As their website notes, “parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in”. This month they celebrate their 13th birthday. Since July my daughter and I have been attending local parkruns, both the 5km runs on a Saturday and 2km runs for children on a Sunday. I have been watching and she has been running. We are very impressed by the whole set-up.
Back in August I set myself the target of joining her in the 5km runs before the end of September. I ran for 1 minute on 1 August, 2 minutes on 2 August, 3 minutes on 3 August, and so on till my longest run, 18 minutes on 18 August, at which point the pains around my left knee prompted me to stop and get some medical advice, so I have failed to reach my target.
My daughter’s achievements are much more noteworthy. She has, at various times, set course records for her age group in one of the 2km parkruns, and become the 3rd-fastest runner in her age group in one of the 5km parkruns. I mentioned in passing in this rather long piece about Weights and Measures: “She’s a good runner, though cross-country rather than sprinting is her strength”. She has proved it this month by competing in a cross-country event for schools and finishing first in a field of over 400 runners, from schools all across the borough. She has a gold medal to show for it.
At her age I would have jumped at the chance to run with other children regularly and competitively. At a younger age than she is now I used to run around the block on my own and time myself with a stop-watch. My father guessed that the distance was around a mile but eventually I measured it out as best I could (walking carefully and counting my steps) and figured it was more like a kilometre (or 1100 yards). My 1971 Puffin Readers’ Diary, which I wrote about here (including a screenshot), has the following entry for Saturday 10 April: “Ran a mile in 9-52”. By the following Wednesday this was down to “5-04”, so there’s no way that it could have been the full 1,760 yards.
I have, as so often, been vague enough about the details here to make it difficult for people who don’t know us to identify who my daughter is. I haven’t mentioned the borough that her school is in, and haven’t mentioned which of the parkruns she has taken part in. If I did there is so much easily accessible information on the parkrun website that you could find out, to within a name or two, exactly who she is. I’ll leave it vague for now but this easily accessible information that runners can get about their performances is another impressive feature of the whole parkrun phenomenon. I have been able to check the times of my daughter’s school-friends and their families. Some of them have been involved with parkruns for years. I hope to be able to join them in the near future, but if not will continue to cheer from the sidelines. It’s brought an end to our Marylebone Mornings for now, but that’s just fine.