I was born as a twin, and at an early age was diagnosed with a condition called Cerebral Palsy. I had many challenges ahead of me, including crawling, balancing, and learning to walk. But with the support of my family, I eventually took my first steps in a local park at the age of two and a half.
I spent most of my early and teenage years being a spectator, looking on at my friends playing sport. I always wanted to take part but I knew that I would never get picked to be in the teams as I would be too slow. Deep down, my only wish was to be on the team.
But in August 2015, one very exciting and life-changing thing happened.
My brother and his wife run marathons and half marathons, and when my niece and nephew visit from Scotland they always want to do our local parkrun in Larne, Northern Ireland. One Saturday morning they all went down to take part, and I went along to watch because I didn’t think I could do it. While standing there, I asked myself ‘Why am I watching this?’ I wanted to give it a go!
So I signed up, printed my barcode, and with great support from everyone on the course I completed my first parkrun soon after. When I reached the finish funnel everyone was standing and cheering me in – I felt like the Queen! I was so happy that I had found a sport that I enjoyed and could take part in. Now all my family do parkrun every Saturday morning, and it’s great that we can enjoy it together.
Over the past year I have joined the parkrun 50 Club, and completed a run series of eight 5k forest races in which I also raised money for a Northern Ireland charity that supports people who live with disabilities. I’m now working towards my 100 milestone shirt as well as doing some 5k races.
parkrun has given me a whole new outlook on life. It has given me inspiration and enthusiasm, power and determination to succeed, and most of all it has given me respect. At parkrun I am treated as an equal and as part of the community, regardless of my ability. This isn’t always the case in the outside world. Through parkrun I have made many friends and look forward to every Saturday morning.
I would not hesitate to encourage children and adults who are physically challenged to take part in their local parkruns, and with lots of help and support they will achieve and further their running ambitions.
Because of parkrun, and in particular the volunteers at Larne parkrun, I don’t just watch sport from the sidelines anymore. I take part. And I don’t just cheer. I get cheered on. From my family and from the bottom of my heart, I can’t thank the parkrun community enough for your support and encouragement.
Exciting news: parkrun is coming to the Netherlands! In 2020, parkrun will be launching in the Netherlands, becoming the 22nd country in the parkrun family. We are in the process of confirming start dates and locations, but there has been an overwhelming amount of interest from all over the country. Plans are currently in development to see…
After the birth of her second child, Gail Seal was feeling overweight and unfit, and her confidence was at an all-time low. It took a year for her to work up the courage to go to parkrun for the first time. This is her story. I just celebrated my 100th parkrun! It was a…