Joanne Jackson felt that she needed a kick start to move forward after the loss of her friend.
Here she explains how parkrun played a part in lifting her spirits.
I’ve always wanted to be able to run but every time I tried I gave up.
My first parkrun was about 4 months after I suddenly lost my best friend and I felt I had nothing to look forward to, I felt very empty and low. It was hard to motivate myself to go along but I needed a kick start to move forward. My friends said we should give parkrun a go, so I agreed to go along.
When we turned up to Dartford parkrun that first time in April 2019, I remember feeling very anxious. I was worried that I wouldn’t finish before everything was cleared away and I would be the only one left in the park! In fact, it was the absolute opposite.
I felt really welcome and there was no pressure to run, walking was fine and it didn’t matter how long I took. I walked most of it and really enjoyed myself. I left feeling on a high with a brilliant sense of achievement. It felt great to be part of something that is enjoyed by so many.
parkrun quickly became something I looked forward to. I carried on going week after week and it got slightly easier. It was something to focus on and the endorphins lifted my mood. Also, I enjoyed the sense of belonging. I got to the point that if I had to miss a Saturday I felt I was missing out .
It became my personal challenge to try and beat my PB, running that little bit further before having a walk. I was so proud of myself when I actually ran the whole 5k, thinking how far I had come from when I could only run a few hundred yards.
I’m 53 and I’ve suffered with mental health issues for a long time now. I also have Type 2 diabetes. I have found any form of exercise to be difficult for a variety of reasons and I’ve not previously found joining a group activity possible due to my mental health. However, parkrun seems like the ideal solution for me. Although it is a group event I can still be by myself if I need to, I just put my earphones in and off I go.
Just over a year later, I’ve completed 27 parkruns and I’ve completed a few races, raising money for several charities. If someone had told me 18 months ago I would be taking part in races I would have laughed them off the planet! But I have and I’m proud of myself.
I am so thankful to my friends for encouraging me to go along that first week and my family for supporting me to carry on. I am managing to keep up my exercising during lockdown but I am missing my Saturday morning parkrun at Dartford and can’t wait to get back to it.
I would say to anybody thinking of doing a park run, “just do it!” There is nothing to be worried about, everybody is friendly and encouraging and the feel good factor you get is amazing!
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