Monthly Archives: August 2016

Creatures of the mist? August bank holiday Trust 10k Longshaw.

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.

Longshaw heather from their facebook page

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.

2016-08-28 20.33.34

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:  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:

sheep pyramid

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:

sam needham photo

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.

last one home

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.

Categories: 10km, off road, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Visor Run

hobbit hash branded visor run

Just for the record this post.  Obviously, I’ve not taken my new visor off since acquiring (or should that be appropriating?) it from a fellow benevolent Smiley compatriot at the Whirlow 10.  However, today was its first official outing as a running accessory.  Naturally, it is only right and proper that I document this occasion.

It was a standard route for our Hobbit Hash today, straight up the Porter valley to the view-point a the top.  However, we still had much excitement by our mutual innovations in respect of our running kit.  I actually wore my Dig Deep T-shirt which has short sleeves.  For me, this is practically running naked.  It is true I only have a very limited repertoire in terms of my running wardrobe, but even so I tend to where the same top all the time anyway because it’s my favourite (pocket, long sleeves, flattering black).  I expected my hobbit buddy to be stunned by this wanton baring of my flesh, but in fact, she gazumped me clothing wise by upping the stakes and donning an entirely sleeveless vest.  I don’t really mind, but it is a bit childish to upstage me in this way.  I think she’d got wind of my new visor-ownership status (perhaps because I’ve gone on and on about it on Facebook and my blog) and was maybe worried she’d lose a bit of her position in the hierarchy as being previously the only one of us in possession of such a trophy.  So obviously she needed to bring the attention back to her with this brazen display of her arms in their entirety.

I don’t mind.  It’s a compliment really.  Our symbiotic running relationship can withstand this anyway.  We’ve squabbled over worse (recce of the RSR when she asked if we were nearly there just 7 km in to the 24 km route wasn’t the best day out ever.  I still don’t know which of us was most to blame for the miscommunication there, but lesson learned!)  Also, she more than compensated for this by pointing out that the Dig Deep T-shirt was the same for all finishers at the weekend.  Thus it is entirely possible (if in honesty not completely probable) that other walkers and runners out and about will see me wearing it, and naturally assume that I romped my way round the full 60 mile ultra rather than dragging my way around the 10k.  Yay.  What harm can there be in allowing such misconceptions to run on?  It’s undermining to individuals to continuously correct their innocent mistakes, who likes to be contradicted all the time?  Also, it isn’t practical to go around educating people as to the extent (or otherwise) of my athletic prowess.  What am I to do?  Run round carrying a placard saying ‘Don’t Panic, I only did the 10k‘, that would just be unnecessary attention gaining surely?

So, we walked and talked and half-heartedly ran in the unexpected heat, through the woods and right up to the view-point.  There we were particularly keen to try to get a shot of us both together in our visors. What did people do to entertain themselves out running before the days when mobile phones made it possible to devote time and energy in pursuit of the perfect selfie  I wonder? Anyway, this turned out to be quite a technical challenge.  It was a bit like those work team building events where you have to build a raft to cross a river using only empty water bottles, some bailing twine and some discarded polystyrene packaging.  Except that we weren’t at work, and nor were we increasingly willing each of our co-workers death by drowning with every passing minute. (Well, I wasn’t anyway.  I shouldn’t really speak for hobbit buddy, but I think we’re fine).  There was a timing device on her mobile phone, but getting it to stand up, and working out how long it would count down for before it took a shot was almost beyond us.  We ended up shrieking with laughter, and doing rather more running around the view-point column  in anticipatory posing positions than we had actually done running up the hill.  Whether or not it was worth it you can judge for yourself:

all about timing

You can see the sleeveless vest that hobbit buddy is sporting though.  In this picture my T-shirt looks practically long-sleeved anyway, so she definitely wins that contest!  Still, I’m working towards lighter weight running gear.  The point is, look at the visors.  Aren’t they fab, definitely go faster potential.

After a bit a cyclist joined us at the viewpoint.  My buddy suggested maybe we should start running again, and he encouraged us by pointing out that we’d done the hard bit, it was easy from here jogging on down.  So that’s what we did.  But not before I’d given a verdict on my new visor, and it’s potential to revolutionise my future running performance:

digging deep (2)

There you go.  It also makes me look about 11.  I don’t know if that is good or bad, but it is funny.  Definitely still got my puppy fat, so maybe that’s why.   I’m surprised they believed I was in the VW 50 category at the weekend.  (That’s Veteran Woman, not Volkswagen).  Anyway, injinji marketing must be thrilled to have me as a product ambassador.  Thank you Smiley Elder for passing on such a treasured trophy.  🙂  and Thanks Hobbit Buddy for another grand romp out!

That’s all, short but sweet.

Happy running.  Don’t forget to don your visors if you are heading out in the sun and heat, and off you go!



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

Winging it at Whirlow – Dig Deep 10k 2016

Accidents will happen, every runner knows this.  As my regular reader will know, entering this year’s Whirlow 10k was somewhat inadvertent on my part, but hey ho, you have to make the best of things don’t you?  As it all turned out, this event was super-friendly, very well organised, and even the sun shone (though ever so slightly not for the ultra runners the day before).  Still, those participants are no doubt all so hard-core they romped round barely noticing the inclement weather.  Go them.

The digested read is I went, I didn’t go fast, but I had a lovely time thank you for asking.  The longer read is below, it is long, it is not compulsory:

rainbow dig deep photo

So, for the uninitiated, the Whirlow 10k is part of the Dig Deep Race Series weekend in the Peak District.   For those of you who like the blah de blah, the website gives details as follows:

Whirlow Hall Farm have organised a 10K race as part of their biggest annual fundraising event, the September Farm Fayre, for over 10 years.

The route has been chosen because of its stunning scenery and the varied nature of the route. It’s also chosen to be a ‘challenge’ so it’s certainly undulating, mostly uphill in various gradients for the first half and mainly downhill for the second, with a good last push uphill! Whilst most of the route is on good tracks and Public Rights of Way it also crosses some tricky terrain. Expect to run on mostly manicured trails, grassland, field edges, some road and a little open moorland. Please be sure to study the route map before the race. The route will be marshalled at key points and well signposted, please be sure to follow the specified route exactly as we have been careful to get the relevant permissions for the areas it covers. Please take extra care when crossing roads, we will do our utmost to notify and slow traffic at the crossings using marshals and signage but it is your responsibility to stay alert and only cross when safe to do so. The race will be part of a festival of running to be held at Whirlow Hall Farm Trust in Sheffield. As well as the Whirlow Trail Challenge race there will be the 60 mile Ultra Tour of the Peak District, a 30 mile Ultra and a 12.12mile race. Camping and parking is available at the venue, please notify us in advance if you would like to camp.

Whirlow Hall Farm Trust is an educational charity based on a working farm, providing a ‘classroom in the countryside’ to children in South Yorkshire. Learn more about the Trust at

Personally, I don’t take too much notice of course descriptors before hand, as I find them demoralising.  They are often scary with way too much emphasis on having to run and there being hills.  Instead,  I had taken the precaution of contacting the organisers in advance to see if you needed to be able to navigate for the 10k and they said not, so that was good enough for me.  I’d also been stalking a Facebook conversation about the 10k which gave the route from last year, and it was basically up Porter Clough Valley, through Lady Canning and back down Limb Valley, all my home patch so I figured even if I went wrong, it would be nigh on impossible to be lost in absolute terms.  I’d be able to find my way home like a sodden homing pigeon if the worst came to the worst.

