Token women! Hallam Heroines…*

*All parkrun volunteers are by default heroes FACT, so good to know we must be too!

Anyway, don’t be childish.  That really is very immature.  Clearly I mean token women and not toking women, as you would know if you bothered to listen and concentrate properly.   Those of you sniggering at the back know who you are.  Drugs are not tolerated at parkrun (apart from the previously referenced caffeine in chocolate covered coffee beans which is a different thing altogether and a quite legitimate pre-parkrun product.  Heavens, it is even a recognised running fuelling strategy inasmuch as there is some serious research relating to the link between caffeine intake and running prowess). Caffeine aside,  no post of mine will condone any illicit activities, including that of toking inappropriate herbal substances.  Should you wish to relive, reminisce about or simply romanticise your misspent youth you will have to make do with hoiking yourself around to watch tribute bands from the appropriate decade, reading alternative blogs, maybe even surreptitiously sorting through old faded Polaroids (from first time round, not when they were reintroduced as retro chic) and/or gazing wistfully at torn Riz+la packs unearthed from the back of your sofa.  You will find such fantasies have no truck with me!  I am referring to an entirely more wholesome sort of toking, I mean token women.  Glad we’ve cleared all that up.  Here we are, looking lovely!  Not under the influence or inappropriately giggly at all.  Rather a natural high!  This could be you too dear reader.  It could be you…  Read on to find out how.

token women

So, I wasn’t sure about whether I’d make it to Sheffield Hallam parkrun at all today.   I was really poorly last week, proper, ‘this is definitely meningitis this time‘ poorly, only it turned out not to be.  Even so, once my temperature had abated, and I’d surfaced from nearly a week under the duvet I was definitely decidedly wobbly on my feet.  Nipping to the co-op to buy soup reduced me to tears yesterday, so running today, just 24 hours later was never really an option.  Not to worry.  One of the great joys of parkrun, is that even when you aren’t running you can still have all the fun of participation in the grand collective community event that is parkrun, without any of the unpleasantness associated with actually running the course.   Yay!  ‘But how?  By what dark artifice and mysterious magic is this possible?’ I hear you cry .  To which I reply,  ‘dear reader, it is simple – you can volunteer!’

So, about volunteering.  Ideally, me in a parallel universe, would forward plan sufficiently to get myself on the rota in advance. This isn’t really my forte, forward planning I mean.  I like to think it’s because I’m a fun-loving spontaneous sort of person rather than just hopeless at personal organisation.  In fact I’ve been turned down from volunteering at Hallam parkrun on multiple occasions because of leaving it too late and being told the rota is full so there is no room at the proverbial inn.   This is ironic as often my home run struggles for volunteers, but it just seems that I always try to opt in when everyone else does, the day before a race or whatever.  Anyway, it’s been discouraging. Hence, I decided that today I’d just roll up and see if there was a job for me, and if not I could always be an independently operating unofficially sanctioned cheer leader, not too bad as a worse case scenario to be fair.  I woke up early, not deceased as a result of my terrible illness, so no excuses, there would be no surrender.  Oh no, so I wrapped up warm and headed into the wintry sunshine of Endcliffe Park.  Isn’t it lovely though – got to be worth getting up and out for in anyone’s book.  (Thanks Douglas Armstrong for the photos today by the way – he and George Carman are sharing the paparazzi load at Hallam these days, we’re pretty blessed with photographers in the Sheffield area – for better or worse, but more of that later…).

the gathering

By the time I arrived 8.30 ish, there were already a fair few donned in their pink hi-viz, and the run-director was doing sterling work in allocating other roles.  Hallam parkrun has just suddenly exploded like an algal bloom in terms of participation, which is great, but does create some logistical challenges.  I lingered hopefully on the periphery of his vision until a suitable role was found for me.   Previously  I’ve been both a marshal on the course, and a bar-code scanner, today though it was a new adventure.  Today, I would be token back-up! More accurately ‘Finish Token Support’.   Get me and my newly acquired awesome levels of responsibility.  The acronym FTS hasn’t entirely caught on, so best I write it in full for now, if I added the initials after my name without explanation I might be expected to deal with enquiries as diverse as those relating to the Forensic Testing Service or Floppy Trunk Syndrome, both of which are currently outside my areas of expertise.  Finish Token Support though – newfound competency in that area I think you’ll find!

Volunteering is a funny thing. All the roles are critical, in that if anyone is missing the whole event comes crashing down.  It is an accepted truisim that runners can’t run without the volunteers (well they could actually but they wouldn’t get a time) but it is also true that there’d be little point in all the volunteers turning out without some runners to organise.  The yin and yan of parkrun I suppose. I like volunteering, it’s a great way to see the whole field of runners, and it is way more fun than you might expect.  Good camaraderie and a whole different way of enjoying the event.  However, I have to be honest, I do find some of the roles a bit scary.  Shouldn’t really.  None are beyond the competence of most, and you don’t ever have to do anything you don’t feel comfortable with.  (Unless maybe you are a run director, but they don’t usually dump that on you if you just rock up without warning as far as I can tell).  If you are apprehensive about volunteering, please don’t be, you will be welcomed, you will have a laugh,  it’ll be fine.  In the unlikely event that something should go wrong, really and truly it’s a run not a race, it’s a free event, the world won’t stop turning, the sun will still come out tomorrow, and pretty much any error can be rectified.  Worry not…

Even so, I concede, it is curious to me as well which volunteering roles are (to me) stressful, and which are pleasurable.  Personally, I’d find the stress of time keeping a bit much.  I’d fear sudden tremors might result in my issuing a staccato of multiple clicks at a critical moment, or a temporary seizure would render me motionless and helpless with zero clicks registering just as a whole crowd came stampeding across the finish line like a cast reunion of Riverdance.  That would be my scary role – not so for everyone though. Fortunately, the pair allocated this responsibility today had no such reservations. Quite right too, basically you click a button.  Not too hard as long as you don’t over-think it.  A back up timer does the same, so you aren’t on your own with it anyway.  Kudos to those who step up to this role.  Each role has particular responsibilities.  I like being a generalist clapping and pointing marshal, but even then there is the worry about ‘what if‘ you are called on as first responder in the event of a medical crisis of some sort.  In reality, parkrun is a community, other runners are likely to help out too, plus there are radios issued to marshals at the more remote postings at parkrun these days.  Even so, whilst not wishing to be alarmist, I couldn’t help but notice in the post parkrun perusal of the photos that some runners ran so fast some of their fingers fell off whilst running.  In this instance, I’d have had no idea how to help!  I guess they had so many running endorphins and so much adrenalin whizzing around their blood streams they hadn’t noticed yet.  Hope they were OK about it when they got home….

Back to business.  The fun bit about getting there early is, apart from feeling busy and important in the way that only the donning of a hi-viz can bestow,  you get to see others assembling in all their many guises, shapes, sizes and celebratory accoutrements.  First timers querying the what and the where and the why of parkrun (amazing there are still some first timers out there to discover parkrun, lucky them)  and old timers adorned with balloons. Yay to the centenarians  single and dual.  That’s some serious running miles you’ve put on your legs. Go you. There were a fair few milestone runners at Hallam parkrun today, to be fair, awesome – forget how long it’s been going sometimes, it takes years to reach triple figures, that’s commitment – and commitment with style and sartorial elegance too if these photos are anything to go by!  centenarians I salute you!  You are rocking it.

milestone runners

There was a lot of milling about as people assembled.  There was the first timers briefing – all those bright expectant faces welcomed into the parkrun family and launched on the new adventure that is parkrun.  That’s their Saturdays sorted for the next few decades then, do they have any idea what they’ve signed up to?   Then there was the group briefing.  It was quite uplifting watching this from the other side of the tape. So much diversity, so many colourful tops, and to be truthful, the runners seemed a lot more attentive than it feels like when you are in the midst of it.  I’m quite short, and I can’t always see or hear the briefing if other runners are chit chatting in the vicinity.  It seemed orderly from this new perspective.  One of many surprises of the day.

