Derrynoid Forest parkrun

Event #81 parkrun #303 Regionnaire status regained (for now…..)

After “The Great Pause” it’s heartening to see planned new parkruns getting up and running, so to speak. I attended the 4th outing of Norn Irn’s latest, in Derrynoyd Forest near Draperstown, pretty much bang in the centre of the province. Note, the forest is spelled with a Y, but the parkrun with an I. No, I haven’t managed to find out Y just yet, but if you know, do tell!

Getting There:

From my house it was just over 50 miles. Take the M2 and keep going, onto the lovely smooth new bit of the dualled A6 (my sat nav still doesn’t know this road exists, and goes into a minor panic telling me to turn left. No, right. No, straight on.) From the little town of Draperstown, follow the Derrynoyd Road and a mile along you’ll find the forest. There is some parking on the left and right hand sides of the road, but the main forest and parkrun is the one on the right.


Three laps through the forest, on pretty good paths, but watch out for stones and fallen twigs. It’s a tough enough course, with a chunky hill near the end of the lap. Start and finish are at the same point, but allow yourself time to get there from the car park. The forest is a lovely patch of old woodland, with plenty of birdsong to be heard. It was fantastic to listen to – some twitchers were able to identify a chiff-chaff, and I believe there’s even a woodpecker here.


No loos on site, so make sure you go before you get there! Parking as above, there are a few cafes in town for post parkrun coffee and faffing.


There were just under 50 when I attended, including a few familiar faces who like me were reclaiming the “regionnaire” status. Though I hear there are a few more NI events happening shortly, so this is only a “for now” badge. And also a few people making their parkrun debut, which is always lovely to hear.


I wore my green 250 shirt, and there were a few of these on show! I’d also got my apple watch and aftershoks bone conducting headphones with me. Blue hokka trainers – trail shoes would be a good option here. And I managed to find my cow bobble hat, complete with its little flag badge indicating that “I’verunalltheNornIrnparkrunssoIhave”. I must dig out my T shirt and add some suitable buttons.


I’m really slow at the minute. I’d even offered to be tailwalker, but someone had beaten me to that! But I walk/jogged my way round in 44 minutes, taking time to stop for the odd photo of the beautiful Sperrin mountains.

Course record is at time of writing just under 18 minutes.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

I put the Hamilton soundtrack on as I was setting off- the tailwalker told me he’d been lucky enough to see the show live, that’s still on my bucket list of things to do. “Rise Up” is always appropriate for hills, and I was heading for Coleraine afterwards en route to see my parents, which is where Hercules Mulligan is from.

And the rest:

My Dad’s uncle Bob used to be head forester here, and the area around Tobermore and Draperstown was Dad’s “patch” when he was a sales rep, so he really enjoyed hearing all about my run when I called in for lunch afterwards.

All my parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

Garvagh Forest parkrun

parkrun no. 288, event no. 74, completing Norn Irn regionnaire, and celebrating my parents anniversary

Commencing on 31 July 2021, I opted to skip the inaugural and instead attend event number 2. I also did a bit of “voluntouring” (it’s a thing) and asked if they needed a tail walker. And they were delighted to have me in this role! (See also Copenhagen and Jersey, it’s a good way to tick off a new run and also add to volunteer stats. Plus you get to go for a PB on your return visit!)

Getting There

It’s in a pretty central area of mid-Ulster, which means it’s 50 miles from everywhere! I jest – the journey from Lisburn took me just over an hour, and through such exotic locations as Maghera and Swatragh, where I haven’t been in years, but which have a charm and unchanged feel about them that makes me want to stay longer. Postcode is BT51 5NJ. There’s a very small carpark at the forest itself, so please leave it for other users, and volunteers who are transporting loads of kit. Runners should park in the church next door, but be warned the gates close at 11, so if you’re going into town for a coffee and bacon butty keep this in mind.

The start line is a good walk from the car park, so leave plenty of time to get there. What three words for the start is narrating.ignoring.barks


The nearest loos are in Garvagh itself, well signposted and well maintained. There are various cafes in the town for post run sustenance and faff.


It’s all on forest paths, wide and flat. There are 2 big loops and one final small one. It’s run clockwise, so most of the well signposted turns are to the right, but there are a few left hand turns around a twisty section, so keep your eyes open!


