Benefits of joining a running community
I remember the week I took part in my first ever parkrun quite clearly. I had watched eagerly from a distance as this free, weekly, 5km timed run - which is organised entirely by volunteers - had grown within my hometown of Lincoln; but never had the confidence to venture down. The decision to pluck up the courage and make my way to Boultham Park in Lincoln for the 9am start was one of my best though.
I can’t attend parkrun every week, but when I do I never regret it. Being part of parkrun is easy, you just register online, print off a barcode which is used to identify you, and then locate your nearest event; there are hundreds to choose from. The benefits of being part of parkrun are then huge:
Going down to your local parkrun with friends is a great way to exercise and socialise. There is an equal emphasis on running as there is the community side of parkrun. I have loved my Saturday mornings spent running with friends, and it is quite amazing how a 5k run around a local park has created so many treasured memories. If you can’t manage to bring a friend to parkrun, it does not matter, as you will be met by a sea of friendly faces that are willing to chat to you – parkrun is never a solo run.
Parkrun is not a race, but each runner’s time is recorded and logged. This gives you your own personal goals and targets to work towards. Knocking those few extra seconds off is a great driver to get you out of bed on a Saturday morning – trust me! Even if you are not focussed on a time and perhaps you are aiming to build up to running a 5k distance; parkrun is for everyone of all running/walking speeds.
Parkrun offers a weekly platform for you to exercise - for free! What gym can offer that? It is a fantastic way to get back into running, build confidence in both yourself and your running ability, and also to challenge yourself. I know if I step out the door for a 5k run I do not push myself as much as I do when I am at parkrun. The benefit of attending parkrun has had on my overall fitness and my running performance is literally unquestionable.
The parkrun community is so supportive. The volunteers who make parkrun possible each week clap, cheer, encourage and motivate every runner and celebrate every single finisher – their enthusiasm is never missing regardless of whether it is glorious sunshine or chucking it down with rain! The best bit is that anyone can volunteer to help make a parkrun happen; so you can experience the other side of the event whilst giving back to all those who have supported you.
I warn you now parkrun is addictive. You will find yourself planning weekends around squeezing in a parkrun, arranging to meet friends slightly later in the day, limiting the excess on a Friday night, and eagerly setting an early Saturday morning alarm despite it being your day off! Parkrun tourism – when you attend a parkrun outside of your usual local event – is also a big thing, as runners seek out events to take part in even if they are away from their usual home setting. I have been a tourist once, getting up ridiculously early, after a few drinks on a Friday night, to run Old Deer parkrun in London before heading to watching Rugby. I was dressed in an Alien onesie fancy dress costume ready for the match – but I still ran!
I love parkrun, and I know that even if you have never tried it before you will too. So pluck up that courage, print off your barcode, set an alarm, and get your trainers on next Saturday morning – you won’t regret it!