It’s probably not a very politically correct thing to say, but yes sometimes you can fall out of love with parkrun. Having done over 150 parkruns, I can very safely say that the vast majority have been hugely enjoyable experiences and I would not trade my Saturday morning jaunt around the lake for much else. I have dressed up, ran with no shoes, come first, come last, plateaued, PB’ed, paced people, raced people and most things between! However, like many parkrunners, there have been times when my motivation has dipped and you sometimes just fall out of love with it for a while. Now, I am not a doctor but I am going to diagnose this as 'hitting a parkrun rut.'
So when this awful ‘rut' strikes, what can you do?!?
Don’t panic, here’s my three tips to get yourself out of a parkrun rut.
Tip 1: Try parkrun tourism!
If you are lucky enough to live in this wonderful city of Melbourne, there are so many options within an hour or so of the city. A new parkrun seems to be springing up every month at the moment. The great thing is that they are all so different. There are different sizes, people, terrains, scenery and most importantly a new opportunity to sample a different breakfast venue afterwards. There are plenty of people who do this on a regular basis and go to parkruns all over Australia to sample the courses and local breakfast and coffee shops afterwards. I asked one of those avid parkrun tourists, Danielle, what she would do if she ever hit a parkrun rut and she said...
"When you lose your parkrun mojo the easiest, most fun way to find it is via a spot of parkrun tourism. We know that change is as good as a holiday so grab your mates, take a road trip, embrace the challenge of a different course, chat to the locals and refuel in style at a new café. Ahhh, parkrun mojo restored".
Tip 2: Try a specific training session at parkrun.
I coach a few runners who love their parkruns on a Saturday. A few are gunning for PB’s at 5km distance so we work on a few different sessions to improve their 5km times. Doing these sessions whilst at parkrun still allows them the opportunity to meet up with mates, have a coffee afterwards and get their sessions done. So here are a couple of sessions that you can try if you want to try something new at parkrun next week.
• Session 1: The ‘How many people can I pass’ - Negative Split.
All parkruns are 5km, so run at an easy pace for the first 2.5km, to the halfway point. This will warm you up nicely for the effort that is to come. At the halfway mark, steadily increase your pace and build to a hard effort all the way home. The aim of the game is to be quicker in the second half of the run, than the first. See how many people you can pass in the second half and let me know! Whilst it is a bit of fun, there is a logic to this approach… It forces you to control the first half of your run, running easily rather than pushing hard. Secondly, it gives you time running at around your race pace, without completely knackering you out. Finally, it teaches you to finish your races on a strong note.
• Session 2: The ‘Oh s**t I started too quick’ - Gradual Build
The idea of this session is to start slow and gradually increase your speed over the 5km. Think about dropping by 15 seconds per kilometre for example. The key here is to start slow, leaving yourself room to move into, rather than starting quick and not being able to go any faster. The great thing is that you will soon find out if you have started too quick! I remember getting this one badly wrong once and basically flat-lining for the last 2km. Not a good look.
Here’s an example…
0-1km 6:00 min/km pace
1-2km 5:45 min/km pace
2-3km 5:30 min/km pace
3-4km 5:15 min/km pace
4-5km 5:00 min/km pace
Again this is a great session to help those runners who struggle to pace themselves. Set your watch up to beep at you every km and then just check whether you are ahead / behind and adjust accordingly. This also practices the mental game of finishing strong and pushing to the finishing line.
Tip 3: Pace someone or a group of people.
Some of the most rewarding (and amusing!) parkruns can be those where you pace other runners. Sometimes its personal best time, sometimes its a near miss, but working with others trying to reach their goals is really rewarding and is a different way of getting your Saturday 5km done. At Albert Melbourne parkrun (my local), occasionally there are pacers ‘officially’ put on, but don’t just wait for those opportunities, ask around if friends or others would like a helping hand and if so volunteer to help! Whether it is calling out the times at each km, acting as a windbreak or carrying their water bottle, every small bit helps and they will thank you for it later. Give it a try!
Hopefully these ideas can spice up your parkrun if you have hit a rut. Remember that you are engaged in one of the most positive, inspiring, health promoting communities that I have certainly ever seen, so keep showing up, keep enjoying it and let me know if you try any of these ideas!