Helen Bates completed her first parkrun on International Women’s Day in March 2020, which marked quite a moment in her recovery from the stroke she suffered in 2018.
I heard about parkrun through my Dad. He retired in 2019 and after a 40 year break, he decided to start running again. He completed his first parkrun in December 2019. He quickly got back the ‘running bug’ and was soon running or volunteering at parkruns regularly.
I suffered a stroke in 2018, just a few months after my 40th birthday. Subsequently I was diagnosed with a condition called Antiphospholipid Syndrome, which is an autoimmune disorder that causes an increased risk of blood clots. It was this disorder that caused the blood clot on my brain and stroke.
It took a while to get my diagnosis and then to start my recovery. I started with very short walks, gradually building on my pace and distance until I was able to do short bursts of jogging.
International Women’s Day (IWD), with the ‘This Girl Can’ theme struck a chord with me and I had the date in my sights. By the end of February 2020 I had managed to build up to 5k, mostly walking, but this spurred me on to register for parkrun ready to attend my first one on IWD.
I was super nervous on the day, I didn’t know what to expect, but everything was so slick, so well organised, with such a huge range of different types of people of all ages. I didn’t feel like a fraud! It was totally ok that I would just do the best that I could, to complete the course. The organisers, volunteers and parkrunners were all so friendly and supportive. I wanted to do my best, but didn’t feel embarrassed that I was a bit slow.
Hearing strangers clapping and cheering and encouraging me was so reassuring. It took me almost 44 minutes to complete the 5k course, but I did it! I was extremely pleased to have achieved it.
My Dad volunteered for parkrun on that day. It was great to have him cheering me on. After the run we had a photo together with the IWD frame. I’ve come a long way since the stroke, and IWD was the perfect time to celebrate that. The support from family and friends made me feel really proud of my achievement.
Since my first parkrun, I’ve continued to run/jog/walk several times per week. I had a short bout of illness which did set me back. My autoimmune disorder does mean that I have flares when I have heightened fatigue and inflamed joints, but being active when I am able, is something that has certainly helped me get through these uncertain times. It’s helped my focus and concentration, as well as improving my sleep.
To anyone thinking about trying parkrun or getting active I would say, “Do it!” Start small with short slow walks and gradually pick up the pace and increase the distance. No judgements, do it at your own pace, set your targets and increase them when you’re ready. I started listening to podcasts whilst I was walking and now create music playlists to help me stay motivated whilst running.
I now run 5k in about 32.5 minutes, not a fast time, but good progress from my parkrun time of almost 44 minutes.
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