Stonking Storthes Hall parkrun – a woodland wonderland

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Storthes Hall parkrun  It was lovely!  Very sunny and delightful woodland trails. Hurrah!

Undigested read:

Before I start, one thing, my new polar watch is saying I am currently ‘detraining’ whatever that is.  It’s not happy with me basically, and even without fully comprehending the word, I get the gist.  I am weak, I am inactive, I am as good as inert, I’m achieving nothing.

detraining apparently

The running world is full of made-up words.  I’m still struggling with the notion of a unicup, which my Juno sports bra boasts as a desirable design feature whilst cradling my most definitely non uni boobs. It’s all very unfortunate.   I have ended up with a unibreast.  Not to be confused with a unibeast such as a unicorn.   I do not mean by this that my bust has independently graduated from a higher education institution – well not as far as I’m aware anyway, and I think I’d have noticed – though of course we have all just got back from a roaring romp round some university accommodation now I come to think of it, so maybe that’s a contributing factor? Anyways, it’s just that my boobs have been thrust together as one amorphous mass.  The bra I’m testing out is comfy, definitely, but I’m still a bit ambivalent about the whole design.  Ultimately, it’s not quite supportive enough for me, and I’m not sure a uniboob is the best look.  Live-able with perhaps, but not a look to celebrate.  No selfie here.   Instead you got to see my admonishing watch, it really does look quite cross though doesn’t it?  When I’m feeling resilient this running commentary (see what I did there) amuses me, but on other days it feeds my sense of inadequacy, this is relationship that will need work.  I daresay we’ll reach an understanding eventually. It’s just complicated. Like active wear hard to resist wearing it all the time with its forgiving elasticated waistlines …

"Excuse me. I'm a running watch, not a watch TV and eat junk food watch."

Re my watch, I think it’s basically really unimpressed with any sofa based time, and only really happy if I’m actively cavorting around in some way. It was quite pleased with me earlier, confidently telling me I’d exceeded maximum training just after parkrun,  I felt epic!  High five to me.  But now we are a few hours on and it seems I have once again fallen into disfavour.  I do like this watch, but I sense it’s perpetual disappointment with me.  It seems to sigh with an unspoken and yet still audible inside my head mumble of ‘it’s not that you’ve let me down, it’s that you’ve let yourself down‘ and don’t I know it. Really need to up my game.  Later.  Tomorrow maybe.  Now is the time for drinking tea and posting about my latest parkrun adventures, because today at Storthes Hall parkrun was especially epic, and I bet you can’t wait to hear all about it!

The great thing about parkrun tourism, is that you get to meet some great people.  Specifically, when I was at Frickley Country parkrun a couple of weeks back, I met a well established group of parkrun tourists from the Yorkshire area, who get together fairly regularly at different parkruns all over the place. They were full of ideas of fabulous places to add to my parkrun tourist ‘to do’ list, which is already quite long.  They even have a timetable for target venues.  Plus, one of them tipped me off about a relatively new event that I hadn’t heard of before, where she is one of the core team.  Whilst descending en masse at inaugural parkruns is generally agreed to be unhelpful, rocking up a few weeks down the line to support is fine and dandy.  So it was there was a plan afoot to all hail to Storthes Hall this weekend. Yay!  Turns out, this is a proper traily one too  apparently, it’s not that far from Sheffield really, and another part of the world I’ve not really explored. What’s not to like. Plus, coffee available afterwards.  Sounding good.

Course wise, the official Storthes Hall parkrun course blah de blah says:

Starting at the bottom of the field below the Stafflex Area, Shelley Community Football Club, the course goes anticlockwise round the edge of the field, before going into the woods. There are three clockwise laps of the course through the woods before coming back out into the field and finishing by the oak tree. The course follows the main paths straight on from the field, right along the wall up to Wood Lane, along to the perimeter of the old hospital and then back around the edge of the sports fields without leaving the woods. The course will be very muddy in winter or after periods of heavy rain.  Unfortunately this course is not suitable for buggies.

Important note: As this course is on private land, whilst it can be enjoyed with us every Saturday morning at parkrun, please note that freedom runs are not permitted.

and it looks like this:

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So the good news is trails and mud.  Hooray. I much prefer running off road – well I say that to myself now, in advance of running, but obviously I reserve the right to revise my decision if I do too many face plants on the way round.  Less good news is the three laps issue.  Not a favoured course design, but hey ho, all parkruns are magnificent in their own way, just need to keep an open mind.

Reading up on the ‘how to find us’ was a bit confusing, there is a nearest workable post code of HD8 0WA but it tells you to then look out for marshals and also to allow 10 minutes to walk to the site. That’s fine of course, but how will this fit with arriving paranoically early? Oh well, all would be revealed.  Parking seems to be in the student village NOT the football club.  It’s helpful that there are such seemingly comprehensive instructions, hopefully no last minute surprises

plus, to keep everything sweet, you are politely told that

Facilities: Shelley Community Football Club kindly offer us the use of their changing rooms, toilets and cafe. Please look for the signs which will clearly tell you which rooms you are allowed to use. Please respect this facility by wearing clean footwear only in the changing rooms and the cafe. We request bringing a pair of clean shoes and a bag to store your muddy shoes in. Otherwise, please leave all muddy footwear outside or do not use these facilities.

Extra pre parkrun preparatory packing required.  Cue go off and rummage for spare footwear and bag in which to keep mud laden ones the night before.  If there’s one torment worse than a parkrun lacking facilities for a precautionary pee, it is a parkrun having such facilities but finding yourself denied them on account of not observing the dress code.  It’s fair enough, but forewarned is forearmed. This is clearly a parkrun where you must not only #dfyb but also don’t forget your clean shoes and muddy trainer bag.  I’m on it!

So I was all ready the night before, cow bob also laid out for its inaugural outing alongside my barcode wrist band and charged up satnav.  The day dawned.  Such a relief to be heading off in daylight.  It’s not that far in miles from Sheffield, but did take an hour. I was chugging along the A629 which was clear, but has frequently changing speed limits so you need to keep your wits about you.  Navigationally, the satnav worked fine, and the instructions were all accurate, you just have to believe in them.  Once I turned off towards Storth Hall it was quite exciting – reet nice out!  Here’s my en route shot:

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Others were also progressing to the site of our target parkrun, and taking their own en route selfies to confirm their attendance in due course:

all making our way to storthes

I might have gone for a selfie shot myself, were it not for four critical factors:

  1. my arms aren’t long enough
  2. I don’t have a smart phone so can’t see what I’m doing
  3. uniboob issues
  4. cowbob also deeply unflattering …

Mind you, I did succumb later, which was ill-advised perhaps, but also inevitable.

I was on the right road, and passed some very grand iron gates, which I presume go to the original stately home Storthes Hall, and then ended up at a very grand looking entrance which at first I thought couldn’t possibly be right, it looked more like a posh corporate wedding venue than student accommodation.  I approached the artificial barrier with caution, but it raised itself as if by magic, so I inched forward figuring it had to be the right place.  It was, but if you are following in my wake, it might help to know that the days of disintegrating HMO hovels in which to warehouse student are it seems a thing of the past. This is seriously high quality campus/ conference facility style facility.  The entrance looks like this:

I was pretty early, it was about ten past eight, but was quickly reassured by the sight of a hi vis volunteer carrying a helpful sign, which was encouraging. Also, note this marshal carefully, because she transforms her look and then reappears in a different – but equally cheery and helpful – incarnation later on. These high vis heroes, they have super powers!

She, and some other car park marshals pointed me to the parking area next to the imaginatively named ‘The Venue’ where visiting parkrunners could park.  There seemed to be a reasonable amount of parking, but not absolutely loads.  I parked up fine, but not sure what you would do if it was full.  The location is pretty spectacular, it helped that the sun was shining and the air still.  I don’t know what I was expecting exactly, but nothing as fabulous as this.

I love parkrun tourism, but I always have a bit of momentary angst at arriving at a new place.  Even though in my experience all parkrunners and their ilk are pathologically friendly, I still harbour some fearfulness that I will stumble on the exception that proves the rule.  My social awkwardness will be made manifest as I fidget self-consciously at the outside of all the fun, berating myself for even thinking of venturing out inwardly quaking at the challenge ahead of not just a parkrun but the associated interactions that might surround it. Aaaargh.  However, pleased to report (spoiler alert) that once again this was a magnificently friendly gathering. Plus, good news, at around the same time as I arrived, I saw another couple of vehicles pulling up, squashed full of cow cowl adorned fellow travellers.  Was it? Yes it was?  It was reassuring to hear one holler out in recognition. Yay, this was my new parkrun tourist buddies.  It was actually really good to rock up and see some familiar and friendly faces.  I did some faffing with cow bob and backpack sundries and then we all emerged at around the same time to try to locate the start. Fortunately there were some helpful and pleasing signs to show you were in the right place – that big sign relates to The Venue cafe which opened for post run refreshments especially for parkrunners, and which was rather fabulous.  In the circumstances, we’ll overlook the capitalisation and what appears to be perilously close to a space between the letters K and R in the signage.  Shudder (#aowalc)

You’d have a job getting lost on the way to the start, there were signs, arrows, and helpful marshals pointing the way.

Is the phrase ‘helpful marshal’ tautology I wonder?  I’ve yet to meet an unhelpful one.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, the signs help, however, it is a good 10 minutes by the time you’ve faffed and gazed about, and in my case succumbed to taking an unfortunate selfie along the way, so they aren’t joking when they warn you need to allow a bit of time to get to from the car park to the start.  I daresay as with all running related challenges, you could cover the distance quite a bit faster if you put a wiggle on, but that tends not to happen in my universe.

See what I mean about the cow bob, really don’t think it’s helping me out in the selfie department.  This might be its first and last outing.  It’s a dilemma though, because, unflattering as it seems to be (on me – other people rock it with style) it is a brilliant identifier, so we’ll see, maybe it’s just because I have a ridiculously sized head it makes it sort of pop off me upwards, perhaps with a bit of stretching over time, it will become me a little more. Hard to imagine it will get worse…

You follow the path down, and end up at a little handy hut, where a gaggle of volunteers had already assembled.

Here you can meet and greet others, throw a stick for the border collie who was auditioning parkrunners for a ‘job for life’ as official stick throwers – stamina and a resistance to repetitive strain injury seemingly the main requirements – and, where applicable, leave your tourist cow Bully for safe-keeping.  Then, you could either head off down towards the starting field,

or, if you are me, follow your nose to the Shelley Community Football Club building to make use of their loos pre-run.  Excellent facilities, though, FYI, one of the loos in the women’s toilet had a very broken toilet seat, didn’t fall in this time, but close thing.  There is a cafe area in the football pavilion too, it was locked pre parkrun but open afterwards – though this particular day there was a football match going on so more space at The Venue. Still, choice of options is impressive.  A two-cafe parkrun doesn’t come up all that often!  It was immaculate inside, you can see why they ask you do remove muddy footwear before crossing the threshold.

Found a way to get a flattering cow cowl bob photo:

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And then wended my way down the hill to the start field. With the sun coming up over the trees it looked really spectacular.  Not sure my pictures will do it justice, and if I’m really honest, I can’t absolutely guarantee the sun shines every time they do parkrun here, but I like to think it does.  You’ll just have to go and discover for yourself.

I had a slight moment of worry that we might be required to run up the hill we were descending, especially as some keenies were warming up with hill sprint reps, but you know what, it’s parkrun, you just have to respect everybody’s right to participate in their own way.

The big open field where the start and finish areas were, had the parkrun flag up and was adjacent to the wooded area where the main fun factory of the parkrun takes place.  I enjoyed the view, chatted to some marshals, met some absolute first timers and debated whether or not it was a jacket / gloves on or off parkrun.  In the end all were off, for reasons justified by the ambient temperature, not by any inclination on my part for a ‘gloves off’ confrontation. I’m very risk averse confrontation wise, and inclined to apologise to people who bump into me if you know what I mean.

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This is a shiny new parkrun, and they had some grand new ideas too.  Like a guest book, a sign up area for volunteers and a token sorting box, which was great.

It was such a scenic location, I wasn’t alone in trying to get some photos, others also posed, photo-bombed, adopted quite cheeky poses(!) and there were tourist reunions and chit chat a-plenty.  All chilled, but also a sense of anticipation, because of course, many people were if not absolute first time everers (though there were a few of them) were first time visitors.  Check out the compare and contrast 250 tee shots.  There is a vintage and a hot-off-the-press version juxtaposed if you know where to look!  Also, a particularly fine example of photo bombing, almost an art form – and not the only instant that I got to document today!

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I like the ambling about anticipation pre-start.  Eventually though, a shout went up for the first timers’ briefing.  As it’s a new parkrun, fourth today, as in, fourth occurrence of the event not fourth birthday, a huge crowd mobbed the speaker.  Lots of tourists, but a few lucky first time evers amongst the mob. It would be pretty fabulous to have this as your home run. Some were refugees from Huddersfield parkrun, which apparently has got huge, so those within reach of this one at Storthes Hall were checking out alternatives.

The talk covered the usual bases.  Three laps, one narrow section through woods, watch out for tree roots, because it is a proper woodland trail (and it is) and also for the trees that are attached to said roots, because they have low and sticking out branches. Also, look out for holes underfoot, and look out for uneven ground and look out for each other too.  Fair enough.  Eyes wide open throughout.  I never take all that much notice of the route description as I figure I’ll just follow everyone else, and that worked again this time round…  and round again and round once more.  (Three laps remember).

Then we milled down to the start:

and we gathered on what seemed to be quite a steep slope for the general Run Director’s briefing.  It was quite hard to hear, despite the loud haler.  I don’t know whether that was partly the slope, but it wasn’t helped by some incredibly rude people amongst those gathered together just talking really loudly through and over it all.  Maybe a sign to SHHHH during the run briefing, like they hold aloft at Bushy parkrun woudn’t go amiss here.  It does astonish me how people will shout through parkrun briefings, apparently oblivious to how loud they are and how disruptive it is for everyone else – not to mention dispiriting for the poor speaker, as if the RD hasn’t enough on their plate already.  Some of the noise was possibly over-exuberance at the excitement of the whole thing, and it was jolly exciting,

and also, incredibly picturesque:

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I like to think that guy in the start line up isn’t just retying his shoe laces or seeking out a lost contact lens, but getting ready for a proper off the blocks sprint start.

So after run briefing, which was hard to hear, I just about made out the countdown ‘3, 2, 1 Go!’  I think that’s what was said, might have been this though, like at Lough Key parkrun, the core team at Storthes Hall I’m sure could sing and bob along with the best of the Muppet crowd!  There were certainly parkrunners game for a dance party on the dance floor of The Venue later on.  But I’ll come to that in due course…

courtesy of loughkey parkrun

Eventually, there was a general surge, and everyone moved forward, if not exactly as one, as a sort of starlings murmuring in a heave ho up the hill.  My it’s a steep start.  I hadn’t really concentrated on the directional information about the course, so was pleasantly surprised when the lead runners, instead of continuing in a breathless hurl up the hill, did a collective swing round to the left, and towards the woods.  It was nice this bit, not only because it went back down hill (only to be come up again later) but also because you got some great views of the parkrunners ahead in a colourful line like a herd of wildebeest on migration.  Albeit wildebeest in Lycra which is not a sight you get to see all that often on the mighty plains of Africa I daresay, but otherwise I think the two spectacles would be pretty indistinguishable.

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Then, quicker than you can say ‘Severance‘, you are in the woods!

It was lovely in the woods.  It felt soft and forgiving underfoot.  Hi-vis marshals lined the way smiling and directional pointing like old hands, and you didn’t need to drop a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way as there were also directional signs a-plenty.

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The route is a little deceptive.  It doesn’t look like it’s particularly uphill, but honestly, I found it quite hard going.  I suppose, even though the incline is relatively slight, you do have to go round it three times, and it has a slightly Escher painting effect, you feel like the whole thing is uphill, which logically can’t be true.  The three loop bit, is all within the woods, and that was a bit disorientating.  It’s not the Barkley Marathons but it felt like it was a route a lot longer than the average parkrun, though of course it isn’t.  I’d seen Troy up ahead, and was sort of hoping inwardly that I could at least keep him and his little legs in sight to motivate me to keep going.  Maybe he’d stop for a poo and that would give me a chance to catch up.

Oh, this is Troy by the way, pictured here with his three-footed handler, not quite sure how that works whilst running, must ask next time:

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No, not a person.  Why, who did you think I was talking about?

One of my issues is I tend to be overly influenced by those around me, struggling to run faster than my natural pace and then get stressed because I can’t keep it up, once I slowed down a bit, and went at a more comfortable and for me sustainable lope I started to actively enjoy it.  I love running through the woods, and then there were bits where you came along the edge of the tree line and got some great views.  All the marshals were friendly and interacted, and other runners were forgiving too.

There is one bit where there is what seems like a sharp right turn into the woods, with a marshal bravely standing at the far end of the path as a human bollard to stop you inadvertently failing to turn and instead running off into infinity and beyond.  There the path isn’t obvious, and one runner confused me by apparently cutting the corner off altogether as they passed me, but the marshal called out that there isn’t a path as such, you just choose your own route, as indeed you do.  It seemed I was lapped quite early, and obviously I apologised to the runners who overtook me for existing.  They all were friendly and encouraging too, and one woman made a point of saying ‘don’t you apologise for anything, we’re all at parkrun together’ or something similar which was lovely, and also true!