So, race morning dawned.  There was a bit of a nip in the air, which was good, as I was worried about it being sweltering. Coffee drunk and porridge consumed, I squeezed myself into my Smiley Paces vest.  Currently it does me no favours in terms of my overall silhouette, but I live in hope that one day I will wake up having metamorphosed my frame from what might be charitably termed ‘work in progress’ into ‘athletic physique’.  In the meantime, every Smiley member knows that the Smiley Vest is imbued with magical Smiley powers. You get to feel part of the bigger team, and it really and truly does seem to generate extra support on the way round.  Hoping not to bring the club name into disrepute I hauled it on.  Because of my paranoia about being late, it was ridiculously early, but I decided to head off anyway.  Even though I’m local, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to Whirlow Farm before, and I wasn’t 100% sure where it was.  I see signs to it now and again as I roam the streets in the environs of Whirlow, but the place itself seems somewhat elusive.  It somehow seems to be constantly in your peripheral field of vision, but as soon as you turn your head to find it, it’s gone…

There was light drizzle and bright sunshine.  As I approached the venue, I saw the most fantastic rainbow over Whirlow Farm.  It was gorgeous, so much so I jumped out of the car to capture a photograph:

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I know, it looks singularly unimpressive in the shot.  My point and go camera just couldn’t do it justice.  You just had to be there really, if you weren’t, take my word for it, or not, as you wish.  Fortunately, the clever camera operative from the Dig Deep Team was in situ taking a much better shot of the/a rainbow over the heather elsewhere.  So you can compare and contrast his offering with mine.  No need to share your scores out of ten for each though, I think our respective photos can speak for  themselves.  Still, nice opportunity for me to illustrate to you that there was some dedicated event parking which was reasonably well signed once you were alongside it, less so as you approached.  It wasn’t immediately obvious from the parking where you had to go next to register.  Because I was so early, I initially went down to the ‘proper’ visitors car park to see what was going on (well, frankly it looked like a bit of a trek from the parking to what was probably the start area, and I didn’t want to get puffed and red-faced before I’d even got to registration.)  In the proper carpark, I was even more disoriented, no clear signs and I met another runner cruising around asking where we were supposed to gather.  I directed her towards the field parking and went to explore for myself.

2016-08-21 08.09.24

So, turning the corner towards the farm ‘proper’ it all started to make sense.  Firstly, can we take a moment to say this venue is simply gorgeous!  Beautiful stone buildings, with lovingly tended grounds.  Just in from the HUGE sign for registration, was a pigsty that could have come straight out of a Beatrix Potter book. Two contentedly grunting pigs in their stone-walled sty came out to have their backs scratched and check out what was going on. From their perspective the whole Dig Deep weekend of running activities was presumably put on as part of an enrichment programme purely for them.  Pigs are intelligent animals, they need stuff going on around them to sate their curiosity and keep them happy.   A two-day activity festival of this type would be just the job.

It was maybe a tad unfortunate that a bit further into the bowels of the venue was a pop-up breakfast stall doing a quick trade in bacon sandwiches.  From sty to bap in a heartbeat.  Oh well.  I’m vegetarian, and there wasn’t any veggie substitute, but fair play, it is supposed to be an educational farm and that is the reality of the farming cycle is it not, except the pig was in rather nicer accommodation than is the industry norm…

2016-08-21 08.19.30

The registration area was really well run, it was like entering a parallel universe.  A huge barn provided an under-cover space for signing up, picking up numbers etc.  There was a massive area for the pre-event briefings and even a pretty impressive seating area where  you could rendezvous with friends old and new drinking coffee or go and browse the frontrunner stall that was up and open by the time I got there around 8.30 a.m..  (Way too early, I know, but on the plus side, plenty of time for precautionary pees a-plenty, always a boon!)

Registration took seconds, there were different tables for the two events taking place today (10k and 12.12), I was handed a dibber (though I was confused about how I was supposed to put it on, and indeed where – ankle?  Wrist?), and helped myself to a technical shirt from the massive pile available.  The shirts are great, a relief to have a tasteful blue after the monstrosity of fluorescent lime that was the dubious reward for doing the Sheffield Half.  Number supplied, safety pins available, all done and dusted with nearly 2 hours to go, plenty of time for a bit of an explore…

My exploratory investigations were rewarded.  I not only found a very fine cup of coffee, but also the no doubt normally free-range resident of the barn, who had been tethered in a far corner for safety purposes for the duration of the event. I’m surprised they didn’t make more of him really, but perhaps they tacitly acknowledged that capacious as the barn was, the elephant in the room (thanks frontrunner for the video)  was really that it couldn’t possibly ever be big enough for such a fine specimen as this who by rights should be covering hundreds or even thousands of miles a year during annual migrations.

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Whilst in the queue for coffee I met a very friendly chap who it turned out had done the 60 mile ultra the day before. I thought he looked pretty fresh in the circumstances, apparently it had taken him 20 hours, and the conditions were appalling.  I sympathised.  Empathised even.  As I said to him, I myself had been caught out in a heavy shower whilst at a BBQ the day before, and taken refuge under a gazebo. That level of discomfort is no doubt identical to running 60 miles across bog, in the dark, fueled only by taking on gels in a runners variant of Russian Roulette  – never quite knowing which gel will be the tipping point that makes you heave…  His high point yesterday was meeting another runner who let him eat some of his recently acquired hot chips.  The cautious consumption of four proferred chips was as near to touching heaven as this runner had ever experienced apparently.  However, he explained that alas, he was too scared of breaking with his planned nutrition regime to risk eating any more, but I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere…  If Nicky Spinks can have chips and curry on her Billy Graham/ Double Bob Graham run, then I’m sure real food must be the way to go on other ultras.  If ever I do up my distance, I know I’ll be taking a picnic hamper with me anyway.  Still, interested as I was in his running experience, I couldn’t entirely suppress the pursuit of my own self-interest ‘ooh, did you run with a dibber yesterday?’ I enquired. Yes he did.  Long story short, I got him to put mine on for me, (onto me, not onto him) which was embarrassingly obvious once you knew how.  For the record, you wear it on the wrist, dibber downwards, and put it on fairly snug so as to avoid it falling off or moving around too much when you run.   Fair play, his had stayed on for the sub-aqua ultra marathon, so those little paper wrist bands are made of stronger stuff than you might think.

After my coffee, and having a quick cuddle with a black labrador puppy which was obviously learning to socialise and just LOVED everyone it met,  I went for an explore to see the start.  Phew, it was a bit of a puff up that hill, reality check was beginning to kick in.  It’s not good if you feel breathless just having a sneak preview at the first 100 metres.  As I walked back down to the shed rendezvous, I saw another competitor gingerly picking her way through the mud down hill.  Blimey, she’s super-cautious I thought.  Inwardly smugly congratulating myself for my more confident striding out… until it dawned on me that she’d probably also just finished an ultra a few hours previously, some people are machines to get round that distance in that weather!  On the table at the start/finish was a weird extraterrestrial multi-tentacled black and orange sea anemone like creature.  On closer inspection, this revealed itself to be a bumper crop of finish medals.  Oooh, how exciting!  I briefly wondered if it was like Jack Straws, and if I helped myself to one whether the whole lot would disintegrate, but decided to wait ’til I’d earned it at the end.

