Wanton Wobbling at Wingerworth, 2016

This is a long one.  Carry on at your own risk.

The Unique Selling Point (USP) of this cracking trail race, is the little known detail that it is the only event I know of, where there is a  complementary post-race shoe cleaning service available for those brazen enough to avail themselves of it.  Just another example of the friendly welcome the kind Wobblers of Wingerworth extend to runners at this their annual 4.5 mile (mostly) off-road running event.  Below are some sample WWs (not to be confused with VWs) so you can see just how welcoming and approachable they look, whether that is acting as officials, marshals or finish funnel cheerers. Aren’t they quite lovely, a welcome addition to any home and an asset to any running community!

So, for those of you not yet in the  know, The Wingerworth Wobblers are a friendly running club who fortuitously ended up located in a picturesque village of North East Derbyshire with which, by some extraordinary quirk of fate, they happened to share a name!  I know, what were the chances? It is sad but true to note, had they rocked up almost anywhere else, their choice of name may conceivably have raised an eyebrow amongst people possessed of the single-eyebrow-raising superpower.   As it is, the good people of Wingerworth find the running club’s nomenclature completely unremarkable. The Wingerworth Wobblers have their own website, but their Wingerworth Wobble Facebook page is also loads of fun with responsive posters to correspond with if you are feeling lonely  and/or bored and in need of a friend.  I’m sure they only blocked me due to an administrative error.

Anyways, they lay on an annual trail race, which this year took place on Saturday 15th October, the entry website blah de blah is as follows:

The Wingerworth Wobble is a 4.5-mile (approx) mixed-terrain, undulating trail race in picturesque countryside around the village of Wingerworth, near Chesterfield, Derbyshire. The event is friendly, well Marshaled and signposted with water points halfway and at the finish. Race HQ has full toilet facilities and provides reasonably priced hot food and drinks for runners, their family and spectators. There are medals for all entrants as well as category prizes/trophies

The Club took a bit of a risk holding this event on this particular date, because it clashed with so many other celebratory days of worldwide importance.  I probably don’t need to tell you it was also World Student DayChicken Cacciatore day (no interest to me as I’m vegetarian); White Cane Safety Day (perhaps not their target audience to be fair); World Maths Day; Bridge Day (though more specifically BASE jumping, rather than celebrating bridges which would be a disappointment to Isambard Kingdom Brunel if he wasn’t already a bit disappointed by being dead), and also the Sweetest Day.  If you have never heard of any of these important days before, fret not, it’s probably indicative of how you are so totally absorbed with your running you have lost contact with the outside world around you. To be honest, aside from these celebratory days, the outside world is all pretty grim right now, so I’d stay in your own bubble for as long as you can hold out for you have the option…

As it happens, the Wingerworth Wobblers’ confidence was well placed.  It seems the great and the good (er hem) were all happy to forego the festivities of World Maths Day in favour of the Wingerworth Wobble.  Even base jumping held little allure. Why do those things when you could be wobbling across a field instead?  I’m not saying which photo below was taken where.  But the clue is, there is an (optional) river crossing at the Wobble.  That river may or may not feature in the shots below.

Also, we were promised MEDALS, and insider information meant that some of us knew to also expect a RAFFLE.  Only a bathing in a whole bath tub of Ferrero Rocher could be more indulgent.

Now, I’m not one to brag, but I’d actually done the Wingerworth Wobble in 2015, so was well placed to dish out advice to newbie participants, generalising from my one-off attendance.  I’d had a couple of minor hiccups last time round, so this time I set myself so new objectives.  I’ve had a whole year’s running experience since WW2015 so this time I went for three:

  1. Don’t get lost
  2. Get back before the tail marker
  3. Improve on last year’s time

Last year I succeeded in meeting zero of my objectives, so these aspirations were ambitious.  But on the plus side last year I did achieve two impossible things in one day (see objectives one and two, both thought to be impossible), so never say never.  Plus, my regular reader will know I’ve had a bit of a run of unlikely happenings… and, without wishing to give too much away, as a little teaser for you I can reveal that this event poured yet more blessings upon me, but more of them later.

So, what you need to know, is that I’d been looking forward to this event for ages.  Hobbit Buddy and I had long schemed to do this run together, seeing it as a good opportunity for a romp out with Ginger and Roger, who haven’t been out in action as a pair since the Round Sheffield Run which was ages and ages ago.  I figured that it would be an appropriate occasion for them to make an appearance as last year was blessed with not just fancy dress runners but celebrity participants too (Miss Piggy AND Kermit no less), I thought Ginger and Roger would fit right in.  Adding to the build up and sense of occasion, this was also one of the race events in the Smiley Champs season so there would be a good turn out of Smiley Paces Compatriots, and so a heightened possibility of potentially being able to parasitize a lift with one of them too.  I wasn’t over-confident about this, as not everyone is keen on transporting horses, so in the end hobbit and I just cadge a lift by responding to a post on Facebook and ever-so slightly didn’t mention the horses as such.  Well, it had been sort of inferred earlier, what with the promise of another friendly feeder Smiley to bring some oats along for them specially.

