Woodhouse Moor parkrunner Pritti Mehta is Head of Programmes, Transformation and Delivery, in the People Directorate at NHS England.
Here she tells us why parkrun is so important for her own health and happiness, and how it could make a difference to yours.
We each have a vital role to play in our own health and wellbeing. This is as true for our people and communities as it is for our NHS staff and all our key workers. By giving a little care to ourselves we can also care for each other.
That’s why I now run. It helps me ‘reset’, look after my mental health, and manage my strong family history of diabetes that sadly contributed to the loss of my father a year ago.
I was always running around as a child, getting into scrapes – it was one of the most natural things. But then I stopped, and my fitness levels declined.
During my 40 plus health check, this message was brought home to me – that I needed to do more to keep my head and heart strong. After lots of stops and starts, including moving back to Yorkshire, I started again, initially running on my own through our wonderful Woodhouse Ridge. It’s a stripe of woodland that runs through the city of Leeds, my sanctuary! In those moments of running, and to quote Shane Benzie, I experience that childishness again “joy evoking freedom, moving forwards powered only by the gifts that nature has given me”. In those moments I am away from the emails and can think with clarity.
My husband (yes we all need a little encouragement!) signed me up for parkrun in August 2017 and until COVID-19, I have walked, jogged, ran or volunteered almost every Saturday since.
My parkrun ‘family’ encouraged me every week, gave me peer support and helped me believe in myself. It is through the 5K parkrun events that I then went on to do my first 10K and have since run three half-marathons. This October I have signed up for the Manchester Virtual Marathon, when I plan to run 26.2miles over the course of each week.
In terms of volunteering, I’ve had a range of roles – from Marshal, to Timing, Finish Token Support, First Timer’s Briefing and a junior parkrun warm up! I’m now a Run Director at my local Woodhouse Moor parkrun, where I help lead the delivery of events for over 700 people! Volunteering gives me such joy and the opportunity to connect with my community and lift a few souls, including my own, on a Saturday morning.
We look forward to a time when parkrun events resume, having been put on hold due to COVID-19, but in the meantime why not take part in (not)parkrun. You can walk, jog or run. Join the movement! Join the family!
Specifically, we want to encourage those who are or have been less active to take part.
So why don’t you give parkrun a try. You can walk, jog or run. Join the movement! Join the family!
You can follow Pritti on Twitter @pritti_mehta
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