The invasion of Tralee parkrun!
There's so much more to Bere Island parkrun than just a free, timed , 5k run. Yes, there's that of course, but there are so many more reasons why people have this one on their parkrun bucket list, and why we were delighted to accept Garry and Claire's invitation to visit.
The adventure starts long before 9:30 am. (Oh, and that's another thing, one of Bere Island's unique quirks is that it's the only parkrun in Ireland that doesn't start at 9:30 sharp, but more about that later!)
We love the ferry, but the crew seem a little young!
Bere Island is one of Cork's seven inhabited offshore islands, and the only way to get there is to take one of the two ferries from the mainland to either end of the island. You can take a short trip with Colum from Castletownbere, followed by a bus ride along the M1 motorway to the village of Rerrin, or you can do as some of us did this time and cross from the Pontoon just outside the town of Castletownbere and be ferried by the equally friendly Brendan on the Ikom K directly to Rerrin, a slightly longer and maybe even more scenic crossing. Of course, the latter means you miss the chance to get to know the other parkrunners making the pilgrimage to this parkrun Mecca, when you're all piled in to the small bus with Colum. And you get to know them even better on the way back!
For us, it was the welcoming committee (well, just Bairbre) waiting on the pier that made the journey extra special!
Lots of visitors make an overnight or even a weekend trip of it, and there are plenty of places to stay on the island. We were lucky to be staying with Edel in Laurence Cove, who told us what parkrun has done for this lovely place. Edel runs the B&B, makes the dinner, bakes the famous scones and then runs the parkrun before feeding the masses after the run!
A visit to "Dessie's" is a key part of the preparation for the parkrun, and might be part of the reason that many people's PB in Bere Island is a couple of minutes slower than anywhere else. We were entertained by local trio Benny and the Jets, with guest artists including Sheila and John Walsh, who brought parkrun here to Bere Island, as well as our own Claire and Garry Moriarty.
Garry is a very proud Islander, and even though he's one of our regulars in Tralee, this is where his heart is! When we did nearby Glengarriff a few months ago, Garry was to do it with us, but shortly before the start we got a call from Garry saying, "Sorry Siobhan, the pull is too strong!", and he had turned around and gone back to the Ferry to do his parkrun at home!
We were also welcomed by the great Dominic Hallahan, who has been Run Director an astonishing 132 times, and we got a chance to meet fellow parkrun enthusiasts Helen, Finlay and Frazer Hood, whose volunteering history eclipses even Dominic's. Both work for parkrun UK and had come to Bere Island to see what all the fuss was about!
By coincidence, their next stop is Tralee where they are all volunteering at tomorrow's junior parkrun!
Almost forgot why we were here, oh yes, the run!
As I said, it doesn't start at 9:30, it starts "when everyone is ready"! The bus journey after Colum's 9:00 ferry (he's been known to turn the boat back half way if he spots a parkrunner arriving late at the pier!) means that people only gather for Dominic's briefing at a bit after the half hour, and especially when there are visitors, Dominic likes to give a good welcome! And with almost 30 tourists from Tralee, and a few others, swelling the numbers to 83, that took quite a while!
The route itself is almost unique in the parkrun world, being entirely on open public roads (albeit the kind of roads with grass growing up the middle), but since there are only a handful of cars, and most of the drivers are running, it's perfectly safe for all!
For the non-runners amongst us, it's not an easy 5k, but it's a very rewarding one. Spectacular views right and left, steeped in nautical and military history and with a few testing hills thrown in. There's one possible short cut but you wouldn't dream of taking it, for fear of missing anything.
Zach (R) was not far ahead of Billy, whose loyalties are divided!
Lots of money on the Grand National this weekend of course, but our side bets last night were on the battle of the John Walsh's, local favourite and Event Director John Walsh (with the correct Cork spelling of course) vs. Tralee's representative John Walshe who was here with all the family. Suffice it to say that Kerry has the bragging rights over Cork yet again, but only because John Bere Walsh didn't run after all, he was Timekeeper, saving himself for the Cobh ten-miler! There was more glory for the Walshe's too, with Zach Walshe not only fastest junior, but third overall, and at the age of nine now the proud holder of the under-10 record for Bere Island parkrun with an amazing time of 21:11. Another visitor also cemented his place in the Bere Island record books today too, Hugh McSweeney from Ballincollig taking a full 2 minutes off his own record for his age-group, a little older than Zach's!
But the highlight of the day surely belongs to one of Bere Island's own, Joanne Sullivan became the first Irish parkrunner to be first finisher on 100 occasions, comfortably holding off the challenge from Tralee's A-team of Maeve, Frances and Siobhán. Well done Joanne, what an achievement, that's exactly twice as many as her nearest rival!
None of the visitors' times came close to Billy Murphy's 19 minutes, he's a bit behind Joanne but has still finished first on 38 occasions!
One of our runners forgot her barcode, but eagle-eyed scanner Garry spotted the near perfect forgery! (Actually, it was John and Edel to the rescue again - they printed out a barcode on Friday night so Cora's time could be recorded - above and beyond the call of duty).
After the run there's nowhere to go except The Bakehouse, because the bus won't be back for an hour, but that's no hardship as Edel has delights in store for all, from scones and cakes all the way to the Full Irish. No-one leaves Bere Island disappointed or hungry.
Our adventure wasn't finished yet. Garry was determined to show us there's much more to Bere Island than the lovely parkrun, and took us for a walk up to the cross and back to have a closer look at the gun placements on the eastern tip of the island (we were running so fast earlier that the scenery was just a blur). Thanks to Garry, Claire, Billy, John, Sheila, Edel, Brendan, Dominic... I could go on and on... for the incredible hospitality for which you are rightly famous.
Just by the way, I did the 5k again later in the afternoon, just to have a second crack at it and see if I could better my own time (although I was already delighted having taken a half a minute off my admittedly slow previous attempt). With no Dominic to delay me, no crowds to slow me down, no John Walshe to time me, I managed to break the course record and finish in 14:48! I know, it's unofficial because no-one was there to see it. Oh, and I was on a bike!
This is by far the longest Run Report I've ever written, but the last words aren't mine, we had a recital from Frances on the pier just before we left:
I came to this place once before, this will be my second time to shore.
I often wondered when my dad came here, what was the attraction, now I know it's quite clear.
Ireland's tidiest island retains its charm, it is peaceful, rural and distant from the daily clamorous alarm...
A retreat with wonderful mainland and coastal views, of Miskish, Caha and Beara to name but a few...
A secluded hideaway cranny, steeped in military history not confinement
Its four recognised loops can be walked or cycled.
A ten-minute trip and you're across to the island,
The lighthouse, Martello towers and Viking heritage...
Sure nothing can stand in your way not even the weather...
And now there's a parkrun... to my delight... the Moriarty's brought us here to spend the night...
Of course this was based on invite
Groups are always welcome subject to prior notice
I wonder Gary will you ask us again once you hear our singing it's atrocious...
Full results are here and there are lots of photos on Facebook, taken by visiting photographer Bernie O'Regan