parkrun tourism: Kingston

parkrun #283 event #69
Reason for visit:  a rare chance to see both my little darlings being marvellous!

I was in London as J had been nominated in 2 categories for the National Dance awards, and I was also staying to see H’s latest West End venture. Originally the plan had been to do Bushy for H’s 50th, but when he couldn’t make it I switched to Kingston as the next closest.

Access:

I was staying in the Traveloge Teddington, a handy 4 minute walk from the railway station, and very close to Teddington High Street, along which many buses travel.

From there I was able to jog the mile or so down High Street, trying not to be distracted by the delightful little boutiques. Helpful indicators that I was near the river, across the footbridge, and another 500m down to the Hawker centre.

The 285 bus goes between Heathrow and Kinsgton, handy tourist knowledge.  Allow an hour to get to the airport though, what with traffic and roadworks.

Facilites:

There are clean loos in the Hawker centre, and presentation of your barcode gets 15% off in the cafe.

First timers briefing takes place here also.

Course:

The course is a sort of lollipop shape.  The start is around 200m further towards Kingston, runs on a tarmac path alongside the river, onto the towpath under the footbridge, along to Ham field.  This can get a bit mucky!

From there it’s back along the same route, finishing at the Hawker centre.  There’s one small section where runners are going in both directions, so keep left! And there’s a slight incline coming out of the field, otherwise it’s pretty flat.

There was a minor bit of panic early in the week as the council were carrying out work to the path, with a possible cancellation warning.  But they finished on the Friday, just in time.  I was still able to win “parkrun cancellation Top Trumps” with my Crissy Field story.

It can be a narrow path at times, but the crowd soon thins out.

Crowd:

There’s usually around 400 runners, some buggy runners bravely taking on the field.  I saw a  few dogs, though the sitepage says it’s a “no dogs” course, and quite a few adults accompanying thier under 11s.

It’s a popular one with toruists, I got chatting to a number of cow cowls and bobble hats, as well as some world tourists who were doing their 90th event!  Letter K is also a popular one for alphabeteers and name-spellers.  And look, a lesser spotted 500 shirt.

I got a shout out in the briefing as having come the furthest, and during the run got a “Well done Miss Northern Ireland!”, which was nice.

Gear:

I was wearing my purple Jog Lisburn top, with gloves and headband agaisnt the cold wind.  My purple skort is getting a bit tight, i really must lose weight. I’ve managed to find my missing zippy belt, and theres a ziped pocket in the back of the trousers where i kept my hotel key card, away from my phone.  No watch or music, so I was using counting to 100 and back down again as a distraction technique.  Hokkas were a good choice of footwear for this mixed terrain.

And the rest:

Well J was just amazing.  She looked stunning in her jacket by Adam Brady (not the Scottish dancer) and giant soled shoes.

A cross between Cruella de Ville and will.a.am.

The talent in the garden room at The Barbican was electrifying, and I really enjoyed meeting critic Donald Hutera, who I’ve followed on Twitter for some time.  And the awards ceremony was really well done, with short video clips of all the nominees shown in each category.

The next day I was able to meet up with my son, who’s working backstage on Magic Mike Live, an energetic and exciting show with lots of impressive dancing and cheeky audience interraction.

Thank you Magic Unicorn!

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Jersey parkrun

Event #64, and parkrun #262

Reason for visit – elusive letter  J at a dancing weekend.

Having fallen at Sixmilewater 6 weeks ago, my parkrun activity has been restricted to volunteering at juniors.  Including a memorable time with my “brunch bunch” chums where we ended up with a flat tyre! But that’s another story.

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Anyhoo, I’d been planning this trip for months.  It was to attend the Jersey Scottish dance weekend, I’d booked flights and accommodation, and spent every Wednesday night with my dancing travelling companions going through the rather tricksy dance program.  So I was dammed sure I wasn’t going to let a lousy broken metatarsal stand in my way of alphabeteering my letter J.

Access:

Flights to Jersey from Belfast only go once a week, but there’s a daily flight from Dublin.  I caught the X1 airport bus which picks up at Sprucefield and drops you to the door of the the shiny glass terminal for £17 return.  On the island, the Liberty bus service is superb, and the number 15 picks up right outside the airport door.  £2.30 cash fare, £2 if you use contactless, other day and 3 day fares are available, but make sure you’d actually use them.

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It’s the same bus you need to take you to the parkrun site at Les Quennevais (rhymes with kennedy) Sports centre.  Don Farm is the bus stop you need.

There’s ample car parking – although on the day I was there a hockey tournament was taking place, so parking places were a bit more scarce.

Crowd:

Understandably, a letter J is a huge draw for alphabeteer tourists, and I got chatting to quite a few cow cowls, AND a world tourist cap wearer!

