parkrun tails: Minnie earns her cow

IMG_1516The Facebook group UK parkrun tourists is for those seriously serial and widely travelled runners who have been to more than 20 different events.  At that point, your name appears on the “Most Events” table, and as an unofficial means of recognising each other on our many jaunts, the cow cowl is worn a visible symbol of this acheivement.

I knew Minnie had been to many of the Norn Irn parkruns with me, but it wasn’t till I actually sat down and counted, that I realised she’d been at 19!  MUSA is a no-dog event, and the distant runs at Enniskillen, Limavady, Derry and Portrush were ones I had done on various weekends away, without her.  But she’s pretty well behaved on long journies, and has been to fairly faraway runs in Omagh and Rostrevor.

I’ve long wanted to take her with me to Portrush.  We’ve done the Waggy Races twice now over the same distance on the next beach along the stunning north coast, in Portstewart, where rather conveniently my parents live. So having checked the all important tide times, I plumped for 22 April as the chosen date.

The morning dawned cloudy but dry, which to be honest is perfect running conditions.  We left at a quarter to 8 and were pulling into the car park at 9.  I’d had a bit of a niggle with my back since my last Sunday long run, but Deep Heat seemed to be working its miracles, and I didn’t feel any problems when running.  Mum and Dad were there to see me off, and Cracker posted his customary Saturday morning status update as “Cracker says: Oh Minnie you’re so fine, you’ve parkrun at 20 sites, Hey Minnie! Hey Minnie!”


I chatted to a few other tourists who’d got talking to my cow cowl, and some fellow Wallace folk.  There were just under 200 runners, but even starting at the back, with a wide stretch of sand it’s easy enough to weave through, and we soon found a good spot where we weren’t in anyone’s way, and Minnie could really stretch her legs.

Portrush is a tough course, even with light winds and low tide.  Yes it’s dead flat, but you need a certain level of determination to keep on going on an out and back course, and that finish line seems like it never gets any closer!


But I knew all my previous run times here had been in the 30s, so I was reasonably confident of a PB. And indeed I crossed the line in 26:26, my best time in quite a while.  But of course I couldn’t have done it without my best running companion.

Thank you Minnine, and well done!

minnies 100th 011

100 barkruns!


Matching 100s


city park christmas day





Our first run at Wallace


On Saturday – a glorious day with the sun beaming down – I took a trip up to my native city to see Jem’s boyfriend Matty perform in a production penned and produced by the performing arts and music students at Magee college. Based on the Glee TV show, the event was of course called… Maglee! I’d been rather frustrated by my experience as a theatre goer to the newly refurbished Playhouse theatre: the booking of tickets had to be done online, with stern exhortations to bring along ID when collecting them, the website gave no meaningful directions and no information on car parking nearby, and once I had arrived where I thought it was, there was no sign outside to confirm that I was in the right place.

No matter, I met up with Jem at the Diamond, we had a bite to eat at the Wetherspoons on the corner (for future reference, the tables upstairs by the window are the ones to nab) and then strolled around the walls. I pointed out the chapel of St Augustine – the little church on the walls – where my parents were married and where I was christened. From there we could look down on Free Derry corner, and I was relishing giving her a little bit of both family history and political significance during our pleasant walk.

The show itself was great fun, and Matty clearly enjoys performing. Congratulatory hugs duly dispensed afterwards, I set off for the 77 mile journey home. About 5 miles outside the city, I heard a loud bang, and assumed a stone had hit the car. This was followed by a juddering sensation, and I knew as I released my grip on the steering wheel and felt the car pull to one side that I had a puncture. I pulled over safely onto a layby and surveyed my position. I have changed a tyre in the past, but not for ages, and not on this car. But I started by extracting the spare wheel and tools and thinking about how to proceed. I could see that the trim on the wheel was held on with cable ties, so I’d need something sharp to cut those. I needed help.

a hole in my tyre

Thinking fast, I called Matty. “Is your Dad still there?” I asked, since I knew his parents had been at the show. They’d be heading home on the same road that I was on, and I hoped I’d catch them before they left. Sure enough, 5 minutes later their car pulled in behind mine and switched on matching hazard lights. His Mum is a driving instructor, so knows her way around cars, while he makes guitars (how cool is that!) and had his work tool kit with him, complete with knives. In under 10 minutes he’d done the tyre change, and they volunteered to follow me for a few miles at least to make sure everything was OK. They even spotted me stop 3 miles later to close the passenger door properly, and I was enormously grateful to my knights in shining armour for their care and concern.

Golden Anniversary

Well it’s all over! All the organising and planning finally played out, and we had a rather wonderful family get together. Bit of a last minute hiccup in the DVDs: the so-called pro that I’d given the tapes to ages ago (as well as a large sum of money) produced, with less than a week to go, some poor quality disks that had to be redone (and even then, still weren’t working properly). I had a long cry, a loud scream, and then set about making the disks at least look good. I bought from PC World, for £15, some software that could use existing photos and turn them into labels for the actual disks themselves, as well as inserts for the boxes. And I have to say, when I was finished (last thing on Saturday night before the do…) the result was quite impressive! And anyway, it’s the boxes they’ll be showing to their friends, more than the actual contents.

The song went better than I could have hoped for. Everyone agreed to join in (even teenage boys who rightly pointed out that it was cheesy and stupid). Dr Drama waved her magic theatrical wand and sorted out harmonies and intros, and absolutely vetoed use of tambourine (too Sally Army). We were just getting ready to perform, using the ruse that I was going to recite a pome, when the photographer arrived! We hastily stashed the guitar behind the sofa, posed outside for photos, and then waited for him to leave, while my Dad kept topping up his whisky glass….

Mum, dad, cake and song

Mum, dad, cake and song

Eventually we got to perform, Mum and Dad were suitably gob-smacked and teary-eyed, and we all hugged and laughed.

Editing suite

I seem to have spent most of today in edit mode: this afternoon was devoted to sitting in a dark room with a bloke in Newtownards who I’ve entrusted to edit the old camcorder tapes of my parents. This will be part of the Golden wedding anniversary present so I’d like a good job made of it. As we went through the rushes and I watched him edit, using me to identify which grandchild was which, I got the horrible feeling I could have done better myself. I did have fun though, using the number of candles on the cake, or the badge the child was wearing, and the “Happy Birthday to….” name in my quest for identification. And gosh it was spooky seeing all the kids when they were teeny. And more than a little embarrassing

7th birthday cake

7th birthday cake

seeing my hairstyles and outfits.