I think I know now, why it is that superheros and heroines wear always their knickers over their tights. It’s taken me over fifty years to work it out, but I’m pretty confident I’ve got it sussed. I mean it can’t be just a coincidence that the first time I get a number directly associated with an emergency response reflex I get chafing. The irony is, that only yesterday I was talking to Fell Flying Smiley who related a tale about a fellow fell runner who’d suffered a chafing related wardrobe malfunction mid race. She’d ended up accosting a marshal for help in getting her knickers off up in the hills somewhere. (No, not like that – lawks a lordy you have a smutty mind!). She commandeered some scissors, and with a bit of a discrete snip on either side of her hips and the offending knickers were whisked away with the skill of a stripping pro aided by cannily situated velcro (apparently). I never asked what she did with the offending briefs now I come to think of it. I don’t know if she had to finish the race running clutching them in her hand; brazened it out with the knickers relocated to her head as an improvised buff; or sheepishly passed them to the aforementioned marshal for safe-keeping. I do know that she continued the race commando. Anyway, point is, I was a bit mystified. Who suffers from knicker chafing on a run I pondered? My situation today was a bit different, I made it round the 10km of the Longshaw trails without any need to recourse to direct action at the time. In fact I thought I was just fine and dandy and tickety-boo during the Trust10 event, and even afterwards, scoffing my scone, I was in oblivious ignorance of what was lay beneath (so to speak) but by the time I got home. Ouch. Not a problem I’ve had before, could slight misalignment between my leggings and pants be at the bottom of it perhaps? Well, I suppose that’s technically possible. However, very much more likely I think you’ll find, was that this was more accurately attributed to being a direct consequence of my run number for today. It seems that you cannot be a superhero/heroine, nor indeed masquerade as a member of the emergency services, and expect to escape a chafing injury, unless you correctly position your pants on the OUTSIDE. Learn from me dear reader, learn from me. The only other possible explanation is bad karma (devious appropriation of a run number using underhand means) but more of that later. What I do know, is that if I get this number again, my pants are going over the top! Though this is a pretty unlikely scenario, so no cause for public panic just yet…. Anyway, below you can see the evidence for your own eyes (not of the chafing) but of my number. In the picture I may look about 12 years old, but I am also looking pretty self-satisfied because of my BRILLIANT run number 999. Yay!
So today was the fourth Sunday in May. so Longshaw Trust10 day again. (Free 10k run at 9.00 a.m. on the Fourth Sunday of each month across the trails of the Longshaw estate). Hooray. It seemed to come around quick. In fact, it came around especially quickly for me because I had it on my calendar for next weekend for some reason, and so did lots of others. I wonder if it was on some promotional literature somewhere with that date at some point, and those of us who can’t count as high as 4 went with that date, rather than ticking off the Sundays as perhaps we should. Anyway, good news. Sunshine forecast, and a positive flurry of enthusiastic Smileys up for an outing. It’s always fun when we are a little gang out on a mission together somewhere. I nearly got a lift, but wimped out because 007 Smiley had to do some secret ops immediately after the run and would be making a speedy getaway. Whilst the idea of rocketing off in her open-top sports car, wheels spinning and hair flying as we hit the high road was most definitely appealing, a disappointing reality check dictated otherwise. Given, the speed I run round accepting the lift might mean forfeiting post-run coffee (and what’s the point in running 6 miles if you can’t have a latte afterwards? No obvious motivation there that I could work with in a meaningful way). I couldn’t compromise on this point so drove myself in the end. Cheetah buddy who I’d hoped might join us for her inaugural Trust10 is STILL indisposed with bone breakages (well a stress fracture times more than one, which amounts to the same thing) so in the end I went off on my own. I did feel guilty for doing so – not very environmentally friendly way to travel – but hey ho. These things happen. Yawn, you know the drill by now surely? Nice marshal to wave you in, park in Longshaw cafe car park, £2.60 for up to four hours. Beautifully fresh and green everywhere, the landscape has transformed itself since I was last there. Verdant spring has surely sprung!
