How To Prepare For Your First ParkRun

I started running because I wanted to get active and could not afford anything more than running. I’ve said this before, but: I hated every second of it. Then I started doing ParkRuns and it pretty much changed my life.

ParkRun (noun): weekly 5KM runs all around the world, free of charge.

parkrun3

I’ve been doing ParkRuns for just over a year now and I’ve loved every (huffing and puffing) second of it. So far I’ve done four in South Africa: Nahoon Point, Hobie Beach, Big Bay and George. There are ParkRuns in nine different countries… and counting!

What I love about ParkRun is the community. The vibe is celebratory and not competitive. “Winning” is a dirty word – each runner (and walker) competes only against themselves. Volunteers along the way cheer you on, even if you are walking at a snail’s pace. Everyone is NICE, which makes it a pleasure to wake up early-ish on a Saturday morning (runs start at 08h00).

For me, ParkRun was the nidus for moving beyond running out of a sense of obligation. Running became fun, which definitely contributed to my more recent running adventures.

Here’s how to prepare for a ParkRun – especially if you’re a “beginner” runner.

1. Register

You don’t HAVE to register, but if you do, bring your barcode and your time will be recorded and emailed to you. And if you decide that you love ParkRun, you will get a super cool T-shirt when you do your fiftieth recorded run!

2. Drive early

Parking at the more popular runs is quite tight, so you’ll want to get there early if your parking is as atrocious as mine! Also, it is nice to be there early and soak up the vibe while warming up.

3. Or don’t drive at all

If you live close by, ParkRun encourages you to walk, run or cycle to the run!

4. Listen to your body

ParkRun are often at least partially trail or beach runs. I take ParkRuns as my opportunity to put my running app on mute and just do what my body allows – run till I can’t anymore, then walk, then run again.

5. Don’t fret

Don’t start too fast. Don’t be focused on whether you’re being overtaken. See #5.

6. Have fun

ParkRun is without a doubt one of my favourite parts of my week. I might up my runs to a regular 10KM soon, but I’ll never stop enjoying ParkRuns.

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ParkRun Hobie Beach, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

15 Comments

  1. Gennie says:

    There are none in Canada! 😦

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Get someone to start one, like one of the coaches of a local running club? It’s really fun!

  2. KokkieH says:

    I really want to start running (getting up in the mornings is proving problematic), and this would help a great deal regarding the motivation, but there’s no such thing on the Vrystaatse platteland. Wait, I see there’s one in Parys, 120km away…

    1. You could always start one. 😉
      You can contact the parkrun SA office via the website (www.parkrun.co.za). As a Co-Event Director at PE Hobie Beach parkrun I can tell you that I Love parkrun for all the same reasons as the writer mentions in this awesome piece. Its a truly uplifting movement which I feel honoured to be part of. 🙂

      1. KokkieH says:

        I don’t know. I live in Kroonstad. I might end up with runners suing me after falling down pot-holes. That’s of course if we can get them out again 😉

      2. barefootmegz says:

        Haha! Many of the ParkRuns I have done are on trails so not so different from potholes really. And also, ParkRun has a disclaimer so people can’t sue you for injuries 😛
        But if you don’t have the time to organise it yourself, maybe suggest it to someone who heads up a local running club? Do you have running clubs in the platteland? 😛

      3. KokkieH says:

        You know, I’ve no idea. They never advertise in the local paper, and most people here haven’t heard about the internet yet so Googling is futile 😉

        But I’ll definitely be following up on this. It really sounds like great fun.

  3. @KokkieH
    You could always start one. 😉
    You can contact the parkrun SA office via the website (www.parkrun.co.za). As a Co-Event Director at PE Hobie Beach parkrun I can tell you that I Love parkrun for all the same reasons as the writer mentions in this awesome piece. Its a truly uplifting movement which I feel honoured to be part of. 🙂

  4. Nancy Ackelson says:

    That sounds wonderful! Go Mariechen!!!!!!

  5. harveylisam says:

    I really should do one when I’m in South Africa!

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Yes! There is one in Big Bay, Green Point and Stellenbosch that you can attend!
      (Getting leave is starting to look promising. Will let you know soon!)

  6. tamsynsmith says:

    Great post. I LOVE parkrun – it’s what made me a runner. I’ve now run 144, as well as volunteering over 100 times. When I started parkrun, I had entered a 10km race to raise money for charity and thought it would help me to achieve my goal. I never thought that I would continue running after I had done my charity race, but parkrun became addictive. For over a year, I was Event Director of Southampton parkrun (UK) and now I’m a Run Director there. It’s the 3rd largest parkrun in the UK, but in comparison with the events in SA, it’s not massive (up to 720 runners each week)!

    1. barefootmegz says:

      144! That is incredible! Thank you for sharing your story!

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