NI parkruns: Waterworks

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Waterworks parkrun, in North Belfast, was the first one in Norn Irn, and attracts around 200 runners every week, making it one of the province’s biggest. It has taken me a while in my parkrun career to visit it, only because for a long while there were ongoing works to the park, meaning they weren’t using their “official” course. And if anyone actually READS this blog with the intention of parkrun touristing, then I’d like to describe the route they’d be running!

Resevoir
On the morning I chose, I was very lucky to have my personal paparazzi in the shape of my husband with me, so you’ve him to thank for the many photos of MEEEEE that appear in this one.

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Access:

The park is located just off the Antrim Road. There’s pedestrian access beside the children’s play-park, but I didn’t see any car-park. So if arriving by car, find a safe place to park your vehicle on the road. There are basic loos in the shed/ hut beside where everyone gathers.

Crowd:

I was told to ask for Matt, who’s the brother of Wallace’s event director, and has done a staggering 31 different events, at the time of my run! He and his wife bade me a warm welcome, and I fell into an easy conversation with another runner who was admiring my shiny new red 50 shirt, and wanted to know about the sizing. There weren’t too many dogs or buggies running, but there’s every range of ability represented, and everyone is enthusiastically cheered over the finish line.

Start

Course:

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Lying in the shadow of Cavehill, and with views over Belfast, round a couple of duckponds full of swans, geese, and other waterfowl, this is a really attractive course. It’s on tarmac paths the whole way, there’s one sharp steep hill, but it’s over quickly, and you only have to do it twice!

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The start is quite narrow, especially with so many participants, so it helps to take it easy and adopt a rolling start approach. The path widens out as you pass what will be the finish zone, so there’s a good opportunity to overtake at that point. My biggest issue was trying to stop Minnie chasing all those birds!

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Gear:

Oh, I’m still enjoying showing off my new 50 Tshirt! There’s a special glance and nod exchanged between anyone wearing the Tribesports tops, we’ve waiting a loooong time for this moment, and we’re damn well going to enjoy it. My Adidas shoes with the yellow/white socks were a good combination, and my Garmin and music all worked perfickly.
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Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

I thought I was well on track to get round all 20 of the NI parkruns before I do my 100th. And now I hear there’s going to be another one starting at Stormont next month. Ah well, the more the merrier. As MJ reassured me, “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”.

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Time:

I was reasonably happy with 26 something. In position 102 I made it into the top half, though they’ve got a lot of fit 50 year old females in that part of town, and I was 4th in my age category! One of those was the 1st female, though, and I was more than content with being 14th female.

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: Larne (Carnfunnock)

This was a bit of an adventure.
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It didn’t start well – after being lovely and sunny all week, the day dawned with rain showers.

11659292_437022583165918_7657630461188008079_nOn the plus side, this meant I could take Minnie with me, as it has been too hot for running-with-dogs.
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Access:
I’d looked at the course description, and a yellow dot seemed to indicate the middle of the Country Park, so that’s where I went first. I found some loos, and could see various “run route” arrows about the place, but no actual runners. A boxer dog appeared and said hello to Minnie – its owner appeared, and as he was wearing a sporty top I asked him if he knew where the start of the parkrun was. He did, actually, and it was a mile back down the road, in a car park I’d passed 10 minutes ago! I’d even seen the parkrun banner on the fence. Doh! By now it was 9.18, and I was worried about making the start line on time. I pulled into the car-park and to my dismay there were no spaces left, apart from disabled ones which I refuse to use. I wound down my window and asked a passing runner if there was any other parking nearby, and she suggested either using the centre of the car-park, or the grass verge. I opted for the latter, as did a white car who pulled in beside me.
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Crowd:
It was a busy morning, as a local couch to 5k group were making their graduation run. Typical crowds are in the 60s, but today there were 92! My friends and fellow letsdoallthenornirnparkruns peeps, Claire and Caroline, had been here last week, and had given high praise to the volunteers, who were very helpful and cheery.
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Course:
The car park is at sea level. This can only mean one thing – lots of hills! I lost count of how many laps and twists we did, but there are plenty of arrows and marshalls about, and I was never in doubt about what way to go. The start is along a narrow path, and it’s easy to get hemmed in here, so if you want a fast start, make sure you’re near the front. The views of the sea through the trees are lovely (or would be on a less misty day!) and teh route also incorporates some challenging sharp turns, as well as passing the back of the toilet block. Twice. The finish stretch is back along the long straight narrow long path (did I mention it was long?), and there’s some good cheering and support at the final section. Scanning takes place inside the Sea Cadets Hall.
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Post run:
Wow, I’ve never seen as good a table of post-run goodies! Sandwiches, cake, buns, shortbread, biscuits…I suspect this was for the C25k grads, who had rather lovely T shirts and medals to be proud of. But it was very much appreciated – thank you!
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Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:
I’m a big fan of X-factor winner Matt Cardle, and he appeared on this morning’s playlist, singing “Run for your life…you’ll get there in time” which was the assurance I needed after going to the wrong start point.

