As I write this I can feel the aches in my calves and thighs, the tell tale signs that I’ve pushed myself in the name of exercise, which for me, since becoming a Mum, has been running.
There are loads of reasons why running is ideal for Mums which I’ve covered before; the flexibility, freedom and rewards have made it, for me, a go to form of getting fit both physically and mentally. There are definitely no denying the feel good of a post run endorphin boost.
Recently an old work colleague fired me a text asking for sponsorship for the Great North Run…intrigued I clicked through his fundraising page and noticed that he had lost a ridiculous amount of weight. A few messages back and forth later I discovered his incredible transformation into a life of fitness was thanks to getting involved in Park Run.
It was this conversation which inspired me to getting my butt back down to my local Park Run at 9am the next Saturday morning. I completed it once before with my sister in law and that promise to go again the next week just seemed to have accidentally morphed into eighteen months. But now, I have four Park Runs under my belt and I’m determined to make it to at least one Park Run milestone before I hit a milestone birthday of my own.
What is Park Run?
Park Run is a free, timed 5K (3.1 mile) run which is held at 9am on a Saturday morning at multiple outdoor venues across the country, and the world. Set up fourteen years ago in Bushy Park London, the run is aimed to encourage runners of all abilities and ages (there is also a junior park run) to get out in pleasant surroundings, meet people, get fit and run together. Although the event is timed, and first place positions are registered on the website, it isn’t a competitive run, and you can either choose to try and beat your own personal best each week, or just run for the hell of it.
How does it work?
To take part in Park Run you must pre register before the event. You will be issued a bar code which is printed out (credit card size) and must be taken to the event. There is no requirement to register at each event – just turn up and run. You will be briefed by volunteer marshalls who will also be positioned all around the course for support (and occasionally high fives). At the finish line you receive a second bar code which is scanned and retained at a scan point with your personal bar code. You will then receive your time and position in a text message later on in the day.
Park Run is free of charge, however read the notes online about your nearest event as some venues may have a parking fee. You can find out all key info about the run site online.
Why Park Run?
As someone who has dipped in and out of running over the years, both alone and with a running partner, there is something brilliant about joining in with Park Run that you don’t get from running roadside.
For starters, it’s a gorgeous environment – my local park run is in a country park woodland, which is a stunning place to start any day. But it’s somewhere I’m not sure I’d be comfortable running alone. Park Run is an event that surrounds you with people with a common interest. People who will smile and encourage you, clap you over the finish line and encourage you should you begin to struggle. Having someone tell you you’re doing brilliantly, and to keep going is a real boost both physically and mentally, and it’s one reason alone to choose Park Run over running solo. There is the safety of support should you feel unwell and people to welcome you into a running community, in your community. Or, you can venture to a new event location further afield if you fancy that too.
Running to an officially managed start and finish time is a great way to track your progress and achievements. Many of us who run are living proof that running gets easier the more you do it. Your breathing regulates, your stop times reduce, then stop altogether, and your speed increases. Once you begin to feel the benefits to your fitness and mood it’s actually really quite enjoyable to challenge yourself a little harder, and even (honestly) becomes quite addictive. Having a place to track those improvements at Park Run, as well as your number of park runs completed is certainly something I value as a runner.
And of course, where else can you take part in an arranged, group exercise for absolutely nada. Zilch. A total freebie. Meaning that Park run doesn’t only include runners from all abilities, but with no pricey membership, this isn’t an exclusive club for only those prepared to fork out a crazy monthly fee.
This week saw Park Run celebrate fourteen years since it’s launch, and as it continues to grow and welcome new runners every week (and volunteers, without whom it would not be possible) this really is a movement that deserves to celebrate it’s impact on so many people. As it’s mission statement says, it really has created ‘A happier and healthier planet’.
Happy Birthday Park Run.