Bringing the Highland Fling to Frosty Tring, parkrun tourism on St Andrew’s Day. Parkfun at Tring Kilted parkrun

Digested read: it was St Andrew’s Day, and it was parkrun day, the Venn diagram intersection therefore took me to Tring parkrun where they were having a themed, ‘bring a giraffe to parkrun day’.  It was very nice indeed, thank you for asking. Frosty terrain but warm welcome.  Also tea-cakes.

Undigested read:

It’s a long one, brace yourself…

Well, that was splendid.  It’s the simplicity of parkrun which is particularly awesome.  You get to rock up at the most spectacular of locations and be part of pop-up random wonderfulness in an infinite variety of manifestations. But today it was all about a kilted flashmob taking over the winter wonderland of Tring Park all in the name of St Andrew.  Dear reader, I give you Tring parkrun.  Epic.

Granted, I had a bit of insider info that gave me the nod that this was happening, but honestly, if you didn’t make it this year, then next year it could be you – there’s always room for a few more.  Go awn, you know you want to!

Yes please to this:

Tring Kilted parkrun.  Yes it is a thing.  Has been for half a decade now, my, you are late to the party.  You’ll be telling me you don’t know about Dulwich parkrun’s special day either at this rate!*  The exact origins are somewhat mysterious to me, but essentially one of the Run Directors at Tring is Scottish, so when St Andrew’s Day came around (not sure if that was with or without an apostrophe at the time) he suggested a kilted parkrun was the appropriate response.  Of course it was.  So the good parkrunning people of Tring took this directive to their hearts and thus the tradition of Tring Kilted parkrun began.  It is a fine thing, pretty much on a par with Burns night or Hogmanay in Scotland I understand – really and truly though, you have to go and find out for yourself.   This is what philosophers mean when they say travel broadens the mind.  Do your own primary research dear reader, don’t take my word for it.  Apart from anything else, it might well be a lot quicker for you to wait a while and head off to the next available Tring kilted parkrun than to spend the next few weeks and months wading through this blog post.  Each to their own though, and you have been warned.  It’s now contributory negligence on your part if you choose to read on and succumb to the time vampire that is a parkrun themed blog post.  All parkrunners have been there, photo albums are even worse.  Hours and hours dissecting every shot, blurred or otherwise, to relive parkrun adventures after the event.  Sigh, parkrun, the event that just keeps on giving eh…

Now, the pedants amongst you might be fretting at the missing apostrophe, is it St Andrews Day really or should it not be St Andrew’s Day?  Well, the thing is dear reader, this has become a moot point, as the Apostrophe Protection Society is no more.  This is obviously sad, and yet pleasingly, the person who I think practically single handedly fought the good fight, John Richards, resigned from his self-appointed post at the age of 96.  Here he is.  Looking at a very large apostrophe on his computer screen, in case you are the sort of philistine who isn’t even sure what an apostrophe looks like.  Might be your last chance to see one …

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Whilst I have no intention of still working, or indeed even being alive at 96, if I was founder of an apostrophe preservation society then I can think no better high on which to leave than when the numerals for your age look like back to back apostrophes!  Anyway, sad as this is, it does mean you can add or ignore apostrophes with gay abandon.  That battle has been lost.  On balance, I think it pains me, or as I shall be compelled to write in future ‘pain’s me’.  Oh the horror.

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However you choose to express it, the wrong way or indeed what I like to think of as the right way, Saint Andrew’s Day is the feast day of Saint Andrew. It is celebrated on 30 November according to not only Tring parkrun but also wikipedia, so at least we have consensus there. Saint Andrew’s Day is Scotland’s official national day. Did you know it is also a national holiday in Romania?  No, me neither.  Just think, that means if they had parkrun in Romania, then they could potentially have an extra parkrun today – oh only it’s Saturday anyway this year, so maybe that would be a bit of a waste.  I’m sure they have other celebratory days available to choose from if needs must.

Anyway, point is, I have contacts, I have insider info, I have an invite, I shall be there.  parkrun tourism is calling me….  Been wanting to go to Tring for ages, I mean the name is splendid for a start, and I hear they have a better class of parkrunners there.  Nice parkland location too, Tring it on!

It’s easy to over complicate things when choosing a parkrun destination.  Many of us started out innocently enough, venturing away from our home runs only when cancellations forced us to forage for parkrun opportunities elsewhere.  Next came the realisation that e.g. for me, within Sheffield, there were a fair few in reach, and it would be cool to do them all.  Has to be acknowledged though, that the gateway drug to more strategic travel for many of us is the running challenges chrome extension.  Suddenly the opportunity to get virtual badges that only you can see drives a compulsion to seek out parkruns to complete the alphabet (only you can’t because there isn’t an X and you have to go overseas for a Z and also loads of parkruns are going to be changing their names soon anyway…. oops.)  Not gonna lie, that was enough motivation for me to seek to complete, amongst others,  both my pirates and Stayin’ Alive challenges.  Yes, shallow, I know.  But look how fab they are, most decorative – and a correctly placed apostrophe, what’s not to like?

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Even so, the compulsion to complete challenges can become mildly toxic so it was good this weekend to take things back to basics.  The decision to go to Tring parkrun was simplicity distilled to its most basic form.  All I did was start a running blog about 5 years ago and include a post about my experiences of running the Sheffield Half Marathon (my first one) laying it as bait for a Tring parkrunner to stumble across when preparing to run it for myself.  Then there was just the little matter of securing a ballot place for the London marathon, but having to defer for a year, so that the year I did do it, was the same year as same Tring parkrunner also got lucky with the London Marathon ballot.  Unbeknownst to me, said Tring parkrunner would continue to read my blog because we were both training for our first marathon, and it was London.  She’s actually a reet good runner, whereas I’m, erm, what’s the word?  Oh yes, ‘not’.  Then the weather had to make it the hottest ever London Marathon, so that the night before facing London I was having a complete meltdown in my hotel room and did a looooooooooooooooong moany blog post about my angstiness.  The husband of said marathon runner would read my blog post, and then comment on it to share with me that his lovely wife – Tring runner previously referred to – was similarly stressed by unanticipated heat wave following months of training in ice and snow.  From that heartfelt message we bonded for all eternity, and it was basically from thereon in a foregone conclusion I’d be at Tring parkrun one day.  We both did London, we met up at some Sheffield parkruns, as you do, and then one auspicious day, I got the kilted parkrun nod.  The info this was happening, the offer of accomodation, and even assistance in scottish tartan beret making.  It was meant to be.  Like I said, parkrun tourism is just so simple when you strip it back to basics.  From the moment I hit ‘publish’ on my blog post button about the Sheffield Half marathon in 2016, fate directed my path so it would culminate in being part of Tring kilted parkrun on 30 November 2019.  Dear reader, this is how fate works.  You can’t fight it, you have to surrender to it sometimes, and embrace the adventures that henceforth unfold… submit to the inevitable and sometimes your life is the richer for it.

So that’s the backstory, in summary, three years blogging, a couple of Sheffield half marathons and two different parkrunners getting lucky with the ballot for the London Marathon leading to  mutual internet stalkery and becoming new best friends.  Simples.  What could possibly go wrong?  Of course, you could skip some of those stages and just rock up at a new parkrun of your choice anytime, but where’s the fun in that?  And there might not be kilts.  I rest my case.

Now what of the actual run?

Well, according to the Tring parkrun website blah de blah:

Course Description
The winter course is an out and back route on grass and dirt trails. Runners are asked to run on the left. Starting in the valley on the north side of the park next to the A41, the course heads into the NE corner of the grassy part of the park. Passing through a marshalled gate, shortly after turn right and climb a steep leafy path to the obelisk. Turn left here and carry on up to the Summer House where the path loops 180 degrees right to the top of the ridge. Follow this path south-west for 1.5 kilometres until the turnaround point just before Hastoe Lane and then returning along the same route. The finish is 200m beyond the start point. Trail shoes are recommended in winter.

and it looks like this:

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Yeah, whatever, sure it’ll be lovely, now on to think about fancy dress?  Kilted parkrun.  I take it that just means broad Scottish theme – or does it?  I wonder, does that mean deferential and respectful embracing of Scottish culture, or does it mean carb loading with a deep fried mars bar (ingredients mars bar, batter, hot spitting fat) the night before and putting irn bru in your water bottle?

Full woad as in Braveheart perhaps…  the woad would be easy enough

then again, getting the full flame effect as a backdrop would be a nightmare for the RD doing on the day risk assessments, need to think again…

Oh I don’t know, maybe better to go down the Nessie fancy dress option?

It helps that fortuitously in between me excitedly accepting the invite to go and the date dawning, we all became better informed about the Loch Ness monster FACT which is good to know.  They are  Monster eels apparently.  Clearly a conspiracy to keep people away.  Though to be fair, I’d be happy to see a ginormous eel or indeed a swimming elephant whilst visiting Loch Ness, or even Tring – is there a Loch in Tring?  Didn’t spot one on the course map…. mind you, I really like the thought of elephants in captivity, particularly not in circuses, so it would have to be a wild one to be acceptable as a nessie sighting, and I’m dubious there are indigenous elephants in Scotland – or indeed Tring.  They would trample and scare away the native haggis, and as haggis exist, the elephants can’t.  Fact.  I’m not happy about the midges though.  Lawks a lordy, Scottish midges,  now they are monstrous.  Back to eels, conger eels are potentially absolutely huge though seeing conga eels would be even more fun.  Makes you wonder…

Still, given how contentious it is with Nessie and all, perhaps I should stick with the tartan theme, which is towards the lower end of causing offence with casual racial stereotyping and/or cultural appropriation.  Hoping so.  Will be interesting to see if any other eeks nessie substitutes are present – or even a rubber chicken, that would be cool, that reminds me, I really must add Wyndham Vale parkrun to my to do list.  It’s in Australia, might take me a while to get there, even if I set off now…  Though I’ve already got a ‘W’ from Wakefield Thornes parkrun, that was a fun one – but lacking in rubber chickens now I come to think of it, though excellent on space ships.  What you lost on the fowl front you gained on the force front.  You had to be there really, no you did.  Trust me.

Incidentally, another monster at Loch Ness is this 80 mile ultra marathon, bet that’s amazing, but then it would have to be to brave the midges, they are the real monster resident in Scotland!  Looks blooming gorgeous though… seriously tempted. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do the full 80 – awesome as that would be, you can just do a few marathons instead if you prefer.  Go awn, go awn go awn….

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Anyway, you keep distracting me, we are heading to Tring not Loch Ness, and I’m going with the tartan.  I had a chat with Geronimo – oh, did I not mention she’d be coming too?  Well, we did London together, and so she’s part of our Tring twinning enterprise, it was only right and proper she comes along for the ride.  Also, I understand from my Tring contacts that exotic African creatures have historically had a home at Tring park.  I put her through the washing machine especially, she has never arrived at a parkrun more fragrant or more aptly attired…

geronimo

We talked about improvising with green tights to create a nessie creature, but it was a non- starter.  Geronimo felt that would cramp her running style, and she didn’t want to look stupid in the way that the wearing of green tights can so often result in.  It’s a look not everyone can carry off to be fair.  Upshot was that I came to think the tartan is a simpler and safer bet.  Granted, some may see our wearing of the tartan as lazy and casual racial stereotyping, but I see desperate times calling for desperate measures.  If Brexit happens I’ll be wanting to demonstrate my Scottish credentials as best I can, however tenuously, and surely a robust celebration of St Andrew’s Day will smooth the passage towards gaining Scottish citizenship further down the line.  Sporting some tartan along with happy smiles is sure to swing it should the need arise.  Decisions made.  Hurrah!  It’s all going to be just grand.  A wee adventure for the both of us!

Oh you want to know more about the exotic animals at Tring.  Fair does.  I was keen to find out more too.  Basically, my Tring parkrun contacts informed me that Zebras are ten a penny at Tring.  I can now confirm from personal experience that the parkrun route is carriage friendly, it even has a carriage turning circle at the top of the ridgeway which is most certainly a boon for anyone planning on taking their own zebra carriage for a spin along the paths there.   Look, spoiler alert, this was taken mid parkrun, but it I can’t keep it from you anymore, so exciting to be able to share:

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OK, I will concede it isn’t perhaps immediately obvious this is a turning circle for a zebra carriage, but surely you can see it now you are in the know?

I don’t honestly know if there are specific rules in the parkrun code regarding the inclusion of exotic animals at parkrun events, but for the record, Geronimo was made welcome, as a giraffe respected in her own right.  This was especially pleasing, as I do worry that once she’s spotted in a forthcoming feature film next year people might treat her differently.  Her meteoric rise to inevitable stardom is a foregone conclusion, hence it’s all the more important to treasure these personal memories before she becomes famous and potentially relationships shift.  Here it felt the welcome was authentic and genuine, and equally offered to all incoming parkrun tourists and regulars alike.  You are curious about her stardom?  Well, I can’t say too much about that just yet – confidentiality clauses and all that –  but I will say she could be upstaging big names on a big screen near you come summer 2020, no-one parties like Geronimo under a storm of confetti at a street party in Sheffield.  I’ll say no more…  I think we just all need to apply a bit of common sense, but those confidentiality clauses are a bind.

Clue though:

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Nope, that’s it, nothing more, my lips are sealed…

So back to kilted parkrun day.  As has already been established, Geronimo likes to party, so she came sporting a kilt, and that made her a shoo-in for a VIP welcome.  I daresay other African mammals would also make the cut, but contact the core team via the facebook page in advance if in doubt. This is the usual turn out convention with zebras at Tring – looks like the ‘one dog per runner’ rule is upped to four zebras per participant max here…

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I’m not sure of the ethics of riding an endangered giant tortoise round the route, although the photos would suggest it’s been done before.  Presumably this would have to be recorded as an ‘assisted run’ and only one barcode allowed.  Actually, that’s not true, I am pretty sure of the ethics around this.  It’s a terrible idea, let the poor animals be.

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Depressingly, most of Rothschild’s eclectic menagerie collection ended up being stuffed and displayed.  That makes me sad.  Then again, some of his impulses were around conservation, and much of his collection ended up in museums contributing to research.  It’s complicated.  You can read more about him and his life – including how he got given a museum for a 21st birthday present one year, as can happen apparently… here.  It does however explain the sign about wallabies roaming in Tring, I know wallabies aren’t from Africa, it’s the ‘exotic’ species link I’m making here.

and probably also explains why no-one really batted an eye about a giraffe rocking up at Tring parkrun, though they did like her fine tartan beret, as indeed they should.  It was a gift from the good Tring parkrunners who hosted me too.  Their hospitality was beyond compare…

Speaking of which.  This visitation was not so much ‘parkrun tourism’ as parkrun mini-break.  I set off from Sheffield on Friday afternoon, and arrived at my guests abode late afternoon, in daylight and in time for pre-parkrun faffery.  parkrun is even more fun if you prolong the experience with pre and post parkrun related activities.  In this case, we had to check out the various fancy dress options, experiment with tartan ribbons, and especially pleasingly for me, be the recipient of a fine parkrun tartan beret.  I had been alerted to this development in advance, and it was tailor made using a panda as a model.

parkrun beret modeling

They aren’t from Africa too, and this particular panda isn’t really into parkrun, but was happy to contribute to the success of the occasion by offering up a head to aid beret construction.  That’s one of the many things I love about parkrun, there is scope for everyone to be part of it, even if they aren’t running or even rocking up on the day.  It’s a community bigger even than the impressive Saturday morning attendance stats suggest.  Hang on, I’ll check it out – right, these are the summary stats as of today, 4 December 2019 (yes, that’s after the date of this blog post I know, so shoot me, time travel is possible in the land of blogs, you just post for whatever date, past or future – you don’t seriously think I’d have written all this on Kilted parkrun afternoon, as well as having post-parkrun eggy bread and going through all the photos?  Quite.)

Number of events: 156,628

Number of runners: 2,240,488

Number of runs: 32,284,453

Number of locations: 684

Number of clubs: 6,667

Number of PBs: 5,540,683

Average runs per event: 206.1

Average number of runs per runner: 14.4

Average run time: 00:28:46

Total hours run: 1,767 Years 233 Days 16 Hrs 33 Min 28 Secs

Total distance run: 161,422,265km

Wowsers!

No wonder it’s changed so many lives.  Hurrah that Mr P S-H, got awarded the he RSA Albert Medal this year, it’s given annually for innovation in the fields of creativity, commerce and social improvement.  You can watch the full presentation and his speech here:

but come back and do that later or you’ll never even get to the start line of Tring parkrun, and never find out if it was a Braveheart-esque line up on a big long start line like William Wallace and the massed Scottish armies, or a more sedate trot out as if on a carriage ride pulled by zebras.  However, you can snigger at the childish observation of Danny Norman of With Me Now who boasted that he got to touch Paul S-H’s Prince Albert.  (Chortle).

