Teresa McCarthy took up running aged 50 and is now a parkrun regular. Here she she shares her special parkrun memories and her hopes for the future.
I vividly remember the first time I arrived at parkrun, thinking ‘I really don’t belong here’, but after that 5k I realised that everyone belongs at parkrun.
I like to think of myself as a parkrun all-rounder. I have completed 202 parkruns in 36 venues, 34 of which are in Ireland, 1 in France and 1 in the US. Sometimes I run, sometimes I walk, sometimes I run/walk. Sometimes I bring Isaac (the parkrun pooch) who has completed 70 parkruns in over a dozen venues. I have volunteered 100 times, in 16 different roles – this gives me a real appreciation of the huge amount of teamwork that goes into parkrun, not just on the day, but in the days before and afterwards.
My favourite volunteer role has to be warmup leader at junior parkrun – I don’t embarrass easily and I get to make a show of myself, it’s great fun.
Every parkrun is memorable and brings something special. My most memorable parkrun has to be my trip to Crissy Field in February this year, before COVID19 was declared a pandemic. This was a bucket list item for me, and I had played with the idea for over a year. I flew from Dublin to San Francisco on the Friday afternoon, ran Crissy Field parkrun on Saturday morning, looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz – absolutely iconic. Then I met my cousin at the Golden Gate Bridge, had lunch with my uncle and cousins, then flew home. I was in San Francisco for 24 hours, and it was the trip of a lifetime. I ran my fastest 5k in almost 2 years, and got a great, airborne photo – I think it is the only airborne photo I have in seven years running! (I share this photo at every opportunity).
While I was there, I met John, also from Ireland, who was doing his 100th parkrun. As he crossed the finish line and was handed his token, he was amazed to see that he was the 100th person across the line – how magic is that!
I could write a book about all of the things I love about parkrun. I have wonderful memories of every single venue I visited, each providing the same parkrun welcome and the loveliest of people, yet each venue bringing something unique. In general, what I love most is that we are all equal at parkrun. No-one knows what anyone has brought to the start line, we are all treated with the same kindness and respect. I have met so many lovely people at parkrun and made great friends.
I only started running at 50 years of age and I am not a great runner. I firmly believe that without parkrun, I would have given up running long ago. Instead, parkrun gave me the confidence to join an athletics club and enter races – so many races. parkrun has been an absolute game-changer for me, helping me maintain my physical and mental fitness.
I am hugely grateful to everyone who works to provide us with what is so much more than a free, weekly, timed 5k. Of course, I miss my regular Saturday morning parkrun, but I really appreciate the cautious approach being taken to ensure that we minimise the risk of spreading COVID 19. I have a few bucket list venues in mind, Bushy (London), Bere Island and Avondale are top of the list. But I will be happy to just run any parkrun when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, I am happy to (not)parkrun and hope to do a few freedom runs in the coming weeks.
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