April 8th 2017
Today I did my first Parkrun. Parkrun is an (inter?)national organised 5km event. And I say ‘event’ because it’s not marketed as a ‘race’ even though it definitely is a race.
There are loads of Parkrun events all across the country (I just checked – there’s Parkrun’s all over the world, too). But the nearest one to me is a half hour drive away. Actually, the nearest three to me are all a half hour drive away. I’m kind of in a Parkrunless location. It’s a bit of a hassle to get there, and a bit of a distance, and it starts at 9am so I had to leave my house at 8:20am – which is far too early for Any Given Sunday™, let alone one where I woke up everso slightly hungover.
On my long drive there, I began to wonder if it was even worth it. I thought ‘Is there really much point driving all this way to go for a run?’ Assuming I didn’t slip and fall, I’d actually be driving for longer than I’d be running.
I thought that maybe I’d just do it this one time, and then do my own 5km run every Saturday morning at the same time instead.
I don’t think I’m going to do that.
When I eventually got there, the main entrance was closed. I’d just typed the postcode off the website into my phone, and it took me to a gate, and the gate was shut. At that point I considered just turning around and driving home, but a guy wound down his car window and shouted ‘follow me, they must have opened the other entrance’
So I followed him. And they’d opened the other entrance.
That kind of friendly, helpful introduction was indicative of everything I experienced at Parkrun today. I parked my car and crossed the field, I didn’t really know where I was going but I imagined it started with the crowd of 100 people that were doing stretches and lunges in running shorts.
There was a guy who spoke louder than everyone else who made sure that everybody knew what they were doing. He asked if there were any first time Parkrunners in the group, and my hands stayed planted firmly at my sides. I figured I’d just start running when everyone else did, and follow the crowd.
So I just started running when everyone else did, and followed the crowd.
5km is three laps of the field that we were on, and what’s great about Parkrun is that on every corner there’s a marshal that points you in the right direction, and claps and cheers you on.
Every time I ran past one, they’d clap and say “Go on mate,” or “Keep going!”
That was a new experience. I kind of had that when I ran Cheltenham Half Marathon, but the cheers weren’t specific to me because I was always in a huge group. Here they felt more personal. And that spurred me on a bit.
I was aiming for 7min30secs per lap, which would’ve given me a time of 22:30, but I crossed the line in 22:56, according to my running watch. I didn’t have an official Parkrun time, because I forgot to bring the barcode with me. (They scan the barcode, and scan your finishing chip to match up your times.)
Looking at that table, I guess my official Parkrun time is somewhere between 22:59 and 23:14 – so slower than my watch.
I finished 21st out of 122, and my watch time of 22:56 is the second fastest 5k I’ve ever done, so overall I’m pretty happy with it.
Sure, it’s a bit of a pain to get there, but I don’t think I could’ve run a 23 minutes 5k this morning if I was just out on my own. Something about the mentality, and the community of the event carried me through it. You pass one person and then you’re focused on passing the next, and that kept me running.
There was this kid who must have been about 11 who was in front of me for basically the whole race, and my only real goal was to not let him beat me. I overtook him with a couple of hundred metres to go. Good effort, kid.
Again, it’s ‘not a race’ but without that race mentality, I wouldn’t have been able to run that fast on my own. And the stewards and the marshals cheering me on helped too. And it’s on grass so it hurts your legs less.
All in all, I’m glad I went, and I’ll be going back.
Until tomorrow, 20:59 here I come.