Saturday, 21 January 2012

Hampstead Heath parkrun review (with reflections on my chances of competing in the Olympic marathon)

I decided late last night (always the best time for decision-making) to give Hampstead Heath parkrun a shot today. My reasoning was flawless: I've just signed up for the Greater Manchester Marathon at the end of April and need to start training up for the horror that awaits. Ergo, a four-mile run to the Heath, a brisk parkrun and a four-mile run home seemed suitably horrific for starters. It also gave me the chance to visit a new course and review it for this blog. Hurrah!

So, up I got, bright and early, bombed down a coffee and a bowl of muesli and set off. The route to the Heath was a bit on the hilly side and I got lost towards the end, so I arrived towards the tail end of the pre-run briefing. This was the 37th Hampstead Heath parkrun and there was a fair crowd of runners (94).

We were led down from the car park to the nearby bridge to start the run. The course is a sort of short-sticked lollipop where you go round the sweet bit twice. And the stick's slightly longer on the way back. Here's a picture I made:

The course is, as I'd suspected, hilly. It's also extremely doggy, with bounding hounds suddenly appearing out of bushes at the side of the path and disappearing again, so it's best to be prepared for the possibility of a close encounter of the canine kind.

The course is, for my money, the prettiest I've run on, with tree-lined paths (which provide good shelter from any wind), a pond and the bridge. I should also mention that there's the best hill I've seen on a parkrun course just after the pond - once you're at the top, you feel like sticking a flag in the floor and eating one of your Sherpas.

Given that the parkrun was sandwiched between two four-mile slogs (and also the fibrous nature of my breakfast), I'd intended to go pretty steady. The course was so much fun though, that I got carried away and ended up placing 5th. I then had a bit of a muesli-related emergency and had to run and hide in a thicket. Unfortunately, I wasn't carrying any money or fresh clothes to throw on after the run, so I also missed out on the chance of a coffee and a chat, but I'll certainly try to make it next time.

When I signed up for the marathon, I joked that it might be my last chance to get selection for the Olympic squad. I got the chance to scope out the competition this morning as Ben Moreau (who placed 24th in the European Championships and 11th in the Commonwealth Games marathons in 2010) was putting in one of his sporadic parkrun appearances. Just like the only other time I've seen him (at Finsbury parkrun), he took off like a startled springbok and I saw him for about 45 seconds total before he vanished from view. Click here to view parkrun stats for the speedy whippet.

Our head-to-head record currently stands thus:

Best time19:10 (PB)15:07 (course record, Finsbury)
Worst time19:5815:44 (course record, Hampstead Heath)
Best position4th1st
Worst position5th1st
Number of post-race
1Probably none

Thus far, it seems that Oxford graduate Moreau (who also has a proper job and all his hair) has the upper hand. However, to quote Revelations: "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen", so I may yet have that place in the squad off him.

Back to the real world: apart from being a very pretty (if somewhat hilly and doggy) course, Hampstead Heath was well organised, very well signposted and definitely one I'll visit again.

Nb. one final note of warning: I took my barcode round in a zip-pocket in my sweatband, big mistake - it all but dissolved. Don't do what Dan Don't does.


I commend your attention to Under 2 hours, which has some excellent accounts of dogs on the Heath (nothing about dogging on the Heath, search though I might).

EDIT (22/01/12): Also, check out Ben Moreau's blog!

Tale of a Parkrun First Timer

Name :Steve Hyne
First Parkrun : 21/01/2012
Home Parkrun: PooleNumber of runs : 1

With the big six 0 rapidly approaching this year, I decided it was time to face some new challenges.

During my youth I was quite active, running 100metres, long jump, rugby and badminton but had never run more than 800 metres. Then along came a wife and children and there never seemed to be time for anything much more.

When the children were a bit older we started camping in the Swiss Alps and our love of the mountains grew to the extent that we spend most of our summers hiking there or sometimes the Canadian or Colorado Rockies.

When our children left home to start their own lives we joined our local Fitness First gym to improve our health and fitness and along the way have made some lovely friends. During last year we bought some bicycles and started to have weekend rides along our lovely beaches and country side.

During last year several of our friends started the Parkrun and on a Monday morning the chat would be about their run and who had done what and how much fun it had been meeting so many other people sharing the same interest.When they became aware of my aim to take part in the MacMillan Cancer Dorset Bike Ride later this year they said why don't you come and try the Parkrun but I was a bit unsure having not raced for so many years and wasn't sure my knees would be up to it ! After much encouragement in the new year I decided to try a few 5km runs on the treadmill and see how I felt.

This resulted in my first Parkrun today !

All they had said was true ! The atmosphere was great and it was not as intimidating as I had feared!At the start I was a bit apprehensive about going off too quick and burning out ! But I needn't Have worried as I soon found my pace and by the end of the first lap of the lake had settled into a comfortable stride. As I approached the final section it was great to experience my wife and several of our friends cheering me on to the finish.

Whilst the time it took was not important I had set myself a target time which I was amazed to find I had come in under ! This just added the final touch to the experience ! Which I have to say (as I have been told by many) is one Iwill enjoy repeating again.

Look out Parkrun ;-)

Parkrun. A view from the rear

Name: Alison Clark
Home parkrun: Coventry
Date of first parkrun: 10/12/1
Total Number of parkruns: 6
Number of other parkrun locations run: 0
Number of times volunteered: 0 but I have emailed to be put ont the rota!
My parkrun history:

I started runnning about 3 years ago. I'm on the wrong side of 40 and never did any exercise before. To say I was unfit when I started was an understatement! I started at the gym where it was nice and warm on the treadmill at the back. It was boring and tedious and I just wasn't making any progress. Someone suggested running outside. The thought terrified me. An unfit, slightly overweight middle aged woman running round the streets of Nuneaton? In Lycra? That first outside run (well, more of a walk/ jog) was the turning point. Early in the morning the only people you see are dog walkers and other runners. No one pays any attention to anyone else out at that time. It was exhilarating. It was the start of the slippery slope. This coincided with a challenging time in my personal life. Running gave me an escape. I did a couple of 5Ks, a 10K (disaster - cross country and totally unprepared), and then the Run to the Beat Half marathon. I finished it, ran all the way and didn't come last. In 2011 I was ill. Running took a back seat. I had surgery in June and entered another Half for the October. This was the incentive to fully recover in 5 months. It worked.
My nephew told me about Parkrun. He runs at Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham. I can't believe that I had never heard of it before. I signed up that week but didn't make it on the Saturday. I could say I had a good reason. The truth is, it was cold and my bed was warm. The following week though I had kit and bag ready the night before. I ran it. Now I am hooked!
I love that fact that anyone can take part.
I love the park. Its so beautiful on cold frosty mornings
I love that there are toilets and a cafe
I love that it is free
I love that it is brilliantly organised
I love that everyone is so friendly
I love that it doesn't matter how long everyone lese takes. Its you against the clock.

