To celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary and in support of Alzheimers Research UK, avid parkrunners Judith and Andrew Hunt decided to hike from one side of England to the other!
My husband, Andrew and I first heard about parkrun from our niece, Alexandra. She had started parkrunning at Oakwell Hall in 2015, supported by her Grandad. Both she and my father-in-law spoke often and enthusiastically about the event and the friendly community involved.
We first gave parkrun a try in 2017. I was going through a particularly stressful time at work when my niece suggested I join her at Oakwell Hall. I knew I needed to make some lifestyle changes at that time as I had gained a lot of weight and my mental health was not good. Partly due to my desire to support Alex and partly because of my need to improve my own health, I decided to have a go. Andrew is a fell-runner and was keen to support me.
After 6 weeks of training, hidden away on Andrew’s treadmill, I ran my first parkrun at Oakwell Hall. I was accompanied by my husband, 3 sons, 1 daughter-in-law and niece, Alex. We were all cheered on by my father-in-law who continued to support parkrun until he developed Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 88.
On that first parkrun I felt very self-concious and nervous that I wouldn’t finish but the Oakwell Hall parkrun crowd are incredibly warm and friendly so my fears disappeared almost immediately. I finished the run in just over 34 minutes and was elated. Not bad for a first-timer at 52 years of age!
That was the start of our parkrun adventure and we continued to parkrun regularly at our home event, Temple Newsam and I ran my 100th parkrun on New Year’s Day 2020.
Andrew and I did start doing our parkruns together but his tendency to coach didn’t go down well! Now we travel there together and he joins the speedy folk at the front then cheers me over the finish line later. It has become an incredibly important part of our lives and something that is great to share as a couple. My health and well-being have improved immeasurably over the last 3 years.
We try to join other parkruns when we travel around the country as we hate missing our weekly ‘fix.’ Every week brings a sense of achievement. It’s a wonderful way to kickstart the weekend whether we parkrun or volunteer. We enjoy both pursuits equally.
When the subject of our 30th wedding anniversary cropped up, I, in a mad moment, suggested that now I was reasonably fit, it would be fun to share the experience of walking the Coast to Coast path 30 years after Andrew had previously walked it with a friend just prior to our wedding in 1990.
The Coast to Coast is a long-distance, 192 mile route devised by Alfred Wainwright that passes through 3 contrasting national parks: from St. Bees in Cumbria, crossing the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors to the end point at Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire.
About 4 days before we planned to start the walk, I received an email from parkrun challenging me to walk/jog/run for Alzheimer’s Research UK in July and August. My father-in-law suffered with dementia before he died in 2019. Other members of our family and many of our friends have been affected directly or indirectly by dementia in recent years. It was a very easy decision to combine our Coast to Coast walk with the opportunity to raise money for a cause we care about. Our friends (running and non-running) generously supported us.
Andrew and I have walked a fair bit over the years and had walked 100 miles in 5 days in Cumbria in summer 2018. However, the Coast to Coast distance was a much greater challenge as it was almost twice the distance and we decided to backpack and wild-camp for most of the walk.
The first section through the Lake District pushed me to my limit. I could never have completed those first 4 days without my ‘parkrun fitness’ and knowing we were doing the walk for a good cause. Once that section was ticked off, the remainder was challenging but definitely achievable.
Over our 12 day hike we really enjoyed the wonderful, varied scenery. We had some lovely weather and it gave us the chance to connect with each other and with the natural world after the stresses of lockdown. We certainly started appreciating the small things.
There was a little rain and a few blisters along the way but nothing that held us back.
We chatted to a few people we met along the way but it was just the two of us most of the time.
We posted daily updates on the fundraising page and also raised awareness via our social media. Throughout the walk, we received lots of encouraging messages as well as donations from friends, family and work colleagues.
Our friends turned up with fish, chips and beer in Shap which is at the end of the Lake District section and just before starting the Yorkshire Dales section. Then, our oldest son and daughter-in-law were waiting at Robin Hood’s Bay to cheer us over the finish line.
We both felt that the walk gave us an opportunity to reflect upon the things we value in life – our family (we have 3 sons), our friends, our health and the importance of exercise and the outdoors in maintaining our wellbeing as we approach retirement in the next few years.
We also got to think about some future adventures which include walking the Skye Trail next year (lockdown permitting) and Andrew completing the final 3 of the 282 Munro’s he has climbed since we met.
Here’s to the return of parkrun as soon as possible and to more long distance adventures!
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