Companies in the Running Industry I admire and why…and revealing what a jersey bin is!
Today I wanted to talk about two organisations that I have a lot of respect for in the running world: parkrun (all lower case as per their branding) and Strava. They seem to me to be really switched on to corporate social responsibility and also seem to be on the runners’ side – not exploitative and money-grabbing (we’ve heard more than enough news of companies that fit into this category in the last 5 years or so), but appear genuinely keen to raise standards of health, fitness and social interaction through exercise, albeit in different ways, harnessing technology really well to aid their provision to the public.
parkrun – www.parkrun.org.uk (but with parkruns around the globe, currently including Denmark, Poland, Australia, USA and South Africa and likely to grow).
Parkrun is an organisation that relies on an army of volunteers to enable people to participate in weekly, timed, free 5k runs, usually on a Saturday morning at 9am (there may be some exceptions to this though!), set in parkland areas, often in partnership with local councils.
Each parkrun is independently organised by a set of volunteers, who carry out a range of different duties. These volunteers are encouraged to help out two or three times a year (which really doesn’t seem much effort now does it?) to enable the parkrun to continue and to share the load across the masses, rather than on the few as so often happens in many sporting organisations. I’m sure you can all think of the stressed football manager/dad/coach/fixture secretary, or similar in various other sports you’ve been involved in!
My local event is in a beautiful country park near Ruddington in Nottingham: http://www.parkrun.org.uk/rushcliffe/.
The way it works: You register yourself once on the website and are issued with a barcode that you need to print off and take with you on the run. At the end of the run, you simply show your barcode, which is scanned and then later on that same day, the results including your time will appear on the parkrun website and you’ll get a free e-mail and text with your result information on. How awesome is that?! The technology used also enables a huge range of statistics to be collected and analysed, both for race times, frequencies and numbers of runners, but also can be used on a country wide basis. On the parkrun homepage at the bottom, it provides these stats for example:
Number of events: 16,503
Average number of runs per athlete: 8.2 Number of clubs: 1,996
Number of runners: 270,377
Average runs per event: 134.3
Number of locations: 188
Number of runs: 2,216,343
Total Distance: 11,081,715 km
Total Run Time: 112Yrs, 87Days, 1Hrs, 37Mins, 54Secs
Female record holder: Justina HESLOP (15:58, 22 Oct 11)
Male record holder: Andrew BADDELEY (13:48, 11 Aug 12)
Isn’t that awesome?!
In the weekly e-mails you can sign up for, the Country Manager, Tom Williams, or another of the parkrunner management team, write about various issues to do with parkrun, their running experiences of late, recent news about running, and then go on to feature a range of e-mails they’ve had from parkrunners that week, or recently. It makes for a really heartwarming read and one that I always look forward to on a Thursday morning when I open up my emails.
Here’s an example from the most recent e-mail newsletter:
Since October I have been running at Pennington Flash parkrun and have loved every minute of it. My family thought I was insane getting up in all weathers to come down and run. However they did not see the friendships I made, the support given and the tea and cakes afterwards… until now! Yes they too have now discovered parkrun and have become as eager as myself to come down and run when their other sporting activities allow them to. Not only has parkrun given me so much already but now I also get to spend time on a Saturday morning running with my husband plus 11 and 14 year old children. I am sure all parents with this age group of children will agree, getting to do something together as a family without arguments is amazing! I’m a very happy mum. Thank you parkrun and thanks also to Bill and Shelle Bradley.
More feedback can be found if you’re interested, by following this link: http://www.parkrun.org.uk/news/2013/04/24/weekly-newsletter-25th-april-2013/#feedback_2013_04_24
So, in a nutshell, what do I like about parkrun?
- It is absolutely for anyone and everyone.
- It is a free, easy and rewarding way to run, and an opportunity to give back to the community too.
- The atmosphere – it is one of the rare public places where I genuinely feel happy, joyful, excited, relaxed, safe and willing to start up a conversation with anyone. I feel valued by parkrun as a valuable member of the parkrun family. The term ‘family’ is often used by the parkrun management in their weekly newsletters to parkrunners, which I’ve noticed and think is a smart and subtle way of making each parkrunner feel valued.
- It relies on the people it caters for – without people’s good nature it just wouldn’t work and I love that it is a success because of this (and of course those that drive the parkrun strategy!)
- The stats! I love that you can check so many stats about your runs over time, course records, country-wide stats, other people’s race times…I’m becoming a bit of a stat-monkey!
I’ve really talked quite a lot about Strava recently (www.strava.com), so I’m going to keep this section short, and just down to a five point summary about why I like it (now that I’ve been using their app and website for a couple of months now):
- After all is said and done, a key thread running through everything they do is that they have the athlete’s best interests at heart. In a challenge I talk about below, the rules are simply ‘Run hard and be safe.’ I found this refreshing in its simplicity and also in its message. How many companies would include rules that go on for millions of pages that they know no-one would bother to read? How many would have a message more along the lines of ‘Do your best and beat everyone, no matter what it costs?’ Something to ponder perhaps.
- Accountability – while there is always going to be a need to take that long or short run easy once in a while, knowing your peers can see your activity (or lack of activity!) spurs you on to do well.
- Language – I love that they consider me an athlete, that they email me to tell me when someone’s beaten me on a segment and that they assume I care enough to want to get back out there and make it mine again! I like that they email me to say they think I’m a big deal when someone new decides to ‘follow’ me and that I get an electronic pat on the back by my friends when the ‘like’ an activity I complete.
- Stats again! I’m not going to start on this, because I’ll lose anyone still reading this, but suffice to say there is a whole world of stats to analyse!
- They listen to feedback – Since I’ve become a Strava Ambassador (check out how this came about on my blog post about it entitled ‘The Power of a Blog…and what is a Jersey Bin?’), I’ve given them a lot of feedback. I’ve done this for two reasons. One is that I feel that their product offering would be enhanced by developing something along the lines of my initial suggestion. The second reason is that, as a Strava Ambassador, I’ve been made to feel that my opinion and my feedback matters. I’ve been prompted to add this point on feedback, given what I wrote in my initial blog article where I compared Strava with endomondo. When I logged on to Strava this evening, there was a challenge called ‘The May Massive’ which is a challenge to run as many kms as you can during the month of May, with goals starting at 40km and going up to 160km. I wrote a whole section on endomondo challenges and why I didn’t like them on the article where I compared Strava with endomondo and it seems that through this challenge, which is open to join a good few days before May begins, they have taken on board negative comments I made about endomondo and turned them into a positive statement I can now make about Strava.
If you’re a follower of this blog, I commend your endurance and reading ability. I realise I can waffle on some, and am going to try harder to keep my blog posts more concise in future.
Here’s to a blog post under 800 words coming soon!
p.s. I know what a jersey bin is used for! Apparently, the plastic wallet type thing is to keep your keys/phone dry in when you need to take them with you on a run or a ride! How useful! Not sure why it is called a jersey bin though…unless that’s the name of the company who make them?!