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There were 414 this day – I know that cos I was tailwalker, so I was that number.

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As I set off, there was a granny, mum and daughter trio in front of me.  The daughter was in flip flops, and the granny in her 80s, so they only did one lap (and well done to them!)

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There’s a lead bike, a few prams and dogs, and LOTS of tourists. Biggest problem at the start line is keeping people QUIET!

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Course:

2 laps of the cycle track, and then breaks off onto a trail spur, with 2 turnaround points.  Well marshalled throughout, and I loved the cute umbrella hats that the volunteers wore.

I have to say, even with the glimpses of the sea at various points, it’s not the most dramatically scenic course, but it’s relatively flat (until that final uphill section), and either tarmac or packed sand/gravel underfoot.

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Facilities:

If you’re catching the bus from St Helier, there are loos there.

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Toilets also in the sports centre.  And the cafe does 10% off on presentation of your barcode.  So a mug of tea and a toasted teackae was less than £3.  And of course the cafe was packed full of chatty parkrunners, playing their Top Trumps and generally enjoying the post run adrenalin.

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Time:

I’ was walking, it took me just over an hour.  And oh, it’s good to be back!

And the rest:

My weekend in Jersey.

A dance weekend in Jersey

All My parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

 

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!

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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!

 

Climbing Snowden

Note:  Never “Mount” Snowden – just the name, or the Welsh Yr Wyddfa.

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At 1,085 m, it’s the highest point on the British Isles outside of Scotland.  My son Harry is a keen climber, and had already done Ben Nevis, Scafell and Carrauntoohil, so he was keen to add this one to complete the set.  And I was delighted to tag along.

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I flew into Liverpool, and then we drove to Ffestiniog, a little village in stunningly beautiful Snowdonia National Park.  We stayed at Y Pengwern, which I would love to believe is Welsh for penguin, despite any evidence to support this.

IMG_1169 It’s a community run pub/ restaurant/ accommodation, and is very good value.  The staff were friendly and helpful, rooms comfortable, and the food and drinks tasty and well priced.  It’s the only facility in the village apart from a well stocked store, but nearby Blaenau Ffestiniog 3 miles away has a greater selection of restaurants and shops.

 

There are a number of tried and tested routes up the mountain, and we had originally planned to use the most popular and easiest Llanberis route.  But when we checked our location, it was on the other side of the mountain, about 40 miles away, and so we looked at closer trail heads.  Watkin’s Path was only 15 miles away, and appeared to be within our capabilities.

 

Car parking is available across the road from the start – the machine didn’t seem to be working, though.  And there are loos here too.

 

 

The route starts up some stone steps before opening out into lovely old woodland.  The birdsong was wonderful, and I even heard my first spring cuckoo!  I shall write to The Times forthwith.

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Coming out of the woodland the hillside was a hazy carpet of bluebells, with some pretty waterfalls to the right.  We passed Gladstone Rock, and remarked on the Welsh singing tradition (insert Bill Bailey cheese-on-toast gag here).

There was a ruined bulding, formerly used to house copper miners.  The copper gives the lakes their greenish tinge.  The path continues in slate steps and packed stone, and is very well maintained.

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Are there any fish in the clear pools, I wondered.  How would they get there, asked H.  Well, see, when a Mummy fish and a Daddy fish love each other very much….I explained.

After a brief stop for one of Harry’s sweet potato muffins, where a very enterprising seagull edged closer and closer to me, we reached the final and trickiest section, which was very steep and required some scrambling and hand holding.

I saw some slugs en route.  How did they get here?  Ans: very slowly.

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After having had the path mostly to oursleves, the busy cafe at the top, Hafod Eryri,  was a bit of a contrast.  It was very blowy, but there was a decent enough view despite the clouds.  The Llanberis path runs alongside a narrow guage and pinion railway, which does make the summit accessible for many people.  I was amazed at the number of dogs who had made the climb, and enjoyed reading all the information boards about the history, geology, and legends associated with the mountain.

My fingers had become red and swollen during the climb, and so I was alternating holding each hand up to my shoulder.  Occasionally I had both hands up, and I must have looked like a surrendering prisoner trotting along behind H.  On the descent I was tiring, and I stumbled now and again, but the only serious injury I sustained was a paper cut from the lid of my hot chocolate in the cafe.

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It took us 3 hours to get to the summit, and 2 1/2 to come back down.  Having been sunny all week, it was rainy when we got up, but the rain soon passed.  It was overcast, but clear, which was good climbing conditions.  And we felt very proud of ourselves once we’d finished.

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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:

Update February 2020: The course has now changed, so check the site page rather than my description below.

new course

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!”

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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

 

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