Exercise is a key aspect in the physical health of the entire population. We mustn’t confuse exercise and competition or exercise and sport – they are different entities. In our Honest opinion, not everybody need do sport – it’s not something that floats everyone’s boats. But exercise and physical activity is vital – it’s something which will prolong life, make everyday tasks easier and often improve the way you feel about yourself.
The parkrun bridges all of the gaps above and has taken the UK by storm. It’s a weekly run – not race – which is free to everyone. It has improved participation rates and destigmatised the concept of running as an elitist sport. Here, Paul Zara describes why he loves parkrun.
Why I love parkrun
parkrun (with a lower case ‘p’ please), is a rather special running event – friendly, free, inclusive, local and, most of all, a lot of fun.
It’s a 5k fun run held at 9am every Saturday at loads of sites around the UK and at locations around the world.
I started doing it just because my friend Pete and I wanted to get our son’s football team a bit fitter. Only a couple of them turned up the first time we went. The second time – none. But we were hooked. We went to Hove Park parkrun week after week. We both managed to improve our times for a while, but now it’s become more of a social thing. We’ve made new friends, watched skinny teenagers sprint the course in 15 minutes and lovely old ladies determinedly finish in 45. We drink good coffee afterwards in the very pleasant cafe. After maybe a year of parkruns we felt fairly confident as runners and one evening, after a couple of glasses of wine, we decided we would enter a marathon, the first Brighton Marathon.
Building up your confidence with regular 5ks makes it easier to try a few 10k runs. From there a half marathon was a relatively comfortable step. But marathons are a different league. I did the first Brighton Marathon with huge trepidation. I’d never walked 26 miles, let alone run that far. By the end of the first one I was happy but wrecked. Totally wrecked. Such a long way and a really hot day! But it’s right up there in the ‘best days of my life’ league table.
I carried on with parkrun – kept the regular runs going during the week too. And now I’ve done over 200 of them. That’s a million metres around Hove Park. Sounds mad when you put it like that. But for the guy that was a no-hoper at sport at school (handkerchiefs out please) that sounds like an achievement to me. And I’ve run all four Brighton Marathons. I’m not getting faster but it is getting easier. I loved it this year. And it’s all thanks to parkrun for introducing me to the glorious addiction of running. There are new parkruns opening all the time so it’s likely there’s one near you. Try it once. If you don’t like it that’s fine, but if you do then your weekends will be getting off to a healthy start week after week. With free T shirts after 50, 100 and 250 runs to give you a target!
I’m writing this after an early morning jog along Hove seafront – no better way to start the day. (Except maybe a Kevin Betts personal training session – do I get a free one for adding that?)
Paul Zara is an architect who lives in Brighton and Hove. He is Director at Conran and Partners
He is also a personal training client of Kevin