RSR Returns – Round Sheffield Run – lace up for the seventh edition 2021

Finally, once again a Saturday morning when Sheffield runners could get laced up and ready to go! For some this would mean squashing covid kilos into Lycra and dragging their weary carcasses around the green trails of our great city. For others, toned from months of newly adopted training regimes that started with Joe Wicks and somehow morphed into backyard marathons and obsessive implementation of press up challenges this would be their moment to test their newly honed and toned physiques against the gradients of Sheffield. Those of us not running fit due to injury, apathy or lack of a golden ticket to take part in this too long anticipated and too oft postponed event could still (flabbily) muscle in on the action as volunteers or supporters. For this weekend, dear reader, Endcliffe Park was The Place. The only running destination on the radar. Prepare yourselves, the event is after all billed as ‘epic’, no-one wants to miss out on that – best get lacing…. And make an effort, it was after all this time surely going to be an extra special occasion. Super-sized epic, with an extra side of epicicity* for good measure.

What’s more, this dose of epicness was not because we’d all suddenly collectively woken up to the sound of a shower only to discover the entire pandemic has been but a bad dream, but because – oh still my giddy heart – it was true. This was indeed to be (sort of) The First** Major Sporting Event Back. It must be so, The Sheffield Telegraph reported it.

Bring it on!

Wait? Seriously? You still don’t know what I’m talking about? Only The Round Sheffield Run dear reader. Bringing that back on! I know, mega!

Even so, sequels are risky aren’t they? Not to the same extent of shot for shot re-makes, which are obviously an abomination of nature (why with Psycho, why?), but a risky endeavour all the same. Will there always be a nostalgia for the original and therefore the best, or will doing it all over again mean bigger, better bolder, ironing out glitches and embracing innovation? Not just incremental shift but exponential change. To date, the Round Sheffield Run has bucked the trend of bombing, disappointing literal re-runs (apart from the running bit, there has always been running – by some participants at least). It’s had a straight series of six impeccable (re)incarnations. Could it pull it off again? This time round the stakes were inevitably particularly high. I suppose on the one hand in the absence of any alternatives many of us might be quite grateful just to hobble round a litter strewn car park in horizontal hail if it meant we got in a little bimble followed by a nice bit of bling. To actually be in the presence of actual other people doing the same thing whilst a forlorn looking high vis marshalled clapped half heartedly at us from a distance would be more than enough after such prolonged abstinence. On the other though, this event had been not just once but twice postponed from its original due date. The weight of anticipation and expectation was mahoosive. That was a significant gestation period. Could it deliver?

Honestly, what do you think? Exactly that! Sometimes the predictable is what’s wanted.

The Round Sheffield Run, like pretty much every other happening of the last gawd knows how long, has been a casualty of Rona. It was supposed to take place June 2020, but put back (or is it put forward? I’ve never really understood how that grammatic sorcery quite makes sense) to a much anticipated inaugural Winter Edition. That was originally planned to take place once the pandemic was loooooooooooooooong over and we could look forward to skidding and sliding and slipping our way around snowy and icy Sheffield trails in January 2021. That would mean returning to base camp for no doubt hot roasted chestnuts, steaming mugs of hot chocolate and mulled wine. The mulled wine being compulsory even though everyone*** knows it to be absolutely vile because it would provide necessary evidence of being seen to get into the appropriate spirit of things. Spoiler alert. That didn’t happen. Postponed again. Instead, we had to wait until this weekend of 26-27 June 2021 for the RSR to return for its seventh incarnation. What a wait.

The event was slightly re-imagined to take account of covid compliance. So this time around it was happening over two days to help with social distancing along with other precautions. And I couldn’t help noticing – with a Kandoo Events characteristic attention to detail – the added precaution of omitting the actual year date on the medal at the finish. Doug is clearly a man who does not wish to tempt fate.

Well, that was my initial thought, on reflection, he probably is just like the rest of us, no idea what year it is any more, let alone what month or day of the week. Who cares anyway, these days, one decade is pretty much like any other, apart from us being that much closer to global annihilation as we continue accelerating our rampant destruction of the planet chucking facemasks into the sea, carbon dioxide into space, ripping out our forests and squirting glyphosate into our streets. Other than that, no consequences at all from the passing of time.

You must know about the Round Sheffield Run by now? I’m notoriously a late adopter myself, but even I got round to binge watching Breaking Bad eventually albeit it took the pandemic for me to do so. All the same, I’m bored of explaining all about how the Round Sheffield Run works, as really it should be mandatory for everyone to know by now. If you are any kind of a runner, or supporter of a runner or know a runner, or once saw a runner whilst out and about doing your own thing in Sheffield, then there is really no excuse. Knowledge of the RSR should be part of your DNA whether you are consciously aware of it or not. If you are unlucky enough to live outside of Sheffield you might not be quite so lucky or enlightened enough to have it on your radar, but basically think parkrun on steroids. Yes, it really is that much fun! It’s inclusive, joyful, all the best bits about running communities brought together in one magnificent whole whilst scampering around the green bits of Sheffield. The only real differences between the Round Sheffield Run and parkrun are that – for some people – it is actually a race not a run, the name of the event is capitalised and not one word, and it’s on a Sunday. This time though, it was even on a Saturday, and started off running round in a park too. So you have runners gathering in a park on a Saturday morning with hi-vis marshals to cheer the on. So EXACTLY like parkrun apart from it being a bit longer. Quite a bit longer, but that’s just more time out and about having parkrun type fun isn’t it? Yes it is! They even have post event faffery, which as any parkrunner will tell you, is not merely an integral part of any parkrun but a necessary precondition for any parkrun to occur. No really, it is. Even at the planning stages, proximity to post run refreshments is crucial It was always about the coffee after all…

The run is one thing, but the coffee is absolutely crucial to the whole thing so that people can connect, chat and in turn build community.

Just in case inexplicably you are still in the dark, you can read all about it on their website, the link for which is here: https://www.roundsheffieldrun.com but in case the link doesn’t work – and embarrassingly it doesn’t even for me right now because my computer says ‘no’ because it doesn’t like the security settings and is being hyper vigilant in this new age of viruses I think – the digested read is that:

The EPIC “multi-stage” running race linking the best trails and parkland around Sheffield, a social and memorable experience.‘ And you know what? It actually is. ‘The creative format allows the course to be accessed by all runners. Walking / Jogging is encouraged between stages to recover and refresh before the next challenge. The stages mean that the racing takes place on the best and beautiful sections of paths and trails on route. Taking in a fantastic tour of Sheffield. People who have never run this route will be surprised by the hidden gems that this uncovers! ….. Of course we are hoping for a pleasant summer’s day and on completion of the route, there will be a bar and BBQ to replenish and help with the celebrations!’

So, now you know.

Well, would the 2021 Round Sheffield Run experience be seventh heaven or the seventh circle of hell? Might depend on how much pre-event training you’ve done, but really only one way to find out…

I blooming love the RSR. I am of the view that it was basically designed especially for me. It has a special place in my heart because it was my first ever ‘proper’ event, other than parkrun. Naïve and new to (park)running, I saw the first ever RSR advertised, and as it was all expressed in very open and inclusive terms, and split into sections – the longest of which was just 3 km, I sort of thought ‘well, I’ve done 5k at a parkrun – how hard can it be?’ and sort of missed the bit of basic arithmetic that means you need to add all those little chunks together – oh, and the additional recovery stages too – so that gets you to around 24k, oh and maybe think about the elevation aspect (500m), and when you’ve done all of that, it’s actually quite a bit longer and more challenging than hoppity skipping around my home parkrun. But you know what, sometimes ignorance is indeed bliss. If I’d over thought it, or even thought about it very much at all, I’d never have rocked up, and you know what, that would have been a crying shame. Because it does what it says. It is indeed epic. What’s more, it’s an event which has created a format where people of different abilities can all take on the same route and have the same fun and because it’s friendly and supportive it’s fine. Really it is. I mean obviously way better to train and know a bit about what you are letting yourself in for, but much like a parkrun you don’t need to be elite by any means to get around, you’ll just have more time on the course and more fun interactions with others if you take your time. Plus, if you are slow like me, start early, and then pretty much the entire field will overtake you at some point so you get to interact with pretty much everyone. In each new iteration of the event, more and more people have discovered the event, and I’m sure for many it will have been for them, like it was for me their first baptism into trail runs and longer distances. You never forget your first time. I think the usp for the event though has to be its inclusiveness at both ends of the continuum. Whilst being accessible to newbies and steady runners, for the super speedy elite runners it offers up a truly challenging course and a competitiveness that would make the eyes of mere mortal (park)runners like myself bleed at the very thought. I really, really wanted to do this event again.

I really did.

Plus, I’d already done the online shopping order for the RSR slumber party. I’d be hosting some now critically endangered Tring parkrunners for the weekend. We needed to experience this event together somehow, it had after all been almost two years in the planning!

Alas, it was not to be. Over the last 18 months I’ve become increasingly immobile due to arthritis, and although I held out for ages in the vain hope of a miraculous recovery or at least period of remission dear reader it was not to be. Weight bearing is nigh on impossible at times, and the fact I’m bearing more weight than ever due to pandemic pounds hasn’t helped. What to do?

I have the complete set of medals, and I thought of the tees too – but maybe not them, as I was too stingy to fork out for them initially. I don’t know why I covet them so. I’m sort of Gollum like, I never wear the t-shirts or medals other than on the day of issue, but my I do like to stare at these my precious things. It is within the realms of possibility that I’ve come to over identify with Gollum living alone and bubble-less in lockdown, with only my running memories for company. I might have been known to lovingly stroke my collection of RSR t-shirts now and again. Well they are pretty special. It’s not odd at all, it’s entirely proportionate. Gollum gets a bad press. You do forge unlikely attachments if you spend too much time on your own, surely everybody understands about that by now?

Also, the tees pinpoint a particular time in history don’t they. I reckon most runners have a drawer full of tees somewhere, and be honest, don’t you get a little frisson of excitement if you see another runner wearing a tee you yourself have earned. Bet you do…. virtual high five to anyone else who perked up seeing this on the trails of the RSR weekend:

Then I had a thought.

I’d volunteer! I’d be snapped up, there were probably hardly any volunteers as everyone was so looking forward to running, plus two days to cover now. I duly emailed (you should too – ready for the inaugural winter edition or next summer even) https://www.roundsheffieldrun.com/volunteer-4-entry and got an almost instant reply.

Anti climax. The rota was full! Didn’t expect that…

However, all was not lost, not wanting to turn away any volunteers, a role was found. Not only that, a sitting down one, so the brittle and deformed bones in the joints of my feet wouldn’t shatter and explode like fireworks from the trauma of all that excessive weight bearing. Hurrah! I wasn’t going to have a gazillion bone splinters pumping through my blood, inducing septicaemia, and then almost inevitably gangrene with amputation to follow as sure as night follows day. All would be well. I was going to include an aside rant here about how much I hate it when volunteers are turned away from events, it takes some courage to offer sometimes, and it is nerve wracking doing some roles for the first time, and particularly after lockdown loneliness isolation really kicks in, people need to be included and feel included. I’m not going to go too far down the rant road on this occasion, but will instead say hurrah for RSR for extending inclusivity to the volunteer team too. I wish it were always so in other spheres. Yay for volunteering and extra yays for those who make volunteers feel welcome too.

Kandoo generally look after their volunteers, you get a t-shirt, glory by association, free entry to the event next time around at a time of your choice (worth a lot as it’s always oversubscribed), in previous years lunch and coffee, and best of all, avoid the appalling FOMO of being otherwise stuck at home sobbing in a foetal position on a cold tiled floor whilst EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WHOLE ACTUAL ENTIRITY OF THE RUNNING WORLD is having all that fun without you – probably without even noticing you aren’t there – with only passing tumble weed for company. For me, on this day at least, this was not to be. I would get to the RSR ball. I would be mingling with the royalty of the Sheffield Running Community and best of all, an RSR t-shirt would once again be within my grasp. All the hurrahs!

I was SO EXCITED! Also though, quite apprehensive. Not done social interaction at all for the past year or so, working from home, living alone, my only forays out were with Red Ted to Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun, which has been pretty awesome to be fair, but also quite contained.

I was therefore SO SCARED. Fortunately, I know a wise woman to turn to for advice. There are two things you need to know about this person. Firstly, she is a woman, and secondly she is wise. She advised that no-one else has had much practice with social interactions of late either, so we’d all be equally confused and hopeless. The main thing in such instances is to blag it and remember as long as there’s an anecdote in it then all will be well. Great advice. It would all be well

And so it was.

My Tring parkrunner friends arrived, and after some initially weird indoor social distancing dancing we got the hang of things pretty well, though forgot to do selfies in all the 2 metres apart excitement. Did remember to loving lay out parkrun tees and race numbers in eager anticipation though.

I limped down to Endcliffe park whilst they were still (just) slumbering as it was a 7.00 a.m. rendezous for volunteers. It was perfect running weather. Coolish, but dry – though there had been some rain in the days before making me wonder about path slipperiness and – for me more worryingly grass pollen and biting insect clouds.

It was weirdly ‘normal’ in the early morning light. As usual, the event village was already lovingly set up and signs of life were everywhere as organisers moved around setting up stuff and carrying stuff. It was a go go. (Unlike tough mudder the following weekend which had its plug pulled the night before. Good medical call I’m sure, but I feel the agony of those staring in the eyes of what might have been).

Early morning light, lots of tents, signs of life – also less familiar things, social distancing signs, gated areas for participants. Partly to stop them escaping, but also to keep others out. Attention to detail again. Impressive.

After meeting up with another parkrun volunteer who’d be heading up to the first feed station, we made our way to the rendezvous point to be issued with tee-shirts and hi-vis for the uniformed marshals – I myself was in the plain clothes technical support team. Responsible for Dibber Dibber Do Doling out. This is a bit like being the Yabba Dabba Doo section only less 100% authentic stone age**** and more state of the art dibber issue. I volunteered for this role alongside some Hathersage Hurtle compatriots. Yay to these two blasts from the past – it’s amazing how this event really does bring everyone and anyone together! The Close Encounters mysterious gatherings have nothing on this.

Daunting as it is to sit behind a laptop, it does instantaneously bestow a ‘busy and important’ air to be there. Our team got a fab view of the start and the ground, and being responsible for dibber issue meant between us we saw every single participant on the day. The role wasn’t too challenging to be fair. You had to dib a dibber into a magic box that generated a unique number on screen, ask participants their race number, type it in, check the name popping up corresponded to that given and if a pair that both were present, and if it showed green on screen then this meant ‘the computer says yes’ so you could click enter and hand them their dibber for the day. Wishing them well and encouraging them to pick up a stages card (like a dance card but not) which explained the length of sections and allowed recovery times before wishing them well. The main challenges were steaming up glasses, and the occasional CODE RED. If a red line appeared then you summoned help from the SI team professionals who would leap up and save the day.

Here we are doing our training:

See what I mean about proximity to a computer bestowing authority? Good isn’t it. Topped only by a clip board I’d say.

Clipboard denotes absolute power. Clearly.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, other volunteers were similarly setting up and getting their stalls in order. All across the route, tooling up then all eager anticipation for the first arrivals of the day. Oooh the suspense! Water bottles out? Check. Pompoms at the ready? Check. Bring. It. On.

Training nailed, we then had a suspenseful build up waiting for the first arrivals. The elite wave came first. At the risk of sounding a bit stalkery some of these runners seem to be an entirely different species to me. Lithe and light on their feet they seemed to ooze athletic ease from their very pores. I don’t normally get up close and personal to any runners of this elk. Dibber issuing was mostly straightforward. At this point in proceedings masks were donned and interactions good natured, the pace was not just manageable, but almost leisurely. I had a gnawing angst ‘what if’ in case I’d given out a dibber wrongly or something, but in fact the system can’t really go wrong without you noticing. A lot of Round Sheffield Runners are RSR veterans, so know the drill, and for the few that don’t, a timer gave a talk in the start funnel to explain the system, and setting out participants have to dib to set themselves off so can’t get underway without being in the know.

Even so, not going to lie, I felt a surge of pride on looking at the event photos later on as I saw for myself the excellence of dibbing done en route. Participants were nailing it, over and over again! The stats are amazing – some 2,500 people out and about on the course (only one number for each pair of runners remember), and I don’t know maybe 25-30 dibbing opps with road crossings as well, that’s an enormous amount of in and out. More probably than even at the the largest ever hokey cokey dance. That was 7,384 participants, and was organised by FRY Fest (USA) at FRY Fest in Coralville, Iowa, USA on 3 September 2010 – according to the Guinness Book of Records. I know, both stats are impressive. It would be even more impressive if I had a precise dibbing and participant count and the patience to do a calculation. Where’s Elliott Line when you need him? Still, let’s just accept that it’s a great deal of dibbery. It’s lucky it’s such a fun thing to do! Don’t this lot look ridiculously proud of their achievements putting a dibber into a box. And rightly so!

After the first few dibbers were safely issued, I found I could relax into it a bit more. My lovely Tring parkrunners appeared and they did think to do selfies. Hurrah. I really wanted them to have a fab time, they have hosted me at a memorable Tring parkrun for St Andrew’s day before, and I wanted them to have the bestest ever of times. They were decked out in splendid parkrun apricot. Yay. I also got an early practice group selfie shot, this was most timely as things unfolded…

I had been quite apprehensive about seeing people again, but it was surprisingly ok. In fact, some bits were positively brilliant. Throughout lockdown, as well as working on building up my subcutaneous fat levels so I will float better in the event of being caught up in rising flood waters, I have taken much solace from the With Me Now podcast community. This is a podcast all about parkrun passion by passionate parkrunners. It not only kept up a weekly podcast in the absence of parkrun, but also did daily lives on everything from downcount; parkrun pictionary, to parkrupedia (researching history and interesting facts about various parkrun locations which was amaaaaaazingly interesting and increased my trivia knowledge to an extraordinary degree) to lives linking up with restarting parkruns globally (Australia 10th bday anyone – or my favourite live from Pigisus parkrun in NZ when parkrun returned there A YEAR AGO – oh the heart ache that we are still waiting); a parkrun cafe world cup contest; and even parkrun and WMN specific sea shanties. Talented lot WMN parkrunners, plenty of transferable skills. It was With Me Now Danny who did the video of how to use the parkrun volunteer app by the way – check it out don’t stop there, keep this link to all the videos and WMN podcasts and check out the back catalogues when the next lockdown hits. … but I digress, hang on, that’s never happened before, must be a consequence of lockdown causing me to lose my train of thought as well as all reason and the ability to filter what’s in my head before putting it out there … Where was I? Oh yes –

I actually made new virtual friends through this community, which is a pleasing addition to my otherwise mainly imaginary friends. In the sense of both people who I imagine to be my friends but are maybe not, and those who are entirely a figment of my imagination. Virtual friends could turn out to be but an ethereal manifestation. Perpetually ever so slightly out of reach, or just out of my field of vision like some sort of phantom. Maybe they don’t really exist at all in real life, perhaps they were always but a product of my diseased imaginings. Or what if they do exist, but then it turned out to be all awkward silences, shuffling and wishing a hole in the ground would swallow me up. Or worse still, they existed, and were quite as lovely as I’d imagined, but realised I wasn’t and so I would be rejected by my own community. Oh no! What if they hate me? The stress, the pressure, how would it all end? Well, on RSR day I got to find out because MUCH EXCITEMENT a number of With Me Nowers who were expected to materialise at this very event did. I was on tenterhooks – who’d come, would I find them, what would happen the other side of these laden with expectation encounters?

Devastatingly, one got a track and trace ping just 48 hours or so before so had to self isolate, but his running buddy did make it, and using my cunning research and earwigging skills I flushed him out, and that set the selfies in motion for the day ahead. More merched up WMNers appeared, constituting a sort of mini gathering or micro pow wow in the WMN jargon. These people weren’t just in my head after all. They were physically here in all their individual and collective loveliness. And they didn’t have time to notice whether I was lovely or not, so that was another win! And that doesn’t include the Sheffield native WMNers out in force over the weekend, nor the one who shouted out the recognised call sign of ‘Dolly or Bev’ as he ran past me on Sunday when I was up at Brincliffe Edge marshal point. I was so excited I failed to do the return ‘arbitrary’ shout out – my cheeks are still hot with shame at this omission. Don’t know who it was, but maybe someone can identify him from the shot of him disappearing into Brincliffe Edge Woods. Social media is great for things like that! What with the power of the interweb and my extraordinary photographic prowess, I consider that puzzle solved, case closed. Hurrah!

