This has changed my life completely

When Charlotte wanted to change her lifestyle, her local parkrun came to the rescue. This is what she has to say:Charlotte Davies with her Reading parkrun friends

Last year I started to go to the gym – and try to be more active for the first time in about 20 years!

When I was there, I saw a flyer for a local fun run. I decided to do it and this was where I started my running journey. I totally misread the flyer and thought the run was 3.2 km, so trained (a bit anyway) for that distance. It was only the day before that I realised it was actually 5km. Needless to say it was really, really hard and I wasn’t prepared at all!

Heath scares

My motivation was a desire to be fitter, to be faster, to look better, and to feel better. I had also been told by my GP that I was borderline diabetic and that really scared me. In addition, I was drinking alcohol most nights, often to excess.

I also knew that physical exercise would help with my anxiety and periodic depression. The hardest part was to start to change bad habits.

A life-changing experience

My first experience of parkrun was amazing, scary, wonderful, life changing.

My husband dropped me off by the park and all I could see was a sea of fit runners who all seemed to know each other. I felt very out of place, and thought that at any moment I would be called a fraud and laughed at. I was wearing a t-shirt that says “too fat to run?” and this got some lovely comments!

Then the run started and I struggled massively all the way round.  As most new runners do, I went off like a rocket and was exhausted by half way round the first lap.

Then an amazing thing happened on my third lap. I was alone (everyone had already finished), feeling very disheartened. Then out of nowhere a group of ladies appeared and asked if they could run with me. They laughed and chatted to me and gave me the strength to sprint to the finish amidst cheers from the volunteers and other runners. It was only afterwards that I realised they had already finished, but had seen that I was struggling and come back for me.

This was one of the best moments of my life because all my fears about not belonging and being laughed at disappeared.

Charlotte Davies finishing parkrun (photo credit Andrew Clare)

A revelation

I know that if I could do it once, knowing no one, then I could do it again. Plus the next time I went I had people to say hi to. I also realised that, despite being overweight and very slow, I could actually run, and what’s more I really enjoyed it. For the first time in my life I had found a physical exercise that I actually liked.

It was a revelation. Today, parkrun has changed my life completely. I am fitter, faster, slimmer, and I have made some amazing friends who I feel I have known all my life. As a result of parkrun, I now run at least twice a week and also do a weekly run training session called RunfitUK.  I also eat healthily, hardly drink at all and joined Slimming World – all of which has meant that I’ve lost over 3 stone in the last 7 months. I’m no longer at risk of diabetes and I’ve gone down 2 dress sizes!

Give it a go

I would say to anyone come and try it. It doesn’t matter if you walk it or run it. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are, because the tail runner is always last. parkrun is welcoming and fun, and it’s for everybody.

I completed my first 10km race in February and am training for two more, as well as the Great South Run in October which is 10 miles! Next year I’m planning on doing a half marathon (or 2….) and then who knows!

Most importantly I’d also like to get a sub 40-minute parkrun! I’ve knocked 10 minutes off my parkrun time in 6 months so it’s an achievable goal.

More than exercise

parkrun is so much more than running. Each week I go to parkrun and I discover something new about myself, be that the joy of a pb, or the feel of the sun (and rain!) on my face as I run the course. It’s the cheers and amazing support I get from the other runners and volunteers. It’s me giving something back and volunteering and realising how important those words of encouragement are.

It’s the laughter and the tears, and the feeling that I am well and truly part of a family.

Reading parkrun – as well as hundreds of other parkruns across the UK – will be taking part in I Am Team GB on Saturday 27 August. Find one near you here.