NI parkruns: Valley

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.20141122_100229

5:2 recipes – Quick Quorn Supper

Frozen quorn fillets are a must-have in the 5:2 faster’s freezer – 45 calories each, and ready in minutes, they are packed with protein, low calorie and low carb.

I made this hearty bowl of broth with 2 fillets, which I simmered in a vegetable stock cube for added flavour.  Added about 6 stems of broccoli and 6 chestnut mushrroms, cut into chunks.  These are so low in calories that you don’t need to be too precise about the amounts.  Just before the 12 minute simmering time was up, I added in 2 fillets of anchovy for an extra kick.  But you could omit this for a vegetarian version.  I cut the quorn into bite sized pieces before serving.


In total, the calories were around 150.  You could reduce them further by just using one fillet.

parkruns: Perth (that’s Scotland, not Australia)

20141108_083501There’s an old joke that goes – what’s the smallest city in Scotland? Perth, because it’s found between 2 inches.


The North Inch and South Inch are peninsulas or spits of land into the River Tay, which flows quite briskly here, and Perth retains many fine features befitting its long ancestry, including beautiful old churches, fine bridges, and tiny entries called Vennels.


I was in town for a Scottish Dancing do.  I was here last year, too, but the Perth parkrun hadn’t yet started – in fact at my visit they were full of enthusiasm for their upcoming first birthday.



To my great delight, the parkrun starts right beside Bells Sport Centre, where my dancing actvities were taking place, and I booked myself into Perth (if not Sccotland)’s oldest hotel, The Salutation, an easy 5 minute walk away.  There’s plenty of parking in and around the Centre, and toilets and showers are available there too.



There had been heavy rain during the week, and though Saturday dawned bright and crisp, the Perth parkrun Facebook page was warning of flooded parts of the route, due to the Tay bursting its banks.  During the new runners briefing, the marshall explained that we would be re-routed onto some slippery grass sloping sections, and that yes, a lot of the course was very muddy – trail shoes recommended.  Trail shoes I have none.  I usually travel in my second best trainers, the green/purple KSwiss which are slightly sturdier and heavier, but I’d done a quick de-pooping of the back garden before I left, and managed to stand in a hidden dog-poo.  So instead I’d brought my bestest trainers, the Brooks Ravenna that were my Sweatshop prize.  They’ve quite a lot of mesh, and I wouldn’t normally choose to wear them in mucky conditions, but they were all I had.  The route is just beautiful, hugging the banks of the river with its gorgeous trees and glimpses of wildlife.



I’d underestimated the cold – meant to pack a long sleeved top to wear under my JogLisburn tee, but forgot.  Luckliy enough I’d brought a lightweight Craghoppers cardi in white cotton, and wore that as a base layer.  And of course it got covered in mucky paw prints when I said hello to a lovely Vizla, making her parkrun debut…


Strangely Appropriate Song:

Given the over-flowing river, I’ll say that The Bellamy Brothers “Let Your Love Flow” was the right song for the moment.



I was one of half a dozen tourists – I guess Perth is a city that has more than a few visitors.  I particularly loved the marshalls with their big foam hands.  The start and finish are at the same point, so many runners leave their outer layers decorating a nearby tree.



Ach, it wasn’t great.  Since it was more Tough Mudder than parkrun at times, I wasn’t expecting anywhere near a PB, and at 29.54 it was a few seconds faster than last week!  But part of me is disappointed that I don’t seem to be making much progress.


parkruns: Crane Park, Feltham

20141101_083050While I am working my way through the Norn Irn parkruns (8/19 at time of writing), I do try to visit others in the vicinity of where I travel.  I happened to be in London one weekend, and had a go at Crane Park, Feltham.



My best friend lives in Feltham, and is my usual lodgings any time I visit the big smoke.  So I was truly delighted to find that this run was quite literally round the corner from her – a leisurely 10 minute jog took me to the starting point beside the children’s play area.



