The news that 5k park-runs are now at their most popular in terms of attendance doesn’t surprise me one bit. For anyone involved in running or the running community, the Saturday park-run is a term which is spoken about over and over again.
For me it began the moment I started to take up running. At this point I could barely run five minutes let alone 5k. My running confidence was short, and I was determined to improve. A quick glance on the internet to find areas to run in my local town Gainsborough, was followed with references aplenty to the Saturday park-run. Of course as a new runner, I don’t think I would be the first to say I was put off by the idea of running with others, at least in the short term, and so I didn’t think much of the idea.
And so, time passed. My fitness improved, my stamina, pace, intensity all improved with it. Still I didn’t make the jump, still a little unnerved by the idea of running with regular pacesetters.
Saturday 8th April, 9AM.
Location – Boultham Park, Lincoln.
Sure enough when I arrived, there were plenty of people there with scarily impressive running gear. T-shirts, all blaring proudly the achievement of running the previous weeks Lincoln 10k, seemed to have been handed to everyone. Surely, I wasn’t ready? Surely this was a mistake?
But then, the lead volunteer (of which there is one for every park run) told all the new runners to group together to be spoken to by yet another volunteer. To my surprise, almost a quarter of the seemingly hundreds of runners walked across with me. The myth I had created in my head vanished, I felt ready at last. By the time we were told that there was a specific volunteer whose job it was to finish last so no-one else did, I was raring to go.
The run itself was hard. Not because I couldn’t run that far, but because I tried to keep up with as many people as possible. Amateur mistake. And by the end I was panting like crazy when, on the third lap, I saw Jamie running back towards me, having completed his best-ever time – a reward for his persistence.
My time was around 30 minutes. Not bad for a first try, I thought. But the real impression that was made was the feeling of accomplishment in the air as everyone finished their run, and the teamwork of volunteers and runners who all worked cheerfully together to encourage as many people as possible. All my fears of being out of my depth had gone. In truth, I didn’t need to run for a year to get myself ready. The run was catered to all kinds of fitness levels. The key word here being run and not race, as the volunteers were keen to point out.
With parliament announcing that there will be bans on any councils charging for park runs, it is a small but important victory for fitness, and taking advantage of the world around you, and that should keep the attendance improving every weekend.
For information on the rules, timing system, and your local park-run – visit http://www.parkrun.org.uk/
Saturday 25th March figures (highest park-run turn-out so far):
Scunthorpe – 509
Lincoln – 394
Cleethorpes – 221
Newark – 197
Boston – 120
Gainsborough – 34.