We synchronised watches, and because nobody else in the whole world departs for race events as early as I do, Hobbit Buddy and I got a longer lie in than if I’d been driving and rendezvoused outside my house at 9.03, in order to facilitate some pre-event photo opportunities.  Only one of these was really successful, but it is a fine shot nevertheless.  You can see hobbit buddy is having a near spiritual experience at the very thought of the run that is ahead of her.  And quite right too, running should be like that!   She also seems to be at one in perfect harmony with her steed Ginger, so that was also a good start to the day.

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Whilst we had a lie in, I’m pleased to report that the Wingerworth Wobble Crack Team were up pre-dawn to do the pre-race prep.  I’m sure that seeing the sun rise was more than enough recompense for that early start, but just in case not, can we take a moment to thank the Race Team, unsung superstars for their labours not only on the day but in the run up and wind down of the event too!

OK, that’s enough clapping for now, back to the main event.

So, Hobbit Buddy and I were standing on pavement, with Ginger and Roger, staring excitedly down the road, when a shout came from a car that had parked up in completely the opposite direction.  Our transport awaited us.  Yay.

We excitedly clip-clopped across the road and piled in.  ‘I didn’t know it was fancy dress!’ exclaimed our designated driver (which is why I’ve adorned her comment with an exclamation mark).  ‘Did you not get the memo about the mandatory equine themed fancy dress requirement?’ we (hilariously) queried.  We kept that ruse going for about a millisecond, but it was fun whilst it lasted.  Hobbit Buddy and I are extremely good at making our own entertainment.  We were now REALLY excited, it was a bit like going off on holiday.  Leaving the bright city lights of Sheffield to head to the rural surrounds of NE Derbyshire.  It just so happened that our route took us past Sheffield Hallam parkrun, and the lead runners were just flying down Rustlings Road as we drove past.  It was really fun watching them from the back of a car.  First time I’ve ever over-taken any of that lot, and you see it in a different way.  It took me a while to think to take any photos and they aren’t great, but you get the idea. (FYI the crap photos on this post are all mine, the finish shots are mainly the work of the talented Mr David Carr – also run support team – and woodland shots are courtesy of the accomplished Eleanor Scriven, thanks to both for letting me ruthlessly exploit the fruit of their labours in order to make all the words in this account near tolerable to readers).  So parkrun looked like this to me:

I think George and his nominated stand-in are safe from my encroaching on their parkrun picture territory for now.

So, we made it to our destination with only a minor navigational lapse.  And soon we were parked up (on the verge outside) Deer Park Primary, the rendezvous for registration.  It was really exciting.  Other runners were pouring out of their vehicles or striding down the street towards the registration hall.  ‘Caution Runners’ signs and similar were in evidence.  Bring. The Wobble. On!

There was also a sign – which will be important to note for later – advising as to positioning of muddy trainers:

We made our way into the hall which was already a-buzz with happy and expectant runners in general and Smiling Smilies in particular.  We did some meet and great. In particular, it was grand to see that one Smiley faithful delivered on her promise to bring oats for Ginger and Roger.  This was a little bit awkward to be honest.  It was really generous of her to have brought this along, but she’s clearly not really an equine expert, as she offered them the oats straight off.  I didn’t want to be rude, but I was terribly worried if they gorged on oats immediately before the race they’d get colic half way round.  Way better to let them enjoy them afterwards, once they’d cooled off.  Anyway, the compromise was a bit of a taster from the nose bag, and then save the rest for later.  I think animal welfare was observed whilst showing sufficient gratitude for such a supportive act.  Hope so anyway…

So, once we’d said a few hellos, we got on with the important business of registration.  Hobbit buddy registered with few problems, but I got a more officious steward.  He cautioned me about the number of bridleways en route, and I think, between you and me, he was a bit dubious about whether or not, strictly speaking Roger was allowed.  There is/ was nothing in the rules I was sure.  Also, without wishing to diss dear Roger and Ginger, given the leg-length issue as evidenced in the pre-race photos, I’m not absolutely sure that we had a competitive advantage on the way round, though there may have been a psychological boon. Watching Roger’s head bob up and down in front of me as I run is strangely comforting, and companionable on those long and lonely trains where there is not another runner in sight.  Anyway, to be on the safe side, once we’d been ticked off the list, and allocated a number, he took a photo of us both for identification purposes in case of later trouble.  I haven’t been required to pose for a mug shot in such a way since I was an extra in an advert for a ‘worldwide sportswear brand’ filmed at Rotherham New York Stadium.  The brand in question insisted on taking a photo of each of us individually, holding a copy of our signed global non-disclosure agreement. To this day I’ve been unable to tell anyone about what unfolded before us on that day.  The mystery of this I will take to my grave.  I don’t have copy of the latter shot – even that was top-secret I daresay.  I do have a copy of the former though.  We don’t look like trouble makers particularly do we?  Oooh, what’s that number Roger and I are sporting?  Forty-one, well, well.  More of this later…

roger-and-ginger-checking-out-our-numbers

A bit more loitering and interacting took place pre start. Nothing that couldn’t be paused for a Club photo of us all together.  Check out the Smiley Race Director looking busy and important with a clipboard, but still making time to hang out with us mere mortals on the day.

