Monthly Archives: September 2016

International Hobbit Day, Fun & Run(ish)

Yes, it’s a thing.  Hobbit Day – because  September 22 is the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins!   Now as you my regular reader will know, given that my hobbit buddy and I feel an affinity with certain characteristics of this noble duo, we couldn’t really let the day pass by unmarked.  The problem was how to celebrate though.   I mean, there was a hobbit day virtual run we could do, but you have to pay for it in American dollars, and we are way too tight to indulge ourselves in that degree of decadence.  Plus, I think sometimes you have to find a way to create your own celebratory rituals.  This was one such occasion.

Coincidentally, 22nd September is also World Rhino Day.  Rhinos are rarer than hobbits these days, sad but true.  Makes me mad, and feel a bit helpless too to be honest.  It is a lot easier to mark Hobbit Day with cavorting and frolicking than it is to help save a rhino, but I hope if you can you will do something in honour of both, and honestly, if you can only choose one, choose rhinos.  The hobbits will probably endure longer than the last few individual rhinos we still have with us.  I took part in a rhino conservation project a few years back.  The heavily monitored few we were trying to protect, are pretty much all now gone.  Through direct poaching, or the indirect consequences of trying to protect them from it (two were killed by poachers, the third died from a reaction to being sedated so it could have a tracking collar fitted to protect it from poaching.) Nothing funny about this.  Just bloody depressing.  No wonder I’ve ended up posting more about hobbits than saving the rhino.  Sometimes it’s understandable to want to ignore big issues and hope they will go away, but given that this day has been chosen to think of both rhino and hobbits, spare a thought for each will you, and even better, keep informed throughout the year..

So, lightening the mood, back to hobbit day.  I did look at wikihow for some ideas about how to celebrate this anniversary.  I’ve consulted wikihow before and it’s actually helped me out before with carrying out other previously unfamiliar tasks like working out how to remove my bathroom light fitting (the screws were really hidden and obscured by the design, so I’m not as entirely incompetent as that example suggests).  Wikihow is also handy for other topics like, oh I don’t know, probably carrying out minor DIY open heart surgery, that sort of thing. It does not have a post on how to save the rhino unfortunately (not that easy alas) but there is one on how to draw a cartoon rhino, so that’s a big help with conservation obviously.   Fortunately, it did indeed have a post on ‘how to celebrate hobbit day‘.  Not all the ideas were especially practical, but one of the listed points did jump out:

8) If you do not think your friends would be very interested in a Hobbit Day celebration, celebrate the day in your own way. Walk around barefoot for the day, eat about six meals (hobbits are always hungry), or make a Hobbit Day t-shirt to spread awareness. Consider making flyers to share with friends and acquaintances to help them understand the importance of this day

The thing, is we, hobbit buddy and I, were absolutely committed to marking the day with a celebratory hobbit run.  Indeed, we even went out on a route recce to plan the perfect hobbit themed hop.  We explored our local woods with new eyes, seeing it in all it’s glory as a magical wonderland, albeit one we don’t quite yet have the photographic skills to capture adequately.  One consequence of this was that the atmospheric shot of mysterious little fungi growing in the dark base of a hollowed tree-trunk ended up looking rather more like a particularly unpleasant still from a recent endoscopy.  However, we have to work with the tools and skills we have.  We were still playing homage in our own way, and researching ideas for our own forthcoming (bound-to-be awesome) celebrations!  I remain faithful to my original promise to myself that I’d try to be truthful in my blog posts, and as we’ve already established the camera never lies, I’m sure you’ll enjoy these lovely shots as much as we did.  Maybe it can be a calendar off-shoot to our DVD plans for Winterval?

Anyway, back to our hobbit day run.  Basically, logistical problems meant we couldn’t do our actual run until the day after Hobbit Day, so there was some onus on each of us to conduct more private celebrations on the day itself. Bare feet and lots of food seemed a reasonable enough compromise for each of us to commit to on the 22nd September itself.  Though I did go wild and celebrate by going for a flu jab.  The nice pharmacist told me something I didn’t know, which is that you shouldn’t take paracetamol or give calpol to children too close to having any inoculations as it makes them less effective (the jab not the children).  Emboldened by this disclosure, it seemed only polite by way of exchange to share my knowledge about it being Hobbit Day.  ‘Did you know today is Hobbit Day?’  I queried.  He didn’t,  and looked slightly panicked to be honest.  It must be that he felt absolutely terrible that he’d forgotten all about it and so had omitted to plan any celebration as such,  and not at all that he was scared about being trapped in an enclosed space with someone who not only was in possession of this fact, but felt compelled to share it.  Strange but true.
So it was, that the following day, (today in fact) which shall from now on be diarised in perpetuity as our celebratory day (i.e Sheffield Hobbit Day shall henceforth be celebrated on the weekend – Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday – nearest to the 22nd September in each year) would be the day of our actual run.  Yay.  What larks we had in store, what larks eh.  I could hardly sleep the night before…
So morning dawned, bright sunshine, autumnal air.   Lovely!  Unfortunately, the runes weren’t great.  Hobbit buddy had suffered a major allergic reaction to an insect bite, and was suffering.  Honestly, it was quite impressive. I thought she’d taken off her wedding ring to signal availability because of the ongoing Brad Pitt issue, but actually it was because her arm had swollen up dramatically.   She wasn’t really in great shape for running, but we were both resolute that compulsory celebrations would go ahead.  Who said fun-days were actually fun?  Anymore than fun-runs or happy Christmases.  We had agreed we would celebrate hobbit day today, and celebrate it we blooming well would, whether we felt like it or not!  With this spirit of forced fun firmly in mind, we stomped off into the woods!
I donned my back pack, with secret celebratory contents within.  I don’t normally wear a pack when running, and there wasn’t much in it.  As a consequence I spent the entire outing convinced we were being followed.  Much to the at first amusement, and subsequent irritation of hobbit buddy, I kept stopping and turning round to give way to the runner comer up behind.  Nobody there.  Woooooo, spooky in the woods!  Turns out, it was just the loose contents of my rucksack bouncing about in rhythm with my walking.  Very weird though.  Even when I’d worked it out, I was still fooled every few hundred yards by the phenomenon.  I must be slower on the uptake than should probably be freely admitted on the internet say.
Whilst today was a route march more than a run due to already established health reasons.  We did at least have a brilliant destination in mind.  Locals may already have discovered this, but if not, I give you the Forge Dam Hobbit Hole!  How brilliant is this, perfect venue for a party!
We settled down on the steps, and I rummaged in my backpack to produce the necessary pre-requisites for our Hobbit Day Party.  Basically, cake.  Cake, and candles.  Two candles seemed appropriate, one each.  Yay!
The cakes weren’t all that nice to be honest, but they were the most portable ones on offer at Tesco metro when I went in yesterday, plus they were reduced to 75p for two.  We first posed on the steps of the hobbit hole, and then gamely tried the cup cakes anyway, until we mutually agreed the calorie intake was too great a cost for the taste and texture reward the cakes themselves were offering up. So we ended up just chucking them (in a bin, we didn’t just leave them there like a sacrifice at a shrine).  However, before we had so jettisoned the cake fixes, we were spotted by an unknown runner, apparently gorging ourselves on them. She was coming by and on seeing us almost doubled up with laughter, she couldn’t contain herself – ‘well, I’ve seen some sights!’  On balance, I think she was possibly more incredulous at our approach rather than wishing she’d thought to take cake with her as her nutrition option for her own run.  On reflection, we hadn’t got anything around us to signify this was a special occasion as opposed to our regular training routine.  Next year I think we need signage, balloons, and yes, probably fliers so we can inform our ignorant public about the significance of hobbit day. We could do a two-sided flier and have one side all about Hobbit Day and the other all about International Rhino Day, that would be good.
We were definitely in forced fun, rather than festive mode though.  Not quite feeling the lurve, what with the cake being horrid, no actual running  having taking place and hobbit’s arm falling off.  Also, there were supposed to be medals. But they hadn’t come either.  Oh well, it can be a late addition to this post when they do!**  Demonstrating the stoicism and endurance that can only really be developed through multiple childhood summer holiday trips out to the beach in the driving wind and pouring rain with sand-filled sandwiches and eyes stinging with the salt-laden wind and rain, we stuck it out.  We would celebrate, we were having fun… until we conceded we really weren’t.   We decided that maybe we should regard this more as a dummy run (only without any actual running on this occasion), the necessary preparation for planning  a bigger, bolder, better more inclusive celebration next year.    Maybe kandoo events will want to take it up,  they can’t rest on the (admittedly expansive) laurels of the Round Sheffield Run for ever.  I said, for the record, and will say it again here. That if my forthcoming (yet to be revealed) adventures mean I don’t make it through to this time next year.  I’d really like my Smiley Paces running club – and indeed everyone else who has ever run in Sheffield, to organise a fancy dress run up to this point next year.  The hobbit hole to be shrouded in balloons, surrounded by cake and providing a suitable venue for outdoor party games.  Absolutely no clown costumes though, I think we all know why.
Also, someone from Save the Rhino to promote their cause.  In fact, rhino themed fancy dress would not only be very acceptable, but might reasonably be made compulsory.  That would greatly please me.  Good to have these things on record.  Rhinos can run a lot faster than you think by the way, maybe not so good at maintaining those speeds, and they also have seriously rubbish eyesight, but even so, worth emulating for sure.  Might be your last chance to see them anyway to be honest, and not just because they are running so fast.  The rhinos below are black rhinos by the way, different mouth shape to the white rhinos above.  You’re welcome, rhino identification is insufficiently discussed in my view.

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Cheered by the thought that we might do better with our celebrations same time next year, we abandoned plans for the acorn and spoon race I’d been hoping for (we didn’t spot any acorns going up, and I never produced the spoons at our destination because that moment had passed) and scooped ourselves up for the walk home.  I took a detour to find the bin and snap the elephant in the woods (which is somewhat like the more familiar ‘elephant in the room’ only not) and then we headed back down to from whence we came.

Unfortunately for us, this was to be the final epic fail of the morning. When we were back ‘from whence we came’ on the road again, we saw a massive F*&% Off 4X4 bearing down on us.  It was intimidating enough on sight, windows blacked out, with its enormous dimensions fully blocking out the light.  Honestly, it was like we were witnessing an unexpected eclipse of the sun.  We thought it was the end of days!   Not just our paranoia, there have been signs have there not, what with GBBO going to channel 4 and the seemingly irresistible rise of Donald Trump – surely one at least of those  must signal the beginning of the end?  Then there’s Syria, everything really, the world is definitely in meltdown… no wonder the dolphins all left.


Worse still, the invisible driver pulled alongside us, and lowered her windows with chilling calm before cackling out the window at us.  ‘Why aren’t you running slackers!’ (I paraphrase).  It was a fellow smiley. This was very bad, because it’s the second Smiley that has seen us ‘walking’ when we were allegedly out on a ‘run’ within a week.  We have been caught out, not just once, but twice.  Maybe I wasn’t imagining all those eyes on us when we headed out, their spies were everywhere right from the off!  She had presumably been tasked to track us and had turned up as The Enforcer! Terrifying but true.  This will end badly, what if they start to scrutinise our Strava run times, they don’t bear close inspection?  We will be hounded out of the club for lack of any actual running in our ‘running’ records  (ironically resulting in the fastest bit of running we’ve done in weeks or months).

Initially, our best form of defence seemed to be explanations and we went for self-justification – showing off Hobbit’s arm which really was swollen (honestly, it was really bad, she ended up spending a night in hospital because of it and I’m not even exaggerating for comic effect!), and gesturing to my back-pack to indicate we were only ever out for a picnic not a run anyway. Then it dawned on me.  Hang on, why were we justifying ourselves to her?  She, who was evidently merely posing in her active wear and not even walking, let alone running. Ha!  Rumbled!  We moved into attack mode!  ‘Pots and kettles methinks!’ we protested.  She did protest also, muttering something about yoga (which is basically sitting down isn’t it) but essentially she was soooooooooooo busted.  CORRECTION:  I’ve just been advised it wasn’t yoga, it was pilates – well, that’s just lying on the floor breathing surely, so something of an own goal I’d have thought, still, that’s me, always willing to issue amendments and corrections in my blog when requested.  Clearly just a delightful bonus if it strengthens my point!  Judge for yourself – look here she is, flaunting her Sheffield Half-Marathon Tee whilst basically reclining on heated leather seats in a mobile industrial sized RUV.  Ha!  no wonder she sped off promptish after that!  Wheels spinning as she departed.


So dear reader, that was that.  Hobbit Day celebrations done and dusted until same time next year.   We departed our separate ways, celebratory activities concluded.


Not an entirely succesful outing to be fair, but sometimes you have to just push on through and not be discouraged.  Not every day can be a good work out day, sometimes it feels like not any day. As for our hobbit day celebrations, we are new to all this, it was bound to be a learning curve and anyway, we all know worse things happen at sea.  There’s always next time.  At least we tried.    Hope over experience, impossible odds notwithstanding, you have to give these things a go or how will you know?


Next stop back to parkrun.  That will give me back my mojo, got to love parkrun.  Best start to the weekend EVER.  FACT!

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**They came, the medals came!  Yay.

Categories: teamwork | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Stumbling through the Fat Boys Stanage Struggle Fell Race

Let’s play scruples.  Should you let the truth get in the way of a good story?  Tough one for me.  Also a continuum, as, without venturing into territory more suited to ‘Thought for the day’ or worse still ‘The Moral Maze’, I don’t believe there is such a thing as an absolute objective truth.  It’s very nuanced, it all depends on context, point of view and the extent to which being constrained by accepted conventions of ‘truth’ will spoil an otherwise perfectly good anecdote.  Your call.

So, bearing this in mind, did you know that the Peak District is the second-most visited national park in the world after Mount Fuji?  No, me neither. This was the helpful fact with which one of the marshals greeted me on arrival at the school playground of Hathersage Saint Michael’s Primary School.  It is this kind of commitment to friendly and informative customer care that torpedoes the Fat Boys Stanage Struggle Fell Race to one of my favourite runs of the year.  Top tip for organising committees elsewhere I feel.   When you are evaluating your event afterwards, as well as counting out all the money and laughing at the photos, ask yourself whether you paid enough attention to providing titbits of tourist information to your race participants.  You might be missing a trick.  Why not postcards for sale as well next year?  Even a special post box and sorting office stamp, like they have in Lapland, so runners can write ‘wish you were here’ messages and post them out to prove they were there, part of an occassion bigger than themselves, that kind of thing.  (I think they do in Lapland, I’ve never been, but they must do, surely?)

So, this post is all about The Fat Boys Stanage Struggle Fell Race.  This was always going to have a certain appeal to me, call me shallow (if not svelte) but I am massively encouraged to see that there is an event being organised by a running club that goes by the name of ‘Fat Boys Running Club’.  It does suggest a broadly (pun intended) inclusive approach to the delivery of a fell race.  This could be one for me!  Here is the picture of the course.  Looking at this picture, I was quite taken with those lovely flat, green, fields in the foreground, and maybe didn’t pay quite enough attention to Stanage Edge way, way ahead high up on the horizon.  Oh well, I’d never enter these things if I was able to fully comprehend what I was about to take on, and just think what I’d have missed out on!  Heaven portend!


Oh hang on, I’m jumping ahead of myself.  For those of you too daunted by the cutting edge technology that is the interweb to google it for yourself, the blah de blah on the Stanage Struggle website describes the event as follows:

The Fat Boys Stanage Struggle passes through beautiful Peak District countryside  beginning in the village of Hathersage the route progresses via track, grass, path and moorland up onto Stanage Edge, out to High Neb, with a quick downhill return leg on very runnable ground back to the village.

The Struggle is, despite its name, a very accessible race.

It provides a serious challenge for the swifter runners attracting top names capable of fast times – whilst the varied terrain ensures that everyone can excel at some stage of the race. Road runners and other fell race virgins often use The Fat Boys Stanage Struggle as their introduction to fell racing.

The first mile is on easy track with open gates  ensuring that the field spreads out quickly enabling faster competitors a trouble free start. The complete route is signed and marshalled throughout by Fat Boys – with additional support from St John Ambulance and the Edale Mountain Rescue Team.

The Fat Boys aim to provide a friendly and supportive atmosphere from registration through to prizegiving. Registration is on the day, turn up and run.

The Fat Boys Stanage Struggle is based at the village school/school field.

  • The field is well signposted and easily visible from the main road.
  • Free car parking is available in the field adjacent to the start/finish.
  • Registration, changing and toilets are undercover.
  • Refreshments

The Fat Boys Stanage Struggle has, since it’s inception, been sponsored by Outside of Hathersage.
Prize winners are able to redeem their prize vouchers for a range of high quality outdoor equipment at any of the Outside shops on the day or at a later time.

All competitors receive one Free bottle of water at the finish

So if that’s all you want to know about the event, go away.  What follows is my subjective account of taking part in the Stanage Struggle,  which I fully appreciate may be niche interest only.

So, the day dawned.  Autumnal I’d say.  Thick ghostly mists gathering in the dips in the landscape, and a deep wet dew on all available grass.  Really gorgeous though.  Driving over to Hathersage from Sheffield the Peak District was jaw droppingly beautiful.  I can’t believe I’ve got this landscape on my doorstep.  If nothing else, local trail and fell races motivate me to go out and make the most of it.  Just look (photo stolen from fellow Smiley, for which I thank you).


So, as ever, I arrived incredibly early as I wasn’t too sure about the parking options.  I didn’t fancy the steeply sloping grassy field option (only accessible by 4×4 if wet) – I’m still not entirely convinced an automatic car gives you the same control as a manual –  and thought I’d try my luck at Hathersage Business Park, which was offering ‘limited parking’ instead.  I’ve never noticed this Business Park before, and I don’t know why as it’s well signposted and huge, right at the entrance of the village.  I lost my nerve a little on my way in, as the entrance is extremely grand and, although I’d like to think I could become accustomed to this sort of gateway in time, it is not a scale of living to which I was born.  Fortunately there was a pro parker on hand from Totley AC I think (hello).  He pointed me in the right direction, and what’s more, spotting my Smiley Vest (which opens more doors than casual observation might indicate), gave me the top tip of availing myself of the hard standing which was still available.  I was relieved about this, didn’t fancy slaloming down a wet field on exit.  I felt like a celebrity being waved through in this way, get me and my running club contacts eh?  As I left the business park (on foot) there was a large sign saying you had to leave by 2.00pm.  Leave by two?  In the afternoon?  Please gawd I’d be done and dusted by then.  It’s a 10k route starting at 11.00 a.m. afterall…

From there just a short walk round the corner to the magical wonderland that was the Primary School registration point for the fell race.  It is simply gorgeous, like the kind of school that exists only in fairy tales with pretty roses in adjacent gardens, lovely stone buildings and rainbow painted benches in the playground.


