The London Marathon

Running the London Marathon

I’ve always said I didn’t have a marathon in me – I’m a keen parkrunner, for sure, but there’s a massive difference between running 5km and running 42 of them, all in one go.  But as part of my *cough cough* milestone birthday celebrations, I was somehow persuaded that this would be A Good Idea!

The first hurdle was getting a place.  There is a ballot which takes place every year, but most runners who apply are unsuccessful.  So I decided to go for a charity place instead.  Big events like marathons raise a huge amount for charities, and the absence of races and the like during the pandemic has been a massive blow for many, especially smaller and less well-known charities.  I was able to secure a place for the Smile Train, which provides medical treatment to children born with a cleft.  This can make it difficult for them to eat, drink, or talk, and has a detrimental impact on self-confidence.  I was very moved by the stories and pictures shared, and of just how life changing and enhancing this simple operation can be.  So even a small amount of money makes a very big difference.

Then came the training.  I was following a beginners 16 week training plan, which entailed a couple of running sessions during the week, with a progressively longer one on a Sunday.  Those long runs were vital in identifying what gear was comfortable to wear, most importantly socks and shoes, as well as how I was going to fuel en route.  Trying out jelly-babies versus mint imperials was one of the more enjoyable parts of training!  I also discovered that I got cold very quickly post-run, and that I liked listening to podcasts which distracted me from thinking “how much longer do I have to run?”

The final few weeks flew by, and I really appreciated “tapering” where instead of running for 3 ½ hours my long run was now a “mere” 90 minutes.  I received my kit bag in the post, and carefully packed it with all the things I would need at the finish line – warm clothes, Compeed plasters, and comfy footwear (crocs!) to change into.  Arriving in London, I headed to the Excel centre to drop off the kitbag, which I wouldn’t then see again till the finish line, and pick up my race number.  I double checked that I knew how to get to the starting point in time next day.  There are so many runners taking part that there are actually three different start areas, and within each of those, groups of runners set off in waves at allocated times.  This means quite a lot of hanging around (i.e queueing for the portaloos), and I was glad of the jacket I was wearing to keep me warm.  There are designated bins at the start where discarded clothing is collected and then redistributed to charities and the homeless.

Just after 10.30 my wave was called to enter the holding bay, and the excitement was really building as I chatted with other runners around me, many of them also doing their first marathon.  And then we were off!

Everyone who has run this event will tell you that the atmosphere provided by the crowd and supporters in London is something special.  They are not wrong.  Each side of the road was full of people cheering and calling out our names, with helpful encouragement like “nearly there!” (at mile 1…..).  A pub was playing YMCA as we ran past, and to a woman we all joined in with the actions.  As I passed a bagpiper I did a little bit of Highland dancing.  And the drummers, samba bands, Morris dancers, jazz groups etc all propelled us along on a wave of great spirits.   Many other runners were in fancy dress – I was overtaken by a pair of minions, a few rhinos, the queen, and Freddy Mercury, a telephone and some sort of internal organ.

The route continued past the Cutty Sark, and shortly after that crossed the iconic Tower Bridge, where I took the mandatory selfie.  From there the route weaves out to Canary Wharf, where it started to rain and quite a fierce wind blew up.  I was really struggling by now, and my walk breaks were getting progressively longer and longer.

Once I hit mile 20 I was determined to make it to the finish, and just kept on plonking one big ole foot in front of the other.  I did manage to break into a final jog to cross the line, though I was so emotional at that point that the official photos make me look very sad.  But I wasn’t, I was elated. It had taken me just over 7 hours, but I did it.

Afterwards I had a few blisters to deal with, and going up and down stairs was agony! But I recovered more quickly than I expected, and as is compulsory I now manage to shoehorn a mention of the marathon into every conversation.

It’s still not too late to contribute to my fundraising efforts, at

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LindaHarleyGillespie

or

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

or contact me for other methods.

Buncrana parkrun

Event #76 (trombones in the Big Parade), parkrun #280, reason for visiting – celebrating the return of parkrun Ireland, and ticking off all those Donegal ones that I haven’t even begun to do!

Access:

Instructions on the website are very clear – cross the river and take a left. There’s plenty of parking around, and loos. The Tip O’Neill memorial, and a fine large sundial, are nearby.

Course:

It’s an out and back route along the shore path. Don’t let that fact fool you into thinking it’s flat – it most certainly is undulating! Cheerful marshals at each point will make sure you don’t get lost.

It crosses the stunning Castle Bridge before a sharp right through some trees, currently festooned with motivational sayings. The views across Lough Swilly are just breathtaking, with mountains, sea, a distant ferry crossing, and the waves breaking on little sandy beaches.

