parkrun tourism: Stranmillis

parkrun #242 event#58 Reason for visit: to regain regionnaire status!

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Stranmillis College is my Mum’s alma mater, and I know she reads these, so hi Mum!  She infamously contracted pleurisy while sliding down the Famous Hill on a dining room tray…

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Now I was tempted to attend the inaugural last week, as my mate Ronan was celebrating his 250th run.  But instead I chose to capture a missing Wilson Index number at Deerpark, Carlanstown , and I’m very glad I did! One of my fellow canicrossers turned up at Stran, to be informed that it is a “no dogs” course, cos Rules, which he was rather miffed about.  And I would have been also if I’d given up catching my WI9 and then discovered I couldn’t run with Minnie.  Anyhoo, I let them get their inugural out of the way, and atteneded event #2, which suited me to run without dog as I was heading off to a dance class afterwards.

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Access:

Runners are encouraged to park in the small car park at the roundabout.  This has around 80 spaces, though some of the parking leaves a lot to be desired.

One then trudges up the Famous Hill, past any amount of empty car-parking spaces which aren’t allowed to be used cos Rules.  There is a Metro bus stop close to the entrance, 8A or 8D from the city centre –   the 8.40 would get you there in plenty of time.

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Facilities:

The run starts and finishes behind the Orchard building.

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There are loos in here which are clean and warm, and I was able to leave my jacket under a table here too.  After the run coffee and buns are in the cafe across the way in Central Bulding, which is currently doing a special offer for parkrunners.

Course:

From the start it’s DOWN the Famous Hill, across the front of the big old redbrick building, and then up hill.  And then up hill some more.

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A short spur to a turnaround point, and then more hills and more buildings. It’s all on tarmac roads, look out for the speed bumps, and there were a few cars driving about as well (at what seemed to me to be in excess of the 5 or 10 mph speed limit indicated).  If you are running with headphones, make sure you keep aware of what’s happening around you.  Three laps, and you can then pat yourself on the back for completeing a “character-building” course.

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Crowd:

I got the feeling it was a youngish crowd – even though my time was a rubbish 37 mins (I walked up the hills quite a bit), I was still 2nd in my age category.  And the first female was an impressive junior with a time of 21 minutes.  I bumped into a few fellow tourists, regionnaire and Wilson chasers.  There were 118 people when I visited, and the wide paths made it not too bunchy or crowded.  I have to admit, it’ll not make the Top Ten list of prettiest parkruns.  But it’ll be popular with those completing their “I’verunalltheNornIrnparkrunssoIhave” collection, visiting students and professors, and those who live nearby.

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Gear:

My Garmin couldn’t find a signal at the start.  I was probably standing too close to big trees and tall buildings, and should’ve gone onto the playing pitch where some people were doing their warm ups.  My headphones thankfully worked, as running without music would’ve been testing, and they are bone conducting ones so I could still hear what was going on –  there was lots of encouragement from fellow runners.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

Since I was heading off to a dance class straight after, “Some Days You Gotta Dance” by The Dixie Chicks.

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Other thoughts:

My “elf’n’safety” meter was beeping loudly at the pre-run briefer standing on a plastic chair, the cars on the course, and a few extra marshalls would’ve been good, especially at the turnaround point, where the marker can get blown or kicked out of place, and also the surface there was a bit slippery and mucky.

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I thought I couldn’t see a tail walker, but photos and results seem to suggest that there was one, just not wearing the orange vest.  And I’m going to need a teeny tiny bead to mark the spot on my Tshirt!

List of All My Parkruns:

All my parkruns

parkrun tourism: Kirkcaldy

parkrun #226 event #56 Letter K

I go to Perth every year for the Scottish dancing society AGM. The Perth parkrun is lovely, by the banks of the Tay, and I’ve done it a couple of times now. It very handily takes place right beside the Bells Sports Arena, where the dancing happens. But I like to take the opportunity to visit other parkruns when I’m away for the weekend, and I’d managed to do Camperdown in Dundee 2 years ago. When looking at the possibilities this year I whooped with delight when I found that Kirkcaldy was in reaching distance, and would give me a letter K missing from my alphabeteer collection.

Access:
I was staying in close proximity to Perth train station, and bought a return ticket for £19. The journey took around 40 minutes. The walk to Beveridge Park was about 10 – 15 minutes. If I had run at super duper speed I might have made the 10.15 train back, but I didn’t, and had to wait for the 11ish one.  At which point I couldn’t find the return portion of my ticket, and had to buy another single at £14!

