Ireland vs Zimbabwe, Stormont Cricket Club, Belfast

Ireland’s final winning score. There really is a bar behind the scoreboard, though you order there, then they wander off to the pavilion, the other side of the pitch, to bring it back to you.

Scorecard from Ireland vs Zimbabwe, 3rd ODI, 13/9/21.

I had been checking the Northern Cricket Union website on and off, hoping to catch a league match, but without success – fixtures are published but I never found a start time. That might be me, or just that spectators are discouraged in Covid times (unlike England, Northern Ireland hasn’t given up and given in to the macho “pchaw, I’ll be alright” crowd). It was with some excitement, then, that I spotted that the Ireland team would be playing in Northern Ireland, after some sell-out T20s in Dublin.

I managed not to over-excitedly book tickets weeks ahead, figuring that the weather might be changeable, but relented with a week to go, in case they hit the 500 limit. When the previous Friday’s match was abandoned after one innings, I was worried, especially with rain in the forecast, but the rain spread itself through the day, and they got a result even after a 2.5 hour delay to the start.

Rain delays the start, as a blotter patrols the outfield.

I knew it would be convenient, given the terms and conditions promised free parking at the ground, but still didn’t expect to be able to drive right in and parked at the Stormont car park next door – it’s small, but free all day, and a short walk to the ground. But I could have driven right in and parked more or less by the door, it’s that convenient. Adelaide was good, given you can park very close for $20 on the day, but this is better, and the convenience feels like a thrill after the hassle of attending any large-scale event.

The crowd wasn’t large, with 30-40 in to begin with, swelling to 100 or so in the afternoon, helped by schools and work finishing for the day, so tickets were not hard to come by. They were also a bargain at £15, so I wasn’t overly bothered by the tough refund conditions. So long as 9.5 overs were bowled, you’d see nothing back.

Ireland warm up to bowl, having won the toss.

I had brought plenty to read but ended up chatting to fellow cricket lovers who were glad to see a game after cancelling their trip to Manchester – before the game itself was cancelled, and just because England seems too insane a place to visit right now. We passed the time before the game finally started, and then Brendan Taylor walked out for his final international innings. An overcast day didn’t look likely to provide conditions for a glorious end, and so it proved as Josh Little bowled both openers after a slow, solid start. He is a useful weapon.

Rain took the players on and off, with the number of overs gradually nibbled away at, and the usual comedy that cricket’s laws ensure – at one point they played through a shower, walked off as it ended and then didn’t appear again for half an hour as we sat there in the dry.

Getkate fields on the boundary as Zimbabwe lose wickets, including to him, later.
A few guidelines. We didn’t have to worry about touching the ball, with the few sixes hit either out of the ground or, twice, to the pavilion.

Covid-wise, we were asked to download the NI app, take a test beforehand and have a mask to hand for going inside, not that we needed to. It was all pretty relaxed on the day, other than us being asked not to handle to ball. Stewarding was in place, but relaxed – it is very straightforward to get on to the pitch, it’s just that almost everyone just doesn’t, as we’ve seen in England recently.

No need to bring your own chairs, just grab one of these from the pile.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day, even though it was a fairly low-key game that Ireland won fairly easily, despite worries about losing the light if they went on too long, and losing a few wickets without too much batting further down. Chasing was much easier than trying to set a pace, though Ervine would have single-handedly scored plenty if he could have stayed there, and provided most of the runs in any case. The first ball of Ireland’s reply went for four as we strolled back from the ice-cream van, which set the tone, and Stirling did more or less as he pleased. He was given out at least twice and successfully overturned with reviews before eventually bashing one up in the air. Zimbabwe did much worse with reviews, with Ireland reviewing two, maybe three decisions that weren’t given in the field, and players trooping off afterwards (without screens, that was how we knew the decision went against them). The Irish umpires were perhaps being extra careful not to be perceived as being in favour of the home team, backed up by technology.

Raza fields as Stirling hits one up in the air – if you look carefully, you can see the ball, a little above Stirling and to the right, a lucky shot that would have made an excellent photo with a zoom lens.

