Caroline Plummer first went along to parkrun in 2015. She loved the community element and supporting her husband whilst volunteering.
But it took more than three years for her to overcome her fears and complete the course for the first time. Caroline tells us her story, and her advice to others feeling like parkrun is not for them.
I’ve known about parkrun for a long time. I volunteered at my local Northala Fields parkrun for 3 ½ years before taking part last January.
What took me so long? I had always told people that I had no interest because that was easier than explaining that I was too self-conscious to take part. I would go along with my husband and friends when they toured different parkrun and secretly wished I was brave enough to take part. That was until January 2019.
I decided that I needed to step out of this rut. I wasn’t enjoying it. I decided to start by walking the whole thing. I knew that all parkruns have a Tail Walker, so I wouldn’t be the last person to finish, and I also knew that I have a fast walk pace and it would be better than watching on from the sidelines.
I was so nervous but all I got was positive comments from friends. I never realised how fantastic I would feel crossing the finish line. I had done it! I had also released the fear I had built up in me. I actually walked with another couple of women, we admitted to each other how nervous we were beforehand and then celebrated our finish together, full of smiles.
My advice to other people thinking of trying their first parkrun? I completely understand the nerves, the fear of not being quick enough or good enough, or the feeling that you will be panting the whole way around (for the record we all do pant!).
The joy of parkrun is that we are not competing with each other. Everyone is there to improve themselves surrounded by lots of support and encouragement. We have people that walk every week so it is not an issue if you want to walk the whole thing. There’s no pressure to run.
The benefit of the first-timers briefing is you get to see others that are in the same situation as you. When you complete your first one you will feel rightly proud of yourself, proud that you turned up and took part, so just go for it.
There have been so many memorable moments so far in my parkrun journey. I have taken more than 20 minutes off my time in the past 12 months and achieving a sub-40 time was incredible. I never ever thought I could run (although it is more of a steady shuffle!) continuously for 5k and to achieve a time of less than 40 minutes made me feel incredibly proud.
Without parkrun I would never have thought it possible to take on bigger challenges. In July, I ran a competitive 5-mile race. It was the first time ever I had run that far and I ran the whole thing by myself apart from the last mile where my husband joined me. Again in November, I ran a competitive 10k race with my favourite running buddy.
I will continue to push myself both in parkrun and in new distances, I have a 10-mile race booked in February and half marathon booked in March.
To all those people who have registered for parkrun, but are yet to take part, I would say just come along! Please come along bring a friend if it helps, tell no one if that helps more, but come along either way. Wear something you are comfortable wearing, you don’t have to go out and buy new clothes.
You will see from my story that you are not alone in your fears, but other parkrunners will happily celebrate your joy at finishing with you.
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