Maeri Howard inspired her connections on social media to join her at parkrun. A breast cancer diagnosis shortly after turned her world upside down.
Here she tells us how the connections she made at parkrun and the commitment to “show up” helped her continue to feel normal during her treatment.
It’s my parkrunning buddies that have made the biggest difference to my returning to running after my breast cancer diagnosis.
We met when I posted on social media about the huge mental benefits I had felt from parkrun. I’d been at an event hosted by Kirsty James, a local businesswoman, talking about mental health, and ways to help take care of yourself.
I posted after the event and said that for me, that’s parkrun.
Kirsty, who had never run, saw this post as a challenge and said she would like to join me. From that, a few more curious people on social media saw the thread and joined us. We now have a growing group that get together every Saturday at our home parkrun.
The twist in the tale is that not long after we created our running group I discovered I had breast cancer.
As much as a shock that it was to me, I was adamant that I was going to keep on showing up to parkrun with my new running friends and, minus the time I had off from surgery, I did.
I even ran through my radiotherapy and continue to run three months after my radiotherapy has ended.
Having committed to parkrun before I had breast cancer meant that I was going to keep doing it even when I discovered I had it. Especially as it was me that had encouraged everyone else to go along.
My friend said ‘if you can show up through your radiotherapy, then I can’t not show up can I?!’
Every Friday we message in our group chat, we check in to see who’s coming, we’re never put off.
It’s great how our connections have moved on from the online world, to become a little parkrun community. It’s a chance for us to get some fresh air, and if we have time, a coffee afterwards. Sometimes we even do talk business, it’s better than being sat around a boardroom table!
Throughout my treatment, parkrun kept me feeling normal. Having all my running buddies keep showing up to parkrun with me, it just felt normal.
You never know who you’re running next to either. At one race, Kirsty tried to pace a person who was just ahead of her, to keep up with. At the end she went over to her for a chat, and it turned out the woman was the Mayor!
We’re all the same on a Saturday morning.
My message to anyone out there is not to be afraid. I know what it’s like to have that real fear, but you will get there, just show up. You can’t help but be inspired, it’s true what everyone says.
We are a lot stronger than we think we are.
Photo credit Richard Wake
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