parkrun tourism: Bois du Boulogne, Paris

parkrun #249 event #60
Reason for visit: supporting a friend running the Paris marathon.

Access:
The parkrun website acknowledges that it can be hard to find the start of this one, and helpfully gives a guide for English speaking visitors. Having chosen my hotel based on its proximity to the parkrun, I was only a few metro stops away from Porte d’Auteuil, on line number 9. Be aware, this stop is on a little one way loop section, so you may find yourself going back one stop to change direction. Taking the “hippodrome” exit, I was getting my bearings when another runner came and joined us.

He had the co-ordinates on google maps, and so we continued together, comparing parkrun histories, and crossing the big dual carriageway into the main parc. At this point we should have hovered near the car park until more likely suspects arrived, but we continued into the woods, were unsure where we were, tried asking a few others for directions (my French is OK but rusty), were sent to a different running route, found a really helpful chap in blue with a dog, who made sure we found our way back to the start point. By which stage there were lots more runners assembling, familiar parkrun signs were visible, and marathon man Simon found us.

Top tip – stick near the car park, there’s bound to be runners arriving there.  Oh, and monsieur en bleu, merci mille fois.

Facilities:

There are no loos in the parc, but there is one just as you exit the Metro, which is free to use.  Post run coffee and chat takes place at the little kiosk.

A volunteer led those of us who wanted to deposit coats and bags at the finish, reassuring us that there would always be someone there.

Crowd:

Surprisingly parkrun is not that big in France, there are only 2 events in Paris.  This one usually attracts 40-50 runners, but every year during marathon weekend those numbers are quadrupled.  The pre run brief starting by asking if there was actually anyone French here – one hand went up.

And how many were here for the marathon? Lots of hands raised!  Couple of dogs and prams.

Course:

One big loop and then 2 smaller ones. The paths are packed soil and gravel or tarmac, and wide enough to avoid any bottlenecks.  It’s a popular spot for dog walkers, so look out for dog poo……

Strangely appropriate song on shuffle:

Since were were in la belle France, and had spent some time looking for the start, I did smile when the French Eurovision entry “J’ai cherche” came on.

Time:

My running times aren’t great at the moment, but I was happy achieving my target of 35 mins.  Interestingly, French parkruns take very seriously the “it’s a run, not a race” concept, and the results are listed alphabetically, rather than by position.  And the result email doesn’t say “you came second in your age category” or anything like that.

 

And the rest:

It certainly was a memorable weekend!  We went along to the start of the marathon on the Sunday, a straight run on the metro from our hotel, and at each stop more runners got on, filling the carriages with the rustle of plastic bags and the smell of Tiger balm.

We’d agreed to meet Simon and his friends at the Disney Store, and volunteered to take their bags to the drop off zone.  While we were waiting, a girl came up and explained that she was supposed to be meeting Paul here, but she was late, and if we saw him, he had brown hair and maybe a beard, could we tell him that Helen had gone on……After watching the various time groups set off, we struggled to find the place to deposit the bags, and things got a little fraught as time was ticking by.  But, mission accomplished, we made our way to Porte d’Auteuil again, which was Mile 21, where we’d arranged to supply Simon with a bottle of flat coke to get him past “the wall”.  The sun was shining, a samba band was playing, we found a brasserie to enjoy a glass of wine in, and followed Simon’s progress on the brilliant marathon tracker app.  Flat coke duly handed over, we were delighted that he beat his target time of 4 hours.  Other Simon who I’d met at the parkrun did it in an impressive 3hr 15!

On the Monday, we checked out of our hotel and decided to pass a few hours on an open top bus, to save our legs and lugging bags around.  As I went through the metro turnstile, the flappy door which stops tailgaters came back and whacked me on the eyebrow.  You know how in cartoons there are little birds and stars flying round a whacked person’s head? That.  And my brain was going “Oh, someone’s going to come and ask me what happened, and I’m not sure how to say that in French, is it le truc m’a frappe?”  Meanwhile my husband was trying to stop me sobbing, and offering me a tissue for the blood that was dripping.  And no, no staff members came over to see if I was OK.  Once on the metro, the dirty looks my poor husband was getting….

