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.

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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:

all the parkruns I’ve completed

 

 

 

parkrun tourism: Navan

Event number 41 for me, and elusive letter N to help me spell DANCER.

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Access:

There are helpful sat nav co-ordinates on the course page, and the Facebook page is very responsive to messages, and gave me advice on travel from Da Nort.  Which is basically Slane, Navan, straight across the first roundabout,  right at the traffic lights, and Blackwater Park is about 400m on your left.

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Facilities:

There’s a good number of parking spaces, though I did notice a bit of overflow onto the drive as I was leaving.  A children’s playpark, but no loos.  Just as well I called into the Applegreen on the way!

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Course:

The finish is by the car park, but the start is a wee walk away.  It’s 3 and a bit laps of the park, pretty flat, and a good tarmac surface. Can get a bit congested for the first 400m, so if you’re speedy make sure you’re near the front.  There are nice views towards the town, and it’s a pleasant green park.

Crowd:

I was visiting on their event 99, and they were really looking forward to their 100th.  Average attendance is around 100, and I was the recipient of  lucky token number 50.  Run Director Ken and his team of volunteers were really friendly and welcoming, and even gave me a shout out in the run brief.

Gear:

After I’d paired my headphones, they told me that they needed charged, so I was running with no music.  My Garmin worked well, though I notice that the clip which attaches to the USB port is starting to come loose.  Again.  Hmmmm, if only it were my birthday or something soon……

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Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

Well I had no music and so no shuffling, but running a 10k the next day I was reminded of my darling son when Owl City and Fireflies came on.

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Time:

I’m still carrying too many kgs and not running enough kms, so my target was to sub-30.  And we actually got a sub 29, thanks to my bestest running chum, Minnie, who was so good during the 90 minute journey each way.

All My parkruns:

parkruns: summary list

minnie at navan

parkrun tourism: Edinburgh

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I’d harboured a bit of a question mark over whether I’d be able to make this one.  All my nearby easily accesible events have now been done, so any additional ones require a bit of effort and sacrifice.  I knew I could squeeze Edinburgh into my week at  St Andrews summer school, but it would mean missing one class. I’d applied for some financial assistance to attend the course, and would have felt morally wrong in doing this  had that been forthcoming.  As it was, it was with a clear consience that I boarded the X60 bus which took a lovely leisurely journey along the Fife coastal route to the capital.

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Access:

Aside from the scenic bus route, the Edinburgh course is sited at Cramond promenade.  Car park spaces are few, thought there is plenty of additional space at the Silverknowes approach.  Many people chose to arrive by bike, and it’s also a short stroll from the no.41 bus route.

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Judging from the lowness of the planes passing overhead, it would be a short taxi ride from the airport, should you find a suitably early flight. Don’t forget, it’s a 9.30 start in Scotland!

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I was staying in a lovely Air BnB a short distance away, and my 10 minute stroll to the start line went along the Almond river, where I heard a woodpecker, and saw this little chap chewing some nuts and spitting the shells into the water below.

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Bobbing among the boats was a craft called “Sea Dancer”, and as this run was putting the E into my spelling out DANCER in parkruns, I smiled at the congruence.

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Course:

This is a dead flat route, out and back with a loop at one end, named in honour of a departed and much missed local runner.

IMG_1991 The views are just magnificent, and I was stopping to take photos as I went.   As a bridge afficianado, it was inspiring to see the tips of the now 3 Forth bridges to Fife, the latest Queesnferry crossing being a stunning creation.

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The course is fast, and as I hit the 2km marker, the top runners were passing me on their return leg. The male course record is 14.31, the female 16.35.

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Facilities:

There are some clean toilets near the start line, and a choice of nearby cafes for coffee afterwards.

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Gear:

I was wearing my cow cowl, and met up with some fellow tourists, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries.  IMG_1972

My earphones died just at the start, so I ran with my phone in my hand, ready to take pictures along the way.

This allowed me to hear all the great support from marshalls and others.

People:

It’s not Scotland’s oldest parkrun,  but it is by far its biggest attended.  There were nearly 600 running the day I was there, but their record is 731.  The numbers increase during Edinburgh Festival season…

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The first timers brief was one of the most energetic I’ve ever experienced – the guy delivering it and I worked out we’d met before when he’d been in a group of Scottish runners doing all the Norn Irn parkruns in a weekend, and I’d been at Wallace dishing out haribos.

He threw away anyone’s water bottles, named and shamed those with no barcode, and asked questions at the end of the brief!

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I was most impressed by the support outside the cafe, calling out cheery encouragement to many runners by name, and reminding us that we were “living the dream! Scotland’s Bondi beach!”

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There were a couple of 250 shirt wearers.

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And as I’m spelling my way through the word DANCER, I’m trying to get someone with the correct inital to affix the letter to my tracker.  I asked around at the first timers brief, and found a willing Emily (who only went on to be 2nd lady!)