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If you look carefully, not that carefully to be fair, it is quite obvious, you will see I also got a shot of the talented Steve Frith who was out on the course today (you might know him from The Trunce and fundraising for Mossienets and more recently Woodhead Mountain Rescue Team, snapping some awesome shots.  Here he was trying to get some of the front runners, and did so with considerable style.  I love these photos, classy and how he captures these portraits of runners whilst in motion just astonishes me. Thank you Mr Photographer.  Epic pics as always. Oh, and the guy with the orange shirt and the running vest, he isn’t really a giant, I don’t think, it’s just a pleasing optical illusion that makes it look like he’s running down the woman in front, only she isn’t she’s behind.  Look again.  He is very good at supportive clapping though.  More of this later….

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I’d just caught up with Troy at this point, who was actually only just ahead, but round the corner, or maybe I was slightly ahead at this point, and I photographed them as they passed me by now I come to think of it. In any event, these the other parkrun tourists laughed at themselves for their collective ‘seen a photographer posing’, which was extremely flamboyant shrieking and waving…  that in fact was completely wasted as the front runners shot by and into frame, the understandable focus of the camera’s gaze at that point in time. No worries, I got a great shot of them from behind, and don’t they look fabulous?  Even blurred a bit because they were running so fast!

Other runners were apparently a little more camera shy, either that, or this is in fact an enchanted woodland where the trees sprout arms when you least expect it, but I think the former basically.  Just to be clear.  Or maybe he just wasn’t looking where he was going, and didn’t listen at the pre-race briefing when they warned you to watch out for trees attached to tree roots on the way round.  That’s got to have hurt actually.  Ouch!

SF photographer dodging

I was more relaxed now, but just as I had a moment of thinking ‘I love trail running’ and picking up my pace a bit, I nearly nose dived over a tree root and total face plant.  Oops.  Unlucky.  Not as unlucky as the other parkrunner I met at the end who had to bail after tripping over, and neither of us was as unlucky as the poor Tilgate parkunner who broke their leg this morning. That’s not funny, it really isn’t, especially as the poor individual concerned was on their 99th run and not only will this delay their hundredth, it’s not clear if they finished and got their barcode scanned first or not.  Whilst I’m on the subject, the bit of the story that made me raise an eyebrow, is the bit about the ambulance getting stuck in the mud of the course en route and needing to be rescued itself.  Fortunately, parkrunners are awesome, and all ended well, apart from a parkrunner having broken their leg of course, which isn’t very well at all really is it?  Oh well, only not, obvs. I’m sure you get what I mean.  Maybe whilst he’s off running he can colour in his 100 parkrun tracker shoe chart, which I have just discovered and stolen from the parkrun discussion group facebook page (unofficial).  Good isn’t it?

parkrun 100 tracker

It seems to have been an incident filled day.  Nostell parkrun also reported an incident with an injured runner, however, pleasingly added:

Everyone pulled together whether it was first aid, taking volunteer roles on or generally helping out. Big thanks also to the staff at Nostell for their support. It was amazing to see the parkrun family come together making me very proud of you all. I also have to admit to being amused by the fact that everyone who stopped to help went back and ensured they completed ALL of their 5k this morning!

though I do understand blue-lit ambulance enabled course completion PBs are disallowed under current parkrun rules… unless they are logged as an ‘assisted run’ presumably…

Back to the run, there was signage to help you with counting laps and directional awareness, he cunningly moved from one side to the other to stop anyone bailing after just one lap:

There was a marshal with the best gloves I’ve ever seen for marshalling purposes, and I’ve seen a few.  She has to get herself to a Canada parkrun to give these mitts the exposure they so clearly deserve:

And there was the marshal with the dog in need of a stick thrower with the capacity for perpetual motion, who multi-tasked brilliantly taking pictures as well as directionally pointing, clapping and shouting out support to passing runners.  No mean feat.

One notable feature about this parkrun, is that it looks like it requires quite a bit of pre-event set up. There was definitely attention to detail here, with gift wrapping of stones and tree roots that were particularly hazardous and lots of tape to guide the way.  Kudos to those who do the course set up each week, it looks a time consuming one.  Also, and I speak from bitter personal experience of tape usage at Graves junior parkrun each week – handling that plastic tape is way harder and more problematic than it looks!

Proud of my tape use skills though, no wonder I look busy and important!  I mean a hi-vis conveys a certain authority, but couple it with a clipboard and frankly you could take on the world!  Or at least look like you might, which amounts to the same thing..  Yep, I put that tape up round the big pond in Graves park, and not one runner fell in NOT ONE, so definitely I did a good job there. High five to me!

Back to Storthes Hall parkrun, so you run round in circles a few times, and then eventually, you are allowed to run out, towards the finish funnel, out of the woods, into the radiant sunshine and an uphill but short finish. I’m pleased to report that there was a very enthusiastic parkrunner cheering in us final finishers.  I like to think he was there for me personally, but he was in good voice and kept the support up for everyone behind me.  Kudos to him.  It was grand. Thank you fellow parkrunner!

and through the finish funnel, in my case resisting the temptation to manipulate my finish time to secure my last outstanding parkrun bingo time (20 seconds since you are asking) and through to the token woman …

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Job done.  Just a matter of getting barcode scanned, adding my token into the cleverly constructed token sorting box, and trying to work out what to write in the visitors’ book.  My entry wasn’t imaginative, but at least it’s there for posterity, that’s good.

Still sunny, and lovely and warm, so plenty of opportunity for post parkrun posing.  Milestone tee line ups, new friend pic and photobombs.  What could be more perfect?

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After a bit of discussion, we opted to go back to The Venue for post parkrun coffee, as a football match had started and the club house was likely to be full, so we sauntered back towards the carpark

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To The Venue, and complied with their understandable shoe-removal policy.  It was all very civilised, there were chairs to sit on whilst you took your shoes off, and a colourful array of trainers lined up outside. Whilst I’m not advocating a spontaneous upgrade of shoes if you found some in your size that you liked better than those you’d come in, you could at least indulge in a bit of running shoe porn by gazing at options that might have been.. Did you know there it is possible to get a customised running shoe coffin? No idea why or who.  Being buried in your shoes is one thing, but interred in one, not sure about that, not sure about that at all.  Gotta be a joke, surely?  Not surely? Don’t know…

Inside The Venue and oh wow!  This is not your usual post run breakfast venue. It was super posh, with flashing lights, a bar area, very clean.  A choice of communal tables or funky squishy sofas in side rooms, and a dance floor!  Pop-up party boogie anyone?  We went for squishy sofa section.

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That wasn’t the best thing though. The best thing was the parkrun breakfast.  Here, reincarnated as the breakfast buffet enabler was the cheery volunteer who was lugging a sign around earlier.  You can see why I didn’t immediately recognise her though, without the sign and hi-vis she’s in disguise in mufty!

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So the deal is, there is a table set up with bread and crumpets and a variety of toppings and a catering style toaster (crumpets need to go through a squillion times apparently, but the raisin toast was good to go after just one circuit) and you take what you want and drop the money into an honesty basket. There was also filter coffee for a pound I think, but I actually took advantage of the toast with Philadelphia cheese topping (can’t remember when I last had that, though it didn’t play well with my rather pitiful attempts to try to eat more vegan) and upgraded to ‘proper’ coffee from The Venue caterers.  The Venue apparently opens just for the parkrunners, so probably good that at least some of us supported this so it’s worth their while to do so.  Likewise, parkrunners are asked to support the football clubhouse too – they have a hatch from which they can dispense post-parkrun carbs and caffeine apparently.  Might check that out next time…

So whilst you couldn’t get a hot cooked breakfast as such, it was a very neat and enjoyable solution.  Again, a lot of work has evidently gone into setting up this parkrun, with great attention to detail.  So we all gathered round for the mandatory parkrun debrief:

and I think it’s fair to say the consensus was very positive. This is really a lovely parkrun, friendly, lovely trail – if trail is your thing, picturesque and great facilities. In fact, I think it is probably the first parkrun I’ve done that is properly off road, I mean obviously that’s a shame for buggy runners or wheel chair users, but a welcome addition to the parkrun mix as a change from the tarmac formula. The three loop thing didn’t seem too bad, as it’s picturesque through the woods, and surprisingly, even though it had 157 runners (250 the run before) it didn’t feel particularly congested, as long as you exercise a bit of common sense and stick to the left and in single file through the one narrow path in the woods, but if you were a speedy runner and wanted to get past a bit of tree weaving would see you through.

Oh, and whilst debriefing, I found out from one of the core team that the first finisher today was a woman, which pleased me. Also, the highest age percentage runner was female too, with a 75.28% score.  I like looking at the percentage for age rankings, they can throw up some extraordinary performances you might otherwise miss.  It is a run not a race, obvs, but we can still all celebrate a quality run.  Thanks Steve Frith for taking and sharing many fabulous photos as ever.

SF first finisher

and then, inevitably the party over, it was time to go our separate ways.  But that was another fine parkrun.  Would definitely recommend, it was great to be on some bouncy forest trails.  I mean, I do concede we were lucky with the weather, it could get super muddy when wet, but not today, today was practically perfect in every way!

If you still want more about Storthes Hall parkrun, then you could check out this video of Storthes Hall parkrun in the ice and snow.  It’s pretty fabulous, 2nd Feb 2019 event.  Love this.  Captures parkrun to perfection.  Thanks to Andis Ozols for taking and sharing to the Storthes Hall parkrun Facebook page, where I found it.  🙂

Home, abducted by my sat nav, and seemingly incapable of independent thought I went back a completely different route, on the M1, which took longer weirdly, but did give me some great views of this transmitter, which you could also see from the Shelley Community Football Clubhouse building at the start of the parkrun.  I like it.  Quite a landmark.

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All done and dusted.  Thank you Storthes Hall parkrun for your fab course and warm welcome, and thank you parkrun tourists for letting me hang out with your great gang.

So that’s it, for another week, where next I wonder?  Wherever it is, #dfyb #loveparkrun

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.

Happy running ’til next time.

🙂

 

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

Battling the Bluster round Bakewell, milestones aplenty at Bakewell parkrun

Digested read: I was a blow in at Bakewell parkrun today.  Hurrah.  It was very nice, thank you for asking. There were lots of milestones and therefore running plus cake. What’s not to like?  #loveparkrun

Undigested read:

Well Erik was irksome.

There were overnight gusts and gales forecast, but I was still quite aghast at just how many parkruns were cancelled the night before and on parkrun morning evening.  Still, not worth messing with Erik, you aren’t going to come off best.  Trees were down all over the place and wayward branches cracking and falling at will, tossed over parkrun courses everywhere, of course there were cancellations.  I don’t know why I was so surprised, since I can further report that my own weather analysis included being woken up in my attic bedroom in the small hours by what sounded like a wind-themed Armageddon going on outside.  That was dramatic.  Once I’d surrendered to the fact that any more slumber would be impossible with all that commotion going on outside and got up to go to the loo and look out the window, I bore witness to my wheelie bins tossed around the garden. Oh ok then, Storm Erik meant business.  Even so, there were really a lot of parkrun cancellations.  Sad for some, especially as snow and ice caused many to be called off last week too.

At least one parkrun was cancelled because of polar bears on the course, that’s right actual polar bears.  FACT.   It was Bradford parkrun, I like them, they have initiative.  They worked hard to keep the event on, even attempting to coral the polar bears into being marshals apparently, but it didn’t work out.  It’s important to remember being a hi-vis hero is a voluntary role, once mammals are compelled to do it, it just doesn’t happen in the same joyful way.    Good effort though, I’m going to try to visit you soon I think… might wait for the polar bears and low flying squirrels to move on by though.

bradford parkrun polar bears

I got lucky though.  Last week I was at Bushy parkrun which went ahead just fine – more than fine absolutely fabulous in fact – and this week, I had already planned to go to Bakewell parkrun, milestones a-plenty being marked there, so celebrations, Smiley comrades, Vegan friends oh yes and celebratory cake.  Would that be on?  Hmmm.  *Spoiler alert* yes it was!  I got lucky two parkruns on the trot. Hooray!

The cancellation list is sad, but also entertaining for how core teams choose to record their reasons for cancellations. Alongside the ‘usual’ gusts, flooding, trees obscuring the course, today Bradford parkrun reported, accurately I’m sure based on my own observations, as follows:

Bradford parkrun: Apocalypse in the park, low flying squirrels

It’s a shame they had to cancel, but I’m sure it will be a huge consolation to them all that I have chuckled at their cancellation entries on the parkrun cancellations listings.  Bradford parkrun communications officer, your talents are noted and appreciated, by me at least.

Some impressive cancellation photos doing the rounds though – check out Somerdale Pavilion parkrun course conditions, less parkrun more aquaplaning.  Didn’t happen though, can’t blame them.

Somerdale pavilion parkrun cancellation

Astonishingly, Haigh Woodland parkun went ahead despite a few hurdling/trip hazards!

haigh woodland parkrun trip hazards

Ormskirk parkrun published and shared its cancellation protocol for RDs to refer to in the event of high winds.  Most public spirited, and most enlightening too.

Ormskirk cancellation protocol

But back to Bakewell.  That was expecting to go ahead, but had to get there first though.  Oh my, they weren’t lying when they said on the news it was gusty out!  Fortunately it was mild outside my house, but whoa, hang on a minute, I could barely stand up.  I had a literal wobble in the wind, and then a metaphorical one as I wondered if it would be safe to drive.  I decided to start off and see, I’m quite high up, so if there was a problem it would be obvious and I could abandon my trip.  Off I went.  So many branches down everywhere, but the car chugged along fine as we headed out of Sheffield, once we got towards Longshaw though and the roads were more exposed it was like driving through the end of the world.  No wonder they shut the car parks at Longshaw first thing.  There was loads of debris was being tossed around and I could feel the car being buffeted about as I drove with incredible caution towards Froggart.  Fortunately, the cars behind me were being similarly careful and keeping a respectful distance, but I don’t think I’ve ever been blown around so much in a car, wouldn’t have wanted to be doing that in a high sided vehicle.

Easy run out, and I managed to park up in the free section of the Hassop station car park, coincidentally right by Smiley Selfie queen who’d rocked up for some parkrun tourism and to mark the milestones of friends various too.   I got out of the car for long enough to say hello, and establish it was blooming freezing there, and wet, with little shards of rain bearing down on me. That wasn’t expected. I’d only put my running jacket in as an afterthought.  I got back in the car for a bit, and then got out again for pre-parkrun precautionary pee and general hello saying – which took a while as a fair few familiar faces were rocking up as the start time approached.

Selfie time:

My expression on the left is because I’m cold by the way, not because that’s my intended running strategy to supplement the support offered by my current sports bra. Yep, still sporting the Juno.  I do like it more than any of my other sports bras, but I’m sure there must be one out there that is as comfortable and offers sufficient support.  My expression on the right is because it was taken within the warm confines of the roasty toasty cafe – which is open pre parkrun for comfort breaks and probably coffee too, if you don’t fancy hanging out in the wind and rain on the Monsal trail yourself of a Saturday morning (hard to imagine many would fall into that category though, with all the parkrun love being bandied around 🙂 ).

We were lucky, Bakewell was most definitely going ahead.  Hooray!  There were plenty of last-minute cancellations elsewhere, which is understandable – that happened at Graves junior parkrun once, had to cancel at about 8.50 because a branch fell down on the course just as the runners were arriving.  Not worth the risk. However, the element of surprise cancellations did seem to trigger plenty of micro-adventures around the country as parkrun plans were scratched and back up plans implemented. Some social heroics though, parkrun tourists heading to Graves this morning staying in a nearby Airbnb arrived at 8.40 to find it cancelled, but were scooped up and deposited at Castle by friendly Sheffield parkrun locals. Trust is a funny thing isn’t it, of course you’d assume an abduction by a fellow parkrunner to be benign, just a new adventure #loveparkrun!  Well done parkrun explorers.

parkrun tourist team work

Back to Bakewell.  We were assembled, parkrun was on.  Yay!

For your information Whangarei parkrun in New Zealand went ahead too, although they had ‘nice weather for ducks’ it was their 160th event, and loads of them were wearing shorts out and about on the parkrun course too, so draw your own conclusions about how they define inclement weather.  I have a soft spot for this parkrun though, because they have in the rather brilliantly, and showing initiative as well as dedication, run an extra parkrun at a time to coincide with it being run in the UK. Whangarei parkrun ran an unofficial parkrun at 9pm New Zealand time to mark international parkrun day in October 2017.  Everyone needs to be reminded of/ know about that!  So hello nice Whangarei people and high fives to your high vis heroes!  Happy Third Birthday Whangarei parkrun for next Saturday 16th Feb 2019, I’m sure you’ll party on with parkrun style!

whangarei volunteers

So Bakewell parkrun was going ahead.  That was good, obvs.  But the weather, aaaargh.  How did it get to be so cold and wet when it was all mild in Sheffield when I poked my arm out the upstairs window to do the temperature check first thing?  Me and Smiley Selfie Queen and her escort ventured to the start line.  Where we greeted by the sight of a cheery run director, wearing shorts!  What was that about?  I didn’t know whether to be impressed of horrified, in truth, I was both.  He said he is doing XC tomorrow so trying to acclimatize, fair do’s, but seemed high risk to me.  I went through a similar mental battle deciding when to leave the sanctuary of the Hassop Station cafe, head out into the cold early by way of transition, or hang on in there ’til the last moment. Tough call.

