Saturday morning marked a first for me in several ways. Not only was I out of bed by 7.45am on a weekend, but I also attended my very first Parkrun, up at Hampstead Heath.
For those of you unfamiliar with Parkrun (if indeed such people still exist!) Parkrun is a “movement” manned by volunteers which organises free 5km park runs (…runs in the park…) at 9am on a Saturday morning, up and down the UK and around the world.
Parkruns are designed to be accessible to everyone; the 5km distance being ideal for both those starting out on their fitness journey, and seasoned athletes looking to continually improve their time over this distance.
Parkruns are timed, and the process is very straightforward. All you need to do is register via the Parkrun UK website, in order to be issued with a barcode. Then you simply print your barcode and bring it with you on the day. All the runners start off at the same time, and you hand your barcode over for a volunteer to scan as you cross the finish line, and this is how your time is recorded.
A couple of hours after the event I received my official finish time by e-mail, which, given that it was my first run, has now been set as my PB and my time to beat. The statistics included in the e-mail were far more detailed than I had anticipated they would be, not only including your time and finishing position, but breaking this down further to show where you finished for your gender and amongst those of the same gender and in your age bracket.
Now that you know what Parkrun actually is…here is a little about my personal experience! I am notoriously not an early riser and am perpetually running late (the hint is in my blog name!) so getting up on a Saturday morning in time to leave the house promptly at 08.20 in order to catch the 08.34 underground to Hampstead Heath was always going to be a challenge!
Thankfully, Saturday in North London turned out to be an absolutely idyllic, bright and sunny, autumnal morning, which made it considerably easier to rouse myself from my slumber. However, with temperatures at 2 degrees as I stepped off the train at the Heath, suffice to say there was a chill in the air! Despite the fact that your extremities turned numb quicker than you can say “Iloveparkrun,” it really was the perfect winter morning for a run.
On this particular Saturday morning, participants had to take the B route, as the A route was closed due to some sort of organised youth running event, so I’ve yet to experience the more commonly used terrain. As 5kms go, B route was certainly challenging. It was twice round a 2.5km circuit, which included considerable elevation, with at least two pretty steep hills. Suffice to say, the second loop round was tough.
On the plus side, with the ups, come the downs (don’t we all know it) and running is probably the only time in life when this is a good thing! Plus, having inserted considerable hill work into my treadmill routine over the past few months, I’m pleased to say that it seems to have paid off. Whilst I struggled to maintain the pace I’d ideally like, I did manage to keep running at not-too-shabby a speed up even the steepest of these inclinations.
My finish time was 27:55, which for a 5km probably sounds less than amazing, but given the hills, the terrain (mud!), and the early start, I was pretty darn pleased with this. I was the 28th female to finish, which in my head sounds great, although unfortunately I don’t actually know how many females took part, but there were 260 or so runners in total and there wasn’t a gapingly obvious gender imbalance. Out of females in my age category (30-34…the first time I have seen my name included in this bracket before…!) I came 4th. Which again, sounds amazing, but I am competing with other oldies these days, I guess 😉
Anyway, it was fun. And like most fitness endeavours for me, is bound to become addictive.
Next Saturday at 9am…you know where to find me!