Photo: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
May 19th, 2018 was an unforgettable day. For some it will be remembered as the day of the Royal Wedding. For others (especially Chelsea supporters), it was FA Cup Final Day. But for over 200 people who were lucky enough to be on Inch Beach on Saturday morning, it will be remembered as the day of the first ever Inch Beach parkrun!
What an amazing morning! The weather forecast had been fairly good during the week, but no-one had predicted the glorious sunshine at 9 am - in fact, when the event team walked the route at 6:30 it was just as crisp and clear! People hadn’t been warned to bring sun cream, but if we were out there much longer it might have been needed.
This day was the culmination of months of work by Event Directors Barry Murray and Eizabeth Brookes, and their core team of volunteers. Having seen the success of parkrun at other venues in Kerry and further afield, and realising the huge benefits of this simple concept, they contacted parkrun a few months ago with a proposition - the first parkrun in the Republic of Ireland to be run entirely on a beach! The first ever beach parkrun is also in Ireland, Portrush in Co., Down was in fact a world first, and has been in operation since 2012.
With the support of the local community on the Dingle Peninsula, a team of volunteers was assembled and the work started. There’s a lot to be done. Kerry County Council and Kerry Recreation and Sports Partnership have been hugely supportive of the parkrun concept in Kerry - Inch is our fourth 5K parkrun and there is also a 2K junior parkrun in Tralee - and this time was no different.
There were e-mails, phone calls, site visits, training nights in the South Pole Inn, and lots more. At the end of it all Barry and Elizabeth delivered parkrun to Inch Beach and what a great inaugural run!
Almost 200 runners assembled at the start, these included over 100 people who have never done a parkrun before - it is with these runners that the future of Inch Beach parkrun lies, as they are the men, women and children of the Peninsula who will enjoy running, jogging, walking or volunteering every week when the “parkrun tourists” are gone. So we can expect next week the numbers will be a bit smaller.
Not that the seasoned park runners didn’t enjoy the first run - far from it! - but they will be running at some of the 78 other parkruns all over Ireland from whence they came. The good news is, they will be telling everyone about it, and so Inch Beach is destined to be one of the “bucket list” parkruns that every parkunner in Ireland and many from further afield will want to do at least once.
Photo: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
This week they came from all corners of Ireland - Des from Waterworks and Monica from Malahide modelled their “250” T-shirts - it’ll be at least five years before a “home grown” Inch parkrunner earns one of those - but more about that later. Sharon came from the UK - she’s done well over 100 different parkrun and used the excuse of her mother’s birthday for a trip home to Macroom to this inaugural event. Not only that, she sorted all the tokens afterwards as she often does when she’s away from her home parkrun.
And there was nearly fifty from neighbouring Tralee parkrun - expect many more of those over the coming months as all the talk at Sunday’s junior parkrun in Tralee was of the beauty of the newest member of the parkrun family.
As well as the many "parkrun tourists" this week, we were especially delighted to welcome the children of Fybough National School who joined us with their parents and teachers and will all hopefully be back.
The run itself started, as it will every week, with a Run Briefing. Delivered (just this time) from the top of Tom Crean’s Car by Co-Event Director Barry Murray, this week’s was bit longer than it will be in future, as he was delighted to have the opportunity to thank all those who had helped to make this a reality. And as there were more newcomers to parkrun than usual, there was an explanation of how it all works. Cora Carrigg from Kerry Recreation & Sports Partnership also spoke briefly.
Photo: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
Then, a little after 9:30, all the participants lined up on the beach and were counted down to the start! What a sight! As they headed south to find Marshal Noel Spillane 2.5 km down the beach, it was chance for Barry and his team to take a few minutes breather and refresh the instructions to the volunteers at the Finish Funnel.
After 9 minutes, a message came from Noel - they’re here! And after nine more minutes, the first finisher (there are no “winners” as it’s a run, not a race!) crossed the line - Aidan Kelly (18:49) was the first person ever to have this Finish Token scanned (Shane was on Finish Token duty today, Elizabeth and Bernard our timekeepers, Mary & Siobhán were barcode scanning).
