Blowing hot and cold about running? Beware both ice and fire on the Sheffield trails.

Digested Read: still doing my long walk for endurance, round Sheffield walk take two, augmented by a golden segment, ice and fire.  Unaugmented by litter and the casual misogyny of youth.  Progress is slow, marathon training wise, but I suppose slow progress is still progress.  Here’s hoping.  Hope over experience is sometimes the only hope you have to hang on to.  Also #votesforwomen still work to be done.

When I say todays’ yomping out on the Round Sheffield Walk involved encounters with both fire and ice, I am not referring to my tendency to blow hot and cold about what I laughably call my ‘running’ exploits, but I mean today I quite literally came across both.  Look:

Sheffield’s answer to a volcano erupted through snow.  All the spectacular scenery of Iceland, but none of the sulphuric gases and unpronounceable names.  See, practically indistinguishable.

holuhraun-volcano-eruption-guide-to-iceland

Though to be fair, both represent sub-optimal running conditions. Just as well it wasn’t really a running day as such. Also, I’m hard core, so lived to tell the tale.  Plus, I set out on my Round Sheffield Walk route march a bit better prepared than last week.  Every little helps.

Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about?  That’s not a first. Well, I’m allegedly in training for the London Marathon, but not so as you’d really notice.  Because I’m a run/walker/yomper rather than an actual runner, I’m building up my distances through long walks to build stamina, and adding in the running as a greater proportion of each walk, rather than doing continuous long runs of ever increasing mileages.  It’s not maybe a conventional training plan, and it remains to be seen if it will work.  All the same, I think it’s my best bet to avoid injury and get me round.  I’m not seeking a podium place, just to get round with my dignity in tact. Actually, I don’t really care about retaining my dignity, as long as I finish before the cut off point and get the bling and therefore associated blagging rights. This may sound shallow, but it is at least honest.  All this being so, you’d think it would be a commitment to my marathon training plan that got me out the door today to do my 15.7 mile route march, but honestly, it was probably more Smiletastic.  You know, the Smiley Paces running club winter challenge.  Soooooooooooooooo stressful you have no idea.

It wasn’t supposed to have worked out like this.  Today shouldn’t have been my long run day.  However,  I’d pledged to do a 15 mile long run this week for Smiletastic, so mission critical that I achieve this or my whole Dragonfly team suffers (and I thought collective punishment was clearly defined as a war crime under the Geneva Convention). The fact that I’m allegedly in training for a marathon so need to rack up the distances for that as well is almost incidental.  I keep forgetting.  I think I’m in denial about the whole thing.  Anyways, the point is,  I only have a limited repertoire of long runs on which to draw, and also very limited ability to run any long distance at all. However, not to worry, I had a cunning plan.  Unfortunately, as Baldrick  himself would vouch for me, the best laid plans don’t always quite turn out as anticipated, irrespective of the quality of the turnips used in their execution.

cunning plan

The cunning plan, such as it was, was brilliant in it’s simplicity.  One of the great boons of being part of a fine and friendly running club, apart from the access to a gang of awesome, funny and smart women with whom to eat cake obviously, is the access to a wide network of amazing runners. Not just any old runners (even the old ones are young at heart) but ultra-runners.  Excellent. All I had to do, was befriend a couple, throw myself at their individual and collective mercy, and parasatise all their run routes.  I worried a bit about exploiting their good will, because anyone who is willing to run with me, will end up doing a lot of walking.  I wasn’t entirely sure what I could offer in return for their time and navigational insights.  You might like to think it was the pleasure of my company, but that’s a completely implausible explanation.  Maybe they’ll get credits for their Duke of Edinburgh gold badge or something.  Or maybe they’ll agree by accident because of my grooming skills, be instantly consumed with regret,  and subsequently be motivated to join up for assertiveness classes. That would benefit them in the long run, (pun intended), so they’d not be entirely wasting their time acting as guides for me if it led to such important personal skills development.

Point is, I reeled a couple of them in, and we were going to go off and do a 14 mile explore round the reservoirs at Derwent and Howden and have a chat along the way and coffee on conclusion.   It was all set for Friday. Then (cue dramatic music) disaster!  One of my guides was declared ill with unknown affliction, and only able to venture out with an accompanying drip (awkward for walking long distances, those drip stands are rarely all terrain) and the other incapacitated due to foot injury, which turned out to be a stress fracture. She would therefore only be able to venture out if carried the whole way round in a sedan chair.

sedan chair

That’s fine, and I’ve even found a suitable one on ebay or whatever which is a snip at £9,900 but I just don’t think it would have arrived in time for our sojourn. Also, bit nippy out for minions to be carrying you round shirtless.  I wonder how you sourced sedan chairs before the arrival of the internet?  It’s a mystery.

sedan for sale

The upshot was, I’d have to motivate myself to go out, and once again the weather has been shocking, cold, snow, ice.  I decided to take the easy option, and just do the Round Sheffield Walk route again today instead, with the added literal and metaphorical bonus, that I could take in this week’s Smiletastic golden segment whilst I was about it.  I could still meet with my ultra running buddies to check if they are really incapacitated or just in cahoots to avoid going out with me just for coffee and a catch up. Granted, this is a slippery slope, as recently, when parkrun was cancelled due to ice I found you can still have a post parkrun brunch without doing parkrun firsts if you are all there anyway.  If I learn this latte minus the pre-run option is effective and available everywhere and in all circumstances, well, let’s just say it will be elasticated waists for me in perpetuity thereafter.  No Friday run, but Friday coffee, that’s not so bad.  My running tights have an elasticated waist anyway, so I can go prepared…

In the meantime, today was Round Sheffield walk, incorporating a new golden segment.  What could possibly go wrong?

clough lane smiletastic segment

As I cannot be trusted to run segments on my own (last week I had to go  back and do the golden segment round Chelsea Park all over again after inadvertently cutting off the beginning of it, mightily displeased about that) I took the precaution of enlisting the help of another dragonfly to pick up en route, so we could do the segment together.  Mind you, I felt I was being unnecessarily cautious in this respect. I knew exactly where this was and no mistake.   Just up from Endcliffe Park.

It was bitterly cold on waking, but mercifully dry, so as I picked my way down to the park rendezvous the pavements weren’t slippery at all, the sun shone, and my sandwiches bounced up and down in my backpack with a pleasingly reassuring thud as I went down.  I was first to the rendezvous point by the café, so sat in the sun watching the world go by, and marvelling at the Endcliffe Park Independent Café’s moss-covered roof. It is really stunning.  Should have taken a photo for illustrative purposes really.  Never mind, here is a parkrun one from the week before. You’ll get the idea.

epic cafe 27 jan

I did have the foresight to take a photo of the frog, or possibly toad.  I like this wooden sculpture a lot, it’s time it got a showing.  It wasn’t tremendously interactive to be fair, I think it might be hibernating, or if not actually hibernating, being dormant, which I think is more accurate in the UK context.  I’m sure Frog Life know their amphibians.

frog or toad

I think toad actually, frogs are more smooth-skinned.  Let’s go with toad.

So I’m sat in the sun, watching the world go by, and eventually my dragonfly buddy appeared.  We marched up to forge dam putting the worlds to rights, and then at the forge dam café, decided to get some take away lattes because we’d walked all of a mile and a bit by then, and were having a nice morning out so why not. The lattes were really good actually, and would have been improved only by our admitting to ourselves that it would have been nice to sit down and drink them at leisure, rather than carrying them round with us.  We asked not to have lids, in an attempt to reduce plastic a bit, but a sit down would have been more eco-friendly still, as well as more enjoyable.

We reached a bit of road where we thought the segment might start. Complete confusion.  My eyesight wasn’t good enough to read the map I’d printed out, and now we were actually there I was confused as to whether or not it was the right place. Critically, I’d also been planning to run it in completely the wrong direction.  After much dithering, picking our way through ice patches to read road signs (did I mention that as we ascended, there was a lot of thick and treacherous ice patches along the way) we reached agreement as to which way to go. Worse case scenario, we’d upload it immediately afterwards to check, and then run again if necessary.  I was so relieved I didn’t risk heading off on my own.

The first part was absolutely fine, but when we turned into Mark lane we hit a comically extreme patch of ice.  Even in broad daylight it was a nightmare to negotiate.  No chance of heading out after dark to bagsy this one without fear of instant death.  Water was still streaming under the ice, and adding to it, if the temperature dropped again, as forecast, it would practically be it’s own glacier, probably visible from space.  Or would be, were it not for the tree cover thereabouts.

I’m a bit disappointed by the ice photos, it looks less hazardous than it was.  The weird nondescript photo is of beautiful icicles that had formed where water ran out of a dry stone wall, so there are my photography credentials exposed for all to see, no wonder I have to borrow freely from others for so many of my blog posts.  Oh well.  You get the idea.

With all the faffing and chatting, the 1km loop took blooming ages to get round, but we had a nice time, so that’s the main thing. Then we said our farewells, as dragonfly buddy had important things to do and I had another 10 plus miles to tick off and (unfortunately) those miles weren’t going to walk themselves now were they.

I was in quite good spirits heading up the valley.  I think having a latte before I’d even really started was good for morale. The sun was bright, the air crisp, and the scenery gorgeous. Very few people were out and about.  I went a slightly different route, clambering up what I call Jacob’s Ladder, but which might not be. It’s a steep hillside clamber that takes you on the footpath through the alpaca farm (gawd those fields and field shelters look a mess and you emerge a bit below the Norfolk Arms.  I marched past there, and then crossed the road to head down Limb Valley. There was less snow, but a fair bit of ice.  I rather regretted not having nipped into the pub for a precautionary pee – maybe having a latte wasn’t such a good idea after all, so went slightly off piste for a  – well you get the idea.  This brought a new discovery. How have I not see this leaf man before?  A creature from the undergrowth.  I like it.  It’s sort of hidden, so not too intrusive, and the art work sufficiently impressive that I’d call this urban art rather than vandalism or graffiti, though perhaps strictly speaking it is both.   Actually, not really ‘urban’ either, so I suppose that makes me wrong on all counts…  Not a first.

You see this is what happens.  I head out on a Sheffield yomp, convinced I won’t do a blog post this time because it will all be a bit samey, and the Sheffield Round Walk, lovely as it is, has been done to death by everyone, and yet you only have to venture a few metres off the track to discover new hidden treasures.

Look how lovely it is out there.  Cold yes, but picturesque certainly. And this was just ice, not come across the fire yet!

Down through the valley, the ice was really bad. There were was one section where a couple of walkers from amongst a larger group had managed to traverse and ice patch, but those behind them were thwarted. It was like one of those action adventure films where the rope bridge has fallen down the canyon leaving some of the hapless adventurers stranded on the wrong side.  One older man tentatively stepped on the ice patch and we all looked on in horror as he slid helplessly in slow motion down the slope with gathering momentum.  I can’t have been alone in thinking he’d end up plummeting onward into the stream at the bottom of the vertiginous hill.  Somehow he used his walking sticks to brake, but the randomness of this approach did not inspire confidence in those behind.  In the end, I clung onto a nearby tree as sort of ballast, and linked arms with each of the walkers in turn so they could pass.  A bit like this, only I was clinging to a tree not a mountain side.

clinging on

It was all very companionable and community initiative based.  It was treacherous out there though.  I’d half wondered if I should don the running shoes this week and build my speeds, but there’s no way I’d have felt safe running this route again today.  I’m going to have to bow to the inevitable and find some lower level and even  –  heaven portend – road routes even, if I’m ever to pick up the pace.   Still, worry about that another day.

I emerged through Whirlow, which again was looking picturesque, and then stopped for sandwiches at the bench at the entrance to Ecclesall Woods.  Point of information, that I think is interesting, because this is all about me, even though I was out for ages today, my stamina was way better for having some snackettes on the way round. Who knew nutrition was an asset for endurance?  Granted, you probably aren’t supposed to actually stop for a picnic en route at a marathon (though wouldn’t it be lovely if you could) but keeping my blood sugar levels replete stopped mid-excursion grumpiness for sure.  Anyway, it meant I was having a nice enough time that I felt no need to abort my romp out and catch a bus instead, rather carrying on to explore the delights of Ecclesall woods and the secrets it had yet to reveal.

Through the woods, sharing hellos and greeting with the few others I came across.  After that blooming climb in Ladies Spring Wood (which did not feel any easier at all this time)

Fuelled as I was with my humus and watercress in pitta super food, I even had sufficient surplus energy to go and finally take a detour to look at Beauchief Abbey, which I’ve never bothered to do before. I couldn’t go in, which was disappointing, but I could admire the mossy grounds, golden weather vane and immaculate architecture, and try to memorise the guide board that was helpfully in situ.  It’s an impressive history to be fair.

The most amusing sighting of the day however, if by ‘amusing’ you mean jaw-droppingly outrageous, was on the Beauchief golf course.  I refer to the tees.  Initially, there was the simple disappointment of the misleading signs.  I didn’t get so much as a sniff of a cup of Yorkshire tea at any of the tee signs, let alone the fourth tee, and don’t get me started on their spelling!  But the real shocker was this:

It took me a while to comprehend this.  I note as usual the men are on top and the women covered in mud and being asked to go to the side whilst the men can crack on straight ahead.  Ladies and mens golf tees. What the? Has the world gone mad? Is this a known thing?  Do the men hang out smoking cigars, drinking brandy and guffawing at misogynistic jokes whilst the women pose on their tee eating lady-friendly crisps and discussing what to cook their husbands for dinner later on whilst trying to avoid getting their kitten heels caught on either their crinoline petticoats or worse still the green?  Or is this actually a progressive innovation, and the eleventh tee has extra toilet facilities for the ladies, who are usually ill-served in relation to such provisions at sporting events?  Is it that men running golf courses, like those organising cross-country events, fear women’s wombs will fall out with the exertion, or do they just fear women? It’s a mystery.  Some are campaigning for change in the XC running different race lengths ‘norm’  though the reasons some give against change are toe curling in their ludicrousness.  Marshals out for longer?  Seriously?  Apart from the fact it just depends how you time and order events, and that women marshal too, and many marshals are more than happy to support runners who finish at different times, have they not come across the phenomenon of super speedy women runners who can run the arses off their male counterparts.  Would that not add interest to the event. Percy Pud 2017 anyone?

First woman flying round AB

I have no idea why there are different tees, the Beauchief Golf Club website offers no clues. Though the ladies course is shorter than the men, and they refer to ladies and men as opposed to women and men which I find bizarre. They do have a very fine 1951 course map though, which we can all agree is quite splendid.

courseplan1951

So I pondered this as I plodded on in the sunshine.

Subsequently I would be informed, to some disappointment, that this is apparently accepted practise because the average woman cannot hit as far as the average man – I don’t know if that’s true.  I’m dubious, but it’s possible I suppose.  Fortunately sexism in golfing remains rampant in other respects, even if that particular example may have some basis in logic.  The world is mad.  Bro-go areas still exist though.  And it’s been said golf’s biggest problem is sexism however, I enjoy the reasoning given for in the Womens Golf Journal article Gentlemen Only which reports that – admittedly back in the 19th century.

a certain Lord Moncrieff who, would you believe, decreed that women should not hit the ball any further than 60-70 yards.
“Not because we doubt a lady’s power to make a longer drive but because that cannot well be done without raising the club above the shoulder,” he wrote. “Now we do not presume to dictate but we must observe that the posture and gestures requisite for a full swing are not particularly graceful when the player is clad in female dress.

Remind me again why adherence to ‘tradition’ is seen as a legitimate justification for discrimination, abuse, pretty much anything quite frankly.  It isn’t immediately clear…

The next cause of excitement was I think when I encountered a youth and his dog in I think Chancet wood, but actually I have no idea now. Could have been any one of the woodland trails with a steep slope towering overhead on one side, and plummeting down beneath me on the other.  Anyway, initially unseen, they lost their footing and tumbled down a bank and nearly landed on top of me. Oh dear. We all lived to tell the tale. I managed to embarrass myself by inadvertently shrieking as honestly, it was like he fell from the sky and caught me unawares. (Not like that). He was mortified at having so somersaulted, and in his anxiety to remove himself from the awkward social situation, promptly slipped again, arse first, down the remainder of the bank, shouting up behind me that he was ‘absolutely fine’, while his companion canine was having the most fun out on a walk EVER, as it jumped and barked around him as he continued his descent.   I think not, but on balance, was happier to be left to attend his own wounds, than have a middle-aged Smiley fussing round him.

The latter part of the walk, after Graves Park is not as interesting, and doesn’t really improve with familiarity. This time, as I was going down litter lane.  I don’t know whether to call it litter lane or dog poo pass.   I coincided with school children bolting out of the rear entrance of Newfield School at the end of the school day. The litter and dog shite in bags hanging from trees are really bad here.   One thing of interest though, just as I was getting really cold, was a sudden blast of heat coming from a huge but orderly bonfire.  It was extraordinary, like walking past a great furnace, so you see I wasn’t lying when I said today’s effort was about ice AND fire.  Unlikely as it seems, both were present.  If it hadn’t been behind a locked gate, I’d have lobbed some of the rubbish on it.

I noticed there is a particular accumulation of rubbish by the school gate, and I can’t lie, it does make me think that maybe a major source of the littering has to be from pupils making their way to and from school along this path.  Not exclusively, but it created a really bad impression.   I’d be ashamed if I was in the management of that school and pathways around it were knee-deep in litter.   Whoever is responsible, surely you’d want to clear up your own back yard, and you could involve the school community in it, as they would be obvious beneficiaries as many of them no doubt walk it every day. Some of that trash is faded and half buried in the ground, it’s been there for a long, long time.  Many months, maybe even years.