There were yellow weather warnings across NI, so I wasn’t too sure just what to wear! In the end I had on my long sleeved Jog Lisburn top, my purple volunteer T, and my second best Hokas. And of course my cow cowl.

Strangely appropriate song on shuffle

I don’t listen to anything while tail walking – you’re the eyes and ears out on the course, and need to be able to react to anything unusual. But I was listening to Classic Rock on the journey there, and singing along to Run To You.


It’s away from the metropolis of Belfast, but there are keen running clubs in the Coleraine, Limavady, Portrush area who will no doubt frequent this as a nearby alternative (especially on a windy January morning when the tide is high at the Port….). There were 71 runners when I visited, and 83 at their inaugural. I bumped into some Jog Lisburn stablemates, and Andrew with “other Minnie”.


I was tail walking at a brisk pace, so 54 minutes. The results themselves came through in super quick time, and I got my text at 10.39!

And the rest…

I arrived with flowers, card, non alcoholic bubbles, and some tapas style finger foods to wish my parents a happy 62nd wedding anniversary, where again the weather fairies smiled on us and we sat outside in the warm sunshine.

All My parkruns

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

Knockbracken Reservoir parkrun

My 287th run at my 73rd different location, in order to reclaim legionnaire status. Also Toby’s first barkrun!

Getting There

At around 8 miles from my house, this was a pretty close NENDY. It takes place at the Go Hydro activity centre south of Belfast, near Carryduff. (What Three Words


There’s plenty of parking, several loo blocks and also a number of catering trucks and spots. If that’s your thing there’s also a McDonalds and a KFC just before the entrance to the site. (Update May 2022: no catering currently onsite, but if you can find your way to Toasted just before the Carryduff roundabout they do an excellent selection of breakfasts)


It’s 3 and a bit laps round the reservoir, and is flat apart from one Hill of Doom. Slower runners will be overtaken by the faster ones on lap 2, so keep aware of who’s behind you, but they will have the 3rd lap to themselves. There is some traffic and golf buggies around, so again, keep your eyes and ears open.

There are lovely views over Belfast, and lots of wee (and some not so wee) flappy winged things by the water. I saw but failed to capture a teensy blue butterfly.


I was there at event number 6, when there were 137, about average turnout. This still being The Great Pause, there were a number of familiar faces travelling from the south, and a good turnout from local club Lough Mossketeers. It was Toby’s first outing to a parkrun, and he behaved himself impeccably, allowing himself to be patted and fussed over without barking, and he didn’t pee up a marshall’s leg or similar. There were a couple of other dogs running as well, and a pram or 2.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle

I was actually a bit nervous at the start line, I haven’t run a parkrun in well over a year. I even had that bad dream last night where I was at a parkrun but had forgotten my barcode. But the Hamilton soundtrack told me to Summon all the courage I require, and to Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now.


Toby may have behaved sociably, but he hasn’t got Minnie’s ability to pull me along – in fact sometimes it was the other way round! And I did stop now and then to take photos so 38 minutes it was.

Full list

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

And while you’re here…..

Tim Page – Fit For Life

This was a last minute decision.  I’d been chatting to Andrew Johnston of Andrews Animals .  We’ve met a few times at parkruns and Waggy Races.  We’re both members of the very exclusive IverunallthenornirnpakrunssoIhave Club, AND members of the “My running companion is a dog called Minnie” club.  He had a dog training thing to do in Antrim, so we agreed to meet at their parkrun and have a Minnie-race.  But thank goodness he did a last minute check to see if the event was on…..and it wasn’t!  There’s a fair on in the grounds of the park, which means the parkrun was cancelled for 2 whole weeks.  Funnily enough I’d bumped into some Antrim runners the previous Saturday in Enniskillen, as we modelled our hot-off-the-presses 100 shirts.


And as I was there for a weekend’s Scottish dancing, I modelled my tartan leggings, which earned me the nickname “The Flying Scot”.  This blog’s not called Dancing At Lunacy for nothin’, ya know!

Anyhoo.  No Antrim.  But I remembered that Tim Page was going to be at Queens that day, so it seemed a good time to go and meet him.


Tim is a 4 time cancer survivor who is running all 22 of NI’s parkruns to raise money and awareness of leukaemia and lymphoma research.  I’d read some of his earlier run reports, and followed him on Facebook, and was delighted when he come out of the door at Queens and greeted me and Minnie by name!

