Introducing Andrew Parkes; Cyclist, Fell Runner & Outdoors Enthusiast

The 5.30am alarm stirs me and my stomach sinks… In the haze of waking from my short sleep I remember what today is… It creates a kind of nervous sinking feeling a bit like the butterflies you get before a presentation. I love what is ahead of me, but I’m also nervous because as thrilling and adventurous as it to challenge yourself, it is almost always painful and uncertain… today my mate and I are running the Mourne Wall again!

I am a 32 year old Freelance Graphic Designer who is quite obsessed with the great outdoors! Before I go any further, let me make this clear - I am not the fastest, fittest or most talented of outdoors people, I simply love the challenge, adventure and freedom that the outdoors can bring and I seek it as often as life allows! In any given week I’ll be cycling over the Antrim Hills, sailing around the coast, running in the Mournes, surfing in Portrush or mountain biking in my local trails. Like any addiction it is about finding the next fix…

The Mourne Wall is a beautiful route that takes in the heart of the Mournes in 35km loop (22miles) covering a painful 3000 metres of ascent (9842 feet) while summiting over 14 peaks (the route also skirts along the edge of Rocky Mountain but not its summit). My mate Matt and I test ourselves on this route every summer. We think it will keep us young and fit with a challenge always on the horizon. It is hard, but it is wonderful.

Years ago, when we first challenged ourselves on the route we took massive rucksacks with loads of food and water, wearing big heavy hiking boots and it ended up taking us a whopping 13hours! Now, a few years on, fitter and with more experience we turn up in fell shoes and shorts with tiny bags filled with jelly babies and bacon sandwiches and bang it out in around 7 hours. It’s not amazing considering the top fell runners probably look for a sub 4 hour time, but every year we are getting faster, and thats what counts!

Northern Ireland is a wonderland for outdoor adventure. We have so many options for different activities within our reach. From the Mournes to the Sperrins, from our coast line to Lough Neagh, from our local forest trails to the tow paths there is somewhere close by to get out and enjoy the fresh air. We even have amazing trail running & hiking routes in the outskirts of Belfast in the form of Cave Hill!

As a Belfast based clothing company I think Target Dry have seen the possibilities for local ‘micro’ adventures for everyday people and produced a well thought out range of waterproof outdoor clothing that covers everyday adventures from family trips to the beach to long wet hiking days in the Mournes. With this thought process in mind I will be blogging with Target Dry every month now and as I do so I hope I can share a little bit of the passion I have for the adventures and challenges that are just waiting for us all to just give them a go!

Over the next few months I’ll be cycling around Donegal, running the Mourne Wall (again!), preparing for the Mourne Mountain Marathon, training for a fundraising ultra marathon and tipping my toe into some wild outdoor swimming! There will also be some last minute camping trips, sailing races and surf sessions mixed in there as well!

I look forward to sharing these with you.

Right, thats enough writing… I’m off out for a run!