Even though parkrun is not a race, everyone still likes to run a personal best. Here’s some advice to make that happen and it might actually mean doing a little less.
You don’t have to be trying to get into the top 10 every week to be dedicated to shaving a few seconds off your best, self-improvement is a trait that parkrun inspires in everyone. Having a great community around you will always make this easier too.
If you want to lower your parkrun time, try the below tips. The first one might sound a bit simple, but bear with me.
1) Start faster. Or start slower
Not to teach you to suck eggs, but sometimes it’s just a case of starting faster and seeing what you’re capable of. Get uncomfortable and you’ll be surprised by just what your body, and mind, are capable of.
You don’t have to start like you’re on the run from the police every time, but experiment and see what happens every now and again.
On the other end of the scale, some can certainly benefit from a steadier approach too. Are your slowest kilometres four and five by a long way? Maybe a more conservative start and a stronger finish could be the answer. Overtaking people in the second half of a run makes effort seem lower to the mind and it’s bloody good fun.
2) Break it down
If you have a time in mind then try some intervals in training. Aim to run 5 x 1km or 3 x 1 mile at your target race pace, with set recovery intervals in between. Maybe at first you just do 4 x 1km with 2 minutes of rest between each one and progress to doing more or reducing the recovery interval.
When it gets to Saturday not only will you be physiologically fitter, but you’ll also be accustomed to the pace you want to hold. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
If you are not used to it, make sure you don’t do a hard session like this too often or too close to a parkrun. Your body needs the subsequent rest to grow stronger and you may feel tired running for a couple of days of days afterwards.
3) Join a club
The links between parkrun and locals clubs are stronger in some places than others. I know that my club, the North Norfolk Beach Runners, organise the local Sheringham parkrun and it is a great recruiting tool for the club, which is growing year on year.
If you want to improve then look for a local club and join up. Not only will there be sessions run by experienced coaches, but you will meet loads of great runners with similar goals to you. The running club community might even be better than the parkrun community.
One major factor in improvement is consistency. Make sure that you’re dedicated to your running. Rather than doing 10 parkruns in a row and then taking three to four months off, be a regular, get into the parkrun 100 club, and training consistently during the week.
This doesn’t mean you have to run parkrun as hard as you can every weekend. Sometimes it will help consistency to have an easier week, skip parkrun or just go around with some friends at an easier pace.
You can even use the opportunity to get a friend who is new to parkrun to come down.
5) Faster shoes?
Now this may or may not help. Shoes do not maketh the man (or woman) but if you’re really getting into your running then it might be worth investing in some decent kicks.
This is coming from someone who’s a bit of a shoeaholic, but having lighter shoes for racing or grippy shoes if you have a muddy local parkrun can really help. Even mentally it might be that you just feel faster. Some shoes certainly have that affect.
Having raced parkruns in a variety of shoes and posted a variety of times I couldn’t recommend the best for the job, but having a pair of racing shoes can make a difference. Just not as much as the consistent training though.
6) Become a tourist
You may be unfortunate to have one of the toughest parkrun courses on your doorstep which just makes chasing that PB 10 times more difficult. Don’t sweat though, and certainly don’t consider moving you and your family to more flatter lands. All of this running on a more testing course will serve you better in the long run.
However, when it comes to running a quicker time than your home course allows, get onto the parkrun website and locate a flat and fast course where you can really get your legs spinning.
parkrun tourism is a phenomenon in its own right, with many travelling near and far to parkruns across the country or overseas. So join them and go find a super fast course, but don’t forget your roots at your local Saturday morning 5k.
7) What not to do
To finish here is one thing not to do in your quest for a faster time. As easy as it would be to swap your barcode with the guy or gal who leads the pack every week it only changes the number, not your performance.
So don’t swap your barcode, because just like bib swapping in road races, it’s against the rules. Don’t believe me? Just ask Jack Gray, a previous fastest parkrunner in the UK, about his bib swapping past.