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We recently published our new global five year strategy that sets out the direction for the future.

Event Location and Course Design Guidance


As parkrun expands around the world we have a continued (and increasingly challenging) duty of care to ensure that our events are as safe as possible, not just for our walkers, runners, and volunteers, but equally for others who use the areas of open space. We know from experience that once an event has started it can be incredibly difficult to change the route, and so we take great care over initial course design, as well as subsequent changes, and approval isn’t guaranteed. We endeavour to work with event teams to help find safe and suitable routes, although this isn’t always possible.

These principles must be followed to determine if a location and course is suitable for a parkrun event and the points below must be taken into account when discussing and approving a course with a prospective or existing event team. The course should be suitable to operate all year round, preferably, without the need for an alternate route, and simplicity and safety should always be the priority. This doesn’t include where the event has to follow the parkrun Cancellation Policy due to one off events in the location, for example, an annual festival.

If an unexpected risk is discovered on a course during the Event Day Course Check the event team should carry out an active risk assessment to determine if participants can be safely diverted around the risk. If the event can carry on the team must log an incident to explain the risk, the change and how the diversion made it safe.

parkrun events can only be two distances:

  • 5k - these take place on a Saturday morning for participants aged 4 and upward
  • 2k - junior parkrun events on a Sunday morning for children aged 4-14, (currently only in Australia, Ireland and the UK).

Note: Secure sites follow different criteria that can be found here.

The Location

Whilst considering the impact of a parkrun event, it is vital that the local community is taken into account, as well as the way parkrunners will access and engage with the location. Not only should the course be safe, secure, and welcoming for parkrunners, but it should be safe for everyone who uses space and bring minimal disruption to the local area.

For both safeguarding and health & safety reasons, it is important that events do not provide or manage toilets, showers or changing room facilities. Facilities such as these may be available to parkruns, however, it is important that event teams understand that they must always be used at people’s own risk.

Teams must not be responsible for their use or cleaning and must not provide any parkrun branded signage or in any way suggest they are a parkrun-provided or managed facility. A key may be held to unlock (and lock again) toilets in a park that is used in circumstances where park staff cannot open them early enough.

Accessibility is important for both safety and inclusivity and so access should be carefully considered in relation to both these topics. Although not all parkrun events can be fully accessible, all participants must be able to access the event in a safe manner.

Where possible we encourage people to arrive by public transport or under their own steam and this accessibility should also be taken into account when looking at a location, however, we understand many people will drive to parkrun so suitable and safe parking must also be available.

When considering accessibility and transport, the following points should be taken in account:

  • Parking
    • Where it is possible for people to drive to a parkrun event, it must be possible for people to move safely from their car to and from the start and finish areas.
    • Any on-street parking could have an adverse effect on the local housing area and should be considered in this light.
    • Local residents must also be considered, particularly if the route passes close to housing or other accommodation.
  • Public transport & cycling
    • Where applicable, cycle routes should be described and cycle storage areas should be identified and be available to view easily on the event website.
    • Where public transport is available, it should be communicated in sufficient detail for example placing links to public transport on the event website.
  • Other users of the area
    • If there are other organised activities taking place that may impact or be impacted by the parkrun event this must be considered and any risks mitigated.
    • Where a location is utilised by other people, for example people walking their dogs, this should also be considered and any risks mitigated.

