200100 or 1,000km


Milestone T shirts are all very well, but there’s a heck of a gap between the black 100 shirt and the green 250 one.  Running at 50 parkruns each year is a big committment – I’m a pretty regular attender and even I only managed 40 in 2017.  So you’re looking at at least 3 years between 100 and 250.


So I decided to have a bit of fun with my 200th parkrun.  Firstly, I ensured that it coincided with my 100 time at Wallace, proving just what a serial tourist I am, as well as being a bit fanatic about mathematical symmetry and patterns.  This was not without a few sleepless nights in January, hoping that cancellations due to ice wouldn’t sotally scupper my plans.

I needed a shirt, so I got a strip of wide black ribbon, and used my trusty fabric paint to write a number 2 (stop sniggering at the back).  Someone aksed if it was done with toothpaste – believe me, if I thought that would be funnier I would do it!  I attached it over the 1 on my 100 shirt with safety pins.


For the cake, I know that fruit based offerings are usually popular, so I got a friend to bake me a large rectangular sponge, and I decorated it with cream and spelled out the 200 in raspberries,  and the 100 in blueberries, with black and green grapes for the border.  It looked well, but smaller raspberries would have been easier to work with, and it was a bit awkward to transport.


You know me, any excuse to dress up!  So I needed a suitable theme.  I went with the “Wallace as Braveheart” idea, and as I have plenty of tartan bits and bobs around, all I needed for this look was some blue face paint.  Shouting “Freedom” as I went round each corner was an easy way to keep in character, an bring a smile to many faces.


John, the RD gave me a great speech, and pointed out that in getting to 200 runs, I’d also volunteered 33 times, taking on almost every role….except one.  And would I like to be guest RD some day soon.


It was a bitterly cold day, so I really appreciated the support from friends and family who came along- to cousin David who ran with me on his first toruism venture, and his wife Karen who helped with the teas and cake.  To Liz and Emma, the Murphy twins, who ran at Wallace even though they have nightmares about “Heartbreak Hill”, and for the card and the afternoon tea afterwards. To Susan, who wore her old Wallace school tie.  And to my husband who helped trasnport the cake, and who was my usual faithful paprazzo.

At the end someone pointed out that was 1,000km.  Here’s to the next 1,000!


(Actually, I’ll only have to run 250km to the next milestone T shirt, estimating somewhere about April 2019…..)


All My parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list


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.



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.



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.



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!


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.



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!



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.


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.

Saving seconds, 5:36

I’ve been ParkRunning for most of this year now – did my 24th today, in fact! My Personal Best time (PB) had been 28:16, which I’d recorded back in June, when I was in serious training for the Lisburn half-marathon. But ever since then my times had got worse.


So in an attempt to stem this downward tide, I joined Jog Lisburn. These fabulous folk were following the Couch to 5K programme, as the vast majority of them were getting ready for their first ever 5k run. Training was 2 nights a week, rain or shine, and even on dark nights we found routes in Wallace Park which still had some illumination. That, coupled with ensuring I didn’t overdo the booze on a Friday night, brought about some improvement. And I knew I was fast last week, but it wasn’t until the official results were published that I discovered I’d only been ONE second off my PB. One miserable second!!!

This annoyed me. I started trying to work out how I could monitor my speed and pace while I was actually running.  Could I create a playlist that lasted 7 minutes per lap, maybe? I wasn’t keen on a watch type device – I already run with a dog which occupies one hand. So I explored what functionality there might be on MapMyRun. And I found Voice Feedback.

 photo 1
I set it to report every 0.25km, and tell me total time, average pace, average speed, and current pace. I tried it out walking the dogs, and again at Wednesday night’s training.  I was really keen to do well this week, as I’ll miss the next two Saturdays, and the one after that is scheduled to be the mass Jog Lisburn event.

photo 2

photo 3

I got a good night’s sleep (though I still get a real adrenalin rush of nerves before an important run), and had a superfood breakfast of Berry Bircher.  That’s overnight oats with flaxseed, goji berries, raspberries, strawberries, pomegranate seeds, cinnamon and manuka honey. Yummy carbohydrates!

The weather forecast had been ominous, with yellow warnings of rain and strong winds, but it turned out to be dry, cold, and just a bit breezy.  I had no excuses.

I did my warm-up lap, and my stretches, peeled off my outer jacket, wrapped my headband under the iPhone holder so it wouldn’t be slipping down my arm, selected my jogging playlist, waited for the whistle…..and pressed START.

I’d worried that the frequency of the voice-in-my-ear I’d chosen would be too much, but actually it was just about right.  It’s obviously relying on a GPS fix for distance and hence speed, so these aren’t error-free, but the elapsed time is bang on, and I knew I was aiming for a 6 minute first (short) lap, and 7 minutes for the 3 longer laps.  To acheive a new PB, I’d need an average pace of under 5:36.

I flung myself down the hills, remembered to keep my knees up, stretched my stride, glided in between each footfall, and didn’t fight the hills.  The marshalls, many of whom are fellow Jog Lisburners, cheered me on at every corner.  About half way through the last lap, I knew I was going to do it, and do it well.  Knowledge is power.  I sprinted up to the finish line and crossed it in 27:25.

One of the great things about ParkRun is all the statistics that it holds.  This brilliant PB moved me from #499 to #465 in the Best 500 Times table, and from 245 to 202 on the age graded table.  Best of all, I’m number one on the female points table!

You want to see the mile-wide smile on my face……..

