Don’t Forget Your Barko! #dfyb

The hashtag #dfyb is used by parkrunners around the world.  It is shorthand for “Don’t Forget Your Barcode”, the little scrap of paper which is scanned after you run, which the magical parkrun computer elves then match up with your time, and create a myriad of statistics. Serious parkrunners have extra barcodes stashed in their car or handbag, or have them laminated.  I forked out for a keyring barcode, but found it got worn away next to my keys, and nowadays have a black plastic wristband, which always scans, is waterproof, and is unobtrusive to wear.

I did jokingly sport a fake barcode tattoo when doing my own 100th parkrun!

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Now to Minnie, my faithful running mate.  She’s accompanied me to parkruns in Wallace, Citypark, Armagh, Antrim, Ecos, Larne, Comber, Valley, Colin Glen, Falls, Ormeau, Victoria, Waterworks, Queens, and Bangor….where she memorably jumped in the water, obviously thinking it was a triathlon.

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She can be a little bit barky and apprehensive of people, and particularly dislikes being reached down to for a pat. If you do ever meet us, the best plan is to ignore her – she’ll come for a sniff and say hello when she’s satisfied that you’re OK.

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Where shall we go?

I knew we were approaching her 100th parkrun…sorry…barkrun…and thought that this momentous milestone should not go uncelebrated.

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I’d encountered Murphy’s Barkery a few times at Waggy Races, and they had always been so lovely and friendly, as well as making some delicious doggy treats.  They were delighted to make a special giant cookie, complete with the parkrun symbol.

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Min isn’t too bad at dressing up: she has a Christmas jumper, a skeleton costume (which glows in the dark), an Adidog running vest and of course a Dog Lisburn vest. Simple outfits are best – the red bandana she wore as Muttley was easy peasy, but trying to get a 3rd eye on her head to be a 3 eyed raven was a disaster.

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So of course I had to make her a milestone 100 Tshirt! I bought a small plain black Tee from M&S (size 8 gives her plenty of room for manoeuvre), and a fabric paint pen from Craftworld. If I’d had more time and patience, I’d have stenciled it, but as it was, hand written had to do – it wasn’t going to get a lot of up-close scrutiny, and it was only for lolz, after all.

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minnies 100th 005We arrived in good time, as usual, to be met by the Cummings family who presented her with a special chewy bone. Thank you!

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The T shirt attracted attention from other runners making their way to the briefing point, where we met up with the lovely Andrea and her running pooch, who gave us a bag of dog treats. Thank you too!

We got a special mention in the Run Director’s brief, very ably delivered by Brenda Harris.

The weather was OK – not too warm, and a hint of drizzle, but no actual rain, and no wind.  But my running form hasn’t been good lately – I have a niggly IT band, am carrying too much weight, and not doing enough training.  On top of that, my Garmin’s battery died after the first km! So as there wasn’t realistically a chance of grabbing a new PB, we just relaxed and enjoyed our run.  The marshalls and other volunteers were brilliant as usual, and gave us lots of support! And we did call out “Dare to Dream!” at a dog walker whose pooch was wearing a GAWA vest.

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Photocall afterwards, and Brenda asked if I could pose looking as if I was shaking her paw saying Well Done.  Luckily, Minnie’s repertoire of  commands includes Sit! and Paw! so we were happy to oblige.

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What can I say.  It’s an absolute delight to have her running with me, she gets me up Heartbreak Hill, and more importantly keeps the momentum going once we get to the top. She’s always game to run, and indulges my dress-up proclivities.  She helps me prove that – you don’t have to be mad to be a runner, but it helps!

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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!

Deux chiens biens (et des canards, et un cynge….)

Mais je cherche encore pour un kingfisher….roi pecheurs?

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As I took my two pooches for a long perambulate, I found myself wondering how to give them commands in French.  F’rinsitance, if I say “Sit! Stay! Down!” it’s the same sound whether I’m talking to one dog or two.  But if I were to do the same in French, then the imperatives would be different – Asseyez-vous or Assieds-toi. Venez vs viens.  Restez, restes….do the dogs hear and understand the difference?  Or are all dog commands given using the “vous” form?  Curious minds want to know.

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French canine commands aside, we had a lovely walk, and spotted a gorgeous swan, reflected in the still waters, and a group of ducks.

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NI parkruns: Strathclyde parkathon

I’m blogging my own journey around NI’s parkruns, but I had to record a sepcial entry for a group of awesome parkrunners from Strathclyde, who have run all 18 in One Weekend!

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I joined them at 8 am on Saturday at my home run of Wallace, Lisburn. They were wreathed in smiles, sporting tartan skirts, and a truly awesome array of red 50 and black 100 Tshirts.

