On this fine Saturday morning I finally managed to drag myself out of bed early enough to line up – albeit still half asleep – at the start of my local Parkrun.
For those of you who don’t know (it started out as a UK thing), parkruns are free, timed 5km fun runs that are held every Saturday morning in parks all over the country and beyond. It’s such a great idea that it’s catching on quickly, and there are now parkrun events popping up in other European countries as well as across the great pond.
I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been inexcusably late in jumping on the parkrun wagon. I’ve been meaning to take part for ages and I kept hearing great things about the wonderful organisation, relaxed and inclusive atmosphere and soaring fun-factor of these events. I first registered on the website and printed out my barcode more months ago than I care to admit (the barcode is all you need to get individually timed). All that I had to do now was to show up at an event and run.
But week after wintry week, my best intentions were defeated by the siren call of my warm bed, which beckoned me to stay just a little longer. “I’ll just go next week,” I kept telling myself again and again and… well, you get the idea.
So what is this ungodly start time for which I repeatedly failed to disengage myself from my bed? It’s 9:30am… Before you point and laugh at my unquestionable pansieness, please remember that I live a country life, meaning that I have a dog to walk and a horse to take care off before I even think about my own breakfast. Also, when I say “my local parkrun”, I mean that I can get there by driving only 30 minutes. (Now you can point and laugh, it’s ok…).
Another factor which might have dampened my motivation somewhat – and I hate to admit this – is the fact that I have never liked racing the 5km distance. Some people seem to think that just because I can run for hours and hours on end, a mere 5km should be the running equivalent of a piece of cake for me, right? Wrong; very, very wrong (although I love the running and cake idea)! Running for hours merely shows that I possess some means of dealing with fatigue (and possibly a pathologically stubborn character). Racing 5km, on the other hand, requires staying in a physically uncomfortable state for a shorter period of time, but the truth is that while battling cramps and stitches and gasping for breath, every step feels like an eternity. So having established that I am a comfort-loving-pansie, do you really think that the girl who can’t get out of bed in the morning is any good at convincing herself to stay in a zone of “controlled discomfort” for any length of time? I don’t think so either.
And because this particular pansie is also exceptionally good at avoidant coping, the last time I actually subjected myself to a 5km race is ages ago. Think years. Maybe even a decade.
What tipped me over the edge – or rather, out of bed this morning – was my speedy running goal for 2014. After all, what is a 5km race for an endurance runner, if not an excellent tempo run? What is more, with over 100 witnesses to the deed, it’s one which even I would be highly unlikely to whimp out of. Even the distance has been measured for me – win!
So there I was this morning, just happy to have made it for once. I even arrived with a few minutes to spare, which I used for a little warm-up run around the very pretty park and a manic attempt to figure out the course. Any nerves, however, were soothed by the very friendly and totally laid-back atmosphere of the event. All you really have to do is to make it to the startline at 9:30 am, wait for the gun and run your socks off! Once over the finish line you get a position chip, which gets scanned together with that barcode you printed off months ago. That’s it! Go home, eat an almond butter sandwich, drink a celebratory hot chocolate and check the website for the results.
This morning’s run made me appreciate one of the awesome aspects of this distance: it really is for everyone. There were some serious club runners who left me choking on their dust after a mere 50 yards. There were veteran runners who use the event to stay sharp. There were those like me, who see the run as a speed workout. There were also families running together and runners who took their dogs for a spin around the park. There were those who aimed to simply complete the distance. All in all, there were over 100 runners from all walks of life, all enjoying the timed 5km run together, but for their own personal reasons.
As for little old me, I complete the course in 23 minutes and 20 seconds. I was the fourth female finisher and second for my age group. I’m absolutely delighted with that, especially since I was mostly just trying to a) stay awake and b) not get lost. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve never been so chuffed to place a tick against the tempo run in my training diary.
I strongly suspect that it will no longer be a rare sight to see me rolling out of my beloved bed and straight into my running shoes at stupid o’clock on Saturday mornings. After all, there will always be tempo runs to be run. And who knows, could it be that my next 5km PB is lurking in my local park?
I’d encourage every runner to find their local parkrun and to just give it a shot. It’s free, it’s easy, it’s fun, it’s relaxed, and you can bring your better half/friend/dog/toddler/goat/ironing board – in short: it really is for everyone.