What is Parkrun?
If you don't already know what Parkrun is, it's a free 5km running event against the clock, that takes place right across the country. It's essentially open to anyone regardless of age or ability (dogs and people with prams are a common sight), you just have to be able to run 5km!
Their logo is pretty snazzy too.
Since starting 5 years ago, the Southampton event has gone from strength to strength with 700-800 people regularly turning up in the freezing cold, making it one of the most popular Parkruns in the country. There are now almost 80,000 events organised every weekend nationally.
It's also a very simple concept - all you have to do is register, turn up, and show a printed bar code to receive your time!
At the starting line.
There are many reasons why I participate in Parkrun. It may seem gruelling to pull yourself out of bed on a cold winter's morning when you've got no lectures, but there is nothing like the buzz of adrenaline that you feel immediately after completing an intense 5km run.
It's not just about physical wellbeing either - I run as much for the sense of enjoyment and achievement I get from beating my previous personal best. This for me is one of the fundamental benefits of Parkrun, as you get a clear barometer of just how much your fitness is improving. When I ran it for the first time, I started off running 5km in 30 minutes, but after just a couple of months I was posting increasingly quick times, getting it down to 22 and a half minutes.
Awareness of Parkrun has skyrocketed in recent years and, seeing as we're only just into 2017, it's never too late to start and keep your New Year's resolution!
Heading down the final straight!
Half Marathon preparation
In April, I'll be running the Southampton Half Marathon, and Parkrun is the ideal training to prepare for that. It may be less than a quarter of the 13 mile route (including through the University and over Itchen Bridge) that I'll be running then, but it is at least a good starting point and it's useful exercise. Even though you're running alongside lots of fellow participants, you can't escape the competitive edge when you're sprinting down the final straight and trying to overtake as many people as you can.
Of course, you could just simply go out and have a run on the Common at any time, but everyone who has become a part of the Parkrun family will tell you the same thing: the atmosphere and sense of camaraderie between runners is what makes it so special, and it helps you run faster at the same time!
Many thanks to the Southampton Parkrun Facebook team for allowing me to use their photos in my post today - click here if you'd like to sign up.
Stay posted more updates on my progress soon, including my fundraising efforts for charity!