I’m not sure how many US readers are aware of parkrun. It’s a British phenomenon which has literally changed the face of running in the UK. It’s a series of free, weekly, timed 5k runs across the country – there are over 300 in the UK plus parkruns across Europe, South Africa, Singapore, NZ and Australia. I ran a parkrun in Leeds last summer!
In the US, there are 5 events and in January 2015, San Francisco got one, at Crissy Field, next to the Golden Gate Bridge. I was super-excited when it started and fully intended to go…but somehow it was a full year before I made it! We live about 45 minutes away and that’s a lot of driving for a 5k! But this weekend, I finally got there.
I’m currently training for a 5k PR in March at Oakland, as is Jen, so some trial runs would be very useful and parkrun fitted the bill perfectly. On Saturday morning, I rocked up at the San Francisco Yacht Club with my boys and met up with Jen and BT and we prepared to rock it!
Officially my goal for the race was to test my legs, to see how I was progressing with my training. Unofficially, I wanted to thrash myself to pieces and get that sub-25 right here, right now! I was All Fired Up!
Crissy Field parkrun is small – there were 37 runners that day. Half of them seemed to be British, it was delightful. Many were expats, many were tourists! There was a lovely, informal feeling, everyone was very friendly. The race director took a load of photos, which were uploaded later that night and are dotted throughout this post – there are some crackers!! He talked us through the course (which has changed recently, it’s different to the one on the site, much more PR friendly), he took a starting photo and we were off.
The course heads off down Crissy Field along a trail made of hard-packed sand and gravel. Then it turns left onto the tarmac along Old Mason St, turns left on a path, cuts back down to the corner and then you return up the sandy path to the start point. There were signposts at every turn, although basically I just followed the people in front.
We set off at a rate of knots. Due to the rain lately (yay!) it was very puddle-y, there were BIG puddles along the whole of the sand trail. Initially I tried to run round them as much as possible and then realized I was adding seconds and distance, so just ploughed straight through them. There was a slight headwind as we headed along, nothing major but noticeable. I was all out straight from the start – maybe not a wise strategy but I was there to race. I ran hard and slowly wound my way past other runners. I couldn’t see any women ahead, but I had tunnel vision, so didn’t really think about it much.
Just after the mile beeped on my watch, we turned left. The tarmac was immediately easier to run on so I powered along, chasing people down as best I could. I turned left and then left again, heading back towards the turning point. Just before M2, I saw BT in her gorgeous orange top. ‘Lead woman’ she grunted at me as I ran past. Really? I saw my boys valiantly bringing up the rear – the Dude ‘was not racing’ today. ‘You’re in the lead’ the Husband told me. As I turned back onto the sandy trail, I glanced behind me and saw a woman in red not far behind. I have no final kick so I knew I’d lose the lead but I wasn’t there to win the race, I was there to get sub-25.
That last mile wasn’t fun. I was dribbling everywhere (so ladylike). I splashed through puddles, dodged kids on skuuts, focused super-hard on finishing. In the distance, I could see the buildings where I knew we’d started – it seemed so far away. At about 1/4 mile from the end, there’s a bridge – once I got there, I focussed on moving my arms, knowing my battered legs would have to follow suit. Eventually I saw the coned-off finish chute…as I ran up I glanced down at my watch…24.09. I knew I could do this sub-25 thing but the clock ticked mercilessly and my legs seemed to slow to get me there. I finally crossed the line, stopped my watch and bent over to catch my breath.
I looked at my watch.
Happy Dance. Well, in my head I did a happy dance. In reality I just caught my breath. I’d somehow come in first woman…I’d won!!!!
OLYMPIC DREAM ACHIEVED!
Jen rocked up a few seconds later….second woman. The woman in red who worried me earlier wasn’t apparently in the race. Ooops.
We stood around watching other people run in, including a very fast woman pushing a double stroller. Glad she didn’t get a babysitter that morning 🙂 BT arrived, really happy with her time and then finally, my boys arrived. The Dude stuck with his usual strategy of dawdling the whole race and then kicking into a sprint at the very end so that the accompanying parent looks like THEY’RE the slow one. Bearing in mind that this is the western-most parkrun in the world, the Husband had the honour of being the very last park runner to finish on the entire planet.
There was a lot of chatting. Being such a small race, it was really friendly! We also got some cool photos!!! And then everyone retired to the nearby coffee and doughnut stand and we hung around for half an hour more in the sunshine, refueling. It was really, really nice.
The Husband headed off on his bike (Ironman training is underway) and the Dude and I drove home. As I drove, it dawned on me that I’d done it – I’d achieved a really big milestone for me and I was so chuffed, such a feeling of satisfaction and delight! It hadn’t struck me immediately, it took a while to sink in. So when I got home, I checked the official results which had been emailed out already and somehow my official time….was 25.01.
I haven’t quite worked out how that happened. The Husband, and Jen both had official times that were exactly what their garmins showed them! It’s not really a big deal but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. After some reflection, I feel that I HAVE achieved my Q1 goal – I DID run a sub-25 5k – but now I need to beat that at Oakland to get the Official Time and the medal to prove it.
In any case, it was a good day’s work. I ‘won’ my first race, I PR’d whichever way you looked at it and I hit my goal-time! Definitely an awesome morning!
Just a quick word on parkrun…I really can’t recommend it enough. If you’re in the Bay Area, do give it a go – it needs your support! It happens every week at the Beach Hut Cafe on Crissy Field (next to the Yacht Club car-park). There’s plentiful free parking. It’s timed, it’s completely free, the course is excellent and VERY PR-able! The people were incredibly friendly. It’s the kind of thing that SF needs and that SF runners should support!
We’ll be back in mid-February for a mother-son double-date! I already can’t wait.