It all started on Saturday March 7th 2015 at Abingdon parkrun. On Saturday just gone I completed my 150th parkrun. This got me thinking about the things I’ve done in that time that I wouldn’t have done if parkrun wasn’t a part of my life – what parkrun has done for me.
It’s always inspiring to hear in the parkrun newsletter or on podcasts like Free Weekly Timed or Marathon Talk about the positive impact parkrun has had on those who volunteer, walk, jog or run regularly. There are those who have turned around dangerously unhealthy lifestyles, or have come back from the depths of serious mental health problems or overcome anxiety or loneliness through involvement in the parkrun community.
I don’t really have such a dramatic story. My active life before parkrun was that of a moderately active middle-aged bloke. I had run a couple of charity fun runs when I was in my 30s and regularly played five-a-side football, which kept me reasonably fit, but I’m sure I wasn’t as active as recommended. I’d heard of parkrun from my sister who had run a few, but wasn’t that interested to join her. That was until some colleagues and I entered a team into a 5K obstacle race, so I thought I’d better make sure I could at least run 5K .
So, on March 7th 2015 alongside 278 other people I turned up at Abingdon parkrun #186. I only knew 4 other people there (two of whom were my sons who’d decided to join me for their first parkruns too). As with any previous attempts I had made to start running I went off too quickly, so at the 4k mark the feeling of being seriously out-of-breath was so uncomfortable that I had to stop and walk for a bit. I managed to cross the finish line after a time of 29:44. I’ve managed to get a lot quicker since that day and achieved a parkrun PB on my 149th parkrun last week.
It wasn’t long before I could honestly say I enjoyed running and I couldn’t have imagined all the things that I have experienced through running had I not begun parkrunning. I would never have:
- joined a running club
- competed in road races through picturesque Oxfordshire villages and elsewhere
- run on the track or cross-country again for the first time since school
- completed marathons
- stood with my foot actually touching the start line of the London Marathon as the starting gun fired
- run on the Iffley Road track where Roger Bannister ran the first 4-minute mile
These are all amazing things, unthinkable to me five years ago, but they aren’t the things that I’m most grateful to parkrun for. As I mentioned above, other than my children I only knew two other people at my first parkrun. I’ve just checked the results of that first parkrun and counted about sixty parkrunners from the 278 there that day that I now know. This is now true of close to 150 current regulars at Abingdon parkrun, many of whom I would consider my friends.
parkrun to me is about meeting people from all walks of life that I’d probably never meet ordinarily. Some of us are fast runners; some of us are looking to get a PB as often as we can; some of us are steady plodders; some of us are mostly walkers and a lot of us are volunteers – we are all parkrunners.
I mentioned above that I ran a new PB at my 149th parkrun. This happened to be at Cardiff parkrun on Saturday February 1st, where Charlotte Arter ran the fastest ever parkrun by a female runner. Where else but parkrun could an ordinary runner run a PB and chat afterwards to a fellow runner who’d just broken a world record!!