Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Time for Parkruns in Cork???

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Time for Parkruns in Cork???

Parkruns...what are they? Basically, they are free 5 km races which take place in parks during the weekends. Each race is timed and takes place on a variety of surfaces...from urban parks, country parks and seaside promenades to nature reserves, woodland and open fields.

Back in August 2011, I had a post up about Parkruns in the UK and I asked the question if they should be in Ireland. The first event started in the UK in 2004 and by mid 2011, it had grown to around 80 events and had spread to Belfast as well. Towards the end of 2012, one started in Malahide in Dublin and there is another one in the pipeline for Marley Park.

So is it time for a Parkrun in Cork?

From what I understand....
1) Each Parkrun costs some €7,000 to set up (one off cost for equipment, etc). The Parkrun organisation itself may fund 50% of this leaving the local organising group to find €3,500.
2) Expressions of interest have already been recieved from groups in North Cork and Clonakilty.
3) There may be grants available from local sports partnerships.

It's pretty obvious that considering the initial costs and the limited number of grants available that the most obvious place for a Parkrun is in Cork City itself. Once the novelty of the event dies off and it becomes a regular feature then it needs to be near a large population source for it to be a success.

What are the options?

The Cork BHAA have a 5 km route in Mahon that could be used straight away. Perhaps once the Tramore Valley Park opens, it could then be transferred there?

The big issue now is for some group to organise it. Maybe one of the athletic clubs or several of the clubs taking turns? Maybe a group of individuals?

If you are interested then contact Matt Shields at

ParkRun Ireland have a website at


MicHyDathlete said...

John, I was the person in North Cork who expressed interest in this and from examining the information that the parkrun organisation sent me, I don’t believe it is a good initiative for the sport of running or the sport of athletics overall.

It would be better if this series did not come in to Cork or Ireland for a number of reasons;

1. Athletics clubs already do a good job in organising 5km races and other types of road and trail races. They do this by respecting other events on the calendar through a permit/license system which also provides insurance through AAI. It sounds like this event would seek to organise their events outside this calendar and so undermine some already established events on the calendar. They would use their own insurance and therefore the cost would be greater overall.
2. If this organisation were to come in they would encourage the use of inexperienced officials which could lead to a bad experience by participants as has already been seen on a number of events featured on your blog this year where events were organised by people with little if any experience. Runners expect more than for people to be learning on the job!
3. This organisation wants to use money that might otherwise go to athletics clubs to organise these events. They are looking to use grants from Local sports partnerships or use private sponsorship which might otherwise go to help local athletics clubs to organise these events in a much more effective manner. Why waste money on resources that are already in place?
4. This organisation sells itself as organising non-competitive timed events but they are basically the same as any road race. Everyone lines up at the start and are given a time at the end. Therefore they are as competitive as most other events while not giving any support to the competitive side of the field or the sport so they actually discriminate where club events don't.
5. They highlight the fact that the events being free as a good thing but this is a negative in that if you give something for free then people won’t value it as much whereas if you charge a reasonable amount, then people will put value on it and respect it. While most people in this country are in a relatively poor economic state, charging between 5 and 10 euro for a 5k isn’t really that excessive. I think it would be better if the same process as usual operated where a club could charge between 5 or 10 Euro to organise the event/series. 5 Euro if it’s just a relaxed fun run or 10 Euro with all the bells and whistles of prize money, chip timing, etc or more if there is going to be a t-shirt. In this case people pay for what they get. I think people in this country have learned quiet well at this stage that nothing in this life is for free and it works better to invest in your own community organisations with local knowledge.

Therefore as a runner myself, a coach of novice and juvenile runners and a club secretary I would encourage all runners of all levels whether they are club or non-club runners not to support these “parkrun” events which I see as undermining the economic structure of the sport overall. I would instead encourage runners to support similar club events/series. Gneevguilla AC are organising a good 5km series back in Killarney and my own club North Cork AC are looking to organise a 5km series in Doneraile Park to provide events for our own FIT4LIFE group and other groups in the North Cork/South Limerick area.

