32-year-old Maddie Macfarlane lives with social anxiety. Maddie tells us about the strategies she uses to get herself to parkrun each week, and how parkrun has become an important coping mechanism for her mental health.
My social anxiety presents as overthinking and worrying about what people might think of me. I seem to think I have a super power of reading people’s minds — when this is absolutely not true! I often agree to do things and then cancel at the last minute. I always agree with the best of intentions, but then my anxiety tries to tell me a narrative that isn’t true and I get in my own way of happiness and success.
This happened at times with starting at a new gym or trying something new , such as parkrun. I had a few false starts but eventually took the leap of faith and I haven’t looked back. To get myself to parkrun the first few times, I would go with a friend or my mum. Since my confidence has grown, I have turned up at parkrun wherever I am travelling and can confidently do this by myself. I still check the website to make sure I know the course and make sure I don’t get lost, which is a coping strategy that gets my runners on my feet and barcode in my hand, off to try a new event and aim for a PB!
I now have a group of wonderful friends at parkrun, who I am getting to know better each week. Through our running, chatting and volunteering we have formed a bond that is full of positivity, endorphins and laughter. We follow each other on Strava to encourage “kudos” with our runs outside of parkrun.
“My family and friends know how much running helps me cope with my anxiety and they support me in fun runs and events. Since taking up running as my favourite form of exercise, my mental health has improved, my body image has improved and my mind has slowed down.”
When I first started at parkrun, I was worried about being too slow or not fit enough but I can guarantee whether you take over one hour to complete or blitz it in 20 minutes, the cheers, support and encouragement is exactly the same. If you want to check out parkrun without the running/walking part, new volunteers are always welcomed. The roles are fun and easy, and seeing people finish the course will always put a smile on your face.
There are still definitely moments where I feel anxious, but I know that I will feel better if I move my body, connect with my parkrun friends and push myself to get out of my own way!
If you are a mental health warrior who has a barcode but you haven’t yet taken that leap of faith, my advice is to find a friend or family member, lace up those runners, and give it a crack. The only run you regret is the one you didn’t do.
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