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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Sunday 29 December 2019

Mud, sweat and cheers: my first #parkrun

Despite having pounded around the same track as Dina Asher-Smith (OK, same school; very different decade)..... I'm a terrible runner.

But precisely because of inspirational people like Dina, Adam Gemili, Martyn Rooney, Laura Muir et al, I've always adored watching athletics, whether I'm screaming my support at the stadium, or from my sofa.

So why has my own running never been anything to shout about? Maybe because I just wasn't 'born to run'. Or maybe because at school, I was part of the group at the start of  'double athletics'  who, when told to go and warm up with a brisk 400 metres, would veer across the track in a sneaky shortcut, before the teacher even got outside. (I bet Dina never did that....)

That memory came back to me on Saturday, as I faced my first 5k parkrun. It was a chilly, misty morning, and our first task was to leg it around the perimeter of a sizeable school field. Even if I'd had the cheek to attempt my secondary school shortcut in front of 144 other runners and an army of smiling, cheering volunteer marshals, it would have made my attendance there, pointless.

I've run alone, with friends, and at two different running clubs in other counties; never achieving any great distance or speed. The will is there but the style, the staying power, and the puff? Not so much.

So why bother again? Three reasons. I've recently lost 9.5 kg in weight and want to keep that off, with a more active lifestyle. I'd heard about parkruns, and how supportive they can be. But above all,  my youngest daughter, Alice, was staying for the weekend, and as a regular at her own parkrun in Leeds, had offered to run alongside me at our new, local event.

There were cheers at the start for first-timers, for runners from other parkrun events and for the youngest in the crowd .We started with smiles, even though the drizzle soon seeped into our trainers, making the going decidedly squelchy. The rain had made the most gentle slopes shine with soft, slippy mud. A few gasps, and my lungs were filling with icy air. I asked to stop a few times to walk, to catch my breath. But Alice's smiles, encouragement, and even breathing tips, kept coming. So too, applause, warm words, and shouts of 'keep going, ladies' from the brilliant marshals right along the route. Even the fastest runners looping round us on their second lap, yelled 'well done; keep going!'  as they thundered past. At one point Alice shot one of her beaming smiles at me and yelled 'you're doing SO well....!' and I gulped...(and yeh, wiped some *drizzle* from my eye...) remembering shouting the same words at her on school sports days.

But there was no time to get soppy....the home strait was in sight, and somehow, with Alice's encouragement, I managed the closest I could get to a 'sprint' finish.

Verdict? I completely understand why the parkrun movement has grown so fast. This isn't about winning or losing, how you look, who you are, or even how you reach that finishing line. It's about trying to be the best you can be. And while you're being buoyed up by encouragement along the way, it's about remembering to do the same for others--because for those 22, 32, 42 or even, OK, 47 minutes, you're all on the same track; all part of the same community.

So even though Alice will be back at her own parkrun next week, at 9 o' clock sharp, like thousands of others around the country, she'll be there at her starting line, 160 miles away; right beside me.