Run report 230 – 11th January 2020

It was a BIG day at Stormont Estate.

The rumor was that the new running club is kicking off at the top of the hill. But it’s part of the parkrun code to share the park with other users so no bother to us. Everyone is welcome! Come and join us every Saturday at 9:30am, free, timed 5k run, jog, walk. Or try volunteering - great way to give back, have fun and meet new people.

                     Parkrun is for everyone.




People were saying that there was some excitement in the air but when we arrived in the morning all we could feel was WIND. And what a wind it was! Obviously in the wrong direction so 260 people who run had to put significantly more effort to keep moving forward. 14 PBs were recorded – what an achievement in this weather!

Lyn Sheldon, surrounded by her running buddies from Scrabo Striders, completed 150th parkrun.


Michael Osborne reached a 50th parkrun milestone. Congratulations!

We had visitors from Donegal and Wallace parkrun.

The event was made possible by a team of wonderful volunteers:
David RAINEY, Max MCROBERTS, Stephen HAMILTON. Aisling SPAIN, Linda INGRAM, Magda BERNATEK, Debi ALLEN, Gillian SADLIER, Mark HUNT. Rohan RAMAVATH, Miranda JEMPHREY, Helena DRYSDALE, Ellen DEEHAN, Patricia ADAMS, Bridget INNES, Jimmy MCNEILL, Andy ORR, Gary CRAIG, Danny HOLDEN, Una McNEILLvolThanks, Magda.


Double, double, toil and (no) trouble – Run report 228 – Jan 1 2020


Stormont parkrun, January 1 2020


By Simon Doyle

There was a time before I was a core team member at Stormont when I was a borderline obsessive (past tense ok?) parkrun tourist.
I'd not go out of my way to tick arbitrary boxes, try to earn unofficial animal print buffs or collect letters of the alphabet or suchlike, but I would pop along to other parkruns "if I'll be there anyway".
Except once. January 1 2015.


The Highfield in Middlesbrough. NYD double basecamp: Inset showing run credits

The Highfield in Middlesbrough. NYD double basecamp: Inset showing run credits

Ahead of a planned visit to Newcastle, I found myself in a hotel room above a noisy pub in nearby Middlesbrough on New Year's Eve. Look up the definition of the word "grim" and you'll have an idea. But why on earth? Why, because two parks were hosting New Year's Day parkruns, at different times, and both counted, is why. It made sense at the time.
Fast forward a few months and Stormont parkrun was in its infancy.
After a few more weeks, and Stormont was established as a popular event, I started asking other event teams had the double I, erm, enjoyed? in Middlesbrough, ever been an option in Northern Ireland. The answer was "no". So, along with Comber, we arranged to host the first local double in 2016 - they'd start at 9:30 and then we would follow 90 minutes later.
Ask someone who was there that day to tell you about it and watch their eyes glaze over in a thousand-yard stare. We still bear the scars.
The short version is Waterworks had been cancelled due to ice and a lot of runners made their way to Stormont. Add to that the crowd, on buses, coming from Comber, and our own regulars, and the 500 runner barrier was broken for the first time anywhere in Northern Ireland.

nyd1That 500 now seems miniscule compared to the last three years - 654, 644 and a huge 776 this year.
At 9.15, we thought we would get off lightly. But in typical flashmob style, runner after runner appeared.
Every year, we chat as a team about how we can improve things in future. We make small changes - more tokens, extra scanners, a longer funnel - but numbers continue to surprise us. Almost 800 out running in the beautiful estate on the first day of the year was both astonishing and unexpected.
That figure of 776 is the highest attendance ever recorded in Northern Ireland, breaking the previous record by more than 120.
Across six greater Belfast venues, there were more than 3,000 runs logged this Jan 1. All our neighbouring events also set attendance records.

Destinations of parkrun doublers on NYD. Picture by parkrun statsgeeks

Destinations of parkrun doublers on NYD. Picture by parkrun statsgeeks

Almost 450 runners who joined us at 9:30, completed a second run later the same day - 210 joining Orangefield, 162 taking part in the `Stormeau' double, 65 travelling to the north of the city and Waterworks and six having enough time to get to Antrim.

We laughed nervously when asking "what if Vicky park hadn't also been on". We are glad they were, otherwise we might have had to consider locking the gates.

Among our 776, there were an amazing 161 first time runners. It isn't always as busy. Queues to cross the finish line are exceptional and hopefully, with a few tweaks, won't be seen again.
As always we had a strong team of eager volunteers, led by our Event Director and founder Mel, and many thought on their feet to help handle the large crowds.
We are already discussing how we can make Jan 1 2021 run more smoothly. It is hard to imagine ever topping 776, but then we never thought we'd better 654. As parkrun continues to grow, it stands to reason that Stormont will as well.
We will celebrate our fifth birthday in August but long before we even think about how to mark that milestone, we are planning for this Saturday and, hopefully, normality.


Run report 227 – 28th December

Just days after welcoming a bumper Christmas crowd for our festive bonus run, we were back as normal today, joined by close to 300 people.
A lot of behind the scenes work brought you the results a lot sooner than initially thought/feared. There remain some bugs, but we have a good team of volunteers that were quick to offer some practical solutions.

