Why did I start going to parkrun?
I was in my late fifties and felt that I needed to get some proper exercise if I were to avoid putting on excess weight. Additionally, my wife, Cathy, had been doing parkrun for a couple of years by then and I was beginning to get a little curious about what she was getting up to, sloping off at “silly o’clock” on a Saturday morning (aka my lie-in time) clad in tightly clinging lycra!
My first ever parkrun in October 2015 was in Huddersfield, where my daughter was living at the time. My first time at Tring (which has now become my “home parkrun”) was on New Year’s Day 2016 when my time was 39:16.
“parkrun is not just about the running”
Well, to be honest, parkrun for me is a lot about the running. It has helped me (re-)discover that I can run more than a couple of hundred meters without getting “puffed out”. I have also discovered the “wellbeing benefits” of being active in the natural surroundings of parks, rural and urban.
But parkrun is also about community, because parkrun is where you get to meet other like-minded people sharing the same sense of enjoyment and self-achievement; and where encouragement is given and received in recognition of the personal milestones which we set for ourselves along the way.
Crucially, parkrun is more than just a club for hobbyists. It is an inclusive community that draws people together from different backgrounds and abilities. Some people who attend, seldom run but prefer to volunteer with event management, just because they enjoy the community atmosphere and the opportunity to meet people.
Whether we are always conscious of this or not, we were all born to be part of a cohesive community. In times of uncertainty in particular, we begin to feel the strain which then prompts us to instinctively reach out to others. But even at the best of times we need to feel part of a community, whether we consciously acknowledge that or not. I believe that this is part of our DNA, (although don’t ask me what genome sequence defines this!)
During the times of social distancing that has necessitated usual parkrun activity to be put “on hold”, I have felt comforted and encouraged by the resilience of the parkrun community in finding new ways to keep in touch with its members. The sense that we are all in this challenge (to our societal life) together, and that we will come through this and be stronger/better than we were before, is an inspiring thought.