This past Saturday the very first parkrun east of Quebec was held in Halifax, Bayer’s Lake to be exact and I was there! Now every single Saturday until the end of time (probably) you can head out there and partake in a free timed 5k run. Isn’t that cool? I went out for the inaugural run with 29 other people in what was supposed to be pouring rain and came 16 seconds from a 5k PR. It was so much fun you should do it too so here’s what you need to know!
What the heck is Parkrun?
Parkrun is a weekly free race put on and organized by local volunteers in all sorts of cities all over the world. The craze has been rolling out from BC for a few years now in Canada and now it’s reached the Atlantic Provinces. Parkrun originally started in the UK in 2004 and has been growing ever since. Now many hundred thousand runners participate all over the world every week.
I was vaguely aware of Parkrun since I hang out in some UK based women’s running groups and they often post about their Parkrun results and pictures but I don’t think I knew it was a worldwide phenomenon. Over the last couple of years my Facebook and Instagram feeds have been taken over by running and triathlon stuff so when Chain of Lakes Parkrun popped up I was pretty much in, Parkrun had me at hello.
The organization prides itself on being free, timed and for all so strollers, dogs and kids are all welcome. If you love it they also ask that you volunteer from time to time. Children are also encouraged to volunteer and as long as the course permits you can run, walk or wheel yourself through it. Also since there is a volunteer who goes at the back to make sure everyone is okay you’ll never be last at Parkrun!
How it works
It’s all about the barcode baby, that is if you want your time. But you can certainly come participate and forgo the barcode and your time. If it’s your first time ever or at a particular place you should come 15 minutes before to hear any information you might need for your run. If you’ve been before roll up before the appointed time and run that’s all. As you cross the line your handed a finishing token which they do want back BTW. Then you head over to the scanning volunteer and have your code scanned and that ties your place and time to your identity. Pretty cool right?
There are also incentive T-shirts you can earn for running 50 or 100 times or volunteering 25 times. So stay tuned (for a really long time) because I hope to have one of each in my wardrobe someday all ready. You should also know that Parkrun participants don’t have any sort of right of way on the trails they use so yield to others. At its heart it’s a goodwill timed fun run so be courteous and act accordingly!
All about Chain of Lakes Parkrun
This run happens at pretty much the very end of the rails to trails in Halifax, specifically next to the stone depot on Chain Lake Drive. As for parking there is lots at the paved lot of the strip mall right next to the start line. Spots there don’t seem to be needed at 9am on Saturday morning but some of the spots at the stone depot seemed like they were in use at that time. If the event grows there is a huge lot at the disused factory across the road but for now no reason to go crazy and cross the street before you run 5k!
This course is an out and back along First Chain Lake and under the highway a few times. There were a few dramatic water features along the course but that might have just been overflows since we were under a heavy rainfall warning the night previous. One never can tell. The trail there is paved and wide and perfectly flat. Even with all that rain there was very little water on the path but my feet did get pretty wet. Most of the course is pretty desolate with just trees, lakes and overpasses but once you start to see the residential area of Armdale again it’s time to start paying attention for that turn around sign which is yellow. Also very important this is a fully self supported race so bring any water you might like to sip on with you. Finally Park runners get a 10% discount at Second Cup so make sure to stop by for social time with lots of peeps who want to talk about running as much as you do after the fact!
One thing that really surprised me was the level of detail in the results. I hadn’t thought about it a whole lot but I was pretty much expecting just a time. Instead you get an email with your results telling you your time, place overall, place in gender and age group which is really cool. You also get a % score that is age adjusted and meant to be somewhat comparable across all the park runs. Apparently 60% means you’re pretty damn good. For a more in depth explanation you can read about it on their website. You also get a link to all the runners results for your day. Plus the Parkrun software logs your Parkrun PB for you, how cool is that? This results package was clearly designed by runners!
So with that in mind here are mine. I kinda want to put it out there that since the weather was terrible, though the rain did hold for the time we were out there and it was the very first one it was mostly the super serious kids, who were fast that showed up today. That said I was 16 seconds off a PR today so I’m cool. Also before we celebrate too hard I was the only one in my age class.
What do I think about Parkrun
Its friggin’ awesome that’s what! I’ll be back for sure probably mostly in the rain when we’re not working on Saturday mornings. In fact I’m so sure I’ll be back I got my barcode laminated on the way home. The only thing that I’d put out there is that going for a PR week after week could be a bad thing for some runners, some of the time. If you’re in training for another event going all out an extra time each week might drain your tank more than you intended and put you at risk for overtraining, injury or at least being really, really tiered. Also going for a PR week after week could really do the same thing for other runners as well especially those that seem to be injury prone to start with.
I’m the type of person that makes everything into a competition even things like carrying the groceries in from the car. Are you carrying 4 bags per trip, yeah while I’m carrying 6 and doing twice as many loads as you! So I have to be careful of this one. It’s great because I would like to knock down my 5k PB this year and that’s a great place to do it for free. I also realized I haven’t run a 5k for me in almost 2 years so this is arriving at the perfect time for me at least. So right now I would like to do some of the Parkruns I do with the trainees at their pace, maybe take my niece in her stroller and walk/run when she feels like it and try to remember to only go for that record when conditions on the day are ideal, especially when I’m in training for something. I was trying today even though it was cold, wet and very windy so I’ll try to hold back on days like today in the future. When I’m not in training almost all my runs are at a fun pace and whatever distance I feel like going on the day. I certainly could be throwing some speed work into that mix. That said my non-training season is our slower season at work so Parkrun could be a great speed work run every week when I’m not training. If I’m ever traveling I’ll be wanting to go to the local Parkrun for sure now and probably the social afterwards!
I also posted my (pretty terrible) parkrun picture to that UK based ladies running group I hang out in and now I have a Halifax Parkrun date in August with a Lady who’s visiting, isn’t that cool!
Are you a Parkrun convert? How many have you done? In how many locations and what’s your home location? You never know maybe someday I’ll see you there!