Several years ago I registered for parkrun – a free, weekly 5k timed run available in numerous parks around the country. However, once I signed up I printed my barcode several times but always failed to use it. With other activities and events; from boot camp sessions, races and climbing mountains – there was always “something else” to do – so it never got used.
Signing up for the London Marathon saw me cancel my boot camp membership to concentrate solely on running and therefore Saturday mornings meant early starts with hours upon hours of running. I simply did not have time for such a short run of 5K. So the parkrun bar code went on to be a slip of paper I carried in my purse.
Marathon completed, with no plans to return to boot camp (due to location changes and needing more flexibility in my life), I needed something to keep me on the straight and narrow on a Saturday morning. Something to make sure I don’t spend my Saturday mornings in bed.
Enter the parkrun.
There are several near me, some that are probably easier than the one I have been frequenting of late, but Harlow Town park is not only the closest but also a bit of a challenge. With a mixed course of hills, a mixture of grass and concrete path, plus laps to boot it is one that tests the most seasoned runner.
I went along to my first parkrun last week (10th June) with a goal of 35 minutes in mind. Giving myself a realistic goal but at the same time something I can work on, as not only do I hate hills but I have also developed a fear of laps of which Harlow town park had 2 and a half lap to finish. I ran and I walked a little (running uphill on grass is torture to me) and I finished in 34:20 according to my Garmin (parkrun had a slightly different time, so I am not sure how they work that out without a chip). So I set a goal in my mind and beat it. I was buzzing and ready to come back.
Today was my second attempt at the parkrun. With a forecast of scorching hot weather I did not imagine I would beat my previous weeks attempt. At 9am it was simply roasting. I don’t complain, I live for the hot weather, the sunshine and the opportunity to star fish in the garden. But when coupling this with running I turn into a melting, sweaty, heavy breathing mess. Today was no exception. I knew it would be hard. Waking up with scratchy eyes and sneezing consistently, due to hayfever kicking in, I had to make sure I didn’t go crazy. And I didn’t. I paced myself and if I felt the need to walk at times I did. Though, this week I walked less than the week before. There is part of the course where you have to run uphill on grass and for both weeks it has got me completely. This week, I had marker points in my mind and due to that I ended up finishing 8 seconds faster than last. Completing in 34:12 and not really having the energy to go out there with a sprint finish, I was buzzing. To have a better time than the week before with the heat we were facing was an amazing achievement. And I went away happy. Happy to be improving, no matter how many seconds and ready to come back next week and try again.
So I have fallen madly and deeply in love with the parkrun and everything it represents. I am in awe at the whole organisation and what it does to get people out there. To bring local communities together and simply bring goals to every day people.
Whether you want to run, walk or do a combination of the two, I thoroughly recommend you get involved. Get running, get walking, bring the kids, bring the dog. Everyone is welcome.
I can’t wait to see how my performance takes shape over the next few weeks.
Bring on next Saturday!