My reflections on Darndale parkrun ()

In which I ran my first parkrun outwith the UK.

I had wanted to do a parkrun in a new country this year, as I had done in 2015, 2016, and 2017, but the year was rapidly coming to a close. With work and other commitments every Saturday for the duration of the year was already spoken for, except this one, I had been saving it with the intention of gatecrashing Sandwell Valley’s birthday party, while strolling along Swansea prom, past a closed down cafe, the week before I realised that the birthday cake was not really necessary.

I carefully considered my options, and by the Wednesday evening had booked myself a day return coach trip to Dublin, for the princely sum of about £66 (my most expensive parkrun trip ever!). The tourist tool shown about 30 parkruns in or around Dublin, but Darndale suggested itself for two reasons, one being its size, the other being an online review praising their left luggage facilities.

On Friday evening I made my way to Birmingham to board the 2200 coach from Digbeth. It was only once I arrived in Brum that I noticed that I had left my watch on charge at home so there would be no gpx records of my trip. I managed to get a couple of hours sleep on the coach, only to be woken up by each and every roundabout (which seem to clutter the England/Wales boarder) and was soon at Holyhead port. One on the ship I found a reasonably comfortable seat and let the gently rocking lull my to sleep.

The coach they carried me the final mile or two from Dublin port to the Busáras, arriving at about quarter to seven. A five minute walk later I was at Connolly Station, where I topped up my leap card with €10 and found a Northbound Dart train. I left the train at Clongriffin station and walked to the parkrun, via Farther Collins park (I made a mental note of where it was least I could not find my way to Darndale in time). I arrived at the park at about eight-thirty, perfectly ready for the half-nine start.

At that time in the morning there were few people around, but their was a parkrun flag so I guessed I was in the right place. The course seemed to be well marked, both by white arrows on the ground and stakes that contained not only arrows but also motivational message. I treated myself to a recce lap and by the time I returned there were a few more people around. Before the run I was chatting to a member of a local running club that was running this course for the first time, along with a dozen other member of his club. About then minutes before the run started the RD introduced herself to us, and being told of my journey ensured that everyone else there knew, so that my nickname for the day was ‘ferry man’.

The weather was almost perfect for running, chilly and overcast but mostly dry. The start of the run seamed to be too prompt for some of the runners. The run was good, mostly flat but with one mean hill and one submerged path on each lap, for the first lap I just about held 3rd place, with the 1st place runner flying away from me (I would later learn that on that day he was the fastest parkrunner in all of Ireland) the hill on the second lap then saw me lose 4th place (to a guy who would later thank me for pacing him for the first two miles) and then 5th. Knowing that 6th place would be a position best (but 7th would not) I kept pushing as the gap opened up in front of me. On each lap, just after the pond it is possible to see the runners following, I was quite relived to notice that the gap behind me seemed to be about the same as that in front. Eventually I reached the finish line.

In a time of 2306 I had finished in 6th (out of about 24). This was one second slower than my run in Swansea the previous week, but I’m certainly happy with it. After the run I had a chat with a few of the other runners, and the RD who gave me directions to the nearest bus stop (it was much closer than the station) and told me which number bus to get into the city the quickest.

While in the city I was able to attend to my other interests, and made my way back to the Busáras just over twelve hours after I had first arrived there, I was soon back on the coach only to be awoken fifty minutes later at the ferry port. I did not find it so easy to sleep on the return crossing, so set about making the most of their free wifi instead. Once back on the coach I slept almost all the way back to Digbeth, where at four on a Sunday morning their were no buses but only a 13 mile walk home (which just happened to take in Walsall Arboretum parkrun 22 hours too late.

In conclusion Darndale was a great little parkrun, they were very welcoming and the left luggage facilities were great. I hope to visit again. I will certainly be returning the Ireland at some point, but I’ve been told I must do Bushy next time I’m there.

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