The parkrun in Bere Island – Do sweat and coffee create the best community spirit?

Parkrun believes it’s everyone’s right to get up on a Saturday and run in a 5km timed event without paying for the pleasure. Here John Walsh, who has started the parkrun in Bere Island, shares with us what it’s like to organise a parkrun. 

Learn how to start a parkrun

Our parkrun in Bere Island started on August 29th 2014 and has grown from strength to strength. We were a small group of runners when we heard about the idea from Matt Shields, the parkrun Ireland manager, and we knew that we wanted to make it work in our community. 

Since then, much has changed, the parkrun has become a regular activity on the Island, making a huge positive impact on our communities. About two hundred people live on Bere Island but we have over six hundred people that have registered Bere Island parkrun as their home run; I think that says it all.

Our parkrun is all inclusive and welcomes runners, joggers, walkers and volunteers. Nobody gets left behind and you will get the same cheer whether you are first or last, as parkrun is all about participation.


No matter what the weather is like, every week at 9:30 runners gather at the start line for their parkrun.


It was so wonderful and unexpected for me to see how the parkrun brings all the community together young and old, we have had a parkrun where a 5 year old and an eighty five year old have taken part. So many people on the Island join us every week and are proud and delighted to have their own parkrun. We have welcomed parkrun tourists from places as far away as New Zealand and Australia and as close to home as Glengarriff and Castlehaven.

The economic benefits to our Island were the added bonus and it is great to see people coming in on the ferry every Saturday and enjoying the post parkrun refreshments in the Bakehouse café.

You can bring the kids, the dog, push a buggy, have a chat, look at the scenery, volunteer and simply enjoy what is going on around you.

To be honest, it actually surprised me that everyone shows up every Saturday morning at 9.30 to get in their running, walking or volunteer gear and stay after for coffee and cake. On a wet day we can all still be there drinking coffee and talking after 12 noon.

Parkrun has the ability to change peoples life for the better.

There is a fantastic network of people spread across the world who share this great idea. The benefits that parkrun brings to a community are immense and most of all include physical and mental well-being.

My own fitness has improved greatly thanks to parkrun, you will be surprised with how your fitness will benefit by running, jogging or walking 5K every week. I also see it as a great event to do together as a family. If we go on holidays or go away for the weekend we would always check if there is a parkrun nearby and take that in also.

Through parkrun I get to meet a lot of people throughout the country that are also involved in a parkrun, so it is a great network. A lot of people from Bere Island are now taking part in races from 5K to marathons.

To me parkrun is a social network where the person is central

We have 15 volunteer roles to fill every week, which was quite hard at the start. We found that it was all on the same people every week.

Whatever age, there is so much to learn and experience, volunteering with parkrun

Since we got a volunteer coordinator we are getting a lot more people helping. This month we had a first time run director, timekeeper and token giver and it all went smoothly.

Anyone can do the volunteer roles, they are all so easy. So a lot of the time we have children volunteering. The skills you learn here are life skills. All our junior volunteers could run the parkrun on their own now, which is a great skill to have for the future.

If you’re thinking about starting a parkrun in your community I can just invite you to join us on a Saturday morning to see first hand the benefits, or visit any other parkrun near you. We have had people from Glengarriff and Castlehaven who came here and we helped them to start their own parkrun and they are flying now.

Learn how to start a parkrun

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