NI parkruns: Limavady

On a visit to my parents in Portstewart, I decided to take in Norn Irn’s newest addition to the parkrun stable in Limavady. The weather forecast had been a bit unpromising, but the day dawned blue-skied and sunny, and as I drove through the Binevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, forests to the left of me, mountains to the right, and the sparkling waters of Lough Foyle with the hills of Inishowen ahead of me, I felt privileged to be able to run in some stunning locations.

The runners and marshalls meet at Roe Valley Leisure Centre, where barcodes and coats can be left. And as I’m writing this I’ve just realised that I left my yellow jacket there! The run itself starts about 500m away in Backburn Path. After the run you have to walk back to the leisure centre for scanning – bit of a faff but it’s always good to have somewhere sheltered for the scanning, and the walk makes a good cool down. There’s plenty of parking, and clean toilets in the centre, and it is well signposted as you enter the town.

I was there for the 7th event, so there were only about 50 runners. The marshals were very helpful and chatty, and the run director was able to welcome those of us on tour from other parts.

The course is 3 and a half laps around Backburn path. This is an elongated bowl shaped green park in the middle of the town, with lots of lovely trees and bushes. The paths are wide enough for runners to pass each other in opposite directions, which they need to do at some points, and the surface was flat and tarmac all the way. There are a couple of inclines, but they’re not too steep or too long.

Having been waiting all day for the result to text through, I found a message on the Facebook page that the scanners hadn’t worked properly, and all the results would have to be input manually! Oh dear, a run director’s worst nightmare! And I left my yellow jacket behind…..

Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

As this was my 20th different event, and I’ve been travelling around the country, the opening lines of Flying Elvis struck a chord:
“From East to West, and coast to coast, you move with the groove babe, you’re the most”


Particularly for smaller newer parkruns, I’ll check the record in my age category. This one stood at 28.37, which I thought I could aim for. Sadly, that time elapsed on my Garmin as I was 200m short of the finish line, but a 29.09 time puts me second in that table.
List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.11206056_1603534649913247_2152407721094904051_n

NI parkruns: Enniskillen

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Look out, more dancing has occurred! I was in the lovely town of Enniskillen, in the heart of Fermanagh’s lakeland county, for a weekend of Scottish Country Dancing. And I couldn’t pass by the opportunity of doing the Enniskillen parkrun, even if it DID mean missing the first of the Saturday morning classes (cue much tutting in the breakfast room…)
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The run is held in the grounds of Castle Coole, a National Trust property consisting of a very impressive white stone villa, set in acres of rolling countryside including a lake. Castle Coole is on the Belfast side of town, and there’s plenty of parking by the stables, which also house the very clean and gratifyingly warm loos. For I was cold. Very cold. Despite it being May by the calendar, there was a chilly breeze and a steady mizzle, which was not pleasant. However, the woodland grounds were awash with primroses, bluebells, and some plants I haven’t seen in a long while.
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I was early, as usual, and was approached by a young female runner who wanted to check that this was where the parkrun was happening! Most people arrived about 9.20. There were a couple of lovely doggies running, and I got chatting to a gorgeous biscuit coloured ball of fur named Harry (he ‘s even registered as Harry the dog!) It turned out the the father of Harry’s owner was the former principal of the school where our dance weekend was taking place – what a co-incidence! There were a few people either visiting the area (it IS one of Norn Irn’s most popular tourist destinations, with good reason), or had family here and were “home” for the weekend.
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Starting by the stables, the course runs in front of the big white house (how can I run with distracting views like this!),
2015-05-02 08.58.07 through a wooded section, onto the main avenue, down to a turning point, back up the avenue, round the lake, and home to the finish line at the stables. There’s a bit of an incline at the start to get to the house, and the return section of the avenue was one long slow climb, but other than that there are no hill problems. The surface was all either gravel or tarmac, and I don’t think they’d prove an issue for visually impaired or buggy-pushers.
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In the stableyard is an old Belmore Omnibus – and we were staying in the Belmore Court Motel (highly recommended if you’re ever visiting this part of the world – a warm welcome, great value accommodation and well situated)
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I was a bit foxed after the run, as the exit isn’t through the same gate as the entrance, and there were no signs to indicate which was the way back into town.


I was debating whether or not to ditch my yellow rain jacket, but since my run time wasn’t going to be anything special I decided to stay warm-ish and dry and keep it on. The Garmin took a while to locate satellites, and I couldn’t believe my husband tried to ring me at 25 past 9 on a Saturday! There was only one scanner on duty, which caused a bit of a bottle neck.
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Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

John and Ruby Wilkinson were our special guests at the dancing weekend, so the appropriate song was “Ruby Ruby Ruby” by Kaiser Chiefs.

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Well, I’m always happy with a sub-30 time, and 29:08 was faster than my last non-canine-assisted run, so I’ll have to be content with that. It did tick 3 of my current targets – counting towards 20 different events, visiting all the Norn Irn venues, and taking me one step closer to my 100 T shirt.
List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI (and other) parkruns: Crystal Palace

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“Now just a minute”, I hear you say, “This ‘ere blog is called Dancing At Lunacy, right?  Well, there’s plenty of lunacy, most of it the youdonthavetobemadtobearunnerbutithelps, variety, but where’s all the dancing, eh? Eh?”