Crane Park is a long thin patch of green around a stream.  The course is 1 1/2 laps of this rectangle, with the 2 short sides run on public footpaths.  It is very pretty, taking in an old shot tower.  And there’s plenty of wildlife around including the obligatory ducks, and a couple of squirrels.  The paths are a bit lumpy and narrow, but there are no hills to worry about.



The turnout when I visited was 117, which seems about average.  They’re a speedy bunch, and they seemed to zoom through a pre-run brief, and didn’t hang around much afterwards.  What threw me a bit was the 9 am start – it’s 9.30 in Norn Irn and Scotland!


Strangley Appropriate Song:

I was in town to attend my daughter’s debut at Saddlers Wells, so “Keep On Movin’” by Five made me grin.



I’m familiar now with my cordless earphones and Garmin watch, and they all performed well.  Had a bit of a panic when I got home and couldn’t find them, but they were safely tucked inside my toilet bag.  Phew!  I also got an email telling me that my red 50 Tshirt is still stuck in production limbo. Shame, I’d love to show it off on my parkrun tourism jaunts.



I was disappointed with my 29:57.  I know I run much faster with canine-assist, and realistically, this is my first sub-30 without Mini helping me along.  But it was more than 3 minutes slower than last week, I was 97th, and 5th in my age category!  Oh well, parkrun is clearly doing wonders for the fitness levels of 50 year-old women in West London…


NI parkruns: Ormeau


My lovely Jog Lisburn crew like to do a bit of parkrun tourism now and again, and so we had chosen Ormeau, Belfast for our next assault.  We’re quite choosy – we like flatish courses, with not too many laps, and we do like a good bun afterwards.


It was Autumn when we visited, and so early in the morn, the shadows are long, and the sun low in the sky.


Access: Ormeau Park lies between the Ormeau and Ravenhill Roads, and it is definitely the Ravenhill end that you want to be aiming for.  There is an indoor tennis arena and football pitches onsite, and as I arrived a marshall ascertained that I was a parkrunner, and directed me to  dedicated gravel parking area.  Loos are available in the Ozone/ tennis centre.


Course: I loved the course.  It is basically 2 laps, although the second one incorporates an extra detour through the trees.  The signs for the start and finish, each km marking, and at each fork, are on wooden posts, and there are also plenty of marhsalls making sure no-one takes the wrong path.  There are lots of pretty features to look at en route, and to remind you that you’re in East Belfast, the Harland and Wolff cranes are visible at certain angles.


20140920_08595420140920_090325Gear: MapMyRun wasn’t playing ball with me, so I had No Idea how fast I was going.  It seemed quick – I was trialling my new Trixie belt for runningwithyourdog.  This has a stiff bungee cord to stop the dog catapulting you dangerously, and a grab handle to grasp if the dog sees a bird/ squirrel/ bicycle that they’d rather chase.  I was a bit worried that the lead was longer than my usual one, and I would die of embarassment if we impeded another runner, but it was fine.  We started at the back, I shot past the tail end of the pack on the grass to the side, and we soon found a wide space that I could let go of the grab loop, and let Mini pull me along. It has a little pouch for treats, poo bags and keys etc, which I found was best to position at my back.  We have a canicross event coming up soon, and I’m looking forward to using the belt in its intended context in the very lovely Tollymore Forest for the Waggy Races.20140920_09043120140920_090609


Strangely Appropriate Song:  Ormeau is another park that I am familiar with from days gone by – we used to live a stones throw away in Roseberry Road.  My teeny tiny children loved to play on the swings and slides, and when they were older on the BMX track, and my son had a teddy bears picnic birthday do here.  It was he who introduced me to Paramore, and as I’m working hard on my crap finish, it was “You go out in style” that made me smile.20140920_090139


Crowd:  I found it hard to hear the briefing at the start, but we got the usual types trying to befriend Mini (hint: don’t approach her, she’ll bark; come and talk to me, and she’ll come and say hello in her own time).  I did get chatting before hand to an English parkrun tourist, which was nice, and she took some photos for me.  They’re a young and fast group!


