Tomorrow, I will be running my 100th parkrun! I’m so excited to be finally joining the 100-club (and getting a swanky new black t-shirt to show off). I ran my first parkrun on 3 January 2015, so it’s been a long time coming. Ever since that first run though, parkrun has been such an important part of my life, and has been a great constant even while moving countries… twice! I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to get involved with this great organisation, and I’m already looking ahead to getting my 250-shirt.
Early days: Mosman parkrun
Late 2014 I started to hear about this ‘parkrun’ thing, and was convinced by Kelly, a friend from Instagram, to give it a try. At the time I was living in Sydney, and my closest parkrun was in Mosman, starting at a glorious 7am on a Saturday! I remember really struggling through that first parkrun, as I was only just properly getting into running again. That first run took my 27:55, but already a spark was ignited. I was back the next week, and then as often as I could make it throughout the year.
As I kept going to parkrun, kept training and ultimately ran my first marathon, my times kept getting better and better. I first broke 24 minutes while touristing at nearby Curl Curl parkrun, running 23:44 on a freezing cold (for an Aussie!) 5°C morning in July and totally surprising myself with the result. This was when I realised that I had a shot at breaking the Mosman parkrun SW20-24 age record, which stood at 23:31. On 14th Nov I finally gave the record a shot, and was paced/shouted-at the last kilometre to smash it with a 22:24! A few weeks later I lowered it to 22:18, and it felt like such a massive achievement and a great indication of the progress I had made over the year.
Some other Aussie events
In this first year of parkrun, I already got my taste for parkrun tourism. There were only a few other events in Sydney at the time, but I made my trips to St Peters a few times, the aforementioned Curl Curl event and a visit to the Albert parkrun event in Melbourne. I also had a second ‘home’ parkrun at Mt Penang, which was the closest event to my parents house – although still a 40min drive away! I ran a 21:45 on the course in December, which must have be at/close to my PB for 2015, but the highlight was definitely the time my dad came along to volunteer.
The other memorable thing I got to do at parkruns in Australia was take part in a New Years Day double of epic proportions! For New Year 2015/16, my friends and I had travelled up to the Gold Coast in Queensland, and were staying quite close to the border with NSW. As it turned out, two parkruns, one on either side of the border, had organised to host a ‘double’ event! So on NYD 2016, I left my hungover friends behind, drove across the state border, changed time-zones, and ran a parkrun – then crossed back into Queensland, switched my clock back, and did it all again! Many of the same people ran both parkruns, and I took out 4th and then 1st place – a great way to start the year and to say farewell to parkrun in Australia.
Stats before moving to London:
Total parkruns: 30
Number of different parkruns: 7
Mile End, my new home in London
London, home of parkrun! I felt a bit lost when I first arrived, but my AirBnB (and subsequent first flat) was super close to Mile End parkrun and that’s where I found my new crew. In total I’ve run 26 parkruns at Mile End, and I know that course inside out, back-to-front, upside-down, blindfold me and I could probably still run it (- OK, please don’t). At first I was so shocked that the London events only start at 9am in the morning, but I certainly appreciated the sleep-in after Mosman. It became my routine to be there every Saturday morning, and the one time I slept in and missed it I was genuinely gutted.
On one glorious, completely insignificant Saturday morning in July I lined up on the start-line, set off hard and quickly realised I was in first place. I ran the rest of the race hoping that I could hold off the woman behind me, and somehow finished still in pole-position. It was my first London first-finish, and came with a stunning 20:45 PB to boot! It just came out of the blue, I may have even had a cold at the time. That time still stands as my 5km PB (but I’m hoping to break it soon!).
I didn’t do much parkrun tourism during my first year in London, at least, not to other nearby events. Towards the end of the year I moved to Fulham and ran a few times at the Fulham Palace event, but most of the tourism that I did do was outside of the city – at Brighton & Hove and Portobello parkrun in Edinburgh. Most notably, I went to the Amager Fælled parkrun in Copenhagen, which just happened to coincide with their 9th birthday! My niece Abi came along for her first parkrun, but I ensured her that cake and celebrations were not a standard Saturday morning occurrence 😂
One reason I was got into the routine of going to parkrun every Saturday morning was that I really wanted to reach my 50th parkrun. More specifically, I wanted to reach it before my trip back home to Sydney for a friend’s wedding/Sydney marathon, so that I could run my 50th back at Mosman parkrun. I was lucky enough to time it to perfection, and after getting up at 4am and driving the 1.5 hours from my parent’s place to parkrun (they live really far outside of Sydney) it was time to party! My awesome friends at Mosman had a ’50’ sign that I pinned to my shirt, and afterwards we went for coffee and catch-ups. The next day I ran a PB at the Sydney Marathon, so it must have been good luck.
Stats before 2017:
Total parkruns: 60
Number of different parkruns: 14
Exploring 17 in 2017
At the start of 2017, there were 34 different parkrun events in Greater London. That’s crazy! I figured it was high time to check some of them out, and so set out on a mini-challenge to visit 17 different London events within 2017. It was so much fun going around to the various events and seeing how different all the courses were. Some were flat, others hilly, some beautiful and some… less so. I also became grateful that UK parkruns only start at 9am, because it made the travel to each event much more feasible! Once I finished the 17 I wrote a comparison of the different London parkruns, and have since added Alexandra Palace and the new Clapham Common events to my London list. It did mean that for 2017 I didn’t really have a ‘home’ parkrun, but it didn’t matter. I met so many lovely people along the way, and felt like I was really part of the community. I even made the pilgrimage to Bushy Park to run the ‘original’ event – along with 1000+ others 😱
Venturing outside London I fit in some tourism at two English country-side events, Nonsuch and Southwick County Park, as well as running at the Bois de Boulogne event the day before Paris Marathon (little did I know it would become my new home event!). During my trip home to Australia at the end of the year, I succeeded in running parkrun every weekend: twice at the stunning Sandon Point parkrun near Wollongong, and one back at Mosman. I finished the year on 95 parkruns, narrowly missing the 100 mark. I also never set another PB, but did score one first female at Old Deer Park parkrun 🎉
Stats before moving to Paris:
Total parkruns: 95
Number of different parkruns: 32
Volunteering at Bois de Boulogne, Paris!
Reaching 100 parkruns is a big deal to me, and I wanted to be able to celebrate the milestone with friends at a home parkrun – not just move to a new country, run there a few times and then be like ‘cool, did it’. So I decided to focus on volunteering for a while to become part of the community at my new home parkrun at the Bois de Boulogne. It was also a chance to increase my number of volunteers beyond the ‘3-a-year’ that I had been doing. At Bois de Boulogne I discovered a wonderful, small team of people – we rarely get above 30 runners per week – and it tends to be the same core people who volunteer. I love getting a croissant and café after the run and learning about the French running scene from them. Since the start of the year I’ve volunteered there 10 times, and even once got to take on the role of Run Director which was lots of (stressful) fun!
I haven’t run more than one parkrun per month, at Bois de Boulogne, Montsouris and Clapham Common, but did squeeze in a few more ‘firsts’ thanks to the tiny Bois de Boulogne field. My PB from July 2016 stands, but who knows – tomorrow it could be broken!
I’m so grateful for everything that parkrun has given me, from the people to the places and to the events themselves. It’s been a crucial part of my running journey, and I know that I will continue attending parkrun every Saturday morning for as long as I possibly can.
Here’s to 100 – and beyond!
Total parkruns: 99
Number of different parkruns: 34
Best time: 20:45
Number of ‘first female’s: 9
(Fun story: in the process of writing this blog post I twice got blocked from the parkrun website for looking at too many stats 😂)