roger-and-ginger-centre-stage

As well as posing for the above (approximately whole) group shot, incorporating obligatory mysterious background figure (great stealth photo-bombing in action methinks).   Not sure if he was quite expecting to be outed with the close up though – cheers Mr Carr, excellent detective work.  In fact, let the records show there was a pincer sleuthing movement by the event photographers, with the stunt gurner ultimately identified by one of the Scriven Siblings.  Just shows, we Smileys have our spies everywhere.  You have been warned…

dc-photobomb-stalker-shot

Other activities included:

  1. Checking out the raffle prizes (rumour was first prize was a trip on Concorde, but I that can’t have been an actual flight as it’s now grounded, so I presume it would be a tow, just as much fun and more environmentally friendly too)
  2. Trying not to be phased by the elephants in the room
  3. Failing to browse pre-race information (course map etc)
  4. Vaguely wondering where all the fancy dress/ celebrity runners were
  5. Noticing poster giving current course records, I can but dream, not to worry, we all just run our own race in our own way at the end of the day…
  6. Me experiencing ‘survivor guilt’ for having got lucky in the London Marathon ballot when other more worthy runners have not.  I will give it my best shot, but the arbitrariness of it all is hard to take.  Even harder for those that are unlucky.
  7. Posing for pre-race picture (note, finding Smiley’s is like herding cats, just could not get them all together in one place, but below is the best shot attempt)
  8. General Smiley spotting, aided by sporting of Smiley related kit on this occasion, none of the underhand disguising as in evidence at the TenTenTen last week
  9. Pondering strategy and racecraft – discussions between elite Smilies focused on their endgames
  10. Hilarious conversation with our transport manager who was explaining where her car keys were if I got back before her and needed to get into it for some reason.  Hilarious, because I engaged in this with all seriousness before it dawned on me that this would only come to pass if she was shot by a sniper on the way round.  Unlikely therefore, on balance.  I mean, vandals laying a false trail on the course is one thing, taking pot shots at runners is another league of disruption all together.
  11. Hoping Hobbit Buddy wouldn’t come to realise we were the only two in fancy dress
  12. Trying to convince Hobbit Buddy that honestly, last year there were loads of fun runners…
  13. Trying to further convince Hobbit Buddy that besides, Roger and Ginger were just blending into the background perfectly, no cause for alarm.

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It’s amazing how completely absorbing faffing can be.  What with all that and the necessary (for me two) precautionary pees, the time sped by. There was one somewhat unfortunate aspect to the faffing.  One of the events team (also photographer extraordinaire) stopped by to be social, and give us a bit of insider info on what to expect on the course.  Unfortunately, he unwittingly identified too possible-but-unlikely hazards in the form of cows with calves and a Doberman on a chain, both of which we might potentially pass en route.  The problem being, this represented a perfect storm for Hobbit Buddy, representing the manifestation of her twin off-road running phobias.  I swear she went white.  I tried to be reassuring ‘last year we were warned about wasps and there weren’t any, and a bull, and that never materialise, it’ll be fine, these are precautionary, hypothetical warnings not a serious cause for concern.’  Dear Reader, Hobbit Buddy was less than impressed.  She actually went a lighter shade of pale than I’ve previously witnessed.  She was however in sufficient possession of her faculties to utter the accusatory line along the lines of ‘you are saying it’ll be fine, but you also said there’d be lots of people in fancy dress‘.  Touché.  In the end, we came up with a contingency plan.  We have negotiated all these hazards together before.  If she is ahead of me, other runners will surround her, if she ends up on her own, then wait for me, and I will personally accompany her through.

Then a cry went up, and the Exceptionally competent, glamorous, friendly and accomplished race director and her glamorous sidekick called us all to order.  We were encouraged to make our way to the start.  There were some arrows, but we all just followed someone in high vis who appeared to know what they were doing.  This strategy isn’t fool-proof (I once accidentally ended up amongst the delegates for a pharmaceutical conference using this technique) but on this occasion was successful

to-the-start

Huddled at the start line, a whoop of recognition went up, and operating on strictly just-in-time principles, Fell Running Smiley appeared on the scene. Yay.  There was a swift briefing: ‘take care out there, it’s muddy and slippy in places‘; ‘cut off is one hour‘ but ‘you’ll all be fine‘; ‘no sloping off as a DNF without letting a marshal know‘; ‘there is a tail runner so you are not alone‘..  and then, right on cue, we were awf…

One small advantage of having run this course before, was that whilst I didn’t actually remember it in great detail, I did recall that you start with a (to me) relatively steep uphill climb.  You go through some grand gates, along a track past a small lake/large pond and then, rather bizarrely as well, emerge to take on the next bit along tarmaced roads and through a housing estate of sorts.  This section seems a bit incongruous for a trail race, but isn’t too long.  On this occasion, we had the added obstacle of negotiating some road works, so had to sprint by some rather bemused looking, but encouraging work men, who took a break from digging up the road to cheer us past.  They did look a bit surprised to see us, but not as surprised as some squat boxer/pug type dogs we passed later on, who veered away from us, staring at Ginger and Roger with real suspicious.   Hobbit Buddy and I began by running together.  At the top of this first steep climb, was a hi-viz marshal who did really excellent directional pointing to send us off down a right hand turn and towards more traditional trail running territory.