20190914_125044We had visitors from far and wide on Saturday - from Brisbane, Sydney, Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight, Milton Keynes, York, Dublin, Glasgow, Brighton and Plymouth. Those are only the ones we were told about.
Not content with staging an extra event on Christmas, we are back for more on January 1, at the usual time of 9:30am. January 1 is the only day of the year where you are allowed to earn two parkrun credits. There are other events nearby being staged at different times. A full list is available at You don't all HAVE to run twice, you can volunteer one and run one as well. Given the expected karge crowd, extra help would be appreciated.
Staging an extra event mid-week also means no putting off the agony of token sorting. Well, as long as it is done by Wednesday morning...but right now it can wait.


Well done to first finisher Jamie today, ducking under 17 minutes and breaking his course PB. A strong run and a great reaction on being informed of his time. That was Jamie's 31st time as first finisher at Stormont.
There was a PB for first female Emmy as well - two in a week after her Christmas PB. It was Emmy's twelfth first finish at Stormont.
Of our 296 runners today, 25 were first timers and 38 recorded new personal bests. Representatives of 26 different clubs took part. We welcomed 17 volunteers.
Stormont parkrun started on 29th August 2015. Since then 7,505 participants have completed 44,983 parkruns covering a total distance of 224,915 km.

That's it for 2019. Thank you for your support.


Event number 226 – 25th December 2019 HO HO HO

What a spectacular day it was on Christmas Day at Stormont.

The marvellous volunteers rocked up at Stormont to the news that both Bangor and Wallace had been cancelled at the last minute, owing to icy conditions, so we expected a few more peeps than normal... we were not however prepared for the throngs of runners and walkers (and santas, crackers, elves and snowmen) that entered through the gates!


Nearly 600 people (570 to be precise!) ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 100 were first timers (a huge welcome to you all) and 78 recorded new Personal Bests. Go you! Representatives of 47 different clubs took part.

We were so thrilled that so many of you chose Stormont on Christmas Day, it was fantastic to have you with us.

Special welcome to all the visitors who joined us on the day from near and far and it was a great privilege to welcome Simon Lane and Martha. Simon is one of the Run Directors at Bushy Park - so they are both well used to large numbers! To give this some context... Bushy Park had 2545 runners, joggers and walkers on Christmas Day... eek!

There were many milestones too...

(So sorry we were unable to recognise you all by name during the briefing...)

Emily Morris and Rishab Reddy (both juniors) chose to achieve their 10 t-shirt at Stormont - huge kudos to you both! Emily also landed a pb - clever girl!

Beverley Crockard will soon be rocking a 50 t-shirt, amazing Beverley, very well done.

David Gribben, John Stevenson,  Robert Beattie, Heather Stanex and Sheena Kelly all joined the 100 club - we are thrilled and delighted you chose to achieve this fantastic milestone with us at Stormont.

The swan effect...a few hurdles on the way...

(which we smashed btw! hee hee)


With over 500 peeps running, we knew we had to operate the stopwatches in a different way (each stopwatch only records the times of the first 497 runners!) so once Jonny had timed the first 497 on his stopwatch, he signalled to Karen to take over and record the remaining runners times... they did this marvellously well and didn't lose focus for even a second... (kudos to Mags for the sage and quick-thinking advice to Mrs Claus!)


We have 440 finish tokens...(the average attendance at Stormont is around 200 and last Christmas day there were around 360) 400 odd would therefore be no sweat to us...

Clever Head-Elf Alison had thought ahead and had printed off a few more finish token scanning-codes on A4 paper in the 'unlikely' event that we may have more than 440 people attend... recognising quite quickly that there were about a zillion people in Stormont Estate, she rang her hubby, Chief Turkey-Baster Barrie who printed off a whole pile more, got on his bike and zoomed them down to Mrs Claus...


It was then noticed that there was a very icy bit of the course, but with our marshalls Helena, Helen and Lesleyanne already in position we had to come up with another plan B... Una, who was allocated as a scanner, was moved to the icy bit to ensure everyone was kept safe and multi-tasked for the event (well, she is a woman of great strength and character!) and scanned in a lot of you too.


With a zillion people coming into the finishing funnel in quick succession, Fabrice, Jimmy (the real santa) Claus, Sophie and Gillian worked swiftly and in tandem, issuing tokens like lightening and saying well-worn phrases such as... 'Well done' & 'Merry Christmas' & 'Keep in line' and 'Move quickly please' & 'Vomit at the end'... lol.

All runners were then directed to the marvellous scanners, David, Choi and Una - after her 'ice-duty' was completedThese guys worked effortlessly and with good humour too. Alison also dug in after her run too (another extremely efficient multi-tasking woman of strength and character!)

Participants were then directed to the convivial providers of mulled wine, hot coffee, doggy biscuits and fresh water - Maxs and Mags.


Run Director, Marianne then scooted home at the end of parkrun to upload (download??) the 5 scanning devices that were used (3 scanners and 2 apps on phones) and both stopwatches... in order that everyone could receive their result quickly.

