As an Event Support Ambassador for parkrun, one of my "duties" is to visit the events I try to support, which means I must visit Bere Island twice a year to check up what John Walsh is up to! (John has a similar role for my home parkrun in Tralee, so I need to be a bit careful what I say).
However, to characterise it as a "duty" is definitely not appropriate, as it's actually the highlight of my parkrun year (among many other highlights!) It's been almost three years since I last did Bere Island parkrun, thanks to the unmentionable. I've been able to visit the Island a couple of times, but it's just not quite the same without parkrun...
I arrived very early to avoid the Ring of Beara cyclists, but that's no hardship as I had time for a walk around the town. I've always loved the friendliness of the locals, but I'm afraid attempts to make conversation with the first couple I encountered were met with a stony silence. Most unusual. And what's more, they seemed to be still practicing social distancing. There's definitely something fishy going on!
But all changed around 8:45 when the "mainland" group gathered for the first part of the Bere Island parkrun Adventure - Colum's Ferry. Some of the regulars were missing but the ferry passengers included Colin and Claire whom I have met every time I have visited. So there was plenty of news, parkrun and otherwise, to shorten the journey.
We also met the Brennans, visiting from Malahide parkrun for their first time, what a wonderful way to wind up their week in West Cork! They had no idea what lay in store for them!
With Colin G taking the wheel, the bus trip is usually very... interesting! I had a Front Row Seat, sandwiched between Colin's, so I had a great view of proceedings.
I'm sorry to say, however, I was just a little bit bit disappointed by today's journey. There was no drama whatsoever for the whole trip. The bus started without a push, the doors all opened (and more importantly closed), no punctures or mechanical problems, and only a single red light on the dashboard. But I suppose it's all about getting us all safely to the start line, and Colin did that well as always!
Waiting for us when we alighted was Mary, who just arrived on the Island for a holiday yesterday and was spotted by the eagle-eyed John Walshe and recruited as today's Run Director. Although she hadn't done it for a while, it was no bother and we were all off just after 9:30.
The Bere Island parkrun one-lap route is amazing - not an easy course with several hills, and a few potholes that led to Dominick's safety briefing "No Galloping!", but the scenery is magnificent (remember, parkrun is the holder of the unofficial "World Cup of parkrun Beauty" and absolutely steeped in history - but you need someone like John W or Joanne beside you to point out all the landmarks.
This time, I was on a mission - I wanted to add Bere Island to the list of parkrun I'd managed un under 30 minutes. My last visit took me 37+ minutes and my best, even with John helping me, was nearly 32 minutes back in 2018! So it was a tall order. I could see Joanne just behind me and I knew if I could stay ahead of her it would definitely be a PB for me.
Joanne is a legend of parkrun, not just on the Island. She is their most loyal park runner, despite her promise to visit us in Tralee some day. It wasn't until I looked at the results that I realised she was doing her 300th parkrun this week, every single one on her home course (who can blame her!) And it is only very recently that she was knocked off the top of the list of Most First Finishes! She is also one of very few Irish park runners who have earned not one but two "250" T-shirts - one for running and none for volunteering!
Anyway, my strategy worked, and I ended up with a time ten minutes faster than my last visit! I could go home happy... but not just yet!
Michelagh was four minutes ahead of me, first finisher again - and another PB, her third or 2022! Hot on her heels was another Bere Island icon, Colin Gleeson, who runs his parkruns like he drives Colum's bus - foot to the floor and slow down for nobody!
One more local to mention from the results page, Finola's Age Grade was just a whisker behind Colin's at nearly 74%, as she finished ahead of Maureen.
Among the First-Timers were Maria, fairly new to parkrun, who started very well only to be overtaken by Colin with his local knowledge, and Celine, visiting from Malahide with her parents, also sporting a "250" top on its first outing! The Brennan's went home from the Island without any doubt they had visited one of the best events anywhere in the parkrun world! Aine and Olive did their first ever parkrun.
Thank you to the great volunteers, without whom parkrun couldn't function - if you haven't tried it, give it a go - you might be surprised how much fun it is and it's a lot easier than running!
Of course, the parkrun experience here doesn't finish when the timekeepers stop clicking - depending on your pace you get a chance to visit the Bakehouse where Edel and Michelagh were serving up delicious breakfasts... and a surprise for me, a slice of Edel's Lemon Drizzle Cake. I've seen lots of drizzles on Bere Island, but this was the best by far!
It would be great to stay longer, but a trip to my favourite overseas parkrun always leaves me wanting more, so I'll be back. Thank you to everyone for the hospitality and craic! You are all welcome (especially Joanne!) to Tralee any Saturday morning!
We will be hosting a New Year’s Day parkrun on Bere Island at 9:30am. Start off the new year with some fresh air exercise and plenty socialising. See you all there.
There will be no parkrun on Bere Island on Christmas Day. We will see you all on January 1st for our New Years Day parkrun at 9:30am. Happy Christmas to all parkrunners and a Happy New Year.