Monthly Archives: October 2015

Bushy Parkrun Pilgrimage

People don’t always seem to fully appreciate just how much time went into getting my body into the state it is right now.  I’ve been in possession of most of it for more than fifty years (teeth a bit less) and so that’s five decades of succumbing to the temptation of cake and not voluntarily engaging in exercise because it looks like it might drizzle later and I wouldn’t want to be caught out by that.  It does seem that, regrettably, you reap what you sow health wise,  so now I’m trying to remedy things with embarking on this new-fangled running craze and other fitness experiments.  I do want to lose weight and improve stamina, but sadly lack will power to spontaneously exercise as often as I should and what’s more I am easily distracted by delights like last night’s packet of McCoy crisps with a tub of houmous, yum.  (What do you mean a tub isn’t a portion size?  That’s ridiculous!)  Hence, progress is slow, and a boost is sometimes needed.   Some opt for detox fasts and other such extreme measures, I prefer a less punishing approach.  What I felt was needed was a pilgrimage. A reconnection with my inner runner.  The moral and spiritual home of parkrun was calling out to me.  I would journey to the shrine that is spoken of in a reverential hush by serious parkrunners, I would get myself to Bushy Parkrun where it all began.

bushy parkrun

So, dear reader, last Saturday found me joining the throngs at Bushy parkrun.  Well, it was a bit like that.  Actually, I was in the area anyway so thought I’d trot round, and I have been a fair few times before, but I like to big it up a bit.  After all, Bushy parkrun does have a particular significance in the history of the phenomenon that is parkrun, it is where it all began and if there were any justice in the world then those of us who have made the effort to incorporate this destination into our parkrun Progresses Tourism trips ought to get some sort of indulgence for having done so.  Something modest would suffice.  I don’t know, maybe a few seconds shaved off your personal best say, a couple of pounds off the midriff (or body part of your choosing) and at the very least a bit more respect from your home Parkrun buddies on your return.  That seems only reasonable.  Otherwise something that marks you out as having made the pilgrimage might suffice like, erm, a facial tattoo  That would work.  And providing the tattooing service at the finish would make a welcome change from scanning all those barcodes for the volunteers.  How hard could it be?

Personally though, I was thinking along the lines of some reverential recognition that I have seen sights of which others have only dreamt, and experienced first hand the hallowed ground of Bushy Park.   In joining the throng of nigh on a thousand other runners I have after all been temporarily within the beating heart which is the origin of Parkrun. – even inhaled the sweat of those for whom Bushy is their home patch – surely a higher order of beings?    I have passed through the mysterious ‘double funnel’ that is unique to Bushy, emerging the other end inevitably changed by the experience as if reborn. Taking part is surely like undergoing some sort of rite of passage, right up there with getting a parkrun milestone T-shirt?    Engagement with parkrun can no longer  be characterised as a whim or a crush, oh no, by pounding the trails at Bushy Park at 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I have demonstrated this is for real.  A little kudos by association is all I’m asking for, Bushy parkrun stardust brushing off on me, I’ll never wash my running top again…. Well, that’s how it should be in my parallel universe at least, the reality hasn’t so far borne this expectation out to be honest.  Maybe people are just to too much in awe of my voyage of literal and metaphorical self-discovery they don’t like to mention it?  I myself have been known to clam up on meeting my idols – remind me to tell you about when I met Tony Benn sometime.  You will weep at the tale.

So, here’s what it was actually like.  A lovely day, bit nippy, so I headed out early to walk to the park.  It is in all seriousness a stunning location.  The Royal Parks are gorgeous as the trees are turning into the full spectrum of autumn colours, and it is amazing the wildlife you see.  There are ENORMOUS stags with full antlers on patrol.  These creatures are massive, and not to be messed with in the rutting season.  They have been known to stray onto the double funnel tracks at the finish, though as far as I know the one pictured below hadn’t got a barcode so probably didn’t get a time on this occasion.  (Staggering that some still haven’t grasped that ‘no barcode no official time’ really is non-negotiable no matter the size of your antlers…)

Warren Nolan photo August 2015

Warren Nolan photo August 2015

The walk through the park to the start is lovely, but it is also a bit surreal.  Have you ever seen the opening sequence of the Americanised version of 101 Dalmatians?  You know the one, it’s set in London but there are skunks and raccoons cavorting about.  Well, Bushy Park has an element of that.  You see and hear large numbers of screeching bright green parakeets.  They are so ubiquitous and naturalised they are just part of the landscape here now, but they are still incongruous.  squawking tropical birds flying overhead. The other sight that is bizarre, are the huge motionless carp in the waterways that hang suspended in the shallow water visible from one particular bridge I cross en route to the start.  They are a legacy from the days when you won goldfish as prizes at fairs.  There used to be one held regularly  at Hampton Court Green nearby, children returning home through Bushy Park would often be clutching a veritable shoal of goldfish gasping in little plastic bags.  Not sure quite what to do with them, they would sometimes liberate the poor creatures in the waterways of the park.  Most presumably perished, but a few hardy specimens not only survived but flourished.  They are massive torpedo like creatures, pretty uniform in size, easily over a foot and a half long, and grey and weathered rather than bright gold, but still impressive.  It’s weird with non-native species, they shouldn’t be there, and they will play havoc with natural ecosystems, but these have survived against the odds, and I admit I do like to see them.  They must be pretty ancient now.

So after taking in nature’s bounty on my way, the next hazard was to make sure I wasn’t swept up inadvertently in one of the many British Military Fitness (other outdoor boot camps are available) sessions that were about to commence.  Running is bad enough, I didn’t want to be made to do press-ups and burpees in a tabard as well.  Bushy Park on a Saturday morning seems to be not only a mecca for Parkrunners, but for any other manifestation of violent physical exercise you can imagine.   I have said before that the arrival of people for a parkrun always makes me think of that scene in Close Encounters where silently people assemble at a particular time and place  as if compelled to do so by an invisible force.  Whilst this is true of all parkruns I think, it is especially noticeable at Bushy Park.  Hundreds of people emerge from the trees and mist and start to gather, it’s very weird.  Part of the gathering is by the loos.

I am a bit of a pro where the precautionary pee is concerned, so head straight to the ladies.  My prior knowledge of this location really comes into its own here.  Whilst the facilities are really good, an actual building with lots of cubicles near to the start, you still have to take care.  There is one particular cubical at the end that is missing a panel at the side.  This isn’t obvious until you are in situ so to speak, and it can have an arresting affect on your rate of flow when you are positioned in all your glory and suddenly feel like you are on display to the world.  In fact, people queuing directly outside can’t really see in, because the missing panel is quite low, but when you are stiing down you can see everyone outside so it really does feel exposed.  I prefer to avoid it.  So that’s a top tip for you if you are heading off to Bushy parkrun for yourself.  There is probably similar insider information available regarding etiquette in the gents, but I didn’t check that out, you’ll have to make that voyage of discovery for yourself!

Start line address, October 215 - picture taken from Bushy Parkrun Flickr feed

Start line address, October 215 – picture taken from Bushy Parkrun Flickr feed

So, eventually, I made it to the start line.  It is like being at a proper organised race here, there are serious logistics in operation.  An army of hi-viz marshalls, and the race director gives an address with a microphone, speakers held aloft by volunteers elsewhere.  It has the feel of a cross between a school assembly and an open air political rally.  A community coming together for a common cause.  Because I’m short, and placed myself towards the back, I couldn’t make out entirely what was going on.   Despite the size of the crowd, it was a fairly personal introduction.  People were congratulated on the previous week’s milestones; some of that days runners were picked out for applause.  Volunteers thanked – I think there was probably a mention of the Alzheimers ‘Donate your time’ project, which is an ace initiative.  I clapped when it felt appropriate.  Which wasn’t always correct.  There was one point when the race director asked for the following people to come forward to collect something, and assuming it was some sort of local prize giving I clapped dutifully – only to subsequently realise that this wasn’t people being awarded trophies, but rather miscreants, who had carelessly lost their barcodes on previous runs being reunited with them.  Oh well, you live and learn.

After the speeches, the stampede.  It was a bit of a free for all, you start on even grass, between a wide avenue of trees, but quite quickly you converge on a narrower path. You have to either risk the scrum of the bottle neck, or bound across the multitude of mole hills – strictly speaking I think they are ant hills, they are, solid, ancient, and everywhere, and pretty challenging.  I opted for the latter, it takes a good kilometre to even out the field, but I quite like the uneven terrain, it feels like you are in the great outdoors and it’s a sort of mini-adventure.  The event was well marshalled, no pacers this week, but they do have them with some frequency.  Here though I noticed there were a lot more runners with dogs on those waist leads – you know the ones, they drag the runner along at phenomenal speeds.  There are also a large number of what I term ‘Thunder Buggies’  all – terrain  two seaters which you can hear bearing down on you from metres behind, sometimes with a small child inside shouting encouragement (instruction) to their pushers ‘faster, faster!’  I did my best to keep out of the way of them.  The one thing that Bushy parkrun has that seems a less desirable anomaly, is that there are also a fair few very small kids on bikes.  They seem to whizz about rather randomly.  You know what happens to a balloon if you blow it up and then let it go without tying the end?  How they shoot off at speed in unpredictable ways, well it was a bit like that.   Still, good for the reflexes I suppose.

