Monthly Archives: July 2016

We all just jogged to Jakarta! Longshaw Trust 10k first birthday bash triumph.

Unlikely sounding I know, but apparently that is what has happened.  I have basically just jogged to Jakarta!   A.Maz.Ing.  This is not even a Wikipedia stat, but a National Trust produced one so it absolutely, definitively must be true.  Not that I intend to check it out for myself, I’m not Strava enabled to that level of detail or indeed competency.

What happened was this.  Another day, another running anniversary.  This time, it was for the Longshaw Trust10 First Anniversary.  Doesn’t time fly eh?  Though only when you are enjoying yourself, not necessarily when you are actually running in my experience.  Nevertheless, it is apparently one year, almost to the day, since the inaugural Longshaw Trust10 trail running event first started.  Today, 24th July 2016, was therefore something of a special occasion.  Yay! Definitely called for bunting.  Actually, I have to concede the festive bunting that was out and about en route from the Longshaw car park to the tearooms, was evidently part of the standard Longshaw summer services National Trust recruitment and Longshaw Estate information display team offer, (not quite the Red Arrows to be fair, but jolly all the same) and not birthday specific for the Trust10 anniversary celebrations, but if you can’t parasitise someone else’s bunting on your birthday when can you?  Certainly got me in the party mood on the yomp down to registration.  Then again, I’m easily excited and entertained as has been pointed out to me before by say, The Runderwear Ambassador who I encounter out running at regular Sheffield area running events.  (She knows who she is, and she speaks the truth).

So, for those of you not in the know (sigh, where have you been), the Longshaw Trust 10 is basically a timed 10km run (twice round a scenic 5km off-road lap), held on the fourth Sunday of each month at Longshaw estate at 9.00 a.m..   Free to participate, just get there in time to register at the tea rooms from 8.15.  Keep your number for future events if you can, more blah de blah of the Longshaw 10k calendar is here.  Bring money for car-parking (if not a National Trust member) and for post run coffee (allegedly optional, but really, do you want to miss out on a posh latte with your trail running buddies?)  Anyway, today, as well as being the fourth Sunday of the month,  was the first anniversary of the inaugural Longshaw Trust10 run.  Hooray!


In honour of the occasion we didn’t sing happy birthday to us (shame, seeing as how it’s finally legal to sing Happy Birthday on the record) I think we should have personally, but I am guilty of contributory negligence and will concede it could be my fault for not being more proactive and kicking off a communal rendition during the pre-run briefing I suppose.  However, we did get a very jolly flier explaining some of the many and various milestones achieved over the past year on the run at Longshaw at the finish.  Honestly, I would have preferred a more traditional party-bag with a balloon, stickers and maybe a piece of cake to be handed to me at the end of the run, but let’s not be churlish.  The leaflet was interesting too, and may yet provide useful pub-quiz fodder in the future if ever I should be required to say how far it is from Longshaw to Jakarta for instance.  Surely only a matter of time before that question comes up!

trust10 birthday facts

So, anyway, yes indeedy, we were given some Trust10 birthday facts to peruse.  I am assured there won’t be an exam as such, but surely great kudos in regurgitating some of these stats to your running friends (or indeed to your non-running acquaintances should there be any you have been looking for a discrete way to ‘unfriend’ by making them drop you for whatever reason), therefore, for your edification and in expectation of your no doubt unbridled enthusiasm and inadequately expressed gratitude, I will repeat some of the key points below:

In one year 1260 runners have taken part from 46 different running clubs (that’s loads actually isn’t it?  Very impressive.)   They have covered a total distance run of 11845 km.  Presumably the statistician who compiled this leaflet didn’t have their attention drawn to the fact that it’s just possibly one of the ‘runners’- (potentially even me) – might (just might) accidentally on purpose, have walked up some of the steeper bits, thereby slightly shortening the distance of actual running, but the principle is the same.  Surely, you wouldn’t be so mean-spirited as to quibble with that?  Anyway, assuming you are in fact in possession of a kind heart, and an understanding disposition, then you will perhaps also accept that this is the distance from Longshaw to Jakarta in Indonesia!  Ergo, we have all pretty  much jogged to Jakarta.  (Well, those of us who have ever participated in the Longshaw 10k have anyway.)  Go us!  That means, if we’d worked together a bit more, we might have ended up there (see picture filched from internet below), but personally I think Longshaw is just as lovely to run round as some tropical paradise, so don’t see that as a missed opportunity in navigation purposes.   Actually, whilst we are on the subject of orienteering (yes, we were), I will just mention to anyone thinking of coming to the next Trust10 but nervous about the route finding aspect, that it’s incredibly hard to go wrong at the Longshaw 10k, what with the pathologically friendly marshals to direct and cheer you round complementing the zealous pink-flag marking of the entire route.  There is no real getting lost potential here I’m afraid, if you were banking on that as your excuse for not giving it a go…


I’ve been to this Trust10 a few times now and I love it.  Gorgeous trails, mixture of terrain, friendly marshals, toilets for precautionary pee purposes (including nigh on unheard of innovations  in the context of other off-road running events, like toilet paper and hand driers), and proper coffee available in the tea-rooms afterwards (with optional cake and other refreshments).  Incidentally, the tea rooms today seemed to be staffed by Smiley Paces Sheffield Women’s Running Club progeny to a large extent, so I don’t know when that breeding programme was first thought of, but pretty impressive to see how it has come to fruition.   Here is a photo evidencing the availability of toilets pre-run, I resisted the temptation of taking one more ‘in situ’ so to speak, an act of restraint for which you should all be grateful…


Right, I feel I’m a bit out of sequence here, I’m going to return to more traditional chronology.  Life has got in the way of my reluctant running adventures of late, so I was a bit ho-hum about Longshaw this weekend.  However, when I was reminded a couple of days ago by a proactive Smiley – who shall henceforth be known as  The Smiley (with responsibility for logistics),  that it was taking place today as she posted on the Smiley Paces Facebook page to see who else might be going.  I had a quick check of the Longshaw Estate Facebook page (because it seems I can’t count to four and hadn’t realised it was this weekend), and realised it was not only happening, but it was the first anniversary run.  Couldn’t miss that, even if there was a mistake on their info and so they forgot to mention the usual requirement on anniversary runs for participants to wear fancy dress.  Still, it’s only their first year, the team are on a learning curve inevitably.

