It should have been me! I should have been here. Curses.
Call it a ‘conscious uncoupling’ if you will, but the bottom line is I didn’t make it through the Darwinian selection process that had to be negotiated to make it even to the start line of the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double this weekend. You know the science, survival of the fittest and all that. I failed. I am gutted. Seriously gutted. I really wanted to do this race, albeit as much for the social smiley takeover angle as the actual running bit. It is a measure of the extent of my mid-life crisis and/or evidence of how I must surely be a victim of alien abduction – what other possible explanation can there be as to how my sense of self has been so altered over time that I actually shed tears of frustration and disappointment about not making it away this November weekend to run around a lot in the cold. Only a few short decades ago I went to quite considerable lengths to avoid any sporting endeavour, including regularly getting ‘lost’ between the changing rooms and playing fields whilst at school. An act with which I can only assume my PE teacher enthusiastically colluded with, as I never once got caught. How times change. Now I feel deprivation and paranoia. Why can’t I go? It’s not fair? Let me go and play on the fells? Everyone else is going – why not me? Fortunately, I may be shite at running, but I can lay on a pretty darned indulgent pity party, so all was not lost!
I am fully aware of the ludicrousness of all of this. I know other far more serious runners who have been thwarted in far more important running endeavours, but I suppose up until now I’ve been relatively lucky. Spared injuries by my risk averse running techniques I’ve not really ever had to miss an event before, I can usually yomp round somehow. Even if I don’t participate either with glory or dignity than at least I do so with a reasonable degree of confidence I’ll make it to the end eventually. I’m not even injured for goodness sake, just picked up some grim viral thing which has made me metamorphose from being an inspirational running blogger (ahem) into some sort of deeply unpleasant hybrid between a sweat-fountain and a phlegm factory. One that can’t breathe to boot. All of this is incompatible with being seen in public or walking to the chemist, let alone running anywhere or sharing a dorm. So it is, rather late in the day and probably for the first time, I’ve come to fully appreciate it isn’t making it to the end of the race that is the real challenge, sometimes it’s just making it to the start. For me, this weekend, in that respect, epic fail.
It seems that no sooner than I got my unlikely London Marathon Place, I’ve been plagued by illness. This is doing nothing for my survivor guilt I don’t mind telling you. Consequently, I’m doing my training in reverse, almost completed my four-week taper with significant front loading in the carbing up strategy as a consequence of comfort eating. At this rate, when my health is finally restored I’m going to have to start from scratch. Fortunately though, today I saw by chance an episode of ‘This time next year‘ and people were telling Davina about the unlikely things they’d accomplish over the next 12 months, and what’s more apparently doing them. (I imagine they edited out all the no-hopers/losers but let’s not dwell on that). I hang on to the notion that I still do have time, worse things have happened to other people, especially at sea, and maybe, just maybe, this conscious uncoupling is all for the best…. It was my decision to pull out, but it was a bitter choice to make all the same. Sometimes doing the right thing is hard, but I’m in it for the long game with my running journey (I was going to say ‘career’ but that is stretching the truth too far even for me!)
So, what is it that I’ve missed out on and why? Are you insane? I’m missing EVERYTHING, my life is now ruined. I’m missing out on:
- a fab run in the Lakes (twice – a 15k round Helvellyn and another 14 k round Ullswater);
- a boat trip with music accompaniement;
- hanging out with awesome women for a wise-cracking weekend;
- the retrospective hilarity of forced communal living;
- porridge prepared and served as if ambrosia for the gods;
- fabulous scenery;
- limitless amusing anecdotes;
- carrying out ethnographic research/ method acting techniques in preparation for my forthcoming running-themed murder mystery novel;
- pasta and prosecco parties;
- material for my running blog post finale. A write up of this event was to be my last post pre-departure for new lands and new adventures overseas. Curses. No chance that could happen now.
More specifically, for those of you who haven’t been concentrating, this is/was to be basically a weekend in the lovely Lake District that offers up a smorgasbord of trail races over two consecutive days. You can choose from a 10k or 15/14k done as a ‘race’ or as a ‘challenge’ (same route, more time to complete). All in an awesome location, with Saturday being based round Helvellyn, and the Sunday around Ullswater – including a boat ride with a musical accompaniment. I don’t think there was karaoke or requests as such, but jolly appealing all the same…
An advance party of Smiley Paces scouts went off last year and had a lovely time – albeit much of the pleasure was retrospective. They experienced apocalyptic weather conditions but pulled through with the sort of camaraderie that is only generated through shared experiences of adversity and too much prosecco (or gin). Consequently, these pathfinders pronounced the event to be overall both anecdote generating and memorable. A plan was hatched. Next year (which is this, now indeed in November 2016) the whole Smiley Paces club membership should decamp en masse. Patterdale YHA was to be commandeered, and a whole new Smiley Race Tradition born. A Smiley Takeover of the Lakeland Trails with some considerable style and pizzazz (a word which I’ve just looked up to check for its official definition to find it means: an attractive combination of vitality and glamour – how apt). What could possibly go wrong?
