What is parkrun?
“Is it just a run in the park?” is the response I get from most people, when I ask if they do the parkrun. Well technically, generally, yes. It is just a run in the park but it is also much more than that. Every Saturday morning up and down the country, a trusty band of volunteers set up a timed, free and marshalled 5km event in your local park. It starts at 9am sharp and depending on the park in question you can expect to see over 200 people run. Click here to find your local parkrun. All you need to do is register, print and bring your barcode and turn up.
Ten reasons you should turn up!
- It’s free: My all-time favourite thing about parkrun is that it’s completely free. Whoever came up with this must be some kind of genius.
- It’s timed: As long as you’ve brought along your barcode (and sometimes, if the run director is especially nice, even if you haven’t brought your barcode) your time is recorded and will be sent out to you instantly either by email or by text. There are points based on your position and you can even see all your efforts on a graph if you visit the website… allowing you to set targets and compete against yourself.
- The people you meet: Crazy runners! Exactly like you. So you can compare notes about how to do better and what has worked in terms of training in the past.
- The beautiful places: Parkruns are all over the country and some are in really beautiful places. Shoutout to Fell Foot parkrun (in the Lake District) and Fountains Abbey parkrun (in Yorkshire) for being my own personal favourites.
- The coffee: The trip to the coffee shop after a parkrun with all the other runners is such a nice feeling, you really feel like you’re part of something great.
- The range of levels: Whatever your experience level, there will always be someone to run with at parkrun. It’s great to cross the finish line close to people at your level and be able to chat to them afterwards.
- It’s rewarded: Free T-shirts! 50 runs and you get a free T-shirt, 100 runs and you get a free T-shirt. 250 runs! You get something but I’m not entirely sure what because I haven’t got to that milestone yet.
- It’s family friendly: I’ve seen all different members of families at parkrun: children tearing away as their parents chase after them, buggies with even smaller children being pushed along, and of course the family dog on a lead.
- It’s a great tempo run: Almost all training plans I’ve seen have some kind of race pace or tempo runs as part of them. What better place to practice your race pace than when you’re racing? The advanced guys can do the parkrun as part of a longer run, you know, just to show off.
- It gets you out of bed: It’s a great way to kick-start your weekend with some exercise and you’ll feel like you have the rest of the weekend to relax.
Why I Love parkrun (175 completed, 9 different courses) – Written By: Clinton
I first found out about parkrun when I was moving to Manchester for University, in 2010! When I was googling about running clubs and events around Manchester, parkrun was one of the things that came up. To me it seemed like a great idea, although at the time I had no idea what it was about. Completely free? Every week? Really? Amazing!
To those who are familiar with Platt Fields parkrun in Manchester, will also be familiar with the ditch of doom, a section of puddles and mud that NEVER dried up. I’m not entirely sure how I managed to motivate myself through this horrific puddle twice per parkrun every week with the guaranteed wet feet, but in five years of medical school I ran the parkrun (ditch of doom and all) at least 100 times. Click here for a YouTube video of this dreadful section.
I loved the competitiveness that came with parkrun, I know the general ethos is run not race, but chipping seconds off my time and getting better positions was so addictive. There was nothing better than finishing a parkrun with a new personal best, setting up the rest of your day to be amazing whatever happened.
I joined the University Athletics and Cross Country club in my second year of med school and parkrun became the centre of my training plan. There were the coached interval sessions on a Monday and then at least one other run during the week, these were important, but parkrun was the goal – so much so that when I drew out training plans (or revision plans), I’d always highlight the Saturday as parkrun day.
It was 16/6/2012- my 36th parkrun in fact, that I WON the parkrun. Simply the best feeling. Sure it was a rainy day, and the really fast guys were away on a race weekend, but if you look on the first finishers page for Platt Fields parkrun, you’ll see my name along with all those other winners. That day I ran 18.01, a time that I can only dream of considering my current form.
Parkrun gained in popularity over those years, and new events sprung up everywhere. The Harrogate parkrun came first, which was great because it meant I could also do parkrun in the holidays. Then another even closer one: Fountains Abbey parkrun, which was a huge improvement over the Harrogate offering, due to the gorgeous course around the water garden and Abbey.
I don’t think it’s unfair to say that over the years I have got lots of people to do the parkrun: both brothers, my father, my housemate, the list goes on. But most importantly I got Jess to run parkrun.
It didn’t happen overnight, and she hated the ditch of doom, but as her distance and enjoyment of running increased she decided she wasn’t happy just doing the parkrun in Manchester when she came to visit. So she took matters into her own hands and started going to the Hampstead Heath parkrun every week. When I finally moved down to London, Hampstead Heath became my local parkrun.
The first time I did Hampstead Heath parkrun I realised what it was: horrible. It had hills! Hills are not a feature of Platt Fields parkrun, nor was any of my training done on hills. Weren’t parkruns supposed to be flat? I was almost horrified when I first ran it and saw that my time was almost 2 minutes slower than expected.
I’d like to say I got used to it, and now I just think of the hills as enforced interval training, but I still hate those hills, it’s as if with just a few meters of elevation (60 meters to be exact) any chance of a sub 20 5k is just gone.
That’s the dream: sub 20 at Hampstead Heath parkrun, much more important than this marathon we’re doing!