We trotted along, horseying around and exchanged some pony puns that we personally found very entertaining but possibly aren’t objectively funny enough to repeat here. Neigh, neigh, wouldn’t want to de-stable-ise you with laughter.  However, I can’t talk and run, and Hobbit Buddy in fact has a turbo-thrust super-charge mode that she employs in race situations, whereas I really and truly only operate in one speed.  Therefore, soon enough she pulled ahead, with a promise to wait if she needed help negotiating any scary obstacles that might lie in wait.  I was towards the back and not actually at the back this time, so that was a pleasant change from my normal fell-running experiences.  Contrary to what you might think and what Hobbit Buddy asked me when I got back, I did not stop on the way round to take photos.  Had I done so though, they may have looked a bit like these.  The pics that follow were gleaned from the Wingerworth Wobble Facebook Page and taken the day before so give you the gist.  You will, like me, be delighted to note that the organisers had even thought to provide some extra ponies along the way to cheer on Roger and Ginger as they passed.  They thought of everything.  Attention to detail.  I like that.

The photos are all well and good, but somehow manage to make it look as if the entire course was completely flat.  It was not.  Just saying.

My race chronology is a bit vague.  It’s all a bit of a blur, not so much because of the speed with which I was running, more to do with how light-headed and breathless I got on the way round.  Them hills you see, them there hills.  Hence, some of the anecdotes that follow will be out of sequence oh well, sue me*.  If you are interested, Strava says the course is this.  It’s not my Strava unfortunately, that was too humiliating, I’ve nabbed Smiley Elder Super Geek’s one, which is way more impressive. And no, since you are asking, this isn’t in anyway duplicitous, it is actually a tribute and a compliment to the great Smiley Elder to wish to emulate her in this way and in no way an attempt to mislead.  Is it my fault that some people just scroll through to the photos and never read the explanatory text alongside for context?  No it’s not.

ww-strava-not-mine-unfortunately

So you run (or trot, or gallop or pootle, depending on the extent of your personal athletic prowess) and the way is lined with a combination of smiling marshals, luminous posters and the de rigour jaunty red and white tape.  The reasonably flat section includes a stream crossing, but it’s early on, and to be honest I took advantage of the little bridge alongside to traverse it. Didn’t want to get my feet drenched quite so early on.  Then, after a bit, you get onto some fields, then there is a long haul.  First of all you have woods alongside, to be fair it was quite pretty.  The fields were nothing like as muddy as last year, and I managed to maintain something of a yomp.  Last year it was literal as well as metaphorical ‘feet of clay’ so no-one was running anywhere.  The gradient was tough, I nursed black thoughts about how the hell I’m ever going to be fit enough to even attempt to run a marathon if I can’t drag my weary carcass up even these – by Sheffield standards at least – relatively modest inclines.   Mostly, just as I was losing heart, a cheery marshal would appear.  This did help with motivation as not only do they offer verbal encouragement, I don’t like to be caught slacking, so whenever I espied one ahead I put on a bit of a show to demonstrate in no uncertain times that I wasn’t only running now, but I’d most definitely been running continuously a great deal before hand  and would continue to do so until stopped by death.  Like the story of The Red Shoes, except I think then the poor girl in question was cursed to dance on even after death, which seems a little extreme even by the most exacting of running club standards.

I really liked the little Health and Safety notices ‘slippery ahead‘, ‘warning mud‘ that welcomed you into the woodland.  I myself am of course very compliant with such directives, any excuse to catch my breath with a bit of a brake on my otherwise supersonic speeds/  However I heard it reported that at least one Smiley took advantage of other runners slowing out of respect for the terrain to try to overtake.  She came a cropper I understand, but survived to tell the tale.  I’m not saying who it was out of respect for those involved.  She is an awesome runner, but they remain so super-competitive these Clucky Ducks**.  Get well soon, hope the mud washes out of your bits and bobs eventually.  I was more confused by the sign that said ‘water ahead‘ because I didn’t remember there being any waterfalls, river crossings or arctic enema on the course last time round.  But then again, OCRs are getting more and more popular, perhaps these Wingerworth Wobblers have decided to stir things up a bit?  AFter all, they did go to all that trouble to incorporate personalised bespoke multiple river crossings for me last year.  Maybe they were just being even more ambitious and even more secretive this time round?  Still, no time to dwell on it, as EMERGENCY photographer ahead.  (Why don’t they put up warning signs for that, way more useful).  I could see her from afar, which was good, because lots of time to (attempt to) perfect my pose and running gait, but not so good as it was a long way to sprint.  Still, I can report she managed to snap some fine action shots.  Not only of Roger and me, but, believe it or not other Smilies AND other competitors and participants too.  (I tend to think of myself more as a participant than a competitor to be honest, no shame in that.. Is there?)

