Southampton parkrun

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Access:

The parkrun takes place in Southampton Common, which is pretty close to the city centre. It’s a mile from the train station, and there are plenty of nearby bus stops too.

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When choosing a hotel for a weekend away, I look at 3 things: what are the reviews like on trip Advisor, how much is it, and how close is it to the nearest parkrun.  Occasionally, I hit a bingo and all 3 of these combine.  The Blue Keys Hotel is rated in the top 3 places to stay in the city, it was offering a decent weekend rate, and it was a short and pleasant 10 minute stroll to the common.

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There is some car parking by the Northlands Road entrance, but most people seemed to arrive on foot.

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There are toilets in the Hawthorns cafe, which at least DOES have access before 9, and many people meet there afterwards for a coffee.

 

Crowd:

Southampton is a big University town, meaning that there are more charity and kebab shops than you can shake an amusing T shirt bearing the slogan “Never ask an atom , they make up everything” at.  It also affects the average age of parkrunners here.

thumb_img_3004_1024The event began in 2012 and attracts big numbers – there were 533 on the day I visited, their record attendance was 942, and it is often the second biggest attended event each week after Bushy. An educated guess suggests that the record numbers co-incide with the start of University term, when fresh faced students are eager to maintain a fitness regime.

I managed to get a photo with a fellow cow-cowl wearer, and another “parkrun tourist” wearing his round his neck and sporting a 100 shirt gave me a thumbs up as he passed me on the course.  And I spotted a few Antrim visitors in their apricot tops.  There were a couple of doggies and a few pram-pushing dads.

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Big crowds need a lot of volunteers, and I was impressed at the turnout of high-viz vest folk (all 41 of them!), who were very friendly and helpful.

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Course:

The Common looks wide, open and flat.

img_1128-2 There are a number of routes around the grounds which can be used depending on weather conditions;  I experienced Route C, which was basically 2 laps, incorporating a sneakily hidden hill behind the trees.  The surface was all tarmac and the paths were wide.

The big crowds mean that a double funnel system is operated.img_1136-3

 

Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

Big crowds can mean a lot of hemming in at the start, and I did struggle to find a good spot to run at my desired pace.  But a woman in front of me seemed to know how to weave her way through the crowd, and so I attached myself to her, as Nicky Byrne was crooning “Hold on to me and let me hold on to you” from his Eurovision entry “Sunlight”.

 

Gear:

I’d opted for the purple Jog Lisburn top with matching skort, the cow cowl and matching leggings, and I left my jacket in the little cart by the finish line.  I noticed on the walk to the event that my shoes are starting to squeak, so I think it’s time to start breaking in a new pair.

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Time:

The results were processed really quickly.

I usually aim for around 30 on a first visit to a new parkrun – I can manage this without too much strain, and it leaves me room for manoeuvre should I ever return.  And I was pretty content with my time of 30:22, just making it into the top 400 with finish token 399.

All my parkruns:

All my parkruns

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And the rest….

We had a super weekend in the town, enjoying visiting the Sea museum to hear the Titanic story from the viewpoint of the port it had sailed from, and where most of the crew came from.  Being familiar with the Belfast side of things, this was a thought-provoking visit.  And we had a drink in the Grapes pub, where 3 brothers famously spent too long on a final bevvy before joining the fated ship….which they missed.  My son was born in Belfast on 31.5.91, exactly 80 years after Titanic was launched there, and it’s rather poignant that he’s now working on a cruise ship based in Southampton.

Sadly fog settled onto the airport on the Sunday evening, and our flight was cancelled.  But we were transported to and put up in a nearby Hilton, and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast next day in Beefy’s (the hotel is next to a cricket stadium), and then availed of a special offer of the executive lounge for a tenner, which was just fabulous – local cheeses and chutneys, yummy traybakes, chilled white wine, and a lop-eared rabbit making its way to Guernsey. Sure where would you get it?

