Jen Moroz is a Vancouver-based competitive road runner who has represented Canada at two ITU multi-sport world championships, has medaled in half-marathons across Western Canada, and coached the University of British Columbia triathlon club.
She’s also a parkrunner.
You might think that the casual, relaxed nature of parkrun wouldn’t attract competitive runners like Jen, but in truth it’s exactly because parkruns are so welcoming to everybody that they provide such fertile training ground.
Jen first heard of parkrun on the Rob Watson Show, a podcast all about running. Immediately it struck her as a different way to train. “It sounded like a good opportunity to run with a large group of people,” she says, “without the pressure to run a certain time or pace.”
Then last fall, her running club, the Fraser Street Run Club, had recently started to use the Richmond parkrun as part of their training to race in Boston and the BMO Vancouver marathons in the spring. “We now do parkrun as part of our Saturday long runs,” Jen tells us. “Depending on what our training goals are, some of us will do parkrun as a faster 5K finish to our long run, or do it as a 5K interval in a bigger marathon workout.”
She explains, “We typically run 8 to 13 km to parkrun at our half-marathon pace, plus 30 seconds (for example: 5:00/km pace, if your race pace is 4:30/km). Then, we’ll run parkrun at our desired race pace. This forces you to run fast on tired legs, like you would in the last 5 km of a half marathon. The approach seems to work, as most of us have run PRs this season!”
It also helps that parkruns are timed events, with all results posted online, for runners looking to get in a little data with their fitness. “Racing can be expensive,” Jen says, “so it’s great that parkrun allows you to track your progress or gain confidence before committing to a paid race.”
Community is another big pull for Jen. “A lot of runners train solo,” she explains. “But the group will help you run faster or further than you normally would alone. The runners and volunteers will even stick around to cheer on the final finishers!” And while at the bigger (more competitive) races it can be hard to connect with other runners, that’s not the case at parkrun. Even after the run is over, a large group heads to Tim Horton’s to keep the camaraderie up over coffee and crullers.
parkrun has even given Jen the chance to meet other runners from all over the world. “It’s really cool that people travel from Europe and Australia and make parkrun a part of their Canadian experience. It really shows you are a part of a global community, no matter where you are.”
That’s not to say there isn’t room for some friendly international rivalry. Once at a parkrun in Renton, Washington, Jen’s group met another group from Portland. “The run ended up being a race between the Vancouver and Portland athletes,” she remembers. “At the end, we were all surprised at how fast we ran!”
Some runners, like Jen and her friends, are born competitors. Always pushing to find that next level. And then there are those for whom the joy is just getting outdoors and doing it. No matter which category you fall into, you can find your stride on a Saturday in the park – that’s what makes parkrun so special.
Interested in starting a parkrun in your area to complement your own training? Visit parkrun.ca to find out how!
Image 1 photographers: Beverli Barnes, Bryan Andrews
Image 2 photographers: Debra Kato
Image 3 photographer: Winston Guo
Banner image photographer: Blake Kennedy