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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

#parkrunisgoodforyourelf, or “I Am Sprouticus!”

 

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There is traditionally a parkrun Christmas Compendium, showing which events are holding a run on Christmas and New Years Day.  I learned that one of NI’s newest, Stormont, was planning to hold it’s NYD run at 11 am, to allow runners to complete a double, and also run an earlier one, both of which would count as “official” parkruns.  An idea formed in my little brain!

 

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Now, you probably know that I’m partial to a bit of dressing up. You also know that I participate in Scottish Country Dancing.  For a dance dem, I had to have some festive headgear, and so I found a cute elf headband in poundland.  To go with this, I acquired an elfy T shirt in New Look, and started trying to source stripey tights.  The usual suspects on the high street proved useless, but I did find some black and white ones in Claires Accessories, where I also picked up a sprout necklace.  While taking a short-cut (ha!) through TK Maxx, I happened upon the cutest “Christmas jumper for your dog”, so that was Minnie’s outfit sorted!

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Cracker the squirrel is usually holding a nut, but it was fairly simple to get him holding a sprout.

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I wondered if maybe a caption would be funny, something along the “elf and safety” line, and came up with “parkrun is good for your elf”.  I made up a sign to pin on my back, and we were good to go!

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So…..6 parkruns in a fortnight? Let’s see how it went.

  1. 19 December, Queens Belfast

I was so torn on this, the last official Saturday parkrun before Christmas Day.  Sports Personality of The Year was coming from Belfast that weekend, and so there would be TV crews, Dame Mary Peters, many many mince-pies at Waterworks, NI’s oldest.  There was a Hawaiian themed run at Carrickfergus, which was tempting, and some other local runs were encouraging fancy dress.  Or should I go to Falls, the next on my list of “times I think I can beat”?

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But it was also a “dashing through the snow” type day for me and my time was a scarce resource: I had to go and visit the in-laws, and then be in Bangor for a Scottish dance dem at 2.30.  So I opted for the closest fancy-dress one at Queens, since a TV crew always means things over-run, and anyway the parking at Waterworks is terrible.  Conditions were good, a bit windy but dry.  Lots of super fancy dress costumes were in evidence, and Minnie’s jumper was much admired.  There weren’t too many photographers about, but a lovely lady called Breege (with her gorjus doggie in its tinsel collar) took an action shot of us, and came up to me afterwards to get my email address.

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Time: 25:54, annoyingly a bit off my 25:32 best time here, but still nice to sub-26, while able to chat to the “undertakers” guys in their black 100 shirts (not jealous at all, no, no) who recognized Minnie from Waggy Races.

2. 25 December, City Park

Running on Christmas Day, was I quite mad? Well, possibly.  There were a number of options available – Belfast Victoria was enticing with its 10 o’clock start time!  But I wanted to do something as a family, and bring my paparazzi husband and other dog with me.  Max is a hyper-sensitive Weimaraner, and while he has no problem with running per se, he has huge anxiety problems with crowds, noise, other people, other dogs, applause, high-fizzy vests….So we knew this would be an issue, but at least at City Park there’s plenty of escape spaces to retreat to.

 

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Since the elf headband had been a bit tricky to keep on my head while running, I turned my sprout necklace into a sort of crown, which allowed me to make plenty of “I’ve put the sprouts on!” jokes.

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The weather was murky and misty, and with the outside temperature at 2 degrees, there were even some icy patches on the course. But it is a lovely run, it was over a year since I’d been here, and I’d forgotten how beautifully flat this single lap of the lake is.

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For a large part of the run I was tailing a guy wearing a T shirt that said #alltheparkruns.  I couldn’t get close enough to read it, or to see which parkuns it meant.  I overtook him on the final stretch , and afterwards shook his hand.  When we were inside doing the scanning, I showed him my #iverunallthenornirnparkrunssoihave shirt, and Pete told me about his charitable fundraising plans to do over 300 different parkruns in the next 10 years.  Now that’s forward planning! He was going to Armagh the next day, to run with his nephew, who’d be doing his first parkrun.

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Pete is also videoing the runs he completes, and here’s a great speeded up canter around City Park (watch out for I am Sprouticus!)

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Time: 25:37 yay, a PB! Despite the black and white tights falling down….

