Parkruns: South Manchester


Off on me travels, to see my beautiful daughter in her first professional tour as a dancer, and surprisingly I’d never been to Manchester before! She laughed out loud when I caught up with her and showed the scribbled spreadsheet where I’d matched up her tour dates with air plane prices, day of the week the show was, and whether there was a nearby parkrun.  The show was in the Royal Northern College of Music, on a Saturday, I could fly to Mancs at a reasonable price, stay in a budget hotel on Curry Mile and be in walking distance of South Manchester parkrun, which takes place in Platt Fields park.


OK, so catching up over cocktails was done on the Friday, and after getting back to my hotel area I’d checked out where the park was, and managed to fall into a pub on the way home, which was having live music by Crazy Horse.  I ended up chatting to a couple who insisted on buying me a whiskey, and I bought a CD off Crazy Horse.  By this stage I’d decided that everyone in the city was slightly nuts, but in a rather endearing way.


However, my Saturday morning hangover was of epic proportions.  No matter, Cracker and I made our way to the park, which was looking glorious in its autumn colours, and even saw some grey cousins en route.


It’s on Curry Mile, extremely well served by buses.  I was especially impressed by the “magic bus” which took me to the city centre for £1, and was of course the Number 42.  I don’t actually know if there is a car park nearby.


There are usually 300+ runners here, and I found them all very chatty and friendly.


It’s near University area, so its popular with students, but there was a huge age range and diverse bunch running.  I got chatting to a guy who was taking his dog, Maddie, for her first parkrun.


I was also most impressed by a woman who had her barcode pinned into her hairdo – though as you can see I failed miserably to take a picture of this.



The course is dead flat – it does a few figure of 8-ish loops around the lovely lake and starts and finishes at a centre where there are loos. It really is a beautiful park.


Post run:

Having left Cracker at the volunteer’s table, I was soon christened “the squirrel lady”.  Everyone was really welcoming, and I wish I’d had the foresight to stick a few quid in my back pocket to buy a coffee at the cute little stand which plys its trade right beside the scanning zone.


Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

I was escaping the city the next day, to meet an old school friend and explore the Treacle Market at Macclesfiled.  It was a good day to do this, given the City/ United derby football match taking place, so “I Predict a Riot” by the almost local boys Kaiser Chiefs was rather apt.



I’d travelled in my Asics trainers, which got quite a bit of wear over the damp weekend!  In fact, all my gear was the same as last week, and the  50 T shirt is always a conversation starter. I was using my Garmin as my watch for the weekend, and it coped brilliantly with the clock change on the Saturday night.



Ooooh, least said about this the better!  I did stop a few times to take photos, which didn’t help me get anywhere near 30 mins.


And another thing….


Ah, the dancing!  I cannot begin to describe how proud I was to see Jemima dance, to watch other people read her biog in the programme, to have the couple I was chatting to before the show come up to me afterwards and tell me how amazing she was, or to see her take hands with Dame Evelyn Glennie for their bows on stage.  Do please follow and like them on Twitter and facebook etc!

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

Belfast Branch Book

Source: Belfast Branch Book

NI parkruns: Colin Glen

12096337_10155294518448644_2551778764522742018_nHaving completed the set of NI parkruns, my plan is to get to the inaugural runs of any new ones that start up. However I missed run number 1 of Colin Glen, in south West Belfast, because it co-incided with my 100th parkrun. And there was no way I was doing that one at anything other than dear old Wallace! But I did make sure I was at Event Number 2, on a beautifully crisp clear October day.




Coming from Lisburn, it was a short hop on the M1, up Kennedy Way, turn left at the roundabout, and it’s under 2 miles up the road. I still managed to miss the actual car park entrance! There are 46 car park places, and a visitor centre with loos.20151017_091230

The big numbers had been there the week before for the first one, and my visit was on the day of the GR8 Dundrum run, a popular event which many of my Jog Lisburn stable mates were attending. So the turnout was under 50, but there was a fantastic bunch of enthusiastic marshals and volunteers, and the other runners I was chatting to beforehand were all very welcoming – Minnie was as usual the centre of attention, despite her barkiness!


The course is described as “challenging”, and I was a bit worried about the hills. It starts not far from the car park, and follows a good tarmac path on an undulating route through some beautiful trees, streams and bridges. Yes there are hills, but they’re fairly short, and there’s a bit of a downhill after each one to recover. At the lake, it’s 2 laps around, and then a more gentle downhill homeward stretch. The final funnel is back at the car-park.

Post run:

I’d made a T-shirt with a map of NI, and had sewn buttons at the location of each of the parkruns. I had fun choosing suitable buttons for some of the places – I particularly like the pineapple for the “Surfs Up” Portrush dudes. I had to use little beads for all the closely packed Belfast runs, and I’ll pick out a nice new bead for Colin Glen.


Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

Given all those hills, The Kooks and “Higher Ground” was certainly a suitable theme tune!



I wore my Asics trainers, with Twinskin socks, which I now swear by. Trousers with zippy-pocket for my phone, Garmin, cordless earphones and wrist-sweatband. My barcode is on a plastic wristband, and I wore my red 50 shirt as I need to get as much wear out of it as I can before my 100 one arrives! Cracker, my lucky squirrel mascot now comes to all parkruns with me.


