This year as part of the parkrun Conference, delegates were driven to Kingsbury Water parkrun. I was really excited to see what it would be like as it’s not an event that I’ve tried before.
When we arrived at Kingsbury Water, there was a stand with CONTRA clothing set up. We were told that it wasn’t for sale, instead, it was there so that we could try it out. Initially, I thought it was just an exercise in finding the right size. However, I was told that it was an opportunity for us to try on different items of clothing, find the right size and then run complete the parkrun in that clothing.
CONTRA sizing is different from other brands in that it is alphabetical and goes from B-K (10 sizes roughly going from 6-26). I tried on several t-shirts and am very self-conscious of how fat I’ve got this year, so I decided to run in a size F raspberry t-shirt.
The t-shirt had a flattering cut with a nice neckline and darts to improve the fit. I wasn’t sure about the colour, at first, but it definitely grew on me. I really liked the colour of the long-sleeved green tops.
The t-shirt costs £25, which some people might find expensive. However, I thought it was beautifully cut and I’m willing to pay more for a product that is ethically produced. These particular tops are made in Portuguese factories where staff are paid a fair wage. The bonus is that any profit is ploughed into parkrun*.
How did I do?
I’d love to be able to describe the route at Kingsbury Water, but I’m so desperate to get back to running fitness for Castle to Coast triathlon that I wasn’t paying attention to the surroundings.
The run started before I was expecting it to. Despite that, the start wasn’t too congested and I was able to get into a rhythm.
Much of the course was tree-lined which meant that my Garmin data was fluctuating. I’d think I was doing OK, look down at my watch and see a much slower pace than I was expecting, which was disheartening.
Towards the end, I recognised where I was and realised that I was going to go under 30 minutes again, so I pushed hard.
I was so happy that I smashed my goal again. (My Garmin time was even quicker than the official time).
Mingling with running heroes
After the run, I changed back into my apricot t-shirt and had the opportunity to mingle with other parkrunners.
Julie and I were delighted to be able to chat with Dave Moorcroft and his wife. He’s a former world record holder for 5000m, running it in 13:00.41. He was the last non-African to hold this record. He also competed in 3 Olympic Games and won two gold medals in the Commonwealth Games.
It was also lovely to see a young lad who had run his first parkrun. He was going to do a presentation at school about it, so all of the senior parkrun figures offered to have their photos taken with him. What an amazing first parkrun experience!
Other highlights of the parkrun conference
It was fantastic to be able to spend a whole weekend with other people who are passionate about parkrun and the impact it can make on people’s lives. I’ve come away feeling completely inspired and want to set up a thousand new events!
I was absolutely thrilled to meet Jo Pavey, one of my all-time running heroes. She was really friendly and chatted with every single person who wanted to have a photo taken with her. If you don’t know who Jo Pavey is, she’s a 5-time Olympian, who is hoping to qualify for her sixth Olympics in the marathon. She won a gold medal at the 2014 European Championships just 10 months after giving birth (and at nearly 41 years old!)
All of the ambassadors at the conference gave the Ugandan Crew a standing ovation when they danced their way into our hearts.
If you don’t know who the Ugandan Crew are, you need to watch the following episode of Jessica’s parkrun Heroes:
The inspiration behind CONTRA
Paul Sinton-Hewitt explained some of his motivation behind creating the running brand CONTRA. He wanted to create an ethical brand of running clothing in sizes to fit anyone who wants to exercise.
A photo of Dawn Nisbet completing her first parkrun went viral last year. You can see the image below. Dawn explained that she faced a number of barriers to getting into running and that finding appropriate clothing was one of them. She was invited to work with Tim Soar (who also has his own running brand: Soar) to help ensure that the clothes fit large runners perfectly and aren’t just scaled-up size 8s.
You can read more about Dawn and her story here:
If you want to know more about the conference, listen to the latest episode (#164) of the parkrun adventurers podcast.
*It’s worth remembering that although it’s free for everyone to participate in parkrun, it’s definitely not free to run. There is a small team of staff who need to be paid, but the biggest overhead is maintaining the infrastructure of parkrun and enabling new events to be set up. As someone who has enjoyed taking part in nearly 300 runs (as well as volunteering at many more), I feel that I should make a contribution to parkrun.