Having done some pottering about, time had passed and I started to see other people I knew which was fun.  Big shout out for my Endurer Buddies.  Yay!  I love those guys. I have done two endurer dashes with them, during which my job was to be a dead weight so they could feel hard-core by carrying me round.  I think that was it.  Anyway, they are OCR addicts, their Facebook pages a constant flow of pictures of them running through fire, and swimming through mud.  I’ve wondered for a while now if one of them is just really nifty with photoshop, but then again, here they are, looked ripped and raring to go.  Maybe it is true after all!  Frankly I’m amazed they acknowledge me in public, I must be their old lady mascot.  Still, grand to see them, plus lots of gratuitous hugs and whooping which is always a moitvational boost and positive affirmation on any occassion.  They were ‘only’ doing the 10k as a warm up for the Snowdon man v mountain rat race marathon in a couple of week’s time.  As a training exercise, they’d therefore be wearing packs to carry extra weight.  I wish I’d known, they could have just carried me round instead.  Oh well.

The sun came out.  I found the loos (very nice provision, portaloos a plenty as well as  proper toilets for the farm – though these were somewhat flooded).  I then found other Smilies, yay!  It was nice and companionable.  We sat and chatted, and people watched together.  One Smiley was recounting her experiences at the Graves 10k earlier in the year.  Don’t know quite how she ended up hallucinating, but by the end she was convinced the entire route was paved with diamonds.  It wasn’t, she was seeing reflection of discarded water bottles playing in the light in her own Don Quixote moment.  Blimey, some people really do run to their limits, that’s never happened to me…

We decided to get a pre-race picture together, and press-ganged a passing woman who made the rookie error of making eye-contact with one of us as we were trying to identify a suitable photographer.  She patiently took a few shots… and then did it all again when we (ok, well I) complained because none of the first ones came out.  It was a training error rather than an operating one.  I hadn’t explained about needing to hear not just the ‘beep’ which is putting us in focus, but the ‘click’ sound afterwards to be sure of getting a shot.  She didn’t do too badly by us in the end though.  Here are some of us Smilies, full of vim and vigour in our vests.  I think though maybe I should start to travel everywhere with a soapbox to stand on to help me out in the height stakes now and again.

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More people gathered.  Smilies in pursuit of the 12.12 had kit to consider as well as distance.  One had some inside information that there had been some mischief on the course yesterday, with a few rotated signs so it was as well to be familiar with the approximate route despite the little flag markers which were in evidence.

We dispersed temporarily to do our own various preparations.  Dump stuff in car/ have another pee/ collect dibber/ engage in vigorous strategic warm up routine.    The others did all these things.  I aimlessly wandered back into the barn where an unsuspecting pair of runners asked me if I knew the route for the 10k.  Now, in my defence, I was honest with them.  I did say ‘no‘ but then again I did also say ‘no, but…‘ and proceeded to tell them about how the organisers had said it was well-marked, but that someone who did it last year had explained the route up the porter valley blah de blah and, for good measure, I told them to look out for rotated signs.  My I felt good about myself.  That lovely feeling when you’ve been able to bestow helpful advice on other runners. Get me and my immeasureable magnificent magnanimous-ness.   Sadly, this warm self-congratulatory glow was short-lived, but it was fun whilst it lasted.

Together we waved off the 12.12 starters who sped away at 10.00 a.m. prompt. and then, shortly afterwards we were all gathered for our own pre-race briefing, and (this is when my warm smug glow evaporated, brace yourself…)  were reminded the course was completely different from last year.  Oh crap.  I spent the rest of the briefing scanning the crowd for the pair I’d so comprehensively misinformed about the route earlier.  Couldn’t see them.  OMG they might die out there because of me, how to make amends?

What with all the mingling and socializing at the start, I was a bit taken aback when we finally had to head off.  I think we departed pretty promptly, and it was indeed an instant climb.  It didn’t take too long for me to wonder what had possessed me to enter.  I was doing more puffing than running.  Only the humiliation of stopping too soon, (by which obviously I mean still in sight of the spectators at the start) and the sense of other runners around me kept me moving.  Other runners advised me not to give into the temptation of starting off too fast when you are (allegedly) feeling the strongest you’ll be all day.  Well, I can report that that particular temptation didn’t loom too large in my mind at this point!  One runner took a tumble early on, but professed herself unhurt and quickly got to her feet, I started to concentrate a bit more on picking my own feet up, and told myself not to worry about everyone else, just focus on my own run.  A fair few overtook me, but there were still a few others around me at about my pace, and some behind as well.  Whilst in theory I don’t mind being last (it’s happened to me often enough) in practice it can be a bit soul sapping if you are too far back and worrying about maybe getting lost.  I was happy to be slotted in pretty near the back.

Apart from the minor detail of there being rather a lot of uphill, it was a scenic route.  We passed through farm land, and the course was indeed very well-marked.  Loads of little pink flags on wire lined the route stuck in the earth.  I say pink, maybe coral…  Marshals were at key points to cheer you round and point the right way.  Early on, there was a sequence of styles to negotiate.  I don’t mind these at all, as they legitimise pausing on route, and admiring the view.  Some runners ahead of me took the opportunity of being slowed by the queue to pose for a variety of thumbs up selfies.   Meanwhile, I interrogated my endurer buddies about their marathon plans, we were still in reach of each other at this point.  There seemed to be some disagreement about how they’d come to register for the Snowdon adventure.  I tried to reassure one who seemed to be particularly unsure about the wisdom of signing up for this next endeavour ‘it’s so hard not to give in to peer pressure‘ I commiserated.  ‘It’s not that’ he said, ‘it’s that it was my idea in the first place!’ Oh dear.  ‘Don’t blame yourself‘ I ventured ‘you can’t possibly have expected them to have taken you seriously when you suggested it?’ but it wasn’t looking good… that has to be contributory negligence at the very least.  I didn’t mention it again.

The course is indeed undulating, so you can see the faster runners snaking ahead of you in glorious Technicolor.  I tried not to think too much about just how far ahead they were.  After a bit we got to the first technical challenge.  Some very steep, slippery steps going down into woodland.  Despite my off-road shoes I was a complete wuss here, and gingerly picked my way down, clinging to the wooden railing alongside until that too vanished, and you were on your own with the mudslide and the gradient.  Fortunately for me most of the others with me at this point were happy to exercise similar caution.  In my head I know the lead runners would have flown down these like pyroclastic flow, but I really don’t know how they do that without breaking their necks.  I fully expected to find at the bottom of the steps, a still warm heap of twitching bodies.   The pile comprised of those runners ahead of us who hadn’t quite made it, but no such mound was there.  There were some marshals at the bottom, but they didn’t look like they’d been manhandling corpses as far as I could tell, and seemed to be innocently enough pointing the way up the valley, tuned to ‘helpful’ rather than ‘cadaver concealing’ operational mode.  Always hard to be absolutely sure of course, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt, I didn’t have time to stop and ask – I had a race to run!