Grand March Titanic

NI parkruns: Rostrevor

I’d missed the inaugural run at Rostrevor.  Well, truth be told, I COULD have made it, but they’d sent messages saying that they’d rather not be inundated with runners on their first attempt, and could people please hold off for a few weeks.  I gave a few “hmmmm”s at their first result list which included a lot of familiar names who obviously didn’t get that memo.

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And then I was in Southampton.

And then I was doing my 150th parkrun, and I really couldn’t do that one anywhere other than my home event of dear old Wallace. So the first time I could get to go there turned out to be Christmas Eve, and as is now customary, I put on the sprouts.  And rosy red cheeks. And stripey tights.  And Minnie wore her Christmas jumper. Call it my Christmas present to mys – ELF!

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Access:

Kilbroney Forest Park in on a mountainside overlooking Carlingford Lough.  It is one of the most stunningly beautiful areas of Norn Irn, and one of my husband’s favourite motor-biking areas. About 40 miles form home, it was an early-ish start, but not horrendous.  The parkrun page helpfully gives a satnav-friendly postcode, and so I was confident of arriving in good time.  We parked up in the main car-park, asked some friendly runners where the loos were,and made our way down to the start line (which is right by the finish line).  There are loos in the cafe, which is also where many runners meet for a coffee afterwards.

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Course:

It’s a 2-lap course, with the start and finish almost co-located.  The paths are a mix of gravel and forest trail, and can be a bit muddy and leaf-slippy, so trail shoes are recommended.  The route goes through a gate and takes a hard right to run up the Fairy Glen, beside a very pretty stream tumbling over mini waterfalls. It continues to climb through the edges of the forest, before emerging with views over the water to a downhill section incorporating the Narnia Trail,

img_1202 with its run through the wardrobe door, past the lamppost,

img_1201 4 chairs, and then some fairy doored trees.

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Crowd:

It seemed quite a young crowd – there were 125 on my first visit, only a few dogs and I didn’t see any prams.  The twisty paths and door/ gate ingresses might make it tricky for wheelchairs and buggies. The volunteers were plentiful and cheery, and timekeeping and scanning were all done really efficiently.

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Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

It’s Christmas, with all the attendant stresses and worries which that brings.  So I was welling up a bit at “Could we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars – I could really use a wish right now”.

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Gear:

I was trialling new Karrimor shoes.  My old Adidas PureBoost are starting to squeak, and I knew they’d be too slippy on this terrain, so I’d treated myself this week.  They did well on the surfaces, and the shoelaces stayed in place, always a bonus!

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My Garmin complained of being low on battery power about 2km in, so I was guesstimating my pace.  But it’s good to be forced back to not relying over-much on technology.

It was Elf-attire, so while I was cold before we started running, I was grand once underway in elf T shirt, stripey tights with black skort, elf socks, and the obligatory “I’ve put the sprouts on!” headband.

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Time:

A new parkrun is the most fertile ground for grabbing an age-cat record. Having recently moved into a new category, and deliberately sought out records at Colin Glen and Armagh, I was keen to snatch this one also.  The record was standing at 33 minutes, which i knew with Minnie’s help I should be able to manage.  BUT.  What if there was a 55 year old Warrnepoint born ex-pat who’d come home for the hols and was just going to do the parkrun while they were home?

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My Garmin wasn’t being helpful, and so I didn’t have any idea how fast I was running., AND I got overtaken as usual on the final 100m. But the official results were speedily texted and emailed, and I was indeed first in my age-cat at 28 minutes.

All My Parkruns:

All my parkruns

parkrun tourism: Camperdown, Dundee

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I’ve attended the RSCDS AGM for a few years now:  the first year I was there, I was missing Perth’s inaugural parkrun by one week.  I found time to run it on my second visit (despite threatening floods from the River Tay), and managed a PB the following year, with the help of a pacer.

