2

The Parkrun odyssey goes on

Like all journeys in life I found that the best way to approach the Parkrun odyssey was to run straight at it.

Once I had announced my intention to complete each Parkrun in Northern Ireland (https://whatsadaddyfor.blog/2018/09/02/my-parkrun-challenge/) and basked in all of the congratulatory words and messages of good luck, then I really hadn’t left myself any alternative. I was going to have to do this.

And so it began. Travelling to new locations, searching for the starting line, familiarising myself with the route, meeting new runners every week.

I was worried that a sense of staleness or unwelcome obligation might soon set in. But the truth is that every Parkrun is different, they all have their own unique personality.

Wallace Park has the bandstand where everyone gathers for a chat and a sticky bun. Carrickfergus has all of those crazy bends. Victoria Park has the talking toilet and the beautiful views. Valley Park has that brutal hill – which you have to run up twice. And Ormeau Park has the numbers. If you want to run a PB at Ormeau then get yourself near to the front or else you will be swallowed in a sea of good-natured participants.

But there is also a constant theme which unites all the Parkruns. The welcome that you get. The sense that we’re all in it together, regardless of individual levels of fitness.

Often I’ll meet someone I know. If not then I’ll usually find someone new to talk to, sharing some common experience. I’m not much of a conversationalist but the Parkrun gives you a starting point for a chat. How many have you done? What’s your PB? Watch out for the hill.

Since I’ve blogged about the Parkruns I’ve had dozens of messages from other runners and invitations to come to their local courses. I’ll get round them all in time and hope to meet with everyone who has contacted me.

I need to get out of the greater Belfast area soon. Next week I’ll aim for a more distant location.

Ormeau yesterday brought a new experience when I was addressed mid-run by a man who patted me on the shoulder, told me he had read my blog and loved it, and wished me all the best for my tour. It was a lovely moment which helped to sustain me just at a point when my energy was flagging.

And I had anorher welcome encounter. One which perhaps sums up the inherent social value of the Parkrun. The fact that it makes you get up in the morning and go out to see people.

I have an old friend who does the Ormeau run. A work colleague who I sat beside in an office for years. For a long period we probably spent more time with each other than we did with our own spouses.

And then our lives moved in different directions. We both took up different employment opportunities and had families. For longer than I can remember we have been promising to meet up for a coffee, but never quite managing it.

But there she was at the Parkrun. So we swapped stories about our jobs and children and how unfit we have become. Then we did the run. Then we chatted some more and posed for photographs.

As we said goodbye we promised that we’d have to meet for that coffee soon. I also promised to come back to the Ormeau Parkrun. We’ll see which happens first.

The Parkrun challenge goes on…..

0

Building a shed

It’s no secret that I’ve never counted DIY as one of my strongest life skills.

I’m more than willing to have a go at manual tasks, but, like a dog distracted by pigeons during its daily walk, I often have trouble staying on the right path.

On extreme occasions I’ve even been known to call my da for help when putting together the toy in a Kinder Surprise egg.

Which meant that lately I’ve been left daunted by my shed situation.

To explain; when I moved into my current house some years ago I became the owner of a large, wooden garden shed.

As my house exists sans garage, the shed became the dumping ground for all non-essential items.

In short, it was filled to bursting point with shite. Old CDs and cassettes, various old kitchen gadgets, unwanted ornaments, garden tools, a pool table, a dart board.

And books, thousands and thousands of books.

But even a garden shed needs a little love and attention and, like a selfish spouse, I neglected it over a long period of time.

And as I filled the shed with more flotsam and jetsam, it began to slowly disintegrate.

First the floor began to collapse. Then vines from next door’s garden began to grow through the wood panels. Then a hole appeared in the ceiling. Not a little gap which could be stuffed or filled, but a proper hole which you could imagine a stunt motorcyclist trying to jump over in a daredevil aerial challenge.

In truth the shed reached the end of its natural life about two years ago. And it was around this time that my wife started pleading for me to do something about it.

But I’m a slow starter and I did nothing, allowing the shed to deteriorate further. The walls started to collapse, the door fell off. By the end there was very little left. Months of rain entering the shed had destroyed all of the contents beyond any useful state.

Finally, much too late, I was forced to act.

I rented a skip and undertook the unpleasant act of emptying the shed. At times I was ankle deep in sludge as water damaged books disintegrated in my hands.