But you know what WMNers look out for one another, a shirt was sourced for him and delivered. And this WMNer rose to the occasion, completing a kitchen social isolation half marathon instead. I can’t imagine the mental strength involved in that, or indeed in many of the really long distance challenges. So basically, he did the RSR twice, once vicariously through us and with us in spirit, and then all over again in his kitchen. I’m hoping no family members wanted a cup of tea for the duration of that challenge. Respect! No wonder he looks chuffed – good that someone taped out the route for him too – easy to get lost on long runs after the first few miles. All the boops to you my friend. Good job 🙂

Another WMNer spent the following weekend completing a 65 mile challenge in torrential rain to check it out for us all so we didn’t have to. It’s further than you’d like was the conclusion. The last 15 miles are unnecessary. Good to know. High five to WMNers everywhere, known or unknown.

Mind you, I wasn’t the only one overwhelmed with excitement to the point of confusion. Check out these line dancers who look awesome, but possibly got their event challenges mixed up. Loving the leg work. I thought camera gimbals were a bit more light weight though:

Meanwhile, back on desk duty, all was going swimmingly. We did have to do a bit of stern ‘put your mask on’ calling. The overwhelming majority were fine about this. I know the event was outside, but actually being at a desk with 2,500 people near enough standing over you breathing heavily pre and post event is quite overwhelming. The SI guys doing this every weekend are seeing literally thousands. I was mighty glad of my face mask. We were given the option of visors on arrival too. I was initially delighted by this, but found out quite quickly that really it’s function was more to provide a practical craft activity as you assembled it, rather than for it to be of any actual use. They sit quite close to your face and instantly steamed up and felt claustrophobic with glasses as well, so that was abandoned pretty fast. Returning runners, with post running brains were less compliant, and that felt uncomfortable sometimes, but I think only one out of all the runners got stroppy about being asked to put one on, most just weren’t thinking. So face masks were fine. The computers didn’t have any anti virus protection for some reason, but there was a lot of hand gel. The challenge was as always in my own head. Probably influenced by proximity to WMNers, I suddenly became acutely aware of the innuendo laden nature of my dibbing instructions. ‘That’s right, perfect, in there – you can tell you’ve got it right because everything flashes and beeps, no worries with going straight back in and out for good measure if you aren’t sure you’ve nailed it’. ‘Don’t worry – everyone is nervous first time, but most people come back radiant’. After dishing out several hundred dibbers all I could hear echoing around the issue tent was thinly veiled smut!

As this was the first event of size back in Sheffield a lot of special protocols had had to be developed. We were warned to expect an inspection. This gave rise to the novelty game of trying to spot the council official. We were vigilant anyway, because who wouldn’t want to be covid safe, but it was quite fun trying to guess. I don’t know if we did or not, but the guy in the blue jacket was a strong contender.

It was busy but not manic, and there was time for a little bit of chit chat. I found out a couple of mega things. Firstly, that there was a jelly baby emergency. RSR is basically fuelled by jelly babies. I’m a little conflicted on this as I’m vegetarian so wouldn’t partake myself, but seeing them on the course and hearing of their arrival at base camp is a measurable milestone on the Gantt chart that pulls the event together. I presume there’s a Gantt chart. Actually, I prefer to imagine a huge wall of glass in an underground bunker somewhere with loads of post it notes, string and dry wipe marker annotations. Yep, probably that. Well, apparently, this year RSR nearly had to be cancelled because, whilst the Sheffield Half can be launched by Rebel Runners without water, the RSR without jelly babies is actually unthinkable. Well dear reader, it seems that the much hyped shortages are real https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-57690505 Be it Brexit or be it Covid, either way it seems that just 48 hours or so before the event organisers were scouring the country to source jelly baby supplies. Yep, they had to go out of area entirely. I can’t remember if it was as far as John o’ Groats or Lands End, or it might have been Barnsley, but the threat was real. It’s quite extraordinary what goes on behind the scenes to put the RSR show on the road. Phews all round when laden with boxes skidding around their car they made it into event HQ by the skin of their teeth, just as the jelly babies were made by the skins of many cows and pigs. Not a good thought, but this event does have vegan options. Incidentally, all the jelly babies were portioned out in little paper cups this year to avoid sweaty covid laden hands from rummaging around in them in search of the black ones. Like I said, details.

The other thing I found out, was that I was in touching distance of an ultra running mega star. So were you if you were there. Not that you should touch because, that would be creepy and rude and an invasion of personal space even if it we didn’t live in an age where it would also be an unforgiveable breach of social distancing. This man is a distance running super hero!

He’s not asleep. He’s power napping. Pacing yourself is key to long distance running, and so is mental strength apparently. Ok, so in case you don’t immediately know, granted, identification is hard with face masks. This is the man who in 1987 completed the first – and until just last year I think – the only solo unsupported Mid-Winter Bob Graham in under 24 hours. Later the same year, running solo, he added a big extension to the Ramsay Round, and in 1989 completed the only Mid-Winter Paddy Buckley Round, also solo unsupported. All this happened more than 30 years ago……In 1992 Helene Diamantides and Martins Stone won the first ever Dragon’s Back race. O.M.G. I can’t even imagine all that. This is pre GPS and a lot of hi-tech running gear. They are extraordinary achievements. Why do we not hear more of such stories. Ooh a google search has thrown up an action shot of him at that amazing event:

Like I said, the RSR brings together a great spectrum of runners and you never quite know what icons you move amongst. Isn’t that the best?

But you know what, whilst some runners are beyond extraordinary in their achievements, others are pushing more personal boundaries. When they came back to have their dibbers thrust in the box one last time to print out their results, I got to hear some such stories. Elated runners, fancy dress runners, exhausted runners, runners running in memory of others, runners for causes, runners of all shapes and sizes and all clubs and none. Special shout out though to the woman running with a friend to complete a challenge she set herself last year whilst still having chemotherapy. RSR is a joyful event, but the individual stories of each participant can be extraordinary and powerful too. No wonder so many people got a bit giddy with all the excitement on the way round. I can’t possibly choose a photo, so you’ll just have to feast your eyes on the smorgasbord I offer up below.

Incidentally, isn’t it a great testament to both the event and the skill of the photographers capturing it that so many runners look ecstatic to the point of mania whilst actually running! No really! This is type one fun of the highest order. yay for running highs!

But the photos just keep on giving. Check out Llama man, who paused to pose with a handy alpaca (the difference is not just in the size but you can tell them apart by the banana ears of a llama – true fact) en route – same camelid family, and it’s not every event that would put itself out to that degree to ensure a photo op for a particular participant. I think he was running for a Peru based charity…

and then there was running the world man – would love to have heard his story. Also PANDA:

You can’t know everyone’s story, but you sure can have fun guessing. Sometimes my almost psychic powers spot subtle ticks that might be missed by the untrained eye. I can exclusively reveal this person was running on his birthday. I know – spooky! It’s a gift. Something you are born with that I can’t quite explain.

More speculative are the stories behind the team names. It’s worth a browse, so many secrets, so many dreams. I like to speculate as to whether team names evolve from year to year. Offerings included – with some options more imaginative than others:

The original official Steve and Dave; Maverick and Goose; The Cooper Payne Partnership; Andy and Dave; Lentil Stew – Stuart and Leni – see what they’ve done there; Byzantine Pottery Club (no, they really are and they have the t-shirt accreditation to prove it):

Rivelin Rent Boys; wondering if the ‘couples shouldn’t run together’ was the rebranding of last year’s ‘the newlyweds’; Not fast, just furious; Fat and Furious; (I do love a pun and here are some!) Scrambled Legs; FizzyWobbles; Legs Miserables; Chafing the Dream; Eat, Shit, Run, Repeat; Sole Sisters; Sweep Sisters (love that one); Married next week (well, fingers crossed for Roland and Pippa – see previous ‘couples shouldn’t run together’); Your Pace or Mine; Borrowash Jolly Joggers running as Lickety Split (now that’s just lovely); S10 wine club (not the one up at Ranmoor surely? I used to live near there and had assumed it to be a venue for swingers not that running and swinging are mutually exclusive necessarily, just hadn’t expected to find common ground); We thought they said rum ( one from north derbyshire running club, they were like colourful cockroaches out on the course on Sunday sooooooooooooooooooooooooo many of them. I love the team spirit of these guys.

Then we have the Pancakes; Frontrunner Should’ve stuck to parkfun; Team Squirrel (they rather hit the jackpot with the RSR tee didn’t they); The dirty Dibbers, (made me grateful for covid protocols on the dibber desk afterwards I don’t mind telling you); Hummus Harriers; Eat Pasta, Run Fasta; The Onion Terrors; Cirque de SoreLegs (personal favourite for me); Clowne Road Runners Club included a Flying Circus optiono – see what they’ve done there and Clowning Around; I will if you will; Ali Men; Saif Salih/Faith Salih Rhyming Couplets; It ain’t easy being wheezy; Madness; Step Brothers – though only one name so maybe a bit out of step on the day – much like last years’ ping pong team which only put out one of their pair in the end, pong presumably and ping couldn’t take it any more. Decades apart; Water Radish 3 – genius name for Rashid and Waterman – see what they’ve done there; Chuf and Chicken; Prematureacceleration – (guessing they’d over pumped the hills on previous attempts) and last but most definitely not least… Team Sloth!

I blooming love the Team Sloth guys. Do you know what, they literally – not metaphorically or figuratively, but literally – carried me round an Endurer Dash obstacle course many moons ago. These guys are heroes. Just proper team work, friends that support each other, and great athletes too. They’ve done a great many more challenges since, they’ve also shown true commitment in getting some rather swanky bespoke sloth tees. Respect. Happy to see you all romping round.

Lots of teams and running clubs – including the locally famous Crescent Runners, back for a re-run on the RSR

But then what about all the lovely pairs, synchronising their footwork, holding hands or just looking radiant with joy and being together on the way round. Can’t choose:

Some RSRers made an effort with matchy matchy outfits, best leggings and best tutus.

Some were forced to improvise with numbers on the day. So one paired runner who left his number at home created an ultra-realistic version on his day that must have Mr Kandoo quaking in his boots for fear of counterfeit entry numbers in future. I don’t think he has too much to worry about personally, there is a lot of good will towards the RSR, people won’t want to jeopardise it. Kate’s late substitution accepted it was too late to change the name on the number so changed his name by deed poll to come into alignment. Essentially, there was a great deal of initiative in evidence out and about over the weekend. No-one was going to risk being turned away after all that waiting. No sorree. Or is it no soiree? So confusing…

See what I mean, very like a parkrun what with the tutus, smiles and fancy dress. Also very like a parkrun in that there was a multitude of parkrun tees, as well as actual recognisable local parkrunners. Isn’t that splendid. Loving the cross over, one impossible thing at a time eh:

Oh and talking of cross overs, the venn diagram with parkrunners, WMNers, RSRers, and Beeston AC club members wearing theirt Christmas Tees just because they could had three participants at the point of intersection. How exciting is that. Here they all are, delighted to be alive! They didn’t just spontaneously strike a pose apparently, the photographer made them do it. I’m not convinced there was actual coercion myself, at the very least some festive contributory negligence, but I report this detail in the interests of transparency. You’re welcome.

As well as the obvious thrills and spills along the way, there was many a micro adventure to be have. Cheer squads en route, and assorted animal companions too – with cows safely behind fencing thanks to a crowdsourcing initiative a couple of years back, I like the cows, but I like them a lot more kept away from runners…

Oh, and on the subject of assorted animal companions, did I mention that one of the prizes was a sorsage dawg! don’t worry, with characteristic RSR attention to detail they’d have done a home check and made sure the winner understood that a dog, like parkrun, is for life not just for Christmas.

Where was I? I don’t think I’ve done very well in terms of producing an account in any kind of chronological order or indeed logical order of any sort, still we established quite a bit earlier that this whole timey wimey thing has gone a bit A over T recently. We are living in a post time age. Anyway, if you’ve any sense at all you’ll have scrolled down endlessly to look at the pictures and been dipping in and out at will anyway. This account will read like Woyzeck – play the scenes in any order in you choose, it may impact surprisingly little on how much you comprehend about the event.

So I’d done the doling out of dibbers, the researching of backstories and the people watching. There was a slight overlap of returning runners coming down the finish funnel into the yet to start starters who were shooed to the side. I’d have found it demoralising seeing someone finish before I’d even started, but then again amazing to see the elites coming home. I believe it was an RSR record on the day, with the top finish time of 01:01:15 – I can’t even comprehend that time. I’ve done parkruns slower. It’s a tough route, and although the inclusive format is lovely, the nature of the trails means runners don’t have exclusive right of way and road crossings aren’t closed. Amazing.

There was a slightly heart stopping moment as the first two runners home came over to do their last dib of the day. After dibbing into the finish they stopped to pick up medals, hug loved ones, hoik children over their heads (their own child/ren I believe, not just random children that happened to be in the vicinity as far as I know) and sauntered over to us. I had the honour of watching the screen as the dibber dibbed in. Uh oh! ‘Is it supposed to be all red?’ FAIL of the final finish dibbing point. Merciful it was the last point though, as no sooner had the fault been identified then a replacement was re programmed and put up. Anywhere else on the course would have been a catastrophe. To my amazement and relief, the two runner affected were very chilled and understanding about the whole thing. Much effort was put into trying to correct the results, working from the runners own watch times, estimates and reference to incoming runners final sprint times. It was impressive seeing the care the SI team put in to trying to get it as accurate as possible. After that hiccup, the results went smoothly. Over the two days there was only a handful of results that went awry, and one set was because the runner just said he hadn’t dibbed anything until about half way through! No, I have no idea why either?

Once that initial panic had subsided, watching people print their results was definitely the fun bit. Runners tended to have abandoned facemasks at this point, that was a problem. A box of facemasks was quickly emptied, and some runners just heaved their t-shirts over their faces. It was okayish, but sub optimum. The briefing did tell people they needed masks at the beginning and end, but the rest of the event had felt quite ‘normal’ and like any other year, so what with that and the brain fog that falls post run it felt like we were doing a lot of ‘masks first please!’ shouting and ricocheting backwards on our chairs away from too close for comfort heavy breathers. Did any of you watch the unexpectedly impressive ‘Together‘ on BBC 2 the other week – there is a bit to camera where the ‘he’ in a couple recounts his horror at watching someone lean in over a supermarket worker, maskless, and oppressively which will make you squirm. It wasn’t that bad, not by any means, but you can see why people snap or break under the cumulative effect of person after person after person thinking that ‘as just the one without a mask, it surely won’t hurt’. If you don’t have an exemption, and there are very few instances where that is needed (though needing to interpret for a lip reader and/or to avoid trigger of trauma are good reasons) then please do wear one. It is literally the least you can do, and will be appreciated. Waiting for people to ask you to puts a lot of pressure on whoever is around you. I’m in no way getting at those genuinely confused, who had forgotten in the moment, or couldn’t wear one. If you are the person who said ‘how were we supposed to know, to wear a mask, no-one said?’ and got really pissed off, yes I am getting at you – have you entirely missed the last 18 months, and you were told, in the notes and in the briefing at the start. Bet you talk through the run briefing at parkrun too. Unless you have indeed just woken up from a deep sleep to the sound of a shower running, you have no excuse. Still, out of 2,500 runners, just one stroppy one is really not bad. There is always one after all.

So my final task was to point at the important box, get RSRers to ‘just stick your dibber in there please for one last time, wait for it to flash and beep, and once it starts printing toss your dibber off into this bucket so I don’t have to touch it and take your print out of performance today, well done!‘. And well done it was. The dibbers on their lanyards went into a bucket to minimise having to touch them. Then another of our number gathered them all up, separated out the lanyards from the dibbers, and they all got put into washing bags for a service wash at 3.00 pm so they’d all be nicely laundered ready for the next day. ‘just think of how much covid is swimming around in that bucket of sweat, spit and lanyards‘. True, but I’d really rather not.

And then, by about 3.00 we were all done and dusted. Well, we volunteers were, the organisers had to strike the set, check all the equipment and do it all again the next day. The day went quickly. We never got any lunch or coffee this year though. I think that was a covid compliance issue about serving of food, it would have been handy to know that in advance, but to be fair I am not someone in danger of fading away. It was still a massive positive to be part of the event, and if I don’t ever get properly mobile again I’d totally want to volunteer instead. It’s a great way to experience the event in a new way and fantastic to see the breadth of runners that I don’t necessarily always get to see as a firmly back of the pack participant.

On Sunday, I hobbled out again, this time to the Nether Edge Brincliffe Edge marshal point to cheer on Crescent Runner and Millhouses parkrun ED as he took to the trails. It was good to watch people pass. It was a bit hairy on the course here though, with parked cars and runners taking shortcuts on the road, could probably do with an extra couple of marshals there, or even tweaking the route so there’s a walking stage as I was a bit concerned someone would be taken out by a car. Drivers were pretty patient really, and I did a bit of waving them down and directing runners, though to be fair, it seemed every time I called out ‘watch out, uneven surface, three steep steps and sharp right‘ I distracted them mid stride and they lost footing. Oh well. It was all incredibly good natured, good fun, and all round feel good. Would recommend.

It all went pretty quickly. Ending with Dad Karaoke slots if the photos are anything to go by, and lots of happily tired runners pouring over photos and sharing stories of thrills and spills.

So cheers all, another RSR done and dusted, and hopefully not too long to wait for the next time out and the new winter edition. Wowsers!

So how did the event go down? Pretty good I say, not just because of runner desperation despite the observation from one participant that ‘I even enjoyed queueing for the toilets‘. I’m sort of assuming that wasn’t the actual highlight of the day though, not when you’ve got views like this!

but as long as there’s a good anecdote in it eh? This runner looks delighted to have ended up at the ambulance. Result. Still, just like at parkrun, it’s important to let everyone enjoy the event in their own way. And they do. He might just be delirious of course, but giddy joy was the mood music of the day, so perhaps it was inevitable it would carry through to this moment too… The guys who succumbed to nipple chaffing weren’t smiling so much though, and I’m not posting those pics, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too graphic.

Some participants brought existing injuries along with them – takes a lot to deter people from turning out for this one!

Oh you want to know the results? For me that’s really not the important thing, but I will bow to public demand on this occassion, they are here if you require them 2021 RSR results. and there was a prize of bespoke framed PB vest prints for 777 placed winners. 666 placed would have made me laugh more though…

That’s it then, til next time. Still, nights are drawing in, winter is coming, not long now. Meantime, memories, yay for those. Not gonna lie, bit poignant not to have done the comeback RSR of 2021, but you know what, it’s still a great event to be witness to, just seeing it from a different perspective. Yay for RSR, and bring on the winter edition! Oh, and volunteers do get free entry at a start time of their choice for the next RSR – and that is a guarantee money can’t buy. Cheers Doug – well played 🙂

Bring it on!

Oh – and Tring parkrunner friends, same room ok for you next time out? Excellent. Always good to have a plan! And I know you a) enjoyed yourselves, and b) have unfinished business, because you put it out there in your own excellent account of the RSR running commentary blog – Reasons to be Cheerful – yay you!

Job done.

Can we have a shout out for all the organisers behind the scenes, volunteers on the day, supporters and the photographers too, who got some amazing shots that were shared freely on facebook. I do have Segway envy though. Add that to cart for sure given half a chance! Also, if my guess as to how you operate the thing hands free is anything to go by, it must be terrific for working your pelvic floor. Wonder if you can blag it on prescription from the nhs….

For all my Round Sheffield Run related posts, click this link and scroll down for older entries.  Or don’t. You might want to save it for the next lockdown. Yes, it might yet get that desperate. I got excited every time someone walked past my window in the first one – now I get why dogs and cats stare out all day. A day where you got dressed was not only novelty in the extreme, but exhausting. Getting dressed is definitely over-rated and don’t even get me started on the masochism of under-wired bras and being expected to wear shoes. Life is all a bit hard work sometimes.

Footnotes:

*er, yes epicicity is a word actually. I’ve just decided.

