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GYA Social Care Activity Pack A guide for people working in social care to support disabled people to be more active. Produced by Get Yourself Active (Disability Rights UK).
Mind toolkit for mental health providers A toolkit for mental health providers to deliver a sport and physical activity service. Produced by mental health charity Mind.
Mind toolkit for sports sector A toolkit for the sports and physical activity sector to make services more accessible to people with mental health problems. Produced by mental health charity Mind.
Rethink Activity toolkit A physical activity toolkit for mental health support groups. Produced by mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness.
Parkinson’s: physical activity and exercise – a free course from Parkinson’s UK for people who provide or promote physical activity and exercise to people with Parkinson’s. This may be in a leisure centre, health care setting or in the community.
Here is Claudia Burrough’s story from the parkrun website in January 2019. Claudia is still participating regularly and has now completed 151 parkruns including Surrey parkruns Banstead Woods, Brooklands, Guildford Hazelwood, Homewood and Woking!
I achieved my 50th parkrun exactly 53 weeks after completing my first parkrun last year. I credit parkrun as the biggest help in dealing with the grief of losing mum last year and improving my mental health. It has also hugely improved my confidence.
At the time of completing my first parkrun I was struggling to leave the house by myself so it was a huge step come my second parkrun when I attended on my own. Bushy parkrun (my home run and the birth place of parkrun) is also the largest in the UK with usually well over 1,000 parkrunners each week. This presents another problem, crowds. I really struggle in crowds and whilst it has got easier through my cricket volunteering it is still something I find really difficult.
For the first couple of months of parkrun I stood as far back as possible (adding about 25 metres to my run and definitely taking up a lot of valuable time) gradually I became settled and added to my own personal competitiveness I would move further forward and become part of the pack. I still didn’t know anyone there but that was fine, it generally eliminated small talk and conversation with people.
I was happy and enjoying running and was taking about 30 seconds off my PB every fortnight. I enjoyed the fact that when I was running I didn’t feel any different to any other parkrunners, it helped release energy as a result of my ADHD and my ASD didn’t matter at all on the course.
Then in March this year, I started to lose the ability to walk. I was adamant that I was still going to parkrun and each week along with my trusty flatmate I would stagger around the parkrun course, PBs were a thing of the past and instead I was grateful to simply cross the finishing line. This also gave me the chance to do some Tail Walking which I really enjoyed as well.
My condition deteriorated further and walking any distance without falling over became incredibly challenging, so not for the first time in my life I was on crutches. I was really worried I wasn’t going to be allowed to parkrun on crutches but was relieved to know I wasn’t the only mad person who had considered the idea.
My first ‘run’ on crutches was more about seeing if it was possible. I soon realised that I could go quite quickly on crutches and started setting myself targets and aiming for a new crutches PB each week. I am still incredibly proud of my crutches PB of 34:42.
Being on crutches did present a new challenge though, other parkrunners started to talk to me! They were just being nice, I know, but for me I found this incredibly difficult. Being on the Autism Spectrum means I can find communication difficult especially with people I don’t know and in an environment I’m still a little unsure about. Gradually though I got used to the questions and became more comfortable around other parkrunners and began to get to know a few.
In mid-July though I was really struggling to just get around the course on my crutches and day to day life on crutches was becoming equally challenging. I had already signed up for a half marathon and London Marathon at this point and was desperate to still participate in the events.
Apparently, there was no way on earth I was doing my half marathon on crutches so it was suggested that to make my life easier and to keep ‘running’ I should invest in a wheelchair (short term). I was gutted but determined to still be able to parkrun, I took a couple of weeks off due to other commitments and worked on trying to get around the course.
The first attempt failed miserably with my front wheels getting stuck in the gravel paths and the grass sections impossible. I invested in a FreeWheel which has enabled me to do so much more. I managed to complete the course in just over an hour in practice. Doing parkrun in a wheelchair also presents other challenges such as something going wrong with my chair, negotiating other parkrunners and getting stuck in inaccessible patches.
