Tuesday, 14 May 2013

I heart Parkrun

On Saturday, just before the start of my usual 5k Parkrun, one of the runners collapsed from a heart attack. In the group of runners waiting to start the race, were 2 doctors, who quickly rushed to the gentleman's aid and began CPR. 10 minutes later an ambulance arrived, to whisk him off to hospital where he remains in a poorly but stable condition.

The family, kindly allowed the park run Facebook page to post the latest news on Sean's condition. People put messages of support on the page for Sean and his family and messages of admiration for the 2 quick thinking doctors. Already a campaign has begun for there to be a defibrillator at the park, with many offers to help raise money or donate money of their own. That day, like many others, I stumbled home in shock, all day my mind could not stop thinking of Sean and his family. I had come to realise what park run means to me and how in times of adversity park run looks after its own. I wanted to tell you about this because I love park run. 

First of all what is park run?

There are park runs all over the world with 192 park runs taking place all over the UK each week. It is free. The course is 5k and is timed. You will need to register first, which is easy, you just need to give your name, date of birth, email and emergency contact. Once registered, you do not need to register again. You are sent a barcode, which you print off and bring with you to the park run. Our race is always at 9am on a Saturday morning, but times can vary so check your website. Everybody starts together and during the race there are lots of volunteers cheering you on! At the end of your race, you are given a token, which you present for scanning with your barcode. Your result is then emailed to you and published on the results page, so you can track your progress, and compare your results with others in your age group.

At our Park run we have over 400 runners, all of varying ability and ages. There are people who are running in 15 minutes, and some in an hour. I can be found towards the back of the field, running in about 42 minutes. Our course is 2 laps and I am always lapped by the speedy ones. But do you know what, as they come streaming past me they always shout words of encouragement such as 'keep going' and 'not long now'. At the end, even though an Ice age could have passed between them and me finishing, they will stay and cheer you home. Even the volunteers get involved, I will never forget the day one of the marshals ran me up a long hill, giving me running tips along the way. I had never dreamed I would ever run up that hill, but do you know what? That day, she got me up that blinkin' thing. 

There is a wonderful sense of camaraderie about the whole event. Mums and dads run with their children (who all still seem to run faster than me - dammit!)' owners bring their dogs (being overtaken by a poodle was a down day in my running career) and I have seen my friend Laura improve her running time from over an hour to 45 minutes. I love it and after the race has ended can be found with a massive grin on my face, wanting to do it all over again. 

And afterwards, I am usually home by 10am, with a cuppa thinking 'this morning I ran a 5k when lots of people were probably asleep'. I do confess I do become slightly smug at this point. 

Park run is a community. We ran on the New Year's Day run, nursing a hangover, but everyone was in it together. During the heaviest snow since 1967, 29 runners turned up to run the course, some in wellies, legend will call them the 'snowy 29'. There have been runs on Christmas Day, Easter egg hunts and each year there is an awards ceremony. 

So check out your local park run, if I can run a 5k then anyone can. Go, enjoy it and tell your friends. You'll love it I promise you. 

Check out the park run website here http://www.parkrun.org.uk/

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