As a fan of Parkrun, I decided some time ago to see what the US had to offer. Parkrun has taken over Saturday mornings in the UK, and I expected the concept to have moved across to the States where people seem to either exercise or don’t to the extreme. So I was a little shocked to see that there were only three in the entire country.
That’s right. Three Parkruns.
I don’t know if it’s the ignorance of the event, or if it’s because of the litigious culture (would an event not take place without public liability insurance?) but considering how other Commonwealth countries also have a growing number of runs and participants, I was pretty shocked.
I googled to see if there was an equivalent, or any 5k runs, and stumbled across the Fog City Run. It’s a weekly 5k-ish run, which meets and finishes at a bar, The Blue Lights, in the Pacific Heights area of San Francisco. It was described as “hilly”, but there is an entry fee of $5 (currently £2.96), and there is a free pint at the end. If there is one thing that will see me facing my hatred of hills, it’s the knowledge that there is alcohol at the end.
I found a topography image of the route, and did balk at the seemingly steep inclines. I’ve been before, and can confirm that there are some eye-watering gradients. However, I decided that I would at least give it a go.
I also wanted to try out my new toy; the Garmin Forerunner 220.
We were staying in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, so we walked up, literally, to Pacific Heights. Arriving at the Blue Lights, we met Max, who had started the run. Curious as to why a couple of Brits had turned up, I told him how I’d stumbled across the Fog City Run. Unsurprisingly, he had never heard of Parkrun, so we explained how it worked, and how it had started. Max told us how he’d come up with the idea of his run after taking part in a run that started and finished at a pub in New Zealand. He’d been inspired by how it had grown and regularly had around 40 runners taking part. His run hadn’t quite reached those numbers; I think there were 8 runners at this one.
We started at a point on a parallel street, thankfully taking out one hill before we started. There was a hill, but it was one I could cope with, and which I could chat to one of the other runners, Jordan, about how I’d found this run, and where I came from. It was great not to have to explain to am American where Leicester is!
Then the run took an uphill turn for the worse.
I have been advised to run uphill on my toes, taking smaller strides. There was no other way of tackling this hill. I’ve been struggling to even run The Hill at Parkrun on my toes, but I swear that if I’d try to use even part of my midsole, I would’ve fallen backwards!
By the time we reached the steps into the Presidio, my thighs were numb. My lungs were objecting. I was barely walking, let alone running. The only thing that kept me going was the pint at the end.
What goes up, must come down though and there was a lovely long downhill through a park. I found that I quickly recovered. My breathing returned to normal, and my thighs stopped whinging. The remainder of the run was undulating, more so than I would normally like, but I took the hills better than I would have done when I found the run on Google.
My Garmin registered 4.82km in 26:29, however it was set up to ignore stopping for traffic lights etc. I think that this needs a bit of tweaking, as the elapsed time was 30:35 (I did restart the clock instead of saving the run, doh, but it wouldn’t have been that long). Either way, it meant I enjoyed my Angry Orchard cider, which I heartily recommend, especially if you like tart apple flavours.
300ft plus over 5k doesn’t look like a lot, but believe me, it is! I will never moan about The Hill again. Compared with The Wall, it’s a speed bump.
After the run, Max asked for more details in the practicalities of the Parkrun, which we provided. A little bit of me hopes that he does look into it, as a city like San Francisco, which has a lot of runners, deserves to have an event like ours.
I’d like to extend my thanks to max, and the Blue Light, for welcoming us, and to the other runners who were friendly and made for an enjoyable (it’s always enjoyable after the event) run.