Car Park Seasonal Fun and Games –

It wasn’t dogging, let’s be clear about that.  It turns out you can have a great deal of good clean and wholesome fun in a usually desolate park’n’ride car park out of hours and in the dark.  We’d probably need to put in an FOI or data-protection request to get the CCTV footage by way of confirmation, but I’m sure you’ll take my word for it.  I am referring of course to the traditional Smiley Paces Christmas Cavorting.  I missed the frolics last year, I wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

The early warning of this seasonal ritual read thus:

This Thursday (17 December) is…. The SMILEY PACES CHRISTMAS GAMES!! The lovely people at Tesco have said that we can use the Park and Ride Car Park at the Abbeydale Road Tesco Store – so it’s convenient for parking and FLAT! We will start at 7:00pm and go on until 8:00pm or whenever you are all exhausted!
You will need….. Headtorches, Hi Viz (compulsory)and suitably festive attire!! It would also help proceedings if you can bring a working felt tip and safety pin. You may need water if you are going to take it seriously!!
We will give you an evening of fun and jollity that you will remember forever… or at least until the next one.
Gaffer tape, cones, and polystyrene baubles will be feature in the evening’s merriness… as will CHOCOLATE!!
See you there!

This, combined with a picture of the intended props for the night represented an irresistible force, to protest is futile, any Smiley within range would feel a compelling urge to get there, come what may.  Push toddlers aside if you must, throw kittens out of your way if they would otherwise delay you, the cause of the Smiley games gathering is bigger than all of us, sacrifices have to be made.

christmas games props

This is fun, but serious fun.  The organisational skills of the Smiley guru who has instigated proceeding are such that all her instruction are to be obeyed without question.  Prior to the run I dutifully dig out a working marker pen, find a safety pin (cryptic, why do we need that?) including a spare in case someone else has forgotten theirs and might otherwise get into trouble, and attend to my festive finery.  (The same Santa skirt that did me service at Percy Pud basically, with some red tinsel for my hair as an afterthought).  I was also a bit unsure about where we were rendezvousing, so I headed off early.. and consequently found myself alone in a VERY dark and dodgy looking empty car park.  It felt like a prison compound exercise yard, whoa those boundary fences were high.  I felt a bit spooked.  I locked myself in, and fumbled with my head torch.   It was only a couple of minutes later that another Smiley arrived, I moved into her car to await the descent of others.  Pretty soon what looked like a scooby-mobile skidded round the corner, breezed past us and parked up at the far end of the park and ride plateau.  Seemingly in a blaze of glittering confetti, helium balloons and infectious enthusiasm, our games co-ordinator emerged triumphant.  A glamorous assistant on hand (grandson, nephew, waif?) to hump boxes (not in that sense, really, I’m surprised and disappointed in you); set out cones, keep score and, on command, hurl a pass the parcel package.  Bring it on.  It was pretty much as good as the opening ceremony of the Olympic games, indistinguishable even some would say.  They might say it a little bit tongue in cheek, but they’d say it all the same.  But really, our enthusiasm was the same, and what with all those head-torches and all that hi-viz bobbing about the car park was lit up like a christmas tree indeed (how apt) or firework display at least!

So once we were all assembled.  The mystery of the safety pins was revealed.  We were each allocated a balloon, the first challenge which was to inflate unaided.  Then we had to attach some thoughtfully provided ribbon to the balloon, before using the safety pin to attach some string to ourselves.  In a stroke of absolute genius, the colour of balloon we ended up with represented our random team allocation.  So laughingly we were clumped together, before embarking on a collective warm up.  This was based on ‘The twelve days of Christmas’ with each gift, being replaced by a physical exercise.  It started benignly enough, ‘on the first day of Christmas, my trainer said to me, to reach up as high as can be’ how we all laughed as we enthusiastically joined in with full, voice and maximum exertion.  By the time we were repeating twelve spotty dogs, eleven deep squats, ten punishing lunges etc. some voices were wavering a little.  I for one was quite pleased I’ve become accustomed to squats as they are greatly favoured at my other exercise class, others were still complaining about their glutes at Parkrun days later!

bacchic procession1

There were way too many games to go through, but it was genuinely imaginative and fun.  This is a sentence I never expected to say, but Smiley Paces are blessed by counting amongst their number a retired headmistress who as Smiley guru coordinated the joys of this evening’s Yuletide entertainment, and at least one retired PE teacher.  No wonder there is such accomplishment and challenge at the planning stages!  The first game involved creating our own bingo cards.  We each had to pick four numbers between one and twenty and write them on a card.  The game was then to run around until at intervals a bingo ball was pulled out of a sack.  When all four of your numbers had been called, you (alas) were required to stop running, in this case, the ‘winner’ is the one who gets to run right to the end.  Imagine then my joy, to find that I was indeed amongst the final runners, jogging round in circles of increasing desperation willing my number to be called.  Imagine then my joy giving way to manically blinking back the tears as I discovered that actually my final outstanding number was the one that had been called out first.  I must have been running so fast that the wind rushing past my head rendered me temporarily deaf at just the moment it had been called.