Hang on, there’s an official press release thingy parkrun Founder wins prestigious award  with a more formal portrait.  And the medal is so very fine, it even comes in it’s own box I see!  Now that’s class!

official photo RSA

Lots  of teeth in the pictures, most impressive.  I admire teeth, and intend to hang on to mine for as long as possible.  Not in a creepy way, if I do lose them I won’t be threading them on to a necklace, but you are unlikely to meet anyone as obsessive about brushing their teeth regularly as I am…  Anyway, stop distracting me with teeth talk, even though it is true that the best Batman and Robin episode ever was the one where Robin had to save himself from falling to his death by hanging on to a rope with his teeth because his hands were tied behind his back, and Batman said in the closing moments ‘and remember Robin, you owe your life to dental hygiene‘  He was so wise…  And ahead of his time too, oral hygiene prevents heart attacks too dear reader.  Actually, this isn’t a complete digression as Batman and Robin were both present at Tring parkrun too – how else do you explain the cape?

Can’t wait for the next With Me Now podcast, it’s going to be epic, even if it might be light on tooth care. Then again they all are, the podcasts, with or without oral hygiene segments, frankly, I could stay in the house til spring now, just listening to the WMN back catalogue and venturing out only to attend actual parkruns in between listening to, and poring over accounts of ones that have already passed…  I have to catch up on Free, Weekly Timed too, being a late adopter there.  In fact, that’s my Christmas Day indulgence sorted.  parkrun podcasts and a sofa post Christmas Day parkrun, and I shall be living in an earthly paradise indeed. Ho ho ho.  That’s lifted my Christmas spirit, can’t wait now.  Not many more sleeps to go…

Anyway, back to arriving at my hosts.  Fancy dress sorted, parkrun tales shared, just the little matter of carbing up nicely the night before.  We had vegetarian haggis with neaps and tatties which was excellent.  And then we had Scottish cranachan recipe courtesy of Mary Berry  fortunately, my host used the pictorial directions in the recipe dividing up the pudding into three portions… it was only the next day she noticed that the quantities were intended to serve 8.  Still, parkrunners like a challenge, we managed to polish of the lot, and very nice it was too!  Delicious in fact.  Great way to set ourselves up for the Scottish delights that would unfold before us on the morrow…

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and so the morrow came, which is actually today – if you believe the post date for this blog, or a few days ago if you are pedantic and want to know in real time what the timelines are.

Bracing.  That was the word.  A deep, picturesque frost – in fact, loads of parkruns in Sheffield and elsewhere were cancelled due to ice, so I got lucky in having already made it safely south.  Hot coffee was quaffed, and last minute parkrun faffing commenced.  My hosts with the most drove me through pretty villages – used as a backdrop for many a midsomer murder episode apparently, and towards Tring.  Now dear reader, Tring parkrun has many excellent attributes, but it is not blessed with conveniently located loos.  My regular reader knows I cannot countenance undertaking a parkrun without a precautionary pee, fortunately my hosts catered for all needs, so it was that we did a Tesco detour en route.  There are loos in the public car park apparently, but the Tesco ones are nicer, and have a handy tampon/ condom machine too.

Precautionary pees completed, off to the parkrun venue.  Apparently there are a couple of different car parks, but I didn’t pay too much attention to this, as I was chauffeur driven.  We arrived nice and early, passing the not at all conspicuously attired parkrun carpark marshal(s) already mustering and in situ extra early to keep parkrunners safe and on track.

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It was cold though, not gonna lie, was glad I’d not gone for the bare-legged kilted option, though kudos to my travelling companions who did.  Brrrrr.  Next challenge, fancy dress sorting.  This is what goes on behind the scenes quite probably at a parkrun near you.  I think the degree of self-sacrifice (baring legs in the cold) and creativity that goes into making the parkrun fancy dress transformations  happen adds to the parkrun magic, but look away now if you don’t want to see the smoke and mirrors lifted…

I think she was helping to put the kilt on… not sure.  You know what, the parkrun code requests that we all respect everyone else’s right to participate in their own way, so let’s do that, and not worry about the particular dressing/undressing car park shenanigans shall we, each to their own.

And that was it. OHMYGAWDTHISISSOEXCITING!  Kilts on? Check.  Barcodes present and correct?  Check.  Laden with shortbread tins of tunnocks teacakes?  Check  Ready for action dear reader,  Bring.  It.  On.

Last minute check round for anything left behind.  What’s that – a pair of gloves, bound to belong to a fellow parkrunner, my contribution was to scoop these up and take them along too.  Truthfully, I wasn’t much practical assistance to the Tring parkrun experience, unless you count enthusiastic and appreciative participant, which I do.  My hosts were doing a great job with their jenga balancing skills being tested by a quantity of tins and flasks of hot coffee, would have undermined their confidence if I’d thought to offer to help… probably.  Almost certainly, that’s why I didn’t risk it.  Anyway, I was too distracted by the stunning location and sights and sounds of the venue to focus on being useful.  And we’d not even left the car park for goodness sake!

In fact, the set up team, who’d been out even earlier, took some amazing photos of the frost-scaped early morning.  Reet nice out as we say up north!

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You leave the car park through a pretty gate, and turn right following the sign to Tring park (a clue for the observant amongst you) and head along the path towards a spectacular curly bridge.  Not hard, and the chances are there’ll be other parkrunners to follow.

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Don’t forget to admire the wildlife murals, they are to an impressive standard.  There was even artwork on the curly bridge, but I didn’t take a photo as I was clinging to the handrail to avoid skidding on the icy steps at the time.  If you are braver, or there is less ice, you could look for longer.

It’s super exciting when you get to the curly bridge, because it’s quite an architectural feature in its own right, but it also opens up the most fantastic views across Tring park and you get the fun spectacle of watching from above as ant sized parkrunners start to congregate.  They weren’t actually ant-sized FYI – well not unless there are some exceptionally large mutant ants in these parts, they just looked tiny because they were far away.  I’ve been through this before.  These are small, these are far away a la Father Ted,  Yes, she is carrying a bottle of irn-bru.  The coffee in flasks story was just a cover…

Rather epic isn’t it.  And VERY EXCITING!

So we trit trotted over the curly bridge, you can tell you are in the right place because of a strategically placed ‘caution runner’ signs.  Always a relief and frisson of excitement as a parkrun tourist when you espy one of those.  We tagged along with the gathering throngs.  It was not only beautiful and atmospheric, but also a lot of fun, as we started to espy other kilted parkrunners striding towards the gathering point.  My pictures make it look a bit bleak, but honestly it wasn’t, it was just lovely, and perfect… if a tad bracing for my liking – and I still had my fleece most definitely on at this juncture.  Pity those sporting naked legs.  I mean, kudos for honouring the kilted spirit but brrrrr.

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There is a pleasing mini optical illusion as you approach the clan gathering point.  You think it’s flat, but actually, the path – which is basically cross country rather than a formal walkway as such – ‘suddenly’ goes down into a dip.  These means even though you feel like you are basically walking on the flat, you unexpectedly (to me, you’ll know so I suppose I’ve potentially ruined the surprise for you now, oops) find yourself at what is the brow of little hill, and unfolding before you in a big reveal was the encampment!   So exciting.

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It’s hard to describe the scene, but I won’t let that stop me, why let a picture be a thousand words when you can type considerably more than that and gift your reader confusion wonderment?

It was like espying an arctic research station, or a first human settlement on some remote planet, or possibly even a festival tent, the first marker of a party tent for those that come.  It was epic!  Look at the early picture of it put up in the dawn light.  I say put up in the dawn light, but it looked quite complicated, they had probably been working on erecting this for many weeks, I doubt the cows hanging around were all that much practical assistance to be fair.  Good job.  This photo is amazing, it captures the Brigadoon like way that Tring parkrun sort of materialises out of the mist.  They do have regular results listed on their official parkrun page though, so I’m pretty sure it appears more often than one day every hundred years (imagine how annoying that would be, particularly if the one day that Tring appeared it was neither a Saturday nor bonus parkrun day. Oh, the horror!).  Still, wouldn’t hurt to check their Tring parkrun Facebook page in advance if you are making a special trip, just to be on the safe side.

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In fact, this domed cathedral was the VIP tent.  It covered a table groaning under the weight of Scottish consumables, and was adorned with flags as well as being awash with good will.  In fact, as you will appreciate, all parkrunners are equally important, so everyone could access all areas, and very nice it was too.  My hosts added to the weighty load of the table, whilst I helpfully lurked and took photos, and wondered at what point I’d have to take off my fleece.  More dedicated sports people warmed up for parkrun with traditional sword dances, as you do.  Impressive.

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People continued to arrive, all smiles and kilts.  Happy parkrunners a-gathering on an auspicious and frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Cèilidh!  I do like it when people make an effort, and I also like it when there are photos to document such dedication that can be endlessly looked at later.  It extends the timeline of joy that parkrun offers up, beyond the Friday night anticipation, the Saturday morning big event into potentially many months of memories and reflection and sometimes laugh ’til you think your knickers will never dry shared recollections.  I wonder why tena haven’t been approached as parkrun sponsors?  Other incontinence product manufacturers are available.  Only a matter of time surely.  I mean, they may not be so necessary if you are wearing a kilt and adhering to tradition in terms of what lies beneath, but pads could be a boon at non-kilted parkruns, particularly for those who lack strength with their pelvic floors.

There may have been a certain amount of posing, and those swords were most certainly a boon for creative play.  Every parkrun should have photo props methinks.  Game changer!

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I say I took photos, and indeed I did, but I also foraged for some subsequently, and so many of the better shots are not attributable to me, but to the Tring parkrun official photographers, for which many thanks.   They were fab.  All high vis heroes are.  Obvs.

Where was I? Oh yes, mingling at the start.  Another innovation at Tring, is that they lay out a huge blue tarpaulin on which you can leave all your stuff.  I feel they missed a bit of an opportunity to transform it into the Scottish flag the St Andrew’s Cross through the simple effort of tippexing a white saltire onto it, but maybe they didn’t have enough time after spending ages putting up the VIP tent.  The idea is that this keeps your stuff together and dry.  Hang on, I’ll find a pic:

Hurrah!  It’s the usual ‘leave at your own risk’ system, but you’d have to be a bold thief to take on the collective might of the ferocious-looking battle-ready broadsword- brandishing core team left behind at the pod to keep order whilst parkrunners did their thing.  Well, they were gathered around the finish funnel area nearby in their high-vis vests, which amounts to the same thing.

I still had the pair of gloves I’d picked up from the car park so tossed them in the middle of the tarpaulin where hopefully their rightful owners would discover them.  I mean surely only parkrunners would be roving round the carpark at this ungodly hour, carelessly dropping their gloves for others to find.  I did ask half heartedly around for glove droppers, and tried to discreetly look for gloveless hands turning blue with cold amongst those gathering in the hope of using my Miss Marple skills to find the person who had suffered this loss, but my efforts came to nothing.  …  Oops, hope there isn’t some poor random dog walker even now checking round their car puzzling about where on earth else they could have dropped their favourite woollen gloves on their sojourn to Tring park…  Oh the angst.  You have no idea!  At least the gloves were getting their own micro adventure I suppose, but at what cost.

What next?  First timers’ briefing I think.   There was a fair few of us from near and far.  Some who like me, had been wooed over by the prospect of kilts as well as the intrinsic glory of Tring.  Wave to the Poolsbrook traveller, who I didn’t meet on the day but found out we were fellow travellers from the north after the event.  Hello, next time maybe?

There were even a few first time everers!  What a one to choose for your debut.  I like to think they will have gone away believing kilts to be not just de rigueur at Tring, but actually compulsory at parkruns everywhere.  People came from near and far, with and without kiltery, which just goes to show, if you build it they will come!

The briefing was welcoming and succinct, something about a hill, and the route was described, and the ridgeway, and things to look out for.  Hills don’t particularly phase me, not because I’m fast, but quite the opposite, I’m really slow, and hills legitimise me walking, so all good.

Then there was a little bit of anticipatory waiting.

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At some point I availed myself of the thistle on the cheek temporary tattooing service, so that was good …  Actually, can we just pause for a moment to appreciate the magnitude of that particular offering.  Someone had the initiative, foresight and creativity to bring along with them a thistle stencil and a sponge preloaded with face paint or indelible ink, I forget which – purely for the purposes of helping fellow parkruns really rock the Scottish themes.  That’s awesome.  For this great public service fellow parkrunner – and your most excellent plumed hat, I thank you.  He got about 40+ marked up pre-parkrun I understand, and you can see his handiwork captured in some of the photos.  Grand is it not?  You might have to squint a bit to see them, but trust me, there are there, twice in one case, check it out!

He probably would have got more, but his efforts were interrupted as we were corralled for the mass walk to the start, which was just a little way on, up a slope.  The walk was lovely.  It was fun as a collective activity, and also fun because there were coos along the way.  Coo marshals shooed them to one side.

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The cows were calm, photogenic and placid. Unlike Sheffield cows which may be photogenic but need to be given a very wide berth.  Not phased by the parkrunners at all, which was a relief.  I also took a mandatory selfie.  Has to be done.  And I had by this point removed my fleece.  Kill me now.  It was very cold indeed.  I thought my nipples would freeze and fall off, they didn’t on this occasion, but it was touch and go I don’t mind telling you.

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Then we were gathered at the start, where by complete coincidence there was fiddler and an accordian player on hand to provide musical accompaniment to the run.  I mean, honestly, what were the chances of that, and how very fine!

It was apparently the Run Director’s event debut, you couldn’t tell, it all seemed very slick to me, clearly a well oiled team runs this show, or well lubricated by early morning seasonally appropriate Scotch Whisky on this particular occasion at any rate…

We were gathered in a semi-circle for the briefing, cheers for milestones, cheers for volunteers.  To mark the occasion, there was also the official kilt wearing shot, and the kilt lifting one too.  Has to be done.

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and then suddenly, there was the countdown and we were off!

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Up a hill, to the accompaniment of this: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=419351318973065

As usual, I just slotted myself in at the back.  I like to pootle these days, partly dodgy back, partly being unfit anyway but a great deal of liking to take my own time and take in the view.  The view from the back can be glorious, it is often the fun factory of a parkrun, and what’s more, on this particular route, being out and back, you get to see everyone at some point anyway.  Hurrah.

You head off up a fairly gentle incline, and then along a flat bit known locally as cowpat ally.  It was so cold, the ground was pretty much frozen, so no mud bath or slurry pit sliding required today.

Rather you could skip through, and cheerily greet the marshals on the gate in situ to see you safely through into the wood and the first of the proper uphill up to the ridgeway.

Well dear reader, I can report that it is indeed a hill.  Quite  a long one.  It’s picturesque (my signature word of the day forTring parkrun it seems) in the wood, and sheltered too, but it is also quite a long heave ho up the woodland track to the obelisk.  A full kilometer I think, but I didn’t check.  I did have a vague moment of clarity when I recalled my host telling me that when she was trying to get her husband into parkrun she deliberately didn’t take him along to Tring for his first one for fear of putting him off forever.  Hmmm.   Possibly a point.  I paced myself by walking.  Works for me.  As others peeled off ahead, you could see them through the trees.   There was also a lurking photographer at a corner spot, to capture the action.  All details attended to at this parkrun.

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It’s quite hard taking photos in the wood.  The trees are magnificent and tall, and bright sunshine above tried to break through their canopy.  You are heading towards the obelisk.  I do like a landmark on a parkrun, and this one was particularly fine.  It was so high the top was way up in the winter sunshine, so with the dark at the base it took on a near mystical quality.  This spot has its own regular marshal to keep you in order.  He offered smiles and words of encouragement on both the out and back.  Sometimes there is even music from speakers here apparently, though not today.  There is a story about that I gather, but I didn’t get to hear what it was.

From here, you do a zig towards the summer house, and then a zag back upwards to the ridgeway.

Lots of friendly marshals along the way.  Well, maybe not lots, but certainly sufficient, and they all had interactive settings so you could engage with them en route.  You could even pose for photographs with them, or get them to take photos of you and your new best friend you’ve just made at parkrun.  Inexplicably, some parkrunners just sprint round the whole course without stopping to pose for pictures, but perhaps they haven’t yet realised this is a viable option.  Maybe one not absolutely compatible with getting a pb, but then again, I pbed automatically on this route because it was my first time, just putting it out there as a thought.

Once you are on the ridgeway, breaks in the tree line now and again give amazing views, which once again are alas, hard to photograph, but you might get a broad gist from these two – it’s the same site, but with different emphasis on foreground in one and view in the other.  I tried dear reader, I tried:

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As I was having a leisurely event, I paused to try and photograph some runners at the carriage turning spot.  There being a distinct lack of zebra drawn carriages along the way today, there was plenty of room for runners in both directions.

Onwards, and a bit further up was another view point, and the uncontested winner for top trumps cameras in situ too.   Size might not be everything, but sometimes you have to acknowledge it can impress, as with the obelisk, so too with this lens thingamajig.  And you have to concede it is quite something to be able to draw attention away from the eye-catching redhead in full pelt as well as full tartan sprinting by in the foreground.

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Oh look more runners coming by – including mein hosts!  Hurrah!

Though if they are coming back the other way, maybe time to get a wiggle on myself.   It’s reasonably flat and sure footed along the ridgeway, and after a bit, you reach a turn around point, where you are invited to run round, if not the actual marshal, then the cone at this point.  It doesn’t specify how many times you should run round the cone, as many as you like, I was running a bit late, so just did the one, but others may have done more.  One enthusiast apparently overshot the point entirely, and had to be wrestled back by the marshal and spun round to head back to the finish funnel.  They are alert and primed for action at a moment’s notice these marshals.  Quality effort.