Having mentally committed to doing the run, I therefore dutifully carbed up the night before by eating a four-pack of raspberry mini-magnums (yes I did feel sick afterwards) and downing several large gin and tonics (need to keep fluid levels up too) whilst pinning my brilliant number 999 – onto my Smiley Vest in preparation for The Big Event.  (Can’t be bothered to explain again now how I came to be in possession of this coveted three digit sequence, but suffice to say crime pays and life isn’t fair, sad, but true.  Just like Brexit).


On waking this morning it was hot, hot, hot.  Running didn’t seem quite so appealing.  I’m feeling pathetically unfit even by my own standards, but fear of missing out is a powerful motivational force.  Coffee drunk, trail shoes donned (and other appropriate running clothing too), Smiley Vest to have an outing, even though this meant I’d need to wear a vest underneath as I don’t have the body confidence to flaunt my upper arms to all and sundry (I know that’s stupid, but at least I’d conceded that it wasn’t going to be a day when I’d get away with running in my fleece).  I headed off in my phutting car (MOT on Tuesday, not looking good, wonder if it will be our last shared adventure together) and was at the carpark nice and early.  I met the carpark marshal and his dog whilst I was getting my parking ticket.  Both were friendly.  On seeing me, one crawled towards me almost incontinent with rapture at the very sight of me, rolled on to his back to present his stomach for caressing, and then licked my hand in obvious appreciation and delight as I dutifully delivered the requested tummy rub.  I’m not saying which of them it was that behaved in this way, though to be fair, you can probably guess.  I wish I had the confidence to get away with such blatant demands for attention in public places.

I’m not good on dog breeds, I think it was a Yorkshire terrier.  It was somewhere between a Great Dane and a Chihuahua in size if that helps at all.  No?  Sorry about that…

On to registration via the bunting and my regular view scenic shot.  Still not perfected the composition, but in the interests of continuity here it is:


I was nervous about going today, but felt better as I approached the runners already gathered and saw some familiar faces.  Accelerate woodrunners, newt-spotting pond-watching group, and, of course compatriots from Smiley Paces.  Not so very many of us, but quality not quantity I think you’ll agree.  A few first timers were in evidence, encouraged by The Smiley (with responsibility for logistics) Facebook post to attend.  She herself was  playing hard to get, and not in evidence.  I’m thinking we can all learn from this, by her absence she created a tangible air of eager anticipation as we looked out with bated breath for her arrival.  It was a veritable media circus.

What’s that?  Why was I nervous? Well, just off form really.  Granted my form is generally nothing to write home about (do people do that any more?)  It was fear of being in Moulin Rouge, or do I mean cafe rouge?  Hang on, not cafe rouge, I’ve boycotted them (they must be really scared) ever since a waiter skidded on a chip whilst carrying a bowl of soup to an adjacent table to mine, and sent the whole bowl in a perfect arc which upturned all over me and got in my hair and on my coat and everywhere.  I was with my Dad eating out at Cafe Rouge in Leamington Spa (oh the timeless wonders of that place) at the time, and didn’t want to make a fuss (special meal for some reason) so said no harm done, just give me £5 for the dry cleaning bill and the manager (true story) said couldn’t possibly do that without seeing the bill first. I am still seething to this day, not so much at that response, but that I didn’t pursue it and make a scene, they were lucky I didn’t claim for burns and hair-wash etc etc, as it was I didn’t even get payment for dry-cleaning bill, nor so much as a complimentary glass of wine.  So NEVER GO TO to LEAMINGTON SPA cafe rouge, or if you must, please speak not of it to me.  Yes, I know it was a quarter of a century ago, but I have a long and bitter memory.

So it must be Moulin Rouge then? No, wait, I remember, it was fear of Lanterne Rouge!  Easy mistake.  For those who are not avid Tour de France followers, or have not otherwise picked up this phrase from cycling enthusiast friends, this is the term used for the final finisher in cycling races.  According to Wikipedia

The Lanterne Rouge is the competitor in last place in a cycling race such as the Tour de France. The phrase comes from the French for “Red Lantern” and refers to the red lantern hung on the rear vehicle of a passenger railway train or the brake van (USA caboose) of a railway freight (goods) train, which signalmen (USA dispatchers) would look for in order to make sure none of the couplings had become disconnected

Lanterne Rouge

So basically, I was worried about coming last. I don’t know why, I have often been last at running events (Wingerworth Wobble and Bamford Sheepdog Trials Fell Race just for starters)  but I’ve lost a lot of confidence with my running, mainly because I started off crap, and have got worse over time.  Possibly because I don’t train enough, but that’s probably a knee-jerk judgement, surely it must be correlation with not cause of my ineptitude.  I don’t mind being last generally speaking, but I sort of wanted an anonymous run today, and it’s hard to be anonymous when the whole organising party of an event are peering over the horizon in hope of a sighting and wondering at what point they need to trigger the call to air ambulance and/or helicopter mountain search and rescue.  However I gave myself a pep talk, and decided that there is great dignity in coming in the final position.  It is in fact a particularly important  function at any running event.  The yin to the yang of the first finisher, last woman or man home completes the event.  They should be celebrated, and indeed some are.  It doesn’t matter what speed you go at, you are still running the same distance, and arguably showing greater stamina than earlier finishers by more time spent out on the course!  You run, therefore you are a runner, speed doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t.  The picture isn’t me by the way, though I agree the likeness of our silhouettes is uncanny (apart from the baseball cap, obviously)!


A bit of time was spent doing the runners equivalent of dogs sniffing each other’s arses.  In one case this involved trying to remember what we were supposed to include in a warm up routine for a running event.  Regrettably, it took us so long to remember the acronym and what the various letters stood for (RAMP – though this version isn’t THE version we’d been working with on wood run) we didn’t have time to do any of the actual exercises, which was just as well, we’d have been knackered before we started otherwise.  Then, on the whistle, we dutifully trooped down to the start.  There was a triple briefing as we were reminded of the hazards (coos on course had a ranger in attendance, but we were on our own with the boulders, tree roots and uneven ground).  Triple briefing because the poor run director can only project her voice so far, time for a whip round and a megaphone purchase I say.  We were warned/ advised that a National Trust photographer was present to record this momentous day, it being the first birthday and all.  I think it was National Trust not National Geographic, but it was a bit hard to make out so we shall see…

Reasonably punctual start, and awf we went.  Blimey it was hot.  Soooooooooo humid, I set off at a reasonable (for me) pace, but was soon inelegantly dripping.  I do like this run though, you are quickly by the lake and through a couple of gates where smiling marshals are in attendance.  Into the woods there was a marshal clutching fronds of fern which she used to fan herself.  I was hoping she would create enough of a turbulence in the air to cool us passing runners as we sped by too, but that was not to be.  I’m not really sure about the butterfly flapping it’s wings causing a tornado somewhere else anymore to be honest.  There was ferocious wafting of foliage going on here at Longshaw and very little obvious airflow as a consequence in my experience.