Probably though, my favourite game involved rubber bands and the huge dice (die?).  Basically, you rolled the dice, and then whatever number was thrown, represented the number of people who had to be tied together to run to the end and back to gather up a polystyrene ball.  You maybe had to be there to appreciate the degree of hilarity this exercise invoked.  It was not only fun to participate in, but excellent to watch.  Motley crews of slightly over-competitive women in running gear bastardised with tinsel, tied together and awkwardly manoeuvring up and down a darkened car park with unseemly haste just because someone had told us to.  We are it seems a compliant and suggestible lot.  I wish there were some photos, but we were all too busy either engaged in the activity ourselves or laughing at others who were for anyone to think of doing so.  Anyway, maybe it’s best that such things are not on the record. This written account will suffice, who wants pictures of the above in circulation on revenge running/ blackmail sites in future.  Far better that the shared experience brings us together than fear of subsequent exposure seeds paranoia and drives us apart.  Shame though…

The most stressful of the games was basically a complete balls up.  The balls in question being multi-sized polystyrene balls much like these:

polystyrene balls

I know they seem innocuous enough, but they are fiendish things.  They have slippery qualities akin to Teflon.  The ‘game’ was simply to take turns to run up to a box of said balls, and for the first runner to pick up just one, then on return to the rest of the team hand over the ball, so the next runner goes up, collects another, returning with two which they then pass over and so on in relay, with the number of balls involved in the handover ever increasing with each runner.  To begin with this seems straightforward.  However, with alarming speed it becomes a seemingly impossible task.  Transferring polystyrene balls which apparently have a life and momentum of their own, and which is entirely at odds with the goal of the game is really, really, ridiculously hard.  Have you seen a pair of emperor penguins trying to transfer a single egg between themselves without letting it touch the ice and so freeze and die?  Well this was way harder than that, and the consequences felt just as serious and final.  For each of us making the transfer of our precious cargo the pride of our team was at stake.  Whilst it was hilarious to see other team’s balls bouncing about in free fall, it was altogether more disturbing when our own magical spheres took flight scattering in all directions in apparently irretrievable disarray.  I was quite relieved when that game ended to be honest.  Way too stressful…


The grand finale was basically a run for chocolate.   A relay, where each member of the team in turn ran as fast as they could to the teasing tin of celebrations at the end, grabbed one and made the return trip, high fiving their next team mate so they could make their own foraging journey in sequence.   My some of those fellow Smileys can sprint.  You should see the spurt that they can put on when a mini marathon is on offer (as in the chocolate ‘snickers’ bar, not one that involves actual running on this occasion).  Apparently we were supposed to keep these sweets to count at the end in order to determine the winner.  In the event we all just chomped through whatever plunder we had seized and empty wrappers only were proffered up by way of evidence.  In fairness, all teams had adopted the same strategy here, it was probably naive to have ever imagined we might do otherwise.   Like those dog obedience tests that you sometimes see, when some poor canine is required to carry a sausage in its mouth and return it to its owner uneaten, never going to happen, and it seems to me to be wrong to demand otherwise, it goes against nature I tell you, and nature will always find a way.  Trust me, I’ve seen Jurassic Park.


As we all know, it’s not the winning that matters, it’s the taking part.  Also, my team didn’t win, so clearly I have no interest in noticing who did.  However, with a seasonally saccharine tone that is keeping with the yuletide festivities, I like to think we were all winners in a way because our collective cavorting was bonding and fun.  What a great gaggle Smiley’s are, the capacity to play is always to be celebrated.  Thank you guru elder organising Smiley for your super human efforts.  They are appreciated.  Go Smileys, abandon your inhibitions and embrace your inner Bacchic spirits!  They ain’t stopping us now! Dance on into 2016, who knows what delights will await us then…

greek dance



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

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