Running for fun and community

August 21, 2018

How the Portobello parkrun is bringing people together


A consultant out of our Edinburgh office, Emma Lougheed is a volunteer social secretary with her running club—organizing social events throughout the year—and is also part of the Portobello parkrun core team.

What’s Parkrun? In 2004, 14 runners got together to start a free, 5k, timed running initiative in London. Parkrun has now grown to 19 countries spanning over five continents, and participants have exceeded 4.5 million. It takes place every Saturday morning for all ages, and there’s a Junior parkrun which provides a 2k run for children aged 4–14 on Sundays. Parkrun’s success is attributed to the simplicity and accessibility of the process: register online once, print off your barcode, show up to your park, and run.  

“I’ve been on the core team at Portobello for over two years now, right around when parkrun first started in Edinburgh,” Emma said. “I take on the key roles of run director and volunteer coordinator, someone who briefs the other volunteers on their roles. We manage volunteer offers in the mailbox during the week, deal with any incidents or accidents, and manage the social media accounts.”



The inclusivity of this running group is another reason Emma volunteers for parkrun. “The nice thing for me is that it’s for all ages and abilities. We have elite club runners mixing with beginners which include walkers. There’s been quite a few people who turn up saying they can’t run, but over time, they’ve built up from casual walking to taking their trainers on holidays!”

A local running club like this leads to a community, where strong friendships have been built and are maintained through social events, other parkruns, and attending races. Emma has dedicated much of her time to volunteering with the Portobello parkrun as well as supporting her local Junior parkrun. “This year, I should hit my 100th volunteer shift. My next milestone will be to participate in 100 parkrun runs, which I might squeeze into 2018.”

Emma likes to run. But it wasn’t always this way. Much like the beginners in the parkrun 5k, Emma always told herself she couldn’t run. “My personal trainer at the time turned up the speed on the treadmill, which led me to doing the couch to 5k program,” confided Emma. These days, when she isn’t volunteering, Emma’s out conquering marathons (Manchester, London, Dublin, and Stirling) with Cape Wrath and Manchester 2019 on tap, ultra-marathons (50k and 55k), and several half marathons including the second half of the Budapest marathon as part of a two-person relay team.

Last year for Stantec in the Community Week, Emma and a team from the Edinburgh office cleared meadows for the local Water of Leith conservation trust. “SITC Week is a great initiative. It boosts staff morale and encourages teamwork. It’s amazing what a small group of people can achieve for the benefit of the community, in just a few hours.”

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