One of my running goals for 2019 was to go visit some new Parkruns, the free, 5K timed runs that take place on Saturday mornings all over the world. I’m a creature of habit. I’m also largely driven by convenience. So, the Highbury Fields Parkrun, less than one mile from our front door, has been my go-to Parkrun for years. However, I wanted to branch out this year and see what some other courses around the city (or country!) have to offer.
The other benefit of branching out is that it may help with one of my other running goals this year: a new 5K PB. Even though it’s close, Highbury Fields is a tough course for that goal. The 5.5 lap course is more than 50% uphill so it’s a toughie for maintaining a PB pace.
So, we decided to visit the Hackney Marshes Parkrun. This run around the northern perimeter path around Hackney Marshes is completely flat. The perfect place for PB-seekers like myself.
The only downside is that it required getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual which was a bit unpleasant for a Saturday morning, but we made it happen.
The interesting thing about a new Parkrun is that I had absolutely no concept of how far into the run I was while doing it. I’m still running (technologically) naked, so my usual frame of reference was missing. Because Highbury Fields is a lapped course, I know exactly how far I’ve gone and how much further I need to go. Without that guidance, I found the Hackney Marshes Parkrun to be mentally demanding! I kept misjudging how close the finish line was and speeding up, only to realise I still had a long way to go!
At Highbury Fields, I can also use other runners as my guide. There are several regulars who are good indicators of my performance. For example, the girl with the long red braided ponytail. If she’s more than 200 metres ahead of me, then I know I’m struggling!
I finished the Hackney Marshes Parkrun in 24:35, my best time this year and 16 seconds faster than last week. I was 29th female (out of a field of 419 runners) and 6th in my category (out of 25). I can see the potential of this course for a PB so we’ll definitely be back. Now that I’ve got the lay of the land, I can run it a little more sensibly and strategically.
In addition to big PB potential, there’s another great benefit to this Parkrun. The Hackney Marshes Centre has a cafe serving up hot drinks and bacon sandwiches. Dangerous but delicious. The centre may not be the most picturesque building, but the potential for post-run brekkie makes up for it.
I’d call the first bit of Parkrun tourism of 2019 a big success!