Oaklands parkrun

Event #78 run #293

Attending the With Me Now pow wow

With Me Now is a weekly podcast all about parkrun. It is presented by Danny Norman and Nicola Forward, with regular guest appearances from surrogate mum Bev, cat Dolly, various Ste and Steve’s, and many more. In jokes include “ Dolly or Bev”, describing things as “ arbitrary” when they are not official milestones or “things”, no context comments and random vegetable emojis. I’ve been a listener for a number of years, and have often had comments or emails read out on the show.  So when the get together ( or Pow-wow) was announced, for the weekend after my birthday, I did not hesitate to book my flights to Birmingham and a cheap hotel.


The flight from Belfast to Birmingham is less than an hour, even though my car decided not to start as I was leaving the house, and I had to take a taxi instead. Birmingham airport is well connected to the main New Street station in the Bullring, and from there my Ibis budget hotel was a short 10 minute walk away.

I’d sussed out which bus stop I would need for the 60, X1or 2 the night before, but I was very happy when someone spotted my cow cowl at the stop and asked if I was heading for Oaklands. We gathered another pair of WMN hoody wearers, and our local guide made sure we got on the best bus and got off at the correct stop.  It’s very near the Swan shopping centre, where there is ample parking.


The shopping centre has loos and coffee shops a plenty. For the post run parkfaff we took over the Costa, and I joined a breakaway group in the Subway right beside it, with Greggs also getting some of our business.


Three and a bit laps on wide tarmac paths, with a very slight undulation. I like 3 lappers, you can usually see where everyone is, and for slow runners like me you usually have the last lap in peace and quiet without being overtaken.


Well, what a crowd there was today! Normal attendance would be around 100, but the WMNers swelled that to 250. It was great to meet some of the names I’ve become so familiar with, as well as bump into old friends I’d met at previous tourism gatherings like Bushy Dublin. The volunteers did a fantastic job of keeping us all in order, with friendly cheery marshals and fast efficient results processing. Remember the days when you used to have to wait for an email about 5 pm to get your results? The virtual volunteer app is just brilliant, modern tech at its best.


I was wearing my apricot #parkrundancer top, but I was getting serious T shirt and hoody envy from all the delightfully personalised tops- Not Dolly, arbitrary, it’s a thing, cool down, warm down, fall down, lie down…. I need me one of those.  But what should my handle be? Good ole parkrun dancer? Wardrobe mistress? Potatoe? Hoedown?

I came bearing gifts- a moth cloak for “ forgetful moth” Nicola, which she absolutely loved and wore for most of the rest of the day. Danny had been specifically clear that he did not want any gifts, so I send him a picture of some Comber spuds to thank him for virtually volunteering at Comber ( his barcode number had been used in error a few times resulting in him being thanked for volunteering even though he’s never been over to Norn Irn). Oh, and a big thank you to the Master Baker, whose lemon hearts were just delicious!

Strangely appropriate song on shuffle

I didn’t have earphones in, it was much more fun to cheer and chat with fellow runners


Having recently celebrated my 60th birthday this was my first time running in a new age cat. 37-34, faster even than Dulwich, and my best age grade in quite some time.

And the rest

I really enjoyed my short stay in the city, even though open top buses are not operating right now. But I was able to wander through Chinatown, along the trendy Gas street basin, visit the upmarket Mailbox, home to Harvey Nicks and the BBC, take a trip on a canal boat, and admire the beautiful library of Birmingham. And the super KittyCafe above the station concourse, which rescues cats and lets them roam around while you enjoy your coffee.

I’m still fundraising for the Smile Train, do please donate if you can, and let’s spread some smiles around the world


All my parkruns

NI (and other) parkruns: summary lists

Dulwich parkrun

Event #77 run #289

Reason for visit: the London marathon, baby!


I was staying with my daughter in Crystal Palace.  I didn’t want to redo that parkrun as I’d already done it ( twice!) and anyway it was cancelled that week. My alternative plan was to run Victoria Dock before dropping my bag off at the Excel. But IT was cancelled too! They knew that a lot of marathoners would have the same plan and didn’t have enough space for a safe event. So Jemima used her expert knowledge of local transport options, and worked out which bus I should get to arrive at Dulwich in time.


This is well known as a fast course, and many parkrun records have been set here. The start and finish are in the same area, with the “ hang it on a tree” option for storing belongings. It’s 3 laps, wide tarmac surface all the way.


