By Melanie Leyshon
Parkrun is a simple but effective fun fitness formula. It started with 13 runners at one event in Bushy Park, Teddington, in 2004, but has grown into a well-organised 5km weekly event. Every Saturday around 34,937
in at 234 UK-wide locations, from Aberystwyth to Aberdeen.
All you need to do is register online, drag yourself out of bed, print off your individual bar code and head to your local park for 9am.
This isn’t a race, it’s a challenge to raise your own fitness levels. At the end of the 5km, your barcode is scanned and this feeds the online stats table, which covers time, age grading, personal best and number of runs completed.
Encouraged by Katherine Jenkins, who didn’t even break into a sweat during the London marathon, last Saturday I joined the 100 or so runners at the Dulwich parkrun.
It started well. As an enthusiastic but inexperienced newbie, at the first bend I was in the top 15. Halfway into the first lap, I was overtaken by a man running with a buggy and child. Then a 70-year-old whizzed by, followed by a batch of children running with their parents. A few more paces and I was ready to drop out (or at least take a sneaky shortcut through the trees).
Call it pride, the communal energy, or simply the thought of writing this blog, I kept going. The volunteers helped, shouting out timings as we passed the first lap. About 20 mins in (lap 3), the endorphins kicked in and I started to enjoy myself. I even managed a semi-sprint on the home straight, but was beaten by a more energetic 29-year-old.
My finishing time? An acceptable/respectable 30 min 41 sec – not bad for a first-timer. I loved checking the stats page back at home. I was 112th out of 126 runners, but first in my female age group (there were two of us!).
I’m planning to shave those 41 sec next weekend. Not that I’m competitive, I’m just hooked. It’s brilliant, motivational exercise. Done and dusted by 9.30.41am, with a post-run coffee in the park café at 10am, feet up…
To sign up for parkrun, go to parkrun.org.uk.