Approaching Parkruns

As this has been a big thing for the local running community here’s some advice to help make sure we’re using the event productively and some cool ways we can tailor in some speed sessions within them:
First thing I would say is running a ‘fast’ Parkrun every weekend will not make you fitter. Ok, to be more specific, you *will* make fitness gains as you are working on improving your general aerobic capacity, but only for a short-term period and up to a certain extent, before you will plateau with speed and ultimately end up actually losing fitness. The main reason for this is because of a very fundamental training principle is not being met; and that’s the concept of progressive training. For speed work to actually make you fitter, it has to be progressive, i.e. it builds//adds/changes off what comes before it. It only does this by being varied week on week, or priorities certain recoveries, length of repetitions and speeds. Doing this continually increases the demands on your muscles in order to make gains in their strength, size and endurance. Running the same distance at the same pace each weekend does not do this.
So for those of us who love a good Parkrun every weekend, and love to always test themselves speed-wise, how can we ensure we make the most out of it so we can enjoy and make it useful?
It’ll be good practice to use it as a combined tempo and interval session now and then and run at your tempo/threshold pace- i.e. a pace you can sustain for an hour at a road race. While your intervals should be more near 5k pace and quicker. It should feel comfortably hard but not exhausting. You can try variants like the following examples:
• 5k, 5 min rest, 3 x 3 min at tempo off 90 second jog,
• 5k at 80%, 3 min rest, 5 minutes at tempo
• 5k at tempo, 5 min rest, 5k at tempo
• 5k at tempo, 3 min rest, 5 x 1 min off 1 min jog
• 5k at tempo, 4 min rest, 5 x 30 seconds off 1 min rest
Finding ways to slot Parkruns into a longer structured run, or set of runs, can be really good as well. Marathon runners may find this particularly beneficial, here’s some examples:
• 5k easy, 5k parkrun (at tempo) 5k easy
• 10k steady, 5k parkrun at tempo, 5k easy
• 1hr 30 LSR with 5k Parkun at tempo in middle
• 2hrs with 2 x parkrun at marathon/HM pace
In and around these I would approach them as easy, fun sociable runs, but have a go at mixing it up a bit if you do want to push yourself. Getting faster is very much about throwing in variety and getting used to running at different paces, so let’s take any opportunity we have to do that, especially around the encouragement of others! 🙂

Cameron Harris - Head Coach