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parkrun - much more than a 5k run

by editor
Friday 1st April 2016
Many of us head to parkrun every single Saturday. It’s become a must-do Saturday activity, it’s got thousands of people into running and it’s a truly all abilities run. Olympians do it, beginners do it and everybody in between. 
It’s a brilliant chance to test yourself against your own limits, or to catch up with friends, or even to volunteer and help support the amazing parkrun community. For many people parkrun consists of lung-busting their way round 5k, with many trying to beat their PB every week. But in addition to a weekly 5k time trial it can be used as part of a training plan in lots of other ways. We asked a few friends of Run247 how they incorporate parkrun into their training. 
Michael Deering uses parkrun in his training in a few different ways. Firstly, when training for a marathon, he sometimes tags parkrun onto the end of his long run. This teaches your legs to run fast even when they’re really tired, which is going to come in very handy in a marathon. He says he finds it really helps to run amongst other people after a long run on his own. So much so that you don’t notice the pain and effort! I really like this idea, mostly because you’ve got that post-parkrun coffee and cake to look forward to and you will have really earned it. 
Michael also uses parkrun as a warm-up if he's racing the next day. It’s far enough to get the legs going but not so far that you’ll ruin your chances for the race. He uses parkrun as a progressive run, with the last mile being at his target pace for the following day. This sounds like a good confidence-building session to do pre-race. 

Michael parkrun

Michael looks pretty fresh considering he's just run a fast 5k on legs with 18 miles in them!

Sue Powell has been focusing more on longer runs of late so she uses parkrun as a ‘fun sandwich’ in the middle of a long run. She runs to parkrun (good for the environment too), has a nice social parkrun meeting friends, then runs home. This is a great idea for breaking the monotony of a long run.

Sue parkrun

Sue (left) squeezes a parkrun into her long run

Other ideas for using parkrun as a training session are:
  • an interval session, such as 5 x 3 mins with jog recovery in between each rep
  • a progressive run like Michael’s, with each km faster than the previous one
  • a race-pace section of a longer run, e.g. 3 miles at marathon/half marathon/10k pace, sandwiched in the middle of, or at the end of a run
  • a 5k tempo run, i.e. comfortably hard, not an eyeballs out effort! 
  • if your parkrun course has laps then you could use them to create intervals (eg at my local course, Didcot, I could up my pace for each lap of the 3 laps round the park and use the loop round the concrete path as recovery - instant interval session)
Have a great parkrun on Saturday whether you volunteer, chat your way round with a friend, ruin yourself with intervals, go all out for a PB, or just do enough to justify the cake! That’s the beauty of parkrun - flexibility! 

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