When parkrun first appeared in Wales in February 2008, only 56 hardy souls completed the 5km run at Blackweir, Cardiff. Fast forward to 2020 and the run regularly gets around 900 people taking part. The record currently stands at a whopping 1192 runners. How many chips do they have we wonder?
Since 2008, parkrun has grown at an exponential rate in Wales with currently 42 different events taking place every Saturday throughout the country. These range from road, trails and even sand (Hafan Pwllheli is run entirely on the beach!). parkrun offers something for everybody, whether you want to smash a fast 5k, a nice tempo session leading up to a target race or if you just want to get around and socialise with likeminded people.
For this blog we will concentrate on the fast stuff. We have crunched the numbers to see which parkrun in Wales is the fastest and where you should go if you really want to try and nail that 5km time. Of course, we all know that parkrun is not a race, but who doesn’t like running fast on a Saturday morning?!
We have reviewed the fastest times recorded by men and women at all of Wales’ parkruns so far. Of course this is not entirely scientific as each time recorded will depend on the individual runner, the weather on the day and whether the athlete was going for it 100% but we thought it would be a bit of fun to take a look nonetheless.
Cardiff parkrun has recently been in the news following GB International athlete Charlotte Arter’s parkrun female world leading time of 15.49. This was following a previous 15.50 clocking at the same event in 2019. The flat, sheltered course is clearly a fast course with athletes regularly running sub 16 and sub 15 minutes. 14 men have run under 15 minutes on the course so far – the fastest being Welsh and GB International Steeplechaser Ieuan Thomas (Cardiff AAC) who has recorded a super-fast 14.24. Ieuan has a 5k PB of 13.59 on the track.
However, the fastest parkrun ever run in Wales was not run in Cardiff. In fact it was run in Llanelli when 2.09 marathoner Dewi Griffiths of Swansea Harriers breezed around the course in 14.12. Clearly being a professional runner like Dewi helps when you want to run fast but it goes to show that on a calm day, Llanelli can yield very fast times. Rounding up the top 5 fastest parkruns are Swansea Bay, Parc Bryn Bach and Aberdare. GB international runner and orienteerer Kristian Jones (Swansea Harrier) has run a brisk 14.27 at Swansea whilst sub 4 minute mile man Tom Marshall (Cardiff AAC) has ran 14.36 and 14.40 at Parc Bryn Bach and Aberdare respectively. Impressive sub 15 clockings have also taken place at Porthcawl (Jonni Hopkins) Penallta and Pontypridd (Tom Marshall again). Interestingly Tom holds the fastest time at five Welsh parkruns in total – but perhaps this is a topic for another blog!
In terms of the women, we have already discussed Charlotte Arter’s exploits at Cardiff. A further 22 more women have run 17.30 or better on the course, further reinforcing the fast nature of the circuit. In second place is Swansea Bay where Commonwealth Games 5000m athlete Elinor Kirk has run 16.33 and in third place is Porthcawl where former World Triathlon Champion and Olympian Helen Jenkins has run 16.40. Rounding up the top 5 is Pontypridd and Llanelli. At Ponty, Welsh international Clara Evans has run 16.47 and at Llanelli, Elizabeth Jenkins has run 16.52. A sub 17 clocking has also taken place at Parc Bryn Back courtesy of Lauren Cooper.
Based on the above it is clear that fast times are available at a number of Welsh parkruns. Looking down the order we can see that a sub 16 5k has been achieved at 24 of the 32 parkruns.
We have also reviewed the average parkrun time across the board. Again, whilst not overly scientific the results paint a similar picture with Cardiff, Parc Bryn Bach and Porthcawl appearing in the top 5.
- Aberbeeg* – 27.06
- Cardiff – 27.18
- Grangemoor (Cardiff) – 27.50
- Parc Bryn Bach – 27.56
- Aberystwyth – 27.57
- Porthcawl – 28.01
Of course the average time depends on numerous factors including how many people turn up to the event, and in this regard we have done some more research. Let’s face it, when you want to run fast you don’t want it to be too crowded, especially when the 5km route has several laps! The largest parkruns (based on average number of runners) are as follows:
- Cardiff – 428
- Tredegar House, Newport – 306
- Swansea – 282
- Newport Riverfront – 267
- Porthcawl – 266
Based on our highly forensic research we therefore conclude that if you want a fast course that is not too crowded then probably best to head to Aberdare (average of 97) or Parc Bryn Bach (average of 90). If you aren’t bothered about the crowds or prefer to have company for your fast run we think that Cardiff or Swansea is a good bet. What is clear from the above is that parkrun provides you with an opportunity to run alongside some of the country’s top athletes, including Olympians, World Championship and Commonwealth Games representatives. What other sport can you say that? And great thing about it is that it’s all free!
If you’re not fussed about running fast then just go to any of our fabulous parkruns! You are sure to get a warm friendly welcome from the volunteers. Without the volunteers none of this would be possible!
Long live parkrun!
All statistics correct at the time of writing.
- *Aberbeeg parkrun was initially omitted from the article. Apologies Aberbeeg! 🙂