Harley Goes To Marley

Having done all the (at time of writing)22 Norn Irn parkruns, I need to venture further afield these days to try new ones.  I do take advantage of any travelling plans I have, and it’s usually possible to tag on a parkrun during a weekend away.  And, since this is a blog with “dancing” in the title, it’ll come as no surprise that this time it was a dancing weekend.  Not just any old dancing weekend either, it was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dublin Scottish Dance Club.

Accommodation in Dublin proved difficult to find – not only was there a big football match on, but somebody called The Boss was playing at Croke Park.  I decided to try out an Air BnB, and found one close to the main dance event in Taney Parish Centre.  There are around 10 parkruns in the greater Dublin area, and with one called Marlay (sometimes spelled Marley) close to my lodgings, my itinerary was complete.

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I drove down on the Friday night, having only the briefest of disagreements with the sat nav.  But that’s a compulsory element of travelling these days. I was soon being welcomed by Barbara, and introduced to the other house guests for the weekend, including a mother and daughter from Texas who were fascinated by my jigging and jogging plans.

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The house has a lovely garden patio area at the back, and I was able to introduce Barbara to the joys of watching the space station sail overhead.


On Saturday morning I donned my tartan leggings, and let the sat nav take me to Marlay Park.

marlay 013However, it took me to the front entrance, by the big house, and I knew that the parkrun started at the back.  So I had to do a little bit of driving around in circles, another compulsory manoeuvre for today’s traveller.   But I got there in good time, parked up, had a bit of a wander around to get my bearings, and joined in the warm-up session.

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The start and finish are beside the children’s playground, where there a few shabby toilets.  There are nicer ones in a block down the lane, and more by the big house.

marlay 032There’s plenty of parking – there needs to be as this has regularly over 500 runners.

marlay 016So a good funnelling system is in place.

Music is played to add to the atmosphere.

Afterwards, many go to the stalls set up by the big house, offering coffees, wheatgrass juice, paella, and buns galore.


It’s basically one lap of the park with a few legs added.

It does go down as far as the house, and the start and finish are at the same place.  There’s an uphill section during the first k, which does serve to thin the runners out a bit.  Though some of the narrow sections still get a little bottle-necked.

The park itself is just beautiful, with lots of lovely features including a walled garden, little bridges, and a miniature railway which operates on Saturday afternoons.

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It seemed to be a fairly young crowd, and indeed I got chatting in the scanning line to Adam, who had just done his first parkrun.

marlay 029Well done, young man!

Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

I’m still listening to Eurovision songs, and I enjoyed “Time is Like Thunder”, the Belarus entry from 2015, with the lady playing the violin in a giant egg-timer.



My own time was an OK-ish 29 something.  I do try to aim for sub-30 when visiting a run for the first time, especially when I don’t have my canine pulling pal.

marlay 030 I did find a friendly black dog to chase, which reminded me of how helpful running can be in dealing with dark thoughts.

And the rest:

The weather was glorious – blue skies and sunshine.  I caught a bus into town to meet my fellow dancers for a tour of the Mansion House, admiring all the coats of arms in the oak room.

I’d enjoyed the most delicious brunch at Eden, consisting of a courgette and potato cake, served with asparagus, poached eggs, hollandaise, and a very tasty balsamic roasted tomato, which I must try to recreate. Eden was worth visiting even just for the loos, with limericks painted on the doors and walls.

From there I’d wandered through the Powerscourt Townhouse, and was tempted by some beautiful pieces in Jean Cronin ‘s lovely vintage wear, settling in the end for a green swirly Clements Ribiero dress, before further tempation in the shape of Ruby, in the Hibernia Arcade, where I was seduced by a duck egg blue Orla Kiely.

Suitably shopped out, I went back to the house and changed for the evening into my purple/ green tartan skirt, which I wore with a purple shirt and choker.


The dancing was great fun, and included some dances which had been written by or for the club’s instructors. The Elephant’s Stampede was tricky, but had us all laughing, while Rosalie’s Birthday Reel is one we had practiced beforehand.


There was a lovely supper provided, and a very convivial atmosphere all evening.  But my eyes were closing, and I slipped away at 11, where I was glad my sat nav remembered how to get me back to the BnB.  And I was home in time to see the space station fly over yet again – a perfect way to round off a weekend full of smiles.




All my parkruns


Heaton parkrun

I’ve visited Manchester a few times now, and I’m always struck by the buzz and friendliness of the place.  Jemima has been working on the Fagins Twist show with Avant Garde dance, and I pored over the calendar of performance dates to decide which one to attend.

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The Lowry Theatre in Salford was calling to me, especially as I had a long standing invitation to visit Heaton Park for one of Manchester’s largest parkruns.

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Heaton Park is on the Northern edge of the city, and I’d booked into the Heaton Park Premier Inn. I’d flown in early on Friday evening, and been most impressed by the metrolink tram system. A day ticket was a fiver, and there were stops near everywhere I wanted to go. The trams were clean and frequent, with free wifi and plenty of seats available.

