On Your Marks Herald March 13

A day so overcast that Three Rock Mountain was invisible didn’t put off the 370 hardy souls who turned out for the first ParkRun 5km in Marlay Park last Saturday morning.
Marlay is the second Parkrun 5km to be held in Dublin. The first in Malahide Castle, has been going for over four months is attracting crowds of close to 400. That makes Malahide second only to Bushy park in London, where 1,000 regularly turn out.
By now most people will be aware of the Parkrun concept: a free 5km run, held every Saturday morning in your local park, usually organised by local athletics clubs and running groups. Since the first run attracted 14 people in 2004, Parkruns have spread to over 2,400 venues all over these islands and also in Denmark, Iceland, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, the US and South Africa.
In Ireland, Waterworks Park in Belfast was the first venue. That was over two years ago, and the North now has seven Parkrun venues with another eight planned.
Parkrun is community-based, it’s free and it’s ideal for people who want to keep fit – and also for us older runners. I reckon it gives us an extra five-ten years in the sport,” says Matt Shields, the man who brought Parkrun to the North and has been helping set up the runs south of the border.
Parkruns are easy to organise, using a simple bar code system to ensure that everyone gets an accurate time for their run. The “prize” for those who run is a “personal best” – the letters “PB” inscribed beside your name in the weekly race report sent out to everyone who runs. Incentives to run regularly include special t-shirts for those who complete 50 or 100 runs and for under 16 runners who complete 10 runs.
In the North, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure as well as Sports Northern Ireland are backing the venture.
We are experiencing an epidemic of illness caused by obesity. For the annual cost of catering for one person who develops diabetes, we can set up six Parkruns,” says Matt.
Setting up a Parkrun does involve an initial fee and in the case of Marlay Park, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown willingly footed the bill. The Dundrum South Dublin club also came on board, with almost its entire Meet and Train group either running or helping out last Saturday.
Ideally, every local community will have its own Parkrun. We want to make it easy for everyone,” says Matt Shields.
In Ireland, communities are now clamouring to hold their own Parkruns, with representatives from Ardgillan Park, Griffeen Park and Shanganagh Park among those keeping a close eye on proceedings last Saturday.
With not a lot of money about and more people than ever enjoying the simple please of a regular run, this is clearly an idea whose time has come.
Parkrun is a very different concept to the one-off big races. I’ve never seen as many people running and there’s more than enough room for all of us,” says Matt Shields.
Highlight of the St Patrick’s weekend for runners is the St Patrick’s Festival 5km – one of only three annual community races taking place right in the centre of Dublin city. Entries are at record levels for Saturday’s race and runners all over the city and beyond are already dusting down their shamrocks and St Patrick’s costumes. Particularly welcome are families with a special entry fee of €40 on offer. Online entry at €20 closes tomorrow (Thur) at www.patricksrun.com ; limited entry is available on the day at €25.
* Stewards are urgently needed for Saturday’s race. If you can help out, contact race director Eamonn Dolan at 087-6703311. All who volunteer will get a goodie bag and food.
Stephen Moore and Aoife Talty were the winners at the NUI/AIB BHAA Cross-Country races in Maynooth. Only one race remains in the BHAA Winter League – the annual floodlit 5km organised by North Dublin Farmers in Malahide next Wednesday evening. In January, the farmers were forced to cancel their annual cross-country in Swords when the river broke its banks, so all who run can be sure of a big welcome in Malahide!
At the British Masters Indoors at Lee Valley,  Joe Gough of West Waterford won the M60 800m in  a new European record of 2:14.49 – perfect preparation for next weekend’s European Indoors in San Sebastien, Spain. Tom O’Brien, also Waterford, soared over 1.72 – an Irish M45 record)  to finish 2nd in the high jump. Ronan Kearns  of Rathfarnham WSAF, competing  in his first masters’ competition,  finished 3rd in the M35 800m. DSD’s Lucy Moore won both the W55 triple jump and discus.
UCD ended a ten year DCU winning streak to finish best overall college at the Irish Universities Cross-Country Championships hosted by UUJ. A healthyvariety of colleges featured in the top ten of both men and women’s races.
UCD’s Fiona Roche was the winner of the women’s race over 4000m race, with Jason Fahy of Waterford IT  catching and passing early leader John Travers of AIT to win the men’s  8000m.  In a closely fought women’s team competition, Trinity beat UCC and UCD with DCU fourth. UCD, led by Chris Johnston in third place, won the men’s team title,  with DCU, winners for the past five years, second. Watch the races on Flotrack Ireland.
Just ten days remain until the annual Eirgrid Dunboyne “4” , now in its 44thyear. Last year, over 1,000 walkers, joggers and runners were led home by race winner Joe Sweeney, while hundreds of youngsters enjoyed the juvenile races. Online entry for the 4-mile race at www.dunboyneac.com.
Over 4,000 got down and dirty at  the annual Runamuck at Johnstown Bridge. There were some impressive times in the one-lap 5km race, with John Dineen first home in under 25 minutes.

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