Your first ParkRun

Do you have a ParkRun within Saturday morning reach and are tempted to give this phenomenon a go?  Here’s your guide on how to get out there, and enjoy ParkRun Day as they call it!  Click here to visit the website and find out if there is a ParkRun near you.

What is it?

ParkRun is a weekly free 5km run, happening at a park near you (most likely)!   Here’s what the Parkrun website says as they can explain it better than I can.

“Parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.

These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and we encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; we welcome you all.”

How does it work?

You all congregate at 9AM at the starting point, listen to the announcements, and then it starts.  Their will be a briefing for first timers, useful to listen in, if you are new to this ParkRun or you are a first timer. But if you missed it, this blog post will cover the basics.

At the starting sound, everyone goes off at their own pace, the speedy keenos at the front, less fast, all the way to the walkers at the back.  There are no starting pens/dictated by times so, just try to be considerate and don’t hustle for a front-line position if you are more of a plodder.

Wave to your marshals

As you go along the course you will see marshals – and its customary to (at least at every Park Run I have been to) wave, and if you like, shout out a ‘Thank You Marshall’.  If you are with kids, hi-fives are often up for grabs.

As you come to the end of the course, and cross the finish line – stay in the funnel (which may be long or short depending on the size of the ParkRun you are at) and this is important – stay in the order you crossed the finish line in.  You may be asked to jog along the funnel, this is just so that there is not a back log over the finish line.

Finishers’ Token

So, at the end of the funnel, you will get a Finishers’ Token Do not leave the funnel before getting your token. This is important. Now you have your token you have two options.  If you have your barcode, take it and your finishing token, go and get it scanned by a scanner. They will have a little bucket for you to drop your scanned finishers token into.  Don’t take the finishers tokens home, they reuse them each run.

If you don’t have a barcode, there will be a person with a bucket, saying no barcode, return your token here.  Drop your token and head home. If you didn’t have a barcode, take a quick picture of your token (or just remember the number on it), you can use it to look up your ‘unknown’ result in the results list.  More on that below.

Okay, so what is this whole Barcode Malarkey?

Your sheet of barcodes

You have the option to register for ParkRun (click here to do it).  This registers you for all ParkRuns in the UK.  So, you only have to do it once.  So why not? Plus, it’s a good idea to do it, as you can enter you ICE (in case of emergency contact) on your account.  But the other main reason to do it, is that you will get your Barcode.

At the end of your registration you can download a page of Barcodes.  It looks like this (see picture to left).   Cut one out, take it with you. Do a little DIY lamination job with some Cello Tape, this way if it gets wet when running, the barcode will still be in-tact and can be scanned.  It is important to know that they do not accept digital barcodes, so don’t try to show someone your phone, you have to have it printed out.

So how does it work and how do I get my results?

Take your Finishers’ Token and Barcode to a scanner

Your finisher token and your barcode together link you to your ‘time’.  This is the time you will see in the results list on the website (and you can have it texted or emailed to you as well). Take a look at latest results from my local ParkRun, Bushy Park (the original one).  Take note of the finishing times  which vary from an uber speedy 15 minutes all the way to 58 minutes – proof, ParkRun is for everyone!

In the list of results, you will see some unknowns.  These are people without barcodes.  If you were one of them and remembered your finisher token number (or took a photo of it) you can figure out which unknown record you are in the list.

So, you don’t have to register, or if your printer is kaput, or you simply forgot your barcode, you can still run.  Just remember, that if you cross the finish line, you must stay in the funnel to get your finishers’ token.  If you are pressed for time, you can simply not cross the finish line, then you avoid all whole funnel/token situation, but you won’t be an ‘unknown’ in the results list if you don’t cross the finish line.

Why do people have t-shirts with 50, 100, 250, or even 500 on them?

Well these are called the milestone t-shirts, and the number signifies the number of ParkRuns a person has done.  So, this is another benefit of registering, as each ParkRun you do will count towards your total, and earning your milestone t-shirts, which are free!

