News - 23rd June 2022

In it for the long run

Ruth Brinkmann

Ruth Brinkmann has found that keeping active and getting involved with parkrun has been beneficial, both physically and mentally, while she is undergoing breast cancer treatment. Here is Ruth’s inspiring story


‘You will make it within half an hour!’ shouted the volunteer who was directing the participants of Kagerzoom parkrun in the direction of the finish. She knew how happy I would be if I could do it again this time. I deliberately did not look at my watch while walking. I didn’t want to be disappointed and besides, at parkrun your time is of course an afterthought. But, that half hour is secretly important. My condition will only deteriorate in the near future, because I am in the middle of chemotherapy treatments and as long as I can still complete parkrun within half an hour, I have the belief that the chemotherapy has not yet beaten me.


Last summer I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer and my future suddenly became very uncertain. I am 43 years old, mother of a four year old daughter and this year I am not standing in front of the class as usual to give my philosophy lessons. This year is reserved for a lot of hospital visits and treatments that I’m not sure will cure me completely.


To clear my head and stay fit, I started running every day in the week before the diagnosis. That became a daily run streak of at least a mile. I managed to keep that up during the chemotherapy, sometimes very slowly, sometimes with a short walk in between, but still a mile every day, which now stands at 142 days in a row. I am so pleased that I started running when I was in my late thirties. I was never sporty before, but in recent years I have built up a good fitness which I’m now really benefiting from. Before the chemo started, I did a wonderful trail run in Austria and I hope, if I am very lucky and get through the treatments well, to participate again next summer.




I only knew about parkrun from the stories of my great heroines like Jasmin Paris, and when I went to find out last year whether we also had something like this in the Netherlands, I was surprised to discover that a parkrun had recently started nearby at Kagerzoom, near Leiden. But, unfortunately, the pandemic was upon us and all outdoor sports activities were cancelled. Only when I had started my chemotherapy and I had a great need for a new sporting adventure that had nothing to do with cancer, I thought about parkrun again and registered.


I’ve only completed five parkruns to date, but I plan to do many more. Everyone is incredibly friendly and the volunteers enthusiastically encourage you along the way, while pointing you in the right direction. The idea that you will never finish last, that you are allowed to walk or run and that you can run with a dog or a pram makes it such a welcoming event. In my case, it is also perfect that you can just show up when you feel good, without any obligation. I’ve so enjoyed each of my parkruns, although I’ve sometimes needed an afternoon nap to recover.




According to doctors, staying active during cancer and chemotherapy is really beneficial and helps to counteract some of the side effects of the treatments. To ensure that I am not too careful or too overconfident with sports, I am supervised by a specialist oncological physiotherapist. In addition to the physical benefits, it is also very important for me on a mental level to be able to keep running. The shirt that my colleagues had printed for me when, as a surprise, they ran the 5k at Leiden Marathon with me, reads, ‘Ruth is in it for the long run’.

And that’s exactly how it is!




Ruth Brinkmann

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