When Harry first started parkrun at age 10, mum Ruth quickly noticed that regular exercise was important to his wellbeing, as well as his cystic fibrosis.
Ruth writes how Harry’s weekly parkrun sets him challenges and have pushed him to leap from strength to strength.
Harry started parkrun when he was around 10-years-old as his dad, Henry, loves to parkrun too. Getting Harry involved in cardio exercise was crucial for his health as he has cystic fibrosis (CF). CF is a genetic condition that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system, which can cause lung infections and problems with digesting food.
Despite having CF, we noticed Harry had great endurance for running longer distances like parkrun and cross country.
Both Harry and Henry joined a local athletic club and their love for parkrun grew when an event near us was established in 2019. It soon gained momentum and became an activity where they could meet neighbours and friends on a Saturday morning. We wanted to make running as fun as possible for Harry because the benefit of the exercise to his health is extraordinary.
Harry loves being a member of a running club, where he has made great friends and looks up to the older kids too. The team element of the club really encouraged him when he was feeling unwell. Knowing his friends would be at training definitely got him off the couch on the harder days. Harry is also competitive, so being able to see his friends at parkrun on Saturday morning really excited him, plus he could pit himself against the older kids.
The parkrun community is great. So many of the volunteers are from the local area or parents of members in his running club so it means every corner we turn we see a friendly face we know. Everyone also loves the post-parkrun catch up at the local cafe.
When Harry first started parkrunning, it was difficult at times because he is more susceptible to infection during the winter. He would often end up in hospital for several weeks each winter, but working on his running really helped him recover from any infection.
Harry has had a lot to endure over the past 14 years with his diagnosis of CF. It has really spurred him on to look after his health and do all he can to keep well. He is very self-motivated and since he started secondary school he takes his fitness really seriously. His school has a running team and he even competes for his club too!
Photo credit: Dermot Kelly
He was so lucky over the years to get to the All-Ireland Cross Country finals annually with his running club. Then, last year he improved so much that for the first time he reached the All-Ireland Cross Country finals in both U15 & U16 age groups as an individual.
Last year, the radiographer was shocked at Harry’s chest x-ray during his annual hospital review. He said to keep up whatever he was doing as he “had never seen lungs like that on a kid at that age with cystic fibrosis!”
We are so happy to see Harry’s fitness improve each year. He likes to set himself regular goals, which take hard work, training and determination to achieve.
His latest challenge is to surpass his age group’s record at the local parkrun before he moves up an age category. He loves a challenge so we know he’s determined to try over the coming weeks - he almost did it last week!
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