I’m never quite sure who I’ll spot at these gatherings, but I’m pleased to report that immediately I saw compatriots from Smileys. Both our familiar Hallam photographer and his royal escort/ power behind the lens, surely the celebrity running couple in these parts? We skipped together to the cafe from the car park. Well, I skipped, they are both a lot taller than me, so that was the only way I could keep up. As we made our way down we compared training plans for the Round Sheffield Run. (RSR) I confessed that many of my training yomps with hobbit buddy have had a tendency to fall back into walking and talking as we are so easily distracted on the way round. ‘Look, a pigeon!’ or ‘look at that funny shaped twig/ bit of moss‘ one of us will shout, and suddenly we are both paused staring into the middle distance trying to work out what wildlife wonder we have before us. It is companionable, but not conducive to improving our performance. Regal Smiley admitted to having faced some similar issues of being easily distracted on her training runs with her RSR pair. It is so true isn’t it, about running being as much in the mind as in the body. Focus, that’s what I need.. now, where was I?
Oh yes, Longshaw. So traipsed into the cafe which was already filling up. It was however lots warmer than the last few times out, so nobody minded to much about spilling outside after signing up. I went to sign in and collect my number. Now, I don’t know if I should really admit to this, but what the hell, I’ll feel better if I do. The etiquette is, if you’ve been before you are ‘trusted’ (first mistake the Trust makes with its runners I fear, in my case anyway), to find your name, sign beside it, and then take a number off the top of the pile (yes, that’s The TOP of the pile) and write this number alongside your name so you can be identified in the event of any emergency. Well the thing is, the next number on the pile was 994 or something like that. I couldn’t help myself. ‘I wonder…. ‘ there were lots of people about, but nobody actually looking. It wouldn’t hurt to have a bit of shuffle through I thought. I hesitated, not because of any moral scruples, but because I couldn’t decide which would please me more, being adorned with the number ‘1000’ or the number ‘999’. I decided that whilst one thousand has a certain satisfying wholeness to it, 999 definitely has more comedic value. Plus, it might be even funnier if I put it on as 666 now and again, so a versatile number choice too! I snuck it out of the pile, and then evened the heap up a bit, to cover my tracks, before signing the registration sheet with a look of as much innocence and meek compliance as I could muster. Seconds later, at my shoulder is Regal Smiley. She was shameless – brazen even! ‘Oooh, I’ve got an idea’ she exclaimed, reaching over to the pile and having a shuffle through herself. ‘Oh!’ I had to ‘fess up. Well, I could hardly do otherwise as minutes later I’d be wearing the number for all to see. I thought it was hilarious though, that we’d both identified this as a legitimate source of making our own entertainment, and she was most gracious about being pipped to the post in this way. Well outwardly anyway, who knows how she will wreak her vengeance when next exercising her power of veto when reviewing parkrun shots in future. Still, that’s a risk I’m just going to have to take… Maybe now she knows about the associated chafing she won’t mind so much. I live in hope.
Back outside, my number on I got a few quips almost instantaneously, my bad etiquette being instantly rewarded. ‘Who you gonna call?’ and ‘Hey, emergency cover!’, that kind of thing. I smiled and shrugged it off with a nonchalant ‘I know, who’d have thought it/ what were the chances!‘ sort of demeanour. It was fun outside in the sun. a fair few Smileys had gathered. Here are some of us, aren’t we lovely? Actually, one of those pictured is strictly speaking a woodrunner, (not to be confused with a roadrunner, which is a type of American bird – a ground cuckoo to be exact). She is on this occasion to be awarded honorary Smiley status, because she is on the cusp of joining, so that’s OK.
Whilst we were posing for photos (thank you marshal who obliged), a few other happenings occurred. Some more tense than others. Turns out that there is a ‘friendly’ (pah, yeah, like really we all believe that) rivalry going on between Gentle George (our personal photographer at Sheffield Hallam) and the feisty Smiley non-Smiley who is now in fact a Smiley after all. She may have a winning smile and a fabulous collection of running leggings, but she is also a formidable runner, and she and George battled it out at Longshaw last time round. Keeping pace for pace much of the time. One swift and light on the flat, the other powering up them there hills. Today was a rematch. The tension was palpable. I wanted to get a photo of them eyeballing each other at the start, but felt it was a bit high-risk. Did manage to pap the papper though, in his club colours. I feel his agreement to pose for this picture is a gift to the running community. It is not quite as good as the one of him in the turkey hat, but it is a running-related one. In fact there are two, but one wasn’t taken by me… He’s the one on the left by the way. Sorry the action photo is a bit dire, but you are so rarely on the other side of the lens its the only action shot I’ve ever seen. Your public needs to know what you are capable of.
