Meet Elaine Harold, who kick started the idea that has brought hundreds of runners and walkers to Gorey Town Park.
I moved to Gorey four years ago to be with my partner John who then lived in Ballymoney, and we now live in Gorey Town with our dog Rosie. Until I broke my leg in June 2016 I was a regular runner.
Like anyone else new to an area, I wanted to meet up with people with similar interests, and I had been thinking of starting a parkrun because I was familiar with the concept from friends in England and Scotland. But it’s one thing having an idea, and another thing altogether to follow it through and make it a reality. I had never set up anything in my life.
I contacted parkrun Ireland Country Manager Matt Shields who came and ran the course in Gorey Town Park and checked the layout and sustainability. He declared it perfect, although he did do a double-take when he saw I was on crutches!
Gorey Town Park was expanded a couple of years ago, with a new tarmac on the perimeter, and since then it has been noticeable how many more people are using it – dog walkers, runners, footballers, personal trainers with their clients and people doing boot camps. There is a great play area for the kids and also a skate park that is used by people of all ages. There is a fair bit of graffiti in the park too, which is there by design and gives it personality.
The next step was to get the support of the Sports Council and Gorey Municipal District Council, and to build a volunteer team. At our first meeting we had 11 people and a lot of them are still in the core group. At our second meeting in the Ashdown Park Hotel, we had 20 volunteers and Matt from parkrun Ireland came along so that everyone would know what is involved. And then we had our inaugural in November last year.
Not surprisingly, a lot of work goes into organising an event that is going to happen weekly – we welcomed our 500th runner after Christmas and, between week one and week nine, 53 different people volunteered. It has gone from strength to strength since then, and last Saturday we celebrated our 25th event.
Our course is five and a half laps so we suggest that people put stones or sweets in their pockets and swap or eat one on each lap. It is fast too, apart from a big hill that likes to blow people back the way they came! And after the event, we meet at Insomnia for some post-parkrun socialising and a hot drink.
Gorey parkrun has been great for the community. There was nothing like that in Gorey beforehand, and people regularly comment on the fact that something was needed in Gorey to give it a sense of community. We recently have been given an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) for the clubhouse, and most of the core team have been trained to use it.
And yes we have our characters, of course we do. One such character is John Kavanagh – whenever he sees sight of a camera he has this compulsion to jump in the air, hands waving, and always with a smile.
My son Daniel was born with a condition called Sotos syndrome which is a rare genetic disorder. It causes Daniel to have overgrowth severe intellectual disability, visual impairment, and sensory processing disorder, severe epilepsy, feeding difficulties and challenging behaviour. Daniel is also incontinent and nonverbal. The early years were very tough coming to terms…
We’ve been so busy running that we’ve barely noticed the shops filling with twinkling lights and festive cheer – all trying to remind us that it’s only five weeks until The Big Day! Or, in parkrunners’ terms, five weeks until we don Santa hats for our Christmas parkrun and generally feel great for getting out…