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Pints & Parkruns: Cardiff

My biggest event so far - 1,000 runners!

By Andy PottsPublished 5 months ago 3 min read
A crowded finish funnel processes 1,027 parkrunners on a busy day in Cardiff

There’s no getting away from it: Cardiff is a serious sporting city. On the day I pitched up at the parkrun I was earmarked to work at ice hockey’s Continental Cup final. Had I not been committed there, I could have spent my day watching Championship football (Cardiff City 0 Leeds 3), international netball (Wales 48 Uganda 59), European Champions Cup rugby (Cardiff 15 Harlequins 54) or the World Wheelchair Fencing Championship.

But before any of that started, more than 1,000 people turned out for their weekly parkrun.

By some margin, that’s the biggest event I’ve been part of. OK, so a four-figure turn-out is unusual here, but it’s striking that although Cardiff averages 453 finishers over its 758 events, you have to look hard to find a ‘below average’ field. New Year’s Day in 2023 attracted 455 hardy, hungover souls – almost bang on the current average. However, the last time numbers dropped below the mean was in August 2022, event 686.

It neatly illustrates the rise of the whole parkrun movement. In its infancy, Cardiff had a few dozen runners. It was a full year before numbers reached three figures but by the end of 2009 this was commonplace. And, apparently, regular runners didn’t just keep coming back, they brought their friends along with them.

From parkrun to kids' football, there's no shortage of action in Cardiff on a Saturday morning.

This is a success worth celebrating. Parkrun encourages public health, social engagement, volunteering and a whole raft of other positive things. Even a jaded old cynic can see clear value in a simple but effective way of bringing people together to exercise.

But these kind of numbers present challenges as well. The core team at Cardiff was working hard to keep things under control, doubly so given that this Saturday was using an alternative course. This one, on the opposite side of the River Taff from normal, starts near a riding school and there was understandable concern that a large, talkative crowd might spook the horses. The numbers also had an impact at the finish funnel: four channels, each moving as fast as possible but still resulting in a backlog for medium-pacers like me. Again, this is an inevitable consequence of the numbers involved, and the organisers managed it as well as possible. But for runners used to smaller events it was something of a shock to the system.

Out on the course, too, the numbers meant it wasn’t always easy to find space to run at your own pace. More runners require more time to thin out and what might have been a fast, flat, paved path to a PB proved slower than expected in places.

However, while some might claim this is evidence that parkrun risks eating itself, the bigger picture is different. Not every event is like Cardiff. Of course there are high profile runs with big turn-outs. The rise of parkrun tourism means events may be highly prized because of their initial letter or (although officially frowned upon) the mathematical significance of that day’s event number. Then there are the bucket list runs: Bushy Park, or the unique challenges of Great Yarmouth’s sand or Whinlatter Forest’s arduous climb.

At the same time, there are many smaller operations. Some may be relatively remote, others might have discouraging hills or tricky terrain to put off many runners. Sometimes, for no clear reason, another event is just that bit smaller: a few miles from Cardiff, Cosmeston Lakes had 163 finishers on Saturday, and averages 126. That suggests that parkrun has enough variety to give all participants what they want, both now and in the future.

The pint

This was a busy weekend, so not much time to explore the local beer scene. Happily, if you’re in a rush, Wally’s Liquor Cellar in the Castle Arcade is the perfect place for a quick overview of what’s brewing. A great selection of independent Welsh brewers, knowledgeable and friendly staff and a handy location between Cardiff parkrun and the railway station make this a good starting point for the discerning drinker.

First visit: Jan. 2023. PB: 27:34

Thanks for reading. For more Pints & Parkruns, please visit my website.


About the Creator

Andy Potts

Community focused sports fan from Northeast England. Tends to root for the little guy. Look out for Talking Northeast, my new project coming soon.

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Comments (3)

  • rose amy5 months ago


  • Thanks again for an enjoyable read... "more than 1,000 people turned out for their weekly parkrun... 758 events". Impressive... I participated recently in a 500th event with a new record of over 700 participants... quite a slow, congested start!

Andy PottsWritten by Andy Potts

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