There was also plenty of helpful signage.  Though I did waver a bit seeing that the organisers had carefully differentiated between the certain-to-be enjoyable ‘fun run’ and the ‘senior race’.  The senior race presumably wasn’t expected to be any fun at all if that missing adjective was anything to go by…


Following the signs, you go through a doorway to a wonderland, a bit like Mr Ben going into the  changing rooms of the fancy dress hire shop.  You enter a non participant, a nobody if you will, and then emerge a signed up fell runner.   Hurrah!  You do the filling in your details on a form first bit, none of the pens left out for this purpose worked, but I found a pencil that did.  Obviously, I left the dried up biros on the table anyway as a test of commitment for the other potential participants who would be coming in my wake.  Some of the questions were routine, though I don’t recall being asked for blood group as well as next of kin before.   You then hand it over to a gang of four, who were very jolly, and said ‘you’re the first one!’  They didn’t mean I was going to win it turned out, only that I was the first Smiley of the day.  I think there must be an I-Spy book of Sheffield Running Clubs that they were working through together or something.  Then I got my number and that was it, job done (apart from the running bit).

So, because I was early, there was time to explore.  I found the changing rooms (no Laurence Llewelyn Bowen though, so that was a relief).

The huts which had the loos and the changing area were absolutely sweet.  This was very much a children’s space.  Individually named pegs, colourful bags and hanging mobiles (not mobile phones, actual mobiles) and inspiring words and painted pictures in evidence everywhere on the walls and hanging from the ceiling.  There is something wondrous about being confronted with such positivity, optimism, hope and simple joie de vivre made manifest through finger paintings.  If only it were possible to re-enter such a world again when an adult.  To be able  return to a time before innocence has been crushed by experiences of life that inevitably vanquish all traces of joy.  Creativity shrivels and dies as the vortex of exams and assessment suck you up and then spit you out onto the treadmill of working life.  It won’t be long before the inhabitants of this enchanted worldtoo come to  encounter existential angst, disillusion and despair.  They will come to scream into the winds raving at the futility of existence and the meaninglessness of life compelled to stare endlessly into the void.  (Well, I can only speak as I find).  That time, it seems has not yet come however.  Yay!  A little oasis of delight in a cruel and hostile world.  How lovely.

In a way, it was a sort of metaphor for the forthcoming fell race.  From afar, the hills look covered in sunshine, inviting and glorious, you can’t wait to get stuck in… the reality is the Stanage Struggle is called a ‘struggle’ for a reason.  Work it out.  Go on, I dare you…  You plough on through it (as with life) wondering if this horror will ever end, and how you could have been so naive as to have wished this experience on yourself, the hope is that on conclusion of the endeavour you will at least look back and laugh. Misguided nostalgia is another wonderful (if misleading) thing.  Well, here’s hoping anyway.

So, cheered by this vision of wide-eyed joyfulness, I skipped over to the playground and encountered  the next set of officials.  This included the guy from tourist information who explained about the Peak District being the second most visited national park after Mount Fuji.  I subsequently found out this might not be strictly true, but wonder if I just misheard him?  What he probably actually said, is that the Fat Boys Stanage Struggle route was the second highest and steepest ascent in the world after Mount Fuji.  I think that must be it.  I’ve googled endlessly, heavens, even consulted Wikipedia, and absolutely nowhere is this claim refuted or rebutted ergo it must be true.  My legs don’t lie.


I also took the opportunity to grill the welcoming committee about the course – even though having parted with my fiver I was already committed to taking part.  One asked if it was me who’d emailed to ask about it earlier in the week.   This confused me ‘erm, I really don’t know‘ I said.  Which was stupid, as I think I would have remembered.  This led to a comical interaction where I over-compensated for my discombobulation (just wanted to get that word in really – wonder if spell check will be able to cope) by explaining that I wasn’t in the habit of firing off so many emails on diverse subjects to random and unknown men that I couldn’t be expected to recall with whom I’d been recently corresponding.  I think I got away with it.  It wasn’t me who’d been asking if it was indeed an entry-level race.  I explained how I’d given up contacting organisers in advance, as they were invariably encouraging having leapt to a wildly optimistic, if misguided, assessment of my abilities based (presumably) on my spelling and punctuation within said emails.  I wasn’t aware of any obvious correlation between spelling and running ability but there must be I suppose, otherwise how would run organisers be able to advise people on their fitness to participate based only on written exchanges?  I know, it’s a complete mystery.

Anyway, they assured me the course was ‘a good honest fell race’ (not like those lying, dishonest, disreputable fell races you get elsewhere presumably), and fine as an entry-level attempt.  To be fair, they were very positive and encouraging, and I even began to harbour an aspiration (if not actual belief) that I might try to not come last at this event, now that would be something!  I went for a bit more of an explore.  This included counting out the mountain rescue vehicles (rather a lot – should I be worried) and St John’s ambulance (also more in attendance than I’d normally expect).  I also took some scenic shots of the surrounding fields, I was going for a ‘sheep in the morning mist’ effect, not entirely succesful.  Plus, I took the precaution of photographing the finish funnel in case I never did get to see it.  Also, I hoped it would fix it in my mind’s eye, so if my legs and steering were to give way at the end, I’d still be able to find it just in case one of the Brownlee Brothers wasn’t on hand to carry me over the line.  Gorgeous venue, despite the alarmingly conspicuous presence of emergency staff and vehicles.

So once I’d done the equivalent of scent marking everywhere (I mean by taking photos, what did you think I meant?) I found an old gym bench by the side of the playground in a sunny spot, and took the chance to catch up with a friend on my mobile.  We had a good old natter and only fell out later.  Apparently, I pocket rang her mid-morning, didn’t leave a message and she was – and I quote ‘really worried you’d collapsed out on the fell, or were in an ambulance or something unable to speak‘.  Now, you might think I’d be touched by that level of concern, and to be honest, I would have been, had she not left it until about 9 hours later to call me back to check I was OK!  What kind of a friend is that?  Frankly, if I was the sort of person who reliably sent Christmas cards, that sort of thoughtlessness would be enough to get her struck off my Winterval card list!  In fact, I’ve a good mind to start sending them out this year just so I can slight her by leaving her out.

Phone call finished, I started to play my own game of I-spy Smileys, and I’m pleased to report there were a few about.  I even got myself snapped alongside two which was a rare treat.  Poor guy we accosted to take the photo was already trapped in one spot as another runner was leaning on his shoulder whilst doing some warm-up stretches.  As he was standing around anyway, we thought he might welcome the chance to do a bit of multi-tasking to stop him getting bored.  He did OK I think, maybe not got the memo about directing runners like me to stand in the most flattering possible stances, but apart from that, he did us a good deed.

I got waylaid by another Smiley when I was en route to the loo for my precautionary pee.  Unusually for me I cut this rather fine.  I was last in the queue, and by the time I came out of the cubicles, there were no other runners in sight!  The junior fun runners were all lined up ready to charge out of the school gates and no seniors to be seen.  Who knew the start was back down through the village?  Uh oh.  The marshal for the fun run held up the juniors and let me sprint past – though on reflection, maybe I should have just joined in with  them. Instead,  I ran on past the Hathersage Business Park and then spotted the queue of runners at the start line just off the main road to the right.  Honestly,  I think that sprint was the fastest I ran all day, I was in such a panic at being left behind!  I arrived just in time to join the line up for another Smiley Paces photo, even if I did look a bit like the fat bridesmaid in the wedding shots.  Still, nice to be included in this, I often miss out because I finish too long after everyone else at the end of races and am not always bold enough to photo bomb these start shots.  This is thus a relatively rare group photo.  Yay, go us!

I was breathless and confused.  My new Smiley friends were asking after hobbit buddy. Where was she?  I had no idea who they were talking about.  They jogged my memory.  You know  – she who had posted on facebook that we would be coming together, she of my DVD workout project, she my loyal hobbit hash buddy and training companion for the past year.  I was so ashamed.  The thing is though, we were supposed to be doing the Stanage Struggle together but then carelessly, she allowed her foot to disintegrate or something so pain meant she couldn’t come.  I am now a ‘committed athlete’ because I wear runderwear.  This means I can’t allow anything to impede my performance in competition.  As soon as she had told me she was having to pull out, she had my sympathy of course, but she was also then dead to me (only for the duration of the event, not properly dead, that would be awful).  It’s what she would want.  I needed to focus.  It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there.  Also, I was feeling panicked and under pressure what with being late and everything, and breathing so hard my brain wouldn’t work.   All that running and puffing had depleted my brain of oxygen and I woudn’t have been able to state my own name at this point in time, let alone converse about another runner.   Not an ideal start to the business of running up a fell to be honest, but you have to work with what you’ve got.

Almost immediately, we were off.  It is indeed a lovely start, you go through green fields, with marshals on each of the many gates to cheer you past and keep them open as we all surged through.  There were just over 300 runners in all, and we streamed out quite quickly.  I was aware of being constantly over-taken, but not quite last so that was a novelty.  In brilliant sunshine it was a colourful sight.  There were lots of spectators relatively speaking and a friendly and encouraging ambience too.  Thanks to Eleanor and Robert Scriven for these fab photos of the early stages of the run, before it got hilly!

Although it was flat, relatively early on I wasn’t feeling great.  I’m slow and steady normally, but don’t ever think I won’t get round, but today was a bit different, my legs felt quite crampy.  Whether that was the sprint to the start or (sounds unlikely alert) because I’d actually accidentally run five days out of the six previous ones I know not.  It was hot, and the sun beat down on my head.  For the first time ever I wondered if I might be a DNF.  That would never do!  I dug deep, remembered what I’d heard a five-year old shouting at their mum at parkrun the day before ‘come on, unleash your titan‘ (no I really did!), and focused on just getting round by putting one foot in front of another.  Which to be fair, at the end of the day is all that running is.

It was lovely countryside, but not without its hazards.  Early on, there was a stampede of sheep across the track that brought me and some of the other runners towards the back to a standstill as we waited for them to complete their descent down the hill.  Hope we hadn’t spooked them too much.  Then, as the field of runners thinned out, the ascent began.  It was quite a heave-ho onwards and upwards, with a bit of negotiating to be done with walkers and dogs etc coming in the other direction.  The gentle gradient gave way to steeper steps, and disappointingly, well-behaved walkers insisted on giving way to ‘you runners’ so there was some pressure to keep up outward appearances of giving it a go up them there hills.   We ran past an amazing old building which according to the sign was I think Norton Lees Hall, which may or may not be the basis of the house from which Mr Rochester’s wife jumped to her death in Jane Eyre.  I’m a bit dubious about tourist information these days, and I didn’t have the time to nip in and ask.  Plausible though, an amazing looking place.

Shortly after this, a bit of wood, and then the climb up ‘proper’.  At this point it slowly dawned on me we were going to be expected to go right up to the top!  The path was pretty crowded.  Various people carrying bikes (not the point surely), a couple gazing at each other, sat on a large boulder just off the path in a yoga lotus pose.   Whatever quiet meditation and contemplation they were engaged in, I hope it didn’t involve listening to their own breathing.  My loud puffing alongside would have been very distracting at least and disconcerting at worst.   Hardly restful.  Some people were lumbering upwards with mattresses strapped to their backs.  Now that was a good idea, I’ve always felt a fell run would be improved with the option for a bit of a lie down in comfort once you got to the highest point.  If the pictures are anything to go by it wasn’t only me struggling on the way up though (thanks Sue-Nigel Jeff for this one)


It was something of a scramble in parts, and although I was in sight of one or two runners, the majority of the field was streaming across the tops.  Bracken was towering over my head and I was feeling the pressure of negotiating walkers, climbers and a couple of fabulously fast dogs that came careering own the narrow paths at torpedo-like speeds.  A bit un-nerving to be truthful, I was worried the dogs would take me out, and if not me, the runners behind, who I figured must be potentially fragile if even I had managed to outpace them.  Everyone I met en route was friendly and encouraging though.  A few clapped furiously, some acknowledged the Smiley vest.  I wasn’t sure if they were connected with Smiley Paces, or just appreciated the comic sans logo.  Still, all well wishing gratefully received.  It never ceases to amaze me just how nice most people are.  ‘You’re doing great‘ they’d shout, which was not strictly true, they must have been silently adding ‘considering’ at the end of that.  Not just the marshals, but others out and about shouting support and giving cheery waves.  Maybe I’m inspirational!

I had the same thing years ago, when I was in a five a side football team.  We were terrible.  We’d been lent kit by the Nuneaton Borough Ladies Football team due to friend of a friend, but were so clueless we quite literally were playing at a tournament when the referee had to stop the game to tell us which way we were supposed to be scoring.  I was in a cubicle in the ladies loos and overheard a captain from one team say to the captain of another ‘have you seen the Coventry and Warwickshire ladies team?’.  ‘Yes.’ replied the invisible other.  Then there was a long pause and one ventured to the approval of the other…  ‘Aren’t they brave‘.  We were absolutely annihilated out there, but played on.  Making it to the semi-finals due to another team no-showing.   Maybe it’s the same syndrome.  It seems impossible that I’d even give it a go from the look in my face, so fair play to me for trying perhaps? By the way, is it really obvious our kit didn’t fit do you think?  We look like toddlers in dressing up clothes, which coincidentally is pretty much how we looked when we playing as well.


Back to the fells!  Eventually, I found myself at the top of Stanage Edge.  Phew.  That was some clamber at the last bit.  Some late addition photos from Alan Billington capture the challenge of ‘summitting’ (I still don’t think that’s a real word).  Amazing view, shame I was clinging to the rock face too much to risk letting go and turning round to take it all in!

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Almost immediately, my progress was thwarted by a large crocodile of youthful looking DoE walkers with an accompanying adult at the back.  Seeing my dilemma, he shouted down the line ‘stand aside runner coming through‘ I clarified ‘I’m not really running all that much to be quite honest‘.  He shouted down an amendment ‘ambler coming through!’  I picked my way through, and carried on. It was a lot further along the ridge than I’d expected.  It is lovely though, the views are extraordinary, and I made a mental note that I should try to come back some time when I was not compelled to do so much running.    I could see the faster runners descending at speed down the crag side, and little  blobs of fluorescent yellow and green snaking across the road where a mountain rescue vehicle was on hand to supervise.  There weren’t any marshals for most of this, but there was one handily positioned where you dive down from Stanage Edge along what seemed to be a stream bed of sorts, not really a ‘proper’ path as such.  It was more of a scramble than I’d expected, and I just picked my way down really carefully, I didn’t want to come a cropper. I know faster runners do fly down, but how I just can’t comprehend.  I descended into the bracken, and again, was a bit unsure if I was going the right way, until I saw a photographer pop up from the undergrowth.  He took some great shots, think it was Phil Sproson.   Thank you!  He did take one of me, but it didn’t make the cut.  Just as well, I’m pretty sure my nose was running by this point, my legs weren’t and I looked like a weeble wobbling through a weary descent.  Not really the poster girl look on this occasion.

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I wondered vaguely if I had gone off piste at one point at least – wished I’d had GPS tracking so I could be picked off crevasse like guy who did the Alps Ultra, and ended up having a vehicle come and collect him complete with medic. In the event, I emerged from the bracken to a style, where there was a little huddle of people to direct me right, and along another flat track alongside wood. It was a relief to get some shade.  There was apparently a photographer as well, but I didn’t spot them, or I’d have pretended that I’d been running a bit more continuously than this photo suggests!  I quite like it though, thoughtful, just contemplating racecraft and pacing myself!  You can compare and contrast my approach with that of my fellow compatriot runners.  Always rushing aren’t they?  Sometimes it’s good to pause and smell the roses along the way!  Thank you Peak District Fell Races for sharing these pictures, not sure who is the photographer I should credit.

As I headed alongside the wood, there were some walkers carefully securing the attention of their rather boisterous spaniel Dotty with proffered treats.  She sat obediently, gazing up at them with rapt attention.  They gave her a treat just as I ran past, and seizing her moment she gulped the reward and then newly energised launched herself round me with much bouncy enthusiasm.  Dotty’s owners were mortified, they were trying so hard.  I had to stop, though I didn’t really mind, I could see they were doing their best, and the dog was uber-friendly and having a lovely time, just wanting to join in all the fun, which is fair enough.

I walked by whilst they wrestled with their delighted dog, and then picked up a run again.  I emerged at a carparky bit I sort of half recognised.  There was a marshal frantically waving, but I got confused.  ‘Please don’t make me go back and do it again!’ I pleaded.  It was OK, he was just pointing me down the road.  After a couple of hundred yards, more marshals, and they sent me off right, back across fields and styles for the final couple of miles home.  It was one of these styles that got the better  of one of my Smiley compatriots.   She like me thought the Stanage Struggle, was actually the Stanage Stumble I think and took it rather literally going head first over one of them.  Oh well, she was still fourth woman home (her category) go her!

The end bit was a bit twisty through wood, fields and one particularly impressive bit of bog.  As it was near the end, I decided to just plough straight on through it, as I hadn’t really got my feet wet up to this point.  This maybe wasn’t the best idea as the boggy bit came over my knees.  Also, during the drive home I came to realise the over-powering smell of slurry in the car wasn’t from fertiliser outside, but was from me.  My slurry-soaked feet to be precise.  Oh well, it’s not a fell race if you don’t get covered in something organic and wet!


From there, I think it was pretty well-marshaled.  I lost my nerve on the route a couple of times, pausing to check out where the next markers were, but it was always pretty clear after a quick peak round.  After a bit we returned to the series of fields we’d run across on the way out.  There were lots of marshals here.  At the start of each field they’d say ‘nearly home now!’  I don’t wish to be ungracious, but that wasn’t strictly true for all of them.  I greatly appreciated the marshal who said instead ‘have you been told you’re nearly home yet?’  ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but I’m not convinced‘.  ‘Well‘, he replied ‘you are nearer the finish than when the last marshal told you that.’ This was indeed a cheery thought.  Well said!  Eventually, I was back on tarmac, and a turn to the right and I found myself hurtling down a steep hill to the road.  I didn’t immediately realise it, but it was essentially back to the school.


