David Gillick leading a warm-up at a special Vhi event at the Kilkenny parkrun in September . Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

DAVID Gillick is encouraging more people to get involved with exercise as he prepares for the Malahide parkrun this Saturday.
The Ballinteer runner won European Indoor gold and World Indoor bronze during his glittering career and is now a VHI ambassador and has teamed up with them for the new partnership with parkrun Ireland.
Parkruns have really taken off in Ireland and Gillick himself has attributed the initiative with him falling back in love with running after initially retiring four years ago.
“When I packed in athletics, I wanted nothing to do with it. I’d had enough of it. You go through a phase of thinking will I go for a run; maybe I’ll get out and try and get fit. I started going out for a run by myself but I hated it because I found it a bit boring. I was very hit and miss for that reason.
“I then decided, one Saturday morning, to go up to Marlay Park for a run. There was people coming from all angles. That’s when I realised it was the park run. I’d heard about it from the UK but I wasn’t aware it was happening here in Ireland.
“The following week I went up and did my first parkrun. It was simple running and there were no airs and graces. It didn’t matter what level you were at, from distance runners to somebody who just wanted to get out and walk the dog or push the buggy.
“It had a huge impact on not only my physical wellbeing, but also my mental wellbeing. It helped relieve some stress in terms of retirement and in terms of what I was going to do next.”
Gillick has battled mental illness himself and believes physical exercise can prove vital when it comes to improving mental health.
“There is a lot of research into exercise and how it can help with mental health. I think it gives people something to work towards and I think it’s something that gives people a platform to get out. I think in terms of exercise it can be hard for somebody who hasn’t exercised before; what do they do? Where do they go? It can be really awkward if you want to join a team or club and you go up and you are a bit of spare wheel.”
Gillick has also worked with schools to help educate kids about the importance of exercise and the right diet.
“We need to have a go at changing the culture and educating the importance of exercise. Not just in terms of PE, but also the wider elements such as the importance of a good diet and exercise. I think that is something that hasn’t been the case over the last few years.
“To be fair, we tend to throw everything back at schools. As parents, we need to make opportunities for our kids and teach them the value of a healthy lifestyle. Even the park runs are tapping into that because we have junior park runs taking place.”
Rather than focus on just one career, Gillick has dabbled in different sectors since moving on from athletics. He was named as chair of the Olympic Council of Ireland Athletes Commission in June and has also done some work with RTE; including interviewing Paul and Gary O’Donovan
“Those lads are mad. They are great craic and a pleasure to interview because they just keep giving. They are great fun but they are also very professional in what they do and you don’t become world champions or Olympic silver medallists without working really hard.”
Gillick will be running in the Malahide 5k on Saturday, which is free to enter. He will be on hand to lead the warm up and to help participants refuel after their morning exercise.
Vhi will be providing a selection of healthy snacks in the Vhi Relaxation Area at the finish line. parkrun Ireland support local communities in organising free, weekly, timed 5k runs every Saturday at 9.30am. parkrun events are open to all ages and abilities. To register for a parkrun near you, visit www.parkrun.ie.