I learnt about parkrun through a colleague whilst teaching in London back in 2009. I moved back home to Longford in 2015 and we had no parkrun there, so I set one up and have been the Event Director of Longford parkrun since May 2016. There was no doubt that Longford would make an ideal location for a junior parkrun too, and this event launched the following summer.
In the early stages we were averaging around 60 4-14 year-olds each week at the junior parkrun, which is pretty good for one of the smallest counties in Ireland. As the summer drew to a close, we came up with an idea locally called Return to School parkrun, which took place in the October.
The aim was for all the schools in Longford to be aware of junior parkrun, so I emailed all principals and promoted it on our Facebook page. Prior to the event our attendance record was 128, but on the day we doubled that to 258. Attendance figures average 100 a week now so it became well known throughout the town.
In January this year a group of us wanted to target schools individually to get their children involved more in physical activity. Schools are the best way of accessing large amounts of children at the one time and they enjoy doing what their peers enjoy. It’s a no brainer.
We started with the school that I teach in. I called it Scoil Eimear parkrun and made sure everybody else knew they could take part on the day even if they don’t attend our school. 10 of the 26 in my class are regulars due to me constantly talking about it so I asked them if they’d volunteer. They agreed to that of course. I teach 4th class so they are aged between 9 and 10. The principal was keen to promote it, so we text the parents about the event and sent letters home. I registered many kids from my class along with their siblings.
On the day 40 kids from my school took part, which was a big achievement as they very rarely do anything outside of school. Many of them are now regulars and have been back since to our run. 16 out of the 26 in my class have now ran. The kids who volunteered were brilliant. They did all the volunteer roles. Our RD (Travis aged 10) spoke on the megaphone as I would any Saturday. I gave him the briefing to learn for homework. He even put the results through with me in the cafe after.
I buddied up the children with an adult to ensure it ran smoothly. They did it to perfection. They handed out tokens, were the number checker, did timekeeping and marshaling. This has had a great impact on their confidence. It also taught them about the importance of volunteering and modelled to them what it takes to organise parkrun week on week. Children from 4 to 12 my school took part. Some day one of them may become a regular RD.
Since my class began junior parkrun, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in the children in a number of ways:
Since then, several schools have contacted us about doing the same, and three schools have events ready to go in February and March. It’s proving to be a big success.
Being a teacher in the school really helped me promote it. Everything went to plan on the day. Our photographer Lalin made sure we had plenty of photos to ensure the pupils would remember their day. If I was to do this again in my school (which I definitely will) I’d bring all the parents in and do an assembly with them about parkrun, so they can see the benefits of it. All children who participated loved it.
In between all of this, I became an ambassador for parkrun which I’m very proud of. parkrun is the best thing going!
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Castlebar parkrun in Co Mayo launched in March 2014 and since then has welcomed 2,300 walkers, runners and volunteers. Event Director Maggie Heneghan, who has been involved since the beginning, tells us more about this beautiful parkrun. I have been involved from the start of the event in 2014 and parkrun is my second…