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Our Local, Global Community

Our Local, Global Community

Original article link:

One of the things that continues to strike Laura Ritchie, Kiwanis Event Director, is how parkrun is a truly global phenomenon, and how it is spread largely through word-of-mouth. Here, she reflects on the first 4 months of parkrun in London, ON.

The reason Kiwanis parkrun came to be is because I heard about parkrun from my sister who lives in Scotland while my Event Co-Director Alan heard about it from his sister, who lives in Australia!

We independently reached out to Euan, who had previously set up Basingstoke parkrun, moved to Canada and became Country Manager here, facilitating the start of three events within the first few months of parkrun launching in Canada (and helping us grow to 21 events seven years later!). He put Alan and I in touch with each other and fast forward a few months, London had its own parkrun event.

At our inaugural event in mid-September, we welcomed;

  • a runner from Scotland (yes, my sister) doing her 38th event, the 12th different parkrun in a row she had run
  • a first-time volunteer from Scotland (yes, my sister’s partner, who might have been “voluntold” to help us out)
  • an Event Director from Livonia parkrun in Michigan, participating in his 150th event
  • an Event Director from Beachstrip parkrun in Hamilton who was volunteering in his 45th parkrun event
  • a runner who previously ran and volunteered in Botanical Garden parkrun in Pretoria, South Africa
  • a runner who heard about parkrun through a friend of hers in Scotland
  • a runner who heard about parkrun through a friend in London, England
  • a runner who was told by her daughter (who runs and volunteers in Fulham Palace parkrun in England) that she had to go to parkrun (thank goodness she listened!)
  • many first time parkrunners who came to us through local word-of-mouth and just plain curiosity

Since our launch, we’ve also welcomed;

  • parkrun tourists from England and the US who happened to be visiting London
  • London natives who currently live elsewhere but were home visiting for Christmas and the like
  • London natives who were introduced to parkrun elsewhere and were happy to find that there was a local event
  • another representative from Livonia parkrun
  • regular parkrunners from South Africa, Turkey, Australia and England who are living in London either temporarily or have moved here permanently

So what’s the point of this litany, you may ask? Simply that I think it’s astounding that in only four months, I’ve met and befriended so many new people from so many countries, and also so many locals that I may not have crossed paths with otherwise.

I’ve heard fascinating personal stories. I’ve been inspired by watching people persevere to complete the course in hot and cold, rain and shine, snow and ice.

All by showing up at the same place on the same day at the same time, for free, with no pressure or obligation. Just a group of like-minded people who come together to enjoy the physical, mental and social benefits of a good walk or run in the park.

We can’t wait to see what the next four months will bring!

Laura Ritchie, Event Director Kiwanis parkrun