Digested read: Olympians were everywhere at parkruns across the country today. We maxed out on our luck gaining Max Litchfield for the day. I did finish token volunteering duty as half a Smiley double act. We were awesome. I have an idea for the re-education of Funnel Duckers, but it may not be entirely ethical. It was a nice day, and you want to know the best bit? We can do it all again next saturday! Yay!
The forecast for today was sunshine and showers, you know what that means? Well, pessimists might say it means you get wet, optimists may say it means the sun smiles on you and I say, ‘look a rainbow!’ Always a grand start to the day, even if it did mean my sunglasses got wet.
Today Olympians were promised to make an appearance at parkruns everywhere. The identity of these demigods and the locations at which they’d be turning up was kept under wraps until the last-minute. The plan was they’d be tail walkers at events as part of a campaign to get across the message that parkrun is indeed for everyone and no-one gets left behind. So it was the night before Sheffield Hallam parkrun Facebook page did a bit reveal and announced we would be joined by Max!
Max to dip his toe in the parkrun
Very exciting news on this parkrun eve! We are proud to announce that this weekend, parkrun has teamed up with UK Sport and c.100 National Lottery funded Olympic and Paralympic Athletes will be attending parkruns across the country to help volunteer as part of #teamparkrun.
We are very pleased to welcome Max Litchfield tomorrow, who swam for Great Britain in the 2016 Olympics and for England in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. 🏊 Max will be tail walking. Hope you’ve got your barcode Max! #dfyb.
Fortunately, they took the precaution of providing a link to save us all having to google who he was. That is not in any way to take away from his achievements, but I think it’s fair to say he isn’t quite as high-profile as Jessica Ennis or Mo Farah say – though his support is/was more than welcome all the same.
Because of my big Dig Deep 12.12 adventure the following day, I elected to volunteer at parkrun today. It’s no great hardship, volunteering is a hoot. You can still get an adrenalin high and loads of mini-adventures, plus credits to your 25 Volunteer tee, and not be made to run 5k. Result. To be honest, I’ve often had my services declined as a volunteer at Hallam parkrun, but this time I got my request in early as I knew I wouldn’t want to run today ages ago. It did worry me a bit as I walking down when it dawned on me just how pleased and relieved I was that I didn’t have to run today given that I will have to run over 12 miles tomorrow. Oh well, tomorrow is another day, maybe adrenalin will kick in and I’ll be unexpectedly turbo charged?
It was a beautiful morning, though it rained a lot later (poor ultra runners were getting a soaking early on in their 30, 50 and 60 mile Peak District Dig Deep epic races). As I sauntered to the start, I saw a little huddle of hoodies, behind the bins, and bent over something. Closer inspection revealed each deep in concentration, with a little pile of tokens in front of them. Each protectively nursed and tended their respective heap, occasionally a hand would shoot out and there’d be a brief wrestle for custody of one particular token, then the clattering of counted out bits of plastic continued. They worked in a furious silence.
I wondered what they could be doing? Trading Pokemon cards perhaps – but that would be rather late for such a craze to suddenly arrive at parkrun. It seemed altogether more likely that it was some high-stakes strange token gambling ring led by the snakehead or mafia gangs of Rustlings Road. Honestly, I was not previously aware of any such triads of that nature operating in the area, but then again these things always lurk in the hidden shadows of society do they not. Whatever it was, it was a reckoning not to be interfered with. The die was cast, the game was on, it would have to play out to its inevitable conclusion without outside intervention.
I was actually a bit disappointed when I found out it was just that the tokens from last week’s parkrun never got sorted, so there was an emergency sifting system set in place this morning. They did good. I was mightily relieved they did so with such focus and aplomb, as I was on token duty, with an elegant Smiley elder side-kick on finish token support. I knew we’d be a dream team with our combined expertise, and although maybe eyesight wasn’t our forte, I’d got my glasses with me so we’d probably be able to muddle through.
The next item on the agenda was to check out our olympian. Yesterday at the Dig Deep talks I’d tried to remember who he was. I got the name right and said it was water related. The others around me reckoned on a diver. I thought about this for a bit, and then remembered reading something about him excelling at the 200 and 400 metre distances. Probably not a diver then? I mean even tombstoning adrenalin junkies would draw the line at a 400 metre drop – wouldn’t they?
