by Roger Pangbourne
parkrunday minus 1: 06:15: Off to Birmingham airport for various meetings at our Belfast office to be followed by an evening staff event - with a lovely opportunity to fit in a spot of
tourism the following morning.
After a little research a few weeks ago, I decide to pass on the opportunity of my missing ‘V’ at Valley and choose Stormont based on the beautiful course description.
On the flight over I pop a little pic onto the UK parkrun tourists Fb group (the one you can ask to join after completing 20 different parkruns) sporting my cow cowl as a pocket square!
17:00 onwards: Not too much drinking, but too late to sleep as usual!
parkrunday: 07:45: Alarm stirs me - It’s parkrunday!! YEA! Most weeks at 07:45 I’m normally leaving home for the 6-minute jog to my home parkrun (Market Harborough where I’m co-Event Director), but here I am with the lovely 09:30 start hitting the snooze button!
08:45: My colleague and I meet up in the hotel reception for a booked taxi to Stormont.
I’ve walked, jogged, run, driven and even flown directly to a parkrun (see Henstridge Airfield Run Reports from mid-April!), but I’ve never taken a taxi before - how organised and opulent!
09:00: The taxi arrives at Stormont gates and we start to chat with today’s RD, Simon and loyal volunteers Mags, Max and Jimmy who are all busy setting up the pop-up drinks station and the wonderfully bright finish funnel.
09:20: Mags starts the First Timers Briefing and I notice an unusually large number of little people. Nobody’s due to be running under 18 minutes, so the normal ‘follow someone else’ advice is given!
09:25: Simon takes over for the RD briefing and we learn that the local St Joseph’s Primary School from Ballyhackamore have encouraged around 20 pupils to attend today’s parkrun.
On the way to the start I chat to a few of these lovely young ladies who tell me that they’ve done the junior 2k parkruns before, but today is their first 5k parkrun. Now I #loveparkrun, and I’ve just passed my 4th parkrun anniversary (yesterday), but parkrun continues to amaze me - what a lovely thing for a school to encourage. Everyone was full of smiles, despite the decidedly unsunny weather.
09:30: After a stroll towards the Stormont Parliament Building, it’s an about turn and then 3-2-1-parkrun and we’re off!
09:32: We run up towards the finish where the PA system is rocking with some motivational tunes as we turn into the woods for the first time and it’s not long before I spy the first of several beautifully carved tree stumps that dot the grounds. Having struggled with my fitness recently, I’m consciously checking my speed to make sure I can maintain a reasonably steady pace throughout today’s parkrun.
(photos by Gail JAZMIK)
09:35: We cross the Prince of Wales Avenue and pass the Mo Mowlam play park. The scenery is gorgeous and the puddles add some good hurdling practice into today’s parkrun!
Before I know it, we’re heading towards the finish funnel about to start our second lap.
09:42: Second lap. Same again, but just as lovely. My 1k Strava splits have been very even (4:45; 4:50: 4:45; 4:51; 4:33) and I’ve certainly overtaken more than have overtaken me. I cannot catch up another place in the final sprint for the line (another Roger I learn) and settle for a respectable 30th position in 23:42 (rats, not one of my missing bingo numbers!)
09:55: After a quick scan, I splosh back towards Parliament Buildings to join my colleague.
After completing the London Marathon earlier this year, his running has lapsed a little and he certainly ‘enjoyed’ last night a little more than me!
09:58: He appears from the woods and I join him for some lively ‘encouragement’ for his final 400m. We manage to close in on, but not overtake a small group in front and he dips for the line in 29:36 and he’s happy with that. Another quick scan and he’s off in another taxi and bound for Belfast International (not sure I’d want to be sitting next to him on his flight! )
10:20: Joanne, today’s Tail Walker crosses the line and that’s parkrun #199 wrapped up and in the bag!
So up front as your first finisher today was young Gareth CAMPBELL at only his second ever parkrun and first at Stormont in an impressive 18:48. Equally impressive was your first female finisher Anna BLAKE in 20:44 (9th overall). Topping the Age Grade table today was Jacob MCKITTRICK with a super 74.11%. Joining the above 3 mentioned parkrunners were also Stephen MORRIS, Ghislain DEMEULDRE and Hugh DICKSON, all of whom achieved age grade scores over 70% - honourable mentions to all. Well done to all 178 parkrunners who completed Stormont today with special congratulations to 21 of you who set new PBs - maybe you just wanted to get out of the rain quickly?! 35 First Timers were welcomed today. There were 18 tourists from local and far away places such as Limerick, (Market Harborough), Worthing and even South Africa! This means that 17 people began their parkrun journey at Stormont today and to you we give you all a special shout out and hope you return again and again.
parkrun events don’t happen without an incredible bunch of people some like to call ‘volunteers’, but feel free to call them super-heroes if you prefer! Thank you to all 16 of you who helped make the magic happen today. As a tourist today, the pop-up drinks station and oranges are a particularly nice touch, as well as the music to keep people going.
10:40ish: After more chats and a little help packing the equipment away, it’s time to seek out somewhere to dry off before my return flight, which is over 4 hours away. It seems the rain has meant no café gathering today, so looking like a drowned rat, I sneak into the lovely surroundings of the Stormont Hotel and a few minutes later re-emerge as a dryer version of myself, nearly resembling a human being. I settle down for this!....
A very civilised tea and scones - totally recommended and start to ‘parkfaff’ the hours away until my flight from Belfast City.
18:35: Shortly after arriving home, the results come through: “Roger, your time in position 30 today at Stormont parkrun was 23:42. Well done on your 1st run here, you did look a bit silly in that blue mac thing, but hope you enjoyed it nonetheless.” - how do they know these things??!!
I did enjoy it Stormont and thank you - a lovely parkrun and a great choice for my first Northern Ireland parkrun. All the best for your 200th next week - LET THERE BE CAKE!