parkrun tourism: Monaghan Town

Event number 46.

I’m hoping to reach my half-cowell (50 different parkruns) some time in 2018. Part of this will be acheived using various weekend trips here and there, but I’m also lucky enough to have a few Irish ones not too far away. My NENDY (Nearest Event Not Done Yet) was Monaghan Town, about 50 miles away, and the sat nav reckoned 1 hour 15 would get us there.

The suggested route wasn’t the one I’d normally have chosen, going instead through Aughnacloy, and when I hit a “Road Closed – Diversion” sign, I did have a moment of panic.  But the diversion didn’t add too many minutes to my eta.  The route brought me into Monaghan from a different direction, but serendipitously passed this fab service station, with clean loos, coffee, snacks, plenty of parking for a leg stretch.

Access:

No postcodes in the south, so I had written out the directions from the website – follow the Clones Road, then turn left on 3 Mile House road, past the football stadium, and Rossmore Forest is on your left.

I arrived just after 9, and started looking for the familiar parkrun signs to assure me I was in the right place.

Facilities:

There is ample parking, and a small toilet block, which I would describe as “emergency use only”.

(Parkrun tourist tip #5: carry your own loo roll).  There were a couple of flasks for tea afterwards, but I gather this isn’t a regular occurence.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

It was a beautiful morning, and as I got out of the car I was struck by all the chirpy birdsong.

So I decided to leave the headphones in the car, and let the twittering of the birdlife, and the tinkling of the streams be my natural soundtrack.

Course:

2 laps through the woods, surprisingly flat with a welcome downhill stretch towards the finish line.

It’s all gravel paths, very well signposted and marshalled.  It is stunningly attractive, with a little bridge, streams, swans on a lake, and a host of inspiring trees.

The finish is at the car park, and the start line a short distance away.  I was able to leave my jacket and keys under a table at the finish point.

Time:

I set off fast, and realised that the first lady was about 10m ahead of me.  My mind briefly flirted with the possibility of a podium place, but at km 2 I was overtaken, and at km 3 my podium place evaporated.  So I decided to take my own advice and not push too hard on any first visit – make it easy for yourself to nab a PB on any subsequent re-visits.

I took the second loop at a gentle canter, and stopped to take photos en route.

Crowd:

The average crowd size is smallish, there were 53 the day I was there.  So it’s a good one to get a solid finish position!  I bumped into some other tourists from Marlay at the brief, and the volunteers were all really friendly and encouraging.  Is there a term for being the “runner with the most parkruns done” there?  It was me, anyway.

Gear:

My Garmin amazingly worked without any issues!  I wore my foresty leggings and my 100 shirt, only cow cowl there.

And the Rest:

This was the first time I got stuck beind a pony and trap on  the way home!  A delightful morning’s run, and I look forward to returning.

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200100 or 1,000km

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Milestone T shirts are all very well, but there’s a heck of a gap between the black 100 shirt and the green 250 one.  Running at 50 parkruns each year is a big committment – I’m a pretty regular attender and even I only managed 40 in 2017.  So you’re looking at at least 3 years between 100 and 250.

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So I decided to have a bit of fun with my 200th parkrun.  Firstly, I ensured that it coincided with my 100 time at Wallace, proving just what a serial tourist I am, as well as being a bit fanatic about mathematical symmetry and patterns.  This was not without a few sleepless nights in January, hoping that cancellations due to ice wouldn’t sotally scupper my plans.

I needed a shirt, so I got a strip of wide black ribbon, and used my trusty fabric paint to write a number 2 (stop sniggering at the back).  Someone aksed if it was done with toothpaste – believe me, if I thought that would be funnier I would do it!  I attached it over the 1 on my 100 shirt with safety pins.

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For the cake, I know that fruit based offerings are usually popular, so I got a friend to bake me a large rectangular sponge, and I decorated it with cream and spelled out the 200 in raspberries,  and the 100 in blueberries, with black and green grapes for the border.  It looked well, but smaller raspberries would have been easier to work with, and it was a bit awkward to transport.

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You know me, any excuse to dress up!  So I needed a suitable theme.  I went with the “Wallace as Braveheart” idea, and as I have plenty of tartan bits and bobs around, all I needed for this look was some blue face paint.  Shouting “Freedom” as I went round each corner was an easy way to keep in character, an bring a smile to many faces.

