parkrunner Paul was on the start line of the very first parkrun inside prison walls, Black Combe parkrun at HMP Haverigg. Now, more than a year on from his release, he tells us the positive impact parkrun has had on his life.
There was a lot of nervousness around setting up that parkrun at HMP Haverigg. You can see why really – having what seemed like 60 lads just running about all over the place on a Saturday morning could have been something to worry about!
We got a lot of push back, but we stuck to our guns. We wanted to change minds and outcomes, and we did what we set out to do.
I’d never heard of parkrun, even though I was from a sporting background. It was PE Instructor Shane Spencer who sold me the idea. He knew it was a good thing, and we all needed to have something positive in prison, to help override all of the negativity that goes on.
For me, the best thing about parkrun is that it’s free. All you need to put in is a bit of commitment and drive.
When you come out of prison, getting back on your feet is hard, especially financially. So having something free, and regular, was amazing.
Because I’d done it so long in jail, I knew what to expect. But that didn’t make it any less nerve wracking. I took a mate along with me, I said come on mate you won’t be better than me and I won’t be better than you, let’s just do it.
And we did. Now I’m at around 30 parkruns, and have volunteered about the same amount of times. I’ve done a bit of everything when it comes to volunteering, it’s quite something to be given so much responsibility.
At that first parkrun when I got out. There was a guy there who represents Team GB at Fell Running. I’m not fast, and when I got there at the end, there he was, clapping everyone in. It doesn’t matter who you are at parkrun. The community is amazing.
Everyone is looking out for each other. At my local parkrun now there’s a little dog, and if we haven’t seen him one week we start worrying about him! People care about each other and it focuses your mind on the right things in life. You need that when you’ve been in prison, you don’t want to be thinking about crime.
I remember my first parkrun inside just as well. It was testing. But for that half an hour every week we didn’t feel like we were in prison. We could have been anywhere in the world, or running to the shop, or for a bus, something normal.
We all looked forward to it every week.
Everyone was so supportive, and there was always so much encouragement, ‘come on mate, you’ll get there’.
I’ve been out nearly two years now. I’m in full time work, and I’ve been reunited with my son. I have a simple life, full of so much positivity, and I am truly grateful for it.
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