Most Saturday mornings at around 7am, you’ll find me at home eating a bowl of muesli, eagerly waiting for the clock to strike 8, which is when I’ll get on my bike and head to Ferry Meadows Country Park for Peterborough parkrun.
The majority of my friends and UK social media contacts are aware of parkrun, and most of them will be regular participants. However, there are some people I know, particularly in other countries, who either don’t know of its existence, or have heard of it, but aren’t sure exactly what goes on.
So, I thought I’d write an overview of what happens all over the country, in hundreds of locations, on a Saturday morning, and share my personal experiences of Peterborough parkrun.
First and foremost, parkrun is FREE, free to register as a participant and free to take part, every week. All parkrun courses are 5km, and EVERYONE, regardless of ability, is encouraged to run, jog, walk, crawl or hand bike* (*at Peterborough parkrun – I’m not sure about other courses around the country) at their own pace to complete the course. The aim of the weekly event is to get people outside, exercising at their own pace, meeting people and improving their overall general health.
New participants will need to register their details on the UK website, http://www.parkrun.org.uk, in order to receive their personal barcode, which is scanned by a Marshall at the end of the run in order to record their time. All Marshalls and other event staff are volunteers, including a “tail walker”, who walks right at the back of the group ensuring, among other things, that no matter how long it takes you to complete the course, you will never finish in last place!
Anyone can volunteer to help out at parkrun, and it’s a great way to encourage and meet other participants. You can sign-up using the “volunteer” tab on the website, or speak to someone in a high-vis vest on the day of a run – they’ll be happy to help (If the person in the hi-vis vest smells particularly bad, and knows nothing about parkrun, you have probably collared a random drainage worker, so move onto the next person wearing reflective gear!)…
So, Peterborough parkrun. It takes place every Saturday morning at Ferry Meadows and starts at 9am, and is run on a mainly flat, paved and lightly gravelled surface, so it is unlikely that you will finish the run covered in mud. People usually congregate at the main café, next to the visitor centre, for a pre-run chat and catch-up. This is also where you will meet if you have volunteered, and where the race briefing takes place for newcomers and “tourists”, those who have come from other areas. The briefing usually happens at around 8:50am, and is worth attending to gain an insight into the course, conditions on the day and conduct (the park is open to the public as usual).
You may, if you wish, run with your dog, and some people even run with their children in a buggy – it’s so frustrating when these people overtake me!
When you have completed your run you will be handed a token. Take this to the nearest barcode-scanning volunteer, whom you will be directed to, and have it scanned along with your own personal barcode. You MUST have this with you every time you run, or your time will not be recorded. It will also get you 10% off your coffee in the café afterwards! (As you gradually improve your pace over time, you will notice that the queue for coffee is shorter, the earlier you finish the race).
So, when this is done and you have got your breath back, take a few moments to marvel at how great you are, and revel in the great feeling of achievement, whatever your time and wherever you were placed overall. It doesn’t matter where you finished, you got out there this morning, exercised and, hopefully, met some new people, who will always be supportive and friendly. Trust me, once you have completed your first run, you’ll definitely be back for more.
I’ve really enjoyed parkrun since I started attending it a year and a half ago. Since then, my running pace has improved greatly, my overall physical and mental health has improved, I have had the opportunity to meet new people, and I am now back in touch with quite a few school friends whom I’d had no contact with for over 20 years! I look forward to it every week.
Maybe I’ll see you at the Christmas Day and New Year’s Day parkruns, if not before.
And finally, a gratuitous photo of me in action at parkrun…not exactly motoring by the look of this picture!