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John, the RD gave me a great speech, and pointed out that in getting to 200 runs, I’d also volunteered 33 times, taking on almost every role….except one.  And would I like to be guest RD some day soon.

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It was a bitterly cold day, so I really appreciated the support from friends and family who came along- to cousin David who ran with me on his first toruism venture, and his wife Karen who helped with the teas and cake.  To Liz and Emma, the Murphy twins, who ran at Wallace even though they have nightmares about “Heartbreak Hill”, and for the card and the afternoon tea afterwards. To Susan, who wore her old Wallace school tie.  And to my husband who helped trasnport the cake, and who was my usual faithful paprazzo.

At the end someone pointed out that was 1,000km.  Here’s to the next 1,000!

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(Actually, I’ll only have to run 250km to the next milestone T shirt, estimating somewhere about April 2019…..)

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All My parkruns:

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parkrun tourism: York

parkrun 196, and 45th different event.

On my parkrun adventures, one of the targets that keep you going (100 Tshirt to 250 is AT LEAST 3 years….) is grabbing letters of the alphabet.  Now, there’s no X anywhere (surely an opportunity for somewhere, but meanwhile St Andrews, as in cross, will suffice…) and Z is a foreign trip to Poland or South Africa.

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The Norn Irn parkruns do have some of the lesser spotted letters – there’s a Q at Queens, a V at Valley, and 2 Ws at Waterworks and my home run Wallace.  But I’m still lacking a G, J, K, (all of which I can get on the  island of Ireland, albeit with difficulty), and the U and Y, of which there are very few.  So when I saw a chance to get a Y at York, I absolutley jumped at it!

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Access:

Located at York Racecourse, this is a pretty easy to get to run.  I was staying in an Air BnB, and had booked a taxi, not wanting to risk missing the start, but my son, who was working in the city for the week, just walked there from his digs, and in fact we walked back into town together, which took about 20 minutes.  There’s plenty of car parking near the main racecourse entrance, and also some at the start of the parkrun, which is at the far side of the track. I saw a few people arrive by bike, and there are some bus options described on the parkrun page.

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From Belfast, I flew to Manchester, which was cheaper than Leeds, and took a train from there, about 90 minutes.

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Facilities:

I’m not sure about loos or showers, but Poppy’s Coffee van was doing good business after the run with a range of delicious sounding hot chocolates and lattes.

 

IMG_2735 - CopyFor leaving your jacket etc beofre the run, many opted for the time honoured “hang it on a fence” tradition, and one of the volunteers had a basket at the start line to collect any discarded coats and belongings.

Course:

People tend to congregate at the finish line, before heading to the start, at the far side of the track.

You can cross the grass, which can be wet and puddly, or take the slightly longer route on the tarmac path which forms the parkrun route.

The first timers briefing at the start was warm and freindly and assured first timers that this was the best day of their lives!  The course is 1 and 1/2 circuits, and is dead flat.

IMG_2748I could be critical and say it’s a bit boring, you definitely have to dig deep and “just keep running!”, and I’d wished I’d brought some headphones so I could have some music or a podcast.

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Crowd:

This used to attract 700-800 ish runners each week until the recently started Heslington event at the University.  Perversely, I was staying on Heslington Road, and this would have been a closer course, but, letter Y!  There were just over 500 runners when I visited, and a couple of fellow cow-cowls said hi.  My son didn’t have any running gear with him, but opted to walk along with the tail walker.

 

IMG_2757It’s a dead flat all tarmac course, so very accessible for buggies and wheelchairs.  I saw a couple of doggies (Hi Maggie!) and a blind-guide running pair, and I was in the tailwind of a lesser spotted 100 parkrun jacket most of the way.  There were some pacers, and some “walk a minute run a minute” guides as well.

IMG_2741 - CopyIt’s also very fast – there were 3 sub-17 times on my visit, and the course record is an astonishing 14:37.

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The funnel gets quite muddy after all that.

