Earlier this year, the Carlow County Sports Partnership were contacted by Hayley Fox Roberts, who was co-ordinating the LGBTI Voices in Carlow project and Network (led by the Carlow County Development Partnership). So as Event Director of Carlow Town parkrun, I went along to chat with Hayley about doing a Rainbow parkrun.
Some people might wonder if it is necessary to invite the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual and Intersexed (LGBTI) community to parkrun when we are a fully inclusive event, and especially after the success of the marriage equality referendum. Many of us know somebody from this community and can appreciate the challenges growing up and ‘coming out’ to family members and friends. But after speaking with Hayley, it didn’t take long to realise why it is necessary. There can still be feelings among members of this community of fear of being themselves, exclusion, or even uncertainty about their welcome in mainstream community events (such as parkrun). By hosting the Rainbow parkrun we would be highlighting our inclusivity, as well as supporting and promoting another positive community group initiative and reaching out to all members of the LGBTI community.
As soon as we announced the Rainbow parkrun via our parkrun Facebook page, we received nothing but positive feedback from the local community, our regular parkrun participants, and the parkrun Ireland community. The LGBTI Voices in Carlow Network group advertised it within their group and also put up posters and advertised on their Facebook page. The local paper also advertised it in the community section and we reminded our participants about it in our pre-run briefs.
On the morning of the Rainbow parkrun, it was like spring had finally arrived in time for our special event, and a stranger in the last while to parkrun (the sun!) made a welcome appearance. We had great support from the local community in the form of volunteers setting up and helping to coordinate the event and the Adrenaline Running Club crew were there to support us. It was smiles all around as the sun beamed down on our parkrun flag which ran alongside the Rainbow flag.
Everybody soaked up the sunshine and the atmosphere as we all posed for photos and paused to listen as Hayley spoke about the LGBTI Voices in Carlow Network. After the pre-run brief and a reminder about the chance for a chat alongside a scone and coffee in our post-run venue, the Clink, the participants took off into the sunshine along the beautiful Barrow Track. We welcomed new and old participants at the finish line and you really could feel the love in Carlow Town parkrun. At the Clink, after processing results, I chatted with some of the LGBTI Network group. I headed home with the satisfaction that we had spread the parkrun message and ethos to a new audience, welcomed a new community group to Carlow and really shown that love is love in Carlow.
Other parkruns could host a similar event by checking if there are any LGBTI groups or initiatives in their area and linking in with them to see if a Rainbow parkrun would be something they would support. If there are no local groups, I would look to see if participants, volunteers or core team members are also members of the LGBTI community and would they think they local LGBTI community would support. I would emphasise that it’s not about numbers, more about rolling out a welcome to community members who may have fears or doubts about joining in with parkrun. It doesn’t matter whether that is one, twenty or a hundred people who will actually join in by volunteering, running, jogging or walking. It’s the message that parkrun is here for you weekly, no matter who you are or what your background is.
Event Director, Carlow Town parkrun
Photos thanks to Peter Pudaite and Joanne O’Brien
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