Daily Archives: April 23, 2016

Bicentennial Woman – dystopian nightmare or utopian dream? 200 parkruns done and dusted.

We like to move it move it, we like to move it move it

like to move it

In fact Wikistrat are ahead of me here.  They have already produced a report all about The Bicentennial Woman.  Naturally, I can’t be bothered to read it, but no worries.  I worked briefly in a university research department, and now know you can get most salient details from either the abstract, executive summary or conclusions of any report.  Alternatively, as here, you can just google and make sweeping generalisations based on what information is in the public domain via Wikipedia.  I haven’t really met that many Bicentennial women to be honest, but I am delighted to report I was surprised by one coming out as one today.

200th parkrun

In case you are interested,  the research (I use the term loosely) publication offers up only two possible scenarios for such over-achievers, offering either dystopian or utopian futures.  Not much happening in relation to shades of grey in between it seems.

In the dystopian category, analysts envisaged futures with high-cost technology, low quality of life and growing social inequality and instability.

In the utopian camp, the bicentennial woman enjoys her second century of life, being an inspirational symbol for a world with greater environmental stability and collective long-term approaches to common problems read more here

Well, based on my own qualitative research, comprising a quick chat with someone offering me a flapjack earlier on today, I’m going to put my neck out and say this Bicentennial Woman exemplifies the latter category, being ‘an inspirational symbol‘, we didn’t really move the conversation round to how exactly she intends to bring about greater environmental stability nor indeed on her collective long-term approach to common world problems, but I dare say she’s working on it.  To be fair, she must have been quite tired what with having just run all that way. One thousand kilometres is a fair distance.  That’s 621.371 miles, or 23.7 x 26.21875 miles, i.e. 23.7 marathons, EVEN MORE if you are using the Manchester distance for your workings as the Greater Manchester Marathon has been running short for a couple of years, (which isn’t even funny, but is true).  To give you an idea that’s not quite as impressive as Eddie Izzard Marathon Man but it is way more impressive than Tim Peake who’s only going to do one tomorrow whilst up in orbit, and doesn’t even have to contend with gravity, so that makes him a literal as well as metaphorical light-weight compared to our very own wonder woman.

So, what happened today was I headed off to Sheffield Hallam parkrun.  Not been there for a while, to be honest, the Smiletastic imperative to nab bonus points driving me towards parkrun tourism as far afield from Sheffield as Rotherham – I know!  I could have gone last week, but was seduced to Graves parkrun by the lure of fancy dress and an outing for Roger.  As my home parkrun, it sometimes is a bit neglected in terms of the logistical details I provide in my blog.  So I’ll redress that today.  For those who like the Sheffield Hallam parkrun course blah de blah it goes as follows:

The course consists of 2 laps of Endcliffe Park – From the start, by the playground you head east and go right then immediately left towards the roundabout and round the little loop. You make your way back past the playground going west down the path towards and past the café, across the bridge and alongside the lake. Follow the path to the end of the park and turn left onto Rustlings Road, run alongside the park and then turn left back into the park at the car park entrance and follow back round the small loop to the start point. Complete 2 laps for the 5km Sheffield Hallam parkrun, finishing at the playground.

Today, in the crisp spring sunshine, the venue was looking especially fabulous:

Endcliffe Park is pretty fab, there are loos at the start – though not many and you will have to queue if you are of the female persuasion.  It’s a parkrun that attracts a good turn out of runners, but can be a bit thin on volunteers.  There are some stalwart regulars who volunteer week in and week out for which I am truly grateful.  No navigational skills are required, but it helps if you know your left from your right if you are in danger of either being a lapper or a lappee as you have to keep to the left to allow overtaking for most of the way round, but then keep right for the mini-loop if you get lapped at that stage.  I know, highly technical.  If you are worried about a time, you need to get yourself towards the front of the line up, if you like to take in the atmosphere yomping round then always lots to see.  Great spectrum of participants, plenty of club vests in evidence, but also canines, buggies, and whole families gallumphing round.

