Monthly Archives: November 2015

Parkrun Party – let them eat cake!


Centenarians? Centurians?  In any event, there were lots of one hundred milestone runners flying around the Sheffield Hallam route this weekend.  Cue Parkrun Party.  Yay!

Basically, to imagine a Parkrun Party, first just think about the key constituents of throwing an awesome conventional party.  So that might be, oh, I don’t know, let’s say music; free flowing alcohol; dancing; buffet; atmospheric lighting; late night conversations that take you through to dawn; cake; balloons and fab friends.  Then what you need to do, is remove certain aspects that don’t quite work in a park on a Saturday morning at 9.00 a.m..  So subtract the following: music; free-flowing alcohol; dancing; buffet; atmospheric lighting; late night conversations.  You get to keep the cake and balloons though.  Add in the following: standing around in the freezing cold at the beginning, a mandatory 5 km run in the middle, and then more standing around in the cold at the end.  Oh, and an early morning start.  I know, it’s really sounding terrific isn’t it?  We do know how to have a good time in the Parkrun community.   Compare and contrast – party images (conventional) versus party image (Parkrun).  I know, it’s pretty obvious which one any right minded person would opt for!

There are some wins though, nobody has to spend the whole time holding back their friend’s hair whilst they are being sick in the loo; you won’t have to take evasive action round a photocopier/ kitchen table/ nightclub dance floor to avoid being groped by some sleazy guy; no hangover; no being stuck sat on the stairs all night willing the evening to end because you haven’t got the social skills to interact with anyone and no intoxicated twister games that you will regret in the morning.

So stripped bare, a Parkrun Party retains only what is essential.  Fab friends, shared experiences, cake (in monumental quantities) and balloons.  Also, in the case of Sheffield Hallam Parkrun, our (practically) resident photographer ensures there will still be lots of hilarious/ atmospheric/ excruciating photos to flick through after the event so every moment of the celebrations can be  relived posthumously.  Plus, there is something really joyful about runners achieving their milestone T-shirts.  Today there are two Smiley Paces runners both completing their 100 runs, it’s taken them four years each to get to this point.  So although people talk about getting a ‘free T-shirt’  that isn’t true.  In this instance it’s  actually taken 1000 km running and eight years of Saturday mornings to get these two Smileys to that point.  A true test of tenacity.  They weren’t the only people achieving their century this weekend.  There was also spouse of Smiley – who no doubt is an individual in their own right but nevertheless is pictured below as an honorary part of the  Smiley gang; and one other person who I don’t know and so basically doesn’t get a look in.  They got to triumph in their own way though, I dare say, though probably not so well supplied in cake.  We Smileys however, celebrated together.

28 november 100 celebrations

So, this Saturday, even though it was freezing cold and distinctly looking like a lot of rain was on its way.  I was happier than usual to skip down to the park as free cake offers an amazing incentive to run.  I didn’t need the usual motivational pep talk, just to know that there would be a large selection of consumables on offer at the end.  Let’s go indeed!

lets go 28 11 2015 tribesports

What’s more, I even donned my Smiley vest in a gesture of solidarity with our club runners.  I had at one point entertained vain notions of running along with them.  However, that was always going to be over-optimistic, still, but I could show willing and gain glory by association by hanging out with them at the start.

A fair few of us had assembled.  I was in time to see one Smiley in particular touching up her make-up in anticipation of the run.  She is the one who exercises the real power behind the photographer’s lens. The photographer himself is a necessary pre-requisite for snapping away endlessly to capture runners in action over the years and venues, but it is the photographer’s right hand woman who has the really important job of quality control/ self-esteem protection of all the other runners who have ever been snapped in action by the dedicated George.  These are many and manifest with some 85,000 photos taken over the years I’m told – no, I haven’t checked, but this is plausible.  It is she who looks through each of the pictures captured each week, and prior to posting, will ensure any that are especially mortifying are deleted.  She is the gatekeeper who decides which pictures may pass into the posting stage, and those which are to be ditched for all eternity.  Any appalling or inappropriate images that have been inadvertently captured, are on her whim destroyed, added to the virtual trash cans  of cyberspace from where they can never be retrieved.  In this way, she is personally responsible for maintaining the basic morale and dignity of the entire running community of Sheffield and its environs.  Who can count the tearful tantrums she may have prevented, or the blackmail opportunities she has allowed to pass her by?  She appears to be a benign influence, but naturally we all live in terror of her having an off day.  Imagine the vengeance she could unleash on a runner who had wronged her in some way?  Your worst nightmare image going viral across cyberspace and nothing whatsoever you could do to stop the spread.  I shudder at the very thought.  Acutely aware of this, I decide not to pass any comment on the wisdom and necessity of coming to the park with a complete pop-up make up stand and light-surrounded mirror.   I make a mental note not to make a big deal of it, and to make a special effort not to draw attention to it in any way when I am subsequently writing up my next blog post.  Besides, it is of course important that one always looks one’s best I know.

To be honest, it’s always a bit of revealing question, the answer that one gives allows you to separate the ‘true runners’ from the ‘also rans’.  How might any of us make that choice which could come to define us?  You must know the question I mean:- If you could only have one of the following two options, which would you choose?  A new Personal Best, or, a flattering photo of yourself running?  Only a very few exulted individuals have been known to achieve both, in fact I can only really think of one – and you can’t help but wonder if being photo monitor was a factor in doing so on this occasion – no wonder the airborne figure on the left is looking as pleased as punch. Richly deserved though – full minute off a PB is awesome indeed.  Maybe that extra make-up application also helped.  You know, like greasing the legs of horses going cross country can help them slide over obstacles.  Perhaps the same principle applies with slapping on a bit of lippy?  Reduced air-resistance knocking seconds off each  500 metre sprint.  To test the idea, I might wear full clown make up next week, just to see what happens.  Come and say ‘hello’ if you spot me.

So, we are all milling around at the beginning of the run.  In my enthusiasm for showing solidarity, I find myself in a completely different place from usual in the start funnel.  Much further forward, it’s quite packed, and a bit intimidating.  I am with the two Smileys and their balloons and bunting, and they have positioned themselves in the optimum location for their anticipated finish times – which are quicker than I have ever even dreamt of – there are a few others of us about too.   The shout for ‘off’ goes and it’s  a fast start indeed.  A real sprint, eek!  I am out of my comfort zone, but want to stay with the Smiley group as long as I can.   This is hard, it’s a bit chaotic, we are surrounded by the competitive runners – those more likely to elbow you aside (in the nicest possible way) than apologise and gesture ‘after you’ if approaching a bottle neck at the bridge (which is more what I’m used to with my usual running associates).

Also, it turns out that it is harder than you might think to run with a balloon, they are not in fact the ultimate running accessory next to a fitbit or Garmin after all, and my Smiley comrades in possession of one helium sphere each, wrestled to control them.  I am in the wake of at least one of the balloons and for a weightless artefact it is surprisingly disruptive.  I get bopped quite a bit, it is sensory overload.  My Smiley friend is fleet of foot, I travel on in her wake, ducking and diving to avoid balloon impacts en route, but still only manage  the first mini lap and just beyond the cafe before I cave in, and revert to my usual slower pace.  I am curious though as to how the rest of the run will be.  I never normally start off so fast, I just don’t know if it will mean I burn out utterly or in fact improve my time.  The centurions though do just great, confidently striding out, and caught in action too.    You can see me looking a bit panicked  in the background whilst the centurions are indomitable.  Go Smileys!

Back in my own zone, I check out what’s going on around me.  It’s quite strange, because I am in a different cohort from my usual running companions.  It’s strange how you get to know the people who run at your speed, right now there are a fair few new faces around me now.  I notice particularly two youngish women running together who actually stop by the cafe so one can nip in to get a napkin for a runny nose I think – and then pick up pace again and swiftly overtake me.  There is a young (under 10) boy who appears to be sprinting effortlessly, but on reaching a bench suddenly stops, collapses onto the seat and puts his head in his hands.  It is evident the joy of running has for now at least, deserted him.  A concerned adult went to comfort him – don’t know if morale was restored and running subsequently resumed or not.

cafe 28 nov 2015

I am too far behind my Smiley Centenarians (and my they are looking good for a hundred apiece) to join them at the finish, but I am near enough to hear a triumphant whoop go up as together they cross the line.  I had no doubt they would be swept up into a grand collective smiley hug of shared celebration.  The paparazzi was there to co-ordinate a photo-shoot prior to the breaking out of the cakes, which I subsequently find out are many and manifest.  Luckily for me, Smileys are not only FGRs (Very Good Runners) but also FGBs (Very Good Bakers) it seems! Hurrah, no wonder it is the best running club in Sheffield, that sugar high can shoot almost anyone to new levels of achievement.

glorious finish

Running high secured, the sugar high follows shortly afterwards.  By the time I catch up, there are cakes piled high in abundance on the tables outside the cafe.  Lemon drizzle cake; chocolate brownies; chocolate muffins; carrot cake and more besides.  We queue for coffee to accompany it in the cafe – which is both steaming and heaving – and then take on the cake-challenge with gusto.  I think the lemon drizzle was probably my favourite, but I was defeated in trying out them all, so survey was incomplete.  I’m pretty sure I got near to consuming my own bodyweight in cake though, so I like to think I did my bit to demonstrate appreciation for the catering efforts of the triumphant two.

Congratulations were shared and the race debrief continued onto Facebook.  There were some awesome times today.  Don’t know if it was the sense of occasion putting a spring in everyone’s step; the incentive of cake at the end; the cool running conditions or the speedier than usual start, but lots of pleased Parkrun people sharing impressive stats in the aftermath.  Congratulations all!  I didn’t get a PB but astonishingly I did get my best time of 2015 (which actually isn’t really anything to get very excited about, but is of interest), maybe starting off in terror is the way to go?

So bravo Smileys, once again I salute you.  Not only for your awesome running, but the commitment that has taken you to the one hundred mark.  Most especially, I thank you for sharing the love in literal, as well as metaphorical ways, by supplying such quality cake.  Thank you too, our tame photographer George, fabulous photos once again.  Loads of people must have been wrapped in a warm glow of self-satisfaction and oozing good will on Saturday night.   Everyone is wonderful, life is wonderful, it is in fact a wonderful life.


Roll on the next hundredth celebrations.  Surely a fair few must be in the pipeline now…  In the interim may you speedily obtain your Milestone Tees and wear them with pride – and the black will look fabulous under a Smiley vest to boot!  Life is good.  Let’s go!


Categories: 5km, motivation, parkrun, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The irresistible lure of a Dirty Weekend

Beware the company you keep.  If you are weak, and suggestible, and hang out with the wrong/right crowd, it is very easy to become susceptible to peer pressure and end up committing to undertakings you’d never give into if of sound mind and more independent spirit.

Case in point, the Lakeland Trails, Dirty Double for 2016.  A couple of weeks ago a troupe of Smiley Paces comrades returned triumphant from their jaunt to the 2015 Lakeland challenge.  They were on a collective high, yes the weather was challenging and the conditions rough, but that was part  of the fun.  Them against the elements, battling to finish against the odds.  They were full of adventurous tales like pirates returning from the high seas.  Bonded together as only those who have survived adversity through leaning on one another can truly understand.  The evangelical zeal in their eyes, the persuasive stories, the inner confidence they exuded from having come out the other end of this apparently unsurvivable hell, well, it seemed bizarrely compelling.  Especially, if like me, you have this constant fear of missing out.  You can see the slight look of mania in the eyes in these three Smileys crossing the finish.  More than a slight look to be honest, but I don’t want to libel people on whom I may subsequently depend for my very survival, so let’s stick with ‘slight’ to be on the safe side…

For those not in the know, the event is one of a series of challenges in the lake district, but this particular one takes place over a weekend.  Day one is a trail run based in Helvellyn, and day two takes on the tracks round Ullswater.  You can choose from a range of challenges and races and distances.  The 2015 tales of rain like stair rods and scree covered slopes did leave me with more than a niggling sense that the only way to tackle this would be in a cagoule, but equally, there is something hilarious and heroic in heading out in such conditions… weirdly I can see the appeal.  Think of the anecdotes and bragging rights.  Wow, you’d probably never have to run a trail race again you’d be so richly supplied with laurels on which to rest and stories to tell – they’d easily last you a lifetime!

So, the next thing I know, is that a proactive Smiley is suggesting a Smiley Takeover for same time next year.  There is a Youth hostel that we can stay at, there are challenges for all abilities, next year the weather will be great (that bit’s a lie, the Lakes in November?  I think not).  Call your bluff time, there are 40 beds booked at the hostel, who’s in?  Not me, obviously, though I do stalk the conversation on Facebook.  Ooh, that Youth Hostel looks nice, four star eh – not damp sleeping bags and bedbugs any more.

Patterdale Youth Hostel

 I look at the event website (which is quite hard to work out to be honest but even so) the pictures are gorgeous.  They talk of a carnival atmosphere, even a boat ride to the start… I can feel myself beginning to see the attraction, albeit not for me, but for other hypothetical runners out there.

atmospheric shot

It is only a matter of time before  my regular, but rather fitter than me running buddy confronts me with the idea at Bushy Parkrun.  She’s doing it – not that that means anything in itself because she has developed cheetah like prowess in her own running journey – but it does mean I’d have at least one ally there, and what’s more, she clearly thinks the basic concept of me taking part is not utterly insane.  Unlikely and amusing perhaps, but not actually impossible.