There are loos behind the cafe by the bowling green.  I didn’t get a chance to try out the café but I believe it does good brownies.


Usually about 300 or  so, there were 414 the day I attended. I did get chatting to a few other cow cowls, also in town for the marathon, but checking their what’s app to make sure their home events were running smoothly. A rather sweet grandfather-grandson pair were completing milestone (arbitrary) runs together.


37:53, my fastest this year. But I’ve been focusing on long slow runs in prep for the big one.

Strangely appropriate song on shuffle

“I can’t keep up” by Silhouette

And the rest

Can definitely recommend City Mapper asa useful app for getting about by public transport.

Read all about The London Marathon

And you can still donate here


Also see NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

The London Marathon

Running the London Marathon

I’ve always said I didn’t have a marathon in me – I’m a keen parkrunner, for sure, but there’s a massive difference between running 5km and running 42 of them, all in one go.  But as part of my *cough cough* milestone birthday celebrations, I was somehow persuaded that this would be A Good Idea!

The first hurdle was getting a place.  There is a ballot which takes place every year, but most runners who apply are unsuccessful.  So I decided to go for a charity place instead.  Big events like marathons raise a huge amount for charities, and the absence of races and the like during the pandemic has been a massive blow for many, especially smaller and less well-known charities.  I was able to secure a place for the Smile Train, which provides medical treatment to children born with a cleft.  This can make it difficult for them to eat, drink, or talk, and has a detrimental impact on self-confidence.  I was very moved by the stories and pictures shared, and of just how life changing and enhancing this simple operation can be.  So even a small amount of money makes a very big difference.

Then came the training.  I was following a beginners 16 week training plan, which entailed a couple of running sessions during the week, with a progressively longer one on a Sunday.  Those long runs were vital in identifying what gear was comfortable to wear, most importantly socks and shoes, as well as how I was going to fuel en route.  Trying out jelly-babies versus mint imperials was one of the more enjoyable parts of training!  I also discovered that I got cold very quickly post-run, and that I liked listening to podcasts which distracted me from thinking “how much longer do I have to run?”

The final few weeks flew by, and I really appreciated “tapering” where instead of running for 3 ½ hours my long run was now a “mere” 90 minutes.  I received my kit bag in the post, and carefully packed it with all the things I would need at the finish line – warm clothes, Compeed plasters, and comfy footwear (crocs!) to change into.  Arriving in London, I headed to the Excel centre to drop off the kitbag, which I wouldn’t then see again till the finish line, and pick up my race number.  I double checked that I knew how to get to the starting point in time next day.  There are so many runners taking part that there are actually three different start areas, and within each of those, groups of runners set off in waves at allocated times.  This means quite a lot of hanging around (i.e queueing for the portaloos), and I was glad of the jacket I was wearing to keep me warm.  There are designated bins at the start where discarded clothing is collected and then redistributed to charities and the homeless.

Just after 10.30 my wave was called to enter the holding bay, and the excitement was really building as I chatted with other runners around me, many of them also doing their first marathon.  And then we were off!

Everyone who has run this event will tell you that the atmosphere provided by the crowd and supporters in London is something special.  They are not wrong.  Each side of the road was full of people cheering and calling out our names, with helpful encouragement like “nearly there!” (at mile 1…..).  A pub was playing YMCA as we ran past, and to a woman we all joined in with the actions.  As I passed a bagpiper I did a little bit of Highland dancing.  And the drummers, samba bands, Morris dancers, jazz groups etc all propelled us along on a wave of great spirits.   Many other runners were in fancy dress – I was overtaken by a pair of minions, a few rhinos, the queen, and Freddy Mercury, a telephone and some sort of internal organ.

The route continued past the Cutty Sark, and shortly after that crossed the iconic Tower Bridge, where I took the mandatory selfie.  From there the route weaves out to Canary Wharf, where it started to rain and quite a fierce wind blew up.  I was really struggling by now, and my walk breaks were getting progressively longer and longer.

Once I hit mile 20 I was determined to make it to the finish, and just kept on plonking one big ole foot in front of the other.  I did manage to break into a final jog to cross the line, though I was so emotional at that point that the official photos make me look very sad.  But I wasn’t, I was elated. It had taken me just over 7 hours, but I did it.

Afterwards I had a few blisters to deal with, and going up and down stairs was agony! But I recovered more quickly than I expected, and as is compulsory I now manage to shoehorn a mention of the marathon into every conversation.

It’s still not too late to contribute to my fundraising efforts, at




or contact me for other methods.