With Mother’s Day this weekend, we are reminded of a special subset of parkrunners who each week walk, run, jog, chauffeur families, and volunteer at parkruns around the world. With very busy lives, we talked with five moms and asked what keeps them coming back. Here are 10 reasons why moms love parkrun.
1. It’s the perfect place to spend time with your family
Today’s busy family is hustling and bustling seven days a week and from sun up to sun down with school, homework, meals, work, sports, playdates, housework, and more. It’s easy to get caught up in the tide of busyness and miss opportunities to spend time together. For some moms, parkrun offers them that missing opportunity.
Lisa Duhigg from Crissy Field parkrun says, “There aren’t many sports or activities that allow us to juggle our kids and all participate at the same time. Being a free event was important for us because those fun runs are expensive and we want to be able to do this together as a family. To manage the kids, my husband will run with the kids one week and allow me time to run on my own, and then the next week I run with the kids and he gets a chance to attempt his own personal best.”
2. Everyone makes friends at parkrun
Jennifer Givens, co-leader of the Moms Run This Town (MRTT) Catonsville chapter and a runner at Leakin Park parkrun says, “Part of what drew MRTT and parkrun to each other is our shared missions and values for inclusivity. The whole idea of MRTT is to create a community for women to stay fit, feel supported and be included. We’re friends too and try to empower each other through fitness.”
That has certainly been the experience for Jennifer Greve from Livonia whose new friends from parkrun have influenced her in unexpected ways: “Initially I wasn’t a runner at all and if you had asked me if I ran I would have said only if I was chased! My friends from a swim club mentioned parkrun to me and I’ve been with the community now for six years. Through parkrun I’ve become close with a whole bunch of other runners and last year I started doing weeknight runs with some of them. Now I’m signed up for my first half marathon!”
But friends at parkrun aren’t always focused on fitness or running; some moms find another kind of companionship. Susan Crammond from Fletcher’s Cove parkrun recently moved to the US from Ireland and found herself feeling lonely in a new country. “When you meet a mom at the school gate there is an expectation for playdates and coffees and to become friends with your child’s friends’ parents, but at parkrun there is no agenda. People are genuinely interested in meeting you. I’ve met so many people at parkrun: Kirsty who encouraged me to give parkrun a try; Stephanie and I talked about babies while she was pregnant; and there are also older moms who went through what I’m going through now and have pointed me in the right direction or have given me advice.”
3. The parkrun community is like an extension of the family
Organizations like parkrun, Moms Run This Town and Girls on the Run provide support for people so that no one has to start running on their own and everyone can learn or improve in a friendly environment. It’s a sentiment that Lisa Duhigg also shares. “parkrun feels like a family. As a family, we support each other in a way that champions those around us no matter what your ability is. Whether you walk or run, we do it together and that togetherness makes us like a tribe.”
The tribe-like support of parkrun has helped families beyond fitness too. Jennifer Greve found her parkrun family supportive as she and her husband went through a divorce. She says the friends she made at parkrun helped them navigate the challenges. “I was talking with someone recently about running and I said ‘if you’re going to fall to peer pressure then surround yourself with the right kind of peers’. I’ve never met another community so supportive. Some of my closest friends have come from parkrun and they’ve helped me and my ex get through the last couple of years.”
4. parkrun is a safe environment for kids
And like a big family, moms feel safe bringing their kids to parkrun. “When my twelve-year-old daughter runs alone, she’s always in the middle of the pack and there are people surrounding her,” says Roberta Alvarez from Fletcher’s Cove parkrun. “I can relax at parkrun knowing that she’s contained within a group. If she fell, there would be someone nearby who would know who she is and would help her. Even though she sometimes runs by herself, I know she’s never alone.”
