I know someone who knows someone and got on the list of visitor attendees for the Progression parkrun in Mountjoy, Dublin.

Each parkrun is all about the community and there is always some element that makes an event unique and a positive experience – even if the event contains an inconvenient hill or the course is a refurbished industrial wasteland (hello Cork parkruns!!). There tends to be a kind of ethos to each – anything from rules focused to a borderline cult operation like Tralee.  My favourite was the one with a pre race briefing being essentially “And mind that burnt out motorbike by the flyover. Go!”

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Here, seeing as you go through all the prison security rigmarole before the briefing, the parkrun itself turns out to be one of the more relaxed ones.

The course is circa 7 times around what I would like to say is a prison yard but really it is just the prison building perimeter, on tarmac with a gradual incline which becomes less gradual as the lap-count goes up.  There is plenty of support and shout-outs along the way.  It is not a fast course as there are too many sharp corners.

And never thought I would be chatting with the lads about training approaches, how to break 20 (I was giving tips here all casual like) or the monotony of the treadmill and gym facilities.  The chats and tea/cake after were the same vibe as every Saturday morning, and everyone was so friendly and welcoming.  The latter, whilst sounding a bit trite, makes such a difference when you are attending a parkrun for the first time.

Apart from the ostensible benefits of parkrun for both the participants and volunteers, the hope is this event will also help link the prisoners to the outside community. After release, the guys can approach their local parkrun with confidence and hopefully expand their social network. Well, they have me hooked on this idea anyhow – I will always relish the chance to hang out with anyone who will listen to me drone on about sub19s.  

Finally, a particular thank you to the volunteers – there seems to be a good bit of extra work in putting on this event, and it’s really appreciated by the guests.