It’s Free!!!

Life seems meaningless, everything is bleak, and you have a complete existential dilemma over the complete pointlessness of your chosen career path……. It comes down like a thick fog, disconnecting the brain from the eyes and hands. The workplace loses momentum. Labour slows to a halt, concentration dwindles and yawns are half hidden. The natural body clock is saying, “Sleep, now!”  Time after time, research has suggested that it may be healthier to have a second sleep in the afternoon to avoid “the post lunch slump”. Surprisingly most employers don’t approve of this, and workers aren’t allowed a “nap”. But the study of sleepiness shows that even without a big lunch, work place performance deteriorates in the afternoon and apparently more accidents occur(Johnson, 1990). But there’s work to be done. Luckily Coffee usually sorts it out, and it’s even better when it’s free – stamp number 10 on the loyalty card…….. Jackpot! We love getting bits and pieces for free. It doesn’t matter about the previous 9 coffees that had to be bought to get it, the fact remains that it was free and that is a feeling like no other!

We hate standing in lines, and yet we queue up in twisting, crawling huddles in order to collect free giveaways. It doesn’t really make sense. Why are we willing to wait provided the result is something we don’t have to be pay for? In fact we tend to be drawn towards freebies, regardless of its economic value. Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE we forget the downside. FREE gives us such an emotional kick that we may perceive the good or product on offer as more valuable than it really is. People appear to believe that availing of something for free not only decreases its cost but also adds to its benefits (Shampanier et al., 2007). This is the reason that even a run of the mill flat white —so long as it’s free—may seem like the most delicious coffee you’ve ever had.

But it’s not only free coffees we hanker after, its free running events too, proven by the fact  on the last weekend of January 2016, the weekly  free 5km Parkrun race around the Tramore Valley Park in cork at 9.30 on a Saturday morning had to be  cancelled due to its popularity. “We had a record of 520 runners completing the two lap course, up from 339 the previous week,” organisers said, and Cork City Council has withdrawn permission for the event parkrunbecause of traffic problems. The first parkrun in the Republic of Ireland started in Malahide Demense Castle and Gardens on the 10th November 2012. It continues to be a revelation spreading throughout the country with 44 locations nationwide. Parkrun is a non-profit running movement founded in south-west London in October 2004 by Paul Sinton-Hewitt – a runner who when forced to stop running due to a knee injury turned to organising a timed 5km run for 13 friends in Bushy Park, west London. There were no signs, no race numbers and no fees, or minimum time required. The concept exploded and there is now 806 park runs held in 12 countries throughout the world with near 1.5 million registered runners.

The success of parkrun can not only be attributed to the fact it is free but rather to its simplicity and convenience (official sponsorship deals make it possible for parkrun events to be free). The model is the same as it was in 2004; runners of any ability register online, turn up at their park, and run. A diverse mix of children, walkers and runners take part, even buggies and dogs are welcome. Particular features of the parkrun encourage participation -including the ease of access, the inclusive ethos, achievement opportunities, social support, and the locations (Stevinson et al., 2015). Parkrun is attractive to non-runners, with women, older adults and overweight people well represented (Stevinson & Hickson, 2014). But professional runners, including the likes of Mo Farah, make an occasional appearance. The reality that national and international-standard athletes frequently turn up for their local parkrun proves how well the events are organised. After the run each competitor is emailed their results, which are then recorded on a public permanent webpage where a history of all their runs can be seen.  Free T-shirts are awarded after passing the 50 and 100 parkrun milestone. Be warned, just like the trend caused by coffee shop reward cards, the need to get your parkrun “card” stamped may become obsessive (Kivetz et al., 2006) 

NOTE: Local Parkruns

Naas (Naas Racecourse)

Celbridge (Castletown)








Johnson M. (1990). Sleep and Alertness: Chronobiological, Behavioral, and Medical Aspects of Napping. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 53, 92-92.


Kivetz R, Urminsky O & Zheng Y. (2006). The Goal-Gradient Hypothesis Resurrected: Purchase Acceleration, Illusionary Goal Progress, and Customer Retention. Journal of Marketing Research 43, 39-58.


Shampanier K, Mazar N & Ariely D. (2007). Zero as a Special Price: The True Value of Free Products. Marketing Science 26, 742-757.


Stevinson C & Hickson M. (2014). Exploring the public health potential of a mass community participation event. J Public Health (Oxf) 36, 268-274.


Stevinson C, Wiltshire G & Hickson M. (2015). Facilitating participation in health-enhancing physical activity: a qualitative study of parkrun. Int J Behav Med 22, 170-177.



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