Varadkar announces that popular parkrun Ireland 5k races to go nationwide

NCEC Sepsis & Park Runs 27 May 2015 085
Healthy Ireland providing €100,000 in funding to parkrun in new partnership deal

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar today announced that the hugely popular parkrun initiative will go nationwide thanks to a new partnership initiative and €100,000 in funding.

The Healthy Ireland section of the Department of Health and the HSE have awarded a grant of €100,000 to parkrun Ireland, as part of the new partnership which also involves Athletics Ireland, the Irish Sports Council and Phillip Lee Solicitors.

Every week parkrun organises free 5k races at 29 venues across Ireland in parkland surroundings. People of every age and ability are encouraged to take part. Thanks to this new partnership, up to six new parkrun events are now being planned which will effectively make it a nationwide initiative, with races starting in Killarney and Dundalk next weekend, and others to follow in Athlone, Limerick city and Cork city. New races started recently in New Ross, Poppintree, Sligo, Hartstown, Cabbinteely, and a junior parkrun for 4-14 year olds is also planned.

Minister Varadkar said: “parkrun offers fantastic opportunities for people to take part in a 5k race in a fun and positive environment. It’s a dream initiative for any aspiring runner. You simply log on, download your number, and take part in a 5k race in your local park. Your time is recorded and you can compare your progress from week to week. It couldn’t be easier and it’s all free of charge.

“parkrun is already available in 29 locations around Ireland and up to six new events are now being planned under this new partnership. I’m delighted that parkrun is going to be supported by Healthy Ireland because it’s very effective and has a proven success rate. People who are active are more likely to live healthy and happy lives. I really want to encourage more people to be physically active in Ireland and this is a great way to do just that.”

Almost 37,000 participants have run 1,000,000 km in parkrun events at 29 locations around Ireland since it started here in 2012. Originally launched in the UK, there have been a total of 1.5 million registrations worldwide, with 100,000 participants taking part weekly in 12 (soon 14) countries. It’s now the single biggest running participation event on the planet.  And its growth in Ireland has been the most dramatic of all.

In welcoming the new partnership, Matt Shields, parkrun Ireland country manager said: “There is something about the parkrun ethos of family and community that fits well with the Irish culture and when you add the support we have received at all levels from government to grass roots, it is hardly surprising that parkrun in Ireland has been such a success. In two years, we have established 29 events to date with six more coming soon and the prospect of junior parkrun for 4-14 year olds also close. People of all ages, gender and ability now have a new weekly free friendly pathway to activity. I am sure that with the support of Healthy Ireland, The Irish Sports Council, Athletics Ireland and our latest commercial supporter Philip Lee we will see much more of the same through 2015-16. “

John Foley, the CEO of Athletics Ireland also welcomed today’s announcement saying: “Athletics Ireland is delighted to partner with parkrun as it grows throughout Ireland. We see parkrun as an ideal way for people of all ages to get involved in exercise through running in a friendly non-competitive environment. Many of the Athletics Ireland clubs are volunteering every week to assist with the runs and a number of the participants are joining their club Fit4Life groups which meet regularly. We look forward to a long-term relationship with parkrun as we work together to get people active and healthy”.

John Treacy, CEO of the Irish Sports Council said: “The Irish Sports Council are delighted to support the parkrun initiative. Our aim is to encourage participation across Ireland, across all ages and abilities and remove barriers that prevent participation in sport. Through our National Network of Local Sports Partnerships, we have been able to support parkrun events across the Country and provide opportunities for more people to be more active, more often.”

Alice Whittaker, Partner in Philip Lee said: “Philip Lee is delighted to be one of the main supporters of parkrun in Ireland.  We have a strong ethos of encouraging the promotion of sport, health, community and positive initiatives within the firm.  As a fantastic community based initiative, parkrun is the perfect fit for Philip Lee which is full of avid runners and sport fans.”

Dr Cate Hartigan, Assistant National Director Health Promotion and Improvement in the HSE also welcomed today’s announcement saying: “We are delighted to support parkrun in 2015 and to make it part of our Healthy Ireland programme. Encouraging more communities to be active and to see the enormous benefits that this can bring, is one of the most important changes that we all want to see in Ireland. We are really looking forward to working with parkrun to support the community participation and volunteering that is an essential element of the initiative and which adds greatly to our overall health and wellbeing in Ireland.”

Minister Varadkar concluded by saying: “I want to pay tribute to this new parkrun partnership between the public service, the corporate sector, the community and voluntary sector and a national sporting organisation. This initiative supports and empowers people to make positive change towards making Ireland a healthier place to live and also to help in action towards realising the vision of a Healthy Ireland.”

Notes for editors:
1.    Healthy Ireland is the national framework for improved health and wellbeing in Ireland. There are very worrying concerns in relation to low levels of physical activity in Ireland. The Department of Health and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and a number of other key stakeholders, are currently developing a National Physical Activity Plan to encourage greater levels of physical activity by everyone living in Ireland. This is the first time that concerted action will be taken by a range of different stakeholders to get more people in Ireland active. It is expected that the Plan will be presented to Government and launched later this year. Healthy Ireland will be providing a financial contribution (funded by the HSE) to parkrun to continue the rollout of parkrun to more venues around the country, to target disadvantaged areas and to promote a new junior parkrun initiative.
2.    parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and people of every ability are encouraged to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; all are welcomed.
3.    Almost 37,000 participants have run almost 1,000,000 km in parkrun events at 29 locations around Ireland
4.    It is “parkrun”, one word, small “p”. www.parkrun.ie for more information
5.    The Irish Sports Council is the State agency with responsibility for planning, leading and co-ordinating the sustainable development of competitive and recreational sport in Ireland. See more at www.irishsportscouncil.ie
6.    Athletics Ireland is the National Governing Body for Athletics in Ireland. Their primary objective is to promote and develop the sport at every level from recreational running and schools competitions through to supporting Ireland’s elite athletes in international competition.
7.    Philip Lee is one of Ireland’s leading commercial law firms who are recognised leaders in several areas of law, including competition, construction, data, employment, energy, environmental, EU, intellectual property, PPP, procurement, real estate and tax law. See www.philiplee.ie