Trails for Trials

Susan's parkrun Story

parkruns are full of fascinating stories. Folks from all walks of life come together every week to enjoy the great outdoors, some fitness, and inevitably, new friends. Now that Saucony has partnered with parkrun to sponsor parkruns all over Canada, we’re collecting some of the stories told on the trail, about the very thing that makes a parkrun so rewarding: the people.

Most people don’t kick off their running life by immediately jumping into one of the world’s biggest races, but by all accounts, parkrunner Susan Achmatowicz of London, England isn’t most people. In 2004, as Susan turned 50, she wanted to celebrate the half-century mark with something special. She figured running a marathon would provide a pretty good challenge, but she didn’t stop there.

“Everyone I spoke to said it was pretty impossible to get a place in the draw for the New York City Marathon,” Susan says, “so you can imagine my surprise/shock/horror when I received an email that started ‘Congratulations…’”

A mixed bag of elation and panic set in as Susan began her training. Inside an issue of Runner’s World, Susan found a listing for parkrun’s original 5K time trial runs in Bushy Park. “So, I turned up one day, and I loved it.”

It wasn’t long before parkruns began popping up all over London, and Susan was hooked. She now takes part in parkruns all over the city, in Hampstead Heath near her home, and Hackney Marshes when visiting friends in the East End.

This year, Susan faced a new challenge when it became clear that her parents, back home in Oshawa, Ontario, would need some extra help. Susan found herself back in her childhood home, this time as a caregiver. “It was exhausting and emotionally draining,” Susan recalls. “Shopping, cooking, chauffeuring to hospitals and doctor’s appointments.”

As she tended to her parents, Susan recognized the importance of looking after her own physical and mental well-being too, so naturally, she looked for a parkrun to join! Fortunately, a parkrun in nearby Whitby had just launched and Susan was quick to seek it out.

“My Whitby parkruns were a God-send,” Susan says. “A chance to get out of the house and meet a few other crazy folks who loved to exercise in the ice and snow! The group was small, but ever-so friendly and welcoming.” And as it turns out, she has met other runners who have also been through the ageing parents phase. “And they’ve been incredibly supportive,” Susan says.

Now, as she splits her time between the UK and Canada, Susan has found supportive squads on both sides of the Atlantic. She’s always looking forward to a return, “It will be so great to re-connect with my new-found running pals at the Whitby parkrun!”

And as for that little jog around the Big Apple that started it all? “The NYC Marathon was a great success for me,” Susan recalls. Besides the thrill of running alongside elite runners, like eventual winner Paula Radcliffe, Susan ran injury free and under her goal of 5 hours — 4:56:42!

Inspiring stories like Susan’s are just one reason to get involved in a parkrun in your neighbourhood — or even to get one started! One thing is for sure, you’ll find community, and in that, anything is possible.