Monthly Archives: February 2016

Lucky, lucky, lucky. Look:


Leap year, loped up to view point.  Legs leaden, but view worth it.  Reader, that is all.  How lucky are we Sheffielders to have all this on our doorstep.


Just saying…


Sometimes it pays to just breathe deeply and head to the hills, be you hobbit or hare, it will raise your spirits.


Categories: off road, running | Tags: , | Leave a comment

It’s a wonderful world – Longshaw revisited

lovely longshaw

The shorts were unnecessary, I felt.  Not ‘unnecessary’ in the sense that the wearers should abandon covering their nether regions altogether, but ‘unnecessary’ in the sense that it was flippin’ freezing out there and bare legs were at best inappropriate – and indeed ‘unnecessary’ – and at worst reckless exhibitionism.  I’m not saying this just because the last time I sported a pair of shorts I ended up looking like a cross between an Oompa Loompa and a Jumbly, (though admittedly there is more than a smidgeon of envy in my judgementalism) but also because I think runners have a duty of care for themselves.  All that exposed flesh was surely just a snow-flake’s width away from hypothermia.  There are hard core off-road runners and there are the adrenalin junkies who seem to embrace living life on the edge of human endurance.  Judging by the numbers of those in shorts out and about today, Sheffield is home to more than it’s fair share of such people who taunt the elements with their naked knees.  Honestly, what were they thinking?

Reader, I am of course remarking on one of the many and wondrous sights to behold whilst at Longshaw last weekend for the Trust 10 off road running event.  Alongside the beanie hatted runners, were a few in skimpy shorts and T-shirts.  I was shivering in my long-sleeved top with running vest over it, leggings over thermal tights and my generously proportioned bobble hat.  Whilst I concede they may get warmer by running a bit harder, surely there is a limit to how much heat anyone can generate by running alone, these few seemed to defy the laws of physics as well as near enough those of common decency in the winter months.

For the record, I did pluck up the courage to ask a guy on one of the Accelerate Thursday Ecclesall wood runs (a snip at £2 a throw) why he was wearing shorts in sub zero conditions.  To his credit he said he was miserable doing so, and it was only because he didn’t possess any longer runner tights, being more a gym bunny of late who hadn’t been running outside all winter due to injury (or apathy, I forget which now).  He is therefore exempt from my incredulity, having a perfectly reasonable explanation for his state of undress.  For those hardy few at Longshaw last weekend looking like they’d turned up to take part in a summer fete’s Dad’s fun run (and it was all men in shorts to be honest, we women apparently either know better, or are more self-conscious about our cellulite and wobbly bits) how could you do it?  More to the point, will you do it again?  You must have been absolutely freezing.

Hey ho, I’m ahead of myself though.  So, last Sunday, was back to lovely Longshaw for their monthly Trust10 10km trail run through the estate.  For those of you who are knew, or skim read that bit last time I posted on the topic, this is essentially a free event held on the fourth Sunday of the month at Longshaw (apart from March and December when confusingly they are on the third Sunday due to the inconvenience to the running community caused by Easter and Christmas – tell you what, best just check their website each time to be on the safe side…).  You have to register to participate, but you can do this on the day, and it is an inclusive 10km route on trails and a bit of off-road, well marshalled and very friendly.  You do get a time, but they don’t guarantee it will be accurate, so if you are fussed about that take your own GPS tracking device with you.

This is one of my favourite local running events. It’s off-road – or at least traily, so you feel sort of adventurous, but actually it’s very safe.  It is also highly social, and a good progression from parkrun for the likes of me.  You can rock up on the day, and enjoy novel facilities such as warm interiors for registration and toilet paper in the loos prior to the run, and then afterwards catch up with running buddies from near and far as well as sip a decent cup of coffee.  I say it is amongst my favourite runs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have pre-performance angst every time the day comes around, and last Sunday was  no different.

I’d done parkrun the day before, with a bit more gusto than planned due to an extended sprint finish (not my idea and one I couldn’t sustain thank you for asking), and then the day of the Longshaw 10km dawned and it was bitterly cold. On the plus side this meant I’d get to bag a sub-zero bonus point for Smiletastic, on the down side in order to do this I’d have to go outside and run in the freezing cold.  I was shattered before I’d even started.  It did not bode well.   Nothing in life is free it seems.  I’d agreed to scoop up a running buddy en route, so headed out to get her around 8.00 ish.  Even though I know where she lives, I used satnav to get there.  This meant I went the most bizarre route ever to her house, discovering back streets of Sheffield that hitherto I had not realised existed.  Leaving the house is always an education.  My buddy was waiting, and clambered in. She doesn’t have a car, so has to submit to my driving and navigation which must do wonders for elevating her heart rate.  She is too polite to say so, but I fully appreciate being picked up by me is a little like being forcibly abducted, because I never really know where I am going and so can end up taking some more obscure routes if I lose concentration and ignore the satnav.  She has got a bit better at politely forewarning me when I seem to be about to breeze past a turning and I think we are evolving a team driving/ navigation ethos which will have us competing in off road rally driving competitions before too long.  Whilst I’m talking about scaring passengers into thinking they’ve been abducted, the last time I ever picked up a hitch hiker I did just that.  It was a long time ago, and I was a bit naive, driving north from London I stopped to pick up a hitcher just before going on the M1.  He climbed inside and expressed both gratitude and surprise that I’d stopped.  ‘Why are you so surprised I stopped?’ I asked ‘well, he said, rule number one of picking up hitchers, don’t pick up hitchers without luggage, and rule number two don’t pick up hitchers without a destination sign, and rule number three, don’t pick up a hitcher if you are driving on your own.’  ‘Oh‘.  So that was three out of three. He went on to explain whey each of these rookie errors could be so catastrophic. ‘So should I be worried?’ I queried lightly.  ‘No,’ he said, ‘I’m fine honestly, but I am jumping bail.‘  ‘Oh‘.  I said.  Anyway, it was all fine, but it turned out I was going to Leamington, and he wanted to go to Coventry, and I knew a back route to where he was heading.  Long story short, once I pulled off the motorway and started going cross country he started looking really, really nervous.  The power dynamic entirely shifted as I realised poor guy was completely lost and feeling really vulnerable.  He was ever-so pleased and relieved when I finally deposited him by a road sign saying 2 miles to Coventry.  I’ve not picked up a hitcher since, but I am more mindful of the power dynamics of being both a lift-giver and liftee so to speak.  I did once hitch a ride with an alleged murderer, but that’s a tale for another time too.

So me and running buddy bounced on the uneven roads of Sheffield wending our way to Longshaw.  It was funny driving across, at that precise moment I just couldn’t imagine my legs doing any running at all.  I sort of knew I would run the 10k because that is what happens when you turn up at these events, but I didn’t feel remotely enthused at the prospect and felt like there was nothing in the tank.  I always wonder if ‘proper runners’ ever feel like this.  Is it hard for them to muster the motivation too.  I know there will come a point at which it is enjoyable, but right then I was most definitely not feeling the love.  Oh well.  We were sort of committed by that point anyway.  The scenery was spectacular though, I wasn’t quite sure if it was actual snow on the ground or a deep frost, but my, it was beautiful.  Cold, but bright and wintry in a gorgeous Christmas cliché sort of way.

We arrived early.  I’m delighted to report that after last times shenanigans with not knowing where to park, (too much choice of spaces) this time the lovely people at the National Trust had left nothing to chance.  A marshal with a very fine pink flag was on hand to direct us to a parking place. This was great, I didn’t have to expend useful brain energy on early morning complex problem solving.  I could save that for the running later on.


It was fun already at the point of arrival.  It wasn’t fun that I realised I’d left my running coat at home, but I was sporting both my Smiley Paces vest and my newly acquired thoroughly splendid pink Trust10 bobble hat (for which I thank you nice Longshaw NT person).  As I was faffing about getting out of the car, my buddy got us a ticket for parking and I struck up a conversation with the driver of a monster truck in the adjacent parking space.  He was friendly, and noting my Smiley Paces vest made a comment along the lines of ‘I didn’t realise that this event was attracting hard core proper runners‘ I was a bit thrown, as I clearly don’t really meet any of those criteria.  I explained about being the one in the club who makes the other Smiley Paces feel great because they get to overtake me.  He turned out to be a Steel City Strider, which was even more confusing, because they really are hardcore, and what’s more, probably the ones most likely to be wearing shorts in the snow to be completely honest.  Still, this guy was friendly enough, and claimed to be like me one of the ‘also runs’ so who knows, could have been bluffing, but it was a friendly enough exchange.

I didn’t do any selfies this week, for which you must be grateful, however, I do feel compelled to include a photo of my fine hat, which is being modelled in the picture below by my bear Fraser.  He isn’t really a runner, and I couldn’t persuade him to wear my Smiley vest as it is so unflattering, but you get the idea of the overall effect I think, for better or worse…


So we did some car park faffing, getting tickets, picking our way over the frozen surface and marvelling at one or two arrivals who appeared to have run to the venue from over hills and vales far far away.  I felt almost pathetic fretting at the prospect of a measly 10k.

When we arrived in the Longshaw Tea rooms to register it was already heaving with people and lovely roasty toasty and warm.  This was good, apart from the fact that prizing yourself away from it to go outside into the cold again was made even harder by way of contrast.  I don’t think there were quite as many runners overall as last time out, but there were heaps and heaps of Smileys.  In Smiletastic terms (our running club.s winter challenge) all of the five teams were represented.  As we would therefore each bag a bonus point for our own team, we effectively cancelled each others efforts out.  However, it made for a very social gathering.  I met a few Smileys I hadn’t seen before, only as names on Facebook, so that was fun.  I also had the rare experience of having some insider information and therefore (admittedly short-lived and tenuous) expertise, as some of the youngsters (get me) from both the Squawky Chicks and Clucky Ducks hadn’t actually done Longshaw before.  This gave me the chance to dispense words of wisdom, which doesn’t happen all that often.  I was able to reassure them that it was eminently doable (lawks a lordy – look at the sight of me, and I manage to drag my weary carcass round) plus, I shared my secret Top Tip for attainment tactic.  It is simply this.  There are a couple of really steep hills.  Now some will attempt to run up these, but exhaust themselves and that is poor for morale.  I suggested not ruining a perfectly lovely walk with an opportunity to take in some lovely views by forcing yourself to run up a near vertical incline.  Treat the run strategically, conserve your energy for the top!  They seemed satisfied with this legitimate running technique, and I felt a certain surge of contentment at having led the youngsters so easily astray.  (Though really I maintain walking up the really steep hills is indeed a legitimate technique to avoid injury and tears on your first time out.)

There were so many Smilies to catch up with, and even a couple of Rustling’s Runners (a group I used to go out with before I came to realise they are way too speedy for me to keep up with them, but they are a friendly duo), it was a shame to have our chit chat interrupted with a call to the start.  We shuffled into position.  I didn’t wear any kind of a coat, but I did have gloves and my hat.  I put myself sort of in the middle of the bunch this time, didn’t want to get stuck behind walkers too early on.  Couldn’t really hear the briefing, but it was presumably along the lines of look out for each other, watch out for slippery bits, have fun, that kind of thing, and then we were awf!  Yay!


One advantage of the cold, is that it is actually a bit of a relief to get going.  Now I am more familiar with the route, it feels a bit quicker.  Also, because the ground had been frozen, it was hard and not as muddy as last time out.  Although it was white underfoot in parts it didn’t feel too slippery. I was in my ‘proper’ off road shoes, and I was glad of them, but I think I might be getting a bit more confident on my feet now.  It was lovely.  I don’t feel the same lurve running on roads, but it was stunningly beautiful out in the countryside.  The sky was initially dark and a bit broody, but it made for breathtaking scenery.  It was cold, and apart from us runners and the hardy marshals – who have been highly trained to smile apparently continuously, without even a moment’s lapse – there didn’t seem to be many people about.


It was very pleasing to report that our  Extra Smiley Smiley (200) Formerly Known As Smiley Non-Smiley was amongst those marshalling.  Not only did she hold that gate open early on with real dedication and aplomb, it meant I got to be on first name terms with one of the marshals.  It does make it more fun running when there are people to cheer you round.  Even more pleasingly, she then relocated to the half-point/ end point so could cheer again at the mid-stage and ending.  Great value out of her volunteering skills there.  It didn’t feel too crowded today, and I got into a rhythm early on, a slow one granted, but a rhythm nevertheless.  It was gorgeous, the trails felt springy, the woods were lovely, and if you remembered to look up when you got to the steep hill not only did this help your breathing but you got an awesome sense of place.  I had a few broken exchanges with people on the way round.  Nothing too much, (regular readers know I feel VERY strongly about not being expected to talk and run at the same time), but enough to touch base companionably with others, and shout acknowledgement.

At the hill point, I came across another backwards runner!  What’s that about?  I know I saw one at parkrun the other week, but I really thought that was a one off.  I asked if it made the uphill easier if you couldn’t see the summit.  ‘Yes‘ was the enthusiastic reply ‘especially second time around!’  I didn’t really want to think about the second lap at that point to be honest, but it was an observation worthy of consideration.  I heave-hoed up the hill, and did cave in to walking, though I can truthfully report I was not alone in this.  My relationship with hills is complicated, I still can’t run up with them, but the views at the top are joyful and then there is always the thrill of the descent to come…  Living in Sheffield I feel cheated if ever I go for a run and there isn’t a hill somewhere.  Mind you, can’t really think of any occasion when that’s happened round where I live to be fair, you can’t escape them!

reward for uphill

 There was a friendly marshal at the top though offering cheering words of encouragement.  It is nice once you get over the wall to be on a flatter forest path and quite soon two marshals came into view, one in the gateway acting as a decoy presumably, whilst another appeared to be in hiding behind a stone wall, but had her presence betrayed by her fine pink bobble hat.  My own bobble hat got a bit of attention on the way round.  One passing runner told me she’d been eyeing it from way back, focusing in on it to catch me up and then overtake me.  I was quite delighted at her observational skills and compliment, particularly as she herself was sporting a sort of Peruvian three bobbled hat creation, that truthfully might have incited a bit of bobble envy had I been of such a disposition to mind.  Truth is, you don’t really care about anything very much when you are running, well I don’t.  It looked a bit like this, only more colourful, it you are struggling to visualise it:


I was worried you might be imagining more of a jester’s hat, which would be silly, obviously.

The route seemed to go quickly today, I was cheered round the half way point by name (nowhere to hide) and yomped onwards with renewed vigour.  The field scattered out a bit, so for the second lap, although I was in sight of people throughout, I was more or less on my own.  I was aware of my running buddy (the abductee from earlier) just behind me, and although we’d agreed mutually that there would be no talking and running, I wanted to avoid getting shoulder to shoulder with her in case we ended up chatting.

On the second lap you really need to remember to make a point of looking at your surroundings.  There are gorgeous mossy tree roots, lovely rock formations on the horizon, and in the woods, some fabulous fantastical configurations of trunks and branches that make alluring dens.  I saw one parent with two small children clambering around the magical roots, it looked like a parallel universe, it really did. I could quite happily have ditched the running and gone to join them, but if my body is ever to be a temple to running, then I need to keep on running in my asymmetric, minimalist way.

