Digested read: Happy Birthday to us! Seventh birthday party celebrations at Sheffield Hallam parkrun were splendid, the sun shone, cake was consumed, fancy dress was worn, prizes were given. There was even a 5k run at some point. However, we all know everyone’s a winner at parkrun, because however we choose to participate, we are all equally, absolutely fabulous! Go us.
Originally, I really wanted to go as a flying ant. Whilst it might not be entirely good form to laugh at your own jokes, surely anyone with but the smallest vestige of a sense of humour would think that not only hilarious but ingenious as a choice for a Wimbledon themed fancy dress parkrun. There has after all been a lot of coverage of how the early matches were positively invaded by them on flying ant day during play. A lot of the coverage has been quite hostile about their arrival, which is a shame, as maybe they are insects that just really like tennis. Hence they choose to copulate and die on centre court at Wimbledon. A sacred site for tennis fans everywhere. I mean I get the point entirely that it wouldn’t be absolutely desirable if human tennis fans started to do likewise, but we should at least acknowledge their enthusiasm for the venue at least? The ants I mean, not the people…
As fancy dress goes I didn’t think it would be too difficult to implement either. Just the little matter of three pairs of black tights; (to be stuffed with paper), some black crepe paper for the creation of miscellaneous body parts; black super-sized pipe cleaners for antennae and a couple of wire coat hangers to be covered with cling film to create wings. Actually, strike that – more like a couple of dozen wire coat hangers – those wings are huge. Then, voila. Genius. What could possibly go wrong?
Alas, a search of my flat revealed only the presence of one metal coat hanger for starters, and nothing else at all in terms of the requisite materials. Also, to be honest, the process of scouring my living quarters for such trohpies made me realise I couldn’t actually be bothered to undertake such a craft project after all. I’d just go for straight forward mixed double with white visor/ headbands and a white top. Job done. Me and Geronimo would be fine. Besides, it was to be her first parkrun, wouldn’t have wanted to leave her behind, not when she’d been really looking forward to it. And there was to be a parkrun party too! Yay!
Oh, have I not explained? So today, was Sheffield Hallam parkrun’s seventh birthday party! As any parkrunner could tell you, parkrun event birthdays are usually a ‘thing’. As a minimum requirement there will be cake, but there is usually also a prize giving, fancy dress (in our case themed around Wimbledon Tennis) and a plan to create maximum chaos by running the route in reverse. Splendid.
Naturally, there was a bit of pre-event consultation about fancy dress options amongst my Smiley compatriots. We agreed to rendezvous a little early so we could appreciate each other’s creations and ensure we recorded our efforts for posterity. There was also a bit of last-minute mutual prop sharing. I say ‘mutual’ but what I really mean is that Cheetah smiley produced a sweat band for Geronimo Sky, and a tennis ball for fell-running smiley and she and I were appropriately effusively grateful for these late additions. Let the public records show that without Cheetah Smiley’s generosity our costumes would have been as nothing. Inevitably, I got waylaid in the loo queue, but found my compatriots eventually. If you examine the photographic evidence, you will see we had all the necessary elements to create our own tennis match – a net, players, ball-girl, tennis ball – just missing the rackets. Also in my case, any natural aptitude or interest in the game, but it was a reasonable start. Don’t you think Geronimo’s sweat band is pretty fab? I haven’t decided whether or not to explain the buttock shot. I mean, for those of us of a certain age it will raise a knowing laugh without any explanation, for other, more youthful members of the parkrun community it will look like blatant exhibitionism, but then again if you had worked that hard on your cycling to shape your glutes you’d probably want to show them off too right? That might be a different generation’s take on the display of assets on offer. I think I’ll explain later. Or maybe I won’t. Just leave it hanging, so to speak, lots is hanging out after all, why not those? For my part I look like a cube, a white cube, maybe a cube that has gone to heaven and is not clothed in reflective shiny wrap-around white, it’s not a good look. Our ball girl is fabulous though, looking enthusiastic and excited, and as for the net – well, what can I say? Sometimes there just aren’t the words are there? Collectively gorgeous however, we can agree on that. Smiley spirit oozing from Smiley Paces running club members for sure! It’s only a matter of time before this becomes the new cover photo for the Smiley Paces facebook page. There were equally fabulous Smilies volunteering today too by the way, but they didn’t get to be in this photo because, well, because life isn’t always fair, sadly. Sorry about that. 🙂
