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!
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