Get Active: Early morning exercise at Barking Parkrun

PUBLISHED: 13:05 10 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:05 10 March 2015

News editor Ramzy Alwakeel taking part in the Parkrun

News editor Ramzy Alwakeel taking part in the Parkrun


Over the last year I’ve sent Post reporters bodybuilding and barrel-lifting, door-knocking at murder scenes and even speed dating – so I didn’t really feel I could say no to a gentle 5k run before breakfast.

The route winds its way around Barking ParkThe route winds its way around Barking Park

Accordingly I put myself forward for the Barking “parkrun” in the name of our Get Active campaign, hoping a light jog would get me in the mood for breakfast.

Before the run had even started I was starving as well as freezing, having inexplicably decided to wear shorts in February.

I was also a bit nervous about the army of pro athletes that had assembled around me and was making eye-popping stretches look effortless.

“The great thing about the parkrun is it’s all inclusive,” organiser Vicky Cooper had told me.

Runners of all abilities can take partRunners of all abilities can take part

“We don’t say, ‘you’re too old’.”

If I may speak frankly, being too old wasn’t my chief concern – it was the possibility of being lapped by people three times my age.

Parkrun is an international organisation that puts on free runs in parks around the world. One self-confessed “parkrun tourist”, presumably noticing my expression, told me the Barking course was relatively flat and therefore easier than many others.

Seventy or so of us assembled on the starting line – runners of all shapes, sizes and ages, and even a man on crutches. And as I started running I felt great – the wind (and rain) in my hair, and the genuine feeling no one minded how ridiculous I looked or how badly I did.

It has become a popular Saturday morning eventIt has become a popular Saturday morning event

To my horror, however, I discovered the middle-aged chap with whom I struck up a conversation during the first lap was using the 5k as a “warm-down” after the seven miles he had run before 9am.

Nonetheless, as we took the corners and each marshal greeted him warmly by name, I remembered something Vicky had told me: “It becomes your family. It’s not just a run – it’s become a community.”

Looking around, people everywhere seemed to know each other. Even marathon man Dennis had taken pity on a hapless stranger (me) and put the brakes on his pace so he could encourage me over the finish line.

In the end I crossed it in 28 minutes – among the slower finish times, but one I was certainly happy with. I’m a keen cyclist but I hadn’t run further than the bus stop in five years, and my calf muscles are pretty pathetic, as you can see from the pictures.

Runners follow the same route each week, allowing participants to challenge their personal best timeRunners follow the same route each week, allowing participants to challenge their personal best time

I felt great, too – free, energised, even a little bit pleased with myself. When I got home and found my other half hadn’t even got out of bed I was pretty smug, too.

So perhaps I’ll be back next week – in trousers, this time, and definitely without the photographer.

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