welcome to the newsletter
In this week’s newsletter Dione runs for love and Alzheimer’s Research UK, Fitbit highlight their sleep track function, Debra Bourne’s parkrun book gets nominated for an award and Pherenice shares her story.
To say that running and parkrun have transformed my life is an understatement. Two years ago, my husband Mark died suddenly of cancer. It was a massive shock and for months I survived on autopilot, supporting my two children, then aged seven and two. The grief was overwhelming. At the age of 39, the life I had taken for granted was torn apart and replaced with fear and anxiety.
One day my oldest son Tyler announced that I needed to ‘get fit’ and that I should start running. I had never run before, but I could see how important it was to him to have a healthy mum. So I joined a gym, got a personal trainer and slowly built up my fitness. My first attempts at running on a treadmill lasted for 30 seconds but gradually I increased my time to 20 minutes. I started to notice that running was the perfect outlet for my grief.
I registered for Bromley parkrun on the first anniversary of Mark’s death. Supported by a good friend, I crossed the line in 29 minutes. It felt wonderful and gave me a strong sense of purpose. Since then I have run 45 parkruns and got even faster.
I joined my local running club, Petts Wood Runners, which has groups for all abilities. Encouraged by supportive and friendly members, I was soon running several times a week. Then I decided to take on a new challenge – running 43 races in memory of Mark to celebrate each year that he was alive and to raise money for an amazing peer-to-peer support network that has helped my boys and I through some of our darkest days.
During the summer I was thrilled to be chosen as one of Paula Radcliffe’s Great Runners for the Great Newham London Run. As well as giving me running tips and advice, she also ran 2.5k through the Olympic Stadium alongside my son Tyler. Now he’s an aspiring runner too and takes part in the Bromley junior parkrun.
Through parkrun I also met my new partner, David Allison, who is a run director at Bromley parkrun. David is supporting me through my 43-race challenge and helped me to complete my first half marathon at the Great North Run in September.
I will always grieve the loss of Mark and the future we planned together. But his illness opened my eyes to how precious and short life is. You can either exist or start living – and I chose the latter.
love on the run
My wonderful husband Mark was only 36 when he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Mark loved running and that’s how we met. He had a great sense of humour and after a whirlwind romance we got married within a year and went on to have two beautiful children.
Our girls were seven and nine when the diagnosis came. We were devastated but it explained why Mark had struggled so much with his job and become forgetful and confused. He couldn’t work anymore and had to give up driving – life would never be the same.
We decided to make the most of our time together while we could. We renewed our wedding vows and our daughters were thrilled to be bridesmaids. We went on holiday, cycled, did as much as possible as a family, and continued running together until he couldn’t coordinate his movements any more.
Mark stayed at home to look after our girls at first but when he got lost on his way to collect them from school it was obvious he couldn’t cope. His condition deteriorated rapidly and I had to help him with everything, washing, shaving, getting dressed - he lost all his independence. Within a short space of time he became a danger to himself and our daughters.
It broke my heart when I realised he needed 24-hour care in a nursing home. I’ll never forget the day I left him there. We visited him all the time but the girls found it very hard. It wasn’t long before he lost the ability to walk and talk.
Mark died in 2010 aged 41. It was just two weeks before I was due to run the London Marathon for Alzheimer’s Research UK. I decided to keep my promise to him and run to boost funds for the charity’s vital research to find new treatments.
It’s heartening to know that parkrun has teamed up with this amazing charity, getting involved in fundraising activities and spreading the word about the need for research. It’s great to see more and more people becoming part of the #TeamARUKparkrun fold – together we’re taking a step closer to a world free from dementia.
P.S. To find out more about parkrun’s partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/parkrun – and if you’d like to share your reasons for joining #TeamARUKparkrun we’d love to hear your story.
sleep like a baby - with Fitbit
It can sometimes be tough to fit exercise into your everyday routine, especially when work and your social life get in the way. It gets even harder when you’re a parent as juggling lunchboxes with lunges can feel impossible!
That’s what Fitbit Charge user and Brighton-based mum Sarah Roberts found, especially when her new baby son couldn’t stick to a bedtime routine.
“I was originally excited about using my Fitbit Charge to help motivate me to lose weight after having a baby, but in reality I found that keeping fit throughout my pregnancy coupled with sheer exhaustion after having my son Gillespie meant that I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight in a matter of a few weeks.”
Any new parent will surely be able to sympathise – exhaustion certainly doesn’t go well with exercise! Sarah realised that her baby’s poor rest pattern was stopping her from getting active, so she used the sleep tracking function of her Fitbit to understand what was happening and is now starting to build a healthier pattern with the help of a consultant. Read more here.
