Belfast man becomes first athlete in Ireland to complete 500 parkruns
A BELFAST man ran his way into the record books on Saturday by becoming the first athlete in Ireland to complete 500 parkruns.
Crossing the finishing line at the Waterworks Park in north Belfast, Jim Clinton described it as a "fantastic achievement".
The 61-year-old took part in his first parkrun in 2011 and since then said he had "became hooked", completing numerous running milestones over the past decade.
Joined by family, friends and fellow parkrun participants to celebrate the milestone, Mr Clinton - known to many as 'parkrun Jim' - said "it's not just the running I enjoy, it's the community spirit as well".
Usually held every Saturday, typically in pleasant parkland surroundings, the first parkrun began in London in October 2004 with the Waterworks parkrun the first to launch on the island of Ireland in November 2010.
The weekly, free, timed 5K runs have experienced a massive growth in popularity in recent years. There were now more than 30 events in the north and around 100 in the Republic.
Mr Clinton said what first started out as a way of getting healthier had become a major part of his life.
"I came to running late in life, I was almost 50 when I started so to become the first person in Ireland to run 500 parkruns is a fantastic achievement," he said.
"I just started back then to try and to lose weight and help my mental health by getting out and about and I became hooked.
"I soon realised parkrun is a wonderful community of people encouraging one another and I have since went on to encourage family, friends, colleagues to all take part and most of the time they stay at it.
"It's not just the running I enjoy, it's the community spirit as well, it's about doing your run and then staying on after to have a conversation with people and talking to others.
"The milestones are there, you firstly want to achieve the 50 parkruns, then it's 100 and then 250. I also was the first person in Ireland to complete 250.
"Once you get one milestone, you aim for the next one.
"There's a few people who are around the same number, maybe just four or five behind me, so it created a bit of friendly rivalry leading up to my 500th."
Encouraging others to take part in a parkrun, Mr Clinton said his love of running had spiralled over the last 10 years and he was always on the weekly starting-line.
"Practically every Saturday I'm there, I wouldn't miss it," he said.
"I've even flown home early from holidays to make sure I'm there. I did think about flying over to New Zealand when Covid stopped the parkruns here as it had started up again over there, but I knew it would be mad.
"I would encourage everyone to give it a go, it's free, it's fun and a wonderful way to get out and about."