Because I was early, there was quite a lot of social milling around. Large Steel City Striders contingent. Smiley non-Smiley who is in fact now a Smiley tussled with me re my fleece, but in fact I was quite willing to give it up on this occassion. Partly I’m resigned to peer pressure now preventing me from running in my preferred gear of a duvet, and partly it was genuinely hotting up. Also saw a Rustling Runner buddy I’ve not seen in ages (grand to catch up my friend), though in my excitement at seeing her I just talked at her without breathing for 5 minutes, and then we had to go to the start. I must book myself on to one of those ‘how to interact with people in a socially acceptable way‘ courses, surely they still exist somewhere? Oh well, by way of distraction, here are some mingling at the start shots.
And here is a photo of a planted up wheelbarrow that was just outside the cafe, because someone put a lot of work into getting that done, and it deserves some recognition:
On time, we ambled down to the start. About 169 of us according to the results, of whom about 10 did a one loop 5k and one DNF. There was the usual safety briefing, and we all clapped at the point it seemed to be appropriate to do so even though we couldn’t really hear. I made my now rather stale quip to anyone who would listen about not knowing what we are clapping and hoping it isn’t someone declaiming ‘Trump for President‘ or something similar. The random person I shared this with laughed appropriately, but I had a sudden panic. Not only is my attempt at a joke conceivably wearing a bit thin now, what if one day I say this to someone and they look nonplussed and declare themself a Trumptonite or whatever. I maybe need to review my pre-run quipping strategy. Food for thought…
At the shout for off, the collective torrent of GPS devises being turned on beeped as one.
I was further ahead in the start tunnel line up than usual as I’d been encouraged by Regal Smiley to give it a go at a new point and stand with her. I felt a bit of a trespasser, and very short. Well, I am pretty short I know, but I found myself amongst Amazonian people. Maybe they really do only cover the ground so much faster than me because they have longer legs? To be fair, these unfamiliar surrounding runners definitely did make me start off quite appreciably more quickly than I do usually, I was so scared about being trampled I put on quite a spurt. I didn’t want to revert to being ballast too quickly. Thanks lovely Longshaw team for the photo 🙂
Off we went, like soldier ants in search of a dead animal. Despite the heavy rain of the last few days the trails were surprisingly dry on the whole. Lovely and bouncy in fact. I boinged off with the best of them. Off on the road, sharp right onto the tarmac path, through the little gate and sprinting past the flowering rhododendrons (I think that’s what they were). Onwards, past the lovely lake, hopping over a couple of puddles en route. An injured Smiley was on gate duty at one point, it was sad that she can’t run at the minute, but nice to have her encouragement ringing in my ears as I passed. Through an open grassy area along a pretty decent footpath, and then into the wooded area where it was a bit muddier underfoot, but basically fine. You have to pick your way a little bit more cautiously as there are a few tree roots and rocks, but it is quite manageable. The route is well-marked with little pink flags, and the occasional more prominent sign if you need to turn off the main path at any point. In the wood, our multi-talented marshal who had earlier been besporting himself with my camera obliging us by taking photos was now pointing towards where we needed to exit the wood and head up to the hills. – By the second lap he was saying (with some justification) ‘hurry up, my arm is hurting!’ ‘Good point well made‘ I called in reply, because it was.