There were Zimbabwe fans there, too, who chatted happily to Raza when he came close. He was the highlight of the day for me, as I gestured to the umbrella I’d just put up as they played on in rain, and he shouted “Ump! Look! And these are the locals!”

Near as dammit, anyway.

The cricket ended some time before 7 – a long day, as I was there for the 10:30 start which didn’t happen, but one which whizzed by. Having parked at Stormont I took advantage of the last of the light to have a walk around the estate, which is a lovely spot, with the parliament building way at the top of the hill. Apparently the trees are planted 200ft apart at the start of the drive, spreading to 250 near the top, which gives a false perspective and makes the building look closer than it is. Clever. And perhaps good motivation for the runners who were using it for training: “It can’t be that much further! It is, though”.

View down the Avenue, past Carson’s statue.
Stormont Parliament Buildings.
Stormont.
From the car park to the grounds.
Stormont is another place with a parkrun. Running it will be another chance to talk about hills, I can tell.
Celebrating and commemorating Mo Mowlam.
A final view of Stormont. At this point, the building appeared to be ticking. Whether from the flagpoles or some monitoring system, or something else entirely, I couldn’t tell.

Dundalk parkrun, Ireland

As parkrun returned in Ireland, I decided that heading a short distance across the border wasn’t too out of keeping with the spirit of things, and the fact that Dundalk was well under an hour’s drive away sealed the deal.

Dundalk parkrun route. Start at the pictures, into the middle and round the roundabout, then three anti-clockwise laps and back down the middle section.
Dundalk parkrun sign at Dundalk Institute of Technology.

As it’s only just starting back and they’re feeling their way, there are no facilities on site – use the hotel was the general idea. There is plenty of parking, free on a Saturday, though that didn’t stop many people bumping onto the pavement by the yellow lines. Let’s be charitable and there were many people who figured 5k was their absolute limit, so walking an extra 150m would be too much.

Parking at DkIT.

There’s a lovely big windmill on campus, which is a feature you can’t miss.

View of the windmill from the middle of the park.
The start is just behind the zebra crossing. The laps run left to right.

As a multi-lap route running round some fields, this could be uninspiring, but I found plenty to look at, and the course twists just enough to keep it interesting. One side is slightly downhill, the opposite slightly up, but otherwise this has the potential to be pretty quick, so long as you can get round everyone. Not an issue I had, so this was my quickest of the year again – I’m not running much, but it is still getting easier now I can parkrun regularly.

Cross the zebra crossing and follow the path round.
Path past the windmill.

Let me jump you straight past the fact of three laps to the finish. I was moving fairly well, and looking forward to the finish and a guarantee of being quicker than previous weeks. As a result I perhaps switched my brain off, and accelerated towards the very obvious finish line, next to a container in the middle of the park. We had run down there already, so I knew it. I accelerated to use up whatever I had left.

And was applauded as I past the finishing line, pointed towards the roundabout, which now seemed an implausible distance away. I had overcooked it, because the finish line had shunned me, facing the other way and waiting for me to return. I had thought my watch was going to make this course a little short, rather than reaching the more obvious conclusion that having run 4.7km, the finish line was not quite as imminent as I was attempting to make it.

There you have it – be careful with the finish, it may be slightly further away than you think it is, if you forget about the loop.

View from the roundabout in the middle.
Far end of the field.
Heading down the middle of the course.
Past the finish, round the roundabout and back to finish.

Otherwise there were no dramas, plenty of happy people and a few – though not too many – visitors from elsewhere, glad to be back at a parkrun with .ie in the URL. The playing fields were fairly busy, so be sure to follow the crowd, and paths, rather than any small groups who might break off to run across the grass, but otherwise you can’t really go wrong.

Till the finish.

Results for Dundalk parkrun event 247, 11/9/21.

Dungannon Park parkrun, NI

A novelty – a parkrun that still has the extra word ‘park’ in the name.

The route – two clockwise laps. The start is on top of a hill.

