It’s a Saturday at 8.45am. The day before my thirtieth birthday. I drive down to a Cardiff supermarket and park up in the car park. I get out of the car and turn my back on the shop and follow the hoards of people heading towards the main road. Totally unsure about where I’m supposed to go, I follow the gaggle of people down some steps and onto the Taff Trail. From the top of the steps I can see a huge group of people all gathered to one side of the path. This is the start of the Cardiff Parkrun. An event that happens all over the country at 9am (9.30am in Scotland). An event where people willingly get out of bed on a Saturday morning to run 5km, or 3 miles in old money. I’m nervous, its only my third run since having Baby T but I make my way down the steps to get ready.
The people here all have their own way to get ready before Parkrun. Some are jogging up and down, some are stretching out their muscles but most people are standing around chatting. It’s a diverse group too. The age range spans from early teens, maybe younger, to people in their sixties and beyond. There are the serious runners in their club vests, the iPod runners, runners with all the gear, male runners, female runners, runners of all shapes and sizes. All with their own reason for being there. I bump into a friend of mine. Its her first Parkrun too. She’s been training for triathlon and this is almost like a training run for her.
Before long everyone is called to the start line for the 9am kick off. I nestle somewhere in the middle of the hundred plus group. We start and the crowd bustles over the start line for the 5k run along the River Taff, around the flower gardens and back to the start point. It’s a beautiful run. The first part is shaded by trees on either side of the trail. It then opens out into a park area. We’re directed around the gardens and back to the river trail.
My first Park run was on a gorgeous April morning. It was lovely and warm. My friend started to run with me but I soon told her to run on ahead. I just wanted to make it round. The 5k felt like it took forever and lots of people passed me, at one point a man pushing a buggy sprinted way ahead of me. A man with a dog on a lead also passed me. I was glad when my first Parkrun was over but it felt like an achievement after such a long time with no exercise.
I’ve now done four Parkruns. Three in Cardiff and one in Bushy Park, Teddington, close to where my parents live (an equally lovely run and the original Parkrun). Each Parkrun has been so welcoming and I’ve managed to talk to a few people when I’ve headed down there. There is a woman who is just getting back into running after being diagnosed with a heart condition for which she has had surgery. That was truly amazing. I’ve seen a girl at Bushy Park that I used to run against as a teenager. She’s also had a baby (FYI she’s still very good and was much faster than me, enough said). Lots and lots of physiotherapy colleagues. An ex Springbok rugby player who takes his two sons aged 9 and 7 with him to run each Saturday. I think most people who go down there have their Parkrun story.
The volunteers are fantastic and make sure that the events are really well organised. The website is also really good and if you’re (un)lucky enough your picture might appear on the event that you attended. There are T-Shirts for people who have made it to 25 and 50 Parkruns. I’m a long way off those marks at the moment. The best thing about it is you can make it as hard or easy as you want. For me just starting back its useful to gage how I’m improving every few weeks. People of all abilities are welcome and need not feel intimidated, it’s just about exercising as you feel able. I think it’s a great idea and is a fantastic way to get people exercising. The numbers at each Parkrun continue to grow and its amazing to think that every week thousands of people are going for a run at the same time (except if you live in Scotland. Why do they do it half hour later?)
So people, when are you going to do your first Parkrun? Go to www.parkrun.com to find your nearest Parkrun and join the running revolution.