Also on lap two as I went through one of the smaller car park areas (no, don’t know what it’s called) there was a nice couple (well I say they were nice, they may have been axe-murderers  for all I know, but it wasn’t obvious that they were, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt) asked how far we were running. I said breathlessly ‘10km‘ and they ooohed and aaahed in a ‘gosh, how impressive‘ sort of way as they heaved on their walking boots and let their dog out of the boot of their car.  That helped me pretend to run on with a bit more enthusiasm than I was actually feeling at that point, I didn’t want to let the side down, and in a hundred metres or so I knew I’d be comfortably out of their line of vision so could heave into the undergrowth if necessary.

In the last couple of kilometres I suddenly noticed ahead of me a Rustling Runner, she is training for the half-marathon, so I was wondering if I could somehow catch her.  Not out of competitiveness, but more to see how my running is comparing with hers.  She was/is a much better runner than me, and has done half marathons before.  I reasoned if I could catch her, then maybe it is realistic for me to at least start the half in a few weeks’ time.  It was an effort, but I did catch up with her.  Then though, I could hear another runner behind me right on my shoulder, and it sort of spurred me on.  I didn’t want to be overtaken at the last 100 meters.  Disaster, her partner (presumably) appeared at the gateway to the finish, and started cheering her on ‘come on, you can do it, you can beat her‘.  I don’t know if I felt outraged exactly, but being aware I was someone  else’s target made me really want to hang on.  I gave it super-human effort, found my turbo sprint button and charged onward.  I did think I might either be sick, or fall over, but I did make it.  Whether I’m ever going to have enough in my tank to do the Sheffield half, I really don’t know…  I have to get to grips with running up some hills at some point, and not long to go.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.  Maybe my insurance policy should be just to get one of these, and run in that, job sorted.  How do you think it compares to my usual running vest?

The organisers and marshals at the end were in fine form, voice and had great commentary and organisational skills.  ‘Second dog home‘ they called out to the runner just ahead who was accompanied by her pooch and ‘ooh smiley‘, and then ‘come on Lucy‘ as I was recognised by my pink hat (which I can report had stayed on throughout) and presumably, matching pink face and puffy cheeks as I charged into focus at the finish.  Afterwards I spoke to the woman behind me who was most gracious about my determination to stay ahead, from her perspective I think she wasn’t too fussed about catching me anyway, it was motivator at the sidelines who was being uber-competitive, but to be fair that made me find reserves I didn’t know I had.  I still wasn’t that fast mind, but I was a good 5 minutes faster than last time out.  A lot of that to be fair is due to the firmer footing rather than any improvement in my inherent athleticism, but all the same that’s good for morale.  (But NOT good for Smiletastic, for which PBs only attract points next month, and I doubt now I’ll be able to improve on this time, very poor gamesmanship on my part there I’m afraid.  Best not tell the other Flying Feathers, I’ll be drummed out of not just the team, but Smiley Paces too.  Driven into exile I’d have to join another running club instead… somewhere flat!  Fate worse than death.)

It was pretty cold once we stopped.  My running buddy was very close behind and about five Smilies all crossed the finish line within a few minutes of each other, so that was companionable and nice.  We did lots of mutual congratulations, before retreating to the warmth and comfort of the tea rooms for coffee and run de-brief and Smiletastic tales.  It was really, really nice.

Another triumph, thank you marshals, for clapping, smiling, pointing, holding gates open, and offering cheery commentary as we passed.  It was and is much appreciated, you must have been freezing out there!

There were long queues in the cafe, but it was all good-natured.  I felt a bit for the 11.00 o’clock walking group that were probably not expecting to find themselves in the middle of a pack of steaming and slightly over-excited runners, but hey ho.  Refreshments eaten and drinks drunk we performed the super human feat of getting up after stiffening into a sitting position, and hobbled back to the car park, newly crippled.  I spotted an abandoned cross in a tree en route back.  Hope it wasn’t in memory of someone who didn’t quite make it.  The snow scattering had almost vanished, giving way to bright sunshine, but it was still distinctly nippy out there.

Back at the car park, there was a random woman roaming.  Turned out she was on a mission to spot the next vacated parking space, so as we reversed out, she was frantically gesturing in another car.  We did fine, but there may be some logistical problems ahead for Longshaw if the running contingency start overlapping too much with other activities.  Speaking for myself I couldn’t imagine being fit enough to run up to the start from Sheffield, but a fair few runners do.  Maybe when the weather is warmer and days are longer I could give it a go, as long as I can take a picnic with me for emergencies.

happy pace

Meantime, thanks again lovely Longshaw, it was gorgeous out, worth the effort, and I like having another number to add to my collection.  Wonder if we can get even more Smilies along next time, it was like a club outing, but even so, the more the merrier I say, reckon we could easily double it next time.  Now that would be a treat…  Till next time, happy running y’all!


Home, dropping off running buddy en route.  I did a quick detour laying bait for rabbits, more of this later.  It’s not easy doing Smiletastic, first Elder Smiley Super Geek wanted our hearts, now she wants hares.  I can’t find any, so I’m resorting to laying out organic produce for them in a possible vain attempt to lure them hither.  Will it never end…?  It’s an organic one, which is why it isn’t very symmetrical.

rabbit lure

If you wish to compare and contrast with previous Longshaw experiences you could check out mud, mud glorious mud and/or lolloping Longshaw, but really I wouldn’t take any notice of what I have to say, just if you are tempted get out and do it.  I would recommend trail shoes, but apart from that it’s eminently doable, fun, friendly and free.  What’s not to like?  Plus, if you do decide you need to bale at the half way point (and for the record I did see one runner do just that as we passed the tea rooms first time around) you absolutely can, no-one will care, or even notice probably, and it’s not like they’ll put it on a blog and tell the world or anything, so keep your worries in perspective.



Categories: 10km, motivation, off road, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prancercise Perfection at parkrun

It’s all about channelling your inner equine.  I’ve talked about prancercise before, and indeed lived the dream by trying pony trekking up the valley, but word still hasn’t got out as much as I would like, so at parkrun on Saturday I was glad of the chance to act as an ambassador for this innovation in  fitness fabulousness .  Honestly, it’s felt like screaming into a void sometimes, but I think I may have turned a corner and gained a couple of willing  and winning recruits,  who, alongside myself and my hobbit friend of course, will be fabulous brand ambassadors I’m sure you’ll agree!

perfecting prancercise

And, can I just say, should there be any cynics among you, don’t forget one of the Code of Conduct rules for parkrun is about ‘respect everybody’s right to participate in their own way’ so there is plenty of room for prancercise frolicking en route for any or all who wish to give it a go.

So for the uninitiated, the blah de blah is as follows:

Prancercise® is defined as: A springy, rhythmic way of moving forward,similar to a horse’s gait and ideally induced by elation. “This form of movement, along with dietary and spiritual principles can create the most satisfying, holistic and successful fitness program one could hope to experience. I encourage anyone who is ready for a huge change in their lives, from the way they see the world, to the way they see themselves to explore the principles inherent in this program, especially as outlined in my book : Prancercise®:The Art of Physical and Spiritual Excellence.”

Just to be extra clear, the book isn’t mine (if only) it is by the lovely Joanna Rohrback  – Neigh-sayers take note: She’s the real deal.  If you just have the self-discipline to adhere to her principles, you too could look like her, or, if you are of the male persuasion, her lovely nameless sidekick in the unfortunate leggings. (and if you think the still shot is bad, wait ’til you’ve seen the prancercise videos, it really is life changing). Keep an open mind, it could change your life, it really honestly and truly could!  Nope, don’t try and thank me, it’s nothing, just spread the joy by giving it a whirl at the next parkrun you find yourself at.  Actually, why limit yourself to parkrun?  Run wild and free anywhere and any time the mood takes you, you can only spread joy if you do so.  Afterall, as the prancercise guru herself says ‘why settle for mediocrity when you can prancercise yourself into ecstasy?‘  Good point.  Well made.


So, back to basics, I wasn’t going to particularly blog about this week’s parkrun until the prancercise opportunity offered itself up by way of sacrifice as the topic of choice for the week.  Now I am, I might as well fill in a few of the other blanks.

Allocating parkruns in advance has become quite stressful as the Smiletastic challenge heats up.  (I really can’t be bothered to go into all that again, read the Smiletastic blurb on the Smiley Paces website if you must have clarity) .  Pertinent here is the fact that for the first time in my life, an accident of birth (the year in which I was launched screaming into the world) has allocated me into a winning team.  Yes, technically the clucky ducks have limped ahead in two weeks, but basically we Fighting Feathers have stormed it throughout the months of January and February.  Points are allocated for various things – including participation in timed runs, but (and this is the killer) only one point per parkrun, so you have to divvy them up with precision ahead of a Saturday, which is like herding cats.  Have you never tried to herd cats?  Well, take it from me, it’s extremely hard.  Our team has ended up drawing up a table of runs and pledges to undertake them come weeks in advance (and I’m not even exaggerating for comic effect there, just so you know).  It’s terrifying.  I did well to nab a local one, and as the only representative of my gang there, then had the pressure of worrying about what if some terrible accident befell me and I couldn’t make it?   in the days leading up to the parkrun. Stressful?  There’s an understatement if ever there was one.


In the event, I did make it, and so did loads of other Smiley Paces Smiletastic participants.  I have to strike a balance between being friendly to my running club-mates, without too much actual fraternisation with the enemy so to speak.  Wouldn’t do to let slip that we have started creating our own spread sheets for example.  Unfortunately, my desire to blurt out everything that is in my head in a stream of consciousness to anyone in the vicinity, whether they are listening or not, isn’t entirely compatible with our pact of secrecy on pain of death.  Oh well, I tell myself, if I’m the only Flying Feather here present, how will the others ever find out what I’m up to anyway?

Pretty brisk out, and personally, I thought parkrun was a bit quieter than usual to be honest, though I have no independent evidence of this, and I can’t be bothered to look at the results to confirm or deny my claim.  However, the main thing was that there were enough friendly faces around for some pre-parkrun chit chat.  Discussion about Longshaw tomorrow; Smiletastic; life the universe and everything; running anniversaries; running injuries; running ambitions; running future aspirations; running legends; running memories… I think it was fair to say there was a running theme.  I managed to drop into conversation that I’d seen Jessica Ennis in the woods on Thursday.  She’d walked past when we doing some particularly eccentric running drills, and we all acted nonchalantly.  As Accelerate were trying to take photos anyway for some reason (perhaps to promote the running workshops, but it might have been for their personal under the counter collection, who knows), I thought it would have been funny to stop her, and ask if she’d take a photo for us so we could all be in the picture together.  I just figured it would be a change for her to be asked to take a shot, rather than be in one.  Actually, it’s probably unfair to mention we saw her at all, she’s allowed to go for a walk undisturbed.  I just can’t help myself because she is awesome.  It is a bit like seeing a unicorn, a sighting of a super-athlete like her can only ever make your day better.  Unlike participating in the running drills, which did not make my day better, and which only time will tell whether or not it has improved my running either.  I enjoyed it retrospectively though, so all is not lost…

Off, up and running, I was lost in the crowd early on, and I do freely concede I have got a bit of ‘am I supposed to be having fun yet‘ face on me, but dear reader, you will be pleased to know that I did eventually find my stride and two running buddies too, yay!

The key things about parkrun this week, were that it was a lovely day, cold to start, but OK when you got going.  The park was lovely, and due to some technical experimentation, that was explained on the Sheffield Hallam parkrun facebook page but sounded like white noise to me, there were some particularly fine and atmospheric photos.  Look:

Not much hanging around at the start, just thanking the volunteers, be nice to other park-users and we were off.  I was in a pretty slow and steady mood, I told myself this was because I was saving myself for the exertion of Longshaw 10k on Sunday, but in my heart of hearts it was because I ended up companionably running alongside my new best friends who seemed only too happy to give prancercise a whirl.  We were at a gentle pace, and I was feeling pretty confident that I could maintain this chatty pace quite comfortably.  I only discovered later that all that was happening by going at the misleadingly sedate pace of the youngest member of our happy trio, was that I was lulled into a false sense of security.

Don’t get me wrong, we did have fun, playing ponies, chatting about fancy dress options etc, but it all got sticky towards the end.  We got to the bus stop on Rustling Road, second lap, and from nowhere, our young companion announced she was going to do a sprint finish.  I have never seen anything like it, she just shot off like a rocket on acid (to be fair, I don’t know if that would make a rocket faster or not, I’m just trying to emphasise a point, suspend your disbelief if necessary, and go with the story).  I honestly tried really, really hard to keep up, but managed a paltry 50 metres or so before I had to concede I had not chance, and was being completely left for dust.  What’s more, having peaked so early, I could practically taste the metallic hint of blood in my mouth where my lungs had apparently exploded, or possibly imploded, I’m not medically qualified so can’t really be sure.  I had to watch the others disappear over the horizon, whilst I jogged onwards, trying to look ‘not bovvered‘ and hoping it wasn’t too obvious I had at one point seriously entertained the notion of finishing with them.  Here they are finishing, you can’t help but notice where there were three, now there are two…

Sprint finish left me for dust

Subsequently, other adults in possession of children (are you allowed to say it like that?  I’m sure you know what I mean.)  Tried to make me feel better by explaining that apparently it’s quite common for young people to be able to turn on the explosive run in this way, but they don’t have the stamina of the post fifties like myself.  Well, I appreciate what they were trying to do, but I’m pretty darned sure I didn’t have sprint reflexes when I was growing up in the age of Bay City Rollers, Raleigh chopper bikes, waiting for the test card to finish so proper telly to start and collecting tin can pulls for Blue Peter appeals.  Nor do I seem to have gracefully metamorphosed into a fine specimen of post-fifty finesse with endurance and stamina in old age.  What’s gone wrong there then?  Are they lying, or is it all just me, further evidence of my inability to succeed and failure to live up to even the most basic of expectations in life?  No don’t tell me, some questions are best left unanswered.

Oh, here is a random photo of Smiley non-Smiley who now is a Smiley, in her first outing as a Smiley at parkrun (officially) though I couldn’t help but noticing on the results she’s not outed herself as linked to us on the parkrun database as yet.  Still, useful to claim her as our own methinks.  She has an extraordinary capacity to leap whilst being photographed, I have always considered this to be further evidence of her goddess like running talent, however, I can report dear reader that if you skip along doing prancercise all the way round, you may well find yourself airborne despite yourself.  I wonder belatedly if this is what she has been doing all along?  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

new smiley

Adding insult to injury, just when I had moved into a calm state of acceptance and decided to just lope home and pretend I’d never intended to do otherwise, I espied a Smiley comrade at the finish.  She saw me, and shouted my name, I felt compelled to oblige.  I dug deep in one last effort, and really went for a sprint finish.  It was the hardest I’ve run in weeks and probably months.  And I was really grateful for the encouragement.  I was also relieved to see this fellow Smiley, as it was she who was mysteriously incapacitated after running with Smiley non-smiley prior to the last Longshaw 10k, I’ve been worried sick about her ever since!  Anyway, the effort paid off, as did my new Strava toy.  Now I have been inducted into the mysteries of Strava segments, my strava route informed me that I improved that last chunk of running not insignificantly.  Maybe one day I’ll learn how to use the darned thing properly, and then my awesomeness will escalate even further.  Or maybe it won’t we’ll just have to wait and see.

