396917_266107403502725_1397565630_nI have been doing parkrun since 2008 when a friend encouraged me to go to Wimbledon Common to take part, I didn’t realise at that point that there were ones closer to me, but it was worth the early morning schlep across town and signalled the start of a new way of spending my Saturday mornings for good.

My time was a reasonable 37.28 but this was off the back of a recent health kick and a full on week in Dorset on a bootcamp, so although I was still a big girl my cardio fitness was relatively quite good. I was still not a PROPER runner like the guys who sprinted through the muddy course in their short shorts, or the ladies in their matching kit. But finishing the challenging course was an achievement still.

I don’t know why it took me another 2 years to go back, well not back to Wimbledon but to my homerun Wanstead Flats (which started in 2011 if my memory serves me right) where I have run 15 times over the past 3 years…doesn’t sound a lot really does it? I guess that is because I have half done a few parkruns in my time which don’t get counted, and I have done some Xmas/NewYears Day ones which also are not quite official…AND last year I took part in The Longest parkrun where I did 3 in one day. But even still I am just a bit of a parkrun tourist (read floosy) and like to chop and change a bit depending on what I’m looking for in a run. For example…

Wanstead Flats – Often means MUD, which is great for a tough physical challenge but not so good when testing new shoes or trying to get a PB, the course is also quite cross country so I have taken the odd tumble in the past so approaching a race I sometimes stay clear.

Valentines Park – This is a family friendly course (most of them are) meaning I can take my daughter in her pushchair, and its a park I know really well with lots of old acquaintances, so sometimes for a change I head that way.

Mile End – Great for hills as this 2 lap course takes you over a long steady hill 4 times, and its a nice friendly bunch too

Hackney Marshes – Now this is my PB potential course, an out and back loop, good solid tarmaced surface and a range of different paced runners, many just a little bit faster than me which spurs me on to keep up.

So as you can see no two parkruns are the same, although there are some traits which I have not yet failed to see

  • Friendly
  • Inclusive
  • Diverse

And of course they are all FREE. Which is why it always amazes me that more new runners don’t get involved.

10273674_558967190883410_3948835956188508756_nYesterday on this blogs Facebook page there was a lengthy discussion about parkrun times with many of my ladies who haven’t tried it yet worried about their finishing times and the ultimate shame of being last. Well as someone who has often come in last at many running related events, I can honestly say at parkrun this has only happened a few times because as well as runners you do get the occasional walker or run/walker too.

Look at these two regular park runners from Thetford parkrun for example, if they can do it anyone can.

I understand though the fear that taking part in an organised race can evoke but we must face our fears in order for us to progress not only with our running but in our lives.

So here are some tips for how to get over your parkrun fear

  • Register and print off your barcode NOW
  • Check to see if your homerun has a facebook or twitter feed
  • Stalk them for a while to see how nice they are
  • Offer to volunteer (handing out timing chips is the nicest/easiest job)
  • Check out the results page to see the times that people run
  • Speak to the race director about your fear of coming last
  • Set a date to do you first one
  • Bring a friend along either to run with you or cheer you on
  • On the day of your first run make sure you listen to the course briefing
  • Start off towards the back, but not dead last
  • Do not go off too fast
  • If you have to walk do so, but not for longer than 60 seconds at a time if you can
  • If you are lucky to have more than one course within a 1 hours drive then try them all out to see the difference
  • Once you have been once make sure you go again
  • Set yourself a goal of how much you want to improve your time by (but be realistic)
  • Volunteer once in a while
  • Have fun
  • Spread the word

Remember the thing that makes parkrun such a great initiative is that it is there for everyone. Runners take part for all sorts of reason, they may be training for a race, trying to get a pb, recovering from injury, trying to lose weight, dealing with depression or bereavement, needing to get out of the house and meeting other people, all sorts of reasons…as humans we tend to be so caught up in what we are doing, we rarely have time to notice what other people are doing. So try not to be too self conscious, those that matter don’t care and those that care don’t matter.

20140510-131449.jpgAt today’s Hackney Marshes parkrun I managed a time of roughly 33 minutes (official time pending), now bearing in mind my best ever time was 32 minutes flat, and this time last year I was running 48 minute 5ks I am pretty chuffed with that, but I am going to commit to getting under 30 minutes in the next few months and am going to face my fear and ask for a volunteer to help pace me around the course, something I have never had the guts to do before.

