Digested read: panicked by having inadvertently entering a 12 mile trail run, I finally made it back to Longshaw for the Trust 10k to try to get some miles on my legs. Still there, still fabulous. Nice chit chat romping round at the back. Cross training insights too. You’ve got to love the Longshaw Trust 10k. No honestly, you actually really have.
It’s been a while since I had a good romp round Longshaw. The monthly trail run which is part of the wondrous National Trust 10k running series. In my defence I’d been away in Cambodia for a few months when I couldn’t run at all, so lost my running mojo/ confidence entirely. Then when I got back to Sheffield those blooming hills had grown even higher and steeper in my absence, and seemed to thwart my feeble attempts to scramble up them at anything other than a breathless crawl. Going back to do the Longshaw 10k seemed a bit over-ambitious when I could hardly walk to the shops without risk of asphyxiation due to over-exertion on local gradients. Also I’ve been volunteering at Junior parkrun, that is a great way to spend a Sunday morning, and then there was the Round Sheffield Run, another Longshaw 10k weekend missed. Before I knew it, months had passed. Time moves on.
Then, the other week I thought, hang on, I’m missing out here. I do love Longshaw, it’s a shame to miss it. Besides, as experienced runners will tell you, the only way to improve at running round trails and up hills is to actually do some running round trails and up hills by way of practice (alongside your cross training – but more of that later). Although my fitness levels remain lamentable, the Longshaw event is friendly and fun (think parkrun, only trails and twice as long) – why not go? Also, weighing on my mind is that I’ve committed now to completing the 12.12 later next month – the Dig Deep 12 mile off-road option. Entering seemed like a good idea at the time, in a post-parkrun euphoria of misplaced optimism. I’ve even written my pledge down for pity’s sake, that means I have to ‘make it so‘, or risk a public humiliation even greater than that I will experience from being witnessed puffing round it, whilst any passing walkers (and make no mistake, they will be passing me) mutter to each other ‘what was she thinking?’ as they stride on by.
You can see what’s happening can’t you. My confidence and enthusiasm have somewhat waned. The idea seems even less inspired now I realise I can’t navigate my way out of a paper bag, let alone off Higger Tour… Oh well. I’ve committed now, and I remain conscientious if not still keen. Plus, the setting will be gorgeous with the heather out, less so if there is horizontal rain and you can’t see your hand in front of your face admittedly, but that might still qualify as type two fun (retrospective not contemporaneous fun), potentially generating an amusing anecdote to boot. Always a boon on any running related endeavour, and everyone appreciates a good boon. However, even in my most optimistic moments, you have to respect the (to me) longer route and uneven terrain, this isn’t an event you can just rock up to on the day and hope for the best. Well you can, but it would definitely end in tears, I do feel a need to some training in advance. It’s a good excuse to get out in some fantastic local landscapes, which brings me neatly (if not concisely) back to Longshaw. Time to heave on my fell shoes and get back over to join the fell-based running fun, a 10k will be a great addition to my hypothetical training plan and show commitment when added to Strava… When is the Longshaw Trust 10 again?
PANIC! When I went to check the date the events list seemed to have vanished from the relevant section of Longshaw website. What horror was this? Had the event been discontinued? Have I been personally blacklisted from attending and my computer hacked to prevent me researching the event and reduce the likelihood of me turning up? Nope. IT improvements apparently. Much as with sports bras, no sooner you find one that fits, (which takes more than a lifetime) manufacturers will ‘improve’ that particular line thereby effectively discontinuing the only bra that ever worked for you. Adding insult to injury by giving you a short-lived glimpse of what might have been before cruelly snatching it away. Of course I’m bitter. Running is hard enough without being subjected to an assault on your assets each time you head out. Anyways, same with the Longshaw IT department. the site was down, because it is being ‘enhanced’, except, in this instance the interruption in service was indeed temporary. FYI, the plan is to update the ‘behind the scenes’ IT systems so eventually people attending Trust 10 events can sign up on-line and it will all be more streamlined etc by 2020 or whenever. Personally I shall miss the slightly Heath-Robinsonesque quality of the current set up. However, we don’t need to worry our pretty little heads about all that right now, as recent experience suggests a lot can happen in that sort of time scale. The sky will probably have fallen in at the very least. Chicken Licken was right all along. If you read the original story the world did end, they all did get eaten so no ridiculing the poor bird for being alarmist when she was right all along! Hard as it is to imagine, running Longshaw might not be a priority in that scenario. Also, in fact the Trust 10 series are always on the fourth Sunday in the month, so you don’t need to check online each time, only to be able to refer to a calendar and count to four. FACT. Apart from when they are not, because of Christmas say, but you get the gist…
It is July. I shall go. So went my logic. I was apprehensive as it’d been such a while, but I was looking forward to it too. It could be part of my training plan, if I had a plan at all. I would attend to the cross bits another time…. Which brings me onto some startling new insights about cross training, which recently came my way, and that I now I feel compelled to share.