This route suits me, not for speed – it’s a slow one because of the crowds, and in my case because I don’t run very fast anyway, but I really like that you go through such lovely parkland and can take in the deer, and trees and everything else that surrounds you.  It is also just one loop, which I find much easier than being ‘made to do it all again’ like failed homework, which is how I sometimes feel on my two laps home run.  The conversations around me are quality.  People chatting about future running plans, hilariously (to me) moans at ‘the hill’!  There really isn’t a hill, I’m not sure there’s even a slope, a teensy weensy incline maybe, but that would be pushing it. These people will be in a shock if they ever come to Sheffield. city of hills and pathological friendliness.

I felt like part of an in-crowd when I recognised one of the marshals, and was recognised back getting a special wave and shout of encouragement.  I make a point of always thanking marshals, generally runners do I think, but I like that if you make a point of saying ‘Thank you marshal’ loudly enough, you trigger a chorus of other ‘thank yous’ in your wake.  It is very pleasing, if a bit goody two-shoes for some.  As an aside, I’ve heard tell that Richmond parkrun doesn’t have (any?) or at any rate many marshals for some reason.  I heard from someone who did volunteer as a marshal there, that he didn’t get much acknowledgement at all.  This seems very wrong to me.   Runners out there, hail your marshals, (and whilst I’m about it, cough up donations in lieu of free photos for the TenTenTen and think about donating your time for Alzheimer’s too, it’s a way of paying back for the gratis pleasure of Parkrun week after week.)  I was shocked by the Richmond tale if true.  Those people would struggle in Sheffield where you can be tutted off a bus if you fail to thank the driver on disembarking.  I guess it’s the anonymity of city living made manifest in the park…  Culture shock is inevitable if you travel I suppose.  On the other hand, in the interests of balance, I have also heard that Richmond parkrun is organised a bit differently from other runs, everyone follows behind a bike, so there isn’t the same culture of marshals around. This being so, perhaps the runners are a bit confused when they see them.  Much like if you were to spot a unicorn or a leprechaun out running, you might be quite chuffed and delighted to see such a precious rarity, but you wouldn’t necessarily know immediately what to say (see Tony Benn reference above), so let’s give them all the benefit of the doubt.  I’ll go and see for myself one day.

So back to Bushy parkrun.  Favourite overheard conversation today was when I found myself amongst a group of people who were running together.  One was obviously more serious than the others, kitted out with a Garmin (or whatever) and telling tales of races and duathlons and triathlons past and pending.  With him was a guy of similar age who at a guess was doing his first parkrun.  I strongly suspect he’d underestimated how hard it would be and he was definitely struggling to maintain a conversation whilst his mate chatted away companionably (or in this case possibly competitively), but he wasn’t going to back down and slacken his pace.  There were some others in the gang too, it all looked good-humoured and bonding.  Then, at the 4 km mark (a particular big tree is a clue, that and the chorus of mechanical beeps ticking off the route on other runners various gizmos as they go by).  The ‘serious’ runner, began to say ‘Right 4 km, our exact time is and our kph rate is ..’  he was cut dead by a chorus of  ‘nos’!  ‘we don’t want to hear!’  For me this sort of encapsulates the continuum of parkrun participants, the puffing rounders, the statisticians, and the ‘I’ll just do my own thing’ runners – there is room for us all!  The statistician and the human interest runners perhaps represent the yin and yan of the parkrun community.

So course completed, through a crowded finish line and in to the double funnel, which I find unfathomable still, even after nearly a dozen outings to Bushy.  You just have to trust it.  It is perhaps the eighth wonder of the world – or in any event it ought to be.  I was quickly scanned and that’s was that for another morning.  I passed the finish on my way out of the park, and clapped a few returners back.  I felt a pang of conscience for my mean-spiritedness about the kids on trikes.  An exhausted looking woman pushing a double buggy with one occupant, had another small child on a bike at her side, and they were hammering towards the finish, she calling encouragement to them both.  It was truly inspirational.  Of course parkrun should be as inclusive as it can – lawks a lordy, it’s made room for me after all!

I love parkrun, I really do.  Even better when combined with stag sightings, it’s like an urban safari, you should see the packs of photographers with their telephoto lenses queuing up to get shots of the really majestic males posing in the bracken.  They are a sight to behold as much as their quarry.   Got to be worth the effort of getting up on a Saturday morning to take in all that.  Thank you Bushy parkrun for your hospitality.  You may be the Mecca of the parkrun community, but you have retained your integrity, inclusiveness and ability to extend a welcome to tourists and regulars alike!

Maxwell Hamilton photo 11/2013

Maxwell Hamilton photo 11/2013

So til next time, wonder where parkrun tourism will take me next…

Oh, and as to whether or not this parkrun pilgrimage has delivered up fitness benefits through my reconnecting with my inner runner, well it remains to be seen.  It was great to be there, and would be something to tell wide-eyed off-spring one day if I actually had any issue to inflict such stories on, never mind, I’ll have to settle with accosting random strangers like that ancient mariner – worked for him  – or maybe I should I keep a running blog!  That might work…

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

Going hardcore

Brrrr, really unappealing outside today, the clocks have changed, and it’s been foggy all day.  By evening, I was less than enthusiastic about venturing out in the dank and dark to work on improving my fitness at the squash club.  Unfortunately, my naturally conscientious streak kicked in, I’d already texted our pathologically positive fitness instructor (you know who you are) to say I would be going, and so therefore go I would have to, and it being Tuesday, it would be a hard core destination – abs and core work, the joy of anticipation that engulfed me is too hard to express ….

flapper exercise

The car park was pitch dark when I arrived.    I’d sort of forgotten that it would be – that’s the difference it makes with the clocks having changed.  The last couple of weeks when I’ve parked up it’s been just dusk, and if you pick the right spot to park overlooking the rugby pitches, you get this extraordinary spectacle of  starlings swarming – apparently, it’s called a murmuration of starlings by the way, what a brilliant word – I challenge you to drop that into conversation casually in the next week.  They carry out this amazing airborne acrobatic choreography at dusk, it is a marvel to observe.  I haven’t really seen it so clearly before, and although the flock isn’t as huge as they can be in some places, it’s still pretty impressive, so I like to get there a bit ahead of my class to watch that happening.

I also see other things in the gloaming  Last week I was quite spooked.  There were a couple of looming shapes on the grass that looked for all the world like dumped bodies with tarpaulin draped over them – to be fair, they may well have been exactly that, I didn’t bother venturing out of the car to go and give them a prod with my toe or anything.  They say it’s best to hide things in plain sight, so on reflection seems reasonable to say that’s definitely what they were.   I don’t know if they were still here this week, because it was so dark.  Last week someone was also exercising a dog out there, ostensibly doing some sort of recall training, but I have a suspicion he did a massive dump in the middle of the pitch (the dog not the owner) whilst he was about it, not realising he was observed.  Oh well, Rugby players probably like that kind of thing if their reputation for preferred partying antics is anything to go by.

Anyway, I digress,  I ended up parked up a bit early, so I thought I’d sit in my car listening to the radio for a bit rather than go in too soon and stand about awkwardly in reception waiting for the class to start.  After a couple of minutes I got the fright of my life.  A passer by knocked on my car window.  He was smartly suited complete with tie and matching handkerchief in his breast coat pocket, a real gentleman’s outfit.  He’d seen me slumped over the driving wheel, head in my hands, and wanted to check I was OK.  I thought that was quite public spirited and genuine of him actually, even though if that got my heart rate more elevated than any of the subsequent excursion.  I decided waiting in the car wasn’t the greatest of my ideas, and headed to the gym.

It was quite jolly, because I found another regular, who I recognised,  had just gone in ahead of me.  The studio was so completely black it was like entering a darkroom.  We shrieked with nervous laughter, trying to find the light switch without dislodging walls of weights and balance balls onto the floor (though actually, that would have been quite fun too).  After a bit, the lights now on, it dawned on us that we were the only two of the normally heaving class who’d turned up (half term week?).  Our nervousness was heightened as our upbeat instructor bounced in Tigger like, seeing the opportunity potential for a more focused and vigorous session than usual, this week there would be no hiding place.   Her optimism is boundless, hope over experience for her, every time, there is no position we cannot adopt, no move we will not attempt, no routine we cannot do.  Can we do it?  Yes we can!!

yoga pose

I don’t look like this by the way, I’ve got more of a moustache for a start.

In fact, the session was hilarious, hard work, but good fun.  We did some of the usual stuff with the steps (I’m always a bit hesitant about these, because someone I once worked with broke her ankle really badly falling off a step in a step-aerobics class – no really), then she came up with ideas for new exercises and routines in response to requests.  My exercise partner wanted to use the free weight bars.  I don’t know what their proper name is.  But they look like the sort of cane a tap dancer would use, except when you pick them up they have the effect on me that kryptonite has on Superman.  They are just insanely heavy for their size.  We had to do a load of exercises with them which ought to have been really simple, but actually seemed impossible.  One was just lying on your back with your feet on the floor, knees bent, and then you’d have your arms up above your head on the floor stretched out behind you holding the bar, and you had to do a kind of crunch/sit up thing keeping the bar raised above your head.  I honestly felt like my hands and arms had been nailed to the floor behind me, it was insane.  I thought I might end up left there beached for all eternity.   It really demonstrated, in a profoundly depressing way, new muscular inadequacies of which I was previously unaware.  The other one we did that really made me laugh, was a sort of stretching one.  You ‘simply’ had to lie on your back on the floor (so not all bad, we got to do quite a bit of lying down) and then move your bottom so it was hard against the wall, with your legs at right angles also against the wall above you.  If you have never tried this, you would not believe how difficult it is just to get into that position, though once you are in it, you get a really nice hamstring stretch, I liked that.   Then we just had to let our legs drop outwards, still against the wall into a wide V-shape (not glamorous) again, a really good stretch.  I liked less having to raise our hips up with our feet still flat on the wall over our heads as I thought I was going to be asphyxiated by my own stomach and bust smothering my face.  I just didn’t feel that was quite the sort of breathlessness that I’d signed up for when I joined the class.

