007 and “M” Stealth parkrun Smiley mission. Our Smiletastic task was to be up early, navigating the hills, facing the rain, battling the wind – and all because the ladies love to ……….run !!!
I’M SO EXCITED! Today, I did something extra special, something I’ve always wanted to do, and something that is even on my bucket list. This isn’t an actual list, to be fair, but I always know when an item comes up that would be on it if I’d ever got around to writing one. It’s that feeling I get when an opportunity presents itself that it is for something I’ve longed to do so much and for so long it actually hurts. As the day and then appointed hour draws near, the excitement is such I feel I’ll burst. I sort of enjoy the anticipatory angst – is my dream really about to come true, or will it yet be snatched away at the final hour? That is what I felt like when I heard that Poolsbrook parkrun was to be launched in Chesterfield. Finally, a new parkrun taking place commuting distance from Sheffield. One I could be in on at the start. I too could join the throng that will be for ever listed as First Timers on the first ever set of results for Poolsbrook parkrun. I’ve always wanted to get to an inaugural parkrun. I was always going to get there to join them for their first ever event at Chesterfield (near as dammit) come what may. I wanted to be one of the Pioneering Poolsbrook parkrun Pilgrims, and reader I WAS! The inaugural Poolsbrook parkrun was today! How amazing is that?
So here is what happened. The run was first mooted ages ago, and I’ve been circling the parkrun pages ever since waiting for news. Finally, the official announcement came that the run would indeed be happening for the first time at 9.00 a.m. (you probably knew that bit already) on Saturday 2nd April 2016. A Poolsbrook parkrun Facebook page was duly launched the week before and the countdown began. They had a suitably inviting cover photo (see above), as well as a succession of ‘getting ready’ photos to reassure their parkrun public that all was progressing well and that they had e.g. the requisite number of colourful helpful signs ready to go. (That three laps direction one was a bit of a worry though):
Even more pleasingly, the organising committee (we love you race director and volunteers whoever you are) had a sense of humour too, coming up with a most acceptable April Fool the day before, which was sufficiently well thought through to be funny, without risking veering over the line in terms of taste (oh dear Preston parkrun – is it true your one involved a bomb on the course? Seems not everyone found that funny – though Google pranked themselves too so they were not alone – shame, I like a good minion story, who doesn’t?)
To be honest, there were quite a few parkrun pranksters out there. I’m sure I only stumbled across a very few, but if you like a detour en route to the substance of this Poolsbrook premier parkrun commentary, have a peer at these:
So, back to business. The day dawned. Obviously, in this age of Smiletastic, it wasn’t quite so simple, bonus points for timed runs still needed to be claimed. Serious members of Smiley Paces (Sheffield Women’s Running club) who are registered for Smiletastic need to take this into account. The most effective strategy being for team members to disperse as far afield as possible. Then again, there was the pull of wanting to do things as Flying Feathers all together for the team as well. Who want to run on their own if they can have a running buddy to accompany them? The compromise was just me, and our very own undercover agent 007 would take on this particular parkrun challenge and nab the point for the team between us. Normally I’m known as hobbit, but as this was a special mission I was anointed ‘M’ as my alias for the day. (Too complicated to explain, just go with it). We synchronised our watches, agreed rendezvous hour and allocated tasks. I was in charge of transportation, my fellow Fighting Feather would check in with Q and sort appropriate turbo assist rocket chargers to get us round. Such external speed boosters being deemed necessary, as Poolsbrook parkrun hasn’t yet introduced the platinum membership initiative on offer from Tring parkrun.
On waking early, as we had an uncharacteristic commute to our destination, my weather check through the window revealed RAIN. I was a bit taken aback, this wasn’t what was ordered, and the Poolsbrook team had looked so efficient I thought they’d have had that aspect covered. Oh well, we are feisty fighting feathers, it would take more than a bit of rain to abort our mission. I scooped up 007 and satnav took us on a magical mystery tour that ended up at the entrance of Poolsbrook Country Park. The postcode didn’t work on my satnav by the way, but I was able to use the ‘points of interest‘ option, so that was an exciting test of my problem solving skills. If you are planning a satnav directed trip maybe check the route in advance just in case.
On arrival, I couldn’t help noticing the entrance looked rather less enticing than on the cover photo of the Poolsbrook parkrun Facebook page. It’s the way I take them probably, that, and the rain, but compare and contrast my gritty realism in the photos with the charming paradise above and you must concede I have a point:
Even so, I was even more excited when I knew we’d made it to our destination, and there were even super keen runners to be espied who were making their way to the start loping along in the rain.