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Gear:

My Garmin behaved, I could’ve done with music, and my shoes were…well, I always travel in my second best trainers.  That way, if I need to ditch some weight before the return leg it won’t break my heart.  And when I dug out my Karrimors to travel in, I realised I’d last worn them at the Castlewellan Cracker, and they were still carrying a muddy sheen…

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Time:

I haven’t run for at least 3 weeks, but honestly, a time of 37 minutes on this flat course is tut-worthy. I usually do a Scottish skip-change-step over the finish line, but as I was at a racecourse I opted for a Miranda-style gallop instead.

And the rest:

I loved my visit to York – walking on the walls, queuing to get into one of the Harry Pottter shops that are now taking over the Shambles,

 

IMG_2767giggling at the plastic dinosaur in the nativity display at York Minster, going to the Cilla show at the Grand Opera House,

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bacon butties at the Dyl cafe in one of the old buidlings on a bridge,

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a Yorkypud wrap,

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and seeing Tim Peake’s capsule at the Railway Museum.

 

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All My parkruns:

 

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

NI parkruns: Castlewellan

Run number 183, different event 44

Having missed the inaugural of this, NI’s latest addition, a few weeks ago, I was delighted to join them for event #5, and regain my “regionnaire” status #IverunallthenornirnparkrunssoIhave.

Access:

Castlewellan is a charming little town nestling in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is the Mournes.  There are decent roads from Belfast, but you’ll struggle to get here by public transport.  As it takes place in an actual Forest Service Park, there is an entrance fee of £5 per car.  But if you have time to spare, you could visit the arboretum, or find your way through the Peace Maze.

Many people choose to park outside in the town, and walk or jog the 1k to the start, by the lake.

Facilities:

There are well maintained and plentiful toilets,

and a gorgeous wee cafe with a log fire.

The start and finish are at different points, and there didn’t seem to be any organsied place to leave coats and bags.  I tied my backpack to a bench near the start.

Scanning takes place up in the courtyard, where water and protein bars were available.

The lake and park are well used by fishermen, kayakers, dog walkers and mountain bikers.

 

Course:

The course is one lap of the lake, with an additional spur to take the distance up to 5km.  It’s pretty flat with a really gentle hill on the spur, which is a nice gradient for running down again.  The path is narrow at the start, and can a bit congested, though runners are encouraged to start according to their expected finish time.

 

The surface can be a bit uneven, muddy and leaf-strewn, so grippy trail shoes are advised.

 

There are no km markers: the top of the lake is just over 2km, and the turn point on the spur is 2.75.  Don’t believe the marshall where the spur rejoins the lakeside path when he tells you it’s just one more km!

Crowd:

Though this event has just started, numbers have been around 200 every week. I got a shout out in the pre-run briefing!  It’s a part of the country with a strong running fraternity and sorority, and I could only manage 4th in my age category! Only cow cowl present.

Gear:

I was trying out my new Garmin 25, which is nice and light, but so far I can only get it to show me time and distance.  I must experiment and see if it will also show pace.  I was also trying out my new Philips ActionFit wireless headphones.  These are really light, and use a wee clippy magnet to secure them to clothing or bandana.  Even though they have an over ear hook, I find they slip out after a while, but my trusty headband kept them in situ.

I wore my foresty leggings, black 100 top, and Minnie had her matching “100 barkruns” shirt on.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

I’d been reminsicing about visits here when my children were young – my son even reminded me recently that we had all taken part in planting the Peace Maze here, back in 2001.  So it was a boost when one of my “Harry-songs” came on – Fireflies by Owl City.

Time:

Minnie was in great form, and we had an easy trot around in just over 28 minutes.

All my parkruns:

 

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

 

 

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.

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All my parkruns:

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NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

 

 

parkrunDANCER

I was inspired by a member of parkrun tourists UK, who had enjoyed an ice cream after each parkrun, often a cornetto.  And who posted photos, often with the hashtag #parkruncornetto.  Even though his mates teased him about this being a “thing”!

And so he decided to run a series of parkruns that would spell out “parkruncornetto”.  And when he had accomplaished this, his mates presented him with a T shirt suitably emblazoned with “#parkruncornetto – it’s a thing!”

