Damien Minnock has found his Saturday morning (not)parkrun has reinvigorated his enthusiasm to keep exercising.
Here Damien tells us about his parkrunning journey so far.
I had been very inactive since my late 20s and had gained some extra weight. I became much more mindful of my health when I got into my 40s, and decided I had to get active. I tried the Couch to 5K programme several times and I failed at around week 3 or 4. Then, 3 years ago, I gave it another try and I followed the plan for the 9-10 weeks and managed to complete it.
I found running very challenging, I still do, but I guess that’s what keeps me motivated. I am always chasing that perfect run, the one where you are comfortably breathing, full of energy and as you come towards the end you feel like you could do it all over again. They are extremely rare, especially in my case!
I came across parkrun towards the end of my Couch to 5k journey via a beginners running forum. I was delighted when I found out there was a parkrun in my local town, Navan, just 5 minutes from my home. I felt I needed a challenge to keep my running going. I knew if I continued on my own I would give up.
I remember feeling a little nervous turning up to my first parkrun in April 2017. It was all new. I got out of my car and saw across the car park some regular looking people in high viz vests. I approached them, thinking they must be involved with parkrun. I was right! However, these were not regular folk in high viz vests, these were the parkrun volunteers and the high viz heroes. They explained to me how parkrun worked, showed me where the start line was and told me about the First Timers Briefing. Everyone was very friendly and very welcoming.
That first parkrun was very tough, I had to run, jog and walk my way around the 3 lap course. I was delighted to have completed it. The next week I came back and shaved 2 minutes off my finish time still running and walking. That was it, I was hooked.
My first few parkruns were all running and walking efforts. I was slow, but no one cared. No one even noticed. Everyone was so amazingly friendly and supportive.
I enjoy the challenge of trying to shave some seconds off my parkrun time each week. I love that it is a free event and open to everybody. I love that it is not a race and there is no pressure. Most of all I love the community atmosphere and the people, all shapes and sizes, all different abilities. I’ve been living in Navan for 19 years now, and I have met more people in the last 3 years through parkrun than anytime previously. I’ve made some lovely friends.
I have completed 73 parkruns in total, 46 of these at Navan parkrun and clocked up 18 volunteer days. In 2020 I had planned to achieve my 100th parkrun at around September time and my 25 volunteer t-shirt. That will all have to go back a bit now.
I do most of my parkrunning with my son Oisin. One of my favourite parkrun memories is the trip the two of us took to Bristol where we visited the zoo, Clifton Suspension Bridge and the City Centre. As we were staying over the weekend we had chance to parkrun too. So we found ourselves at Eastville parkrun on Saturday morning. Afterwards we went for a post parkrun breakfast with some new parkrun friends. parkrun is the same everywhere, you always meet the nicest people.
Recently, during lockdown, I was lucky that my usual 5K route fell inside the stipulated 2K radius of my home. I can also extend this route by an extra 2K making a 7K route. I run this route all year round, it’s all on paths. During the early days of lockdown it got very busy with walkers and kids on bikes. Now, the paths are quiet again and all is back to the way it was pre-lockdown. I now pass the same familiar faces I pass throughout the year, fellow runners and walkers, nodding or waving hello.
When the cafes started to sell takeaway coffee a few weeks ago I began to meet up with two of my parkrun friends Ida and Petula from Navan parkrun. We ran our own individual 5K and met afterwards for a socially distanced takeaway coffee. I looked forward to it each and every week. Recently Blackwater Park reopened, the home of Navan parkrun. I have done 2 (as of time of writing) of my logged (not)parkruns there which is great.
I have struggled to stay motivated during the lockdown. I have kept exercising, but I have really slowed down. Without a PB to chase or a race to train for I have lost some fitness. However, thanks to (not)parkrun I have found good reason to train again. Next Saturday morning I’ll be (not)parkrunning with my buddies from Navan parkrun for the first time in months and we will be wearing our Apricot t-shirts, remaining socially distanced of course. I am really looking forward to running at a real parkrun again. Until then I am going to keep training to try to maintain my (not)parkrun PB streak.
Running has changed my life. I’m never going to be much faster, and I’m never going to win any races. I don’t care, because I can run 5K. That is good enough for me. Thank you to everyone involved in parkrun, it’s an amazing movement, such an important and positive part of my life which I can share with my son. When the time is right and parkrun starts back, I’m looking forward to volunteering on that first day at Navan parkrun and watching my son taking part for the first time without having to be within an arm’s length of me.
Happy (not)parkrunning everyone.
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