Tim Page’s page

We had a quick chat and admired my T shirt – I’ve promised I’ll make him one too, when he completes his journey at Stormont later this year.  We agreed that each parkrun has its own little personality and quirks, but the over-riding common feature is the support and warmth.  It’s so much more than “just” running.


I wore my muscle leggings, which always attract a smile, and the weather was kind enough to hold off on the rain for a while.  My first lap was pretty smart, but my pace ebbed away during the second lap, and I was about a minute off my last time here.


I tethered Minnie to the pup-park, where she actually behaved nicely for a change!  And clapped and cheered the final runners over the finish line.  I gave Tim a big hug and a well done, and he smiled and said “It’s good to be alive”.

timpage 005

Having changed phones recently, my playlist was a bit different from the previous one, and the strangely-appropriate-song on this day was Talk Talk with “Life’s What You Make It”.

timpage 007

Well, I’ll leave you with my own motto: there’s more to running than going fast.

Please donate, follow and share Tim’s blog and fundraising page!

Tim’s blog

Tim on Twitter


#parkrunisgoodforyourelf, or “I Am Sprouticus!”



There is traditionally a parkrun Christmas Compendium, showing which events are holding a run on Christmas and New Years Day.  I learned that one of NI’s newest, Stormont, was planning to hold it’s NYD run at 11 am, to allow runners to complete a double, and also run an earlier one, both of which would count as “official” parkruns.  An idea formed in my little brain!


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Now, you probably know that I’m partial to a bit of dressing up. You also know that I participate in Scottish Country Dancing.  For a dance dem, I had to have some festive headgear, and so I found a cute elf headband in poundland.  To go with this, I acquired an elfy T shirt in New Look, and started trying to source stripey tights.  The usual suspects on the high street proved useless, but I did find some black and white ones in Claires Accessories, where I also picked up a sprout necklace.  While taking a short-cut (ha!) through TK Maxx, I happened upon the cutest “Christmas jumper for your dog”, so that was Minnie’s outfit sorted!

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Cracker the squirrel is usually holding a nut, but it was fairly simple to get him holding a sprout.



I wondered if maybe a caption would be funny, something along the “elf and safety” line, and came up with “parkrun is good for your elf”.  I made up a sign to pin on my back, and we were good to go!

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So…..6 parkruns in a fortnight? Let’s see how it went.

  1. 19 December, Queens Belfast

I was so torn on this, the last official Saturday parkrun before Christmas Day.  Sports Personality of The Year was coming from Belfast that weekend, and so there would be TV crews, Dame Mary Peters, many many mince-pies at Waterworks, NI’s oldest.  There was a Hawaiian themed run at Carrickfergus, which was tempting, and some other local runs were encouraging fancy dress.  Or should I go to Falls, the next on my list of “times I think I can beat”?


But it was also a “dashing through the snow” type day for me and my time was a scarce resource: I had to go and visit the in-laws, and then be in Bangor for a Scottish dance dem at 2.30.  So I opted for the closest fancy-dress one at Queens, since a TV crew always means things over-run, and anyway the parking at Waterworks is terrible.  Conditions were good, a bit windy but dry.  Lots of super fancy dress costumes were in evidence, and Minnie’s jumper was much admired.  There weren’t too many photographers about, but a lovely lady called Breege (with her gorjus doggie in its tinsel collar) took an action shot of us, and came up to me afterwards to get my email address.

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Time: 25:54, annoyingly a bit off my 25:32 best time here, but still nice to sub-26, while able to chat to the “undertakers” guys in their black 100 shirts (not jealous at all, no, no) who recognized Minnie from Waggy Races.

2. 25 December, City Park

Running on Christmas Day, was I quite mad? Well, possibly.  There were a number of options available – Belfast Victoria was enticing with its 10 o’clock start time!  But I wanted to do something as a family, and bring my paparazzi husband and other dog with me.  Max is a hyper-sensitive Weimaraner, and while he has no problem with running per se, he has huge anxiety problems with crowds, noise, other people, other dogs, applause, high-fizzy vests….So we knew this would be an issue, but at least at City Park there’s plenty of escape spaces to retreat to.



Since the elf headband had been a bit tricky to keep on my head while running, I turned my sprout necklace into a sort of crown, which allowed me to make plenty of “I’ve put the sprouts on!” jokes.