Here is the cosy interior of the Hassop Station cafe viewed from outside (thank you Denise Burden for sharing your photos, from which I’ve borrowed freely):

DB hassop cafe

and here is the cheery run director, sporting his above the knee number in the service of XC acclimatization.  I respect his position on this matter, but will not emulate.  Just to be clear.

shorts seriously shorts

The cheery run director did the first timers’ briefing.  I think we can all agree the body language in the photo from the briefees, betrays that it was most decidedly nippy out, whatever the misleadingly bright sky overhead may deceive you into believing.  Mind you, a lot of these people are sporting shorts, running briefs if you like, maybe that’s why it was called the first timers’ briefing?:

DP run briefing

I wasn’t a first timer, so went for a power walk up and down the Monsal Trail a little way to keep warm and check out the wind conditions.  To be fair, the RD did assure us that he’d sorted out the wind to guarantee it would be behind us all the way out and then helpfully reverse and be pushing us from behind all the way back too or we’d get a full refund.  It is true there was wind all around us, but not noticeably helping progress, more like whipping us up into a swirling vortex of arctic blasts.  Oh well, at least it made parkrun a micro adventure all over again, so that’s good, and the seals felt quite at home in the freezing conditions.  Smiletastic challenge people, if you don’t know, best not to ask, just enjoy speculating as to why else was this synchronised seal basking necessary post parkrun.  Has to be a Smiley Paces winter running challenge really doesn’t it?  Even if this photo isn’t really capturing the running part of the challenge, it’s getting the collective team effort bit… for better or worse!  Their likeness to actual basking seals is uncanny!  The Smiley Paces people are in the picture on the left… oh, or is it the one on the right?  One or the other though, just for clarity…

Oh hang on, you might want to know about the course.  So the Bakewell parkrun course blah de blah, describes the course as follows:

Out and back course on the Monsal Trail. Start and finish are in the same place by Hassop Station

Which is basically all you can really say about it!

It looks like this:

You really aren’t going to get lost on this course unless you set off facing the wrong way.  I just couldn’t comment as to whether or not that’s ever happened. I  have myself started a parkrun facing the wrong way before now, so it’s not inconceivable, though it may not be on record, those people could still be running now for all I know.   …. Assuming you do head off in the right direction, then cheery marshals spin you round at the turn around the point 2.5 km up the repurposed railway path.  So that’s good.  Fret not.  This parkrun has it all. Coffee and loos pre-start, easily navigable flat course, and parking.  Some free if you get there early.  What else do you need to know?  Friendly marshals and parkrun love in abundance are givens, surely?

Where was I.  Oh yes, power walk, meeting and greeting of various people as they assembled for their fiftieth runs,

not a day over 49

two hundredth run and every possible variant forward and aft of those.  At first I thought this parkrun was going to be thinly attended, but of course people were lurking in warm corners or in their cars and emerged on a just in time basis, like the most finely tuned and responsive of logistic firms, to hear the pre-run briefing

and sprint off at ‘go’!

DB start line

OK. So that picture was obviously before they set off.  Plenty of bare legs though, no wonder they are jostling to be in the front, want this pesky parkrun in the cold over and done with as soon as possible so they can get back in the warm I’m sure.  The next photos do show some parkrunners, properly underway, charging through one of the fab tunnels that adorn the Monsal trail.  I love tunnel running, but been through that already (see what I did there?  Gawd I’m hilarious sometimes, love a good pun, and so what if I laugh at my own jokes, at least someone is thereby entertained).

I started in the middle of the pack as I think it is only sporting to give other runners a target to overtake, and most did take the bait to be fair.  Oh well, lucky I don’t do parkrun to get a pb.  It isn’t the widest of paths, so it was a little crowded at the get go, but it’s all very good-natured, and you soon spread out.  It was social, I liked eavesdropping on odds and ends of conversations, and this was my favourite pooch for today, in case you are interested.

DP cute dog

it headed out at a fair old lick, despite only having erm, well let’s be honest, short legs.  Whizzed by me with abandon. Then, seconds later, stopped a la Paula Radcliffe for an emergency poo, unlike Paula, this pooch had an attendant on hand to poo pick, so that was good, and then it trotted on again, by the time it got to the turn around point it seemed to be slightly regretting the early turn of speed, and had a strategic walk for a bit before picking up the pace again.  I empathised more than I probably should, I mean, I have short legs, and have also been known to regret heading off too fast … though I didn’t need a poo stop, my toileting habits having been impeccably timed for parkrun purposes, thank you for your interest!

I’m a slow runner I know, but one advantage of doing an out and back route, is you get to enjoy the spectacle of speedy runners charging home and to high-five and cheer your mates as they pass you by in the opposite direction, so I try to see this as a good thing rather than a mind game. Depends on your mood obviously.  Today, Bakewell parkrun had a photographer to capture people on the way back, right near the finish, so here are some of those who I got to exchange greetings with as they hurried homewards.

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So the vegan runners celebrating their fiftieths (and not looking a day over 49 as they did so) were amongst those charging round with abandon. Looks like they might have fallen for that old gag about ‘it’s a two lap course’ though, as one at least of them passed me again as I was coming in and they were heading out again.  That guy on the left with his hand over his mouth – see him?  He’s definitely in on the joke, think he’s trying to suppress a chortle there for sure!

DP fell for the its two laps gag

She still finished her 10km in the time it took me to do 5km apparently. Oh well, I don’t mind, those vegans had splendid cake.  So splendid, that I had to fight hard the urge just to face plant into once it came within my reach.  And you should have seen their bat-themed napkins. Epic!  If only I’d had my camera with me I’d have taken a photo…

Anyway, I trotted along, I was so far back it was quite spread out, and running along the trail was quite meditative.  Although it was cold in the wind, the rain stopped, and shhh, don’t tell, but I actually got too hot running, I think it helps that my jacket is pretty wind proof.  I got a bit put off the Monsal Trail because I ran it endlessly for marathon training last year (no need to splutter out your tea, I didn’t say I ran it fast, only that I did it, not impossibly apparently, unlikely yes, but not actually impossible for me to do the London marathon it seems) .  It was quite nice to be back on it today, the surface is so level you can run very rhythmically, and it’s been a while since I’ve had such an even and consistent run.  Maybe I need to start bringing it back into my training, just to get the continuous running in without bailing every time there is any elevation – which is basically all the time in Sheffield.  Even so, quite nice to see the finish, and supportive friends to cheer me in.

DP end in sight

Job done, barcode scanned, thanks said.  Celebratory parkrun milestone biscuit eaten. I actually ate mine before photographing it, but here is someone else’s biscuit, who showed more restraint and had the foresight to capture a snap of it first!  And a tray made earlier. Nice!

Impressive aren’t they?

Next stop, fleece retrieval from car, and cafe.  There I got a parkrun breakfast for a fiver. This is pretty good value, a granary or white bap with sausage/ veggie sausage and optional egg plus a filter coffee or tea.  In the circumstances we can perhaps overlook that their sign proclaims Park Run breakfast offer … who is going to pluck up the courage to tell them #aowalc – All one word, all lower case?  You go right ahead, I’ll be just behind you, holding your bap.  You’re welcome.

I was a bit torn because there were just too many people to socialise with.  I played my hand strategically, joining the bicentenary celebrants first as I munched down my veggie sausage bap, and then adjourning in time for the vegan half century shenanigans.  They were so buoyed up by success they were contemplating undertaking a duathlon next, but I don’t honestly think they’ve properly understood the rules. I mean having a pacer is one thing, but I’m not sure a rickshaw would make it under the radar.  I didn’t say anything, didn’t want to take away from their celebrations:

duathlon next

Obviously I did a bit of nonchalant circling around the offerings feigning indifference to begin with until I saw my chance…

great vegan bake off

Well, I didn’t want to seem over keen, and it was only fair to let the vegang have fist dibs!  Didn’t take long for me to make my move though.  I undertook some fairly lightweight expert photography duties to capture the speedy seals as above, which you have to concede I did with considerable excellence, so maybe that was some sort of exchange.  Hospitable lot the vegan runners though… I think their generosity was unconditional.  It is true though, on reflection, it does rather look as if that small child is just carrying out a citizen’s arrest on all those seals and putting them in handcuffs.  Not sure what the implications of that are exactly… best move on.

Plus, I think they had seriously over catered!  It was basically like their very own vegan bake off.  Seriously sweet delights on offer.  Yum!  Thank you bakers, very impressive, very impressive indeed.  I had the Victoria sponge.  No, not all of it, but a hefty chunk.  An excellent choice.

So all in all, a very fine, and celebratory parkrun morning.  The fifty celebrants were rightly chuffed by their milestone, and as I said to them, assuming bicentennial woman now ceases parkrunning henceforth, in a little over three years, as long as they don’t miss a week, they’ll have caught up with her too!  Very impressive. Well done all.

It was hard to tear myself away from the bonhomie and squishy chairs, but inevitably that time came when we needed to all go our separate ways.  Quick shout out for the cafe’s outside area though, it has an undercover space with sofas and play houses and all sorts, just right for bringing your own cake and pop up party!

DP squishy chairs

Special thanks to the Bakewell parkrun hi-vis heroes who made it so.  You are awesome.  It was a blast at Bakewell, the arctic blast bit wasn’t the best but the fun blast was epic.  Thank you!

Time to go home, but it was a very jolly parkrun morning, and a bonus that we’d landed on one that went ahead.  The gusts died down, the sun came out, and I was rewarded with clear and spectacular views, and no scary being blown off the road fright moments on the drive home.  I do like happy endings.

Hope you made your parkrun too.  🙂

Happy parkrunning wherever you go, just #dfyb

dfyb

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Bit of a time vampire, if you do, you might be stuck on the sofa for a while, ‘just researching options’.  Hmm.

Categories: off road, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brooking at Bushy parkrun and seeing what comes out in the wash…

Digested read: test run for the Brooks Juno Sports bra at Bushy parkrun.  Hmm, some promise, but I’m reserving judgement until I’ve done a longer and more strenuous run. For now, good in parts.  Which is still significant progress in my world.  🙂

This is the bra I was wearing (not the actual bra, but a stock image of one)

brooks bra front

and this is the actual parkrun on the actual day I was running in it.  A view from the back of the early stages of the course.  I might even be in this photo, in fact I most definitely am… it’s just I’m not quite sure where.  I’ll be wearing a bright orange beanie hat and my purple running coat.  Good luck spotting me!  Nice though, isn’t it?  #loveparkrun #bushyparkrunisepic

MDH parkrun start

I’m taking my product review responsibilities extremely seriously. If Brooks ill-advisedly want feedback on their bra, than I’m up for it, and not just on any old run either.  This brasserie brassiere would have it’s debut outing at that iconic site of pilgrimage for parkrunners everywhere, Bushy parkrun.  Where it all began.  This is the narrative I’m going with anyway, even though it is stretching it a bit.  The truth is since collecting my sample bra I’d not really been able to face the workout of putting it on again, but fair dos, there’s no point in having it if I don’t give it a whirl, and given I was to be at Bushy parkrun this weekend anyway, why not.  One should never get the absolute truth get in the way of a good story.  Besides, I’m not sure there is any such thing as objective truth, though I do think the claim of ‘alternative facts’ in some quarters is cynical and tenuous at the very least.  Anyway, bottom line, or more accurately top line on this occasion is that my Brooks Bra was in situ at Bushy parkrun last Saturday.

It was pretty cool at Bushy parkrun, but that’s another (long) story, however, suffice to say it was brilliant winter sunshine, ice underfoot but the warmth of a mass descent by Tralee parkrunners on Tour was surely enough to warm the cockles of anyone’s heart.  As part of their migration to Bushy parkrun, they were going to greet my mum – celebrity honorary parkrun marshal of Elisabeth’s corner fame – and that point is significant later on, because it meant that I maybe didn’t test my bra to its full workout potential, don’t worry though, there’ll be other runs.

Anyway, you are distracting me. Where was I?  Oh yes, Saturday morning, and I eyed my Brooks bra with some suspicion.  It has considerable heft, and even looks like some sort of alien life form all of its own.  After the heave ho shenanigans whilst trying the darned thing on I was hoping I’d allowed enough time to wrestle my way into it and still make the start line in good time to greet my Irish friends.

In case you haven’t been concentrating, this is the Brooks Juno Sports Bra, it is available in different colours apparently, but I was given the one in black as a sample to try. Frankly though, I’m so desperate for a decent sports bra, if and when I find one that does the job, I don’t care what colour it comes in. It could have sequins and pom poms and a guard of honour of a hundred unicorns escorting me at all times whilst wearing it and I wouldn’t even notice, let alone query it, I’d be so transfixed by its supportive and cosseting properties.  To be fair, if I did notice, that would be quite a cool range of accessories though I don’t know if that’s in Brooks production plans just at the moment.  If I can’t have a hundred unicorns I’d settle for one, or maybe a pair of dragons. Either would be fine…  I suppose if it went for branding along the lines of ‘Make America Great Again’ that would be taking things a bit too far and I’d have to bow out at that stage,  but I’m going to stick my neck out here and say I don’t think that’s a planned initiative either.  Really hoping not.

This is how the Brooks Juno gets described on their website:

Juno £40 – £5040.00GBP
High Impact
For women who prefer a controlled fit, our best-selling racer back powerhouse has it all — it’s the ultimate in support and shape with a customizable fit

Now normally, I’d run a mile (ironically) from a racer back, because unless you have staff on hand to assist you daily I can’t imagine how anyone can get into them.  This bra has a cunning design though,  so that  although the racing back style is present, you still have a bra strap to do up to the correct tightness after you’ve got the darned thing over your head, so that requires considerably less contortion than the ‘usual’ racer back.  You pull it over your head, do up the underband and then finally lob the shoulder straps, which are loose, over your shoulders a few times until you’ve succesfully wrangled them, and then you just slip them through a hole at the front and can tighten them to the required tension.

The wrestling the bra over my head bit was way less stressful this time out.  Turns out, it’s a hell of a lot easier to achieve this physical feat when you have a whole room to thrash about it, as opposed to the rather restrictive confines of a bijou running shop changing room.  Basically, you just hoik the underband into position and then do up the catch as you would on a conventional bra.

 

 

So far, so good.

Of course that is only half the battle.  Then you have the straps flailing about.  It is a genuinely good idea that these are hanging loose, as it does make it a lot easier to get into the darned thing. However, a consequence of this design decision is you have to work out a way to propel the straps back over your shoulder to the front so you can slip them through the hole and fasten the little velcro strap to the appropriate tightness to give the security required, thus:

front strap

I suppose there is a knack to this too, albeit one I have yet to acquire, I basically let gravity do the work and leaned forwards until I had the straps dangling to my prow and then you can reach for them and loop them through.  It was easier than I remembered.  I’m not sure what my actual maximum heart rate was whilst dressing, as I had forgotten to set my Polar watch going, but you know what, I’m going to do that next time just to see, it can be incredibly stressful getting into a sports bra unaided, would be interesting to see if that does typically end up being the most strenuous part of any work out.  We’ll all have to wait and see.  Actually, getting off a sweaty sports bra is even harder, I know of at least one friend who confided in me that they had a brilliantly supportive bra that they’d ended up jettisoning, because after they ran in it they were trapped in it mid removal, helpless until someone (I can’t remember if it was a fellow runner, passer by, known family member or a paramedic) came and offered outside assistance to free them.  That ended up in the bin.  It just seems ridiculous that, for better or worse human kind has put people on the moon and into space, yet for many of us a functional sports bra seems to remain elusive.   …  This bra, does pass the putting it on unaided test, which is a good thing.  I don’t know if that design is unique to Brooks, but I hadn’t seen it before.

Just in case you are in any doubt. These photos are not of me.  It’s much more of a performance and test of character when I’m getting ensconced in my breast armour than these models seem to be experiencing.  I have always had the good foresight not to allow photographers to be present whilst I’m dressing, but strongly suspect my expression would be somewhat other than serene during my attiring manoeuvres.  That model does look extraordinarily pleased with herself for being able to successfully operate a velcro fastening though does she not?  I can’t make up my mind whether I find that annoying, and patronising because being able to dress yourself independently is quite a modest life goal and the picture suggests this woman is pleasantly surprised to find herself smart enough to operate velcro without outside help, or whether it reflects accurately the degree of challenge presented by most sports bra, so hence her relief and delight is not only palpable but proportionate in this instance. You’ll need to decide for yourself.

Once on, I remain somewhat undecided about what to make of the bra.  It feels erm, rather substantial.  It claims not to be padded, but rather ‘cushioned’ I don’t know what the difference is.  Because it doesn’t have differentiated breast cups in the way say my current shock absorber does (it describes itself as ‘unicup’ a bit of vocab that is new to me) it is comfy, but I didn’t feel all that supported.  Now this might be a question of what you are used to.  I’m used to feeling a bit more squished in.  My initial reaction to being less squished is that surely this bra would allow for too much movement for comfort.  Granted, bras that squish you in aren’t comfortable, but you do at least feel like nothing is going to shift.

crush your boobs

Actually, it can be positively uncomfortable in honesty, but less movement. The Brooks is much more comfortable than my current shock absorber, but I’m not sure I felt really held in place.  Maybe I’m not used to the style, maybe the cup size isn’t quite right for me. Hmm.

Anyway, off I trotted to Bushy parkrun with my perforated unicup design purporting to give me shape and modesty.  It definitely gives modesty, I felt like I had a futon strapped to my front, and it does give shape, just not necessarily a desirable one. However, I am at the point I don’t care too much any more about whether a bra is flattering or not – won’t lie, it would be great if it was  – but much more precious is whether it is functional for sporting use.