Although I could see where the run was, I wasn’t sure where to park from the website, so trusted to the directions, which said to look for the sign to the park from the road. I was relieved, then, to see volunteers gathered by the car park.

Everybody gather, huddle close beside.

Even better, behind those trees there’s a sign that clearly says start. I relaxed a little too much at that – once I got closer after some faffing, I realised that it was pointing towards the start, not its actual location. I had plenty of time, but it’s worth bearing in mind, especially as the start is on a large clearing up a cruel hill, so you don’t really want to have to rush up it.

A really large area for the start.
A downhill start, on a wide path.

It really is a very large clearing. As a result of all that space, and the first path being downhill, the start was tremendously exciting, and definitely got legs and blood moving. The surface is hard-packed, if a little rocky – think big gravel, not the stuff you’d put on a driveway – so watch your footing. You’d probably be fine running in shoes without much cushioning, so long as you’re not blasé.

A sweeping downhill turn to get to the lake.
A downhill path brings you to this uphill section, and a sharp left turn to take the path on the right.
The view from the downhill path, which I missed both times. Lovely, though – the boards near the car park have more info about building the water feature.
A view of the lake.
You’d do well to spot this on the run, but it’s there.
View over the lake, more or less on the run route.

The course is two laps, clockwise round the lake, past the campsite and through the woods. And, of course, up that sodding hill a couple of times. The route picks a less cruel incline than the one we walked up to reach the clearing, but still – it’s a fair way up. The finish is lower, though, so it is at least a net drop. And, as ever, the total elevation was disappointing (20m) given how hard the hill felt.

Narrow bridge at the back of the lake.

Some of the paths are fairly narrow, so pick your spot to overtake carefully – the start is an excellent spot, as is the long straight just afterwards, which becomes the finish. From there it is twisty and narrow, round the lake and over the bridge above.

Climbing the hill takes you to the highlight, the section through the woods. It is darker in there, and still slightly uphill, but it’s a lovely spot, with the course snaking through and back up to the clearing.

Snaking through woods.
Climbing towards the wooded section.

After doing the whole thing again, you can gallop as best possible down the tremendously exciting start (I didn’t find it quite as exciting the third time), take a right turn at the bottom and along to the finish, next to the campsite.

Right turn towards the finish.
The finish line, with scanning immediately at the finish.

The cafe is right next to the car park, and with toilets behind it – those were open even though the cafe is currently closed.

Flowers by the bandstand. Behind is the start sign, which actually points you towards the start, a few hundred metres away (but up a hill. Did I mention the hill?)
Relief map of the park.

It’s a lovely run of many features, and a nice park to have a stroll round afterwards. Dungannon itself has a series of interlinked parks, and near to Dungannon Park is a posh, if under-rented, outlet centre ensuring that not only can you get refreshments, but also a whole new wardrobe – of clothes and probably an actual wardrobe, if you’re short one. I didn’t even get to the centre of town, as the parks are a little outside, but enjoyed both a run and a walk, plus doughnuts from a supermarket. Everything I needed, and plenty I didn’t.

Results from Dungannon parkrun event 89, 4/9/21.

City Park parkrun, Craigavon

City Park parkrun route, Craigavon, Northern Ireland

A one-lapper! I have been indecisive recently – frankly, it seems as if all of Northern Ireland’s parkruns are in gorgeous settings, and I couldn’t decide between a view of the reservoir, another forest park, or the Parliament buildings. In the end, I headed for Craigavon, as that’s where new friends from Moira Junior parkrun tend to be. Several of them were there. And I missed them all on the day.

Post-run view of the leisure centre, over the lake. Civic centre car park behind me.

In part that was because this was the largest event I have done in some time, with over 200 people (and partly because I wandered straight off at the finish to get my camera). I haven’t seen so many at a run since a 10k I did in Hatfield, and not at a parkrun for… some time. It was far from congested, though, as there is masses of room outside South Lakes leisure centre, where it starts and finishes.

A view of the finish. See? Masses of space.