Open top bus was a sensible use of time, and the bright sunny morning showed Paris in all its glory.  We passed Notre Dame, remarking on what a beautiful old building it was was, and then made our way out to the airport.  It was only when the plane landed back in Belfast, and everyone turned their phones back on, that a collective gasp spread amongst the passengers, seeing the news of the terrible fire that had taken place in the cathedral, everyone saying “but we were only there a few hours ago!”

All my parkruns:

 

All my parkruns

parkrun tourism: Weymouth

parkrun #246 event #59

Reason for visit: Scottish Dancing at the local group’s annual Highland Ball, invited by my fellow teaching candidate Irene.

IMG_0853

 

Access:

The parkrun takes place at Lodmoor Park, down near the beautiful seafront.  How many places have a town beach!  We arrived in style in Irene’s MX5, and parked for 50p an hour.  Free car parking is available a little further away in the College.

I’d travelled from Ggeorge Best Belfast City airport to Southampton, and bumped into local sleb Julian Simmonds doing his bit for Red Nose Day.

 

Crowd:

There were over 300 runners this visit, and a great range of ages and abilities. It was the final of the 6 nations, and there was some good natured rugby banter with some runners from England and Wales.  And plenty of cow cowls to be seen.  I was the runniest female.

I admired one guy in his vest with tags from all the parkruns he’d visited.  Some very fine looking doggies were also  participating.

Facilities:

There are toilets at the car park (though I coudn’t work out how to open the door), and all the equipment is stored in a little shed, where runners can also leave coats etc.

Volunteers:

I have to give a special mention to the volunteers, who included one Gregory Bailey, the first person to run 250 parkruns with no repeated events., as well as a “Friendship” and a “Dance”.

Today he was sporting a boot on his injured foot, poor thing, but his sister posed for photos with me.   There was a lead bike, and a new role to me – a buddy runner.

For newbies or anyone who might struggle and need a bit of support, running around the 35-40 minute pace.  What a super idea!

Course:

The surface is a bit of tarmac with a lot of compacted gravel, and can get muddy.  Having said that, Storm Hannah was causing havoc for parkruns up and down the country, and Weymouth got away lightly with just a stiff breezze to contend with.  It didn’t seem too bunchy at the start, a lap and a bit round the miniature train track, and then it’s out and back to the pineapple statue by the park and ride, which has its own dedicated marshall.

There’s a section here where runners are going in both directions, so keep left. No real hills to worry about, and I tried a hop skip and jump to get a flying feet photo.

Wooden km markers.

Time:

I was happy enough to knock 3 minutes off last week’s time though I still have lots of room for improvement.

 

Unexpectedly Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

An all time favourite – Some Days You Gotta Dance by the Dixie Chicks.

 

Gear:

My Garmin had a flat battery so I didn’t know my pace, but I’m learning how to guage that without the use of a watch.  Headphones worked well.  Apricot T and cow leggings make it easy to find myself in photos ( for which many thanks to Ken Hewitt).

weymouthfinish - Copy

And the rest….:

I think this might be my most southerly run to date.  I was absolutely charmed by Weymouth, with its bascule bridge, and even found a pub selling Muff gin, which I needed for a photo competition.  Muff is a little village on the Irish border, before you ask.  The dancing on Saturday evening was lots of fun, and it was wonderful to meet up with old and new friends.  I dare say I’ll be back!

All my parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

 

parkrun tourism: Stranmillis

parkrun #242 event#58 Reason for visit: to regain regionnaire status!

IMG_0778

Stranmillis College is my Mum’s alma mater, and I know she reads these, so hi Mum!  She infamously contracted pleurisy while sliding down the Famous Hill on a dining room tray…

IMG_0791

Now I was tempted to attend the inaugural last week, as my mate Ronan was celebrating his 250th run.  But instead I chose to capture a missing Wilson Index number at Deerpark, Carlanstown , and I’m very glad I did! One of my fellow canicrossers turned up at Stran, to be informed that it is a “no dogs” course, cos Rules, which he was rather miffed about.  And I would have been also if I’d given up catching my WI9 and then discovered I couldn’t run with Minnie.  Anyhoo, I let them get their inugural out of the way, and atteneded event #2, which suited me to run without dog as I was heading off to a dance class afterwards.

