parkruns: Halloween hijinx!


Hallowe’en, and I’m a huge fan of dressing up! So as Saturday was actually 31st October, I was determined to go to a parkrun that was embracing the season.

But which one?

My home base at Wallace Park had been hosting firework celebrations for the previous 2 nights, and I was a bit concerned that there would be a few obstacles around on the Saturday morning. Also, I didn’t see any specific fancy dress requests, so I thought I’d re-visit one of the other nearby events.

Yeah yeah, those who know me (Jemima, if you’re reading!) will know how much I love a good spreadsheet, so I listed the 6 or so nearby runs which had declared they were a costume-friendly zone, had a look at what my PB currently was there, how many runners they had last week, and from memory, did they have an indoor area. This was important because I wanted to bring along Cracker, my lucky parkrun mascot, in his friendly ghost costume, and he’d be much happier away from the wind and rain.

Armagh was tempting, promising apple pies, and a charity collection. Victoria was calling, but they have a big crowd, and are still having upgrade-carpark problems, and I’d been there recently. Valley was first to announce their intentions, and I was tempted, but didn’t think I could match the 25 minute time I’d managed there last time. Although, part of me was reasoning that in costume, I wasn’t going to PB anyway! Larne is a bit far away, and I’m planning to go next month for their birthday. So that left Queens – they have a lovely indoor area, do good buns, the crowd is young and enthusiastic…..and there might be pwizes! (Ok I specifically arsked this question. No shame. )


Costume wise, I had an idea what I wanted. I’d really enjoyed the kids movie “Book of Life”, which was visually stylistically very influenced by the Mexican Dios de la Muertos (Day of the dead) celebrations. I whooped when Tesco had a suitable dress and head-veil, and I started searching for a skeleton costume for Minnie. Amazon had them for £25, but I called into Lisburn’s Diva Dogs salon, and they had a perfect simple slip on for £12. Minnie is fairly used to wearing a T shirt – she has an Addidog one I got her at last year’s Christmas market, which does keep the muck level down! I did snip up the seams of the back legs, and add a bit of elastic instead, to make it a bit less constricting. And we did a trial run on the Wednesday ( to much amused looks from passing drivers. Good job it wasn’t at night – the costume is glow-in-the-dark.)

Costumes sorted, it was onto make-up. I fancied doing the sugar-skull style look which would be in keeping, and used Pinterest to get some inspiration for a simple version.

I found face paints in Lidl, and went to Boots armed with some money-off vouchers, which I used to acquire black liquid eyeliner, and industrial strength eye make-up remover.



The Queens crowd were excellent, lots of age ranges, and speed ranges, and many many brilliant costumes.



I really enjoyed my run! My veil wasn’t the easiest thing to run in as it kept slipping off, and I’d also been feeding Minnie biscuits to keep her quiet during the brief, so at one point I was running with a veil in one hand, and half a dog-biscuit in the other.


Post run:

Cracker the friendly parkrun ghost had been left in charge of the post-run goodies, and what a marvellous selection there was!


Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

Ah, how I grinned when “Calling All the Heroes” came on – the costumes were brilliant, and included many super heroes ( and villains).


I’d altered Minnie’s costume to allow for more freedom of movement, and my own costume was pretty comfortable. I was wearing a black sport top underneath, which made the outfit safe-for-work, but also looked quite unobtrusive. I did think the lime green phone holder wouldn’t blend in, so I kept my phone and other bits and bobs in a black waist belt pouch.

My main difficulties were – not smiling, as it would spoil the look (you don’t know how hard this was for me!), not getting facepaint smears on my Garmin, and not wiping the sweat off my face.


Notwithstanding the props, I knew I was hitting a good pace, probably sub-25. At the 3km marker I was 14 and a bit, and at the 4km corner I was 19 something. I was trying to remember what my previous best time here was, in the 26s?
I didn’t feel too hemmed in, though there was a fair bit of manoeuvring and overtaking going on.

The finish stretch is all uphill, and I replaced my veil for any finish photos. Crossed the line in 25.32, which was a good bit off my previous time here. Yay!