Coming back along the ridgeway, you see the views again, better actually, as the light was less whiting out and more illuminating.  Oh look, tailwalkers.  Always a welcome sight, and companionably putting the world to rights as they went along by the look of things.

I noticed more details on the way back.  There are little footpath signs and a Walter’s Wander walk of sorts.  I tried to get a parkrunner bordered by the cut out sigh, but never a parkrunner en route when you need one, maybe you can photoshop yourself in some time later.

And then check out this view – you can even see the finish area and the Rothschild stately home too, if you aren’t so worried about the prospects of getting premature wrinkles you can have a good squint.

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And friendly marshals again.  Still friendly and supportive second time round.  Marshalling in the cold of a crisp winter morning, and greeting all parkrunners with equal enthusiasm takes tenacity, stamina and grace, all were in evidence today, for which I thank them all.

And check out the summer house, spectacularly lit by the sun.  Great place to sit and watch the parkrun whizz by methinks.

and from the summer house, you can see the obelisk ahead, homeward bound now, and some proper downhill coming too, the yin to the yan of the up.

It was quiet by now, and I was nearly caught by surprise by a stealth photographer still en route, but he caught me and Geronimo in full flight.  For the dubious amongst you, and I think there may be a few, surely this shot is absolute proof that running with a Giraffe is not as much of a help on a run as you might think.  The psychological and emotional support of having a companion animal along with me cannot be overstated, but in terms of six legs better than two, maybe not quite so much of an asset as you might imagine!

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Actually, it might be time for some gratuitous parkrunning action shots, courtesy of the official photographers, a little interlude, before we come to the climactic finish.  Running with a buggy must have been tough.

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So after smiling and waving at the photographer en route, you charge on down the hill, depending on your courage and your faith in your trail shoes, and back out of the wood and into cowpat alley once again.  As I passed through, a runner who’d already finished was coming back the other way, holding refreshments I presume for the marshal(s), who must have been getting cold by now.

The light was beautiful, and the scenery lovely, and my erm, let’s go with ‘sedate’ pace meant I had it pretty much to myself too.

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The pictures don’t really do it justice I’m afraid, but think of them as but a spoiler, something to whet your appetite so you make the effort to go and see for yourself.

After a little while, again the finish funnel comes into view just as you are coming over the brow of the hill.  There is the usual glorious sight of welcoming volunteers, a well staffed finish funnel and a few parkrunners who had stayed behind to cheer the final few through.

What was less usual, but exceedingly glorious, was to be serenaded by the duo who were there from start to finish.  It was a.maz.ing!  Only problem is, I want live music at all my parkrun finishes now.  And not just live, but bespoke, so themed to each and every occasion.  Is that really so very much to hope for?

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Also, and this is a bit weird, it was like entering a different world on the return leg.  Sunshine had melted the frost and the grass was green and the shadows just as atmospheric but the scenery quite transformed somehow.  I had my barcode wristband thingy scanned in record time.  I treated myself to one of the anniversary wristbands, but it’s not had a great success rate scanning, two out of five occasions used it didn’t record for some reason.  No worries today, see, everything about this parkrun was practically perfect in every way!

So that was my parkrun ended, but it wasn’t the end of the fun.  So much still to do.  Specifically, to play with the swords, too good an opportunity to miss, particularly when you’ve come dressed for it especially.  You know, I think that’s one of the most brilliant things about parkrun, yes, yes, we all know it’s good to exercise and be part of a community blah de blah, and I am 100% behind those aspects too, however, maybe for me the bottom line is something about it creating a space where we have permission to play.   Being able to participate in parkrun in your own way includes joyful scampering about.  Where else would it be completely acceptable to mess about with swords in some country park somewhere and be confident that parkrun friends would join in and someone would have the wit to photograph the occasion for posterity – even direct the participants to ensure they captured the perfect shot!  I can’t quite decide which is the perfect one though, so you’ll have to look at the slide show for a whole load of them, and other posing too.  It’ll be fun, it was for us, you can have fun by association, or simply think yourself accursed you were not here, though it was St Andrew’s Day remember, and not St Crispin’s.

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No animals or parkrunners were injured or distressed in the posing for these photos.

Still time to linger, avail ourselves of refreshments, enjoy the view and welcome back the volunteers and tail walkers.

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However, all good things must come to an end.  Eventually everyone was accounted for, as the last of the marshals came in en masse

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Then there was just the little matter of taking down the VIP zone.  That was quite technical, and involved a great many people helping, and me circling around unhelpfully whilst I fretted about the gloves.  Remember them?  Well, they were still on the tarpaulin so not reunited with their rightful owner then.  Oh lawks a lordy, someone, somewhere has probably lost multiple digits from their hands because of me ‘helpfully’ removing them.  Just as I was falling into near despair at this thought, I vocalised my dilemma, only for someone to pipe up ‘oh, they are mine!  It’s OK, I had a spare pair!‘  Phew, it ended happily dear reader.

So too with the tent deconstruction, with some expert supervision, it was dismantled with exemplary teamwork.

I commented to anyone in earshot that this was the sort of high performance practical problem solving that would make me confident that Tring parkrunners are also able to fold up their collapsable start sign and even parkrun flag.  Awkward.  Apparently not.  One amongst our company disclosed they actually have the Tring parkrun start sign very much open on their kitchen floor, steadfastly refusing to be packed away despite having watched youtube tutorials on the theme.  It may even have been the cause of a blip in usual domestic harmony.  Oops.  Assume nothing dear reader, learn from me.  Mind you, those bannery things, they are tough!  Here’s Great Notley parkrun, grappling with the pop up so we don’t have to:

and that was that, everybody started to disperse, and where once there were runners, now there was nothing but footprints and the echo of laughter.  We took away photos and memories.  Some departing were noticeably more laden than others!  Bravo volunteer heroes, above and beyond on so many levels.  Your labours were very much appreciated.  Best kilted parkrun ever!

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Yes, I did notice it looks a little bit like they might be trying to dispose of a body, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.  Even if they are, I’m sure they will have had their reasons.  Talking through the run briefing does really need to be stamped out, I didn’t notice any of that at Tring, and perhaps this is why…

Oh, an in case you are regretting having missed it, you can relive the glory of the run through this actual footage of the kilted parkrun, or possibly the kilted coaches, but it looks broadly similar, so you’ll get the idea.  That’s a fancy dress haggis chasing them down at Tring by the way.  They aren’t real, that would be silly.  Real haggises (haggae?) are much, much smaller, but equally ferocious, and don’t wear fake tartan hat/hair combos, obvs.

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You’re welcome.

Back to the carpark – remembering to check out the lovely wildlife pics again:

Time for a quick pose by the gate – one for the family album surely, or at very least their fridge…

and alas, that was that.  Just the mud on the shoes remaining to prove we’d been there.  I’m not one to bear a grudge, but couldn’t help noticing my toesies were a lot muddier than Geronimo’s.  Still, we’d both had a fab morning out so no cause for complaint.

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So basically, this was indeed the best parkrun ever… until the next one.  That’s the funny thing, it was completely brilliant, but I never fear anticlimax at my next parkrun, because all parkruns are uniquely wonderful. Just as the capacity to love is infinite, so too is the capacity of parkrun to engage and enthrall… worst case scenario is type two fun – only fun retrospectively, but that’s still fun is it not, and parkrun is always parkfun, or your money back!

Also, for me, the awesomeness wasn’t even quite over yet, as it was back to mein hosts for post parkrun eggy bread – which I’ve not had in years and years, and steaming hot coffee, and a de-brief about all the fun we’d had and a sharing of some of the photos too.  Perfect end to a perfect parkrun.  Post parkrun brunches consolidate parkrun fun and parkrun memories.  It was just brilliant.  I felt like I’d been not so much on a mini break, but on an actual holiday, maybe in part because I had.  This might be the way forward for parkrun tourism, groom befriend people over the internet for a period of a few years and then turn up at their houses wanting to stay the night so you can run at their parkrun the next day.  Only moving house will prevent this occurrence from happening again.  Actually, now I come to think of it, there was some mention of a potential move further down the line… no surely not, had to be bluffing, and anyway, just a coincidental mention.

So sadly, the time came where I had to leave.   My hosts cheerily waved me off cheerfully.

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Possibly a little too cheerfully at seeing me go now I come to think of it, but then again they had to crack on with the rest of their busy day.  You can see they are just itching to get on with their spontaneous outburst of Scottish Country dancing, and that shortbread wouldn’t be eating itself now, plus there was scotch to be drunk also.  I think they keep the Drambuie back for bathing in.  It lightens the legs.  No rest for the wicked as the saying goes…  Just another typical parkrun morning, paying homage to their wannabe Scottish heritage.  Honestly, when they aren’t indulging in Scottish themed consumables, they are running up tartan accessories and working on their highland flings.  I know, I’ve been there.  …

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So thank you lovely Tring parkrunners all, but especially thank you to my virtual and now actual parkrunning Tring friends, we have officially bonded now, we have shared a kilted parkrun together, this can never be undone, not that we’d want to, because it was brilliant.  Exceeded expectations even, which is saying a great deal as I’ve been excited about it for ages and ages!  🙂

Incidentally, if you would like to triangulate my account of this Tring parkrun with another, then dip into the very fine debut run report for event #276 Highland (Fl)Tring!!!! which you can access here.  Recommended.  Full exposure of Tring parkrun.  There are also a gazillion photos (yes, I think it is an actual number) with albums aplenty included kilted parkrun album part one, Lucy’s perspective (yes, that’s me!)  and the final collection – like I said, really a lot of photos, but you can never have too much of a good parkrun thing.  FACT.  Also, what’s new year for if not for reminiscing about the high points of last one, all those pics could come in handy.

Same time next year anyone?  Or just get in the habit of wearing a kilt anyway, they are surprisingly warm to run in apparently, and handy if you need an al fresco precautionary pee I understand.

So keep on having parkrun fun y’all, here’s to new parkrunning adventures for all of us, wherever they may lead us.

By the way,  you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and you might be needing to get on with your life again now.  You are needed in it.

*Oh you want to know about Dulwich parkrun. Well, turns out it may be Dul by name but it is far from Dul by nature (see what I did there, gawd I’m hilarious sometimes, great punning action).  They only do a Eurovision Song contest themed parkrun every year.  That’s my 16 May 2020 parkrun destination sorted – hopefully it won’t be negatively impacted by Brexit.  Do love a parkrun that sets its own traditions. Colwick parkrun has its Hawaiian shirts, Tring parkrun its kilted run and Dulwich parkrun the full European spectrum.  Choose your parkruns wiseley dear reader, and your grand tour will be most enlightening, educational and – best of all – entertaining.  Start making your bespoke bunting now…

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Having a relay good time at Cusworth Hall parkrun.

Digested read:  parkrun tourism took me to Cusworth Hall parkrun this Saturday.  It was relay nice!

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Undigested read:

Cusworth Hall parkrun is a relatively new addition to the parkrun family.  It takes place at Cusworth Hall Museum & Park, Doncaster.  Were it not for this parkrun, I would never even have heard of Cusworth Hall, let alone taken the trouble to go and visit it, and my life would have been the poorer for it.  Turns out, it’s a gem of a location, less than an hour from Sheffield, and I can only assume it has its own glorious microclimate, because on a day when zillions and squillions* of parkruns were cancelled due to forecast high winds, storms, and apocalyptic rain, and others because of the rugby (no really – some people have trouble prioritising) yet Cusworth Hall parkrun was going ahead and the venue was bathed in autumn sunshine.  A little oasis of sun, sanctuary and calm.  A.Maz.Ing.  I like to think the volunteers put this on especially – they were very welcoming, it seemed nothing was too much trouble.  I’m pretty confident therefore that they guarantee similarly glorious weather every time or your money back.  This is a pleasing reversal on my most common local parkrun weather experiences, which involve me peering out of the window on a Sunday morning in Sheffield pre Graves junior parkrun, establishing it’s lovely out – if necessary through a process of triangulation which involves sticking my arm out of an attic window … and then traveling to Graves park having crawled along in the car behind a snow plough (should have guessed that might have been an early warning sign), only to find stepping out of the car on arrival I can’t even see my hand in front of my face because of, if not total white out, then hail coming down on the earth like a vengeful deity hurling down shards of broken glass.  Don’t get me wrong, it can add a certain frisson to the parkrun occasion to be conducting it in extreme weather, but Cusworth Hall it seems has a microclimate which is altogether more welcoming and benign.  Reet nice out in fact. Go find out for yourself.  If you go next week, Mr parkrun himself is going to be there, so it won’t only be glorious weather, but the parkrun route will be paved with gold.  I don’t know if volunteers have to go out with little brushes and paint gold leaf everywhere, or if just Mr S-H stepping on the ground gilds the paths around him by magic. Like King Midas, but only his feet on the ground.  Even if it doesn’t work like that, there are plenty of golden leaves adorning the paths right now, so the effect is broadly the same.   Here, by way of illustration, is a parkrun he visited earlier.  I think this one is possibly in Narnia, and it was a trial run, but worth keeping an eye on the exit route at the back of your wardrobe over the next few weeks, as I imagine it will be going live soon.

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Mind you, there was gold at Cusworth Hall parkrun this week too, but only as a taster.  I’m getting ahead of myself though, let’s start at the very beginning instead, it’s a very good place to start.  Apparently.

Oh, by the way, there was an event photographer at Cusworth Hall parkrun this week, and he shared some pretty fab pics, which I’m going to use freely in this post.  Well, they are fab, would be a shame not to.  I did take some pictures of my own, but they suffer by comparison, let alone juxtaposition!  I acknowledge my own pictures may add, erm, character perhaps, and sometimes comedic value, but not necessarily fine focus.  Each snap a memory nevertheless.  Well, I like to think so, and they do say it’s the thought that counts, albeit mostly when the result is pretty horrible.  Even so, not gonna lie, it’s brilliant to have some proper shots to immortalise the day, so thanks to Chris Cull for the photos, which you, dear reader, can browse at will here.

Right, so pre-visit prep.  My touristing options are getting more limited now winter is drawing in. However, Cusworth Hall is less than an hour from Sheffield, so why not?  I checked the official Cusworth Hall parkrun website blah de blah in advance, and established that you head for postcode DN5 7TU but as you get close please ensure you follow the signs to the car park and do not park in the village. Alarmingly, they add, please note that the postcode does not work with all Sat-Nav devices.  Uh oh!  Since I have acquired a sat nav, I have lost the ability to operate a map, or paper based aids.  Oh well, nothing ventured.  They say toilets are available (yay) and parking too, free until 10.30 but you need to display a spare barcode.  No problemo, my car is littered with spare barcodes, admittedly in various states of sodden decay, but one at least must be laminated and recogniseable.   This is testament to the potential benefits of otherwise potentially paralysing and pointless parkrun paranoia re #dfyb (don’t forget your barcode), parking sorted!  I knew my precautionary angstiness might one day pay off!

Next pre parkrun research is to check out the course.  The course description reads thus:

Course Description
The course starts and finishes on the driveway in front of Cusworth Hall. It is a slightly extended out and back route which explores the undulating terrain of Cusworth Hall Park. Following level paths in front of the hall and around the car park, the course drops down to the lakes at the southern end of the park. After running around the lakes the course zig-zags uphill across the main lawn before heading towards the finish.

Nope, that makes no sense at all.  Fortunately, they provide a picture, which looks like this:

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It may be that this graphic was designed as a visual aid to illustrate the concept of ‘none the wiser’ to a class of students learning English as a Foreign Language.  It’s hard to think why else the team came up with quite this route.  I meant to ask them on arrival, but then I forgot.  I was too distracted by golden baton fondling.  It could be entirely intentional, and perhaps a mathematician is available to confirm that this is in fact the most efficient way to fit a 5k route into what is a fairly bijou space.  Or, it might be that the night before they had to formalise their route, somebody spilt cooked spaghetti over the map and this is what they ended up with.  Obviously, no-one is ever going to admit to such a catastrophe, nor if it was the other option which occured to me.  That is, a small child scribbled a doodle over the originally intended out and back route with an indelible pen, and so they were stuck with it in perpetuity.  It’s up to you to to choose which version of events to believe.  Whatever happy accident brought this about, I can report that the journey is indeed way more important than the destination, and it worked just fine, but lord help anyone heading out intending to do a freedom run on this route when it’s unmarked and they don’t have a small army of cheery marshals alongside pointing the way!  I’m sure you’d have a lovely run, and a splendid micro-adventure, but I seriously doubt you’d be able to replicate the route unassisted.  And up until now I just thought it was those doing the Bob Graham round that needed navigator guides throughout…  Oh well, maybe some people just like a challenge.

