Monthly Archives: June 2017

Geronimo! Sky’s the limit at the Round Sheffield Run 2017

Digested read: RSR 2017 was fab.  Thank you for asking.  No blisters and knee held up.  My giraffe came too.  Roger couldn’t make it 😦

If you don’t know about the Round Sheffield Run by now, you really should.  The blah de blah from the website explains it as follows, but really it makes it sound way more complicated than it is. Just accept it’s fun, fast becoming a Sheffield trail running institution and sells out quickly.  You snooze you lose.  Alternatively, you could just spend two minutes of your life looking at the fun video of the RSR 2017 event, and you’ll get the idea…

The Round Sheffield Run, trail running enduro is a unique creative “multi-stage” running event following the beautiful Round Sheffield route, a superb running journey linking some of the best trails and parkland. It would be a tough task to find anywhere in the UK that showcases these kind of trails & scenery within its city limits.

 The 11 timed stages make up 20km of the 24.5km route.

 The unique format breaks the route down into stages. Each stage being raced, and competitors receiving both results for each stage as well as a combined overall result.

Between Stages competitors have the opportunity to rest, relax,  and regroup with their friends and refocus before the next stage begins. Competitors are allowed to walk or jog in between stages. The unique concept creates a supportive and unique social vibe.  The race format also opens up the course to all abilities. 

A festival atmosphere at the end with draft ales, tasty food, and great DJ to ensure that everyone can celebrate in style.

So, I expect you have been in an agony of anticipation wondering what happened at the RSR 2017.  Well, may your angst be herewith ended.  I did go.  It was yay.  Roger was in need of veterinary attention however, so in the end I took his sub along as my companion animal for the day.  May I introduce Geronimo Sky:

RSR Geronimo Sky effortless!

This photo is courtesy of RSR by the way, they put loads of pictures up,  available for free on Facebook – but ask that you consider a donation to the fantastic Weston Park Cancer Hospital www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr-wpcc-donations which seems fair. Thanks to all the photographers who turned out – I credit all those of you I was able to run down at the bottom of this post.  I can’t run that fast though, so sorry if I’ve missed anyone.

Back to Geronimo Sky.  Isn’t she gorgeous?  She did really well for her debut run.  I’d say the RSR is broadly speaking a giraffe friendly event.  I mean, you’ll understand that it can take a bit of time for running partnerships to develop, but we romped round OK.   She is a female by the way, but don’t worry if it wasn’t immediately obvious to you, giraffes can be quite hard to sex I don’t take offence at gender identification errors.  I was less impressed by the ‘go zebra‘ shout out, though I appreciated the positive (I think) sentiment behind it.  I just think it’s a shame that people aren’t sufficiently educated about the world’s wildlife these days.

Spoiler Alert – Geronimo Sky and I even won our category!  Admittedly, that was my own personal fantasy category for fastest giraffe round. I was actually hoping for fastest animal but those pesky tigers lapped me.  Oh well, at least they didn’t recognise us as prey.   If they’d been african lions it could have ended badly, tigers though, completely different continent, we were fine.  Thanks for your concern.  I hadn’t done a proper risk assessment on the possibility of being predated on the way round, I’m quite relieved I got away with it…. this time.  Next year, I’ll know better.

 

Anyway, I’m jumping ahead, don’t want to cause unnecessary discombobulation to readers who prefer a more straightforward chronology to their race reports.  You might know already that I was a tad apprehensive on Round Sheffield Run 2017 Eve, understandable, but Roger talked me round.  Consequently, as Sunday dawned I’d decided I’d be starting come what may.  My knee might shout in protest, my winded running technique might elicit more pity than respect, but I’d be there.

I woke up insanely early, by accident, but didn’t want to risk falling back to sleep and missing the start.  It was about 5.00 a.m. but on the plus side, plenty of time for porridge and precautionary pees.  Also, it gave me time to apply the learning acquired as a direct consequence of my misjudged RSR recce of a fortnight earlier.  Specifically, I was conscious this length of run might take me perilously close to the chafing zone, so I had the chance to have a bit of a go with experimental chaffing-averting lubing up. This was way harder than anticipated, and more dangerous too. I’ll try to explain, but read on at your own risk.

warning

WARNING the following paragraph might just have a bit too much information, but I’m only thinking of other runners in the future remember?  They might one day see me out running and wonder ‘what was she thinking? how on earth did she come to be doing that?’ (with not at all an incredulous intonation) so I think it’s important I tell my story fearlessly and (mostly) with honesty.  As well as my poorly knee, I got a blister on one of my toes on my recce, I always do over a certain distance on account of my arthritic and bunion bestowed hobbit feet.   I’ve tried every shoe and sock variant known to runners across the world, but to little or no avail. I really need to be able to run in clown shoes, as only they would have big enough toe box, but that wasn’t really an option for a trail race. My clown shoes just don’t have enough grip, they are more for road running I feel, and that’s not my thing at all.   Post my recce run, there were also a few erm ‘hot spots‘ suggesting chafing threat level might rise to ‘critical’ for the event day itself.  It’s the bra area basically.  I don’t care what the running mags tell you, no sports bra keeps your assets absolutely fixed.  You can get away with a certain level of erm, dynamism as you bounce along on a run, but sooner or later, just as the titular princess bothered by a pea under a stack of mattresses in the fairy tale, or Simon’s cat trying to get comfy against the odds in the laundry basket, for me, ultimately any bra is going to chafe once you start to sweat, in my world anyway.  (Don’t be shocked by this revelation, I refuse to believe I’m the only runner ever to have perspired due to the exertion of taking on the roads and trails.)

simons cat washed up

Undeterred, what I decided to do this time, was to reach for the vaseline.  A marathon running buddy had proclaimed the wisdom and effectiveness of this.  I think her approach was sudocrem then vaseline, pretty much everywhere.  I couldn’t remember which way round though, and sudocrem is something of a nightmare to work with.  It has a half-life of 30 gazillion years I think.  Also, in my experience anyway, it has a knack of adhering to every available surface apart from the actual body part to which you are trying to direct it.  I eyed my tub of sudocrem, and decided to just go straight for the vaseline. Good call.

vaseline

So, what followed was a pretty impressive attempt to apply vaseline to all high risk chafing areas.  I started cautiously, but some areas are hard to reach, so I ended up just using an aim and flick technique in the hope of firing globules in the general direction of my back bra strap area as best I could. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t even effective really.  I did get the area covered, but it was hardly a surgically accurate application, more carpet bombing.   A lot of collateral areas affected.  It doesn’t matter particularly, but it did get messy.

Applying vaseline on the feet was more straightforwards, but – and this was another area where I should have paid more attention to my personal health and safety – the vaseline just seeped through my socks effectively greasing the soles of my feet. Whereas normally the soles of my feet provide traction on floors when walking they were now rendered useless in that respect.  It seemed that the entire vicinity of my flat became a high risk skid zone, like I’d inadvertantly created my own personal curling arena.  Every floor I tried to move across seemed to stretch to infinity as cheap laminate and aging lino created a perfect storm of slipperiness when brought into contact to my grease sodden socked feet.   Inexplicably, my landlord hasn’t anticipated this scenario, I must give them a ring, see if I can have some nice engineered hard wood floorboards put down instead, that would be much safer.  There was no time to attend to this on the morning of the race though.  I had to crawl on my hands and knees in order to reach the safety of a carpeted area where I could put on my (non-clown) trail shoes.  It was touch and go for a while there I don’t mind telling you!

The other unanticipated consequence of such comprehensive lubing up, was that loads of vaseline soaked into my hands making them soft and waterproof, but also pretty rubbish as aids to dressing.  Everything I touched just slipped through my fingers, even clothing slid away from me like liquid mercury.  Doing up my bra took many abortive attempts, and at least one major tantrum.  I was on the point of leaving the flat in search of help, but I don’t know my neighbours well enough for that to be an acceptable way to behave. I understand convention requires that first introductions should be around borrowing cups of sugar say, not presenting them with the sight of your naked torso at 6.00 a.m. on a random Sunday morning. Well I say I don’t know my neighbours well enough, more accurately I didn’t back then.  Actually I’ve just got off the phone talking to a very nice woman who works at party-on in Crookes, and it turns out she lives practically next door.  I’m sure she’d help out another time!

Anyway, the important thing is, I got there in the end.  Vaseline was effectively applied in thick enough quantities that I probably had enough protection to take on a channel swim.  Even better, I had successfully wrestled into my running clothing, and my giraffe.  Result!  What’s more, I can report it all paid off.  Not a single hot spot, blister or chafing zone to report either during or post race.  I guess body-glide or whatever might be a less messy way to achieve the same result, but I’m completely sold on vaseline. As soon as I’m finished here I’m ordering a crate load on ebay.  Best be on the safe side.  I imagine I can now look forward to a chafe-free future, who’d have thought it?  What with that and my runderwear, I’m sorted.

