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My first park-run

Image: Charles Polkey via Flickr

As I sit and write this, it is a few days after I completed my first park run at Heslington East at 9am on Saturday. Park run is an organisation that puts on weekly, timed 5K runs around the UK. It is free to take part and is run completely through volunteers. Last weekend, I tried it for the first time.

A brief but essential disclaimer – I am not a natural runner, I have never been and probably never will be. However, I have always enjoyed running somewhat and wished I could be better. I went into this morning’s park run, having done my last 5K in September 2018. I regularly go to the gym but cardio is usually out of the question. So, I thought I should stop avoiding doing a Park run and just do it (in the words of Nike.)

I started off really well – too well in fact, I found it hard to stick to my own pace during the first 1KM or so as there were so many people (nearly 500) and I had to run faster than I usually would to keep up and not get tripped up by other faster runners. By around the second kilometer I had found my pace a bit at the crowds had thinned. By this point some of the speedy runners had even finished!

The course at Heslington East is completely tarmacked and is mostly smooth, save a few bits which are inclined slightly. On my way round what I loved to notice was the sheer difference in the people running, some were marathon runners, to Mum’s pushing their children in prams and everything in-between. No matter of your ability or speed, the volunteers and pace makers encourage you every step of the way and what I loved about the experience was that is felt so inclusive. Having not done any serious running for nearly a year, this filled me with confidence and is something I will definitely be doing again.

Part of the Park run experience is getting your own personal time, ranking in the race and then an age comparison between people in the same category as you. I finished the course with a respectable time of 37 minutes, when expecting to finish nearer to an hour I was very pleased with this. Having the in depth analysis of your running performance, is one of the many reasons why Park runs are so appealing.

Having run the course and experienced it for the first time, I have a few tips that may be useful to share:

  • Definitely take your phone and if you have one, wear a fitbit or smartwatch as there is no indication on the course of distance covered
  • If it’s sunny on the day – wear sunscreen (I got burnt at 9am)
  • If you’re slow like me, or new to running, maybe get to the back of the start line queue so you do not have to race too fast at the beginning

The details of Heslington park run can be found here, there is also another Park run in York at the Racecourse. You have to sign up prior to participating in your first run, which can be done via the website. You also need to then print our your own personal barcode which is used to place your position, you cannot run without this!