I'm not a fast runner. I finish in the bottom third. But the view at the rear is just as good. You still get cheered into the finishing tunnel. Yoy still get that sense of achievement when that text arrives telling you that another PB has been set.



As a charity runner I was asked why Mrs R and myself  had asked Llyodspharmacy to sponsor the Parkrun? When surely the fifthteen thousand pounds a substantial amount of money involved would have been better going directly to a good charity!

Although the parkrun is free they still need and rely on donations to start up new parkruns in different areas. As we all know nothing is really free just ask Paul Sinton Hewitt what it really cost to start up a new parkrun.
Any way think of it like this how many people do you know at the parkrun  raise money for charities by running. Running is still the most used form of event used to raise money for charities.
As most people start with a 10k the parkrun is a ideal stepping stone to the 10k. It gives people a idea of what to expect at a event e.g marshals, support and the race funnel! New runners will also get a few tips from the parkrun regulars. The parkrun is a fantastic way for new runners to learn about running, Ive been running all my life but I still learn new things at the parkrun!
Any way think of it like this a group of us at Coventry added how much we had raised over the year for charities it came to over twenty thousands pounds a lot more than Lloydspharmacy had put in to it. Then  consider how much other runners at Coventry had raised for charities over the year. Then consider how many parkruns there are over the country and how much runners at those parkruns had raised for charities. You must consider this because the donations don't go to just one parkrun!

We have also got Lloydspharmacy to put another six thousand pounds in to Coventry fun run on the 20 May again due to the fact how much more money will be raised by runners for charities of their choice!

I'm not sure that people really realise how big and how much it helps contribute to the community and charities.

Any all the best!

A Year of Parkrunning

Recently ...err just last week actually I celebrated my first anniversary of Parkrunning and today Newcastle Parkrun had their 2nd Birthday party (for some reason they delayed their celebrations for a week) anway due to the aforementioned I've managed to dig out my daily run log for that day, where Parkrun changed my life ...well okay that may be a bit melodramatic but you catch my drift, here goes.....

15/1/2011 Runstreak Day#1476 Early 7:15am start brekky, walked Prince Archie The Greyhound+set off to Newcastle Exhibition Park for Parkrun a weekly Nationwide 5k! Newcastle Parkrun celebrating their 1st Birthday! Unbelievably this was my 1st Parkrun after weeks and weeks of pestering by Parkrunners namely Tracy Millmore I gave in and finally gave it a go. I met Paul+Jo Sinton-Hewitt aka Mr & Mrs Parkrun (see pic) the couple behind the parkrun phenomenon who travelled from London! Very wet+windy conditons stopped any fast times, but I battled the headwind to beat an International Sharon Gayter (remember I got her signed autobiography for Christmas as a pressie) 5 k maybe too short for her Ultra passion, I also came in just behind Mr Parkrun himself! Then it was back to parkcafe for prize giving (some unusual wackey prizes)+lovely spread of party food for 1st birthday celebration! Parkrun record field of 199 including a 6month old baby boy aww (btw he was pushed by Dad in buggy) A great series+it's free just need to download barcode from site! More future Parkruns for Paulie methinks!

That last part made me chuckle, here I am, 47 Parkruns and 3 volunteer duties down the line and still going strong! Talk about Parkrun Passion taking a grip! Sadly, I was unable to make it to Newcastle to take part in their 2nd birthday bash as I was legging it around Durham Parkrun...but I did however, have a representative there on the Town Moor, my 19 year old son (yeah I know I don't look old enough) Joseph who today completed his 6th Parkrun and is on a little runstreak of 14 days up to now...go Joe go..that's my boy!

Keep on running ..... keep on smiling .... keep on Parkrunning!

Friday, 20 January 2012


New Contributor: Kimmzi

Name: Kim Kaur
Home Parkrun: Cannon Hill, Birminghm
Date of first parkrun: 20/08/11
Total Number of parkruns: 04

My parkrun history: I have beaten my PB every time I've took part in Parkrun..Not sure how long this will continue.

I began running last year May because I wanted to take part in my local Birmingham half. I must admit I developed the so called "running bug". Surprisingly from never having time for myself , since running I have managed to find time for "me".

I've had past two months off due to a "runners toe". Now I'm ready to rock n roll.

I came across Parkrun by random engine search. I remember my first run at Cannon Hill;I absolutely loved the whole experience. It was so well organised with lovely people around me. However, my problem is I work shifts so I am not able to attend as often as I would like to. But I've signed up for Silverstone Half in March and need to get training.

I would like to work on my speed, though I'm always happy to run past the finishing line regardless of the time.

Races ran: Race for Life 5k, The Baggeridge 5k, RNLI Gwithian Beach 10k, BHF Blenheim 10k, Great Run Birmingham Half.

Plans: to take part in as many Parkruns as possible because I want my first t shirt :-)

So I am looking forward to sharing my progress with you and very happy to receive advice & tips.

Thank you

New Contributor: Aileen Elsbury

Name: Aileen Elsbury
Home parkrun: Leeds Hyde Park
Date of first parkrun: 03/09/2011
Total Number of parkruns: 10
Number of other parkrun locations run: 0
Number of times volunteered: 1
My parkrun history:

I have NEVER been a runner; never. I couldn't run at school, I didn't run in University and I wouldn't run in my early 20s. I have no idea why I chose to run in my late 20s; I think it was because I knew that running was a heavy calorie burning activity, and if you've met me, you'd know I have a lot to burn!

