Mark Armstrong: parkrun is back but what can you expect?

Runners enjoy the 200th Catton Parkrun.
Picture: Nick Butcher

Parkrunners will be out in force around Norfolk this weekend. - Credit: Nick Butcher

It’s the weekend a lot of runners have been waiting for – parkrun is back. 

No parkrun events in England have been held since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic but after several delays they return tomorrow from the traditional starting time of 9am. 

After many new runners took to the sport during various lockdowns it could be the first opportunity for many to experience the parkrun phenomenon so I have put together a list of dos and don’ts that might just help any parkrun virgins. 

Don’t... 

Call it a race (but it kind of is). Officially parkrun is a ‘run’, not a race, but the beauty of it is that it is whatever you want it to be.  


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You can bust a gut to get a new 5K personal best but feel just as valued if your goal is to complete the distance in whatever way you can, however long it takes. You’ll never be last, as there’s a tail walker at each event. 

Don’t.. 

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Do... 

Listen to the preamble at the start, particularly if you’re visiting a new event. Five minutes before each event the race director will give instructions and these could be important if a temporary route has been put in place or if there’s a particularly slippery area of the course, for example. Don’t spend the time, as I did once, trying to work out how to turn down my headphones only to make them progressively louder. Not everyone appreciated the Greatest Showman belting out... 

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Do... 

Get there on time. Every single event starts at 9am sharp whether you’re there or not. We have Wymondham AC’s Andrew Lane to thank for this slightly later start as parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt wanted to start each event at 8am. 

Don’t... 

Forget to warm up. That first kilometre is really not going to feel nice if you haven’t warmed up the engine a little before launching into an all-out effort. 

Do... 

Say thank you to the marshals. Without them the events don’t happen and a lot of them would probably rather to be running but have sacrificed their time so you can run. With that in mind... 

Don’t...

Forget to volunteer in the future - just give a little back... 

Do... 

Remember your barcode as it’s a case of no barcode, no time. You have to officially register on the parkrun website and you will be given your own unique parkrun number. It’s worth printing this out the night before because you’re not going to want to be searching for paper at 8.45am, perhaps in a slightly hungover state, only to find you haven’t got any paper because your children have stolen it all in the name of ‘art’...  

Don’t... 

Go off too fast. This might be the most pointless thing I’ve ever written. If you’re new to parkrun then you WILL go off too fast but you can be forgiven if it’s your first event or you’re just far too exhilarated not to after such a long time away. However, do your best to settle into a pace you know you can maintain before winding it up in the last kilometre. 

Don’t...

Take your token home. When you finish, you’ll be given a finishing token and you need to then hand this in to one of the volunteers, who will scan both this and your barcode in order for you to receive a time, which will be emailed to you. 

Do... 

Get coffee and cake afterwards. It’s an unwritten law in our household that you must reward your 5K effort with a hit of caffeine and a treat. Don’t hate the player... 

Do... 

Get on with your day afterwards. Try not to constantly refresh your email for the majority of your Saturday waiting for your result to land. This is harder than you might expect, especially if you’re PB hunting. 

Do... 

Be smug afterwards. You’ve just nailed a 5K on a Saturday morning when most people haven’t even got out of their pyjamas. 

Don’t... 

Forget to enjoy it. Everyone has waited a long time for parkrun to come back and the sense of community it provides for so many. Whether you run well or not, it really doesn’t matter. There’s always next week to put it right. 

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