What I would say is that I very quickly forgot I was wearing it. If  I consciously thought about the bra, I did feel that it was still allowing a bit too much jiggling for my liking, but in truth whilst I was running, I wasn’t aware of any excessive movement at all and it is definitely a comfy bra, and I like the racing strap for security.  I was also a bit dubious about whether a velcro fitting would be strong enough to stay in place once I got going, but that didn’t move at all once fastened, and the velcro strip is long enough you have quite a bit of choice as to your preferred fitting.  Result.

In terms of my ‘run’ well, it was a bit of a special day at Bushy parkrun, because a huge contingent had come over from Tralee parkrun in Ireland and they had kindly brought some birthday cards for my mum in recognition of her recent ninetieth birthday, which they gave to her mid run. She is an honorary marshal/ parkrun celebrity who sits and cheers parkrunners at the 2.5 km point on the course.  Obviously, I stopped to say hello, and then got chatting with other parkrunners of all possible running clubs and parkrun event denominations as they too paused for selfies, birthday wishes whatever.  The upshot was I ended up pausing here, and only starting up again to finish off the route with the tail walkers, which was highly social and a lot of fun, but not really a proper test of my Brooks bra.

Nice selection of parkrun pics though:

 

 

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You can see why it took a while… paused there.

So basically, I only really ran 2.5 km and then just did a stop/ start walk /run to the finish.  I had a lovely time, which was fine and dandy, but got an all time pw (personal worst) and record breakingly high number finish token to boot!  Yes, I do indeed belong to parkrun. Isn’t that lovely!

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But it wasn’t a proper full on run test.  I did power walk about 7 miles in total, and the bra was comfy for that. It claims to have ‘breathable cups’ with (warning, another made-up word fast approaching) ‘drilayer fabric’ and ‘chafe-free bonded seams’.  Now, you need to put this in context of it being  a minus a squillion degrees out there, however I was wearing a lot of layers.  It didn’t chafe, and yeah, maybe I didn’t run all that much, but another professionally fitted underwired sports bra I tried onec had my boobs bleeding, literally, within 30 minutes of first wearing, so full marks for this one for not only not drawing blood, but also for leaving no permanent scaring and even being seemingly comfy.  Not a bad hat trick to pull.

Further more, this bra did indeed feel like it stayed pretty dry, so maybe the breathable unicup drilayer fabric thing has some merit despite its stupid pseudo scientific nomenclature –  and I basically forgot all about the trauma of trying out a new bra. So, my intermediate impression is that this is a bra that merits being worn again, and on a ‘proper run’ which is way further up the food chain than most bras I try get to venture.  It’s still in the running (see what I did there) as a potentially really good sports bra.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I love it, yet, but I am open minded about it, and it could yet be a significant improvement on my Shock Absorber which I wear because it fits basically, but feels like the least worst of available options rather than an item I would evangelise about or actively like.  My plan is, to do a proper long run in the next couple of days and see if I can properly put it through it’s paces.  Before that though, there was another big test for this asset protector to pass.  The Wash Test.

One problem, I am no domestic goddess.

Now, I want to be really, really clear about some things.  Two things actually:

First, I’d never deliberately put an octopus through a wash cycle, not only because it would be a catastrophe for my smalls but also because octopuses are beautiful, intelligent and curious creatures, that can escape aquariums, use jets of water to short circuit light switches and open jars .  They have even been reported undertaking trekking holidays in Devon.  Though, for the record, I don’t believe they can forecast the result of international sporting fixtures. Well, they probably could, but why would they be interested in doing so?  Just too smart to take an interest I say.

 

 

Second: I have better things to do with my life than hand wash sports bras, yeah, yeah, I get that I’m supposed to but life is too short and used sports kit too potentially rank for me to faffing about with warm basins of gentle bubbles every time I need clean gear.  Anyone who claims religiously to do so, either has someone else to do this for them, or is lying.  All my clothing has to take it’s chances in the same wash cycle.  Even so, I concede I probably do need to refine my technique if this Brooks Bra and I are to have any conceivable future together.

So what happened is this:

Bra got chucked in with everything else on usual wash cycle, but then my wash emerged in one huge knot, not dissimilar to a rat king in fact, though with less animal matter and more polyester and spandex.

rat king

Basically, if you chuck this bra in your wash without a bit of prep then you realise too late, that basically it’s all tentacles that twist and clutch.  To be frank, I might as well have lobbed a couple of octopuses and a giant squid in with my leggings and sports tops for the Gordian knot of intertwined fabric that came out in one enormous clump at the end of the spin cycle.  Oops.  The problem is, you have not only those two loose straps each with velcro fastenings, which have enormous potential to appropriate any other items of clothing they share a washing machine drum with, but also the two loose ends of the hook clasp function as well.  What with that, and my running leggings, and my thermal tights, and my long sleeve thermal jumper and my long sleeve running top it was just one huge knot-tying party in there.  Terriffic,  NOT.  Or Terrific knot more accurately…  Very tempting to get the scissors out, or at least have a major tantrum.

This is an actual picture of my wash:

cutting the gordian knot

I was miffed with myself, although I was able to disentangle all garments eventually, it took an age.  Reluctantly, I have to concede that it would have made life a lot easier if I’d taken the precaution of re-securing the straps and doing up the back clasp before tossing it in the wash, I could even have put the boat out, and kept it separate in one of those net delicate wash baggy things.  Exasperatingly, I’m sure I’ve got one somewhere, no idea where though. Considering how expensive sports bras are, it would probably be a good investment for me to get a couple more.  Maybe, canny sports bra manufacturers would like to start giving these away as freebies to accompany a bra purchase instead of running buffs, which I’ve had as freebies over the years. I’ve got loads of running buffs now, and I do like them, but some bra wash bags would be fab.  Thank you for asking.  I’m not proud, I’d welcome a freebie! Send lots.john lewis brabantia wash bags

So I spent hours of my life I’ll never get back disentangling the contents of my wash,  so be warned.  I’ve sacrificed my time so you don’t have to.  The result was OK, but not as rewarding as rescuing squirrels from tail entanglement and super frustrating because it could have been avoided.

 

 

Afterwards, because I like to torment myself in this way, I did read the actual washing instructions. Now fair play to Brooks, they do concede that you don’t always hand wash your bras.  Hallelujah, some basic pragmatism, they suggest the following:

Care Instructions
Hand washing is ideal, but not always possible. Fasten all hooks and straps, place in a lingerie bag, and use the gentle or delicate cycle. Always line dry, and never use dryer sheets or fabric softeners—they can clog the fabric and shorten the life of the bra.

Whatever, hindsight.  Thanks.

Despite its ordeal by rat king and octopus tentacle, the actual bra seems to have emerged relatively unscathed.  I’m torn between feeling a bit guilty if I’ve trashed it through not observing the washing instructions correctly and thinking you know what, the reality for this sports bra is that’s how it’s going to be treated if it shares a life with me.  For my road testing to have any merit, I should replicate my honest care routine otherwise what’s the point.  Precisely dear reader.  None whatsoever.

The plan now is to let it air dry, and then I’ll don it again for a long and harder run as soon as I get a day when I don’t have to stay in for hours waiting for builders or painters or whatever it is.  It will be genuinely interesting to see what I make of it second time out.

So in conclusion?

I’m reserving judgement, I can put it on unaided, it’s comfy when worn and seems to have survived my less than idealised laundry routine.  It didn’t get me a PB at parkrun, but I suppose I might have to meet my bra half way and actually make an effort to try to run a bit faster through voluntarily moving my legs more quickly to make that a thing in my world again.  The bra hasn’t caused any chafing as yet and it shows promise.  On the less positive side, it seems very bulky, isn’t very flattering and I don’t quite feel supported. … then again the only times I ever do is if I run with one breast cupped in each hand, and I have resorted to that technique on occasion.   I am not alone in this.  FACT.

running bust

Maybe if I could have some sort of genetic modification to enable me to  sprout a couple of extra arms purely for boob holding purposes whilst running – detachable ones would be even better – then that would be fine and dandy and problem solved.  Alternatively, it may be I need to tweak my cup size, though I don’t think so, the fit is good.  Maybe it’s a question of racheting up the tightness on the shoulder straps instead.  Upshot, I’ll stick with it for now and keep it all under review.  Watch this space, or not, it’s up to you.

Also this, can’t resist:

The ladies’ bras – not yet something to sing about, but one day… meantime, who can forget this mesmerising top of the pops number?

 

That’s right.  Everyone, but not any more, it’ll stay with you for days now!

You’re welcome.

I wonder if they could do a follow up on sports bras specifically, if I do get one that truly works, I’ll definitely be up for singing about it!

‘Til next time, hold onto your assets and run, run I say!  And don’t forget to report back with your experiences.  This woman’s bra seems pretty solidly in place, but I can’t help thinking she should maybe look where she’s going a bit more.  Then again, maybe she’s running away from someone playing a medley version of The Ladies’ Bras on a mouth organ or accompanied by ukuleles or something, and you’d need to keep your wits about you and your eyes on your pursuer to stay safe in those circumstances.  This is why we should support one another, and respect each others running choices, you never really know someone’s circumstances do you. So don’t judge, just run!

Run-E-Cop-HoldingShot-920x613

For all my comments on Brooks Bras see here – scroll down for older entries

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.

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

Feeling the parkrun love – back to Bushy parkrun to join the TpoT troupe. #parkrunfriendsarethebest

Digested read: back at Bushy parkrun this week to meet up with Tralee parkrunners on Tour.  It was jolly nice.

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Undigested read:

I wasn’t going to do another blog post about Bushy parkrun, because, well you know, maybe cyberspace is already awash with enough parkrun accounts, and then I went and you know how it is.  The fabulousness of the morning unfolded and it just seems a shame to let it pass undocumented.  Reading this account is optional after all, and I like the idea that I can capture my fond memories of the morning before they fade away entirely. Also, I really, really wanted to share this picture.  I don’t know who drew it unfortunately, but apparently a GP, presumably from Durham as Durham parkun originally shared.  So many truths within, perhaps not quite all universal ones – personally I’ve abandoned any aspiration to a new pb, and my alarm goes off way earlier than 8.10 – but the other aspects of the parkrun emotional rollercoaster I can completely relate to.  Particularly the axis (can’t remember if it’s x or y) that charts the shift from being ‘bitter and resentful’ to ‘loving life’!  So true!  Thank you J Stutchbury(?).  Great name by the way.  When I’m a best selling author I’m going to name a character after you.

parkrun emotional rollercoaster

Where was I?  Oh yes, heading off to Bushy parkrun.  The reason for this particular sojourn was to coincide with the pathologically lovely TpoT people!  That’s Tralee parkrunners on Tour for the uninitiated.  I have the extreme good fortune to have become an honorary member of this group that oozes parkrun love and general all-round fabulousness.  It was they who invited me to join them for my first bit of international parkrun tourism at Hasenheide parkrun last year.  The Tralee Troupe have tourism down to a fine art, cheap flights from Kerry airport mean they seem to relatively frequently take flight en masse and descend on parkruns the world over.  I wasn’t sure if they should be more accurately described as a troop or a troupe.  According to the interweb, troop apparently usually refers to a group of soldiers or people more generally, whereas a troupe implies a traveling contingent of theatrical performers.  I rest my case.  Any parkrun contingent including a juggler in their midst surely qualifies as the latter?  A toupee is something entirely different, and arises from either a typo or a spelling error, so hope we’ve cleared that up.

tpot juggling still

The real miracle is how they can literally remove 100 parkrunner regulars who head off on these trips, but still leave behind a fully operational parkrun with 200 plus people running the parkrun show. Awesome!

Hooray.  I have the official orange beanie that marks me out as such.  Not going to lie, it isn’t the most flattering item in my running wardrobe, but it is among my most valued ones, who doesn’t like glory by association?  I’m super chuffed to get to be an acknowledged part of such an awesome parkrun troupe.  Strictly speaking I think I must be on probation at the moment, as I’ve not actually yet got to run at Tralee parkrun itself.  One day I hope to actually go and run on their hallowed course at Tralee, and that will make my membership truly official. They haven’t actually said it out loud, but I know in my heart of hearts I can only ever be considered to be on probation until I’ve joined the Tralee parkrunners in all their glory in their native habitat. It’s little wonder that Tralee parkrun is most definitely at the top of my parkrun tourism destinations for the future.  I’ll need to renew my passport first mind

Oh, here is the picture of me modelling my TpoT hat.  ‘nuf said. When I’m a best selling author I’m not using this shot to illustrate my author’s bio, but I can still be weirdly fond of the beanie all the same.  After all, who wouldn’t experience a little puff of pride and pleasure and a frisson of joy for being able to sport such a beacon of shared identity and gain glory by association with surely the most famed of parkrun tourists anywhere!  If I’d given it a bit more forethought, I’d have adopted a t-pot pose for the picture as well, but not quite sure how that would work doing a selfie, which is not my area of expertise at the best of times, maybe the world has had a lucky escape on all counts!  I’m not saying I won’t try some other time, but some things are best not shared aren’t they.  We can take social media too far…

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Where was I.  Oh yes, staying in Teddington, up early to allow sufficient time to get into my new sports bra – which I’m testing out for Brooks – it’s a juno, and doing ok.  Having wrestled into this, I headed off to Bushy park via my mum’s.  She was taking her honorary marshaling duties very seriously, and had all her kit laid out in readiness, including a bespoke sign for the TpoTs and her fine orange beanie, also gifted to her by the lovely folk of Tralee, partly as a ninetieth birthday present and partly to allow her to demonstrate support to the parkrunners on the move.  Hurrah!

It was blooming cold in the park, but really beautiful.  I’d been really worried about the ice and forecast of arctic conditions, but in fact, although there was some ice around, it was limited to patches and the roads were clear.  Mum would be making it through the magic gateway…

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The sun was popping through the trees, and all looking fabulous as always. I love this park.  It’s extraordinary how it continues given the amount of people and dog walkers and everything else that use it every day.  Even so, you can feel like you have the whole expanse to yourself if you time your arrival right in the early mornings.

I borrowed some pictures from the Bushy parkrun facebook page, well they were quite fabulous. Some are mine, general rule of thumb is where a shot is blurry and erm, idiosyncratic, it’s probably mine, if it looks like a vision of heaven and is perfectly focused and composed, then it probably isn’t.  You’ll work it out.

I was distracted by squawking parakeets and silhouettes of stags in the park and the sight of seagulls standing around on ice and swans thrusting through it like ice breakers.  Eventually though, I saw a beacon approaching.  A fellow TpoTer.  These hats may not flatter, but my they do mean you can spot a fellow sporter of one at a thousand paces. Very handy.

I always get a little frisson of excitement arriving at Bushy parkrun.  The set up is so impressive.  A team was putting the finish funnel up – it is a thing of beauty, and elsewhere token sorter tables were being erected and other bits of purposeful blustering about were going on.  It’s the same but not at every parkrun.  Familiar elements but writ large here.

I dumped my backpack on a handy tree railing:

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and then I soon found myself meeting and greeting my Tralee buddies, not seen since Berlin Hasenheide parkrun yet I feel like I know them, it was a grand reunion. There were so many of them.  I don’t know what the collective noun is for a group of Tralee parkrunners but it’s probably a magnificence of parkrunners I think.  That will serve for now at least.

Everything about Bushy parkrun is epic.  Today, there was (obviously) a flash mob, singing and dancing to celebrate a fellow runner’s 500th run.    They were wearing face masks and everything, which sounds a bit weird and stalkery when I write it down, but in context was both appropriate and brilliant.

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I don’t know why I was surprised. This is the parkrun that once had a fly past for someones milestone tee!  I’m sure I’ve seen a video clip somewhere, though I’m darned if I can find it just now… maybe one day.

It was a busy morning, what with various people trying to rendezvous with each other.  One of my Tralee buddies was lamenting that he couldn’t spot a friend he was trying to find, as although he’d promised to wear his 250 milestone tee in order to be distinctive, but frankly, here at Bushy parkrun they honestly aren’t that much of  a rarity!   In better news, I was able to reassure that yep, mum was coming. The cold wouldn’t stop her, but ice would have, but I’d checked her route from the nursing home and astonishingly it was clear.  Hooray.  It actually turned into the most unexpectedly glorious of mornings. At least one errant parkrunner is known to have come to regret rolling over in bed and going back to sleep on parkrun morning…

dont miss parkrun

I suppose as long as you learn from your mistakes, that is the important thing…  Like the running cup from lidl, and are those the Kingston phone boxes I see.  That’s pretty cool actually, but not as cool as parkrun obviously.  Fortunately there is always next Saturday.  Unless you live in Durham and a forest has been planted over your usual Durham parkrun route whilst you were sleeping.  I mean trees are good, and planting them is excellent, but a bit of communication might have helped all round…

Mr S-H was present, which was a surprise, as I’d have thought he’d be much too busy with his contra range right now. I understand he personally supervises every item produced, with some enthusiasm, if the photos are to be believed.  I reckon he might even iron on those spots himself you know, bet that bit is quite rewarding.  I have one of the sage base layer tops, it’s roasty toasty.   It’s official colour is ‘green marl’ by the way, but I have no idea what that actually means, except it probably means sage, just so you know.

personally made by psh himself

Maybe he was there because his better half was part of the fame-inspired flash mob.  (Cheery wave, I would have said hello, but you were mid star-jump at the time) wearing the face mask didn’t fool me.   Or maybe they were both there, with dog, because, well you know, parkrun is fun.