Unfortunately, just as I got to the road, a car was coming out of the pub car park, and a parent herding two small children was overtaking an older guy walking with a Zimmer, so I had to stop for a bit to negotiate all that.  As both road and pavement were out-of-bounds.  It took an effort to get running again, it was so meltingly hot by then, and I was dehydrated.  However, the end was in sight, just a hoik up the hill to the finish.  Which you, my attentive reader, will know I’d taken care to visualise at the start of the day.  As I turned back through the main gate to the school, I realised for the first time I was still in sight of two runners just ahead.  I could see my Buxton Buddies (hello) on the hill, they must have finished way ahead of me.  Even better hear some Smiley Paces compatriots cheering me in.  Some had been running in the Struggle, others were visiting post the Smiley monthly off-road run, which coincidentally also was in Hathersage this month.   I put on what was for me at least, a bit of a sprint and managed not only to catch up, but just pass the other runner.  Hilariously (for me, maybe not for her so much) I ended up beating her by one  second.  However, we were both minutes behind the previous finisher. This meant that as I crossed the line it felt like I was actually coming first.  Some of the organisers who I’d chatted to at the start recognised me and were saying ‘told you you could do it‘ and other encouraging things.  ‘Have I won?’ I shouted as I tore (ahem) across the line.  ‘Yes you have!’ they responded.  And in a way that’s true isn’t it, we are all winners if we run!

My moment of victory was captured on camera by Smiley friends.  Other smilies were also captured on the finish line.  You can look and learn from our varied styles.  I may not have a running style you wish to emulate, but you could still use it as the basis for a ‘compare and contrast’ type analysis of running gait.  Don’t share with me though, I know the worst already!  I was a bit down by the state of me in some of the photos to be honest.  I confided in Hobbit buddy (my best friend again now the run is over) that I knew I really need to lose some weight somehow, but she said we just need to get Smiley Paces to order more flattering vest styles.  That’s why she’s my hobbit hash DVD buddy, we can work with that practical positivity!  Go us!

We took a moment for some celebratory hugs, and then I wandered off in my dream like state in search of my ‘free bottle of water’ that was promised to every finisher.  My I was in need of that.  Also available, really posh ice-cream. Next time I’ll go for that I think. Cakes and tea and coffee.

After mutual congratulations and story swapping.  We went to investigate the results, which was unexpectedly high-tech.  These two Smilies both made the placings for their age group.  I less so, but it’s not whether you win or lose is it?  This is what I tell myself.  Some of the leaders’ times though were crazy, how is it even possible to go those speeds on that terrain?  If you are interested, then see here for the full results of the 2016 Stanage Struggle .  I must marshal on a steep bit of a fell race one day, so I can see how it’s done.  40 minutes 36 seconds.  Just incredible, are they fearless or just crazed coming down those hills?

Next stop caffeine.  Whilst the refreshment options were impressive (there was a pub next door to the school as well), we felt we wanted ‘proper’ coffee, so decided to head to the Hathersage deli.  My Smiley buddies had first to go back to their car to change shoes and get cash. They left me on my lonesome by the roadside.  It was OK at first, but I did start to think I’d been abandoned like a puppy jettisoned from a car on a motorway as I hadn’t appreciated just how far away they’d parked. Still, not to worry.  I was able to hobnob with passers-by.  Thank marshals – though they were hard to spot as they were in disguise post event having removed their hi-viz so they could blend into the background once again.   Seriously though, thanks all you Fat Boys, fellow participants, marshals, hosts it was a fantastic event.  What’s more,  I had it from one of the officials that the sun always shines at this fell race, so that’s good to know.  One to do again next year, hopefully bringing not only loads more Smilies, but the entire Monday Mob with me too!  (Oh go on – you know you want to!).

Eventually my long-lost Smilies came into view, and after a bit more Smiley networking, we adjourned to the crowded deli and secured our post run coffee and carb fixes.

So we sat in the sun, and had a run debrief.  Soon enough, talk turned forthcoming running challenges.  The horror of this one ended, and the restorative effects of coffee, making the prospect of more running seem positively delightful all over again.  Both my companions are tackling the Sheffield Way Relay    I still can’t quite get my head around how this works.  It seems to be teams of five pairs of runners, each pair has to run one leg of about 10 miles. Looks quite hard-core.  To add interest to the final leg.  Competitors need to don biohazard suits, in order to avoid spreading the Japanese knotweed which is rampant on the last section.  I wonder if it’s near where Tom Wrigglesworth’s parents live?  I presume it’s some sort of variant on triathlon? I haven’t done any of it, but my Smiley companion who had, described doing a recce past signs warning ‘no entry without biohazard protection’ and then encountered a guy with a spray gun wearing all the gear like there’d been some sort of radioactive incident.  It sort of focuses the mind I’m guessing.  Given that earlier we’d all been saying how we hated carrying anything with us that might impede our running, I think it might be a challenge to run in this lot.  And to think some find taped seamed clothing requirements onerous in fell races. This should sort out the proverbial sheep from the goats eh?

We sat just long enough to stiffen up completely, and then hobbled back to our cars.  I only just made it out of the car park in the Business Centre in time.  Headed back to Sheffield over the hills, but the views were so stunning, with paragliders coming off Stanage Edge, that I actually pulled over to take some photos.  They aren’t a patch on the offerings from the ‘proper’ photographers out and about on the hills today, but they convey something of the scenery and isn’t it just grand!

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So that was that.  All done and dusted, and what a day out it was.  Thanks everyone.  Oh, and I didn’t come last, only nearly last.  A milestone of a sort?  Yes, I’d recommend, though whether the Stanage Struggle organisers feel there is merit in including my endorsement in their publicity is a matter for them and them alone!

For  all my posts concerning fell races follow this link (scroll down to see the one’s you’ve not read yet.)

Thanks to everyone who turned out to take photos and make them available afterwards too.  Some photos I can’t credit because I’m not sure of their origins, but special thanks to:

Robert and Eleanor Scriven for photos

Phil Sproson Photography also out and about

Shots of reaching the summit from Alan Billington

Stanage Struggle photos available from Sue-Nigel Jeff who ask: No obligation but if you wish please follow this link to make a donation of a couple of £ to Edale Mountain Rescue .

Also Peak District Fell Races Facebook page has album of photos of Stanage Struggle

Categories: 10km, fell race, motivation, off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Can clap and point – will I get to volunteer at the TenTenTen?


I did way too much faffing re this one this year.  I’ve done the TenTenTen twice before, and I do really like it, buuuuuuuuuut, for various reasons I didn’t get my proverbial arse into gear in time to enter for this one.  Partly, I wasn’t sure that I’d be around; partly I’m a bit skint and watching the pennies at the moment; and partly it seems a bit decadent to pay for a race on trails that I run all the time anyway (though that logic is actually stupid, because in many ways it’s way more fun scampering over familiar routes – doh).  Also, I thought, based on previous experience chances are I’d get away with making a last-minute entry nearer the time.  Not so.


The event was sold out by 12th September or thereabouts, which I’ve decided is actually good news, as it means there is an appetite for such events in the Sheffield ‘running community’ if there is such a thing (I think there is).  The consequence is, that although it may be temporarily disappointing to have missed out on entering this year, on the plus side at least I wasn’t made to book a hotel for four people before being allowed to look and see if there were still any places available –  and also chances are it will remain a regular fixture in the Sheffield running calendar, so I can always run it again next year – just need to be a bit quicker off the starting blocks next time…  (see what I did there?)


So, if you don’t know already, the Sheffield TenTenTen is, according to the website blah de blah:

What is the Sheffield TENTENTEN?

It’s an exciting and creative multi-terrain trail 10k,  attracting over 1000 runners each year the event is well supported and has a fantastic atmosphere. The first edition was on the 10th October 2010, hence the funny name, and has stuck ever since.

 Who is it for?:  This is an all-inclusive event, anyone from 4 upwards can compete in the 2.5k Fun Run, and 15 upwards for the 10k. All abilities are represented, many have started their running journey at this event. The range is wide we have even had international standard representation (see course record). Then there is the rest of the family, bring them along to soak up the atmosphere and support.

The course has been created with a twist of creativity and innovation. It’s not your regular road race, it is run on grass, road, paved paths and woodland trails. It’s a really nice mix, and introduces novices to the world of trail running gently. The course does have a few lumps and bumps, twists and turns, and all adds to the fun.

 We hope to see you on Sunday the 9th of October 2016 in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield

The only thing really not to like about this event (apart from potential for near biblical weather, torrential rain has been ferocious for at least one run in previous years), is the fact that it is a two lap course.  As someone who is destined perpetually to be lapped by faster runners this can be demoralising as they romp past me to the finish and I’m only approaching mid-way – not even that at the Percy Pud, but that is an out and back route so a bit different perhaps…  On the other hand, this fact did lead to the capturing of what I consider to be my favourite ever run photo – I fear I may not be able to find it.  However, imagine in your mind’s eye a female runner quite literally dropping her jaw in disgust and horror as she realises the guy running past her looking like a living god, is sprinting to the finish whilst she has yet to make the half way point.  We’ve all felt this on being lapped, well, us slower runners anyway, but rarely has it been made so outwardly manifest and the exact moment of realisation caught in all its naked emotion on camera.  Award winning snap in my view.  It shows just how high the emotional temperature can be when you are out there busting a gut at the TenTenTen.  Whether the fact that this photo pleases me would console the runner in question I know not, but it still makes me laugh every time I see it.  I’m going to have a look for it now, can’t remember if it was 2015 or 2014 race.  Hmmmm.

OK, so looking at the photos was a bad idea, because now I am properly jealous of the runners, and also it was a massive time vampire as there are hundreds of photos to browse.   Couldn’t even find the photo.  Oh well, you’ll just have to imagine the picture for yourself…. CORRECTION.  Fantastic news,  no you don’t! I have found it!  Such is my tenacity and dedication to authenticity in this blog I’ve just wasted an hour of my life sat on my sofa picture surfing looking for this, but it’s paid off.  Plus, I got to watch some of the paralympics too, so multi-tasking really, not slacking at all, practically a work out.  So, here it is, yep, I can report it does indeed still make me laugh!  Although, maybe I’m reading the shot wrong, could it be this trio in pink were just very surprised at finding themselves lapping the frontrunner guy?  Just saying we maybe shouldn’t assume.  It was 2014 by the way, just so you know.


Nevertheless, all is not lost.  Fear Of Missing Out can yet be averted.  Today I emailed the TenTenTen team to request that I go on the waiting list for a place, and failing that I am up for marshaling.  I think it would be a hoot to volunteer actually.  I have explained in my email enquiry that I am very good at pointing and shooing runners in any particular direction, and also at clapping.  As a runner, I think these are the most important requirements for a marshal at an event.  If there are more complex demands, then I may require training, or at least a pre-race briefing, but I daresay they have dealt with amateurs before.  This could be me, looking busy and important.

I hope they don’t want me to lead on the bike, that would be hard puffing up those hills.  Mind you, the cyclist might not be a volunteer marshal actually. He’s not got a hi-viz on has he?  Maybe that’s just taking race-craft to extremes, not sure the rules say anything in writing about use of a bike en route.   OK, I’ve checked, he was definitely chancing it.  Here is a photo of the official lead cyclist, hi-viz you see, that’s the clincher, so now we know.


What is it they say, don’t try to run faster, run smarter.  Something like that anyway.  My ideal volunteering position would require no responsibility beyond pointing and clapping (which I’d enjoy) but failing that, any role requiring a clip board would be good.  However, I’m pretty flexible, will take on whatever is required.

The new logo is good by the way, I prefer it to previous years.  Nice and autumnal.  So, we’ll see.  I am happy to leave the nature of my participation in the 2016 TenTenTen event to chance.  Whether I am to run, or not to run, whether I am in fact to  volunteer/marshal instead it will be fun.  My only real fear is that I’ll find volunteering is way better than actually running.  That is, it will have all the fun of running (social, out in the great outdoors,opportunity to eat cake afterwards) without the unpleasant running bit.  Such a realisation might jeapordise my future enthusiasm for running.  That would be the thin end of the wedge with respect to bringing about a waning in my pursuit of fitness as well as potentially the beginning of the end of my actively running career before it’s even started.    Oh well, risk worth taking.  I wonder if volunteers get a T-shirt, that would be good. Don’t mind so much about the bling, I feel you should actually run to qualify for that.  But a T-shirt would be nice…

Right, off to practise clapping and directional pointing, you need good upper arm strength to keep that up for a whole 10k I’m sure.  It’s hard enough at a parkrun!  I wonder if you are allowed to shout ‘Go Smiley’ if you are volunteering, or if that is considered too partisan?  Maybe if I shouted it at all runners not just members of the Smiley Paces running club that would be OK?  I’ll ask at the briefing…  I think you are OK to dispense hugs though, down to individual judgement.  I’m quite excited now, it’s going to be fab!  Bring.  It.  On.

Sheffield TenTenTen Facebook page has loads of photo albums by the way if you want to have a browse.  They do ask that we all  ‘Please use these pics as you wish and consider donating a small amount to Weston Park Hospital 🙂′ which I think is fair enough, they are fab pictures are they not?

I thank you.

For all my posts about the tententen follow this link. To read my account of the 2015 Ten Ten Ten see here.

Categories: 10km, off road | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Hobbit bootcamp – getting into the swing of cross training.

SPOILER ALERT:  This is basically an early preview of the material that will be used for our forthcoming Hobbit Bootcamp DVD workout box set.  Look away if you’d rather wait to discover it for the first time when you are the lucky recipient of this sure-to-be ‘must have’ winterval/  Christmas gift.


It was not only that I watched the fat-shaming (which I don’t approve of) yet compelling obesity the post-mortem documentary on BBC3 the other day, that gave me renewed impetus to trot out for our hobbit boot camp rendezvous on Tuesday.  It was also that I have my new performance pants to experiment in.  Further, I am always conscientious if not keen.  Hobbit buddy and I had made a promise to one another, a commitment to work on our cores at the outdoor gym in Endcliffe Park.  We were dependent on one another to make it so, I would not be the weak link in that chain!

There was a minor detail that our morning rendezvous was the morning after the final Trunce of 2016 season, so I did have to stipulate that I’d be too knackered to do any actual running in any meaningful way.  However, we told ourselves that this was but a minor detail.  The whole point of cross training is that you use different muscles.  Today we would work on our core, we were sure to get in the swing of things pretty quickly, how hard could it be to design our own workout?   We met at our usual rendezvous point, and I was very relieved that whilst my hobbit buddy was most definitely focused, she was not wearing this top.  Had she been, that would have been the end of our training partnership.  I’m putting this on record here though just in case, she has been getting more hard-core recently, which is very impressive, inspirational even, but also a bit scary…


We began with a nice gentle run down Bingham Park toward Endcliffe.  This was a promising start as it was downhill and so gave us a bit of confidence that our cross training was yielding almost immediate effects.  We are so awesome, even thinking about improving our techniques brings results.  According to the Daily Mail (so it must be true) just thinking about exercise makes you fit, it can make pigs fly too, which is amazing, and explained our sudden surge of speed way better the influence of gravity and leaning forward a bit much when running down hill.  (Being top-heavy can speed you up and work in your favour in some situations it seems.  For example, should you trip whilst running down hill, gravity will compel you to move ever faster).

On arrival at the outdoor gym, we sort of eyed the equipment rather nervously.  I am after all the woman who managed to put on her runderwear back to front at the first attempt. That was bad enough, but at least it was in the privacy of my own home so no-one need ever know… well, anyway, bit different in the great outdoors.   Still, we were game.   The novelty of new toy things was hilarious.  We basically jumped on each bit of equipment in turn quite randomly, turning handles, swinging on bars and laughing a great deal.  This does mean that, irrespective of how effectively we used the outdoor gym, our stomach muscles got a good work out just from the general guffawing that was going on.  I was a bit fearful for hobbit buddy on the walkie, stretchy thing, as it seemed to set off in some sort of perpetual motion like Newton’s Cradle.  Lucky I was on hand to help stop it and move her to a place of safety.

It was only a matter of time before the appeal of posing in our active wear took precedence over any actual work out.  Some of the equipment did clearly work, those bars you pull down were tough.  We both liked the one where you just stand on a spinning drain cover and twist from side to side.  Nice stretch, not very strenuous and drain covers for up to three people.  That would be a very respectable coven say (‘when shall we three meet again‘ etc), but in the absence of any witches to avail themselves of this exercise opportunity, it was fine for two hobbits to twist and chat.  I popped back later to catch this health conscious trio making use of it later on at witching hour.  They are also doing some upper arm exercises too.  Holding your arms up like that is harder than it looks.  To begin with you think it’s going to be easy, but phew, it hurts soon enough.  Give it a go, you’ll find out for yourself.

There was one bit of equipment I really didn’t get at all.  It was a tai chi turning thingy, or something, but it seemed to me utterly pointless, plus hobbit buddy hasn’t done me any great favours with the camera angles either which may be a factor in how I feel about it all.  I would put this piece of kit in a category with those child play mats. You know the ones with textured bits you can stroke the ribbon, and feel the sheep’s wool or whatever, and push a button and – as in this case, turn a pointless wheel.  This may constitute a learning opportunity for a small child, even enrichment for a parrot, but it did nothing for me.  In fact, those play gyms look better, you get to lie down in comfort for starters, which would be better for meditation purposes, if that is partly what the tai chi label is about, which I don’t know to be fair, never tried it.  Maybe if I did I’d understand…

So after a bit, we decided to do some drills. This was mutually entertaining if of dubious value in respect of achieving physical transformations.  I found it was a lot harder to make myself and motivate hobbit buddy to go as far as we do with the drills when at woodrun.  Also, we were a bit self-conscious (I know surprising really given the kinds of things we have got up to in public places with Roger and Ginger) and there were families strolling by, and ‘proper’ athletes doing chin ups on the parkour area – here are some photos stolen from the interweb of the Endcliffe parkour area, of which I thoroughly approve by the way, what those free running guys and girls can do messes with my head!

After the drills, press-ups.  No we didn’t keep count – just did ‘loads’ (ahem) – what do you mean ‘full or half?’ what do you take us for?  Then we decided to mix it up a bit and jogged down to the kiddies play area.  We decided that it would be fun to go on actual swings, and probably it would be a lot easier than swinging on the bars which was fun but hard on the arms.  En route we speculated about whether or not it was OK to go into the children’s play area if we were not in possession of children.  Hobbit buddy is a parent and she said it would be OK as long as we didn’t push any children off any swings. As it happened, because schools are back, the children who were in there were too small to be using the swings so we had them all to ourselves.

