Sligo Parkrun is a free Saturday morning weekly initiative. It is an inclusive 5km walk/run for all age groups organised by an ever willing group of helpful and friendly volunteers who give their time freely on the day.

Parkrun events take part in many towns and cities across the world all on a volunteer basis but in March 2020, events worldwide were understandably shut down due to covid-19 concerns.

When this happened in Sligo there was palpable disappointment among the Sligo community. Parkrun in Sligo acts as an important outlet for often upwards of 100 community participants. The buzz people get from participating and volunteering is apparent in the excitement at the finish and for a while after until everyone has had a chat and left for home. Benefits are wide ranging, from enhanced physical health to mental health and it also brings people from all walks of life and of varying abilities together on a social level due to the friendly inclusive nature of the event. This has in recent times been evidenced by the regular participation and integration of the Sligo Sanctuary runners – a group made up of a mixture of runners from direct provision centres and the wider Irish community.

The disappointment felt at the event having to shut down was, however short-lived. Members of the core team quickly stepped up to the plate to fill the void and decided to try something new. They managed to keep the weekly momentum going by organising an unofficial 5km virtual run/walk for anyone who wanted to partake.

The premise was simple enough. Run or walk your own 5k on a Saturday (originally within your 2km from home limit) and submit a time to be included in the weekly results. Simple ideas, however, sometimes hide the trojan work involved in bringing them to fruition. In this case one particular member of the core team stood out – Mary Davey. She has continually gone above and beyond to provide a valuable service to the Sligo community during these challenging times.

Without fail each week Mary has taken on the onerous task of spending every Saturday evening sifting through the many messages she receives. These often include comments, photos of local scenery, participant selfies, random animal pictures, along with screenshots of running routes, and photos of times in various guises.

Mary has continued to do this task along with writing a positive, encouraging and witty weekly run report every Saturday evening, via social media, in order to keep everyone up to date and motivated with the latest news and performances of the regulars and the not so regulars.

Participants look forward to her weekly offering with anticipation and appreciate the effort Mary has made and continues to make to keep everyone’s spirits up in these difficult times.

The inclusivity of the initiative is borne out by the participation of Sligo natives no longer living in Sligo.

Such is Mary’s dedication that she even managed to compile her report and results whilst on staycation in far-flung parts of Ireland.

I have no doubt of the value of Mary’s efforts and, from talking to other participants, of the gratitude we all hold for her efforts at maintaining a weekly focus for the physical and mental health of the wider community.

Thank you Mary.

Signed

Virtual Parkrun Participants

Following are some of the photos submitted by participants.