Daily Archives: November 25, 2015

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

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