Can you be semi-spontaneous? Or is that like being ‘very unique’? That is, not really a thing, but an abuse of the English Language. I ought to know given my TEFL toe-dipping adventures past, but I don’t really. Anyway, that is what this excursion to Longshaw was, so sue me grammar police, if you will.
The plan wasn’t initially to go to Longshaw Trust 10k. (Surely you know by now, friendly trail run 10k, free to participate, inclusive event blah de blah). The photo is courtesy of the NT Longshaw site by the way, thank you for that. Anyway, this weekend I’d got a friend visiting (I know, they are multiplying, not only do I have a friend who sends me cards, I have another one that I used to work with who actually came to stay. Can’t accuse her of being an imaginary one at least!) We used to work together in another life, and have kept in touch, but not actually seen each other for more years than I can remember. She’s very much into fitness, but not really a runner, but then I don’t know if I am. I mean, I know I’m not a gym bunny, but the running moniker still sit’s somewhat uncomfortably with me. Anyway, we did parkrun on the Saturday, and that was a success, but initially she felt a trail run the next day might be a bit much. However, it seemed that so delightfully friendly were my Smiley buddies in greeting us both the day before, and so great was my kudos by association when I was greeted by name in my local running store* on the previous Friday that she had a change of heart. (*Just for clarification, I consider being greeted by name in this way to be a symbol of having ‘arrived’ in the running community, and not at all a measure of having drawn inappropriate attention to myself through poor running techniques and/or etiquette in some way. I do not wish to be disabused of this fact just in case you were thinking of sharing unsolicited views.) I have a good record with personal recognition in local shops. When I used to live in Leamington Spa (the timeless wonder) the post master in my local post office used to hilarious dive under the counter for cover whenever I entered. What larks eh? What larks!
So it was when Sunday morning dawned (I use the term loosely) Longshaw 10k it was to be. Yay. ‘Why not‘ announced my kindred friend, ‘shame not to‘. Well quite.
The reason I use the term ‘dawn’ loosely, was because, despite it being August Bank Holiday Sunday, we were greeted by an almost autumnal mist. It felt like dawn never came. I’d been going on and on about how lovely it is round Longshaw, especially with it being heather season, as it was, we could barely see out the window for my ‘head out the attic window’ weather check. This was not the plan.
We clambered into my newly acquired and barely driven automatic. I used to have an aged manual, but after 17 years sterling surface, it spectacularly failed its MOT a few weeks back. I had been managing carless, but now have a new to me automatic. We are not yet friends, me and this new car. I was so freaked out by my first tentative drive around the hills of Sheffield that I resorted to phoning my local (lovely, friendly and in my experience helpful and non-judgemental) garage for advice. I explained that whenever I go up the hills of Sheffield (which is basically every time I go anywhere at all) I feel like I need to change gear, but obviously it’s an automatic, so you can’t. He asked questions about my vehicle. Now you need to know that I am not really interested in cars. I once got into trouble with a four-year old who asked me what car I had. I said ‘a red one‘ he said that was a stupid answer, he meant the make of car, probably model as well. Well, my new car is a blue one, and an automatic. So, nice man from the Garage listened, and then asked how old the car is (old, relatively speaking, about 10 years). ‘Ah‘, he said knowledgeably, ‘I think you probably just have an early version of automatic, a jerkomatic probably‘. ‘Really?’ I said. ‘No‘ he said. ‘Doh‘. I thought.
I’m normally quite good with dry wit and sarcasm, but it appears where cars are concerned this by-passed me entirely. I really shouldn’t be allowed out in public, and definitely not engage in unnecessary interpersonal interactions. Anyway, upshot was, he offered to give it a quick test drive with me just to check it for safety and this is what happened. Turns out my car is indeed a jerkomatic, and when it changes gear it sort of plunges into it. It is not a defect in either the car or my driving. It is however disconcerting. I just need to get used to it. It’s a shame that I was still getting used to it when I was transporting my friend through not just mist, but full on fog en route to Longshaw. It made for a more harrowing journey than you might reasonably expect. It was honestly a pea-souper out there early on, really strange. I’m ambivalent about cars. I wonder periodically if I could manage without one, I hate driving. Then again, even though I don’t use it all that often, when I do it is really useful. My running experiences, pitiful as they may seem, would be even more lamentable if I didn’t have transport to get to the trail races outside of Sheffield. Maybe when I am a proper ultra runner I’ll just jog to the start of Longshaw, have a sprint round, and lope back. Plenty of runners seem to do so, not quite my league yet though, not yet… Here is one, emerging through the mist. Not looking altogether inviting I grant you. Probably wont be getting a stream of urgent messages from Longshaw Estate begging me to let them use this image on their Facebook page.
