Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Year of Parkrun

Parkrun finish
Harrow Parkrun, photo by Mike Lepps

Last weekend marked one whole year since I ran my first Parkrun at Banbury.

Since then I've completed thirty-five Parkruns, at six different locations and reduced my time from 25:06 to 21:13, as well as volunteered three times. I've also managed to keep my treasured barcode safe for an entire year and have never forgotten to bring it!

I first heard about Parkrun when I was still living in Bristol and knew a few people at university who did it. I was running a bit at the time, but for some reason didn't think it was for me - I wasn't a "proper" runner. I remember a few early morning runs around the Ashton Court estate on Saturday morning and quite often I'd be finishing my run as crowds of brightly dressed runners began to gather. I'm not sure what put me off, but I never recall being tempted to join them.

When I moved to Reading for my first job I did look up the local Parkrun but never went along - if I wasn't working on a weekend I tended to be going home to London to escape the loneliness of living in a town where I knew nobody and liked to leave as early as possible. If only I'd known that one day I'd be making everything else in my weekend wait until Parkrun was done!

Start of parkrun
Banbury Parkrun on one of my days as volunteer photographer

I eventually signed up and printed out a barcode the week after I ran the Oxford Half Marathon. I'd had a bad race and wanted something to remind myself that running could be fun if I wanted. I tend to be fairly independent and wasn't daunted by the prospect of turning up alone - everything about Parkrun seemed very friendly in any case.

It was a beautiful autumn morning and I absolutely loved running around the park in the sunshine with a couple of hundred other runners. The runner's high was strong after that first one and I knew instantly that this was something I'd be back to do time and time again. I finished in a time of 25:06 and came 11th female that day. A week later I was back with the aim of a top 10 female placing and going under 25 minutes. 24:07 and 4th lady seemed like a pretty solid result! Growing in confidence, by the fourth week I stuck as long as possible with the lady who eventually came 1st that week, earning myself 2nd place. We chatted afterwards as I thanked her for spurring me on and she suggested I join a local club. Since then I found plenty of people to chat with each week and find even when I'm at a new Parkrun it's easy to make conversation with other runners.

Parkrun has certainly become a staple of my weekend - I only miss it now if I'm working or if I'm resting before a race (although even that doesn't always stop me turning up for a 'gentle' one). I've fitted it in after night shifts, and even ran on New Year's Day.

Runner completing Osterley Parkrun
Osterley Parkrun on New Years Day 2018

Caution runners parkrun sign
I'm still chipping away at my personal best times - I'm at 21:13 and would love to get it under 21 minutes at some point - but I've also accepted that not every run is about going as fast as I can. I've learned to make it a useful part of my training, sandwiching it as a tempo run between steady miles or using it for a gentle shakeout on a race weekend. Since moving back to London, I have lots of new courses to get to and I'm keen to do a lot more Parkrun tourism to explore them.

For now Parkrun is definitely staying a part of my weekly routine and my running training, and I'm working my way towards a red 50 Parkruns milestone t-shirt!

Finish funnel at parkrun
Harrow Parkrun, photo by Mike Lepps

Any other keen parkrunners out there who'd like to share their favourite parkrun?


1 comment

  1. Swindon park run is good, flat (ish) definitely PB material only real downside is 2 laps..but saying that I've only ever done two.. getting out of bed and driving half an hour to my closest to run 5k plus a warm up and cool down just doesn't seem worth it.. Really enjoying your blog 👏🏼


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