Portrush parkrun, Northern Ireland, Saturday, June 18, 2016

Jonathan Hamill

My legs feeling a little heavier from my mid-week efforts at Lisburn Half Marathon, I headed North, to Portrush (Portmagic as it is known to locals). Having grown up nearby, running on my old doorstep was a good way to conclude my trip.

portrush1aA school friend had recently opened a luxury B&B, and I was keen to try it out. Blackrock House is the 1st 5* graded B&B in Portrush, and recent runner up in the Tourism Northern Ireland Awards ‘Most Promising New Tourism Business’ 2016.

I alighted the Belfast train at Dhu Varren, just before the main Portrush station and walked round the corner to Blackrock House. Nicola’s house has fantastic views (photo above), overlooking the West Bay beach, promenade and having stunning views towards the Giant’s Causeway. It is also situated on the main Causeway Coastal Route, offering many running options, including a coastal run of around 6 miles to nearby Portstewart. It is a runner friendly B&B, and I’d highly recommend it to those of you who are contemplating running events in the local area.

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portrush3a I headed out on the Friday morning for a gentle run. Leaving Blackrock House, I dropped down onto the West Bay promenade, past the famous Barry’s amusements, the Lifeboat Station and Harbour, rounding the headland at Lansdowne, towards the East Strand (home to Portrush parkrun), and eventually back through the town.

On the Saturday morning, my runner friendly breakfast comprised granola with local yoghurt (Nicola also offers the post parkrun option of something more substantial). Portrush parkrun has a slightly more civilised start of 0930hrs and although it is a short jog from Blackrock House, I gladly accepted Nicola’s offer of a lift as she was taking some photographs of the event.

Portrush parkrun is the world’s first beach parkrun and it is run entirely on the sand. The course starts adjacent to the watersports centre at the East Strand and rounds the coastline towards the White Rocks and back. It is flat but challenging with a variable surface, according to the tide.

portrush4a

portrush6 Mervyn Thompson (pictured left), officiating as Run Director provided the briefing. This included the offer of tomato plants, from Fiona, one of the regulars who had got a wee bit carried away in the garden! A nice touch saw the milestone runners called up to the front and applauded by the crowd. A BBC camera crew was filming for the documentary, “Love in a day” which focuses on people doing things they love and on this occasion, the love of parkrun! Faye McLernon, a former schoolmate was filmed, (look out for the purple t-shirt).

Contrary to the weather forecast, it had been dry for the past few days and it was a sunny day, although the wind was pretty fierce, as I found out! High tide had been at 0630hrs and there was some reasonably firm sand along the route.

I set off from the beach start line and struck a decent pace, which would have delivered a finish of around 25 minutes. All was good, until the turning point – a flag with loose sand, which took the wind out of my sails. The return was into the wind, which was formidable and my pace took a hammering – no negative splits! I did wonder if the catch-up with an old friend in the Harbour Bar the previous evening had hampered my chances a little too!

202 runners attended Portrush parkrun’s 202nd event! The fastest finisher came in at 19:13. I was slower than usual but given the wind and miles under my belt during the week, I was happy to come in 10th in my age category at 27:07.

portrush5After some quick goodbyes, I had to shoot off to catch the train back to Belfast, and a comparatively complex two-flight hop via Heathrow home. There are no direct flights to Newcastle on a Saturday, which work with parkrun timings (I suspect most people would make a weekend of it anyway).

For those interested in sampling the North coast hospitality, the following may also be of interest and I’d happily help folk with their travel plans as required:

  • North Coast 5k/10k at Portrush – 7th July 2016
  • ANI Prostrate Cancer 5 mile road race – 26th August 2016
  • Causeway Coast Marathon – 24th September 2016
  • Mussenden 10k Challenge Easter Saturday – 15th April 2017
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