parkrun – why they should scrap results and barcodes.

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    Richard Woodfield

    It’s people like GG who make all the difference as to whether newcomers (particularly those coming on their own) feel welcome.





    Following on from Running Clubs and volunteering, my running club started the local parkrun and get the members to volunteer. Do think that perhaps they could introduce a scheme where you have to give something back in order to say, achieve the 25 parkrun mark?

    I’m not a parkrunner, but this is a good debate. Saturday morning swimming lessons taking priority atm, but I will pop along (when the lessons finish) to the local ones and see how friendly they are, as when I did my first one or two (Harlow, 2015) no one spoke to me (Jilly-no-mates!) but then I didn’t speak to anyone either as everyone seemed to know someone there.  One up in Newby was friendly and I’m sure most are.


    on the first debate, my words were im fed up with seeing the polls coming up on my Google news. your right Ian it has turned to a race and very competitive too. I have gone a few times to my local one, have raced, have enjoyed challenging myself but there it is ” im racing, to beat my PB time” have won my age group and yes do get a little aww not as quick this this time as last time, 2nd or 3rd, so guilty in some respect. What i found more off putting is the running groups that do go, the faster runners who are there to win and how unfriendly parkrun can be.. I myself have stood on my own and so have others, its more competitive than its made out.



    I have offten wondered why the fast runners want to really do park run? as so many are not there to race but to enjoy getting a social run, learning to run/ walk, enjoy encouraging their children to get active or for anyone who just wants to exercise. Have questioned if parkrun could be split into waves? but then its taking the reason parkrun was set up. Another way could be if your times are faster than 20 minutes? its not for you, as many who run under that time do they really need parkrun? or is it a case there are not enough 5k races around for them?


    Like a few on here PR is on a sat my rest day so getting there majority of the time would be a speed session before a LR.. Again thats me racing my time, scrapping results? for the ones improving their times its something they will look forward too, seeing how well they have done. So maybe it could be personal times, still get there time but NOT  the finishing position, so no 1st, 2nd, 3rd in any age group or at all.

    Amanda Morris

    I did read your blog on this yesterday and it did make me think. My c25k led to my 1st park run. On the day itself I was terrified but with encouragement from a few other runners I got around.

    Fast forward 2yrs and a handful of park runs completed I’m sad to say park run does appear to have become full of individuals who have no regard for other’s. The last one I did there was an incident of a faster runner actually pushing a slower runner out of the way, since then I have seen several incidents posted on my fb page including a runner being extremely rude to a volunteer. This is not acceptable and I have to agree that there are far too many that are racing against each other competing for that top spot in the published tables.
    However, I am reluctant to agree that tables should be abolished as there are still those that get the joy every week of seeing there times improve, it’s a great boost to see that 2sec off of your last time and as others say watching runners that have just completed their 1st park run or have completed it quicker than the last one is great to see (I’ve volunteered more than I’ve run). It does disappoint me though that most who finish in a quick time do not wait to cheer the slower runner in. It should not be about go run as fast as you can and leave, the idea is that of a community supporting each other on a weekly run has all but left the original thinking behind park run.

    I’m now in the place where a high percentage finish in around 32 mins, I make a point in the few I’ve done waiting, giving encouragement providing that support but I’m sad to say this is not the norm and highlights the issue of park run becoming competitive rather than inclusive.

    Something does need to be done but I do not believe scrapping results is the answer whilst it would reduce numbers as I think that those fast competitive runners wouldn’t bother turning up on a Saturday morning it will also penalise the individual who is there to measure improvement in there time over the 5k distance and provide them with that experience of turning up at an event and overcoming some of those fears.

    Chris Pattison

    Some interesting points being raised and in many ways I am split.  I am part of the core team at a parkrun and take the view its a run and not a race, but clearly there are folk every week that race it and the time is important to them.

    Rightly or wrongly though I feel its become a race for a wider group of people now.  Most folk want to improve on their PB’s … whether that’s sub 20, sub 30 or sub 50 etc.  I think if you take the times away then some of these folk may well stop coming over time.

    I have also seen a lot of folk start of parkrun and now running local 10k’s or HM’s, so it certainly generates an interest for them to develop their running.

    I suppose the honest answer is to recognise that it is indeed a race for 80% of the runners if not more.  But I just wonder where the harm is in saying its not a race to encourage folk, and then if they do attend and start to compete with themselves or with others … then that’s a good thing for bringing on their running I feel.  Certainly when I encourage folk to come I make a big point of saying its not a race, and I mean it …. if they chose to make it one then fair enough.