I parked, as the website recommends, in the civic centre, which is right next to the course. Most people park at the leisure centre, which is slightly closer, but either way there is loads of parking. The direct gate from civic centre to the water was closed by the time I got back, around 11am, but it isn’t far to walk round the centre and in through the front gate.

The finish line, with crowds.
Reverse view from (near) the finish line.
The first section, after the plaza in front of the leisure centre. No one stopped for a drink.

The other bonus of this course is that it’s a one lapper (or one plus a tiny bit, to be totally accurate, given that the start is before the finish line, so the latter is assembled after everyone has set off). After Comber’s four laps, this was quite the difference.

It is also incredibly easy to follow, once you’ve taken the right fork (shown below, and marshalled at the time) at the end of the first straight. That takes you away from the lake just for a short while – it felt a lot longer when walking it afterwards. Other than that, you just follow the lakes round, keeping them on your left, and watch for cyclists (not that I saw any) who might prefer you keep to the pedestrian part of the path.

Take the right fork for the parkrun route.
Dangerous place sign next to the lake.
A view of the lake.

It’s a very flat course – one small rise during that fork, and a couple of other slight rises that might have been as much my lack of fitness as anything else – and so ought to be a fast one if you want it to be. They have been asking for volunteers on the night before for the past few weeks, but it has always worked out, so long may it continue. On a day like yesterday, sunny throughout and then warming nicely after 11 (I spent the rest of the day at Kilkeel beach – this is one of those countries where they can’t “close the sea”), it was absolutely gorgeous.

Results from Citypark parkrun, event 389, 28/8/21 (235 finishers).

Hillsborough Forest parkrun, NI

Hillsborough Forest parkrun route. 2 laps clockwise, from the path in the woods, bottom left of the route above.

A new event, this started when parkrun returned in Northern Ireland, on 26th June 2021. It partly fills the gap between Craigavon and Castlewellan and, more importantly, is in a gorgeous location.

It doesn’t even need to use all of the available ground, so there’s more park to explore before or after if you want to. The event is two B shaped loops, clockwise in the NE section, beside the lake.

The website suggests parking in town (and that’s where the toilets are), but this was a rainy day and I parked in the Forest Park car park – at the end of Park Street on the left side of the map. This clearly gets busy, as they have marshals there once the morning gets going, but today it was pretty quiet, for obvious reasons. It was dryish as we walked to the start, and rained during the event. This was the perfect run for that, being mostly under tree cover, but that didn’t stop us all getting wet on the way back to the car park.

The start and finish. The start is actually on a path, not as “middle of the woods” as the picture makes it look.
View from the gathering point, right by the finish.
The first turn.

It’s not especially hilly, though it felt it. Whenever you turn away from the lake you’re going uphill, which makes for two obvious hills on the map. The one in the middle of the route is the toughest, especially the second time around. It’s also gravelly underfoot – nothing too loose, but you might prefer trainers with some cushioning to minimal tread.

View of the finish.
Heading up the first incline (this lot are cooling down, I wasn’t actually able to keep up with these youngsters).
Top of the course, which you cover in both directions.
It is a bit of a hill, honest. But mostly just pretty.

It’s a gorgeous course, and a great park to just mooch around afterwards – trees, lake, fort overlooking it all. People gathered happily under tree cover at the finish before making their way back to wherever they’d come from, and I strolled back round the course, mostly dry despite the rain, taking pictures.

Results from Hillsborough Forest parkrun event #9, 21/8/21 (122 finishers).

Comber parkrun, NI

Comber parkrun route. 4 laps.

I had three events about 45 mins away, and on a whim picked Comber. It is four laps, which might normally put me off – too much repetition if you’re not in the mood – but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s very flat, so despite all the turns, this was my quickest run of the year.

Me and others, in the field of flags.

The route runs round two fields, which are joined by a fairly narrow bridge – it’ll take a person in each direction, but not much more than that, so just needs everyone to be nice. Which they were on this day. The start and finish, in almost the same place (start on the path at the edge of the field, finish on the path next to it) are just by the bridge, and all are very close to the rugby club – open to use facilities and parking – and the other car park, right next to the rugby club.

