Nicky and I volunteered at Torbay Velopark Parkrun last week. We’ve participated in a couple lately and we found we were able to help this week.
We have an occasionally challenging, always active, FULL life and quite often we need to be exercising earlier than Parkrun’s 9am start in order to shoe horn our plans into a weekend.
Some tweeks to our life combined with a planned evening run meant we could help out for a change.
Anyway, there’s been some debate lately about where Parkrun sits in society, its role in the running community, in the community in general.
Parkrun issued its annual report recently and there has been many opinions shared online. Some issues which people have aired are with Parkrun management and its stated aims and others with individual events and maybe even individual personnel. Some people seem to have issues with the focus on participation rather than performance.
I recommend reading the report and attending a few Parkruns before forming your own opinions, but, despite a few negative vibes, the vast majority of people, in my experience, find Parkrun to be a positive in their lives. Like I say, it is certainly a passionate subject for all who treasure it for whatever reason.
Well I don’t think my role as a blogger is to be deciding who’s right or wrong. We all develop our opinions from somewhere and if someone feels passionately enough about Parkrun to have a strong opinion which they want to share, then surely that shows what a success Parkrun is.
I can only report what I find.
I have seen comments suggesting Parkrun should be all about effort levels and improving. For many people I’ve no doubt that the weekly timed events are purely about emptying the tank and trying to better their times. But for others, it might be simply a reason to get out of the door and be active. Maybe even, a focus to get out and socialise.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy running as fast as I can and comparing my times to previous efforts or to others in my age group.
But not always.
I’ve recently enjoyed more ‘chatty’ efforts and had just as much (if not more) fun in the process. I’ve also had the pleasure of running with my Step-Daughter and Grandson when they made their Parkrun debuts last year. My own Parkrun times range from 19 minutes to 50 minutes and I’ve enjoyed every single one of those minutes.
Personally I feel critics of the ‘easy’ efforts of others are in danger of quantifying their judgements in terms of finishing time rather than the effort levels they talk about.
Again, please don’t think I’m criticising Parkrun participants or volunteers for the way they choose to consume the weekly timed event.
Last week, I witnessed a very good friend, in her, shall we say ‘late middle age’, absolutely rinsing herself, squeezing every lost drop of effort out of her protesting limbs, as she passed my marshaling point, immediately after about 100m of deep squelchy mud.
She was trying so hard she could barely acknowledge me as she entered the last kilometre or so. I saw her after she finished and she was so spent and so emotional that she just burst into tears. “I’m trying so hard,” she sobbed, “I’m not getting any faster!”
She’s been running for about a year, hoping to compete in triathlons having developed a passion for open water swimming.
I also saw two younger chaps amongst the wonderful mass cross section of the community participating in the early morning sunshine. They were laughing and joking as they negotiated the terrain with ease and skipped passed me.
My thoughts turned to comments made about how, in some people’s opinions, Parkrun should be about trying as hard as possible and measuring improvement. If that truly were the case then these two chaps wouldn’t be classed as trying hard enough!
These speedy boys were first and second across the line on the day, both credited with a time of 18 minutes exactly. They had thoroughly enjoyed their runs and were possibly holding back a little despite their incredible speed.
Our friend finished about 30 minutes later. Spent.
A glance at the results from a purist might lead to the wrong conclusion about who was trying hardest to improve on the day.
As I say, I can only report what I see.
Marathon Talk, the podcast, is co- hosted by Tom Williams, the CEO of Parkrun and his enthusiasm for the rapidly expanding phenomenon is utterly infectious.
Parkrun is now in 17 countries and has started in prisons, South African townships, refugee communities and its self declared quest to be part of a healthier happier world is, to me, great to observe.
But, and here’s my “opinion”, YOUR Parkrun is whatever YOU get out of it. Whether you are tail walker, running 16 minutes, volunteering, writing up event reports, pushing a toddler in a buggy, it’s YOURS!
And who am I to tell you what experience you should get from Parkrun.
A new podcast, Free Weekly Timed, is asking each of its guests to describe what Parkrun means to them, in just three words.
The all time fastest ever Parkrunner and thoroughly lovely bloke, Andy Baddely, answered with “BLOODY GOOD FUN”!
Which is surely just perfect for something we do in our precious leisure time.