This month the island of Ireland celebrated 10 years of parkrun, and Country Manager Matt Shields told us all about the history of parkrun Ireland.
parkrun first came to the island of Ireland at the Waterworks in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in November 2010. The event in Waterworks park was started by a team of volunteers, headed by myself.
Two years later it started in the ROI in November 2012. The first ROI event, Malahide parkrun, was started by Michael McMahon.
Michael phoned me and we had a chat about starting an event and I suggested that he get along and see one in action…
I was amazed when he drove one Saturday morning all the way from Dublin to Belfast, a week or so later, to be at Waterworks for the 9:30am start. I knew then the man was serious!
The first inaugural event at Malahide welcomed 159 participants, including a number of tourists from Northern Ireland – perhaps an early indication of how this community would grow to encompass all corners of the island.
We also had at least one famous tourist from the UK in the form of our Founder and friend Paul Sinton-Hewitt, who launched the very first parkrun event in the world way back in 2004.
From just the one event in Malahide, parkrun quickly spread, and similar to my own team in Waterworks, many of the Malahide regulars were involved in seeding new events all over North Dublin and beyond.
River Valley, Donabate, St Anns and Father Collins parkrun to name but a few. The family has continued to grow across the country.
Memorable moments are many and to pick some seems unfair, but, I remember well when Nial Power started junior parkrun in Rush, and the junior movement has flourished ever since.
We also launched Bere Island parkrun, an event started in an island community of only approximately 280 people, with visitors needing to arrive by boat.
I was incredibly proud when our first custodial events started in NI and ROI, following a successful launch in England, and then when we hit our one-millionth run we were all proud of what we had all achieved.
These are all very memorable events, however, the most memorable and meaningful thing for me personally remains the stories people tell us of how parkrun has changed their lives for the better. People of all ages and backgrounds, from all corners of Ireland.
At present on the Island of Ireland we have 129 5K events taking place every Saturday morning, with a further 40 junior events for children and families on Sunday. Once parkrun returns we will have another seven 5K events and three junior events waiting for an inaugural to be confirmed.
There are events in every region of Ireland and particularly in the last year, we are seeing events in many of the communities that will benefit most from parkrun.
The locations we are seeing new events in now could never have been foreseen in 2010. From inner-city locations, to small communities and towns of less than 1,000 inhabitants.
At present 7.8% of the Irish population are registered for parkrun and it has become part of the weekly routing for so many people, featuring at the heart of so many communities.
My hopes for the future would be more of the same. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about having more events in areas that will benefit most from parkrun, and more participants that will have life-changing experiences, all supported by more self-empowered, caring communities.
Country Manager, parkrun Ireland
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