I wanted to write something about joining Hyde Park Harriers, and how it has impacted my life.
Like many parents of young children, I first started running because it seemed to be the easiest form of exercise to fit into my life. Lace up, out the door, run round a park, back home; in half an hour you can tick off your activity for the day. The running bug got me the first time I ran 5k. It was May 2016, an out and back at the coast through thick sea fret and a soundtrack of boats honking discordantly somewhere in the distance. It felt amazing, but then life got in the way.
Things at home were hard. My son was increasingly struggling – later diagnosed with autism – and a fog was beginning to thicken around me.
I was running on and off during this time but then broke my toe badly and couldn’t walk for months. I put on weight and was generally unhappy, so when it was better I thought running might help, building back up to doing 5k then steadily up to 10k in Sep 2017. A friend suggested coming along to a HPH club session and so in October decided to try it, despite my stressful home life meaning it was hard to make the time and also daunting to try something new. She had read that joining a club in your 30s was really good for you, both mentally and physically: it seemed like solid logic.
She wasn’t there when I turned up, so I got chatting to someone else and went in Group 3 with her, running only my second ever 10k. It was such a friendly, welcoming atmosphere that I’ve not missed that many Tuesday sessions since. I did my first parkrun the Saturday after that run (it wasn’t really something that had been on my radar), and haven’t missed many of those either. I went on to join HPH the next January and haven’t looked back. My 15 year old self that used to skive off PE looked on astonished, as I did my first ever races in last year’s PECO cross country series.
Running is really the first thing I’ve done since becoming a parent that is just mine. It’s nothing to do with the children (although my daughter has started doing junior parkrun and we go and run a mile together quite often). It is the thing that I am most proud of, and the sense of personal achievement and satisfaction is second to none. It gives me a focus in my life that I really need, and this year I have started being a bit more training savvy, and am really seeing the results. Whatever else is happening, I know that there are these points in the week where I will be running, and I will see friendly faces, and when things are tough that is the thing that keeps me going.
My son is really fantastic, but there are many additional challenges parenting an autistic child. There have been times I’ve turned up to run club on a Tuesday having cried the whole jog down. There are times when the very last thing I’ve felt like is running with a group. And yet when we set off it never fails to lift me and it’s always just what I need. There are so many people coming together to run, from all walks of life, with so many things going on in the background, including people so committed to both their physical and mental health and can talk openly about both, which I find really inspiring. I’m so thankful to come and run with you all.