Saturday, 20 January marked a big celebration for me this year: it was the date that I finally completed my 100th parkrun and become the first parkrunner at Lough Key parkrun to join the parkrun 100 Club.
Reaching the 100th parkrun is a big milestone. It even comes with its own special black t-shirt to mark the occasion. Think about it, it’s the equivalent of running a parkrun every Saturday almost without fail for two years – or running alternate Saturdays for four years. Whichever way you look at it, reaching 100 parkruns is a big commitment and I’ve achieved it. I’ve also managed to join the 25 Volunteer Club along the way having volunteered 66 times. This milestone is one I’m most proud off.
My love for parkrun began in the UK when on a visit to my Sister Alex back in October 2014. She was an established parkrunner and she dragged me along to my first parkrun at Roundhay parkrun. She in fact was running her 50th parkrun, and I was amazed at the encouragement and support that everyone gave. I think I caught what is known as ‘the parkrun bug’ before returning home to Ireland, but unfortunately there was no parkrun set up in the north-west of Ireland at that time.
In January of 2015, Sligo announced that it was to start up a parkrun, 30 minutes drive from me. I was delighted, but soon after I almost got weak when I read a call-out for a start-up team for Lough Key parkrun in my home town. I couldn’t believe it! I immediately made contact and in May 2016 Lough Key was born.
Everywhere I go I somehow incorporate parkrun into conversation: in a queue, at work, on a flight…”So do you go to parkrun?”. I love everything about parkrun, the fact that its free, the fact you can arrive on your own and never feel you are on your own. I love the comaraderie of your fellow parkrunners; the cheer from a volunteer, the facial expression on someone who has finished for the first time or achieved that all-time PB. But most of all, I love the friendships that have blossomed from that weekly visit to the Lough key; all the different characters you get to know and hearing their stories.
Last Saturday was magnificent. The joy on my face from the moment I woke up, I hadn’t even locked the door of my car in Lough Key when I heard “Congratulations!” from across the carpark. I think I hugged approximately 50 people before I even got to the start line, and 100 more at the finish. How lovely is that?
Alongside a group of my parkrunning friends we trotted the 5k together as we chatted and laughed, all the while trying not to constantly bump anyone with my 100 balloon tied to my wrist. The morning couldn’t have been any better, the ground was covered in a light blanket of snow but it was beautiful. We sure know how to celebrate in Lough Key. I was presented with a fabulous cake with a flag for every country (five) I had run a parkrun in and listed every parkrun (17) I had ever visited. Needless to say, there was nor a flag or slice left come 11am!
So, a big thank you to my sister Alex, Roundhay parkrun for infecting me with the parkrun bug, and an even bigger thank you to the Lough Key parkrun core team for all their encouragement and support.
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