It might have taken six years from first registering with parkrun to taking part in her first event, but Meighan Walker says that she has finally found ‘her’ community.
Meighan is well aware of the contradiction. She’s a sociable person but an antisocial runner – preferring to jog only in the shadows of early mornings and late nights.
She puts that down in part to being a self-confessed plus-sized athlete.
Meighan stayed away from parkrun, worried that because of her body shape and speed she wouldn’t be accepted.
“You get into your head – ‘I can’t do this because of my size, I don’t look like the typical runner’,” she says.
So, her barcode first registered in 2015 remained unused in the bottom of a drawer.
Like many, the pandemic left her feeling stressed at work and socially isolated – she missed her usual face-to-face connections with others.
Something had to change, so in January 2021 when a friend suggested parkrun Meighan chose to ‘do the hard thing’ and take part in her first event.
Nervous at running in front of other people, Meighan instead chose to volunteer as a barcode scanner.
“It was fantastic, it was so much fun. Everyone was so happy, and all the other volunteers were so lovely.”
When her friend asked her what she thought of her first parkrun, her reply was emphatic.
“I love this!”
Rapidly, Meighan discovered that parkrun wasn’t just about running the course but sharing time with similar-minded people.
Her favourite volunteer role is barcode scanning, which she says gives her the opportunity to chat with other parkrunners and share in their experiences.
“I love being that person at the finish line going, ‘please tell me how it went’,” she says.
“I might never see some people again, but I can’t imagine not having met them.
“Because, on that one day, they are the most inspiring, happy, bubbly people you can meet. parkrun just has this way of making people happy.”
Meighan highlights the experience of Tail Walking with a parkrunner who had a double mastectomy aged 70 as particularly memorable.
“The things she was sharing with me were profound and beautiful.
“I then realised that volunteering at parkrun became less about me and becoming that safe space for other people to share how they are feeling.”
Meighan says that she now can’t imagine a Saturday morning without parkrun, saying that it was worth the wait to have discovered an amazing group of people that has become her community.
“I can’t imagine my life without it.”
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