Hieronymus Bosch does Park Run

Hieronymus Bosch, according to Wikipedia, is known for "his macabre and nightmarish depictions of hell."

Good, I have your attention.

Lots of people just love Park runs. To date I have avoided them completely. I therefore can’t say that I don’t like them because I’ve never run in one, but I can say that there have been enough negative reviews, if only a small number, to put me off. Once upon a time I advocated a sticky so that we could see the best and worst examples but I do remember taking a bit of stick for it. Heaven knows why, because I was trying to help, but Parkrun seems to be untouchable to many of you, so who am I to argue.

Why do I raise this again?

Well, as a group we tend to advocate Parkrun as a next step for the graduate or close-to-graduate. It happened again just this morning and I’ve been sceptical because it occurs to me that these events by their very nature will have varying levels of support, varying attendance levels and varying terrain. They can’t all be good for the beginner, all the time. But I should look on the positive side, they can’t all be bad either.

I know the folks who organise these events are volunteers and enthusiasts and I know I’m not entitled to expect slick levels of professionalism that I would experience at a major race, but be honest, would you book a holiday without looking for a review first? Buy a car? Running shoes even? No, of course not. You’re first Parkrun is going to be important, so why not be informed.

Having said all that, here’s what I’m going to do about it. I’m going to do a Parkrun.

Yes, that's right, I, this weekend will do a Park Run – and – I’m going to do the obvious thing and go to the nearest one to my front door. I’m going to be the first time runner who just turns up and just joins in. (Don’t worry, I’ve already been through registration online and I have my bar code, naturally) No preconceptions, no prejudice, no expectations, I’m going to show up with my bar code and give it a go.

Now, Saturdays are my ‘long run’ day and I wouldn’t normally consider 5k long enough, so since the start line is about 7.5k from home, I’m going to jog down there in good time for the start, then I’ll do the run and then, perhaps after a little socialising, I’ll jog back. Then, I’ll sit down and write a mini review and I’ll be completely honest about the event. If I enjoy it, I’ll say so. If I find my prejudices to be groundless, I will be open and honest about it. If I find my suspicions confirmed, expect me to be unequivocal.

Fair enough?

OK, so here’s my marking criteria:

Accessibility. Was it simple for the first timer to find out what to do?

Suitability. Was this a suitable run for the beginner?

Inclusivity. Was the established group welcoming of the newcomer?

I'm not going to tell you which one I'm going to do until I've done it. You'll have to wait. I'm happy to add anything else to my criteria – so let me know.

I’m quite looking forward to it.


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27 Replies

  • Looking forward to hearing how you get on, I think it helps to just check over the course online before going, but be prepared because occasionally some routes get changed. My local Parkrun has a 3 lap circuit or a 5 lap circuit depending on underfoot conditions but they only advertise the 3 lap course.

  • Let's be honest here, I'm no novice. I reckon I'll get through it, if not particularly quickly, whatever the course throws up. What I want o understand is How would a beginner, a novice, know what to expect? 3 laps? 5 laps? You're making my point for me there....

  • How much does a novice need to know, beyind the distance? 3 laps of 1.67k or 5 laps of 1k is still 5k. How much support do you need for a 5k run?

    I do think we over complicate the organised run thing a lot of the time. You turn up, you run. If you are feeling strong and the weather/route/atmosphere are good, you have a great time. If it's hillier than you expect, you are slower and ache more. If it's torrential rain, it's miserable going. If you feel crap or injue yourself, you have a bad day. That's about it.

  • Me? I need none at all. That's because I've spent the last year running at an organised, admittedly paid for, event pretty much every month. I love them. But oddly enough, this isn't about me, it's about the newly graduated optimistic, where-do-I-go-next runner.

    Let's find out.

  • A novice should know roughly what to expect by reading the course page on the Park Run website. I am going away at Easter and might do a Parkrun elsewhere, but in order to know where it is located I have checked out their page, the course, looked at the latest results to see roughly where I would finish. Perhaps it is just because I like to know before I start - I am not the type of person who could 100% rely on a satnav, I need a good old road atlas to see where I am going before I drive.