Anyway, I will admit I laughed a lot, and felt like I’d had a good workout by the end.  It is a bit of a shame about the corpses on the pitch outside, but then again, perhaps that’s just seasonally appropriate with Halloween only a few short days away, you have to embrace some of those seasonal celebrations or winter will just seem unending.

Don’t have nightmares…


Categories: fitness class, motivation | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Physio, physio, let’s get physio, let me hear your body talk la la la ….

So my body today was talking Oompa Loompa or possibly Jumbly (as in one of The Jumblies) and it was saying it would quite like to follow up on getting that physio check up that I flirted with having after the run on Sunday.Jumblies

This particular choice of fictional characters (I don’t think either really appeared first in  documentaries, but you can never quite tell these days) is because of my wardrobe choices.  I was ridiculously nervous about going to see a physiotherapist, and didn’t know what to wear.  He might need access to all (relevant) areas, and I’d need to be mobile, so sports kit required.  I only have a limited repertoire of running gear (you may already have noticed that, I have to concede not all the photos in this blog were taken on the same day, but they do have a strangely familiar look to them I know), and most of that is now in the wash, following five consecutive days of running/ exercise classes.  Rummaging around I pull out some Ronhill shorts and a matching top.  These are very comfortable to wear, but sadly look a bit shite.  They are exceedingly purple and green, and the shorts/short-sleeve top combo rather accentuates (not in a good way) my apple shape.  I definitely look like a cross between an Oompa Loompa and a Jumbly, sort of like the bastard child of an unseemly coupling.  That was my suspicion anyway when I glanced in the mirror on exiting the house, and this insight was confirmed to me with photographic evidence later in the day.  Still, I’m jumping ahead of myself  I decided I’d just have to hope that the physiotherapist was sufficiently professional to pretend not to notice.  Hopefully he will have seen worse, or if he hasn’t, not let on.

I’ve never seen a physio before  – well not strictly true, I did see an amazing physio who helped me get  my wrist mobile again in the aftermath of  a really nasty ferret attack (no really, but another story), and a really terrible one after I broke my knee as well – what I really mean, is that  I haven’t seen a physiotherapist other than in the context of a really specific injury, so wasn’t sure what to expect from yesterday’s appointment.

I phoned the clinic first thing, and found out they did actually have a free appointment the same day, I asked how to prepare, and was told that in an introductory appointment they’ll take a basic history and look at any immediate concerns that might be bothering me.  It turned out that  I had a couple of hours free to think about all my many biomechanical concerns. This is basically a licence for complete hypochondria.  There is of course the immediate worry around the numbness in my leg; but I find once I get going with thinking about all those niggles that I’ve always wondered if I should get checked out, I probably would need a week long residential consultation to get through it  rather than the 30 minute slot actually available.  My mind rushes from ailment to ailment.  Should I mention that I have that weird asymmetrical toe-turning in gait thing I do, which I think contributes to me falling over whenever I start to tire running?  I’ll have to explain about my hobbit feet and arthritis obviously, but I’d also love to know if my range of movement in my shoulder is normal.  It’s never felt the same since I fell off a horse a few months ago, and I can only sleep on one side these days because of it.

Being invited to contemplate my physiological frailties also induces a heightened level of paranoia about my body’s inadequacies.  Frankly, when I come to think about it, I can’t fathom how I manage to potter about my flat in safety, let alone leave the house to voluntarily engage in physical activity of any kind.  I am now thinking that the question I really, really want to ask  is: ‘will my body disintegrate on impact as my foot hits the ground whilst out running one day?‘ that’s what it feels like sometimes – is that usual?

hobbit feet

I aimed to arrive a few minutes early, but when I did, the shop was actually shut.  It doesn’t open until 2.00 on a Monday, which is my appointment time.  So I waited outside and the physiotherapist arrived also. He looked a bit taken aback, that I’d reappeared so soon.  Does he think I’m stalking him? I was clutching my scrunched up piece of paper with the discount code and looking oompa-loompa like and self-conscious – perhaps it’s that look that made him start rather than me as such – you know the phrase ‘she looked a fright’?  Well, perhaps I startled him.

The shop proprietor came charging back from the post office up the road, and let us in.  I asked to use the loo, which is, for the record, very swanky indeed.  A huge basket of coloured towels and a large selection of trail running magazines catch my eye.  It is also massive (the room, not eh toilet as such). I could have kept myself occupied in there for ages, the only negative bit of feedback, would be that the mirror has clearly been put up by some sort of long legged running giant.  It is so high up on the wall, that I can only see my eyebrows in it, no chance of checking for spinach between my teeth let alone noting and correcting any wardrobe issues.  I wonder what it would be like to live at that altitude as your normal point of reference, how strange the world must seem…

So, onto the consultation, I take off my over-trousers and reveal my jumbly outfit and pale little hairy legs.  I think too late that maybe I should have epilated or depilated or dilapidated or whatever it is you are supposed to do to achieve smooth skinned perfection – before coming.  I can see little indentations in my knees where I fell over in the grit on Sunday, and my plate like feet with their uneven nails, arthritic swellings and battered post-run appearance are not the vision of loveliness that I might have wished for.  They don’t get seen in public very often, and for good reason.

I don’t know what the rules are regarding the sanctuary of the consultation room, we all know about client confidentiality, but I don’t know so much about practitioner confidentiality. I’ve only got positive things to say, but wouldn’t want to breach good manners by over-sharing.  Then again – who reads this, and my pact with me is to be honest in this blog, positive but honest.  So I’ll cover what I would like to know if someone was telling me about what to expect at their first sports physio appointment.  Angst ridden naivety and all.

In factual terms the consultation begins with a bit of a history, when I basically spout on about my many aches, pains concerns, previous breakages etc.  I acknowledge that there isn’t time to address everything, so we agree to focus on my ‘injury’ (numb leg) and peculiar gait.  I call it peculiar, he tactfully keeps rephrasing this in terms like  ‘your natural way of going’ or something equally non-judgemental.  He does quite well at keeping a straight face throughout to be honest.  Maybe he’s become slightly desensitised to the sorts of things that people tell him in the intimacy of being squashed together sat on a treatment table in a windowless room.  He struggled a bit when I told him that when I was very little (another true story) some doctor somewhere picked up on a problem with my feet, and for a couple of years I was made to wear my shoes on the wrong feet to straighten them out.  It was insanity in my view, akin to foot binding in China (actually not really no, that’s probably a bit insulting to those maimed by that practise, but you get the diea).  I’ve always wondered whether that was the cause of a lot of my problems later on (foot wise, not in relation to wider heartbreak or personal inadequacies).  However, even then, his professional loyalty kicked in and he said something diplomatic like ‘I think approaches have probably changed a bit since then, but it may have had some perceived merit at the time’. 

There was some diagnostic stretching of legs and pushing against him in various angles.  The numb leg thing is probably related to overuse (I know, I’ll take that as a badge of honour) and really I could help myself a lot by using a foam roller for stretching it out properly to sort of re-set.  For me though the most interesting thing was getting him to look at my feet and my gait.  He was professional enough not to laugh at my feet, and to describe them in factual terms, but he did a couple of tests that were fascinating to me.  One involved just standing on the floor in my bare feet (frankly I found even that quite hard if I thought about it too much) and then he just gently tried to lift my big toe upwards a bit.  It didn’t move.  Now, this isn’t surprising to me at all, since that is where I have the arthritis and my big toe joints  are  pretty much fused straight like they’ve been splinted.  I’ve never really been able to move that joint much, but what was astonishing, is that apparently this isn’t normal!  Most people can upwardly flex their big toe a bit, and this news was a complete revelation for me.  I’m longing to subtly bring the conversation around to this topic now with my friends, so I can get them to show me their amazingly mobile toe joints.  I couldn’t have been more astonished if he’d told me that everyone else in the whole world can rotate their head through 360 degrees and it’s only me that can’t.

The other party trick which he could perform, but I couldn’t do at all, and which I really hope you are all going to go away and try, involved a demonstration of flexibility in the calf (hamstrings I guess).  Basically, you just stand with your toe pointing at a wall, but a couple of inches away from it.  All you have to do is try and bend your knee forward over the toe to try and touch the wall.  You do one leg at a time, the other one you just have a bit further back, or you can have a go at doing it on one leg like I did when I got home, and see whether you tend to fall over sideways or forwards in the attempt.  If you are trying this at home, please do remember that I am not medically qualified, and nor am I necessarily very accurate in describing things, but I’d be surprised if you didn’t have a good laugh in the attempt even if there is no particular benefit or insight to be gained from you experimenting in this way.

