Saturday, 22 September 2012

Remarkable new parkrun record.....or is it?

Either we have a hot new global parkrun record holder this week or something has gone slightly wrong somewhere in the results process this week!

This may have been corrected by the time you read this, but the "Top age grades this week" page on the global parkrun website is currently showing this amazing result:

This week's top age graded performances at each event
Event  ↓Athlete  ↓Time  ↓Age Group  ↓Age Grade  ↓Club  ↓
GrovelandsAlex MCINTOSH13:03SM30-3499.36 %Garden City Runners

I'm sure you'll agree that 99.36% age grades aren't too easy to come by!
Take a look for yourself at the "Top age grades this week" page.

A very impressive time, smashing Andy Baddeley's short-held (since early August) parkrun record by around 30 seconds.

And....he won the event at Grovelands parkrun by a significant 6 and a half minutes!

Grovelands parkrun, Enfield # 107 - 22/09/2012

Pos  ↓parkrunner  ↓Time  ↓Cat  ↓Grade  ↓Gender  ↓Pos  ↓Club  ↓Note  ↓Runs  ↓
1Alex MCINTOSH13:03SM30-3499.36 %M1Garden City RunnersNew PB!13 
2Vip THIAGARASAH19:31SM35-3967.55 %M2PB stays at 00:18:4221 

I am somewhat doubtful that this is a fair result and doubt that the record will stand for long. Delving a little deeper suggests its an all-time 5K PB for Alex McIntosh, beating his (very impressive) 16:44 achieved in the summer of 2004 by a massive 3 minutes and 41 seconds. The evidence doesn't look too good!

Take a look here at Alex's parkrun record:
This makes it a parkrun and course PB for Alex by over 4 and a half minutes. Again, the evidence doesn't look to promising.

Even his "Power of 10" page suggests that there is no chance of him being capable of a time like this:

I hope I'm wrong as we may have a new 5000m specialist ready to represent the UK when the time comes, but somehow I doubt it.#

Alex, if you ever read this, I really hope you are our great new hope and that we will see you pushing Mo Farah on to even greater heights in the coming years, but a quick reality check suggest that this is unlikely to be the case.

There is no doubt that Alex's time show he is a very good runner, but unfortunately it doesn't look like he is a world beater (yet!). It amused me for 20 minutes though, if nothing else.

parkrun Australia attendance records this week

The other side of the globe spring is obviously on its way, as parkrun Australia sees 5 events set new attendance records today:

EventRecord AttendanceRecord WeekThis Week
Albert Melbourne9522/09/2012New record
this week
Balyang Sanctuary10222/09/2012New record
this week
Claisebrook Cove4608/09/2012
Ginninderra9122/09/2012New record
this week
Ginninderra9128/04/2012New record
this week
Main Beach19607/04/2012
New Farm39015/09/2012248
Newy24422/09/2012New record
this week
St Peters15114/07/2012116

With 2 results still to come in, a total of 1040 people ran parkrun this morning in Australia.

Friday, 21 September 2012

parkrun just keeps on growing!

The parkrun phenomenon just seems unstoppable to me!

It's fair to say that the people at "parkrun HQ", that mythical place you may have read about in the parkrun weekly newsletter recently, must put in a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure that the rate of growth continues. Constantly battling to keep up with what must now be a virtual tidal wave of enquiries to start up the next parkrun in the UK or beyond.

I must also say that the appetite of parkrunners to turn up and run each week is of course another huge factor. I'm sure it's the same at most parkrun events, where there is a core of parkrunners who rarely miss their Saturday morning parkrun fix.

These factors are the main reasons why parkrun continues to grow at such a rate. Roughly doubling in size year-on-year seems to be a pretty consistent trend in the world of parkrun. The number of events roughly double and the number of runners grows at a similar rate.

Take a quick look at the interesting Historical Chart for a clear graphical view of the rate of growth of parkrun.

Barely skimming the surface of these statistics I can point at two things I noticed:

1) Only 6 weeks ago the highest number of parkrunners running on any one parkrun day (the new name for Saturday) had never exceeded 20,000. Six weeks later we have exceeded 23,000 twice and one of those exceeded 24,000, just two weeks ago.

2) Just one year ago, on the same weekend there were a little over 11,100 runners at 92 events. Last weekend saw 23,399 runners at 168 events. Incredible growth!

How long then to break that magic 25,000 runners mark On a single day I wonder? A matter of weeks I would suggest.

