Last Saturday, 638 people ran just over 3.1 miles at the 500th parkrun in Endcliffe Park, which was one of the first few parkrun events in the north of England when 36 people first ran two laps around the park on July 10 2010, just after Nick Clegg became deputy prime minister.
Since then, over 25,000 people have run along the river Porter, past two duck ponds and back, twice, clocking up over a million kilometres between them, guided by more than 1,300 different run volunteers.
Record holders Rebecca Robinson hurtled round in 16.39 in 2015, while local lad Andy Heyes set the incredible men’s record time of 14.49 last summer.
But Professor Steve Haake said parkrun is about more than personal best times and fast finishers. Chair of the international parkrun organisation’s research board, Steve has studied parkrun’s benefits, and run over 300 Endcliffe parkruns himself.
“It’s a community event with a 5km run in the middle of it,” he explained.
“The first thing people say on our surveys is they get an amazing sense of achievement from taking part, and the next thing, from over 70 per cent of participants, is that their mental and physical health has improved since they first started coming along.”
Being part of a community, whether walking, running fast or slow, or volunteering to help, is one of the key ‘social’ draws of the parkrun community across all six Sheffield parkruns, he added.
“I love volunteering,” said Kate Scott, who’s volunteered at 93 events so far, and run the Endcliffe parkrun 316 times, sprinting in four times as first female finisher. “It’s just great fun, I love encouraging people, seeing everyone smiling and happy enjoying their runs.”
Sarah Hawker said the Saturday morning 9am run is about her family, with she and her partner and four kids running round or volunteering in various combinations most weekends.
“It’s a brilliant way for kids and adults to be active together, for me it’s really important. It’s our family time.”
The run at Endcliffe was originally called Hallam parkrun, but a course change last year led to the new Endcliffe name and a new bumpier route now entirely within the park, along both sides of the river, rather than straying out onto the pavements of Rustlings Road.
Numbers have fallen slightly from the high of 884 in May 2019, with some S17 locals switching to the nearby new Millhouses course instead, and organisers feel that the usual 4-500 participants is plenty, with over 30 volunteers needed for each run.
Event director Louise Dale-Hughes thanked young Duke of Edinburgh scheme participants for enlisting to help over the next few months, but added that the run ideally needs a few more core team volunteers too (contact [email protected] if you can help).
She also praised Endcliffe runners for chipping in over £500 to buy a new heart defibrillator, now stationed at the cafe for the benefit of all park users.
Louise has taken part as volunteer, runner, director and general organiser since week 7. “I’ve seen people coming down before getting married a few hours later, people running as recovery after heart operations, and so many people making new friendship groups, meeting here and ending up going on runs together or even going on holiday.”
Like local teacher Nick Burns, who first discovered he could run at Endcliffe in 2014.
“I came in and realised there were quite a lot of people behind me, and thought, “I’m alright at this!’” Nick now goes on ultra running holidays with friend Ben Heller, whose first Endclffe run was number 6 in August 2010.
“At that point we never thought it would get to this,” said Ben. “When we got to 100 runners we thought that was amazing!”
It’s about longevity and consistency, said Steve Haake. “It’s the same time, the same place, every Saturday,” he says. “It’s just a great way to start your weekend.”