My first wheelchair parkrun was great and I think I did it in about 40 minutes must faster than my practice attempt. Since then I completed 13 wheelchair parkruns getting my wheelchair PB doing to 27:35 an achievement I am immensely proud of.
My wheelchair parkruns have had other brilliant ‘side-effects’. I know so many more people and love seeing everyone every week and have really benefited from the community side of parkrun, one which I previously dreaded. I have even been to the cafe after parkrun which I never thought I would.
The day of my 50th parkrun was a real mix of emotions. I was so excited because it’s the first time my dad had been to a parkrun, let alone seen me complete one, and it meant a huge amount to me that he was there. My best friend had organised a cake for the celebrations and a group of friends from university also came down which was unexpected and lovely.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t really on my side and it rained pretty much the whole time but it didn’t dampen my spirits – I loved the whole occasion and chatting to other parkrunners, which is something I never dreamed I’d be able to do, let alone enjoy doing.
The occasion also gave me a chance to reflect on everything that had happened in the year since I started my parkrun journey. Having completed my first parkrun the day before my mum passed away I thought a lot about her as I went around the course, I still miss her immensely but I took comfort in how far I had come since my first run.
My 50th parkrun turned out to be my slowest in my wheelchair but it was lovely that there was a group of parkrunners at the end applauding and cheering when I crossed the finish line. I didn’t care how long it took me, parkrun has become far more than a 5K on a Saturday morning it has completely changed my life and helped me overcome so many barriers.
I am so grateful for parkrun and am so excited to have joined the 50 Club, showing a level of commitment to something that traditionally I have not managed. I have learnt that parkrun is open to anyone, despite having Autism, ADHD, mental health challenges, heart issues and not being able to walk I have still managed to parkrun nearly every week in the last year.
It’s been there for me despite everything that has happened over the past year. I am now a parkrun addict and planning trips to other parkruns.
One day I hope to be able to walk and run Bushy parkrun again but at the moment that feels a long way off so, for now, I will continue to try and beat my wheelchair PB.
Huge thank you to everyone at Bushy parkrun for all your support and help and especially the past few months. Special thank you to Fiona McAnena, and thank you also to Pat, Lorraine, Simon, Ravi, Mark, Sue, Wendy, Nat and Fiona for running/waling alongside me.
Also, a thank you to Jenny Craig for the months of convincing me to go to parkrun and for finally getting me there for SIMMIE Girls Can. Finally, a huge thank you to Paul Sinton-Hewitt for creating the incredible thing that is parkrun.
Claudia Burrough has a parkrun PB list shared by only a few others:
Running (PB: 22:51)
Walking (PB: 45:20)
Crutches (PB: 34:42)
Wheelchair (PB: 27:35)
Who are the high-vis heroes? The most important people at parkrun! Every parkrun event is organised solely by volunteers – without them parkrun does not happen. It’s as simple as that. There are many different roles you can do – some on the day and some behind the scenes and there is no need to commit to coming every week. Anyone and everyone is welcome and it’s a brilliant way to have fun, make new friends and get some fresh air! If you volunteer enough times, you can also be rewarded with a parkrun volunteer milestone t-shirt!
Most events keep a volunteer roster so you can add your name in advance, but you can also turn up on the day and join in that way too. The roles are easy to do so there is no need for lots of training or previous experience and there will always be someone there to help if you would like.
Here is a brief run down of the different roles to give you an idea of what is involved. Firstly, the essential roles that must be filled for an event to go ahead safely:
Each event is managed by an event director who make sure that the event is delivered properly, who liaise with parkrun HQ and the landowners where the
event takes place.
The run director is responsible for safety at the event on the day and oversees proceedings during the event and at the finish line. They decide if the course or weather conditions are safe and if the event can go ahead – for example if there has been heavy snow or high winds. They are also responsible for delivering the pre-run briefing when everyone is welcomed to the event and any important messages about the course or event are given.