Once it had been gutted, I knocked the shed down. This consisted of the enjoyable task of me wildly swinging a sledgehammer. On the odd occasion I even struck the piece of wood I was aiming at.

My da then brought down his chainsaw and the shed was sawn up into small bits which I could throw in the open fire (my da did this job, I could just about be trusted with a sledge, but being let loose with a chainsaw was not a fate any of us were prepared to tempt).

The demolition of the sad, old shed was the first part of the equation. Now I was faced with the urgent need for shelter for my lawnmower, barbecue, bike and tools (my wife was strangely unwilling to let me bring them into the dining room).

So I went online and ordered a new shed. Much smaller than the original, plastic and (apparently) one that could be built at home. This new shed would be just for essentials. Strictly no shite.

The online purchase process included a guarantee that the delivery driver would text me to let me know when they would be dropping off the item.

He didn’t.

Instead a large lorry arrived unexpectedly at my house at 9pm on a Friday night when I was in my pyjamas and had half of a bag of popcorn caught in my beard.

The jolly delivery men left the large cardboard box in my back garden.

I stalked it for a couple of days like a hungry cat eyeing its prey.

And then, one sunny day last week, I put on my old pair of jeans (well, my only pair of jeans), and cut the ties on the box.

The instruction booklet was forty pages long. The first part I read said: Two person assembly required. Do not undertake on your own you bloody idiot. (I may have invented that last bit).

I scratched my head and looked around. My son was racing toy cars around the garden. I decided to plough on.

I set out the parts and ensured all the fittings were present.

Then I went and had a cup of coffee as I tried to mentally reconcile myself with the task.

In truth, this is not proper DIY. It’s really just following instructions, like doing a big jigsaw. It’s not like I’m cutting down a tree, chopping up the wood and fashioning a shed from the timber. But we all have to exist within our own capabilities.

I started to put together the floor. Then the walls. Then I stuck them together. It didn’t fall over and looked oddly shed-like.

Encouraged, I went on.

In truth, the actual building of the shed was not the most time consuming bit. That honour belonged to reading the instructions, scratching my chin and saying Bajaysus a lot as I searched for the right bit.

There were hundreds of screws, all in little plastic bags with strange codes. While the s13b screw may have looked identical to the naked eye to the dS26bg screw, I couldn’t shake the fear that to use the incorrect one might have grave, unknown consequences. Like triggering a mega-tsunami which washes away the whole east coast of the United States. I spent a lot of time making sure I used the right screws in the right places.

The roof was the trickiest part. This is where another person would have been really useful. I found that as I attached one side of the roof to the wall fixing, then the opposite popped out. Then when I tried to remedy the facing side by fixing it into place, the original side popped out.

This went on for some time, leaving me feeling rather flustered and foolish. It was a conundrum I eventually solved by weighing one side of the roof down with a large bag of rice. Unconventional perhaps, and not something I’ve ever seen on a home improvement programme on the telly, but it worked.

Once the door, window and air vents were attached the shed was complete. It had taken me four hours.

But the task was not yet over. I now had to create a level and firm base for the shed to rest upon. Building a proper foundation with concrete was a little too ambitious, and my original plan to rest it on a bed of sand didn’t really work out because it was too soft underfoot.

So I set about creating a solid base from flagstones left over when our back yard was paved last year.

My rough idea was that I wanted the base to be somewhere close to level. Close was acceptable.

On my hands and knees with my little spirit level I laid the flagstones upon the sand, knowing for the first time what it must be like to be my own da.

It won’t win any awards but the end product was pleasing to the untrained eye. Then I slid the newly built shed on top and began to fill it with tools.

About five minutes after I finished, it began to rain.

I sipped coffee until the shower passed and then I stepped outside again and admired my own work, basking in self-satisfaction at an achievement that I genuinely feared might be beyond my abilities.

I opened and closed the door several times and ran my hands along the walls. I could feel the exhaustion caused by the unfamiliar strain of manual labour entering my limbs.

I stepped back and took one last look at my smart new shed. Then I had one last thought:

‘Christ, it really does look just like a portaloo.’

5

Hope, fear and the little white kite

There’s nothing more demoralising than having your hopes raised, only to be let down by the realities of life.

It’s like every time I get a call on my mobile from an unknown English number. Against all reason there’s always a part of me that believes that it might be good news. Perhaps some publishing giant has noticed one of my stories and is calling spontaneously to offer me a million pound book deal.

