Peppi Dowd (above, right) of Umdoni parkrun suffered a life-changing injury at work. He shares his story of how parkrun has helped him on the road to recovery.
I have always enjoyed running. People who know me in the Umkomaas area where I live would see me running in our neighbourhood after work which was my means of de-stressing after a hard day. Five years ago I had an accident at work which resulted in a traumatic brain injury. I was on a ladder inspecting warehouse lights when the ladder slipped and I fell onto on my head. I was in an induced coma in hospital for two and a half weeks and doctors were unsure whether I would pull through. It was a tough time for my family.
This is where my story begins. It takes a long time to recover from a brain injury. Outwardly, people can see physical improvements and think that all is okay. But recovery is tough emotionally and mentally. After 6 weeks in hospital I did pull through and shortly after being discharged my emotional state began to regress and I lost the positive spark that people had previously seen in me. I had no desire to run or exercise and began to withdraw from people and the activities. This seems to be a contradiction because experts will say the best way to improve mental and emotional health is to exercise, yet no advice from family seemed to encourage me.
Anyone who is depressed or has lost the will for life will understand how I felt at the time. There is an inward improvement that is needed which can be quite daunting. People who tell you that “don’t worry, you will be ok” or “get over it” just make things worse. My family were very supportive and walked alongside with me during those tough 2 years.
One day my wife suggested I do Umdoni parkrun which is close to where we live. I wasn’t sure what I was in for and competing in a race would have been the worst thing for me at that time. But I went and enjoyed the run. I was encouraged by the camaraderie of the people who participated, each person had their own reason for being there with one common aim of having a good time and being a support to others. I felt at home and it turned my situation around. I was keen to go back to see the other runners and improve my personal times. In the past two and a half years I have done over 100 runs and parkrun has become a key aspect of my mental recovery after my brain injury. My whole family is involved and we volunteer once per month which adds to the enjoyment.
My encouragement to anyone who feels down and cant see the way forward to an improved life change – join your local parkrun! Story after story by parkrunners & walkers has the same theme; “how parkrun changed my life”. Let it be your story too!
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