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

parkrun tourism: Oldbridge

parkrun #208 event #49

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It had always been my plan to use the lighter mornings in spring and summer to tick off some of the Irish parkruns that are about an hour – hour and a half away from me.  Living south of Belfast, and close to the motorway junction, the journey to Oldbridge, Drogheda, was very straightforward, and on a balmy May day, was very pleasant indeed.

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Access:

The event takes place in the Oldbridge estate, site of the Battle of the Boyne.

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So there are plenty of brown tourist signs guiding the way.  My trip took me over the fabulous Mary Macaleese Bridge, and you will need euro coins for the toll (1.90 at time of writing.  Notes are accepted also).  There’s plenty of car parking. It was a little late starting the day I visited due to an Orange March, but I gather this is a once a year thing.

Course:

The course is mostly grass underfoot, so it can get slippy, and trail shoes would be a good option.

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It starts down near the wooden triangle huts, runs up to and in front of the big house, up a short sharp incline, along a ridge, into a field for a lap, back along the ridge and down the incline, and a few more field laps, with no repeated sections. Finish is close to the start, and you can leave keys in a bag, coats and water bottles under a tree where the scanning takes place. All the junctions are well marked or marshalled.

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There are some fabulous old trees in the estate, so there is occasional shade, but a lot of the course is quite exposed.  I can imagine during the winter it is a testing course. Fantastic views of the suspension bridge!

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Facilities:

Ther are nice clean loos in the car park, and a cafe on site, though runners are asked to change out of grassy shoes if they are going indoors.

Crowd:

Typical numbers are about 100, mostly youngish.  There were a few other dog runners there, I don’t think the course would be easy for buggies or wheelchairs. I didn’t get a chance to stick around afterwards, but everyone was friendly and chatty at the start.

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Gear:

It was a warm morning, over 20 degrees even at this time of day, but with a bit of a breeze.  I was glad I’d opted for the sleeveless apricot shirt and calf length trousers.  My garmin died half way round, and I wasn’t using headphones.

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Time:

Minnie was struggling in the heat towards the end of the run, so we tucked in just over 30 minutes.  Don’t worry, we’ll be back some time and I can snatch a PB!

All My parkruns:

summary list of parkruns

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parkrun tourism: Griffeen Park

Run #207, event # 48, alphabeteer letter G

 

Being an alphabeteer is sometimes frustrating.  We are all still waiting for someone to start a parkrun beginning with X, and the currently available Zs are a loooooong way away.  But even within the UK and Irish set there are some letters that really ought to be more easy to capture than they are.  One of those is letter G.  I was disappointed on a recent visit to Glasgow to find no letter Gs there, but I always enjoy ticking off another Dublin parkrun, and so I planned to combine my visit to the annual Dublin Scottish Dance Club dance with a trip to Griffeen Park.  And was keen to show off my new bobble cow hat!

Access:

Griffeen is in a somewhat residential area west of the M50, near Lucan.  In fact my sat nav took me first to a cul de sac of houses at the back of the park.

But a quick consult of the course map on the parkrun page led me round the corner, where there is a small car park.  There’s a GAA field in the park as well, so the car park can fill up quite quickly.

I was there typically early (I always allow for sat-nav disagreements) but when I was leaving there were quite  a few vehicles parked on the nearby verges.  There are no loos in the park.

Crowd:

I apporached a small group of people who looked like runners, who assured me that I was in the right place, and chatted to me in a very welcoming and friendly fashion.

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Paul was most interested in my alphabet challenge, and Pat the first timers briefer made sure I got a shout out in the tourist welcome.  The average number of runners is 150,  it was a glorious sunny day when I was there, and there were 183 there, including some newbies.

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Course:

2 laps, fairly flat, across 2 bridges and past some lovely shrubs and trees.

The start and finish are beside each other, and there’s a box for leaving keys in.  All the junctions are well signposted and/or marshalled.

 

Gear:

I deliberately had no watch or ear phones with me, in fact the only thing on my wrists was my barcode.  I’d been low-carbing all week, and so had been trying to get more in tune with my body.  So I wanted to be aware of how it was coping, and tell it to get a move on into the fat-burning mode! Part of low carbing involves drinking copious amounts of water, which I had been doing.  Except for Friday when I dialled it back a bit in view of the 3 hour car journey I had to take.  So my mouth on Saturday morning was extremely dry.

Anyway, having no headphones allows for a bit of banter with the marshalls and fellow runners.

