Today I competed in my first ever Parkrun at Himmel Park in Tucson, Arizona. Originating out of the United Kingdom back in 2004, these Free and Timed 5K Events are held in more than 20 countries throughout the world and has drawn more than 5 million registered runners. Events in places such as the UK and Australia routinely bring in 300-500 athletes. I first heard about it from a fellow blogger Joe Spraggins https://spragginsblog.wordpress.com/ who started following me after I qualified for Kona in 2016. I helped inspire him and he completed Kona in 2018. It was also around this time that Fiona’s sister Jacinta was living in Cairns, Australia. She was attending these events routinely. But, like Uber, Airbnb, Zwift, and now Parkrun, I had no idea how good these entities were and now I’m fully hooked!
Before I competed in Ironman Cairns in 2017, Fiona who was supporting me as a spectator, ran in her first ever parkrun in a time of 21:55. There were 187 people and she took 39th with a 14 year old winner running 17:04. Yes, really.
Parkrun USA started in Michigan 2012. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really off, even while in a Running Boom. Personally, I feel its because people want recognition and flair in finishing an event; they aren’t willing to go out and push themselves just for fun. Instead, most people in the USA would rather spend $30 for a Tshirt and Medal you’ll never wear again. For us, we are looking to use these races as measures of our fitness level. Additionally, nothing pushes you harder than a race!
The table below is interesting. The USA holds a population 2.2X the next biggest country (of those countries that are in the top 10 for most parkruns). But, the USA is actually 10th of the top 10 in terms of participation rate per capita. This to me is not surprising because as previously stated, generally people want something for doing something in the USA. There’s that mindset of “what am I going to get out of this?” Likewise, the top 3 countries are not a surprise. The UK is in the top 25 of healthiest countries and they created Parkrun. The UK has 166% more runs than the next biggest country, Australia. Australia is interesting because they are the 13th fattest nation but also in the top 25 of healthiest nations. And same with New Zealand which is ranked 18th fattest nation but like Australia, is in the healthiest nations. Then, there is the USA, the 8th fattest nation in the world and definitely not on the list of healthiest countries. The top 3 show us a clear distinction. In these countries there are extremes: Generally, Healthy and Active or not and plagued by chronic disease. The USA doesn’t yet have a culture like that of the New Zealanders where being active is a part of life. And it’s because of that I don’t see Parkrun really taking off. One last comparison I will make is IRONMAN and Challenge Family. Both run the same 2.4mile swim, 112mile bike ride, and 26.2mile run. But Challenge only in the last month has attempted to reemerge into the USA. In the USA, it’s all about IRONMAN. People want to be called an IRONMAN, they don’t want to be called a Finisher. Again, “what am I going to get out of this?”
Friday I had off as my first day of Christmas Vacation. I started it off with a 3KM swim broken up into 6x500m of W/U, Drills, Pullx2, Paddle/Pullx2. Shortly after I hopped on my bike for an hour ride between Sahuarita and Green Valley, Arizona. Later on in the afternoon, I ran 6 miles on the treadmill and then did a 40min full body lift (Leg Ext, Leg Curl, Lat Pull Down, Shoulder Extension, Bicep Curl, Tri Pushdown). Fiona was home at 7pm and hopped on the bike for a 45min spin. Dinner was an Asian Salad, Cheese Quesadilla, and Pork/Veg Dumplings. I paired it with an Italian Cabernet Sauvignon bottle, (that I killed) and finished that off with a Bud Light Lime since Fiona was on her 2nd Coors Light. While watching Survivor and Gold Rush, Fiona registered me for this mornings Parkrun. And all I could ask is, “Are we really doing this?”
Up at 6:30AM and I had 2 CoffeeCake pastries and a RedBull. We drove the 30minutes to HimmelPark in Central-Tucson for the 8AM Start. It was cool and Brisk. There were several people around and the race organizers (all volunteers). The course was a 5K (3.1mile), 4 loop course over hard packed sand and stone path, grass, and tree roots around the park. (I reckon the event is free since it’s completely contained to within the park. We met some of the runners with some coming from the UK. The Race Director presented the course and we toed the line. My goal was 6:40’s.
I started off going out at 6:22/mile for the first minute. We made a turn and I went past the sign I was supposed to turn at. Fiona and 2 other runners then overtook me. They had some separation but by the 2nd lap I was running down the 3rd position and then a minute later ran down the 2nd position. First mile was 6:58, 2nd mile I started feeling better and went 6:53; my hands were freezing. As we entered the start of the 4th lap I was 5 feet behind the 1st position, Mrs. Fiona Coyle. I thought I could run her down but at that moment she made an effort and started “walking on me” (Crew Lingo). This is when my legs really started feeling it and I slowed down significantly to 7:07 on mile 3. I finished 12 seconds behind my wifey and i went 1-2.
We cheered in the other 22 runners from Junior 10yrs all the way to the M75-79 A/G and enjoyed some homemade cookies. Thank you to the volunteers for creating this event. This was only the 6th time this event has been held and it was great!!!
I certainly didn’t hit my goal and the time is really poor considering I had done a 20minute Tempo run on Thursday 7:07/mile. In fact, my age graded effort was 59.49% while Fiona’s was 68.19%. She whipped me! But I am so happy I came out to the event and got another quality run in.
After, we drove to Sabino Canyon National Park. We met our friend Daniel Zamora there who invited us to run with him on Thursday. I first reached out to Daniel in June 2017 after seeing him go 8:55 at Ironman Arizona 2016. His 3:00:04 marathon split after swimming 2.4miles and biking 112 miles was stunning. Now, he is part of the Elite group Team Every Man Jack. I look up to this guy, there’s no way I would turn this opportunity down.
The last time I saw Daniel was at Ironman Arizona mile 15. He said I had a 26min lead of which I replied “No fucking way”. I ended up finishing like Daniel had 2 years earlier in 2nd spot, qualifying for Kona. Only, I had done it 40minutes slower than him. And 44minutes slower than him on the run!
We started ascending up the trails into Sabino Canyon. The beauty was stunning. Cactus, rock formations, and vistas at every bend. Soon, Daniel heard my labored breathing and he let me lead while I got out a few words at a time and he ran effortlessly. Eventually, my legs felt quite heavy climbing the 1,200’ and I bit it. And by that I mean the rocks ate some skin from my hands and arms.
But we all ran together, nearly 10 miles up and down through the canyon and it was a thrill. It was amazing and so much fun.
Well, I’m at 41miles so far this week and have another 5miles to do today starting with an hour bike ride so I’m going to go do that. 5 weeks till my 2nd ever 50K Ultra! Please subscribe and stay tuned!
“You can’t climb up the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.” – Arnold