February 8, 2016
Over the weekend I went to the amazing phenomenum that is parkrun*
*note the small p folks, its never a big P with parkrun
Now you may be thinking “So what you ran parkrun?” 85,000 people run parkrun every week in the UK, and you have been running it for years Julie, you did your 50th in the summer and made a video about it right? So how exactly is this news worthy?
Did I PB?
Did I fall over?
Did I fail to finish?
I had a fabulous time returning from a break of attendance of about 4 months. You see I have been unable to run much (or at all really) over the weekends lately due to a change in personal circumstances, basically not having childcare early on a Saturday morning, and trust me I have felt bereft.
So when a friend offered to take my daughter to early morning cinema, it meant one thing…
I could go parkrun.
Now I have been wanting to write about the topic of back runners for a while, because the last 5 or 6 times I have done a parkrun I have spent quite a it of time with them, and therefore a reasonable amount of time thinking about a) how important they are and b) what a responsibility it is.
What is a Back Runner? Or Tail Runner which I think is the proper term.
Well its an official volunteer role which basically involves being the last runner at an event. I am sure there are other official tasks and responsibilities that come with it, collecting in markers and ensuring nobody gets lost etc, but generally speaking they accompany the slowest runner in the field.
Can you see why I get to know these kind folk so well?
And they are incredibly kind and generous, often running at a much slower pace than they are used to, giving up their chance to run properly to support newer or basically slower runners.
So in many ways I write this post with a bit of a heavy heart, because ABSOLUTELY LOVE pARKRUN* and I hope nobody thinks I am a complete cow for raising some of the issues which my community of plus size (and often but not always slower runners) sometimes experience at the back end of a parkrun.
I have approximately 25,000 followers across social media now, my Facebook page is a very active community where women get to post about their successes but also share their worries and concerns. We have loads of parkrunners, but equally lots of women that still say they are too scared to go.
- Fear of coming last
- Fear of being too slow
- Fear of having to walk bits of it
- Fear of not being able to complete it
Lots of fears basically
And tail runners are such an important part of a slower runners first experience of parkrun, or any race in fact.
Later this week I will publish part two of this post, my thoughts on 7 habits of a highly effective tail runner based on feedback from within my plus size running community.
But in the meantime I will let you into my experience at the weekend,
There was a big group on Saturday at Mile End parkrun, which although isn’t my home run, it is one of my favourites. They were celebrating their 4th anniversary. I have run this route many many times, and although I usually come in somewhere near the back I don’t think I have ever come dead last. Well on Saturday I did.
Within about 3 or 4 minutes I knew I was the slowest runner because the tail runner had caught up with me. I had my headphones in and really didn’t want to talk, in fact I didn’t want company at all, however I am not sure that I communicated this.
I mean how do you tell someone politely to bugger off? Especially when they are trying to be supportive?
The lovely tail runner lady kept me company the whole way round, and I know this is her job and I should be nothing but grateful, BUT her presence was taking up a lot of my thinking, and I considered what impact this might of had on a less experienced park runner, especially someone doing it for the first time.
I ran the first lap with almost no communication with the tail runner and managed to run all the hills and everything. As I approached the half way point, I threw down my drinks bottle and gloves as I was getting hot, I also a bit further on started fiddling with my jacket. I was still listening to music so there was some sign language/body language gesture from the tail runner offering to hold my jacket. I decided to tie it round my waist instead, as my phone was in the pocket and the earphone cables etc well it would have been a bit of a faff.
In the end, I decided to take out my earphones and for the next 15 minutes or so we had a very nice conversation. The lady I think had assumed I was a newbie, I mean she would, I haven’t been for a while and I was at the back. I told her a bit about my blog and the challenges I have been facing with my fitness etc.
Thats when the trouble with breathing and running began.
Now I am rubbish at running and talking, especially up hills so I was now walking the up bits and apologising for having to walk…which I hate doing. And my pace felt like crap. I don’t think I looked at my sports watch once. Thats the thing when you run with others, you start caring what they think and justifying your actions.
I was finding the last kilometre or so incredibly tough. It was blowing a gale which didn’t help, and I knew everyone would be enjoying tea and birthday cake back at the start area so it felt like a right slog.
I finished in 37.25 which is a not too shabby time considering my absence. I thanked my companion. Struggled to switch off my new Tom Tom. Lost my barcode (which was later found) and then retreated back to my car to reflect on my reintroduction back to my Saturday morning ritual.
When I posted my time in The Clubhouse which is our online running club, a few other ladies told me how they got on, and one lady made a comment about the tail runner who had accompanied her at her local parkrun and the things that had gone through her mind and I thought, do you know what I am going to write about this.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to the lady who ran with me on Saturday. I want to apologise for not communicating my needs better to her. And I want to assure her, tomorrows post is not about her specifically, but more my general thoughts on the role having been involved in parkrun for close to 8 years (on and off) now…plus views from my community too.
I think all of the volunteers at parkrun do a sterling job, in fact sports volunteers everywhere do an amazing job, but I hope the post gives an insight into how some of us slower newer runners feel, some of the crazy shit that goes through our head, and perhaps this will encourage more people to take up volunteering and indeed running at parkrun…which as I said previously…
I ABSOLUTELY FUCKING LOVE IT!!!!
Click here to find out more about how you can get involved at parkrun, either as a volunteer or as a runner.