The children coming out were in big groups and boisterous, releasing pent-up energy, shoving each other as they negotiated the paths.  It was pretty unpleasant. I found my mindset shifted.  Only last week when I did this route I thought I’d come and litter pick it myself in better weather, but now I strongly suspect the culprits are some of the pupils and their littering is compounded by general apathy from the school in not clearing up even outside their own gate, I felt a bit differently.  Nursing  fantasy rage scenarios of strongly worded letters to the school. At the same time I recognise it might have been in part that I felt quite intimidated by the large groups yelling at each other, and as I passed by the co-op heading into Meersbrook Park, I witnessed some ‘friends’ shouting ‘bitch, bitch, ugly bitch’ at one of the girls who’d had the misfortune to stoop to tie a shoelace just where there was a dog typing up ring outside the shop.  It was a large crowd, and my perception was boys shouting ‘bitch’ at a girl, and encouraging others to do the same.    I lingered for a bit to see if I should intervene.  The language calling was certainly inappropriate, and I found it offensive, but the ‘victim’ did appear to taking it all in her stride and so I thought the better of it.  It troubled me though.  In a way it’s worse she appeared OK with it, is that sort of behaviour so normalised at that age?  Ganging up against a young woman just because you can, and it makes you feel powerful, and what can she do about it because you are ‘only larking about’.  Gender based assault masquerading as ‘just a bit of fun’ between school children?  Lawks a lordy we need MeToo.  Might yet contact the school.  Children can be cruel, but they can also have a wicked shared sense of humour, from the outside you can’t always tell.   Upshot was it did spoil my mood and my walk and I made a mental note to run round faster next time so as not to get caught up in Newfield School pupils pouring out the school and swarming the streets around on their way home.  That and raged at the injustice of the world.  I did quite a lot of the inwardly raging.

Not all were riotous of course.  There were some children rather sweetly gathering up tree branches in the wooded areas just playing.  Just ahead of me, two firm friends, one really tall, and one significantly shorter, walked purposefully along, deep in conversation.  I wondered if they were the same year, or neighbours perhaps of different ages.  I’ve worked in schools, and one thing that really struck me, especially with the boys, was how young people of the same age could be so physically different depending on when puberty hits.  Some clearly young men, others pre-pubescent and awkward.  Adolescence is a challenging time. Even so, maybe a strongly worded email, just to make the point.  I might start it with ‘Why oh why oh why‘ that would definitely add impact.  I won’t at all come across as a mad middle-aged woman with an axe to grind.   Even so, might just give my axe a good old grind, could come in handy, and you have to do something to bring about change sometimes.  Those suffragists and suffragettes did a bit more than a letter writing campaign to get the vote. Hurrah for them! One hundred years on from getting the vote for women, I do celebrate and acknowledge that, but I despair at how far we still have to go.  People don’t like to surrender privilege without a fight.  Then again, I do want to say about the rubbish and the ‘bitch’ comments, but I don’t want to either have to go on hunger strike or be force fed, which was basically state torture of women campaigning for the vote. It’s a dilemma.

political prisoners

Male and female tees

Men and ladies different XC courses

Calling your female class mate a ‘bitch’

Characterising women who raise their voices as frustrated, ugly, middle aged – not much changes does it?

Sound familiar anyone?

Everyday sexism, everyday misogyny.

I’m properly depressed now.  The walk that was to clear my head started well, ended badly.  My mood sure, took a nose dive after the school.

Oh well, I must think instead of the women who went on campaigning, in spite of the resistance, the hardship and the unknown outcomes.  They showed physical and mental endurance, as such, they too can be my marathon training role models.  If I can just channel my inner suffragette, I can nail this.  Maybe I should ditch Geronimo as my running companion for London and go as a suffragette.  Did you know that at the time a photographer Christina Broom documented a lot of their actions.  Me neither til just now, but any one of these outfits in Green, White and Violet would be splendid.  Now, who do I know with a sewing machine who might help.  I’m sure there must be a broken-toed Smiley somewhere willing and able to step up to the task..

and I do like a fine hat, so there’s a thought.

A thunk indeed.

So there you go, that was my endurance test for the week done and dusted. It was physically much easier than last time, having food on the way round helped.  The weather was better. The ice is an issue though.   I still haven’t done anything like enough actual running, but I tell myself the elevation and uneven terrain must help a bit from a cross training point of view. Also, it remains reet nice out, so all is not lost.  Yet.  Plenty of time to lose it before April.

Yep, I am confident I will definitely have lost it by then.  Definitely.

So that’s alright then.  Yes?

Oh, and this is the route, my slowest ever rendition of the Round Sheffield Walk, but hey ho, that’s more hours on the legs isn’t it, good for endurance.  15.78 miles and 2003 feet.  That’s good to know.  Not necessarily helpful or relevant, but the numbers please me.

strava route

So that’s still alright then.  Yes?

Hello?

Anybody there?

Hello….

 

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Marathon Madness? Taking on the long and lonely trails. Reet nice out though. :)

Digested read: my marathon training preparation may be lamentable in conventional terms, but I’m trying.  I did a looooooooooong walk of the Sheffield Round Walk yesterday and it was reet nice out (get me and my Sheffield riff).  We are so lucky to have all this on our doorstep in Sheffield.  Get out and make the most of it people, you will not regret it.  I promise.

It occurred to me dear reader, that you might have been wondering how my marathon training has been going.  I know I have.  It’s quite a worry.  Can’t lie.  I’m scared.  Terrified even.  I have spectacularly failed to get into any kind of running routine, which I’m pretty sure is the key to any consistency in training and getting close to achieving this goal.  I’ve been thwarted to some extent by ice, snow, house move related annoyances (who knew you have to waste whole weeks of your life waiting in for people various who may or may not come), and my confidence has taken a knock.  I have difficulty even in saying out loud ‘I’m doing the London Marathon this year‘ in case people openly laugh in my face.  I need to do so though, to make it real.  I suppose inside I must believe this is possible, or I wouldn’t be putting myself through it, but a huge cloud of self-doubt hovers overhead. I wish that would go away, it isn’t really helping, and maybe it’s that black cloud that is lowering the temperatures to such an extent that black ice makes even stepping outside the front door too hazardous to contemplate let alone venturing further afield.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.

There have been some minor steps in progress along the way.  I got a London Marathon place, that’s a biggy, with the ballot odds as they are for the London Marathon.  I am not starting from nothing. I have to keep reminding myself of this.  I may be a slow runner, and generate a reaction of incredulity rather than admiration in those that see me out and about training, but I have got round a fair few events now.  Including the Sheffield Half and the Dig Deep 12.12, both of which I was pretty sure were almost impossible before I actually did them. The almost is critical here.  I knew they’d be hard, but deep down inside I thought sheer bloody-mindedness should see me through.  However, with an actual marathon I’m not so confident.  I fully appreciate that the jump from a half to a full marathon is a huge one.  I won’t be able to blag it, and I have to recognise that whilst I’ll give it my best shot, I can’t possibly know how I’ll cope until I’m doing it.   Preparation is key, but oh my, how much does life/ the elements/ injury get in the way of it.  I suppose if it wasn’t a challenge there wouldn’t be much point in doing it, but aargh, I wish I was further on that I am as we enter February.

What I did do, just before Christmas, was see a physio because I was angsty about miscellaneous niggles and stiffness, and I didn’t know if I was developing hypochondria, Munchausen’s or whether my body was actually disintegrating by the hour.  On balance, I was pretty sure it was the latter.  Whilst I didn’t want to give up before I’d started, I wasn’t over keen on having body parts fall off either on the way round the London route or during training.  I thought a check up might help.  On a serious note, my real fear at my age (50+) and with no natural sporting aptitude whatsoever, is getting injured in training.  In my heart of hearts I think if I make it to the start of the London Marathon uninjured, I’ll make it to the end.  However, I didn’t fancy embarking on a training plan when my calf was all exploding with cramp and my legs wont bend properly.  It’s no an auspicious start is it, when your body is in constant protest if you try to run, it’s hard enough overcoming my mental reluctance to set foot out of the door.

Well dear reader, the visit to the physio was a great move.  Apart from the mysterious ability of physios to do magic mendy things with their bare hands, it was very reassuring. So I went to see a local physio who I picked because I’d previously been to their ‘preventing running injuries’ workshop, and that was really good, and for me, relatable.  I’m a recreational runner, not part of a sporting elite, and I felt it had a lot of realistic, ‘common sense’ type information and advice I could understand and implement.  Probably.  So I made an appointment just before Christmas and on a chilly day limped over and then spewed out all my concerns at the feet of the poor physio.  In essence, I’m supposed to be doing the London marathon, but my knee niggles, my calf complains, my legs laugh at me, my back aches, and I’ve hardly run for a month due to, well life basically, getting in the way. Oh yes, and due to me being generally a bit crap. That too.  And I keep seeing other people posting their Strava triumphs and I’m way behind them and… well ‘what am I thinking? Who am I trying to kid?  What should I do?’  That kind of thing.

So her first question was:

Do you actually want to run the London Marathon?’

This was in fact a really good question.  Because I absolutely do, but I get that maybe some people, on receiving a ballot place that they never seriously thought they’d win, panic and feel obligated to go through with something for which they never had any real serious intent.  I’m not in that category.  I really, really want to do this.  So much so, that I can hardly breathe (and not only when I’m trying to run), but I am scared of not doing it justice and I don’t really know how to go about it. Well I do in theory I suppose, but doing it for real is another thing altogether!  Anyway, the sincerity of my response told me, as much as her, that yep, I’m absolutely up for this, but I want to avoid injury in training at all costs.  I believe if I start, I’ll finish.  Probably, well I hope so.  My main challenge is to keep injury free so I can do the training.

Yes I do!  I really do, but I just want to get around, I’m not fussed about time‘, I practically wailed.  Hopefully, she’ll have seen all this before, and I didn’t scare her (too much).  She did move offices quite soon afterwards though I noticed, but I expect that’s just a coincidence.  Anyway, her reply was quite reassuring:

That was my next question. Are you aiming for a particular time?  Because if not, then it’s completely doable, you could do it tomorrow, it might not be pretty and it might break you afterwards, but it is doable.  So right now, we just need to get you back to running regularly and build up from there

Easy.  Logical too I suppose.  It is nonsense to compare myself to other people, especially when they are inherently fit and 25 years junior to me.  I have to start where I’m at, and not be deflected too much by training schemes that aren’t relevant to me and might actually be detrimental.  So instead, she did her magic physio fairy dust and healing hands and tweaked and shifted muscles and limbs so I left with them functioning OK, and I re-set my running aspirations more realistically, and left with a plan to build up miles on my legs with walking, and just start doing what I can regularly, because frankly anything is better than nothing, and procrastination is not my friend.  Turns out I’m not broken, though I am stiff, and there is no reason why I can’t run apart from previously referenced innate inability and lack of personal motivation.  Which is what I said, not her by the way, I think most physios are trained not to pass judgements as harsh as those we pass on ourselves, even if they are true.  Well not out loud anyway.

So I need to get going, and I need to remind myself why I want to do this, and it’s actually hard to articulate without resorting to memes or clichés. What the hell, let’s use those:

 

See.  Nothing like over-worked clichés to put you back on track!  What none of these cover though, is the fear of failure.  If I blow this chance… well I shudder at the thought.  I need to hang on to the ‘why’ as that may help motivate me.  Even so, with all the motivation, and all the help at hand, I’m still struggling to put together a workable plan and put it into action.

So, my plan, such as it is, is to acknowledge, I’m not going to be able to run the whole thing, so I need to accept that, and pace myself accordingly.  It also means, there is little point in me doing ever longer long runs in my training, lengthening the distance by 10% each week (though I now know that’s an over-ambitious figure anyway) as if I waited until I could continuously run the required distances before extending, I’d never get beyond 10k.  Instead, I’m going to do some Lucy style training.  This is idiosyncratic I know, but I’m hoping not entirely without merit.  So, the plan is, accept my limitations, but put a lot of focus on miles on the legs and hours on my feet.  I am resigned to the fact it is going to take me a loooooooong time to get around the London course, well, I want to get my monies worth by being out as long as possible, obvs.  Hence, that’s what I need to replicate in training.  I’ll keep my staples, my weekly parkrun, and two other runs a week.  However, once a week, I’m going to go out and do a really long walk, the plan is just start by walking, literally, because I know I can do that. As my fitness improves, I’ll start running sections, and, the theory is, over the coming weeks, the percentage time I spend running as opposed to walking will increase, so I might not be extending my runs in the conventional way, but I will extend my running time and at the same time clock up distances without risk of injury from over-training.

It helps that I have the Sheffield Round Walk (about 15 miles) right on my doorstep. This takes in some lovely views, its a fair old hike, so that’s miles on the legs, and there’s some respectable elevation too, about 1,864 ft.  That’s got to help with cross training, surely?

sheffield round walk map

Here it is again, I give you the Round Sheffield Run Route via Strava.   Lovely 🙂

strava round sheffield run sheffield round walk route with elevation

There is a really good outdoor city guide to the route but weirdly, and I speak as someone who has done the run/ walk many times, it seems that it is only signposted if you do it in an anti-clockwise direction.  The signage is patchy to be fair, and I doubt you could to it ‘in reverse’ if you didn’t already know the route.  Anyway, I digress, the point is, I decided I needed to just test my fitness, and head out and do the 15 mile (ish) walk.  So that’s what I did.

First though, I googled ‘can I train for a marathon in 12 weeks’.  Astonishingly, google was not all that conclusive or personalised in its advice. Though I did come across a hilarious training programme that basically started from zero, assuming three runs a week.  And the first long run was 6 miles, and you kept adding 2 or 3 miles each week, until you got to 22 miles and then climaxed with the actual marathon. So that’s very easy.  Looks good on paper indeed.  I conceded, not without some reluctance, that browsing hypothetical training plans was less helpful than actually going out and getting some miles on my legs.  The day before had brought with it blizzards and biting sleet, not so much ‘wintry showers’ as shards of glass, flying at you through the sky, from all directions!  Yesterday though, there was something of a break in the weather. This was the day.  I will do this.  I deliberately wore walking rather than running shoes, so there was no pressure or temptation to run.  I’d actually been ill earlier in the week.  Properly, in bed with a temperature, so I didn’t want to overdo it, but I did want to head out.  I wrapped up in warm clothes, and took water and some cash and off I went.  Beginning with a  march down to Endcliffe Park.

It was reet nice out!  Bit nippy, but bright sunshine, some ice. Endcliffe park café was mysteriously surrounded by thick-set security guards in hi-viz and what looked like an ambulance response unit.  Also the café was shut.  Turns out they were filming something, I don’t know what, but hey ho, that was novel.  I made my way through the park and up towards forge dam and beyond up to Ringinglow. And do you know what. It was gorgeous. My legs felt strong, the air was fresh, the few people around friendly.  I feel so lucky that we in Sheffield have all this on our doorstep.  Underfoot, the terrain wasn’t great. The higher up I got, the thicker the ice and/or mud. There were some cheery exchanges with other walkers out and about debating whether or not we’d make it up or down depending on which direction we were heading off in.  I wouldn’t have felt confident enough to run in this, even if I’d been wearing my fell shoes.  Not so much the mud, but the ice, I just don’t know if my shoes would cope.

Plus, I wouldn’t have fancied getting ankle-deep in icy mud early on, on a 15 mile route march, cold feet are grim.  Wet cold feet are grimmer still!  But you know what, it was glorious.

Look at this:

reet nice out

Actually, I’m not sure the photo does it justice, but you get the general idea.

Down through Limb Valley, where tree-lined banks loom up beside you. There was no-one about, but it was truly spectacular.

tree line

Coming down towards Whirlow the light made some of the trees take on amazing silhouettes.  Check out this giant rhinoceros beetle!  I know.  Huge.

and then you are in Ecclesall woods, and there were mysterious hidden dens and some stunning pine trees. The sound of this wood is different from the march up through Whitely woods.

Emerging from here, you cross Abbeydale road, and encounter the killer steps.  Even though this is a walking section for the Round Sheffield Run, they are not for the faint hearted.  I felt my energy levels subsiding, I promised myself a drink of water when I got to the top and wished I’d brought some food with me as well.  It’s astonishing how long it takes to walk this route. Even though my ‘running’ is comically slow, it is still apparently, a lot quicker than walking the same distance. It was lovely out, but I was beginning to nurse dark thoughts. I’d not even walked 10 miles yet and I was flagging, how am I supposed to run 26 plus miles!  I tried to remind myself that I’ve still got time to train, London is flat, game’s not over yet, but the enormity of the challenge is pretty clear.  I gave a hollow inward laugh as I wondered if with training I’d find myself scampering up these same steps a few weeks from now.. Doubtful  But you know what’s really, really annoying?  It’s that in photos the steps look completely innocuous. Inviting even.  How the camera lies.

Like I said.  Really annoying.

The temperature started to drop, and truthfully, I started putting my head down and just marching through, there were fewer photo stops, and more inward cursing my lack of fitness.

On the plus side, I could still put one foot in front of the other, I would do this, and next time will be lots easier.  There were still lovely surprises to take in along the way. Catkins, I defy anyone to look at a catkin and not feel joy.

Even on the grimmest, litter strewn part of the walk, just after graves park when you go down alongside a school I think and down a steep narrow path where discarded syringes play for space alongside cans, crisp packets and other rubbish there were little moments of joy.  Like this bench, which I’d never noticed before has little carvings on it. How lovely is that.  And the bright yellow gorse, that doesn’t just attract rubbish onto its thorny foliage, but was full of bright flowers.

I’d like to think that maybe in the summer I’ll come back to this path with a bin bag and gloves and do a litter pick, it was pretty bad.  Looks like a rat run for the school perhaps, or maybe it’s just the way the landscape funnels the wind so rubbish from everywhere gathers. Depressing though.

Not depressing, was the group of walkers I found at the bottom of the hill. Raucous, not particularly appropriately dressed for the elements but having a ball.  One had lost his shoe in the mud and, to much hilarity, others were shouting advice but offering little in the way of practical assistance.  A micro adventure in the moment. That is what happens if you head out and about, running or walking or otherwise.

I can’t lie, I nipped into the co-op on my way to Meersbrook, but I was starving.  I remembered I needed to buy some loo paper too, but decided that even though the large packs were on special offer, carrying a 9 pack of toilet rolls for the remaining 3 miles of my walk might not be the best of plans, even by my low standards!

Quick check of the Bishops House, and the amazing view, which in the winter sunshine gave all the building really clear outlines.  It was like looking at a painting.  You could even see the snow on the hill tops beyond the city buildings.

