Welcome, random Critical Hit reader! Do me a favour won’t you? Step into this time machine for a moment- we’re going to go out for a bit. Hold tight!
Here we are in 2012 or so, in the beautiful suburban town of Kensington. Pay attention now, for this is important. In the next minute or so, a much younger Matthew is going to come around that corner in a sweaty heap of misery. Look closely at his face won’t you? Take note of the pain and anguish that’s etched into every little pore on it.
And there he is, right on time. Younger Matthew has only jogged a kilometer or so at this point, but he’s already hating life, if you hadn’t already noticed. His energy levels are sapped, and he’s dragging his legs along as if he has anvils tied to them.
Next week, he’ll make an excuse to skip this activity. He’ll do the same the following week, and the one after that, and the one after that, until he completely gives up and decides that running just isn’t his thing. The poor lad, he really tried!
Right, fast forward back to 2017, and we have me, a completely changed man. I’m now an addict – one who now runs regularly (two to three times a week), one who has run four half marathons (21km a pop), and one who plans on tackling a full one by the end of this year. My biggest goal for 2017 though is to have run a total of 1000km.
How on earth did this happen you ask? If you had stopped the younger me a few years ago and said that I’d grow to love running, I’m guessing I would’ve laughed hysterically before punching you in the face for telling such an awful lie.
To go back to the question, the solution to getting me, and countless others to actually fall in love with running, is parkrun. Here’s what it’s about:
Parkrun (styled as parkrun) is the name given to a collection of five-kilometre running events that take place every Saturday morning in fourteen countries across five continents. Each Parkrun territory has its own sponsors. Events are run by volunteers, and participation is free of charge.
Runners are required to register online in advance for a unique athlete number and to print their own identification barcode for use when taking part. Runners’ results in each event are processed and uploaded online after the run by volunteers. Each registered runner has an individual page cataloguing the details of each event in which they have participated
South Africa has its own thriving parkrun community. I joined an event near me (the Modderfontein one) toward the end of 2014 or so, and I’ve never looked back. To date, I’ve run on a total of 58 Saturdays, mostly there, but also at other nearby events – Gillooly’s Farm, Delta Park, and Albert’s Farm to be exact. Each course is unique, and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them.
But what is it about parkrun that got me so hooked in the first place? If I had to guess, I’d say it’s as simple as the act of running with a large group of people. Depending on the parkrun, you can expect to run with dozens, and more often than not, hundreds of other runners. Whatever your pace, there is an undeniable thrill about overtaking somebody, or simply reaching the end of a run and crossing that finish line. On top of that, they don’t call it a runner’s high for nothing you know – that release of endorphins after each bout of activity is freaking addictive, and these few years later, its effect is yet to feel diluted.
Honestly, if you’re looking to get a bit more active this year, or ever, I’d suggest saving your money on things like gym contracts or anything similar. Parkrun doesn’t cost a cent, and when you reach the point that you feel like you can run more than one Saturday, hell, the whole world becomes a choose-your-own-track
My mom, a 62 year old lady attends parkrun regularly, and more recently, I’ve gotten Alessandro hooked. Who’s next? Will you be taking the plunge and joining us this year? Find a parkrun near you, and give it a bash. Honestly, you can thank me later!