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I went to the theatre first to catch Jem after the show, and deliver the essential bags of Tayto Cheese and onion.

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Even though it suggest that Harbour City is the stop for the theatre, actually Media City is closer. AND it’s got the Blue Peter garden beside it!

I made the rookie error of getting off at Heaton Park tramstop. While that would be fine for going to the parkrun, it was a bit of a hike to get to the hotel, and after walking round in circles for a while I ended up taking a taxi.


Saturday dawned a bit damp and dreich, but we parkrunners don’t let a little bit of rain put us off, oh no! I’d arranged to meet S at the famous lions in front of the old house, and I admired to wonderful vista over the city from that point.

The start and finish point is just in front of the house, and there’s a very efficient funneling system in place, with scanning and admin type stuff happening in a gazebo by the side.

Immediately after the start, there’s a sharp left turn past the orangery, and with so many people, this can get a little bottle-necked.

After that, the paths are all lovely and wide, with no surface issues. There’s a little loop past a boating lake and a cafe with people enjoying their morning bacon butties, and a long slog uphill past the 4km mark.

This is tantalizingly close to the end point which is visible to the right, but a final winding section behind the house has to be completed, before it opens out into a straight flat finish.

There were 524 runners this morning, and that was a low attendance. Good range of young and old, speedy and not so speedy, some dogs and buggies, including these 2 lovelies.

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Being a big run, pacers are a regular feature. I usually aim for sub-30 when visiting a new parkrun without my canine companion, and decided I would keep the 29 minute pacer in my sights.

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Full credit given to him, I came in bang on 29:00, with thanks also to S coaching me to a sprint finish. I was also pleased that I was 3rd in my age category, which is not bad for a big event.

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Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:
I was listening to the recent Eurovision soundtrack, and was given a boost by Belgium’s “What’s The Pressure”, with its inspirational “get the best of me” lyrics.

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Dancing Bit:
Fagin’s Twist is an astonishingly brilliant and breathtaking performance – do try to catch it if it’s in your area.

Avant Garde website

The set was very clever, on wheels and with many little doors and openings. And the dancers are jaw-droppingly physically amazing. My old school chum Ruth came along with me, and it was her first experience of contemporary dance. It’s a very accessible piece, with some narrative, a clear story-line and readily identifiable characters. I will definitely be going to see it again during its 2 weeks in London in October, and no doubt I can pick up another of the capital’s parkruns while I’m there.

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

Tim Page – Fit For Life

This was a last minute decision.  I’d been chatting to Andrew Johnston of Andrews Animals .  We’ve met a few times at parkruns and Waggy Races.  We’re both members of the very exclusive IverunallthenornirnpakrunssoIhave Club, AND members of the “My running companion is a dog called Minnie” club.  He had a dog training thing to do in Antrim, so we agreed to meet at their parkrun and have a Minnie-race.  But thank goodness he did a last minute check to see if the event was on…..and it wasn’t!  There’s a fair on in the grounds of the park, which means the parkrun was cancelled for 2 whole weeks.  Funnily enough I’d bumped into some Antrim runners the previous Saturday in Enniskillen, as we modelled our hot-off-the-presses 100 shirts.


And as I was there for a weekend’s Scottish dancing, I modelled my tartan leggings, which earned me the nickname “The Flying Scot”.  This blog’s not called Dancing At Lunacy for nothin’, ya know!

Anyhoo.  No Antrim.  But I remembered that Tim Page was going to be at Queens that day, so it seemed a good time to go and meet him.


Tim is a 4 time cancer survivor who is running all 22 of NI’s parkruns to raise money and awareness of leukaemia and lymphoma research.  I’d read some of his earlier run reports, and followed him on Facebook, and was delighted when he come out of the door at Queens and greeted me and Minnie by name!

Tim Page’s page

We had a quick chat and admired my T shirt – I’ve promised I’ll make him one too, when he completes his journey at Stormont later this year.  We agreed that each parkrun has its own little personality and quirks, but the over-riding common feature is the support and warmth.  It’s so much more than “just” running.


I wore my muscle leggings, which always attract a smile, and the weather was kind enough to hold off on the rain for a while.  My first lap was pretty smart, but my pace ebbed away during the second lap, and I was about a minute off my last time here.


I tethered Minnie to the pup-park, where she actually behaved nicely for a change!  And clapped and cheered the final runners over the finish line.  I gave Tim a big hug and a well done, and he smiled and said “It’s good to be alive”.

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Having changed phones recently, my playlist was a bit different from the previous one, and the strangely-appropriate-song on this day was Talk Talk with “Life’s What You Make It”.

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Well, I’ll leave you with my own motto: there’s more to running than going fast.

Please donate, follow and share Tim’s blog and fundraising page!

Tim’s blog

Tim on Twitter