Elisabeth Hewitt French

I remember coming home from my first parkrun in the Waterworks and crying. Yes I was sore and exhausted, but the tears were of pride in what I had accomplished. I had walked/run/completed 5 kilometres on my own steam.While that may not seem much to a lot of people, particularly those who attend parkrun every Saturday, to me, completing the course, was like completing my own mega-marathon!

17 years ago I had my appendix taken out. What should have been a routine operation, became much more complicated, and the medics needed to complete a batch of tests. They discovered I had Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s disease is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease(IBD) and causes inflammation of the one’s digestive tract, which leads to abdominal pain, excessive fatigue, and malnutrition. For the last 6 years I have also had type 2 diabetes Since the diagnosis I have managed to hold down a job, but other areas of my life have suffered greatly. Sometimes it can be difficult to fit in, when you have no energy to give. Coming home from work, I find myself totally exhausted, my group of friends is small, but I have great family support. I have had three major surgeries to try and alleviate the impact of the disease since the diagnosis, the last being in February 2017. Following a long period of recovery, I decided I wanted more from life, and wanted to push myself that bit more. My sister Karen told about parkrun at the Waterworks, she told me about a number of people, some with life threatening illnesses who ran at the event, and she spoke of the spirit around the event, where every one looked out for others, and the friendships that developed. So on 17th August last year I arrived at the Antrim Road park, I was worried that I had bitten off too much and now would let myself down. Looking back, it was probably silly to go from nought to 5 kilometres without doing some training, But the buzz I got from finishing the course was amazing. True, it took me over an hour to complete the course and one of the volunteers walked back over the course to meet me and encourage me to complete the course, BUT I DID IT! In my mind I was my own little Paula Ratcliffe! When I crossed the line, almost all the other runners and walkers had gone. But to my joy, the finish line and barriers were still in place, and a group of volunteers were on the line to give me a round of applause that could have welcomed the winner! Since that day I have completed the Couch to 5K programme and my PB is now 41 Minutes, 10 seconds. I now finish before some people!. But that’s the whole idea of parkrun for me, no one keeps score, unless you want to. Parkrun has become a family affair for me now, My mum Johanna came along to support me and she is now a mainstay among the volunteers herself, helping with the tea, coffees and drinks. I even secretly signed my husband up to complete a C 2 5K himself. He now loves parkrun as much as I. I have made so many good friends there and the talk is about everything, and anything, not just running. All of us look forward to Saturday morning now, and a trip to the Waterworks for our weekly fix. The volunteers are stars in my eyes and the other runners are all so supportive. But I’ll always remember that first Saturday and that total feeling of elation on finishing my first parkrun and knowing I had found my space!



parkwalk to parkrun

Denis Loughran age 74.

I joined Waterworks parkwalk in October 2016 and have walked/ run on 61 occasions.

When I retired some 13 years ago one could say I became rather sedentary. I did walk a bit but rarely took myself out of my comfort zone and exerted myself. I had heard of the parkrun through friends and younger family members who do run. I did not fancy running but when they introduced the parkwalk I thought I will give that a go. I am still there every Saturday when possible and enjoying it. It is a real community event where there are never less than 200 people. There is a fantastic atmosphere of support, involvement, enjoyment and competition. The organisation is manned by volunteers. Here I must applaud the leaders/volunteers who turn up every week and organise this event. Their enthusiasm and encouragement is a factor in the success of the Waterworks parkrun.

I would recommend the parkwalk/run to anyone young or old. The comradely on a Saturday morning is brilliant. My performances have improved, by not a lot but health wise I do feel a lot better for it.

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Peter and dad Gerry

I started doing the Waterworks parkrun in Belfast in July 2015 and my weekends haven’t been the same since.  I start most weekends meeting friends, chatting, socialising and having a coffee before I’m reminded that there’s the small matter of a 5k run to complete!

The following year when I noticed the banner announcing the start of a Waterworks junior parkrun I wondered if this was something my younger son Peter could become involved in as it would be an opportunity for him to take part in exercise, which he really enjoys and to do that in the company of other children - which he doesn't like so much!  Peter has autism, Tourette’s and moderate learning disabilities so while he really enjoys taking part in physical activities, he finds in really difficult to socialise with others and be part of a bigger group.

