Running with Rhyno: First parkrun a ‘challenge’ for me

No bibs. No timing chips. Just have your barcode ready once you cross the finish line.

Conditions were icy and snowy at the Nose Hill parkrun Saturday.

I joined 40 or so other runners for my first “parkrun.”

Coincidentally it was the 14th annual International parkrun Day.

In 20 countries around the world — including Canada – people of all walks of life run free timed 5K run every Saturday morning.

It all began 14 years ago when 13 runners gathered in London’s Bushy Park for a free timed 5k run.

Fast forward to today, parkrun is one of the biggest running event in the world with more than 3.2 million barcodes scanned.

Funny enough I had recently read two books that mentioned the parkrun.

It was my friend Rachel who suggested I check out the run here in Calgary.

Must be fate, right?

I was a little hesitant because I didn’t know anyone and I wasn’t sure I could run 5K without collapsing. (For your reference, it is the short-distance runs that put the fear in endurance runners.)

After getting the lowdown from the volunteers on how the race worked, I was ready to get moving. I regretted not wearing my kahtoolas because it was really icy in spots.

One volunteer told the first timers not to worry about setting a personal best – to just get a feel of the course this week. Then come back next week and set a new personal record.

Great advice especially given the wintery conditions.

The atmosphere was chill (no pun intended) and welcoming.

I spoke with a few runners who were regulars and had been with Nose Hill parkrun since the beginning in September 2016.

Only two cancellations in two years is pretty impressive given Alberta’s unpredictable weather.

They seem to get many tourists and people from out of town that have run the parkrun elsewhere.

The barcodes are also a key element of the run. In order to register a race time, you must download your barcode, which is scanned at the end of your run.

Then you can use your barcode to run anywhere in the world that hosts parkruns. Suzanne Brooks, Nose Hill parkrun event organizer, said the parkrun is run by volunteers and it is a lovely community event that continues to grow.

“One of the volunteers’ job is to be the tail walker so you will never be last,” said Brooks.

I like the sound of that. I ran with the goal to finish under 35 minutes and to not fall. I accomplished both.

After the run, a bunch of the volunteers and runners headed to a local coffee shop. I think I will go back as much as I can this winter.

Obviously I would like to get a better time for my 5K. It will be fun to see how I progress over the winter.

What’s really neat too is that we can see how we stack up in our age/gender group around the world. (The average global run time is 31:40.) Thankfully I stayed upright for the entire run.

I’m not really calling it a “race” because I don’t think that’s really the point. I think it’s more apt to call it a “challenge” where everyone is chasing their own personal best.


Crystal Rhyno is a NAASFP certified running coach and mentor. You can find Running with Rhyno on Facebook and @CrystalRhyno on Twitter. Send your column ideas, photos and stories to

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