On a practical note, it was really easy to find – handy brown attraction signs as you get close) and about a half hour from our side of Sheffield. There was loads of parking… but, even so, this space was almost full when we got there, so I don’t know what happened with the overflow cars of which there must have been some. Obviously, it could have been that this début event attracted a lot of parkrun tourists like me and Smiley 007, as it settles into a more local event maybe fewer people will drive there if it’s a more local catchment area that becomes the core of the run. No problem though, and parking was free too (yay!). It was still raining though (NOOOO!) but there were ducks milling about who seemed to appreciate that, so ill wind etc.. Actually, there was a lot of milling about of waterfowl now I come to think of it. I wonder if that was part of their pre-run risk assessment?
Now, apologies if you are a newcomer to my blog and this is too much information, but regular callers will know that I do appreciate the opportunity for a precautionary pee pre parkrun. So, in case anyone is anxious on my behalf, or indeed on their own, I can report that Poolsbrook parkrun scores full marks for precautionary pee facilities. Loads of loos, all open, and whilst there was the mandatory queue for the ladies there was also a separate disabled loo and gents as well. Toilet paper, sinks for hand washing, the full complement of facilities. Always puts a smile on my face!
There was much excited milling around. Very quickly I saw familiar faces. The odd strider with their fetching and distinctive charity fund raising bobble hats and a familiar chatty friendly face from Sheffield Hallam amongst the throng. I wrongly attributed her to be a Monday Mobster, but she claims not, I think otherwise – she must be one by association surely? Hey ho. She too no doubt lured away by the intoxicating prospect of joining an inaugural run. I ambled about, and spotted an upmarket coffee van at the start/finish line too. This is a great innovation I’ve not seen before. Not only coffee on completion, but potentially coffee before hand, and/or for volunteers or spectators on arrival. I don’t know if this was a one off or not. (Clarification – coffee is to be covered, mobile outlet for now, inside café some weeks down the line) Decent coffee too. Yay! Though I went for delayed gratification option, didn’t want to have to off load en route so to speak due to the contributory negligence of having taken on extra liquid immediately prior to departure, so I saved myself for the treat of caffeine on completion.
I was like an over-excited puppy, I just didn’t know who to greet first, and would probably have been in real danger of wetting myself had it not been for the first rate facilities already alluded to. I exchanged hellos with the Friendly Face on exodus from Hallam, who had come with a gang of raucous running friends. I took a photo of them all together. What do you think?
She claimed them as friends anyway, some of them look a bit cold at first glace, but look again and you wonder if it might not be cold, it might be the expression you pull when being photographed under duress? I wanted her to lie across the front of them, but she wasn’t keen. Later on she admitted she’d actually driven over on her own, and not come with them at all (something about being paranoid about being late because of conditioning brought about by having parented a run director herself ya da ya da ya da etc). I can’t honestly be sure if she knew them all, or had just appropriated them at that moment for self-promotion purposes. I say it doesn’t matter, if you can photo-bomb a group and look completely at home, then you can claim that group as your friends. Well done. Good on yer, I’m going to try that technique myself next time out…
Photo taken, we started checking out our surrounds and as well as being excited by just being there, and by the presence of loos, and by the presence of a mobile coffee outlet I was further excited by the proximity of an outdoor adult gym! At this point my Friendly Faced running mate from Hallam (not a Monday Mobster) was compelled to point out I do seem to excite quite easily. I concede this point. It was quite remarkable that I hadn’t already burst or otherwise exploded just on arrival, this sensory overload was putting me in real peril of going off with a bang! But really – look – shouldn’t every parkrun have one of these as a warm up area? I think you have to bring your own golfing umbrella and clipboard though.
There was an absolute first timers’ briefing – it looked like this:
Aww, I felt quite emotional watching it. I remember my first ever parkrun, all that apprehension and uncertainty, yet also the beginning of a beautiful relationship – these people had/ have the pleasure of all that still to come! Nevertheless, for me and 007 this was our first First parkrun, so we found someone to capture our moment of initiation to this club too!