Initially, I dismiss the idea out of hand.  I’m not fit enough, I’m pretty preoccupied with other stuff right now and I can’t think beyond today let alone this time next year.  ‘I could be dead by then.’  I point out, uncharitably.  Quick as a flash she reassures me ‘that would be fine, someone else would take your place no problem.’  You can’t really argue with that kind of compelling logic.  Although I am sure the notion of me running in the rain on two successive days after sleeping in a dorm is beyond bizarre, I concede she did plant the seed of an idea.  What if…

I revisit the Facebook discussion and start to post some queries – ‘Can I run in a cagoule?‘  Yes, apparently I can!  I can run in whatever I like. No-one will care.   Will I be fit enough (tactful responses follow along the lines of sure, it caters for people even less fit than you, which is really saying something).  I hover for a while.   Then embracing the ‘what the hell’ approach that has served me so well or got me into more scrapes than you can possibly imagine depending on how much I can get away with re-writing history I decide to go for it.  I sign up for the hostel, and I enter the race.  Two 10km romps out.  That’s OK, only a couple of Parkruns, it will be fine.  Now I’m a convert and really enthusiastic.  Forty Smileys on holiday together in the wilds of the lakes.  It will be hilarious.  The actual running part receded, it’s ages away.  There is something wonderful and empowering about a bunch of women going off and taking on some mountains (ish – I think you run round the lakes really, but let’s not split hairs).  Together, we will be invincible.  Hang on though – I do hope those white posts in the foreground don’t mark the last resting place of previous years runners who didn’t quite make it… still, let’s not dwell on that eh?  Let’s concentrate on being invincible!

2015 dirty double

Then a weird thing happens, a message pings into my own Facebook thingy.  If you know me at all, you won’t know whether to be more amazed at the content of the correspondence that follows, or the fact that I was using Facebook as a communication device, I really am not social media savvy, and only reluctantly joined Facebook at all a couple of months ago, and that was under extreme reluctance and duress, but necessity, to maintain my running relationships and facilitate photo exchanges.  The message is from a fellow Smiley who is an awesome runner, though recently beset by injuries, hesitating about whether or not to enter.  I can’t believe it, this is a first, someone conferring with me about running matters.  It would so brilliant if she came too!  With a bare-faced hypocrisy that would make my other aforementioned running buddy choke if she should ever find out (but obviously no chance of that), I enthuse.  ‘you’ll be fine, it’s for all standards, it will be hilarious, what’s the worst that can happen? Yes, yes, it is a lot of money to find before Christmas, but this time next year it will feel like a free holiday because you’ll have paid up front – besides Christmas is so materialistic these days, I’m sure a satsuma will be fine for under the  Christmas tree this year‘ and so on.  I am persuasive, she is in!  We can start really looking forward to it now.  Maybe by then I’ll have trained for it as well.  That would be quite something, cavorting across the landscape, at one with the world!  I’m not so confident about the communal living aspect of dorm life, but loads of time to whip myself into a frenzy of angst about that nearer the time!

So, that’s the lesson.  You think you can resist your peers, but it’s so easy to get sucked in, and then before you know it, you too are sharing their world view and espousing their values.  That’s why you have to be so careful with the company you keep.  It’s a sliding scale too.  Did I tell you I’d entered the two 10 km?  Well, that was true… but then there isn’t so very much difference between 10 and 14km and it would have been a shame not to be able to head out with my friends, and how would the post-run post mortem work if we’d all done different things?  It was only a matter of time before I’d emailed the race organisers to convert my entry to the 15km and then 14km race.  It’s ages away, it’ll be fine, now I just need to get onto Facebook again and persuade my Smiley friend that in for a penny in for a pound is the way to go. We can always change back again, but it would be awful to be left wondering what might have been after the event…

 what the hell

For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.

Categories: motivation, off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Lolloping Longshaw 10km

Hobbit country.  Longshaw estate ought really to be pretty much my  perfect destination for taking on a 10km.  Hooray, therefore, for this National Trust initiative which is basically to offer a ‘a free, monthly, 10k run across a selection of our places around the country. This is your opportunity to try out the running trails as part of a challenge, training or just to explore the amazing landscapes. As a pilot activity for us we hope the Trust10 trails will inspire the runner in you.’  Good oh.

longshaw poster

I did in fact go to the pilot event for this at Longshaw estate back in July.  It’d been promoted as being for ‘walkers, runners, children, families…’ anyone and everyone basically.  It was a bit of a shock therefore for me to turn up and find only keen lean running machines as the majority, then me, then two Nordic walkers.  Apparently the organisers weren’t wanting to promote the event too widely until they’d fine tuned some of the logistics, so they’d only notified a couple of the local running clubs it was happening, hence, the turn out was predominantly elite super runners … and me.  not quite the continuum of abilities and aspirations I’d anticipated.  Somehow I had slipped through this selection procedure and consequently found myself suffering the indignity of plodding round having been lapped by almost every other runner by the time I embarked on the second circuit.  The only people I beat home last time were the two Nordic walkers, and if I’m really honest, they weren’t so very far behind me in any case.  Even so, it had been fun and friendly and I was up for another go. So it was, that on Remembrance Sunday in November, I was back at Longshaw, running buddy in tow.  Yes, yes, this entry is out of sequence, but honestly, who’d notice?

Longshaw is lovely, and it also boasts a rather fine Tea rooms, plus, on this occasion, the option of a bit of serendipitous early Christmas shopping if you are looking for traditional British bounty in the tea-towel, shortbread or quality consumables area.  Ho ho ho/ bah humbug etc..

Due to impulsive enthusiastic decision making post Parkrun the day before, I had a running buddy who was game to pick me up, even though today was her birthday, and she’d have had a late night the day before.  I waited dutifully outside my house at the appointed hour.  Not a soul moving anywhere.  I admit I was wondering if she was either still drunk or soundly sleeping prior a monumental hangover and wasn’t sure what to do. Seems rather unfair to text someone on their birthday and demand they drive you and they to a run in the cold and wet wilderness somewhere.  In the end I went for a cautious ‘are you still up for it?  Ok if not’ message, and got a reply – she’d been waiting a while outside a completely different house.  Whoever the occupants were they were lucky they didn’t nip out to get a paper or something, they were at real risk of being abducted and compelled to sprint through mud.

Reunited, we headed off.  Weather was cold and not altogether promising.  I wasn’t sure it would be how I’d have wanted to celebrate my birthday.  We arrived, parked up, and after some confusion about choosing the perfect parking spot and how much to pay, we were in.  I’m making this entry out of sequence, but from memory I coughed up for three hours.  I figured that I really, really ought to be able to get around even a hilly and wet 10km in that time, and still squeeze in a post run cup of coffee too.  Satisfied, we followed the path to the tea rooms.

It was buzzing. Loads of people, and to be honest, it slightly had the feel of a school outing.  You know what I mean?  Seeing lots of people you know and see regularly, but in a completely different context, where everyone suddenly gets over excited and a bit hyper at the prospect of a shared adventure together.   There were familiar faces from Sheffield Hallam Parkrun queuing up to sign in and collect their numbers.  Pleasingly, there were even fellow Smileys in evidence, always a boon.  Plus there were other people I vaguely recognised from out running too.  Truthfully, that would be when they were out running, and I was out ambling about, pretending that they just happened to have caught me at the exact moment I had to pause to tie my shoelace/ do some stretching/ complete a walking stage as part of my fartlek strategy.   It was all pretty companionable though, efficient and civilised too.  You could register in the warm, heavens there was even access to the proper loos with toilet paper and everything.  They had retained my details from last time, so I just had to sign and collect my number from the pile left next to the sign up sheet, my friend had to register, but it didn’t take long.  And then we got our actual numbers, emblazoned with the Trust 10 branding which is rather fun.  The photo below is actually a dramatic reconstruction, featuring my numbers from both the July and Nov. race, rather than mine and my running buddy’s from the November jaunt, but you’ll get the idea, surely.


The next real challenge, was venturing out of the nice warm registration area to face the cold and threatening wet.  I was not alone in doing the ‘should I/shouldn’t I?’ dance with my clothing, I did have my running waterproof with me, but I still haven’t quite fathomed whether it does any good.  I always seem wetter inside than out. Frankly, it’s so cold, I’d rather be running in a fleece, but accept that’s not really allowed.  Ultimately, we leave them in the tea room and traipse out to the start.  I immediately spot someone looking all roasty toasty in one of those lovely Michelin-man style jackets.  I stared a bit too longingly, and caved in to asking her if she intended to run in it – she looked a little startled, and it emerged that she thought I was judging her for potentially doing so, rather than looking on in envy.  I clarified the motivation for my query.  She said, in fact, she was intending to ditch it as soon as we set off, I was half minded to ask if I could borrow it if she wasn’t using it anyway, but bottled it. Anyway, it didn’t look waterproof at all so not worth the risk of being weighed down with sodden outer garments once out on the trails.

Soon enough, we were off.  It is a tight start, a narrow path, that quickly takes a sharp right turn and away you go.  It was good to get moving, but I wasn’t a natural. It felt hard, even though I’d had some breakfast to set me up.  Actually, I wasn’t sure that had been an entirely good idea, I’d had a lot of golden linseed with my porridge, which, just so you know, is an excellent aid to digestion.  The problem was, combined with a morning run out,  it might turn out to  be just a  bit too instant and effective as an internal scourer, which hadn’t been quite my intention when originally ingesting.  This is either a top tip, or a dire warning, depending on your point of view.  In any event, I really didn’t want to be doing a Paula Radcliff half way round.  Oh well, at least it wasn’t… oh hang on, the rain did come, and when it did, it was icy and heavy.  My fringe stuck to my forehead, and I feared it was going to be a long, trawl round.  Despite the inclement weather, the setting is glorious. I really love the Longshaw estate, I’ve had to cheat, and lift some photos from their Facebook page as funnily enough I didn’t stop to take pictures on the way round, but these shots were only the week before and you can’t fail to notice the loveliness of the setting.  I may have sad bunion feet and arthritis in my toes, but if I look around me, I am distracted from how much pain I’m in and can instead delight at the surroundings.  This is what the route might have looked like had it not been raining:

It turns out that the route had changed a bit from last time I was here.  The first time I did the run the two laps were different lengths, 5.5km first and second time round only 4.5km which was quite nice psychologically.  This time the laps were identical.  You go through wooded areas, handy marshals point the way where there is a risk of misdirection, but loads and loads of colourful flags marked the route.  Even I couldn’t get lost here.  For me, the biggest challenge of the course was when you emerge from a wooded part into more open landscape and have to run up a steep hill, dodging boulders and moving like a slalom through the bracken and heather clumps of the changing terrain.  A few ahead walked I noticed, which was more than enough to ensure I did likewise after a bit.  I tried running to start with, and even offered to move aside to let a faster runner past, but she cried out a bit too enthusiastically ‘no, please don’t!‘  It seems she was quite glad of having me as an excuse to slow down.  It’s good to know that some at least appreciate my running style.  I saw one runner at this point do a perfect commando roll on the ground, she was fine apparently, having just tripped over her own feet, but it was very impressive.  I’d have complained about it more personally, but she was made of sterner stuff.  It probably felt like this (thanks nice creative commons people):


At the top of the hill, you scramble over a wall, and the track flattened out.  I was puffed out by now, and conscious that the field was spreading out, with, guess what, me towards the back.  At first I tried to stay in sight of my running buddy, she had a hangover, surely I should be able to keep pace with her? Nope, apparently not.

I found myself running increasingly on my own, but periodically there was a cheery marshal (they must have been absolutely freezing) to encourage me on my way.  A guy with a bike stood pointing to his left like those people you see in town with placards ‘pizza this way’ kind of thing.  His arm must have really hurt.   At one point en route I spotted the Sheffield Hallam Parkrun Race Director, and fellow Smiley running in the opposite direction to me with a posse of other runners.  That was a bit surreal, surely one of us must be going the wrong way?  Turns out, she was doing a reccy for some future demon running challenge…

Possibly my favourite marshal though, was the one who appeared to laugh manically the whole time.  As I approached him at the first lap, it was like the laughing policeman, a constant stream of guffaws, all good spirited and quite encouraging.  ‘Only one more lap to go‘ he called after me as I ran on by, as I sped (well, that might be pushing it, let’s say ‘lolloped’) on my merry (well, that might be pushing it, shall we say ‘desperate’) way.  As I continued, it dawned on me I had another whole 5km to go, and I’d be doing it solo.  His laughter seemed to morph into more sinister tones, you know like those laughing clowns you get shrieking manically in booths at the end of an old fashioned seaside end of the pier show.  Well it sounded like that, judgemental cackling at my idiocy in running at all.  Quite menacing, it creeped me out.  How was I ever going to finish this?  The weird thing is, the second time around, passing him just before the finish, his laughter was all benevolent  and festive ho ho ho again.  How weird is that?  I know, inexplicable!

clown laughing

Still, running is a funny thing.  By the time I got to the second lap, I was pretty much running solo.  It turned out that there were some runners still behind me, but I didn’t know that at the time. There were also runners not too far ahead, but a quirk of the course meant that I could never quite see them as they were always just around the corner from my line of sight.  So with lap two, I stopped worrying about what everyone else was doing, and just pootled about in my own way.  It was really lovely.  The rain eased, and I embraced my inner hobbit, looking at the mossy hillocks that surrounded me, fallen trees providing little hobbit holes, and lovely leaf-covered tracks in all directions.  It felt temporarily at least, like my natural hobbit habitat, a comforting if somewhat fantastical parallel universe of ferns and glades and scampering wildlife. What’s not to like?  I ran on, with some genuine enthusiasm, the second lap seemed a lot easier for some reason, I wonder if quite genuinely it was because I just ran at my own pace, I didn’t fall over, and even though I was pretty slow, I pretty much ran the whole way.  Now I fully appreciate that this might seem a weird observation to make to people who run properly, but I am an accomplished walk/run ‘runner’ so to keep on going throughout an off-road 10km is pretty good going for me, however slowly one foot goes in front of the other, and even if it is just the second lap.

