So after initially signing up to Parkrun back in June I finally convinced myself it was a good idea to actually go for a run. So a few weeks ago I got myself up nice and early put on my trainers and then headed out of the door – before promptly turning around and heading back home. Turns out i’d misunderstood one of the key requirements of parkrun and hadn’t printed off a copy of my barcode.
For those not familiar with parkrun it’s a 5km run that takes place in parks around the world at 9am on Saturday mornings. It’s completely free and run by volunteers. To do it properly you have to show your barcode to the volunteers as you finish and they scan it to give you your official time. I had assumed that you could have the barcode on your phone, but turns out not so much. So that first run had to be delayed a further seven days.
Fast forward a week and I had my barcode printed off and so I headed to my first parkrun at Highbury fields in North London. To say I was nervous was an understatement. While parkrun is meant to be a really friendly experience, with no real competitive element, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Before I knew what was happening we had set off and I was running. Predictably I set off too fast trying to keep up with everyone else and found myself needing to do a bit of walking after about 1km.
The route at Highbury Fields is very simple – it’s 5 laps of the park, relatively flat and as a result a bit boring, especially when your back of the pack running by yourself. I’d also forgotten my headphones (you can tell i’ve not really done this before can’t you!), so it felt like it was taking a long time. Then towards the end I got a bit angry. Parkrun has an ethos that no runner will ever come in last – they have a volunteer whose job it is to run behind the slowest participant and be the person to come last. Well as I was finishing my last lap I noticed that this volunteer had overtaken me and was running ahead to the finish line. Was I that slow that they didn’t think I was actually part of the run? Had I misunderstood the idea of not finishing last? Suffice to say I wasn’t happy for that last 1km. Turns out I was getting angry for nothing – there was at least one other runner a lap behind me and the volunteer was running to catch up with them, not overtake me.
So anyway after 44 minutes I finished the run, and after the feeling of anger had disappeared (oops!) I felt great, and was glad to have finished. Not much of an improvement on my first 5k back in May – just 1 minute faster – but hey i’ll take any improvement. It also gives me the benchmark to overcome on my future runs. Parkrun might not be a competitive race, but that doesn’t stop me trying to beat my own time.