Sligo parkrun

Run number 296, event 80, celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary

One of my current challenges is to get on the Irish “most events” table, as well as a longer term goal to do all the runs on the Wild Atlantic Way, so we were spending a weekend in the Glasshouse, Sligo’s finest hotel, on a rather grey and overcast November.

Access

Sligo has a nightmarish one way system, comprising of various City Loops, that cause a visitor to be completely perplexed.  The sat-nav didn’t help, bringing us down a “no-through road” and requiring some rather worrying reversing in the dark near the fast flowing river.  But after about 3 circuits of the gyratory system, we finally found the hotel carpark.  I was concerned about getting trapped the following morning, so I facebook messenged the parkrun asking for directions, and got this very prompt and very helpful response:

“Hiya, if you are parked in The Glasshouse carpark, your best bet is to turn left at the exit, then left again at the traffic lights just past the main door of the hotel. Cross the bridge, then stick to the right hand lane as you go along the river. The road sweeps right, then up a hill, and sweeps right again & downhill. Go into the left lane as you come down the hill. The AIB will be on your right. Continue on Bridge Street, across the river again, then turn left along the river, keep going for about 1km and you’ll find us opposite Cleveragh Retail Park”

So I had no excuses!

Facilities

There is plenty of free parking by the play park, and more over the road in the retail park.  Toilets and coffees are also in the Westeroast coffee shop, which has a bit of Game of Thrones theming. Start and finish are in the same area, so you could leave any non-valuable belongings there.

Course

Don’t be deceived by the fact that it’s by a river, it’s much hillier than you might imagine!  Tarmac path all the way, just watch out for slippy leaves. An outward route for about 0.5km, then 2 laps around the playing fields before returning on the same path.  There wasn’t much of a view due to the low cloud, but I’m sure in brighter weather it is quite picturesque.  It is well marshalled at the junctions. 

Gear

I was wearing my green 250 shirt, which attracted some attention (and I was the runniest runner that day).  I’d forgotten my gloves and my zippy belt, so my husband had to take on handbag-minding duties.  Saw no other cow cowls. No watch or phone, and I wore my second-best red Hokas.

Crowd

There were 95 runners when I visited in November.  Sligo is a very sporty town, so there were some super speedy youngsters, as well as some walkers, so all abilities are made welcome.

Time

I spent some time chatting to marshals and other runners, so I wasn’t pushing for a fast time, but I did my trademark skip-change over the finish line in 41 mins, which was faster than last week, and I came first in my age cat!

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle

I wasn’t listening to music while I ran, but I did join in with “Ireland’s Call” and “Fields of Athenry” during the rugby match that afternoon.

And the rest

We loved our visit to Sligo, lots of independent shops and old fashioned department stores to potter in.  We treated ourselves to buns from O’Hehirs bakery, which we enjoyed watching Ireland beat the All Blacks in the Rugby.  I can thoroughly recommend The Glasshouse, the food was excellent and the staff friendly and attentive.

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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.

Access

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.

Facilities

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.

 Course

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.

 Crowd

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.

Gear

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

Time

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

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/linda-harley6

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Dean Castle Country Park parkrun

Event no 75, (3/4 cowell!) parkrun 289

Occasion – picking up my new wheels!

Getting There:

On the outskirts of Kilmarnock, the rather beautiful country park is well signposted with brown signs. I was there to pick up my new car, which in turn had made its way from Edinburgh, and this was the closest location to the ferry at Cairnryan. (Note for future reference – there are parkuns at Ayr, Girvan, Troon, and Stranraer)

Facilities;

The start and finish are at the same spot, just right by the car park. The car park itself gets pretty busy, especially if there’s football on over the road, so please park considerately. There are clean loos in the visitors centre, which opens at 9. I wasn’t able to hang around afterwards for coffee (did I mention my new car?), but the visitors centre looks worth popping your head round.

