The Big De­bate

Runner's World (UK) - - IN THIS ISSUE -

Is it pos­si­ble to win a Parkrun? Pas­sions run high on this one

LUCINDA COBB 39, head of qual­ity as­sur­ance. Run­ner for 10 years

NO ‘In a world where many races are set up in a judg­men­tal fash­ion, Parkrun is a chance to get ac­tive in a non-threat­en­ing en­vi­ron­ment. You don’t have to turn up in your best kit, hav­ing fol­lowed a train­ing plan, or vowed to run your fastest. Of course the ‘no win­ners’ ethos came ini­tially from Parkrun and, to an ex­tent, we have been in­flu­enced by what the com­pany says. But even had we not, I believe this view is some­thing we would all have em­braced over time. Yes, I ac­cept that tech­ni­cally some­body wins through com­ing home first but it’s how you look at it that counts. The fact that Parkrun la­bels th­ese peo­ple ‘First Fin­ish­ers’ and not ‘Win­ners’ is im­por­tant, as is the fact there are no prizes or glory for fin­ish­ing first. To me, if there’s noth­ing to win, you can’t be a win­ner. If Parkrun changed its pol­icy to­mor­row I don’t think it would have a huge ef­fect on ex­ist­ing par­tic­i­pants, as it’s so es­tab­lished. But I do think it would dis­cour­age new peo­ple from giv­ing it a try. When I started go­ing to Parkrun seven years ago I was a 26-min 5K run­ner and I felt like the slow­est and largest per­son there. Now I’m slower than that but I feel like I fit right in. More and more peo­ple in their 50s and older are com­ing back to ex­er­cise and they come to Parkrun be­cause they say they were at­tracted by the ethos of not be­ing judged. Hav­ing the concept of win­ners would fun­da­men­tally change that.’

JOHN CAMERON 50, air traf­fic con­troller. Run­ner for 35 years

YES ‘Be­fore you reach for your torch and pitch­fork, I believe no­body has done more than Parkrun for run­ning and get­ting peo­ple ex­er­cis­ing since Jim Fixx wrote his book [ The Com­plete Book of Run­ning] in 1977. I will ap­plaud the last per­son across the fin­ish line as much as the first, but the ar­gu­ment – Parkrun can­not be won be­cause of its ethos that ev­ery­one is a win­ner – is a weak one, and sim­ply us­ing the term ‘First Fin­isher’ does not change that. Parkrun can be what you want it to be: a so­cial gath­er­ing, a fit­ness ses­sion, a train­ing run, a hang­over cure, group ther­apy, race prepa­ra­tion, a race against the clock/your­self/your mates. It is a race within a run. If you hap­pen to win your race within the run, and are First Fin­isher, have you not won Parkrun as well? The re­sults ar­chive shows you can be First Fin­isher over­all: in gen­der, in age group, in age ad­just­ment. It ranks the par­tic­i­pants. Lo­cal me­dia of­ten run sto­ries pro­claim­ing the week’s lo­cal Parkrun win­ners. This rank­ing and cat­e­gori­sa­tion is un­der­stand­able only in the con­text of com­pe­ti­tion, no mat­ter how be­nign. I ad­mire Parkrun’s de­sire to be in­clu­sive but win­ning doesn’t have to be elit­ist. We are in­her­ently com­pet­i­tive and win­ning is a by-prod­uct. As long as we are mod­est in vic­tory, hum­ble in de­feat and have a great time along the way, there’s noth­ing wrong with that.’

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