If you've never been to Bere Island parkrun, then you're missing something very special. This was my fifth trip, so I knew what to expect. Or so I thought! It gets better every time.
I contacted Event Director John Walsh and asked him if I could write the Run Report again. "No problem, but keep it short and sweet, you tend to be a bit long-winded with your reports and we are very busy people down here on the Island."*
* Of course, John Walsh didn't really say this!
So I'll keep it short and sweet and you can all get back to whatever you were doing.
This was the 207th Bere Island parkrun, and there were 83 runners, joggers, walkers and one wheeler! A team of 16 volunteers helped out.
Half of the field were experiencing Bere Island parkrun for the first time, including five who were doing their first ever parkrun. To the newcomers to parkrun I can tell you, it doesn't get much better than this!
There were visitors from near and far. They included not one but two groups from different parkruns in Leicester, and a big group from Tralee - our main reason for visiting this weekend was that my sister-in-law Máiréad was home from Canada and her number one priority was a trip to Bere Island!
There were four PB's today - including Jacinta Dennison who was doing her 100th parkrun.
The first finishers this week, unusually, were both visitors - Barry Storey from Marlay in a time of 19 minutes dead, and Laura Davison, one of the West End Girls a minute and a half later.
And everyone seemed to have a good time.
OK John, you can stop reading now.
I'm afraid I can't just leave it at that, because Bere Island is so much more than a 5K run, like many parkruns! It's an adventure, one which begins long before we see Dominic Hallahan at the start line, and doesn't finish until we are back "across the water", as Dominic would say. It's all about the people you meet along the way.
We met the unflappable Colum, captain of the ferry, who had arranged a fleet of coaches to transport us to and from the parkrun. We were in Colin Gleeson's bus, so entertainment was guaranteed all the way! In the blazing sunshine, it wasn't surprising that one of the buses overheated, but not to worry, John Walsh was on hand to pick up some of the stranded runners so everyone got to Rerrin safely!
And that's one of the unique things about Bere Island parkrun. It's the only parkrun in Ireland that doesn't start at 9:30, it starts... well... when everyone's ready!
While we waited for the last of the runners, we chatted to the two groups from Leicester. The West End Girls were brought over by local girl (well, Bantry!) Dee Harrington, the Ashby-de-la-Zouche group (the Ivanhoe Runners - Kevin, Andrew, Sally & Judith) felt that with 1000 parkruns between the four of them, well, it was time to sample the Holy Grail!
You might think that with a delay at the start, Dominic might rush through the safety briefing, but no, that wouldn't be Dominic! He started with a caution about running on an unfamiliar route: "I don't want any galloping today lads!" He warned against running on the grass in the middle of the road. He told us about the building site and about John Walsh's silage. And he took time out to wish a Happy Birthday to Tralee runner Sinéad Healy! As always, he thanked the team of native and visiting volunteers. And he congratulated Jacinta on reaching her 100 runs, becoming the latest Bere Island runner to earn the 100 T-shirt.
He welcome all the visitors, even those of us from Kerry (on Munster Final Day).
There was a special welcome for Jerry Forde, a legend in Irish running circles, who was undertaking his first ever parkrun in his wheelchair. Jerry has done well over 400 marathons, and you would think a 5K would be easy, but there's a few tough inclines on the lovely course that tested even his strength!
And then, just a few (?) minutes late, we were off. I was lucky to have as my companion the forementioned John Walsh. It's a great way to pass half an hour, and to take your mind off those hills, to have a knowledgeable local who can tell you about every house, every field, the rifle range, the fort and the barracks. I made the mistake of telling John I'd like to better my last time, and he didn't even break a sweat as we ran. He did most of the talking, thankfully. In fact, he even answered a few calls and I think maybe even sent a couple of e-mails en route! What a pacemaker.
The first time I did Bere Island, one of the many things that made me fall in love with the place was the sight of the table with drinking water set up at the 3 km mark, but it wasn't until today I discovered, thanks to John, that it was our friend Proinnsias (also a PB today!) O'Keeffe who provides that very thoughtful service! Thanks Proinnsias! Typical of the kindness of a Bere Islander.
The last 500m includes a climb up from the pier, and at the start of the hill John told me we were on target for my PB, so we did a sprint finish (yeah, right!) and took a minute off my time (still by a comfortable margin the slowest of the day's four PBs, but a PB is a PB, and thanks John!) I mentioned Jacinta already, it's a special feeling to get a personal best on your 100th run. Proinnsias took an amazing three minutes off his previous fastest time, and Claire O'Brien, visiting from Cork, shaved a minute off her time to record under 22 minutes (but then, she has youth on her side!)
There's always a welcome when you enter a parkrun Finish Funnel, but it's extra special down here, and there is water waiting when you finish. Even better, I met our old friends Edel and Brendan Murphy, and Edel took my order for breakfast and said she'd have it ready when I recovered!
Because Bere Island parkrun isn't finished at the Finish Funnel. Not by a long way. First, there's the Bakehouse. You have to go, because the bus won't leave until everyone is finished! And there's scones, Full Irish and Lemon Drizzle Cake for this of us who are using parkrun as part of a calorie-controlled diet.
Dominic presented Jacinta with a card and framed certificate to mark her achievement, and Edel produced a delicious cake - and even takeaway containers for those of us in a hurry.
And in some ways the best is yet to come. If you're lucky enough to be one of the passengers in Colin's 14-seater bus, there is one final treat - the journey back to the ferry! If you didn't know each other when you left Castletownbere, you'll be lifelong friends after the fifteen minute commute! Some days Colin asks the passenger on the left hand side to hold the door closed. This week it was to hold the door open to let in some air!
Lots of people ask me, "What's Bere Island parkrun like?" Well, you have to experience it for yourselves. What's more, you probably have to do it at least twice.
If you do it as a day trip, as we did this time, you get the bonus excitement of the bus journey, but equally lovely is to get Brendan's ferry to the other end of the Island, stay overnight with Edel or one of the other lodgings, and spend the night with the Walshs, Moriartys, Hallahans and Murphys in the pub - just don't expect a PB if you do it that way!
And I haven't even mentioned some of the other friends we've made along the way, like Claire, Joanne, Michaela, Anne Marie, Sheila and many more. I'm just going to have to come back!
All the detailed results are here and you can see lots of photos on Facebook (taken by Sinéad Crean, John Ryle and Tony).
On behalf of all the Tralee gang, as well as the visitors from farther afield, thanks to Dominic and his team for the great welcome and the great parkrun.