It is ages since I’ve been on a swing, years probably.  It was harder than I expected to get going.  They have a back bar now, presumably for safety purposes, but it makes it hard to really lean back and get some momentum going.  I didn’t feel we could really ask anyone for a push.  It’s one thing getting someone to take your photo for you, but as a (reluctant) grown-up playing on the swings, even my ‘social inappropriateness’ warning indicator was sensitive to the fact I shouldn’t really be looking for help there.  I improvised, and got going.  Hobbit buddy was not impressed, it hurt her back, apparently.  Then again, she liked the twirling tai chi wheels, so I suppose we all have our individual strengths.  To begin with I felt a bit of motion sickness which was very odd, but actually, it was a lot of fun.  It must help your core, all that thrusting!  Surely?

So next up, jogged back to our start point and then, go us, we turned around and ran back, again!  I know.  And it wasn’t even a running day for me, we ended up doing about 5k in total, which isn’t much, but as an addition to our hardcore, intensive swinging about, shows real commitment!

To ring the changes a bit, we took a slight detour on our route home.  This also took us to a dilemma.  I think word is getting out about runderwear, and people everywhere are just dumping their pants at will so they can don runderwear instead.  Either that, or there is some sort of local Sheffield superhero, who’s just done some amazing heroic deed in Endcliffe Park, and inadvertently left his purple pants behind when he was doing his lightning swift change of outfits afterwards.  We examined the evidence, but only from a distance.

This actually presented me with a dilemma, we should ‘just say no‘ to littering the park with purple pants, as surely as Zammo should have just said no to heroin.  But then, what if the superhero realises he’s lost them and comes back looking for them?  I felt we ought to have picked them up and disposed of them, but  to be honest, I was a bit squeamish about doing so without gloves (well, you know, don’t know where they’ve been do you?).  It did feel a bit wrong to pose with photos with them and then walk away.  However, I am going out again with hobbit on Friday, and I promise to go and look for them, and to take a bag with me so I can dispose of them responsibly.

So finally, we were back where we started, feeling transformed as well as just a tad smug, but deservedly so.  We had tried something new, and whilst it may not be true to say our transformation is as yet complete, more work in progress, but we have achieved the goal of incorporating some spontaneous cross training into our training regimes.  This is how body make-overs begin.  That and Photoshop.  But I don’t know how to use that.


 So that’s it for now, keep in the swing of your training y’all – and remember, as Ella tells us ”Tain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) that’s what gets results’!

Categories: motivation, running, teamwork | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Knickers to the Trunce

Have pants, will run!  As perhaps you know?  I am after all, a committed athlete now.  Officially so:


As luck would have it, today, Monday night was Trunce Night!  Yay!  Not only did this offer an excellent opportunity for a yomp out, it was also the last Trunce of the year which means FANCY DRESS.  Roger could come too!  He needs to get back into training as we have the Wingerworth Wobble coming up pretty soon, so miles on the hoof ought really to be ratcheted up again.  Unfortunately, I was again without a car.  However, more fortunately, I was in possession of a Smiley Buddy, not just that, but one who was also minded to think a jaunt out to Oxspring would be just the ticket for a humid Monday evening, and who was also in possession of a (borrowed) vehicle.  Yay, go us.  Me, my new lucky pants and my pony had a running plan!  It’s a Trunce Tradition, a rite of passage, though shalt run the Trunce at least once, and thereafter attend the ritual that is the fancy dress season finale run in twilight and with gusto! (Credit Julia Jennings for this photo by the way 🙂 )

trunce tradition JJ.jpg

Oh, you have got to be joking?  You don’t know what The Trunce is?  We’ve been through this.  Do yourself a favour and follow the link within the text, or just take it from me that it’s around a 4 mile yomp on trails, just outside Sheffield.  Celebrity endorsed, it is a summer series of about 9 runs, that take place over the same route every three weeks or so.  It involves river crossings and much hilarity.  Falling over in the water is obligatory, escape from the alligators and duck – o -crocs that infest these waters desirable.  This photo was I think taken a couple of years back, when a running club coordinated their fancy dress outfits to all come as Wildebeest.  This was collective, creative genius, but sadly also acted as bait that attracted the crocs out in big numbers.  Consequently, whilst you will still see inventive fancy dress at the trunce, runners have never again risked creating quite this level of verisimilitude to prey animals as was flaunted on the occasion captured here.   You have been warned.  Also, the problem with fancy dress of this type, is that it conceals both your running club colours and your trunce numbers, so even those few who made it past the crocs never got a time for taking part.  Harsh perhaps, but rules is rules.  It does say somewhere that you must have your Trunce number clearly on display in letters at least 5 cm high.  I don’t want to speak ill of the dead, but I can’t lie, they really haven’t done that have they?


As an added incentive to attend, The Trunce race series is a popular hang out for mossienet photographers (Steve Firth or one of his representatives on earth – on this occasion it was  Tim Hobbs, though thanks too to Julie and Mick Jennings for some added snaps of the start line stampede).  Collectively they will do their best to capture ‘runners’ plunging into the rapids in return for modest (optional) donations to their charity fundraising effort to buy mosquito nets and so protect local populations from malaria Malaria No More.  They will not plunge in and rescue you should you get into trouble (you can’t interfere with nature, you have to let it take its course), but you will have a very splendid snapshot of the moment of your demise that would look lovely on any memorial page should the worst happen.  What’s not to like?  Some people do find the course a bit much and have to be abandoned to their fate on the way round.  This may sound harsh, but it’s like wildebeest on any river crossing migration, survival of the fittest, most do get through, you have to think of the bigger picture.  This shot is very unusual, because on this occasion it seems it was a Dark Peak Fell Runner that sadly didn’t make it, they are normally invincible.  Oh well, it was what they would have wanted I’m sure…


So Smiley Buddy rocked up at mine in time to try out some fancy dress options (favouring ‘safari gear’ over ‘gardening smock’ or ‘scarecrow options’ – I didn’t offer to lend her Roger as he is not really a novice ride and anyway I was scared she’d ride him better than me and I’d lose all my equestrian credibility in one fell swoop – as opposed to one fell run). Fashion choices made, we piled into the car and made our way to the Waggon and Horses pub in Oxspring via an extraordinarily circuitous route which made me feel simultaneously: pleased it wasn’t me having to drive and navigate, and anxious in case I was being abducted.

On arrival, we didn’t have ages to spare, but it’s all about prioritising when you are short of time isn’t it.  We did a selfie, this was adequate for the purposes of recording that we were present representing Smiley Paces Running Club, but not really adequate for the purposes of recording our commitment to fancy dress.


It was pretty busy, with a pleasing number of participants having shown willing in respect of the fancy dress directive.  I was a bit shy about taking too many snaps, but once we’d paid our £1.50 dues each, I did take a couple to get some of the ambience.  Then I gave my camera to my compatriot smiley buddy who was going back to the car to change in any case so could leave it somewhere safe, whilst I went in search of the loos, fearless.

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As at all the best parties, the loos were the place to hang out for the action.  There was excited chatting in the queue.  Some rumblings of discontent as inevitably the gents squeezed passed the ever-lengthening queue for the ladies, to nip in and out of their dedicated peeing point.  I say that, but on reflection, there was more nipping in than nipping out going on, so maybe some Steel City Striders guys were all playing sardines?  There were a fair few in there all at once.   I didn’t think of this point until later so I didn’t ask.  In our queue it was surprisingly good fun eyeing up the costumes.  There were twins who’d played to their strengths and unfortunately prolific facial hair and come as 118 118, though embarrassingly I wasn’t too sure which was 118 and which was 118 as they weren’t all that easy to tell apart.  Below they are pictured with a woman who was stretching the rules by being carried round by a bear.  Now, I do appreciate I’m on thin ice here, given that I was riding Roger, but, the distinction I’d make is that Roger’s hooves didn’t reach the ground so he wasn’t carrying me as much as all that, whereas that poor bear worked really hard, especially at the river crossing, so bit of a different scenario. I have to admit though, even though I think riding a bear in this day and age may be morally questionable, I did have a bit of a pang of fancy dress envy there, so call me a hypocrite if you must…


Other notable distractions in the loos were large numbers of runners tooling up with their weaponry, water pistols and guns were passed in and out and filled up in anticipation for future exchanges of fire out on the route.  There was also a rather sweet and shy little girl who was very interested in my horse.  I could hear her whispering to the woman she was with, presumably her mum, and then on their way out they politely asked me what my horse was called.  ‘Roger!’ I explained.  They walked on satisfied.  I was very impressed at both their animal identification skills and their confidence that he would, of course, have a name, so many other runners there are ignorant of these things. (Camel?  Well, really, I say it’s forgiven and forgotten, but it’s a struggle for me to move on!)

After I’d used the facilities I ventured out again and bumped into my Smiley compatriot who had transformed herself into a creature of the African bush.    Whilst I no longer had my camera, to my delight she did have her phone, so we accosted a bystander to do the honours.  He looked a bit alarmed, I think he thought we wanted him to marry us or something.  I explained that wasn’t necessary, a simple snap would suffice, and he did well, though we do make a lovely couple it is true!  Here you can see from my joyful expression that I am clearly wearing my new runderwear.  The transformation is quite amazing is it not?


Not much faffing time, we made our way over to the start.  I had brought my head torch with me, but as no-one else was wearing them I left it in the car.  It was quite a crush at the start, but a good atmosphere.  The organiser gave a very valiant attempt at a race briefing, but I couldn’t hear anything over the hubbub.  This was particularly unfortunate as there were rumours of sweets at the end for everyone in fancy dress, but I couldn’t fathom where or how you could source these.  Oh well, running is its own reward, I don’t need confectionary as well!   Also, my body is a temple of course, though I do forget that sometimes and go wild eating avocados for example.   I didn’t hear the call for ‘off‘ but it must have been made, and soon I was caught up in the start stampede before I  really knew what was happening!


It was quite fun all squashed up next to criminals on the run, men in suits, miscellaneous tutus and fairies etc.  As we took off, I was briefly alongside St George, who was lacking a steed but wearing a very fine cape.  He hailed me and ran onwards, I started puffing quite early on, but somehow, caught up in the throng of starters I did run all the way up the hill, under the bridge and round the corner before stopping.  I know that’s not very far really, and hardened runners wouldn’t consider this to be much of an achievement, but it was for me.  This is joyful.  Yomping up a hill with a couple of hundred other runners dressed as everything from whoopee cushions to a banana has an exuberant quality you have to experience to appreciate.  I was also in genuine awe at some of the fancy dress choices, albeit some were truly awesome whilst other possibly had not really been quite thought through properly.  The sumo wrestler looked impressive certainly, but I did wonder how she would cope with air resistance going round and squeeze through some of the narrower gaps in the walls en route.  On the other hand she did have potentially some buoyancy advantages at other points on the way.  Those pants might be runderwear actually, they are most capacious as well as being most comfy.  Did I mention I have new pants?


By the way, whilst we are on the practicalities of fancy dress, do think about the implications of your  choices.  This ‘runner‘ never even made it to the start of The Trunce, such a shame, and so easily avoided with a bit of forethought.  Turtle might have been OK, but a tortoise was never going to make it.

So onwards and upwards.  It was hot.  Way hotter than I’d expected, and pretty humid too.  As soon as we’d got past most of the spectators, I slowed to a walk.  I know, very early on, but as I’ve previously established in other posts, this isn’t actually slacking as such, rather it is legitimate racecraft, just pacing myself.  I was sort of mid-field, so a few runners passed me, but I wasn’t at the back. The running club with water pistols many and manifest, were also hilarious.  Their speedier runners kept on dashing ahead, and lying in ambush for the slower ones coming up behind.  This confused me a bit at first as you know how all runners basically look the same, and I couldn’t work out how runners that were ahead of me suddenly appeared behind me and vice versa, but it also kept me entertained.  I particularly enjoyed some of the heckling ‘banana coming through‘ was a good one.  I didn’t know bananas could look demonic, but it seems they can.  Good to know.


There was also a rogue nun out on the course.  I couldn’t help wondering if she’d somehow become detached from her barrel rolling comrades, and was still chasing over the hills looking for them with an ever-increasing mania brought on by sleep deprivation.  I didn’t like to ask.  Nicky Spinks (that’s the celebrity endorsement of The Trunce by the way in case you were wondering) was in attendance at this Final 2016 Trunce just a couple of days after winning this team event of barrel rolling across kinder scout .  Once again, she demonstrates she is basically a running machine – she was taking cash at the trunce the day after she completed the Bob Graham double as well, she must not need to rest or sleep.  As with last time I was at The Trunce and saw her, I was far too in awe of her achievements to actually  congratulate her, so I just went with ‘I’m number 5025, thanks‘ instead.  I would have liked to have asked her though of which of her successes is she most proud: Bob or the Barrel?  Tough call, tough call indeed…  I wonder what pants they are all wearing? (Thanks to Sally Fawcett for providing these shots by the way, expertly procured if I may say so, and thanks to Marcus Scotney for taking the ones of the nuns on the run.)

From the grassy slopes you press on through a freshly harvested corn field.  This was a bit of an issue for me, as at one point a whole heap of fresh oats had been spilled onto the track.  Very tempting for poor Roger, but I couldn’t let  him stop and gorge so early on because of the risk of colic later on.  I felt a bit mean though as we pressed on.  Next was a dusty-ish track, with still a few spectators out and about.  It seemed a lot quicker and shorter for me than last time I went round.  It really does make a huge difference having done it once before, even though I didn’t exactly remember the route, it was like little moments of deja vu going round.  I had some sense of how long each section was.  Things like the massive hill later wasn’t quite such an unexpected outrage and shock for example.

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Unexpectedly, there was a mass jail breakout that was opportunistically planned to coincide with this Trunce Finale.  Their prison issue garb becoming inconspicuous juxtaposed alongside the many and glorious manifestations of the diseased imaginings of runners from near and far.   I don’t know the histories of these people who have somehow fallen foul of the criminal justice system, all I know is that when we run we are all equal, running our own race, fighting our own battles, and so good luck to them.  The whole event did challenge me to reflect on my own beliefs around law and order.  Generally speaking, I don’t approve of people carrying guns, let alone using them, but the water pistol runners were entertaining, even when I got caught in the cross fire.  There is a deep irony though ,that here we were at the Trunce not just tolerating but celebrating gun use, when further down the country people were being arrested for carrying ceremonial swords.  It’s a strange world.

The next excitement was that a pack of juniors was released in our wake.  They are so fast!  They had us in their sights and chased us down.  I know they are running a shorter route, but they just seem to sprint the whole thing.   Their speeds are incredible.  They really were.

Like  shooting stars leaping through the sky
Like tigers defying the laws of gravity
Like  racing cars passing by like Lady Godiva
They were just gonna go go go
There’s no stopping them

The only problem is, I got really confused about running etiquette again.  People were desperately shouting from behind ‘left‘ but I didn’t know if they meant keep left (so the runner passes on your right) or runner coming through on your left, so runner passes on your left.  The consequence was I got a bit panicked and sort of ricocheted back and forth across the track a few times until I worked out what to do for the best.  I wish faster runners would understand this.

Rant alert:  I had a horrible time at parkrun last week when some of us slower runners were being lapped and some runners were bearing down on us shouting ‘left‘, some were shouting  ‘right‘, some shouted ‘move‘, one with real aggression at a small child which I consider way out of order.  Meanwhile, the marshals were directing us differently again –  saying ‘keep left‘ in some places and ‘keep right‘ in others.  My default position is to listen to marshals as they can at least be consistent, but I do try to give way to faster runners always.  However, I think sometimes fast runners coming through have no understanding that their shouts are meaningless and often contradict  what other runners who have just come through have been shouting.  So if you are a fast runner and you see slow runners zig zagging and think they are just being awkward, consider that actually we are sometimes trying to please so many different runners requests we have become completely confused and no longer have any blooming idea what would be helpful.


I know, it’s not an amusing point, but it is a sincere one.  If there is official etiquette I wish someone would enlighten me.  My view is a faster runner coming behind shouting ‘coming through on your right/left‘ or even ‘keep right/left‘ is absolutely fine.  Shouting ‘move’ is ignorant and you deserve to be blocked en route (though I would still give way if I had the faintest idea what would be helpful).  To be fair (rant over) it wasn’t that bad at The Trunce, it became clear what path runners were taking and we all gave way as best we could and as our individual fancy dress choices would allow.  Some runners having better visibility and agility than others an account of their costumes.  I was impeded by neither of those issues, only by personal ballast.


So, onward, I don’t know if I was just faster, or if it was because for whatever reason we’d spread out a bit more, but there was no bottle neck at the kissing gate for me this time.  This was good, because you could trot onwards. This was bad for the same reason, no sneaky stopping to admire the view en route.  I also managed to negotiate this gate before the juniors came hurtling back up the bank.  It was like dodging bullets when they did come into view.  How they achieve those speeds on those gradients I do not know.  I jumped into the undergrowth alongside the narrow path at intervals, so they could run on unimpeded, but I was quite relieved when I’d passed the two-way traffic bit.  There was a little gaggle of spectators/ marshals at this point.  Some great supportive clapping was going on, and, fantastically appropriate and skilled use of cow bells too if my ears weren’t deceiving me.  At this point in the proceedings such sounds were cheery and encouraging, but not particularly serving any great practical purpose.   Later on, they were what kept runners on that fine knife-edge between life and death, guiding the lost in the darkness to keep them on the right path and away from scary things.


Reader, I can report that the nights are indeed drawing in.   The run started at 6.45, probably a fraction later, and sunset was officially just before 7.30 I think, so in principle, it shouldn’t have been too dark to run.  However, it was humid, hot and even threatening rain.  In fact at one point big fat droplets did start to fall.  In the wooded parts of the run, I definitely had a sense that it was going to get mighty dark in there.  Whilst horses are supposed to be able to find their way home and have pretty good night vision, Roger is more of a house pony rather than actual pony and I’m not altogether confident in his orientation skills.  The bells were potentially a necessity to get back to base when the night closed in.  I mean he has a lot in common with wild horses as you can see, just not everything.

The first stream was quite fun to splash through.  I was really, really hot, so it was quite refreshing to get stuck in.  Also, it came round much more quickly than I’d remembered, and I felt some relief that I was definitely not at the back of he field so I was probably going to be all right with navigation, i.e. I wouldn’t need to navigate as there’d be someone to follow. This route isn’t marked, so you are dependent on either knowing the route, or being in sight of someone who does.  (They do have more marshals around at the beginning of the season though). Another good thing about the fancy dress finale trunce is that many of the runners had quite eye-catching garb. Time for a few gratuitous other runners shots I think.  Motivation could work in a couple of directions, you might feel inclined to run faster at the sight of the local neighbourhood knife wielding psychopath  coming up behind you for example.  Alternatively you might prefer to hitch a ride with the accommodating bear (having put ethical considerations about animal exploitation aside in favour of pursuing your own personal self-interest) or just want to catch up with your nation’s patron saint.  Takes all sorts after all, the choice is yours.