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Fear not, gentle reader, for this weekend there was the most wonderful, moving, and memorable dancing, courtesy of my fabulous daughter and others at The Place, celebrating choreography giant Robert Cohan’s 90th birthday.  Jemima was in a piece called “Sometimes, even now”, choreographed by James Cousins, a Matthew Bourne protege.  I was sitting next to some current Bourne guys, and we all watched in admiration as she climbed, fell, turned, span, leaped and – forgive me – emotionally connected with her audience. Times critic Donald Hutera tweeted “Jemima Brown – most watchable centrepeice of James Cousins people”.  Wow.

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Anyhoo, post show drinkies over, I was hustled into a  taxi to her flat in Crystal Palace while their celebrating continued – I did have a bit of a disturbed night’s sleep when they returned at 3 am, but had set my alarm to make sure I did not miss my Saturday morning parkrun (oh you Eeeeenglish with your 9 am starts!)



I flew into Gatwick, nearly cried at the price of fares on the Gatwick Express into town, but bus and train links to CP are very good.  The parkrun is in the huge park with its famous mast, which has a major bus depot at one end, and the railway station one one side, so it’s very easy to reach by public transport.  There are also several car parks, and plenty of loo facilities.



I was wearing my Jog Lisburn T shirt, and a guy approached me and told me he’d run Wallace a couple of weeks ago.  Turns out Mark is from Bangor originally, and was running his 150th parkrun this morning!  He’s already on that more-than-20-events hall of fame, and revealed that he’d lost 4 stone during his parkrun career.  Most impressive!  I also chatted to a runner in a Titanic Quarter Tshirt from last year, someone running their first ever parkrun, and the very friendly volunteers.  Usual crowd is about 150, with a good few slower runners.

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I entered from the top end, and admired the old weathered stone statues, as I walked down the steps.
20150328_081843]And then more steps.  20150328_081854] And even more steps. 20150328_081918 20150328_082206

Oh dear, it was very evident that elevation was a serious issue with this course!

20150328_081419 - Copy - Copy - Copy  Hills aside, it’s a really cool venue.  The paths are wide and flat, there’s an old red telephone box, a cafe, a maze, a sports stadium, a museum, a renowned lake/ amphitheatre, and a War memorial bell at the finish.

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My Garmin’s connecting lead had broken during the week, which meant that the battery was dying. It survived the run, but I’m going to have to get that sorted.  I’m glad I wore my JL T shirt – I’m still waiting for my red 50 shirt, which I’d wanted to show off on tourism jaunts, but really, the JL one is more of a talking point.

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Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:

Being in Crystal Paris – has to be Walking On Broken Glass by Annie Lennox.

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OK, I’d been out quaffing champers till the wee small hours, and then didn’t have a great night’s kip, and it was hilly – I was   a bit disappointed with 29:54, but as I’m very fond of saying – there’s more to running than going fast.

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List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: Armagh

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Having experienced a rather moving partial eclipse, it seemed appropriate to visit the city which is home to Norn Irn’s world class planetarium. It’s known as the city of saints and scholars, in Ireland’s orchard county, and I have fond memories of visiting my father’s relatives here when I was a wee girl.


It’s 33 miles form Lisburn, which took me about 40 minutes. The journey is really easy, most of it on motorways, and access to Palace Demesne is via a rather impressive gateway, and past a ruined friary. There’s plenty of car park spaces, and loos are available in the courtyard.

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The start and finish points are very close, which means that keys and other valuables can be left in a biscuit tin. The route goes through a forested area first, doubles back on itself, then does a large loop round the grounds. And repeat. This entails a lot of different terrains – gravelly paths, twig-strewn woodland ways, tarmacked car park, and some rather steep hills. I found the doubling-back paths quite narrow, and had to keep Minnie on a very short lead to stay out of the way of runners coming the other direction. But the grounds are very beautiful, and I can imagine that with the changing seasons they look stunning.

There’s usually just under 100 runners, which is a nice sized crowd. They were all very friendly, and some people recognised Minnie from other parkruns we’ve done. It attracts a good range of abilities, a lovely illustration of the inclusivity of parkruns.

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Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle

On Super Saturday, with everything to be decided in the rugby later, I found myself humming along to “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.


I was in my falling-down-trousers – I really must replace those. Maybe now that spring is here I should get some capri length trews. There were no kilometre markings, so I was relying on my Garmin for pacing and timing.


I was 12 something at the halfway turning point, and wasn’t too unhappy with a 26:33, which put me in 3rd place in my age category.

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: Antrim

2015-03-07 09.13.20 2015-03-07 09.17.04 Now St Andrews, I have bad news for you.  You may style yourself the world’s prettiest parkrun, but I think Antrim gives you a good run for your money!