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Then as I left the park, there was a curious lost creature.  I thought it was a teddy at first, but it was sort of pig like.  Very peculiar.  I hope it found its way home. The temperature was plummeting, and globules of icy rain spitting down on me.  Not nice to be out and about.

lost creature

There followed my least favourite bit of the Round Sheffield Run/ Sheffield Round Walk.  Quite urban, and something of a shock to find yourself in amongst houses and shops and the paraphernalia of daily life after the relative solitude and loveliness of being up on them there hills.  However, on this occasion, things were looking up.  I’d been inwardly debating what to do for my Smiletastic ‘find something appropriate for Valentine’s Day on your run’ in order to bagsy my individual bonus point for the w/c 12 February.  Being somewhat cynical about the whole idea of Valentine’s Day, my original idea was to write a pamphlet on why it’s a cynical capitalist construct and be done with it, but I wasn’t sure that would be accepted as being quite within the spirit of the challenge.  Imagine therefore my delight at seeing this, a symbol of the disposable nature of romantic love if ever I’ve seen one. Brilliant:

Rubbishing romance (1)

There followed more hearts, bringing new gloriousness to this part of the route.  How have I previously missed these I have no idea.  I’m quietly confident my Valentine’s Day Smiletastic claim is in the bag.  Hurrah!

I had a bit of a spring in my step after that.  Maybe because of that, I was feeling the Smiletastic love, so noticed with new eyes the colourful mural on the back of B&M.  It’s an area of Sheffield where a group have worked really hard to create a garden of sorts and a colourful picture of native wildlife – albeit not entirely to scale.  Although the grasshoppers were not evident in the picture, other Smiletastic 2018 teams (dragonflies, ladybirds and bees) are represented.  Surely a symbol of our collective endeavour?  Do you think it would be better if the hedgehog is the size of a ladybird or the ladybird is the size of a hedgehog?  I’m not sure. I’m thinking a dinky little hedgehog would be rather delightful, but a giant ladybird somewhat terrifying.   Especially if it was an invasive harlequin ladybird. They aren’t good news.  This looks like a proper native one though, so that’s OK.

From there, that was it, nearly home.  15 and a bit miles later, weary feet, but job done.

What I’ve learned.

  1. I need to do more long outings to get miles on my legs, it has to help with stamina and cross training, those hills are killers.
  2. My base line of fitness isn’t great, but nor is it the worst in the world.  I just need to stick with it and not get disheartened too quickly.
  3. Foam rollering afterwards did genuinely help with my calves.  Note to self, need to read up how to do this properly so I don’t just slide about/ off the foam cylinder, but at least I’ve now got it out of its wrapping and created a space for foam rollering. It’s only taken me two years to do this.  Progress.
  4. Food would have been a good idea, I was out for ages.  I didn’t feel weak exactly, but I think I’d have been more cheerily disposed to the second half if I’d taken some peanut butter and Marmite sandwiches with me.
  5. Sheffield is ace.  The Sheffield Round Walk is full of surprises, worth doing a bit more slowly than usual
  6. Why do the Sheffield Round Walk signs only direct you one way round? I’d like to do the route in reverse, but I think I’d get lost, the signage is pretty rubbish.
  7. At some point, I am going to have to do some actual running on my training runs.  A harsh but incontestable truth.

So, I think from yesterday’s excursion all is not completely lost in relation to the London Marathon, but I do have a very long way to go.  In summary,  this is what have I done towards the marathon so far:

  • Secured a place – that’s quite a biggy actually, and I know against the odds I have been incredibly lucky
  • Booked a train ticket and accommodation
  • Been to see a physio
  • Googled training plans ‘is it possible to train for a marathon in three months?’
  • Gone for a very long walk
  • Got angsty about what other people are doing
  • Signed up to do Smiletastic

Well, it’s a start, a small step along the way, and you know what, that’s how every journey and every run starts.  One foot in front of the other.  Then repeat.  How hard can it be?*

I hope a few short months from now to look back on this post and laugh with joy at having achieved the seemingly almost impossible.  I recognise I may have to face an alternative truth, wehre I look back on this post and laugh at my naivity for even thinking I could try.  No worries.  I’m not going to predict the outcome now and make it into a foregone conclusion. Other people have done this, why not me.  Plus, think of the bragging rights, and the getting to feel invincible, even if only for a moment. That’s some runners’ high to hold out for.

What are the odds? Who knows.  I don’t believe anyone can run a marathon, let’s face it, not everyone would even want to –  I’m not sure I even believe I can, but I do believe I can give it a darned good shot, and find out by trying.  I also know from watching the London Marathon that the people who finish aren’t necessarily those you think will.  It’s a mental strength and tenacity that carries people through. Why me?  Why should I get around? Well, why not me?  Let’s do this.  Here’s holding out for the time I can say, been there, done that got the t-shirt.  Now wouldn’t that be something…  Just so you know, if I do, this wont be me:

told noone

Run a marathon without talking about it!  Pah.  On the plus side, I’ll be way too self-absorbed to notice if you aren’t listening, even if you have your fingers in your ears shouting ‘don’t care, don’t care‘, so nothing to worry about on that score.  Plus, I’ll probably be unable to walk for months after, so you’ll have no worries getting away from me.

Also, it’s only a marathon. Not like an ultra on the Dig Deep weekend or anything.  Now that really would be a tale to tell….

*Rhetorical question.  I know the answer. I am just not ready to hear it spoken out loud.

 

For all my Round Sheffield Run related blog posts see here, scroll down for older entries.

For all my London Marathon related blog posts see here, scroll down for older entries.

Categories: motivation, off road, physiotherapy, running | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

For the love of running in celebration of Valentine’s Day?

As if the run up to Valentine’s day isn’t stressful enough, the timing of Smiletastic (Smiley Paces Sheffield Women’s Running Club winter running challenge) overlapping with it spawns new horrors.  Our beloved Smiley Elder having incorporated a seemingly innocuous requirement ‘in keeping with the season’ to complete an individual challenge as follows:

1. Individual Challenge: By Midnight Sunday February 25th I would like each individual to submit ONE (the first one from each is the only one accepted!) run during which they celebrated valentines day. This can be by something like dressing up (easy peasy), making an appropriate Strava drawing, road signs/names, etc. Your choice! Extra spot points available for particularly inspired efforts, but everyone who submits an effort will earn points in Week 8.

This is a dilemma for me.  As with many Smiletastic challenges, I found myself going through a series of stages akin to the five stages of the  grieving process according to the Kübler-Ross model.  You know.  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression before finally reaching acceptance.  In fact, I’d go so far as to add in the shock and testing addendums to be honest.  I do appreciate and enjoy Smiletastic, it certainly helps me get out there and run in the inclement, dark and dismal winter months, but it is at times stressful.  And although I invariably feel fantastic once the respective challenges have been successfully concluded, I usually despair at the initial seeming impossibility of every task before eventually moving on to realise I need to face up to whatever it is, come up with some solutions and ‘make it so.’

All the same, I’m not a massive fan of Valentine’s Day. It is afterall basically a commercial capitalist conspiracy to make single people feel inadequate and anyone ‘coupled up’ pressurised to buy pointless, over-priced, trashy knickknacks, knowing if they ‘fail’ the appropriate purchase test then the relationship which they hoped was burgeoning will instead be doomed, because a pink fluffy rabbit and enormous smutty card didn’t quite cut it.  Or they committed the cardinal sin of buying their partner sexy crutchless lingerie when the knickers the recipient really wanted were in fact runderwear.  Not the same people, really not the same.

In the spirit of anger and denial, I was originally thinking of just composing a treatise on why Valentine’s day is simply a cynical marketing exercise to fill the coffers of multinationals and contribute to the plastic waste in the oceans as people exchange worthless gifts that will be discarded and end up in landfill quite possibly even before the month is out.  AFter all, the rules do state that all submissions would be rewarded.  I thought I might make it a bit more palatable to the reader by decorating it in glitter or something, maybe.  But then again, glitter is really bad for the environment too is it not?  Also, could I be arsed?  It’s a dilemma.

I wanted to participate and do my bit for the team achievements, but not over-enamoured with the whole romantic love theme.  What to do? So I was stomping round the Sheffield Round Walk route yesterday (an attempt to put miles on my legs as part of my marathon training – another challenge about which I appear to be in complete denial) with this churning around in my mind.

sheffield-round-walk-outdoor-city.900x0

What could I do that wouldn’t be too saccharin, but might meet the requirements.  Well, I’ll tell you what dear reader, just look about you!  Isn’t it always the way. A run can clear your head and offer up practical solutions to seemingly impossible tasks. No really.  As I made my way out of Meersbrook Park, a vision appeared before me.  A perfect manifestation of the complexity of Valentine’s Day.  Literally rubbishing the romantic ideal. Genius. What’s not to like?

Rubbishing romance (1)

There you go people, a bleeding, broken heart, shunted out onto the cold winter street along with the rubbish.  Rarely have I been so happy to see an over-worked symbol of romantic love sprayed on a litter bin. I’d go so far as to say ‘never’ in fact! That’s the individual Smiletastic challenge in the bag, I though, I need not write my treatise now, and waste glitter, so everyone wins. Yay!

But you know what dear reader?  This part of the Sheffield Round Walk just kept on giving.  Only a little further on and even more delights were delivered up as I was musing on my good fortune.  Look what I found next.  Not just another heart, but an anagram of our Smiley Elder’s own name, with the ‘M’ preface to emphasise her marvelousness, magnificence,  majesty, and mightily magnanimous nature, to all and sundry (as if that was necessary).  Things were most definitely looking up!

But you know what?  Valentine themed sightings are like buses, they come in threes.  Just a couple of hundred metres on, and another heartfelt sighting.  Now, this may not please the grammar police of course, I feel an apostrophe is needed somewhere, and personally I favour capitalisation in these circumstances, at least at the commencement of the sign, but even so, never noticed this place before:

My fathers heart

I was happy.

From the bottom of my heart.  Hearts everywhere, feeling the Smiletastic love.  Here’s another..  No really, it was there, under the bridge, near the muse heart.  Hurrah!  Not that I approve of graffiti, obviously, but don’t see why I can’t use it to my advantage if it’s already out there.

Love

Love Sheffield

Love Smiletastic. Never said otherwise.  Honestly.  🙂

Didn’t see this one out and about today, but endorse the sentiment.

i-heart-sheffield-1

 

Categories: motivation, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Healing Botanicals – communal golden segment bagging by team dragonfly for Smiletastic 2018

Digested read: we dragonflies met, we ran a golden segment in the Sheffield botanical gardens together as stipulated by our running club’s Smiletastic challenge, we departed, but not before we’d taken some photos.

botanical dragonflies meaning

So that’s good to know. We, the Dragonfly Smiletastic team is pretty awesome if you believe everything that comes up in a Google search, which for the purposes of this blog post I most definitely do.  Whether or not other users of the Sheffield Botanical Gardens fully appreciated that witnessing us bagging a Smiletastic golden segment this lunchtime was an opportunity for them to move closer to self-realisation, and greater emotional and mental maturity that might bring an understanding of the meaning of life within their grasp I’m not sure.  To be honest, I’d go so far as to say I’m actually dubious.  I guess we running dragonflies were as pearls cast before swine.   We were a lovely sight to behold all the same don’t you think?

Botanical gardens dragonflies fly past

Not to worry, their loss.  Anyway, the actual meaning of life is now widely accepted as being 42, so perhaps they didn’t feel any need to engage with our running exploits. It’s a thought?

meaning of life is 42

The point is,  Elder Smiley stipulated that the Golden Segment to be run this week, was located in the Sheffield Botanical gardens, and because we Dragonflies are a social and supportive lot, those of us that were able to do so, congregated outside the Pavilion Glasshouse to run it together this Friday lunchtime.   This also involved quite a lot of companionable and nurturing chit-chat, and was followed up with a bit of a walk. But that’s OK, because walks are not only an acceptable strategy within the rules of Smiletastic, making it compatible with taking a buggy out with you, but walking is also highly recommended not just for marathon training purposes, but for actual marathon running,  so everyone’s a winner.  Hurrah!

So here we are assembling and being lovely and photogenic:

botanical gardens dragonflies

The Smiley youth movement rep wasn’t entirely feeling the love.

And here are some of us actually running it:

Which just goes to show that all:

Dragonfly

Runners

Are

Glorious.

Out

Nabbing

Fabulous

Little

Individual

Elusive

Segments

as companionably as they can. And this is where/ what we ran.  Only a short one, but by the time I’d run down and back and rambled through the Botanical Gardens it ended up being 5 miles.  Who knew?

botanical gardens segment and constitutional

The segment was the blue bit by the way, from the Pavilion, down, round the fountain at the bottom and back up to the top. Great place for doing hill reps…. in theory.  We didn’t entirely feel a need to check it out in practice.

That’s all.

Be seeing you.

Timitalia_-_dragonfly_(by)

😉

 

 

 

 

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

Snow fun or it’s no fun? You decide. Nine after nine Dragonflies as the Smiletastic contest continues in the snow.

Digested Read:  nippy out, but we nine dragonflies nabbed after nine Smiletastic points.  I nearly got hypothermia and died out on them there hills, but that was but a small price to pay in the name of snow art.  Smiley solidarity saw me through.

Oh my life.  That was unpleasant.  Smiletastic has a lot to answer for.  I was practically hypothermic by the time I got home from my run last night, but needs must when the call goes out from team dragonflies. One for all, and all for one. Ours is not to reason why, it might be dark and snowing and treacherous out there, but type 2 fun is still fun after all… of a sort.

In case you are exceptionally slow on the uptake and haven’t grasped what was going on here, once again, me and some fellow Smiley Paces buddies were on Golden Segment banging duties.  The blah de blah for this in brief, is that basically, Smiletastic is a three-month team-based challenge amongst fellow members of the Smiley Paces Women’s Running Club. Smiley Elder, founder of the initiative, summarises it most succinctly as follows: ‘SMILETASTIC is a motivational challenge to help runners to keep up their running targets throughout the winter months.’ Alongside committing to doing so many runs a week, bonus points can be nabbed by entering into the Smiletastic spirit, running before 7.00 a.m. and after 9.00 p.m. at night, and also, as in this case,  for running specified Strava sections, known as ‘golden segments’ which, to be fair, makes it sound like nabbing them should be way more fun than it actually is.  There are a number of team, but I’m a dragonfly, so that’s the most important one and you don’t need to worry about those bees, grasshoppers and erm, can’t even remember the other team – oh yes ladybirds.  Those other insects are of no consequence in this context.  Generally speaking though, insects are massively important to the world’s ecosystem and should be nurtured not swatted away.

We are in week three of the Smiletastic challenge, and after we dragonflies stormed ahead in week one we were knocked into second place in week two.  Whilst we do all claim to be non competitive, nevertheless we clearly can be goaded into collective action.  Case in point.  The weather this week has been horrendous.  I mean, seriously vile.  Whilst pristine snow glittering under a starlit sky might be appealing to run in, here we have had driving bullet like blizzards and lethal slush and ice in abundance.  Being intrepid is all very well, but in honesty, were it not for the impetus of my Smiletastic team buddies I’d favour staying in and working on perfecting the art of embracing an absolute rest day, – which is actually a recognised and important yet often neglected part of any decent training programme –  rather than venturing out anywhere possibly never to return…

The ‘Golden Segment’ was announced. When it went up it sounded innocuous enough, appealing even, but that was last week when the weather was altogether more clement and less life-threatening. Smiley Elder cheerily posted:

The Golden Segment for the week beginning 15th January 2018 is slightly further afield but is one you should all know and is not too difficult to get to (unless it snows!!). The link is https://www.strava.com/segments/14206248 and its called “Ringinglow Road -going up” which just about sums it up. If you run uphill from Hangram Lane to the Norfolk Arms you’ll definitely go along it.

With a helpful Strava picture too, just in case:

ringinglow going up

Yep, that looked fine and dandy.  Bit of a hill, but nothing we Sheffielder’s aren’t all too familiar with.  Plus, classic stretch of the half marathon route, so not too complicated navigationally speaking, and it’s nice to make the effort to head out to the hills.  It would be grand.

I know it’s only 0.2 mile but remember dear reader we had to get up to it and back again.  For the record the snowy dash bit ended up at 3.1 miles plus I had to walk a bit over a mile to get down to meet my lift so I suppose I did about 5.5 miles out in the blizzard in total.  You see what happened was, the the weather changed, and every sinew in my body and brain cell in my head screamed at me to stay inside.  It went from being dank January to ‘run out of energy and supplies in antarctica‘ within a couple of hours.  No idea how that happened.  Vile is an understatement.  Don’t tell, but I was even thinking that I might duck out of this particular segment snatching session all together.  We’d prearranged to meet on Wednesday night last week, but that was before the ice storm came.  By Tuesday, there was a blizzard blowing and thick ice which meant I could barely venture out of the house on foot, let alone in a car to make the rendezvous point, and it’d be too far to run the whole way out there with my fitness levels even if I did think I’d survive the elements.  There was a bit of nervous chit-chat on our Facebook group (it’s closed, like a secret society, so don’t bother trying to find it anywhere to spy on us), but no-one really wanted to be the first to wimp out.  I think if anyone had though at this stage, there might have been an eager torrent of wussing out runners behind in tight formation.

And then.

This.

On the Smiletastic page, those pesky bees had only gone out in a blizzard being all smiley spirited and cheery against the odds.

bee’s braved the snow blizzards tonight to run the golden segment with an after 9pm finish 💪💪 thank you ladies for a lovely hill run with a muddy off road trial section added. #Teambees🐝

What’s more, they accomplished the task all solidarity and smiles, and returned a bit bedraggled and with a hood full of snow which was inadvertently emptied onto a hall floor in one case, but fundamentally not dead.  AND they were getting an extra bang for their buck by collectively achieving post 9.00 p.m. runs.

The bees are upping their game. Their fancy dress offering was a sight to behold.  Granted they may have done a bit of tinting post run with photoshop, but I believe this is how they rocked their look on the way round Graves parkrun last Saturday. Impressive, I mean some of those deeley boppers are pretty substantial, you’d think it would alter your centre of gravity, but maybe not as much as actually having your arms bound to your sides by black gaffer tape as at least one runner had to contend with.  Respect team bees.  Loving the personalised nature of the outfits too.   Can’t wait to see them all out and about again soon!

busy bees in fancy dress at Graves

One solitary grasshopper reported mournfully that they had limped out all alone along the segment and returned sodden.  Discovering en route that even her walking boots were insufficient protection against the elements as a previously unnoticed hole let a whole glacier pass through her footwear whilst she trudged up the hill.  It is testament to her great mental strength that she was still able to see a plus side, commenting ‘On the positive side I had a free microdermabrasion facial walking through the hail on Ringinglow road this afternoon!! #newrunner #illequippedgrasshopper #justaboutstillsmiling!‘  To be fair, I think that probably did merit a bonus point.  It’s hard enough going out in this, going out all alone is tougher still.  No wonder she was hearing voices from under the snow by the end of it.  Not sure who took these photos for her, she maybe was being tailed by a drone.