And just think, all the time I was wrestling with petroleum jelly, these nice people were up early to catch the bus from Marple!  There’s dedication.  It’s still dark out there, surely?  Must be middle of the night!  I had no idea Marple was so far away!  I know the Snake Pass can take longer than you think to traverse, but even so…

marple runners showing commitment

You’re OK to read on now by the way, lubing strategy descriptions concluded

The next challenge was getting acquainted with Geronimo Sky – what with it being her first outing and everything – and plucking up the courage to leave the safety of my attic flat accompanied by a giraffe.  I know you can’t always tell by looking at me, but honestly I do still have some vague sense of what is considered socially acceptable behaviour and running wear.  Whilst it is huge fun to run in fancy dress, trust me it takes some neck to take that first step out into the big wide world.  You just have to brazen it out ultimately, act ‘normal’ (whilst recognising completely that this is a contested concept and probably an artificial construct too) and stride out avoiding eye contact as far as possible.  Ultimately though, I am still marginally less embarrassed by running with a giraffe (or horse), strapped around my ample midriff, than by running in unforgiving lycra in the raw.  Draw your own conclusions.

Whilst I was doing all this pre-run preparation and faffing, the RSR team (how we love you all) were labouring at the start.  It’s impressive is it not.  (Thanks RSR for these photos – don’t forget to donate people http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr-wpcc-donations )

 

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I say everyone was labouring, but clearly some have perfected the art of delegation better than others.  Respect!  I think we all know that Skip is the real power behind the Front Runner show.  The camera cannot lie.

frontrunner hard at it

I decided not to arrive especially early at the start this year.  This event is always extremely well organised, and I didn’t want to have to hang around too long before running when there was no need to.  It was a bit nippy early on and I didn’t want to get cold – perfect temperature for running though.  Unfortunately, I cut it a bit too fine.  I got waylaid on the way down by a super friendly marshal who was incredibly supportive of Geronimo being with me (always a worry that I’ll be disqualified either for having an assisted-run or because I should have put in a team entry, but not so).  Obviously we had to have a chat at the corner of Rustlings Road before I could enter Endcliffe Park.  She promised to look out for me as I ran by, and did (having carefully and cleverly memorised my appearance it seems), waving and cheering me on which was fab. Thank you first of many friendly and encouraging marshals of the day!  Marshals across the course were in position early, setting up and getting ready for a busy morning of high-fiving and sustenance distribution. They were certainly smiling at the start, and when I passed them, so bet their cheeks were aching with all that grinning by the time the final finisher came through.

 

Once in, and aware of the event markers (thanks Robert Scriven for these shots) it sort of dawned on me once again that this sight that normally greets me on parkrunday as the  Saturday 5k course, was actually the gateway to a rather longer challenge today.  24.5k to be precise, that’s around 5 parkruns near enough, which would usually takes me five weeks to get round therefore. Eek.  Perhaps it’s like childbirth? Afterwards you just forget all the painful, bloody and humiliating aspects of it all (so I’m told) and just remember the trophy (baby or running bling, whatever).  On the approach though, I was getting some flashbacks.  I do remember this, curses!

 

I also hadn’t factored in that now there’s an elite start group.   A good idea, the super-speedies go off on their own mass start at 8.30, so they dont have to overtake everyone else on narrow woodland tracks as happened before when they just joined in other later waves.  Upshot was, there was already quite a crowd when I arrived.  In previous years I’ve always been in the first wave (more time to get around) so fewer people had gathered by the time I headed off.  Plus, I had to say hello to loads of fellow smilies, and other familiar faces, which is great, but time-consuming.  Busy, busy, busy!

 

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I’m pleased to say that there were lots of concerned enquiries about the whereabouts of Roger, but general acceptance of Geronimo Sky. That’s what I love about my running club Smiley Paces, a friendly and inclusive bunch. It is about running, but it’s also about chatting, tea and cake (sometimes gin and prosecco) and having a shared run-related laugh whenever the opportunity arises.  Always time for a few pre-race pics too I’m glad to say – though I rarely finish events fast enough to be part of the post-event ones:

 

So it was that pre-race, I ran round with more speed and focus than I managed at any other point in the day, dropping of my bag, picking up my dibber, and joining the mammoth queue for the loo.  The queues were so bad, I missed not only seeing the elite runners head off, but almost my start pen too.  Did get a shot with a lovely backdrop of the Endcliffe park loos though, so that’s a great way to mark the occasion of a new Smiley Paces recruit’s debut run!  Welcome to the Smiley fold my friend.  All will be well!  🙂  By the way, does anyone else think these loos are the opposite of the tardis?  You know, the building looks huge, but really, just one cubicle lurking behind each door.  I really must learn to keep my legs crossed for longer, dread to think how many hours of my life have been lost to me waiting in line for a pee.

CS loo shot

Although I missed the first wave heading off, fortunately the paparazzi were on hand to capture the scene.  The elite runners must be a feisty lot, because it seems they were most definitely herded into cages under quite close supervision, and then released one at a time to run free in the wild.  I think it was sensible to send them off first, unimpeded by the masses.   They fair whizzed round.  Seriously, this did work, in previous years I’ve always had a few speedier runners struggling to pass,, and much as I do always try to give way, at parts of the trail it is genuinely impossible to dodge to the side.  This time although of course I did get overtaken (a lot) I didn’t feel I was in the way ever, which made a pleasing change. (Photos courtesy of RSR Ben Lumley and Martin James this time).

 

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I scrambled into the back of my start pen just in time to find a fellow Smiley to yomp away with.  She’s ducked behind another runner so as not to be seen in public with me in the photo below, but don’t worry, she couldn’t keep that up the whole way round, she’ll get outed soon enough!  Geronimo Sky couldn’t wait to start yomping.  It boded well.  I hope the guy just ahead who was hopping the whole course got round ok.  Ambitious, but you have to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  The RSR is a bit like parkun in that respect.

RSR6 underway

Plenty of Smiley Paces were out and about today.  Some running with more focus than others.  See if you can spot the Smiley phoning ahead for a pizza so it would be waiting for her at the finish (it was quite a big queue, so that was smart) or possibly for her forgotten inhaler, I forget which.  Look on in awe at the Porter Plodder showing the grim determination of a man who has forgotten his phone, so will have to just run very fast to get to the front of the pizza queue ahead of the crowd instead.   We all have our unique approaches to getting underway.  All are valid. Don’t judge.  You may see mayhem, whereas what’s actually happening is race-technique in action. Look and learn.  You have to pace yourself properly if you are going to save something for the 0.4km sprint finish at the end!

 

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In all the excitement, I forgot to start my tomtom,  curses, not on strava, didn’t happen, thems the rules – whatever my legs are telling me.  I did realise after a bit, but still feel cheated. My Isle of Wight map is incomplete.  Sigh.

 

Never mind, worse things happen at the seaside!  (Long story).  Main thing, we were awf.  Even better, I was even running when the first stealth photographer of the day was in evidence (thanks Robert Scriven), he was actually stalking North Derbyshire Running Club, but pleasingly I was able to gatecrash their photo shoot. Job done.  It might not be on strava, but a photo never lies!   A key part of running in organised events is the ‘ooh, I’ve seen the photographer‘ pose.  It becomes a reflex over time as evidenced here.

 

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I think now would be a good time to remark on the jolly and supportive camaraderie that exists within running clubs everywhere.  So let’s have a shout out for North Derbyshire Running Club.  The action unfolded behind me but I’m really sure that what I overheard was someone being prevented from a near fall into the Endcliffe lake and early race dunking, and not at all someone being hilariously thrust waterwards as part of a merry (but high risk) jape.  Great team work NDRC.  Impressed.  It’s what it’s all about, looking after each other on those long and lonely trails!

 

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So there we go, race underway ready or not.  As in previous years, it all becomes a bit of a blur.  Although not officially in a pair, I yomped alongside a fellow smiley for a lot of the first few sections which was companionable.  (Sorry if I talked too much, but you got away from me in the end, so well done.)

The big thing about this event is that it’s set up to be highly social, more so if you are slow and people overtake you, and more so squared if you have a giraffe apparently.  People like giraffes I’m pleased to say.  Whilst some commented on the sheer neck required to bring one along with me on the trails, personally I always appreciate a good giraffe related pun  so that was fine and dandy.  For the most part people were friendly and encouraging, actually, not just for the most part, I’d say EVERYONE was friendly and encouraging, this event oozes goodwill, you practically have to wade through some of the pools of positivity in parts.  I was worried Geronimo might be a bit flighty, but she was fine.  I think when she finishes her racing career maybe she could retire and do that ‘pets as therapy’ thing. You know, when animals go round old people’s homes and the like for people to stroke and adore.  Quite a few people spontaneously reached out for a quick cuddle as they passed, it was nice.  She did feel a bit like public property though, I wonder if that is what people mean when they say people touch their pregnancy bumps uninvited.  I didn’t mind, because, well because she’s a giraffe, and people weren’t touching my stomach, they were stroking her head, and running on refreshed by her magical restorative powers apparently.  Much as I love Roger, it was also quite nice not to have a single person shout ‘go camel woman‘ at me all day.  Geronimo seems to have no such outward ambiguity relating to either her personal identity or all round loveliness, so that’s good.  Special shout out now to those who took time to admire her during the day:

 

Back to details,  hopefully you know by now the blah de blah of this event, it’s broken down into ‘epic stages‘ they each have their own unique selling point.  Personally I was only ever going to walk up some of those really steep uphill bits, but you’ve got to enjoy whizzing down Limb Valley shouting wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee all the way.  Remember to follow the green cross code at the roads, and miss a dib at your peril (friendly marshals will remind and assist).  There were some stealth photographers out and about this time, so some new takes on the classic route shots.