So, another run down, bit of mingling, bit of thanking the volunteers who are as awesome as ever.  I’m feeling bad that I’ve not volunteered for ages.  I will do when the pressure of Smiletastic restores the element of freewill to parkrun decision making.  How giddy the prospect makes me.  I wonder if I will find I have become so institutionalised I can no longer make independent decisions about my running?  It’s a real worry.  Oh well, it is a real worry, but it is a real worry for a later date.  Meantime, here are some nice volunteer shots:

So that was that.  Goodbye everyone, until next week.  Breakfast – no room at Jonty’s again even though we were only two.  One of our number having selfishly broken her arm and other having been despatched to Concord parkrun in pursuit of bonus points.  So it was we we went off piste and headed to Sebastians, which was good actually, apart from our table’s close proximity to the toilet and the fact they completely  forgot about our order.  When it came I liked the bread (granary toast) a lot, and it was unhurried, always a boon  – and just as well in the circumstances. Good to ring the changes now and again, is it not.  Plus, they do amazing looking cake, keep meaning to go back there one day for a cake only concept outing.  One day perhaps, one day soon…

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Homage to Mr Carman, 200 times a parkrun photographer

Been there, done that, taken the photos, still not got the T-shirt though…

On the occasion of his two – hundredth time of turning out to photograph the prolific parkrunners of Sheffield, be they pert or porky.*  This homage is to salute glorious George, our very own semi-domesticated officially fabulous photographer.  Most of his appearances have been at Sheffield Hallam parkrun, but he has been known to venture further afield.  Chances are if you’ve run in Sheffield, this man has captured you on film.  Other photographers are available, but today it’s all about George.  Mr Carman, we salute you and your amazing telescopic lens collection.

official photographer

Er hem – best said out loud, you may need to work on the scanning a bit creatively, and to achieve this, you may wish to recite the below tribute in a private place. Behind a locked bathroom door, or in a shed are two good places from which to start.  Good Luck!

If you can stand your ground when all about you
Are running parkrun and ignoring you
If you can point your lens and snap away
But make allowance for Lycra on a Saturday
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting
Or seeing fancy dress keep a straight face
Or being cold stay uncomplaining
And yet frame a shot with consistency and grace

If you can turn out each and every week
If you can do this be it sunshine, snow or rain
If it is the perfect photo that you seek –
So you will tackle any slope and all terrain
If you can meet with Hobbit and with Hare
And treat those two imposters just the same
If you caress your telephoto lens with care
And all around agree you know your game

If you can shoot, and then upload to Facebook
Not one, but three hundred photos at a time
If you can make mere mortals appear airborne
And occasionally, like runners actually sublime,
If you can do this for absolutely years and years
Until two hundred times you have appeared
Then wonder at how loud are all the cheers
And seem amazed that you are just so revered

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or for Christmas carry off a turkey hat
You are photographer extraordinaire that’s you!
With more fans than one could shake a stick at
If you can fill the unforgiving album
With priceless memories of any distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you must be George, Car-man!

photogrpaher in the frame 17 october 2015

*You’d think with all that practice he must be pretty good by now, but some people are never satisfied are they?  Overheard one person (who shall be nameless, but they know who they are) protesting ‘How come after all that time he still hasn’t got a flattering photo of me?’  Well, whilst I appreciate the misery and distress of, well, let’s call it charitably ‘the unfortunately unforgiving and candid snap‘, there remains the awful possibility that we may actually look like that.  The camera after all never lies, and the mysterious power behind the lens can only do so much by way of veto.  Let’s not spoil this lovely occasion for celebration with embittered recriminations, there’s plenty of time for them to carry on in the future.  Grudges can endure for generations after all, we don’t need to particularly dwell on them today.

Meantime George, we all heart you, as the saying goes!  Thanks for all the memories, bitter-sweet or otherwise!

Categories: parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 13 Comments

Pimping my ride to experiment with Eccentric Running Training Techniques


I think it is possible I may have misunderstood the term ‘eccentric running‘.   Disappointingly, it seems it isn’t a workout based on the Ministry of Silly Walks (even though that is REALLY effective at training your muscles to cope with stresses of running) even worse, fancy dress doesn’t apparently cut it either.  Gutted.  Still, easy to be wise after the event, but I don’t really care.  It was worth a try, it was a hoot, and I’m sure all that laughing is good for your stomach muscles even if it might rather stress your pelvic floor….


So the tenuous logic of the costumery for this Hobbit Hash was the desire to practise running in fancy dress.  Doing a course recce might seem more appropriate for some in their pre-race training, but that sounded quite hard, and might necessitate quite a lot of actual running.   I and my hobbit buddy/ training mentor had a way better idea.  The logic of today’s foray out was to see if mooted fancy dress ideas are sufficiently practical for a longer run, ahead of the day.  Anyway, why not…. what’s the worst… oh hang, on, that logic has got me into trouble before now to be honest…   Basically though, I reckon pony trekking through the woods is sort of cross training really, and therefore entirely compatible with half-marathon training plans.

The scheming started early, sourcing and purchasing a pony of my own.  The dream birthday present that never came when I was younger, so I’ve decided to just splash out and treat myself.  Happy birthday to me.  There was a small technical issue, in that the costume when it arrived was distinctly on the snug side.  On reflection, I should have anticipated this probability when ordering – it claims only to fit 4-8 year olds, and only boys, disappointingly, if the photo is anything to go by.  Ride on Horse – child’s ride on horse with straps looked quite cute all the same, and a snip at less than a tenner!

Undeterred, I set about pimping  my ride.  It was this DIY clothing alterations that caused a blood bath in my home towards the end of last week.  However, I am nothing if not determined, and hobbit hasher comrade has a matching pony Ginger – to my Roger (see what we’ve done there) so I was determined to ‘make it so’.  I did manage to squash myself into the costume, but it wasn’t a  good look.  Less problematic round the waist, but the straps were way too short to accommodate my ample torso up top so to speak. The crafters amongst you will be fascinated to hear that I got round this by using an old belt to lengthen the shoulder straps, and some ribbon ties on the midriff to give an adjustable (and more forgiving) fit around the waist.  Final touch was a rosette, because Roger is a winner for sure.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of this whole genius endeavour.  It was worth shedding blood, sweat and indeed tears over, in the creation.  You know how the saying goes, the best things are worth fighting for.  So, meet Roger, resting up in his stable prior to his first ride out galloping up the valley with his stable mate Ginger in due course.  Could hardly wait for them to meet one another!

Then finally the day dawned – TODAY.  Despite a LOT of prior planning and pledges of commitment to go through with this endeavour, there was some last minute ‘I will if you will‘ type exchanges.  As if there was ever any doubt.  I was quite excited at the prospect of Ginger and I heading out together for our first cross county yomp.  Not at all sure how it might all unfold, but feeling upbeat about the possibilities  I was rather chuffed with the overall effect… whilst still in my flat.  Heading out of my own domain into the public eye of communal areas was a rather different challenge.  I hadn’t expected to be greeted by some random electrician working in the hallway, I did a cheery smile and breezed past him quite quickly trying to exude a not absolutely unfriendly vibe, more a purposeful ‘I’m so busy, can’t possibly stop to talk‘ sort of vibe, making no direct (or indeed indirect) reference or acknowledgement of my ‘unconventional’ outfit.  Phew, got away with that, tomtom on, started jogging, and oh joy, there are school children in a small swarm, waiting at the bus stop.  Why or why did this seem like a good idea from the sanctuary of my home and blustered confidence of planning through social media? This brilliant idea seems a lot harder in the execution than in the planning.  I ran past them eyes front, again behaving as if I was the most natural sight in the world to behold.  Just another jogger, sprinting by on a sunny wintry morning.  They were obviously well brought up young people, as they managed to stifle their giggles until I’d gone by and then I heard a chorus of strangled guffawing burst out behind me in my wake.  I did not look back.

I arrived at the rendezvous point punctually.  I discovered if there is one way to feel more self-conscious hanging around on a street corner than doing so  in your running gear, it is to do so in your running gear, enhanced with a four year old’s dressing up pony.  Still, a deal’s a deal yeah?  So why did hobbit buddy come into view not wearing but carrying her pony.  What’s the point of having a horse if you carry it, they are supposed to carry you?  Fortunately, I was sufficiently relieved that she’d come at all, and with an equine friend to boot, that all was quickly forgiven.  We took time for some pre-run posing shots.  It was going to be a busy morning for cameras.

So, once there was two of us, all embarrassment evaporated. Once again, taking our ponies for a gallop cross country was an absolutely brilliant idea.  Unconditionally, unqualified genius.  Never since the invention of prancercise have people inspired by our graceful equine friends had sooooooooo much fun whilst exercising.

So our usual route up the valley, but given a new twist of adventurousness as our steeds were unfamiliar with the route.  They acquitted themselves brilliantly, braving river crossings, and later on hurdling stone walls and even stiles as we headed properly cross country!  See their grace in action, it looks almost effortless doesn’t it?

Inevitably, we found we had picked the busiest possible morning to be out and about.  However, I can report that having ponies of your own, is almost as good by way of making new friends as being accompanied on a walk by a puppy.  We got a lot of attention.  Some of it was by way of jaws being dropped and undisguised incredulity along the lines of ‘what were you thinking?’ It’s funny, there isn’t a clear answer to that really.  We were thinking ‘let’s practise running in fancy dress‘ but that was always a bit of a cover story.  Really we were mainly thinking ‘it’ll be fun‘ and ‘why shouldn’t we?’  At what point do we have to unconditionally subscribe to adult conventions of dress.  I mean hobbit buddy said that only this morning she packed her children off to school as pirates – though on reflection I never established whether or not this was out of respect for their wishes, or an imposition of her own.  However, a mere detail surely.  She did say that she had planned to exit the house without her husband finding out about her fancy dress plans for this morning, but he had taken her by surprise (not like that) by working at home for the day, so she made a sort of shy admission, before running out of the house clutching Ginger under her arms.  Mind you, given what happened at the end of the run, I’m not sure this version of events is entirely credible.  I think she may have an imaginary spouse, but I don’t want to draw attention to this just yet.  Anyway,back to our run, we bumped into a ‘school mum’ hobbit buddy knew, and she pleasingly was able to capture us in a photo together which was good, before she ran away from us again as fast as she could, crying with either laughter, fear or disbelief.  Hard to tell.  Bye bye mystery runner, good to meet you.

The next person we met was a rather serious looking guy, who stopped us for a quick chat.  If there is one thing funnier than people’s extreme reaction of surprise at seeing two short-arse but nevertheless full grown women in fancy dress, it is having someone not react and behave as if it is an entirely unremarkable and ordinary thing to do.  Hence, this unknown tallish man, greeted us with a matter of fact ‘now where did you get them from. I’m always on the look out for something like that?’  We explained about the getting from ebay and also that bm stores shop in town next to Lidl, though they’ve actually run out you could always get a T-Rex instead.  Long story short, he’s part of the Sheffield Hash House Harriers (I met a branch of them in Vietnam), and they are always alert to the possibilities of new fancy dress ideas.  I love the thought that we two hobbits might yet inspire a whole generation of other runners to incorporate horse riding in general and cross country riding in particular into their training regimes as part of cross training.  The best thing about this conversation on fancy dress, was that it was undertaken with real seriousness.  The same seriousness with which runners might discuss the relative merits of new running shoes, nutrition and hydration regimes or how to prevent nipple chaffing on a marathon.  It was a meeting of equals, who understood one another.  We said our farewells and yomped our separate ways.  It was good to get going again to be honest.  I think Ginger and Roger got a bit cold and bored standing around for so long and they were keen to get moving again.

So we picked up bit more speed, and started to feel quite smug about these outfits.  They are brilliant for running in, light and comfy, and the way the horses’ heads bob up and down in front of you whilst you are running along makes it feel exactly like riding a real pony!  The novelty started to wear off and we forgot we were wearing them.  Conversation turned to more serious topics, what’s going on in the news.  Anonymity for victims of crime versus those accused of crimes; translation; self-employment; me being an extra yesterday for the first time (hilarious, but of this I cannot speak as yet); weather; feet – usual sort of things.  The only time the horses became an issue was in the choosing of routes to take.  We felt obligated to stick to bridle paths, and it was irksome to find some of our preferred lanes were no longer open to us.  Still, fair’s fair, we did what needed to be done.

Eventually, we got to the steepest part of the valley.  The bit where hobbit buddy and I are perpetually caught walking by sneaky stealth like Smiley runners storming up behind us to laugh and point at us slacking whilst they have still the energy to power on upwards.  Now, I’ve made this point before, about them hiding and lying in wait, and I’ve rather gained the impression that nobody takes my accusation seriously.  I am humoured in this claim, in that no-one actually tells me to my face it is nonsense and my paranoia, but I’m sensitive to unspoken signals, and strongly suspect I am not believed.  Well, today, I finally have proof.  Look what popped up from behind a wall to spy on us!  If this doesn’t look like a group of elite Smiley Paces members lying in wait to you then I guess I have to accept you will never be convinced of the truth of what I say!  At this point in our run, we had once again lapsed into forgetting our equine companions, so we were a bit taken aback by these Smiley Snipers with their pointing, and laughing and general disbelief, though on the plus side it was this reaction that revealed their hiding place, so ill wind etc.  Also good, this offered up a mutual photo taking opportunity, it seemed only fair by way of truce, plus there was at least a couple of fellow Smiletastic competitors (my team and others amongst them) so we needed to at least keep up the façade of friendly rivalry for a little longer still. Mind you, they are cunning those Smiley snipers, even to catch them on camera was tough, see how they have cleverly disguised their identities by that age old (but effective) tactic of having us looking at them with the sun behind them, keeping them in camouflaged silhouette, whilst blinding us for good measure.  It’s like trying to get documentary proof of the existence of a yeti.  Believers will always believe on limited evidence, cynics will find reasons to disbelieve even the most compelling of proof.