The weather was murky and misty, and with the outside temperature at 2 degrees, there were even some icy patches on the course. But it is a lovely run, it was over a year since I’d been here, and I’d forgotten how beautifully flat this single lap of the lake is.

city park christmas day

For a large part of the run I was tailing a guy wearing a T shirt that said #alltheparkruns.  I couldn’t get close enough to read it, or to see which parkuns it meant.  I overtook him on the final stretch , and afterwards shook his hand.  When we were inside doing the scanning, I showed him my #iverunallthenornirnparkrunssoihave shirt, and Pete told me about his charitable fundraising plans to do over 300 different parkruns in the next 10 years.  Now that’s forward planning! He was going to Armagh the next day, to run with his nephew, who’d be doing his first parkrun.


Pete is also videoing the runs he completes, and here’s a great speeded up canter around City Park (watch out for I am Sprouticus!)


Time: 25:37 yay, a PB! Despite the black and white tights falling down….


3. 26 December, Ormeau



Boxing Day dawned, without TOO bad a hangover. We’d put our names down to join the Santa Dash taking place at Belfast’s Ormeau Park –  I think I was last here for the half-marathon in September!  I toyed with the idea of putting Minnie in her snow-trimmed red and white  50 cloak, but in the end, went for the jumper – which got mentioned in the pre-run brief!  The sprouty headgear was also a talking point, the running went well, despite flooded parts ( I just ran through them on elfin tiptoe).  The crowd was very friendly and chatty,  and the borrowed gazebo was useful for the focal point of post-run-tea-and-buns. I swapped the too-small black-and-white tights for a pair in red.


I have to say a huge thank you to Mark Ramsey, who took a staggering  1,000+ photos of the day itself, and it’s wonderful to have access to action shots like these.

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Time:  26:06,  a PB, though only 3rd in my age-category!


4. 1 January Comber

Christmas out of the way, it was time for New Year celebrations, and lots of champagne!

cracker cork

There was a yellow warning of snow and ice, and I took it easy on the winding cross-country road to Comber, which is a flat course consisting of 4 figure-of-eight loops.  I’d gone for a Hogmanay theme, and was wearing a tartan sash, and carrying a giant champagne bottle and a plastic glass.

comber glass

I have 2 sashes: one is in a “weathered Ulster” pattern, which is quite a dark brown.  I didn’t feel it would show up very well in pictures.  So instead I took the “Titanic” tartan one off my dancing dem white dress.  My husband wore a kilt in this tartan for our wedding at Gretna Green, and it was designed by local historian Clifford Smyth. I attached a tartan bow to Minnie’s collar.  It was a very cold morning – I was glad I’d put on a long sleeved layer under my Jog Lisburn top, and some leggings under my skort.  The paths were pretty icy at points – if I’d been RD I might have considered cancelling.champagne comberBut it was runnable with care. I did start off with the champagne bottle and glass, but cast them aside after the first lap.  Given the slippery surfaces, the added obstacle of carrying props, and the fact that I’d stayed up till after midnight to see in the New Year, I shouldn’t have been surprised that I didn’t quite manage a PB, though a time of just over 27 was satisfying enough. A quick glass of water and a chocolate in the hospitality centre, and it was time to head to number 2.  Lots of people were doing the same, in fact I think there was a mini-bus which went from Comber-Stormont.  I was glad I’d picked Comber, as the other early alternative at Waterworks WAS cancelled due to ice – a very tough decision for the RD to make.

5. 1 January Stormont

stormont flood

As we arrived by the familiar gates and long drive, the heavens opened and it absolutely poured.  I parked by the hotel across the road, and stayed in the car as long as I could, but I knew I wanted to take some photos with the other Jog Lisburn crew, so we made our way to the briefing point.  I was greeting lots of friends form parkruns near and far – Ronan, who I’d met in Derry, and Des, a fellow member of the “IverunallthenornirnparkrunssoIhave” club (and co-incidentally, another member of the dog-called-Minnie club).  One of my blog readers told me excitedly that he only has 2 more events to attend before he’s done all the NI parkruns, and we waved to waggy pals Alfie and Dudley.