Various people were out and about, some were probably family and friends of runners (special shout out to the kids in their white shirts covered with red-spots, very cool attire referencing tour de France); two women sat deep in conversation on a rock at one point apparently oblivious to  their positioning right on the migration route of runners passing directly in front of them.  Some slightly startled dog-walkers either gave way to the moving tide or didn’t, runners negotiating them like water round stones in a fast flowing stream.  There were also lots and lots of ants en route.  Not running as part of the throng, but being pissed off about having runners thunder overhead I expect.  Imagine finding your previously quiet rural escape was now on a flight path for fighter jets.  That’s the best analogy I can imagine.  I’d be annoyed, bet they were too.  I quite like insects, they get a bad press.  These were I think wood ants, but I couldn’t help wondering if maybe the high heat and humidity (did I mention it was HOT) might have brought out some flying ants too, but I didn’t stoop down to inspect closely enough to confirm.  Now flying ants are spectacular insects indeed, coming out on certain days of the year in their hundreds to find new homesteads.

Incidentally, have you seen that Stephen King film The Mist, with those massive scorpion flies?  They remind me of flying ants.  Those people in the shopping mall were stupid though, what did they think would happen with all those bright lights wedged against a plate glass window when it was all dark outside?  Have they never encountered the phenomenon of moths to the flame? Nor indeed ever watched a horror film?  Idiots.  Here are some gratuitous wood ant and flying scorpion ant creatures shots to break up the text.  You can google The Mist film yourself and live with the humiliation of that coming up on you internet search history at some future point in time and work on your own excuses as to how it came to be there…  I’m going with the wood ants identification for now, until I hear to the contrary.  Hope they weren’t too disrupted by our pounding on their patch.

Shout out to regular marshals (man with bike) and some new faces too.  The parking marshal with the dog, and with the tummy to be rubbed, had relocated to keep an eye on us coming through the mini car park you have to pass through en route.  Spoiler alert –  I had thought we’d hit it off, me and that dog, what with sharing the tummy rub moment, and all that euphoric licking, but I can report it completely ignored me when I passed him again en route.  Maybe he was playing hard to get.

I can’t talk and run, and because of my pace (pretty slow to be fair) I did a lot of today’s run on my own in zen like meditation.  This does reduce the scope for anecdotes, unless I make them up, but that’s hard.  I will say though that I was disappointed not to see Pokemon Go trekkers in action.  Everyone is going on about this like it’s some kind of plague, but I haven’t really got any idea what the appeal is. Mind you, as I don’t have a smart phone I guess I’m not their target audience.  Even so, I was a bit disappointed by the omission of this particular demographic group at the Trust10 event, as I was wanting to make the point that there is an incontinence product being advertised regularly ton the telly just now hat I would swear has a Pokemon character randomly appearing in it as a speaking bladder.  Or is that just me?

So, back to the run, without Pokemons.  There was the haul up the hill which was a killer in the heat.  Only the flies stirred up from the bracken provided motivation for me to halfheartedly pull away at a half-run half-shuffle pace.  The tracks today were the driest I’ve ever known them.  I was in trail shoes, which I always wear for this run, but in honesty you possibly could have got away with road shoes today.  At the top of the hill is a dry stone wall. There is always a marshal stationed here.  I like to tell myself this is because it’s a sensible vantage point from which you can survey much of the run, inwardly I fear it’s because it gives the marshal a good laugh watching weary runners heaving their drooping carcasses up the steep gradient of that killer hill… The marshal today was encouraging though (as they invariably are) and on the second circuit even offered water.  I took her up on the offer. She handed over a sports bottle warning that loads of others had slurped it previously.  Heading her words, I unscrewed the top, and tried to pour water untainted by contact from other unknown and sweaty runners, directly into my mouth.  Turns out I’m a terrible shot, most went down my front.  I risked looking like a wet T-shirt competition, but you know what, it didn’t half cool me down. Thank you saviour marshal. I don’t normally carry water on a 10k, but today was ridiculously tough in the heat.  Time for a contour shot I think.  Let me see if I can get one from Strava.  610 ft elevation, which doesn’t sound much when you write it down, but felt like it today, and obviously 6.4 miles, ever so slightly over 10k.

longshaw 10k (2)

I enjoyed the second loop.  Longshaw is really gorgeous to run round, I don’t know why I’m so tardy about going there spontaneously to run or walk in between the Trust10 events, oh hang on, yest I do.  Terminal inertia, that’s it!  On the second loop, as I approached the finish a random passer by was cheering us last few runners home, ‘you’re the best looking one I’ve seen so far‘ he called at me as I rushed past.  Now, I’m very aware this sounds incredibly inappropriate and creepy when I write it down, but it weirdly enough felt encouraging at the time.  He didn’t specify of what I was the best looking example of the day, so maybe that’s partly why.  Anyway ‘you too‘ I cried out in response (only seemed polite to do so) as I romped along the final few hundred metres.  It’s fun once you have the end in view.  There is always a little clutch of volunteer marshals and organisers and sundry earlier finishers to cheer you in which is a very cheering sight.  With the warmer weather there was a quartet of Smiling Smilies waiting too, which was extra nice. I retrieved my camera from the cafe and got to cheer a few final finishers too.  Including, our elusive The Smiley (with responsibility for logistics) who had done a Zorro like secret arrival just as the runners departed and joined the back of the throng as we set off apparently.  Hooray!

