News - 5th June 2019

A sense of belonging


When Brian lived overseas, he often experienced feelings of isolation and loneliness which in turn, led to weight gain. 


When he discovered Buncrana parkrun after settling in Ireland, it was not only his physical health that improved but also his sense of belonging.


I’ve struggled with keeping my weight to a sensible level for as long as I can remember. I lived overseas for twenty years: Poland, Nigeria, Hungary and Hong Kong, for three years at a time, and lived in London in between.


When I kept up some outdoor exercise, my weight was tolerable. Yet the uncertainty, isolation and loneliness contributed to periods of overeating. Anyone with overweight issues will tell you, you know that the needless potato chips, crisps and dessert will further inflate your spare tyre but, like a smoker lighting their next cigarette, you do it in spite what it does to your body.


I’ve a second confession to make. I am a blow-in. I’d only visited Ireland a couple of times. Then in 2007, my wife Aeidin wanted to move back to her home town, Lisfannon and we’ve lived in Buncrana since. Two children later: Maeve in 2008; and Harry in 2012 meant the only outdoor strenuous exercise I found for a few years was pushing their buggy around the backroads of Buncrana. Then Aeidin suggested we look outside our comfort-zone and give the fledgling Buncrana parkrun a go.


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After a couple of parkrun personal bests… I caught on that the whole parkrun event was supported by volunteers. So I started helping out instead, the jobs that are essential to the event like time-keeping and tokens, filling in where they were short, or needed volunteer jobs that morning.


I took over posting the photos and writing the ‘run report’, spinning the bare facts from that weekend’s run statistics into a human story of personal bests, achievements and milestones. At that time the posted photos came from people gathering at the start and finish of the parkrun. I quickly figured out that the real stories of your personal victories every Saturday morning happened out on the five kilometre course, so took to jogging the course and marrying my weekly run, with taking photos out on the course.


parkrun has its benefits beyond Saturday morning. It now pushes me to get outside and exercise during the week, so that I feel ready for Saturday morning. The gift of the parkrun is that it’s open to anyone and any age. Anyone can join the community, no-one is judged and you can use the event for exactly what you want to get out of it.


Registering for parkrun has given me a sense of belonging and confidence. I know that I can turn up with my barcode for the local parkrun anywhere in Ireland and feel the same sense of familiarity, community and friendship as I do with the Buncrana parkrun.


And my spare tyre, well it’s about the right size thanks to the parkrun.


Brian Simpson

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