I slept really badly last night, because I left my radio on all night and it kept disturbing me enough for me to be annoyed by it, but not sufficiently to stir me so I would reach across and turn it off, and the consequence was, not enough sleep.  However, it was after all parkrun day, so what can you do?

keep calm and run

Cold, looked like maybe even a frost first thing.  Brrrrrr.  However, the sun broke through, and as I was running late, I couldn’t find my buff or my gloves.  I decided I would brave the elements without either.  This is in my world reckless behaviour, probably the equivalent of other athletes running naked, but hey, you have to move out of your comfort zone to improve and grow do you not.  I walked down a different route from normal as it was a bit of a short cut, though less park based and scenic.  It was fun seeing arrivals from a new angle.  I spotted different people from those I normally do on my walk in.  I know I’m altogether too easily entertained, but I still get a thrill from seeing how people emerge from seemingly nowhere and seem to noiselessly congregate from the four corners of the world onto the start lines of parkruns everywhere.  The sunshine helped, but you could tell just going down this was going to be a busy one.

By the time I got to the rendezvous point it was absolutely heaving.  There was a jolly marquee up promoting the ‘Move More Sheffield‘ initiative, which does sound good actually, although annoyingly the digital divide means I am entirely disenfranchised from   participating in it due to not having a smart phone.  Oh well.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  I have learned from experience that running accountability can be very stressful (I wont go into it all again now, but just reference Smiletastic)!  Because of these guests, it was a longer than usual race briefing.  I couldn’t hear any of it.  The run director does have a megaphone, but it still only projects sound in a small triangle of influence just in front of whatever direction it happens to point in.  Those assembled in the start funnel were pretty noisy too, which didn’t help. We did the usual clapping of volunteers etc, and after a bit of inaudible input from the Move More team rep we had a countdown for off.

It was the slowest start I’ve ever experienced at a parkrun, took full minutes to get through and then, the snake of runners extended anaconda like so far, that the head of he snake coming round the corner of the opening loop met with the tail of runners bringing up the rear.  I think it was quite fun that the event was so well supported this week, but it definitely made it a slow one out there.  Still who cares?  It’s a run not a race remember!


Despite my apprehension about shortage of clothing, in fact I soon warmed up yomping round.  The route stayed really congested, but even so I saw a few runners I knew, and we exchanged greetings going round.  One of the many benefits of having a local parkrun is you do get to know your personal tribe, and I suppose, just as I notice familiar faces they recognise me.  Or more accurately I notice familiar backs from my perspective, as most people are running ahead of me – or possibly away from me, but it amounts to the same thing.  It’s still a reassuring and comradely way to travel though.

view from the back

I was way further back in the field than normal, but that meant I got a great view of the streaming head runners doubling back on us as they ran along Rustlings Road and we tail runners were still heading out of the park.  It was a fabulous sight in the bright sunshine.    There’s no shot of that, but there is this offering of the train of runners (thank you George).

some turn out

Not too many pickings in the eavesdropping department either.  Maybe I should have got a hearing test done at the same time as my eye test at Specsavers yesterday.  I did enjoy one exchange though.  Two women expressed surprised at finding themselves ahead of another runner they’d expected to be stronger than them.  ‘What are you doing here, how did we end up in front of you?’ they exclaimed joyfully.  ‘I just like overtaking people, so I always start at the back!’ came the somewhat disillusioning response.  I liked this concept though.  A different sort of take on competitiveness.  Finding the thrill of the race from coming from behind rather than needing to lead from the front.  Picking off your prey one runner at a time.  I can see how that might work to motivate you, hypothetically at least.  Illustrates all over again how everyone participates in parkrun in their own way.  As long as you aren’t shoving people out of your way en route, why not adopt this approach?  Whatever works for you.

