This week Parkrun celebrates its FIFTEENTH BIRTHDAY! That’s incredible. But true. And what a brilliant organisation, community event (call it what you will) it is!
I started running with the couch to 5K in the early autumn of 2015 after a very sad farewell to my lovely old lady golden retriever dog. I realised after she died I somehow didn’t have a reason to engage with the elements, after all, only dog walkers and runners go out in the rain don’t they?
So that was that, decission made, I started running.
Now at that stage I was 52, hadn’t run since college pretty much and had, the previous year, eventually had surgery for stress incontinence, which was one of the main reasons why sports had taken a back seat for a long time.
I’d loved running at school but was a sprinter, 100m and 100m relay but I don’t recall ever easily jogging around the track! So, to run 5k in or around 30 minutes was a new concept for me. But if other people, far less energetic than me could do it, so could I.
In my favour I have always been a fit and active person, have practiced pilates for about 15 years and weight has never been an issue for me, all things that I am truly grateful for.
But running as a adult? Now that was a whole new experience. I remember not actually daring to do the first session of the couch to 5K outside, you know, in public. I was scared about the incontinence issue and so did the first session in and around the ground floor of my house! Bonkers, I know! But, all was well. Not even damp knickers! Yay!
So day two I braved the world! Run #2 was a brisk 5-minute walk, then 10 minutes of running, 3 minutes of walking and 10 minutes of running. 10 MINUTES????? I remember thinking there is no way I can run for 10 minutes, when years ago as a teenager I couldn’t even run around the track and as for cross country, well, I didn’t ever see the fun in that!
But I did it!
And I have to say that couch to 5K program is Bloody Brilliant! It builds up your strength and stamina gradually, the coach has a lovely voice and you can integrate your own music. And I stuck to it. Within 3 months I was running easily for 30 minutes and did my first organised (festive) 5K at the end of November- complete with Santa Hat!
And so it grew. I did more 5k races and built up to 10k races and on 11th March 2017 I ran my first Parkrun at Pegwell Bay in Kent.
Parkrun is a free, weekly, timed 5K run, starting at 9am every Saturday. But living in a rural area these involve a commute of around 30 minutes for me to reach. So although I loved the concept, at first I didn’t run every week. But in time the bug got me and I reached my 50th run by the autumn 2018 and today (5th October 2019) I ran my 93rd run, my aim being to reach 100 before Christmas.
Now I’m not saying it’s been all plain sailing. I’ve had injuries, twisted ankle, strained hip flexor and knee issues. But it’s the regular midlife insomnia issues that have been the most challenging to overcome. To get up and leave the house at 8am on a Saturday in the cold and damp of the winter when you feel like you’ve only had 2 hours sleep in total is hard. But I have come to know that if I just do it, without thinking, the feelings of satisfaction, of elation, of achievement I have by 9:45 far out weigh the negative voices I hear at 7am.
So to anyone out there who is on the fence with running, with getting more active, with daring to come to Parkrun, my advice to you is JUST DO IT! The Parkrun community is lovely. The opportunity to run anywhere in the country (world even) is great, there are some fabulous runs to do and I love doing a tourist run now and again. I am also in the situation geographically, that it is pretty much equadistance to at least 6 Parkruns, so I can choose to do a flat course one week and a lovely rolling cross country one the next.
And the great thing about Parkrun is that you NEVER COME LAST! There is always a tail walker and quite often, actually with a tail or two too!
But Parkrun cannot function without volunteers so please take time out now and again and give back by volunteering!