Which makes it all the more bitter when it inevitably turns out to be someone who can’t pronounce my name trying to sell me PPI or asking if I’ve been in an accident in the past five years.

And that’s how I’ve felt about kites from childhood.

I’ve always been enchanted by the concept and intoxicated by the possibilities of controlling a gracefully soaring object high above the tips of the trees.

But experience has taught me that they never work.

I endured a series of disappointments with kites as a child, both amateurishly homemade ones and cheap, garishly coloured items bought from shops.

The story was always the same. A confusing, untidy mass of sticks, string and plastic which stubbornly refuses to go into the sky.

Foolishly I’ve run along beaches and fields trailing the limp objects behind me, bumping them up and down along the ground like a sleeping dog being taken for a walk. Occasionally, just occasionally, a gust of wind might lift it a few feet into the air, bringing howls of excitement, only for it to crash back onto the sand seconds later, limp and flaccid, like a seagull which has been shot with a rifle.

And then I end up throwing the cheap kite away, recording it as just another of life’s broken promises, another little bit of innocence lost.

I remember when I was at primary school my class were asked to compose a story or poem for a junior literary competition. The assigned subject was The Kite.

I threw myself into the task, baring my soul in a young Larkinesque display of cynicism and rebellion.

If if my memory holds up properly then I recall the first two lines went as follows

‘I dreamt of heights. I dreamt of flight.

But instead the white kite proved to be shite.’

I don’t think the horrified teacher read any further and I was promptly sent to the principal’s office for a good thrashing. My teachers were quite determined that any aspiring literary ideas would be beaten out of my head.

Now I’m not suggesting here, as a blanket statement, that kites don’t work. I’m not saying the whole concept is a complicated hoax. Of course people who know what they are doing, and who have a properly made kite, can enjoy the hobby quite successfully.

It’s just that, for a child, the practice was not immediately accessible. It never worked quickly or well. Therefore it gets recorded as a misadventure. It’s one of the many things which is just not as good as you hoped it would be.

And now, as the parent of a little boy, the story has continued with the same narrative.

Last year I bought my son a kite. A complicated looking creation, painted with eyes and bared teeth.

He was full of excitement as I began running along Newcastle beach.

But within five minutes he had abandoned it and was off collecting pebbles as I vainly tried to convince the wretched article to soar above ankle height. There was plenty of wind on the day but it made no difference.

The fact that there was another father on the beach dazzling his children by controlling a flying drone with a remote control only increased my sense of inadequacy and witlessness.

It was bad enough when I couldn’t get a kite to work for myself. But the wound is that much more raw when I’m trying to explain to my own little boy why I can’t get the kite off the sand.

Which brings me to this week. Thursday lunchtime and I was in my usual position in the school playground picking my son up from class.

As the P2 children started to file out I was surprised to see that they were all holding bright white kites.

All except my son.

He was dispatched and greeted me with the words, ‘Daddy, you didn’t send in the Fly A Kite money’.

I quickly learnt that there had been a workshop in the school where the children were permitted to produce a design which a kite-maker then transformed into their own personal kite.

The only problem was I knew nothing about it.

It’s entirely possible that the letter never made it home. It’s perhaps more likely that it did but I just didn’t see it in the midst of all the fliers and brochures advertising churches, dentists and private tuition classes, and unwittingly threw it in the bin.

The end product was that my son was allowed to participate in the workshop but was told that he could not bring his kite home until the requisite five pound fee was produced.

Now, there is probably a discussion to be had about the wisdom of allowing a small child to make an object, but then denying him the right to bring it home when he can see all of his friends excitedly grasping their kites as they leave the classroom.

But that’s not what this post is about.

I was already wary of kites. Now this was compounded by the shame of me being the parent who had forgotten/neglected to send the money in so his child could have the same experience as all the others.

I apologised to my boy and sent him off this morning with the money in his bag.

And then at lunchtime mummy and I were there to meet him as he trotted across the playground bursting with pride at the Mr Men design he had drawn on his little white kite.

And, naturally, he wanted to see it fly. So we undertook the short drive to the forest park.

As we were walking to the green area my little boy talked incessantly to mummy about his pride in the kite, showing it to her again and again. I walked a step or two behind, already mentally rehearsing what I would say to him when it didn’t fly.

We walked into the middle of the field. My son handed me the kite, grinning nervously. I examined the object – small, white, triangular, held together by sticks and with long ribbons sweeping out below. It looked like a well-made kite.