And another thing….

I got chatting to lost of different people, and stayed to cheer on the final runners across the finish line before leaving. I did hear later, via Facebook, that we were the costume prize winners, but we’d gone! So they gave it to the 118 guys (who looked fab!) No matter, I’m happy to take the glory, if not the chocolates. There was a super photographer taking shots during the run, so maybe one of those will appear on the parkrun Uk Facebook showcase, eh?

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

Parkruns: South Manchester


Off on me travels, to see my beautiful daughter in her first professional tour as a dancer, and surprisingly I’d never been to Manchester before! She laughed out loud when I caught up with her and showed the scribbled spreadsheet where I’d matched up her tour dates with air plane prices, day of the week the show was, and whether there was a nearby parkrun.  The show was in the Royal Northern College of Music, on a Saturday, I could fly to Mancs at a reasonable price, stay in a budget hotel on Curry Mile and be in walking distance of South Manchester parkrun, which takes place in Platt Fields park.


OK, so catching up over cocktails was done on the Friday, and after getting back to my hotel area I’d checked out where the park was, and managed to fall into a pub on the way home, which was having live music by Crazy Horse.  I ended up chatting to a couple who insisted on buying me a whiskey, and I bought a CD off Crazy Horse.  By this stage I’d decided that everyone in the city was slightly nuts, but in a rather endearing way.


However, my Saturday morning hangover was of epic proportions.  No matter, Cracker and I made our way to the park, which was looking glorious in its autumn colours, and even saw some grey cousins en route.


It’s on Curry Mile, extremely well served by buses.  I was especially impressed by the “magic bus” which took me to the city centre for £1, and was of course the Number 42.  I don’t actually know if there is a car park nearby.


There are usually 300+ runners here, and I found them all very chatty and friendly.


It’s near University area, so its popular with students, but there was a huge age range and diverse bunch running.  I got chatting to a guy who was taking his dog, Maddie, for her first parkrun.


I was also most impressed by a woman who had her barcode pinned into her hairdo – though as you can see I failed miserably to take a picture of this.



The course is dead flat – it does a few figure of 8-ish loops around the lovely lake and starts and finishes at a centre where there are loos. It really is a beautiful park.


Post run:

Having left Cracker at the volunteer’s table, I was soon christened “the squirrel lady”.  Everyone was really welcoming, and I wish I’d had the foresight to stick a few quid in my back pocket to buy a coffee at the cute little stand which plys its trade right beside the scanning zone.


Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

I was escaping the city the next day, to meet an old school friend and explore the Treacle Market at Macclesfiled.  It was a good day to do this, given the City/ United derby football match taking place, so “I Predict a Riot” by the almost local boys Kaiser Chiefs was rather apt.



I’d travelled in my Asics trainers, which got quite a bit of wear over the damp weekend!  In fact, all my gear was the same as last week, and the  50 T shirt is always a conversation starter. I was using my Garmin as my watch for the weekend, and it coped brilliantly with the clock change on the Saturday night.



Ooooh, least said about this the better!  I did stop a few times to take photos, which didn’t help me get anywhere near 30 mins.


And another thing….


Ah, the dancing!  I cannot begin to describe how proud I was to see Jemima dance, to watch other people read her biog in the programme, to have the couple I was chatting to before the show come up to me afterwards and tell me how amazing she was, or to see her take hands with Dame Evelyn Glennie for their bows on stage.  Do please follow and like them on Twitter and facebook etc!

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

Belfast Branch Book

Source: Belfast Branch Book

NI parkruns: Colin Glen

12096337_10155294518448644_2551778764522742018_nHaving completed the set of NI parkruns, my plan is to get to the inaugural runs of any new ones that start up. However I missed run number 1 of Colin Glen, in south West Belfast, because it co-incided with my 100th parkrun. And there was no way I was doing that one at anything other than dear old Wallace! But I did make sure I was at Event Number 2, on a beautifully crisp clear October day.




