Sunday, 21 November 2010


I am too cheap and ill-disciplined to join a proper athletics club. I'm not good at speedwork and track sessions and hill reps and I generally begrudge anything that replaces a nice long run in the countryside. This is why the Edinburgh Hash House Harriers suits me as a club, with no pressure to attend training sessions and very little pressure to do anything when you do show up (except to drink beer...).

However, the Hash is perhaps a little too far away from actual running for my liking. Sometimes I really do want to know how far I've run, and how fast, and have some friendly competition. And now I've got it, because I've discovered parkrun. Parkrun is a national organisation offering free, weekly races, on professionally measured courses where every competitor's time is digitally recorded. All you have to do to get involved is register online and print off your personalised barcode. Mine looks like this (though not actually, because I've scrambled it - can't have you lot turning up to races and skewing my stats...):

I showed up on Cramond promenade for my local parkrun just after 9am on Saturday morning, and was bowled over both by the wind and the sheer number of people warming up for the race. A quick briefing for the first timers and then we're off with very little drama. We battled against a monster headwind for 2.5k, heading east towards Granton, before turning around and coasting back on the same tailwind for the rest of the course. This isn't really a race - it's supposed to be an opportunity to measure your progress and chase your own PB.

This doesn't stop me racing. I have a 5k Christmas fun run coming up on December 5th (more detail to follow), which I'm taking excessively seriously and so I've been working on this distance rather more than usual. I settle into a brisk pace against the wind, astounded at the range of ages and abilities of the people around me. An 11 year-old stays consistently ahead of me - every time I catch up with him he brings on another enormous surge. At one point he stops to tie his shoelaces, then gets up and sprints to catch up to his pack. Unbelievable. Behind me a rather older chap with an impressive moustache seems to be chasing me. I just about stay ahead. After the turnaround I'm passing whole families, mothers jogging with buggies and older men and women. This is an extremely inclusive event.

Just crossing the finish line, man with impressive moustache behind.
Linds took this photo, when she was very cold...
I make it to the finish line, a few seconds behind the incredible 11 year-old, but a few seconds ahead of the impressive moustache. A marshall makes a note on a tablet PC as I cross the line and I'm handed another barcode. I present both my own barcode and this finish-time one to a marshall with a scanner and a laptop. An hour later very detailed results for the whole race are posted online, and my personal data emailed to me.

"Your time was 20:43. You finished in 29th place and were the 28th gent out of a field of 178 parkrunners and you came 2nd in your age category SM20-24.

You achieved an age-graded score of 62.27%. 
You have earned 73 points for this run, giving a total of 73 points in this year's Edinburgh points competition."

This is really impressive stuff. With 178 people finishing the 5k course, this is a really good-sized field for this kind of event - a proper community feel. I finished in 20:43 and 29th overall, and this suits me fine, as parkrun tracks how much you're improving online so it would be nonsense to try too hard on the first go...

If you need a bit of motivation or just want to run a perfectly-measured course, consider having a crack at your local parkrun - you've got literally nothing to lose.

Happy running!



  1. Good stuff Dave, might give parkrun a try. 9am on a Saturday is bit harsh though - that's my designated hangover time! In other news, I need some new trainers c.£70 - any tips (anyone)?
    Alex (Searle variety)

  2. Fair enough, 9 really is a bit early. It was a touch and go that I made it to be honest (and I was annoyed at that 11 year old because he probably hadn't put away a few drinks the night before...).

    I'm running in Saucony Omni 8's at the moment - they've been usurped since I bought them by the Omni 9s. Good piece of kit but I'll be going back to Asics for my next pair, probably whatever the latest 3000 series is. Best advice is to try a load on and see what suits.

    Hope you're well, all the best!