I did my first Park Run last weekend and it was something I wish I’d done sooner. If you didn’t know, Park Runs take place all over the country every weekend in a park. Run by volunteers, Park Run offers runners a place to meet others, run a 5k and get a time. It’s a huge organisation now, and I bet if you did a quick search you’d find one very close to you!
Quarter to nine. I’d just arrived at Pennington Flash and I wasn’t really sure where the start was. Thankfully, there were plenty of people about. Runners easily identified by the bright colours, the unseasonably short shorts and long socks. A chilly October morning, it felt like Winter had arrived, never mind Autumn! Boy I was glad that I’d kept my jumper on.
If I could describe the Pennington Flash Park Run in one word, it would be family.
I followed a few other runners, making my way up a footpath that seemed like it lasted forever. In reality, it probably took less than 5 minutes. We ended up in the clearing you can see above – the ground still pink and orange from the colour run that had taken place a few weeks back. I was struck by how chatty everyone was. They all seemed to know each other. Greeting people as they walked through the crowd to find their group. A couple jogging up with trail prams, families coming together. It really felt like a group, a running group and not just people turning up to run. I wasn’t expecting that.
I just hung to the side. Watching, trying to keep warm and thinking about my bed… Was I really ready to run? As I looked around I could see volunteers, but no one was getting their barcode out. Had I missed that part? Was I supposed to get my barcode scanned back at the buildings at the entrance of the park? I’m soft. I didn’t ask anyone, I just hoped for the best.
Soon enough a lady called us to attention. She welcomed everyone back, and asked about first timers. I wasn’t the only one – that was comforting! As she chatted, it was clear that she knew many of the runners and they knew her. Congratulations were given to those hitting Park Run milestones (one had done 200!) and everyone clapped along. Then the whole barcode system was explained and I was safe. I had to run then get scanned at the end for my time. Simple!
Just after 9am we all headed to the start a little further back and then that was it. Actually, one thing that surprised me was that everyone started stripping. No – not completely. Jackets were taken off and left hanging on the fence, bags were left, bikes were left. The volunteers would obviously be staying in the area and I’m guessing no actual valuables were left but yeah, just goes to show the kind of event Park Run is!
And then we were off! I was close to the front, so everyone was rushing past me to begin with. Fine with me! I knew I was running faster than I usually would, but I figured if I could keep this speed up I could have a new 5k record! Not gonna lie, it was tough. When you’ve run on roads for the past few months, you forget just how difficult trail running can be. The hills, oh the hills. We did 3 laps of a circuit, including two sloping hills and then obviously back down before heading back to where we started for the finish line.
It’s Supposed to be Hard. The Hard is What Makes it Great.
People were shouting encouragement throughout, and all the fast finishers headed back up to the circuit to give support. It was great, and really added to that family atmosphere. One of the best things though, was seeing young children taking part with their parents. Park Run really is a family experience. You can do them to increase your short run times, but you can also use them as recovery runs and to get your children active. One little boy was celebrating his 30th Park Run!