Coming from Lisburn, it was a short hop on the M1, up Kennedy Way, turn left at the roundabout, and it’s under 2 miles up the road. I still managed to miss the actual car park entrance! There are 46 car park places, and a visitor centre with loos.20151017_091230

The big numbers had been there the week before for the first one, and my visit was on the day of the GR8 Dundrum run, a popular event which many of my Jog Lisburn stable mates were attending. So the turnout was under 50, but there was a fantastic bunch of enthusiastic marshals and volunteers, and the other runners I was chatting to beforehand were all very welcoming – Minnie was as usual the centre of attention, despite her barkiness!


The course is described as “challenging”, and I was a bit worried about the hills. It starts not far from the car park, and follows a good tarmac path on an undulating route through some beautiful trees, streams and bridges. Yes there are hills, but they’re fairly short, and there’s a bit of a downhill after each one to recover. At the lake, it’s 2 laps around, and then a more gentle downhill homeward stretch. The final funnel is back at the car-park.

Post run:

I’d made a T-shirt with a map of NI, and had sewn buttons at the location of each of the parkruns. I had fun choosing suitable buttons for some of the places – I particularly like the pineapple for the “Surfs Up” Portrush dudes. I had to use little beads for all the closely packed Belfast runs, and I’ll pick out a nice new bead for Colin Glen.


Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

Given all those hills, The Kooks and “Higher Ground” was certainly a suitable theme tune!



I wore my Asics trainers, with Twinskin socks, which I now swear by. Trousers with zippy-pocket for my phone, Garmin, cordless earphones and wrist-sweatband. My barcode is on a plastic wristband, and I wore my red 50 shirt as I need to get as much wear out of it as I can before my 100 one arrives! Cracker, my lucky squirrel mascot now comes to all parkruns with me.


I always check the age-category records before I visit, and I could see that it stood at 29.30. With Minnie’s help, I felt this ought to be within my capabilities, but it was no certainty! I had to break that time, and also hope that there wasn’t anyone else there in the same category running faster than me. As we set off, I did a bit of overtaking and slotting into a good space for Minnie to run ahead of me. She was loving the paths and trees, with the odd bird to chase, and she was very good at not being distracted by the occasional dog-walker. As we ran, I realised that there was a bunch of speedy blokes ahead of me – sometimes so far ahead that I couldn’t see them. And the odd glance behind told me that there was no-one hot on my heels either. It was quite weird to be feeling so isolated, but all the turns and junctions were well indicated with arrows or marshals, and there were also helpful markers at each km, so I never felt that I didn’t know the way. As we did the 2 laps of the lake, I could see the runners stretched out in front and behind, and I had an inkling that I was first lady. “Right Minnie”, I said “let’s maintain position!”


We were overtaken by a few runners in the final km, but they were all male. And I skipped across the finish line in 25.30, scooping the age category record, best overall position of 10, and was 3rd in terms of age-grading percentage! First Female! Never in my wildest dreams…(well, OK, in my most wishful thinkingest of moments I fantasised about this), but I never actually imagined that one day it would come true! And the really cool thing is that my name will be forever etched in the event history pages.

first finishes
I’ve held age-category records before – at Valley and Comber – but they’ve since been beaten.

cg age record

Minnie of course got a special reward, bought from Murphys Barkery at last week’s Waggy Races: I really couldn’t have done this without her.20151017_100506

And another thing….

In dancing news, this week of fabulous firsts also saw my daughter performing for the first time as a p’feshnull dancer.  I’m off to Manchester next week to see her – so you have 3 guesses as to the location of next week’s parkrun!

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.

100 parkruns and a ton of buns!

I’ve put a lot of thought and planning into my 100th parkrun. I realised a few months back that it COULD happen on 10th October, and the mathematician in me loved the 10/10 synchronicity. Plus it was the weekend closest to my birthday. Still in the same age-category sadly.