So whilst I didn’t exactly manage a sprint finish, I did get round to the applause of the awesomely enthusiastic event organiser who was brandishing at least one stop watch, even more pleasingly, my fellow Smiley was there to welcome me back.  Hooray, job done.  Plus, I realised to my absolute astonishment, I had not been lapped!  Yay, I’m making progress.  Suddenly, running is great again!  The cold and wet is forgotten, it’s all about the post-run endorphins and the prospect of a hot latte in a warm café….

everyday is a good day when you run

So next stop tea shop and racing debrief – great to gossip with fellow Smileys and enjoy that post run glow.  Thank you lovely Longshaw people for laying on this event, friendly, fun and (with hindsight) an enjoyable course, whatever the weather…  For me, this event is a great extension to Parkrun, in that it is a fixed, but longer distance, and more interesting too in that it is off-road.  The timing may be inexact, but that isn’t an issue for me.  (Oh, and if you are interested in that kind of thing, they email you your time later on, seems to work OK, though if you are a real keenie you probably have a more accurate time on your all singing all dancing GPS tracking watch anyway.)

Debrief over, shop browsed, minute’s silence for Remembrance Sunday somewhat awkwardly observed, coffees drunk and we headed back to the car  We tried to take a selfie together in our running numbers but it was a fairly unsuccessful, if amusing, exercise.  Note to self, either find an outsider to take the blog-shot next time, or get a new running buddy in possession of a selfie stick, and work on ingratiating yourself to them.  In the interim, this will have to do – we could be anywhere, but I promise we were indeed at Longshaw, trust me, I’m a Hobbit, and I felt at home..

Categories: 10km, motivation, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

There be dragons

Smug.  That is current state of being.  I quite like it, it is a rare thing for me to experience any degree of smugness at all, let alone running related smugness.  It almost makes up for the blotchy skin and peat-soaked footprints that are now scattered round the carpets in my flat.

Percy pud

So the story is this.  The Percy Pud details landed on my doorstep a couple of days ago, and accompanying them a pang of conscience.  I recall vaguely making a promise to try and train for this 10km as a gesture of appreciation towards those more deserving athletes who really, really wanted to run, but didn’t manage to sign up in time.  For various reasons, some legitimate, some not, this has not happened to date.  Today I decide to try and to something about it.  The weather forecast is great, I have no other immediate commitments, I shall go for a run.  I will do it all by myself, and I will cover a ‘reasonable’ distance.  I’m not entirely sure what that will be, but believe it or believe it not, I do have a favourite run.  It takes me from my front door, down the hill to Whitely Woods, then up the Porter Brook Valley, going out and beyond onto the heather topped hills where you get an amazing view back towards Sheffield, and then you can romp across back to Ringinglow Road, and home again, or sometimes I’ll do a different route back through Lady Canning’s plantation.  I don’t really know how far it is, I’ve always thought it was about 12 km, but I’ve just tried to trace the route on a map and it’s coming out at 9.5 miles (more like 15km)- maybe that’s actually right, as I was out for a good couple of hours all in.  Thirty minutes of that was actually running, thirty minutes gazing about, and the other hour trying to find a good way to cross the freezing swamp at the top of the route without getting soaked.  Epic fail.

So after a bit of a faff over which shoes to wear I was off and out the door.   I went for trail, but they were still all mudded up from Longshaw. Stiff and uncomfortable.  I’ve got a horrible feeling I’m going to have to replace them soon.  I’ve also rubbed a hole in the heel at the back which is VERY annoying, as I think the sole of the shoe is good, but they are becoming a blister risk.  Memo to self, ask running buddy about medicinal plasters for repairing of shoes.  She has done some excellent improvisation around this with various tapes and plasters in the past, and offered to do some magical repairs pre the Dovedale Dash, but I shunned her, more fool me.

It was still bitterly cold out, but no ice, and clear still skies over head.  I walked to begin with, kidding myself this was ‘to warm up’ but really it was to delay the inevitable.  I did eventually pick up a bit of a jog, and was surprisingly OK with it.  I virtually never run on my own, so it feels a bit strange, I was more comfortable when I got into the woods.  There were quite a few people out and about, mostly dog walkers, but a few other runners.  I feel no need to keep pace with them, but it is companionable that they are also around.  I am terrible for stopping to look about, it is lovely in the woods, robins and other birds in abundance, beautiful trees, the fast flowing stream.  I have to consciously remind myself I am supposed to be running.  Occasionally I am shamed into doing so, one dog walker asked me in all innocence, not being sarcastic ‘so are you are a runner then, or just out for a walk?’   I make as if I’ve just been doing the walking bit of an interval session training and make a show of sprinting off a bit until I’m round the corner and safely out of sight again.

I do experience a few wardrobe challenges today.  My amazing sports bra is suddenly performing below par.  It just isn’t fitting well, and there is too much, well movement frankly, and not enough support.  I would like to think this is because my body shape is now transforming due to my training regime, but sadly I think it is more likely that inadvertently putting my bra in a hot wash cycle and then drying on the radiator once too often has taken its toll.  This is really bad news.  Buying a good running bra is a quest as full of danger, frustration, angst and all-consuming intensity as searching for the holy grail itself.  Please let my bra magically re align to my boobs, please, please.

Onwards up the valley, there is a muddy steep bit at the end.  By now the sun is sort of breaking through the now leafless branches, and the mulch of trodden birch leaves catch the light.  Each leaf on the top of the path sits overlapping the next to form a perfect pattern, like scales on a reptile.  The colours are gold, orange and brown, it’s quite magical.  I try to think of what they remind me of, and then it comes to me.  Honestly truly I felt like I was running across scales of a slumbering dragon.  Pretentious possibly, a consequence of a blood sugar drop perhaps, but  true nevertheless.  There was an almost perfect geometry to the leaf-patterns, and the shimmer of the sun on the leaves made them look alive like the dragon was gently breathing beneath me.  Wouldn’t it be completely great if we did have our own Porter Valley dragon?  Look out for it next time you are heading up there.  See, here is a photo of actual dragon scales and actual autumn leaves.  You can hardly differentiate between the two of them, can you?

Heading up out of the woods, and towards the heather I felt really great.  It is lovely out and about.  I can look back at the view across to Sheffield and feel like I have the whole place to myself.  I love this little bit of wild moor, I am so lucky to have it practically on my doorstep I don’t know why I so rarely make the effort to head on up there.  Lovely soft bouncy grass, bit muddy, but not desperate, and  I turn to head back to Ringinglow Road and Lady Canning Plantation.  Now I meet my nemesis.  Intellectually I knew we’d had a lot of rain.  Hey, I’d even had the foresight to wear trail shoes, so I knew that the terrain would be decidedly off-road.  However, it seems I’d underestimated the extent of wetness that would greet me.  The path had basically become a swamp.  Puddles of icy water glittering in the sun would have seemed positively picturesque were it not for the fact I’d need to negotiate them.  I experimented with various alternate routes.  Heading up and above the path in one direction just took me to crevasse like holes in the peat where between tussocks water poured back down into the earth in a noisy torrent.  In the other direction the bog became more and more treacherous and I had visions of being sucked down into the liquid peat to remain there for thousands of years like those bogmen that are occasionally found across the world.  I wonder what they’d make of my stomach contents and my badly fitting underwear millennia into the future.  I don’t think they’d be mistaking me for a goddess, sacrifice possibly, deity never.

In the end there was nothing for it.  I gingerly bobbed from tussock to tussock in an almost direct route, until inevitably I lost my footing and sank up to my ankles in the freezing, darkly coloured liquid.  At this point, my enthusiasm for running what with the gorgeous surrounds, sleeping dragon and general joie de vivre abandoned me.  I HATE having cold wet feet.  It did though make me pick up speed again, I wasn’t staying out any longer than I had to now.  I decided against the plantation route, in favour of the road.  There is a gentle downward incline going back towards home.  I love this.  It’s like that sensation you get when you run on a travelator in a deserted airport (or is that just me).  Look at this one – you’d have to have a sprint on it wouldn’t you, too good an opportunity to pass by…


I feel super human, with gravity on my side I really do get into a rhythm and enjoy the sensation of feeling like I’m really covering some ground now, this is easy.  I briefly wonder if this is what ‘proper’ runners feel like all the time, but that seems unlikely.  Also, they probably don’t have to do what I am doing right now, which is that less than glamorous thing of running whilst holding one boob in each of my hands in a vain attempt to minimise bounce.  I am going to have to do something about my bra.

It was an uneventful return run, I got a cheery wave from my postman as I came back.  Once I stopped I realised I was freezing, stripping off for a shower (only once back in my flat, I don’t know the postman that well) I revealed the glorious (not really ) sight of blackened feet from the peat, and red blotchy skin everywhere apart from where my bra and knickers were.  Is that just me too?  I looked like (poor taste alert) I’d been caught in the blow back from a nuclear blast, where all exposed skin had been reddened and burned, but anything covered somehow escaped damage.  Well, like I would if I’d been wearing a bikini at the time it all went up in a mushroom cloud anyway.  It is not a good look.  And it continued even after my shower.

I had a go at cleaning the worst of the mud off my shoes straight away, and then took them into the shower with me to finish them off.  Is that also odd?  I have no way of knowing.  It was effective however.  Even though it meant that after cleaning me, I had to go around cleaning the bath, cleaning bath mats, and trying to scrub the peat sodden footprint stains out of every carpet in my flat.  Still, small price to pay for feeling smug.  That’s me, altogether awesome and committed enough as a runner, that today, I did it all by myself, dragons or no dragons, I took it on!





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

Perishing Parkrun

Shackleton weather this week at Parkrun.  That is, arctic conditions, those rising to the weekly challenge of the 5km jog out, would not just be running in the wet carrying a barcode and wearing deely-boppers (optional).  Instead, they (that is I) would be navigating the ice, dragging negative thoughts round the route with them/me (what was I thinking? why am here?  Will I ever feel my hands or feet again?), definitely a test of tenacity to turn up at this week’s Parkrun….

shackleton ice photo

 Wet is one thing, snow and ice quite another.  My relationship with snow is complex but perhaps familiar.  Yes, yes, it is very inconvenient and cold and all of that, but the first snow of winter is completely brilliant.   The possibilities for sledging and snow angels, and the sheer breath-taking loveliness of it all  means at first you forget  about the no public transport and ample chilblains aspects of it all.  Well, I do anyway.  Being in an attic flat with insufficient insulation meant it was absolutely freezing on Friday night.  True, the temperature had plummeted anyway, plus I’d just come back from a trip to London for a couple of weeks, so returning to Sheffield I did indeed find as a soft southerner that it is a bit grim up North just now –  (temperature wise, not local temperaments).  And, it happened that snow was forecast, and snow came!

I was so cold in the night I couldn’t really sleep, and in the small hours detected that change in sound that can only mean one thing, SNOW!  That was enough to get me out from under the duvet, first trying to peer through my Velux windows and excitedly realising I couldn’t see anything because they were completely obscured by snow.  This meant I had to resort to opening blinds and looking out properly onto the snow-scape outside.  Not an entirely poetic sight, as mainly from my bedroom window I can see a car park, but the cars were most definitely covered in a good couple of inches of snow, and the garden at the back (yep, I had to check out every possible window view in the house) was more working towards winter wonderland status with trees having a good covering and grassy areas obscured with a blanket of snow.  I was so excited.  This completely put paid to any further sleep, and I spent the rest of the night, blinking, getting up periodically to look out of the window and check that the snow was still there, whilst listening to Radio 4  Extra.

By morning, some of the snow had disappeared, though I can’t fathom why as there was an icy blast that made it feel way below freezing.  I was quite taken with the idea of running in freshly fallen snow, but in the cold (literal and metaphorical) light of day, Parkrun was seeming a bit less appealing if I’m really honest.  It was very icy, and nippy even by northern standards.  Maybe not enough for wearing a coat on a night out, but cold enough to remark on it whilst waiting at the bus-stop say.