Onward and upward through the woodland trails.  Even though I run through Limb Valley a fair bit, these particular trails were new to me, and it was really lovely.  We are so lucky to have this on our doorstep in Sheffield.  I wasn’t entirely loving the gradient, but it does sort of go with the territory, and I was getting more into my stride. I know I’m slow, but I like to think that I get my money’s worth at every event – more time out on the hills compared to the faster runners!  However, I was still a bit taken aback when I spotted the shape of a runner powering back down the hill towards those few of us still dragging ourselves along and up the limb valley in our erratic trots at the back.  We hadn’t even made it as far as Lady Canning’s plantation, and here was the frontrunner (coincidentally from frontrunner) homeward bound.  (These photos are courtesy of Sue-Nigel Jeff in return for a small anonymous donation by the way, for which thanks 🙂 )

I moved across to the side and clapped him as he passed, apparently without effort, on his homeward glide.  It was most impressive.  There was a bit of a gap, and then a few others came in his wake, I tried to clap and say something in acknowledgement of the sporting prowess of each as they passed.  However, it got harder to talk, and clap and move aside, and run uphill all at once as the torrent of oncoming runners increased.  I abandoned this ambitious multi-tasking activity therefore, just after the style coming onto Sheephill road. Once on the road I fell back to a walk to I could blow my nose (sorry if that’s too much information) just in time to see a fellow Smiley powering down as leading woman (and indeed she was first female finisher).  She shouted encouragement to me, and I (a bit belatedly) to her. She was going so fast I barely registered her before she was gone.  I couldn’t help wishing I’d been doing a bit more of actual running as she passed.  That’s me, caught slacking…

There were some nice marshalls with cups of water a bit further ahead.  So I took advantage of that, and made the hilarious and wholly original quip of asking when the sandwich delivery was due.  Then it was onwards and upwards again.  We didn’t go straight into Lady Cannings as I’d expected, but sort of alongside it, returning runners who’d already completed that loop were flying towards us, and I got to shout out to a fair few Smileys storming back.  Then a sharp right into the plantation.  The trails were lovely and quiet and there were mossy hillocks and fern bordered paths.   This might not be the most flattering of pictures of me (well, I really hope not anyway), but you get a sense of some of the terrain here.  Plus, I’m actually giving chase to other runners at this point, surely worth recording for posterity!  I’m even ahead of some.  Yay!

These paths have a particularly inviting spring to them, perfect for my imperfect arthritic feet to bounce along on.  I was more or less on my own here, I had another runner just in sight ahead, but I’d pulled away from the back of the field.  I surprised myself by finding a running gear despite the uphill bit.  Maybe I am better running at my own pace on my own sometimes, if I stop fretting about everyone else being faster than me, I can actually go faster than I initially think.  There were a couple of cyclists on mountain bikes enjoying the trails.  One offered to give me a ride up – I think he was semi-serious, but I declined.  It would be embarrassing to break him on the way round, and anyway, I didn’t need a lift I was flying (inwardly anyway, outwardly so others could tell, probably not so much…).

Coming out of the plantation and sharp left and you are on a  hard stoney track with the plantation to one side of you and the  heather to the other.  Maybe it was the rain from yesterday freshening everything up, but it was just gorgeous.  I gave myself a Whirlow Wow moment.  Running through stunning scenery is all well and good, but really, what’s the point if you don’t consciously pause to take it in. The heather was vibrant purple, and I felt as if I had it all to myself up there.  I ploughed onward, following the path through the heather and picking up a bit of speed as after another gate, the landscape finally opened up and we got a bit of downhill gradient once again. There was a photographer positioned at the bottom of the slope just as you’d gathered up enough momentum to reach near terminal velocity, this bit was quite fun… until you heard the shout of a marshal and realised you were required to do a sharp left and back up the hill again.  Oh well, ’twas fun whilst it lasted!  Signage was good though!

Inexplicably, there doesnt seem to be a photo of me cavorting through the heather.  So instead there follows a medley of other Smileys in action instead.  This way, you get to ooh and aah at the heather backdrop, and I get glory by association with the Smiley elite.  Everybody wins!

12.12 route

Just one more plod up, and eventually the route flattened.  At one point a guy passed me at some speed dripping blood from a scrape on his back as he passed.  He looked soaked, honestly I wasn’t sure it if was sweat, bog swimming or a consequence of pouring water over himself, but it made the blood look very impressive.  I never did work out if he was a 12.12 runner way ahead of the pack or just some solo runner caught up in the Whirlow races.  For my part, I soon  I found myself to have completed the loop and heading back towards Sheephill Lane and the Limb Valley. There was a big crowd of walkers loitering at the gate I needed to pass through, but they were supportive rather than obstructive, one guy shouting encouragingly that it is ‘definitely downhill for a bit now‘  (I liked the ‘for a bit‘ qualification, no false promises from him) and a family clapping me and remarking on  my fine vest logo.  No sense of irony in the ‘smiley paces’ moniker at this stage in the run at least.  It’s much easier to be Smiley when homeward bound than when heading out.

Now I was past the half-way point, and it was familiar territory and downhill all the way I started to more proactively enjoy it.  I  always do this. I find gravity giving me a helping hand and suddenly I feel powerful and invincible in a way that normally only engulfs me when running on a travelator in a deserted airport say.  I suppose the endorphins do kick in, the weather was perfect, the trails lovely, the ground springy what’s not to like?  There were cattle about calmly observing our progress.  I knew I’d finish fine now, not in any time to write home about, but still with fuel in the tank.

Inevitably, as I reached the closing stages of the route, the first of the 12.12 finishers were loping past.  Fairplay to them, all those that passed me were incredibly courteous and encouraging calling through ‘coming by on your right‘ or whatever and exchanging greetings.  I clapped them and gave way to them all.  On reflection, being a slowbie has its advantages.  I got to see first finishers for both the 10k and the 12.12 (just realised, why is one race in km and one in miles?  Weird that.  And, come to think of it, what is the significance of 12.12 anyway?  Peculiar distance.  Just saying.)

There was a bit of a sneaky hill just before the finish, culminating in a style and then you pass through a field with cows suckling calves. If I’d been out on my own I might have avoided the field altogether, but to be fair these cattle seemed completely unconcerned.  Climbing over the style at the other end to exit the field there was one of the organisers on his walkie-talkie.  He seemed to be saying ‘yes, a couple of the first finishers on the 10k did go astray, but I don’t know how‘.  I don’t know how either, seemed OK to me…  Final haul, and I could hear the buzz from the venue, round the corner and there was a small crowd at the finish to cheer you home – including some of my endurer buddies looking out for one of their number who was just behind me, and a fair few smilies long time home.  Dibbed in, dibber was cut off by a quick acting marshal, and a medal was passed to me.

Yay, I did it.  I like the bling, but for the record, it is smaller than you might imagine.  Tastefully understated I’d say, rather than ostentatious like the olympic bling for example.  I retrieved my bag from the improvised bag drop (dumped it behind the registration tables earlier on in the day) and went in search of water.  There were cups available at the finish. Then I went to scratch the mutual congratulations itch that comes at the end of every event.  I found fellow smileys (who’d done brilliantly, got first three women’s finish places for starters).   I also located the women who I’d given the wrong route to earlier on.  They’d got back way before  me, and were coincidentally sitting alongside my Smiley compatriots.  They were relaxed and laughing ‘yep, we would have been back 15 minutes earlier if you hadn’t misdirected us‘ they said.  Fortunately, they were joking, they’d had a good run and no problems en route.  I heard later they are Graves parkrun locals so will look out for them again next time I’m there.

Next stop, endurer buddies to pose for photos.  Caption contest should rightly follow.  For the record, the reason the female of the group is lying in front of the men is because she is the only one fit enough and supple enough to be able to get up again from this position on completion of the run.  Explaining how it was she appropriated an infant is less easy.  I think I’ll leave that puzzle unanswered.  Yes, one of the group does have an incredibly long arm, but we try not to draw attention to it.  That would be rude.

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So then I settled down to join my Smiley club  mates for race de-brief.  They were all clutching Injinji visors?  Now, my regular reader will know that for some time I’ve been nursing some serious visor envy directed at my Hobbit running buddy.  She bought a great visor for the Round Sheffield Run, and I’ve been coveting it ever since.  My smiley friends advised me that an Injinji rep was roaming.  She was giving out freebies.  I went to stalk her, I was brazen.  However, alas, no more visors were available.  Not even for me a sports blogger (ahem).  She did though give me some size small green Injinji socks to try, which was a start.  She was also beyond lovely, full of abject apologies that she’d run out, and even went to double-check in her box in case an extra one suddenly materialised out of nowhere like a rabbit out of a magician’s hat.

