parkrun tourism: Coventry

Event #55 parkrun # 225

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My little darlings are both in showbiz, which often sees me poring over tour schedules, trying to match up cheap flights, affordable accommodation and nearby parkruns.  It’s very rare that they are in the same place at the same time, but this year, on my birthday, all the stars seemed to align!

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Except…….

Storm Callum arrived.  My Friday morning flight had been due to take off at 8.30 am, and Jemima’s show was in Coventry at 7 pm.  I’d been saying all week I could cope with a delay of several hours.  But FlyBe made the decision to cancel all their morning departures from Belfast City airport, leaving me in a bit of a panic, booking alternatives.  (To be fair to FlyBe, propeller planes do not take kindly to the gale force winds that we were subjected to).  So EasyJet to the rescue, from the much maligned Belfast International.  Check in and security were all very smooth, and I caught a train from Birmingham International straight to Coventry with no problems.

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Saw Jemima’s show, i-Infinite that evening, and was ready for my Saturday morning parkrun fix.

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Access:

I was staying at the Ibis hotel close to the station, which was an easy 15 minute stroll to War Memorial park.   There are a number of buses which pass by, and a decent sized car park.

Facilities:

I was there well before 8.30, but already the team of volunteers was setting up (and storm Callum wasn’t helping them keep the cones in place!).  This is a large parkrun, so a small army of volunteers is needed.  They were very friendly and welcoming, and pointed me in the direction of the loos, in a very smart looking building.

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Loos are clean and warm, and are opened about 8.30.  I got chatting in the queue to a local student, and also the tail-walker/ first-timers-briefer for today.  This is also the cafe where runners meet afterwards for cake and conversation, and where I enjoyed a bacon butty and cup of tea for under £5.

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Course:

2 and a bit laps around the beautiful park.  In October when I visited the trees were looking stunning in their autumnal splendour, but causing quite a bit of twigs and seed cases on the ground.  It’s mostly tarmac all the way, not totally flat, but with cheery and encouraging marshalls at various points ringing bells and calling out “keep smiling!”.  There’s a finish funnel, so keep in order and keep moving.  Scanning takes place up by the cafe.

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Crowd:

It’s a University town, so expect a good few speedy twenty-somethings.  The start has signs for you to line up based on your expected finish time, which does make for a smoother and less bottle-necked first 200m. IMG_0355

There were also a couple of dogs and prams, and a wide age range from under 10s to….ahem, people even older than me.  Numbers are usually around 600.

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Gear:

I’d forgotten to bring any sort of waist belt or pouch!  When I’m running with Minnie there is a zippy pocket on the running belt, and I always have something to transport poo bags and treats.  So I had to be inventive – I tucked some money and my hotel key into my wristband/ sweatband, and shoved my phone into my sports bra.  My Garmin and headphones worked perfectly.  I wore my black 100 shirt, and my cow cowl, which was recognised by fellow tourist Beth,  though this is her local run.

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Time:

Ugh, 35 minutes.  But you know what?  It doesn’t matter.

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And the rest:

After a welcome shower back at the hotel, I caught a train to Birmingham New Street, which is a massive station with its own branch of John Lewis attached!  Harry’s theatre, the New Alexandra, was right beside the Station Street exit,

and we met for a lovely lunch at Cherry Reds cafe.  Service a bit slow, but funky and fabulous food. Motown the Musical is a non-stop feel good megamix of hits – guaranteed to leave you smiling.  And a busy show for Harry as Head of Automation, lots going on all the time.

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I caught a train back to the airport station, my goodness this is a big airport!  I’d had to get on the phone to FlyBe earlier, since if you don’t take your outward flight they automatically cancel your return leg. But my 8 pm flight was very hassle free, and I was back home at 9.30 pm.  That was certainly a fun packed couple of days, and a birthday to remember.

All my parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

parkrun tourism: Ardgillan

Event # 54 parkrun # 224

Being the 14th birthday of parkrun UK, it was International parkrun day!  Last year I’d had the pleasure of joining a whole rake of UK parkrun tourists at Bushy Dublin (and producing a bottle of Bushmills for anyone who had “double Bushy-ed”).  But there were no obvious plans for this year’s get together.

However, the parkrun legend that is Nicola had hinted she might be at Ardgillan, just north of Dublin, and when local toruist Ben said he’d be heading there, I decided to join him at what was my 2nd closest NENDY.