A minute later, our First Lady was also home - the amazing Shona Ni Fhloinn in a time of 19:47. Amazing not just for her running - did anyone try the flapjacks she was giving out at the Finish? Shona is a Run Director at Limerick parkrun. Soon after Shona came the first junior, Micheál from Tralee parkrun in 21:14. Micheal’s sister Kelly-Ann was the first junior girl!
Photo: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
And over the next 40 minutes, nearly 200 more. Some running, some walking, all smiling (well, maybe not smiling for the first couple of minutes after the finish, but certainly for the rest of the day!)
There are no “losers” either - no one comes last at parkrun! However long it takes, there is always a volunteer behind you at parkrun, they’re called the Tail Walker. This week, we were lucky to have two, Eleanor and Mohamed, and their job is to make sure everyone gets home safely, and collect the marshal and the signs on their way home. This is a much sought after volunteer role, as you not only get to volunteer, you also get a credit towards your running milestone T-shirts!
Most of the "milestone" T-shirts were on display
So what’s this about T-shirts? Well, parkrun not only gives you a free, weekly, timed 5K run, it gives you more! When you reach certain milestones, you earn a free T-shirt - you will have seen plenty of those on the beach on Saturday! For the runners and walkers, there are T-shirts for 50 (red), 100 (black), 250 (green) and even 500 (blue) parkruns. Junior runners (18 and under) also qualify for the “Junior 10” club after just ten runs - although there is a backlog on ordering these T-shirts at the moment. And because parkrun depends entirely on volunteers to thrive, there is one for them too - the aubergine (purple!) T-shirt is all yours when your name has been on the roster 25 times!
Indeed, one of today's runners earned his first milestone T-shirt today, Tim Walshe ran his fiftieth parkrun having done the remainder split between Marlay Park in Dublin and Tralee parkrun. Well done Tim!
Outdoor Results Processing at The Strand!
Just a little more about how parkrun works. All you need to take part is your printed barcode. (If you don’t have a barcode, you can still enjoy the parkrun, but you don't get your time recorded.) Turn up a few minutes before the 9:30 start for the run briefing, and then do your 5K. When you cross the line, you collect a Finish Token, have it scanned with your Barcode and your results will be e-mailed to you later that day. If you like, pop to the local café (in this case, The Strand) and meet your fellow parkrunners over a scone and coffee while the results are being uploaded. And your Saturday has only just started!
You can also see results of the run on the web page after every parkrun - here's this week's results from Inch Beach - each event has its own web page. You can see lots of photos taken by Tommy Dickson, John Ryle and Noel Spillane on our Facebook page.
It's as simple as that, and it's the same at over 1300 parkruns all over the world. There are a couple of other important rules - if you have a dog, they must be on a short lead, and all Under-11 runners must be within arm's reach of their parent or guardian (over-18) throughout the run (read more here).
This simplicity is key to the global success of parkrun, and its inexorable growth from its origins in Bushy Park in 2004. Every week in Ireland up to 10000 people take part, and this number is increasing as new parkruns start up with at least one in every county now.
Some of this week's Volunteer Team. Photo: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
Finally, thanks to all the volunteers and supporters who made Inch Beach parkrun a reality this weekend! If you take part in parkrun, please consider volunteering as all events are delivered entirely by local volunteers. drawn from among the participants. Matt Shields, Ireland Country Manager is very fond of saying: "If everyone does a little, no-one has to do a lot". Volunteering is just as much fun as running (some might say more!), and all the tasks are straightforward. Full training is given every week before the run brief, so just let the Event Directors know by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or give your name and barcode to the Run Director at any Saturday parkrun.
Some of these will be running or walking next week, so there will be new faces on Saturday's roster: four people kindly volunteered after parkrun #001 - including one of the Fybough School pupils! That's how it all works.
Come back next week, and Don't Forget Your Barcode!