River Valley parkrun will celebrate its first birthday on 22 July. It is hard to believe that a year has passed as so much has happened in what seems to be such a short space of time.
I can clearly remember having so many mixed feelings on the morning of our first parkrun. Excitement for what was to come. Pride in seeing our new parkrun taking shape. Fear that nobody would turn up or would care.
I had initially became involved in parkrun through Brian and Michael Spratt, who are now regulars at River Valley. They told me about Malahide parkrun one day and asked me to come down. I had a number of injuries from playing football and began running instead to maintain fitness. parkrun helped me develop my fitness again, but I enjoyed the social side of it far more. I would regularly run in Malahide and enjoyed meeting people after the run for a chat.
River Valley parkrun came about from a chance meeting with parkrun Ireland country manager Matt Shields. My friend Patricia Kelly had set up Lough Key parkrun and I was at the inaugural event, and both Matt and I ran around the course after the run to take down the signs. While chatting, I told him that I always thought it was a shame that there was no parkrun in Swords. He told me that someone had tried to do it before and the groundwork was there but they needed someone to get it going. That Monday, I emailed him and told him that I would get it up and running. That email changed my life.
A location had already been chosen and the funding came from Fingal County Council. Councillor Eugene Coppinger worked tirelessly behind the scenes, liaising with parkrun and the Council. He was extremely helpful and still regularly runs and helps out.
The core team was initially made up of family and friends who agreed to help me out. My fiancée (now wife) had only ever done one parkrun before and was a great help to me in setting up the parkrun. I also recruited people that I knew from Malahide parkrun who had an interest in running and getting involved. The core team has changed quite a bit since the beginning but the enthusiasm has remained the same.
That fear I mentioned earlier prior to our inaugural event quickly disappeared as people started posting about their excitement on our Facebook page. And those people came in their droves! 129 brave souls turned up to see what River Valley could throw at them. Most of them were locals who were familiar with the park, but we had visitors from all over as well. All 129 finished our first run with a smile on their ace and with kind words on their lips.
As each week passed, we got to know more and more parkrunners. We heard their stories and learned about their lives. People who did not know each other at the start would stop and talk once parkrun was over. From such simple beginnings, many friendships have grown and developed.
We have accomplished a lot over the course of this year but for us, the most rewarding part of parkrun and the one that we always tell people about, is the sense of community that is evident each week in River Valley. It is lovely to see families come out each week to walk, jog, run and volunteer together. At Christmas and Halloween, we were delighted to see so many people dress up and get into the spirit of things. As each week passed, we could see the sense of community continue to blossom. Now our little parkrun feels like a close family
Personally I feel that parkrun has brought our little community together and there is a lovely atmosphere in River Valley each week.
Not only that, we have a number of runners who had never completed a 5k run or walk before joining parkrun. It is amazing to see not only their fitness grow, but their confidence too.
We were particularly astounded by the support that we received when we fundraised for a defibrillator for the parkrun. We had hoped to have 10 tables at our table quiz in the Old Boro. However, we were bowled over when we not only filled ten seats, but all of the rest of the
seats in the pub too! It really highlighted for us the support that people have for our little parkrun.
As the first birthday approaches, I have looked back on the past year and can honestly say that it has been one of the most rewarding and
satisfying years of my life. I’ve had an amazing year and have loved getting to know more people in my community. I’d have no hesitation in suggesting to people that they set up a parkrun in their area.
I cannot wait to see what happens to our parkrun in the weeks, months and years to come. Here’s to many more years of parkrun!
Are you interested in bringing parkrun or junior parkrun to your community? Please get in touch.
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