But since acquiring my “cow cowl” (an unofficial emblem of those serial tourists who’ve done at least 20 different events) I’ve been aware of the need to take any opportunity to run at new locations.  Yes, yes I was the first female to run all of Norn Irn’s parkruns, but that’s a fairly limited field. Even by adding in the odd parkrun south of the border, I was going to have to make more of an effort if I want to attain my “half cowell” (50 different parkruns.   The Cowell Club is an unofficial parkrun club for tourists who have run at 100 or more different events. Named after Chris and Linda Cowell, the first male and female parkrunners to do it.)  This would be my 33rd, worldwide.

Handily enough, I was staying at the Station Hotel, so popping on a train to the next nearest event was made simple.  And the nearest one was Camperdown, in Dundee.  So that’s where I planned to go.

Did I say simple?  Having checked the train times and arrived in good time for my 8.15 journey, I was a little concerned to find a bus parked outside the station, which did indeed turn out to be the substitute method of travel that morning.  Nervously, I asked the ticket clerk what time it arrived in Dundee – he didn’t know, but reckoned he could drive it in 20 minutes.  So I was reasonably confident of making it in time, as we set off on a crisp clear blue-sky day, passing trees resplendent in their autumn colours, and with splendid views of the famous Tay bridges as we approached Dundee.

Access:

There were taxis waiting at the station, and I chatted to the driver about the purpose of my visit on the journey to Camperdown Country Park, which is a few miles out of the city centre. He opined that collecting new parkruns was a bit like bagging Munros, the mountains over a certain height in Scotland, an interesting comparison! The taxi was £8. I caught a bus back to the centre afterwards – there is a bus stop near the entrance to the park, and a single costs £2, which includes a scenic tour of the local housing estates and Asda.

We had a bit of a guess as to where to drop me off, and I began the anxious scout for high viz vests, milestone T-shirts and “caution runners” signs, and it wan’t too long before the familiar type crowd made their appearance. There’s plenty of parking, and it’s free.

Course:

At the pre-run brief the RD described the course as “undulating”, explaining that this means there are two ruddy great hills.

The course is one lap, skirting the edges of the park, in a sort of bow-tie shape.  It takes in many of the parkun bingo features, including a stately pile, duckpond, and rickety bridge.

Gear:

The weather was what is described in these parts as “braw”.  I was glad of my new leggings – cow print to match the cowl.  But I only had my 100 shirt, short sleeved, and therefore arm-freezy.

Thankfully the start and finish are at the same points, so I was able to keep my windproof Craghoppers jacket on as long as possible, before stashing it under a picnic table.

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Crowd:

There were 152 runners the morning I was there.  They had some pacers, including a few at more than 30 minutes, and they had “expected time” plates at the start line.  The Run Director gave a cheery brief to the first timers.  There didn’t seem to be much hanging around afterwards, though I did find a few friendly souls in the cafe after I had done my photograph-grabbing lap,  which was also where the results were being processed, most efficiently.

Facilities:

Not too much near the start, but there are toilets beside Camperdown House, and also at the cafe. Which does a great bacon buttie!

Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

Beyonce crooning “Who runs the world – girls”

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Time:

I found the course extremely tough, plus I hadn’t been sleeping well the previous few nights, so a slow 34 minutes it was. The parkrun UK Facebook page had the theme of “entrance boards” for their photo montage this week, so I found a few signs to selfie in front of.

All my parkruns

Fagin’s Twist

I have been the proudest of mammas watching Jemima over the years, but her most recent venture has taken me to depths and heights that I’d never thought I’d see.

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A dancer’s career is brutal.  It’s a tough competitive industry, work is sporadic, and it is physically punishing.  You need so many things to be in your favour.  You need to be talented.  You need to be lucky.  You need to work your little socks off.  And you need to be nice to everyone.  As my son reminded me recently, in “the biz” there are not 6 degrees of separation, probably only 1 or 2.

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Jemima is talented.  Very.  But having watched her graduation show last year,  yes so are her other 49 co-graduates.

