Mention cake! That’s how you attract the attention of a Smiley, simple. It is most effective as a motivational technique if you talk about the eating options first, and then slip in the requirement to run before you get to enjoy them a bit later on, once you’ve hooked them in. It’s a sort of grooming really, but it works really well, and to get people out running, well whatever it takes. Let me explain:
If you want someone to run, specifically a member of the Smiley Paces women’s running club, you basically just point down a running trail and tell them there is table groaning under the weight of baked delights awaiting them at the other end. Say to them that if they just run that distance, they will find a smorgasbord of home-made parkins; bakewells; brownies; muffins; lemon-drizzle, ginger, chocolate and carrot-cakes; just for them if they care to jog down and find them.
Just let them eat cake, and a grand Smiley Paces turnout is pretty much guaranteed. There is often some tenuous justification for including the consumption of cake in Smiley outings, usually along the lines of ‘because we can‘ or ‘because it’s there‘, but now and again we Smilies hit the jackpot and a truly magnificent celebration comes along. Cake will be abundant, and the cause of celebration is entirely legitimate. So it was at parkrun on this particular Saturday in January. I think it’s more than a fair bet that the quantity of Smilies turning out was in direct correlation to the quantity of cake on offer afterwards.
Such was the lure of home baked treats, that there was even a temporary truce over strategic acquisition of bonus points for the Running Club’s Smiletastic winter challenge. Instead of scattering in all directions in search of unique parkruns (one point for each different timed run attended is potentially available) all Smiley eyes turned to a single focal point. The cake table would be at Sheffield Hallam parkrun, it was to there that all Smiley pilgrims would trek. We are a pretty friendly club on the whole, but if you asked members to list what motivated them to run in order of most importance with respect to various specific factors you could possibly find a teensy element of self-interest rather than altruism in the results. Just maybe. Do you know what? I’d so love to know how to do a proper poll within this website. Perhaps it’s just as well I can’t. If I could, the questions would be this:
Dear member of Smiley Paces running club,
What were the main motivating factor in your running at Sheffield Hallam parkrun today? Please rank the following responses in order of importance:
- My running club friends are celebrating milestone Tees at parkrun, how could I possibly stay away? What do you mean, can I name exactly which people? We all move together, it’s about team achievements not individual names
- I love doing parkrun at 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday morning when its all covered in ice and so cold I fear random body parts may fall off at any moment due to frostbite
- Potential bonus points for Smiletastic – it’s got to be a sub-zero run surely?
- I run for its own sake
- My body is a temple, I run to celebrate all its wondrous potential
- I hadn’t intended to run, I just got caught up in the crowds trying to fight my way through to the cake table
- My own next milestone tee is in touching distance, it’s not a race, its a percentage of a T-shirt
- Fear of missing out
- My friend/ partner/ fellow-club member made me come
- Cake, obviously.
Thank you for your responses, they will be collated and analysed, possibly using a spreadsheet, but I think we all know what response will be at the top of the table.
Look, pretty clear equation I think you’ll agree. Incidentally, don’t be fooled because it looks like Smiley members have their back to the cakes. They are adopting this stance as a defensive tactic to prevent anyone else creeping up on the goodies unawares. Bit like a good old fashioned wagon train, making a circle around a central camp to protect self and stock:
In my humble opinion, there is a lot of unnecessary mystique around how to motivate yourself, or indeed others, to venture outside and go for a run on an icy cold day, when really it is both metaphorically and literally a piece of cake to get Smileys out in force. It’s really not that hard to grasp. All you need is a quartet of runners marking some sort of running milestone at say parkrun, who promise to provide vast quantities of celebratory home made cake which will be offered up for communal consumption afterwards. Such a lure will pretty much guarantee a massive Smiley turnout, it just isn’t that complicated a motivational technique.