The thing is, for a long time I thought cross-training was a purely descriptive term. A variant on ‘no pain no gain’ perhaps. That is, you improve at whatever you are doing if you are able to push through the stage when you are just really annoyed at how hard it is, hate running, hate the world, that kind of thing, basically ‘training when cross’ gets abbreviated to ‘cross training’ but put in the hours and voila! Improvement follows. Then, I came to realise it was a bit more sophisticated than this, runner’s world no less gave this plausible enough sounding definition:
In reference to running, cross–training is when a runner trains by doing another kind of fitness workout such as cycling, swimming, a fitness class or strength training, to supplement their running. It builds strength and flexibility in muscles that running doesn’t utilize.
So I started indulging in my own cross training, mostly courtesy of Thursday Accelerate woodrun sessions (thank you) involving wobbling about standing on one leg (balance), bunny hopping along woodland trails (strength, but also amuses run leader I think), and, most importantly of all, working on the upper body and arms whilst simultaneously attending to hydration, by slurping on a post-run latte on conclusion of the run. It might not technically be cross-training in the purest sense, but it is a start. Besides, it’s surely preferable to the fate of some poor souls who inevitably take the cross training a bit far, adding in cycling and swimming resulting in becoming inadvertent tri-athletes. It happens. Before they know it, they’re off doing Ironman events just to improve their parkrun times. I don’t think there’s too much risk of that happening to me.
Even so, I’m always open to a bit of running related advice, so I ambled down to my local running shop for some clues on tackling the Dig Deep. Specifically re kit requirements and navigation, and also as an alternative to actually having to go out and run. It is a well-known fact, that visiting a running shop equates to an actual run in terms of training. You improve technique and running credentials just by breathing in the air of a specialist running shop. Anyway, turns out, this particular visit was most enlightening. Not only did I find out that there is no path off Higger Torr, you just jump off the edge and hope you fly basically; and that skip the running dog has his own instagram account, I also got a new insight into what motivates some individuals to embrace new sporting disciplines. Injury basically. Cross training at its source if you will. So, of those in the shop at the time – and I won’t name names as that’s not my style – one only took up running after a climbing-related hand-garrotting / palm-slashing injury made further ascent of rock-faces impossible, so they accidentally entered a marathon for seven weeks later instead. What could possibly… and the other had ruptured something crucial in a leg (their own leg I think) so started swimming and one thing led to another and they’ll probably have to do an Ironman one day now, poor thing. Ironman completion seems to lead to obligatory tattooing as well, which is another blog post altogether. Marathon runners are compelled to talk about their marathon running achievements incessantly, and in perpetuity – a bit like the curse of the Ancient Mariner, only running related, and they won’t be limiting themselves to just stopping the ‘one of three’. Ironman completers on the other hand, have to get their skin inked. Them is the rules. To be fair, if and when I do complete a marathon I will tell everyone, a lot, and maybe even get an Ironman tattoo if in a parallel universe that happened. Not on my stomach though, brave choice I think… at least I think that’s his stomach, but he must have detachable nipples and no tummy button, so I’m fearful it may be some other body part, and I don’t wish to scrutinise further. Surely not his back? I did get my ‘O’ Level for Biology, but it’s not helping here over much to be honest, although I could probably still explain to you about worker bee dances if you’d like. Do your own research dear reader, I can only take you so far along the journey of discovery.
The sport you end up using for cross training purposes depends on what body part you remove from use. I understand a dislocated shoulder leads naturally to competitive one-handed knitting, but that’s subject to confirmation. The knack is to secure one of the needles by grasping it between your thighs apparently, great for toning an all too often ignored body part, and such a strengthening technique would undoubtedly be a boon to both your knitting post recovery and your running. Or you could take up pole dancing, you need good thigh muscles for that too. Good to know. As far as cross training options are concerned, the only limit is your imagination, and human dignity.
Oh, and because you’ll be fretting, my kit is OK for a fell race apparently, as they only will check the seams are taped, not that I can fit into it. So look out for me in something like this – you must have full waterproof body cover, but I reckon I’ll carry it off. The guy on the right of the picture is risking disqualification heading out so ill-prepared. His look out.
