On the 11th February I did my first ever Parkrun at Pollock Park in Glasgow. It was actually amazing and now I am a fierce Parkrun cheerleader encouraging everyone to take part. For those who don't know Parkrun is a free weekly timed 5km open to everyone, simultaneously taking place across parks at 9am all over the UK (9.30am in Scotland). I have probably been aware of Parkrun for a couple of years now but always shied away from actually going for the sole reason that I didn't want to go on my own, a foolish notion because I literally always run on my own. In my new Girl Powered state though I decided I was going to go along to my nearest Parkrun and see what it was all about, worse case scenario if I didn't like it I could always run home.
Another reason I was nervous to go was that I'm an average runner at best, my 5k usually averages out around 29 mins and even though I have run longer distances before I still suffer from confidence issues and doubt myself that I can do a 5k.
When I got to the meeting point I approached the large crowd of people trying to figure out where to go then I noticed all the well placed volunteers smiling and talking to everyone and they kindly pointed me in the right direction. There was a group talk for all the first timers, welcoming you to Parkrun generally and giving you the low down on this parks specific course, this run has some sneaky hills and during your second lap of the route you actually take a different turning and end on a down hill. Hill running isn't something I have done much of I usually run on the flat roads so this did worry me slightly but the thought of finishing down hill did give me hope. Not all the first timers to Pollock Park where Parkruns first timers, some of them had travelled from other locations which I found intriguing. I spoke to a group of young girls who said they where on their school holidays with their family and they are part of an athletics club and wanted to try out a new location. I joined the huddle of people that seemed to be stood where the volunteer had told us to congregate to start and I took stock of the other people running. Young children, a Dad with a pram, a couple of dogs and some regular folk as well. A varied community of people I thought.
The volunteer welcomed everyone to the event, they congratulated people on their parkrun milestones, a nice sentiment, and promptly announced, go. This shocked me, I thought we were going to move in a more organised fashion to a starting line but no the start of the race was a standing start was literally from the carpark huddle. I don't want that to make it sound like this wasn't a professional set up what, I actually took away from it was a bit of relief. Parkrun is a laid back affair that you can take as seriously as you want to and it really is for everyone. If you want to race it then you stand up the front and you burst out the blocks when you hear go or you can join the very British orderly line of people doing a shuffling start and find your feet. This relief relaxed me instantly, my concerns about a fast 5k and if I would make it all the way round evaporated, it didn't matter, no-one here was going to judge me.
I merged forward with the crowd and as it thinned out I found my pace. I have been to Pollock Park before but I wasn't familiar with the route we ran, it was hilly and I wasn't sure with the laps and the turn off where I would be going. There were volunteers at key points along the route though all enthusiastically cheering us on and pointing us in the right direction. There is something infectious about thanking a volunteer .
My run went well, I tackled the hills strongly and even managed to pass a few people as we climbed, not knowing how far I had left to go was difficult, I didn't know when to push myself because I wasn't sure about the upcoming terrain. Once I passed the finish line I knew it wasn't a particularly fast time but I couldn't stop smiling. I gave in my chip and got my barcode scanned and went home for a well earned brunch. I felt so giddy from the run I wish I had gone with someone else to celebrate in what I had just done. It may only be 5k but smashing that on a Saturday morning doesn't half make you feel good.
When I got my time through later in the day I was even more impressed with the Parkrun scheme. They don't just email you your time but stats on the race and as fitbits show we can't get enough of fitness data. I came 9th in my age category 278th overall out of 409 runners and a time of 29.58.
I enjoyed this Parkrun so much that I went back the following week full of confidence and managed to smash my time finishing with 28.24. If only I had been Girl Powered two years ago and started Parkrun then, I may have been looking at a much vastly improved PB by now. I think the beauty of Parkrun is its inclusion of everyone and I urge you to go along. If you are new to running and you need a safe environment to build your fitness then this is the place for you. If you are a seasoned runner looking for some race practice then this is the place for you. If you are just looking for a sociable jog in the park with like minded people then this is for you. Parkrun is for everyone and that's why its great.
Find out more: http://www.parkrun.org.uk/