Oh, I almost forgot, for those of you who like the official course description blah de blah, the Poolsbrook parkrun page describes the course as follows:
The course is entirely within Poolsbrook Country Park which was once the site of the former Ireland Colliery, but which has been transformed from dereliction into a popular country park and amenities area. The course is almost entirely on compact wide trails but some sections of the course may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain, so please take care. Dependent on availability, marshals will be at key sections of the course, or signs will be in place.
The course starts about 300m away from the café and consists of three anticlockwise laps of the main lake. The finish is on the grass on the right side of the path, in front of the adult gym facilities.
A couple of points to note:
The course leaves the immediate side of the lake to cross the weir and for about 30m runs on the wide path next to the road. Please keep to the lake side of the path.
If you are being lapped by faster runners please keep to the left side of the course to allow faster runners to overtake on the right.
More milling about, and finally a sort of migration to the start that seemed to be communicated by osmosis. I’ve stolen some of the ‘official’ photos to report on this part, mine weren’t as good. I don’t like to think of this as plagiarism, rather I’m honouring the photographers by displaying their work, also, I freely admit they aren’t all mine that follow, so as long as it’s referenced that’s OK too right. So it seems that most of those that follow are from Andy Morris (thanks Andy) though there were others out there who I may well also borrow freely from if ever their work makes it into the public domain. Here’s a picture of one of the other ones below, don’t know his name, but documentary proof that many were out there to document this historic occasion. You know you are sharing a moment of history in the making when the paparazzi are in attendance in plural. Loving your work, whoever you are, all of you, thanks for turning out. Oh, and (late addition) I’ve now added in some of Mark Webster’s photos too, so thank you Andy and thank you Mark for sharing so beautifully. You are AWESOME!
So the milling about, and the migration to the start, and the official inaugural race briefing looked like this (you can tell who took which photos as mine are basically the out of focus ones, I’d like to pretend I was trying to achieve a soft focus effect, but that is basically untrue):
We took the opportunity for a selfie, obviously, which came out a bit crap (also obviously). Less obviously, we had even more excitement (I know that seems impossible) as we were joined by two more Smilies making a similar pilgrimage to the start. One of which was a Smiletastic opponent, but only a Rowdy Rooster, they’ve got no chance to be honest so we didn’t have to pretend to be sporting, we could be genuinely friendly! It was great to have some other Smilies sporting their vests to join the fun. Albeit we sported them a bit sheepishly on the whole, under rain coats truth be told…
So finally, after much applauding of the great and the good, the volunteers, the organisers, the local authority who’ve given permission to use the park and so on, we were awf! I love the first shot here – Steel City Strider with bobble hat on tour, Smiley Paces and the guided runners all in one shot. All the fun of the proverbial fair in one picture, thank you flickr uploading photographer, fab!
So, as always, I was a bit surprised to find myself running but it was fun. I was taking it very easy because of my poorly calf/ knee, but it was really fun to soak up the atmosphere. This is a three loop course, so I hadn’t expected to enjoy it as much as I did, but in fact there was loads to look at on the way round. Waterfowl aforementioned didn’t limit itself to the water. There were some particularly immoveable geese of some sort just before the bridge at the half-way point on the loop. As I approached them on the first lap they just ignored us. Second time passing they looked a bit pissed off, third time round, they took direct action honking (I think that’s what geese do) flapping their wings in an ‘I’m very annoyed now’ display and at least one of them led a protest march onto the path. Good for them, they were there first after all.
I am however jumping ahead. You have been forewarned that there are three loops, however, that’s not strictly true. You also start a few hundred metres back from the eventual finish point, so you have to pass the finish FOUR times. I had a moment of hopefulness after the first 300 metres, or whatever it was, when I thought that might count as first time round, but apparently not so. You will know, so avoiding any future disappointment.
My photos make it all look a bit dismal, but in fact it was very jolly. Loads of colourful marshals in their high-viz tabards for a start, and runners in fluorescent gear a plenty, it was quite a rainbow of hues out there. The ‘proper’ photographers did rather better. Thanks Mark, this next one is yours I think:
Although three loops aren’t really my thing, an unexpected benefit of this set up was that there was a bench in handy proximity to the finish. I realised I was going to be too hot going round, and was able to jettison my coat onto the bench after the first lap. I guess you could strip off ever more layers as you went round, knowing they could be heaped on the bench near the finish in safety several times with four passes available to you. Like a running version of strip poker if you will, should the mood take you. I stuck with just the one layer taken off, but in principle at least I guess more dis-inhibited runners could bare as much as they dare en route. It might even spice things up a bit for other runners in their wake. Some runners might otherwise be finding the laps a bit relentless. Some disrobing runner offering up a bit of eye-candy (or presenting a dire warning) might offer up a welcome distraction, just a thought. Here is a spectator espying the course, a fun one to watch I reckon, because you can see all the drama unfold without having to particularly relocate. You could even plonk yourself down on a bench and drink coffee as people plod (or sprint) by, possibly even offering unsolicited advice on their running technique each time they pass you. I’m sure that would go down really well!
