A man runs through a park full of trees as an awareness ribbon floats in the sky behind him.

Parkrun and 5K Your Way

Readers in the UK will be very familiar with parkrun but US readers maybe less so. It is now a worldwide phenomenon with parkrun in over 20 countries around the world. In the UK there are 729 parkrun venues whilst in the US there are only 47 venues. Over 6 million runners are registered with parkrun and over 500,000 volunteers.

For those new to parkrun...

What is it I hear you ask and what’s the relevance to prostate cancer?

It’s a free weekly timed 5k run in various parks across the world, on Saturday mornings, run entirely by volunteers but it’s much more than just that. It’s a really close-knit running community where many friendships are made, it’s a social occasion, it’s completely inclusive and walkers are actively encouraged. In fact, one of the volunteer roles is tail walker who always brings up the rear encouraging the last runners/walkers home.

It’s also completely non-judgemental and parkrun are very proud that the average finish time has got slower since the launch in 2004 which means parkrun is really achieving its aims to be a fitness vehicle for all.

Parkrun became my community and passion

My own relationship with parkrun has changed significantly since my diagnosis in May 2017.

I started running marathons at age 50 in 2007 and ran 19 before my diagnosis at age 60. Sunday was always long run day and there was no way I could do a 5k “race” on a Saturday and a long run on a Sunday. I just hadn’t got the ethos of parkrun and wouldn’t do a 5k without racing. Parkrun is not about racing.

I’d run 24 parkruns prior to my diagnosis and when I was able to run again, parkrun became a massive part of my life. I’ve now run 136 times and over 100 homes at my home parkrun. I’ve run at 21 different parkruns and in 5 different parkrun countries. I’ve made so many friends and they’ve been so supportive of me since my diagnosis and constantly encourage me especially on the days I struggle.

5k Your Way

In late 2018 I heard about a UK organization called 5k Your Way that had been set up to support people living with and beyond cancer to encourage them back into exercise or to take up exercise. As we all know “if exercise were a pill we’d all be taking it”. That was very much what 5k Your Way is about. There is so much emerging evidence that exercise is vital to our physical and mental wellbeing especially when living with and beyond cancer.

Not every cancer patient can of course run and that’s why we emphasize doing it Your Way. We encourage people to walk, jog, run, volunteer, or simply turn up and cheer on the final Saturday of the month.

Launching my community's first 5K Your Way parkrun

There is now a 5K Your Way at 57 parkruns in the UK and Ireland and I launched my own 5K Your Way at my home parkrun in February 2019. We regularly have 10-15 attendees and have had as many as 40. The bulk of us walk but some run and then jog back to walk to the finish with the rest us and then the important bit happens. We head off to a local café for coffee and breakfast and sit and chat and support each other, sharing our cancer services.

man and women figures with 5k your way shirts

5K Your Way is a running/walking group with a difference, a cancer support group with a difference, a social opportunity with a difference, and a coffee morning with a difference.

Community coming together for awareness

I’ve been blessed at my 5K Your Way with the support of leading cancer health care professionals from across Greater Manchester including Claire O’Rourke who is Associate Director of Greater Manchester Cancer and Matthew Evison a lung cancer specialist at a local hospital and both great supporters of 5K Your Way. These are quotes from Matthew:

“Loved walking with my lad @cancer5kYourWay today. Jacob had leukemia aged 4 months old and will need to learn the value of exercise in combatting long term effects of chemotherapy.”

“5KYW is fast becoming a very special event for us Evisons! A chance for me and Jacob to spend one on one time together playing silly games. A time to reflect on his illness, his recovery and the importance of #physicalactivity for him as he grows up.”

“Your hard work is helping those affected by cancer and it’s inspiring to see. The impact of this across the country is huge!”

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