It’s all a blur to be honest, you have to hoik your weary carcass up a steep, steep hill at one point.  I was not alone in walking this bit, and although I more than once offered to move to the side to let faster runners sprint on by, each and every runner I made this offer too seemed veritably panicked at the thought of doing so. The logic is I suppose, if you are stuck behind a slower runner you can hide behind the familiar if dubious ruse of ‘what can you do, I had no choice but to walk‘ but the moment I gave way, they’d have to try to run up the darned thing, and it was way too steep for that to be an attractive option to all but the hardiest and most masochistic of participants.

At the top of one hill, was a runner with his hands on his hips who had particularly well-defined upper body.  From a distance it was quite ‘impressive’ in an alarming ‘somebody really ought to tell him to work on his legs as well as his torso‘ kind of way.  Only when I got up close did you come to realise it was in fact a rather genius fancy dress.  At least I’m pretty sure it was. I did shout out a bit of constructive criticism on may way past ‘maybe do a bit more leg work‘ he took it well. Thanked me for my interest in his personal training routine. Well, we can all learn from others can’t we?  This is a profile shot of him anyway, silhouetted against the dying light of the sun (not from an apocalyptic nightmare end-of-the-world dying sun that you somehow mysteriously slept through by the way, just from sunset on Trunce night).  Must have been hard running up those hills with those dinky little legs having to carry that massive upper body.   No wonder he was paused admiring the views.  The ‘just paused because I’m looking out for my mates‘ guise, is one I have used myself.  It fools no one…


Once we’d reached the top of the hill, there was a style/ gate malarkey and not many people around.  I followed a woman ahead, along a path where there was a roughly painted sign saying ‘no footpath’ only it did seem to be the way with a well-trodden track leading the way, but once you went down it was alarmingly uneven and steep, in fact, probably not a footpath.  Should have used my own judgement, not followed her perhaps.  (‘So you’d follow someone off the end of a pier would you?’  Probably yes, rather than trust my own navigational and orienteering skills out on the hills in the darkening night.)

Then there was a nice flat bit, through a field which was carpeted in what I at first thought was blown about thick tree pollen, then ground in chicken shit, or possibly saturated cardboard.  No idea what it was, my eyesight is getting really bad and it was twilight by now.  I would have paused to collect a sample for further future investigation, but I really couldn’t be arsed to bend down and scoop it up for analysis.  I was pretty relieved that there were some other runners about as I wouldn’t have known the route, needed to keep up my chase.

The next memorable bit was steep downwards into the woods.  This became genuinely alarming.  Although it was only dusk, under the trees it was completely dark, I could hardly see my feet, and although it wasn’t too muddy, so not slippery as such, tree roots and fallen trees made for a precarious passage down.  I slowed to a crawl, almost literally as I felt my way along hanging onto trees as I passed.  There was a faster runner behind, but he said he was fine  – happy to be taking it slowly because he didn’t want to slip and tumble down and squash me – which was quite a coincidence, as I didn’t want him to do that either.  Spooky, how we were on the same wave length!  I was quite relieved to get to the river at the wood’s edge.  You could hear the odd shriek ahead as it got closer.  I chose to believe it was just people plunging into unexpectedly cold water, rather than runners being violently abducted.  By the time I got there it was pretty deserted, a couple of runners were waiting for friends on the opposite bank.

I remembered this crossing from last time thankfully, as it was quite a steep plunge in, and by now it was dark enough that you couldn’t see the bottom of the stream.  It would have been a serious shock if you’d stepped in expecting it to be ankle-deep and gone in up over your knees.  Poor Roger got his feet wet at this point.  Fortunately we have built up quite a good partnership now, so  I knew he would take me through, and if the worst came to the worst  and I fell, I could land on him and he’d forgive me and be unhurt because actually he is made out of foam and fake fur (don’t tell anyone though, it can be our secret,  especially don’t tell Roger himself, we still have to work in  partnership in future competitions, I really don’t want anything to jeopardise that).


Sploshing out, I headed up the hill (steep again) you go through a rather delicate looking garden gate and it feels like you are just trespassing in someone’s back garden (I hope I wasn’t).  At the top of the hill I was feeling hot and disoriented.  Fortunately there was a whoopee cushion and octopus on hand to help out.  The whoopie cushion was friendly and funny, but I wasn’t overly confident about her instructions. The octopus on the other hand, well, they are known for the intelligence aren’t they cephalopod molluscs, so that was very reassuring, I’m always happy to take advice and direction from octopi/ octopedes and squids too, though they are surprisingly hard to find when you are looking for directions in the average tourist town for some reason.  Also, very classy turn out on the part of this particular octopus.  I’m gutted I can’t find a photo of such a fine specimen. The octopus had a fine green metallic outer skin, and then the tentacles had an  exquisite sucker patterned lining.  Heavy duty armory there, but awesome.   Honestly, my favourite outfit of the evening.  I don’t have a picture of that particular octopus though, so here is a broadly similar one by way of illustration.


Bit of road, trot trot, hot hot, past a man trimming his hedge (not a euphemism), past cows gazing at us with incomprehension, then a sharp left dart down a footpath and back homeward on the route we’d set out on half an hour (ahem) or so, earlier.  It wasn’t quite so dark now as I was out from under the cover of the trees.  I was mightily relieved that I’d be on the wider tracks from hereon-in, I’d have been spooked to still be in the woods in the ever encroaching dark at this stage.  Not the dark per se, but fear of falling or tripping there and being left for dead.  I chickened out of running right up the really steep hill, and saved myself for when it flattened out again.  I was tiring and did a few sideways lurches into gorse bushes (which, FYI, can penetrate leggings, pony wear and body fat more than you might honestly expect).  I did on the whole enjoy myself in a type one fun sort of way, but in the dark of the woods I had a couple of ‘why oh why?’ moments, albeit they were transitory.  I wasn’t the only one though, if this photo is anything to go by.  I hope this poor guy with his head in his hands has recovered, he doesn’t look altogether happy I’d say.  Or maybe he’s fine, and he’s just lost his hat?  I met a witch who had lost her hat in the woods, those low hanging branches are a menace for the taller runner.


Once back on the open road I just gave myself a pep talk to keep going as fast as I could so I’d be at the finish before it was completely pitch.  On the homeward straight were some spectators, visible only because they were holding up their phones to take some snaps of the last few runners cornering to go under the bridge of the way back home.  I thought them brave and ‘game’ to stand where they were, because it was too dark to make them out and in their corner position just as you had to turn and head down hill I was surprised they hadn’t been taken out like so many skittles by runners with too much forward momentum and not enough brakes.  I nearly had them down as I passed, but Roger helped me take evasive action just in time.  Very exciting, it was like horsey barrel racing!


I was so relieved to be going down the hill to the end.  It was pitch by now, but it sort of reminded me of bonfire night.  You know, when you can see people gathered in the dark some distance away and hear the odd  cheer go up as a firework is lit.  It was like that, distant cheers and shouts as returning runners were clapped homeward. It was all very jolly and festive.  Oh and my pants held out just fine too by the way, no chaffing at all.  Marvelous, quite marvelous!

As I approached the finish funnel, I caught sight of my Smiley Buddy in her fine safari hat, she was way ahead of me.  It was nice to be cheered in.  I lingered a little to clap in some of the final finishers. By this time it was seriously dark.  It was fun (retrospectively) running in the woods in the dark, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be out there any longer.  There is a guided runner who does the trunce, I don’t know the extent of her visual impairment, but she is pretty courageous out there.  I did that weird thing though, of thinking  somewhat patronisingly, ‘but how will she cope in the dark?’ but I suppose ironically she’d be faring better than any of us out there, it’s her guide who we needed to worry about.  I saw her romp home just fine – apart from a minor collision with a pole in the finish funnel, the irony of which was lost on no one, given all the other hazards she’d apparently negotiated with ease!

So, that was that, all suddenly over. I felt a bit sad.  It was very dark as we picked our way back to the car.  We never did find our sweets for being in fancy dress, but not to worry, who needs sweets, apple cider vinegar is the way to go now according to a reliable source – finishing in one piece was way better than any  amount of sherbert fountains could possibly have been.  After the event I read somewhere that there was a prize giving of sorts maybe in the pub afterwards, but we didn’t know.  Maybe next year we could go join the fun and heckle from the wings.

So that’s it, Trunce 2016 experienced, enjoyed and understood.  It’s a fantastic innovation in running.  A great location, great concept, celebration of the joy of running and the not always adequately appreciated and embraced delights of doing so in fancy dress.  I’d really recommend this series, and, apart from it being a tad of an early start if you have to commute from Sheffield, little reason not to go.  An absolute bargain at £1.50, that’s only 50p a river crossing.  You’d pay loads more than that for a bottle of Buxton spring water for heaven’s sake, this way you get to bathe in the stuff!

So, thank you to all the organisers for their sterling work throughout the summer and year on year, thanks to supporters for splendid clapping and fellow participants for the warm welcome and camaraderie en route.


Even though I’ve only made it twice this season, I like to think that I am now firmly set on the pathway (if not the fast track) to an ever closer and more enduring relationship.  The Trunce is for life, not just for Christmas.  You become part of its story and it part of yours, forever.  That’s quite something to celebrate and embrace!

If you are on the edge wondering what to do I say jump jump, and see if you can fly (unless you are on a motorway bridge say, (I’m using this as a poetic way of expressing being on the edge of deciding whether or not To Trunce, not on whether or not to jump from a great height.)  Remember only this, The Trunce membership is one relationship that will endure for ever more. Whether  you dabble in the intoxicating waters of this event just once, or a hundred times you will forever be one of the trunce community.  Your number will be uniquely yours in perpetuity, that has to be count for something.  In these modern days of so many transient pleasures and fickle relationships here is one with infinite endurance. Think of it not so much as a cult or spiders web in which you are trapped for eternity, think of it more as a dream like state to which you can constantly return and enjoy again at will.  Or even better, don’t over-think it, just dive right on in.  Literally in this case, bring a change of clothes or you won’t be allowed in the car for a lift home afterwards.

Blistering barnacles indeed! (credit to Jeff for that, whoever you may be..) What an experience!  So see you all again in April 2017.  Remember, what the hell is always the right decision.*


*well, I say, always the right decision, what I really mean is you follow any of my advice at your own risk, obviously.

For accounts of all my Trunce related posts follow this link.

Thank you all the photographers, Tim Hobbs, Julia and Mick Jennings and anyone else who has shared pictures of the event.  You are all stars!

Thank you Marcus Scotney for the shots of the 2016 Great Kinder Beer Barrel Challenge Peak District.

Categories: motivation, off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pants to Running – in celebration of Runderwear

It’s pants!   They’ve come.  After much procrastination, I finally got round to ordering some and now they are here, look:


I am a committed athlete.  This is official, and the evidence is here for all to see.  I am now in possession of my newly purchased Runderwear, and it says on the box VERY CLEARLY INDEED that basically, if you are anything less than a committed athlete, it would be not just irresponsible, but dangerous to wear them.  When marketing companies talk about being a ‘committed athlete‘ that’s pretty much synonymous with being ‘enormously talented and accomplished’ mostly.  I mean, to be fair, we all have our off days, and some of us (well OK, me for example) might be working towards being ‘enormously talented and accomplished’ rather than actual secure in that status just yet, but basically, now I have my go-faster, no-chaffing runderwear, my running credentials are secured in perpetuity.  Have pants, will run!  ‘Don’t stop me now as I’m having a good time‘ (as the song says, though granted it doesn’t differentiate between type 1 and type 2 fun).


Sooo, obviously, excited and delighted to be in receipt of my new runderwear, next challenge was to give them a literal and metaphorical test run.  I began by just wearing my pants around the house.  They are ‘low rise hipsters‘, according to the label on the box,  though the company seem to take it on trust that you are qualified to wear them.  I personally don’t have a full beard, though I do have an arrangement with many female friends to come and visit me at my hospital bed with tweezers to sort out my rogue chin hairs if ever I end up in a coma.  A living will of sorts in fact.  I also got a pair of ‘briefs’ and an ordinary ‘hipster’, so I could work out which style of runderwear I liked the best, but, honestly, they look very similar to me.  They don’t come with any instructions so I put them on the wrong way round at first (surely that nice star logo should be at the front), but I got there in the end without outside assistance, so I’m sure you will too.  Don’t be scared.

They are all however super-comfy.  I wont lie, they aren’t the most flattering of undergarments I’ve ever worn (and I have worn some shockers in my time), but they do feel lovely.  Anyway, who’s going to see them apart from other runners who are taking a professional interest in such matters? –  and flashing your pants at fellow athletes at the start of parkrun say, is perfectly respectable.   Personally, I’ve never risked running commando, but I’d say these really do feel like you aren’t wearing anything at all down under (pants wise, I still wore my running leggings on top).  I think these pants and I are going to be friends. Runderwear Ambassador, you weren’t lying, these could indeed change my life!  For this I thank you.  Sorry it took me so long to see the light.  Here is a photo of our local Runderwear ambassador in action, you can really see how having the correct pants helps with running technique here.

runderwear ambassador.jpg

I had been toying with doing the last Trunce of the season in any case, but these newly arrived knickers had me chomping at the proverbial bit to get out there and run and see how they would fare put through their paces.  I can truthfully say I haven’t been so excited to be in possession of new pants since Independence Day 1999! (Pretentious reference coming up alert).

I was on holiday in Peru when I availed myself of a local laundry service.  Because I’d been travelling for a while, I handed over all my sordid clothing in one huge heap to a local woman for washing.  And I mean, all of it, I kept back only what I was wearing throwing caution to the wind.  The following day, it all came back, beautifully cleaned, ironed and folded and I paid the requisite fee.  It was only when I started going through it all, I realised that every single pair of my faded and tatty M&S knickers was missing.  I was left only with the pair I stood up in.  Even at the time I found this hilarious.  Frankly, if someone was desperate enough to want to keep my knickers I could not begrudge them this, but it did lead to a practical challenge in terms of replacing them.  The quest to buy knickers clarified why my M&S cheap and cheerfuls might have been so highly prized.  Knickers were nowhere to be found.  It was several days later before I finally came across a three pack in a market in some other Peruvian town.  They literally, had my name on!  I was soooooooooooo excited.   I had to have them.  I can’t remember now what they cost, but I do remember they were lemon yellow and had no elastic so were essentially completely useless.  Wouldn’t have been any good running say, but they brought me much joy, as you can see.  No it isn’t a picture of me wearing them, don’t be silly.


Actually, that’s the only thing that would have made me like my Runderwear delivery more, having my name emblazoned on the outside of every pack as an integral part of the packaging design.  It would make shopping choice for running gear so much more straightforward if the most suitable kit did always have your name on it.  I wonder when suppliers will wake up to the potential of such an innovation.

So, have pants, will run.   Test run to take place tackling the Trunce.  You’ll have to wait for my next post to find out how both they and I fared… Ooooh the excitement, the anticipation.  I know, who’d have thought it only took some new knickers to refresh and refocus my running ambitions.  Just goes to show – Top Tip everyone  – the secret of continuing to run is understanding what motivates you.  For me, today, it was discovering for myself the joyful potential of runderwear!

I know, who’d have thought it eh?

Categories: motivation, running | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Hearing voices? Differentiating between good advice and background noise to improve running technique.

It’s been a while since I’ve cast my pearls of running wisdom before the swine that is my regular reader.  Few points of clarification here.  I don’t wish to alienate you my reader, educate certainly, offend, absolutely not!  You need to understand that warthogs – African swine if you will – are my absolutely favourite animal (FACT).  I used to have a picture of one on my business card, so this isn’t an insult. Here are some pictures of me enjoying quality time with a smorgasbord of warthogs I particularly adore, by way of supporting evidence.  Also, I am including these photos because I think this running blog will be greatly enhanced by the inclusion of a few gratuitous warthog shots, and I’ve not managed to sneak them in prior to now.  FYI, if ever I need to think of my ‘happy place’ in order to help me calm down so that I do not follow through with, oh I don’t know, killing someone who has annoyed me say, this is the place I go to in my head.  I know, it explains quite a lot:

Secondly, warthogs are in fact awesome runners.  Have you ever seen them move?  They can manage up to 30 mph for a short distance at least.  They are stoical and determined, and defy the expectations of those who might presume that their physiques work against them when it comes to running.


Trail running as it should be done

Essentially, I think if I had a spirit animal it would be a warthog.  They are awesome. Fiercely loyal; inherently hilarious; outstanding body confidence;  always wanting to know what’s happening if not always alert to social graces and caring not one iota for appropriate dress codes. Perfect role models in fact.  However, I digress, today’s blog is to share with you some Top Tips that I have been garnering in order to up my game with regard to running technique.  I already know that you will struggle to find the right words to express what you are thinking in respect of this, so please don’t try to thank me,some things are best left unsaid.  Knowing you are achieving your best because of me is all the gratitude and recognition I seek.  Whenever people catch sight of me and then quickly do a U-turn and run away from me at full speed I tell myself that they are doing so merely to showcase their running form. It is the ultimate affirmation for me in a way, I won’t hear of it explained otherwise!  This is an example of one of the voices in my head, which conveniently takes me to the topic in hand.  Hearing voices.

I get a bit confused about which voices to listen to.  Should I listen to my body or the commentary in my head?  Healthy eating gurus  and indeed some sport coaches are inclined to tell you that if you learn to listen to your body you won’t go too far wrong in respect of diet and fitness. (Eat when hungry only, that sort of thing). Well, I’m not entirely convinced.  My body is prone to saying things like ‘I’m nice and comfy on this sofa‘ and ‘shall we walk now – lungs are killing me puffing up this hill‘.  Honestly, I think I’m pretty tuned into that voice, and it’s being so ready to listen to it which is keeping me very much in my comfort/ non running zone, which as any expert will tell you, is a great way to remain nice and comfortable (Type one fun if you will).   But, maybe not so great in terms of ever improving my performance let alone ‘fulfilling my potential.’


The commentary in my head is also pretty loud.  Mostly it’s along the lines of ‘oh crap, this is hard‘, ‘oh no a photographer/ someone I know – I’ll have to keep running a bit‘ or most loudly of all ‘this is pointless you are rubbish at running, just stop now, go home and never leave the house again‘.  Even though there is a dedicated club for rubbish runners (no really there is, see below) this internal monologue is not conducive to enhancing my enthusiasm for running, let alone my performance doing so.


