parkwalk is a parkrun Ireland initiative that aims to help people get involved with their local parkrun as walkers with the support and guidance of Walk Leaders. On Saturday 19 May, Carlow Town parkrun became the first of four parkruns to launch the concept, as co-Event Director Lisa Kennedy explains.
Carlow Town parkrun was proud to the launch parkwalk in Ireland Saturday. parkwalk invites people to come to parkrun every week for a six-week period. They are met by Walk Leaders, who are there to meet and greet participants and guide them through their walk at their own pace.
Carlow is a town with a population of roughly 20,000 surrounded by rural areas nearby. Our parkrun was keen to get involved because we noticed we had a few walkers that were coming (often apologetically). Following feedback from one of the core group about some walkers feeling they were ‘holding everyone up’, we wanted to change that mindset. Christopher Davey, our ambassador, highlighted the parkwalk initiative and once I heard about it I thought it was a great idea.
I knew that if walkers were coming in a group together and facilitated by leaders they were more likely to join in the parkrun movement and stay without feeling unwanted. I know people who don’t go to their local parkrun because they feel intimidated by the more serious runners and are waiting until they get fitter, not realising that parkrun is there for them to do that. That’s the message we are trying to convey. Whatever your fitness level or goals parkrun is there to support you.
In the weeks leading up to the launch, a leaflet drop organised by parkrun Ireland was conducted in the areas surrounding our park to introduce the concept to local residents and invite them to come along to our parkrun. We also advertised it on Facebook, and I personally told everyone I know about it (my friends and acquaintances will honestly start crossing the street to avoid listening to me promoting it!).
The day itself was glorious weather wise! We had a very good turnout from walkers with plenty of new faces. 26 newcomers were recorded via barcode scanning, and I would definitely say a lot of the blanks on our results page were walkers either returning from a long stint away or brand new to parkrun altogether. There were lots of buggies, young people, people with dogs and the atmosphere was great.
We are hoping that we can encourage even more walkers to come along and enjoy the walk along the Barrow Track. A lot of people love the area, but are afraid to walk there alone, so parkrun has opened it up to a new audience.
I believe parkwalk will have a really positive impact on the fitness levels of the local community. There are people who don’t run because they don’t know where to start, and joining a club seems too daunting. But with parkwalk they can walk the course in comfort knowing that there are a mix of fitness levels there. Equally there are people who never want to run or due to various reasons simply can’t.
A lot of people find it difficult to do things on their own and with parkwalk the aim is to build a community of walkers who will support one another. The two leaders we have are walkers who walk in the local athletics club (St. Laurence O’Toole’s) and join in with the Fit4life group when they do their core exercises. Hopefully from this, a few from parkwalk might join them for a walk during the week in the athletics club. Also, it changes the dynamic of the parkrun community and you see a change in age profile with people bringing younger children (sometimes in buggies), older people coming to walk, and perhaps even those with disabilities and long terms health conditions such as people who are Visually Impaired. Diversity is great!
I would recommend any event take it on to dispel the myth that parkrun is for the elite or ‘fit’ or runners only. There are so many people who can benefit. There will always be an audience within a community who don’t know what parkrun is, and parkrun is a sure way of letting them know!
parkwalk will be introduced at Wexford parkrun and Longford parkrun on Saturday 26 May.
parkwalk is supported by Get Ireland Walking, a Sport Ireland initiative.
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