Would you believe I actually signed up to parkrun back in October 2021? I remember saying to my colleague at the time “yeah, I’ve signed up for parkrun and am going for the first time this weekend. I can’t wait!”
However, I’ve managed to put it off every Saturday since. I’ve made very lame excuses, the regular ‘it’s too cold’, ’I’m tired’ and surprisingly, I actually convinced myself that was the case!
Moreover, it also doesn’t help that my favourite spin class instructor teaches at 09:45 on a Saturday morning – coincidentally overlapping with parkrun, which starts at 09:00.
However, last week I took the plunge 11 months in the making. And you know what, I actually had the best time.
What is parkrun?
parkrun is a free, community-run project that sees runners meeting weekly to run a 5K course together.
This accessible and inclusive event relies on volunteers to operate. At the time of writing, there are parkruns across England, Australia and South Africa to name a few.
All you have to do to attend is sign up via parkrun online, print out your barcode and head down to your local event.
Is parkrun a race?
parkrun isn’t technically a race, but you can make it one if you wish. Podium places can be obtained while the fastest female/male is also accounted for.
However, for many like myself, parkrun is just the perfect excuse to build a good habit, get some fresh air and essentially go for a run.
Therefore, parkrun can be anything you choose it to be. In fact, you don’t even have to run! You can slowly jog or walk the whole 5K course. The main ethos of parkrun is just showing up and finishing.
So, whether you run or walk over the finish line, you’ll still be given a finisher’s barcode, a timed place and a huge cheer when you cross.
While it’s not strictly competitive, parkrun is definitely a great place to run against yourself and attempt to beat your 5K PB over the weeks.
Can you go to parkrun alone?
One of the first things to note about going to parkrun is that you can 100% go alone. If you’re like me, and don’t have many runner friends or aren’t part of a run club, then parkrun is the perfect place to go alone. You’re there for you and you’re showing up for you. So, you is all you need.
If you are worried about having nobody to talk to pre/post run, the volunteers are there for you to ask questions, chat about the weather and ultimately put your mind at ease.
It’s also worth mentioning that some parkrun’s also organise a post-run coffee meet-up.
This coffee schmooze is the perfect place to potentially make friends, scope out event regulars, and even learn about volunteering opportunities.
What do you need to bring to parkrun?
The barcode automatically comes in paper form, which you need to print and cut out before heading over to your event.
You’ll find that your barcode is scanned once you cross the finish line. The point of this is for your volunteer-recorded time to be uploaded into the parkrun system and for runner numbers to be accounted for.
Your unique parkrun barcode also includes emergency contact information in case anything happens during your run. So when you’re signing up, think about who is likely to answer their phone early on a Saturday morning.
My thoughts on my first parkrun
As I said, I was putting parkrun off for months for no good reason. Even though I’ve ran a half marathon and regularly go running, the fear of not being good enough or not being fast enough definitely played a huge part in me putting it off.
However, once I started running, I realised that nobody was interested in me because they were all running for them.
Once I got in the groove, I realised the race was against me. How fast could I go? Could I push just that little bit further before needing a stop?
I successfully finished my first parkrun at Peel Park, Salford in 207 place with a time of 30:59. It definitely was not my fastest 5K, but is a great starting point for my first event!
The volunteers were fantastic, offering encouragement and also mapping out the run so you couldn’t get lost.
I went by myself and everyone was so friendly. There was also a pre-run brief for anybody new to the course or who wanted a run refresher.
I can’t wait for next Saturday! Check out my parkrun vlog blow.