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Park run with kids-warts and all!

I’ve just got home from Park Run this morning and I’m filled with emotions so thought it would be the perfect time to share our Park Run successes and difficulties with you.

I didn’t find today much fun. My eight year old wanted to run with me to try and get her PB. Brilliant, so I thought. The first mile she was awesome, so positive and chatty and we were running at a pace that would in fact allow her to set a PB. Then, without warning, the moaning begins; sore legs, toe hurts, her trainers are suddenly too small! I forget all of her excuses, but you get the idea. I’m upset that she’s mentally given in, but I’m also frustrated. I was really looking forward to my run this morning and now I find myself walking with her.

We end up finishing the run and I can see she’s disappointed in herself, but worse than that, she knows I’m disappointed. I give her a hug, despite feeling a little fed up, I tell her that she’s done well to finish a 3.1 mile run in under 35 minutes, on such a hot morning and at the age of eight. When I say it out loud all of my frustration melts away because that is actually incredible when I really think about it.

So our journey with Park Run only started in January this year. Until then we felt the girls would be too young. Our local Park Run is a two lap course, initially the girls completed just one lap and then stopped. Pretty soon though they were run/walking the full course and for the past three months they have run the whole course, gradually improving their times.

Just like today, it isn’t always like the photo, mother and daughters happily sharing their love of running! More often than not there are challenges to face that go beyond the physical aches and pains. When developing grit in young people there is some pretty convincing evidence that physical challenges allow that vital skill to develop in bucket loads. The physical pain of running is the first thing for children to understand – it is normal for it to hurt, but it is also important to understand that every run gets a little easier. They will then start to learn so much more from this weekly experience, social skills, empathy, handling emotions of running slower than a friend, determination, the list of challenges and benefits really does go on and on.

I asked the girls to tell me how they feel about Park run, here are their thoughts:

Lily age 8 “I like it when I’m running a little away from you and I feel like I’m alone in the trees, it makes me really happy. I also like setting a good time!”

Summer age 6 “I like listening to my music while I run, Little Mix keeps me going when I want to stop!”

We are still searching for the best way to tackle Park Run to ensure that all four of us enjoy and benefit from it, this may take many more months! But what I am convinced of is that we are doing the right thing for us as a family, despite the challenges and moaning. We love seeing our Park Run ‘family’ each week, giving and receiving support from fellow runners and the life lessons we are learning each week. It also feels great driving home with a sense of achievement and that natural high we all feel from the endorphins released and of course the guilt free glass of wine on a Saturday night is nice too! I can’t recommend Park Run enough, whatever your level there is a place for you.


Top tips we’ve learnt along the way:

  • All the gear: It doesn’t have to cost a lot, but you need to make sure they are comfy and safe. Trainers with appropriate grip and support are really important. Jumper and running leggings for cold weather and shorts and vest for warmer weather will help to reduce the moaning!
  • Technology: we’ve found that having music to listen to and then creating their own play lists has a really positive impact on their running. Using tracking watches can also help to motivate them and keep them going when they might want to stop.
  • Be organised: find everything the kids will need for the run the night before, drinks bottles, iPod and case, headphones, trainers etc. You don’t want anything to stop you getting out of the door on Saturday morning!
  • Have a plan: today Chris ran with Summer and I ran with Lily, some weeks one of us runs with both and the other one has the opportunity to run alone. Switching it up can help keep the parents motivated (and sane!).
  • Forget the Park Run PB: it’s taken me a while to accept this one but you can’t use Park run with children as a way of running your own best 5k. You are essentially a coach, encouraging, supporting, wiping tears and walking instead of checking your pace watch!
  • Don’t give up: we’ve had weeks where we thought it wasn’t going to work out and that the girls are maybe too young, but we’ve stuck with it and I’m so pleased we have. Yes it still has its challenges, but we are now at a stage where they get up without resistance and want to go on a Saturday morning, they aren’t afraid of how their bodies feel when they run and they understand how it helps them to be healthy for life.

4findingfitness completed a combined distance of 12.4 miles running before 10am this Saturday morning, feeling proud we got up with the alarm.

Please share your family stories of Park run successes and lessons learnt.