Access:

This is an easy get-to for Norn Irn tourists.  Junction 6 on the M1, and it’s clearly marked with brown signs from there.  The Applgreen makes a handy stop for wee-wees and leg stretches, and make sure you have some euro coins for the Boyne Bridge toll. (é1.90 each way at time of writing)

Facilities:

Ardillan Castle is set in gorgeous surrounds, and is well appointed with car parking.  There is a large park as you enter the estate, and a smaller one closer to the start. 

There are cute loos on the edge of the castle, and a cafe that allows dogs for aferwards. Oh, and stunning sea views.  What more could you ask!

Course:

It’s a toughie!  Staring at the castle, it follows a gentle downwards track before 2 loops through forest, which have an upward undulating section, followed by a final uphill 300 m.

Even Minnie, my hill-getter-upper, was looking at me at this stage and going “you cannot be serious!”

Each km is well marked.

The surface is mostly gravel, with a few forest trails.  But those views!

Crowd:

There aren’t big numbers here, just over 50 on my visit, and that’s typical.  There’s a very relaxed feel to the pre-run brief, though we did get a shout out to Nicola doing her 400th run!

  For me, as a running-with-dog person, this was perfect.  The starting crowd thins out pretty quickly, and I cen let Minnie do her bit without worrying about tripping up or getting in the way of others.

 

Gear:

My darling husband had given me an early birthday present of bone-conduction earphones. Road races in NI are becoming more strict about using earphones while running, but these kind are acceptable as you can still hear what’s going on around you, cars, instrcutions from marshalls etc.  They were fab.

Strangely Approproiate Song On Shuffle:

I really enjoyed having music to accompany my run on this clear crisp Autumn morning, and my Eurovision soundtrack brought many smiles to my face. But the Dixie Chicks version of “Some Days You Gotta Dance” summed up my mood.

Time:

I was aiming for sub-30 and managed it.  I do hope I can come back some time to  try and knock off a few seconds!

All My parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

 

222 or tutu too at Tymon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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and who even tweeted a short video

 

of me dancing across the finish line!

parkrun tourism: Delaware and Raritan Canal

event #53 parkrun #219

I’m not sure if this one qualifies for the longest name of any parkrun, but I’m sure glad I didn’t have to get it to scan or rhyme in my “50 Ways” video!

Having missed out on Crissy Field last year (I may have mentioned this a couple of times….) I literally whooped with delight when I discoverd that a brand new parkrun was starting up which was reachable from New York, and that I would be there on a Saturday!  And so for their event number 3, I set off to join them on my first one outside UK and Ireland.

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Access:

OK, so it’s doable from Manhattan, but only by the really dedicated and serious tourist! It’s in New Jersey, so the NJ Tranist system is your first friend.  We were staying on 35th Street, just a couple of blocks from Penn Station, and I’d timed how long it would take us to walk there in time to catch a 7 am-ish train.  Your next and most important friend is the Facebook page.  So far, this has been outstanding at giving advice and and arranging station pick-ups for visiting tourists, and it was from FB that I contacted Neil, who offered to pick us up from New Brunswick station.  A return train ticket cost $28.  If you were going to get a taxi or Uber from there, it’s about 8 miles away.

A fellow tourist travelled out from her more southerly Manhattan base via the PATH, getting a lift at Bridgewater.  There definitely needs to be a volunteer credit for these fabulous local folk!

Facilities:

The Park is huge, and there is good parking and some restrooms nearby.  No cafe on site, and the usual meet-up spot was closed for Labor Day when I was there. It was very hot and humid in September, so do bring some water and maybe a small towel.  Start and finish are very close, so it’s easy enough to leave coats and bags there.

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Course:

The pre-run brief takes place by the lovely wooden bridge across the canal, and the start is on the far side.  From there it’s an out-and-back along the side of the canal, with a turnaround point well marked, and across the bridge to finish. There’s one section of brick slipway, where you need to watch your step, but it’s flat the whole way.

Crowd:

Young and enthusiastic!  parkrun is still just getting going in the States, and there were only 36 runners there on my visit.  I’m sure it will be a “must do” for dedicated tourists, in the future, as well as attracting more home grown participants.

Time:

Running in the heat and humidity is hard work, especially for an Irish woman more used to the wind and rain.  But I was happy enough with my 32-ish time, and even more delighted that I grabbed a new age-category record.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

I was running with no music, enjoying the sounds of the cicadas, but I did use the old Perry Como hit “What did Delaware” as my Cracker Says Facebook post.

 

All my parkruns

parkrun tourism: Orangefield

event #52      parkrun #218

Determined to regain my Norn Irn Regionnaire status, after missing the inaugural a few weeks ago, I headed to East Belfast.  I’ll need to find a suitably sized bead to add to my T shirt.