Crowd:

There were 70 participants when I attended, including a few far flung tourists such as myself. I met up with fellow 250 T shirt wearing Ronan, and as we have both recently acquired new wheels, we spent of time doing “Well my new car’s got” Top Trumps. It’s popular with those who want to walk rather than run, so if you’re ever holidaying in this part of the world (It’s on the Wild Atlantic Way), and fancy an enjoyable stroll of a Saturday morning, you know where to come.

Gear:

250 top, leggings with a big zippy pocket for holding car keys, and my running belt is just too small to hold my new bigger phone. So much so that in order to take photos I ran the last 1km doing what I hate doing, running with the phone in my hand. Cow cowl, though I didn’t spot any others. Apple watch is still doing brilliantly at recording runs, sweat wristband, and of course my barcode wristband!

Time:

The course record is 16.20.

I’m still training for the marathon, so I haven’t been running this distance much. Plus I did stop to take lots of photos! So I was happy enough with a sub-40 minute result. I’ve no doubt I’ll be back some time, and can try to improve on that.

Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle

I do love Bryan Adams and “Run To You”, which is a good pace for running to.

All my parkruns

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

London marathon:

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LindaHarleyGillespie

This will be my first (and probably only!) marathon – if you’d like to help me spread some smiles around the world, your donation would be very much appreciated!

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!

All My parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

And since you’re here…..

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LindaHarleyGillespie

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.

All My parkruns

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

And while you’re here…..https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LindaHarleyGillespie

Hillsborough Forest parkrun

Throughout the UK parkrun has been paused during the Covid 19 pandemic, but they have recently recommenced in Northern Ireland (end of June 2021). And with the restart came a new event, set in the gorgeous surroundings of Hillsborough forest park.

Getting There

The forest is well-signposted from the village itself. It’s a popular spot, so the car park can get very busy – runners are asked to park considerately on the right hand side (what three words: interest.pointed.horseshoe). The main walk in the forest goes around the lake, but this is also very heavily used, so the parkrun route is on the far side of the lake, towards the playpark. Keep an eye out for the parkrun pop up flag! (what three words: volunteered.bump.sharpened) Hillsborough itself is just off the main A1 road.

Facilities

There are toilets in the village car park by the church, or in the playpark, which opens at 9. There is a coffee cart which opens around 10 in the car park, as well as a number of cafes in the town. Other options are the Sainsburys or M&S at Sprucefield, the latter having a particularly fine foodhall.

Route

It’s a 2 lap course, all on wide forest paths. The route is a sort of figure of 8 shape, with one large loop and one small one. There is a short section where runners will be going in both directions, so keep left there. The hill up to the back gate is a bit of a slog, but otherwise it’s pretty flat. (Emma made me edit this to say that it feels hillier when you’re running!) Running in a forest is always a pleasure, the air is so fresh and inspiring.

Runners

With parkrun not yet back in the rest of Ireland, it’s no surprise that this attracts visitors from far and wide. At event number 2 I chatted to people I had met before in Dublin, as well as visitors all the way from Tralee. NI regionnaires will also be looking to tick this one off the list. 115 attended the inaugural, with over 150 at event 2.

Time

I was timekeeper at event 1, and was tail walker at event 2, where my time was 53 minutes. (Hey, at least I’m making it easy for myself to go back and grab a PB!). It was my 100th time volunteering (come on new t shirt!) so I was able to add it to my events done. The course record is 16 minutes.

Covid stuff

To enable parkrun to restart safely, there are a few new procedures. The brief is VERY brief indeed (dogs under 11 on a short arm….), and timing and scanning is done via the virtual volunteer app. Sconning cannot be done from a barcode on your phone, sorry! Finish tokens will be deposited into a container and quarantined for a few days. No high fiving or spitting, faster runners start at the front, and try to keep social distancing.

All my parkruns

And while you’re here, do you fancy sponsoring me for the London Marathon? It’ll be my first one and I would be ever so grateful for your support 🙂

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/linda-harley6?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=fundraising&utm_content=linda-harley6&utm_campaign=pfp-tweet&utm_term=07b803adb4774068abeeacb8981721de

Red Dress Run 2021

I’ve done a bit of fundraising before for the NI Chest Heart and Stroke association. My father had a mild stroke a few years ago, and my husband has a replacement heart valve. So I know very well the excellent work they do. When the coronavirus pandemic took hold in 2020, many charities suffered immensely at the sudden loss of fundraising events. I did a “26 costumes” run during April, where I ran a short local route in 26 different outfits over the space of a week. This was in response to the absence of marathons, 26 miles, as fundraising opportunities.

26 costumes, Dancer-ys, with Tobbo, the fire-breathing dragon

NICHS would usually have an annual Red Dress run, with participants encouraged to dress up in suitable colours. This year (2021), with Covid regulations and restrictions still in place, it would take place virtually. When I first posted on Facebook

“Me? Running? In a red dress?With my reputation?” even my husband admitted he laughed.

