An inspirational Magheramorne woman has told how her life has been transformed, after she took the courageous step to join Larne’s parkrun event.
Gillian Craig was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age, and doctors feared she may never be able to walk.
But the 34-year-old identical twin from Magheramorne defied expectations, taking her first steps at the age of two in a local park.
Having spent most of her early and teenage years looking on as a spectator while her friends enjoyed playing sports, Gillian took a decision six months ago which has had a profound impact on her life.
She has now become a source of inspiration for others after getting involved in 5km Larne parkrun, a free event which sees droves of people pound the pavement each Saturday morning at Carnfunnock Country Park.
Gillian, a medical receptionist at Meadowbridge Surgery in Whitehead, told the Times: “The doctor warned me that I needed to lose some weight or I could end up in a wheelchair due to my condition. So I lost three-and-a-half stone at Slimming World and decided to take up running in an effort to keep in shape.
“Joining Larne parkrun was the best thing I could have done and I wish I had tried it years ago.
“It has given me a whole new outlook on life; it has given me inspiration and enthusiasm, power and determination to succeed.
“Every time I complete the 5km course it is like a marathon for me, and I am very proud of what I have achieved.”
As well as providing Gillian with a renewed sense of purpose, the parkrun has afforded her an outlet to forge new friendships.
“The parkrun has given me respect to be treated equally and this sometimes can be difficult in the outside world,” she added.
“The encouragement and support I get from the organised parkrun teams to the runners taking part and the local support is incredible.
“The parkrun has been life changing for me. All the people involved are amazing they will never know the difference they have made to my life. I don’t look on now I take part. I don’t cheer I get cheered on.”
Gillian now hopes her story of triumph in the face of adversity will encourage others in a similar position to become more active.
She said: “I would urge anyone no matter of their ability to join a parkrun – it keeps you fit and is good for your health. You can run or walk and you can make a lot of new friends. If I can do it anyone can. Just believe in yourself don’t give up.
“I would like to thank everyone for making this possible. The friendship and warmth I get shown at every parkrun is amazing.
“From the bottom of my heart, it is a very big thank you to everyone for their help.”