Prisoners at Magilligan have become the first in Northern Ireland to take part in a parkrun event.

The prisoners were joined by prison staff in the first of their weekly parkrun events on Saturday, 6 January as part of a pioneering initiative between Parkrun UK and Magilligan Prison.

parkrun UK is a non-profit making organisation which supports communities to co-ordinate free, volunteer-led 5k and 2k events for walkers and runners.

The Magilligan event, or Lower Drummans parkrun, takes place within the confines of the prison perimeter each Saturday and will see prisoners and staff involved as walkers, runners and volunteer organisers.

Colin Rice, Senior Gym Instructor at Magilligan, said: “I heard about a prison in England doing a parkrun and looked into the idea for one at Magilligan. The prisoners were up for it as well as staff, and with the support of parkrun UK we arranged our first event for Saturday, 6 January.”

He added: “I want to get more men involved who don’t really engage with the gym to encourage a healthier lifestyle. I believe a parkrun is ideal for this as it is available to all, no matter what fitness level.”

Magilligan Prison Governor, Gary Milling said: “Rehabilitation is truly at the heart of all we do at Magilligan prison and Parkrun is a really good fit with this. The parkrun presents a good opportunity to help those not yet engaged with health and fitness activities to change their habits and, hopefully, to continue with a focus on a healthy lifestyle when they return to their communities.”

Parkrun’s Country Manager in Northern Ireland, Matt Shields, said: “We are delighted to support the first prison parkrun in Northern Ireland. We believe prisoners have a lot to gain from parkrun, not only because of the obvious benefits of physical activity and volunteering, but also because of the ties it will foster with their families on the outside.

“They can share experiences by taking part in parkruns simultaneously, meaning families can share results weekly and compare improvement and feel part of a common activity.”

Matt added: “The fact that this is also an activity that prisoners and staff can do together also breaks down barriers and builds cohesion. For everyone involved we feel this is a win, win situation.”

Bria Mongan, Director of Adult Services and Prison Healthcare at the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust said: “We commend our colleagues for establishing this very worthwhile initiative in the prison setting. In Northern Ireland, two thirds of adults do not participate in enough physical activity to confer a health benefit, including a third of the population who participate in no physical activity at all.

“There are many barriers to participation in physical activity and people in prison have additional restrictions making it more challenging for them. This coupled with the need to address health inequalities highlights how imperative it is that we encourage such a beneficial scheme. The parkrun ethos and technology truly supports people to get engaged and stay motivated to run weekly. This will provide physical and mental health benefits for staff and people in prison.”

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