Mindful that she had 30 family members coming for mulled wine & mince pies at noon...followed by turkey with all the trimmings for 11, promised for 3pm...(eventually served at 4.20pm...) and was still in the Mrs Claus outfit worn to parkrun...with lovely sparkly clothes all laid out, ready to do a quick change into before guests arrived...results needed to be completed with military precision...

Uploading (downloading??) the results is a very simple process; the software is efficient and is very clever technology and everything was going according to plan of the stopwatches refused to be recognised by the laptop... and therefore was not uploading (downloading??) ...aarrghh!

A few whatsapp messages later, to the other run directors, and a lot of scratching of heads and it was decided to do what all techies advise... reboot the laptop (lol)...this had no effect whatsoever...

Every serial port was checked, two cables were used but nada, zilch, zero uploading was happening...

Quick facebook message posted advising that results may not be up before the next day and back to heating mulled wine and basting the turkey...

Guests began to arrive and in between glugging mulled wine (copious amounts to help with brain-function) and opening pressies, Mrs Claus was back at the laptop, trying to prevent the what-was-almost-inevitable-at-this-point, 59:59 results for everyone...

Throughout the day, at various times, the laptop was rebooted again, cables were attempted again (sparkly outfit never did get put on but that might have been down to the mulled wine!) multiple whatsapp messages were made, no time to even make the phone-call to parkrun HQ (who always have a designated person available to talk to with any issues on processing results)... and then... Mrs Claus did what anyone would have done and gave up for the day...

Boxing day brought a brand new day and with dogged (some might say bloody-minded!) determination that this would not beat her...  and a fresh (but bumpy) head, the search for the 'eureka moment' continued... there were many google searches and lots more whatsapp messages to fellow run directors and the event director... she was about to ring parkrun HQ, and then it happened... EUREKA!!!

Mrs Claus uploaded (downloaded??) all devices (except the dumb stopwatch) to the software just to 'see what would happen' ...

She realised that she could manually enter the times of the approx 80 people who had no time recorded from the stopwatch and what do you know... it worked!! It didn't even take too long to do that as all the names were recorded when they had been scanned....

Several huge sighs of reliefs, self-patting on back and whoop whooping later... it was done!

Then something even more miraculous happened... Head-Angel Magda messaged insisting that she would take the tokens to sort out and put them all in order ready for the next parkrun Event Number 227 on Saturday.

Sorry that the run report is like war and peace but hopefully this helps to explain what happened! The sick stopwatch (RIP) has been laid to rest and we look forward to welcoming you all again to Stormont soon.

The event was made possible by 20 fantastic and festively dressed volunteering elves:

Mags MATHIESON • Gary WATTON • Marianne HOOD • Max MCROBERTS • Fabrice SCOUPE • Una MCNEILL • Sophie LAW • Magda BERNATEK • Alison CANNING • Gillian SADLIER • Choi Yuk TSE • Helena DRYSDALE • Jonathan CAMPBELL • Helen MCMAHON • Patricia ADAMS • David MALEY • Jimmy MCNEILL • Karen DOUGAN • Gary CRAIG • Lesleyanne R


Today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Stormont parkrun Results Page.

Looking forward to next years Christmas Day run and wishing you all a very Happy New Year - don't forget we will be running on NYD too, starting at 9.30am and please bring along any old trainers which will be donated to refugee families who have settled in Northern Ireland. Check out the event page here

We are away to lie down in a darkened room now...

Mrs Marianne Claus xx


Run report 225, 21 December 2019




'Twas several nights before Christmas, and a foggy morning at the Stormont Estate. The volunteers certainly needed their high-vis vests today.


In total 259 parkrunners completed the course with 26 achieving PBs. We had 21 first-timers. Well done!


We had visitors from Bangor, Glasgow, Macclesfield and even Perth in Western Australia. Oh, and we netted some from Wimbledon too (is that where the loveparkrun hashtag came from?).


Among the milestone achievers who made themselves known were Gillian Sadlier and Daniel Ryden, both of whom joined the 100 club. Well done. It was Daniel's birthday too so we wish him many happy returns (especially to Stormont, because he brought cake).


There were plenty of festive outfits and Santa hats on show. Thank you to the following little helpers who volunteered today to make this event possible: Jonathan CAMPBELL, Alison CANNING, Gary CRAIG, Karen DOUGAN, Helena DRYSDALE, Amanda FIELDHOUSE, Stephen HAMILTON, Chris HUGHES, Miranda JEMPHREY, Eva LASINI, Clare LASINI, Mags MATHIESON, Angela MAWHINNEY, Jimmy MCNEILL, Una MCNEILL, Max MCROBERTS, Trevor MOUTRAY, Kimberley REYNOLDS, Paul SHELDON, Caroline STEELE, Sara THOMPSON, Heather WATSON, Elin WATSON.


If you'd like to volunteer, you'll always be welcome and all roles are straightforward. Drop us a line at


See you next time - and don't forget Stormont parkrun will take place on Christmas Day at the usual time too.



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