I had tried Couch to 5k, but every time I got to level 3 I ended up with an injury, a cold or a holiday and had to revert back a week! I have no idea what made me skip straight to the 5k parkrun but I'm so glad I did! I've found a group of genuinely nice people who are positive about my effort and proud of my achievements and are vocal about it!

I now have found I work my holidays around parkrun! I am going to visit my parents in two weeks, but I have booked the train ticket with enough time to go running beforehand and then go down. When I was away at a folk festival in December, I went to the gym and ran my first 5k on a treadmill! It was an absolutely shocking experience and I hated every second of it (give me outdoor running any day), but I felt virtuous as hell as I walked back to the chalet!

I'm very glad to be contributing to this blog, I hope that my amateur slant on everything will amuse the seasoned veterans and encourage anyone who, like me, thought there wasn't a chance in hell of running 5k.

Nicola Forwood parkrun Tourist! - part 2

Pontefract. Event number 3, 21/05/11
I can’t remember a more beautiful day for a parkrun. A great course: one lap of the lake; a lap of the racecourse and another lap of the lake to finish. The pond was full of adorable creatures: ducklings; cygnets etc. It was the perfect time of year for it and we spent ages after just watching the cygnets; they were TINY! I was the only runner in the 50 club which is always satisfying :) I came 36/42. My delusions of this being the most beautiful parkrun in the country were shattered the following week; after convincing friends to run it with me we were greeted with wind and the heaviest horizontal rain that I have ever run in. No cap and non-waterproof mascara totally ruined this parkrun experience (running fail!) I could barely see! The rain was so heavy you could only JUST see the ground in front of you! It was sunny when we left Leeds! I did give my friend Andrew a FULL ON sprint to the line, we battled back and forth but he beat me….just! ;) Post-race coffee is at Xscape means a day of shopping! :) and Sweatshop is about 300 meters away, perfect!

Newcastle. Event number 88, 18/09/11
The day before the GNR and this course HAD to be run! There were cow pats, gates and puddles to contend with, not a particularly picturesque run but a wide open park and it was just 1 lap (I LOVE 1 lap courses) to top it off it was flat as a pancake. Great run, inspirational marshals, I came 185/196.

Hull. Event number 78, 24/09/11
I’d heard some pretty impressive things about Hull: a fast, flat course; llamas, wallabies; and a great park. Most people said “in Hull? I don’t believe you” well….IT’S TRUE! IT’S ALL TRUE and there’s more! There is also a GREAT café which is amazing for vegetarians, an outdoor gym (in case the 5km wasn’t enough!) and musical statues to play with. A morning was spent discovering ones inner (or not so inner) child! A top parkrun, I came 163/235. This was also the day I met ‘professional parkrun tourist’ Steve Darby! ;)

Sheffield Endcliffe Park. Event number 62, 01/10/11
After being at Hull this parkrun probably didn’t get a fair shout. I found it a very busy course, with some tight corners and a bit of a narrow path, especially to start with. I made the mistake of starting at the back and there was nowhere to overtake for quite a while. Also this was the first parkrun I have run where you have to run over speed bumps-not a fan. However, the volunteers were great and the café was amazing. Another beautiful parkrun day and the café had tables and chairs out over the park so it was a lovely morning relaxing in the park. My advice is that to get the best out of the course then start near the front, I came 184/250.

Concord. Event number 30, 08/10/11
I got an early train to Meadowhall with my bike and had discussed with Ben what train to get; how long would I need to cycle the few miles to Concord? The train I chose meant I’d have to cycle fast and as Ben said “as long as it’s not all uphill it’ll be fine” well it was ALL uphill! I only just made it and I was huffing and puffing and my legs had turned to jelly! Talk about panic cycle and I thought I’d turned up in the wrong place. A totally different parkrun experience, if you’ve only ever run Bushy then you should go and run Concord. Only 18 runners that morning and three from my running club (Hyde Park Harriers) being parkrun tourists! It was a tough course; the start pushes you downhill making you run fast and feel good before it slams you into the hills! There was a log to jump over or you could squeeze through a gate thing (which was the option I took!). I hear there are often firemen at this parkrun but alas there were none that day. Nevertheless, great people, fab facilities, an undiscovered gem. I came 14/18.

Liverpool Princes Park Event number 30, 15/10/11
I’d got a message from Steve saying that he was heading over to Princes Park and did I want to come, by now I was loving parkrun tourism….did I want to go? YES!! Fellow Hyde Park Harrier Vicki Tayor also came along (despite the hangover!). It was a lovely course but there were hills, the best bit was the amazing finish straight; really LONG so you could chase people down. Vicki was struggling with the hangover so I ran with her and coached her round (I’m not sure she appreciated me whispering “go on, take her!” and “racing line Vicki, racing line!” while she was feeling bad!). We had a decent run and we took someone just before the line, a great morning, I came 72/94. We went to a vegetarian café afterwards which was amazing :)

Durham. Event number 14, 12/11/11
Another road trip with Steve, this time with Ben and Brenda too. It started with a pre-race briefing for new parkrunners (COMPLETE WITH PICTORAL REPRESENTATION OF THE COURSE! Ha ha ha, yes it was a complicated course but I know I’ll never be first so I never really worry about it!). The first 300m or so were on running track, then in a massive change of terrain to boggy wet field, over a slippery bridge, along track, by river, on tarmac-all sorts! I was running pretty hard and then almost started hyperventilating when the 30 minute pacer came flying past me! I thought I was running well :( just when I needed him a lovely man called Mike passed me, we started chatting and he told me the pacer was way off-phew! He paced me the rest of the way telling me who he thought we should take (just what I’d done to Vicki at Liverpool-I loved it!). A lovely finish straight and I gave it a hard sprint finish; a great run and super friendly team. Somehow Mike came before me in the results (think he took my token while I was doubled over recovering as there is photographic evidence that I was a few meters ahead, still I reckoned I owed my pace to him so didn’t mind). It was a fast run for me and I came 123/183. A ‘cool down’ with Steve, Brenda and Ben turned out to still be my race pace so when I almost vomited I decided they weren’t the best people to ‘cool down’ with! :)

Posted on behalf of Nicola Forwood.

Watch out for part 3 in the next few days!

