Saturday 21 September 2019

Catherine’s a local VHI parkrun hero

Catherine Dempsey, pictured right, receiving her VHI Hero Award.
Catherine Dempsey, pictured right, receiving her VHI Hero Award.

When Catherine Dempsey was persuaded to tag along to her local park run on St Stephen's Day 2015 she had no idea of the impact it would have on her life.

Describing is as 'the best decision I have ever made' Catherine quickly became a valued member of the New Ross Park Run and someone who embraced the ethos of the weekly get-togethers and what they meant for all who attend.

'This year I completed my 100th parkrun, and have volunteered more than 30 times. I so love the parkrun movement. I'm not a runner and parkrun has never been about the running to me. I'm a run/walker, and I get just as much out of volunteering as I do when I cover the 5k,' said Catherine.

'I've made so many friends at parkrun. Friends who I now call my "parkrun family". During my time since starting parkrun I've been through some really tough times. There have been some difficult family illnesses and two bereavements. I found that just being a part of the parkrun community on a Saturday morning helped me so much during this really hard time. It wasn't that I spoke to anyone about it, it was more about being in such a feel good environment.'

And that feeling is mutual. Because while Catherine has been busy making friends and becoming an integral part of the New Ross "parkrun family", her fellow members have been taking note of her contribution she makes, the little things she does to make those early Saturday mornings more enjoyable for everyone.

Without telling her they chose to nominate her for the National VHI Hero Award, a monthly prize which is given to those who go above and beyond to make their park run a special experience. Joking that they'd only nominated her because of all the tea and brown bread she brings during the chilly winter months, Catherine said, 'I feel very honoured to win it, to be thought that highly of and to be voted for by the other members. They didn't tell me they'd done it, the first I heard was when I got the phone call. But I can honestly say that for my small contribution to parkrun, I have got back a millions time more.'

But was it about the park runs which make them so special?

'It really is like a family, the people you meet; you might not talk to them but you'll nod as you go around. And everyone supports and encourages one another,' Catherine said. 'Anyone considering it should definitely give a try, we're very inclusive, very welcoming. I'm not a runner myself, there's no such thing as coming last, it caters for all abilities, you'll have some people bringing the buggies, others in their 70s. There's no entry fee, you just turn up on a Saturday morning and away you go.'

New Ross Standard