Being More Connected

Yesterday i attended an information day ran by the

Campaign to end loneliness

Organisation.

There were a number of things happening throughout the day such as an information morning in City hall, a thing called “chatty busses” which were designed to stimulate conversations, a documentary and a disco. Everything was designed to get people to become more connected with each other. I was asked to attend the information morning to help promote the

My guide service

From Guide dogs to people and see if they would be happy to volunteer for it. I have recently become involved with training volunteers to deliver this service myself. There were a number of other stalls there too such as the Red Cross, Age NI, the police, as well as many other organisations. There was also a pop up choir. All of this was designed to get people more connected with each other.

After a spot of lunch, the people from the campaign organised a mini bus to take us over to attend a free screening of a documentary called

Older Than Ireland

Which was about 30 people who had lived to be 100 years old and their lives. I had never seen it before so decided to go along to see what it was about. It was held in the Queens’ film theatre in Belfast. When we arrived, we were given a cup of tea before watching the documentary, followed by a question and answer session with a panel of speakers. It was a very funny documentary and my first thoughts were when watching it is that loneliness can happen to any one of us, and it doesn’t have to be something that only happens to older people. This could be through something as simple as moving to a new area or starting a new job. I got thinking that we all have to make an effort to do something to stop us becoming lonely if we can such as starting a conversation on a bus or just saying hello to someone.

It was home time after this but there was also a disco later on that night which i didn’t go to.

It was a great day and i think there should be more days held like this to bring everybody together. It was such a simple concept too, but one that people seem to have trouble with as we’re always in a rush to get somewhere or be somewhere. I don’t think there will ever be no loneliness, but i do think we can all do something to help.


The Parkrun Experience

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Me Time.”

Which is kind of a weird title, i’ve decided to write about something i do every Saturday morning, and many others do to, as the theme for this post was what you do on a Saturday.

II am of course talking about something called
Parkrun
I can’t even remember how i heard of Parkrun, but all i know is that i signed up for it in about March last year as i wanted to make sure i would be able to walk the 8 miles of the Belfast Marathon, so thought i’d join Parkrun. You have to register online, so that you can get a barcode. All parkruns operate a “no barcode, no time, no exceptions” rule, so when you register, as long as you bring along either your printed barcode, or a
Durable one from ERS
then you can join any parkrun in the world. All you have to do is turn up and get your barcode scanned at the end of the run.

I was initially very nervous about signing up to parkrun, so i tentatively sent an email to the event director at my local parkrun explaining that i had a guide dog and that i wasn’t running the course. I thought “There’s no way they’ll let me join in”, but i got an email saying that i just had to turn up on the Saturday and they would arrange for a guide or “Marshil” to accompany me around the course. I have never looked back. I was made to feel so welcome, and it was great to be part of something where your disability wasn’t the main focus of the event. Sure the volunteers and runners would ask, but there is no harm in that is there? Each week a marshil has been provided to accompany me and Ushi around the course without fail. I would never do it on my own as it is so open. All i have to do is tell whoever is accompanying me wwhat i need, and if i don’t have Ushi, i will just take their elbo.

What makes Parkrun even better is that nobody cares what time you do. You always get a cheer and a round of applause at the end of the run. You don’t have to run it either so that is good too. I always felt like i was being pulled around when i ran at school, so i’m not too keen, although many visually impaired people do and can run very well in fact. I do sometimes think that i am being a burden on the parkrun, but most of the people who accompany me can’t run anyway as they are injured in some way so it’s better for them to walk.

I have ran, or walked, in my case, 37 parkruns to date. When you reach 50, you get a club t shirt which has the parkrun logo on the front, and a big red 50 at the back. There are also 100 and 150 runs i think.

My local parkrun has been going for nearly 3 years, and has about 105 runners each week. Some of the runs i have been to have about 2 or 300 so it’s different depending on where you go. Each parkrun relies on a total of about 8 volunteers. Without the volunteers, there would be no parkrun. Volunteers are needed to over see the whole event, scann the barcodes, hand out finishing tokens which are matched up to your barcode with your time, be a time keeper and backup timer, be a tail runner, who is someone who stays at the back of all the runners. Once the tail runner comes in, then the parkrun has finished. There are also people who have to set up, and of course a marshil to accompany me.

Every parkrun i have attended have welcomed me with open arms, as long as i email a new parkrun about a week in advance before just turning up. The best thing is that nobody cares that i walk and have no intention of running.

The parkruns are free to attend for anybody.

Some of the parkruns have even got guides trained up in how to guide a blind or partially sighted runner, should this be desired.

It is so hard to keep active if you’re visually impaired, so i think parkrun is fantastic for that. Obviously it would depend on the person but i feel if you like walking or running, then parkrun is perfect.

The amount of people i randomly mention parkrun to is quite amazing. I even have got a few people involved with it.

If i miss a parkrun for whatever reason, i feel rather strange. You can be really tired in the morning before a parkrun, but when you turn up the craic and buzz of it all soon gets you motivated to do it. Plus, if god forbid, you happened to have an injury or fall, a runner will soon stop to make sure you are okay.

So i shall end by thanking parkrun for welcoming everyone, no matter what size, ability, four legs or 2, or even wheels, you are awesome.

So has anyone heard of Parkrun, and if so how did you get involved? What other things do people like to do on a Saturday morning?