I marked the weeks off in my calendar – I had one week spare, which I utilised by volunteering the day before my half-marathon.
I had my barcode tattooed on my arm *

And I planned for suitably celebratory cakes or buns. Google and Pinterest gave me some great ideas, but I decided that individual buns were more practical than a cake, which would need slicing. And buns were easier for people to go “Oh, I’ll take one of those home with me!”
I bought ready-made icing in little tubes, and practised “parkrun” icing on some iced fingers, which I took to Victoria.

Buns iced with the parkrun tree

Buns iced with the parkrun tree

You know how on Great British Bake-off they always show contestant’s sketches for their creations? I started sketching out how I wanted it to look. I’d have the parkrun symbol buns as a frame round the outside, with “100” spelled out in gold balls in the centre, and the gaps filled in with plain buns, chocolate fingers, and sweets. I picked out the parkrun colours from a bag of licorice comfits.

I tried to find plain iced fairy cakes in the supermarkets, but to no avail. The Country Kitchen, a local home bakery, made cupcakes with transfers of Minions and Frozen on them, and I negotiated with them to provide 3 dozen plain versions, which I then decorated myself.

While I was out searching for green napkins, I found the cutest squirrel in Cath Kidston, as well as matching autumnal tissues. In a nod to my dancing proclivities, the squirrel is now called Cracker.

The night before the run, I painted my nails in 100Tshirt black, and put some finishing touches to my video montage.
Saturday morning arrived, and I used a photo of my new tat as my traditional “Where’s Wally?” selfie. I loaded the tray of buns, minus the add-ins, to the car, and put some extras in a biscuit tin. I iced some coloured “100s” on the spare buns, thinking that some of our junior runners might like to choose their favourite colour. The orange icing acted very strangely, and went very runny!

Arriving at Wallace, I parked as close to the bandstand as I could, and took Minnie up first and tethered her to a post, while I recruited some assistance with the sweet stuff. The weather was very kind – no rain, and no wind.

The run itself – I finished in exactly the same position as last week, and despite having laid off the booze on Friday night, I was 10 seconds slower! No matter, I really enjoyed the run, and the cheering marshalls were super, as usual. Plenty of chat afterwards, and lovely cards from Gillian and Liz: we’d been on target to run our 50th together last year, when an ankle injury delayed my efforts. And now, injuries unfortunately having beset each of them, I’d managed to be the first of the Jog Lisburn ladies to reach the goal.


What’s next? Well, the next milestone Tshirt if for 250 runs. Even with the best will in the world, running 50 parkruns a year is a tall order, so that is AT LEAST 3 years away. Let’s aim to get it before I’m 60, eh?
Meanwhile, there’s the 25 volunteer number to earn, so I’ll plan to offer my services once a month or so. And of course, I need to get round to any new Norn Irn events!

* Please don’t try this at home – it won’t scan!

NI parkruns: One of me pomes

It’s lovely having done all the NI runs: I can now review what times I ran them all in, pick the slowest and go back and snatch a PB! Managed to do that today at Victoria, looking glorious in the September sunshine. I even made specially parkrun-iced buns, which were much shared on social media.

Buns iced with the parkrun tree

Buns iced with the parkrun tree

Anyways, those of you who know me, know that I’m a bit of a poet. Doggerel stuff, mostly, also specialising in leaving-do limericks, commissions welcome. So here’s a parkrun pome.

The smartest move I ever made was learning how to run.

I used to do the odd 10k, but never had much fun.

But then the parkrun craze began, and so I went along

To trudge in trainer-shaped footsteps, most envious of the throng

Who clearly love their weekly free timed run – it’s not a race!

And as each 7 days went by, persistence improved pace.

I visited some far flung parks, from Larne to Armagh City

Carrick, Wallace, Comber, Falls, Victoria so pretty.

I’ve met with runners old and young, some pushing babes in buggies

Some run with friends, some run alone, some run beside their doggies.

I earned my 50 red T shirt, the 100th one is black

I fear I am addicted now, there is no going back!

Come rain or shine, the volunteers will don their high-viz vests

Greeting all the regulars, and welcoming the guests

Marshalling around the course, clapping, shouting, cheering

Encouraging the finishers as the end is nearing.