Lucky? Yes, you can be the most talented dancer in the world, but if your face or look is not what the director has in mind, or if funding can’t be obtained, or if the mix of dancers doesn’t quite work…..

So when the early stages of Fagin’s Twist began, and Jem was reading for the part of Oliver, I could see that the role was maybe a really promising one for her.  She has a vulnerable quality, a fragility and naivety that is very endearing. And which is key to the character of Oliver.

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Choreographer Tony Adigun likes to take risks.  His retelling of the tale we all think we now so well comprised a small and multi-functional cast, an amazing versatile set, some powerful emotion-stirring music, and a narrative that even included some spoken text.  Modern dance is often a bit wafty and ephemeral, but Fagin’s Twist has recognisable  characters that we can relate to, a story with a beginning, middle and an end, and the audience can’t help but be engaged.

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During the early stages of the show being created, I’d been intrigued at how they used the words of Dickens original text to inspire and develop movements.  The final version (I say final, every time I see it , it’s been changed a bit….!) still has the odd nod to the famous movie musical, with a bit of Food, Glorious Food, Consider yourself one of the family, and always wanting more.  The thumbs-in-braces swagger, the pocket-picking, the top hats and pocket watch, all add colour and content to the story.

I’d first seen it at The Lowry in Manchester, and was just blown away by it.  So I was keen to come to see in in London, at The Place, where I’ve seen many of Jemima’s performances, and who were very important in the funding and promotion of the work.

Jemima’s picture was front and centre of the poster which was appearing everywhere – my cousin even posted on Facebook when he’d seen it at a tube station – I think that’s a bit of an iconic defining moment.

img_0690  Inside (and outside) The Place she was on posters, videos, she even made it onto the wine list!14642491_10156117161143644_228110983077175251_n

The decor in the bar area was lovely –

top hats dangling above the bar, Dickens black and white pictures on the wall, pocket watches on the pillars, a quill pen to write your comments with, graffiti decals, and the old black and white movie version on loop.

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Jemima and I as Bill and Oliver…..

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….before we swap roles!

I’d managed to get there in time to see it on Thursday evening.  Made the mistake of getting off at Holborn (cos that’s where her poster is!), when really Euston or Kings Cross are closer.

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And I also went to the Saturday matinee.  Had a lovely pub lunch at The Doric Arch at Euston – highly recommended.

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The show was just amazing.  I loved listening to the audience chatting during the interval and afterwards, and how genuinely excited they had been by it.  It has come to the end of this London run, still a few more dates in the next couple of weeks, and some possibilities for the future are in discussion.

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Doing “the puppety thing”, aka Fagin’s skank

The cast members are all sweeties, I’ve been privileged to get to know them more each time I visit.  They and Tony and all the backstage and wardrobe etc crew deserve a huge round of applause, a standing ovation, and a resounding 5 stars.

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parkrun tourism: Southwark

In town to see Fagin’s Twist,

img_0831and I chose my accommodation based on proximity to a parkrun I had yet to do. So I ended up in a very well located Air BnB in Bermondsey right beside beautiful Southwark Park.

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I took time on the Friday to walk around the park, and I was struck by how beautiful it was.

img_0710Wide tree-lined avenues,

an old English garden,

a duckpond,

bandstand, and plenty of cheeky grey squirrels.

Access:

There are a number of gates/ entrances to the park,

img_0799and car-parking didn’t seem to be an issue.  Most people walked, so I’m guessing they live locally.  Bermondsey tube on the Jubilee line is a 10 minute stroll away, and there are a couple of bus stops near by too.  Sadly, the toilets are in the cafe,

img_0815which doesn’t open till 9, but Surrey Quays shopping centre is the closest alternative.

Course:

It’s a 3 lap course, on wide flat tarmac paths, with just a couple of sharp bends to hamper your speed.  There’s one short section where runners are going in both directions, but it’s very well marshalled at all the junctions.