 

3. 26 December, Ormeau

 

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Boxing Day dawned, without TOO bad a hangover. We’d put our names down to join the Santa Dash taking place at Belfast’s Ormeau Park –  I think I was last here for the half-marathon in September!  I toyed with the idea of putting Minnie in her snow-trimmed red and white  50 cloak, but in the end, went for the jumper – which got mentioned in the pre-run brief!  The sprouty headgear was also a talking point, the running went well, despite flooded parts ( I just ran through them on elfin tiptoe).  The crowd was very friendly and chatty,  and the borrowed gazebo was useful for the focal point of post-run-tea-and-buns. I swapped the too-small black-and-white tights for a pair in red.

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I have to say a huge thank you to Mark Ramsey, who took a staggering  1,000+ photos of the day itself, and it’s wonderful to have access to action shots like these.

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Time:  26:06,  a PB, though only 3rd in my age-category!

 

4. 1 January Comber

Christmas out of the way, it was time for New Year celebrations, and lots of champagne!

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There was a yellow warning of snow and ice, and I took it easy on the winding cross-country road to Comber, which is a flat course consisting of 4 figure-of-eight loops.  I’d gone for a Hogmanay theme, and was wearing a tartan sash, and carrying a giant champagne bottle and a plastic glass.

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I have 2 sashes: one is in a “weathered Ulster” pattern, which is quite a dark brown.  I didn’t feel it would show up very well in pictures.  So instead I took the “Titanic” tartan one off my dancing dem white dress.  My husband wore a kilt in this tartan for our wedding at Gretna Green, and it was designed by local historian Clifford Smyth. I attached a tartan bow to Minnie’s collar.  It was a very cold morning – I was glad I’d put on a long sleeved layer under my Jog Lisburn top, and some leggings under my skort.  The paths were pretty icy at points – if I’d been RD I might have considered cancelling.champagne comberBut it was runnable with care. I did start off with the champagne bottle and glass, but cast them aside after the first lap.  Given the slippery surfaces, the added obstacle of carrying props, and the fact that I’d stayed up till after midnight to see in the New Year, I shouldn’t have been surprised that I didn’t quite manage a PB, though a time of just over 27 was satisfying enough. A quick glass of water and a chocolate in the hospitality centre, and it was time to head to number 2.  Lots of people were doing the same, in fact I think there was a mini-bus which went from Comber-Stormont.  I was glad I’d picked Comber, as the other early alternative at Waterworks WAS cancelled due to ice – a very tough decision for the RD to make.

5. 1 January Stormont

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As we arrived by the familiar gates and long drive, the heavens opened and it absolutely poured.  I parked by the hotel across the road, and stayed in the car as long as I could, but I knew I wanted to take some photos with the other Jog Lisburn crew, so we made our way to the briefing point.  I was greeting lots of friends form parkruns near and far – Ronan, who I’d met in Derry, and Des, a fellow member of the “IverunallthenornirnparkrunssoIhave” club (and co-incidentally, another member of the dog-called-Minnie club).  One of my blog readers told me excitedly that he only has 2 more events to attend before he’s done all the NI parkruns, and we waved to waggy pals Alfie and Dudley.

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We managed a quick Jog Lisburn group photo, though the champers bottle is a bit obscured.  I later learned that some of the other JL ladies did indeed come to Stormont, but on seeing the rain they didn’t get out of their car!  The turnout was huge, rain or no rain, and it was quite a sight to see the start line half way up the famous Prince of Wales Avenue.  I struggled a bit to get my Garmin reset in time, and Minnie was being a bit noisy, but once we were underway the run itself was fun, though VERY muddy!  I was tired and hungry, and even Minnie wasn’t attacking the hills with her usual gusto.  I felt my pace just draining away, and we crossed the line in just under 30 minutes.

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There were queues for the finish tokens to be given out, where it’s important to stay in order.  Once those were safely acquired though, there were shorter queues for the scanners, though with only 2 being used this was causing a backlog.  When the official results came out, it appeared that an even 500 runners had been processed.  I suspect there were actually more than this, but that the stopwatch and finish tokens had proved limiting factors.  Anyway, it was a record breaking attendance for a NI parkrun, and the atmosphere was very cheery and upbeat.