This volunteer creates a welcoming and friendly atmosphere for first-timers and visitors to the event. They will tell you about how parkrun works and give information about the course as well as answering any questions. This is my favourite role as it’s great to welcome people to the parkrun family and relieve any worries they might have.
Event Day Course Check:
This volunteer checks that the course is safe and clear of anything that might make it unsafe to participants and volunteers i.e. fallen branches. They report back to the run director who will then decide if it is safe for the event to go ahead.
The timekeeper uses the Virtual Volunteer app on their phone (You can borrow a parkrun phone at the event if you do not have one) to record the finish times of all participants at the event. There are usually two people doing this role so that there is a backup if technical problems mean any data is lost.
This volunteer hands out the position barcode tokens to all participants just after they have finished. At bigger events where there may be lots of people finishing closer together, they might be assisted by a Finish Token Support Volunteer.
The barcode scanner uses the Virtual Volunteer App to scan the participants personal barcode, followed by the position barcode on the finish token. This means that everyone who completes the course receives their result.
The Tail Walker stays at the back of the field and is last to go through the finish funnel, making sure that everyone is accounted for. In this role you will receive a volunteer and a run credit. This can be a really great supportive role with the opportunity for some interesting chats as you are going round the course!
The remaining volunteer roles are not always filled at every event or every week, but they contribute to the parkrun experience, its smooth running and accessibility:
Car Park Marshal:
The car park marshal ensures cars are parked in the designated areas and helps ensure the safety of pedestrians.
Equipment Storage and Delivery:
This volunteer stores the event equipment and makes sure it’s available for set up the following week.
Finish Token Support:
At busier events this role supports the finish token volunteer usually by preparing small batches of tokens and handing them to the Finish Token volunteer so that they can hand them out to finishers without having to juggle large amounts of tokens!
This volunteer cycles the course ahead of the first participant to let people know they are coming.
Marshals direct participants along the right course and make sure they are aware of any hazards as well as letting members of the public know about the event. They cheer and encourage everybody and are also the eyes and ears on the course, reporting any incidents back to the run director where necessary.
The number checker checks to see if the timer and finish token volunteers have the same number of finishers. If there are any discrepancies they record them to help with correcting any issues later.
Pacers will accompany a group of participants and try as best they can to help them complete the course in an agreed time.
This volunteer takes photos or videos for the events social media channels or parkrun communications. They are not for commercial purposes only to promote the event. If you wish to volunteer as a photographer you must let the run director know and wear a high-vis vest so that participants are aware they are being photographed. Participants, of course, have the right not to have images of them held or published.
Post Event Close Down:
This role is to help clear up and return any signs or markers to the storage place. It’s important to leave the park as we found it.
Pre Event Set Up:
The set up volunteers are the first people to arrive and they help the run director prepare for the event. This usually means putting markers or signs out to direct people around the course and setting up the start and finish areas.
The results processor uses the parkrun software to compile the results and volunteer information and submits it to parkrun HQ for processing.
Run Report Writer:
This is a role that can be done after the event and is a report of the event that is usually shared on the event website and sometimes social media channels. There is a huge variation in the length and tone of the report. Some events don’t publish one and some have a lot of fun with it!
Sign Language Support:
This volunteer signs the first timer brief and the pre event brief and provides support for deaf and hard of hearing participants.
Token sorters sort the finishing position tokens back into order for the next week. It’s a role that is done after the event – usually over a cuppa in the post parkrun café whilst the results are being processed.
VI guides will accompany a visually impaired participant at parkrun. Guides who complete the course will receive a run and volunteer credit. Parkrun do not directly provide trained or checked guides but UK athletics licensed guide runners can be found here: Guide Running for Visually Impaired Runners and you may be able to get advice and support from the Facebook forum:
The volunteer coordinator makes sure there are enough volunteers on the roster each week. This is a role that can be done without attending the event but often the coordinator will be there on the day to help organise the volunteers and make sure they know what to do. It’s also a good time to ask if anyone would like to volunteer in the upcoming weeks.