Nicola Forwood parkrun Tourist! - part 3

Huddersfield. Event number 34, 19/11/11
I went to Huddersfield with mum to race the Huddersfield Bunny! It’s a great concept; you have no idea if it’ll be a fast or slow bunny so it’s really exciting! Will you, won’t you; I love the idea! This day it was a Barkrun and there were lots of dogs! It’s a hilly course (although they’ve changed the course now, I preferred the old one! It’s a great park though and the new course means you see more of the park and it’s now 2 instead of 3 laps). The team were so friendly and guess what…..I BEAT THE BUNNY! I was most excited! I’d say it’s not a PB course but mum loved it and was really pleased with her time, I came 97/124. There’s a lovely café right at the finish and a real community feel.

Gorleston Cliffs. Event number 136, 26/11/11
We were back in Norwich to run the Norwich Half Marathon and as Steve was staying in Yarmouth we agreed to check out Gorleston (although Steve had car trouble and only JUST made it, a far cry from his usual reccy of the course!). The course was extremely windy and cold along the top of the cliffs, and was pretty warm and protected along the bottom. It was lovely being by the sea and must be amazing in the summer or on a really blustery day; I bet the sea looks amazing. I came 77/111 taking it easy before the half the next day.

King’s Lynn. Event number 17, 31/12/2011
Heading back to Leeds on NYE meant we would be driving through King’s Lynn, I couldn’t resist convincing Ben to leave early and do the parkrun there. It was a great decision; the course was lovely, really flat and a ‘dancing in the rain’ style turn around a lamppost! It was lovely to get to look at everyone as you run back past them. The team were great and SO friendly, apparently they’d all brought cake the week before and this week they had all brought fruit. The thinking was that it’d be good to spend the morning detoxing in preparation for the drinking to come that evening! Love it! A huge table of fruit was laid out (although there were some cakes too and I did go for a big slice of chocolate cake as well!). I came 45/55.

Brockwell. Event number 54, 07/01/2012
I had a choice of a Tuesday or a Friday for a London job interview… Friday of course! That way I get to do a London parkrun, I stayed with a friend (Laura) and convinced her to come along. I looked up Laura’s local parkrun, it was 3 miles away and it was Brockwell. Now why did Brockwell sound familiar….I listened to the parkrun show again and yes…Danny Norman was running Brockwell that Saturday too. I thought I better warn him that I’d be there, in case meeting a parkrun celebrity like myself would put him off his game! Ha ha ha! :) The course had some decent downhill sections but also had two horrid hills! I had a parkrun fail when I stopped to pick up a barcode that someone dropped and nearly tripped up the three people running right behind me-oops! The best bit about Brockwell parkrun has to be the café, featured in Vogue it was an amazing little find. Luckily as parkrun royalty was in attendance the lovely race director had booked a big parkrun table. Breakfast was gorgeous and all parkrunners wanting to run here should make sure they book a table as the café is not to be missed. I came 120/154, I NEARLY came first when I swapped my tag with Danny’s without his knowledge but he noticed before I had it scanned so I had to settle for 120!

Saturday saw my first inaugural parkrun; York. A frosty morning, just ‑4 degrees! A victim of it’s own success, Tom was a bit worried as he saw hundreds of us lining up to run. Quite a baptism of fire for a new team of volunteers but they were brilliant. It turned out to be a record turnout for an inaugural event; 215 of us! Parkrun tourism was partly responsible for this so hooray for parkrun tourism :)

Although I joke that I would like to be top of the most events table it will never happen for a few reasons:

  • I am a bit of an Eco-Warrior, I am in total agreement with the parkrun philosophy of trying not to drive but using public transport or jogging/cycling to get to parkrun. This puts me at a significant disadvantage compared to people who are prepared to do the miles in the car to get there.

  • I love my holidays (perhaps this is the reason I worry about my car miles so much‑my carbon footprint from flying is terrible!) and parkrun is not quite global enough yet to enable parkrunning on holiday.

  • I miss the coffee and chat with the Leeds parkrunners in Opposite café. It’s just can’t be missed too frequently.

Posted on behalf of Nicola Forwood.

Nicola Forwood parkrun Tourist! - part 1

A round up of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen!

Leeds. Event number 5, 03/11/2007

My very first parkrun and I didn’t talk to one single person! Probably the reason I didn’t come back for 6 months. I’ve just looked back at the results and Liz Jones and Jaz Bangerh ran this event too so I’m not sure how my parkrun experience was so silent! ;) I came 63/81; it’s 3 laps and I hated the hill every time round!

Coventry. Event number 11, 24/04/10

I convinced Ben to come and visit me (I was collaborating with a microbiologist at Warwick University); I then dragged him up to do Coventry parkrun! The volunteers were great, the park was massive and it was a really hot day. Instead of post run coffee we lay on the grass eating ice creams. I came 100/135. I remember it being flat but I’m not sure if that’s right as there have been lots of parkruns since!

Brueton. Event number 9, 18/09/10

Too much beer & curry the night before meant I didn’t really enjoy this one, despite the fact that the course was a great kind of figure 8 so you got to see all the runners. I ran with a friend, Clare, who is now not allowed to run because of arthritis :( and although I normally beat her, I was feeling so bad she beat me easily; I didn’t even have a sprint finish in me! :( I came ­­48/56. I remember an AWESOME guy (nearly 80) jogging at the back and LOVING it-an inspiration. They also had great volunteers who were not runners and not really interested in running, they just loved community and people-how great is that!

Norwich. Event number 10, 09/10/10

Nice to gain a different perspective of a park I’ve known for years, I really enjoyed this run as my sister helped set it up and is one of the Norwich race directors. I ran with my sister and the course is FLAT as a pancake! A couple of sharp corners stop it being a real PB course, I came 151/182. The bandstand is the perfect race-briefing stage. The café is COLD in the winter (there’s no heating) so wrap up warm!

Wimbledon. Event number 223, 16/04/11

I ran with mum and Ben the day before the VLM. The team were very friendly and there was a great photographer. It was a gorgeous run through the woods with hash flour markings and no marshals except at the end. Totally flat and very scenic. A very different parkrun experience and I loved it :) I stole someone’s pace and then beat him at the end! I love drafting (wasn’t to go fast, was just to be lazy and let someone else pace me! Te he he!) I came 248/259.