    Richard Woodfield

    Interesting.  I must admit that I don’t recognize the extent of some of the more unappealing tendencies mentioned in this thread, either in my home parkrun or in the dozen or so others that I have visited as a tourist.  But of course there are many hundreds of different parkruns so it’s entirely possible the character/tone varies a fair bit between events, even if the rules/parameters and infrastructure of the event are identical from place to place.

    I think there may be some variation about people’s interpretation of the phrase “it’s a run not a race”.  I don’t think people trying to better their own time or having a bit of friendly rivalry with a couple of their mates over finishing times means they are offending against the intended spirit of parkrun.  And poor behaviour – eg barging into other runners or shouting at volunteer marshals etc – is poor behaviour whether it’s a parkrun or a race. Maybe I’m more relaxed running in the middle of the pack, but I don’t often see really inconsiderate behaviour by runners – at either parkruns or at typical small/medium 10k/HM road races!

    rob k

    My current tally is 213 runs, 23 volunteers and probably twice that many uncredited volunteers. I know quite a few people with a lot more runs and a lot more volunteer credits to their name. I also know people who through injury or illness can no longer run but volunteer instead and they are much-appreciated members of the parkrun family.

    Through parkrun I know several internationals and elite runners, including one with Olympic medals and they tend to stay and cheer the same as the rest of us do or volunteer the same as the rest of us do. parkrun is a big family and everyone who choses to join is welcome, regardless of their ability or age and within that will find their own challenges. Generally I find that people tend to wait to the end and cheer on other runners or chat with those they have finished close with. I have never encountered anyone being overly aggressive or inconsiderate even on a lapped course or a tight route.

    I have run in 28 different parkruns scattered round the country and received a warm welcome at all of them and had the chance to chat to both local runs and fellow tourists and found the whole ethos to be very friendly at most runs.

    There was only one issue at an event which was due to the layout and finish area being funnelled round the side of a very large building which meant it was next to impossible to hang back to see other finishers.

    I have run in a parkrun with around 1,000 runners and another one with about 30. No issues with either. I no longer have a parkrun on my doorstep which means a fair drive to my nearest event. The tourists frequently equal the number of locals and all are made very welcome.

    parkrun stats are a valuable tool. Firstly they give you a benchmark as to how consistently they are running, secondly how they compare with runners of a similar age or ability, thirdly a comparison on different types of courses, fourthly in different weather conditions….etc

    For virtually everyone I know the statistics are important regardless of if they take 15 minutes or 1 hour or anywhere in between. Everyone can go away from the run happy with how they got on or vowing to themselves to do better the next week or setting themselves a challenge of goals across different courses, different terrains, different seasons. parkrun provides all that data and it is free.

    Different courses can be used as recoveries or training for different conditions. For instance the brutally tough Lanhydrock is fabulous training for Cornish trail racing, Hove prom takes in part of the Brighton Marathon course. Having a split of those courses or a statistic that is easily referred back to is useful.

    I will tend to look back on stats over previous runs, previous years, compare courses etc and I know plenty of other runners who do the same and will grade a time and a result themselves. It is valuable information. The scope for different challenges someone can set themselves with the data provided for them is huge.

    I have a lot of friends who do different parkruns. They are easily looked up by searching on club and result and it gives an idea of who has been where and how they have got on and a high finishing place is  a reason to be pleased for a friend. I know full well if they see how I have done in an event they will use my time as a benchmark and try to beat it. I have also done this myself.

    Every week there are probably thousands of little competitions up and down the country between groups of friends who will then stop for a chat and a laugh about it afterwards and do it again the next week. It promotes sport outside of Grand Prix races or league events which many people are reluctant to run in and still gives them a challenge.

    It also gives people the experience of running in an event without the expense.

    Without results then I probably would not bother going to parkrun, I would just do club nights more often for the social part and I think most clubs would organise more timed events themselves. I know a lot of other people who share that view.

    As regards stats, I know several people who have used parkrun results as a measure of a recovery from a serious injury or illness. Here are a few examples:

    A friend who had cancer and had surgery and chemo. Not allowed to run, but allowed to walk therefore this friend set a walking target and then challenged herself to beat it and charted it against how she felt during treatment. I am a fast walker and did several with her and the pace was pretty brisk, I needed to start to jog to keep up. I can think of several others who set pre- and post- cancer stats and compare them.

    My own experience of getting round parkrun on crutches and setting a time and then trying to beat it. I have had friends who have then found themselves needing crutches and trying to beat that time and they know where to look it up. I can think of a couple who have beaten my crutch pb – well done to them, it is blooming hard!

    A friend who had a stroke and set herself time targets as she recovered.

    I have read plenty of other positive stories like this in newsletters.

