In August 2013 I ran my first ever parkrun. A couple of my friends from Sixth Form had heard about it and invited me along to join them. I was 16 stone and had never run before in my life.
Unsurprisingly I was the final finisher, crossing the line in 48 minutes, a good 20 minutes behind my friends. But I did it. The following week I tried again. There were more of my friends this time, but once again I was the final finisher. This trend continued, I kept finishing last, but I kept coming back.
It took me a few years, but I finally got into a routine of a healthier diet and exercise. I started parkrunning again and got quite into running, completing Couch to 5k, and I now try to go to parkrun most weeks if I can.
Now, I’m 11 stone and I ran my first half marathon in October. My parkrun PB is 28 minutes, and I’m always trying to get my friends to come with me. I’ve made friends who do it, and it’s not unusual to do a 5k and grab a cheeky coffee and cake after.
I’m so glad I went along that first week. At my new local parkrun in Pontypridd, as with all parkruns in the UK, we have Tail Walkers thanks to all the volunteers. Whenever I see anyone walking with them or people who stop to walk I really want to stop. I want to tell them they’re doing great and they should keep coming, every week it doesn’t matter.
I didn’t run those full 5 kilometres in one stint until 2017 – four years after my first parkrun, and then in 2018, I could say I can run a full 13.1 miles without stopping. I think doing parkrun was something that got me really passionate about running. It’s an honest sport, it’s affordable and you need no equipment but yourself and some trainers.
Running and parkrun have helped me lose weight and be healthier, and it’s helped me make friends. It’s something that is always worth the 8:00am alarm every Saturday morning. You can just turn up, listen to the pre-run briefing, hear about the latest birthdays and milestones.
parkrun provides you with that sense of community in a time where people don’t know their neighbours like they used to. Even now I always get the same rush of adrenaline just before parkrun, because I know there are all these people here doing the same thing. It leaves you feeling warm and excited.
I’m never going to be the fastest one there, but the middle of the pack is good enough for me. You’re not racing against other people, you’re racing against yourself every week and I can’t wait to hit my first milestone.