MENTAL HEALTH – “Parkrun” Sharon Ashmore


Me in the middle, with my husband (Keith) and our youngest.  Our daughter Alicia who is a weekly volunteer at parkrun.  She says she’d rather go to parkrun than a disco!  (Long may that continue).


Enjoying a parkrun with some pals.  Niamh O’Daly and Colin Doolan.


Our first event at Castletown parkrun – 24th October 2015. (Me giving the welcome and briefing to a group of 181 parkrunners – eek!!!!!).

Is there a benefit to mental health with the introduction of sport to your life?  Undoubtedly!  I can answer that without hesitation.  It has affected my own mental health in such a positive way with too many benefits to count.  As I write this, I’m waiting to welcome in 2016 with my family.  I normally cringe with the celebrations of New Years Eve.  Never liked it.  Always find it so deflating.  But this time, for the first time ever, I find I’m very thankful and also excited to look forward to 2016.  Why?  I’m getting to run with a group of friends on New Years Day at 9.30am.  I’m so looking forward to it, that I’ve got a sneaky little grin on my face every time I think about it.

I’m not an elite runner, but I manage to put in a 5k comfortably and have a chat at the same time.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy or content going into the start of a new year.  I’m currently smothering with a cold, along with several other members of the household, but it couldn’t keep me away from my beloved parkrun this morning.  It was my 101st parkrun.  I was as excited as ever to get to the park for my run.  Not just for the run, but with the connections that have developed out of our local, weekly, free, timed 5k run.  We are very proud of the fact that we call ourselves community and parkrun family.  You very quickly build a welcome rapport with the regular runners and crew, and a quick hello leads to a warm-up run together, or you finding yourself running with people of the same pace and feel more comfortable with a chat on the way around.


I’ve never been the most confident person around but the outdoors and the community feel have all helped me develop an entirely new outlook on life.  How can you affect your mental health so positively?  Very easy!  Get out. That’s probably the hardest part.  Participation is the second important step.  Then the rest takes care of itself.


I never thought I would see a time when I would be an active member of a volunteer team, but helping with something that I care about showed me just how important it was for me to want to share my love of the fresh air and getting around a 5k run with others.  parkrun seems to fit me perfectly.  While everybody likes to cross a finish line first, there’s no such thing as winners at parkrun… first finishers, ok.  We’re all finishers!!!  No matter where you finish, you’re still a finisher.  I secretly love keeping an eye on the slower members in parkrun. They’re actually working the hardest.  They’re on the course longer, trying to accomplish something that maybe they have not achieved before.


Have you ever seen the face of a first time finisher?  I have.  I count myself very lucky to have been able to share a special moment with someone as they crossed the line for the first time ever, maybe secretly thinking they would never have been able to do it.  It’s such an amazing feeling.  I wouldn’t swap those memories for anything.


My confidence grew week after week as I learned a little bit more about different elements around our weekly parkrun.  I was asked if I’d like to join the core team to help out with more background work.  I remember that conversation so clearly.  I nearly froze on the spot, but reluctantly accepted.  That soon led to me being asked to be Run Director for a week.  For all of the times I’ve lost my words looking at somebody across the counter in a shop, how the heck was I supposed to be a Run Director?  Well, I shadowed the Event Director for a few weeks and the rest is history.  I did holiday cover and Run Director on a regular basis with other members of the team.  Yes, there were awkward moments, where you’d have to think on your feet, but I’ve learned how to deal with things I never thought I could have.


Then in July 2015 I heard a rumor that a local park close to my home were looking to start up a parkrun, but had no Event Director to host it.  I reluctantly put my hand up, not knowing what I was letting myself in for.  It did take me about two weeks to think about putting my hand up, but I did it!


The first Castletown parkrun was held on 24th October 2015 with a fabulous team of core member helping out.  So, ask me that question again… Is there a benefit on mental health with the introduction of sport to your life?  I’m not looking back!

Keep well,

Sharon Ashmore.


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