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.
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.