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Parkrunning – give it a try!
The Shock of Inactivity
As a GP, I’ve spent the last twenty years advising patients about exercising more and eating less. I’d often feel quite smug that I’d already been for a run before work that morning and loved the high that running gave me.
But during breast cancer treatment, it was a surprise that I lost my mojo. I suddenly saw myself as ‘ill’, even before I started my first chemotherapy session. I tried several times to motivate myself: to pull on my running stuff and get out there… but there was a block.
My friends were fab through my treatment and would turn up with meals and cake at all hours of the day. But the more this happened, the more I lost sight of the real me. The weight piled on.
Dealing with the Aftermath
Most of us have probably discovered that gaining weight during treatment is a common problem. So afterwards you are left with the task of dealing with it!
Shortly after my surgery, I went on holiday. The hotel had a gym with a fitness programme and my 13-year-old daughter promised she’d come to a few classes with me. It was during one of these that I caught a glimpse of myself in the gym’s mirrored wall.
At first, I didn’t realise it was me - I was overweight and red and sweaty with the exertion. This was emphasised by my stubbly hair which was only just starting to grow back.
A switch flicked and I suddenly missed my running and the way it made me feel.
Making Fitness a Priority
I had always meant to do a Parkrun, but somehow never got around to it. Probably like a lot of people post-cancer: I was grabbing every opportunity and getting on with things.
So that’s just what I did with my running.
Parkruns are free and held all over the world on Saturday mornings, starting at 9 o’clock. You can find locations here: www.parkrun.org.uk.
There is always a tail walker - someone who walks at the back keeping people going with positive chat and ensuring no one can come last. It’s also marshalled by volunteers. Lots of people choose to marshall rather than run - the sense of achievement is still great and you still feel like you’ve earned the post Parkrun coffee and cake!
Although Parkrun definitely isn’t a race, it is timed. You print a barcode off, just the once, and you take this to the run. This enables Parkrun to text you your time.
So armed with our barcodes my daughters and I (under the direction of my brother - a keen Park runner and ultra-marathoner and his dog) assembled at the start of what was to be one of my favourite life experiences.
Right from the start, the atmosphere was amazing. So many smiley faces and so much chat. People meeting with old friends and making new. I knew this was something I wanted to be involved in. It felt like there was nowhere else to be on a Saturday morning.
Parkrun isn’t a race and it isn’t at all threatening. There are people of all ages from small children to elderly ladies, there are dogs and parents pushing buggies with tiny babies and toddlers. And that day there was me, in my head scarf, puffing and panting around a drizzly park on a grey Saturday morning bursting with happiness.
I wasn’t fast and I was absolutely shattered but I had achieved. I was on the first rung of the ladder back to ‘me’. It was a huge step (5000 to be exact!) closer to ‘Life of the other side’ and I felt as high as a kite.
I haven’t looked back.
The feeling is addictive, going far beyond the physical fitness side of things. There is a camaraderie among those of us daft enough to have assembled at 9 on a Saturday morning and the support is huge.
I have now completed over 30 Parkruns and they have become a real fixture in my week.
The positive aspects of Parkrun have been recognised by the Royal College of General Practitioners and there is now a scheme set up to link practices to their local Parkruns to encourage public fitness. So too do companies like the Co-op get involved to encourage healthy eating.
At a time when we know obesity are on the rise, Parkrun is achieving what I and my fellow doctors can’t – and I love it!
Parkrun has certainly helped me in my journey to life after cancer. I am so grateful to it and all the lovely people I have met along the way.
So get out there, don’t put it off any longer. Take part, I challenge you to take those first 5000 steps!
I am a 51 year old GP with 3 young daughters. I love running and it’s always played a part in my life.
Like most of us I thought I knew where my life was going until it was thrown off course by a group of cells that decided to misbehave!
Since my breast cancer diagnosis I have refocused and now say yes to every opportunity that comes my way.
I’m currently waiting to hear if I have got a place in the London Marathon...
To find out more about Parkrun, look up their website: www.parkrun.org.uk.
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