“WELL DONE FIRST LADY!” Yelled the marshal at the side of the path. She held out her hand for a high-five as I trudged past, battling against the 4k slump with one hill to go.
It was all I needed to fuel my last kilometre. Lifted by the beauty of the unity surrounding me, I ploughed forwards, suddenly forgetting my protesting calves and burning chest.
I finished my 5k in 21 minutes and 42 seconds, taking 15th place out of 222 runners, first lady, and first in my age category. The adrenaline surged through my body and has left me on a high all weekend.
Yesterday (Saturday 12th March 2022) marked my fifth ParkRun at the brilliant Wilmslow.
Following the Malta Half Marathon last week, I fancied running something where I could set my own pace and relax. I have been winding my body down with a few 5ks throughout the week, and although there were a few races on across the area, I really wanted to get back to my beloved ParkRun.
There is no pressure at ParkRun – you can go as fast or slow as you like. There are runners who whip round the course in 17 minutes (superhuman!!), and runners who leisurely enjoy the route armed with dogs, children and pushchairs.
I love the fact that ParkRun is so inclusive. No matter what the results show, we have all achieved something personal to us by 10am on a Saturday morning when a lot of people are still in bed.
Although timed, ParkRun is non-competitive. Every week, I am competing solely with myself and my previous personal bests.
Joining the ParkRun family has been one of the best things to have come out of my running love affair. I’m just gutted that it took me so long! To think that I could have been enveloped in this support and had these friendly faces by my side years ago, had I only taken the plunge sooner!
Anorexia’s main mission is to isolate its sufferer.
Since entering my first 10k race last year, getting the competing bug and joining ParkRun, I have been introduced to a whole convoy of like-minded friends.
I really do think that as runners, we have the best community in the world.
I think of the friends I made in Malta last week – all runners – and I realise that this family is universal, and when it comes to this sport, there is always someone to raise you up should you ever fall.
The scald of my illness will never burn the same again; not now I have a whole army behind me.
The atmosphere at ParkRun is like no other.
ParkRun is gifted to us on a weekly basis and made entirely possible by the awesome volunteers who sacrifice their Saturday morning lie-in to help. The marshals are honestly incredible. They stand out in the park in all weathers – frost, torrential rain and glaring sunshine – and offer a cheerful, encouraging presence that has helped so many people smash their goals.
Every week, the run starts with the race director giving a shout out to first timers, visitors and those partaking in milestone runs.
It’s not just the volunteers who make ParkRun all that it is – my fellow runners are also such a lovely bunch. I was made to feel so welcome from my very first visit.
Yesterday, the second lady was a few mere steps behind me, and every time we passed one another on the hills, we’d share a breathless ‘well done!’ or ‘keep going!’
That is exactly the kind of thing that makes me feel so blessed to be a part of this wonderful extended family. The support is often unspoken, but always undying, and is shown through the most subtle of gestures.
After the event, I like to immerse myself in the special kind of elation that I believe is only made possible through running. The finish line is a whirlwind of smiles, calls of ‘great running!’ and excited cheers as goals are accomplished.
After a week at work, it’s so refreshing to break away from life and be around my tribe.
I get excited butterflies in my tummy every time I attend ParkRun. I love walking down to the park amongst a sea of other dedicated runners.
The park and the friends we have made there just blissfully feel like a little world of our own.
One of my running goals for this year is beating my 5k PB of 20 minutes and 12 seconds by going sub 20, but I haven’t been able to break 21 minutes since my knee injury. Over winter, I have been training mostly in the dark accompanied by undesirable weather conditions, so I’m hoping to work on my speed now that the lighter nights are here and I can actually see where I’m stepping!
I have a feeling that these targets may eventually come into fruition at ParkRun.
I’m really looking forward to seeing where my ParkRun journey takes me, and I know that I will immensely enjoy every step I run along the way!
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©