Universities and communities run better when they work together. Running and working together is at the core of parkrun, a volunteer-based nonprofit that offers a series of free, weekly, timed 5K routes. The University of West Florida is the first University in North America to host parkrun, adding another valuable University-community partnership to a growing list while also showcasing the beauty of UWF’s campus. The inaugural run, held Feb. 9, 2019, was the largest North American parkrun launch to date.
The nonprofit has grown its reach significantly since its 2004 inception in England, with 1,400 current parkruns worldwide. Pensacola has joined Clermont and Gainesville as the three established parkrun sites in Florida, after local resident Robin Foley brought the idea home from a trip to Ireland. Foley introduced the idea of parkrun to Caleb Carmichael, head coach of the UWF men’s and women’s cross country teams, and Howard Reddy, vice president for University advancement.
“I was looking for a suitable course, and UWF was looking for additional ways to attract visitors to campus, so linking up was a marriage made in heaven,” Foley said.
Foley worked with UWF to clear the trail. The idea of parkrun was a welcoming one for Carmichael—he envisioned a competition-grade cross-country course that could serve UWF, nearby schools and the community.
“I wanted people to be able to come to a home meet here, train for UWF’s cross country teams or run on a trail on campus,” Carmichael said.
REC PLEX NORTH PARKRUN 5Ks
Parkrun, a volunteer-based nonprofit, offers free, weekly, timed 5K routes for runners and walkers of all ages and experience levels.
WHERE: Meet at the entrance of UWF’s Baars-Firestone Wildlife Sanctuary, located at the backside of the Rec Plex North, behind Lot Z
WHEN: 7:30 a.m. every Saturday, year-round.
CAMPUS MAP: map.uwf.edu
Pictured Top: The University of West Florida hosted the first parkrun on a college campus in North America on Feb. 9, 2019.
Parkrun participants gather at the Rec Plex North.