PARNELL Athletics Club in Rathdrum has been catering for runners of all ages and abilities for over 50 years.
With European Week of Sport due to take place this week, club member Bill Porter is keen to promote the health benefits and social aspects involved in taking up running.
“I still enjoy athletics, even after 42 years. I first took up running because of my brother and I haven’t looked back since. We are coming into our busy cross country season now and that will dominate the next few months. All our events have been going ahead as scheduled.
“The park runs we hold in Avondale have also been hugely successful. You had a lot of people taking up running during lockdown, and lots of those people are now taking part in the park run. According to the figures 500,000 people took up running during lockdown, and 200,000 started walking, which is great,” said Bill.
While rising energy crisis and fears over escalating cost of living costs have been impacting upon many organisations, Bill hasn’t yet noticed things impacting on athletics and running, though he feels much more could be done funding wise for local clubs.
He added: “I don’t think the cost of living crisis has had much of an impact on us yet, but I do feel athletics are often forgotten about when it comes to funding. Athletics Ireland and the Government need to put more money into clubs. For instance, Parnell Athletics Club has been in existence for 53 years and we still don’t have our own ground. We don’t even own a blade of grass. We have to use facilities at Wicklow Rugby Club instead. We have 100 kids and 60 adults as members, but we have nowhere we can call home.
“Other athletics clubs in the area are in the same boat, such as Ashford Athletics Club and Inbhear Dee Athletics Club, as they too have no grounds of their own to train the kids. There should be more facilities out there for kids. I have been training kids for 38 years and throughout that whole time we have needed proper facilities. We hear a lot about the importance of keeping kids active, but the government need to do more when it comes to funding and providing facilities. They are building houses, but they aren’t building schools or sports facilities to keep up with the numbers of new houses being built.”
The numbers of volunteers available to man different events and races appear decreased rapidly since the pandemic arrived in Ireland.
Bill said: “Volunteers aren’t an issue yet but I do think their numbers have dwindled down since Covid. You had no sport for a year and a half and a lot of people who used to be involved in running or athletics simply never came back in. I do believe the numbers of volunteers have fallen since the country reopened again after lockdown.”
The numbers of youngsters who continue to take up running and athletics is also greatly encouraging.
“It’s very rewarding and now I am training the kids of parents who I used to train 20 or 30 years ago. I do find now that there are more young girls taking up running than young boys, mainly aged 14, 15 and 16. Some train up so they can participate in races, while others just take part for the enjoyment and to stay fit. It’s great to see some of the kids progress onto running in the Wicklow Championship or the Leinster Championship, and some move onto All-Ireland championships. We also have athletes representing Ireland, which we are very proud of. It’s great for their physical and mental health and the most important thing is that they enjoy themselves.”