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My first (attempt at) Parkrun

The idea of parkrun has intrigued me for some time now and since I’m on holiday in Florida I figured now is the perfect time for my first parkrun. For those of you that don’t know, parkrun started in the UK in 2004 and has spread since then to many different countries and even continents. The concept is simple, a free-for-all, timed, 5K run, every Saturday morning organised by volunteers. I live in the Netherlands and for some reason, parkrun doesn’t exist here. I think it’s related to a requirement of permits, but that’s just an assumption on my side. I’ve heard a lot of good things about parkruns on some of the Facebook groups I am a part of and just wanted to give it a try. 

Preparation

I did my research, I checked out the available parkruns in Florida and compared them to my travelling schedule. As parkruns are always on a Saturday I would need to be in the area on a Saturday. My only option was Clermont Waterfront Parkrun on the first Saturday after my arrival in Orlando on Thursday. This is still a 1 hour drive from the hotel in Lakeland we’re staying at, but this should be manageable. I registered for parkrun on the general website, printed my barcodes, checked the route and parking advices on the website and figured I was ready! I was wrong. 

First of all, we arrived in our hotel after travelling for 25 hours on Thursday night/Friday morning at 01:00. The next day we got up early, excited to start our first day off our Florida trip. I managed about 4 hours sleep that night. After a good first day I went to bed early on Friday night at 21:00 and was wide awake by 01:30, fully convinced it was time to get up. European time: 7:30, I’m going to go ahead and call that a jetlag. I didn’t sleep anymore meaning I managed now 8,5 hours sleep in two days. Not great, but I felt fit enough to go for my run. I wasn’t hoping on any PB’s and would simply treat it as an easy run. The Florida heat and humidity would probably be enough challenge! I put on my running clothes, shoes and took the water bottles out of the freezer, let’s do this!

We drove to Clermont without issues (with the small exception of a run in with a squirrel, sorry buddy!!) and found the indicated parking lot. There were a lot of other runners arriving and getting ready so there was no doubt we were in the right spot. On our way there we already saw some activity down the course and figured that must be the start! I made a short stop at the bathroom across the street and we also noticed a 5K turnaround point. Wait, that means the start is 2,5K away from here? There were more runners going in that direction and I figured they’re doing their warm-up. I didn’t think much further, I didn’t ask, I started walking, fast. As would become clear later, in the complete wrong direction. I was still about 5-10 minutes away from what I could see was the start and there was no way I could make it in time. I sat down on a bench, defeated, disappointed and confused. Soon, runners with bib numbers came by, I could see somewhere around the start area a group of people getting into the lake and a little later a group of cyclists passed me by, accompanied by a police car. Okay, this was not a parkrun. This was a triathlon! To be more precise, the 2019 Spring Fling Triathlon Festival. Great, but what about my parkrun? By now it was already past 7:30 and my determination kicked in. I am ready and able to run, so I will run! 

My run

I send my boyfriend to walk back to the car and I started running in the other direction. I would probably not be doing 5K, knowing he’s waiting on me and having wasted some time already, but anything would be better as just walking back to the car and going on with our day. 

My Garmin had trouble connecting with GPS and I was too restless to wait on a connection, so I just pressed start and went with it. Looking back on the tracked map it needed at least a few minutes to find my location. Sounds reasonable since I’ve flown halfway across the world since using the GPS last. I was running on a paved cycling/running/walking path right beside a beautiful lake and I was joined by many other runners. Mostly triathletes probably. 

It was about 7:45 in the morning, 23°C and I already felt grateful for the iced water in my Flipbelt. I made my turnaround and started running back towards the parking lot. On my way back I also started piecing together what went wrong here today and by the time I checked back in with my boyfriend at our car I explained to him exactly how it went down. I do my best thinking while running, but who doesn’t? 

So, what went wrong? The Clermont Waterfront Parkrun changed the course today to not interfere with the triathlon race that was going on. The activity we saw down the course from the car and wrongfully assumed was the parkrun start, was in fact a triathlon water stop and the start of the parkrun must actually be on the other side of the parking lot. As I passed my walking boyfriend near the car he made some charming running pictures and I decided to check my theory and ran to the other side of the parking lot. I found the course, the parkrun runners and the start/finish at about 50 meters from where I parked the car. Oops. I stayed a while to catch my breath, watch the runners and than decided to leave it at that and go find us some breakfast. Better luck next time!

 

Summary

At least I ran? The course is beautiful and it seems as the organisation provided a good alternative to their regular course with the ongoing triathlon. Some information on this change on their Facebook page would’ve definitely helped me piece it together earlier, but they do provide extensive instructions to how to find parking and the start/finish. I might just be bad at following instructions. Anyway, I ran in Florida and I plan to do so again in the next two weeks. I’ll keep you updated! 

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