This week's interview is with runner and Hereford United fan,Mel Heale!
Hi, my name’s Mel, and I’m a runner. I never thought I’d introduce myself that way!
Earlier this year I was signed off work for a few weeks with severe anxiety. I got myself stuck into a vicious circle of comfort-eating, feeling bad about myself, not wanting to leave the house, and turning to food for comfort once again. As my prescribed medication started to kick in and I began to feel a bit better, I realised I had to do something to get myself off the couch and out of the house - I needed to look after my body and mind rather better than I had been doing. I’d heard about the Couch to 5K programme, and decided to give it a go.
At first I kept it secret even from my own family. I wasn’t sure if I’d stick at it, and didn’t want anyone to know about it if I ‘failed’! It was hard, but it was manageable, and I loved seeing the progress I was making. I also found myself really valuing the time outside, enjoying nature, alone with my thoughts - but giving myself positive things to think about. My husband finally found out I was doing it round about Week 5, by which time I was determined to finish it (being the completer-finisher type...) but also, to my astonishment and his, I realised I was really enjoying running!
I’d heard about Parkrun before and knew a few people who did it and loved it. I wanted to complete Cto5K first though so I’d be confident that I could run all the way. (Of course, I realise now that this isn’t necessary, and walking some or all of the way is perfectly fine!) My first Parkrun was on 16th June this year, and it was just fab. I loved all the encouragement from the marshals, I loved that people of every speed and experience level was welcome, and I loved that - it being my first one - I automatically got a personal best!! I was an immediate convert.
Since then I’ve come to as many as possible, and I’m always a bit disappointed if other commitments get in the way. (Well, ok, except for the weekend I was in Venice...) If we go away over a Saturday I always check where the nearest Parkrun is, just in case, but unfortunately the only other one I’ve got to so far is Reading. (That’s a beautiful course, by the river and through a nature reserve, and very flat! It would be my favourite if it wasn’t for Birkenhead, which is obviously the best one out there...) One day I’d love to visit the Parkrun my aunt helped set up. I’d have loved to anyway, but even more so since she lives in Australia!
Parkrun is now part of my routine, and even when I’ve come home sopping wet and/or freezing, I’ve never regretted getting myself up and out of the door. Even the weeks that I’ve had to walk part of the way because my legs are tired or my asthma’s playing up, or my time is much slower than my average, I still get such a sense of achievement and accomplishment. My feelings are probably best summed up by one of my recent Tweets:
Sometimes it’s about a new personal best.
Sometimes it’s about running every step.
Sometimes it’s about just getting round to the finish.
Sometimes it’s about just getting to the start.
Each is a triumph in its own way.
If anyone’s heard about Parkrun but isn’t sure about it - exactly what it is, whether they’d like it, whether it’s for them - I’d so recommend giving it a go. The worst case scenario is that you’d just miss out on one Saturday lie-in! But maybe, like me, you’ll love it from that very first Saturday onwards. Maybe, like me, you’ll discover a whole new running community that you can belong to. Maybe, like me, you’ll find it has huge benefits for your physical and mental health. Maybe, like me, you’ll be surprised that it feels right to introduce yourself with the words, “I’m a runner!”