So, the morning dawned, and off I went.  The roads were clear, and the sky disarmingly clear too.  I passed some party goers from last night, walking home through the morning gloom in fancy dress from the night before. Well, I presume it was fancy dress, I don’t see that many hawaiian grass skirts and lime green shell jump suits sported in these parts generally speaking, but each to their own I suppose.  The drive was easy peasy, and in fact it was way under an hour, so I was ridiculously early.  For parkrun tourists out there who want to know about accomodation options, I passed Halstead cat hotel very near to my destination, which might be handy if you are a touristing feline.  I know of a rabbit that is a regular at Bushy parkrun, Peellie –  but I’m not aware of any cats as such.  Perhaps it’s a bit chicken and egg, why would they tourist if there are no suitable facilities to meet their needs.  Good to know Cusworth Hall parkrun is ahead of them.  I don’t think the rabbit always arrives dressed as a pumpkin by the way, I think it was because it was seasonally appropriate what with halloween last week and everything.

So I arrived, following the brown museum signs to the car-park as directed.  On arrival, there was a big sign saying you couldn’t pay for parking at the moment because someone had stolen the ticket machine… for the third time!  That’s mean, they ask you make a donation instead in the museum. I  decided to interpret this as basically an instruction to have post parkrun sustenance in their cafe.  Veggie brunch, totally vindicated result!

There were signs for the loo, and signs for the cafe, all basic needs accounted for.  The venue was unexpectedly stunning.  Lots of mature trees, ample parking – so ample I had to drive round the car park twice to decide on the perfect parking spot.  It was just a short walk to the front of the hall – to the start area, but as I followed the path round I was distracted by the wide vista with mist rising from a lake below the hall.  It really is very nice indeed.  The back of the hall looks like this (photo stolen from facebook somewhere, but captures it really well, thank you Facebook photo sharer 🙂 ).  Yes, those are busy bee marshals setting up the course in the morning sunshine too.  Not bad for the back porch is it?  My exposed backside is nothing like as photogenic, and, for the record, has fewer people dancing attendance on it as well.

DM hall

The only unsettling image on my way to the gathering area, was seeing some caged trees.  It just makes you wonder what it is these trees might do if free to roam.  Are we talking triffids, or Birnam Wood, or the Whomping Willow a la Hogwarts and Harry Potter.  All are terrifying in their own way.   They didn’t look like triffids, but then they’ve probably evolved since the original documentary in the 1980s, like antibiotic resistant bacteria, they could have been reincarnated in near unrecognisable forms.  I mean, what better cover could there be than to look perfectly innocuous?  Quite!  Must be dangerous then.  Then again, the volunteer team will surely have done a pre-course safety inspection, and I guess if they’ve herded this dangerous, wayward wood altogether like this, maybe their potential for violence had now been neutralised. 

Mind you, You’d have thought they might have put a marshal there just to be on the safe side.  Oh my gawd!  What if they had, and that marshal was no more!  Gulp.  I crept on by.  There were other scary things in the woodland area too, but I didn’t see those until later…

After the caged trees, I glimpsed my first sight of the marshals, going about their important business of setting up the parkrun.  Turns out, this was only their fifth event.  This was handy for me, as I ‘need’ a 5 for my Wilson index, not badly or keenly enough to actively seek one out, but it was pleasing to acquire one by chance.  I generally love the Running Challenges, but the Wilson one seems to require a bit too much planning and or serendipity to be worth actively investing in.  Oh, you don’t know what it is?  Hang on:

Wilson Index: The maximum contiguous series of parkrun event numbers you have attended (at any event), starting at 1. To start off your streak, this requires that you have run at an inaugural event (controversial!), and then to increase the value to 2 you need to run at event #2 somewhere (not necessarily the same event as you ran at the inaugural event). They do not have to be in order, so you can go back and fill in numbers later.

See?  Doable if you are in at the beginning of a local parkrun, but as most of us – barring the original 13 parkrun pioneers were late to the party, a bit out of reach for the many.  Kudos to those who can be bothered to play with their excel spreadsheets creatively enough to keep that number rising.  Anyway, where was I?  Can’t concentrate properly until I’ve had my precautionary pee, now, let me see, loos were promised… and delivered!  Great facilities, open, lit and with toilet paper as well as washing facilities. Hurrah.  I could breathe easy now.

Then, next stop, spy on the hi-vis heroes.  Here they are, volunteers in action.  Getting ready for the parkrun party in the morning sun.  Team work.  Excellent.

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I was early, and a bit awkward.  I never know whether to offer to help when you early as a tourist, people who don’t know what they are doing can get in the way. Then again, I didn’t want to be unfriendly, and I did want to take some pictures and not in too stalkery a way. So I went and said hello, and asked if I could take photos, and that was OK apparently so then I tried to take some only it’s harder than you might think, especially as the sun was bleaching out loads of shots.  It’s so hard being me and self-conscious, honestly you have no idea.  Here’s one attempt at photographing Cusworth Hall – which dates from 1740 I believe, although the parkrun flag is a later addition improvement.

After I’d busied myself with taking rubbish photos, other parkrunners began to arrive.  There wasn’t a huge crowd. Whether that was because of Rugby, forecast inclement weather, new kid on the block or the catchment area of the parkrun I don’t know, but people were slow to surface. Still, it’s quality not quantity, and there were some quality arrivals.  Not least, some brandishing a golden baton, part of the Big Golden Baton relay extravaganza, which probably is ultimately pointless, but it’s also fun, so why not.  These fine folk had collected the baton at Wythenshawe parkrun, and excitingly, were passing it on to some fine folk from Millhouses parkrun. That’s extra exciting as it’s one of my nearest, and another brand new and shiny parkrun which so far has only had its test run and its inaugural, where I joined them a couple of weeks back.  It’s therefore especially pleasing that it’s already networking more widely in the parkrun family, and that by happy coincidence I got to share the moment too.  Yay.

The arrival of the Leeds Building Society golden baton generated the kind of excitement that only a golden cylinder can bestow on an event.  You probably had to be there to fully appreciate it.  Obviously, everybody present had to be photographed either appreciating the baton; comedically fondling or flourishing the baton; in close proximity to the baton; doing a staged hand over of the baton; reverentially holding the baton or otherwise interacting with it.  These things take time.  There were surprisingly few quips along the lines of ‘is that a golden baton in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me’ but some things are best left unsaid, and anyway, people were thinking it loudly enough that the sound of the phrase echoed round the courtyard as only infantile quips can.  parkrunners were exceedingly pleased to be bestowed with the honour of having the golden baton in their grasp.  There was some debate about whether or not it is constantly tracking its whereabouts like surveillance equipment, and nobody really new.  This is how surveillance societies come about.  We don’t ask the right questions and anyway are too distracted by the shiney new baubles that come our way to really notice that we should.

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Some people were more intuitively gifted with the re-enactment relay shots than others.  Check out this sequence.

Respect.

The posing for photos necessitated a certain amount of garment removal for best display of running related tees and parkrun clothing.  Any unwatched running jacket was scooped up by an enterprising junior sweeper and offered up to his dad.  I think this may be an innovative fund-raising initiative on the part of the parkrun.  Some very nice running jackets were collected and I’d certainly have put in a bid for more than one of them if eagle eyed original owners hadn’t been so quick off the mark in retrieving them.  Good work though, he’ll go far, missed nothing!

I was a bit confused as to who would actually run with the baton, or indeed if anyone would.  It wasn’t that user friendly to hold, being of wide girth.  Fret not dear reader, all will be revealed.  First though, I had to check out the tail walker.  Excellent.  I desperately want a tail like this for our junior parkrun.  One day perhaps, one day.  Well, assuming we aren’t allowed an actual dinosaur, which would be my preference, but I recognise might be incompatible with the animals kept at Graves park.  With the possible exception of the highland coos, I think a T-rex would make short work of the other residents.

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The team were still busy with set up, meanwhile I was busy finding the tourist dog with the softest silkiest ears.  Which I did:

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Busy as they were, the volunteer team were easily seduced into posing for a team shot with baton and sign.  I tried to get them to jump in the air, which they did, but my camera failed to capture the moment. Again.  Oh well, thought that counts remember dear reader, tis the thought that counts.

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and then suddenly, it was all action stations. First timers’ briefing.  Lots of first timers, it being a newish run.

and then there was the official run briefing.  Including a mini ceremony with the baton being transferred, and documented for posterity by many a mobile phone and camera shutter. 

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And there was a special round of applause for the tail walker who was having a birthday I think, and someone else who was either having a 250th birthday or running a milestone today.  I forget which.  And volunteers were thanked, and the announcement made about PSH coming to Cusworth next week.  He’ll have missed clutching the golden baton, but I think he’ll have a nice time anyway.

And then we all mustered on the tarmac path, facing towards the arch in the start area.  It was all good natured, maybe a little crowded, but it didn’t take too much exertion on the common sense front to get into a reasonable spot depending on estimated time.  I tucked in at the back.  And then a count down and off!  The official photographer took some ace shots of everyone storming down towards him.  He is not only brave, and a good photographer, but has a telephoto lens to keep him at a safe distance when taking such action shots.

CC off

so the 140+ runners stampeded towards him, and then veered to the side at the end.  Some runners (see if you can guess which) spotted him en route, but others were focused on their run.  It may be a run not a race, but that doesn’t mean speedy runners can’t give it their all.

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Oh, and check out the fun factory bringing up the rear.  A quartet of talented tailwalkers, keeping us parkrunners safe and on track.

CC fun factory at the back

Clearly I could do a sub 17 minute parkrun if I a) had the prerequisite physiology, and b) did the necessary training, but added impeding factors today were that I’ve still got a dodgy back and also that I needed to stop and take photos en route.  Pleasingly, a couple of kindred spirits appeared to be doing likewise, documenting their runs.  As long as I stayed out of the way and ahead of the tailwalker I am fine with my approach which charitably might be referred to as jeffing, but more accurately is linked to poor stamina and a propensity to be distracted by photo ops at any and every given moment.  So, for your information and merriment, please find below my photos from start to corner one.  I don’t think there is any risk of confusion with the ‘proper’ photos.

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So after you turn away from the arch you do a little zig zag, and end up running alongside the car park.  That was a tad odd, to be fair, but I like that you could see faster runners coming back in the other direction on the opposite side of the car park.  Don’t worry, faster runners also get to see slower runners coming in the opposite direction too, it’s quite fair, but they haven’t necessarily got the time to turn their heads to enjoy the view, let alone take a load of pictures.   Fortunately, other parkrunners were on hand to perform this service.

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One of the (many) things I really liked about the course, is that the twisty turny route meant there were lots of opportunities to see other runners of different speeds running around in the general vicinity. It made it companionable, without the stress of being lapped.  It isn’t really a multi-lapped course as such, you do run twice round the little lake, but that’s sufficiently far on round the course that speedy runners were long gone by the time I set foot on it.  The course does however require super versatile marshals, who were not only fabulously helpful and particularly photogenic to a tabard, but also had the ability to teleport.  You’d see them at the start, and then they’d pop up somewhere on the course as well, and then magically reappear at the finish.  It was quite remarkable, I don’t think they were clones, though what with the caged trees maybe there are powerful magical forces at work that keep this parkrun show on the road.   There is a lot of creative cone placement too.  It’s needed, fine as the route is, I think it’s fair to observe it isn’t especially erm, let’s go with ‘intuitive’.

 So you cross the end of the car park, and up the other way, round a muddy field.  I always wear my trusty inov-8 parkclaw to new events, and I was glad of them. They are good for a mix of tarmac and grass.  Don’t be scared non-grass lovers though, the field bit wasn’t too horrific, it had trees and things and so did not induce flashbacks to the trauma of cross country or school sports days or anything like that.  It was brief, and jolly, and there was the joy of watching other runners, and supportive marshals.  One latecomer and child was sprinting to catch up with the tail by the time I got back to the corner of the field.  All good.

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So back, past the car park again, and this time you run round the back of the house, through some railings and past the amazing rear view of the stately home.  You can see the view of the lake and Doncaster vista beyond – I’d love to go inside the house and see the view from the upstairs windows there one day.  Not mid-parkrun though, that would be a bit much of a diversion even for me.  I did stop to take some pictures though, obvs.

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The photographer had either teleported or being transported by golf buggy, pack horse or his own two feet to a new position.  I think he may possibly have taken photos before as they were jolly good, and he is clearly used to both this venue and photographing runners as there were some brilliant pics. He even got not one but TWO photos of me multi-tasking by apparently running AND smiling AND waving AND having flying feet all at the same time, without even using photoshop.  I was impressed.  In other news, he also answers the question about what happened to the baton during the run.  Dear reader, people ran with it, and later on, different people person and/or persons unknown have it with them, so either it was freely surrendered and passed on in good-humoured parkrun tradition, or there was an almighty scrap and the winner took all.   All there to be pored over though.  Exciting isn’t it?  Check out the barkrunners too.  Having a grand day out indeed.  Oh, and the leggings.  This was a very good parkrun for colourful leggings, personally I’ve only ever had black, and as they are basically indestructible, and can accommodate a changing body shape due to the genius that is stretchy lycra, I’ve had my current leggings for almost a decade I think.  If they do ever give up the ghost, maybe I’ll go wild and go technicolour.  It’s tempting.

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Also, the RD had relocated and was looking exceptionally busy and important.  There’s something about the intoxicating combination of a unique high vis AND a clip board that bestows great power on the person in possession of the same.  With great power comes great responsibility.  He wore it lightly though.  Good job!

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So through more railings, and then you get a joyful downhill scamper.  It was a tad slippery and a bit of a test of nerves, but fun.  You go down through a nicely planted erm, shrubbery I think, and down towards the lake.  The field had spread out by now, so you also get to have a little companionable chit chat with other runners of your pace at this point, should you wish to do so.

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Marshals are on hand to shoo you round the right way, and round the lake you go.  At the far end is another marshal with a lap 1/lap 2 sign so you know you get to see him again later on.

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Come to think of it, there were faster runners coming through at this point, because I saw some of them sprint up the hill, along a woodland trail and back towards the house, as I turned to go around the lake.

and then from the other side of the lake, you can see the faster runners streaming along against the backdrop of the sunlit house.  In the foreground swans a-swimming, it was pretty god-darned photogenic I don’t mind telling you.

Looking straight ahead wasn’t too bad either.  There is a lot of mature planting in the grounds, and some amazing specimen trees pop up next to the bulrushes and little ornamental bridges or gulls overhead.  This is a fabulous venue, not only for a parkrun, but as a public space to get out into and enjoy.  I’d definitely come back some time and check out the museum as well.  Summer though, when being parkrun fresh doesn’t lead to damp shivering, misery and feeling like death in the chill of winter.  There were some muddy bits though, but that’s good isn’t it, it’s not a proper run if you return with clean trainers.

Another marshal, ready to turn you round, so you don’t end up inadvertently heading off to infinity and beyond, which would be awkward – not to say expensive if they had got their parking ticket machine back in operation by then.

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Round, by a wall, through more trees, back to some marshals you’ve been before.  A test, before you can continue – have you seen me before?  If yes go right, if no go left.  Not sure how that would work for those with Prosopagnosia (face blindness), just have to hope they can recognise bridges and vegetation instead.  This looked like a fun marshal spot, as you had a specific thing to do and also were in shouting distance of another marshal, so they could be a high performing double act, keeping order, and having a laff. Both are very important functions indeed.  I think the one enhances the other, if my experience at junior parkrun is anything to go by.  Then round back to the stopping you from running to infinity marshal, past 50% of the tail walkers and past the wall again.  It was a very nice wall…

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and then ‘suddenly’ you are back on the homeward straight, through the gap in the railings, with the house to your right and the lake to your left, and up to lap 1/lap 2 marshal, only this time you get to run up the hill.  Yay!

then there was an unexpected (for me) bit.  You cut across the grass in front of the hall, to a gesticulating marshal enticing you her way.  There is a lot of going back from whence you came, although pleasingly you don’t have to do so on an identical path.  I’m sure this was the fourth time that morning I’d met this marshal en route if you count the pre run photos too, which obviously I do.  Very versatile as well as photogenic marshals at this parkrun.  It is the Cusworth Hall parkrun way!

I got confused again though.  Granted it doesn’t take much. It’s just that my internal homing device meant I fully expected to be directed round to the finish by skirting round the side of the house from here, but it was not to be.  You head out again, and do a little corner of the field and back alongside the car park again. Praise be to the marshals for keeping us on track, I was completely clueless, even following the parkrunner just ahead I wasn’t overly confident of the path to take!

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Got there in the end though.

Oh hang on, what is this unexpected additional scary thing lurking in the woods?

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BOO!

Don’t worry dear reader, I sped past without incident.  I can’t say whether others were so lucky.  I mean, parkruns count runners back in with finish tokens it’s true, but they don’t generally speaking count us out… no cause for concern, just saying for future reference.

And then, before I knew it, it was past the archway, and homeward bound, you get to sprint down a very slight but significant incline towards the house, so you feel like you suddenly get a second wind which is quite satisfying.  A posse of hi-vis heros are on hand to cheer you in.  As is the parkrun way.

