Setting a new personal best at parkrun is a proud achievement for anyone. But for my husband Paul the way he keeps reducing his time is truly remarkable.
He’s been getting faster almost every week and has gone from running 36 minutes at his first parkrun to getting under the 30-minute mark.
The reason why this is so special is Paul has Alzheimer’s disease. He was diagnosed five years ago at the age of just 54.
It was devastating when we got the diagnosis as there are no treatments to halt or slow dementia.
It’s been so hard seeing the man I’ve been married to for 37 years gradually decline. But getting involved in parkrun has been a bright spot for us.
I became a parkrunner first in 2017 at Shepton Mallet in Somerset. I was unable to run the full 5km – I ran a bit and walked a bit. Over time I walked less and less. Now my PB is under 39 minutes.
For a long time, I viewed parkrun as my thing. It was my time on a Saturday morning. But then one day Paul surprised me by saying he’d like to give it a go. I was delighted he wanted to be part of something I loved.
The repetitive nature of parkrun really helps him. He knows that each time the course will be the same. It’s three laps, and that familiarity is extremely important.
Paul wears his barcode pinned to his running top so that when he goes through the finish funnel, the scanner can see it. Otherwise Paul will forget to get it scanned. It was the idea of our lovely event director – we are so grateful for the efforts the volunteers have made to help Paul.
We also regularly volunteer at Junior parkrun. The team always let Paul marshal in the same position, which is a huge help.
Taking part in parkrun helps Paul maintain some independence. And he’s made new friends. There’s a group of chaps he chats to each week. That’s a big deal for Paul as he often shies away from conversations because he can struggle to keep up with what is being said.
It makes me proud to know the parkrun community is doing so much to support dementia research and help raise awareness.
If we all give our best times to Alzheimer’s Research UK this year, we’ll push them even closer to the next breakthrough. If there was a treatment that could give me more time with Paul, even giving me back half the man I’ve lost, it would be fantastic.
I know it’s likely to be too late for Paul. We know the future will be tough, so we are just trying to enjoy our time now.
But it means so much that there’s hope that in the future other people won’t have to go through what we are going through.
Getting involved in parkrun has been a bright spot for us.
It's easy to give your best to Alzheimer's Research UK
The national average parkrun time
Give the national average parkrun time to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Other ways to get involved
If you would like to Give It Your Best in others ways, parkrun and Alzheimer’s Research UK both rely upon the goodwill of volunteers to help in a variety of different roles.
From setting-up events to taking part in dementia research projects you can find out more information below.