All around the world, we’ve seen over 28,000 unique volunteers in the parkwalker role and they’ve parkwalked over 52,000 times!
We speak to one of the parkwalkers, Cathy Hannon, about why she chooses to volunteer in her favourite role every Saturday morning. Cathy’s chronic condition means that parkwalking is the best option for her, she relishes the opportunity to encourage other walkers and ensure they feel as much a part of the parkrun team as she does.
I have had ME (Myalgic encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) for the last 23 years. The symptoms include fatigue, brain fog, short term memory problems, muscle and joint pain and PEM (post-exertional malaise).
After an activity the PEM can kick in anything from 24 -72 hours later so you never know when or how long you will feel exhausted for afterwards and this makes it hard to plan ahead to do anything.
ME also affects the immune and nervous system so that infections are easily picked up and can take a long time to recover from as well as exacerbating other symptoms, making the fatigue and joint pain worse.
After many years I slowly managed to make small improvements to my health and energy levels. It is a difficult condition to manage as symptoms fluctuate at any time during the day depending on your energy levels and what you are doing.
Seven years ago, my friend, who is also a parkrunner, became ill so I said I would parkwalk in her place until she recovered. The next Saturday I signed up for my first parkrun.
It was from that first event that I discovered the joys and benefits of parkrun, including being amongst the amazing community of all ages and abilities and feeling involved without feeling any different to anyone else taking part.
Due to my chronic condition, parkwalking is best for me. It is a great feeling to be able to volunteer and walk at the same time and it’s a brilliant way to meet and talk to people, particularly if it’s their first parkwalk experience and they need a little encouragement.
I’m really pleased that parkwalking is being championed so that more people who may not be able to run/jog can join in.
When I’m volunteering as a parkwalker, I like to raise awareness of the fact that at parkrun we are all one team, whether you are at the front of the pack, a jogger, a parkwalker or a volunteer.
Some days I may not do a lot after my parkwalk, but it’s a real boost to get that email thanking me for volunteering and seeing my results. These are things that, many years ago, I never would have dreamed I would be able to do again, so it makes me proud!
I recently completed the virtual London Marathon by walking the 26.2 miles over eight days in memory of my cousin Matt, who we tragically lost to a brain tumour in 2022. I completed the last three miles at my local parkrun and the volunteers held up a finish line and took photos for me to keep. It was a great moment and shows the community spirit of the people, young and old, who enjoy parkrun alongside me each week.
I have made many friends and I love volunteering. parkrun people are a community and you are always made to feel welcome!
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