Marilyn Tolman’s first experience of Ballina Coast parkrun on the north coast of NSW was inspired by family and friends taking part. What seemed like simply a safe activity for Marilyn and her daughters to get involved in has and turned out to be a community of role models for her daughters.
“parkrun seemed like a safe option for my daughters and I to get involved in but I was under the impression it was for runners”, says Marilyn. “So I was pleasantly surprised to discover there is a complete mix of real people with very real stories too.
“I have always been active, walking daily and doing yoga regularly, however had never seen myself as a runner. But with some encouragement from my new parkrun family I was quickly gaining motivation and self-belief and was within no time going from one of the walkers to jogging my way around the course.
“The parkrun community are there to catch you fall. I know because they caught me. I have epilepsy and they are ready to catch me if I faint on the course yes we laugh about it and we hope it doesn’t happen but there we are I know they will. Women need to remodel a community because with a breakdown of family and extended family we need as much community as we can get. parkrun is one step forward in how we can achieve this.
“In my professional life as a community nurse I see a disconnect everyday between people and communities. parkrun is a healthy way of bringing us together through physical activity and volunteering. parkrun has restored my faith that real people exist. People want to give their time to help others, to inspire and encourage and genuinely care that you are getting better every week. It’s pretty amazing. On one occasion I volunteered as a support guide for a female vision impaired runner from interstate when she came to visit family and that brought me great joy although for the week leading up to her arrival I was petrified that I wouldn’t keep up with her!
“My biggest motivation for going to parkrun however is my daughter Annie and her love for volunteering. I love that she is seeing the value in community and seeing our community champions every week. We have women with babies in prams volunteering week after week, the same faces encouraging, smiling, high fiving. They are amazing role models for my daughters.”
Annie first heard about parkrun from her sister-in-law who had been involved in Stones Corner parkrun for many years. As well as completing 18 parkruns, Annie is a member of the parkrun Volunteer Club having helped out on 25 different occasions.
“A family friend was one of the main event organisers for my local parkrun, Ballina Coast, and she convinced my family and I to join the parkrun community. Before starting parkrun I had helped numerous times with NAIDOC events and other community events but now the majority of my community involvement is through parkrun.
“Before becoming a parkrunner, I thought this whole event was aimed at people who ran multiple times during the week or people who were a part of a running club. I thought I was going to be an outsider because I wasn’t a runner and I sure didn’t like running but when I went to my first parkrun, I was shocked, not just because there were people who ran at the same pace as me but if anything, there were more walkers than runners.
“When we first started going to parkrun I wasn’t motivated to go because I didn’t like running and felt like there was no use going if I wasn’t enjoying it. However I was surrounded by a supportive network of people who encouraged me no matter what and because of that I kept going. I started volunteering and soon became one of those people cheering everyone on from the sideline with a huge grin on my face. Having a network of people who care and a huge group of people who need to see my smile was my motivation to keep going to parkrun.
“Personally, I think of parkrun as a community event rather than a run. We need community members to walk, run and volunteer – parkrun is powered by the community! I have the opportunity to be part of this community by volunteering. When I cheer people on and they give me a warm smile it makes me want to come back. Seeing people be proud of their effort or end the course with a huge grin, that makes me want to come back.
“parkrun has had a positive impact on me and I have benefitted from it greatly. parkrun has given me the opportunity to improve my fitness for other sporting commitments. I could run anywhere to improve my fitness but I chose to do it at parkrun where I have people cheering me on and community members giving out free smiles. I’ve also found that parkrun has helped me find my passion, volunteering and sense of community. I love putting smiles on people’s faces and I can do that to hundreds of people every Saturday.
“A piece of advice that I would give to other females who are unsure about going to parkrun is that everyone has your back. You are surrounded by a loving and caring community who are there to cheer you on every step of the way. The only thing that we ask from you is to be your wonderful, unique self.”
Marilyn and Annie Tolman
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