Keeping fit while travelling can be a challenge. Unfamiliar terrain, finding time between sight-seeing activities and many other excuses are readily available while on the road. Travel by its very nature is supposed to be when things, including exercise, get set aside for, let’s face it, beer. To balance travel and a regular run, one thing we’ve found that keeps us honest is the local Parkrun.
Parkrun is a global movement, literally. There are now over a quarter of a million people who run every Saturday morning over slightly varied 5km courses at over 1,500 events held in over 20 countries across the world. All times are recorded allowing you to track your own progress, challenge your PB and compare your performance against every other Parkrunner on the planet. Best of all, it is completely free!
While the concept has an appeal of its own, I think it comes into its own while travelling. Particularly if you are on a long trip or moving to a new location for a while. How else can you instantly meet a bunch of locals who you have something in common with? Most events have a designated coffee shop to meet up in afterwards, but you can just feel part of the local community by taking part.
The detailed recording of almost every thing that happens in Parkrun is overwhelming. Even the most obsessed statistician will get lost in a web of data. The Parkrun website tracks every event you compete in, where it was, when it was, what your time was and the number of runs you’ve completed.
The website also stores your PB for each event, lifetime PB and a comparison percentage score against every other runner across the world. All this data without even wearing a smart watch or taking your phone. It’s all recorded by the central, semi-manual timing system. All you need is your Parkrun issued barcode.
As a Parkrun tourist you could compete in another Parkrun event in your city, on the other side of the country or in a completely different country. Either way, your worldwide efforts will count towards your overall stats. All you have to do is show up! A few hours after the event you’ll get an email notifying you the results have been posted. You are even subject to unflattering images of your exhausted self, posted on various facebook pages managed by each event!
As an event designed for runners by runners, there are endless milestones to reach. T-shirts emblazoned with 50, 100, 200 and even 500 completed runs which are each worn with pride. Then there are ‘regionnaires’ who complete every park run in their region, alphabeteers completing runs from every letter of the alphabet and, the one I like best, ‘Groundhog day’ when you run exactly the same time in consecutive weeks.
If it wasn’t such a free and healthy experience, one would think Parkrun was a sinister cult. No matter where you are in the world Parkruns all start the same way. New attendees are welcomed with a clap, so too are Parkrun tourists who get a louder clap depending on how far they’ve come. And, any major milestones are also recognised along with the weeks volunteers, who let’s face it is what really holds the whole Parkrun movement together.
If you’re sick of Strava and want a relaxed and fun way to explore a new town and meet some locals, look up your local Parkrun wherever you are and give it a go. Don’t forget to register online and print your barcode so you can record your time. You’ll soon be hooked. I guarantee you’ll hurt during each Parkrun. But, I also guarantee you’ll not regret exploring 5km part of the world you’ve never seen before.
Steps to getting into your first Parkrun:
- Register online at: parkrun.com
- Print your personalised barcode.
- Find any Parkrun worldwide at: parkrun.com
- Turn up at the scheduled start time (almost always on Saturday mornings between 7-9am).
- Run 5km with a handful of locals, ensuring you receive a timing card at the end and get it scanned by a volunteer together with your personalised barcode.
- Enjoy a post run coffee with fellow runners if you wish.
- Wait for your results via email, and checkout the events facebook page for any pics of your sweating it out.