The last part of the discussion involved me first walking, and then running on the shop treadmill, so the physio could film my gait on his mobile phone and then play it back to me.  He promised to delete it later, but I’m honestly not too worried about that, is there really an online fetish site that would be interested in such footage?  Even if there is, I don’t think my weird shuffles are going to get a lot of hits.  It was quite interesting/depressing to see how I walk/run.  I do turn my toes in quite a lot when I walk, but when I run I’m very much on my toes, which apparently might be what contributes to my tendency for calf pain, because of where the impact is taken.  I have to admit though that what dismayed me most was seeing the sideways shots.  Instead of filming just my feet, he’d got me from the waist down.  Not a flattering look, let’s just say I’ll never be able to wear my oompa loompa outfit again, not until I’ve lost about 2 stone of tummy fat anyway.

It is worth mentioning that at intervals, the door of the consultation room, which was a bit flimsy and didn’t really shut properly would be shoved open.  Once ajar, a wide eyed brindle coated dog would peer round politely.  I didn’t get the name of the dog, but it was just seeking companionship.  It obviously knew it wasn’t allowed in, but the temptation of knowing that there were two people behind the door while s/he was all alone on the other side was obviously too much to bear.  Hangdog expression doesn’t really cover it, the head only edged through hopefully, the physio got up each time and re-shut the door, leaving the dog outside.  However, as we were finishing our chat, sorry, ‘professional medical consultation’, we didn’t quite close the door properly ourselves.  Seeing his/her moment, the dog edged over the threshold.  Then did that ‘I know I’m invisible’  routine that dogs sometimes do.  Creeping stealthily around the perimeter of the room, body crouched low (great flexibility and strength too now I come to think of it)  before finally taking refuge under the treatment table and peering out at us pleadingly.  Such a very sweet dog, it seemed harsh to have to evict him/her all over again.  (The photo is not the actual dog by the way, just a ‘licensed for reuse’ one from bing search, but it’s sort of similar-ish)

brindle dog

So then that was that really.  I think the main message for me is that I do need to take stretching a bit more seriously, and that in terms of my way of going it is going to be hard to change that because I can’t fight my genetic inheritance.  He said he’d study the footage a bit more and look at emailing me some suitable exercises, and that I probably would benefit from a further appointment. This first one being more about diagnosis and discussion than commencing treatments as such.  The other message from the day was to keep my purple and green shorts and top combo for fancy dress parties rather than for going out running in public in future (he didn’t actually tell me that, I just worked that out by myself).  But I think I knew that already really, that’s why it was at the bottom of my wardrobe!

Seeing a physiotherapist did feel like a bit of an extravagance, but then again I am at an age where I think it is legitimate to invest in my longer term health, and I did feel like I got access to a knowledgeable professional with expertise that could definitely help me.  I came away reassured rather than transformed, but that was helpful in itself and a perfectly reasonable outcome from a 30 minute consultation.

Modesty, and lack of a phone with a camera feature, mean no selfies on this occasion.  However it was pretty much exactly like the image below:

L0034590 Japanese Scroll, techniques for Physiotherapy Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Japanese Scoll Watercolour 19th Century Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

L0034590 Japanese Scroll, techniques for Physiotherapy
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Japanese Scoll
19th Century Published: –
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Categories: physiotherapy, running, sports massage | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Community Kicks

Serendipity brought me this opportunity.  Someone I met on an activity holiday in Northumberland (go Northern Bootcamp) turned out to live quite near to me in Sheffield, and she tipped me off about this completely brilliant community exercise class.  It’s just one pound, one-hundred pennies £1 – absolute bargain.  That is what got me heading over to Heeley (see the punning there?) to get my community kicks.

Outside Heeley Institute

This weekly class is subsidised by some sort of community health initiative I think.  I do know that the first time I went (just last week) there were quite a few forms to fill in which made me really wish I’d brought my glasses with me.  I was bit worried that I wasn’t strictly eligible as I’m not within the Heeley postcode area, and nor am I an ‘older Asian Woman’ which was the target demographic.  The woman from the council who set it all up a few weeks ago had rolled up to see how it was going, and she was of the view the more the merrier, and said not to worry about being out of area.  That’s good.  It can be tiring generating false identities.  Trust me, I know.  I was a mystery shopper for a while (really boring, I thought I’d be going off shopping at boutique independent stores or eating at high end restaurants, instead I just had to keep phoning telephone help lines to ask for financial advice or bank loans) this meant I had to come up with lots of false names and addresses so they I could fool the call operative that I was a ‘real’ person, and it was an absolute pain.  It’s quite nice to be able to truthfully be me, even if I still have no idea what my own phone number is and have to look it up every time.  Not very convincing I know.

The class is held in a community hall over in Heeley and it’s really pretty good.  Large arched windows let in lots of natural light and it’s been recently painted.  I associated community halls with sticky floors and disintegrating plaster work, but this is nothing like that.  It is perhaps a little tattered at the edges, but pre-loved rather than shabby.  Having said that, there a few niggles.  Last week there was no proper music for our class due to the power not working. This week when I arrived there was a maintenance man in evidence.  He was there to put up a clock, but fixed the power too whilst he was there.   The interruption in power supply was caused by a twig pushed into a power socket apparently, it’s hard to fathom how that happened.   Kids playgroup perhaps, a small crawling child unable to access a metal pin improvised with nature’s bounty instead?  Or wanton vandalism?  Another mystery.

On arrival, we sign a register (postcodes etc were all given last week alongside legthy form on everything from mental health to reasons for exercise having been completed last week) a small pile of pound coins gathers next to it, as we all deposit our payment.  It’s all very discrete, and I suspect if you couldn’t afford the pound and didn’t pay, no-one would chase you for it.

The demographic of the class is hard to read.  There is one woman who told me proudly that she was 66 last week, she is incredibly youthful looking and laughs all the time, I’d never have guessed her age if she hadn’t made a point of telling me.  It is quite ethnically diverse which is good, it feels like a healthy cross section of the community –  and at a guess I’d say there is a mix of people who are retired, self-employed, mums on maternity leave and others between jobs.  All women.

I struck up a conversation with a woman I recognised from last week.  She was carrying a two litre water bottle which was three quarters full with what looked like cheap lager.  It was a thin brownish colour and had a definite froth at the top.  I didn’t know whether to be impressed, straight-faced non-judgemental (alcohol at 10.00 a.m. is a legitimate lifestyle choice, we all have our props to get through the day after all) or ask her outright.  If it is alcohol, I wonder vaguely if they have a sort of non-intoxicants policy – you know the kind of thing.  ‘It’s your choice, but please leave drugs, alcohol, nitrous oxide canisters and the like in the bag drop by the door before continuing into the hall to join your community activity’ (nearly said nitro-glycerine there, but I think that might be a special case).

I asked her outright.  Disappointingly, it wasn’t home brew, she’s on a detox.  Some sort of apple concentrate with spices etc.  I really wished I hadn’t asked her.  So much more fun to think otherwise.  Other class members arrive, it’s quite a full group – maybe 17 of us, and a bit of a squash.  Just like at the other class I go to, we all cling to the walls at first.  There are more places to hide here though, there are stacks of plastic chairs, and around the corner a sort of alcove behind where a kitchen area sticks out, and then there’s a cupboard too. You could have a stab at playing hide and seek in this hall and it wouldn’t be a complete disaster as long as the people you were playing with were aged 4 or under.  Even so, we are all eventually flushed out into the open like woodlice exposed when you lift up a stone, and cheerily cajoled into position to start the class..

The music having been restored we worked out to sixties classics including ‘da doo ron ron ron, da doo ron ron’ and ‘needle in a haystack’.  It’s a brilliant instructor, she is tireless, and always leads by example, throwing herself into routines with enthusiasm and keeping up a running commentary of implausible but encouraging feedback on how we are doing.  Periodically she’ll call out ‘Good Work!’  or  ‘That’s excellent’ you’d think we were potential candidates as circus acrobatics for Cirque de Soleil!  However, she can’t be completely deluded, as I noticed she changed some of the exercises, ‘tell you what now, lets not try four repeats for this one, lets just go twice shall we?’  None of us were fooled, there were knowing laughs that she had lowered her expectations about our capabilities after witnessing us in action, but it was taken in good humour.

Despite our being, well let’s say a ‘mixed ability’ group.  We did work up quite a sweat between us.  In fact the large windows completely steamed up.  It might have quite got the hopes up of any passing doggers, but actually, the windows are too high up for anyone to really see in, they would have to pass on by never knowing what sights they had missed out on…

Our instructor is particularly safety conscious, providing a list of hazards and precautions as we worked out – ‘look out for the fire door, left ajar – don’t want you banging into it’,  and ‘don’t forget to get water when you want’ – despite this one woman managed to crash spectacularly into the piles of chairs stacked at the sides of the room. Quite an achievement as she was facing them at the time, it must have been that she had so much forward momentum her brakes just failed.  She wasn’t hurt, just laughed uproariously.  A good reaction.

The instructor worked out furiously, at intervals  mopping her brow with an endless supply of paper towels filched from the loo.  She also has a habit of saying what’s in her head which I find both entertaining and endearing, today the themes were being sore from over-exertion in the gym yesterday, and  hunger: ‘ooooh, I’m starving today, absolutely ravenous – I could eat my arm I really could’. 

