Regular readers of my blog will know I have a love/hate relationship with parkrun. When I first got into running, especially 2014 I loved parkrun as I continued to improve and managed to do one every week that year. However, as I’ve improved and my view points have changed so has my passion for parkrun. Over the past few years there have been a few issues which has meant I end up going months between doing them. Parkrun is for all but I have noticed though you have to tread carefully if you say anything negative.
For me parkrun will always be treated as a 5k time/trial race regardless of what the official line is, if you time, have a start and finish line and publish results then it’s no different to any other race. The fact that it’s included on Power of 10 and Run Britain means it matters. I’m proud that I’ve now done 74 parkruns and everyone I have given it everything at every event. If you treat parkrun differently then that’s your choice and won’t think any differently of you. parkrun is for all, however if you treat them like I do, it is frustrating when things out of your control cost you a faster time. Then if you moan, you get the usual comments “it isn’t a race” “if it matters that much do a race”. My replies are something like “then stop timing them and publishing results like a proper race” and “I would but since parkrun has grown the amount of 5k’s road races has dropped”.
For me 5k is a good short distance to test where your fitness is and use it as a good tune up race, without the need to drop the training mileage or intensity. Plus as there are only 3.1 miles you can recover pretty fast. As I am targeting a few 10ks I wanted a 5k to gauge where I’m at and if my targets for my upcoming 10k’s were realistic. I’ve stopped doing ones in Sheffield as the fastest is too busy on 2nd lap. So my preferred options are either York or Stretford. York is pointless if it’s windy due to how open it is. So this left Stretford, bare in mind I’ve run 17:06 and 17:09 there (although always gotten it short). I’ve still always run 17:xx.
So we arrived early doors and I left family in the car, while I did a warm up and talked to Jacob Watson who smashed his HM PB last weekend at Manchester and has gotten stronger this year. Since I last did it, they have switched the route in the park, going clockwise round instead of anticlockwise. This means switchback happened earlier causing less congestion. Now I did the new route so it was fresh in my head.
After the usual briefing it was go time. I got a good start and my aim was to go hard and hold it. After a lap of the track we headed out to the park, as we turned the volunteer was stood in a position that meant the only way the front runners could go was on the old route. Knowing that 3 of those in front were regulars, I just assumed they had switched back to the original route. Off we went on the old route and I soon made my way up the field and felt really good. The first mile came up in 5:36. Fab I thought lets keep going, however next thing I see is the rest of the field coming the opposite way. This meant I had to took in as we ran single file to avoid a collision. This meant we ran through the tightest part of the course, past the park and then down the switch back, with hundreds of parkrunners coming the other way! It was dangerous and meant it was impossible to run this section hard. My pace dropped from 5:3X to over 8:00 while we dodged and weaved round everyone. We managed to pick it up again as we headed back towards the stadium.
At this point the RD came out and told us to carry on as it would still count as it was still the full distance. So we carried on and pace was good until we passed the back of the stadium, as we again hit runners coming the other way. With a few of them shouting at us. Again we had to run single file as those running other way would not move over, meaning we had to run on the grass to avoid collisions. This meant once again pace dropped and I scrapped a 6:15 2nd mile. The problem with the 2nd lap was the field running the correct way was really strung out. And we did not get a clear section again till after the switchback. As soon as there was room I went for it and took the lead and had two on my shoulder as I re-entered the stadium. One managed to slingshot past me with 200m to go and I was pipped off 1st. I crossed the line in 18:02 on the watch.
All the RD could do was apologise. I was frustrated as it’s a long way to go for something out of your control to cost you a quicker time, especially as I had geared the whole weekend around it. People say you can’t blame the volunteer, I say why not? Hats off to those who give up their morning to help volunteer, I’ve done plenty in the past from RD, scanner etc. However, I’m a firm believer in making sure whatever role you are doing you know your responsibilities. If it’s your job to stand on the course then surely it’s common sense to make sure you know which way to send runners. If not you ask the RD. However at same time those who do this weekly should have realised straight away, tourists like myself assume those doing the marshalling and regulars in front of you would know the course. This isn’t the first time it’s happened to me, it also happened at Milton Keynes when I was sent half a mile the wrong way! I think it took me 6 months before I did another parkrun!
So for getting my family up at the crack of dawn to chase a fast time, all I got was a lot of frustration and my slowest ever time at Stretford. It will be a while before I do another, as I don’t want to waste a weekend on a parkrun. I will stick to either doing a track session, hill session or find a race on a Sunday. This year has been one of frustration on the road, it’s the first year that I’ve really struggled to get motivated to race, then when I do it goes wrong. Racing for me is about either winning or chasing a PB. When I’m not I find it difficult to enjoy. I will never be a runner who enters something just to get round or just to finish. So I’m hoping my luck turns soon, at the moment as things look it will be the first year I’ve not set a new personal best at 5k, parkrun or 10k and that is a very hard pill to swallow!
- 2nd in 18:02
- Adidas parkrun tech t-shirt
- Adidas parkrun 7in shorts
- Adidas Adizero Adios 3
- Sockmine Griplock lightweight running socks
- Garmin 220