It’s on every Saturday, it’s open to everyone and it’s free. Why not come along and try it?
What can you do in Derry at 9.30 a.m. every Saturday morning that you can also do in hundreds of cities across the world?
Parkrun, a free, weekly, 5km timed run that sets off from the coffee shop at Derry’s quay, takes in the Peace Bridge, across to the statues at St Columb’s Park and back the way you came.
Tommy McCallion who was one of the first volunteers at Parkrun when it first came to Derry almost three years ago said the event is one the whole city can embrace.
“It’s completely free,” he said. “There is such a friendliness among runners and we are encouraging runners of all ages to come and see what it is all about.
“There is a great spirit among the runners. Our unsung heroes are the marshalls who are here every week giving their time, and the many coaches out there who champion Parkrun.
“There’s a fantastic social element to Parkrun too. I genuinely think it’s one of the best things in the city. We have some great characters taking part. Mentally it ticks all the boxes. It’s your Parkrun. We want to dispel the myth that if belong to certain clubs and runners. If you haven’t tried it, then come along. There’s nothing like running to change your life.”
Volunteer Gerard Harkin said: “Parkrun is great for meeting new friends and best of all it s free, for the people by the people and all that. It brings people together with a shared belief that what they are doing is beneficial no matter how hard fast or slow they do it.”
Information on how to take part in Parkrun at Derry at http://www.parkrun.org.uk/derrycity/
The link will show you how to get a barcode.
The Journal spoke to some regular Parkrunners
George Rowe decided that his 60th birthday present to himself would be to run the Walled City Marathon. Then he found Parkrun...
“People do recognise me because of the beard. Some of the kids who see me run shout out ‘Come on Santa Claus.’
“I did a bit of running when I was a teenager but Judo was my sport and I just ran for fitness.
“When I turned 59 I watched people out doing the Walled City marathon and I decided that my 60th birthday present to myself would be to run the marathon.
“I started training last April, and I couldn’t run the length of myself. That first day I couldn’t get further than 200 yards without stopping. But I kept going out every day and within a week I managed to do a lap without stopping. I built myself up to 2-3 miles and started reading everything I could about running. I realised that I was trying to go too fast so I slowed down. I was doing 12 minute miles at first and I got a heart rate monitor and tried to keep my heart rate in between 60-70%.
“I discovered Parkrun in December and did it for 12 weeks in a row. As my marathon training progressed I was advised that running fast every Saturday was no good. I’m a bit competitive for an old geezer and Parkrun was my weekly test to see if I was getting any faster. So for the last 6-8 weeks of marathon training I was a volunteer. Parkrun has become my social running. My long runs were more of a solitary thing.
“At Parkrun I chat with other runners, compare notes on training and we go for a cup of coffee afterwards.”
Ronan O’Flaherty (27) joined the Park Run community.
“I started running because I wanted to get fit and healthy and try and lose a bit of weight. At first I joined Foyle Valley but then I moved to Newry, now I’m in Belfast and I spilt myself between Derry and Belfast.
“I go to the Derry Parkrun because it is one of the friendliest Parkruns around. It is a great route and it’s a good one to challenge yourself on. You can use it to judge whether you are getting any better or worse.
“When I started off my personal best was 25 and now its 22.25, although I am nowhere near that at the moment. There are some weeks when you can just go for it and try and get a PB but other weeks if it is too warm you know you wont make it.”
Since he first began, Ronan has done 130 Parkruns - and has the special 100 t-shirt to prove it.
“That’s takes nearly three years,” he said. “But volunteering is a big part of it as well. Parkrun is run completely by volunteers. If you don’t volunteer there’s no Parkrun. It’s always good to help out. You lose out on your run when you volunteer but you are letting someone else who volunteers have their run.
“There are all sorts of roles from scanning, handing out the time chips, motivators and photographer. There’s just a nice atmosphere and a great community of runners.
“Everyone is made feel welcome at Parkrun.”
Runner Maureen Maher (59) has done 122 Parkruns.
“I started running three years ago and I am a member of BOLT and the North West Triathlon Club. I wanted to keep fit and young and not be old.
“I was in City of Derry swimming Club when I was younger and I did camogie at school. But it is only in the last three years I’ve taken up running, cycling and swimming. I was watching the runners in the Walled City Marathon at the start of the month and I’m hoping I’ll be able to do it next year.
