I am very pleased there aren't any pictures of this one!
On Saturday I joined in our local Parkrun, which is a free timed 5k run that's open to anyone to join in. It's important to say for starters that I am most definitely NOT a runner and in the past I have used a large variety of excuses to stay out of a pair of trainers. I have done a few Race for Lifes (with no training at all) so I know I can move my feet faster when sponsorship is involved, so in principle I should be able to do it for my own benefit too, right? Hmmm...
The problem that I come up against every time is that fitness only works if you get into a routine of working on it regularly, otherwise you just get all of the pain and none of the gain. For some reason I hate running from home as it is all roads, junctions and dodging cars, and also not much fun when the nights start to draw in. But isn't it defeating the object to drive somewhere to do some running? Haven't I laughed at people who drive to the gym to spend an hour on a running machine, then drive home?
On the face of it, Parkrun seems designed for people like me. It is free; it's non competitive; it's timed each week, so you can see if you make progress; it's open to all comers; it's just far enough away for me to need to drive rather than walk so I don't feel too lazy. I have a friend who has been a regular for a while and was very encouraging, saying that the 150+ runners who go regularly are a friendly bunch and that the organisers wouldn't pack up and go home before I wobbled over the line.
So I grabbed the last parking space at 10 to 9 on Saturday morning and followed the stragglers to the pavillion at Eaton Park, just in time to see 200 gathered runners turn to face me and start moving towards the start line. My rapid retreat was possibly the fastest pace of the day!
The course is three laps of the Park, which is mercifully quite flat and on wide pavements. I found a place at the back and got started, falling into pace with two very friendly ladies who had also only been to a few races before. Like me they were not 'runners' but enjoyed the fresh air and exercise at the start of the weekend, and had both seen their times improve over around 10 events.
I continued with one of them for two laps, then had to run/walk the last lap to ensure I crossed the line on my own feet rather than on a stretcher. I was actually quite pleased that I kept a mooch/jog pace for as long as I did and think that one of my first targets will be to keep it up for the whole 5k.
From which you can tell that I would like to go again. I hesitate to get too over enthusiastic and say I'll be a regular, but I'll definitely be back. The only real downside was a general feeling that a lot of the people there were proper runners, using Parkrun as a benchmark for their training. But, other than being lapped by a lot of people, there was no sense of disadvantage at being a beginner, or being treated differently by the organisers. On the contrary, when I logged my time (second from last) the lady who registered me was really supportive, even though at the time I must have looked like my most significant achievement was survival.
My time? 37 minutes and 20 seconds. In fact, my Parkrun personal best :-)