It is life-changingly good.
My job started getting stressful and I could feel anxiety crawling back around my skull as autumn approached so I started running again. Just a quick fifteen minutes off into the countryside and back before work. Nice. I mentioned it to a colleague who said he’d been meaning to join parkrun. Really? I’ll go if you’ll go. This weekend? Why not!
The first one destroyed us both. I was nervous, not sure where to go, what to wear, how it worked, what the barcode was for, but after a few minutes in that jogging crowd of lycra and leggings, I felt at home. Just keep running, and if it hurts, just keep walking.
I had expected pain, breathlessness, exhaustion, mud. What I had not expected was a cheerful marshal in high viz, full of applause, encouragement and smiles at every corner of the route.
Keep going! Great job! Nice pace!
Thank you, I gasped back, confused, and then grinning. How absolutely awesome.
My colleague was miles ahead, he passed me on his return lap, making great progress, shouting cheerfully ‘I’m in agony!’ as he passed.
I slowed down when it started hurting, watching rainbow leggings and ‘250 runs’ T shirts overtake me.
As I approached the final bend, with that last uphill back into the park, I could hear the cheers already up ahead. Strangers applauding and welcoming me to the finish as I arrived bewildered, broken and breathless, but smiling. My colleague and I were both doubled over in pain as we stumbled back to town, regretting the lack of watm up, but full of grinning elation at achieving 5k on a Saturday morning.
That was six weeks ago. Since then I have beaten my personal best (almost) every time, donned purple wig and witch hat for the Halloween event, gone running three or four mornings a week, and noticed an incredible improvement in my energy, focus and overall mood. Anxiety is right down, happiness is much higher, and I have that smug sense of acheivement at the start of most days.
So, to pay back my gratitude for the fact that we have an amazing parkrun in Melksham, today I offered to volunteer as a marshal. And if I thought running made me happy, then without a doubt, smiling, encouraging and clapping for 145 strangers made me even happier.
So that all day I have been giggly and jovial. Chatty even. Confident, a bit. Calm, in my soul. And at bedtime I curl up to sleep on a night when my love is working nightshifts, and instead of the sleep hypnotherapy or weighted blanket support I needed to sleep on my own last year, I am now unable to sleep because I’m simply giggling into my pillow, brim full of love and happiness for the world, and all my gorgeous beautiful people I get to share it with.
Thank you parkrun, thank you volunteers who make it happen, thank you for the perfect mix of social, physical and mental reward that provides an intoxicating and addictive cocktail of endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin and seratonin.
As we stood in our high viz at the bridge today, cheering on the runners, I was saying to my marshal buddy that I’m sure the NHS must love parkrun, at which point my lovely doctor – who prescribed me anti- anxiety meds last year – came running round the corner in glorious green and black leggings, smiling and saying ‘thank you marshals!’ in an out breath, as she sailed off to the finish.
I flipping love it. I absolutely recommend it.