Anonymous said...

The very obvious place for a park run in North Cork is Doneraile Park. Over the past few years , a number of very successfull 5KM races have taken place there . No traffic,toilets available and recently Tea Rooms have been opened up at the rear of the Main house.

Anonymous said...

Doneraile park would be an ideal location

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that Michael has made extremely valid points above, especially regarding the quality of some poorly organised,privately ran races this year.

The second Anonymous comment is also very true regarding Doneraile Pk. being a great venue for a 5km series...but I certainly wouldn't travel from Cork to Donaraile Pk. just for a training/casual run...

I'm in a slightly lucky position that my job takes me to places like Doneraile, Dingle and especially Killarney were you have Muckross House, Dinis Cottage/Lake and the Domain to run around, all off road and fantastic views.

A little piece of that in Cork would be great if the County/City Council managed to secure the resources.

(In the interest of maintaining my current employment position I'll remain Anonymous :o)

Anonymous said...

The race calendar in Cork (and indeed throughout Ireland) has reached saturation point. There isn't the need or demand for these parkrun races.

Anonymous said...

Park runs are great but i do not agree with the inital article that they should be held in Cork city. Speaking as a former inhabitant of the city but originally and curently back living in a rural community, these races would be great for other communities. Not everyone that run lives in the city and there is plenty of very well organised events in the city. Secondly, if the event is organised well and to a satifactory standard people will travel.

Anonymous said...

I am appalled! Running is supposed to be all inclusive. The elitist attitude of 'only athletics clubs can organise a race' or 'only experienced runners' should be involved in organising running events is just the attitude that prevents fun runners from entering the 5k/10k club run races around the country. The fact of the matter is that there are some people who run for fun and cannot afford club fees or just don't want to be part of the 'club scene'. Why is it so wrong and how is it in any way bad or disruptive to run an event that encourages individuals who may not exercise frequently to get out and take part in a FREE event run by volunteers. It looks to me like you have missed the point. Park run is about inclusion, motivation, encouragement and community. It sounds to me like you don't want anyone sharing your toys! I would love to see parkrun come to every small community. If it turned 10 people in a community into active healthy individuals it would be worth it. When it comes to running, the more the merrier. Get off your high horse and put your runners on! Signed a lover of running.

MicHyDathlete said...

Could the last poster please state how what I said is elitist?
Races organised by clubs ARE "all inclusive". If you had ever gone to any open club road race you would see that you can just pay your 5 or 10 euro and enter without being a member of a club. They actually ensure that the price stays low and the race is of good quality by the fact that,
1. The race is organised by volunteers, and
2. The volunteers are competent.
I understand that when you are new to a sport that it can be quiet intimidating to go to an event but this is no reason to come on to a public running blog and call someone names because you are unaware of the ins and outs of the structure of the sport and what is required to keep it going.
There are a lot of new runners who come in to the sport and show due respect for the volunteers in athletics clubs who have worked hard to develop the sport, but unfortunately there are always the one or two who will come along and feel that they can complain without spending the time in understanding the sport, the etiquette and norms of the sport.
Maybe you could help me in understanding why you think you have such a sense of entitlement that you think you should be given free access to a sport without ever having contributed anything to it?
Very few other sports offer such easy access without prior investment. Is 5 or 10 Euro really that much for an event that is essentially the same or better and actually more inclusive than a parkrun?

For the last 3 years I was involved in organising a series of road races in my local area which were all about "inclusion, motivation, encouragement and community." They were defined by the fact that they were aimed at non-club runners or new runners. They were organised by clubs because its the best way to keep the price cheap and the quality of the race high. This Ballyhoura series will take place again this year in North Cork if you wish to attend any and see how inclusive they are.
Please feel free to do a search on this blog for the series races and you will see positive remarks for its inclusiveness.
Unfortunately these clubs and volunteers never really get enough thanks they deserve for organising these events and often they get the kind of ill-informed abuse from individuals like yourself. Thankfully they persevere because they love the sport of running and athletics which is as much for the untalented/talented casual participant as it is for the untalented/talented serious participant.
Hope you will take the time to learn a bit more about the sport before throwing insults at volunteers who have a bit more time in the sport and understand a bit better about what it takes to ensure its long term sustainability for you and everyone else to enjoy. Maybe someday you might help out yourself!

