Wednesday, 10 February 2016


I haven't written about the amazing phenomenon of Parkrun before, but as my local run, Temple Newsam, turned three years old on Saturday, I thought now would be a good time.

I will confess right from the start that since leaving school, I've never been a very sporty person. I have no hand eye co-ordination, so ball games are a problem. I do have a go at tennis during the summer, but just for fun as neither my husband and I have the talent for it. We also take the occasional bike ride. I did trampoline at college, which I loved, and did karate for a while until a leg injury forced me to stop. So, no. Me and sports have never really been good friends. I will walk and cycle. That's it. Or it was. 

Until something changed. The Sheffield Cat Shelter asked for people to raise money by doing a 5K charity run. As I had been blessed with two beautiful cats from them, I wanted to give something back, so I decided to follow Sir Richard Branson's motto: "Screw it. Let's do it!" I had no training and had never seriously run before. Chasing after screen-jumpers in cinemas was as close as I got to running. But I was determined to do it, which I guess is a good start. It was so painful. And so it didn't exactly encourage me to take it up. NEVER AGAIN. 

After that I stopped thinking about it, until I started volunteering at the London Marathon for CRY. I saw my friend Bill running, helped all the CRY runners and started to think it might be a lot of fun to start running. So, a couple of years ago I asked him, "How do I get into this running thing? It actually looks a lot of fun!" His answer: Parkrun. Do a 5K around a park".

A 5K? Oh-uh!! That rang alarm bells. Memories of my last painful and painfully slow run filled my head. I was about to say, "Er, no I'd rather not!" Something stopped me. I just said, "Okay...!", and then dropped the subject completely.

That night, back at my hotel, I did my research. I learned everything about Parkrun and couldn't believe how amazing and popular it was. You get exercise, fresh air, make friends and you can go at whatever pace suits you. My original Cat Shelter 5K was done in 46 minutes. A few months after the 2015 London Marathon I had done a Parkrun 5K in 37 minutes. I couldn't believe it!

I've been doing Parkrun now for nearly a year and I absolutely love it. For someone who hated running, I think that's pretty amazing.

The one thing I do remember when I am running is to be thankful I can be outside at all. The mess with staff of Al Jazeera reminded me that freedom is not a thing to be taken for granted. It can be stolen away from you in a split second.

Parkrun has done many good things for me. It has boosted my confidence, making me realise I could do something I thought impossible. I feel better for getting up early, which is a miracle because, as many people will sympathise with, mornings and I don't get on that well. I've got fitter, though that isn't my main reason for doing it. I've got lots of lovely fresh air, which feels great. I've made some good mates and I get to spend time in the most beautiful scenery.

I really do recommend doing it. Even if you are not into health and fitness, which I'm not particularly, do it anyway. You'll be surprised how much you enjoy it. If you've never run before, you can always walk it, then jog, then work up to running. Whatever you feel comfortable with. 

I have never regretted doing Parkrun, and want to thank everyone at Temple Newsam for making me feel so welcome.

Try it. I promise, you'll love it! 

Temple Newsam is a gorgeous place to run