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Time:
It was hilly, it was rainy, I wasn’t going flat out, so I was pretty content with a 27:27.
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And then what happened?:
After enjoying my tea and sandwich, while clapping a “well done”ing the later runners, I went back to my car. Which was blocked in by a burger van. I could see the driver was still in it, so I sorted Minnie out with some water, towelled her down and put her in teh boot before approaching him to ask if he could pull forward so that I could get out.
“You’re not supposed to park there.” he said. yes I know, I explained my circumstances, and that I didn’t want to take up a disabled space.
“I usually park there, but I was a bit late this morning..” Ermmm, you’re losing my goodwill here now – I’m not supposed to park in a not-legal spot, because YOU usually do?
“I’ve lost about 15 sales to bikers lookin’ for burgers!” Well, I’m sorry about that, but again YOU were late, I didn’t have my crystal ball with me to know that I was in your spot, I’m only a visitor here, and unlikely to return if that’s the attitude, frankly!

I do realise that Scrubs Grub is nothing to do with parkrun, but it did put me in bad form, so much so that I didn’t go back and get more pictures of the route, I just wanted to get home. This was a 70 mile round trip for me, after all.
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List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: Limavady

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On a visit to my parents in Portstewart, I decided to take in Norn Irn’s newest addition to the parkrun stable in Limavady. The weather forecast had been a bit unpromising, but the day dawned blue-skied and sunny, and as I drove through the Binevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, forests to the left of me, mountains to the right, and the sparkling waters of Lough Foyle with the hills of Inishowen ahead of me, I felt privileged to be able to run in some stunning locations.

Access:
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The runners and marshalls meet at Roe Valley Leisure Centre, where barcodes and coats can be left. And as I’m writing this I’ve just realised that I left my yellow jacket there! The run itself starts about 500m away in Backburn Path. After the run you have to walk back to the leisure centre for scanning – bit of a faff but it’s always good to have somewhere sheltered for the scanning, and the walk makes a good cool down. There’s plenty of parking, and clean toilets in the centre, and it is well signposted as you enter the town.

Crowd:
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I was there for the 7th event, so there were only about 50 runners. The marshals were very helpful and chatty, and the run director was able to welcome those of us on tour from other parts.
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Course:
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The course is 3 and a half laps around Backburn path. This is an elongated bowl shaped green park in the middle of the town, with lots of lovely trees and bushes. The paths are wide enough for runners to pass each other in opposite directions, which they need to do at some points, and the surface was flat and tarmac all the way. There are a couple of inclines, but they’re not too steep or too long.
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Gear:
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Having been waiting all day for the result to text through, I found a message on the Facebook page that the scanners hadn’t worked properly, and all the results would have to be input manually! Oh dear, a run director’s worst nightmare! And I left my yellow jacket behind…..

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Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

As this was my 20th different event, and I’ve been travelling around the country, the opening lines of Flying Elvis struck a chord:
“From East to West, and coast to coast, you move with the groove babe, you’re the most”
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Time:

Particularly for smaller newer parkruns, I’ll check the record in my age category. This one stood at 28.37, which I thought I could aim for. Sadly, that time elapsed on my Garmin as I was 200m short of the finish line, but a 29.09 time puts me second in that table.
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NI parkruns: Armagh

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Having experienced a rather moving partial eclipse, it seemed appropriate to visit the city which is home to Norn Irn’s world class planetarium. It’s known as the city of saints and scholars, in Ireland’s orchard county, and I have fond memories of visiting my father’s relatives here when I was a wee girl.

Access:

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It’s 33 miles form Lisburn, which took me about 40 minutes. The journey is really easy, most of it on motorways, and access to Palace Demesne is via a rather impressive gateway, and past a ruined friary. There’s plenty of car park spaces, and loos are available in the courtyard.