IMG_0783

Access:

Runners are encouraged to park in the small car park at the roundabout.  This has around 80 spaces, though some of the parking leaves a lot to be desired.

One then trudges up the Famous Hill, past any amount of empty car-parking spaces which aren’t allowed to be used cos Rules.  There is a Metro bus stop close to the entrance, 8A or 8D from the city centre –   the 8.40 would get you there in plenty of time.

IMG_0780

Facilities:

The run starts and finishes behind the Orchard building.

IMG_0785

There are loos in here which are clean and warm, and I was able to leave my jacket under a table here too.  After the run coffee and buns are in the cafe across the way in Central Bulding, which is currently doing a special offer for parkrunners.

Course:

From the start it’s DOWN the Famous Hill, across the front of the big old redbrick building, and then up hill.  And then up hill some more.

IMG_0792

A short spur to a turnaround point, and then more hills and more buildings. It’s all on tarmac roads, look out for the speed bumps, and there were a few cars driving about as well (at what seemed to me to be in excess of the 5 or 10 mph speed limit indicated).  If you are running with headphones, make sure you keep aware of what’s happening around you.  Three laps, and you can then pat yourself on the back for completeing a “character-building” course.

IMG_0788

Crowd:

I got the feeling it was a youngish crowd – even though my time was a rubbish 37 mins (I walked up the hills quite a bit), I was still 2nd in my age category.  And the first female was an impressive junior with a time of 21 minutes.  I bumped into a few fellow tourists, regionnaire and Wilson chasers.  There were 118 people when I visited, and the wide paths made it not too bunchy or crowded.  I have to admit, it’ll not make the Top Ten list of prettiest parkruns.  But it’ll be popular with those completing their “I’verunalltheNornIrnparkrunssoIhave” collection, visiting students and professors, and those who live nearby.

IMG_0781

Gear:

My Garmin couldn’t find a signal at the start.  I was probably standing too close to big trees and tall buildings, and should’ve gone onto the playing pitch where some people were doing their warm ups.  My headphones thankfully worked, as running without music would’ve been testing, and they are bone conducting ones so I could still hear what was going on –  there was lots of encouragement from fellow runners.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

Since I was heading off to a dance class straight after, “Some Days You Gotta Dance” by The Dixie Chicks.

img_0773.jpg

Other thoughts:

My “elf’n’safety” meter was beeping loudly at the pre-run briefer standing on a plastic chair, the cars on the course, and a few extra marshalls would’ve been good, especially at the turnaround point, where the marker can get blown or kicked out of place, and also the surface there was a bit slippery and mucky.

IMG_0790

I thought I couldn’t see a tail walker, but photos and results seem to suggest that there was one, just not wearing the orange vest.  And I’m going to need a teeny tiny bead to mark the spot on my Tshirt!

List of All My Parkruns:

All my parkruns

parkrun tourism: Deerpark, Carlanstown

parkrun#241 event#57 Reason for visiting – to get Wilson Index number 9!

Access:

It was a really frosty morning when I visited, in fact 100s of parkruns were cancelled across the UK.  But the Facebook page had posted the night before that being a sort of trail run that it was likely to be frost resistant. So I kept the faith as I scraped the ice from my windscreen at 7.30 and set off.  I took the J16 turn-off south of Dundalk, which allowed me to call in to the Applegreen services before J15, as there are no loos at the event.  At Ardee I mistakenly carried on the N2 towards Derry, and had to backtrack and go INTO Ardee before finding the N52 towards Kells and Mullingar.  This road is VERY winding, so I couldn’t make up a lot of time.  But arrived with 5 minutes to spare, as opposed to my usual 20 minutes.

From the little village of Carlanstown itself, there were helpful yellow parkrun arrows pointing to the entrance to Deerpark.  Parking is at a premium, and I had to negotiate frosty grass to get into place.

Crowd:

The volunteers were super friendly, and were leading a warm-up session as I made my way to the start.  Only one other doggy, but quite a few younsters, and a good handful of walkers.

Facilities:

No loos, but tea and coffee and fruit is provided afterwards.

The start and finish are in different places, so a volunteer carried my shiny new Jog Lisburn puffa jacket to a shed by the finish.

