18 Sep

Bressay parkrun’s positive impact recognised

One of Scotland’s newest parkruns, Bressay in Shetland, has been recognised by the Leeds Building Society for the positive impact the event has had on its local community.

Each month the building society explores the community benefits of the free, timed 5k events in a new feature on the parkrun blog. Bressay’s ‘Community Story’ is the first to be told.

Bressay is one of Shetland’s 15 inhabited islands. The island itself only has a population of about 350, so a good Saturday morning turnout can increase the number of souls on Bressay by nearly a quarter.   

One of the most remarkable features of the Bressay parkrun – highlighted by the Leeds – is that the experience doesn’t begin on the start line, or even in those nervous minutes beforehand, when most of us are frantically searching for our barcodes.

The event really starts on the 9am ferry, a seven-minute hop from Lerwick, and continues all the way through the ride and the short walk to the start.  With only one ferry to get runners to the start at the right time, everyone heading to the event – whether volunteer, runner or spectator – instantly becomes part of the community. The close quarters also have another benefit: they give the parkrun coordinators time to brief their volunteers and reassure first timers.

As the report notes, local residents have been very supportive of the event, even providing volunteers to run the community café at the finish, a venue which would not normally have been open on winter weekends. Residents and parkrun volunteers also work together to help maintain and ‘spruce up’ parts of the route and the finish area.

The Community Council has also recognised how much the parkrun adds to Bressay by providing funding and resources, and the community itself promotes the event as an attraction during their ‘Up Helly Aa’ fire festival.  

As for the run itself, the atmosphere both before and after the event is fantastic, something to which runABC Scotland staffer Christine, who did the run in May, can testify.

The sense of being part of the community that started on the ferry over continues through to the post-run coffees in the Spediburn café, on the walk to the ferry that takes parkrunners back to the mainland, and the return journey itself.

Since the very first Bressay parkrun in January 2018, the event’s reputation as unique and friendly has travelled far and wide. The race attracts an average of 40 runners each week, with race directors very proud to give a warm welcome to parkrunners from across the UK – and the rest of the world. 

The ‘bemused surprise’ apparently shown by local residents at the sudden upturn of traffic on the 9am Saturday ferry has turned into genuine affection and pride in what their community has achieved.

The Leeds Building Society are looking for communities up and down the UK to be their next Community Story. They’re also providing funding of up to £25,000 to help improve local parkrun communities. Find out more about their Community Reward Scheme here.

Image: parkrun uk