Parkrun: Lessons learned as big 50 approaches

Parkrun provides a great introduction to runningParkrun. Pretty much the whole of the UK must have done at least one of these by now. October 7 sees the movement’s 13th birthday, since starting in Bushy Park, Teddington in 2004.?

The movement has become increasingly popular. After a few stop-start years, I’m approaching my 50th. Parkrun that is, not birthday. I’ve just five more to go until I claim a t-shirt to mark the milestone.

With this in mind, here’s my hopefully handy top five tips if you’re planning to run a parkrun soon.

Mind the melee at the start of a parkrun

Depending on your approach, this can often be the most unenjoyable/competitive part.

At some parkruns, the sheer popularity means there can be hundreds of people taking part. Which means lots of elbows so things can sometimes get tasty. There’s often a runner who will storm past and cut right in front. Just relax, it’s fine! They’re not Mo Farah making a bid for gold so resist the urge to give them a sneaky trip. Find your spot and stick to it – after a few attempts you’ll know roughly where to start without getting trampled.

Run your own run

Focus on your own little space, don’t get into an unnecessary battle and wear yourself out. You know your level of fitness so don’t get sucked in to a race. It’s a run remember and there’s the same prize for first finisher as the 351st.

Slow and steady up the hills, relax down them

This comes with a little experience. It was best put to me by a pacer during a parkrun I did and has stuck with me since. “Slow and steady up the hills”, was his repeated mantra. It was all the more impressive as he could say it without puffing … the show-off.

It can be difficult charging up your body for a 9am start!

This is something I find tricky each week. My usual running takes place mid-morning, or certainly later in the day. It doesn’t make any difference how hard the working week has been. Setting the alarm on a Saturday is the first hurdle to overcome. The parkrun’s easy after that 🙂

Running three successive miles is a good challenge when you feel a bit sluggish. It’s all the more satisfying when you’ve completed it. And you can always head back to bed if it’s wrecked you!

Eat something before your parkrun

I’ve tried many recommended fitness foods on the morning of a parkrun. And sometimes eating nothing, but just drinking some water. I prefer some early AM grub though. My staple is a bowl of porridge (water, not milk thanks). That fills me up and offers slow release energy, enabling me to combat waking up and the actual run. Those not ready for a heavy intake could try half a banana or a piece of toast. Anything that gives energy and sits well usually works.

11 Responses

  1. I have never participated in a park run before, but it is something that I would be interested in doing once I get fit enough! I would probably have enough trouble walking it at the moment!” 🙂

  2. drallisonbrown says:

    I like how some of these are general rules for life!

  3. josypheen says:

    Excellent post!

    I live in Canada now, but I do miss all the park runs in London. I used to join the massive one on hampsted heath. The hills were exhausting, but it is such a pretty place to run! My main issue was the same as yours. Getting up over an hour before the run, just to get there on time is always hard on saturday mornings!!

    p.s. porridge with water!? But its so yummy with milk! Isn’t it a little glue-y with water?

    • SFJ says:

      Re: the porridge. My brother calls it cement when I make it with water. Admittedly I tread a fine line between my porridge being nice/edible or completely stodgy and ready for the bin 🙂

  4. Em Linthorpe says:

    I haven’t participated in a parkrun myself, but I have been to cheer on a friend at our local event quite a few times in the past. I love the community spirit about it especially, from the very young to the much older, from the competitors to the fun runners. It seems like a wonderful and accessible way for everyone to get some exercise in a supportive and friendly environment.

    • SFJ says:

      Spot on about the community spirit. A couple of weeks ago I saw a very young child high-fiving an elderly runner battling up a hill, great to be around such a warm-hearted atmosphere.

  5. Lisa Orchard says:

    I used to run cross country in high school and I remember those days of racing. It was fun. Your post definitely brought back memories. Thanks!

  6. Ritu says:

    I’ve done the run for breast cancer… once… and nor run it! Walked. With a pushchair and 5 kids in tow!

    • SFJ says:

      In the early days, a guy with a pushchair regularly finished in front of me. Some of those buggies can really fly!

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