I used to be what you could call a ‘winter athlete’. My friend Ann and I would join the gym for three months – from November to January – and go a few nights a week. We also did some walks around the local roads, but any little excuse would mean I would not go.
I was sick of waking up on a Saturday morning around 11 or 12 with a headache from staying in bed too long. I didn’t get these headaches during the week, just at weekends, and I figured they were from staying in bed too long. As it turned out, I was right.
I heard about parkrun online, so I registered online that day and printed off the barcodes. I hadn’t been physically active for a few months when I went along to parkrun for the first time, but the hardest part of that first parkrun was getting out of the bed at 8am, getting dressed and giving myself “a good talking to”. I’d actually failed to do it the previous two weeks, so it was third time lucky! I wore my comfortable tracksuit bottoms, t-shirt and runners.
I wasn’t sure where in Lough Key the parkrun started from, but I told myself you are old enough to figure it out and there will be signs around for people. I was worried that I would be late, and everyone would be gone, so I left in plenty of time. I met a few people who looked dressed for the run; I asked them where it was starting from and they directed me, which was really reassuring.
There was a doubt in the back of my mind as to whether I would be able to finish the full 5k, so I was delighted to see two friends there and we decided we would do it together. When the whistle blew we all started off, and after a few minutes the three of us were on our own. I was trying to walk as fast as I could so that I would not be keeping the girls waiting. I had a pain in my shins and I had to keep stopping, but the girls were very supportive and did not rush me. David, our Tail Walker that day, soon caught up with us and he encouraged us all the way to the finish line. I was delighted to see the finish, where the marshals cheered us on as we passed through. I felt as if we had won a gold medal at the Olympics! It was a huge confidence boost to know that we hadn’t held anyone up, just the opposite – everyone was so happy to see us come through after more than an hour.
Afterwards, we went to the cafe and had a skinny latte and a chat. It was lovely to sit out on the decking and talk to people, and this for me has become the most enjoyable part of what many of us now simply refer to as ‘parkrunday’.
parkrun is now my favourite part of the week, and it has brought a lot of new friends in to my life whom I never would have meet otherwise. I don’t have to give myself “the talking to” to get out of bed, once the alarm goes I’m out. No headache for the day. I usually leave Lough Key around 12.30 to 1pm after sitting with my new friend Dave and others for a few hours chatting and catching up on the week. My favourite volunteer role so far has been marshalling on the home stretch coming out of the woods, as it gave me the chance to return the favour to cheer the runners who have marshalled and cheered me on when I am running.
I have completed a Tri a Tri with Lough Key Triathlon Club and did the Toughest Muckers, also in Lough Key, which I would never have contemplated before getting fit doing parkrun. I am more motivated to stay fitter since joining parkrun and not just getting fit over the winter. My most memorable moment was my 36th run when I broke 40 minutes for the first time and was able to run the whole 5k with out stopping for a rest. I never thought I would be able to achieve it.
parkrun has had a big impact on my life outside of parkrun too. Being part of a team that runs a nursing home can be very stressful, so during my run on Saturday morning it gives me time to go through in my head some problems that arise at work and usually by the end of the run I have some solutions to solving these issues.
I am always promoting parkrun to my work colleagues, residents, families and visitors. Some staff, resident families and visitors have started parkrunning and some are thinking of doing so. The residents may not be running yet, but they check the Roscommon Herald each week for the pictures and love showing me my picture when it’s in.
My advice to new parkrunners is to do what I did and bite the bullet – put on some runners and try it once as you have nothing to lose and an enormous amount to gain, and also “don’t forget your barcode”! It a great sense of achievement each week when you go through the finish funnel.
Everyone associated with parkrun are very friendly and encouraging. Even the people who are just out walking their dogs or bringing their kids on their bikes encourage the parkrunners as they go by.
31-year-old Dean Beirne credits Lough Key parkrun with transforming him from a 20-a-day smoker to a 3:18 marathon runner in just three years. This is his story: parkrun has changed my life dramatically since running my first parkrun in October 2014 at Roundhay parkrun in Leeds. It was not a planned visit – my…
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