Jacinta Yates is a practice nurse who has been parkrunning for almost a decade. She tells us her story of how she was first introduced to parkrun, and why she has never looked back.
I first started doing parkrun around 10 years ago, I was never very sporty at school, I didn’t have the coordination for netball and had the grace of a baby elephant during gymnastics. We actually used to do cross country in Heaton Park, home of my beloved parkrun and I do remember really enjoying these PE lessons, however cross country sessions were few and far between.
I had a friend from school that was trying to get back into exercise. We started doing runs around the streets and then she convinced me to join a local running club and I was like, ‘me? You are joking?’. So I reluctantly went and my love of running and parkrun started. The first time I did Heaton Park parkrun I could not believe the atmosphere and non-judgemental environment.
I remember being a bit traumatised by school sports day as I was usually last in the sprint races but I soon realised I could never be last at parkrun due to the tail walkers. It is a regular part of my weekend now and if I can’t go my weekend just never seems complete.
Over the years I really feel it has really helped with my fitness and I have even managed longer distances and done three marathons which I never thought possible. Around 20 of us dressed as Manchester Bees and did Medoc Marathon in France.
Although I have enjoyed doing marathons however, running as fast as I can once a week I feel I benefit more than running for two hours whilst marathon training.
I have made many friends through parkrun and we always celebrate milestone parkruns or birthdays. I have made another good friend Danny, a visually impaired parkrunner. I got involved with guide running as at the last minute he needed a guide runner. Danny is fitter and faster than me so he always gets a chatty run when we run together – well he chats, I run and try to chat!
He has always tried to help me get fitter and one week at parkrun I was guiding him and he said, ‘we will get you a PB today’. (As I got fitter I wanted to improve my time even more.)
I thought, ‘no I am guide running you, we can’t do that’. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and half way through as Danny was encouraging me to run faster I was struggling to give him guide instructions, another running buddy said he would take over the guiding and I had a runner at either side of me – it was like a sports day six-legged event tied to Danny with our trusty shoelace!
I managed to get a PB and I am sure Danny was in front of me most of the way which is not how guiding is supposed to work!
Over the years I have parkrunned with members of my family, husband, daughter, son and dog at parkrun. My son does it most weeks but I usually just see him at the start, then he speeds off.
My son and I have volunteered a few times and our favourite job is the finish funnel – it’s great to see all the parkrunners finish and the different emotions they experience.
I work as a practice nurse and few years ago I did a couch to 5k with some patients and staff at the surgery I worked at. parkrun definitely in my opinion is one of the best prescriptions for better physical and mental health, and free! I always tell patients about parkrun and we are a parkrun practice, but some of my patients say ‘I can’t run’, but I say if I can run anyone can and I explain how inclusive parkrun is and what an amazing sense of community parkrun has.
During covid I was working more than ever doing vaccination clinics and my usual clinics it was stressful at times during this time obviously not as stressful as working in the covid wards but we were still seeing patients face to face, so there was always the fear of catching covid and not knowing how quickly I would recover. During this time I was running less, and definitely wasn’t as fit. Obviously I missed friends and family during covid but I can honestly say parkrun was one of the things I missed the most during covid.
When it started back up I felt really nervous attending it again but can’t believe I did, as it was like seeing an old friend, the type you don’t see often but when you do it’s like you see them all the time. It has taken a while to get my fitness back up but every week the amazing volunteers normally cheer me on or say something encouraging. I always really appreciate that people are taking the time to try and improve your running and helping you to keep going.
We have an amazing core volunteer team at Heaton Park and most of these people dedicate every Saturday morning. They are all such lovely people and always seem to bring such a sense of fun and community to every Saturday.
A few times I have been involved with my running club Prestwich AC pacing which is a fantastic experience and a lot harder than you think.
I love that doing parkrun you are only racing against yourself and some weeks I don’t feel like running as fast as I can, so I just enjoy running at a more comfortable pace and chatting to people.
Every Saturday when I go through that finish funnel I can honestly say it feels like a fantastic sense of achievement. It almost feels like I am getting a big comforting hug from one of the most incredible communities I am fortunate to be part of that is parkrun.
Training for any running event takes a lot of dedication – it’s a commitment that challenges you both physically and mentally. Our friends at WithU recently sat down with resident coach and running expert, Omar, to find out how you can support your event training, to get to the start line as prepared and happy as possible….
After the past two years, it’s never been more important to take care of your wellbeing and embrace a healthier lifestyle. But just like a new year resolution where less than one-quarter of us accomplish them, achieving our health goals can be more of a struggle than we admit. Fortunately, there are ways we can…