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.

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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…

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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

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19 thoughts on “Winging it at Whirlow – Dig Deep 10k 2016

  1. Good stuff Lucy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kate Morris

    Top read as usual! Yes the birth of the ‘FGR’ thing holds a special place in my heart. It involves well intentioned encouragement from the Striders, a somewhat inebriated Ruth Jacobs and the pending first order of the Smiley vests!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh wow – I’d not heard the legend behind the acquisition of the FGR branding before. It’s good to have events of such historical importance officially documented, that’s grand! Well done on your awesome running, great testament to your summer months nutrition plan of pringles and gin! Lx


  3. Sue Jeff

    Super read. I was the unfortunate runner that took a tumble at the start. Blooming heck I thought, what a start. No probs on the race, nice bruises on the hip and knee when I got home and very stiff and sore the next day. My hubby is part of the Sue-Nigel Jeff that took the photos on the course. I’m taking the photos at the Taddington Lanes race tonight as hip a tad tender to be running it haha. I’m usually safe behind the camera. Well done on your run 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh no! and Oh yes! Glad you were Ok after your tumble, but sorry you were sore the next day, poor you! Thanks to you and hubby too for your photographic endeavours at trail races all over. You take great shots. I’ve made a donation to your worthy cause, great idea. Hope your hip is restored to usual service soon, have fun tonight! Hopefully see you again out and about soon, hopefully both of us will remain upright throughout the next hill challenge! Lx


  4. Isabelle

    Brilliant Lucy – how do you remember all the details? I spent the first 2k wondering why on earth is thought it was a good idea to enter at the last minute, the next 4k wondering when we were going to start going downhill, and the last 2k enjoying myself! The friendship before and after, and the war stories are just fabulous. See you soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your kind words! I think I’m able to remember because unlike the speed merchants I undertake my trail races in slow motion – plenty time to soak up all the atmosphere. To be fair, your digested summary seems to cover all the key points very efficiently and much more succinctly! Happy running, see you out there again soon I hope, thanks for the cheery catch up at the start, was great to meet you properly at last! Lx


  5. Brilliant account! It was a great event.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw thanks! Yep, great day out, such a nice location and – for the 10k anyway fairytale weather (in a good way)! Glad you had a grand day out too. Lx


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