There are no hills to speak of, so it’s theoretically a fast one.

Crowd:

There were over 200 runners when I visited, most of them quite young.

img_0806 I did spot my first cow cowl “in the wild”, as well as an apricot shirt from Stormont.

Gear:

The “round the tree” approach was taken to coats and belongings, but I didn’t want to leave my key there in case it got lost.

img_0810So I tucked the keys into my grey wrist band, and looped Cracker onto my watch strap.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

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It was a glorious bright autumn morning, with the sun glinting off the pyramid roof of Canary Wharf on the skyline, and I was singing along to Nicky Byrne’s “Sunlight”.

Time:

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I didn’t quite manage to sub 30 minutes, but I was first in my new age-category!

All my parkruns

NI parkruns: Omagh

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I took the opportunity on a glorious October day to attend the inaugural parkrun at Omagh.

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It’s about 60 miles away from me, just over an hour on pretty good roads, and on a morning full of sunshine the views of the hills and trees in their autumn colours it made for a very pleasant journey. Even Minnie wasn’t her usual Squeaky McSqueakface, and settled down in the boot to snooze happily.

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Access:

The postcode was helpfully given on the website, and my sat nav took me to the Omagh Leisure Complex with relative ease.  There’s plenty of free car parking, and the leisure centre itself has toilets and a cafe.

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Crowd:

There’s a bit of debate about attending inaugurals – it can be daunting for the volunteers on their first day on the job, and give a misleading idea of what to expect on a normal parkrun day.  There were around 270 runners on this occasion, and many of them were first timers, or were walking.  This meant that the runners were well spaced out along the course, so there wasn’t too much hemming in. And I did meet a lesser-spotted 250 shirt wearer!

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Gear:

I’d run into diffs recently with low batteries, so I’d made sure my headphones and watch were both fully charged.  And I had new running sunglasses from Lidl.

14589639_10210650357278783_3103095712384949833_oI love my Ron Hill arm pocket for my phone – I’d lost the last one I bought, but they were reduced to £4 this week in Pure Running, so I bought a replacement.  I fully expect the original to turn up tomorrow….

Cracker my lucky mascot was with me – though the organisers could do with a bucket or box to put keys/ jackets in. And in full-on tourist mode, I was wearing my cow cowl (for those who’ve run 20 or more different events), my apricot tribesports vest, Minnie in matching apricot bow, and my own hand made I’ve-sewn-all-these-buttons-on-myself T shirt, with a new button to be added#I’verunallthenornirnparkrunssoIhave.

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Course:

There’s a lap of the running track on soft fine gravel to start, and then along tarmac paths around some very pretty duck ponds and a weir, looping back along the same route. Repeat, and finish with a final lap of the track.

There’s one short sharp hill, and a couple of pinch points where runners are going in both directions, but it’s a pretty fast course.  My Garmin said it was 5.17 km, though!

Time:

I haven’t been running at my best recently, but Minnie was in great form, and we had plenty of space to allow her to tow me along.

14524569_10210650376359260_8759420672099797123_o Indeed, we hit the 2km mark at 9.55, which is my target sub 25 minute pace. But I reminded myself that it doesn’t pay to knock yourself out on the first visit to any parkrun – make it feasible for yourself to go back later and get a PB!

img_0678So we eased off a bit, and I even stopped to take a few photos around the route. I was pretty happy with my 27.27 time, and on the last time that I’m running in this age category it was pleasing to be first in that group.  17th lady, 77th overall.

Strangely Appropriate Tune on Shuffle:

Watching everyone gather at the start line for the first briefing, I was listening to the UK Eurovision song “You’re not alone, we’re in this together” by Joe and Jake.

img_0662  I think it’s one of the best UK entries in a long while, and it was sadly under-marked by the voting juries.

By the time I was completing the final lap of the track, and struggling to keep going, we had moved to “One Last Breath” from Greece’s Maria-Elena in 2015.

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List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.