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!”


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!


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!

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100 barkruns!


Matching 100s


city park christmas day





Our first run at Wallace

NI Parkruns: Portrush

The parkrun at Portrush, on NI’s north coast, is surely one of the most stunningly beautiful courses anywhere.  It’s also one of the toughest.portrush parkrun 007

The run starts at 9:30, on the East Strand.  Travelling from Belfast, I like to approach Portrush along the coast road, past the white rocks beach, the Skerries sitting out on the sparkling grey waves, past what I still refer to as Kelly’s nightclub, and the Royal Portrush Golf Club, two very different sorts of entertainment venue facing each other across the road.  There is ample car-parking at the start of the course, with a good vantage point for any non-running observers to watch.

The course is an out-an-back one, run mostly on the sand.  Running on hard sand is very pleasant, but you have to cross a patch of soft sand in order to get there.  Even worse, you have to re-cross the soft sand on your return leg, at which stage your muscles are aching.  In the winter, when the wind is howling and the tide is high, sometimes even the hard sand peters out, and your choice is to clamber over rocks, or get your feet wet.  It’s certainly a character bulding experience!

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 I’ve run this course twice, once in May, and once in January, during a really unpleasant spell of weather.  I’d taken my rain jacket off while running, and the rain soaked my T shirt, causing it to stick to my skin.  Not pleasant.  In the colder months, gloves and a buff or headband are highly recommended.

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The turnout varies depending on the time of year.  During the balmy July holidays it can attract over 100, while in the winter the hardy regulars number around 50.  Many of them are very keen sporty types, who can often be found hanging 10 on their surf boards, over on Portrush’s other beach, the West Strand.  There’s a warm welcome to visitors, and as a tourist destination, these are in regular supply over the summer months.  My first run there had been on May 4th, Star Wars day, and there was someone in full Darth Vader get-up to celebrate.  That had also been my nephew’s first parkrun, which he managed in a very creditable 25 minutes, inspiring him to run the Belfast Marathon the following year.


Strangely Appropriate Song on my Shuffle:
 I was hearing the strains of Vangelis and “Chariots of Fire” recreating that moment where the Olympic hopefuls are training on the beach.  But this is definitely one for Daft Punk’s “Harder, Faster, Stronger”.

portrush parkrun 008

Time:  You’re unlikely to get a PB here, even though it’s flat.  When I first ran it in May, I was still trying to break the 30 minute barrier.  And I failed.  When I ran it again, 6 months later, regularly sub-30-ing, I though I could at least better my previous time.  And didn’t even manage that, having lost valuable seconds scrambling over the rocks.

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.