River Valley parkrun in Swords launched in July 2016, with 129 finishers and 13 volunteers.
We asked Run Director Peter Trevaskis to tell us how he went from thinking he was not cut out for running to being hooked on parkrun and involved in a core team, and to let us in on the secret of conquering “The Hill”…
I started running about six years ago when my son dragged me along to a local 5k event and proceeded to nearly kill me! He was in his late 20s and I had recently entered my 50s. He is still useless at pacing! I thought I was simply not cut out for running.
My daughter took over and brought me out one evening when we managed to complete 4k with me running the whole time. She then introduced me to this new thing called parkrun by taking me to Malahide. I was hooked.
Roll on two years later and we hear that a parkrun is starting in River Valley. We thought we should support it as we live in River Valley but our hearts would always be in Malahide. We attended the inaugural River valley parkrun and we were instantly smitten. We thought we would feel like we were cheating on Malahide but the reality was River Valley from the very first run it felt like home. To put this in context I met and made friends with a family who I had never spoken to before the River Valley parkrun started. They have lived less than 75 metres from me for more than 30 years.
We meet up at the finish, which is not far from the main entrance to the park, opposite the main River Valley community centre. From there we make our way to the start that is hidden from view about 300 metres from the finish. From the start you take a beautiful path down through the first of the forest paths towards the bridge. When you approach the bridge there will be a marshal to direct you left with a cheer and a shout of encouragement.
Follow the path along the Ward River until you come to the gym equipment. Then you start the climb of “The Hill”, where on the first lap you will be greeted by the volunteer team. There might even be some music with “Ain’t no mountain high enough” being a popular choice on the official River Valley playlist. At the top you turn right into another forest path. This is, for me, the nicest part of the course and full of the smells of the season. Keep an eye out for the olive tree! When you reach the end of the forest path you follow it around the bottom of the soccer pitches. You continue to follow the path to the finish line where you can take heart from the fact there is only one more lap to go.
“The Hill” is definitely the most distinguishing feature of River Valley. It is a 12 metre climb over 200 metres. When I write that down it doesn’t sound that bad but as many visitors will tell you, it is the second lap that will get you every time. The real cruel part of the hill is when you approach the turn into the forest, mentally and visually you have reached the natural top of the hill but you haven’t. When you turn the corner there is still another 20 metres of serious climb and while you may think that is the top a slight incline continues for another 100 metres or so. The secret to conquering the hill is pacing yourself, otherwise you may spend 200m or 300m recovering. To put it in perspective, the course record at River Valley is 16:37 and the course record at Malahide is 15:02.
We love parkrun tourists! We are a close community but absolutely love welcoming people into our community even if it is just a brief visit on a Saturday morning. A common thing we will see is the one day tourist. These are parkrunners who take advantage of cheap flights from the UK and fly over for the day for the express purpose of taking on a parkrun followed by a day trip into Dublin. We are the closest parkrun to the airport unless you are a crow and have flight clearance from Dublin Airport air traffic control. We are on the 102 bus route that you can take direct from the airport to the main entrance to the park. Look out for the parkrun banner on the gates of the park.
On that note, we are an extremely diverse group of people with representatives from the UK, France, Canada, USA, Latvia, Poland, South Africa and the Philippines amongst others.
Local cafes are haphazard so we took the step of setting up a gazebo with tea and coffee at the finish each week. Tea and coffee is free. There is always a great buzz around the gazebo and there is, on occasion fruit and there may even be cake!
Sports are well served in the local community except for people who are not in to team sports. It also helps if you are young. Our parkrun has opened up a world of recreational activity for all ages and all levels of fitness and this can be seen from the spread of ages in the field but also the spread of times. We cheer everyone home whether they are close to breaking the course record or simply completing their first 5k in whatever time.
However, the real thing that River Valley parkrun has done is brought families together. There are very few people taking part each week who are not related to someone else in the event that day. In fact only two members of the core team are not related to someone else in the core team in some way. If we were to give one message to convey what River Valley is about to someone, it would be the words of one of our participants, “We are family!”
I love River Valley with a passion because it is our community, it is our people. But don’t just take it from me! Here’s Stephen Ryan, one of our regulars…
We are the Ryan Clan of River Valley: Sandra, myself Stephen, and our ten year old triplet boys Jack, James and Joar.
In 2010 when the boys were going through the “terrible twos” I started running as a way of relieving the stress caused by being a triplet dad and keep up with a demanding job. I had played some soccer before but never had tried pure running (I could only manage 2 x 2k laps of the local park with a two minute break between each lap). I loved it though and got hooked on the running buzz and I set about trying to convince Sandra to give it a lash, explaining all the positive effects of running. She was never a runner and neither did she intend to become one. It took me a few years of nagging before she relented and she finally decided to give it a lash.
In July of 2016 some local heroes started a parkrun event in River Valley, right behind our house in the park where I had taken it up six years previously – home territory, the field of dreams. We really liked the parkrun philosophy of bringing the community together and enjoyed the social concept of getting out in the park on a Saturday morning with the neighbors and other parkrun tourists and getting a good “sweat out” before many people are even out of bed. So Sandra and I both started joining, with completely different goals (my goal was a sub 20 run, Sandra’s was to get across the finish line!). This is the beauty of parkun – everybody is welcome. All ages, shapes and fitness levels. Thanks to parkrun, Sandra has now completed her first half marathon!
We both feel it is very important to encourage our boys to get involved in sports and running is a pure raw natural activity – we were born to run, running does not cost much. We really see a difference in their attitude once they do some sort of athletic activity every day and parkrun is a weekend staple in our house.
parkrun itself is free, all you have to do is print (and ideally laminate) the all-important parkrun barcode. Our boys are now doing the parkrun with their friends from the taekwondo club and football team. The boys also participate in the local 2k junior parkrun in Holywell and when we visit family in Sweden we can do parkrun in Orebro. No matter the parkrun, everyone is a very friendly bunch.
River Valley and Holywell are from our experience especially friendly and both have a great family participation. The volunteers are very encouraging and positive, and Sandra and I volunteer at both events too.
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