It all seemed to be going swimmingly. There was the count down to the shout of ‘awf’, and off indeed they all went.  Like greyhounds out of the trap, but with more lycra.  I took it upon myself to do some clapping as the front runners came round the small loop chasing back towards the cafe.  It’s harder work than you might think clapping when there are 616 runners.  But I daresay it will be great for limiting the growth of my bingo wings.  As I clapped, and did the odd shout out to familiar faces or running club brands (Go Smileys, Go Vegan Runners, Go random club/event name that I’ve never seen before) the run director and others tried to do an approximate head count to get a feel for the numbers taking part.  I didn’t know they did this, I suppose it helped give a feel for what the challenge would be with the finish funnel, and also for how many are out on the course as it comes to a conclusion. Well, those are possible explanations, I think we all know the real reason is the weekly sweepstake on who can guess the closest figure to the actual number of completers.   I’m not sure if there is a cash prize for this or if it’s just for glory.  I strongly suspect that the run director has a bit of an advantage here though in that s/he has the authority to order snipers on the course and/or disqualify individuals at will.  I’m not saying that happens, only that I wouldn’t personally ever bet against the house in such circumstances.

Once all the runners had heave-hoed themselves past the playground, attention turned to funnel creation.  Now, it wasn’t all that long ago when the finish was but a flag and the funnel an understated strand of plastic tape, and that was about it.  Over the years it’s grown into an increasingly elaborate construction, with twists and turns and marshals in place to try to enforce ‘no funnel ducking’ regulations (to mixed success).  However, latterly, participation at Sheffield Hallam parkrun has exploded.  Like an unexpected and unexplained algal bloom, runners have just appeared as if from nowhere.  Such enthusiasm is great, but has created some logistical challenges, not least, how to stop a pre-finish bottleneck.   There have been some weeks where runners have been backing up way down the course, which is stressful for marshals and runners alike.  It is a run not a race, but who are we trying to kid, everyone likes to know their time as accurately as possible really don’t they.

Anyway, it seems that last week (when actually I hoiked myself over to Graves parkrun so didn’t witness it for myself) a new initiative was born.  A new funnel design was engineered, implemented and made its impressive debut, it was a success, as evidenced by the somewhat triumphalist expressions of this ‘made it happen team’ on 18 March – unfortunately, the photo doesn’t include much in the way of clues as to how they achieved this, only their delight at having done so. Their idea may have been genius, but it wasn’t documented for posterity.  No worries, the wheel could be reinvented. Why not?  What could possibly go awry?

funnel engineers

I can report a fabulous four-lane funnel was duly created.  I can take little (actually none at all) credit for this.  As planning conversations were earnestly debated and structures moved about I hung back.  It was one of those time-sensitive scenarios when you don’t really want to ‘help’ as you might unwittingly jeopardise all the progress that had been made to date.  I favoured hovering around in earshot, ready to leap into action by twisting red and white funnel tape around a pole at a moment’s notice, but resisting the urge to offer unsolicited assistance which quite clearly would have been in direct contravention of the ‘too many cooks’ ruling with which we are all I’m sure familiar.  Amazingly, it did come to take shape.  I salute the run director for managing to keep together (just) an outward disposition of cheery calm whilst this challenge was undertaken and completed  It is worth being reminded from time to time that the RD role is quite a responsibility, and we are lucky to have a team willing to step up to take it on week after week.  Anyway, the upshot was the creation of a thing of simple beauty. I tried not to worry too much about my overall incomprehension about how this might work in practice.  It wasn’t the time or place to be voicing doubts. Anyway, as has already been established, I was finish token support only, support.  The proverbial buck was not stopping anywhere near me.  (Collective glory by association though, count me right in!)

The funnel established, there was some time before the runners started crossing the finish, so  I was able to do some quality bonding with my Finish Token erm, well ‘Supervisor’ I suppose.  Pleasingly, she seemed to have at one time at least, shared many of my anticipatory neuroses, but had prior form in this role. Thus she had lots of useful advice and strategy pitches from which I could learn.  Also lots of reassuring damage limitation pointers in case of need.  (Abandon dropped finish tokens, they can be removed from the results later – always check you are taking tokens from the correct end of the pile, that kind of thing).  Key points, in case you fancy this role for yourself.  The finish tokens are all threaded carefully in number sequence on a piece of cord. This is kept safely in a snug little hi-vis bag.  The accepted wisdom is that you leave this bag on the floor at all times, removing only a small pile of tokens at a time, in order to avoid a token spillage catastrophe. This approach required some modification as we realised we were going to have to migrate between finish tunnels  in this new incarnation.  Not to worry, we were a team, we would overcome.  I have to be honest (I don’t actually, but I just can’t help myself), the thread of finish tokens we dragged around behind us reminded me of nothing more that a trailing tapeworm being ejected from a dog’s bottom.  I fully appreciate this analogy is both unwholesome and unwelcome, but it also happens to be absolutely true. Once seen, never forgotten.  Trust me on this. I will spare you a googled stock image picture to prove my point.

Let me replace that in your mind’s eye.    My regular reader will know I am particularly partial to a nice duck shot.  This one is classy indeed.  I thank you Dougal  (other photographers are available) for this offering, George may have pretty capacious shoes for you to fill, but you did pretty good today I’d say. Got to appreciate a finely turned out mandarin.  Bravo.

classy duck

So, back to finish tokens. The plan was this.  Basically, we took it in turns to distribute tokens. The first person would take a batch of say 30 tokens and give them out, as they got to the last couple they’d shout and the second person (me) would step in with the next 30 tokens and the first person would step back and collect their lot ready to go.  Easy.  However, a bit like rubbing your stomach and patting your head, to mix things up a bit, we also had to migrate between the finish funnels. The new system is that finishers fill up one lane of the funnel, and then once they are all squished in, someone at the finish point directs the next lot of finishers into the next line and so on.  It sounds really complicated, but worked surprisingly well. The only challenges were newcomers looking bewildered in a ‘why can’t I have a token now’ sort of way as they stood at the end of the lines waiting for us to get to them, but I’d say it was a success.  I felt we were a good team, and it was fun having a volunteer buddy. Plus we could even enjoy the looks of suffering on the first finishers, noting that just maybe they work way harder than I ever do out running. I can just about cope with getting out of breath when I run as normal now, but some of the guys in the finish funnel were practically crawling up towards us and dry retching as they did so.  Nope, that doesn’t happen in my world.  Impressive to see, but not my running aspiration, though it does remind me I probably need to push myself out of my comfort zone quite a bit more to improve.

