parkrun (not Park Run, park run or ParkRun)
After a long day at work and a feed heading out for a run is usually the last thing I feel like. I do manage on occasion as well as heading out for a run on my lunch break, but these are sporadic rather than regular.
On a late summer evening back in 2012 I was told about an event called parkrun (I never knew whether it was one word or two but it was kindly cleared up) that takes places every Saturday morning a few miles from home. I was told it was a free 5k run with other people where you got a time using a barcode. I didn’t quite understand the premise to start with but registered and printed off the aforementioned barcode and took myself down to the start line.
I drove down with two friends who had told me about it but I was still unsure what to expect. The trepidation was soon dissipated following a briefing from one of the many volunteers who told the newbies what to expect. The guidance was simple, follow the other runners round the course, collect a token at the end, get your barcode and token scanned and then wait for a text with your time on. It seemed very straight forward and this is the way it panned out. I managed the 5k in 26:11, my first ever timed run. I had no clue whether this was good or bad, but I finished 145th out of 238 runners.
The event itself was good fun, a mix of running on track, trail paths, grass and pavement with a rickety bridge thrown in for good measure. What did surprise me was seeing how many people I recognised who took part. Where had this parkrun thing come from? How had I managed to miss the previous 61 incarnations of this event?
The following Saturday I decided to drag myself down again, armed with my barcode and good intentions. I was bound to be quicker now I knew the course and what to expect? I rocked in a full minute quicker with a new PB of 25:11.
Like most of my activities thus far, my park running tends to be in bursts, 2-3 weeks in a row followed by not going for a couple of months. In September 2012 I set a PB of 24:17, almost two minutes quicker than my first attempt.
Since starting I have only ran parkrun 32 times since, and haven’t been able to beat the PB of my 4th run. The majority of my runs are around the 26 minute mark. Since starting at Durham I have ventured to other parkruns as well, taking part in Newcastle and Chester-Le-Street Riverside. The Newcastle park run is a huge event regularly drawing over 600 participants.
A quick calculation tells me there have been exactly 300 parkruns since I ran my first one. 32 out of 301 isn’t the best of ratios. Each runner gets a free t-shirt when they complete 50 runs. At this rate I am looking at early 2022 before I can collect mine!
I am a bit of an antisocial runner and usually head straight home afterwards, but parkrun has a thriving social scene. The overriding plus for me is that everyone is welcome whether they can only run a few yards or whether they are going to do 5k in 15 minutes. The movement is growing rapidly with new events cropping up across the UK and beyond.
I’m aiming to get below 25 minutes again and then attack that PB.