I also took the opportunity to get the organisers to pose for a mother and daughter shot.  I’m not entirely sure of the ethics of this, does my desire to capture this relationship on film amount to collusion with the practise of elder abuse?  Mum claims to be happy enough, but really, standing out there in all weathers noting the times long beyond the point where her fingers have gone numb and for no recompense beyond the breathless thanks of passing runners… it’s hard to be sure.  She seemed to be genuinely chuffed by the recently acquired timing technology though, might look like a manual adding machine to you and me, but in reality it is the secret of how they record timing successes of the Trust10 team.  They look happy enough though don’t you think?  Thanks for organising, you are a great team, great motivators, and great cheeriness whatever the weather.

As the final finishers came home, the National Trust/ National Geographic photographer was on hand to record the returners.  He recognised our logistical smiley as  they had previously met at some event ‘Ah it’s The Smiley‘ he said warmly. Hence I have a frame of reference for logistical Smiley henceforth. The Smiley, it shall be.  How very apt.

I downed the  bottle of water I’d brought with me whilst waiting in the queue for coffee.  Eventually I was suitably accessorised with a freshly brewed latte elegantly served by Smiley Paces Progeny as previously referenced, I then joined my other Smiley compatriots.  In my absence they too had been accessorised. Not with conventional party hats, but with much coveted Trust10 shocking pink bobble hats.  I hadn’t brought mine with me, it was at home with Fraser Bear (I wonder if he might be a bit hot in it actually now I come to think of it, maybe I should take it off…)  They were looking suitably chuffed, and indeed in party mood.  Who wouldn’t be in similar circumstances.  Cue, much posing with hats.  I think we shall probably all have to wear them at the next possible opportunity, mid-summer or not.  August bank holiday Trust10 run?  Bring.  It.  On.

As we sat, the temperature dropped a bit which was  a relief, and we managed to get a willing passer by to get a whole group shot.  Well, I say ‘we’ actually it was one more assertive member of our group acting alone who facilitated this, but we were grateful for both her negotiation skills and personal initiative in doing so.  Nice photo, aren’t we all lovely and suitably smiley on this occasion:


So coffees drunk, the need to return to the realities of life forced us eventually to make our move, stiffly.  Creaking my way back up the grit path to the car park I was a bit confused.  I seemed to be making such heavy going of just that 200 metre stretch it seemed nigh-on impossible that I’d lumbered round the 10k earlier, even at a PW rate. Ah well, that’s one of the mysteries of Longshaw I suppose.  You really should give it a go if you haven’t already.  Next fixture Sunday 28th August 2016, diarise it now, you know you want to!

So that’s all for now.  Thanks for reading…

If you feel like acknowledging the bounty of Longshaw and the National Trust for putting on this free event, they state on the same flier that:

‘We do not charge for the Trust10, but if you would like to donate to the upkeep and protection of the Peak District text PEAK to 70123 to donate £3.’  they add small print to the effect that ‘This is a charity donation service.   You will be charged £5 for this call plus one message at your standard network rate.  The National Trust will receive 100% of your donation’ (which presumably means the reference to £3 above was a typo).  ‘If you’d rather we didn’t contact you in future, text NOCOMMS NT to 70060.  If you wish to discuss this mobile payment call 0203 282 7863.  A Registered charity in England in Wales (no: 205846)

So now you know.

Happy Running.

Oh, and if you are bored, you can read all my posts about Longshaw Trust10 events here: or not, you choose.

Categories: 10km, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A flood of festivities: Sheffield Hallam parkrun party celebrates six glorious years

Digested read.  We had a party.  We got wet.

Awkward aren’t they?  Summer parties outdoors.  You’d think you’d be alright in July  wouldn’t you?  I mean, especially for a parkrun party, where you only really want a window of an hour and a bit, is that so very much to hope for? Well, apparently yes.  Today brought with it torrential rain.  Not to worry, fortunately parkrun spirit prevailed as only parkrun spirit can.  If anything, the inclement weather possibly added to the occasion.  What was the occasion?  Didn’t I say?  Sorry, it was Sheffield Hallam parkrun‘s Sixth anniversary.  Let’s get the party started.  Let there be cake!  Let there be prizes? Let there be a backward running challenge?  Let there be fancy dress!  Unfortunately, not everyone seems to have got that particular memo, but hey ho, quality not quantity eh?  Even if ‘quality’ might in this case mean a bit sodden, dubious and including some (hopefully) good-natured, light racial stereotyping to get the party started.  Still, they do say it is the thought that counts don’t they?  I hope that’s true.

Anyway, I’m jumping ahead of myself.  The build up really started last week.  An attention grabbing post went up on the Sheffield Hallam parkrun Facebook page:

Just a quick reminder for Saturday’s anniversary event. The fancy dress theme is Euro 2016 semi-finalist countries (France, Germany, Portugal & Wales). We will be starting a bit early with the prize giving (or possibly a round of applause depending on the budget).
See you there.

You don’t really need to read beyond the title do you, to get the general gist.  Cake and Fancy dress is always going to be a winning formula in terms of motivating people to turn up and run, and as for the actual ‘theme’ well, I just disregarded that, themes are way too complicated, and footballing themes are a bit dull so I figured it was just an opportunity to take Roger for another trot out and about.  I’m pretty sure it was a footballing theme last year, in fact I know it was, because at some considerable expense I got a referee’s top for £1.99 or something from some party supply company on the interweb – with a whistle and everything, and it didn’t arrive in time for me to use it. Curses, maybe I could show willing and wear that too.  It was still in a sealed envelope in the bottom of a wardrobe somewhere, unloved and unworn, what is the use of that?  The weather forecast was grim, though and my motivation for turning out for parkrun was flagging a bit.  This is how I imagined Endcliffe Park would look in the rain, and it pretty much did, to be fair, as those hardy few who turned out will no doubt testify.  This is the bridge at the end of the park nearest to the Hunters Bar roundabout, that underwater mermaid must have been getting a pounding:


Then the day before parkrun day (yesterday in fact) which is always a Friday (in case that helps my hobbit buddy who has struggled lately with the concept of days in the week)  I spotted an appeal in the parkrun newsletter, asking for regular parkrunners to participate in some research project or other by completing a survey prior to running.  I do try to do these when I can. I’ve done research projects of my own so I know how hard it can be to get enough responses.  Anyway, to participate, I had to sign up the day before.  As my regular reader will know, when it comes to running I am conscientious if not always keen, this means, if I say I will run, then run I will, albeit in my own inimitable way.  I’d done it, doing the survey ergo doing the run. The elements could hurl at me whatever they liked, I’d be there.