stormont glasses

We managed a quick Jog Lisburn group photo, though the champers bottle is a bit obscured.  I later learned that some of the other JL ladies did indeed come to Stormont, but on seeing the rain they didn’t get out of their car!  The turnout was huge, rain or no rain, and it was quite a sight to see the start line half way up the famous Prince of Wales Avenue.  I struggled a bit to get my Garmin reset in time, and Minnie was being a bit noisy, but once we were underway the run itself was fun, though VERY muddy!  I was tired and hungry, and even Minnie wasn’t attacking the hills with her usual gusto.  I felt my pace just draining away, and we crossed the line in just under 30 minutes.

stormont tartan

There were queues for the finish tokens to be given out, where it’s important to stay in order.  Once those were safely acquired though, there were shorter queues for the scanners, though with only 2 being used this was causing a backlog.  When the official results came out, it appeared that an even 500 runners had been processed.  I suspect there were actually more than this, but that the stopwatch and finish tokens had proved limiting factors.  Anyway, it was a record breaking attendance for a NI parkrun, and the atmosphere was very cheery and upbeat.

stormont scanning

6. 2 January Volunteer

My intention had been to finish the fortnight with a trip to Falls, hopefully to get a new PB. But a Facebook appeal for volunteers could not go unheeded, and I decided to do my duty and go along to Wallace, for their first run of the year.

wallace start line

New Years resolutions were clearly taking effect as there were over 20 newly registered runners that week, and on scanning duty I had to deal with more than a few people who hadn’t yet registered, or who hadn’t printed out their barcode. As well as another clump of runners whose barcodes were too soggy and wouldn’t scan.  I’d knitted some cosies to keep the scanners warm, as they don’t like cold or rainy conditions.

cracker high viz

Well, overall the Christmas and New Year runs were a lot of fun, but now I have to go and wash and iron my tartan sash, and re-attach it to my dancing dress!

NI parkruns: Colin Glen

12096337_10155294518448644_2551778764522742018_nHaving completed the set of NI parkruns, my plan is to get to the inaugural runs of any new ones that start up. However I missed run number 1 of Colin Glen, in south West Belfast, because it co-incided with my 100th parkrun. And there was no way I was doing that one at anything other than dear old Wallace! But I did make sure I was at Event Number 2, on a beautifully crisp clear October day.




Coming from Lisburn, it was a short hop on the M1, up Kennedy Way, turn left at the roundabout, and it’s under 2 miles up the road. I still managed to miss the actual car park entrance! There are 46 car park places, and a visitor centre with loos.20151017_091230

The big numbers had been there the week before for the first one, and my visit was on the day of the GR8 Dundrum run, a popular event which many of my Jog Lisburn stable mates were attending. So the turnout was under 50, but there was a fantastic bunch of enthusiastic marshals and volunteers, and the other runners I was chatting to beforehand were all very welcoming – Minnie was as usual the centre of attention, despite her barkiness!


The course is described as “challenging”, and I was a bit worried about the hills. It starts not far from the car park, and follows a good tarmac path on an undulating route through some beautiful trees, streams and bridges. Yes there are hills, but they’re fairly short, and there’s a bit of a downhill after each one to recover. At the lake, it’s 2 laps around, and then a more gentle downhill homeward stretch. The final funnel is back at the car-park.

Post run:

I’d made a T-shirt with a map of NI, and had sewn buttons at the location of each of the parkruns. I had fun choosing suitable buttons for some of the places – I particularly like the pineapple for the “Surfs Up” Portrush dudes. I had to use little beads for all the closely packed Belfast runs, and I’ll pick out a nice new bead for Colin Glen.


Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

Given all those hills, The Kooks and “Higher Ground” was certainly a suitable theme tune!



I wore my Asics trainers, with Twinskin socks, which I now swear by. Trousers with zippy-pocket for my phone, Garmin, cordless earphones and wrist-sweatband. My barcode is on a plastic wristband, and I wore my red 50 shirt as I need to get as much wear out of it as I can before my 100 one arrives! Cracker, my lucky squirrel mascot now comes to all parkruns with me.


