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.
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:
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):
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!
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!
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 .
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….