My love/hate relationship with running stretches all the way back to high school. As much as I may not always enjoy the sprint work outs or climbing a tough hill, I’ve always enjoyed the running community, through track teams, marathon training with friends and now as a member of a UK running club. It’s been a great way to meet people and make friends, and while it’s not for everyone it has definitely worked for me. I’ve been a member of this club for almost a year and a half now, and have competed in a variety of races across the UK, which brings me to this post. The running culture here varies SO MUCH from what I was used to in America, but I’ve really grown to enjoy it.
The Cost of Racing
In America, road running has gotten unbelievably popular in the past few years, which has driven up the demand for races. And races must compete for runners, so every race has a gimmick, and it seems a high price tag. I’ve paid as much as $50 for a 5k (which is over in less than 30 minutes!) and $175 for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in DC. (You do get a Tiffany necklace…so maybe the cost is kind of justified?) What happened to running for the love of running and competition?
The better trend was that a few local bars started hosting free 5k road races (untimed) every week, and giving out free craft beer to all participants. Which was awesome, if a bit counter productive to marathon training.
Races in the UK tend to be cheaper. I’ve done a few half marathons, 10k’s and 5ks. The half marathons have generally been around £25 ($38 USD) and the 10ks have been as little as £10 (15 USD). You don’t always get a t shirt or a medal, but the shirts have started to pile up, and I can’t wear all of them, so I’m not that sad. Even the largest half marathon in the world, the Great North Run comes in a £53, less than what I’ve paid for many local half marathons in the US.
The down side to this is that there aren’t always police officers at road crossings, and the roads aren’t always closed to traffic. The volunteers are great though, and the lower cost means I can do more races! Which brings me to the next subject…
This is one of my favourite UK programmes, free 5k’s in parks around the country. There are two within a 20 minute drive of me, every Saturday morning at 9 am. You just show up with your bar code, they keep track of your time and all your stats and it really is that easy. When you’re on holiday, it’s fun to visit other parkruns as well, and it guarantees that you can get a run in. This is starting to catch on in the US, and I really hope it does because it encourages fitness and is open to everyone.
An interesting surprise when I did the first few UK road races was that generally the field is fast! At least where I live (Cumbria), people don’t show up to walk a 10k race, and generally most of the field shows up with a team jersey on and is pretty speedy. A time that would get me generally in the top third when I ran in the US, leaves me solidly in the bottom third here. People are less willing to race ‘for fun’ I’ve been told and it’s more about the competition.
Overall, I’m glad I’m able to run here as it’s helped me to make friends and burn off all that real ale. 🙂