Encouragement and Support

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No one is perfect. I’d need another 34 years, 7 flights, 4 trains and several car journeys and I still wouldn’t be close.

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.


Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.


So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.


Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.


Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

This quote is by Neil Gaiman. Life in general is a massive learning curve. Mistakes happen and if you witness them, you shouldn’t thrown them back in their face. I’m a firm believer of encouragement and support. This blog is a diary of my own fitness journey but I hope that some people who read this are encouraged and feel supported. Whether you look at your own nutrition, start to weight train or take up parkrun.


I’ve probably encouraged over 50 people to sign-up to parkrun. This isn’t a brag, I’m just saying out loud that I’ve introduced parkrun to several people. I love parkrun. At the time of writing this, there are 391,239 runners signed up to parkrun in the UK alone. parkrun encourage runners of all levels and abilities to join in and they welcome them with open arms.


Lee and I have just recently completed our 12 parkruns of Christmas challenge. I’ll blog about our final run within the next few days. We’ve witnessed first-hand the amazing encouragement and support from several parkruns in the north-east. Two lads from Blackhill joined us on our first run at 5am! Paul welcomed us at Darlington to run the first lap so we knew the route. We are still gobsmacked by the welcoming party at Albert parkrun and Gateshead, well what can I say about Gateshead? They’re like a well oiled machine and a credit to parkrun. I’m starting to get to know the guys at Gateshead on a more personal level now and they offer the same level of encouragement and support as I try to offer you.

“What I’m trying to get across is that as long as you are getting what you want from parkrun then that should be respected and welcomed. For some of us that will mean being the fastest age grade or joining the 100 club, for others it will be volunteering every week, for many it will be a combination of things, yet for some it may just be turning up a couple of times a year, running 5k, NOT EVEN TAKING A TOKEN, and then slipping off quietly, until the next time.”

That quote is from the parkrun Managing Director Tom Williams. You can read his full interview here. I’ve purposely put a certain part of it in bold capital letters. parkrun is whatever you want it to be and you can take it as seriously as you’d like. I’m more of a turn up and do my bit parkrunner. I probably know people who cover each point Tom has made though. Some take parkrun really seriously and want a PB and some might turn up to support their friends who’ve just completed a charity Christmas challenge.


Some comments were made at our 12th parkrun on Saturday that suggested people who don’t take tokens should take themselves elsewhere. I think it’s fair to say that Tom has just cleared up that point with his words above. Comments were also made that they only ever have issues when new faces turn up. Is that your issue or ours? These issues should be addressed and you should continue to welcome new faces. Suggesting that they take themselves elsewhere is completely against parkrun policy, it’s selfish and it’s certainly not encouragement and support.


I’ve been on my own fitness journey for about three years now. I have my own motivation like everyone else. Here’s just one example of my motivation. I know a few people that have started their own journey and have given up after a few months. They’ll try it again the following year and the same thing happens. One of the things I believe that lets them down is a little bit of encouragement and support.


Imagine there’s a woman, lets call her Ruth. She’s a new Mother to two beautiful twins girls and unfortunately she’s fallen into the trap of unhealthy eating and getting very little exercise. She comfort eats and lacks confidence. After chatting with a friend she is encouraged to take up running. A few laps around the block and she thinks “I’m really enjoying this.” She’s introduced to parkrun by another friend and she plucks up the courage to turn up and run the following Saturday. Some of her family are there on the day to support her and she finishes her very first parkrun. Ruth isn’t interested in a time, she’s still a little bit embarrassed and she’s just happy to finish her first parkrun. She doesn’t take a token and slips off quietly until the next week. Maybe next week she’ll accept a token. The next day she logs on to her local parkrun Facebook page and views some comments that say “runners who won’t accept a token should take themselves elsewhere.”


Honestly ask yourself the following question. If you were Ruth, would you feel like running the following week?


I don’t think she would return and the thought of this happening fills me with anger and disappointment. Imagine Ruth is your Mam, your Sister, your Cousin or your friend. How would you feel? I’ve already expressed my thoughts to the parkrun in question and as far as I’m concerned that’s the matter closed. I have offered some suggestions to them on how I think they could improve but they’re not interested. I’ve never said I’m a parkrun expert but I know a well-run one when I see it. I’m not expecting everyone to agree with me and not everyone does but surely the whole point of parkrun is to try and get as many new faces as they can to turn up and then ‘continue’ to run?


Nobody is perfect, mistakes happen. Lets all pull together and continue to offer encouragement and support. I need it, you need it and Ruth needs it.


About The Author

Following the birth of his son in 2009, Paul was unfit and sluggish. Since then he's been training using a range of exercise techniques and gained some valuable information over the years. Events he has completed to date are Total Warrior, Pier To Pier, Bamburgh 10k, Hamsterley 10k, Blaydon Races, Newcastle Stampede and over 50 parkruns. In 2012 he created his own challenge called the '12 Days of Christmas.' He raised over £1000 for Percy Hedley by running 60 miles to celebrate their 60 years. In 2013 he ran the '12 parkruns of Christmas' with friend Lee Nyland. The pair raised over £1400 for the Tiny Lives Fund.

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