Time for a change.  Let’s make running great again! (That is a topical reference by the way, not an endorsement of Trump).  Couple of things contributed to this, have contributed to my desire to change up a gear in relation to my running.  The imminence of The Dirty Double weekend away with my Smiley Paces running club (eek, what was I thinking, 15k followed by a 14k in potentially ‘biblical’ conditions, November, Lake District) for one thing.  I know it sounds drastic, but I’m wondering if I should train for it.  This would be an alternative option to dropping out say, and it is still two months away.  The other thing that made me question my nigh on terminal apathy in respect to my running of late,  was my return to Accelerate Woodrun in Eccleshall Woods last Thursday.  (Incidentally, spell check thinks this should be Ecclesial woods, so there’s a thought).  It was suggested that it might help me if I keep a running diary, and note the extent to which I work hard on my runs. This should be scoring on a scale of one to five, where ‘1’ is easy peasy and ‘5’ as eyes popping out and lung bursting (I think those were the technical terms).  Well, leaving aside the administrative detail that I probably wouldn’t fill an actual diary with my runs, I’d be alright noting my runs on a post-it note, in my heart I already know the answer to the question with respect to effort exerted.   I’m always hovering around a two and half, as soon as it gets remotely horrible, I just stop.  Could it be this is where my training is going wrong?  What an extraordinary revelation!  Maybe I do need to just try a bit harder now and again and see where it leads…

Obviously, to just go right out there and ‘try a bit harder‘ without soliciting other random opinions would be very irresponsible.  I decided to confer with my hobbit running buddy, who is also going to do the Dirty Double, and (alarmingly) has suddenly become ultra-focused and competitive in anticipation of this event.  We can do our training together.   We met up on Friday (yesterday) and straight off she came up with a brilliant idea that we should go for a flatter route, so we couldn’t use the hills (which are steep round here) as an excuse for slowing down and stopping all the time.  I blinked at her a bit, and explained the scoring system as an amendment to her proposed motion, and we decided to give it a go.  The problem is, to be honest we got a bit distracted.  The thing is we had to discuss our future training regime, and our having this discussion wasn’t compatible with actually running as neither of us can talk and run at the same time.  Also, I really needed the loo (yes I did go before I left the house, but I’d had to take a detour en route and had miscalculated the strength of my pelvic floor). I mean  I’d have been ok for a bit of yomp, but flat-out, nope, I needed a precautionary pee.  Plus we were very taken with the active wear video as per my last post, and so had to incorporate some ‘posing in our active wear‘ time into our run, which was also to involve a recce of some of the forthcoming TenTenTen.  I don’t know if I’m running that, I might volunteer instead, but Hobbit Buddy has entered it.  The upshot it was more a planning meeting than an actual work out session, but it was a start.

So what happened was this.  A gentle jog down to the public loos in Endcliffe Park during which we had our catch up chat.  You wouldn’t believe what scrapes Hobbit’s cats have been getting up to, we clearly needed to cover all that!  Then we got distracted in a conversation about weight.  I concede, if I lost weight it would obviously help with my running, but getting diet right is more complicated than the ‘just think of food as fuel‘ brigade would have you believe.

Food is not only about nutrition.  I do eat really healthily, for me it’s portion control that is the issue, but I don’t ever want to be made to feel guilty about eating an avocado. Honestly, only a couple of weeks ago someone said to me when I was about to tuck into a salad which included both avocado and olives ‘you aren’t seriously going to eat those are you – this is where you are going wrong!’  Spoiler alert, yes I was and yes I will again.  Excluding those from my diet is not my idea of healthy eating.  Possibly polishing off the end of Brie whilst you are waiting for your soup to heat up, is not so good I accept that.  It’s those kind of habits I need to break, not getting some sort of food related neurosis about ‘forbidden’ fruits.

Normally hobbit buddy is pretty good on these points, but on this occasion I wasn’t so taken with her advice.  ‘How about instead of eating all that cheese whilst you are waiting, why not do 20 press-ups instead?’  That was twice in one morning I blinked at her in utter incomprehension.  Does she not realise cheese is as addictive as heroin?   I’m not going to listen to her voice if the best it can come up with is ‘do press-ups voluntarily in preference to eating perfectly ripened brie straight off the knife‘  to be honest.  I totally know her advice would work, obviously, but it also not ever going to happen in my universe.  Does anyone really do that, apart from ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith who everyone knows is basically unhealthily obsessed by other people’s poo and not even a real doctor?  Also, she (Dr McK) is so self-righteous and smug that the very thought of her makes me want to take lard intravenously just to annoy her and I’m vegetarian and (as established previously) swine are my friends, so that’s really saying something!  Really, do you want to build your career around this, just to get dumped in a jungle somewhere and be made to eat kangaroo testicles as the high point of your fame?  To be fair, if you do, there is a vacancy now Dr McK has been discredited, so good luck to you!


Perhaps it was to avoid continuing this conversation that we then decided to try for a bit of a sprint ‘as fast as we can to the dog poo bin‘, because, whilst Sheffield may well be the Greenest City in England, that was as imaginative we could be when thinking ahead to the next memorable landmark after the Endcliffe Cafe.  Phew, it was further than I thought, that was hard – gawd do some people feel like this the whole time when they are running. That’s not type two fun, that’s type three, surely?

On the plus side, Hobbit was a bit breathless too, so we regrouped and got back to our central strategy which was procrastination.  ‘So this is a good thing to do, hypothetically, and we can incorporate more of it into our future runs, but let’s talk about our core and conditioning work strategy now shall we?’ We have decided to start using the outdoor gym (next week) and see if we can do some strengthening work, by sharing different exercises with one another.  I will bestow on her the wisdom gained through my participation at woodrun, she will bestow on me the wisdom gained through her HIIT work-out DVD.  What could possibly go wrong?

So then, we went off on a TenTenTen recce, and got massively distracted by posing in our active wear when we got to the magical arboreal archway that is such a delight to discover in our local patch of wood.

Now, I fully appreciate that to the uneducated, untrained and ill-informed eye these pictures will just look like we were mucking about.  Not so dear reader.  Not so at all.  Understanding one’s personal biomechanics through sophisticated gait analysis is an incredibly important part of improving running performance.  We only put ourselves on camera running in this way so we can examine our pronation and check out whether or not we are over-striding.  You have to walk before you can run you know, and preparation is everything.  Fortunately, it is immediately apparent our respective running forms are basically exemplary, so no worries there.  Any slight over-balance is probably caused by the weight of our visors, and we can correct for that with practice.  I’m sure as dammit not parting with mine though, oh no siree.  That visor was long awaited for and hard-won.

At the ‘end’ of our run, we even added on an extra bit, because we have a new resolve to try harder, doubling back on ourselves to take on a flat section at pace again.  If my strava is not toying with me, we even got a PR on that section, which is both good and bad.  Good because it shows we were trying, bad because it still wasn’t all that impressive.  On conclusion ‘proper’ I asked her what she thought of our attempts:  ‘So how would that score on a scale of 1-5 effort?’ I asked.  ‘Maybe 2‘ she said.  ‘Maybe 2?!‘  I thought we were trying a bit harder myself.  ‘Definitely about 2, and type one fun as well‘, she reiterated.  I am really going to have to up my game…

So, summary of yesterday’s outing in relation to hearing voices:

  • the expert voice that suggested grading my running efforts is probably worth listening to for a bit at least as it is a way of monitoring if I’m actually trying
  • the voice in my head saying  ‘stop now’ could maybe go on hold now and again, though no need to take it as far as waiting until my eyes are about to pop out before taking that feedback on board
  • hobbit’s voice of ‘let’s try’ is probably a good one to listen to as well, we can try a new collusion regime (not to be confused with a collision regime, which this very nearly was due to a typing error) whereby we collude in doing more running together not less.  We can but try.  Change in mindset for both of us though.  Yikes indeed!

Today though, parkrun day. I thought I’d take the hearing voices to another level.  My plan was to solicit opinion re Dirty Double and running techniques in general from as many people as possible.  The basic premise is that if you ask enough people what to do, eventually someone will tell you what you want to hear. This is only a slight variation on being sure to ask advice only from someone who will confirm your preferred course of action.  There is a slight risk (like the boy and the man leading the donkey story) that you will come a cropper from trying to please everyone, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

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Sometimes, I have a flash of unwelcome self-awareness, that I immediately try to crush.  That happened a few times today.  I ambushed Smiley Paces friends and parkrun compatriots numerous and various and basically pumped them all for insights and information and then brutally cast them aside once they had outlived their usefulness to me.  I need to work on my life skills, but like my core strengthening work, I see it as a potential future project rather than an immediate undertaking.  So, a little selection of the expert voices I downloaded today:

On walking down to parkrun, by an extraordinary quirk of fate, super speedy founder Smiley, famed for compression shorts and winning races, came alongside.  Much as I’d like to pretend that we mutually and companionable shared running top tips, in fact I basically just appropriated all her years of running wisdom through devious questioning techniques.  The trick is to start innocently enough.  Eh hem: ‘so what’s your thought on appropriate running efforts at parkrun?’ I used as my opening gambit.  Anyway, upshot is, that it can work to use parkrun (say) as your threshold running romp for the week.  That means, going fast enough that you can’t talk and run at the same time (or properly trying in lay terms).  I’m very aware, that at the end of every parkrun I can always muster the energy for a sprint finish. This actually means not that I’m a completely brilliant runner with an amazing turn of speed (though do please continue in that misapprehension should you ever see me in action),  au contraire dear reader, it means I must always be holding something back.  I know this really, maybe I should give more all the way round.  It wouldn’t matter if I ended up slowing at the finish or even limping over it, if I’d been really going for it earlier on.  It is a good point, well made, and one to think about.     It was genuinely interesting hearing her perspective actually, joking aside, how the ‘mixing it up’ means you get breadth in your running performance instead of just a single string to your metaphorical running bow.  I don’t know that I gave quite the right response to the suggestion of track work though.  Said I’d love to come with my sandwiches and watch her train from the stands.  Anyway,  I dumped her at the loos, because I had my eye on the ownder of the next important running voice with whom I needed to engage.

I give you The Runderwear Ambassador.  I have been wanting to catch up with her since yesterday, when I finally hit ‘add to basket‘ and then ‘pay‘ in respect of making a runderwear purchase.  I feel confident these will indeed aid my running progression through by-passing any chafing issues.  Perhaps the associated abolition of my VPL will also shave off crucial seconds by giving me a more streamlined running profile.    I needed some clarification on whether of not I should have got the ones that come up to your armpits, or the more risqué ones that only cover your tummy hole (they cover your arse as well to be fair, I mean the cut of the proverbial jib differs).    This conversation required not only verbal advice, but quite a lot of me scrutinising her knickers and under-garments in general.  It is testament to her sweet nature and my poor social skills, that neither of us considered this to be particularly inappropriate behaviour in a public place.  Still, no-one said running was easy. If you are serious about getting better as an athlete you mustn’t be held back by what other people think.  It’s not like she was going commando or anything.


Next stop, Smiley Paces buddies miscellaneous to check out Dirty Double entries.  The first one I caught up with was encouraging about my participation in this event.  (I’m back on to soliciting opinion from others about what should I do – heaven portend I should have to make a decision on my own and take personal responsibility for it).  This was welcome, but somewhat undermined by her shocking revelation that she is doing the two times 10k races not the longer ones in the afternoon.  So whilst her voice was positive, it was not the loudest one influencing me.  Not to worry, dump her, corner someone else.

There in the distance was Regal Smiley and her Running buddy of choice. I shamelessly bulldozed their conversation (well, this was an emergency, all about me and my running needs). ‘I have to ask you a question I breathlessly gasped out to them‘.  Regal Smiley knew immediately what it was ‘you’ll be fine, you should do it!’ Now, this is genuinely encouraging, because she did it last year, and they did it with another Smiley mate who was made to do it despite having fallen over in the shower immediately prior to running.  I rather formed the impression she actually hurled herself down on the tiles hoping that this pre-race injury would allow her to drop out, but it didn’t work).  The only down side of this otherwise encouraging perspective, was that both she and her running buddy are a lot fitter and faster than me, and also a lot taller i.e. longer legs, they don’t have to take so many steps as me going round.    I was standing a bit too close and got quite a crick in my neck gazing up at them.  However, more good news.  Regal Smiley’s buddy (who was volunteering today – clue there) said that she was doing it and wont even be able to do any running for the next five weeks because she is injured.  ‘But that’s brilliant news!’ I exclaimed.  Because this is all about me, and it made me feel so much better to hear someone carrying some no doubt horrific (but unspecified) injury was going to risk a romp round despite being possibly still in pain and having done no training for months!  I skipped away having lost interest in them entirely now they had given some positive reinforcement.  I had again that slight shudder of self-awareness about having been socially inappropriate, but hey ho, it’s not the worst of my faux pas even for just today.  I did a sort of half-hearted ‘oh, well great tapering though, you’ll be well rested before it‘ over my shoulder as an after thought as I left.  Probably not my finest hour in terms of supporting others with their running, but I couldn’t help myself.  Sorry though. Get well soon etc. if you are reading this…

So, whilst I skipped away feeling more confident, it didn’t take much before I  could feel my wavering happening all over again when I then met another Smiley 10k x two=er.  Peer pressure is a terrible thing.  I just believe I should do whatever the person I’ve spoken to most recently is doing.  So many contradictory voices, so little capacity for independent thought on my part.  The only compelling and uncontested truth is that the prospect of some fifty odd (and we are most definitely all odd) Smileys taking over a youth hostel does offer up enormous comic potential.  Plus, there is the added bonus of a boat trip prior to the second race round Ullswater, with actual live music.  So if I disregard the running aspect, we could be looking at a type two fun scenario with associated type one fun at the edges…

So as things stand, I am reminded that trail running is basically exactly like opening a bottle of prosecco.  Terrifying in prospect to many of us (that cork could just fly of anywhere and have someone’s eye out at any moment) yet, if you can just get over that initial understandable angst, you will be rewarded with the giddying delights of fizzy white wine in one context and a runners high in the other.   Honestly, I think that the Lakeland Trails might even include an actual prosecco drinking element as well.  Now there is an incentive I can understand.  The inherent risk is there it is true, but on the other hand, pop that cork and you can be the one to get the party started!


So when it comes to listening to voices.  My advice is this.

  • Take on board advice of experts, they are awesome runners for a reason and they have experience to back it up
  • If you are going to listen to the voices in your own head, teach them to be voices that help you grow rather than encourage you to shrink back
  • Never take dietary advice from anyone who thinks avocados are evil
  • Ultimately, you won’t please everyone, so find a way to please yourself.  Running is supposed to be fun, even if ‘fun‘ can be sort of complicated, and we haven’t even discussed ‘forced fun’ yet (reference Christmas/ Disneyland/ most weddings)
  • Choose carefully who you ask for advice, in case they tell you something you don’t want to hear


and reflecting on all that collective wisdom, I can summarise the advice in relation to improving running technique and performance as this

  • just get out and do it, and now and again, try a bit harder

That’s it, that’s the pearl(s).  Trust it was worth the wait!

Then again, don’t listen to me, I’m just running scared and improvising.

There were 656 parkrunners at Endcliffe park this morning by the way.  That is pretty inspirational.  It’s also a lot of different approaches to running, we all have our own unique styles, and all are valid.  Go us, go Sheffield Hallam parkrun!

You’re welcome, happy running ’til next time.  🙂

Categories: motivation, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Type two fun, and tackling running mind demons.

My running credentials speak for themselves.  Unfortunately.  One issue I do not face when running is the burden that elite runners routinely have to carry, that is, the burden of expectation that they will perform well every time out.  This worry I am free of.  However, this does not mean I am free of running angst.  Ooooh no.  You must know what I mean unless you are either supremely well endowed with self-belief and/or running talent combined with an unbleamished injury record.  For the rest of us mere mortals, it seems running is a mental challenge as much as a physical one.  Whether it is a chimp on your shoulder (which makes for a very asymmetrical running technique) or that all too common sense of imposter syndrome we all have our mental demons to battle with.  For me, it’s a constant voice in my head.  You might hear it too ‘I’m not a real runner, everyone must know I’m not a real runner, those few who don’t know yet will find out soon, then I will be exposed and – ironically – run out of my running club, humiliated by exposure of the truth I can no longer hide…‘  Sound familiar?  I hope not, but I suspect for many  it will be.


It is it seems, an extremely common affliction.  I finally made it back to woodrun today after a summer recess that would put any sinecure holder to shame.  It was nice to be back in Ecclesall woods, it definitely had a slightly different pre-autumnal feel to it.  It was also a bit like first day back at school after the summer holidays, with a few of us trooping in after a summer absence.  Some of us instantly started to get our apologies and excuses in first, out competing one another in respect of our woeful fitness levels/ innate (in)ability etc.  Many of us feeling somehow unworthy of the ‘runner’ moniker.   Why do we do this?  Talk ourselves down?  It may or may not be true that we are not at the top of our game, but does it really matter.  It’s not how fast we go, it’s that we go at all isn’t it?  The thing is, I can recognise this phenomenon in other people. I look at them in disbelief and awe at what they can achieve and see that it isn’t all that helpful or even relevant.  Lawks a lordy, it isn’t even true!  Of course they are ‘real’ runners. There is no exam, no certification required (although some of us at least should perhaps be certified)  how could they not be the real mckoy.  Owning the label for myself is another story, I need to keep chanting the mantra – you just have to leave the sofa and put one foot in front of the other, that’s it.  However slow I am going, I’m still lapping the alternative version of me that woud have stayed on the sofa…


It’s partly ,my fear of what ‘other people’ must think.  I know I’m not exactly poetry in motion out running, but I am at least giving it a go.  In my head I recognised that in most situations the mysterious  ‘other people’, whose judgement we, ok, well me, I am so in fear of,  really aren’t judging at all, they don’t care what we/I do. Firstly, I am not that important to merit being the centre of attention, most people wont even notice.  Secondly, even if people did steal a glance, it doesnt follow they are that interetsed about what anyone else is doing – people are thinking about their own goals at that point.  I’ve often thought at the start line for a race, or even a parkrun, you could turn up naked (apart from your trainers) and people would be far too focused on their own paranoia and performance to notice.  Obviously, this statement doesn’t apply if you happened to be wearing a more technical brand of running shoes then they were, in which case they’d be wanting to know all about the tread and drop and other stuff to do with running shoes that ‘proper’ runners are interested in, and fair enough.  Ostentatiously showy running shoes (and/or active wear gear) are always going to operate as attention magnets, so if you wear them, then you have to concede a degree of contributory negligence on your part  if you then attract the odd, covetous, sideways glance…. Posing in active wear will inevitably turn heads.  (Please, click on the video link, it just tickled me – how can you not want to sing along to the catchy line of ‘smoking on the streets in my active wear‘?, though I am a bit too easily entertained I know, it’s been pointed out to me before).