I was distracted by so many people to talk to, and such a hubbub.  The ground was declared to be icy in parts, so after the first timer’s briefing

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marshals were dispatched to their marshal points, and

then we were all shooed a bit further over than usual for the Run Director’s briefing. They had slightly shifted the start to avoid a HUGE icy patch just before the ant hills.  This made the pre run understandably but uncharacteristically chaotic and I couldn’t honestly hear properly. I improvised and clapped along when it seemed as if audience participation was expected and then joined the mass scamper of the start when the parkrun was declared underway.

Considering how many runners there are, it was a good natured start.  I started a bit further forward than intended, so it seemed as if pretty much the entire field got to overtake me. Oh well, one day I’ll cause a sensation by overtaking someone, even if it is only because they have to stop to rescue a puppy from up a tree or something.

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Being in among so many runners is uplifting though.  I love that you get to hear the chit-chat of other runners, putting the world to rights, comparing running goals or injuries or good-naturedly trying to shove their 500 milestone running friend into an icy bog.  What larks eh?

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She survived the support of her friends and made it through to the finish funnel and reviving prosseco though, so don’t feel too sorry for her…

survived the ice

On the way round were excellent marshals, including mini marshals with bells, warning of ice, and wearing their own special hi-vis for the occasion.

However, a special mention should go to the especially heroic paramedic ice marshal, who, disappointingly, wasn’t actually made of ice, but who put himself in harm’s way, by standing on a huge skiddy patch of treacherous ice, just before you turn sharp left beside the cricket pitch, shooing people away. That’s parkrun dedication.  And I thought standing in a line of human cones at the start of Graves junior parkrun was scary!  I’ve never seen a braver marshal than this top man today.  Hurrah to you my friend. There should be a special chrome extension badge for your profile for brave parkrun duties ‘above and beyond’ if I had anything to do with it.  I think something like this would be appropriate:

pow badge

I trotted on through the cold, admiring my fellow runners legging choices and taking in the views:

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As I approached the half way point, I was wondering if my mum would have made it out in the cold as planned.  Good news, I could see her bright orange hat like pulsing outwards like a radioactive beacon.  I was very pleased.  Even more pleased to find as I approached she already had a Tralee parkrun acolyte with her, and what’s more, she was successfully brandishing the signage I’d supplied for this purpose.   Nicely tooled up. Result!  🙂  The bikes aren’t hers by the way, in case you were wondering…

mum and TpoT signs

Though no, I still don’t know why the Irish flag has those colours.  Note to self, must google this…

Obviously I paused for the first of many photo shots!

It was fun.  There was quite a party atmosphere, so I elected to hang on and wait for others to get their photo ops and for further Tralee parkrunners to rock on up

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There was quite a multitude!

I feel I’ve really missed a marketing opportunity here!  It was a fair old pop up party going on at Elisabeth’s Corner today.  Eventually I saw a huge Tralee contingent, festooned with flags, weighed down with cards and coming round just ahead of the tail walker.  It was lovely. They presented cards, posed with photos, said lovely things.  All very touching to behold.

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Don’t worry though dear reader, she did her best not to neglect her regular runners, there were high-fives and waves a-plenty. It really is the best thing ever about parkrun, the feel good waves that radiate outwards.  Good will doesn’t weaken as it disperses, it magnifies.

be kind

‘In a world where you can be anything be kind’ is a good motto, and for me at least, parkrun personifies that ethos.  Kindness cubed and magnified in all directions.  Excellent multi-tasking going on there though, I’m sure you’ll agree, with waving at oncoming runners happening whilst simultaneously greeting those already present.  Look on in wonder and learn dear reader.  Impressive eh?

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So, I’d pretty much ground to a halt now, and the tail runners were coming round.  Now, I’ve been wanting to meet some of this fine cohort for a while now, as I keep seeing them in photos with my mum, and feel therefore like I know them even though we’ve never met.  I decided today was the day, and ended up walking round with the tails, which are multiple here at Bushy parkrun and all the better for it. The back of the pack is often the fun factory of any event in my experience, and Bushy parkrun is no exception.  It was really grand to walk and talk and share some laughs along the way too.  Love parkrun!

Said farewell to the marshals at Elisabeth’s corner as they dispersed once the tail walkers had come through

and then I sort of split my time between trotting ahead with the Tralee parkrunners for a bit, and then dropping back to chit-chat with the tails.  Busy, busy, busy.  The sun was out, the park looked gorgeous, as it always does to be fair, but I was so pleased that the weather smiled on tourists and home runners alike.

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Yes, of course we posed for photos along the way:

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and I stopped to snap a few marshals, not sure I got the full set, but my I-spy book of parkrun marshals sticker book is pretty full:

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and on we romped

Until finally the finish funnel was in sight

and I stormed(ish) through, feeling like a winner, because everyone’s a winner at parkrun right?  Having a personal worst just means I got best value for time out on the course.  It was an emotional run, so much positivity, so much parkrun love, so much all round awesomeness.

and then ‘suddenly’ it ends. Only it doesn’t really, post parkrun celebrations were everywhere, cakes being doled out, prosecco poured, and cheery laughter permeating the park.

As one poster said, if Carlsberg did mornings…

if carlsberg did mornings

Until finally, we dispersed, and I headed back to my mum’s to admire her latest lot of cards, birthday cards this time, to complement the Christmas stash, all of which absolutely delighted her, as they did me. Thank you lovely parkrun people.

and that was that.  Job done, til next time.  Which pleasingly, would be tomorrow, with the monthly Bushy junior parkrun. Hurrah!  Two days on the trot with my lovely TpoTers.  Life is good.  🙂

#loveparkrun

Miss it.  Miss out. Just sayin!

HW atmosphere

Oh, and there is an official run report for Bushy parkrun event 774 2 feb 2019 here.

and an even lovelier one for the following week giving details of all the Bushy parkrun marshal points including Elisabeth’s corner for the 9th Feb report. Love this.

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though

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

My I’ve been wanting to get that off my chest – the quest for a perfect sports bra

Digested read:  I’m trying out a new sports bra, a Brooks Juno to be specific, and provided as a freebie conditional on me giving feedback to them about what I make of it.  Oh don’t  fret, I will.  We only got introduced today, so it’s early days, but I will run out in hope (literally potentially, Hope isn’t that far away) and report back in due course

Undigested read: this is how it all began

I’m hardly a digital influencer, but then again, if that means I can duck the pressure and desperation that might otherwise compel me to have Harry Styles tattoed on my face that can be only a good thing.  I mean really, how desperate would you have to be?  It really is taking attention seeking to a whole new level.

kelsey harry face tattoo

So, enough about her, anyway disappointingly, she didn’t even do it, it was all just a publicity stunt – fake news, such a shame it would have been way more fun if she’d been permanently disfigured, oh well.  Anyway, let’s get’s back to all about me.  Today has been quite exciting, for lots of reasons.  Specifically:

  1. Anticipation of snow (I’ve got mixed feelings about that one to be honest, but it’s still exciting).  Mainly so far this has  taken the form of it being unbearably bitterly cold and exceedingly wet sleet under foot
  2. I am now in possession of a new polar watch which is cleverer than me, but could be a boon to my future training sessions
  3. I am officially a sponsored athlete! (sort of) – despite not being an actual digital influencer, so it just shows dear reader, that miracles can happen (but not the one about the perfect bra)

The watch thing has been brewing since last summer.  My dearly beloved TomTom just doesn’t have the battery life I need now I’m looking at longer distances.  I mean in fairness, it probably would for most people, but I’m so slow it just bales on me.  I find this quite traumatic. I’ve loved my TomTom, we’ve shared all my running milestones and adventures from early parkruns (didn’t have a watch when I very first started) to the London Marathon, and the first third of my first (and to date only) ultra.    It feels like an act of betrayal to be retiring it.  Still, it had to happen, and today was the day.  I’ve gone for a Polar Vantage purely on the battery life (30 hours), it has way more functionality than I really need, but so far dear reader, I can report that it’s a hit!  I’ve only worn it for one walk back from the running shop and I’m already alarmingly entranced by graphs about my heart rate, and somewhat miffed by it’s slightly dismissive summary of my efforts.

This watch will leave me nowhere to hide.  When I first had a go with the settings in the shop it queried whether I really wanted to record this (by implication) pitiful level of activity with the incredulous phrasing of  ‘save this short training’ ?  You can feel its contempt.  My TomTom wasn’t passive aggressive in this way, then again, it never talked to me at all.   The Polar is also lamenting the fact that I’ve not done enough today for it to really draw any conclusions about anything.  ‘not enough data to show status’ it says.  I think me and my Polar will have a more purposeful relationship, and it will probably hold me accountable which is good for training purposes, but I feel in casting aside my TomTom I’ve lost a bit of my joyful running innocence too.  My TomTom was my unfailingly supportive, shared fun times, running buddy whereas I think my Polar Vantage is more of a critical friend.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it all feels a bit more serious.  We shall see.  Exciting though…  Still, further commentary on this is for another time.

Onto item three.  Yes, that’s right!  I am officially a sponsored athlete.  Well, sort of. I’ve got a free bra to review, but you have to start somewhere.  A sports bra, specifically a Brooks Juno Sports Bra.  I got an invite to go down to my local running shop and pick one up, conditional on me giving some feedback about it…  Ha ha.   I feel a bit sorry for the Brooks rep, he has (as yet) no idea how opinionated I can be on the subject of sports bras, and how comprehensive my feedback on the topic will therefore be.   There is just sooooooooooooooooooooooo very much I want to get off my chest about bras in general and sports bras in particular.  Bring.  It.  On!  After all, it would surely constitute  contributory negligence on his part if he feels overwhelmed by it, just shows, you should be careful what you wish for and even more cautious in stating that desire out loud.

So the email came, and I’m not going to lie, my first reaction was to think ‘yay, a freebie’ and then my second reaction was to feel highly dubious there’d be anything at all I’d be able to test drive.  I went to a Brooks Bra fitting once before, a couple of years ago and at a different shop.  Despite me having said in advance that I required a larger than average cup size when I went there was absolutely nothing to accommodate me, with the biggest size available being a D cup.  A D cup FFS!  Whilst there are many svelte runners out there, there are a fair few of us with more ample assets in dire need of brassieres that will banish the bounce.  It was not only humiliating but made me increasingly angry.  I felt like a freak of nature.   And was in tears by the time I got home, of frustration more than anything else.  There was a whole presentation about how essential it was that women have proper support when exercising which I found incredibly patronising, I KNOW, this is why I am forever on the quest for a perfect bra, one that supports, doesn’t chafe and isn’t too horribly sweaty.  I’ve given up on flattering, that’s never going to happen.  Also, one that I can put on unaided.  Many sports bras seem to assume you have a team of staff on hand to dress you of a morning, FYI, astonishing as it may seem, I don’t.  So, top tip for all bra manufacturers, it isn’t giving a lecture on the importance of wearing a decent bra that will sell your product to me, it’s providing a bra that actually fits.   Why is that so hard for many bra manufacturers to grasp?  Whilst I was partially pacified by a complementary prosecco and a discount on some road shoes, I was still spitting tacks.  The average woman’s cup size in the UK is often cited as a D or double D – and if that’s the average it surely follows some will be bigger as well as some smaller.  It just seems such a cop out for sports bra manufacturers to claim they have amazing sports bras when they can only accommodate cup sizes A – C  that doesn’t seem to me to be such an engineering challenge, yet judging from the conversations I have with my female friends, a decent bra eludes us all…

sports bra problems

I feel sports bra manufacturers are decades behind what they could be offering, Bravissimo was a game changer for me and many other women I think …  what sports companies might learn from their approach.

Inspiring big boobed women to feel amazing!
Since Bravissimo was founded in 1995, our mission has remained the same: to inspire women with big boobs to feel amazing, to celebrate our figures and to offer a wide choice of beautiful styles to uplift big boobed women in every way!

Not sure that Bravissimo products actually made me feel amazing, but they did at least stop me from feeling like a freak of nature, as when they came on the scene it was the first time I’d ever had a bra that actually fitted.   I spent an absolute fortune with them the first time I visited their shop and binned every other bra I owned.  Bravissimo was a significant step in the right direction.

Every silver lining has a cloud though.  Confidence was quickly overtaken by public humiliation as is so often the way…. I was so keen on Bravissimo as a company, that I used the women who set it up and their business success as a ‘real life’ example for a lecture I was delivering on entrepreneurship to a group of about 300 undergraduate engineering students.  My logic was that it would be could to have some women to use as role models alongside the usual cliches of successful entrepreneurs like – at that time – Richard Branson and James Dyson.  Plus, I was working at Coventry University at the time, and Bravissimo started in Leamington Spa, just round the corner.  Local too.  Brilliant. What could possibly go wrong?  On reflection, uttering the phrase ‘their, genius, was in identifying and exploiting a gap in the market to cater for bigger breasted women such as myself‘ to this audience that was comprised of about 98% male youths was possibly not my wisest hour.   Still, that’s how you learn isn’t it.  Also, alas, doesn’t even close to my most embarrassing moment, not by a country mile, but those stories are for another time.

After all, even this svelte marathon runner said running for 19 miles carrying a puppy with her made running  feel twice as hard.   You missed that story?  Where have you been?  Basically:

Runner Khemjira Klongsanun was seven miles into the Chombueng marathon in Ratchaburi, Western Thailand, when she saw runners dodging a puppy. Stopping at the side of the road, Klongsanun attempted to coax the trembling puppy over to her.

With no houses nearby, Klongsanun concluded that the pup must have been abandoned. Rather than leaving it behind, she carried it for the next 19-miles, crossing the finish line with the pup in her arms.

and she added – wisely

“Running almost 20 miles carrying dog was truly a challenge. It was two times tiring than a normal marathon but I did it anyway just because he is adorable.

I’m sure it was a challenge, easily two times harder than a normal marathon. So imagine what it’s like carrying my two puppies with me on my long runs?  And they aren’t anything like as adorable as an abandoned actual puppy, so yep, it can be a problem.  Also, look at the state of the poor pup after being bounced around for 19 + miles.  No wonder many women get put off running by lack of suitable boob support.  Hence my fantasy about one day having my own bespoke sports bra that meets all my criteria, and which saves the work out for the run rather than elevating the heart rate to an alarming degree just trying to get the damned thing on!

Hmmm, I’m still not sure I ever have, but I’ll keep an open mind.

Anyway, this is why I was very keen to try out a sports bra freebie, even if I wasn’t massively confident it would be up to the task in hand.  You have to try these things.

So, went down to Front Runner.  And was greeted by the enthusiastic Brooks Bra rep.  He actually does bras and shoes, but this was a bra day.  The bra in question was the Brooks Juno, which apparently retails from £40 – £50.  It is apparently High Impact and ‘For women who prefer a controlled fit, our best-selling racerback powerhouse has it all — it’s the ultimate in support and shape with a customizable fit.’  Well, we shall see.

brooks bra front

So first things first, the rep tried to talk me through a set piece on why it’s so important for women to have a correctly fitting sports bra.  I must admit I was a bit impatient about this.  See above. I know exactly what the issues are, I am on a perpetual quest for the elusive holy grail of a well fitted sports bra.  However, credit where credit is due, after I’d rolled my eyes at this, the speech was truncated and we cut to the chase.

Now, I’m just going to be honest about this, because it is only fair to be so. The rep was very good, clearly knew his product and is sufficiently experienced to be apparently devoid of embarrassment whilst discussing cup sizes, bra fitting and the relative merits of the various options on offer.  However, I’m not sure I was entirely comfortable having a man doing the fitting.  I think it’s just that bras are an emotive issue, and I think that there is something about the lived experience of running in an ill-fitting bra, the shame of not being able to wrestle in to one, the body shaming that seems to go hand in hand with the impractical, seemingly misogynistic, styles presented so often that are literally, not just figuratively impossible to get into on your own, that I just don’t know if it is possible to empathise with if you haven’t been through it.  I did ask him if he’d ever actually tried to put on a bra.  Well he had, but only over a T-shirt and frankly, whilst I fully accept moobs are a thing he wasn’t in possession of them, barely an A cup.  Now I’m quite shallow, and also quite desperate for a bra, so I got over my concerns pretty fast as a necessary hurdle to obtain the test vehicle on offer, but there’s no doubting it could be a barrier for many.  It may be though, it isn’t even necessarily a gender thing.  I’m mindful that this experience was way more positive than my last Brooks Bra Fitting disaster which was with an extremely petite, androgynously shaped  and youthful woman, who (I’m sure unintentionally) made me feel like an entirely different life form to her.  I said I was worried about them not having my size, and she assured me they were a very responsive company catering for all sizes ‘up to a D cup even!’ and then looked horror struck and aghast when I pointed out what I’d have thought was self evident to a bra fitter worth their mustard,  that I’m often busting out of a F if it’s a mean cup fitting.  She looked embarrassed on my behalf and then frankly disgusted. It was a horrible experience.  I would credit the fitter on this occasion with being less judgmental, more sympathetic and honestly very sincere and helpful.  but I don’t think either of the fitters I’ve encountered could speak from personal experience.  Back to Bravissimo, all of their fitters are candidates for the products they sell, that inspired not only confidence, but grateful relief. Finally a fitter that understands me!  There is such a gap in the sports manufacturing market for women with any kind of curves let alone an actual rack up front.

