Patricia Kelly is Event Director at Lough Key parkrun in Boyle, Co. Roscommon. She had set up a group called Boyle Running which was a couch to 5k meet up group. She was aware of parkrun and was very interested to bring it to her adopted county of Roscommon and hometown of Boyle, and the beautiful Lough Key Forest Park was the obvious choice…
From the outset we all agreed that parkrun is so much more than a run/walk. It is a way of connecting with the wider community. It is a way of bringing people together. It is a way of showing people from all walks of life that being fitter is within their grasp and that it can be fun, tremendous fun. The added bonus and a very important part of parkrun are the friends you make along the way. So while you might wake up on Saturday morning and think “oh no, I have to get to the Forest Park now and it’s raining/snowing/cold”, once you make that leap out of bed and set off you are so happy you make the effort. It’s a great end to the week, a great start to the week-end, sociable, connecting, happy and healthy.
Lough Key parkrun is a one lap event which makes it very inviting. It also has stunning views of Lough Key and surrounding forests. Our happy parkrunners meet just around the corner from the Lough Key Forest Park centre. It is a nice walk (800m approx. from the carpark so give yourself plenty of time to arrive for our 9.30am sharp start). From there it’s a walk to the start line. When the whistle blows at 9.30am our parkrunners follow a mostly flat course with a few inclines along the route. Forest paths and footpaths the whole way around.
The course starts just down the hill from the high tower. You’ll see the yellow exercise machines so head downhill from there towards the fairy bridge and you’ll find the start sign. The route heads straight along the track before going over the bridge and onto Drumman’s Island. Turning right once over the bridge and doing an anti-clockwise loop around the island (1.5k) with lovely views of Lough Key and dirt paths shaded by the forest. After the loop of the island, head back over the bridge and turn right. There will be three right turns (all signposted) and then it will be left at a dead straight T-junction, this is almost at the 4k mark and will bring you back to the finish line.
“Lough Key is such a beautiful place it can cure anything”. So the beauty of the whole area is the main feature of our lovely venue. Running in woods and forests is very good for the soul too. The most famous landmark at Lough Key parkrun is Lough Key! The name Lough Key comes from the Irish Loch Cé. In Irish mythology, Cé was the druid of the god Nuada. He was wounded in the Second Battle of Mag Tuired and fled southward until he came to Carn Corrslebe, where he rested. He saw ahead of him a beautiful plain full of flowers. He sought to reach it, and when he did, he died. When his grave was dug there, a lake burst out of it, and flooded the whole plain. It was thus named Loch Cé after him. You will also see the Moylurg Tower, and the Zipit centre. We also run across Drummans Bridge onto Drummans Island and after a circuit of the island back onto the mainland.
If you like trail running on a one lap course Lough Key parkrun ticks all the boxes. Even if it is raining you will be sheltered in the forest and cool in the summer. The views at every turn are stunning and in early summer you may forget about running as you take in the vistas of bluebells and breathe in the intoxicating scent of wild garlic. We specialise in a friendly finish line and each and every parkrunner is welcomed with shouts of encouragement and clappers. We absolutely love parkrun tourists and do our utmost to make them feel welcome and we are happy to say lots of them return to Lough Key. Once a month we have a “pacer” event coordinated by the fantastic Melissa Doohan and we also have a reverse parkrun a few times a year.
We are so lucky to have the Lakeside Café at Lough Key right beside our finish line and they have been very supportive of our parkrun from day one. It gets very full on Saturday but you can always repair to the outside decking and enjoy your post parkrun breakfast with stunning views over Lough Key. We regularly have milestone celebrations and are often awash with cake and more cake.
The local community of Boyle, Carrick and wider community of Leitrim and Roscommon have taken this event to their hearts. We get fantastic coverage every week in our local newspapers, the Roscommon Herald and Leitrim Observer. Everyone knows about Lough Key parkrun and what we love more than anything is to welcome the people who turn up, not necessarily to run, but to have a cup of coffee and a chat. They will eventually decide to have a go at walking the course but just to come for the social end of things is more than enough. Over the two years since we started we have seen friendships being made and groups enjoying chats well into the morning after the parkrun. The local athletic clubs have benefited too from our parkrun, Boyle Athletic Club, Carrick A.C., Drumshanbo A.C., Corran A.C. all have members running regularly at Lough Key and lots of parkrunners who never thought they would be able to run 5k have now joined the local clubs.
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