To prove legitimacy on this occasion, here are the celebrating runners, actually I couldn’t find photos of all the Smiley celebrants, so I’ve included one of some random guy celebrating his fiftieth run with some cunning hand signals. Genius, well done to you too sir! In terms of Smiley stats, we had two doing their 100th, one 50th, one 200th and a SPAM (Smiley Pacer’s Man) doing his 200th too. That adds up to a great deal of celebratory cake in anyone’s calculations! Yay, well done all, awesome.
Smilies aren’t completely stupid though, for some hesitation might start to creep in if required to do say an ultra-marathon rather than a 5 km just on the promise of chocolate brownie, but a piece of cake will work for pretty much any distance up to about 10 or 15 km I’d say. If you are seeking a bigger effort, you might want to up the stakes and offer something sparkly instead. Not necessarily diamonds – though actually I reckon that would be quite effective too. No, what I was thinking of for future reference, if you find yourself wanting to rustle up a few Smileys to brighten some other running or other social occasion (and we can be exceedingly jolly en masse) is that promises of prosecco can also be extremely effective. Whilst much appreciated, such bubble-assisted opportunities for indulgence are few and far between and generally much harder to come by, so definitely will boost turnout, just so you know.
You can also generate almost unmanageable levels of running motivation within your own running club by identifying a super-geek to set up a club specific Smiletastic challenge, but we’ve been through that already, and it turns out to be less easy to replicate than it first appeared. So if you don’t have a Super Geek/ Smiley Elder to hand to facilitate this for you, just go with cake, it will save you an awful lot of grief in the long run (pun intended). In the event, I think the final count was thirty three Smilies, plus at least some men who were in some way linked to Smiley Paces. They have their own acronym, SPAM (Smiley Paces And Men), it’ll grow on you.
So back to the start. It was very cold indeed on the morning of the run. So cold, I actually sneaked on a thermal vest underneath my running gear before I went out. I wanted to have my Smiley vest on show, which meant I’d have to run without my jacket, and although Cheetah Smiley is very quick to spot me wearing too many clothes as outerwear and wrestle the off me, I thought that surely I’d get away with it as a hidden bottom layer. My little secret… unfortunately, it left me distinctly wrinkled and swollen in appearance by time I’d got on my regular long sleeved running top over it and then heaved on my Smiley Vest as well. I did actually take a selfie of this, because it was hilarious. But on seeing the photos I have decided to use my editorial discretion and not upload it. It wasn’t a great look, and I think I need to focus a bit more on protecting my brand image now I’ve been recognised by the broader media. Sponsorship deals are hard enough to come by.
For me, today was not the best of runs in truth. I jogged down to the start, and although it wasn’t as icy as you might think given how cold it felt, I wasn’t over-confident about the surface. I did warm up a bit with the jog though, and guilt started building up in me in the knowledge that beneath my Smiley Vest and running top, lurked a purple damart thermal vest. I just couldn’t go through with it. Cheetah Buddy would be bound to spot me, I could hear her voice in my head ‘walk away from the fleece’ I always am too hot once I get going, I know she’s right, curses. I nipped into the disabled loo and removed my hidden thermals. Exiting the cubical into the chill of sub zero air and feeling my breath being sucked away by the cold I wished I’d hung on to the thermals a bit longer. I think we should get more than one miserly bonus point for turning out in this. It was however cheery to see loads of Smilies in evidence, and other familiar faces too, so plenty of chit chat at the start. Especially pleasing, was that the Smiley Placards had been brought out for a special appearance to mark the occasion, they are so completely fabulous.