Even so, when it comes to myself, I still feel that it’s somehow different.  In my case I’m not so much talking myself down, just being realistic, managing expectations blah de blah.  No point in taking unnecessary risks out there…  Some smug person has produced a poster showing the limitations of this stance, ‘path to mediocrity..’ etc.  Well, I concede that might be true, but it is also annoying to have this pointed out to you in motivational poster format.  I prefer a bit of cynicism in my motivational phrases and posters to be honest.  So let’s balance it with the whisky advice one shall we?  That I can work with.  I’m also persuaded by that ubiquitous quote ‘whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right‘.   Seems we all have the innate gift of personal prophecy.   It’s certainly the case if you don’t give things a whirl then you will never find out what you are capable of, just have to trust that it won’t be too terminal a lesson in your absolute limitations I suppose…

So, what’s brought all this on?  Well, it’s The Dirty Double coming into view all over again.  This is a two-day Lakeland running festival.   I booked in ages ago, near as dammit a  year ago to be precise.  With a whole 11 months stretching ahead before I’d be required to run anywhere up and down hills in torrential rain, I’d fondly imagined that by the time the event came around, I’d have lost 30% of my body weight (by losing body fat, not through amputating extraneous limbs), done weekly hill-reps and generally metamorphosed from relatively inanimate grub to speedy running and flying beetle or whatever.  Are there beetles that run?  Cockroaches I suppose, but they don’t go through  metamorphosis properly though do they?  That’s a rhetorical question by the way as  I’ve just looked them up, they go through incomplete metamorphosis apparently, just so as you know… Actually, this analogy doesn’t entirely work does it?  As with much in life, I am finding myself really wishing I hadn’t gone down this particular route.  My entomological knowledge is not all that detailed, and, apart from insects I can only think of amphibians that undergo metamorphosis, and, much as I genuinely like frogs and toads, I can’t really stretch that to regarding them as perfect exemplars of aspirational running form.  When I was thinking of undergoing metamorphosis it was by way of transformation from earth-bound hobbit yomper to graceful, leaping fell runner.  Ironically, and coincidentally ,the  possibility that I have metamorphosed into a toad seems a rather more  apt analogy for my current state of physical readiness in respect of running round lake land trails in November, but it really wasn’t what I was aiming for when I signed up last November….


Oh for goodness sake, stop hassling me!  Surely you get my point!  No?

Well, it’s basically this:  I entered into this demanding trail race (Helvellyn Trail 15km Race + Ullswater Trail 14km Race on two consecutive days) basically through fear of missing out and the lure of having a boat trip out to the start of one of the races.  I overlooked the ‘running’, ‘inclement weather’ and ‘steep off road gradient’ elements of the events.  Also the ‘race on two consecutive days’ aspect.  I suppose I thought by then I’d have trained, or at least hung out with better runners than me so my own form and endurance would improve by osmosis, and that basically ‘it’ll be fine on the day(s)‘.  Now though, it’s just a few weeks away, and starting to feel a bit real.  Fellow Smilies are posting about it, and it’s slowly dawning on me that this may not be a completely blaggable event.   There is/was also the option of doing the same routes as a challenge (you get more time to finish), or doing a 10k on each day instead.  Those other options are looking ever more appealing.  It hasn’t helped all that much that hobbit buddy responded with ‘yikes’ when she realised I’d entered the longer race classes instead of the two 10k.  Oh here we go again with the peer pressure.  I don’t mind being slow going round, but I do want to finish before the cut off point so I don’t get left out there on the mountain long after all the marshals have packed up and gone home, and have to swim back to the hostel because I’ve missed the last boat ride home to boot!  Maybe I should swap…

However, I do expect this weekend away to meet the criteria of generating a few anecdotes, although possibly ones that are only hilarious and enjoyable in retrospect.  This brings me to the central point of this post (yes there was one), which is about understanding (and implementing) The Fun Scale.


The Fun Scale apparently originated in the climbing community, but as with many sports, there is a cross over to running.  Type One Fun is basically ‘fun at the time’.  You are consciously having a good time whilst doing it.  Personally, I’d put the Round Sheffield Run into this category. Then there is Type Two Fun.  This is the sort of fun which is only really fun in retrospect.  You do not get any inherent joy out of it at the time, but when you look back on it and laugh, it does seem in fact to have been incredibly joyful.  You forget how hideous it was at the time, and enter the same event again next year.  Personally, I think I’d put Percy Pud into this category.  Freezing cold, icy rain, road surface battering my arthritic feet and seeing returning runners speeding towards me on their way home before I was even half way out did not make this an unremittingly joyous occasion for me.  However, when you finish and get given a vegetarian Christmas Pudding at the end, you come to believe it was actually fun.  Other runners oozing endorphins reinforce this sensation, so each runner colludes with the others until there is a shared collective belief that the Percy Pud is brilliant fun.  Which it is, apart from when you are actually running the darned thing.


According to The Fun Scale for climbers at any rate, the third type of fun is basically no fun at all.  ‘Shoot me if I try to do it again’ sort of thing.  I appreciate what they are getting at here, but I think there’s a category missing.  I’d put this ‘truly, never again’ as Type Four Run  myself, and insert what I consider to be the missing third category here instead.  This is the sort of fun me and my erstwhile flat mate used to experience after attending an angst ridden studenty party in our youth.  (Yes, I was young once).  You must know the kind of thing.  Agonising social interactions at often dingy and dodgy locations, for long nights of excruciating ‘fun partying’, where you only went in the first place out of peer pressure, didn’t believe you’d come out alive, and spent the entire time wishing you at least knew where you were so you had a sporting chance of getting home.  (Actually, I have unconsciously described a fair number of my running experiences out on the hills in that statement).  Anyway, these were unrelentingly hideous occasions,and for that, you might reasonably assume they would be in the category of ‘never again’ but not so.  Whatever their inherent and known horrors, they would still score as Newly Calibrated Fun Scale Three for me because, when debriefing after the event we would have to concur that whilst we were ‘not at all sure I enjoyed myself’ we were nevertheless absolutely confident ‘ but I’d have been dead pissed off to have missed it‘.  Thus, whilst knowing to repeat the experience would be hateful and possibly dangerous, you are compelled to return to it again and again, like a moth to a flame (until I can think of a better analogy anyway, analogies are not going well today I know).


I think the Dirty Double, may well be lining up as Newly Calibrated Category Three Fun Scale score.  It has all the elements there.  Bit far, bit wet, bit hilly, fear of missing out.  Lure of the landscape.   How will it end? Well, we are all going to have to just wait and see..


I suppose I could try training a bit in advance, or is that taking it all a bit far?  I could start posing in my active wear out and about a bit more I suppose.  That would be a start… or is it really and truly a case that running this double is all in the mind.  A virtual run if you will.  High risk strategy to take that as a literal truth, but it might yet be worth a go.  I suppose the bottom line with my running journey is ‘must try harder’ not as in undertaking masochistice punishing workouts that would end up with me hating running for ever, but in not giving up too soon.   Hmm, we shall see.




Categories: motivation, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Longshaw Sheepdog Trials Fell Race 2016 – ewe know ewe want to…

Sub-optimal running conditions.’  That was the official comment on the event retrospectively according to the Longshaw Estate Facebook post.  I will concede that the statement is technically correct, but it doesn’t do full justice to the very wetness and persistence of the rain.  All part of the atmosphere and challenge for the hard-core fell runners out there – Dark Peak Fell Runners probably don’t bother getting up in the morning for anything less than vertical elevation and inclement weather after all.  However, for me that was a bit more of an issue.  Let me explain…

2016-09-03 22.08.44

Oh, hang on, first you want to know what it is I am talking about?  Keep up.  This was the Longshaw Sheepdog Trials Fell Race for 2016.  For the uninitiated (only me then, until yesterday), this is a Fell Race at the Longshaw estate, taking place on the same day as the sheepdog trials, which are apparently the the oldest continuous trials in the country. They have been run from 1898 to the present day, interrupted only by the two world wars.  Which is impressive, although the gap, whilst understandable, does rather stretch the definition of ‘continuous’ I agree.  The clue as to what to expect on the day is therefore in the name of the event (though I still can’t work out if sheep dog/ sheepdog should be one word or two.  They use two words but at Bamford Sheepdog Trials it was one, so die already cast with that I’m afraid).   Anyway, the website blah de blah follows, but naturally I only looked at it after the event (course outlines are scary and demoralising if read in advance I tend to think):

The Longshaw fell race is held on the Saturday morning of the Sheepdog trials.

The number of competitors at the Longshaw race has increased each year, despite competition from several other local races which are traditionally run on the same weekend.

Entries come from many miles away and occasionally we have an international runner in the field including the 2011 winner.

The Fell Race course is shown below, it covers 5 miles of varied terrain over Burbage, Higger Tor, Over Owler Tor, Owler Tor, Lawrence Field & Longshaw Pastures, including woods, rocky paths and the occasional bog.

The start field can be seen from the majority of the route and conversely the spectators can follow the runners through binoculars.

The course record is 38m 07sec and will stand for ever yes

Pay to enter the Sheepdog Trials (currently £5) and race free. Bring the family, there’s plenty for them to do whilst you run on the fells.

The map is here – incidentally, both me and my Tomtom GPS watch, and Strava thought the route was rather nearer 6 miles than 5 (came out at 5.8) but that’s just more fun on the fells isn’t it, so nothing to worry about.

Microsoft Word - Longshaw 2013.doc

So, back to all about me, and my race day experiences.  Well, my race day experiences naturally started a few days before.  The event begins at the moment you start to contemplate whether or not you intend to participate in my experience.  Note, I use the word ‘participate’ rather than ‘compete’ I do have an inner core of realism within.  Anyway,  I’d seen some nice heather out and about, I’d enjoyed Whirlow 10k a couple of weeks ago and lots of people say Longshaw Sheep Dog Trials fell race is really lovely… Hmmmm, I did what I always do on such occasions, solicit opinion.  I posted rather sheepishly (see what I’ve done there?) on the Smiley Facebook page to see who else might be up for it.   Lots of enthusiastic responses come pouring forth from various Smilies, all very clear that it would be a great idea for me to undertake this fell race, but for one reason or another none of them would.  It is only with hindsight I come to realise that many of these people cajoling me to ‘have it go it’s absolutely super!’ have gone to great lengths to avoid taking part again this year for their own part.  ‘I would have entered but I’m doing a 16k race in the Lakes that day – when is it again?‘, ‘would have entered but I’m injured‘, ‘would have entered but am marshalling instead – don’t forget to smile on your merry way past‘; ‘would love to but I live in Switzerland and I’m drinking gin that day‘ and, most tellingly of all perhaps, had I but thought it through ‘I would have entered, but my daughter has an appointment at the hairdressers‘ – this from the Whirlow 10k winning female runner.  Clue there surely, had I only been on my guard?

Still, that’s me, slow on the uptake.  Hope over experience has always served me well (not absolutely true, but don’t quibble).  There are some certainties here.  Fabulous punning potential, even though I am nowhere near the dizzy punning heights of some of my Smiley compatriots.  Some are very punny indeed.  It would be an adventure.  I might get my hat trick for final finishes (it doesn’t count if you come last deliberately by the way, you do have to actually try to run round in case anyone is planning to depose me from my rightful place).  Plus, some great anecdotes, potentially at least.  Elsewhere I heard tell of a runner who ran this event with her husband to be on the morning of their wedding day!  As I understand it, this involved charging round at the back, hugging each and every marshal en route, taking loads of selfies and pictures generally, and then getting wed in the afternoon. Back the following year (just to run, not to get married again as far as I know) she took 26 minutes off her time.  Must have been a very heavy camera weighing her down, but these photographers do like their kit do they not?

camera thats a big one

So anyway, thought basically I’d just sleep on it.  Checking out the weather forecast the day before it looked promising.  What the hell… lovely day for it, last chance to see the heather at its best and it’s on my doorstep after all.  I can walk round if it comes to it. ‘Twill be fine and dandy. Probably see some familiar faces, and it’s got such a good reputation it’s bound to attract plenty of ‘have a go’ runners romping round in wellingtons and/or flip-flops (different people obviously, that would be silly), I’ll just blend in, it will be fine.  Spoiler alert – it didn’t entirely work out like that, but I did have a good time anyway thank you for asking.

Sooooooo, day dawned.  Not looking altogether as promising out the window as I’d planned on rising.  However, I was undeterred, the morning broke like this last Sunday for the Longshaw 10k but early morning fog gave way to glorious sunshine.  It’d be fine.  Granted, teeny bit of concern about the forecast for torrential rain later, but that wasn’t until gone 12.30 and surely if the race was due to start at 10.30 I’d be back home tucked up under a duvet again by then?  Meantime, a bit of drizzle wouldn’t kill me.  Probably not.  There is that documentary though isn’t there, Sharknado, but I think that’s more an American phenomenon as far as I know…


Anyway, donned my running gear, went for short-sleeved (don’t want to get too hot out there) and Smiley Top.  How could they not be proud to see me flying the club colours?, also, aids with identification if some mishap should befall me.  I headed off early (where are the windscreen wipers on this blue car again) and soon arrived at the venue.  It is indeed lovely.  It was all well signposted (more of this later) and a super-friendly man in a kiosk took my fiver from me and welcomed me to the venue.  ‘Aah, you are obviously here for the fell race‘ he observed.  I was a bit confused, then remembered I was wearing my club vest. He hadn’t been responding to my athletic physique after all.  Too late for me to bottle it and pretend I’d come for the doubles herding course or whatever.  I read somewhere that some runners can be intimidated by the sea of club vests at the start of a race.  I simultaneously know exactly what she means (Dark Peak vests means it’s going to be steep; Steel City Striders it’s going to be fast), and feel very confident that no runner would be intimidated by the sight of me in my vest.  Astonished perhaps.  That is different.

I gingerly manoeuvred my car up the slope and through the long grass.  It was very well organised, with cone markers and friendly folk to wave you in the direction you needed to go.  It wasn’t raining at this point, so I could still hang on to the naive misconception that it was clearly ‘brightening up’.  It was cool and a bit overcast, perfect running conditions (apart from the little matter of that large hill looming on the horizon that would have to be negotiated).  I ventured over to the registration tent.  Very simple to complete your registration (they even had functioning pens for this purpose) and collect your number from the dream-team threesome who were solemnly recording all the entries.

2016-09-04 00.55.19

I was very taken with the design of the registration form.  Look at what they’ve done there at the top – using the sheep to spell out LONGSHAW!  Genius, simply genius.  I also liked my number a lot.   22.  It pleased me.  I couldn’t remember the registration number of my car so left that blank as I didn’t think ‘blue’ would be sufficient. Then afterwards I fretted in case they thought I’d snuck in without paying and so I’d be disqualified (not too much of an issue) or worse, just left to fend for myself out there on the fell, never to experience a latte again…  I got over it though. I’m more resilient than you may think.

So that was the business done and dusted.  Time for an explore.  There was a particularly fine produce collection on sale in the registration tent by the way.

2016-09-03 21.25.46

Other runners and organisers started to assemble.  I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few familiar faces.  I was less pleasantly surprised at the lack of fun runners.  Also, quite a male dominated race, this didn’t bother me per se, but did suggest there’d be a bit of a split in the field potentially.  Where are all the people in fancy dress?  Oh well, I expect the have-a-go contingency will turn up at the last-minute I told myself.  Turns out that this race is one of the Gritstone series sponsored by Accelerate, whilst that particular detail had previously passed me by (much as life does all too often), it did mean that there were friendly faces from the Accelerate woodrun workshops.  (Thursday mornings, Eccleshall woods £2 be there 9.15 for 9.30 start, drills and shared expertise).  Yay.  It made a lot easier the task of ingratiating myself to the event sweeper.  I could brief him on my requirements, specifically, the ‘you have to understand I can’t talk and run‘ rider.  I was a little perturbed that his hi-viz jacket seemed to say ‘fast runner’ on it, but actually it was ‘last runner’ just to be clear.  So I could be confident that slot was already taken.  Mind you, I’ve come in behind a sweeper before, so no room for complacency.

To aid identification, he was also sporting a brush on his head.  Well, I say it was to aid identification, but it might have been a display of purely gratuitous, attention-gaining, rampant exhibitionism.  Or maybe he just forgot to glance in a mirror on the way out of the house and didn’t realise it was there.  We’ve all done that.  Or maybe he tried to look in a mirror and was just too tall to do so to any good effect.  He’d be the right height for maybe checking there was no toothpaste or breakfast down his front, but not for inadvertant headwear options.  I have this situation happen to me all the time in reverse.  I’m quite, well, (spoiler alert) short, and have lost count of the number of times I’ve been in a house and can’t see into a mirror because it’s been hung too high for someone of my stature to see themselves in without the aid of a step-ladder or other outside assistance.  (So to all those people muttering behind me ‘what did she do, get dressed in the dark?’ now you have your answer.)  Maybe tall people get that in reverse?  Only ever seeing their chests or midriffs in mirrors across the world?  Like medusa, unable to ever take a good look at their faces.  Plausible I think you’ll agree.. anyway, despite this speculation, on balance, I think it was just an exceedingly good visual pun, because he was The Sweeper see.   Sweeping up at the back of the race.  More genius.  You can’t trust anyone who doesn’t appreciate a good pun in my world view.  Puns are great.   Just goes to show, there were a great many smart people out and about at Longshaw for sheepdog trial day.  Not sure you can entirely tell by looking…

Pleasingly, I then caught up with another friendly face, who acknowledged me in public despite being a Dark Peak runner, so that was good for my self-esteem.  We headed off to make use of the ‘amenities’ and I took the opportunity of the queue to do a pre-race selfie (yes it’s compulsory).  It is the only evidence I was actually at this event to be honest, so here it is:

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Still not raining, oh good.  Saw a fellow Smiley and went to say hello.  It was her first time in a Smiley Vest apparently, so quite an occassion.  Other Smilies were marshalling, so there were a couple around, but this event seemed to attract more hardcore ‘proper’ fell runners I’d say.  Not that we don’t have hardcore fell runners within the Smiley Troupe, but they weren’t particularly in attendance today.  That made me gulp a bit, to be honest.  The sweeper was explaining there is ‘at least one really tough bit‘ and he made mention of having got ‘just a bit lost‘ on the recce, and I was blinking at him thinking ‘but you’re a really awesome runner – oh crap!’  The race start time drew near, and an attempt was made to herd us towards the start field.  Rain started to fall. Then, after a bit, it fell more, and heavier.  As a bit of a light weight (running wise, not actually) I took refuge in the tent.

