At the time of writing, Valley is the newest addition to the NI parkrun family, and I joined them on a clear crisp November morning for their 16th event.
The Valley leisure centre was always known to my little darlings as “the froggy pool” after one of the water slides in the swimming pool. It sits under the towering mass of Cavehill, and has lovely views down to Belfast Lough and the shipyard cranes. It’s very easy to find, near the Abbeycentre, and there’s plenty of parking. The start of the run is behind the main building, and signs point the way. There are toilets in the main building as well as in the smaller centre at the back, where the final scanning is done. Fancy that, being able to scan in the warm and dry!
The course is 2 laps (always nice, you know when you’re halfway there). It’s on a slope (the clue’s in the name), but not a very pronounced one. It’s on gravel paths all the way round, though they are included to get muddy and puddley. But the scenery is lovely, and there’s a pretty duck pond to skip round.
I discovered when I tried to put my car keys in the zippy pocket of my long sleeved shirt, that I’d put it on inside out! Oh, well, that’s lucky isn’t it? I was a little slow pressing go on my Garmin, but all my other equipment was faultless.
Strangely appropriate song
The playlist I was using was one called “Scotland” rather than my specific “jogging” one, and as my feet flew over those puddles, I almost felt I was flying to “Lift Me Up”, by a Luxembourgian group, ODC. But my biggest smile came when I was finished and driving off in my car to the strains of Jupiter, the bringer of Joy.
There were 60 runners that day. I like these smaller crowds, it’s easier to find some uncluttered space to run with Mini on her hands-free leash, and people seem to be a bit chattier and friendlier. And there was a lovely treat of a box of gummy sweeties at the end – I do think I should ask Haribo to sponsor me!
The all important time. I’d been very good all week – I’d had a long run, a hill training session, and a speed run. I’d worked on my core by doing 2 lots of 20 push ups and squats every day, as well as some hula-hooping. I hadn’t had any alcohol on the Friday night, and I’d had a light breakfast of Greek yoghurt and buckwheat muesli. Did this all work? You betcha! I romped home as 3rd lady (best gender position), in position 24 (best actual position), at an age grading of 69.20% (best ever), and a PB time of 25:10. Valley has pacers, which I’ve never seen before at a parkrun, and I want to say thank you to the 25 minute runner, whose heels I was clipping on the final 100m. A great morning.