I like to know exactly what’s going to happen when I try something new. So here’s a guide to ParkRun, attempting to answer all those ‘newbie’ questions I had before my first last weekend.
So, ParkRun is a free timed 5k event that usually takes place at 9am on a Saturday morning. There is also a Junior ParkRun that takes place on a Sunday.
So what do I need to do first?
Sign up! Use the website to find your nearest ParkRun, and then register with them. This is a short form and you’ll receive an email containing your barcode that you’ll need to take with you on the day. The barcode is the way of your receiving your results and timings.
Do I have to sign up?
No, you don’t have to. But if you don’t sign up you won’t get a time.
What time do I need to get there?
For your first time you’ll probably want to be there about 15-20mins before the start at 9am. This will give you time to get familiar with the area, and I’d recommend having a stretch too…! There’ll be a short briefing beforehand of any areas that might be hazardous (extra muddy etc) and a mention for those that have reached some milestones.
What about when I arrive?
For your first ParkRun there’s the option of having a short newbie chat with one of the volunteers with other new runners. This is a briefing for both those that haven’t been to ParkRun before and also for those that haven’t run at this location before. The volunteer will tell you how ParkRun works and also some specifics about the course. You can also ask any questions.
Do I need to do anything else beforehand?
Nope. Keep your barcode safe in your pocket (or sock, or attached to you somehow) as you’ll only need this at the end of the run. You don’t need to do anything else when you arrive. You don’t need to ‘sign in’ or anything like that.
Time to run…
It is stressed that ParkRun is a timed event, and not a race. So therefore you’re encouraged to go at your own pace and enjoy the experience, not to think of it as a race. You can run, jog or walk. Therefore, when you head to the start you’re going to want to position yourself correctly. If you’re like me (new and unfit) you’ll want to start at the back to avoid being trampled. More experienced runners to the front.
I don’t want to come last.
It’s physically impossible to come last, as there’s a trail walker sweeping up at the back. He or she will always be the last over the line. So that’s one load off your mind!
What happens at the end?
When you cross that finish line with relief and pride you’ll be funnelled in order to collect a small chip. Make sure you stay in line and in the position you crossed the line until you pick up your chip. You must take a chip, even if you don’t have a barcode or don’t want to know your time. Timings are done based on positions, so if one person does take their chip it throws the result out. Once you’ve picked it up you can then go and collapse on the ground in a heap. When you’re suitably ready, find the area where they are scanning chips and barcodes. This will link your position and time to your barcode for when results are later posted. If you don’t have a barcode, you must still hand in your chip.
Later on that day you’ll receive an email (or text if you’ve signed up to that service) stating your position, how many runners took part and your time. You’ll also get an idea of how well you did based on your age and gender.
I hope that helped all you possible newbies out there answer some newbie questions – because I definitely had them! If you have any more pop them in the comments and I’ll try and answer.