I’d been meaning to try parkrun for a while. I’d heard such great things, and I’d never actually raced a 5K distance previously. But the way my training plan and workout schedule fell, I was doing intense workouts on Thursdays and Fridays, meaning I was knackered by Saturday mornings and in much need of a lie in. Nonetheless every Saturday I slept in, I felt like I’d missed an opportunity to get a workout in and meet other runners.
I expressed these sentiments one Thursday on Twitter, and thanks to a retweet the guys at ukrunchat, I received a torrent of gentle bullying, motivation and overall endorsement of parkrun, with an undercurrent of Get your shit together, it’s not even that early. So I committed to a parkrun, publicly, on Twitter. No escape. My close friend and fellow runner Rachael was coming to stay that Friday night, so I now had even more accountability. Having done parkruns in the past herself, I knew she would drag me out of bed if needed.
With a no excuses type attitude, the morning start wasn’t really a problem. I was a little cranky at having to run without my Garmin (which had inexplicably broken); and very forgetful, meaning I left my barcode at the flat and had to loop back to go and get it. But still, I made it, and that’s what counts.
On arriving at Hilly Fields I nervously headed over to the group of people in brightly-coloured lycra that I assumed to be parkrunners. Thankfully, I was right. There was very little fuss, apart from the health & safety speech and plenty of clapping and cheering for newbies, volunteers and those celebrating parkrun anniversaries. And then we got to the running bit.
Now, this was painful; Hilly Fields was not a misnomer as I had hoped. It was indeed very hilly. Hilly as fuck, in fact. But Rachael had come along and cheered adorably like a proud mother on sports day, which raised my spirits. She also captured some cracking photos of me looking pained, unimpressed and downright murderous as I huffed up hill after hill. As an insight, my internal monologue went along the lines of:
- Why the fuck am I up this early?
- And running?
- Up hills?
- Shit, I just got passed by a guy with a stroller
- Have I seriously not covered 5k yet?!
- Did I get lapped by the guy with the stroller?
- Where am I going?
- What am I doing?!
Eventually I finished with a time of 24:04. Not too shabby for a first-timer. I caught up with Rachael at the finish, before heading home for breakfast with a feeling of satisfaction that lasted all day. Several runners from the Twittersphere checked in with me, and I was pleased to say that I had in fact done it, as promised. And it wasn’t so bad after all!
What I wish I’d known before my first parkrun
- There’s really not a lot to it; you don’t have to be particularly fast, or fit.
- Everyone is really friendly!
- It’s low key and unceremonious- just a bunch of people who want to tootle round a park at a pace that suits them.
- Having said that, it’s really hard for me personally to be surrounded by other runners and not race them.
- You absolutely need your barcode. Almost learnt this one the hard way.
- The volunteers are absolutely what make it. In fact, by the time you read this, I’ll have completed my first ever stint as a parkrun volunteer (blog post to follow)!
Have you tried parkrun? What’s your advice for a beginner?
Lots of love,