Peter's first parkrun was in April 2016 and while I knew Peter would get stimulation from running, I was really apprehensive about how he would react to so many other aspects of the day.  Peter's disabilities mean he sees and understands things differently.  He has great difficulty in following what the rest of us intuitively know as “the rules of the game”. To cope, he prefers to set his own agenda so that he can stay in control of a situation.  He can easily become over stimulated with noise and activity and will get confused with instructions. As with any parkrun, the colour, noise, buzz and excitement are what help make the event so enjoyable and pleasing for children.  Peter needs to be introduced to each stage slowly so that he can understand what he has to do and have time to get ready for whichever activity comes next. It means splitting the parkrun event into about 20 separate parts for Peter and using visual signs to guide him through each stage. The real challenge is striking the balance - working with Peter so that he doesn't become overawed by all that's going on and also letting him enjoy the fun and excitement.

How does junior parkrun help Peter?

You couldn't ask for a better group of people than parkrun volunteers! What struck me immediately was the openness, patience and genuine warmth Peter and I received from everyone in hi-vis yellow. As Peter was unfamiliar with the course I would have run with him at first. After a few months it was clear Peter realised that not every child ran with a grown-up and he wanted to be just like them.  For quite some time he would tell me "daddy, stop your feet!" and "don't follow me".

There are so many people I could single out who have helped Peter along his parkrun journey and helped him follow the junior parkrun code. The numerous volunteers who have run the course with Peter, helping him navigate and deal with his fear of dogs (and who have been tricked into giving piggy backs along the way) There’s also the tail walker whose patience must have been tested so many times when Peter has chased the resident park geese not to mention time he thought it was a good idea to try and adopt and take home a swan from the park! What really thrills me though is just how much encouragement and support the parkrun team gives to all junior runners and the endless enthusiasm and energy which is shown by them every week.  At any one time there are about twenty sets of eyes on Peter so I know, despite his best efforts, he'll never get into danger.

The difference in Peter’s development over the last 2 years has been quite amazing.  As well as now knowing all the volunteers, Peter has formed strong friendships with a number of other children who he really looks forward to meeting each week and who he now runs with. Children on the autism spectrum disorder and with learning disabilities can be really isolated and there is always a great need for afterschool clubs and sports clubs to tackle this community isolation.  Peter will always find socialising difficult but junior parkrun certainly has increased his confidence, makes him feel part of the running community and he's no longer hindered by his dad traipsing after him!

While I no longer have to follow Peter each week I haven't stopped my feet!  I now use each Parkrun as a chance to give a little bit back by donning the yellow bib and marshalling - which really involves cheering, clapping and high-fiving the children as they run the course. And like Peter, I really enjoy the ice lolly that, thanks to the run-co-ordinators, is a regular feature of finishing Waterworks parkrun.

I would repeat the message that parkrun is for all and, junior parkrun especially, is for all children of all abilities. The understanding and genuine commitment shown by volunteers should assure any parent that it's safe and rewarding for their children to take part.  Safety always comes first but it's that sense of fun and achievement which Peter takes home each week which is priceless!  Thank you junior parkrun.
Gerry and Peter.


Run Report Event # 383

Nice calm cool morning at Waterworks this morning but thankfully not cool enough for frost.

Overall we had 228 participants with visitors from Australia, Clondalkin,  Carrickfergus, Castlewellan and Moscow. Yep that's Moscow Russia.

Milestones we had a junior 10, Jordan Coggle, and our tail walker Fra Hughes completed his 50th event. Well done Jordan and Fra.

Front runners this morning was all about the juniors and PB's with Piaras McShane PB, unknown then Locan McClean for the male and Geraldine McCotter PB, Fionnuala O'Hare PB, Orla Cash PB for the female.

Couple of final mentions. Firstly the volunteers without volunteers we have no event so thanks for donating your time. Finally maybe a mention for regular Waterworks volunteers twin sister Bernadette Brady and Philomena Donaldson belated happy birthday.

See you all next week


Festive Events

Waterworks will be running on Christmas day at 9:30am as usual and New Years day at 11:00am in case you don't get to bed early on new years eve. If you are planning a new years double Stormont and Valley we believe are running at 9:30am check their websites.

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