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Genius as my photos undoubtedly are not, fortuitously we have the yan to my yin, by way of the official finish shots.  Things to look out for here – apart from the obvious boon of runners being in focus – include the ownership of the baton and the gritting of teeth as parkrunners endure their sprint finishes.  Did you know swearing can improve your workout apparently.  I don’t think any parkrunner would utter an expletive, but their suppression of the impulse to do so might account for bleeding eyes and throbbing neck veins as they finish.  Also, check out the particularly adoring look of the barkrunner with his responsible adult running companion.  Awwww. 🙂

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I also think the official pics capture the inclusive nature of parkrun.  It accommodates both very tall people and very not tall people.  Although I am wondering if I maybe need to catch up on Father Ted to be really confident I’m reading the situation correctly.  That small or far away challenge has never been all that obvious to me to be honest.  Awesome buggy.  That’s got to be the way to travel round parkrun – maybe that was the transportation of choice for the photographer now I come to think of it. There’d be room for all the photography gear to hang off it too.  Very practical.

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So I came storming (ish) through the finish, and a very alert junior marshal was on it to make sure no finish token passed him and his tin. Quite right too, it’s important to set clear boundaries from the start!

All done.  I lingered a little while longer to await the tail, and try and nail an atmospheric finish shot.

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And that was that.  Cusworth Hall parkrun done and dusted.  Just a question of adjourning to the cafe.  The cafe, was extremely well stocked with generously portioned cakes and scones. The savoury options, especially if vegetarian seemed to be more limited, but to be fair I didn’t have my glasses on so had to fathom options based on limited information.  I had a vegetarian ‘sausage’ in a bap.  It was alright, quite nice even though more of a vegetable and cheese option than anything sausage like. Coffee, sorry to say  – particularly as the setting was glorious and cake and scone options magnificent – was poor.  One of those push a different button for a latte/ cappuccino whatever and it was tasteless and a textureless, no depth to the foam. I really don’t know why they don’t have a ‘proper’ coffee machine, it was a mismatch of expectations.  The eating area was nice though. Big wooden tables, and the whole place was rammed with parkrunners – always a boon.  Friendly service too.  So a good option, but if you are a coffee snob, brace yourself for disappointment.

I chatted a bit to other parkrunners.  We had the ‘most unexpected parkrun’ conversation.  I no longer ask people what their favourite parkrun is.  The question is meaningless as each parkrun is unique and it’s like asking someone to pick their favourite child perhaps?  Most unexpected seems fair, and turns up some interesting stories.  The story from this parkrun was a recommendation for Catterick parkrun, the parkrunner in question had been when a multitude of gurkhas were running it, it sounded amazing. So many elite runners, but also the atmosphere of support and music was extraordinary.  That’s been added to my ever lengthening to do list for sure!  They aren’t there every week, but with reasonable frequency.  You don’t get to go over the jumps though, so do try to contain yourself if you do go.

catterik parkrun

But this was Cusworth Hall parkrun, so I should conclude by saying it was a relay nice one.  No, relay it was, definitely one of my favourites so far – even though we’ve already established I haven’t really got one because each parkrun is unique.  This parkrun though was friendly, good facilities, lovely venue and full of interest.  Also not too far from Sheffield so I’d definitely come back and do it again sometime.  Thank you lovely parkrun makers all, and special thanks to the Cusworth Hall parkrun team for the warm welcome and fab event. It was a memorable day indeed.  Especially thank you for sorting the weather.  It was fabulous right up until the moment I got back in my car to drive home.  Perfection!

Happy days.

Oh, and if you want to read the Cusworth Hall parkrun event report for today, event #5, and I think you should, it’s here, with lots of pictures and some explanation about the baton relay thing too.  Hurrah!

Incidentally, it occurs to me I’ve not done a stats link in a while, and I love Elliott Line’s analysis week in week out. So, as a special treat dear reader, check out this link for a snapshot of the parkrun attendance and milestone stats for week of 2/3 November 2019.  Honestly, even if spreadsheets and stats aren’t your natural habitat, if you are into your parkrunning you may find this link awakens your inner parkstats geek.  You’re welcome. 🙂

By the way, you can waste further hours of your life by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice as well, reading is not compulsory, no sarcy #tldr comments please, it’s unkind and unnecessary I’m not trying to make you read anything, just scroll on by.

Happy running in general and parkrunning in particular ’til next time, wherever your feet may take you.  And remember, we live in the age of parkrun, however bad the world seems at time, we got lucky with that!  Yay, go us!

#loveparkrun

*well, maybe not ‘zillions and squillions’ as such, not least because I don’t know if they are actual real numbers, but a great many

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Taking the plunge on parkrainday aquaplaning the undulations at Sheffield Castle parkrun

Digested read:  went back to Sheffield Castle parkrun today, it rained.  It’s been a while.

Undigested read:

I wasn’t going to do a blog post today, as it’s sort of my home patch and I’ve done a post about Sheffield Castle parkrun before, loved it then, two years ago – they had tadpoles* for goodness sake – what’s not to like?  But then this is such a fabulous parkrun and so under-recognised in my view, I changed my mind.  Putting up a post, even if no-one ever reads it, is my way of sort of writing a thank you letter to the individual and collective awesomeness that is the Sheffield Castle parkrun team.  They are dedicated, welcoming and cheerful, and I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to come back for another visit.  It’s a great run, and hardly ever cancels.  Once because of black ice, and once because of another event in the park, which isn’t bad going for a parkrun which started way back in August 2013.  Today was their 318th run.  And the ratio of volunteers to runners is impressive, how they pull it off week in week out is a minor miracle.  It would take more than apocalyptic flooding for them to pull the plug on their run.  Though to be fair, the irony is if that flooding did make them pull a plug, then the water would all drain away and everyone could run without getting their feet wet, so they wouldn’t need to pull the plug after all.  I know, the contradictory logic messes with your head!  Still, point is, lovely parkrun, why not celebrate it in a post.   Thank you lovely Sheffield Castle parkrun people, your parkrun is epic, as indeed are you!

Also, on the subject of plug holes, check this one out at Ladybower, not a magic portal to a parallel universe unfortunately, but pretty impressive all the same, although not a good idea to dive into it I’d venture.  It would have taken something on this scale to dry out the roads of Sheffield this weekend though.

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So there has been was a lot of rain.  No really a lot.  They say every cloud has a silver lining, and that is true, but they also hold an enormous amount of rain, and a great many large clouds have been jettisoning biblical quantities of rain for what seems like forever.   This plays havoc with my parkrun plans!  What to do?  I was thinking earlier in the week of venturing away from Sheffield before winter properly sets in.  However, parkrunning tourism isn’t that appealing when it might involve aquaplaning down motorways in early morning darkness through zero disability torrential rain.  I’m a bit of chicken driving, unlike rats, surprisingly.  No really.  Look, it was on the BBC website so it must be true check this out:   Rats taught to drive tiny cars to reduce stress levels.  I mean, they’d probably be less stressed if not in a lab in the first place, but even so.  Amazing.  Counterintuitive, as I find driving incredibly stressful, but then again, I’m not a rat, and maybe the roads are better in Canada?

Fab ratmobile though…  I wonder if this was inspired by the bat or popemobile, or vice versa. So hard to establish what is cause and what is effect sometimes, or indeed correlation.  We live in a world of mystery and wonder.  On the subject of bats (yes we were, albeit tenuously) did you see this?  Sweetest thing ever.   Bumblebee bat apparently.

bumblebee bat avant gardens

Stop distracting me by asking about the bat, I’ll never get to tell you all about the Castle of parkrun adventure at this rate what with all these pesky interruptions!

The other complication, was the amount of cancellations popping up.  Wouldn’t want to risk life, limb and worst of all sense of humour bypass, from turning up somewhere only to find it cancelled at the last minute.  I’m desperate to get my running challenges gold running obsessive badge this year by completing 50 parkruns within one calendar year. I know it’s basically a virtual sticker chart for grown ups and inherently pointless, but I don’t care.  I seek it out.  This compulsion hurts no-one.  Sigh, it would be awesome on my profile…  Blooming love the Running Challenges Chrome Extension.

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I’ve actually not missed a parkrun this year, but at three of them I didn’t get to run.  Two of them I ended up watching with my mum including supporting her getting her Spirit of parkrun award which was amazing by the way (parkrun royalty, had to be done, and well worth it), and one I turned up at only to find it had been cancelled at the last minute due to high winds, which I completely support – difficult decision for RDs and all that – but it meant it was too late to go anywhere else.  Can’t afford for that to happen again this year.  I’ve just one parkrun in hand, perilously close… in my reach, but not in my reach, like blooming parkrun bingo.  The idea for Stopwatch Bingo , is that you collect all the seconds from 00 to 59 in your finishing times.  I’m on my 227th run, and yet STILL the 20 second time eludes me.  So near and yet so far.  Aaaargh.  Would today be the day I scooped it.  Spoiler alert, nope, it wouldn’t.  But I did a whole lot worse than that, though you’ll have to read on to find out why.  Blooming hate the Running Challenges Chrome Extension.  Pointless stress-inducing obsessive-behaviour-cultivating oojamaflip.   As if life isn’t fraught enough!

Where was I?  Oh yes, in Sheffield, watching the parkrun cancellations tally be revised ever upwards on the parkrun cancellations page.

parkrun cancellations

Bit of a theme emerging eh?  It’s worth looking at this page from time to time, some parkruns are quite creative with their cancellation reasons.  My favourite was one stating the parkrun had actual polar bears on their course, such were the arctic conditions, which I daresay they did, though I can’t remember which one it was now… oh hang on, I can check.  Give me a minute…  it was Bradford parkrun!  I mentioned it in an earlier blog post.  I’m almost disappointed they didn’t cancel today, because they have a gift for communicating their cancellation reasons.  They’d have been building an ark or something.  Wish we’d thought to do that in Sheffield too to be fair.  And, of course I wouldn’t really wish a parkrun cancellation on anyone.  The horror of turning up and finding only tumbleweed or a solitary sodden marshal detailed with breaking the bad news to you.  Too cruel anywhere, as has been said before…

Best stay local.  I was thinking Millhouses parkrun, to continue to support it, what with it being both local and new having only had its inaugural last Saturday.  Then that became definite, because I was going to stand in and be tailwalker for someone else (complicated story), and then there was a suggestion it might be cancelled, due to stretches being not so much puddled as underwater and then it was cancelled.  Oh dear.  Now where?  And then there was a chance Sheffield Hallam parkrun might be cancelled too, on account of the fact it basically being a pond.  I didn’t want to leave it too late to decide where to go if I was going to need to drive.  I wasn’t 100% about whether Graves parkrun would go ahead (also good choice for halloween theme of course) it usually does.  Then as I was browsing through various Sheffield parkrun Facebook pages there was a little comment on one of the posts for Sheffield Castle parkrun Facebook page, just saying almost coyly – ‘yes, we’ll be there in the morning‘ with some fine running emojis.

we ll be there

It was meant to be dear reader, it was meant to be.  I’m in!  Sheffield Castle parkrun has slipped off my radar lately, mainly because it involves driving without the incentive of Highland coos at the end of it, but it’s a great reliable parkrun, so why not.  Make a change.  It’ll be fun, it’ll be fine.

In the morning there was some conferring and some last minute call outs and checks.  Smilie Selfie Queen was going for Castle, Sheffield Hallam reported flooding but would try to go ahead -though not confirming til 8.30.  It’s astonishing those that did as well as those that didn’t.  Penistone parkrun cancelled the night before on account of a bog:

Sheffield Hallam parkrun went ahead, too good an opportunity for triathlon training to pass up.  Plus, must have been hilarious to be fair.  Not to mention a triumph of hope over experience, as one parkrunner at least clung to a King Canute like belief he could turn back the tide.  You have to admire this kind of tenacity, not to mention my boundless appreciation for any parkrunner who seemingly never travels without a yard broom in case of just such a parkrun eventuality.  Yes, that is on the actual course by the way, and what’s more, a bit you get to run/ splash/ swim through four times.  The joy!

Sheffield Castle parkrun facebook page hadn’t got a more recent update, but that’s OK, I’d go there.  Point of information if you don’t know this particular parkrun, it’s a really cool parkrun (get me and my trendy yoof speak**), small (by Sheffield standards) and ‘proper’ community one.  It’s held in Manor Fields Park, which to be honest, when I first moved to Sheffield about ten years ago had a reputation for being something of a dump.  Dog shit and fly tipping, a sad and derelict site.  In recent years, it has been utterly transformed with wildflower planting, sculptures and – best of all – it’s very own parkrun!

Sheffield Castle parkrun is small but perfectly formed, so we can forgive it for being devoid of an actual castle.  The committed team of volunteers who run it are locals invested in the area rather than necessarily runners as such. This gives the run a uniquely friendly, welcoming and community vibe.  It also has a sort of informality to it, which to the uninitiated may seem disconcerting. For example, if you look at the volunteering rota as a way to check its on as tourists often do (blank rota usually means no run) you’ll just see a void, stretching into eternity, it only gets populated immediately after the run when they are events processing for the days parkrun.  In fact, they don’t really bother with it in advance, they have a dedicated team, who presumably rock up each week and sort it out on the day I think.  It works anyway, but is unnerving if you are traveling any great distance I imagine!  Concord parkrun similarly don’t really bother with their volunteer roster in advance either.  Nerves of steel to travel a long way to go there too, but each Christmas day they deliver parkrun magic, no excel spreadsheet required!

castle vol rota

The website also doesn’t list any facilities, but dear reader, on arrival you will find there is a loo, and a little warm room to wait at the start and ‘free’ (for an optional donation) tea and coffee in the community room at the end. Some limited free parking, but it’s on a tram route so accessible by public transport anyway.  if you are driving, I went with the postcode for the premier store next door at 525 City Road with a postcode of S2 1GF, and that worked fine, but be warned, it isn’t a premier store anymore, it’s called something else, so you could miss the turning on arriva.  However, the postcode will get you there – make sure you don’t use the store carpark, turn into the Manor Fields Park area instead.

Right, whilst I’m doing the routine stuff, I might as well tell you about the course, don’t think I did last time, honestly can’t remember. Anyway, the Sheffield Castle parkrun course blah de blah on the official parkrun website describes it thus:

Course Description
The course consists of three laps of Manor Fields park in an anti-clockwise direction.
The Start/finish line is situated at the entrance to the park from the car park adjacent to York House, City Road.
From the start head east following the tarmac path which descends gently and then takes a more north easterly direction. Take a right fork climbing gently on a curved path towards the Queen Mary Road entrance to the park keeping the houses to your right.
Adjacent to the Queen Mary Road park entrance take a left turn following the tarmac path north east towards the children’s playground.
Immediately prior to the playground, at the cross roads, turn left and take the gentle descent north westerly. Continue along the tarmac path following it north keeping rocks to your right and over the discreet, level bridge.
Take the next available right and continue along the tarmac path in a generally northerly direction as it ascends ever more steeply towards the Raynald Road exit from the park.
Follow the tarmac path left and north west as it descends steeply towards the Manor Park Crescent park entrance keeping within the park boundaries following the path as it bends left passed the entrance heading south in a steady climb.
Stick to the main tarmac path as it bends south westerly and commences its steady climb past the cemetery entrance on the right back to the start/finish line.

Which makes it sound reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally complicated.  It’s not, you can either just follow the person in front, or just be guided by the strategically positioned cones and smiley marshals.  You won’t be lost.  You do need to be able to count to three though, or you might over or under shoot your parkrun experience.  It has happened.  I was definitely at a parkrun where a first timer did an extra lap once, but then again, I like to think how chuffed he would have been on completing his ‘difficult second parkrun’ where he must have got a stupendous personal best!  Not sure if that would be absolute consolation though.

The course looks like this:

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What they don’t tell you with quite sufficient emphasis in my opinion, is that it’s Sheffield Flat.  i.e. undulating, i.e. some really quite big hills, two in fact, each of which you do three times.  The views are fab though, and what goes up must come down, so you do get to whizz down them again, which is always a boon.

Anyway, that’s the background info.  My day involved waking up early and thinking it was the middle of the night it was so pitch dark outside.  It wasn’t.  It sounded like torrential rain was beating down on my attic window, shudder.  It was.  This was definitely going to be a wet one. What’s more, at the minute my back is stuffed, so I’m just walking.  In a way, this was something of a relief as it legitimised me wearing waterproofs and even a scarf and woolly hat, but I am getting so sick of not being able to run or do anything very much.  It’s soooooooooooooooo frustrating just pootling round, I wonder if I’ll ever get back to running again, however ineffectually.  Mind you, pootling might be the better option to running to the point of collapse.  Super speedy runners are impressive, but sometimes I worry they don’t have as much fun as the walkers.  Here’s one trying to emulate Mr Kipchoge’s marathon pace for just a kilometer.

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It didn’t end well.  Worth a gander though, and if it’s still raining and you now know what happened in the Rugby***, what else are you going to do today?

Sometimes slow and steady will get you there more reliably.  Hare and tortoise anyone?  For longer distance challenges, pause for a moment to celebrate this woman.  Maggie Guterl.

Maggie Gurtel winner ultra

Oh yes she did!!! Maggie Guterl just won Big’s Backyard Ultra. She ran 250 miles straight and was on her feet for 60 hours!! She is the last WOMAN standing and the first woman to win this race. History is made and barriers have been smashed.

Both ends of the distance are impressive.  Beyond impressive, but I’m thinking for me the goldilocks zone is somewhere between a flat out 1 miler and 250 miles straight (averaging 4.1 miles an hour – about my parkrun speed today, so I’m on target 😉 ) that is, a nice 5k parkrun distance.  I’ll try that, but note the achievements of others in terms of acknowledging what is possible.  Maybe not for each one of us, but within the potential of humankind at least.