After 45 minutes or so of throwing ourselves around to the sixties classics, we moved onto floor work.  We obediently  trooped to the side of the hall and queued up outside the cupboard to collect our yoga mats.  These are a motley assortment.  Some thin limp offerings were probably bought in bulk as a community resource, one or two classier thick ones with proper tapes to secure them may have been left behind by other users, some look distinctly pitiful.  Our instructor was left with the only available mat which I swear looked like some ferocious animal had taken several bites out of it in a wild feeding frenzy,  I did wonder if  maybe her hunger had got the better of her after all.  Thinking we wouldn’t notice because a)she had her back to us whilst ostensibly fossicking in the cupboard for a yoga mat, and b)we were distracted by laying out our own mats; she took the opportunity to rip a good old hunk of the blue foam mat off with her bare teeth, she must have been pretty desperate to do so, but it seems a plausible enough explanation to me.

We finish with some stretching.  There isn’t a class next week because of half term.  We are all encouraged to ‘go for a nice autumnal walk outside instead.’  Perhaps I will.

It is amazing and fantastic that this kind of community exercise class exists.  An absolute bargain, and no compromise in the ability of the instructor.  Even though it was all kept pretty simple, she did help out with correct technique, encouraging you to keep your hips parallel or noting where the weight should be in your feet (back on the heel rather than forward on the toe) when doing stretches.  It’s good to get out, even though it’s  a bit of a drag to get over to Heeley, it’s well worth the effort. Yay.  Here’s to the Heeley Institute, long may it continue.

Categories: fitness class, motivation | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Running Ups and Downs – the Sheffield TenTenTen

crowd scene tententen

In this case the running ‘ups’ included a particularly steep hill (twice) and the downs included falling over.

So, today being the 18th October 2015 it was show time for the annual Sheffield TenTenTen.  The name comes because the first time it was held, it was a 10km race on the 10th October (tenth month) quite possibly in 2010.  So you can see what they did there (although I suppose if all those details are correct it ought by rights to have been called the TenTenTenTen, so perhaps there is some myth making going on there too.)  Now years have passed, the name is marginally less apt, but sticks.  This is a 10km trail race, very local to me.  Some of it is on the same trails and paths used by my weekly Parkrun, so it is a very familiar route.  I only have to roll out of bed and stagger down, I’ve even already picked up my number in advance from the local running shop.

My leg still feels a bit numb, and I’ve got a sore throat, so I’m a bit whingey to be honest, but there is no-one about to hear my moaning, and I decide I will just go and take it easy.  I don’t want to miss out, and it’s not an especially tough course.  I decide on my pre-race goals (see, I’ve learned nothing from experience).  I decide I will be happy not to be lapped by the faster runners (it is a two loop course) and not to fall over on the way round.  I know all about setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic – and Relevant, and Timebound).  These goals are definitely that….

I woke really early, so had a coffee and some porridge with nuts and seeds and dates in it.  Yum.  I realised to my consternation that I do now have a bit of a pre-event faffing routine.  I always use a hair drier to dry my feet after a shower, because I think if my feet are damp at all then I’ll get blisters when I run.  This could be a good theory, but last couple of runs have involved getting seriously soaked crossing streams or sinking in bogs, so it’s rather an academic point.   This being so, maybe I should face up to the possibility that maybe I’m just a bit weird doing that, at any rate definitely displaying behaviour that’s towards the puzzlingly eccentric end of the continuum.   I also usually wear my long sleeved top, but today, I thought I’d go wild and break with tradition, and wear a short sleeved one instead.  I’d like to say this is because I plan to run fast and furious and this will be cooler, but the real reason is I hope it will be marginally more flattering than my long sleeved one as I am heaving my Smiley Paces vest on over the top of it, and frankly that is always a bit of a squeeze with my bulkier top.  I safety pin my number on.  A running friend did say she’d got me some magnets to use instead, but they haven’t found their way to me and I’d rather be organised.

The race  starts  at 10, but there is a 2.5km fun run for children before (don’t tempt me), I head out just after 9.00.  I am met by a forlorn looking older couple in a car.  They wind down their window.  They have lost their much loved dog.  It is a golden Labrador/ Staffordshire cross, with a pink sparkly collar – and they look heart-broken.  I say I’ll try and get it put on social media at the event I’m going to as there will be lots of runners there.  I did ask at both the café and at the bag drop, but don’t know if they did, pretty sure they didn’t.  I felt like it was my responsibility, I did let some other generic runners know as well.  Oh it’s so sad.

Walking down I pass the kids running their 2.5 km challenge.  Some of them are seriously fast. How can they do that?  It’s extraordinary, and many of them are positively laughing with joy as they stream by.  There is a photographer waiting to snap them as they pass.  He sees me, clocks my Smiley Vest and queries why I don’t appear to be Smiling as it claims on my top.  I promise I will try and smile at him when I come running past later (astonishingly, I do achieve this, albeit it has something of the quality of a pained grimace after all that running around, but it shows willing does it not?).  It is the second lap though, smiling comes more easily when the end is in sight…

   smiling in my smiley vest - must be lap two!

Reaching the start I find that it is as always (well, I say as always, it’s only the second time I’ve done it) incredibly friendly, well organised and well laid out.  There is a bag drop; registration; ambulance (delete the memory of that but good to know it’s there); coffee; food; kit for sale; physiotherapists; podium for presentations later (doesn’t impact on me to be honest, but shows the attention to detail), and lots and lots of fluorescent jacketed marshals and helpers.  I feel at home here, because it’s very much my Parkrun patch, it makes the whole event less intimidating.  It is crowded though, lots of runners and their supporters too.  There are also loads of smiling enthusiastic marshals, that really helps to get you round!

paramedic support en route 2015

Arrival turned out to be quite social.  A veritable pleasing plague of Smileys are in evidence, and quite mixed abilities too which is always heartening.  I meet one who had also been dithering about whether or not to run, she has a poorly ankle as well as problems with her feet.  We debate whether if we took the working parts from each of us we might be able to create some super runner, but regrettably this seems very unlikely.  We are both not blessed in the feet department, and that would be a problem, also neither of us is particularly tall – she gets to tower over me at 5’2″ to my 5’1.5″.  The plan is abandoned.

A gaggle (or should that be a giggle?) of Smiley’s assemble in the start funnel. We are having a really good natter in fact, which annoyingly is cut short by some sort of collective warm up.  We wave our hands aloft, copying the people in front, and not really sure what is going on.  It seems benign but a more serious point would be how easy is appears to be to get people following orders in this way.  It could have been some bizarre cult initiation ceremony for all we knew, goodness only knows what we’ve now been inducted to… The conversation picked up again (on the topic of social media faux pas mainly) and then again was annoyingly interrupted by having to go for a 10km run.  I’d been so stuck into a conversation about the tyranny of  ‘to like or not to like’ on Facebook, that I’d genuinely temporarily forgotten that was why we were there, I was somewhat shocked and affronted therefore to find myself in a stampede of whooping runners, but hey ho, here we go!

shooting off at the start 2015    smiley start

I’m not entirely sure how many starters there were – around 950 perhaps?  I was in the 60-70 minute band, and it took a while for us to get through the start, doesn’t really matter as the chip timers are in the number anyway.  The first bit of the route is snaking across the grass of Endcliffe Park.  This is my least favourite bit of the course, because you feel like you are doubling back on yourself (perhaps because you are) and also, I feel a bit conspicuous as here are spectators, you have to pretend to run with vim and vigour!  You quite quickly leave the park and end up on the road.  This was a bit confusing to me, as we are so programmed to NOT RUN ON THE ROAD at Parkrun, that I instinctively migrate onto the pavement which slows me down loads.  Then it dawned on me I could take the more direct route, I sped (in my terms) along there, feeling quite anarchic!  Oh the joys of the open road…  This momentary pleasure is displaced by the first encounter with The Hill.  It is very steep it is true, but honestly not that long.  It is  a grassy bank that seems to rise almost vertically up, and is surrounded by spectators that are either there to offer moral support, or could be there in the hope of witnessing some sort of blood-fest as runners tumble back down the slope with a dominoes effect on all those in their wake depending on your perspective.  I do start by running up, but quickly give way to walking.

uphill struggle

To be honest, I’m also quite relieved to find a bottle neck at the top where a narrow path takes you back into the woods again.  An opportunity to catch my breath.  The next bit is my favourite part of the run, it’s a nice woodland trail, not desperately fast because of the uneven path people do stop and start a bit.  There are a couple of friendly marshals warning about specific hazards (sudden down hill or unexpected fallen trees) but the BEST BIT is that someone has put up some posters saying ‘Come on Smileys’ at intervals in the wood.  It does really give your spirits a lift.  A much needed lift, as I’d just overheard someone pointing out to a friend the exact point where they’d taken a tumble in last year’s race.  We cross a couple of roads, a few non-running Smileys appear as Marshals or spectators and shout encouragement.  I feel like I’ve been caught slacking as they always seem to appear from the woods as I’ve started to slow.  Wearing a Smiley Vest is great for support though – that and the fact that this year’s race labels have your name on them, it makes you feel like a celebrity if you run and someone calls your name.  Actually, that’s not strictly true, the first time I heard my name called I thought I was in trouble, but that’s probably just me!

snaking across the green

Eventually we turn around and run back down through the wood, yay, downhill, it is a lot easier.  As we go back towards Endcliffe Park we are back on tarmac paths, and spectators and slightly non-plussed walkers are around.  One runner remarks to another ‘those people must think we are completely mad!’  I am compelled to interject ‘actually, I do too!’  They laugh in recognition – and then overtake me and speed away – surely not something I said?  We pass the steep hill again – this time we can see the fleeter runners tackling it for the second time – some of them look like they are actually bounding up it!  I like seeing the better runners, I don’t like being lapped by them, but I do love to see them in action.   It is amazing what the human body can do, not mine perhaps, but some people’s somewhere, somehow!

