News - 31st March 2023

Illaunmanagh parkrun’s first birthday

Niamh 3b

Niamh O’Callaghan, a founding member of the Illaunmanagh parkrun core team, is proud of all that has been achieved in the first year of this event.  


It took us a few years to get started at Illaunmanagh parkrun. Our inaugural event was two years later than anticipated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


We first started exploring the opportunity for a new parkrun event in 2019, gathering together a group of volunteers and identifying the perfect site for the 5k course, which really wasn’t hard as our estuary is a local jewel.


Niamh 4


The local petrol station invested in a defibrillator for us and the rugby club allows us to store all our weekly gear in their clubhouse. The municipal district has been a great support, in recent times the Head Engineer along with one of our elected councillors have made improvements to both the car park and the pathways. This all shows what a community event Illaunmanagh parkrun is.


Once the pandemic subsided, it was thanks to the incredible efforts of Rob Stephen we got the gang back together and started planning to launch the new parkrun afresh. We have a great team of core volunteers and are always open to new volunteers coming on board.


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Our first Illaunmanagh parkrun event happened in late March 2022, since then we’ve gone from strength to strength.


We have been so well supported by the local community and continue to grow our local participant numbers as well as often welcoming visitors due to our close proximity to Shannon Airport and Thomand Park, as well as being positioned as the gateway to the West of Ireland.


We are blessed with a spectacular route, one visitor described our out-and-back route as, “The most well thought out route for the participants of parkrun.”


Niamh 1


We have the super elusive ‘I’ for any parkrunner taking up the alphabet challenge and the local Couch to 5k organisation has gotten involved with us as well as a national school that brought a class along one Saturday, with many of the children and their parents attending each week since.


Most recently, we even had the local Shannon Town under-12 soccer team attend. Some of the visiting parkrunners also brought the most amazing adapted wheelchair with them. With this incredible invention, they enabled local man Padraic Hayes to complete the 5k course and see the estuary for the first time in a long time.


The best thing about parkrun is that it’s not about running, it’s about people, you can walk, hop, skip, jump, and bring the buggy, the dog, and friends.


We surpassed the 100 participants mark recently and one of our core team members, Kevin Ryan, celebrated his 100th parkrun at our Illaunmanagh event.


Every single Saturday morning, we’re out there having a laugh once the whistle sounds and we welcome back every participant. We head to a local cafe for breakfast and a natter, our routine visitors join us as a way of really seeing what we’re about and experiencing the locality through locals’ eyes. Friendships have been formed and laughs have been had.


The other amazing thing is that we seem to be onside with mother nature, having experienced rain on only two Saturdays since we started – which is highly unusual for Irish weather!


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We’re celebrating our first parkrun birthday on 1 April and are looking forward to the years ahead. Our ambition is to get people out and about, to see our beautiful estuary, and to start their Saturdays off the parkrun way.


Niamh O’Callaghan



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