Finish between the trees – the block on the left marks the start.
The bridge between the two fields.

The first field, in which the event starts, runs round playing fields and a showground, lined with trees. The other field is in early stages of development, I think, with trees and other greenery yet to grow much. It is also, as is often the case in Northern Ireland, filled with flags. When people complain that we don’t show enough flags in the UK, it might not be because of oppression but simply that most of our allocation is taken up by this part. The fact that NI marks its 100th anniversary this year (2021) may also contribute.

Flags along the path. Yes, look ahead, flags. Look right, flags. And, trust me, look left and – oh, you’ve heard it.
Turning point at one end – run round the flags.
Guess which field?

The run director was warm and welcoming – “There’s a defibrillator. If we have to use it there will be a small charge” – and seemed to know most of the people there, which made for a warm sense of community. The run, as I say, is flat, with the slightest of inclines on the back end of the field of flags, and a facing breeze as we came up it, the only impediments, other than the turns. The surface is good and, on this day, the weather warm, which meant plenty of people hung around for a chat afterwards.

Whereas this is clearly the other field. Car park on the left, rugby club behind the hedge.
The route is marked by permanent arrows.

Just make sure not to miss the scanning, which is not in sight when you finish, being in the rugby club car park, which is itself through a gap in the hedge – covered by a metal contraption (it might be a gate, but seemed more Heath-Robinson than that at a glance) once we’re all done.

Scanning and coffee/tea at the rugby club.

Comber itself is a nice little town, with supermarkets and cafes around a central square just a short walk from the park, and beyond that another small park for a stroll. I suspect they lock the rugby club car park afterwards, so move your car if you’re going exploring.

Results from Comber parkrun event 305, 14/8/21.

Crawfordsburn Country parkrun

Crawfordsburn Country parkrun – one lap, though you cover a couple of bits twice, in different directions.

This event has a reputation for having a complicated route,though it was fine for me, following people happily in the middle of the pack. There are (small) permanent arrows, and marshals or signs through the course, though fewer at the end – I’m not sure you could follow the course using just the arrows, but might be wrong. I didn’t really know where I was, other than on the sea-front sections, but I also didn’t get lost.

Start line. Just behind the trees to the right is the finish line – the turn is where the people are, on the left.
The start is marked, and shows the small arrows. On the left is the visitors’ centre/cafe.

It was ‘recommended’ to me as a hilly course, and it certainly felt it, though Strava reckons there is only 35m of elevation. You certainly get an impression it’ll be hilly from the start, as a short flat is followed by a left-turn and immediate run uphill.

Runners on the first hill.
The first hill. It looks fine, here.

After that little dogleg – up the hill, along the top, back down the other side, a left turn takes you to the seafront area. This is Crawfordsburn Beach. Helen’s Bay is just North/West of here, and another lovely spot to visit if you have time. The route doesn’t go that way, heading round the field then East/South along the front.

An example small route marker, looking out to sea.
Turn left onto this path, follow it round and right at the end – left to Helen’s Bay.
The beach, and a long flat section till you turn into the woods.

Much of this section is covered in both directions, though you don’t go back up that initial hill again. The loop through the woods is lovely, but tough – there’s a short, sharp hill which I had been warned about, tried to run up and settled for a walk. A hill that goes, then goes again – it levels off briefly, then carries on, and I was grateful to have walked the first bit.

Keep going, past the stream and this bridge.
You can’t go any further, and finally cross the stream.

Finally, a left turn (unmarked) takes you back to that initial path by the beach, past the hill and then left to the finish. The latter is in sight of the start, but not quite in the same place.

Following a volunteer (post event) down the left turn, back to the beach.
The finish line, mobbed by people.

Another lovely run, and I was lucky enough to see it in sunshine. As a result I walked most of the route again, heading further East/South to explore. It’s gorgeous.

Colin Glen parkrun, NI

Colin Glen parkrun route. Start/finish at bottom right. Twice round the lake on the left.

