Bere Island parkrun...what can I say?! Here goes nothing!
Self-styled "parkrun Fixer" Tony Higgins has been telling me about Bere Island parkrun for a little over a year now. 13 months later, I finally got my act together and planned this weekend's trip, having convinced my dad, Seamus, along with the Piotrowski family, Adam, Adrian, Filip, and Marta to come along too. Another bunch of Limerick regulars had to rush to Croke Park on urgent business (with an unfortunate outcome as it happens) and dutifully passed on their apologies.
I had the pleasure of meeting ED John Walsh in early July, who, with his wife Sheila and daughter Aoife, very kindly "ferried" us around yesterday, giving us a rapid history of the island in the process.
I recalled Tony mentioning in a previous Run Report that Bere Island parkrun is the only one in the country that does not start at 9:30am, but rather when everyone is ready - what a wonderful example of community spirit. In fact, it was the first of many!
A total of 18 volunteers made event 266 possible, starting with Volunteer Coordinator Carol Murphy and Michael Killen, who was responsible for Pre-event Setup. Tony Higgins was first to address the crowd for the First Timers' Briefing on a beautiful morning, followed by Run Director Peter Killen. Among those welcomed in Peter's pre-parkrun briefing were Chris and Jamie visiting from Queenstown in New Zealand, and a group of Running Chicks (ForgetTheGym.ie) from Dublin.
All ears for Tony's First-Timers' Briefing (above) and RD Peter's pre-parkrun briefing (below)
With Timekeepers Dominic Hallahan and Katie Verdon standing at the ready, the 157-strong crowd headed off for a loop of the eastern end of the island on RD Peter's command (with his warning to avoid skidding due to some rogue cattle having been on part of the course earlier in the morning fresh in our minds).
Ready to start
My home parkrun in Limerick is a 4-lap course, so it was a nice change to run the single-lap Bere Island course, where a smattering of locals and animals were spectating at various points along the route.
parkrunners out on the course
I later found out from Sheila that a section of the route includes the (in my opinion) aptly-named "Hell Hill" - I think I'm glad I didn't know that beforehand! I was relieved that I wasn't the only one whose breathing was a bit laboured as we began the first climb. However once the hill levelled off, the panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Viking Lonehort Harbour were, as promised, breathtaking.
The views were so spectacular I ran the first mile-and-a-half again to take some photos!
The climb up to the old Irish army training camp seemed almost never-ending, until arriving at Proinnsias' water station, and then beginning the welcome descent back to Rerrin Village.
Proinnsias' very thoughtful water stop for whoever might need it
I panicked momentarily when we got back to Rerrin, thinking the route involved climbing the hill past Murphy's and Dessie's Bar, but Marshal Michael Harrington was on hand to direct us right, and then left back to the GAA pitch.
Michael cheering on and directing parkrunners
The finish was a welcome sight, where Dominic and Katie stood cheering us all home down the final straight. Leading the way was Kevin Gleeson, who ran a course PB on his 30th Bere Island parkrun and his 49th parkrun in total. Daniel was the fastest junior boy, running a PB on his 5th parkrun on the island and 9th in total. Sadhbh, visiting from Tralee for the first time, was the fastest junior girl. This week's highest age-graded percentage was achieved by Finola Crowley, with a score of 77.27%.
Coming in to the finish
Halfway down the funnel was Peter with words of encouragement while Patrick Stephen O'Sullivan, who was on Finish Tokens, was next to greet everybody.
En route through the funnel to collect a finish token
Tail Walker Ann Marie Harrington made sure everybody was safely home, smiling all the way.
Ann Marie and Catherine Sullivan bringing up the rear
Recovery was aided by water at the GAA Club, along with not one, but two flavours of tasty muffins (chocolate and raspberry, and orange and blueberry) kindly brought by Marta, visiting from Limerick.
Recovering at the GAA pitch The delectable muffins Marta made didn't last long!
Once breathing normally again, it was over to Aoife Walsh, Clare Kenward (who hails from Clair parkrun and was volunteering on the 125th separate occasion!), and Filip Piotrowski, for Barcode Scanning.
A general view of the finish: queuing for scanning, rehydrating, stretching, and of course chatting!
Joanne Sullivan, on Token Sorting, and Sheila Walsh, on Finish Token Support, then set about reorganising the finish tokens for next week's parkrun.
Joanne making sure no tokens got lost A pause in Token Sorting while Joanne tracked down missing tokens
Finola Crowley then took charge of Post-event Close Down, ably assisted by John and Peter, as everybody either headed to Murphy's Bakehouse or back to the ferry.
Putting the equipment away until next week
Finally, Results Processor Proinnsias O'Keeffe was responsible for downloading, uploading, and submitting the times along with confirming the volunteers to parkrun HQ. Proinnsias approaching the finish ready to look after the results
Beverly Killen was Photographer yesterday, and captured plenty of shots of most of the above - these can be viewed on the Bere Island parkrun Facebook page.
Beverly in action while Peter delivered the briefing
Of course, volunteers are essential for parkrun to go ahead, so do please get in touch if you are interested in volunteering at some point. You can see the schedule for the coming weeks on the future roster page on the website. I promise volunteering is just as enjoyable as running/walking/jogging!
Of the 157 participants yesterday morning, 10 different clubs were represented. The visitors included Chris and Jamie Seymour, co-EDs of Queenstown parkrun in New Zealand, Debbie Henvey, ED of Tolka Valley parkrun, Anna, Clare, and Graham Kenward from Sussex, Alison and Steve Wise from Bangor, a group of Running Chicks (ForgetTheGym.ie) from Dublin, Adam, Adrian, Filip, Marta, Seamus, and I from Limerick, a group from Causeway with a Tralee connection, and Maria O'Regan from Castlehaven. There were 45 people visiting Bere Island parkrun for the first time, including 12 people who took part in their first parkrun, and 15 parkrunners achieved new Personal Bests. Times are available here - well done to everybody who took part in event 266!
Congratulations to junior parkrunners Lucy and Seán, both of whom joined the 10-club yesterday - here's to your next milestones, Lucy and Seán!
After parkrun, it was time to relax in/outside the Bakehouse discussing all and sundry over coffee, confectionery, or for some the "full Irish" to replenish the calories burned. Gathering at Murphy's Bakehouse post-parkrun
Although I didn't sample any food, I've been reliably informed that every last morsel was delicious. I'll just have to come back with a larger appetite! There wasn't much time then before the ferry was departing for the mainland, laden with happy, smiling parkrunners exchanging stories and yarns.
Time to board the ferry back to the mainland - far too soon!
If you're still reading, thanks for Bere-ing with me (see what I did there?) through this admittedly mammoth Run Report! Thanks so much for having us - it was a treat to experience the Bere Island hospitality. I think I can safely say on behalf of all the Limerick gang that we thoroughly enjoyed our spot of parkrun tourism on the island. I'm already looking forward to visiting again!
Everybody is of course welcome in Limerick anytime, we'd be delighted to see you!
Shona Ní Fhloinn