I always check the age-category records before I visit, and I could see that it stood at 29.30. With Minnie’s help, I felt this ought to be within my capabilities, but it was no certainty! I had to break that time, and also hope that there wasn’t anyone else there in the same category running faster than me. As we set off, I did a bit of overtaking and slotting into a good space for Minnie to run ahead of me. She was loving the paths and trees, with the odd bird to chase, and she was very good at not being distracted by the occasional dog-walker. As we ran, I realised that there was a bunch of speedy blokes ahead of me – sometimes so far ahead that I couldn’t see them. And the odd glance behind told me that there was no-one hot on my heels either. It was quite weird to be feeling so isolated, but all the turns and junctions were well indicated with arrows or marshals, and there were also helpful markers at each km, so I never felt that I didn’t know the way. As we did the 2 laps of the lake, I could see the runners stretched out in front and behind, and I had an inkling that I was first lady. “Right Minnie”, I said “let’s maintain position!”


We were overtaken by a few runners in the final km, but they were all male. And I skipped across the finish line in 25.30, scooping the age category record, best overall position of 10, and was 3rd in terms of age-grading percentage! First Female! Never in my wildest dreams…(well, OK, in my most wishful thinkingest of moments I fantasised about this), but I never actually imagined that one day it would come true! And the really cool thing is that my name will be forever etched in the event history pages.

first finishes
I’ve held age-category records before – at Valley and Comber – but they’ve since been beaten.

cg age record

Minnie of course got a special reward, bought from Murphys Barkery at last week’s Waggy Races: I really couldn’t have done this without her.20151017_100506

And another thing….

In dancing news, this week of fabulous firsts also saw my daughter performing for the first time as a p’feshnull dancer.  I’m off to Manchester next week to see her – so you have 3 guesses as to the location of next week’s parkrun!

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

100 parkruns and a ton of buns!

I’ve put a lot of thought and planning into my 100th parkrun. I realised a few months back that it COULD happen on 10th October, and the mathematician in me loved the 10/10 synchronicity. Plus it was the weekend closest to my birthday. Still in the same age-category sadly.

I marked the weeks off in my calendar – I had one week spare, which I utilised by volunteering the day before my half-marathon.
I had my barcode tattooed on my arm *

And I planned for suitably celebratory cakes or buns. Google and Pinterest gave me some great ideas, but I decided that individual buns were more practical than a cake, which would need slicing. And buns were easier for people to go “Oh, I’ll take one of those home with me!”
I bought ready-made icing in little tubes, and practised “parkrun” icing on some iced fingers, which I took to Victoria.

Buns iced with the parkrun tree

Buns iced with the parkrun tree

You know how on Great British Bake-off they always show contestant’s sketches for their creations? I started sketching out how I wanted it to look. I’d have the parkrun symbol buns as a frame round the outside, with “100” spelled out in gold balls in the centre, and the gaps filled in with plain buns, chocolate fingers, and sweets. I picked out the parkrun colours from a bag of licorice comfits.

I tried to find plain iced fairy cakes in the supermarkets, but to no avail. The Country Kitchen, a local home bakery, made cupcakes with transfers of Minions and Frozen on them, and I negotiated with them to provide 3 dozen plain versions, which I then decorated myself.

While I was out searching for green napkins, I found the cutest squirrel in Cath Kidston, as well as matching autumnal tissues. In a nod to my dancing proclivities, the squirrel is now called Cracker.

The night before the run, I painted my nails in 100Tshirt black, and put some finishing touches to my video montage.
Saturday morning arrived, and I used a photo of my new tat as my traditional “Where’s Wally?” selfie. I loaded the tray of buns, minus the add-ins, to the car, and put some extras in a biscuit tin. I iced some coloured “100s” on the spare buns, thinking that some of our junior runners might like to choose their favourite colour. The orange icing acted very strangely, and went very runny!

Arriving at Wallace, I parked as close to the bandstand as I could, and took Minnie up first and tethered her to a post, while I recruited some assistance with the sweet stuff. The weather was very kind – no rain, and no wind.

The run itself – I finished in exactly the same position as last week, and despite having laid off the booze on Friday night, I was 10 seconds slower! No matter, I really enjoyed the run, and the cheering marshalls were super, as usual. Plenty of chat afterwards, and lovely cards from Gillian and Liz: we’d been on target to run our 50th together last year, when an ankle injury delayed my efforts. And now, injuries unfortunately having beset each of them, I’d managed to be the first of the Jog Lisburn ladies to reach the goal.


What’s next? Well, the next milestone Tshirt if for 250 runs. Even with the best will in the world, running 50 parkruns a year is a tall order, so that is AT LEAST 3 years away. Let’s aim to get it before I’m 60, eh?
Meanwhile, there’s the 25 volunteer number to earn, so I’ll plan to offer my services once a month or so. And of course, I need to get round to any new Norn Irn events!

* Please don’t try this at home – it won’t scan!