Let me tell you about my failed attempt at Park Run… At the weekend my husband and I got up bright and early to face our first ever run. I had absolutely no idea what to expect and if I’m being entirely honest, I was feeling very anxious, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Fitness, and I, we just don’t – it’s why I can’t commit to a gym membership, I’m too self conscious that people are looking at me or mocking me.
Upon arrival to our local park, I looked around at what genuinely felt like a community. Each of the volunteers and fellow park runners were all so lovely and welcoming to us. In fact, those who are first time runners receive a briefing to explain the format and the route to ensure they feel comfortable with what is about to happen rather than thrown in to it.
Everyone is then called together, and before you know it, it’s time to set off. Now, I know I’m not fit, and I knew I’d be terrible but I was there already so no point in backing out, and actually, I was determined to give it a try. I’d even said to myself “lets get it done in 45 minutes!”.
Everyone set off, and I’d say I ran solidly for probably the first 2-3 minutes, I was trying my best to keep up with my husband but I also didn’t want to slow him down either so I told him to run ahead and off he went.
Now, I’ve never been a runner. As much as I’d love to be, I’m just not.
My style has always been sprint, walk, sprint, and walk. So, I got it in my head I’d set myself a visual target of where I would run to, the corner, a tree, the lamppost. I found that at 14 minutes, I was being lapped and when I looked around I couldn’t really see anyone else behind me – I was instantly disheartened because I’d assumed (wrongly!) that I was at the back.
A second, and a third person passed me as I walked to the side to let them run by – My confidence was starting to crumble. Before I knew it, groups of runners were zooming past. One did shout as he went passed “Everything alright?” to which I shouted back, “Yes, I’m ok thanks.”
I lied, I wasn’t ok. It was at this point I was really trying to not cry or get upset about it. I very much doubted myself, and as I often do in this situation, I wanted to give up. In fact, by this stage I was no longer running, I was just walking.
Many of the volunteers would clap and cheer me on as I went by. Something I needed, but ended up feeling very overwhelmed by. Why were these people being so nice to me? Even runners going by and shouting “You’re doing really well!”
Despite the positive messages I was receiving, my confidence was at its lowest
When no-one could see me, I was crying. As I approached another volunteer I quickly wiped my tears but I know she sensed I wasn’t ok, she asked but I just smiled and said I was fine.
You see, my anxiety does this to me. My own mind destroys me and sends me in to mindset I just can’t step out of. I’ll beat myself up over non-existent situations too. But in this moment, I was too busy focusing on how terrible I was doing, how far I was behind, and how far I was away from the finish line, instead of being proud of even doing it in the first place.
I arrived to the point in the park run where you either turn left for the finish line, or turn right to continue your final lap. Everyone else was running to the left and enjoying their victory. The path on the right was empty and honestly, I couldn’t face the humiliation of going around again. I simply continued to walk, straight, neither left nor right to wait for my husband and cheer him on for his victory. I ended my park run, incomplete, at 27 minutes and 2.8km.
At 33 minutes, I saw him in the distance and I was proud because I knew at the beginning he said he’d be happy if he did it under 40 minutes. He crossed, and after I gave him a huge hug, asked me why I didn’t finish. I tried to hide it but I burst in to tears and said I just couldn’t do it. I was so upset – I must have cried the entire walk home. Sobbing uncontrollably. He reminded me, that you don’t actually have to run it – just enjoy the outdoors, walk it, whatever.
Would I do Park Run again?
Reflecting back on my failed attempt at Park Run, I think perhaps I was spooked out by the unknown. I know what to expect now, and I do genuinely want to try it again. I’m completely aware that I will need to change my mindset in order to do it and complete the full 5k. I know this time I need to focus on the positives, and remember that I don’t have to run the whole thing, just do my best.
So… see you next Saturday park run. I will cross that finish line!