Course:

It’s undulating! Feels a bit like a roller coaster at times, and the ups are quite steep – you never gain on the downs what you’ve lost on the ups, but these sharp gradients mean you really have to take care on the descents. The course is a Y-shaped 3 spokes form a central point at a rather picturesque stone bridge, done twice. It is really pretty, passing an animal paddock as well as lovely water features, and I do love running through trees, which are so inspiring. Can get quite muddy underfoot.

Gear:

My blue hokkas were perfect for the terrain, and my apple watch told me how my pace was. I’d asked the UK parkrun Tourists Facebook group’s advice on what top to wear – my apricot ‘parkrundancer’ that was a parkrun forever prize? Or my apricot with my home run, Wallace? My world tourist, or a With Me Now hoping for a “Dolly or Bev” shout-out? My 50 milestone customised with my first 50 events? or my running club T? In the end I went for the first option which was quite fortuitous……

Crowd:

I’d said Hi to the RD on arrival, and during our wee natter he established that I’m involved with the new event at Hillsborough Forest, and said that one of their regulars had run there recently. And he did indeed introduce me later! I approached a couple with someone wearing an apricot T, and they looked t mine to see where i was from. I explained it wasn’t my home location, but that my other main interest is Scottish Country Dancing, and consequently I do be in Scotlandshire fairly frequently. they looked at each other and said “I don’t suppose you know MK?” and I laughed and said, yes i did, she and I did our teacher training final together!

But the real joy was when someone came up to me as I crossed the finish line (doing a Highland dance style skip change step may I say), and I recognised an old face from Jog Lisburn, who I knew had moved to Scotland a few years ago! He’d shouted out “Go Jog Lisburn” as I was rounding the turn cone, but I had headphones on (bone conductors!) and hadn’t heard him. So sorry I didn’t get a photo with him, but it was so good to see running club stablemates in exotic (ish) locations. Here’s George posing with Cracker from a previous occasion. …

Time:

I told the RD I’d expect to run in about 40 mins, so there was no danger of me getting lost! With photo stops I came in at 40-10, which was grand.

Strangely Appropriate Tune On Shuffle:

Not while I was running, but while we were waiting to board the ferry (delayed because of ramp problems in Belfast) R was trying to pair my phone with the new car, and found the latest playlist i’d created, which was for a Scottish Dance class I gave over Zoom. The warm-up dance I’d used was “Prince of Orange”, and of course that made us laugh out loud and agree that the car’s name is Prince!

And the rest:

I always love little trips to Scotland, and this was no exception. We stayed in the Park Hotel right by the football ground, but unfortunately the ramp delays meant we arrived too late for dinner. But the very helpful staff had lots of menus from local takeaways, and i carb-loaded with some very tasty dirty fries. Hotel, parkrun and car place were all in about a 3 mile radius, so the driving was pretty straightforward. I’ll definitely take an opportunity to revisit, and try those famous pies!

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NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

And since you’re here…..

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This will be my first marathon and I’m absolutely terrified! Any donation you can make will be so much appreciated, plus you’ll be helping to put a smile on many little faces. Thank you!

Garvagh Forest parkrun

parkrun no. 288, event no. 74, completing Norn Irn regionnaire, and celebrating my parents anniversary

Commencing on 31 July 2021, I opted to skip the inaugural and instead attend event number 2. I also did a bit of “voluntouring” (it’s a thing) and asked if they needed a tail walker. And they were delighted to have me in this role! (See also Copenhagen and Jersey, it’s a good way to tick off a new run and also add to volunteer stats. Plus you get to go for a PB on your return visit!)

Getting There

It’s in a pretty central area of mid-Ulster, which means it’s 50 miles from everywhere! I jest – the journey from Lisburn took me just over an hour, and through such exotic locations as Maghera and Swatragh, where I haven’t been in years, but which have a charm and unchanged feel about them that makes me want to stay longer. Postcode is BT51 5NJ. There’s a very small carpark at the forest itself, so please leave it for other users, and volunteers who are transporting loads of kit. Runners should park in the church next door, but be warned the gates close at 11, so if you’re going into town for a coffee and bacon butty keep this in mind.