Roundhay. Event number 3, 07/05/11

I’d heard it was hilly but thought I’d do it anyway. All I have to say is HILLS HLLS HILLS and the worst parkrun course offence; AN UPHILL FINISH STRAIGHT! No sprint finish for me then! 3 laps so the hills just keep coming! I must also add there are great views of the beautiful sweeping course, a gorgeous park and a lovely team that I already knew from Leeds parkrun; I came 58/81.

Bradford. Event number 56, 14/05/11

A charming course; 3 laps which (after the short but steep hill) feel like they are all downhill. The hill wasn’t a problem as there were the BEST volunteers to push you and pull you up a hill. The one at the bottom shouting “go on, push it, get up the hill” and one at the top shouting “you’ve nearly done it, you’re doing great”. LOVED IT, I came 72/90. One thing to point out-UPHILL FINISH :(

I look forward to all the new parkruns I will experience in the future, particularly the inaugural Harrogate parkrun tomorrow! :)

Part 2 to follow soon

New Contributor: Gina Walters

I was introduced to parkrun by a few boys at work after I banged on about taking up running one shift. The whole idea of running with these guys in particular made me slightly uneasy - I'd hate for them to see me in a complete mess!

So I ran the route a couple of times around Endcliffe Park and found that, you know what, this isn't so bad and my first time clocked in at 31 minutes.

Saturday morning comes and I think it is about time I just got up and did it, but I didn't bank on the the whole of Sheffield looking and definitely feeling like a freezer. Why didn't I bring gloves?!

Not knowing what to expect I nervously stood around until I noticed a couple of girls doing the same thing, so I approached them and we had a chat and it turned out none of us had done this before. A welcoming bit of knowledge! I'm not on my own! (And no sight of the boys from work either...sneaky).

Before I knew it I was in the midst of 250+ other people raring to get started on this 5K. As we set off I was trying desperately not to be put off by the hordes of people flying past me and to stick to my own pace. It wasn't long before I was happy with my pace and settled in really quickly and if anything, the people flying past me on their 2nd lap just motivated me to keep going.

Oh and you know I said I'd practiced the lap? Well I had...but only 4.5K of it! I thought I was about to finish and then NOOOO! An extra bit of the park I hadn't seen on the map! I was gutted but persevered and crossed the line feeling absolutely brilliant. I'd just run my first ever FULL 5K! And it turns out I'd done it in 32:31 which I was pretty pleased with. Yeah yeah I came 227th out of 267 people but I was only the 8th person aged 20-24 which sounds sooo much better!

I'm genuinely excited at the challenge of beating my time and introducing my friends to parkrun if only to prove that YES you actually CAN do this!

New Contributor: Dave Robertson

Name: Dave 'Robbo' Robertson
Home parkrun: Main Beach, Gold Coast, Australia

Date of first parkrun: 24/12/2011
Total Number of parkruns: 2

Number of other parkrun locations run: 0

Number of times volunteered: 0

My parkrun history: AthleteNumber 214975

Background: As one of the many thousands of Aussies living in the UK from 2005 to 2008, it may seem odd that it wasn't until returning home that I first heard about parkrun. It was via listening to the now famous running podcast 'Marthon Talk' that I came to learn of this growing fitness phenomenon.

Having lived for a year in London and close to 3 years in Edinburgh I have enjoyed hearing about the rapid rise in parkrun participation & was eager to see whether it would spread to the former convict colony Down Under.

Since hearing about the launch of Australia's first parkrun event at Main Beach on Queensland's Gold Coast in April 2011, I was excited to get involved.

On Christmas Eve these dreams were turned into reality as I made my parkrun debut alongside my Wife, my Dad & my dog ( (and numerous other runners in Santa hats). From the minute we started until the final bar code was scanned, I loved it. The simplicity of the event, the slick organisation, the friendly vibe amongst participants. All packed up and done in an hour, off for a coffee & breakfast nearby. I was hooked!

My next endeavour was to find out what it would take to set a parkrun up in my home area of Newcastle, NSW. I had a good chat with parkrun Australia Chief of Operations, Tim Oberg and am excited to be working on launching a new event later this year.

My updates will include details of what is involved with starting a parkrun event from scratch.

Happy parkrunning!

New Contributor: Lord Smythe

Name: Lord Smythe
Home parkrun: Durham
Date of first parkrun: 15/01/2011
Total Number of parkruns: 46
Number of other parkrun locations run: 2 - Newcastle & Princes Parkrun Liverpool
Number of times volunteered: 3
My parkrun history:

Fell in love with Parkrun the very first time I took part on Newcastle Town Moor. It just so happened to be The Toon's 1st birthday run so I had the honour of actually meeting Mr and Mrs Parkrun aka Paul and Joanne Sinton-Hewitt who had travelled to the North East to join the celebrations and enjoy the wonderful Geordie hospitality. Religiously I travelled early Saturday morning's from my Durham home to join the Newcastle Parkrun fraternity eager to chip away at my PB and enjoy the friendship and banter.

On August 13th 2011 Durham Parkrun was born and with regret I moved my allegiance from Newcastle to a Parkrun just down the road from Smythe Mansions, however I still keep in touch with many of my Toon Parkrunners. I'm proud to have been a part of Durham's success been there from it's inception, taking part on several of the trial runs. It is close to my heart as I now strive to chip away at PB's on home soil, pick up Male Points League points all presided over by the majestic Cathedral and Castle along the scenic riverbanks and most importantly enjoy the craic and banter with my fellow Durham Parkrunners, warming down with a cuppa and a bite to eat after the 5k exertions.

Not only I am I Parkrunner, but now is the time to reveal my crazy streak.... yes I am one of those mad runners, who get's out there and runs every single day. It's a runstreak that I am very proud of and it started on January 1st 2007 today been consecutive running day number 1846 and fortunately my recent 5 year anniversary fell on a Parkrun day, I couldn't have thought of a better way to celebrate. To stay focussed on the streak it helps a great deal to set myself personal challenges and keep it fun as opposed to becoming a chore and people of the North East will testify that this has been the case as they've witnessed me running in various disguises and costumes, it has been known for Elvis Presley to run from Hartlepool to Seaton Carew, Max Wall to take part in the Blaydon Race and the least said about the Golden Mankini the better.