Anonymous said...

Michy, It was not my intention to come on this blog and argue. I am a club member, a marathon runner and I have completed many club organised races. I have marshalled many events and been part of organising others all over the last 7 years. My point is that you can't dismiss something you have not experienced. The truth is that by default, many fun runners will be dissuaded from running club races as they don't have the confidence to take part in the very professionally run events that attract elite runners, club runners and fun runners alike.
With regards to my 'sense of entitlement'. You imply that I have to be a club runner/ have marshalled races/ organised events in order to have an opinion on the topic. I am not slinging mud. I am merely pointing out that there are many individuals out there who (and wrongly so) believe that they could never be part of a club event as it is above and beyond their abilities. Nobody wants to be last. Parkrun (in my experience of these races - and having met, through running, many individuals who have marshalled and volunteered at these events) is aimed at community, runners, and anyone else who wants to join in. Perhaps as a more experienced runner/club member than myself, you have forgotten about the attitudes of those who refer to themselves as joggers. I work in fitness and so I think I am well qualified to give my opinion here. Or do you still think I can't comment because I havnt 'contributed to the sport'. I would finally like to point out that in my opinion park run is not a threat to any club events. It can only increase the number of individuals out running and ultimately contribute to the amount of runners joining running clubs. The end result is that clubs are stronger, more people are fitter and all those fantastic individuals who give their time to volunteering at races are rewarded by a stronger crew behind them as club numbers increase. Regards

John Desmond said...

Just a quick note to ask anyone leaving any more comments to please try and concentrate on the subject in hand...i.e. Are Parkruns a good or bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Apologies John if my opinions and the way I presented them caused a disruption. I think any kind of event that encourages runnin, once it it safe and professional - is a good thing.

John Desmond said...

No need to apologise. I'm not criticising anyone for any comments they have left.

I just know from other forums that it is very easy to go off subject.

People are entitled to their opinions on Parkruns and their merits or otherwise. As most people have no experience of them then I'm sure that they would be interested in the different viewpoints.

Matt Shields said...

Hi Everyone
I am the person that’s responsible for activating new parkruns in Ireland. I am also a coach and club chairman and help promote 3-4 local races per year through my club. I have been competing in athletics now for 47 years so I fully understand the comments and misgivings of some of the comments. I speak here for myself not for parkrun or my club.
parkrun is a pathway into activity that some sections of the community would not otherwise have. I don’t know about Cork but certainly I can say that there are social problems in Belfast concerning physical and mental health that strongly indicate that these pathways are required. We encourage and promote club membership and participation in other events. Recent surveys of various cities in the UK showed that in every location that parkrun was introduced participation in running, club membership and participation in local races all increased. National bodies have seen this increase and all endorse parkrun as an initiative that is feeding club membership and participation. My own club has increased membership by 500% in two years due to parkrun and the NI x-country championships , run tomorrow, has its largest entry in years fed mostly by the clubs who have embraced parkrun. These are all facts not opinions and I am happy to meet and discuss them with whoever
Finally parkrun wants to work with any community that wants an event to create one no matter what size or location the community is. We do not want to force parkrun on anyone who doesn't want it.

MicHyDathlete said...

Matt, It is easy to cite those figures of increasing participation because there is a similar increase in numbers across all of the sport in Ireland, UK and N.Ireland. Actually there has been a massive increase especially in Cork so Parkrun can’t really claim to have any special responsibility for all of that increase in Northern Ireland or the UK. Parkrun is just riding a wave which already existed and using the fact that Government and sponsors are now more predisposed to funding these kinds of initiatives.
We have also seen a 500% or more increase in the Cork Novice Cross Country Championships but it wasn’t because of Parkrun. Your claims don’t distinguish the concept of parkrun from participation in the sport in general.

