NI parkruns: Mid-Ulster Sports Arena (MUSA)

Altogether now: “The hills are alive with the sound of MUSA!”


I’d been putting off doing this parkrun. For a start, it’s 40 miles away. Just about doable on a Saturday morning, but it would mean an early start. For seconds, it’s a “no dogs allowed” course. Minnie takes about 3 minutes off my run times, so I like to have her by my side (OK, slightly ahead of me) whenever possible. But in August, with some rare warm weather, the journey was going to be pleasant enough, and M can get a bit overheated in these conditions, so it seemed like the right time. And as a bonus, I had tickets to see The Sound of Music in the Grand Opera House that afternoon, which allows me to make all sort of nasty puns.


Google kept me right as to the quickest route – situated on the outskirts of Cookstown, the venue is just about slap bang in the middle of Norn Irn (you’d guessed that from the name, hadn’t you?). There is plenty of car parking space, and loos are available in the main building.

Barcodes and scanners and marshalls with whistles,
Trainers and T-shirts and routes with no thistles,
Token position that makes my heart sing,
These are a few of my fave-parkrun things!

I was there just after 9, and a steady stream of cars made their way through the gate after me. They were a chatty bunch, my 50 T-shirt was admired, and the pre-run brief was upbeat and encouraging.

musa start

Do, a deer, a female deer

It was a lot tougher than I was expecting! I’d imagined it was a single lap around a trim trail, but it transpired to be 3 laps weaving in and around the buildings of the CAFRE agricultural college. That said, the paths were road-grade tarmac, wide enough to avoid any hemming or bottlenecking, and arrows on the ground kept the runners on the right route. There were some sharp turns, and a few testing hills, but I managed to get a sprint finish in the final strait. There was a caution sign for deer, and a windmill was close to the finish point, and it was easy to see it from around the route and use it as a spur on.


Post run:
Tea, a drink with jam and bread

Scanning takes place in a little portacabin down beside the main buildings. There’s tea, coffee, squash and biscuits, and chairs set around for runners to rest their weary limbs and enjoy the post-run banter.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:
Something Good

I do love the Utah Saints tune “Something Good”, which is nothing like the Sound of Music tune of the same name, and samples Kate Bush’s “Cloudbusting”. No clouds today, and I hummed along to “Oooooh I just know that something good is gonna happen”.


I am 16, going on 17

The course record stands at 15.56, but there was no danger of me beating any records today. I do always check the age-category table, especially for new or small parkruns, and while my run time of 29.22 didn’t quite make it into the Top Ten, it did put me at number 16 in my age category.


List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.