My favourite parkrun… ever

As a parkrunner, we are all aware that the events are open to runners of all ages and abilities and I, for one, am often amazed at just how fast some of the junior runners are.

I’ve always hoped that my boys would get into parkrun as a way of being active, socialising with lots of different people and enjoying a great community event. Both boys (aged 6 and 4) have been to parkrun events on numerous occasions, help out where or how they can and are fairly well known amongst the regulars at Eastleigh, Netley Abbey and Southampton. However, other than an attempt to run around with them 18 months or so ago at Lakeside which was less than successful (tears from both within about 200 metres followed by having to carry them around the rest of the lap), neither has completed a parkrun.

Daniel, our 6 year old, has been talking about wanting to get fit and strong for a while now (not sure what prompted that!) and has swim for most of his life. He occasionally gets on our treadmill for 20 minutes while watching cartoons on the iPad but he’s never run any real distance. During our recent holiday, he was very pleased to have beaten me in a mini-race from the swimming complex to the accommodation. Of course it was staged but it made him feel proud and he reminds me often that he’s a faster runner than me!

I found out a few days ago that they have a cross-country team in the Junior school Daniel will go to in September. Given Daniel’s lack of coordination and the fact that he’s not very sporty made me think that if I could get him into parkrun then maybe, just maybe, he’d want to join the x-country team at school. His football skills are awful!!

Earlier this week, I thought I’d ask if if he wanted to run at a parkrun and he gave a very excited reply. I then explained about the 10, 50, 100 and 250 T-shirts and he got even more excited and started telling me who he wanted to show his 250 T-shirt too. When I explained that it would take almost 5 years of going every weekend, he didn’t lose any enthusiasm.

For the next few days, I was expecting him to change his mind but every time I asked if wanted to go to parkrun, he replied ‘yes!’

On Saturday morning, we layered up and headed out to Fleming Park for my 40th parkrun and Daniel’s first.

As we arrived, Daniel looked a little unhappy. He thought he was just racing his ‘daddy’ and not 80+ other runners as well.

Once the pre-run brief was over, we headed to the back of the pack at the start line.

As the air-horn sounded, he sped off. Being concerned whether Daniel would complete the 5km, I had to reel him in. For the rest of the run, we walk/ran the course. When he wanted to stop running, we either stopped or I encouraged Daniel to run a little further before slowing down. To make it easier for him to judge how far through the run we were, I told Daniel that we had to get to 500 and then kept him informed of how many 10m sections we’d completed.

By 2.5km, Daniel was tiring and we were having to have to take more regular walk breaks. However, we kept going.

As we crossed the finish funnel area for the last lap, we had to lose a few layers and grab a (forgotten) drink before heading out for the last mile.

We continued our walk/run strategy and having hydrated a little, Daniel found some more energy. He kept telling me his heart was really beating and clutching his chest. I was a little worried especially when he said he felt a little sick (visions of him yodelling across the line sprang to mind!) All the way around, I gave him almost constant feedback about how well he was doing, how proud he’d feel to complete the run, how proud I was of him and how far we had to go ’til the finish.

We had one more walk break and then it was time for a sprint to the finish. I had to explain what a sprint was and then Daniel accelerated. I kept behind him, telling him I was going to beat him across the line weaving from one side to the other. Daniel was laughing and ahead of me, heading for the finish funnel.

For some reason, he almost ran to one side of the funnel. Fortunately, trusty Ron was there to guide him into the funnel. The marshals all shouted lots of encouragement as he finished a step or two ahead of me. We crossed the line in 38:53. What a result. Our hopes of sub-50 beaten by a healthy margin.

Daniel was really happy. He’d completed his first parkrun and was keen to do his second.

I am very proud that Daniel completed the 5km in a very reasonable time.

I wish someone had captured a picture of his face as he headed for the line. I wish his mum had been there to see him finish. Hopefully next week.

There is no other event that I’m aware of where you can enjoy sport with your baby, children, parents, grandparents, dogs and world-class athletes at the same time. parkrun is truly inspiring, inclusive and amazing. For those that don’t believe that children should participate, I would recommend they take their children, grandchildren or other related children with them and enjoy the event together. It’s truly special.

I started running to be fit for my family and have always wanted to share the parkrun experience with my boys.

If Daniel wants to keep parkrunning, I’ll be happy to run with him rather than run alone. My parkrun PB, which I’d hope to beat this year, can wait until both Daniel and I can beat that PB together. I’m even willing to change my races planned for 2013 so I can take Daniel to more parkruns.

The aim of the Olympic Legacy is to inspire a generation. parkrun simply does this and does this simply every week. We inspire generations both old and new every week.

A special day. The first of many hopefully.

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One thought on “My favourite parkrun… ever

  1. That’s fantastic, James. I really hope that Daniel is keen to attend a couple of times a month and that, in time, his brother wants to join you… then you just need to work on your wife and your dogs 😉

    I dream of doing a parkrun with my brother and sister and my mum has promised to try next time she visits Southampton. It will definitely be a jog walk strategy, but I know she can do it… my stubborn streak came from her!

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