News - 20th May 2021

A transformation that saved my life


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.


wendy beforeafter


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.


Wendy cancer


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.


Wendy Chilesh


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