People often say to me ‘what possesses you to run?‘  I tell myself this is  because they are in awe of my obvious commitment to the pursuit of athletic endeavours.  If their intonation has a slight tang of incredulity, it is surely that they are incredulous at my tenacity, not at all that they are incredulous that I bother to venture out at all given my physical limitations which are many and manifest. Running motivation is different for all of us, so I can only speak personally.  On this particular day it was largely on the basis that  the worse the weather, the greater the bragging rights post run, so the misery of running in the cold and wet is cancelled out by the joy of going on and on about it later on. This though, alas, is only partially true.  Because you can’t win a bragging contest with other runners who are out there running too anyway, and you can’t win a bragging war with non runners, because they just think you are stupid for going out in the first place.  What you can do though is generate a healthy glow, burn some extra calories and enjoy breakfast more than is entirely decent.  Plus, a handy motivational picture on the Graves Parkrun facebook page reminds us that –

its only cold if you are standing still

‘It’s only cold if you’re standing still.’  This is sort of true, but little comfort to the volunteers, who for all I know are still standing in their fluorescent jackets immortalised in ice around the route at Sheffield Hallam because even extreme commitment to clapping runners en route wouldn’t do much to keep the cold at bay.  Maybe as the winter finally draws in, we need motivational posters for the volunteers specifically as much as the runners.  There’d be no Parkrun without them after all…

Venturing out of the house, it’s a lot harder to get about than I’d imagined.  Black ice, thick ice, icy ice.  I nearly went arse over tit (and not in a glamorous way) just going down the front steps.  My route to the park takes me down a really steep hill.  It didn’t look too bad, but was adrenalin inducing treacherous to negotiate.  Quite quickly I was skidding out of control, and for quite a distance.  It was that thing of being too scared to try and stop the skid, because I thought I’d end up falling backwards and cracking my head open.  In my third skid, I built up such momentum that I saw my life flash before me.   I ended up bending my knees and adopting a sort of skiing posture.  (Well, what I think might be a ski posture but I’ve never been skiing so who knows?  I have though met a fortune teller who told me I’d meet a ski instructor one day who will take me to Switzerland and teach me for free, so I’m rather hanging on for that.  I’ve been waiting a quarter of a century so far, so I’m hoping it will happen quite soon now.)  In fact, this change in posture, just created extra acceleration, and in desperation I did a sort of slalom into the stone wall of one of the front gardens that I was otherwise whizzing past en route.  The good news was  that this did bring me to a halt. The bad news was that in grabbing the top of the wall it began to crumble under my weight, and then I realised the house owner was watching me from her car.  She was very nice actually, asking me if I was alright as I sheepishly tried to nonchalantly re-erect her garden wall.  It is just as hard as you might think to reassemble a stone wall without drawing attention to yourself and the damage you have caused to it, especially when you have just that moment been witnessed crashing into it.   I made the rest of the way down the hill clinging to the walls at the side of the way down.

I did start to wonder if Parkrun would be cancelled, but figured that if so, the worst that might happen in that event would be breakfast, but without the running first bit, which would be OK.  Actually, that’s not entirely true, the worst thing would be being made to run it anyway, but without it ‘counting’ towards milestone T-shirt. This happened last New Year’s day.  I headed off to Graves Parkrun, in fancy dress, and it was cancelled due to ice.  My over keen friends insisted on running it anyway, and because I never really got the hang of being assertive, and I don’t like to miss out, I traipsed round too, it was terrifying ice and hills, not a great combination … but then again, strangely pleasing at the end. It seems when it comes to my motivation for running, it is sort of complicated and hard to explain.   I do think though that there is one line that is not to be crossed.  I have recently become acquainted with a new running buddy who has floated the idea of possibly coming and doing Parkrun but without doing the breakfast bit afterwards.  This is surely a precedent not to be set.  I’m letting it go at the minute, because she’s new, but it may yet have to be tackled, we shall see…  That would be the absolutely worse scenario.  Run in ice, unofficially so no time, and then NO BREAKFAST either.  Disaster.

Because it took ages to get down to the start, I was quite late on the scene, and quickly joined the huddle of starters.  We were like penguins, in constant motion trying to get in the centre of the throng so others would shield us from the arctic wind.  It is one of those rare occasions when I don’t mind too much about my personal space, hell I’ll cuddle up to anyone when it’s this cold, could be a good opportunity to get to know some of my fellow runners a bit better.


So this is what it looked like basically.  The penguins on the edge are the hardy (or noble and self-sacrificing anyway) volunteer marshals and run-director.  You can see what I mean about how cold they must have got.  Shame.

The pre-run briefing warned of ice en route.  Now, I figured I’d already had  quite enough near death experiences for one day, so I made a really conscious decision, to go for just keeping safe, and see whether I might achieve a PW (personal worst).  I would put myself under no pressure at all, it was quite liberating in a way.  For clarification, you might not think it to watch me run, but slow and steady as I am, I do try… not as hard as others granted, but in my own special way, it was quite nice to just decide to pootle round gazing about  and trying not to skid around to much.

In such a mind set, running became an exercise in mindfulness.  The shout for ‘off’ went and I shuffled out.  The first patch of ice was within the first loop, and I gingerly picked my way through letting most of the field stream ahead of me.  It was good taking in the white hues of ice and frost in the park.  I was a bit unnerved at one point by an unpleasant grunting behind me.  This can happen, noisy breathing runners just at your shoulder can be unsettling.  Well I find it so, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few near miss spitting incidents, and those sounds were suggestive of an early warning  indicator that a trajectory of phlegm could be in the offing.  In the event, it turned out to be a dog hauling round a more hesitant owner.  Generally speaking having a dog is an advantage at Parkrun, but I wouldn’t fancy being dragged headlong over the ice by a hyper excited and super-animated canine in these conditions. However, for future reference, you may be interested to know that at  Graves Parkrun they occasionally auction the opportunity to run with their resident whippet Lily, so that you can achieve a personal best .. presumably as long as your nerve holds being hauled round. Oh, and before you ask, in the picture on the right Lily is in fancy dress for Halloween as a Mummy Dog, it isn’t a case of dog-abuse, no need to get Alan Davies round to check it all out.

It was quite an education going round deliberately slowly  I decided (uncharacteristically) to try to concentrate on improving running stride.  I was listening out for my footfalls, to see how heavily I was landing.  confusingly, it took a while for me to register that there was a runner behind me who was I think deliberately pacing in rhythm with me.  I felt quite honoured, normally it is me parasitizing someone elses pacing.

The words of the foundation running group guru at Smiley Paces are ringing in my ears.  I  try to gain more speed but keep stability by taking really short strides so I can use my weight being forwards to help rotate through my foot and so quicken my pace.  This is counter-intuitive, but it sort of works.  Get me, working on my technique.  If my old PE teacher could see me now…. and gawd help her if I saw her first to be honest, but that’s a petty grudge that’s been carried over decades longer than is probably absolutely healthy….

Going round I realised I’d left on my buff round my neck by accident.  This means  I am running in a scarf essentially.  Actually, it’s quite comfy, but I don’t look hard core or cool donned in it.  ‘How very unexpected’, I hear you exclaim!

Inevitably, I am lapped.  But I am completely mystified as to how these runners have come round quite so quickly  The ice was treacherous enough that I resorted to walking and picking my way over it in places.  They just fly through as if the ground is utterly predictable and firm under foot.  Have they been running in snow shoes?   Surely I’d have noticed, though my observation skills aren’t flawless I have noticed the trees along Rustlings Road bedecked with knitted bunting (an attempt to raise awareness of their imminent risk of being untimely ripped from the earth for reasons that I absolutely cannot fathom).  I notice too that leaf litter fairies have cleared some of path on the outside of the park, but as you turn into it again it has become a slushy slide of autumn leaves churned by runners into an organic orange slick of high risk terrain as you loop back in.  All good practice for off-road trails of the future I suppose.

So finally finished, to my amazement, the zero effort approach has only added a minute to my usual time.  This is perhaps telling. I do have a theory that when the weather is bad there are fewer runners, and those that come are typically more dedicated so fleeter of foot, and that speeds things up.  Even so it is food for thought, I walked longish sections and didn’t even get out of breath, maybe if I made just a bit more effort, I could improve my speed quite significantly… it remains to be seen if I can be bothered to put this theory to the test.

Some companionable chatting at the end of the run. Catching up with fellow Smileys nursing injuries (shin splints, sprains)  Some are wondering if they will have to miss the Percy Pud, which  as regular readers will know is THE Event of the Sheffield Running Christmas Calendar.  To pull out would be terrible, especially after such a scrap to get a slot in the first place!  The fear is that running would worsen existing injuries, true of my Smiley comrades who find it hard to suppress their competitive instincts.  I suggest enforced slowing by dint of wearing elaborate fancy dress.  Something spectacularly unaerodynamic would work for nursing the injured home safely, maybe a Christmas Tree made of foam, or even a papier mache plum pudding would do the trick.  I am not convinced my ideas were treated with the reverence and seriousness they deserved, personally, I think this idea is genius, and would save a lot of taping and ice-packing post run.

We didn’t linger too long.  Four of us go heading off to breakfast we found our favourite café pretty empty.  Unusually , the proprietor is waiting tables, and we take the opportunity to we complain to him about the reduced portion size for mushrooms we have noticed has crept in since they introduced a new menu.  He looks crestfallen, and I feel guilty.  Though it is true.  I’d rather they upped the price and kept the mushroom portion size the same, but it seems it isn’t that simple.  Confusingly, we then go on to order what we always ordered anyway, scrambled eggs on granary bloomer with mushrooms and a latte.  Is there a different breakfast option?  I can’t see the point.  It is delicious, it is still our favourite café.


Buoyed up by breakfast, buzzing with extra endorphins from running in the cold, we discuss future running challenges.  The further away they are in the future, the more inclined I am to imagine they will be doable, because by then I will have metamorphosed from an inadvertent runner to a toned and perfectly tuned running machine.  Hope over experience triumphs again, Lakes Dirty Double? Count me in…  Here is a cheesy quote to prove my current optimism, however misguided, might yet be enough to get me round.  Well, it’s either the optimism, or the large glass of alcohol that also features in the image, that should keep me both dosed up and deluded enough to at least give it a go.


 Seriously though, what’s the worst that could happen?  No doubt I’ll get to find out in due course if my running history to date is anything to go by… we shall all just have to wait and see!  In the meantime, let’s drink to over-optimistic challenges, and find out what we are really capable of.




Categories: 5km, motivation, parkrun, Percy Pud, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Smiley Paces Going Places – Blasting Bushy Parkrun

Did you know that ‘choosing a wheelie bin is an incredibly personal thing’? No? Me neither.  It’s funny the kind of thoughts that pop into your mind as you run, this was one of mine today yomping round Bushy parkrun, as I recalled a phone conversation with an especially passionate purveyor of said bins who was trying to help me to select from one of the many possibilities available  on their website.  I like that I live in a world where someone cares so much about wheelie bins, though really I myself don’t.

It wasn’t quite accurate to describe it as a Smiley Paces take over, but it was surely a start.  Two of us out of a throng of 934 is still a 100% increase on any previous turn out of Smiley’s at Bushy parkrun as far as I am aware.  If we keep doubling our attendance on a weekly basis exponentially in this way then by Christmas Day Parkrun we’d be up to 128 which is over 10% of the field.  What’s more, if you believe Wikipedia (and obviously I do in all things, always) then, based on the ‘wheat and chessboard story’ whereby you keep doubling the number of grains of wheat as you move through each of the squares of the chessboard then the sum of grains is: 1 + 2 + 4 + 8… and so forth for the 64 squares, then the total number of grains equals 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 by the time you get to the end.  Apparently.  I don’t even know how to say that number out loud, but I’m thinking that if we really aim to hit this target 64 weeks from now, i.e. on Saturday 4th Feb 2017, then we are going to need a membership drive.  A worthy ambition though I feel, whilst I would concede perhaps we should start more modestly with a more local takeover event at say Sheffield Castle parkrun which apparently averages around 40 or so runners, and we can then move like a locust swarm further afield as we wish.  Just a thought…

chessboard problem

Anyway, for reasons way to complicated (and possibly dull) to explain, it happened that me and one of my Sheffield Hallam parkrun breakfast club running buddies were both in the vicinity of this parkrun Mecca at the same time and so agreed to rendezvous at the Bushy parkrun, so we could together inhale the heady delights of that enchanted place.  I was disproportionately excited at the prospect of us doing it together, so to speak, and even more intoxicated at the embellishment to the plan which was  to make it a threesome as her sister was joining us too.  Now, my loyal and regular readers will know how I like to big up my Bushy parkrun associations, with the tales of stags and carp and mythical creatures cavorting in the bracken, thousands of people gazelle-like tripping though the ant hills and bracken (albeit actually tripping at times) and the sun forever shining, though in the very unlikely event of rain, there are a thousand arching rainbows covering the entire 5km route.  Sadly, this morning the rain was icy, and the aspect gloomy.  I was a tad in fear of being exposed for a teensy weensy bit of creativity in my evocation of place as I trudge towards the loo for our pre-race rendezvous.  The deer are all in hiding from the rain, there is not so much as a unicorn dropping in evidence, let alone an actual unicorn and even the parakeets have taken cover in the trees, and frankly who can blame them?  I’d be half inclined to shelter in the canopy myself if I thought I had the upper body strength to get me there.

The first challenge is finding somewhere to dump my backpack, which isn’t waterproof, but which I have brought with me to put in my fleece and raincoat for warmth and protection post run.  There is no bag drop at Bushy.  To be fair there isn’t really at my home Parkrun either, but I’ve got used to dumping my backpack on the floor by the volunteers stuff, Bushy Park is so vast I feel a bit more vulnerable.  It is another thing to angst about.  First off is mustering the courage to whip off my fleece in the first place, as it is decidedly nippy.  Given the last few outings and drenchings I’ve had, I’m really beginning to think I’d rather be running in a cagoule or duffle coat.  Maybe I will one day, just to see… I strip off, stuff my fleece into the backpack and bracing myself into the chill wind, I select a tree with a wooden railing surround. I wish I’d concentrated more watching survival programmes  in he past, and then I’d know how to tell which way the elements are likely to lash down most furiously over the next half hour.  I decide against leaving my pack on the ground at the base of the tree as I dread to think how many dogs will have peed on it by the time I get back.  Instead I hang it off the top of one of the wooden stakes, and cover the whole thing with a plastic bag which I have fortuitously (but inadvertently)  brought with me (the backpack is over 16 years old now and whilst it has a whiff of vintage it has no whiff of waterproofing any more).  The plastic bag is bearing the logo of an employer for a job I much hated doing, so I am happy to rip it up so it fits over my backpack, even though that is like tossing a 5 pence piece aside these days, which is maybe a tad profligate, but I believe running is worth such ostentatious extravagance.  Anyway, whilst not wishing to incite jealousy exactly, I think it only fair to point out I may well be a plastic bag millionaire –  now if I actually dig out and count the plastic bags I have been collecting under my sink for the past half-century or thereabouts. Frankly, I can afford to indulge in this act of abandon, so why shouldn’t I?

