Some of my friends are obsessed with The Cure in the same way that I am obsessed with parkrun. They spend thousands of pounds visiting weird and wonderful locations, hours on Facebook discussing the peaks and pitfalls of various sets, and spend time outdoors getting sunburnt or soaked. One friend, Gary, even keeps a spreadsheet of tracks he has seen live and says “I don’t care if they play a crap one, so long as it’s a crap one I’ve not heard them do before, so I can tick it off”. This kind of mentality resonates so deeply with me that I felt I had to invite myself along to one of their trips, even though my personal feelings for The Cure would only go as far as somewhere between “really like” and “love” and definitely not “I want to marry Robert Smith and can recognise every song, even B sides, from the opening twang”.
Anyway, The Cure announced a gig in Dublin and I like Dublin, so much that I even ran a marathon there once upon a time, so I bought my ticket and booked my hotel and off I went. The fact that there was a parkrun in the exact same place that The Cure played their gig (Malahide Castle) was completely incidental, honestly. I was a bit worried that parkrun would be cancelled because of the gig, but there is plenty of space in the park for both. The only impact it had were some barriers round the side of the paths and lighting rigs, and at 4km I was lucky not to slip on a discarded condom – presumably left by a fan of Snow Patrol, who played on the Friday night. Cure fans wouldn’t be so untidy.
Malahide parkrun came highly recommended, and I can see why. The castle grounds are extremely well-kept and the paths are perfect for running. The tarmac is perfectly smooth except for a small section in the woods which is fine gravel instead. It consists of two non-identical laps. The first is a small loop around a cricket field, which is pleasant but ordinary. There are a couple of very small non-pancake bits (comparable to Barking perhaps) but on the whole you would describe it as flat. You then commence a second lap, but take a left turn at some point which brings you into some woods. There are fairy lights suspended from the trees and differing types of forestation – it has a bit of an enchanted feel to it. The best thing is that it feels like a remote trail run, but you’re actually running on perfect tarmac. The worst thing is that the finish line is up a massive hill. Okay, it’s actually a very small hill, but it feels massive because it’s at the finish. There are toilets somewhere but we used the festival portaloos, and apparently a very nice cafe, though we didn’t have time to visit. We did have time to have a look round the exterior of the castle and the ruined church, though – these are well worth seeing. I didn’t spot them from the course but I had completely lost my bearings and didn’t know which way to look.
I arrived at Malahide with a list of Excuses For Poor Performance which ran as follows:
- Blister on foot due to wearing something other than trainers for the first time in months.
- Stinking cold, made worse by unsuitably cold weather.
- Lack of sleep due to the fact that my B+B had unwisely decided to install a clock that plays an electronic version of church bells, every hour, on the hour. This wrok me at 0100, 0200, 0300, 0500 and 0600. At 0601 I got up.
- I’m on holiday, I’m supposed to be taking it easy.
- Whatever I do, it’s bound to be an Irish PB anyway.
In the end I did not need any of these excuses because actually I stormed round Malahide and finished with a PB of 33:56 (initially reported at 33:42, but the results processor realised there was a spot of Guinness in the stopwatch and corrected it. I did not care as it was still a PB and still my first ever sub 34 parkrun.) My Cure-loving friend also got a PB, and I bumped into a parkrun tourist named Nicky whom I had met previously at Bois du Boulogne parkrun in Paris. She and her now-husband had got engaged in Paris and were now on honeymoon in Dublin. I wonder what they will be up to next time I bump into them?
And The Cure were also very good, and my trail shoes finally came in useful for standing in a field on a cold wet day for hours on end. Thank god I bought black ones.