News - 13th September 2017

What makes Co-op and parkrun so special


Each week we will be featuring guest bloggers to tell us about their experiences first-hand. The very first Co-op parkrun blogger is Helen O’Neil who has completed 110 parkruns across 26 different locations. We couldn’t think of anyone better qualified to explain what makes Co-op and parkrun so special, Helen’s enthusiasm for both is infectious!


I’m delighted to have been asked to be part of this very first blog which is the start of the partnership between two massive parts of my life.


I registered with parkrun back in January 2015 and I immediately caught the bug, I’ve now completed 110 parkruns plus around 20 junior parkruns with my son who is 5 years old. Town Moor is my local parkrun, but I’ve also visited 26 different parkruns across the UK and Ireland. I am proud to work for Co-op as a HR Business Partner and I’ve been there for almost 10 years now!


I had started jogging in 2014 to do my first 5k for a sponsored charity fun run – my 292nd new initiative of trying to lose weight after having my little boy. I hated the running part of running (if that makes sense) but enjoyed the buzz afterwards. My friends told me about parkrun and I decided to go along to see that all the fuss was about.


I was nervous for my first one as I assumed everyone would be “proper runners” so I made my husband come with me and he promised to come in behind me if I was at the back. I quickly realised this plan was unnecessary as most runners were there for a bit of Saturday morning exercise or catch up with friends having a walk or jog.


I love everything about parkrun, but especially I love the people – everyone is so encouraging and nice. parkrun has really helped my confidence as I didn’t used to do any exercise really and couldn’t stand the thought of being trapped in a gym or classes so never saw myself as someone who would ever actually enjoy exercise and now it’s part of my life.


I like to chat and run with others slowly some weeks and then pushing myself other weeks depending on how I feel. I have a parkrun personal best of 24:39, but I’m 22 weeks pregnant at the moment so am getting times of more like 30-40 mins – no matter what the time it’s still a great sense of achievement and better that I used to get sitting on the sofa! I like to think that I have a key role to play by running slowly to make other people look fast I’ve rarely experienced it but I’ve heard rumours that the ones at the front run without talking!! We use the phrase “there’s more craic at the back” which is very fitting for most parkruns I have done.


You only have to see a parkrun to appreciate the similarities between our Co-op purpose and the strategy that parkrun have to help build strong communities inclusive for everyone. Many of our customers shop with us because they know by doing so they are supporting their very own community and I’m so passionate that the Co-op’s whole strategy to champion a better way of doing business for you and the communities feeds this link between the two.


Our teams at the Co-op understand the communities we operate in and this partnership will help make our store teams and customers happier and healthier together – which can only be a good thing.  We are always reading about the trends in obesity, physical health problems as well as increasing mental health issues and where I’m not naive enough to think there is one sole solution, I have seen many instances (both in my work and personally) of exercise and healthy eating making huge changes to individuals, families and just pulling communities together.


Helen O’Neil

Co-op HR Business Partner  

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