Onwards and upwards as the saying goes.  We might be slow, but we are hardcore.  The super sniper Smileys had already turned round and were heading back down the valley when we were just getting stuck into the next bit of our elevation.  ‘Lightweights‘ we shouted after them bravely, when it looked like they were a) just about out of earshot and b) has built up sufficient momentum that they weren’t very likely to brake their stride to stop, turn and run back up the hill to settle with us once and for all.  Also, we had our ponies to ride, and so galloped on upwards, right to the view point in the sun.  Here we gave our ponies a break and a chance to graze.  We also nearly caused an accident as we saw a white van man drive past us and give us an alarmed looking double take as we were just clambering over a style with Ginger and Roger.  We imagined a whole scenario for him when he got home, trying to explain what he’d seen to his  sceptical wife. ‘No honestly, two middle aged women wearing ginger ponies‘ (Technically, a true equestrian would say ‘chestnut‘ but he didn’t look like a horse riding regular to be honest).  ‘I don’t know why.  Nope, it can’t have been a race, there weren’t any bibs or numbers of anything.  Yes, they were short, but I can tell the difference between an adult woman and a child, even if the adult woman appears to be having some sort of public breakdown.  Look, what is it that you find so hard to grasp?  Yes I have been working long hours, and I admit I am a bit sleep deprived, what has that got to do with anything?  Why don’t you believe me?  Two women in fancy dress pony outfits, climbing over a style in the peak district for no apparent reason – is that really so difficult to credit….. oh hang on... I think I may see your point‘  Silence. ‘Shall I put the kettle on?’  Incident forgotten, and never again referred to, though the uncertainty remains.  We caused that.

We decided not to go up to the peaks this time, favouring a different route.  We had an explore, going cross country following an old footpath.  Truth to tell, I think the landowner may have deliberately sabotaged this path as although there were definite way signs, the path was in very poor repair, blocked by collapsed fencing, and had flowing surface water at many points with the remnants of stone paths and collapsed wooden walkways in evidence.  It was comical to negotiate, but we got very wet, and very muddy, and only limited opportunities to really gallop free cross country.  Ginger by name and ginger by nature it turned out as Hobbit buddy’s horse put in few near refusals at the water jumps though gamely tackled the wall and style in her own inimitable way.  Roger was a bit bolder, and even got quite strong once we found some open land.  It was beautiful though, and we felt adventurous scampering about on the hills in glorious sunshine.

We felt so blessed to be in a gorgeous part of the world.  It was perfect conditions for running, shame we aren’t in perfect condition to do so.  I was back to lamenting the ‘should I, shouldn’t I?’ internal debate re the Sheffield Half.  I’m certainly not fit enough to actually run it, but then again the distance is eminently doable if I give myself permission to do it at a walk run.  This brings me belatedly to the whole purpose of this blog post, which was to share with you my running Top Tip for Half Marathon first timers.  The plan is this.  Do it in fancy dress.  If you don fancy dress, all spectator expectations evaporate you are clearly a ‘fun runner’ even if not obviously having any fun in that precise moment.  You are therefore allowed to walk, and/ or be generally crap at this, or indeed any similar physical challenge or sport.  I had a brief moment of disloyalty, speculating whether or not if I was going to be right at the back of the field anyway I maybe should have gone with the T-Rex outfit in favour of Roger, because it would be hilarious to be a carnivorous dinosaur in pursuit of all those thousands of runners.  Then I felt incredibly guilty.  How could I think of replacing Roger when we have such an obvious bond created instantaneously.  I feel Roger and I are meant to be, we will complete in our own special way, whatever it takes…

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So after our bit of exploration, we ended up back on a familiar path, rejoining a footpath that branches down the Limb Valley in one direction, and back towards Ringinglow road in the other. Whilst it was tempting to stay out longer, I was starting to feel a bit guilty that we might be a tad on the large side for our mounts, so time to head homewards.  That is what we did.  We met a few more people, including a large contingency of fluorescent jacketed Friends of the Porter Valley environmental volunteers.  I have volunteered with them a few times, and felt a bit guilty for not doing so today, I also felt suddenly self-conscious.  It seems it is fine to be seen by random strangers galloping about on pretend ponies, or to see running buddies from Smiley Paces – they above all people will recognise how stressful the whole Smiletastic endeavour has been and accept unconditionally that such pressure has to find an outlet somewhere.  In the circumstances, manifestation of stress by way of fancy dress seems a positively benign option when you think of how events might have otherwise ended.  After a fruitless search for a detour we brazened it out, running through, exchanging pleasantries with the volunteers who were doing a grand job of planting out.  I have a feeling that I was recognised by at least one of them, but he had a look of someone that was thinking ‘Now I’m sure I know that woman, but I just can’t quite place her’ so that was fine.  We then went past the Forge Dam cafe which of course was similarly heaving. This time though we saw our Tuesday morning greyhound walking friends, they were pleased to acknowledge us, though one did shout after us that they thought our horses looked a bit tired.  Unsurprising and truthful observation we had to concede.  From there, it was a speedy romp back, pausing only to take the time to smell the flowers along the way.  Great fun, you are never alone with a pony it seems.  Top Tip Tick, this idea is a long shot, but it might just work!  Ponies and hobbits alike had had a really nice day.  I shall gloss over the few wardrobe malfunctions on the way round that will be easily remedied in advance of any future hypothetical half-marathon, should such an event take place and include myself amongst the entrants.  Just so you know.

Run over, we paused at the point where our ways part for a final run debrief.  We congratulated ourselves on a successful inaugural outing for Ginger and Roger.  I’m not saying this will necessarily be a regular occurrence, but it  certainly livens up the routine run a fair bit, and anyway cross training and eccentric running are very much in vogue, even if prancercise sadly is not.  Plus, you can cover so much more ground on a horse than you could on foot, it has to be the way forward.

Whilst we chatted, two things occurred.  Firstly, my hobbit buddy was mortified at seeing her downstairs next door neighbour walking down the street, so we had to pretend to be in all absorbing animated conversation in order to avoid the embarrassment of a social encounter.  Then, a super fit runner in dark glasses came sprinting down the road towards us.  I was facing him and so hobbit buddy had her back to him and didn’t see him straight away. However, as he passed us and so into her view, she shouted in recognition.  ‘oh no,’ she exclaimed, ‘that’s my husband‘ and she called after him with increasing desperation.  Nothing, no acknowledgement, not a backward glance, not even a break in stride.  It was all a bit awkward really.  Now, I come to think about it, hobbit buddy does talk of her DH (Darling Husband) a fair bit, but I’ve never actually met him.  The awful possibility that he is a fantasy partner, along the lines of an imaginary friend (of which I am well known to have at least one) reared into view.  I’ve decided not to draw attention to my suspicions just yet, I’ll wait and see how things unfold. Meantime, can this be our little secret?  I enjoy our hobbit hashes, and I wouldn’t want my discovery of this truth to come between us.  It is a situation to handle and monitor with care.

We lightly brushed off the obvious ‘misunderstanding’ and both ran onwards to our respective homes with a bit more speed and anxiety to return to the safety of being hidden behind a closed door once we realised we were once again running alone.

So in conclusion, fancy dress is marvellous. This particular fancy dress option is very comfy, very light and very practical.  More people will smile and talk to you whilst you are out running if you wear it. This is a GOOD thing.  However, there is definitely a sense of safety in numbers.  Walking the streets on your own in fancy dress on a Tuesday morning is a lot less fun than pairing up with a buddy and doing so together, even if it is for no apparent reason.  No reason is in fact required.  It is fun, it hurts no-one and it left everyone we met wreathed in smiles.  It is an unnecessary technicality to quibble over whether the smiles were with us or at us, I don’t care, a smile is a smile, we need more in the world.  That is why there is room in the world for Smiley Paces and also Smiletastic, it is all part of a mission to propagate smiles. Today Sheffield, tomorrow the world.  Smile and the world smiles with you:


However, point of information, if I happen not to be smiling at any point, that is my prerogative.  It does not mean it is OK for men to say to women ‘cheer up love, it may never happen,’ because that is patronising, annoying, unnecessary and makes me want to punch you in the face.  So watch out for that please.  I’m sure there are better critiques out there about why it is so not OK to do this, but here’s one version for starters from a blog post by Sophie Wilkinson (no I don’t really know who she is, but I agree with the sentiments she has captured here).

I thank you.

Have a nice day.

PS ponies available to hire, can also offer escorted hacking up the Porter Valley or across the peaks, contact me for further details. Even better, if you have your own pony and want to come too, we can have a proper ride out together, more the merrier!

Categories: motivation, off road, running, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

Get over the blood on the floor and head over to Hallam… the perpetual pull of parkrun

get up get out parkrun

Normally, I’d have thought it a bit weird.  Seeing that grown man in the buff bunny hopping.  (Not that sort of ‘in the buff’ honestly, how old are you?  No sniggering, it’s not even an original joke for heaven’s sake!)   Now however, my running repertoire has extended sufficiently to see the value of drills as part of a warm-up routine, I barely gave it a second thought.   Besides which, the whole point of parkrun is, as we know, that we respect everybody’s right to participate in their own way, so if he had decided he wanted to bunny hop the whole way round, who am I to judge?  If he had, I’d have been seriously awe-struck though, bunny hopping at length is way harder than you imagine, and that’s just taking account of the physical demands it makes on the body, I’m not even factoring in the mental tenacity it requires to undertake this exercise in public and retain any sense of self-worth.  Here was a man made of Steel surely.  Probably that buff was a Steel City Striders’  Buff and a badge of honour, these runners are so self-assured and focused they will do whatever it takes to excel.  You have to be hardcore to bunny-hop well, and in public, believe me – and if you don’t, check out this guy – the photo speaks for itself!  There’d be no messing with this bunny I’m sure…


Also, whilst I’m on the topic of running drills, it turns out that for some running is indeed a one-legged sport – look.  If the runner’s expression is anything to go by, it isn’t just me who has been taken by surprise at this revelation – 5k is a very long way to go on just one leg, I think he’d only hopped round the first lap at this point:

running is a one legged sport

Oh, you want to know about the blood?  Yep, that’s a bit shocking really.  The full story will be revealed early next week, but suffice to say that I was doing a bit of DIY clothing alterations (another thing for which I have no innate aptitude) when my hand slipped.  I was using a sharp pair of scissors to make a hole in some fabric and when the material finally gave way the scissors went through with a jolt and I nearly took the top of my finger off with a single slice.  Not only did this really, really hurt, I couldn’t believe the amount of blood.  It just got everywhere.  I wondered briefly if I should get a stitch put in, but decided basically I couldn’t be bothered, and anyway might be better served if I could just get a really tight dressing on it to stop the bleeding.  Now, it may come as a surprise to you to hear that I’m not in fact medically qualified, but many years ago I was working at a B&B in Anglesey (another long story, ask me some time) and whilst trimming a horse’s tail managed to cut through the base of my index finger with some even sharper scissors. It was a much worse cut, right through to reveal the white sinewy fibres in my finger whatever they are.  I don’t think it was worms, tendons of some sort I suppose.  Anyway, the woman I was working for at the time  happened to be married to a consultant haematologist who worked at Bangor hospital.  I went into the kitchen pumping blood everywhere, and trying not to faint, only  to find he was there with two haematologist friends/colleagues.  The three of them used their collective wisdom to treat me.  Basically, they bound up my finger really, really  tightly, after running it under the tap for a bit, and said to just leave the dressing on for as long as I possibly could.  A week or so later and my finger was restored to its former glory.  It hadn’t been noticeably glorious in the first place to be honest, so it was a fairly low bar to meet, all the same, I was delighted to find it didn’t fall off, I didn’t get septicaemia and it was working fine.  I still have quite a good scar, but no dexterity problems some twenty years later.  This made me think I should attempt the same treatment option this time.  Unfortunately, it turns out it is quite hard to do this on your own, and blood gets everywhere.  Blood spots trailing through the flat, culminating in a literal as well as metaphorical bloodbath on reaching the bathroom.  I swear I have had the antibacterial spray and kitchen towel out three times since the injury trying to clear up the blood and I still keep seeing splashes up the walls, and around the taps which I must have previously missed. If I should disappear and the police do a forensic trawl of my flat they will conclude I have been the victim of a violent abduction it’s insane!  How people can dismember whole bodies in their bathrooms and seriously believe they will be able to dispose of them without detection I just can’t imagine.  Although, maybe dismembering isn’t such an issue, corpses don’t bleed, it would be the initial stabbing that would be problematic, maybe said killers have thought things through a bit more than me?  It’s possible I suppose…  I may have to Google ‘how to deep clean your bathroom when it is covered with blood‘ but worry that could be misconstrued.  Some things are not open to misinterpretation however.  FYI, through the wonders of WordPress automated stats, I know some poor anonymous soul used the Google search term  ‘dogging in Dovedale‘ and got directed to my blog!  Apologies to that reader, I fear their search was in vain.  My bathroom looked a bit like this picture by the way, but without the strange guy standing motionless in the midst of all the blood letting and carnage.  Nightmare.


So how does this relate to parkrun?  Well, it relates to parkrun because my finger bloody hurts, and makes me feel quite nauseous, so I did wonder about running at all today.  Then again, I thought of Smiletastic, and how feeble it would sound if I had to write a note to my team mates along the lines of ‘I’m really sorry I didn’t nab a bonus point for doing a timed run today, but I cut my finger‘  lawks a lordy there are hard core runners bunny hopping in public out there, I should be able to hobble round with a plaster round my finger tip and just a few attention-gaining blood smears down my top.  It was a bit disappointing then to find that my two breakfast buddy runners were sporting a broken arm and an actively bleeding cut on a hand respectively.  They win on the actual injuries front, though I reckon I had the most severe case of Manchausen’s  Syndrome which is something I suppose… Also, on the plus side, I learned a new thing.  Did you know that you are in possession of not one, but probably two, anatomical snuff boxes?  No?  Me neither, but we are, as long as you are in possession of two arms with hands still attached!  Isn’t that wonderful?  Just when you may be thinking life has nothing more to offer, you despair of discovering any new life-affirming novel experience ever again, you can still be caught unaware by some great mysterious new thing that sparks you back to enthusiasm.  Just listen out.  Life can be full of new discoveries even without a subscription to Reader’s Digest.  There may be more on this later, or there may not.  I haven’t decided.  I probably should talk a bit about running first.

just run parkrun

So parkrun.  Of course.  I made my way down despite threatening storm clouds overhead  and throbbing digit on my hand.  There seemed to be a particularly big turn out today, whether that was because Smiley Non-Smiley was celebrating her 200th parkrun so everyone was out to support her, or whether it was because some random academic had come from the University of Nottingham to talk about his HALO research into runners’ knees it was hard to be sure.  At first I didn’t see too many people I knew, mainly because I’m short and couldn’t see over the heads of others, because afterwards it was apparent that many were there.  I was thwarted in my precautionary pee by a blocked loo that meant I had to join the queue for the other (only) ladies, but on the plus side got chatting to some others whilst waiting.  We had that age – old debate about not even being sure if we really needed one, but somehow being unable to resist, like a dog in sight of a heap of sausages, just can’t walk on by a public convenience on the way to a run.  I know I’m not alone in this, because I recently saw a discussion forum about parkrun tourism where a poster had asked for recommendations as to where to go.  She stipulated an open loo pre the start as an essential pre-requisite for any suggestions –  I am with her on that.  Some compromises just should never be made.


