How many park runs have you done this year? And what has been your personal best? When I was asked these questions by Personal Trainer Stuart Amory a few weeks ago, I wondered what on earth he meant – how many times had I jogged around my local park? Ermm, a few. How fast had I done it in? No idea!
I then asked Stuart exactly what he meant, and he explained that every Saturday, FREE 5 km park runs go on all over the world. I couldn’t believe it – how could I not know about this?! I quickly Googled “parkrun”, found their website, searched for my nearest park run (2 miles away!) and registered. This was a few weeks ago, and I wanted to blog about my experience so that you can benefit too!
- What is parkrun? Parkrun organise free, weekly, 5 km timed runs all over the world. They are open to everyone and are safe and easy to take part in. The runs take place in local parks and are organised by a team of volunteers.
- When are they? The runs usually take place on a Saturday morning, starting at 9am (you get used to it!), meaning you can be home early and can feel super smug all day that you’ve done some fantastic exercise.
- How do they work? Once you’ve registered, you get a personal home-page on their website as well as bar-code to print out. You bring your bar-code along with you at your run and when you finish you get given another bar-code. You then get the two bar-codes scanned and later on that day you are sent an email telling you your time – as if by magic! You can also register for text alerts (which is what I did) and I can honestly say that I cannot rest until I’ve found out my time!
- How do you sign up? Simply visit parkrun.org or parkrun.com and register for free – it takes 2 minutes!
I’ve now completed 5 parkruns and can honestly say that I love it! The first time I turned up I was a) by myself and b) clueless as to what to expect – maybe 15 runners?! I was pleasantly surprised though – I immediately got chatting to a lovely family who take part in the runs every week (and were soon to be running their 50th!) and eventually turned up at a meeting point along with 300 other runners!
Each week parkrun host around 2-400 local runners and the atmosphere is just fantastic. My local run welcomed all the new runners and from the start line explained where to go. At every turn there was a volunteer cheering you on and I can honestly say that without them and the other runners I may not have made it around and certainly wouldn’t have run it as fast.
Running is a fantastic way of keeping fit, toning up and de-stressing, with the added bonus of soaking up some vitamin D from the sun along the way – our skin makes vitamin D when we’re in the daylight – hence why vitamin D is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’!
So, if parkrun sounds like it could be for you then here my top tips:
- Don’t be worried about how fast you can run – it’s not a race, just go at your own pace. The first time I ran I just focused on ‘getting around’!
- Don’t worry about turning up alone – there’s always someone to chat to (or I like to listen to music!)
- Do remember to take your personal bar-code – I managed to lose my bar-code on the first week (luckily enough I had followed the parkrun advice and had a spare one in my car) and on the advice of the lovely family that I met on my first week ordered a plastic running tag with my bar-code on for my trainer, which arrived in time for my race!
- Do eat and drink appropriately – check out my what to eat and drink for exercise blog post for more information.
- Do have fun! The park runs are for everyone and it really is great when you get cheered along at the finish line!
Did I also mention that you get a free stylish Adidas t-shirt once you’ve completed 50 runs (in red) or 100 runs (in black)?! Children also get a t-shirt once they’ve completed just 10 runs (in white). I honestly cannot say enough good things about parkrun!
Do let me know if you already take part in parkrun or if you decide to sign up!
I’m addicted to it now – can’t go this weekend as away but I need to beat my time. I’m running the fastest I’ve run in about 6 years now – if I can knock of 11 seconds, will be the fastest in about 10 years. They have them in other countries too and once you’ve registered once you can run anywhere – I love the idea of being on holiday in Poland, or Oz or NZ and just turning up to run. I do eat everything in the house afterwards though, something about trying to run fast makes me really hungry (I run twice the distance on Sundays with no food cravings).
I couldn’t agree more- I would love to run abroad but not sure if they have events in Croatia?! We shall see. I love trying to beat a PB- even roped in one of the volunteers to pace me at 27 mins next week! Fingers crossed I can keep up! x
I tried the Park run in February 2012 but couldn’t manage the whole course as my knees hurt so much. After much encouragement I ran/walked my first full Park run on my 53rd birthday in August 2012, to help the Slimming World charity for that year, and hadn’t run since I was 15. It took me over 44 minutes. I now wouldn’t miss it. The atmosphere is amazing. Everyone is so friendly and helpful. I was making the mistake of running and wearing myself out, then walking, then running etc. A very nice lady spoke to me and suggested I slow it down and actually run all the way. The most wonderful feeling is that I can now run the whole way round in just under 32 minutes , and recently completed my first 10k. I am really proud of myself and can only speak from my own experience when I say it is worth going to a Park run on a Saturday morning just for the atmosphere alone. It looks like you attend the same Park run as me, so I understand why you enjoy it like you do. I will continue to do Park run whenever and wherever I can. Happy running.
Hello! Oh thank you for your fantastic comment! You’ve done incredible and are clearly an inspiration to others. Completing a 10K is fantastic – I’m not there yet but hope to be in a year (or 2!). I have to admit that with the course (and 3 steep hills) I have to walk 1-2 times for a few seconds but I’m hoping that with a pacer I’ll be able to keep going this week! May be see you there – do say hey! Nic 🙂
I used to run a bit but realistically I would need to walk most of the 5k parkrun (I also plan to take my children aged 9 and 6 also). I really really want to go, but terrified as we will definitely be last! Slowest time at my local one was 45 mins, and I think we would be longer.
Sorry forgot to say I completed the London Marathon, but that was in 2004 when I was several stone lighter!
That’s incredible!! Why don’t you give the park run ago?! Your kids may surprise you – so many kids beat me on my way around!! xx
Great article- parkrun is fantastic and an amazing volunteer based organisation. I’m sure they will appreciate the great round up- but worth noting that parkrun is one word and always spelled with a small p!
Oooh thank you!! I will change that now!! xx
Hi Nic, just found this post and am pleased to see you are a parkrun fan. I am too and completed my 150th parkrun last Saturday. I will be volunteering this week. As you rightly say there is always someone to talk and it is a great way to start the weekend. Happy running.
Aw that’s amazing!! Congrats!!! Yes it’s such a good idea!! Hope you’re happy with your PBs 😉 xx