Battling with fear and the constant thought that parkrun wasn’t for her, Philomena from Griffeen parkrun takes us through her parkrun journey from spectator, to volunteer and how she went on to complete the full 5k.
parkrun began for me when my husband was introduced to his first event in 2014 and from that he quickly became a regular parkrunner at our nearest, Griffeen parkrun.
In 2015 a new parkrun started up where we live – Castletown parkrun and he started running and volunteering there. In those two years, I was an onlooker, cheering on from the sideline.
I didn’t think it was for me. It was my husband’s hobby, interest, social outing, you name it. I made excuses for not getting involved, not taking part. I wasn’t a runner, dodgy knee but most especially what held me back was fear. Fear of not being able to do it physically, emotionally, mentally.
People would encourage me to sign up and give it a go but the more people tried to reach out, the more I closed myself off. I would measure myself against other people and I just never made the grade, thought I wasn’t good enough, didn’t look the part. I had low self-esteem and my confidence was shot to pieces. I was lost and part of me was missing.
Things changed for me after I burnt myself out through avoiding grief and throwing myself into my work and my studies in my late teens and twenties which continued into my thirties, when I began having panic attacks and developed an anxiety disorder.
Travelling and going to places with crowds made me uncomfortable and so I avoided a lot of things as a coping mechanism. I isolated myself from people and events. It was easier to stay in my comfort zone and not challenge myself. Ironically I studied Psychology and read all the popular Psychology books.
I drifted along aimlessly for quite a while, watching everyone else getting on with their lives as if I was a moving escalator that wasn’t going very fast, and as everyone else seemed to be on roller blades, passing me by.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. In 2016, I met some amazing people through a local initiative that I had worked on, who shared core values and beliefs. I slowly began to feel I could contribute more, and be a better person, live life more. And so in September 2016 I registered with parkrun and began volunteering. I joined in with the community that is the parkrun family.
In December 2016, I was there to cheer on my husband during his 50th parkrun milestone. I still believed parkrun was his thing, but it helped me by giving me a place to volunteer, to cheer everyone on and take photographs.
In February 2018, I was welcomed into the parkrun Volunteer 25 Club. For me, it was a big achievement. The fact that you get a T-shirt in recognition of volunteering on 25 separate Saturdays and knowing how important volunteers are to parkrun made it special. My husband had his 50th parkrun milestone T-shirt and I had my very own 25th volunteering.
And there’s more. parkrun was the catalyst for my husband to want to do more and with my support he applied to go on the RTE Operation Transformation at the end of 2017 and while he wasn’t successful in getting on the show, it enabled him to set up the Operation Transformation Celbridge Group in January 2018 and we began following the programme of healthy eating and more regular exercise and started a walking group in the area – going out two evenings per week.
I started off very nervously and soon found myself somewhat out of my depth as people in the group were fitter than I was. But I had more confidence from seeing people at parkrun – every ability, shape, size taking part and consciously or unconsciously I knew I could take part.
The big surprise for me was taking part in the Operation Transformation 5k in Phoenix Park at the end of the 8 week programme. In order to do that I knew, I had to start back at the beginning. I went to Griffeen parkrun and walked my first parkrun on 17 February 2018 and the following week I walked 5k in Phoenix Park. I was so anxious that I got in touch with the Clinical Psychologist on the show directly, Dr Eddie Murphy, and we met up in the Phoenix Park the morning of the OT 5k.
If I hadn’t got involved with parkrun, I wouldn’t have opened up to other amazing things happening in my life. I was connecting with people, and during 2018 I have achieved more than my fair share of Personal Bests in a year. Oh, did I write that!
I have managed through taking back control of my life somewhat, and getting great personal satisfaction out of almost lapping my husband as I power walk. He always says, “it’s all about taking part” and “you’re only competing against yourself” but I say, what better person!
Now in the first half of 2019, I, with my husband, went out walking with the Group one night per week for the duration of the OT show and this time I was able to share leading the Group not just coming up at the rear.
I am fitter and healthier as a result of my participation in parkrun and by the second half of 2019, it is my goal to have completed my own 50th parkrun milestone. While my husband has his 100th and is now on the road to 250.
To-date I have walked most of my parkruns but ironically, just at the time that parkrun introduced a Park Walk at parkrun initiative, I started to include a small amount of jogging into my 5k. The time I took to do my first parkrun in February 2018 was 59:32. My fastest time so far was my 25th parkrun in March 2019 and it was 46:08.
It’s not the time necessarily that matters, but what does matter to me each week is that I can set goals for myself and now I know I can achieve them. Small or big goals – they are all important. If it is to get out of bed and go to where your nearest parkrun venue is, then that’s a goal. And if you’re not feeling like it, go anyway cause you’ll be glad you did. Someone there will always make the difference and you being there will make the difference to someone else.
Thank you to the volunteers, parkrunners, joggers, walkers, park users, venue holders and most especially to my husband Daragh Doyle who challenges me everyday in the belief that I can do it, even when I don’t believe I can.
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