Course:

There’s a short spur out to the main route, with a sharp left hand bend.

IMG_0745

 

From there it’s 3 rather undulating laps, with some cute motiviational signs, and each kilometre is marked.  It’s packed gravel/ trail all the way, which is good to run on.

Gear:

My Garmin behaved itself, my earphones worked, it was the opening match of the 6 Nations so I wore my Ireland rugby top, with gloves and headband as it was about 0 degrees.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

As I crossed into County Louth (Mornin’ Border!) the radio was playing Ride Like the Wind “Got such a long way to go, to make it to the border of Mexico….”

IMG_0749

Time:

Breathing was tricky in the temperatures, and I stopped on Lap 3 to take pictures, so I was pleased enough with a time just over 30 mins.  2nd in my age category…..to the woman who crossed the line 10 seconds ahead of me.

IMG_0763

All My parkruns:

all my parkruns

 

parkrun tourism: Kirkcaldy

parkrun #226 event #56 Letter K

I go to Perth every year for the Scottish dancing society AGM. The Perth parkrun is lovely, by the banks of the Tay, and I’ve done it a couple of times now. It very handily takes place right beside the Bells Sports Arena, where the dancing happens. But I like to take the opportunity to visit other parkruns when I’m away for the weekend, and I’d managed to do Camperdown in Dundee 2 years ago. When looking at the possibilities this year I whooped with delight when I found that Kirkcaldy was in reaching distance, and would give me a letter K missing from my alphabeteer collection.

Access:
I was staying in close proximity to Perth train station, and bought a return ticket for £19. The journey took around 40 minutes. The walk to Beveridge Park was about 10 – 15 minutes. If I had run at super duper speed I might have made the 10.15 train back, but I didn’t, and had to wait for the 11ish one.  At which point I couldn’t find the return portion of my ticket, and had to buy another single at £14!

Crowd:
There were almost 250 runners when I was there, including a couch-to-5k graduation group. I was amused by some of the names of local running clubs such as Scrambled Legs, and the Kirkcaldy Wizards. There’s a Wizard’s Walk in the park which prompted that one.

The volunteers were very friendly and encouraging, and I particularly liked the Tail Wagger.

IMG_0416

Facilities:
I passed loos on the way to the start – there was a notice on the door saying a charge of 30p, but I was able to open the door without having to part with any cash.

IMG_0398

Not sure about car parking, and coffee afterwards is in the Morrisons. I wandered through the rather empty Postings shopping centre, and found a cafe for a bacon butty and cuppa. There’s a nice museum beside the station should you find yourself with some time to kill.

Gear:
For the first time in my life I ALMOST forgot my barcode! I was halfway from the hotel to the station when I remembered, and had to weigh up whether to sprint back and get it, appeal to the mercy of the RD, or find an internet cafe and print off a paper copy. Sprint it was, I wasn’t taking any chances on missing a K!

My Garmin watch gave up at 30 minutes, I was using plug-in headphones rather than bone-conducting ones, and I wore my increasingly out of date 50 shirt. It was a chilly morning so I also had a long sleeved base layer, gloves, and my cow beanie.

Course:

The course is 2 laps, all on tarmac.  There’s an added loop around the duckpond on the second lap, and a rather testing hill.

Start and finish are not in the same place, so there’s a bag system for leaving tops/ keys/ cow beanies which is transported to the finish line.  I was there just after Hallowe’en, and the colours of the trees were magnificent.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

I was taking a different approach this time, and listening to the marathon 2 hour long episode of With Me Now.  I’ve always found this annoying as a listen when I’m JUST sitting and listening, but I’ve now discovered that it makes the perfect soundtrack to a train ride, stroll, and parkrun.  And I did shed a wee tear at the end when PSH was chatting to Danny.

Time:

A ridiculously slow 37 minutes, due to stopping and photographing.  But who cares – letter K!

IMG_0413

All My parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

parkrun tourism: Coventry

Event #55 parkrun # 225

IMG_0340

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!

IMG_0336

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.

IMG_0331

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

IMG_0335

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.

IMG_0350

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.

IMG_0352

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.

IMG_0354

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.

IMG_0356

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.

IMG_0353

Time:

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

IMG_0349

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.

IMG_0358

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