I unraveled the string as I felt the wind begin to rise. Then I started to run. I ran for some time before I looked back.

When I did the kite was high in the air. Very, very high.

And what’s more, it stayed there.

My son danced below it with unbounded joy.

We stayed in the field for a long time. The kite flew high for me. It flew high for mummy. And, most importantly, it flew high for my son.

It was almost too successful. At one point it was being pulled so strong by the wind that my son seemed to think he was going to be lifted into the air alongside it and yelled ‘Daddy, I’m scared!’

But I was quickly beside him to hold his hand and tell him that he was doing brilliantly and had made a wonderful kite.

Over and over I kept repeating to nobody, It works, it really bloody works.

Even after my son had got bored and decided he wanted to go to McDonald’s I was still running around with the kite, until sweat stained my shirt.

Then we left the field, feeling a little bit more satisfied with ourselves than the mere flying of a kite probably warrants.

And as we walked back to the car my mind was full of thoughts. There are many things in life which don’t turn out the way you hope and it’s all too easy to become cynical and fearful. But every so often something does happen just the way you wanted. Then you might see your little boy dancing with joy. And the world seems to be a slightly better place.

As we got back to our car we met the mother of another child who is in my son’s year at school. She greeted us and noticed me holding the kite.

‘We took ours out yesterday, and it really works.’

‘Yes,’ I responded. ‘Yes it does.’

0

Sticks and great big flipping stones….

I took my son to the play park after school today.

A fine autumnal sun was warming my skin and I decided he deserved a little treat for making the readjustment to P2 life without significant complaint. Also, I reasoned, there may not be many more sunny days left before winter has us in its grip and I have to disturb the family of giant crows which has taken up residence in our chimney.

As I’ve discussed on this blog before, the play park is very much an interactive experience for me. While most of the mummies are able to sit merrily enjoying the weather and watching their children play, I’m dragged around and expected to take part in every game and activity. At one point today just as I was being dispatched to search in the grass for long lost treasure, I actually noticed one of the park bench mummies was being given the time to read a book.

Soon we moved to the large climbing frame and slide at the bottom of the park area. My boy likes to pretend this is a prison and I’m a robber who keeps making vain bids for freedom only to be chased down, handcuffed and soundly beaten (the Prison Ombudsman does not exist in my son’s make believe world).

But as we approached the equipment I noticed something a little bit different. There was a small group of boys playing there and they seemed to be hurling objects in the general direction of each other. As I neared I realised the objects were actually large pieces of rock.

I quickly realised that there is an old wall at the rear of the park which is beginning to crumble. The children were gathering sizeable pieces of masonry from the bottom of the wall to use in their new improvised game.

There was no malice or conscious intention to do harm, it was merely little boys doing what little boys tend to do. But, due to the size of the stones, there was the obvious risk that someone could get hurt.

I had three main fears, which I record here in no particular order (although use of bold type could be inferred as giving particular prominence).

1 My little boy would get hit by a rock and be reduced to tears.

2 Another boy would get hit by a rock and be reduced to tears.

3 I would get hit by a rock and be reduced to tears.

So I decided I had to intervene. I put on my caring adult voice and began to tell the little boys that throwing rocks is not a fun game. I think I managed to get about half of the sentence out before a piece of masonry the size of Belgium flew past my ear.

It was clear that stiffer measures were required but I was gripped by an awkward nervousness, borne of a social reluctance to chastise another parent’s child for bad behaviour. I looked around at the mummies on the park benches, but they were all much too far away to see what was happening.

So with the tiniest adjustment in the tone of my voice I told the children to put the pieces of rock down on the ground. They all complied immediately and I gathered the stones and discarded them in a corner.

My son and I then played our cops and robbers game for a few minutes before he quickly got bored and decided he wanted a turn on the roundabout at the other end of the park. As I spun him around I kept my eyes on the distant climbing frame. Within two minutes one of the little boys had gone back to grab another piece of rock and lobbed it again towards the group.

We played on for some more minutes, my son taking turns on another slide, which is closer to the top of the park where the parents and carers congregate. We were lost in the middle of another make believe game when I noticed that a little boy had now moved to this piece of play equipment – with a large stone in his hand. He threw it a couple of times, at nobody in particular, before chasing it down and gathering the stone to throw again.

