As a kid growing up in South Australia, Christie Farrow would do anything to get out of school sports.
“I liked watching sports but hated doing them,” says Christie, now 42. “My mum encouraged me to be active and I did try some sports and dancing classes, and my dad got me into table tennis, but nothing ever really stuck. I tried netball for a year but then dropped it.”
Believing she simply wasn’t the sporty type kept Christie away from joining any local teams or going for a run.
“I never believed I could run. I just didn’t think I could physically do it. I was overweight and quite shy so it just never felt like something I would be able to do.”
Becoming a runner
Fast forward to early 2022 and Christie had started walking more. One day she decided to run.
“I don’t even know why. I think I was feeling good walking and I decided to try and run to the next lamp post. After a few weeks of building up my running like that, I ran 1km. I couldn’t believe I’d done it. It felt amazing.”
Christie had heard about a local event called parkrun and had even signed up but didn’t go until four months later.
“I kept putting off going. I didn’t think I’d be able to run 5km so I waited until I could. Turns out it doesn’t even matter because you don’t have to run at parkrun.”
What is parkrun?
Parkrun is a national community event held weekly where participants walk, roll or run a 5km route or participate as a volunteer. Once you register online all you have to do is show up – and it’s free.
“After an event welcome where volunteers explain how everything works, you can start at your own pace and walk if you want to,” says Christie. There is even a volunteer ‘parkwalker’ who will stay with you if you’re feeling a bit out of your depth. And better still, there’s also a volunteer tail walker so you can’t come last! Everyone looks out for everyone else and it’s a great atmosphere and very social and friendly.”
During her first year at parkrun Christie clocked up 50 parkruns, and in 2023 did a handful of 10kms, and a 12km running event. Still, she admits she’s not the quickest runner... although she has knocked off almost 10 minutes from her original 5km time.
“I’m a slow runner and it doesn’t matter a bit. I’m just in the mix with everyone else. Joining parkrun has encouraged me to try different things. I did a trail run this year which I never would have thought I could do six months ago.”
The benefits of running with a community
As well as giving her a new group of friends, Christie says parkrun has improved her physical and mental health.
“I think how we feel mentally and physically go hand in hand, and parkrun has definitely benefited me. I have more energy, my sleep routine is better, I’ve continued to lose weight and I eat more healthily. The community aspect of parkrun has been amazing. After our runs we might go grab a coffee and someone’s always on Messenger to chat too. There have been so many pay offs.”
While you might not need parkrun to start walking or running, Christie admits it helps – a lot!
“Because parkrun is every week it can become part of your life really easily. I never have anything else to do on a Saturday morning so there’s no excuse not to go. I don’t even need to think about it. Running on your own is fine, but it can get a bit boring after a while. parkrun is great motivation and running in a group has made me a better runner. I often get better times for a 5km at parkrun than anywhere else.”
Now hoping to do her first half marathon in the Barossa Valley in 2024, Christie says she wouldn’t rule out one day doing a full marathon.
“I never thought I’d even consider doing such a long run. But after joining parkrun I’ve started to think that maybe I could. It’s given me that confidence.”
Find out more about parkrun and your local events here.
Top tips for new runners
If you haven’t run before or recently, it’s not realistic to try and run 10km off the bat. Start with short jog/walk combinations, running for one minute, walking for one minute, and build up from there over a few weeks to help prevent muscle strain and injury. Always consult your GP before starting a new exercise program.
Support your body
If you’d like to increase your running fitness, other types of exercise can help. Consider some lower and upper body weight training to increase muscle strength, yoga or Pilates to improve flexibility, and a low or no-impact cardio such as swimming to support overall fitness.
Incorporate a rest day
Everyone deserves a day off, and at least one rest day every week can help your muscles repair and assist with mental motivation.