Record-breaker in sight as St Andrews run hits its stride

Runners await the start of another St Andrews parkrun. (Photo courtesy of St Andrews Parkrun)

Runners await the start of another St Andrews parkrun. (Photo courtesy of St Andrews Parkrun)

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Come rain or shine, and even snow and biting wind, a gathering takes place every Saturday morning in Craigtoun Park.

There is always a buzz of excitement as more than 100 people of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels wait for the off and the pleasure of running three laps of the park.

From modest beginnings, the St Andrews parkrun has grown to become a runaway success and expectations are high that the number of runners will break the 200 mark when it celebrates its third anniversary on April 25.

And there will be an unmistakable birthday atmosphere to the day, with cake, refreshments and presentations in a marquee after the run.

The parkrun movement is something of a modern phenomenon - a collection of free, not-for-profit volunteer-organised 5km runs that take place on Saturday mornings across the world.

What started in 2004 as a single time trial event at Bushy Park, London, organised by Paul Sinton-Hewitt, now has events in Australia, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, South Africa, the UK and USA.

In Fife, another was recently started in Kirkcaldy.

In the UK, there are now more than 320 parkrun locations and more than 600,000 runners are registered as members – and once you are registered, you get your own unique barcode and simply turn up and take part in any parkrun, anywhere in the world.

Event director Gary Ovenstone and fellow organiser Adrian Wood have been involved at the St Andrews event since the very first tentative parkrun was started by Jen Kelshaw and Rhiannon Harrison on April 21, 2012.

“We had 74 runners for the first race but that soon settled down at between 30 and 50 for quite a while and it was about a year before we broke 100,” Gary said.

The highest attendance of 168 was set just recently and now an average of around 130 runners turn out each week.

While admitting a degree of bias, Gary said: “There is something special about the St Andrews parkrun.

“It’s not the biggest but it’s incredibly friendly and has a great atmosphere - and it’s in the most stunning location at Craigtoun Park.

“Everyone appreciates it’s first and foremost about fun - it’s not a race, it’s a run. And it’s run by people giving up their time to do it.”