What else should I know?

It’s probably a good idea to take a look at your chosen ParkRun online before you turn up.  You can look at the starting point, the course map, the start time.  I also recommend checking out if your chosen ParkRun has a Facebook page, as sometimes last-minute changes updates to this week’s run are announced on the Facebook page and not the website.

Quick fire questions:

  • Can I walk it? Yes

    Kids and running buggies welcome!
  • Can I bring my dog? Yes, on a lead, and 1 dog per person
  • Can I run with my running buggy? Yes
  • Can my kids run? Yes, but if they are under 11, they must run with an adult
  • Can my kids register? Yes
  • Do I have to register? No, you don’t have to, but why not, it’s quick, I promise
  • What time does it start? 9AM
  • When is it? Saturdays (and a few specials extra ones, like on Christmas day and New Years Day)
  • Will the course be marked/marshalled? Yes
  • Can I use earphones? Yes, but it is nice to also chat to the people there
  • Are their tail-walkers? Yes
  • Are their ParkRuns around the world? You betcha – check out the global site

Your New Vocab:

Barcode: Your printed-out barcode that you bring with you

Finishers’ Token: what you get once you cross the finishing line and exit the funnel

The Funnel: a queue after the finish line to keep you all in the order you finish in while you wait for your Finishers’ Token

Marshals: The volunteers around the course showing you what to do and which way to go

Milestones: The t-shirt with a number on it that signifies the number of ParkRuns you have completed

ParkRun Day: The day formally known as Saturday

Top Tips Summary:

  1. ‘Laminate’ your Barcode to keep it dry
  2. Print your Barcode, digital ones are not accepted
  3. Check the event’s facebook page for any last minute event changes
  4. Take a photo of your finishers token if you don’t have your barcode, to look up your results afterwards as an ‘unknown’
  5. You don’t have to register, but you prob should take a few minutes and just do it
  6. If you cross the finish line, stay in the funnel until you get the Finishers’ Token
  7. You don’t have to cross the finish line, if you don’t want to wait in the funnel, just don’t cross the finish line
  8. Don’t take the Finishers’ Tokens home
  9. Wave to the marshals around the course
  10. Have fun!!!

So what do you think?  Will you run a ParkRun tomorrow? Are you a first timer?  If you are a regular, what more would you add to this guide?


  1. Very nice explanation for non parkrunners. Good advice about checking before you go! Also noticed you’ve missed out one crucial bit of info: the distance of every parkrun is 5k! The terrain varies a lot between parkruns (although it’s always safe), so this is another reason to check yours out on the website first, so you are prepared for undulations, tarmac or trail. You might want to heed the first point on this blog when writing about parkrun: (parkrun tourists are people who like to travel to different parkrun events). You are urged to register as having ICE details can save a lot of angst all round, in the rare event of an emergency, as many (I would say most) parkrunners attend without their loved ones. Also registering means you can gain credits for volunteering at parkrun and junior parkrun. Volunteering is great fun, it’s good to give back (some parkruns suggest runners volunteer after every few runs, although of course it’s optional), and you can earn a purple milestone tshirt for volunteering 25 times. That being said, when running please remember to thank the various volunteers (marshals, barcode scanners etc.) for making parkrun happen, if you have breath to!


    • Thanks Debra. I can’t believe I left that it was 5KM off the post! Doh! Also, my post wasn’t really about ParkRun tourists or complicated jargon, but your post looks great for those interested in doing that, I honestly have not heard of many of those terms on your post, nor have I heard people use them (either at my home ParkRun or ones I’ve visited), I might try a little social experiment to and drop in a term or two and see if people think I have 3 heads :)!!! My post was more an on the ground guide (in real words) of what someone might expect at a ParkRun. I also have a separate post about volunteering for ParkRun in the pipeline (as I just enjoyed my first stint as a volunteer this past weekend), so stay tuned. Thanks for your comments and feedback! Happy running.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.