Can you imagine having so little energy that after walking a few hundred metres you’d need to stop and rest?
For Gerry Ligtermoet this scenario is all too real, but it hasn’t stopped him from completing over 100 parkruns.
Gerry was diagnosed with Amyloidosis in 2011, a rare blood disorder that leads to increased fatigue and weakness. He used to be a regular cyclist and gym goer but now struggles to walk and stand for long periods.
Knowing that he needed to keep fit, Gerry joined a pole-walking group. Pole or Nordic walking uses specially designed poles to assist and enhance walking. It puts less strain on joints than other activities and is highly effective for people with mobility issues.
For Gerry, the use of poles meant that he could walk much farther. But when one of the members of the pole-walking group suggested parkrun, Gerry’s response was resolute.
“I can’t walk 5km, I’ll never do that.”
While walking with poles had made a huge difference, Gerry still needed to stop and rest regularly. 5km was just too far.
Rockingham parkrun in Western Australia is an ‘out & back’ course, skirting between the Indian Ocean on one side and parkland on the other. At the halfway turn-around point, there is a toilet block and some conveniently placed park benches. Discovering these benches and the opportunity to stop, meant that Gerry realised parkrun was achievable.
“I did my first parkrun in an hour and five minutes, including a rest at halfway,” he said.
“That was 119 walks ago. I’m usually last to finish, but that doesn’t stop me. I keep on going.”
While Gerry has got quicker (his average is now around 55 minutes) and no longer needs to rest along the course. He admits that for some time he felt the need to apologise for being ‘slow’.
“I’d call out to the other participants, ‘Sorry guys I took so long’ but I soon realised that didn’t matter and the Tail Walker’s role was to stay behind me. Knowing they were there was so reassuring and helpful.”
Gerry is passionate about attracting walkers at parkrun, saying that even if people can’t walk well, they can use poles or other aids.
“It’s ok to walk, there are many people who do it, and you won’t be last because there is a Tail Walker.”
“Give it a go, you can’t lose anything, there will be lots of people like you. It doesn’t matter what gear you wear, just come.”
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