(Photo courtesy of Park Run)
I had never heard of Park Run…until last weekend.
So far my running has been pretty solitary. With just over three months to go until the half marathon I have been stepping up my running routine – trying to go for at least three runs a week of varying distances. The 5K run still remains my regular training run – it’s long enough to make me feel shattered at the end of it and short enough that I can fit it in regularly with work and everyday life.
My 5K runs alone tend to be in the 33 minute region. I’m certainly not that fast but it’s been great seeing how far my speed has come during the past year. I remember only a few months ago running it in about 38 minutes so I know I have definitely shaved some time off from my early training days. But still, I knew I needed to start increasing the training and trying to build on my speed and a lot of friends have suggested taking part in a competitive race to do that.
I have never taken part in a race before so the prospect of racing alongside seasoned runners really didn’t make me feel that comfortable. But I am going to be doing it for the half marathon so why not start now and get some practice in? And the Park Run seemed like the perfect way to start.
Park Run UK takes place all over the country, usually once a week, and is a free 5K running event. People of all ages take part in the organised event. The events see runners of all ages making their way round their local running route before crossing the finishing line. Runners wear a barcode and at the end of the race the organisers scan it in and upload the race results online.
I was told that this event was really friendly and not too competitive or busy so it sounded perfect. And what a great event it was. There were about 200 people, of all shapes and sizes, taking part. The route was really pleasant – flat with no hills (yes!) and the route took us through meadows and along the river. I did find this run really challenging. I’m not sure if it’s the heat (I’ve been finding running in the heat recently pretty tough) or my winter running outfit which was way too heavy for a summer morning run – either way, it was a real test both physically and mentally. But one thing I really enjoyed about Park Run was the insight it gave me into a race day. I have been told a few times that your pace picks up on race day because of the crowds and the people you run alongside – a bit of competition supposedly makes you run faster. And it certainly did for me. Where normally I may have slowed down in pace, I sped up. Where normally I might have stopped to take on some water, I persevered. And this was definitely because the (small) crowd were cheering all the competitors on and I didn’t want to fall behind into last position.
So where did I finish? 161 out of 205 so not great BUT I did beat my PB – getting my 5K down to 30.58 which I was really proud of. I now know they have these events all over the country too and am definitely going to try them on a regular basis. It’s just nice to have a bit of company and a bit of competition as opposed to running solo all of the time!
If you want to find out more about Park Run head to their website and follow the link.