Parkrun comes into 2017 on the back of two major milestones – surpassing three million registered runners worldwide and the arrival of its thousandth community.
There are now parkrun communities in 14 different countries across five continents around the world.
The free, weekly 5km timed run for all ages and abilities has exploded since its inception 13 years ago.
Parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE said: “We are a community of like-minded people who get together on a Saturday morning and that community is based on the principles of openness, friendship, helping one another, being healthy, focusing on the good things in life and not the bad things in life.
“People are completely changing their lives not through the running but through the efforts of being involved in the community and finding friendships that are really strong and powerful and help you deal with all the ills of this world.
“We are a community that form part of a family focused on people and people’s well-being.”
Parkrun started in 2004 in Bushy Park with just 13 runners – and was known as the Bushy Park Time Trials.
It took two years to convince Mr Sinton-Hewitt to start another parkrun in Wimbledon and the growth since has been extraordinary.
Mr Sinton-Hewitt explained: “I would say the plan pretty much started in 2007 with the start of Wimbledon parkrun.
“That was the second one and by the end of that year we had seven and the approach in those days was to remove any barrier that existed in order to get a parkrun started.
“And in that year we started to build the principles of ‘what is this?’
“Things like it’s always free, it will be run by volunteers, there will be a self-service model.
“The process that we employed moved quite rapidly to the point that we were able to go from one event to seven, to 15 the next year and 25 the year after to 70, it just became a multiple.”
LEGEND: Paul Sinton-Hewitt started parkrun more than a decade ago
Parkrun today is much changed from those humble beginnings back in Bushy Park.
In those days Mr Sinton-Hewitt used to compile the results on an A4 sheet of paper from the back of his car.
The system has evolved to the point where all 3,000,000 runners can see each other’s results on the parkrun website within hours of finishing their Saturday morning runs.
And there have been many seminal moments as parkrun has grown.
“You live with this week to week. It is like watching your kid grow. You have to actually go and look at the photos to recognise hang on a second he’s grown six inches this year,” said Mr Sinton-Hewitt.
“The number I am most proud of is the 1,000 communities, that’s 1,000 events.
“I don’t mind whether that is a community of ten people or whether that’s a community of 50,000.
“In the area we live Richmond and Twickenham there are more than 60,000 people registered with parkrun.”
People in south west London have a plethora of events to choose from including Richmond Park, Old Deer Park, Kingston, Wimbledon Common, Tooting Common, and Bushy Park.
In the UK there are around 600 weekly parkrun events and this time next year that will be closer to 750 or 800.
Mr Sinton-Hewitt said: “We have a strap line to make the world a healthier and happier place and that is a very grand strap line but we will carry on doing it.
“We’ve got time and in this country it feels like we are on the way there.”
To find your nearest parkrun visit www.parkrun.co.uk