So, on waking, bit of a faff.  I had to dig out my referee top from the bottom of a wardrobe.  I had to do a bit of emergency surgery of Roger (I thought if I worked on his forelock a bit more, then there’d be less of the camel quips when out and about), and of course there was the online survey to be done.  I’m not sure about this one to be honest, its researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) who are doing research on motivation and performance, and were looking for 300 parkrunners to participate.  That’s all well and good, but I have a feeling in my enthusiasm for giving them some stats, I’ll have completely undermined the validity of their research by responding on a rather untypical running day.  They seem to want to see the extent to which you scored positively or negatively on a few questions responded to immediately prior to your run, might impact on your running performance for that day.  However, they don’t give any context.  I can’t help thinking that running parkrun backwards in fancy dress in torrential rain (just for example off the top of my head by way of illustration) might impact on my running prowess more than my current mood.  Also, no opportunity to factor in that I happened to find a handy bottle of gin and a family size bag of maltesers last night, that kept me going whilst I watched the film Prometheus (which I remembered I’ve seen before and was a bit dull really).  I hardly ever drink, and I’m thinking my gin consumption (even with the ice and slimline tonic by way of dilution) could also possibly impinge on my running excellence.  Then again, what do I know, I’m not an elite runner, and my nutrition for the Sheffield Half Marathon was built around fudgy wudgy bars so draw your own conclusions.


Soooooooooooo, eventually, Roger and I were up and out, bit later than planned, and trotting down to Endcliffe Park.  It was weird out, apart from feeling a tad self-conscious, I mean it’s not that I’m ashamed to be seen with Roger in public, but stepping out the front door is always a bit of an act of faith, particularly now they have put CCTV cameras around my flat for some reason.  (Hopefully not to check out for any infringements of the ‘no pets’ policy in the tenancy agreement).  It was odd out, I thought I’d left a bit late, but the streets were strangely deserted.  Just Roger and me, peering through his ears at the road ahead it was like the morning after the night before when all the comets fell in ‘Day of the Triffids‘ eerily quiet and streets deserted.  Where was everyone?

Oh well, to break up the text, here is a gratuitous duck shot.  Gotta love a duck.  You can’t be stressed with a mallard in sight I feel, you really can’t.  If you are stressed, breath in and out, and imagine a duck just like this one…


The only person I met going down was a woman who was deep in conversation with someone on her mobile phone, and pushing a rather unwieldy buggy occupied by a small child.  She nearly came a cropper as she started entering Endcliffe Park from Riverdale Road where there are some steep muddy steps at one of the side entrances.  I rushed to assist, and helped her carry the buggy down, and then she carried on her conversation on the mobile phone, saying it was OK because she’d had help from someone to negotiate the steps.  That was fine, but it occurred to me afterwards that she was not a parkrunner, and so would have been entirely oblivious to the fancy dress directive, and yet neither of us made any reference or acknowledgement of the fact that I appeared to be wearing a pony.  I love British reserve and reticence sometimes.  I like to think that she did clock it, and then had a moment of thinking inwardly ‘I better not say anything, perhaps she hasn’t noticed and/or doesn’t realise it is odd to be wearing a pony at fifty plus‘.

Even on arrival, the sign was up, and the start funnel in evidence, but apart from a solitary dog diligently marking its territory on the funnel poles no-one else was in view.  Where were they all?

It’s lucky that question is rhetorical, as I still don’t really know.  It just seemed to take a while for people to gather, and what was worse, I still hadn’t seen anyone else in fancy dress.   Did no-one else get the memo?  I mean, eventually a few European dignitaries arrived as part of Concorde twinning treaties various (France and Switzerland were particularly well represented) but that was for the anniversary celebrations rather than fancy dress surely.  All very odd…

I broke the ice by lurking next to those in national dress, and got my camera out in the hope of getting a few atmospheric snaps of the morning.  What I hadn’t adequately factored in was The Great Abandonment.  Inexplicably, it turns out that our resident photographer has a life outside parkrun!  I know, who’d have thought it.  He’d apparently had his head turned by fast cars and all that goes with that, and taken himself off to some go-karting convention or other at Silverstone or wherever instead of opting to stand around in the mud of Endcliffe Park in the pouring rain all morning.  Upshot was, I was woman with camera, and it seems cometh the hour cometh the woman, even if it isn’t the one you’d necessarily have wished for.  It seems some camera is better than no camera, well, that was the ‘reasonable assumption’ I’m not sure it’s necessarily true.  There were a few issues, that rather got in the way of the romantic ideal of chorus line to starring role when the lead is ‘unavoidably absent’. You might hope that they’d step up, and reveal their true talent by seizing the opportunity and so securing their meteoric future career in the spotlight and on the way to unending adulation, justified global recognition and glory.  This isn’t what happened.

In my defence, there were a few barriers to my success.  These include:

  • I am not George
  • I am not very good at photography
  • It takes more than point and push to get a good photo apparently
  • My camera  is a point and push fuji, waterproof yes, telephoto lens no
  • I am really not George, not even close, even if I wore a turkey hat
  • I have no innate gift for composition
  • I crumble under stress
  • I don’t know how to use my camera properly anyhow
  • It’s actually quite hard to take decent photos at parkrun
  • I don’t have a ‘Power behind the throne’ editor, to save me from myself when viewing the photos after the event, who will pronounce unerring judgement on when to keep and when to delete.  It’s a worry
  • I am still not George
  • It was raining a lot
  • It’s hard to operate a camera and control a wild horse at the same time – in the circumstances the photos are of the standard you might reasonably expect.  Still, desperate times call for desperate measures I suppose.  I could but try…

So what I’m saying is it was more a question of cometh the hour, cometh the compromise.  Oh well, on the plus side George will be more appreciated than ever before when he comes back as parkrunners will have had a chilling reminder of what can happen when an untrained sub is suddenly catapulted into a role for which they are woefully ill-prepared.  Also, I like to think some of the photos have a sort of comic charm that may one day be viewed as post-perfection irony or something.  I could be creating my own ahead-of-its-time arts movement in a retro tribute to the days of Polaroids.You know what, I think I’m basically an artist doomed not to be recognised in my own time. Like Vincent Van Gogh, only with more ears.  I can live with that.  By the way, thanks must also go to my very own lovely assistant, who took over photographing duties when running commenced.  We thank you!  Here she is, so you can all thank her in person next week too (she is also not George by the way, in case of any confusion).  Thank you mysterious stranger/ new best friend forever.  She supplemented my camera, with her mobile phone, so fingers crossed, there may yet be some extra decent footage to come, I’ll add them to the album when they eventually come my way:


So, eventually,  a few more people did gather.  Quite a few to be fair, especially given the weather was looking distinctly ominous, dark clouds and high humidity, though quite warm to be fair.