I did experience one unusual phenomenon going round.  It was a hybrid sort of thing, I couldn’t work out whether it was unsettling or motivating, but there seemed to be various people at intervals on the way round shouting out my name as I neared them.  Weird.  I haven’t taken to wearing my name on my running top as standard since the half, though I can see the merit in perhaps doing so.  I only discovered at the very end of the event, that I’d been running just behind a much younger namesake who was charging round as only the under elevens can.  Still, the cheers may not have been directed at me, but they kept me going all the same…  In fact, despite what I was saying about it being a slow run, the camera says otherwise.  It seems everyone positively flew round.  No wonder George has his very own day dedicated to him today, he deserves it, who wouldn’t be pleased to be caught in action in one of these shots, especially the dog.

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The large number of participants meant that even more people finished ahead of me than usual.  I could see them leaving the park, carrying with them what honestly looked like an empty paper bag sporting the Move More logo.  I was quite intrigued.  ‘What kind of goodie bag is that?’ I pondered, looking forward to the moment when I might find out for myself.  (I am easily excited remember, I can’t help it.)

Towards the end, I decided to make a bit of an effort, and made a challenge to Bicentennial Woman who was running with my namesake a few strides ahead of me.  I fully expected as soon as I overtook her, they’d burst past me, because that is what usually happens in this kind of scenario. Today though, it didn’t entirely work out like that.  The turn out was so huge, that by the time I had the finish in sight the finish funnel had extended right back onto the route.  It was a bit confusing and a bottle neck. We just sort of crashed into the back and the poor panicked volunteer on timer duties did their best to record us as we stopped, but it won’t be an accurate time today.  Slower, because of the slow start, and the stumble into the queue at the end, but also a shorter route than usual because of the tail back.  The volunteers were fabulous though, trying to keep it all together, and patiently scanning seemingly endless numbers of barcodes with generous grace and patience.


It was nice in the sunshine, so chatted to others in the queue for our finish tokens.  As the queue double backed on itself quite a bit, there was lots of potential for catch up chats.  It reminded me of wilder younger days (I know, hard to imagine) queuing round the block to get into a night club on a weekend.  Not that I did that very much ever, but you my reader won’t know that for sure.  Smiley non-Smiley-who-now-is-a-Smiley had finished her parkrun ages before, and was now doing sterling work trying to keep order in the finish funnel.  She may have  sweet and sunny disposition, but nevertheless she will have no truck with funnel duckers – and quite right too!   Her assistance was much-needed as the number of runners oozed and moved like an unexpected algal bloom at sea.  Phosphorescent algae and bioluminescent dinoflagellates being substituted by runners luminous hi-viz sports gear.

I eventually got my token, and was handed a promotional torn bit of paper, the empty paper sandwich bag supplies apparently having been depleted.  Oh well.  I just got a slip of paper with some blurb about the Move More Sheffield Scheme.

It does sound like a good idea, but you need to download an app, so wont be involving me.  I did ask at their tent about this, it’s a funding issue.  The team recognise it will exclude some people (though in fairness I do concede I’m in a minority here) but want to start somewhere.  If succesful, it may generate funds (don’t understand how) which will enable them to purchase hardware for non digital enabled potential participants (that’s me) to involve them at some future unspecified date.  I’m hoping this means that basically if I hang on long enough someone will buy me a smart phone. In reality I think I’m just in line for a cheap pedometer.  Maybe.  A year from now.  I’ve queued for less, so you never know…  Here follows a gratuitous ‘move it, move it‘ shot, just because it pleases me.#

all move

So as we lingered at the finish, tokens scanned, and not knowing then that my Tomtom would fail to upload post run for some reason.  Time for some final chit-chat and MAJOR REVELATIONS.  Someone was proffering cake, for a 200th.  A 200th what?  A 200th parkrun!  Who’s done that?  Well, I discovered it was none other than my Smiley Paces, power behind the lens, prancercise buddy with whom I have worked hard to ingratiate myself!  Who knew about that?  She kept that quiet.  For goodness sake, she even disguised herself with shades whilst running round (still got papped though).

