For many, St Patrick's Day 2021 will mark the first anniversary of the arrival of the awful virus which locked down our lives, cut us off from our neighbours and shuttered the places in which we gathered to make merry.

Now, with light at the end of the Covid tunnel, there's no surprise that this 17 March will see a cornucopia of virtual hooleys in every corner of the world in which green is worn. 

Across Ireland, arts centres, parade committees and musicians are rising to the challenge of connecting with our global family online and Tourism Ireland will again turn the world's most iconic buildings green. 

I raise a glass to their heroic efforts to ensure the Saint's Day show goes on.

However, there is only one event taking place in Ireland which actually engages with the diaspora — an event which requires you to do more than just turn on your tablet and tune in if you want to take part.

That's the SPAR Global Craic 10K.

It's fitting then that, alone among hundreds of St Patrick's Day celebrations, only an event which was born out of an exchange visit to St Louis, Missouri, to learn more about their pre-parade fun run, should break new ground by embracing our 70m-strong diaspora.

FULL STEAM AHEAD: SPAR Craic 10K runners in the before times

FULL STEAM AHEAD: SPAR Craic 10K runners in the before times

They're billing this year's Craic, which usually starts from Belfast City Hall on 17 March and boasts a cast of thousands, as virtual.

But that's not the full story.

For sure, there won't be a road race through Belfast's streets but to join in the craic, you have to get up off your ass to run 10K or 5K or, for the beginners, take a relaxing St Patrick's Day 1K stroll.

The good news: you have all 24 hours of 17 March to complete your challenge and the venue is wherever you find yourself on the planet on St Pat's. 

ON YOUR MARKS: Conor Diver's green runners adorn this year's Craic tee-shirt.

ON YOUR MARKS: Conor Diver's green runners adorn this year's Craic tee-shirt.

Courtesy of global communications, we'll be monitoring your progress and whether you find yourself in Singapore or Shanghai, Durban, South Africa or Durban, Australia, Dublin, Ohio or Dublin, Ireland, we'll be ready to ship your finisher's medal once we see the social media proof that you have done your St Patrick's Day duty. In my book, there's no better — or healthier — way to start off St Patrick's Day than to lace up your gutties, pull on a green top, and hit the streets.

For two hours on the 17th, I'll broadcast live a Craic show — complete with uplifting music and inspirational messages — to the world from the NIAVAC studios in Belfast where I will chat with many of our global running ambassadors.

Of course,the runners in Aotearoa and Australia will be in their scratchers by the time our show starts (1pm Irish Time) but our Craic ambassadors Down Under are promising to send us video clips for our broadcast. We will be joining others on five continents as they start or finish their peregrinations — and up at Manhattan College in the Bronx, Rob Walsh has lined up a socially-distanced, 47-strong peloton to set the pace.

Additionally, and to whet the appetite of our global friends who look forward to returning to Ireland when it's safe to do so, we'll be reminding you of the beauty of Ireland in a series of film vignettes.

So sign up now and let's build a running bridge from the diaspora to Ireland — even as we look forward with unbridled optimism to the day when we will be again able to take to the streets to salute St Patrick.

As I left Dundonald Hospital yesterday (Saturday), having gratefully received the Pfizer jab from the patient and hard-pressed medics there, I dared to think that, even in this ill-divided world, I could just make out the finish line of this Covid marathon heaving into sight.

If St Patrick's Day 2020 therefore marked the start of the pandemic, let's pray that our gobal run on St Patrick's Day 2021 will mark the beginning of its end.