Oh, and I don’t want any wise-cracks along the lines of – ‘How come you are running in the dark in one of them – did you not finish until the middle of the night!?’  Because actually, I was within the cut-off time.  The Black and White shot is just artistic interpretation courtesy of Eleanor Scriven. Now, bit of explanation here.  It is confusing, because ‘usually’ (though not at the Stanage Struggle either this year) it is Robert Scriven who is the snap-happy photographer lurking in the undergrowth.  He most definitely jumped out from behind a tree in the Wingerworth Wobble Wood last year.   However, as I understand it, he’s been cloned or something, or they have used some sort of cell generation technique to generate a twin.  I’m saying twin, but that might not be strictly accurate, sibling at least.   I don’t know if they are identical because I’ve never seen them side by side.  It can’t be like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde though – you know, both different sides of the same person, because it seems they can co-exist simultaneously in time and space, whereas Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde could not.   The proof is here look.

es-secret-sibling-shot

Spookily, Eleanor Scriven has photographed Robert Scriven demonstrating they were in the same place (near as dammit) at the same time.  Though I suppose he might have used a timer to put us off the scent.  I still don’t think so, as both the able photographing Scriven Siblings or Snapping Scriven Siblings as I’ve decided I’d like to call them seem to be (outwardly at least) very nice and obliging. This is not consistent with the Jekyll and Hyde documentary, which if you recall, showed one of them to be really horrid and one to be really nice.  I can never remember which was which though.  Fortunately, we don’t need to be able to differentiate between these two photographers on safety grounds, we can just be grateful for their labours.  Thank you both. Eleanor for today at the Wobble, and Robert for last year’s Wobble and both of you for other runs near and far.   Your efforts are appreciated.  If, dear reader, by some extraordinary lapse of faith,  you don’t trust my judgement and want to check out all the Scriven Wingerworth Wobble 2016 shots follow this link.  So, hope we’ve cleared all that up.  Thanks both for the use of your photos 🙂

After the exhaustion of being photographed in the woods, and having to look enthusiastic and energetic, I emerge from the woods at what was pretty much the half way point, where there was a welcome water station and some very friendly marshals, being supervised by a small but helpful child who was placing plastic cups of water in line for runners as they came through.  . They informed me I was the second pony through so that was handy.  I did pause to drink my water.  I have learned now that if I gulp and keep running, I just get hiccups and feel the liquid sloshing about.  I probably should learn to sip, or trust myself not to drink if it’s just a 10k.  Oh well.

The next bit was  a good run downhill, on a country lane, there wasn’t any traffic beyond the actual marshalling vehicle.  It was a bit further than I remembered, and I did wonder at one point if I’d missed the turn off to the right.  I passed the field with the Shetland ponies in, that was nice.  At the bottom of the hill was a support vehicle which quite literally was bedecked with flashing lights, so you really couldn’t miss the turn, I’d just lost my nerve.  A marshal cheered me on, and I turned off the road, down a farm track of sorts.  There, just before some rather grand stone pillars, a lone marshal stood on a grassy bank, pointing towards a style into some more open fields.  He was friendly too, must have been a bit lonely there, and presumably the speed I was going he’d been hanging around for a while what with the gap between me and the runners ahead.  Anyway, he did warn me the style was pretty slippery, as indeed it was, so I negotiated it with caution.

Into the cattle fields. Cattle had left evidence of their recent habitation, but I couldn’t see any in the field.  I wasn’t worried about me, but I was a bit nervous for Hobbit Buddy. What would she do were she to encounter her nemesis?  This bit of the run was basically a straight line through the middle of a series of cattle pasture fields.  There were styles to be negotiated at intervals, some on the narrow side but Roger made it through OK.  There was one section here where I did nearly go wrong.  Now I’ve done the run, it’s obvious you do just follow your nose.  However, at one of the walls I went through there was a farm directly ahead and it was unclear if you went ahead past the large feeder (which is what you actually did) which looked like a dead-end, or veered off downhill to the right where a footpath sign was pointing.  I came to a halt, and cautiously went ahead.  There weren’t any more flags in sight, but eventually I spotted a flash of green hi-vis in the distance and figured I was on the right track.  Then just as I’d lost hope again there was another bit of tape and I ran on with a bit more confidence.