**I concede it is possible the Sheffield Telegraph may have somewhat over-reached themselves here if taken in a global context, but for those of us who are in Sheffield, it is pretty much the centre of the known universe, and for Sheffield Runners, the RSR is at the epicentre of that. Ground Zero of epic trail running, so the point stands. Don’t spoil it with a quibble over requiring evidence based claims with regard to this event, or you’ll be exiled from Sheffield faster than you can say Henderson’s Relish.

***when I say ‘everyone’ in this instance, I quite clearly mean me, but, point of information, my blog, my rules. You’re welcome.

****The flintstones may not have been 100% authentic stone age. More of a drama-documentary than an actual fly on the wall documentary to be fair.

oh – and check out the event video, Sheffield’s grand is it not? You have to click on the facebook link to make it work.

Watch | Facebook

You’re welcome!

🙂

For all my Round Sheffield Run related posts check this link out – or don’t, it’s optional, you’ll need to scroll up and down for newer and older entries though.

Categories: off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Having a right royal time leaping* round Queen Elizabeth parkrun

Digested read: long story short, parkrun tourism took me to Queen Elizabeth parkrun in pursuit of my Q.  Sub-optimum running conditions, but superb muddy fun and friendly too.  Nearly didn’t happen, but then it did!  Hurrah!

Undigested read:

For the short story made long, read onwards, but it’s not compulsory – or you could just idly scroll down to have a look at the photos in between eating crisps on the sofa wearing a walrus onesie**.  You choose…

I will say this though, had a filthy good time.  Mud, mud, glorious mud, what’s not to like?  Nothing quite like it indeed!

I’m half heartedly pursuing my alphabet challenge.  For a long time it seemed pretty unattainable, but now I’m down to just the last few, and finding myself down south again this weekend, it didn’t seem too much of a stretch to add on another hours driving, oh, and an overnight stay in a Premier Inn and get my weary carcass round Queen Elizabeth parkrun.  I was a bit nervous booking ahead, as the recent stormy weathers has led to many down south cancellations, but then when I looked at the Queen Elizabeth parkrun Facebook page I saw this event:

Leap Day Event – Fancy dress optional

leap parkrun

Where they helpfully explain:

This year is a leap year and February 29, 2020 falls on a Saturday, parkrun day !! The next time this will happen will not be until the year 2043, so the QE core team thought we would make this February 29, a special occasion and have a fancy dress event

So you could dress up as a frog, wear only green clothing, run in your frog wellington boots or an outfit that represents one of the many sporting events also happening this year the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Euro 2020 Football tournament, or the ICC World T20 Cricket tournament.

So two things, fancy dress – albeit they say it’s not compulsory, and if they are having a special event, then I’m guessing they’ll do everything they can to make sure it goes ahead.  I mean, you can postpone a parkrun birthday run, or even an inaugural, heartbreaking as that would be, but you can’t arrange for another 29th February to come around again on a Saturday for way more years than I can count.

In case it’s escaped you’ve not done the number crunching yourself, just to be clear, leap years happen every four years. I’m actually going to credit you with already knowing that. However, did you know the last leap day (i.e. 29th February) fell on monday 29 February 2016? A monday! I ask you, what good is that to a parkrunner? We are only interested in dates that fall on a Saturday parkrunday. This year (hurrah) it does. This means there is a total of 5 parkruns in February for the first time in parkrun history. (Wowsers). The last time 29th February fell on a Saturday was in 1992 – pre parkrun. I know, hard to imagine there was ever a world without it yet ’tis true! No-one in history has ever run a parkrun on leap day, so if you were part of the parkrun army that did so on the 29th February this year, you are a trailblazer in parkrun history. My doesn’t that feel good!

What’s more there won’t be another chance to run parkrun on leap year day until 2048! That’s ages and ages away, a literal lifetime for some, and if I’m still going then I’ll be hopping round in my frog outfit at the ripe old age of 83, and as I don’t really want to live that long because apart from anything else I’ll be in utter penury due to lack of adequate pension provision, that means for me, this is to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, because never before has the leap day falling on parkrun day. HOW EXCITING!  My, I’d better make it a good one.  Capturing a Q on a themed parkrun event would be just the job! That AND fancy dress all round, the intoxicating cocktail of excitement generated by these two opportunities appearing simultaneously was a seductive possibility.  Indeed, together they were the clincher, I’d be hopping off down to there then.  Hurrah!

Alas dear reader, when I came to check the forecasts a few days before it boded badly.  Gusts of 47mph and I know that the Queen Elizabeth Country Park close if the winds pick up above about 35 mph.  A Sheffield friend of mine – Smiley Selfie Queen – got caught out by just that when she was down there on 15th February. I naively thought it would be pretty unlucky/ unlikely to get such inclement weather again, hence had confidently booked and pre-paid for my hotel in advance.  Thus, I’d be there anyway, Q parkrun or no Q parkrun.  Undeterred, I went in search of a back up plan.

The handy ‘nearby parkruns’ information on the Queen Elizabeth parkrun home page gave me an idea of which were in reach, and then I used their historic results listings to see if they’d had to cancel a fortnight ago as I figured that would be a reasonable indication of whether or not they’d be vulnerable to inclement weather again.  It was with a bit of a heavy heart I scrolled through the options, until dear reader, I lighted on Lee on the Solent parkrun.  Not only was it looking like a goer, with a running club takeover but they were have a 250th number event; they have a super hero fancy dress theme. I sort of assumed in the circumstances if I should find myself a refugee from QE’s frog-themed event then Lee on the Solent parkrun would most likely be both accommodating and understanding. Besides, I could probably blag it that there is a frog superhero out there somewhere.  There must be, or am I thinking of ninja turtles?  Anyway, sounded good.

STOP PRESS – O.M.G. there is a frog superhero apparently!  Admittedly one I’d never heard of, though I suppose it is just conceivable I am not that particular superheroes target audience.  Anyways, googlesearch told me that:

Frog-Man is a well-meaning but often bungling superhero in the Marvel Universe and is the son of the villain Leap-Frog***.

Origin
Eugene Patilio was the son of the supervillain Leap-Frog, who had since reformed and retired. Eugene, deciding to clean up the family name decided to use his father’s old superhero suit to fight crime as Frog-Man

ok, maybe not a superhero to set hearts a-beating, but that’s 100% close enough for me.  Things are looking up!  I can totally blag this and will be a natural with my somewhat rotund form being an asset in the role!  This was meant to be!  I knew my frog costume would turn out to be endlessly versatile and become a wardrobe classic.  Result!

Even better, when I posted sheepishly on the Lee on the Solent parkrun Facebook page asking if they expected to be on, I got an almost telepathically instantaneous reply.  Yep, weather was even worse last week according to forecast and they cracked on.  Plus, there might even be cake!  Maybe the quest for a Q is over-rated, this wasn’t going to be second best at all.  What’s more, judging by the very fine profile picture (thanks to Paul Thompson) it looks like the sun always shines there anyway, or your money back, guaranteed.  Excellent.

paul thompson

There’s even a cool aerial video of the parkrun back in 2016 – sun was shining then too.  Brilliant!  Super excited now.  Might even make this the A- plan!

Wouldn’t be a Q though…. oh the tyranny of too much choice eh?

I decided to throw my parkrun destination into the hands of fate.  I mean in an uncharacteristic burst of forward planning I had booked the hotel nearest to the Queen Elizabeth parkrun on a non-transferable basis (aargh), so that would remain my first choice, but if it were to be cancelled Lee on the Solent parkrun was sounded like a fab option too.  Maybe one to come back for…

Oh, I was staying at the Premier Inn Horndean if you are interested.  Actually, that’s not strictly true, there is a farm that looks fab if you are camping or camper vanning Upper Parsonage Farm might be worth checking out.  I liked the look of the shepherds hut – Linda Snell would be impressed I’m sure – but you needed to bring your own linen, and that’s too much faff for me as I’m heading on elsewhere afterwards.  Still, you might like it.  Have a looksie.

So, the night before the parkrun after, I had two options to weigh up in between paranoically refreshing the weather forecast.  Lover-Lee-on-the-Solent parkrun or Queen Elizabeth.  No wrong decision, but I was twitchy.  This was the forecast dear reader:

weather

I was fully prepared to activate my back up plan, but then again, all this way to get a Q, would be a shame if it didn’t come to pass.

I filled my idle, angsty hours with a bit of research about the Q course.  And according to the official website blah de blah the Queen Elizabeth parkrun course is described thus:

The course is in Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean. …

The course is undulating and is run on a mix of compacted gravel paths, grass and forest trails. The course consists of two loops. From the start (green pin), head up a short incline on the gravel path. After approximately 200m take a right turn onto a grassy downhill section. This is quite steep at the bottom so caution is advised. At the bottom of the hill take a right turn and follow the perimeter trail back to the start at approximately 2km. This completes the first loop.
The second loop ascends the initial incline up the gravel path. This time instead of taking the right turn from loop one. Continue on the gravel path for approximately 1km. At the crossroad adjacent to Holt Pond take a right turn onto a downhill trail. At the bottom of the hill turn right on to the perimeter path. This will join the end section of loop one and take you back to the finish funnel (red pin).

Oooh, it’s in a country park!  Queen Elizabeth Country Park to be precise.  That sounds grand, not only worth visiting for an elusive Q then.  Also, and I’m hoping that unlike at Bradford parkrun this won’t be delivering false hope, the information on facilities declares that ‘Toilets are open from 8am‘.  I’m properly excited now.  You have to pay for parking though, which I don’t begrudge at all, but can’t see how much it is or how you pay. I’ll worry about that when I get there.  Actually, no I won’t I’ll look now.  … ok, bit of googling later, looks like you pay on exit, and you can use a card or cash, but if you use cash you won’t get change.  Fair dos.  Good to know.  Venue looks amazing.  This is going to be grand.

The course looks like this:

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Ooh, lap two looks a lot bigger than lap one.  Nice though, not too much repetition.  This is going to be fab – if it happens.  Oh no, it might not happen, weather forecast is properly shite!  Oh well.  Que sera…

and then parkrun day finally dawned…

I woke early, and stared out of the window.  It didn’t look too windy.  I’m the last person in the world with no smartphone and I was a bit twitchy about what to do, as at some point I’d have to tear myself away from the weak but just about detectable wi-fi of the hotel, and from thereon-in I’d be on my own.  No updates.  Like those disaster movies where the central characters have to establish early on why they don’t just get their mobile phones out for help, information or a google map to guide them on their way.  I’d have to survive on nothing but my wits and my parkrun locating instincts.   My only hope was that I’d have left a paper bag in the car somewhere so I’d have something to breathe into in case of emergencies…

Lee on the Solent parkrun was much further away, so I’d need to get a wiggle on to get there, but Queen Elizabeth parkrun had promised to post either way as early as possible.  In the end, I decided to go straight there, but early, as it would be obvious if the park was closed and I could just turn around and head back to Lee on the Solent.  OK, a plan.

I checked out of the hotel, where the receptionist took my key pass off me without passing comment about my green tutu.  She’s probably learned from years of experience that sometimes it’s best just not to enquire.  In the car I peered through the windscreen to establish current weather conditions.  My windscreen is almost as good at identifying current weather conditions as the met office or seaweed hung in a porch, I was thinking it was going to be wet…

DSCF1286

Fortunately I had windscreen wipers, albeit slightly squeaky ones.

I got to the park after an angsty satnav journey which appeared to take me to a random stretch of dual carriageway.  Eventually, big brown signs headed me towards the country park.  You arrive and go through barriers, which make you wait like a conscientious but slightly bored dog humouring his or her deluded owner.  You know, the ones who will insist on doing random and pointless obedience training drills with a less than enthusiastic hound, as some sort mindless power game,  in this case ‘sit’ and ‘wait’.  I didn’t even get a treat for doing so.  Not so much as a veggie jelly bean, or even an actual bean, I’d have settled for that, breakfastless as I was.  I learned later, that this is because big brother photographs your number plate as you go in, but takes a little while to do so.  Presumably because he is lining up the perfect composition, or getting your number plates best side, i.e. the one which has the numbers on – so when you exit the car park paying and entering your number plate in the magic machine, it knows who you are and how long you’ve been a-lingering.   Clever, but ever so slightly unnerving too.

DSCF1287

Now I’ve been, it was fairly obvious where to go – past the visitors centre, and to the next car park along, the gravel one.  But I am of an easily confused disposition, so therefore got confused.  I sort of assumed the barriers wouldn’t have let me in if the country park was shut, but it was very, very quiet.  Well, I suppose I was extra early too.  I finally spotted some people walking and asked them hopefully if they knew anything about parkrun. They had no idea.  Seemingly, they were there to lay tracks for a film crew.  Oooh, how exciting, maybe I’d get to be an extra, I expect they are in need of a super-sized frog wearing a tutu in at least one of the background shots!  No?  Oh well, worth a try, anyway I’d rather do parkrun…

Then a bit further along, I espied a familiar assortment of parkrun related paraphernalia and signs being heave hoed along by a high vis hero.  I paused to check with the person in charge of this bounty and learned, yes, parkrun was indeed on!  Better yet, I was in the right place!  Hurrah!  There was the little matter of being about an hour early but I hate being late, this way I’d be able to fit in a precautionary pee for sure, probably several, shame I’d not had any breakfast.  Premier Inn is fine, but super basic.  I did have a coffee in my room, but hadn’t thought to bring so much as a banana with me for pre-parkrun sustenance.  Fortunately, I had coincidentally brought along with me a quite extensive layer of subcutaneous fat, so that was both my carb reserves and my heat generation systems sorted.  Excellent!

By the time I’d parked, some helpful signs were already up.  The venue is gorgeous too.  Mature trees, huge ones, everywhere.  And lots of mud.  I like mud!  I’m a slow runner anyway so I’m not going for speed, I’m just in search of a micro-adventure, mud ticks that box gloriously, and the fact it provides an excuse for a slow and steady romp round is but a welcome bonus.  Weirdly, others don’t feel quite the same, this I don’t understand, if you want predictable terrain, there are always treadmills, but where’s the fun in that?

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Off for my precautionary pee. It was a shortish 5 minute stroll back to the visitors centre.  There was a single, unisex disabled toilet open, so I nipped in there.  It was deserted as I approached, but as I emerged, there was a little orderly queue of other parkrunners all standing directly outside like a pop-up guard of honour.  I felt they ought to have applauded me as I exited really.  It was slightly alarming though, as I hadn’t realised they were there.  On reflection though, this was just as well, since I have a bashful bladder, and the thought of a trio of parkrun tourists – however empathetic and friendly – outside potentially listening would have entirely negated the positive provision of precautionary pee facilities.  I left them to it, hoping I didn’t have toilet paper stuck to the sole of my shoe or anything similar…

Back to the carpark.  There weren’t many people around, I was in two minds about my fancy dress, I’d not seen anyone else wearing anything green, let along amphibian themed – yet.  Then again, they did say it was fancy dress, and to be honest, I’m not really expecting my frog outfit to become a wardrobe classic, so really I just needed to brazen it out.  Not very likely to be passing this way again, and anyway, the advantage of the head attire was that I’d not be recognisable in any other context, it’ll be fine… what’s the worst…

I headed up the hill, following the signs to the start.  A little assembly of core volunteers had already gathered.  Couldn’t help noticing a distinct absence of green as I approached.

What was lacking in amphibian costumery, was compensated for by the friendliness of the welcome, as the small, but perfectly formed team greeted me.  I outed myself as being a bit thrown by the lack of others in fancy dress, but was doubly comforted.  Firstly, because the Run Director, had in fact come along with a frog companion, which was most apt, and secondly by the cheery reassurance of two self-identifying ‘grumpy old gits’ (their words, not mine, I’d have said something like ‘convivial silver foxes’, if only to be polite… one of whom said well ‘of course we wouldn’t but that’s because we are grumpy old men, I’m sure others will, well there’s always someone anyway‘.  Ah, I was wondering if by extension of that logic, that ‘always one’ might possibly be me.  No worries, ice was broken, and it was all friendly, and I was here now, and the frog outfit was staying, too late to squash it back in the jiffy bag and despatch back to the ebay seller from whence it came now. Anyway, grumpy or otherwise, I couldn’t help noticing one had a green beanie hat and the other green shoes, so they were practically embracing the theme really, just with a slightly more subtle and tastefully understated nod, that’d do!  They were probably wearing frog themed speedos underneath.  I didn’t ask, so can truthfully report they passed no comment on the matter, which we all know means they definitely were!

Time to pose for some pre-parkrun photos.  I was too embarrassed to ask the RD if the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ on her high vis was because this was our monarch doing her bit incognito but with her name discretely embroidered on the tabard to assist her personal protection officers (the cunningly disguised grumpy old men for sure) in identifying her from afar.  Or whether it was bespoke for the parkrun venue.  I think we all know though.  I wasn’t too embarrassed to ask to pose for a photo though.  Have to document those memories somehow!

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Nice frog companion she had with her.  I like to think it’s an emotional support animal she has with her at all times, and her claim this was just a children’s bath mitt she’d retrieved from the bathroom in a pre-parkrun panic in an effort to show willing re the leap-day theme was just a quick thinking tale intended to put us off the scent.

This was going to be great.  Sorry Lee on the Solent, I’m sure you had an ace morning too, and I will come back to see you one day, but for now I was really excited by the route to come.

The location is absolutely gorgeous.  Weirdly, despite the appalling forecast, the air was still, and although it was distinctly wet underfoot, it wasn’t actually raining either.  Huge trees lined the route, and someone explained the course to me.  It was going to involve running up a hill and a section that was a bit muddy because of forestry vehicles doing track work.  That’s ok, I’m used to mud.

I mentioned about not being sure if the event was on, and having spoken to the film crew support earlier.  I learned two things.  Firstly, the the park authorities are pretty good about trying to facilitate parkrun and have on occasion said ‘do it, but don’t hang around afterwards’ so they can close afterwards if necessary.  I also learned from the RD, that on at least one previous occasion, another film was being made that featured zombie roman centurions!  The parkrun was potentially in the back of shot, and so negotiations took place to ensure lycra clad puffing parkrunners, or hi-vis wearing marshals didn’t mess with their continuity.  Shame, that would have been a sight worth seeing.  A bit of gentle googling has led me to learn this was a Canadian company ‘perfect storms productions‘ back in 2012, but they are committed to historical accuracy, and were recreating the Battle of Teutoburg Forest which took place in Germany in AD9.  Not gonna lie, this does rather make me question the ‘zombie centurions’ angle, but then again, I wasn’t there, either for the 2012 filming or the Teutoburg Forest original battle, so might be true?  Also, the country park has been used for other film locations, including at least one Dr Who episode, so maybe it’s constantly populated with zombie roman centurions, and they occur more commonly in film than I had previously appreciated…  Maybe it’s like pokemons, they are everywhere, but not everyone can see them…  How else can you explain how I omitted to notice this:

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I rest my case.

I went for a little bit of an explore, up towards the start, yep, that would be an upward flat section, and to check out some of the lovely trees.

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I kept the assembly area under surveillance, in the hop that others in fancy dress might yet still appear.  It was a colourful gathering.  One person did come sporting an American footballer outfit without explanation, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to him or take his picture so we’ll never know if he was dressed in homage to the Louisiana Leapers say, or if he just always dresses like that.  Still, man of mystery, whosoever you were, your efforts were noted, and appreciated too.

Actually, **STOP PRESS** mystery solved.  I only got as far as ‘frog fancy dress’ on the official event announcement, but now I’ve read it in full I see there is a catch all  or ‘outfit that represents one of the many sporting events also happening this year the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Euro 2020 Football tournament, or the ICC World T20 Cricket tournament‘, so it seems not only was I not the only one to read the memo, there was another who actually read it in its entirety.  Whoever you are, I salute you!  Sorry we didn’t get to team up!  You are part of QE history too now.  A legend in your own time.  Though secretly, I was rather hoping it is your regular parkrun outfit of choice…

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Amongst those gathering were fellow tourists here for the Q, but giving the cue for more photo opps.

