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.

Dancing

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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All my parkruns

 

 

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…

All My parkruns

 

 

 

 

parkrun Bushy Tails: With added Bushy!

Well now.  Every parkrunner knows the story of how it all began, all those years ago with 13 runners in Bushy Park, London.

Bushy Park London

Not many people know that there are other Bushy Parks.  Including one in Dublin.  Which only recently began a parkrun there!

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So along with quarter/half/full-cowelling, alphabeteering, regionairing, and spelling out words like “parkruncornetto”, parkrun tourists now have new challenge: Double Bushy.  Appropriately in Doublin.

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Last year I’d attended the Dublin Scottish Dance Club’s 50th anniversary celebrations, and used the weekend to visit Marlay Park.

Marlay Dublin

This year, I wanted to try a different parkrun, and was thrilled to discover that Bushy Dublin was a short drive away from where I was staying.

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Access:

The park is in Rathfarnham, and in fact the recommended car parking is at Rathfarnham Shopping Centre, which is what I plugged into my sat-nav.  It got me there, roadworks notwithsatanding, and I parked as requested in the middle, rather than encoraching on the space where the car washing folks are plying their trade.

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After crossing the road, and a wee bridge into the park, I turned right, and was a bit misled by a bootcamp group that were setting up by a shelter.

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But I had an inkling they were not parkun, and continued my usual “wander until you see recognisable signs” meander.  I must have looked particularly puzzled, as a cyclist stopped me and asked if I was looking for the parkrun start.  Yes! I answered enthusiastically, and he replied that so was he.  We set off in search together, allowing me to utter the phrase “Follow that bike!”

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If I’d turned left instead of right at the bridge, I’d have been there in 100m.  But hey, made it in time!

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Crowd:

There were a lot of people arriving by bike, and my new friend offered to let me use his to hold my bag of post run essentials (coat, car keys, water).  A fellow 100 shirt wearer came and chatted to me, he was doing his 170th run and was quite emotional about the journey it has taken him on.  Ther were a good smattering of younger runners too.  I’d had a bit of banter with them on Facebook beforehand, and they were really friendly and chatty afterwards, and even gave me a name check in the run report!

Lots of parkruns have Duke of Edinburgh award folk doing their bit as volunteers – here it was some great chaps from Terenure Mens Sheds – thanks lads!

Facilities:

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There isn’t anything in the park itself.  Parking as mentioned is in the nearby shopping centre, which is also where the loos are ( I couldn’t find many of these) and also post run coffee in Partners (where customers can use the loos.  Well, Partner’s (sic) customers can use them, it’s 2 yoyos for others).

Course:

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There’s about a km along the side of the Dodder river, which can be quite slippy and has a few water channels to watch out for.  Then it’s into the park itself with 2 laps around the pond, and a little extra leg.  There’s a small bit of this extra leg which has runners going in both directions, and the turnaround point is well indicated with cones. Back out onto the riverside walk, and you know you’re 1 km from the finish line. There’s no real inclines to worry about, and the paths are wide enough to accommodate the current 100ish crowd.  The park allows dogs to be off-lead until 10-00 am, so that’s a factor to be aware of.

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Gear:

My Garmin is starting to really play up, may need to start looking at replacements.  My 100 shirt was a talking point. No other cow cowls sighted. Although the paths are all tarmc, they were slippy, and trail shoes would be a good option. As the morning had dawned mizzly I hadn’t bothered with sunglasses.  So of course the sun came out!  But the mostly tree-lined course made sure this was not a problem.

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Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

It’s Eurovision Day – I know, what am I doing away dancing and so missing the show! But I’ve been watching the semi-finals, suitably attired, and me and my running chums really enjoyed “Running On Air”.

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Time:

This is a pretty fast course, so run times are good.  Mine not so good, still suffering from some foot niggles, so I had to be content with a sub-32 result.  First in my age-cat, though!

And the rest:

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I was staying in a lovely wee Air Bnb place on Ballinteer Ave.  I enjoyed a super supper on the Friday night at the gastro-pub across the way – fish platter supreme with proper baby Guinness!

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I’d tried and failed to make these during my Euroviz party, to enjoy during Ireland’s performance.  But they wouldn’t stay separated.  Which may be a political prophecy.

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After my parkrun I explored Dundrum Town Centre, which is not the same as the town centre of Dundrum. I had the most lovely pasta dish

IMG_1613in Dunne e Crescenzi overlooking the dancing fountains.

