Thursday, 8 November 2012

When is your parkrun birthday?

This post was inspired by my running buddy and Hanley parkrun regular Bobbie Hickman, through a post last weekend on our Facebook page:

"Just looking at past results and noticed that I did my 1st parkrun this weekend last year (5.11.12). I'm so glad I 'discovered' it and can't imagine Saturdays without parkrun. Thank you to all those people who've made the 1st year so much fun and to all the new friends I've made. (I'm coming over all emotional now ;-)."

Bobbie's comment, which also elicited a like from PSH for the parkrun seal of approval, got me thinking about my own parkrun birthday - I knew I'd started in November 2011 but couldn't remember the exact date. So I looked up my parkrun stats to discover that's it my parkrun birthday this coming weekend, as my first parkrun was on Saturday 12th November 2011. 
Like Bobbie said, I can't imagine Saturday mornings without parkrun now. I've completed 30 parkruns at Hanley in my first year as a parkrunner, as well as two parkruns away from home. I've volunteered most months and really enjoy responsibility for scanning barcodes and finishing tokens - it is a great chance to speak to every runner and try and learn a few names too. I've even had a go at writing the run report for our Hanley parkrun website. I would encourage all parkrunners to take a turn at volunteering - parkrun doesn't work without volunteers and any contribution is appreciated. I really enjoy feeling part of the volunteering team, working together to solve any problems which crop up.
So how would I describe my first year as a parkrunner? Back in February, when I first contributed to the parkrunfans blog, I identified some of things I love about parkrun (challenging myself to get faster, meeting new people, volunteering) and that hasn't changed at all. I also love the parkrun statistics and I've had a look at my progression.
My parkrun stats... for my first year in parkrun
Photo: Morning fritttered away trying to get some olympic tickets... no success so far but not giving up yet. Mood improved by the arrival of my lovely new trainers from Sweatshop - thanks to Sweatshop, Hanley parkrun and parkrun for my prize!
My parkrunner of the month prize!
As the graph shows, I spent the first few months as a parkrunner challenging myself to get faster - after a few tentative efforts round the hills of Hanley park, I got used to the course (and the likely locations of the Canada geese) and went on a parkrun PB streak lasting 9 runs... improving my best time by almost 4 minutes over 3 months. It was a great honour to be nominated as parkrunner of the month back in April and my shiny trainers from Sweatshop are much appreciated. I've been first female twice - something I never thought possible in a sporting capacity - and was really proud to be runner-up in the points race for Hanley parkun in its first year. So lots of personal achievements and a huge boost to my confidence as a runner.
But my first year as a parkrunner has been about so much more than personal achievements. It has been amazing to see the number of parkrunners at Hanley grow each week. At my first event, there were 39 runners. Now there are regularly more than 60 runners and we had 96 back in September for our first birthday. It would be great to break that 100 barrier soon. We've had lots of junior runners get their "10" t-shirts and we're looking forward to the first "50" t-shirt for a Hanley parkrun regular - that should happen early in 2013. We regularly fill all the tables in the cafe for our post-run oatcakes and chat - a ritual almost as important as the run itself.
I've added another reason to why I enjoy parkrunning in the last couple of months... and that's seeing new runners come along and give it a go. I've run/walked the course with a friend who has just started running, as well as running with other people from my running club to offer them encouragement and support. I love seeing the smiles on runner's faces as they break personal milestones, whether its 20 minutes, 30 minutes or 40 minutes, the sense of personal achievement is just as satisfying. And in between, I've tried to get back to my fastest time too, with other parkrunners taking the time to pace me round and provide me with advice. I'm really grateful to everyone who has helped and encouraged me in the last year - thanks so much for all that support.
So what do I want for my parkrun birthday? Well, I'd love a new PB, or even just to sneak back under 25 minutes again - I've managed that 3 times in my first year and it would be great to reach that milestone again. It would be fantastic to break the barrier of 100 runners too... that would be a great birthday present. But whatever happens on Saturday, as Bobbie posted on Facebook, I'm just really glad that I found parkrun (or parkrun found me) and I look forward to celebrating my birthday amongst friends, even if I can't stay for an oatcake this week.
When's your parkrun birthday? How will you celebrate?
Update (08/11/2013): I'm celebrating my second birthday this weekend and will be run director for the day at Hanley parkrun. I've now completed 70 parkruns and am the very proud owner of a 50 club t-shirt. I finally improved by PB but it took me a long time to get there. And I still love parkrunnning.

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