I always check the age-category records before I visit, and I could see that it stood at 29.30. With Minnie’s help, I felt this ought to be within my capabilities, but it was no certainty! I had to break that time, and also hope that there wasn’t anyone else there in the same category running faster than me. As we set off, I did a bit of overtaking and slotting into a good space for Minnie to run ahead of me. She was loving the paths and trees, with the odd bird to chase, and she was very good at not being distracted by the occasional dog-walker. As we ran, I realised that there was a bunch of speedy blokes ahead of me – sometimes so far ahead that I couldn’t see them. And the odd glance behind told me that there was no-one hot on my heels either. It was quite weird to be feeling so isolated, but all the turns and junctions were well indicated with arrows or marshals, and there were also helpful markers at each km, so I never felt that I didn’t know the way. As we did the 2 laps of the lake, I could see the runners stretched out in front and behind, and I had an inkling that I was first lady. “Right Minnie”, I said “let’s maintain position!”


We were overtaken by a few runners in the final km, but they were all male. And I skipped across the finish line in 25.30, scooping the age category record, best overall position of 10, and was 3rd in terms of age-grading percentage! First Female! Never in my wildest dreams…(well, OK, in my most wishful thinkingest of moments I fantasised about this), but I never actually imagined that one day it would come true! And the really cool thing is that my name will be forever etched in the event history pages.

first finishes
I’ve held age-category records before – at Valley and Comber – but they’ve since been beaten.

cg age record

Minnie of course got a special reward, bought from Murphys Barkery at last week’s Waggy Races: I really couldn’t have done this without her.20151017_100506

And another thing….

In dancing news, this week of fabulous firsts also saw my daughter performing for the first time as a p’feshnull dancer.  I’m off to Manchester next week to see her – so you have 3 guesses as to the location of next week’s parkrun!

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: One of me pomes

It’s lovely having done all the NI runs: I can now review what times I ran them all in, pick the slowest and go back and snatch a PB! Managed to do that today at Victoria, looking glorious in the September sunshine. I even made specially parkrun-iced buns, which were much shared on social media.

Buns iced with the parkrun tree

Buns iced with the parkrun tree

Anyways, those of you who know me, know that I’m a bit of a poet. Doggerel stuff, mostly, also specialising in leaving-do limericks, commissions welcome. So here’s a parkrun pome.

The smartest move I ever made was learning how to run.

I used to do the odd 10k, but never had much fun.

But then the parkrun craze began, and so I went along

To trudge in trainer-shaped footsteps, most envious of the throng

Who clearly love their weekly free timed run – it’s not a race!

And as each 7 days went by, persistence improved pace.

I visited some far flung parks, from Larne to Armagh City

Carrick, Wallace, Comber, Falls, Victoria so pretty.

I’ve met with runners old and young, some pushing babes in buggies

Some run with friends, some run alone, some run beside their doggies.

I earned my 50 red T shirt, the 100th one is black

I fear I am addicted now, there is no going back!

Come rain or shine, the volunteers will don their high-viz vests

Greeting all the regulars, and welcoming the guests

Marshalling around the course, clapping, shouting, cheering

Encouraging the finishers as the end is nearing.

Across the line, the timer clicks, collect position token

Line up to get the barcode scanned – hope the machine’s not broken!

Conversation fills the air, over buns and tea:

The all important question – Did you manage a PB?

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NI parkruns: Derry City

While working my way around NI doing all the parkruns, some have been easier to get to than others. Living in Lisburn, I’m handy to the motorway, and so any of those in the Greater Belfast area are easily manageable. The final one on my list was my home town of Derry, and I got to run it at the end of a fabulous week which had included dancing in the Lyric theatre and walking the Gobbins path. So it truly was “legenderry”, to use one of the many names that this city calls itself.


I’d stayed the night before with my parents in Portstewart. There had been a band of heavy rain passing during the night, and it was still drizzly as I made my way over the River Bann and past Springwell forest. The view was certainly dramatic, with low grey cloud sitting on Binevenagh, but it seemed to be brightening to the West, with patches of blue sky. I have a special affection for bridges, and I always smile as I cross the new Foyle Bridge, a glorious high arch over the gently flowing river on its way to sea. This morning that smile was a gleeful giggle, in the knowledge that I’d soon be completing the set of NI parkruns (at time of writing…..).

I parked at Sainsburys (my Mum had been most impressed last night when I talked to my phone and said “OK Google, how do I get to Sainsbury’s Londonderry” and it produced a map and estimated travel time!) There’s plenty of space, and I was able to use the loos, and afterwards got a takeaway tea in the cafe.

