The beginner runner’s course at Bristol and West Athletic club completed, it was time to move on to my first proper running challenge – a timed 5k race. It’s just you against the clock!run22

Goodness, I’m starting to sound like a proper runner.

The enthusiastic run leaders from Bristol and West Athletic club galvanised our beginner’s group into taking part in a Park Run.run23

Park Run is an international exercise phenomenon started about 10 years ago by a group of running enthusiasts in Bushy Park, Teddington near London The premise was to organise a weekly free timed 5k run in a local park. It was open to anyone who wanted to turn up and join in. It took a couple of years for the idea to really take off but there are now dozens of Park Runs going on all over the country every Saturday – no matter where you live you practically have no excuse! Now every week thousands take part in Park Runs from Inverness in Scotland to Penrose in Cornwall. The week I took part they recorded over 100,000 participants in the UK for the first time.run24

Although our run leaders assured us we were ready to tackle the run, a whole three miles felt like a jolly long way to keep going without stopping – in the company of hundreds of others. Plenty of opportunity for over-enthusiastic sprinting at the start so as not to look too lardy, followed by embarrassing running out of puff or an unfortunate attack of stitch soon afterwards.
In order to get your time for your run you first have to register on the website where you then get assigned a bar code to print out and take with you. It’s very simple and straight forward and no necessity to create an account or password.
In the Bristol area there are currently four Park Runs to choose from: run in Ashton Court, Little Stoke, Chipping Sodbury and Pomphrey Hill, Mangotsfield. We did the Little Stoke one – mainly because it is a flat course! So on a very cold March morning I found myself shivering in the car park of the playing fields at Little Stoke in Patchway, indulging in some half hearted attempts at a warm up as a crowd of more than 200 other runners gathered to run the three laps round Little Stoke playing fields.run25

To avoid being crushed in the stampede I hung back at the start to keep out of the way of the fast runners. Helpful bright yellow signs dotted round the course tell you how far you have run. Felt quite chipper when I saw a sign declaring 2km only to then see in much smaller print underneath (2nd lap). Because it is a three lap course you inevitably get lapped by the faster runners who can complete the 5k in virtually half the time it took me. But while there are clearly some very fit, very capable runners taking part who probably are competing against each other a little bit, the run really is about your own effort and achievement.
You get your official time a little later in the day when it is e-mailed to you. I was very excited to see that I had come 3rd in my age category only to later discover there were only three women in my ancient age category running! Overall I was 174 out of 220 runners; 66th out of 101 women running with an age grade rating of 57.46%. Not quite sure what that means – but I believe the higher the number the better!
So will I be doing it again – you bet. Can’t run, Won’t run – bloody well can run!run26
For more information about Park Run visit:

I’ve cheekily included some images from the Park Run website here. Hope they don’t mind. Was so busy running I forgot about photos!

NHS guidance for beginners running, pleased to see it advises joining a club as I’ve done
Runner’s world website – beginners:

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