No matter where you go, you can always run. One of the many great things about running is that once you start, there’s always something to do wherever you might find yourself. It’s a great way to explore a new place, or just appreciate a place in a different way. Or if it’s a boring place (here’s looking at you, suburban Chicagoland), running can make the stay a bit more interesting.
Our annual family holiday to Northern Ireland is now full of running. I love it.
I used to live in Belfast and had a brief flirtation with running during that time. My wife started running and I would accompany her on some runs, not particularly enjoying it. But not unlike kale, I knew it was good for me and hoped that I would acquire a taste for it. We walk-ran until we could run a whole 5k loop without stopping. At the time, it felt like a massive distance. And, looking back, it was an achievement. But I didn’t keep with it. Studies, work, and moving to Greece to work with an NGO got in the way (I did try running in Athens, but that was horrible misadventure… more on that another time). Running, not unlike my current car, started okay then sputtered out.
Now when we return to Northern Ireland, I love running there. Especially on the stunning north coast. I somehow feel closer to everything while running. The wind, constantly changing weather, amazing views… it’s an exhilarating way to experience and already beautiful place. The Causeway Coast Way and the endless golden sand and dunes of Portstewart Strand are highlights. Oh, and the “edge of the world” feeling you get on Ramore Head.
I also enjoyed a bit of parkrun tourism. I’ve done a couple in NI: the undulations of Wallace Park in Lisburn and the pancake loops at Victoria Park. This time I was able to make it to Portrush, which is a unique in being the only parkrun on a beach.
Portrush is a stunning course that goes along the “blue flagged” East Strand out to Whiterocks and back. It’s an out-n-back, but a lovely one. I had a fairly quick time (for me) with a 22:23. We had lovely firm sand to run on because the tide was out, but I bet this is a dozy when it’s high tide and runners have go on the soft sand. Must be a quad killer!
I also had anther go at Wallace Park parkrun and scored a course PB. One of the tougher parkrun courses I’ve done. Think I did a bit better at pacing myself this time, with the exception of going out to fast and fooling myself that I could maintain the sub-22 pace!
I also did two junior parkruns with my daughter — Ormeau and Portrush. Both events were well organised with an infectious enthusiasm. My daughter loved getting applause when she stuck her hand up when the RD asked, “Any visitors today?” All the way from glam Glasgow! Even though we didn’t know anybody, everyone was friendly and made the tourists feel welcome at both events. Great craic.
It was all great fun. Running only enriches what was already great holiday. On my fortnight away, I clocked up 75km. If anything, it means that I feel a bit less guilty about eating all those Tayto crisps by the bucket-load and over indigence in the Hilden Brewery’s many delights… I’m sure that I read somewhere that beer is a good recovery drink, right?