I struck up conversation with a few people asking if they were local or visitors. Most had come a-touristing.  One commented ‘oh god no!’ in response to my innocently posed question ‘so is this your local parkrun then?  Adding… ‘If this was my local parkrun I’d have to move house!’  I think this was a reflection on the terrain not the welcome by the way. I guess some love the tarmac, whilst others like the call of the wild and the giddying possibility of seeing a zombie centurion on the way round, or at least a gruffalo…  Here are some of us milling and chilling and pre-parkrun faffing:

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So after pre parkrun parkfaffing, there was a call to order and the first timers’ briefing.  There were a fair few of us.  ‘Before I start, I have to ask, why the frog?’  Oh, guess no-one else got the memo then.  ‘Erm, because it’s a leap day, and you are having a fancy dress green-themed/ frog parkrun‘ I croaked awkwardly.  ‘Oh yes, that makes total sense‘.  On to other business.  ‘Who’s here for the Q?’  Pretty much every touristing hand went up.  In fact, I don’t think there were any others present for any other reason.

It was quite a useful and comprehensive briefing.  We warned there would be ‘MUD’ lots of mud, not a pb course I think is the generic euphemism. Yeah, whatever.  Forestry vehicles had also contributed to path erosion so take care out there.  I didn’t really concentrate too much on the route description as I just follow everyone else, and as for the mud – well, I was just so relieved and delighted parkrun was ON, that wasn’t a cause for concern beyond vague registering of its existence.  All good.  Here we are, attentively listening to our hi-vis hero explaining the idiosyncrasies of the route ahead…

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Next stop, run directors briefing, she found a useful bank from which to address us.  Usual thanks and milestones and mudfest warnings.  Also, the usual chit chat from the assembled company.  It does my head in when people talk through run briefings, but it seems it’s a problem everywhere.  I’m never sure of etiquette as a visitor, is it ok to ‘shush’ others when you are only passing through.  Equally, at my home parkrun I wonder if ‘shushing’ seems officious, but really, it’s soooooooooooooo rude.  I couldn’t even give paddington stares, because my eyes were on the top of my head due to my choice of attire, just had to accept couldn’t really hear what was going on.  Got the gist, clapped when everyone else did, and hoped it wasn’t to endorse anything incompatible with my moral compass.  Always a concern…  Still, at least one person knelt in reverential homage to the RD at the front of the pack, so it wasn’t everyone being disrespectful.

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and then run briefing over, it was a mass troop up the hill to the start.

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then timers’ ready?  Yep?  Go!

And awf we went.  Or more accurately, off went everyone else, I lingered a bit to take some pictures of the start, and then just slotted in behind.

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I’m not sure what the red thing is, some sort of fungus, but it just caught my eye near the start and deserved to be immortalised, and why not.  I’ll look it up later and let you know what it is, it will be most educational!  DONE!  It’s a scarlet elf cap apparently, so that means some poor elf has been out in all that stormy weather capless.  Oh well.

I was at the back, and I was going up a hill, and I suddenly twigged that I was still wearing my coat, and my frog head gear – which would have been an asset in torrential rain – was less advantageous today, and was rather acting as somewhat OTT thermal insulation.  It was like I was running with my head in a pressure cooker.  Well, like I imagine that would be, not actually tried that, and not sure if it would be possible even with a gas operated one, you’d have to find a way of carrying a canister round with you I suppose.  Look just take the analogy with a bit of suspension of disbelief, the details aren’t important, the point I was trying to make, before you so rudely interrupted me with all these tedious questioning of the details, is simply that I was absolutely boiling, should have jettisoned the coat before.  The ground underfoot was pretty solid, but I was way too hot, and it was more uphill than expected.  A cheery marshal was on hand a bit further up, and waved us to our right,

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and down a hilariously slippery mud slide.  Brilliant.  No really it was, completely hilarious.  It was properly muddy.  Many parkrunners ahead of me ground to an almost halt, definitely walking, trying to pick their way through.  I think some may not even have had trail shoes.  I had mid-shoes inov-8 parkclaws which I love, but could have done with something much grippier.  Some tried to stick to the sides a bit.  I tried to do a bit of a zig zag to stay upright, but I’m not sure it helped.  Ahead of me was a woman who acted as a sort of early warning system, giving out little involuntary shrieks each time her feet threatened to disappear beneath her.  I didn’t witness any full on face plants or mud slides, but feel sure there must have been some.   It wasn’t just the stickiness and slippery of the mud you had to contend with, but the downward gradient, it was quite a slope!  It was great, my favourite sort of thing. I’m very slow at parkrun, so for me mud just offers enrichment rather than any further delay.  Having said that, most parkrunners around me anyway, seemed to abandon any attempt at going for a time in favour of picking a route through and so it was bonding, friendly and mutually supportive.

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One fellow parkrunner even stopped to take my photo for me mid course.  That’s a first, I thought it was just me that actually stopped to take pictures on the way round, so, this new development especially pleased me. Thank you parkrunner David Bailey much appreciated.

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and on we went, each of us negotiating the terrain in our own individual way!

At the bottom of the hill, you turn right again, and go along quite a firm chalk path – sploshing through a few standing puddles, on a long straight haul back in the direction you started from.

Pretty flat, maybe a little down hill with a slight upward hump – you actually run past what will be the finish funnel, only they don’t put it out until after everyone has finished the first lap.  The first lap is shorter, so presumably even the speediest of runners are not likely to be lapping anyone other than in pretty exceptional circumstances.  This meant you got a few extra whoops and cheers as you speed on by, or drag yourself past, depending on your average pace.  The whoops and cheers are equally loud for everyone by the way, it is only your speed that varies.  Slower participants get more time being cheered at as it takes them longer to pass by, which is a boon.

and then down to the V-turn at the end, which is basically a U-turn, only more V-shaped if you haven’t worked it out for yourself.  There is a marshal here to stop people careering off past the turning point and down the slope, and/ or to encourage people to stay upright as they turn back on themselves for the longer lap two. Well, I think that’s why the marshal was there.  It could also be that this was the best possible vantage point for people face planting in the mud, which would be completely understandable.  There should be some extra perks for marshals who are willing to give up their time to stand in the freezing cold, knee deep in mud to facilitate the parkrun for everyone else!  I did notice there were rather a lot of spectators around here, I hesitate to use the term ambulance chasers but…

So ding dong, round two!  Back up the hill, cheery marshal this time sending you straight on rather than back down the mud slide.  The field had very much thinned out by now, speedier runners well ahead, and quite a few walkers behind for whatever reason.  I was distracted by some of the scenery and signage along the way.  Replica roman villa anyone?  Add your own zombies.

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Realistically, I don’t know if I’ll make it back to this country park, I live in Sheffield, so it’s hardly on my doorstep, but I get the impression, there was loads to explore, with lots of bike trails and wildlife routes, it gave the sense of a well managed and interesting place.  Yet another thing I love about parkrun tourism, is that it has taken me to all sorts of places I’d otherwise probably never have thought to visit.

As I was heaving myself round, contemplating how hot I was, and generally gazing about, a late arrival at the parkrun ball appeared!  Well met my new friend!  He had cycled over, and was late to the start, but had put a fair old sprint on to overtake the tailwalker.  He was happy to pause and have a chit chat for a bit, which was really companionable, and another unusual occurrence.  Generally speaking I cant talk and run so I normally don’t chat to other parkrunners, but as I was actually walking at this point, and he was happy to do likewise, it was grand.  Plus, looks like we are following each other around future parkruns, I have Zamek w Malborku all booked up for the end of the month, and he is there the week before.  He’d done loads of overseas and other parkruns, starting his parkrun journey as an accidental tourist, so it was cool to hear parkrun tales from afar.  We carried on up the hill, until another marshal, at least I presume they were a marshal and not a decoy to send as astray, there was no obvious hi-vis but a familiar helpful disposition inspired confidence instead.  Anyway, we were sent back down a muddy path to our right once again.  Yay!  My new best friend was happy to pose for obligatory mud shots before we parted way as he picked up some speed again, and I trotted and hopped along behind in my own elegant trajectory.  ‘Elegant’ is a subjective concept I know, but where is the harm in a little bit of personal self-delusion?  No constructive criticism or feedback required or welcomed on this occasion.

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So yep, it continued muddy, but honestly this was a joyful route.  For them as hate mud, well, they are not going to love it, but I had a great time.  It was yomping territory, and as I was wet up to not just my ankles, but practically my knickers, there was no advantage in picking your way round puddles, you just had to splosh through. Unusually, I was running alone, i.e. not being pursued by tailwalkers and not in sight of any runners ahead, and in no danger of being lapped as faster runners would have been way ahead of me at this point. For the first time in months I could have an unselfconscious scamper, in gorgeous surrounds, still air and inexplicably rain free.  It really gave me my running mojo back.  I’ve ground to a halt with running really, and as I’ve taken on more run reporting and photographing volunteering it’s ages since I’ve just done a parkrun for the joy of it.  This reminded me of how I need to proactively carve out time for new running adventures.  I live in the peak district for goodness sake, the possibilities are endless, and although the weather has been absolutely horrendous of late, this trot out reminded me that actually, running in mud and rain and yomping on trails is absolutely part of the whole glorious adventure.  It just makes us more hardcore and makes us more likely to have the landscape to ourselves.  Note to self, lace up, head out, take to the trails!

The final straight line back to the finish seemed to go very quickly.  In next to no time I was in sight of the funnel, and the beaming smiles of high-vis heroes welcoming us home.

I lingered to cheer a few final finishers home – and check out a particularly cute canine who’d had a great lope round.

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My new best friend was waiting too, see, new parkruns are just full of parkrun friends you haven’t made yet!

Just time for a few final photos, thanks to the core team, and a quick lust over their all-terrain trolley for their parkrun kit:

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And that was that, parkrun wise it was a wrap!

I asked the RD if it was OK to share the photos and not only did she say yes it was, but I got a volunteering credit for doing so, result!  I did warn her they were quantity rather than quality, but it’s the thought that counts yes?

I headed back to the car to pick up some cash and then made my way to the visitors centre for breakfast with my new parkrun buddy.  We used the outside tap to wash our shoes of the worst of the mud, but that just had the effect of filling my trail shoes with slurry really.  Oh well.  Water is supposed to come out through the mesh fabric, but I suppose there are limits.  The visitors centre had good selection of cakes and cooked breakfast.  It was reasonable value, but coffee was a bit mediocre, I had a veggie breakfast which was generous in size but a bit on the hey-ho spectrum.  Friendly service though, and impressive tolerance of muddy shoes. To be fair, their entire clientele would be there because they were yomping muddy trails so they are prepared for it.

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There was a big pond outside the visitors centre, which I peered into at length in search of frogspawn, I couldn’t see any.  Oh well.

We said our farewells and I made my way back to the carpark, waving a farewell at other departing parkrunners who’d come on their bikes.

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I remembered to take a photo of the carpark this time, which might sound weird, but it’s actually a public service, so others coming in my wake know they have reached their final destination whatever their satnav may be saying to them to the contrary.  The sun came out, and the weather was glorious.  Aw, that was a lovely morning!

Finally, I went to the little wendy hut to pay for parking.  You put in your number plate and it calculates it automatically.  It was five quid!  I thought that was steep, but I guess they must charge from 8.00 a.m then, and staying for breakfast would have pushed me into an all day rate.  You pay with a card, well I did, maybe you can use cash, I’m not sure.  The car parking was steeper than anticipated, and although I didn’t quite begrudge it, it made it one of the more expensive ones I’ve been to.  Clearly better to bike it or walk it if you can, or forgo breakfast for a speedy exit … but where’s the fun in parkrun touristing if you do that.

So I got my Q, but that was the least important part of the fabulously, fun morning, albeit that is what took me there in the first place.  Come for the Q, stay for the crack!

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this parkrun, it was small but perfectly formed, friendly, fabulous location, great facilities, and my you’d get fit if it was your local.  So, thank you lovely QE parkrunners, core team, visitors and all, for the warm welcome to your wonderful venue.  It’s a shame that it was only me that got the fancy dress memo, but I wouldn’t change anything all the same!  I hope our parkrun paths cross again in the future, but in the meantime, many thanks for giving me a royally good run!

So date for the diary for 2048 people?  All that fun all over again, and only 28 years to wait until we do…

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or you could always rock up to a parkrun near you next parkrunday/saturday in the meantime.  You choose!

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Oh, and for my reader who likes to triangulate my accounts of parkrun for accuracy, there are not one, but TWO run reports from other participants at this weekend’s mudfest. This means for their 360th parkrun there is 360 degree coverage of the event.  (See what I’ve done there?  Genius!) One  is from Katie Reynolds a runner from Fareham and the second from Nickie Sale a visitor from South Africa – and they both mention the mud, so you can be confident that was indeed an actual thing!  Oh, and QE parkrun are a whizz with technology too, so they’ve uploaded my photos of the event here.

Thank you lovely Queen Elizabeth parkrun people!  I had a royally good time.

🙂

oh, and 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.  Your choice

*ok, leaping – ish

**other onesies are available, but I’m not sure why you’d need to bother with them…

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***O.M.G!  What could be more apt!  A descendent of leap-frog for leap year!

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

Brilliant Bradford parkrun

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me and my parkrun co-tourist to Bradford parkrun.  There are lots of parkruns around Bradford, but this is the one with the ‘teeny tiny hill’.  And a bandstand!  Hurrah.  It’s in Lister Park.  They have classy benches there it seems.

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Undigested read:

Well this trip was particularly exciting!  Not just the prospect of journeying from Sheffield to Bradford, which would be a cause for giddy excitement and anticipation on any day, but the prospect of doing so to rendezvous with a relatively new convert to parkrun.  Inexplicably, it’s taken my friend a little while to discover parkrun, I’ve been drip-feeding her for years – but you have to let people make the transition from bemused outsider to enthusiastic convert in their own time.  Better late than never, and they do say, the best time to join parkrun was 15 years ago, the second best time is next weekend.  Anyway, this weekend she demonstrated just how far she’s come in embracing the parkrun concept, by contacting me to say she was going to be away in Bradford this weekend, and why don’t I come up and join her for a tourist run.  This is hugely significant, because she has now officially recognised that there’s no point in being away anywhere for the weekend unless you check out the available parkrun options.  She has also noted that of course I’ll get up at stupid o’clock to come and join her. Also, it’s ‘proper’ tourism, because instead of going together, or travelling from home, this involved an overnight trip.  This is brilliant news, it opens up a whole new world of shared adventures, ‘nipping across’ to parkrun places – I’m hoping worldwide even one day – in the quest to complete a running challenge or discover a new parkrun community.  So.  Much.  Fun.  AND I’m so excited!  I just can’t hide it.  As I think may have been said before somewhere, sometime, but has never been more earnestly meant than here and now.  Hurrah!

So we agreed to go to Bradford parkrun

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It was just a couple of days before, that it dawned on me, there are a fair few ‘Bradford’ parkruns, like Sheffield, it is blessed with a few that might reasonably be said to fall within the environs of the city:

Horton Park (2.2m), Bowling Park (2.9m), Myrtle (3.4m), Bramley (5.8m), Oakwell Hall (6.7m), Cliffe Castle (7m), Halifax (7m), Brighouse (7.5m), Armley (7.6m), Woodhouse Moor (8.8m)

What’s more, some have epicly brilliant names.  How often do you get to hear of a place called Myrtle? That’s right, not nearly often enough.  There’s a Harry Potter themed challenge potential if ever there was one, that, then The Pastures parkrun, loads more I’m sure. And didn’t Horton find a Who?  That’s would merit a special trip.

Presumably Bramley is lined with fruitful apple trees, year round, albeit cooking ones.  I mean the possibilities are nigh on endless.  Well, maybe not actually endless, but at least reach double figures.  This is indeed a parkrun hotspot.  Oh well, no worries, I guess I’ll just have to keep coming back for me.  The important thing was we did both rendezvous at the same parkrun.  We did some research, poring over parkrun course descriptors – planning is part of the fun for such excursions after all.  In the end, we went with the ‘obvious’ i.e. the titular Bradford parkrun – for now, though it is actually in Lister Park, so I suppose it’s theoretically possible it may yet be swept up in parkrun namechangegate.  This phenomenon is sweeping the country and causing much consternation to some.  Honestly, I find it hard to mind too much, as I use the running challenges just as tool for choosing somewhere new to go really, though I think if I woke up and round all my lovely virtual badges vapourised I would be devastated, if it’s just the odd one or two that need rethinking I can live with that.  It does make sense though that some parkruns change their names as multiple new venues come on board, some with a greater claim to the name of their nearest centre of population.  For now though, this is Bradford parkrun, and that’s where we’d head.  I don’t know what Lister did to get a park named after them.  Invented Listerine mouthwash perhaps?  Patient Zero for Listeria?  I was confident all would become clear.  parkrun can be most educational like that.

I did the usual Facebook page stalking and was hugely impressed to see that only the week before our visit, the tailwalker completed their duties whilst knitting.  Excellent multi-tasking there, and taking inclusion to a new level. Crafty indeed.  I don’t know what she was knitting, but I like to think it might have been a knitted scanner holder.  I saw them at Barnsley parkrun on their 400th event and the concept blew my mind!  Inspired.  I’d be equally happy though if she was knitting parkrun protective headgear/ fancy dress as disported at Great Notley parkrun a while back.  I may never know, but that’s a boon, I can let my imagination run riot!  Look!  See how talented and creative parkrunners can be nationwide:

Anyway, enough of knitting although perhaps it’s good to know you can knit en route if you wish.  This doesn’t apply to me though, I’m not a knitter, I can barely sew a button back on, to tell the truth, well, not without being grumpy, still, perhaps for you dear reader, it’s a clincher for you in picking your parkrun destinations.  So, back to practicalities, according to the official Bradford parkrun website course description blah de blah, the course is described thus:

We are lucky that the paths in Lister park are so wide, smooth and well kept making an excellent course for running. The course starts by the fossilized tree along past the bandstand and the beautiful Cartwright Hall, through the formal gardens and past the mughal water gardens before turning left down a long gentle downhill path towards the entrance to the park on Manningham Lane, you then turn left again on a beautiful long meandering slightly downhill path, past the large playground – great for kids to play and cheer you on as you fly by! then up the teeny tiny hill to the fossilized tree again. It’s 3 laps then past the bandstand and to the right to a glorious finish on the elevated section just above the bandstand.

I do like the sound of a parkrun with a bandstand AND a fossilized tree, don’t see too many of them out and about. I wonder how tall it is? I’m hoping for something the size of a giant redwood, that would be cool.  And as for a teeny tiny hill – well, it’s teeny tiny, so probably hardly registers even as a speed bump for those of us used to trotting round Sheffield parkruns.

It looks like this:

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Three laps though.  Not over-keen on three lappers, but, then again it’s situated in the lovely looking Lister Park which even mentions Park Run (sic) on their website amongst activities available.  They may not be able to spell parkrun (aowalc) correctly, but at least they understand it’s dizzying allure.  However, the absolute clincher, was checking out the Refreshment Room in the Cartwright Hall Museum which, their website states authoritatively, is open from 8.00 a.m. on Saturday.  This means loos, and even potentially pre-parkrun coffee which I don’t normally do, but if arriving as a tourist paranoiacly early is definitely good to know.  You dear reader may feel likewise.  That’s settled then.

So the morning dawned, and it was the calm before the storm.  Bracing, but – for now at least – still.  I left Sheffield around 7.15.  It wasn’t the nicest drive, I got mightily confused with the road layouts as I neared Bradford, multiple lanes of traffic and ‘just-in-time. guidance from my satnav that would be more accurately described as ‘easy to be wise after the event’ guidance.  I was glad I’d allowed lots of extra time, as I did a few unintended diversions en route.

The approach to the park was, erm, without wishing to be rude, unpromising.  Apart from driving past the Alhambra theatre building which is A.Maz.Ing.  though I wasn’t sure if it was still operational as it had a rather shut up look – not unreasonable at 8.20 on a Saturday morning I suppose… However, ‘suddenly’ I found myself turning into North Park Road, and discovered I was alongside a glorious, mature park, a green oasis amongst the urban surrounds.  Very soon you pass some exceedingly magnificent gates, and get a sneak preview of Cartwright Hall, which you get to run past later on.  It’s very impressive.  Ooh, I’m going to like this.