Bicentennial Woman

Well, my personal photographer said it had been tweeted, but really, that wasn’t going to make it onto my radar.  I think it would have been more in keeping with tradition to run with two hundred balloons attached to her, or at least given fellow members of Smiley Paces a sporting chance of getting together two hundred members and supporters to participate in a celebratory conga round Hallam parkrun in her honour. It would be amazing, we’d knock this lot into touch for starters (whatever that means).  It would be way better with a few more people to add to the line and everyone in a Smiley vest.  Fabulous in fact, absolutely fabulous.


Despite my mortification at having nearly allowed this milestone to pass unremarked, I still felt able to scoff some of the celebratory flapjacks. Well, it’s rude not to isn’t it, when someone has made all that effort to bring cake – and even apparently sorted out some child labour to help with the logistics of distribution.  All very commendable.  Others had celebrated milestones too, impressive.  Well done all!

milestone finishers

So farewells were said, new running commitments uttered Longshaw tomorrow anyone?  Takers for Burbage?  Fancy dress plans for the Round Sheffield Run.  An anonymous source told me he’d be going for the bald middle-aged man look this year – quite a makeover required therefore, ambitious, definitely ambitious.  Also, could be quite a popular category so will need to work hard at some stand out feature to secure the prize for best fancy dress.  I’m sure it can be done!   Parkrunners melted away leaving only memories and footprints where once they were.

melting away

And we departed our separate ways for breakfast options.  Having said that, as I walked back through the park later on some delighted shrieks of recognition came from overhead.  Agile girls various,  having completed their cake handing round duties, had escaped to the woods, and had clambered up high in to the trees with real aplomb.  Very impressive.  I wish it was OK for adults to join in with that, I’d love to find out if I could still climb a tree, I reckon I could, especially after these had done such excellent pathfinding, but whether or not the tree would take my weight I’m rather less sure.   I wished I’d had my camera with me.

For the record, there were 725 at this week’s parkrun, which if I’ve understood the stats properly (which is doubtful) is a massive increase on the previous record attendance of 651. Amazing.  Also for the record, my tomtom failed to upload this run.  Aaaargh.  That’s twice in a week now, I’m getting nervous.  If it fails tomorrow, I’m back to the shop looking tearful, and hoping to be rescued.  It’s not the watch, it records fine, it’s the docking mechanism, I think the connection isn’t quite secure thank you for asking.

So, what was I saying at the start?  Oh yes, this brief post is intended to be in celebration of Bicentenary Woman, may she forever inspire us all.

Bicentennial Woman Outed

Here goes:

In praise of Bicentennial Woman

Smiley! Smiley! Running right

At the parkruns of delight

What impressive runs you’ve done

Each of them with much aplomb

*   *   *

Did you know when you began

What would happen when you ran?

How you’d feel just running free

Isn’t it just lov-er-ley?

*   *   *

Saturday is parkun day!

Two hundred times it’s been that way

Well done you for such a score

May there still be many more

*   *   *

You are rightly now a star

Honestly, you really are!

What an awesome running streak

All those runs is no mean feat

*   *   *

There is not a milestone Tee

But I’m sure all will agree

Hallam parkrun worships you

For one hundred runs, times two!

*   *   *

Smiley! Smiley! Running right

At the parkruns of delight

What an awful lot of fun!

May I say ‘Jol-ley well done!’

*   *   *

And jolly well done everyone else who has ever done parkrun, whether they are new to the tribe and have all the fun of milestone Tees still to come, or parkrun elders hitting their participation centuries in multiples by now!  Canines too – check out Kobe’s eye view, though note to self, if ever I do a parkrun wearing a webcam, I’ll try and remember to switch it off when I’m having my precautionary pee!

parkrun free forever

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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