Back into the park, more woodland, I started to feel more confident again as it’s very familiar paths and almost the half way point.    I am snapped in action unawares, and seem to be actually voluntarily running  (as opposed to posing for the camera running) in the shots which is a first – even airborne in one (if you squint)

       woodland running Finally airborne lucy in the woods

Reader, alas, this temporary elation is short lived.  A couple of hundred metres later and I am lapped on the path round the corner, where the finish is in sight it is true, but definitely lapped.  Seconds later I also fall over.  How did that happen?  I didn’t hurt myself (well, grit in the palms and public humiliation, but nothing much), nearby runners did stop which was nice of them, I felt very foolish.  Then I had to do the horrible grassland plateau run again. This is so much harder second time around as I was sort of on my own rather than in a big herd of other runners like wildebeest on migration.  Also, I can hear the commentator bigging up the first few finishers and cheers of adulation and appreciation go up on their return.  The second lap is going to be tough.  I get a stich and feel a bit miserable, but I am determined to get round.  Road then that hill again, this time a bystander shouts ‘it’s OK to run up here you know’ and because I recognise him from Parkrun I retort ‘it’s OK to give us a helping shove from behind!’ and then I have a moment of panic that this could be read as an open invitation for assault.  Last time I got helped round a course was at the Endurer Dash and I had a huge number of strangers shoving my ample arse to get it (with me attached) over the obstacles there – this isn’t quite the same situation, and I didn’t really want to be assisted in the same manner here.  Doh.  No such assistance was forthcoming in any event – much more fun to watch us all heaving ourselves up the slope looking like we’d perish in the attempt or perhaps they were running a book on who would vomit first (or most prolifically) on reaching the summit.

Despite my fading morale, I did get around – helped a lot by upbeat marshals who seemed to have a word of encouragement for everyone who went by.  I even enjoyed the last kilometre – there was a real crowd at the finish, and I passed by grabbing my medal and into the collective warmth of a smiley hug.  They are so good my fellow Smileys it doesn’t matter if you are fast or slow the cheer is the same on your return.  In fact, people like me who are final finishers probably do get more people cheering for us at the finish line, just because more have made it back ahead to welcome you.  It’s quite humbling.

I still don’t quite look like they do crossing the finish in Chariots of Fire but I’m sure my sense of achievement is just the same!

the finish  medals

The only downside is that I was way too late for the smiley team photo, oh well, not the first time that’s happened to me, and wont be the last either…  I swapped stories with some other Smiley runners, thrills and spills en route; injuries; running adventures.  It’s amazing how much you can find to chat about at the end of a race with all those endorphins charging through your system.

group shot

Even our fastest runner (second woman back no less) had a tale to tell.  She had apparently suffered a serious wardrobe malfunction en route.  Her compression shorts, were, it seems, ill advised, ultimately compressing into a thong, leaving little to the imagination as she hurtled round.  I’m not surprised she went so fast, anyone would be in a hurry to get to the safety of the finish line in similar circumstances!

So just a question of picking up the goodie bag.  We already had bling. This goodie bag had: banana; crisps; bottle of water; Lucozade sport; weird looking popcorn bar and some chewy sweets.  Very respectable and in a quality bright red plastic bag which pleased me probably disproportionately.  Once this was safely in my possession, I joined the queue for the physios.  A local company provide quick sports massages in return for a charity donation to help restore runners aching muscles post run.  They turn up at quite a few local events and I am a complete convert.  I never understood the point of sports massages, but I had one after the Round Sheffield Run last year, and although it really hurt at the time, the following day was the first time EVER I’d not had cramp in my calves the day after a run.  Miracle.  Plus, today I hope that they’ll be able to tell me if I should worry about my numb leg.  Which isn’t particularly worse after the run, but definitely still has a pins and needles feel to it.  The woman who massages my calf calls over a more experienced colleague.  He has me on my back and stretching my legs up in the air to test their flexibility – he pronounces that it probably is a bit of sciatic pain (though this is not the same as sciatica as such) and that I oughtn’t to ignore it.  Actually, I’ve been meaning to get it checked out for a while, and as there is a 20% discount for TenTenTen runners AND I find they offer physio in the local running shop I will do this now.

So over-animated conversation with a fellow smiley as we go through our race experiences together.  We pose for a photo, hoping our juxtaposition next to the ‘sub 40’ sign will send a subliminal message to anyone who subsequently sees it, that we actually, honestly, ran really fast.  Of course, they are unlikely to fall for this, and it may well be they assume this time relates to a 5km not a 10km, oh well, it can still be my little joke for me…  I also get a really excellent cup of coffee from the back of a mobile coffee place at the finish.  That was great!

sub 40 crowd tententen

Home, bath, blog, photos, I love the post run feeling, smug and happy – tomorrow I will be stiff and sore, I shall just concentrate therefore on enjoying today!

Oh, and to recap on my goals: no falling over, no being lapped.  Epic fail on both counts.  Still, there’s always next time I suppose.

Categories: 10km, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments

The peculiar pleasures of Parkrun

fall in love with parkrun 1024px-Country_lane

I love Parkrun, I really, really do.  But I am only mortal, so I still found it incredibly hard to heave ho myself out of bed this morning to get there.  A combination of factors were influencing me, specifically: warm bed, cold outside world; sore leg (is numbness to be my new normal?), temptation to pretend I need to rest up and taper before 10km tomorrow; and, if I’m really really honest, the fact that my usual running and breakfast buddies may not be there.  One is off on a cycling weekend, the other has temporarily dropped off the radar.  The dire consequence of this is that I might turn up for a run and not get to have a post-run breakfast and catch up afterwards.  Also, crucially, no-one will notice I’ve not been.  I wonder if this is some variant on the ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no-one hears it, does it make a sound?‘  I still don’t know the answer to that philosophical conundrum, but I do have an inkling that ‘if I go for a run and none of my immediate social circle witness it, then that may be wasted effort’.  Eventually I decide if I don’t go I’ll regret it, and also I need to test out my leg, if I can’t do 5km today, then 10km will be a problem tomorrow, and besides I always feel the better for it – afterwards.  Also, today of all days I can pootle along at the back as it is legitimate to take it easy the day before a race (though who am I kidding, I never really break a sweat at the best of times!)


So I head off, it’s only a 15 minute walk for me, and is lovely out, properly autumnal.  Falling acorns make popping noises behind me as I go through the wooded parts on the way to the start.  Today I did consciously break my routine a little as well.  I have decided if I can’t improve my running technique, I should at least work on my toilet training, and exercise a bit more bladder control.  I resolve that today I shall not have  a precautionary pee.  I can’t possibly really need one 15 minutes after leaving the house, it is bad for my pelvic floor (see earlier entries) and anyway, there is never (or very rarely) any toilet paper in the loos in the park so it isn’t an entirely relieving experience to nip in there each week.

I don’t immediately see many people I know, but I’m a bit earlier than usual.  I see our friendly photographer with one of his adorable daughters who is wearing the best hat ever, it looks like a wolf’s head (though I am later corrected on this, it is in fact a husky).  Genius.  She has an enormous camera as does her dad.  I wonder what they will capture en route.  One photographic coup of the day is that they actually take pictures of each other, the camera lens turned, a possible first!

husky photographer 17 oct 2015   photogrpaher in the frame 17 october 2015  17 october 2015 husky hat

Waiting in the start funnel I am very relieved to see one of my breakfast/ running buddies who has come out with her daughter.  Things are looking up!  There is the usual spiel (thank volunteers etc) then gooooooooo, and away we go.  It is quite nice to be at the back and feel legitimately for once I can take it easy.  I do my usual thing of eavesdropping on other people’s conversations on the way round.  Sometimes it helps my technique or motivation if I hear adults giving tips to their children (land with your foot on the speed hump going downhill so you don’t fall over was a good one).  Sometimes you just get a little snapshot of someone else’s life.  My favourite ever conversation catch was actually at Bushy Park Parkrun ages and ages ago.  Two friends were running, talking about another mutual friend of there’s who was due to be running in some insane ultra ultra marathon with his girlfriend in a few weeks time.  I’m sure they said it was 400 miles, but really, is that even possible?  Anyway, as I understood it, it seemed that their friend was considering waiting until the end of the run and then surprising his girlfriend with a marriage proposal.  The two of them were discussing the relative merits of this with some seriousness and then fell into silence.  Eventually one of them said ‘the thing is, that sounds great and romantic and everything, but after all that running if you knelt down to propose traditionally you’d never be able to stand up again, afterwards would you.  How would that work?’  I wonder what happened…   I shall never know.

sheffield hallam parkrun 17 october 2015   sheffield hallam 17 oct general shot   sheffield hallam parkrun mood shot

It was an unremarkable jaunt round the Sheffield Hallam route today.  I did narrowly avoid tripping over a Yorkshire terrier on the first circuit, only to nearly collide with the same dog again on the second lap.  It was just a member of the public (as opposed to a Parkrunner) quite reasonably walking her dog, but for some reason it ran away from her side and out in front of me twice within half an hour, it was very strange, it didn’t seem to risk collision with any other runner.  I fall over quite often enough when running without having to hurdle canines too.  Jogging along at the back meant that I got monumentally lapped by the faster runners completing the route before I’d finished my first lap.  They fly past, at least they have the grace to look like they are working hard, but my, it’s impressive.

finish in sight 17 october 2015

On finishing, I located my breakfast buddy, and we stood at the finish clapping in the final runners for a bit.  That was a lot more fun than actually running to be honest.  It’s great seeing others reach the finish, kids sprinting on sight of the end, first timers practically collapsing with relief.  Most seem cheered by the encouragement.