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6. 2 January Volunteer

My intention had been to finish the fortnight with a trip to Falls, hopefully to get a new PB. But a Facebook appeal for volunteers could not go unheeded, and I decided to do my duty and go along to Wallace, for their first run of the year.

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New Years resolutions were clearly taking effect as there were over 20 newly registered runners that week, and on scanning duty I had to deal with more than a few people who hadn’t yet registered, or who hadn’t printed out their barcode. As well as another clump of runners whose barcodes were too soggy and wouldn’t scan.  I’d knitted some cosies to keep the scanners warm, as they don’t like cold or rainy conditions.

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Well, overall the Christmas and New Year runs were a lot of fun, but now I have to go and wash and iron my tartan sash, and re-attach it to my dancing dress!

Simply Crispy

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“Are you for real?”

“Has the world gone mad?”

“Whatever will they think of next!”

These were just a few of the comments that greeted the opening of the world’s first crisp sandwich shop in Belfast.

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The idea itself had started as a spoof on the Ulster Fry website, but a pop-up cafe on Bedford Street decided that this was daft enough to work, and set about making it a reality.  It helps to remember that a valid reason for doing anything in Norn Irn is “for the crack”.

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When I arrived on Friday lunchtime, the queue was out the door. Granted, not as bad as it was on Monday’s opening day, and the wait was not unreasonable, about 10 minutes. To pass the time we looked at the photos decorating the walls. There was one of a teacher from Grange Hill, under Cliff Richard. There was one from Roy Walker saying “Your food’s good, but it’s nat right!”. And there were 3 clocks showing the time in Belfast, Derry, and Londonderry.

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First, choose your bread: a Belfast bap is the most popular choice, but it is a mahoosive sized roll with a crusty top. The dials on my internal carb-counter were already spinning out of control, so I applied the “less is more” mantra and rejected the extra thick softee white bread in favour of a Knutty Crust. From the available 20 or so varieties, I opted for by far the most popular crisps, local heroes Tayto Cheese’n’onion. These are a crisp of legendary significance, the banners greeting you as you arrive at Belfast’s George Best City Airport are decorated in its signature colours, with safety advice dispensed from Mr Tayto himself. Ex-pats weep at the memory of those yellow bags.

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I added a slice of ham, just as a nod to the need for some protein. The meal deal additions of chips (fries) and soup brought it to £4, with an extra 50p for the ham. A slice of cheese can be added instead.

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A bag of crisps is tipped onto the buttered bread.  The squishing action is all important when producing the resultant sandwich, I imagine the staff have to go through a rigorous training procedure in order to get the amount of force just right.

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Places at tables were at a premium, but we did manage to elbow the photographers and journos out of the way to secure some space and settle down to enjoy the experience. That first bite, soft bread gently caressing crunchy crisps, the overpowering flavours of the latter matched by the blandness of the former – it really is a winning combination. I could say something about “mouthfeel” but you’d only accuse me of being all poncey.

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The chips were not really necessary,and the soup wasn’t that exciting. So next time (and there WILL be a next time) I’ll just have the sandwich.

I also enjoyed  the Led Zeppelin playing in the background, which helped with the nostalgic feel, and memories of school packed lunches….
Has the world gone mad? Quite possibly. But maybe what the world needs is a bit more madness like this. It’s impossible to have lunch here without a smile on your face.

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NI parkruns: Valley

At the time of writing, Valley is the newest addition to the NI parkrun family, and I joined them on a clear crisp November morning for their 16th event.

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Access

The Valley leisure centre was always known to my little darlings as “the froggy pool” after one of the water slides in the swimming pool.  It sits under the towering mass of Cavehill, and has lovely views down to Belfast Lough and the shipyard cranes.  It’s very easy to find, near the Abbeycentre, and there’s plenty of parking.  The start of the run is behind the main building, and signs point the way.  There are toilets in the main building as well as in the smaller centre at the back, where the final scanning is done.  Fancy that, being able to scan in the warm and dry!

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Course

The course is 2 laps (always nice, you know when you’re halfway there).  It’s on a slope (the clue’s in the name), but not a very pronounced one.  It’s on gravel paths all the way round, though they are included to get muddy and puddley.  But the scenery is lovely, and there’s a pretty duck pond to skip round.

20141122_090221Gear

I discovered when I tried to put my car keys in the zippy pocket of my long sleeved shirt, that I’d put it on inside out!  Oh, well, that’s lucky isn’t it?  I was a little slow pressing go on my Garmin, but all my other equipment was faultless.

