Articles, News - 8th September 2023

Transforming communities: how parkrun can help overcome challenges of social disadvantage

overcome challenges of social disadvantage

Social and economic disadvantage is a complex issue that affects lots of people in Ireland. It encompasses various challenges, from limited access to education and healthcare to higher crime rates and decreased quality of life. The Central Statistics Office states that more than one in eight people are at risk of poverty as of 2022.


Finding ways to build resilience and foster a sense of belonging is very important to help such a large section of society.


parkrun is a powerful solution to the challenges of social disadvantage and offers the opportunity for individuals and communities to thrive. In this article, we examine how parkrun can be used as a powerful tool in overcoming the challenges of social disadvantage.


What is parkrun?

First of all, you don’t have to run. Many people who attend parkrun walk, jog or volunteer for a variety of roles. parkrun is a 5k event each Saturday for anyone aged 4 and up. junior parkrun is a 2k event that takes place each Sunday for those aged four to fourteen, with adults encouraged to volunteer and support.


overcome challenges of social disadvantage parkrun


Physical and mental health benefits

parkrun encourages physical activity, helping participants improve their overall health, which can reduce the impact of many effects of social disadvantage. parkrun provides a supportive and inclusive environment where individuals can combat isolation and loneliness, common issues in areas of social, economic or educational disadvantage. It fosters social connections and a sense of community and co-operation, which can reduce the risk of mental health problems.


“Growing up, I found it very difficult to connect with others. My family moved when I was 10 years old to a new location through social housing.


My parents didn’t know it at the time but the area we moved to was actually dangerous and I never felt safe walking out and around. I wasn’t into traditional sports like GAA or soccer so throughout my childhood it felt very lonely because there wasn’t many other alternatives. 


I got my own children into junior parkrun and they absolutely love it. It’s a great outlet every Sunday where we come together as a family and meet people from around the area and further afield. It seems almost every time we go the kids make new friends, something I only wish we had access to ourselves back in the day!”


Skill development

Volunteering at parkrun is a great way to develop new skills. By being part of the organising team and engaging with the community can help develop valuable skills in event management, leadership and teamwork, which can improve employability prospects and self-confidence.



parkrun welcomes everyone, regardless of age, background, or fitness level. It removes barriers that can sometimes divide and fosters a sense of belonging that can be hard to develop in communities experiencing elements of social and economic disadvantage.


For many, social disadvantage can lead to a lack of direction in life. parkrun provides a regular activity for you to be part of, as well as a goal-setting opportunity, building a sense of purpose and accomplishment as you come back each week.


Lough Key junior parkrun Ireland


Community building

By participating in parkrun, individuals become part of a supportive and encouraging community. This sense of belonging can be a lifeline for those living in challenging situations, helping them to access resources and support, as well as building lasting relationships and a sense of community.


Positive role models and motivation

parkrun stories of success against adversity serve as inspiration for others facing similar challenges. These stories demonstrate that progress is possible, even in the face of the challenges social disadvantage can bring , encouraging others to embrace the optimism and opportunity offered at parkrun.


international protection at parkrun ireland Ciara


Getting involved with parkrun

With at least one parkrun in every county in Ireland, the chances are, there is one near you. Find your nearest parkrun by visiting our website to locate the one closest to you.


parkrun events are managed by a team of volunteers every single week. Whether it’s setting up the course, first-timers briefing or scanning barcodes, there are plenty of roles to fill that contribute to the event’s success which you can play a key part in.


Spread the word

Encourage your friends, family, and neighbours to join you! The more people who participate, the stronger the sense of community, connection and wellbeing becomes.


Social disadvantage can have a devastating impact on individuals and communities, but parkrun offers a chance for people to come together, get active and build a strong support network. By participating in parkrun, you can overcome the challenges of social disadvantage, improve physical and mental wellbeing, develop valuable skills, and inspire positive change in your community.


Why not share this article with your friends and loved ones to spread the word about how parkrun can make a positive difference in the lives of those facing social disadvantage? Together, let’s build more resilient communities as we strive to create a healthier and happier planet.


James Dowling, parkrun Ireland




Join parkrun

parkrun welcomes everyone to participate in walking, jogging, running, volunteering, or simply spectating. To become a part of the parkrun community, sign up here and discover your closest event.

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