I’m almost embarrassed to say this, not just as a runner, but as someone who writes about running. Writes Chris Broadbent.
Deep breath…here goes….I’ve just taken part in my first ever parkrun. I know, I know! It has been going for 10 years and there are over 250 events UK wide every week.
It just that I simply hadn’t got round to it. Pathetic I know. It wasn’t that I didn’t have every intention of doing so. I signed up for Crystal Palace parkrun in 2010 and the little printed barcodes have been scrunched up in my wallet pouch since.
Sometimes, life simply got in the way. Sometimes, a Friday night out killed off the possibility of the Saturday 9am start for this runner - a long-term devotee of the evening session. More forgivingly, sometimes I just felt the greater need for a longer run than 5k.
But on 10 May 2014, it finally happened, I officially became a parkrunner. I delicately took my barcode out of the wallet – the black bars barely readable from deep creases – and handed it to the cheerful volunteers at my local parkrun.
It wasn't Crystal Palace, but having since moved to Devon, my nearest event is the confusingly (or appropriately) named Parke parkrun, a relative newcomer to the international family of events. This was only its sixth staging. On average it is nudging towards 100 regular participants.
Held at a National Trust estate near Bovey Tracey on the edge of Dartmoor, the course is mainly off road and with hills and often sticky conditions underfoot. It is everything a PB course is not. But what it lacks in speed, it makes up for in scenery. With a stream, sweeping meadows, grazing sheep and lush forests providing a feast for the eyes.
So, how was my first Parkrun? It was everything I’d hoped it would be. On a completely personal level, I finished second in 20:52. So that put a skip in my step. As an organised event it simply could not be more straightforward from registering to the well marshalled course to quickly published results. No frills, yet brilliantly simple and free.
But if there was one word I would use to describe Parke Parkrun it would be ‘smiley’. Smiling volunteers, smiling runners, smiling families. Everyone smiled and everyone seemed happy about where they were and what they were doing. Is this the secret of Parkrun’s phenomenal success? A smile is infectious after all.
PICTURE: Courtesy of Parke Parkrun Flickr group