Even though she laughs at being called an “inspiration,” we thought Helen’s story, recently published on the parkrun Australia blog, was just that! Her narrative is likely to resonate with many parkrun US participants and hopefully some who haven’t made it to parkrun yet for reasons similar to those that first held her back from participating.
Life for me before parkrun was unhealthy and lonely. I was overweight, and depressed and had lost the motivation to have a happy and healthy life, having endured numerous illnesses and surgeries. Prior to starting parkrun, I had a double mastectomy and a reconstruction that wasn’t too successful and I believe this started the unhappy lifestyle I was living and I pretty much gave up.
My daughter suggested to me one week that I go with her to parkrun. She said, “it will get you out of the house, meet people and at the same time you’ll feel much healthier and happier.” My words were, “I don’t run and I can’t run! Everyone will laugh at me.” However, she convinced me to give it a try and to just walk it and assured me that lots of people walk. I stood at the back of the crowd for many months. As time went by, I became more confident and started making some friendships and started to try jogging where I could. It didn’t take long and I was hooked!
parkrun became such an important part of my life. I started jogging more and more each week, and as a result, I also noticed so many changes to my health and physical wellbeing.
I’ve lost a lot of weight since starting parkrun 3 years ago. Now I’m out running in 90 degree heat in my lunch hour every day and I walk or run most nights. I’ve also run numerous competitive running events such as the City to Surf, Mothers Day Classic, Run for Dad, 10km events in the Bali Marathon three times and the Sydney Harbour Bridge Run two times.
I’m happier, healthier and have made some fantastic friends. My confidence has grown and my attitude has changed from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can achieve anything’!
I joined the Darwin Deadly Runners last year, not only to meet new people but also to assist with my pace and endurance in preparation for bigger running goals I have set for myself this year. Introducing the group to the Nightcliff parkrun was an absolute highlight for me. I was RD that day and I proudly cheered on my teammates from the sidelines. Many of the Deadly Runners have since returned to parkrun to continue their running journey.
This year will be a busy year for me as not only am I going to run my first half marathon in Sydney, (something I’d have laughed at and dismissed a couple of years ago), I have several other 10km events planned overseas and interstate. In 2020 I plan to run my first full marathon.
No matter how I feel and what’s going on in my life, I am out there every Saturday morning either running or volunteering. During my time running with parkrun, I have had multiple surgeries. None of them ever stopped me. I have either walked or volunteered until I could run again.
If anyone was to say I do things well and am an inspiration, I just laugh and say you’ve got to be kidding me!! I’ve slid on all fours across the finish line, tripped over obstacles on the path, ran in thongs (after promising I’d only walk) after having ingrown toenails removed and fallen face first onto the path grazing my knees and elbows. Plantar Fasciitis plagued me for a good 12 months but I was determined to keep going and to not let it stop the running habit I created.
Nothing stops me, I just get up and keep going.
parkrun is a fantastic community, it’s non-judgmental and full of fun and challenges. The support from the Run Directors at all the Darwin parkruns (we only have 3) has been fantastic. They have given me the confidence and the belief that I can achieve what I want to as a new runner.
I’d be absolutely lost without parkrun. We plan our holidays around parkrun and are always on the lookout if there is a parkrun where we are going. Life has changed so much for me and I owe it all to parkrun, to my husband and daughters. The encouragement and kindness towards me has been insurmountable. Without parkrun, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thank you parkrun.
Helen Thiele, parkrun Australia
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