Yesterday I ran my 40th parkrun. I ran my very first parkrun in January 2011, so it’s taken me nearly four years to get this far and I’m clearly going to be into my fifth year of parkrunning before I earn my 50-club T-shirt. That’s okay; I’ve also volunteered 192 times, according to the system (actually more, as I volunteered several times before anyone mentioned that this activity could be noted on the old Volunteer Management System) and I’ll easily reach 200 volunteering weeks before 50 runs.
The last three months I’ve run at Lloyd seven times, which is more frequently than I’ve ever managed before. That’s due to more people stepping forward to volunteer, which is great to see. I’m also grateful to Jenny Booth (my right-hand woman at Lloyd parkrun) for sometimes taking my place as Run Director on a day when we have extra last-minute volunteers, so that I can run.
Recovering from the injury (posterior tibial tendon tear in a cycling accident) which stopped me running for six months over the winter has given me additional appreciation for the chance to run the 5K of the parkrun. It has also reminded me what it’s like when five kilometers is a long way to run. Given that I ran my first half marathon in 2009 and my first ultramarathon in 2012, it’s easy to forget this and good to be reminded just how amazing it is for beginners to complete a parkrun.
parkrunning this often also has helped me to the realisation that I honestly like volunteering at parkrun as much as I like running in it.
I love the chance to push myself in the run, trying to creep back up towards something like my pre-injury speed (I’ve managed to pass 65% age graded three times recently, but I’m still a long way from my previous best of 70.24%).
Equally, I love watching and encouraging everyone during the run, seeing all the different running styles, the individual efforts and personal triumphs which are much more visible when you volunteer.
The cameraderie is great in both roles, but again there’s a difference in the feel between running, passing and being passed by other runners, calling out encouragement on the hill and perhaps being pushed on by someone on your shoulder – who in turn may be using you to “pull” them along as they try to catch you – and the chatting and banter between the finish line crew during the run, with the chances to briefly congratulate each runner on the finish line or as you scan their barcode, or to encourage every runner as they pass while you’re marshalling. I really enjoy both experiences.
And a final note: the first time I ran a parkrun I was one of 7,511 runners at 51 events in the UK, with 7,643 runners at 55 events globally. when I ran this Saturday I was one of nearly 49,000 runners at 300 events across the uK and globally, parkrun is exceeding 500 events weekly with 75,000-80,000 or more runners. Being part of that is amazing!