My first Park Run

My first Park Run

I moved back to the town where I grew up at the end of January, which meant leaving my old classes, running group and fitness routine (I use the word ‘routine’ loosely) behind and start a new one.

I knew I wanted to run the Manchester 10k again this year, so that running would feature pretty heavily, but running without a group I wasn’t sure where I was going to find the motivation, mentoring, or the kind of group running experience that I’ve found really helps with building up speed and maintaining a steady pace.

Though there are running clubs around these parts, they tend to be of the semi-pro athlete variety, not the mixed ability ‘just for the fun of it’ kind I’m used to. So my next best thing was to sign up to the local Park Run.

What’s a Park Run?

If you don’t already know, Park Run is a global volunteer-run programme that organises weekly timed 5k runs in local parks. You can find if they operate in your country and area here.

You simply sign up on their website to receive a barcode which you print off and take with you to your local race. You run 5k and when you pass the finish line, you’re handed a tag. You take this and your barcode to the marshal who scans them, and a little while later you get emailed your official time (or you can obsessively sit watching and refreshing the results page as I do).

My first Park Run experience

On a chilly but sunny Saturday morning I┬áset off to the local park (it’s 3k away, so a brisk walk means a nice little warm up after stretching).

I didn’t know how many people to expect, but was surprised at the popularity of the group, with a couple of hundred people present.

I’d read up about how it all works, but I found a friendly looking steward and double-checked just to be sure. And that I wasn’t like going to run in the wrong direction or anything.

After a quick but warm welcome, we were off! It had been a while since I’d set off with a whole crowd of people, and can sometimes find it a bit overwhelming. I usually set off too fast, trying to keep the pace and then get tired quickly.

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Once I settled into my own pace though, it was really rather fun. If not a bit muddy (I only learnt afterwards it’s affectionately referred to by local runners as ‘Marple Mudfest’). The whole thing is run by volunteers who cheer you on along the way and the group is friendly. And being a mixed ability group, there is always someone running at your pace to keep you company.

I’m not a massive fan of running circuits, at least when I run alone. Something about covering the same ground doesn’t seem at all motivating to me. But this route only has two, and there’s a mix of open fields and woodland by a river, so it wasn’t too bad.

I was very glad to see the friendly faces on the finish line. Feeling refreshed and on an endorphine high, I set off on the (now uphill) journey home. And about an hour later I received an email telling me my time 35:27 (I’d hoped to get under 35 minutes, but didn’t beat myself up too much for the 27 seconds).

I’ve been back a few times since in the run up to the Manchester 10k and have managed to chip six minutes off my time. It’s a great way of testing and tracking your progress when you usually run alone (especially when you have days you feel you’re not really getting anywhere). I’m definitely going to try and keep it up once a month.

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P.S. See, told you it was a bit muddy!

Have you taken part in a Park Run? What did you think?

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