The weekly 5km runs are a global phenomenon. But they were born out of a desire to change lives without charging for it
Every Saturday morning at 9am sharp a little bit of anarchy breaks out across the country. This being Britain, it happens, naturally enough, in our parks. Not that it’s billed as such. It’s meant to be a 5km run, which is why at Richmond Park in south-west London this morning the grass is carpeted with well over 400 people in sports gear. But it has none of the intensity you’d expect at a track or even on a gym treadmill. One woman tugs balloons, to celebrate her 100th run; others prepare to push baby buggies or keep pace with their dogs. Although supported by the charity Parkrun, this and the 559 other events across the UK set to start in a few minutes are entirely self-organised.
What they share is an ethos. Parkruns are free to all, and all are treated equally. No hierarchy intrudes between the hares and the tortoises, the old-timers and the debs. Members volunteer to mark the course or keep time or to aid stragglers. So early this morning, as the weekend still brims with promise, on these hectares of parkland owned by the Queen, a little anarchist world briefly comes into focus. One devoid of government nagging or corporate profiteering, but reliant instead on mutual aid and human kindness.