News - 13th July 2017

Owing my life to parkrun

brendan spellman finish

In 2011 I was a homeless alcoholic living underneath Brighton Pier. Six years on and I’ve completed my 100th parkrun surrounded by friends and well-wishers. Not only is my life now significantly different to what it was back then, but I feel that I actually owe my life, in part, to parkrun.


Following a happy, healthy childhood, I had my own home, a family and a reasonable salary working in the building trade in Surrey. However, as a result of the recession and downturn in building projects, I lost my job, my savings and eventually my house and relationship. I moved to Brighton in 2011 to try to make a fresh start but things didn’t work out and I quickly discovered the vicious circle of homelessness. Eventually my mental strength ebbed away, I started drinking from dawn to dusk, and took to sleeping under the pier where at least the pebbles gave me a certain level of security as they stopped most people coming over to hassle me and gave me advance warning of anyone approaching.


One day I was approached by some people who were “companions” at the wonderful Emmaus charity, that operates as a social enterprise by generating income that pays for homeless people to be homed and receive food and upkeep in return for them coming off benefits and working five days a week at their centre. I was fortunate enough to be accepted there, and it gave me a stable structure of a meaningful role, a safe living environment, as well as a framework that didn’t involve alcohol.


I got to know Val Poole (parkrunner A49391) – one of the Emmaus volunteers – who first told me about parkrun. I hadn’t run in more than 15 years but I had played a lot of football in the past. Val encouraged me to go along with her to Brighton and Hove parkrun to give it a go. I found it really difficult to start with but I just kept going back every week and eventually realised that I was enjoying it. Val introduced me to lots of people and I started making friends. My self confidence grew and I started going jogging during the week. In 2015, I ran the Brighton Half Marathon after one of the Emmaus trustees arranged a place for me.


Brendan and Val


I am always going to struggle with alcohol issues but parkrun and running in general have given me a structure to make a different choice and not fall back into a rut. If I get up and go for a run, I come back feeling upbeat; I shower, have a healthy breakfast and I’m set up for a positive day ahead. Before, I would be bored and purposeless so I would inevitably turn to drink.


parkrun is so fantastic – I love the variety of people that come along. One of my most cherished runs was next to a baby being pushed in a buggy who giggled the whole way round. I also enjoy marshalling, barcode scanning and token sorting. I could never give this up. I look forward to proudly sporting my new milestone t-shirt and I know that it will remind me of the journey I have come on as well as the future that I have got to look forward to.


Brendan Spellman
parkrunner A383135

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