Well, actually, quite a lot. Despite some initial apprehension, I took the plunge and signed up months ago and had been really looking forward to this for a variety of reasons, not all related to running. There was the whole physical challenge bit of course, the trails are set against a stunning backdrop, but more so, the appeal was for a mass outing in a gorgeous location, and a big positive and supportive Smiley Party. I’ve only once before in my life been on a mass takeover of a Youth Hostel. It was a New Year Party and we went to a remote loch side location somewhere in Scotland. It was a surreal experience. I didn’t know everyone in advance, but it made for quite an intense and memorable weekend, albeit one during which I had at times felt trapped with unstable others. There is a reason why contemporary horror films always commence with a scene which demonstrates there is no longer a mobile signal available and you are surrounded by impenetrable forest. It gave me the idea that it would be great sometime to write maybe a murder mystery based around such a premise – you know the type of thing, dark nights, no mobile reception; inclement weather and lost on them there hills. Patterdale YHA and a bunch of unknowing Smilies would be the perfect way to do some background research for this project. Jessica Fletcher does it all the time, and she’s a great role model.
Unfortunately, I’m not very good at coming up with plot, so I was thinking I’d have to adopt a method acting type approach in search of material – you know, experiencing it all for real in the name of authenticity. Regrettably therefore, had I attended, there would have had to have been a couple of unexpected murders, or near misses at the very least, but I like to think this sort of collateral damage would have been a sacrifice worth making to help bring my best-selling page turner to fruition at some future date. I’d donate some of the profits to further Sheffield Running initiatives in general and Smiley Paces endeavours in particular obviously, so that commitment to stumping up some blood money would make it all legitimate I’m sure. Even if some are a bit less than sold on the idea, I’m sure slaughtering another runner in the name of art would be less anti-social than not washing for 3 months say, which is another illustration of (admittedly pointless) method acting in action.
Sooo, everything to run for. Except, as the time drew near, I was ill. It was quickly apparent I wasn’t going to be well enough to do the 15k /14k distances. I began by contacting the race organisers to see if I could swap to the 10K (they said possibly, but only on the day as the participant lists had already been finalised), but as the days ticked by I realised I’d have to cry off. Still, ill wind as the saying goes, I missed out on doing the method based research for my trail-running themed murder mystery, but on the plus side, everyone made it back alive… this time.
Nevermind, it was the only realistic option, armed with lemsip and a newly acquired inhaler, I could enjoy the event vicariously. If I’d thought of it, I’d even have got myself a white cat to stroke whilst I observed it all unfold in front of me. After all, it was more fun than expected watching the olympics and Paralympics and I didn’t get my act together to enter those, so I’d just have to stalk the pilgrims that made it to the Patterdale rendezvous and experience the event through their eyes and my diseased and misinformed imaginings.
As for now not being able to do a post on the Dirty Double on account on not actually being there. Well, sod that. One should never let the truth get in the way of a good story, it might even be an advantage not having to nod too much to accuracy. It certainly helped with the write up of the Inaugural Doggy Dash 2017. I’ll have a stab at it (though I’m not committing to using that as the murder weapon in the final version, running spikes or a moved checkpoint might be just as fatal when strategically utilised, you’ll have to wait and see….)
So back to bearing witness to the events of this glorious weekend as they unfolded.
It seemed as if even getting to the venue, let alone the start-line was rather more challenging than originally anticipated. Committed participants had to battle past the four horsemen of the apocalypse to make it just to the start. I was got by pestilence early on, but I was not alone. Numbers dwindled. Facebook posts increased in frequency as the event weekend drew nearer. Wisdom was shared by previous runners, determined to help as many succeed as possible – albeit some of their words of wisdom were apparently valued as much as pearls before swine. Incredibly complex logistical operations were mooted, negotiated, confirmed, abandoned and redrawn. Rather than heading off in convoy, risking the whole running club membership being taken out in one act of sabotage, like the Royal Family, Smileys would travel separately. They formed little break-away smiley groups and set off from different locations and at different times to confuse any enemies. To ensure this cover was absolute, they also confused each other quite a lot, and there were relatively few passengers or drivers who had any concept of who they might be traveling with let alone where or when. Bit like a secret santa. You have a vague idea presents are to be exchanged, but don’t dwell too much on the details of their exact origins, just go with the flow, pretend to be delighted with the comedy christmas socks or thong and move on.
