Northern Ireland news

Magilligan prisoners to get their own parkrun

Lower Drummans parkrun will take place inside Magilligan Prison in Co Derry. Picture by Margarate McLaughlin

A PRISON has been chosen as the unlikely setting of the north's newest parkrun - with the event due to launch in the new year.

Inmates and staff at the medium-security Magilligan Prison in Co Derry will be able to take part in a timed 5K run every Saturday.

Events typically take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and are free and open to everyone.

It is hoped that participation in parkrun will help facilitate rehabilitation, prepare prisoners for reintegration into society and reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

The entire run at the jail will take place within the perimeter walls.

Waterworks parkun in north Belfast was the first to launch in November 2010 and the number of events across Ireland has spiralled more recently. There are now 25 different events in the north and 72 in the Republic, as well as a handful of 2k events for children, which are held on Sundays.

Magilligan's run will operate slightly differently from other parkrun events. The official name will not include the word `prison'. Instead it will be named Lower Drummans parkrun after the townland in which it stands.

Given the limited access to IT facilities, staff will register the prisoners, print off personal barcodes, process results and manage the website. Inmates will not include their surnames when they register and results emails will be sent to family members.

It becomes the second jail in Britain and Northern Ireland to launch an official event.

In November, Black Combe parkrun started within the grounds of HMP Haverigg, a category C men's prison in Cumbria with 286 inmates.

There are currently 442 prisoners held at Magilligan, which recently received praise from inspectors for its leadership and "positive culture" between staff and prisoners". Registrations opened this week and already a small number of prisoners have signed up.

Chrissie Wellington, global head of health and wellbeing, said parkrun was a forward thinking organisation, and was proud and excited to be taking a "bold and pioneering step".

"Our mission is to help create a healthier and happier planet, and to do this our events need to be accessible to as many people as possible, including people who could not otherwise participate in parkrun," she said.

"This was true of Camp Bastion parkrun in Afghanistan, and is also the case for HMP sites.

"Establishing parkruns within prisons will provide regular physical activity and volunteering opportunities for prisoners; building hope and aspirations, recognising and celebrating people's strengths and progress, promoting skill development and fostering agency and empowerment."

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