parkrun tourism: Holy Cross, Strabane

parkrun#257 event#63

Reason for visit: tagging on a Fathers Day lunch.

Latest addition to the NI stable, and much to the delight of alphabeteers, it begins with a haitch!

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Access:

The postcode given on the parkrun page takes you right there.  From Omagh, through the delightfully pretty village of Sion Mills, and at the roundabout as you enter Strabane go straight ahead, past the Fir Trees hotel.

Facilities:

There is plenty of car parking, but even though the course takes place in the College grounds, there is no access to the building itself.  ie NO TOILETS!  Remember the Fir Trees Hotel you passed on the way?  Time to pay it a closer look.  There was tea, coffee and biscuits on this occasion, and there is a Mace shop across the road which does hot deli food if you fancy something more substantial.

Course:

The start is a little way from the finish, on a wide tarmac path.

Round a cone and onto the running track, which is mostly gravel.

Up a gentle (!) slope behind the school, and back around to the front.

On the 4th lap you finish here.

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The running track is quite wide, so make sure you hug the inner path if possible, or you’ll be running more than 5k.  There’s one wee stretch where runners are travelling in both directions, so keep to the right at this section.

Crowd:

Inaugurals attract crowds, but the just under 200 runners today were very well managed by the volunteer team.  I was one of at least 4 people wearing 250 shirts, and I recognised a few other familiar faces.  There were a couple of buggies, but this is a NO DOGS course, due to school rules.

The best surprise was when Dame Kelly Holmes turned up with a film crew.  She gave a short talk during the pre-run brief about the programme she’s making, which looks at the benefits of exercise like parkrun, not just physical but also for good mental health and stress management.  She then started at the back of the pack with her go-pro, gradually overtook the field, giving encouragement as she went, finished as first lady and then headed back out onto the course to give high fives and words of support to those still running.  And then she happily stayed chatting and posing for photos afterwards.  What a wonderful inspiring woman!

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Gear:

I had remembered to charge my Garmin and earphones.  Sadly, my phone had failed to charge overnight, so I was limited as to what photos I could take, and couldn’t use the music/ headphones.  I had my new barcode water bottle, which kept my water refreshingly cool.  The weather was miserable in Belfast, but as I headed west it gradually brightened, and I needed my sunglasses during the run.  Road shoes would be fine for the surface.

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Time:

I was aiming for sub-35, and managed it.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

No music on my headphones, but I did enjoy singing along to the car radio and Birdhouse In Your Soul, which I haven’t heard in a while

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All My parkruns:

list of all parkruns completed

parkrun tourism: Poolbeg

parkrun #255 event #62

Reason for visit: Dublin Scottish Dance groups’s annual dance.

I’ve attended this dance every year for the past 4 years, and each time I’ve managed to tick off another Dublin parkrun.  This year I was staying at the Uni halls of residence, Trinity Hall, in Rathmines and the closest event not yet done was Poolbeg.

Access:

I knew there wasn’t much parking nearby, and wanted to be considerate of residents, but I set my Sat Nav for Seaforth Avenue (since it reminded me of Ser Davos Seaworth in GOT), and found a pay and display car park with plenty of spaces.  It was 1 euro per hour, so I popped in a 2 euro coin.

I’d passed a few other car parks on the sea front, which would give you a nice little warm up jog before the start.  As I walked towards the start (doing the ususal lookout for other parkrunners), a taxi was letting out a group of about 6 obvious runner types.  And I met some others who had walked from the city centre.  So it’s good one to aim for if you are staying centrally.

Course:

From the start point, it’s back towards the city centre, a lap of Sean Moore Park, and when you pass the start point again that’s 1.5 km done.  From there, it’s 1km out through the Nature Reserve, one sneaky wee hill at the turn point,

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back to the start/finish point and another lap of Sean Moore.  There are a few parts where runners are going in both directions, so keep left, and the surface is largely packed gravel or tarmac. All the pinch points are well marshalled, and how fab is the view enjoyed by the person at the turnaround point!

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I absolutely loved the scenery, the sights and smells of the various flora, and the sounds of birds. And of course being by the sea always makes my heart sing.