Time:

I’m still struggling to get anywhere near 30 mins, but I really enjoyed my 33 minute canter around, and finished with my usual skip-change-step over the finish line.

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Post-run:

I’d planned to join the crew at the local Starubucks, but my sat nav couldn’t find it.  Instead I ended up in Lucan, where there was a service station and Macdonalds complex, including a healthy food place called Chopped, where I tucked into a lovely omelette with ham, tomato and feta.

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And the rest:

It was quite the weekend of dancing!  I’d thoroughly enjoyed Hofesh Schecter’s “Show” at the Mac on Thursday evening, full of macabre energy and pulsating rhythym. I treated myself to some glimpses of new workds on Saturday afternoon as part of Dublin Dance festival, and danced the night away with our Dublin friends on Saturday night, donning my fascinator in order to be properly attired for the day-appropriate “Haste to the Royal Wedding”.

All my parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

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parkrun tourism: Victoria, Glasgow

parkrun # 204 event # 47

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Victoria, eh?  Well, having done Belfast Victoria (which is a B for all you alphabteers), and noting that the latest London event is Victoria Dock, and hoping to see my son working on the cruise ship Queen Victoria, I have devised a little Victoria Lap of my own.

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Talking of alphabeteering, I still need a G, and was hoping that a trip to Glasgow would net me one.  But No!  Sort it out, Glaswegians.

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Access:

I was staying at the Argyll Hotel on Sauciehall Street, in leafy and beautiful Kelvingrove.  There for a dance weekend, Victoria was the nearest parkrun, just under 3 miles away.  I’d got to the city using the Hannon Coach service.  £29 each way, very relaxed and friendly service, you can take as big a suitcase as you like, no worries about potions and lotions or security queues.  I blagged a free upgrade to the Stena Plus lounge, and so my outward leg was very pleasant and well fuelled.  There’s wifi on board, and to be honest, the opportunity to just sit in one place and do very little for a few hours was divine. 6 hours, city centre to city centre, which is I reckon about 2 hours more than flying, but waaaay less stressful.

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Anyhoo.  To the parkrun!  The Argyll has a nifty taxi-call button in their reception, and I was kept informed of all the details about my taxi, which took about 15-20 mins to get to the famous Golden Jubilee gates. Many people seemed to arrive on foot or by bike.  Car parking is just on the local streets.

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Crowd:

On the day I visited, they were having a memorial run for Brian, on what would have been his 42nd birthday.  There were quite a few youngsters taking part, but I’m not sure how frequent that is.  Average attendance is 250ish, there were 350 this time.  The marshalls were really friendly and encouraging.

Course:

It’s a 3 lapper on what at first sight seems a flat tarmac route round the obligatory duck pond.

IMG_2995This of course means that’s there is a sneaky hill hidden behind that clump of trees over there. And you have to do it 3 times.  But it’s a wide flat path, and speedy runners will find they can get a good time here. Start and finish are in the same general area.  I adored the swans, the daffodils, and the lovely trees.  A really pretty park, no wonder it’s a popular spot for locals.

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Facilities:

I had trouble finding any loos, and those that should have been open at 9 weren’t.   The bag drop is at the tennis court fence.

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Gear:

I always travel in my second best trainers, and they were suitable footwear for this course. My Garmin performed as expected, and I wore my tartan leggings, as I was in Bonnie Scotland.  No other cow cowls spotted.

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Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

No headphones in, but my internal juke box was playing through the Scottish dances that I have to call at ball in a few weeks time.

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Time:

It was a glorious warm morning with blue skies and welcome sunshine, but I found I was having difficulty finding a good rhythym for my breathing.  Plus I was in town for a dance thing and didn’t want to risk any injury or aching calves.  So it was a slow but safe 34 minutes (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it…)

And the rest:

The dancing part of the weekend was an absolute joy.  It was my first time attending a Spring Fling/ Fringe event,

and having so many young people around made for a lively and exuberant atmosphere.

IMG_3008 (1)  I bumped into old friends from past Summer and Winter Schools, including one who’d stooged for me in my Unit 3 exam! And I even had a  spare hour or so to mooch around the delightful Kelvingrove Museum, and enjoy the organ recital.

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All My parkruns:

Summary list of all events run

 

parkrun tourism: Monaghan Town

Event number 46.

I’m hoping to reach my half-cowell (50 different parkruns) some time in 2018. Part of this will be acheived using various weekend trips here and there, but I’m also lucky enough to have a few Irish ones not too far away. My NENDY (Nearest Event Not Done Yet) was Monaghan Town, about 50 miles away, and the sat nav reckoned 1 hour 15 would get us there.

