As some of you may be aware, our incredible National Health Service is turning 70 years this Summer! As part of the celebrations, over a hundred parkruns across the UK hosted a #NHS70 parkrun to say a great big thankyou to the NHS, and hopefully inspire more people to get active. The initiative was backed by Dame Kelly Holmes, who worked as a nursing assistant prior to becoming a world-celebrated athlete. I was lucky enough to organise this special event at my local parkrun this weekend, and what an inspiring morning it was.
We invited parkrunners to take part in NHS-themed fancy dress, and we were joined by NHS staff who completed the 5km course in their uniforms. We also organised a range of pacers from 28 to 40 minutes, and a dedicated walkers group to encourage and support parkrunners of all abilities. 512 parkrunners completed the course, and we had some pretty amazing outfits; including the winner who crossed the line in 17:54 dressed in a full set of scrubs! But my personal favourite has to be the double-running buggy dressed as an ambulance (complete with flashing blue light) constructed by my partner for our 6-month old niece and nephew! I was a 34 minute pacer and ran in my veterinary scrubs to show my support for our human counterparts, as part of the One Health initiative.
There was an almost tangible atmosphere of positivity and community spirit. This seems particularly important given how much negative press there has been surrounding the NHS recently, amidst continued budgets cuts, staff shortages and rows over junior doctor contracts. I always feel slightly magical, standing there at 9am with hundreds of other anonymous parkrunners (knowing that there are thousands of others around the world), coming together to start our day with something truly positive before we disperse again into our normal lives. But this one felt particularly special, as NHS workers and parkrunners ran together to show our support, and our gratitude to the best healthcare system in the world.
My own recent experience with the NHS came at one of the hardest times in my life, but the care and kindness I received was second to none and every single member of staff treated me with complete compassion. So this is my thank you. Thank you to the nurse who performed our first scan, and gave us confidence by saying what great parents she thought we’d make. Thank you to the incredible porter who stayed with me when I was in floods of tears outside theatre and shared her own experience of miscarriage. Thank you to the anaesthetists and surgeons who put up with my medical questions (note, vets do not make good patients!). Thank you to the nurses and health-care assistants who cared for me in my recovery. Thank you to each one of you for making the most awful time bearable.
Almost every single one of our parkrunners today will have had their own stories and their own private reasons for taking part, and this made it an incredibly special and moving event to be a part of. I hope that this event goes some way towards expressing how grateful we all are. Thank you NHS heroes.