Parkrun can be a walk in the park for people with Type 2 – by Robin Swindell

Like many people newly diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), after a visit to the GP in the spring of 2013 I realised that need to improve my fitness and change my sedentary lifestyle. After a few false starts on the fitness front I started walking regularly, and later downloaded the NHS Couch to 5k course to my phone; it took me most of the summer to complete, but little by little I became a runner, finding it a great assistance in losing weight and managing my blood sugar levels.

Parkrun is a global organisation that organises free, weekly, 5km timed events around the world. They are open to everyone to run, jog or walk, and they are all free, safe and easy to take part in. Last weekend there were more than 450 parkrun events in the UK, with over 130,000 people of all ages and abilities taking part. Some people use parkrun to test themselves against their own time each week, but many like me just use it as a chance to get some fresh air and exercise with friends.

Today, parkrun on a Saturday morning is a big part of my week, and an important part of managing my diabetes, but it took me several months to summon the courage to go for the first time. There were a lot of things that worried my before my first parkrun, and I bet a few of them worry others who haven’t taken part before;

  • If you are worried about being last, don’t… you won’t be. At each UK event there is a ‘Tail Runner’ who stays right at the back of the field and is the last person to cross the finish line to ensure that everyone is accounted for.
  • If you are worried about being too slow, don’t… lots of people come to parkrun to walk
  • If you are worried about not knowing what to do, don’t… each event holds a quick briefing beforehand to explain what you need to do
  • If you are worried about not knowing anyone else, don’t… each week lots of people come for the first time, and after the event many of the parkrunners get together for tea & coffee, which is a great opportunity to chat and make new friends

I’ve been parkrunning for over three years now, and I’ve made loads of new friends locally and wherever I have travelled. My home parkrun feels like family, and this parkrun family not only continue to offer me a great deal of enjoyment and support, but have encouraged me to push my boundaries; with their assistance and advice I have gone from running 5k to 10k to half and then on to full marathons, running roads, track, trails, beaches and a bit of cross country along the way.

Parkrun wants its events to be accessible as possible to people with disabilities and long term conditions, and as part of that there is a new Facebook group for all those in the diabetes community who are already parkrunners (there seems to be quite a number of us!) but also for those who are thinking about taking part for the first time. Why not come and say hello, meet other parkrunners living with diabetes and find out more about taking part?

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