Parkrun attracts following

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A free community run in Wanaka has become a popular Saturday morning activity, organisers Jane and Adam Sharman, of Wanaka, say.

The Wanaka parkrun began around two months ago and since then had attracted an average of 50 people each week, Mrs Sharman said.

“It started in England 13 years ago with a group of friends who just wanted to do a timed run, and then it has grown from there,” Mrs Sharman said.

The concept had grown into a worldwide phenomenon. Parkruns now took place in 17 countries around the world, and in 20 locations around New Zealand.

Each participant had the duration of their 5km run recorded and entered into a website, meaning over time participants could track their individual performance, and see how well the group was doing overall, Mrs Sharman said.

Each person who registered for the parkrun was given a barcode, which was scanned when they turned up for a run, she said.

“That barcode gives you entry to any parkrun around the world, so every time you scan it your results go into your results pool, and you can always log in to your parkrun account online and see what your results are,” Mrs Sharman said.

The philosophy of parkrun was that the runs were always free, and people who were visiting could take part in the local parkrun, Mrs Sharman said.

“We ask in the introduction who is from overseas, and we get so many people who’ve come from England or Australia or South Africa, and they are on holiday and they see there’s a parkrun here in Wanaka, so they come along,” she said.

The parkrun organisation provided the Wanaka group with scanners and stopwatches, which enabled them to time each runner and enter their information into the Wanaka parkrun page, Mrs Sharman said.

“There’s good incentives with parkrun. When you reach 50 parkruns, anywhere around the world, you can get a special T-shirt.

There were further T-shirts at 100 and 250 runs, which were highly prized in the parkrun community, Mrs Sharman said.

There were also incentives for children.

“When they reach 10 parkruns they get a certificate”, she said.

The run catered for a wide range of abilities, from fast runners who were working to beat their personal best, to families who took their time, Mrs Sharman said.

“We have older people who are walking, and then you have families running with their kids, and you have people with their dogs, buggies, anything.”

The run took place every Saturday morning, beginning at Wanaka Station Park, then along the lakefront, almost to Waterfall Creek, and back the same way, Mrs Sharman said.

“Eight o’clock is the standard time worldwide, but for winter further south they change to nine o’clock, so we’ve just changed to nine o’clock with daylight saving.”

As a celebration of its 10th run on April 28, the group was planning to do a dress-up run, Mrs Sharman said.

“We are going to encourage people to dress up and we will have a few more spot prizes,” she said.

“It’s a really nice friendly atmosphere. It’s a really nice family event,” she said.

“People stand around the finish line and cheer everyone else on.”

The parkruns were always free, and volunteers were a big part of it, Mrs Sharman said.

“We need seven or eight volunteers each week to make this happen”, she said.

People who were interested in volunteering could contact Mrs Sharman at wanakahelpers@parkrun.com