The next challenge was being given a tape measure and heading off to the little telephone box sized changing room to measure my ‘rib cage’ (are there ribs under there somewhere?) and then the widest part of my chest.  You can measure over your current bra he said, but I’m not convinced as if that isn’t a decent fit you’ll just replicate that error surely?  In any event,  I was wearing a sports bra anyway (my current one is a rather worn out Shock Absorber) so the suggestion was to measure without anything on up top.  This is not in and of itself a challenging task, but my those changing rooms are hard to manoeuvre around in. There is a large square pouffe thing which takes up most of the floor space, and then a free hanging full length mirror I ended up squashed up against, and I seemed to keep crashing into it as I tried to get the blooming tape measure round, and I hadn’t got my glasses with me and my it was hard to read those numbers off the tape without them.  Maybe if they are going to have male sales reps, which is fair enough, and I don’t dispute they know their products, but perhaps encourage women coming for one of their mass bra fitting evenings to buddy up so they can help measure each other.  Have the prosecco first too maybe!

phone box

Interestingly, the size he came up with for me based on my measurements,  was the same as that for the Shock Absorber model I came wearing.  One was found for me in black (all the samples were black, but there do seem to be a wide range of pretty cool colours on the website which was a pleasant surprise, though I doubt the average running shop would be able to carry such a wide range.)  I liked the purple, which I was told is actually midnight blue or something.  Errant nonsense on their part obviously, but don’t worry the important thing is the colour was fab.

My first impression of the bra  though, as it was handed to me, was its heft. Although described as ‘unpadded’ – I later read they call it ‘cushioned’ it was extraordinarily thickened fabric, almost like slapping a memory foam mattress on your chest.  I’m not sure what to make of this.  I’m quite self-conscious about my bust size as it is, and this bra initially felt like I was nailing a figurehead to the front of ship with an already substantial bow!   A whole new category of buxomness was in danger of being sported here.  I mean, I know it needs to be pretty substantial to offer support, but this is fairly unforgiving in form.  Still, if it works, I’ve always known a flattering bra is a hope too far.  Maybe I need to channel my inner figurehead, these women are not apologetic about their physiques, though at least one of them is looking pretty pissed off, and clearly having similarly failed to find any suitable corselette is going commando. Good for her, why shouldn’t she, why shouldn’t we indeed, desperate times call for desperate measures..

Anyway, I was duly dispatched back to the changing room to try it on.  Oh my gawd. It has quite novel fittings, which in theory should make it easier to get on, but it was unfamiliar.  This was like doing a personal challenge on the krypton factor.  The challenge required a cool head, stamina and intelligence as well as physical agility.

This bra has a racing back, but with a twist.  The band that goes under your boobs actually includes an eye and hook fastening  on that bra strap as well, meaning it can be put on without being at maximum tightness which is very good news.  Also, the shoulder straps are unattached to the front, so you can therefore hoik the bra over your head before tightening everything up once your breasts are in situ.  Blimey, what a performance.  I’m surprised they didn’t send a rescue party in to see what had happened to me.  Bet they were thinking about it, but just probably panicking about the etiquette of who to send in first.  The problem was the dimensions of the changing room. You need quite a bit of flailing around space to get into a sports bra, and this changing room was most definitely not bigger on the inside. How superman manages to twirl round in a phone box and emerge in his cape and all I can’t imagine.  I mean it probably helps that he has super powers, but I bet he wouldn’t be able to do that if he had to include donning a sports bra as part of his wardrobe.

1940s-PhoneBooth

There was much cursing under my breath, breaking out into hot and cold sweats and crashing into the mirror going on.  Another top tip for shops selling sports bras, is have a changing room big enough for women to contort themselves into the required shapes that pulling on a sports bra necessitates.  For this one, once you have it over your head and done up (relatively OK because of the design, which yes, is innovative) the next step is to some how hurl the straps that are now dangling down your back, so they hook back over your shoulders.  Eventually I worked out the way to do this is to lean forward and reach up and grab the straps from over your shoulders and then pull them over and hook through where they fasten with velcro.  I liked the velcro fastening option by the way, it feels like it will stay put, which was surprising, and allows you to alter the strap length with ease.  I didn’t look anything like as serene as this model whilst dressing.  I was all blotchy skin, fine film of sweat, bedraggled hair and blood shot eyes by the time I was safely in.  I emerged from the changing room looking like I’d done ten rounds with a mountain lion, only with me the mountain lion won.  Good really though, got to be sad about the demise of an endangered species whatever the provocation.

_105492823_gettyimages-1061398502 mountain lion

Oh well.  Practice makes perfect possibly … perhaps …

The bra definitely has some interesting features, but I’m not yet sure the extent to which they will deliver on promises, plus it is still a ridiculous performance to get it on unaided first time of trying.  It’s no wonder so many women are put off from ever starting running.  It’s a complete fantasy that you just cheerily pull on your shoes and off you go, all carefree and at one with the world…

Once on, first impressions were, that the under strap was a good fit and overall it felt comfy.  I wasn’t sure about the level of support though.  It has a unicup rather than a separate cup for each breast, and I felt this leaves more potential for movement.  I’m used to feeling more held in place.  On the other hand, there is less extra fabric strips as in the Shock Absorber so it feels smoother against the skin. I queried the fit, but the rep said that these bras might just feel different as they are supposed to support you without squishing you, so maybe it is a question of getting used to it.  I did try a smaller cup size, which I consider was pretty tenacious of me, as getting the darned things on and off it is a mighty deterrent to trying all over again. This is why I could never do triathlon, all that faffing around and changing of gear.  Oh, yes and I’ve remembered the other reason I can’t do triathlon, I can barely swim and I have none of the required fitness, and also it has zero appeal, but other than that, it’s the faffing around with changing that puts me off.

To those who have not been through this process, it might sound improbable, but by the time I’d got the smaller cup size on and off, and back to the original again I had no idea which was the better fit. The smaller cup size was too restrictive, but the larger one has so much fabric to it.  In the end, as it’s a trial, I went with the size that is the same as my existing bra, and I’ll see how it goes.  Fair play to the Brooks rep he was very patient and did seem to understand the issues, but the real test comes when I’m out and running does it not…

First impressions then. Well, some interesting features, it was still a struggle to get into but it was doable, whereas I’ve tried other sports bras that I could hardly get over my head.  The fabric feels soft and I like that you can adjust the straps with ease.  I do find the absolute bulk of it off putting, and weirdly because it’s comfy on, it makes me doubt whether it will provide sufficient support. I think it’s fair to say it isn’t love at first sight, but then again, I’d be the first to admit that I’m so jaded by my forty plus years of trying to get a bra that fits I’m highly doubtful anything will do the job however supposedly ‘new’ or ‘innovative’.  Having said that, I am quite looking forward to trying it out on an actual run, I want to be proved wrong on this.

Calvin-and-Hobbes-Running

The good news is that the request for feedback appears genuine, and I really do welcome that.  I wonder if some sports companies are guilty of getting feedback in an echo chamber, if they only provide bras for smaller cup sizes then of course there will be no demand for larger ones, because they don’t sell them.  And I think those of us with more generous proportions are of course going to have different requirements to others.  So we’ll see.

Here’s to new bounce-free bounding across the [parkrun trails and my beautiful backyard peaks.

out on the trails

What do you reckon dear reader?  Worth a punt?  Will I end up casting off all my existing bras in favour of this new offer?

Honestly, right now I have no idea.  No idea at all.

Oh, by the way, quick plug for ‘Smalls for All‘ if you dear reader are also sorting your bras and ditching the ones you know you should never have bought in the first place, and jettisoning all that don’t fit in favour of a newly discovered comfy and practical option then why not consider gifting any that are ‘lightly worn’ to have a new life with the beneficiaries of Smalls for all.

Would be great if Sports Bra manufacturers could organise bra amnesties and collect clean lightly worn bras from their customers who are persuaded to move over to their particular products and ditch their own kits….

smalls for all

Smalls for All is a Scottish Charity which collects and distributes underwear to help women and children in Africa. We help those living in orphanages, slums, IDP camps and schools, as well as providing underwear to hospitals to help those suffering from medical conditions like obstetric fistula.

If you’d like to donate underwear, here’s the brief – All you have to do is buy a packet of ladies’ or children’s pants and send them to us. They must be new and while we collect all sizes, those we need the most are for children aged 3-15 or ladies size 8-14. And while we collect all colours, the ladies’ pants in greatest demand are black – in full brief, midi, mini or high leg (in the smaller sizes).

We also accept new or ‘gently worn’ bras which can be any size, including sports and nursing bras, but not teen, cropped-top style or bikini tops. (By ‘gently worn’ we mean bras that are in good condition and still have good wear left in them.)

Please send your smalls to:

Smalls for All
108 Buchanan Crescent
Eliburn, Livingston, EH54 7EF
United Kingdom

Please enclose your email address so that we can acknowledge safe receipt of your donation.

Or you can order online

We’ve set up an Amazon wish list for new pants, so you can order online and have them delivered directly to Smalls for All if that’s easier. Go to our Amazon wish list.

Just a thought.

So there we go. Glad to have got all that off my chest so to speak.  I did warn them I could be very opinionated and candid on this topic, I expect the nice people at Brooks will be completely thrilled!

feedback

Be careful what you ask for…

For all my comments on Brooks Bras see here – scroll down for older entries

 

 

Categories: running | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fabulous Frolics at Frickley Country parkrun

Digested read: went to Frickley Country parkrun for some tourism.  It was only their fourth event (bless), but ran like a well oiled machine.  It was reet nice.  Thanks all.  You may be a relatively new arrival, but you appear to have emerged fully fledged.  Hurrah!

Undigested read: (it’s a long one, again, remember, read responsibly, leave time to adult, or not, where applicable and according to your needs and preferences but don’t blame me for tasks undone).

So much I want to tell you about this parkrun.  It was jam-packed with celebrities for starters (though we can take it as a given that all parkrunners are heroes). There is however, one particular completely brilliant feature that confounded all my previous parkrun expectations. Desperate to blurt it out right now, but you know what, I’m going to save it for later, because I think – hard as it is to comprehend –  it will be even more fun if you experience the delayed gratification that I too underwent on my sojourn to Frickley this morning, before getting to the big reveal.  Well, here’s hoping anyway.  I know, hope over experience, but you’ve gotta have hope, especially in times as dark, dismal and divisive as these…  In fact, I’m almost wondering if I shouldn’t tell you, in case that means you lose the element of surprise when you rock up for your inaugural Frickley Country parkrun experience.  It’s quite a dilemma, responsibility even.  I’ll have to wait and see…

I’ll tell you something straight up though (see what I’ve done there?  Pun intended) this was definitely an ‘undulating’ course, properly so.  And I speak as a veteran of many a Sheffield parkrun.  You know what, I’m going to really stick my neck out and concede there were actual hills.  You’ll get fit if Frickley Country is your home course for sure.  Even if ‘just’ hoiking yourself up to one of the higher marshalling points. And for your information, this isn’t even The Hill, and this hi viz hero still had to set off at dawn to allow enough time for him to summit before we parkrunners descended…

dscf7143

But I’m getting ahead of myself here, stop distracting me with all this hill-talk all I’ll never be finished with this account, let’s get back to basics shall we – you can always skim read if you are getting bored impatient.

Confession time.  I’d never even heard of Frickley ’til  a couple of weeks ago.  No idea where it was, but it popped up as my NENDY (nearest event not done yet) and so it seemed that it’s a relatively new event (this was their fourth) that snuck under the radar, presumably wanting a quiet inaugural, which is fair enough. I’m upping my tourism lately, for various reasons I can’t be bothered to elaborate on here, and so it seemed a logical choice for a Saturday morning jaunt out from Sheffield.  So, in case you, like me, have been living in a state of ignorance about Frickley, I can tell you this, Frickley Country park

is a former colliery and now is now an attractive open space. It has over 7 miles of footpaths and cycle-ways, giving you great opportunities to walk, run, cycle and escape in this natural environment. There are also several works of art which hark back to the land’s industrial past.

and is located

to the immediate south of South Elmsall, West Yorkshire. It’s situated on the southern side of an urban settlement, bordered to the east and south by agricultural land with broadleaf woods, and to the west by a railway and spoil heaps

frickley country park

So now we all know.   Firmly in the Yorkshire and Humberside section of the parkrun events page.

I feel enlightened. One of the many fab things about parkrun tourism is that it has been most educational.  I’ve visited places that I might never have reason to stop at before and met some fab people along the way.  What’s not to like. Also, many fine mugs of coffee drunk along the way (apart from Doncaster parkrun, that was an ace visit but worst coffee ever experienced ever, not just at parkrun even).  No parkrun trip, however far ventured, is ever wasted.  FACT.

I was trying to remind myself of this when my alarm clock went off and I woke blinking and confused staring into the dark.  Felt like I hadn’t slept, but I peered out of window and established there was no ice, so it was trip on.  I always worry about getting lost so left loads of time, so it was pitch dark as I ventured out.  I hate driving in the dark, roll on long summer days when parkrun tourism can occur in daylight.  It was an easy drive from Sheffield to Frickley, though inevitably further than I thought.  The Frickley Country parkrun directions stated (correctly) that the

Sat Nav code WF9 2EQ. This postcode is accurate to within 200 metres of the entrance (do not turn into Colliers Way – dead end, unless on foot). The entrance (unmade road) is 200 metres ahead between Frickley Colliery Welfare Cricket Club and Broad Lane Business Centre. The Frickley Athletic Football Club Pavilion is located off Westfield Lane South Elmsall Pontefract. There is signage at the entrance to the Football ground.

There is ample car parking available free of charge at the Frickley Athletic Football Stadium/Pavilion. There is additional free car parking around the site (Doncaster Road car park entrance and at Curlew View car park entrance) however they are approximately a 10 minute walk to the start/finish line

It wasn’t difficult to find, but, as I was early, the entrance, though clearly marked, didn’t inspire confidence.  It takes you down a rather potholed track, and you approach it through quite dense housing, so it felt counter intuitive.

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I was quite relieved to espy the parkrun flag, and made my way through to a soft of fenced off carpark area.  There was indeed loads of parking first thing, anyway, however characteristically, I was immediately overwhelmed with the decision making involved in choosing the correct space.  I then went for a quick explore of the entrance area to the Frickley Athletic Football Club, which had some (to me at least) highly entertaining signage.  Loved the Big Fellas clothing notice and was especially taken by the evostick sponsorship as I didn’t realize adhesive was a natural bedfellow for football league support.  See, once again, parkrun was proving most educational.  There was plenty of extra parking space, though not marked out, so potentially a bit of a free for all in terms of finding a spot.  Less salubrious, was the copious amounts of dog poo everywhere around the entrance area.  Not a good impression, stick to the tarmac dear reader I’ll say no more.

Oh, and I took a ‘before’ selfie, because you have to, don’t you, it’s the rule at a new parkrun location.  I think it must also be a given that it’s deeply unflattering, well that rule works for me, please gawd I don’t actually look like this in real life – mind you, wait til you see the ‘after’ shot. After shock more like….

Emboldened by my foray around, I approached the club house.  You could see a veritable army mass of hi-vis marshals milling around through the windows.  Others were arriving too, loads of tourist buffs, and there was a sort of air of eager anticipation. Unlike other parkruns I’ve been to, because this is a relatively new event, there was a sort of collective uncertainty about where facilities and the course was, but it was exciting, like we were all about to embark on a grand new adventure.

The club house has much to recommend it. It was roasty toasty warm for one thing, which may or may not be a good thing on reflection, as it was hard to prize yourself away from it.  Coffee was available pre as well as post parkrun.  There were loos – indeed an actual changing room with showers and a treatment bench thing, if only I’d thought to bring my personal masseuse with me this morning we’d have managed just fine.   It did look a bit like an old-fashioned asylum as portrayed in an old horror film, but apart from that. Also, you get to feel important on the way in, as there is a sign up making it very clear that only VIPs are honored with using that particular entrance.

Having executed my first precautionary pee of the morning, it was time to have a little scout around the course.  The sun was rising, and I contemplated chugging up an adjacent hill to get a better shot, but instead tried for ones on lower ground.  Dog poo alert again, so much dog shite around the football pitch areas, I should have gone up the hill.  The poo problem seemed quite localised, I assume from people watching matches paying no attention to their hounds prolific ‘toileting’ – it didn’t help there were no obvious poo bins, it was a real shame, very off putting.  Basically, my top tip is treat the whole grass area around the football pitches and the rough parking areas around the entrance area as if they are mined with dog poo.  Tread on these areas at your peril.  You’ll have no recourse, I strongly suspect there is no DNA testing of dog poop in this location.  However, try not to be put off the whole parkrun experience by this first impression, granted the bar is set quite low, canine faeces proliferation wise, but honestly, things got very much better from hereon-in!  I will resist the temptation to insert here a photo of a dog mid-poo, instead going for this positive imagery of a very finely executed poop scoop by parkrunners and barkrunners doing the right thing. Good to know!

responsible dog owners

Back to cheerier themes, sunrise picture wise though, no worries, others did make this foray to higher ground and I am shamelessly using their pics alongside mine.  If you want to know which is which, basically their ones are the money shots, and mine isn’t.  Hope that helps.

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So first impressions. Well, sun rise, huge expanse of space, and yep ‘undulating’.  I was sort of lurking and overhearing other conversations.  One was pointing to a steep hill, and saying ‘of course that’s not The Hill, that’s over there‘ as she gestured wildly in some other direction.  I didn’t pay all that much attention. We have hills in Sheffield. It’d be fine.

