Some 10 years after it began in London, the Parkrun phenomenon has quickly taken hold in Australia. It’s been around 4 years since the organisation launched in the land Down Under and in that time it has rapidly grown to over 80,000 registered members nationwide and events in just about every major centre. If you’ve never heard of them, Parkruns are weekly 5km races organised by volunteers and completely free for runners or walkers of all abilities.
I’ve always looked at them and thought I’d love to give one a go. Not so much to have a crack at running a quick time and ‘Race’ against others. More so to see what they’re all about and how I could use them for training. It took a couple years before I finally toed the line at what’s not my local event, but one that fit in with my plans for the weekend. I attended the Penrith Lakes Parkrun on a cold and wet morning. It’s hard to be excited on a day when the weather is so poor, but the smiling volunteers helped get me motivated.
I’m not going to go into how the run panned out, but rather what I think is great about these runs and how they can be used by people of all standards to enjoy their running and even tap out a PB. To begin with, the atmosphere is very casual and positive. Everyone taking part is there for fun and fitness and that removes some of the nerves you can get if you were attending a traditional highly competitive race. The friendly volunteers keep things moving along and provide a brief as to where the course goes and the pre and post run processes. The course itself was easy to follow and I’ve heard from others that do these events regularly in other parts of the country that such is the case everywhere.
As far as training and race preparation goes, doing a Parkrun is a great way to get a solid hit-out over 5km without considering it a race. You can try for a fast time or PB if you want, or simply run it as a threshold, utilising the friendly competition to keep you pushing. Then if you’re really keen, do a few repetitions afterwards for a solid training session. This is essentially what I did and I found it much easier to get motivated to do a hard session like this at a Parkrun, rather than doing it at my usual haunt. There’s something about a change of scenery that can often make a tough session a whole lot more enjoyable. Another plus of Parkrunning is that you meet great people and often after events some of those that had a run will head to a local café for breakfast and a chat. I’ll be doing a few more of them in the months ahead as I start to build my training up on the road back to fitness.
For more info and to see if there’s a Parkrun in your area visit: www.parkrun.com.au