There was another bit of a turn down a road, where a handily marshal was placed to make sure we didn’t go wrong.  He jovially said to me ‘now look out for the horses coming the other way won’t you?‘  I chortled appreciatively, turned the corner and saw: two horses coming the other way!  I must have a slightly narcissistic personality type, I just assumed he was saying this to humour me, I was a bit surprised to see actual equines.  They were nice horses, one was in fact an icelandic pony, not a highland as I originally thought.  (I know because I asked).  One of the riders said to me – with not a hint of irony ‘what are you doing with a horse?’ which given her own equine friend I thought a bit of a cheek, though it wasn’t unfriendly as such.  We exchanged pleasantries, and I ran on.

I was relieved to see the next marshal who was on a short stretch of road, as I knew then that I’d both nearly finished and not gone wrong (though still time for that of course)! You head off down the road, and then I saw another marshal acting very suspiciously, lurking in a hedge and I would happily have sworn he was taking down the big orange arrow sign.  What was this?  A false trail being set just for me all over again?  Despite my suspicions, his broad smile reassured me and he waved me … well, basically into someone’s back garden!  It was very strange, but hey ho – others had clearly been this way before. A little bridge, a style, a wooded area a BIG SIGN complaining about dog s*&t deposits (not in that language but the meaning was very clear).  Then, very suddenly, I realised I was right at the finish.  Seeing it again, I can’t quite compute how I got so misdirected when in spitting distance of the finish last year.  I literally had about 10 feet to go before I saw the finish, but last year a false trail sent me off on a detour back into the woods.  This year I was older, and (in this respect at least) a year the wiser., (though not any fitter unfortunately).  I raced across the bridge, as if fearful a Troll beneath would drag me under, and emerged from the woods.

I emerged at speed from the woods, and then saw it again.  My true nemesis. The Hill.  Even Doctor Smiley conceded this hill was tough, and has mooted the Wingerworth Wobble be known henceforth as Wingerworth stinginthetail Wobble.  Another Smiley (who shall be nameless, referred to it as a ‘horrendous hill’ which I think is accurate but a bit rude to say out loud so won’t repeat.   For the record, the majority of Smilies, irrespective of whether or not they had found the hill to their liking, had already made it through the finish tape by now and even had time to pose for a finish photo.  Which follows.  It remains an unfulfilled ambition of mine to complete a race in time for the Smiley team shot at the end.  I think that ambition is going to be a long time coming to fulfilment between you and me.  Here are the others though, all looking fresh, feisty and suitably victorious.  Go Smilies!

finish-pic-as-usual-i-was-too-slow-for-inclusion

So back to me and my hill sprint.  This was a big miscalculation, to have started running at speed quite so soon.  There was a spirited crowd at the finish line to cheer people in. This is very encouraging but it also makes you alarmingly accountable. You really do not want to stop running going up that hill with so many people watching.  However, it felt to me like I was trying to run up a down escalator whilst pretending everything was fine.  I thought my lungs would burst and my eyes  pop out.  Well, my eyes didn’t pop out, but my lung may have burst as I definitely had that metallic taste of blood in the back of my throat for a few hours afterwards…  The final sprint to the finish looks like this by the way.  More Scriven shots thank you.  I still don’t think it adequately portrays the gradient, though you do get a sense of the distance.  Also, I like the shot of the people at the finish funnel, looking out across the horizon for returning runners like they might for lost explorers staggering out of the snow on an expedition to the arctic.  Almost exactly like that, only with a bit more hi-vis and marginally less snow. The anxious anticipation is all there though isn’t it. You can see it oozing out of the shots!  You can also see some smilies working together like a wolf pack, making a sandwich manoeuvre on the unknowing Dark Peak Runner.  Go them.

As I approached the finish, a small child ran down the hill, and then ran back up again in parallel to me.  I gather they had been doing this all morning, a feat that can only be described as super human.  Also, very sweetly, there was a little girl who had the job of giving out the medals.  She was so excited at this responsibility, that she kept running towards the finishing athletes, and had to be called back to make sure she waited for them to cross the finish line before handing out the trophies.  It was rather touching though.  She gave me my medal.  I was very chuffed.  It was also great to have so many Smilies cheering me home.  Also present and correct and performing his documentary photography skills with customary skill, grace and professional aplomb, was our very own David Carr.  I say our very own, because he has honorary Smiley status by marriage.  Also, he is a multi-tasker, having been up since pre-dawn with race preparations as key partner within the race direction team.  What’s more, even after he’d done all that rushing round putting out tape, and taking photographs, and shooing runners in the right direction, he STILL was working it later on as the glamorous assistant for the trophy presentations at the end.  Is there no end to his talents?***

So, finish photos, there are lots of awesome ones, some low resolution ones are available to browse on David J Carr’s WW album on his facebook page,  or purchase high resolution ones on-line at David J Carr photography, Wingerworth Wobble page and they are well a look.  I have naturally used my contacts to source some particularly genius ones of myself and Roger so you can judge for yourself the extent of my eye-popping, the fragility of my lungs and the extent of grace I am modeling with my running technique.  Roger looks quite fresh I think.  Well deserving of extra oats at the finish.  I can not tell a lie, I find the juxtaposition of really talented photographic technique with my gurning faces both hilarious and cringe worthy.  Unfortunately, the camera never lies, so I feel I should embrace the moments captures as truthful capturing of my running journey. When I am finally metamorphosed into a ‘proper’ athlete, with chiseled features and limbs of solid muscle I shall look back on these as but a distant memory as if looking back on a stranger.  Or most likely, I wont. Either way, how lucky we all are to have these memories captured, whether we like it or not, these times may now be in the past, but they will not be forgotten.  Own it.  I do quite like the one of us both all limbs flying though. Might put that on a T-shirt and work it if required.  (Though, granted, it is quite hard to imagine the scenario in which that line of action would be either necessary or helpful).

