I’ve said it before but I can’t really labour the point with you enough; I am no hopeful athlete. I will never be an athlete and I am a-ok with that.
When I run- I sweat, I breathe like I’ve just chuffed my way through a packet of Benson’s and a tape of ‘aw here this is hard, let’s just stop right here Katy eh?’ plays in my head pretty much all of the time I’m plodding along. I get so hot I can’t wear a normal T-shirt as I feel like I’m going to fall over and throw up. Fun huh?
I still love doing parkrun every Saturday and I genuinely want you to experience it too. Hear me out why:
1. It’s Free– since I decided to be an ‘artist’ *makes flagrant arms gesture* this is a serious personal pulling point for me.
2. The People– other humans who do not know you will cheer you on. Some weeks life is tough, we all face down demons and challenges. Some of those you win, some (maybe really important ones) you lose. Every Saturday morning you can get up and take on a personal challenge that is clear- with a definitive start and end, clear parameters and the knowledge you CAN do it, it just might be hard. A friendly face cheering, encouraging and congratulating as you tackle and complete that warms your soul back through.
3. Tees Barrage– our parkrun in Stockton is lush. We set off from the Barrage, we run over Infinity, back over Millennium, and back up past Tees Rowing Club to the Barrage again. The view is amazing. It is epic running over Infinity Bridge and you can’t say it isn’t unless you’ve done it!
4. It’s Tough– its a hard one- this makes me feel nails for finishing it… in reality being slowed by u-turns means nothing to me but a little rest for a second (not wholly problematic). However, I complete one of the harder parkruns so go me.
5. Achievement– Some days you get a PB, that’s super exciting when you get the text, but every Saturday in some sense I feel I’ve achieved one- because I got up and got out and did it. I ignored everything in my head that told me it wasn’t for me or that it was too hard or I didn’t know anyone and I pushed my ass round that course. Every Saturday I get to the end that was my level best that day; I can keep that in my heart the rest of the week, I got out there and I did that for me.
Parkrun is a genuine community event. There are unbelievably fit people there. I worried before I dared to go to the first race that everyone would be elite runners and the whole thing was just going to be hideously embarrassing as I ran far behind them beetroot red and panting. It’s not, it’s inspirational to watch others powering down the river back to the barrage when you are still headed the other way. I’m glad for them and their achievements and for myself that I am involved in the same event.
At parkrun you compete against yourself. It’s your race and your time; sharing that experience with all the others there. The sense of that is palpable. Although, that said, the best time I’ve yet obtained was one day I was running behind a young girl about 10 or 11. She seemed to be wanting to drop back to meet with someone but her competitive young legs wanted to give it all they had got at the same time. Unsure of what to do, she slowed a few times so I drew level with her, spurring her to instantly speed up each time. It paced me and I shaved about 30 seconds off my time. I would have thanked her but couldn’t speak for about 5 mins after I got through the finishing line.
Young, old, women, men, buggies, fancy dress (today was run in style by a few for the 100th race at Tees Barrage), those getting fit, keeping fit and athletes all sprint, run, jog, walk their way round the 5k.
It makes me very proud to be part of it and its a beautiful way to see our town. Give it a go- every Saturday morning 9am Tees Barrage. Before the first race you need to register on their website to get your barcode- its wholly straightforward and again free- just click here. This means your times will be texted and emailed to you as well as collated online for you to compare. You also receive a weekly email of information about the larger parkrun community and after 50 and 100 runs are completed you get a t-shirt!! (I’m unnaturally excited about this t-shirt).
There is even a coffee shop in North Shore Watersports Centre just after the finish line where you can chat over your achievement with breakfast looking out over the Tees.
The founder of parkrun, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, was just listed in the Queens Honours List for a CBE – too right I say to that because he’s genuinely made people’s lives better, in both physical and mental health terms.
Get Up, Get Out & Get Running With Great People in Glorious Surroundings- that’s Real Stockton.