Antrim parkrun in Northern Ireland joined the parkrun family in September 2013.
Co-Event Director Anne Smith tells us more about this beautiful parkrun that starts along the Loughshore, crosses over Deerpark Bridge and into the 400-year-old Antrim Castle gardens.
Antrim parkrun was the brainchild of a few local runners who were looking for a way to get more people in Antrim running. Some of them had already taken part at Waterworks parkrun in Belfast and Ecos parkrun in Ballymena, and they decided this simple 5k concept may just be the answer.
They contacted Matt Shields, the parkrun Ireland Country Manager, and liaised with other parkrun event directors and Antrim Borough Council who provided the funding. Everyone knew the Loughshore and Antrim Castle gardens would be a perfect setting for a potential parkrun and within a few weeks they had settled on a course.
Antrim parkrun launched on 28 September 2013 with almost 200 walkers, runners and volunteers taking part, and there are now between 160-220 participants each week.
I had personally never heard of parkrun and a friend suggested I volunteer at Waterworks parkrun. I was blown away. On Saturday 11 January 2014 I arrived at Antrim parkrun. I knew no one as I wasn’t from that area and I couldn’t believe how friendly everyone was. After a few weeks I volunteered and it really opened my eyes and heart even more.
I continued to run and volunteer at Antrim parkrun and six months later I became a Run Director, then an adjudicator and now I am Co-ED at Antrim and an Ambassador. parkrun is a big part of my life and I am really enriched when I see the positive impact mentally, physically and socially parkrun has on others.
The event takes place in Loughshore Park in Antrim, and our flat two-lap course is a lovely, scenic route that starts along the Loughshore, crosses over Deerpark bridge and into the beautiful historic, scenic 400-year-old Antrim Castle gardens and past Clotworthy house, a stable block and coach house built around 1843.
There is an array of wildlife, trees, ponds and birds to see if you are not going too fast to notice them! There are other parts of the gardens and a Motte for you to explore after your parkrun or you can chill on a bench and watch the swans and birds in and around the Loughshore. Even in the rain our course is beautiful. There is so much to see and the scenery is different each season.
The most famous landmark on the course is Deerpark Bridge, a stone bridge which takes parkrunners over the Six Mile Water river. When you arrive at it on the return journey you have only 1k to go. The bridge was built over three centuries ago to link the Antrim Castle gardens to Deer Park and Lough Neagh.
Once we’ve finished scanning barcodes and packing up the equipment, we got for post-parkrun coffee in the Loughshore Coffee House in the car park at the Loughshore. You can look out onto Lough Neagh and the ducks and swans are usually wandering around. On a nice day you can sit outside.
Vincent Barnes (barcode number A2371952) – who was coincidently born in 1952 - was one of our most inspirational participants. Vincent was a runner in the past and more recently would have regularly walked in Antrim Castle Gardens. He came one Saturday to watch his son run and came back the next and started volunteering. He had volunteered on 50 occasions from April 2016 to October 2017 and 48 of those were at the road crossing as a marshal. Vincent always had a smile and supported everyone going past. Vincent passed away in November 2017 whilst visiting his son and family in England.
The impact of Antrim parkrun on our local community has been fantastic. The event has got members of the local community out getting active and socialising on a Saturday morning, our numbers continue to grow, and we are starting a ‘Walk @ parkrun’ initiative with Walk Northern Ireland to try to get even more members of the community out to our parkrun each week.
An amazing core group of volunteers was established right from the beginning and have taken the event to where it is now. Although some of the original core team have stepped down, we currently have two Co-Event Directors (Richard Mason and myself), seven Run Directors and a few other key core team members. As well as local residents, our parkrun has also brought many tourists to Antrim as we are located only five miles from Belfast International airport, making it the perfect stop off for those visiting Northern Ireland.
If you’re interested in bringing parkrun to your own community, please get in touch with us using this form.
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