I made my way back to my Smiley friends, clutching my green Injinjis and built up to negotiate a swap.  My first effort ended in refusal, but then, TO MY UTTER AMAZEMENT AND DELIGHT, super smiley female over 50 third place winner GAVE ME HERS for nothing. Unconditionally, no surrender of my lime-green socks (that will match my Sheffield half tech shirt so joyfully) required.  I was beyond overcome.  I am so very happy.  Also, it will be extra imbued with super-powers coming as it does from a member of the Smiley elders running elite.  I’m now wondering if I don the Injinji visor and the Injinji socks on the same day, whether or not I could truthfully describe myself as an Injinji sponsored athlete from head to toe? I don’t see why not.  I mean technically speaking I’d have a point..!

By the way, did I mention that first, second and third female over fifty finishers were all smileys? Oh good.  Maybe though I shouldn’t mention that the second placed returner might have had an even stronger finish  if she hadn’t got confused by the 10k route and double backed on herself.  Seems highly likely it was she the guy on the walkie talkie was referring too as getting lost a few minutes earlier.  Still, let’s not labour the point, don’t want to draw undue attention to it, these things happen.  Especially as she was so friendly to me when we were waiting at the start.  Can’t help wondering though if part of the reason she got disoriented was because she’d done all that running before the race to get to Whirlow from her house, she must have been exhausted by the end of the 10k.  Anyway, I digress.   The point is, I am now a person in possession of a visor.  Obviously I’ve worn it constantly ever since.  Sleeping in it is fine, as long as you stay on your back.  I was so pleased with this, and the bling, I posed for a shot.  It seems I like the medal so much I couldn’t stop looking at it, that is why the picture shows the back of the medal, it isn’t the case that I picked up a blank one by accident.

So we sat and drank coffee, and applauded the winners.  And I cuddled the lovely Zeb – companion canine to a fellow Smiley (who has the shiniest coat, the most pleading eyes and the softest chin of any sentient creature I’ve ever met ever – the dog not the Smiley).  Oh, and I must just give a mention to the compère.  Loved the way he wrote his notes on massive bits of cardboard.  Genius prompt cards, and why not.  As I get older and ever more long-sighted I’m massively in favour of inventive aids to reading.  That may not have been his motivation of course, but I’ve certainly logged it for future reference!

A fair few of the winners from yesterday hadn’t lingered for the presentations today. Can’t say I entirely blame them, after all the exertion and getting drenched and then sleeping in a tent afterwards I would imagine they’d have been pretty desperate to get back home… Having said that, some were still around, but just too stiff to make it up quickly enough to snatch their prizes before the next winner’s name was called out.  There was a wry comedic element to watching them contort themselves into walking mode as they approached the stage.  To be fair, some others looked fresh as anything and veritably skipped up as if in another cut-throat competition to grab a faberge egg or (more likely) some new innovation in trail shoes before some other off-road runner got there first!  Those runners though must be a different species from the rest of us. I mean really, 60 miles cross country and still got a spring in your step, that can’t be the basic standard that should apply to the rest of us surely?

Various smilies trotted up to collect their prizes.  A hamper of local produce, not great for vegetarians as contained meat, but to be fair, it was lovingly put together.  Also included eggs and tomatoes.  Thank you smilies for being super friendly and supportive as always.  Thanks especially for helping me through my running/not running imposter-syndrome angst.  You are all lovely, as well as super talented and FGRs* one and all!

So that was that, job done.  We are all awesome.

Oh, and I’ve stolen this photo from another Smiley, but it’s perfect.  Fellow vegetarian in reciept of hamper.  That reminds me, The Wrong Trousers was on telly when I got back from Whirlow yesterday. That was a nice way to wind down in the afternoon.

farm hamper for super smiley

Yep, I’d do it again, definitely, probably wearing my visor next time though, and maybe even with Roger too.  A few people were disappointed he wasn’t out and about.  Even though he deserves a rest up now and again, the Sheffield Half was quite a stretch for him, I think he preferred the trails of the RSR  to be honest.  Even so,   I think he would have liked this trot out a lot, so never say never.  So, hopefully, see you all again same time, same place in 2017.  More the merrier.  Oh, and don’t be put off by the ‘Dig Deep’ branding.  I think before hand I’d seen so much about the hard core ultra events I’d assumed the 10k would be undoable and need kit and navigation.  It really doesn’t.  Anyway, the hardcore events are super cool too.  Fantastic that it’s all right here in Sheffield.  No need to camp if you are a local, you can do the 60 miler and come back to the comfort of your own bed (assuming you aren’t hallucinating so much with fatigue that you can no longer either drive or work out how to use a mobile phone to summon a taxi).

You’re welcome  🙂

By the way, other accounts of these runs are available, see the Steel City Strider perspective here, and First Woman home for the Ultra, Sally Fawcett here.

Oh, and if you care about the actual results for the Dig Deep series – some people do apparently, they are here.

Thanks to the organisers, supporters, marshals, land-owners, fellow runners and photographers – named (Sue-Nigel Jeff) or otherwise, who all came together to deliver a great event.   I think Jez Malins was the official photographer.  Thanks especially to my Smiley Buddy who let me run in her stead.  Hope we can do it together next year.  Yep, I’d do it again.  Definitely.  Bit of a shame there weren’t more participants this year, I reckon it fully merits a bigger field.

For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you

Oh and here is the link to more of the Dig Deep photos for the Whirlow 10k and 12.12.  Fun eh?

*Flipping good runners, like it says on our vests.  What else?

Categories: 10km, off road, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Fake it to make it – a record breaking performance at parkrun!

Soooooooo, not sure if I’m exactly back in the zone, but I was back at my home turf of Sheffield Hallam parkrun today.  I have decided to embrace the ‘fake it to make it’ philosophy.  Wrist parkrun barcode donned, fixed grin in place, road shoes heaved on (hybrids still soaked from yesterday) and off out the door with a promptness that might have been misconstrued as enthusiasm unless you were in the know about the erratic nature of my running mojo at present….  I think though that this approach might actually work.  Look a photo of me running and smiling simultaneously!  A first in my running career (I use the term loosely), Mr Carman, I salute you and your skills with the tools of your trade…

Smiling at parkrun faking it and making it

Pleasingly, as I did my last-minute through the window weather check, a rainbow arching across the sky suggested it might not be just torrential rain all morning, and in fact so it turned out.   It was a pale and tastefully under-stated rainbow it is true, but a rainbow nevertheless, and you’ve got to appreciate a rainbow, just as surely as you have to always stop and admire a duck (or is that last one just me?) A bit of light drizzle maybe, but no actual soaking.  If anything a tad on the warm side for running I’d say.


I was ‘punctual’ rather than early today. There was a good swarm of fluorescent jackets as people various had turned out in response to the last-minute Facebook appeal for more volunteers.   People are good like that, they came even though you are only guaranteed a hi-viz jacket and have to bring your own hat.  Some I think are seduced by the power rush you get from having a clipboard, but that’s a responsibility that has to be earned, it’s not a given.  Anyway, thanks volunteers one and all for turning out.

volunteer attire

So, I arrived at the start, dumped my bag by the equipment store wheelie bins and joined the scrum of the start funnel.  Pretty good turn out this week 466, with, what seemed to me, to be an exceptionally large first timer’s briefing.  It seems like a while since I’ve been at Hallam.  I’ve been away, it’s been cancelled a couple of times, I’ve been away, anyway, upshot is it was first time in ages that I’d seen a fair few of my running comrades.  Some were familiar faces others less so.  My first sighting was of a Monday Mobster who disappointingly was not wearing her new green hoody. They have just invested in some rather fine kit.  It was she, not I who referenced the possibility that it made them look like some gnome homage collective, I hesitated a bit too long before denying this, before adding that the gnome referencing is not necessarily a bad thing, and anyway it was more echo of gnome than re-enactment of the same.  They do need to avoid wearing red conical hats with these  though, that would be very high risk.  Oh,  and also avoid fake beards, as long as they follow those simple precautions I think they’ll be OK.