So we got there, and parked up. Despite the bank holiday and the sea fret conditions, there was quite a buzz. It was fun on arrival introducing my visiting kindred to the great and good of the running community, I built on my shameless ‘glory by association’ with runners and GB triathletes various at parkrun the day before. Fortunately my running buddies are friendly and inclusive, and all proffered a warm welcome. Unfortunately they are unnecessarily self-deprecating about their achievements, but no worries, I could big them up afterwards. I have no need to be modest on their behalf.
I love Longshaw 10k. It’s super friendly, well organised, and basically one big love in for the local running community. There were lots of reunions. As well as compatriot smileys, I encountered monday mobsters; parkrunners; accelerate woodland runners as well as familiar faces from other events and running clubs. I even came across my new best friend/ photographer who recently outed herself as the tumbling party who fell early on at the Whirlow 10k. She should not be characterised only as an accomplished trail somersaulter, since she is also half of the celebrity photography couple that take shots at many fell races hereabouts. Think Torvill and Dean only with cameras rather than ice skates as their major accessory. I can’t remember who was who to be honest, so there’s a limit to how far I can go with this analogy. I don’t know if I was addressing Torvill or Dean. I’m bored now. You’ll have to fill in the details for yourself. Was it Torvill and Dean or am I thinking of Orville and Harris? There are just so many celebrity couples to choose from, it gets overwhelming.
I’m pleased to report that, mercifully, she appeared to have recovered from those injuries and scrapes, yay! Less mercifully she was however nursing longer term ones. There was some very impressive taping and strapping up in evidence. A pleasingly gung-ho ‘it’ll be fine‘ mentality As in ‘well, granted I do have a few twinges, injuries, underlying biomechanical weaknesses, but where is the harm in a sprint round cross-country for 10k whilst effectively blindfolded due to the opaque running conditions? What could possibly go awry? It will be just the job to help me assess just how debilitating those underlying twinges really are!‘ I love runners, you have to appreciate their (our?) optimism, hope over experience perhaps, but cheery in outlook nevertheless! We took pictures of one another in an act of photographing reciprocity (my, there is a word that’s hard to pronounce). Technically, it may not have been entirely reciprocal (as in equal exchange) as she knows how to frame a decent photo and I do not, but let’s not quibble. Here we are. Each with our respective buddies. Aren’t we lovely, and isn’t that taping impressive? Actually, the photo doesn’t entirely do it justice, you’ll have to imagine the weaving at the back.
So after being distracted by greetings en route, we went to register. Personally greeted by the lovely NT Sports Development Officer who once again pulled off a super friendly and well organised event. I think it’s fair to say she was a bit taken aback by how many turned out, but hopefully in a ‘that’s grand‘ rather than ‘what is this monster I’ve created‘ sort of way.
Toilet queues, friendly exchanges with first timers. ‘how slippery is it exactly, will I be OK in road shoes‘ and eventually a whistle blew to encourage us to make our way to the start. Is it only me that gets an uncomfortable flash back to school PE lessons on hearing that noise? It isn’t so much a flash back, it’s more like an out-of-body experience, I travel back in time to that moment, and my stomach knots. School games sessions were not my friends either.
Three briefings were given on the start line. Play nicely and be careful out there were main messages. We were advised that there shouldn’t be any cattle on the course, as any on the estate were safely behind walls today, so unless they’d jumped over something we should be fine. Well, that’s all well and good, but it did rather suggest that this meant should we come across a cow it would be a particularly super athletic and possibly demonic one, that had gone to great lengths to reach us. Cows are good jumpers. At least one has been documented as having jumped over the moon as any child who had attended pre-school in the UK could probably tell you.
