In Praise of ParkRun

ParkRun Route and Chart

If you like running and have not heard of ParkRun, you are in for a pleasant surprise. ParkRun refers to free 5km events, held on Saturday mornings, across a wide range of countries. All of the ParkRuns are free, run by volunteers, and are a great way to run with other people and a great way to volunteer.

In Nottingham, we have several local Parkruns, all of which take place on Saturday mornings, at 9am. You can find our more about ParkRun by clicking here.

Next week, I am running in the Robin Hood Half Marathon, so a ParkRun today was a good opportunity to see what sort of form I am in. I have been doing lots of longer events, which means my general fitness is good, but my speed and my tolerance of running faster are not at the level I would like them to be.

I decided to take part in the Colwick ParkRun. Leaving home about just after 8am, I jogged the 5.6km to the race*. I was wearing my chest-band heart rate monitor and set myself a target of running the ParkRun at 145 beats per minute (close to the top of my range**).

The run went well, I was able to keep a steady pace of about 4 minutes 30 seconds per km. I completed the course in 22 minutes 29 seconds. I finished 39th out of the 371 runners, 2nd in my age group (men aged 65 to 69), with an age grade score of 75.3%. My BPM was 146, almost exactly on target. The chart below makes the course look hilly; however, the total climb over the 5 km was just 38 metres, the low point of the course was 20m above sea level and the highest point was 29m above the sea level – i.e. the route is actually almost flat.

After the race, I jogged the 5.6km home, giving me 16.4 km for the morning.

If you like running, check out if there is a ParkRun in your area. You need to register online and download a barcode. ParkRun is in lots of countries, as the map below shows.

*Race, strictly speaking, ParkRun is not a race. Most of the people taking part are not racing. I was running it like a race because I wanted to test myself ready for next week. There are plenty of people who do treat ParkRun like a race, but they (we) are in a minority.

**Maximum heart rate. As we age, the maximum rate at which our heart can beat declines. As a crude generalisation, your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. By this formula, my maximum is 154 beats per minute (BPM). I suspect that mine is a bit higher, perhaps 160 BPM (occasionally in training, I get levels over 154, but not over 160). This means that during today’s 5KM race, I was running at something like 92% or 95% of my maximum. I can do this for a distance like 5km, but I have to run with a lower BPM when running 10km, a half marathon or a full marathon.

Map of ParkRuns
The distribution of ParkRun locations around the world

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