So where was I? Oh yes, heading back to Longshaw. It had been raining, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect weather wise on Sunday morning, but the inclement elements meant as I drove across to Longshaw the mist was rising from the dips in the hills, it looked really spectacular. In my absence, the car park ticket machines have been updated for the new £1 coins, which caused a few problems for me and much bag rummaging as I feared I’d only got the old ones. I also think the cost has gone up, which I don’t begrudge as the run is free and I am happy to support he National Trust but is worth noting. I keep meaning to get around and join them, but if I do, that will definitely make me a grown up, and I’m not sure I’m quite ready to do that.
In other news, they have put in a new woodland path to the cafe. It was really lovely, lots of signs explaining what you were looking at and pointing out where owls have nested and woodpeckers pecked. I was a bit disappointed to have it made plain that the hobbit house is actually the old ice house, some myths should be allowed to endure…
I arrived at the cafe, and saw the volunteer team were already hard at it, flags up, war conference in session, the big sail sign being carried to the start. At least I think that was what they were up to. Either that, or trying to find a surfing beach somewhere, in which case they must have given up, because it would have been a very long walk indeed. We are a long way from the sea here.
I already had my number – 999 – because I have saved it from a previous run because it is a rather marvelous number to have and to hold on to. Plus it saves a bit of money for the Trust 10 and time for me if you bring your number with you. The registration system has got a bit more organised. To protect confidentiality, everyone now signs up on a separate bit of pre-printed paper and has to agree to having results shared via email (you can opt out if you wish). I can see why they have done this, before everyone could potentially see any other previous participants email and other contact details if they had good enough eyesight to squint through the lists of entrants as they signed up.
Once I’d signed up, I stood around awkwardly, wondering whether or not anyone I’d know would turn up in between trying not to skid on the super-slippery slate stones adjacent to the cafe. I don’t know why they’d become so treacherous. Previously, I’d have stated with 100% confidence that the slipperiest substance known to humankind is goose shit, but now I’m not so sure, it really challenged my assumptions there as I struggled to remain upright on the flagstones. Eventually, a friendly face! Yay. The Runderwear ambassador putting in an appearance. We negotiated that we would romp round together at the back, but as both of us have had negative experiences being compelled to run with others we each reserved the right to either abandon the other, or tell them to ‘go away’ using language which would leave little ambiguity as to the strength of feeling on the matter. I mean, we obviously weren’t going to be quite as colourful as Anthony Scaramucci, but pretty direct communication all the same. Yay, a running buddy! I felt a bit less uncertain about rejoining the trail running fray. Bring it on, there will be fun to be had!
Pleasingly, other familiar faces started to materialise, and soon there was quite a jolly crowd assembled. We ambled down to the start, I stood right at the back, and there was the usual briefing, thanks to the volunteers; watch out for tree roots and cows (the cows may move the tree roots won’t, unless they are magic trees, but not expected today); it’s a ‘long 10k’, so expect a slower than usual time, and then, almost suddenly, we were awf! Hooray!
It’s been a while since I’ve done a run at talking pace with a buddy. In fact, on this occasion I got two buddies for the price of one as they were both Valley Hill Runners, and also romping round together. So I guess that makes me either the gate-crasher or the gooseberry, I’m not sure. Fortunately, I didn’t have the social skills to pick up on it if I was in the way, and it was really nice. Hilariously, (I thought) there were not one, not two, but three tail runners. One each! It was like we were under close supervision whilst on day-release from borstal or something except we are a bit old for that and they probably don’t call them borstals any more. Open prison then. Initially, it was a bit unnerving being tailed at quite such close quarters, but I got used to it. They do this so if say the slowest runner drops out after one lap, because they are significantly behind the next slowest participant, the tail runner doesn’t have to do a four-minute mile across bog to catch up with the new back mark. Makes sense really. (Edit: update, I have a witness statement advising the tail runner in question subsequently described this experience as like doing a 5k warm up with a 4k sprint followed by a 1k cool down. I think we can conclude that was challenging! Type two fun for sure.) Maybe in 2020, when they have the new IT booking system and it all goes very high-tech, runners romping at the rear will each have their own electronic tag. For now, it’s low tech, each of us had our own personal detail to trail us on our heels throughouth. Maybe that’s why it’s called a trail run?
Important things were shared as we ran. Most important of all, unanimous agreement as to which was our favourite marshal. We might love her, but she isn’t altogether convinced by us. I think I might actually bring dog biscuits with me next time (for the dog, not the volunteer) and bribe her into loving me back best of all the other runners. Shallow to need that level of approval I know, but gratifying all the same to be on the receiving end of such canine adoration I would imagine. Only time and forward planning will tell.