 

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I’m not doing a stage by stage debrief this time (no, no, don’t beg me, it diminishes us both), rather some key observations for your edification and perhaps merriment?  Oh and here’s an aide memoire of the stages for those of you with the necessary 20 20 vision that will enable you to decipher it.  Or you could try just the ‘control’ and + key instead, that works.  Don’t try control/alt/delete, that doesn’t.  Also, on balance, don’t take IT advice from me on any matter at all, it will definitely invalidate any computer-related insurance policies you have to hand.  Just so you know.

stages

The course is extremely well signed and marshaled.  A particular innovation is the inclusion of extra markers that are large crosses that are positioned to indicate where you should not go because it is the WRONG WAY!  These are designed to look like the sort of warning signs that you might reasonably expect to be positioned to keep you away from say radioactive waste, think of the no-go zones in the post Chernobyl apocalyptic woodlands and you get the idea.  No possibility for navigational error on the whole. However, I was briefly confused in Ecclesall Woods as I saw little figures in fluorescent yellow lycra popping up and down on some unexpected woodland trajectory.  Turns out each was seeking their own personal unofficial pee point, lucky I didn’t go yomping behind any of them and interrupt their flow.  I managed without having to nip behind a bush this year.  I must have either been dehydrated or perhaps my bladder control is improving.  I don’t think I wet myself on the way round which is the other possible explanation. I like to think I’d have remembered that.  Then again, it is all a bit of a blur…

One sighting worth mentioning was that of the awesome guy who actually marshaled last year, but this year was offering his services as a water carrier.  He was basically doing a series of shuttles run with a plastic jug full of water from his house, and offering it to passing runners so they could replenish water bottles if they wished. His house was just at the point you take the narrow path into I think Chancet Woods – or was it Graves?  Doesn’t matter, point is, he was there, a founder member of Striders we are told, still supporting runners, and a great ambassador for the benefits of keeping engaged and active for sure.  I didn’t pose for a photo – he was busy with his water patrol, but others did.  Look, smiles all round.

 

In more serious mode, to be true to my own integrity I do have to make one negative observation about the day.  Though I hope it will be recognised as constructive criticism.  Generally, I  don’t like to say anything bad about this event because overall it is completely glorious and takes on board feedback annually so it can continue to evolve into ever more spectacular reincarnations of itself year on year.  However, and I will say this only once, I couldn’t help noticing that I did suggest last year that mandatory fancy dress would improve the event massively and yet …. this didn’t happen!  Serious miscalculation.   I was pretty devastated to be fair.   I had naturally assumed that once this blindingly obvious suggestion for improvement had been pointed out it would be speedily implemented.  Well, disappointingly, apparently not.  I’ll try not to dwell on it, but, well, you know…  If the FRA can have mandatory kit for their fell race series, it shouldn’t be beyond the collective wit and wisdom of kandoo events to to sort out some sort of similar expectation for the RSR.

There was one bridal/hen party it’s true.  But there were only a couple of superheroes out and about.  I’m sure the quota should be more for this type of event – there were definitely more around in 2016 – I can only assume most entrants didn’t get the memo this time. There’s always next year though, so I’m going to try to keep it positive.  Point made.  (The photographers, marshals and organisers are all super heroes of course, but they don’t always reveal their identity as they move among us – notable exceptions aside…. )  Those aren’t detachable nipples by the way, well I don’t think so anyway, I assume them to be those magnets you can get to secure your number.  Some questions are best left unanswered as we all know.

 

A particular highlight for me was heading down through Meersbrook park.  Two reasons.  Three if you count the fact you get to run down a hill.  Firstly, I caught up (briefly) with some fellow smilies and we were able to take time out to do some group smiley shots.  You’ve got to love a trail event where this is recognised as a quite legitimate mid-race activity.

Meersbrook high jinks

Second reason, it was in Meersbrook (though it is all a bit of a blur, maybe it was later on in Chelsea park – somewhere with a down hill though), where there was a particularly excited and appreciative gathering of children who screamed in delight at the sight of Geronimo Sky and I strutting our funky stuff (ish) on the trails.  I took up the proffered high fives as they stood jumping up and down on a conveniently located bench.

RSR5 best support team ever

As I ran off I could hear them screaming behind me ‘Gooooooooooooo Lucy Giraffe!‘ it resonated behind me, seemingly bouncing of the hill and fair ringing in my ears as I sped (ish)  away.  It was fairly cool I don’t mind admitting.  It was pretty much identical to being Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury I reckon, hearing the rousing chorus of ‘gooooooooooo Jeremy Corbyn‘ and finding it both affirming and puzzling in equal measure.  I’m not going to lie though, it felt good!

The trails were pretty dry on the whole, but still sticky in some of the muddy woodland parts.  Loose gravel on the dry down hill sections was a bit of a hazard too.   I saw more people take a tumble this year, some quite nasty falls.  I don’t know if that’s because it was a faster course and people took more risks, or whether people thought they’d get away with road shoes and frankly didn’t.  Personally, on a serious note, I think this route does require trail shoes, I wouldn’t dream of doing it in roads, but then I’m quite cautious.  Oh, and also quite unbalanced,   (no quipping please, and stop sniggering at the back), hence risk averse.  Good grief, I’ve already explained about barely managing to remain upright whilst manoeuvering around my own flat – albeit due to my vaseline smeared stocking feet having to negotiate lino – (it’s hard – have you never seen total wipeout?)  – in the face of such evidence, I think I can safely rest my case with respect to my ability to remain upright for extended periods of time.

Well done though to the fallen who fell down, but got up again, albeit not in quite such spectacular fashion as bus collision survival man but kudos to you all.  Bloodied but unbowed.  Ouchy but heroic.  Smiling on through.  Awesome, always!  And you made it round so secured your bling too.  Job done!  Don’t know why, but looking at these photos makes me think detachable nipples might be quite a handy adaptation for running comfort.  I wonder if that is yet a thing?

 

In other reflections, it’s worth noting that one hilarious aspect of the recovery stages, is that for many of the more urban sections (apart from the horrific Stage 10 which I choose to erase from my mind every year) you are not only allowed to be walking, but it makes sense strategically to do so. Thus, bemused passers-by must think this is the slowest, tardiest, crappiest bunch of over a thousand runners they’ve ever seen racing.  One couple did stop us to ask what we were doing, but it’s hard enough to explain the concept of the RSR to people who actually run regularly.  I left Regal Smiley to interpret. She trotted to catch us up having done her best to convey what we were up too –  stating that she was pretty confident she’d left them with the impression it was a 13 plus mile charity walk, for some previously unheard of fund-raising initiative or other. Oh well.  Their interest was benign and the explanation close enough in a not-like-what-we-were-doing-at-all sort of way!  Still, a bit of mystery in the world is what makes life interesting.  Oh, and in other walking news, as I was walking a road section in stage 10, another cheery runner romped by waving enthusiastically – shouting out to me that we’d met at Southwark parkrun back in April!  How pleasing is that?  What a small running world it is.  Should you be reading this, hello again, sorry I was too breathless and disorientated at the time to be appropriately communicative at the time.  Fret not though, some might see that as a blessing, and it was fab to see you again.  Apart from me being caught walking in a running section, but I am seriously unimpressed by that bit, it’s hard.  You on the other hand were flying, running gazelle like ahead and waving supportively too.   I am in awe.

So we the great migrating mass of runners and walk/runners and bumble-rounders continued on our way.  The photos suggest some achieved a more elegant running look than others, but we all did the same distance in our own unique ways.  Aren’t Barnsley Harriers lovely by the way?

 

Now might also be a good time to point out I have my own awards system.  Here therefore are my chosen winners for the ‘seen the camera-guy heel click jumping award‘, and also the ‘stealth photo-bomb prize‘. There is also a ‘making it uncessarily hard‘ award, (it’s easy to get carried away by the sense of occassion I know) –  and one for ‘team solidarity to the finish line!  Congratulations everyone. Sorry there is no actual prize, only the glory of having your efforts acknowledged in a blog post no-one will ever read.  Maybe not even you.  Oh well, you won’t be the first unsung heroes to have walked the earth, and your efforts were not invisible to me.  🙂

 

Towards the end of the route there is the bit where you wander down through Hunters Bar and back to the park.  This is a good social part, as lots of people are up for a chat since the end is in sight, and most are saving their energy for the final sprint.  I got some more high-fives from a group of children on the wall at the entrance to the park, and then you have to dib in for the final stage.  Here, a marshal sat in his own personal collapsible chair was ‘motivating’ runners with tales of his best time for a 0.4km sprint giving them a time to beat. Honestly, I didn’t have that much of a sprint in me, so stuck with a sedate meander, up to the hedge (which hides you from the crowd) and then picked up a bit of (relative) speed as I cornered it coming into view myself whilst seeing  both the finish and the supporting crowds proclaiming the end.