Packing plans were shared. Prosecco seemingly taking priority for space over say running tights, with at least one runner only narrowly avoiding being made to run the whole two days in nothing but her school knickers. A chilling thought – literally as well as metaphorically. Authoritative advice to improve performance included not falling over in the shower and knocking yourself out on the morning of the race. This sort of insight is I think particularly, helpful, because it wasn’t the most obvious, but when you come to think of it she definitely had a point there. There was much angst over fell shoes versus trail shoes and sudden realisation that ‘essential kit’ involved hats, gloves, waterproofs, wellingtons, brrrr, it was going to be cold. In fact it really, really was. Early evidence showed SNOW up top. I know it’s november, but I didn’t expect to see that. Joyful, but slightly intimidating too! The photo below was taken on the morning of the run, I’ve not yet seen an ‘after’ shot – hope they aren’t still out there, disoriented by snow blindness, resorting to eating one another. It would really mess up the Twelve Days of Smileys Christmas Challenge if loads of us are still yomping around having gone feral in the Lakes. Oh well.
Not all made it through without incident. Those who survived pestilence, had instead to tackle fire, as barricades of blazing lorries barred their way. Persistence meant the occupants of the Fun Bus did make it through like fearless, invincible heroines in some post-apocalyptic road movie. This was just as well, since without them famine would also have potentially knocked back the morale of the team. The Fun Bus occupants having been entrusted with the communal porridge provisions for the entire Smiley cohort.
Without these bulk porridge supplies, without them to prepare them, no breakfast for anyone at all! No breakfast equals no carbing equals no racing. FACT. (Bit like the ‘for want of a nail’ proverb, only MUCH WORSE!). They also were on some sort of mystery quest, having with them some magical lucky keys, that comprised (reading between the lines) a set of extra special ones namely: the key to happiness; the key to life; the key to survival and the key to running success. Most critically of all, the key to cheetah buddy’s bike lock (I think). There’d be no holding back those four horsemen if the Fun Bus didn’t make it through with the keys. They did though, so worry not. Death and War were thwarted for now, but we haven’t had the American Election results yet so you might want to keep on working on your Anderson Shelter and get Ocado to do an extra delivery of bottled water; canned and dried food early next week, just in case….
Where was I. Oh, so those who had evaded pestilence, and pushed through injury, assembled as planned. Basically, it was a sort of Darwinian selection process ensuring survival of the fittest. Only the most tenacious and hardcore would make the start, let alone the finish. Some assembled a lot later than planned on account of leaving late, traffic jams at Glossop and the motorway burning barricades. This would have had terrible consequences in terms of encroaching on prosecco quaffing time, but bless them, the troops made the best of this. They had other horrors to distract them. Christmas themed disposable cups adding to the nightmare journey as if it weren’t hideous enough already… It may be wintry up tops, but it is still only November. Poor Regal Smiley, how she suffered in her quest to get there.
Whilst the Fun Bus occupants were battling fires to get to the venue, the early arrivals at the running ball were enjoying a rather civilised and scrumptious chillie feast. Bad luck all of those of you who missed it… This is what you could have won:
The Lakeland Trails Facebook page was thoughtfully kept up to date with photos to fan my flames of despondency and my sense of missing out… Gawd it was looking lovely. Just as well there was some communication here, as otherwise the Smiley Cohort were incommunicado for much of the Saturday. I suspect this was a combination of being hungover, being out of range of any mobile signal and the Smiley elders sensible implementation of an immediate security lock-down at the event village to avoid other running clubs becoming aware of Smiley tactics – not that these were especially opaque. Stay up late drinking and laughing, try to remember to put on the correct running shoes in the morning and then run faster than any/all of your opponents. Not hard really, apart from the running fast bit.
So, here are some event photos, sigh. It makes my heart hurt to look on them… That was there on Saturday, and where I was not. If you look carefully you can see I’m not in any of the photos by way of evidence.
One aspect I’m quite glad I missed out on (apart from the whole battle to get the best bunk bed which might have tested even the seemingly strongest of friendships and strategic alliances) is the attempt to work out which race everyone was taking part in. This was made extra confusing because of the range of options; the complexity of the website (Dr Smiley by her own admission entered twice by accident, and a couple of others entered completely the wrong races by mistake); and changes of mind about the most suitable distances due to injury or even greater fitness than originally anticipated. All I know is that organising Smiley went armed with spreadsheets, print outs and negotiating skills. I have confidence she will have accomplished the extraordinary and seemingly impossible feat of getting everyone shoved into position on the appropriate start lines and at the designated times… but I don’t envy her in doing so.
