Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Parkrun is now 17 years old...

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Parkrun is now 17 years old...

At the start of October, the parkrun organization celebrated it's 17th birthday!

According to the parkrun website, on Saturday 2 October 2004, 13 runners and five volunteers turned up to Bushy Park in Teddington, London, for a free, timed, 5k run, known then as the Bushy Park Time Trial.

"Paul and Joanne Sinton-Hewitt, Duncan Gaskell, Simon Hedger and Robin Drummond made up the volunteer team that day, with pen and paper used to record all the results, and washers from the local hardware store acting as finish tokens.

Fast forward 17 years and now many hundreds of thousands of finish times are processed each week, and more than half a million individual people have volunteered. There are events in more than 2,200 locations in 23 countries across the world."

The first 5k parkrun in Ireland started in Belfast in 2010 and the first one in Dublin was in Malahide in November 2012.

I think at the time I was writing on the blog about how it might come to Cork and sure enough, the first one started in Macroom in May of 2013. There are now eight 5k parkruns in Cork and the ninth will be starting in Youghal later this month.

5k parkruns in Cork with the month they started...

1) Castle Demense, Macroom - May 2013
2) Clonakilty - February 2014
3) Bere Island - August 2014
4) Glengarriff - January 2016
5) Castlehaven (Rineen Woods) - January 2016
6) Ballincollig (Regional Park) - June 2016
7) Glen River (Glen, Cork City) - November 2018
8) Mallow (Town Park / Castle) - February 2019
9) Youghal (Pobalscoil na Tríonóide) - October 2021

Impacts of parkruns: If we were to go back 20 or so years, there were really only two types of running events in Cork. There were the road races organised by the various Athletics Ireland affiliated clubs and those organised by the Cork BHAA.

The local 5k parkruns have been a huge success in attracting a lot of people who would consider club races to be 'too serious' and are afraid of finishing last. The core mantra of parkrun is participation rather than finishing first and winning prizes.

With regards to the impact of parkruns on organised road races, it's a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand, the parkruns have got a lot more people out running and some might be tempted to try an organised road race at some stage. On the other hand, some might opt for a free 5k parkrun rather than pay an entry fee of €10-€20 to do a road race.

I know in Dublin about 10 years ago, an athletics club used to organise a road race series on a Saturday morning which used to generate funds for the club. Once several free 5k parkruns started up in their locality, it effectively killed their race series.

It's likely that we will see more 5k parkruns popping up as time goes on and it's likely their influence will grow rather than diminish. With entry fees of road races increasing, there is a real possibility that their popularity will diminish with more people opting for the free weekly parkrun instead.

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