No point in making a cheesy joke if you can’t labour the point. And just like buses that arrive in pairs after a long delay, I managed a second parkrun this Saturday after a lengthy absence from this wonderful event. And it’s certainly not for any lack of love for parkrun, which has been a great success and a real tonic for local communities. It has without doubt encouraged folk off the couch and out into their local parks and introduced them to the joy of running. And indeed, plenty simply walk it too. Buggies and dogs are allowed as well, making it a very inclusive event. It’s totally free and run by a great bunch of volunteers. What’s not to love!
I have not been around much during the day, as I usually would have been in my time with the fire service. It has meant getting up early doors to get those mid-week runs in before the day begins. Then my brother Robert came over from Italy to catch up with the family and, in particular, see Dad in hospital, so we pencilled in a parkrun for the weekend. His youngest son, Oren, joined us. Oren studies in Trinity, and also runs for their athletic club, so he’s a damn fine runner, specialising in 800 and 1,500 – good distances if you want to knock out a 5k in a decent time. I gave Mark a call, and he agreed to join us.
And so we arrived at Castletown parkrun in Celbridge around 9am for our warm-up. This was rather tricky as there was a chill wind whipping across the open fields in front of the big old house, so stripping down to the run gear was left to the last possible minute. The usual parkrun spiel was reeled off by the run director, and there was someone there on 200 runs which roused a good cheer, and then when she asked if there were any overseas visitors present, one gent at the front quipped “Yep, I’m from Achill!” which got a good laugh. Google Maps might be your friend here if Irish geography isn’t your forte.
Oren went off like a rocket, and there was no catching him. I stayed close to the front, and on the second lap, I was amongst two other lads with not much ahead that I could catch, or behind. One of the volunteers let us know we were ninth, tenth and eleventh. Not too shabby, I suppose. I pushed on ahead and gradually managed to get a little daylight from the other two and crossed the finish in about 21.42, still in ninth place. Oren was well ahead of the second placed runner, with a time of around 18.45, as I recall. And that was his tempo training run!
Mark had a good run, despite a recent bit of a health scare. My brother Robert had a bit of a ‘mare, having had a hip issue a few weeks ago. He plays far too much five-a-side football, which is murder on the joints. He just about snuck in under the half-hour, bless ‘im.
And so, on to Sunday, and what to do on one’s birthday? Well, arise at 06.15, of course, and go for a long run. It was dark when I left the house at exactly 7am, so the head torch was required for the first stretch, which saw me ease through the local park and out on to the Clonee Road before heading eastwards along the canal towpath. It’s a tricky old strip of land to negotiate at the best of times, and in the dark when you are still not fully ‘with it’, it can test your resolve. I wasn’t bothered about times today, though, so I pootled along until the first half-decent length of towpath at the beginning of the Deep Sinking. But once fully into the deep, dark depths of the Sinking, the towpath becomes a mass of tree roots, cunning rocks and hidden gullies, all bent on pitching you headlong into the icy waters below; and well below they are too. It’s not called the Deep Sinking for nothing.
I made it through unscathed and emerged into civilisation at the M50 aqueduct, stopping for a quick snap which I made sure to send to my brother who was by now safely back in Italy. I turned off the canal at Ashtown and entered the Phoenix Park. Skirting the northern boundary wall, I soon crossed over the main road at the Castleknock Gates. Another quick snap was required, this time looking east up Chesterfield Avenue – the scene of many a Dublin Marathon, though of course, on this cold and clear morning, there were no thousands of keen marathoners thronging the road.
I left the park at the next exit – Farmleigh – and took a route I have never done before, past Castleknock College along the ‘top road’ which runs parallel to the Strawberry Beds below. Mostly there is footpath here, but this petered out as we neared Lutrellstown, and soon became quite dangerous. One near miss with a van convinced me to turn right towards the Clonsilla station where I was able to hook up with the canal again, and a much more relaxed thoroughfare.
I was getting a wee bit tired now, but resolved not to take the first or second options off the canal, and soldiered on to Louisa Bridge. Left here, then, and back into Leixlip along Station Road, stopping briefly to pick up some bread for the promised breakfast. 18 miles all told, in just under three hours. It was not quite the run as dictated by the programme, but I was happy to get anywhere close to the distance, even if the pace was off. There are only five weeks left, and these will include the inevitable taper.
Lovely breakfast and gifts, and the night was wrapped up with my favourite event of all; pizza and a bottle of beer, watching a film with the family at home.