Then there is a short (but doable) scramble onto a new path – you do need to watch your balance there a bit where the route opens up onto ‘proper’ off road. There is a sort of sheep track type path across the moor. This bit does have a couple of boggy sections, and if it’s been raining (as earlier in the week) you will get wet feet at some point for sure. There is one brook that requires a mini jump or a complete stop so you can take a longish stride across. However, although it is definitely across moor, it isn’t technically challenging and it is fun! Hard core runners no doubt sprint up here effortlessly like mountain goats on speed. I have no idea, they have never still been in sight of me as I reach this point. I prefer to consider it a legitimate tactic to walk up these bits, and so save my energy for the flatter bit which follwos. Also, this way you can chat to other runners whilst walking. (I was passed by almost the whole field of other Smileys on the run at this juncture, all of whom said encouraging things to me as they yomped on by). If you really don’t care about times, then it is worth turning back to look at the view too. It was gorgeous today. You could always pretend you were looking out for one of your other club runners that you were concerned about if you feel self-conscious about stopping altogether. The photo that follows was lifted from the Peak District National Trust facebook page and was taken at a different Longshaw Trust 10, but shows the route and terrain beautifully:
At the top of this hill is a cheery marshal who I have a feeling always has this spot. He has a friendly word of encouragement for everyone who passes, and is a runner himself (did the half-marathon earlier in the year). He always remarks on the Smiley Paces vests, memo to self, Smile, always. You are representing all smilies when you wear the club vest, no room for Ms GrumpyMcGrump face if you are! After this rather deceptively savage climb, you get onto a woodland service track, so if you have any energy left you could pick up speed. It is flat and even. It is straight for a while, then marshal man with bike (who was wearing shorts today) was there to point you up hill again. This bit feels steep, and today anyway, was probably the mudiest part of the course, but it isn’t all that long. You emerge at the top and again can pick up an easier even path, that leads to another car park where friendly marshals shout encouragement. From here it really is only one tiny bit of uphill before you get onto a lovely wide flat, well-drained grassy footpath that means the end of the first loop is in sight. From here you just dive through a narrow opening by a gate and down the gravel path to the car park where you will be met by a guard of honour (a squad of timers at the half-way/ finish point) and you can do it all again. Yay! (or not, some people do the 5k as one lap, but I dont think you get an official time for that, though your participation is recorded). Here follows a shot taken from the Longshaw Facebook page of the long flat final sprint bit, you can see why I like it – look at that view! At about this point a marshal was coming towards us clutching a takeaway coffee. I was rather hoping it might be mid-point refreshments, but apparently not. That innovation has yet to happen…
Up until this point I felt I’d been running pretty well, (though later Strava told a different story). I was scampering along the home run, and chatted a bit to a woman who was walking the same path and asking me if I’d remembered to look at the view, which I had, and it was indeed spectacular. However, just as I had the gateway in sight I saw a runner grounded. Two other women reached him before I did. I didn’t see what happened, but he’d taken a hell of a fall and was quite bashed up. A faster runner whizzed by and said he’d get help, while the three of us offered assistance as best we could. Eventually he said his wife was in view – it turned out it was she I’d just been exchanging pleasantries with – and that he was OK. I was about to continue running when an extremely polite girl appeared like an enchanted sprite out of the mists (except she wasn’t a sprite and there wasn’t any mist) and said ‘if you are a Smiley, can you tell me if you have seen my mum?’ It was very sweet, and I was quite chuffed that uncharacteristically a small child hadn’t run away from me screaming like I was the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but rather was spontaneously engaging with me. I felt bad that I couldn’t help. Her accompanying adult appeared and so I explained it was a two lap course and we were near the end so hopefully the family was reunited somewhere round the route. I can’t believe any other Smiley’s were behind me at this point though. So after this delay of a few minutes, I picked up speed again, and continued, passing the organiser sprinting out to attend the injured runner. She was armed with a backpack that was so huge it must have contained not so much a first aid kit, as a National Trust sponsored mobile medical unit ready for deployment, so that was reassuring. If it turned out he’d not fallen but rather needed an appendectomy for example, I reckon she had it covered. (He was fine by the way, so happy ending, I like them).