Well, that’s all very impressive and all, from the bees and one grasshopper (it’s a start) and it did rally our resolve.  We couldn’t cave in now could we, seeing as how the bees had been out in a blizzard.  Besides, we’d already agreed we would go for late points, and we’d already established most of us were free in principle at least and now we’d had the standard set by those pesky busy bees buzzing about … well,  we felt compelled to follow through what we started.  We would do this. We can do this!  What’s the worst…  Cue a flurry of ‘OH MY GAWD have you seen the weather out there!?’ posts.  And checks and double checks that we were all going through with it, no-one fancied heading off out up there on their own.

So urged on by a surge of ‘I will if you will‘ promises and counter promises, 8.00 p.m. came and I headed off on foot to a rendezvous point on Ecclesall Road at 8.25.  I was cold. It was freezing.  So cold in fact, that I abandoned the plan of running in a conventional running jacket in favour of a ‘proper’ walking coat.  I had a head torch and hi-viz and a bobble hat and also brought with me a bad attitude.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t too slippery underfoot, but then I was wearing my Irock shoes which are brilliant.  I stood shivering in the vicinity of where I thought we were meeting. I was a couple of minutes early but standing still even briefly brought with it a real risk of being frozen rigid to the spot.  As the seconds ticked by I started to lose confidence in whether I was waiting in the right place, which is better than losing consciousness due to cold I suppose but not the greatest of feelings all the same.  I don’t have a smart phone, so started to imagine ending my days here, collapsed in a foetal position outside the Trinity United Reformed Church – or whatever it is – whilst my dragonfly buddies were cavorting with cheery abandon in front of a cosy open fire somewhere, ignorant of my demise.  Fortunately, just as I was at the point of wondering what to do, always a worrying trend, the other liftee appeared and we shivered together for a few minutes.  Eventually, she had the bright idea of checking for messages on Facebook, and result.  We were indeed waiting in the wrong place, and our driver was similarly fretting in their car a short distance away, lamenting our absence.  A quick scurry across the road and we were all united and lift secured we were on our way, heading on up to the Hammer and Pincers.

Coming up the hill from Endcliffe Park, it was amazing how quickly the weather deteriorated.  You could hardly see out of the car as a combination of thick sleet, hail and snow tumbled out of the sky.  The roads which had been clear just a bit lower down were now lined with slush, and then piles of snow.  By the time we got to the car park, it was feeling ominous.  Good news, our fellow running buddies were already there, some waiting inside granted, but basically raring to go.  There were nine of us.  Yay!  That was heartening, team solidarity, go us.  I nearly had a tantrum as I wasn’t going anywhere without my GPS being picked up, but disaster was averted as my TomTom bleeped its satisfaction I was being tracked.  And that was it, off we went, heading out about 8.40 ish.

I was soon at the back, I’m always at the back anyway because I’m a slow runner, but on this occasion I wasn’t feeling too confident as it was so dark, and the mix of ankle-deep snow / slush combo meant I couldn’t get a sense of what was under my feet.  The others streamed ahead and I got further behind. This was not joy-filled running.  It was head down, teeth gritted, try not to get run over venturing out.  ‘You go on without me‘ I called after them, as my voice was carried away on the wind.

mawson-wind1

There were a few cars around, most were OK, but one or two roared past, crazy.  The pavements were so deep in snow we ended up having to run on the road at some points and I felt vulnerable. This is not a run I’d have liked to do on my own.  Onwards and upwards, it was a bit of a trek to get to the segment, but then we could heave ho up from Hangram Lane to the Norfolk Arms.  We paused only when we got to the top – and then we ran on a bit just to make absolutely sure we’d gone far enough.. and then turned back again as pretty quickly, away from the light of the pub it was like we were heading into an abyss.  We bottled it. Back to outside the pub and then…  we espied virgin snow.

What can you do with virgin snow? Well, it was quite obviously still there for our merriment and as an outlet for our artistic talents.  One immediately went for a daintily drawn dragonfly in the soft white snow. I thought it looked beautiful.  Dragonflies are supportive, but we are also honest, and have integrity and are prone to giving one another unsolicited feedback.  At least you know where you stand.  ‘That looks like a gnat‘ said one of our number, who shall remain nameless.  Harsh I thought.

Meanwhile, I was engaged in my own excavation endeavour.   I was pretty pleased with it:

CM genius dragonfly

As ever, I find the non-running aspects of Smiletastic challenges play to my strengths more than the actual running challenges.  An observation which has not gone unnoticed by Smiley Elder.  Still, where would we Smiley Paces be without Smiley Spirit eh?  The thing is, genius as my creation clearly was, you couldn’t really get a sense of scale, and it was a perfectly Lucy-sized construction.  The best way to demonstrate this would be to wear the wings, a la creating a snow angel.  To be frank, I was ready for a bit of a lie down after all that strenuous running, so it didn’t seem to be such a bad idea at the time, and the dragonfly fitted me like a glove!

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A couple of astonishing things though that I noticed in retrospect. Firstly, bizarrely, none of the other dragonflies wanted to have a go at lying down in 6 inch deep melt water in the interests of a photo-opportunity and the outside chance of a Smiletastic point. I know!  How strange.  Secondly, despite our shrieking, and me lying down spreadeagled and motionless with Smilies leaning in around me like they’d come across a corpse in Midsummer Murders, no-one in the Norfolk Arms pub came out to help/investigate or even point and laugh.  Missed opportunity for all of them. Still, it goes to show just how bitter it was out there, not the kind of night you’d choose to venture out for anything at all, unless it was an emergency such as the need to honour a pledge to nab a golden segment in week three of Smiletastic.

After a bit, we were bored with the photos and messing around in the snow, so we headed off again back down the hill this time.  I had a brief moment of feeling ‘oh wow, my running’s really improved now I’m all warmed up, I feel like I’m flying now we’ve done a couple of miles’ before I remembered that having gravity on your side is a real asset in this running games malarkey.  Oh well, it was still an improvement on running up hill into driving hail.  I was in the most spectacular hi-viz, that lights me up like I’m my very own solar system if headlights hit it.  I’m even spherical by way emphasis.  I therefore ‘volunteered’ to stay at the back as others in the group had less hi-viz about them.  This was a great cover story for me too, since it implied ‘well obviously I could sprint all the way home, but I’m prepared to martyr myself and jog at a leisurely pace for the greater good.‘  On a serious note though, at the back as I was, it was quite shocking how invisible the group looked, despite head torches and a few reflective strips, they just disappeared into the night sky.  It was a timely reminder that hi-viz is essential on night runs, especially when you are having to venture on to the roads because the pavements are thick with ice, snow and slush.  Scary.

We paused for photo opps by Hangram Lane to match the one taken outside the Norfolk Arms.  I concede reluctantly, the bees might have managed better with their photos, but then – and I don’t like to rub it in too much but I’m only saying what is true here – they had only seven bees to fit in the frame whereas we were nine dragonflies.  Much more challenging on the group selfie front!

By the time we got back to our starting point of the Hammer and Pincers, it was well past 9.30.  I was sodden.  I was inwardly cursing at how poor the ventilation and waterproofing was on my jacket, before it occurred to me that it might possibly be that lying in the hill-top slush earlier could be a contributing factor.  Some departed, some of us went into the pub for post run refreshments.

I haven’t been in there for ages. Some shared a bottle of wine, I opted for a lime juice and soda.  It came with a plastic straw.  ‘Oh no, why have you done that?’ I exclaimed with a bit too much passion to the bemused looking bar staff.  I tried to explain that I’d not asked for a straw, so it was complete waste, and as a non recyclable item it will probably end up in the ocean, so giving me a straw is basically like sentencing an endangered turtle to a slow and painful death. I felt a bit guilty that I’d been so abrupt, but I was hyped from running, and hypothermic from snow.   In fact, it was a good thing, as after me another dragonfly also ordered a lime juice and soda – no straw.  He asked her ‘what’s with this plastic straw thing’ and she explained in more measured tones, and afterwards he said he’ll ask customers in future if they want one or not, which is only a very minor change, but minor shifts in behaviour do add up.  Nobody really needs a straw more than the oceans need to be plastic free, and if they do, paper or bamboo straws could always be used instead.  To be fair, I think the Blue Planet series has really raised awareness on this, and that’s grand.  I just hope it isn’t all too little too late…

plastic waste

It was nice in the pub to begin with.  Despite plastic strawgate, it was friendly and welcoming with a flame effect fire and lots of places to sit.  However, quite soon I started to shake with cold.  I was quite pleased when it was time to go home.  I was dropped off by my driver at Endcliffe and by then there was a fair old blizzard going.  It wasn’t a long walk home by any means, but I was quite shocked at how much the cold seemed to take hold inside.  By the time I got to my house I could hardly hold my house keys, and once I got in my skin was burning and red as the warmth of the house hit my frozen flesh. Brrrr.  We better have nabbed both a segment, and some post nine bonus points and some smiley spirit or I’ll… well, cry probably, but at least the hot tears running down my cheeks might help my face to thaw out a bit, ill wind and all that 🙂

The things we do for Smiletastic.  It is my primary source of running motivation for the early part of the year.  Without Smiletastic, I’d basically hibernate.

So the conclusion. Mainly type two fun, but type one in parts.  Definitely worth doing, there’s no way on earth I’d have ventured out to do that on my own. I still have three more runs to do this week, and I wasn’t feeling the love for running today either, still chilled through from yesterday.  Oh well. Resting is also part of training.  At least I have that part of the regime cracked.

Oh, by the way, the grasshoppers have got as far as new book cover for their ‘grasshoppers guide to running fun’.  I like it.  I’m hoping it will include vegan nutrition ideas.

grasshopper FGR SMiley guide

No idea what the ladybirds are up to.  I think they are keeping their Smiletastic strategy under wraps.  It will all come out in the spreadsheets at the end.  The suspense is killing me!

So next week, we get to do it all again, with another segment.  I wonder where that will take us? New adventures ahead, new runs to explore.  You know what, running is fun, mostly.  Running buddies on the other hand – they are awesome always.  I thank you all, but my dragonfly comrades in particular. We can crack this!  Probably.

By the way, hypothermia in runners is no joke – this blog post by Simon Green – hypothermia as a lifestyle choice really hit home to me, even experienced runners just need one bit of bad luck and everything changes in an instant. Sobering thought.  Always pays to be prepared. Keep safe out there!

Don’t have nightmares.

Do have a nice time out running… though be prepared for type 2!

no such thing

For all my smiletastic related posts click here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

 

Categories: motivation, off road, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

My claim to fame. How I link to Bushy parkrun’s iconic ‘Elisabeth’s Corner*’.

or maybe Elisabeth Corner?  Can’t make up my mind which sounds better…

Digested read: you know the celebrity marshal at Bushy parkrun? The one who sits each week at the Sandy Lane Gate corner of the course cheering runners round.  The one from whom getting a high five was the highlight of Paul Sinton-Hewitt’s morning?  That’s my mum. Cool eh?  Form an orderly queue people.  Keep calm.

So for those of you who don’t know, my mum had her 15 minute of fame, when a Bushy parkrunner, Paul Killick, dropped off a Christmas card to her at the residential care home where she now lives.   He posted on the parkrun discussion Facebook group about how pleased she was to get it and how she’d shared that parkrun was the highlight of her week.

mum at bushy parkrun

As a result of this, there was an online outpouring of appreciation, and a flurry of cards were sent.  The story even got picked up in one of the parkrun uk newsletters and tweeted – and quite right too!

tweet december 2017

Mum had however been a regular and much photographed fixture at Bushy parkrun for many months previously.  To such an extent, that one parkrunner shared online that when they do their post Bushy parkrun debrief, they actually refer to the bit on the course where she sits as one of the landmarks en route.

 

Even so, it was fantastic that mum got lots of cards and greetings in response to Paul Killick’s post.  She wanted to write her own reply, which I sent on to parkrun UK with my own top and tail to share her story.  It follows here:

January 2018

Dear parkrun UK,

I thought you might like an update about my mum, Elisabeth, who you featured in your newsletter just before Christmas.  She lives at a residential care home just over the road from the Sandy Lane Gate in Bushy park, which is right on the route of the iconic Bushy parkrun.  Every Saturday, she joins marshals at this spot to cheer parkrunners as they pass.  She first went last May, and after she had been doing this for a few weeks the Bushy parkrun community awarded her her very own hi-viz, of which she is enormously proud, so making her an official ‘honorary marshal’.  Since then, more and more people greet her on their way by.  Some pause to talk to her en route and the faster runners, who have no time to shout a greeting during their parkrun, will often have a chat to her as they leave the park on their way home instead.  She has learnt the art of the ‘high-five’ and made many new friends, and renewed old acquaintances from being there each week.  Not only parkrunners, but others who regularly walk in the park at about the same time each week.

Just before Christmas, Paul Killick, a Bushy parkrun regular – more than that, with a mighty 570 runs (and counting) to his name of which 553 have been at Bushy park – dropped off a Christmas card to my mum at the home, and they posed for a selfie together.  My mum was really delighted to have the card and frankly astonished to find that her involvement in parkrun was so appreciated.  Paul posted about this and it got picked up on some Facebook forums, which resulted in a little flurry of cards and greetings being sent to my mum.  The Christmas cards were very much appreciated.  Mum was particularly touched by the personal messages, with some runners sharing their own stories about what parkrun means to them.  A few signed off with their parkrun number, and she was impressed to receive a card ‘from someone with an CBE’.  Who can that have been?  A couple of junior parkrunners even sent some sweets and a lovely photo of themselves at Rogiet parkrun, noting, ‘everyone appreciates you clapping at parkrun’, which sort of sums it up!

So thank you everyone who got in touch, I may have missed a few in which case apologies, your card was still massively appreciated, but the tally I came up with included greetings from near and far.  Thanks to: Donabate parkrun, Dublin; Bob and a thousand other parkrunners!; Wendy and Orla; Gina and Steve from Tredegar House Newport parkrun; Gillian and Paul, Heaton parkrun Manchester runners; Jenny from Congleton parkrun, Cheshire; Anita, Bromley parkrun; Danny and Tiffany Waterworks parkrun, Belfast, Norther Ireland; Jacqueline, Druridge Bay, Northumberland; Paul S-H CBE; Paul K; Krysin, Martin, Selt and Kirst; Eva (5) and Rosa (6), Rogiet parkun; Tess and Morag; Pat and many more.

 

There were lots of messages, but one that resonated for me was the comment: ‘people like you make parkrun the amazing experience it is.  parkrun changed our lives, so we are always grateful to the volunteers and supporters.’  parkrun has changed my life too.  The actual ‘running’ part has become almost incidental to the community support, friendships made, post-parkrun brunches and laughs along the way.  What I hadn’t anticipated, was how great an impact it would have on my mum’s life too, for which I am incredibly grateful.  For her, it is something she really enjoys and looks forward to – carefully putting out all her kit the night before so she will be on time to her marshal point and there are lots of photos of her at parkrun on display in her room as well.  Quite right too!

My mum celebrated her 89th birthday at the weekend, so I was visiting from Sheffield. She wanted to write her own message of thanks to the parkrun community about what it means to her.  Enjoy:

Lucy Marris, A448776

 

Elisabeth’s parkrun story, in her own words:

Happy New Year!

parkrun has enriched my life ever since May 2017 when I came down to the Sandy Lane Gate to watch.  It links with two of my children who run at Sheffield Hallam and Livingston parkruns.  The marshals are really friendly.  I clap along with them and have become an honorary marshal!  I learnt how important community activity is as well as how important drawing others into the community is.  1300 plus participants stream past in the same order in about 20 minutes.  ‘Personal Besters’ have no time to greet marshals. Middle field runners are truly friendly and there is much reciprocal greeting and many photos taken.  Tailwalkers are just brilliant!  Because of my weekly involvement in parkrun I find I am greeted everywhere I go in Teddington!  Could it be because of the internet?

Thank you, thank you everyone for many Christmas cards and greetings, as well as being the highlight of my week!  parkrun is a truly special community organisation, in which I feel wonderfully included.  It is amazing that it has become international in a brief 13 years.  Congratulations.  I love all your stories.

Elisabeth, Honorary Marshal at Bushy parkrun, Sandy Lane Gate.

Update:  I think following a recent tweet by parkrun royalty, we can safely claim that henceforth this marshal spot will be known as ‘Elisabeth’s Corner’ – or maybe Elisabeth Corner.  Whatever, you get the gist!

Thank you parkrunners all.

The tweet in question:

tweet

So that’s official then!

No wonder she’s such a celebrity she often gets her own billing in the Bushy parkrun event reports!  I claim glory by association.  Form a line people, form a line…

 

PS for the record, I really like how in the parkrun UK blog post the top picture is of my mum with one of the Bushy parkun regular marshals but it sort of implies it’s me.  I am happy with this for two reasons. Firstly, Lorraine, pictured, has been a fantastic friend to my mum since she started marshaling at parkrun. Secondly, I’m worried if my face becomes too well known I won’t be able to go about my normal life of angst ridden social encounters interspersed with the occassional jog out to the hills.  Better to stay incognito, a woman of mystery.  Don’t tell.

For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries

Loved how they linked to the blog from parkrun uk facebook page and my favourite comment (so far) was from someone simply saying ‘just when I thought I couldn’t love parkrun any more’.  Love that.  Parkrun spirit in buckets.

Categories: parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Realising the Riches of Richmond Park with a Recreational Recovery Run

Digested Read: in saying so, I may be officially outing my inner bumpkin, rather than channeling my lurking London metropolitan hipster, but I have to say, whilst Richmond Park is an impressive location for running certainly, it’s pretty busy out there and for me doesn’t quite give off an off road vibe.  Spectacular in its way, but no glorious isolation. Also, those aren’t hills.