10 down, 2 to go

This was the week of The Big One – the longest run in my training Plan. After this we’re into a taper period to ensure legs and feet are in tip top condition.

For my Tuesday run, I did my consecutive-dog trick again.  This means I can exercise both dogs, one after the other, and still get my requisite half an hour in.  The weather was glorious – almost too hot – and I think the dogs enjoyed it as much as I did.

I was planning another run on Thursday evening, but my stomach had reacted badly to something I’d eaten, and I spent the evening just curled on the sofa.  I felt very guilty about missing a run, but it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Saturday’s ParkRun was bathed in that elusive sunshine, but sadly I discovered as I was leaving the house that my iPod was flat.  So I had to run without music.  This would be a good test – does music help me run faster or not?  I found the sounds interesting as I ran – Mini’s wheezing as she galloped along beside me, my own odd 2 in-3 out breathing rhythm, the slap-slap of my trainers. But what I discovered was that the real benefit of music is that it drowns out the negative voice in your head – I was still battling with the urge to stop, give up, just quit.  I tried giving my brain something else to do, so I started composing rhymes for my fellow runners;

Girl in purple, girl in blue, How to catch them, what to do?

Two young lads all dressed in white, Look like they could run all night

Passed by bloke all clad in yellow, He’s a very speedy fellow!

And the result?  28:44.  So I didn’t beat last week’s PB of 28:16, but I wasn’t far off!  To me, a sub-30 run is still a good result.



So Sunday dawned, still sunny.  I wanted to get out early in the day before the heat built up, and I was aiming to run 12 miles.  This was the longest of the training runs, and it would be my lifetime longest run.  I’d carb-loaded with spelt pasta the night before, spelt toast for breakfast, and ensured I’d been to the bathroom before leaving.  No dogs, and in the clothes I was intending to run in.  I started off running to the leisure centre, where the race will begin.  I followed the 10k course, keeping the Sprucefield ariel in my sights.  I’ve loved the way my runs have always been in the shadow of this iconic landmark – when I lived abroad, and was flying home via Dublin, passing the Sprucefield mast was always a sign that I was nearly home.  My charged-up shuffle was in good form, and gave me the beautiful 100 years by Five For Fighting, which reminded me of my old room-mate Anne-Marie, and made me smile.


Running along Blaris Rd, I felt the need for a bathroom, so I took a small detour off my planned route to McDonalds to use the facilities.  Better that than trying to carry on for the rest of the run in discomfort.  A short sharp uphill section on Ravernet Road, to omit the race section on the dual carriageway, and I was back at Waterloo Road.  This is a bit of a slog, but I’ve run it 4 or 5 times now, and I know where the tricky hills are.  Some fabulous views, though!   From there, it’s a lovely long downhill stretch of Ballynahinch Road, and other small hill at Altona Industrial Estate, and from there I just ran home.  Just under 12 miles, in 2 hrs 18 mins.

My new KSwiss trainers are pretty good – I’ve had no shin splints since I changed to them.  But they have a velcro-like attraction to bits of gravel, so I had to stop now and then to hoke these out of my soles.  And I was glad I was dog-less – there were lots of bikes about, Max’s nemesis, and more than a few runners, no doubt like me doing their long run before the race.

When I got home, I found that my lovely husband had posted a link on Facebook to my Fundraising page.  I want to publicly say how much his support has meant to me – he’s never complained about the time I spend running, or how the dairy changes to accommodate my runs, and he’s always keen to hear about my pace, and concerned about my safety when I run.  Had a great week fundraising, and a huge thank-you to my Scottish Dancing class who donated over £100.  The grand total is now around £300.


9 down, 3 to go

Less than 3 weeks to go until the race!

I had my day off on Tuesday this week, but I had to take my car to the garage.  Since it was about 3 miles away, I chose to run home from the garage – part of that was the actual race route, which was handy.  It was a dry sunny morning, and my pacing was good.

On Thursday afternoon after work, the weather was glorious, and I linked 2 of my short routes together – started round the river, and then added on the Hillhall Road.  That was 7 km in 50 minutes.  As I was running through the bluebells, it occurred to me that I used to think when I was running “it’ll be good when it stops”.  Whereas I had such a smile on my face I was thinking “I’ll miss this when it stops!”.  The nice thing is – it doesn’t have to stop.

words 005

Saturday’s parkrun had a delayed start, as three articulated lorries arrived in the park, not having been informed of our run.  So a bit of maneuvering was required to get them parked up somewhere safe, and marshalls ensured that there were no forklifts or similar operating while the run was underway.  My own start was then slowed as I had to fiddle a bit with the pouch I wear to carry my phone etc, so I could have been quicker at that point.  But no matter – a new PB of 28:16, and an average pace of sub-9 minute miles.

Having run almost 10 miles on the three previous Sunday long runs, this week according to the training plan I was to run 6 miles.  Since there’s a 10k race being run at the same time as the half-marathon (in fact I ran that 10k a few years ago), I though that would be a good one to have a go at.  So off I set at 8 in the morning to run 10 k before breakfast.  I’m constantly amazed at what my body is capable of!  In fact, by the time I added on the distance from my house to the leisure centre where the race starts, the total distance was 8.6 miles, done in just over an hour and a half (but with a very annoying and hyper Max to wrestle with for the last few miles, after he’d been spooked by a bicycle)

Max when he's NOT being hyper

Max when he’s NOT being hyper

Still time to donate to the great cause I’m raising funds for!