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Now admittedly it doesn’t take much to confuse me, as I’m not over-confident driving to new places.  You need to hold your nerve to find the carpark, I didn’t find the signage particularly intuitive.  Also, there is a massive NO ENTRY sign on the left hand lane of the carpark entrance, with those metal spikey things that basically impale your vehicle if you attempt to drive over them.  I don’t really get why they were there, because you just drive through the unbarricaded lane on the right hand side, but it was a weird layout, and made me feel as if I was going the wrong way down a one-way system.  Fortuitously, as I pulled in, I espied my parkrunning friend from Victoria Dock, who’d come by bus from her hotel in Bradford.  She’d already checked out the car parking area, which is just above the bowling greens, right adjacent to the start.  Parking was free, which was a surprise, and although not by any means a huge parking space, there seemed to be ample.  I think the majority of attendees were genuine locals who’d walked in.  Always a relief to park up.

talking of relief, we strode out in search of the cafe and loos with high hopes and high spirits.  HOnestly, my worst nightmare is arriving as a tourist after a long dry to find no pee points are available.  We headed towards the hall past a very fine stag statue. and took time out to pose by the helpful poster that was clearly put up in anticipation of our visit as we are both precious and rare indeed.  That selfie just had to be done…

We circled round the hall, debating the relative merits of stretching as we did so, and whether or not it’s helpful for running.   She’s a disciplined stretcher, does yoga and everything, where as I am about as committed to stretching as I am to foam rollering.  I have a foam roller I bought about 6 years ago still in its cellophane…  As I understand it the evidence base isn’t that strong in favour of stretching, and in fact stretching before a run can increase risk of injury – though a warm-up is a different thing and generally thought to be a good idea.  However, for those who find it beneficial, feel free to crack on, and to show my sincerity in support of stretching, I’ve even managed to source this excellent video of an innovative stretch routine in case of interest.  You’re welcome.

So, we circled the building in search of the refreshment rooms and with it access to their posh loos. I  was imagining pre-warmed toilet seats and fluffy white towels.  Well dear reader.  CATASTROPHE.  We found the entrance to the cafe, but it was very much not open, and it was almost 8.40 by now.  Other tourists likewise appeared, wearing their cow cowls, and we all stood in a line together, blinking at the extremely closed doors.  There was a light on within, but no-one at home.  Uh oh.  This was not a good start.  A local materialised, and informed us that ‘unfortunately, it can be a bit hit and miss with the cafe and its opening hours’.  Aaaaargh!  There are some alternative toilets the other side of the park, but these are currently shut due to vandalism.  I’m shamed to report that desperate times called for desperate measures, and I may have resorted to nipping behind a tree and anointing the grounds with some shame.  I mean, it’s no worse, indeed very much better than what most dogs do, but it was such a well maintained park if did feel disrespectful.  I didn’t really pass any alternative stopping places en route either, so if you are coming a fair distance, arrive prepared!

A panicky al-fresco precautionary pee isn’t the best preparation for parkrun, so I feared i was in for an uncomfortable run.  Oh well, here now, an I was hoping a lot of my need for facilities is psychological.  One way to find out.  We also clung to the hope that maybe the loos would open shortly, and as we’d pass the cafe three times, if absolutely desperate you could nip in mid-parkrun.  They didn’t, you couldn’t.

We made our way back to the start, passing marshals heading out to their spots.  How exciting, the parkrun party is most definitely building.  This park is truly spectacular, with impressive features like the fabulously substantial bandstand, and a boating lake, with more statues of the great and good and various beasts (lions as well as the stag) than you could shake a stick at.

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Volunteers and runners were starting to assemble, and there was an upmarket coffee van serving up superior coffee and various snacks.  I’m not sure if it’s there every week, but it was doing an ok trade pre run and a positively roaring one afterwards.  One fun thing about this particular parkrun, was the number of bespoke signs, early warning of the teeny tiny hill, but also various spots on the course have their own names.  There is Tony’s Turn and Arthur’s finish and a helpful one to remind parkrun participants that they are ‘awesome’ just when it is most needed on the teeny tiny hill.  This is the parkrun that thinks of everything.  Care and creativity have gone into course signage.  Loving your work Bradford parkrun core team, good job, well done!

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Loving the personalised high-vis too.  Epic.

There was a bespoke sign for first timers too, but honestly, I’m not sure if there was an actual first timers briefing, as by the time we’d implemented emergency precautionary pee protocols we were a little late to the party, and people were starting to gravitate towards the start, which was a shortish stroll away, towards the fossilised tree. Which, spoiler alert, is not a tall giant red wood, but a stump.  Still impressive, but my expectations hadn’t been managed all that well in this instance.  Less traumatic than no loos, but worth a mention all the same.

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So we were gently shepherded down a gentle slope to the start.  There was a pretty good turn out, I overheard volunteers guesstimating the numbers ‘350, it’s always 350′ one said with considerable confidence.  In fact, I can report that it was 508.  Wow, that’s quite a lot actually.  You’d think it would feel crowded, but the paths are wide and tarmaced and participants courteous, so it didn’t feel congested beyond a bit of slow get away.  Then again, I always put myself towards the back, I’m sure further forward it would have been a speedier start if that’s your thing.

The RD was able to give a run briefing from sort of on high, flanked by hi-vis heroes.  There was a description of the course, and usual shout outs.  I think it’s a generic intro rather than having a separate first timers’ briefing.  However, lots of people approached us and chatted to us so it felt like a friendly place if you turned up on your own.  People did talk through the briefing though, that so infuriates me, and I never know whether it’s ok to ‘shush’ people not at your home run.  It feels a bit rude to do so, but honestly, what chatterboxes there were.

In the start funnel you get a great view of the bandstand ahead, and the gentle incline that you will get to run up not once, not twice, but a glorious three times!  Hurrah.  This is the parkrun with slopes that keep on giving!

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So after the RD pep-talk it was go!  And awf we went.

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this is an ace parkrun.   Don’t be put off by the inclines or the three lap thing – or indeed the precarious loo presence.  It was a cheery, inclusive group.  A lot of walkers, buggies, dogs, a good cross section of participants.  Although it is a three – lapper, there’s loads to see, and plenty of cheery marshals at strategic intervals to encourage you round.  Some showed very considerable stamina keeping up the clapping continuously til the last participant came home.  Much enthusiasm was in evidence.  Plus, as you get to pass the point where people break away to the finish, you get to see faster runners sprinting up hill to their climactic ends, as well as being lapped by some on the way round.  Unless you are the one doing the lapping of course, in which case you get to pass slower ones.

So it’s up the hill, past the token men at the end of the carefully choreographed finish funnel.  Round the side of the house where a super-smiley and clappy volunteer shooed you round past the still-closed refreshment cafe.  Quick dog leg round the corner, past some quite formal planting and grand statues towards the other side of the enormous iron gates I’d passed on the way in.

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Then you get to whizz down hill for a bit, with Mr Lister gazing down on you – a little sternly I felt – and corner past another clapping hi-vis hero, who, if my memory serves me correctly, was very wisely cradling a cup of coffee in between whooping encouragement.  Thank you marshal!

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Mr Lister was carrying some sort of cloak, but dragging it on the ground rather.  I’m not sure if he was poised to use it to cover any muddy puddles en route to protect the dainty feet of timid parkrunners.  I rather think not.  It turns out, Mr Lister is not in fact the Mr Man who embodies people who write ‘to do’ lists, nor even the one that has a tendency to lean to one side.  Rather he was very big in wool apparently.  The chimneyof his wool mill towers over the park if you but bother to look for it – I got this insight from the Talented Tony later on.  He invented the Lister Nip Comb.  That’s Mr Lister who invented it, not Tony – talented as he is.  Oh, and not nit comb either but nip comb, completely different thing – you need to concentrate more when you are reading.  Nope, me neither, had to look it up, and I learn that the Lister Nip Comb separated and straightened raw wool, revolutionising the industry apparently.  He – that’s Mr Lister again, not Tony, donated the land for Lister Park which was philanthropic I suppose, but the size of his fortune must have been absolutely immense for him to be able to do that, and you can’t help but assume he accrued such fortune on the backs of a great many workers in his mill.  He was a Baron as well.  Barons always make me think of Baron and Baroness Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – which for too many years I honestly thought was Shitty Shitty Bang Bang, which was unfortunate – I daresay other barons are available, but the Bombursts had better costumes if the photos are anything to go by.  The facial hair is equally spectacular for both though.  It could well be that is a prerequisite for such honours, I wouldn’t really know…

I didn’t have all these insights as I was pootling round though, but you can have the benefit of them in advance if you like.  It’s fun learning these things.

The route carried on past a quite impressive play area, and a boating lake with it’s own circular cafe building.  I found out too late that this opens at 10.00 and I think it’s where the core team adjourn to for results processing.  Might have been a better option than the cafe where we two ended up.

As I was taking my time, I think the first of the speedy runners came through when I was on this stretch.  The paths are wide though, so no hairy moments overtaking.

At the end of this stretch, is a marshal very much owning his spot.  Dear Reader I give you Tony’s Corner.  He was a very vocal supporting, giving extra loud encouragement to known regulars who he cheered by name, but enthusiastically cheering everyone by,.  it was great.  I reckon he would have made each and every one of us feel like a sporting superstar, or at least a pretty goddarned amazing humanbeing just for being there.  I think life would be so much nicer if we all had cheerleaders to encourage us as we go about our daily business.  Still, in the inexplicable absence of that, you can at least get an little inoculation of feel good adulation to get you through the week as on each of the three laps, multiple marshals applaud you for your efforts.  Excellent!

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Round the corner, there was another statue, no idea who that was – and another group were doing some sort of outdoor work out session, with their own loud speakers pumping out motivational music.  A sign pronounced that you were now embarking on Teeny Tiny Hill.  I do like visual aids at a parkrun.  OK then, let’s see what that’s like then:

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Ok, as a Sheffield parkrunning regular, I can report the hill is steep, but short and sharp, and not too bad if you are used to say Sheffield Castle parkrun or Graves parkrun in Sheffield.  However, it is definitely an upward flat section, and the field was mixed between those that embraced the challenge, taking a run up at it, and those that threw in the towel early on, power walking in preference.  At the top, of the steep bit, just where you corner, was another marshal flourishing a ‘you are awesome’ sign!  Like I said, this was a feelgood parkrun good for building your self-esteem if ever there was one.  From being acknowledged as ‘rare and precious’ on arrival, to ‘awesome’ on every lap, there was much positive reinforcement going on!

You pass by the fossilised tree root, and the start sign, and then it’s round all over again.  Past the token men, the bandstand, the hall, the amazing gates, Mr Lister, the boating pond, Tony’s Corner, up the Teeny Tiny Hill to complete lap two.

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This time, as I rocked up the hill, the finish area was pretty busy with returning runners.  Because the whole park is basically on a slope, if you look to the right running past you can see the finishers swept off to the side, but equally as you finish, you can see the parkrunners still enroute sweeping round like lycra-clad wildebeest on migration.  All very picturesque in my view.  It really is a lovely parkrun venue.  A hidden treasure indeed.

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I paused on the way round to stand on a bench to try to get a shot looking back at the bandstand and the finish, and ended up mutually photographing a fellow tourist.  Well, I say fellow tourist, turns out this is actually her home parkrun, but she was wearing a cow cowl, and astonishingly, had deduced I must be a tourist on account of me constantly stopping to take photos en route, though I think even she was a tad taken aback I took it to the lengths of clambering onto park furnishings.  I don’t really worry about times these days, I’m not sure I ever did, but I like to document parkruns the first time I attend them.  It’s so easy to forget stuff in the sensory overload of a new venue.  I didn’t get your name, but here’s a virtual wave to my 250 tee sporting parkrun friend!

and then it was just one more lap to go.  Obviously, the field had thinned out now, but I ended up taking it in turns to sort of leapfrog each other with another runner.  Her nearest parkrun is apparently Bramley, but that’s a four lapper – don’t fancy that, mind you, I’ve not tried a four lapper yet, maybe it’s less brutal than I imagine, though I panic about not being competent enough to confidently count to four….  anyway, she’s been to this one a fair few times too.  It was nice to make a new friend on the final lap.

Incidently, if you like me, balk at the very idea of a four lap course, spare a thought for this runner, quarantined because of the coronavirus, who has been doing laps IN HIS APARTMENT totalling 31 miles.  I can’t begin to imagine how tedious that must have been.  Respect.  Well, I think respect, it’s certainly impressive, but maybe a tad obsessive.  There’s a time to run round in teeny tiny circles, and there’s a time to lie on a sofa watching box sets.  He may not have got the balance entirely right in my view…. According to the Daily Mail (sorry – but they did have the Co-runner virus pun, which might well be in poor taste, but did make me snort a little bit) he ran 6,250 circuits of his apartment.  Imagine how annoying it would have been for him if he’d lost count and had to start again from one!

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Last chance to be reminded you are awesome, and drink up the cheers from supporting marshals, and a final romp up the teeny tiny hill.  Returning parkrunners smiled or whispered words of encouragement as I lolloped up the incline to the bandstand and the finish.

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Round the corner, and the finish funnel was in sight.  Again, these marshals were so enthusiastic and friendly.  I totally get parkrun is a run not a race, and there are no winners as such, but I felt like I was definitely their fastest ever first finisher as I crashed over the line and the timers clicked me in!

It’s a little weird, because the finish line – which obvs you have to do a sprint finish through, is at the apex of the hill, and then you have built up so much momentum you are in danger of crashing into the backs of other runners as it’s a down hill queue to the finish tokens.  Serious crowd control here, no danger of funnel ducking with that barrier, and I heartily approve!  Fortunately, I had the benefit of all this space in glorious isolation on account of being first finisher, clearly, so no domino affect of my carcass toppling other runners on the way through.  Phew.

My Victoria Dock parkrun buddy, was ready with a camera, which was a mixed blessing, but always good to be immortalised with flying feet, even if I’m inclined to feel the apricot does me no favours.  I’ve been trying to think what I remind myself of, and i think it might be an oompa loompa.  This isn’t a good look.  Oh well.

Just a matter of being scanned, and then posing for obligatory photos.  Oh and notice the coffee van.  If it hadn’t been cold, I think that would have been best option, looked like quality coffee.

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We’d had a lovely time.  How could we not.  But decided we wanted to get a proper shot of the Teeny Tiny Hill sign, well, it is Bradford parkrun’s ‘thing’ if you know what I mean.  We wandered back that way, passing returning volunteers, still holding ‘awesome’ signs aloft.  We spotted ‘our Tony’ who seemed to be dismantling the course on the way back.  We weren’t sure whether to offer to help or not.  It is a surprisingly little known fact that it isn’t helpful unless you are actually helping. Sometimes if people have their own systems you can mess them up by charging in.  I have before been caught out dismantling a finish funnel by removing tape from the poles only to find that at that particular parkrun they store the funnel with the tape left on.  Oops.  They were very gracious about it, noting that it was their fault for not having sat me down with the appropriate online interactive training video, but aaaaaaaaaaaawkward all the same!  Anyway, we used our initiative to ask, and actually, turns out, there was a limit to how many signs and stuff he could carry, so we did help minimally, and thereby also gained exclusive access to the Teeny Tiny Hill sign too.  Job done 🙂 !

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and that was that.  Bradford parkrun done and dusted.

We were cold, and so rejected coffee outside option, heading instead for the refreshment room cafe.  It’s just occurred to me what a spectacularly unimaginative name for a cafe that is.  Oh well.

The good news was that it was open.  The walls had tasteful William Morris wallpaper, and it was spotless, with a good value range of cakes and coffees.  However, it was a bit, erm, well weird.  Despite the plush surroundings, it was fairly bijoux, and the offerings were very much cake rather than breakfast.  Though there was a (not very nice) vegan roll, and cheese toastie options.  The coffee was distinctly mediocre, from a machine rather than proper ground with foamy milk.  The service was friendly, but to be honest, if going again in summer I’d have gone with the van, or checked out the boating cafe if open.  However, it was unhurried, and we could have a good old catch up.  Also, we could now access the toilets.  They didn’t have fluffy white towels or heated seats, but they did have an air lock entry system with an extraordinary amount of  doors to pass through to get to them, so that was novel.  Also, everyone was welcome to use them, though only one at a time in my experience.  I didn’t see any giraffes or elephants during my visit, but perhaps they were in the adjacent cubicle?

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We exited through the museum, which was freezing.  Maybe post parkrun chill had kicked in. This had an excellent photography exhibition on, and some fine statues.  If I hadn’t been a lightweight (novel concept for me) worrying about getting cold and driving back to Sheffield as storm Ciara kicked in I might have lingered longer.  Again, staff were friendly, and the interior immaculate and grandiose on an extraordinary scale.  Reet nice in fact.

I think the woman in the statue was emphasising a point about how annoying mansplaining is, but I guess all art speaks to the viewer in unique ways, so you can interpret as you wish.

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But, all good things come to an end.  This morning was no exception.  So we went back to the car, which still had loads of spaces by the way, and headed homewards, pausing only to take a snapshot of the chimney towering over the park as we exited.  It’s mahoosive indeed.

So thank you lovely Bradford parkrun people for your warm welcome and sharing your unexpectedly wonderful park.  This is definitely one I’d happily return to do again … were it not for the lure of all those other parkruns in the vicinity I have yet to run.  But thank you, hope our parkrun paths cross again soon.  Have fun til next time.

and remember how awesome you are, just for being part of the parkrun parkfun.  I’ve seen a sign just for you that proves it!

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Told ya!

🙂

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.  Your choice

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Nine is a magic number! East Park parkrun encompassing all the parkrun magic in one perfect park

Digested read:

parkrun tourism took me to Wolverhampton and East Park parkrun.  Bagsied my final compass point and got to run round their lovely park three times in order to do so.  It has a bandstand!  Job done.

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Undigested read:

First off, see what I did there with the title ….  ‘encompassing’ because it’s the last compass point I needed to get my Running Challenges virtual badge in order to join the compass club and get a little green icon to go on my running profile that no-one else will ever see!  Genius.  Look, well worth touristing for:

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Finally, it’s been a project.  There aren’t all that many compass point named parkruns, and those that are may lose their names in the great renaming of parkruns tide that is passing through parkrun, so the acquisition of the badge might yet be temporary.  Even so, I love the Running Challenges, as it helps choose which parkruns to visit, and because of it I’ve rocked up at far distant (to me from Sheffield) parkruns across the country that I might otherwise never have had cause to visit.  Had I not done so, my parkrun life would have been the poorer for such omissions.

Getting to compass point parkruns has been a bit of a challenge (well, clue is in the name Running Challenges perhaps) but despite that, it turns out that this has been a great more achievable than blooming parkrun bingo.  Honestly I’m on 241 runs and counting for that one, which is Stopwatch Bingo – all you need to do is ‘simply’ Collect all the seconds from 00 to 59 in your finishing times, I’ve been trying to get my last outstanding number – 20 for almost a year I think.  I am becoming embittered in between episodes of zen like calm where I try to pretend to myself I don’t really care, and it will happen when I least expect it. Which is NOT TRUE as it feels as if it will never, ever happen to me.  I should be so lucky eh…  Oh you shouldn’t have got  me started on topic, it doesn’t bring out the best in me.

Back to cheerier news, and happier thoughts, like my experience at East Park parkrun today.  Which was lovely.  Also, it calms me to acknowledge that really, achieving membership of  the compass club is by contrast to the pathetic and fickle idiosyncrasies element of chance which haunts and hinders acquisition of the stopwatch bingo badge, a mere formality.  The Compass Point badge requires attendance at just four parkruns, albeit ones scattered across the known parkrun universe.

I’d already done Southwark parkrun, Northallerton parkrun and Beverley Westwood parkrun, so just the Easterlies that had evaded me until today…  All had been great in their own ways, with both Southward and Northallerton involving props and fancy dress, and Beverley Westwood having the most fun mud course and cows.  What would East Park parkrun bring I wondered.  Up until recently – nine weeks ago to be precise, the nearest Easts were miles away, basically down on the East coast and not realistically doable in a day.  I was really pleased when East Park parkrun came on board, much more achievable as a tourist travelling from Sheffield.  I’ve been wanting to go for a while, but until today, it just never quite fell in to place. However, best things as they say, are worth waiting for, and so today was at last, the day.

