It took me 2 years to get from my first Parkrun to my 50th, and just over 2 years to get from 50 to 100. That might suggest a steady plod, running more or less every other week on average, but it’s been anything but that. I haven’t been blogging much in that time either - and it’s taken me more than half a year to get round to writing this.
Life has a habit of getting in the way, and since that 50th Parkrun, my life has changed in ways I’d have never expected. I became a single parent. I moved house 3 times. I started working remotely (even before COVID). I got divorced. I started a new relationship. In amongst all that change, Parkrun was perhaps the closest thing I had to a constant, a source of stability among the chaos. Even when you go somewhere new, there’s a reassuring familiarity between parkruns, from the run director’s introduction to the greetings from the marshals. No matter what else is going on in my life, and how difficult it might all seem, if I can make it to Parkrun on Saturday morning, I’ll feel like I’ve achieved something that weekend. The ache of tired legs after a run with other people is a different kind of tiredness to a solo run - I’ll have pushed myself harder, competing with myself and others, trying to get faster, .
If it wasn’t for parkrun, there’s no way I’d have ever even considered running a marathon. I probably wouldn’t have ever even done a 10k. There’s something amazing about that sense of going beyond what you thought you could do, making progress towards a goal. Even if your times aren’t getting better, you can still aim for a milestone. At the beginning of 2019, I’d done about 80, and decided that getting to 100 should be one of my New Years resolutions. Once that idea was in my head, it became a mild obsession, especially as autumn came along, and I was tantalisingly into the 90s. Somehow it felt like it was never going to happen. Some weeks my local run was cancelled because of storms. A couple of times, I forgot my barcode, so the run didn’t count. More frequently, it was just that life got in the way.
But at the end of November, I made it to 100. I sent off for the T-shirt, although I’ve only had one opportunity to wear it since then. Now that coronavirus has put everything on hold, I’m wondering if I’ll ever do a parkrun again. I hope so - I miss the sense of community, even among people I don’t know. I miss the challenge. I miss the sense of being part of something, of sharing the same goal. I think the lack of those things is partly why I’ve found things so difficult over the last few months of lockdown. The world may now be starting to emerge from this strange semi-hibernation, but I don’t think I’ll consider things as back to normal until Parkrun starts up again.