If you’re reading this and you would like to get involved in volunteering with the Coalition’s parkrun project then please contact Katy at Get More Active:
Phone or SMS text: 07434 865062
If you are keen to get started straight away you can contact your local parkrun event team via the information on their website. http://www.parkrun.org.uk/events
“Parkrun is all about inclusiveness and wellbeing. We want as many people as possible to feel part of a real local community brought together by our events, as well as our global parkrun family.”
Did you know, you don’t have to run at parkrun? You can walk, you can use a manual or power chair, you can volunteer or you can spectate. Truth be told parkrun really isn’t about running at all! It’s all about community – that strength of human connection and feeling of belonging. This spring the Coalition will be focussing on parkrun and its many benefits and we will be sharing our exciting plans with you very soon!
I wanted to use this opportunity to first give you a bit of a background into parkrun and how it has grown into the global phenomenon it is today.
In 2004, Paul Sinton-Hewitt was an experienced club runner, when he picked up an injury which meant he could not run. At the same time, he was fired from his job and his mental health began to deteriorate. He wanted to find a way to stay connected with his running friends and so one Saturday morning in October he organised a timed 5km run for his friends. This is the event that became parkrun – free, weekly community events at 9am on a Saturday. Paul says that from the beginning his aim was for the runs to be community events, available for all to join in with whenever they wanted to. The events are free in every sense of the word – it’s not just that you don’t have to pay, but you are free to join in whenever and however you want, there are no time limits and nobody finishes last.
From 2004 to 2007 the Bushy Park event grew in size with more and more people from the local community turning up to join in and asking about having an event near them. By the end of 2007 there were 5 events – today there are parkruns in 20 countries worldwide and 1097 locations in the UK. All events are run entirely by volunteers and are free to attend.
As parkrun grew so did the realisation that these weekly events were making a real difference to many people in many communities. Parkrun began actively working to encourage participation in disadvantaged or minoritized communities – as its website says
“parkrun is all about inclusiveness and wellbeing. We want as many people as possible to feel part of a real local community brought together by our events, as well as our global parkrun family.”
What does this mean for disabled people and those with long term health conditions? In April 2016, parkrun UK was awarded a grant from the Department of Health and Social Care to undertake a three-year project to increase physical activity and social engagement at parkrun amongst people living with disabilities and long-term health conditions. This led to the PROVE project (parkrun, Running or Volunteering for Everyone). Research in 2013 had shown that 4.3% of UK parkrunners who were surveyed reported having a limiting disability or illness. People with disabilities and long-term health conditions were clearly underrepresented at parkrun.
This provided the motivation for the PROVE project, to make the parkrun population more representative of the whole population. The project was spearheaded by a team of volunteer Outreach Ambassadors for Disabilities and Long-Term Health Conditions. They were all seasoned parkrunners with real-world experience of disabilities or long-term health conditions in the disabilities and health conditions covered by the project. These were Anxiety, Arthritis, Asthma, Autism, Blood Pressure, Cerebral Palsy, Deaf / Hard of Hearing, Dementia, Depression, Diabetes, Eating Disorders, Endometriosis, Heart Conditions, Learning Disabilities, MSK Conditions, Multiple Sclerosis, Obesity, Perinatal Depression, Psychosis and PTSD. (There was already an existing project funded by the National Lottery to encourage participation of people with visual impairment).
Although the project has now finished many of the initiatives created remain to support and encourage participation.
- BSL information videos and recognition of the volunteer role ‘sign support’. You can watch the videos here BSL Guides to parkrun – YouTube
- Producing accessible language parkrun leaflets with symbols as well as words.
- Providing online training on accessibility for all event teams.
- Creating virtual meeting places for parkrunners using closed Facebook groups.
- Publishing blog stories from parkrunners with disabilities or long term health conditions. You can read some here PROVE project | parkrun UK Blog
Over the next few weeks we will be looking at the different ways you can get involved with parkrun but in the meantime if you are keen to get started please contact Katy:
phone or SMS text: 07434 865062