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:
BRING CAKE AND WEAR FANCY DRESS
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.
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:
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. 🙂