The first thing that happened (after a bit of self-consciously standing around, and reunions various – including a very exciting moment when I got to meet the Smiley ambassador for Switzerland, on an official visit to the UK at the moment) was a call to a prize giving.  This is when, once a year, on the anniversary of the inauguration of the first Sheffield Hallam parkrun, the great and the good of the parkrun are recognised and celebrated.  Some got points for running prowess, others got prizes for all round brilliantness and commitment to parkrun volunteering. There were prizes for young and seniors alike.  Though I think the two prominent seniors win every year so maybe they just pay by direct debit or something to enusre uninterrupted trophy-weilding prominence.  I don’t really know.  Applause of landmark tee runners today (including junior brothers one of whom was doing his 10th parkrun and one his hundredth, that’s pretty impressive), and even a mention for someone who had a fortieth birthday today, who waved from the crowd appreciatively, but I couldn’t spot who it was.  Personally, I think you should be made to wear birthday accessories like sashes and balloons if you run on your birthday, for ease of recognition. Actually, it should be added into the parkrun rules in my opinion.  Just saying.  Thanks to the run directors, basically one big hug in really.  I did my best to snap away, and I hope there are some half-decent shots within.  Or at least what is lacking in photographic prowess is partially compensated for by the comedic content.  Well done everyone though.  Volunteers all, runners, the whole community that makes parkrun what it is, how awesome we all are!

There was quite a lot of appreciative clapping, and lots of smiles too.  It was definitely a feel-good start to the day!  Apart from when I went to give a hello hug to my pal and runderwear ambassador and nearly broke her.  Sorry about that, hope you feel better soon.  (Ooops).  Actually, there was another unfortunate moment when camel-calling Smiley turned up and spotted Roger again.  She mumbled some sort of acknowledgement that wasn’t quite an apology for the mammalian mix-up from the RSR (Round Sheffield Run) (He’s a horse, not  a camel, I’d have thought that was obvious).  We might have been able to draw a line under the incident, but you know how sometimes things go from bad to worse.  Well, I try to be sweet-natured and tolerant but there are limits.  It maybe didn’t help her case that she had her brother along with her.  It would have been OK, until he said ‘I don’t understand why you’re apologising when that is clearly a camel, and I should know, I’m a vet!’  Well, the outrage.  And you know what, he wasn’t even really a vet! (Though I suppose that’s just as well given his mammal identification skills, unless he specialises in reptiles).  I suppose the only benign interpretation is that they both have some variant of that face blindness prosopagnosi thing, you know, when you can’t recognise people’s faces?  Maybe they have that for mammals other than humans, they do all genuinely look the same to them.  I’ll try to let it go, but hmm, could be a challenge…  Back to the photos, the photogenic dog didn’t clap for some reason, don’t know why.  Looked photogenic though, which is the important thing.

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I exploited the opportunity presented by people standing around to try to get some shots of parkrunners about their parkrun business.  Particularly those who it seems had seen the memo and so shown willing in their dress choices for the morning.  Big it up to them please. They did good!

So after the great annual love in, the first of the big fat rain drops started to fall heavily from the sky.  I looked around for someone to take custody of my camera for a bit, and a volunteer stepped up (see above).  Yay.  Thanks for that.  It is she you must thank for the action shots that follow.  It being our anniversary, there are some joyous parkrun traditions to be observed.  One of which seems to have caught on, is the idea that annually on this day parkruns shalt run their course backwards.  One person on Facebook queried this. ‘Sorry this is probably a daft question but are we going to run the course in reverse or are we going to run backwards through the course?’  Talk about a missed opportunity!  Generally, I don’t like to criticise the organising team at Sheffield Hallam, they do a great job week in, week out, for little obvious recognition and reward (beyond that immeasurable warm inner glow of satisfaction at a job well done I suppose), and the new innovation of a social media lead has been a fantastic recent innovation, but really?   They clarified, ‘We will be running forward but doing the course the other way round‘.  I’m gutted, beyond gutted.  That would have been so much fun. Besides, my regular reader knows that there is a respectable (but admittedly small) backward running community, it would have been a hoot.  Oh well, there’s always next year.  Maybe I can learn how to hack the account and put out my own message in time for that…  This could have been us, it really could, and in fancy dress too!  Glorious isn’t the word.


So, a rough assembly at the start, a bit raggedy, it seems collectively we were easily confused.  Running in reverse (even when facing forwards) does add an element of chaos to the occasion, in  a pleasing way in my view.  It also removed any pre-existing pressure to run with speed.  There is a reason why the course is run the way it usually is, running it in reverse causes bottlenecks and congestion.  Hilarious though, and that is what was needed today.  So here we are at the line up… and awf

It was a bit of a laboured start.  Fortuitously, I found myself with the French contingency, which was fun.  Some helpfully sported berets to set off their stripey tops for ease of identification, others had flags as capes or helpful strings of onions around their necks, so that was fun.  (Though, for future reference, running with a string of onions is harder than you might expect, or, exactly as hard as you might expect, depending on how much thought you’d given it in advance).  I was near the back, and pretty soon we had to walk as after dashing  over the grass and splashing through the growing lake adjacent to the play area, we were thwarted by the bottleneck over the first little bridge for the first mini circuit.  It was all good-natured though, I  don’t think any of us this far back in the line up really cared about our start or finish position too much!

As we rounded the circuit, we were sort of getting into our own spaces. One poor woman was running with a very well-behaved but smallish dog.  To her absolute mortification, just at a critical turning point, it executed a perfect projectile poo whilst still in motion.  I did find this funny, the woman apologised profusely to anyone who would listen and no doubt dealt with the incident after I’d passed.  I haven’t seen a dog do that before.  I think it must have just got very over-excited at the start and missed out on it’s precautionary poo moment for whatever reason, suddenly had an irresistible urge for a motion whilst in motion.  It tried an emergency stop and squat, but too late.  Oh well, at least deposit was very handy for the dog-poo bin.

