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 saw a group of people running, and I distinctly remember thinking “why are these people running so early in the morning? They are CRAZY!”
My best friend at the time (now partner) said “that’s parkrun, we should try it sometime”. Now I was not a runner, so my immediate reaction was a big fat NO! But within a few days, Shannon had convinced me to give it a go as a parkwalk. Mudjimba Beach parkrun was my first ever parkwalk, remains my local and has my heart.
I was so sceptical to go to my first parkrun. I was not a runner, I didn’t know how to run, nor did I want to learn. I was purely going to support a friend and that was it… AND I WAS WALKING THE WHOLE WAY. But once I got there I soon realised it was more than just the running. People were gathered chatting, laughing, enjoying themselves.
When we were called to the startline I anxiously lined up and waited for them to count down “3,2,1…go”. I waited for everyone else to take off before I started out for my little walk (I had no intention of walking the whole 5km) but much to my surprise, I was not alone. There were other people walking, I wasn’t alone! I wasn’t the only “slow” person. I quickly realised parkrun wasn’t just about running, it was about being part of something, of a community and simply bettering yourself.
After my first parkrun, I reluctantly went back for seconds. My best friend who dragged me along the first week was interstate but I knew he was going to do it, so I had to too. I was all alone and it was pacer week. The previous week I had walked a 38:47, this week I simply had to turn up and get it done, so I wouldn’t have to deal with the backlash from my bestie!
That was the day I became addicted to parkrun. Alone on the course, with no one there to support me, I turned the 2.5km turn around and noticed that the 35-minute pacer was right on my tail. I said out loud “I will not let you get past me” and this man, the 35-minute pacer stuck on my heals the whole part of the second half. Little did I know this would spark a friendship like no other, and if I am being honest, a friendly rivalry that would continue years down the track.
Rob stuck with me, pushed me and wouldn’t let me give up. I ran a 36:24. Though he didn’t stick to his 35-minute pace, he ignited a passion inside me that day. A passion to do better and push harder. He ignited my passion for parkrun.
Saturday mornings are my favourite. I look forward to seeing my parkrun family.
Within the first few months of being at parkrun, I was awarded parkrunner of the month. Which for me, someone who never wanted to be a runner, was such an achievement. I started volunteering every 10 events and then at the end of 2019 got asked to join the Run Director team! Which of course I accepted! parkrun has literally changed my life. I wanted to help change other people’s lives.
parkrun gave me the confidence to step outside my comfort zone. It taught me to strive for better and that you simply need to start to be good at something. It has given me some of my most valued friendships, friendships that have changed my life and ambitions. It has given me a sense of belonging and I love the community I am now part of.
If you are scared about your first parkrun – that is normal. It is daunting. But know you are not alone. There is a Tail Walker so you will never be last. I promise you, stick with it and you will meet some pretty inspiring people, some new friends and you might even improve your time. If not, just enjoy the coffee after!
Thank you to my amazing parkrun family for making me feel so welcome and always pushing me to be better. And thank you to all the other parkruns for welcoming me as a tourist and making me feel like I belong. parkrun has been such a huge part of my journey to health and such a huge part of my life.
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