I decided that this morning would be the day that I tackle the Richmond Park parkrun for the first time in 2012. Last year I ventured out on new year’s day to kick start my training. It’s a fairly tough course and I haven’t felt ready for it until now. Two weeks in to Janathon I can really see that my fitness has improved so at 8:30 this morning I headed to Richmond Park.
If you’ve never heard of parkrun and are keen on running or thinking about starting to run, it is absolutely fantastic and you should check it out here. They are free weekly 5k runs that take place on Saturday mornings in parks around the country and globally too.
It started fairly locally to me in 2004 as a community project and it has grown miraculously. There are now 1,659 clubs in total. The first run started with just 13 runners in Bushy Park, Teddington and at the time it was the only weekly 5k timed running event in the UK. It was started by founder Paul with the intention of it being simple for anybody to take part, whenever it suited them. He wanted runners to compete against themselves and he always intended for it to be free. Although the event has grown, it is still free which is fantastic. It has a real community feel and relies on runners as volunteers to help organise the event each week.
The parkrun events offer a unique proposition to runners. It really is a fantastic event to help with training or if you want to just get out there and give running a go. Here is a quick rundown of what it is taken form the parkrun website:
· A non-commercial, free, feel-good, community event
· Runners sign up on the website once in their life… then just turn up and run at any event in their country
· Results are emailed the same day and posted on the website with historical results and stats including age group records and age-graded performances (for those getting older!)
· There are clubs and prizes to encourage participation a 50 Club for runners who've reached 50 runs, a 100 Club, and a Junior under-19 10 Club runners who've reached these milestones receive a free running t-shirt one runner per event receives the Sweatshop Monthly Prize – a free pair of trainers
· There's an annual points prize at each event to encourage attendance
· We keep in touch with runners through an emailed weekly newsletter and the website
· And provide extra services free of charge free race photos, race reports, links to local clubs and races, and other news on the website
· Lucozade sports scientists visit one event per month to provide advice and samples
Today’s run was my fifth and I still had butterflies at the start. It’s brilliant to emulate that unique experience that you get when you take part in a race/event. It’s a very different thing to running on your own.There is a buzz of anticipation as everybody heads for the start. People of all shapes, sizes and abilities join in and despite the frosty morning, Richmond Park saw 281 people take part today.
There are some fast people that take part and it can seem really daunting when you are overtaken by person after person. I felt slightly panicked until my phone buzzed telling me I had completed my fastest 1k so far since I started training two weeks ago. I kept going trying not to think about the faster runners, my blue toes or lips that were sore from the cold. Just after 2k, as I ran up towards Sheen gate, I could feel myself getting tired. It’s at this point on most runs that I could happily give up but I kept going as I know that once I pass 3k I tend to feel better. The park looked absolutely beautiful this today. It was cold but the sky was clear and blue, and the contrast of colours was magnificent. I was continually thinking about how lucky I am to have somewhere so spectacular to run.
The last part of the course is pretty tough, up a hill towards the end but a quick glance at my phone and I felt excited as a PB was in sight. Whenever the end is nearing, I can’t help but feel a little excited and emotional and I always need to have a quick word with myself to calm my breathing and stay focused. I ran through the cones at the end and really pushed myself, then grabbed the finishing token and got in the queue to get my barcode zapped. I forgot to stop my phone but I could see that my time was under 30 minutes.
My best time so far at this rather hilly course was 29:09 and I was really excited at the prospect of improving my time so soon after starting my training. The last time I did parkrun was on 22nd January last year. Today’s time was emailed to me this afternoon and although I only improved my time by 2 seconds it was still a PB. I also finished 6th in my age category. Two weeks ago on 1st January, my fastest 1k lap was 6 minutes 47 seconds and my fastest lap today was 5 minutes 12 seconds. There was a downhill section involved but I’m pretty happy with that.
After the run I went on to have a play in the park with my birthday present, my new camera. We headed to one of my favourite places, the Isabella Plantation. It was like a secret winter wonderland full of gorgeous frosty plants and trees and amazing wildlife. I was freezing when we got back to the car but it was worth it.
Janathon week 2 is now complete. This week I have ran a total of 41.5km taking me to a grand total of 79km in January 2012. I now need to concentrate on core strength. I said the same thing last week but it hasn’t happened yet. I will start week 3 with a long run tomorrow. I hope we have more of what we had today weather-wise and I will be a very happy Janathoner.