The suggested route wasn’t the one I’d normally have chosen, going instead through Aughnacloy, and when I hit a “Road Closed – Diversion” sign, I did have a moment of panic.  But the diversion didn’t add too many minutes to my eta.  The route brought me into Monaghan from a different direction, but serendipitously passed this fab service station, with clean loos, coffee, snacks, plenty of parking for a leg stretch.

Access:

No postcodes in the south, so I had written out the directions from the website – follow the Clones Road, then turn left on 3 Mile House road, past the football stadium, and Rossmore Forest is on your left.

I arrived just after 9, and started looking for the familiar parkrun signs to assure me I was in the right place.

Facilities:

There is ample parking, and a small toilet block, which I would describe as “emergency use only”.

(Parkrun tourist tip #5: carry your own loo roll).  There were a couple of flasks for tea afterwards, but I gather this isn’t a regular occurence.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

It was a beautiful morning, and as I got out of the car I was struck by all the chirpy birdsong.

So I decided to leave the headphones in the car, and let the twittering of the birdlife, and the tinkling of the streams be my natural soundtrack.

Course:

2 laps through the woods, surprisingly flat with a welcome downhill stretch towards the finish line.

It’s all gravel paths, very well signposted and marshalled.  It is stunningly attractive, with a little bridge, streams, swans on a lake, and a host of inspiring trees.

The finish is at the car park, and the start line a short distance away.  I was able to leave my jacket and keys under a table at the finish point.

Time:

I set off fast, and realised that the first lady was about 10m ahead of me.  My mind briefly flirted with the possibility of a podium place, but at km 2 I was overtaken, and at km 3 my podium place evaporated.  So I decided to take my own advice and not push too hard on any first visit – make it easy for yourself to nab a PB on any subsequent re-visits.

I took the second loop at a gentle canter, and stopped to take photos en route.

Crowd:

The average crowd size is smallish, there were 53 the day I was there.  So it’s a good one to get a solid finish position!  I bumped into some other tourists from Marlay at the brief, and the volunteers were all really friendly and encouraging.  Is there a term for being the “runner with the most parkruns done” there?  It was me, anyway.

Gear:

My Garmin amazingly worked without any issues!  I wore my foresty leggings and my 100 shirt, only cow cowl there.

And the Rest:

This was the first time I got stuck beind a pony and trap on  the way home!  A delightful morning’s run, and I look forward to returning.

All My parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

 

200100 or 1,000km

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Milestone T shirts are all very well, but there’s a heck of a gap between the black 100 shirt and the green 250 one.  Running at 50 parkruns each year is a big committment – I’m a pretty regular attender and even I only managed 40 in 2017.  So you’re looking at at least 3 years between 100 and 250.

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So I decided to have a bit of fun with my 200th parkrun.  Firstly, I ensured that it coincided with my 100 time at Wallace, proving just what a serial tourist I am, as well as being a bit fanatic about mathematical symmetry and patterns.  This was not without a few sleepless nights in January, hoping that cancellations due to ice wouldn’t sotally scupper my plans.

I needed a shirt, so I got a strip of wide black ribbon, and used my trusty fabric paint to write a number 2 (stop sniggering at the back).  Someone aksed if it was done with toothpaste – believe me, if I thought that would be funnier I would do it!  I attached it over the 1 on my 100 shirt with safety pins.

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For the cake, I know that fruit based offerings are usually popular, so I got a friend to bake me a large rectangular sponge, and I decorated it with cream and spelled out the 200 in raspberries,  and the 100 in blueberries, with black and green grapes for the border.  It looked well, but smaller raspberries would have been easier to work with, and it was a bit awkward to transport.

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You know me, any excuse to dress up!  So I needed a suitable theme.  I went with the “Wallace as Braveheart” idea, and as I have plenty of tartan bits and bobs around, all I needed for this look was some blue face paint.  Shouting “Freedom” as I went round each corner was an easy way to keep in character, an bring a smile to many faces.

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John, the RD gave me a great speech, and pointed out that in getting to 200 runs, I’d also volunteered 33 times, taking on almost every role….except one.  And would I like to be guest RD some day soon.

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It was a bitterly cold day, so I really appreciated the support from friends and family who came along- to cousin David who ran with me on his first toruism venture, and his wife Karen who helped with the teas and cake.  To Liz and Emma, the Murphy twins, who ran at Wallace even though they have nightmares about “Heartbreak Hill”, and for the card and the afternoon tea afterwards. To Susan, who wore her old Wallace school tie.  And to my husband who helped trasnport the cake, and who was my usual faithful paprazzo.

