Volunteering has given Dot Yeates the opportunity to be just as involved with her local parkrun as she was before the MS diagnosis she received during lockdown.
Every Saturday morning I would see groups of people walking, jogging and running down a slope across the road from my bedroom window. I realised this must be the parkrun that my friends had told me about. I was determined to improve my overall fitness and started to walk round the block. Then, after about eight weeks, I plucked up the courage to do my first ever 5k at parkrun.
My first parkrun was in 2017, at the Linford Wood event in Milton Keynes, which is my home parkrun. It is a beautiful one lapper, that changes with the seasons. I have to say I felt very excited and proud achieving my first ever 5k. Everyone present was very welcoming. I was at the back, but because there is always a tail walker, I have never been or felt ‘last’.
I loved the ‘buzz’ it gave me, the friendly people, the beautiful surroundings and that sense of belonging even though I didn’t know anyone to begin with, all of which made we want to go back again.
After a few weeks of completing the 5k, I started volunteering too and from then on went to parkrun at least twice a month and sometimes weekly.
Prior to lockdown I managed to achieve 50 parkruns and 25 volunteer stints plus visits to events in Newport and Edinburgh.
I enjoy so much about parkrun – the familiar faces, the camaraderie in all weathers, the individual stories, the diversity of those taking part, the old, young, babies, buggies, dogs, individuals, families. Most of all, I enjoy the fact that it happens in many places around the world and I feel part of a positive and regular activity.
During lockdown I was diagnosed with MS having struggled with my mobility for a while, including falling on a half marathon walk. Initially, I kept thinking of all the things I could no longer do and would not do again. I felt frustrated and a bit angry. I knew I would not be able to walk 5k. I struggle now to go more than a few hundred metres but I was determined to still be part of parkrun when it restarted in July 2021.
I had witnessed how inclusive the events are to all abilities. Thanks to the support and encouragement of the Linford Wood parkrun core team, the patience of a parkrun buddy and those wonderful Saturday parkrunners, I am once again part of the best activity, with my walking stick and stool in tow.
I love volunteering. I enjoy watching the faster parkrunners at the front and seeing regulars to share their highs and lows. It is also great to chat to the local community as they walk their dogs or go for the paper and of course I encourage them to join us.
I usually marshal, but my favourite role is that of handing out the finish tokens. The delight on the faces of parkrunners is a sight to behold.
I want to be part of parkrun as long as I am able, I still have a few volunteering milestones to achieve.
I hope parkrun continues to attract new people and new courses (we now have three in Milton Keynes) providing opportunities to many for fitness, friendship, routine, fresh air or that wonderful sense of wellbeing and acceptance which it has given me.
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