A white swan glided elegantly towards the lower lake at the waterworks park in Belfast. With perfect speed and timing the majestic creature glided gracefully down from above, it alighted flawlessly its lithe torso hardly bothering to break the still, jade coloured water when it touched down, effortless and yet magnificent. Just one of many charming daily spectacles that occur within the grounds of the waterworks park. It isn’t difficult to understand why people often take time away from their busy schedules just to observe this little piece of nature at its finest.
It was a Thursday, the second of August twenty eighteen to be precise and if an observant passer bye had looked further across the lake, o'er the swans and ducks and then a little past where the starting line of the waterworks parkrun begins, he or she would have witnessed the not so elegant, not so graceful sight of a heavily strapped and bandaged, considerably over weight, fifty something gentleman plodding along the parkrun route. And if he or she were also of average hearing ability, he or she would most certainly have heard some severe grunting and heavy breathing.
That fifty something would be me, Campbell Hamilton. I had not been able to complete a five kilometre run since the tenth of October twenty fifteen. (the date of my last official parkrun.) on the tenth of October I had completed over one hundred and twenty park runs. I can’t quite remember why, but a sudden rush of blood to my head must have had me believe that I was twenty-five years old again and not fifty-five, (also not crippled with Arthritis!) because I decided that in pursuit of an esteemed PB I would sprint the final two hundred meters. My endeavours unfortunately concluded with a very ripped hamstring and a torn glut to top it off. As I shuffled painfully home that morning I truly believed that my plus forty years of training had finally come to an end.
I have always enjoyed and been involved with sport. I began my sporting career by joining the YMCA judo club at the age of thirteen. After studying the sport for a couple of years, I realised that supplementary types of training would be necessary if I were to rise up in the fighting ranks and receive my black belt. I began to lift weights to strengthen my muscle and I also began to run. I would never try to fool myself into thinking that I was a great runner (I’d kill for those youth times now though!) but as time went by I found myself entering more and more ten-kilometre runs, I loved the buzz I got from pushing myself and the feeling of achievement that comes with finishing a race. I soon began to reap the benefits of my running over my opponents, my stamina, endurance and fitness was much superior. I guess from that time I have never stopped running both in support of my judo career and now days for my general-wellbeing. Eventually I was awarded my black belt, it was nineteen seventy-seven, I was seventeen years old.
During my judo career I won several Northern Ireland titles, seven Irish titles, British championship silver and bronze medals and also represented NI at the commonwealth games. I represented Ireland on many occasions and was on the Irish Olympic team for six years. I won my last Irish open title in nineteen ninety-six and I finished my judo career as a forth dan black belt. I also played rugby for Navan town for five seasons and ran my own gym for three years. Yes, you could say I’m a bit competitive!
My wife Thomasina and myself came to our first parkrun back in twenty eleven, Thomasina had a long-distance swimming background and had completed many distance sea and lake swims. We had retired from our chosen sports and now we felt that we were getting lazy. We both wanted to lose weight and get fit again. Park run was perfect for us and adequately filled the void. We were a little nervous on arrival at our first parkrun (I actually took a wrong turn and managed to get lost. Idiot I know!) but we were soon made to feel very welcome both by the volunteers and all fellow park runners. Before long parkrun was our Saturday morning ritual along with training runs through the week. Thomasina will still insist that she hates running, but nobody sees the Thomasina who doesn’t get to a parkrun, stomping about and chomping at the bit!!!
After my injuries I must admit that I have struggled mentally as well as physically, arthritis and weight gain (a bad combination!!) have contributed to ill health and depression. I believe that parkrun has stepped up once again and saved me. You see even when in my lowest darkest place, the thought of being able to get around that five-kilometre course kept softly calling me and even though the voice was sometimes just a whisper, hope still prevailed.
Thomasina’s two hundred and fifty parkrun really called out to me, I think we both had resigned ourselves to the fact that I would never run again and I knew it was upsetting to her that I would not be at the starting line. As I didn’t want to raise hopes prematurely I secretly began to devise a training schedule which hopefully would at least get me moving in the right direction. I began to use the cross trainer in the gym to get the kilometres rolling. I increased the distance each day until I could keep going for five-K building speed each time. Then it was over to the treadmill, I began to walk slowly building speed over the weeks until I was almost running. To my great delight on the forth of august twenty eighteen I made it around the Victoria parkrun. It took me over forty-five minutes but I felt like I had just beaten Mo Farah to the line and left Mo Sala for dust! A week later I was able to surprise my wife on her two fifty at the Waterworks. And guess what, I'm still an idiot, I forgot my bar code and didn’t get to register my run!!! good to be back though so keep your fingers crossed for me.
I wrote this poem not long after we started doing parkrun, I hope it provides a smile and maybe even a lesson lol....
We joined the parkrun, the missus and me
It took me thirty-five minutes; she ran thirty-three.
“Well done dearest” I said smiling ever so sweetly,
“Enjoy it” I thought, “it’s the last time you’ll beat me”.
So, I sneaked down to the park three times the next week,
Just to quicken my pace and give my breathing a tweak.
In thirty-two minutes I passed over the line, and
With a smirk I thought “yes dear I’ll get you next time”.
I couldn’t wait for the weekend, I thought it never would come,
And with building excitement we approached the park run.
“May the best person win” I said as we started,
I set of with a sprint, there’s no point being half hearted.
Two k I had covered before I took a juke round,
There she was on my heels still holding her ground.
“Not to worry” I thought its time to speed up my pace,
Break her spirit and then we’ll see the look on her face.
I lengthened my stride, and I put my head down,
My arms going like pistons as I covered the ground.
But what a shock I received just a few meters later,
She passed me with ease, I was beginning to hate her.
“Dig deep man” I groaned, there’s not far left to go,
The sweats dripping of her she’s starting to slow.
Alas, to late it was over and with a groan and a grunt,
I saw the chip in her hand, she had finished in front.
(I had to ask!)
I said, “how did you do it? You were running so well,
You came down that last hundred like a bloody Gazelle”.
“I know you so well”, she said shaking her head; “you were doing sneaky sessions trying to leave me for dead”.
While you ran in the park thinking no one would know, I joined up with the harriers you old so and so”
With that it was over sure what more could be said,
I’d been trounced fair and square; my best hand had been played.
We hugged and made up, we shook hands and agreed, that we’d just run for fun not for victory or speed.
Then we checked the results and we saw with some zest that we’d both come away with a personal best.