After a longer than comfortable silence, at last some news. A video showed the start of the 10k and aren’t they marvellous!
I was a bit perturbed that I couldn’t spot all the runners I thought would be heading off, but perhaps those Darwinian principles were still taking their toll. I was as patient as I could possibly be, but as the day wore on did post on the dedicated Smiley Paces Dirty Double Facebook page noting my separation anxiety and requesting event feedback. This was a very pleasingly effective strategy. I learned two useful and important things:
Firstly, we had a triumphant Smiley. Hardly a surprise, but pleasing all the same. Podium position second place, for one of our very own. What’s more she ran the whole thing in her fancy dress Michelin man outfit, which would have been my clothing of choice had I known it was an available option. Plus, she was wearing a very fine bobble hat in tribute to Sheffield’s lovely Jessica. (That’s Ennis not Fletcher by the way, the Fletcher one lives in Cabot Cove, Maine). JEH returned the compliment by sporting a matching(ish) bobble hat at Sheffield Hallam parkrun earlier on on the same day. It’s that sort of sisterhood in the sports community of Sheffield that you can’t put a price on. I don’t know if it was planned, or if they just have a deeply profound telepathic link… I mean the coat is a pretty good match too you’d have to agree – either explanation is not just acceptable, but veritably marvellous. Yay. Initially I thought this photo was the table top dancing competition in progress due to the evident animation in the hands, but I think that was to take place Saturday night after the pasta party buffet all booked up for later on. You know what, I think it’s loads more fun writing up a blog post based entirely on randomly telegraphed photos, I can just make it up as I go along – just like I usually do, but with less of the guilt at knowing I’m ocassionaly maybe stretching a point shall we say…
Secondly, a true friend of a Smiley offered up words of personalised, unsolicited comfort. Clearly, when I thought I’d be in attendance for the races both days, I’d naturally assumed I’d be a shoo-in for last place. The final finisher spot being rightfully mine and one I have carried off with considerable consistency if not actual aplomb over the past year. I didn’t want to go on and on about it, but it saddened me to leave this post unfilled. I should have credited my Smiley compatriots with more insight. One took the trouble to let me know that she had taken it upon herself to adopt that mantle. What can I say? It brought a lump to my throat that she’d do that for me, and so keep the Smiley honour in tact. Good job, well done! I like to think that next year I’ll be back to reclaim that position, but in the interim it is so very comforting to know that final finisher spot is in safe Smiley hands. Well done and I salute you!*
*correction – I subsequently learned there was actually vicious jostling for final finisher post. So coveted is this placing, it seems so low-lives (non smiley) lurked way back purely to disrupt the placings. There were also sweepers, again messing up the final placings. However, all was not lost, Smileys delivered final finishing placings in other events over the weekend, so I think we can all be proud of what was achieved. Well done all. Oh, and here are some sweepers – they’ve lost their brooms though. Nevermind. Personally, I don’t let the presence of tailrunners prevent me from coming last, but it does take my nigh on unique skill to achieve this.
A late addition to this blog has to be these extra photos papped by those present and in the midst of the action. We have Smilies assembling on the front line, sprinting off, and generally spreading the joy. It looks fabulous darlings, absolutely fabulous! See, this is how it all starts with running. Compelling stuff.
It must have been pretty cold out there, what with the snow on the tops. However, trawling the event Facebook page I see that the marshals were well prepared. Not only wrapping themselves up warm, but at marshal point 7 on the Helvellyn trail, free hugs were available. I’m not sure if they were just optional, only given on request or mandatory issue, like having taped seams on your waterproofs, but let’s not get bogged down in detail, let’s enjoy the view instead. Lovely. This might have been the 15k, or it might not, don’t be pedantic.
Also, pleasingly, finally mindful of their loved ones left behind, some kind souls did get to posting some Smiley shots of the 10k participants. Aren’t they lovely? Warms the cockles to see them in action. So wish I was there though, so wish I was there. I say it warms the cockles, but it actually looks quite nippy doesn’t it. I think it would take more than a nice view to make you feel your cockles warming if you were out in situ. Also, I think someone is over-compensating for something with their ostentatious shoe display, but I daresay they had their reasons. Might be large, but it’s just the one, so not that impressive I venture… It’s very tempting to Photoshop myself into the group picture, but then again, it’s probably more authentic for me not to be in it, I seem never to make the Smiley group shots. At the end of races it’s because I never finish in time, at the beginning… well, maybe the others always see me first and head off before I can join the line up, I’ve never dared ask. In any event, my being omitted from the shot is no marker as to my actual presence of otherwise. Next year though, next year will be different. Note to self, I must email Davina in order to ‘make it so.’ That will work.