At one point, as he was about to hurl it in the direction of my son I put up a warning hand and sternly told him not to dare to throw the rock at us. He stopped immediately. Another mother intervened when it looked like her daughter was going to pick up the rock, instructing her sharply not to touch it.

At this point I decided that perhaps retreat was the safest option and we left the park to go and buy a lolly. I was even reluctantly persuaded to buy one for my son as well.

As we sat on the benches at the front of the grand old church, licking our lollies in the sun I watched as, gradually, all the other children left the park. Sweet innocent faces, filled with wonder at the world, as their little hands nestled comfortably and reassuringly in the grips of their mothers.

1

Back to Planet Fun

One of the nicest parts of parenting is watching your child achieve something which he doesn’t believe he can.

Back at Planet Fun on S13 on Boucher Road in Belfast, my wee man quietly stared at the other kids bouncing on the bungee line on the trampolines.

He’d seen the game before, but always been too afraid to ask for a go. And it was the same yesterday as we worked our way around the array of rides and games. His eyes never strayed too far from the trampolines.

The caterpillar rollercoaster was fun, the bumper cars were eventful and some much needed parental respite was found while my son and his friend giggled and clambered on the bouncy castles.

It was just as we were about to leave that he finally gathered the courage to ask for a go on the trampolines.

So he was strapped into the harness and, with a little helping hand from daddy, soon he was soaring towards the ceiling.

And he loved it.

6

Monday morning, tears and blood

My wee man started back to school last week.

Naturally, this brought some parental fears to the surface. After a long summer nestled in the comforting arms of family, how would a sensitive little boy react to being thrust back into a world of rules, order and getting ready on time?

But he was fine. Better than fine actually, almost skipping to school on the first few days of P2 filled with the excitement of seeing his friends and the anticipation of new challenges. He didn’t even look back as he left us at the school gates.

Then the weekend intervened.

And this morning, with some of that early shine now scuffed like his new school shoes, the tears finally arrived. As I tried to get him ready he began to sob, tears and snot running as one as he repeated over and over I’m not ready to go back yet daddy.

The narrative of having a five-year-old son is that you are constantly dealing with wonder at how big he is getting. How he is stretching up, finding his confidence, expressing his personality.

But the line between that and a scared small child is a fine one. Traumatic memories of terrible days where he clung to mummy and myself, having to be physically removed by a nursery assistant are still raw. For him and us.

But I knew that the best way to face this latest challenge was with composure and compassion. I’m no stranger to the terrors of a Monday morning. There are some things that you never grow out of.

So I cradled him as he wept, whispering words of love and encouragement as I tried to inch us both towards the point where we could leave the house.

But he is a bigger boy now than the timid child I used to wave off at nursery and my hope was that I would be able to reach some point of reason within him.

So I started to talk to him. Telling him about all of the fun things we could do later in the day when I picked him up.

I told him we could go to the park. I told him we could watch a movie together. He didn’t seem to want to hear me.

Then I had a thought. The mobile blood donation unit is in the little village where I live today and it was on my mind that I should nip along and donate a pint.

So I tried this. Do you want to come along and see daddy give away some of his blood today buddy?

His teary little eyes met mine for the first time in half an hour. He didn’t say anything but I sensed an opening. I began to tell him all about blood donation. How they stick a needle in your arm and extract the blood to help save other people’s lives.

He was watching me intently now, a little hand wiping snot off his face.

Tell me more about the blood daddy.

So I did. Every single fact my mind could summon about blood donation was communicated (plus one or two which may have been of doubtful provenance). About how I would fill in a form, how a nurse would ask me questions and prick my finger, how I would then go onto a bed and a large needle would be inserted into a vein, how the blood would flow into a bag.

Then I told him that at the end we would go and sit down and the nice blood people supply juice and biscuits.

He was enraptured now.

What sort of biscuits daddy? Can I have one too?

During this conversation he had allowed me to dress him and eaten some breakfast. He cleaned his own face as I was sent off to produce for his inspection my blood donation book and the little badge I was given when I made my 25th donation.

The sun was shining as we left the house. I like to drive part of the way to school and then walk the rest of the route so my son gets a little exercise. Today I had to stop at the hall where the blood donation session takes place to show him where the wondrous act would occur.

But he wasn’t close to satisfied yet, his eager young mind desperate for more information. As we walked I talked about different blood groups, the expiration rate of freshly donated blood, how emergency blood is used in major trauma incidents. As I struggled to come up with more information I even heard myself beginning to describe at one point how platelets from blood are also used to treat leukaemia.

