Parkrun tips

As I have mentioned MANY times now.  I love the Parkrun concept…just turn up any Saturday morning at one of 225 locations around the world (but mainly in the UK), walk, jog or run 5k and have your time recorded and submitted into a massive database online where you can keep track of your progress as you continue to complete the 5ks throughout the year!

I’ve only completed three so far, in two different locations, but intend on completing many more this year after my marathon training finishes.  Here are a few words of wisdom if you are thinking about signing up…

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1) Sign up online in advance – The way Parkrun works is you signup online for an account and then are sent a personalised barcode with your name on which you print off and take with you to the event.  Once you have run through the funnel at the end of the race you are given another card with a barcode on by a volunteer which relates to your finishing place.  You head out of the funnel and hand in both barcodes to be scanned to another volunteer.  This links your profile in the database with the position you ran that day.  There is also a clicker volunteer who will take note of when each person comes through the finish line.  They won’t know your name, but they will then be able to link this up when you hand in your barcode.

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2) Sellotape your barcode – the best place I’ve found to keep my barcode safe is in the back pocket of my running tights.  However, I can get pretty sweaty after running 3.1 miles so to prevent my barcode becoming a big mushy mess in my back pocket I cover it in sellotape.  This holds up pretty well.  The image above is actually my barcode after racing, and then having been dumped back in my pocket.  I forgot to remove it from my pocket before washing my running clothes and I could almost, at a push probably use this barcode again the sellotape has held that well!

3) Know your terrain – My local parkrun is Northampton which is a lovely flat park where you can see the whole course from the start/finish line.  Whilst back at my parents a few weeks ago I ran the Sheringham Parkrun.  This was completely different and I was 3 minutes slower due to the terrain and also my lack of knowledge of it!  At Sheringham you start in the middle of loads of trees heading on a sharp downhill.  That was pretty much the only downhill of the race and just before the finish there was the steepest hill I have ever run up!  You couldn’t see what was coming around each corner and there were tree roots sticking up everywhere.  A proper trail race!

4) Head towards the front – If you are runner, no matter how casual, head towards the front half of the race start pack.  I made the mistake in my first parkrun event of heading towards the back as I would in a road race and spent the first five minutes overtaking and winding around people.  Lots of people sign up for parkrun to get themselves out there and moving each Saturday morning or even run it as a family event with the kids.  There are still several club runners and people that are aiming for PBs but I found it very difficult to judge people the first time I went.

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5) Concentrate and avoid other park users – If you get too zoned out during the run you are bound to fall over a spectator’s dog or worse!

6) Volunteer every so often – Parkrun suggest that you should try to volunteer about three times a year.  Parkrun is run by volunteers, so if people don’t make the effort to volunteer then the races will not be able to go ahead.  I definitely plan on volunteering over the Summer on dates when I know I will be able to commit.

7) Encourage others to take part – This is a FANTASTIC scheme for ALL members of the family.  Lots of people always seem to be looking for activities to take part in as a family group and I think this is ideal.  30 minutes on a Saturday morning, completely free, good exercise and having fun with your family.  Definitely spread the word!

Parkrun #3: Northampton

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Not a new PB but I wasn’t expecting it today.

I got up at 5:10 this morning.  Oops!  A little early for the holidays!  Last night Dan had been going through the freezer to see what we could have for tea when he found four end pieces of bread in four separate bags!  I told him to get them out to defrost and remind me to have toast for breakfast before the parkrun.  This didn’t really work because they ended up being rather soggy!  I ate two slices anyway though!

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Dan was heading back to Wolverhampton today to watch the footy so I was on my own for this Parkrun.  I didn’t think I would PB as I haven’t been running great lately, but I still wanted to run the best that I could today with the aim of running sub 9mm.

As I was lining up I realised that there seemed to be more people than last time and I was a little worried when I saw several children and a man dressed as a large dog infront of me but when the whistle went luckily I didn’t have too much weaving to do and the field spaced out pretty quickly.  We had been warned that there were some areas which still had a few inches of snow and several areas of ice on the course today.  It was not too slippy at all, but rather just meant that we had to give some corners a much wider edge than we would normally have done.

As last time I was concerned about my breathing which seemed quite heavy to begin with.  This quickly evened out though and I was on track with my panting!  When I glanced down at my watch at about half a mile into the run and realised that I was running at 8:15mm pace I knew I was going too fast and tried to slow myself down a bit.  As I came round for the second loop I started to get a pain in the left side of my chest.  I broke into a walk for the distance between two lamp-posts, just to get myself back into check and then continued at a slightly slower pace.  I knew I would be OK to finish strong that way so pushed on.  I had overtaken quite a few people at the start but as we got closer to the three mile mark there seemed to be several people adopting a walk-sprint routine.  They kept surging past me only for me to then overtake them a short distance later.  This has worked for quicker times for me in the past but I much prefer to run a steady race and feel good at the end of it rather than like death as I’m sure they did!  One woman overtook me literally with meters to go at the end with a quick sprint, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to match her at that late stage.  She apologised as soon as we got through the finish funnel!

Below are my two Northampton Parkrun pace graphs.  The first is from my Parkrun PB of 26m 55s on 2nd Feb.  The bottom graph is from today.  Check out how well paced my first Parkrun was compared to today!parkRun comparison

I wore my Stamford 30k top which is one of my comfiest long sleeved technical tops.  This prompted a conversation with another runner that had completed the race this year.  Runners really are a friendly bunch of people!

My watch time was 27m 55s.  1min slower than my current PB on the same course.  Overall I’m not disappointed with my race today as I know that my energy levels have been zapped just lately from work.  I have learnt (again!) that starting out too fast is my downfall and I’m going to try and wear my heart rate monitor more frequently over my coming runs so that I can track the effort I am putting into my runs rather than the speed.  I would like to do Parkrun more regularly…as I’ve said before, I LOVE the Parkrun concept and it will definitely help keep my pace quicker whilst I am training for my marathon/ultra over the next couple of months.  Watch this space for more Parkrun results over the coming weeks!