Crowd:
There were almost 250 runners when I was there, including a couch-to-5k graduation group. I was amused by some of the names of local running clubs such as Scrambled Legs, and the Kirkcaldy Wizards. There’s a Wizard’s Walk in the park which prompted that one.

The volunteers were very friendly and encouraging, and I particularly liked the Tail Wagger.

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Facilities:
I passed loos on the way to the start – there was a notice on the door saying a charge of 30p, but I was able to open the door without having to part with any cash.

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Not sure about car parking, and coffee afterwards is in the Morrisons. I wandered through the rather empty Postings shopping centre, and found a cafe for a bacon butty and cuppa. There’s a nice museum beside the station should you find yourself with some time to kill.

Gear:
For the first time in my life I ALMOST forgot my barcode! I was halfway from the hotel to the station when I remembered, and had to weigh up whether to sprint back and get it, appeal to the mercy of the RD, or find an internet cafe and print off a paper copy. Sprint it was, I wasn’t taking any chances on missing a K!

My Garmin watch gave up at 30 minutes, I was using plug-in headphones rather than bone-conducting ones, and I wore my increasingly out of date 50 shirt. It was a chilly morning so I also had a long sleeved base layer, gloves, and my cow beanie.

Course:

The course is 2 laps, all on tarmac.  There’s an added loop around the duckpond on the second lap, and a rather testing hill.

Start and finish are not in the same place, so there’s a bag system for leaving tops/ keys/ cow beanies which is transported to the finish line.  I was there just after Hallowe’en, and the colours of the trees were magnificent.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

I was taking a different approach this time, and listening to the marathon 2 hour long episode of With Me Now.  I’ve always found this annoying as a listen when I’m JUST sitting and listening, but I’ve now discovered that it makes the perfect soundtrack to a train ride, stroll, and parkrun.  And I did shed a wee tear at the end when PSH was chatting to Danny.

Time:

A ridiculously slow 37 minutes, due to stopping and photographing.  But who cares – letter K!

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All My parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

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

 

NI parkruns: Castlewellan

Run number 183, different event 44

Having missed the inaugural of this, NI’s latest addition, a few weeks ago, I was delighted to join them for event #5, and regain my “regionnaire” status #IverunallthenornirnparkrunssoIhave.

Access:

Castlewellan is a charming little town nestling in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is the Mournes.  There are decent roads from Belfast, but you’ll struggle to get here by public transport.  As it takes place in an actual Forest Service Park, there is an entrance fee of £5 per car.  But if you have time to spare, you could visit the arboretum, or find your way through the Peace Maze.

Many people choose to park outside in the town, and walk or jog the 1k to the start, by the lake.

Facilities:

There are well maintained and plentiful toilets,

and a gorgeous wee cafe with a log fire.

The start and finish are at different points, and there didn’t seem to be any organsied place to leave coats and bags.  I tied my backpack to a bench near the start.

Scanning takes place up in the courtyard, where water and protein bars were available.

The lake and park are well used by fishermen, kayakers, dog walkers and mountain bikers.

 

Course:

The course is one lap of the lake, with an additional spur to take the distance up to 5km.  It’s pretty flat with a really gentle hill on the spur, which is a nice gradient for running down again.  The path is narrow at the start, and can a bit congested, though runners are encouraged to start according to their expected finish time.

 

The surface can be a bit uneven, muddy and leaf-strewn, so grippy trail shoes are advised.

 

There are no km markers: the top of the lake is just over 2km, and the turn point on the spur is 2.75.  Don’t believe the marshall where the spur rejoins the lakeside path when he tells you it’s just one more km!

Crowd:

Though this event has just started, numbers have been around 200 every week. I got a shout out in the pre-run briefing!  It’s a part of the country with a strong running fraternity and sorority, and I could only manage 4th in my age category! Only cow cowl present.

Gear:

I was trying out my new Garmin 25, which is nice and light, but so far I can only get it to show me time and distance.  I must experiment and see if it will also show pace.  I was also trying out my new Philips ActionFit wireless headphones.  These are really light, and use a wee clippy magnet to secure them to clothing or bandana.  Even though they have an over ear hook, I find they slip out after a while, but my trusty headband kept them in situ.

I wore my foresty leggings, black 100 top, and Minnie had her matching “100 barkruns” shirt on.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

I’d been reminsicing about visits here when my children were young – my son even reminded me recently that we had all taken part in planting the Peace Maze here, back in 2001.  So it was a boost when one of my “Harry-songs” came on – Fireflies by Owl City.

Time:

Minnie was in great form, and we had an easy trot around in just over 28 minutes.