However, don't be fooled by the fool, hidden beneath the crazy capers there's a ruthless competitive streak, representing Crook & District AC completing, 11 marathons, countless half marathons, 10k's, 5k's, multi terrain of varied distances and of course The North East Harrier League Cross Country events will testify.

I regularly share my running exploits via Facebook and Twitter @LordSmythe and now I'm looking forward to sharing past, present and future running escapades via this wonderful forum.

Keep on running, keep on smiling and of course keep on Parkrunning! :)

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

New Contributor: Craig Smith

Name: Craig Smith
Home parkrun: Newcastle
Date of first parkrun: 06/02/2010
Total Number of parkruns: 78 (2nd in Male points table in 2010 and 3rd in 2011)
Number of other parkrun locations run: 2 - Edinburgh and Braunstone
Number of times volunteered: 9
My parkrun history:

I started running in 2005 when I trained for and ran my first Great North Run (GNR) in 1h:56m. I have now run the GNR 7 times and it is still my favourite run of the year despite the snobbishness it sometimes attracts from some club runners. I have managed to bring my time down every year and last year ran a GNR PB of 1h:27m.

I am a club runner myself having been a member of Heaton Harriers since 2008. In 2008 I also ran my first Marathon (Edinburgh) and completed that in 3h37m. I was then lucky enough to get a place in the London Marathon in 2009 through my club which I completed in 3h:39m. The following year (2010) I again got a club place in London and set myself the target of beating 3h:30m which I did by 8 seconds! (3:29:52). In 2010 I also found parkrun and this was a revelation. I had not done many 5k runs before then and had only just cracked sub-20 minutes the previous year. I soon became a Newcastle parkrun regular getting a PB of 18:25 in 2011 and also getting my 50th run in the same year.

In 2011 I also decided that I wanted to run all of the 5 Marathon Majors (London, Boston, Berlin, New York and Chicago). I qualified for a good for age place for the 2011 New York Marathon via my 2010 GNR time in 2010 and I had already run London twice. I needed to get a Boston qualifying time which I managed in London 2011 (another club pace) by running it in 3h:19m:01s. I applied and got a place for Boston in April 2012 for which I am training at the moment. In Nov 2011 I ran New York in a time of 3h:29m after struggling with an injury.

I am signed up for Berlin in Sept 2012 where I will attempt to break 3 hours for the marathon. I have a place for London 2012 but will defer that until 2013 and will run Chicago in Autumn 2013 too. That will be 10 marathons in total and then I plan to retire to focus on shorter distances like 10k and halfs.

My training and PBs owe a lot to parkrun. Last year I used the weekly 5k to hone speed and this year I have been using it as a tempo session within a longer run (I run 3 miles from home to parkrun, run it and then run 3 miles home) which is a great session. I also volunteer as a 20-minute pacer once a month which is great as I love helping other parkrunners achieve their goals and targets.

It;s nice to contribute to the blog. I will keep you updated on my adventures. If you want to follow me on Twitter I'm @CraigAlSmith

New contributor: Michelle Nicol

Name: Michelle Nicol
Home parkrun: Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of first parkrun: 25/09/2010
Total Number of parkruns: 31
Number of other parkrun locations run: 2 Edinburgh and Durham. I turned up to Sunderland once but the run was called off due to snow!
Number of times volunteered: 14
My parkrun history:

I started running in 2008 as part of a keep fit drive. I didn't much like it at first and thought I was never going to be able to achieve my goal of running for 20 minutes non stop. But I did and somewhere along the way I got the bug and started running just because I wanted to get out and enjoy the feeling of freedom and fresh air.

And then I thought I'd enter the Great North Run. In one year I went from running no miles to running 13.1 and I'd found a new determination and competitive edge.

I came to parkrun a little late. I'd already completed 10ks and a half marathon before I tackled the 5k course, but I found new friends and a great spirit of encouragement on the Town Moor in Newcastle. It's now a regular part of my weekend, either volunteering or running. 

There's plenty of encouragement for runners of all abilities and the commitment of regular volunteers like race directors Ian and Dave and Malcolm (stalwart gate one guardian) help create a great family spirit. And whenever we find an excuse we'll celebrate with cake!

My favourite experience of parkrun has been running as the 30 minute pacer. The first time I did it, I set off rather too fast and probably scared everyone trying to follow me to death. But I slowed down towards the end and sprinted with a lady across the line. She couldn't believe she'd managed to dip under 30 minutes for the first time, but she did.

Now, as well as keeping in touch with my friends I'm hoping parkrun will help me improve my 5k time. I'm planning on doing a few sprint triathlons, so a fast run at the end will be a big bonus.  

Parkrun and my other training regularly features on my blog and you can follow me on twitter - ScribblerNE

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

New contributor: Sue Hobbs

Name: Sue Hobbs
Home parkrun: Cardiff
Date of first Parkrun: July 2010
Total number of Parkruns: 42
Yet to volunteer...

Hi!! I am certainly a Parkrun fan and caught the Parkrun "bug" when i signed up after enjoying my first "Race for Life" in May 2010 and wanted to continue with running.

During 2011 we all received some worrying news from our main organiser (Phil Cook) to say that the Parkrun had to stop as he had received a request from Cardiff Council to say that the event had to stop (personally, I believe that the Council had received a complaint about us taking up too much path space). Fortunately, Phil spent much time negotiating with them and eventually an agreement was made that we could continue with our Parkrun but we must ensure that paths are always free for other park users. We are all very grateful to Phil for his success with Cardiff Council...however, every week we try our best to leave the centre of the path free for other park users, such as cyclists. Not an easy task as there were 330 runners last week!!

My husband, who recently completed Ironman Wales, enjoys the Parkrun as part of his training and we both have encouraged our daughter, aged 13, to have a go too. She has now completed 2 Parkruns...and luckily she has caught the bug too..

Lately, I am more than pleased with my time results, my PB was reached in January when I wasoverjoyed to get a time of 26:53. I have yet to get a time like that since and would love to by the time I reach my 50th run!?! last week was no pressure!!!

