My name is Becca. I started parkrun in 2016 to deal with grief and stress and give myself a bit of an escape from what was proving a rough time in my life. parkrun really kickstarted a journey of running for me and I owe so much to it – it is amazing how much it really has transformed my life.
Trying to sum up what parkrun means to me in a few paragraphs doesn’t really do justice to the positive impact parkrun has had on my life. Quite simply it saved me at my lowest and brought me so much joy. parkrun, and running in general, is a huge part of my life now and I’m so glad I made the decision to give it a go.
2016 was quite a difficult year for me. I lost my aunt suddenly on Valentine’s Day due to Sepsis, which hit me hard. My uncle was in and out of hospital too and I was desperately trying to finish my doctorate. Caring for my horse used to be my escape, however shortly after losing my aunt we lost our horse Holly too. My health deteriorated and between the grief and stress I wasn’t really living – I was just existing. The final blow was when I found out I needed surgery due to some health complications. The first six months of 2016 were simply rubbish.
Saturday mornings were usually spent at the stables, outside with the horses, where it was peaceful and you could leave all your troubles behind. Not having this desperately needed time to process how I was feeling was tough. The grief from the previous few months was lingering and I would dread Saturday mornings the most. One particular Saturday, I woke up on autopilot and got ready to go to the yard, before the reality hit me. I vowed to make some changes, to try and improve how I was feeling, and to find a new hobby to get me out the house and try to reclaim my life. I had to break free from the cycle of sadness I was caught in.
I had heard of parkrun through friends but I thought it was a place for seasoned runners. I didn’t think I would belong. However that Saturday when I felt at my lowest I made the decision to go. I had dabbled with running as a student as it was a low-cost way to stay fit and lost five stone in the process so surely I could give it another go? I arrived not knowing what to expect and without a barcode, but was met with friendly faces and an atmosphere that lifted my spirits for the first time in months. I ran the whole 5k, it took me about 27 minutes, and in those precious 27 minutes I had time to process how low I had been feeling. I left parkrun feeling like I had just walked out of a therapy session. I realised just how much I had missed running and I vowed to return the next Saturday.
“The following Saturday I was back and again I felt the weight of the past few months lighten. Somehow running was bringing me the peace I craved.”
I slowly felt more like myself. Every Saturday I would be there at Preston parkrun, standing under the railway bridge waiting to go. I opened up to my friends about my running and a few came to parkrun with me, they enjoyed it as much as I did, there is just something contagious about the atmosphere.
My love for parkrun spurred me to participate in parkrun tourism. I visited Southport parkrun, which is near my family, and felt inspired by the Visually Impaired parkrunners and guides. I wanted to give something back to the community that gave so much to me, so I started guiding (I am now a registered England Athletics Guide). I also started volunteering, which to be honest gave me even more of a buzz than running!
parkrun gave me an extended family. It gave me a purpose and it brought a new sense of happiness into my life. The first Christmas without my aunt was hard. Our usual routine would be to visit the horses then spend the morning with my aunt before returning home for our Christmas dinner. As we couldn’t do either of those things that year I decided we needed to start a new Christmas tradition. It only seemed fitting that parkrun was a part of this new tradition. So Christmas morning I headed down to Southport parkrun with my parents and our dog. Mum and dad really got into cheering the runners, and whilst I still can’t convince them to take part themselves they do love coming to cheer! The new Christmas tradition stuck and Christmas 2017 I volunteered as a guide to share the experience.
When I relocated from Preston to London, parkrun was the stable constant. I have loved exploring my new local parkruns and it has really helped me settle into a new city and explore the world around me. I started pacing at Southwark parkrun which has been so much fun – especially when we all dressed up for Halloween! To date I have run 68 parkruns and volunteered 14 times. I celebrated my 50th parkrun by pacing and I’m working towards my 25 volunteer t-shirt.
parkrun started my running journey, which culminated with the London Marathon this year – one of my proudest achievements. I couldn’t imagine my life without parkrun and I would encourage everyone to give it a go, it really will change your life!
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