So up and out and off to Sheffield Castle parkrun.  My satnav obviously felt my life needed an element of surprise and enrichment, and not only took me the most roundabout route imaginable, I’m pretty sure I went via Aberystwyth, or possibly Cape Pembroke Lighthouse parkrun, but also had a 3 second delay as the signal dropped in and out, so I kept misunderstanding or missing altogether directional instructions.  Probably those things are related, but I choose to believe my satnav is sentient and mischievious, trick or treating me in keeping with the season.

It was pyjama parkrun day, so in theory you could run with your duvet, which would have been fab, but susceptible to extreme waterlogging, so that didn’t happen. Oh well.

I still arrived really early, and was seriously impressed to see a cheery finish funnel already up.  Welcoming lights gleamed out from the community building, this run was happening!

I love the sculptures in this park too, they truly are spectacular.  It’s a while since I’ve been, and I went for a quick wander a  gander.  I  think it was winter when I was here last, so I didn’t fully appreciate the amazing wetland bit with huge bulrushes and boardwalks as well as ducks, and I do love a duck as my regular reader will know.  There was also a great playground, and even though it’s basically winter now, still lots of flowers around.  It’s an amazing place.  It has taken real imagination, passion and dedication to transform this site, it’s astonishing.  It’s not promising when you approach, and then you find the oasis of green space for wildlife and people alike.

I also spotted another slow and steady potential parkrun participant.  This is the parkrun pact, thou shalt not finish last, there shalt be a tailwalker, and possibly even a mollusc, to reassure you there is a chance you’ll get to storm ahead of some living creature at least!

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And, for the first time, I spotted this fabulous revelation.   Finally, a pb parkrun, even if three laps!  I know, I know, the jokes been made before, but with an open goal like this one what are you supposed to do?  It might be raining, but this is doable, very doable indeed!

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It was definitely still raining, really rather a lot.  So I used the facilities for my precautionary pee.  Top tip, the light switch is inside and low down, you will be plunged into darkness if you shut the door first without locating it.  Just passing on the info for a friend, obvs.  Next door there is a store room, where the innovative Sheffield Castle parkrun team have completely solved the impossible challenge of working out how to pack away the start/finish banner.  Just leave it popped up the whole time!  Genius.  No more ritual humiliation trying to contort the parkrun pop-up banner cat back in the proverbial bag! Talented team here at Manor Fields Park like I said.

I went to join the little huddle in the brightly lit community room.  I didn’t take a picture as it didn’t seem appropriate.  But volunteers were assembling and hot steaming cups of tea and coffee were available as hi-vis was donned.  A few tourists appeared, I like to think it was quality if not quantity.  Some from Nottingham, braving it in shorts – skin is waterproof being their mantra.  I know they are right, but even so, brave and bold parkrunners there.  Properly hardcore.  There was a Rother Valley ‘local’, who like me had decided venturing too far for tourism with so many cancellations potentially pending was not the best move, so keeping it relatively local and visiting a too long neglected parkrun friend.  There were also some refugees from Millhouses parkrun as well as some who were clearly regulars.  A friendly and even optimistic vibe.  Call that rain?  Hardly drizzling!

This parkrun prides itself on starting bang on 9.00 (my watch today said I started my run at 9.01, which is pretty darned close).  So about 15 minutes before the run director braved the rain to put out the final course touches pre run briefings.  Seeing the activity, parkrunners began to emerge from their cars like crabs from under rocks.  It’s always amazing how from nothing a parkrun appears just at the last minute.

The unique selling point of this parkrun is that the volunteers are all spectacularly photogenic, and also have the most extensive collection of golfing umbrellas ever held aloft at a parkrun.  FACT****.  I had no idea golf was so big up at the Manor.  Assume nothing dear reader, rather expect and embrace the unexpected.  I don’t know (or care) enough about golf to make any golf-related small talk, but if it’s your thing I daresay you could give it a whirl.

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Whilst chatting with volunteers I also learned more about Manor Fields.  For example, it was among the first in the UK to adopt

an exemplar SuDS system reproducing natural wetland features to assist with drainage solutions designed to cope with major wet weather incidents.

That means, all the run off from the surrounding houses collects in Manor Fields, and so creates that amazing wetland habitat.   I also learned that the work that has gone into creating wildlife habitat has started to pay off.  I’m not a twitcher as such, so might be getting this wrong, but various endangered species have somewhat surprisingly found a safe haven here, including I think the grasshopper warbler.   According the the RSPB website:

The high, insect-like reeling song of the grasshopper warbler is the best clue to its presence. Even when you hear one it can be difficult to locate it due to the ventriloquial effect of its singing. If seen on migration it moves like a little mouse, creeping through the foliage. Dramatic population declines have made this a Red List species.

Who knew a bird could be a ventriloquist!  Every day’s a learning day!

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So that was great, but we were here to parkrun, and so volunteers headed off to the far corners of the fields, and parkrunners materialised in time for briefings.

Smiley Selfie Queen and her making-an-effort comrade were just in time arrivals, but appropriately attired.  Good work my running friends, good work.  Also, handily posing in the doorway of the community room, so you get a little hint of how welcoming and roasty toasty it was in there, pre or post run.

CS made an effort

There was a little comradely huddle of first timers:

the atmosphere built, the crowds assembled:

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and then the RD was astride his podium.  I like to think this was put in place especially for this purpose, but reluctantly concede it is part of the kit for an outdoor gym type initiative:

The brief was pretty focused and brief, with a pleasingly attentive but small cluster of a select 56 runners.  A late arrival didn’t mean there wasn’t time for a bit of parkrun posing.  Shame not to.  After all, if you can’t flash your boo at the parkrun nearest to halloween, when can you?  There were some fine skeleton earrings donned by a participant today, but you might need to be rather eagle eyed to spot them.  … Anyway, ages since I’ve been at such an intimate parkrun gathering.

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quick shuffle round to get in position

and then – a la junior parkrun – there was a collective countdown from ten, nine, eight… to go!  This was great, as it meant I had an accurate start time, creating the giddy possibility I might be able to help along acquisition of my last outstanding parkrun bingo number.  Ye gods, if only!

Awf we went.  Two tail walkers at the back, I wanted to keep just ahead of them.  Despite appreciating the social aspect of parkrun, I can’t bear running with other people, I just find it really stressful.  There was a jeffing run/walker with the tails, so I sort of did impromptu jeffing to keep just away from them, but interspersed with pauses for photo ops.  One thing about being really slow at the moment, is I can appreciate routes more and stop to take pictures on the way round.  Might as well quite frankly.  I think I overheard the tailwalkers say to one another ‘oh no, only runners today!’ which made me feel better in the event I was last one in.  They were looking forward to a walk and talk perhaps.  They were lovely anyway, I warned them I might have to walk a lot because of my back and they just said ‘no problem, that’s what we’re here for’ and more than saying it, clearly meant it.  I could feel the wave of relief wash over me.   The inclement weather did seem to mean only the more hardcore runners had turned out, numbers were definitely down – well, that and the Rugby apparently – so fewer slow and steady participants than usual perhaps.

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It’s a three lapper, and I normally don’t like them, but honestly, there’s so much of interest to look at going round this course is isn’t boring at all.  You can see the other runners in the distance, you can admire the views across Sheffield or the cemetery, you can admire the autumn leaves on the trees or the weird and wondrous sculptures, AND, as if that wasn’t bounty enough, you can interact with the cheery marshals on the way round.  No chance of getting bored here! 

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You start off down hill, but pretty soon have to go up, but it’s fun, no really it is, like a DIY roller coaster.  And it looked spectacular.  Those golfing umbrellas are great for creating a cheery and colourful vibe too!

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Check out the wildflowers too.  Reet nice oot!  Reet nice marshals too, which was fortuitous as you pass them at least three times, more if you are wandering around pre and post parkrun.  Here is one, strategically places at the bottom of heartbreak hill.

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What’s that you say?  Why heartbreak hill?  Erm. Tell you what, come find out for yourself, put on a spurt as you go past the entrance to the conveniently placed cemetery and you might be able to make an educated guess.  Alternatively, if like me you are walking at parkrun on the day, you can pause to admire the bog plants thriving at the wayside, look in admiration at the community orchard, planted so people can help themselves to the fruitful bounty (brilliant idea, don’t know if that’s a thing elsewhere too) and watch in wonder as front runners – admittedly somewhat sodden, come steaming by!

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Walking at parkrun is fine by the way, parkrun are rather proud of their walkers as it shows it is creating opportunities to be active for people who might not otherwise be so.  There is even a Walking at parkrun Facebook group.  Good to know.

You have a tantalising glimpse of the finish funnel, with a concentration of high-vis heroes all tooled up and ready to go, and then round you go for lap two.  Or lap three, if you are faster than me, and have just lapped me.

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Ding ding, round two.  Looking lovely curving round the uphill ahead.

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I love that you can see the houses, it really highlights how the park is city based resource.  There weren’t all that many other users out and about today, a couple of dog walkers.  And one guy with a huge umbrella in one hand and an enormous bap in the other, chomping away.  I’m not going to line, I did have a moment of thinking his approach to a walk in the park looked like it was potentially a bit more fun than mine – but then again, he didn’t have the camaraderie of an entire parkrun community alongside him.  Though he did have breakfast…  tough call.  Still, no breakfast is better than a post parkrun breakfast.  FACT!*****

As I went round again, I espied a different style umbrella, this one with unicorns.  Not real unicorns, just a pattern of them.  Not sure if this was here as an emergency resource, much like one of the volunteers was despatched to their spot clutching a first aid kit, and there’s a defibrillator somewhere – or if it was just soooooooooooooo wet now, even the bushes wanted a bit of respite from the inclement weather.

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Round we go, wave at marshals, back to heartbreak hill, oh look, more runners coming through, and sprinting to their finish.  Yay!  Go them.  Some still had time to shout encouragement or offer up a cheery wave as they sped on by.

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Past the finish again.  Inexplicably, I am never thought to have already done two laps, but I got cheers of encouragement as I set off for the final lap.

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In truth, I think it was me, the jeffer behind and the tail walkers on our own for the final lap.  A couple of the volunteers had started to wander back towards the start to see where we were.  They were still directing, just checking everything out, which was fair enough.  The tailwalkers were a bit further back, as they ‘released’ marshals as they passed, and scooped up the cones that had signalled the way.

In the final stretch, Smiley Selfie Queen appeared.  I thought she’d have had to rush off, so that was great.  And also, of course she obliged with photos.  Yay!  I concede I’m hardly dressed for running, but I was dressed for the elements.  And I still got wet through to my knickers.  It was a wet one, seriously, very wet indeed!

CS not very action stations

Finally, the end was in sight, and I glimpsed my watch.  Oh.  My.  Gawd.  So close to time, I jogged and then sprinted through the finish, and the time called something 20!!  BINGO!!  BLOOMING BINGO!!!  DONE IT DONE IT DONE IT!!!  If this comes good, I’ll get a pointless virtual badge that only I can see on my running profile!  I wondered if it was cheating to have helped it along, but decided not, because it’s not like I waited, and it’s so arbitrary, and anyway, it felt goo.  Hurrah.  This is the parkrun that keeps on giving.  Could this get any better?

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Through the fun of the funnel, token issue, 15th birthday flat-band scanned.  Job done.  Smilies reunited.  Boo!  I wasn’t alone in getting wet en route methinks!

Time for the obligatory group selfie, courtesy of Smiley Selfie Queen and facilitated by a volunteers golfing umbrella!

CS selfie

And that was that.  Team stood down.  Course dismantled, and volunteers disappearing off to the community hut, splashing through the standing water en route to get there.

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I had wanted to stay for coffee to be sociable, but I was so wet I decided to head home after thanking the team.  It was an excellent choice, and I’m really glad to have Sheffield Castle parkrun back on my radar once again.  It’s such an intimate run, and it’s an interesting course, challenging if you want it to be, but supportive if you are wanting to take it more slowly for whatever reason.  A good inclusive parkrun community.

Rained on the way home, but some nice views across the city from on high.  Don’t worry, I was stationary when I took the photo.

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And as I stepped through my front door, super fast results processing meant I heard the ping of the results coming through on my phone.  Just a formality to check.  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  Not my twenty second time as expected, worse it was twenty-one seconds.  One second awry!  That’s hard to take dear reader, I’d rather miss it by a mile.   If there’s one thing worse than not getting a bingo number, it is to miss it by just one second.  I don’t think I’m ever going to get that elusive 20, it is so very random.  Oh well, perhaps I should be grateful to have it still outstanding and something to chase.  Who knows, when all my bingo dreams are fulfilled, perhaps life will seem strangely pointless?  Best not to know.

Oh, and in a parallel universe, they were showcasing the joy of running, if not singing in the rain over at Sheffield Hallam parkrun. Good work behind the camera George, with these pics you have surpassed even yourself!  Just a bit of surface water, no great drama.

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There was a fair bit of water at Poolsbrook parkrun too!  Never have so many parkrunners had soooooo much fun, splashing through puddles.  You have to pity the poor trolls that normally live under the Poolsbrook parkrun bridge – where would they have gone to hide?  Heaton parkrun had a water feature too! 

So that’s that, thank you fellow parkrunners in general and Sheffield Castle parkrun team in particular for another precious parkrunday.  What a cracking parkrun Sheffield Castle is, I’m not going to leave it quite so long between visits next time!  Special thanks to the amazing volunteers who kept cheerful and enthusiastic with their clapping and directional pointing despite what might be referred to euphemistically as ‘sub-optimal’ conditions. You are all superstars!

What did we ever do with our Saturday mornings before.  I know one thing, as I stood dripping in my hallway, gazing at my one second out bingo time, there is no way on earth I’d have spontaneously out of the house for any sort of outdoor exercise today were it not for the pull of parkrun.  It’s been life changing for me as well as life enhancing.  #loveparkrun hope you do too!

That’s it for now then.  Don’t forget, clocks go back tonight, we all get an extra hour in bed in which to dream about parkrun, sigh.  Lucky it was a day full of adventures!

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You can waste more hours of your life by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Enter at your own risk.

You’re welcome.

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*just to be clear, the tadpoles were present, but not actually participating. That would be stupid.  Little did I know back then that 2 1/2 years later, I’d have tadpoles of my own.  Just goes to show, you never really know what the future holds.  Giddy times.

**sarcasm alert people, sarcasm alert.

***don’t tell anyone, but I don’t really care about the Rugby, and haven’t found out the result yet therefore.  Hence you’ll find no spoilers here.

****Lucy fact, that is, I choose to believe this to be true.  Works for me.

*****also Lucy fact.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making the Muster at Millhouses parkrun, an anything but run of the mill inaugural!

See what I did there with the heading?  I know, I astonish even myself sometimes.  ‘Run of the Mill/ Millhouses parkrun’, genius.  And anyway, now could a park with both super-sized swans and a very respectably sized heron be in any way at all ‘run of the mill’?  Particularly when it takes place against a backdrop of autumn copper and gold.  Precisely.

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Digested read: I went to Millhouses parkrun, the new kid on the Sheffield parkrun block.  I was not alone.

Undigested read:

And so it starts.  The literal start went off like this:

KW off

But my account starts way before that moment.  Obvs.

A great deal of work went into launching this inaugural of Millhouses parkrun.  Not that I can take any credit for it whatsoever, but just to make the point that there have been rumblings of a new parkrun at Millhouses for quite literally years.  Personally, I wasn’t confident it would ever happen as it’s not the most spacious of parks and it’s already really busy with a cafe, and children’s play area, and boating pond – quite crowded.  But a year or so ago, there was a call out for people to volunteer to give it another go, and lo, it came to pass!  It’s testament to the stubborn resolve tenacity and inability to taken ‘no’ for an answer persuasive skills of those Millhouses parkrun pathfinders that today ever happened.  I salute them, and applaud their endeavour, as did everyone else who was there today.  It was quite a feel good occasion.  A lot of work went on behind the scenes.  There were trial runs a while back, and then a practice run last weekend (timed etc but not ‘officially’ recorded as such).

I agonised over whether or not to attend the inaugural.  There had been a request for a low-profile launch, and there is a constantly churning debate about whether or not it’s OK to go to inaugural parkrun events.  At one point it was encouraged, but then the fear was new teams might be overwhelmed by huge turnouts before they’d perfected their systems, so the message was put out to stay away.  In fact I’ve come to think it’s more nuanced.  Don’t go chasing them, but follow the steer of the core teams, and if it’s your new local, and you’ll be a regular, that’s a bit different from uber road trips just so you can say you were there.  Even then there are exceptions, I’m going to stick my neck right out and suggest that when Cape Pembroke Lighthouse parkrun launches next week (26 Oct 2019 in case you are late to the party), it’s not going to be inundated with anything very much other than penguins at its debut event, but then again, that is the Falkland Islands.   Do they even have penguins, or is it just sheep.  Hang on.

