I know, I know, how can I have been a runner for 7 years and never have done a parkrun? I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. Parkrun has become a regular date on most runner’s weekly calendar and Twitter overheats on a Saturday morning with race facts. So, what took me so long and was it worth the wait?
My running is my ‘me time’. I’m fiercely protective of it. It took me years to understand that taking a bit of time for myself puts me in much better shape to give more of myself the rest of the time. Saturday mornings however are not about me; they belong to the children. One needs driving to dance lessons and the other two need chaperoning to football. All three of them enjoy running but the longstanding commitments of their favourite hobbies can’t compete. It’s a 40 minute drive to my nearest parkrun so it’s not practical to fit it in between everything else.
I’ve always wanted to attend a parkrun as I firmly believe that sociable, community exercise is the best way to improve activity levels in this country. A holiday to visit relatives in Northern Ireland offered the perfect opportunity to dabble in the parkrun world.
Portrush is the only parkrun in the world that’s run entirely on sand. The East Strand beach is flat and wide and perfect for running. It’s an out and back route; heading around to the White Rocks and returning to the watersports centre 5k later.
Registering with parkrun and getting barcodes printed was very straightforward. I was delighted that both my boys and my husband wanted to join me.
The team of volunteers in Portrush were very welcoming and we were shown what to do with our barcodes and how it all worked. A pre-race briefing including cheers for those reaching parkrun milestones and claps for parkrun tourists brought everyone together. No fuss, no hassle, it was all very slick.
Down on the beach we lined up at the start. There were 242 runners! The morning sea mist hadn’t lifted and the air was damp and salty. I ran with my 11 year old son and my husband ran with my 9 year old. There were plenty of children, all abilities of adults and a few dogs. Running on the harder more compact sand at the shoreline made it easier underfoot though still slightly harder than smooth tarmac. The boys were great, running the whole thing in 31 and 32 minutes respectively. I had very mixed feelings about my son beating me in the sprint finish and coming in one second ahead of me! Apparently beating me had been his only aim of the morning. If only I’d known…….
Cakes, sweets and drinks were provided afterwards. Barcodes and finishing tokens scanned and results were up on the website really quickly. Again, a very smooth operation carried out with big smiles.
What a great way to start the day. We were all on a high and buzzing for ages afterwards. We’re definitely going to do another one when we get the chance. My daughter and dog are keen to join us next time.
It reaffirmed in my mind that activities like this are part of the solution to improve the nation’s health. People from all walks of life coming together to exercise, have fun and make friends. What better way to stay motivated and keep fit and healthy.
Parkrun, you’ve impressed me. I’m officially a fan and my family are too. A big round of applause to your Portrush team. I will definitely see them again, visiting the in-laws has taken on an appealing new twist!