Peering out at the rain as it became ever more persistent.   Still, no point in bleating about that.  It was reminiscent of the start of Percy Pud last year when all I really wanted to do immediately prior to the start was go home.  Unlike Percy Pud 2015, a rainbow did not then subsequently appear in the sky just as we were required to run.   Still, not to worry, the start was delayed anyway, as the race begins in the field used for the sheepdog trials and that class was running late – one of the dogs at least wasn’t being all that co-operative, with rather more boisterous running around going on than actual herding apparently.  One runner quipped maybe we should have a go at the sheep herding and leave the sheepdog to take on the fell race instead!  How we laughed, one of us at least with a tad too much desperation and longing in their expression of ha ha than was entirely appropriate.   Anyway, seems this is a sheepdog trials with a fell race attached, as opposed to vice versa, so dogs (and sheep)  take priority.  Fair enough, every dog should have its day as we all know.  And maybe the rain would stop.  (It didn’t, just got more confident and unrelenting).

2016-09-03 22.24.19

Waiting in the tent got increasingly toasty as more and more runners sought sanctuary.  I met some nice people and some interesting people and some people I already knew and some people I didn’t.  I wont draw a venn diagram of who was who.  Chance put me the way of a very encouraging ‘proper’ runner who was unbelievably nice.  I was pumping him for advice on what to expect, and he was patient and supportive (also slightly cornered, by the increasing squash of people, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with it).  He did say that some bits would be technical and would have to be walked, and when I said I was aiming for about 90 minutes (I know, but I am slow, and I just took my trail 10k time and added a chunk), he gently suggested that if expecting to be out that long on the hills it might be a good idea to take along something to eat for sustenance.  Well, naturally I am immediately drawn to think positively of anyone who tells me I really should be eating more.  ‘You might as well if you are walking bits anyway‘ he pointed out. This was probably good advice on reflection, but a bit late. I was glad I’d found the sweeper earlier, he had already reassured me he’d got emergency rations with him enough for a faller and himself too.  Anyway, my new friend said he thought I’d do it in under that, and he’d see me at the end.  I did, but didn’t see him, I imagine he’d have been long gone by the time I got round.  Here he is in action though,  by way of example.  I think it’s a reasonable bet he was flying along a tad faster than me, but then again, I did also run this route, in my own inimitable way, so hey, go me!  Thank you for being nice  to me though whosoever you were, it was very encouraging (kindness of strangers and all that).  (Action shots courtesy of Accelerate by the way, thank you!)

Acc super friendly guy

So, after another half hour or so, we were shooed out of the tent and towards the start.  Rain was heavy by this point, I was sodden, and so were my spirits.  I’d got a bit cold, and despite my porridge for breakfast, that had been 5 hours ago and I was wondering if I would have enough fuel in the tank.  Oh joy. On a cheerier note, there was a really good atmosphere.   A very jolly compère gave a commentary as we assembled, pouncing on various participants for a quick vox pox en route.  Shout outs were given to running clubs various, and a certain ‘Stu’ identified at the front.  (I overheard another runner explain to a friend that basically when he turns out, everyone else might as well go home – though this was said in an admiring rather than begrudging tone – this fell race is his for the taking, year on year it seems).  It was all very good-natured though.  A briefing of sorts was given ‘you all know the route don’t you, that’s grand?‘ and to the uplifting (but somewhat strangled by the outdoor PA) chords of ‘Chariots of Fire’ we all took off.

Acc start photo longshaw 2016

The start was fun, definitely fun.  It was a tusssocky romp across sodden land, and with a slight downwards incline (shame this becomes an upward incline on the return, but I wasn’t thinking about that just then).  I was near the back from the off to be fair, but then again, consistency is really my thing with fell races.  Fell running is inherently hilarious by the way, whilst it is true that those at the front gracefully fly across the hills, there are still a fair few of us just blagging it with varying degrees of decorum towards the rear.  Trying to balance on tufts of reeds, and a few at this stage even trying to avoid the boggy bits. An entirely futile exercise, but all part of the challenge.  There is something joyful about a crowd heading off to the hills at speed for no good reason other than the sheer unadulterated merriment of it all.

Acc view from the back

Quick scamper across the fields, and then soon you get to the first road crossing.  This was so astonishingly well marshalled it was like there’d been some sort of national emergency declared at just this spot.  Traffic stopped, signs and hi-viz aplenty as only a well oiled machine of rapid response disaster management teams could.  It was fine going out, as a crowd of us scampered across the road like an army of soldier ants (albeit ones shrink – wrapped in colourful lycra), it was less fine coming back when I was so far behind the field I felt a fraud for holding up the traffic.  Oh well, that was still to come!

All too soon though, the upward bit comethed.  I was quickly over-taken by all but the sweeper and his running buddy (who claimed to have not run for ages, but then told tales of running conquests that suggested his legs would still very much have it in their muscle memory at the very least).  Inevitably, I found my place, at the back.  It was OK though, I’m getting used to this position.  You are allowed to come last at a fell race and not marry someone in the afternoon unless you want to I think, so keep it all in proportion if it happens to you.  Plus, you are near to the emergency supplies and don’t have to worry about navigation, or carrying anything.  All good too.

Whilst it was definitely wet, and getting wetter, it was lovely out there. It was ‘proper’ off road quite quickly.  Following sheep tracks and picking through the gritstones.  I was glad of my fell shoes, and they gripped really well, I got more confident in them as I – well, I was going to say bounded but it would be more accurate to concede – picked my way up the hill.  You could see the snake of runners way ahead (which was aesthetically pleasing if also a tad demoralising) and although the tops were shrouded in mist, the landscape is just awesome.  Heather and bracken all about, it is really beautiful.

I made what might generously be called ‘erratic’ progress, I put on a bit of a yomp wherever it flattened out a bit, or the stones gave way to more forgiving peat.  I love the springiness of running on peat, it cossets your feet, I’m very wary of falling on the stonier bits though.  I felt for the tail runners who were dutifully keeping a respectable distance as best they could, but would in honesty have liked to stretch their legs a bit more I’m sure. I gave them lots of braking practice with my stop/ start approach.  I’m sure they loved that.  It was nice for me though eavesdropping on their anecdotes with each other, and their negotiations over who would get to pick up the next bit of tape or marker.  Occasionally, when I was walking, we chit-chatted a bit, and that was fine, because I’ve always been exceedingly good at walking and talking as my hobbit buddy would gladly testify I’m sure.  Once I started running again I reminded them that I’d been serious about not being an especially communicative runner, adding that I wasn’t a particularly running communicator either.  Yin yan I suppose, yin yan.

The uphill bit did eventually pause at least, which was just as well as my vision started to be seriously impaired.  The rain was so heavy now it had washed off all my sunblock (I know, what was I thinking, to say I’d been afflicted by blind optimism in the morning seems to have been literally as well as prophetically and metaphorically  true!) into my eyes and stung like *&%+!  or, more politely ‘billy o’.  Periodically we passed marshals, some of whom must have been absolutely freezing as well as soaked through.  They’d had a long wait, not just for the start, but for me to come round at the back.  Even so, they were all incredibly encouraging and smiling.  Part of this was no doubt relief at my appearance as that meant they would now be free to abandon their posts, but it was also due to their innate positivity and cheeriness which is endemic to the run-marshalling community as far as I can determine.   Thank you all you marshals, you are STARS!   One marshal had the foresight to bring an umbrella with her.  Wish I had.  At Burbage Bridge it took me a while to identify a Smiley Elder (she of the visor self-sacrifice) as the marshal. She was comprehensively cocooned in wet-weather gear, so I had almost run past before I recognised her and I had to swivel back to exchange hugs.  I am a bit hug-orientated when running, haven’t yet dared to ask more experienced runners if that’s appropriate or bad form.  Nobody has ever refused a hug though, but perhaps that’s because they are too scared by the manic look in my eyes or caught by surprise by my embrace to do so. I might post a question about it on a running forum some day. Then again, I may not.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss.  There are truths that are better left unsaid.

After Burbage, you turn back and its downhill for a bit.  Loved this, you dip down out of some of the wind and wet, and the ground is soft and the downward incline more my thing. However, I was a bit gingery going down as it was a bit ‘technical’ to use the jargon.   The ground was very uneven and the path unclear.  I’m sure the faster runners fly round, they must do to achieve the times they get, but I wasn’t going to follow suit.  You do feel adventurous though, and sometimes I think, because I am slow and at the back, I am out of sight of other runners and it’s like I have the whole landscape to yourself.  Gorgeous.  I wasn’t even cold at this point, because I did keep moving, I think you’d freeze PDQ had you stopped though.  This might have been one of the very few events where the fleece-police would have let me wear my running jacket… maybe.  Wouldn’t bank on it though, they are very persistent.

You scramble down to a stream, and fortunately, there was a marshal positioned ‘on high’ up a ridge where he had a good view to direct you where to cross the water, which you do twice.  No stepping-stones here, you have to splosh through, but that was fun, and I was pretty water-logged by then anyway.  I don’t really mind what happens on the way home as you know at this point you are going to fundamentally be OK.  The guys at frontrunner set up my tomtom so it vibrates after each ‘lap’ of one mile ahead of the Sheffield half, so my watch had been buzzing periodically to tell me what my progress was.  I don’t ever look at my watch whilst I’m actually running, but I do like to feel the miles being ticked off.  You have at least a vague sense of being beyond half way or whatever.  So, fell shoes filled with water, I sloshed on and out of the stream.  There I saw another familiar face.  A wannabee runner who alas had missed the start, but come to walk round anyway and offer  support.  That was really nice!  Thanks for being there.  This was the really tough bit.  The hill was slippery, steep and treacherous underfoot.  I tried to keep going, but even with the sweeper, sweeper buddy, and now a marshal relieved from his post (honestly I was like the pied piper going round, only picking up more marshals in my wake with each mile of the course rather than small children) I had to stop periodically to give my legs a break.  It was more of a scramble than a walk.  I had to hang on to clumps of grass on the way up.  You couldn’t even see the top though I could hear the occasional strangled cry of a runner ahead.  I wasn’t sure if that was because they’d come to grief, fallen over a cliff edge, or were just expressing relief at having summitted (is that even a word?).  Still, it meant there were humans in the vicinity.

Eventually, like a guiding angel, Accelerate Man (yes, that is a new super-hero I’ve just invented, but it does the job, would be better if he had worn Patagonia made pants over running leggings for super-hero identification purposes, but work in progress I daresay) came into view.  Shouting encouragement, he actually offered his hand and hoiked me up the last bit.  There was another marshal at the top, who offered some water.  Unusually for me I took a slurp (I’m a bit OCD about sharing water bottles). I think I must have needed it, as I was a bit disoriented, and initially headed off in the wrong direction before being called back and being pointed the opposite way. The next bit was good, familiar yomping territory, a bit of down hill, and my tail runners were distracted by variously pulling up markers, chatting to marshals, having a picnic whatever, so they weren’t so much on my tail.  Grateful as I was for their attentions going round, it was nice to be on my own for a bit, taking it all on and in.  More marshal waving, and then as I rounded a bend for the homeward curve, there was Accelerate Man again.  I promptly nearly fell over as I felt I owed it to him to at least to pretend to be running throughout, and got distracted.  ‘Don’t look at me, look where you are going!’  It’s these sort of professional coaching tips that are worth so much in a race situation!  Here is a picture of what other runners look like when they are not falling over or gazing in the wrong direction, I have not made the cut for this album as yet…  You can also see the terrain.  Unlike these runners I got all this bit all to myself!

Acc sure it rained more than this ...

From here it was pretty much downhill, the terrain wasn’t too technical.  I had my personal coach in tow, alongside even, and got some impromptu advice on technique as we went round.  The main advice was to keep running, small steps, however slowly.  If you constantly walk, you end up just getting ever faster at walking, whereas if you run slowly, you will eventually run faster.  There is an unarguable logic in this, although I’m still going to power walk up the really technical bits.  It was good to have a bit of a chat and a catch up at this point, made me feel more confident about showing my face at woodrun again.  I’ve not been in ages because I’m so rubbish, but then again as Accelerate Man pointed out (with respect) ‘that’s bollocks‘ as an excuse, how else are you going to improve, and they are an encouraging rather than judgemental outfit.  (Incidentally, this conversation was not in violation of my ‘I can’t talk and run directive’, as I wasn’t travelling fast enough for it to apply).   Honestly, I would have got lost at this point if I hadn’t been with someone who knew the route, the markers were a bit further apart, and some of the route was properly cross-country, i.e. not on any path at all, not even a sheep track.  I have a theory that someone tall put out the markers here, as there was in fact a flag put up just over a hump in the terrain, but my eye line couldn’t see over the mound.  Hence I had a few moments of gazing around in all directions clueless until nudged in the right direction by my personal guide who knew the route.

Eventually, the marquees of the event came into view.  The course flattened out, and you could head to the finish. The advice was to keep to the trodden bit to save energy as the path is already there, walk crossing a dip in the land just ahead, then after three strides, start running again to achieve a sprint (ahem) finish. This was good advice actually, and when I write my own (best-selling) running text-book to inspire future generations I may include it.  It was thinking a bit ahead that helped,  I never do that when I run, I just run (or not), I don’t have a plan as such, but even that little bit of planning helped me keep up a pace.  Whilst I’m dolling out top tips for racecraft, I got another few bits on this yomp out.  One from the sweeper, who reminded me to push off with my feet when running (that does really help you to run more efficiently) and one from the sweeper’s buddy (I think it was him), who pointed out that if you are in danger of coming last, it’s a good idea to fall back as early on as possible, as that gives you the maximum amount of time to make up the distance during a race.  Wise words indeed.  I achieved the first bit of this advice all on my own by instinct, just got to nail the making up the distance later part.  Still one out of two aint bad.

So, I dragged my weary carcass up that final incline to the finish funnel (let’s gloss over the fact I got all confused and nearly went the wrong way round into it) and was greeted by Fell Race Compère Man (yes, another super hero in the making) who was providing a commentary as I came in.  Naturally, he was very keen to hear my thoughts on the conclusion of the race.  I gave my name and used the opportunity to vindicate myself when he asked me if I’d had fun out there.  ‘Of course I did, it was great,  that’s why I took my time out there I wanted to make the most of it!’  That’ll have fooled them.

I gave my name to the time keepers, and gave my number to a bedraggled and be-sodden hat-wearing small child who was brandishing an open bin-liner towards me for the purposes of number collection.  She’d done good work, out in all that rain collecting numbers all day.  The only people behind me were the back markers, so I waited to applaud them in, and shared celebratory hugs.  I thanked my impromptu coaching team for helping me round and then once again sought the sanctuary of the tent.

Usually by the time I’m back at a race the prize giving is all done and dusted, not so here.  I got an orange juice and lemonade from the bar, and hung on for the presentations which were imminent.  Top marks for the presentation, it was a hoot.  Total of entries was revealed as 176.  One person who entered apparently then almost immediately withdrew as the elements drew in, they were singularly unimpressed by the weather. The compère cheerfully pointed out that no refund had been given.  Fair enough, fell running is not the faint hearted.  One runner DNF.  There was a bit of a hub-bub around as people speculated what had happened to them.  Seems someone took a tumble and had been spotted considerably bloodied but unbowed, by various runners. They were sporting a nice gaping head wound according to at least one account.  ‘Are they here?  Are they OK?’ enquired the compère.  ‘They’re being stitched up at the Hallamshire’ heckled a spirited observer.  How everyone laughed.  What larks eh?  I later discovered that wasn’t so much a heckle as a statement of fact.  Oh well, where would be the fun in fell running if it wasn’t for the frissance of danger on the way round eh?

Prizes were given predominantly to Dark Peak  Fell Runners for actual running, well they are individually as well as collectively phenomenal, so not a surprise.  One category winner was absent though, but ‘not from round here so probably not daring to show their face‘ was wryly observed in jest (I hope).   Impromptu spot prizes were then handed out on something of a whim.  ‘Muddiest legs‘ nope, not enough interest ‘runner from furthest away?’  ‘Yay, get that‘, someone from New York was identified, but I suspect a scam.  Something in the intonation about having ‘travelled all the way from the great U S of A just to join us for the day‘didn’t entirely ring true, but entertained massively all the same.

Oh, you want to know the winners?  Well, if you really care, here is the link to results in full for Longshaw Sheepdog Trials 2016 .  And here is a photo of the stars of the day.  I think they win cake, worth running fast for.  Though honestly, neither of them look like they really each much cake do they?*  That’s the compère with them, not their minder.  Classy dress for the occassion don’t you think? Raises the tone of a run in my view.

Acc the winners are

*CORRECTION:  I’ve been asked to point out that there is a significant factual innacuracy here.  The Female winner does in fact eat a lot of cake, with enjoyment.  Must just run even more to burn it all off afterwards.  Unreserved apologies for that inadvertant libel.

By this time, I was getting really cold, so just time to splash out on some of the catering options and head for home.  Waving goodbye to compatriots various as I did so.  Would thoroughly recommend this event, it is a hoot, friendly, and delivered with considerable aplomb I’d say.  One of the funniest presentations I’ve been too, and I like the way they big up the whole affair.  Fiver, what’s not to like, apart from excessive rain, but don’t worry about that, it won’t rain next year, FACT.

So I headed home, negotiating  my car out the field went better than expected given the increased sogginess of the terrain, bit of a scary slide on the muddy road bit though.  Longshaw Sheepdog Trials 2016 had one parting gift for me though, the pun of the day!

On exiting I saw a sign from one of the event sponsors at the entrance of the site.  It was for an estate agent. ‘Come Buy‘ it proclaimed.  See what they did there?  Genius.  So much so, I actually went back the following day (just now in fact) to snap a shot of it, and the muddy deserted site.  All over, until same time next year.

So, are we putting your name down for 2017, or would you like to think about it?  Get your hair appointment booked in early perhaps?

For accounts of all my fell race efforts follow this link.

For accounts of my final finish position posts (that’s a not very smart euphemism for coming last by the way) use this link (content is quite similar to fell races link to be fair, but there you go!)

For another perspective on this yomp out see here Steel City Striders run report Longshaw Sheepdog Trials 2016.

Categories: fell race, off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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