We decided to organise a club Forest Trail challenge covering 7 Forest Park lands in the Greater Belfast area, running them back to back, and using vehicle transition between locations. The date was set as Sunday 2nd February 2014 with a 08.30am briefing and gear check prior to a sharp start at 9am.
The start location was Barnett’s Demense, South Belfast. On pulling into the car park, we were greeted with glorious sunshine that thankfully stayed with us for most of the day, much different to the weather the previous and following day. 18 diehard Barfers turned up on the start line, every colour of gear imaginable on display. The idea was to start each forest park run at the top of the hour, allowing others to join at any given location, or drop out, who felt they couldn’t complete the whole challenge. This made it a fully inclusive event, and a very sociable one too as we all ran together.
The sequence of forest park trails was Barnett’s Demense, Belvoir Forest, Cregagh Glen, Stormont Estate, Redburn Country Park, Cairnwood Forest, and finally to Scrabo Country Park. The schedule of starting at the top of each hour was strictly adhered to…apart from a minute delay at the last location for extra photos!
9am Barnett Demesne (4m) pleasant trot using the trim trail, towpath, viewpoint at Rosé Garden, local bridges
10am Belvoir (4m) undulating figure of 8 forest trails and towpaths surrounding fort and high trails
11am Cregagh Glen (3m) steep ascent of stepped Glen and descent of Rocky Rd (2 laps)
12pm Stormont (4m) undulating figure of 8 trails including boardwalk trail
1pm Redburn (4m) steep ascent and descent zig zag paths
2pm Cairnwood (3m) steady ascent and descent on figure of 8 cours (2 laps)
3pm Scrabo (4m) initial steep ascent, steady climb and looping Killynether forest to finish at Tower
The primary aim was to complete all 7 trails, with a secondary desire to complete within 8hrs. Both were accomplished, in under 7 hours. Total distance just dipped under marathon distance, with a running time of 4 hrs 11 mins. Very impressive considering the tough trails and running together.
Runners were greeted at the finish with champers, wine and pizza, and commemorative plastic cups being presented by multiple Ulster Gold medalist gymnast, Jack Mckeown! (Special Olympics) lol
Plenty of home baking, teas/coffees, family supporters and usual club banter were on display between start times at each location.
A truly great way to spend a Sunday…and all free. The 7 Forest Trail challenge, or now being labelled a City 7×7’s, was a truly memorable day, spent in great company and glorious weather and scenery.
The sequel to this is nearly complete for early March, and will see a 30 mile club run through 10 forest park lands with no vehicle transition.
‘Carlsberg don’t do running clubs, but if they did, BARF would probably be the best in the World’