5. Sometimes a mom needs to put herself first
Being a mom can feel like a 24/7 job so personal time can be hard to find. But for some moms, parkrun offers them a break from their daily role and an opportunity to put their own needs first. “parkrun has become part of my life,” says Susan. “Saturdays are busier right now because of soccer and kids parties but I love how I can fit all of that around parkrun and not the other way around. It’s so nice to have something in my life that is that important. When you become a full-time mom, you give up your identity a bit so parkrun has given me a place to belong.”
Lisa feels similarly. “The kids know that parkrun is something Mom and Dad do for themselves. It’s important that they see things are reciprocal and know they can be a part of things we enjoy too.”
6. Participating at parkrun helps parents be a positive role model for kids
For many parents, bringing their kids to parkrun helps set an example of persistence and volunteerism. “I think my kids see their parents achieving goals and they know running is important to us. My daughter, especially, sees me as a strong woman who is achieving things and it makes her proud. I know that’s definitely been discussed on Mondays at school when they are talking about their weekends,” says Lisa.
Jennifer Greve hopes that her daughter is inspired and encouraged by the journey she’s been on. “I’m training for a half marathon but I didn’t get here overnight; I walked, then I added some running, then I could run the whole course, and sometimes I had to take steps back and start again. Sometimes it takes months and years of building up to something and at some level, being that persistent is having a positive impact on my kids. While my daughter is not a runner, I hope that seeing these things will someday have an impact on her choices.”
parkrun is also giving the kids an opportunity to experience the benefits of volunteering. Some kids, like Lisa’s, give high fives at the finish which encourages them to participate. Other kids, like Susan’s, enjoy handing out tokens or collecting them after she scans barcodes. She says, “They are being a part of something that is positive for me and learning that exercise brings people together.”
7. Completing parkrun gives you a sense of achievement
But across the board, one of the most consistent answers from the moms we talked to was that they love parkrun for the sense of achievement they feel. Susan says, “I suppose that since I’m not working outside the home that my daily accomplishments like doing chores don’t seem like a big deal, yet little things at parkrun like running a few seconds faster can give you a little confidence boost and that sense of improvement and achievement is meaningful. I feel like parkrun is helping me achieve something for myself outside of the realm of being a parent and I suppose that puts me in a better mood at the end of the weekend.”
8. parkrun helps you de-stress
Jennifer Givens says, “For many moms, parkrun and MRTT is a social outlet and an emotional stabilizer. We have stay at home moms, those who work, some with triplets, and it’s an outlet for all of us to stay healthy, fit and form a community. We include our families (MRTT isn’t anti-men) but in a lot of ways it is about finding time for ourselves.
“I’m a teacher, a mom and a wife so I spend a lot of time providing for other people and I think a lot of people feel like that. My husband also works and we both run for the same reason: it’s a kind of self-preservation thing. I feel better when I run and I think that’s true for a lot of our moms. Running is a great way to de-stress when you’re juggling things all day. We try to support single moms too so that they can also get out there and spend some time on themselves.”
9. parkrun teaches kids life skills
It’s not just moms who are experiencing the stress-busting benefits of running though; Roberta says her daughter is learning similar lessons about how running can help her manage challenges. “My daughter has dyslexia and ADHD and running has been a great outlet for her to work things out and channel her energy in a positive way. I think it’s a skill that she will be able to use throughout her life. If she ever feels upset, stressed or frustrated, she can always put on her sneakers and go for a run. It’s a life skill.”
10. Staying healthy, fit and active is an important task as people age
Finally, using running as a way to develop healthy life-long habits is important to all of these moms. One in particular pointed out the generational benefits of families who exercise together. “I feel like fitness becomes very important as you get older and teaching kids how to exercise and make good food choices from the get-go is going to improve everyone’s life – both mine and my daughter’s,” says Roberta. “My father is 90 and he did a couple of parkruns with us when he last visited. He’s in great shape; he goes to the gym, walks and lives independently. He’s always been active and I look at him as an example of how to live. Clearly genetics plays a part but you shouldn’t depend only on your genes to get there. It’s a generational thing with benefits for my daughter, me and my dad.”
Written by Kortney Thoma
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