On reflection though, there don’t seem to be any ‘after’ shots. Maybe I’ve got the details of the event all wrong. Perhaps they just set off the 10k runners like hares, and then in the afternoon the other runners have to chase them down. What’s that film called where a load of prisoners get put on an island and killed off one by one – like that anyway. There’s probably a cut-off time, like for the OMM, so any 10k runners that aren’t found by nightfall are just left out there. More Darwinism in action you see. Plus, we know that the races are always over-subscribed, if they don’t lose a few runners on day one, there’d never be enough space on the boats to get everyone across the lakes for the start on day two. In the pictures that follow you can see some of them snaking across the hills trying (in vain) to escape their pursuers, plus some rather poignant start line selfies. All hopeful and naively optimistic about the path that lay ahead. Touching really. My favourite photo below is the one of the Smiley Trio all hardcore running in their vest tops whilst other runners pass on by all roasty toasty in their coats. These are also women with (in my view at least) admirable priorities, stopping mid-race to take a selfie knowing they’ll soon take out those other runners once the photo shoot has ended. Respect my kindred Smilies, respect!
Obvious when you think about it… the not letting them all finish ruse, just hope the nominated drivers got back OK, it would be a long walk back from Patterdale, though still only slightly slower than driving given the traffic congestion vehicles will experience coming back through Glossop I suppose. I know from the pictures, that it seems a couple did make it to the finish line, but that’s consistent with my theory. It would attract suspicion if no-one made it back, and Darwinian principles demand that some at least survive, otherwise who is around to contribute to the planned captive breeding programme to ensure a strong gene pool for future generations? Glad we’ve cleared all that up.
These are the hardcore 15 kers prior to set-off onto them there snow-capped hills. Personally I’m thinking it must have been mighty nippy out there, but then I’m probably just a nesh soft southerner. I would have gone for more than just a blue morph suit and some fish net tights had I been there, I’d have gone for the full bear onesie given half a chance… As for the sleeveless vest only option, well I shudder at the very thought. Surely that can’t be advisory kit for such an occasion, rather a display of wanton exhibitionism?
Incidentally, why is Honey G still on the X-factor? This is what I was having to endure as a substitute to the Lakes pasta party. The first week it had a sort of bizarre humour, now it’s uncomfortable territory, exploitative in both the sense of cultural appropriation and mocking a potentially vulnerable, talent-less performer. I now want it to end. Maybe if I find the remote control I could change channels… Oh it’s hard being me and being ill, way too much to think about in the multi-tasking departments.
So later on updates established that races having been run, gin drinking commenced at 4.00 p.m. which is in fact gin o-clock now the clocks have changed, with prosecco at 5.00 (though an eye-witness subsequently requested I amended this figure to 4.30, which on balance is a very plausible correction from one who was actually there. Thank you Dr Smiley). Committed lot Smilies. There has already been some animated Facebook discussion about incorporating into future training plans building tolerance and stamina in the gin and prosecco consumption stakes. Any serious runner will tell you, it isn’t only about the running, it’s about planning your nutrition and hydration too, and that doesn’t just mean putting it on a spreadsheet, oh no, it means putting it into PRACTICE too. Because, practice makes perfect. Well, Smileys are nothing if not mutually supportive, sounds like there was lots of supportive practice going on back at camp. Go them! Of course only the morrow would reveal if they were going for the staying up all night and blasting the run whilst still drunk on Sunday, or favouring the running off the hangover option, which seems high risk given the potential for choppy waters on the boat crossing – though there again, the emetic impact of such a passage could be potentially helpful if a therapeutic chunder was the outcome. Oooh, I could hardly wait to see how the morrow would unfold! Exciting spectator sport this trail running malarkey, it really is.
