As the autumn nights creep in and gloom and grey starts to take hold of our mornings, it becomes more of a challenge to get out and about for exercise. Honestly, as October beckons menacingly, just getting out of bed seems less and less realistic. Sadly, I do have to get out of bed and tragically I do have to do exercise, and heartbreakingly childhood obesity has been on the rise in Lancashire for the last decade so my children also have to exercise.Advertisement
Happily, it’s been my experience that most children can be encouraged to run around with the flimsiest of pretexts. This is where parkrun comes in. For those unfamiliar, parkrun was founded in 2004 and has become an international success. The well-attended Preston event takes place weekly at Avenham Park at 9am with the adult course on Saturday and the junior course on Sunday. Also, it’s free – you simply have to register, print out a barcode to scan at the end of the course and then just turn up.
Read more: Junior parkrun returning to Avenham Park
The adult course is 5km while the junior course is a less daunting 2km, taking in the many sights of Avenham and Miller Park as the route loops back on itself. My son Owen and I arrive there just before 9am; there’s a few announcements (and a couple of awards being handed out to frequent runners) before an ad-hoc warm-up session led by a boy who could only be described as ‘plucky.’ After a few game attempts to touch my toes and a couple of star jumps to round proceedings off, we head to the starting line.
As we’re waiting for the countdown to start, I tell Owen: “Look, don’t try and keep up with the sprinters at the start, don’t get impatient… We’ll pick off the stragglers further up the course once they’ve gassed themselves out too early.” At this point, I should probably mention that this kind of Machiavellian race strategising isn’t really in the founding spirit of parkrun, which itself fosters a positive, welcoming and inclusive experience inviting people to run, jog, walk, volunteer or spectate.
And we’re off!
I’m not going to go into too much detail about running around, I’m sure most of us have done it, but special mention must go to the team of volunteers that organise and keep the event running week on week. These upbeat and helpful individuals set up and monitor the track, ensure no stragglers get left behind. They also offer encouragement as the children traverse the circuit; it’s nice to see because if your nightly jogs are anything like mine, any interactions you have with other pedestrians are very rarely positive.
During the final ascent to the finish I (gently) urge Owen to push himself, countdown the remaining metres and offer out a host of personal trainer-esque platitudes to get him over the line – it’s a fantastic final sprint.
In the finishing zone you offer up your pass and once it’s been scanned a host of data is uploaded to your profile and you can check times, position, national averages, gains and a host of other data. Again, this is optional and there’s no need to measure yourself against others, as the parkrun website points out: “There is no time limit and no-one finishes last.” Though, not to sound like a jerk, but statistically someone – does – objectively finish last, but again it’s completely up to the runner if they want to check on that.
In any event, my son has been to parkrun for the last four weeks in a row and is actually looking forward to the next one; a picturesque jog through Avenham Park with 60 or so other children seems far more engaging than simply suggesting a 2,000 metre jog apropos of nothing. If ‘looking forward to’ and ‘engaging’ are unlikely collocations when talking about running with your children, then why not give junior parkrun a try. And for those who say: “Well, you can’t out-train a bad diet,” I mean… Give us a break, it’s better than nothing, right? Jeez.
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Do you attend parkrun or junior parkrun? Let us know in the comments.