Kilbroney Park in Rostrevor is described as an undulating, picturesque two-lap course which means beautiful but challenging! Toilets and the café are in the visitor building at the main carpark - it is easy to get parked but if you are pushing a wheelchair or jogger then you need to walk around the building and follow a steep downhill to the start line (and an uphill back to your car at the end) - if you can survive without a toilet stop then it is easier to park at the lower carpark! The run starts on a tarmac path just beyond the lower carpark, which is where the run director's brief is held and, as this tends to be a small run (35-45 runners), there is plenty of space at the start. The run moves out of the park onto trail paths via the Fairy Glen – this is the start of the hard work as the surface is quite rough (tree roots, stones) and it is followed by a long climb up a gravel path towards the caravan park. Once into the caravan park, there's a further climb before you emerge onto the relative ease of the forest path. Once you get your breath back, a sharp right turn takes you back into the caravan park (steep downhill) and across the front of the visitor centre towards the Narnia trail – turn right through the doorway and fly down the path towards the bottom carpark and repeat!
There is no doubt that this parkrun is tough – it is in the top 25 most hilly parkruns in the UK - but as well as the challenging uphills you get some long and very fast downhills. I was fortunate to have Sonya, one of my running buddies from Banbridge Athletic Club, along to help push Ben around this course and that was a great help! The support around the course is super, even people staying on the caravan site come out to offer encouragement, and visitors are made to feel very welcome.
Ben and I have done this run twice now. In September 2017 it was one of our first runs in a jogger borrowed from Team Kerr - Ben had no patience to wait at the start and struggled being in a new place, around strangers etc. Nine months on and Ben was very chilled as we chatted to other runners and core team after the run and one of the volunteers, who had also been there during our previous run, commented on how happy and comfortable Ben was now and how it was clear that he really enjoyed his run – it was lovely for me to hear that others can see the progress Ben is making on our running journey.