News - 21st August 2023

Breaking the cycle of anxiety with parkrun

Fiona King 1a

Fiona King found that parkrunning helped her mental health when she started attending in 2018. The impact of the pandemic combined with the birth of her two daughters significantly affected Fiona’s mental health once again.


However, the experience of returning to parkrun has been hugely beneficial and Fiona has some brilliant advice for new mums or people with anxiety who are thinking of giving parkrun a try.


I first heard about parkrun many years ago from my friend Lauryn. However, it wasn’t until 2018 that I mustered up the courage to print off my barcode and gather at the start with all the other parkrunners.


I decided to give it a try on a complete whim. I had not run for eight or so years and I was struggling with my fitness, motivation and anxiety. Before this point, anxiety had always gotten the better of me which meant that I had never made it to an event. I don’t know why this day was different, I was staying at my mum’s and I dragged her up and out of the door by 8:30am to see what it was all about.


A little later, full of trepidation, I was standing in a quite empty car park. Suddenly, it felt like hundreds of people appeared from nowhere to attend the parkrun event. Everyone was welcoming and upbeat and I thought, “Wow!”


My first parkrun was tough, having not run for many years and the 5k distance did come as quite a shock! But, I completed it at my own pace, stopping when I needed to and encouraged all the way by the volunteers, spectators and my fellow parkrunners.


It was an inspiring morning. I felt a real sense of community and overcame some physical and mental obstacles on that first day which is why I returned for more and became a regular parkrunner.


Fiona King 3


In 2020, I had my first daughter and my second daughter was born in 2022. Due to pandemic lockdowns and two babies, I didn’t manage to get back into my parkrunning until this year. It felt great to be back!


There was a slight sense of trepidation just like the very first event that I took part in. This soon went away when I remembered how friendly and uplifting everyone at parkrun is.


I took it easy initially as I needed time to physically recover. I completed my first few parkruns back at my own stop/start pace, before gradually building up. This is definitely still a work in progress as a bad night’s sleep with the girls can really affect my energy. However, it is something that I have now learned to deal with and accept.


There will be times when I can manage to run the whole route without stopping and there are other times when I need to take it easier. For me, it is about getting out in the fresh air with everyone else and taking part.


parkrun has really helped my mental health on several occasions. Firstly, before having my daughters, I was in a cycle of anxiety. I spent most of my time at home or work, well within my comfort zone, mainly inside. At that time, my world was getting smaller and smaller. parkrun got me out of the house early on a Saturday morning and set me up for the rest of the weekend. It also gave me something to talk about and I would talk to anyone and everyone about it! It made me feel like I had a hobby, and it gave me a sense of purpose.


Fiona King 4


The impact of the pandemic and then the birth of my two daughters either side of that strange time significantly affected my mental health once again. Life had dramatically changed and getting up and out of the house once again became a struggle. I knew that getting back to regular physical activity would help. It became my goal to return to parkrun and to achieve my 50 milestone t-shirt. Having a goal to work towards really helped to improve my mood.


Getting back into my parkrunning was not easy, it was physically and mentally tough. I had to take it at my own pace and see each event I completed as a victory, no matter how fast or slow it may have been. I cannot describe how much the spectators and volunteers always help to encourage me. When I’ve been really dragging myself around the course, their cheering has brought tears to my eyes. I am an over-thinker and parkrun helps to give me some relief from this, because for 30 minutes or so all I can think about is putting one foot in front of the other.


I haven’t been brave enough to try parkrunning with the girls in their buggy yet! I am in awe of the people running with single or even double prams. My girls do often come along to cheer me and the other parkrunners on. Phoebe, who is three years old, absolutely loves it and when she is a little older, we will take her to a junior parkrun. I think that it is great for her to see her Mummy exercising in a positive and inspiring environment. I hope that it provides her with the encouragement and confidence to have a go herself.


Fiona King 2


I really would recommend parkrun to new mums. I wish that I had started back sooner by walking the course or volunteering. These are both great ways to get involved and get some time for yourself. It’s important that we as mums look after ourselves. We tend to spend most of our time looking after others, sometimes we do need to take some time for ourselves in the fresh air and socialise with other people.


My advice to anyone who is feeling anxious or who is a new mum, is to take a deep breath, step outside of your comfort zone and give parkrun a try.


I’ve ran, walked, laughed and cried at parkrun. I’ve had to take mid-run toilet breaks (thanks to pregnancy!) and I’ve had to walk off a stitch or two. I feel like I’ve experienced it all, but afterwards, I have never regretted it and always leave feeling much better for it. It’s amazing what a walk/jog/run can do!


Fiona King



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