Gear:

I’m still loving the cheers I get when wearing my 250 shirt.  My Garmin and headphones all behaved impeccably, and my cow cowl allowed me to identify other tourists.

Strangely-appropriate-song-on-shuffle:

Most of my playlist is Eurovision songs, but there is the odd Scottish Dance tune, and I love the music to Red House.

Crowd:

I was enormously struck by the diversity and community spirit. I met Alison, another northern lass who’d come down to see The Spice Girls, and we discovered a number of friends in common.  The crowd getting out of the taxi were cast and crew from “The King and I”, in town for 2 weeks, and I chatted to them about how my son, on another touring show, enjoys getting out with a few colleagues to get their Saturdays off to the best possible good start.  There must be potential for a “theatre touring parkrunners” group surely!  Doing the “Top Trumps” of number of events, furtherest travelled etc, I was doing quite well on my 62nd event, until Colin revealed he’d done over 200!  Mucho impressedo.

 

But what struck a real chord with me was the   Sanctuary Runners.  For people receiving Direct Assistance, who may have little access to physical exercise, this group makes sure they have the opportunity to take part in a parkrun each week.  What a fabulous way to embody the community “for everyone” ethos of parkrun.  And I’m going to explore if such a thing exists or could happen here in Norn Irn.

Facilities:

The start and finish are at the same point, so you can leave coats and stuff by the bench.  There are no nearby loos.  Post-run coffees are at the very lovely Dunne and Crescenzi, which serendiptously turned out to be right beside where I’d parked!  I thoroughly enjoyed my avo and poached egg on toasted sourdough with pistachio crumb – yum!  And I made myself useful by helping with the token sorting, one of my favourite jobs.

All my parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

 

Toby Week 4: Meeting and greeting

This week we’ve really started to get a daily routine.  If we get up around 5.30 we can usually catch him before he needs to pee/poo, which is a big plus in toilet training.  Minnie usually gets a bit of a lie in before she gets up around 7, and which point we have mad half-hour, fighting over toys, growling and tumbling.  Out for pees, breakfast, out for pees, bit of play, out for pees, sleep bye-byes, out for pees……and repeat.

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Friday was a big day – second injection! I was away, but Rog took him in the back of my car, where he squeaked and squawked all the way to the vets.  He has put on a whole 2 kilos in 2 weeks!  (previous weight was 5.4 kilos, so that’s a 37% increase). The vet was very impressed with how he is doing, and he was very well behaved getting jabs and flea treatment.  But he does need constant supervision, otherwise a bed may be destroyed….

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On Sunday he got to come with us to junior parkrun.  Minnie was coming too, and having them both in the back of the car seemed to calm and reassure him, and there was no squeaking or complaining.  Once there, he was very happy to be met and petted by his adoring public.  I was tail-walking with Mnnie, so Rog took Toby into the centre of the park, and did some off-lead recall work, which he excelled at.

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So now that he’s had his jabs, he’ll be able to go to doggy daycare, which will make working life a bit simpler for us both.

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parkrun tourism: pont y bala

parkrun# 254 event #61

Reason for visit: climbing Snowden with my son

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Harry is a keen climber/ hill-walker, and had already done Ben Nevis, Scafell and even been to base camp at Everest.  We had together climbed Slieve Donard and Carrauntoohil, the highest peaks in northern and southern Ireland, so I was delighted when he suggested we do Snowden together, to complete his set.

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Access:

We  stayed in ffestiniog, a tiny village in Snowdonia, a vast and rugged national park.  The tourist tool showed that the closest run was 15 miles away at pont y bala, which had just recently started.   I’d flown in to Liverpool John Lennon airport, which is 2 hours drive away. IMG_1142

The sat nav details on the course page took us via some tiny winding and gloriously empty roads to the large car park beside the fire station, which is now £3 for the required stay.

Facilities:

There are clean loos on site, start and finish are at the same spot right by the car park, so you can leave coats or bags there.  Coffee and chat post-run are in the Hub cafe nearby, and Bala has many other shops and restaurants should you wish to tarry a while.

