Saturday 26 June saw the welcome return of 5k events across Northern Ireland and, with it, the opportunity for 11-14 year olds to walk, jog and run at Sunday morning 2k junior parkrun events once more.
We caught up with parkrunners, volunteers and event teams to hear all about the special weekend.
The Saturday morning buzz was well and truly back across Northern Ireland this weekend as 29 5k events welcomed more than 4,000 walkers, joggers and runners, supported by 492 volunteers.
Over 300 people joined us at a parkrun for the very first time.
Louise McCarron completed her first parkrun at Derry City, along the banks of the Foyle, and is already asking herself “can you be addicted after only one?”
This family were delighted to be back at Queen’s parkrun in Belfast.
Operating under the COVID Framework, Event Directors reported safe and sensible event delivery unanimously.
Derry City parkrun saw real success on their traditional out-and-back parkrun course which is also used by lots of members of the public. Event Director George Row told us that “by moving the start and finish slightly, in line with the framework, we were able to utilise more open space, and a wider path, meaning parkrunners remained well spread out.”
parkrunners were seen at a safe and socially distanced start area at Waterworks parkrun, with people naturally keeping their distance from each other.
As part of the COVID Framework, all events are now using the parkrun Virtual Volunteer app for both timing and scanning.
Mervyn Thompson, Event Director at Portrush parkrun, told us “the new volunteer app presented no problems for our volunteers, with all timing and scanning files uploading without incident. There was a definite buzz of excitement in the air and clearly everyone was delighted to have their Saturday morning 5k parkrun back”.
Sara was back at Stormont parkrun and wrote to the event team there to say “a huge thank you to you all for making parkrun happen again as the impact that it has is far reaching, not just physically but mentally. Without parkrun it is unlikely I would have been motivated to surface from the past six months, during which I was off with COVID and later lost my mum to COVID. Instead, I ended up amongst likeminded people who encouraged me as I made my way around the course. You all display so much enthusiasm in supporting others – it is so much appreciated. You all should be proud of your role in helping everyone to restore some normality to life again. Thank you all so much.”
Terry Coyne was Event Director at Bangor parkrun for the restart, where 221 walkers, joggers and runners participated in the event supported by 23 volunteers. He said “the parkrun Virtual Volunteer app was used for the first time at Bangor and performed faultlessly.”
Bangor parkrun welcomed 23 First Timers starting on their parkrun journeys and we’re told “the happy smiles from the participants and volunteers encapsulated the inclusive community based parkrun ethos.”
Colin Glen parkrun saw the return of lots of familiar faces, as well as many new walkers, joggers, runners and volunteers.
There was 10-year-old Lola checking people were making use of the sanitizer to their oldest participant Mary Mulla who, in her 70s, was back after months of isolating.
The CG Runners, a running group who formed during lockdown out of Colin Glen parkrun and 50 to 50 Walk and Talk group, made their debut. And there was Gerard Mulhern who is completing 5k a day for 50 days until his 50th birthday.
Event Director Andrew Muir told us how wonderful it was to see people able to meet again, and the chat and the friendships resume at Crawfordsburn parkrun. He also said “the new set-up in the era of COVID-19 went really well with shortened briefing and use of the new app for timing and barcode scanning working without issue.”
Emotions were running high at Wallace parkrun, with Event Director Jonathan reporting “It was a wonderful morning. It could not have gone any better frankly.”
One of their much loved regulars Joe Stewart was back for his 200th parkrun. He’s in the 75-79 age category and something of a local legend.
Jonathan also echoed the words of many fellow volunteers across the 5k return in Northern Ireland, “everybody bought into our COVID measures and they were all hugely successful.”
And with the return of 5k events, the 12 junior events currently operating in Northern Ireland were able to log finish times from 11-14 year olds once again, as we became fully open across the country.
The Sunday 2k parkrun junior parkruns saw 635 junior parkrunners, and almost 200 volunteers.
Anne Louise says she had a fab morning at Magerhafelt junior parkrun, and passed on a huge well done to all the 2k finishers and volunteers.
Northern Ireland Lead Ambassador Matt Shields said:
“It was so great to see parkrun in Northern Ireland taking a big step towards normality. With the 5k events and junior events seeing more than 4700 participants overall.
Restrictions and associated framework meant that socialising and some other aspects were different than before lockdown, but the community and the volunteer teams handled these changes seamlessly.
The joy of being safely back at parkrun again was plain to be seen for so many of us who have been patiently waiting for over a year now.
Thanks for all the support and congratulations which have been received from many other territories, and to those not yet returned we hope it will be your turn soon.
It’s been worth the wait.”
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