Brighton Hove Prom ppppb! And a fab weekend too.

The early May Bank holiday usually ends up being my birthday weekend too, and after being home from Ireland for a couple of weeks, of course we felt the need to make the most of the long weekend and head somewhere.

We got the train to Brighton on Friday evening, and came home on the Sunday.

On Saturday morning I headed to Hove Prom. Our hotel was slightly closer to here than to Preston Park, and I think I did Preston Park more recently. It turned out very lucky as I saw that Preston Park had to cancel with 5 minutes noticed due to a festival in the park being unaware of parkrun taking place each week.

I ran down to the start for a nice warm up- it was breezy but warm so I left my top in one of the boxes by the beach huts. When listening to the main briefing, they pointed out pacers for 27 and 30 minutes. Since the pause I have not managed to get a time under 28 minutes, so thought I would have a go at that. I don’t often run for time, and usually if I am in Brighton I’d have a race the next day so would be parkrunning sensibly. But I thought if I could keep in between the 30 and 27 minute pacer then I could stand a chance of finishing in under 28 mins.

I kept the 27 min pacer in sight but I was a bit behind her. At the half way point you pass the start/finish area again, and on this occasion the timer was calling out times- I heard 13:42 so spent a bit of time calculating that if I maintained my pace I would be under 28 mins- excellent!

As we reached the final turnaround point, the pacer slowed and gave us some encouragement, saying “try to keep up”- I called to her that I was trying my best, and a guy in front also joined in. I was amazed that I was keeping pace, and for the final section just counted up to 100 over and over again to try and keep my breathing in time with my steps. The pacer slowed as she got close to the  line and cheered us in. I stopped my watch soon after getting into the funnel and was on just over 27 minutes- I was amazed by that and so had a brief chat with her and the guy in front- I was so thankful for her for running such a steady pace and for being so encouraging. When the text message came in, I had gone even better and got sub 27- a 26:59! I’ve only managed a time beginning with 26 on 7 other occasions! This was also a course pb so deserved extra celebrations! And of course it was a post parkrun pause pb too! All the p’s!

Now that Ellenbrook Fields is gone, my local runs are not flat- either Panshanger or Jersey Farm- so I would not stand much chance of getting a similar time, and really I am usually happy to go around at an enjoyable pace and chat or enjoy the scenery. But it was nice to know that a couple of days before being a year older I could still do a fast (for me) time.

Acai bowl, pancakes, iced tea and delicious roasted almond butter chocolate

During the weekend of course we had some great food. Wolfox Café is becoming one of our favourite breakfast spots, with plant based pancakes or French toast (one branch is all vegan, but the other one has “onmi” food too), so I met Andy there after parkrun.

Of course we went to Bird and Blend- it was so warm I had an iced strawberry lemonade for a walk along the seafront to Hove. In the evening we got Purezza pizza which is just always delicious, and as it was so light we even had a walk after dinner along the seafront too.

The Sunday was a bit more overcast. I opted for an acai bowl for breakfast before another walk. We often have lunch at Leon when we are down there, as their Love burgers are so good, but I’d read lots of good things about the Vurger Co, so we tried something new. It was really tasty (loads of pickles- always the best bit) and I loved that you could get half and half fries (half regular and half sweet potato) but it was sooo messy! I am sure half of the filling ended up in the tray!

Time for a final Bird and Blend visit for a chai latte to take on the train to head home. A pretty perfect couple of days.

Do you have places that you like to visit often? Do you aim for specific times in races or at parkrun or are you happy to enjoy the experience in other ways? Do your local events often have pacers?

Ireland trip

In brief, our Ireland itinerary was as follows:

Friday night- fly to Dublin

Stay in Dublin until the Monday

Monday- collect the hire care and drive to Kilkenny.

Tuesday – drive to Waterford

Wednesday drive to Killarney, where we stayed until Sunday

Sunday- to Clare

Monday- to Galway for 2 nights

Wednesday to Westport

Thursday to Derry

Friday to Belfast (via Giant’s Causeway)

Saturday drive from Belfast to Dublin to fly home

First up, Ireland is absolutely beautiful. I’d never been (not even a weekend trip to Dublin which seems crazy given how close it is) and of course knew it as the Emerald Isle but there was gorgeous stunning scenery at every turn. We expected rain so were pleasantly surprised with lots of blue skies, and only one day of rain in the whole two weeks.

Loved spotting the green postboxes of course

I took my running bits with me, as I was aiming (and managed) to visit 3 parkruns, but I did a few other runs here and there, particularly in Killarney as we were there for a few days and it had easy running routes close by.

So, for a little more detail, read on…

Poolbeg parkrun

Dublin was wonderful and I would head back again in a heartbeat. After my parkrun near-disaster at Poolbeg, the rest of the time was spent walking around the city, going to the big library there to see the Book of Kells and the amazing collection of books, walking by the river, going to the Guinness factory, walking in the parks and enjoying lots of food (they have a Leon there, and one night we treated ourselves to a Wagamama in the restaurant rather than a takeaway). Through the excellent Happy Cow app (amazing for finding veggie and vegan places when travelling) we found The Rolling Doughnut who made amazing vegan doughnuts, and a few places that did delicious acai bowls so breakfast and snacks were sorted too! I even found a café that did a London Fog (usually only find them in Canada) so I was very happy!

On our drive from Dublin to Kilkenny (South Park anyone? Or just me?) we stopped at a big house and gardens for a walk around, and also stopped at Ireland’s tallest waterfall which was very impressive, green and lush.