So we did our meet and greet, and then joined the general mill of runners churning around in the sunshine at the start. There was to be a pre-run prize giving. I couldn’t help noticing there weren’t all that many other people who had taken the plunge for fancy dress. Oh well, quality not quantity eh? Anyway, we joined the hordes, homing in on some fellow smilies amongst the many gathered to hang on the words of our esteemed run director on this auspicious day. Perhaps it was the lack of others in fancy dress that led to the comment that got my award for the most unexpected utterance of the day. After we’d been loitering a bit, waiting for the briefing to start, a fellow smiley eyed me with sudden clarity and announced ‘I’ve only just realised why you are dressed like that! It’s Wimbledon fancy dress day!‘ It was a bit hard to know how to react. With the best will in the world that did seem a tad slow on the uptake, and I’m surprised the wearing of a giraffe didn’t apparently register as in any way unusual in her world view at least. I mean on the one hand I do have a tendency to bring an animal companion with me out running given the slightest provocation/ opportunity, so that might not be an absolute clue of a fancy dress requirement for an event, but on the other? Well, you do have to question what did she think had possessed net-woman to turn out dressed as she had? I don’t know if it made it better or worse that when I asked her, it seemed she’d actually considered this is all seriousness, and said ‘I thought maybe sun protection or something‘. I can’t lie, that was surprise too. You’d be amazed what I will wear in public, but I think even I might have hesitated before wearing that nipping out to the shops say in any non fancy dress context. Still, then again, you have to applaud this fellow smiley for quite clearly embracing the principle of fully respecting the right of all parkrunners to participate in their own way. One of the core principles of the event, indeed number two in the parkrun code, so high-five to her for internalising that accepting and non-judgemental approach to fellow parkrunners fashion choices – but maybe don’t choose her to be your personal shopper say, though I don’t know if that’s a service she offers to be fair. Caveat emptor. Just saying….
Once clothing choices had been explained, and greetings shared we moved onto the serious business of the annual parkrun prize giving. It’s only just occurred to me, I wonder what the 24 or so first timers made of it all. It was great fun, but it may have been somewhat bizarre to the uninitiated!
Relatively recently, the parkrun points system was removed. Previously, runners got points based on finish positions, which inevitably rewarded the faster runners each year. Whilst their achievements are/were impressive, it did focus on speed rather than participation, and didn’t really capture the inclusive ethos of parkrun. Hence, now parkruns are free to do whatever they want in relation to recognising their own. At Sheffield Hallam parkrun, this has been replaced locally with an opportunity to vote for parkrunners in various categories including:
- Volunteering ultimate guru – someone who goes above and beyond every week. The nominees are John Roberts (scanning), George Carman (photographer), Fran Marshall (social media) and Ann Brewster (tokens).
- Inspirational parkrunner award – nominate someone who has battled adversity and is an inspiration
- Top parkrunner award – nominate someone who is welcoming, supporting and volunteers and runs.
This seemed to me to be a good plan. It was quite fun weighing up who to vote for and who to nominate. I’m not going to lie, I did consider voting early and voting often, but I wasn’t sure that would work, and anyway I was too scared of being caught so I did the grown up thing of voting as best I could and forgetting all about it. I did however confer with a fellow Smiley afterwards, and interestingly we’d had very similar thoughts of whom to choose, and agonised a bit before we plummeted one way or the other. Presumably, this must mean either we are both incapable of independent thought, or that our choices were fine ones. Of course, it is inevitable that some people are more visible than others at any parkrun, and just because someone didn’t make the shortlist or get a nomination it doesn’t mean they were undeserving of wider acknowledgement, but then again, really the awards are a collective celebration of all that is glorious about parkrun in general and Sheffield Hallam parkrun is particular. The winners were all worthy congratulations to one and all! At the prize giving the cheers for them – and everyone else who works hard week in, week out to keep the proverbial show on the road – were loud and enthusiastic. Think one big mutual love in really. Gotta love parkrun! We are all winners in our own special ways of course, but here are the actual winners, should you wish to be pedantic, also the crowds of well wishers looking on in awe and clapping a lot. You can see it got pretty emotional, I might have had something in my eye at one point, noticed others did too…
This year has gone fast. Last year, for Sheffield Hallam parkrun’s sixth birthday we had to contend with almost apocalyptic torrential rain. Today, it was glorious sunshine. A bit too glorious. Hot, hot, hot. To complicate things further, we were running the course in reverse. Not running backwards, – although I think we all know by now that backwards running is indeed a thing – but the course in reverse. You’d think this wouldn’t be all that confusing, but trust me it is. There was also a big turn out again today, relative to some recent summer runs, some 600 participants which made the route a bit congested in places.
