On one of my very first runs in London, the run leader from the London Marathon Store told me about Park Runs: free, timed, weekly 5K runs held all around the UK. I was immediately intrigued. Why it took me more than 6 months to finally join one is beyond me. But finally, this past Saturday morning, we went to our first Park Run.
We decided to join the run at Highbury Fields and convinced my mother and father-in-law to join us who were visiting for the weekend. Keen to beat our 5K times from the recent Yorkville 5K we all did in Toronto two weeks ago, we set off to the park on a beautiful, sunny morning.
I was astounded by the number of people who showed up. 186 total according to the promptly delivered email I received post-event. Remembering how hard it was to get people to free Nike-sponsored events in Toronto, I was truly expecting 8-10 people to turn up. I was very wrong.
I also assumed everyone there would be veteran Park Runners but there were dozens of first timers like us! The helpful volunteers were welcoming and enthusiastic and thoroughly explained the course and the process for collecting our times, which was very simple and efficient. You just print your personal barcode after registering online. The hardest part is remembering to bring it with you!!
Following the instructions, we set off promptly for five loops around the little park. One side was a slight uphill, the other side a slight downhill. Every time around the uphill felt harder and harder but I was determined to beat my personal best of 27:30. Given that most 5K races have been run with a pretty brutal hangover, I was convinced I could do better. Otherwise, I was going to be pretty disappointed!
Thankfully, I did not embarrass myself. New PB set! 26:37! Basically a full minute faster than my previous PB. Though after looking at my records, my Nike+ GPS watch claims my fastest 5K is 22 minutes. I’m not sure in what alternate reality I ran that time, but it’s a nice goal to aspire to!
Graham also beat his personal best for 5K and both my mother and father-in-law did excellently crossing the finish line ahead of many people 20-30 years their junior!
Following the race, we chatted with some of the nice people there, including a representative from Good Gym, a group of runners that combine running with helping the community. One of the nice things they do is pair runners with an old person that needs a companion and each week, you run to the old person’s house and have a cup of tea with them! They also run to areas in packs and do community projects like gardening or clearing brush and brambles. I look forward to joining them one day.
Shortly after the run, we received an email with our official time and interesting stats including our overall place, and gender place. The website also keeps track of all your Park Runs and will record your PBs and total number of runs. After certain milestones, you get badges. Some people have done more than 100 Park Runs!
I really can’t believe this is a free event that happens weekly. I can’t wait to go again!