Wednesday, 27 November 2019

We all have our reasons for running, but to lend to this conversation I'll share mine.

parkrun is saving my life.

Yes, that sounds dramatic, but indulge me if you will.

It was regular runner Anne JOHNS who encouraged me to come to Bedworth for their 4th event back on 17th February 2018. It was snowing quite heavily and I wasn't sure if I could even run 5km, I was cold, I was miserable, but I did, and from there an obsession and friendships grew. 

Fast forward to November 2018 and for the sake of this piece, I'll give you the abridged version. My husband moved back to Ireland for work, leaving me solo parenting 3 kiddies (1,3&5) in the UK, with no other family around. I have always been very open about my struggles with my mental health, but this was the most lonely, isolating and challenging thing I have ever faced.

The realisation hit me on New Years Eve 2018 as I was sharing bottle of Prosecco with Graham Norton and his guests, that I may not talk to another adult for a few days. Then I noticed one of the Bedworth core team say she was going to a parkrun event on FB. I had heard of the NYDD (New Year Day Double, the one day of the year, you can register at two runs in the one day), but hadn't had the time to research it (3 kids leaves you very little time to do anything). So in a little bit of stalker fashion, I decided to do the same two New Years Day Runs that the team were doing.

I'd never ran with a buggy before, the kids were excited, and I was nervous. New place, about 1000 people, and me and my 3 kids.

Finishing his first parkrun, Sutton, NewYear's Day

Running together

Wonky Bear, Da and I at Bushy, Dublin

10km roadrace with Rathangan Runners

NYDD - Kingsbury Waterpark

I did it, Fionn moaned, but his little face when he crossed the finish line was worth it. The other two enjoyed the ride around the beautiful Sutton Park.

Then it was on to Kingsburry. I wasn't going to go, Fionn was tired, I was tired, but then 500m from the end of the run I saw the Bedworth team, and they asked if I was going. That was it, decision made, now how to make it work. I strapped the baby into the carrier and strapped the older two into the buggy and ran. (Ok, I didn't run, I trudged)

 I could hear people questioning my sanity. I was questioning my sanity, but that was when it hit me, I was doing it for my sanity.

I got back to the car, and as it turned out, amidst the hundreds, I was parked beside the Bedworth Team. One of the girls ran over and gave me a hug and said happy new year. That was the only person I hugged until my husband got back for a visit over a week later.

That day I made the decision I was going to run. And if the options were to run with the kids or not at all, I guess Ill be running with the kids. There were weeks where if I didn't go to parkrun I wouldn't actually speak to anyone I knew. So I went, and despite how long it took to get around everyone was always warm, and welcoming and encouraging. There was always a friendly face, and a chat.

The 9 months by myself in England I found solace in Bedworth on a Saturday morning. I more often than not arrived with 3 kids in tow, and no-one ever batted an eyelid. On days when I questioned my sanity leaving the house with 3 boys, 5 and under, the team at Bedworth always made me feel at ease and so welcome.

The week came to move and I booked a Sunday boat to allow me run at Dishly, Loughborough for the With Me Now Pow Wow (an independent podcast all about parkrun). The voices of Danny NORMAN and Nicola FORWOOD became so familiar I knew I couldn't leave the UK without meeting them. 

Since moving back to Ireland, I've kept up the obsession. 
First was the question of where my home run should be. I am in Rathangan, Co. Kildare, so equi-distance from Mountlucas, Naas and Vickerstown. I'm officially registered bat Naas although I've only ran there once, they're all beautiful runs and have their own special things going for them. I've also joined the local running club, something I'd have never had the confidence to do without parkrun. Every time I'm out, I can't help but scope out potential new parkrun routes around the local area. 

The fact we're living together as a family again, means I can explore a bit more, I've ran at 16 different venues in Ireland and I plan to tick every run in the country off over the next few years. My parkrun map of Ireland takes pride of place on the wall at home. Every weekend, no matter what starts with parkrun. I've ran on Hen Weekends, Girly City Breaks, the morning of weddings, I just wouldn't feel right without it. I've also set myself a short term goal of running 50 parkruns this year. And despite having to take a weekend job last month, I'm still on track to do it.

Everyone's parkrun story is different, but I think we can all benefit from a free, weekly, timed run. 

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