You’ve seen the posts all over your Facebook and Instagram feeds. You’ve been inspired and want to join in on the fun. But how do you make it out the door and arrive at 6:45am to your first parkrun?

I still remember my first parkrun like it was yesterday. Driving the 15mins there I kept telling myself that if I arrived too late it was ok, I was happy to run along the river alone.  That was in my comfort zone.
I made it there with plenty of time, dressed in black to blend in; posture slackened hoping no one would see me, the loner, friendless, wannabe runner.  At the time I had 2 friends in Brisbane and I didn’t feel close enough to them to ask them to join me.
This was why parkrun appealed to me – the opportunity to meet like-minded people.

My first parkrun

Tips to help you get to the starting flag:

Head to the parkrun website
This is important as you need to register and print your barcode so you get a time record! It’s also the best starting point to get some comfort with where you’re running and how it works.  There’s a map of the 5km run course, details about the run and often information on the coffee destination post run.

Take music
When we are the first to turn up somewhere we’ll often order a drink or take out our phone while we wait for our friends to arrive. Having something to do provides comfort and wearing headphones at parkrun can help provide that security blanket.   My first run I listened to the pre run instructions and then the earbuds were straight in, I thought it screamed “I’m alone because I’m here to focus on running” and that made me feel less anxious.

Stop worrying about being the slowest
Even though I read the website and checked the Facebook, I was nervous about being slow.
There is a ‘tail runner’ who stays with the last person. Often this is a regular, friendly park runner or someone who is coming back from injury or even someone who is racing the next day so limited to walking.
Every parkrun I’ve been to has an array of ability in both its runners and walkers. I’ve walked it, gone all out for a Personal Best (PB), slow runs and fun social paced runs.  Even the smaller park runs will have their super athletes that finish under 20mins, along with the person who has just started walking the course in under an hour.

Social anxiety
This was my issue, which is why I was determined to make it there.
What if someone talks to me? What if no one talks to me? I don’t have amazing running gear. Will people judge my running style? I look like Phoebe on the TV show Friends when I run.

These are all real feelings that make our palms sweat and our chests tighten. Deep down we know that none of this is serious but anxiety isn’t friends with reason. Truly the only way to feel less awkward socially is to get really uncomfortable and I believe parkrun allows us to dip our toes into social activity at our own pace.

Keep those earbuds in and people will give you space. Take them out at the finish line, thank the stranger in front of you for helping you run a little faster to try and beat them and you may make a new friend (Yes, I’ve done this!)

Make the most of the briefing
We all like to rebel against briefings and instructions. Yes parkrun is simply a run but I highly recommend making it to the briefing for your first time.  It will give you the sense of community (which does help anxiety), understand the course and any things to look out for and it also gives the run director a chance to see who’s new!

Don’t forget your barcode
You’ll keep seeing this and I remember being so stressed about it that I printed and laminated 10 barcodes!! It is not a disaster if you don’t have your barcode.  You still get to run, you just wont be able to have your tag scanned with your time recorded.

Set your gear out the night before
Another point you hear all the time, but it works because it gives you one less excuse to miss the starting line.

Tell a friend
Yes, that accountability thing you always hear about. For me it was about telling the right friend.  The friend that understood that it may take a few Saturdays until I got the courage to actually go. The friend who wouldn’t make me feel bad about how many times I thought about going but never did. Also the friend who could push me that bit to make sure I didn’t let fear hold me back.

Once they yell “go” and everyone starts running or walking the nerves will disappear and the endorphins will start to kick in. The sunshine, music and friendly faces will all have you wanting to come back next week.

*Tip – most parkruns have a container for keys. This is not for a lucky dip swingers meet (haha)

Note: This post is not associated with, or endorsed by parkrun, it is thoughts from my personal experience