The Course

  • Start and finish areas
    • The start and finish should ideally be in the same location as each other as this minimises the need to move equipment and is easier to provide volunteers for.
      Where possible, any sudden narrowing of the route or sharp corners/turns should be avoided in the early parts of the course, allowing people to spread out naturally.
    • Participants with dogs or running buggies, and wheelchair users should start from the same area as the other walkers and runners . They should position themselves based on their predicted finish time.
    • The start area is the only point on the course where all the walkers and runners will be together at the same time, and there should be space for this to happen without compromising safety or unreasonably inconveniencing other members of the public.
    • If there is a covered area available, finish areas should be positioned in close proximity if possible, to allow participants, including volunteers, to shelter after they have finished or when carrying out their roles.
    • The finish area is the point on the course where people will spend the most time, and needs to accommodate the finish funnel itself plus the various volunteers, again there should be space for this to happen without compromising safety or unreasonably inconveniencing other members of the public.
    • Where possible downhill sections should be avoided at the start or finish of an event. This is due to natural congestion at the start, and the need to cross the finish safely, both of which have significantly increased risks when people are moving faster.
  • Laps
    • The route should be as simple as possible, with multi-lap options preferable allowing for quicker access to medical incidents, and greater atmosphere, as walkers, runners, and volunteers spend more time in close proximity.
    • Whilst it can be natural to think that meandering one-lap courses that take in as many of the local sights and sounds as possible would be far more attractive to parkrunners, our experience tells us that this isn’t the case.
    • When considering the suitability of the route also take into account the required marshals and volunteer roles for the event to take place safely. Multi-lap courses are significantly easier to cover with volunteers, however, consideration about congestion and effect on other users should be considered the more laps that are used.
  • Roads and cars
    • Courses must not cross roads that are open to the public.
    • Where a course is situated close to a public road, it should be possible for parkrunners to overtake others, for volunteers to carry out their roles, and for other users of the space to interact, without risk of stepping or falling into the road.
    • Courses must not cross car parks. If they go alongside a car park this must be mitigated appropriately.
  • Conservation
    • All parkrun events take place in areas of open space, where environmental impact should be considered at all times. It is our aim that shortly after the Tail Walker crosses the finish and all volunteers have returned then it should not be possible to see that an event has taken place.
    • parkrun events can take place in conservation areas or other sensitive locations such as World Heritage Sites, National Parks or Sites of Special Scientific Interest, where this is the case all additional and appropriate considerations should be made in order to protect the local habitat.
  • Capacity
    • All new courses or changes to existing courses should be risk assessed to accommodate a minimum of 150 participants, and more than that where it could be reasonably expected.
    • We are unable to limit participation numbers at our events, so whilst we understand that some events may launch with relatively low numbers there will be times where attendances may increase, either due to one-off occasions or organically over time.
    • A wide enough course is needed to accommodate participants passing each other on the route, as well as needing to give way to other users of the space.
    • There must always be space at the sides to allow participants or members of the public to move out of the way safely.
    • Any out-and-back sections should be wide enough to allow for plenty of space between participants travelling in opposing directions, including where lapping may occur and allow for other people to use the path safely at the same time with additional consideration that there must be a marshal positioned at the turn around or furthermost point.
    • It may be for the safety of all users that participants may be informed they have to stay to one side on certain sections of the route and/or only pass others when they have checked that it is safe to do so.
  • Weather, seasons, and climate
    • Our events take place every weekend, all year round. The course should be suitable and safe for the event to take place across all seasons.
    • Risks can vary significantly based on the local weather and so, particularly where there is significant seasonal variation, this should be considered in advance.
    • Some territories allow season specific events to take place, please contact Event Support for further information.
  • Course directions
    • The route should be easy to follow, with pathways visible to all, clearly marshaled and sign-posted where required.
    • The route should also be simple enough that it can be described in no more than a few sentences.
  • Emergency access
    • Access to all parts of the route for emergency services should be considered and difficult-to-access sections should be referenced in the risk assessment.
  • General
    • Try to avoid any remote sections where participants, including volunteers, would be isolated during the event.
    • If courses travel through mixed-use areas (such as campsites, off-lead dog areas or golf courses) then these sections should be carefully risk assessed.
    • The route may not cross cattle grids, fencing, over gates or similar obstacles.
    • Where livestock or wild animals are present in the area, this must always be risk assessed.
    • Courses must not travel down steps, and upward stepped sections should be risk assessed.
    • Gates should be avoided where possible, and where unavoidable they must be opened by marshals who should remain in place for the duration of the event.
    • Other key hazards that must be risk assessed include, but are not limited to, steep drops (on the route and/or to the side of the route), open water, bollards, private access roads, and unstable or uneven surfaces.


Ambassadors and event teams need to ensure the correct landowner has given written permission for the event to take place. In some cases a proposed route may cross land belonging to multiple landowners, and in this case permission is required from multiple landowners.

Landowners may require a permit/permission document to be signed by a parkrun representative so that they can provide permission. In this case, please submit the permit document to Key points in relation to landowners:

  • Event fees – we do not pay for the use of any of our venues around the world. We believe that local volunteers should be able to deliver low-impact, free, community events and not be charged to do so. Further, whilst we aim to support our landowners wherever possible, and understand that there is a cost to maintaining areas of open space, we could not maintain our free-to-enter model of participation if our events were charged a fee.
  • Insurance – we provide public liability insurance for all our global events, with cover up to £12 million, confirmation of which can be found here.
  • Most parkrun events allow participation with dogs, in line with our dogs policy, however landowners may request, in writing, that we don’t allow dogs onto their land. We will accept this condition, however it’s important to note that assistance dogs would be exempt.
  • Buggies - Similar to participants with dogs, parkrun has a Wheels Policy for participants with buggies and in wheelchairs. Landowners can request, in writing, that buggies are not permitted on their land however, this should not include wheelchair users.
  • First aid - parkrun events do not provide official first aid, however nearly all events are equipped with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), all should have access to a first aid kit, and are required to follow our principles for dealing with incidents.

Risk Assessment

We provide a risk assessment template that must be developed for any prospective event and reviewed annually for all existing events.

Full information on the risk assessment process can be found here.

Changing a course

From time-to-time events need to completely change or move their course, which should be done in collaboration with the Event Ambassador and Event Support.

Whenever changing a course, the following points should be observed:

  • We do not allow significant course changes for one-off occasions, and in these instances events must cancel as per the parkrun Cancellation Policy.
  • If an unexpected risk is discovered on a course during the Event Day Course Check the event team should carry out an active risk assessment to determine if participants can be safely diverted around the risk. If the event can carry on the team must log an incident to explain the risk, the change and how the diversion made it safe.
    Any diversion implemented by the team must still allow the route to remain the full distance.
  • Where significant changes are made, standard course design principles should be followed (see above).
  • We must have landowner permission specifically for the new route.
  • Temporary courses should be slower than regular courses (in most cases this means they should be longer) so that participants don’t achieve PBs that they can never attain when they move back to the main course.
  • All alternate courses must always be risk assessed, be in the same location and we will not allow a course to be reversed.
  • Alternate courses must be approved via parkrun Event Support before being used and each event is only allowed one alternate course maximum
  • If a course is changed to a different location then this must be done on a permanent basis and will be treated as a new parkrun event.

As a general rule, due to the time and resources required, we discourage teams from changing their course. However, there are two common reasons why it may be important to do so:

  • The landowner may decide that they want event teams to change the course for a particular reason, we should respect their views.
  • It might be that after the course has been in operation for a few months, event teams realise that a change is required in order to improve the safety of the course.

Please advise the team to contact as soon as they are aware of any change needed.

Note: Any further questions about this guidance should be forwarded to