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Running inspires Bedford GP who helps others get fit and fight loneliness

05 June 2018


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Local GP Dr Jenny Wilson organises parkrun – free running events, in Bedford and says it is the ideal activity to help people to get fit, and meet others as it is so sociable. 

She is inviting people to join in on Saturday 9 June when parkrun events all over the country will be dedicated to celebrate the NHS70th birthday, and the Bedford Park venue is set to be full of NHS staff, with many people in fancy dress and a real party atmosphere.

Jenny first went running when her school PE teacher sent her on a cross-country run with the boys’ group following an argument. She enjoyed it and asked to go again.  Always last to be picked for a team because of poor hand-eye co-ordination, Jenny walked everywhere when she was a medical student, as she couldn’t afford to take the bus.

Jenny says: When I was a junior doctor I needed to keep active for my sanity and I used to just run out of the front door for 20 minutes, but in Cameroon where I worked as a missionary doctor for two years it was too hot to do specific exercise.”

Once she settled in Bedford over 20 years ago as a GP, Jenny started running again – initially with Race for Life, after a practice nurse suggested a team challenge, and has run regularly since then.

Jenny continues: “My biggest barrier to exercise has been time. As a junior doctor in the 1980s I was working up to 130 hours a week. As a GP in Bedford I was often on call or working shifts, making it hard to fit in exercise as well as family time. I did sometimes swim – doing a slow breaststroke like a swan, but found it boring.  My mum joined a gym at the age of 80 and challenged me with a five day trial membership but I much prefer to be outside.

“After my daughter was born my weight went up to 12 stone - too much for my 5’4” height. Then, when a patient asked me when I was due to give birth, it gave me both a shock, and the stimulus to exercise and get back to a healthy weight.”

Jenny didn’t think of herself as a ‘runner’ until seven years ago when her brother in law,  who was involved the early days of parkrun in Bushy excitedly told her that it was starting in Bedford. As well as parkrun, Jenny has run the London Marathon as a volunteer guide runner for a blind participant in 2017 – a role of enormous trust.

People often ask Jenny if running is bad for their knees, but she says: “My mother and grandmother both had severe osteoarthritis but I’ve run for over 35 years and have only had one very minor issue which was easily sorted by a physiotherapist. I now make sure that I incorporate some strength training to protect my ageing body.

“The great thing about parkrun, is that there is no pressure to go fast, and you are outdoors in lovely surroundings.  But best of all, you meet people, making it one of the best ways to fight loneliness which affects many people of all ages. I have made new friends there and am a volunteer, and there is always time to chat over a coffee afterwards at the Bedford Park Pavilion.”

Bedford parkrun for NHS70 takes place in Bedford Park at 9am on Saturday 9 June, starting with a warm up at 8.45, organised by the GP exercise scheme at Fusion.  The event is organised by volunteers and is free. Find out more on the website:  http://www.parkrun.org.uk/bedford/ 

If you have a story about the NHS and why you love it, please send it to Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group at NHS70.Stories@nhs.net  

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