In February of this year, my love for Parkrun was discovered. It was rejuvenated last week while I was visiting Vancouver. I can’t begin to explain how incredible Parkrun is, but I’m going to give it a try.
For starters, what is Parkrun?
Park run is a free timed weekly 5km run held in various locations all over the world. It started at Bushy Park in the UK in October 2004. Since then, they’ve adopted technology and recreated the event all over the world in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
I first heard about Parkrun from my ‘Aunty’ Noala, she’s about to turn 69 and has been doing Parkrun for a number of years now. She often spoke about how much she loved Parkrun and how she was so addicted she kept running despite the fact that she had broken her toe (twice).
Let me tell you about Parkrun experiences so far…
I did my first Parkrun with my friend Paul while we were on holidays in Perth this February. I was too scared to do it in my hometown (Albury/Wodonga) as I wasn’t sure if I was physically capable of running 5km and I was afraid to fall apart in my hometown in front of people I knew. I figured I would never see the same people in Perth again if things went incredibly wrong. We did the Maylands Peninsula run along the Swan River. The run was a little challenging but we got through. We were such newbies that we forgot to bring our barcodes along so our time didn’t get recorded, although we know our time was around 33 minutes.
Pictured above: Paul and I at our first Parkrun event in Perth
I did my second Parkrun back in my hometown, now that I was feeling a little more confident because I knew I could run 5km without completely falling apart. This time I managed to get through the run without stopping to walk along the way. Paul stuck with me and we finished together, assuming we ran faster than the last time in Perth, 30:54 (minutes:seconds).
My third Parkrun was in Mawson Lakes, South Australia, while I was visiting my brother. I was pretty nervous because my brother was insistent on running with me despite the fact that he’s a soldier in the Army so he is a zillion times more fit than I am. He encouraged me the whole way and helped me keep a steady pace. He would keep an eye on the time and calculate what the runtime would be based on our pace. He would also keep telling me that I was on track to beat my time by x number of minutes. As much as I struggled through I was so relieved to get to the end and was stoked when I finished in 27:10, a massive 3 minutes and 44 seconds faster than my last time. As excited as I was, I was totally wrecked. We went back to my brother’s house and I passed out on his couch for the next few hours.
I couldn’t wait to do Parkrun again so I did my 4th run the next Saturday when I was back home in Albury/Wodonga! My friend Paul was out of town for the weekend so it was finally time to give it a shot on my own. I used a guy I know as a pacer (unbeknown to him… a little creepy I know) because I knew he usually finishes around the 27-minute mark. I managed to finish at 27:30, a tad slower than last time but I wasn’t anywhere near as wrecked as my Mawson Lakes run. This time I managed to get through the day without passing out on the couch =)
My latest event
Now things got a little trickier after that because I headed overseas to North America where Parkrun hasn’t exactly taken off… well yet anyway! Finally, my timing worked out and I ended up in Vancouver on a Saturday so I could head along to their event in the Richmond Olympic area (a one hour commute from where I was staying in North Vancouver). I got up nice and early to catch a bus, a train and then walk to the event. I was walking along and spotted Amy, another Parkrunner who was on her way to the event. She was in town on a stopover on her way from Fiji to England. She was so dedicated to doing Parkrun that she specifically booked her hotel a couple of blocks from the event. As we arrived I started hearing more accents… British accents… more British accents… and Australian accents… were there even any Canadians here?
I started chatting to the others… an Australian who was visiting Canada for work and had deliberately made his flight out of Vancouver on the Saturday night so that he could participate in Parkrun on Saturday morning… A lady from Melbourne who had come to Canada to bring her son home, but planned her trip around being able to do Parkrun. I was overwhelmed with the dedication people had with going along to Parkrun… this is something incredibly special. They did the pre-run speech where they welcome first timers and visitors (who were the majority in attendance). The run started and I suddenly remembered that running 5km isn’t just a walk in the park (haha). I made it to the end, finishing in 28:10, not my fastest but I thought it was still a good effort.
After finishing, the organisers (all volunteers by the way), encouraged everyone to head across to Tim Horton’s (a Canadian staple) for coffee. I went across with Amy so we got ourselves some breakfast (including Timmbits) and sat up at a table which just happened to be a table full of foreigners… An Australian from Adelaide who was now living in Vancouver, a couple from England who were on a work visa, a South African who was living in Vancouver, and another couple of Brit’s who seemed to be living in Vancouver now as well.
I started heading back to North Vancouver, thinking that my Parkrun experience was now over. As I was heading into the train station, I turned around to notice a guy behind me who happen to speed past me during the run earlier. We got chatting and he was also British, visiting family in Vancouver. I commented that he was fast and couldn’t help but boldly ask for his age. HE WAS 71!!! He was 71 and he ran faster than me… But not just a little faster,. he ran almost 4 minutes faster than me… 5km in only 24:12… AT 71!!! I was totally mind blown and inspired. What an incredible guy… And what an incredible community of people.
Pictured above: Me at the Parkrun event in Richmond/Olympic, Canada
Why I freaking love Parkrun!
- It is a health-conscious activity: It encourages regular participation in exercise that improves fitness and overall wellbeing (I mention this again in my next point). It has a great ability to improve your fitness and help you to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- It promotes endorphins: and lots of good stuff. I’m no health expert but I know for sure that exercise has more benefits than I can count… for physical and mental wellbeing.
- It’s a supportive and welcoming environment: Everyone likes to feel a sense of belonging (I learned all about this in Year 12 English… thanks, Xavier High School). Parkrun is an extremely inclusive event where people can connect to each other. The event is community oriented and builds an amazing sense of community spirit. As I mentioned previously, people will often go for coffee afterward, which provides the chance to meet and interact with different people.
- It’s flexible: No one is going to make you go every week, it’s your choice when you can go so it’s not like a commitment you have to stick to even when you can’t make it for whatever reason.
- It caters for a diverse range of people: I’ve seen such a variety of people participate in the event from athletes to young children to older people to parents with their babies to those on a journey to lose weight.
- It’s accessible:. It’s open to anyone who comes along. Anyone can run, although you need to register online and bring your barcode along if you want your time to be matched to your name. It also isn’t hugely time consuming (usually the event is wrapped up within the hour) so you have time to go for coffee or get on with the rest of your day.
- It helps you track your progress: Because the course is 5km each time, it gives you the ability to easily track your progress each time you do it. It is great to be able to feel and see your progress each by improving your time and feeling the fitness gains.
- It’s free!! They say nothing comes free these days but damn, I would consider Parkrun to be an exception to the rule. Each event is supported by several sponsors and volunteers who make it possible to offer the event every week at no cost. For regular runners, it is encouraged that you put your hand up to volunteer every now and then so that the same people aren’t stuck volunteering each week.
You know how I mentioned my friend Noala earlier – She just did her 93rd Parkrun over the weekend so she is 7 runs away from completing 100 runs… At 68 years’ young. How incredible is that?
Oh, and my friend Paul – He continues to beat his Personal Best and just ran the Albury/Wodonga course in 25:29 (damn it, he’s faster than me… for now anyway!)
And if you’re keen to check it out, you can go to parkrun.com to read more about it and find your nearest Parkrun.
#family #friends #ilovemybrother #parkrun #fitness #travel #kickingoals #improving