Every Saturday morning my alarm clock goes off at 8am and after the customary couple of snoozes, I eventually manage haul myself out of bed, whack on a battered pair of old trainers and get myself down to Hove Park for my weekly hit of Park Run.
For the uninitiated, Park Run are 5km running events (they’re not allowed to call them races apparently) that happen up and down the country at 9am every Saturday without fail, even in the rain, sleet and snow!
The question people rightly might ask (I even ask myself sometimes) is “why wake up at 8am on your day off to go running in the rain with a bunch of strangers, when instead you can stay in bed and enjoy a well-deserved lie-in?”. Well thankfully the fact that over a million other people do the same across 420 separate parks worldwide, hopefully proves that I’ve not completely lost touch with my senses.
Firstly there’s the obvious health benefits that come with any sort of running. I’d imagine almost everyone is there to some degree to either lose weight or stay fit, but there’s something great about running amongst a group which motivates people to run harder and faster than they would otherwise find the strength to do on their own.
why wake up at 8am on your day off to go running in the rain with a bunch of strangers, when instead you can stay in bed and enjoy a well-deserved lie-in?
Park Run is also a timed event, so each week your individual time is recorded, logged and posted on the Park Run website. It’s a great way to track your progress over time, and there’s no better feeling than seeing the words ‘new P.B’ against your name! It provides a real sense of achievement, and a healthy sense of fear/nerves at the thought of seeing your progress wilt if you don’t continue to push yourself each week.
There’s a tremendous sense of camaraderie when you stand at the start line and receive a knowing nod or glance from a fellow Park Runner who’s made the same decision be there that morning. The sense of community is further strengthened by the volunteers that help make the event happen each week and it’s expected that regular runners also volunteer themselves a few times a year in order to give something back.
It’s all extremely friendly, welcoming and accessible. There’s no egos at Park Run, you get runners of all ages and abilities; from the elite runners (the Brownlee brothers have been known to run in the Yorkshire events) to mums and dads running with their sons and daughters, sometimes even pushing them around the course in buggies! In fact one of PR’s founding principles, much like the NHS, was that it should be free to all at point of delivery, and despite growing to become a global phenomenon (I plan on running the Sydney event next year when I visit my brother in Oz), with the potential to be incredibly lucrative, the organisers have stayed true to their word and no money ever changes hand which is quite remarkable.
I can’t recommend Park Run highly enough, so I encourage everybody to fight the Saturday morning hangover and to go checkout their local event. New joiners are clapped in, you’re guaranteed a P.B on your first go and if you make it to 50 PR events you even get a free t-shirt!
Matthew Pollett – Campaign Manager