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Ponderings of a Postgrad 12/02/2019

Helena Senior discusses Parkruns and their positive impact

Its 9a.m. on a Saturday morning and roughly 400 runners, joggers, and walk- ers are poised and ready for their weekly Parkrun fix. I myself am huddled in the mix somewhere behind the 30-minute pacer and wrapped up in several layers of sportswear. I completed my first Parkrun back in May in a time of 45.59, and just a couple of weeks ago I set a new PB of 31.38! Looking back at that first 5k, most of which I walked, I don’t think I could ever have imagined how far I would come in such a short time. I am now hoping to train for my first half-marathon, and I will be taking part in York’s own 10k this summer with my parents.

But why take up running in the first place? For me it was a combination of parental nagging (thanks mum) and struggling with my mental health. I was in my third year when I started running, and I’d been dealing with depression throughout my time at University. My third year was especially difficult because of all the added stress of applying for a Masters and com- pleting a dissertation. I had accessed all the support that the University had to offer and nothing seemed to be helping, so I agreed to let my parents take me to Parkrun one morning and give it a go.

My mum very patiently went round with me, pushing me to run just a little fur- ther than I thought I could, and encourag- ing me the whole way. The sense of achievement just from crossing the finish line was incredible. It didn’t matter that my dad had made it round almost twice as fast as me, or that I was something like third from last; what mattered was that I had achieved something.

One week later, I was back pushing myself to go further again and just one week into running, I did my first under-40-minute Parkrun.

I didn’t consider the benefits physical exercise could have on my mental health, or how great something like running could be for helping me cope with stress until just before I graduated. It’s definitely something I wish I’d started doing sooner, and it’s been an invaluable outlet so far during my Masters. I would encourage other students to look at taking up running, cycling, or any other form of exercise that suits you, because it can do wonders for both mind and body.

Parkrun has given me something to strive for, and something to look forward to every week. It’s become a time when I can clear my head and focus on just running that 5k. It has also seriously helped me to fix my sleeping pattern and get into better habits! One 5k run a week has evolved into several runs a week and I’ve even joined a running club who have helped push me to try longer distances. Taking up running is by far one of the best decisions I have ever made, and something that I would encour- age anyone to try once. Running is a fantas- tic way to keep fit, and to take some time off from stressing over those deadlines and exams.

We have a Parkrun right here on Cam- pus East, and it doesn’t matter if you run, jog, or walk it. Everyone supports each oth- er and there is always a volunteer tail walker at the back. It’s completely free; all you need to do is register on the website and print out your barcode. We are very lucky to be home to one of just five Campus Parkruns in the UK and it is definitely something that we should be taking advantage of. January may be over but it’s not too late to make a resolution to start running and make 2019 a happier, healthier year!

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