The Fields of Life Stormont fun run that took place this year on June 3rd, is an annual 5k and 10k race organised by the Fields of Life charity that works in East Africa, trying to improve people’s lives with educational, water and enterprise projects. All funds raised from the 2017 race will go towards helping give clean water to the refugees that have fled South Sudan into Uganda and live in tragic conditions. The race takes part in the Stormont Estate in East Belfast, the home for Parliament Buildings where the Northern Ireland Assembly seats. The terrain is mixed as part of the race is on the road and part in beautiful trails. It is not a flat race as you have to go up Stormont Hill once if running the 5k and twice if doing the 10k.
The race starts at the bottom of Stormont Hill at Prince of Wales Avenue at 11am. The route for the 5k and 10k is the same for both but for the 10k you run the loop twice. At the start you run for a couple of hundred meters on the road and then turn right into the park/trail area. This brings you back to the park’s gates to run up Prince of Wales Avenue, all the way past the race start, this time continuing up Stormont Hill. The hill starts at about 2k and goes on until 3k. This is a killer as it has an incline of about 42m in about one kilometer. By the time I got to the top and was near the Parliament Buildings I was so tired I didn’t even turn to look! A water station was there handing water in cups and runners are then rewarded by the downhill section of the race. At the bottom of this you turn left to run the trail part of the race, which lasts for a bit over 1km and is absolutely gorgeous. The path was really well signposted with lots of arrows, which was necessary as there were so many turns. Marshalls were also there to point you to the right direction. At the end of this section runners come back to the park’s gates and run about 400m on Prince of Wales Avenue to finish the 5k or continue on for the second lap, if doing the 10k. At the end of the race all finishers got some very pretty medals and were rewarded by water, Avonmore protein milk, Tayto crisps and Haribos sweets! I loved the warm up by Cathy McCourt, one of Ireland’s best runners and the massages given at the end by the physio Artie Quinn.
After all 5k and 10k competitors finished, there was a kiddies 1km race up and down Prince of Wales Avenue.
Registration was done online and bib numbers were picked up on the morning of the race at the Stormont Pavillion Ball Room.
Parking was available at the Stormont Pavillion car park but you can also get to Stormont Park by bus.
Stormont Park is a great place for a family day out. There is an adventure playground for kids, a long and a short woodland walk as well as a fitness trail with outdoor gym equipment. You can have picnics and if you wish you can visit the Northern Ireland Assembly.
My account of the10k Stormont Park Fields of Life race
On June 1st, as the temperature in Greece started to soar to its summer heights, my husband, son and I flew to Northern Ireland to pay a visit to our Irish family. My husband had arranged for us to take part in the Fields of Life Stormont Park race, he was going to run the 5k and I was going to take part in the 10k. We also managed to register our 4 year old son to do the 1k fun run, so the whole family would take part this time! My husband’s father (poor man) drove us all the way to east Belfast where Stormont park is. As soon as we stepped foot outside the car it started raining hard. I presume this has happened before to my father in law as immediately he produced 2 umbrellas from the boot of this car and we managed to get to our bib number pick up point dry! After all three of us had pinched our numbers onto our shirts we headed towards the start of the race. As we were approaching the start I realised I was going to be too hot with my long sleeved top and I quickly changed into my short-sleeved one that I had with me.
Weather in NI can change so quickly, it’s hard to know what to wear. Once at the start I went to the loo my usual one times too many and then did a quick warm up with one of Ireland’s best runners Cathy McCourt!
Soon after that my husband and I were sitting at the start line. He was a bit alarmed by the small field and the large amount of running club tops! Off we went and I started as quickly as I could. I ran the first 2km at an average of 4.35min/km (7.20min/mile) but as soon as I hit Stormont Hill I had to slow down and from what I can see at my Garmin watch, I never quite recovered from it! The hill seemed to last forever and every time I looked up to see whether I was there yet, it didn’t seem that much closer than before. When I finally reached the top and turned I saw my husband struggling a bit but at least he was near the end. After a bit of a downhill section I entered the trail part of the race. There were ups and downs, some gravel, there were downs where you had to watch it to not fall, there were tall trees that offered you their shade, there were little bridges. It was quiet, it was different, I was suddenly running alone in the woods. I followed the arrows that were very well positioned and the directions of the marshalls and eventually came out of it back at the park’s gates to run towards and past the start for my second loop. I could see the hill ahead of me that I had to go up for a second time. As we passed the start, which was also the 5k finish, I was able to see who was ahead of me in the 10k race. Two ladies were right in front and I tried to stick with them. We went up Stormont Hill again and I slowed down a lot again, this was murder! I finally surfaced at the top and once around the little roundabout I took a cup of water from the water station and stopped to drink it, at which point I saw the girl behind me at a very small distance as a guy shouted at me “don’t stop!!!” I half drank my water and started again, down the hill and into the trail. I had lost the girls ahead of me by now and was running alone. It crossed my mind that I had to be really careful as to where I was going so as not to get lost. The place was serene and I was loving the quiet. It didn’t quite feel like a race anymore. I finally came across one of the marshalls and was so glad to see her that I almost told her! With a bit more than 1k to go till the end I realised the girl behind me was approaching quite fast. My competitive streak kicked in and as I came out of the woods I started to sprint for the last 400-500 meters. I was running well and with good form, not doing my usual shuffling anymore. I was catching up with the lady in front. I finished strong and was not overtaken!
I believe I finished 6th woman at a time of 49.53. My son and I went to get our treats, after all they had Haribos and Tayto crisps! I opened the packet of Haribos and gave him one, which he ate with huge excitement.
After all 5 and 10k runners had finished it was time for the children’s race, so it was my son’s turn to go to the start line. I was standing next to him and told him we had to chase the police motorbike that was going to go ahead of the kids. He held my hand and off we went! At some point the poor lad said he was tired but I told him it was normal to be tired and to go on for a bit longer. He finished well and received his first proper running medal. A day to remember!