So then it was Sunday. After no doubt much cavorting until the small hours, it was a simple matter of getting up and doing the whole running malarkey all over again but this time in wet trail shoes. I posted a good luck message, then basically had to wait it out for further information, hoping that none would either fall in or be sick on the boat crossing. Or more accurately, hoping that if ill-fortune were to befall anyone, some splendid Smiley would have the wit to post all about it on Facebook. Under the pretence of being supportive and wishing them well, of course, but essentially to do the social media equivalent of pointing and laughing at their expense nevertheless. Own it people, you know what I mean…
Subsequent reports suggested my original predictions were wildly out. The Youth Hostel was equipped with a very fine drying room, so the majority were able to set off with dry feet at least. None however, got to try out their sea legs. It was too windy to risk sending the boats out apparently. Poor show by those Smilies who earlier I’m sure were talking about taking a dip in Ullswater on Sunday morning at one point. Given the organisational flair shown with respect to getting food orders sorted, I’m sure some sort of spreadsheet could have been devised to get people over in relays, sharing the two available wet-suits that I understood made the cut in the luggage packing roulette. It’s like that story where the chicken, the fox and the grain have to be taken across the water but only two at a time will fit in the boat, and you have to work out how this can happen without someone getting eaten.. Actually, not sure what happened with that story, didn’t something get eaten anyway, wasn’t that the point? Or was that the one with the scorpion and the frog where everyone died? I think the picture is exaggerating a bit, I reckon it would have been doable with a bit of Smiley teamwork… Smiley Paces members are all AWESOME they can do anything when they put their minds to it, anything at all.
To make up for missing out on the excitement of catching a steamer, the participants were given alternative excitement in the form of a sort of impromptu is the race on or off hokey cokey routine. To be honest it seems not everyone thrived on the uncertainty. No doubt it played havoc with their precautionary pee and warm-up routines. Here are some Smileys on the edge of their seats with eager anticipation awaiting the official announcements of how the day might yet unfold… They look like coiled springs ready to explode upwards and outwards don’t they. Awesome concentrated and pent-up energy in evidence there – if you know where to look. (Or it might be waiting for the buffet to come out on Saturday night, hard to be sure).
Eventually though, an alternative route was laid, and everyone got to have a bash at the alternative 10k. The route looked beautiful, but let’s be honest, definitely nippy out there. Fortunately there were fine marshals on hand to direct and encourage – ooh look, an especially fine one sourced from our very own Smiley Paces gene pool for example! Plus, some awesome supporters traipsing round like Ofsted inspectors, scrutinising the action, this is the unofficial Smiley Inspectorate, whom nobody expects. I think they should have some sort of a uniform myself, something with golden braided cord on the sleeves for preference. (To be fair, I have absolutely no idea if these photos were from Sunday or Saturday’s running excursions, but I say, never let the truth get in the way of a promising narrative, so let’s not explore too deeply. Fine shots all the same.)
The multi-talented marshal was able to multi task to a high degree of competence. Offering directional pointing, shouting support and taking photos all at once. What I think is particularly impressive is how even though most runners were speeding past faster than the speed of light, she still managed to catch many on film, some with a clever frissance of blur to indicate speed. Not everyone can pull this off. When I do it, it just looks like my photos are out of focus. Clearly not so here. In the Smiley slideshow of delightful snaps below you can clearly differentiate between different running techniques. There are a couple of hoppers, a few team twosomes, one or two borderline manic (but mania can be quite an engine to power you through a tough race) and my personal favourite, the jazz hands/ teapot twosome who have synchronised their movements in a way normally only seen in the opening rounds of Strictly Come Dancing. Look and learn people, you have to work it for the camera, these shots show how and why far more eloquently than I can. You’ve got to love a Smiley in Action shot. Thanks Smiley Elder for sharing these.
So it seems that the Sunday run happened late, and happened short, but it did at least happen. Running took place, and fun was had. T shirts were earned, and how splendid they would look juxtaposed with official smiley kit:
If the gushing expressions of enthusiasm are anything to go by this weekend away was carthatic; inspirational; hilarious; joyful; lovely and basically splendid. Whilst undoubtedly a LOT of work for our Smiley organiser I hope the forcefield of good will that now engulfs her may be some small recognition for her labours. She shall henceforth be known a Superstar Smiley. Let the records show that many recognise this coming together would never have happened without her vision, hardwork and enthusiasm. All Smilies are awesome both by definition and by association, but Superstar Smiley is especially Awesome for pulling off this logistical challenge. We thank you. All of us. Even those that got cold out on them there hills. Type two fun (retrospective fun) is still fun after all.
All too soon the weekend ended, the marshals and participants dispersed and doors were shut on the youth hostel dorms for another year. Here’s hoping though, this weekend is but the origins of a new Smiley tradition, that might yet carry on for future generations. Oh, and for the record, this is a dorm,however the occupants shown are for illustration purposes only, your actual room-mates may differ from those pictured should you choose to book in another year. For better or worse, you have been warned.
All that was left, was to travel homewards, and then pour over the results at leisure. The most important prize winners were those who won the fancy dress. A tradition for the Sunday Ullswater trail apparently. How did I not know this? Obviously Roger wasn’t in attendance this year, so we can be gracious in applauding this crew – though I can’t help wondering if they were in fact the killer tail markers, tasked with culling any real slowbies to cut down the numbers a bit for day two. Still, I wasn’t there, what do I know? There was a story going round that the ‘official’ tail markers had fairy lights adorning them, but that was most likely just to put people off the scent. I don’t want to cast nasturtiums but don’t mock my conspiracy theories until we’ve counted all the Smilies back in at the next Smiley Thursday night rendezvous, OK?