The volunteers are great, and also always in demand. If you don’t want to run but do want to be part of the fun (and get a bacon butty or veggie equivalent and a cup of coffee in return) then get in touch with the sports development officer and you will be welcomed. I have volunteered once at Longshaw, when I first got back from my travels, and it was really fun, you get all the fabulousness of the scenery without the sweat of actually having to run up that really steep hill. Plus you can high-five runners and cheer on those you know as well as those you don’t. What’s not to like?
We tried to remember to look up and look around. Longshaw was truly beautiful. Green, lush and emerging from the mists. It did rain a bit, well drizzle really, but it was quite hot. There were a lot of insects. I inadvertently swallowed a few, which might be a protein boost but did nothing for my vegetarian credentials. Nevermind, plenty bit me back. I was slathered in ‘Skin so soft’ which does work actually, but it is pretty over-powering stuff. I used it to rid my flat of ants in Cambodia, which it did, and which is no mean feat!
As well as admiring the view, and swallowing insects, we were able to chat quite a lot about bra fitting, which is my current topic of choice. We did this to such an extent that the ‘top of the stone wall’ marshal, admonished us for our chit-chat, but rather regretted doing so as we filled him in our discussion themes, which moved from bra fit on lap one, to chafing remedies on lap two.
I also got to hear lots more about the Valley Hill running club, which was rather good. I do love my Smiley Paces, but I struggle to keep up on group runs, so am open to running with other groups too. Smileys aren’t affiliated, so lots of members do pop up in more than one running group, for a variety of reasons. They are in a slightly different part of Sheffield so have different run routes and also different club races that feature on their annual fixtures list. A whole load of them are heading off to do some multi-lap ultra next weekend. Sounds tough, endless 5k laps with a bangle on completion of each. The Manvers Dusk to Dawn, it happened for the first time in 2014, and is very much a social event. Food available, run when you like, with whoever you like. That year the winner completed a staggering twenty-two laps (71.6 Miles). Quite aside from the distance, I can’t imagine the tedium of doing that, but then again, having others about probably does motivate you, and the format is great in that you are only ever a short distance from assistance should you require it, which means you can be braver in going for ‘just one more lap.’ It was interesting hearing about new to me races, and there is clearly some cheery camaraderie in action, disguised by a continuous line of mutually abusive banter. I like that. Also, they have a chip butty run. Head turning stuff.
So it was we loped round, three tail markers (one a Smiley), a couple of Valley Hill Runners, me a Smiley and another fellow Smiley in ear shot ahead. It wasn’t a fast romp round, but it was a fun and companionable one. It was also really good haring downhill at the end on masse, our own sports day finish, into the arms of the waiting hi-viz team. Yay. Aren’t we all great. Longshaw 10k is super friendly, it’s a great introduction to off-road running and a very supportive environment to join. The views are outstanding and the running buddies awesome too. I don’t know why I’d left it so long to get back to it.
There we go, that was it. Run done. One of the benefits of a slow finish is no queue at the cafe. Fine latte and a cheese scone – which I’d swear has reduced in size since my last visit. Like Wagon Wheel biscuits, you look at them, and just know, things are not as they once was. Nevermind. It’s not like I’m going to fade away. Final chit-chat, and then farewells. A grand morning out indeed. Thank you volunteers.
So, in conclusion, I’m very happy to be back doing the Longshaw 10k. It’s great in its own right, as well as hopefully helping me on my way to the 12.12. For me that Dig Deep event will be a challenge enough I think. Others have higher goals, check out the Masochists Marathon (only $1.60 to enter, but you might die); or there’s always the Bob Graham if you want to stay closer to home, don’t get that mixed up with the Billy Graham challenge though, might get awkward. And try to remember it’s supposed to be fun, harder than you might think when you are six seconds outside the cut off of a one hundred mile, 120,000 feet, sixty hour ultra marathon. Do your research people, pick your challenge wisely. If you get it wrong you might end up broken like this at the end of your run of choice:
Whereas really you want to end up like this lot. Some lovely Valley Hill Runners post the Longshaw 10k by way of illustration. Not sure how many chip butties they have had between them over the years, but they’ve done a great deal of running. Thanks for letting me tag along with you guys, much appreciated.
And that was it. We dispersed our separate ways into the mist, until next time.
Maybe see you there? Fourth Sunday in the month at Longshaw. Be there. They put the flags out specially!
Happy running til next time. 🙂