Saturday, 10 January 2015

This parkrun thing

If you haven't heard of parkrun, you've probably been under a rock. In short, these are free, five-kilometre runs every Saturday morning at venues (usually parks or park-like properties) around the World. There are 46 parkrun locations in South Africa and new venues open regularly.

I ran my first parkrun at Delta Park in February 2013 - this was before the participant numbers were crazy high like they are now. I'm under correction but I think that Delta was the first parkrun in South Africa, opened by Bruce Fordyce who brought the parkrun concept (started in the UK) to SA.

It took me just over a year until I did my next one, at the Woodlands Office Park. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy the experience, but without a parkrun down the road from home, I wasn't keen to get up early and drive 20-30 minutes to a venue - just for five kilometres...

As I recall my mom was keen to walk a parkrun and we're good friends with the Woodlands course director, Staci. That was in April last year. And then the Modderfontein one had opened, which is closer to home and I did it with a friend in May last year. And then another Woodlands one in August.

I've been hanging out in Parys quite a bit on weekends and so I was delighted when a parkrun started in Parys at the beginning of November.

Compared to Jo'burg parkruns, Parys is small - but very friendly. There are usually around 65 runners including a good number of children.
I wasn't there for that inaugural running but I was there later that month. I bagged two Parys parkruns in November and one in December, along with an inaugural parkrun at the Pretoria Botanical Gardens, where I walked with my running buddy who did it on crutches.

I've been consistently bettering my times at the Parys parkrun. At the end of December I took almost a minute off my time from a month before; last weekend I bettered my time by a few seconds again.

Charging into the finish at the Parys parkrun on 3 January 2015. It was hot already for the 08h00 start.
 This morning at Woodlands I ran almost two minutes faster than I did in August.

And this, for me, is the appeal of parkrun. Short and punchy, I'm using them as a time trial for a high intensity weekly run. In Parys, I run to the start, which is a few minutes away - very, very convenient. I have friends that I enjoy seeing at Woodlands and I'm making friends in Parys with other regular parkrunners and seeing a few people I know at the runs too.

I also get a total kick out of receiving my results on email later the same day. This morning, for example, I was 33rd out of 416 runners, 6th lady and 1st in my age category. Having a dash of a competitive streak, I just want to keep bettering my times and positions. They're all listed on the parkrun website so I can keep an eye on how I'm doing. It's addictive!

This morning was my 10th parkrun... six of them run only since late November. And that's another thing too. I can totally see the appeal of collecting parkruns. Venues, inaugural runs, number of runs...

At FEAT in October Tracy Rankin spoke about what parkrun means to her. She's South Africa's most parkrun runner. Lovely talk. I've included it below.

Check out the parkrun website for event venues and join one close to you (remember to register on the website first to get you barcode). If there isn't one, consider starting one (contact Bruce through the website). All you need is a nice area and a five-kilometre route. parkruns are volunteer run and while the original director will have their hands full for a few weeks, with time you'll recruit other volunteers to share the load.

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