There really is nothing like Park Run - I have come to that ultimate conclusion this weekend. I loved Park Run anyway, but this Saturday I was able to see the community fully in action for the first time, and I felt so proud of what Park Run has created.
My friend was volunteering today; unable to run due to injury, she was on funnel duties handing out finishing tokens. We thus arrived earlier than normal and it was fascinating to watch Boultham Park in Lincoln slowly be descended on by hoards of eager runners. I stood and chatted to a new runner who had never been to Park Run before, and realised how easily and enthusiastically I could describe the experience to her, hopefully putting her nerves at ease!
After a tough marathon training week, I was really looking forward to this week's run. I was still chasing a sub 24 minute time too (a milestone for me in my quest to get back to my PB of 22.37) after being stuck in the 24 minute time zone on my last few visits. I was running for the first time by myself, but it did not feel like it stood with the 350 strong starting runners. I went off fast as usual, the first two kilometers being sub 5 minute splits. I then slowed slightly, the next two kilometers being roughly 5 minute splits. I tried not to let this panic me, as I knew I had ran the first section strong and thus had some time to play with. The last kilometer came and I felt this determination and confidence surge through me, a feeling that has often been missing on my last few visits. I started picking up the pace straight away, highlighting runners in front to catch up with. Coming into the final bend a quick glance at my watch told me I had 30 seconds remaining until 24 minutes was hit. I could not let myself fail this week, and I also wanted to collect my finish token from my friend feeling proud of myself. I sprinted as fast as I could, taking over two runners in the process, and virtually flung myself across the line, anything to stop the clock! My time, 23.55 - I had done it, running a super speedy final kilometer of 4 minutes 17secs. Finally!
After gathering myself, I was able to stand and watch other runners finish. Usually I have to rush away after running, but today I was able to stay and soak in the atmosphere. I loved watching people cross the line; the look on their face when they realised their time, so proud at knocking those extra seconds off, or simply just for finishing; the small children whose beaming smiles tell you how much they love being able to run around the park with their parent; and the resolute runners finishing towards the end, whose determination is probably greater than my own. It was all just fantastic to see, and moments which Park Run creates every single week. I also managed to spot the runner who I had stood chatting to at the start cross the finish, and made the effort to go over and speak to her. She had enjoyed the run greatly, and said if it had not been for the Park Run environment she would have given up if she had been out running alone.
I loved my Park Run morning, and not just because of my own personal achievement, but for being able to gain this new insight into Park Run. In an ideal world my friend would have been running, as no one likes/deserves to be injured. However, volunteering is a vital element of Park Run and the perfect way to give something back. I am definitely going to get my name on the rota this year as without the volunteer support, all the special moments, memories, experiences and triumphs happening across Park Runs around the world would simply not be possible.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...