Back in July we had a little hiccup with the parkrun Australia Facebook page, which resulted in a mysterious image of two women dressed as cupcakes occupying our page for a little longer than we expected!
We tracked down one of the women in the photo to learn the story behind the outfits and ask what it was like to be the accidental ‘face’ of parkrun Australia. However, what we discovered was a remarkable parkrun journey with the power to inspire many others to give parkrun a try.
My name is Belinda and I’m a stock selector and forklift driver in a warehouse in south-east Queensland. I’m about to move on after 30 years of service, so if you’re looking for anyone with my skill set, please get in touch!
12 years ago I stood on the scales and weighed 160 kilos. After that I stopped weighing myself. I was the cliche of an overweight person in her thirties, doing everything I could to support my family by going to work and being a mum, but I was lazy in the parts of my life that involved looking after myself.
A little while later I was having a conversation with my GP, who told me that if I didn’t make some serious lifestyle changes I might not see my youngest son finish primary school. That was the wakeup call I needed and over the next couple of years I lost half my body weight, which included weight loss surgery and a LOT of walking.
I am one of those people who can come across as having heaps of confidence but this isn’t always the case. I had been bullied about my weight since I was young and even when I lost the weight that I did, I still worried what people would think of me.
I really wanted to give parkrun a try, so I went along to a Christmas-themed fancy dress event because I thought if people are going to look at me, I want to control how they look at me. And it worked. Over time, I gradually became more confident and comfortable at parkrun and eventually I fell in love with it!
For a long time, I walked at parkrun and normally finished with the Tail Walkers. Eventually however I decided I wanted to run, so I started by running 100 metres and walking 100 metres. I gradually built that up, and within three years I completed the Honolulu Marathon in Hawaii. In between I had completed lots of shorter races such as 10ks, almost always in fancy dress.
My parkrunning continued in earnest as I started planning my weekends around parkruns that were celebrating their anniversaries. Wearing costumes is a great icebreaker, is brilliant for meeting people, and was and still is a security blanket in many ways.
I have worn more than 100 different costumes at parkruns over the years and my formula is a simple one: if I don’t sew the outfit from scratch I try to spend less than $5 at the op shop, and if anyone comments on how much they like it then I gift it to them.
One of the most memorable costumes did actually make a bit of splash on two occasions, once in 2018 at a parkrun event and then again in 2023 as the cover photo of the parkrun Australia Facebook page!
Back in 2018, my friend Angela and I were planning to go to Lota parkrun’s first anniversary which had the fancy dress theme ‘Happiness is…’. The sentence was easy for us to finish – cupcakes of course! – but the costume was a little more challenging. Over the course of a few weeks I played around with various concepts, which included concertinaing cardboard, and eventually succeeded.
So it was to my shock that almost five years later I saw the photo of Angela and I in our cupcake outfits on social media once more! It was great timing because I was in the middle of doing 14 different parkruns in 14 different onesies. I also had a go at recreating the pose and speech bubble too. Times have changed but I have not!
Being able to do parkrun in fancy dress has transformed my life. I’m now significantly fitter than I was when I started parkrun, and if I skip a day or two of physical activity during the week I miss it and get irritable. Being active keeps me motivated and does wonders for my mental health.
Edith Eger said that the biggest prison is in your own mind, so I hope that my shenanigans will help other people to take that brave first step at parkrun. I want people to think “well if that person rocked up to parkrun looking like a goose (literally!) then maybe I can give it a go too!”
It’s okay to be nervous. I still have my own fears. I get up for work at 330am, and my kids are grown up, so I don’t have some of the same opportunities for social interaction that other people have. But parkrun has opened up a world of opportunity for me because I get to do it my way, and have a great laugh doing it!
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First and foremost, we all know that parkrun is about taking part, community, being social together outdoors, and maybe grabbing a coffee afterwards. But sometimes, you want to aim for a personal best (PB)! We share some top tips from long-distance runner and regular Australian parkrunner Steve Moneghetti about how to give yourself the…