Ironically, to get my East, travelling from Sheffield, I headed South West.  Didn’t mind, whatever it takes to get that elusive compass badge eh?  East Park parkrun here I come!  I was joining them for their ninth event. By the way, did you know nine is a magic number of cosmic wonder?  For example:

When you multiply nine by any number and add up the digits of the answer, you get 9.
Examples:
2 × 9 = 18  (1 + 8 = 9)
3 × 9 = 27  (2 + 7 = 9)
9 × 9 = 81  (8 + 1 = 9)
234 × 9 = 2106 (2 + 1 + 0 + 6 = 9)

See, most educational, and fun, there’s other stuff too, but you’ll have to read up about that for yourself as I want to get to the topic in hand, which is my adventures in East Park, not to be confused with South Park, which would have been truly surreal as a parkrun venue I’m guessing, not sure how much running goes on there.  The characters aren’t really built for it are they, I’m not sure their limbs have actual joints, mind you, I’d probably fit in just fine, I’d totally go there if it was an option to do so.

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The event takes place at East Park, Hickman Avenue, Wolverhampton ,WV1 2BS. See Course page for more details.  Oh all right then.  So the course, well, according to the official East Park parkrun website blah de blah it is described as:

Three laps around the perimeter of the park, starting near the Sutherland Road entry to the park near the bandstand and football pitch, and finishing by the bandstand at the centre of the park … Toilets available in the same building as the on-site cafe, free to use, and a children’s play area is close to the finish.t

Not overly complicated, and I like the idea of a bandstand too, that will be nice, not done a parkrun with a bandstand in ages.  Not over keen on three laps bit, but then again, more opportunity to wave at marshals on the way round I suppose.

And it looks like this:

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So it was, I was woken up at stupid o’clock by my alarm, blinking into the darkness.  What was I thinking?  Oh yes, parkrun day.  Up and off.  It was dark, and blustery but compared to wind speeds causing cancellation chaos elsewhere it was relatively benign.  It is a looooooooooong way to Wolverhampton though. Did you know Wolverhampton is a City by the way? I did, but it seems it’s news to some if the launch of the Town of the year’ competition in Wolverhampton is anything to go by… Technically, apparently Wolverhampton is eligible for towns funding if you want to be pedantic about the story, but even so…

Anyway, the cheapskate in me avoided toll roads going – not a bad move as the roads were clear, but it’s a convoluted drive, and I went wrong a couple of times along the way so was glad I’d allowed extra time.  At one point, the road I was planning on taking (A5) I think, was inexplicably closed, completely, with no indication why or any diversion signs.  Oh crappity crap crap.  I noticed the car ahead of me brake and hesitate on seeing this too, before moving on confidently.  I made a split second decision to follow them as they seemed to have a plan.  It turned out to be a good call, i have no idea where I went, and my satnav was furious with me in a passive aggressive way constantly telling me to u-turn when possible, but I ended up seeing signs to Wolverhampton and my Sat Nav came round to thinking East Park was in fact navigable from where we’d ended up.  It was nerve wracking though.  I don’t have a smart phone, so it wouldn’t have been easy to come up with a back-up plan. I was mightily relieved not to be in a hurry.  I did have a moment of insight though that such tourism trips are a kind of madness, it is too far to travel in a morning ‘just’ for a parkrun really.  … Except then afterwards, I feel that was totally worth it, and tortuous drives and early morning starts are long forgotten.  It is the parkrun tourist way!

It also looked like it would be a bit of a nightmare congestion wise on the return journey… As is often the case, just as I was losing confidence that I was in the right place, the satnav took me to the perimeter of East Park.  There were exceedingly magnificent gates which are the access point.  This is one impressive Victorian park, the gates were just the start.  Sorry the photos are all dark again, it was quite a dark morning to be fair, but also, my camera can’t seem to cope with those lighting conditions, nor indeed high vis or if it’s too sunny, so a bit rubbish really, but you’ll get the general idea, and maybe that will tempt you to go and find out for yourself.

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There was indeed loads of parking, including within the park, which is what I opted for after talking to a friendly marshal.  The only issue in parking inside, is that the park gates are locked for the duration of parkrun, i.e. until the tail walker has come through, for the safety of participants.  So you won’t make a quick getaway if you are a speedy runner.  However, that’s never an issue for me as the post parkrun faffery is part of the whole parkrun package as far as I’m concerned.

Parked up, I went for an explore.  I can report dear reader they have a community cafe building complete with lavatories and it’s open before parkrun.  Also, that parkrunner tourist in pink, she’s a hero.  Just saying.  The photo may be blurred, but her ethical code is crystal sharp.   Thank you for saving my parkrun day 🙂

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I availed myself of the facilities, but it nearly ended badly.  The person coming into the cubicle after me called out because I’d dropped my barcode wristband!  Oh the horror, I have spares, but even so, that could have gone horribly wrong, especially as it was apparently balanced precariously near the rim of the loo.  How she would have handled the situation if it had toppled in I’m not so sure, nor am I completely confident of what I would have done had the situation been reversed, you like to think you’ll do the right thing, but we mustn’t judge, if we haven’t experienced the full horror of that scenario for ourselves how can we ever really know?  If you’d seen a fellow parkrunners barcode wristband within, would you have plunged your arm in in a selfless retrieval manoeuvre, or turn a blind eye, do your ‘necessaries’ and flush, hoping desperately if wouldn’t be a floater (and for the record I think it probably would be) and so you’d be passing the problem down the line for the next cubicle user, who might think said wristband was yours!  Oh the horror!  Is it possible I over think things I wonder, I’m genuinely traumatised at the very thought…

Still, I was very relieved to be reunited with it.  Mysteriously though, I also lost a glove.  Only a cheap one with holes in the fingertips from where I’ve worn them gardening, but a blow all the same.  I have a horrible feeling I dropped it at same time as my wristband barcode as that must have come off when I took my gloves off.  I can’t help wondering if that did make its way down the toilet cistern and is even now the tipping point in creating a hooking up point for a fatberg to gestate in the sewers beneath Wolverhampton.  I really hope not, that would be a terrible legacy.  I shudder at the very thought…  Not felt similar levels of guilt since i lost a helium balloon on a milestone run.  Littering the countryside still.  I do litter pick, but I’ll never take a balloon outside again, the damage they do

Phew, have wristband barcode, will be parkrunning.  I saw little figures in hi-vis darting around the park with signs and cones and other parkrun paraphernalia, setting out the course, possibly via a quick go on the swings in the playground.

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It’s never a given whether you can find the start at a new parkrun destination, but here the bandstand provides an obvious focal point for gathering, and gather parkrunners a-plenty did.  176 to be precise, though it felt like more with lots of volunteers and supporters too.  It’s a newish parkrun obviously, but it all went extremely smoothly, and it seemed friendly, though a lot of people I spoke to were newbies too, either to East Park or to parkrun altogether – the latter of which is always really exciting I think!  Oh the joys that will now open up ahead of them, their Saturdays will never be the same again.

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There’s not an official bag drop, well there never is to be fair, but it seemed accepted practise to leave things alongside the bandstand area, but you could leave them near the finish funnel I suppose, or do as I saw others doing, and lob your worldly goods and successive outer layers of clothing at one of the marshals as you run by.  You get three goes at throwing things at any given marshal point, so that’s up to three extra layers you could potential rid yourself off on the way round.  I can’t promise they’ll all welcome it, or indeed that any of them necessarily have a good catch, but I noticed a couple of clothes horse marshals who seemed to have acquire whole jumble sale tables worth of stock by the end of the parkrun!  Probably more polite to avail yourself of this informal service if you are a known regular.

I don’t think there was a separate first timer’s briefing, if there was I missed it, but the Run Briefing was fairly thorough, and pleasingly easy to hear as it was delivered from on high.  It’s a brilliant venue for a parkrun, and definitely a boon for briefings to have that view from on high.  I must be getting old, well I am, but one manifestation of this is I’m getting so worn out by people who insist on talking or even shouting through run briefings I just don’t get it.  All attentive here though,  so that was good.  I was inspired to take a selfie, which I don’t normally, because they are so soul destroying when you see them later, but this one came out ok!

Usual thanks and shout outs during the briefing.  There was though a potentially awkward silence in response to the call out for ‘any milestoners here today?’  Fortunately, the silence was filled by a parkrunner who actually did her 50th last week, but forgot, so she got a massive cheer for being at her 51st.  I liked that, it was fun!a

After the briefing, there is a group migration to the start.  The start sign was definitely in motion, I’ve always had a sneaky suspicion that some parkruns are in the habit of shifting the end points of their parkrun (taking it further away just as it comes into view if you don’t keep an eye on things) but was surprised to see how brazen they were at the start here!  I quite like group walks to starts, it’s somehow companionable.  And it’s fun seeing everyone in all their colourful tops streaming out ahead.

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It really wasn’t very far, and we were soon all lined up next to the start banner, I noticed that they seem to be using the volunteer app at this parkrun, as the timers had their mobile phones all primed and ready to go.  I tried to get a photo of the start, but it was rubbish, so I’ve stolen one from their facebook page which reflects the set up way better, look:

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Here are mine by way of comparison, pitiful I know.

I rest my case.

I slotted in somewhere towards the back.  The paths are wide, and although it’s a three lapper, it didn’t feel crowded, and as long as you basically kept leftish there was plenty of room for faster runners to overtake.   It’s all tarmac paths, and pretty much flat I’d say, well certainly by Sheffield standards, a few bumps maybe.   A good cross section of runners, but a fair few who I think were new to running or first timers, so it felt like an inclusive event.  A scattering of tourists identifiable by the cow cowls, and local running clubs and national informal groups like Run Mummy Run.  Lots of parkrun apricot and milestone tees too, so plenty of people who’ve been running elsewhere before East Park parkrun came into being.

I liked the route.  There’s lots to look at. This is a mature and well managed space.  Some of the trees are huge and must be pretty old.  The gateway I’ve already mentioned, but there are other features too like exercise equipment, and different views of the bandstand.  It’s not dull at all.  Best of all, there are fab marshals to cheer you round.  I try not to have favourites obviously, but I have a soft spot for the two next to the zebra crossing at the gates.  The gates were safely locked now, no escaping from this route.  I like to think they don’t unlock them until they know every finish token has been accounted for at the conclusion of the run.  These marshals were pleasingly interactive, and seemingly having a good time too.  Also, I just love the idea of runners responsibly running over the zebra crossing, no jaywalking here.  Although I was slightly disappointed not to be able to capture a foursome doing a better recreation of the iconic Beatles Abbey Road crossing.  This is the best I could do.  Remember dear reader, sometimes it’s the thought that counts.

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Because you go round in a complete circle, you get to see how the light changes everything in the park.  There were some lovely moments, when I turned a corner and suddenly from being all overcast and gloomy, the sun was pouring through a gap in the trees and it looked genuinely gorgeous, and felt quite erm, countrysidey even, which is weird as it is most definitely within a very urban setting, surrounded by roads and adjacent to an industrial park.

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See, lovely!

And I liked it when you head up the mini hill and into the trees – taking up the high five option if you wish on the way through.  Personally, I never pass up the opportunity for such a power boost, always appreciated, thank you marshal!

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At the end of the first circuit, you go past a guard of honour, as the RD and his entourage, who would be moving up to the finish funnel area in due course, are cheering runners round. This was excellent.  I do like a squad of cheerleaders en route. Just a bit of what I hope will be recognised as constructive feedback, they maybe could have done with a couple of those enormous pom poms to shake at us, and possibly co-ordinated leotards and legwarmers might be an idea further down the line.  Basically the workshop dance outfits worn by the original cast of the FAME TV series would be about right in my opinion, but on the whole, great effort!  Seriously, loved that, it gave a welcoming and enthusiastic vibe, and I got a sense of a team that worked together well and was sharing the parkrun love.  Thank you team!

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before you know it, you are romping round the back of the bandstand again.  And past where it all began and there is a handy ‘caution runners’ side, to alert other park users to the shenanigans unfolding in the vicinity, not because runners are especially dangerous or unpredictable as far as I’m aware.

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Round again, this time noting the formidable looking exercise equipment at intervals if you fancied doing some cross training at any point.  Maybe at the end of the run rather than in the middle of it, but your call, as long as you make the tail walkers aware I suppose – high fives still available for lap two…

and then I took what I think was among my favourite shots of the day:

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I think because that’s very much how the park was.  Good tarmac path, lots of parkrunners doing what parkrunners do and flanked by amazing tall trees in a green oasis amidst houses and industry.  A proper parkrun.

As a more, erm, sedate runner, I got to pass the finish area again when it was very much in full working order.  It was fun watching the speedier finishers being cheered on through, and I was impressed at the patient queueing and good order in evidence in the finish funnel.  No funnel ducking here!

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Ding ding, round three.  It had thinned out by now, just me and a few others romping round, that meant we got the undivided attention of marshals as we passed them. It’s great for your self esteem to be cheered as you go about your parkrunning business.  Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we whooped and cheered each other in all contexts, just for being there and giving it a go?  Such a shame that to routinely big up your colleagues with enthusiastic shout outs every time they contributed to a planning meeting say, would have you sidelined and marked down as eccentric at the very least.  Unsolicited praise and celebration of just being part of something should be welcome anywhere.  Maybe this feelgood influence gave me the confidence to take a mid-run selfie.  Not something I generally do, but it came out ok, I’d even go so far as to say I’m quite pleased with it!  No wonder I look so surprised…

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This was a noticeably supportive parkrun I’d say.  I don’t know if that’s because its new and enthusiastic, or a reflection on the ethos they’ve set or just that as a smallish parkrun they know one another but I got lots of support.  Departing runners who’d finished clapped others still on their way round, overtaking runners called out supportive comments, and it’s the only parkrun I’ve been too in a very, very long time, where I could actually hear the whoops of encouragement being generated in the finish funnel area from the other side of the park!  No really, I’m not even exaggerating for comedic effect!  Very impressive, and from my perspective at least, very much appreciated too.  Thank you lovely marshals all.  Here are some, being lovely.

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Eventually, following the noise of wildly cheering parkrun supporters I was in sight of the finish funnel, and off I went.  Is that a familiar face I see alongside?  Still can’t stop now

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Except I can, because I’ve now started stopping to capture a shot of finish funnels just before I go through. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t put the brakes on if I was in front of other parkrunners, I do check first.  However,  it’s quite fun getting that picture and then sprinting on through.  I mean look how encouraging they all are:

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and through I went.  The only problem was, that my stop before the funnel did create some confusion as I then went through ‘oh are you actually running then?’ queried the timer, it’s doesn’t reflect well on my levels of running effort that this wasn’t immediately evident, but no worries, timer was clicked and situation quickly rectified.  Time to snap the volunteers as I passed through though:

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I got confused (doesn’t take much) about where the scanners were, because I was looking for people with lanyards and the (now) old fashioned scanners, but it’s all mobile phones here, and the Run Director was multi-tasking as a scanner, so he did the honours.

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and then that was that.  All over,  lovely!

There were still parkrunners coming through so I lingered and loitered a while soaking up the scene, it’s a very picturesque parkrun, love the trees that frame shots and the bandstand.  You can see them sorting and counting the finish tokens back in as well.  Team work again, loving the team work.

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And whilst loitering, good news, here was indeed a familiar face!  My new best friend from Delamere parkrun on New Year’s Day. She’d been wearing a sash to mark running her 50th parkrun, and now here she was, sporting the actual milestone tee!  How fabulous is that, and what were the chances.  Her regular parkrun is Isabel Trail parkrun, which has been cancelled for flooding for what seems like weeks now. I was quite lucky I chose to run it when I did.  I was really impressed how quickly she got her t-shirt.  Result, and worthy of a photograph methinks, you can compare and contrast.  She’s the one in the red milestone 50 tee, in case you are suffering from any confusion.  Well done – grand to cross parkrun tourism paths once again!

and that was that.  Nothing left but the post event clean up.

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I investigated the cafe for post run options.  I bought a coffee to take away, which was only a pound, and to which they added milk to my exact requirements from a rather elegant metal milk jug.  However, there was nothing vegetarian so I didn’t stay.  Quite a few did though, and it looked good value if somewhat restricted, think generous sausage and egg sandwiches on sliced bread and instant coffee.  Friendly though, and seemed cosy.  I noticed signs to other cafes on the adjacent industrial estate too, so I think there are lots of choices.

Then time to go home.  Always sad to say goodbye.  It’s too far for me to realistically come back up, but it is one that I’d happily return to.  This parkrun definitely scores above average points for its welcoming vibes and vocal en route support.  Honestly, I’ve never experienced such sustained cheering at a finish, I think they made every participant feel like a champion!  Quite right too on one level, all parkrunners are awesome, but even so, a brilliant experience. Thank you 🙂 .  From a tourist perspective it is also particularly brilliant that it has pre parkrun car parking and peeing equally well catered for.  Phew.  Oh the relief, in every sense.

Home, and I didn’t fancy battling the route I came so opted for the M6 toll route, fondly imagining it would be £1 or so.  In fact it was £4.20!  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!  However, it was fun as a new experience for me, empty well maintained roads with no litter, and when you go through the toll booth thingy, you get to feel like you are in the starting blocks for whacky races, so I enjoyed the novelty of that. That’s a lot though, way more than I expected.  I’d rather have spent the money supporting the cafe in East Park, but then again I couldn’t so I only spent what would otherwise have gone on breakfast I suppose…

Verdict then?

Totally worth it.  What do you mean what about the stupidly long drive and getting up in the middle of the night?  The event delivered in it’s own right, and getting East was but the icing on the cake!

So yes, it’s shallow, but now my badges look like this.  Check out that Compass Point top middle(ish).  Totally yay!

compass new badge

So thank you East Park parkrun for your warm and vocal welcome, your excellent nomenclature which lured me over to you in the first place, and to everyone who was there today contributing to making the parkrun magic happen.  You are all superstars.

🙂

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.  Your choice.

#loveparkrun

 

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Nailing Northwich parkrun, double done! parkrun yay!

Digested read:  Did New Year’s Day Double today, staring at Delamere parkrun and then topping it off here at Northwich parkrun.  Very welcoming gathering, thanks for having me.  The End.

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Undigested read:

If you want to linger, I can oblige.  Hereafter follows the unexpurgated version of my Northwich parkrun immersive experience.  Enjoy or not as you wish, but remember if you choose to read on, you do so at your own risk, and so are guilty at the very least of contributory negligence if you reach the end and regret the minutes of your life you can never now recover.  Harsh, but true.

Right then, as long as we are clear, I’ll press on.

New Year’s Day Double for parkrun.  Are you with me so far?  This is the special parkrun dispensation which means for one day only, you can run not one, but TWO parkruns on the same day, and have them recorded.  Subject to logistics and parkruns available in your area. I know, fabulous!  Great start to the decade.  Or not, depending on whether or not you think the decade ended at midnight on 31  Dec 2019 or will end on 31 Dec 2020.  I opt for the former, though concede the logic of the later if you are interested at all.

So, I’d already spent a morning at Delamere parkrun before heading over to Northwich.  You can read my account of Delamere parkrun on New Year’s Day too here if you like.  Doing a parkrun double has become something of a tradition for me. This is the fourth year I’ve done it, though I did miss a year when working overseas – never been more homesick.  However, it was a first for me to go quite so far afield from my home base of Sheffield.  Apologies, but I’d never even really heard of Northwich parkrun before, it just popped up as an option when I was perusing New Year’s Day doable Double challenges based on my speed, and preference for off road and one lap courses.  Delamere parkrun seemed a great option, and they seemed to have teamed up with Northwich so rude not to combine the two really.

I did do a bit of research in advance, not over much, just enough to satisfy myself that there would be a reasonable amount of parking as I expected to be one of the later arrivals there.  Also I did have a quick gander at the official parkrun website where I discovered the blah de blah on the Northwich parkrun describes the course thus:

Course Description
The course explores the hidden Northwich Woodland whilst following the River Weaver. There is a mixture of both path and trail ground consisting of a small loop and a larger loop with views of Neumanns Flashes. The course ends near Old Marbury Road giving a short warm down walk back to the car park.

Fair does.  Didn’t altogether enlighten me, but as long as it isn’t 5 laps of a cross country field it’ll be grand.

Facilities
There are no toilets on the course, however the nearest toilets are located at Asda Barons Quay approximately 200 metres away.

Whoa, hang on, what horror is this?  Fortunately, forewarned is forearmed, I can attend to that prior to arrival.  Hopefully.