All my parkruns:

 

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

 

 

parkrun tourism: Ally Pally

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Event number 42 (for all you Hitchhiker fans), parkrun number number 180 (said in darts commentator voice) and putting the A in DANCER.

Access:

There’s plenty of parking in and around Alexandra Palace.  I walked from a lovely Air BnB nearby, and the W3 bus goes through the grounds.  There’s a nearby railway station, and the closest tube station is Wood Green.

Facilities:

There are loos in the ice rink and in the Phoenix cafe.  We enjoyed coffee and sausage rolls afterwards in the Palm Court bit of the main bulding, but there’s some refreshements available at the ice rink also.

Course:

It’s 2 big laps with a start and finish section.  Start and finish are in the same place, so you can leave bags and belongings there.  The terrain is very varied, from tarmac, to gravel, to grass, and a steep muddy incline!  Not the easiest, but the views over London are just spectacular.

Crowd:

I was impressed at the number of young people here – a confident young man effectively delivered the first timers briefing, there were lots of teenage marshalls giving cheering support along the way, and I was in awe of young Georgia in her white 10 shirt, sharing motivational chat with her Mum all the way round, and managing a brilliant sprint finish. I got chatting afterwards to a 250 shirter called Liberty, who was really friendly, and there was a warm welcome from the RD and team. Numbers are usually in the 200s.

Gear:

I always travel in my second best trainers, and these were a good choice for the sometimes slippery surface.  My Garmin worked OK, but its clippy lead has disintegrated.  My headphones worked for half the yodelling song from Eurovision 2016, but then refused to behave at all. I wore my apricot Wallace top.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

No headphones so no shuffle.  But my earworm was a country song called “What Ifs”, and I distracted myself by trying to remember all the lyrics.

Time:

Tough course, no Minnie, no music, and I stopped to take photos en route.  So 36 something. Bleurgh, it can only improve. I did manage my signature skip-change step over the finish line.

Sticky letter:

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I’ve been trying to get someone appropriate to stick each letter of DANCER as I run them, and what better than an actual p’feshnil dancer to do the honours!  Jemima also took plenty of great action photos for me.

And the rest….:

I was in town to see Evita, which my son is working on, and what a rare pleasure to have both my children in the same room!

And I finished my Saturday with a bit of dancing at the RSCDS London Branch dance, where it was lovely to catch up with old friends, and make some new ones.

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All my parkruns:

all the parkruns I’ve completed

 

 

 

parkrun tourism: Elusive Letter I at Inverness

Not that I take this parkrun tourism malarkay seriously or anything, you understand, but there’s an alphabet to be completed and I’m on a mission to conquer it!

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There’s no X at time of writing, and the nearest Z is in Poland.  Someone on the UK parkrun tourists Facebook page shared a link to a tracker, monitoring progress towards various targets, which includes an alphabet table, minus the X and Z.  I modified the tracker slightly by adding an admittedly amateurish outline of Ireland, and a COWELL countdown which will take me to 50 different events.  Oh and I colour coded it (well of course I did….)

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So.  Inverness.  I managed to be doing this one by dint of having a meeting in Edinburgh on the Monday, and travelling to Bonnie Scotland a few days early.  I’d never been in Inverness before, and I like nothing more than a new city to explore at my own pace.  I found Inverness to be utterly charming – the River Ness is big and fast flowing, and the various bridges crossing it each have their own, often wobbly, personalities.

IMG_1714It’s a small enough town to get your bearings quite quickly, and is heaving with kilt, shortbread and whisky purveyors. I was staying in an Air BnB close to the parkrun site, but even that was only a 20 minute walk from the city centre, along a glorious riverside and island hopping path.

Access:

I flew into Inverness airport, and a fairly regular bus service takes you to the city entre for £4.20 in 20 minutes.  The parkrun used to be in Bught Park, but its alternative (and probably permanent new) home is a few minutes away in Whin Park.  Easily reachable by car, and the number 2 bus passes close by as well. If you’re a tourist, the Hop On Hop Off Bus stops nearby too!

Facilities:

There’s a reasonably sized car park, and some decent loos, intriguingly financed by the delightful sounding Common Good Fund.

IMG_1712Coffee and post-run analysis talkes place in Cobbs cafe in the botanical park a few minutes away.

IMG_1739This is a really sweet cafe, but they do ask that runners remove their muddy shoes before entering.

IMG_1734  They do bacon and egg rolls, scones and snandwiches, but I was overawed by the selection of traybakes, opting eventually for a pistachio and cranberry slice.

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Course:

The Whin Park course starts at the playpark, and uses the duck pond as a gravitational focal point.