  • Looking forward to reading your analysis of your first park run, and like you I haven't attempted one yet but you never know I might follow in your footsteps. Happy running. 😊

  • Happy is the only running that's worthwhile..... That's why I'm going to do this!

  • +1 for the looking forward to it camp.

  • I genuinely wNt this to be a positive experience. I can't justify my current view based on no knowledge any longer. It's time to embrace the event and do it.

    Expect me to be completely honest afterwards.

  • I think this is a great idea, and because I've just graduated and done 3 parkruns I'll offer my take.

    I turned up a couple of weeks ahead of my intended run and spoke to some marshals. They were OK, but hardly enthusiastic. I also looked on the internet at the course description and in particular studied google maps. I was pretty sure I knew what to expect. The weekend of my graduation I went along again. I listened to the introduction for everyone and the introduction for first timers. Neither had any surprises.

    Everything during the race went according to plan. The marshals were fantastic, directing runners and shouting encouragement. I especially liked one marshal shouting the time at the half way mark. The finish line was a bit chaotic, but what can you expect with 300 runners milling about, getting dressed and stretching. I'm not the greatest socialiser, but nobody has spoken to me in three runs, and I still don't know where or when you can get tea afterwards. I suppose that's mostly my fault.

    Overall I'm quite impressed. With the parkrun page, google maps, the intro speech, and the marshals along the course, even beginners can't really go wrong. There was an article on here about how it works (timing and barcodes etc) and this should also be available on the parkrun pages (it probably is).

    My local parkrun is very flat (20 feet variation in elevation), all tarmac, and the route is obvious, so it isn't a (huge) challenge to anyone who has done c25k, but I bet they aren't all this easy.

    The only thing I think could be improved is the social side. I'm not sure how. Maybe the intro speech could mention the get-together afterwards.

    One other thing is that I'm phobic about dogs so I don't normally run outside. Parkrun is a great opportunity for me to run outside and to get timed. So I'm slightly biased.

  • That's a really great response, thank you. I am genuinely glad that you enjoyed it too. I don't think the social side is too important personally, but that's for each of us to decide. I think it's more important for a novice to feel that they are cared about. As I said, I will attempt to find out.

  • I am glad you enjoyed your parkrun, but if you want to know where to get a drink afterwards, then please ask someone. I have spoken to complete strangers at every parkrun that I have attended, generally by opening my mouth and talking to them and surprise, surprise everyone responds in a friendly manner. The British reticence about talking to strangers has a lot to do with people not having a good time at any social event. People at parkrun are friendly, you have running in common with them......just break the ice.

    This is coming from someone who loves the ethos of a worldwide organisation, which demonstrates people power at work and is welcoming of all, despite the fact that I have only taken part in one other organised run, simply for the reason that I prefer to run on my own. Long live parkrun.

  • Great post. I think you all know my story!!! I will be really interested To read your post and see how you get on. I hope you enjoy it. I wish I had. I will try again but not until I have greatly improved my time!! But then again thinking about it, I may not. I've done a couple of fun runs now and absolutely loved them. Will probably stick to them. I'm not competitive in the slightest. I just want to have fun!!! Look forward to hearing what you think!!!

  • Thank you. If it's not fun, it's not worth doing. My point is that we seem to say to new grads that this is the way to go. It might be, but not necessarily if you have to improve your time first. Perhaps that should be our recommendation - that you should be be able to run a 5k in a certain time. Maybe I'm talking nonsense and I will find it to be a genuinely inclusive and uplifting experience that the first timer will find to be joy personified.

    Who knows....

  • Who knows indeed!! You on Saturday!!!!

  • I'm intrigued to find out just why so many in this community are so protective of this.... phenomenon.

