To celebrate the 10th parkrun in Gorey, Co Wexford, on Saturday, 28 January, we interviewed the woman whose bright idea it was in the first place! Meet Elaine Harold, whose initiative brought over 120 runners and walkers to Gorey Town Park for this 5km event, which runs each Saturday at 9.30am.
First of all, what exactly is a parkrun? It’s a free, weekly, 5km timed run – parkruns take place in different parklands across Ireland and around the world. They’re open to everyoneand once you register and get your parkrun barcode (which identifies you and is scanned to log your times), you can participate in your home parkrun or visit other parkruns.
Elaine moved to Gorey four years ago – for romance! Partner John lived in Ballymoney and the couple (and dog Rosie) now live in Gorey town. Until she broke her leg in June 2016, she was a regular runner. Like everyone else new to an area, she wanted to meet up with people with similar interests. “I had been thinking of the parkrun, because I was familiar with it from friends in the UK and Scotland. When I was out running, I used to see others at the same thing and wondered where could you meet people with whom you’d at least have running in common,” said Elaine, who’s originally from Bray, Co Wicklow.
It’s one thing having an idea, and another thing altogether to follow it through and make it a reality. Elaine contacted parkrun Ireland and, in June, parkrun Ireland co-ordinator Matt Shields ran the course in Gorey Town Park and declared it perfect! “I was in crutches when we met and he did a double take – anyway, he ran the course to time it and to check the layout and its suitability. Then I contacted the Sports Council and Gorey Municipal District and we had our first parkrun on November 24 last year.”
“I promoted the run everywhere I could think of, including Facebook and the Love Gorey page, and through different Facebook groups. I was looking for runners, walkers, and volunteers.”
Not surprisingly, a lot of work goes into organising an event that is going to happen weekly – the parkrun celebrated its 500th runner after Christmas and, between week one and week nine, 53 volunteers had helped out as marshals, stewards, and barcode scanners.
“At our first meeting, we had 11 people and a lot of them are still in the core group. At our second meeting in the Ashdown Park Hotel, we had 20 volunteers and Matt from parkrun Ireland came along so that everyone would know what is involved in a parkrun. And then we had our first run in November!”
It has gone from strength to strength since then. “I had never set up anything before,” said Elaine, who is Event Director and in charge of promotion and publicity for the event.
Well, every week, over 100 runners and walkers are very pleased that Elaine chose to convert her idea into a reality that is a great way to start a Saturday, meet new people, and feel great at the same time!
(c) Deirdre O’Flynn 2017