I’m loving the photos from today, it’s like you can mess with the minds of regular Sheffield Hallam parkrunners to get them to see what’s wrong with the photos. Familiar, and yet unfamiliar, right, and yet so wrong. It’s easy to imagine the lead runner was not a local and went the wrong way, and we just hurtled round behind. It happens – Gritstone series Hope Wakes Fell Race/ Fun Run 2017 anyone? Anyway, here’s a little smorgasboard for you to enjoy. Check out the general joyousness of it all. Note the hi-vis heros and the milling masses. All equally wondrous. Cheers volunteer parkrun photographer for today Douglas Armstrong, awesome shots.
I was still nattering when the shout for off went up, and we sort of processed to the first short loop of the run. It was very slooooooooooooow. I was quite relieved to be honest, as I’m running again tomorrow and I’m so unfit at the moment. I fell into step with regal smiley and one of her offspring and we had a really nice companionable lope round, chatting throughout, which was quite brilliant. We had some good conversations in all sorts of unexpected directions. Specifically, at one point Regal Smiley the younger inadvertently referred to Geronimo as ‘he’ and I corrected her, but added in that gender was a contested concept anyway and you don’t have to identify with ‘male’ or ‘female’ necessarily. This led to a great conversation about non-binary individuals and the news that her school had recently held a pride event. Isn’t that splendid! How things have moved on. Not only am I of the generation that gets the Athena poster reference, I am also the generation that protested against, but nevertheless saw the implementation of Section 28. In that eighties political context the idea of any school holding a pride event would have been unimaginable. At a time when there is a lot wrong in the world, and much of what seems to me to be regressive politics, it is good to be reminded that actually, there has been some progress, in some areas, precarious or otherwise. At her age, I don’t think I’d even heard of ‘non-binary‘ let alone knew what it was. Maybe there is a glimmer of hope for a brighter future yet.
The Fancy Dress contingent for today was small, but I like to think, perfectly formed. It is quality not quantity that is important in these matters. Here are some in action, setting the standard for next year methinks
In other brighter future news, I also found great photo shoot companions. Three pairs of eyes are better than one in terms of spotting the en-route photographer, so lots of scope for getting in our flamboyant posing for the camera shots. Always a boon. We were however not alone in our camera cavorting antics. The camera never lies.
In other news, I was inspired by this representative of a new generation of runners. She seemed to properly appreciate the poetry in motion that only running with a giraffe can produce. From talking to her I’ve decided to amend my will. Should I die, I’m going to leave a generous bequest to parkrun sufficient to allow for the purchase of 500 ride-on giraffe/ pony or similar outfits plus a donation for – oh I don’t know, something worthy like a defibrillator or golfing umbrellas for volunteers to stand under in inclement weather. In return, I would only ask that for one glorious saturday only there should be a fancy dress run, where a whole journey of giraffes gallop with grace across Endcliffe park in one glorious migration. It would be fantastic. I particularly like the idea of the faster runners donning these outfits. I wonder if the look could be achieved by Photoshop? Not sure. Brilliant though, surely.
So anyway, we had a good time, talking, posing for the camera and conspiring about how to get fellow parkrunners invested in giraffes as companion animals. Running the route in reverse was hard though. The haul up Rustlings Road was hot and long. I hate road running, but if you run the route the ‘normal’ way, at least you get to run it down hill, up hill takes longer and felt tough. I didn’t feel the lurve. The new surface ought to be faster, all smooth etc, but the black surface absorbed heat and it was sooooooooooooooo hot. Relief to be back in the park. We got lapped pretty early on, and that was chaotic. We were uncertain which way to move to give way to the faster runners. Fortunately, Regal Smiley was on it ‘keep left, left‘ she shouted authoritatively in an attempt to facilitate safe passage for the speedies. Unfortunately, she appears not to be able to differentiate between her left and right. I won’t draw undue attention to that though, it would be unfair when really she was only trying to help. Some people didn’t seem affected by the reverse route thing at all, one notable individual hopped the whole way round and still got a stonking PB. Couldn’t help notice other runners were being dragged round though. We’ve all had running days like that, don’t judge.
Finally, we made it round to the repositioned finish funnel. I was quite relieved to be honest. Regal Smiley nearly went AWOL at this point, confused by the unfamiliar positioning of the cones. I sped up a little and Geronimo led us in by a clear neck as we crossed through. Thank you marshals! Yay, job done. It was a personal worst for me. Which is saying something. I don’t mind though, it was all good.