I headed to Colin Glen because of the description on their site: “This is a hilly parkrun and will be a great challenge.” It sure is, albeit not especially slow because you get so much downhill in a row. The run director wandered over to find newbies and was happy to tell me it was uphill for 2k, downhill after you’ve run round the lake – so you work from the start, but are rewarded at the end. It would be hard not to run a positive split, and even a royal flush (each mile quicker than the last) just due to the nature of the course, and I certainly did both.

A rough idea of the elevation. There’s a bit of down in the long uphill, and this makes it look like you end higher than you start, which you don’t. But it certainly shows the looong climb. c. 65m of elevation in total.
Setting off at the start, surrounded by trees.

The other part of the course description is slightly misleading – it refers to two laps, but in fact there’s a long run uphill/flat to the lake, then twice round it (and it is quite small), then a long flat/downhill run back to the finish.

The car park. Those empty spaces are in front of the entrance – presumably it’s a new entrance.

The park is in between Belfast and Lisburn, and far enough from the centre of either to attract lower numbers than other runs. They’ve had over 200, which must have been quite a crowd up and down the paths, but for now attendance is between 50 and 100. There’s an ample car park for those numbers near the start, right next to the church. The start is marked as being a few hundred metres into the park, but everyone meets in the car park. If you can park on the left as you drive in, you’ll find getting out a little easier, with spaces on the right a bit tighter for space.

Entrance to the park/trail.

The course is straightforward, navigationally, and there are permanent yellow arrows on the ground should you want to follow it on your own. Right at the first fork, over two bridges then left over the last one, uphill just a bit more and then onto a flat section leading to the lake.

Tree-lined paths, heading uphill.
Arrows on the ground at every junction (because you run it in both directions, there are arrows in both directions at that first fork – just follow the ones leading right on your way down the hill).
Flat! On the way to the lake.
Entrance to the lake. I included this just to reassure you that you do *not* have to run up the hill on the right. Maybe come back and do it afterwards? (I did not.) Left after the bridge, to run round the lake.
The lake. Round twice.

On this damp day, the surface felt a little slippery. I didn’t slip, and it didn’t feel dangerous, even on the sharper downhill sections, so perhaps just a bit of tree sap making the surface feel a bit odd. It’s mostly tarmac, with a few shingly bits and the occasional sheen of mud over the top.

The finish line. Back past the start and on a few hundred metres to the car park entrance.

Scanning and chat happens in front of the cafe, which was open, if not the centrepiece of post-parkrun socialising right now. They also had a higher than average number of young marshals, which was nice – they’d justify having a few child-sized hi-viz vests, though they look pretty cute when they work almost as overcoats.

Another pretty and welcoming Northern Irish parkrun.

Results from Colin Glen parkrun, event 212, 31/7/21.

Castlewellan parkrun, NI

Castlewellan is a small market town with a beautiful forest park, about 45 minutes South of Belfast. It’s just a few miles from the coast, which made for a cool breeze on a warm day. The parkrun is in the Forest Park, almost completely shaded as it runs through a tree-lined path around a lake, with an extra out and back to add a kilometre.

Castlewellan parkrun route. Start and finish on the right, out and back at bottom left.

There’s masses of parking in the park, though if you’re only coming for the run, the £5 cost might seem a bit stiff. Park in town and walk up one of the paths into the park, it’s only a kilometre or so. Or camp in the campsite next to the lake and fall onto the course in the morning.

Main entrance up Castle Avenue. There’s another road, the exit for cars, just off Bann Road, behind Fresh Foods, which will also bring you to the lake.

The park is glorious. A nice 4k or so loop round the lake itself, paths to explore off to one side, and then a whole other area with multiple hilly routes to test you, running round and up/down Slievenaslat – you can see the start of the contour lines above the top right of the lake, above.

The start, seen from somewhere in the middle.
A slightly motion-blurred shot.

It’s a gorgeous run. It was entirely warm and mostly sunny on this lovely day, but even in grim weather you’ll have the constant distraction of great scenery. On a cooler day I might have wandered up the hill for the views, but was content to wander back, via the fields. I hadn’t originally planned to stay in Castlewellan, but my original accommodation cancelled while I was a few hours from the ferry, so booked in a rush. Having a parkrun on my doorstep was a bonus, never mind this whole area to explore. Obviously I recommend it.