The course starts at Lough Shore Park, which is beside the Antrim Forum, and right on the shores of Lough Neagh.  Access from Belfast via the M2 is pretty straightforward – I came over the mountains from Lisburn, covering the 20 miles in about 30 minutes.  There’s loads of car parking, and clean loos.

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When looked at on MapMyRun or Garmin, the route looks like a lollipop.  It starts and finishes beside the car park, crosses the Deerpark Bridge, and does 2 clockwise loops of the very beautiful Antrim Castle grounds.  I had to concentrate very hard on the route and not be distracted by the gorgeous surroundings – I’ll have to come back some non-parkrun day for a more leisurely stroll around.


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There is one small section between a pair of  staggered yellow gates, which was slightly more uneven underfoot, and had about the only incline on the whole course.  These gates m2015-03-07 10.12.47ight be an issue for partially sighted runners or wheelchair users.2015-03-07 10.14.012015-03-07 10.13.45



There’s usually about 100 runners – we were the only dog, and I only saw one pram.  There’s quite a few slower runners, and many people stay behind to cheer them on.  The volunteers were really helpful and friendly – I got chatting to the volunteer co-ordinator afterwards, who says I have to come back later in the year when the trees are looking even more spectacular! I didn’t see any tea and buns afterwards, but I wasn’t really looking for them.

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I was too warm!  There was a stiff breeze, which made it feel colder than the actual temperature.  While I’d wisely left my gloves at home, my long-sleeved base layer under my Jog Lisburn tee was too many layers.  I was also able to remove my headband, and use it as a brake on my phone armband holder, which had started to slide down towards my elbow.

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Strangely Appropriate Song:

DOA by the Foo Fighters, as I really pushed myself on the last 500m.

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There was a 24 minute pacer, and as my all time best is 24:42, I thought, he’s my mark.  I kept his green cap in sight for the first 3km, but he got away from me on the second loop of the lollipop, and I finished in 26:07.

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List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: Carrickfergus

I wish I waaaaaas in Carrickfergus


I nearly WASN’T in Carrickfergus this morning, as when I was making my morning cuppa there were flakes of snow falling! I sipped my tea, anxiously watching the Facebook statuses of the local parkruns, and more than one was cancelled.  However, I decided to don the old running gear and head off anyway – my husband said he’d phone me if a cancellation was posted.  But the sun shone, and even though there was still some ice around, and a definite nip in the air, it was all systems go.



The run starts and finishes beside the Amphithteatre leisure centre ( entering Carrick, take a left at the roundabout before the castle, go under the railway bridge and turn right).  There’s ample car parking, and lockers and loos in the centre itself.  The only thing I missed was a bucket or basket to put my keys and jacket in, so I had to schlep back to the car to deposit my coat, and tuck my car keys into my gloves.




It’s a 3 lap course with a bit extra at the start and finish.  The paths I found narrow, and felt a bit hemmed in on lap 1.  There’s some lovely scenery past the duck pond, and the loop of Shaftsbury Park, but there are some sharp turns and narrow tunnels under the railway-line too.  There’s only two short sharp hills, and metal parkrun signs, cones, and cheery marshals ensure that you stay on the right route.



I was delighted to meet up again with Claire and Caroline, who are running all 19 Norn Irn parkruns in 2015.carrick ladies .

They’d originally been planning to do Ecos, which was cancelled, so it was a  serendipitous meeting indeed. I was able to tell them that there’s a “hall of fame” for anyone who’s done more than 20 different events, so as they are doing one of the Dublin runs next month, they should see their names on that board by the end of the year. Minnie wasn’t the only pooch running, and we smiled kindred greetings to the other dog-runners.


Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

Given the weather conditions, it had to be Led Zeppelin “Immigrant Song” – come from the land of ice and snow….



I was trying not to look too much at my Garmin, to get more of a “feel” for pace.  I did glance at it going into lap 3 and couldn’t understand the figures it was showing – maybe I’d hit the wrong button.  Another problem – nice though it is to have – is that my trousers felt too loose, and were gradually working their way southwards!



I couldn’t get my usual fast start, and found it difficult to overtake during lap 1, but I’d soon caught up with the pink ladies.  I overtook them on lap 2, and then they zoomed past me on Lap 3.  The OCD part of me is rather satisfied that I recorded a time of bang on 26 minutes, in position 26.  Normally a 4th lady position would have pleased me, but if Clare and Caroline hadn’t been there, or if I’d managed a better finish, I might have bagged that Lady 2 spot! Oh well, I consoled myself by ordering the results by age grading, where I was 6th overall.  That’s better ;-)


List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

NI parkruns: summary list


I’ve just discovered that there’s a parkrun league table for all those Saturday morning tourists who’ve been to 20 or more events.  Since I’m working my way round all the NI ones, plus ticking off a few Scottish and London ones while I visit those places, I’m creating this page as a handy summary with links to all those I’ve done.  I know the parkrun tag should help to navigate around the blog, but it’s nice to see them all in one convenient list.

And I’m on the “most events” list!
most events


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