My first parkrun (#1) Wycombe Rye parkrun
This is my first parkrun post, so apologies as it might be a bit longer than my usual blog posts.
A lot of people mentioned I should go and give parkrun a try, I never did until now. I completed a couch to fit and 5-10km course with a newly formed running club Hazlemere Runners in early 2017. Back then, my interest was increasing my running distance. My goal, to complete a half marathon and reach the Great North Run. Saturday was my long run day, so I never gave parkrun a try.
Although I knew about the parkrun concept, I was a little dubious about giving my local one a go. I had heard it was full of seasoned runners from another club, basically treating it as a race week in week out. This just did not appeal to me. I don’t have an interest in competing against other runners as I run for fun, the only person I compete with is myself. I’m sure a lot of club runners do not enter many five-kilometre races because they now are able to have a free timed run at parkrun. At the same time, not all will be racing week in week out, and some will just make it part of their weekly routine and like the social aspect of the weekly timed event.
parkrun is a simple concept. You can turn up on any Saturday, walk, jog or run 5k. For junior runners aged 4 to 14, there is a 2k run Sundays. A free weekly event for everyone, from club runners to wheelchair users (course permissible), and the elderly. Your speed does not matter, or even what you wear, parkrun is about taking part, promoting a healthy lifestyle, and encourages everyone to get their weekly dose of exercise. A friendly and sociable community event run entirely by volunteers and likeminded parkrunners set in parkland surroundings.
Since the inauguration in 2004 parkrun events have been popping up all over the UK and some even abroad. So, wherever you are, a parkrun will likely not be that far away. You do not have to stick to your local parkrun, you can run at any of the parkrun locations where ever they may be. The idea and family of parkrun are spreading quite quickly, now boasting over 3 million participants worldwide! More than 1,500 parks and open spaces host a parkrun around the world.
All you have to do to be able to participate is register on the parkrun website, then download and print your unique barcode. There are no bib numbers to wear, nor safety pins to faff around with. All you need is your printed barcode used to register your time to your name. When the parkrun is complete, the event team processes the results. Soon after you receive an email/text message with your run time, the results will also be posted on the local parkrun page.
I’ve created a parkrun parody to a well-known song which I feel summarises the concept. Sorry no sound, but I expect you will know the tune and hope you like :-).
Eventually, I decided to break my parkrun virginity by heading down to my local parkrun for their 350th run. This particular week my local running club Hazlemere Runners were supporting. To safely put the event on at Wycombe Rye parkrun you need 22 volunteers. Nearly all the volunteers were from Hazlemere Runners who took on the various roles that make parkrun possible. Positions required are; run director, marshals, barcode scanners, funnel manager, and more. They also provided pacemaker runners for those who wanted to target a specific time.
Aside from volunteering and supporting, Hazlemere Runners provided spot prizes. These were given to the runners with a finishing position number ending in a “50”. There was also a prize for the 100,000th runner to complete Wycombe Rye parkrun (subject to there being enough runners to make this possible). Well done Hazlemere Runners. At the finish there was a selection of cakes for runners.
Wycombe Rye parkrun #350. On the day, 38 parkrun first-timers including myself ran, and 38 parkrun tourists also ran at the Wycombe Rye parkrun for the first time. 617 runners in total took part, this was a new course attendance record, 50+ more than the previous record.
Wycombe Rye parkrun is located on the Rye, with a postcode of HP11 1QX. It is a large (circa 50 acres) open space grass park, one of the largest in the Wycombe district. Parking is available at the Lido, an open-air swimming pool, gym, and tennis courts, next to the meeting point. Toilets are conveniently located directly next to the car park. There is also a café by the entrance at the Lido open to the public for that much-needed cup of tea afterwards
The course as with all parkrun locations is 5km long. Most of the Wycombe Rye parkrun route is on hard paths and a small amount on the grass.
I would describe the course as basically an out and back type route, part with a loop. It starts on the grass a short distance away from the meeting point, then spirals in an anti-clockwise direction where it reaches a hard standing path and then runs, excuse the pun, alongside the River Wye. Towards the end of this section, the route passes an old Pann Mill. I believe this is still in working condition and opens just in the summer months. You then veer left passing an adventure playground on the way towards the Dyke. The Dyke is a long stretch of open water on the opposite side of the park to the River Wye, an artificial watercourse which is spring-fed from the Wycombe Abbey School grounds next door.
There is a slight elevation here as the route initially runs alongside on a tarmac path through a wooded area, and imagine it would provide a welcome bit of shade on a hot day. Reaching the end of the Dyke the route takes a left descending down a short yet somewhat steep slope onto the grass. This is where you loop back on yourself. The course then leads you to approximately 20 largish steps, nicknamed, the steps of delight, or as some say, the steps of doom. Once past these, you follow the way you came from, alongside the Dyke (this time on your right), then back towards and next to the River Wye retracing your steps to arrive at the finishing point.
There were fellow club members taking part, new and old as well as many other runners. The new runners were adopting the 1-minute run, 1-minute walk method using parkrun as part of their 0-5k running practice. It was great to see runners from all walks of life and abilities all joining in. I ran with a fellow club member and a running friend adopting the run-walk method joining in with the some of the new 0-5k beginner runners. This was ideal for me as I was slowly getting back into my running and building fitness. It also meant that it gave me a chance to become acquainted with my local course and the usual proceedings.
As I ran around the course, the marshals were encouraging all who passed them. Some even had handbells and were ringing them as you went past, a few must-have had aching arms by the end. It was nice to see friendly faces as I went around on my first parkrun.
Adopting the 1-minute run, 1-minute walk approach, I finished with a time of 39:56 in position 562.
If you have read some of my race recaps and reviews, you will know that I give each race a rating out of 5 using the Runiversity of life™ Runometer™ scoring system. For parkrun reviews and recaps, I have decided not to rate with a score as they are a free community event run by volunteers. Instead, I will write a summary of the different parkrun locations I visit, briefly describing the course and locality, etc. Every so often, I will give a recap and update of my local parkrun or ones I revisit to document my running journey.
Check out my other races and parkrun recaps and reviews.
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