I miss my friend and her sister at the loos, but amazingly, find them in the throng of nearly one thousand starters and am able to join them in time to hear the pre-race briefing.  It is as always, pretty comprehensive.  Milestone runners are congratulated, champion rickshaw fundraisers (Children in Need but I didn’t see it) cheered, and marshals warmly applauded. The new Parkrun code is alluded too.  I agree this is a worthy initiative, but have already seen some creative additions suggested.  One favourite is: ‘Can you add ‘don’t make your children run with you if they are hating it and crying’?’ I have never witnessed this at Bushy parkrun to be fair.  Well, it’s something in the air here of course – a stronger, fitter, leaner, faster, more enthused, runner has evolved from Bushy Park.  With other creatures it’s harder to pinpoint the exact moment in evolution that leads to a seismic shift and so the emergence of a new species.  With parkrun we have a documented moment when the DNA exploded outwards which is the literal origin of The Parkrunner.  Sadly though, as I suppose must happen with any evolutionary developmental process, mutations creep in.  Whilst some are to be celebrated, others are not.  Alas I have seen the occasional sobbing child being bullied round  at Sheffield Hallam and it is an obscenity to behold, (and yes people do try and intervene, but such situations are hard to manage)  Not in the spirit of Parkrun at all.  The following rules  are in the spirit of parkrun however, and should be read, inwardly digested and abided by.  One day I will do a spoof of this, but for now, I’m actually enjoying the original.  Embrace the moment.

parkrun rules november 2015

So we listen to the briefing.  My running buddy claps almost a bit too evangelically to be cool at each one of  the announcements.  I think the excitement has rather overcome her, I’m sure she whooped and even jumped up and down a bit.  Positively giddy. I look on her with compassion and benevolence, I  remind myself she is a Bushy parkrun virgin so it is inevitable she will be a inappropriately euphoric with it all,  as an ”old hand’ of Bushy parkrun I have perhaps become a little too nonchalant.  She is so intoxicated with the reality of just being here, that she doesn’t even seem to have noticed there are neither unicorns nor a tunnel of rainbows, I might yet get away with this.  Bushy parkrun is rising to the occasion too, and will seduce her as surely as it has me.



She comes with her ‘really slow’ (at running) sister, whose presence here,  whilst not entirely in breach of the rule ‘don’t force your friend/ child/ relative to run if they are crying and hating it’, has possibly come in response to the application of prior extreme cajolement – surely a grey area of running etiquette.   That line between motivational pep talks and unreasonable pressure.  For the record, said sister, still manages to romp home way ahead of me by the way.  Which would have been completely acceptable were it not for the fact that she kept saying how ‘no, honestly, I’m pathetically slow, really, really slow’.  Yes, well you may be, but you are still 2 minutes ahead of me on your second ever parkrun, so maybe for next time around work on the phrasing of your running achievements in order that I may retain some small vestige of self-esteem to carry me through the winter months ahead…


All too soon we are off!  Sprinting towards the ant hills and the bottle neck of the start.  It feels quite a squash today, but the park is gorgeous in the rain – which has abated a bit to be honest.  The leaves on the ground are kicked up underneath the runners releasing a wonderful smell of autumn.  I feel happy running, it is unusual for me, but I’m in a rhythm, in thought, and jollily jogging along, eavesdropping, which is what I do best.  That’s not to say I don’t waiver from time to time – there is one woman who passes me with a long thick plait tantalisingly bobbing up and down on her back.  She is like Rapunzel with her locks (although the runner’s hair is black and I think Rapunzel was blonde – she was in my Ladybird book of the name I’m sure, though I don’t honestly know how well researched that was prior to publication).  I fantasise briefly about grabbing hold of that plait and being dragged round, like those runners who do canicross with their dogs?  She is too fast though, and flown by before I can latch on – SPOILER alert  Matt Damon (The Martian) might have had a chance of link up, but not me.  The things that man did with gaffer tape were pretty good, but that join up – inspirational.


Loads of good chit chat today, some reactions to the horrors that unfolded in Paris yesterday, which sort of puts a lot of things in context to be honest, like my wet feet, which are annoying but not so terrible in the grand  scheme of things really, are they?  Some first timers, suitably excited and in awe of it all, wondering how far left, whether they could do it at all?  The second timers ‘I think we’ve done better at not being squashed this week and also, my legs don’t feel like they will fall off this time round … (pause) … not so far anyway.’  A rather animated exchange between father and (youngish) son about Boldemort.   ‘Who’s Boldemort?‘  (blah response) ‘no you mean Voldemort duh – Boldemort, that would have to be an extra white face, you know like whiter than white, that would be so stupid!’  Hilarious, though strictly speaking, wasn’t it Daz that was whiter than white?  picky, I know.  Today’s favourite, the two women running together, pace for pace, with warmth and empathy as they struck out stride for stride, mainly in what seemed to be companionable silence.  One then said to the other ‘I sometimes  wonder what it would be like to run if you could actually be bothered with it’  No audible reaction, she obviously spoke with wisdom and insight… it’s certainly a thought – maybe I should take it on board myself?

I enjoyed the run today, it had all the criteria, modest physical challenge, blustery weather, friendly folk, good audio accompaniment, abstract thoughts (see wheelie bins reference above) not too bad with my arthritis or bunions, and no hanging around in the cold at the end waiting for anyone else to finish, because I’m always last in from amongst my cohort anyway.   Cheery marshals.  The one who smiled most was in the funnel, clapping and cheering us back in the rain.  I asked if he was smiling and laughing so much because he wasn’t having to run anywhere, but he said he wasn’t running today because he was recovering from completing a marathon last weekend.  The high from that must have been quite something, he was still cavorting on cloud nine all these days later, and in the rain too!


So mission accomplished, post run breakfast in the pheasantry coffee shop.  This appeared to be the site of some sort of impromptu occupation by parkrunners, who had descended like a flash mob on the premises.  It was fun though.  Lots of complex bar code sorting and counting going on, many coffees being drunk, running injuries shown off and PBs achieved and missed being regaled around us. Just one table occupied by the camouflage crew from British Military Fitness, who, for the record, looked slightly less hard and intimidating when sipping their choca-mocha-lattes with extra marshmallows than they had roaring commands to their numbered-tabard wearing charges being beasted earlier on.

There was also a Christmas Tree.  Decorated and everything. I despair.  But that hadn’t participated in either parkrun or indeed British Military Fitness, so I don’t think it requires further comment.  It was quite attention gaining enough without me further giving it the oxygen of publicity on which to flourish.

On departing, we tried to pose for a selfie, but were defeated by the technology.  A yellow-cagoule wearing passer by took pity on us and stepped in as our very own David Bailey, he even took a directorial role, galvanising us to relax and smile, and especially pleasingly, made a noise of a ‘phut’ like a proper old fashioned flash bulb going off on a proper old tripod camera with a hood and everything as he did so .  It was fun. Clearly, it doesn’t take much to entertain me.  Thank you nice man in the park.

Puce at Bushy Parkrun 14 nov 2015

I was marginally less enamoured of him when I saw the photo.  Do I really go that colour of puce after a run?  Maybe so.  The truth can hurt and they do say the camera never lies after all.  On the plus side, it was deemed of sufficient quality for my running buddy to post on Facebook to give us bragging rights in relation to our attendance at parkrun with our Smiley Paces  running club and Sheffield Hallam parkrun comrades.  I fear I had let the side down by not wearing my Smiley vest, nevertheless, maybe the snapshot will still serve to galvanise others to make the pilgrimage. I’d so love to see a snake of our red smiley shirts curling through the trails of Bushy Park.  And at the back, my spot, I’d get a great view of the full extent of it, stretching into infinity almost, if we just follow the grains of wheat on a chessboard principle, it shouldn’t take too long to get there at all.  No time at all.  Prepare yourself Bushy, we Smileys are stepping out and stepping up and coming your way, ready or not!

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

Making a splash at Parkrun

Not me, Jessica Ennis.  Though there were a great many puddles, and I did a considerable amount of sploshing of my own through them.


Blinking in the dark from the comfort of under the duvet early this morning, all I could hear was rain beating down on the attic roof.  This does not bode well.  Parkrun is all well and good, and running in the drizzle acceptable, but this is actual unrelenting torrential rain that is a tortuous test of my tenacity in turning out to Parkrun.  I seriously wonder if this is the end of days, you know, like the great flood?  If it is, and this is my last day on earth, should I choose it to spend it running in the rain?  For me this is a variation on the theme of ‘live each day as if it was your last’ which, for your information, actually as advice is bollocks.  This is because whenever I have considered it, say on the way to work, I realise very quickly that if this was indeed my last day ever alive, I certainly wouldn’t be heading off there for a start, but if I didn’t turn up, and then the world didn’t actually end for everyone, ironically it might subsequently do so just especially for me –  when I got sacked for not turning up or actually saying what I thought at a team meeting or whatever, and quite soon I’d be jobless, destitute, probably living on the streets etc.   So you have to be pretty sure it’s a count down to Armageddon before you embrace that principle.  I decide on balance it probably isn’t the end of the world, so I’ll have to make my judgement based on other criteria.

I can think of a great many reasons not to run today.  The primary one being it will be profoundly unpleasant.  I am getting much better at running when it is wet under foot, even embracing the hilarity factor of mud, bogs and rivers en route, but wet overhead is a different prospect.  Plus, if I get really soaked then I might be too cold to hang about for breakfast afterwards, and it is the prospect of the post-run breakfast that keeps me going to Parkrun week after week.  Then I remember that I have never yet regretted going on a run, and I will get extra smug quotient for doing so in inclement weather.  Plus, I think of Shackleton.  He got all his crew safely back from the Antarctic in decidedly less clement weather, and they had to drag lifeboats with them (plus those glass photo negatives and a banjo if my memory serves me right) and it took a couple of months.  Parkrun for me will be 35 minutes tops, and I only have to carry a barcode (#DFYB apparently, if you are very cool and hip and happening, and have just checked the Parkrun UK Facebook page).  I will run.  I will do so with bad grace, but I will run all the same.

Parkrun Proverb, apparently.

Parkrun Proverb, apparently.

Within seconds, my phone vibrates with a message.  My faint hearted so-called running buddy has sent a tempting text.  I will not shame her by quoting it in its entirety, suffice to say it suggests the sacrilege of ‘how about breakfast, but without the running bit first?‘  It is extremely seductive as a notion, but I hold my nerve.  ‘I will not judge you’ I say as judgementally as is possible via text, ‘but I will be running.’ There is a longish pause, then a confirmation of a grumpy change of plan, we shall both now run!  This is a first, me motivating someone else to venture out in the rain.  Normally, she and I collude with each other to take it easy and concentrate on eating cake.

Despite the confidence of my statement, I am not keen.  I put on my running waterproof.  This annoys me, it doesn’t have a two-way zip so I find it a bit restrictive, and even thought it’s chucking it down, it’s quite warm, maybe I’ll be too clammy wearing it.  I stomp off remembering to take with me my aforementioned very bad grace.  Quite quickly though I feel better, it is wet, but it is also blustery and beautiful, the colours on the trees (whilst we still have them, poor Sheffield trees, horribly threatened at present) are just amazing.  As I am heading into the park there is someone standing at the entrance to it, with a very large dog on a lead.  For some reason when the dog sees me it becomes wildly excited.  Trembling with enthusiasm at my approach and wagging its tail furiously.  I am quite flattered, I don’t normally get that kind of reception from anyone or anything.  Lots of cool things happen on the way to Parkrun today, it is almost an assault on the senses.  I am particularly amused by a guy running just ahead of me, he’s wearing a lot of clothes, a beanie hat pulled down over his head, a sort of puffa jacket thing, long trousers, probably gloves, trainers.  Sprinting quite fast, he looks like he’s on his way to (or possibly away from) a robbery.  As he comes alongside the top pond in the park he reaches into his pocket and hurls pre-torn bread chunks into the water attracting a flock of hungry ducks towards him.  It is hilarious to watch, it’s like he’s conducting a drive by shooting, not the innocent activity of feeding the ducks.  Who knew such a sweet act of compassion could appear so sinister.  It just goes to show – what, I’m not exactly sure, but it definitely shows something.

I make my way to the start, and it is a bit depleted, but, and here’s the thing, there is nevertheless a ripple of excitement passing through the crowd.