Onwards up the speed-humps (I know these as Jessica’s bumps in honour of her been once spotted at Sheffield Hallam parkrun – watching, not running though), and up Rustlings Road.  Bloomin’ heck!  How long does Rustlings Road feel when you have to run up it.  Didn’t help that it was still really congested.  The pavement is narrow, so you are stuck with whatever pace the person in front of you  is running at.  There were a few nifty juniors who seem to be able weave in and out and shoot ahead – where do they get that turn of speed from.  I just plodded on, pounding the pavements in my own special way.  There was a great moment when a junior runner asked his mum hopefully if they could take the short cut down the steps back into the park as we approached them. She laughed and said ‘that would be cheating‘ but personally, I was quite impressed by his navigational prowess, that child will go far!  I was pleased to be identified as horse-woman a few times and ‘that woman has a pony‘ so pah, you ignorant camel spotters ‘you must be the hump‘ indeed…  Look, I mean look, camel, versus Roger.  How hard is it?

So, back into the park, and downhill past the lakes.  As we passed the bottom lake, there was a bit of a commotion, an incident indeed!  Just ahead a few people crashed to a halt.  What could it be?  Well, it turned out to be a misplaced duckling.  Somehow, maybe because it was by this time so wet everywhere that the whole of Endcliffe Park seemed as one big lake, a lone duckling had become separated from its mum.  Don’t panic though, it was like a particularly exciting episode of Animal Rescue (only untainted by Rolf Harris, and not as funny as the one where a hamster got caught in a down drain pipe and the fire brigade came out to rescue it).  One of our French comrades, playing against type (unless she had her eye on the duck for Duck a l’orange later on, but I don’t think so, not really…) carefully halted the other runners, gently scooped up the duck, and paying little heed to the catastrophic impact this would have on her parkrun performance time, retraced her steps with anxious daughter in attendance. The duckling was diligently returned to the water, where we just to hope there was a joyful family reunion.  Very exciting though!

Here are some random running shots.  Thank you extra photographer.  In one at least you can see I was running too fast to be caught on camera, let alone seen by the human eye, so PW or otherwise from parkrun, I can put on a turn of speed when I really have to!

Alarmingly soon after this point, we slower runners found ourselves being lapped by the faster runners.  My they come through fast.  Most were courteous, but it was a bit hairy.  It isn’t so safe a point for overtaking when the course is in reverse. you have narrow bridges to contend with and water alongside.  Some did find a route through the slower runners, others shouted ‘to your left’ which was OK.  Less helpful were random shouts of ‘left’ or ‘right’ I didn’t know if they were meant to instruct us to keep to left of right, or warn us they would be coming through on left or right.  I appreciate fast runners want a good time, but maybe on anniversary reverse-route running day you need to recognise that’s just not going to happen and safety first eh?  Still, it was broadly fine.  The rain started coming down heavier and heavier, but it was warm, and it was strangely fun to be running in the rain, though Roger did mysteriously get heavier and heavier as we continued on our way…  Anyone would think he wasn’t a real pony with a coat enabling run-off, but rather a toy stuffed with super-absorbent materials.  Very strange?

The second lap was less congested, mainly because so many had already finished.  It was by now obvious that we were all going to get completely drenched, so best to just enjoy the sensation of running in the rain and resign ourselves to our fate.  It felt companionable, I got into that leap-frog running thing (not actual leap-frog, that would be silly, but when you sort of tag people who are running at a similar speed and then they tag you).  It was fun.  I met the junior clutching his balloon announcing his tenth run underway (sibling of one-hundredth runner) he was going great guns, and said he was happy with his balloon and wouldn’t want a pony instead, which I found surprising, but gracious.  Another child runner had it pointed out to them they were doing better than me and I had a horse to ride round (harsh but true).  Towards the finish, I found myself pacing with my new best friend from Switzerland.  That was grand, I like a bit of inter-cultural exchange.  Seems our Smiley Swiss ambassador might have support – even momentum behind her – to encourage her to set up a parkrun in Switzerland next year when she retires.  I hope if I write this in my blog it will become true!  They have a route in mind, it’s just time and money to get it set up.  I reckon though bit of a twinning exercise with Sheffield Hallam, some Smiley match funding (if we all chipped in a tenner say) job done.  I’d love a Smiley coach trip to check it out this time next year.  How amazing would that be!  Here I am posing with the Swiss ambassadors after parkrun.  I want this noted.  Documentary evidence I was there at the start, I reckon Swiss parkrun could be, perfect for a bit of parkrun tourism.


So, then I reclaimed my camera.  Amazingly, the sub photographer had been able to pick me out amongst the many runners, perhaps I don’t altogether blend in with the running community as well as I thought.  We were all hilariously drenched by this point.  Cue some photos of soggy volunteers (some better equipped for the elements than others) and soggy but still smiling finishers:

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Still dripping more than is usually socially acceptable,  joined the queue for barcode scanning.  Despite my quite brilliant barcode wristband #DFYB it was so wet it wouldn’t scan.  However, I can report that chivalry is not dead.  Such is the devotion to duty of our volunteer barcode scanner, that he sacrificed his very own dry (and as far as I know unused but I didn’t enquire too closely) hanky to dry off first my wrist band and then my finish token.  As he said, ‘Chivalry is not dead, though it is currently drenched‘.  Well, maybe drying out a bit by now, I hope so,  but I wouldn’t count on it.


The final queue of the day was for celebratory cakes.  Dedicated lot parkrunners, won’t let a bit of actual drizzle get in the way of say lemon drizzle:

So almost done now (which will be a relief for you if you’ve got sucked into reading this when you are supposed to be living your life say, or indeed any life at all).  Just had a moment of social awkwardness (well I had lots today, this was an extra one).  At the start of parkrun today, there was a special mention for a junior running his hundredth parkrun, but then the runderwear ambassador told me that he had a sibling who was also doing a milestone tenth run, and I just thought it would be nice to get a photo of him. The social angst came about because after some consultation I spotted said referenced children, but they appeared to be alone in the play ground, and even though I was disguised as benign with Roger alongside that might make me seem even more suspect.  After all, didn’t the child catcher arm himself with sweets and lollipops in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) it didn’t feel right to enter a playground and start photographing unaccompanied children, whether I was wearing a pony or not.