This place ( ie shopping centre) fancies itself somewhat, and is proud of having a branch of Harvey Nicks.  Shame they can’t spell confectionary, though.

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I took a trip to Airfield, a sort of open farm / formal gardens place, and was most impressed by the stunning colours of the flowers.

The evening was taken up with the Dublin dance – 20 well chosen dances, and a fabulous supper, a truly wonderful evening.  I arrived back at my lodgings just before midnight to enjoy…..

Celebrations:

Consensus has it that the suitable celebration for running a Double Bushy is to have a double Bush – a large measure of Bushmills whiskey, from the oldest distillery in the world, and near where I grew up on the North Coast.

IMG_1619  I couldn’t find any Bush, so being in Dublin I settled for local tipple, Jamesons.

Slainte!

All My parkruns

parkrun tourism: Ballincollig

 

IMG_1547We’re getting into a good groove now – my husband lets me know when he has business trips to parts of Ireland, and I work out which one has a nearby parkrun I’d like to visit. On this occasion it was to the city of my mother’s birth, and the capital of the self-styled Rebel County, Cork.

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It’s a 4 1/2 hour drive door to door, but we broke the journey on the way down, and then I got my first opportunity to drive his car and use the sat-nav to get to the Clayton Silver Springs Hotel.  Well, I  missed the turn-off first time round, as it’s a funny flyover affair, but I got there in the end.

Access:

I used the sat-nav to get me to the parkrun as well,  using an approximate nearby attraction.  The course page suggested parking at the Lidl store, where there is  loads of space.

IMG_1548  It’s a wee walk to the start of the run at the Regional Park, where there are a limited number of parking spaces.  And also a loo, though it’s one of those plastic pods which demands 20c off you.

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Crowd:

They seemed fairly young and speedy, but were very friendly and chatty.  I do love the very melodious Cork accent, but had to tune my ear in to catch the pre-run brief.

Course:

Two laps, pretty flat, all on tarmac or gravel, through some gorgeous trees.  It’s a sort of bow-tie shape, and as the start and finish are beside each other you can leave bags or jackets there.

IMG_1553There are markers at each km, and also a countdown at the finish.  Useful info is chalked onto the path at the start, as well as an encouraging message near the finish.

Gear:

This was their event number 47, and so they have no home-grown milestone T-shirt wearers yet.  I saw one red 50, but mine was the only black 100 on show, and that certainly attracted attention, in the form of supportive cheers on the way round, and some natter afterwards. My Garmin worked well, so did my headphones, and I used my Dogfit bag to store all my gear in, left at the tree at the start.

Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

I’m excited that it’s Eurovision 2017 next week, and have downloaded the CD already.  I smiled at the “Running on Air” song by Nathan Trent for Austria.

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OK so what’s your excuse for not sub-30-ing?:

Well, it was quite windy round the playing fields part.  And I get a bit nervous running on gravel.  And I’m nursing a sore throat.  Nothing to do with the amount of wine I drank last night, no, no, not at all.

And the rest:

Cork is a bit mad. I spent an afternoon aimless wandering its streets and entries, discovering that most of the cafes displayed a “Toilets are for customers use only” sign on the door. I’m guessing that there aren’t enough public toilets, everyone’s on a pub crawl, or the fact that the city centre is an island surrounded by water just promotes the urge…Pub Crawls aroud the heritage taverns, each with a suitably rebel name, are promoted, and I also enjoyed visiting the Elizabeth Fort and st Fin Barre’s Cathedral.

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After my parkrun I ventured down to Cobh.  Having visited Titanic Belfast, and Sea City in Southampton, I wanted to see how this town’s memories of Titanic had a local flavour.  The sat-nav and I fell out when she wanted to take me down a perilously steep road – Cobh is on a really sharp hillside and so consists of many many hills and steps.

I found myself wondering if its residents were particualrly fit after all that exercise, and. as if to prove my point, around the next corner I found a statue of Sonia O’Sullivam, Ireland’s greatest athlete.

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I visited the Cobh Heritage Centre, and learned not just about the Titanic connection,

but also about the Lusitania, the emigration story, the deporotation of convicts to penal colonies, the tale of Annie Moore, the first person to be processed through the Ellis Island immigration center, and the SS Sirius, the first ever ship to make the transatlantic crossing.

References to Titanic were everywhere – I walked all the way out to the memorial garden, which is a goodly hike out of the town centre.