Jess Ennis Sheffield

Parkrun start is right by the children’s playground.  Within the playground is a Sheffield superstar.  A goddess amongst us.  It is Jessica Ennis (or ‘Jess’ as we like to call her round here), out in the rain with her child.  The reaction amongst us is quite hilarious.  We are all in awe at being within her vicinity, but way too cool to approach her, it would be unfair.  So there are surreptitious side glances, and appreciative looks as a murmur of recognition passes amongst us.  Everyone in Sheffield  loves Jess, you can almost see the warmth oozing out towards her from the crowd of Parkrunners at the conclusion of the run (or is that just the steam of sweat evaporating).  I too love Jess even though it is her fault that I once got an answer wrong in a pub quiz about exactly which events she participates in (it’s actually harder than you think to list them, so don’t judge before you’ve tried for yourself).  I feel smug and rewarded for my diligence in turning out for Parkrun.  We, like Jess, have been willing to turn out in the rain, and so have found ourselves rubbing shoulders with the stars.  Sort of.

The rain pauses briefly, so I take off my running waterproof.  The shout for ‘off’ comes round quite quickly, after something about there being filming today, but I don’t know what that was for – student project at a guess, the film crew looked alarmingly youthful, but then everybody does these days.  There are a lot of fallen leaves, so it’s quite slippery.  There are some monster puddles, and I realise belatedly that my legs are killing me after a particularly sadistic workout at my Friday exercise class yesterday.  Running is quite as bad as I thought.  The route at Endcliffe involves a loop at the start (and twice again later actually) that takes you back past the playground.  I figure that running round I can have a good old gawp at Jess, just to check my celebrity sighting is properly and personally verified.  In my enthusiasm for rubber necking I don’t look where I am going and land full in a deep puddle.  This leads to a pretty conclusive soaking, wet up the legs and two shoes full of water.  I’d really like to do a run with dry feet again, but this might not now happen until 2016 at this rate.  I also can’t see Jess because she has her back to me, serves me right.


It seems a long, long way around today.  I am really badly lapped, and I hate that.  Worse, as the leaders are finishing and I’m having to head off round again, the heavens open and a proper drenching ensues.  Wet through to my knickers, with water dripping down the back of my neck and fringe sticking to my forehead, this is not glamorous.  Jess doesn’t look like this when she runs, what’s wrong with me?  The rain is falling so heavily I just want to get around.  I do get one cracker conversation coming my way though.  Coming down the road back into the park, after running along Rustlings Road you have to go downhill and negotiate a series of speed humps.  A parent has come back from the finish to help encourage her very young (6 or 7 maybe) daughter get around the final loop.  As is usual for me, I am happy to parasitize any encouragement that is forthcoming, whether personally directed at me or not, so I listen in for any top tips.  The woman is shouting advice about the speed humps – ‘here are Jessica’s Hurdles’ she exclaims, and both her daughter and I fly over them, though her daughter with rather more grace than me as she overtakes me in the homeward stretch.  Henceforth, these speed humps will be forever known as Jess’s Hurdles in my world at least.  You can see the similarity to be honest – something like this (thank you creative commons people for your images on google).  My technique is indistinguishable from Jess’s, obviously.

Speed_bump_(asphalt) Jess hurdles

Adding to the familiar indignity of being beaten to the finish funnel by a six-year old, loads of other runners and marshals are shouting congratulations to the speeding infant.  I inadvertently say out loud ‘I wish some of those congratulations were for me’.  My petulance is rewarded, one of the funnel supervisors gives me a special clap of encouragement.  I ought to have been shamed by this, but actually, I was quite heartened.

So, at last, all over, not many coming in after me, so barcode scanned,  I rendezvoused with breakfast club buddies (we were up to four today) and after helping someone push start their car up a hill (as you do) we headed off for our well-deserved breakfast, all thoughts that we ever waivered in our enthusiasm for running quite forgotten.  We even planned another run tomorrow.  Running is a strange affliction, hard to fathom and hard to explain.

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

Dovedale Dashers do it en masse

Brigadoon basically.  That seems to be the location for the Dovedale Dash.  You know where I mean?  That remote Scottish village in the highlands that appears from the mist for one day every one hundred years?  Well, that’s sort of like my experience of getting to the Dovedale Dash.  It is a gorgeous setting for an off-road race, but it wasn’t easy to find through the near impenetrable fog that we had to navigate through from Sheffield to get there.  I can only assume it emerges from the mist annually, just for this cross country race that has become something of a local tradition, only to disappear again for another 364 days afterwards.

DD fb photo DD action in scenery

So, what possessed me to sign up for another off-road challenge?  Well, we all have different motivations for running.  For me, any number of factors could potentially have drawn me in: the glory of the great outdoors; building on my experiences at both the Wingerworth Wobble and the Endurer Dash; the need to exorcise my unfinished business with trails and waterways and navigation.  In actual fact, the most compelling factor in deciding to run, was the offer of a lift from someone else who was definitely going, with the added incentive of getting to meet her new squeeze who seemed to be up for coming along for the ride.  Curiosity may have killed the cat, but nosiness got this woman running, running scared, granted, but running all the same.

Oh, for any actual runners out there who have accidentally come across this post and want a bit more insight and information, the Dovedale Dash website blurb says:

The Dovedale Dash is a cross country race of 4 3/4 mile, run by 1200 to 1400 people of all abilities. The venue is the picturesque area around the village of Thorpe near Ashbourne and Dovedale in the south of the Derbyshire Peak District. The course is mainly along field paths and open ground in the valleys of the river Dove and Manifold. One of the excitements is the crossing of the rivers Dove at the well known Stepping Stones.

As is my usual race routine, I didn’t really give the matter a great deal of extra thought beyond having agreed to go.  I read in a recently passed on copy of Women’s Running Magazine, that sleep is a very important part of training.  Why would anyone risk sleepless nights of stressful angst considering what it is you are about to undertake, when you can hide under a duvet ignoring the inevitable and hoping it might go away?

The morning of the race dawned.  I did my usual weather check of looking out of the window first – it was VERY foggy, and then opening it and sticking my arm out to check for temperature.  This didn’t really help greatly.  I couldn’t make up my mind what to wear.  My ‘usual’ long sleeved outfit offers a bit of protection when out running, and has a handy zip pocket for, I don’t know, Parkrun barcode, keys, emergency flares, that kind of thing.  On the other hand, it was pretty warm doing Parkrun yesterday, and if I’ve got my Smiley vest on over the top then maybe short sleeved is the way to go.  I went for short sleeves, hoiked on Smiley vest as well, positioned my newly acquired bib-magnets (that have now found their way to me) and was ready for off.  The choice of running shoes was a given (off-roaders) and I’ve only got one pair of useable leggings – sorry ‘running tights’ anyway.  (Why tights by the way?  They clearly aren’t, and no matter how inclusive Parkrun is I think you’d get some stares if you wore actual tights to take part in that weekly 5km let alone a cross country race).  I grabbed my bat deely-boppers as an afterthought.  Fancy dress is encouraged, and it would be nice to give them another outing.  Went out to car, and then immediately rushed back in again to pick up my long-sleeved as well just in case…

I did short drive to rendezvous with another running buddy, and together we went round to our designated Driver for the day.  I sat in the back as although I can get a bit car sick, the other passenger looked more likely to heave en route.  Travelling in the back of a car as an adult is weird.  I automatically revert to child mode.  Eavesdropping on the grown ups in the front seat whilst staring at the back of the headrest in front, and going suddenly quiet, like a budgie that’s had a tea-towel chucked over it’s cage.  There were hints of loveliness as orange, red and gold covered trees emerged from mist, and occasional shafts of morning light shone through like spotlights, however, as we drove onward the mist deepened and pretty soon it became actual fog, and I was really glad I’d got my long-sleeved top with me as well.  We scooped up sleep-deprived partner of driver on the way, and wended our way towards Dovedale. We must have got into some sort of dip, because it was seriously poor visibility now ‘I hope we don’t have to navigate on the hills’  observed our most experienced fell runner.  Oh crap.  That had never even crossed my mind!  Given how lost I got following a trail that was set out by someone who claimed that they came from the perspective of someone who needs satnav to get upstairs in their house (wobbling round Wingerworth), I didn’t fancy being lost in the hills of Derbyshire until same time next year when the route re-appeared.  I could feel my nerve failing, and as we started to think we were lost, circling endlessly roads that were surely near the start but seeing no actual sign of it, I began to think abandoning the whole idea in favour of a pub lunch really wasn’t such a bad alternative option to pursue.

We did find the start.  Signs to the car park and suddenly it was like we’d got to a country agricultural show.  Huge fields set aside for cars, efficient attendants waving us in, a little trio of portaloos (no queue, that can’t be right) and a slide across some wet grass to get parked.  Ooh, and LOTS of people.  Where did they all come from.  I think I immediately swopped into my long sleeved top, finding that I’d already lost two of my four magnet pairs during the drive to get there.  Bit disappointing, but I was in possession of some emergency safety pin supplies so all was not lost.  After a brief marvel at the distinctive conical hill we traipsed over to a white marquee to register.  You can only register on the day, and we’d expected this to be a bit chaotic.  It was not.  It was genius, the most seamless registration ever.  They’d written in bold letters on the canopy of the tent which queue was which (adult female, adult male, children’s race whatever) and you simply turned up, handed over your fiver, scribbled your name and club (no emergency contact details required – presumably a few lost runners aren’t a big issue when you have up to 1300 taking part, and the organisers can’t be really held accountable if the venue is going to disappear back into the mist in a couple of hours anyway).  The whole thing only took a couple of minutes.

 DD stunning location 1 nov 2015

The three of us delightedly admired our numbers.  It was magical.   Almost at this very moment the sun burst through, and the landscape emerged in all it’s magnificence.  I also got a bit of a heads up on the tricks employed by more elite runners.  I am prepared to share at least one with you because it is genius, and as far as I am aware not bound by the same secrecy codes as say the Magic Circle.   Basically, you get your number and … stay with me, it is counter intuitive but it will be OK .. you scrunch it up into a little ball!  No really!  It sounds weird, and indeed on witnessing my companions doing this I did feel it looked like sacrilege of some sort, but it’s a very clever tip. If you do this, pre-crease your number, it keeps it flatter against your body, so it doesn’t billow out in the wind when running.  Now I can’t be sure if the tip is to help you be more aerodynamic in terms of speed, to prevent number loss whilst running, or just an aesthetical precaution, but it was pretty splendid to be let in on the club.  I too scrumpled my number with gusto before securing it in place with remaining two magnets and a couple of safety pins.  As I did so I looked pityingly across to the more amateur runners who were trying to keep their numbers all neat – such ignorance and inexperience, still one day they too  will learn for themselves.  What a great day for them that will be.

We spent a bit of time watching the children’s race .  These were seriously impressive kids.  There was enthusiastic, and rather personal, announcements giving a run down of the finishers as they approached the line.  I don’t know in what capacity the woman giving the excellent and exciting commentary knew them all.  Possibly a school teacher (‘little Sky spent three years with me’) but she might have been a child snatcher that they were all running away from which is why they appeared to sprint so darned fast.  They were amazing.  Some were only four or five year’s old, and yet donned in onesies they charged up a steep hill directly into the sun through a cheering throng of supporters.  Some got a bit lost at the end, confused by the crowd, diverging path and disorientating bright sun, they stumbled off in all directions, only to be shepherded back towards the funnel by benign observers.  I genuinely felt quite emotional watching it.  The determination of the runners, the people watching willing them to success and the sheer unadulterated innocent joy of it all was fabulous to behold.  Even so, we got a bit bored eventually and went off to the loos, which by now did have a pretty substantial queue.

Then back to the car, where I had to change out of my long sleeved top and back into my short-sleeved one again, and we took time to have our photo together.  It is only on seeing the photo afterwards that I come to concede the deely-boppers may have been a mistake.  My running buddy maintains they do aid with identification, but I’m thinking maybe some sort of standard like they used to carry in Caesar’s army might be better.  We could then also have left it by the car so we wouldn’t have had to spend 15 minutes racing up and down all the lines of vehicles trying to find it later on, when we all went back to the car to change ready for the race and realised not one of us had remembered where it had been parked..

pre race team photo Dovedale Dash 1 Nov 2015

There was still a bit of time, so we had a look at the course map and then chatted to a few other Smileys who were also there which was a nice surprise.  I had to have another precautionary pee, and in the queue met someone who knows someone in Smileys so that was companionable.  I then joined the Smiley cohort at the start.  One shared another top tip known by experienced runners.  Rather than queuing for the loo, earlier on she had taken the opportunity to head off to the hedgerows, but (and this is the clever bit) not wishing to bring her running club into disrepute if spotted, had pulled her Smiley vest up to cover the name before relieving herself.  She did get her arse stung by nettles though, so I’m not quite sure she has perfected the art to be honest, but still a technique to emulate in principle.

Dovedale Dash course

So the eleventh hour drew near.  I found myself at the top of a hill, part of a churning crowd of 1300 runners, some in fancy dress, some with dogs, some – bizarrely – with laden rucksacks (they were mainly guys in camouflage, so I’m thinking it was probably an exercise in endurance rather than full of sandwiches for the half-way point), and some practically in flip flops.  It is hard to describe what it is like being in that crush as the shout goes up for ‘off!’  You have to just go with it, holding your breath and hurling yourself downward. Even at the back it was quite scary, and some of the faster runners reported seeing a fair few people tumbling, somersaulting or doing various face plants within a few metres of the start.  My problem with running down hill is that I just built up forward momentum with gravity, and trying to stop or slow feels more dangerous than running onwards, but it was terrifying.  You have to not be discouraged by the casualties you have to bound over en route down, and hope the first aiders in their green cross adorned four by four vehicle will come and scrape them up later.  This photo is a distant shot of the mass start, you can see the white registration tent and then to the left of it the river of people charging downwards to the river…

Crazy stampede of 1300 at the start!

