At the beginning of November I did my first ever Parkrun (18:54 since you asked, not spectacular but not as bad as I feared), it was something I’d been meaning to do ever since 2007 when I first heard about the weekly, timed run that went around Hyde Park’s Woodhouse Moor (a quick glance at the website – http://www.parkrun.org.uk/leeds/ – indicates it has been going since October 2007 so I guess that’s about right).
In case you’ve no idea what a parkrun is here’s a description lifted from their site:
parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.
So basically, they’re organised runs, that are about running, and nothing else. There’s no entry fee, no minimum sponsorship level required, no goody bag. In short there’s none of the paraphernalia that is slowly but surely turning me off mass-participation runs.
I was talking to my brother the other day after we both entered a race, he was commenting on how he’d felt like “a complete bastard” when he didn’t choose to tell the organisers which charity he was raising money for, because…he wasn’t raising money for a charity, neither of us were, we were entering the race because…surprise surprise, we wanted to do a run.
Now I want to be clear, I have no problem with fundraisers, there are some incredible people, doing amazing things in order to raise money for a charity that they believe in, and that is completely brilliant. Fundraising is also a great way into running for a lot of people. My slight problem lies with the fact that it has now become an assumption that if you are doing a race then you must be raising money for charity, people seem unable to understand that maybe you are simply doing a run because you enjoy running.
And that is part of the reason why I love parkruns, there is none of that ‘other stuff’, it’s a straight-forward experience, that’s just about running. I also like the fact that it is staffed by volunteers (who are normally participants giving up the odd Saturday, the rest of the time they’re there taking part with everyone else) and that it is 5k – a distance that more or less everyone can complete. It is incredibly well-organised, and by 9.30 on a Saturday morning you’ve already done something constructive with your weekend.
Long live parkrun.
p.s. I have since done a second parkrun, got my time down to 18:49, aiming ultimately for sub-17.30 but…let’s see.