A lot of the reason is because Cork has traditionally been a strong location for club events which are actually quiet well disposed to beginner runners and they have been marketed quiet well on this blog. The sport across the board is growing as is regularly illustrated on this blog. So parkrun possibly only caters for a specific percentage of those new beginner runners who have special inhibition in starting to participate in events. Most new beginners would probably participate in club beginner type events anyway which are also growing number and don’t cost as much to organise. It is great that you have organised a series which targets beginners specifically but your financial model for funding this is not good for the sport and out of sync with the rest of the sport and its funding models.

You speak about parkrun being another pathway, but the only way that it is special is that it is marketed specifically at beginner runners. Clubs could do this Marketing just as easily if they got the kind of funding that your parkrun events get if they marketed these events in the same way to that specific population. It would actually cost less to fund them and therefore take less money away from funding/sponsorship of other participation events and the government grant organisations which you are approaching. So, I commend you on your marketing model but I fault you for looking for such disproportionate funds to organise simple 5k time trials which may or may not be accurately measured... which misleads and could delude the beginner who is trying to improve their times precisely.

I think your Parkrun series can be harmful to the sport while it operates outside of the sport and while you encourage organisation/marshalling of these events by inexperienced participants. It is great that you highlight the need for these types of events for special disadvantaged areas. I live in a rural disadvantaged area where there was little if any events happening four or five years ago and now there are 13 events organised through the co-operation of clubs, Sports partnership and local EU funded development organisation. The clubs have also grown and now have the capacity to organise 4 events which cater specifically for beginner runners without the 7200 Euro which your events require. They will do this within the traditional athletics calendar respecting other events and by applying through AAI for a license and being insured in this way.

I would ask you to examine the deleterious effect that your initiative has on the sport overall by disrespecting already established events on the calendar and taking much needed funds away from events which help to support participation at both beginner and club and elite level. The funding which you are seeking may be more readily available in the UK/NIreland but in Ireland we need all the funds we can get to promote participation in our sport both inside and outside the club structure. You have a different structure in the UK so maybe the parkrun series has been less harmful to the other levels of the sport there although I have heard otherwise. I have heard of the harm it is doing to the sport in the UK so thats why I am expressing my concerns here.

MicHyDathlete said...

Promoting a parkrun initiative which ignores the already established events organised by athletics clubs can be quiet unhealthy and disruptive for the sport and clubs overall. It can thus have a negative effect on participation at all levels. Please consider modifying your parkrun series to be more effective at being part of the overall club model for the sustainable development of the sport in Ireland rather than attempting to operate outside of the sport and doing similar damage here in Ireland as the damage you have done to the sport in the UK. The series would work fine within the sport marketed at beginner runners and charging a nominal fee for entry but by drawing fee’s disproportionately to a specific percentage of participants is not really a good model to ensuring the long term sustainability of the sport or anyones participation.

It is disappointing that someone with so much time within the sport would not be more conscious of undermining other elements of the sport for the disproportionate development of one particular aspect. Development at all levels needs to occur proportionately and within a collective sustainable model and not one that seeks to take advantage of the disproportionate vote winning policies of government policy to fund participation. While in the UK there has been massive spending on club and elite levels, there has not been the same spending in Ireland. So while your initiative might do less damage in the UK, parkrun would probably do greater damage to the development of Athletics as a whole in Ireland and participation in running in Ireland in the LONGTERM. You cannot just impose a model from another country and culture onto another which has different needs and pressures on it without considering the LONGTERM effect on the sport.

However I suspect there wouldn't be much consideration for the LONGTERM effect this has on the sport if there is someone at the top level of parkrun who is making a healthy profit from taking advantage of the governments willingness to hand out vote winning grants like this. Perhaps that is being too cynical but I can't see that the parkrun is organised by someone with entirely unselfish motivations.