Last weekend saw this year's edition of the Great North Run. I am led to believe that this is the biggest single running event in the UK each year, in terms of the number of participants. This year it attracted slightly less than 40,000 starters.

Based on current trends, by this time next year I would venture to suggest that parkrun will atract more runners (pretty much) each and every week of the year than the Great North run does once a year. Now that is impressive!

I admit that not all of the parkrun events are in the UK and that parkrun consists of many smaller events rather than one massive event. But the fact remains that parkrun will be responsible for getting more people running than any other single event. And parkrun will be doing it every week of the year. To me this shows what a massive impact parkrun is having on the running community in this country.

Add to this the great diversity of ages and abilities of parkrunners and this only goes to show what a positive impact parkrun is having on getting people into running and keeping them doing it.

Only time will tell us whether the trend of parkrun growth can continue, but let's hope it does so that many more people can become hooked like the rest of us.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Kids love to run!

Following on from my previous post.....Getting your kids into sport

Let's face it, weren't we all so much more keen to run when we were kids? Young kids love running. They run everywhere. If they want to get from point A to point B, more often than not they will run.

As adults its far less normal to run in our everyday lives. Once in a while I see one of the directors at my workplace run across the office and I always notice it - it's just unusual and slightly funny, even though I know he is "a runner". If you saw a kid doing the same thing it would just look normal, apart from the fact that the kid was in an office, but I think you know what I mean.

Recently my kids came to see me run a race for the first time in a very long time. A few days later, due to my current calf injury, I was about to head out for a very slow jog around the block. The block is almost exactly half a mile. I was intending to do a couple of laps if the leg felt ok. Before heading out on this slow run I asked the kids if they would like to join me. Each of them shouted "Yes! Me please Daddy!". The Olympic effect in full force! They all want to be Jonnie Peacock now!

And so it was that I had to take each of them out in turn. Not that I minded that in the slightest.

First up it was my daughter. She was absolutely adamant that she wanted to do two laps and "get a world record". A personal "world record" sounds much better to them than a "personal best" so the terminology has stuck with us for now at least. For the record, they make me time them as they always want to know if they do better than they have before. Something else they must have learned from me.

Its been a few months since the last time they did this with me, and as they are growing fast, a personal "world record" is not too hard for them to achieve. In the end, two laps turned into three as she was enjoying it so much after the first two. Oh, and she told me she had to do three to "train for parkrun". The parkrun effect is also wearing off on them! If I remember correctly she did the three laps in roughly 18:30. Considering she is only just 4 years old, I think this is pretty impressive. She only stopped very briefly on two occasions and she talked almost non-stop the whole way. By the way, she managed a few personal "world records", not least as she had never run that far before.

Next up it was my eldest. He is 8 years old. He set out to do 2 laps and 2 laps was what he did. The first lap was almost exactly 10 minute mile pace and the second ensured that he did his fastest ever mile too, by quite some way. He was very pleased with himself.

Finally (or so you would think) it was number 2 son, as I like to call him - well it is his name! He is 6 years old. Anyway, he was only interested in doing one lap. He has always been the least keen to run around the block. This time he was very keen, but he was sure that one lap was his limit. Yet again we had another personal "world record".

They were all so pleased with, and proud of, their "world records" and each of them said that they wanted to do it again the next day.

I had about an hour break, only for my daughter to tell me that she wanted to go out again. Not for another lap, but for another two laps! And we did. And again she ran the whole way. She is so determined! I know that two and a half miles in a single day is a very long way for a 4 year old to run, but I just find it so impressive that she wants to and is able to do it. Her cumulative time for 2.5 miles was around 33 minutes.

So the big question, and really the whole point of this post and the previous post is, "when is the right age to introduce my kids to parkrun?".

I know that when I do, I will have to turn up expecting them not to complete the run. And certainly not put any pressure on them to do so. But at what age could a child be capable of running 5km (3.1 miles) and enjoying doing so and without it equating to some degree of child cruelty?

I'd love to know what you think.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Getting your kids into sport

I have often thought when the right time might be to make a concerted effort to get my kids into running or sport in general. Is "making a concerted effort" even the right approach to take? What do you think?

I know that my end goal is for my kids to find a sport or athletic activity that they enjoy doing. The aim has to be that they enjoy taking part in sport so that they think of it as a pleasure rather than a chore. I don't think many people would disagree that, now more than ever, it is very important to ensure that we have regular physical activity in our lives, as so much of our time is spent in a sedentary way.

