We Brits have a saying, and one that isn’t actually weather related. “You wait ages for one bus to come along and then two come at once.” That’s happened with me this week with the Park run bus.
I did my first park run down in Newbury back in 2012, and followed this up on the 10yr anniversary of the global running phenomenon on the 4th October 2014, again in Newbury.
And then this Saturday having waited two years for my next Park run to come along I was back on the bus doing my third in my home town of Barrow-in-Furness. Now I’ll be honest with you, over the past two years, whenever I’ve been through at my Dads I’ve considered getting up on Saturday morning and joining the hundred odd other runners, joggers, walkers, toddlers and dogs that weave their way through the beautiful Victorian Park. However until this weekend I’ve either turned over or been watching Peppa Pig with Charlotte.
So what changed?
The atmosphere at Newbury switched a light on in my head, it was such a wonderful experience running around enjoying it rather than running myself to death. I looked at the faces of the young and old around me and etched in various numbers of lines on their faces were grimaces of determination as they chased a pb or grins of excitement just at the experience of being out on a cold, grim October morning doing something that they loved. It was then that I realised that I wanted to be a member of the ‘Cult of Park Run’.
Coupled with the fact that I’m loving running more at the moment than I have in years. It seemed the perfect excuse to let Em have a lie in whilst my Dad, Charlotte and I nipped out for an hour. Charlotte was very excited about watching Daddy ‘race’ and that excitement rose a notch or two when we got to the park and she saw the ducks and the playground. Oh to be 3yrs old again.
The route is quite a hilly one, back in my school boy days we used to train on a Saturday afternoon doing hill reps on cenotaph hill in the park and buried deep in a memory I must have remembered how to pace myself up the hill as when the countdown ended and I headed towards it I breezed up it. It may have been because I gauged my position wrong on the narrow path and actually had to stop as those in front of me were already walking some 100 metres into the run. But once I got some space I opened up my legs and started running properly. And each lap I sailed up the hill.
The 2.5 lap route took me past my cheering squad a few times and I couldn’t help but grin and wave at their enthusiasm. My heart rate indicated that I wasn’t killing myself and this spurred me on. My pace was consistent and I was picking off people for fun. Two people passed me in the last 200m or so, a young lad and his dad who were seriously sprinting for home. Lovely to see that. I crossed the line in a respectable 24.29 in 35th place.
I was happy, I’d been hoping for around 28 minutes on the challenging course. I collected my token, had my barcode scanned and was one step closer to my red t-shirt and total assimilation into the cult. A very excited Charlotte gave me a hug and that made the experience that much more cool, she’d loved watching and declared “I want to race when I’m a big girl, when I’m four.” So I’m guessing it won’t be long until I’m getting ‘chicked’ by Holgate Jnr. I can’t wait.
If you’ve never been to a park run you are missing out. All shapes and sizes and abilities are welcome. It has to be the most inclusive sporting event in the world. Go to the website, register, print off your unique barcode and go along when you can. You’ll have fun and no doubt make great friends. And running a regular 5k will make you a stronger and faster runner, what’s not to like about that. I actually find myself at the moment coverting a red 50 park run t-shirt more than another ironman medal. Bet you weren’t expecting that statement were you?
My nearest park run is in Preston, a 45 mile round trip but hopefully soon there will be one less than a mile from my house. Now that would be the hilliest park run I’ll get to do but it would be brilliant. I’m considering a few trips to Preston over winter to sharpen up.
Each time I go home to Barrow you’ll find me at 9am on a Saturday morning running for the shear enjoyment of running whilst chasing a t-shirt, and a pb. Only 47 more to do, and 6 more minutes to lose to beat my 5k pb and become a member of the biggest running cult in the world.