Five kilometres. 5,000 metres. 500,000 centimetres. 5,000,000 millimetres. 3.1 miles. However you think of it, parkrun is the same distance every week.
However, some weeks it can feel a lot, lot longer!
Here are five mental tricks you can use to make your weekly parkrun feel like a walk, jog or run in the park…
1. Break it down
If you find that thinking about the overall distance is daunting and overwhelming, especially early on when you still have “only 4.9k to go!”, break it down into smaller, manageable chunks.
This tactic can be used for everyone, whether you are walking the course in 75 minutes or speeding around in 15. We all cover the same distance.
For example, if you are planning to walk-run the course, instead of thinking “I can’t run for 5k non-stop”, set yourself lots of smaller targets. Focus on landmarks in the distance, whether a bench, tree or post and make it your goal to get there without stopping.
By doing so, you will often find yourself thinking “That wasn’t as hard as I thought” and next time you can pick a target slightly further away, until next thing you know you’re completing the course non-stop.
2. Visualise the finish
Everyone has spells during parkrun where your motivation may be waning, especially during the colder winter months. Use visualisation to find the carrot to tempt you to the finish.
For example, if the going gets tough, picture yourself charging strongly towards the finish funnel with a big smile on your face.
Or imagine how sweet that post-parkrun coffee or cup of tea is going to taste once you finish. And think about how happy and proud you are going to feel afterwards.
Our imaginations are powerful tools, so use them to your advantage!
3. Focus on your surroundings, not your watch
If you’ve set yourself a time target, whether that be to break 20, 30 or 60 minutes for the first time, or to finally nail your PB, there can be a strong temptation to check your watch or app every five seconds during your parkrun to see how you are doing.
Whilst this may seem a sensible idea, it can make things stressful either way. If you’re on for your target time, there’s pressure to keep it up, and if you’re slower than you had hoped for, it can demoralising and disheartening.
Try ditching your technology and focus on your surroundings. You’re up out of bed on a Saturday morning, in the great outdoors, being active – embrace the freedom. Soak it all in, ignore what the digits are telling you, and wait for the surprise as your results email drops into your inbox!
And if the thought of parkrunning “naked” and missing out on all the kudos is unthinkable, you could always try sticking some tape over the screen to avoid the temptation of looking at it until afterwards.
4. Become a maths genius
Another way to mix things up if you find the going tough during your parkrun is to count. It’s a great way to distract yourself and take your mind off how fast you are going, and how far you have to go.
The possibilities are limitless (not that we’re counting!). You could try counting up to 100 and then back down again, or count backwards from 1,000, or even try counting how many times you see certain things during parkrun, such as the number of milestone t-shirts, caps, birds or dogs.
Next thing you know, you’ll be at the finish, and one step closer to becoming a human calculator!
5. Give yourself a positive pep-talk
From time-to-time, everyone gives themselves a good talking to! But we don’t mean reading the riot act. If you solely focus on all the things you are doing wrong, you are more likely to repeat them in the future. Instead, focus on the positives.
Rather than thinking negatively along the lines of “I can’t do this” or “I need to stop”, think about how far you have progressed along your parkrun journey and how much you have improved.
Recalling all the times you found things hard, but overcame the adversity can be the inspiration to fuel your motivation. If you’ve made it this far, there’s nothing stopping you from achieving more now and in the future!
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