parkrun debut review

parkrun. What can I say? Always one word. Never capitalised.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you would know that I’ve been promoting parkrun as a wonderful community event. This weekend, I participated in my first one. Now that I’ve actually experienced it first hand, I have to say, I will be promoting it even more passionately.

parkrun had everything. Encouraging volunteers, friendly participants and smiles all around despite the rain.

The wet weather kept numbers down a bit at Newy parkrun but they still had 479 participants. I had rolled my ankle on Friday morning so I wasn’t sure I was even going to be able to walk or run but it came good and was only painful when I rolled my foot sideways. Walking and jogging on a flat surface was fine. It was a nice 5km course along a waterfront and through some parks. (map from my strava account)


PLEASE NOTE: I do not recommend exercising while injured. If at any time I felt a twinge of discomfort, I would have stopped!

My main reason for travelling to Newcastle for parkrun was to observe the set up and after event procedures so I can contribute to the discussions about suitable routes and start/finish points here in Tamworth. I also made an effort to chat with some of the other parkrunners to see how long they’d been doing it for, why they started, and why they kept coming back.

I met a lady who had run years ago but stopped when she got started on raising a family. She’d recently got back into running – via parkrun – after a 30 year break.

Another lady was pushing three kids in a pram. I commented how impressive that was and she replied “it gives me an excuse to go slower”. I eventually passed her somewhere in kilometre 4… I wonder how she’d go without the pram. I wonder if she ever tries it, or whether it’s her “me” time.

I saw a fellow waiting for his wife near the end of the course. He was obviously a faster runner but he sat on a park bench and waited for her to catch up to him so they could finish together. It wasn’t about their speed or times, it was about doing something together.

An older couple were taking it in turns pushing their granddaughter in a pram.

One man had two kids with him. They were obviously having a wonderful time with their dad and he was encouraging to push themselves even when they said they couldn’t run anymore. He only did this in a responsible way – and the kids weren’t exhausted. He was using the safe environment of parkrun to teach them that their minds will often give up before their bodies will.

I didn’t see many dogs, but there were a few being taken for a walk by their owners.

Two ladies were strolling along, obviously content to walk leisurely around the 5km course, taking the time to chat about the week that was.

Another young couple had a young child, not much older than a baby, in a pram. They looked like they were making an effort to start their family off with a healthy lifestyle.

One man was proudly wearing a t-shirt which proclaimed he had participated in at least 100 parkrun events! That’s commitment!

An email I received from parkrun later that day said:

Congratulations on completing your 1st parkrun and your 1st at Newy today. You finished in 412th place and were the 163rd lady out of a field of 479 parkrunners and you came 25th in your age category VW35-39.

While it is a timed event, the focus is not on the times. Sure, there’s the guy who suspects the volunteer with the stopwatch might have had slow reflexes because he was a couple of seconds off his goal time. Even that comment wasn’t made maliciously though. Of course, there’s the spritely young bloke who finished in under 17 minutes. I hadn’t even reached the halfway point by then!

parkrun doesn’t talk about winners, they call the first finisher just that. The first finisher. Finish times on Saturday ranged from under 17 minutes to just over an hour. It really was an event for everyone. It’s free – so there is no such thing as “I can’t afford to go in it”. There’s no cut-off time – so you can’t say “I’m not fast enough”.

There were approximately 140 “New PB” records on the results page for the day. Possibly a result of the cooler weather, but it also goes to show how effective consistency can be. Some of these records were about the 50 minute mark so it’s not just the “serious runners” who benefit. Simply turning up weekly, doing the 5km parkrun, no matter your speed, is going to increase fitness, strength and stamina.

Assuming that the first and second halves of my run were equally slow fast (which they weren’t, but I’m going with that for the sake of this point), 10 people crossed the finish line before I made it to the turnaround point!

What left the biggest impression on me, I think, was the number of people still standing around chatting and cheering the slower participants as they crossed the line. It was drizzly, yet there was still a decent crowd when I finished. Noone knew me yet I was still cheered across the line. There’s even a photo of me smiling at the photographer (a volunteer). Who would have thought I’d ever be smiling after a 5km run?

The parkrun concept is built entirely on the strength of volunteers. It is truly an inspirational organisation and I highly recommend it to anyone.

According to the results sheet, there were over 60 first timers at this event. That’s got to be a pretty good indication of how quickly the parkrun craze is spreading.

Check out the parkrun website. If there’s an event near you, register and give it a crack. (Don’t forget to print and take your barcode!)

If there isn’t a parkrun near you , you should start one. I’m even more excited about the upcoming launch of Tamworth parkrun than I was before and I didn’t think that was possible! It’s going to be fantastic.

Aside: due to my injured foot, I thought I’d try a nice easy jog after walking the first 650m. My easy jog pace hovered around 7 min/km. I used to struggle to reach, let alone maintain that pace. Now, it’s my easy pace. How amazing is that???


Have you heard of parkrun? Have you participated? Have you volunteered? If not – why not? Winking smile


And just because this post is lacking photos:

Nice bruise, the night before my parkrun debut.


A beautiful avenue of trees on the highway on my way home.


While procrastinating tonight, I was playing with some of our USB sticks. Is there anything wrong with that?



11 thoughts on “parkrun debut review

  1. Great report on parkrun. I’m a total fan, through parkrun I’ve been able to get over my fear of running with other people, I can confidently line up in a fun run now. I love parkrun and am a huge fan – so glad that things are moving along for your local parkrun. I really hope I can come and visit as a parkrun-tourist one day 🙂 You did so well to get around the course with your poor sore foot!

  2. Kara says:

    Heather, it was lovely to have you join us at Newy parkrun! Your blog clearly shows that you enjoyed yourself so I’m not going to ask. Look forward to visiting Tamworth when you are up and ‘running’. Please come back to Newy again! Hopefully the little plug will get some parkrun tourists heading your way 🙂

  3. Em Nicho says:

    I love parkrun, and I’ve shared your blog with my friends on Facebook so they understand why I love it so much. Great blog entry, thank you!

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I have only heard good things about parkrun. I hope your friends learn to appreciate it too.

    • Thank you. I am becoming a little impatient and want to launch ours now but there are a few things to work out still… It’s always great to hear more positive thoughts about parkrun.

      • I’ve done 7 different events and each has been unique and yet the same. They are great and well worth the effort of getting it set up right, and then making it yours/getting people to really own it.

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