Zana Ladipo is an NHS doctor who grew up in Nigeria, before returning to the UK.
Zana explains how discovering parkrun, and becoming part of the core team at Southport parkrun was a real lifesaver for her when it came to making friends and building relationships outside work in a new town.
I was born in London and moved to Nigeria when I was little. I returned to the UK when I was 17, and came up through the British medical school system, first at Leicester Medical School, and then further training in Newcastle.
I moved to Southport for work in August 2015. Before I saw the job advert, I’d never even heard of Southport! I came to visit and loved the idea of living somewhere warmer than the North East and by the beach.
I did not know anyone in the North West and settled into work. Eventually, I realised work was all I had and that was not enough. I adopted a 12-year-old dog called Bossy. I love him but as I don’t speak dog, our conversations were limited and I began to feel isolated and depressed.
Some colleagues at work suggested parkrun, I’d run on and off for 20years but had always strongly believed one of the best things about running was that you could do it alone. However, after being invited repeatedly every week for months, I decided to go, just so I could say I tried it. I was convinced it wasn’t for me, I wouldn’t fit in and I never intend to go more than once.
My first parkrun was in April 2017 and it hurt! However, everyone was so friendly and welcoming and strangers would say well done as they went past me. People had come alone, with friends, with family and they’d walked, jogged, run, pushed buggies and brought dogs (I love dogs). I surprised myself by returning the next week and whenever I could.
During the pre-run briefings, everyone was invited for a post-run drink and eventually, I thought to myself ‘I’ll try it just once’. Again, the volunteers and runners were really friendly and I learnt a lot more goes into parkrun than I’d ever thought.
I decided to volunteer and my first job was as a timekeeper. I felt really supported by the RD and the other volunteers. It was then I really started to get to know people. After some months, I was asked to join the core team and after briefly wondering how many people were asked first, I said yes.
Volunteering is a lot more fun than it looks even when it’s cold and wet – that’s when I get to wear my woolly hat. I now do set up before running and help out when finished so I get the best of both worlds. The thing is all my friends know I’m not a morning person, but the buzz of parkrun gets me out of bed bright eyed and bushy tailed.
parkrun has been a lifesaver for me, coming to a place that I knew nothing about and where I didn’t know anyone. It’s led to me joining a running club and doing my first (also intended to be my last) cross country race this year.
I’m also going to train as a visually impaired (VI ) guide runner. I’ve made some really good friends and now have a social life and feel part of the community. My mood has also improved making me a better mum to Bossy!
parkrun really is for everyone and to anyone who is as sceptical about it as I was, all I will say is this – just try it once!
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