Parkrun are a series of free 5K runs on Saturday mornings all across the UK (and now overseas as well).
They are staffed wholly by volunteers and offer a measured, timed 5K race every week. The idea is, you use them to race, but ‘give back’ by volunteering at the occasional race.
The format is pretty simple, turn up with your (pre-registered and printed) barcode, run the race, let them scan your barcode and visit the website later in the day for the results. As of July 2012 there are over 130 park run locations around the country.
Anyway, enough raving about a fantastic free race every week – I ran my first one last weekend, in Abingdon. There is one at Newbury (Greenham Common) which is closer for me, but my twitter buddy Mike Wells was doing Abingdon, so I popped up there to meet him for the first time (2 firsts in one day !!) and he’d agreed to pace my first 1K, as I was trying for sub 20 minutes.
Things were very well organized, the route was well marked, the marshals well placed and the route well signed. I wasn’t too sure what would happen at the start, so unfortunately I didn’t get myself to the front of the group before we set off – we were about mid way back, which was a big mistake.
The route was mostly single track for the first 1Km or so, 2 abreast at best, so this meant lots of trying to push past people, or going off the track into knee length grass to get by. It was also muddy after all the rain, so a bit slippery underfoot.
There is a bit at the start, then 2 times ~2Km loops then a bit at the end – in the first Km I was convinced I was going to slow and would never make it, but Mike kept telling me we were bang on the time slits (6:25/mile), heading into the second Km the field had thinned out a little and by the 2Km point I had pushed up into the top twenty or so. By 3Km I was in eighth place and still bang on for the time splits. The last couple of Km were hard going and as we got onto the bit after the second lap I kept expecting the finish to be across a field on the left, but you actually turn a sharp right and the finish is immediately there, so I didn’t push the last 2-300m as fast as I could have..
I was 7th overall, in a time of 20:12 – which, although not the sub 20 minutes I was looking for, was pretty good for a first time, and also a PB. On a more open, less muddy course, I reckon I can get under my target.
I’ll be trying it sometime in August at Newbury parkrun !!