Ach, sure Derry wans are lovely so they are! I’d sent a Facebook message that I was visiting this week, and was very warmly welcomed by the run director and volunteers, and my fellow runners were all really friendly and chatty. My new-style 50 T shirt was much admired – they’re still a rare sight!


The course starts by the marina, and follows a U-shaped out-and-back course. It goes along the quayside, across the Peace Bridge (another favourite structure of mine) curls around underneath it and up a slow climb to a turning point before the return leg. The surface is all excellent for running on, and the paths are wide enough that when runners are going in 2 directions it isn’t a problem. The main issue is the wind – being by the river acts as a funnel, so that the wind is either at your back, or you’re running into it. Or, on the bridge, it’s the crosswind you have to battle.

Post run:

I was rushing away afterwards as I had a lunch date in Belfast, so I’m not sure whether people hang around and go for coffee or not. I jogged back to Sainsbos with a few others, and got some post-run replenishment there.

The Peace Bridge during the Lumiere festival

The Peace Bridge during the Lumiere festival

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

Having been walking the Gobbins path on Islandmagee, way on the East coast yesterday, to running on the Western border today, I grinned when the opening of Flying Elvis began “From East to West and coast to coast”. I’d been at 14.55 at the turn point, so I knew I was going to have to dig deep for a sub-30, and the chorus of “Don’t give up..” spurred me on to a sprint finish.


I’d forgotten to pack my phone charger, so my phone was really struggling! I didn’t know if my customary “Where’s Wally?” selfie had actually posted to Facebook (it later transpired that I’d I posted it 4 times), and I didn’t have much battery power left to take many pictures. Thankfully, those Derry wans are wile handy with a camera, so they are, and I was able to grab some great pictures that they shared.

Without Minnie, and in the wind, I was happy with a sub-30, and a strong finish line sprint allowed me to record 29:06, which is one of my best non-canine assisted times. I know I’ll be back to this one, so hopefully I can knock off a second or 2 next time!

And another thing….

A number of people had asked me if I was the first person to run all the NI runs, and I didn’t know! On my journey home it struck me that if I went through the results pages of the newest run, Stormont, and had a look at anyone who’d done more than 21 runs, I could see which locations and events they’d done. It took me a while to check, and there are a LOT of runners who are pretty close. But only 3 names had all the 21 NI runs. And they were all male. So I have great delight in declaring myself the first female member of the “I’verunalltheparkrunsinnornirnsoIhave” club. We really need a badge, or T shirt, or membership of a special club with free champagne and chocolates, or something.
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List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: Stormont

It’s not often you get the chance to attend an inaugural parkrun event, so I was very happy to get the opportunity to go along to the beautiful Stormont estate for their first run.

I’ve worked in a couple of the buildings in this estate during my career, so I’m sort of familiar with some of the trails, though they do look a little different when you’re running with 200 others!

The first of the opening-day hiccups occurred when I arrived at the gates of the car-park by the Mo Mowlam playground, the car park suggested by the parkrun homepage, to find they were locked! No matter, the hotel across the road has a huge carpark, and I was easily able to get a space there, and get sorted with Minnie’s belt and gear. It’s a very busy road, so do use the pedestrian crossing lights to cross safely.

Yes, yes, Norn Irn is a very small place, and yes we do all know each other. This week I bumped into:

    an old colleague from my Forest Service days
    someone who’d seen me at Waterworks and is a fan of this ‘ere blog
    a fellow Waggy Racer in a Team Minnie vest
    a Weimaraner I’d met at Victoria


The course starts half-way up the very imposing Prince of Wales Avenue, and thankfully begins by going DOWN the hill. I’ve done a couple of 10ks and the like in this venue, which involved running UP the hill, and that is seriously tiring. The avenue is also nice and wide, so the start is very good for allowing the elite pack to get away without any hemming in. At the front gates, it’s a right turn to make a small loop on gravel paths through the trees.

There’s one short hill with a 90 degree turn at the top which could be tricky for buggies and wheelchairs, and as the loop finishes along the same path where it started, there’s a short section with runners going in 2 directions. Cross the Avenue, the course follows the good tarmac path along the side of the playground, and then turns on to gravel paths again round the back of the tennis courts.