So, most important consideration – what to wear! I usually run with Minnie, my cocker spaniel, but as she will be 10 this year she is an old lady in dog years, so I am training up young Toby, 2, to be a running companion. I really wanted a dress up theme that could include them also. And after a bit of pencil chewing, and exploring what I had in my dressing up box, I decided on…..Little Red Riding Hood (or should that be Little Red Running Hood). Minnie being a black hairy monster would make a suitable Big Bad Wolf, while cheeky-chops Toby would bring his own stylings to the role of Woodcutter. Just don’t anyone think of giving him an axe….

Despite my extensive costume wardrobe, I didn’t have the wherewithal for my own outfit, but I soon found a reasonably priced one on Amazon. When choosing a costume for running it has to be light, loose enough to allow movement, stretchy enough to allow for a long sleeved base layer if required, and washable. A red cloak will be a versatile addition, I’m already planning to use it as a superhero get-up, or for parkrun celebrations. The dress, with its checked skirt, lace petticoat, white blouse and black waistcoat isn’t a million miles from a Highland Dance dress, I might wear it to class as a joke.

For the dogs, I had a Harley Davidson bandana that said “Bad to the bone”, and a checked tartan number.

I sussed out a local route that was a 2.5km circuit from the house, meaning i could swap dogs at the halfway mark, and also was sticking to the guidelines of not travelling too far to run.

To add to the authenticity, the day before the run I baked some cookies for grandma, though I wasn’t intending to run with them. they were stem ginger cookies, and filled the house with tantalising smells.

Ginger cookies, fresh from the oven

On the day of the run, the sun shone, there was a warm-up video on Facebook including personal testimonies and a reminder of why we were running. I found the fundraising really hard this time, with no social events or family get-togethers, and only a handful of work colleagues in the office, it was a struggle to get pledges. But I made the £50 target.

I selected the soundtrack of Hamilton as my music: Hamil-run if you like. I set off with Minnie first, she always gets very excited and impatient when she knows we are going running. And then Toby, who still gets a bit distracted by other people, dogs, interesting smells and pretty flowers. It brings joy to the heart to see dancing snowdrops, full of hope for the future.

Snowdrops dancing in the sunshine

And we are all hopeful of a better future. For charities, for those recovering from strokes or heart operations, for runners who can’t wait till we can run together. Keep the faith, we’ll get there. There may even be cookies 🙂

parkrun tourism: Crawfordsburn Country

parkrun #285 event #71

Reason for visit: New Norn Irn one I haven’t been to yet!



Access:
The postcode given on the site, BT19 1JT, took me straight to the gorgeous grounds of Crawfordsburn Country Park, though I did have the traditional argument with the SatNav, because I knew about the Sydenham bypass roadworks and it didn’t.  So Yaa Boo Sat Nav!

There are plenty of car parking spaces, but parkrunners are asked to use the lower or beach ones, leaving those closest to the centre for older and maybe less fit users.  We don’t want them complaining about parkrun ruining their tradtional Saturday morning treat.

The centre doesn’t open till 10, but there are clean loos down at the beach car park, a gentle jog away.

Crowd:

I attended event number 3, and there were 120 that day.  The inaugural attracted 246.  The RD was a recently elected MLA, and I chatted to him about an Alan Turing qute he’d used in his maiden speech.  The chap giving the first timers briefing was someone I knew from a recent work project.  And I was meeting up for the first time with the NI parkrun toruist gang. 

It’s a dog friendly course, but very challenging for buggies or wheelchairs (though I believe it has been done with a buggy!).

Course:

Ah the course.  It’s by the sea, innit, must be flattish?  Wrong!  It’s a single lap course which takes quite a meadnering route incorporating the coastal path. 

The verbal description was quite detailed, and in the past some runners have got lost and ended up in nearby Helens Bay! 

Start and finish are both at the centre.  At some point you run with the river on your left, later it’s on your right. 

Do NOT run under the viaduct.  And this is the only course I know of with a volunteer role of Lollipop lady!

It’s VERY hilly, and the downhill sections can be steep and twisty.  Did I say it was dog-friendly?  I think a mountain goat would be more appropriate!  One with a built in sat nav……

And I suggest there should be a badge or cerfickatick declaring “I didn’t get lost at Crawfordsburn Country :-)”

Gear:

For ease of recognition I was wearing my 50 events Tshirt, which of course is now 21 events out of date.  I do still have my cotton T shirt with a button sewn on for each event visited, though the Belfast patch is getting very crowded.

I had my lovely flowery leggings, my new zippy pouch, green gloves, and of course cow cowl.  My Garmin was useless, I really am going to upgrade it soon.

Theme tune:

I was running with no music, but I did sing “Let’s ready to parkrun!”, a variation of the PJ and Duncan hit, when I was washing my hands for 20 seconds.