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So medals donned, and the last few cheered home, I was able to pause to reflect briefly that I’d achieved all three of my pre-race goals. Didn’t get lost, made it back before the tail runner AND improved my time.  It certainly helps you slash times if the year before you sped 10 minutes running backwards and forwards across a river. Good 10 minutes off I reckon, way good!

That was the race done and dusted, and we all adjourned to the school hall for the really important business of the day. We removed our muddy trainers on the way in, donning our stockinged feet in the deeply attractive blue plastic bags provided for just this purpose.  We were all rocking this look in the great hall.

what-everyone-is-wearing

The Raffle.  This was by far the most nail-biting and competitive part of proceedings.  People fought to buy strips of tickets (sold in aid of the school and air ambulance) and you could have heard a pin drop as the numbers were called out.  There was the agony of suspense as everyone waited in eager anticipation to see if their number would be up!  Although the pickings were not so rich this year, it was a big relief that Dr Smiley was the Smiley winner amongst us.  She is highly strung, and extra hyper following a running triumph (second lady home) I wouldn’t have wanted to cross her.  In fact, as her nominated minder, I had to use the ruse of wanting to document her selecting her prize in order to stay with her and ensure all about her were safe.  It was fine.  The chocolate mints seemed to pacify her. This was a huge relief as I didn’t really have a plan as such had she turned, although I did take the precaution of befriending one of the St John’s Ambulance Crew just in case I needed extra support.  If you look carefully, you can see she got one of her colleagues to keep an eye of things from a respectful distance too.  Dr Smiley never suspected a thing.

Although my lucky number didn’t come up at the raffle, my Lucky Number did come up big time in another unexpected way.  At some point in the post-race shenanigans, Hobbit Buddy, Ginger, Roger and I went in search of someone to take a post-race photo of us with all our bling.  The person we happened upon – actually, I think it was Hobbit Buddy who negotiated this because Ginger and Roger can’t talk and I prefer to delegate these tasks – made an AMAZING REVELATION.  He was looking first at Ginger’s number and said ‘ah, so close, I thought for a moment...’ and then, as he espied Roger ‘Aha!  It’s there. The number 41!  you know of course that’s a very lucky and important number indeed, of course?’  My blinking and otherwise blank expression suggested that no I didn’t.  ‘You don’t know your athletics then?‘ Well, alas no, I glanced across at Dr Smiley in desperation for some clue as to what this might refer to, but she shrugged expansively, just out of view.  This prophet from heaven then enlightened me.  Forty – One was ONLY THE VEST NUMBER ROGER BANNISTER WORE WHEN HE BROKE THE FOUR MINUTE MILE!!!!! OMG.   How did I not know that.  I was giddy with excitement, all around we whooped and cheered.  This unknown stranger (but clearly my new best friend forever) went on to say that whenever he was race director at an event he’d try to let whoever got randomly allocated that number run for free, as a sort of tribute to the achievement that number represents.  This was just so exciting.  I can’t believe the amount of random good fortune that has come my way of late, I’m dreading it going into reverse with equal force.  Here we are, check that number out!  Also check out my attractive footwear, courtesy of WW.

rogers-lucky-number

The only disappointing thing is that we/I was so excited with this revelation, that I completely failed to register the double significance that I was actually running with my very own Roger today.  Roger B’s namesake taking on the Wingerworth Wobble wearing the number 41.  What were the chances eh?  When we finally remembered, we thought it would seem a bit either stalkerish or unlikely to seek out our benefactor and tell him, so he may never know, or maybe he’ll get to find out.  Thanks though, whoever you were, tall knowledgeable man.  I am going to keep my number 41 FOREVER.

The next main distraction was the prize giving. Quite a lot of bling and trophies to get through.  Seven of the top ten ladies were from Smiley Paces, which is a good haul.  We might have had similar representation at the other end of the spectrum to be fair, thanks partly to my endeavours, but let’s not dwell on that here.   Instead, lets admire the shots, and appreciate the Race Director and WW team all over again for a job well done.

Oh the results?  You actually want to check them out?  Whatever happened to ‘it’s not whether you win or lose… ‘ Still, if you really care, they are here, bravo Wingerworth Wobbler Finishers, you / we are all awesome!  Roger and I didn’t break the four-minute mile but in our defence, it was way harder for us than our lightweight Bannister namesake, he ran on the road and it was flat.  We were off-road and had hills. Way more challenging.

