Last month I decided I needed a new focus in my life. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved to have a goal to keep me focused and give me purpose. After hearing about parkrun, a weekly event that hosts timed 5km runs for free across the world, I decided it was time to step out of the gym and head down to my local park for a run in the autumn sunshine. As a complete newbie to long distance running, I thought I’d share my experience with you.
Before my first parkrun I was told that it was a run and not a race. You don’t even have to run it if you don’t want to! There’s a diverse crowd of people who attend the parkruns each week, all for different reason but with a similar motive – to live a healthier lifestyle. From running groups in the local community to entire families enjoying some quality time together in the fresh air, I even noticed a couple of people running around pushing their babies in a pram! Dogs are also allowed to run around the course with you as long as they’re on a short lead and don’t mind crowds. It’s amazing to see a massive age range of people taking part in the events each week.
Setting out on my first long distance run, my only goal was to finish the full distance without walking or stopping! I showed up without much idea of how far 5km actually was, I didn’t know the route and I hadn’t wore a watch. I put my headphones on and just set off. I decided not to worry about the time, the people overtaking me or how far I had left to go, my only focus was to finish. Staying in my own little bubble with my headphones on really helped me the first time around. The volunteers are incredibly supportive, clapping and spurring you on as you run past. The adrenaline that kicks in right before the finish line is incredible and it enabled me to do a sprint finish, something I didn’t think I’d find the energy for! I was over the moon with my time for my first attempt and now it’s something I’m able to work on. Since my first run, I’ve ran another two and each time there has been roughly 200-300 runners each week. Here’s a look at my results below:
What I’ve Learned:
- Take the bare minimum with you (key, barcode and phone if you must) as it will only jingle and annoy you throughout the run.
- Leave your water in your car or at the finish line. It’s a burden carrying a water bottle around the track and the likelihood of you drinking it during the race is slim, I found this out after my second run.
- Go at your own pace, it’s a run and not a race.
- It may be a while before your time comes through to your email so if you’re really eager to find out your time, get the Strava app or use a FitBit to track your run.
- Stretch beforehand otherwise your muscles will seize up (much like mine did!)
- Don’t eat too much beforehand. Try something little like a banana or an Alphen bar to keep you going until you can have a proper breakfast afterwards. Some people don’t eat before running on a morning (fasted cardio) however this isn’t for me.
The parkrun starts at 9am on a Saturday morning and it helps to set you up for the weekend ahead. parkrun provide a great service which is ran completely by volunteers. Make sure you join the Stewart parkrun community page on Facebook for news and updates or if you want to volunteer!
Once you have registered for free on the parkrun website, all you need to do is print off your barcode and you’re ready to go! What’s even better is that you can take part in any parkrun in the world as long as you have registered and have your barcode with you. There are a few parkruns in our area that you can take part in including ones at Albert Park, Tees Barrage and Redcar. You can find a full list of parkrun locations on the official website. I would recommend the parkrun to anybody looking to improve their fitness, meet like-minded people and enjoy the amazing parks we have right on our doorstep.
What are you focusing on at a moment? Do you have any long distance running tips?