Here's one of the first articles I wrote when training for the London Marathon.
|Bestwood Village Country Park parkrun, near Nottingham|
As parkrun is how I got into running, it makes sense to make it the subject of my first post.
parkrun, It's the first steps that count
Almost a year ago, I decided to do parkrun. It was New Year and I wanted to do a resolution I would keep. I once vowed to give up drink - and toasted my resolution with a whiskey.
So, running. That was my resolution 12 months ago. To run.
One problem. I couldn’t run.
Being a tubby lad, running wasn’t an exciting proposition.
But, I’d heard about parkrun and thought yep, that’ll do.
If you don’t know about parkrun (www.parkrun.org.uk), it essentially means that if you go to a park on a Saturday, at 9am, you could well bump into a group of people about to run a timed 5km run.
It’s not about Olympic athletes belting round winning golds. It’s not about running club members grabbing loads of points for legging it round as fast as they can.
It’s about Olympic athletes, running clubs members and ordinary people like me getting together to have a run.
That’s it. For me, it could be about beating my personal best. It might be a run round on a Saturday, not watching the time but wanting to do well on a particular section.
Or it might be about running with a friend, having a coffee afterwards, and thinking I probably shouldn’t have had a bottle of red wine the night before.
Sure, some people are at the finish before I’ve rounded the first corner, but it’s a run, not a race. The person who is in charge of the event that day is a run director, not a race director.
I’ve now run a few parkrun courses, in Leeds, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire and in America. The format is the same and I've enjoyed all of them, for different reasons.
I haven’t done one every Saturday, what with family commitments, but I have run around 30 and since taking up running, I have done a few 10km runs and a half marathon. A half marathon.
So, I love parkrun, but just why is it so successful?
Who to ask? Tom Williams, that’s who. He’s the Chief Operating Officer of parkrun.
Firstly, I asked him why he runs..
“To clear my head,” he said. “Enjoy the great outdoors, and spend quality uninterrupted time with friends and family.”
Why does he think parkrun has been so successful?
“parkrun’s delivery model of being free and every week makes it much easier for people to integrate parkrun into their lives,” he said.
“This creates an opportunity for people to come together and be active socially in a natural environment – I believe all human beings have an innate need to do that.”
As I am a relatively new runner, I asked whether people should set themselves running goals, or just enjoy running.
He replied: “I think people should spend much more time considering what their goals are and understanding why running is important to them.
“Goals don’t have to be time related – they can be to run with a different friend every week, pace someone, run around chatting to someone, encouraging your family to get involved, or to run in lots of different locations.”
This seems to be the ethos of parkrun. It’s not just about times. Running, and in particular parkrun, seems to have a community feel.
Ask yourself this
But, if people do have a goal, is there a secret to reaching it and maintaining it?
Tom said: “There are two important questions you must ask yourself, and only you can answer them. Is my goal meaningful to me, not necessarily to other people, and is my goal challenging in some way?
“That doesn’t mean it has to be hard per se – for some people running slower is challenging.
For example, for someone who isn’t overly social saying they will run with five different people in the next five weeks is challenging.”
Challenging. Interesting word that. For me, just running to the end of the road was a challenge. Getting up to run in public was a challenge. Running along a main road, in full public view was a challenge. And I know running the London Marathon will be a challenge.
But it started with thinking of a challenge. 12 months ago, I couldn't run. Now I'm training for a marathon.
If you’re thinking of your New Year’s resolutions, think about a challenge. And think about parkrun.