More milling and cake. I traded Geronimo for a pink tutu (temporarily) and set to mingling. Don’t worry though, she was in safe hands.
It was great to finally have some good weather at a birthday. It opens out far more possibilities as you can sit outside. The queues at the cafe were of near biblical proportions, but everyone was good-natured, and it was fun to chat to people I’ve not seen in ages because of, well I don’t know, parkrun tourism, heading off to alternative brunch venues, whatever. There was cake aplenty. General chilling and milling and running debriefs. That coach in the buggy looks very confident as she’s giving her feedback on her mentees running today does she not?
As well as drinking coffee and catching up, we were tasked with a more onerous undertaking. There is something called the Vitality my summer goal. Vitality is a parkrun partner, and the idea is that you commit to a fitness or ‘move more’ challenge to keep you going over the summer months.
Buoyed up by post-run endorphins we encouraged one another to identify ever more impressive challenges and make a public commitment to them. Once the photo has been snapped, and the image shared on social media it must be true. Fact. There has never been fake news on any Facebook page ever! Poor handwriting will not release you from your pledge. This is a shame, as my own goal may yet prove more aspirational than realistic. I said I’d complete the 12.12 mile Dig Deep trail race in the peaks. I did do the Dig Deep Whirlow 10k last year at the same venue, and it was fun and well organised although on reflection it did nearly kill me. Hills you see, dragging my ever-growing carcass up those slopes is never a joy.
It is testament to the power of post-run endorphins that at the time of making this pledge I hadn’t even entered the event, so wasn’t sure I’d even get a place. Bad news, I was able to enter easily enough on returning home. I have done so, and I have even ordered a map so I can hopefully do a recce. I do want to do it, and I do hope that saying I will might increase the likelihood that I will do so, but I can’t lie, I am worried about it. I’m just so slow, I don’t mind being last, but I don’t want to get lost or miss the cut off. I might even go wild and try a bit of training in advance to improve my chances on the day. It’s not that many weeks away though. Eek. What was I thinking? On the plus side, others made ambitious pledges too. New York marathon 2017 anyone? Norway 55km mountain run at unpronounceably named place? Win age category for The Trunce series 2017? Hurrah! Aren’t we fabulous! Maybe I’ve got off quite lightly, all things considered…
No sooner had pledges been made and almost instantly regretted, we all as one decided it was time to move out of the sun and recommence our lives (if it is possible to really live outside the cheery protective bubble of a parkrun crowd). As we departed, we realised that Geronimo was not the only Giraffe present today. She shyly went across to meet her fellow African even-toed ungulate mammal, tallest living terrestrial animal and largest ruminant. I think she may have been a bit over-whelmed to be honest, but you have to concede Endcliffe Park is doing well as a giraffe friendly venue, what with the Round Sheffield Run of a couple of weeks ago and now this. Also, the lovely Mr Pullin whose inflatables we were so admiring, told me he has his very own version of Geronimo, which he finds most excellent for protecting his assets when cavorting whilst otherwise unclothed. Good to know. I’m not sharing whether or not I will or have tried this for myself, though I’m inclined to think I’m less helpfully configured in relation to ensuring I maintain decency with only a giraffe for protection. I’m not posting further photos on this topic.
Oh, on the subject of decency though, I nearly forgot about the fabulous buttock shot. A nod for us oldies to the Athena Tennis woman poster, that adorned many a pubescent boy’s bedroom wall back in the late seventies. I suddenly feel very old. According to Wikipedia (so it must be true) it sold over 2 million copies – and is still available today. Who’d have thought it? The verisimilitude between the images is uncanny though, can you even tell which is which.
So there we have it. Happy Birthday fabulous Sheffield Hallam parkrun. Thanks for all the pleasure you bring. Special thanks to the Event Director and run directors who put in the hours of work week in week out, year after year. You are all fabulous, as I hope you know! Here is just one example of absolute fabulousness, by way of illustration:
And, as if that wasn’t all exciting enough, also at today’s event, it seems that one lucky, and as yet unidentified runner, achieved immortality through statistics. Someone today, crossing the line, became the person who completed the equivalent of seven years of running time in our seven years of Hallam parkrun. Glorious indeed. I felt like I took seven years to get around today, but that isn’t the same thing at all, apparantly. Ah well, we live and learn.
Happy parkrun/walk/jog/volunteering y’all, until next time. And remember people, you have a year to plan your fancy dress for when we are eight! Don’t worry about the theme too much, anything goes at parkrun, truly! 🙂
For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.