I’m not sure how much of it went in but he was clearly fascinated by the concept. More than once he stopped to ask me So daddy, are there people around who have your blood inside them?

Soon we had arrived at the school gates and now it was my son who was talking incessantly and skipping happily. His tears from earlier in the morning were now a memory.

But it’s worth remembering that they are never far from the surface, even when it feels like you have got everything under control. There will undoubtedly be more weeping on future mornings and what worked today will not necessarily work then. I’ll just have to find something that does work to meet each occasion, it’s one of the challenges of parenting.

I hugged and kissed my wee boy as the principal opened the gates. He brought my head close to his wee mouth and whispered in my ear.

Daddy, I’ll see you soon for the blood and the biccies.

Yes son, I’ll be right here waiting for you.

And then he walked off. And didn’t look back.

0

My Parkrun challenge

Sometimes in life you need to have something to aim towards.

It might be a sporting or academic achievement, a target at work or even a list of tasks to be completed on a daily basis. Just something which helps to bring some order to the chaos of the mind.

Occasionally I’ve tried to focus my random brain through the discipline of running, and more specifically by competing in Parkrun events.

The Parkrun phenomenon is well known, but just in case anyone is unaware, the event consists of a free timed 5k run which takes place in hundreds of public locations across the UK every Saturday morning at 9:30am.

Participants sign up online and receive a barcode which records and stores their times.

Now, I’m known to have a particularly cynical nature but it’s quite hard to be cynical about the Parkruns. The runs are organised and marshalled by unpaid volunteers (I’ve always been fascinated by the selflessness of people who give up their own time for the benefit of others).

As well as the obvious athletic benefits, Parkrun works on a social level. It’s essentially non-competitive and fuelled by a sense of common purpose and mutual encouragement. I’m right at the outer-perimeter of the social spectrum but even I now nod at several people who I’ve met through Parkruns. On one occasion, after I’d returned to my home course after a long absence, one of the organisers hugged me as I crossed the finish line exclaiming ‘It’s good to have you back Jonny.’

There’s something strangely reassuring about the gathering of all the participants at the end of the run, breathlessly sharing their anecdotes, flushed with pride at their achievement. Generally I’ll sit on a low wall at the edge of the crowd silently enjoying the camaraderie of others.

I ran my first Parkrun four and a half years ago and I’ve now completed 77 events. I also introduced my younger brother Chris to the Parkrun and he’s now sent off for his t-shirt having completed 100 runs. He’s come a long way since he was overtaken by an old woman pushing her shopping cart during his first Parkrun.

My attendance over the past number of years has not been consistent but I’ve always tried to maintain some link. I know that it’s not a coincidence that all of my periods of sporadic mental illness have occurred when I have not been running. It’s been my experience that nothing combats depression more effectively than exercise.

My performances have varied wildly. When I’ve been regularly training and feeling well I’ve run under 20 minutes for the 5k (my PB is currently 19:32). In darker times I’ve seen myself taking more than half an hour to stumble around a course.

But the net result is the same, I feel like a better person when I finish than when I begin.

But my nature insists on setting targets. My waistline, which is expanding faster than a balloon being inflated, probably prohibits me from targeting my PB anytime soon.

Which brings me to another aspect of the Parkrun culture, the tourist. The Parkrun tourist is a runner who travels around the various courses in a nomadic quest to compete in as many as possible.

According to the Internet there are 25 Parkruns in Northern Ireland (although new events are being added frequently). There are 7 in Belfast alone. I have run just three courses, Wallace Park in Lisburn is my home course, Carrickfergus is Chris’s home course and Victoria Park in Belfast is the flattest.

It occurs to me that it might be fun to try and get around them all. Portrush Parkrun is on a beach where I used to play as a child. There’s a Parkrun in the glorious grounds of the Stormont estate. The largest local event takes place in Ormeau Park. Would I be audacious enough to travel as far away as Cookstown or Enniskillen merely to do a 5k run in the depths of winter?

As I said, you need to give yourself something to aim towards. Sometimes you achieve what you want to, sometimes you don’t, sometimes you make it part of the way.

Regardless, I think it will be fun to have a go. I suppose I’ll post occasional updates on my wee blog.

If you happen to see a strange man standing on his own at your local Parkrun, that may well be me. Feel free to come over and say hello, I’m really not as unfriendly as I seem.