I asked hopefully of the Monday mobster if she was doing Whirlow tomorrow, she wasn’t.  She also offered up the returning comment ‘oh that’s the one that starts up hill isn’t it‘.  Seeing my crestfallen face, she said ‘well, think of it as undulating‘.  I appreciated the sentiment, but she didn’t sound very convincing.  It was worse when she commented that other people doing it would most probably be tapering today, so not likely to see them.  I weakly said my piece about as I only run at one speed anyway, tapering seems a bit pointless for me – though I would be taking it easy on the way round today.  I was beginning to wonder if it was such a good idea though.  I shared my angst.  ‘Oh don’t worry‘ she enthused, encouragingly ‘at least  you’ve made it to the start line, that’s better than many of us, good for you!’ Well, you know that scary phrase ‘tempting fate’?  Well, I suddenly had visions of doing a faceplant in Endcliffe Park and being trampled by the parkrunners behind them – my only consolation being that the speed I go at, there wouldn’t be all that many trailing in my wake to squash me in  a stampede of continuing runners!

Amongst the familiar faces was an unfamiliar but recognisable one.  A former work colleague, I didn’t know he was a parkrunner.  I’d seen him at Endcliffe once before, could be as long as two years ago, he was supporting a friend who was visiting and had wanted to do parkrun.  Turns out that a year or so later this colleague had a go at parkrun himself, and now, some two years on, he was doing his second one.  Still, good to build up slowly when you try new sports isn’t it, don’t want to risk injury eh?

Next in the line-up was regal Smiley, complete with speedy child. They were both wearing waterproof jackets.  Lightweight ones granted, but jackets none the less.  I explained to them about it being a rookie error to wear these, and that it would slow them down as they over-heated.  I’m sure patronising more experienced runners in the start funnel of parkrun is a great way to build popularity and impress other participants with your superior knowledge.  Only joking, obviously.  The Top Tip here really is that by alienating other stronger runners early on, you can end up improving your own performance.  Mortified by your own mistake, you will subsequently be too embarrassed to make eye contact with them, so put on a massive turn of speed in order to avoid them.  Voila, new PB!  Equally, you are doing them a great service too. Likewise they wont want to acknowledge you in public again either, so will access a similarly previously undiscovered gear that can drive them on to running excellence.  Everybody wins!  Yay!

regal smiley and offspring

Starting off happened a bit suddenly, but we were slow across the start line.  Lots of friendly marshals in evidence today.  Even the dog-poo bin had its own allocated staff member to stand by it this saturday.  I found myself running for a bit with Regal Smiley, I couldn’t help but note she had followed my expert advice and her jacket was removed and squished up into a fabric ball,  As we ran on she pointed out another runner who seemed glued to his phone and moving somewhat more erratically in his path through other runners than might be reasonably accounted for by the distribution of people.  ‘He’s doing Pokemon go!‘  I wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or horrified, I hardly know what it is, and have commented previously on the seeming similarity between bladder control product advertising and one of the Pokemon figures:

There followed some discussion about the relative merits of the game, which concluded with Regal Smiley saying she wouldn’t particularly encourage her children to do it before she squished her jacket into a makeshift ball – and with NOT A HINT OF IRONY nor ANY AWARENESS OF HER OWN HYPOCRISY – lobbed it at George, our very own parkrun photographer!  If that wasn’t her own reality version Pokemon go I don’t know what is.   I was shocked, not least, because I’m not sufficiently versed in the various pokemon characters to know which one George was.  Perhaps wiser readers/ parkrunners/ pokemon go players can enlighten me.  For now I’m going with magneton, because the picture looks like it might be some sort of camera thingy, but as I don’t play I apologise in advance if that’s an offensive assumption.  You can take your pick from this chart if you prefer:


Anyway, this whole episode left me aghast.  I was particularly worried as Regal Smiley and our official parkrun photographer were to be hosting an annual BBQ event in the afternoon.  To be honest, I didn’t expect them to be at parkrun today as I thought they’d be at home grating cabbages for coleslaw or shooting squirrels for the BBQ from their back window or whatever.  If this display of target practice was anything to go by, then there was an element of real jeopardy re whether domestic relations would be maintained with sufficient decorum for the event to go ahead at all.  Oh well, I probably get things out of proportion.  To be honest, neither party behaved as if the lobbing of soft spherical items at one another was in any way out of the ordinary, so I think their social event was probably going to be OK, but you never can tell can you.  Each to their own though, each to their own…  Regal Smiley is a very good shot though, and our parkrun photographer had to take evasive action as the projectile arced towards him.  Bet he was really proud of her hand eye co-ordination display there and not in fear of his life at all.

So going round, I saw one Smiley Vest, donned by a Rustling Runners Founder – there were other Smileys, only one in the kit. She is still hard in training for a triathlon overseas in a couple of months time, and breezed by.  I was particularly slow and steady today, and so was lapped by faster runners quite early on.  I found myself alongside another familiar face as I approached the end of the first lap. We contemplated staging a sprint finish together, to make it look like we’d both finished our second lap and were fighting out for the finish line.  It was a nice thought, but the problem with being at your home parkrun is that it wasn’t very likely we’d get away with it.  Still, it was nice to have a chat for a bit, and compare head injury anecdotes as we romped round.  I’m not sure how we got onto mountain rescue, but she it seems had been rescued by helicopter on a skiing holiday after banging her head in a skiing accident.  Apart from the unfortunate necessary pre-requisite of having to badly hurt yourself half way up an inaccessible mountain somewhere, the rescue sounded very James Bond. She was suspended on a wire beneath the helicopter apparently, as it couldn’t land in the narrow path she was in.  How exciting!  Her postcards home would have been rather more interesting than the usual ‘wish you were here‘ level that year!

She too is running tomorrow, but doing the 12.12.  (I wonder what the significance of 12.12 is, it’s such a weird distance).  She was also a bit apprehensive, more about the navigation than anything else.  Once again, I was able to offer up unsolicited advice to help her back on track.  ‘If you get lost, you might end up doing a short-cut‘ I helpfully pointed out.  I was quite proud of my new upbeat positivity in relation to running. This ‘fake it to make it’ strategy might just work!  Thinking about it, it was shortly after this she broke with me as she wanted to stay with her son as it was his first parkrun.  I nodded with understanding, and glanced behind me expecting to see some infant struggling.  Instead there was a towering male, who looked far too old to be her son (or she looked too young to have a  son that age), it’s funny the assumptions you made.  For the record, at the post-parkrun breakfast, I learned of another running tapering term.  Strong fast runners, in order to discipline themself to run more slowly prior to an event, will take with them a human anchor to parkrun the day before.  Hence their strava updates are full of comments along the lines of ‘parkrun prior to ultra with son/ wife anchor’.  It made more sense when explained to me.  I thought they meant sun anchor, which is a harder and more mystical idea to grasp you’ll agree.