I sustained myself with a seafood chowder at the heritage centre, and a delicious gluten free choclate cake at the Leonardo cafe in the town.

And the highlight of the trip was the breakfast stop-off at Blarney Woollen Mills – definitely worth a visit!

All my parkruns

 

 

 

 

 

parkrun tails: Minnie earns her cow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Minnine, and well done!

minnies 100th 011

100 barkruns!

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Matching 100s

 

city park christmas day

Citypark

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Wallace

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Our first run at Wallace

parkrun tourism: Tymon

Serial parkrun tourists set themselves various challenges: all the events in certain geographical location, for instance, or run times ending with each of the number of seconds 0-59.  A popular goal is to become an “alphabeteer”, to have a run a parkrun begining with each letter of the alphabet.  There’s not (at time of writing…..) an X, so St Andrews, or anything with a “Cross” in its name is acceptable.  Z is elusive, but managable (there’s one in Poland).

Even having completed all the Norn Irn events, and a few others in London, Manchester and Scotland, my alphabet collection is pretty sparse.  Currently on 36 different events, I still need 8 more letters!  Maybe I’ll be able to coincide completing the alpha-set with my half-cowell of 50 different parkruns.

Anyway, with my husband doing more work in Dublin and the south of Ireland, I’m finding the opportunity to run more of the Irish events.  “I need a G and T!” I am often heard to cry, and so I was delighted to get the chance to earn my T, at Tymon Park.

Access:

We stayed at the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel, which has handy access to the M50, the busy Dublin ring-road.  I’d travelled down by the Enterprise train, and managed to book early enough to get a return for £30.  If you don’t book at least 3 days in advance, a single fare is £34, so it pays to plan ahead.  I took the LUAS tram out to Red Cow, and a single fare is e2.90.  The tram is clean, and the service very frequent, with stops right beside Conolly station, or for a more frequent service walk round the corner to the Busaras (bus depot).  The hotel is short walk from Red Cow, though I managed to get lost!  The directions given to me were “cross the bridge and turn left”, when they should have been “cross the bridge and then take a HARD left doubling back on yourself down a wee alleyway until you are beside the main road”.  Anyhoo, I’ll know for next time.

We used sat-nav to get to the car park at Tymon, which is right beside the M50.  The start and finish are both beside the car park, on the Limekiln Road entrance.

Facilities:

There are no loos in the park, but the GAA huts sometimes open in time to allow runners to have that all important pre-run pee.

There’s no nearby cafe afterwards, but volunteers bring along flasks of hot water, tea, coffee and biscuts, and this makes for a very convivial post-run atmosphere. Car parking is free.

Crowd:

There were 117 runners on the day I visited, which is pretty close to the average attendance.

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My husband remarked that there seemed to be more women than men, though I think that was just cos the men all arrive at 9.29. One or two dogs, and a buggy which I slipstreamed behind at the start. There was a warm and friendly welcome from the volunteers, who were happy to pose for a photo with Cracker.

Course:

It’s a 2 lap course on flat tarmac paths, past some lovely little ponds and handsome trees.  There’s an almost imperceptible gradual rise on the first km, which my calves certainly registered on the second lap.

Gear:

I had to choose between my genuine 100 shirt, or my jokey 150 one, in the end going for an all black ensemble set off with cow leggings and cow cowl.

My Garmin has started to play up, and the screen went completely blank a few minutes before the starting whistle, so I couldn’t rely on it.

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When I examined my splits later my pace was extremely erratic – I’m not sure if that was me, or the watch playing silly beggars.

Time:

My running times are really poor at the minute, and I didn’t even manage to sub-30. But hey, that leaves me the possibility of re-visiting to catch a PB whenever I’m back on form.

P1890093 I’m carrying about an extra stone  (14 pounds, 5 kg) after an indulgent Christmas period, and I need to up my miles and down my calorie intake.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

It’s always good to listen to local boys U2, and I smiled when “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight” came on, as after my whistle-stop 24 hour trip to the city I’m sure I would be quite tired.

And the rest:

I was booked on the 15.20 train home, so after a leisurely shower, I bought a tea from the garage shop at the front of the hotel and took the LUAS back into town.

The sunshine was glorious, and I was trialling some new travel clothes from Like Mary.

I strolled along the side of the river, acheieved my goal of obtaining a bus fare refund, found the new Harley Davidson shop in Temple Bar, and had lunch in Mexico To Rome (great value at 9.95 for a starter of bruschetta, main of chicken and mushroom pasta, and a glass of wine), with a ringside view of all the shenanigans outside.

