For Charlotte Arter, her last parkrun was pretty much like everyone’s in that she’d run, had fun, stopped for a coffee and a chat on the way home before getting on with her lunch and her usual Saturday afternoon life.
It’s a familiar scene for the thousands (including members of the England Athletics and RunTogether communities) who run in one every weekend up and down the country. It’s not a race, it’s a bit of fun with exercise and all its health benefits thrown in.
And then Charlotte’s twitter account went into overdrive. Admittedly her Saturday morning was faster than most as she had flown around the course in an eye-opening 15min 49sec. The only thing was, it wasn’t just quicker than most, it was quicker than everyone had ever run…ever! And now twitter and her friends were telling her that. She had no idea and had been more concerned with what was for lunch.
“I love parkrun; they’re fantastic to see so many people every Saturday morning,” she says. “It was pretty crazy to run the record, but pretty exciting at the same time. It is pretty cool to have my name as the fastest parkrunner in the world,” she laughs.
For us mere mortals running a world record is something even the most far-fetched running dream rarely includes, but for Charlotte suddenly it’s now a reality although a big surprise. She had turned up for nothing more than a hard run and a chat afterwards because that’s what parkruns are all about. They aren’t about world records, they are very much about the taking part and that’s why she loves them so. Of course, it’s not entirely an accident she runs so quickly.
Away from the relaxed, friendly world of parkruns, Charlotte is a fully-fledged international athlete, and was a member of Britain’s winning team at the European Cross Country Champs in 2018. She has a 32min 10k to her name and owns a half marathon clocking that is quicker than 70 minutes – she’s super-fast in anyone’s books. Not that she’s always been so. She’s modestly describes herself as a ‘not very good runner’ in school in Cumbria. “I did all sorts of sports at school including the English Schools' fell running champs, but it’s taken a while to get to where I am today,” she continues, adding that it’s “been a long journey – 10 years to get to this level.”
It’s at this point any discussion would ordinarily turn to Olympic dreams, but as we all know, this is far from a standard year. However, Charlotte is nothing but tough and has already got her eyes on something else in the future. It’s difficult to say what that might be, but in the past two years or so she really has grown in confidence and understands what kind of athlete she is and what will work or not for her. It’s a hurdle, like all of us, she’ll get over.
For now it’s all about having fun, although she readily admits that’s most of the time for her when it comes to the training she puts in.
“You must have easy days where you run really easily at chatting pace,” she explains, adding that you only need to up the pace every now and then to see real improvement. “I love running because it’s so simple really,” she continues.
“If you’re new to running all you need to do is try and go out one run a week slightly longer. Try to increase that by a few minutes each week. And then once a week, do something a bit quicker. Consistency is the key. Try to be pretty regular every week.”
For Charlotte that even means exploring the countryside and rewarding yourself appropriately for a job well done when you’ve finished your run.
“One thing I love about trail running is the sense of freedom it provides and the way you can just go out and explore, no watch, no worries. I remember running in the Dolomites and just following my nose. I enjoyed some amazing runs on that holiday. Run like that really helped me to progress. “And,” she reminds us, “consistency is the key.” Not to mention cake and wine. “If want a bit of cake, or glass of wine, have it. I do.” You can’t argue with that. Stay strong!