Clearer views of the lake on the way back, after the out and back.

The out and back is the toughest section. There’s the greatest chance of mild congestion as runners are on both sides of the path. And more importantly, it’s uphill all the way out. Yes, that does mean it’s downhill all the way back to the lake, but – uphill all the way. Gently so, but still. Phew.

Another break in the trees.
Gathered at the finish.
Why leave the view?

Northern Ireland is not short of great scenery, but there’s quite a concentration in this Forest Park. Worth a visit on any day, but come along at 9:30 on a Saturday and you can parkrun, too. Lovely.

If you want to see shots from all round the run, this video from 10th July 2021 takes in the whole thing.

Results from Castlewellan parkrun, event 131. 138 finishers.

Larne parkrun, NI

Larne parkrun route. Out, 2 anticlockwise loops, back. Start by the Sea Cadets base (and currently in their car park, to allow distancing), next to the Drains Bay car park.

On the day Northern Ireland set a record for its highest recorded temperature, a run by the sea turned out to be a great idea. With a breeze and glorious views (which I noticed mostly while walking round after the event), this was a gorgeous run as the day warmed up around us.

The start and finish are currently in the car park, to the left. Just to the right of the second marshal are two signs, which mark the usual start point. Note that the map on their page suggests it starts in the park, which is not the case.
Looking the other way (South) from the finish line.

I hopped off the midnight ferry from Cairnryan at 2am, drove to the car park and then waited. At this time of year I only had a couple of hours of darkness, and those with the sky changing colour, to sleep before daylight came, so sleep was fitful. Dawn, though, was gorgeous, with the sea shushing against rocks as an atmospheric backdrop.

Facilities. Drains Bay car park is ample for the current size, leaving space for other activities such as the charity walk that set off this morning. There’s also parking for a food truck and a gelato truck that I only just resisted. The toilets there should be open from 9, but were opened before 8 this morning. There’s another car park on the water side just opposite the park’s gate, which is about 600m (the length of the out and back section) from the start and finish.

I was disappointed to see the whole distance only equated to 40m of elevation climbed, as it felt like it was rarely flat. The first out section is, but after that there’s fairly constant gentle ups and downs, with one long downhill section to complete the lap of the park. A pretty tough course, I thought, though I did complete each mile more quickly than the last, so I guess it’s not so lumpy as to completely knock the stuffing out.

After the first major climb, remember to look left for a view over the sea (I missed it till I walked round).

There’s plenty to see, most of which I missed in the general blur of trying to get round, even though it’s two laps round the country park. A trampolining area, campsite, cafe, fitness equipment and a mini railway. None were in use as I went round, though the park was getting busier after 10:30 as I walked round later.

The course was well marshalled and signed, with a few large signs put in place where there aren’t marshals. On the course map, above, you can see a small loop at the bottom left. At that junction you just turn right each time, so runners don’t cross each other to make the loop. All that said, there are also permanent arrows on poles, as shown in the picture below. There are probably other kilometre markers, too, though I only spotted the 1k – and that on my walk, not while running.

A few pictures of hills. Or gentle inclines to attack, perhaps, if you’re fitter than I am.

A few more tight turns on the route. On the first, you cross the road, keep the railings on your left and sharp right at the bottom. In the middle, pass the bench on your left, then right and left to not hit the fence. And finally, a cruel uphill with railings on the side, where normally you’d cut across the grass, but here follow the path round an S-bend.

There are other sections of the park, which aren’t covered by the run, and if you’ve time I recommend a walk to the far end (compared to the run start) to see the maze, flower garden and time garden – it must have been a long time since I’ve used a sundial as I was amazed at how accurate they were.

Larne – seaside location, scenic, coolish on a warm day and a testing place for a parkrun gallop!

Results from Larne parkrun, event no. 322, 17th July 2021.

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