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OK, yep, penguins, also seagulls.  Not sure about unexploded ordnance, but they do have a weekly publication called ‘The Penguin News‘ which makes me want to go there even more.   Millhouses parkrun did not have penguins.  But did have herons and swans.  So a reasonable alternative offer I’d say.  Also, no unexploded ordnance at all, as far as I was aware anyway.

The point is, Millhouses parkrun is walkable for me.  I will always keep a special place in my heart for my current home run of Sheffield Hallam, I mean, it’s where I first discovered parkrun and made so many of my parkrun friends, not to mention the fact I’ve only just had an apricot tee printed with its name emblazoned across my left boob.  However,  it has got sooooooo crowded, and I have felt knocked back when I’ve tried to get more involved with it,  so I am on the lookout for a new parkrun to be my second home I suppose.  I’m not ready to absolutely defect, but I’d like to dance between the two when tourism is no longer practical with dark and icy mornings being contra-indicated for long drives in the winter months.  Generally speaking I’m not sure about second homes, but I think having a parkrun second home is more acceptable somehow.  Like those who are parents tell me with respect to having more than one child.  You don’t have a finite amount of love to split between them, rather your capacity for love increases as extra offspring appear.  Obviously the parent I’m referring to told me this on a good day.  Anyway, I like to think it will be the same with parkrun homes.  You just find your affection for parkrun grows exponentially with every new parkrun you discover.  That’s been how it’s worked with the tourism.  And if Millhouses parkrun is to be my new base, then it would be a real shame not to be in at the start.  Only the other week I met a runner at Bushy parkrun who had the chance to be at the inaugural parkrun EVER, i.e. at Bushy parkrun’s first dash, but opted for a lie-in instead.  You can’t change history, seize the day, don’t live a life half-lived and risk being forever consumed by bitter regret.  What might have been eh?  What might have been …

Anyway, the inaugural was also the worst kept secret ever in Sheffield.  I’d known about it for weeks, and it seemed a bit self-defeating to piously martyr myself by staying away because we weren’t supposed to know about it when the entire Sheffield running community seemed to have shared it’s intention to be there and asked all their friends to come join the party.  The local pub announced on its Facebook page a 25% discount of post parkrun breakfasts with effect from 19th October 2019.  The Millhouses park cafe and kiosk similarly gave a Facebook heads up about the coming event.  See a pattern emerging here at all?  Add to this the stream of strava posts of 5k routes round Millhouses park titled ‘definitely not a trial parkrun’ and similar which I also took to be something of a clue. I’m no Jessica Fletcher, but even so, it was all looking pretty conclusive to me.  I mean, obviously, I do have finely tuned parkrun antenna I suppose, but you really just needed to be a sentient being in Sheffield to know this was going to be happening.  Bottom line, I’d go.   I mean the date of this inaugural parkrun is about as mysterious as the date of Christmas Day in the UK (25th December, in case you were thinking it was a trick question, it so isn’t).  What’s the worst…

They’d hardly send me away again would they?  Would they?  Oh gawd, that would be mortifying!  No, surely not… I mean how would they decide?  Ask for recent utilities bills as proof of address?  It’s hard enough filling core volunteer roles sometimes, they surely aren’t going to want to recruit a whole load of extra hi-vis heroes to operate as bouncers, carrying out routine ID and place of abode checks are they?  It’s going to be like school catchment areas if parkrun continues to be as popular as it is.  People pretending to be walking distance on the basis they are long distance/ ultra walking champions, or have temporarily lodged and an airbnb adjacent to the start.  Aaaargh, the angst is coming.

No, of course not.

They wouldn’t.

Oh the angst, properly here now…

Still, in other news, I am a little bit in love with Beverley Westwood parkrun, they just seem to have nailed building a community alongside building their new(ish) now, parkrun.  They have regular social meet ups, and also cows, which is impressive – and next week they are having a halloween themed parkrun

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– always a boon.  And today, this:
BW looking fabulous

Isn’t that great?  Because parkrunners are lovely, and yes, we do look fabulous in our apricot tees, or whatever we rock up in.  It’s going to be great, wherever we rock up.

All in all, it was going to be quite exciting.  Lots of exciting parkrun related things are happening of late.  Halloween themed parkruns, and duvet pyjama and teddy parkruns happening next week

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Then of course there’s the Leeds Building Society Golden Baton relay which is quite exciting too – all kicked off at Woodhouse Moor parkrun and the batons are now busily circumnavigating the world basically I think – one to Frickley Country parkrun, one to Marina parkrun Australia.  Fair do’s.

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but surely nothing, nothing at all, is as exciting as having a new parkrun set up just for you, walking distance from your home.  I may burst!

So the new day dawns, and dear reader, it was gorgeous!  A gift of an autumnal day, thin winter sunshine peeking through red and gold-leaved trees.  Not actual gold leaf unfortunately, but nature’s equivalent, which is pretty glorious all the same.  Look:

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There are actual bronze oak leaves at Longshaw at the moment though, if you want to see metal in the landscape.

Sarah Cook bronze oak leaves

I left early, partly excitement, and partly to be sure I was there in good time, and partly because it’s ages since I’ve been to Millhouses park and couldn’t quite remember how long it would take to walk there.

The walk was fine, it’s only about 1 1/2- 2 miles, and took me past the extraordinarily exotic Abbeydale Road Tesco superstore, which was the first supermarket I discovered when I first relocated to Sheffield over ten years ago now.  OMG, that’s my life on fast forward racing by.  Kind of thought I’d be further forward with my life goals by now, maybe even be a grown up, but such things are more elusive than I knew.

You can take a shortcut if you dive down past the Tesco store itself, I never knew there was a path down there.  There’s a sort of suicidally slippery board walk you can take on at your own risk – and I was so naively confident donning road shoes before I headed out.

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There are loos at the park, but I nipped in to use the Tesco ones just in case the others weren’t open (they were).  Another parkrunner was doing likewise.  You could park here I reckon, it’s only a 10 minute walk or so to the start from here, but there’s also parking in Millhouses park, though you need to pay a modest fee for that (50p for first hour which starts at 9.30 from memory)  I don’t mind paying for parking when I’m touristing, it’s fair enough I think if you are using extra facilities to support them.  Today, foot power.  Yay.

So I made it along the boardwalk without either face or arse-planting, so that was a win, and then crossed the road into Millhouses park.  Not sure why you’d want to take the alternative route when you have already arrived, but hey ho …

Exciting.  I haven’t been in Millhouses park for…. actually for years.  I mean I drive past it fairly frequently, and pass it from the track above it when doing the Round Sheffield Walk, but actually go in it, can hardly remember.  Probably, festive shenanigans in the car-park for one Smiley games session involving fairy lights and crying with laughter ’til you wet yourself, but that would have been in pitch darkness.

I must say, I was massively impressed at how the space has been transformed since I last saw it in daylight.  It has always been a nice space, but wow, a lot of effort has gone into significant improvements, not just maintenance, but now there are fish runs.  Not for fish to run up, that would be silly, but to swim and jump up I suppose.  Yes they can jump, just not ride bikes.  Though don’t judge, they have other talents.  Awesome ones, like being able to breathe underwater and some can practically fly!  Those are super powers!

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Also, there were wildflower areas and even a skate boarding area and a sort of mini scooter track I think.  I’m not sure, might have just been incorrectly sited speed bumps, or a hiccup in laying some flat tarmac, I’d put nothing past Amey.  Little wildflower areas and bursts of full flower colour in ornamental borders.  An expanse of autumnal colour on the wooded hills to the side of the park, and silver leaved willows next to the stream (river sheaf more accurately I think) flowing under a gorgeous stone bridge.  Lovely!  Millhouses Park‘s makeover was to me a revelation.  It’s probably been like that for ages.

There was an actual heron.  Poised to fish – depressingly there were a couple of plastic bottles in the water alongside.  They were on the far bank and too distant for me to reach even if I hadn’t minded about disturbing the heron.

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For your information, education and merriment, I’m now going to include another photo of a heron in flight.  It hardly seems necessary to point out that I didn’t take this photo, but just to be on the safe side it’s another from the official parkrun photographer.  Great isn’t it.  I also like duck photos by the way, but they weren’t snapped this week (by a camera shutter, not by a predator) so look out for them making blog post appearances another time.  The heron is amazing though isn’t almost unreal…

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Excitingly, other parkrunners were appearing, and there were parkrun related signs and cones and other parkrun paraphernalia, most exciting,

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It was weird to be sort of touristing so close to home.  One of the things I really appreciate about going to different parkruns is that it takes you to destinations you might not otherwise visit,  Almost embarrassing to find a park not 2 miles from my front door falls into the category apparently.  Ah well, I’m here now.

And then it became a sort of I-spy of Sheffield parkrunners.  Familiar faces bobbing above parkrun tees.  Hi-vis marshals starting to make their way out to their spots.  I clearly got very distracted saying hello to anyone and everyone en route.  Some from Graves junior parkrun, some from Staveley junior parkrun (hello) – they’d come to Graves junior to see how it ran before setting up their own parkrun.  People from all the various Sheffield parkruns.  It was like a Sheffield running festival, not had such a good atmosphere at a run gathering since everyone assembled for the last Round Sheffield Run (which for future reference remains the outstanding Sheffield Running event of the year imho at least).  It takes longer than you think to say hello to everyone.  Particularly when mutual photo taking is also mandatory.  One passing parkrunner on a bike aided us by taking a group shot, so that was public spirited.  Thank you passing parkrunner.

Plus I wanted to check out the facilities for future reference.  There are loos, so that’s a tick,  – though, unlike the Tardis, these are smaller on the inside than on the outside.  Your hopes are raised by the exterior appearance of the building, but actually puzzlingly, there was only one cubicle within the space.  Also it has one of those automated, soap, wash, dry sinks.  They seem like a good idea, but it takes aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaages for each individual to wash their hands, and even if you bail on the drying stage in favour of waving the worst of the water off and wiping the rest half-heartedly on your leggins, the next person in line still has to wait for the cycle to finish.  It may indeed have seemed like a good idea at the time, but experience tells us otherwise. Still, not knocking it, all facilities are good facilities, and they were not only available, but stocked with loo-paper and clean.  A coffee kiosk was also open early, offering parkrun specials.  Variant spellings covering all possible configurations on the blackboard signage promoted the offers, but I think started possibly it started as Park Run – the horror – and got corrected to parkrun at some point during the morning.  I’m not sure how long that will continue – the opening of the kiosk not the spelling – as they weren’t getting much business pre-run despite offering parkrun specials, but there’s also a cafe, and a nearby pub (Wagon and Horses) offering a 25% discount for post-parkrun sustenance.  This is a well catered event with great facilities for parkrunners and their supporters alike.

Enough of the facilities, no time to linger, time to be heading towards the start.  I like this bit, the coming together of colourful tee-shirted people, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and enthusiastic about their morning to come, all congregating together.  I espied more people I recognised moving through the park.  Hello Monday Mobsters, always a treat!  You can’t see me yet, but I’ve seen you!

and then I was at the start area.  How exciting.  You could tell it was the start, because they have one of those start signs that are basically a recruitment tool for mensa or MI5 or MFI – I forget which, but basically any organisation targeting only the most elite of applicants, i.e. those who are able to compress the sign back into its bag at the end of the run.

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I love these signs, they not only handily locate the start, but satisfy the craving that some of us have for location identifying photo opportunities.    Yes of course I joined it, posing with some escapees from Sheffield Hallam parkrun.  Lovely as it was to see them, the are among the most stalwart of the volunteers there, I couldn’t help worrying if Sheffield Hallam parkrun might, as a consequence of their absence, disappear into a vortex of confusion without them there to keep order.  How it would happen without them is beyond my comprehension. Still parkrun will find a way, it usually does.

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More familiar faces!  Including a friend who’d brought along another friend for her absolutely first time ever parkrun.   A true first timer.  Not like many of the rest of us first timing because that was the only available option at a new parkrun.  Now that is exciting.  How amazing to start your parkrun career at an inaugural.  Grand to see you, may it be the first of many!

Sooooo many people.  This is an inaugural that did not go under anyone’s radar.  I am not the only one with pre-school level detective skills and/or the capacity to read social media posts it seems.  And oh look!  There was pirate flag man – his attendance is mandatory at big Sheffield running events.  I’m not sure why, that’s lost (to me anyway) in the annals of Sheffield running history, but I can only presume it’s a bit like the ravens in the tower, has to be there, if the flag is absent, terrible misfortune will follow.   Not actually the crown falling and Britain with it, but probably the sun falling out of the sky, something like that I expect, if the pirate flag is missing.  Hopefully we won’t ever find out.

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More selfie taking went on, by everyone, not just by me.  One of the people pictured is another parkrun pioneer.  That’s two out of a possible 13 present today as far as I’m aware which is, erm, around 15% of the original parkrun population at Bushy parkrun 15 years ago.  Impressive eh.  Mingling with the stars at Millhouses today.  Yay!  Well, not me, I didn’t get to meet him, and I’ve still to clap eyes on the golden barcodes, my how I’d love to see one of those for myself.  One day eh, one day.  Still, you have to have a dream don’t you, so the saying goes.

I may not have clapped eyes on the golden barcodes, but mercifully others did, and even hearing about them was tremendously exciting as the photo shows. The camera never lies apparently, good to know.  Anyway, you cannot fake a reaction like the one recorded below!

Another big reveal though, which pleases me hugely, is that the impromptu gathering spot was underneath a rather lovely tree, red with autumn leaves.  Just like Bushy parkrun has The Tree, so too Millhouses parkrun, has its own by way of sort of homage or happy accident, I forget wish.  Cool though.  Also photogenic, I’m expecting the ‘proper’ photos which will follow in due course to have captured it rather better than me, but you’ll get the gist, and anyway, I’m rather hoping you will go and check it out for yourself at some point, and seeing is believing I think you’ll agree.

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*STOP PRESS*  Good news, the proper photos are here, look at that lovely tree!  Methinks it will be a regular staple of Millhouses parkrun photos in runs to come.

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And under the tree, more familiar faces, yay!

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At some point, after negotiating with other parkrunners, we identified an informal bag drop.  Or ‘somewhere to dump our stuff’ on a bench alongside the straight bit of the course.  Obviously it’s all at your own risk, but plenty of others did the same, and with runners passing this point out and back I’d be running past it six times at least.  It wasn’t at the finish, which was the other option, but we reasoned we’d be walking back this way to get to cafe/pub/far carpark/ walking home.  So good call.  Actually, checkout the en route action shot and you can see how closely supervised that particular bench is, don’t forget to wave at the Monday Mobster as you are squinting at the photo seeing if you can spot a bag your recognise amongst the jumble.  Think of the action shot not so much as a spoiler for how the course unfolded, but a teaser, a trailer to whet your appetite for the parkrun delights that follow.  Agreed?  Good.

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Next, the official welcomes and introductions and general speechifying.  It was very well judged, the nice man from the Sheffield Town Trust, who put up a significant amount of the funding for this event, along with Steel City Striders running club – amongst others, the full list is in the run report for the event – spoke with enthusiasm, eloquence and brevity to wish the event well.  And was wearing a rather splendid looking medallion I thought. The RD asked if there were any first timers present and got a huge cheer for his troubles.  Couldn’t help noticing there was a rather smaller cheer in response to the question ‘and who’ll be coming back regularly’ but I suppose that’s inevitable, and frankly necessary, the park couldn’t really cope with the numbers that turned up for the first event every single week.  It will find its equilibrium.  There was a wild cheer of support for the volunteer team too, basically lots of cheering.  Here are some of the volunteer team in all their individual and collective magnificence pre run.

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What a fine sight indeed!

So welcomes were said, thanks given, the briefing done.

Oh hang on, I’ve not said about the course, I did look it up pre run, but as is often the way, it makes more sense when you come to run it.  However, according to the official Millhouses parkrun website course description blah de blah:

Just under three anti-clockwise laps of the park, starting near the Abbey Lane end car park. The course is fast, flat, and all on tarmac paths, but most of all, fun! We ask participants to please stay on the paths at all times to avoid damage to any of the ornamental areas of the park. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed at this event

and it looks like this:

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To be honest, I wouldn’t say it was three ‘laps’ because that implies you are only running the bit of the course that looks like a deflated balloon three times, whereas in fact you have to run a bit down the string bit and then turn around and run back again.  Think lollipops (weird shaped ones) if you don’t like the deflated balloon on a string analogy, even though that’s a way better description in my view.

Most of the speakers used a loudhailer, which was great.  The ambassador for the area, and indeed, parkrun pioneer then spoke by her own admission as ‘bad cop’ or The Enforcer if you like.  She dispensed with the loudhailer on account of her famed ability to project.  Unfortunately, it would have taken someone with a sonic boom to fully project their voice to the whole crowd, and there were a few people shouting they couldn’t hear, who then lapsed into chatting to each other which was annoying.  Mind you, I’m getting increasingly grumpy in my old age, so it takes less and less to annoy me.  However, I was able hear, and can report that she spoke with enthusiasm and support for the event, but emphasised that it is a small park relatively speaking and parkrunners need to be on their best behaviour to ensure they stay welcome there.  No running in the flower beds or on the grass to cut corners.  Here is the moderately attentive gathering of runners on debut day, pre briefing to be fair, in the gathering together part of the morning.

the briefing

This is also a windy course. Windy as in lots of twist and turns, not as in triggering flatulence – though if you have a swan phobia the boating lake could trigger an attack.  Just debating with myself whether or not it would be irresponsible of me to post a photo to illustrate the point, or whether that would require me to put in a ‘possible trigger’ warning at the top of the post, like they do on food packaging for allergens.  Oh what the hell, here it is:

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Are you OK?  That’s good.  I’d have a fit it someone sprung a picture of a doll on my Facebook newsfeed, so I’m not entirely without empathy.

