Confessions of a Conkers (non) parkrun non-runner

Conkers non-parkrun non-run report  -   7th November 2020

Being an ergonomic (read lazy) sort of soul, when Roger asked me to write this week’s on-run report, I started from one of my previous run reports. Only to find that on 4th January 2020 I had written “Conkers parkrun will be here to support us through the grey days of 2020”. When I wrote that, I had no idea just how grey the days would get, or just how true that statement would prove to be for me.

In a(nother) previous run report, I explained how I started coming to Conkers parkrun by accident, and, how when asked how long I had been running, I stared back blankly and replied “Oh, I don’t run, I just do parkrun”. I successfully maintained my identity as a non-runner who just happened to do parkrun from January 2019 until early April of this year. As far as I was concerned “splits” were something painful that gymnasts do. I knew how well (or badly) my parkrun was going each week by how many runners passed me on their way back as I approached Stephen’s Gate. On the rare occasions I passed the tail walkers on my way back (once one of them was a Tyrannosaurus Rex!); I knew that I was heading for a time under 33 minutes. Obviously, I wanted to improve, but I had absolutely no intention of doing anything about it (like, say going for a run during the week, or increasing my distance) because that was the kind of thing that runners do, and I don’t run.


It is great that we can all still run with a friend

Then, ahead of the first National Lockdown, the music, aka parkrun, abruptly stopped. The first week, I ran with a friend in “a socially distanced manner” (back when the phrase was too new to induce shudders). Then we entered full Lockdown and I felt lost. I’m not a runner, so of course I wasn’t going to run, but I also couldn’t swim or go to yoga classes (I am so uncoordinated that Zoom just doesn’t work for me). I began getting concerned about my fitness-but there was also a nagging worry that when I did get back to parkrun, I would never again pass the tail walkers at Stephen’s Gate. Then Conkers’ own Dennis Dickinson posted about a (non) parkrun run but it wasn’t for me because you needed to record evidence with Strava or Runkeeper or some sort of Fitbit or Garmin or something. I didn’t have any of those because, of course, I’m not a runner and I don’t run, but I really wanted some connection to my parkrun family, so with rather a lot of help from my daughter I downloaded Strava. My daughter also kindly agreed to give up her “one form of exercise” on Saturdays to do “non parkrun” with me (she is a good 8 minutes faster than I am over 5K). A low point was when she moved house in June and I was back to doing (non) parkrun on my own. I got slower and slower without company and I was tempted to give up, but I knew Dennis expected a time from me each week and that was just enough to keep me going until national restrictions eased enough to allow me to do (non) parkrun with a friend again. July turned into August, with my identity as a non-runner who does (non) parkrun relatively intact. After all, what’s a little addiction to Strava between friends?

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, tree, plant, grass, outdoor, close-up and nature

Filial support with (non) parkrun during lockdown

As September beckoned, a few things started to become clearer-my organisation informed us that it might well be March 2021 before we went back to the office. I had days when I spoke to and saw no one other than my partner and son except on Zoom/TEAMS/Skype. The nights were drawing in and I knew that soon solo walks after work would become impractical, not to say foolhardy. Bitter experience means I know I have to tend to my mental health very carefully in Autumn and Winter by increasing my exercise and socialising. At this point, my (non) parkrun running friend, who actually is a runner (and has T-Shirts to prove it!) suggested that I join Swad Joggers. Which made no sense at all since, as I may have previously mentioned, I don’t run. And yet, on 3rd September I found myself out on a 5K run with Swad Joggers, and started going out with them twice each week. (The Swad Joggers are lovely people by the way, they welcome people who don’t run, like me. Just be aware that all the leaders have some weird syndrome which means they can’t say the word “hill”. Or, maybe they just can’t see them? I reassured myself that this still did not make me a runner, just someone who wanted a little company and to be ready for parkrun restarting (at the time expected to be at the end of October). OK, so I had to invest in a better head torch than the one that was lying round the house. But it’s not as if I was entering races or anything. There may have been a teeny blip in October when I offered to support my friend while she did her virtual Derby 10K. I mean it does perhaps sound a little like something that someone who runs might do, doesn’t it? But it’s not as if I actually entered the race myself, is it? So I reckon it’s still something a parkrunner who doesn’t run would do.

First 10K, but I was entered in for a race so it doesn’t make me a runner

There was a high point last Saturday 31st October, when I remembered just what it was that I was doing it all for. I met a group of five (non) parkrunners to do a socially distanced (non) parkrun at Conkers, running the course backwards for Halloween while wearing fancy dress. I was pushed to my running limits by a Scooby Doo (even though she slowed down massively for me) but still got the treat of sitting on the wall near the old course finish line to cheer some (non) parkrunners home. We even enjoyed tea and cake sheltering from the rain beneath the Waterside building porch. However, later that day Lockdown 2.0 was announced-four weeks of no group runs with Swad Joggers, and (non) parkrun with just one friend. It’s only Day 3 and I’m finding myself wondering what to do about losing my (non) parkrun progress. I mean I don’t run, so I surely can’t be thinking of arranging additional runs when it isn’t Saturday. Can I? And if I do, will that mean I must finally surrender my identity as a non-runner? For the time being I’m clinging on-after all, I don’t have a running watch or any medals (except my prized virtual one for completing 26 (non) parkruns).

Image may contain: 5 people, including Dennis Dickinson and Adrienne Jane, people standing, shoes and outdoor, text that says "WELCOME NKERS 1I0 CENTRE"

Halloween highpoint after running at Conkers.

Leaving my existential crisis aside, there is no doubt in my mind that the mid-week volunteer posts from Jen, the (non) run briefs from the Core Team, the (non) run reminders from Dennis on Fridays and (non) results from Dennis and the (non) run non reports from various volunteers co-opted by Roger have kept me motivated and connected to my parkrun family (no non about that) for the last seven months and counting. Without Conkers parkrun, my emotional, mental and physical health would be in far worse shape. It has indeed supported me, and many others, through the grey days of 2020. With Conkers parkrun you’ll never walk, jog or run alone. Thank you, Conkers parkrun-I know you will be back, even better than before. You can add me to the volunteer roster the first week back. After all, I don’t run, I just do parkrun.

Naomi x