Parkfaff:

The cafe for post parkrun cafe had a fabulous range of scones and traybakes.  I tucked into a warmed apple and cinnamon scone thing, which was served by some delightfully friendly staff.  I can see why this place is such a popular spot!

And the rest:

I’m writing this in the middle of March 2020.  The UK has just moved from “contain” to “delay” phase of response to the Covid 19 pandemic.  Around the world, parkruns in other countries have already been cancelled, including our neighbours in Ireland.  The feeling is that the UK will soon follow suit, so this might well be the last one I get to attend for a while. So as I was jiggy-jogging around the challenging course, I was thankful for the beautiful views, and most of all for my health, while I still have it.

All my parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

parkrun tourism: Lower Drummans

parkrun #284 event #70

This is a short one, and no photos or lots of access or facilities details, cos it was my first at a closed event. (No mobile phones allowed, nor doggos!)

And what a great experience it was!

I remember first hearing about parkruns in prisons (Black Combe was the original) and thinking what a great idea! We all know running is good for your physical and mental health. And as part of the rehabilitation of inmates, having an activity they can share with friends and family, as well as continue when they are out, is very valuable. The guys take on the volunteering roles, and there are lots of familiar features in the start pop-up, hi-viz jackets and barcode scanning routine.

My 250 shirt drew some attention, and I chatted about how amazing the parkrun community is, no matter where you go.

I’m not going to describe the course in detail, but the views of Binevenagh and Inishowen reminded me how picturesque this part of the world is.

Well done to everyone for getting this event up and running, and keeping it going!

All my parkruns

parkrun tourism: Kingston

parkrun #283 event #69
Reason for visit:  a rare chance to see both my little darlings being marvellous!

I was in London as J had been nominated in 2 categories for the National Dance awards, and I was also staying to see H’s latest West End venture. Originally the plan had been to do Bushy for H’s 50th, but when he couldn’t make it I switched to Kingston as the next closest.

Access:

I was staying in the Traveloge Teddington, a handy 4 minute walk from the railway station, and very close to Teddington High Street, along which many buses travel.

From there I was able to jog the mile or so down High Street, trying not to be distracted by the delightful little boutiques. Helpful indicators that I was near the river, across the footbridge, and another 500m down to the Hawker centre.

The 285 bus goes between Heathrow and Kinsgton, handy tourist knowledge.  Allow an hour to get to the airport though, what with traffic and roadworks.

Facilites:

There are clean loos in the Hawker centre, and presentation of your barcode gets 15% off in the cafe.

First timers briefing takes place here also.

Course:

The course is a sort of lollipop shape.  The start is around 200m further towards Kingston, runs on a tarmac path alongside the river, onto the towpath under the footbridge, along to Ham field.  This can get a bit mucky!

From there it’s back along the same route, finishing at the Hawker centre.  There’s one small section where runners are going in both directions, so keep left! And there’s a slight incline coming out of the field, otherwise it’s pretty flat.

There was a minor bit of panic early in the week as the council were carrying out work to the path, with a possible cancellation warning.  But they finished on the Friday, just in time.  I was still able to win “parkrun cancellation Top Trumps” with my Crissy Field story.

It can be a narrow path at times, but the crowd soon thins out.

Crowd:

There’s usually around 400 runners, some buggy runners bravely taking on the field.  I saw a  few dogs, though the sitepage says it’s a “no dogs” course, and quite a few adults accompanying thier under 11s.

It’s a popular one with toruists, I got chatting to a number of cow cowls and bobble hats, as well as some world tourists who were doing their 90th event!  Letter K is also a popular one for alphabeteers and name-spellers.  And look, a lesser spotted 500 shirt.

I got a shout out in the briefing as having come the furthest, and during the run got a “Well done Miss Northern Ireland!”, which was nice.

Gear:

I was wearing my purple Jog Lisburn top, with gloves and headband agaisnt the cold wind.  My purple skort is getting a bit tight, i really must lose weight. I’ve managed to find my missing zippy belt, and theres a ziped pocket in the back of the trousers where i kept my hotel key card, away from my phone.  No watch or music, so I was using counting to 100 and back down again as a distraction technique.  Hokkas were a good choice of footwear for this mixed terrain.

And the rest:

Well J was just amazing.  She looked stunning in her jacket by Adam Brady (not the Scottish dancer) and giant soled shoes.

A cross between Cruella de Ville and will.a.am.

The talent in the garden room at The Barbican was electrifying, and I really enjoyed meeting critic Donald Hutera, who I’ve followed on Twitter for some time.  And the awards ceremony was really well done, with short video clips of all the nominees shown in each category.

The next day I was able to meet up with my son, who’s working backstage on Magic Mike Live, an energetic and exciting show with lots of impressive dancing and cheeky audience interraction.

Thank you Magic Unicorn!

All my parkruns