Then, suddenly, we were awf! The mist was thick, and there was an eerie quality to the run. If you don’t believe me, have a look at this link, which I’ve borrowed from the Steel City Strider Facebook page . Thanks Sam Needham, fantastic footage of the start of the Longshaw 10k August bank holiday Sunday 2016, wooooo it’s spooky out there! Click here to be amazed by the video footage of mysterious beings emerging from the Longshaw mist.
As I romped away from the start, I heard a cheer of encouragement from a Monday Mobster who was atop a mound on a good vantage point to give a meerkat inspired shout out! Thanks for that, every little helps….
Although there seemed to be quite a crowd at the start, there were no bottle necks today, not really, perhaps we’ve got better about ordering ourselves in the start (speedier runners towards the front) or maybe there were fewer than I thought. The official results say 127 completed the 10k, and I know there were some DNFs and people who did the 5K loop and called it a day too, so that would boost the numbers a bit. The one who isn’t Torvill or Dean, depending on who was who (i.e. the on this occasion non-running partner who was responsible for photography today) did indeed take some snaps. I think he may even have done this whilst running himself, but that was confusing. Once again, the pair make their Longshaw 10k photos available, but politely ask for modest donations to Buxton Mountain Rescue if you choose to use them (see this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/The-Jeffs-fell-photos) Here are some action shots to get you in the mood. Come join us next time, if you haven’t already it’s high time you did!
So, off we romped. Fortunately, even though I was excited to have my kindred visiting, she understood about my not being able to run and talk. Therefore, rather than set off yomping together in a companionable stride for stride rhythm, we agreed to completely ignore each other on the way round. It was lovely to be back at Longshaw, and it looked gorgeous in the mist. Friendly volunteers appeared now and again like ghostly figures (as much as it is possible to appear ghostly and mysterious when wearing hi-viz) and cheered us on. Despite the mist, it wasn’t cold. It was perfect running. Recent rain had made the trails springy, but not all that water-logged. The going was good.
I didn’t do too badly at first. But my, that first steep hill coming out the woods is still steep. I freely admit, I gave in to the inevitable and started walking quite early on. Then I heard a shout behind me. A fellow Smiley had decided to disrobe en route. A sort of running variant on getting your 25 yard swimming certificate when you also had to perform complex manoeuvres whilst maintaining speed. For the swimming certificate you had to dive down and pick up a brick from the bottom of a pool whilst wearing your pyjamas didn’t you? Do they still do that even? I’ve always thought if I was about to drown I wouldn’t bother to dive down amongst the shopping trolleys at the bottom of the canal looking for a brick to bring back up with me before I resurfaced. Maybe this ignorance about swimming etiquette is why triathlons don’t appeal to me? That, and the possibility that you will collide with a deer en route. Anyway, her running context variant was to rip off outer smiley vest, which she handed to me whilst we power walked on together, and then she removed her T-shirt from underneath before restoring the Smiley Vest to her person and shooting off again at a run. It was all very slick. We were like an olympic standard baton handing over team. Unfortunately, we were a bit like one of the olympic relay teams which got disqualified from not doing their baton exchange properly, but I’m sure you get the general idea. I am merely illustrating that it was warmer than you might have thought from the surrounding mist.
Another runner was like me going for the power walk option. We mutually quipped that this was all part of our overall running strategy, pacing ourselves, aiming for a negative split. (I’m still not entirely sure what that means really, but obviously I feigned understanding and nodded earnestly). In fact, I learned from this knowledgeable Steel City Strider that what we were doing was following racecraft. That’s good to know, I must admit before I had that external validation I’d had an inner voice telling me in no uncertain terms that I was actually slacking. After our conversation I could crush that unhelpful voice to oblivion by pointing out that ‘au contraire‘ it was all part of my larger game plan. Unfortunately, as I am unable to walk and run at the same time, this internal dialogue required a brief period of being stationary before I hoiked my weary carcass over the wall (thank you smiling wall marshal for being encouraging) and then it took nigh on super-human effort to get going again. But I did dear reader, I did!
The strider strode on ahead, as striders are want to do Later on he fell over unfortunately, but seemed to be walking wounded so that’s OK. Them there hills can literally as well as metaphorically catch you out, need to be treated with respect. Also, if my stalking of the Steel City Striders Facebook page is correct, he really only fell over due to a hex put upon him by other runners beforehand. It had at the time seemed to be but in jest, events on the day however suggested otherwise. I’m just saying… competitive lot those Striders.
