The scene at DkIT on Saturday as runners began the weekly Dundalk Parkrun event. Nationally, the Parkrun movement celebrated it's 1,000,000th event this weekend. Picture: Arthur Kinahan
The parkrun initiative celebrated it’s 1,000,000th run in Ireland over the weekend – and almost three years after the movement came to Dundalk, the local group are growing ever bigger and stronger as Dundalk natives come out in force every week.
While parkrun, a flagship initiative from the Department of Health and Healthy Ireland, has been running in Ireland since 2012, the event in Dundalk will celebrate it’s third birthday this coming June.
At its peak, over 100 people come to Dundalk Institute of Technology to take part in the weekly event. Whether you are a runner, jogger or walker – all are welcome.
Infact, on a very special weekend for Parkrun, 117 people turned out on Saturday morning at DkIT – 16 of whom were newcomers and 19 of which earned personal bests.
Speaking to the Dundalk Democrat on a landmark weekend for the initiative, the aptly named Michael Parks explained what it’s all about.
“It’s free and it’s not supposed to be competitive. It’s just a run, walk or jog,” he said. “It’s you against yourself. We provide the course, courtesy of DkIT who are landlords. We provide the timing facilities and the results on the website.
“It’s about encouraging people to come out and get a bit of exercise and socialise. We try once a month to serve tea and coffee to encourage people to stay around afterwards because typically the walkers never see some of the faster runners!
“It gives people the opportunity to mix. It’s as much social as it is a run or walk,” he added.
The parkrun events are timed weekly, but it’s not a race as Michael stresses. It’s purely you against you and everyone is considered equal.
“The ethos of Parkrun is that it’s an inclusive thing,” he said. “We don’t single people out for any one reason, particularly around speed.
“Even though it’s Parkrun – and ‘run’ is in the name, we get a lot of walkers, people who take their kids or dogs. Faster guys get done in 20 minutes and some of the walkers come in close to an hour. Everyone gets treated the same.”
Inclusivity is also a big theme. At the weekend, members from the Fairview parkrun came to Dundalk to provide an awareness session on how to how guide people with visual impairments to take part.
“Our course doesn’t suit wheelchair access, it’s very narrow in parts,” Michael explains. “But we feel we could probably support visually impaired runners. Parkrun within Ireland are facilitating the training as people request it.
“It gives us one more way we can support people.”