My name is Paulene, but just last year I used to call myself the ‘Anti parkrun Girl’.
I’d been doing 5K walks a few times a week for months in my quest to improve my fitness and lose weight. I’d always had this obsession with runners and a dream of what it must feel like to be one of those mythical ‘runners’ but at 110 pounds overweight that was simply not in my future.
I can’t remember the first time I heard the word parkrun but suddenly it seemed to be everywhere. It was in my town and friends in other towns were posting on Facebook about going to theirs. Because it was 5K it immediately got my interest. A quick look on the website Friday night told me everything I needed to know and I signed up on the spot. After printing out my barcode to take with me, and laying out my workout wear, I was all decided I would go the next morning.
Except I didn’t go.
I didn’t go for at least another 6 months.
The reasons why were many. And I’ve since heard the exact same reasons given by SO many people who sign up to parkrun but never make it to their first one…
I was worried I wasn’t fit enough.
I was worried I wouldn’t be wearing the right clothes.
I was worried I’d be far too slow.
I was worried I would come last.
I was worried about the photo that may be taken of me.
I was worried I’d embarrass myself.
I was worried because I knew no one there.
I was worried I’d do something wrong.
I was worried that because I couldn’t run I didn’t belong at parkrun
Put simply… I was worried I simply wasn’t good enough for parkrun.
I was consumed with self-doubt and insecurities and after a sleepless night, I knew I couldn’t do it.
I still got up that morning and I put on my workout gear. I still went and did a 5K walk. But I didn’t go to parkrun… instead I went and walked 5K at the complete opposite end of town. I called it my ‘anti parkrun’ and I told anyone who’d listen I was much happier this way.
I wasn’t happy.
I was afraid. This fear stayed with me for many months. And I let that fear of my size and lack of fitness stop me from doing what I really wanted to do. Just like it did in so many areas of my life!
One day out of the blue my husband decided he was going to go to parkrun, then my oldest son decided he was going to go too. We considered going as a family but with three children, the youngest being 4 and no longer in a stroller and not able to walk 5K on her own, it was easy to put up more excuses not to go too.
But if you want it enough … you WILL find a way. So we did.
We purchased a cheap second hand stroller just for parkun, got our older children signed up on the website with their barcodes and the very next Saturday was chosen as the day. As a family we all got up early, got dressed and got to parkrun. It was time to face my fears!
It took me just over an hour to walk that first parkrun. It took just over an hour to realize EVERY SINGLE FEAR I HAD was unfounded. In that first week, in that first hour – they were all gone.
Everyone was so welcoming, understanding and inclusive.
EVERYONE had a place at parkrun. Runners, walkers, older people, young children, fit people, really overweight people and everyone in between. Some ran the whole way, some walked the whole way, some did a bit of both. The time I took to finish the 5km was of absolutely ZERO importance to anyone but me!
No one judged, no one cared.
We were all parkrunning.
We were all winners for simply showing up and getting it done.
We were all welcome.
We were parkrun.
From that day on I never looked back. I’m now approaching my 50th parkrun and in all that time I’ve only ever been unable to attend two. I’ve also taken more than 20 minutes off my 5K time. We are a ‘parkrun family’ now and it’s what we do every Saturday – rain, sun, summer or winter… we parkrun.
My secret desire to be a runner was also fueled by my parkrun experiences and I started a blog on Facebook called Fat to 5km – One girls dream to run 5km to document my journey along the way.
Last year when I started parkrun I literally couldn’t even run 10 yards. Today, I regularly compete in 5K races and I run the entire way!!
Sooooo many aspects my family’s life and also my own quality of life, my enjoyment of life, my health, and even my very life expectancy have changed in this last year and ALL of these changes come back to that first day we all stated parkrun. It changed our lives. Forever.
If I could go back in time and tell my old ‘anti-parkun girl’ self just one thing… I’d tell her to GO SOONER!
Just turn up.
You’ll never ever be sorry that you did
parkrun changes your life.
This piece was originally published in the parkrun Australia newsletter.
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