"Parkrun Is Whatever You Want It To Be On That Day"
Stacey Marston, Unbound's parkrunner Of The Week, on how the free-weekly-5k cult has changed her life
Name: Stacey Marston
Local parkrun: Cannon Hill, Birmingham
Barcode number: A292006
When did you start parkrunning?
"Three years ago. I’d seen some people doing a parkrun in Cannon Hill when I was out walking my dog, so I started listening to the parkrun podcasts, which sparked my interest. Myself and a friend had both not long moved into the South Birmingham area, so we decided to go along together. We did our first parkrun on the day of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, before we had a street party."[related_articles]
What’s your favourite thing about it?
"It might sound a bit cheesy, but it’s the social side and the inclusivity of it – I’ve made loads of friends. There are some really quick people running, but you also get families running together and people of all ages. It brings people into running who might otherwise feel intimidated to join the sport, or do a race.
"parkrun’s not a race, it’s whatever you want it to be on that day, whether that’s a laid back jog, or a chance to work on your speed."
Have you ever ‘cheated’ on your local parkrun with another parkrun location?
"Oh, yes! Definitely. I’m a serial parkrun cheat – I've run at 15 locations in total. I had to do the pilgrimage parkrun to Bushy in Teddington, becaue that's where it all started, and I’m from Wolverhampton, so I’ve done parkrun there six times. I’ve done Arrow Valley in Redditch a few times too because although I love Cannon Hill, it’s a really busy course, so sometimes it’s nice to run somewhere that isn’t so full-on.
"I did my 100th just before Christmas, so my target for this year was going to be to run at 50 different parkrun locations, but actually that’s quite a lot to organise! I will do it, just perhaps not in one year."
Do you parkrun even if you’ve been out the night before?
"Yeah. There've been a few occasions when I felt like I probably shouldn’t have run, to be honest. I had some family staying not long ago and three of us went along to parkrun the next morning and I’m pretty sure we were all still drunk. We’d had a fair few cocktails and a really late night, but we laughed all the way around the course."
Three of us went to parkrun the next morning and I’m pretty sure we were all still drunk
Do you ever feel like you’re in a kind of cult (albeit a nice one)?
"What surprises me about parkrun is how many people haven’t heard of it when so many people do it. It definitely feels like its very much word-of-mouth – there's never been any advertising for it.
"I get the impression that some of the running magazines and big running clubs may even have been a bit snooty about it at first, but now they can see that it’s a positive thing, and it doesn’t mean people are less likely to attend 'proper' races. In fact, it’s just the opposite – loads of people use parkrun as a stepping-stone towards other events."
Have you converted any of your family or friends?
"I persuaded my aunt to start doing parkrun after she did the NHS Couch To 5k program and she’s quite into it now. I’ve got friends up in Yorkshire and down in London who come with me to their local parkruns when I’m staying – they know I’m going to go anyway, so they’ve all registered."
If you had to talk someone into signing up for parkrun, what would you say to them?
It’s early enough to get your exercise done and still have the whole day ahead of you
"First and foremost, you don’t have to run the whole 5k – people worry that they’ll be at the back, but it’s not a race and there are plenty of people who walk and jog. I always tell people about how friendly it is too, and that it’s a great start to the weekend because it’s early enough for you to get your exercise done and then head home with the whole day ahead of you, or you can hang about and have a coffee with some other parkrunners."