So this was the third day of running wonders on our Run With Karen weekend.  Which focused on running. Can you see what’s she’s done there?  It’s not subliminal marketing maybe, but it is fairly easy to grasp the gist of what’s on offer, and all the better for that.  Anyways, a gaggle of Smiley Paces women had consequently descended on London with Day One – cavorting in the footsteps of Olympians for a track session; Day Two – hobnobbing with parkrun Royalty at Bushy parkrun and finally, Day Three – today,* romping round Richmond Park for a gentle recovery run.  Hurrah!

*I say ‘today’ but actually I’m writing this up a bit later, so go on sue me.  However, I like to keep my posts in correct chronological order or my brain might implode, so the posted date above will reflect the inner truth of the date written, if not the actual outward truth. Fair enough, my blog I can do what I like!

By the way – this might amuse you – I’ve just been doing a bit of idle Googling (is there any other sort of Googling I wonder, or is that tautology?) Anyway, I was looking for a gym near to where I live, as I was nursing a brief fantasy that I might do cross training indoors in inclement weather to help out with my marathon training strategy which is current at a stand still due to ice, snow and absence of any running routine. So I typed ‘gym’ into the search engine, as you do, only I didn’t!  I typed ‘gyn’ by accident. The things is, that you know how if you make an obvious typo it will usually make some sensible suggestion as to what you were actually looking for, or sometimes out of sheer contrariness it will insist that you must have made a typo when ‘No, I really was looking for… whatever’.  Well, on this occassion, my search engine clearly thought my request was fair enough, and I got loads of hits for gynaecological services but a stone’s throw from my current dwelling place.  That’s fair enough, it is a legitimate search of course, but I’d have been so much happier if it hadn’t twigged I was after a gym it had assumed I was in need of a gin palace instead.  Just saying.  Maybe it’s the impact of Dry January, you aren’t even allowed to dream of alcohol until the end of the month.  I wouldn’t have minded, but it took me an alarmingly long time to work out what had gone wrong.  ‘Oh, my! Gyms have certainly diversified their offer since last time I looked‘ I was thinking, for a bit longer than should have been strictly necessary…

Call me super-conventional, but I thought I’d go with the gin images rather than the gyn ones.  You can do your own Googling if you really feel the need.

Anyway, back to the serious business of running. Today was the final day of our running sojourn. We were happy but tired after running on the track on the Friday, running Bushy parkrun on the Saturday and running the gauntlet of our unsleepable beds on the Friday and Saturday nights. Weary, but cheery, we then gathered on Sunday morning, to head off in convoy to Richmond Park and a gentle and inclusive recovery run.  Loooooooooooong and slooooooooooooooooooooooow.

There was a bit of angsty decision making, what to wear what to bring.  The major crisis was first thing when a number of us were trying to secure breakfast porridge and none of us could work out how to operate the microwave.  It was not intuitive. Eventually a teacher who does a lot of supply came to our aid. She’s seen more microwaves in her career than you can shake a stick at, and nothing stumped her.  Have a feeling she might be handy with photocopiers and maybe even fax machines, but I didn’t like to press her on that, seemed unfair as it was her weekend break away as well.

There was some  confusion about where to meet, and who was to travel with whom, but eventually we piled into separate cars and pulled off together. As we were driving down the road outside our house, we saw a little trio of road runners, pounding the pavement with some speed.  One immediately did a spectacular face plant tripping over I have no idea what.  We considered stopping, as it looked bad, but his mates seemed to have everything under control and the cars we were following were in danger of disappearing from sight, so we continued on our way, freshly reminded of the inherent risks of running wherever you do it. I’d expect to be wary of taking a tumble off road, or at night, but in morning daylight on a road run, that’s really unlucky.  Mind you, I did have a next door neighbour once, who broke his ankle whilst out on a job because he jumped sideways to get out of the way of a blind person out with a guide dog.  Does it make me a bad person that the irony of this scenario made me laugh.  I did drive him to hospital though, so I can’t be a wholly bad person.  Can I?

We sped off through Twickenham – I did wonder if the lead car was actually tyring to shake us off rather than pave the way – and weaved through Kingston, before arriving at one of the Richmond Park carparks.

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I think we were at the Pembroke Lodge car park.  Not overly sure. What I am sure about though, is that there were some handy loos, maps and a little coffee hut for later on.  The loos did have a flintstones-esque look to them, but that hasn’t come out in the photos.  So I’ve just got some random, rather dull shots of random people standing around outside the toilet block.  Oh well, since I went to all that trouble to take them, would seem a shame not to share…

Granted, we weren’t massively early, it was maye 9.00 ish by the time we got htere, bit later even, but the car park was already pretty busy. On the way in to the park I was struck by the number of cyclists, runners and walkers already out and about with their Sunday morning constitutionals well under way. The place was heaving.  We were able to park, but it was filling up. This was not a ‘let’s get away from it all’ rendezvous point, it was going to be busy.

We split into groups, speedier runners tearing ahead, I hung at the back with the slow and steadies, always a good place to be.  The plan was to keep it simple, and just do a loop of the park which is around 7 miles ish I think.  Quick team consultation, and then off we went, separating into separate running pods pretty organically.

Perhaps because of this choice, we ended up on the more manicured trails which also lend themselves to bikers, people with push chairs, and every other runner in a 100 mile vicinity, I found the route ridiculously busy.  In Sheffield, if you run off-road you will see people of course, but you don’t generally have to duck out of each others way, and mostly you either will actually  know them, or broadly recognised them from one of the parkruns or running clubs so people always swap greetings, even if only a semi-strangulated smile, but often it’s words of encouragement or a full on gossip with paused watches before you head off again.  In Richmond, I found the running experience very different.  It’s not that it’s unfriendly per se, just that you couldn’t possibly greet every runner when there are thousands of you, and I suppose locals have become immune to seeing such numbers of other runners out and about so are familiar with the dodging each other etiquette.  I did find it a bit intimidating in parts, faster runners shoving you aside as they overtook (not all of them of course, but more than one), or thundering towards you with an expectation you’ll dodge into the ditch to avoid them.  Mostly stony faced and not acknowledging others, like people on a tube train, trying to create the illusion of  having their own personal space by an effort of superhuman will, and ignoring everyone else around them, even when if their nose is rammed into their armpit.  If I choose not to see it isn’t there.  Like ostriches with their heads in the sand.  But that isn’t true people.  Same here, you can try to ignore and will away your surroundings all you like, but that’s got to be stressful, and surely you shut out the joy of seeing deer and parakeets, even Smilies on tour for heaven’s sake!  I can understand a Richmond Park runner wanting to run like an ostrich for sure, but to ignore what’s in front of them like ostriches don’t?  Well that’s nonsensical. Just saying.

Perhaps, you get used to it, and it becomes the new normal, but honestly, I wouldn’t want to, I may be a country bumpkin but Iwill freely admit that I muh prefer the solitary peak district trails, social runners and the glory of breathing in the landscape as you romp out and about.  The hills just add interest and texture to a run.  You’ll never hear me complain about them when out running. Granted, that is only because when negotiating them I am too breathless to utter anything at all, but that just further demonstrates the technical truth in what I am claiming.

On the plus side, Richmond Park is absolutely gorgeous.  Lovely mature trees, and plenty of deer lurking in the bracken.

richmond running

Quite early on we paused for a deer in the bracken shot.  This clearly required a lot of posing, and trying to mimic their camouflage.   Can you spot the Smilies desporting themselves in this shot.  Spookily good at feigning antlers are we not!  Amazing!

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As this was relatively early in our run, and the novelty of seeing deer was quite powerful, we were able to briefly muster ourselves to allow for a group shot, before everyone sped off on the relative merry ways.

richmond team photo

My we are collectively gorgeous are we not?

As we went round, our local guides pointed out local landmarks.  Who knew the famous Priory Rehab Clinic adjoined the park.  There were certain spots where you got an amazing view across the London skyline, but my camera couldn’t capture that.  The proximity to famous buildings is impressive though, and it was fun passing over the Thames en route to get there.  You sort of have to be there to appreciate it.  My photos are, I know, pretty uninspiring.

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Not to worry, here is one from the Richmond Park website, view of St Paul’s cathedral from Henry’s Mound – ironically a view I didn’t consciously see, but it sort of illustrates a point all the same, in terms of the potential for panoramic London views if you but take the time to pause and look on in wonder.  Oh, and it’s a different time of year too.  And different weather, but essentially identical to the vista we enjoyed today (ish).

St pauls cathedral from henrys mound

So off we yomped.  Each person finding their own comfort zone. This wasn’t to be a fast one, but a genuine recreational, conversational, recovery one.  That was lucky, as so very much to talk about.

Fortuitously, I happened to end up with a fellow London Marathoner for 2018, who had also run last year (both charity places, not that lucky with the ballot in case you were wondering). Best of all, I don’t think she’ll mind me saying I saw a kindred spirit in her in terms of her approach to running. Relatively new to it all, looking to complete not speed round and wanting to enjoy the experience.  Obviously, it became my mission to essentially separate her from the rest of the group, groom her with cheery chit-chat and then download all her knowledge so I could shameless mine her training experiences and use them for my own ends.  That seems fair. I don’t think she minded.  I quickly secured her as my new best friend forever and virtual marathon training buddy.  Job done. Seriously though, it made me feel so much better.  To date, the people I know who are running the marathon are very much more experienced than me, and/or much fleeter of foot.  In my head I know they have different goals, aspirations and potential, but in my heart it’s so hard not to compare myself to them and feel my confidence ebb away as I fall so short by comparison.  It was heartening to talk to someone who has successfully nailed the London marathon with a walk run strategy.

We ran and walked and talked as we romped round Richmond.  There were some cultural differences though.  Two particularly struck me.  One was how whenever traffic cleared, my running buddies had a tendency to gravitate back onto the road, or harder surfaces, I always favour mud.  The other thing which was a moment of absolute revelation for me. Was the different perspective on hills.  My yomping buddies were in favour of a walk/run strategy, which suits me just fine, I feel I can go all day like that.  Anyway, we got to a bit where we were walking, and then our guide suggested it was a good part to run, as actually there was a steep hill coming up ahead, where we’d bound to want to revert to walking up.  I ended up jogging on ahead, and jogged, and jogged, and it was fine, couldn’t see a hill though.  I was ascending a bit of a gentle incline, and when I got to the top, I hit a literal cross roads with cars, and had to stop as I didn’t know which way to go.  I paused, and looked behind me.  I could see my running buddies walking up behind me.

surely not a hill

Then it dawned on me ‘ooooooooooooh, that was what Londoners think of as a hill!’  Barely registered as an undulation by Sheffield standards.  As I am a relative newcomer to Sheffield – not yet a decade – I can still be taken by surprise by how steep our hills are.  When I first moved to Sheffield I’d stand looking up the hill I had to climb to get to my flat and feel like crying.  It might as well have been the moon.  And as for the gradients of driveways where it was considered appropriate to park a car – well, they were eye-popping!  No wonder cars lose control on Sheffield streets in the snow as this dashcam footage illustrates all too scarily!

Nevertheless, it seems I have unconsciously absorbed a new reality. A new understanding of just how much gradient is required before a hill is worthy of the name.  It was strange, and sort of symbolic.  I hadn’t realised I’d become so habituated to a particular terrain for off-road running.  In my own way, I’ve come to love our Sheffield Hills.  Perhaps they will help me with my training too, they are unavoidable out and about, and surely will bring a bit of added strength training to my running repertoire, whether I want it or not.

So thing I learnt along the way about the London Marathon.

  • The marathon is in fact doable.  Probably.  Hard, but doable.  Even for me.  Others have got round from a lower base point than even I am at now, and with a lot less insider information and help to get them to the start.
  • I need to think about my walk run strategy.  In the peaks, we have so many hills I just pause to walk up them and then run on the flatter bits.  I never consciously plan this, it just evolves.  The London route is a lot flatter.  Maybe I need to prepare for this in a more strategic way.  One person I know listens to music and her strategy is to walk one song, run the next.  I don’t run with music though and don’t really want to.  My new best friend ran for five minutes, walked for one – or thereabouts.  That way, she always knew a break was coming, and she could sustain five minutes running.  It got her round.  I need to think about that, time to up my attention to my TomTom which I basically use as a post run recording device, rather than for real-time feedback en route.
  • You can enjoy it, and the finish photos from the slow and steadier runners make it look like they had a lot more fun out there than some of the grey-faced collapsed speedier types who gave it their all, but then spent the aftermath in a blur of dehydrated, sugar low collapse.  I’d like to still have enough in me to bear the weight of my London Bling round my neck, and remain standing for that finish photo.  Eek, I wonder if it will ever really come to pass.

To illustrate the point, compare and contrast these finish photos and consider for a moment which category you think might suit my running style best.

Quite so.  In my world, running should be fun.  I don’t want to be one of those people you come across now and again who pronounce ‘running a marathon killed running for me’, all burnt out, angry and disillusioned.  I’d like to be able to look back on the achievement and – even if only fleetingly – be able to remind myself that I am capable of more than I realise, as are we all.  Not to say it won’t be hard, but I don’t want it to break me.  Where’s the fun in that?  Not even type 2 fun, not even close!  Also, now I have secured the finish picture, I can always photoshop my face onto it post the 2018 marathon if I don’t make it across the finish line.  Granted, I’ll have to change my name by deed poll to ‘Noreen’ for it to appear authentic, but I consider that to be but a small price to pay for such photographic glories.

Here is me with my new best friend. She was a legend. You have really helped to inspire and motivate me. I can’t wait to be there and share the London experience with you in April. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.  Just think, our next photo together could yet be with us posed wearing the bling!  How exciting is that!

my best friend

Although I was claiming her as my new best friend, in honesty, I’m not sure she actually had a vacancy. That can happen sometimes can’t it.  Not to worry, I am happy to share.  Also, it might be that I bagsied quite a few new best friends along the way this weekend, just spoilt for choice I guess, with so many lovely generous runners around Lots of us buddied up in various ways with our new London running friends, so plenty of permutations on running together in Richmond park friendship photos.  Here are but some:

You can just feel the love oozing out.

Other sights to behold including undercarriage of aircraft overhead and horse riders.  The aircrafts are much more noticeable in Bushy park and on the Twickenham track to be fair, but you are very conscious of planes in general moving around this part of greater London.  I take for granted the total absence of aircraft where I live.  When I was growing up I used to spend a lot of time in Bushy Park, and I remember the sonic boom as concorde passed overhead. Giddy times.  That was exciting back then, now I’m glad to be free of aircraft noise.  Even so, flight is pretty remarkable.  I’m still somewhat sceptical as to how it’s possible, even though the evidence suggests it really truly is.   I say that, and then I remember didn’t one of the last Concorde planes actually crash in France somewhere.  Oh dear.  Not quite the way for an iconic aircraft to bow out is it.  Sad to think about, but a great deal sadder for the people who died in a fireball and never got to go on their cruise either.  Insult to injury.  I hope they didn’t know what was happening, makes me shudder.

That’s all a bit heavy, sorry about that.  Back to the joys of recreational running!  Where was I.  Oh yes, we had fun.  Somehow or other, we ended up back where we started pretty much at the same time.  Those at the front must have added on an extra bit, and we at the rear may possibly have taken a few short cuts en route to ensure we made it to the cafe in time for the bulk latte order.  Thanks cheetah buddy for treating us all. An expensive round!

At the conclusion of our run, some did stretching, some did not.  I choose to be a woman of mystery, so will not reveal in which category fell I.  You can’t stretch and take a selfie shot at the same time, so the absence of any photographic evidence proves nothing.

So there you go, Richmond Running Romp concluded.  We were happy runners, and it was a majestic setting with fine company.  however, whilst I loved my new best friends forever London running buddies, I did find the park congestion and busyness pretty overwhelming.  It seems I love the loneliness of the peak moors more than I knew.  I’m so grateful too that we can take on long runs without resorting to three laps of a London park, however lovely, and however handy its proximity to both the Priory and the Royal Ballet School at White Lodge!

For those of you who are interested in such things, here is the Strava map showing our run round in the footsteps of over-excited Fenton. The dog who got even more excited at seeing deer than we Smilies did.  We did almost exactly 6 miles. 5.96 according to my TomTom

richmond park strava run

And that dear reader, was the end of our London running weekend sojourn. A fine way to finish it all off too, it was grand out, and a royal park is just the thing for a Sunday morning rump.

It is possible Fenton ran a lot further than our 6 miles, certainly a lot faster, as he disappeared over the ‘hill’ chasing deer.  Not bad for a labrador.  This incident is not funny of course, not funny at all.  Not really, but sometimes you can’t help yourself.

It’s wrong to laugh, but then again, if we don’t laugh at the human condition and our ineptitude in the face of forces beyond our control, we surrender to tragedy.  What kind of life is that?  In the spirit of laughing in the face of horrors too great to comprehend, I’d like to conclude with a random, potentially life enhancing, but not running related, fact:

Did you know Donald Trump hates and is terrified of Sharks?.  You didn’t?  Well, just a thought.  If you are shallow enough to want to indulge in a bit of needling you might think of donating to a shark conservation marine life charity such as the shark trust as a little act of protest.  Just saying, I’m thinking it might help me at least feel a little less powerless in a crumbling world.  I can’t think why this fact isn’t included in the list of top ten reasons to love sharks.

the-eights-orders-of-sharks

See, you can learn something new every day!  Not necessarily something useful, but possibly something pleasing if you just choose to keep your curiosity alive.

So stay curious.  Happy running, and don’t forget to look around and marvel at the world around you.  Choose to dull your senses and you might suffer the collatoral damage of dulling your whole life.  Too high a price to pay, surely.

More trite truisms are available, hang on, let me see if I can find a motivational running meme to push you over the edge.

Found one!  This should do the trick:

be awesome

Don’t try to thank me.

Really.  Don’t.

 

For all my Run with Karen related blog posts, see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

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Smilies hanging out at Bushy parkrun, the epicentre of the parkrun phenomenon. Running with the stars!

Digested read: Thirteenth of Jan – lucky for some.  Smiley Paces on tour to Bushy parkrun.  The epicentre of the parkrun phenomenon, where it all began, under the mighty oak. Awesome. It just goes to show dear reader, that dreams really can come true!  In the interests of accuracy, I feel I should also remind you that it is also true you must sometimes be careful what you wish for, because things don’t always happen quite as you planned, but on this day all was well.  Hurrah!