 

This is an area I know well, in fact one of my previous addresses was in Orangefield Crescent.  Back then, when my children were teenies, we knew this park for its spider shaped climbing frame. The spider is long gone, but the whole area has been very well revitalised, and the park is clean and tidy with some lovely bridges, each of which has a name.

Access:

There’s plenty of parking spaces across the road at the playing fields, and the 5A or B metro bus will leave you pretty close from the city centre.  This is Belfast’s 9th parkrun, so visitors will have plenty of options.

Facilities:

There’s a loo by the main entrance, but you’ll need 20p!  (There’s a big Tesco not far away on Castlereagh Road that you could try). There’s no sheltered spot to congregate in, so no teas/ coffees so far.

Crowd:

There were just over 100 runners the day I visited, which is a nice size.  Good age range too, with lots of speedy younsters, and some sprightly older people too.  A few buggies and doggies, and some walkers, give it a good diverse feel.

Course:

It’s one small lap and then 3 larger ones.  This can get a wee bit confusing, so it helps to count how many times you’ve passed a certain bridge or other landmark.  The paths are a good hard surface, and some of the course goes through woodland so it’s trail.  The first lap can get a bit bunchy, but there’s plenty of grass to the sides for overtaking.  And by the time you’re on lap 3, most of the fast guys have finished, so there’s a bit more room.  It’s not totally flat, but the hilly bits are nothing to fear.  The final stretch is across grass into the finish funnel.

Update:

I revisited a few weeks later, and the course has been altered slightly, and now doesn’t run on grass at all.  I suspect the earlier version was a leeeetle bit short, and so I didn’t manage a PB.  But I DID manage to grab the final seconds on my “parkrun Bingo” so the lack of PB was worth it.  Honest!

 

Thanks to my daughter for the action shots.

Gear:

I wore my 50 events T shirt, though as this was my 52nd, it is rapidly becoming out of date.  My Garmin refused to find a GPS, but it still told me the time, which was good enough.  I knew as I passed the finish line at 9.50 that there was no way I’d completed in 20 minutes, so I must have another lap to do.  I’d replaced the lenses on my running sunglasses with a lighter pair, and they were great when moving from sunny open paths to shady trees.   My Hokka trainers were well suited to the mixed terrain, and I wore my skirty-calf-length leggings.  The only problem with these is they don’t have a pocket, so I had to tie my keys to a strap on Minnie’s running harness.  Only cow cowl I saw (as Andrew and other-Minnie keep forgetting theirs……)

Strangely Appropriate Song:

I tend to run without headphones these days, so I wasn’t listening to anything during the run.  But I was singing loudly to The Dixie Chicks and “Some Days You Gotta Dance” in the car.

Time:

I wasn’t pushing myself to the limit, so I was really pleased with a 28:27 time, my fastest since February this year.  I’m sure I’ll be revisiting at some stage to try to sneak a cheeky wee PB.

 

All my parkruns

 

parkrun tourism: Dungannon Park

Event #51 parkrun #217

There’s always a debate about whether to attend inaugurals or not. For a regionnaire, the temptation is to keep that status up to date. But some parkruns prefer a soft launch so that they are not overwhelmed by unusually high numbers on day one, putting their volunteer team under stress. However, I hadn’t seen any requests to stay away from the first outing for NI’s newest baby, Dungannon Park. And so off I went!

Access:
There is a camping/ caravan park situated here, so the brown signs are very helpful. Directions on the parkrun page are spot on, and I only had a teeny disagreement with my sat nav before pulling into the car park. It’s just over 30 miles from me, practically all motorway, so about a 35 min journey. Definitely a feasible one to repeat easily.

Crowd:

I’d expected more at an inaugural: there were about 150, so I imagine the usual numbers will be about half that.  Local running clubs were well represented, there were a few dogs (Hi, other Minnie!) and at least one pram.  The RD and volunteer team were very friendly and welcoming.

Course:

The start is in a wide clearing a short distance from the car park.

This makes it easy for some speed-self-seeding, and the runners have thinned out by the time they get to a slightly narrower path around the lake.  There is a bit of a tight bridge at the top of the lake, but good running etiquette will prevent this becoming a bottleneck.

Past a stunning waterfall, up a short hill,

and then through the trees before reaching a rather challenging hill!

2 laps and a bit, so the finish line is a bit away from the start line, should you wish to leave coats and belongings somewhere.  The ground is either tarmac or gravel.  It is a very pretty course, with ducks, flowers, and some lovely foresty trail paths.  Minnie gives it paws-up!