It was good fun seeing people you know lining the finish funnel, also clearly I lack focus, as I had to stop and wave at people aplenty in preference to actually running home.  I was having so much fun out there I guess I just didn’t want it to end!  At least Geronimo Sky was looking where we going, so we finished safely.  Yay.

RSR getting distracted on the way in

The finish photos are fab by the way.  Grinning runners euphoric at coming home.  Some people were joined at the end by family members or supportive friends running them in; other club teams stormed to the finish holding hands in an ‘all for one and one for all‘ sort of way –  it warmed the cockles of the hardest of hearts to behold it all I’m sure.

 

What we will go through for a bit of bling eh?

RSR medaling

So, then it ends.  Almost suddenly.  Bling is offered up, you join a short queue to have your dibber dibbed for one last time, and you get an instantaneous print out of all your segment times.  Pleasingly, because only 20km of the route is actually timed, even though (taking my case as an example) you’ve been out on the Round Sheffield route for about 3 days, the dibber recorded time knocks off loads of sections, so you end up feeling you have run the course at super human speed.  It’s very heartening.  Less heartening is that the same print out also gives your current position, which as it’s done in real-time, means inevitably at that point in time it will tell you that you are in position one squillionth out of one squillion runners, which is a tad demotivating.  Maybe not if you are first home, then you’d be one of one – but still currently last actually, now I come to think of it.  Actually, on reflection, maybe it isn’t?  Maybe they know how many people have set out and the first person home gets a print out saying they are first out of a squillion, maybe I really was one squillionth finisher out of one squillion, and the results processing system just made a calculation that I’d still be slower than everyone else yet to finish because they’d started after me.  Oh well.  I can’t go and check my slip now as I spilt coffee over it (I know, waste of a good latte) and it isn’t really readable anymore.  Perhaps that’s a blessing!

Fortunately, this event really isn’t about placings, well not for me anyway.  Enormous respect and kudos to those who storm round at vomit-inducing and leg-cramping speeds on fearless trajectories to win their categories, or achieve new pbs.  For the record, we had some awesome Smilies who left laden with prizes at the end of the day. Can’t really say I contributed to the club triumph other than by keeping out of their way, but so proud to see them wearing the Smiley vests in the winners enclosure.  Go Smilies!

 

So race done, just a matter of queueing up for your goodie bag (wotzits, banana, water and trek bar); reclaiming your bag, and weighing up which queue to join. I opted for coffee (proper coffee, hurrah).  There was loads around though, bar, pizza, EPIC cafe of course.  Straw bales a plenty. Also deck chairs for the brave and supple otherwise surely a poor choice to sit in one of those if you’d just been running.  How on earth would you ever get up again without outside assistance?  This sort of seemingly impromptu running festival atmosphere is a massive draw of the RSR.  There were too many people to catch up with everyone, but it was just lovely and chilled to join in the general lingering and milling about. The organisers even laid on cool air for the morning, their attention to detail also including delivering some restorative cooling drizzle for the main run, and then hot rays of sun for the afternoon of loitering and lounging about.  Impressive.

So here are some of the many taking it all in.  If you were there you’ll know how much fun it was, if you weren’t, look what you missed!  These are more RSR official snaps by the way.  It’s not too late to donate to the cause if you, like me, appreciate them.  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr-wpcc-donations

 

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The pizza queue was tempting, but huge, so instead I opted to join a Smiley enclave around the physio tent.  We took it in turns to lie out on slabs like the freshly deceased, and allowed the team from The White House Physiotherapy Clinic, to wok their mysterious magic with their healing hands.  All for a suggested donation of £10 which is an absolute bargain for having the ability to walk once again restored to you.    It fair feels like they have a super power.  I’m not going to lie, the massage did hurt, but then it weirdly magically feels better.  Some bits didn’t hurt and just felt great.   Thank you Ric.  I’m still not sure if he was entirely joking when he said that sports massage is a massive smoke and mirrors kind of deception. The process of being massaged is so painful that when they stop you think you are healed whereas actually they’ve just ceased inflicting unecessary pain on you and you are the same as you were at the outset.  You confuse the stoppage of pain brought about by the massage being finished with being miraculously cured.  I don’t care if it is a massive con trick to be honest, as I felt great afterwards.  Even the day after I briefly felt ‘completely fine’ until I was faced with the four flights of stairs I am required to negotiate to exit my flat.  Still would recommend though. Felt great.  And that’s another fine thing about the RSR, it’s not every event when you can have a lie down and a massage at the end.  Heaven!

RSR and finally

So that was that.  All done and dusted for another year.  Back to another 12 months of eager anticipation, still, the build up is all part of the fun is it not.  So hopefully see you same time next year.  Mandatory fancy dress for 2018 remember.

In the meantime thanks to everyone who made it so.  Organisers; fellow runners; marshals; supporters; photographers; sponsors; the weather gods; Smiley compatriots and the good folk of Sheffield too.  We are so lucky to have this on our doorstep.  Long may it continue.

Oh, and in case you do care about the full results for the RSR 2017 they are here

*This post is work in progress, any objections to use of photos or content, please let me know. Let’s stay happy!*

RSR aerial view

Closing Photo Credits:

And to help you out with the browsing the post race photos experience thanks to the following for turning out, taking fab photos and sharing freely afterwards:

Incidentally, it was nice to see some photographers got to be positioned the other side of the lens on the day.  Hurrah!

 

Oh and special thanks to the genius behind the RSR.  Good job! Those aren’t knitting he’s holding needles by the way, that would be silly.  Note the RSR logo on the side of the tinted windowed support vehicle.  You’re welcome.

RSR power behind the run

And if you want to relive other years of the RSR, you can find all my posts here – scroll down for older entries.  Don’t have nightmares

panorama

 

 

Oh, and let’s not make reference to the cows, but we can be quietly grateful to Edale Mountain Rescue all the same.  All’s well that ends well.

 

Categories: half marathon, off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

‘Tis ‘Round Sheffield Run Eve’ – Roger that!

So today is the evening before the race morning after.  My regular reader will know that the Round Sheffield Run is the highlight of my running year.  Not only for me, but for other Sheffielders, it is long looked forward to, and, apart from the first year when nobody knew what to expect, it sells out really, really quickly.

Uhm.  Can I be bothered to explain it all again?  Not really, but go on then.    Simply put – the Round Sheffield Run is a 20km off-road trail run, only actually it’s 24km.  Only 20km of it is timed. You do it in stages, so you only really run a couple of kilometers in one go. Teeny little stages, way less than a parkrun. As a consequence, it is easy to overlook basic arithmetic principles of the need to add all these sections together to estimate the total mileage required, it just doesn’t look that far, not really.  Hardly worth training for.

race card

Also there are trees, and friendly marshals, feed stations groaning under the weight of munchies at two points along the way.  Friendly comradely runners, lots of different start waves.  All social and jolly, and not really running at all, apart from the 24 km and the 2,121ft of elevation which is basically a flat route in Sheffield terms.  Well maybe ‘undulating’.  Oh and cows probably.  You get your own dibber!  Always a boon.  Good bling and fine music and dining options post run.  Guaranteed sunshine I seem to recall but might need to check terms and conditions for that to be fair.  I don’t know why someone has taken a bite out of the acorn they used to model the medal, bad idea.  Acorns can be really poisonous. Well for horses they are, pigs like them, and so did Eeyore, so maybe donkeys are OK with them, or possibly only Eeyore, I don’t know.  Look, stop hassling me about the acorns for goodness sake. It’s the running people you need to look at.  They haven’t officially told me, but I’m really confident they modeled those figures on me and my running buddy of previous years.  I’m fine with it, I’d have given consent freely had they asked.

Bottom line, is that this has always been to date anyway, a super fun event and a ‘must do’ occasion on the Sheffield Running Calendar.  However, just because at Hallam parkrun this morning we were all buzzing about it in eager anticipation ‘it’s like running Christmas day!’ exclaimed one running buddy (who actually likes Christmas by the way, in case you were wondering), doesn’t mean that on Round Sheffield Eve there isn’t a bit of apprehension as well.

