From 26 people to 1 million registrations in 7 years, Parkrun is transforming South African’s lifestyles one Saturday at a time.
Johannesburg, South Africa – Parkrun South Africa’s humble beginnings started in November 2011 at Delta Park where 25 participants joined Bruce Fordyce, Comrades marathon legend and now CEO of parkrun South Africa, for the inaugural run.
No one ever believed that the parkrun success story would grow to 1 million registrations in just 7 years and improve the lifestyles and health of people across the country. A staggering 6.8 million runs and walks have taken place in South Africa since the launch in 2011.
“In a country that is fraught with division, parkrun creates social cohesion. It’s more than just a sport, it’s a movement. Thousands of South Africans gather each Saturday and they can’t wait to see each other. New friends are made and people that never used to exercise have gone from parkrunners to Comrades marathon runners. The running scene in South Africa has exploded and I firmly believe that parkrun has been a catalyst in this trend. It used to be called Saturday – we now like to call it parkrun day” says Bruce Fordyce.
A growing number of volunteers and ambassadors manage the logistics of Parkrun – they coordinate the runs in their community, manage the rosters, set up on the morning and upload timed results after the run.
The national weekly team of 2,000 plus volunteers do all of this without remuneration or financial reward – they are the true heroes of parkrun and the reason why the model is so successful. Parkrun South Africa recorded 10 000 volunteer instances in January 2019 with over 200 new volunteers signing up each week.
According to a research study by Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University, people that volunteer are 42% happier than those that don’t, which may explain why the volunteer numbers are growing week on week.
“The health benefits are evident with many parkrunners reporting weight loss, improved mental health, decreased anxiety, higher energy levels and so the list goes on. In some smaller parkrun geographic locations, it has been reported that there is a direct link between people that parkrun and a decline in visits to the Doctor and less medical aid claims. It’s a win-win!” says Fordyce.
The magic that is parkrun is a simple formula. It’s 5km, it’s free, it’s timed and it’s every Saturday. Everyone is welcome – young and old, runners, joggers and walkers, families with children and prams, and our furry four-legged friends.
At capacity, Ellis Park stadium takes around 60,000 people for a major game. Comrades marathon has 25,000 people sign up once a year to participate in the Ultimate Human Race.
Parkrun South Africa has 60,000 people run, walk and jog, every single Saturday. It’s a growing global phenomenon and one of the best and healthiest addictions you could wish for. What are you waiting for – sign up!