I completed my first ever Parkrun yesterday and I wish I had joined it earlier!
I had heard about Parkrun from my classmates but never had the will to wake up early on a Saturday morning to run 5km. Ward rounds at hospital started sharp at 7am on weekdays, meaning I had to wake up at 5am to get ready, get the dogs ready and beat rush hour traffic… so I valued my Saturday sleep-ins very much. But recently having finished fifth year medical exams and drifting into a state of ‘what do I now do with my life’ led me to try out Parkrun for the first time.
Parkrun is a weekly 5km running event that takes place every Saturday morning
There are over 1400 parkrun locations in twenty-two countries (across five continents) with over 5 million registered runners. The track at my local parkrun is along the local river, but there are many other general locations such as parks (obviously!), beaches, forests and even prisons and castles! My start time is at 8am but your local one may differ.
Parkrun relies on sponsorship but is entirely organised by volunteers. There is the run director, timekeepers, marshals to direct you where to run, barcode scanners and event set up and close down volunteers. There are even volunteer photographers ready to take your action running shots as you power through the track. Sometimes veteran participants will volunteer to be pacers, which is the icing on the cake for me!
The best part of it is that its FREE!
All you have to do is register online (you only do it once) before you go and print out your barcode – this is super important if you want your run time to be recorded!
Actually, I take the above back. The best part of parkrun is that its dog friendly! You can take your furbabies (one per person) to run with you provided they are on a short leash and under your control. I plan to take my dogs next time!
That being said, if dogs are allowed, then pretty much everyone else is welcome (provided the course is suitable for them). There are people of all ages, of all fitness levels, wheelchair users as well as pram pushers! Kids are very welcome and you’d be surprised as to how many of them beat you! (Kids under 11 should always run with an allocated adult).
How fast do I have to be?
Every runner has started somewhere and we all have different reasons for running. Parkrun allows for all paces to participate. Some people run or jog while others walk it. The people who are serious about it tend to start at the very front while those who do it at a slower pace will start at the back of the line.
My favourite type of parkrunners are the ones who run with their dogs at their dog’s pace!
What are the vibes like?
I have always been apprehensive of joining clubs or events like these since I was young. I think it is the mixture of my personality as well as past experiences that may be the cause of my nervousness when joining these things. These feelings immediately dissipated as soon as I walked into the starting area where everyone gathered for the briefing.
The atmosphere was very family-friendly and community based. I felt relaxed and at ease. I wasn’t surprised as the event is built upon by the friendliness and compassion of volunteers after all. The briefing by the run director before the race welcomes newcomers and tourists so you could see that you weren’t the only newbie! Of course, if you run seriously or just ambitious at heart, you will feel a slight tinge of competitiveness in the air at the start line. Otherwise, it’s basically a 5km fun run where it’s you against the clock.
Parkrun stresses that you print and bring your barcode on the day so your time can be recorded. If there is no barcode, they won’t record the time. They don’t accept barcodes on phones and other electronic devices. However, there are parkrun merchandises such as wristbands that you can buy to make this process a bit easier.
The times are uploaded on the parkrun website shortly after the run. Results are available in a number of categories including best personal record, finishing position for overall, best female/male, age grade and more.
Parkrun also celebrates the number of parkruns people have completed. These are termed ‘milestones’ at 50, 100, 250 or 500 runs. The good thing is that you can jump between locations and all your results will still be counted.
Why should I go?
Join parkrun to be part of a running community. You only have to go once to see why it is so successful. I mean, how does an event that has: millions of registered users, thousands of locations in so many parts of the world and relies on volunteer effort do so well? I believe parkrun brings back the integrity and community spirit in sports that the older generation knew of and the younger generation dream of.
A study in the Journal of Public Health in 2013 found that parkrun had marketed itself well to non-runners by offering a simple and easily accessible fitness routine.
I tried parkrun because I was struggling to incorporate speed work into my running regime. Parkrun provides friendly competition when you try to overtake the person ahead of you and motivates you to actually race yourself against the time to beat your personal best.
For more information head to: https://www.parkrun.com/
Hope you beat your PB this Saturday!