After getting excited that parkrun would be back in October we learned last week that, because of the rising COVID-19 infection rates, the parkrun executive did not feel it was appropriate to restart, writes PETRINA CASSELL.
I felt sad and disappointed and quite angry.
The anger surprised me — after all, having hundreds of people in close proximity at the start and then the congested finish, would clearly be putting people at an increased risk. But still I was angry.
I have studied psychology and I realised why. I had lost something I valued. I was experiencing grief.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, recognised the different stages people go through when they experience grief. Grief is usually thought of in relation to death.
However, when we lose something where a bond or affection has been formed we may need to grieve. Kubler-Ross describes the five stages of the theory as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
When we went into lockdown in March I suspect, like the writer, many people thought it would all be over in a few weeks maybe a couple of months (denial).
By May I couldn’t understand why parkrun hadn’t come up with a solution.
Admittedly only a few, but race organisers were putting things in place for some races to take place in August — the Lowther half-marathon for instance. Why can’t parkrun get their act together? (anger).
I emailed parkrun and suggested adopting the timing methods these large race organisers use.
I said I was happy to pay if it helped to get the equipment in place so we could start again (bargaining).
Then came the announcement they would start again in October, followed a few weeks later that by them saying they were not (back to anger and into depression).
For a few days I was very sad and shed some tears — what was going on?
Having attended a few learning events about mental health, no-one is immune to mental health problems.
Research has shown one in four people can experience poor mental health at some time, and although being physically fit greatly reduces the risks of developing poor mental health, what happens when one of the avenues for maintaining that fitness is taken away?
I started to recognise what I was going through and consider what I needed to do (acceptance).
Parkrun may not be available but Frenchfield is! So, Saturday morning I packed up my parkrun essentials (post-run tea and cake) and went to Frenchfield.
I put a smile on my face and, after only a few hundred metres, I was properly smiling.
The sun was out, and as I ran along the part of the track that follows the river I imagined the encouragement of the marshal — “nice pace, keep it up”.
I turned into the wind coming away from the river. It was strong and icy cold but I didn’t care, it was fun.
Crossing the small wooden bridge towards the amenity pitch at last out of the wind maybe I could increase my speed and make up a bit of time.
Now heading towards the yellow gate, I could see Syd Burns.
Not a hallucination, he was really there — “come on you lot”.
As I passed the pavilion I imagined the ringing of cow bells and verbal encouragement from volunteers and supporters.
As Andrew Richardson so eloquently put it each week — I had to do it all again.
As my watch buzzed to announce completion of 5km I slowed to a walk.
The time didn’t matter, I was happy. As is the tradition at Penrith parkrun I enjoyed tea and cake with Syd. We chatted and laughed and cheered on others who were running and walking in the park.
Parkrun may not be back yet but I was doing my own run and I know that I am not alone in this.
Throughout the week many people come to Frenchfield and complete the circuit.
Parkrun have not abandoned us — there is the facility to log your “not parkrun” time on the website.
Summer has been and gone, and the landscape is starting to put on its autumn colours. Who knows when parkrun will be back and what lays ahead?
My feelings about parkrun are minor compared to the issues some people are dealing with at the moment.
I was able to recognise some early signs of deteriorating mental health and then do something which included connecting with people.
Some people will be able to help themselves by reaching out to family and friends, while others will need a bit of help.
Connecting with others and exercise are two of the ways to improve mental health. We don’t really know what is going on for people and what apparently insignificant event might have a major impact for them.
Be kind, reach out and either get or offer help.
A chat on the phone, a social distanced walk or run in one of the many parks in Penrith might be just what is required to help someone into acceptance and to start feeling better.
If you want to get start exercising there are lots of things going on in and around Penrith, including Fellside Ladies who have a fun session for walkers and runners, runners call Jo Falconer 07971 969229 and if you want to start running or are returning after a break there is support from Ready2Run (https://groups.runtogether.co.uk/Ready2RunEden).