In the start funnel, I ended up next to some women who were expressing the hope it would rain.  I didn’t share this desire.  Turns out they believe they always do better in the rain.  To be fair I do generally get better times when the weather is vile, but I think it’s because there are fewer slower runners committed enough to turn out in inclement conditions, so I get swept along by the more serious and speedier runners.  I then espied a fellow Smiley who has just come out as having signed up for the Wingerworth Wobble, so felt the need to go and chat to her for a bit.  We had quite  companionable chat for a bit, and then the conversation turned ugly, briefly.  It was all a misunderstanding though.  Suddenly my fellow Smiley went all serious on me ‘you haven’t come back to run with me have you?’ she asked accusingly, with a distinctly hostile air.  I was able to reassure her ‘God no, I can’t talk and run at the same time, I fully intend to ignore you the whole way round and quite possibly afterwards as well!’   Immediately her demeanour softened, she looked reassured and visibly relaxed to hear this.  It seems I am not alone with the inability to multi-task when talking and running are concerned.  It’s good to be able to have these candid discussions with fellow club runners, makes you realise we are evolving common tactics.

So usual pre race blah de blah, clapping, thanks volunteers, respect other users, anniversary runs, research,  you know the drill.  Finally, count down three, two, one OFF!  And rather slowly we picked our way forwards.  It was a bit of a crush at the start, there’s not much to be done about that quite frankly, to get the 5k distance running route options are limited.   I may not be the speediest of runners at the start, but at least I was running in the right direction.  It’s funny, I feel like my running hasn’t improved one iota since I started, but it must have, I’m not making the rookie error of going the wrong way at least. That runner is courageous though, I’ll give him that:

wrong way runner

I’m not too bothered about times so just plodded along, puddle sploshing and avoiding the dog poo bin (thank you marshal) until it opened out, which it didn’t really.  I had a reflective run today, a few passing pleasantries exchanged with runners as they passed me or I passed then.  I did some rubber necking when the front runners got far ahead enough that I could see them sprinting by the other side of the railing on Rustlings Road whilst I was still scampering along in the park by the pond.  I was keeping an eye out of Smiley Non-Smiley  in eager anticipation of spotting her accompanying balloons to celebrate her milestone achievement.  It was to no avail, most disappointing…  Though fortunately our splendid, tame and highly trained member of the paparazzi was on hand to document her in action instead.  This is what it feels like to have hit the 200 mark apparently.   Forewarned is forearmed.

this is what happens at the 200th mark apparently

I appreciate she wasn’t sure whether or not she’d be able to get a balloon that said ‘200’ on it, but I reckoned she should be able to run with three balloons – one number two and a couple of zeros, or if that was too hard, then just get two-hundred helium filled balloons to run with as a more practical option. Couldn’t spot her though, maybe the balloons had made her float away entirely?  I was going to have to wait to the end of parkrun to find out.  Oooh, the suspense, it can be killing.

The other main event on the run round took place actually running on Rustlings Road.  I was happily(ish) running along when suddenly a tall guy in front started running backwards.  It was completely unexpected and therefore disproportionately hilarious to me.  I found myself saying out loud, ‘well that’s just showing off!’ and very pleasingly, at that very moment another woman spotted it too and expressed the same sentiment.  The guy had the grace to give us a winning smile of acknowledgement and then turned to face frontwards and ran on. Didn’t see him again, maybe running backwards is the new forwards?


On reflection, I probably shouldn’t have said anything, we should all remember to ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way‘.  Maybe as an act of solidarity and respect I will run the whole thing backwards next week.  Or maybe not.  I haven’t decided.  Actually, turns out there are dedicated running backwards races.  Who knew?  What’s more, it is claimed on some random website somewhere that  ‘Backwards running is like a drug — once you start, you’ll never want to run forwards again. It’s truly liberating, and there are enormous health benefits‘ so it must be true.  I’m not going to research this too carefully, in case it turns out to be nonsense.  Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, especially when posting on one’s blog.  Besides which, backward running exists as a thing on Wikipedia, so that means loads, of course.

Apart from that a fairly unremarkable parkrun.  Ooh, hang on there was one other thing, as I sprinted past one of the Marshals with my customary breathless ‘thank you marshal‘ I heard him shout after me ‘keep on smiling’ which was very nice, but made me reflect it wasn’t entirely accurate.  I don’t think I was noticeably smiling at that point.  I need to work on it.  It must be a simple matter of co-ordination, it should be possible to do both simultaneously, in theory at least! Maybe I should incorporate smiling whilst I run into my  training drills, along with running backwards?   I also spotted the lovely George a bit belatedly whilst running round.  He was a stealth photographer today.  I say ‘lovely’ but I might change that adjective once his shots go live.  But irrespective of his parkrun offerings today he got a very fine snap of a kingfisher in the park earlier in the week, almost as good as nabbing a duck shot in my book.  Almost.  Plus, aren’t we lucky to have our very own pair of kingfishers in our midst.  Sheffield is a fab place to live, it really is.

george carman kingfisher

I kept an eagle eye out for other Smiley, or more specifically rival Smiletastic runners.  I espied someone wearing a customised 200 parkrun top which was pretty awesome, and only got lapped at the very end of the first loop so that’s progress of a sort.

Completing the second lap I spotted my temporarily non-running running buddy cheering us round the last loop despite sporting a plaster cast on her arm.  Darn that anatomical snuff box and its pesky breakage.  At that point my other running running buddy (the one with bloodied hands) was on my heels and that spurred me on a bit to a sprint finish. I was sort of hoping we’d both pick up speed together and finish simultaneously, I’m convinced she’s a stronger runner than me, but I seem to never try so hard at running that I have nothing left at the end, so one again I managed to find an extra spurt of speed that got me round just a few seconds ahead.  Into the warm embrace of the finish funnel, lots of familiar faces pouring congratulations on us, and my first sighting of the Smiley Non-Smiley claimant of her two hundredth run!

whoop whoop 200

On the plus side, firstly she had completed her run (yay!) and secondly she was handing out celebration chocolates (I had a mini twix) with gay abandon, so that was pretty good.  On the down side, CATASTROPHE, she broke the news to me that she has finally given into the inevitable and sent in her application for membership to Smiley Paces.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted she has finally seen the light and done the necessary, it was always only a matter of time.  But what will this mean for my blog.  I think she’ll have to now be known as Extra Smiley Smiley (200) Formerly Known As Smiley Non-Smiley for the purposes of this blog.  It doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue (or keyboard) does it, and the acronym ESSFKASNS isn’t much of an improvement either.  I shall need to mull it over.  She is forgiven though, because she is now an insider and about time too.

Most conveniently, we had our very own event photographer on hand to take some action shots of parkrunners in action – thank you lovely George.  So here is a medley of some of my personal favourites from today – though I feel compelled to point out that the synchronised levitation shot is really just showing off – though annoyingly, also quite impressive too.  Look out for the agony and the ecstasy personified shot too, that’s good, as well as the random cute dog.  It is cute, and is some small compensation for the omission of any duck shots this week:

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So running  part of the run completed there was a chance to catch up.  I learned that my running buddy with the broken arm has actually broken a small (but important) bone in her hand known as… (drum roll)….  (have you guessed it yet)…. THE ANATOMICAL SNUFF BOX and what’s more that’s exactly what it is. I can’t believe I have a new body part of which I was previously unaware.  What’s more, when Extra Smiley Smiley (200) Formerly Known As Smiley Non-Smiley or Essy, as I’ll call her for now, was hearing about this she KNEW WHAT IT WAS!  There is a parallel universe of phyios and medics who are familiar with this term.  How come nobody has told me about it before, I am outraged. Still, better late than never I suppose.  It is a slight disappointment to me that my hands are so chubby that my anatomical snuff box is not all that pronounced, but for some, wow it’s awesome.  You have to try and find your own.  It’s easy enough, it is that indentation between tendons in your hand where you might have deposited snuff prior to snorting it, were you so inclined, in Victorian times.  I wonder why snuff taking fell out of fashion?  Imagine, you too could look like these splendid specimens:

So stories were exchanged.  That parkrun by the sea Crosby parkrun which sounded fab – our Smiley parkrun tourist was also first woman home last week, get Smilies!  You get to run out and back on a beach AND you get to see the iconic iron man too.  One to go on my bucket list I think, and possibly on the day I do it, I may take a bucket with me too, you can’t go to a sandy beach and not bag a sandcastle whilst you are there.  It is a bit weather dependent though – too much wind and the volunteers get sand blindness, and too much sea and you get drowned, not good for pbs, not good at all.


So other exciting things happened at the end too.  I got to put on my fleece and Trust10 pink bobble hat for a start.  Someone actually came to say hello to me to ask if I was the woman with the blog!  I was very excited.  This must be what it is like to be famous.  I was genuinely chuffed though, I do feel self-conscious about sharing my running stories if I pause to think about it, because, well, I still don’t feel like a proper runner and worry that my commentary will let the side down somehow.  Then I remember hardy anyone reads my blog anyway and also I don’t really care.  Despite this I was very touched indeed, so thank you mystery runner for coming and saying hello, and for reassuring me that I run, therefore I am a runner.  Thank you for the affirmation that made my day!    Yay, get me, runner!


As we milled around yakking away, someone spotted George trying to take some naturalistic, un-posed, unselfconscious candid atmospheric milling around shots.  We all then as one controlled by a super-brain somewhere immediately started posing and vying to be captured on film.  Can’t wait to see what happens there…  We don’t make it easy for him, why would we, when we can have so much fun messing about?  We might have been quite annoying though actually.  Shame.  Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves, honestly.  Just giddy with all that excitement I suppose.

sponsored athlete

Many of us then adjourned to Endcliffe Park Cafe to continue the 200th celebrations.  It was heaving with parkrunners (which shouldn’t have been altogether unexpected to be honest) and roasty toasty warm.  We three breakfast clubbers loitered for long enough to sup lattes and catch up with a fair few, but then the standing around got a bit much so we said cheery farewells – remembering to hail and thank the volunteers as we departed, parkrun wouldn’t happen without them.  The security role is a new one to me though…

 and headed back to Jontys. En route we stopped to greet some huskies – wow they are impressive dogs, and these were friendly one’s too, very up for a cuddle.  Don’t worry their owner was with them and known to one of our number, I am not in the habit of randomly petting large carnivores without a prior introduction…  Back to Jontys – we’d not been there for ages. It was nice to back in a way, I got my breakfast scrambled eggs on toast with mushrooms, one-armed smiley had blueberry pancakes (which looked amazing, even as a vegetarian – they had maple syrup and bacon on the top too) and Old Bird Smiley had bacon batch.  However, we had a table right by the door, and it seemed that every few seconds someone else would cross the threshold, and hold the door wide-open whilst asking if there were tables (there weren’t) and then depart without closing the door behind them.  Were they all born in a barn?  The unrelenting icy blast did mar proceedings to be honest, oh well, worse things happen at the seaside*.  Also, worse things happened to whoever lost this very fine mitten.  There is a devastated child roaming the streets of Sheffield seeking this even now…  It’s on the Rustling Road railings, just where you turn back into Endcliffe Park on parkrun.  Sad, but true.  Probably.

Breakfast and catch up complete, we depart.  All over for another week. Thank you Smiley Paces breakfast buddy comrades.  I have one more Smiletastic run to squeeze in this week – will have to be tomorrow.  The jury (that’s me) is still out as to whether I will make it a pre 7.00 a.m. in an attempt to nab another bonus point.  It’s going to be a surprise to me too.  Will just have to wait and see…

STOP PRESS UPDATE – I did go out for my early run to nab a bonus point.  Apart from the having to get up at some ungodly hour, it was actually really nice out. Silent, calm, mild and still.  This may be the lull before the storm as heavy rain and strong winds are forecast for later on.  I started out in the dark, but dawn broke through whilst I was running, but The Best Bit, was that in Endcliffe Park I finally saw the kingfisher for the first time this year.  Even better, there were two rather forlorn looking photographers there with the most enormous telescopic lenses I’ve ever seen (and that is saying something as regulars at Hallam parkrun who have seen telescopic lenses before will know) and they were scanning the pond in vain.  I was able to at least point them in the right direction to look.  Although I do have to concede the technicality that unfortunately by this point the kingfisher had flown off, I’m sure it’ll have come back again in a bit, it is its regular haunt after all.  The two photographers said they’d been trying to get the kingfisher for literally years and years but never known quite where to spot it. I so hope they got their shots today, but if not, they will do one day soon now they are looking at the right bush. All foliage options are not the same as any kingfisher will tell you.  Don’t believe me?  Well ask one.

Oh, and another thing – these signs have cropped up everywhere – one wayward dog poo on the course from last week and now Big Brother is watching you.  Quite right too!  I’m loving the catchy slogan as well ‘Bag that poo, any rubbish bin will do!’  Inspired, even if it doesn’t entirely scan.  Good effort though.  Well done.


*this is true, but too complicated to explain.





Categories: 5km, motivation, parkrun, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Hobbit Hash with Ice and Roses


Half term over, temporarily interruption in service now over, hobbit hash excursion restored.  Yay!  I was quite excited about heading out today.  The only slight complication was my increasing OCD with respect of Smiletastic.  My hobbit friend and I have committed to running different distances this week, so I needed to go for a bit further than her.  I got round this by heading out earlier, and adding on an extra 4km loop before our rendezvous.

There were some fringe benefits to this.  The main one of which was feeling incredibly smug at my athleticism before she had even started.  You cannot overestimate the joy that brought.  The secondary benefit, which was actually a source of greater virtual fiscal joy in relation to Smiletastic bonus points, was the opportunity to snap some ice shots to provide supporting evidence to our Smiley Elder Super Geek to assist her in exercising her judgement in relation to the allocation of sub-zero bonus points.  This necessitating stopping running periodically to be diverted by trying to frame a shot of seagulls confused by ice on water, and finding a particularly good ice-puddle frozen over to pose by.   I fully accept the shots don’t quite add up to an Antarctic landscape, but conclusive all the same.

Though note to self, maybe I should start getting a newspaper before I head out so the date is also captured in shot.  Things are hotting up with Smiletastic, wouldn’t want to give those Clucky Ducks wiggle room were they to make a challenge…  hmm, tactics, always tactics.  When I signed up to  Smiletastic all those many moons ago, I could never have anticipated what a paranoia inducing endeavour it would be.  Still, good to find out how low members of your running club will stoop in pursuit of… actually nothing, there isn’t a prize, so that sentence finishes ‘in pursuit of nothing at all’.  You need to know who and what you are dealing with in life.  Henceforth the dateline in the life of Smiley Runners will be known as BS (before Smiletastic) and AS (after Smiletastic) which I appreciate divides life potentially in to Bullshit times and Arsey times but the truth must be spake…

Anyway, I enjoyed my little yomp round all alone, I felt sort of hardcore, because if you voluntarily run solo then clearly that makes you a ‘proper’ runner, even if you feel a bit self-conscious doing so, and can’t help noticing that other ‘proper runners’ out there are whizzing round in shorts and vest whilst I’ve got my woollen hat on.  Still, I remind myself that these are people equipped for park conditions, we and hobbit friend will be climbing the mountain and maybe heading out for longer…  What is a proper runner anyway?  Oh gawd, I don’t know, I think I’ll always feel an imposter in running gear, never more so than standing in the start funnel of a race needing a pee and wishing I was still tucked under the duvet…


I was a bit speedier than expected on my loop (I know, get me, maybe it is actually working). So had to hang around on a street corner for a bit contemplating the futility of my existence and willing my Tomtom to work – I still don’t quite trust it, and it’s been tardy picking up satellites of late, and I’ve had two threatening not to upload near miss instances.  Considering I’d never even heard of a Tomtom until a few weeks ago, it is staggering how quickly I’ve got the mindset of ‘if it isn’t on Strava it didn’t happen‘.


