Meet Manal, a regular walker/jogger at Highbury Fields, known for her infectious smile and positive outlook. Manal has completed 60 parkruns, all at Highbury Fields, as well as volunteering at 17 events.
When & where did you start parkrunning?
My first 'official' parkrun was December 10th 2016. My son had signed me up, with Highbury Fields as my home parkrun. Editor's note - Manal's first parkrun was actually in November 2016 but as she only had her barcode on her phone her time wasn't registered!
Why did you join parkrun?
My son encouraged me to join up because he thought it would be good for me to have something just for myself, as I spend a lot of time looking after everyone else in the family. I had never run before, or even walked as part of a group. I had one friend that I used to regularly go out with, walking down to Angel, shopping and having fun together, but she moved a bit further away, so after that I didn’t really have anyone to go out walking with. So that was why my son encouraged me to join parkrun. He lives in Aberdeen and had been parkrunning for years, he did parkrun tourism in London and he takes his own children to parkrun now.
What did you think after your first parkrun?
I couldn’t believe that I had done it. I said that I would do 1 or 2 laps, I would do as much as I can, but I couldn’t imagine that I would complete it, but I did!
What do you like most about parkrun?
The people. They were encouraging me from the beginning, they all knew my name, I did not imagine that so many people would stay in the cold just waiting for me to finish, just to encourage me and give me that push. I couldn’t believe it and I didn’t know any of their names! They really did it with love. I said to my daughter how surprised I was that all these people whose names I didn’t know were there waiting in the cold, clapping and waiting for me, whatever the weather. I was the last one to finish, but all those people made me so happy. I couldn’t believe how much compassion they gave me. I didn’t expect that much care and kindness every week. That’s what pulled me from home every Saturday morning. Even when I had a migraine, I would take the medication, make myself ready, get up and come out every week. It made me really happy.
I am always cold, so at the beginning I wore my long coat because I didn’t believe that I would get warm, but by the time I had done 5 and bit laps I was surprisingly warm! People did give me some funny looks, like I came from another planet, but they didn’t make me feel uncomfortable! I didn’t learn to do any sports when I was young, so I made sure my children had the opportunity to do lots of sports. I tried swimming but I didn’t get on with it. So I was really determined to succeed at parkrun. The people really made me confident and gave me the support to do it. At my age it has taken some time to adapt to doing something so positive for myself like parkrun. Now I have taken off the coat, but I have got layers and gloves so I can move freely. It is important for me to look decent, because I like to dress nicely.
I felt really shy at the beginning, but I enjoyed walking with the tail walkers, they were always happy and encouraging me and we were always laughing and having fun as well as walking, giving me a nice time. People used to come up and hug me and make me happy. Editor's note - the 2 tailwalkers pictured (coincidentally the parkrunner profile co-editors Jo & Deb) have great memories of their Manal tailwalking experience
Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?
I used to volunteer during Ramadan (the fasting month) and one time I also volunteered when I was on crutches. I always like scanning because you get to see lots of familiar faces and everyone remembers me so it is a very sociable role. I enjoy clapping people in and the team is always friendly and very nice, even if we don’t even know each other, especially the volunteer team. I have always found volunteering a very relaxing atmosphere and I have often been asked to join in on the photographs even though I’m a bit shy and I wasn’t actually volunteering that day. It is always a comfortable environment to be a part of.
What’s your most memorable parkrun?
On one parkrun every time I passed Gail (Davison), a parkrun friend who was volunteering, I was asking JR, the Run Director that day if I am allowed to kiss her (clearly pre-Covid!!). This caused much laughter on that parkrun! Also the last parkrun I completed was the International Women’s Day parkrun where everyone was asked to wear purple. Also memorable for being the last one. I hope there will be more soon.
How are you coping without parkrun?
I am missing it very much. My children were very proud of me for going to parkrun. Every time I completed one I sent them pictures and it was a big achievement for me to succeed late in life, so I’m really hoping it comes back soon.