Philippa Levey’s enthusiasm for parkrun is striking, but the resilience behind her story is remarkable. Following a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, Phillipa shares her journey from avoiding exercise completely, to not being able to imagine her life without parkrun.
I am a 70-year-old parkrun devotee, and what is unusual about this comment is that I didn’t start ‘running’ (more like start/stop fast walking in my case) until I was 67.
Exercise had always been a thing to be avoided, far too much like hard work. Additionally, being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in my early 40s put a temporary stop to doing normal, everyday activities, like dress myself or tying up my young daughter’s hair. This was a very, very distressing time, both for me and all the family.
Fortunately, after a couple of years, my treatment was finally sorted and I was able to resume a form of normality, but nothing like my life prior. The knock on effects of the rheumatoid arthritis were that I developed a lumbar scoliosis and osteoarthritis in my right knee, which became so pronounced that I needed a total knee replacement. The operation went smoothly, but my recovery wasn’t trouble free and 18 months of physiotherapy followed. To this day, I have issues with my knee.
I had a decision to make. I could either wallow in pain and discomfort and let life pass me by, or I could do something about it. The only person who could make that choice was me. This is where parkrun came in.
My husband, David, initially got involved in parkrun through our daughter, Fiona. He volunteered so many times that he has his own corner at Hampstead Heath parkrun, known to everyone as ‘David’s corner’!
I did my first parkrun in May 2017, when I realised that you could walk. This was just the incentive I needed! I thought, “I can do this!” And I haven’t looked back. David very kindly walked the course with me a couple of times.
I moved from Hampstead Heath parkrun to Victoria Dock parkrun about 18 months ago as the hilly course at the former was getting too much for my knee (and I hate mud!). I have now completed 202 5ks and I have volunteered more than 70 times. I have completed the Alphabeter challenge (other than the Z), and after 2 years achieved the Gold Level Obsessive badge. Not bad for a woman who years ago thought that running for a bus was not worth the effort.
I can honestly say that parkrun has changed my life. I am fitter, lighter, happier, and have a hobby that I share with my wonderful family. We follow each other’s progress and keep records of the results of everyone we know. Plus, we have managed to get quite a few people to take up parkrun as well. I cannot imagine life without it.
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