A Belfast family are gearing up to take part in the Lurgan junior parkrun this weekend as part of a bid to complete each junior parkrun in Northern Ireland.
Derek Goodfellow and his children, eight-year-old Katie-Louise and four-year-old Dawson, are touring the Northern Ireland junior parkruns to highlight and promote their inclusivity and benefits for health and wellbeing.
Katie-Louise, who has Cerebral Palsy and Dystonia, is a fulltime wheelchair user and is non-verbal.
In what will be their sixth parkrun since they kicked off the challenge, the team will be taking part in the Lurgan junior parkrun this Sunday morning at 9:30am. When all is said and done, they’ll have completed around 18 junior parkruns.
Junior parkruns, which are aimed at children aged four to 14, are 2kms in length, while the main parkruns are 5kms.
The trio started out at the end of October and expect to have finished them all by the end of March.
So far they’ve taken part in the Victoria Park, Waterworks, Moira, Comber and Jordanstown junior parkruns.
Said Derek: “Jordanstown was a wee bit tricky because the sun didn’t come out for us and the terrain was mixed. It would’ve been better suited towards an all-terrain buggy rather than a wheelchair, but it was doable and that’s the point I want to put across.
“If somebody does have their son or daughter in a wheelchair, they can still access it. They can still take part.”
Alongside the runs, Derek is trying to raise funds to purchase a specialist running chair, to allow Katie-Louise to take part in races that are longer than 2k and enjoy the outdoors even more.
“Whilst the wheelchair can be pushed around each course, due to the differing terrains it can be more problematic at some locations than others,” he said.
The family initially got involved in junior parkrun when Dawson took an interest upon turning four. Derek, who had run in the past, says he got the “running bug” back for what was initially going to be a father-son effort.
He said: “I could see after a couple of parkruns with Dawson that Katie-Louise was getting a wee bit agitated, so I thought, you know what, let’s give it a wee go and we’ll see how she gets on.
“She’s always been an outdoorsy type of wee girl. When we’re running you hear the giggles from her and she moves her arms to indicate to go faster. She loves seeing others run as well… It’s just about bringing Katie-Louise that sense of being involved in the parkrun community.”
With Katie-Louise becoming an active participant in junior parkrun despite her condition, Derek decided he wanted to raise awareness around the inclusivity and mental health benefits that junior parkrun offers.
“I want to take that message around the country by going to all junior parkruns in Northern Ireland as a starting point just to promote its accessibility for everyone.”
For Derek, the junior parkrun has been a great bonding experience for Dawson and Katie-Louise, something which he wants to share with other families.
He says his most touching moment happened in the early days of his runs with Dawson and Katie-Louise.
“We were turning around the corner and Dawson had his hand out to grab Katie-Louise’s hand. That’s the way it stayed for the last kilometre. Any chance he gets he’s always running hand-in-hand and asking ‘Katie-Louise are you ok?’
“He’s always been a caring wee brother and would do anything for Katie-Louise.”