Kate Henshall never saw herself as a runner and always thought it was something other people did.
Now a regular parkrunner, she tells us why she feels so differently and how parkrun has fitted into the rhythm of her week.
My niece had started running a few years before me, and suggested it would be something easy that I could fit into my life. At the age of 58, I went into Leeds to buy a pair of jeans and came back with a pair running shoes!
I downloaded the NHS Couch to 5K plan, chose Laura as my coach and got going. I repeated most weeks of the plan more than once, only moving on when I felt comfortable.
As the weather became cold, wet and windy towards the end of the year, I realised I needed to set myself a challenge if I was to keep going. So, at the end of October I started counting the miles and vowed to run the distance between Leeds and Paris – 500 miles – before I was 60.
25 years previously I had been diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer and received brilliant care and treatment at St James’s Hospital,Leeds.
I made the decision to combine my running with raising money for Leeds Cancer Centre and for Aspire. Aspire provide community-based care and support for adults with a learning disability in Leeds.
It provides the fabulous day centre that my daughter Alice attends 4 days a week, and the respite service that she uses for short stays throughout the year. People were very generous and I was so pleased to raise over £3,000.
Throughout this time friends would suggest parkrun. But I was a committed solo runner, very nervous about the thought of running with other people and thinking that it wouldn’t be for me.
Eventually though I decided to give it a go and very nervously went to the Woodhouse Moor parkrun in Leeds. That was two years ago this February and I’ve been a regular parkrunner ever since at Woodhouse Moor, Potternewton or Bramley.
Last summer, I thought Alice would enjoy going to parkrun.
Alice has cerebral palsy, is profoundly deaf and is an essential wheelchair user. The first time she came I volunteered as Tail Walker. Her dad Malcolm came too and it was fascinating to experience being at the back of the field.
Since then we have rejigged her support hours to enable her to be part of parkrun. Every other week two of her support workers, Sandra and Shelley, meet us at the start line. I run and then I meet up and walk/jog with them to the finish line.
It’s lovely that Alice is able to come. She really enjoys it and is always warmly welcomed and cheered on.
For me, it’s the people at parkrun that are amazing. When I’m running, I’m not able to hold a conversation and am always impressed when I hear this happening around me.
A good thing about walking at the back of the field is you can have a good chat and put the world to rights at the same time as getting exercise and meeting lovely people.
Sandra and Shelley have now registered with parkrun and really look forward to it as does Alice. Last week they were joined by Dave, Shelley’s dad who is recovering from drastic surgery and treatment after being diagnosed with mouth cancer 2 years ago.
Shelley had told him about parkrun. He is keen to become more active and was delighted to see that this is something that he could do every week… and it’s just on his doorstep.
I know there are very many people out there who are carers, like me. It’s been great to see how welcome and inclusive parkrun is and how we’ve been able to work it out so that I can still run and Alice can also be a part of the parkrun family.
Managing running with caring and working is not straightforward but when time is available, I am able to throw on my trainers and go.
It’s a great way of switching off from day to day responsibilities and ensuring I get regular exercise without it taking up too much time. I’m so pleased I decided to give it a go.
In retrospect, I realise I could have gone to parkrun much sooner and my nervousness was completely unfounded.
If you’re reading this and are unsure if parkrun is for you then I really recommend you come along. Don’t worry about what to wear or your level of fitness. It’s not a race and there are always Tail Walkers who walk the course every week to make sure no one is left behind. Everyone is welcome and there is so much encouragement. I thought it was for other people. Now I see it differently.
Once you have done a parkrun, you will probably see it differently too.
My big hope is to keep going. I’ve recently become a grandmother. I want to remain fit and healthy and be an active granny!
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