Strangely appropriate song

The playlist I was using was one called “Scotland” rather than my specific “jogging” one, and as my feet flew over those puddles, I almost felt I was flying to “Lift Me Up”, by a Luxembourgian group, ODC. But my biggest smile came when I was finished and driving off in my car to the strains of Jupiter, the bringer of Joy.

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Crowd

There were 60 runners that day.  I like these smaller crowds, it’s easier to find some uncluttered space to run with Mini on her hands-free leash, and people seem to be a bit chattier and friendlier.  And there was a lovely treat of a box of gummy sweeties at the end – I do think I should ask Haribo to sponsor me!

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Time

The all important time.  I’d been very good all week – I’d had a long run, a hill training session, and a speed run.  I’d worked on my core by doing 2 lots of 20 push ups and squats every day, as well as some hula-hooping.  I hadn’t had any alcohol on the Friday night, and I’d had a light breakfast of Greek yoghurt and buckwheat muesli.  Did this all work?  You betcha!  I romped home as 3rd lady (best gender position), in position 24 (best actual position), at an age grading of 69.20% (best ever), and a PB time of 25:10.

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Valley has pacers, which I’ve never seen before at a parkrun, and I want to say thank you to the 25 minute runner, whose heels I was clipping on the final 100m.  A great morning.20141122_100229

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: Victoria

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Victoria Park in Belfast hosts one of Norn Irn’s oldest parkruns, though it’s had a bit of hiatus recently with ongoing improvements being made to the park.

I only realised on a later visit to the park just how detailed all the improvements are, and that the sign in the shelter is made up of lots of little photos of parkrunners – impressive or what!

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20140916_12531520140916_125320Some of my Jog Lisbrun friends like to do a bit of parkrun tourism once a month or so, and I agreed to join them on their jaunt to Victoria. The promise of brownies was an added incentive!

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Access: The park is right beside the runway of George Best Belfast City airport – in fact if the wind is in a certain direction, the taking off and landing planes are so close overhead that it’s impossible not to duck. It’s also across the road from Sydenham station, that “road” being the busy Sydenham bypass, below which an underpass leads you into the park. It’s pretty well sign-posted, though first time visitors can be a little unnerved by the back streets of red brick terraced houses surrounding the route.

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Course: Part of the park’s updating have included new pathways, with parkrun distance signs marked on the way. The course is one complete outer lap, one almost all way round, and then cross the bridge on to the island in the centre for a circuit through the trees. The shade is very welcome, though the gym equipment lurking in various leafy corners was rather spooky. There’s the teeniest of inclines as you turn the corner at the back by the Sam Thompson Bridge, but really, the course is delightfully flat.

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Gear: MapMyRun performed beautifully this morning, but my trainers felt tight, even though I re-tied them 3 times. Perhaps it was the fact that I was still wearing my ankle support. To be honest, there were no niggles at all from my ankle, and I feel I could leave the support bandage off in future.

Crowd: It was a BIG crowd! They often attact 150+, but since the closest parkrun at Ormeau was cancelled today, the numbers had risen to well in excess of 200. The park is able to absorb that capacity, though, there was plenty of car parking, loos on site, and not too bad a queue for scanning barcodes.

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Oddly appropriate song: In the week that my daughter was back home for her 21st birthday, and in the Park where we used to feed the ducks ( we lived in a house quite literally across the road), it was Annie Lennox singing “Precious Little Angel” that prompted a rush of emotion.

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Time: We’d started at the back, as the Run Director had said “dogs and prams start at the rear!” at which Mini barked her displeasure. But it was pretty easy to overtake, slotting into available emptier spots. The paths are nice and wide, with ample grassy verges on either side, so we never felt hemmed in. I quickly got up to a steady pace of around 5:20 per km, which would have been close to PB territory, but I slacked off after km 3, and my legs started to ache. And I’m really going to have to work on my finish – 6 runners must have passed me in the last 200m! But at 29:03 I was comfortably sub-30, and happy enough with that since I’m still not back to full training routine yet.

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Atmosphere: It’s a busy city park. There are still workmen finishing off the improvements, there are lots of dog walkers, and footballers playing on the pitches in the island. The highlight was undoubtedly one of the best bun selections I’ve ever had at a parkrun, including absolutely delicious gluten-free walnut brownies. Yum!