In the spirit of getting my excuses in early, as in previous years it is now dawning on me that actually, you know what it is quite a long way. Also as in previous years I haven’t followed the diligent training regime I’d fondly imagined undertaking when I signed up some months ago.  Worse than that, I’ve even knackered my knee this time.  Hilariously, or ironically, depending on your point of view, I did this whilst doing a recce for the RSR two weeks ago. The plan had been to do the whole route at a steady trot just to remind myself of how to pace it, and give myself the confidence I’d get round fine on the day. The plan was definitely not to pick up a post race running injury a fortnight ahead of the event.  Epic fail alas.  In stead, I realised about half way round my knee was giving serious gyp (is that even a word?) and by the time I’d finished it, it was fair screaming at me never to run again.  I’ve never hurt my knee running before.  Usually it’s just my pride that suffers under any exertion.  Uh oh. RSR in doubt.

I’ve had to back off even my usual pitiful running schedule, including missing out on both woodrun and the frontrunner fell running Wednesday evenings.  Well I made one, pre-injury, and it was good fun actually, in a ‘let’s bound off boulders and try to out run the midges’ at Padley Gorge way.  I enjoyed it.  Not sure the couple who’d come out for a romantic picnic at the same spot felt entirely the same way….  But hey ho, each to their own.  The photo is stolen from Fell Running Guide by the way.  Thanks!  🙂  I’m in there somewhere… actually, I probably bounded so high I’m quite out of shot, leaping in a trajectory over the head of the photographer now I think of it. That makes sense.

fell running guide bouldering

So, upshot is, it’s the evening before the long-awaited RSR, and I’m feeling well, more towards the ‘what was I thinking‘ rather than ‘bring it on‘ end of the continuum.  This happens every year to be fair, but normally I’m only battling being ridiculously under-prepared, not usually carrying an injury as well.

I went to parkrun at Hallam today, just for a gentle trot round to see if knee was up to it.  It’s flat, and we are doing an alternative route at the moment because of road works.  It’s really nice actually, under the shade of trees and a bit more traily, though also quite narrow so not for speed  merchants.  I figured I needed to see if I can do 5km without my knee crumbling, and it seems I can, as long as I’m careful going down hills.  Me and my trotting compatriot for the day were deliberately slow as we are tapering for tomorrow, slow enough that we briefly contemplated just doing the one lap and whizzing through the finish funnel to secure new pbs.  It was  bit confused with the route and we’d already been lapped so we may well have got away with it.  Plus, added temptation, lamentable times tomorrow could be explained by this unexpected performance peak the day before!  In the end we didn’t though.  There is little point in ‘cheating’ at parkrun. None whatsoever in fact, but the little moment of enjoying a fantasy finish time spurred us round!

Well, I was, waivering about whether running the RSR tomorrow is really such a great idea, but you know what dear reader?  I’ve just finished convening with Roger, and I’m feeling a bit brighter now. Roger has been a running buddy for a while now. We were supposed to do the London Marathon together, but that didn’t happen for various reasons, and he’s been resting for most of the year.   If by ‘resting’ you mean being stuffed in a plastic carrier bag at the back of a wardrobe.  I went to find him, to explain…

DSCF7802

Roger has been a great running buddy over the years, but I just wonder if it’s a bit much to drag him out on a 24km yomp when he hasn’t done anything since Southwark parkrun back in April.  I mean, I do have a contingency giraffe (don’t we all), it would still be less embarrassing to face the event in fancy dress than in unforgiving lycra in the raw… maybe I should utilise that and let Roger retire, or at least have a season off, and then he can return restored, renewed and reinvigorated some other time after the requisite rest and relaxation has worked its magic.

Roger is wise though.  He’s given me a bit of a pep talk.  I was saying how much I wished there would be some more runners out there on the trails.  So I wont be the last one out there all alone on the trails.  I don’t mind being slowest one out there, but I’d like to get back in daylight and before the coffee place has packed up.   Lawks a lordy – I don’t even know if I can run for a bus anymore, let alone romp round 24km, feed stations a plenty or not!

Roger though is smart.  He explained you have to just find your motivation and then you can unlock your inner runner no worries.

not a runner

If there were more runners, there might be more slowbies, and if there were more marshals, that would be more motivational high-fives and sweaty hugs to give me strength.  ‘Well‘, he said, ‘don’t you dare wish for a single runner more.   There are runners enough out there – any more finishers would only dilute your achievement‘.  I paraphrase, what he actually said was this:

What’s that your wishing for?

More runners  Lucy? No! don’t think it;

If we are meant to run, we are enough

To take on Sheffield’s trails; and still to live,

The fewer run, the greater share of honour.

I mean really! I say, wish not one runner more.

FFS! I would not lose so great an honour

As one more trail runner might steal from us

It will be great! O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, to anyone who’ll listen,

That they who have no stomach for this run,

Let them depart; we’ll wave them on their way,

And jelly babies for convoy give to them;

We would not yomp in that runner’s company

They that fear they might expire out there

and so choose not to die in fellowship with us.

Fair play, they need not join us running scared.

And yet….

This race is call’d the Round Sheffield Run of well, Sheffield!

We that outrun these trails, and come safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,

And come alive at the very mention of the RSR

We shall tell all who’ll listen* of our triumph

And how we took on the great challenge of the day.

We that shall see this day, and live old age,

Will yearly on the vigil bore fellow runners,

And say “To-morrow is the Round Sheffield Run

I’ve done that!  Loads of times!  Go me!”

Then we will we strip our shoes and show our scars,

And say “These blisters I had up Porter Valley.

See this hamstring limp?  That’s from the limb descent”

Others may forget, but we won’t ever,

We’ll still remember, with advantages,

What feats we did that day. Then shall our club names,

Familiar in the mouth as household words—

Be newly toasted

We shall drink to Smiley Paces; Dark Peak to boot;

Cheers to Monday Mobsters and parkrunners all;

Strideout were there and Les Brutelles

Team Sloth and the lovely Barnsley Harriers too

Shout loud for Valley Hill Runners also

and the Porter Valley Plodders pounding through

all trail runners a-go-go who pulled on their shoes to run

Undaunted by the hills, or mud or the fact that ‘it’s an awfully long way to have to go now we come to think of it…’

So shall all such Round Sheffield Runners

Be each year by flowing cups freshly rememb’red.

This race shall remain the mecca trail run for all of England

And the Round Sheffield Run shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

Without all those who have ever run it being rememberèd-

We few, we happy few, we band of runners;

For they this day that pound the trails with me

Shall forever be my running buddies;

Even be they ever so vile,

This day shall gentle their condition;

And runners of the world that stay in-bed

Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

And hold their run bling cheap whilst any speaks

That ran with us upon the Round Sheffield Trails!

No honestly, he did!  It was stirring stuff.  I can hardly not rock up at the start after all that!

So are you coming out with me tomorrow then Roger?’  I asked.  ‘I’m not sure’ he said, ‘you know about the “for want of a shoe” don’t you?  Well, I’m not feeling too fabulous, and for want of a proverbial shoe you might not make it round the whole trail.  Don’t you have a back up plan?  One time only.   Any random bit of African wildlife would do?’  ‘Oh’.  I said.  ‘I’ll think about it.  It wouldn’t be the same without you, but I do take you point.’

So bottom line.  I just need to find and channel my inner runner.  When I do, if I can’t run like the wind, I shall run like the winded, which means I’ll still get to be part of it, and as a bonus, it also means I can eat the Belgian bun I have stashed away.  It was going to be to celebrate having completed the run. But who I am trying to kid. Why go for delayed gratification when really I should be focusing on carbing up.  Essential pre-event prep as any runner can tell you.

Soooooooooooooo, I expect I will be seeing you all at the start after all.  Don’t have nightmares!  And don’t forget to high-five me as you pass.  If I’m collapsed on the trails, please step over me, no stamping on my face. Thanks in anticipation.

running like the winded

*to be fair, I don’t think we’ll care if anyone in the vicinity is listening or not, we’ll just hold forth about our RSR experiences anyway, shouting louder if necessary, so they can still here us as they try to get away.

 

Oh and for all my RSR blog posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

Categories: off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

On the subject of superheroes…

Digested read: parkrun volunteering is a lot of fun.  It is a parallel universe of parkrun good times.  If you haven’t crossed over to this other side yet, you might be missing out.  Just saying.  Donning hi-viz for junior parkrun is the highlight of my week, literally as well as metaphorically.  Obviously.

Well, I was holding forth on the subject of superheroes, whether or not you were concentrating I can’t really know, but basically I was saying that that special breed of people who set up inaugural parkruns, and manage to generate enough momentum to keep them going, deserve some sort of public recognition.  They are after all the ‘make it so’ teams who help parkrun grow and regenerate.  Personally,  I favour the option of bestowing these noble few with parkrun logoed capes.  However, inexplicably, it currently isn’t in my gift to generate and distribute these, but what I can do, is potentially make life easier for some Run Directors out there by singing the praises of volunteering.  Step up people and give it a go.  You have nothing to fear… and stunning parkrun hi-viz within your reach. Why wouldn’t you?  You too could be a hi-viz hero, yours for the taking!

volunteer outfit

You do have to supply your own hat though. I think this one might be a Tilly hat, they are very good, I think they are insured for ever but can survive even passing through the digestive tract of an elephant in tact.  This testimonial is spoilt as it involves keeping some poor magnificent elephant in captivity, but it still illustrates a point.  Anyway, most parkruns don’t risk this happening to their headgear, but I suppose in South Africa it could be an issue.  Look forget it, I wish I’d never gone down the headgear route.  Stick with a beret and the associated angst over whether stereotypical national fancy dress is ever acceptable at a Le Tour themed parkrun event, if you prefer,  and let’s move on.

