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What are Junior Park Runs?

3 January 2023

You may have heard of Park Runs, but did you know that there are also Junior Park Runs? Junior Park Runs are a wonderful chance for children to exercise together in the fresh air.

5km Park Runs are a global phenomenon that have been held regularly since 2004. In 2010 the shorter 2km Junior Run was introduced for children aged 4-14. Since then more than 100,000 youngsters across the world have crossed the finish line! The separate events mean children can participate in a safe, supportive, friendly environment.

Junior Park runs are free to enter and the aim is to have fun rather than compete. The mission is to make exercise accessible to all and an integral part of the community. Kids can walk, jog or sprint and nobody comments if you don’t finish. It’s not a race.

The events are organised by volunteers. Unlike the 5k, children can run unaccompanied at the Junior event. Adults do need to bring children under 11 to and from the run and remain present throughout. 

There is a fun guided warm-up before the start. There might be 20 to over 100 people on the start line but the wide age range means they quickly spread out. The course may be on grass or tarmac or both, passing through woodland and open meadows. Enthusiastic marshals are stationed around the course so children are always in sight of one. It’s exciting to arrive at a formal finish line with spectators cheering. Any adults running the course with little kids cannot cross the finish line to spoil their moment of glory!

The course is accurately measured. If you register, you will receive a bar code so that a precise time is recorded on the finish line. So if they like, children can compare their times week-to-week to improve their personal best and see how they rank in their age group. Many 14 year olds can run 2km in well under 10 minutes and there is no time limit for little ones.

Junior Park Runs give children the opportunity to run with older siblings or friends they have made outside of school. Children from all backgrounds come together. It’s all about community. Parents and guardians might run with them, perhaps walk with a toddler on their shoulders or push a buggy. So it's great family time too. The events are inclusive with wheelchair and mobility scooter users welcome.

Since they are on every week, Junior Park Runs can become a regular part of children’s fitness.  Water and a cushioned pair of trainers are all that’s required.  

Park Runs are very sociable with groups usually going for coffee together afterwards so it's a chance for adults to meet people too. 

Special efforts are being made to introduce Junior Park Runs to areas of social deprivation and help children see exercise as a normal part of their lives whatever their background. The ethos behind them is that people are innately good and exercise can be a vehicle to improve society and help the planet.

Photo by Gabriel Tovar on Unsplash

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