It is a great boon of volunteering to get to see the speedier runners who have normally gone home ages ago by the time I get round, but it isn’t only they who impress. There are the buggy runners, the team players, the juniors, including some real tots who were full of smiles at their achievements.  It was also fun for me as I’ve been away for ages, so it was great to see and greet pretty much every runner and see so many familiar faces.  It did get pretty busy at some points, but not so busy that I didn’t get some extra hugs and high fives from friends old and new.  All very affirming.  There were runners coming back from injury, milestone runners, runners in new gear, runners in old gear.  The whole continuum was out there.  It is genuinely inspiring to see.

I also think we need to celebrate the slower runners and remember how important we are too – these guys look all speedy and at the front and everything, but they are only running that fast because they are being chased from the back.  And if they get close to lapping us – well, we are giving them a target to chase aren’t we. They’d be nothing without us to chart their progress by (eh hem).   Seriously though, it’s the inclusive nature of parkrun that is so awesome, I love that it’s an event that has such a broad continuum, inspiration comes from both ends of that colourful spectrum of lycra!

only fast because being chased

Is it a bell curve?  Anyway, after a flurry of activity, it levelled off a bit as the main bulk of runners had passed through. Time to chat with other runners and the photographer for the day alongside the runderwear ambassador who had knocked out another PB. Almost getting dull, she’s done that week after week for ages now!  We were debating the merits of being photographed at parkrun, and the extent to which it is motivating and helpful.  In summary, it is a marvelous thing to have photographers at parkrun capturing the occasion and sometimes the hilarity of our running endeavours.  All of us admit to a sort of addiction to reviewing post-run shots be they from parkrun or any other event.  The issue is our general appreciation of all the photos juxtaposed with our inner cringing at any that might be particularly unflattering of ourselves.  It’s a fine line.  This led to speculation about whether or not there may be a gender issue when it comes to photos.

Now, we all know Regal Smiley exercises considerable power of veto (which is not the same as editorial control) over the issue of which photos make the cut when Glorious George is operating the camera.  She has long been acknowledged as the real power behind the lens in that respect.  She has learned to pronounce on the acceptability or otherwise of photos,  with a skill, speed and judgement that is usually only associated with those who appraise diamonds for a living.  She can tell practically without even looking, whether or not an image is fit for public circulation. It’s about assessing whether the subject would, having seen this picture let loose on the world, ever be able to leave their house again without disguise, let alone continue to go running.  I cannot be alone in silently thanking her for undertaking this task so selflessly on behalf of photographed runners everywhere.  Today’s photographer does similarly jettison photos that are likely to mortify the object of his art, which is good to know but not the point. The point is we were debating whether or not there was a gender thing re vetoing of photos.  Is it the case that  relatively more men take some perverse pride in the gruesome ‘and here I am retching over the finish line‘ snaps whereas women may be more likely to favour shots at the less gurning end of the continuum?  This was one view mooted.  I don’t like to generalise, but I think there may be something in this.  On a good day I can guffaw along with everyone else at the comically bad running shot of me in action (and there are many of these), but there are some that are so unflattering (at least I hope they are unflattering and not reality of my appearance in motion) that I’d not only never run again if they made it into the public domain, I’d never leave the house again either. Fine line indeed.   OCR  (Obstacle Course Race) photos are particularly trophy-orientated in that respect.  ‘Look at me experiencing high voltage electricity charge through me whilst I battle through a pool of crushed ice‘ for example. Honestly, it’s not a look everyone can carry off, yet Facebook profiles are littered with such snaps.  And I can see why, totally, I’m perhaps as delusional as everyone else…

Anyway, there were plenty of happy sights to behold going round today though.  Not an arctic enema or mud slide in sight today at Endcliffe Park, as people sprinted round.  Joyful, each in their own way.  You’ve got to look on and smile at this slide show.  There were some amazing photos of juniors running too, some really adorable tots going round today, but I haven’t included those shots as I’m not sure it’s appropriate to do so, but if you saw them for yourself you’d have smiled too, maybe you did and you did.  I hope so 🙂  Run Happy indeed!

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It’s great to see how each and every one of us is motivated by our own personal goals – cake, running down cancer, or the simple joy of running for its own sake.  Each to their own.  The volunteers had their own stories too I’m sure.  I’d love to do that one day, get every participant’s back story for a single event (runners and volunteers) I think that would be awesome.

I’m pleased to report that today at least, nobody vomited at the end of this parkrun.  Elsewhere, it was a different story – at least one smiletastic contender (the winter running club competition for the Smiley paces Sheffield Women’s Running Club) threw up fairly spectacularly at the end of her tourist run at some random parkrun somewhere.  I know this, because she tried to claim a bonus point for this on the basis that this surely was evidence of near super-human effort in running.  I’m not sure on this one.  It might be of course.   But it might also be the aftermath of an inappropriate Bacchanalian frenzy the night before or just picking up some sort of unfortunate streptocooccal infection.  Even if it wasn’t, there was an absence of proof provided either in photographic form, or in carefully bagged and tagged forensic form. Whilst we must be thankful for such small mercies, it is a tricky area to judge on therefore.  I’m glad it’s one for elder smiley to arbitrate on and not me.  On the subject of Smiletastic (yes we were) the photos suggest badger action underway at Hallam too – but, whilst not wishing to absolutely cast nasturtiums (but also not wishing to allow such a fine opportunity for a malapropism to pass unused),  I suspect a bib-mule in action here – what with smiley paces being an all women club, but then again, perhaps it’s all gamesmanship in action. Who knows, the stakes are high as smiletastic 2017 reaches its climax for sure!  Far be it from me to judge, I am but a witness to history…

smiletastic badger perhaps

Anyway, back to funnel practicalities.  Erm, well, it was sort of complicated and simple. Complicated to explain, perilous at times, but yep, it did sort of work, this four filtration funnel system. The photo doesn’t really help but here we go.  Poetry in motion we were, go us!  Loving the Strider Bobble Hats too.  Classy.

Whatever the role volunteering was pretty awesome today.  Look at this cutey getting her love token at the end. Gotta love a parkrun that let’s you be part of this!

skillful token support

So if you have come to see that you have been missing out and are now craving a slice of the action?  Get yourself on the volunteer rota and you too could be rocking the hi-viz and counting down to your own purple T delivery day.  Yay!  Better yet, one day you might even be in possession of a clipboard!  I know, there is no greater authority on earth than that!   I can’t promise it would be every time, but it is a real possibility once you’ve proved yourself.

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Oh, and don’t you just love Endcliffe Park?  We are lucky indeed.  The backdrop to a glorious collective endeavour.

love our park

So that’s it really.  Hallam parkrun event 335 put to bed.   All it’s mini-adventures complete for another week.

Tomorrow is the Longshaw 10k.  I’m still not up for running so will head over and volunteer instead again I think.  Why not, sunshine is pretty much promised.  I’ve just got to remember the clocks will change (in the correct direction) and all will be well!

See you there.

clocks change

For all my Sheffield Hallam parkrun posts click here

For all my parkrun related posts – including Sheffield Hallam parkrun click here

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

A tactical retreat? Gimme shelter…

No, I’m fine, I’ve just something in my eye, and it looks extra bad because I’ve got awful hay fever at the moment.  You look a bit cynical.  Perhaps you aren’t familiar with the atypical, little-understood mid-March hayfever to which I seem to be especially prone?  It’s a bit niche I know, but it’s especially associated with freezing showers of the type that have been hurling themselves out of the sky all morning and so it was inevitable it would take its toll.  I’m coming down with a bit of a cold as well to be honest.  I’m rather hoping the bloodshot eyes look might come into vogue, temporarily at least. There was talk at one time of a new Zombie feature film being made in Sheffield, I’d be a shoo-in for that if they were auditioning for that today!  Or am I confusing that old rumour with the zombie sanctuary and re-homing centre at Stanley Tools Factory – I get confused.  Anyway that’s not the point.

