Larne, United Kingdom
I had spent much time last night debating with myself which parkrun to try. There are several around Belfast. Ormeau would have been perfect, within a mile of the hostel, except that it hasn’t actually started yet. Queens, Falls and Waterworks were all around 3 miles away, great warm up territory, and I settled on Queens.
And then decided to switch location, to move out of Belfast and up the coast, which brought Ecos back into play. A 45 minute drive, but the run I had planned originally, and the local run for Ballymena Runners (BR), with whom I aim to run in the week, and whose 5 miler on Wednesday I intend to race. Job done, I set an alarm and faded off. Awake just after 7 I figured I might as well get up and go, and was on the road soon after. Even with faffing and driving slowly I was in place by 8.20, first in the car park. And alone till 8.40. Then there were 3 cars. Then 4. Then it was 8.50. Hmm. I must get used to checking whether runs are actually on, but this is looking less than good. Idiot!
Course, it turns out that runs here start at 9.30, and given that it was still light at 9.45pm, and even an hour later there’s still some residual light, that must be because in winter 9 is too early, just as in Scotland. I lurked in the visitor centre, eventually approached by a friendly (an unnecessary adjective here, I’ll leave it out from now on) BR who let me know that if I had a barcode I could leave it in the barcode organiser. Great, though really aimed at those coming back week after week, who can leave their barcodes with the organisers. Mine may have been the only laminated one-no need to laminate if it’s kept in the dry.
The run itself is a flat but twisty figure of 8 passing the visitor centre twice. It’s marked permanently, so an easy freedom parkrun, and that those markings are clear was to be a great bonus. I set off in the right position for once, near the front, and settled early on into fifth. Up ahead the leader seemed to be opening a gap, with a tall man just ahead of me and a gap to a youngster and a BR. I’d seen the youngster warming up before 9, so took him for the class act.
As ever, my slow start was followed by acceleration, and into a headwind I found myself right behind the tall man. I resolved to stay there, breaking that resolve a second later as my gradual acceleration, like an air raid siren warming up, carried me on.
I caught the pair, too, behind them for a mo, alongside and then clear. The leader had gone out a bit quick and came back nicely, by 2k I was level, by 2.3 I thought sod it, how far lost can I go, and passed. By now I was comfortable, though with the usual “no bandits, please” thinking. That was nearly the end of it, as I looked ahead past a feather flag and nearly missed the marker pointing right. Sharp turn negotiated and at 4.5k I was confident no bandit could catch me. 18.10 in first, with the BR closing, having passed the early leader, though 17 seconds behind.
Should any of the above sound like racing, wash your eyes out, for surely one cannot race in a run that isn’t a race.
Afterwards, BR2 came over to chat. He has only been running a year, a smidge older than me – better age grading despite being behind – so is on quite the upward curve. Thoroughly wonderful event, though I was away by 11, not quite the “you will you will you will” type atmosphere Willo had joked about last weekend. At that point we’d wondered if anyone got away before 1, envisioning extra cups of tea following on and on. I still had time before I could check in at new hostel, so headed for the coast. I was looking for a cafe without luck through a couple of quiet villages but finally found the centre of life; a group of pensioners waiting outside an eatery gave Cornlough its colour, though the cafe, just over the road, had an average age nearer a comparatively young 40.
After breakfast I explored, finding this was once a busy quarry, with the old railway from quarry to quay now a walking route. It seemed unfortunate in a place attracting pensioner coach parties to signpost “Granny Falls” so well. Looking closer it was Cranny. I wandered up and the weather cleared, allowing me to explore the blasting house, ruins and water trickle-I suppose technically with water falling it’s a waterfall, but surely trades descriptions can do something about this tiny fall. I sat in the sun till it rained; the sky rained, not the sun, then strolled back, finding that the path was in fact only part pedestrian way, playing host to local youth and their dirt and quad bike.
I headed for my hostel, Humphrey’s at Rathmore House. It had no reviews on Hostelworld, but mention of a big house reminded me of the YHA and I was in. Pitched up and was greeted by the owner, who knew exactly who I was. Not that that has been unusual, but here it is simply because I’m the only guest. This is a new hostel, just being converted from a Boy’s Brigade house, and it’s fantastic, if light on guests for now. Pictures and tour tomorrow, but today I’ve had a bike ride along the coast road, explored Larne and had dinner with my hosts, home cooked by Trev, who has spent his career in catering-“a superior stew”- and with life stories swapped.
Summary: Races won, 0. First finish 1. New friends, several. Post-decision ratifying; gratifying.