“I come to Parkrun every Saturday and I love the routine of coming. I got a PB last week and I was delighted because I haven’t got one for a whole year.
“The whole atmosphere is great and there is so much support out there. Even when there are people on their own, someone else will go and chat to them. If you see someone struggling you’ll shout at them to come along and give them encouragement.
“I’ve also volunteered and I’ve done the Parkrun in other places like Inverness and London. Come along and have a go.”
Anne Hutton has just completed the Walled City Marathon - but the Bolt runner says she likes volunteering at Parkrun.
“I volunteer more than I run Parkrun. I like the course and I love my running but I mostly volunteer because I know they often struggle for volunteers. Sometimes the Parkrun doesn’t fit in with my own running schedule so I volunteer.
“Last week I did the marathon and it was a real experience but it had peaks and troughs, some parts of it were more enjoyable that others. That feeling of crossing the finish line was brilliant,
“I only started running four years ago. I watched my daughter beginning training for a marathon three months after she had a baby and I was curious to see if I could do it or not. That said, if someone told me that one day I’d run a marathon I would have laughed at them.
“Parkrun is a great course because it is the same course and you can compare your progress every week. It’s welcoming and encouraging. It caters for all abilities and you meet so many friends and acquaintances.”
15 year-old Adam Meehan took up running two years ago - and says Parkrun has been an instrumental part of his training.
“I took up running when I was 15 because I wanted to get fit. I was doing cross country running at Oakgrove College and was advised to join a running club.
“I do Parkrun one week and volunteer the next.
“Volunteering is really important because I want to give something back.
“I think I’ve done every role now in terms of volunteering, from timekeeper to lead bike.”
Since his first Parkrun, Adam has gone from a PB of 26.30 to 20.24.
“I’m hoping to break the 20 minute mark in the coming weeks,” he said.
“Through Parkrun I met Tommy McCallion and he’s been giving me advice and I’ve now joined Rise running club.
“I’ve also met a lot of other runners.
“Through Parkrun you meet so many people who push you on, advise you and inspire you to do well.
“The others give you advice about training, nutrition and what I should be doing.
I’m hoping to do the Waterside half marathon in September when I’ll be 16. That will be my longest distance so far.”
CLODAGH AND CAROL MCGLINCHEY
Mum and daughter team Carol and Clodagh (14) enjoy Parkrun - especially because they can do it together, although Carol admits Clodagh is a tad faster....
“I’ve been doing Parkrun for two years,” says Carol, who is a member of Star Running Club. “I came along with my friend Christine. I wouldn’t be dying about the course but it is good to know you are doing the same course every week and it is being timed. The only person you are in competition with is yourself.
“At Parkrun there is always a good crowd, you are made to feel welcome and there’s lot of enthusiasm at the end. I think it would be great if different clubs took it on for a week to volunteer and do the organising. At the minute it is the same people who marshal every week and it is not fair on them. It would be great to get more people to come along.”
Carol, who just completed her second Walled City Marathon said the Parkrun really helped with training, especially when they incorporated the Parkrun with the longer runs.
Clodagh says she often runs with her dog Holly, although the dog can slow her down.
“My PB is 24.20,” she said. “I really like the Parkrun and the course. I have a few friends who like running and they have come along.
“I like running with my mum although we don’t always stay together on the course.
“I hope some day I can do a marathon like her.”
Tara Healy is a Year 9 pupil at Thornhill and avid Parkrunner along with mum Shannon and dad Ronan.
“I started running last year when my Mammy began a couch to 5k and asked me if I would come along.
“I’d done cross country in PE but I found running with the club tough at the start. But the more I did it, the easier it was.
“I have asthma but as long as I take my inhaler beforehand I am ok and my asthma has got better the more I have run. I can’t believe that I have done 21 Parkruns now, and I have a PB of 25.08.
“I really like it because there’s great motivation and support and I have made so many friends.
“My coach Steven Peoples helped me improve my PB and I’ve got it down from 33 minutes to 25 minutes.
“There are younger people who do Parkrun and the older ones make you feel welcome. I have volunteered a few times doing marshal and being the motivator.
My daddy does the Parkrun and I help him to scan the chips.
“The route is brilliant although parkrun hill can be tough.
My favourite bit is coming over the Peace Bridge at the end.”