Mendel Riverbank parkrun volunteers.

Parkrun on track to hit 100th run by spring

Saskatoon’s Mendel Riverbank parkrun is on a roll.

The free weekly five-kilometre running and walking event kicked off its inaugural run on Jan. 4, 2020 and quickly gained notoriety as the world’s coldest parkrun. But, less than three months later, it was forced to halt operations as COVID-19 swept across the globe.

The run rebooted in August 2021 and celebrated its 75th run on Nov. 12. Unless upcoming runs are cancelled because of extreme cold weather, it’s on track to host its 100th run in early May.

Scenes from the Mendel Riverbank parkrun.
It’s not uncommon to see many generations show up for the weekly Mendel Riverbank parkrun.

“We’re always welcoming to everybody, all walks of life, young and old. We can always find something for someone to do or encourage them to complete the course. We celebrate everyone crossing the line,” says co-director Amy Walker. “It’s a really fun little Saturday morning, a great way to start the weekend.”

The Mendel Riverbank parkrun is one of hundreds of similar events that happen on Saturday mornings in communities around the world. While routes differ, the concept is always the same: turn up every Saturday and walk or run five kilometres. The event prides itself on being free and powered by volunteers, who are often runners themselves.

On these chilly winter days, it’s normal for the Mendel Riverbank parkrun to see about 25 runners and walkers plus 10 volunteers who mark the course, hand out timing tokens and walk at the back of the pack to ensure everyone makes it to the finish line. Warmer days can see upwards of 50 people and the organizing team hopes to bring a record 100 runners out for the 100th event.

Scenes from the Mendel Riverbank parkrun.
Organizers say the Mendel Riverbank parkrun is the world’s coldest parkrun.

While the COVID-19 shutdown curtailed some of parkrun’s initial momentum, Walker and co-director Alice DeCloedt say the pandemic also helped people appreciate the importance of events like parkrun.

“There’s a lot to having something like this, which is nonpartisan, secular, it encompasses multi generations,” DeCloedt says. “People need some connection, they need some community and they also need something that’s healthy.”

The Mendel Riverbank parkrun starts on the Meewasin Trail by the Wonderhub every Saturday at 9 a.m. unless temperatures drop below -32C. The event is free, but people must register online and bring a scannable copy of their barcode in order to get a time.

For more information and to register as a participant or volunteer, go online.