One day in March 2015, Miranda awoke to the terrifying discovery that she couldn’t move her arms and legs. She was diagnosed with a neurological disorder and underwent a long period of physical therapy to be able to walk again.
Following her discharge from hospital, Miranda was left feeling nervous and confused – until she found a supportive and welcoming group of people in the form of Pittsworth parkrun in Queensland.
Since high school I have loved to run. So much so that the coach of my hockey team nicknamed me ‘forrest’. Running formed a huge part of my identity and still does, but I feel like the reasons why I run have changed significantly over the past few years.
On 8 March 2015, I woke up from an afternoon nap to find that I couldn’t move my arms and legs. I was quickly transported to hospital where, after numerous tests, I was diagnosed with a Functional Neurological Disorder (FND). This basically meant that organically, my brain was fine, but for some reason unknown to the doctors, it was not functioning like it should. FND comes in many shapes and sizes but mine predominately affected my gait, making it very difficult to walk from point A to point B without assistance.
I spent eight weeks in hospital receiving physical therapy in the hope that I would walk again. This was a very challenging time as some doctors doubted my ability to recover. Thank goodness they were in the minority as my team, family and friends provided wonderful support. Finally, we had a breakthrough moment where my physiotherapist asked me to run on a treadmill. This seemed like quite a strange request but he knew that I had loved running before I became unwell and thought that this might be a first step in re-training my brain to do what we wanted it to. Sure enough, the treadmill worked and I was able to run again, exactly like I had before. Shortly after stopping the treadmill, my gait became abnormal again but this treadmill event was crucial in helping me recover. Once the therapists knew that I could run, it was easier to learn how to walk. Finally, on a trip to a cake shop, most unexpectedly, I was able to walk again without assistance.
Once I got out of hospital, reality started to set in. All of a sudden, a large part of my support system was taken away and I was trying to negotiate who I was and what I could do with my life. Running became something that I was nervous about and going out for a run by myself seemed almost impossible. That was when I found parkrun.
parkrun has helped me in so many ways. The first time I went to parkrun I was worried that it would highlight that I wasn’t ‘good’ at running anymore. Instead, I found this wonderful, supportive group of people with a range of abilities who made me feel so welcome, regardless of my circumstances. This encouraged me to keep coming back every week and try again, despite setbacks. I have just completed my 100th parkrun and am now running times that are even faster than before I got sick.
Running to me now is about being free. I run because I can. Running allows me to move forward without barriers. I will forever be grateful to my Pittsworth parkrun family for helping me to move forward and be the person I am today.
(Miranda’s story was featured on the ABC. You can watch it here.)
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