*By Bishwajit Okram
Fluorescent jacket flashes in the dark, man and woman, old and young, walks or runs, even though beastly weather plays havoc almost round the year, is quite common in Ireland even during dark, long winter days. This is Ireland, the emerald island, sports is at the heart of everyone’s life. Running and walking appears to be a part of their culture. Not for winning the fastest but for winning within. On seeing them running even in the wet, one would be agog to know, the curiosity: what on the earth they gain from running or walking! There are 5 major health benefits one can get from running according to a prominent: staying shape; prevent heart disease; maintain healthy muscles and bones; fight insomnia and improve mental health. http://unitedrunners.org/iloverunning/top-5-health-benefits-of-running There is nothing to be surprised now to know why Irish are dye hard runners or walkers; health is wealth. It is a religion. A healthy mind thinks healthy for themselves and for others!
Irish are one of the most benevolent communities in the world, so benign they are! When it comes to help, support and sponsor other for any great cause, they are always there. This is contrary to their state of economy. Ironically, Ireland was the first country within the European Union which was bailed out in 2010 for €85billions; still the country’s foreign aid to other countries, despite its tumultuous economic situation, was €676 million in 2010. Such is the magnanimity of the Irish people. According to UN human development Index, Ireland beat Germany, the economic god father of Europe when it comes to the values of life and standard. Ireland is ranked 7th, where as Germany is ranked 9th. This is despite of the fact that the unemployment rate last reported in April 2012 was 14.3%. As a result of this thousands of Irish are fleeing the country for greener pasture; Irish government is taxing its residence – left, right and centre, as one Irish colleague once said. Yet, Ireland is the 16th happiest countries in the world in 2012, according to Reuter News. The sun actually shines in their hearts although the country is enveloped with clouds, hammered with blows of North West Atlantic winds most of the time, in real weather sense.
My colleague Kieron is one such Irish man, ever ready to help anyone in need, a testimony to the qualification endorsed above. As an ardent volunteer he notified everyone in the office well before 2 months before an event of charity- running and walking, was due to take in his village-Clare Burren, for Irish Cancer Society. Many heeded to his call. The enthusiasm could be felt, and it became contagious slowly. Me too, I also joined the run or walk event. When the day comes, more than 1350 participants, young and old alike, took part in the event in a picturesque, remote village of Ireland. To me that was a thought provoking event apart from the joy I still relish and proud of having participated in the 10km walk category of the day. One will only look forward to participate into more of such events, this was the impression I had, a first timer. Children as small as 7 years old and man as old as 70s took part in the event. The cause for the event was profound; the benefits were dual: working for one’s own health and helping the Irish Cancer Society at the same time. Isn’t it killing two birds with one stone!
Later I had an online interview with one of the main organisers, Gerard Reidy through a colleague of mine and, courtesy to him for the amazing photographs he sent for this feature. He shared with me some of the facts, struggles and motivations behind such events:
How often do you involve in organising such event every year?
2 annual Club events organised – Clare Burren Marathon in May and Burren Peaks Walking Festival in September.
What motivates you to do this?
The Event Manager role in the Club is filled each year and generally the person undertakes the role for 3/4 years due to the experience obtained. For that period of time there is great satisfaction putting a team together to undertake the events. After that, the events benefits from fresh enthusiasm, a different approach and a new team.
What is the experience so far in this recessionary economy?
We have recognised the impact of the current economic recession and reduced our entry rates.
How was the response during the economic boom time?
The reduced entry rates have maintained the numbers participating over the past two years.
Between male and female, who take part the most?
Across the three marathon events, the male / female split is generally 50/50. However on the full marathon the split is 65/35 males to females and 60/40 on the half marathon event.
How the money generated is spent?
The money generated from the entry fees supports the main sponsor to meet the costs associated with hosting the event. If excess funds are available post the event, a number of charities benefit.
What is your plan in the future to encourage more people to join it?
More promotion of the event! particularly through Social Media and encouraging Charity Organisations to take out entry packages.
Who are the team of organisers? Are there all volunteers?
The team of organisers are all volunteers.
Are there any paid elements in your service or voluntaries work?
There are no paid elements for the team.
What is the average numbers of participants?
Over the past 5 year history of the event, the numbers of participants have been 1000, 1600, 1600, 1400 and 1350 this year.
Why there is a fee structure for different sub events of the event and what are they?
The entry fees this year were €20 for Mini Marathon, €30 for Half Marathon and €40 for Full Marathon. Under 16s on Mini were € 15. The longer events require greater resources to manage participants and require more supports in the form of water, food and fruit.
Was it hard for participants to get sponsorship?
Entry fees were kept low to aid participants to raise their own sponsorship. In the current economic conditions in Ireland, is can be difficult to raise sponsorship.
What is the range of age profile of the participants in such events?
Kids as young as 8/9 years undertake the Mini Marathon and some participants in the 70s have done the other events.
Is it a local event or a national event?
We market the events as International and participants take part right across the world. The Marathon is promoted as Irelands Spectacular Adventure Marathon … and the Peaks Walking Festival is promoted through its Internationally unique location of the Burren Region in County Clare.
What, normally, is the participant’s ratio between locals and non locals?
Generally the ratio of locals to visitors is around 60/40.
Nothing is more precious than life itself, thus support any life saving charity; there is no greater joy than being healthy, thus be involved in any sports. I learned this from this event. It won’t be a bad idea to start something similar in places like Manipur, India.
* This article was initially published at Kanglaonline.com: http://kanglaonline.com/2012/06/a-tribute-to-irish-people-that-we-can-also-learn-from/