Lucy le tour

There are basically two facts you need to know when it comes to volunteering at your local parkrun (though parkrun voluntourism is a thing too of course). These are as follows:

  1. Fact one.  Volunteering at regular parkrun is fun, lots of fun
  2. Fact two.  Volunteering at fun-size junior parkrun is even more fun. Awesome fun in fact.  Fun in inverse proportion to the average height of those participating.

Alas, capes for TAPSS are not yet available, let alone for volunteers, but the opportunity to be a hi-viz hero is very much there for the taking. You too could join a line up as fabulous as this.  I know, just imagine!  No idea where these folk are or who they are by the way, (borrowed from parkrun uk facebook page at some point), but it matters not, this scene is replicated worldwide at a parkrun near you weekly, I promise.

panshanger-parkrun-volunteers

My volunteering started off at parkrun ‘proper’ as I might have erroneously referred to it before I knew any better.  Now my favoured parkrun volunteering venue is a junior parkrun.   For a number of reasons. In honesty, I showed up the first time mainly because I felt I ought to ‘give something back’, and junior parkrun means I can do so without forfeiting my own Saturday parkrun.  However, I would now say the main motivation is because it is a lot of fun.  Crying with laughter sort of fun at times.   It is such a brilliant way to start a Sunday morning you have no idea until you’ve tried it.

Let’s be honest though, even though I am apparently able to sustain myself whilst living independently, and have indeed lived and worked overseas which ought to mean I can cope with a bit of stress and am reasonably adaptable, I was still nervous about volunteering at first.  I still am sometimes.  Objectively this is ridiculous perhaps to you, but speaking to other volunteers I think it’s quite common to feel some anxiety about taking on a new role.  Passions can run high at parkrun, it is for some if not actually the most important part of their week it’s definitely a highlight.  You don’t want to be the weak link that messes up the timings or sends a front runner hot foot the wrong way on a turn.  The post of time-keeper is particularly feared by me, though interestingly I’ve seen first time DoE volunteers take to it with no problems at all.

The Timekeeper is responsible for recording the times of all finishers. This can be a high pressure role, particularly at our busier events.
For every runner that crosses the finish line on their own two feet, the timer will record that time using a timing device. This data is then combined with the data from the Barcode Scanners (see below). Our events are provided with multiple timers, so there will normally be someone operating a backup timer.

Apparently, clicking a button everytime a runner crosses the line isn’t as hard as I think.   Who knew?  I just imagine I’ll suffer some terrible seizure and be frozen unable to move, or worse yet set off a staccato sequence of line-crossers when there is in fact not a runner in sight.   I must just over think it.  … The thing is, and I say this not to put you off, but rather the opposite, a bit of apprehension because you care about getting it right is surely a good thing.  Besides, it adds to the frisson of excitement and anticipation when you know you are about to join a team of people and contribute to the delivery of something bigger than yourself.  Quite a lot bigger…

As an aside if you go to the global parkrun site and scroll down you can get a live update of the global stats for participation.  It’s pretty impressive. As of today (22 June 2017) the figures are 2,321,735 runners running (bit like lords-a-leaping, just imagine!); 275,019 volunteers and events have taken place in 1,155 locations. If you are a real parkrun stats geek check out http://www.elliottline.com/parkrun/ for weekly updates on UK (mainly) stuff. It’s way more compelling than you might think I promise 🙂 .

I think it’s like the apprehension you get if you’ve ever had to perform on stage be that in a class assembly at school, or giving a presentation or lecture at work, or a speech at a celebration.   There is an inevitability that this event will happen, you will have your unique role and so there will be a moment when everything will feel like it depends on you! Ha!  Think of it not so much as responsibility, but as power, if that helps. (It is rare enough to feel any sense of personal agency or influence in our crumbling world at times…).  Besides, everyone knows that donning a hi-viz jacket at parkrun bestows you with super-human powers, which is why if you cheer and high-five runners as they pass they magically speed up. FACT.  Only possession of a clipboard can trump that.  Here’s a minion with a clipboard by way of illustration.  See how seriously they are taken wielding such an accessory!

Plus, at the end of the day it is a RUN not a RACE, most errors can be rectified.  Even if they can’t, it is what it is. Did you know that even Paul Sinton-Hewitt once wiped all the timings at Bushy park parkrun, so it can happen to the best of us.  It would almost be worth making that particular mistake just so you can be in the overlap of a Venn diagram with the great man himself.  The actual point is, the world didn’t come to an end.  Most runners are understanding if there is a system failure – I think one time I ran at Sheffield Hallam parkrun and no results could be processed and we all got a time of 59 minutes, but it wasn’t that bad.  Not like finding you’ve run out of tea bags on waking for example, or are left reeling by toast too big for a toaster, not even near!  There may be a future amusing anecdote in it – like that hilarious time (also at Hallam) when the finish tokens were nowhere to be found and all the many hundreds of runners had to form an orderly queue and have their barcodes written down manually, I kid you not. Still worked.  How the run volunteering team look back affectionately on that Saturday and laugh I can only imagine. What larks eh?  What larks!

So, here is my highly subjective running scared guide to the various roles.  Other more authoritative guides to the various volunteering parkrun roles are available, but who wants to exhaust themself by clicking on external links?

Marshaling:

The parkrun website describes this role as follows:

Marshals guide and encourage the runners around the course warning them of any obstacles or hazards, as well as ensuring that other park users are aware of the run.
They are also the eyes and ears of the run director out on the course.
Marshals perform a crucial function; if there aren’t enough marshals then the event can’t go ahead. So if you’re running and see them out on the course, please say thanks (particularly if it’s wet, windy or cold) and always follow their advice. They’ll most likely be wearing high vis – so they should be easy to spot.

Most of my volunteering has been marshaling. This essentially involves directional pointing and clapping.  You are also the eyes and ears of the event and I suppose ambassadors too.  It is one of my favourite roles to be fair.   For loads of reasons.  The main one being that you get to see every single runner pass. The first time I marshaled was also the first time I got a real sense of the continuum of runners who take part.  As a er hem, more sedate runner, I’d never seen the fast ones other than in a flash of lycra as they lapped me, and only ever from behind. Seeing their faces contort with the strain of it all was actually pleasing and inspiring in equal measure.  Running isn’t any easier for those speed merchants it seems, they are still working hard, it’s just they keep on getting faster.  Fact one of running, it never gets easier, your goals just shift.

never gets easier

Then you also start to see the whole spectrum of people who participate, parents with buggies; runners with dogs; family outings.  It was a revelation.  I’d only noticed the limited group of people who run at my pace, it is genuinely uplifting to see so many different people taking on the same challenge.  You start to notice the octogenarian at your local event; the person who might be in the middle of radio or chemotherapy; the first timers; individuals taking it on post illness or as part of a weight loss challenge.  Speaking personally, I’ve become much more aware of local groups, not just running clubs, but community connections.  I’m not entirely delusional, I don’t know all these people personally, in that sense they aren’t all my friends, but we do have a common interest.  More in common as the saying goes, and at the risk of unleashing just the first of a forthcoming torrent of feel-good clichés yet to tumble out in this blog post, yep, it’s made me feel way more connected to where I live.  Can’t go running anywhere in my neck of Sheffield without seeing or been seen by a fellow parkrunner.  It’s like a constant mutual surveillance.  In a good way though, not stalkery.  Think of it as motivational and jolly.

In my experience, marshaling can also involve hugging quite a lot of people either to reassure en route, or to congratulate on completion.  How you feel about embracing random sweaty runners might be a factor in whether or not you are comfortable with this aspect of the role. It’s not obligatory though, if you stand rigidly you will give off enough protective non verbal ‘don’t touch me!’ signals that you will be absolutely fine.  Nobody likes an awkward hug.  Not even slightly over-emotional parkrunners.  I don’t really consider myself a huggy person at all, but mid or post run endorphins can make you love everyone, and some of the best hugs I’ve had have been from marshals on long trail runs. Thank you hi-viz heroes, you know who you are. Well, you do know who you are, but I can never forget the RSR hug that came when most needed, 20km in to a 24 km trail running event.   You may indeed love running, but I love marshals who facilitate that, and  I thank you!

i-love-marshals

That’s the generic marshal role, but for junior parkrun you need to factor in extra motivational duties.   Specifically, you need to perfect the art of the high-five.  Don’t scoff, it’s not as easy as you think. Firstly, turns out, just because some tot is barely four years old, it doesn’t mean they can’t deliver ferocious power behind a tiny high fiving hand.  I kid you not, I’ve been almost completely taken out by the human bullet which is an infant speeding towards you with an outstretched hand. Secondly, you need to really work on your glutes and quads to retain stability when you are having to maintain a squat for the entire duration of a junior parkrun.  Even when you’ve got the high-five perfected, there is still scope for skill development as you take on the high-ten.  It can be done, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.  Very rewarding indeed though, when it all fall’s into place!  You have never experienced being on the receiving end of a smile until it is one offered up to you freely by a junior parkrunner at the instant at which their high-five is returned to you.  Everyone should experience that surge of validation of their actions at some point in their life.  Feel good doesn’t come anywhere near to describing that sensation.