I think we probably did inadvertently clap and cheer a couple of people who weren’t in fact park-runners at all, just random joggers.  Maybe their slight look of bemusement should have been a clue, but I say, who wouldn’t welcome being cheered as they went about their daily business, it would be great for anyone’s self esteem.  Imagine how great you’d feel if every time you arrived for work your colleagues gave a great cheer of enthusiasm just for your very existence!  In fact, it was that thought which made me complete a random act of kindness later on in the day.  I was renewing some insurance, and the woman on the phone asked if I’d mind completing a customer service survey at the end of the call.  I could  hear in her voice how much she hated making the request, and quite probably a job too.  I’d hate to work in a call centre, anyway, I just replied to the survey saying how wonderful she was just because I could.  She wasn’t bad actually, but the questions in the customer satisfaction survey imbue the purchasing of household insurance with a level of emotional engagement that I find it hard to relate to.  I hope some positive feedback might make her day a bit more bearable in these dark days of customer feedback and endless performance reviews.

I digress, my friend’s daughter – who we’d been looking out for, appeared from the other direction having completed the run ages ago.  This meant we could do the bit about Parkrun that I unreservedly look forward to.  Off for the earned cooked breakfast.  Scrambled eggs on toast and a full fat latte.  Yay!  Of course I was glad I went.  I love Parkrun, everyone should do it at least once,, it makes all right with the world, it really does!

tribesport motivation

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

On the hilarity of the adult exercise class… an insider’s perspective

So it’s Friday, so that means my dance exercise class has come around again.  Is it just me, or is there not something hilarious and side-splittingly funny about the whole adult exercise class concept and execution?  Random individuals gathering in sports halls and studios across the land, fighting age and gravity in pursuit of raised cardio activity and tauter toned physiques.  Surely a manifestation of the bottomless (if misguided) optimism that occasionally seizes us all in our struggle to keep (or get) fit.

This particular class is held in a small studio with full length mirrors, which is part of a wider sporting complex.  I arrive, shuffling in self-consciously at the back, having already met a couple of other class-goers in the loos.  We are variously complaining of both ailments (bit run down, tired, you know how it is) and digestive challenges (why is cheese so hard to process now I’m older/ I shouldn’t have eaten so close to exercise).  Personally I am suffering on both counts.  My leg still feels strangely numb post yesterday’s run out, and in addition, that lentil and quinoa soup I had earlier (no, I really did, I am a very healthy eater, it’s just I have never really grasped the concept of portion control and I tend to eat other stuff on top, oh well, we all have to have our weaknesses, lack of will power is just one of  mine) has led me potentially to windy city… not a promising start to the class.

It was quite nice to be back though, our fitness instructor is as always smiling hugely and welcoming.  I don’t know how she does this, she is a whirlwind of energy and smiles.  Has she found a human version of catnip?  Is it genetic?

I found myself sort of hugging a wall and trying to disappear into it.  It is so weird, that childlike thing that all of us in this particular class seem to do, not wanting to be at the front.  We seek to make ourselves invisible – perhaps because we are self conscious about both our athleticism (not enough)  and our bodies (too much).  I am certainly, and it seems  probable my fellow groupies feel likewise, so we lurked around the edges, even though this is  clearly ridiculous.  You can’t hide in a studio box, especially one with mirrors on one side, windows on another and with such tiny dimensions that even we ten or so attendees constitute a crowd.  I chatted to one woman who I’ve noticed has come a few times too.  She was debating whether or not to wear trainers for the class – there is quite a lot of toe pointing.  I told her I have to, on account of the arthritis in my feet.  I just came out with it and then felt ancient and decrepit at my confession.  I can’t risk going up on my toes in bare feet because I feel the bones in my feet disintegrating as I do.  I wondered if I’d over-shared, so to break the tension I just told her that I was OK with recognising that my dancing career probably wasn’t going to take off at this point (due to age not talent, obviously), but I was happy to just focus on my running  instead.  We both laughed.  In fact we bonded, she told me by way of exchange of her own running catastrophe earlier in the week.  She went out for a run, long enough to be knackered and feel quite smug,  and then on return to her car she realised to her absolute horror, that she’d dropped her keys somewhere on the route.  She had to do the whole thing again.  To make matters even worse, when she did spot them, they were in the hands of another runner who’d thoughtfully picked them up.  This meant she had to do another sprint to catch up with him.  He was a really good runner.  I felt her pain.


So we embarked on our flailing around, trying to stand and balance on one leg, gyrate our hips, and follow the uncertain rhythms of the rather abstract music which was ‘modern’ and discordant, and don’t even know what word to use to describe it’s genre. The instructor executed each move with poise and vim, the rest of us stumbled about in her wake.  At one point looking at our collective reflection in the mirror I would swear not one of us was facing the same way or doing the same move. Imagine a group of kids of all shapes and sizes in say pre-school, (at an age when they haven’t fully learned to either follow instructions or co-ordinate limbs properly) trying to work out a routine to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and you might get some idea of the image reflecting back at us   Inevitably there were one or two amongst  the group with some innate ability and flair, but they weren’t enough to distract from the endemic ineptitude that surrounded them.   It was hilarious.  I don’t mind at all being so rubbish, but I am amazed that our instructor doesn’t find it more dispiriting.  The main thing though is to keep mobile, and have fun, I can at least do that.

It is only a 45 minute class, but I was exhausted by the end of it.  My leg didn’t feel particularly worse at the end of it, and I was glad I went,  Another class down.  I wonder if I will ever get any more supple or balanced over time, but regrettably, the only way to find out is to stick with it.  Watch this space….

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Slow on the uptake as well as slow on the feet

Thursday night came round again yesterday.  That means club run night, yay(ish)!

smiley paces group photo

You’d think by now I’d have worked out that the clue is in the name.  Hope over experience means I keep turning up, but somehow I’m always a bit surprised when after the initial ‘hellos’ and social catch up, we are required to actually start running.  Hence the slow on the uptake heading.  I really shouldn’t be so affronted week after week at the expectation that we are all going to have to pick up the pace a bit, dark, cold, wet or otherwise….

I had my usual inner battle as I peered through the skylight in my attic flat looking into the gloom.  It was spitting a bit, and looked really, really dark.  However, even though I don’t ever really look forward to going out for a run I never regret going afterwards.

I’d love to know if others have my inner struggle with motivation.  Is it just me, or do we all collude with each other in presenting a united front of cheery enthusiasm for heading out into the night.  If I look on the club Facebook page on a Thursday it is full of protestations from people apparently genuinely gutted at being unable to run due to reasons various including:  injury (that’s bad); having to go out with friends and family for some sort of mandatory communal celebration; (tough call, which is least worse/better – go for a run or attend tense family gathering?) babysitting (poor excuse, I thought that was the point of calpol/ gin and or sullen teenagers); being stuck at work.  Occasionally, there is a genius apology for non-attendance, my recent favourite was along the lines of, ‘I can’t make it tonight I’ve got some Christmas cakes in the oven and I can’t leave the house ’til they’re done’.  I was soooooooo tempted to add  comment ‘I can’t come tonight, I’m binge eating a bag of donuts and watching Great British Bake Off on BBC iPlayer’.  I don’t quite have the nerve.  Bet if I did though, there’d be a few surreptitious likes!

Alongside all the apologies, are cheery ‘I’m in, yay!’ typed comments.  I’m always guilty of stalking these.  I like to try and see if there will any other slowbie runners to keep me company at the back.  I don’t mind being last, I really don’t, but I do mind being so slow I hold others up.  It gives me flashbacks to situational angst at being crap at sport at school, last picked for teams in ‘games’ (what a misnomer is that) and that general sense of public humiliation that I’ve never managed to rid myself of since.

