A few years ago if someone had told me I would be able to run 5 kilometres - and that I would do this with a mob of 300 people, I would have smiled politely and shook my head. I was the kind of kid at school who did pretty well in the classroom but was a dismal also-ran on sports day. But somehow in my late 60s I decided to give it a go. In the beginning only a few paces and I was puffing but somehow over time and with grit and determination I finally made 5 kms without stopping. Believe me, if I can do it then it's achievable!
And now I catch up with around 300 people before breakfast most Saturday mornings for Park Run - a weekly 5 km event along a local river. It's call Run but it can be whatever pace you want. Some people are deadly serious, others enjoy a leisurely stroll. Some run while pushing prams, some walk or run with their dogs. Ages range from under 10 to over 70 and times are generally from 16 minutes to almost an hour. Park Runs are weekly events in 12 countries around the world, from the USA, to Russia, to Denmark, to Australia and other countries in between.
So if you have a Park Run in your city I can definitely recommend it, whether you walk, run or take the dog or the kids or grandies for an outing. In fact the cutest thing I have seen was a mum pushing a pram with a little boy around two years old - as she got near the finish line she stopped and helped him out, pointed to the volunteers waiting at the line and encouraged him to run to them. He crossed the line to much applause and lots of smiles. Everyone, including her little boy, loved it!
As the saying goes, I walked before I could (Park) run - around the city, along the beach, in the bush. And I am careful to keep flexible - stretch before and after every run.
As well as my weekly Park Run I try and get out two or three mornings a week before work. Just as first light hits the sky is my favourite time - when the air feels cool and clean and the birds are waking up. I have two large glasses of spring water - have learned that I enjoy my running so much more if I am hydrated. And as soon as I get back I have another two glasses, this time with a sprinkle of Himalayan Pink Rock Salt. Or I might have a bottle of coconut water to replace electrolytes if the weather is hot and I've come home particularly sweaty. Commercial sports drinks aren't an option for me - most are a blend of chemicals and sugar or artificial sweeteners that can result in dental problems, weight gain and possibly worse health outcomes.
My favourite running is barefoot on a beach but that's not always an option so when it comes to running gear the most important item for me is a good pair of runners. My Brookes are perfect - support and cushioning and comfortable fit. They may not be as trendy as some of the Nikes and Asics out there but they sure do keep my feet happy.
And talking of running gear, with so much to choose from who wouldn't want to get it on! These days sports gear isn't just for the track, it's the casual comfortable way to be for cafe-hopping, shopping or just taking it easy around town.
I always have my running gear ready for the morning so that I don't have to think when I first wake up, but some mornings my body tells me it's time for a rest so I just stretch out and listen to the birds outside my window instead of getting out there and joining them.
As much as it would be fun to record my run history on Strava or some other app, I switch my phone to airplane mode before I head out, and just use the stopwatch so that I don't have to worry about getting zapped by radiation. I can still enjoy the buzz of getting a PB - or close to it - whether it's the official score at Park Run or the magic number on my iPhone when I click 'stop'.
I will leave the last word to American centegenarian Ida Keeling. In May 2016 Ida has set a new world record for the 100 meter dash in her age group. She has overcome some pretty tough life challenges and she is one of my heroes. Check out the news video, especially the brief insight into her life in the second clip. Ida, who took up running at 67 to try and get her life back on track after the tragic deaths of her two sons and who has continued running for the last 33 years, proves that we are never too old to run.
Have fun and happy running.