Although delayed by events, the adrenalin meant I picked up speed and whizzed (relatively speaking to my usual pace anyway) round. Some spectators on a bench applauded me as I did so, which was heartening. I made a bit show of running as fast as I could and called behind me ‘I’ve been running like this the whole time!’ They laughed appreciatively, a bit too appreciatively possibly, but I’ll take whatever support I can! I got into a rhythm on the second lap, for a long time I wasn’t in sight of any other runners, so just went at my own pace, enjoying the scenery. I knew my time would be slow even by my standards because of stopping, and it was a relief in a way not to push on furiously against the odds. After a bit I caught up with some other runners who it turned out were first timers. ‘Does it get any easier?‘ they asked. I told them my secret. That basically I’ve given up trying to run up the hills in favour of power walking them, so I can save a bit of energy for the flatter bits. I suspect this means I get a faster time than otherwise I would, although I do freely admit the only way to get quicker at running up hills is probably to run up them ever more quickly which clearly I don’t really do. I did explain though the necessity of running when in sight of a marshal/ slash photographer, and they seemed satisfied with this run plan. We yomped off quite companionably for a bit of chunk of the route, though inevitably they did pull ahead of me in due course.
The second lap seemed to go really quickly. I was even hot running despite running with my arms exposed for the first time in living memory. Practically naked! As the finish came into view I got the full benefit of Smiley Support. Every available Smiley it seemed had hung on at the finish line to applaud home the final finishers. It was splendid! I felt like a celebrity rushing back to a chorus of people cheering my name. There are some adantages to being slow, fastest Smiley back would ironically enounter a wall of silence I presume? I felt so chuffed to be a Smiley. It is great being part of a supportive club, and fun to share running tales afterwards as well. We cheered back the last few, not many more behind me, and time to pose for a finish shot (containing one injured Smiley, one honorary Smiley pending joining, and one who wasn’t wearing her Smiley vest and needs to bring a note with her by way of explanation if that ever happens again). Nice photo though! Courtesy of our official photographer though devoid of his usual lens he had to rough it with someone’s mobile phone. Performed pretty well in the circumstances I thought. He was probably feeling pretty good about himself to be honest as he’d won this latest round of The Battle of Longshaw in the race with Smiley non-Smiley who is in fact now a Smiley (just so you know). There will be other matches to come though I feel sure!
So, all assembled, next stop was mandatory visit to the cafe, because that is what running is all about surely? I was going to have just a latte, but then Regal Smiley ahead of me in the queue was getting a scone, and that looked tempting. And then she got a little pot of clotted cream to go with it, and whoosh, that was the sound of my will-power vanishing into the wilderness. I had a glass of water, my latte (naturally) and a scone with clotted cream and raspberry jam. Yep, they even had a choice of jams, I mean really, that’s class isn’t it. Personally, I thought the coffee was a tad bitter today, burnt even, but nobody else seemed to notice so just me then. A few more end of events shots as we squashed onto one of the outside tables. I was a bit unsure about whether or not to share this photo as I don’t want to expose the identity of 007, but she’s disguised in sunglasses (or is she? Could be a double bluff…) as are a number of us so I reckon that’s OK.
So we did some putting the world to rights, but not so as you will have noticed, as we were a bit distracted by food, and coffee and running anecdotes, you know how it is.
Eventually, coffee drunk, scones scoffed, and a new stream of National Trust visitors in the form of an eleven a.m. organised walking group arrived and so we dispersed our separate ways. Another really glorious yomp out at Longshaw (apart from the chafing). I can’t believe we are so lucky to have this on our doorstep and for free really (I don’t begrudge the parking charge and no run is complete without coffee afterwards anyway). If you’ve not been, well why not? If you don’t fancy doing the 10k, quite a few do only one loop and that’s a 5km, perfectly respectable, plus you will be at the front of the queue in the coffee shop. I’m just saying…
So thank you lovely Longshaw folk for putting the run on. Special thanks for the cheery and cheering marshals along the way. Your efforts are much appreciated, even if sometimes runners pass you looking less than enthusiastic leaving little more than beadlets of sweat and curses in their wake as they pass on by, it’s just our little idiosyncracies in how we express our appreciation manifesting themselves.
Here is my (now traditional) shot of the impressive view from Longshaw, which I like to think will illustrate the changing seasons. Don’t disillusion me, please, I know it’s too dark so you can’t really tell what the vegetation is doing, let’s just pretend it’s helpful shall we? Thank you.
So happy running ’til next time y’all.
Also STOP PRESS crime pays. I get to keep my number. Everyone can! Well, not MY number 999, but whatever it is you end up running in. Save it, pin it on, reuse next time out, just don’t forget to write it down next to your name when you sign in.