The point is, a correlated but not causal event has just taken place.  Dear reader, I have bowed to the inevitable.  I have hit the big red button. I have officially withdrawn from the 2017 London Marathon.  I am gutted though. I did a fair bit of agonising. Training just couldn’t happen in Cambodia, and I really did try – I even still nursed a brief fantasy that when I got into the cool of England on my return maybe I could get some miles on my legs and it might still be do-able.  Errant nonsense unfortunately, it just isn’t to be.  Some suggested simply walking it, but that feels wrong to me.  If I had done all the training and just found that my body couldn’t do it, that might be a legitimate strategy, but knowing I haven’t been able to give it my best shot I think to participate on that basis at the outset would be a compromise too far.  Nope, it called for a tactical retreat.

All is not completely lost.  One of the happy surprises of the terms and conditions is that if you do have to withdraw you are allowed to defer your place for one year and one year only.  I’ll still have to pay another entry for 2018, but if I meet all the deadlines I am guaranteed a place at the start line. That’s pretty awesome, and it gives me a truly long lead up to plan a proper strategy for next year.  I won’t let that opportunity slip through my fingers.

Thank you, you have withdrawn from the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon, please read below for details of what will happen next.

Providing you adhere to the dates below and pay the appropriate entry fee, you will be accepted for the 2018 race unless you have already carried your entry over from the 2016 race or if the entry was received from a charity or sponsor.

Runners who withdraw will receive an email link for a guaranteed entry form for the 2018 race by the 5 June 2017. If you have not heard from us by the 5 June 2017 please telephone our helpline on 0207 902 0200 between Monday 5 June and certainly no later than Wednesday 21 June 2017, failure to do so will result in loss of entry. The closing date for completion of the online guaranteed entry form is 17:00 (GMT) on the 23 June 2017.

It is the runner’s responsibility to ensure they have completed their 2018 guaranteed entry form and paid the 2018 entry fee by the closing date as it will not be extended under any circumstances.

Regards

Virgin Money London Marathon Team

I am down about it, but I do think it’s the only way to go.  This way I can train, focus and not be left wondering’ what if’ or failing to get around – which I’d never forgive myself for if I’d known before reaching the start line I wasn’t adequately prepared.  I’d already booked my non-refundable accommodation in a rather-more-expensive-than-I-can-possibly-justify London hotel.  This irked me initially.  But fortunately I now have a cunning plan!

cunning plan

I don’t think my confidence in this particular cunning plan is ill-deserved to be honest.  Au contraire.  It is quite brilliant!  I have decided it would be crazy not to go down to London anyway and soak up the atmosphere and hopefully see some of the runners I know hurling themselves around.  And then (and this is the genius bit) it occurred to me I may as well volunteer somehow if I can. Shelter is one among many charities looking for London Marathon volunteers on the day.  To be fair, some of the volunteer roles are more challenging than others – standing at a critical spot wearing the charity T-shirt and cheering doesn’t sound too burdensome say. There are other roles too, like greeting finishers and sweeping them off to the charity post-run support tent where presumably, there is support staff on hand to help them polish their medals and regain the use of their limbs.  I reckon I’d be a dab hand at distributing hugs and foil blankets and  providing an endless supply of aloe-vera balmed tissues at the finish line. I think it will be a brilliant way to be part of the occasion and hopefully it will help enthuse and motivate me to keep up with the training for the year ahead.  We shall see.

Anyway, I’ve applied, and if they don’t want me then I’ll be on the hunt for one that does.  Save the Rhino also appealed, but their website only asks for runners, and I’ve ruled myself out of that one, and taking on the rhino outfit, tempting as it is, isn’t altogether realistic … not for 2017 anyway….  I can always check out the charity corporate hospitality options for 2018 whilst I’m down there after all!  I’ve got a soft spot for Shelter though, not a glamorous charity, but such an important one.  Albeit they don’t go for such impressively eye-catching fancy dress.  That would be quite a step up from running with Roger would it not?

LM12SaveTheRhino

So that’s it really.  Decision made.  Not an easy one, but I think it is the right one.  I feel really sad, and I do feel a failure too to be honest, even though I know better people than me who’ve had to make tougher decisions based on less avoidable circumstances. A staggeringly high proportion of runners are expected to pull out of the London Marathon each year – 50,000 entries becoming 35,000 at the start apparently.  I’m not the first or last to cling to hope over experience in this respect it seems.   Nevertheless,  I feel that by going away when I did I am guilty of some contributory negligence as maybe it was never realistic to think I could do what I needed to do whilst in Phnom Penh for nearly four months.  On the  other hand, how could I not take up a ballot place when I’d been so ridiculously fortunate as to get one.  That never happens.  Not to anyone I know, definitely not to me.  However, surely it is best not to compound the mistake when I’m staring in the face of the inevitable by cracking on regardless, better a strategic withdrawal, and to come back stronger, more sussed and sassy for 2018.  This is my plan. Cunning or otherwise, it is the best one I have.

So, I’m not running away. It’s just a tactical retreat.  If I could run anywhere, it would be on, on I promise!  It’s the not being able to run that’s a problem not heading off in a sprint in the opposite direction.   Right, now I just need to find a marathon training plan working backwards from Sunday 22nd April 2018….  How hard can it be?   Plus, I’ll get to buy some new running shoes now, one’s that can cope with my increasingly impressive bunions.  Not all is lost.  It’s just a differently calibrated adventure, extending the challenge from just the one year to two. I’m lucky.  Pleasure prolonged.  Yay, lucky me.  I’ll live to run another day!

believed so she did

Right, time to find some balsam tissues of my own, this hay fever episode is proving to be  particularly persistent.  Very strange…  Sniff.

That’s all.

Categories: marathon, motivation, running | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The Grave Business of Returning to Running

Me and running?  It’s complicated.

What is it they say ‘you run therefore you are a runner‘? Something like that.  I don’t know if I’m completely persuaded by that logic.  I’d like to think so, obviously, on the other hand, imposter syndrome eats away and fear of being caught out and blah de blah until you (well, OK just me then) drown in a pool of existential angst of your own making.  Apologies to the grammar police for the confusing mix of metaphors, analogies and I know not what else, but it’s sort of complicated.  I’ve had such a gap in my running with being away for over three months, I feel like I’m starting all over again but this time at age 52.  Not the most auspicious of starting blocks available…

Parkrun again today.  Yay(ish).  It was raining.  It was grey.  Despite my inward promises never again to complain about running in the cold and wet after the toxic tyranny of heat and humidity and perpetual unrelenting sun in Phnom Penh, I find I’m not altogether brilliant at following through (who knew?)*  Rather, I am grumpy.  As ever.   I’m starting to wonder is this my defining – or at the very least my default – characteristic?**

It’s not all bad.  After a bit of a love / hate thing with Hallam,  (love it, it’s my local parkrun, on my doorstep, lots of friends there – but – just getting a bit too crowded for comfort) – a trio of us decide to head over to Graves, change is as good as a rest, should help with the motivation a bit.  I lurve Graves parkrun. They are pathologically friendly over there, though to be fair it is a well-known fact that all parkrunners everywhere are –  and you get to see Highland coos, always a boon at a parkrun and not true everywhere.  There are a lot of hills, but I weirdly missed them in Cambodia, and I’m never going to get any better at this running malarkey if I only ever heave-ho my weary carcass round routes that are millpond flat.