So then, all too suddenly it was ended.  Most of us scooped up our muddy and sodden shoes and headed off homewards shouting words of thanks and farewells in our wake.  On the way back to Sheffield we contemplated the day and took a good look at our personal bling.

medal

Now, I cannot tell a lie, responses to the medal were a bit mixed.  Clearly, we were delighted to have bling, and the blue enameling was rather fetching, with a thoughtfully colour-coordinated ribbon.  All good.  We were a bit less enamoured with the 3D image which portrays a guy evidently pushing past a female runner in a somewhat bullying manner.  We weren’t sure about the iconography and semiotics at work here.  Was it saying men always come in first as if by divine right?  Was it saying that they are only able to do so by using such aggressive tactic on their female counterparts?  eventually the penny dropped.  Check out that guys hair-do!  Clearly the medal was making a contemporary reference to the appalling misogynistic behaviour of presidential candidate Donald Trump.  Best not to think too much about where that hand is reaching.  How amazing that a trail race like this would have so hit the  zeitgeist that it came up with this in such a tight time frame! Not seen such a topical nod in any race bling ever.  I like it.   Might be an interesting way forwards.

All too soon I was deposited home.  I am opposite a newsagent so popped in to buy a newspaper first, only then realising I still was wearing Roger and had bright blue plastic bags on my feet.  Well, they must have seen it all before because the nice woman there barely registered. I’m surprised though, Fulwood isn’t the sort of neighbourhood where you expect people to nip to the shops in their PJs or onesies, but then again, what would I know.

Home, pot of tea, pleasant afternoon reviewing photos and sharing happy wobble memories on Facebook.  Possibly rather more of a packet of cheddar biscuits than i really should have indulged in, but no-one need ever now… The gist of it was we were all awesome.  However, the Wingerworth Wobblers still had one surprise to offer up!  It was this post and these pictures:

Basically, it seems one of our number had indeed left her muddy trainers in the designated area outside the school hall, as per the written instructions clearly on display and showed above.  Later on, she got a message alerting her to the fact that her trainers had now been cleaned to good-as-new standards, but unfortunately she had omitted to leave her contact details.  The person responsible, who may or may not have been Dr Smiley but let’s just say I’m not putting anyone else’s name in the frame for it, then stepped forward to identified herself.  Seems she was the sole (ha ha) beneficiary of the complementary post-race shoe cleaning service AND what’s more will get her newly spruced trainers returned to her by personal delivery.  That AND the raffle, she did good!

Well dear reader, I’d love to carry on, but I can’t spend all day here on the sofa chatting away to you, you’ve detained me quite long enough. I have places to go and people to see.****

So just to finish thanks to everyone for delivering another fine and dandy Wingerworth Wobble.  In my vast (er hem) experience of fell/trail racing this remains amongst the friendliest.  It definitely has the best loos, best elephants and quite clearly the best Race Director and photography duo in the whole of Wingerworth too. Seriously though, congratulations to the organising team; thanks to David Carr and Eleanor Scriven the event photographers; cheers to marshals who pointed and cheered so competently and with such enthusiasm throughout; thank you to the nice man who enlightened me about the significance of the number 41; thank you fellow Smilies (that thanks is on repeat cycle of course) and thank you fellow participants and their supporters too.  Special thanks to our transport co-ordinator and also of course our oats supplier for the day.  Roger and I would never have made it to the start without you!  Mostly though massive high five and hugs to our very own Race Director, it must have been so much work, but how great and smug you must feel now.  Go seek out those laurels you’ve just earned and have a good rest on them!

Maybe I’m sentimental at heart, because I still think there is something inherently joyful about the way these fell races come together.  Everyone gathers for a morning and then vanishes again into the mist.  Isn’t it magical.  Oh and finally, thanks to the weather gods too.  We may all be hardcore fell runners of course, but be fair, it is nice to be able to run in bright but cool autumn sunshine.  Fantastic that the Wingerworth Wobbles used their collective influence to guarantee even that.

Bravo!

I think you have earned more than one trip to the Wingerworth Barley Mow myself, but I’m sure you know best.

Same time next year?  🙂

For all my posts relating to the Wingerworth Wobble (including this one, so you may need to scroll down) see here.

Finally, some footnotes giving points of clarification follow:

*Only please don’t.

**Smiletastic has a lot to answer for

***Racecraft also includes remembering the importance of never getting the wrong side of a race photographer.  No point in sycophantic flattery, that will be seen straight through, only ever speak the truth.  We all love you Mr Carr, and your photos are FAB!

****Well, I’d like a glass of wine at least, and blogging and drinking are not wise companions.  Arguably, blogging isn’t wise anyway, but believe me, mixed with alcohol even more risky.

Categories: fell race, off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Wanton Wobbling at Wingerworth, 2016

  1. Pingback: The misterious pleasures of running round Longshaw… | Running Scared

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