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Children at parkrun

Since parkrun started in 2004 we have welcomed children to participate, as walkers, joggers, runners or volunteers at all of our events. Across all parkrun and junior parkrun events, children are permitted to register and participate from the age of four, at junior parkrun events they can only walk, jog, or run until the day before their 15th birthday.

Exceptions to this rule are subject to the discretion of the Event and/or Run Director. Examples include those aged 15 and over with special educational needs (SEN) or those with a registered disability, for whom social interaction and physical activity may be difficult but important.

Our definition of a child, across all parkrun territories, is anyone who has not reached their 18th birthday.

Every week we welcome tens of thousands of children to our events. This creates safeguarding challenges across a diverse range of environments and as such it’s critical that we present a clear and concise position.

We want children to have an overwhelmingly positive experience at parkrun; participating because they want to, in a way they want to; and in a safe environment at all times.

  • At our 5k events, children under the age of 11 must be within arm's reach of a parent, guardian or designated adult of the parents' choice at all times.
  • At junior parkrun events, children can participate on their own from the age of four until the day before their 15th birthday.
  • At junior parkrun events, children under the age of 11 must be accompanied to the start, and from the finish, of the event.
  • As with adults, children must always participate on foot. The only exception to this is that we do welcome wheelchair users where the course permits. In appropriate circumstances, children may, if needed, be carried for short periods, at a sensible walking pace and not while running.

Unaccompanied under 11s at 5k events

At our 5k events we require children under the age of 11 to be accompanied at all times, this is to ensure their safety and prevent the volunteer team from needing to directly supervise very young children.

However, volunteer teams are not required to proactively search for unaccompanied under 11s, rather they should remain observant at all times and only intervene where appropriate, using the following principles:

  • It should always be stated in the first-timers and pre-event briefings that under 11s should be accompanied at all times.
  • If event teams think an under 11 might have been unaccompanied they should enquire in a positive and friendly manner, ideally by identifying their parent or guardian, and then sensitively explain the policy. In almost all cases this solves the issue.
  • Where event teams believe that a family is repeatedly breaking this rule, they should politely explain that if they continue to run unaccompanied they may not be included in the results in future.
  • If at this point their behaviour does not change, event teams should inform parkrun HQ via eventsupport@parkrun.com who will assist.
  • Whenever an under 11 is identified has having walked, jogged, or run, without being accompanied, this should be logged as an incident by the Results Processor, Run Director, or Event Director.

Volunteering

  • Children are a part of every parkrun community and we encourage them to volunteer.
  • Children who are volunteering should always be within close proximity of a responsible adult volunteer.
  • Lead Bike and Pacer are an exception to the previous point. Children over the age of 11 can carry out the volunteer roles of Lead Bike and/or Pacer without adult supervision.
  • Event Directors must be aged 18 or over. Those under the age of 18 can be Run Directors if accompanied throughout the event by an adult Run Director.

Event team responsibility

  • At no point should event teams take responsibility for pairing children under the age of 11 with an adult.
  • As with all volunteers, event teams must provide children who volunteer a high-vis vest, provide adequate training in the relevant role, and also give them clear information about what to do in case of an emergency or if they require assistance.
  • The under 11s policy is in place as a support tool for event teams to prevent inappropriate participation by younger children. The key principles of this policy should be communicated at all first-timer and pre-event briefings, as well as repeated frequently on social media and event news pages. We should not be apologetic when explaining this policy.
  • All discussions with a parent or guardian should be carried out in a supportive manner. Some parents find it difficult and it can often be difficult for parents whose children are much faster than them. We should be understanding of this and provide encouragement but stress that the policy must be adhered to and faster children should be asked to slow down so that their adult can keep up.
  • Anything of concern should be raised with parkrun HQ immediately, where appropriate action will be taken. In extreme cases, particularly where a child is seen as at immediate risk of harm, local emergency services should be contacted.
  • At no point should teams attempt to physically prevent anyone from participating at parkrun events. If event teams believe a situation is unsafe, we ask them to contact emergency services. Our events are delivered in public areas of open space and the only sanction we are able to apply is to remove results, which should only be done by parkrun HQ and in rare circumstances.
  • Running whilst carrying a child of any age (whether in a front or back baby-carrier/harness, in arms, on shoulders or piggyback) is not permitted during parkrun events, as it poses a substantial safety risk. Walking whilst carrying a baby or child is permitted as long as their safety and welfare is not compromised.
  • Children can be pushed around our events in a buggy but should be dressed appropriately, comfortable, and be secure throughout. They should also have reached a stage of physical development where they are able to withstand the rigours of course-specific conditions.