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Strangely Approrpirate Song On Shuffle:

Music I had none, so I just had to listen to my breathing.  Which I reckoned was in jig time, (as opposed to jog time) and the tune going through my head was Brian the Laundry Boy, by Maureen Rutherford, which Adam Brady had played most beautifully during the demonstration team performance earlier in the week.  The tune starts at 2:57.

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Time:

33.31

Well, I had no Minnie, no music, kept stopping to take photos, and hadn’t run all week.  Yes, I’d been dancing morning, noon, nad night, but that’s different muscles and different breathing. And anyway, as I’m fond of saying, don’t knock yourself out on a first visit – leave yourself room to grab a PB on a return visit.  Of which I truly hope there will be, some day.

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parkrun tourism: Elusive Letter I at Inverness

Not that I take this parkrun tourism malarkay seriously or anything, you understand, but there’s an alphabet to be completed and I’m on a mission to conquer it!

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There’s no X at time of writing, and the nearest Z is in Poland.  Someone on the UK parkrun tourists Facebook page shared a link to a tracker, monitoring progress towards various targets, which includes an alphabet table, minus the X and Z.  I modified the tracker slightly by adding an admittedly amateurish outline of Ireland, and a COWELL countdown which will take me to 50 different events.  Oh and I colour coded it (well of course I did….)

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So.  Inverness.  I managed to be doing this one by dint of having a meeting in Edinburgh on the Monday, and travelling to Bonnie Scotland a few days early.  I’d never been in Inverness before, and I like nothing more than a new city to explore at my own pace.  I found Inverness to be utterly charming – the River Ness is big and fast flowing, and the various bridges crossing it each have their own, often wobbly, personalities.

IMG_1714It’s a small enough town to get your bearings quite quickly, and is heaving with kilt, shortbread and whisky purveyors. I was staying in an Air BnB close to the parkrun site, but even that was only a 20 minute walk from the city centre, along a glorious riverside and island hopping path.

Access:

I flew into Inverness airport, and a fairly regular bus service takes you to the city entre for £4.20 in 20 minutes.  The parkrun used to be in Bught Park, but its alternative (and probably permanent new) home is a few minutes away in Whin Park.  Easily reachable by car, and the number 2 bus passes close by as well. If you’re a tourist, the Hop On Hop Off Bus stops nearby too!

Facilities:

There’s a reasonably sized car park, and some decent loos, intriguingly financed by the delightful sounding Common Good Fund.

IMG_1712Coffee and post-run analysis talkes place in Cobbs cafe in the botanical park a few minutes away.

IMG_1739This is a really sweet cafe, but they do ask that runners remove their muddy shoes before entering.

IMG_1734  They do bacon and egg rolls, scones and snandwiches, but I was overawed by the selection of traybakes, opting eventually for a pistachio and cranberry slice.

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Course:

The Whin Park course starts at the playpark, and uses the duck pond as a gravitational focal point.

One lap of it, and then onto 3 larger laps, passing the plastic hippos 3 times.

IMG_1726It’s by the river, so it’s a fairly flat course, but can get a bit mucky.

Most of the pathway is gravel or trail or grass (or puddle) , so trail shoes are a good idea. Start and finish are in the same area, so you can find a tree or picnic table or bit of helter-skelter to leave your coat and keys at.

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Crowd:

Average attendance is a nice manageable 150 – there can be a bit of overtaking round the duckpond, but there’s no big bottleneck problems. I found the regulars really welcoming and chatty, and was quickly laughing and comparing stories with a few of them.  Billy was lovely – a pretty speedy guy, he shared the profound thought that some runners find it hard to just run, and not compete.

IMG_1732 I’ve never had this problem, I must admit, but we both agreed that the success of parkrun was dependent on it being a run, not a race.

Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

The parkrun weather fairy was having a bit of a lie-in, I think, and it was decidedly dreich as we set off, although the rain did stop after a while.  But yeah, the Dave Mathews band intoning

“These fickle fuddled words confuse me
Like will it rain today”

brought a wry smile to my face.  And then a softer heart-tugging moment when “Calum’s Road” came on, geographically apt, and I’d also been dancing to it the night before thanks to Nicol McLaren’s Band at the Dingwall Rally in Culbokie.

Gear:

Oh, my Garmin really is starting to worry me! You think you’ve located satellites, and then when lined up at the start it loses contact! My 150 shirt and tartan leggings were commented on,and I was using my arm pouch instead of my waist belt for my phone.

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Time:

Nope, my times are not getting any better at all, and I sauntered in around 34 minutes.  This is close to my first ever parkrun time, which makes me wonder if I’m getting any better at running at all.  But I try not to focus on those negative views.  I’m running every week.  And meeting new people.

 

IMG_1730And setting myself targets that I can acheive, and get excited about.

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And The Rest:

I adored Inverness, and I hope to revisit again soon.  There were lots of lovely eating places to chose from, many with menus offering 2 courses for £9.95, or even 3 courses for a tenner!

The scenery was stunning, and I took a trip on LochNess and to Urquart Castle.  And I even managed an evening’s Scottish Country Dancing with some more hospitable and charming locals. We danced till midnight, and when we left the hall it was still light outside…

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