Soon enough, I was catapulted out of my thoughts by the arrival of my hobbit friend.  Smiling broadly, exuding the outpouring of inner happiness that only a Smiletastic Runner knowing she has a sub-zero in the bag can project.  We have been doing this Tuesday Hobbit Hash long enough now that we have our own route, so we started our companionable yomp up the hill, with an accompanying frenetic exchange of news and views – you’d be amazed at how much there is to catch up on after a gap of a week or so.  There was the star wars fancy dress party and latest Smiletastic results to be debriefed on for a start.

It’s a lovely run up Whitely Woods, there was a lot of ice in evidence which made the route a bit hairy at times.  We had to pause and cautiously slide our way across some of the frozen pathways.  There didn’t seem to be so many people out and about as usual, but still lots of interest to amuse us.  We resorted to making our own entertainment when I decided I wanted to get some atmospheric shots of a rather fine tree.  It began as a serious attempt at artistic capturing of texture, light and colour of a splendidly be-mossed tree trunk.  Quickly though we were diverted into trying to get a selfie which captured the majesty of the tree itself, alongside our fine profiles.  This attempt was an epic fail, but sufficiently amusing that, possibly against my better judgement, I have included it here.  Let ths image be a lesson to others.  The perfect and flattering selfie is an elusive myth, the reality is harsh, unforgiving and bad for self-esteem.  Much as life in general to be fair.  Truth hurts, that’s why so many people opt to ignore it I imagine.  A tempting strategy if not always a wise or honourable one…

Having got soooo wet and cold last time out, we opted for a tamer route back.  However, so as not to wimp out entirely (and to bag that extra elevation) we did make it up as high as the view point where you can look back across the city of Sheffield.  Despite the cold it was quite a sunny day, and the panorama was unusually sharp and impressive.  No, of course I couldn’t capture it on camera.  It was bitter though, quite an exposed and windy spot up there – and the road was really treacherous, we didn’t fancy running too far along that, arse over tit in an instant, and your bits would freeze waiting for help.  Still, we took some extra flattering photos up there as the yang to the yin, or  yin to the yang or ying tong iddle I po – or whatever it is supposed to be.  Call me shallow, but I think I prefer these shots, posed or otherwise….

So after our photo shoot, we turned back  along a bit of Ringinglow Road, but sticking to the verges to avoid life-changing injuries, past the Alpaca Farm (which is looking grim these days) though pleased to see  Pebbles the goat, isn’t she gorgeous, and down the footpath past the alpacas again.  The sledging slope (is that Jacob’s ladder) was frozen over in parts, so again we were pretty tentative coming down.  Then back on the footpath, and pleasingly the fly-tipping had all been removed so that was a good thing, though it would have been much better if no-one had dumped it in the first place obviously.

The final adventure that befell us, was the unexpected discovery of a bunch of red roses, tied to a tree.  It was hard to know what their story was.  A floral tribute for a love or person lost?   That makes it sound sad, but I found it quite joyful to be honest, even if it was by way of memorial, if you remember people with affection then they are still with you in a way.  It was a private memory perhaps, but a public display of affection all the same.   We eventually came up with the idea that maybe it was left over from Valentine’s Day.  A loving running partner of another runner, had headed off to the woods nice and early, and left the blooms by the path for their valentine to come upon them later on.  What a romantic gesture!  The fact they were still there some days afterwards suggests this didn’t happen, but like the trees with the baubles that appear on them over Christmas I want to think of them as happy things, because they are bright and joyful with an inherent optimism.  Nothing wrong with that.  In Vietnam there is a day each year (first day of New Year) when people visit the graves of the dead.  It isn’t sad, it intertwines the past and the present some how, maybe we could learn from that.  Anyway, at this precise moment in time we weren’t that profound we just enjoyed the blooms and writing our own story of how they came to be there and for whom…


So run concluded, miles mapped, all was well.  However, the delights of the day running-wise had not ended there!  I got home to find a fat and squidgy envelope on the doormat.  And it was neither a begging letter from a charity, nor an announcement from Reader’s Digest saying I’d won thousands of pounds (though actually strictly speaking we don’t get them any more – does it still exist?), it wasn’t even an obscure medical journal for the former occupant of my flat who moved out 6 years ago, it was ALL FOR ME!  It was … (drum roll), my very own National Trust 10k pink bobble hat!

I am so happy.  Generally speaking I shun pink, but for this I am prepared to make an exception.  It was kindly sent to me by the National Trust as a sort of acknowledgement of a couple of blog posts I’ve done about the Longshaw Trust 10k.  It is my first ever running-related freebie (I’m not dwelling on the fact that I had to pay a £1.50 excess for it because of insufficient postage).  I am pretty sure this basically means I am now a sponsored athlete.  It feels pretty good to be honest, and I’m sure you can understand why this new possession required another selfie.  Indulge me, please.  The excessively large pot plant is included because I needed to be by a window for the natural light, not that this has particularly flattered me, but it’s definitely got a better shot of the Trust10 logo.   Be pleased for me, and if you have some bobble hat envy, be comforted that you can purchase your own for a fiver.  I know, bargain!  Form a queue.


As sponsored kit goes, I think it’s pretty good, I might have been subjected to this had I been part of the Colombian women’s cycling team (2014?) – to think I was only saved from this by an accident of birth – oh, and being shite at cycling too?  Makes you shudder doesn’t it?  Talk about a near miss!

worst ever athlete kit

I won’t let this sponsorship deal change me or go to my head (well, not metaphorically speaking, though obviously in literal terms that’s exactly where it’ll be) but I may wear the bobble hat more than is strictly necessary just to make a point.

The End.  For today.  Happy running.


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

The Song of Smiley Elder

OK Readers, apologies if you are not a local, this post is a shameless play for preferential treatment arising from the Smiletastic Challenge, so probably somewhat opaque for all but that sub-group of Smiley Paces running club members who are taking part in the Smiletastic challenge.  Normal service will be resumed later, possibly.  Depends on how events unfold…  Let’s just say the competition is hotting up, and sometimes you just have to do whatever it takes.  It surely can’t be any co-incidence that a bit of shameless sycophancy on the part of Clucky Ducks was rewarded with them knocking we Fighting Feathers off the top perch for the first time since Smiletastic Records began.  I’m all for giving youngsters a chance but really, play fair!

Look is this heart really superior to mine?  Some would say its undoubtedly phallic properties make the message at the very least ambiguous.  I Heart Smiley Elder Super Geek.  Hmm, tenuous.   Just compare and contrast the Clucky Duck so-called ‘heart felt homage’ versus sincere non cynical Fighting Feather homage done by a member of the group picked at random like say ME.  I believe I can rest my case:

Coincidence?  I think not.  Fortunately, we are not ones to be bitter, we can beat them at their own game, hence I give you this homage to Smiley Elder Super Geek, as an act of completely spontaneous appreciation by the Fighting Feathers.  Enjoy….

The Song of Smiley Elder

By the sloping Porter Valley
By the Shining Derwent Water
At the turning of the year
In the freezing winter evening
Elder Smiley stood and waited.
All the air was full of snow flakes
All the earth was frozen solid
And before her, nought but darkness
Elder Smiley feared for runners.

Through the dark and dismal winter
How would Smilies dare to run?
Who could steer them oh so wisely
Who would save them from themselves?
Duvet days and sweetened cocoa?
That is not the Smiley way.
My nesh chickens, I must lead them
Lead them to a better path
I shall set some testing challenge
I shall see them running free’

From the brow of Smiley Elder
Gone was every trace of sorrow,
As the fog from off the water,
As the mist from off the meadow.
With a smile of joy and triumph,
With a look of exultation,
As of one who in a vision
Sees what is to come, and what joy,
See our Smiley Elder beaming,
Marvel at she so worldly wise.

Smiley Elder had a spread sheet
Smiley Elder made a plan:
Run-ners I give you Smiletastic
And I promise it is fun!
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
All you do is run and run.
Set a target, seek to meet it
Join a team and help them out
I will split you, mould you, guide you
I will judge you, find you out’

So the noble Smiley Elder
Wielded judgement fair to all:
There shall be but five teams only
Feathered fowls to mark you out
Tom toms to track you up the river
Stra-va to record your GPS
Choose your own goals oh so wisely
Shun not your runs or your team fails
Bonus points will help inspire you
Venture out in freezing fog,
Early start or late departure?
Bag a point and feel quite smug.
Timed runs too will be rewarded
Parkrun tourists will fare best
Smiley Pacers just embrace it
Smiletastic rules will do the rest!

Then the joyous Smiley Elder
Cried aloud and spake in this wise:
First the Old Birds will be gathered
Ancient wisdom is their way;
There is no route they have not travelled
No running trick to them unknown
They will be a strong contender
Watch in awe and see them grow!

old birds

Fighting Feathers shall flock next,
For them communication’s key
Flying out in all directions
Nabbing bonus points through strategy
Oh so strong, but not all-powerful
They will keep others on their toes
The winning team? It could be so.

fighting feathers

Squawky Chicks are next in line
A flock large in size but all a-scatter?
First impressions can deceive.
Amid the squawking, plenty plotting
Steel is forged through fire you know
This test is a marathon not a sprint
Those who win may start out slow!

squawky chickes

Rowdy Roosters rally slowly
Perched in comfort on their boughs
Perhaps they do not need Smiletastic
For it seems they pay no heed
They will do running, now and then
But on their own terms – not for chicken feed*

Rowdy Roosters

Last and least are Clucky Ducklings
Noisy upstarts with much to prove.
We should indulge them for they are youthful
But alas, also less than truthful
They may rise to victory but at what cost?
To win is nothing if honour’s lost

Clucky Ducks

So my teams I send you outwards
Out on the streets and trails round here
Take on the mountains, roads and moorlands
Enjoy winter running without fear.

So we Smilies scattered outwards
Taking on the many trails
Pounding roads with bright head-torches
Each run pledge honoured with heart and soul
Through the bitter weeks of Jan
Smiletastic runners how we ran!
All the teams were quite committed
Gathering points were they can.

Elder Smiley watched and waited.
How her protégés performed!
True it was their efforts pleased her
Yet what more might they still give?
Elder Smiley took to thinking
Elder Smiley made a plan.
She gathered close her Smiley Runners
Spake out words yet unfamiliar
Told the purport of her mission
Smiley Elder uttered thus:
Smilies I have awesome news
This Feb. there will be no winter blues
New joyful challenges await you
How much fun you all will have!’

First you must all greet the monkey –
The fire monkey for Chinese new year
Race down hill with gay abandon
Make it known he’s welcome here


Next you mark our Valentine
Give me a heart for all to see
Trace your art with care on Strava
See how creative you can be

Finally, I require a royal flush
Successive miles of ever faster speed
Sacrifice but one team member
For this team task, ‘tis all I need.

By the sloping Porter Valley
By the Shining Derwent Water
At the turning of the year
In the freezing winter evenings
Now we birds were all a-feared?
What new challenges were these
Smiletastic now is not such a breeze

Bravely still we ran onwards
Hearts were drawn
And monkeys run
Now we start to see some fallen
Shin splints all too easily done

At halfway through morale is sagging
Teams a-squabble, feathers fly
Some stomp off to ski and ponder
Others stay and wonder why?
Worry not brave Fighting Feathers
Clucky Ducks or Squawky Chicks
Elder Smiley has us running, running wild
Be you Old Birds or Rowdy Roosters
We can do this, one and all!

We must trust our Elder Smiley
We must honour her resolve
We should worship one so clever
One so generous, fair, and bold.
February challenges will soon be over
March will bring new ones for sure
We must trust our inner runner
We must regroup and try once more

Fellow Smilies please come gather
Listen to her words of wisdom
Listen to the Truth she tells
For this Elder Smiley sends us
On the roads and over fells
So as the days get ever longer
As the cold is soon forgot
Let us honour Elder Smiley
For helping us to go out running
When, quite frankly, we would rather not

We can run onwards all together
One for all and all for one
We should remember if we can
Smiletastic is but just ‘a bit of fun!’

*Where ‘chicken feed’ equates to bonus points

I think that just about covers it.  Thanks for tuning in…

Categories: motivation, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , | 16 Comments

Homeward bound – Sheffield Hallam parkrun

Like a moth to a flame‘ or  is it ‘like a candle in the wind?’  I get confused.  In any event, for the first time in weeks, it was back to my home parkrun yesterday, and the glorious wonders of Sheffield Hallam parkrun at Endcliffe Park awaited me.  As ever ‘conscientious if not keen’, that is where I headed. Sure the smarty pants who came up with this picture guessed correctly, but the lie in was a seriously appealing option on a dull, dank and cold morning following a particularly dire night of insomnia and existentialist angst.  Still, nothing that a good parkrun won’t cure eh?  Hope over experience perhaps, but I was on my way soon enough…

lie in or get running

It wasn’t an altogether straightforward choice of venue to be honest.  The problem is this darned Smiletastic  (Smiley Paces Running club team challenge to keep us running through winter blah de blah).  I can’t be bothered to go through all the complex details here, suffice to say you get points for various running-related endeavours, including bonus points for timed events such as parkrun… but only one point for any particular event. Thus, team members have to liaise over which parkruns to attend to maximise bonus point opportunities – hence all the parkrun tourism of late.  This Saturday though, the Flying Feathers (‘my’ Smiley team) were sadly depleted.   More than one has gone off skiing – hilarious, talk about first world problems!  Our position at top of table is really at risk because as well as these happy few abandoning their Smiletastic responsibilities in favour of white powder – no, not that sort, snow actually. (We may have employed some tactically creative interpretation of the rules, but we would draw the line at drug assisted performances – besides, did you know that Cocaine use is destroying the rain forest  No really, it’s shocking, all those intelligent city types, making sure their cleaners use ecover products and sorting their recycling out but thinking nothing of snorting a line off a toilet top at the weekend should take note.)  Anyway, what was I saying?  Oh yes,  as well as half our team heading off on  a half-term holiday without a moment’s consideration as to how this might impact on our leader board stability, our star player, Dr Smiley no less, has selfishly broken herself with an over enthusiastic sprint down monkey hill.   Stress fracture apparently – Physician heal thyself indeed  – if only ‘t’were possible!  Upshot of all of this is I was feeling quite exposed.