It was a good surface, tarmac really, and despite the number of runners, it spaced out pretty well, and you could overtake (on the right please) by nipping on to the grass if you did feel penned in. There seemed to be a good cross section of runners. Including a blind runner with a guide. I’ve not seen that in action before and it was VERY impressive, they left me for dust early on. It is the ultimate in team work watching that display of trust, timing and co-operation. I wonder how long it takes to build that partnership.
So, at Poolsbrook parkrun you do most definitely have to run round a lake three times, there is no escaping that, but it looks cool in the photos don’t you think. These next two are from Poolsbrook parkrun Flickr site too – though not all photos are accessible for some reason, don’t know why. I might go back later and have another look to see if any more are apt for inclusion in this post, but I’ve got bored of waiting for now.
One of the great joys of parkrun is meeting not only old friends, but new people too. I also love to eavesdrop and people watch on the way round. So people who stood out today – the mightily speedy runner who sprinted past and I thought I knew from a previous life, only it wasn’t him. He looked very surprised when I lurched towards him offering a high five as he walked homewards back along the course after he’d finished and when I was still embarking on my final lap. He looked even more discombobulated as I aborted my high five attempt looking slightly horrified. Sorry about that nameless pirate runner with the bandana and long hair! (Mind you, I know one running blogger who confessed to once high fiving a passing cyclist she thought was offering an upward palm for that purpose, only realising as she passed the poor guy was just using a hand signal to turn right – or possibly left, she didn’t say which…)
The guy with a black Labrador on a canicross harness, who was running with a dog in one hand and freshly bagged dog poo in the other. (Well, I assume it was freshly bagged, it isn’t the kind of thing you’d head out the door with like grabbing a water bottle and energy gel is is?) It was somewhat dispiriting to realise that this must mean he was so much faster than me, he was able to stop and supervise his dog pooing on the way round, then clear it up and recommence running and still be way ahead. Well done for being a responsible owner. His dog wasn’t especially appreciative though, as I watched, it dragged him into a ditch alongside the path which was rather deeper than first appearances indicated. Very wet footed owner was reduced to – well, I was going to say ‘walking’ but ‘sploshing’ would be more accurate!
At about the half way point I also became increasingly aware of a female runner on my shoulder. We had a sort of unacknowledged battle with each other. Every time I slowed a bit she put on a spurt to try and catch me… and I’d realise I was slowing and so speed up again. I feel we were evenly matched and even kindred spirits – she too removed her rain coat on the way round! She kept close by right up until the very end when I did a sprint finish (I use the term loosely). It was nice after we’d both finished to have a chat with her – she’s done loads of inaugural parkruns I was most impressed, and a regular parkrun tourist too. Thank you Peniston Footpath Runner for the external motivation on the way round!
Some other observational details. On a three-lapped course, you get lapped. Well, you are more likely to get lapped than on a two-lap course (sometimes) or one lap (never – unless you go in reverse which seems unlikely). The one advantage of this, is that as I was finishing my second lap (or quite possibly my first, but let’s say second here) I was lapped by the winning runners going through the finish tunnel. However, a consequence of this is that there may well be (time will tell) photos of the first finishers which provide the illusion that I was in the lead… Not a very good illusion apparently, as none of the marshals tried to point me towards the finish funnel, but I can dream. Incidentally, I felt this was an unusually polite run in the over-taking department. Whilst parkrun is a run not a race remember, sometimes speedier runners let their competitive spirit rule them and are not always forgiving of slower runners as they pass. Here, I am delighted to report, camaraderie running was the order of the day.
A special mention should go of course to the small army of marshals who remained smiling supportive and cheerful despite the unrelenting rain! It makes such a difference to have their support en route, not to mention the fact that parkrun wouldn’t happen anywhere without them. I did try to thank each one as I passed each time, but have to admit my efforts got a bit more breathless and a bit more strangled sounding with each passing loop! I had an inward smile for the road based marshal who shouted after me and my acquire running buddy from Penistone ‘just remember to keep the arms and legs moving‘ as we neared the finish. Good advice, if only it were as easy to implement at that point as it sounds – encouraging shouting nevertheless, I thank you!