I should also point out that directional pointing and clapping is harder than you might think.  Plus, clapping and cheering continuously for up to an hour is quite strenuous.  Don’t worry though, as with all such physical challenges your stamina does improve over time.   There does however always remain the risk that however proficient you are at pointing, you may be ignored.  This clip isn’t from parkrun but is nevertheless hilarious. How hard is it to know which way to run when someone in hi-viz is pointing the way for you?  Very hard indeed apparently.  Joy to behold! Check out this Tebay fell race start video if you don’t believe me.  And if you think directing adults is like herding cats, you’ve clearly never experienced junior parkrun, which adds whole new layers of unpredictability, and therefore hilarity to the whole affair.

At Graves junior parkrun, the start line is on grass, but the participants need to be funneled onto a tarmac path early on in proceedings. This is achieved by having a chain of marshals arms outstretched, to act a human funnel to ensure everyone ends up where they are supposed to. What could possibly go wrong?

and theyre off

Well, loads apparently. The thing is, if you are small, and the start is crowded, why would you follow the route indicated by a human chain when you can just as easily duck under the outstretched arms of attendant marshals and speed round the back of them where there is more room?  Obvious really.  I love this slightly anarchic element of junior parkrun, it is truly hysterical, but could be unsettling for those who find disorder and random running alarming.

Marshaling is also a bit like the ‘any other duties’ bullet point in most job descriptions. It’s a real role, but you have to roll with it sometimes.  I myself have on occasion been dog-poo bin monitor. Yep, you guessed it. This involves standing in front of the dog-poo bin in Endcliffe Park to prevent runners running into it. Yes, all parkrunners apparently have that potential for navigational error within them.  All part of the joy of it all though.  Without a dog-poo bin monitor, Sheffield Hallam parkrun couldn’t happen.  Think about it.  Make it so!

Barcode Scanning and barcode scanning support:

The parkrun UK site describes these volunteer roles thus

The Barcode Scanners are responsible for actually recording runners against their finish position tokens, handed out by Finish Tokens at the end of the funnel.
They scan in the runners personal barcode, followed by the barcode on the position token.

Most of my volunteering had been marshaling – directional pointing and clapping, with the odd spot of barcode scanning.  This latter role is great because you get to speak to people, but those scanners are more temperamental than you might expect, so it’s not quite as cool as wielding say a sonic screw-driver might be, but it’s definitely a role where time flies.  Person then barcode is the rule. Honestly, I did find it a bit stressful – that was at Hallam though, and that is a very busy parkrun. Then again, it’s also quite an adrenalin high, job done you feel your heart racing and the glow of satisfaction at a challenge completed. Also, if you are nosey, you get to potentially put names to faces. Well you would if you had the capacity to remember names, I lost that skill decades ago.  Best to just greet everyone with ‘yoh fellow parkrunner‘ and avoid all that awkward embarrassment of getting names wrong.

You do need to impose the ‘no barcode, no time, no exceptions‘ rule without fear or favour.   I agree with this rule actually, it’s not much to ask of those participating in a free event, and the poor run directors wouldn’t get any weekend left over if they had to manually input an ever-growing list of opportunistic runners who repeatedly forget their paper barcodes, and have no incentive to remember as long as they can convince some poor unsuspecting volunteer that it is ‘just this once’ and they offer up an exceptional heart-rending tale to reinforce their case….

parkrun code

Consequently, I was quite up for the associated role akin to barcode scanning, which is the barcode scanning support role. The purpose of this role is basically to manually record the name and numbers of parkrunners whose barcodes were brought along and failed to scan.  Sometimes it is hard to know why they have malfunctioned in this way.  On other occasions as a sweaty, or rain-soaked disintegrating slip of papier-mache is offered up I feel almost instinctively I know what has happened.  (Praise be for the wrist bands and barcode plastic cards, they are fab, I just wish you could get them on behalf of other people as gifts without having to steal their identity first, though I sort of understand why too…).  Hence, when I took on this role at junior parkrun I was sure I’d be able to channel my inner hard-nosed cow and be firm and resolute in the face of the  most heart-rending of scenarios…  At junior parkrun, or the one I go to anyway, you also write down all the finish token numbers for those who didn’t bring their barcode and record them as ‘unknown’.  I guess this helps with results processing as you know certain finish positions don’t have a runner linked to them, and as the numbers involved are pretty low, it’s quite doable.

For the record, again, at junior parkrun you have to expect the unexpected, and yep, that’s what happens.  It is entertaining, and it keeps you on your toes.  For the most part, junior parkrunners are a complete delight.  If you want to feel briefly positive about  prospects for the future of the human race and restore your faith in humanity, just rock up and watch a junior parkrun.  Even so, the unpredictability of the young diminutive runners can leave you utterly non-plussed.  Or it did me anyway. So can you explain for example how a young runner who had a barcode that failed to scan presented herself to me to have her finish position noted and in traveling the less than a metre between me and the barcode scanner had lost her finish token?  Check out the locations  of these barcode scanners and the clipboard holding barcode scanner support official and see for yourself the surely finite potential for finish token loss during that handover from one volunteer to another:

barcode scanning

It was a mystery that even Jessica Fletcher would have failed to solve.   The junior parkrunner stood blinking, but adamant, nope, there had never been a finish token.  She was sure.  Erm… it’s really hard to get to the truth with a child witness it turns out.  In the end, she was miraculously restored to the results by dint of estimating whereabouts she was in the line up, and finding an unclaimed finish position in that general position. Which is what happened. Tense though.  The photo above is for illustrative purposes only, it does not feature the young runner in question.

More challenging still was the junior participant who had had his barcode with him, and indeed was wearing one of the wrist bands. He clearly plucked up courage to approach me, lower lip all a tremble.  It had fallen off on the way round; he was working towards one of his junior half-marathon milestones.  This is the real test of resolve.  Angry adults are one thing, I can stand resolute in the face of that, you are a grown up, take responsibility and get over it. Traumatised children on the other hand, that’s quite another. Oh gawd!  In the end I noted his finish position and said that maybe someone would hand it in, or maybe an accompanying parent might have a spare, and feeling like the child-catcher I sent him away.  The next line of approach was the child’s parents – could I not make an exception?  Seeing how distressed her child was at first she thought he must have been badly hurt!  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.  No!  No barcode, no time, no exceptions (but yes, I did feel like a jobsworth cow).  She was by no means unpleasant or rude, but pleading.  I directed her to the run director as the last line of defence.  Dear reader I report a happy ending! Turns out the wrist band had been found and handed in, the finish position was therefore restored to the rightful finisher, but ooh, that was a wobble.   For the record, apparently complaints from juniors about no time are pretty rare.  Most of them just come for a joyful romp round, only a minority are fixated on times.  Bit different for the adults though, those milestone tees are pretty desirable and much coveted after all.

Finish token and finish token support:

parkrun uk describe these roles too

The Finish Tokens person is responsible for handing out finish position tokens to all finishers in the correct sequence. This role calls for nimble fingers and grace under pressure. They can be assisted by Finish Tokens Support.

At many events there are so many runners, the task of handing out finish position tokens would be too much for one person, so it is a double act, with Finish Tokens support working closely with Finish Tokens.
For example, they will prepare the next set of tokens for Finish Tokens, who won’t have time to do this themselves. It’s also reassuring for Finish Tokens to know that they’re supported.

So these are good roles, though queen Elizabeth parkrun have done a guide to the finish token volunteer role explaining some of the challenges associated with it.  I like this role, you get to be a double act so that’s a new person to chat to which is always a bonus.  You do have to watch yourself a bit, because when you are holding a little batch of finish tokens ready to hand out it takes almost super-human willpower not to inadvertently shuffle them like you would if handed a nice new pack of cards.  I don’t think you have to wear a beanie or bobble hat for these roles, but clearly they look fabulous so you should.  I like that you meet every runner and get to know how many people have taken part allowing for spontaneous sweepstake ‘guess how many runners there are today‘ options.  It takes hi-viz teamwork, but then once you get into a rhythm with your token buddy, it feels fab!

