Report by Karl Chatterton
Photos sourced from the Marley Parkrun Facebook page: Gallery
In October 2004 Paul Sinton-Hewitt was an injured runner who created a 5k time trial to help with the training of his club mates and friends. The first run saw 13 people run a 5k route around Bushy Park in London. This was the start of the global phenomenon called parkrun. Parkrun has now grown to 753 events across 13 countries and last weekend 148000 people participated globally.
Parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt with An Cathaoirleach from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown CC
Parkrun is a free, 5k, timed run that takes place in parks every Saturday morning. Each event is organised by volunteers and relies on participants volunteering when they can. The events are purposely described as a run rather than a race in order to provide a friendly welcoming atmosphere for runners, joggers and walkers alike. There are no winners, only finishers.
I first started attending parkrun when living in Leeds in 2010. At that time I used to do a bit of running on my own and hadn’t even considered joining a running club. I heard about parkrun and decided to head along one Saturday morning. I ran 19:51 in my first run. When I looked back at the results later that day, I noticed that I’d finished before quite a few runners from lots of different running clubs. This gave me the confidence to go along to my local club.
In 2011 I moved to Dublin. At the time parkrun hadn’t crossed the Irish Sea. In November 2012 the first Irish parkrun started in Malahide. I ran it a couple of times and through this I met a small group of people who were looking to start a parkrun in Marlay park. This was far more convenient for me so I agreed to get involved. After months of planning, DLR County Council agreed that we could hold the new event in Marlay park and provided the initial funding required to get the event up and running. Parkrun in Ireland is going from strength to strength and there are now 44 events across Ireland, from Bere Island to Falcarragh. All organised and run by volunteers.
Over the last couple of years parkrun for me has gone from more than just a run on a Saturday morning to a social event and chance to catch up with friends for a run and a coffee afterwards. We seem to spend much more time in the coffee shop than actually running!
This year Operation Transformation have partnered with parkrun and will be encouraging their viewers to participate as part of their training. Last weekend saw the RTE cameras come along to officially launch this initiative. Joining them for this was VIP guest Paul Sinton-Hewitt, founder of parkrun. News of the OT cameras and Pauls visit as well as all the New Year resolutions saw well over 600 people gather on the start line at the back of the park.
I’d decided at the last minute that we had enough volunteers for the morning that I could run and help out around the finish area afterwards. The first 1k involves a climb up the only real hill on the course, and by the time we reached the top, three of us were starting to create a bit of a gap to the rest of the field. By the time we reached the 3k marker the field was well strung out and I was on my own at the front. I crossed the line in 18:02 to a big cheer from the volunteers gathered at the finish before being handed a high vis jacket to help organise the 600 runners who were coming in thick and fast behind me.
If you’ve not tried parkrun before and would like to give it a go just register online at www.parkrun.ie, print out your barcode and come along to one of the events near you. Once you have your barcode you can run at any parkrun event anywhere in the world.