Crazy stampede of 1300 at the start!

At the base of the hill there’s a left turn and it evened out a bit, but you still had to scramble over the ground as the path, such as it was, was muddy in places and anyway, too narrow to accommodate everyone.  You can hear shrieks ahead as people encounter The River.  Charmingly, the race notes tell you that this is known to be the coldest river in Derbyshire.  Oh joy.  In sight of the crossing you can see hoards of people on the banks, some with cameras and mobile phones held high in order to record the inevitable carnage that follows.  I’ve used the analogy before, but really and truly, you do feel like part of a herd of wildebeest crossing a river on migration, not all of you will survive, but through simple dint of numbers the majority surely must.  It is survival of the fittest, some will be picked off by crocodiles or currents, but others will overcome.  In fact, looking at the quite brilliant YouTube video of the event (search Dovedale Dash 2015 for yourself, I’m not risking falling foul of their broadcasting fee), you also see a few acts of selfless humanity.  Runners stopping to heave out a fallen comrade, or people at the bank hauling a distressed dog out of the waters before runners and dogs alike squelch off and away again.

dd delia in the throng!

There is definitely an element of relief at having survived the river crossing, and this does temporarily distract from the fact that you’ve now got to run the rest of the route with your shoes full of water.  You can hear the sploshing of other runners feet around you.  The water was cold, but strangely it makes you feel great when you come out the other side.  Also, it wasn’t too deep, so no wet knickers, well not from the river crossing anyway, I can’t promise a few people hadn’t already wet themselves in terror at the start.

still running 1 nov 2015 Dovedale Dash

It’s so hard to describe the route. It was gorgeous, very muddy in places, sometimes way too muddy to run at all, you just had to pick your way through.  We went through fields with cattle and young calves that seemed unphased by the runners hurtling by.  We passed through a village at one point where people on the bridge clapped encouragingly as I went by.  There were a few snatched conversations with other runners, groups in fancy dress, people commenting on my Smiley Paces top ‘are you running for charity?’ one enquired, clearly my expression hinted I couldn’t possibly be doing this for fun!  I got used to seeing more ambitious runners skidding down slopes and ending up variously on their backs, faces or other runners, so I freely admit I ended up walking some of the more scary mudfest bits.

DD river of people

Some bits were undulating grassland, other trails were rocky footpaths and there was a section along the river bed where you could splosh in and out of the water.  That was quite a good idea because you could try and get rid of some of the mud that was by then accessorising shoes and legs way more than one might have wished.  Feet of clay made manifest, it’s is really, really hard to walk, let alone run, when you have half the earth of Derbyshire cemented to your feet.

The desire to cleanse my shoes was given an extra urgency because the one part of the course that brought real horror was a bit where you had no option but to pass through a gateway that even from a distance you could see was awash with liquid mud.   I am pretty game for getting muddy, but plunging through the midst of this, and feeling the splash back that inevitably followed, it was obvious this was not just any mud, this was slurry.  The real deal, l was awash with cow manure more than I expected or appreciated.  I daresay it’s good for the skin, but that offered little consolation.   Added to the horror of this was that I feared my trainers might be coming loose, but I didn’t really fancy reaching down to adjust them just at that moment.  I’m not generally squeamish, happy to eat my sandwiches after mucking out some stables (horse or alpaca) without washing my hands, but this was a bit too much, it was the dripping I think, not nice.    Oh, what the hell, it’ll be fine….

So sploshing onwards, it was great to emerge from the worst of the mud and back alongside the river where we’d originally crossed, even if it did mean we’d have to heave ourselves back up that hill, at least the end was in sight.  It was a tough finish,  you are running right into the sun, and with the mess of spectators it wasn’t at all clear where the end actually was – eventually a silhouetted figure called out to me ‘The end is nigh’ or possibly ‘the finish is here!’ I got confused.  I headed towards the voice, and a friendly race marshal said ‘you’ve done it, it’s over!’  yay, I was so happy.  There was a bit of a bottle neck into the funnel system, which had a queue that turned back on itself like that one in Shrek when donkey and Shrek are going into the theme park whose name I can’t remember.  I was happy enough to dawdle at this point.  In any case, inevitably all the other Smileys were home before me, so they were also waiting by the funnel.  I filed through the funnel, got my number added to the list being produced by a clipboard holding official, grabbed a certificate, and joined the others.  We had a few posing for photo moments, but I don’t know what happened to those shots, so you’ll have to just use your imagination for now until they catch up with me.

From my perspective the Dovedale Dash was a friendly if somewhat frenetic event, brilliantly organised, and I’m pretty sure they say somewhere in the small print that the sun always shines for the annual outing.    They might have said that, or there might have been something about icebergs and hail, I can’t quite recall.  Same time next year will be 6th November 2016, so put it in your diary.

So after a bit of faffing, back to the car – a bit easier to locate second time around – we had the foresight to have brought a change of clothes with us, but did have a bit of bucket envy as we saw other runners had had even greater foresight and had gallons of water and washing basins in which to deposit their slurry encased footwear.  We made do with plastic bags.

The drive back was uneventful, and back in Sheffield my running buddy piled me up with home made sourdough as well as pear and chocolate cake so I could return to my flat and enjoy them both.  I could not have felt more indulged if I’d been given a crate of Ferrero Roche in which to bathe.  I did spend a great deal longer cleaning the mud off my trail shoes than I had actually running the race.  It was worth it though.  I stuck my shoes on the roof outside my attic window in order that they could dry in the sun.  I then promptly forgot all about them until two days later when I retrieved them sodden with fog, rain and imbued with the scent of Autumn bonfires.  Oh well,  I’m sure they’ll dry out eventually  ….

Incidentally, I never shared with you my pre-event goal.  This time my objective was to complete the run without losing my trail shoes in the mud en route.  Reader, this I accomplished.  Finally, my running is improving, I may yet reach future goals!

set goals and demolish

Categories: fell race, off road, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pleasures by the pound…

british-2506_640 pound coin

I am a woman of modest tastes but even so, I am AMAZED at just how much fun you can have for a pound sometimes.  I’ve been on a bit of a winning streak regarding bargain purchases of late, but nevertheless, today I exceeded even my own expectations with how the day unfolded.

In case you have not been following my musings as avidly as you might, recent pleasure inducing pound purchases have included:

bat deely boppers

  1. Poundland sparkly, bat, deely-boppers – absolute bargain, and fun at the time, but ultimately the joy they brought was short lived.  Honestly, once the initial novelty had worn off, they lost some of their appeal after just a couple of days. I wore them on two consecutive occasions – Halloween (a hit), then at the Dovedale Dash (wavering enthusiasm), and today when I looked at them tossed aside on the floor of the hallway, it was  like happening upon a forgotten half drunk cup of tea that’s gone cold.  You could have a gulp, but you just know it wont be the same, and whatever ‘might have been’ in the moment, that moment has passed.
  2. Last night, for the modest outlay of just one pound, I bought an ENORMOUS bar of chocolate.   It was a Cadbury dairy milk daim bar to be specific, and I scoffed the lot.  It was sort of lovely at the time, but I did start feeling a bit queasy half way in and then felt horrible afterwards.  Not unmitigated joy therefore.  I was going to photograph the crumpled up wrapper to add interest to this blog post, but I couldn’t face rummaging through the kitchen bin, still, I’m guessing you’ve binge eaten a chocolate bar yourself at some point, so you can probably imagine

So today, was particularly brilliant, because it reminded me what else you can get for a pound that maintains the pleasure momentum and apparently does not diminish with familiarity either.  I give you (drum roll), the

3.  Women’s community exercise class in Heeley

We didn’t have a session last week, it being half term, so I was pleased to get back into it today.  Today was pretty tickety-boo from the outset to be honest.  The most amazing bright autumn sunshine lighting up the trees which have the sort of wonderful display of colours that makes you rejoice at being alive and want to skip through fallen leaves kicking them with scuffed shoes and scooping them up in your arms and throwing them above you with gay abandon, like a child in a fairy tale.  I’d have a stab of doing this in real life, but I’m too worried about scooping up dog poo and syringes along with the leaf litter to be honest, rather than being put off by the embarrassing possibility of being caught in the act of doing so, but you get the idea.

I left the house and pleasingly my car was neither blocked in, nor had the bonnet been used as an ash tray with stumped out fag ends scattered across the top which was the scene that greeted me when I left my flat yesterday morning.  Instead, the guy who maintains (very well) the communal areas of the house and gardens where my flat is, crossed the car park to come and speak to me.  He was all lit up, like he’d seen – hmm, well, I don’t know really, but something pretty amazing that he felt compelled to relate.  Apparently, he was coming through Walkley, Sheffield, when he saw the bin vehicles doing their weekly roadside collections.  He then became aware of this extraordinary singing voice, rich, deep, mature evocative –  giving a world class rendition of ‘what a wonderful world’.  The guy telling me this story was almost overcome, he’s a nice guy, but definitely more a ‘bloke’ than an obvious seeker out of other people’s inner poetry.  He said he doesn’t normally take much interest in music, but he just couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  The singer turned out to be a youngish (maybe 18-20 year old) white guy, who was singing away whilst emptying the wheelie bins. His mates were apparently oblivious to this talent that moved amongst them!  ‘I don’t know why I’m telling you, I just wanted to share it with someone, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!’  It really was like he’d seen a vision, he wondered off in an apparent daze, still shaking his head in disbelief.  I wish I’d heard it too.  I don’t think it’s the same bin men that cover our patch, so I might have to start stalking Walkley in search of him for myself.  It was a great start to the day, hearing about this awesome singer, greeting this glorious autumn day with a blast from his lungs that had this guy at least filled with wonder.

wonderful world

I was smiling therefore as I headed off in my little car, phutting it’s way to Heeley institute.  I love this session, it’s hilarious beyond your wildest imaginings.  This coming together of a motley crew of women at the appointed hour.  In our medley of body shapes, life experiences and fitness expectations.  And, the clincher is it’s just a pound a shot, it being a community health initiative of some sort, and an absolute bargain.

The week off for half term had taken its toll on our collective co-ordination, but not on the positivity and enthusiasm of our instructor.  She is terrific, and one day, I’d like to record her commentary on the class in full . It is the fitness class equivalent of those famous nursery school teacher monologues that Joyce Grenfell did ‘back in the day’.  So today it was something like this:

Hello everyone, I’m not with it at all today me.  What are we doing? Are you the same?  Isn’t it hot?  I’m not complaining mind, lovely.  Who’d have thought it.  November!  Phew, right, music, yes, that’s it, oooh, Brown Sugar, nice.  One two, one two.  How lovely was the weather yesterday?  Gorgeous, I was in the garden, sunbathing…  (Pause.) … not in my bikini though. Ooh, she’s opening the door at the back now, so don’t bang into it will you?  Grape vine, to easy walk, super, well done, perfect!  Can we do the arms as well now?  It’s supposed to be a diamond.  Can you tell?  This is the slower pace, we are going to do it faster (pulls a face) it’ll be fine.. here we go!  Well done!  Brilliant!  Super!  Ooh, did you two crash?  Oh dear, I think I’m going to have to separate you. Is everyone nice and warm now?  You should be.  I am, phwaw, really warm.  Are you OK in your cardigan?  Are you sure?  It is warm now?  Ok to carry on, does anyone need a drink, right that’s the first part done, crack on…

and so it continues.  There is so much knowing laughter in this class, it is a really positive sense of women coming together and being comfortable in each others company.  After the routine that might loosely be referred to as ‘dance’, we move into floor stretching and work on our core.  She tries to explain where we should be feeling the ‘burn’ in the stomach muscles for each type of crunch exercises   Eventually, after some discussion amongst the group, she takes on board the user feedback and agrees with our collective analysis that is ‘yes, well basically, that first spare tyre you’ve got, the one under your bust?  That’s the one we are working on here’  I LOVE her approach, this is the lived experience of our bodies engaging in perhaps unfamiliar exercise.  No pretentions, no inhibitions, we can just laugh our way through all this and do what we can.  I am very conscious that as I carry all my excess weight in my midriff I’ve  basically got tyres appropriate for a substantial off-roading four-wheel drive, but in this class right here and right now, I’m not self-conscious and I really don’t care.  Life is good.

NBC motivations

The class ended with some leg stretches, this included one where you basically sit on the floor,  legs in front of you, but instead of crossing them, you have the soles of your feet touching so your knees drop out sideways.  No idea what it is actually called.  It gives you a good stretch, and you can use your elbows to push down a bit on your knees if you want to make it deeper, but all of us have our knees sort of suspended quite a way off the floor.  This caused one of the class to suddenly rather randomly exclaim: ‘Do you remember that woman who came here once and bang.  Her knees went out sideways right down touching the floor.  It was amazing.  Whatever happened to her?’  A cluck of recognition went through the room as the more long standing participants of the group remembered the woman who performed this amazing feat of suppleness, but no-one recalled ever having seen her since!  It had us in stitches (though I appreciate maybe you had to be there to share the joke).  Our fitness guru did acknowledge with a wink, that there might have been a causal connection and said she’d try and track her down and give her a call to see whatever happened and check she was OK!

yoga poses

It was through a gale of giggles that we completed our upper arm stretches.  At that moment the community health champion co-coordinator, who established the class, poked her head around the corner to see how we were getting on.  She was seeking to promote a ”health in the city’ campaign, and wanted a couple of shots of us ‘ladies’ in our glorious yoga poses to use for the publicity (optional participation).  We were all up for it though, this class is great, women of all shapes, ages and sizes do take part in exercise and it would be wonderful if more did so.  Whether my positivity will survive the sight of my image on a billboard at Sheffield railway station, or on the back of a bus (I can already hear that joke in my head thank you for noticing) remains to be seen!  In fact, I know it will be more likely a few rushed fliers and a soft focus image of a group of us in which it is impossible to pick out any one individual, on a City Council website, and that would be fine and dandy.

