Monday, 13 November 2017

My first Parkrun

At the weekend, I finally got around to doing something I'd wanted to do for ages - a Parkrun.

For those that don't know, a Parkrun is a free, 5km run held in local parks all over the UK on Saturday mornings at 9am. The aim of these runs is to get people active in a friendly environment - and you don't even have to run if you're not quite up to that yet!

I'd been putting it off a bit because it's been a while since I concentrated on running (life is very busy) but when my friend Hannah told me she'd been, we made a pact to go together.

I didn't really know what to expect, but I registered on the website, printed off my unique barcode, and dug out my 'muddy' trainers (I knew it would be raining and as a trainer lover, I have a specific pair for muddy runs). On the Saturday we arrived 20 minutes before the start time, and followed the crowds to the start-line.

My local Parkrun is Penrose in Helston. It's right next to Helston Boating lake, which is nice because it means mid-run you have gorgeous views to distract you from the pain of actually doing exercise so early at the weekend. The run itself is pretty flat apart from a hill midway, but in this particular run you head 2.5km to a specific point and then go back on yourself - so every up hill and down hill is reversed on the way back.

They also have a tail-walker at the back, meaning no one comes last which is a nice touch and a good confidence boost if you're like me and a bit slow to get going at first.

I couldn't believe how nice the atmosphere was during the run. Everyone was so encouraging, and each person smiled or said hello as if you were an old friend about to catch up over coffee. At some stages I walked (I'll get onto personal fitness in a moment), but I had a lovely lady that at some points walked with me. She'd walk whilst I ran, then she'd run whilst I walked - but each time we saw each other, we offered words of wisdom or encouragement.

Towards the end, a guy running alongside us explained that there was only 400m left - and gave encouragement right until the very end. I don't know what I was expecting, but I think some part of me thought there would be snobby racers laughing at the slower runners - but that was definitely not the case at all. Everyone was happy, encouraging and friendly - which is even more surprising when you consider it was 9am, it was pretty cold and windy, and very muddy.

At the end of the run, you're given a finishing token which is scanned as you go over the line. You then pass this and your barcode to another volunteer, who scans them both together. Later that afternoon you're emailed a time as well as given access to the full rankings from your 'race'. There were about 130 in attendance last weekend, which is quite small numbers compared to normal due to the bad weather.

Now, my time was not the greatest, but I knew that whilst I was running because I didn't run the entire 5km. I knew my fitness levels had dropped slightly (I've been doing netball and football, but there's a difference between match fitness and running fitness!) but I didn't expect to struggle quite as much as I did. However, I'm only competing against myself - so next Saturday, I hope to shave at least a few minutes off that time.

There are definitely a few things I will do differently next run - first is to actually eat beforehand. When waking up at 7.30, food is the last thing on my mind but a fasting run is never going to be a particularly strong one. Second is to take my music - I was concerned my phone would get muddy or wet so decided to leave it in the car, which was a big mistake - quiet runs are very hard! A motivational playlist is definitely a necessity. And finally, if I plan on keeping my barcode down my sports bra, I need to laminate it. You can only imagine the boob sweat...

If you're umming and ahhing over whether to go to your local parkrun, my best advice would be to honestly just bite the bullet and go for it. I guarantee it will be a positive experience for you, and waking up early on your Saturday will be worth it!

To register and see where your nearest one is, head to

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