And it looks like this:

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which is basically very confusing.  Still, no worries, I’ll just do what I always do and follow everyone else.  And yes, that probably does mean I’d follow a gang of parkrunners pretty much anywhere, including over the edge of a cliff, because I am trusting of other parkrunners.  Also, to be fair, I’m quite slow, so even if such a strategy was ill-advised, trundling along at the back I’d land softly on the pile of previously landed strewn parkrunners, so it’d be fine.  It usually is all alright in the end in my experience, particularly if you take the view that if it isn’t fine, then it can’t be the end.  I find this logic helpful!  You can adopt it too if you like.  You’re welcome. 🙂

So I completed my parkrun at the delectable Delamere, and joined the convoy of cars making their way over to Northwich.  Ira can report that along the way, I spotted little hardy gaggles of parkrunners sprinting between the two venues.  Impressive, and no, they weren’t in need of a lift, they were doing it for fun and deliberately.  Hard though it may be to comprehend, I remind myself that I found the whole concept of parkrun mysterious and incomprehensible before I became a participant, and now I understand the intoxicating buzz of  parkrun day and the importance of respecting everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  Also, if I had the speed I can see the appeal of doing longer distances, it’s just not really a viable option for me, unless I ran between two different parkruns on two consecutive weeks perhaps – which might actually be a great way to do a UK run trip now I come to think of it.  One day maybe, one day.

Passing previously referenced parkrunners gave me confidence that I should be in time for the start of Northwich parkrun. I had told myself that in the worst case scenario I’d do a freedom run if I couldn’t catch up with the tail walker, and that would be ‘fine’, but in my heart of hearts I know if I hadn’t been able to finish and get a time I’d have inwardly sobbed buckets and outwardly adopted a pained expression of matyrdom whilst fighting back hot bitter tears railing at the awfulness of my plight.  Hoping now this wouldn’t be necessary, I followed the post code given on their info page – CW9 5LQ which was to take me to the Cumberland car park adjacent to the parkrun venue which is Carey Park.

Can’t lie, the approach to Northwich parkrun does suffer a bit by direct comparison to Delamere parkrun.  You are no longer amidst misty forest scapes, but in an urban sprawl, picking your way through a labyrinth of concrete superstores and rather more mini roundabouts than you might think strictly necessary.  However, on the plus side, lots of car parks.  Lots of spaces.  I was delighted when I spotted a queue of parkrunners waiting to get the car parking tickets and just pulled up and parked immediately alongside them.  I set about silently congratulating myself for my extraordinary deductive skills that would have pleased Jessica Fletcher and Miss Marple alike – did you know Jessica Fletcher is a parkrun tourist by the way?  She has a cow cowl, plus she’s jogging in the opening sequence, in fact she’s often out jogging, quite a committed runner I’d say…  Not sure which parkruns these pictures are at, but they could be American ones.

Unfortunately, my marvelling at my own genius and self congratulatory mood was short lived, as the awful consequences of the queue became apparent.  Now, car parking here was cheap – only a £1 for a whole day, that’s good. There was ample parking too.  Also good.  Not good, only one of four ticket machines was working, and they were the most ridiculously officious, complicated, non-intuitive machines to operate.  Every single parkrunner had to learn how to use it.  You had to put in your registration number, which not everyone knew off hand, so that was quite stressful, and if you were paying by card, you also had to input a pin number for that, and it too ages and ages.  Probably a minute for each person in the queue, and although I’d arrived at 10.15 for a 10.30 start, and you could almost see the start from where we were, it wasn’t looking good.  It was also the most depressingly fly-tipped and littered car park I’d ever seen*.  Not the best first impression.  I’d rather have paid double or even triple the amount, and them use the money to maintain the place. It was really sad…

*update*  I’ve been advised this was not typical, but an informal camp of some sort popped up in the car park over new year, so don’t be deterred dear reader, it may well be pristine when you appear!

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On the plus side, this is England and we do love a queue.  Also, parkrunners are very good at staying in order in queues on account of all the practise we have staying in order in the finish funnel. What’s more, it was long enough to make new friends and consider strategies.  Some bailed entirely, going with the ‘surely no-one will ticket us on New Year’s Day’ philosophy.  Bold I feel.  Speaking as someone who has been ticketed at a parkrun despite having a valid ticket because it wasn’t clearly enough displayed I presume no leniency or leeway with car park attendants.  Someone else who’d been stung with a £100 or possibly 100 euro fine in I think Denmark, for not knowing how to set his parking meter correctly during a 7 minute supermarket stop was like me more cautious.  His track record was pretty poor – he’d apparently also been stung for buying a ticket from a machine which issued a ticket which actually said ‘this ticket machine is out of order’ and so was fined despite not realising that’s what it said.  He’s not like Dracula, he can’t absorb the language of a new country by drinking the blood of its population even if that was either the parkrun way or a socially acceptable thing to do.  Don’t you think the new BBC Dracula adaptation is super scary by the way?  Can’t wait for the next episode, though I will be sure to have a couple of cushions handy to hide behind on stand by…  Funny and appropriately camp too, love it!

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Spare non-driving parkrunners were despatched to check other ticket machines really weren’t working.  They weren’t, but at least sending them off and waiting for them to come and report back broke the tedium by providing some enrichment for us queuers.  Some of the faster parkrunners sent slower one’s off ahead on the basis they’d be more likely to catch up the tail if required.  I started off relaxed about the whole thing, but weirdly got increasingly stressed the closer I got to the front of the queue.  I was also near paralysed by performance anxiety when it came to operating the ticket machine.  Oh the pressure to get it right speedily first time!  It was worse than having someone watch me parallel park!  Fortunately dear reader, my fellow parkrunners were a compassionate and supportive lot, talking me through it and reassuring me it would all be fine.

I got my ticket, and it was on the dashboard at 10.29.  Phew.  I sprinted across to the start, through the distinctive iron gates with the torn apart ladybird, over the bridge with the strange industrial pipework and joined the back of the parkrun crowd wondering vaguely if that person hanging around might be… no, probably not.

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I was still wearing my fleece.  I contemplated leaving it in the car, but then someone said that there was a trolley at the start where you could dump stuff, and it got wheeled to the finish which was some distance away.  It was heaving with people, I couldn’t find any trolley.  I’d missed the first timers’ briefing, but not the main one.  Phew.  I felt very lucky to have made it by the skin of my teeth.  You know what, also, I didn’t need a precautionary pee. Whether this was because I’d already sweated out excess fluid at Delamere, or because I was running late it just hadn’t occurred to me I don’t know.  Either way, I was just relieved not to need relieving.  Phew.  I think a lot of it is psychological for me…  Sorry, you probably didn’t need to know that.  Some of you will be interested though, for women of a certain age it’s an exceedingly common topic of parkrun conversation and a top priority in planning tourism!  For future reference though, with that many shops around, as long as you were in time I’m sure you’d find a pee point somewhere.

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It had a very friendly feel.  There were lots of familiar faces from Delamere just less than an hour before.  I asked a marshal about the trolley, and she confirmed it was around somewhere, but she couldn’t leave her spot as she was designated dog poo monitor, and was standing guard over a very impressive mound of faecal matter.  Apparently, they normally have bags for this purpose, but she couldn’t find them, so she’d taken on the role with good grace.  That dear reader is above and beyond, and should surely merit it’s very own running challenges virtual badge were it not for the fact that such an emblem might be seen as in poor taste.   Maybe it falls within the category of ‘other’ but that hardly seems adequate recognition.  Hi vis hero, I thank you!

Not since Frickley Country parkrun have I been at a parkrun with so much dog poo around the start area.  It seems a risk for parkruns that are near the entrance points for parks and near to car parking spaces.  My new year’s resolution to be non-judgemental and just delightful to everyone was already creaking under the pressure to offer good will to people who fly tip and people who let their dogs crap everywhere.  Fortunately, the prospect of a parkrun always raises the spirits.  Just mind where you put your feet if you are going.

The Run Director gave an enthusiastic briefing.  Asking for a cheer from those who’d already run a parkrun today, and another from those who’d run between the two!  There was a surprisingly loud cheer from the latter group, you’d have thought they’d have been all out of spare breath for cheering with after all that running around.

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I found out later that the gold baton was passed on at this parkrun too.  Strictly speaking the Leeds Building Society Golden Baton Relay has finished, but it’s fun it is carrying on unofficially I think. It had come all the way from Denmark apparently.   It’s the Big Community Relay thingamajig.  I’ve also seen one when I was at Cusworth Hall parkrun, I wonder how long they’ll carry on travelling for.  There were a few…

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Because I’d only just made it in time, and I couldn’t find the trolley, the call for off went up as I was still in my fleece.  I suppose I could have taken it off and tied it round my waist, but you know what, I was a bit chilled what with having worked up a sweat during round one at Delamere, so decided to run in it. This would never have been permitted at my home run, as I have parkrunning ‘friends’ who are dedicated to ensuring I remove excess clothing prior to a run.  However, they’ll never find out I reasoned, so off I trotted.

I say ‘off I trotted’ but the start was very congested.  I put myself right at the back, and it was a big turn out.  The path has fencing or hedging on either side, and although it’s not exactly narrow, it isn’t really ideal for almost 500 parkrunners heading off at the same time.  Again, you couldn’t overtake, and just had to go with the flow, which pleases me.  It was nice to watch the colourful thread of runners ahead, like bunting, following the curve of the fence line and heading on up a little hill.  I hadn’t really got my head around the route at all, so it was all going to be a surprise.  Good oh.

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As before, I settled into a bit of a stop start pace, running for a bit, stopping to take some pictures and then running off again, and it became clear there were some others at a similar pace, some of whom I’d already met.  It turned out to be quite an unexpectedly social morning. The marshals were, naturally, all excellent, and many were in the company of a canine assistant or more probably superviser.

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Scenery and terrain wise, this parkrun was maybe a bit more coy in revealing its treasures than its near neighbour of Delamore.  Obviously at this time of year the vegetation has died right back, and it was a gloomy day.  However, a lot of love has gone into creating this space.  There are waterways, and hedgerows, and sheep grazing.  Rushes and grassland providing lots of habitat for invertebrates, and industrial features like iron bridges providing an added dimension of interest. It’s probably more obviously picturesque in spring, but lots to enjoy today, even a grey day.  I really liked the details of ironwork on bridges, depicting birds and insects.  You also get quite a mix of terrain, some undulations, some mud – always a hit – and lots to look at.  Not least other parkrunners.  There is also a more industrial backdrop, with factories and the shopping mall surrounding the green oasis of the park.  It gives the place a very distinct character I think, and is a space to be treasured.

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The marshals all seemed in good spirits, and were appropriately encouraging.  Turns out some of these marshals were voice activated too, just like the ones at Delamer, they livened up noticeably when spoken to.  I murmured to one something about it being an ‘unexpectedly lovely venue’ and then wondered if that sounded a bit rude.  Oh well, I can apologise later.  They were all also exceptionally photogenic, I think it’s because they radiate parkrun positivity, always a good look to be rocking!  There was also a very nice robin, but I don’t know if it is always at the same spot.  Might be though, they are very territorial after all…

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Check out the bridges though.  Lots, each unique in its own way.

You could say the same of the marshals, though I didn’t specifically ask them about their iron workings, nice hats though:

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There was one slightly unexpected road bit, it’s very short, but you go out and then turn around a cone – they have blue cones here, not seen them before – and come straight back.  Pleasingly, this meant you get to pass other parkrunners, so that’s quite social.  Also, and I apologise, because I know you shouldn’t really have favourites, if you have your wits about you, you’ll espy the best marshal hat of the morning.  I doubt the other marshals will begrudge this, though there were other worthy contenders in evidence, I think this one wins by a whisker because it is so context appropriate, and more practical than an actual plastic cone on the head, don’t you agree?  All headgear sported though was very much appreciated by me at least, I do like a good hat.

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As is my way, I had absolutely no idea where I was until I spotted a familiar marshal coming round again and deduced I was homeward bound.  I also spotted a fellow tourist, who I recognised from some vague parkrun somewhere else who was running counter to the rest of us doing a warm down I think.  Hoped so, wouldn’t have wanted to be told I’d been running the wrong way for the whole previous 4.9k or whatever!

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The end again appears suddenly, round a corner.  I was amongst the last home, but can report it was a cheery and enthusiastic welcome from accomplished marshals keeping order at the end.  Fine hats here too. In fact, I’m sure I’ve seen that orange and white stripy bobble hat* somewhere before…  loving the jester one as well.

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I thanked the timers and said how much I’d enjoyed the run, because I had and she said ‘what really?’  I said.  ‘Yes’. And she said ‘because someone else just said they had, and when I said really?  They said ‘no’.’ I said ‘well, how very rude!’ because it is.  Though it might be they were referring to the act of running after a night before rather than the parkrun venue I suppose.  I know though I feel quite defensive of my own home parkrun, I recognise it has its foibles and its failings, but its still my home run and where it (for me at least) all began.  Anyway, this was a fine parkrun.  It was super friendly and enthusiastic, well organised and coped with extraordinary numbers.  In fact, this was a record breaking parkrun I gather.

It’s becoming  a bit of a habit for me of late to collect record breaking runs, I was at Bushy parkrun for their record Christmas Day attendance of 2545.  That was pretty cool, hobnobbing with parkrun royalty.  Paul and JOanne were lucky to hang out with me as I’m daughter of Elisabeth of Elisabeth’s corner fame, just so you know…

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then this second record breaking performance was 474 runners, smashing their previous record attendance by four!  Wow, that’s basically the beatles, or ABBA, or maybe even Little Mix, though to be fair the only celebrity I spotted today was Imran Ali (it’s a Parkrun Discussion Facebook Group thing, I’m not a member, bit toxic for me at times, but I am a hypocrite stalker of it, so not gonna lie, know who he is).  For those not in the know, I’d say basically parkrun Selfie King.  Fact.  Undisputed.

Mind you, all parkrunners are winners, so place was heaving with excellence to be fair.  Northwich even beat Delamere parkrun’s attendance (on the day) for the first time ever, but it would be rude and churlish to draw attention to that now wouldn’t it?

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Where was I?  I got distracted, just as I was getting to the finish.  So I’m at the finish, and I got to linger and chat to my newly acquired parkrun friends from the morning.  One of ‘With me now‘  world tourist fame, so that’s good, and a fine selfie gift too, of which I am a beneficiary here:

Liz world tourist and me

but posed with other friends too for good measure – and did the obligatory selfie frame thing with some directorial input this time and hence more success than earlier!  Look carefully, and you will see jester hatted man in the back of the frame.  I choose to believe he is doing a classy bit of photo bombing there, and not just frantically waving at a friend. Loving your work!

The tailwalker came in, here demonstrating the newly requisitioned emergency barcodes issued too.  Like I said, a record breaking run!

Northwich tailwalker

And then that was that, time to go home.  It was a fair old walk back to the carpark, not miles and miles by any means, but far enough I was exceedingly glad of my fleece.  This is another parkrun that has attention to detail, and they’d put some arrow signs in to direct you back to the carpark and town centre.

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Bye bye for now Northwich parkrun, it’s been grand, thanks for a fabulous finish to a double dose of parkrun fun.  You were awesome.  Most hospitable, I’m so happy I chose you!

I’m also rather hoping given my effusive comments, you won’t mind that I’ve lifted some of your fine photos from your Facebook page?  Thanks in anticipation, you parkrun folks are the best EVER!

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So there we go.  Sadly, the best things come to an end.  On the plus side, not many sleeps til it’s parkrun day all over again, so mustn’t grumble eh?  parkrunday, that day formerly known as Saturday, sigh.  And if you really can’t be without parkrun til then, you can always top up with some parkrun related podcasts.  I’ve only recently discovered these, have you?

Check out: independent parkrun-based podcast “With Me Now” with parkrun Veterans and uber-tourists Danny Norman and Nicola Forwood, or there is always the official parkrun podcast “Free Weekly Timed“, with Vassos Alexander and Helen Williams.  Both are a great way to keep up to date with what is going on in the wider parkrun world, and extend the parkrun joy beyond a Saturday morning.  Or, if you are in reflective mood, you could peruse Paul’s review of the 2019 parkrun year.  Why not.

Before I go though, can I just finish with some pleasing parkrun UK stats trawling which inform us that:

📣 COMPLETELY USELESS RANDOM STAT KLAXON 🚨

Around the world, 101 parkrunners completed a parkrun on New Year’s Day in a time of 20:20 ⏱️

This pleases me.  Well done all.  If one of those runners had been me, not only would I have entered a parallel universe where I could run sub 21 let alone sub 35, I’d also have secured my last remaining parkrun Bingo number.  I’ve been after it for nearly a year now, possibly longer.  I have learned I do not possess a zen like countenance.  Then again, you should be careful what you wish for, once I do finally get it, it will probably feel something of an anti-climax.  Such is often the way…

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 washing your hair or laying out your parkrun kit for Saturday or whatever, your time, your priorities.

That’s all folks.

I wish you happy parkrunning and other adventures in 2020.  Be kind to yourself.

🙂

Oh, and at risk of repeating myself to my regular reader, but not wanting my one off visitor to miss out, I learn from the most amazing creation and stats cruncher that I was one of 203 who made that particular double. Check it out for yourself on this fab stats New Year’s Day Double tracker.  Go on, treat yourself, have a browse.   Bit of a time vampire, but soooooooooooooo worth it!

google doubles

I don’t know too much about where this originated from but found this credit:

A map showing the parkrun ‘doubles’ that people managed on New Year’s Day 2020. The map is based on parkrun results, so may include errors where e.g. names have been manually entered. Unticking the Events layer makes the doubles more easy to see. Huge thanks to Ian Rutson for providing the base data. Please share freely!

And ‘with me now‘ say ‘Thanks to Charlie Pearce for creating the visualisation and Ian Rutson for supplying the data’ which is good enough for me!

– whatever wizardry created it though, respect!  There’s even an international one from Australia to Canada!  Hope some carbon offsetting went on…

Here’s to parkrunning adventures anew for 2020!

*EXCITING UPDATE REGARDING CONE HATS

They are a thing apparently a recent Northwich parkrun Facebook post states that:

We have received many comments on our “cone hats” and many of you may be wondering what it’s all about 🤷🏼‍♀️

One of our Run Directors, John, came up with the fantastic idea to raise funds for the North West Air Ambulance Charity following the support they provided when we sadly said goodbye to Terry out on our course last year.

To date, by either producing or providing kits to make the hats, John and the Northwich parkrun volunteers have managed to donate £232.50!

A fantastic idea in Terry’s memory!

So now we know.  Nice hats, nice gesture.

northwich cone hats

 

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Delightful Dalliances at Delamere parkrun. Kicking of the NYDD parkrun challenge for 2020

Digested read: Early start and off to Delamere parkrun for my first of two parkruns for New Year’s Day.  It was very nice thank you for asking, and a most excellent way to start a new decade.

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Undigested read:

You want more?  Or maybe you just don’t want to face all those labours you’d been putting off doing until after the festive season had concluded, satisfactorily or otherwise.  Well, if you want quantity rather than quality, to assist you in your procrastination feel free to settle down with a hot beverage of your choosing and relive the parkrun adventures offered up by Delamere parkrun, kicking off 2020 in style.

You probably already know all about the parkrun New Year’s Day Double offerings.  In case inexplicably you do not, perhaps because very excitingly you are new to parkrun and have all those parkrunning related adventures still to unfold before you like a great red carpet of joy if you just choose to step on it, let me enlighten you.  Basically, parkrun 5k takes place on a Saturday.  However, each country that hosts parkrun is allowed one ‘special’ extra day – in the UK it’s Christmas Day, when they can put on an extra run because it’s a fabulously fun thing to do.  Better still, on New Year’s Day only, parkruns can not only put on an extra run, but it is the one day in the whole year when parkrunners can – if they wish and local logistics allow – take part in two parkruns and have them both recorded. This creates the dizzying possibility of parkrunners galavanting around en masse in local parkrun migrations.  I’ve done it a few times now, and it’s really good fun.  Stay local and you’ll meet all your local parkrun buddies, go further afield and you get a snapshot of other parkrun communities.

To aid and abet in the planning for New Year’s Day are various fabulous gizmos.  On a purely practical level, there is the official parkrun Christmas Compendium, listing all declared extra parkrun events with their timings, complete with explanatory text as follows:

This page shows events who have declared that they’re staging an extra event on Christmas Day and/or New Year’s Day. Please see the event’s own news page for more details. Note that some events choose to operate New Year events at a different times from usual. A red cross means that the team has declared that an event will not take place. A blank box means that the team has not yet decided whether an event will take place.  On Christmas Day you can register one result. On New Year’s Day we allow the option to register up to two results.

