In August 2012 there was a moment that changed our family’s life forever: the suicide of a teenage family member. We never thought that something like this would ever come to our door and the shock was something we had never experienced before.
My nephew was 17 years old and had a love of music. His suicide turned our family’s world upside down. It’s hard enough for any family to have to deal with the loss of a family member, and a young one at that, but the nature of his taking his own life opened up feelings of guilt, anger, regret to name but a few, on top of the grief. Our family has, nearly six years on, still not come to terms with Dermot’s death and I don’t think we ever will. We have so many unanswered questions but at the same time we have to let go and let him be at peace. Life goes on but we always remember the good times.
In July 2014, I joined the Celbridge Athletic Club Fit4life Group as a way of moving forward. I felt there was a void in my life and I was reaching out, looking for something to help me get fit as I had let myself go in the past few years. Plus it was an opportunity to meet people, something I had not exactly embraced either, maybe a bit of a self-defence mechanism, so as not to get hurt.
There I met a group of remarkable people including Sheila and Declan Hynes. Declan invited me to parkrun one Saturday in October which happened to fall on Halloween. I said yes, not knowing anything about it. In fact, I thought we were going to the Phoenix Park. Instead we arrived at Griffeen parkrun and straight away I felt at home – maybe because it was in Lucan, which is my home town, but the people made it special.
I come from a sporting background. In school, I played many sports, competed in Judo and would have been considered an active student. I went on to play soccer with my work colleagues but over time my physical activities became less and less.I thought if I was out in the fresh air it would clear my head. By the time I came back from my parkrun I might feel better.
My first parkrun experience unfolded as follows: Beforehand, I felt apprehensive and nervous not knowing what to expect. During the run, I felt exhilarated, and afterwards the sense of achievement was overwhelming and totally fulfilling. Since then, parkrun has increased my fitness level, helped me engage with my softer side and with the support of my parkrun family, opened up more opportunities.
I have to say that joining the ranks of the parkrun 50 Club was an achievement in itself, seeing all the hard work finally paying off, having reached the first of many milestones. My competitive edge comes out but I take it at my own pace. You’re running your own race. Every parkrun is different and I run each one as if it’s my first. I’m close to my next milestone of 100.
The connection between my running and my return to Judo was when I ran my first parkrun at Waterstown parkrun beside Stewarts Sports & Leisure Centre, Palmerstown, Dublin where I started my Judo career many years ago. It reignited the spark that had gone out. My growing confidence gave me the motivation to continue where I left off with my Judo path.
My advice to anyone going through a similar experience to mine is to spend as much time as you can with family and friends, encourage those around you to open up and talk about how they’re feeling, listen to them without judgement and prejudice and support them in the way they need.
parkrun does not judge you. It helps you find yourself.
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