News - 27th August 2021

Life changing for all of us


In early 2019 I was coming up to four years in remission from cancer and my health wasn’t good at all. I had been diagnosed with an immune disease thought to be caused by the cancer and the treatment, and I was progressively spending more and more time in hospital with increasingly serious infections. I relied on four-weekly intravenous transfusions of immunoglobulin (human antibodies) to keep me alive but my quality of life and long-term prognosis was poor. 


With the increasing infections I changed to weekly home infusions to try to improve my quality of life, and I still have them now and will do forever. During this transition, a specialist suggested I ‘may’ be able to improve my prognosis by gentle physical activity and losing weight. A friend and co-worker suggested parkrun as I needed something that I could bring my then two-year-old to, given my husband works shifts annd weekends and we have no family locally to help with Jack. I honestly thought to myself that this really wasn’t something I’d enjoy, but I thought I would give it a go anyway!


So I took my son on 16 March 2019 and pushed him in the pram at my local parkrun, which took around 56 minutes. Everyone was so friendly and all my concerns about being out of place as an overweight slow walker were completely unfounded. When the volunteers cheered me across the line with Jack, I felt like I’d come first!


I told my husband that evening I would like to continue going and for him to come along. As the weeks went by we became regulars and started to make friends and go for coffee afterwards. We began to see our parkrun times starting to get quicker, we both started losing weight, feeling healthier and started to make changes to our diet and started to exercise throughout the week too and generally make better choices.


Fast forward two years and I have lost 40kg and Peter has lost 15kg. We are most definitely regulars, both as runners and volunteers. Our little family is now incredibly active and we walk to and from daycare with Jack every day. We all have bikes and ride together as a family.


Jack loves parkrun and is so excited on Saturday mornings! He loves hopping in and out of the running pram to walk and run, and I’m sure it won’t be long before he is able to complete the full 5km and will have his own barcode. Jack is really popular at parkrun and people joke he’s the mascot as he’s always so happy to be there and has so many friends who like to take turns to push him in the running pram and run alongside him. parkrun is so family friendly and I believe we are setting a really good example for Jack about being physically active, being part of his community and providing encouragement to others.


Since starting parkrun we have met the most amazing friends that we consider them as our family. We regularly catch up outside of parkrun, both to run together and socialise. I have had friends from parkrun come along to cheer me as I ran my first half marathon in 2019, walk stretches of the 35km Bloody Long Walk alongside me, as well as having the honour to walk with, provide support and be at the finish line for those who amazingly did the virtual London Marathon last year. Even through Covid, we have all kept in contact and ran together 1-2-1 or in small groups when parkrun wasn’t on.


When parkrun first reopened after restrictions eased, I was quite nervous because of my immune disease about whether it would be safe for me to return. But I’ve been really encouraged by how the run directors have set everything up to keep us all safe – they do an amazing job and we appreciate everything they do at parkrun, not only on Saturday mornings, but for all the organisation behind the scenes that not many people often see or appreciate. Additionally, since we started parkrun, I have had only one infection related hospital admission in those two years.


There is honestly no better way to spend Saturday mornings than parkrun. We have a wonderful, kind, welcoming, family friendly and supportive community and we’re very honoured to be a part of it. It has quite literally been life changing for us.


Jo, Peter & Jack Bentley

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