I have recently entered the Cardiff Half Marathon which takes place in October and entries open soon for the Cardiff 10k which takes place in September so I'm looking forward to plenty of training towards longer distances but much more importantly, running every week at the Parkrun for some very enjoyable timed speed workouts.

Long live Cardiff Parkrun....

parkrun inspiration

I've been thinking about what I could write for this blog. It wouldbe very easy to talk about how great parkrun is, but I'm assuming thatyou all know that already. So I thought it would be nice to have a lookat who (without mentioning any names) inspires me at my home parkrun.

Let'sstart with the speedy ones. They must train pretty hard to be able torun 5km in the times they do, and I do aspire to be as fast as them.But do they inspire me? I'm afraid the answer is no.

Who does inspire me then?

  • The runner that has taken up running in order to combat his type-2 diabetes.

  • The volunteer that has run tens of marathons and is still a keen runner, yet chooses to give his time to volunteering.

  • The runner that finishes in last position almost every week butstill turns up because they know that their finishing position doesn'tmatter.

  • The volunteers that have no interest in running but turn up in allweather conditions to make sure that the runners get their weeklyparkrun fix.

  • The runner in the 80-84 age category that turns up every now and then, and who finishes sub-35 each time.

They are just the ones that I can think of, I'm surethere are others (and I feel bad for missing them off of this list)which will come to mind in the next few days.

Sometimeswhen you're feeling down that you can't quite break into that elusivesub-17 club, have a look around you at the other amazing people thatare around you every week. Talk to some of the older or slower runners- I bet you find out some pretty inspirational facts about them.

(from blog7t)

Monday, 16 January 2012

New Contributor: Chris Rann

Name: Chris Rann
Home parkrun: Medina I.O.W.
First parkrun: 12/11/2011
Total parkruns to date: 6
Different parkruns to date: 1
Number of times volunteered to date: 1
My parkrun stats: click here
Twitter: @crstig

Community was something that I believed only existed in pre-1970 television dramas, but actually it is alive and well and meets on Saturday mornings at nine am for a run.....

I have had an interesting relationship with running. Having served in the British Army, running was something that I always considered as a chore rather than an act of pleasure.

I left the forces in 2008 and dropped into a life of very little exercise, in April last year I decided that I needed a lifestyle change. I had put on a considerable amount of weight and I needed to shed some pounds!

I did something that might be considered drastic for someone that didn't "like" to run, I signed myself up for the Great South Run in Southsea. I have always been somebody that is motivated by targets and initially this would be a one off challenge.

Having achieved that target, I found that I had quite the taste for it. It turns out that running out of choice is somewhat more pleasurable than being forced to, and being shouted at during.

It was at this point that I discovered parkrun. I was looking for more challenges and the regular test over the same course, and the online correlation of times was right up my street!

What I found on that first cold morning that I headed to the course, was not just a group of likeminded people who wanted to improve their fitness, but also a nice friendly, sociable bunch of the Islands finest!

Through parkrun, I have met and joined a proper running club, and am now a much more confident runner, setting myself several event targets for the coming year.

The beauty of parkrun is that it lives and breathes because of the people that want to run it. Volunteers are prepared to give up their time so that others can get their running fix, and that is something that I find fascinating. I volunteered myself last Saturday and then went on to achieve a Personal Best.

parkrun is making me both a fitter person and perhaps even a better one.

The story so far....

So yes, I have yet to run a parkrun. I am waiting patiently for my hip to repair following surgery 6 weeks ago. At the age of 29, why on earth would I need a hip operation?! This is not for certain but I'm pretty sure it was because I fell over on some ice. I landed directly on my hip (in front of a fair few people) very hard. I was spared some impressive bruising due to being on a health kick at the time, I had a pocket full of corn cakes so they cushioned my fall. Yes my hip was stiff and sore but no more than I'd expect following a hard fall on the ice.

This happened almost 3 years ago. I only noticed a problem a few weeks later when I had a nasty pain in my left buttock and hamstrings during my first run of spring. I thought I'd just "pulled a hammy" and I'd get over it. Alas, no. It continued, made me limp, got better sometimes but then got worse again, despite numerous examinations, treatments and special exercises and of course month after month of rest. It dawned on me about a year into the problem that perhaps it was my hip. I went to the GP and I was put in the 'system'.

I am very pleased to share with you that my experience of "the system" has been nothing short of amazing! My first appointment with a sports doctor involved me running up and down the hospital car park having my running technique assessed and he gave me some tips that even despite the pain managed to make me run faster! (Yes I DID mean the NHS when I said 'system'). Following that I had an ultrasound of my hamstrings, MRI of my back and pelvis, a cortisone injection in my hip and an MRa of my hip which finally revealed the torn labrum I had suspected for over a year! So following a chat with the sports doctor and the surgeon I was scheduled in for arthroscopic surgery less than 3 months later! (Yes I am STILL talking about the NHS). It had made running, cycling, kayaking and working painful and difficult so I was relieved to hear that they might be able to help me with surgery as conservative treatment was failing miserably. I was told to carry on as normal before the op but not to do anything 'stupid'. It turns out that running a half marathon may have been 'stupid' but I managed it in 1:53:17 so I was over the moon, even though I could barely walk the next day. But that was it, no running until 2012, my hip had well and truly had it.

After my surgery it was explained that I had managed to tear a quarter of the labrum so they re-attached it to my hip socket with the plan being that it would heal fully given the opportunity to do so. As you may already be aware, cartilage takes a very long time to heal so I was told absolutely no bending my hip past 90 degrees for 8 weeks! It's amazing what you need to be able to bend your hip for. Putting on shoes, socks, bending down to pick things up and ermmmm sitting on the toilet. But before I get any pitty, that SAME NHS sent me home with an enormous party bag! Those of you who have friends or relatives that have had a hip replacement (or maybe you've had the op yourself!) may be familiar with some of the objects in the party bag, including the toilet seat raiser, which is not great if you don't like heights. I have to say though, my favourite tool has been the grabber....excellent for causing mischief!

Naturally, I searched forum after forum before my surgery and most stories were rather painful and frustrated ones so I am pleased to share something positive for anyone who is staring down the barrel of the same op and happens to read this post. I have been virtually pain free and very well looked after. I know not everyone's experience with the NHS has been so delightful but I believe in giving credit when credit is due and I hope that it will spawn more positive experiences for others.

