There are two things that I really hate: running and getting up early on a weekend. For these reasons, I had never really felt that parkrun would be my cup of tea. Unfortunately for me, this became non-optional during a holiday to Canada to visit my friend Bex. Bex is the Event Director of Richmond Olympic parkrun and casually informed me that if I was to visit her, my attendance would be mandatory at parkruns in both Calgary and Richmond, in line with our travel plans. This was not how I had envisaged my holiday.
I can honestly say that I was dreading the first event we attended on a hot Saturday morning in Calgary; although I accepted that it would help counter-balance the vast quantities of fried food we had eaten at the famous Stampede the previous day. My main worries were about my very slow plodding run, would everyone else speed off and I’d end up last? Would my legs give up on me halfway up the seemingly vertical hill near the end? My mind was quickly taken off this when we arrived and I found a fellow Geordie, identifying me by Newcastle United shirt, attending with her children on their holiday. There were around 50 runners of all ages and soon there was nothing left to do but make a start. As I ambled away from the start line the faster runners quickly became specks in the distance but to my relief I found that others around me were running at a similar pace, running in intervals or walking, meaning that I never felt that I was running on my own or was out of my depth.
I gradually made my way around the course and found that I enjoyed having the company of other runners around me. When I finally made it to the epic hill close to the end of the course I was determined to make it up without walking, and powered by deep-fried cheesecake and the warbling tones of Celine Dion in my ears, I laboured up and made it to the finish line. I had completed my first ever parkrun.
My second ever parkrun came two weeks later at Richmond Olympic and I was delighted to see that not only was the course very flat and the weather much cooler, there was even another token Geordie running. I felt much more confident that I would be able to get round the course intact and managed to do so more than three minutes faster than I had two weeks earlier. Again I enjoyed running with people of all ages and abilities and particularly rewarding ourselves with coffee and a doughnut from Tim Horton’s afterwards.
I am now back in the UK and much to the amazement of my partner I have today dragged myself out of bed on a Saturday morning to complete my third parkrun at Woodhouse Moor in Leeds, something I never thought I would say! My advice to any other reluctant runners (or reluctant early risers) is to take the plunge and give it a go. parkrun is for keen runners and those of us who are not natural athletes, and everybody in between.
By Nicole Woodward, recent parkrun convert
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