One of the many things I love about parkrun is how versatile it is to fit in with the needs of all types of runners. You can turn up every now and then with no commitment, run/walk just for fun, or take it a bit more seriously, it’s totally up to you! Over the years, parkrun has built up a legion of dedicated enthusiasts looking for new and fun ways to challenge themselves without ever having to worry about getting a new PB. One such way which has really taken off is the Running Challenges! If you haven’t heard of it before, this is basically a Chrome or Firefox extension (installation guide here) which pimps up your parkrun results page with some cool looking badges, which can be collected by volunteering or completing a set of parkrun related challenges, ranging from the simple to the obscure. There are loads of different challenges to get involved with, here are a few of the most popular ones:
The premise is simple: collect all the numbers from 00 to 59, based on the finishing seconds of your parkrun time. So if for example you finish in 34:28, you cross the number 28 off of your scoresheet. I love this challenge because it can be played by all runners regardless of speed – perfectly in keeping with the inclusive ethos of parkrun. To begin with, you will find yourself crossing off a new number most weeks, however, the game gets increasingly harder as time goes by as you struggle to get a unique number. Stephen Ferguson has written a fascinating mathematical analysis on his blog showing that it takes the average runner around 281 parkruns to complete the set! As for my own progress, I have ticked off 55 numbers in 117 parkruns, putting me slightly ahead of the statistical mean for now, although it could well take me another two years to claim those final five numbers!
Visiting 20 different parkruns allows you access to the closed UK parkrun tourists Facebook group, and the ability to buy a coveted yellow ‘cow cowl’. You may have spotted runners wearing these while visiting your local parkrun, as a way of identifying other tourists. As much as I love running at Walthamstow with my friends, I really enjoy visiting different venues, the courses all so different but all with the same unmistakably familiar parkrun feeling. I’m currently on 26 different parkrun venues, which has earned me the ‘Quarter Cowell’ badge, named in tribute to Chris and Linda Cowell, the first male and female runners to visit 100 different venues.
As a bit of an extension to simple parkrun tourism, some intrepid runners like to take it a bit further and try to visit a parkrun starting with each letter of the alphabet! There are currently no ‘X’ parkruns, so to earn this badge you will need to pick up each of the other 25 letters on your travels. This is further complicated by the relative rarity of some of the letters: while I seem to keep picking up ‘W’s and ‘C’s, other letters such as ‘I’ and ‘J’ are harder to find. At present, picking up a ‘Z’ needs a trip overseas to either Poland or South Africa! Unfortunately I don’t see myself completing this challenge any time soon, but I look forward to visiting as many new venues as I can this year.
There are also a few other parkrun name-based challenges that are a bit more achievable for those of us who can’t travel every week. Take the compass badge for example, awarded for running at venues containing each of North, South, East and West in the name. In fact, my most recent badge was one of these mini challenges, the ‘Staying Alive’ badge for running at three ‘B’s and three ‘G’s (three BeeGees). I finished this challenge almost by accident with a New Years Day double parkrun at Greenwich and Bexley.
I’ve really enjoyed seeing my badge collection grow over the past year, adding several more volunteering badges, the Christmas Day badge and the Bushy Pilgrimage among others. For a full description of all the available badges, and statistics available, head on over to this useful guide on the running challenges website. For the super-keen, there is a whole plethora of fun and dare I say it, slightly ridiculous challenges to get stuck into.
I’d love to hear if you are taking part in any of the parkrun challenges! Drop me a line here or on Twitter/instagram where you can find me @gailseal