The start line is a good walk from the car park, so leave plenty of time to get there. What three words for the start is narrating.ignoring.barks

Facilites

The nearest loos are in Garvagh itself, well signposted and well maintained. There are various cafes in the town for post run sustenance and faff.

Course

It’s all on forest paths, wide and flat. There are 2 big loops and one final small one. It’s run clockwise, so most of the well signposted turns are to the right, but there are a few left hand turns around a twisty section, so keep your eyes open!

Gear

There were yellow weather warnings across NI, so I wasn’t too sure just what to wear! In the end I had on my long sleeved Jog Lisburn top, my purple volunteer T, and my second best Hokas. And of course my cow cowl.

Strangely appropriate song on shuffle

I don’t listen to anything while tail walking – you’re the eyes and ears out on the course, and need to be able to react to anything unusual. But I was listening to Classic Rock on the journey there, and singing along to Run To You.

Crowd

It’s away from the metropolis of Belfast, but there are keen running clubs in the Coleraine, Limavady, Portrush area who will no doubt frequent this as a nearby alternative (especially on a windy January morning when the tide is high at the Port….). There were 71 runners when I visited, and 83 at their inaugural. I bumped into some Jog Lisburn stablemates, and Andrew with “other Minnie”.

Time

I was tail walking at a brisk pace, so 54 minutes. The results themselves came through in super quick time, and I got my text at 10.39!

And the rest…

I arrived with flowers, card, non alcoholic bubbles, and some tapas style finger foods to wish my parents a happy 62nd wedding anniversary, where again the weather fairies smiled on us and we sat outside in the warm sunshine.

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NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

Knockbracken Reservoir parkrun

My 287th run at my 73rd different location, in order to reclaim legionnaire status. Also Toby’s first barkrun!

Getting There

At around 8 miles from my house, this was a pretty close NENDY. It takes place at the Go Hydro activity centre south of Belfast, near Carryduff. (What Three Words admits.lung.target)

Facilities

There’s plenty of parking, several loo blocks and also a number of catering trucks and spots. If that’s your thing there’s also a McDonalds and a KFC just before the entrance to the site.

Course

It’s 3 and a bit laps round the reservoir, and is flat apart from one Hill of Doom. Slower runners will be overtaken by the faster ones on lap 2, so keep aware of who’s behind you, but they will have the 3rd lap to themselves. There is some traffic and golf buggies around, so again, keep your eyes and ears open.

There are lovely views over Belfast, and lots of wee (and some not so wee) flappy winged things by the water. I saw but failed to capture a teensy blue butterfly.

Crowd

I was there at event number 6, when there were 137, about average turnout. This still being The Great Pause, there were a number of familiar faces travelling from the south, and a good turnout from local club Lough Mossketeers. It was Toby’s first outing to a parkrun, and he behaved himself impeccably, allowing himself to be patted and fussed over without barking, and he didn’t pee up a marshall’s leg or similar. There were a couple of other dogs running as well, and a pram or 2.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle

I was actually a bit nervous at the start line, I haven’t run a parkrun in well over a year. I even had that bad dream last night where I was at a parkrun but had forgotten my barcode. But the Hamilton soundtrack told me to Summon all the courage I require, and to Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now.

Time

Toby may have behaved sociably, but he hasn’t got Minnie’s ability to pull me along – in fact sometimes it was the other way round! And I did stop now and then to take photos so 38 minutes it was.

Full list

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

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222 or tutu too at Tymon

The distance between milestones can seem awffy long, so I often find different challenges or number of runs to celebrate.  Usually with a sutiable outfit.  And cake, of course.

My 222nd parkrun was due to take place on 22 September.  I liked that coherence already, and started to research which parkruns would be having their 2nd birthday, or 2nd, 22nd or 222nd runs.  And lo, my friends in Tymnon, Dublin were having their 222nd event on the same day. I got in touch, asked how they felt about a theme, and did they prefer 2 little ducks or Desmond Tutu.  They laughed and we agreed on a tutu theme, one which reflects my dancing proclivities.

