I’m Claire and a few years ago I started running to get fitter and better manage the daily challenges of life!
I’ve met lots of amazing people through running and it brings great benefits for my mental and physical health. My partner Carole and our 5 year old daughter Seren prefer to cycle but this was not working for our son Ben so we needed to find something else. Ben is 7 years old, has autism and significant sensory challenges, as well as being largely non verbal, so finding activities that he enjoys doing and which don’t overwhelm him can be difficult. However, he loves the wind in his face, whether on the back of our bikes when he was younger or hanging out the car window at every opportunity so, last Autumn, with lots of advice and encouragement from Team Kerr, and the loan of an Aaron’s Army jogger, Ben and I had a few ‘test’ runs around Citypark parkrun, Craigavon and at Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor.
The aim was to see if this might be something which would help get Ben outdoors, meeting new people, going to different locations and enjoying the parkrun experience. While the start / finish formalities proved challenging, the actual runs, especially any downhills, resulted in great delight for Ben and a super workout for me! Such was the positive impact on Ben that we got our own jogger and have recently committed to run all 24 parkruns throughout Northern Ireland. Ben loves seeing the photo of his running jogger on his schedule for Saturday mornings - he uses the words ‘buggy run’ with great excitement and he is now keen to explore and play in the various parks that we visit – all of this is a huge deal for a boy whose anxieties and fear of the unknown meant he previously struggled anytime we went somewhere new.
Carole and Seren come with us to as many runs as possible and the ability to spend this family time together, outdoors, doing something that we all enjoy is priceless.
As there don’t seem to be many local parkrun reviews by runners using running chairs / joggers, Sandra and David suggested that maybe we could put together some brief thoughts / reflections on each of the runs, accessibility issues etc., which may help others considering pushing joggers in these locations.
There are obviously different issues of relevance to each individual’s particular circumstances but hopefully our observations will offer some insight, and maybe encouragement, to others thinking about getting out there as it really is great fun and very rewarding for everyone involved.