Run Director:

This, along with that of Event director and set up team, is a role that I think should be rewarded with capes. But hey ho.  I’ve never done it, and I’m not entirely sure how you get involved to that degree, though I feel confident most event teams would welcome newcomers.   The official blurb states that:

The Run Director is in charge of a particular run on a specific day.
They have ultimate responsibility for deciding whether or not the conditions are suitable for the event and with advice from the other volunteers may decide to modify the course (because of new hazards, for example), delay the start, or even in exceptional circumstances cancel the event that day (very poor weather being the most common reason for this).
They are also responsible for organising the team of volunteers, along with the volunteer co-ordinator.

They do all this (and more) it’s true, but as an impartial outside observer, I feel I must record for posterity some of the particular ingenuity, dedication and initiative I’ve seen Run Directors display in support of runners.  Quite aside from organising new routes when regular paths are closed, or even removing obstructing fallen trees at short notice, I’ve seen a couple of ‘above and beyond’ moments I wish to note here.

One was at junior parkrun.  A young runner, in full sprint was way up the field but somehow ran on past the finish funnel, skidding dramatically and practically skinning every inch of exposed flesh on the ground as they did not so much a face plant but a full body slide.  Immediately the RD sprang into action.  He sprinted across – naively I thought this was to administer first aid.  How wrong was I?  On reaching the sprawling child, he hauled him to his feet, rotated him, and sort of shoved him off on a new adjusted trajectory down the finish funnel proclaiming as he did so ‘it’s OK, you’re still fine, no-one will overtake you!’.  As a non-parent myself, but on finish token duty at the time I was a bit taken aback by this approach,  but you know what?  Within a few strides a smiling child was clutching a finish token apparently healed and mended.  Quick thinking and another happy ending!

Only last week at Hallam, I was on funnel duty.  I was all set for herding runners, ensuring any would-be funnel duckers were thwarted in the attempt, and keeping everyone in line.  However, what I hadn’t anticipated was the chaos that ensued when one of the early finishers made it across the finish, and then started throwing up spectacularly in the finish funnel (not a problem I’ve ever had to contend with, maybe I really don’t try hard enough). I was momentarily paralysed with indecision, as were other runners piling in behind – keen to stay in line, but not wanting a bottle neck to back up across the finish. As we stood, temporarily frozen in time, the run director again took the initiative and sprang into action.  He appeared in a puff of smoke as if from nowhere, and acted as a proxy to collect the finish token for the sprawling, heaving and retching runner so the ‘show’ could go on – or in this case, the finish funnel keep on moving whilst she attended to the ‘necessary’.  It was an inspirational reflex that saved the running day.  Hooray!

See, that’s the thing about volunteering at parkrun, never a dull moment, and most problems can be rectified.  You also get better at volunteering and more comfortable at it the more you do.  With the benefit of hindsight, I still think I could have handled the loose lamb incident better at Graves junior parkrun, but hey, you live and learn.  Those moments of self-flagellating regret are more than compensated for by the moments of unexpected joy, which are far more numerous.  Like the first time I volunteered as a marshal at junior parkrun and a tiny runner, noting my clapping and apparent interest in her day took the time to stop and explain to me that she was taking part in a run, and it had two laps and she’d be round again shortly and see me again.  I’m quite a cold-hearted, non-broody type, but that did absolutely melt my heart.  Adorable.  Honestly, these junior parkrunners are just like real people, only tiny! Also they are seemingly  more prone to uttering uncynical expressive words of wisdom and demonstrating uninhibited displays of joy.  It’s quite remarkable, it really is!

The only slight problem is that now I’ve done so many junior parkruns, I wonder if I may come across as a bit patronising to the adult runners at the 5km event?  I shall erase that thought from my mind, who doesn’t like being congratulated on their smile or being encouraged with a whoop and a shout of ‘superb effort’ even though they may look ever so slightly to be on the brink of tears.  There is more in common between these runners than you may think,  I promise.  It isn’t only the juniors who start walking as soon as they think they are out of the sight of the main field and in the shadow of a strategically positioned bush.  That’s not to say I haven’t made mistakes I admit.  I stumbled a bit at junior parkrun as the first junior female shot by ‘great job, first woman home‘ I shouted enthusiastically.  ‘I think it’s OK to say “first girl” when they are eight years old‘ my companion marshal gently remarked.  Probably true, it’s just that personally I have such an aversion to being referred to as a ‘girl’ I avoid using it.  It really makes me mad if people call me a girl.  It’s literally infantalising, however well meant.  However, probably is OK as a term of reference in junior parkrun context.  In another of my rookie errors, a parent (I presume) was holding the hand of an increasingly reluctant child. ‘Oh no, you are having to drag him round‘ I shouted out at the child, to which the parent replied laughing ‘oh yes!’  But I hadn’t intended my words for him, they were aimed at the junior runner as a hilarious (I thought) quip.  Misfire.  We live and learn.  Another couple of weeks and I’ll have a full repetoire of non-judgemental and encouraging phrases  on the tip of my tongue, to validate everyone participating whether walking, running or skipping.  I’ve started adding in ‘that’s my favourite T-shirt today’ or ‘best balloon of the morning’ in to my supportive calls, these seem to be better received by juniors on the whole, but that’s only because the 5km parkrunners aren’t habituated to this new order as yet.  Give it time.

There are loads of roles in fact, and new ones evolving all the time too – hard to imagine now there was a time when ‘photographer’ was not an acknowledged role, and great to see the new role of VI guides and sign language support.  Such is the accelerating speed of change in the world eh. Jobs in the near future will crop up, that we haven’t yet dreamed of, and quite right too.  It’s an evolving concept.  There are warm up leaders at junior parkrun, think at the moment it’s an added extra, but it might yet become ‘a thing’ like the first timers briefing. Who knows?

junior warm up

And finally – tail runner.

The Tail Runner stays right at the back of the field and should be the last person to cross the finish line ensuring that everyone is accounted for.
They are encouraged to carry a mobile phone in case of emergencies.
They let any marshal out on the course know that they can collect nearby signs and leave their post.
This role is compulsory in the UK but please note that not all events in our parkrun world have a tail runner.
Volunteers undertaking this role receive both a run credit and a volunteer credit.

I’ve not done this role either, though as a frequent final finisher at other organised events, I have met plenty.  It certainly seems to be one of the ultimate feel good positions, plus you get a double whammy of credits as both runner and volunteer (same with pacers I assume).  It doesn’t matter if you are the final finisher, you’ve still done the same 5km as everyone else.  Some of the runners I admire most embrace being the final finisher, so what if you are being tailed by a queue of traffic and an ambulance idling, you can still smile and own the road until cut off point.   That’s why I love this photo of  the final finisher at an organised event somewhere, she runs confident in the knowledge most people in that queue of traffic will be blaming the caravan for the tail back!  All good.

final finish flourish

Seriously though, the tail runner is a really important role in giving confidence to people who might not yet see themselves as in their natural habitat at a 5km run.  That’s not the only reason I love them though.  For me it’s personal.   I don’t normally make reference to stuff outside of running in my blog, but on this solitary occasion I will.

My mum lives hundreds of miles away from me, but, she likes to go and watch parkrun whizz on by at Bushy park each week. She’d been doing this a while, and is quite distinctive sitting as she does in the same spot every saturday, so the regular tail runner started to chat to her each week.  Long story short, she’s now been embraced by the parkrun community at Bushy park (and yes, that would be the actual parkrun mecca in case you were wondering) and even has her own personal hi-viz to don as honorary marshal down there each week.  It makes me really happy that whilst I’m storming (ish) round my local parkrun, she’s out there being part of the parkrun community too.  Go us!

 

So you see, parkrun isn’t only about the running, not even only about the volunteering and the running, it’s about way more than that.  If you only run, that’s fine, not everyone wants to, or is able to volunteer.   There have been times in what I laughingly refer to as my ‘parkrun career’ when just turning out at all felt like an impossible challenge.  That’s the point of volunteering, it isn’t compulsory.  However,  if you do step up and give it a whirl, you’ll get to enter a whole new delightful parallel parkrun universe of collective fun.  A whole fun factory of anecdote generation is there for the taking.  So if you can ever don the hi-viz of a weekend, don’t risk missing out, step forward and you will get to be part of that story too!

Oh, and if you want to volunteer, here’s how – subscribe to the volunteering email for your local event is the official way, but not all parkruns seem to use this, so just go and say hello to a run director or pop a note on your parkrun’s Facebook page, you will soon be welcomed warmly into the cult fold, I’m sure.  The gateway drug is hi-viz, but you might work your way up to a clipboard or even get your own whistle one day.   The only limit is your imagination.  All the roles are pretty straightforward, and you’ll be shown what to do and never be asked to do anything you aren’t comfortable with.

Also, I think the purple tees are the most flattering.  And they bestow super human powers.  The evidence is there for all to see.

By the way, I still don’t really know if it should be hi-viz or hi-vis.  Hope I haven’t pushed any grammar police over the edge.  Luckily parkrun is an inclusive community, both variants are acceptable I’m sure!

volunteering garb

For all my parkrun related log posts click here, but remember you’ll need to scrowl down for older posts.  Happy parkrun/walk/jog/volunteering until next time.

Categories: 5km, motivation, parkrun, running, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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