Today’s run was hard for me. Weirdly, my quads were really stiff today. I never get any stiffness there, but today they felt frozen. Granted, I had gone back to a dance conditioning class yesterday evening for first time since before Christmas, but I genuinely don’t think it was that. It was like I was cold from the inside. The outside cold didn’t help, and my legs just wouldn’t work properly. It was a very full turn out at parkrun today, with lots of first timers. Unusually, I found I actually had to walk for a section as the sheer volume of runners caused a bottle neck at one point near the first pond, and this was further exacerbated by a couple of walkers with dogs coming in the opposite direction. We parkrunners gave way to them, in keeping with the parkrun code, and I do agree with that actually, but it did make for a spectacularly slow circuit. I never warmed up at all, and that, plus being boxed in, made for slow progress. My legs were turning to ice, I never get cold legs, what was that about? I wouldn’t have minded so much, but on greeting Cheetah Buddy at the end, turned out she’d got some sort of thermal tights on under her running leggings. Pots and kettles methinks! It felt like a personal betrayal, how come I can’t wear a fleece but she can wear her fleeced long-johns? On the plus side, I suppose this means that in future I can too. Speaking of which, there was another runner ahead who might want to think about doing the same – put on an extra layer of underwear that is. I noticed this poor woman had a small, but growing, rip in the seam over her bum as she was running. She was too fast for me to go and tell her that she was exposing more than she can possibly have intended, but even if I had reached her it wouldn’t have helped much, nothing she could really do about it. Here is an atmospheric running shot to break up the text. You can see it was so cold, that it quite drained the colour from the runners, even the landscape, now you don’t have to be nesh to call that nippy!
So watching with a mixture of dread and anticipation for the moment when all would be revealed by the woman running ahead on account of a complete wardrobe failure by her leggings, made me think I really need to attend to the state of my own running gear. I’ve only got one pair, that have served me well. I’ve had them nearly two years, and given that I wear them several times a week and always wash them inbetween, it’s amazing they’ve survived as long as they have. The other pair I have for emergency use, are literally decades old, still just about serviceable, but I’d only wear them in an exercise class, they’ve lost their elasticity, and I have to hoik them up with increasingly regularity. This is achievable in a gym or class context, but not really ideal for running free. With my favourite pair I’ve found recently that the crotch is sagging, and the fabric noticeably thinning. Today was living proof that those sudden rips can indeed happen at the most inconvenient of times. I may have thought little of putting Cheetah Buddy’s arse in the public domain in my blog of last week (she’s fine with it, no-one could possibly identify her from my post, there must be loads of other runners out there who also run their own cookie making businesses in the Sheffield area for goodness sake) but heaven portend I should allow my own buttocks to be put on display in the same way. Time to start running in my tutu again perhaps. Would give a bit of extra cover in case of emergencies.
On a more positive note, there were some particularly encouraging marshals today, aided and abetted by some Smiley supporters with actual official Smiley Supporter signs, always a boon. Because I was wearing my Smiley vest I even had a few random others, including a marshal I didn’t recognise shouting encouragement ‘come on smiley‘ at just the moment on the second lap when I was flagging the most. It does make a difference if early finishers cheer you round too. I’ve heard some say they worry if they do this it comes across as patronising, but it never does to me, more empathetic and encouraging. Keep on cheering us please!
I was beaten home by one of the Monday Mob who I’m usually a little ahead of. She was gracious enough to attribute this to the fact that she’d been hounded round by a friend who’d goaded her to keep going the whole way round. She offered up his services to me for next week, but I’m not sure, the whole experience looked a bit terrifying! Effective certainly, but hardcore. Here are two of the Monday mob, one in action, captured in the moment of being hounded to the finish line, the other offering particularly enthusiastic support from the sidelines. I love parkrun, I really do.
It was a relief to join the cake celebrations, run done.
It was indeed bitter, standing about though, not so much because of the cold (though it was, more for the bitter and ignoble grappling for Smiletastic bonus points, claims and counter claims pinging back and forth on the Smiletastic dedicated Facebook page. I was in the camp that firmly believed a sub zero point should be awarded for today’s run, but there was a worrying uncertainty that this might not be allowed. Fortunately, one of our number had the foresight to provide documentary proof of the freezing conditions, I am desperately hoping the casual reader will think this is my own parkrun time, ‘get her and her self-effacing tales, she’s really an awesome runner with a 25.28 parkrun time!‘ well, I say that, it would only work as long as I was never required to replicate the achievement… best laid plans eh, best laid plans.
