Meriel Ascott- #HealthyLuton Ambassador

Meriel Ascott- #HealthyLuton Ambassador

Meriel Ascott

'I can't believe my wife runs' says my husband. Indeed a few years ago who'd have thought it?! Certainly NOT me! Bad memories of primary school sports days and hating the feeling of getting hot and sweaty and out of breath helped me to avoid most aerobic activity. I hadn't been completely inactive through my adult life. I have enjoyed dancing, swimming, walking and playing the odd game of badminton but exercise was not a habit of my life that I gave any real priority to. Life is busy and bringing up children whilst working too seemed to consume me leaving not much time left over to look after myself.

Friends can be life savers or life drainers and one of my besties who had been the former was about to turn into the latter I feared as one day, in 2016, she asked me the most horrific question: Would I enrol with her on the Stopsley Striders Beginners Running Course? What?? I mean, did she really not get what she was asking me? There is true, deep friendship but she was seeking to take ours to another level entirely! How long had she known me? I couldn't think of anything more hideous so she offered a caveat – I wouldn't have to attend any more after the first week if I really hated it. Ok. Friendship involves a degree of sacrifice I know and this was mine!

So there I was – in my flared dance leggings and Aldi trainers. Week 1 done!

You cannot imagine my sense of achievement as I found that with the right encouragement I could run to the next lamp post and gradually over the weeks, the next and then the next with walking times in between getting less and less. I realised I hadn't experienced that sense of triumph over anything for so long and it was empowering. I didn't care that I hadn't got all the gear because now at least I had some idea!

Week by week we gritted our teeth and through disbelieving moans and groans we found that 'these girls can'. We actually could and we did!

In July 2016, a few weeks later, we completed our first ever ParkRun at Luton Wardown. What a feeling! We felt so proud of ourselves and I'm still thankful 6 years on every time I cross the finish line that my body still lets me run for 5K without stopping.

Since then, I haven't achieved anything in running that is as astonishing. Rather my sense of achievement comes as I recall how I kept up the habit, learning to run solo in lockdown and keeping accountable to my encouraging friends, so that as Park Run returned each member of our little 'Jolly Joggers' Whatsapp group was able to participate and complete the 5K circuit without stopping, once more. That to me was so good.

There you have it – a seemingly unremarkable story of an ordinary Lutonian who through friendship and the support of her family, Stopsley Striders and Park Run, is able to do something she knows, for her, is remarkable!

This journey into developing an exercise habit has brought me more friendship, better physical and mental health, enjoyment (well actually running is still a love/hate thing for me) an opportunity to give back by volunteering and an incredible sense of achievement which has built my confidence. I am more open to trying new things and now have set myself a new challenge – but that's for another time.

I cherish Luton Wardown Park Run. It is so inclusive. Everyone is welcome and…here's the good news don't HAVE to run it! Walkers are welcome too.

Oh, one last thing – I eventually bought myself some running gear but it hasn't made me run any quicker. So there you go, no special gear required AND Park Run is free! See you at 8.45am on Saturday at the band stand :)

How to get involved:

12 week beginners running course- Starting April 2022!

Are you interested in trying something new or perhaps would like to take up running? Then Stopsley Striders new beginners course is for you! Starting Thursday 28th April at Inspire Sports Village and running for 12 weeks. If you would like more information please visit their website or email: #LutonLetsGetActive