‘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…
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…
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:
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!
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).
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?
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.