Exercise For The Body. Volunteering For The Soul.

Time. There isn’t enough. Not enough hours in the day to cram in everything we need to get done. Work stuff, dealing with the kids, keeping home in order, not to mention squeezing in a run or a class around commitments…it’s never ending.

I feel lucky when I get some exercise into my day, and I know I am not alone. For that hour or so, it’s all about you and your goals, your feelings, how much you can push your body and mind to achieve great things.

But what about using some of that sacred time to give something back?

I’ve written in the past about how the social aspect of running has enabled me to maintain my running mojo, but recently I’ve found that volunteering has done as much for my mental wellbeing as the physical, and I spoke to some likeminded friends to get their opinion too.

Paul Saunders was on the organising committee, and is part of the core volunteer team of Rugby Parkrun, a fledgling event which welcomes around 200 runners and walkers each week and boasts one of the most welcoming and inclusive communities around.

Paul told me: “I got involved with volunteering at Rugby parkrun, because I wanted there to be a parkrun in my hometown so I could run there with friends and family. I also wanted it to be an event I could be proud of, so thought the best way to do that would be part of the organising committee.”

“I’m not a particularly good runner, but volunteering makes a significant impact on so many people… We have 200+ people every week who are (mostly) delighted to see you. You don’t have that impact even as a sub-17 minute runner.”

Paul and Lisa -Parkrun volunteers (Brian Dainty Photography)

“I get people (who I don’t really know) thanking me in Sainsburys. I don’t get that level of gratitude and respect at work and I certainly don’t get that at home.”

“Parkrun is a challenge for everybody: whether you are a sub-elite or recovering from an event in your life and fighting to get round in an hour, you get out of Parkrun what you bring with you. When someone has a positive outcome from going sub-20 or sub-30 or just doing it for the first time – I’ve helped make that happen. I’ve lowered some sort of barrier to that person’s journey and 99% of the time I don’t know that person’s story, but just knowing I’ve made ‘a difference’ to somebody gives me a massive sense of fulfillment.”

Lisa Jay, also on the organising committee at Rugby Parkrun and a regular Run Director there also said: “Volunteering gives you a connection beyond the physical act of running, it gives you the opportunity to be part of a community, inspire and socialise with other runners. Much as I love running alone, racing or training with my Massey club mates there’s something very special about a community coming together on a Saturday morning – long may it continue!”

It’s not just Parkrun volunteering which can deliver similar feel-good vibes. Another of my Massey club pals Lisa Kenny recently had a ball volunteering at the IAAF London 2017 World Championships. As she sees it, the experience was “Win win for myself and the community. I was given a lot of encouragement at the start of my running journey, so I really want to give something back. Free kit is of course a bonus!”

Lisa Kenny

So, as I continue to work towards self imposed goals in terms of running and fitness, it’s definitely important to me that volunteering stays on the agenda, too. It’s good for my mojo and when googling about on the subject, I found that volunteering can have a really positive effect on a person’s physical and mental health too.

As my fellow Parkrun volunteer buddy, Kim Wakefield puts it: “For me parkrun is about camaraderie, I’m a serial volunteer! I run with some of the other volunteers away from parkrun and even have a trekking holiday booked with one of them. I get more from volunteering at parkrun than running it! It still amazes me that these runs take place across the world every week, because of volunteers; what a great movement to be part of!”


About TheRunnerBird: My name is Lou and I want to talk about running…

I have been running just over two years and am an average bird and an even more average runner! Running helps me manage various aspects of my life, including post natal depression, grief, a busy job and keeping weight down (sometimes). I have a tiny little boy named Alex, a bearded husband named Dave, and a fluffy little cat called Stanley. I am a tall, mancunian copywriter who loves to run, spin, bend and breathe.

My blog talks about health, mind and fitness topics. Everything on my blog is written from a place of honesty. Blog | Twitter | Instagram


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