I couldn't possibly say whether that was the approach my parents took, whether they ever considered regular exercise to be a desirable outcome, or whether it was just by chance that I was lucky enough to be reasonably good at most sports that I tried and therefore got the necessary encouragement to make it pleasurable. In my case I believe it was more luck than judgement.

I have always tried not to push my kids into sport. If anything I have taken a far too neutral stance on the subject. I was always a footballer myself - for school, clubs, university, semi-pro and so on, but I have hardly even tried to get my boys to play at all. Even kickabouts in the back garden have been limited. Only because they have never really shown any interest, but this does show how little I have pushed them.

My kids are well aware of how much I enjoy sport. They know full well that I "go running" and "do parkrun". My hope has been that this will gradually rub off on them.

We were lucky enough to get tickets to take the kids to the Olympics and Paralympics and we also made sure that the kids saw plenty of the action on the TV. Not that the TV watching part of this process is in itself making them active. But hopefully the end justifies the means. One of our big hopes from this was for the kids to realise just how many different sports there are out there to interest them, or perhaps for them to become good at.

After the Olympics the evidence was there that this had had a very positive impact on the kids. They were spending days in the garden using anything they could find lying about to use as a javelin (cricket stumps and sticks), a discus (frisbee), hurdles (upturned buckets and sticks). Even diving was attempted - off the slide into the paddling pool (this event was quickly discouraged on safety grounds).

Better than this were the games played after the Paralympics. This Paralympics may have shown the world what amazing athletes Paralympians are, but the real legacy is that now we have a new young generation, with no pre-conceived ideas, whose greatest exposure to people with disabilities has shown them simply as the amazing athletes that the Paralympians are. Seeing and hearing the kids playing paralympic sports as Jonnie Peacock, Richard Whitehead, David Weir, Oscar Pistorius and many others was just simply brilliant.

In my next blog post I will follow this up with how this summer has changed my kids desire to get active and even get out running.

Monday, 17 September 2012

It must be about time.... get this parkrunfans blog going again!

I admit that I have been very slack on this for a while and like an unfed plant, the blog has withered to almost to the point of extinction. Well I have decided that now I will put some effort in to get it going again. After all, I must get back to spreading the word about how amazing parkrun is!

So, what's new with me, my parkrun experiences and my running in general?

Well the biggests news (not that is new news, just that its newer than when I was last updating this blog), is that after years of adamantly saying that I would never join a running club, well of course I finally saw the error in that judgement and joined a running club. I'm so glad I did.

M reasoning had always been that I didn't need to join a running club, I can just go out and run whenever I want. That was true. I also said that parkrun was more than enough for me, that was still close to being true too. I also told myself that training on my own was perfect for me. That is still true to some degree, but it is so much easier and much more fun training with others. At a running club you are bound to find other like-minded individuals, with similar abilities and goals and this can only serve to drag you on to improve.

To be honest I am still unable to immerse myself fully in all that the club offers, but over time I hope that this will gradually change. With a young family it is not always easy to find the time for running. I am doing well to make one club training session a week, and not every week. I have been offered many chances to represent the club at various interesting events, unfortunately I am yet to do so. One day this will change I'm sure.

So what have I got out of joining the running club apart from the training sessions? The camaraderie for one. The club handicap races have also been fantastic. I had never even been aware of the concept, but now it has me hooked. Even this last weekend, a recent injury was not enough to keep me away. I just had to be there, even in a marshalling only capacity.

And for all of this, I have parkrun to thank. There is absolutely no way I would have become serious about running without parkrun. Coventry parkrun came along at just the right time for me, over two and a half years ago. parkrun got me hooked on running and then introduced me to the club that I now call my running club.

If, like me, prior to parkrun you weren't really into running, but now find yourself hooked, I can wholeheartedly recommend taking that next step. The step you never thought you would take. Go for it, join your local running club and you will not regret it.

Joining a running club doesn't require that you be a dedicated or serious runner. You don't need to be winning your parkrun each week. Anyone and everyone is welcome. Just so long as you like to run, then you will be welcome at your local running club. It is almost inevitable that your parkrun will have some connection to a running club, or that there will be club runners at your parkrun. Runners are normally pretty approachable when it comes to talking about their club, so don't be daunted.

Thank you to parkrun for making me realise I should join a running club!