Time: My previous 4 parkruns had been in the 28s, so I was really hoping for a 27 something, and a sub-100 position.  MapMyRun being unhelpful,  I had to analyse what info was available to me: I felt it was fast, especially with the bungee lead.  I had finished, scanned, returned to my car, drunk my chocolate milk, Mini had had her bowl of water, and I was pulling out of the car park by 5 past 10.  But I’d been position 120! The text results were slow coming through, but late in the afternoon I learned that I’d achieved a time of 27:51, and was 4th in my age category.  4th!!!!!  An analysis of the results poured salt into that wound when I discovered that 2 out of those 4 were less than 10 seconds ahead of me.  But I always defer to my own scale; Under 30- good. Under 29 – great. Under 28 – brilliant. Under 27 – fabulous. Under 26 – standing ovation.


Post-run: Sadly, I had to run and, errrr, run, as I was heading for the birthday luncheon of my godfather and 70 year old uncle in BallyGally Castle.  And I’m not sure any of my co-runners stayed for post run socialising either.  Maybe we should go back and see whatb the buns are like.  I mean, I have  an age category target to conquer!

NI parkruns: Bangor

I attended the inaugural parkrun in Bangor’s Ward Park, which took place in March 2014.  It was the first time I’d ever been at an inaugural do, an event so auspicious that even the mayor attended, and was imortalised by the cartoonist in the local paper.  Aside from the mayor and me, there were over 200 other attendees, easily the biggest event I’ve experienced.  There were very welcome bacon butties at the finish, though I haven’t been back to see if this happens every week.


Access: Ward Park is on the far side of Bangor when coming from the Belfast direction, and can be approached either via the ring road or through the town.  There is ample parking, and loos are available by the bowling pavilion.
Course:  I have to be honest, I didn’t like the course.  It has a number of tight turns, doubles back on itslef, and the paths are at times quite narrow.  I found myself hemmed in on a number of occasions, and I nearly cannoned into the back of a runner in front of me who stopped dead after having rounded one of the sharp bends.  The path runs alongside a small canal, where there is no guard rail.  Mini decided she was running a triathlon, and promptly jumped in!
Gear: After the unscheduled swim, I make sure that I always carry a towel with me.
Time:  Despite Mini’s dip in the water, I managed a respectable 27:27, in lucky position 100.
Oddly appropriate song: Snow Patrol – Take Back the City.  The last time I’d visited Ward Park it had been to see these local boys turned superstars perform an open air concert.
Atmosphere: It was certainly interesting to experience a First event – the hoopla and press attention, the huge crowds, and did I mention the bacon butties?

5:2 recipes – Chilli Crab Noodles

I find shiritake noodles an absolute saviour on fast days.  They divide opinion, some people find the texture just too rubbery, and they come packaged in an odd smelling liquid which has to be rinsed off first.  If you can find the ones with some added tofu (try an Asian grocery), they have a better texture and flavour, for marginally more calories.  They are sometimes known as konjac noodles.


Tinned seafood is another of my go-to foods when surviving on less than 500 calories. It has the added advantage of being high in protein, as well as darn tasty.  I have a 1 to 10 rule of thumb on protein foods – 10g protein for 100 calories is good going.  Crab packs in twice that rate, with a 100g of crab giving 12g protein for only 60 calories.


I decided to combine the 2 in a stir fry dish.  First I dry-fried the noodles, and then added pak-choi and chestnut mushrooms. For flavour, I added a cube each of frozen chilli and ginger, a squeeze of garlic paste, the juice of half a lime and a good slug of light soy sauce.


The result was a very flavoursome LARGE bowl of food for 150 cals, 10g carbs and 15g protein.



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