So, what to wear.  I already had a comedy number 2 which I’d pinned to my 100 shirt on the occasion of my 200th run.  I still had the black ribbon and the white fabric paint so another couple of number 2s were easily produced.

I’ve borrowed tutus from friends in the past (see Waggy Races Fairy Dogmother outfit), but felt it was time to invest in my own.  A black one was procured from Elliotts for the princessly sum of £4.75. Watch out for it being reused at Hallowe’en.

I persuaded hubby to come with me and make it a day trip, so thanks to him for the transport and photos.  Sat nav assisted we arrived just before 9 am to find the set up underway.

Last time I’d been here, there was just a table by the car park wall, but now they have use of the GAA facilities including an indoor space, and there were sweets aplenty, as well as a special rocky road cake.

I got a shout out in the brief.  The course was somewhat changed form my last visit, a reminder to ALWAYS listen to the run brief.

The weather was cool and slightly damp, but compared to the gale force winds of recent weeks that made for very pleasant running conditions.  With Minnie’s assistance I easily managed a PB, dancing my way over the finish line before enjoying some pleasant chat over the post-run goodies.

I was very touched by the gift that they had made for me – a large pebble painted with the date of the run on one side, and an uncannily accurate portrait of me on the other.  What a really lovely idea!  I made it my FB profile pic, and tweeted “Free Weekly Timed”, the podcast, that this week’s three words were “personalised tutu stone”.

 

Thank you to all at Tymon who made this such a fun way to spend a Saturday morning,

https://twitter.com/tweertweet/status/1043625058294489088

and who even tweeted a short video

 

of me dancing across the finish line!

parkrun tourism: Dundalk

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Number 181, number 43 in my quest to reach 50 different events (half Cowell), and most importantly, the final letter in my spelling of DANCER!

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Access:

From my house in Lisburn, this is less than an hour away.  Down the N1/M1, off at Junction 16, turn left at the traffic lights before the Crowne Plaza, and the Dundalk Institute of Technology is on your right.  It is helpfully marked by brown signs all the way in from the motorway.

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Facilities:

On a Saturday, there’s loads of car parking available!  The course starts near the big wind turbine, so head for that and find a spot.

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There are toilets (and indeed changing rooms with showers!) on site.

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Tea is only provided once a month, but there’s a handy service station across the road which has a cafe and shop (and where I bought Minnie a Jumbone afterwards).  Start and finish are close, though not exactly the same spot, and there’s a tree that runners adorn with their bags and belongings. On the finish stretch, you have to tantalisingly pass the actual finish funnel before rounding the turn point.

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Course:

It’s not the most scenic of courses, being 3 laps of the playing fields with a bit added on to start and finish.  But it’s pretty flat – there’s a very small incline on one side of the fields, but you’d barely notice it.

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The surface is mostly tarmac-ish, and it’s quite narrow.  Being a 3 lap course, it’s likely you’ll be lapped by the front runners during lap 2, but will have a nice bit of space on lap 3.  There was good marshalling at every corner, and I made a point of counting the final marshall to keep track of my laps.

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Crowd:

Average numbers are about 100, with a good range of times.  I got chatting to an Irish dancer called Ann before the run, and there was a friendly welcome from all.

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Gear:

I’m having Garmin troubles, so I used MapMyRun as a backup (only to discover later that it hadn’t worked). My headphones are kaput so I was running without music.  Which did allow for a few more conversations – Minnie aways attracts “cheating” comments, and I point out that it’s a free weekly timed run, not a race!  My comedy 150 red shirt was a conversation starter, and as I overtook a couple of youngsters they wondered what happend if the doggie pooped.  I was able to reply that I would stop and pick it up – I always carry at least 2 bags!

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Time:

My running form isn’t the best at the minute, and I was aiming for 29ish, which I acheived.  Considering I had to stop and tie a shoelace even before reaching the turning point for the first time (ie about 50m), that’ll do.

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And the rest:

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This was a super special run for me, as it was the final run in my parkrunDANCER project.

parkrunDANCER

All my parkruns:

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NI (and other) parkruns: summary list