Oh, and if you want the results they follow below, but really, who cares? Everyone who took part was brilliant, in whatever capacity they took part. Everyone who finished covered the same terrain for the same distance, it seems petty to quibble over minutes passed on the hills. Though for the record, those who were out for the longest showed greater stamina and got more minutes for their money, so everyone’s a winner! The marshals are of course the most glorious of all, they are out longest and in the most inclement of conditions. Stars all of them (though as has already been established, we love the Smiley Stars best of all 🙂 ).
So well done everyone, grand weekend away. Here’s hoping to same time next year, but whether we do or whether we don’t we’ll always have our memories eh, false memory syndrome or otherwise.
Oh, and it’s not too soon to enter the Dirty Double for 2017 eek… though there will come a time when it will be too late I suppose… I really want to, but it would break my heart if I had to duck out again. Is it tempting fate to sign up too soon… I wonder if Jessica might be able to organise some child care and come along too? I’d be equally happy to share a dorm with Jessica Ennis or Jessica Fletcher, both are role models in their own ways.
You can find out more about the Lakeland Trails events here – but good luck with working out which race is which, it is the most confusing event series I’ve ever seen. Guess it all makes sense when you get there…. Just go with the flow and keep on smiling. That will get you through most challenges in life.
So til next time happy running y’all and well done Smilies. What larks eh? What larks!
Corrections, clarifications, amendments and updates, added 12 November 2016:
So, using the flimsy pretext of having a leaving do prior to my imminent departure to Cambodia, Cheetah Buddy colluded with me in gathering together a group of Smiling Smilies so I could research a bit more what had really happened under the cover of Patterdale YHA whilst apparently just benignly circulating. A bit like penguin-cam going undercover to research penguins, only marginally less ethical I imagine. The photo below is of an actual undercover penguin by the way, not one taken at my Smiley ‘leaving do’.
So I learned explicitly, the following new things:
There was a major incident en route, but Smileys came to the rescue, at some personal sacrifice. What happened was, depending on which version of events you believe, a fellow runner, who coincidentally ended up running sandwiched between two Smilies (not in a pervy way, but in a fortuitous one). He took a flying tumble at one point, and then the Smiley duo, sacrificed their own race performances to come to his aid. A fact for which he publicly thanked them on Facebook, noting that one had selflessly sacrificed her own buff in order to mop up blood spillage and allow him to continue. This was noble… up to a point, but let the records show that it was only an innov8 buff, one relatively easily sacrificed, if she’d (unwisely) ventured out with just the one buff, and had to surrender her Smiley one instead, it might have all ended rather differently. It’s an old ruse, one used by wily travelers, always carry two wallets with you, so should you be mugged you have one you can surrender as it is of low value, keeping your really prized of valuable possessions secure. Even so, great PR for Smilies, and I’ve subsequently researched the photographic evidence for myself and I don’t think it’s absolutely conclusive about whether the whole thing was engineered for publicity purposes. I don’t thing the sudden braking by the front-runner and inadvertant shoving or heel clipping of the runner from behind would necessarily have resulted in tripping. Purely coincidentally. Besides, an independent witness, Dr Smiley, said the fallen runner kept falling over all the time anyway. To be surrounded by Smileys on this occasion was to be flanked by guardian angels and not at all an added hazard as you can see. Great teamwork y’all!
The mysterious key that had to be secretly recovered and returned to Cheetah Buddy was not in fact the key to immortality, no, no no no no. It was waaaaaaaaaaaaay more significant than that. It was the key to Cheetah Buddy’s car-roof box. Into this was packed food provisions AND smiley running gear prior to departure from Sheffield. En route it became apparent the key for this had got left behind. Once again, Smilies worked together to source the key. Someone still in Sheffield was despatched to the house to retrieve it, and then it was passed from contact to contact with a complexity only ever shown previously by the French resistance smuggling people out of occupied France, and the exact pathway of which will never be known. What is known, that the person who entered the property for the initial purpose of key removal found the house to be occupied, but was still able to help themselves to pretty much whatever they fancied unchallenged. This is lovely and heart-warming hospitality on the one hand, but a sad indictment of the effectiveness of the local neighbourhood watch team on the other. Let the records show the key did eventually get restored to Cheetah buddy and the contents were made available to all once again. This was good in that people got to eat, but at least one Smiley confided to me in ‘absolute confidence ‘ (a loosely interpreted principle for the purposes of this blog) that there was a bit of her that would have been quite happy to have had an excuse not to do all that running around in the freezing cold and wet.