Also in the flood of runners passing me was my running buddy who has let me use her Whirlow place.  I felt a bit guilty, if she was doing parkrun faster than me anyway, maybe she should be doing the 10k herself after all.  She was most generous though, saying definitely not up to it.  She nearly wavered a bit when I suggested we split it doing 5k each, and my cheetah buddy (currently injured but volunteering with a clipboard today) suggested the ultimate team effort would be to offer a piggy back.  I nearly choked, and countered that this contribution to our negotiations was at best unhelpful.  She disputed this, pointing out that au contraire, a piggy back would be enormously helpful when trying to run up a steep fell side for example, and I was somewhat flawed. She has a point.  Definitely a point….  I’m still not up for giving a piggy back though – wheelbarrow race, well possibly.  Wait and see.

poorly smiley on good running form

Second loop nailed, I did a minor sprint finish towards the end of the pack.  I caught up with chats with a few people, needed to touch base with the runderwear ambassador for a start – her running seems to be on form at the moment, definitely no chaffing interrupting running action today!  And then there were waves of recognition to other random runners as is always the way.

runderwear ambassador in action - no chaffing here

Quite a few milestones today – I found out too late one runner had completed his 200th run today, that’s pretty darned impressive.  He must have been very fast because  I didn’t see anyone running with 200 balloons attached to them as is traditional.  I hope he went on to eat much cake and then rest on a huge pile of laurels with a smug expression for a bit.  That’s what I’ll do if and when I ever achieve that degree of parkrun awesomeness.  I then went to the end of the park to cheer the absolute final finishers home round the final loop.  Some parent and child pairings I think, who were pleased to have me whooping them from the side-lines, well appeared to be anyway!  It was fun, I enjoy that bit.  It is really inspirational.  There was a look of steely determination on the young runners as they completed their final few hundred metres to the finish.  I must be hormonal, I felt quite tearful watching them, in a good way, but slightly disproportionate.  The same unsettling effect can happen with certain TV commercials if you are particularly unlucky (John Lewis Christmas one or Andrex puppies for example) that emotional manipulation I resent, this slight lump in my throat felt rather more justified and wholesome.  Yay, go them!  Parkrun is great isn’t it, awesome runners, free to enjoy it in whatever way they will.

So that was that, parkrun done, slightly worried I’ll be stiff tomorrow, but at least I didn’t do a face plant and it was good for morale to see some friendly faces again.  Back to Jonty’s for first post parkrun breakfast in ages (not too busy today, friendly service, but those portion sizes keep diminishing) then home for copious cups of tea and strategy planning for tomorrow. Well, maybe not strategy planning if I’m completely honest, but I did put my running kit through the wash which is essential pre-race preparation I’m sure. I may not be speedy going over those hills tomorrow, but at least I shall have aroma de Bold all-in-one, rather than aroma de left-it-too-late-to-wash-my-kit.  You have to do your bit for the public good when out and about running I feel, especially if you are intending to wear your running club vest as a torso compression garment for the duration.  You have to think of the community you are representing at times like these!

Oh hang on, you are probably wondering about the ‘record-breaking’ reference earlier on.  I know, I’m such a tease!  Well, I have exaggerated a little in my heading, but not overly much.  Today was a near record breaking performance for me at parkrun.  It was, dear reader, wait for it, my third most worst performance at parkrun.  That’s a bronze in Olympian terminology for personal worst run since I started.  Surely worth a mention!  I think that conclusively prove you can fake it to make it, just there is not absolutely certainty in which direction in relation to ‘making it’ (towards or away from) that the pendulum will swing.  Still, that’s part of what makes running interesting surely?  The element of the unknown.  Anyway, as we all know, I was tapering, so naturally I could have run faster had I wanted to, I just didn’t feel the urge…  Even without trying, I still got my bronze.  I can do anything!  Hey look – the image on the bronze medal even looks like me, it must have been fate that got me to this point!

The Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medal is pictured during the medal launching ceremony in Rio de Janeiro

The Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medal is pictured during the medal launching ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 14, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes


Categories: 5km, parkrun, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Here comes the rain again… running down but not running out

2016-08-19 10.47.58

So, the accepted mantra is that it doesn’t matter how fast you go,  if you are out running, then you are a runner.  On the one hand I do endorse this, a mile is still a mile, no matter what speed you cover it at, on the other, I have begun to wonder of late at what point should I concede that I have possibly slipped over from the outer verges of the running community into that parallel world I happily enough inhabited for many years where I could only ever truthfully classify myself as a non-runner.

A friend of mine (yes I have some, in addition to my imaginary ones) recently sent me a card.  Incredulous at stumbling across my running blog, she found me the perfect greeting:

2016-08-19 13.43.46

She said she saw the card and thought of me!  (That was a great advertising campaign was it not, very effective).  What’s more, she is spot on.  The picture could indeed be me!  It’s uncanny, the tendency to over-dress (woe betide the fellow runner who tries to free me of my fleece on a winter’s day), the ill-fitting leggings, the pony tail and  even the colour choices have an echo of my Smiley Paces running club branding.  The sentiment does remain true, I don’t really know quite how I’ve ended up being part of a running club, and doing running events over a period of time despite any evidence at all that I have any innate aptitude, skill or capacity to improve with practise.  For various reasons, I haven’t managed so much as a parkrun for the last fortnight, and so yesterday I was feeling somewhat on the cusp of my ‘runner’ and ‘non-runner’ identities.  Honestly, what is the point of this running malarkey if I never do any.  Who am I trying to kid?  I am irredeemably rubbish at it, and it’s not so much walk/run these days, as walk/stop.  Not boding well for future marathon successes.

Still, I do still seem to have the capacity to find myself caught up in events despite myself.  So it seems, I am temporarily reclaiming my tentative running identity and seeing where it leads.  Couple of things led to this, let me elaborate.

So, then a running buddy who had entered the Whirlow 10k got in touch to ask if I’d be joining her for the event.  It’s one of the Smiley Champs series, so plenty of other Smiley Paces members will be out and about, even if they are all two leagues ahead of me or long finished before I’ve made the first summit, so it is a tempting local race, lovely scenery and trail too.  It’s one of a whole weekend series of events The Peak District Dig Deep  I had a look, but baulked a bit at the cost.  It is a fundraiser I know, but it is on the expensive side for a 10k, especially as you can do the Trust10 series for free.  So, instead of saying to her ‘no, I can’t, I’m too horrifically unfit and apathetic, I’d be embarrassed to be seen running in public and doubt I can still squeeze my swollen carcass into my Smiley vest‘, I just said ‘bit pricey for me‘ (also true, but secondary), and left it at that.  This might have been an end of it, except that it wasn’t.   Same running buddy emailed again, she is, alas, poorly, she won’t be running, would I like her place?  Hmm, dilemma.  I am still horrifically unfit, but can’t use the ‘too expensive’ get out clause to good effect any more.  Not to worry, I have another opt out.  ‘Thanks, but I’m just not comfortable about running in someone else’s name‘.  This is true, but more from fear of being caught out than actually impeccable ethics, plus I’d never fit into her size small request in relation to the complimentary shirt size as part of goody bag on completion.

