More than 200 000 people participated in 1 000 Parkrun events across the world on Saturday, May 7, 2022, with 17 834 of them in South Africa.  

In November 2014, at 14 years old, my life changed. It is a day I will never forget. A family friend from the UK was visiting for a weekend, and he introduced us to the Parkrun, which he had run just that morning.

Showing us the website, our friend explained that the Parkrun was a free, five-kilometre run that takes place around the world every Saturday at 08:00 local time. We registered as ‘Parkrunners’ that day and the following week my dad and I headed to our local Parkrun at Rietvlei Zoo Farm in Johannesburg South.

Little did we know how this would change our lives. I completed my first Parkrun in 22 minutes and 20 seconds, finishing eighth overall.

Before Parkrun, I used to struggle to stand out in school particularly in sports. It always frustrated me that no matter how hard I tried I was never as talented as my peers. My parents always encouraged me to do my best, however, I found it hard to apply this teaching to tasks and sports that I was not as good at as others.

Parkrun gave me something to apply my competitive nature towards. I was determined to improve my time and try and beat as many participants as I could. I was, and always have been, driven to do better in something that I am good at. Coming eighth in my first Parkrun showed me that I was talented. I trained more regularly, and I started receiving awards for running. In 2015, I won best junior athlete in both the athletics and cross country teams at school, motivating me to continue improving. Three years later I was named captain of my school athletics and cross country teams.

Running has helped me achieve many goals. Not all my goals have been running related but the competitive edge it has extracted from me has helped me get further in life. I am able to challenge myself and achieve goals by competing against myself and being determined to “beat” others. In my studies, for example, I have challenged myself to study different fields and still manage to learn and succeed in the fields outside of my comfort zone.

From stories shared on Parkrun’s website, I am not the only one whose life has been changed. For example, British truck driver, Andrew Butler, has now completed two half marathons thanks to Parkrun. It gives people a simple goal to work towards each week and the endorphins released by your body when you exercise make you happier.

There were more than 1 000 Parkrun events across the world on Saturday, May 7, 2022, with 214 487 participants, 17 834 of whom did so in South Africa.

With Parkrun suspended during to the covid-19 pandemic, I felt suppressed and became demotivated to work on my physical fitness. However, what Parkrun had taught me has changed me into a person that does not give up and continues to work hard. Parkrun has changed my life.

FEATURED IMAGE: Colin Hugo. Photo: file