It’s a quiet week this week – ultramarathon taper week – so I thought it was time to revisit something very close to my heart, something that was instrumental in getting me into the running routine. A little global phenomenon known as parkrun (ALWAYS one word and with a lower case ‘p’ – accept no imitations!)
Here is a post I wrote about parkrun last year.
For the uninitiated, parkrun (link to global website here) is a free, weekly, timed, 5km run/walk in many places throughout the world. All you have to do is register ONCE via the website, print your personal barcode, and remember to take it with you when you visit any parkrun in the world! How easy is that? Matter of fact, if you haven’t registered yet, go and do it now. Go on! I’ll wait…
1) perfect way to start the weekend
8am on a Saturday (and in some parts of the world, 7am) might seem a stretch to some, but hear me out. Once you get into the routine, you don’t even think about NOT going. You know how you wake up on a Monday (or another day, if you don’t work Mondays) and you get up and go to work? You might not want to get up but you don’t seriously consider not going in? Well, that’s how parkrun is for many thousands of people around the world. It’s just what we do. Hungover, tired, cold… we still go (well, mostly) and we can always have a nap later in the day if we really need to! (PS moscato is not always on the menu!)
Even if you don’t know a single person, that shouldn’t stop you! When I did my very first parkrun nearly 4 years ago (also the first ever parkrun in South Australia) I didn’t know a single person. Now, I know pretty much everyone at Torrens parkrun – and many other parkruns too! (If you’re not game to turn up alone, drag a friend or family member along! Trust me, they’ll thank you for it!)
3) running is not necessary
So you’re not a runner? Not a problem! parkrun is for EVERYONE, walkers, joggers, pram pushers… parkrun is not over until the last person crosses the line. So even if you feel that you’re too slow – you’re not! And many people start out as back-of-the-pack walkers and then decide to try a little jog – and then a little more – and all of a sudden, BOOM! Runner!
4) keeping track of progress
One of the best things about parkrun is that your results are recorded each week so you can monitor how you are tracking! This is great for those at the ‘pointy end’ as well as beginners. A PB is a huge buzz! I know I got pretty excited in the early days when I was PBing regularly. Not so much now but that elusive PB is still in my sights!
5) really, it’s all about the coffee…
To me, from very early on, parkrun has been all about catching up with friends for a coffee. With a 5k run beforehand. If you’re in a new town, whether as a visitor or a new resident, or even if you just want to expand your social circle, it’s just a great way to meet people! Volunteering (something that is expected of regular parkrunners, as a way to keep parkrun going) is an especially good way to make new connections. I could not even begin to count the number of awesome friends I’ve met through running, and through parkrun in particular!
In Australia and the UK in particular, it seems like there’s a parkrun EVERYWHERE! It’s a great way to get to see new places (many plan their holidays around ‘what parkrun can I do?’) – for example, this year I went to the launch of parkrun in Renmark, a town to which I’d never been before! In the parkrun universe it’s known as ‘parkrun tourism’. When I go to the USA next year (an emerging parkrun market) I hope to be able to fit in a few parkruns along the way!
While those at the ‘pointy end’ are taking it VERY seriously, parkrun is whatever you want it to be. Speed training? Taking the dog for a walk? Exploring a new city? Just having a little fun? parkrun can be all those things and more! Many people who would not even consider entering a 5k fun run will happily come along to parkrun every week!
8) never need to run alone
In the beginning I ‘discovered’ Torrens parkrun while Googling ‘5km run route in Adelaide’. I had literally JUST started running and was looking for a route to run on the weekend. Torrens happened to be launching that Saturday so I went along to see what it was all about. The rest, as they say, is history. At the time I really didn’t enjoy running alone and I’m not sure if I would have stuck at it in the early days had I not had parkrun (which very quickly became a fixture in my weekends).
9) every saturday, same time, same place
With few exceptions (recent unprecedented storms in Adelaide forcing the cancellation of Torrens parkrun for the first time ever, as well as 2 other metropolitan parkruns, a few weeks back) parkrun on a Saturday morning is a given. You can set your watch by it! Note that the start time varies from state to state and country to country, but any given parkrun starts at the same time and the same place every week.
10) registration could not be easier
All you really need is an email address, Internet access and access to a printer. Go onto the parkrun website and do it – NOW!
In all seriousness though, I am a huge advocate for parkrun as a way to encourage people to get out and be active (I am also part of the Run Director team at Torrens) and want to encourage anyone who has thought of giving it a go, to do it! If you happen to join me at Torrens, be sure to come and say hi! And if there’s not a parkrun near you, why not think about starting one?