(UPDATE: I’m actually finishing this post when the results were in and points were given for sub-zero running, praise be for that).
FYI, those of you who are following the Smiletastic shenanigans with interest may want to know about the outcome of other claims. Claims that were ultimately rejected included a Smiley wanting a bonus point to take account of the ‘drag’ she endured from having to run with a balloon. Initially I too regarded this claim as spurious when members of competing teams were claiming, but then I suddenly panicked. I wondered if I should argue that this was in fact a legitimate when it dawned on me that one of our own Fighting Feathers might potentially also be beneficiaries of this decision. Points were also requested (and rejected) for general loveliness (as in ‘I volunteered, and also I already have done 100 runs, don’t I get one?‘); running with a hangover (but I don’t think as a responsible women’s running club we should condone that. Others expressed amazement that anyone had ever ran parkrun without a hangover in any case, making such a claim redundant).
The creativity of the Smiley cohort is pretty impressive. It seems we not only have many talented runners in the Smiletastic mix, but also some highly competitive and strategic thinkers. You should all be grateful that this powerful force is being harnessed for good purposes and not for evil ones. Our Super Smiley Geek must be absolutely thrilled. At least it’s positive engagement in the challenge, much better to have an overflowing inbox than to be sat gazing at an empty spreadsheet, surely! I know it looks from a distance like she’s crying, but you can cry with joy as well as frustration right? Basically, that was what we were all talking about shivering over the cake and coffee at the end, Smiletastic tactics. Oh, and congratulating the milestone runners, they have a pretty impressive tally of runs between them, more importantly perhaps, they make great cake. Thanks guys, nom nom yum yum etc.
So, post run, new breakfast venue, Jonty’s being full, and Ella’s being a bit cold, we went for Cafe Ceres. I had welsh rarebit, which made a change, and was nice enough, but really I’d like to get a decent scrambled eggs on toast with a proper portion of mushrooms again, this seems to be a dream too far if my experiences of the past few months are anything to go by. For the record, today conversation covered a range of themes, Smiletastic; pharmaceutical trials; road accidents; cake; breakfast venues; legitimacy of bringing Cheetah Buddy’s arse into the public domain (basically, it’s fine for me to do this, as she is so obviously anonymous and unidentifiable… unless she chooses to complain about said post and thereby, ironically out herself. It’s like the perfect crime!)
Eventually the chat turned to running techniques. I quizzed fell running Queen-of-the-Hills Smiley about the ‘chimp down, tiger up‘ mantra me and Hobbit Smiley had been pondering. Hills Smiley looked at me like I was mad, but she’d been trained to maintain a non-judgemental expression, even in the face of such extremes of behaviour. ‘No‘ she’d not come across that. Pleasingly though, she did have a new one for me. For running at break neck speed down hills she’s got one ‘brain off, brakes off‘! Well, that certainly explains a lot. There’s no way you’d tackle running down hill at the speeds she reaches if you’d engaged your brain at all. We didn’t quite explore whether this advice was health and safety compliant, or just incredibly effective. I shan’t be following it myself to be honest, I’ve more of a cautious bent tackling uneven terrain. Zig-zag slowly with heels dug in and arms held out for balance is more my established technique and I ahve been known to resort to sliding down on my ample bottom if circumstanes seem to require it. You may not wish to emulate me for speed, but it will get you down safe enough when the going gets terrifying. Just a thought.
As we chatted, Cheetah buddy got out a self-cooling ice pack to strap to her leg (shin to be precise). She refrained from doing the thing with a golf ball in public though. Anyway, she says it’s better with a tennis ball. I’m worried all the running around has broken her, I hope not, I need my running buddy to head off to the hills with. Get well soon.
So, all this is a roundabout way of letting you know, that motivating people to run is basically a piece of cake. So now you know. Look, it even got me flying round, surely a first? With both feet off the ground, I can almost forgive the capturing of my double chin… please tell me it isn’t true that the camera never lies.