"Triggered by the sound of other runners": A qualitative exploration of parKRun mentions in mental health records


Community-based physical activity (PA) is beneficial for those with serious mental illness (SMI). In the past decade, free, 5km community-based runs organized by the parkrun organization have grown in popularity, with more than 600 runs per week in the UK. While accessible, the extent of engagement in parkrun by individuals with SMI has not been identified. With the increasing use of PA as a multimodal treatment of SMI, parkrun participation may have clinical implications. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine discussions of parkrun in electronic mental health records. Specifically, a qualitative observational study of electronic health records of parkrun mentions in a secondary mental health service in London, England was conducted. Anonymized records of over 200,000 patients, including inpatients and outpatients, were searched and retrieved to identify mentions of parkrun. Thematic analysis was used to organize the findings into key themes. The sample included 175 individuals with SMI (55% female, Mage= 33 years), and 333 mentions of the parkrun running program. The findings from the thematic analysis of the records were organized into 4 themes: i) More than Just a Run; ii) Clinicians as Gatekeepers; iii) The Role of parkrun in Recovery; iv) When parkrun Isn't Always for Everyone. These findings can be used to make parkrun a more welcoming and inclusive place for those experiencing SMI. Furthermore, the findings may also inform current policy discussions around the importance of social recovery for service-users.