Kilkenny itself was a pretty town with a castle (there were castles pretty much everywhere in Ireland) and a park- the map to the park had the parkrun start and route on there which I was super impressed with. We were not there on a Saturday but enjoyed a walk around the park in the morning before we had to leave.

On our drive to Waterford we stopped at another castle to have a look around, and then Waterford itself was very interesting as it had a history of Viking invasions.

On our drive to Killarney we stopped off in Cork to break up the journey and stretch our legs. The traffic was a nightmare as the road we needed to the car park turned out to be closed, but once we found somewhere to park and had a wander the iced chai we found made up for it.

Up until this point we’d stayed in hotels, but we had booked an Air BnB for the next few nights so we could relax a bit more. I discovered some nice running routes (the artwork above was all along the wall of an alleyway), we drove around the Ring of Kerry for some stunning views including white sandy beaches, and one day we hired bikes and cycled into the national park (as cars aren’t allowed on the roads there).

Chai latte, sunset views from our Air BnB, riding the bike through the national park

The Star Wars island in my selfie- can you see a porg?

After parkrun on Saturday we walked 2 miles up a mountain to see the most stunning views across the lakes and national park. I absolutely loved it there. We watched Death on the Nile in the evening as we needed to chill out and rest our legs after all that walking.

Up the mountain and very happy

On our drive to Clare we stopped off in Limerick to get some lunch, and then headed to the cliffs, which were phenomenally windy- I was worried my phone would blow away if I took a photo!

Awesome cinnamon rolls from a vegan deli which sadly has now closed, plus vegan pancakes from the Lighthouse Café 

Galway was a really lively place to stay for a couple of days, and perfect for vegans as there were loads of little independent places. I think I visited the Lighthouse Café each day, for cake, for a chai latte, for brunch and even for a sandwich to take with us on our journey the day we left. One of the days was when it rained most of the day- we had a walk by the coast which was lovely, and even saw a dolphin out in the harbour, and it was only drizzly rain so not too bad.

The drive from Galway to Westport was like driving through the Scottish highlands- beautiful lochs and heather covered mountains, until we reached the coast and then it was blue skies and the sea stretching as far as you could see.

Derry scenes- Guildhall, Derry Girls mural, views across the city to see all of the murals and the peace bridge

Having watched the new series of Derry Girls that week, it was exciting to be heading into Derry- the cast had been at that mural on the launch day. I didn’t know what to expect- growing up in the 90’s meant lots of scary news coming from Northern Ireland, and being there felt a bit like Berlin- with a difficult past but with that past being acknowledged if that makes sense. We walked around the city walls (around 2-3K I think) and it had information boards at regular intervals to find out more about the city. We also walked into the Guildhall which had the most stunning stained glass windows (this had been mentioned on the Derry Girls podcast as a location for a future episode, so I am keeping my eyes peeled for that).

Our hotel had great vegan options so we ate there for dinner in the end, but of course found a vegan café to get some takeaway cake for later.

Then we were up early to get up to our booking at the Giant’s Causeway. It’s National Trust so if you are members you can get in for free, but be warned, you need to book in advance! It was amazing to see the rock formations, but a little strange to see people clambering all over them. I would have thought they would be more protected?

My two souvenirs- a Dublin mug and pebble art from Giant’s Causeway.

And finally we arrived in Belfast for the afternoon/evening. The city hall was lit up in rainbow colours (and of course we found a vegan doughnut) and we walked over to the river so I knew where I’d be heading for parkrun in the morning.

It was great to bookend the holiday with another parkrun, and the timing was perfect as I just had time to get back to the hotel and shower before we had to check out and drive back to Dublin.

All in all, a pretty perfect holiday.

Have you ever been to Ireland? Do you like road trip holidays?

Ormeau parkrun Belfast- squeezing it in before the flight home

For the final Friday of our Ireland trip we stayed in Belfast, happily close to a parkrun. We had to check out by 11am, and the parkruns in NI don’t begin until 9:30am either (something I kept checking on their websites), so it meant it was a bit tight for time. As the crow flies Ormeau park was less than a mile from the hotel, but as it was on the other side of the river it meant more like 1.5 miles away. Thankfully it was a straightforward run and we had time the evening before to walk a bit of the way (so I could see the bridge)- I did not want to get lost again!

I saw a few people in milestone tops walking in the same direction, but it turned out they were tourists so it was lucky I didn’t rely on them! I was very relieved to see the park sign.

The park itself was gorgeous. You can look on a map and see a city centre location and have in your mind a patch of grass surrounded by big buildings, but this was a real gem. It was really varied with woods filled with tall trees, some wide open spaces, play parks, little coffee vans, outdoor exercise machines- it had so much.

The course was two laps that differed- one was 3k and one was 2k. At times you could look through the trees and see people running further ahead on the course- I always like this type of course as it really feels like a community running event when you can see so many others.

One gross thing to mention was a guy that kept spitting on the course- even before Covid this was disgusting but now it’s even worse! Just bring a tissue if you need to… Anyway, it meant I sped up quite a bit for part of the run to get ahead of him.

It was much busier than the previous two parkruns, with 302 runners. However it didn’t feel busy, even at the start.

After getting scanned, I started to head back to the hotel with time for a quick shower and breakfast before checking out and driving to Dublin airport (it’s less than a 2 hour drive).

So, parkrun event 83 for me- gradually creeping towards the next big milestone!

Are there parkruns that have surprised you with their courses?