Fortunately, disaster was avoided by proximity of actual parents and other parkrunners who guided me through the social etiquette, hard though.  It’s incredibly stressful this photography malarkey!  Incidentally, at the time of photographing, whilst I appreciated their running prowess, I hadn’t fully appreciated the artistry that had gone into the personalised balloons.  Great work there – parkrun logo I think you’ll find.  Very good attention to detail, well worth capturing for posterity, however blurrily done!  (is that a word?  You will know what I mean I hope..)

I was a  bit giddy with excitement now, as well as being waterlogged.  Just time for a last few saturation shots, and an opportunity to live stream to the RSPCA a picture of the dog which (call me a dog whisperer) seemed less than enamoured of the Sheffield Summer soaking outside the Endcliffe Park Independent Cafe.

It was wet, did I mention it was wet?

And that was it really.  I did contemplate staying for coffee, and that was tempting (though I’m not sure if animals are allowed in coffee shop), but to be honest I was drenched through to my knickers and beyond (I know, but that is possible, everything was squelching), and thought I’d freeze if I didn’t head straight home for a hot shower and change of clothes.  I stuck my head round the door to say a few hail and farewells, was sad to say goodbye to Swiss Smiley, still same time next year eh?  And I shall look forward to hearing all about the inaugural Swiss parkrun at some unspecified future date and claiming fame by association.

And so we disappeared into the grey rain and mist of an English Summer.

Thank you lovely Sheffield Hallam parkrun people for the amazing community you have created.  And if you aren’t a hallam homebase parkrunner, and you want to know the blah de blah about the conventional course at Hallam parkrun then follow the link or better yet, come join the fun!  We are quite friendly on the whole, but also really shallow, so if you want to have an instantaneous network of new best friends just bring cake and you’ll fit right in.

You’re welcome.  🙂

For more posts of my Sheffield Hallam parkrun experiences follow this link

For my parkrun tourism excursions try here

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

Afghanistan’s Debut Marathon Woman

‘Everything is in the mind, you don’t have to train a lot’

Apparently, I’m not entirely convinced, but who am I to argue with the wonder woman Zainab, who last year, became the first woman in Afghanistan’s history to run a marathon within her own country?  That is brilliant of course, inspirational too.  But there is still a long way to go given that The Guardian article on which my post is based,  tells the reader that ‘* For security reasons Zainab’s last name and her home province have been omitted’

Zainab Afghanistan Guardian

The potential of running to bring about change, perhaps starting with individuals, and then widening outwards from there, is, I would hope, not all that contentious.  But I do think it’s easy to forget how some people , particularly women, are genuinely pioneers for the sport even today in the 21st Century.  If I have a ‘bad running’ day, I mean I lack energy or motivation, not that I have been pelted with stones en route or accused of being a ‘whore’ for having the audacity to pull on my running shoes and set off on a half-hearted jog.

It’s all in The Guardian article to be honest, but to tempt you to read it in full there follows an extract that I hope will illustrate just how the personal is indeed political, as well as how important it is to support such women pioneers in every way possible.  Money is great obviously, but recognition too, spread the word that she (and others too) is/are cutting a lonely path through so hopefully others will not only be able to follow in their wake one day, but have the confidence to do so…

‘Sport has become, for Zainab, a tool to encourage Afghan women to defy cultural norms and assert themselves in society. As part of a generation that hardly remembers Taliban rule, and whose values evolve faster than those of society, Zainab has seen many male figures of authority try to thwart her few options to exercise…

… Zainab’s participation in a marathon in Afghanistan holds more symbolic importance as it “opens up a large amount of space for other Afghan women to follow in her footsteps”, said Free to Run’s founder, Stephanie Case. “In Afghanistan, where women are largely confined to the indoors, when you run and when you hike and do outdoor activities, you are reclaiming public space,” Case said…

… Pushing herself, like most long distance runners, to the brink of physical and mental exhaustion, has taught Zainab a lesson she now applies in life. “Everything is in your mind,” she said. “You don’t have to train a lot. I didn’t have training but I have done it.


Thanks to The Guardian for the thoughtful article from 2015 all about how Afghanistan’s female marathon runner defies danger to go the distance they also have given us this ‘video‘, where Afghanistan’s Marathon Woman shares her experiences.  It is indeed ‘really worth watching – for women running in Afghanistan there are often immense challenges and personal risks. Last year Zainab became the first woman in Afghanistan’s history to run a marathon within her own country. The pioneering female runner talks about her training, her experiences, the opposition she faces when participating in sport, and her hopes to inspire other women and engender change.’

At a time when the world seems to be collapsing around us, Zainab’s endurance, literally and metaphorically perhaps gives a little ray of positivity, which we should nurture.

Incidentally, the Marathon of Afghanistan are fund raising at the moment, in order to increase the number of Afghan participants in this event.  So too are Free To Run, just so you know.

marathon of afghanistan

The Marathon of Afghanistan is a non-profit organisation and the race is free to enter for all Afghan runners. They explain the ethos and importance of the event better than I can:

‘All race entry fees collected from international runners are used to help fund the cost of arranging the marathon. Any surplus funds will be distributed to local charitable causes. …  

Why is it important?  Afghanistan suffers from many problems. An ongoing insurgency, ethnic divisions, drug addiction, economical stagnation, a lack of opportunity and equality for women. It also is a starkly beautiful country with a remarkable history and a wonderful culture and people. The Marathon is an event that gives normality and purpose to runners in Afghanistan. It helps to develop the sports events economy in the country. It allows runners from different countries and regions to meet and explore each others cultures. It is also the first ever mixed sports event in the history of the country. It is an important and symbolic event which provides a great sense of pride and hope to all those who are involved.

Free to Run‘s mission is

‘to use running, physical fitness and outdoor adventure to empower and educate women and girls who have been affected by conflict. We support those living within conflict areas as well as those who have been forced to flee and live as refugees outside of their home countries’

It was they, Free to Run,  who made possible Zainab’s Afghanistan Marathon debut.

Inspirational women are out there, let’s take a moment to celebrate them for being awesome, then lace up your running shoes, and get out there and run because we are so lucky that we can!  If that isn’t enough motivation for you, then remember, if you do run, you don’t have to feel guilty about that scrambled eggs on toast afterwards. Or cake, you could have cake instead if you like, with a latte, the choice is yours.  Or even just bathe in the explosion of post-run endorphins that are whizzing round your blood stream,  whatever works for you!

You’re welcome.


Categories: running | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

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