I would encourage all people in running to stick to events organised from within the sport so that the events and clubs may remain and develop sustainably.

rom said...

There are much more commercial races that get big sponsors involved that bleed the sport of more money and leave little other than a race (sometimes poorly organised) with a high entry fee. Parkrun leaves a weekly event that is all-inclusive (can even be a bit too much with dogs etc). But it is something that the whole family can do which is not the case with a lot of road races. For families with young children they are ideal where a road race could be on an semi-open road with possible traffic and other hazards. Maybe timing and course measurement might not be spot on but if they are not then it will only mean that people will use Parkrun as a gateway drug to road racing and athletics in general. A good percentage of members of GAA clubs are not competing at a high level but there numerical representation in the sport does indirectly increase funding that the sport demands. The battle to improve the profile,funding and standard of the sport is not within between Parkrun and other organised races but why people choose the big 3 sports over athletics when it offers them more longevity in respect to health benefits that they offer.

rom said...

parkrun is a not-for-profit organisation, with a very small central team. Core costs are met entirely through business sponsorship. Current sponsors are Lucozade Sport, Nike, and Sweatshop.

parkrun is recognised by Run in Britain, part of UK Athletics, and although it has not received any direct public funding, the parkruns are covered by the UK Athletics insurance scheme for clubs. This benefit has a low public cost, as the insurance scheme already operates nationally and is funded through subscriptions from members of UKA affiliated running clubs and from UKA affiliated races, however it represents a significant cost saving to parkrun, and is a strong example of a carefully identified low cost intervention realising significant benefit.

MicHyDathlete said...

What you say is true Rory but the feedback from a lot of UK athletics clubs is very mixed if not largely negative. I am organising a 5k series aimed at beginners which will be aimed at 1. Helping to raise funds for our club and 2. Include largely beginners from local FIT4LIFE. The series will only charge 5 euro entry fee.
We don't have a large organisation to draw large corporate sponsors like the parkrun series. We will be able to achieve more than the parkrun series with a lot less funds while also respecting the AAI calendar and permit system. We will also have an accurate course unlike the parkrun series.
If parkrun comes in we and other clubs like us will be undercut and won't be able to fund alot of the activities we would like to do, especially with our juvenile athletes, many of whom come from families with low incomes.
Why should 7200Euro go to this parkrun type of an event which will be no more inclusive than our events? We have had families and kids and fit4life participants largely at our Doneraile 5k events so far in the Ballyhoura series.
Cork sports partnership has already promised funding for 2 of these parkrun events, yet it is often difficult for us as a club to secure anywhere near a fraction of that level of funding for these types of events and no real sponsorship. Big sponsors like adidas and lucozade fund the parkrun series in the UK which is great but very little of that money is reinvested back into the sport which has developed distance running.
I just think that clubs can do what parkrun is doing. The level of funding going to parkrun is disproportionate to what it can achieve in a community. People will only see the problem when parkruns start appearing on the calendar beside their own club event and you see your numbers of participants dropping. At least with the commercial Half-marathons and other commercial events you are on a level playing field but with this it is a well oiled machine just hoovering up the grant aid and sponsorship in the UK and other countries and ignoring the main athletics calendar.
They just happen to be good at marketing it to make it sound like they are doing something special above what anyone else is doing.

Anyway, I've enough said. Provisional dates for the Doneraile Park 5k series organised by local North Cork clubs are Sat. 2nd March, Sat. 6th of April, Fri. 3rd of May, Fri. 31st of May if anyone wants to come to friendly relaxed 5k events which fit in with the other AAI club events and only charge a small fee. You'll notice they coincide with Ballycotton 10, Great Ireland Run, Limerick Marathon and Cork Marathon. So our market is very clearly beginner runners so it might change the mind of the anonymous poster earlier about me being elitist. :)

I am not against this type of event, just against how the parkrun series is operates outside the sport and how it has manipulative marketing to make people think that they are doing something for free when as John illustrated there is a lot of money going towards these events in the background.The entry fee isn't a barrier to entrants but it does mean that the events can undercut small local club 5k's. Does anybody actually get even a hint of what I am trying to say or do you all just blindly believe the parkrun marketing?
Does anyone see the effect that a large profileration of these events could do to established events which local clubs rely on?

rom said...

