Ron Marinucci: October Column - Park Runs

Ron Marinucci: October Column - Park Runs

Veteran Michigan runner and race director Dave Armstrong reminisced, being reminded of “back in the ‘60s, when we held informal, free races on Belle Isle [in Detroit.].” He recalled, “Somebody would start one of the old round silver stop watches, throw it in the bushes, then we’d all run the race. As we crossed the finish line, we could go to the bush and see what our time was. No shirts. No prizes. Just racing. Maybe some of the old-timers will remember these.” Armstrong went on, “Everything was pretty unsophisticated until [Frank] Shorter won the Olympic Marathon in ’72. Then the boom began and everything became more organized and formal—and expensive.”

Ah, the good old days. It’s tough to beat them, at least in our minds. But, wait. Maybe we can.

Rick and Lori Brauer have started weekly informal runs in Livonia, Park Runs held at Bicentennial Park. And the Park Runs seem to be catching on—in Livonia and in other countries.

The phenomenon of Park Runs, originally called UK Time Trials, was hatched in London, England, organized by Paul Sinton-Hewitt. That day, October 2, 2004, thirteen runners showed up to run a 5K in Bushy Park. Park Runs were born. Including the United States, Park Runs have now been introduced in ten nations, mostly in Europe. More than 350,000 runners have participated to date.

Park Runs are weekly races, short (5K), timed, and free. They are open to all levels and varieties of runners, from beginners to mid-packers to Olympians.

The Livonia Park Runs began late last spring on June 2 with more than 150 runners. Rich Brauer explained, “We’ll be there fifty-two weeks.” So far, eighteen runs have been held. He added, “9 AM starts begin on October 6.”

The run is 5K “and it can really be whatever you want it to be, whether that’s for fun or as part of a training plan.” It is “open to all and, best of all, it really is free!” All that is required is to register at the Livonia Park Runs Web site at" by 6 PM the Friday before the run.

The course is accurate and is run in Bicentennial Park on grass and paths that might be shared with walkers and bicyclists. The run is timed and results are recorded. The Web page notes current course records and record holders.

Long-timer area runner Nina Bovio has participated in the Park Runs. “I went to the run in July. There is no entry fee. You do have to sign up, but there are no awards.” She noted that it is “non-competitive…but Rich does keep tabs by a [bar]code.” She added, “Rick has volunteers to guide [runners on] the course, [which] is mostly run on grass within the park.”

It’s the volunteers and a handful of sponsors who permit the races to be held without entry fees.

Bovio continued, “I totally enjoyed the run with all types of runners and walkers. And no stress, just a good fun run and no competition whatsoever. It’s a wonderful idea to promote fitness without any pressure.”

This Saturday, October 6, the Brauers will celebrate “World Park Run Day” in Livonia. It’s the eighth anniversary of Park Runs. Runners can bring cakes—birthday cakes—to help in the celebration. And they are also encouraged to bring another runner, one new to Park Runs.

Brauer also noted that October 27 will be the first of many planned theme runs. With Halloween just around the corner, runners are urged to come in costumes. “A Christmas pageant run” is also planned.

After each Park Run, many runners congregate at a nearby restaurant for breakfast or just coffee and “maybe to swap stories.”

The Web site includes a weekly newsletter. The newsletter has running tips, tips of the hat to Park Run participants, some local running news, and photographs. And all that runners need to register and participate can be found there, too.

The Brauers hope to see you at the Livonia Park Runs.