Rest is just as important as exercise, as it allows your body time to repair itself. So as Sarah’s sleep improves, she could soon be strolling around her local parkrun with her children.
If you also find your kids leave you too worn out to work out, try the sleep track function for yourself. For guidance on how to do it, take a look at our sleep tracking FAQs. Once you’ve got the lie-in licked, let us know how you get on via Facebook or Twitter – we love to hear your success stories!
If you haven’t got a Fitbit yet, remember that parkrunners benefit from an exclusive £15 discount off any device, plus a special offer for the Charge at just £74.99.
2016 Running Awards
We received the wonderful news this week that Debra Bourne’s book: parkrun: Much More Than Just a Run in the Park has been nominated for ‘Best Book’ in the 2016 Running Awards. Voting in this category and many others is now open with a shortlist for each category due to be announced after voting closes on the 4th of December.
Here are this week’s summary statistics for parkrun UK (including junior parkrun)
Number of participants - 66,536
Number of volunteers - 7,531
Number of first timers - 8,636
Number of PBs - 11,119
feedback from the field
Let us know if you have an interesting parkrun related fact, happening or comment that you would like to share with all parkrunners
Last week my mum ran her first parkrun at the age of 72. Having never run before, she started the Couch to 5k programme three months ago with the single aim of taking part in a parkrun. With me, my brother and my 20-month-old daughter in a running buggy – all parkrun regulars – running Maldon Prom alongside her, three generations of our family are now part of the parkrun family. We're all so proud of her!
This time last year my friend and fellow 'larger lady' complained of tingling in her foot. To cut a long story short she was diagnosed with diabetes and told she needed to have her foot amputated. In January this year she had the operation, two days later a blood clot lodged on her lung and she died. She was 37 – it was a real wake-up call. I made major changes to my lifestyle immediately, undertaking the NHS couch to 5k. Completing a parkrun seemed a distant dream, but I can now run under 40 minutes on my home (very hilly) course and, encouraged by fellow runners, I have entered a 10k next year. It is not an exaggeration to say thank you parkrun for saving my life.
A very inspiring runner joined the 100 club last Saturday. Helenjane James, who’s eighty, has taken part in numerous marathons and triathlons. She’s been a regular at Bromley parkrun since the event began in 2009, despite breaking her hip a few years ago. As, smiling as ever, Helen was about to finish her 5k, fellow members of Bromley Veterans AC (a club Helen helped found) formed a guard of honour to welcome her. It was a grey, wet morning and Helen amazed us by then cycling home. Her energy and enthusiasm are a wonder but she let me in on a secret regarding making it all look easy. “It’s acting” she joked. “I’m a good actress!”
I have completed 15 parkruns at Greenwich parkrun over the past year. I cannot express how much the other runners keep my spirits up as I sometimes struggle to complete the course. "You can do it" and "Keep going" they say as they run past. I call it my parkwalk as I don't run it yet but one day I will. I have had ME for 13 years, and at my worst I couldn't walk for more than a few yards and have used a wheelchair in the past. I hope that one day my daughter, who has the same condition, will run with me too. Every time I cross the finish line I’m so happy.
A remarkable achievement by habitual advocate and parkrun devotee, Alexandra Watson-Usher who with her husband J (a parkrun volunteer extraordinaire) have recently taken delivery of a beautiful daughter, Nolita Belle, without much disruption to their Saturday morning routine. Admittedly, Alex's times gradually increased throughout her pregnancy but it is amazing that she got round the course here in Roundhay on her actual due date in a creditable 34 minutes and gave birth only days later! She's since been back volunteering. The sight of ‘bumps on the run’ has become familiar I know but I wonder if this achievement is a world-first or if there are other members of the unofficial WVP - Women Very Pregnant - category who have similar stories to tell.
It might be lashing rain, cold and dreary, but it's always a good day to be a parkrunner.
parkrunner of the week
Name: George Dawson
Club: Bushfield Joggers
Home parkrun: Peterborough
Number of runs: 49
Favourite volunteer role: Marshal
What do you do at parkruns: My ‘George 80+ Please Pass’ lettering on the back of my running shirt gets me loads of greetings and encouragement during the run. I have a reputation for running in minimal running gear even in the coldest of weathers.
How has parkrun changed your running: I started running when I was in my 50s and I have completed 100 marathons. However I reached that time where I didn't want the competitiveness of races and some of the enjoyment had gone. When parkrun started at Peterborough I resisted joining in because I wasn’t sure I’d fit in. I was eventually persuaded to give it a try and this coming week will be my 50th run.
What do you like about parkrun: I look forward to Saturday mornings, and joining friends for a pre-run chat. I run at the pace I am comfortable with in the company of other runners of all ages and abilities. I wish I'd started coming to parkrun sooner.