My first ParkRun (Strathclyde)
I have written about Park Runs before – but never run one. ParkRun started in 2004 with just 13 runners in Bushy Park, Teddington, London and has become a worldwide phenomenon. A Park Run is 5k, timed and free. Bushy Park parkrun won the Runners World Best Small Event in 2007 and parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt won a Runners World Heroes award in 2009.
A guest blogger wrote about his 100th ParkRun in Glasgow last year. I know so many people who regularly run ParkRuns in parks across Scotland. But only last week did I run my first Park Run at Strathclyde Park.
The 5k running distance
Until now, 5k has not been an important distance for me. It’s much shorter than I normally trot out and when I have run fast 5ks it hurts. I avoid things that hurt too much! Except, now I am training for a sprint distance triathlon and most of the training hurts. A sprint distance triathlon includes a 750m swim, a 12-mile cycle and a 5k run at the end.
The training has involved running set distances of 1.5k, 3k and 5k as fast as I can but on my own. My coach, the Mighty Vickster, decided last week that a 5k ParkRun would be just the thing to focus my mind on running a faster 5k.
The ParkRuns can be run/jogged/walked by anyone. You might be new to jogging or a competitive club runner. You can enjoy them or bust your guts. They are timed and over a 5k measured distance so they are a good place to push yourself and measure progress over the weeks.
My first 5k ParkRun
My Strathclyde ParkRun 5k companions were Ma and Pa Kinsella (friends from the tri club). Ma Kinsella is coming back from a knee injury so her aim was to walk and run the 5k without pain. Pa Kinsella is convinced he has a sub-20 minute 5k in his legs (he’s somewhere between the age of 55 and 58 and runs brilliantly). Pa Kinsella agreed to pace me for the first 3k (he’s an awesome pacer) and then head on to get his own time. He was also running his 40th ParkRun.
What I liked about the ParkRun
The atmosphere is friendly and the marshalling and time-keeping is superb. The course is well marked at Strathclyde with 1k signs and then 300m, 200m and 1000m markers at the end. The route is fairly flat and out and back so you can enjoy seeing other faster and slower runners en route. It is on a walk/cycle path, so it’s good underfoot. It’s great to be able to pace yourself against other runners and aim to try to overtake or stop others overtaking you on the course.
What I don’t like about ParkRuns
This has nothing to do with the ParkRun itself! I just don’t like running so fast that my legs feel weak and my chest feels like it’ll burst. A fast 5k is sick-making.
The ParkRun results
ParkRun times are posted up on their website with all kinds of stats. Eg your time, where you came in your age group, your percentage rating in your age group, your best ParkRun etc. My result isn’t as brilliant as I want. I want to run sub-21 mins but I just don’t seem to have the speed in my legs just yet. I am getting there, though. The good news is that I ran one minute faster than my own 5k two months ago and came in at a shave past 22 mins. I was 71% rated in my age group and 2nd in the 40 to 44s (I am almost 45!).
The bacon roll and coffee after the event made the trip to Strathclyde Park all the more worth it. ParkRuns are a brilliant concept – and a great place for anyone who wants to push themselves a wee bit harder, whether they plan to walk, jog or run like a gazelle. I’ll be back I expect (if the coach has anything to do with it!).