Gary Nisbet is somewhat of a parkrun legend. He has completed 210 parkruns in total and he is a well-travelled tourist with 115 different runs all over Australia. But Gary’s story is not what you might expect. This is a heartwarming story about a father and son. Gary’s son, David, played a central role in kickstarting a new, fulfilling life for him.
After having a workplace accident that left me with severe depression and anxiety, I stopped weighing myself after reaching 137kg. As you would expect, my doctor was very worried about this huge weight gain and suspected I may have become a type 2 diabetic. He gave me three months, with which to lose some of the weight, whereby he would test me for diabetes.
My son, David would call in every evening to invite me to join him for a walk around the block, but I refused to participate. Eventually, after many unsuccessful evening visits, and a loving son’s persistence, I decided to join him. A short time later, after weighing myself, I was shocked to find I had lost 7kg.
Upon my return to the doctor’s office, and the usual run of tests, I received confirmation that I was type 2 diabetic. This was devastating news for both myself and the family, especially on top of my chronic condition. My doctor, who is very understanding, discussed the prospect of putting me on medication. However, seeing that I had lost the 7kg in such a short time, he decided to let me try to control the diabetes with diet and exercise.
Upon informing David of my condition, he started doing some research and found that Sandgate parkrun was due to launch. He suggested we both participate. Of course I was not thrilled. I was flat out walking around the block let alone 5km! The anxiety really started taking over and I came up with every excuse in the book not to go, but David would have none of it.
At the Sandgate launch, which was to become my home parkrun, I was so unfit that I would start at 6.30am instead of 7.00am with the rest of the runners, and then it would take me 55 minutes to complete. In time, I found that I could run part of the way, although it was not a very pretty sight!
After 9 Saturday mornings of run/walking, David informed me that in 8 weeks time we were going to be volunteering. Confused, I agreed, however I asked him, why in 8 weeks? He said he had worked out the stats and that in 8 weeks time, I will have run the entire 5kms. We would be volunteering to celebrate! Low and behold, David was right, on the 17th week of participating in parkrun, I ran the entire 5kms! What an achievement, one that I could never have done without David by my side, encouraging me every step of the way. Believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
By Sandgate parkrun’s 1st birthday I had volunteered 3 times, achieved 30 PBs, lost 30kgs, and was awarded Most Improved parkrun medal.
Once I had completed 50 runs at Sandgate, David and I discussed the prospect of starting parkrun touring. In the beginning, it was just David and I, but once the grandchildren, Sienna (aged 7 now 9) and Mitchell (aged 5 now 7) were old enough, and wanted to participate, they joined us. In the beginning, they would volunteer with me, then they wanted to participate themselves. They now have participated in at least 60 parkruns, mostly as tourists, and have PB’s under 30 minutes.
When David isn’t available my wife, Eileen travels with me and has volunteered a few times. From time to time, Caroline, my daughter-in-law also participates.
Touring is great fun. You get to check out different towns and parkruns throughout Australia. You get to meet the locals, as well as catching up with old friends, usually getting together for dinner on the Friday night. Along with breakfast or coffee Saturday morning. The parkruns are all different and the participants are all so friendly and inviting. And the Directors and volunteers do such a fantastic job.
Since beginning my parkrun journey I have noticed a growing misconception that there is a group of parkrun volunteers and a group of parkrun runners. The fact is we are all volunteers and we are all parkrun runners. Unfortunately, without the volunteers to hold the event parkrun would cease to exist. Many times I return to a parkrun that I have visited to volunteer for them. I have always been made very welcome and it is my way of showing my appreciation. My goal is to volunteer 50 times by the time I reach my 250th run.
I still get very anxious and struggle with my energy levels before the start of every parkrun. Unfortunately, this is part of the condition. However, without parkrun, I would be a lot heavier than 137kg and I would still be vegetating on the lounge. I cannot thank my son, David, my family, and parkrun enough for what they have given and done for me. I now have friends from all over Australia. I have met so many amazing run directors and volunteers. I feel so fortunate to be a part of such a great organisation. Thank you parkrun!
Gary Nisbet & Ricci McGreevy
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