Facilities:

Being at a caravan park, there is an excellent toilet block.  There are showers too, but they may only be available to people staying there.  If you were touring Ireland by motorhome or camping, this would be one to add to your itinerary. There is also a very pleasant cafe with a tempting array of ice creams!

Time:

I haven’t been running a lot recently, so I’m easing myself back in gradually.  I was happy enough with my pace on the first lap, but allowed myself to stop and take photos on the 2nd.  What is it I always say?  Never knock yourself out on a first visit – make it easy to come back and PB!  So a 32 minute bar which I will definitely be back sometime to beat.

Strangely Appropriate Song:

I was running without music – it does help when with a dog, to be able to call out and hear other people telling you where they are overtaking.  Plus running through woods like this I always like to listen to the sounds of nature.

And the rest:

I’ve missed parkrun recently becuse I’ve been away doing a dance course.  And I’ve just found out that I passed!  So there was a spring in my step, and a lightness in my soul.  And if you need a Scottish dance ceilidh some time, give me a shout 🙂

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

 

parkrun tourism (and half cowell!): Castleblayney

Well whaddya know, I’ve only gone and run my half Cowell! Now my loverly tracker I had created to mark my progress to this, my 50th different event, so it was with some emotion today that I coloured in the final square on the L. I’d chosen Castleblayney as my mother had lived there for a while when she was a wee girl. She still reminisces about having to walk a mile to the National School, where they were taught in Irish, but all she can remember is ta rasha fada, ta rasha Fol (fly away Peter, fly away Paul).

Access:
Google maps offered me a choice of 3 routes, all of which would take me around 1 hour and 8 minutes. My own sat nav couldn’t recognise “Castleblayney”, so I chose the familiar outward route down to Dundalk and turn inland at junction 17. Crossing the winding Irish Border a few times as I headed west, the roads were good and nice to drive on, a few tractors to sit behind, but a very pleasant drive. The instructions on the parkrun page were good, and was pulling into the ample car park at Muckno Street well before 9.  The sat nav took me back through Keady and Armagh, so a few additional broder crossings…..

Facilities:
Parking aplenty, I did struggle to find loos onsite (though they were available in the little room used afterwards).

Crowd:
Numbers are small here, you are guaranteed a good finish position!  Youngish crowd, and Minnie and I were thrilled to meet little puppy Charlie.  No doubt he will be barkrunning at some stage in his future!

I got chatting to a couple touristing from London, whose local was Ally Pally, and who were also visiting family at Dundalk.   They were fascinated that my parkrunDANCER challenge had used those particular runs for the D and A.

Course:

I do love a forested course, and this was delightful.  Two laps through beautiful trees and shrubs, past lakeside and ducks, and foxgloves and rhododendron and a crumbling pile that I really want to win the lottery and restore. The path is compacted stone, there’s a few testing inclines, and I swear that second lap is longer than the first. It’s quite narrow in parts, if you need to overtake.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

I’m still working on running without headphones, but Classic Rock FM on the way down played Supertramp and “It’s Raining Again”. The weather on the way down was very wet, with a lot of surface water, but as I reached Castleblayney a little patch of blue sky appeared and the sun shone for as long as needed during the run.  Being so tree lined, there’s plenty of shade from the sun.

Gear:

My Garmin actually worked, for once!  I wore my cow leggings, Hoka trainers, and I’d adapted my milestone 50 Tshirt to list all 50 of the events.  This Tee had previously done duty as a 150 T, so I had to find a way of disguising the additional 1, hence the hashtag coverup.  I got talking afterwards to some people interested in running with dogs, so I showed them my waist belt and running line.  Having arms free is good, dog on a short but bungee line, and dog using a harness that pulls from the body/ chest rather than the neck.  No extendable leads, no way no how.

Time:

I was pretty happy with a sub-30.  I did my usual fast start, and was overtaken by 3 females, and so ending as 5th female encourages me that I can return some time in the future and nab a podium position!

And the rest:

It was all about the cow.  I’d put a lot into preparing for this.  I’d had the T shirt printed (huge thanks to Paul Knight at Print NI), and worked out how I was going to do a cake. Sainsburys came up with the yellow and black icing, and the “decorate it yourself” cake.  Lakeland had the cow cookie cutter.  And if I say I used Stolichnaya vodka for the cleaning of the cake do you think they might send me free samples?

I know there were some photos taken on the day, but I haven’t been able to access them.  When and if I can, I will add them in.

 

Coming soon – “50 ways to reach a parkrun – da movie!”

 

All My parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list