Packing tip – the best way to pack for this weekend, is apparently to just get the biggest bag you can find (a bin bag will do) and just empty the contents of your runner drawer/ shelf or clothing rail into said bag. Job done. Really not a big deal.
Another thing, I don’t know whether it was peer pressure or the alcohol talking, but a Smiley Elite have invented their own new special event for 2017. This is to be the Filthy Four (see what they’ve done there, not just Lakeland Trail people who are great with their marketing). The (somewhat distorted) logic of this group is that if running is fun, then running more is therefore more fun. To them, this is quite obvious, and they would all run to infinity and beyond if they could, much as does Buzz Lightyear. Getting marshals for an infinitely long run would be logistically challenging, unless the race took place on an extra-large hamster wheel, to be honest the Filthy Foursters wouldn’t be fooled but that practical approach. Rather, they have created their own kind of crazy. They have negotiated with the race organisers to enter both the morning 10k runs AND the afternoon 15k and 14k events. They will have to get a wiggle on for the 10k on the second day, as they’ll need to make it round in time to catch the last paddle steamer of the day across Ullswater, but apparently it is doable. Personally, I don’t think these runners have necessarily understood that just because something is doable it doesn’t follow that it is desirable, but hey ho, it will be fun as a spectator sport, and these women are inspirational hard-core. It will be some clash of the titans if they pull it off! Yay. So exciting. If it was the alcohol talking, this was one of the contributing bottles, apparently it was jolly nice, so here it is for reference purposes:
Lots of photos were taken of Smilies in action. The Lakeland Trails people just make these shots available for free. Isn’t that splendid? Here are some Smilies being awesome in action to illustrate the point. As a little teaser for you, see if you can spot the filthy four founders by their shots and check out those Smiley Smiles. There are just a couple of preconditions of smiley membership, one is to be generally all round awesome, which is fair enough, the other is to be able to crack a smile even in adversity and even if it’s a bit fixed and crazed at times. I think everyone acquitted themselves admirably in respect of these directives.
In other news, it was reported that there was some sort of spontaneous reconstruction of a people smuggling operation whereby an indeterminate number of smileys were bundled into the back of a petrol-fumed suffused van for the purposes of relocation from the start line on day two, back to the hostel. This was an alternative to hanging around in a chilly marquee for another two hours whilst waiting for the alternative course route to be put in place. Water crossing being cancelled due to ill winds. There are a lot of ill winds at present if international politics are anything to go by. Everyone survived, but had a new compassion for those whose circumstances force them into the hands of unscrupulous people smugglers, stuffed in the back of darkened vehicles, hardly able to breathe and entirely at the mercy of the vehicle drivers as to whether or not they will reach their desired destination. Fortunately, in the Patterdale context they did. Yay.
I also learned the drying room was AMAZING and the youth hostel roasty toasty warm. So I was wrong both about the lake crossing and the having to run the whole thing again in wets shoes. On the other hand, it did snow over-night and it was pretty wet under foot already, so I think that whilst on a technicality I was wrong, people began the day with sparkly clean and dry feet cosseted in perfectly pre-warmed running shoes, in the facts that matter I was of course completely right. Didn’t take long for feet to reach saturation point out there on them there hills. So that’s good.
Next year, the even will take place earlier, mid October, 14/15th October to be precise. Also, this year, and hopefully in subsequent years too, there were lots of spot prizes that were only awarded to people who were physically present. Thus, if you want to be in with a shot at winning say a pair of fine technical socks or a free entry to a series ultra then hang around. If winning a free entry to a series ultra fills you with fear and precipitates an attack of nausea then maybe not.
Oh, and finally, lest you need further convincing of the generally accepted awesomeness of the Smiley Paces cohort. We/They got a special mention on the Lakeland Trails Facebook page who noted (favourably) the fantastic Smiley turnout of fifty entrants and chose this shot using Smiley members as the poster girls for next year events. I was going to say ‘the faces of…’ but it seems the Lakeland Trails marketing department decided these particular Smileys best side was their backsides. Who are we to argue with such experts?
This concludes the update for the Lakeland DD, but suffice to say it is already in the diary as game on for 2017. The Smiley Paces annual migration has been set in motion. There will be no turning back the clock or stuffing these genies back in the bottle (though they may well be sinking a few). Smiley Paces members are indeed the best thing to come out of Sheffield since Henderson’s Relish or Stainless Steel. Life changing discoveries and exports one and all!
For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.