Another thing that I noticed plodding round was that they have thoughtfully put km markers at, well funnily enough, at 1km intervals. This is sort of helpful, but also a bit perplexing. As it is a multi-lap course, I got a bit confused at points because the first one I saw was on the first lap and it was for 4k, then later on I spotted the 2k etc etc. However, this is ungenerous of me, because once you get your eye in it’s pretty handy. Well it is for those of us who either don’t have a GPS or similar, or like me have one but have no real grasp of how to use it other than for uploading runs onto Strava after the event for Smiletastic purposes. Actually, you might like to see the Strava route – and proof, it ’twere needed that it is indeed incredibly flat. I reckon for them as who seek it out, this has the potential to be a PB course for sure.
As I neared the finish, I espied my Hallam parkrun tourist friend just ahead, I admit I used her as a goal to aim for and managed to catch up and overtake, but only just. I felt a bit mean doing so, but she cheered me on. For that I thank you Monday Mobster, no wonder everyone wants to be your friend! She was right behind me anyway. At the finish tape were my Smiley smiling buddies, cheering me home. That was so great. We’d agreed not to run together under the pretext of me being slow, (also grumpy when I run, I can’t talk and run, I just can’t) but really it was so we FFs could spread out amongst the course and keep an eye out for any previously unseen Smiletastic opposition. We got away with it though. I felt like I’d broken the 4 minute mile or something as I went through the tape! No finish photo of me, but here are my fellow Smileys romping home. I don’t know why one of them looks like she’s standing around with her hands on her hips. Maybe she’d just abandoned all hope of passing the other two at this stage in the game…
We were able to pose for a photo, then, hilariously (I thought) our fellow Smilies were off to do another 6 miles in the rain – oh the tyranny of the long run!
Me and 007 instead drank coffee and went to cheer home the other runners still coming in. Thanks for the caffeine fix my friend, although maybe that’s what got me over-excited all over again and making an exhibition of myself on the adult gym…
We inevitably felt we had a go with the various exercise equipment that looked so inviting as play equipment for adults at the start/finish, and 007 did some very impressive balancing stretches. We moved into the area of making our entertainment at this point, I can’t help feeling one of us did rather better than the other in securing flattering photos for their scrap book. I’ll let that go this time, but it has been noted… And no, I don’t have any idea how to use the equipment properly, I think that’s fairly obvious.
We enjoyed going down to the finish funnel to cheer back the final finisher who romped home with a canine companion…. who was very nearly a funnel ducker (the dog not the runner) but disaster was averted, order was restored to the funnel, and cheers all round in the rain as the finish token was handed over, then handed back for scanning. Run done. Mission accomplished. Great job y’all!
So that was that, suddenly all done, and we could head home. We waved cheerily at our fellow Smilies who we could see in the distance were only just heading off on the Trans Pennine Trail which goes through Poolsbrook Country Park – they didn’t look too keen to be honest. This is what happens if you pledge a long run, you have to be willing to follow through!
Home with the usual parkrun high, and a lovely warm feeling of appreciation and delight that all seemed to have gone so smoothly for the Poolsbrook parkrun pioneers. It must be quite nerve wracking to put on an inaugural event, but it seemed to go really well. The results came through promptly. Photos were on Flickr and updates on Facebook. In keeping with parkrun lore and tradition they even had a handful of unknowns (sorry parkrunners, you know the mantra, no barcode, no time, no exceptions #DFYBC) and their first finish token go walkabout. This was no doubt very, very annoying but also probably had an awful inevitability about it too. Nevertheless, here’s hoping that finish token Missing in Action number 58 has a well developed homing instinct and makes its own way back to the fold in time for next parkrun day. Fingers crossed eh? Oh, there was a Poolsbrook inaugural run report too, all jobs covered, and in record time.
So thank you everyone at Poolsbrook, you did an awesome job today. Thank you whoever got the idea off the ground in the first place, thank you organising committee and run directors for putting in the work to make it happen, thank you marshals and volunteers on the day for the cheery, encouraging and efficient hosting, and thank you fellow runners too for a great morning of parkrun tourism
We’ll meet again, don’t know quite where or when, but I’ll be back, you have been warned.
The over the top Love-In endeth here!