Heading into summer 2017, I knew I was visiting Scotland, and the United States.  So I looked at the parkruns I might be able to visit during those trips, as well as some near events that had missing letters of my alphabet.  This gave me Edinburgh,  Crissy Field (in San Fran) and Navan.  With a bit of creative thinking I could see that I could spell, using other locally available letters, DANCER.  I’ve been a dancer all my life, with a core of ballet, but also incorporating tap, salsa, and line dancing, and most recently have thrown my devotion to Sottish Country Dancing, where I’m hoping to become a qualified teacher.

Sooooooo…offf we went. In order to have the word read correctly on event history, they have to be run in reverse order.  So first up was local run Rostrevor!  I’d run it before at Christmas time, but didn’t manage to beat my previous time.  But I did meet a guy who asked “Were you on a double decker bus 30 years ago?” who turned out to be  BBC film maker who interviewed me and Ronan….

Loved Edinburgh, took the slow coach bus down from St Andrews along the Fife coast, just magical.  My E for Emily girl, who I found in the new runners briefing, went on to be second lady!

I found the waiting, the gap bewteen letters, to be enoormously frustrating.  I did a bit of volunteering at my home run, Wallace, but getting out of the routine of Saturday means parkrun was discombobulating.

Off to the States for our super dooper trip that we’d been planning for years, including running Crissy Field parkrun in San Fran.  Which I learned, 2 days before, had been cancelled!  aaargh, but hey ho, and I could re-schedule…..

Back in NI, I’d toyed with running my NENYD at Castleblayney, but a Saturday dancing lunchtime committment and a callout from Carrickferus for a VI guide changed my plans, and I was delighted to accompany Pete putting into practice my Guide Dogs training.

Navan was as planned, and had a realy great time running with them.

I knew I’d be in London to see my son working on Evitia – had originally planned Dulwich but that had to be changed to the only A in London – Ally Pally!

And oh my goodness, the last bit of the jigsaw – D and my nearest one is Dundalk!

Dundalk…Done Dancer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

parkrun tourism: Ally Pally

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Event number 42 (for all you Hitchhiker fans), parkrun number number 180 (said in darts commentator voice) and putting the A in DANCER.

Access:

There’s plenty of parking in and around Alexandra Palace.  I walked from a lovely Air BnB nearby, and the W3 bus goes through the grounds.  There’s a nearby railway station, and the closest tube station is Wood Green.

Facilities:

There are loos in the ice rink and in the Phoenix cafe.  We enjoyed coffee and sausage rolls afterwards in the Palm Court bit of the main bulding, but there’s some refreshements available at the ice rink also.

Course:

It’s 2 big laps with a start and finish section.  Start and finish are in the same place, so you can leave bags and belongings there.  The terrain is very varied, from tarmac, to gravel, to grass, and a steep muddy incline!  Not the easiest, but the views over London are just spectacular.

Crowd:

I was impressed at the number of young people here – a confident young man effectively delivered the first timers briefing, there were lots of teenage marshalls giving cheering support along the way, and I was in awe of young Georgia in her white 10 shirt, sharing motivational chat with her Mum all the way round, and managing a brilliant sprint finish. I got chatting afterwards to a 250 shirter called Liberty, who was really friendly, and there was a warm welcome from the RD and team. Numbers are usually in the 200s.

Gear:

I always travel in my second best trainers, and these were a good choice for the sometimes slippery surface.  My Garmin worked OK, but its clippy lead has disintegrated.  My headphones worked for half the yodelling song from Eurovision 2016, but then refused to behave at all. I wore my apricot Wallace top.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

No headphones so no shuffle.  But my earworm was a country song called “What Ifs”, and I distracted myself by trying to remember all the lyrics.

Time:

Tough course, no Minnie, no music, and I stopped to take photos en route.  So 36 something. Bleurgh, it can only improve. I did manage my signature skip-change step over the finish line.

Sticky letter:

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I’ve been trying to get someone appropriate to stick each letter of DANCER as I run them, and what better than an actual p’feshnil dancer to do the honours!  Jemima also took plenty of great action photos for me.

And the rest….:

I was in town to see Evita, which my son is working on, and what a rare pleasure to have both my children in the same room!

And I finished my Saturday with a bit of dancing at the RSCDS London Branch dance, where it was lovely to catch up with old friends, and make some new ones.

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All my parkruns:

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