So I have 2 weeks to go before I can start moving relatively normally again and yes I am desperate to get running and see if I am rid of this pain in the back-side but I have to be patient. For now I am just looking forward to tying my own shoelaces! :)

New Contributor: Jenny McClelland

Name: Jenny McClelland
Home Parkrun: Wythenshawe

Date of first Parkrun: March 2010
Total Number of Parkruns: 24

Number of other Parkrun locations run: Bramhall

Number of times volunteered: 4+
My Parkrun history: click here

I started running in 2009 after entering a Cancer Research 5km Race for Life. After a couple of training runs in the three weeks leading up to it I was chuffed when I finished the race in 37:52mins. I was hooked and ready for more!

I started to get bored going out on my own and didn't feel confident enough to join a running club, but after browsing the internet for ideas I stumbled across Parkrun and have never looked back.

After a few emails back and forth to the organiser of the Bramhall Parkrun I was reassured that Parkrun was for everybody, fast and slow, younger and older, and it was the norm for 'newbies' to do a walk/run around the course at their own pace.

I now do a more local parkrun at Wythenshawe which was set up in July 2011. As it's still a fairly new venue the numbers can vary each week, but with the 'regulars' who turn up religiously every Saturday to either run or volunteer, there's a real community feel about the event and you never see anybody without a smile on their face.

Since starting the parkruns in 2010 I've seen my speed increase by over 11 minutes and I've made a lot of new friends of all ages. It's also given me the confidence to progress onto 10km races, join my local running club, and train for a half marathon.

If you've not done a Parkrun before then give it a go, I promise you'll get hooked too!!

...and they're off!

On 12 February 2011, wearing a pair of clapped-out trainers, a matching set of 'holiday' shorts and t-shirt and some 'sports' socks I presented myself at Oldham parkrun...

...and much to my dismay, the place was deserted! Hmm - well it was still quite early (around 8am), so I decided to have a walk round the park. Strange how hills don't seem all that bad when you are strolling along!

On my second lap of the park, I noticed a guy in a tracksuit carrying some sort of equipment heading for the band stand area known locally as the Lion's Den (probably something to do with the stone lions on either side of the structure!) and headed towards him.

"Parkrun?", I asked (in those days I didn't realise it was pronounced with a small 'p')

"Yeah, we start at 9", came the reply. "I'm Mark. I'm the Race Director."

A couple of minutes later, a couple arrived, picked up one of the bags Mark had brought, said "Good Morning" and set off up the path to the side of the Den. This was my introduction to the world of parkrun volunteering - although it was quite a while before I actually put my name forward for duties. Tony and Angie have been involved with Oldham parkrun since the early days and continue (whenever possible) to arrive early and put out the signs.

As the time approached 08:45, I mentioned that it seemed a bit quiet. Mark assured me that there wasn't any reason to worry and that people usually start arriving 'any minute now'. As if they had been waiting in the wings for the cue, half a dozen people seemed to appear from out of nowhere. Then a few more arrived, and a couple here and there and in next to no time there were about 25 of us (most of whom had either nodded my way or introduced themselves) and a few minutes later, we all started to line up at the start.

Mark read out the day's notices and then explained the course in detail. He explained that we only had a couple of marshalls and so there wouldn't be one at the second point and to be sure to follow the signs. With the sponsor notifications and future local events out of the way, it was time to run! I must admit, I had 'butterflies' - something I hadn't experienced since my schooldays (more years ago than I care to admit!)

As we set off, I decided that somewhere not too far from the front would be OK...and ran the first couple of hundred metres at a comfortable pace. Following the lead runners up a sharp chicane-like incline first to the left and veering to the right, we reach a steady climb. And I didn't even make it to the first park bench before I had slowed to walking pace. Not the ideal start to my new running career but one that soon taught me to respect the course and learn how to run it. As we reach the top of the first climb, the signs send us right and onto the long, sweeping downhill stretch. This was more like it! By the time it levelled out a little, I was fighting for breath and had to slow right down - repeat lesson about knowing the course etc. The course was well sign-posted and taking the right-angled left onto a short downhill, I could already see we were turning right at the bottom and positioned myself accordingly. Rounding the turn and crossing the bridge, we start to ascend...quite gently at first but gradually getting steeper. About halfway up the hill, I'm back to walking and beginning to question my sanity! But, I can see the nice flat bit coming up and put on a bit of an effort, only to discover they hid another little hill behind some bushes! And finally, I'm on the 'flat'. Oh, yeah? Ya think? It turns out that even though it is relatively flat, there is a slight incline which is quite unforgiving to those struggling to get round. As we approach the Lion's Den to complete the first lap, the rest of the volunteers are all shouting their encouragement and the spring comes back into your step. Knowing what to expect on the second lap at least allows you to form some sort of plan, though I swear that the hills were steeper this time round! Even worse, half way up the long sweeping hill, I was 'lapped'.

I was seriously considering calling it quits as I approached the Lion's Den for the second time but the finishing funnel was out and the volunteers were again out in force, cheering the stragglers (for by now, that is what I'd become!) and coming the other way to complete the run was Tony who'd put out the signs earlier. I dug in and set off for the final lap. This was just as punishing but as we reach the top of the sweep, and about half way up the 'hidden' hill, the marshal directed me up a small pathway - Woodland Walk. I had no hesitation interpretting this as an instruction and slowed my pace accordingly! The marshall shouted something to the effect that this was the last bit and I responded by breaking into a trot again. By this time, my legs were the consistency of warm jelly and I was back to walking. It took me several weeks before I ever managed to run that last little trail and I still don't look forward to it even after 40 odd times! Coming off the trail, we run around to the right, downhill all the way and as you hit the 'home straight' you can't help but try and raise a bit of a sprint finish. To be honest, there wasn't much difference between my sprint and the rest of the run but I felt I had made the effort. I finished the course in 31:02 and was 16th home of 21 participants.

I'm not saying that I was immediately transformed by my experiences - I didn't even learn my lesson as the following week, I ended up going even slower! What I did discover was a group of like-minded people, all willing to help out in making Saturday parkrun an enjoyable experience for the fit and not-so-fit alike. I made several new friends that day...not least of which was parkrun!