ADVISORY WARNING: I don’t do concise, and this post could be a bit of a time vampire so read on at your own risk, it’s not compulsory.  I recommend coffee or wine as an accompaniement, and maybe an energy gel if that’s more your thing and you can safely ingest without heaving. Enjoy, or not, really it’s up to you.

Look at this magnificent tree!  Witness to the birth of parkrun, imagine that?  And what else it must have seen unfold before it over the last few hundred years.  Iconic indeed.  I wonder if it is the most photographed tree in Bushy Park?  Could be….

Bushy parkrun The Tree

The parkrun logo is uncannily similar, almost indistinguishable in fact:

campervan cookies

Clever. That’s a campervan cookie by the way.  Limited edition.

Anyways, sooooooooooooooo much to tell you about this particular parkrun day, my head might actually burst as I try to organise the memories.  It’s sort of like defragmenting my brain I think, putting it down in a blog post.  I’m back in Sheffield.  A whole week has passed. I’m actually trapped in my house because of snow and ice, and it seems incredible that just this time last week I was on the post run high only ever experienced by those who have been privileged enough to parkrun/walk/jog on such hallowed ground.  A week later, and parkruns all across Sheffield have been cancelled due to snow and ice.  Cue lots of comedy near death experiences trying to get to said runs on black ice, even though I knew in my heart of hearts they’d have to cancel.  Oh well, nothing ventured eh, and that’s another story entirely…

Suffice to say all the stories about Bushy parkrun are true.  The park has unicorns in abundance.   An arch of rainbows guide you through the finish funnel, and smiling marshals a-plenty cheer you round. Add in to this giddy mix the exotic parakeets, and impressive deer – some with gargantuan antlers that make them too look like mythical beasts – and you can see why setting foot in this Royal Park on parkrun day can indeed feel like entering a parallel universe, our very own wonderland.  If you come from Ireland, the organising team at Bushy parkrun will even make you edible shamrocks and Irish themed cupcakes.  FACT.

Point of information, the unicorns are quite shy so you sometimes only catch a vanishing glimpse of them out of the corner of your eye, and the rainbows are often tricky to make out through the emotional veil of tears that may obscure your view in the finish funnel. But just because you can’t quite see them, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Keep the faith!  Also, unicorns can deliver some surprises on meeting.  Whether this disappoints or pleases you I can’t say.  Did you now they fart glitter and crap rainbow icecream?  It’s no wonder they find toilet humour completely hilarious, but that isn’t what you expect from what seems outwardly at least, to be majestic and other worldly is it now?

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Even so, I’m surprised they stooped (or should that be ‘pooped’) to product endorsement for toilet accessories, but I suppose you have to make a living somehow. How otherwise do you account for those actors who did the original ‘we washed half of his hair in head and shoulders…‘ adverts for head and shoulders, and now find themselves forever immortalised raining down dandruff in close up.  Makes me shudder.  Other anti dandruff products are available, with equally crushing photos to accompany them. I’d say the unicorns had a better agent to be honest.

Still, I’m jumping ahead. Let’s start at the beginning shall we?  So I was back on marathon training today, inasmuch as I’m sure I’ve heard somewhere that running when fatigued (within certain limits) is a good way to habituate yourself to the mental challenge of pushing through when you aren’t feeling the love at a marathon.  I am told that this can often kick in around mile 17, which is pleasing, because normally I find I’ve completely fallen out of love with running after about 100 yards, so that could well be an improvement on my general running mood.  Anyway, the upshot of this philosophy, is that, a sleepless night at our Twickenham student house was just the thing to keep me on the programme.  Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about? Well basically, I was here with some buddies from my Smiley Paces Sheffield based Women’s Running Club on a running weekend organised by Run with Karen.  We had a session on the track on the friday before and a long run in Richmond Park on the Sunday following, but clearly the visit to the spiritual home of parkrun was always going to be the highlight.  I say we were all Smilies, well some of us were, but we had other welcome running buddies along with us too. Londoners and others from further afield who’d joined the weekend of running fun. For the purposes of this blog post I think we can safely say all were either actual Sheffield Smilies or honorary Smilies by association, which amounts to the same thing.  Hurrah!

For the record though, even though I was probably too excited to sleep anyway, the plastic mattresses in the student accommodation were not cool, in both the literal and metaphorical sense.  Just a bit of feedback for our host venue, maybe they were also not the ideal choice for a group of largely peri and actually menopausal women. There is a skill set for sleeping on these things that I have yet to acquire. The slidy nature of them means that if you have any part of your body in contact with the sheet whilst moving your position the entire made-bed construct disassembled as duvet goes in one direction and sheet in another.  the only way to avoid this is to become airborne pre any such adjustment, but this requires violent moves likely to put your back out, comedic value and cross training possibly yes, but compatible with a good nights sleep no.

In other news, on top of the sleep deprivation, I was also really stiff today which was a shocker as the track session was only about 4 miles. This either shows how effectively you can work out on a track, or shows that trying to run with ‘good form’ for extended periods is catastrophic.  Purists may argue this shows how terrible my running form usually is, since evidently making an effort to run in unfamiliar ‘good form’ sprint clearly nigh on crippled me.  An inevitable and totally forseeable consequence of being required to use muscles that I have never previously found need to call upon during my half century plus years of existence.  Personally, I prefer to think it shows there is some merit in loping along, and for my own preservation it was to be a loping gait that would be in evidence as I romped round Bushy parkrun …. unless I happened to spot a photographer or something, clearly that requires any runner to adopt their own variant of the ‘photographers pose’ whereby you either pull a ridiculous face or ape perfect running form for the microsecond of the shot.  However, I’ve done a fair few runs at Bushy parkrun now – though not with a mass of other Smilies before – and not ever seen a photographer out on the course, so that tends not to be an issue.  Plenty of atmospheric shots though. Check out the Bushy parkrun Flickr account if you are ever incapacitated for many months and want to pass the hours, days, weeks and months fantasizing about this parkrun paradise.  20,000+ and counting. That’s a lot of photos.

bushy parkrun flickr

On the plus side, I wasn’t alone in finding my limbs weren’t at their best and the night had been spent entirely devoid of sleep. Giddy with excitement, we cavorted and guffawed as only a collective gathering of Smilies can.  Then we trotted out to the front gate of the Twickenham campus of St Mary’s University where we were staying…

look where we are

Here we were honoured to be met by parkrun royalty times two.  Not only parkrun founder Mr P S-H himself but also, the power behind the throne and one of the original volunteers without whom parkrun would never have continued as it has, the lovely Jo S-H. How exciting!

Smilies and parkrun royalty

I’d love to say we were all nonchalant and blasé about the whole thing, but we weren’t.  I certainly wasn’t.  I was completely starstruck, again.  Not so starstruck that we didn’t manage to nab a group photo.  So that was the main thing.   However, the unexpected highlight was that Mr S-H asked for me by name!  I know, how amazing is that!? Granted, this was nothing to do with my own intrinsic merits, because they are known to be negligible, it was entirely because of my genetic association to Elisabeth, the landmark honorary parkrun marshal who happens to be my mum! For months now she has cheered on runners at her spot on the Bushy parkrun route which is at the Sandy Lane Gate in Bushy park.  She is a legend in her own right.  Generally speaking I don’t approve of nepotism, but then I’ve never had the chance to benefit from it before.  Turns out i’m quite fickle with respect to my moral compass.  I’ll take glory by association.  happy to step up and milk it.  Wouldn’t you?

We were on a deadline though, as we all had to get to Bushy park in time for awf. Plus, I wanted to meet up with the lovely other Paul, Paul Killick, who’d set in motion a magnificent train of events that led to my mum getting lots of extra christmas cards, with his ‘meet Elisabeth‘ Facebook post.  Long story.

meet Elisabeth

The original Paul, honestly, gets confusing, you’d think it would be a lot easier if everyone had the same name, but it turns out that’s not so.  Anyway, founder Paul, he made to set off at a fair old sprint, deliberately going extra fast to see our reaction. We had originally talked about jogging down to the start, but that was the night before. With the reality of stiff joints that plan was rapidly abandoned.  Our reaction was three-fold.  Firstly, we did laugh appreciatively.  Secondly, no-one was going to be duped into unnecessarily running anywhere at this stage, even with Mr S-H (well, we’d got our photos now, so job done), limbs aching too much and we had to save ourselves for parkrun. Thirdly, on my part at least, ‘oh my he can shift‘.  I hadn’t realised he was so super fast.  Maybe it’s partly to do with having extra long legs, or maybe the South Africa connection, or maybe he just wanted to escape from us?  Surely not? Who’d ever want to ditch a load of Smilies?  He ran like something with very long legs that might run very fast across the plains of Africa.  Giraffes have long legs, but I’m not sure they can run all that fast and elegantly.  My experience suggests giraffes have limitations as running buddies.

Antelope maybe?  Oh for goodness sake. I don’t know!  Stop hassling me about my african animal analogies, pick your own, let’s get back on topic.

Point is we got our celebrity meet and greet, and then headed off through Teddington to Bushy park.  It was nippier than I’d expected, so we walked briskly. Smilies and non-smilies sharing running and life tales as we did so. I love hearing people’s stories. Every one of us has many to tell.  Inspirational stuff.

We arrived into the park to find a dark and dank day, but the park is always glorious.   It was exciting to see it through new eyes as well.  First time in the park for some, and it is I suppose huge and unexpected if you haven’t been there before.

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I was relieved to spot Paul 2, (other Pauls are available) quite easily.  There aren’t that many 500 parkrun milestone tees around, plus it helped that the two Pauls knew each other anyway.  I’m afraid (only not really) that there followed an enormous amount of gratuitous posing for photos in all possible permutations of Pauls/ Smilies/ me and Pauls/ Smiletastic Smilies (Smiley sub-group) and so on.  In our defence, I don’t think we are the only parkrunners ever to have seized a photo opportunity at Bushy parkrun.  Also, no regrets.  Enjoy:

I was a bit giddy with all the excitement to be honest.  I wondered if I was a bit too huggy what with being so hyped.  The weird thing is, I don’t think I’m an especially tactile person.  Generally speaking I like my personal space, I will edge away  from others when sat at cafe tables lest their elbows intrude on my brunch plate. However, parkrun seems to unleash my inner huggyness.  I love everyone at parkrun, they are all my best friends forever, and I think that affection is entirely genuine, I’m so grateful to the community that is parkrun, and Founder Paul for setting it up and other Paul for being so lovely to my mum.  Even though we haven’t met before I feel like I know them because of the common parkrun thread.  It restores your faith in humankind. There really are more good people in the world than not.  Within parkrun at least, all seems well with the world….

Even though we were all a bit giddy, we weren’t so giddy with excitement that we couldn’t see a Smiletastic opportunity when it presented itself.  For those of you that haven’t been concentrating, Smiletastic is a winter running challenge amongst we Smiley Paces. Points are awarded for actual running related activities within teams, but also for ‘smiletastic spirit‘.   As we were a cross team alliance of Smiletastic Smilies on this London running weekend, we decided to go for a cross team shot.  I love this photo, and not only because it did indeed deliver some Smiletastic bonus points!  Gotta love a Smiley!

Bushy parkrun smiletastic smiles

Pleasingly, after we had been photographed in all possible combinations, a nearby runner, also a parkrun tourist quizzed me about who we all were, so that a fun.   I only wish I’d anticipated this question so I could have come up with a better cover story.  Oh well, next time.  Bushy parkrun runs like a well oiled machine, not just the logistics of it all, but maintaining a community feel, and producing a weekly run report so everyone stays informed and involved.  So we learned we Smilies and are visit were to be a feature in that week’s Bushy parkrun report – 13 Jan 18.  How exciting is that!  It is only a matter of time before Smiley Paces goes viral in its own right… granted, our visit of what was by comparison just a handful of Smilies at about 12 or so of us, was superseded the following week by a contingent of 100 visitors from Tralee parkrun, but I’m sure all parkrun tourists are made equally welcome. Thank you Bushy parkrunners all, for the warmth of your welcome.  Just shows, everyone’s a winner at Bushy parkrun.

Despite all being winners, I needed to fit in my precautionary pee.  Fortunately, there are loos a-plenty at Bushy park.   I jogged off to the toilet block, leaving fellow smilies still trying to capture their elusive perfect selfies.  Good work people, good work.

Despite the normally ample amount of toilet cubicles. The queue was long, very long.  I put this down to maybe a larger than usual parkrun turn out because of  New Year’s Resolutions being put into action.  However, this queue wasn’t moving.  On the plus side, I got to meet a woman who it turned out had been at the second ever parkrun, and so had bagged a 15th finisher place at Bushy parkrun. This pleased me greatly. I felt I really was mingling with the stars.  Now 15th finisher at parkrun would have a time between 17 or 18 minutes.  That’s super speedy.   I felt this merited a selfie, if only to while the time whilst waiting for the queue to move.  Check me out, hobnobbing with even more parkrun celebrities.  That’s the closest I’ll ever get to being in the company of top twenty finishers anywhere, let alone at Bushy parkrun!

worth a selfie

Eventually, it became apparent that the long and slowly moving loo queue was due to some large-scale catastrophe within the toilet block. Almost every cubicle was out of action, but not due to broken loos as such, but due to all the doors being off their hinges.  Whether this was due to wanton vandalism or interrupted maintenance I have no idea. What I do know, is that as the clock was ticking fast, and we were all conscious of parkrunners gathering at the start line, a sort of free-thinking collective action came about.  Women threw inhibitions into orbit and soon each cubicle loo had a parkrunner in situ, pulling a Paula caring little who saw what. To be fair, we were all women, we’ve all seen it all before, and anyway, each of us was far too preoccupied with taking up our own squat opportunities to care one iota what anyone else was up to.  It was quite liberating really, all these  women in free flow and why not.  It is hardly a shocking or unknown revelation that women (and people even) in general do pee in general, but parkrunners in particular need a precautionary pre-parkrun pee.  All the same, it did have a comedic element.  The unicorns would have loved it (see toilet humour appreciation reference above).  Is it wrong that it briefly gave me a flash back to the more depressing and shocking sight of seeing women standing displaying their goods in the narrow windows of the red-light district of Amsterdam. I’m inclined to think that the toilet block cubicles of Bushy park were more of a niche area of interest, and anyway this was no shop window, just doing the necessary…

All this broken doors shenanigans delayed me getting to the start.  I rushed across, and the briefing was already underway, the lead bike off ahead.  (Photos stolen courtesy of Bushy parkrun)

The start line is truly amazing.  It’s huge, and wide.  A guy was balancing half way up a tree to observe the field, I wondered if he might be armed with a loudspeaker to help parkrunners hear the briefing, but I couldn’t tell.  Maybe he was just stuck up there actually, now I come to think of it.  Hope he’s managed to get down now.  Anyway, it was inspiring to see so very many people, gathered together for this amazing, yet intrinsically ridiculous undertaking.  I didn’t label my photos all that well, so some might be mixed up, but these are basically all capturing the parkrun start line, some more re-imagined than others, granted… 🙂

In amongst the mass of people, I felt very luck to happen upon a little trio of Smilies, but I was too late for any in the starting throng line up shots.  Here’s one someone else took earlier though. They are looking suitably excited and shiny eyed with eager anticipation don’t you think!  Well, I say shiny-eyed, bit manic would be more accurate, but you get the general idea.  Bushy parkrun was a bit overwhelming, it was bound to test our ability to use facial expressions to convey euphoria to the very limit, maybe slightly over-cooked here, but great shot all the same people.

startline selfie

All too soon, the shout went up and were off.  A veritable stampede across the ant hills as 1300 plus runners head out on their 5k circuit.  Considering how many runners there are, it is a pretty polite start.  By the time the path narrows, runners have strung out, and as it’s a single lap course you don’t have to worry about being lapped.  A rare joy for me!

You probably can’t tell by looking at me when I’m running, but I do love taking part in parkrun.  Overhearing conversations.  Some are sharing running stories, others catching up on gossip, some updating others on quite personal stuff.  People look out for each other too. I didn’t witness this myself, but one of my fellow Smilies said as she was running she commented out loud that her hands were freezing, and another runner immediately offered her the use of her gloves.  She was really impressed and touched, to be so trusted that she’d get them back.  I maybe shouldn’t have pointed out it was probably partly because she’d identified that this Smiley could be outrun, also we are quite distinctive. None of this is to take away from the selfless offer though. Love parkrunners!

I was excited about seeing my mum.  I’d nipped round to see her the night before to make sure she was tooled up with a Smiley placard, and she’d had all her parkrun kit carefully laid out.  She doesn’t have a barcode, but if she did, she’d not forget it! #dfyb.  I’d briefed everyone I’d seen to shout hello as they passed, but as I was approaching her corner, I couldn’t see any Smilies. Catastrophe!  Then, just as I was losing hope, a gaggle of them appeared out of the mist.  No idea how they came to be running behind me, that never happens, must have been an anomaly in the line up at the start.  I have never rarely been so over-joyed to see my running buddies!

We descended en masse.  Of course we had to capture the moment, although afterwards I did wonder if I’d been quite fair to interrupt my fellow Smilies run as we paused for (blurry) photos.  Still, this picture rivals that of us with Mr S-H himself, here we had another example of parkrun royalty but this time one proactively endorsing Smiley Paces. That could be argued to trump our other example of association with parkrun celebrity, though not in the Donald sense, obviously, that would be horrid.

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It was very grand to get some Smiley shots and witness some shouts and high fives being proffered as other runners streamed by.

I felt quite emotional. Sleep deprivation has a lot to answer for.  As I ran on, the other Smilies now streamed ahead.  I overheard new conversations about my mum.  Other runners commenting on how amazing it was she is there week in week out, and being just generally lovely.  It’s hard being in Sheffield with her in Teddington, I find it immensely reassuring to know that from parkrun there is this outpouring of goodwill towards her.

I loped onwards, in my own inimitable way.  Thanking the marshals as I passed.

Eventually, the finish came into sight.  Other runners that had already finished were cheering others in.  I saw Paul S-H who called out that he’d managed to exchange a high-five with my mum en route.  It would be fun one day to observe her from a hide as she marshals, and count the interactions she has on a typical parkrun day.  Tricky to co-ordinate though.