And that’s great, as a starting point.  However, the game changing gizmo I planned my 2020 exploits with is one which uses some technological wizardry to help you work out what’s possible for you, based on your estimated running time and location of origin on the morning. Check it out here – it even covers other parkrun countries.  It’s a fun adventure, whether you do one or two, nice way to start off 2020.  Initially, my plan was to stay local, and then it dawned on me that if I was game for an early start, there was nothing really stopping me from venturing further afield.  Roads would be clear, and I am a nobby no-mates who wasn’t planning on seeing in the new year anyway.  I pored over this tool for ages and ages.  Far longer than anyone other than a fellow parkrunner would deem reasonable.  I am a slow parkrunner so needed generous timings, and also parkrun number two needed to have good parking options in order that I avoided pre-parkrun panic.  One lappers and scenic locations preferred.  Not grass please, and not too much tarmac.  And as I’d be setting off too early to see any ‘on the day’ notifications, parkruns that wouldn’t be too susceptible to last minute cancellations.   I know, demanding aren’t I.  Amazingly, I managed to whittle down options to Delectable Delamere parkrun, followed by Notable Northwich parkrun.  They both looked lovely, and what’s more, were working together to facilitate doing both.  Yep, also Delamere is in a wooded area, and that sounds lovely.

For those of you who like to know this sort of thing, according to the official Delamere parkrun website, the course is described thus:

Course Description
The course starts from just past Old Pale car park, which is on the left a hundred yards past Linmere Visitor Centre. Coming out of the car park and turning left you will see the parkrun start just before a path branches off to the right. Heading down this path you will then turn right up a short hill at marker post 65. Crossing the train line and bearing left you will then turn right at marker post 66. At marker point 62 you will go straight ahead and then, upon reaching marker post 61, you will turn left onto the lakeside path. Keeping Blakemere on your right-hand side you will be treated to stunning views of the lake as you complete one full lap before re-tracing your steps back to the start.

Oh.  Not really any the wiser.  No worries, never stopped me from taking part in a parkrun before.  There’ll be friendly marshals, there’ll be other people who have thought to do parkrun to start the year too.  I can follow them. It’ll be fine, what’s the worst?

The worst that can happen apart from forgetting your barcode, is finding the toilets shut. Oh hang on, they will be according to the Delamere parkrun facebook page.  All very informative and welcoming and encouraging of double doers, but nope, no loos.  Hopefully there will be at least one tree in case of emergencies.  Oops.  Al fresco it may have to be…  Or is it al dente?  I get them confused.  Anyway, the course looks like this:

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Ok, just basically, try not to fall in the lake I’m guessing.  Yep, it’ll be grand.

So, I set my alarm for stupid o’clock, and lo, it rang out, and despite having felt like I’d passed another night awake throughout with insomnia, it seems I was jolted awake  as it from the slumber of the dead wondering where I was and what was going on!  No matter, it was extra parkrun TWICE day, so I soon recovered.  Coffee, dressed, and out the door, in darkness.  The streets were pretty deserted, just a few party-goers heading home, from Sheffield to Cheshire involves going over the Snake Pass.  I was a bit of a scaredy cat about this, as you get crazy drivers there and blind bits where you feel like you are going over the edge of the world up top.  Fortunately, it was an incident free drive, and by the time I started seeing signs to Delamere Forest I was feeling VERY excited by the scenery.  It had a tolkienesque feel to it, mysterious, misty woods, with early morning light creating shadows, and a strange expanse of other – worldly lake.  I could feel my inner smugness quotient rising pleasingly.  I had chosen well.

I headed for the postcode for the Old Pale Car Park – which is just past the Linmere Visitor Centre and used the postcode CW8 2JD on sat nav to get there.  Which worked.  Hurrah.  Yes I did have to stop twice on the way for precautionary pee purposes.  Once in a 24 hour garage, and once in a layby.  Don’t judge.  

The car park was due to be open at 8.00 a.m. but when I arrived a bit after that, alarmingly it was very much shut.  The only reassurance was that there were already a couple of cars hovering around, each containing within one or more parkrun tourists looking similarly angsty.  We emerged from our respective vehicles wondering what to do, and feeling thwarted, also unsure, because everything had looked so very shut the whole way in, and there didn’t look to be much in the way of other options anywhere near – plus where was the core team?  Yep, we were early, but often event teams are earlier still, had we got it wrong somehow?  One had come straight from a night shift and planned to go on to Crewe afterwards, we’d all come in search of a parkrun double. Good news was that we bonded over our shared uncertainty, and gleaned reassurance from each other, we were in the right place, and the Facebook page had declared the car parks would be open, so we just had to keep the faith.  This we did, and were rewarded by the giddy sight of a ranger bearing keys.  Not all heroes wear capes.  Dear reader, we were IN!

The next challenge, was working out the most efficient way to park in a space with no marked parking bays.  None of us were local, and none of us quite sure how to position ourselves.  It’s hard being a parkrun tourist.  I can’t help thinking that they’d fit quite a few more cars in if they had marked bays, it was all a bit random.  Oh well.  I got a spot near to the exit ready for a speedy (ahem) get away.  I knew you had to pay for parking and it was listed as £2 but that’s just for an hour, if you are an early bird arrival and like me a slower participant, be prepared to pay £4 for 3 hours.  I don’t begrudge it actually, fair enough if you are using the facilities, but good to know in advance.  My new parkrun best friend, the one with whom I shared angst both over whether the car park would be open and then how to park in it once it was – then spoke for majority of us by saying out loud what many would be thinking ‘and now for the other great per-parkrun challenge – toilets.’  Yep, they were shut.  However, whilst I’m not advocating wild peeing per se, lets just say there were a lot of trees in darkness, with soft forgiving pine needles deep littered around them.  I think some may have chosen to avail themselves of such forest attributes.  Top tip though, leave a biodegradable breadcrumb trail behind you if you are planning on going too deep within, pretty impenetrable in places that forest.

The parkrun start is literally, just by the carpark.  Volunteers started parking up past the ‘no entry’ signs, and have little volunteer passes to put on their cars to allow them to do so.  The pop up sign, duly popped up, and there were some lovely little local touches like.  Ikea bags (other large reuseable bags from other stores are probably available, but the IKEA ones are fairly ubiquitous); a little sign for the first timers briefing, a sign for different finish times to assemble, and a ‘dog start’ sign too.  Bit of feedback, there should maybe have been a ‘dog tired’ one too, but not visible on this occasion.  My favourite thing though – which is a tough call to be fair – was the lovingly hung up selfie frame, with its own hook from which it could be carefully hung.  No being flung carelessly in the mud for this reinforced frame.

Of course I took advantage of the selfie frame!  Rude not too, when they’d gone to all that trouble.  Shame my head obscures the name of the parkrun, but on the plus side, I’ll be able to reuse the snap when I go to other parkruns and don’t avail myself of the selfie frame ops.  Every cloud eh, every cloud.

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Despite the early start, and long drive I was really excited to be at Delamere.  It had a really friendly feel.  It was extremely well organised, and despite the huge turn out (though nothing like as huge as their Christmas Day field of 720) it felt relaxed, so whatever frantic paddling was going on was beneath the surface.  The location is spectacular, and the attention to detail impressive.  On a ‘normal’ parkrun day, there’d be good facilities too, with a whole visitors centre with I imagine toilets with actual toilet paper and a cafe too – I think it did open around 10 to be fair, but I wasn’t planning on lingering today at least.

I joined the milling and chilling, and oh look, someone in a 50 sash.  What’s more this was my parkrun buddy from the carpark.  Hurrah, what a great way to do your milestone run, even if you were wishing you’d got more than one safety pin to keep your sash in situ.

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A colourful gathering congregated and grew…

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In a bit, a megaphone gave a call out for first timers.  I’ll be honest, I don’t think every single first timer present bothered attending, but a few of us did.  It was a friendly and swift briefing for tourists.  Basically, the route was described with the summary advice of ‘keep the water to your right, if it’s not on your right, you have a problem’.  Fair does.  Then, the solitary identified first time everer, was given a one to one on how it all worked.  They had a route map to show people too. I’ve seen these at a few parkruns now, I think they are helpful.  My takeaways from the briefing were follow everyone else, there are no marshals on the 3k (approx) loop round the lake so keep an eye out for each other, defibrillator is in the visitors centre  and try not to fall in.   I think that covers it.  Oh, and the paths are pretty wide, so as long as you are realistic about how you place yourself in the starting line up, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about overtaking.  It’s effectively a one-lap course.  My favourite!

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Dogs started assembling at the Dog Start, which was fun, not all did, so I’m not sure how much this is enforced, but basically dogs start at the back here.  A few looked to have canicross type gear, and they seemed a well behaved lot, keeping their companion humans on appropriately lengthed leashes.

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I love the colours as people assemble.  The high-vis team formed a sort of guard of honour at the front. The Run Briefing covered the usual milestones, thanks to volunteers, and then we sort of walked forward a bit to get to the starting line.

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Incidentally, did you know that some other parkruns have formed their own New Year’s Day traditions?  Nope, me neither.  Well, case in point, Colwick parkrun, which is a most excellent parkrun to visit by the way, not least because they always wear Hawaiian shirtsstart their New Year’s Day Run with a parkrun communal handshake.  How brilliant is that?  Rhetorical question, very brilliant indeed!  Click on the link above for a video clip of the whole parkrun field shaking hands with one another.   Aw, would melt the hardest of hearts I’m sure…

Colwick handshake

Anyway, back to Delamere parkrun.  The start here was a bit peculiar, or at least to me unfamiliar, we all started trundling forward, and then I heard a vague ‘go’ but nothing really happened, we just continued our onward shuffle.  I don’t mind about times at all, that’s not what parkrun is about for me, and when I’m touristing I like to jump to one side and take pictures along the way, but I think if you were a speedy runner you’d do well to position yourself further forward, or even as an average runner, pay attention to where you are in the start funnel or you could be a bit boxed in. Those of us who were boxed in though, got to make new friends with others along the way, which is much more fun than sprinting off in glorious isolation in my parkrun world at least!  Plus I got to find out which of the runners at my sort of speed were also hoping for a double.  That was reassuring. I was determined not to take stupid risks getting to parkrun two, but wasn’t wholly convinced it would be doable at my speed, given the distance between the two, but others in the know seemed confident all would be well.  Again hurrah!

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Nice though isn’t it?  The paths are good, despite the forest location.  A bit muddy in places and I suppose it would class as off road, but a good firm surface and there were buggy runners taking park.  In fact, as we headed off, to our side, I saw some canine assisted runners, and an intrepid off-road buggy pusher fair sprinting on an alternative track, overtaking most parkrunners with ease.  Impressive.  I’m not sure if that was an official dog and buggy route, or just an unofficial overtaking lane for those in the know.   Good work though people.  Almost too fast to be captured on camera!  They almost look like they are absconding from the law here, maybe they were?  Where better to hide than in the plain sight of a mass parkrun start, and then use the confusion of the off to disappear over the horizon and into the cover of the woods.  Makes perfect sense when you come to think about it.

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Those of us not absconding from the law, continued along the paths, it’s not a completely flat course, but the inclines were fairly forgiving.  Cheery marshals pointed the way.  And my, how photogenic and enthusiastic they all were.  Voice activated too, if you greeted them with a ‘happy new year’ or whatever, they’d become extra animated.  I’ve noticed that many marshals seem to have this interactive feature, and it’s great fun.  They respond to positive stimuli like ‘thank you marshal’ or being offered chocolate, mince pies or a high five.  It was nice to see them all thriving in their natural habitat here at Delamere, glossy coated, lively and smiling.

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On we went, over a bridge with I think a 28 ton limit, which seems huge for a forest path – maybe it’s so logging vehicles can get through.  It was a fairly steady pace at the back, and nice for me not to be running out of sight of everyone else for a change.  Prior to my recent re-education, I’d go so far as to say that often it’s just me and the tumbleweed plodding round at the back – meaning to reference a place deserted, like in westerns.  I think of it as the filmic shorthand for silence or stillness, e.g. as the hero rides into an apparently deserted frontier town.  However, I learn from The Guardian that actually, tumbleweed can be almost smothering by way of company, not indicative of glorious isolation at all.  Check out these truckers overwhelmed by tumbleweed in Washington State.  I know, who knew?  Not me, until now.  This is a catastrophe, I’ll either have to speed up so I can parkrun as part of the pack, find parkruns with a bigger field so there are more at my pace or, worst of all, come up with another analogy.  Oh the pressure!

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My regular reader will know I can’t talk and run, so I don’t really like officially running with others as it’s too stressful, but I like the companionable element of running in the company of kindly disposed and friendly others, albeit we lope alongside one another in silence.  Delamere parkrun delivered in bucket loads, it was a companionable and friendly yomping ground indeed.  Thank you fellow parkrunners all.

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Along the way there were a couple of other forest users, who were seemingly enjoying the spectacle of lots of runners.  One quipped at me that he had assumed I’d be wanting to take his photo when I whipped out my camera to get a shot of a hidden gruffalo  – presumably also on a parkrun tour from Sherwood Pines – so I took that as an invitation to do so.  Hello cheery fellow forest goers.  They were doing a walk in reverse, and pleasingly, I saw them again on the way back.  It’s good when there are positive interactions with non parkrunners at a venue, it feels more of a sustainable community event that way. The gruffalo picture didn’t come out very well unfortunately, but maybe it just didn’t want to be photographed today.

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Onwards we went, more marshals.  A lot of marshals here had a companion canine.  This is Lola, she’s not very old and she was absolutely desperate to join the parkrunners, and completely bemused as to what she and her companion human were doing standing still.  She was very sweet though, as was the marshal too of course, but only Lola gave an affection lick to my hand and a look of longing to join me as I departed onwards…

After running through the woods, you eventually find yourself peeling off to run round the lake, or more accurately ‘mere’ I suppose, though I’m not entirely sure what the difference is.  Hang on, let me google that for you.  Ok so according to bald hiker:

Technically a mere is a lake that is really shallow in relation to its size (breadth). … The word mere comes from Old English ‘mere‘ which meant lake or ‘sea’ in Old Saxon, a broad term for a body of water. Time and many many generations and language differences can make it all more confusing

Ok, that’ll do.   Anyway, soon found myself jogging alongside the lake.  The early morning sunshine was hitting the water and it looked really spectacular.  Sometimes sun broke through and hitting the bracken under the trees turned it almost copper in colour.  Simply stunning.  The mere has really unusual ecology.  By which I mean I hadn’t seen anything like it before. It has a strange mystical look, all moss and submerged trees, you can imagine elves and goblins and trolls and shrek and hobbits and allsorts going about their business here.  It is like a setting for a film, and a very special place indeed.  My internet research subsequently tells me that Cheshire Wildlife Trust are working at conserving the area and protecting its fragile and very specialised ecology.  Good for them.

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It was a real privilege to be in the space and yet another example of how parkrun tourism gets you to see areas of the country you might not otherwise think to visit.  My photos won’t do it justice, but you may be sufficiently frustrated by how rubbish they are that you are spurned to go and visit for yourself.  Don’t worry, the loos will more than likely be open when you go and the location just as lovely.  Taking part in a parkrun as part of your visit is not even mandatory, although it is of course highly recommended.

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Somewhere along this section I made a new parkrun friend, just as we were going under the Go Ape rope works, which are alarmingly high up.  She was explaining about the origins of the flooded forests, which made a bit more sense of the mysterious habitat.  Always good to have a well informed local parkrunner on hand to give you the local low down.  Thank you new best friend parkrunner!  Hope you like the photo!  Looking fabulous.

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There were one or two spent runners limping homewards in the opposite direction.  Not sure if they’d fallen, or just thought the better or running. I  did ask if they needed help, but they were walking wounded, calling it a day.  That’s got to have been disappointing.  Still, there is always another parkrun but a few sleeps away, not worth getting injured for.

‘Suddenly’ I was back round to Lola.  Completed disorientated.  I have learned I have a terrible sense of direction.  I had no idea we’d finished the circuit.

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Around this point though, I started to notice a mysterious phenomenon at work.  parkrunners coming in the opposite direction.  What strange sorcery was this?  I was pretty confident I was going the right way.  Then it dawned on me, these were parkrunners already finished, who were now embarking on running to their second parkrun. Respect.  They were going at a fair old lick, and probably needed to, it was a fair distance to Northwich and I think Crewe was the other possible, though I have no idea where that was in relation to where we were.  My bad.

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You retrace the path you headed out on, though it looks completely different coming back the other way for some reason.  The finish seemed to come ‘suddenly’ I think it might be because it’s ever so slightly further up the track than the start and also you go over a little hump in the path just before it so you there is an optical illusion whereby the lovely finish funnel team materialise as if by magic.  Aren’t they lovely!

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Through the funnel, quick glance behind to see who’s there:

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Not bad eh?

I was a bit distracted by the view, and almost forgot to pick up a token!  Can you imagine.  The horror.  I shudder at the very thought.  Fortunately, the event team have apparently run a parkrun before, so I was issued with my finish token, and went on down the funnel to the security gang of four who were ready to corral wannabee funnel duckers and scan you on exit.  There would be no messing with this lot, and they were super friendly too, just calm authority oozing outward so you know what you are dealing with. This seems fair!

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And that was that.  Just the little matter of thanking the RD and the marshals, and then onward bound for event number two.

By the way, Delamere parkrun produced their own run report for the day if you like to triangulate your parkrun info by checking more than one data source.  You can access it here Delamere parkrun #342, Jan 1st 2020

It was hard to tear myself away in some ways.  This was honestly one of my favourite parkruns to date.  And no, I don’t feel too disloyal saying that, as all parkruns are practically perfect in their own way, and although some do spark particular affection, it doesn’t mean I love any of the others any the less, it’s just your capacity for parkrun love keeps on growing.  The more you discover the greater it is.  It would be fab if it was your local, very nice indeed…  Then again, even though the cafe at the visitors’ centre was now open I think – or near as dammit – the lure of another parkrun was stronger.  I was soon on my way.  Carefully.  Max speed of 15 mph in the park, and there were plenty of people around, you don’t want to end a lovely parkrun morning by squishing anyone.  No need.  I could see others trekking to retrieve their cars and was wondering who I might meet at venue two.

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So where next?  Oh yes, I remember, Northwich.  Bring. It. On!  There was even a handy route planner provided on their Facebook page to facilitate movement.  In fact, although I did use satnav, pretty much the entire parkrun population seemed to be travelling in convoy between the events, so I knew I was in good company.  Hurrah!

New Years Dble route finder

And, for your information, some people actually ran between the two.  No really, I passed them en route and nearly stopped to offer a lift before I realised by their cheery wave to the car in front that they were doing this evidently on purpose!  Blimey.  Respect.  Even if there is a bit of a short cut, and you are faster through the first parkrun than me, that’s still quite a lot of running to kick off the year.  Well done super parkrunners.  Awesome.  I would say inspirational, but I’m not sure that’s quite true, not planning on emulating that for next year, though seriously impressed.

So that was 50% of my parkrun adventures concluded.  Exciting eh?

Thank you lovely parkrunners of Delamere for the warm welcome and fine facilitation at your spectacular venue.  Special thanks to the volunteers who made it so.  It seemed to run like clockwork from my point of view, and super friendly.  I really hope to make it back some day.  Til then, happy parkrunning adventures for 2020 and beyond!

#loveparkrun

Oh, and if you want to know how I got on at Northwich parkrun, you can read all about it here.

I was one of 203 who made that particular double, according to this fab stats New Year’s Day Double tracker.  Go on, treat yourself, have a browse.

google doubles

I don’t know too much about where this originated from but found this credit:

A map showing the parkrun ‘doubles’ that people managed on New Year’s Day 2020. The map is based on parkrun results, so may include errors where e.g. names have been manually entered. Unticking the Events layer makes the doubles more easy to see. Huge thanks to Ian Rutson for providing the base data. Please share freely!

And ‘with me now‘ say ‘Thanks to Charlie Pearce for creating the visualisation and Ian Rutson for supplying the data’ which is good enough for me!

– whatever wizardry created it though, respect!  There’s even an international one from Australia to Canada!  Hope some carbon offsetting went on…

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 the next decade of your life now, it’s amazing how quickly time flies, it’ll be another decade done in the blinking of an eye!

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

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.

ApostropheCatastrophe

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?

badges

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?