Working from home isn’t easy. There’s little connection to the outside world and the food cupboards become a way of life. In my early twenties I was fit and a member of a running club, but at 47 those days were long gone! I weighted 20 stone, was an asthma sufferer and was classed as obese, so when I decided to start running I knew it wouldn’t be easy.
My New Year’s resolution in 2017 was to start parkrunning and my first event was Southampton parkrun on 7 January that year. I had to walk quite a bit of it, finishing in a time of 40:56, but the important thing was that I enjoyed it.
I set a goal to lose four stone in weight and started a calorie controlled diet. No special foods or weight clubs, just eating sensibly. To assist with tracking my exercise and food intake, I bought a GPS watch and used a fitness app, which really gave me focus. I was able to track my food intake and even see how much sleep I was getting. To supplement my Saturday parkrun I dug out my rowing machine and started walking at lunchtime.
Southampton parkrun is one of the busiest parkruns in the local area, so after a couple of weeks I switched to the quieter Brockenhurst parkrun. At that time of year the course is a single loop course along a gravel path through a forested area – nothing like a bit of fresh country air to get the motivation going. Oh and the course is far from flat! With a long hill at 3k and a sharp steep hill at 4k it can be tough going. However for some reason this just spurred me on and I enjoyed the challenge of the hills. In early February I even ran through a snow flurry. The weather didn’t bother me, come rain or shine I was going parkrunning!
Right from my very first parkrun, I was overwhelmed by the support and encouragement that I received from the other parkrunners. If you’re struggling to keep running or have started walking, someone is always willing to give you that little boost to keep going or start running again. I am sure this support helped me through those first few weeks and months.
Once I had settled into running every week, I got to know other parkrunners, predominately those who finished around the same time as me. There is definitely a community in parkrunning. Now if I see someone walking I reciprocate the encouragement that I received.
In June I reached my initial goal of four stone lost and my parkrun times were dropping as well. In one stretch I logged 16 PBs back to back and 5k time had dropped from more than 40 minutes to less than 27.
In October 2017 I took on my first 10k in more than 20 years at Bournemouth. I had in my mind that I wanted to be under the hour but something in the 55 minute range would be fantastic. At 5k my time was 26.19 which was only 19 seconds of my personal best and then it hit, a stitch, whether it was due to the fast pace or taking on some water at 7k I was in serious pain and struggling to run at any pace, but I managed to soldier on and finished in a respectable time of 55:30.
I have four children; all of them are members of the New Forest Juniors Athletics Club. For the past four years I have supported the club by taking photos at events and helping to produce their monthly newsletter. Inspired by my running and weight loss achievements I offered my services as an Assistant Coach. I completed a course in November and now help train young athletes twice a week.
I have now joined the parkrun 50 Club and I have entered this year’s Great South Run. It will be 25 years since I last ran this 10 mile race, and I’m trying to find out my time from 1993 so that I have some sort of goal, but it will just be great to finish.
I have now lost 6 stone 6lbs (90lbs) and have gone from a BMI of 36 down to 25. Recently I ticked a bucket list parkrun off my list, running Bushy parkrun in 23.16 which was a new parkrun PB.
Quite a few fellow parkrunners have noticed and commented on my weight loss and improving times and are always interested to know if I have any special tips. From my perspective, it’s a matter of setting yourself a goal; then set a new goal. Even now with a healthy weight I have goals I want to achieve.
I hope that my story can inspire others.
If you know a friend or family member who is affected by overweight and obesity, why not tell them about parkrun and junior parkrun. We have a closed Facebook group, parkrun for people affected by obesity, where members can share their stories and offer support to each other.
My parkrun barcode identifies me as A1562206, my best friend who runs ahead of me calls me Paul, the two conscripts I drag and cajole around the course know me as “Dad”. However, after every 10 or 12 parkruns I volunteer, and on those days I am known to most parkrunners as “Shouty Bearded…
In September 2017 I participated in the Wetherby 10k, which takes place around town centre. As I ran over the bridge towards HM YOI Wetherby, a male juveniles prison where I am employed as a social worker, I started to think about the benefits of running for young people who are remanded or sentenced to…