NI parkruns: Valley

At the time of writing, Valley is the newest addition to the NI parkrun family, and I joined them on a clear crisp November morning for their 16th event.



The Valley leisure centre was always known to my little darlings as “the froggy pool” after one of the water slides in the swimming pool.  It sits under the towering mass of Cavehill, and has lovely views down to Belfast Lough and the shipyard cranes.  It’s very easy to find, near the Abbeycentre, and there’s plenty of parking.  The start of the run is behind the main building, and signs point the way.  There are toilets in the main building as well as in the smaller centre at the back, where the final scanning is done.  Fancy that, being able to scan in the warm and dry!



The course is 2 laps (always nice, you know when you’re halfway there).  It’s on a slope (the clue’s in the name), but not a very pronounced one.  It’s on gravel paths all the way round, though they are included to get muddy and puddley.  But the scenery is lovely, and there’s a pretty duck pond to skip round.


I discovered when I tried to put my car keys in the zippy pocket of my long sleeved shirt, that I’d put it on inside out!  Oh, well, that’s lucky isn’t it?  I was a little slow pressing go on my Garmin, but all my other equipment was faultless.

Strangely appropriate song

The playlist I was using was one called “Scotland” rather than my specific “jogging” one, and as my feet flew over those puddles, I almost felt I was flying to “Lift Me Up”, by a Luxembourgian group, ODC. But my biggest smile came when I was finished and driving off in my car to the strains of Jupiter, the bringer of Joy.



There were 60 runners that day.  I like these smaller crowds, it’s easier to find some uncluttered space to run with Mini on her hands-free leash, and people seem to be a bit chattier and friendlier.  And there was a lovely treat of a box of gummy sweeties at the end – I do think I should ask Haribo to sponsor me!



The all important time.  I’d been very good all week – I’d had a long run, a hill training session, and a speed run.  I’d worked on my core by doing 2 lots of 20 push ups and squats every day, as well as some hula-hooping.  I hadn’t had any alcohol on the Friday night, and I’d had a light breakfast of Greek yoghurt and buckwheat muesli.  Did this all work?  You betcha!  I romped home as 3rd lady (best gender position), in position 24 (best actual position), at an age grading of 69.20% (best ever), and a PB time of 25:10.

valley parkrun age category

Valley has pacers, which I’ve never seen before at a parkrun, and I want to say thank you to the 25 minute runner, whose heels I was clipping on the final 100m.  A great morning.20141122_100229

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

5:2 recipes – Quick Quorn Supper

Frozen quorn fillets are a must-have in the 5:2 faster’s freezer – 45 calories each, and ready in minutes, they are packed with protein, low calorie and low carb.

I made this hearty bowl of broth with 2 fillets, which I simmered in a vegetable stock cube for added flavour.  Added about 6 stems of broccoli and 6 chestnut mushrroms, cut into chunks.  These are so low in calories that you don’t need to be too precise about the amounts.  Just before the 12 minute simmering time was up, I added in 2 fillets of anchovy for an extra kick.  But you could omit this for a vegetarian version.  I cut the quorn into bite sized pieces before serving.


In total, the calories were around 150.  You could reduce them further by just using one fillet.

parkruns: Perth (that’s Scotland, not Australia)

20141108_083501There’s an old joke that goes – what’s the smallest city in Scotland? Perth, because it’s found between 2 inches.


The North Inch and South Inch are peninsulas or spits of land into the River Tay, which flows quite briskly here, and Perth retains many fine features befitting its long ancestry, including beautiful old churches, fine bridges, and tiny entries called Vennels.


I was in town for a Scottish Dancing do.  I was here last year, too, but the Perth parkrun hadn’t yet started – in fact at my visit they were full of enthusiasm for their upcoming first birthday.



To my great delight, the parkrun starts right beside Bells Sport Centre, where my dancing actvities were taking place, and I booked myself into Perth (if not Scotland)’s oldest hotel, The Salutation, an easy 5 minute walk away.  There’s plenty of parking in and around the Centre, and toilets and showers are available there too.



There had been heavy rain during the week, and though Saturday dawned bright and crisp, the Perth parkrun Facebook page was warning of flooded parts of the route, due to the Tay bursting its banks.  During the new runners briefing, the marshall explained that we would be re-routed onto some slippery grass sloping sections, and that yes, a lot of the course was very muddy – trail shoes recommended.  Trail shoes I have none.  I usually travel in my second best trainers, the green/purple KSwiss which are slightly sturdier and heavier, but I’d done a quick de-pooping of the back garden before I left, and managed to stand in a hidden dog-poo.  So instead I’d brought my bestest trainers, the Brooks Ravenna that were my Sweatshop prize.  They’ve quite a lot of mesh, and I wouldn’t normally choose to wear them in mucky conditions, but they were all I had.  The route is just beautiful, hugging the banks of the river with its gorgeous trees and glimpses of wildlife.



I’d underestimated the cold – meant to pack a long sleeved top to wear under my JogLisburn tee, but forgot.  Luckliy enough I’d brought a lightweight Craghoppers cardi in white cotton, and wore that as a base layer.  And of course it got covered in mucky paw prints when I said hello to a lovely Vizla, making her parkrun debut…


Strangely Appropriate Song:

Given the over-flowing river, I’ll say that The Bellamy Brothers “Let Your Love Flow” was the right song for the moment.



I was one of half a dozen tourists – I guess Perth is a city that has more than a few visitors.  I particularly loved the marshalls with their big foam hands.  The start and finish are at the same point, so many runners leave their outer layers decorating a nearby tree.



Ach, it wasn’t great.  Since it was more Tough Mudder than parkrun at times, I wasn’t expecting anywhere near a PB, and at 29.54 it was a few seconds faster than last week!  But part of me is disappointed that I don’t seem to be making much progress.


List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

parkruns: Crane Park, Feltham

20141101_083050While I am working my way through the Norn Irn parkruns (8/19 at time of writing), I do try to visit others in the vicinity of where I travel.  I happened to be in London one weekend, and had a go at Crane Park, Feltham.



My best friend lives in Feltham, and is my usual lodgings any time I visit the big smoke.  So I was truly delighted to find that this run was quite literally round the corner from her – a leisurely 10 minute jog took me to the starting point beside the children’s play area.



Crane Park is a long thin patch of green around a stream.  The course is 1 1/2 laps of this rectangle, with the 2 short sides run on public footpaths.  It is very pretty, taking in an old shot tower.  And there’s plenty of wildlife around including the obligatory ducks, and a couple of squirrels.  The paths are a bit lumpy and narrow, but there are no hills to worry about.



The turnout when I visited was 117, which seems about average.  They’re a speedy bunch, and they seemed to zoom through a pre-run brief, and didn’t hang around much afterwards.  What threw me a bit was the 9 am start – it’s 9.30 in Norn Irn and Scotland!


Strangley Appropriate Song:

I was in town to attend my daughter’s debut at Saddlers Wells, so “Keep On Movin'” by Five made me grin.



I’m familiar now with my cordless earphones and Garmin watch, and they all performed well.  Had a bit of a panic when I got home and couldn’t find them, but they were safely tucked inside my toilet bag.  Phew!  I also got an email telling me that my red 50 Tshirt is still stuck in production limbo. Shame, I’d love to show it off on my parkrun tourism jaunts.



I was disappointed with my 29:57.  I know I run much faster with canine-assist, and realistically, this is my first sub-30 without Mini helping me along.  But it was more than 3 minutes slower than last week, I was 97th, and 5th in my age category!  Oh well, parkrun is clearly doing wonders for the fitness levels of 50 year-old women in West London…


List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.