I am no longer a Parkrun Virgin!

There comes a time in every runners life when you just have to let it go. Over the past year I have ran every distance from 5k to Marathon and still held onto the fact I’d never ran a Parkrun. I wasn’t willing to just let any Parkrun be my first. I had flirted with going to Lisburn or Belfast to break my Parkrun virginity but with word on the street that a team was working hard in Kilbroney, Rostrevor, to bring Parkrun nearer to home, I held off waiting and hoping it would be the perfect one for me.

Low and behold the promise of Parkrun coming to Kilbroney materialised and under the wing of “Race Director” Dermot Mathers (why does he keep stalking me and my life I’ll never know) last week saw over 130 participants take to the trails of Kilbroney to mark the inaugural Parkrun.

Sadly I missed out on it as was busy learning how to save lives in case I ever come across a runner in need of more than hug. So clearly on the calendar I had marked this weeks Parkrun as a must.

It was an unseasonably mild December morning and as we left the confines of our cosy home in Castlewellan to make our way to Rostrevor, we had no idea what lay ahead. I have encountered Kilbroney a few times over the year in various races, so I was under no illusion that it was going to be a flat and monotonous course.

Over 100 parkrunners took to the start line and before we knew it we were off.

As we set off towards Fairy Glen, the sea of runners stretched the length of the path. As a 2 lap course my aim was simply not to be over taken by the front runner. It was great to have Caitriona back out running and keeping me right. She even requested for me to sing which is usually the reason she lets me run on as she doesn’t want to hear me. A rendition of Jiggle Bells was soon cut short as we approached the first hill.

As we climbed up through the twisty gravel track we were able to gain a place or two. Met by a lovely and very positive volunteer who directed us on up another hill. At this point on the loop the other runners came down the other side and spotting Michael with those who I assumed where in around the mid 20s, I knew that the front runners wouldn’t be too far behind me.

It was a relief to see the second hill end and know it was all downhill from there. As we came in through the caravan park, we where greeted by the Narnia Trail Door and like little fairies we ran through the woods towards the start again.

I could have easily stopped after 1 lap but as I crossed the line for the 2nd lap I spotted Don Travers coming across the finish and although I had made it a lap (just about) without being lapped, I know next time to get my ass moving a bit quicker!

The second lap didn’t have the fear of the unknown. You knew where to push yourself and where you needed to contain your energy. I’m still trying to figure out if that’s a good thing or not but I enjoyed the second lap more even if I did shed a tear as couldn’t shake off a niggle. I was able to take in the surrounding mountains that tower over the forest, listen to the leaves crunching under feet and appreciate my procrastination on the last hill that bit more.

It was exciting to come back down through Narnia, though it was more like a heard of elephants than a collection of fairies. The end was near and everyone knew it. Getting to the finish and smoothly going through the post parkrun motions, I was finally not a Parkrun Virgin anymore.

I have to give a shout out to all the volunteers, from the moment we arrived they where on hand to help with informing you about what is happening, what the route was and keeping you in the craic. Nothing beats fun and laughter first thing on a Saturday morning. Through out the course they were very encouraging and also empathy was aplenty as probably runners themselves, they knew the story that our faces told. We were treated to cake and sweets afterwards which was a fantastic surprise and finished the event off lovely.

It was great to see 6 of the Murlough crowd making the Parkrun also, well there where 5 until we realised Michael had decided to tackle a 3rd lap as punishment for that 3rd helping of Jameson last night, as that’s what sane people do obviously.

So Parkrun done and home for 11am. So this is what everyone raves about…I totally get it!

So was it worth waiting for the right Parkrun to be my first, definitely! I couldn’t have picked a more scenic yet challenging route. It was also helped by the fact that the weather was perfect and the seasonal changes in the surroundings added to the beauty. I just love running in the forest even if it does mean that I am faced with some “mild” elevation.

I will definitely be back and think if you are still waiting to pop your parkrun cherry, this is the one to do it. Friendly volunteers, great route, a few wee challenges to wake you up and plenty of fellow parkrunners ready to share their Saturday morning with you.


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