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Social Connectivity and Belonging through Running

Running to me is an activity I use to challenge my physical fitness and to look after my well-being. It’s a time I give myself to explore and resolve thoughts and to connect to the liberating and energizing feeling that comes with each stride. I often describe my relationship with running as exhilarating and addictive – enjoying the process of pushing my limits, working toward new Pb's and reaching milestones. When running, I find myself becoming completely absorbed in the activity, developing a greater awareness of my body’s movement and breath regulation, finding clarity and control in my mind. With this heightened sense of fluidity between my mind and body comes a feeling of energised focus allowing me to slip into what’s called a ‘flow state’, something many recognise as being ‘in the zone’.

In January 2019 I discovered Parkrun. A growing community of individuals of all backgrounds, abilities and ages coming together to share a common drive to be active and to be part of the community. I immediately recognised that regardless of whether you were a competitive runner or a recreational runner, attending alone or in a group, parkrun presented a safe and supportive environment for any individual. Having always enjoyed running alone I was now introduced to the idea of social connectivity and belonging through sport. I felt a new motivation to want to prioritise parkrun as a weekly activity, driven by this newfound sense of relatedness and enthusiasm that we all shared over this common goal.

Parkrun cultivated a growing enthusiasm within me to not only want to share how I found strength through running but to more broadly emphasise the greater value that movement holds for us. In recognising this, I further identified that one of the strongest factors for individuals initial and sustained involvement was the element of support they received through parkrun. In this way, I began to want to play more of a role, to give back, to volunteer my time knowing that I was contributing to the growth of the parkrun movement in my local area.

Two months later, in searching for a group that I could share these values with, I came across GoodGym. A running group that inspires others to get fit whilst doing good! As part of the group I run/walk weekly tasks and missions to help out at schools, community and sport centers, community gardens and go litter-picking in the local area. Anyone and anywhere that needs help, we’ll be there!

Surrounding myself by like-minded individuals who share similar interests offers both feelings of enjoyment and encouragement to me. I feel a sense of accomplishment from my own achievements in being part of these groups, as well as hearing about the experiences of those around me. Having recently injured myself through sport, this has become even more prominent to me. Despite the frustration of this set-back and how I itch to run, the inclusive ethos of both these exercise initiatives allows me to still be part of these movements, whether that be through walking to tasks or volunteering. In doing so, I feel motivated to aid my healing process, to re-gain strength and to not lose sight of my running goals.


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