(Edited Version originally published on OddUrbanThings.com)
Looking for a 5K in Warsaw? Do you want to run, jog, walk, or crawl one this weekend in a park close to you? Maybe you don’t want to run, but you want to go cheer or help support a great sporting event? Parkrun Warsaw has got you covered!
Parkrun is an international organization with the goal of a healthier, happier planet. They run FREE, volunteer, timed events in over 20 countries around the world. Poland in particular loves Parkrun with over 60 locations, 5 of which are right here in Warsaw. North, south, east, west, and the newest location smack dab in the center of Park Pole Mokotowskie, there is an event near you. I originally thought of these events as races, because they do time you, but the event is so much more than that. You can use these events as a race or a speed training, your weekly run or even as a literal walk in the park. Although recent events had some runners clocking in under 16 minutes, local races have also stayed and supported members who took over 70 minutes to finish the course.
More than just a run, these events are a community. There are awards and celebrations the more events you attend. Many participants stay and chat after the race in informal coffee clatches or around pots of hot, sweet tea. Recently two runner’s got engaged at the Pole Mokotowski Parkrun. At a Parkrun in Kalisz, The entire runner’s group dropped back and let a departing and much loved event director cross the finish line first as she ran her last event at that location. These groups are definitely about more than just the run.
In an area like Poland where volunteerism is still a little suspect at times, this is a place you can go and volunteer and be sure of a grateful reception. Although the race is organized in Polish, let some of the volunteers know that you are an English speaker and someone will be found to interpret or at least get the pertinent information to you (for example, that the finish line has changed from the officially marked position). If you are there to volunteer, they’ll find a place for you, taking photos, helping with timing, or guiding runners at sharp curves.
I have run at all the Parkruns in Warsaw. I have included some quick notes about the courses and links to the location websites (in Polish so best viewed in Chrome where I have it set to automatically translate Polish Websites) and their Facebook pages below. I do recommend you go to the main Parkrun website which is in English and sign up and print out a free membership barcode – you must have a printed version in order for your run to be counted (I strapped mine to an old Biedronka Gift Card with clear package tape). If you have any questions, shoot them a Facebook Messenger request.
Parkrun Park Pole Mokotowski:
The newest of the Parkrun locations (they just started December 15th), the run begins and ends at the big lake in the center of the park. There is a very enthusiastic group of volunteers at this location and chances are you will see me there on weekends I’m in town since the park is in my backyard. The course is completely flat and volunteers helped direct at tricky curves.
Centered in Park Brodnowski, look for the big reflective cube in the center of the park. Some of the friendliest runners in Warsaw, we all had a good laugh after I missed the turn off for the finish line and everybody was yelling at me to come back and finish!
Based in Park Skaryszewski, this was the first Parkrun in Warsaw and the attendance shows it. Within a short walk from the National Stadium, it seems to be the most accessible for out of towners – there were running tourists each time I went. A very pretty park with lots of gardens and water views, you get a strong whiff of the Wedel Chocolate Factory on days where the wind blows towards the river.
This was the first Parkrun event I attended in Warsaw and by far I had the most help here as an English speaker. Runners went out of their way to make sure that I understood the route and what the Event Director was saying. However, this is my least favorite course, as most of it is run on the sidewalks outside Park Przy Bazantarni, whereas most of the other courses run through the park they are based in. There is a very pretty church in the center of the park and an amazing children’s playground in the trees.
Park Kepa Potocka is notable for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is the only Parkrun in Warsaw that is a single loop course – all the others include a second loop or more. There is also a very pretty river running through it that was particularly picture worthy frozen over this past Saturday. Although they didn’t have volunteers at every turn, the course is very well marked out with official looking sign posts along the trail.