So it was this morning, we three were sat in a car at Graves Park, contemplating taking on Graves parkrun, looking out across the grey mist of the morning, and I accidentally said out loud ‘I don’t even think I like running very much to be honest‘.  It’s a worry of getting older that this happens to me increasingly often, I say things that I was just thinking without meaning too.  I’m quite comfortable with talking to myself in the privacy of my own home – isn’t everyone?***  I do worry sometimes when I find myself shouting so I can hear my own voice over the noise of the vacuum cleaner that I’ve maybe let thing go a bit far, but then again I hardly ever vacuum so it doesn’t really arise.  Let’s keep these things in perspective.  The response was mutual laughter, and a conversation with a slightly confessional tone to it.  There are many things about running in general and parkrun in particular that are inspirational, glorious and yes actually fun.  But when I’m actually running, I don’t know, it’s hard.  It doesn’t get easier, it’s complicated.  Gazing through the windscreen at the inclement weather I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to get out of the car.  Brrrrr.  We reminisced about other runs out, where keen other runners forced us out of roasty toasty vehicle interiors so they could do punishing warm-ups in horizontal hail to help them achieve pbs at the Percy Pud say.  What kind of an apology of a runner am I to favour a bit longer on the faux leather seating over a careful warm up and stretch routine?****

Time ticked by.  Eventually we conceded if we didn’t get out, we’d miss parkrun altogether, so out we got.  You know what.  Things immediately looked up. The reality of stepping out wasn’t anything like as bad as the anticipatory thinking about it!  A bit of spring drizzle is just the thing to run in.  Lemon drizzle cake might be better, but you have to take up what options are available to you or you’ll miss out on a whole lot.  Graves park is actually glorious. Don’t take my word for it, knowing the camera never lies just review the evidence for yourself.  Thanks to Gail Moss for the use of the awesome photos, it’s always great to have the spirit of parkrun captured by the volunteer snappers:

dont you just love it

The first glory of parkrun is the colourful tops congregating in one place.  Like Tibetan prayer flags floating about.  A generous sprinkling of luminous tabard-clad volunteers bore witness to either their generosity of spirit or the close proximity of the Dronfield 10k.  I like to think both.  Why not, more the merrier when it comes to volunteering, cheery marshals always help me round.  I will try not to hold too much of a grudge against the one positioned near the donkey who refused to swap places with me half way round.  (The marshal, not the donkey, the donkey might have appreciated the outing to be honest, but wouldn’t have been able to blag my barcode so easily.  Also, Roger might have been put out.

Turns out, who knew?  I love parkrun!  There was the familiar milling about at the start.  The run-director’s briefing.  Graves is small enough that you can all gather round to hear this.  The RD standing on a handily situated park bench holding forth like a preacher bearing witness.  Actually, it was a bit like being in a benign cult in parts as this run briefing includes audience participation!  Yes it really does.  Like panto. There are familiar utterings and responses.  So the RD declaims ‘no barcode’ and gestures for the expected shout out retort ‘no result’.   Good concept checking too I thought.  ‘How many times through the finish tunnel?’  rousing choral response ‘once!’  I might have made that one up actually, but who cares, you get the idea.  Anyway, it was all very pleasing.  Favourite moments for me today included:

  • Whoops and shout outs to the volunteer at the Graves Park cross-road point on the occasion of his 100th volunteering.  It was quite a commotion. Whether the rowdiness was sufficient for the noise of such vocal appreciation to reach the intended recipient I know not, but the appreciation was most certainly there. All volunteers everywhere, be it your one-hundredth occassion in the hi-vis or your first, we salute you.
  • Heckling by triangle.  Nope, really.  You know that BBC interview that got hi-jacked by the offspring of the interviewee talking about Korea?  Well, it was pretty much identical to that, except that in this instance the child was in possession of a very large triangle, which he utilised to noisy effect throughout.  Bravo!
  • Shout outs for newbies, anniversary runners (really, none today?) volunteers and parkrun tourists.  Though I think the bar must have been set quite high previously as when someone proclaimed themselves to be from Doncaster or wherever there was a bit of collective shrug and a ‘we were thinking more New Zealand’ response.  Said more in sadness than in anger, I was pleased I hadn’t stuck my hand up as a migrant from Hallam. I’m never sure about that. I mean technically I am a tourist as Hallam is my home run, but I think of all Sheffield parkruns as spiritually ‘mine’ so to speak.  Is that greedy, or is that usual?*****
  • The addition of a person with a white board, to get volunteers to sign up for future events.  I think this is a really good move. I’ve been turned down loads of times for volunteering because I always seem to be operating just in time principles or pick dates pre races when volunteers are in glut mode.  This is an encouraging initiative, and as today it was announced to be a course record in terms of the numbers of volunteers (25 in fact) I suspect they try not to turn away volunteers, which is also inclusive and encouraging.
  • Follow the breadcrumbs – i.e. other runners.  Yep, that’s OK.  I can do that.

I can’t remember too much more about the briefing.  Nor could I quite remember where the start line was to be fair.  We had to traipse back along the path a bit. I got slightly panicky when I thought we’d end up in the front line at one point. That would have had novelty value of course, but the fun element might have been reduced by being trampled early on.  Also, they don’t have their defibrillator yet, though they very nearly do, and it isn’t too late to donate either if you want to – though don’t forget to put ‘for defib’ in the comments column if you do.

As we hesitated at this point, a friendly (and very tall) marshal came to scoop us up and shoo us further back in the line up.  ‘It’s not just because your old I’m saying this‘ he said, ‘it’s because you have to be below 17 minutes to finish first and the course record is currently held by a 12 year old’.  That’s fair enough, I’ll concede we do look over 12 and I wont be finishing in 17 minutes unless I only do the one loop.

The start was a little late, but who cares.  And we were off.  You start down hill. Weeeeeeeeeee.  Then you get to wave at the 100 times marshal, and you get to look at the ducks and the frontrunners flying round.  It’s just about putting one foot in front of the other at the end of the day.  The route has been ‘improved’ since I was last there.  More tarmac, less mud. That’s probably good and inclusive to be fair, very buggy friendly, but gives it  less rural feel than I remembered.  Cheery marshals did sterling work on the way round.  The hundred-timer and a side-kick at the crossroads doing excellent cheering and pointing.   The two women cheering us up the hill at the Meadowhead entrance with motivational shout outs.  I only know it’s called that because I just looked it up on the course description for Graves parkrun, honestly I just follow the people in front blindly and hope they are actual parkrunners and not random others, who might not take to me chasing them.  Then there was the woman and girl positioned just where you turn right into the animal farm who clapped the whole time. No really, both times I went past.  I congratulated them on their stamina in this respect most sincerely.  I always try to clap everyone when I marshal and it does take a toll on your wrists over time I don’t mind admitting it!

