Love to run: What to expect at your first Parkrun

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Parkrun is one of running’s biggest success stories. If you’re considering running your first Parkrun, this guide has got you covered!

When you’re building up to your first 5k, it’s important to have a goal to work towards.

Many runners choose to run Parkrun as their 5k goal. 

First Parkrun: Why Parkrun?

It’s crazy to think that it was started by 13 amateur runners back in 2004 in south-west London.

It has grown to become a community of over 1 million runners and 543 parks worldwide – all in the space of 10 years!

Parkrun has changed running for good, attracting people who are not from a traditional athletic background.

It provides a good reason to get out of bed on a Saturday morning in the cities, towns and villages it touches. Even better, it’s completely free of charge.

When I went to my first Parkrun, I had some idea of what to expect, so I can imagine it could be quite daunting for beginner runners who are building up to their first 5k.

If you’re training to run your first 5k, then be sure to check out my 5k training tips

Here’s what to expect at your first Parkrun.

first parkrun

Lots of runners

Parkrun is extremely popular with runners of all shapes and sizes because it provides a fun, friendly and supportive environment in which to run a 5k.

Depending on where you do your first Parkrun, you can expect anything between 20 to 200 plus runners.

I once heard someone describe their local Parkrun as “a heard of wilderbeast setting off, only its the local teachers, postmen and councillors.”

This is a very apt description, but don’t let this put you off! Having lots of runners around you is actually quite exhilarating.

If you normally run solo or in a small group of people, running with 300 odd people can be weird but you learn to love it!

Fast and slow runners alike, and everything in between

As mentioned above, Parkrun attracts runners of all shapes and sizes and experienced and inexperienced runners alike.

Some people treat it as a proper race and try and get a personal best each time, whereas others treat it as a chilled, non-competitive jaunt in the park.

And don’t be surprised if you’re overtaken by someone running with a buggy or a dog – this is what’s so great about Parkrun!

Whatever your approach, I’m sure you’ll find someone who is doing the run for the same reasons.

And the most important part? Have fun!

first parkrun

The newbie briefing

If you’re completely new to Parkrun, I’d recommend you arrive early and go to the pre-race briefing that takes place at all Parkruns about 5-10 minutes before the race is due to begin.

In this briefing, they explain key things like the course, health and safety, runner etiquette, and what to do with your barcode.

If your unsure of anything, ask the briefing coordinator and they will happily answer your questions.

I’d also recommend you check out the run information on the main Parkrun website at www.parkrun.org.uk – each Parkrun location has their own page.

The main run briefing

Along with the pre-race briefing with new runners, a main briefing takes place just before the run for all runners.

This is conducted by the race director and typically includes key information about the race like course information, and shout outs to runners with birthdays or who are running a milestone run.

Whether it be your 5th, 10th, 50th or 200th Parkrun – you have a chance to be recognised in the main briefing if you get in touch with the race organisers before the race.

first parkrun

Your own personal, printed bar code

When you register for Parkrun, you will be given your own personal bar code.

Although you don’t need this bar code to enter the run, it’s essential you have it on the day if you want your run to be timed – so don’t forget it! You will have to print it and keep it safe on your run.

Unfortunately, Parkrun don’t yet offer digital bar codes for their runs but I’m sure this is on the cards.

To save your paper bar code getting damaged, I recommend you laminate it.

If your lamination skills are not quite up to scratch, another idea is to slot it under your mobile phone case (only if it’s transparent of course).

This is a handy way to keep it dry and have it on hand when you finish your run.

Fantastic volunteer support

Parkrun happens largely because its army of volunteers, who are almost all runners like you.

Each Parkrun is led by a small group of volunteers who form the ‘core team’, including the race director.

They make sure everything runs smoothly and everything is set up and packed away each week.

These volunteers also provide incredible support on the day, cheering runners on and motivating them to finish the run.

They are what make Parkrun happen!

If you would like to know more about volunteering opportunities, visit your local Parkrun page.

first parkrun

Your race results online

What’s great about Parkrun is that you get to view all your race results online.

Remember to create a profile and remember to take your bar code on the day of your run and get it scanned.

You can also opt in to receive your results via text message which is really handy.

You’ll need to opt in for this service via your personal profile at www.parkrun.com

What are your experiences with Parkrun? Comment below!

Caroline Geoghegan

Caroline Geoghegan (aka Run With Caroline) helps people become faster and stronger runners. She started her blog in 2018 to share her passion for running. Caroline is a UK Athletics qualified Run Leader and Run Coach and NASM qualified Personal Trainer.

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