Christmas Day ParkRun

This year’s Christmas demons were banished by running my very first ParkRun!

So, what on earth possessed me to get out of my nice warm bed early on Christmas morning? The prospect of being proud of myself, having achieved something…and taking positive action to be in control of my day, my feelings, not feel sorry for myself.

Christmas is one of those extra-tough times, the times when my loss and grief is felt more acutely. Early in December, the anger and resentment started to build: another challenging time to get through, a time when there seems to be pressure to be joyful and happy.

Hugo would have been three-and-a-half: this would have been the first Christmas he was aware of and fully participating in. That hurt, too.

Last Saturday was a low day because of shopping in a local florist’s for Hugo’s Christmas present, rather than in toy shops. I do the best I can with Hugo’s garden, filling it with bright colour, sparkle, and toys, but obviously it is nowhere near the same.

Sparkly Christmas flowers for Hugo in his garden

More than a decade ago I used to be a regular runner. It was a regular activity when I lived in New Zealand, and Mount Eden, the dormant volcano in the suburb where I lived was a favourite route (the views were epic, well worth the effort!). I could run a decent-ish 5km time – the picture below is of me after the 2005 Race for Life, which I ran in about 24 minutes.

Me after the 2005 Race for Life

So what happened? Why did I stop running? A knee injury on the first day of a walking holiday in the French Alps in 2006…I thought popping Ibuprofen and just carrying on would be fine. It wasn’t. Duh. During the lengthy recovery period I got out of the habit, and then, well, life happened…

Until recently.

For the past four or five weeks I’ve been getting back in to running, in addition to my regular gym awesomeness. Work commitments have meant that there have been occasions when the only time I could get to the gym was during the busy times. That has meant upset in the grown ups’ soft play area: not only have I been forced to share my favourite toys, but there is also the challenge of those who choose to cut five metres off their walk to their next piece of equipment (and they are in the gym to exercise!) by walking right in front of me…

Grrrr….the gym is supposed to be the place where I reduce my stress, lower the cortisol levels, and I’d been finding myself getting cross…or not going. The result of that, inevitably, was gaining weight, feeling unhappy in myself, feeling less able to manage my stress, and my PTSD symptoms. I’ve worked so hard – physically and emotionally – during the past couple of years I couldn’t let all that go to waste.

Running outside, on the other hand, is liberating. No one gets in my way, I’m out in the fresh air. I’m in control. The endorphins flow, counteracting the cortisol.

It’s also another challenge for me – I like variety to keep myself interested and motivated

I’m fortunate to have many off-road routes close to where I live, and I’ve been slowly building up my distance.

Last week I ran my first 5km in years, to my great delight! I was incredibly proud.

I stopped a couple of times, and walked a few times…but I completed the distance, and that was the main thing.

Never having been to a ParkRun I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I know my local ParkRun in Bedford usually attracts several hundred runners to the regular Saturday morning event, and thought surely there would only be a few people turning up on Christmas morning.

Wrong! There were a good couple of hundred runners, many of whom were kitted out in a variety of festive fancy dress.

The Bedford ParkRun route is a lovely one, around a beautiful park. I tried to not get dispirited as long-limbed super-speedy runners lapped me. Strava tells me that I did my fastest mile, and my fastest kilometre, which is all good progress!

Being cheered on by the fabulous volunteers felt good, too.

The endorphins, coupled with the sense of purpose and achievement meant this Christmas has been the best of the past few years.

Feeling happy after the ParkRun

I’ve caught the ParkRun bug, and will even make sure I get out of bed early on a Saturday morning to make it a regular event. I’ll be working on improving my running pace and endurance to reduce the walking, so I can once again run a whole 5km.

Running has given me new challenges for 2018: I’m taking part in the #NHS1000 mile challenge in honour of the health service’s 70th birthday; I’m doing Mind’s RED January – the goal is to be active every day. Also, to put it out there….I’d like to run a 10km. All perfectly achievable!

A huge thank you to everyone who has been supporting me with my running progress, in person and virtually on social media.

2 Comments on Christmas Day ParkRun

  1. Glen Turner
    December 30, 2017 at 3:12 am (4 years ago)

    Hello Leigh. It’s incredibly moving to read such a powerful and beautifully written blog, and all of us at parkrun are so pleased to read that Bedford parkrun has had such a positive impact on you. Pardon the pun(!) but we would like to run an idea by you. When you have a moment, please could you pop an email to

    Thank you

  2. Juliet McGrattan
    December 28, 2017 at 1:43 pm (4 years ago)

    Oh wow! That’s wonderful- so proud of you. Parkrun is a wonderful community and will be a great motivator for you over the year. You rock 💪 #activewomen


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