A Big Thank You To Omagh Parkrun Volunteers

Every Saturday at 9:30am a whistle blows and droves of brave runners start their dash to the Omagh 5k parkrun finish line. But it is the dozen or so volunteers who marshal the course and guide the runners that are the real heroes.

A weekly run

Omagh parkrun is a free weekly 5k-timed run for all those who make it to the starting line. Runners must register online and bring a printed copy of their allocated barcode for the system to track progress. Course details are available and results posted for everyone to compare finish times. For those interested in statistics, there is a treasure trove of data available about each course and every performance. Parkruns are held all over the world and welcome every age and ability, as participants run, jog, walk and travel the circuit in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. Regular runners and non-runners test their fitness against each other and the stopwatch. Parkruns began in 2004 with a few runners in a single event and have grown to become an international phenomenon hosting millions of runners in thousands of events in dozens of countries around the world.

A good thing

One of the best features of parkruns is that they are organised by volunteers. The commitment of people who give time freely is even more impressive than that of the runners who battle to test their resolve against the clock. Volunteers turn up in all types of weather to prepare the course and make sure everything works safely and smoothly. Volunteering has always provided a way to support people and communities and is undertaken without any expectation of personal gain. Tremendous benefits, however, accrue when the volunteering habit is strong, as it spreads an ethos of caring throughout the whole population.

In this context, everything that is good about volunteering was on display during last Saturday’s Omagh parkrun, as temperatures dropped to -1 with a wind chill factor of -3. During the race, two brave volunteers stood at the highest checkpoint in Arleston Park wearing hats and coats and gloves and scarfs while suffering the bone chilling effect of the wind. Without doubt, such volunteers deserve recognition for their service and sacrifice on what was a bitterly cold day. But in the absence of such acclaim they, at least, deserve our thanks. Thanks for turning up, thanks for standing for so long in such cruel cold, and thanks for showing us what the best of volunteering is all about. So, the success of Omagh’s parkrun is replicated around the world as millions of people take part in similar events but it is only possible because of the generosity of volunteers who uphold a long and proud tradition.