Castlewellan parkrun in County Down, Northern Ireland is one of the youngest members of the parkrun family, having only launched on 23 September 2017.
Event Director Joe McCann tells us more…
Many people from our area were travelling each week to participate in many of the other 20+ parkruns available in Northern Ireland, so it seemed a natural progression for the beautiful surroundings of Castlewellan Forest Park to host a parkrun.
The initial vision, drive and ambition came from Dave Wilson, Martin McMullan and Nicholas McCrickard who worked in partnership to secure the funding and make all necessary arrangements for the event to become a reality. Moreover, there was great enthusiasm for the venture as evidenced by the 567 runners, joggers and walkers who turned up for our first event on 23 September 2017.
We have four big running clubs in our area, East Down AC, Mourne Runners, Murlough AC and Newcastle & District AC, so we were confident that there was a solid base of running support in the district.
As a regular parkrunner, I became involved later on and assumed some responsibility for the week to week delivery of the event. This task has been made easy by the unbelievable support of a number of stalwarts who are totally committed to the success of our event and are determined to make it the best version of itself possible.
Our course is a 5k off-road trail that takes in Castlewellan Lake in an anti-clockwise direction. A lap of the lake is 4k and the additional 1k is an out and back loop on the Crow Road at the far side of the lake.
The course is mostly flat, but there are two climbs (nothing too serious!) to negotiate; one around the one mile mark and the other along the Crow Road.
At the start of the course the historic landmark of Castlewellan Castle is to the participant’s right and the lake is directly left, two unmissable landmarks!!
The backdrop of our course is the beautiful Mourne Mountains which sweep down to the sea in nearby Newcastle (immortalised in the song by Percy French).
Many like our course as there are no short laps with tight turns and like the off-road conditions. There is also a bit of shelter when the weather is nasty, not that our hardy souls are deterred by a bit of wind or rain!
Our event is very similar to many other parkruns I have visited and is based on the fundamental parkrun ethos of participation and inclusion. We have some very fast runners (our course record is 15:49), but equally we have many committed walkers who come every week.
We also have a very strong family feel, with many parents (some pushing buggies!) running with children each and every week.
We do attract parkrun tourists who have visited all other NI events and come to Castlewellan to ‘complete’ the set! You will receive a very warm Co. Down welcome and we promise a shout out to tourists if you let us know where you are from.
We love celebrating milestones and are very proud of the number of juniors who have already completed 10 events. Our course is in the most picturesque setting and there are lots of other things to do in the park and surrounding areas, including some stunning mountain bike trails.
Run in the morning and then hire a bike from the Life Adventure Centre (where we enjoy our post-parkrun tea!) to experience a great day out in Castlewellan before making the short trip to Newcastle for a walk on the promenade and a well-earned ice cream!
Our event has captured the imagination of our community and many people who were not regular runners, joggers or walkers have been ‘hooked’. There is a brilliant atmosphere every week, even on cold and wet mornings.
There is great commitment from our volunteers and one of our regular Volunteers, Rebecca McCann (aged 16), has taken on many different roles and volunteered at 20 of our 21 events to date – she was really annoyed at missing one due to a school commitment!
One of our regular tail walkers, Justin Morgan, is the only ‘ever present’, completing all 21 events to date.
We are possibly the only parkrun with a resident ‘Prophet’ – Jerome McCrickard, one of our Run Directors who makes sagacious statements every week!
After parkrun we provide water, juice and biscuits and buns at the Life Adventure centre after the run each week, where tea and coffee can be purchased at reasonable rates! We have the occasional extra treat at our themed events and some of our volunteers like to bake.
We are very proud to be part of the parkrun family in Northern Ireland, and we look forward to many more years of parkrunning!
If you’ve been inspired to bring parkrun to your own community, we’d love to hear from you using this form.
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