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Course:
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The start and finish points are very close, which means that keys and other valuables can be left in a biscuit tin. The route goes through a forested area first, doubles back on itself, then does a large loop round the grounds. And repeat. This entails a lot of different terrains – gravelly paths, twig-strewn woodland ways, tarmacked car park, and some rather steep hills. I found the doubling-back paths quite narrow, and had to keep Minnie on a very short lead to stay out of the way of runners coming the other direction. But the grounds are very beautiful, and I can imagine that with the changing seasons they look stunning.

Crowd:
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There’s usually just under 100 runners, which is a nice sized crowd. They were all very friendly, and some people recognised Minnie from other parkruns we’ve done. It attracts a good range of abilities, a lovely illustration of the inclusivity of parkruns.

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Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle

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On Super Saturday, with everything to be decided in the rugby later, I found myself humming along to “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.

Gear

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I was in my falling-down-trousers – I really must replace those. Maybe now that spring is here I should get some capri length trews. There were no kilometre markings, so I was relying on my Garmin for pacing and timing.

Time
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I was 12 something at the halfway turning point, and wasn’t too unhappy with a 26:33, which put me in 3rd place in my age category.

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: Wallace

20141025_101240Wallace Park in Lisburn is my home course.  My first ever parkrun was Wallace’s 2nd event, which I ran in a time of 34:31.  The following week I took my Weimaraner, Max, with me, as he is a super companion on my long runs.  However, drama-raners are very emotionally sensitive creatures, and all the adrenalin and hi-viz gear really unsettled Max, and he strained at the leash, howled and yelped the whole way round the course.  All that stress added a few extra seconds to my time.  It was only when I started bringing along my younger dog, Mini the cocker spaniel, that my times started to improve, and she has been my faithful companion for over 50 parkruns now.

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Access:

Wallace Park is near Lisburn city centre, and the back gate to the park is beside the railway station.  Car park spaces can be limited, especially if there’s a football match going on.  It’s a beautiful park with some stunning old trees, but the paths can sometimes be slippy especially in winter.

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Course:

Briefing and post-run chat takes place at the bandstand.  The course is one small inner lap, followed by 3 large outer laps.  These encompass the notorious car park hill, which is a real toughie the third time round. At the top of the hill there’s a nice flat stretch before reaching the duckpond, from where it’s a fast downhill section past the back gate and its little gate house, along the side of the railway embankment where there’s an ever so slight incline, and round the outside of the football pitch.  There is a metal start and finish sign, and wooden markers at each kilometre.

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Gear:

When I started out I had the dogs on an ordinary short lead, but one of my favourite bits of kit is the waistband hands-free leash.  Being able to use your arms is important for running well.  After cursing at MapMyRun on my phone too many times, I invested in a Garmin watch, and treated myself to some bluetooth cordless headphones.  But the best bits of kit are those which keep me warm on freezing cold days – light gloves, a headband, and my sweat/wristband which has a handy pocket for keys, money, poo-bag etc, and which I use to wipe either my nose or my sweaty brow, depending on the time of year!

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Strangely Appropriate Song:

Kate Bush’s “Keep Running Up That Hill” is one that makes me smile here, as does Daft Punk’s “Harder, Faster, Stronger”.  It has been consistently running Wallace that has made me a better runner, and I try to go faster and harder each time.

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Crowd:

There are regularly just over 100 runners, which is just a nice size of a group.  I’ve made some fantastic friends amongst the runners and volunteers, and there’s always some good banter over a cuppa afterwards.  And someone usually provides biscuits to celebrate 50 or 100 runs!

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Time:

My times have gradually got better.  This is the result of many factors, including losing some weight, persistence in going along each Saturday, doing other training during the week including core work. But sometimes a good run just happens.  One morning I wasn’t particularly prepared for a fast run, but I wanted to go along as I knew some friends from Waggy Races would be there, including Zola, their gorgeous Samoyed.  We set off – I tend to go off fast and out to the right, keeping out of the way of the front runners, until we can find a good space to slot into.  Zola overtook us, and Mini clicked into chase mode and kept up the pace.  Zola stopped to inspect something near the back gate and we raced ahead.  They overtook us again, and we tried to catch up.  This was repeated on each of the 3 laps, and made for a very exciting neck-and-neck, paw-and-paw race, and managed to cross the finish line in under 25 minutes, a fantastic PB (at time of writing…..), and an age graded percentage of over 70.

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And finally….

I’ve had many stand-out moments at Wallace, and was inspired by 2 groups who have run it as part of a tour of all the NI parkruns.  I’ve also been lucky enough to have my husband photograph some of the runs, so I was able to put together my favourite pictures into a video montage.

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.