Through some lovely wooded areas, and back onto the main Avenue. Repeat. The finish line is down by the main gate, and that final stretch is deceptive – I started into my sprint as I turned onto the avenue, and found myself thinking Where is that line???? Answer – it’s about 400m away!
I’m not sure why the pre-run brief took place at the finish line, entailing a 7 minute walk up to the start, maybe that will change.

Post run:

There’s no real shelter or access to kitchens here, so scanning just takes place outdoors. Could be an issue on cold and rainy days. Another first day hiccup was that there didn’t appear to be anyone on hand with a pen and paper to record the numbers of barcodes that weren’t scanning properly, leading to long queues. I’d been hoping for treats like a sweet (or a bacon buttie like Bangor had at their inaugural do!), but instead I had my chilled Starbucks latte and an apricot/ almond ball* in the car park while Minnie had a couple of bowls of water. Dogs don’t need any special carb-loading for running, but they DO need to be properly hydrated, so I always make sure I have lots of water bottles with me.

* Recipe: 100g dried apricots, 100g roasted almonds, zest of one lemon, pinch of sea salt, and a drizzle of agave nectar or honey. Blitz in a food processor, roll into walnut sized balls, keep in the fridge.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

I’m in training for a half-marathon in a couple of weeks, and a lot of running is in your head. One of my motivational tunes is Foo Fighters “Best of You”.


I’ve been having problems with my toes, specifically those right beside the big one, which seem to be getting squished and numb during long runs. I’ve found that compression socks exacerbate this problem so today I went for ankle socks. I’ve also been getting too warm on parkruns, so I chose the sleeveless Jog Lisburn top, and a skort, and was happy with that. I didn’t see a box for putting car-keys in, so I tucked mine inside my trusty sweat-wristband.

I always recommend taking it easy the first time you visit a new run – that way you can go back later and clip a few seconds off for a PB! That’s my excuse anyway – 28 something put me 2nd in my age-category.

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: Mid-Ulster Sports Arena (MUSA)

Altogether now: “The hills are alive with the sound of MUSA!”


I’d been putting off doing this parkrun. For a start, it’s 40 miles away. Just about doable on a Saturday morning, but it would mean an early start. For seconds, it’s a “no dogs allowed” course. Minnie takes about 3 minutes off my run times, so I like to have her by my side (OK, slightly ahead of me) whenever possible. But in August, with some rare warm weather, the journey was going to be pleasant enough, and M can get a bit overheated in these conditions, so it seemed like the right time. And as a bonus, I had tickets to see The Sound of Music in the Grand Opera House that afternoon, which allows me to make all sort of nasty puns.


Google kept me right as to the quickest route – situated on the outskirts of Cookstown, the venue is just about slap bang in the middle of Norn Irn (you’d guessed that from the name, hadn’t you?). There is plenty of car parking space, and loos are available in the main building.

Barcodes and scanners and marshalls with whistles,
Trainers and T-shirts and routes with no thistles,
Token position that makes my heart sing,
These are a few of my fave-parkrun things!

I was there just after 9, and a steady stream of cars made their way through the gate after me. They were a chatty bunch, my 50 T-shirt was admired, and the pre-run brief was upbeat and encouraging.

musa start

Do, a deer, a female deer

It was a lot tougher than I was expecting! I’d imagined it was a single lap around a trim trail, but it transpired to be 3 laps weaving in and around the buildings of the CAFRE agricultural college. That said, the paths were road-grade tarmac, wide enough to avoid any hemming or bottlenecking, and arrows on the ground kept the runners on the right route. There were some sharp turns, and a few testing hills, but I managed to get a sprint finish in the final strait. There was a caution sign for deer, and a windmill was close to the finish point, and it was easy to see it from around the route and use it as a spur on.


Post run:
Tea, a drink with jam and bread

Scanning takes place in a little portacabin down beside the main buildings. There’s tea, coffee, squash and biscuits, and chairs set around for runners to rest their weary limbs and enjoy the post-run banter.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:
Something Good

I do love the Utah Saints tune “Something Good”, which is nothing like the Sound of Music tune of the same name, and samples Kate Bush’s “Cloudbusting”. No clouds today, and I hummed along to “Oooooh I just know that something good is gonna happen”.


I am 16, going on 17

The course record stands at 15.56, but there was no danger of me beating any records today. I do always check the age-category table, especially for new or small parkruns, and while my run time of 29.22 didn’t quite make it into the Top Ten, it did put me at number 16 in my age category.


List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.