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I wandered down to the finish area, distinguishable by a very fine pop-up finish sign, way more sophisticated than I’ve seen in any of our more local runs.  It is two-sided so one side says ‘finish’ and the other, creatively, says ‘start’.  However, although you might think this is a boon, it was actually a bit confusing, and I noticed it did get turned around a few times this morning.  So when I first went down ‘finish’ was towards me, but later it was changed to show ‘start’ so you could see where to assemble as you emerged into the park area from the clubhouse, but then you actually line up behind it so it feels like you are running through the ‘finish’ as you head out.  Don’t worry too much though, everything worked.  Here is a picture for identification purposes:

I got acquainted with another tourist from Huddersfield (wave of hello inserted here), who was telling me about a new run there, Storthes Hall parkrun, also new to the parkrun party, so that can be added to my to do list.  It’s quite exciting, all these extra parkruns popping up all over.  She was watching her tourist buddies warming up, they looked impressive sprinting down the hill.  Personally, I like to save my running around for the actual run, though with the benefit of hindsight, for this particular parkrun a warm up lope  along somewhere is probably a good move.  More of this later.

 I had to have my second precautionary pee of the morning, and did some milling around self-consciously.  Volunteers started to emerge from the club house and head out to their individually identified hot spots.

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More and more people started to descend on the area.  The anticipation built.

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After a bit, a call went out for the first timers briefing.  There was a fair few of us, the majority were tourists, but some were locals, some even first time ever parkrunners, sigh, their lives will never be the same again.  I followed the mob to the briefing.  There was a description of the course.  ‘See that hill, it’s not that one that everyone has been talking about‘.  Oh, maybe I should have concentrated a bit more on understanding what the course was like.  Clearly this mythical hill is a thing of wonder, and not to be approached too lightly.  All were welcomed, and having established no-one was intending to be faster than 20 minutes, the basic advice is to follow the person in front and listen to marshals, which always works for me.  All friendly though, and welcoming, which is the main thing. Thank you welcoming first time briefer.

Hang on, should probably do the official Frickley Country parkrun course blah de blah, here it is:

The start and finish are located at the Frickley Athletic Football Club Pavilion. The course consists of mixed trail surfaces. The course is exclusively the Frickley Country Park site. The majority of the course (4K) is one lap, with an additional (1K) loop. The course is undulating, with a challenging hill section at 1K point, however the views from the top are worth the effort of the climb.

Hmm, sounded innocuous enough.  It looks like this:

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So now we all know.

More milling and chilling.  Whilst we were waiting patiently assembled at the start, a fine dachshund caught my eye.  We were formally introduced later on, but he was clearly a parkrun pro.  He was outraged at the hanging around and trying to alert his handler to his impatience at this unexpected lull in proceedings.  Clearly he was used to a speedier start.  His handler made an abortive attempt to lead him away from the start to minimise the disruption caused by his barking, but this made things worse.  Troy (for that is of whom I am speaking) was provoked even further because his idiot handler was clearly trying to go the wrong way! Honestly, it must be so frustrating when you are a barkrun pro and the idiots around you are not following your expected parkrun protocols!

After a bit, there was a further call for attention, and this time it was the Run Director’s briefing.  She didn’t appear to be wearing the traditional (I thought) blue hi-vis.  Whether that was because they don’t yet have one, she preferred to go undercover for surveillance purposes or it was just forgotten I cannot say.  However, in a much more dramatic break from tradition, I can report dear reader that there was proper, respectful silence for the Run Director during the briefing.  Hallelujah!  That made a refreshing change.  I suppose it does rather suggest it was because this was a new event so people were paying attention.  The depressing truth that goes alongside this is all the people yakking through other run briefings at parkruns nationwide are regulars.  Oh well, not so here, we can celebrate that.  We were reminded that there is a loopy bit you do twice, so keep to the left on that unless overtaking.  This all makes sense once you’ve done it, but not really in advance.  You could get away with just doing it once, but really, you’d only be fooling yourself and you’d never get another pb so where would be the fun in that?  Not only do run directors in general rock, obvs, but this particular RD has her own rock on which to stand to deliver said RD briefing.  Another fine innovation from a new parkrun.  There was also a warning that there is a rogue Frickley Parkrun Facebook page out there, but it has a capital pee, so would fool no true parkrunner surely! 😉 Seriously though, how has that happened, bit weird for someone to choose to do that…

‘Twas a brief briefing.  3 2 1 Go!  And we were awf.  Troy was mightily relieved, and it did start punctually, the milling around was because we were all keenies in situ nice and early.  Of we went, up the path and then first left and  even more up as we tackle the  a hill.  Over two hundred runners.  It was a fair old heave ho.  Hence my earlier comment maybe a warm up would have been a good idea.  I found this parkrun hard from the off.

There were a few buggy runners.  Respect to them!  Although the paths were firm underneath, there was a fair bit of mud on top, and with that, and the hills from the outset, it was nigh on heroic to get a buggy round, but plenty did, and overtook me to boot (though that’s not quite such an impressive achievement as I might wish to believe).

Up, up the hill, thanking our cheery hi-vis heroes as we passed.

I was towards the back, I always do start further back these days, and it was quite something to see the colourful snake of runners snaking up ahead and over the brow of the hill, which somewhat made up for my growing sense of panic that I’d be left behind completely!  Maybe if I spent less time taking blurry photos and more time actually running that would be less of a real peril!

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Coming over the top of the hill you are rewarded by great views, the relief of a bit of flat, and then some down hill -which was fine but a bit steeper and rougher than the generally compact trails might suggest.  I was glad of my trail shoes – then again, I am a bit of a scaredy cat, so always favour a bit of extra grip on unfamiliar courses.

I found it quite interesting running through this reclaimed colliery site, though I guess inevitably its history will be complicated.  It reminded me – unsurprisingly of Gedling, another reclaimed colliery.  A lot of effort has gone into creating these spaces, and they are impressive, and over time, as trees mature, will become even more so.  Still, no time to think about that.  Getting to the 1 km mark, I saw it.  The Hill.  Yep, that’s a hill.  Sufficiently steep that the path zig zags up to it rather than going straight up.  Fab marshaling position at the bottom of the hill gave great views of the thread of runners hoiking themselves up, some with more grace and elegance than others!  There were some trodden linking sections where other walkers had taken ‘short cuts’ straight up, but I’m not sure you’d gain anything at a parkrun by so doing, they were pretty steep, you’d end up sliding right back down again if you gave into misguided temptation to cut a corner anywhere.  Looked great though. Again, I’ve borrowed some photos of others to create some mood shots for you.  Hoping those who put their photos on Facebook will be magnanimous about sharing them here.

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Not gonna lie.  That hill was tough going.  If this was your local parkrun you’d get seriously fit running up that hill even just once a week.  Weirdly, when I checked out the elevation for this route afterwards, it was ‘only’ 257 ft, compared to say Graves parkrun (new route) which is, according to my Strava more at 340 ft. Graves doesn’t feel so hard to me, but then again it is familiar.  Not loving the uphill finish at Graves though, oh the shame if you can’t keep you puff and running up for a final flourish!`

Mind you, don’t know what I’m moaning about, have you seen what some women are capable of?  Can we have a moment to celebrate these amazing women have done.  A group of five Aymara indigenous women from Bolivia – known as the cholita* climbers – have summited Aconcagua (6961m) in the Argentinian Andes near the border with Chile.  6961 metres is 22837.93 ft, apparently, let’s call it 22838 ft shall we? Which is like doing the ascent at Frickley Country parkrun 88.8638132296 times.  Let’s call that 89 times shall we?  Impressive.  They look very jolly, I think they’d make fine parkrunners, shame parkrun has yet to make it to Bolivia.

cholita climbers

I barely made it up the hill once.  To add to the stress of it all, there was a photographer lurking at the highest point!  Great sense of humour the Frickley folk were sporting there. They must have captured some corkers!

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Update: yes they did get some corker photos, and shared them too, here are some, thank you Frickley Country parkrun volunteer, much appreciated.  Told you those buggy pushers were hardcore, and that dachshunds are feisty.  Confusingly, I’m sure at least a couple of the photos were from a different spot at the bottom of a hill, but you get the gist, I’m sure.  Disappointingly, I don’t think the gradient is fully obvious from these shots, but maybe the grimaces on the photos tell their own story.  Come and run it for yourself and then decide…

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You are rewarded for this second ascent with more flat, which you can enjoy as long as your lungs aren’t too full of blood from the earlier exertion.  You can really see for miles, the landscape is in no way ‘natural’ but it is full of interest. There were lots of features to appreciate, strategically placed benches (NOT intended to be used as resting points mid parkrun but I suppose if you really had to), with lovely side silhouettes of people staring out to the view, and little design references to the history of the site.

Nice.

Again, the views stretch out in front of you, and you can follow the brightly coloured snaking line of running tees like a trail of bread crumbs to see your way ahead.

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Another smiling marshal stops you getting lost en route:

This is where it turned out there was a strategically placed video camera, recording everyone as they passed.  There was also an overhead buzz, which turned out to be a drone, seemingly following us along, but I don’t know if that was there by chance or a Frickley Country parkrun surveillance initiative, I think probably the former. Though the psychology of being watched is fascinating.  I definitely didn’t want to stop running for as long as I thought I could be seen. Childish, but true….

Oh, and the Frickley Country parkrun video for event #4 is here, I didn’t realise I looked quite so comical when I run, oh well, at least it got me scampering in an ‘I’m trying to run a bit’ rather than blowing my nose or gazing about or giving up and ‘power walking to save myself for a sprint finish’ all of  which were plausible options on this course.  I did manage to screen shot a still from it though, and it is actually quite fun and quite therapeutic to watch the whole field pass by if you have time to watch the whole sequence.  Quite a continuum of approaches on display there. Thanks Frickley Country parkrun for the video innovation.  It seems to have been a regular feature for the last couple of weeks, though I wouldn’t bank on it being there in perpetuity… however you never know do you.  So be prepared parkrunners, be prepared!  At least they had the generosity of spirit to capture us on a downhill section on this occasion – it may not always be just so!

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Shortly after being recorded for posterity, you encounter the looping the loop bit.  It sounds confusing but it just isn’t.  Marshals point the way, and signs back it up, plus, it is depressingly obvious you are going to have to run round twice, as you can see the faster runners on a downward descent for round two as you approach.  Don’t worry, if you are a faster runner, they have sentries marshals on hand to direct you back round so you don’t miss out on the two lap fun factory provided for your delight.

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The photos don’t reflect it all that well, but the loop goes up hill again,  I quite liked this bit.  You keep to the left unless overtaking, but it was quite spread out by this point and seemed good natured.  There was mud and puddles a-plenty, always a boon.  You emerge at the top alongside a housing estate that abuts the country park, they must have great views.  Another straight bit … which would take you to the finish, except for the cheery and vigilant marshal to direct you back down the hill again to have the fun of running round in a bit circle all over again.  There were also some runners that who had presumably already finished, as they were coming in the opposite direction doing a cool down lap I suppose, another bright idea I have yet to implement.  I’m a running minimalist at heart, I really do need to start getting more disciplined if I’m going to get my long runs in…  At least I hope they were doing a cool down lap, otherwise some of us were definitely going the wrong way…

Hurrah!  An added bonus, was I spotted this fine obelisk like structure on the second circuit.  Marking the site of some colliery construction or other.  It looked almost mythical with the early morning sun back lighting it quite gloriously. Yep, my camera has failed to capture that as well. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

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More breathless thanking of marshals and back up the hill

and then ‘suddenly’ you are homeward bound.

Surely it can’t be?  Is that the finish in sight?  Down hill as well?

The thing is dear reader, this was the most exciting bit that I wanted to blurt out right at the beginning. This was the unexpected, to me unprecedented and yet pleasing parkrun innovation.  Spoiler alert, if you want to keep the surprise for yourself, you are going to have to skip this whole paragraph, otherwise the secret will be out of the proverbial bag. Your call.  Ready?  Well, you aren’t going to believe this, but, I kid you not, they’d moved the proverbial goal posts in our favour!  Usually, as soon as I see the finish funnel (unless it’s an uphill finish like the aforementioned Graves parkrun) I immediately put on what is for me a sprint, due to this primeval fear that if I don’t the volunteers will all start to dismantle it and move it further away as I approach. Well, you’ll never guess, but here, the complete opposite happened! I’d assumed – nay, I’d go so far as to say ‘been led to believe’ the start and finish were at the same place, because of the push-me pull-you start/finish sign previously mentioned.  Here, whilst we’d all been parkrun/ walk/ jogging about up and down hill and round in circles the volunteers had moved the finish closer to where we were running from! This genius innovation is incredibly good for morale, and also has the added advantage of you finish at the entrance for the clubhouse, very handy for coffee cravers everywhere.  Brilliant.

As you pass the time keepers you get a token the far end of the funnel, and then there was a scanner metres away, all extremely efficient.  This may be a new parkrun but their systems seem to be up and running with gusto as well as well oiled efficiency.

I lingered a while at the finish, cheering in the few who were still trailing in behind me.

I espied the first aid kit and defibrillator on hand. I was going to make some quip about didn’t know ipads could do that, but turns out there was a reminder of the life saving potential of defribs as one had to be used at Bushy parkrun this morning.  The person concerned seems to be doing well, but it I suppose as more and more people embrace parkrun, law of averages means there will be occasional incidents when these are needed. I know of a few incidents now. I wonder how many parkrun purchased kits have been used, not necessarily at parkrun, they often become an asset and resource for whatever venue hosts them.

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I tried to get some arty shots from the steps by the pavilion.  I know, but sometimes remember it is the thought that counts, and in these early days of Frickley Country parkrun’s evolution, maybe even blurry photos will play their part in contributing to the event archive.

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I’d hit the jackpot earlier with my parking, being just outside the club house, so easy enough to retrieve my fleece and cash for coffee.  First though, the mandatory after selfie shot:

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Yep, the running had taken it’s toll with all those hill, no wonder I was looking a little green around the gills.

Still, not to worry, fleece on and into the warm embrace of the cosy club house. You could pay £1 for cheap and cheerful coffee – there was also a hatch selling bacon baps and circus tickets (?) but I’m vegetarian and anyway, had my eye on the Proper Coffee.  I made my way to the proper coffee corner, where the vendor was diligently mopping up quantities of hot foamy spilt milk with a rather inadequate looking paper towel.   ‘There’s been a catastrophe‘ he said, or something similar.  ‘Not a catastrophe‘, I helpfully advised ‘a learning opportunity!’  I don’t really think that, it was post-run endorphins speaking probably, but also, you know what they say about spilt milk.  No point. No point at all.  I’m sure it wasn’t a world weary look I got in return.  I did however get an extremely fine latte for the bargain price of £2.  It was really good.  Only observation was that I couldn’t see anywhere you could get water from, though I didn’t ask to be fair.  Coffee was great and cafe area really warm, in every sense.    A very friendly hub bub was all around.

Fortuitously, my tourist buddy I’d met at the very beginning of the day, was the person in front of me in the coffee queue.  She invited me to join some other tourists who all meet up together at various events all over the place.  I was greatly honoured.  Who knew that there was this whole parallel universe of traveling parkrunners.  I was invited to take a seat, which was initially somewhat awkward as the most obvious place was already taken by another parkrun touring celebrity, dear reader I give you Bully, the touring mascot:

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Cow cowl made manifest!  I’m a bit confused about what the name Bully might infer in terms of gender identity, but then again, that’s an artificial construct isn’t it, maybe they identify as non-binary or something…

Even so, I was made very welcome, and it was great hearing about all sorts of touring adventures and meeting Troy properly and hearing about specialist parkrun groups – did you know there is a closed Facebook parkrun group for the deaf and hard of hearing no?  Me neither.  It’s great to see how parkrun is evolving.

It was good to meet a true local on her first ever parkrun too (wave).  She was telling me about running in Canada, which got to the minus twenties I think she said.  I can’t even imagine that.  Frickley Country parkrun would be great to have as your local I think, it seemed really friendly and a challenging course too.  All good.

Photos, obviously, in many and varied permutations, it wasn’t just me who was after photos this time.  Love parkrun tourists, they get it!  Smiley Selfie Queen would be among friends here:

You’d have thought the delights of hobnobbing with parkrun tourists and locals alike, couldn’t be topped. But before I left, I sought out the erm, not sure how to express this with due reverence and political correctness – let’s go with veteran marshal.  He’d been out cheering us at the top of the hill, and I reckoned it was a reasonable punt that he was probably post fifty say and particularly wanted to say hello to him because I thought my mum might be interested in hearing about another vintage volunteer.  Well dear reader.  Result!  Not only was he incredibly friendly and obliging posing for lots of snaps so I could get the perfect pose

but also, turns out he is a parkrun celebrity in his own right!  My mum may have Elisabeth’s corner at Bushy parkrun – of which she is rightly proud, but this was Ken of Ken’s corner at Pontefract parkrun!

As my regular reader knows, I never name anyone in this blog… unless, they are a celebrity and therefore already in the public domain.  Clearly Troy and Ken both fall into this category.  Respect!  I felt really honoured!

Is there anyone involved with Pontefract parkrun that is more inspirational than our very own Ken Bingley?   With 167 volunteer sessions behind him and 112 runs, it’s no surprise that we’ve named a corner after him.

It was chance that brought him to Frickley Country parkrun today, apparently Pontefract parkrun was cancelled, their loss, our gain.  Because it basically launched Ken off on his winter progresses, like Elizabeth I, I think it was her, that did progresses out and about. I’ll need to google that now…  Yep, ’twas apparently she headed off when London was hot and insalubrious  Ken was off exploring because he couldn’t miss a parkrun fix.  Quite right too.