Oh the stress, I have to get all the bonus points I can.  I’ve already ventured out on a deeply unpleasant pre 7.00 a.m. run in sub-zero conditions which was vile, but did bag two bonus points.  Cold and dark and distinctly unsettling.  I started off heading to the woods, but was quickly spooked and reverted to road running, which basically shatters my poor arthritic feet.  Running is not always nice, I don’t care what anyone tells you – the after glow can be joyous, but the actual running bit, less predictable joy quotient let’s say…

running is hard

Anyway, upshot was that if I was to secure the bonus point hat trick,  I had some anxiety inducing choices to be made.  If I headed off to Rother Valley parkrun, then I was 100% sure I’d be the only one from my team there.  Ker-ching, bonus point guaranteed  The problem is that it is very prone to ice, and there was some doubt on the Friday night about whether or not it would go ahead.  The run director was promising a last minute confirmation on Facebook, but I thought that might leave it too late for me to get there.

On the other hand, enough were away that I thought it doubtful anyone else would be at Sheffield Hallam, plus I’ve been missing my home parkrun, not been there in ages.  Parkrun tourism is all very well, but sometimes North, South, East, West, home is Best…  Even if ‘home’ is inevitably a complex emotional minefield, however dysfunctional it can be at times, and however exposed you may feel in an environment where you can never be anonymous there remains some bizarre security in the devil you know.   It was a risk, I might not be the only Flying Feather there, but even so  Hallam it was to be…

Decision made, buoyed up by coffee, I had a gentle jog to the start.  It’s always better than think once you get outside.  Well, nearly always, I got wet through to my knickers our running on Monday, that was hideous.  More a swim round than a run…  This Saturday was better though, heading down I saw some familiar faces, like our famous Sheffield Mohican Runner  I’ve never spoken to him, and not seen him in ages, but he is  generally a regular sight out and about at every event in these parts and has an inspirational back story too:

mohican runner

Also quick catch up with my trusted  hobbit companion who it turned out was doing her fiftieth parkrun that very morning, yay!  She had kept this pretty quiet, but the truth will out it seems.  This Saturday was the Thirteenth of February.  Thirteen is her lucky number apparently.  I surprised myself by commenting this was an unusual choice – which I suppose it is given superstition around the number, but then I don’t like to think I personally am superstitious.  I don’t have a lucky number, not even a favourite one, am I missing out?  Anyway, this ought really to have occasioned vast quantities of cake and celebratory caffeine post-run, but she was off to a Star Wars party, so sadly pleasure postponed.  A cause of further disappointment was that the Star Wars party wasn’t for her, but for one of her children.  What a missed opportunity for fancy dress themed parkrun I’d say…  Still she looked good haring round today, in fact more hare than hobbit I’d say – hope she will continue to be up for joining in our Tuesday Hobbit Hashes!

fifty down

I was down a bit early, so some small talk exchanged.  It was good to see a fair few volunteers were donned in new tabards.  Notably the Run Director has their own distinctive attire now, fitting for such a position of responsibility.  I personally think a directors chair and megaphone like the sort used in old black and white films would be a boon, but maybe that is coming later.  It’s early days for the new sponsorship deal after all.  Intersports may come up with other goodies in due course…

The RD briefing had an extra gravitas what with the new outfit.  We were quite a big field, but despite the lack of a megaphone, microphone or outside assistance of any kind, our RD rose to the challenge.  She has a natural authority and manner which commanded the attention of the assembled horde.  That and the capability of producing a sonic boom on demand, good skill, much needed here and much appreciated.  It was just as well we were paying attention, since as well as the usual thanks to volunteers; running through basic rules; there was a particular hazard warning.  A large pile of steaming dog poo had been deposited (by a dog presumably) at a key migration point on the course.  This stretched the team of volunteers still further.  There is always a designated volunteer on dog poo bin duty at the start (it is at risk of being run into by over-enthusiastic starters sprinting off on the word ‘go’), now a second had to stand on a bench and point at an abandoned deposit nearby, sacrificing their own dignity for the sake of parkrunners.  Great devotion to duty I’d say, still, you know how it is ‘shit happens’.  Could be worse, if parkrun sponsors had anticipated this eventuality, they may have provided specialised volunteer outfits to signpost the issue, and frankly, it’s hard enough to get enough volunteer marshals as it is at times apparently.  (No, I don’t have any explanation to go with this photo, frankly, I don’t even know how I found it, but I’d be a lot less embarrassed about ‘shit happens’ coming up in my search history, than turning up at a parkrun – or indeed anywhere at all – with this outfit on).  Just so you know.


 So thanks and warnings given and heeded, finally we were all off…  They are keen those runners at the start line – I’m still faffing around getting my Tomtom to start whilst these lot are bursting forth from the front.


So in terms of the actual running part, I was a bit of a plodder today.  But going round I did notice the famous Mr Pullin inflating his inflatables (not a euphemism).  He has a children’s play area with a little merry-go-round in the park, as well as an impressive bouncy castle slide thing AND a very fine blow up giraffe.  It was interesting to note progress in this endeavour between loops one and two.    Walking back home past them later on, I thought the giraffe had a rather jaunty angle, which was fun.  You will have to take my word for it that the play area is next to the cafe.  I nearly took a photo of it in use, but thought it might be a bit inappropriate to do so.  Solitary, clammy-looking (my post run reality dear reader) person with camera photographing children for her running blog – not a convincing cover story you’ll agree… so I just stuck with a close up of the very fine even toed African ungulate, especially for you.

There were some familiar faces on the marshaling front to clap and cheer us parkrunners round.  It is always good to see a friendly face, and Smiley Paces faces are best and friendliest of all of course.  Some were doing serious races including half-marathons the next day, impressive.  Also brave, wintry flurries were forecast, and indeed came.

As I ran round  I had a few snatched exchanges with other runners, mostly as they overtook me.  It was companionable though.  I also had a sort of kiddies leap frog thing going on.  I was being constantly overtaken by a couple of children and their knackered looking parents.  Two sets, one child and one mum in each pair.  It seems that both the children concerned had a significant turn of speed, but little sense of pacing, so the consequence was they’d alternate between shooting forward like a rocket, and then collapse like a narcoleptic puppy.  It was amazing to behold, and it meant we kept swapping places throughout the run.  I was relieved to get to finish, though bit shamed by how much the photo evidence suggests  my midriff seems to have swollen of late.  That particular super-power really has to go.  I thought running was supposed to help shift weight not nail down ever more ballast for future reference.  Oh well, at least it looks like I’m actually having a stab at running – I do when the finish is in sight.  In fact others too look more chuffed in the finish tunnel than at the start… not just me then!

So then the parkrun after party – caught up with surprising number of people not seen in a while, so that was companionable, makes me feel like part of the running community.  There were some cold looking students doling out leaflets for the Sheffield Varsity 10k  2016 which is in April.  I did it once a couple of years ago and loathed it.  It was a three lap grind all on roads, very bitty going to and fro in less than scenic surrounds.  All a bit urban and gruelling for me.  It didn’t help that it was one of the first 10ks I’ve ever done and it was a stretch.  Miserable one at that.  It was fun doing it with Cheetah buddy though, no other redeeming features.

However, as always, it was good to be confronted with a different perspective on this event.  Smiley Non-Smiley was also clutching a leaflet, but brim full of enthusiasm for it.  Why?  Because she is an awesome runner, and one of her favourite things is to pick off less experienced but over-confident student runners and whiz past them eyes straight and stride confident.   Whilst I wasn’t a strong enough runner at the time to personally benefit from this approach, I do know what she meant.  The Varsity 10k is populated to a large extent by students many of whom may be quite fit, but have never actually run as such before. They underestimate the challenge, and expect with the optimism of youth to be able to sprint off and sustain it for the whole 10k.  They learn the hard way that running is tougher than it looks.  They either collapse and surrender after the first 200 metres, or have to submit to being perpetually overtaken by older – seemingly less fit runners – who leave them for dust – appearances can be deceptive methinks.  It did put a different spin on things.  I’d enjoy it too if I could run like her!  In fact, the photographic evidence appears to have captured her even today accomplishing this very feat if the body language is anything to go by…  Excellent shot George – the camera never lies!


The following day (which is actually now today) was/is Valentine’s Day – maybe that’s why the volunteers were feeling the love so expressively!  Or maybe it was just a spontaneous display of affection for the fine new RD tabard in blue and white.  impressive indeed!  What a lovely happy huggy parkrun family it is!  I think the watching dog is actually jealous but I don’t know of which person).  Thanks volunteers, you are out every week, and you are all awesome.  I’d hug you all too if I could.  (I’m working on how to differentiate between ‘appropriate’ and ‘inappropriate’ behaviour.  It’s not always as easy as you might think).

volunteers feeling the love at parkrun

So, thwarted by the absence of my breakfast buddies today, I headed off to make some local purchases.  This took me to Sharrow Vale road, which had big signs up everywhere saying no parking over the weekend as it is to be closed for filming.  Curious, I asked in my whole food shop what was going on.   Turns out some of the local shops are making a killing because the Butcher’s shop is to be the location for an eighties set TV series pilot. A murder he thinks, so I presume it can’t be a documentary.  Well, not unless it’s a documentary about a contract killing I suppose, that would account for known timing – I’m going to have a stab at guessing it isn’t though.  (See what I did there? )  Anyway, consequently, some ‘new’ old shops have been specially recreated.   (Old therefore new, new therefore old to misquote Stoppard if that sounds familiar.  And if you think that’s a stretch, then check out this Shakespearean run report from Huntingdon parkrun 6th Feb 2016, well read lot parkrunners apparently).  Shop proprietors have been handsomely recompensed for the inconvenience of having their shop fronts messed with.   Now I was a bit surprised the whole food shop guy didn’t look a bit cheerier at this prospect.  Until he told me that apparently they wont benefit at all, despite being next door to a newly conjured travel agents, their shop front was deemed to be sufficiently 80s already, unchanged for three decades!  Hilarious, if not good news for good old ‘Down to Earth’ harsh, but entertaining.

The irony that they wont get to make a killing despite a murder two doors down was not lost on me.  For the health food shop, no modification required, whereas the Butchers was to get a complete (reversible) makeover, for which inconvenience money would be paid.  It parallels life, us healthy eaters can endure without extensive modification years down the line, for carnivores more outside interference is likely to be needed.  As a little test of your observation skills I’ve taken some snaps of the remodelled street, made me question how often do I really notice our local roads.  Spot the difference fellow Sheffielders – what is different here from the normal lie of the land on Sharrow Vale road?

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My other port of call was to finally succumb to making what I am told will be a life changing purchase.  I splashed out on some injinji socks.  I did my usual thing of quizzing the poor guy in frontrunner at length.  How about seal skin socks, which injinji socks (yep, there are different ones), which size socks and so on…  I also repeated my faux pas from last time, crossing the threshold just as the poor guy was about to have some coffee.  This is the second consecutive time I’ve done that, either they are constantly drinking coffee or my timing is terrible.  I hope they don’t ban me….  It sat cooling on the counter as we had a far longer conversation about the relative merits of different sock types than I’d ever expected to have.  They are eye-wateringly expensive, but then if they can indeed change my life, as one running blogger at least has promised it will be worth it, alas, I can’t find that post any more, but I believed it at the time.  We shall see, hard to get the darned things on…  Still, promising way to make my own entertainment should the need arise.  This is how I’ve got on so far, more work needed I suppose it would be fair to say.

To be honest, my life hasn’t noticeably changed as yet, but then again I’ve only really left the flat to take the rubbish out since I bought them, so it might take a couple of days to feel the full benefit.  I’ll keep you posted.  ‘Til next time, keep on running, it’ll be worth it in the end, probably.

keep on running


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

Working towards friskiness – family friendly woodland frolics


Quite stressful today, decision wise, to be honest.  Today is Thursday, so this has become the day on which I join Accelerate for woodland drills to work on my running technique.  (Two pounds, 9.30 a.m. rendezvous in Ecclesall Woods, details on Accelerate facebook page.)  Today though, it was more complicated than that, because it is half term, and so today’s session was a ‘family friendly’ kids welcome to come and join the fun sort of event.  For me, this was a bit problematic, I’m a bit scared of small children.  I don’t dislike them.  I just don’t have enough experience with them to know quite how I’m supposed to interact with them.  I fear I may be a bad influence, and they certainly have endless capacity to lead me astray, which is part of their appeal.  Also, inevitably they will run me into the ground, my fragile self-esteem might not be able to handle that.  What to do?

I think young children in particular can be completely hilarious, I especially love their gift for speaking the truth unconstrained by social niceties even if it can get you into trouble. There is an exquisite age when they know it’s wrong to lie, and don’t get the subtlety of the qualifying rider (except when special circumstances require it e.g. politeness, self-interest or most important here self-preservation).   I’m thinking of the time me and a female friend of mine went along with her young daughter in tow,  to meet up with a mutual male friend who had just split up with his girlfriend – hope you are keeping up. Now, I’m not proud of the fact that, sisterly solidarity or not, she was someone we didn’t particularly like, though we’d always tried hard – or so we thought – to keep our opinions to ourselves.  Anyway, our disappointed-in-love male friend half opened the door looking dishevelled, red-eyed and marginally traumatised, only to be greeted by our accompanying child skipping past him into the hallway beyond, quite oblivious to his oozing angst  stating ‘mummy and Lucy say it’s really good because Cruella De Vil isn’t going out with you any more!’  There was nowhere to hide.  That was an awkward ‘consoling’ cup of coffee we all shared.  Still with the healing effect of time – some decades have passed since then – it was undeniably funny, retrospectively, but decidedly awkward and toe-curling excruciating at the time.  Talk about being caught out …. .  Definite tangible example of that old reassuring axiom ‘one day we shall look back on this and laugh‘ and so we did dear reader, but it took a while…  Maybe we should take more notice of that other wise saying: ‘if you are going to be able to look back on something and laugh about it, you may as well laugh about it now‘.  Sound advice.


