A DOCTOR who has lost an amazing 10 stone - half her body weight - over the past couple of years will be among the participants in Craigavon’s first Parkrun next Saturday, August 11.
Rachel McKenzie, whose practice is in Belfast, has proud Portadown roots, with her dad Billy Gordon born and brought up in the town. And she heartily recommends the Parkrun as a means of losing weight “in a sensible, sociable way, whether you walk or run”. The venue is the city park, starting at the Watersports Centre, at 9.30am.
Rachel scaled in at a bustling 20 stone when she gave birth to her third child Molly two years ago, and admits that lack of exercise “and eating all the rubbish of the day” had ballooned her up to that weight. “It was a wake-up call, not the way a doctor and a mother-of-three should be,” she recalled.
Within 10 months, she had dropped “two or three stone” by her own efforts of eating less and exercising a bit more around her home in Bangor. But it wasn’t enough, so she joined the Parkrun ethos at Victoria Park in Belfast, where her first 5k - “partly walked, partly run” - was timed at 37 minutes, soon to be down to 29 minutes as the weight continued to drop off.
“It gave me a real taste for running,” she said. “I joined a running club at Orangefield in Belfast and before long was doing half-marathons, one in Ards and another in Derry, and I’m considering a marathon. The Parkrun started it all, so I’ll be down in Craigavon next week to see and enjoy what is just the second outside Belfast.”
Aspiring parkrunners don’t, of course, have to move on to the marathon world. It’s fun and exercise for all - from the casual runners-walkers to the more serious types. It is not a race against other runners. Each run will be timed and participants will be able see how they improve, whether they are novices or seasoned athletes.
Rachel, for example, sometimes takes along husband Pete to the Belfast Parkruns, as well as son James (14), daughter Kirsty (11) and young Molly, who walks a wee bit and then climbs into her buggy.
The Craigavon effort has the full backing of the borough council, and the 5k runs will be on a regular basis - it’s the second venue outside Belfast. Said Councillor Ronnie Harkness, chair of the leisure committee, “I am delighted that Parkrun have elected to use our City Park for their weekly events. It is the perfect opportunity for the local community to come together and enjoy this beautiful park, getting physically active at the same time. Whether you are running for your own enjoyment or using the event as a part of a training plan, the 5K runs will help to get you motivated on a regular basis irrespective of your ability”.
The event is supported by the Northern Ireland Executive through the Department for Social Development, Craigavon Borough Council and Southern Health and Social Care Trust, and taking part is easy. Register once before your first run at www.parkrun.org.uk/register.aspx then set your alarm for Saturday mornings and go along.
Said Rachel, “Molly especially loves the occasions, and the snacks afterwards. She associates them with cake!”