    In conclusion the original post is very much in error due to a lack of experience of parkrun, a lack of interest in shorter distance running and little appreciation of what makes parkrun special to thousands of runners up and down the country each week regardless of their ability or individual goals. It is a fun way of spending a Saturday morning with a challenge and a challenge that can be done week-in-week out.  There were a lot of complaints when the old Bug deleted masses of data of people’s runs – that would be but a drop in the ocean if all parkrun data was deleted.

    If you don’t get parkrun then fair enough but don’t knock it for those who value it very, very much and love it as it is now. parkrun is universal – embrace it!

    Ian S

    @ Rob, I wasnt knocking parkrun, certainly not in its original ethos. I was and am purely questioning the fact what all you park runners are passionate about, as in parkruns original ethos is being lost by racers and the results system.

    Surely the point I make is backed up by you saying you wouldn’t go if there was no results.

    If parkrun is such a wonderful thing in how it gets people together, helps socially,  helps people back from illness and the other reasons you gave, then why would you give that up and stop going if the results were not published anymore.


    rob k

    Ian – I put plenty of examples in there as to why the results are relevant and to whom they are relevant.

    There is no loss of the ethos as it is fully inclusive and those results are first and foremost personal. If someone cracks 45 minutes for the first time then that is something they can be as pleased with as someone who cracks 20 minutes for the first time. Why deny someone that? Seeing PB next to your name is rather satisfying.

    As a club runner I do plenty of social runs but also I need runs that are a challenge and produce a tangible result. Take that element out of parkrun then I would replace it with something else. I can think of plenty of others who will do the same.



    Lots of strong feelings in here – I think my take-away from all of this type of debate, is that there is outstanding work, commitment and support, that I seriously applaud going on from the likes of Richard, Chris, GG and to me THAT is the thing that still makes park run so great.  I think for me the issues arise from publishing and placing so much emphasis on the sharp end of the results/league tables – why publish them at all? – the satisfaction of receiving your result personally (time and whether it’s a pb and how many you’ve done?) would surely give the same level of satisfaction to the runners park run was initially aimed at?  I also wonder if perhaps there should be a requirement for your result to count to volunteer say once every 25 runs?  And perhaps if not publishing the league tables did reduce the number of speedsters attending then that might not be such a bad thing – there are also a lot of discussions and debates out there that some park runs now simply have too many people attending?

    Its an interesting discussion and one that stirs a lot of passion in many people who commit a lot of time to park run, recently I’ve seen a lot of tales of unwelcoming attitudes, pushy runners and aggressive competitiveness that do no favours to park run in each of this type of debate, and I always think what a shame that seems to overshadow the great work and support from so many more people involved.

    As I say I have never been to a park run and possibly never will, and can only judge by the the comments I hear from people who do go and try it, debates and discussions like this that pop up on social media/news feeds – but they are sadly now becoming increasingly negative with regard to park run, and that does sadden me.  However well organised or welcoming it tries to be, as it has grown it has lost it’s ability it seems to welcome quieter, shyer and less confident runners, but I don’t really know how that can be changed?



    I don’t think the results system is clouding over the ethos of Parkrun, perhaps it is the few examples of unsportsmanlike behaviour which grab the attention of social media headlines, rather than the thousands of examples of true sportsmanship?

    Chatting to a fellow club runner whilst helping to set up for the Ware 10s event and she is, by her own admission, a slow runner. Marathon time is over 6 hours. She loves parkrun, her PB is about 36 mins, and she uses the stats to gage her improvement. Think removing the tables doesn’t really help anyone.

    Over the summer, as my swimming lessons will stop, I shall go and do a few parkruns, a bit of research, where I don’t know anyone, and ones where I do,  and see how friendly and welcoming they really are, and also volunteer at the local one.  Can’t race them as they’ll all be in zone 2 😉


    rob k

    Sharnie – if you came to parkrun you would find that was not the case. There is always a warm welcome for first timers, for tourists and many parkruns play host to graduation ceremonies for Couch 2 5k groups with buddy runners drawn from park run regulars to give the graduate support on the way round. I have buddied this way a couple of times myself. This is often someone’s first steps in an event and they go on to other things too. I joined my new club on graduate weekend (March this year) and a good number of them have gone from running Eden Project to taking on trail racing Cornwall-style and parkrun has given them that momentum and confidence.

    Running is booming, parkrun continues to play an integral part in it. As parkrun grows, new events spring up to ease the load and keep most events to a reasonable number. When and where I started at parkrun in Sussex there was 1 in the area, there are now 9 within a 20 minute drive, all attracting good turnouts.

    Volunteering – many people already do it anyway, no need for pressganging. There are also plenty who don’t volunteer at parkrun but will then volunteer at Junior parkrun or other events instead so the trade-off is there.

