>Racing>A USAer's first ParkRun
Interval Junkie --Nobby
I'm in London for two weeks. A running friend from home is house/dog sitting a bed and breakfast out in Farnham. We decided to jog to the race (3miles away) as a nice warmup. Unfortunately, we got lost, but picked up with a runner on his way to the race. He was moving at AHR up lots of hills. We didn't mind, since he was showing us the way. But about a quarter mile from the race he says, "Oh, I'm not racing today, just marshaling." My buddy and I looked at each other and groaned -- we kinda spent our race in this warm-up. So much for the guys from the USA being a threat.
The race was held in the middle of a park. The trail was very hilly (not a single flat stretch) and muddy. We were surprised that in such a small town over 100 people showed up for the 26th run of this race. That's 26 in about 4months, a race every weekend. The composition was the same as charity runs in the USA: lean hardcore runners, weight droppers, grey-hairs with lots of miles under them, kids learning a new love, dogs. There weren't too many walkers, though -- something you often find at US charity races.
The race was low key and well marked. Volunteers and signs pointed the way through the park's puddled trails. There were no mile markers (nor kilometer markers), but the race was too laps of a loop, so you had an idea of what was in store by the end. Marshals appointed at key locations clapped you in the right direction.
I didn't have a race-effort in me, but pushed anyway. I beat the dog that threatened to pass me -- only because he stopped mid-race for a dump. I nosed by a guy at the finish line when he slowed right before the line. Just a bit of fun. It is a "race". At least I beat John.
It's gun timed. And the deal is that you grab a ticket when you finish that has your place and a barcode. At your leisure you visit the RD with a barcode ID you printed out from the ParkRun website. They scan the ticket and your ID. Then your time is uploaded to the website.
The only T-shirt given out was for the woman who finished her 50th race the week before. A few runners sported 100 T-shirts. Sounds great to me. That's something.
I wasn't surprised when there were no age-group "wins" announced, but the winner wasn't even identified by the time we left. I guess you find out if you really want to know. Or you check the website later.
Anyway, no-fee, timed, well organized, 5K. Pretty awesome.
There are only about 3 of these currently in the USA. None near me. Talking with the British RD, he feared the US would find some way to commercialize it. I think it would have an odd impact on charity runs. Still, considering the average 5K race costs about $25 in the USA (mostly to support the charity), it makes running/racing a middle-class and above activity. A friend is on a restricted income and can't really race and make the rent. ParkRun would bust up that barrier. Hat's off to you, U.K.
2014 Goals: sub-3 Marathon
Current Status 11/10: Back to building up miles. Junk feels mostly okay. Kinda.
Yes - Parkrun is great. Totally free and very convenient - just sign up once and you can show up and race at any of the dozens (100s?) of these 5Ks, all held every week at 9AM on a Saturday at venues all around the UK.
Their technical infrastructure is also very good (especially given that it's free). Results are on the web by around noon, and I get an optional (free) text message to my phone around the same time, telling me my time and where I placed in the field. They also generate and make available some good data, so you can keep track of your performances over time and how many you've completed etc.
I think it's a great example of what organised and enthusiastic volunteers can achieve. My only 'complaint' is that it's so convenient and available that's it's always easy not to go because it'll always be there next week...
PS I've noticed that the organisation is careful to refer to Parkrun events as 'runs' not 'races', and also not to talk about 'winners' - instead they list the 'first finishers'. I don't think this is because they're trying to make believe that we're all winners for taking part - I suspect it's possibly something to do with the insurance or health-and-safety implications of staging a race, as opposed to an organised run... albeit one where it's a carefully measured 5K course with timing and a lot of people trying to finish first. I think this is why you didn't hear anybody being announced as the winner, no AG awards etc.
MTA: Glad you enjoyed it!
Yup - its a pretty cool scheme Parkrun. It'll be interesting to see if it takes off in the US - I don't see why not.
If you ask
In my area, there are two separate events similar to the Parkrun. One county sponsors a summer "no frills" race, either one loop around the lake (3.65 miles) or 2 loops. The races are held on Tuesday evenings at 7 pm and the cost is $5 (Full time students run for free).
Another gentleman holds a 5k race during the winter months, on Sunday afternoons. This, too, costs $5. It is very low key, informal, and fun. He uses numbered index cards, which he hands to runners as they finish, and each finisher must remember his/her time. Awards are handed out to AG winners, as well as first place, but the awards are chosen by the winners from the hack of his SUV. One time I won a bag of pretzels; some people pick laundry soap or an old copy of RW. It's all random, but it makes for a fun time out.
They're not just in the UK, there's lots all round the world. I've done a few of them in Australia (in 3 states actually) and they are great fun. The number of parkrun participants and parkrun courses is steadily growing, which is great.
slow as mud
They are also in South Africa http://www.parkrun.co.za/ I haven't done one yet, but I am planning on trying it myself real soon.
I did my first parkrun last weekend, http://www.parkrun.us/livonia/
The regular turnout was reduced because of a local race. A couple from Australia in the US on vacation scheduled their travel so they would be going past the Detroit area on their way from New York to Chicago just so they could do the ParkRun here. The reason I was there was that a coworker was in town from the UK, when he found out that one of the two US parkruns was near the office he put it at the top of his todo list.
Based on these two travelers it seems like ParkRun is very popular outside the US.
I noticed that there is a local runner's club, for a town about an hour away from me that does runs similar to this. They do a Wednesday night run and a Saturday morning run, and they are free to club members. There is a small charge for non-club members. Points are gathered for attendance at each race and top point holders earn awards at the end of the year. Every run seems to be sponsored by a different local business each week. I have never run one of these yet, but I am sure I will eventually.
Sounds a bit more formal than Anchorage's Tuesday Night races in the fall are only $5, but similar. Tuesday Night races vary in distance and location and don't use barcodes. Courses (one for each league) are announced at the start line, so distances are approximate (getting better with gps). Just grab a slip of paper with finish order at the end of the chute, put your name on it, and put it in the fishbowl for the league you ran in: lightning (fast), farm (others), munchkins (yep, the little ones). The series is over 40 yr old and a family tradition.
One of the original intentions was to introduce people to the different trails in Anchorage, but the races have gotten so large they can only do them where there's lots of parking (over 1000 participants).