Dr Julia Hempenstall, of Old School Surgery at Great Bedwyn, writes about the benefits of parkrun

We are most grateful to Dr Hempenstall who has kindly agreed that we may reproduce this article which was originally written for local parish magazines in the Great Bedwyn area.

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The Royal College of General Practitioners has teamed up with parkrun to create the “parkrun Practice Initiative” and Old School Surgery in Great Bedwyn is proud to have signed up. For those of you unfamiliar with parkrun it is a simple formula of free, weekly timed 5km events for all ages from 4+ across the country and even internationally now. It is important to say these are not races. You don’t have to be able to run 5km, you can jog, walk or even stroll it. They are open to all.

The really exciting news is that we now have a more local parkrun following the start of the Marlborough Common parkrun on 22nd September. It was a rather damp, drizzly morning up on the common but 8 of us connected to the practice gathered with anticipation of our first Old School Surgery parkrun event. Not only did staff attend but some family members did too and that is really the spirit of parkrun, everyone is welcome. The organisers had done a great job of marshalling the course and off we set. The atmosphere was carnival-like with some runners in fancy dress! To prove that parkrun really is for everyone there was a 7 week old baby being pushed round by her mother and even a participant who completed it on crutches! All 8 of us got round the course and enjoyed a warming cup of tea at the Golf Course afterwards.

We want to encourage our patients, staff and community to have fun while increasing their activity levels. The benefits of parkrun participation cannot be underestimated; improved fitness, wellness, improved mental health, improved self-esteem, skill development, benefits of mutual support, the need for fewer medications in chronic diseases, socialising and volunteering…the list goes on.

If you are reading this and thinking there is no way you could consider running 5km I can recommend the NHS couch to 5K programme as a place to start. It is a 9 week programme that is suitable for anyone, even those who cannot or have not ever run for even a minute. There are weekly podcasts to keep you going and it isn’t long before you feel the benefits. The app can give you a choice of coaches (including some celebrity voices) that keep you motivated and entertained while you progress through the weeks. There is also an online community that offers support and encouragement for all. I have had patients tell me that it is the best thing they have ever done for their mental and physical health.

And perhaps for those of you reading who are unable to participate in the 5km can I suggest you consider going to spectate or volunteer at the event? parkrun can fill the gap in our modern lives where community is key. You will be amazed at the friendliness of the events. There are also opportunities to volunteer to be a marshall and parkruns are staffed by volunteers so they are always on the search for more. parkrun combats loneliness by the fact that everyone is welcome regardless of ability, activity levels or health. The joy of the weekly social interaction with the dose of endorphins and feeling of achievement is why I feel we have to encourage more of you to get involved.

So if you’re interested please have a look at www.parkrun.org.uk for more information. Taking part is easy, I challenge you to give it a go - all you have to do is register, print off your personal barcode and head down to Marlborough Common for 9am on Saturdays. We have made a commitment as a practice to ensure that we run at least monthly on the first Saturday in the month. We’d love to see you there or invite you to join us for a cup of tea afterwards. If you’re a patient of ours and want to know more please just pop into the surgery and ask. Any of us would be keen to talk more about it. Dr Paddon said “The best bit was crossing the finish line with everyone cheering; it was a great start to the weekend.” If you aren’t a patient at Old School Surgery please consider encouraging your surgery to sign up as a RCGP parkrun practice. Whatever your ability we look forward to seeing you there soon.

Dr Julia Hempenstall
GP at Old School Surgery
19th October 2018