  • From the social point of view, Parkrun is no different to stepping into a new pub ( where you know nobody) for a pint - or riding on the London Underground. I personally find that MOST people are backwards in coming forwards and are not good at the small talk thing. So they don't!!! BUT - if you initiate conversation by showing some interest in THEM, then they quickly warm up!! :) I have had about 20 runs at my local parkrun, and am now finding that some people are calling me by name ( Hi Barry!) -- how they actually know my name , I am not sure -- maybe they do what I do - when I see somebody who I am interested in (like who is that 10 year old girl that always pips me at the post) , I will look at the published results and see if I can work out who she is. :)

    From a personal point of view, there are things that are a little annoying to me - like "yummie Mummies" pushing their racing prams (and starting right in the middle of the pack) , people with children running slowly alongside them ( and also starting right in the middle of the pack!!) , people who are obviously going to run 5K in 40 minutes+ ( and starting at the front of the pack) -- many times have the organisers tried to "advise" people to start in the correct pace zones ( clearly shown by volunteers with signs) - but the prevailing ethos of PR includes the getting of PB's and some put that higher in their priority list than doing the right thing!! So - the problem for me is usually not the organisation itself or the volunteers , but the runners!!! :)

  • Bazza, I'm not too worried about runners with their own reasons for going along, I'm more worried about inclusivity. Running, for me, is a very personal thing. It's me against the road, so I can hardly complain if others think the same way. If it turns out to be a golf-clubby type thing I will be very disappointed.

  • i think you just go along and see for yourself. one person's experience will be different to someone else's as there are so many different venues.

    Just bear in mind it's done by volunteers so don't expect five star service ☺

  • Agreed. It's not the organisation that I will criticise, if I criticise anything at all. I do understand that it's a labour of love for many. If I pay for an event, I'm entitled to expect a certain amount of quality. For a Parkrun, all I can really expect is to be treated equally. In ther words, there shouldn't be an assumed level of knowledge. Let's see. I have an open mind.

  • Depending on the size of the particular parkrun and on my limited understanding of your ability/times/level of fitness, I think you will be right up with the front of the middle runner pack!! :)

  • I took a look at last weeks results. In fairness, I'm familiar with the course, because I walk my dog in this particular park regularly. I expect to finish at about half way through the finishers. I have to say that that doesn't matter too much to me. I just want to feel that I'm part of something. That's the real test here.

  • I'll be interested to read your thoughts! I'm a recent graduate and have so far only fitted in two parkruns (at the same site), with an overwhelmingly positive experience. Despite there being over 150 runners I still felt personally welcomed. There was a thorough 'newbies' talk which explained the course and what to do with your barcode. All the marshals were amazingly cheerful and encouraging - we even had children playing 'Chariots of Fire' on their trumpets!! At the end we were swiftly ushered over to the cake table. The second time we went, one of the organisers recognised us from the week before and was delighted we'd come back!

    So, going by your criteria - very friendly and welcoming. I've been impressed with how well organised it is. For a new runner, it is a slightly more difficult course - very muddy and a little on the hilly side - but we were warned of this on the website and in the newbie talk.

    Anyway - that's my experience based on your criteria! Will be interested to hear of your impression.

  • I genuinely hope that I find it even half as much fun as your experience. It's time for me to get off the fence and find out for myself. The thing I would really value would be the location of your run together with your review in a sticky post so that we can all read it - and can all turn up to enjoy it!

  • I'm looking forward to your review but more importantly what did Hieronymus Bosch think of Park Run and did he manage a PB?

  • I'll certainly be interested to see your review. I've never done a park run and not really sure that I want to. It was definitely not on my list of priorities either before or after I graduated ;) And not because I had Hieronymus Bosch in mind either, just not sure how I'd feel about running in a crowd is all :D

  • Hi,

    Running in a crowd is great fun. There are always people of similar levels of ability who have the same fears as you. Not only that, but when you enter one of the events that I and many others around here have done, you get some lovely bling to boot!

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