Free weekly 5K timed events held around the country (and the world!) we love parkrun. But becoming part of the community can be different to joining a club or running group. In the latter two examples, you have to make a decision to join, contact an existing member, sort out the membership process and then you gain access to their regular sessions, socials and races that they attend together.
Parkrun is a little bit different. It’s there, free, every Saturday. In many cases they have given rise to their own communities, with runners gathering for a cuppa and a chat afterwards while someone processes the results and a few people huddle around a small mountain of tokens, getting them back into numerical order for the next weekend. And it’s lovely. Unless no one talks to you.
If you’re attending a new parkrun, and you really like the thought of trundling round the 5K course with a bunch of like-minded folk before retreating to the warmth of the nearest café to shoot the breeze for half an hour, that idyll can quickly turn sour if you find yourself sat on your own while the regulars ignore you and talk among themselves.
It was a scenario highlighted on the Running Bug forums recently and – lovely bunch that you are – many Bug members threw up a host of great suggestions as to how to overcome this problem.
We’ve digested them for your use if you’re a parkrun newcomer. And while we were at it, we came up with a few more ways to make sure you’re getting the most from your parkrun experience. Try these tactics out and you will soon be nestled comfortably in the bosom of your new parkrun family.
There is nothing a run director likes more than the cheerful plink of an email from a new volunteer dropping into their inbox. With jobs ranging from timekeeping to token sorting and everything in between, there is always a task you can be assigned to, and it immediately introduces you to the run director and the other volunteers.
If you get given a marshaling job, you might even get the chance to strike up conversation with some other marshals as you walk back to the start once your stint is done. Send in an email and ask to be added to the next roster. Alternatively, if you can’t commit in advance, turn up on the morning and offer to help. If there’s a gap on the list, they will be only too happy to assign you to it. Ask any run director. There is no such thing as too many volunteers!
2. Be social
Every parkrun has a Facebook page and Twitter feed. Say hello via these mediums and introduce yourself. A simple message on the Facebook page will alert other members that you’re new to this particular parkrun, and someone will be on the lookout for you when you pitch up on Saturday morning.
3. Say hello
You can always simply bite the bullet and head to the café and say hello to the groups of people in there. However cliquey they might seem from the outside, it’s likely that things are not what they seem, and overcoming that initial shyness by pulling up a chair and joining in the conversation will ensure they quickly get to know who you are!
4. parkrun tourism
One of the great things about parkrun is the chance to travel the country ticking off different parkruns as you go. Some runners have made it their mission to ensure they attend the inaugural event of any new parkrun that pops up, while others like to set themselves a target of running a certain number of parkruns in one year. If there are a few in your country or region, compile a list and try to enlist some fellow parkrunner in joining you in a bit of parkrun tourism.
5. PB tracking
Parkrun is exactly that, a run and not a race, but there’s no denying that there is a competitive element to the reason you're there every Saturday morning. The parkrun website will house every time you run (provided you don’t forget your barcode). So it’s a great way to track your times and see your fitness improve.
You may soon settle into a regular mini-battle with some other runners of a similar pace, and you cannot but help try to put a little spurt on to make sure you reach that finish line before them. That alone will help you strike up a rapport with the runners of the same standard. But remember, it’s a run, not a race!