After all, it is indeed a Wonderful World, and there is much pleasure to be had for a pound.  Start saving your pennies now!

Oh, and favourite outfit for today?  The older woman who wears really trendy T-shirts each session.  This week, her top is sporting a huge red padlock emblazoned with ‘love 4 ever’, with a roughly drawn background of wire mesh fencing and barbed wire onto which the lock is fastened lovelock style.  She is awesome.  We all are, what more to say?

Categories: fitness class, motivation | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Paranormal Parkrun with obligatory Halloween Horrors

trick or treat

I didn’t altogether mind about being overtaken by a ghost. They are sort of light and ethereal anyway, and being unhampered by the physicality of actual body weight there can be little shame in having one of those whizz past you at a Parkrun. I  wasn’t so enamoured about being overtaken by a pumpkin though, I honestly hoped I might be a bit more aerodynamic than a giant one of those when I headed out to join the Sheffield Hallam pack this morning.  Oh well, you live and learn (again).

I know it can be a bit tedious when people appear to make excuses about their running times, but honestly, I think it all came down to air-resistance and drag.  I’m running ahead of myself (an unlikely excuse I know), let me try and explain.

It all started yesterday, I had a friend coming to visit for the day with her daughter, and one of our projects for the day was to get some Halloween themed stuff for a party they were planning for, well – you could be ahead of me there –  Halloween, today in fact.  I don’t generally do anything for Halloween, but this focus for the day meant I had a high degree of exposure to what might be termed ‘seasonal tat’, and, perhaps inevitably, I ended up succumbing to temptation in pound land.  Who could honestly resist sparkly bat-shaped deely-boppers in a similar situation?  At the time of purchasing I did have a rather obscure rationale.  I have been corresponding with a contact in Bangladesh, who I have never met, but who runs an IELTS/ TEFL website that I write for from time to time.  He expressed some curiosity about what happened at Halloween in the UK, and I thought it would be fun to maybe post him something small and representative that he could give to his daughter.  That’s what I told myself anyway, the reality is I always knew that given half a chance I’d appropriate them for my own illicit purposes at the first possible opportunity.  So it was, I got back in the evening, found out rather belatedly that the Sheffield Hallam Parkrun was encouraging fancy dress and that was it.  Yay, deely-boppers are ON!  I did briefly consider leaving the label on so I can send them on seemingly still brand new and untarnished by my DNA, but thought the better of it.  Three reasons, firstly, the label looked stupid on my sticking out on my head (unlike the deely-boppers themselves which obviously looked cool and stylish); secondly the label says ‘made in China’ which rather spoils the idea of a gift from a friend in the UK; and finally I’m sure pre-loved is the way to go.  Perhaps it will seem extra special to the recipient bearing the hallmarks of ‘as worn by’ etc etc.  We shall see.

Anyway, the consequence was Saturday morning, coffee slurped, barcode dug out, deely-boppers on and off we go, out the house.  Its a weird thing wearing them, I live in an attic flat and they aren’t entirely practical to wear inside there.  I got caught up in more than one light fitting as well as my fleece before I’d even exited the front door.  I wasn’t sure about whether to wear them on the walk down to Endcliffe Park to be honest, but I actually felt more self-conscious carrying them, than wearing them on my head, and besides, ‘in for a penny’ as the saying goes.  I did experience the world differently with this new extension to my height though.  There are a couple of bits en route to the Park where hedges and vegetation overhang the pavement.  This has never been an issue for me, normally I can glide underneath unimpeded by the greenery with effortless grace, something I have always previously taken entirely for granted.  Today was a bit more problematic.  My bats didn’t have the navigational aid of sonar (they were not real ones in fact) so got deeply tangled in the spreading greenery as I tried to walk by.  This meant I had the indignity of rummaging around in the hedge to retrieve my boppers whilst other pedestrians walked by pretending not to notice. It is really difficult to appear nonchalant in such circumstances.  It seems it is true what they say about needing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you can understand what life is really like for them.  I’d always imagined being a bit taller meant living in an altogether enchanted parallel universe of being able to see at the cinema and flamboyantly reaching items on the top shelves at supermarkets just because you can… now I realise that being tall has hazards too.  Like having to bend your head walking under an over-grown garden hedge – or even perhaps step aside from it altogether, abandoning the security of the pavement and risking sudden death on the treacherous roads alongside.  Life must be one long adrenalin rush once you top 5ft 2 and a half inches I reckon.  Maybe that’s why tall people are often thinner too, all that nervous energy burning calories day and night, constantly restless.

You will be pleased and relieved to know that I disentangled myself quickly enough to make it to the start line.  I was a bit early in fact, and didn’t spot anyone else in fancy dress at first.  Not that I’d gone to a great deal of effort, but shown willing at least.  I paused at a handy rock to do some stretching.  My leg is STILL numb, maybe it wasn’t enough just to buy the foam roller, perhaps I’m supposed to be using it in some mysterious way?  Whilst I was there another runner came up to me and said delightedly ‘I’ve got some of those too’ and showed me her own bat deely-boppers secreted in her bag.  She’d contemplated spiders but opted for the bats instead.  Good choice, spiders would look silly.  She did have an impressive swathe of spider infested cobwebs around her though, I had a bit of spider envy if I’m honest.  Maybe I should have brought Christopher along with me.  Christopher is the name I have given my resident house spider with whom I currently cohabit my flat. He is a bit too HUGE for comfort, but he and I have come to an understanding.  I am a bit of an arachnophobe, but not as bad as I used to be.  As long as he stays in the sitting room, and keeps a minimum of three foot away from me,  I will not attempt to catch or evict him.  If he makes a move on my bedroom, he’s out.  I’m just not that kind of girl, Halloween or not.   I read somewhere that if you name your spiders it takes away some of the fear, and it does really work.  Apparently it is the always the males that march about looking for a mate, so it will be a ‘he’ though I’ve not got close enough to check, and it seems impolite to ask.  So Christopher it is, I don’t think he’d enjoy Parkrun much though, he’s more a hanging around in basement parties type I reckon,, and certainly an owl rather than a lark, not a morning arachnid as far as I can tell.

As people emerged from the fringes of the park to join the start there was quite a buzz.  A fair few in costumes, some more ambitious than others, a fine selection of witches hats.  A few people bravely equipped with brooms, that alas they hadn’t learned to fly so had to carry round with them, and my favourite, the person who did the whole run carrying his head under his arm.  Someone told me it wasn’t his actual head though, I’m not sure, surely if he’d taken someone else’s without permission we’d have heard about it? But then again, I don’t always get the local papers so perhaps that’s true.  I think it is safe to say that the photos (thanks George) encapsulate very well the inclusive nature of Parkrun.  Though there are some worrying precedents perhaps in relation to whether or not we should really be celebrating and colluding in extreme family weight loss, and a discussion to be had as to how exactly you are supposed to contain an excitable silver back once it enters the Parkrun funnel systems.

head runner primates and people alike halloween 2015 skeletal shot halloween

It was  a busy turn out today, possibly the fancy dress aspect lured a few extras, there certainly seemed more than usual kids around, some in fabulous outfits, guts a-spewing out, and even a dog with a skeleton painted on its coat which was grand I thought.  Oh, talking of dogs, I witnessed a weird thing walking down.  There was a parkrunner minding his own business walking down the path when a largish black and tan dog just started barking at him really ferociously for no apparent reason.  It was quite alarming, the runner stood absolutely rigid unsure what to do, it was bit unfortunate that he’d just been adjusting his shorts, so he was standing there with his hands down the front of them, motionless and probably breaking into a sweat.  It wasn’t immediately clear where the owner was, but when he ambled towards the dog and saw it barking he half-heartedly called it and was ignored.  He eventually put it on a lead, and the runner cautiously came out of his statue pose, slowly pulling his hand out of his shorts and hesitantly taking a step like he was a performer in Noh theatre.  It was odd, the whole thing.  The random way the dog picked on him, none of the others of us around, and the way the owner seemed completely unconcerned.  The runner was wearing a rather violently fluorescent green top. but I’ve seen worse on runners every day, it all seemed a bit personal.  Maybe the runner in question had taken the Halloween theme a bit far, and gone for being actually possessed by demons instead of just plonking on a pair of deely-boppers, but only the dog was sensitive enough to pick up on it?  Who knows.  A mystery.

Oh, lovely Autumn colours and emergent sunshine too by the way – look:

Peter Bayliss, Autumn in Endcliffe Park 31 Oct 2015

Peter Bayliss, Autumn in Endcliffe Park 31 Oct 2015

Lots of announcements today, but I couldn’t really make them out, we set off like an impatient queue storming a shop as it finally opens its doors for the Boxing Day sales.  I was a bit further back in the field than usual, and pretty hemmed in by children dressed as devils or brides of Frankenstein.  I’m never very fast in any case, but it was hard to get in a rhythm today.  I think the drag from the bats didn’t help, they have quite a large surface area you see, and that creates resistance.  Same effect you get if you’ve ever tried aqua aerobics, it’s a lot harder than you expect jogging underwater or manoeuvring foam dumbbells. They did stay in situ, but you can definitely feel an unsettling boing with each step, kind of like your brain is moving in your head as you run, and not in a good way. Then there’s that numb leg thing compounding my natural inertia.  It is hard being me.   You can clearly see how the drag on the bats is slowing me on my way to the finish in these ‘action’ shots (normally I’m running so fast I’m just a blur of energy whizzing through your field of vision):

halloween action drag of deely-boppers at finish line

For some reason I wasn’t able to eavesdrop on as many conversations today as usual, maybe people are getting wise to my nosiness.  However, I still heard a corker.  My favourite today was a consequence of a neat pile of vomit by the railings on the pavement of Rustlings road.  I don’t think this was an attempt by the race director or volunteer marshals to adorn the course in Halloween appropriate vileness (though on reflection it could have been), just a random act of disgorging excess by a passer by last night.  It was fairly prominent and required evasive action on passing, but I heard a child just behind me squeal with a toxic mix of delight and squeamish horror ‘look, look, that dog just ran straight through the middle of that!’  Hilarious, I love seasonally appropriate joy, it’s sort of infectious.  Who would have expected that pile of sick to spread such enchantment hours after it’s no doubt noisy deposit onto the damp path by a queasy and desperate party goer!  Gives you hope doesn’t it, every cloud has a silver lining as surely as every silver lining has its cloud.

The funnel was pretty chaotic and heaving today.  Fortunately a couple of guys in gimp type outfits were on hand to speed things up a bit.  That was a bit disturbing actually, sexual fetishists aren’t generally a fixture at Parkrun, but then again, it’s always prided itself on being an inclusive occasion and so we have to be accepting.  Actually, it may be that I don’t get out enough (or indeed that I get out too much) because later on I was corrected in my identification, it seems we were being pursued by dementors in the funnel.  It’s those enclosed masks over the face, they are confusing and unsettling whether a feature of a dementor or a gimp,  – in any event, it was an effective if disquieting strategy for keeping us all moving.  A rather more customer focused beaming witch was also on hand.  They maybe were deploying that old chestnut technique designed to ensure compliance borrowed from the police of ‘good funnel marshal, bad funnel marshal’.  It was certainly effective!

funnel witch funnel frighterners

I was too late for a sweatshop discount card, they were giving some out to mark the end of their sponsorship of Parkrun.  I ended up purloining one from someone else who’d acquired two by running with their partner.  I don’t really shop there to be honest anyway, but for a 20% discount in perpetuity (more specifically until end Dec 2016 if you read the small print)  it’s worth hanging on to on the off chance surely.

My running buddy was on hand to greet me.  She approved of my deely-boppers as it made me easier to spot in the funnel.  She may even have been hinting this should be a regular addition to my running wardrobe.  She however had excelled herself with a DIY pumpkin effect on her orange technical T-shirt.  It was genius, made by ‘simply’ cutting out black sticky backed plastic shapes and sticking it on.  She brushed aside my admiration, saying it was lifted from the internet and therefore anyone could do it.  This is NOT True!  She has definite creative flair.  The kind of person who can follow a cake recipe and have it actually turn out like the photo sample picture alongside, whereas us mere mortals end up with a sad beige pile looking like it’s undergone a landslide.  Judge for yourself. Together we scouted out a fellow Smiley in fancy dress and badgered for an ‘official’ photo. Pretty impressive I think you’ll agree!

Halloween team shot halloween pumpkin

Some fundraisers (the elusive Monday Mob) were rattling buckets and selling themed cakes in aid of Parkrun.  They had made a great effort not only with supplies, but also with costumes.  Not everyone can carry off a lime green witch’s hat, but here they were worn with real panache!  Hats are great, I wish there were more occasions when we could get away with wearing them .

halloween 2015

So, my running buddy and I walked away from our Saturday sprint(ish) and in search of  breakfast.  All in all, pretty much the perfect way to start the weekend….

Scream if you want to run faster!

scream if you want to run faster!

halloween spirit

Halloween frighteners

Halloween frighteners

Whoa - scary!

Whoa – scary!

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

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