parkrun has been awarded £3million of funding from Sport England aimed at increasing female participation and encouraging more people from lower socio-economic communities to get involved.
The funding will support the creation of 200 new parkrun events, which take place weekly and are free to join.
It builds on the phenomenal success of parkrun over the past 14 years, with 1.8million people in the UK having taken part since the first event in 2004. Each week 584 five-kilometre events for all ages are held on Saturdays, with 256 two-kilometre junior parkruns for four to 14-year-olds on Sundays.
parkrun Chief Executive Nick Pearson said: “Sport England funding, made possible thanks to the National Lottery, is an endorsement of the strides we have taken to create a model that empowers communities to implement a permanent mixed gender, multi-generational health intervention that appeals to a broad cross-section of society, particularly those for whom physical activity and volunteering is not the norm.
“Our growth over the past 14 years has been organic and to a large degree dictated by community demand, not need. If we are to realise our target of increasing the number of parkrun events by one third in socially deprived areas in England over the next three years, we require a level of investment that will allow us to be proactive rather than organic in our approach.”
The investment will be focused on the key areas of increasing the number of women and girls who take part and increasing participation from lower socio-economic groups. It will also enable the modernisation of parkrun’s digital platform for registration, results and event information.
Pearson added: “We are now in a position to build on our message and encourage more people to walk, jog, run and volunteer at our events by growing into new areas and engaging new audiences.
“We must acknowledge that the market economy has left many people behind because of a lack of traditional sporting facilities or the capacity to participate, and through our insight and pilot interventions we know that proactively engaging with community groups to develop parkrun volunteer teams does stimulate demand. This investment from Sport England will allow us to expand our reach and work even more closely with communities to develop solutions that work at a local level.”
New Sport England CEO Tim Hollingsworth said: “This important partnership with parkrun is part of Sport England’s ongoing strategy to help grow new and innovative sporting ideas and broaden their reach into the demographics in society who are least likely to be active.
“The funding – which is only possible thanks to National Lottery players – will enable parkrun to reach females and people on a low income, who are less likely to be active than the general population.
“We know from our research that cost and a lack of local opportunities are real barriers in stopping people being more active, and what parkrun does brilliantly is offer free, community-based events for all abilities.
“We’re looking forward to working with parkrun to help even more people get and stay active.”