 

Into the funnel – which as anyone who has been to Bushy parkrun will report are a thing of wonder.  More chatting – I found myself between two bushy parkrun regulars, one explained how first time her son offered my mum a high-five she had tried to shake his hand, I was able to tell her that since then she’s had training in this skill and is most adept at it, which was readily acknowledged. The other told me she and her friends refer to her at this spot as their ‘half point highlight‘ which I though grand.  I’d love to be the highlight of someone’s parkrun!  I felt a glow of reflected glory.  Maybe I should print out a load of photos of her, and get her to sign them, I could bestow them on any worthy beneficiaries at will.  Of course there’s always a risk they’d end up on Ebay, like the black market in Blue Peter badges, but I like to think parkrunners are an honourable lot, and would treasure such an artefact as beyond price. Did you know that one blue peter presenter had their badge rescinded for taking cocaine?  Richard Bacon had to actually hand it back!  The shame.  That would never have happened in John Noakes’ day!

So through the finish tunnel, and back into the arms of chilly but still smiling smilies.

 

Obviously, no parkrun would be complete without a companionable post parkrun brunch.  We decided against the Pheasantry cafe, since lovely as it is, it would be just too crowded, instead we were heading back to campus.  However, I took a Smiley detour to check in with my mum.  More photos:

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Then a romp back to the St Mary’s campus canteen, for a pretty impressive brunch. Good value, though I can’t lie, I was gutted there were no veggie sausages today.  Or the next day, seemingly it’s always a case of veggie sausages either yesterday or tomorrow.  Sad but true.  Still, it wasn’t the venue or the food particularly that bonded us.  It was our Bushy parkrun adventure.

You will have to take my word for it that we were a lot cheerier than this photo makes us look.  Smiley Paces club membership is conditional on being able to smile at all times, but with genuine cheer, unlike the ironically named cheerleader troupes who often have smiles that appear to be quite forced.

We were also very taken with the rotating tray clearing system.  I’ve rarely been so excited since I first encountered the famous Sheffield Arts Tower paternoster lift.  Technology eh?  Amazing! As if we hadn’t encountered more than enough wonder for one day!

Some might think Smilies are all too easily amused.  I prefer to think it just goes to show we can see the wonder in the world all around us!

Oh, and just so you know, Smiley Paces got star billing in the Bushy parkrun run report for 13th January 2018.  Well I say Smiley Paces, really I mean my mum did, but she does officially endorse our club, so that amounts to the same thing!  And no, it isn’t elder abuse to get your nearing 90-year-old parent to brandish a sign supporting your running club, just to be really clear there.  Nepotism possibly, but nothing worse than that!

Bushy parkrun 13 jan 2018 Elisabeth supports Smileys

So there you go. That was our Smiley pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun done and dusted.  We had a lovely time thank you for asking.  Would recommend. But you know what, the really, honestly and truly fantastic thing about parkrun, is that even if you can’t get to Bushy Park, you can recreate the parkrun magic anywhere there’s a parkrun. Currently that means across 17 parkrun countries all over the world.  Nearly 500 different events in the UK alone – probably more if you factor in junior parkrun, which you should, because that’s even more hilarious hard though that is to believe – and as of today (22 Jan 2018, I lied in the date published field above) 1,348 separate locations.

parkrun participation jan 2018

Just wow.

So thank you parkrunners in general and Bushy parkrunners in particular.   Everyone who takes part in whatever capacity makes it so.  If you have already embraced parkrun, yay, go you, happy parkrunning til next time.

If you haven’t?  Well, you are lucky indeed, because you have yet to discover one of the wonders of the world, and if you just give it a try, it will open up a whole new world of community loveliness that might be life enriching and at the very least, will put a smile on your face and increase your brunching opportunities henceforth. Got to be worth a punt, surely.

Go on. What’s the worst….*

Sign up to parkrun here, remember, fear of missing out is a terrible thing.

*…. the worst is that parkrun is a sort of gateway drug for not just other running activities, but community engagement, volunteering and a move from life in black and white to living life in glorious technicolor.  You wont mind though, that’s the funny thing.  Go on. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

 

For all my parkrun related posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

For all my Bushy parkrun related posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

For all my Run with Karen related blog posts, see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

 

 

 

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

Getting on track – in the footsteps of Olympians. Smiley Paces on tour to Twickenham

Digested read: a guffaw of Smiley Paces went on tour to Twickenham for a weekend of running related coaching and fun. We spent Friday night running round in circles at the Mo Farah athletics track.  I found out that Charlie’s Angels wasn’t a fly on the wall documentary after all.  I was allowed to wear a fleece for some of it. There were photo opportunities.  I now think track sessions are potentially fun, but very disorienting.  Wouldn’t say never again, but don’t think I’ll be heading off to train at one on my own.

mofo track

FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out essentially. That’s what keeps me engaged in running, and as a consequence of that, signing up to do unlikely and possibly unwise running-related activities, just so I can tag along with fellow Smilies and get glory by association with some awesome women who are also awesomely good runners, which is why our strap line acronym is FGR (work it out people.)

Last weekend was a case in point. I found myself on a London-based running weekend, organised by fellow Smiley and running coach Run With Karen.

For those of you with the misfortune not to come from Sheffield and not to engage in running related exploits, Smiley Paces us a Sheffield based women’s running group.  A group I feel genuinely privileged to be a part of. It is an inclusive, supportive and hilarious guffaw of brilliant women, with members ranging from the ‘recreational runners’ like me, who yomp round at the back with a perpetual feeling of disbelief that they have found themselves out there running because of some dreadful misunderstanding, to GB triathletes, A-class fell runners and everything in between.  It isn’t only the activity of running that brings us together, in some ways over time that has become for me almost incidental, albeit it is the glue that sticks us all together.  For me Smiley Paces is also an endless fountain of life affirming smiley support and solidarity that give you hope for the world, as well as,  – in my case at least – the startling revelation that running can be fun.  Who knew?  What’s more,  you don’t have to be an elite athlete to enjoy it. Even if statistically some of that fun will inevitably be ‘Type 2 Fun‘ and therefore only identifiable after the event when safely back home tucked up on the sofa under a duvet.  Anyway, the essential point is, hanging out with other Smilies is always fun, even if sometimes of the type 2 variant, and so when news breaks of the possibility of  a Smiley adventure whether that is a mass exodus to the Lake District for a running weekend at the Lakeland trails or rocking up at a fellow Smilies milestone parkrun we do all like to join in.

It actually started with a cautious question from Karen on our Smiley Paces Facebook page back in September:

I am thinking about putting on a training weekend for those doing a spring marathon or half marathon (or any road event really) in early January but it would be down in Twickenham staying at St Marys University which is where Mo Farah used to train and has a brilliant athletics track. It is also a short jog from Bushy Park, home of the first ever parkrun – so you’d have the chance for some parkrun tourism on the Saturday morning. Would be a good way to kick off training in the new year too. So would include a track session on the Friday evening, parkrun on Saturday morning, perhaps a yoga for runners class, technique session and some classes around training and programmes for marathon and half marathon …. Then long-ish guided run Sunday morning in Richmond Park (tailorable based on pace and distance).

An offer like this is akin to bringing a tray of oven-fresh brownies to any Smiley gathering.  Heads turned, interest was stirred and enthusiasm for the idea conveyed.  So it evolved to:

London running weekend outline

Back to my earlier stated FOMO, and fast forward to the inevitable.  It was Friday 12th January, and there I was in Twickenham, surrounded by an assortment of Smiley buddies plus some lovely London locals drawn in for the occassion and from further afield but darn south, a virtual coachee who was using the weekend to finally meet her distance coach and bag some quality running miles into the bargain (hello new friends).

After a not-too-bad-considering-I-dont-really-like-driving-all-that-much trip down, we rocked up at our accommodation for the weekend. The Waldegrave Park house was a stunning building, beautifully warm, with huge spacious rooms.

our humble abode 33 waldegrave

So first impressions were good.  We we were yet to encounter the comedy beds with which we were supposed to tussle in order to achieve sleep.  These featured plastic coated mattresses which were both super-conductors of heat AND super slidey to the point that teflon coating has nothing on them.  Basically, designed to be entirely incompatible with so much as a sniff of slumber.   For the record, I don’t think any one of us survived the night with the sheets and the person remaining in situ… clearly, sleeping on these beds requires a specialist and minority skill set none of us possessed.  Nevertheless, with the sleeping challenge still to come, we were all bright-eyed and optimistic in the early evening as we gathered at the athletics track just behind the residence in which we were staying.

This wasn’t just any old athletics track though. This was the Mo Farah Athletics track.  Astonishingly, despite his obvious disadvantage in not being a member of Smiley Paces, Mo Farah is really a jolly good runner.  Like me, and many other Smilies, he appreciates his running bling.  In that respect we are practically identical.

Another thing me and Mo have in common, is that we are both doing the London Marathon this year.  (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH).  And also, the focus on marathon running is a relatively new departure for both of us.  We’d be perfect running mates.   As one of the attractions this weekend was that it might help to kick-start marathon training for those among us who are wanting to do one in 2018 I was a bit surprised to find that Mo himself wasn’t joining us for the track session, even though the actual track is named after him!  I think maybe he was a bit intimidated by the prospect of being faced by so many awesome Smilies all at once.  I do get that, I was intimidated at the thought of joining a running club, or even going to parkrun before I did it, but once done it’s fine. More than fine it’s brilliant!  You just have to get over it and take the plunge.  It’s lovely once you’re in… you never look back. Which coincidentally is also good advice when running.  Look where you are going, worry about what’s ahead not what’s behind and all will be well.  I think he’d have enjoyed hanging out with us. Maybe next time.  We could have shared anti-chafing tips. Did I mention I’ve finally caved in and bought some body glide?  Vaseline can only do so much for so long it seems.  I got the blue one though, I can’t bring myself to get the pink, and I think the only difference is one is scented. Can you guess which.  The other is made of slugs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails , so not really vegan friendly to be honest, but needs must…

what the hell

So we arrived at the track.  Did I mention we were brimming over with enthusiasm?  No? That’s because we generally weren’t. It was freezing, it was dark, it was cold.  I for one had no idea what to expect, but feared being required to sprint and therefore getting injured.  I’m also more of an off-road ‘runner’ (I use the term loosely) and so although I was game to give it a go I wasn’t overly keen on the running round in circles aspect of it all.

Apprehension aside, we chattered cheerily as we assembled.  It is/was quite cool to be on a flood lit track. It does make you feel instantly like a pro.  Go us!

track session on fire

As we stepped onto the track, my first impression was slight disappointment that the surface wasn’t actually super springy.  I think maybe with hindsight my expectations weren’t entirely realistic.  The surface is forgiving, but not actually bouncy all the way along like you are running on those jumping stilts.  Oh well, I’ll just have to buy a pair of those to experience that degree of bounding another time. Did you know that pro-jump stilts can enable you to jump 6ft high and to run 25mph+.  I’m surprised I’ve not thought of getting hold of some of those before quite frankly. What could possibly go wrong?

Once I got over the initial shock of finding we weren’t going to be bounding round a giant size trampoline, there was some better news.  Two lots of it to be precise. Good news one, we were encouraged to keep our fleeces on during the warm up.  Result!  Good news two, we were expected to chat to each other for the first part of the session, to avoid heading off too fast.  Now, I’m never guilty of the latter point, but happy to go along with the chit-chat option.  We Smilies always have loads to catch up on when we rendezvous, plus, on this occasion there was the extra enrichment and potential offered up by new running buddies a-plenty. A few of whom were also doing, or had done, the London marathon. Great opportunity for me to stalk them, and then groom them into downloading all their skills and experiences for me so I can learn from them. Things were looking up.

So we did some general ‘gentle jogging’ round the track.  I got disoriented immediately.   I have zero idea of how people who regularly do track work keep count of how far they have travelled.  I mean, we had someone to direct us, but I couldn’t imagine doing this session on my own, helpful as it was.

The next part of the session involved various running drills.  It’s always interesting doing these.  On a serious note, I rarely think about my running technique unless someone actually makes me, or I espy a particularly horrific running photo where my twisted torso and earthbound running style are hard to ignore.  It definitely makes a difference if I consciously improve my form, not only to speed, I am genuinely unconcerned about that, but also, and more importantly to injury prevention.  Some of the drills were familiar from the Accelerate woodrun sessions in Ecclesall Woods  (guilt, not been for ages, note to self go back and soon), others were completely new.  Although we only did the various drills for short bursts, it was surprising how strenuous they were.  I suppose that demonstrates how rarely I run with good form.  Sad but true.

I enjoyed some unfamiliar running drills too.  Some were to illustrate the impact of poor form alongside others to try to get us to experience the feel of flow when you are doing it right.  So for example, if you run with a stiff frame (firm core I think more technically expressed) it is actually more energy-efficient and easier than if you are all floppy.  It was good to demonstrate this, but honestly, I was quite smug on this point as I already knew all about this because of sheep.

ewe northumberland black face

True story, My great-aunt Elisabeth ran a Northumbrian sheep farm all on her own well into her eighties and who could still vault a 5 bar gate aged 70.  When I was little, we used to go on family holidays staying at a nearby cottage, and join her to ‘help’ with the August sheep dipping.  This was back in the days when the poor creatures were pushed into a long trench of foul-smelling liquid organophosphates and had their heads submerged by being pushed down under the mustard coloured effluent with a big curved stick, or by my rubber-clothed covered aunt standing alongside the trough shoving them under by hand.  I so wish I had some original photos of that time, but worry not, this is what google images are for, it honestly truly looked like this still in 1970s Northumberland.

Unsurprisingly, the sheep tried to resist. Now, the young sheep would spring about stiff and rigid trying to get away, but the stiff frames made it easy to grab hold of them and manoeuvre them into the trough. The experienced older ewes on the other hand had it all sussed. They would lie down and make themselves go completely limp, talk about dead weight. They were almost immoveable.  Little did I know back then, that this experience of dipping sheep would be an asset to my running theory arsenal.  Just shows, you never do quite know when some random bit of knowledge might come in handy.  It’s only a matter of time before I am called upon to once again use a slide rule.  It’s a shame I can’t remember how….

My personal favourite was when we had to try running with our arms pointing straight ahead hands locked like holding a pretend weapon.  The point being you can’t really run like this, so demonstrating the importance of good arm technique when running too.  I struggled with this one a bit more, because whilst the lived experience suggests that this is true and straight arms aren’t an effective way to cover the ground at speed,  this was nevertheless a big surprise to me because it was clearly never a problem for Charlie’s Angels. It just goes to show you shouldnt believe everything you see on TV, even if it is a documentary.

charlies-angels-r5-fb

So this track session malarkey was turning out way better than expected.  I got to keep wearing my fleece, it was both informative and entertaining, there was times for a laugh and a chit-chat between the drills. Excellent.  Most pleasing.  I was wearing my new shoes – did I mention I also got some new running shoes?  This is my other concession to marathon training, the first being body glide.  I like my Brooks ghost road shoes, but fear if I use them for training they will wear out just at the point I need them for the actual marathon –  hence I’ve invested in another pair so I can rotate them.  Also, this new pair is wide fitting and half a size smaller, so I think they’ll be better than my original size 5s where I went up a size to get the width. Thank you nice Frontrunner people for attending to my every whim whilst I was trying on lots and lots of shoes and agonising over their fit for ages.  Just think of the job satisfaction you’ll get when I’ve finally run a marathon in them and you can out yourselves as the folk who helped equip me.  I expect I’ll be the runner who goes viral for ‘being plucky’ as I’m still crawling round the route trying to finish a week later.  Imagine the glory of being aligned with that!  You’re welcome.

Anyway, so that bit was all grand, I was feeling quite confident that I had this nailed, applying my all.  Rookie error people.  It then became apparent astonishingly, all these drills were just the prelude to our actual running session not the entirety of it!  Phew, that was a worry.  Further trials followed.  We then had to finish of the first part of the session with a series of squats.  All well and good in theory, but not being allowed to hold on the fence whilst executing them was a bit of a blow.  I mean we were allowed to sort of ‘finger tip touch’ for balance purposes of course, but personally I’d have favoured the full white knuckled grab on technique.  Shame.

Next came various actual running sessions, that were good at the time, but frankly a bit of a blur now I’m trying to recall them a few days later.  It’s snowed since then, and I’ve come home to a leak in the ceiling, plus I always try to erase running memories quite quickly after the event in case I start to recall how very hard it was at the time and it dawns on me that running isn’t always intrinsically fun after all.

I have strava though!  Look, this is what I got up to:

round and round the track we go

Astonishingly, nearly 4 miles of track running.  I was amazed.  It didn’t feel that much.  Well, not until the next morning when I could hardly move, but that’s another story.

So, I think the next bit was we had to run two and a half laps of the track running as if at your 10k pace for 1000 metres.  Now I struggle with this, as all the evidence suggests I really have only one running pace, and I don’t differentiate between how I run whether it’s 5k, 10k or 12.12 miles, I just pootle about as best I can, and put on a show of sprinting if there is a photographer’s lens bearing down on me.  I blinked with incomprehension, as our leader clarified that this meant if you usually ran a  60 min 10k then this should take 6 minutes, and went on to expand adding ‘so this might take some of you 6 minutes,  some of you will take just 5 or 4.5′ blah de blah.   I was panicking inwardly as for me the numbers most definitely needed to be counting upwards in the other direction.  I’ve never done a sub one hour 10k in my life.  Not even close.  I think honestly, this is what I find both intimidating, and potentially helpful about the track, you do feel under surveillance, and in my case, that pushes me to do more, run faster than I would normally do. I am almost invariably the slowest runner in any pack, this becomes very evident over a short distance when all the other runner have completed a their session minutes ahead of you.  I felt my confidence making a run for it, which was ironic, as it was me that was more in need of the running tour de force…

Off we went.  An assistant stood at the mid-point to cheer us on and presumably scoop us off the track were we to fall over, whilst our official coach was at the end, shouting our finish times so we could gauge how closely we kept to our intended pace. The results were quite interesting, as without exception, we’d all run way faster than we’d be able to maintain over a 10k. Even me. Suggesting, annoyingly, that maybe I do have another pace within me after all. Curses.  I think I got away with it though, attributing my being so significantly fleeter of foot than I imagined to my transformation in running form as a result of all the insightful drills we’d just been doing.   I think sycophancy is a good way to blag things on such occasions, not a technique to be over-used, but one to have in reserve for emergencies such as these.  I think being on a flat surface probably helped, but it is true I had absolutely no idea how fast or far I was going.  I think the idea is that it is helpful to learn to ‘feel’ your pace, and we were supposed to be at threshold, so able to maintain it for relatively extended periods.

