Paul Sinton-Hewitt

Ashoka Fellow
United Kingdom
Fellow Since 2016


This profile was prepared when Paul Sinton-Hewitt was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2016.
The New Idea
Paul founded parkrun to both create an occasion for people to be physically active and connect them with their community. parkrun events are free, open and volunteer-led runs, taking place every Saturday of the year in 12 countries around the world. parkrun creates a framework that empowers and equips volunteers to organise 5K runs in local parks, breaking down the barriers to physical activity while simultaneously encouraging community cohesion.

Starting as a tiny community of runners in London in 2004, today parkrun brings together 140,000 runners and 10,000 volunteers every single Saturday, encouraging communities around the world to be healthy and active. Paul has bridged the need for inclusive social spaces with a common desire for health and activity to create a movement that is universal in its appeal and inclusive in its practices. Driven to promote public health as much as community solidarity, parkrun became a global phenomenon with over 2.5 million registered runners in 12 countries and has doubled its growth every year. Paul has created a platform and occasion for modern society to come together, tapping into the human need to be active, social, and out-doors.

Despite the prevalence of gyms and a recognized value of exercise, public health concerns on issues such as diabetes, obesity, and mental health associated with modern lifestyles continue to rise. High membership fees, low levels of physical fitness and an intimidating sport culture, are all listed as barriers to leading an active lifestyle. Paul founded parkrun to break down these barriers. Parkrun encourages participants from outside traditional athletic groups, to simply get outdoors and move. At the same time, parkrun recognizes volunteering as a form of activity and hence redefines what it means to be active.

The success of parkrun is founded in its simplicity and community oriented approach: all runs are organised by the local community for the local community. Every Saturday at 9:00am, 52 weeks of the year, volunteers gather in parks around the world to organise 5k runs for people at any level of fitness, from any background and accommodates participant needs regardless of their motivation, may it be to exercise, chat or combat loneliness. Participants need no number, no kit, and no money. They can walk, run, stroll, push a stroller, or simply cheer or volunteer. After the run, everyone is invited to join for a coffee to chat and engage with one another. Once registered online, anyone can turn up to any of these events around the world without having to plan or commit beforehand.

Currently, Paul is expanding his model to reach the youngest citizens, bringing the idea into schools and empowering teachers to organise ‘SchoolRun’. With 20,000 new runners registering every week and over 800 events worldwide parkrun has been held up as an example of best practice by the UK government’s Committee for Health and Sport who named it the UK's most successful and fastest growing organisation for free physical activity. With global reach and ambition, from New Zealand to Poland, parkrun aims to enable every community in the world to set up a parkrun and get its citizens active, healthy and connected.
The Person

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