Seven things that make it run
a lightning talk given on 31st
Augut 2018 at EMF2018, Eastnor Castle
Dr. Yuwei Lin
Disclaimer: This talk and research are not sponsored by parkrun.
free, weekly, 5km timed runs, which are open to everyone
safe and easy to take part in
Began in the UK in 2004
A steadily increasing number of participants
Why parkrun? What makes parkrun special?
Existing studies on parkrun
A study funded by Cancer Research UK in 2014 concluded
some lessons for “citizen led community participation and
The researchers used surveys, in-depth interviews with
parkrunners and organisers, and participatory action research
approach to ‘work with’ parkrun and community organisations.
They concluded that parkrun creates active and inclusive
physical cultures. parkrun’s approach can help a cross-
section of participants from diverse social backgrounds, as
well as people who didn’t previously identify as runners.
This talk is based on
my unstructured participatory observation
insights from sociological theories about
infrastructures, time, organisations, culture.
“Infrastructures” in a sociological
The sociology of information infrastructures
SL Star and Karen Ruhleder (1996) ‘Step toward an ecology of infrastructure: Design and Access
for Large Information Spaces’
– The authors analysed the levels of infrastructural complexity involved in system access and designer-
user communication, the connection between systems development aimed at supporting specific forms of
collaborative knowledge work, local organizational transformation, and large-scale infrastructural change.
Edwards et al. (2007) ‘Understanding Infrastructure: Dynamics, Tensions, and Design’
– History and Theory of Infrastructure;
– Lessons for New Scientific Cyberinfrastructures"
Social and historical analyses reveal some base-level tensions that complicate the work of
infrastructural development. These include:
Time, e.g. short-term funding decisions vs. the longer time scales over which infrastructures typically grow
and take hold
Scale, e.g. disconnects between global interoperability and local optimization
Agency, e.g. navigating processes of planned vs. emergent change in complex and multiply-determined
What makes parkrun special?
7 Things that Make parkrun different.
It is not just yet another 5k run at a local park.
1. Standard format
Every Saturday 9:00 start (some local
variations may apply (9:30 in Ireland and
Easy to set up. Standardised signs, cones,
barcodes (No barcode, no time).
Even the run director’s speech is based on the
2. Start-up event budget
Financial support - a budget of £3000 to set up
a new parkrun.
3. Going digital
Parkrun websites with published recorded time.
Various podcast series to make it more fun
– Free Weekly Timed
– parkrun adventurers (Australian parkrun podcast)
– The parkrun show (discontinued)
– ‘With Me Now’
– Marathon talk (related)
5. Support from public authorities
Local councils (Little Stoke parkrun cancelled due to
the parish council wanting to charge runners, see
NHS GPs, nurses and physiotherapists who
“prescribe” parkrun to their patients
6. Branding and marketing
Logo (need to change barcode tokens because of rebranding)
– NHS (e.g., NHS’s 70th birthday https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-
7. Keep it free
Free as in free tea and coffee.
A sociology of parkrun
– Participation of disabled people?
– People with childcare or other carer responsibility?
– How to get to a parkrun? Having to drive 20 miles to a parkrun? No
public transportation. Congestion en-route or having to pay for car
Sense of belonging (community) and achievement? How deep?
Organisational culture: localised practices
A sociological inquiry will help move beyond symmetry and neutrality,
and improve the ‘infrastructure’.
– e.g., shared childcare facility, car pool, better public transportation, free
parking, free tea and cake!!!
The concept of ‘infrastructuring’
Infrastructuring other events such as 10k runs, marathons or
For creating evaluation tools for assessing and comparing existing
For improving infrastructural practices
For enhancing resilience, sustainability, and reach - “Infrastructures
develop by creating links among varied systems. Social scientific
studies like this one can help to recruit under-represented groups
and institutions, as well as to create partnerships with
organisations that have substantial existing expertise in areas
complementary to scientific research” (Edwards et al. 2007).
Parkrun is like Marmite
But you won’t know til you try.
Join us tomorrow for Tewkesbury parkrun.
Leaving EMF site 08:00 See Wiki for car share