Children also have an admirable capacity for play.   This is a wholly good thing, adults don’t play nearly enough, and when I have tried to instigate play in the workplace it hasn’t always been appreciated to the extent to which I might have expected.  Those castle fortifications around my desk made using only discarded cardboard boxes were inspired, those turrets were quite something.  Insecure colleagues just get jealous of  what they perceive to be ‘in ya face’ creative genius I suppose.  Strange but true.  The passport control area was just a logical extension of that initiative, nothing to get all touchy about.  Still, we’ve all moved on from that now, I’m sure…  Back to the Woodland Centre in Ecclesall Woods.  (Thanks Accelerate for the photo).

woodland centre accelerate photo

Anyway, some apprehension heading out to the woodland rendezvous therefore.  I arrived early (I was trying to avoid carpark bumper cars after last week’s ‘where can I park!’ shenanigans).  It was  gloriously sunny though, albeit with a cruel nip in the air.  I was first to arrive, which was a bit out of character.  I don’t like to be late, but not conspicuously early either.  This is my third Thursday of attending – possibly even my fourth – so I know the routine now.  I went to drop my £2 in the wooden bowl and sign up but DISASTER no pen!  I asked for one and was told that this week we were to sign in blood, which was fair enough, but there wasn’t a Stanley knife either, and whilst the kit requirement did recommend trail shoes, there was nothing about bringing a sharp blade along too.  We had a bit of a discussion about this, and what the health and safety implications might be of various possible courses of action.  I am of the view that it would be fine to get us to sign in blood, as long as there was a new blade for each participant, the cross contamination from blood would be a far greater risk than the actual cut.  In the event it was all academic anyway, as they couldn’t find one of those either, so we had to make do with a pencil.  Oh well, we will know for next time I suppose…

Signing in was followed by the mandatory period of self-consciously hanging around and clinging to the sides of the atrium waiting for everyone to gather.   There were a couple of first timers, and a scattering of keen looking children, with accompanying adults various.  It reminds me of playing a not very good game of wink-murder at the start.   People make sort of half-hearted attempts to make eye-contact with people they don’t know, treading that fine line between wanting to come across as friendly, whilst not wishing to appear overly desperate to engage by holding eye contact a bit longer than is strictly necessary.  It’s a nightmare, which side of the scales will you end up in?  Will you create the  impression of someone who exudes sincere, relaxed engagement or inadvertently fix someone with a psychopathic stare that seems to reach into their soul and strangle it beyond the reach of recovery for all eternity.  Or is it just me that worries about that when attending conference buffets and mingling at parties and funerals?  Actually, don’t tell me, some things are better left unsaid, even if they are funny (see Cruella de Vil reference above).


As well as the awkward eye-contact thing, there were a few greetings and hellos and catching up on injuries various.  Limping ‘runners’ were gamely running onward, some more delusional than others.  I am probably over-sensitive to my body telling me it doesn’t feel up to running, my default position if I have a twinge is variants on the duvet day depending on the weather.  Others have learned to overcome these messages.  I was genuinely concerned about our star Fighting Feather though who seemed to be in real pain, lawks a lordy, she’d even had a paracetamol, which would be like a normal person having morphine she’s so hard-core!  We will have to have a whip round for her emergency physio appointment or she’s never going to be fit enough to complete the Royal Flush in time to gain recognition for the Smiletastic challenge (consecutive miles run at an ever-increasing pace) it’s a worry.  Oh, that and the concern she may never walk properly again too of course, but priorities, obviously, I like to think that’s what she would want!  I tried to keep a neutral face, but she’s scared me, she really has…

give it to me straight

I digress, you are probably desperate to know what was the killer decision that nearly flawed me?  It was whether to stick with the small fry/ injured/ tapering/ can’t be arsed (is that a category?)/ slow & steady group (which included children) or go with the fast and frisky runners.  My default position is always to go with the slower group, but the presence of small children was a deterrent.  What if I fell over one, or worse, they fell over me?  I negotiated for a ‘working towards friskiness‘ category, and got a pass into the frisky group as a consequence.  I don’t know if this was a good thing or not.  It’s all a bit of a blur, still, you have to try these things, and besides things are rarely all good or all bad, there are always nuances of grey in between, always…  If you never try, you’ll never know what you are capable of, and if you don’t succeed in reaching that goal, at least you’ll be wiser, and more importantly potentially get an amusing anecdote out of it.  Failing that, sympathy and disbelief, which is something I suppose.


Oh hang on, I’m supposed to be posting about running.  Got distracted, can’t see the wood for the trees – wooden you know it.  Today was another running in the woods day, and a very fine one too.  We headed off through the fallen leaves and took a different track from the other weeks I’ve been there.  Our friendly resident (I think he must live there) bearded-ranger scampered ahead seeking out mud and puddles under the pretext this was for the smalls amongst us.  Not true, I was also game for a bit of mud.  We avoided the worst of it as some amongst us having even shorter legs than me would have got a greater percentage of their height submerged by leaf litter and rushing torrents, but it was still fun to see a different part of the woods, and we got muddy enough to justify the trail shoes and feel we’d had a mini adventure.  They are lovely, the trees and the wood. Eventually, we came to a halt by a woodland path somewhere.  Truthfully, delightful as the woods are I can’t quite shake from the back of my mind the fear that this is some sort of benign – or seemingly benign –  abduction.  I would be completely unable to find my way out of the woods again.  Presumably to lull us into a false sense of security, our run leader told us the names of the trees.  The more conventional among you my readers might think this corresponds to tree identification – ‘see and marvel at the bark on this ancient oak‘, sort of thing.  That might be an option on some ranger led walks, but the tree at this spot was identified as ‘Bob’.  I took a photo under the pretext of admiration of the natural world, but really it was because I was hoping it might be a visual clue to help me navigate my way home later in case of any emergency as a result of being abandoned in the forest.  What if they all decided to sprint home and I couldn’t keep up.  I could die out there.  We did see a pair of woodpeckers though by the way, that was cool.

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Later on we met Mr and Mrs Stumpy and there was a general gesturing in the direction of a tree named Merlin.  No-one was taking responsibility for the naming of that tree, nor even positively identifying which one it was now I come to think of it.  Maybe it was in hiding after seeing what had happened to Mr and Mrs Stumpy (the clue to their fate is in the name, let’s leave it at ‘cut off in their prime’).  This squabbling amongst our leaders was so misguided honestly.  It’s a rather person-centric approach isn’t it?  The tree may have named itself Merlin, and if it was anything like as large as others roundabout it has been around a lot longer than any of us…  Undeterred the children on release from school for half-term were asked if they knew why the tree was so-named and eyebrows gently raised in pseudo-mock incredulity at their wide-eyed blank expressions.  ‘Surely you’ll know, Harry Potter and all that?’  Nope, they won’t.  Trust me.  I used to be a careers adviser.  Wrong era, wasn’t the topic of a knights of the round table contemporary more a question to be aimed at 12th Century children rather than 21st Century ones?  Still, this wasn’t a literary appreciation or tree-identification session, no indeedy, it was a running one, so after a bit of a warm up (running backwards and forwards over a fixed difference on the woodland trails) thus (Accelerate photos):

we yomped onwards to another more challenging (uh-oh) spot.

So at the new spot, there were extra natural obstacles, including some or all of the following: uneven ground; various slopes (upwards and downwards);  muddy bits; tree-rooty bits; dog-walkers; non-dog walkers; knackered looking other runners; a useful bench for sitting on and/or leaving stuff on; woodland staircase.  We were quite a big group, and as I’ve been a couple of times now, I am starting to recognise some of them.  There are some really amazing runners there.  There is The Amazing Jumping man too.  I am conscious of how weird that may sound if you weren’t actually there.  If you were, you will recognise this description as factually accurate and therefore completely appropriate and not a slogan to attract viewers at a freak show, no really.  I promise.    I can’t not say how mesmerising it is to see him boing.  He seems to be able to spring vertically upwards and land noiselessly, as if he is completely weightless.  It is extraordinary, and if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I would say such a feat was impossible.  Possibly due to being a bit disinhibited due to lack of oxygen to the brain following physical exertion, I did share this observation with him.  I know that’s probably not normal behaviour, but fortunately post-fifty I don’t care so much any more about what impression I may give when compelled to say out loud what is possibly best kept silent in my head.  Anyway, I was glad I did, because he told me that some basketball players, when they similarly leap vertically upwards, have a moment at the apex of their flight when they are suspended in the air.  I possibly jumped (gettit?) in a bit too quickly protesting that he was confusing this with those cartoons when people (or road runners or cats or whatever) run off cliffs, and keep running in the air until they look down and plummet.  Disappointingly, he clarified.  It is, it seems, an optical illusion, there is a moment of stillness before they descend.  Amazing.  The human body can do extraordinary things.  Well other humans’ bodies, mine mainly expands outwards from the waist, which to tell the truth wouldn’t have been my super-power of choice, but you have to make the best of what you’re given sometimes.  Mustn’t grumble.  I (almost) never get properly cold out running, that’s got to be worth something, and I’ll survive longer on my body fat reserves than all the skinnies in a post-apocalyptic world, yay (not).  Anyway, back on topic, it seems basketball players do get frozen in time as they leap – otherwise how is a shot like this possible:

So, back to running drills.  I am still completely rubbish at these, but I’m enjoying the attempt a bit more now I feel more comfortable in the group.  We had to do sequences of: bunny hopping up hill (fail); hopping up hill (epic fail); hopscotch up hill (least worst drill for me); high knees up hill; fast feet up hill – are you getting the idea?  We were allowed to go down the hill again in between drills, so that offered some necessary respite.  It was though pretty much identical to the Redbull 400 metres uphill challenge held in Slovenia (race up a ski-slope essentially) so maybe we should have a Sheffield team enter that next year seeing as how we’ve all been practising?  I don’t mind keeping an eye on the kit whilst others have a bash at the climb.  Also, a perk of doing the routines is that you can watch other people doing them too, which is hilarious.  Yes, yes, you can pick up ideas on technique etc., which is worthwhile, but even better, you can also laugh and point at the pained facial expressions and grimaces of those also doing the task, whilst trying not to dwell too much on what you yourself must look like doing the same thing.  It is something to behold, though I’m not overly convinced that the shots taken on the day would represent a marketing opportunity for Accelerate.  Out-takes possibly, recruitment poster, never.  Mr Accelerate did snap a few shots, but maybe he thought the better of using them as not yet posted.  Or perhaps they were for his own personal collection?  Now there’s a thought!  If they do end up in the public domain I’ll add a few here… (Late addition, cheers Accelerate).  Actually, on reviewing the shots, you do have to question why it is we were all so sweetly compliant.  Is it an indictment of our weakness of will, a testament to our run-leaders powers of persuasion or what.  Dangerous cults and political regimes have been built on less, we need to take care, be careful out there, you still have free will, if only just…

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Just to make for even more interest/ amusement, we then moved to the steps and tried to bunny-hop, hop etc up these. This was ridiculously hard, but surprisingly satisfying if achieved.  I didn’t manage to hop or jump up all of them, but felt positively euphoric just making it up one or two.  At least I wont get bored by a challenge that is too easily achieved….  I have also discovered an unwelcome addition to my many bodily failings.  I seem to be programmed not to ever lead with my left leg.  I did break my knee in Hastings (long story- shows worse things happen at the seaside) years ago, and I suppose I’ve been favouring my right leg ever since.  This I could understand, but honestly it’s like my leg just wont take direction.  You know how we have a way we almost instinctiely like to cross our arms, and if you try and do it the other way round it feels so impossible that even if you achieve it, it still feels wrong?  (You don’t?  Well try it now.   See?)  Anyway, it’s like that if I try and hop on my left leg, it just won’t activate.  This is worrying, I probably ought to do something about this.  Apparently running is a one-legged sport (personally, I think this is only partially true, I mean really, if it honestly was, it would actually be either a hopping event, or only open to say flamingoes or herons only activating one half of their body at a time – which I’d watch to be fair) – if I take this observation in the spirit in which it is meant, I probably do need to do something about making sure I can use both legs independently of one another.  Could take a while… don’t want to be left without a leg to stand on, in the meantime, divert yourself, who’d win a hopping race between these glorious guys do you think?

By way of diversion, some fine wood puns were also exchanged.  Puns are always poplar as yew probably know, I’m knot one to give up too easily on a punning contest generally speaking, but sometimes you have to bough to quicker reflexes.  Our run leader was annoyingly speedy with a hair twigger response to activating his punometer.  In my defence, the root of the problem for me was that our run leader had the advantage of being fitter than me, so hadn’t got my afore-mentioned oxygen deprived post-running exertion brain depleting his punning resources.  I don’t want to come across as small minded and bitter, barking up the wrong tree with a belated defence so I’ll just leaf it at that… that, and a few scavenged picture puns for future reference.  Wooden you know, there are loads out there, almost over-elming to be honest, especially if you are willing to branch out with your research.  Enjoy.

Back for coffee.  Fine latte, and I took an atmospheric shot of the reception area, which I am very proud of.  Look and be amazed:


It wasn’t a very long distance session today, in fact I nearly had a panic attack as we made our way back to the base in case my run didn’t meet the 2 mile minimum distance requirement for Smiletastic purposes!  It was a close run thing, coming in at just 2.1 miles.  Eek.  Back for coffee and welcome catch up with some other Smiley Paces.  We are still all consumed by Smiletastic challenges.  It is becoming quite stressful.  Even though I am technically in the winning team at present, I am in constant fear that we will be toppled at any moment, and I will have my fickle team-mates turn on me and oust me as the weakest link, which to be fair, I probably am.

It is lonely at the top.  You can only fall from this point.  Not that I expect the other losers, sorry, fellow competitors, to fully appreciate this.  They have their own demons to conquer.  Sleepless nights over whether or not their heart shapes will cut muster, and if they are the right side of the road for their monkey runs…  It’s true what they say, running is a test of mind over body.  For our part, we Fighting Feathers have tried to keep the pressure up.  We had a light-hearted attempt at increasing our lead by getting one of our team to wear her gps watch whilst taking an internal flight in America somewhere.  Very impressive, elevation over 8,266 metres, longest run 82 mile, average pace 2 miles a minute.  Personally, I think we might have got away with it too, if she hadn’t had to go across open water for most of the flight.  We were able to blag it when discovered by spinning the whole enterprise as an hilarious jape when our bluff was called, but we aren’t even half-way through the challenge yet, so I’m sure we’ll come up with something else before the final countdown commences.  We need something to maintain our lead.  We were a bit worried that Elder Smiley Super Geek might actually have her head implode when she saw the stats, and that would put an end to all the fun of Smiletastic high jinks in perpetuity.  However, she seems to have survived the sighting of this erm, well let’s say anomalous and clearly inadvertent upload in tact, mercifully… though she has been on the prosecco since I understand…  Birthday indeed, as if anyone will believe that!  Though on reflection I think it’s true Smiletastic has aged her, so perhaps she has had an extra birthday creep in, just like the Queen.  Smiley Elder Super Geek certainly deserves her own anthem, a project for another day perhaps…

accelerate post run coffee

So latte sipped, and conversations shared.  Thanks for top tips on running jackets (montane minimus keeps being recommended) and tactics for half-marathon too.  I’ve still not quite fathomed whether or not I’m actually going to go through with this, but handy to have some hints.  Start slow, wear fancy dress (lower expectations of ‘fun runners’ may help morale) and maybe take some dextrose tablets for instant lift at half way point are the ones that stand out. Although it was sunny, it was cold sitting outside on a damp bench, and that sent me on my way eventually.  Home to dream about running, and speculate on whether or not it is true that runners who become obsessed by running clearly have addictive personalities.  This capacity to become fixated by something as intrinsically unpleasant as running could be ratcheted up to lethal levels if heaven portend they/we came across something that was actually fun to indulge in!  Interesting thought… it is very important serious runners never have the opportunity to try anything pleasant according to The Daily Mash – must be true!

I’ll leave you with that thought.  Sweet dreams.  Run onwards.  Run free!



Categories: off road, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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