There was a free exhibition in the imposing Custom House, which I found fascinating from both a historical and architectural viewpoint.

I was especially taken by the Riverine heads of the various river gods, each decorated with motifs relevant to their location.  Apples for the Blackwater, a chain for the Foyle, and leafy vegetation for the Liffey and Shannon.

Custom house

There were plenty of seats on the train, and I had a relaxed journey finishing my Pratchett, “Monstrous Regiment”.

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All my parkruns

Southampton parkrun

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Access:

The parkrun takes place in Southampton Common, which is pretty close to the city centre. It’s a mile from the train station, and there are plenty of nearby bus stops too.

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When choosing a hotel for a weekend away, I look at 3 things: what are the reviews like on trip Advisor, how much is it, and how close is it to the nearest parkrun.  Occasionally, I hit a bingo and all 3 of these combine.  The Blue Keys Hotel is rated in the top 3 places to stay in the city, it was offering a decent weekend rate, and it was a short and pleasant 10 minute stroll to the common.

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There is some car parking by the Northlands Road entrance, but most people seemed to arrive on foot.

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There are toilets in the Hawthorns cafe, which at least DOES have access before 9, and many people meet there afterwards for a coffee.

 

Crowd:

Southampton is a big University town, meaning that there are more charity and kebab shops than you can shake an amusing T shirt bearing the slogan “Never ask an atom , they make up everything” at.  It also affects the average age of parkrunners here.

thumb_img_3004_1024The event began in 2012 and attracts big numbers – there were 533 on the day I visited, their record attendance was 942, and it is often the second biggest attended event each week after Bushy. An educated guess suggests that the record numbers co-incide with the start of University term, when fresh faced students are eager to maintain a fitness regime.

I managed to get a photo with a fellow cow-cowl wearer, and another “parkrun tourist” wearing his round his neck and sporting a 100 shirt gave me a thumbs up as he passed me on the course.  And I spotted a few Antrim visitors in their apricot tops.  There were a couple of doggies and a few pram-pushing dads.

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Big crowds need a lot of volunteers, and I was impressed at the turnout of high-viz vest folk (all 41 of them!), who were very friendly and helpful.

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Course:

The Common looks wide, open and flat.

img_1128-2 There are a number of routes around the grounds which can be used depending on weather conditions;  I experienced Route C, which was basically 2 laps, incorporating a sneakily hidden hill behind the trees.  The surface was all tarmac and the paths were wide.

The big crowds mean that a double funnel system is operated.img_1136-3

 

Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

Big crowds can mean a lot of hemming in at the start, and I did struggle to find a good spot to run at my desired pace.  But a woman in front of me seemed to know how to weave her way through the crowd, and so I attached myself to her, as Nicky Byrne was crooning “Hold on to me and let me hold on to you” from his Eurovision entry “Sunlight”.

 

Gear:

I’d opted for the purple Jog Lisburn top with matching skort, the cow cowl and matching leggings, and I left my jacket in the little cart by the finish line.  I noticed on the walk to the event that my shoes are starting to squeak, so I think it’s time to start breaking in a new pair.

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Time:

The results were processed really quickly.

I usually aim for around 30 on a first visit to a new parkrun – I can manage this without too much strain, and it leaves me room for manoeuvre should I ever return.  And I was pretty content with my time of 30:22, just making it into the top 400 with finish token 399.

All my parkruns:

All my parkruns

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And the rest….

We had a super weekend in the town, enjoying visiting the Sea museum to hear the Titanic story from the viewpoint of the port it had sailed from, and where most of the crew came from.  Being familiar with the Belfast side of things, this was a thought-provoking visit.  And we had a drink in the Grapes pub, where 3 brothers famously spent too long on a final bevvy before joining the fated ship….which they missed.  My son was born in Belfast on 31.5.91, exactly 80 years after Titanic was launched there, and it’s rather poignant that he’s now working on a cruise ship based in Southampton.

Sadly fog settled onto the airport on the Sunday evening, and our flight was cancelled.  But we were transported to and put up in a nearby Hilton, and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast next day in Beefy’s (the hotel is next to a cricket stadium), and then availed of a special offer of the executive lounge for a tenner, which was just fabulous – local cheeses and chutneys, yummy traybakes, chilled white wine, and a lop-eared rabbit making its way to Guernsey. Sure where would you get it?