Chloe Murdoch and her three sons are regulars at Bellville parkrun. But their journey to the start has been full of challenges and adversity.
Chloe tells us more about the inspirational achievements of her family, and how special it has been to find acceptance at parkrun.
It’s 8am on a Saturday morning. I close my eyes and breathe in the energy of the community around me. The happy chit-chat of a thousand-odd runner/walkers ready to start their weekend exercise – some catching up on the week’s events, other in mindful meditation, or stretching their muscles in ritual warm-ups.
I hear the sounds of nature and open my eyes to the beauty of the park bathed in the early morning sunlight. Beside me are my three neuro-diverse children. I soak it in – this is my ‘happy place’.
Our parkrun journey began just over a year ago. As a divorced Mom, caring for my children most weekends, I was looking for an activity that would suit us as a family. It had to be an activity that would include all three of my boys, including my (mostly) non-verbal youngest 10-year-old son who has significant balance and motor planning challenges.
The activity had to involve a certain amount of ‘activeness’ – being the polar opposite of attaching oneself to a screen for the better part of the day. I Googled my local parkrun and found my way to the Jack Muller -Danie Uys Park in Bellville. Little did I know how it would transform our lives.
On our first attempt, I challenged my children to at least ‘try the run once’. My older two boys became instantly caught up in the energy of the crowd and happily set off agreeing to meet me at the end. Finn, my youngest son, needs constant support and supervision – so I had planned to walk with him.
By 2km I realised we were way out of our depth – there was simply no way he would finish. Bitterly disappointed, we retired just after 2km. I resigned myself to the fact that this activity was practically just not possible and I was ready to shelve it.
However, when I found my other two boys, they had both completed the course and were energised, motivated and inspired – a rare sight unplugged from their screens.
Slightly more hopeful, I thought I would try again. The next week it was only slightly easier, but Finn and I still never completed the course. I decided to start marking off our endpoint and trying to beat it each week – even if just by a few metres.
A few weeks went by and we suddenly found ourselves in sight of actually completing the walk. By now we had begun to experience the warmth and friendliness of our fellow parkrunners and the fantastic team of parkrun volunteers. The Tail Walker refused to leave us and we completed our first official run in just over an hour and 20 minutes! We were elated!
Inspired by the total dedication of the wonderful team of volunteers to support each and every parkrunner, we continued to slowly make our way around the course. Each week the ‘cheering squad’ would await our arrival at the finish, giving us as much encouragement and support as the fastest runners.
We felt totally included and accepted at the event – complete heartfelt acceptance, without judgement and total support despite our quirkiness of getting round the course.
When I think back to the day my son was diagnosed, the limiting labels used by the medical profession, the doubt whether my son might even walk – I find it completely ironic that we have found our place in a community of parkrunners. The whole community has supported us in our journey with unconditional friendship and love.
Looking back, I cannot believe how Bellville parkrun has changed my little family. Not only an activity, but parkrun has also taught us important life lessons. It’s taught my boys about strength and endurance, hanging in when the going gets tough and reaching goals one step at a time. They have learnt about courage, determination and the necessary skills to make a plan and ‘push through’.
It’s allowed us to bond as a family – each of us experiencing the 5km differently but united in the same goals. We now talk about times, compare strategies, aches and pains and how to achieve our next personal bests. It’s taught my older boys about compassion and how to encourage and support others.
My older boys no longer lap me (we’re too fast for that now!) – but they wait eagerly to help us finish. 19 completed parkruns later we made our personal best in just under an hour!
My youngest son needing less and less support each time – even initiating ‘running’ little chunks of the course. Looking back, I realise how far we have come and with complete grace and humility I look forward to the incredible journey ahead.
They say it takes a village to raise a child – for me – it just takes a weekly parkrun! Thank you Bellville parkrun for being our village!
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