Over the years I’ve had the privilege of sharing with you many accounts of people who have found parkrun to be an important tool in their battle against mental health related issues. Never in a million years did I imagine that I would be sharing with you mine. But here goes...
It all started back on Thursday the 11th of August. My wife and children dropped me at the airport to jump on a flight down to Sydney for a few meetings (you may remember as I wrote about these in this newsletter the following week). As I’ve done countless times before, I gave them all a kiss and a wave goodbye, cleared security and took a seat. As I waited my thoughts started to wander and before I knew it, my heart was racing, my throat was tightening and my head was telling me not to get on the plane. I had no idea what was happening or why and I was overcome with both fear and confusion. In a nutshell I was having a panic attack and, as I now know, this was the beginning of anxiety disorder. Somehow I still managed to get on the flight, and somehow I managed not to disembark in a panic as the remaining passengers also boarded. The flight itself was horrific; I kept my head buried in the in-flight magazine trying desperately to take my mind off what was really happening. By the time I landed and disembarked in Sydney I felt like I had run a marathon and was completely overcome with exhaustion. Over the next 48 hours I managed to ‘act’ my way through a series of meetings and social engagements, including a visit to Rhodes parkrun. I did a pretty good job of remaining calm on the outside but on the inside I was falling to pieces. By the time I returned home on Saturday evening I was a wreck, not knowing what had happened and, most scarily, what lay ahead.
Over the past seven weeks my world has been more or less on hold. I’ve been on leave (did anyone notice?), receiving treatment from both a naturopath and psychologist, and most importantly, taken the time to reflect on what led to my breakdown at the airport on the 11th of August. What’s become very clear is that the anxiety reared its head as a result of years of high intensity, high pressure work. I had created a lifestyle for myself where work and life were one in the same; there was no finish of one and start of the other. Over time this work-life-blend simply wore me down and my body responded through anxiety and panic. It has been a massive wakeup call and, although it’s been a terrible time, I’m relieved that I’ve been able to get on top of things before it was too late.
So why am I telling you this in the parkrun newsletter? Well firstly, if I’m going through this, it’s a safe bet that many of you are, or have been through, something similar. I’m lucky in that I was able to quickly identify my issues, face up to them, seek help and make the necessary changes. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my family, friends and parkrun colleagues; for this I am extremely grateful. So if you’re going through this now I want you to know that there is no shame in asking for help. I’ve received some benefit or level of support from every single person I’ve spoken with. Secondly, one of the biggest factors in starting to overcome this has been exercise, especially at parkrun. Without even knowing it, the smiles, laughter and friendships I received at parkrun have made my days better, even when I wasn’t feeling great at the time.
I know this letter has been a bit indulgent however I hope that these words help a few of you out there going through a tough time. I’m well on the road to recovery but certainly not out of the woods yet. Every day is presenting me with challenges, some bigger than others, however I’m confident that I’m on track. This week I’m back on deck as CEO of parkrun and I want to pay tribute to Renee Gimbert who has done an amazing job steadying the ship in my absence. I also want to thank Gareth Candy and the parkrun Australia Board for their support through this time.
Onwards and upwards!
parkrun Australia CEO
It is not every day you get to celebrate achieving two parkrun milestones, however on International parkrun day, Zara Curtis, a JW10 runner, did just that at Point Cook. Zara notched up 50 parkruns and ran as the 40 minute pacer to support others and also achieve 25 volunteers. The parkruns were spread across 14 different courses in Victoria with a PB of 35:52 and volunteering across a number of different roles, with photographer the most popular.
The spirit of parkrun is strong in her household, with her father, Craig a Territory Director, mother, Nicki a Run Director and brother, Hugh also an avid participant and volunteer all present to mark the occasion. Whether running or volunteering, Zara always encourages others and has a positive attitude and smile on her face. Zara is a valued member of the Point Cook parkrun community and it is pleasing to see her achieve these significant milestones, well done.
Kate Scholtens & Dani McLaren
Event Directors Point Cook parkrun
Upcoming special events
08/10 – Berwick Springs (Vic) 3rd, Hamilton (Vic) 1st, Kalgoorlie-Boulder (WA) 3rd, 15/10 - Brightwater (Qld) 2nd, Grafton (NSW) 1st, Gungahlin (ACT) 3rd, Kingscliff (NSW) 4th, North Lakes (Qld) 4th, Paradise Point (Qld) 1st,
22/10 - Mosman (NSW) 3rd, Bunbury (WA) 3rd, Darwin (NT) 3rd, Highfields (Qld) 1st, Kawana (Qld) 4th, Mudgeeraba (Qld) 3rd, Westerfolds (Vic) 3rd,
29/10 – Port Macquarie (NSW) 1st,
5/11 – Maitland (NSW) 3rd, South Bank (Qld) 4th
12/11 - Diamond Creek (Vic) 3rd, Geographe Bay (WA) 2nd
19/11 – Launceston (TAS) 4th, Albert Melbourne (Vic) 5th, Calamvale (Qld) 2nd, Nambour (Qld) 1st,
8/10 – You Yangs (Vic)
15/10 – Launceston (Tas), Clare Valley (SA)
12/11 – Mt Penang (NSW)
19/11 – Tamborine Mountain (Qld)
feedback from the field
After an 8 hour drive to Sydney to pick up my wife Kerry and her friend Lisa from a cruise, my reward was some parkrun adventures to Sandon point parkrun.
Lovely community at Victor Harbor parkrun SA, recently completing parkrun #99 for me and #49 for Paul. Running our home course next week for our milestones (Berwick Springs)
parkdog of the week
Mishka is a 3 year old German Shepherd and is one of Lawson parkrun's most regular attendees who knows our fabulous 'trail' parkrun like the back of her hand. Not only does Mishka love doing parkrun, but as she lives with one of Lawson's run directors and she is also a competent and reliable official who is big on enforcing the 'short lead and run to the left of your human' policy.
In fact, Mishka is quite often found to be barking orders to other dogs ... in a friendly way. In this picture Mishka was a run official for our Easter parkrun that was organised and officiated completely by junior parkrunners. She was more than happy to get into the spirit of the day by dressing up as a rabbit - a costume she kept on for her run as well! Mishka would like to encourage parkrun tourists to visit the Blue Mountains and meet her at 8am every Saturday morning!
Name - Craig Murrell
Age - 47
Occupation - Project Manager / Engineer (Self employed)
Home parkrun - Gladstone Qld
Number of parkruns (runner) - Somewhere after having a black shirt
PB time - a tad under 22min
Number of parkruns (volunteer) - I have a purple shirt, as well. (a lot more than are registered)
Favourite volunteer role - not sure - there are none that are difficult.
I volunteer at parkrun because - I like to give back a little bit. It’s also nice to know that there is something that you do that directly benefits so many people.
One thing I love about parkrun is - sense of community, friendship and no pretentiousness!
My most memorable parkrun moment was - no single one. It’s always good seeing people improve on their time and/or ability.