They are obviously offering something that existing organisations are not other than a 'free' event. Their results presentation model is something that should be replicated. Looking into Cork sports partnership grants previously it seemed that they are more towards a capital expenditure rather than a one off event based on how it was allocated the previous year so probably the reason why they would get a grant while a club's 5k would not. examples include a treadmill for a boxing club or footballs for a GAA club. A single setup cost of parkrun falls into this category. I do agree that clubs can do what parkrun is doing but with the running boom club events have just got bigger but not have increase around the city unlike in north cork. But if there was a club 5k on twice a year and a parkrun every week I would probably do the 5k even though it would cost money. Reason why ? Well I would get plain sick of doing the same course every week and 5/10 euro for a change would be worth it.
Possibly I am being naive on what the series has to offer but I have to agree coming to an area where there is already a huge market and races to choose from is questionable. I don't know what it is like down Clon direction but from speaking to people from there there is a lot less choice.

MicHyDathlete said...

Yes, the thing that they are offering that existing clubs aren’t is that they can offer the people who participate the chance to create their own database/profile of results that they can log into and see their results from race to race. This isn’t anything that is specific to helping new beginner runners but rather is something they can use to market all their other events and grow parkrun with.
The events are family and beginner friendly etc. but so are a lot of small club 5k’s but clubs just haven't gotten organised to sell themselves as effectively as parkrun does.
Parkrun have just found a way to corner the market and market their events which is great but they are doing it separate from the rest of the sport and without consideration of the impact on the rest of the sport and taking this amount of money from the more effective use that could be made of the money.

The thousands of Euros they spend appears to go to buying equipment, like the barcode reader, laptop and the website, etc, etc which some private individual probably profits from also and the money probably also goes to the staff who run the website?
Again it’s the old debate of should a private enterprise profit from a sport which they essentially don’t really provide anything much extra to. They end up undercutting clubs in this case and undermining the economic structure of clubs. The only place they should really make a profit is where they provide an event within the calendar/permit system which clubs could not such as a large marathon. It would be better if an organisation like this was run by an experienced athlete who also has as his priority to develop the competitive side.

I actually don’t understand how each parkrun can cost so many thousands of euro and even if it does, why would you spend so much on new equipment which already exists in club structures?
I can understand why they want to just push on with a separate series because it is hard and slow to change the traditional ways of some athletics clubs but what they are providing for the sport isn’t worth to the sport or to beginners the amount they are spending. It is not an effective use of money to use to develop beginners. That money could be spent much more effectively on encouraging beginners in established events or to help established clubs run this type of event with equipment they already use or it could even be used to provide clubs with equipment they can use to encourage participation across the sport.

Private enterprises operating outside the sport providing sub-standard events drawing large amounts of public monney and private sponsorship damage the sport by;
1. Having its primary purpose to make money by offering the minimum standard of event for the most profit.
2. They do not have the holistic and balanced development of the sport at all levels as a priority.
3. They undermine clubs attempts to develop events which WILL serve the sport in a positive way and in a balanced way within the club calendar.

Parkrun just happens to be less obvious about it by making money indirectly through grants/sponsors and using the positive image of helping beginner runners. In contrast clubs are often heavily criticised as if they are professional organisations in their attempts to help beginner runners and organise events.

Hopefully for the sustainability of the sport, Athletics Ireland and sports partnerships will organise themselves to protect the club structure and ensure that private enterprises like these don't take advantage of the system to abuse the sport disproportionately to what they can offer the sport.