News - 5th January 2022

Sixty two wonderful minutes

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Caroline Boxall felt like she’d won at the Olympics when she completed her first parkrun. Here she tells us why it meant so much to her.


Achieving something you didn’t think you were capable of gives you the most amazing feeling. It happened to me when I completed my first parkrun or, in my case, parkwalk.


Thousands of people will also have completed a parkrun and I hope they feel as proud of themselves as I do. I completed the 5k course in a fabulous sixty two minutes. The fastest person today at Rickmansworth Aquadrome finished in seventeen minutes. I witnessed him flying past me on his second lap while I was a few hundred yards past the start flag.


About four years ago I was diagnosed with Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS). If it wasn’t for MS then you would find me playing in a hockey match, or possibly tennis, but when you start tripping over grains of sand on the Astro pitch, you know it’s time to stop.


The rest of my family are all involved in various sporting activities, so, not wanting to spend Saturday mornings feeling sorry for myself, I needed to find something of my own. I have drop foot which makes my right foot fly around uncontrollably, a dodgy right knee which caves in, and a hip which feels like it’s made of heavy gunmetal, but I didn’t want these problems to stop me.


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I signed up and received my parkrun barcode. It’s funny how a few little black lines can make you feel part of a team, but because I had the barcode, I was part of the team and there was no going back. Luckily, my husband was able to accompany me for this first event.


We arrived just before the starting time of 9am to a wonderful atmosphere. Hundreds of people, young, old, every shape and size were congregating at the start line. I joined the back of the group with the people expecting to take ‘more than 35 minutes’.


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We all set off and I was happy to find myself near the back. I discovered that there is always a volunteer who stays at the very back. How fantastic! So next time, when I go on my own, I know there will be someone to pick me up if I fall in a bush, and even more importantly, someone to chat with.


There were volunteers at every point on the course where you might take a wrong turn. Not one of them looked disappointed to see me hobbling round slowly with my walking poles. When I told them, “I’m afraid this is only my first lap,” each of them came back with a smile and a, “No problem,” or “That’s what I’m here for,” or “Keep going, you’re doing well!”


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Sixty two wonderful minutes after starting, I crossed the finish line and was able to ping my barcode! Pretty much everyone else had gone home, but I didn’t mind, I was so happy to have completed the course.


Next week I will be back hoping to beat my PB (personal best). One day I might get round the 5k in under an hour, think how that will make me feel!


Caroline Boxall

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