As a child, Alison Marshall loved being active. But kidney failure and then a transplant at only 18 put a pause to this.
Alison tells us what she enjoys most about parkrun, her thoughts on the new parkwalker volunteer role and how being able to walk at parkrun has helped her physical and mental health.
When I was four-years-old I had acute nephritis, but at intermediate school I was a sprinter and long distance runner. I wanted to be like Allison Roe.
I played netball, cricket, and loved lunchtime scrag (a combination of bullrush and touch rugby) but had to stop all that when I first went on dialysis as my kidneys failed. I was quite young when this happened (at high school) and had my first transplant when I was 18.
Unfortunately, after 27 years I was put on some new medication which interacted with my kidney medication and my health went on a downward spiral.
I was very fortunate that my sister, Kylie, gave me a new kidney. So now I’ve got four, just to be greedy, as they don’t take out the old broken ones.
If I’d not had the transplant I would have gone on dialysis. Dialysis is really life support, but the alternative is dying.
The transplant process was really scary.
The whole time I was more concerned about what it might do to Kylie’s health. But she is amazing in so many ways and thankfully recovered well, running Pirongia peaks most weeks and the Heaphy Track soon after her recovery.
The difference for me was night and day. Almost overnight it was the difference between barely living and having another chance at life.
My husband, Andrew, had started going to parkrun in 2016 and so I had started tagging along. My first parkrun 5k was two years later, in 2018.
Andrew has always been my main motivator and will drag me out (in a good way), getting me out of bed and doing something even when I’m feeling unmotivated or not capable.
I was really worried about being last but Andrew assured me that there’s always a tail walker, and someone to help you get through it. I really wouldn’t be where I am today without him.
When I was sick, I went to parkrun to volunteer, or in more of a supporter role when I could for Andrew and our friends.
I love being outdoors and have tried to stay active all of my life, right up until April of the 2020 lockdown. I tried to keep up the walking and gym, but I got too sick to carry on.
I had my second transplant in October 2020 and I was determined to do the Christmas Day parkrun.
Being able to walk that parkrun was such an amazing high. I really loved the vibe of spending a little time with the parkrun family.
It also made me realise that Christmas Day is a really important parkrun for people who don’t have family, and how important it is for the community.
If I’d not had this transplant, I wouldn’t have been able to keep going to parkrun. For me, parkrun is really important for both my physical and mental health.
I’m also part of a group we call ‘parkrun Roadies’ and we travel around to different parkruns in New Zealand, which I really love doing.
During the COVID-19 pause, I did a lot of (not)parkruns. We even had a bit of a (not)parkrun friendly rivalry between parkrun events to get the most people out for the week, which was really good to keep me motivated and sane during lockdowns.
I walk at parkrun. I feel it’s within my abilities while I recover and get stronger.
I love the personal bests and to track my own progress, and I always try to push myself that bit more to get a new one.
I do like to balance this with walking with other friends, having a chat and incentivising them to do a little bit more.
Besides, it’s great sometimes just to walk and enjoy the company of friends.
It’s great if I can help and encourage others to pay it back for all the support I have had. That’s why I think the new parkwalker role is brilliant. There’s always someone there to support you.
Now, I’ve achieved 50 parkruns. That’s a pretty amazing feeling. The milestones are great incentives.
The big village mentality is what I enjoy about it.
There’s always a friendly face and someone to talk to at parkrun and my standard line is ‘I’m only here for the coffee afterwards’.
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