I do go.  The assembly point last night was in a park car park.  Millhouses actually, if you care.  It is really, really dark,  Were it not for the flashes of reflective gear it would have felt utterly deserted.  I was among the first to gather.  It felt a bit sinister, standing around waiting, unable to make out each others faces. It was like we were preparing for some hostage exchange or something.  People continued to gather, there was a fossicking for clip-boards, signing up for groups and catching up on injuries etc.  I bumped into people from last week’s fell race, the endure dash and people who are planning next weekend 10 km, the TenTenTen.  It amazes me that I have somehow infiltrated the running community from such an unpromising place, but it is comforting that I am getting to know a few people, and hopefully they will recognise me too.  This means they are less likely to run past if they see me lying face down in a bog somewhere whilst mid-course at a race event somewhere.  Who knows, they may even attempt to retrieve me, or at least notify the race marshals at some stage on the route.  Actually, on reflection, that isn’t altogether true.  As I’m invariably behind them, they probably wouldn’t ever see me, unless it was a two loop course I suppose, then they’d lap me eventually, oh well, the thought was comforting whilst it lasted.

So after a bit of faffing, we split into four groups, and I took the register again for the Foundation group, not too bad this time as only five of us, that’s only the fingers on one hand, so not too scarily responsible a task for me to take on in the way of counting.  This time, there were even clip boards, brandishing that AND wearing a hi viz reflective jacket there is no task I could not have undertaken with confidence.

This time, it was a pace run, so straight out and straight back.  The speediest group headed off first, followed by the second speediest 10 seconds or later and so on. This meant each group stayed together without overlapping, making it easier to keep a track of everyone.  It is quite clever really, and a great testament to the fabulous Smiley leaders who week after week rise to the practical and logistical challenge of getting us all out and back safely.  The plan was basically head out and then at 7.35 p.m. turn around and run back again.  The road was pretty dark and I was glad of head torch.  In our group people chatted companionably about injuries.  I find this quite comical, not that people are hurt, that’s horrid, but how we all give each other advice that we wouldn’t follow for ourselves.  Our leader is a case in point.  She has had an injury for some months now, and pain seems to be constant, but she shows no sign of either resting or getting any physio help in relation to it.  Another runner has badly sprained her ankle a few weeks back.  She states it hurts pretty much all the time, but she feels after resting it for a while that is inevitable when she gets back mobile again – muscles have wasted a bit after all.  This may well be true.  She also says that sometimes when she runs she doesn’t notice the pain so much anyway.  Our leader comments with concern.  ‘You have to be so careful with that, the endorphins that kick in when you run can disguise the pain and then you can really cause harm!’  Pots and kettles methinks, pots and kettles.  I’m just saying.

Half an hour running continuously was more than enough for me.  I was quite relieved when our outward time was up and we could turn around and head back.  I was tiring by then, and one of my legs started to really hurt.  It feels a bit of twanged to be honest.  I’m a little concerned, because it is the same leg and the same pain that I got when I skidded rather spectacularly on a ‘recovery run’ (I know, the irony isn’t lost on me, bloody recovery runs, terrible idea…) and pulled all my hamstring and couldn’t walk for a fortnight.  I really, really hope it isn’t a reappearance of that.  Maybe I should have rested my legs a bit more after all that off-roading over the weekend. Eeek.  Too embarrassed to pull up, I just slowed at the back, we were nearly home anyway.

The planning worked really well, we were fist home, and then the other groups in reverse order.  It was quite fun watching them come in, the little head lamps bobbing up and down, it looked like a shift of miners emerging from a pit hilarious.  A few minutes later, people ticked off the registers, thanks and goodbyes exchanged and everyone scattered off into the dark of the night once again.  It was as if we’d never been there.  Weird, and spooky even.  Home now home then to watch Hunted (final episode, much excitement) and enjoy the feeling of smugness that only a run can bring….

… and also not to enjoy the growing sense of numbness that was moving through my leg.  Ignore or not to ignore?  Ignore I think, then maybe it will just go away, I’m pretty confident that is what all the more experienced runners do, and they must know what they are doing by now, surely?

set goals and demolish

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In praise of Parkrun

Perhaps a bit of a cheeky repost here, but given that I’ve now started a running blog, I wanted to talk about Parkrun.  However, earlier this year, when I was contemplating going off to work in Vietnam I did a post all about what is so brilliant about Parkrun and why I’d miss it in another blog.  It seems appropriate to repost this, as the sentiments remain the same, Parkrun is still altogether fabulous, and I remain an evangelist for its many and manifest merits!

Quietly Terrified

Running Scared …

Just over a year ago, if you had suggested to me that I voluntarily get up earlier than is strictly necessary on a Saturday morning, and then willingly drag my weary rapidly-disintegrating carcass to the local park in order to take part in a communal sporting 5 km romp every week, frankly I’d have run a mile.  This is ironic, granted, but it would still have been an over two miles net gain if it got me out of doing a 5 km run, i.e. I’d only have to run one mile not the three and a bit I’d be compelled to cover otherwise…  Well, that was then, and this is now.  Now I am a complete convert, and Parkrun has become such an embedded part of my weekly routine that it is the one thing I know I’ll miss when I’m in Vietnam.

parkrun logo

For the uninitiated Parkrun is…

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Heading for the hills…

Smiley off road run this Sunday 11th is Win Hill from Bamford. Meet at the Anglers Rest in Bamford 9am for a scenic 7 ish miles of forestry tracks, moorland paths and fab views, returning to the cafe in the pub (double bonus)…  some interesting route finding on the recce but can definitely vouch for the tea and scones

Wasn’t sure if I’d be too stiff to tackle this, but woke up ‘the morning after the day before (Wngerworth ~Wobble)’ feeling fundamentally OK.  Not exactly ticketee boo, but just a bit of muscle pain, and if I want to up my game then I think I need to start to toughen up a bit and not wimp out of off-road running opportunities or I’m never going to get any better.

Headed out, a misty morning, but a great one for running.  I was first to arrive in the car park – my fear of being late paranoia dictating a too early start all over again.  I wonder if I’m subconsciously trying to compensate for always being last to finish on the runs.

It was a good crowd of Smileys, about 20 or so, and pleasingly didn’t get as strung out as usual, so it turned out to be quite social, an opportunity to catch up with people various and meet new members – although as ever my ability to converse when running limits communication to a degree!  One person did a face plant early on, flying into a bramble bush and emerging suitably scratched but pronouncing herself OK to carry on.  There are faster runners, but I was pleased that I wasn’t alone in favouring walking up the steeper sections.  It was really lovely to get up to Win Hill, the heather and openness is really appealing.  We met a few walkers all of whom were friendly and amused/supportive of this unlikely posse of women charging across the hills.  We paused for the obligatory group photo at the peak- remembering to remove the one of our number who had taken to the top of the marker for the shot – before we galumphed off again.

win hill group shot

Uphill was challenging on account of it being up hill as well as rough terrain. Downhill was also a problem though. Even though gravity helps, I am nervous on the rocky ground and a bit fearful of tripping on tree roots or slipping on grass.  I also haven’t really worked out how to run downhill if that ‘doesn’t sound too weird.  If I land on my heels I feel more stable, but feel the impact up my legs and that can’t be right.  If I land on my mid-foot or toes, it is quite painful because of the arthritis in my feet and I feel I’ll fall over.  Honestly, mountain goats don’t have these problems.  Nor do other fell runners, I’ve seen the more experienced ones flying downhill (and up to be fair) fearless and lightly springing from foot to foot.  It is nigh on miraculous to me that they can do that. win hill

Even so, it was a lovely run down, through woodland trails, grassy paths and over the stepping stones at the watermill, I am so unbelievably lucky to have this glorious countryside on my doorstep, and the support of an inclusive group of runners who get it together to organise these monthly off road runs out, as well as the weekly training sessions.

bamford millHaving been up and over the hill, taken in the views, and put the world to rights through conversation (not so that you’d notice perhaps, but in our own way) en route, we returned to the Anglers Rest in Bamford.  They were somewhat overwhelmed by our descending on them en masse, but cheery enough, cake was eaten and coffee drunk.  I was the last in the queue to order and the last to be served and it took about an hour (literally ) for my order to come, so it was unsurprising that I found myself finishing off my coffee on my own.  This detail set the scene for a rather unlikely bit of interaction  … I was officially recognised for my running!  No really, this is how.

As I was leaving, some other runners – not with our group, but people who had also been out enjoying the hills and come in for a post run coffee spotted me.  One called out a really friendly ‘hello’ and I turned around, instinctively replying in kind as I did so, before realising that I had no idea who it was.  She helped me out.  ‘You were at the Wingerworth Wobble yesterday’ she said.  I was amazed, this is a conversation that I never imagined would happen to me. It may yet turn out to be a pivotal moment in my running journey, one runner, recognising another fellow trail blazer out in the hills!  It turned out that she was the originator of the inaugural Wingerworth Wobble, though now it has been handed over to someone else.  She rarely got a chance to run in it herself over the years as she was busy organising or marshalling, but she did do so yesterday.  I felt honoured to have met her!  It is further evidence of what a friendly and inclusive lot these Wingerworth Wobblers are, and they do get quite far afield it seems too.  I passed on again my thanks to her for such a great day yesterday – and congratulated her on having set it all up the first place too.

Anyway, I turned away with a spring in my step, pushing to the back of my mind the maybe disappointing, but growing realisation that she possibly remembered me for a reason.  That reason would be the maybe less than flattering one that I was the distinctive apple-shaped runner bobbing my way up the hill some minutes behind the rest.  (Does that make me some sort of apple bobbing champion I wonder). Still, someone has to be ballast at the back, why shouldn’t it be me, and if that is to be my claim to fame I’ll take that.  It is still better to be out there doing it badly, than not to be doing it at all.

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