Yes indeed, the photos here tell of a place of great beauty. There are delights at every turn. But Ardgillen Park, Skerries has its shadow side.
And that shadow side comes in the form of a killer park run.
Yes, I trooped up there today, all thrilled with myself. I had a game plan, see. I would start off fast, then put the brakes on and keep a steady pace before letting all hell break loose for a killer finish.
But something wasn’t right from the very beginning. Everyone looked alarmingly young, lean limbed and athletic.
And then there was me.
And as we set off on the course it soon became clear why youth and limbs and athleticism were essential for this course. Hills. Lots of. Doing their undulating thing all over the place. The kind of hills that were vicious to ascend but barely registered on the descent.
Not for the first time I realised what goes up must come down is just a vicious lie. What goes up, goes up forever and may only go down ever so gently.
By the second kilometre I was in trouble. All about me the young things were loping past. Some even had enough wind for light-hearted conversation with each other.
Meanwhile, I was in deep conversation with myself.
Get Real Me wanted to quit but Aspiring Runner Me wasn’t so sure.
Get Real Me: C`mon. Pull out before the end. Then you won’t actually register with a lousy time.
Runner Me: Well, maybe I won’t get a lousy time. And, anyway, since this is my first run here, it will at least be a PB.
Get Real Me: There’s another runner flying past. C’mon, quit while you’re not ahead.
Runner Me: If I quit I’m going to feel an awful lot worse for an awful lot longer than what I am feeling now.
In the end up, it was exactly that thought that kept me going. Somehow, I had to get through this and, if it was pushing me out of my comfort zone-and it most certainly was-that would be a good long term investment.
I thought I knew Ardgillen pretty well, but the route took me to places I hadn’t been before. And not just in my head. So I had no sense of where the end was as I shuffled along at the end of the string of runners.
At one point I was beginning to feel a little hopeful. Suddenly, I could see the finish line and I realised I was only a little behind some of the faster runners. But then a steward rerouted me to Lap Two. And while the young ones were racing towards their sub 24 minute finish times, I had to do another loop-one the faster runners had already done- with the few stragglers that were left. It was a sickening moment.
But, eventually, I got to the end. Didn’t even bother with the sprint finish. I was just glad to be done with those hills.
Time? Don’t even ask.
But I did score a PB for this particular Parkrun.
Will I be back? Oh, I have to bite this bullet again. But it won’t be next week and, while I can’t reverse the clock and get my young legs back, it will be a grand challenge just to do better next time.
Compensation? I rediscovered the wonders of the park afterwards, with a most enjoyable photowalk through all of its beautiful gardens.
Almost beautiful enough to forgive it for its killer park run.