22-year-old Sophia Holdsworth from Hamilton Lake parkrun on New Zealand’s north island, first signed up to parkrun to help manage multiple autoimmune diseases. Sophie explains how the benefits have extended far beyond a Saturday morning and opened up a whole new world of friendships.
My Grandparents in the UK joined parkrun years ago to get fit and they encouraged me to get into it. I hated running but they assured me that you could do any pace at parkrun which was really appealing. I also have multiple autoimmune diseases that have affected both my mental and physical health, and I thought that a weekly run might benefit my health.
I was really nervous about being judged by all the parkrunners who are super fit and very fast! And I was worried about how I would compare against other parkrunners. I quickly realised however that no-one looks at you when they run, and if they do, it is only to cheer you on. Nobody is comparing themselves against other people. Getting your parkrun time each week just sparks a competition with yourself to constantly improve your time. It’s such a relaxed and supportive environment and it made returning to parkrun each week very easy.
My experiences at parkrun encouraged to me to begin running throughout the week so that I can get new personal bests regularly. But more importantly, it’s given me the courage to venture outside of my comfort zone and quickly find friends amongst strangers. parkrun has also taught me that sometimes, just turning up when you don’t even feel well enough to get out of bed is a HUGE achievement, and I found that translating into other areas of my life where I usually have high expectations of myself.
If you turn up to parkrun once and don’t think it’s for you, there is no pressure to return. However parkrun is a fantastic way to start a productive weekend, meet lovely people who are like-minded, and better your health in such a simple and easy way. You will quickly find ‘your people’ when you parkrun, who are those who have similar walking and running times, where you’ll likely find friendly banter and healthy competition! It really is an encouraging and positive environment and I couldn’t recommend parkrun enough!
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