There were tonnes of marshals out there today, too many to give all a mention, but all the words of encouragement were appreciated.  Also the donkey who brayed really loudly was in impressive voice too.  His (?) voice resonating across the park like a humpback whale mournfully singing across the oceans.  My mood improved.  I only had one bad moment, when I was puffing up the hill in the animal park, Shetland to the left of me, owls to the right of me stuck in the middle with me – and a fellow runner cheerily proclaimed, ‘oh well, at least it’s always easier doing this second time around!’ What the?  How had I forgotten this was a two-lap course.  ‘There’s another lap?’  Not my finest hour.  Fortunately though it is easier second time around.  Plus you get to pass the cheery finish funnel, which was flanked by volunteers like a guard of honour.  The shifty looking one with the dark glasses was either a body guard or just general security, you can’t be too careful these days when celebrity runners like Lily are participating, however low-profile they may be trying to be:

guard of honour at the finish line

Mercifully, and somewhat surprisingly I wasn’t lapped on this course, though disappointingly nor was I mistaken for the first finisher.  Second time around there were loads of kids on the climbing frame in the playground waving joyously and furiously at a little gang of runners ahead of me, that was rather glorious.   The volunteer marshals kept up their shouts of support, and even the presence of ‘normal people’ milling around in the animal park as I sprinted (ahem) through didn’t throw me.  Get me and my running credentials.  The car park marshal gave helpful directional point and then the final marshal urged for a sprint finish, which I didn’t actually achieve, but I certainly cheered up when the end was in sight.  And here dear reader, is the miracle of running:-

grave business of running

I might think I don’t like the actual running, but I am usually smiling when I’m doing it. That hair colour is still wrong though isn’t it.  Sigh, maybe I should start to go grey gracefully.

Of course I was last in of my trio, but that’s OK, meant they were around to cheer me in.  Then there is the post-run debriefing and the post-parkrun breakfast.  We went to The Rude Shipyard in the antiques quarter.   Food and ambience was really excellent, but it was a bit nippy in there.  I’d never been before and I’d definitely go again. Vegetarian and vegan options, most impressive.  I was glad I had my scarf though.

I had got noble plans of venturing out again for various outdoor city activities but was defeated by own near terminal inertia, inclement weather and my difficulty in working out what on earth was going on anywhere because of a really confusing website.  Oh well.  It meant I got to peruse the Graves parkrun photos and enjoy post run endorphins from the comfort of my own sofa.  Not too shabby a way to spend an afternoon in my book, it is possible to have too much excitement in one day. Let’s just enjoy the moments as they come eh.  Thank you awesome photographer Gail for all your efforts today!  Anyone would think from the photos that we were all having fun the whole time…

So thanks Graves People.  You never disappoint.  And I think you’ve already endured longer than Pan’s People or will do anyway.  Lycra terminology may have replaced a lot of the spandex, but who are we trying to kid?  It’s the same stuff, and the moves are certainly all there.  Go you, go them, go us, go me!

love parkrun

Oh, and was that Lily the wonder-dog I espied!  All’s well with the world.  Order exists, the world still turns, and we can temporarily at least ignore the horrors that threaten to overwhelm us.

lily the wonderdog

Sweet dreams y’all.

*rhetorical question, thank you for your interest but no replies required.

**also rhetorical question, as above, thank you for your interest but no replies required.

***also rhetorical, most questions are today, but your interest is noted.

****yep, that was too.

*****you know, that one might be an actual question.  I’m not sure. What do you think?  (See what I did there? 🙂 )

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

A prodigal return to parkrun

I didn’t bleed from the eyes.  That was the main thing.

I was pretty scared about going back to parkrun.  After my sojourn in Cambodia, where running was literally impossible (honestly, it really was)  I wasn’t sure how my body would cope with it.  I felt like I hadn’t run for so long it would almost certainly implode, and bleeding from the eyes was going to be the most likely precursor to my full-on public physical disintegration.  I was also a bit sheepish. I had after all left expecting to lose weight, get in training, blah de blah, return fit, feisty and raring to go with my eyes set on  the London Marathon. Turns out that was a misguided fantasy.  I had other amazing adventures along the way, but getting miles on my legs in preparation for an April Marathon, nope, that just didn’t happen.  I was going back like doing parkrun for the very first time, apprehensive, self-conscious and consumed with self-doubt.  Which is both normal, and ironic. Normal, well because.. self-explanatory surely? But ironic, because on the rare occasions when I meet someone who has never heard of or done parkrun I have taken to saying ‘lucky you, you have all the fun still to discover.’ My how those words returned to haunt me, I wasn’t feeling lucky, I was feeling fraudulent.  I know it’s a run not a race; I know I can walk/run it; I know it doesn’t matter if I come last… and yet…

and yet… you know what, all of that is absolutely true!  It was like coming home to a hug.  How I’ve missed you my running compatriots and parkrun buddies. Feel the parkrun love.

What helped, was as I stomped down, remembering my barcode almost belatedly, I almost immediately met a friendly fellow smiley all a-beam, who gave me a wonderful nurturing welcome.  You are never alone at a parkrun.   Perhaps of critical significance here is that she also had about her person a supply of chocolate covered coffee beans which it turns out is perfect pre parkrun fodder.  Sugar and caffeine in concentrated format, even if it did take on a bit of fluff from my fleece before I gave in to the inevitable and instead of keeping it as a post-parkrun treat devoured it as pre-parkrun performance fuel.  As parkrun is a run not a race I think you are allowed to take any performance enhancers you like, but remember people, you are only cheating yourself.

She explained she wasn’t feeling on top form, but I was pretty sure she’d be lapping me.  I promised however, that in the unlikely event of her collapsing on the course ahead of me I would take it upon myself to retrieve her barcode and get a time for her if appropriate.  Essentially that would be if she fell in the finish funnel, otherwise it might not be quite the done thing.  You’ve got to sign up to the parkrun spirit as well as the parkrun rules, which aren’t many but are just.  I was a bit worried that in this eventuality I might be thought to be looting her corpse if caught, but to be fair, it would be a shame to let those chocolate coated beans go to waste, it wouldn’t be so terrible to pocket a few of them. I’m sure it’s what she would have wanted.   I’m not interested in her fancy garmin watch as I have no idea how to operate it, I’d leave that for other looters.  Good news though, didn’t happen, she got round just fine.  Way ahead of me, of course.

parkrun code

I’ve only been away 3 1/2 months, but along with the familiar things were some changes.  Familiar things included the impromptu clothing exchange rail alongside the playground, and flags out for the big event:

There were also people engaged in various pre-running rituals and routines.  Rigorous warm ups, preparation of mind and body, and clearing the digestive tract of superfluous wind all were attended too.  Each to their own.

The fearlessness of the photographer also has remained as potent as ever in my absence.   Standing your ground in the face of this stampede takes some courage.  What some will do in pursuit of the perfect shot eh. I know there were more plaudits for the woman at the BBC who kept her camera rolling whilst Mt Etna hurled molten rocks down on her, but I think on balance that was all very commendable and everything, but she couldn’t have anticipated the danger she was in (apart from by having set foot on an active volcano I’ll concede) whereas our resident photographer wilfully placed himself potentially in harm’s way.  Way braver (or more reckless).   Maybe it’s to sate some appetite for an adrenalin surge.  Whatever, the photo is still pretty impressive.  On your marks etc:

brave photographer

More of a surprise was the extent to which Hallam parkun has grown. A week later and it made 782 runners, which is amazing, but also increasingly problematic.  We are a bit busting out at the seams these days.  Bottle necks are occurring, and it takes a while to get across the start line. This didn’t especially bother me, in fact it took the pressure off, but it does concern me inasmuch as I wonder if it is really sustainable . You can’t turn people away from a public event of this kind, but begrudgingly I’d have to admit it is on the edge of what can be accommodated.  Time to do some more parkrun tourism methinks…

Anyway, as well as the first familiar face of the morning, I also found that I was rewarded for my persistence in seeking out a precautionary pee by finding another smiling smiley to greet me with a hug as I emerged from the toilet cubicle. Life is better with hugs.  Gotta love a smiley with arms open in welcome.  I wonder if all running clubs are as literally as well as metaphorically embracing?  You do hear the occasional horror story of ultra-competitive running groups, but I’ve been blessed by running into (ok stumbling across) a super friendly Sheffield set.  Go Smilies!  Go everyone!