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List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: Queens

The Queens parkrun is one of the longest established of Norn Irn’s parkruns.  It is nowhere near the main University building – it’s at its Sports Centre in Finaghy, known as “The Dub”.  The course is 2 laps around the tennis courts and playing fields.  It’s hillier than you’d think, some of the turns are quite sharp, and the terrain changes from car-park asphalt to gravelly path.

Access: Located close to the sign-post House of Sport roundabout, it’s easy to get to this parkrun either from the Outer Ring, or from the M1 via Stockman’s Lane.  There is ample parking, and facilities in the modern building are excellent.

Gear: When I first did this run I’d only just started parkrunning, and I was taking part in an accountants’ charity weekend.  So I got a lovely new T shirt to wear!

not quite on the cover of a magazine...

not quite on the cover of a magazine…

Crowd: As you’d expect, there are a fair few students and academics who regularly run this course, but it’s also popular with Lisburners looking for a change of scenery from Wallace.  Attendance is usually around 60 (at time of writing – it’s increased a fair bit since then!)

Strangely Appropriate Song: Reelin in the Years, by Steely Dan, made me reminisce about times past when I’d attended Queens University……

Time: I’d done this one pretty early in my parkrun career, and came in at 31:15, still chasing the elusive 30 barrier.

Update January 2015:

20150124_101610It’s been quite icy recently, and unfortunately this does lead to parkrun cancellations for safety reasons.  Queens is pretty weather-resilient, though – it’s a busy centre with lots of activities on each Saturday morning, so the staff are really good at gritting the surfaces.  After a Wallace cancellation, I made a quick decision to re-route to Queens, especially since my running mate Minnie hadn’t tried it yet.  It was a bright blue-sky morning, there were over 100 runners, including a few Wallace stable-mates, and we had a pretty enjoyable run.  I found some of the paths a bit narrow – it’s easy to get hemmed in at the start, especially with a dog!  But we managed a very satisfying 25:44, and I got those coveted letters PB after  my name.  The welcome from the regulars and volunteers was lovely, and I’m sure we’ll be back again soon.

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: #18parkruns

Inspired by the recent visit of the Strathclyde parkathoners running all of our courses over one weekend, a group of intrepid local runners decided to give it a go themselves.

An early timetable fitting them into a 24 hour slot was later revised to a more do-able 2-day itinerary (well, many of the parks aren’t actually open during the wee small hours, and the danger factor should not be discounted).  Using modern technology, an event was created on Facebook, Belfast Running Club’s website, and the hashtag #18parkruns was used on Twitter to keep up with their progress.

A hardy core team was aiming to run all 18.  Others were hoping to join as a relay team, or for one day, or for just their local run, or for the final 5 Belfast runs.

I caught up with them at my home parkrun, Wallace in Lisburn.  I was early, and just as well, as so were they.  AND they wanted to run earlier than their planned-for 2 pm start-time, to allow for a more substantial recovery break before heading into the final 5 in the big city.

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I’d been undecided as to what I would do – I could have treated it as a normal parkrun, including bringing Mini with me.  But they were probably faster than me.  I could have cycled there, and shown them the course from the bike.  But the forecast was for rain. I wasn’t too sure who else from Wallace was planning to turn up – as it turned out, I was the only one (complete with my traditional bucket of Haribos), so I opted to act as marshall and gave them the outline of the route, kept a tally of how many laps they’d done, and clapped and cheered.

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Some of their friends and family arrived while they were part way through, and they either ran along, or joined me on the supporters bench.

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The route they took was:

Saturday:  Comber, Bangor, Carrickfergus, Larne, Antrim, Ballymena (Ecos), Portush, Derry & Enniskillen

Sunday: Cookstown (MUSA), Armagh, Craigavon (CityPark), Lisburn (Wallace) & Belfast (Five Parkruns)

Belfast – Queens (Dub), Falls, Waterworks, Victoria Park & Ormeau Park

Thats 90km in total, about 2 full marathons worth!

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I must admit, I’m tempted to try the Belfast 5 in one day – that’s just over a half-marathon, although split into 5 separated sections.

Well done Simon, John, Liam and Joanna – a fantastic achievement!