One lap of it, and then onto 3 larger laps, passing the plastic hippos 3 times.

IMG_1726It’s by the river, so it’s a fairly flat course, but can get a bit mucky.

Most of the pathway is gravel or trail or grass (or puddle) , so trail shoes are a good idea. Start and finish are in the same area, so you can find a tree or picnic table or bit of helter-skelter to leave your coat and keys at.

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Crowd:

Average attendance is a nice manageable 150 – there can be a bit of overtaking round the duckpond, but there’s no big bottleneck problems. I found the regulars really welcoming and chatty, and was quickly laughing and comparing stories with a few of them.  Billy was lovely – a pretty speedy guy, he shared the profound thought that some runners find it hard to just run, and not compete.

IMG_1732 I’ve never had this problem, I must admit, but we both agreed that the success of parkrun was dependent on it being a run, not a race.

Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

The parkrun weather fairy was having a bit of a lie-in, I think, and it was decidedly dreich as we set off, although the rain did stop after a while.  But yeah, the Dave Mathews band intoning

“These fickle fuddled words confuse me
Like will it rain today”

brought a wry smile to my face.  And then a softer heart-tugging moment when “Calum’s Road” came on, geographically apt, and I’d also been dancing to it the night before thanks to Nicol McLaren’s Band at the Dingwall Rally in Culbokie.

Gear:

Oh, my Garmin really is starting to worry me! You think you’ve located satellites, and then when lined up at the start it loses contact! My 150 shirt and tartan leggings were commented on,and I was using my arm pouch instead of my waist belt for my phone.

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Time:

Nope, my times are not getting any better at all, and I sauntered in around 34 minutes.  This is close to my first ever parkrun time, which makes me wonder if I’m getting any better at running at all.  But I try not to focus on those negative views.  I’m running every week.  And meeting new people.

 

IMG_1730And setting myself targets that I can acheive, and get excited about.

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And The Rest:

I adored Inverness, and I hope to revisit again soon.  There were lots of lovely eating places to chose from, many with menus offering 2 courses for £9.95, or even 3 courses for a tenner!

The scenery was stunning, and I took a trip on LochNess and to Urquart Castle.  And I even managed an evening’s Scottish Country Dancing with some more hospitable and charming locals. We danced till midnight, and when we left the hall it was still light outside…

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parkrun tails: Minnie earns her cow

IMG_1516The Facebook group UK parkrun tourists is for those seriously serial and widely travelled runners who have been to more than 20 different events.  At that point, your name appears on the “Most Events” table, and as an unofficial means of recognising each other on our many jaunts, the cow cowl is worn a visible symbol of this acheivement.

I knew Minnie had been to many of the Norn Irn parkruns with me, but it wasn’t till I actually sat down and counted, that I realised she’d been at 19!  MUSA is a no-dog event, and the distant runs at Enniskillen, Limavady, Derry and Portrush were ones I had done on various weekends away, without her.  But she’s pretty well behaved on long journies, and has been to fairly faraway runs in Omagh and Rostrevor.

I’ve long wanted to take her with me to Portrush.  We’ve done the Waggy Races twice now over the same distance on the next beach along the stunning north coast, in Portstewart, where rather conveniently my parents live. So having checked the all important tide times, I plumped for 22 April as the chosen date.

The morning dawned cloudy but dry, which to be honest is perfect running conditions.  We left at a quarter to 8 and were pulling into the car park at 9.  I’d had a bit of a niggle with my back since my last Sunday long run, but Deep Heat seemed to be working its miracles, and I didn’t feel any problems when running.  Mum and Dad were there to see me off, and Cracker posted his customary Saturday morning status update as “Cracker says: Oh Minnie you’re so fine, you’ve parkrun at 20 sites, Hey Minnie! Hey Minnie!”

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I chatted to a few other tourists who’d got talking to my cow cowl, and some fellow Wallace folk.  There were just under 200 runners, but even starting at the back, with a wide stretch of sand it’s easy enough to weave through, and we soon found a good spot where we weren’t in anyone’s way, and Minnie could really stretch her legs.

Portrush is a tough course, even with light winds and low tide.  Yes it’s dead flat, but you need a certain level of determination to keep on going on an out and back course, and that finish line seems like it never gets any closer!

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But I knew all my previous run times here had been in the 30s, so I was reasonably confident of a PB. And indeed I crossed the line in 26:26, my best time in quite a while.  But of course I couldn’t have done it without my best running companion.

Thank you Minnine, and well done!

minnies 100th 011

100 barkruns!

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Matching 100s

 

city park christmas day

Citypark

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Wallace

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Our first run at Wallace