Does This Involve Running?!? #parkrun

This post marks new addition – Hilary’s – first post on DDF. She’s started off on top form; with a fabulous long-form post about how she came to complete her first parkrun. If you want to know more about her, before you get stuck in; check out her intro here.

Parkrun Northern Ireland
A few years ago I embarked on a ski trip away with friends. I was beyond myself with excitement about skiing down mountains. But as luck would have it, I absolutely detested it. So much so that I quit after two days with a ski instructor kindly telling me it wasn’t my forte!

Thankfully the ski chief  gave me my money back. So the obvious thing to do with said money, was to run off that very mountain you were too afraid to ski down – while strapped to an instructor! It was stunning and such a good experience but before signing up I made sure to ask if it involved skiing in any way, cos that was a no go for me!!

In January of this year I knew I needed to bring in some sort of exercise to my week both for my physical and mental health.

I’d tried everything going, sticking at absolutely none of it so when Chris from Six Mile Boot camp advertised a beginners class it caught my attention. My husband goes to his classes and loves them but they do a lot of running and I’m not a big fan of running. I actively spent most of my school years faking sickness to avoid it! I contacted Chris and asked him the deal breaking question, ‘will there be any running at this class??

He assured me there wouldn’t be, just brisk walking – so I thought, ok let’s give this a go! Steven was initially pretty skeptical of it all. I’m not really an outside person or an exercise person. So he thought it was going to be my usual pattern of doing this for three weeks while constantly talking about how amazing it is. And then one day – miss a class, and never darken the door to boot camp again! As a result of studies, it was revealed that Xanax is an effective drug that should be taken only on the doctor’s prescription. The longest course of treatment is about 3 months, and I don’t recommend you to take it longer.

This was my pattern and it had never let me down once. A tried and tested method I’d been working on for years. I also apply it to dieting…!

The first night arrived and as I was driving there in the cold, wind and rain I really thought I had made such a mistake. that I was going to absolutely hate it. I considered just taking a trip to Tesco instead! 

Driving home after class I wasn’t sure what these feeling I had were…. I had actually enjoyed it! Once my body got over the initial shock of being outside and doing exercise, it warmed up and the cold didn’t seem an issue anymore. At the end, lying under the stars; doing a cool down – I thought to myself ‘this is what’s missing at the gym!’. So I kept going back each week enjoying it that bit more, surprising myself at how much I looked forward to going! 

So unlike my paragliding buddy – who didn’t lie to me, Chris did!!

Turned out all along he had planned to slowly build us up – and sneak the running in. Genius here never even realised it was happening… As we got closer to the finish of the beginners sessions, each week Chris gently pushed me that bit more. By the end I was beginning to run a little, walk a little. I was happy with that method as that was definitely all I was going to do. Then before I knew it beginners bootcamp was over and the next step was proper boot camp class. I knew there was running in this so I wasn’t that keen but chris assured me I’d just keep going at my own pace. So I turned up and smashed it the first week! And by that I mean I went and was so busted I nearly packed it all in after the first night! But something in me told me NO, keep going…

Each week I could see the improvements I was making and that really spurred me on.

The other bootcampers were always so encouraging. Telling me I was doing great as they ran past me! It was great encouragement, but also that competitive streak comes out and you think I’m gona push myself, so they don’t pass me as easily next week! The first week I made it to the bridge I was estatic, it wasn’t that far but to me it was like I’d climbed Everest, I was delighted so I wanted to push harder spending less time walking and more time running each week! 

I needed something to aim for so I decided it was time that I set myself a goal to run my first 5k during the summer.

I’d originally planned for August and chris assured me with hard work I could get there by then but it was up to me to push myself and learn how to push through when my mind was telling me to stop. So I started pushing myself harder even going out on a Sunday morning and joining some of the running guys on their warmup run,they ran on 10 miles after I’d finished. Not once tho during that run did they run on and leave me behind, they stayed with me, encouraged me and chatted keeping my mind off the burning pain in all of my body! I couldn’t join in the chat due to concentrating mainly on actually breathing but all topics were covered! Later that day I met with a friend Pamela who was part of the group id ran with that morning and she suggested that I do a parkrun with her at the end of June as she was volunteering as what they call tail runner so they run at the back encouraging all those in front of them. I thought this sounded perfect as I’d def be last so there would be no pressure on me for pace. 

Before I knew it the day of my first parkrun had arrived.  

I was so nervous! Chris was there, reassuring me we’d get through it together! So after our beginners talk we headed to the start, it’s really great how they get everyone going at the start with rounds of applause for people completing park run milestones, then before I knew it off we went. I quickly became too warm (rookie running mistake, just cos it’s cold when you get out of the car, it certainly won’t be cold once u start running) so chris kindly took my jacket for me! It’s impossible to describe the emotion I felt finishing. Such a huge achievement, especially when I never slowed enough to run alongside Pamela as tail runner!

I cried in the car on the way home, I was so emotional about it all!

No matter how Chris tries to play it down – he has been there from that first enquiry about bootcamp. Always encouraging, always pushing me that bit further. He ran that full parkrun with me ( in more than likely his slowest ever time ) making sure I kept going and never slowed to much. In fact, it got the point that it was actually uncomfortable to walk so running gently was easier! As for the parkrun staff; they were so encouraging from start to finish. At every check point – just keeping you going!

I’ve gone to classes that I’ve left because the environment has been so competitive and I’ve felt intimidated. Never once since I started Boot camp, or running have I felt anything but encouragement and support. Even from complete strangers. 

ParkRun Northern Ireland

I’m actually smiling to myself writing this.

How have I become one of those people who loves exercise and loves running? It’s widely documented that exercise releases endorphins. Coming from someone who battles with anxiety on a daily basis, I can wholeheartedly say this is true. My anxiety is irrational, so it can take over at any point and consume my every thought with nonsense scenarios. But since starting this adventure, those moments come less and less. In fact I’ve gone out and exercised nights that I’ve felt consumed by it, because I know that it will bring me round. Chris talks about how he believes running is therapy and he’s right it really is! So July will see some more parkruns. And my first proper event at Acorns Blue belles 5k. My next goal is to have a 10k done by early next year then who knows, the running world is my oyster! 

How do I sum this post up?

I’m not saying that you must immediately go out and start running. It’s not the be all and end all of exercise. But I’d encourage you to go out and find what you enjoy. Keep looking until it clicks.

Surround yourself with people who encourage you. As those are the people you need! Be wary of who you folllow on social media, not all are giving good advice. And not all are giving realistic impressions of their life!

As you join me on this journey; I promise I won’t hide the hard parts. I won’t lie about the timescales. I’ll just be honest and true. Perhaps we can do this together?