Course:

Out and back, twice.  It’s a narrow path, and so no dogs are allowed (but a beautiful golden retreiver was inviting tummy rubs at the start). The surface is packed gravel, and all the turn points are well marshalled.

Crowd:

Numbers have been small to date, around 50-70, which gives a friendly welcoming feel.  I saw a few other cow cowls, and tourists were invited to sign the pb board.  A couple of buggies, and a few young people at arms length.  Visitors were encouraged to sign the pb board.

Gear:

I was debut-ing my 250 shirt, which is a very good quality technical fabric, and was lovely to run in.  My contra leggings – I’d had to send them back as the stitching was unravelling, so this replacement pair are performing better.  My Garmin found a signal easily, and my headphones were fine. I always travel in my second best trainers, and the Karrimors were perfect for this surface.

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Strangely-appropriate-song-on-shuffle:

It was Eurovision day, and I love running to some of my favourite songs from years gone by.  One of the most undermarked and overlooked UK entries is Joe and Jake with “You’re not alone”, which sums up parkrun to me.  My daughter had reminded me of Sheryl Crow “Every Day is a Winding Road” which was very much the soundtrack to driving around north Wales!  And I also reworked the lyrics to Alannis Morisset’s “Ironic” as follows….

It’s the post being late, with your milestone T

And your Garmin watch has a flat battery

The results are late, when you’ve got a PB

And do not forget your barcode

Isn’t it parkrun-ic….

Time:

I’d run 34 mins last week so was keen to replicate that.  Out and back twice meant divide target time by 4 and hit 8 to 9 minutes for each section.  Which I did.  Even with stopping for photos, I still made 34 something.  The first runner came home in 17 minutes, and was way ahead of the rest of the pack -much applause!

All My parkruns:

all my parkruns

And the rest:

Well, here’s a whole blog about  Climbing Snowden

But I loved my first visit to Liverpool, was really impressed by the friendliness of the people, and I got to sit next to Sir Ian McKellen!

 

Week 2: Toby-wan-kenobi

Week 2 with Toby the beagle pup.

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He is growing so fast! Already the purple fleece he wears at night to keep warm is a little too snug, and taking it off a wriggling squirming bundle is an art form.  The collar has been let out a notch too.  He loves his grub, and is still being fed 3 times a day.  We’ve switched Minnie’s feeding times to match, and keep an eye on them as they are eating to watch out for growling or food guarding.

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The play fighting continues: sometimes it’s what I call the War of Jenkins Ear, other times it can be over a toy.  One of Toby’s faves is a squeaky Peppa Pig, which technically Minnie won as a prize about a year ago.  Now, she’s never really shown any interest in toys…..except when someone else wants them.  The fighting takes place under the kitchen table, or under my desk, and I hope everyones’ ears survive this phase intact.  Even mine, for the sharp beagle “play with me!” bark is VERY shrill.

 

We paid a vist to the dog-tor, to have a health check, get microchipped, and see when the next injections are due. I didn’t realise that different vets use different brands, and of course the first set he’d been given were not used by our local people.  So we’ve had to start again.  Microchipping is essential, but it is quite a nasty jag for the dog. And he got a worming tablet.  This has to be done monthly until they are 6 months old.

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Now, you know you’ve got a seriously cute dog when even the vet’s receptionist rushes round from behind her desk to take a photo, and put it on their Facebook page immediately!

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He wasn’t too impressed with being in the back of my car, which has a proper dog guard, or being on a lead, but it’s important to get him used to different situations and experiences at a young age.

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Toilet training is going very well, and he has a special pooping place in the garden.  I remarked that he was top of the pooping league, and my husband offered “Top of the Plops”

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It’s been Star Wars day  –  May the 4th be with you.  This year it fell on a parkrun day, so needless to say I’ve been planning costumes for me and Minnie for months.  She was originally to have been Chew-barker, but after a trip to the groomers she’s currently resembling a shorn lamb, and so Bark Vadar it was.  Toby is too young to participate just yet, but I did enjoy recreating the opening scenes, with “help me Toby-wan-kenobi, you’re my only hope”.  My son appreciated this joke! (Hi Harry  *waves*, your puppy snuggles await!).

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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.

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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).

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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