It’s not only Smilies who are awesome though.  I was also blessed by finding myself in the most excellent company of who else, but the Sheffield Runderwear Ambassador.  Phew, a running buddy for my return run.  We plonked ourselves towards the back for a steady not too crowded run round and it was great.  I’d never have been able to run the whole thing without the supportive companionship of a human metronome who would tolerate no slacking. She didn’t just motivate me, but shouted out supportive comments to others as they passed us, or seemed likely to let us catch them. It was all endorphin induced wonderfulness.  I did find it hard, but I was also pleasantly surprised to find that I could run the whole thing.  It’s definitely easier out of the heat and humidity of Phnom Penh and also the public accountability of running with others does help me to keep going.  On my own I just default to walking so easily.  Shows yet again, how much of running is all in the head.  Also, how much of running can be enhanced with a good running buddy.  Thanks comrade, for welcoming me and getting me round, reluctantly or otherwise!

Also, and in direct contravention of my no talking rule, we were able to have a bit of a catch up as we went.  I heard more about the run where I missed out on Jess and Paul turning up at Hallam whilst I was away.  I was devastated about that.  Truthfully though, sad as I was to miss the Sheffield Olympian that is Jess, I was more sad at missing Paul to be honest, he has after all changed my life.  Jess remains an absolute local icon of course, but I’ve seen her loads of times hanging out in the woods, when we’ve enjoyed training together. If by training together we mean me hopping on one leg acting as nonchalantly as it is possible to be on one leg mid a running drill whilst she happens to be out for a stroll in the general vicinity of Ecclesall woods with her young son.  I like to  think that counts, I really do.  That’s me, hanging out with professional sporting icons in the UK as well as overseas.  (I told you about training with the Cambodian professional football team I’m sure?)  Anyway, one upshot of Jess’s presence at Hallam was her legacy gift of powder pink vitality endorsed volunteer tabards. Why not, they look fabulous.

Anyway, it was surprisingly great to be back.  Mostly I enjoyed the view from behind.  It’s all reassuringly familiar.  I wasn’t in fact last, not that it would have mattered if I was (it is a run not a race after all as previously stated) but even so, I was relieved to find that I could still run the whole thing, albeit incredibly slowly.  I can still feel the sludge of Phnom Penh pollutants slopping around in my lungs.  It’s like sump oil sludge, I’d swear I can feel it.  It isn’t quite the souvenir I’d had in  mind for my return trip, but let’s hold on to what memories I can, they will ebb and fade away soon enough alas.

view from the back

So finally made it to the end.  More hug exchanges.  I do like that in a post running high you can get away with hugging pretty  much anyone, it’s most affirming.  In fact the whole thing was pretty darned fabulous.  I saw so many familiar faces marshaling or running. It may possibly be true I got a teensy bit distracted going round at times.  It’s only polite to wave at everyone you know on the way round, and then, by extension it would surely be rude not to wave at other people just because you don’t know them don’t you think?

laughing and flying

It occurs to me that ‘serious runners’ scrutinise photos of themselves running to help them improve and perfect their running technique.  Gait analysis, ergonomics (or is it egomaniacs? I get confused).  Well, anyway, I might review photos of me running at some point in a systematic way, but you have to agree, that even the most cursory look does help.  I can’t altogether ignore the possibility that if I maybe looked in the direction I was running from time to time instead of veering from side to side hugging people, and did a bit less waving I too could probably shave a few seconds off my parkrun finish times.  I could, but waving is a lot of fun, so I wouldn’t reject my approach to running out of hand. Food for thought all the same.

So, once I’d been spat out the funnel and had my barcode scanned by the amazing volunteer team I went to cheer home the final finisher who was beaming broadly as the resident paparazzi papped and the finish token regal smiley applauded her in.  She was flanked by two powder pink tabarded tail runners, it was very festive and good for the soul.  I love parkrun it is such a celebration of all that is good in the world, and lord knows we need to remember those things in dark times….

Next stop was breakfast.  We couldn’t get into Made by Jonty, so had to branch out and try new breakfast options, hurrah, seven hills bakery.  It was absolutely heaving, but it was fab, we had a huge smiley table which was grand.  One half of table was holding a strategy meeting for their badgers, which must have resulted in some  puzzling overheard conversations for other diners.  ‘Can’t wait to see your badger‘ being shouted across the cafe as some departed was a high point. The assembled quartet had computer print outs, probably a minute taker, and I’m pretty sure they would have got out an easel with flip chart paper at the very least had space allowed.  Oh, is it not obvious?  Smiletastic has come round again.  Smiley Paces running club winter team challenge basically.  The teams this year are hedgehogs, badgers, deer, squirrels possibly road-runners definitely not roadkill.  The stakes are high, planning is everything.

Smiletastic was stress inducing last year, but I missed out on in this year by selfishly going to Cambodia with a complete disregard for what that mean in relation to my participation at my running club.  Some amazing challenges have been undertaken, and some pretty spectacular shows of strategy have been employed throughout. Who knew running could be so creative?  Is it bad that I found I’m enjoying the tension quite so much even as a spectator?  It’s all the suspense but none of the stress endured when you an actual participant.  The strava art for roses was quite good, but nothing beat fashion week for team endeavour.  What fabulous smiley fashionistas are.  An embarrassment of talent is displayed by Smiletastic participants, or is it just an embarrassment?  I get confused. Themed gatherings occurred all across South Yorkshire, and as far afield as peru I think.  Yep, I think that’s right.   Or were they maybe dressing up for world book day?  I wasn’t here of course, what with being  in Cambodia and everything (have I mentioned that enough recently) but I tried to keep abreast of key developments from afar.  Below is the relevant evidence of endeavour on which you can feast your eyes.

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You’re welcome.

Anyway, you have to agree the photos were pretty cool.  Though I’m worried that posting a photo of yourself chewing on cacao leaves using the ‘its for altitude sickness‘ defence will carry little weight with  Elder Smiley when she comes to hear of it.  That’s surely contrary to any drugs policy worth noting, you can se from the picture it’s clearly having an affect on her physiology, though to be fair it may not be an advantageous one… Also, what with my chocolate and fluff covered coffee bean comsumption earlier on, I’m probably in no position to judge. We can share a guffaw though, surely?

drug induced smiletastic

So breakfast and reunions concluded, home for my post run bath. I can’t tell you how lovely it is not to be sitting in a pool of my own sweat all the time, running is cool indeed.  The only downside of being back in a colder climate is I’m back to needing to pee all the time, no longer a perpetual battle against dehydration, more a battle to plan the loo stops. I’ll acclimatise it’ll be fine

Then in the evening, a Facebook post on Sheffield hallam parkrun page and I get a mention welcoming me back. Don’t you love parkrun.  I have a community, a tribe if you will, that noticed I was gone and has noticed I was back.  I like to think in a good way, not like finding your mysterious rash has cleared up and then annoyingly reappeared again just after you’d started to feel confident that you’d never have to worry about it again.  There are many things I like to think.  We all need to inhabit a nicer parallel universe from time to time.  Try it, it can be way more fun than the scary reality!