So then we had to do the exercise all over again, only slower.  It’s nice being instructed to take it easy.  As I was the slowbie of the group, I had the slightly surreal experience of running alone on the track at one stage, under the floodlights.  It was weird, I did sort of like it in a ‘well this is novel’ sort of way.  The even terrain and surface means you don’t have to think at all, you can just get in a rhythm, and I imagine that for them as want to disconnect from their surroundings and enter a trance like state that could be almost therapeutic.  On balance though one thing I learned over the weekend is that I really do run to get out in the peaks, and feel hyper alert to my surroundings, track running seems to me by contrast to be potentially a form or meditation.

 

Anyway, ’twas all good and interesting.  I did learn a lot, but I think track will remain a novelty feature in my running regime rather than a regular fixture.  Yep, I would do it again, but I’m not going to rush to find where the nearest track to me in Sheffield is.  We ended the session with a sort of tag relay.  We were in threes,  spread around the track, and you ran to your team-mate, tagged them and they ran to the next, but I was a bit unclear about when it ended, and were it not for someone shouting out to me that I could stop now I might have ended up running to infinity and beyond. This would have been terrible, as apart from anything else it would have led to my missing out on Bushy parkrun and hobnobbing with parkrun royalty the following day.  I shudder to think of how awful that would have been.

We finished with some stretches. Some undertook these with more enthusiasm and rigour than others.  Then we had to do lots of posing in front of The Mo Farah Sign, which was hilarious.  It was pointed out that possibly doing so in dark was not the best plan as our coach did laughingly point out we could come back and do it all in daylight tomorrow, but where would be the fun in that?  Plus, Smilies aren’t great at delayed gratification. That’s why it’s easy to get us to sign up to races in the heat of a moment as I’m not the only one who doesn’t always think things through…

I got one centre stage shot

CC has to be done

For the record, some of our number followed through with the forward planning and managed daylight selfies.  I respect these people, though I cannot truthfully count myself amongst them:

So our weekend was off to a good start. That was that, session done, strava recorded, photo shoot completed and we were all crazily hyped, like infants recently gorged on sherbet lemons and red bull.  Yay!  We can do anything, we are invincible, we are all indeed FGRs!

Back to base for communal smiley dining and then to take on the major challenge of the weekend which was to achieve sleep on the high-slide sleeping receptacles.   Not that I’d be able to sleep anyway. I was far too excited by the prospect of meeting parkrun royalty tomorrow and romping round the spiritual home of parkrun under the famous Bushy parkrun tree.

Bushy parkrun The Tree

Bring it on!

Just one more sleep…

For all my Run with Karen related blog posts, see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

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

The misterious pleasures of running round Longshaw…

Digested read: I went a-yomping round Longshaw with two running buddies.  It was very misty, but fantastic to get out on the moors damp as they were.  Wet feet all round, and some minor near death experiences.  Still, we all made it back safely. Note to self, learn to navigate.  Second note to self, make the effort to get out more on them there hills. Always fabulous.

seriously misterious

See what I did there?  Genius I know.  I wouldn’t go so far as to describe myself as a stable genius, that would be the declaration of only the most narcissistic idiot, but I’m happy with being a self-declared genius when the evidence of appropriate punning is so incontrovertible.  Misterious instead of mysterious.  I am ON FIRE!

So the deal was this. Yesterday morning I  rendezvoused with two running buddies, one previously unknown to me, to have a romp round the Longshaw 10k route.  There was a small flaw in the plan, well a couple of small flaws to be fair, maybe even several. For starters, firstly, I don’t think any of us had reckoned on such thick mist – you could hardly see your hand in front of your face at times.  Secondly, not having done the route for ages it’s amazing how different it all looks in a different season and without hi-viz marshals doing helpful directional pointing at key junctions and thirdly, we were all a bit at crossed purposes.  One set on doing the actual route, another on just an ‘in the general vicinity run‘ and another on the let’s go out yomping elsewhere and have an adventure.  Finally, we were all a bit ‘no, no, whatever way you think‘ with no-one really being assertive about the route or their plans. In the circumstances it’s a miracle we made it out at all, let alone back, yet out and back we did, and it was grand!

The day dawned.  Well, I say dawned, not much sun in sight, just dank and dismal mist.  We rendezvoused in the Fox House car park which was pretty deserted first thing.  Inevitably I arrived first (I’m invariably early because I’m paranoid about being late).  As I sat in the car waiting my compatriots I was feeling a bit less than committed to the prospect of running. Honestly, is there anything more depressing than rain beating down on a car windscreen which you can barely see through because of a near impenetrable fog outside, knowing that sooner or later there will be an expectation you venture out into the cold and gloom and voluntarily engage in physical exertion?  Not much I think.

Since I was early.  I used the time alone with my thoughts to consider whether or not rather than ploughing on with this ludicrous plan of running a marathon, I should rather be ending my running career on a high, and be announcing my retirement. The thing is dear reader. Something unlikely, unbelievable even and amazing has happened. Smiletastic results for week 1 have inexplicably placed me at the top of the leaderboard for individual performance!  I know, who knew? Who saw that coming?  No-one is more astonished than I. For clarification, it is the case that all my individual points were for timed runs, and week one of January offered up two parkruns on New Year’s Day, then the saturday following ‘usual’ parkrun  – other Smilies took advantage of all of these  – but where I snuck in an extra critical 5 points was by marshaling at Graves Junior parkrun, hardly a hardship. I love volunteering there.  Because Smiletastic is designed to be inclusive, you get points for marshaling/ volunteering at organised events, thus, on a technicality, it could be argued that my ‘winning’ status has little to do with running and rather more to do with boisterous high-fiving and directional pointing.  I concede this point entirely, but then again, it is precisely because of this I am most unlikely ever to equal let alone exceed this sporting triumph, greater athletes than I have quit whilst they were ahead.  If I did announce my retirement, I could avoid going out in the wet and cold and spend the morning with dry feet. Worth thinking about.  On the other hand, I do have my Dragonfly team-mates to consider, ‘one for all and all for one’, wouldn’t really want to turn my back on them now…  Only the day before we had been out in force, we mighty dragonflies, segment bagging again, this time round Millhouses park.  It was crazily busy.  Like Piccadily circus with runners hurtling round in all directions, with just as much in the way of illumination as the neon lights of the titular location.  Me and fell-flying Smiley who’d gone down together nearly ended up gate crashing a Totley AC run. Then when we were er hem debriefing afterwards in the Wagon and HorsesWagon and Horses there was a constant to and fro of I think hi-viz Steel City Striders doing intervals on the road outside.  A veritable plague of runners, I wonder how many of them are genuinely hardcore and how many are starting out with the outward confidence of  a newly forged New Year’s Resolutions albeit an inward shudder at the cold?

piccadily circus

Anyway, enough of my digression from the theme … in the event, I couldn’t announce my retirement, because I don’t have a smart phone, and also you can’t really announce anything unless people are listening, and/or are moderately interested in what you have to say and I’m not sure these particular pre-requisites applied in my case.  Maybe it’s like the tree falling in the forest and no-one hearing, does it make a noise dilemma, don’t think that’s been settled yet has it?  Maybe it has.  If only I could be bothered to google it, I’d be so much better informed. Sigh.  Here is a tastefully photographed fallen tree we saw out today at Longshaw (spoiler, you can see I did get out the car), in case you aren’t quite sure what a fallen tree looks like.  I’m going to put it out there that I believe this tree did make a noise when it fell, even though I personally was not on hand to hear it do so.  Not sure if that supports or counteracts my ‘I’m a genius‘ claim earlier.  Oh well.  I’m prepared to risk it.

artistic tree shot

Bottom line.  I’d be running. No retirement yet.

The others arrived, and had soon bounced out of their car, and our designated photographer for the day had us organised us into our ‘before’ selfie.

before shot

Although obviously it was a bit of a worry that this implied there’d be an ‘after’ shot, so we were expected to get out there and run, on the plus side, this recent photo might prove handy for identification persons if any of us were to get lost on them there hills.  Off we went.

I am so used to parking in the Longshaw car park, I headed off down the road leading the others through the fog, dodging cars as best we could. (Yes we were facing oncoming traffic, but it was so foggy).  Our designated photographer jokingly queried whether I was trying to kill her off as she’d done this route with someone else last week, and they took her a different entrance into the estate avoiding the road.  I jokingly brushed it off, inwardly cursing that this perceptive Smiletastic bee had unwittingly seen through my ruse.  Oh well.  There are still 11 weeks to go, and I have to concede she is a companionable running buddy and queen of the collective selfie so worth hanging onto … for now.

We set off (after our precautionary pees without which no run in my training calendar can be undertaken), and our initial plan was to follow the Longshaw Trust 10k route, which I’ve done loads of times before, albeit only once this year.  We started confidently, but very quickly got confused about whether we turned off quite so soon. Maybe it’s because of having to take important phone call on the way round.  Threw me.  Busy, busy, busy.

day at the office

scampering past the lake – it was surprisingly ice-covered, it didn’t actually feel too cold once we were out.

by the lake

Confusingly (for me, but then it doesn’t take much) they have greatly ‘improved’ signage at Longshaw.  I mean they really have, but the proliferation of previously  lacking signs threw me a bit, as they have a pink signed 5k route and I started to wonder if this was the 5k loop for the 10k.  No, none of us had a map, or had thought about the actual route much in advance. Turns out, if there is no marshal doing their directional pointing, then I don’t know where to go, particularly when there are three of us with varying degrees of confidence about the route.  It also shows how I abdicate responsibility for navigation at a marked event.  Not sensible really.  Part of how I managed to come in behind the tail-marker at my first fell race, blithely following signs.  Mind you, gotta love a Wingerworth Wobble, I’ll always have a soft spot for that crowd, go wobblers!

One of our number enthusiastically pointed ahead, we could embrace the adventure, we could head off up them there hills.  It would take us up high, we could yomp, what’s not to like!

Off we went.  Quickly we were out across the road and heading to new horizons, or what might have been new horizons if we could actually see anything very much, which we couldn’t.  However, you know what, it was completely brilliant. Despite my initial apprehension it is always fantastic to get out in the peaks. The area around Longshaw is gorgeous, it’s a different kind of atmospheric beauty in the mist, but you get to feel intrepid and hardcore venturing out and clambering over boulders when it’s like that.  Actual running was a bit tricky because the terrain was rough, the path unclear and it was really slippy in parts – I was wearing my innov8 parkclaw, which are my go-to trail shoes (size 5 if you’d like to sponsor me nice innov8 people), but actually I was wishing I’d got my Irocks on.  Oops, guess that’s blown the free pair of trail shoes from innov8 now, oh well, I daresay it’ll be their loss.  (Slight cough moment).

The thing is, you go out, and you get to see amazing things within just a couple of kilometers, if anything, the mistiness just made everything even more dramatic.

We even stumbled across this mahoosive rock formation which I like to think of as Longshaw’s Uluru (though it’s OK to climb this one, whereas you really, really shouldn’t be scampering around on the Australian original) but think it might actually be Mother Cap at Owler Tor.  Great opportunity for more exploring, scampering, gratuitous photographing and, inevitably, some very fine photobombing.  Had to be done.

Obviously we ran really, really hard in between times, but you can’t take photos when you are pushing yourself that hard, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.  It was an amazing spot. Check out these photos around Owler from a late summer photographer James Grant, pretty impressive are they not?  Any time is a good time to be out there and up high, you feel like you have the whole world to yourself.  Amazing. What the heck, here’s one of his photos, so you get the idea, it’s almost as good as our very own official photographer’s ones I’m sure you’ll agree.

Over-Owler-Tor-Sunset-Peak-District-Photography-1024x684

We found ourselves at one point with a choice between plummeting over the edge of the earth, which must therefore be flat after all, or going off-piste.

over the edge

We went off-piste.  Much scampering, a bit of hesitance, some shrieking, a few near misses and a bit of toing and froing. This is what makes off-road fun.  One of we three amigos was the official photographer (not me), one was our pathfinder and navigator (not me) and then there was me.  I’m not entirely sure what my role was.  Is ballast a role as such or just a state of being.

I did have one anxious moment when, simultaneously, both of my running companions took a tumble.  That raised the horrific possibility for the briefest of moments that I’d have to be the ‘responsible adult’ whilst my broken, fallen, crumpled and unconscious running buddies lay contorted in a heap together.  I did at least have a phone with me, and I know to call mountain rescue, but I don’t think I’d have been too good with instructions.  ‘What can you see?’ they might say ‘mist‘ I’d reply.  ‘Anything else?’ they’d prompt hopefully ‘ice-covered puddles and rocks‘ I’d add.  I was minded of a time (true story) when I worked in an open plan office.  A young recruit was driving to a venue she’d not been to before with a colleague, pre sat nav, they were lost on a motorway so rang the office for help with directions. As they had no idea where they were exactly, the person taking the call asked ‘what can you see?’ the reply they got ‘We’re following a volvo and there’s a lorry on the inside lane‘  I have never heard the team of an open plan office guffaw as one so loudly before or since.  It was quite a moment.  Even better, the caller heard us, and added ‘what are you laughing at?’  I reckon all those swivel chairs had to be professionally cleaned after that…

Anyways, panic over, they were fine, we ran onwards:

I tried to trick my buddies into a dragonflies wings pose, but it didn’t quite work, it’s hard this stealth dragonfly insertion strategy.  Surely some credit for effort.  The mist started to lift and as we descended the scenery changed again.  It was still a bit treacherous underfoot, with some ice patches.  I did slide about a bit, but as I explained to the others I’d be fine about my moment of demise being up there, and more than content to be just rolled into a ditch or whatever.  The timing would guarantee that my obituary could truthfully state that I was leading the field for the demanding Smiletastic challenge giving a huge implied truth that it was inevitable I’d have won it overall had I but lived, plus, I’m already on record as wanting the Khmer version of achy-breaky heart played at my funeral, or if I don’t have a funeral, at any associated wake.  It’s not so much of a niche offering as you might think. Very popular at the Olympic Stadium early morning workouts in Phnom Penh.  I know, educational this blog post is it not?

We descended, back onto the road, we didn’t hitch a lift, even though that’s what it looks like we were trying to do.  I’m not sure about my hat?  It’s a trust 10 one, but maybe a bit much other than for when actually doing the Longshaw 10k do you think?  Comfy, and stays put.  Very pink though.  Why is everything pink?

hitching a ride

Across the road, back into the Longshaw estate, where there was a fine waterfall.

Bit of a heave-ho in parts, but I was after miles on the legs rather than speed. I’ve only just got back into running (I use the term loosely) after various niggles and lack of routine) so I have a terror of getting injured.  Walking is grand for getting strength back. Apparently, if you run the load on your calves is about 8 – 12 times your body weight, but if you walk it’s just about twice.  To be fair, I have no idea if these figures are correct, but they ring true. My calves are the Achilles heel of my running, which is weird, as the achilles is somewhere else entirely. Still, you get my point I’m sure, or wont especially care if you don’t.  Bottom line, I want to take it slowly, and build up my distances without breaking anything other than involuntary wind during my training regime.  Any runner who claims never to have broken that when running is either a medical curiosity who should be euthanized and dissected for the greater good, or lying. You choose. Anyway, it wasn’t only me walking, though I do concede the hands on hips pose is somewhat petulant…

where now

We ended up looping round and coming in near to the fox house pub.  We still hadn’t done the 10k route though,  even though we’d been out ages, so after much debate, we agreed we’d add that on.

any which way you can

We had one wrong turn – oops, but got there in the end.  It was grand.  It is really remarkable how the landscape changes in what is a relatively short route.  We had woodland bits, and heather bits, and boggy bits, and heather bits.   All good.  You can see we were all complete naturals in front of the camera.

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I took a pause for dry-stone walling tutorial. There is a team doing amazing work rebuilding these, some of the walls on the estate go back about 400 years apparently, though this one is ‘only ‘ about 150 years old.  Looking good.   Repairing them is most definitely a labour of love, but imagine the satisfaction of getting those walls back up for maybe another 150 years of service. Quite a legacy.

dry stone walling tutorial

Also on our ‘to do’ list for the day. Yes we did have one. Was to go up the steps spotted on a previous run, and check out the view from the top. The steps are towards the end of teh 5k lap of the Trust 10k.  Embarrassingly I’d not particularly noticed these before – obviously running too fast and too focused on the finish.  But they are enticing… steep but with a pretty little tree towards the top.

steps gorgeous

Up we went.  You basically hit the road the other side, but turn around and look back from whence you came, and you get this:

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Really stunning. Also good for posing for shots so brace yourself people, here we are doing are very own version of the Barbary Lane steps of San Francisco.  Oh and a random non step photo just because I like it. See if you can tell which one it is.

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And so after the steps, it was back onto the main path, through the gate and we were soon back at Fox House.  Yomping concluded. The original plan had been to have a coffee here afterwards, but time ran out so we will have to save ourselves for next time. This is where we went by the way, about 12km in total I think, just under maybe:

misty longshaw strava route

Not strictly speaking a recreation of the Trust 10k, but pretty darned fabulous, and way better for achieving both a spontaneous bit of exploration as well as near enough one 5k loop of the 10k which is all that was required really.  Great to be reminded of what is on our doorstep, must make the effort to get out exploring it more all over again.

Oh yes, nearly forgot, here is the mandatory ‘after’ shot.  We did it, we ran, we conquered, made it onto Strava as well, everyone’s a winner.

after shot

So back on it.  I need to embrace those trails.  I recognise I will get wet feet, and never again see the natural skin colour around my toes, or for quite  a way up my legs too if you take the real extent of peat-stained splash back into account – but I consider this but a small price to pay for such adventures in the mist.

There you go, misterious joys of running demystified.  You’re welcome.

See you on the moors.  Unless you see me first.  Obviously.

 

 

Thanks Carol Speight for the photos, and thank you running buddies both. We are all awesome.  Evidently!

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