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Parkrun: a free, fun and (slightly) competitive way to get active in Guelph (15 photos)

Saturday morning runs in York Road Park are timed, but the emphasis is on participation and fun

Every Saturday morning for the last four or five months, Guelph runners, joggers and walkers have gathered in York Road Park for a nice, timed five-kilometre run.

The runs are are open to anyone who wants to participate regardless of skill and age. All are welcome.

And they’re free.

It’s all part of the parkrun Canada series, but there are no awards of any kind. The reward is participation alone.

Participants must sign up online, but only have to do it once and then can take part in a parkrun event anywhere in the world.

Results are posted online so you can check to see your progress should that be your goal.

The parkrun event in Guelph is on the Eramosa River Trail. It starts just past the covered bridge in York Road Park and the runs down the trail into the Eramosa River Park. Plans in the future call for the run to go two and a half kilometres down the trail and then back to the finish. Right now, though, the run travels about a mile and a quarter down the trail and back due to construction in Eramosa River Park. That means participants have to do the course twice to get to the five-kilometre distance.

Other nearby cities that have parkrun events are Kitchener, Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington and Hamilton. They are among the 18 communities hosting parkrun events in Ontario.

Parkrun originally started in London, England, in 2004 although the name wasn’t used for four years, a year after Zimbabwe hosted the first event outside of the United Kingdom. The U.S. joined in during 2012 and Canada followed in 2016, the first one being held in Kelowna, B.C.

In October, more than 6,300,000 people had free parkrun memberships.

The first Eramosa River Trail parkrun was held in June and last weekend was the 21st consecutive Saturday that a parkrun event was held in the Royal City. It’s gone from a low of 37 on a rainy day in August to a high of 116 the Saturday before Halloween when some of the participants took part in costumes.

While the the majority of the participants are people out for a morning run, jog or walk – some with their dogs, babies in baby carriages and youngsters on scooters – it has also attracted several Boston Marathon finishers, professional triathletes, cyclists, local track and triathlon coaches and a former Olympian or two.

Putting on a run requires a host of volunteers with 15 of them looking after last week’s run.

Sponsorship helps keep the runs free and the lack of pressure of the events can be seen by how the participants straggle in to the start. The runs begins at 9 a.m. and it’s not uncommon for the majority to arrive five minutes before the start, do their warmups and then run.

By 10 a.m. most are home or having a cup of coffee with other participants.