Sometimes it’s nice to be home. Thank you running buddies.  Thanks for the unconditional, non-judgemental welcome back to the fold.   I love you all!

Categories: motivation, parkrun, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Personally, I really wouldn’t. Sports drinks Cambodia.

Just so you realise I am still paying attention to runners’ needs, you may find the following product to be most educational. It has the advantage of candour in its brand identity I suppose.

You can follow all my Cambodian Adventures here, if you are bored, and like to travel vocariously. If you have a life, you really don’t need to bother.  I’ll be home soon anyway.  It’s up to you 🙂

Cambodia Calling

pocari-sweat-products

A great many people do though.  I just couldn’t bring myself to drink a bottle of sweat however beautifully it was packaged.  Plenty of people do though.  I know this, because in the absence of my camera I have been compelled to Google ‘Pocari Sweat’ for this post, and discovered this distribution chart of this Japanese Sports Drink.  Seems they are sweating all over the world.

pocari-sweat-distribution

Pocari Sweat was launched here in Cambodia as recently as 1st December 2015 apparently.  Gosh.  Well, they must have had a humour-defying marketing campaign to get it so ubiquitously available as it appears to be.  Or maybe it is actually just delicious?  I don’t know, I’ve never tried it, and nor is it on my bucket list to do so.

Unintelligible to me, is that I alone amongst my fellow native English speaking volunteers here in Phnom Penh, seem to find this product…

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So over that…. got bigger dreams now.

No need to worry about me any more. I have embraced celebrity culture in Cambodia instead. Check me out hobnobbing with Phnom Penh’s answer to David Beckham! Fickle Moi? Possibly, but hey, we all need our coping strategies. It’ll still be a mega love-in if I get to follow in the footsteps of Jees or Pash once I’m back in the UK! 🙂 Oh, and you do know you can check out all my Cambodian Adventures on my other blog Cambodia Calling right?  If you want to eavesdrop on my TEFLing exploits feel free.

Cambodia Calling

Don’t get me wrong, I think Jessica Ennis and Paul Sinton-Hewitt (or Jees and Pash as I like to call them) are pretty awesome, it’s just that now I’ve got bigger fish to fry.  I’m over them. I have decided not to become embittered by ‘what might have been‘ but rather to celebrate the awesomeness that surrounds me here.  This morning dear reader, I have been dancing amongst the stars and I mean that LITERALLY people, not just metaphorically.  – Though the ‘stars’ are in the sense of ‘celebrities’ not ‘celestial bodies’ so try not to get confused.  Look, just keep up will you, it’s not all that complicated if you just show a bit of patience and concentrate, all will be clear!

ultimate-action-shot

This morning, I decided a trip out to the Olympic Stadium was in order.  Background is I’ve been feeling a bit grumpy knickers lately. …

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First world problems…

Sometimes life seems unfair. I shall try to get over it.

I feel personally slighted.

I have not felt homesick whilst in Cambodia.  Not really.  I do miss some things obviously: Friends (people, not the TV programme) / Radio 4 and Radio 4 extra /  BBC news/ parkrun/ Sheffield countryside….  Facebook has helped me keep in touch with friends more than in previous trips away, and although I don’t particularly like Phnom Penh because it is dirty, noisy and overwhelming  – it is also exciting, challenging and full of something new every single day.   Even on a ‘bad day’ (and let’s face it, you can have those in the UK too) it is worth any temporary lows for the overall experience.

Yesterday though, I had a full on, stomach lurching ‘I seriously can’t believe I missed that‘ moment.

Here’s why.

My local parkrun.

Jessica Ennis AND Paul Sinton-Hewitt at Sheffield Hallam parkrun and NOT me.  Gutted.

Look what I missed.  Icons.  Icons in action.

Kill me now.*  (only not really)

Oh, and if you want to know what I’m up to in Cambodia, you can always check it out here on Cambodia Calling.  You’re welcome.  🙂

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Marathon Madness – New Year’s Eve reflections

I really hope this current wave of pessimism about my training options is temporary, and my next post will be a wave of cheery positivity. However, it is truthful and it states where I’m at. Down, but not yet out. Not looking on track for London, but not entirely out of the question just yet….

Cambodia Calling

I honestly don’t know if I’m being unnecessarily defeatist, spineless and self-pitying (can’t believe I’m saying that like it’s a bad thing, must learn to be less judgemental with my use of language), or just undertaking a pragmatic and practical reality check in relation to evaluating where I’m at with my marathon training efforts.  In any event, I’m definitely out of self-belief right now, which is a shame, as I understand that whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t you are most probably right…  Further more, apparently if you believe you can run a marathon you are half way there. Which if true would be fantastic news, as I’d only have to run a half and I’ve already done that, so that would be basically job done!

believe

So, the situation is this.  Since I’ve been in Cambodia I have been completely unable to go out running on…

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Olympians in the making?

So, this is the attempt at cross training. It wasn’t really exercise, but it was quite an experience. This is the alternative reality of early morning exercise in Phnom Penh. Enjoy. Oh, and Happy Christmas if you are tuning in today. Hope you got your Christmas parkrun is as is now the new festive tradition for parkrunners everywhere. Ho ho ho, bah humbug etc. Lx

Cambodia Calling

Almost definitely I’d say.  I mean, we went to the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, so that must count for something right?

As my regular reader will know, following my massively competent running performance and networking operations at Phnom Penh Sports Club, I had been given a tip-off by a local woman that if you want a fitness excursion, then the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh is the place to be.  There was the little matter of getting there for 5.00 a.m., but hey ho, you have to try these things.  From what I could gather there would be a smorgasboard of activity classes you could choose from, so arrival time wasn’t absolutely critical, but best to be there well before 6.00 a.m..  In the event, three of us committed to going along this morning, agreeing to a 5.30 a.m. rendezvous at my street corner, near the shop with…

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Running by osmosis – a marathon not a sprint…

So, it’s been a while. I’m on an adventure in Cambodia, you can check out my blog for that if you wish, that’s where this post went up originally. I’m finally settled in Phnom Penh where I’m to be based for the next three months, and just starting to try and work out how on earth I’m going to get my running training in. The runes so far are not looking good, but I’m still up for giving it my best shot. If you, dear reader have pearls of wisdom to share, please cast my way. All help needed, and heeded where possible. I thank you. Lx

Cambodia Calling

I expect you’ve been wondering how my marathon training is going eh?  Well, essentially like this:

dscf4060

That is a post workout photo not a pre workout one by the way, though frankly the differences in the before and after shots are relatively slight.  Who knew training for a marathon could be this hard?  Initially I figured that it wouldn’t be enough of a challenge for me to train for a marathon in the UK, so it would be way better for me to come and live in Phnom Penh for a few months and have the extra challenge of doing lots of running around where it is really hot instead.  Turns out, training for a marathon, or even doing any running at all in Cambodia’s capital city is nigh on impossible  Or at least it seems to me to be so anyway.  The only upside of being super-stressed about how…

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