May 10, 2014
I 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
And of course they are all FREE. Which is why it always amazes me that more new runners don’t get involved.
Yesterday 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.
At 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