Kevin Kane parkrun journey
I emigrated to London in September 2008 to become a primary school teacher. It was a huge move for me as I knew nobody over there apart from my aunt and her family on the other side of the city. London can be a difficult place to make friends, apart from your colleagues that is.
It was through a colleague in the first ever school I taught in that I learnt about parkrun, and I experienced it for the first time at Black Park in Slough in 2010. Back then I didn’t have a huge interest in running; I played Gaelic football and soccer and there was enough running in that!
There was a huge crowd there and I thoroughly enjoyed the run. What position would I finish? What time would I get? I’m quite a competitive person. I loved every second of it. I really enjoyed going to the café after with my friend Dave. It was so social. Then you got emailed a time. I remembered my barcode of course.
I participated in Black Park parkrun a few times more, but it was tricky as it was 40 minutes away from my house. I had no idea then that parkrun was such a big movement around the world and there were actually plenty of them 10 minutes away from my house. It took me another three years to find Gunnersbury parkrun, and I fell in love with it. It was perfect. It was so handy for me as it was only five minutes away from me by car. It was there and I became addicted to it. There I started to use a stopwatch to time myself, raced home to check if I had got the email with my result and cheered if I got a PB. The atmosphere was fantastic there.
Then, In June 2015, everything changed in an instant. I suffered a horrific knee injury during a GAA match. I ruptured my acl, mcl, tore my meniscus and fractured my knee. I was devastated. All my progress was halted.
I returned home in August 2015 and thought about different things I could do in the meantime. I had plenty of time on my hands. In December 2015 I decided I really missed parkrun and searched the internet to seek out my nearest run. It was going to be 45 minutes away from me…too far. I emailed Matt Shields, parkrun Ireland’s country manager, and asked him how would I go about setting one up in my home town of Longford. He said it’s simple. I wanted it for myself and for the people of Longford to experience the wonderful event it is.
Matt explained the setup process, and I suggested he come visit the Mall and see what he thought. He was delighted with it. It met with his approval and I sorted permission from the council and funding from the local sports partnership. It was beginning to take shape. I was given the title of Event Director and founder of Longford parkrun! We had our inaugural event on 21 May 2016, which was attended by 97 participants on a beautiful warm summer’s day. Experienced participants and tourist runners on the day praised the run.
From May to September we averaged 40 runners a week, which was less than I was used to. I guess I was used to running alongside 300 people or more a week in Gunnersbury! I had a brainwave during the summer and came up with the idea of a parish parkrun. I wanted to get 10 people from each parish in Longford to take part in our event on 10 September. parkrun is all about the community and people love parish events which bring about a social element. It was a roaring success, which gave us a new attendance record of 128. More importantly however, parkrun was now known and spoken about in every parish in our small county. I did radio and newspaper interviews promoting it. It just went from strength to strength and our average doubled before Christmas to 80 participants per event.
I had a big Halloween event and Christmas event where I asked people to try and dress in appropriate costumes if they wished. They loved the fun themed element to the events. Since Christmas our attendances have spiralled, and last Saturday we smashed our attendance record with 321 participants. It is monumental for a county the size of Longford to achieve such figures and I’m a very proud ED. This would not be possible without the help of a wonderful team of volunteers and satisfied participants who are really enjoying our run.
On 5 November 2016 I did my first parkrun in 17 months after two operations and strenuous rehab. I chose to do it at Gunnersbury parkrun as it was there I really was taken in by the sheer magic of parkrun. A week later on 12 November 2016 I ran Longford parkrun. It was so special for me, as I was cheered on by many of the participants. I had watched it for long enough! I know them so well now and have made so many friends from it. I got my best ever parkrun result in 2017 of 21:29, so I’m over the moon with how everything has gone.
At Longford parkrun, we have now established something much more than a normal run. We have established a proper weekly community event. We have established lifelong friendships. It is something I couldn’t have imagined myself doing in a million years. I love parkrun and everything to do with it. It’s wonderful to see people walking their dog on a lead, parents pushing buggies along and introducing their children to parkrun at a young age. People have grown in confidence since they started running. Many participants act as pacers for me during pacer Saturday which we do on the first Saturday of every month. Some of them including myself would never have done anything like this before, but for what parkrun has given them. They are giving back to what parkrun has given them and are helping others achieve a greater time as a result. Many of the kids I teach in school are now participating in the run on a weekly basis which is lovely.
I put out an SOS call for somebody to set up a junior parkrun in Longford and someone answered my call. It’s in advanced stages now and it is a very exciting time for Longford. Children growing up in Longford will encounter parkrun from a very young age now, and hopefully take this with them to the Saturday run. Start them young and they will excel. Parents and teachers like myself have a key role in this.
We’re now closing in on our first anniversary which I can’t believe. Where has the year flown? I’m incredibly proud of what has been achieved here. Hopefully it goes from strength to strength.