Wendy Chilesh began parkrunning in 2013 as a way to ‘shed a few kilos’. Wendy believes her physical transformation through parkrun, which led to an early cancer diagnosis, is the reason she is still alive.
I did my first parkrun in November 2013. I was motivated by my work colleague and I was also looking for a way to shed a few kilos. I was at my heaviest when I began running, and it was probably more like ‘shuffling’, but I gave it a go anyway!
I was as nervous as anything before my first parkrun. I was anxious that I might not finish the 5km, that I might be judged because of my weight. I don’t like failing at anything so I invited a friend to come along with me. We did a run/walk strategy and we encouraged each other.
Once I did it, I realised there was nothing to be worried about. There were people who looked like me and everyone was very supportive. As a matter of fact, most people love to see newbies at parkrun and will be cheering you on the whole way.
Back then I think walkers were faster than me! But that didn’t stop me from going along most weeks. The more I turned up, the better I started feeling about myself. The parkrun community was also very supportive and I made a lot of friends.
I started running a bit more during the week to improve my times, and with this running came weight loss. It took a few months for people to start noticing I was losing weight. That encouraged me to look at my diet. All in all I lost 25kg and I have improved my parkrun time by 22 minutes.
It might come as a surprise but running gives me more energy. It motivates me to eat well because frankly I don’t want to ruin my good work and once the weight started coming off, my self confidence also improved. I liked how I looked. It gave me confidence to start talking to a few people and I realised most of them were just like me. And I realised I can be like them if I stick with it. I set myself little goals, for example to run under 40 minutes, then 35 minutes, then 30 minutes, then 25 minutes and now I am trying to beat my PB of 22:25.
In November 2015, after losing so much weight, I found a lump in my breast which turned out to be breast cancer. Had it not been for parkrun motivating me to lose weight, I would have never felt that lump and today will be a different story. parkrun saved my life.
After my cancer diagnosis in November 2015, I had mastectomy and in January 2016 I started chemotherapy. I had my first chemo on Friday 20 January 2016. I remember this day because it was a day after my birthday. I was educated about all the effects of chemo, what I should and what I shouldn’t do and definitely take it easy on the running front. The next day I was volunteering at parkrun, so I decided to walked the 6km from my home to parkrun and back. Technically that’s not running, right?
When I got back home, I collapsed on my bed and really didn’t do much for the next few days. That’s when I knew things had changed. This didn’t stop me from walking though, I just adjusted the distance depending on how I was feeling.
“I strongly believe keeping active while going through chemo helps with recovery.”
The best thing about parkrun apart from health benefits, is the friendships I have made. There’s a sense of community and support for each other which is amazing. It’s also a free event in a beautiful park. You can see your progress which is very important for most of us who want to see how far we have come.
parkrun is a non judgemental, safe place to start running. There are a lot of walkers and runners of all abilities, shapes and sizes. No one competes with you but yourself. Everyone is encouraging and you feel like a superhero crossing that finish line.
I have gone on to run three marathons, five half marathons and one ultra marathon. I would have never done this had it not been for parkrun. I managed to walk 130km from Dwellingnup to Collie (part of Biblumen Track) with friends I met through parkrun – how amazing is that?! parkrun has given me this opportunity through people I have met, to do things out of my comfort zone and experience this amazing life.
We took another big step forward last Saturday as 5k events returned in Denmark, the ninth country to see events restart post-COVID, plus we welcomed back junior parkrun events in Scotland. In total nearly 60,000 people took part in 775 events around the world last weekend, including nearly 2,500 for the very first time….
I’m Alita and I am 32, and prior to parkrun I would complain at having to do a 100-metre warm-up at my local Boot Camp! That was November 2018 and I was on a health and fitness journey. I had lost almost 30kg. One morning whilst out of my morning coffee beach walk we…