 

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The early morning rain ceased, and it stayed dry for their trip around our course, famous for its three visits to the duckpond, and the not-so-welcome hill at the car-park.

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We’d loved them to have stayed for tea and a biscuit, but they were dashing off to do their offical parkrun at Citypark, Craigavon, The proferred Haribos were well recieved, though, with the opportunity to joke about having the fried egg for breakfast.

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They had special hats and Tshirts, and a very well-organised schedule, backed up with a sat-nav and a luggage carrying-van.

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I can honestly say it was an inspiration to meet them, I’m delighted that they completed their challenge succesfully, and that they got to see some of Norn Irn in good weather. I look forward to running some of Scotland’s parkruns in the future.  Well done guys!

Saving seconds, 5:36

I’ve been ParkRunning for most of this year now – did my 24th today, in fact! My Personal Best time (PB) had been 28:16, which I’d recorded back in June, when I was in serious training for the Lisburn half-marathon. But ever since then my times had got worse.

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So in an attempt to stem this downward tide, I joined Jog Lisburn. These fabulous folk were following the Couch to 5K programme, as the vast majority of them were getting ready for their first ever 5k run. Training was 2 nights a week, rain or shine, and even on dark nights we found routes in Wallace Park which still had some illumination. That, coupled with ensuring I didn’t overdo the booze on a Friday night, brought about some improvement. And I knew I was fast last week, but it wasn’t until the official results were published that I discovered I’d only been ONE second off my PB. One miserable second!!!

This annoyed me. I started trying to work out how I could monitor my speed and pace while I was actually running.  Could I create a playlist that lasted 7 minutes per lap, maybe? I wasn’t keen on a watch type device – I already run with a dog which occupies one hand. So I explored what functionality there might be on MapMyRun. And I found Voice Feedback.

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I set it to report every 0.25km, and tell me total time, average pace, average speed, and current pace. I tried it out walking the dogs, and again at Wednesday night’s training.  I was really keen to do well this week, as I’ll miss the next two Saturdays, and the one after that is scheduled to be the mass Jog Lisburn event.

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I got a good night’s sleep (though I still get a real adrenalin rush of nerves before an important run), and had a superfood breakfast of Berry Bircher.  That’s overnight oats with flaxseed, goji berries, raspberries, strawberries, pomegranate seeds, cinnamon and manuka honey. Yummy carbohydrates!

The weather forecast had been ominous, with yellow warnings of rain and strong winds, but it turned out to be dry, cold, and just a bit breezy.  I had no excuses.

I did my warm-up lap, and my stretches, peeled off my outer jacket, wrapped my headband under the iPhone holder so it wouldn’t be slipping down my arm, selected my jogging playlist, waited for the whistle…..and pressed START.

I’d worried that the frequency of the voice-in-my-ear I’d chosen would be too much, but actually it was just about right.  It’s obviously relying on a GPS fix for distance and hence speed, so these aren’t error-free, but the elapsed time is bang on, and I knew I was aiming for a 6 minute first (short) lap, and 7 minutes for the 3 longer laps.  To acheive a new PB, I’d need an average pace of under 5:36.

I flung myself down the hills, remembered to keep my knees up, stretched my stride, glided in between each footfall, and didn’t fight the hills.  The marshalls, many of whom are fellow Jog Lisburners, cheered me on at every corner.  About half way through the last lap, I knew I was going to do it, and do it well.  Knowledge is power.  I sprinted up to the finish line and crossed it in 27:25.

One of the great things about ParkRun is all the statistics that it holds.  This brilliant PB moved me from #499 to #465 in the Best 500 Times table, and from 245 to 202 on the age graded table.  Best of all, I’m number one on the female points table!

You want to see the mile-wide smile on my face……..

A GR8 run – Should I? Could I?

We took the dogs for a walk at Dundrum yesterday – what a gorgeous place, the views across Murlough Bay to the mountains of Mourne are nothing less than spectacular. And while there, I saw a notice for the GR8 Dundrum Road Run, to be held on my birthday next month. A quick google (actually quite bit of Googling – I must suggest to them that their links could be more user-friendly) revealed that it’s an 8-mile cross-country race, partly on roads, partly on hills, and partly on the beach (cue Chariots of Fire music).

So I’m very tempted to sign up for this one, if only so that when people ask me what I did on my birthday I can honestly answer “I had a GR8 run!”.  The things I’ll do for a good pun!  So it’ll be a pun-run, if you will.