Now I’ve got to put Pontefract back on my list so I can get a high-five from the great man himself in his native habitat.  Can’t wait!   Anyway, he and his family were individually and collectively awesome, full of running stories and top tips for races (Grim up north series anyone?) and parkrun tales.  Result.  Also, only now I’m home and making merry with Bing (having a day off Google) have I discovered he ran his first marathon in Sheffield, back in the day when we still had one. Rumour has it you got an ashtray instead of a medal for running that at one point, I wonder if he got one too!  Another reason for hoiking myself round Pontefract, I now need to know!  Mind you there are other surreal findings in post-run doggy bags even now….

So that was that, pretty much last to leave, the hub bub of the coffee drinkers abated and the floors were being swept around us.   Call me massively intuitive and empathetic, but I took that as non verbal communication from our hosts that they were wanting to pack up and go home.  I’m sensitive like that.

Fond farewells were exchanged, along with promises to meet again, as I’m sure we will!

Job done.

Can we have a virtual cheer and hi-fives all round for the Fabulous Frickley Country parkrun event team and volunteers, it’s no mean feat to get a parkrun off the ground, and they have done brilliantly, if today was anything to go by.  Thank you all, your efforst are appreciated, you should have your own capes in recognition of your parkrun super-hero statuses.

Oh, and finally, you can read the incredibly speedily produced run report for Frickley Country parkrun #4 here.  Another tourist perspective.  There were a lot of tourists and visitors today.

and talking of parkrun reports, my mum got a mention in the Bushy parkrun Run Report 773 for today too.  Hurrah.  Really ace photo of her waving brilliantly too I think!  She’s had a lot of practice though, so not really surprising that she’s nailed it.

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So get yourself down there.  Don’t forget your barcode #dfyb – and for clarity, that means your parkrun barcode athlete individual identifier.  Pesenting an identikit library card for scanning instead will only lead to embarrassment!  Yes, that happened.  You’d need to be wise indeed to sort that one out after the event though. I mean, strictly speaking you didn’t bring your barcode did you, but if it got scanned, as in this case, because neither runner nor scanner could spot the difference, I’m thinking that might be genuinely exceptional circumstances. Glad I don’t have to decide.  Tough call.  Still, to be on the safe side, take your parkrun barcode along rather than your old Blockbuster video rental card or Morrisons loyalty card or whatever.  Better safe than sorry.

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So in conclusion, thanks lovely Frickley Country parkrun people, you were fab.  All of you, in every parkrunning manifestation from hi-vis clad to walk run joggers.  Not going to lie, my favourite bit was finding you’d moved the finish line in my favour, but that was really the cherry on the cake, because so much to recommend you.  Much parkrun parkfun to be had indeed!

So happy parkrunning ’til next time, hope to be back to see you again soon.

🙂

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though

 

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Smiley Paces, It’s Terrific Turning Ten as part of this epic running gang!

Digested read:  Smiley Paces are ten this year.  Hurrah.  So happy to be part of such an awesome running club.

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Unabridged version:

It’s our tenth birthday this year.  Yay!  I don’t normally do birthdays, viewing them more as a cause of bitter reflection and regret about what might have been, compounded by the reality of having no-one with whom to celebrate whatever arbitrary age I may have unexpectedly alighted on.  Astonishingly tear-stained, slurring friends aren’t the best of company on their birthday or indeed any other day of the year.  However, it’s different when you are celebrating a milestone like this one. Ten years of collective and individual awesomeness from the members of the Smiley Paces running club of which I feel extremely blessed to be part.

In case you don’t know, Smiley Paces are eh hem (it’s on the website so it must be true):

The SMILEY PACES are an informal Sheffield based women’s running group.

We formed as a small group of like minded women up for a challenge and have morphed in to a large, diverse group with a wide range of ages and abilities.

and who doesn’t like Morph?  Plus Morph also enjoys running with running buddies, as do we Smilies.  Good to know.

 

So we are having a shindig of some sort at the weekend, and members have been asked to think about any little nuggets of Smiley gold they wanted to share that might go into a presentation celebrating the Smiley ethos and achievements over the years. So that got me thinking. What happened that I ended up being part of this amazing group of funny, talented, inspirational and strong Sheffield women?

I have no innate running talent, or indeed any sporting prowess.  It follows therefore that joining Smiley Paces was pretty much inadvertent, almost an accident.  I started going to parkrun, and obviously that’s a gateway drug to the ‘running community’.  There I came across members of various running clubs, but it just happened that my more immediate friends and acquaintances were Smilies.  I don’t remember making a conscious decision to join really, only that it was only £2 a year to join at that point (it’s now rocketed up to an eye-watering £7.50 a year), so I couldn’t really think of any reasons not to, even though I didn’t really know what a running club was even at that point.  I’m pretty sure meeting for coffee got mentioned more than the running before you get to drink it bit…  I think I got lucky with landing on Smilies (whether that feeling is reciprocated or not I shall not explore here).  There are loads of running clubs in Sheffield, that cater for any and all running fetishes enthusiasms. That’s great, but personally, I don’t think I’d have survived, let alone thrived in some of those with a much more competitive or ‘every runner for themselves on the hills’ ethos.  There are lots of friendly and inclusive running clubs out there I know, but I still feel quite emotional about having ended up part of the Smiley gang.  I know, I think on it and I weep.  Me and running, it’s complicated….

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not all great. For one thing, the Smiley vest is not a blessing to my particular physique, and I had to get a special size ordered to accommodate me which was pretty humiliating. However, on the plus side (in every sense) it is instantly recognisable, and whatever your take on comic sans, it has a cheery vibe.  One of the (many) best things about being a Smiley is that it is such a recognisable kit that you can take part in pretty much any event, anywhere and attract a shout of  ‘Go Smiley’, and that is super encouraging.  I remember doing the TenTenTen some years back, and seeing someone (I know now it to have been Dr Smiley) had put up some ‘Go Smiley’ placards through the woods. It was the best thing EVER.

So what’s so great about Smiley Paces.

That’s so hard!  So many things.

It’s about opening up the peak district to me as an outsider.  Stunning routes across Stanage and Burbage and further afield.  It’s about taking on challenges I never thought I’d be capable of.  It’s about having a network of hilarious, inspirational women with whom you can cry with laughter or yomp through bogs.  It’s about coming to understand that everyone has their own goals and that’s fine. It’s about feeling supported.   It’s about friendships and shared adventures.  It’s about finding your limits as well as the ultimate non-chaffing gear.  It’s about people who bring out the best in you, and yes, making a snow-dragonfly as part of a Smiletastic challenge most definitely fulfils that criteria.

 

I was so intimidated by ‘proper runners’ when I started out, I’m still in awe of them, but would say inspired rather than intimidated these days.  What has been so extraordinary to me is that even though I’m not in the same league as many Smilies, I’ve had nothing but support when embarking on new challenges.  Nobody has ever laughed in my face when I’ve dared to venture the beginnings of an idea to do something I previously considered impossible.  Instead I’ve had advice, time given, kit lent.  When I’ve been downcast and confessed in a blog post about e.g. chaffing injuries or my quest for a decent bra of how to find my way off a ridge I’ve had a little flurry of messages offering practical advice as well as empathy.  How awesome is that.  I’m grateful for all of these things, and it’s really difficult to pick a single outstanding moment because there have been so many.   For illustrative purposes:

Smiley London trip, and having my Smiley buddies not just once, but twice, interrupt their parkruns at the parkrun Mecca that is Bushy parkrun to say hello to/ high five and/or get a photo with my mum. Love you guys!

 

Smiletastic challenges – running in the snow, chasing down the alphabet in Attercliffe trying my hand legs at Strava Art.

A mass Smiley exodus to the Lakes for the Dirty Double.  My that was an adventure.  Love my Smiley Buddies.  Oh, that was the year before, but still vivid in my memory

Getting to the London Marathon, and en route, spotting Smilies shouting support from the sidelines.  Most brilliant thing EVER.

 

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The Hathersage Hurtle in a heat wave, walking it was a good move and way more fun than the collapsing with heatstroke half way round option which was also available to running smilies

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Smiley Selfie Queen, who has entirely nailed the in motion selfie, almost single-handedly creating the Smiley photo mid-race archive.  That’s class, right there:

smiley selfie queen

Bottom line is, having Smiley Paces buddies around is an asset on any occasion, running related or otherwise.  Life is always better with a Smiley on hand to share the moment.  Also, even when you go out running on your own, you are pretty sure to come across a Smiley, I keep meeting this one – she’s always covering twice the distance at four times the speed, but not too busy to stop and say hello!

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However, if you are going to make me pick just one, it would be when I embarked on what may be my first ultra, the Dig Deep 30.   I’m hoping not my last, but really, who knows?

So many memories for me from this.  It trumped the London Marathon in so many ways. All the smilies that helped me with route recces and advice, and then on the day having Dr Smiley come and wave me off.  Couldn’t believe it, best thing ever!

md starting out selfie

I was not a promising candidate for this, I had Smiley buddies out recceing sections with me, pointing out sections on maps and recommending kit in the build up to it.  On the Day of the Dig Deep 2018 itself, I didn’t even run it, just walked it for the most part, and I was out for days hours after all the other thirty milers had finished, packed up, had tea, and possibly even gone to bed.  The most amazing sight ever then, was coming back across Houndkirk and being greeted by supportive Smilies.  I honestly thought they were there by co-incidence at first, but no, they’d been out there looking for me and waiting too.  I just couldn’t believe it.  They ran with me for a bit before heading off to cheer me through the finish.  Then coming down through Limb valley in the evening dusk there were more messages of Smiley origin scrawled into the mud to keep me going til the end.  It was just astounding to me that my Smiley buddies had waited out so long and were so encouraging.  I actually feel quite emotional remembering it.  When I came through the finish to a Smiley cheer in the gloaming it was just fantastic.

 

Basically, being part of Smiley Paces is like having on tap access to a collective supportive hug. Whether that’s celebrating achievements, motivating each other to try new things; commiserating through injury or swapping tips on where to access the best coffee and cake options you can’t beat em.  Can’t beat ’em, so may as well join ’em. Glad I did.

Here are some Smiley moments. There will be more…

 

It is also about an embryonic smiley offshoot dragonfly book club, and it may even one day be about completing a crochet woodland blanket, but that chapter of this metaphorical book is as yet unfinished.

What’s more just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, we had our awards do last night and this!

smiley award

I’m an especially Smiley Smiley today!

Happy Birthday to us!

Party on.

🙂

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Conquering Conkers parkrun and sailing the cees in an ongoing quest to save penguins

Digested read:  parkrun tourism took me to Conkers parkrun this morning.  It was great, one of my favourite events to date!

Undigestible Unabridged Read:  (also time vampire, recommend wine and comfy chair, read on at your own risk)

It’s been in the diary since last year this one. Me and Smiley Selfie Queen, co-ordinating our diaries and finding a mutual window for the 19th January 2019 months ago.  Crazy really.  I can’t even remember why we picked Conkers parkrun specifically, except it has a reputation for being lovely, it will help contribute to my pirate challenge (seven cees and an R as in aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarr) see what they’ve done there?

Did you know there were lots of women pirates as well by the way.  Maybe not lots, but here are eight female pirates you should maybe know about if you want to excel in pub quizzes and feel a bit smug about your pc general knowledge too.

woman pirate

Conkers parkrun is sort of within range of Sheffield, by which I mean, it’s actually quite a long way, but doable in the interests of parkrun tourism.   We are running out of nearer options that one or other of us hasn’t already done.   I don’t mind the distance in terms of early departure as I have lost the ability to sleep entirely, but do mind in terms of what if it’s icy or still dark on departure.  Plus there is all the inevitable angst about how long it will take to get there.  Unknown territory.   Oh well.  It will be an adventure we thought.  Me and Smiley Selfie Queen have form going on adventures together, it’ll be fine….    Conkers parkrun it would be.

Except, that the night before DISASTER, snow falling from the sky, messages popping up everywhere on Facebook pages for local parkruns basically doing the Facebook equivalent of sucking in air through your teeth and saying ‘looking doubtful’.  Me and Smiley Selfie Queen independently contacted the Conkers team to check out the lie of the land their end.  I was being confused about a note saying to everyone ‘remember we are starting at the Discovery Centre, not the usual Waterside’ and giving a new postcode so I had a momentary doubt about what to put in the satnav.  She posted on their Facebook page for weather check.  Well, dear reader, have to say, both of us got almost instantaneous and friendly responses. How impressive is that. The event team/ social media communications manager are on fire in terms of their reflexes. I learned that yep,

you will always get an answer. We are currently operating from a different car park but they are connected by a tunnel. If you are going to join us in the cafe use the 6GA one. Otherwise it doesn’t matter.   It will be chilly here tomorrow but no rain expected. Safe journey from up north.
Roger x

and she learned that it might be nippy in the morning, but no snow or ice was expected:

will we make it

How kind and awesome is Roger to soothe our worries last thing on a Friday night!  (Rhetorical question, clearly very kind and awesome, and more of this later).

This was reassuring, but blinking out through a gap in the shutters the night before the morning after it wasn’t looking good.  It might be the case that Kilian Jornet can skip up Mount Everest twice in a week with nothing but a 2 litre bottle of water ten energy gels and some mittens but I’m not venturing outside my house if it’s icy.  I’m near the top of a seriously steep hill, it can’t be done.  Kilean Jornet is clearly some sort of enchanted sprite that’s taken on mortal form.  Dual ascent of Everest is taking hill reps a bit far in anyone’s training plan surely, even for an ultra?

181210163124-kilian-jornet-everest-training-summits-of-my-life-super-169

Fretful that Sheffield weather might yet mean our target parkrun trip might not happen, I treated myself to a night nurse capsule to get some slumber and resigned myself to the hands of fate que sera sera as Doris Day would coin it.  Isn’t she marvellous?

after all, you can’t risk death on the roads just in the name of parkrun tourism… actually though, I said that line out loud to my tourist buddy after the event in an ‘I’m glad the weather was OK as ultimately, can’t really justify going to a parkrun as an essential trip if it really was a white out‘ and she definitely hesitated and couldn’t bring herself to speak agreement out loud.  What’s more, she may have a point… it’s so hard doing the right thing sometimes.

Anyways, woke up at stupid o-clock, peered out the window and …. hurrah!  Although there was snow on my car, the road was clear, and closer investigation reassured me that the road was ice-free and snow could be just wooshed aside and we were on!  As I said in a message to Smiley Selfie Queen pre 6.00 a.m. it is testament to her parkrun commitment that she replied immediately, can’t remember saying what exactly, but it was along the lines of ‘yay!’  So all good.

It was dark and cold though.  Seriously dark.   I was relieved that my satnav was operational, the weather was in our favour and off I chugged on empty roads until I was parked up outside my Smiley buddy’s house at stupid o-clock.  The lights were on, so that was good.  We left bang on our estimated departure time.  For the record, left mine at 7.00 a.m. and hers at 7.15.  It was an easy run, using the postcode DE12 6GA though the traffic was slooooooooooooooooow, and I was extra cautious.  There had been an earlier quite nasty looking accident leading to speed restrictions on the M1 and I’m cautious anyway.  Lots of other vehicles had proper snow coverings, so we got off quite lightly.

I didn’t get lost, but I did get confused at a couple of almost intersecting mini roundabouts almost on arrival.  Weird layout. The only confusing thing, directionally, is that the Conkers Park, where the magic of parkrun happens (I know, a happy coincidence that the parkrun’s chosen name is the same as that of the actual park – what were the chances? (rhetorical again) – must be mahoosive, because there were loads of signs to the park pointing in different directions depending on which bit or activity you were heading off too. So if you are touristing, check out the map and satnav to avoid parking up the other end of it.  It was easy to find though.

On arrival, just after 8.35 ish, we were greeted by an enormous car park with ample free parking. There was a huge centre with loos and you could spot the hi-vis heroes gathered together in an appropriately  penguiny huddle (more of this later) at the far end of the car park.  This boded well.   I love a parkrun with easy access to facilities for a precautionary pee, and good parking if touristing.  Top marks for Conkers parkrun and its host venue Conkers park for seriously ace facilities.

I say easy access, but actually, it wasn’t as easy as you might think.  We made our way to the Discovery Centre, pausing for the obligatory location-based photo ops …

and then stood blinking with incomprehension outside the door to the centre.  It had a sign on it saying ‘automatic doors’ but nothing happened.  We kept trying to activate the trigger by walking towards it at different angles.  Other parkrunners appeared behind us, and joined the non-plussed attempts to gain entry.  I’m not sure who it was who had the bright idea of just pushing the door to get in. It opened inwards without resistance!  That was embarrassing.  Top tip for other visitors who might come in our wake. Just because it says ‘automatic’ on the outside, doesn’t mean you can’t get in by just opening the door in the old-fashioned manual way using a handle and a bit of shove inwards.  Good to know. Humiliating it took us quite so long to work out!

Possibly even a bit more embarrassing that we then did a reconstruction of this incident in order to document it for this very blog post, causing a small queue of bewildered fellow parkrunners left wondering why it was exactly we needed to take a picture of one of us failing to get through a door.  Sometimes though, I think a little mystery in life is a good thing, we didn’t take the time to explain ourselves.   After all, the lovely other people were all fellow parkrunners, all signed up to the code to ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way‘.  Phew.

parkrun code

Once inside, I can report fabulous loos, lots of them.  However, in the interests of transparency I must report that one unlucky occupant was caught unawares due to a malfunctioning lock – not by me but in an adjacent cubicle – so just a quick heads up to check you are properly secured before settling in for whatever business you require pre- run.  Also, the doors in the Discovery Centre are hilariously tall.  I felt like Alice in Wonderland mid-shrink.  They tower over you