At the end someone pointed out that was 1,000km.  Here’s to the next 1,000!

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(Actually, I’ll only have to run 250km to the next milestone T shirt, estimating somewhere about April 2019…..)

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All My parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

 

parkrun tourism: York

parkrun 196, and 45th different event.

On my parkrun adventures, one of the targets that keep you going (100 Tshirt to 250 is AT LEAST 3 years….) is grabbing letters of the alphabet.  Now, there’s no X anywhere (surely an opportunity for somewhere, but meanwhile St Andrews, as in cross, will suffice…) and Z is a foreign trip to Poland or South Africa.

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The Norn Irn parkruns do have some of the lesser spotted letters – there’s a Q at Queens, a V at Valley, and 2 Ws at Waterworks and my home run Wallace.  But I’m still lacking a G, J, K, (all of which I can get on the  island of Ireland, albeit with difficulty), and the U and Y, of which there are very few.  So when I saw a chance to get a Y at York, I absolutley jumped at it!

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Access:

Located at York Racecourse, this is a pretty easy to get to run.  I was staying in an Air BnB, and had booked a taxi, not wanting to risk missing the start, but my son, who was working in the city for the week, just walked there from his digs, and in fact we walked back into town together, which took about 20 minutes.  There’s plenty of car parking near the main racecourse entrance, and also some at the start of the parkrun, which is at the far side of the track. I saw a few people arrive by bike, and there are some bus options described on the parkrun page.

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From Belfast, I flew to Manchester, which was cheaper than Leeds, and took a train from there, about 90 minutes.

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Facilities:

I’m not sure about loos or showers, but Poppy’s Coffee van was doing good business after the run with a range of delicious sounding hot chocolates and lattes.

 

IMG_2735 - CopyFor leaving your jacket etc beofre the run, many opted for the time honoured “hang it on a fence” tradition, and one of the volunteers had a basket at the start line to collect any discarded coats and belongings.

Course:

People tend to congregate at the finish line, before heading to the start, at the far side of the track.

You can cross the grass, which can be wet and puddly, or take the slightly longer route on the tarmac path which forms the parkrun route.

The first timers briefing at the start was warm and freindly and assured first timers that this was the best day of their lives!  The course is 1 and 1/2 circuits, and is dead flat.

IMG_2748I could be critical and say it’s a bit boring, you definitely have to dig deep and “just keep running!”, and I’d wished I’d brought some headphones so I could have some music or a podcast.

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Crowd:

This used to attract 700-800 ish runners each week until the recently started Heslington event at the University.  Perversely, I was staying on Heslington Road, and this would have been a closer course, but, letter Y!  There were just over 500 runners when I visited, and a couple of fellow cow-cowls said hi.  My son didn’t have any running gear with him, but opted to walk along with the tail walker.

 

IMG_2757It’s a dead flat all tarmac course, so very accessible for buggies and wheelchairs.  I saw a couple of doggies (Hi Maggie!) and a blind-guide running pair, and I was in the tailwind of a lesser spotted 100 parkrun jacket most of the way.  There were some pacers, and some “walk a minute run a minute” guides as well.

IMG_2741 - CopyIt’s also very fast – there were 3 sub-17 times on my visit, and the course record is an astonishing 14:37.

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The funnel gets quite muddy after all that.

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Gear:

My Garmin behaved, I could’ve done with music, and my shoes were…well, I always travel in my second best trainers.  That way, if I need to ditch some weight before the return leg it won’t break my heart.  And when I dug out my Karrimors to travel in, I realised I’d last worn them at the Castlewellan Cracker, and they were still carrying a muddy sheen…

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Time:

I haven’t run for at least 3 weeks, but honestly, a time of 37 minutes on this flat course is tut-worthy. I usually do a Scottish skip-change-step over the finish line, but as I was at a racecourse I opted for a Miranda-style gallop instead.

And the rest:

I loved my visit to York – walking on the walls, queuing to get into one of the Harry Pottter shops that are now taking over the Shambles,

 

IMG_2767giggling at the plastic dinosaur in the nativity display at York Minster, going to the Cilla show at the Grand Opera House,

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bacon butties at the Dyl cafe in one of the old buidlings on a bridge,

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a Yorkypud wrap,

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and seeing Tim Peake’s capsule at the Railway Museum.

 

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All My parkruns:

 

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list