The thing is, I haven’t run for ages, and I’m really out of practice.  I did my first Parkrun in 6 weeks yesterday, and didn’t even manage to get a sub 30 minute time, and my legs are aching today.  Plus this is cross country, with hills and similar obstacles, possibly even wild sheep. And it’s only 3 weeks away!  Does that give me enough time to train?  But I’m clearly not built for speed, so I’m drawn to other sorts of interesting races.

Luckily for me, there’s lots of hills nearby, so I took Max out for a rather enjoyable Sunday morning run today.  I was wearing a new performance top that I bought in Lidl yesterday – a bargain at only £7.99!

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Good points – it’s warm, which will be important as te temperature falls into Autumn.  It’s long enough to cover tum and bum and not ride up.

Bad points – it’s warm.  The material is quite slippy, meaning my arm-phone-holder slides down towards my elbow.  Any suggestions? How do other runners deal with this?

I’m tempted to make a small hole at the shoulder seam so that I can thread my headphones through and stop them getting in my way as I run.  But I’m a bit wary of making holes in things.

So.  Here goes.  Be ready for lots of MapMyRun status updates and blogs about Max tangling his lead around my legs….

12 Down: The Race is One!

Race week had come around at last! I did a short run on Monday, bringing in the last tricky (ie hilly) section of the course.

On Tuesday, I started to worry – I hadn’t received my pack with my number and time chip, nor an email telling me where to collect it. My husband worried me even more by asking if I was sure I’d actually registered.  I flicked back through my emails, back to January, where this had been a New Year’s resolution.  The sign-up email said that pack collection details were on the website.  The website gave me the collecting times from the leisure centre.  A quick check of my watch confirmed that I could go and get it right now, so off I sped.  Notices on the way into the pack collecting room advised you to have your registration number handy.  I tried to bring up my emails again on my phone, but to no avail.  I asked the assistant if my name would be sufficient, as I couldn’t remember my registration number.  She easily found me on the list, and announced:

“You’re number one!”

I laughed, and joked that it would probably be the only time you’d see that number next to my name, but it did feel special pinning it onto my running vest.  I made sure I had everything ready for the race on Wednesday evening, fixed the time chip to my shoe-lace, and went to bed content that I had done all I could.

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Wednesday dawned sunny, and just got warmer and warmer as the day wore on.  I took my dogs to the agility-fun park in the afternoon, mainly to take my mind off the race, and I ate fairly carby things during the day – overnight oats with berries for breakfast, cheese and crackers for lunch, some nuts a couple of hours before the race.  And lots of water.

At about 6, we drove as close to the leisure centre as we could – there was also a 10k and a fun run being held, so parking was scarce.  I went inside to join the queues of final-pee-ers, and didn’t have too long to wait before lining up with the other 975 half-marathoners.  I positioned myself near the “2 hrs 15” corral, though having done a mere 12 miles in 2 hrs 18 last week, that was an ambitious placing.

A cheer went up, and off we went, all the time chips clicking as the runners’ feet crossed the mat.  I pressed START on Mapmyrun, screwed my earphones in place, adjusted my Oakleys against the sun, now lower in the sky, and told myself “Let’s run this mother”.  I’m so glad I’d run about 80% of the route during training runs – there’s nothing quite so reassuring as turning a corner and going – Oh I know this road, I know where the hills are, I know what’s round the corner….I can do this.  Running is mental, and the more confidence boosts you can add the better.

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By contrast, we got to the one bit of the route I was unfamiliar with, as it’s on a dual carriageway.  It doesn’t seem that steep when you’re driving it in the car, but it was a killer to run.  The “Mile 6” marker was half-way up it, and I slowed to a walk and fished out my energy-jelly, nibbling it as I marched to the top of the hill.

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It was really warm, but I was struggling to take on water at the stations.  I tried once, and then felt very uncomfortable, almost nauseous afterwards.  I’d never used water during training runs, and it’s maybe something I’m going to have to look into further.  By the time I got to about Mile 12, I was feeling a bit light-headed, due to the heat and the dehydration.  But I knew this last part well, onlookers were great at clapping and cheering, and the iron-on letters of my name which Clic Sargent had provided meant I was getting personalized shouts of support!  I was feeling a surge of emotion building up through me, and I consciously had to tell myself not to cry until I was over the line.

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As I turned into the finishing stretch, I could see the elapsed time just passing the 2 hours and 30 minutes mark, and for a moment I was disappointed that I hadn’t broken it.  Then I remembered my chip time would be a good 20 seconds off this – and indeed it was: 2 hours 29 minutes and 21 seconds!

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My legs were in agony, and the first bottle of water barely touched the sides.

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But I did it.  I run this mother.  Or rather, One runs this mother.  And I got a medal to prove it.

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