From non-runner to parkrunner: subjective athletic identity and experience of parkrun

James Bowness*, John McKendrick, Emmanuelle Tulle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
247 Downloads (Pure)


Parkrun is a mass sporting community event which presents itself as a global social movement that aims to create a healthier and happier population. Existing research has explored the impact of parkrun on physical and mental wellbeing, and the mechanisms through which it may change physical activity behaviours. This paper draws upon a UK-wide survey of 8157 parkrunners to explore the subjective athletic identities of those who initially self-identified as non-runners. We examine how identity change is associated with perceptions and experiences of parkrun and demonstrate that parkrun has facilitated subjectivity change that leads many former non-running parkrunners to engage in running outside of the event. Using a Bourdieusian framework we argue that those who frequently engage in parkrun perceive a variety of health and performance changes that become legitimising factors for new health/sport behaviours. Our data add to existing research by demonstrating that parkrun provides a platform for individuals to become ‘runners’, whilst also offering a sociological explanation of how behaviour change may occur.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-718
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number5
Early online date23 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • parkrun
  • athletic identity
  • behaviour change
  • subjectivity
  • running
  • UK

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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