Park Run

parkrun – it’s a run, in a park

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The Saturday morning sun is just about tickling the tops of the trees, cones have been laid, starting flags are flapping and volunteers are donning high vis vests.

Right on cue, lone runners, pairs of runners and groups of runners seemingly appear from no-where, yawn, and descend on a random brick utilities block in the middle of the park.

It must be time for parkrun.

If word of the huge community running craze hasn’t reached you yet, parkrun (small ‘p’, no space) is not a race, it’s a run. In a park. (Funny that.)

It’s a free, weekly timed 5km run, organised by the community for the community. Everyone is welcome to come along to walk, jog or run the course and then a few hours after the slightly nauseous finish line feeling has turned into the post-run high, an email lands in your inbox with your official time, placing and age grading. parkrun is spreading like wildfire – there are currently 183 different events across Australia, probably 184 by the time I’ve finished writing this post.

So why? Why are hundreds of runners across the country – actually scrap that – across the world, getting up early on a Saturday to run 5km around a park? Not just one Saturday in a blue moon either, but every Saturday, rain or shine…

Well for starters, it’s free and with the entry price for most organised running events rarely giving you change from a $50 note these days, that is not something to be sniffed at.

But it is more than that, way more than that.

There is something about running in a group that brings out the best in a runner, even if it isn’t a competition. If the person in front can keep running at that pace, then so can you. Yes, yes, you can – if not this week, then next week, or the week after that. parkrun will still be there and I’ll bet that rare change from a fifty that you will too. Chasing a PB is addictive.

But it is even more than that.

Lots of events state the ‘all welcome’ invite list, but parkrun really is for everyone – from elite runners who sprint the course in 16 minutes and something stupid seconds, to people walk/running the route slowly building up to one day being able to run it all, to dog walkers, to entire families, to running clubs, to sub 30 minute PB chasers, to recreational runners enjoying a group run, to older participants on their morning constitutional, to insomniac PT’s who are insanely competitive with themselves and their partner who also lures clients to come along with the promise of a post run muffin (that’s me by the way). Everyone really can, and does, give parkrun a go.

That inclusiveness creates a unique sense of community. People may not know your name, but they will cheer you over the finish line and give you a runner’s nod as you pass each other on the course. parkrunners are part of a big Saturday morning family who all know how good it feels to have run 5km and had breakfast before 8.30am.

At the recent International parkrun Day, over 300 parkruns were held world-wide to celebrate the launch of the first parkrun in the UK back in 2004. I went along to the relatively new Curl Curl course where a new attendance record of 141 was set as well as a new course record of 16.29, set by Sam, who appeared from nowhere, tore up the course record and disappeared again like some kind of mysterious parkrun superhero.

I ran the course that day, and having got carried along with the super-fast beans up front on the start line, went off way too quick and succumbed to stitch for what felt like 4,480m of the 5km.  The lululemon cheer squad saw me through though, hi-fiving and encouraging all the runners with their usual enthusiasm and given how much I was hanging at the end, I was still pleased with a time that was only seven seconds slower than my best.  I couldn’t keep up with the lady who overtook me right by the bowling green but I will keep going back time and time again to parkrun until I do!

If the parkrun craze hasn’t hit a nearby suburb of yours yet, don’t worry, it probably will soon. Hell, you might decide to start one yourself.

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