2014 or so, and I’ve never looked back. To date, I’ve run on a total of 58 Saturdays, mostly there, but also at other nearby events – Gillooly’s Farm, Delta Park, and Albert’s Farm to be exact. Each course is unique, and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them.

But what is it about parkrun that got me so hooked in the first place? If I had to guess, I’d say it’s as simple as the act of running with a large group of people. Depending on the parkrun, you can expect to run with dozens, and more often than not, hundreds of other runners. Whatever your pace, there is an undeniable thrill about overtaking somebody, or simply reaching the end of a run and crossing that finish line. On top of that, they don’t call it a runner’s high for nothing you know – that release of endorphins after each bout of activity is freaking addictive, and these few years later, its effect is yet to feel diluted.

Honestly, if you’re looking to get a bit more active this year, or ever, I’d suggest saving your money on things like gym contracts or anything similar. Parkrun doesn’t cost a cent, and when you reach the point that you feel like you can run more than one Saturday, hell, the whole world becomes a choose-your-own-track

My mom, a 62 year old lady attends parkrun regularly, and more recently, I’ve gotten Alessandro hooked. Who’s next? Will you be taking the plunge and joining us this year? Find a parkrun near you, and give it a bash. Honestly, you can thank me later!

Last Updated: January 10, 2017

Matthew Figueira

Defence of the Ancients? More like Defence of the cabbages! Have you seen my head? I look like a Merino Sheep on pole. NO SHANGE only SHAPPIES! :D

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Run Matty, run! Sweat pouring out of every Porra pore.

    • Matthew Figueira

      Lol xD

  • Tracy Benson

    Thanks for reminding me, I need to start parkrun again and earn me some Vitality points

  • Guild

    Yes Matt, I’ll join you……..not a chance in hell. Warrior race was enough thanks. Remember you got to sign up for Feb. I’ll be in the beer tent this time

    • Matthew Figueira

      Bah 😛 BUT DID YOU DIE?

      • Hammersteyn

        He look like he did and then became a zombie

      • Guild

        Multiple times.

    • You can’t not do it again, we are all betting on how many it takes before you die

      • Guild

        I’ll do it if you do it applies here

    • Zoe Hawkins

      just to be safe, put sunscreen on even in the beer tent. 😛

      • Guild

        Of course someone should have told Sandy that…

  • Hammersteyn

    I love parkruns, but you need to be patient. Single out the lone runners with the Iphone’s strap to their arms. You also need decent cover so look for some dense bush. Never jump out of trees. You land wrong and you sit on you butt with a twisted ankle while they call the cops……

    Oh wait, this is for people that run for fun.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    I’m quite surprised my gym hasn’t gotten that much busier than usual this year. Normally it’s packed with newcomers around now, maybe they’re still on holiday.

  • Zoe Hawkins

    I keep meaning to sign up for one of these – been eyeing two in my area. But i hate running and feel like I’ll be looked down upon if I make it a parkwalk.

    • Lu

      No shame in walking it – most people do. The awesome thing about Parkrun is that you set your own pace. Honestly anyone that looks down on someone willing to walk 5km needs to have their head checked.

    • Matthew Figueira

      No ways! Loads of people walk 🙂 lots of people even take their kids along in their prams too 😉

  • Lu

    Used to do the parkrun at Voortrekker every week. Got my time down to 23 minutes at one point, but then sleeping till 10am became the norm and Parkrun didn’t work for me anymore.

  • Hargrim

    Closest one to me is 120km away. No need for a made up excuse

    • Matthew Figueira

      Lol xD

  • konfab

    Using language that everyone here can understand:

    Root44 is the PC master race of Parkruns. It has better graphics than everyone else and has the most users. It also features additional free content such as an ample range of hills and flats. It also has access to the Root44 market DLC free with every playthrough.

    Paarl is the filthy casual game of Parkruns with low difficulty, cheesy graphics and interesting characters who are only interested in removing vast amounts of wealth from you. But if you set yourself a challenge will net the player a rewarding experience.

    Wellington is the 90s console of Parkruns. Relatively unknown, but has a sizeable amount of fans. Is sensitive to extreme heat and cold and will challenge even the most experienced player.

    • Matthew Figueira

      Lol that was amazing xD

  • Yet another example of cultural appropriation by white people. My fellow coloured folk who grew up on the Cape Flats have been doing the Hanover Park Run for decades. You have to. Slower moving things tend to get caught in the gang fight crossfire too easily. Running is the only way. Running is life.

  • Craig “Crios” Boonzaier

    Yeah, gonna be starting up again this year, the Stellenbosch route has one killer of a hill.

  • Trevor James

    Been running the Century City one in Cape Town for 2 months now.

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