It was with fear and anxiety that I mustered up the courage to attend my first ever parkrun at the newly created Linford Wood event last August. This was a momentous day for me in a personal journey I started exactly one year before when I couldn’t walk one kilometre, let alone run five.
Having carried an extra 10 stone around on my body each day for the previous few years I decided it was time to change. As I was approaching 50 years of age, improving my chances of living longer was a big motivating factor.
I set myself a clear goal – to lose 100 pounds (around seven stone) in 12 months, the healthy way. No gimmicks, no food combining, no juicing, no slimming clubs just healthy eating and – yep you guessed it – running. Well, walking at the start, because when you are carrying an extra seven stone running is a big challenge!).
I had been feeling for some time that I was ready to take the next step in my journey to health, to be part of ‘something’. I knew that being around other active people in some way would help me. I didn’t know what exactly, but I knew that there must be something out there.
And so, with a little bit of homework (Google and Facebook) I came across parkrun and the new event at Linford Wood. Having psyched myself up all week I woke up on that Saturday morning to intense sunshine. I contemplated staying at home, telling myself it was going to be too difficult in this heat, but I didn’t.
I turned up with no idea what to expect; when you are nervous small things matter. Where was I going to park? How do I know where the start is? What happens at the finish line?
Well I can categorically say that I need not have given ANY of these things a second thought. My first experience was spectacular from start to finish, something that has continued every week since. The brilliant event organisation is matched by the spirit in which all the volunteers and marshals are giving instruction and encouragement at every opportunity. For me, and I suspect for many, this sums up the parkrun philosophy, the USP, the reason for being there. Without doubt the volunteers at Linford Wood deliver this to the max.
Immersing myself in new environments such as parkrun have helped me to totally embrace the ‘journey’ and accept that things won’t happen ‘overnight’. I’ve come to understand that there is actually no end as only a lifestyle change will deliver longstanding success. However, now the time feels like it has passed quickly; at the beginning the place I am at now seemed so far away.
When I started my journey I cried with physical (and emotional) pain every time I went out to walk my 1k route, which was twice a day. Now, 18 months on and six months after my first parkrun, I am heading towards a sub 30 minute 5k.
For me this is just the start.
For the record my time in that first week was around 39 minutes, six weeks later I was almost under 35 minutes. Also, I have become at tourist! Visiting family in the North West I attended Lytham where I smashed my then PB coming in at around 33 mins, but then is was a very flat circuit course! To date I have lost 120lb, it has cost me nothing except 2 pairs of trainers and some running clothing. I am heading towards being half the person I was, literally and life is very different.
In conclusion, I’m well and truly hooked already – it hasn’t taken long! The unique environment of parkrun has been instrumental in me coming so far in such a short time.
Onwards into 2017, the year in which I get married and turn 50, I plan to step up my tourism activities visiting some of the amazing events around the country. I look forward to connecting with more of the fantastic people, runners and volunteers, who make up this outstanding movement and unbeknown to themselves give people like me another chance at really living life.
So, I happen to be your way sometime I look forward to seeing you early each Saturday morning for a slice of agony and ecstasy at the same time.
Aberystwyth parkrun is located in the historic market town of Aberystwyth in West Wales in Cardigan Bay. Located by the seaside, the town is a popular tourist destination, and even more so for parkrun tourists! Anita Worthing, Event Director at Aberystwyth parkrun tells us more… Aberystwyth was the fourth parkrun to start in Wales when…
63-year-old Stephen Cowell (third from left) has been the full-time kit manager at Championship football club Preston North End for the past two seasons, and during this time he has taken part in parkrun before every match – both home and away. Along the way he has inspired players, staff and supporters to join…