    You will never please everyone and any organised event is going to get criticism, anything negative always finds a loud voice, I can think of any number of other events that are not as well organised or received as parkrun is. For all your “lots of tales” there will be thousands of positive tales. Each week.

    Results and tables from my point of view…. I grew up in Cheshire, I lived in Essex for a time, I lived in Sussex for 20-odd years before moving to Cornwall and have friends in all those paces who run. Do I want to know if they did a faster 5k than me? Too right I do! I also know full well my results get checked by friends too.

    Having recently relocated from one side of the country to another and had to start getting to know parkrunners at new events, the warmth of the welcome and the quickly-established new rivals has been fantastic.

    Richard Woodfield

    It is noteworthy that the average time for completing a parkrun has been getting longer.  This is a stat that parkrunUK is pleased with as an indicator that parkrun is become more inclusive, with a higher proportion of more timid/less fit people feeling able to take part.  Obviously there can be any amount of anecdotal reports that X, Y Z  felt really welcomed or A, B, C felt they were not welcome, but it is important to give due weight to the statistical evidence of whether a higher or lower proportion of slower runners are taking part.  The evidence seems to be positive on that front.

    If 1% of parkrunners are always feeling really grumpy about something or other the actual number of grumpy people will have doubled within a short period because of the enormous growth of the movement!  As something of a Twitter adict I recognize only too well that there’s plenty of indidivuals who will sound off incredibly negatively on social media about this and that.  (I “may” 😉 have done so myself from time to time – on non running subjects!)  Very easy to give such voices undue credence – when the week by week atmosphere at most parkruns is incredibly positive.

    I really do think that a substantial proportion of parkrunners would be be massively disappointed were the stats to disappear or be heavily pruned.  It’s difficult to overstate their importance to lots of people as representing a really good representation of a good chunk of your life and body of achievement.  In one place you can see all the different parkrun events you’ve been to, all your different volunteering roles, your PBs, age gradings.  You can see reminders of when you got PBs three weeks in a row, or when you gradually worked your way back from injury.  Everyone, be they international atheletes or someone who just walks the course each week, is in the same boat.  But equally it is just as good to see the totality of results as well as your own.  You can really make someone’s day if you have a quick scan of that day’s results and see that X who has been trying for ages has finally broken the 30 mins barrier or whatever, and then congratulate them unprompted.



    Hi Ian,

    Interesting topic but for me I have to disagree. I love a Park Run. I started back in 2016 just doing an odd run and my aim was to get round the course without walking. In 2017 I continued with just an odd run but noticed I was gradually getting faster & that’s what spurred me on. I set myself a challenge for 2018 to get to my 50th Run by my 51st birthday & to get a sub 30 run. I know it’s a run not a race but for me it’s just a personal achievement. I never expected to be running in my 50’s or 40’s for that matter but Park Run’s have really inspired me & part of that is getting my barcode scanned, getting a new PB now & then & seeing myself improve & get fitter. I’m not out to win any races & at my speed I never will but that doesn’t matter to me. I do like to show off my new times but only to my family & friends who genuinely support me (& on here of course).

    I’m now on my 71st run & aiming to get a sub 28min which I would never have dreamed off ever. It’s also give me the confidence now to take on those longer runs. I also like to try out different Park Runs & I now have two regular ones, a flatish one (Burnley) & a hilly one (Pendle). I’ve set myself new PB challenges for each & I can’t wait for that text message to come through to say how I’ve done.  I would still go & do a Park Run without the barcode/race time but it wouldn’t be quite as much fun or challenging just logging it myself with my fitbit.



    Disclosure: I’m a parkrun event ambassador so assume a biased opinion.

    parkrun do not organise races; it’s very specifically a “timed run” (it started as Bush Park Time Trial, before “parkrun” came to be). It is timed so you can measure your own achievements or compare yourself to others if you want to. Calling it a “race” puts off a large fraction of the audience that parkrun is trying to appeal to; the new runner, the person who wants to get fit, the person who is afraid at what other people think of them, the person who thinks that races are for lycra-clad lanky fitness freaks.

    But I can turn up and run as fast as I like, or walk round and I have done both, many times. I’ve run at the back and chatted and run at the front and not been able to speak. You want to “race” it? Go ahead. You want it to be a social walk? Brilliant!

    The thing is, it’s for everyone who wants to come along and if you’d rather run elsewhere that’s fine too. We try to be welcoming, but we’re human and sometimes fail. That goes for the other runners and volunteers. In the vast majority of cases I think we get it right.

    (Incidentally, France does not give finish positions in its results, they have an alphabetical list of finishers and their times – but this is due to some vagaries of French law and insurance reasons)

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