NI (and other) parkruns: Crystal Palace

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“Now just a minute”, I hear you say, “This ‘ere blog is called Dancing At Lunacy, right?  Well, there’s plenty of lunacy, most of it the youdonthavetobemadtobearunnerbutithelps, variety, but where’s all the dancing, eh? Eh?”

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Fear not, gentle reader, for this weekend there was the most wonderful, moving, and memorable dancing, courtesy of my fabulous daughter and others at The Place, celebrating choreography giant Robert Cohan’s 90th birthday.  Jemima was in a piece called “Sometimes, even now”, choreographed by James Cousins, a Matthew Bourne protege.  I was sitting next to some current Bourne guys, and we all watched in admiration as she climbed, fell, turned, span, leaped and – forgive me – emotionally connected with her audience. Times critic Donald Hutera tweeted “Jemima Brown – most watchable centrepeice of James Cousins people”.  Wow.

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Anyhoo, post show drinkies over, I was hustled into a  taxi to her flat in Crystal Palace while their celebrating continued – I did have a bit of a disturbed night’s sleep when they returned at 3 am, but had set my alarm to make sure I did not miss my Saturday morning parkrun (oh you Eeeeenglish with your 9 am starts!)



I flew into Gatwick, nearly cried at the price of fares on the Gatwick Express into town, but bus and train links to CP are very good.  The parkrun is in the huge park with its famous mast, which has a major bus depot at one end, and the railway station one one side, so it’s very easy to reach by public transport.  There are also several car parks, and plenty of loo facilities.



I was wearing my Jog Lisburn T shirt, and a guy approached me and told me he’d run Wallace a couple of weeks ago.  Turns out Mark is from Bangor originally, and was running his 150th parkrun this morning!  He’s already on that more-than-20-events hall of fame, and revealed that he’d lost 4 stone during his parkrun career.  Most impressive!  I also chatted to a runner in a Titanic Quarter Tshirt from last year, someone running their first ever parkrun, and the very friendly volunteers.  Usual crowd is about 150, with a good few slower runners.

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I entered from the top end, and admired the old weathered stone statues, as I walked down the steps.
20150328_081843]And then more steps.  20150328_081854] And even more steps. 20150328_081918 20150328_082206

Oh dear, it was very evident that elevation was a serious issue with this course!

20150328_081419 - Copy - Copy - Copy  Hills aside, it’s a really cool venue.  The paths are wide and flat, there’s an old red telephone box, a cafe, a maze, a sports stadium, a museum, a renowned lake/ amphitheatre, and a War memorial bell at the finish.

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My Garmin’s connecting lead had broken during the week, which meant that the battery was dying. It survived the run, but I’m going to have to get that sorted.  I’m glad I wore my JL T shirt – I’m still waiting for my red 50 shirt, which I’d wanted to show off on tourism jaunts, but really, the JL one is more of a talking point.

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Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

Being in Crystal Paris – has to be Walking On Broken Glass by Annie Lennox.

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OK, I’d been out quaffing champers till the wee small hours, and then didn’t have a great night’s kip, and it was hilly – I was   a bit disappointed with 29:54, but as I’m very fond of saying – there’s more to running than going fast.

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List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: Armagh

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Having experienced a rather moving partial eclipse, it seemed appropriate to visit the city which is home to Norn Irn’s world class planetarium. It’s known as the city of saints and scholars, in Ireland’s orchard county, and I have fond memories of visiting my father’s relatives here when I was a wee girl.


It’s 33 miles form Lisburn, which took me about 40 minutes. The journey is really easy, most of it on motorways, and access to Palace Demesne is via a rather impressive gateway, and past a ruined friary. There’s plenty of car park spaces, and loos are available in the courtyard.

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The start and finish points are very close, which means that keys and other valuables can be left in a biscuit tin. The route goes through a forested area first, doubles back on itself, then does a large loop round the grounds. And repeat. This entails a lot of different terrains – gravelly paths, twig-strewn woodland ways, tarmacked car park, and some rather steep hills. I found the doubling-back paths quite narrow, and had to keep Minnie on a very short lead to stay out of the way of runners coming the other direction. But the grounds are very beautiful, and I can imagine that with the changing seasons they look stunning.

There’s usually just under 100 runners, which is a nice sized crowd. They were all very friendly, and some people recognised Minnie from other parkruns we’ve done. It attracts a good range of abilities, a lovely illustration of the inclusivity of parkruns.

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Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle

On Super Saturday, with everything to be decided in the rugby later, I found myself humming along to “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.


I was in my falling-down-trousers – I really must replace those. Maybe now that spring is here I should get some capri length trews. There were no kilometre markings, so I was relying on my Garmin for pacing and timing.


I was 12 something at the halfway turning point, and wasn’t too unhappy with a 26:33, which put me in 3rd place in my age category.

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: Antrim

2015-03-07 09.13.20 2015-03-07 09.17.04 Now St Andrews, I have bad news for you.  You may style yourself the world’s prettiest parkrun, but I think Antrim gives you a good run for your money!




The course starts at Lough Shore Park, which is beside the Antrim Forum, and right on the shores of Lough Neagh.  Access from Belfast via the M2 is pretty straightforward – I came over the mountains from Lisburn, covering the 20 miles in about 30 minutes.  There’s loads of car parking, and clean loos.

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When looked at on MapMyRun or Garmin, the route looks like a lollipop.  It starts and finishes beside the car park, crosses the Deerpark Bridge, and does 2 clockwise loops of the very beautiful Antrim Castle grounds.  I had to concentrate very hard on the route and not be distracted by the gorgeous surroundings – I’ll have to come back some non-parkrun day for a more leisurely stroll around.


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There is one small section between a pair of  staggered yellow gates, which was slightly more uneven underfoot, and had about the only incline on the whole course.  These gates m2015-03-07 10.12.47ight be an issue for partially sighted runners or wheelchair users.2015-03-07 10.14.012015-03-07 10.13.45



There’s usually about 100 runners – we were the only dog, and I only saw one pram.  There’s quite a few slower runners, and many people stay behind to cheer them on.  The volunteers were really helpful and friendly – I got chatting to the volunteer co-ordinator afterwards, who says I have to come back later in the year when the trees are looking even more spectacular! I didn’t see any tea and buns afterwards, but I wasn’t really looking for them.

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I was too warm!  There was a stiff breeze, which made it feel colder than the actual temperature.  While I’d wisely left my gloves at home, my long-sleeved base layer under my Jog Lisburn tee was too many layers.  I was also able to remove my headband, and use it as a brake on my phone armband holder, which had started to slide down towards my elbow.

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Strangely Appropriate Song:

DOA by the Foo Fighters, as I really pushed myself on the last 500m.

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There was a 24 minute pacer, and as my all time best is 24:42, I thought, he’s my mark.  I kept his green cap in sight for the first 3km, but he got away from me on the second loop of the lollipop, and I finished in 26:07.

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List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.