The weekly free-to-enter parkruns that now take place at a number of venues across Dublin city and county seem to be growing a whole new running community.
Last Saturday's 5k run in the grounds of Malahide Castle was a lovely, intimate event that took place on a bright and sunny morning and attracted an entry of close to 300.
There was a great sense of camaraderie amongst those who took part, and I was reminded of something that George Sheehan, the philosopher on running, once wrote.
"Play is essential to the Good Life," Sheehan wrote. "We need it to become fully functioning human beings."
And he went on to say: "Often we do not recognise the lack of play in our lives. We are unaware of the effects it would have on all the functions of our personality."
At the Malahide event, I met a family that has been quick to recognise the benefits running can deliver for physical and mental well-being. Dan and Aileen Palmer are both into fitness, and they were attending the parkrun with their children Aidan (2) and Ellen (10 months).
Both parents train with the Fingal Kettlebells running group in Swords and they spoke glowingly about Dinny Collins, the inspirational leader of this lively group.
Dan was well sweated up when he completed his 5k in Malahide. "It is a great start to the day and the weekend to get out and run 5k in such a beautiful park – and in great company too," Dan said.
Dan and Aileen have no hesitation in saying that training with the Fingal Kettlebells has greatly enhanced their lives – physically and mentally – and that physical activity helps to keep them both more mentally alert and better able to cope with two small children.
Dan has a demanding job and finds the weekly parkrun a great way of banishing the stress of a busy week in the office. And you can see that Aileen is also mindful of the benefits running can offer busy parents.
Talking with Dan and Aileen, I was reminded of more that Sheehan wrote: "The first influence of play is on our bodies," he wrote. "It brings with it exercise. Medicine and surgery attack disease but they do not cover health. That resides in the fully functioning body, be it sick or well. Health is the best we can be. Health is getting the most out of the body we were born with. The playful use of exercise is what brings this about."
Watching Dan finish his 5k also brought to mind another Sheehan gem, observing what the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson had to say about exercise. "Be first a good animal," wrote Emerson. And Sheehan countered: "I am. I have that animal energy, that ease of movement, that good tight body."
Ithought about what a great message the Palmers and parents like them carry for their children, and the great example they are showing by bringing their children to see shared activity and play.
"Running makes me a child, a child at play," wrote Sheehan. "That is the aim of life; to become an adult while remaining a child at heart . . . Play is something we would do for nothing, something that has meaning but no purpose. When I run, I feel that. For that hour a day, I am a child, finally doing what I want to do and enjoying it."
I think that Dan and Aileen will agree, and that through the example they are now showing, their children will also one day grasp and follow with delight the same path to fitness – physical and mental.