I’m not sure if you’ve heard of parkrun – I hadn’t heard of them until I read an article in the local paper last week about one starting in our area. Such a cool idea – I’ll let the parkrun people explain it: parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and we encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; we welcome you all.
Sounds pretty good, yes? And when they launched a parkrun at Balmoral Beach in Sydney, a picturesque part of the world not far from where I live, I thought I would go along and see what it was all about. As an aside, I haven’t been running for over 12 months after being scared off by a couple of big injuries in quick succession. And I wanted to avoid going back to the physio’s torture chamber and putting on those horrific communal short shorts (which I wrote about here last year).
Saturday was a lovely day in Sydney and I arrived at Balmoral about 10 minutes before the 7am start. There were an assortment of people there – almost all of them looking like super fit and fast runners, sponsored by major sporting brands. I started to suspect that the parkrun promise – encouraging people of all abilities to take part – had not quite reached glamorous Balmoral.
I skirted the edges of the group, still thinking I could skulk away and get a coffee and just watch them, but then summoned up the courage to speak to a volunteer in a fluoro green vest. Meg was a parkrunner from Curl Curl on Sydney’s northern beaches and had come to help out with the first ever Mosman parkrun. She assured me that there would be lots of ‘normal’ people there, even some walkers, but as we looked around the group, I think we both doubted whether that was true. Then I saw some people with prams and a few older ladies and thought I might as well give it a go.
And so I did. I ran the whole way – more of a shuffle than a run, mostly – and when I was tempted to walk, the words of my Camino buddy Shane rang in my head: DO NOT STOP. And so I didn’t. The atmosphere was lovely and there were lots of smiles and high fives from the 102 runners – the fastest ran past like a blur and finished in half the time it took me, but I was very happy just to get to the end and find the earlier finishers hanging around to clap and cheer the slower peeps.
So, that was a great start to Saturday morning – exercising (for free!) in a beautiful place with nice people – and all done before 8am. Everyone was nodding and smiling and looking forward to building this little community that had just formed.
Now I don’t want to get political, but this story has since taken a bad turn. By yesterday, Mosman Council had squashed the new parkrun community like a bug – cancelling the Balmoral run because of blah blah blah. An annoying setback, but hopefully the organisers will be able to come up with a different route that doesn’t upset the precious people and lets the parkrun community thrive. If only so I can try and beat my first run time and feel like an Olympian with a new PB!