Angela Fukutome is Event Director at Sanukikodomonokuni parkrun in Japan. She was never a ‘runner’, describing herself as someone who always had a ‘tummy ache’ on cross country day.
On a visit home she plucked up the courage to go to parkrun, and that day changed everything. Here’s her story.
I was never a runner. I was that girl in school who always seemed to have a tummy ache on cross country day, and I was probably one of the least sporty kids in my year.
Exercise really didn’t seem important to me… until 2016, when I found myself middle aged, overweight, and out of shape. I downloaded a C25K app and headed to my local park. I didn’t make it to the end of the programme, but I did start to meet up with a good friend and we would run/walk and chat whilst clocking up some miles.
That summer, during a visit home to the UK, I took a deep breath and decided to check out Wilmslow parkrun – it was my very first experience to join an event, and also to tackle 5k, and I was incredibly nervous, but that day changed everything for me!
I loved the friendly atmosphere, the encouragement, and the inclusivity, and I immediately felt like I belonged. It lit a spark in me and, on my return to Kagawa, I wrote to parkrun to ask if they might be coming to Japan. I was informed that there were no plans to do so at that time, so instead I set up my own weekly 5k meet and, gradually, I became a runner.
More than three years later, I learned that parkrun would be coming to Japan after all. It’s true that parkrun changes (and, I believe, saves) lives.
My first experience with parkrun had a huge impact on me, and it’s now more than a year since parkrun came to beautiful Kagawa and launched at Sanuki Kodomo No Kuni!
We celebrated this milestone with gratitude that we are once again able to gather, whilst being mindful of other countries not yet in this fortunate position. Even in the short time we were able to open during this year of global crisis, we have started to build a wonderfully friendly community, where everyone is warmly welcomed and encouraged, no matter what their goal.
We see new faces each week, as well as people who have been there since the very first day and have made parkrun a part of their weekly routine.
How rewarding it is to see nervous newcomers grin as they cross the finish line for the first time! It’s amazing to be able to cheer participants along on their fitness journey – I especially love to see children (often rather reluctant at first!) cheerfully making their way around the course, realizing what they are capable of, and making progress each week.
It was a huge thrill for me to see one of our father-and-son pairs competing at a local running event earlier this year! There’s no doubt that joining parkrun can be life-changing for many, and it is a privilege to be a part of the movement in the local community.
Kagawa is a very rural pocket of Japan, perhaps not yet a destination on your radar, but do look us up. We have amazing art! And temples galore! And we can almost guarantee it won’t rain on parkrun day – at least, it hasn’t yet! – so add Sanukikodomonokuni parkrun to your bucket list of places to visit!
Sanukikodomonokuni parkrun, ED
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