As you are now desensitised to large swan shots, here are some more, rather more impressive ones.  Not ducks though are they?

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Where was I?  Oh yes, the parkrun ambassador was warning the assembled company about there being some slippery parts and some blind spots, marshals are positioned strategically, and may even ask you to slow down in sections, so listen to them.  Also, no dogs.  The rule whilst running was ‘keep right’ but actually that didn’t entirely work at the turn around and finish points so I may either have completely misunderstood that directive, or it is one that requires some tweaking.  Fair enough, a new event is going to be on a learning curve for a while at least.  Indeed all parkruns are, as they evolve over time.   Incidentally, I used to work with a colleague who would become apoplectic at the word ‘tweak’.  It would reduce her to a blubbering mess.  It was completely perplexing, something about it made her squirm. The problem was, as colleagues initially our reaction to this discovery was disbelief, so we made it worse.  The conversations went something like this (she was an administrator):

Me: hi, this report is great, but my fault, I just had to tweak the intro so it has to be edited prior to distribution

Her: no stop

Me: (confused) stop what?  It’s only a small twea..

Her: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! (Primeval scream)

Me: What’s wrong?

Her: Don’t say that word?

Me: What word?

Her: (meaningfully) that word

Me: what tweak?

her: Stop!

Me: Seriously, the word tweak?

Her: please no

Open plan office colleagues who have been listening in on masse: a cacophony of voices all saying ‘tweak’ and ‘What do you/does she mean don’t say tweak’ lots of incredulous ‘tweak’, ‘tweaking’ and ‘tweak’ related sounds reaching a crescendo

Her:  STOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!! I mean it

Everyone (apart from her): but what’s wrong with tweak?

Her: runs screaming from desk

Everyone: silent blinking in mutual bemusement, followed by discussion of favourite and least favourite words.  Kumquat and casual slacks also caused distress to some, so it isn’t a unique thing to find certain words unsettling, but it is erm, well, unusual to have such a strong reaction I think.

And even if you were trying to avoid using it, it would slip out – like being told not to think about cheese.  Once the word ‘tweak’ or fromage of the day is put in your mind, it’s stuck there, just waiting to burst out.  For the more mischievously minded (not that I’m advocating this, could be workplace bullying) it’s surprising how often you can use the word legitimately, even in an office context, if you really try. Give it a go, your working environment will never have been so spontaneously and easily enriched.  Anyway, it was all very feel good and lovely.  The parkrun speechifying not the gratuitous use of the word ‘tweak’.  Oozing good will and positivity, which is always the best way to start a day.  This is not going to be a pb course, but it can be a fun one. Enjoy.

Where was I, you shouldn’t have distracted me on the tweaking cul de sac, that was a completely pointless diversion….  Oh yes thank you parkrun ambassador, and RD and nice man from Sheffield Town Trust who subsequently found a position from which to stand and cheer runners round.  Clearly someone who ‘gets’ parkrun.  Most refreshing.  Thanks too, to everyone else who spoke or volunteered or was part of the behind the scenes team that materialised this sparkly, shiney, new parkrun from out of the barren earth.  Good job!  They are magicians I tell, you, conjurers at the very least.

So finally, the moment came, and we were off!  Yay!  It must have been quite an emotional moment for the core team, like launching a ship on its maiden voyage only with less wasted champagne and broken glass shards.  That would have been contra-indicated by any risk assessment I’m sure.

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It was busy, 511 parkrunners in the end, and lots of volunteers, supporters and other park users too.  It was pretty congested at the start, and I was right at the back – I’m only really walking with the occasional half-hearted jog due to bad back.  I’ve seen my lovely reassuring physio though, and I’ve not done anything serious, but need to build back up slowly basically.  Anyway, I’m never fussed about times, much more interested in soaking it all up, but it was slow getting through, good natured though.  I dare say some runners were sprinting from the off, but I think everyone understood that it was important to make this first event successful and there was a lot of good will, no jostling, just lots of eager anticipation.

Underway!

It was leisurely at the back, which was great for me as I needed to take it very steadily.  People did start to spread out a little, and it wasn’t long before we came upon the first of the marshals.  There were loads on this course.  It was extra fun each new marshal was a surprise on the first lap and then you could look forward to seeing them again on the next two.  Lots of familiar faces from other Sheffield runs, but some new recruits too by the look of things, which is excellent.  The course does need a lot of marshals because of twists, and blind spots, and slippery bridges and ‘no treading on the flowers’ parts, as well as because obviously runners don’t quite know the route yet.  There were also tail walkers and some running marshals too I think.  You were never more than a stone’s throw from one, but clearly stone throwing is very much discouraged at parkrun so think of that as a figurative rather than literal tool of measurement.

Off you go down the balloon string bit, alongside the river.  Don’t fall in. Then you cross over a little bridge, with super efficient cheery marshals on either side. Special mention to the marshal at the near end of the bridge, who I swear shouted personalised encouragement to every parkrunner who passed, as well a calling out safety messages with a helpful rather than cajoling manner, impressive.  Your efforts did not go either unnoticed or unappreciated.  Although to be fair, all the marshals were excellent at directional pointing, clapping, cheering and conveying of positivity and enthusiasm.  You wonder at times if there may have been a selective breeding programme at some point to reinforce these traits, but I think not.  Partly because I don’t think eugenics is compatible with the parkrun ethos, and partly because 15 years isn’t long enough, cloning though, that’s much more likely.  But who knows, it’s not a matter of public record.  I do like to think though that junior parkrun (which is BEST THING EVER) will be ensuring future generations of enthusiastic, joy-filled, positive parkrunners who can deliver and receive high-fives with considerable panache, in perpetuity.  Quite right too.  There’s a new Sheffield junior parkrun starting up soon – the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun is going to be amazing.  They need volunteers ahead of their launch date Sunday 17 November 2019, still time to get involved if you are local.  And volunteering at junior parkrun is epic remember, so get in at the start to maximise your opportunities for junior parkfun!

Back on track at Millhouses, after the string, you pass the humpy bit, where you can see other runners coming back the other way, and then Surprise!  Another familiar face, this is awesome!

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Though again I did briefly wonder how Sheffield Hallam parkrun might be faring with some of their most loyal volunteers currently moonlighting at Millhouses?  Cross the park now, and oh look, a smiley!  Hooray. This was like one big reunion of every runner I know in Sheffield, some of whom I’ve not seen in months, literally partly because I’ve been touristing and partly because I’m hardly running these days anyway.  So exciting!  Would have loved to stop for a chat, but had to continue the illusion of scampering round.  Brilliant to see so many familiar faces.

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Round and down the other side, companionably romping in step with various friends and acquaintances.  Acknowledging the marshals, taking in the views across the lake and trying not to be unduly distracted by admiring the flowers on the way round.

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You also have to run past the cafe and kiosk area three times, so plenty of opportunity to contemplate post parkrun breakfasting options.

cafe temptations

One thing about a three lapper, is that it seemed like no time at all before the faster runners came speeding by. It is narrow, so could be a little alarming, but people were considerate of one another in both giving way and allowing space when overtaking.   I can’t make up my mind about how I feel about multi-lap courses.  My default is that I prefer single laps – apart from Rother Valley parkrun which I find a bit bleak, though I freely admit some of my prejudice is because the post parkrun coffee offer was the worst I’ve had in my life EVER, not just at parkrun, and I’ve been on municipal training days where mugs were cracked and coffee made of chicory was served up, so I’ve suffered in search of caffeine and know what I’m talking about.  However, on the plus side, you get to see pretty much every runner, so it’s social, and you get to see runners who operate at speeds of which I can only dream.  I think I’m going to reserve judgement.  The inaugural turn out I’m sure is untypical of how this parkrun will settle down, and maybe the multiple laps could be quite therapeutic, meditative even, when you are familiar with them.  The marshals were great at keeping people on track and alerting parkrunners to potential hazards.  But best of all, they seemed to be happy in their work!  Hurrah!

On we went, past the lake from the other side, and eventually back down the straight bit towards the start/ finish

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This was ‘fun’ because you had runners coming in both directions, and I spotted loads of people I knew, but it was also a bit confusing, because you have to do a u-turn at the end and I was desperate to not impede faster runners but ended up frozen to the spot as it wasn’t clear how best to manage that turn.  Still, made it round, and it passed without incident when I was there anyway.  Back out again, and the new addition for this lap was the positioning of the pirate flag on the course and Sheffield City Man in situ to cheer us round.  It’s a good game of observation this course, spotting the differences on each lap.  Faster runners bleeding from their eyes due to exertion might see nothing beyond red mist ahead of them, but I noticed and appreciated these things.

I also inadvertently got my favourite pic of the day.  Go Smiley!  I feel a meme coming on.

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Ding ding, round two.  I felt like the first lap took ages.  I’m not sure why, a lot to look at I suppose, and it being new.  Tried to emulate smiley selfie queen with an en route selfie – failed.  In my defence I don’t have a smart phone, only an actual camera, so can’t see what I’m taking.  It adds mystery to the occasion true, but not composition or focus unfortunately. Lap two was for Monday Mob spotting.  Ticked quite a few off my i-spy book second time round.

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In the meantime, pirate flag man had picked up his flag again and was taking his final lap of honour with it carried aloft, which must be quite hard going to be fair, it’s not aerodynamic and nor is it particularly light I’d imagine.  Still, threw up some nice photo ops, and his effort was greatly appreciated by fellow parkrunners and marshals alike

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End of my lap two was a little hairy, as the keep right didn’t really work at all, as you needed to be on an inside track so the faster runners could cut through to the finish funnel.  It sort of worked- ish, but I was confused, and a bit scared I’d be trampled.  Also bit forlorn about heading round again.  Mind you, in actual fact the last lap was the best one because the course had emptied out so you could just do your own thing without worrying too much about other runners around you.

Finally, back round, and down to the finish.  Into the collective cheer of the timers and scanners and funnel managers all.

So many people had been through they were using torn up paper position tokens, but they still scanned fine. The scanner was using the volunteering app on her mobile phone, I don’t know if they even issue scanners now, but it worked well.  In fact, it was a positive boon, because last week for some reason my barcode didn’t scan.  The event team added me in, which was fine, but I was a bit worried because it was the first time I’d used my parkrun flatband, and was worried it might be faulty. With the app, you can see if you’ve scanned or not visually, so I could be confident it had worked.  Yay.

Although parkrun is inherently extraordinarily entertaining, I don’t like to pass up any opportunity to make my own entertainment, so under the guise of thanking the event team (who were genuinely awesome) I got them to pose for some photos, which they did brilliantly.  Alas my photographic talent was not up to capturing the job, but here they are jumping for joy!  Use your imagination and just visualise the picture that got away and you will share my ecstasy at capturing the moments before and after as a pleasing tease of the picture that might have been…

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Remember dear reader, it’s the thought that counts, and it’s still a happy memory.

Also, and this pleases me greatly, possibly even a bit too much.  Whilst my venture may have been less than successful, fortuitously we have the companion shot taken from the other side.  Yay!  Love this pic.  Loving your work dream event team and photographer. 🙂

how it should have looked

and so it ended:

so it ends.jpg

Next stop coffee.   The walk there took me back out on the course, where returning volunteers were doing their reservoir dogs tribute acts.

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I went to the kiosk, and got an excellent flat white, but it was super expensive three quid!  With a vegan pasty I paid £5 which was steep I thought, although there were parkrun offers with just filter coffee or tea which were much better value.  I enjoyed it, but winced a bit at the price.  Still, seeing as it was a special occasion. Went to join some fellow parkrunner locals for a debrief.  Also, handed back responsibility for the photos to Smiley Selfie Queen, we would be in safe hands for the ‘how it ended’ pic!

CS and so it ends

So the consensus was it had gone off really well, and coped magnificently with the high turn out.  It’s not a fast course, despite being really flat, and great facilities, with everything from parking to precautionary pees covered.  However, because of its twists and turns, we wondered if it might end up being something of a safe haven for slow and steady runners as it might not appeal so much to people seeking a pb.  I know they did some community outreach talks to various groups to encourage them to start with C25K and similar, I’d love it if this run embraced that brief.  We all felt we’d be back, though the regularity with which it might show up in our parkrun progresses depended a bit on personal circumstances.  It was a fantastic start.  Yay!  You might say, they hit the:

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So happy to have an excuse to include a photo of this Sheffield shop!  I passed it on the way home, also this sports injury place.  Like I said, Millhouses parkrun has excellent facilities.

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And home I went, in Autumn sunshine, taking in views of the city skyline on the way.

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Reet nice out.

There we are, Millhouses parkrun officially launched.  I know the issue around attend inaugurals is contentious, but I’m really glad I went.  I wouldn’t proactively chase down another, but as it is my home patch, and I think I will go regularly, especially in winter when I’m not so inclined to tourist, it was great to be there at the start.  A little bit of Sheffield parkrun history in the making.

So thank you Millhouses parkrun team for being awesome and welcoming, you deserve medals – I’ve already made the point that really I think RDs and EDs should have superhero capes, but inexplicably it’s yet to be universally adopted.  You are all heroes to me though.  It was a fabulous debut.  Your hard work, positivity and tenacity delivered magnificently!  You have created an event that delivered the parkrun potential to cater for all.

That means young and old alike.  Incidentally, the young’uns are not to be under-estimated.  Check out this 9 year old, Kade Lovell who accidentally won a 10k event.  I know.  Or how about 13 year old Maureen Wilton who broke the women’s marathon world record, admittedly back in 1967, but even so.  And she didn’t get to wear shoes that were like running on trampolines either.  A.Maz.Ing.  There was at least one barefoot runner at Millhouses parkrun today by the way.  The other extreme end of the running footwear continuum.

Then again, if you are a few decades older than these youngsters, be inspired by this man doing his parkrun debut at Northampton parkrun at 92! There was a 93 year old woman also doing her parkrun debut at Leamington parkrun today apparently. Pamela HOLDER,  also now holds the age category record for Leamington parkrun in the VW 90-94 category  Wowsers.

It would be fabulous if Millhouses parkrun becomes a venue that also attracts such a wide span of age gradings.  I think it has the potential to do just that, good facilities, flat course, why not?  Never too late to do your first parkrun people, never too late.  You know how the parkrun proverb goes.  ‘Best time to join parkrun was 15* years ago, the second best time is next weekend’.  Assumptions are there to be challenged, and it’s great if parkrun can continue to be as inclusive as possible.  It seems to be moving ever more in that direction.  Good.

Like I said, Millhouses parkrun was anything but a run of the mill experience.  Good job, well done.  I hope you celebrated your triumph in style.  Also, as an aside, quickest results processing EVER.  I had them pinging to me on my phone before I’d even made it home.  Impressive.   They have set themselves a high bar to continue, but you know what, I reckon it will all be just fine.

Fine and dandy.  Well done indeed.

Incidentally, there will be a Millhouses parkrun facebook page where photos and news etc will appear, but it’s not yet live, I’ll add the link when it is, if I remember, and not if I don’t.  If it’s not here don’t despair, there’s always Google to check it out!

I did remember, their first post, thanking those who helped fund Millhouses parkrun is here

Thanks to everyone who walked, jogged, ran or volunteered at the very first Millhouses parkrun. We had over 500 runners including 53 people who completed their very first parkrun. Core team members had a sweep stake on expected numbers and we were all a long way off! Your support is much appreciated.

We would also like to thank the following for their funding and donations to get Millhouses parkrun off the ground: Sheffield Town Trust, Steel City Striders Running Club, Totley AC and the Monday Mob.

and the Millhouses parkrun inaugural run report is here: The one where everyone was a first timer!

And the ‘proper photos’ from our very own George, are in the Millhouses parkrun Facebook album for the first event, but I’ve already nicked some and included them as teasers above, however a little smorgasbord of loveliness follow below:

You can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments.  Bet there are loads.  And if inexplicably, you’ve not yet rocked up to the parkrun party, you could enjoy re-running your other running related adventures, bet you’ve loads of those.  Go on, go wild, indulge yourself.

til next time then?

🙂

*It’s a shifting proverb, which I concede prevents it quite running off the tongue, you’ll need to change the number according the year, but we can embrace the general principle I think, can we not?  And keeps us on our toes.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wowzers – that was superhuman! Running into the history books with a weekend of running legends.

Digested read: marathon running records smashed this weekend for men and women and humankind.  I found some big pants up a tree.

Undigested read:

Wowsers, it’s been quite an epic weekend, running wise.  Really, it has!

Yesterday, Eliud Kipchoge, cracked the 2 hour marathon, today Brigid Kosgei broke Paula Radcliffe’s women’s marathon record and I went on a Runners Against Rubbish litter pick, ahead of the British Fell Relay Championships and found some enormous Calv