Back in June 2014, my cousin Andrea and I decided to try out this parkrun thing people kept telling us about… and it turns out it totally changed the past couple of years for us!
I generally didn’t miss running a parkrun unless I was volunteering or sunning myself, Andrea occasionally missing after a couple of gins on a Friday night! It’s taken a little longer than planned as I was on schedule to do this on 5 August 2017 until during my pregnancy I had to put an early stop to my running! Andrea is my cousin but we were that close when we were younger. We started to run together and she was my first proper running partner and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather share the 100 with.
As I have reflected on the past 100 runs I have realised that turning up that morning back in June 2014 has given me more than a t-shirt with 100 on the back. I came along that day because I wanted to improve my running after agreeing to support a friend at Race for Life. I teach fitness classes and enjoy exercise but back then I hated running. I wasn’t able to run very far and I thought I would never improve.
I continued to do parkrun each week slowly seeing improvements then started to run with Andrea in the week too. In 2016 this led to me starting my own running group where we are both now Run Leaders. We even won the Run Leader/Group of the Year at the regional England Athletics Volunteer Awards in 2017. Not bad for someone who hated running.
The volunteering side of parkrun has had a huge impact too. I started to support my local event, Oakwell Hall parkrun, when it needed volunteers. I decided to give the role of Run Director a go, I was told that I’m good at projecting my voice (I think they meant I was quite loud!). I soon found myself volunteering most weeks so even when running I would set up or help with the results.
Amanda, the Event Director at Oakwell Hall parkrun, has always been a brilliant support and after some chatting she decided she would like to share the load, inviting me to become Co-Event Director with her. I was so pleased and proud to be involved even more with such a brilliant event.
Since then I have become a volunteer Outreach Ambassador for junior parkrun. This has given me the chance to go into a number of schools to tell children about junior parkrun. I love asking “who has ever been to a parkrun?” and some of the kids putting their hands up! This also gave me chance to work with a couple of parkrun STARS, George and Leah. If you don’t know what a STAR is you should check this out here. More recently I have joined the parkrun UK team as a volunteer Social Media Ambassador too.
That may seem like a lot of volunteering, but over the past year it has been such a support. Last year during my pregnancy I was stopped from running at around 16 weeks and even told not to walk more than two miles per day. For someone who exercises at least six days a week this was difficult, but turning up at parkrun every Saturday during this time helped me in so many ways. I got to talk to all the parkrun friends I’ve made and cheer everyone on. I volunteered whenever I could. It helped me stay involved and feel like I wasn’t missing out on a run because I was just there enjoying the atmosphere. This was a huge comfort to me. Volunteering makes me feel so good and it was chance to get out of the house and enjoy the social side of parkrun.
So, for anyone wondering whether they should go to parkrun for the first time, I would say do it! I’ve met some friends for life. And anyone who is wondering whether they should volunteer I would say definitely. It’s helped me in so many ways and I’ll forever be grateful for what Paul Sinton-Hewitt has created.
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