As we yomped round, the mist seemed to start to clear. The volunteers were as ever a cheery crew. One seemed to wave enthusiastically from miles away – although granted on closer approach he turned out to be midge swatting and dodging (to little or no avail to be honest, but he could but try).
Coming to the end of the first lap you are greeted by a little squad of volunteers, supporters and time keepers which is very jolly. They do fine work cheering you round. I’m wondering though if, now the event is more established, they too could up their game. I’m thinking more of an official cheer leading routine. Not necessarily involving baton twirling (though that would be lovely of course) but possibly some human pyramids and cartwheels. That kind of thing. They could take inspiration from here:
As I started the second lap, I became aware of some more hardcore runners with ultra back packs closing up on me. They had come to Longshaw not for the 10k, but as the starting point for a 20 miler I think. As they first passed me, they quipped about having gin and sandwiches in their packs. A little later they graciously (though unnecessarily) gave way to me as I was obviously ‘in a race‘ (they concluded this because I was wearing a number rather than the speed at which I was covering the ground methinks), anyway, this forced me to yomp off with more speed than I could feasibly sustain, with the inevitable humiliation of them overtaking me again about 100 metres later. Not to worry, I asked them to go on ahead and set up a trestle table and get the hamper out ready for me with the veg option sandwiches, which they assented to, before annoyingly heading off on a different fork in the path meaning I’d never see them again. I wonder what sort of sandwiches they had with them? Now I’ll never know.
There was another photographer out and about today. Usually nobody is. So here are some more gratuitous running shots, lifted from Facebook, for which I thank Jo Carnie.
Sam Needham was also on a roll – love this shot:
For the second lap sun the came out! An amazing contrast, it was like we’d been teleported to a different climate zone. The volunteers second time round had apparently colluded with one another to make their own entertainment. By this I mean, they all seemed to have taken some steps to change their appearance. A man and a woman at the ‘wood turn’ were now in possession of a rather sweet dog – which I’d swear wasn’t there before. I was disproportionately pleased to see it, and cooed delightedly at its unexpected arrival … and then as I ran off on my merry way I thought perhaps that was too appreciative of the canine and not sufficiently appreciative of the volunteer marshals, so I shouted back ‘you are lovely too of course!’ in a vague belated attempt to, if not exactly apologise, at least restore some modicum of decency by expressing my overt appreciation of the volunteers’ labours.
Another trio of marshals had become a duo. Dont know if there was some sinister cause to that or if it was just natural wastage or ‘creative differences’. Another marshal had moved away all together, having disappeared from her post which involved standing in a car park and pointing us towards the whole in the wall and the last uphill bit on the way home. Another still had disrobed her upper body, having removed her jacket in order to disguise her appearance entirely. All enrichment for the observant runner. Weird climate for volunteering today, nippy start, hot finish, and no doubt plagued by midges too. Marshals, I salute you.
As usual, I was almost, but not quite, last back, but hey ho.
Managed to track down my kindred who’d had a good time but bowed out after 5k, and took a few snaps of Smiley buddies coming home together at the finish. One big love in.
No time to linger for coffee today (which felt very wrong to me) but we had to head off as coach to catch. Just a few rushed farewells and promises to meet up again for next month’s run. I feel so lucky we have this on our doorstep. Sad to be heading off just as the sun was really coming out, and showing off the heather in its last few days of glory before it fades away again.
Just one minor tomtom upload panic when I got on home, (we all know by now I think that if it’s not on strava it didn’t happen) due to my laptop just unilaterally turning itself off mid upload. However, after this unexpected phut – it recovered, and I hadn’t lost the data after all. I hope it doesn’t mean that my computer is in its death throes. Hopefully just having an off day.
So there we are, another Longshaw 10k done and dusted. Long may it continue!
For video footage of mysterious beings emerging from the Longshaw mist I thank Steel City Strider Sam Needham. Thank you to other photographers whose images I have used, Sue-Nigel Jeff and Jo Carnie.
To see all my accounts of running the Longshaw Trust 10k trail follow this link.