Fearing something generally means its something we should definitely do, as its often the only thing that is going to help us get where we want to go. It’s just a matter of committing to it, embracing the fear and doing it anyway. For any plus sized runners interested in facing their fears more generally I organise a 1 day run retreat for plus sized runners in East London, the next one is in June and only costs £35.

So get parkrunning people and I hope to hear reports back that you have all bitten the bullet and taken part in your first parkrun race and enjoyed it very soon.

Let me know how you get on

  1. August 29, 2014

    Thanks for this blog post! I have been running on and off for about 4 years now and have a few 10kms and a half marathon under my belt, yet for some reason I am really nervous to try parkrun!! I think it’s the fear that everyone else there is in a bit of a clique – I’ve heard people say that parkrun can be a bit addictive, so you get people who go all the time, and although that’s really great for them, as a new person on your own it can be a bit intimidating. BUT I have just printed off my barcode and am taking my friend along to our local parkrun tomorrow 😀

    • September 2, 2014

      You know I have never been to a parkrun where there has not been a handful of new people each time. In fact they often ask do we have any new people and everyone else gives them a round of applause for coming. Let us know how you get on. Sometimes we work these fears up until they become huge. Ask yourself, whats the worst that could happen? Good Luck xxx

  2. May 12, 2014

    Hi I’m one of the event directors at Mile End- you will never be last at our parkrun- we always have a tail runner whose role is to look after the back markers and make sure everyone finishes safely. So come along and find out how friendly we are

  3. Our local park run is Reigate and we did it for the first time last week. It was hilly and tough but we can’t wait to go again next week to try for a PB.

  4. May 11, 2014

    I am yet to do a parkrun because of the fear!! Fear of coming last but also being so self conscious as a plus size runner.
    I have done a lot of the things you’ve recommended… I’ve checked out the timings of other runners (yep my time is way behind the slowest!!) and I’ve looked at the pictures (nope, no one my size in those!) But I reeeally want to do it and your blog has given me the encouragement to print out the bar code and set a date to go.
    Wish me luck! Xx

    • Well done Amy that’s the spirit. Which is your local run? You will love it I promise!!

      • May 11, 2014

        Avery Hill is the closest to me.
        Once I get the first run done I’m sure I will love it, but I guess it’s the fear of the ‘unknown’!

        • Well keep us posted how you get on x

          • May 17, 2014

            I did it! I went along to parkrun this morning!
            I did feel like a little bit of a lemon standing alone but the guy running it was very friendly and put me at ease. I got round in 36.07 which I’m really happy about as it’s my pb for a 5k and it was also a hilly route… I’m so used to running on the flat so it was very challenging. Thanks for your blog… you inspired me to get out there and do it! Xx

          • May 17, 2014

            Well done Amy, great time to x

  5. My local is Killerton parkrun, though a new one has just started at Parke. I can’t recommend park runs highly enough. I should go more often, but I am not in a good habit of running again yet. I have also come last before, and it was absolutely fine – people were so lovely.

  6. May 10, 2014

    Hi, I’m in the 50 club now and 55 of my 56 parkruns have taken place at Pennington Flash – where I have regularly (though not always!) come last. As it’s a 3-lap course, there is incredible support and encouragement from the faster runners as they “lap” you and many of them come back out onto the course after finishing to give us slower runners some support. There’s always somebody willing to sacrifice their PB efforts to pace a slower runner to a PB too. What I’m trying ti say is nobody should fear a parkrun … The last finisher gets the biggest cheer! Proud to be a Flasher 🙂

  7. I’m an Event Director for Great Cornard parkrun. We’re new, only 11 events so far and I hope that everyone experiences what we have elsewhere and what we want our event to be: totally inclusive, FUN and, most importantly, no one comes last. We watch the clock only because parkrunners like times and can then try to get to it, or close to it next week.

    We have a diverse range of people from kids, parents, grandparents, returners and first timers. We’re small; for the past few weeks we’ve had +/-60 but today only 33 but boy can we make some noise as everyone crosses the line.

    What I really hope though, is that no one ever feels that by being slower than other runners they’re a burden or are keeping us waiting or feel perhaps they’re not ‘proper’ runners. If you have the gumption and wherewithal to get up, put on your kit and turn up, you’re as ‘proper’ as the front runners who leave before you’ve finished, in fact probably more so, because this is about starting and finishing; it’s about participating.

    And, generally, there’s cake. What better way to start a Saturday morning?

    • Thank you for commenting, it’s lovely to hear from race directors who of course are normal runners (or run enthusiasts) just like everyone else

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