Gallop to Glory - Run on the course of champions with the unique Wexford Racecourse Parkrun

September 07, 2023

Back in 2009, the popular breakfast cereal Weetabix, ran a television advertising campaign that featured a determined jockey competing in a major race, The Rigby Stakes, when much to the dismay of the crowd, he was thrown from his unfortunate horse who had suffered an injury. Upon checking to see if the animal was “alright”, the horse encouraged him to “go on without me” and “run like the wind”. With that, the jockey ran the race of his life, slowly passing racehorse after racehorse before pipping the final one at the finish to become an unlikely hero as he claimed victory amid rousing cheers from those adoring fans in attendance.

Wexford Racecourse Parkrun offers participants a similar experience as the course follows the ambulance track for three laps, allowing those with a creative mind the opportunity to visualise themselves competing in and winning The Rigby Stakes just like the protagonist in the advert and they make their way around the course.

Participants on the racecourse - Credit Enda O'Sullivan

The whole idea of the Wexford Racecourse Parkrun began in Mayo in July 2014, when John and Sharron Dier were on holidays and on the lookout for a race to participate in. They spotted the Parkrun in Westport and were so enamoured by the experience that they decided to explore the concept further by competing in the inaugural Kilkenny Parkrun on the October bank holiday weekend in 2014. The brought the idea to Wexford where it first began in Johnstown Castle on March 7th, 2015, before moving into Wexford town a few years later. It is grown from strength to strength with an average of 108.8 finishers per week while at the same time it has a definite community feel to the run.

The course begins at the top of the track, halfway through the bend and if you arrive a few minutes early you can take in the spectacular scenic views over Wexford Town where the twin churches, St. Peter’s College and Wexford Park, amongst other notable features of the town, dominate the skyline. From there you can look out into the sea, across the Slobs toward the beautiful Raven Forest. To the right, is Rosslare, only a few kilometres away as the crow flies.

John and Sharron Dier - Credit Enda O'Sullivan

The route starts at a fast pace as you run downhill, past the sand path and the stands, to the far end of the ambulance track. This offers those interested in getting a quick time the opportunity to pick up speed as they chase their own particular goal. Last year Wexford County Council retarmacked the lower end of the track as part of the final stage of the flood prevention scheme to protect houses outside the grounds, making the surface much more comfortable to run on and allows runners to pick up the pace. The rest of the ambulance track was completed by the racecourse management in March of this year.

As runners come around the bottom turn there is ample opportunity to listen out for numerous insects as they hover about over the wildflowers and grasses that have been allowed to grow and have given nature a vital breathing space in an urban setting. Along here the pace does noticeably slow down as runners commence the uphill climb back towards the start. Fortunately, the incline is not that bad and midway through there is a break with a slight decline before you reach the bend and make your way back to the start for two more laps.

After the third go you continue for another quarter of a lap before taking a sharp left-hand turn onto the sand path that brings runners back towards the carpark. This section can be tricky as there are often holes in the sand that runners can trip over so caution is advised here.

Niall Tyrrell puts the fear of God into a finisher contemplating easing off approaching the finish line - Credit Enda O'Sullivan

From there you take a sharp right-hand turn and race down behind one of the stands towards the finish line where volunteer Niall Tyrrell, one of the timekeepers, with his encouraging words puts the fear of God into anyone that was considering easing up approaching the finish!

Wexford Racecourse Parkrun is one of the most sociable races I’ve ever partaken in with everyone offered tea or coffee at the finish and most Saturday mornings there are divine homemade treats to get your sugar levels back up! Many participants sit down in the main stand for thirty minutes or more afterwards and enjoy a friendly chat.

With Wexford known as a tourist destination, almost every week, there is at least one person visiting from abroad while many more come from across the country to take part. All are immediately made feel very welcome. The course is ideal for those with a pram or buggy and is very dog friendly, but it is advisable to keep your canine on a short lead and runners regularly lap walkers.

Wexford Racecourse Parkrun Course

The course is perfectly suited for wheelchair users and if such a competitor wishes to partake in the Parkrun, they are of course more than welcome and should contact the organisers via their social media so that they can provide a volunteer to help them over the sandtrack.

Overall, Wexford Racecourse Parkrun is an excellent experience and one well-worth participating in at least once for those interested in Parkrun Tourism. With its community atmosphere it is very welcoming of all, walkers and runners alike, and will leave positive lasting memories for years to come.

Events: 357
Finishers: 5,677
Finishes: 38,829
Average finishers per week: 108.8
Volunteers: 462
PBs: 6,725
Average finish time: 00:30:49
Average finishes per participant: 6.8
Groups: 318
Female record: Jackie CARTHY – 17:53 – Event 54 (12 Mar 2016)
Male record: Sean HEHIR – 14:58 – Event 133 (16 Sep 2017)
Age graded record: Kay (Catherine) O'REGAN - 96.85% 26:58 – Event 39 (28 Nov 2015)

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