To seek external validation that this get out is truthful, I messaged the Dig Deep Races people via their Facebook page with a half-hearted query ‘for the 10k do you need to navigate and also is it possible to transfer entries?’  I heard back from the lovely people almost instantaneously, no navigation required, and yes, I can transfer entry if I do it today, (which was yesterday).  Objections were over-turned, and suddenly, inexplicably, in the absence of training, and without having really thought it through, I find I am indeed entered for the Whirlow 10k.  Oh great.  Just be careful what you wish for eh.  And learn to be assertive and speak the truth.  This quest for external validation is not only an abdication of personal responsibility, it is ultimately a mug’s game, it can take you in directions you didn’t intend to follow’


If you are an international athlete who lies you  might end up accidentally claiming to be robbed at gun point because you didn’t want to admit to breaking a loo door for example.  I suppose in the grand scheme of things, accidentally entering a 10k is quite a good way to miscalculate.  I’ve certainly done worse in my time.  Once I ended up spending a month’s salary on someone else’s hen do, that I really didn’t want to go to.  When the date was first mentioned for this extravagant weekend away it clashed with a pre-existing commitment.  I therefore barely twitched as I effused untruthfully how much I’d loved to have gone, but alas, what could I do, the date wasn’t free.  The bride, picking up my disappointment, rearranged the hen do so I could go.  Oh joy.  There would be no getting out of it now.  Why didn’t I just say ‘out of my price range, but have fun‘ in the first place?  I still break out in a sweat at the memory of that weekend, it cost me more than my annual holiday, and I had to share a bed with a heavily snoring and wildly gesticulating drunken hen due to a mix up in the room bookings.  Never.  Again.  Never!  I will be assertive, I will speak the truth, I will be my own person… just not about the Whirlow 10k. I’m conscientious if not keen as you know, I’m in, it’s fate, I shall run (OK walk and half-heartedly yomp) round, but I shall do it.

So, the next stage is to think, this is good!  It is an opportunity!  I am lucky!  Yay, get me and my good fortune!  I mean it’s only a 10k, that’s doable?  I need to get back into some sort of fitness regime, this will spur me on, ready or not.  My body has started to visibly disintegrate of late.  Yesterday I had to have a Skype interview and due to the unfortunately high resolution of my laptop camera every imperfect pore, wrinkle and flabby contour on my potato like face seemed to be highlighted.  I looked like a troll.  I need to reverse this.  It was lucky therefore that  I had in any event already committed to  a pre-arranged yomp out with hobbit buddy today.  Granted, this was more set up as a walk and talk rather than an actual run, but then what with my 10k on the Sunday and parkrun on Saturday I ought to be tapering now anyway, yes?  Tapering is a weird one, I suppose more conventional athletes might do a bit more training in advance of the tapering period, but I say if tapering is helpful in the days before a run, why not in the weeks before as well?  At least I should start out injury free.  That’s worth something.

So today, yomp up the valley took place as planned.  Up until today, I hadn’t done any running for a fortnight – maybe longer.  Even my tomtom GPS watch behaved as if I’d entirely retired from my running career.  It was so dead when I plugged it into my computer it was hallucinating and delusional, unable to recall the date or time.  Recharging it seemed to have a temporary ‘kiss of life’ effect, and it did get up and running again (though was sulking enough at the end of the ‘run’ that it was extremely temperamental when it came to uploading the data afterwards).  I headed out the door in weather a lot cooler than of late.  This is also good, I’m not great in the heat.  I saw my hobbit buddy waiting at the bottom of the hill, and yomped down to meet her.  This uncharacteristic turn of speed had me breathless within about 500 metres of setting off, but hey, that’s always the hard part isn’t it, starting?

It was good to be reunited.  I excitedly shared my news about the Whirlow 10k.  ‘Oh my god!‘  She said, with not entirely encouraging intonation.  ‘That’s so hilly and hard!‘  I did point out to her that this wasn’t exactly the pep talk I was hoping for, but she was going for the ‘as your mentor I owe you realism‘ angle.  She’d done it before, ‘back when I was really fit, and it took way longer than I thought‘  oh gawd, I’ll still be there at dusk.  The look on my face led her to try and backtrack, she offered up a more conciliatory  ‘it is lovely though... ‘ but I’m not stupid, the damage was done.  I will not be feeling over-confident going into this event.  Still, I will do it, and it delivers impressive bling it seems, so surely worth it in the end.  I shall work on visualising this trophy at the finish as I run, rather than imagining others spotting my less than athletic silhouette blocking out the sun as I tramp up those hills!

dig deep bling

Oh well, despite everything, it was really nice to be out for our yomp.  We did even more walking and talking than usual, but then it’s been a while since we went out and there was quite an extensive agenda of topics to catch up on, and regular readers will know I can’t run and talk at the same time, and fortunately/unfortunately nor can hobbit buddy either.  I honestly don’t know if we are a good influence on each other or a bad influence running wise.  On the one hand, the commitment to go running together does get us out more than I would do on my own, on the other, do we collude with the non running aspect by chatting a fair bit. Does it even matter if we do?  We still get the elevation, and we still cover the distance, and we get to upload on strava, which is obviously the main thing.

We had some exciting cattle encounters, we were overtaken several times by faster runners as we went up hill.  No shame in that, though speaking personally I’d have preferred it if the same runners didn’t then pass us again as they were coming back from the summit and we were still walking up, barely having progressed at all!  We eventually made it up to the view point at the top, where a deep mist enveloped the city. Rain had started falling pretty heavily just half an hour into the run.  It was pretty hard, because it pushed through the trees and drenched us. By the time we were at the highest point we were wet through to our knickers.  Getting cold we didn’t linger and as soon as we were safely past the more slippery stones on the path we broke into a jog, possibly even a run!  Hobbit buddy nearly had a disaster, screeching to a halt at one point, blinded by something in her eye. In agony, unable to see.  ‘I think it might be sweat!‘ she said, somewhat incredulously.  It’s been a long time since we ran hard enough to have sweat running into our eyes.  Quite a badge of honour.  Further reflection though suggested it was more likely to be the torrential rain washing a new moisturising product into her eyes, but I’m still going with the ‘blinded by our own sweat because we are such hard-core runners‘ version, you must judge as you wish.

it was indeed wet, wet, wet!

We loped onwards, gravity on our side, we felt quite smug as we passed some raincoat clad dog-walkers plodding up hill ‘we must look like actual runners to them‘ we said to each other with wry smiles.  We got wetter and wetter, to the point of comedic excellence.  It was fun running in the rain (a sentence I did not expect to type), and as the endorphins kicked in I started to believe maybe it wont matter if it’s a particularly slow one from Whirlow, scenery will be just as lovely, and nobody will care.  As long as no-one shouts ‘there goes troll woman‘ as I pass, that should be good enough for me!

all real runners

So, we did about 9km in a time that does not merit being put on record here, but it was fun.  It made running feel desirable again and not actually impossible.  I did get wet through to my knickers though, and have to report that I still don’t find running as a sport does me any favours.  Maybe the rain, once dried off, will make the skin on my face lovely and soft, not just give my feet trench foot as is the most obviously visible consequence at present.  I was going to post a photo of my post-run feet, but couldn’t bring myself to do so.  Here instead is the face shot.  The camera does not love me.  Oh well, when I am an internationally acclaimed sports celebrity, I’ll employ someone to do my PR and no such photos will ever again reach the public domain!  The jowls are bad though aren’t they, I need to do face aerobics to offset the damage done by this facial expression.

2016-08-19 10.47.20 (2)

So now, just a parkrun stands between me and the Whirlow 10k.  I’m not quite enthused, but I am cheered at the possibility of being greeted by this fella at race HQ, that’s got to be worth making it to the start line to see surely?  Doesn’t take much it seems really to entice me out, not much at all.


So it seems I still have a foot in the running community, tentative or otherwise, until I’m actively shunned, I shall linger a little longer…  So thank you running buddy for the Whirlow 10 place, I think, and thank you hobbit buddy for getting me up the hills in preparation today!

Happy running y’all, and if you need to, dig deep!

Categories: motivation, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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