“parkrun isn’t a race, it’s a state of mind”

Last Saturday I had planned to run my first Bromley parkrun, but for a combination of reasons changed my mind the night before and switched to my geographically closest parkrun – Crystal Palace. I ran the couple of kilometres from home and arrived in Crystal Palace Park with 5 minutes or so to spare. Pretty early by my standards, I passed through the parkrun start line and continued my easy run to the end of the avenue of trees which frames the starting straight before doubling back.

My experience of parkrun, primarily at Dulwich with an increasingly generous dash of Crystal Palace recently, is that arriving even only 10 minutes early can quite easily lead to the conclusion that one is in the wrong place or the wrong time zone. Parkrunners seem to materialise out of the ether just in time. At first this seemed a bit disorganised to me, but now … With only a minute or so to go to the 9:00 start, I arrived back at a still very quiet start line. There were perhaps four or five of us at the most. As I came to a stop and the conclusion that this week’s event must have been cancelled I fell easily into conversation with the others.

One woman had come for her first parkrun “with a barcode and everything!” accompanied, I think, by her more parkrun experienced friend. One man, tallish and around my age, was sporting shiny new racing flats and I wondered aloud whether he was the individual who always ensures I’m at least second finisher in my age group at Crystal Palace. By exchanging names it was established that he, Tony, wasn’t said individual, but that nonetheless we were relatively well matched and would try a freedom run together.

From a running point of view I was surprised at just how well I ran given that I wasn’t within the normal congregation of parkrunners and, taking into account my statistical obsession, that I wasn’t going to be rewarded with an official time. I probably backed off a little in the final kilometre, but still finished within 30 seconds of my course PB. I recorded a lap point on my watch for my own time and left it running as I turned to see Tony pressing hard in the final part of the slightly uphill finish straight, held out my arm as a finishing line and encouraged him home. I stopped my watch and whilst we were both still recovering the other parkrunners we’d seen at the start briefly joined us and wondered aloud whether they fancied another lap …

Having regained the power of fluent conversation Tony and I contemplated our respective runs as we ambled across the park in the direction of some of his belongings that he’d creatively stashed in the undergrowth when he’d realised there were going to be no parkrun volunteers to leave them with. We then went our separate ways.

At no point did I consider being annoyed with parkrun “it’s supposed to be every Saturday at 9:00 isn’t it?” or with myself for not checking twitter, facebook or the parkrun website for cancellation information. I wasn’t frustrated that I’d missed a count towards my parkrun 50 club t-shirt or that I’d not had an opportunity to improve my course PB or that I missed running within a large group of similarly able runners. All these things are my strongest conscious motivators for parkrunning. And yet parkrunday 23 November was not a disappointment, it was one of my favourite parkruns.

Somehow today’s @theparkrunshow tweet and particularly the accompanying image, below, encouraged my thoughts to coalesce.

not-a-race

“parkrun isn’t a race, it’s a state of mind”

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