Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Why you should make going to Park Run your resolution this year

So first off  - writing this post kind of makes me want to go back in time 2-3 years and say to my former self ‘hey, in a few years time, you’re going to write a blog post encouraging people to go running at 9am on a Saturday morning,’ just to see how much my former self would laugh. Things change!

Because honestly, as a child, I never ran. I’ve mentioned it before, but I was genuinely the kind of kid who pretended to sprain her ankle to get out of PE. When I was 13, I dislocated my knee for real and it was as if life had handed me the perfect get-out-of-jail-free card; I never ran anywhere (unless maybe a barman called last orders, or someone mentioned the food was running low at a buffet).

But a couple of years ago, something changed. I talked about that here – how slowly, I fell in love with running. Initially, I ran very short distances (like, less than 2 miles), very slowly. It’s like I was testing myself. I didn’t really believe that I was capable of going very far – I think somewhere inside I genuinely believed I’d jog for fifteen minutes, get stuck and have to call an Uber (or ring my husband and beg him to piggy-back me home). But as I got a bit better, and a bit faster, and a bit less terrified that both my legs were about to spontaneously break in 20 places if I sped up, I started to look for something to aim for. I tracked my running on Strava, but I wanted a way to properly measure how well I was doing. Also, whilst I’d initially enjoyed getting to know my local area, I was beginning to find running around the block on my own a little boring. But I was way, way too intimidated at that stage to book a race. I thought I’d be at the back and that the race organisers would literally be sweeping the streets behind me, looking at their watches and sighing.

My husband had been banging on about park run for ages but I had somewhat been blocking him out. For context, my husband is an insanely good runner (he runs a sub-3 hour marathon and a 16 min 5k). When he came out jogging with me once, he had to put a jumper on because ‘he wasn’t even warming up.’ So I thought any run he did would be intimidating and scary. I also thought that getting up at 8am on my precious Saturday morning and trekking to some park in the cold to run was about the least-Catherine thing I could think of to do, and so I stubbornly stayed in bed with a caramel latte.

He kept on at me, though. He told me his dad and sister came too (not that reassuring as they are both also ludicrously fast - even though pregnant, his sister could easily lap me). Then he pointed out other friends of ours that went who were also beginners. Eventually, I was actually running 5ks (very slowly – it took me like 36 minutes), and he sat down with me and pulled up the results list from our local park run and pointed out that some people had done it in 50 minutes.
‘You won’t come last,’ He promised, ‘But even if you do – it doesn’t matter. That’s not what it’s all about.’

It wasn't even that which convinced me, not really - it was the mood he was in when he came back. He was always happier, always a bit buzzier, it seemed to set him up for the weekend. And I started to think maybe I could feel like that, too. 

I’m not sure I really believed that I wouldn't come last. I was sure I would hate it and that I’d be surrounded by skinny gym bunnies and aggressive men in Lycra. But that first park run, I was amazed by the variety of people around me. Sure, there were some scarily-fast looking blokes with complicated watches on talking about lap times and doing strange warm up poses in very short shorts. But there were also women with kids and men pushing prams. People with unruly, muddy dogs on leads. A group of women complaining noisily about how hungover they were. An old woman wearing a tracksuit made entirely out of pink velour. It was brilliant.

I didn’t come last. I broke my PB immediately, I felt exhilarated, and before I knew it I was completely addicted. Since then, Ian and I have been to park runs almost everywhere we go – from the Lake District (hilly) to Dublin (disorganised but excellently high-spirited) to Sheffield (competitive) to St Albans (BUSY). The concept of park run is that it is a free way for people to run 5k – get a bit of exercise, and record their times. It’s entirely volunteer-run and no matter what, it’s always incredibly friendly and feel good.

It doesn’t matter to me if I’ve run a crappy time, or had to walk, or even if it’s raining – I always come away glad I went. It just puts you in such a good mood for the rest of the day (and I feel less guilty about having a toasted cheese sandwich and drinking five glasses of wine on Saturday nights). Even the early mornings don't feel so bad when you realise your exercise for the weekend is done by 10am on Saturday morning. In December I returned to my ‘home’ park run of Southwark for the Tinsel Run, and, surrounded by Santas, I got a new PB - having knocked nearly 6 minutes off my original time. Which was amazing – but honestly, just running it, despite the freezing conditions, was so good – to see all these different people in Santa hats and reindeer ears, padding around the park, some old, some young, all just getting a bit of exercise in - it makes me so happy. Even when my husband laps me for the second time in one run (some things never change). 

So this year, I want to encourage you, if your new year's resolution is to start running, or to try new things – even if you think you can’t do it, even if you have to walk-run the entire way, even if you think you hate running and you’ll never enjoy it – look up your local park run and give it a go one Saturday morning. Genuinely, and I hate to admit when my husband is right – it’s one of the best things I ever did. 


  1. I really want to start running more. I did it a lot a few years ago but then uni and work took over so I've resorted to going to the gym, I miss doing longer distances! I will definitely be signing up, this post really inspired me :D xx

    Jessie | allthingsbeautiful-x

  2. I'm not sure we have park runs in Belgium.. I mean of course we have some runs (Antwerp 10 miles, 20 km of Brussels), but I don't think that's the same thing? Or is it? :D confused person over here!

    I'm happy you've find yourself a fun and healthy hobby, way to go!


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