A couple of months ago I stumbled across an event called parkrun. If you haven’t heard of it before, don’t worry, but if you love running (any distance applies from 5k to 100mile ultra marathons) then you need to get on board, especially since it is free. According to the blurb parkrun started in the UK, but is now a global phenomenon so this post is relevant to my US and AU followers as well.
The concept is really simple, it is completely run by volunteers so you are requested to help by marshalling 3 events a year. There is a 5k route that is mapped out and does not change – it takes places in local parks and on commons and takes places every Saturday morning. All you do is register to get a barcode, then you turn up to the parkrun event of your choice and run it. They give you a timing chip at the finish which is paired to your barcode by one of the volunteers and the results appear online a few hours later.
I took part in my first one last Saturday and it was lots of fun, the route is marked (and marshalled) the marshals are really supportive, you can run with your own timing watches, music, those jogging buggies, you can run it in 16minutes, 25minutes, 40minutes, – doesn’t matter -it’s just for fun – although I will be using it to set a 5K PB and a 5K base-line (which is something I read about when I was looking into how to manage my pace effectively when training).
The event I run, the Old Deer Park run in Richmond, started a 9am on time – I had to cycle there because I didn’t get out of my flat until 8:50 but I made it for the start. I haven’t run in a ‘competitive’ 5K since I did my first one a couple of years ago and it was nice to run a distance that I can now do in my sleep. My plan was to run a sub 25min, aiming for 8min/mile with a sprint for the last tenth of a mile – immediately I found a fellow runner who was also running 8min/mile and I slotted in behind him – I pretty much stayed behind this guy for the entirety of the event.
About halfway through the first lap of the three lap course one of the marshals commented on how we had a ‘pelaton’ going – with the bulk of the runners in my large group and a smaller group about 4 minutes ahead of us. By the second lap, I was 15th out of a field of 38, so comfortably within the top half and I felt strong while most of the people around me were huffing and puffing.
A sprint as I crossed the 3 mile mark gave me a finishing time of 25:26 – which felt great. For my next parkrun – I am going to sprint from the 2.5mile mark which should get my time down by at least 30 seconds. That will put me just within the top 500 fastest runners for the Old Deer Park parkrun which will give me a massive psychological advantage for the Ealing half.