parkrun Ireland celebrates its fifth birthday this weekend and we are using the occasion to announce our new participation strategy. The four-year plan involves proactively reaching out to sections of society that have the most to gain from free physical activity and volunteering opportunities.
From humble beginnings at Malahide parkrun in November 2012, which saw 159 finishers and six volunteers, parkrun in Ireland has now welcomed more than 110,000 people as walkers, runners and volunteers at 80 locations across the country – with the number of events increasing every month.
parkrun Ireland’s new participation strategy supports parkrun’s global mission to create a healthier and happier planet. It will involve proactively reaching out to the people in greatest need and working to break down the barriers to their participation, and aims to support habitual physical activity and social engagement across all ages from four upwards and provide opportunities for everyone to participate in recreational running as a runner or volunteer.
The parkrun vision has traditionally been for an event ‘in every community that wants one,’ which has meant waiting for groups to come forward requesting support in establishing a parkrun. As a result, some communities are less well-represented – often the very groups who would most benefit – including disabled people such as those with mobility impairments, learning disabilities, sensory disabilities or enduring mental health problems.
The benefits of physical activity are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the impact that parkrun has on public health. Friendship, community cohesion, mutual support, access to open space and the open air, skill development and personal and professional empowerment are just some of the reasons why participation in parkrun can lead to improved mental and physical health and happiness.
parkrun Ireland Country Manager Matt Shields said: “Our participation statistics are impressive, but parkrun Ireland’s greater achievement is the amazing community we have fostered and the positive effect it has had on lives and health of so many people.
“parkrun has a major role to play in improving the nation’s health by encouraging people to make physical activity a regular habit, which is made possible through our events that are open to everyone regardless of background, gender, age, race or income and as a result we are attractive to those who wouldn’t normally consider taking part in mainstream sports.
“Our four year participation plan aims to promote parkrun to those most in need and to encourage them to embrace the health benefits that participation at parkrun provides. We are grateful to the HSE for working with us to develop this strategy.”
Sarah O’Brien, National Lead for the HSE Healthy Eating and Active Living Programme said: “Since 2013 the HSE has been a core funder of parkrun. One of our key priorities is to encourage people to think about how they can adopt healthier lifestyles and a key part of this is staying active. parkrun provides a great opportunity to keep active and we are delighted to have supported them with their expansion and growth in Ireland over the past number of years.”
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