A Canadian Family’s First Experience of parkrun

This week’s guest post is from Kyra Paterson. Kyra is a 41 year old triathlete, runner, backcountry camper, canoeist, and blogger of racing and camping adventures. She lives in south-western Ontario, Canada, where she’s dreaming of her next outdoor adventure, and days away from her next race! You can find her blog, “Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete”, at http://kyraonthego.wordpress.com, or find her on Twitter: @kyrapaterson.

If you had told me at age 12 that one day I would do a 5k run with my English penpal Sally, our husbands (!) and kids (!!), I would have told you that you were crazy! I wasn’t a runner then, we had never met (I was in Canada), and a family was so far into the future as to be fantasy! Fast forward 28 years and that’s exactly what we did.

On Saturday July 5th, 2014, we laced up our shoes and participated in the Shrewsbury parkrun at The Quarry, in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England! Before making plans with Sally for the 3 full days we would spend with her and her family during our trip to England, Scotland and Wales, we had never even heard of a parkrun. No such thing exists in south-western Ontario, Canada, where we live (about 1 hour south-west of Toronto). I know now that parkrun, started in 2004, is “based on the simple, basic principles formed from the start: weekly, free, 5km, for everyone, forever”.

What a clever idea! A volunteer organized and led run that encourages everyone to participate, from children to accomplished athletes to parents pushing babies in strollers (these parents may also be accomplished athletes!). While it’s not a race – it’s a run – and there are no “winners”, you’ll see plenty of runners pushing themselves to run faster than they did the week before, and to earn a new personal best (PB)!

Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the founder of parkrun, believes that “no-one should ever have to pay to go running in their community regularly, safely and for fun”. I agree.

If you’ve done a parkrun before, you’ll know that you have to register the first time, which we did online at home in Canada, and you have to bring a barcode with you or you don’t get a recorded time. I printed off barcodes for myself, my husband Alasdair, my son Keaghan (then 11), and daughter Ailish (then 9). No one told me what not to do with my barcode…

Sally & Kyra pre-race!


Since it’s been more than 1 ½ years since our parkrun experience, the details are a little fuzzy! Whether a horn or a whistle or a shout started us off, I’m not sure, but the 8 of us, including Sally, her husband and 2 kids, and 216 other runners took off! We ran on tarmac paths along the River Severn, which was quite pretty. We split up right away, each running our own pace, though the 2 girls ran the whole 5k together. This was my daughter’s first time running that far.

I had never done a timed 5k before, so I decided to push myself to see what I could do. Alasdair intended to go easy, but then went hard! The course was relatively flat, with two fairly short inclines. In the end, I crossed the finish line in 27:05 according to my watch. When I reached into my water belt to get the barcode that I had carefully folded small enough so that it could fit into the zippered pocket, I found a soaking wet piece of paper that was impossible to unfold (apparently my water bottle was leaking – unbeknownst to be!)! It just ripped into a million bits. One of the helpful volunteers wrote my name down, along with the time on my watch, and that time became my official time, which was posted on the results page.

Heading for the finish line: Ailish in green and Harriet in pink on the right.

We were impressed with the organization of the parkrun, and as visitors from afar, we were even mentioned in the post race email.

I would highly recommend that if you haven’t been to a parkrun and there’s one near you, try it out! I think you’ll get hooked. And if you do, consider volunteering, since a run like this can’t function without volunteers. Check out my recent post, 10 Reasons to volunteer at a race (a running race, bike race, or a triathlon)!

Keep it up parkrun! This Canadian family enjoyed our first (and only!) parkrun experience!

Post race: Back row: Keaghan, Kyra, Alasdair, Stu; Middle row: Ailish, Sally; Front row: Finnen, Harriet.









One thought on “A Canadian Family’s First Experience of parkrun

  1. Pingback: Guest blog post: A Canadian Family’s First Experience Doing a parkrun | Kyra On The Go

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