Across the line, the timer clicks, collect position token

Line up to get the barcode scanned – hope the machine’s not broken!

Conversation fills the air, over buns and tea:

The all important question – Did you manage a PB?

2014-11-11 22.37.52

NI parkruns: Derry City

While working my way around NI doing all the parkruns, some have been easier to get to than others. Living in Lisburn, I’m handy to the motorway, and so any of those in the Greater Belfast area are easily manageable. The final one on my list was my home town of Derry, and I got to run it at the end of a fabulous week which had included dancing in the Lyric theatre and walking the Gobbins path. So it truly was “legenderry”, to use one of the many names that this city calls itself.


I’d stayed the night before with my parents in Portstewart. There had been a band of heavy rain passing during the night, and it was still drizzly as I made my way over the River Bann and past Springwell forest. The view was certainly dramatic, with low grey cloud sitting on Binevenagh, but it seemed to be brightening to the West, with patches of blue sky. I have a special affection for bridges, and I always smile as I cross the new Foyle Bridge, a glorious high arch over the gently flowing river on its way to sea. This morning that smile was a gleeful giggle, in the knowledge that I’d soon be completing the set of NI parkruns (at time of writing…..).

I parked at Sainsburys (my Mum had been most impressed last night when I talked to my phone and said “OK Google, how do I get to Sainsbury’s Londonderry” and it produced a map and estimated travel time!) There’s plenty of space, and I was able to use the loos, and afterwards got a takeaway tea in the cafe.

Ach, sure Derry wans are lovely so they are! I’d sent a Facebook message that I was visiting this week, and was very warmly welcomed by the run director and volunteers, and my fellow runners were all really friendly and chatty. My new-style 50 T shirt was much admired – they’re still a rare sight!


The course starts by the marina, and follows a U-shaped out-and-back course. It goes along the quayside, across the Peace Bridge (another favourite structure of mine) curls around underneath it and up a slow climb to a turning point before the return leg. The surface is all excellent for running on, and the paths are wide enough that when runners are going in 2 directions it isn’t a problem. The main issue is the wind – being by the river acts as a funnel, so that the wind is either at your back, or you’re running into it. Or, on the bridge, it’s the crosswind you have to battle.

Post run:

I was rushing away afterwards as I had a lunch date in Belfast, so I’m not sure whether people hang around and go for coffee or not. I jogged back to Sainsbos with a few others, and got some post-run replenishment there.

The Peace Bridge during the Lumiere festival

The Peace Bridge during the Lumiere festival

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

Having been walking the Gobbins path on Islandmagee, way on the East coast yesterday, to running on the Western border today, I grinned when the opening of Flying Elvis began “From East to West and coast to coast”. I’d been at 14.55 at the turn point, so I knew I was going to have to dig deep for a sub-30, and the chorus of “Don’t give up..” spurred me on to a sprint finish.


I’d forgotten to pack my phone charger, so my phone was really struggling! I didn’t know if my customary “Where’s Wally?” selfie had actually posted to Facebook (it later transpired that I’d I posted it 4 times), and I didn’t have much battery power left to take many pictures. Thankfully, those Derry wans are wile handy with a camera, so they are, and I was able to grab some great pictures that they shared.

Without Minnie, and in the wind, I was happy with a sub-30, and a strong finish line sprint allowed me to record 29:06, which is one of my best non-canine assisted times. I know I’ll be back to this one, so hopefully I can knock off a second or 2 next time!

And another thing….

A number of people had asked me if I was the first person to run all the NI runs, and I didn’t know! On my journey home it struck me that if I went through the results pages of the newest run, Stormont, and had a look at anyone who’d done more than 21 runs, I could see which locations and events they’d done. It took me a while to check, and there are a LOT of runners who are pretty close. But only 3 names had all the 21 NI runs. And they were all male. So I have great delight in declaring myself the first female member of the “I’verunalltheparkrunsinnornirnsoIhave” club. We really need a badge, or T shirt, or membership of a special club with free champagne and chocolates, or something.
2014-11-11 22.37.52

List of all the parkruns I’ve completed.


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