Elizabeth has always battled with her weight, and Ulcerative Colitis – a chronic health condition that causes inflammation of the large intestine and bowel. When she started a Couch to 5k program she ran in secluded areas after dark to avoid being seen.
Since being persuaded by her sister in 2015 to walk/run Heaton parkrun in Manchester, UK for the first time, Elizabeth has lost 98 pounds, improved her parkrun time by 24 minutes, trained as a run leader, become a volunteer pacer at her local parkrun, broken 50 minutes in a 10k race, and made a whole new group of friends.
I have always battled with my weight, and this affected my fitness. When I moved to the North West I realized how unfit I was when I struggled walking in hillier areas than I was used to.
My sister had started the Couch to 5k NHS app and suggested I gave it a go. It was a struggle, I had to repeat Week 3 numerous times and was feeling so deflated that I never got beyond it. I did my ‘running’ after dark, in secluded areas, as I worried about been seen.
One of my other sisters, who is an avid runner, came to visit and dragged me to my first parkrun. I didn’t feel ready, I hadn’t run for longer than 30 seconds or run in public, but she is very persuasive and she needed someone to run with one of her children. So I joined her, my brother-in-law, and their three children who were all parkrunners. There was the worry that I wouldn’t make it to the finish, I had no idea how far 5k was. I also have Ulcerative Colitis (inflammation of the large intestine and bowel) and I was worried about the impact running would have on my health.
“I was apprehensive that I would be pointed at, or stopped from running for being fat, or laughed at.”
We arrived and it all seemed very busy with more than 500 parkrunners, so I hid in the crowd. I listened to the First-Timers Welcome and before I could get into a full panic, we were off. My niece and I had a walk/run strategy and, in all honesty, there was a lot more walking than running.
But, slowly, my fears evaporated. There were other people walking, nobody pointed and laughed, people cheered and encouraged. It took me 47:43 and I thought I was going to die, but I had done it! I ached for the rest of the day and most of the next. But the next week, I got up deciding I could probably beat that time now I knew how far 5k was and I did, by more than five minutes. Then, I kept going each week. Meeting people who ran similar times to me, having a chat to them about how to tackle ‘angina hill’. My sixth parkrun, supported by one of the pacers, I finished in under 40 minutes for the first time. I was elated.
Eventually, I started running at other times, and joined a 0-5k group. With their support at our graduation at parkrun I ran the whole 5k for the first time. Other parkrunners told us about Run Together and I started going there and I was running more and more. As I was new to the North West, this turned out to be a great way of meeting people up here. The support from the parkrun community has been invaluable.
In February 2017 I was having an Ulcerative Colitis flare. I’d set off at parkrun as usual, but had to stop. The Tail Walker saw me, waited for me, had a chat with me and got me around. It took me more than 50 minutes and I won’t pretend it was easy, but I was so pleased to have managed it. After a couple of weeks off and some time volunteering on the finish funnel I was well enough to run again.
Over time my fitness improved, my weight dropped and my UC was under control. I was encouraged by parkrunners to join Prestwich Athletics Club and when I felt confident enough I did. I have since completed my Leadership in Running Fitness and led a 0-5k group through to their graduation 5k. I often pace at parkrun as I know how much pacers have helped me achieve PBs, and I have also volunteered to be the Tail Walker too.
Photo thanks to the Trawden AC 7 Mile Race
I recently ran my first sub-50 10k in a race and was jumping up and down with excitement! A friend who was volunteering to hand out the finish tokens when I got my first sub-40 parkrun happened to be at the race and he commented on how I’d been just as giddy then. It was a great, and timely reminder.
Since starting parkrun I have lost more than 98 pounds and my PB is now 23:43. Far more importantly, I have made dear friends and visited places I wouldn’t have before on crazy ‘parkrun tourist’ trips.
I can promise from experience, do not let your weight stop you, or medical conditions, there will always be a welcome on a Saturday morning at parkrun!
parkrun Founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE is honoured with the Royal Society of the Arts’ prestigious Albert Medal. Awarded each year for innovation in the fields of creativity, commerce and social improvement, Paul received the incredible accolade for building a global participation movement. Presenting the award, RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor praised Paul and…
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