He is/was indeed a swimmer, a friendly one, and a tall one. Going by the name of Max Litchfield and made easier to identify by handy dint of wearing a GB outfit and pink hi-viz combo. At the start we noticed various people asking for autographs not so much from him, as from someone standing nearby who he’d come with. I didn’t know who that was either. I wondered if we should start a queue to get autographs from each other, and see who we could dupe into thinking maybe we were the day’s Olympians, though granted people might struggle to guess what my olympic sport of choice might be. Joking apart, we had a fine Olympian, he was very smiley, and did a sterling job at loping along and being photographed a lot, which is admirable. It takes enormous dedication to excel in swimming, I hope his efforts are rewarded. He must be good enough that he can probably do front crawl without swallowing water, and I bet he can pick a brick up from the bottom of the pool wearing his pyjamas too, so respect. I never got beyond a one width badge myself, and even that never got sewn onto my bathing suit. On the other hand, I do float brilliantly. Actually, if there was an endurance ‘bobbing around like a cork’ olympic event I’d definitely win that. See, we do all have a unique skill set, it’s just a question of experimentation and exploration to find out for yourself just what that niche is. I claim the sport of endurance cork-bobbing for my own! You heard it here first!
So the press corp was there, the Olympian in evidence and the hi viz heroes assembled. It was looking good. I like the coming together at the start of parkrun, it seems to happen as if we are drawn to the focal point of the starting flag by some invisible force. What did we all used to do on a Saturday morning? I just can’t remember any more, I really can’t. My pre parkrun life seems like a bad dream. I shudder at the very thought.
Whilst I was staring at our very own olympian and posing for photos, the more spatially aware members of the volunteer team started to create a maze of red and white tape and lightweight poles to act as the four lane finish tunnel. It was a work of art… which unfortunately periodically blew over as the wind tossed up the lightweight posts. This prompted a whirlwind of leaping hi – viz marshals into action, they ran around constantly trying to re-erect it in epic display of hope over experience. Tenacious lot parkrun volunteers you know.
Eventually 9.00 approached and there was the pre-run briefing, applause for milestones, volunteers and a welcome to our tail-walking olympian
then 3, 2, 1, GO! It was like the Wizard of Oz film, only with tarmac paths instead of a yellow brick road as we started in black and white and then evolved into Technicolor! A.Maz.Ing. Well, not really, but it’s still a cool bit of photo editing by our hero snapper for the day don’t you agree?
As we had a few minutes before the fastees came hurtling round me and some of the other volunteers lined the path and had fun watching the runners hare round. As we were standing near play area, it was also entertaining watching runners various disrobe and hurl their unwanted kit onto the railings around the swings as they sped by. It was like a drive-by strip show or something. Personally I wouldn’t have the body confidence, or indeed contortional dexterity to remove my top whilst running but for those who can why not? One guy was (I presume) doing drills mid parkrun, running with an exaggerated style, high knees, then fast feet for a bit, that was fine, not sure it was quite so in line with parkrun etiquette to do a bit of zig zagging along the route to work those lateral – well lateral whatever muscles it would work by dodging sideways – I should have concentrated more at woodrun when we are building up to our grapevine drills I’m sure it’s been explained. The double buggy runner was pretty impressive, but then again, so was everyone. Runners are awesome, all of us, in all ways. See them unfold before you in all their glory. Look out for the jazz hands; the jiving jogger; the happy couple; the joy of running photo pose; the ‘aw’ shots; the vi runner and guide and the unorthodox interpretation of the canine assisted run. Enjoy:
Suddenly, a cry went up and the front runner who was actually from Front Runner was coming into view. We all leapt to our stations and were on our marks at the finish. Last minute conferring on our technique and go! We were indeed running like a well-oiled machine. As finish token dispenser I had the privilege of handing out the tokens to each runner in turn, which is the only occasion in which I get to legitimately hold the No One finish position bar code. A great honour indeed. Meanwhile, the tokens were handed to me in hand-size batches with a ‘right way up?’ ‘Check’ exchange in piles of about 30. I think we worked pretty well. It could be that a learning point for myself is that I’ve spent too long at junior parkrun and maybe those guys who’ve just done a 15 minute 5k or whatever don’t really need me to say ‘jolly well done!’ or ‘great running’ as they come into the finish funnel. Still it’s the thought that counts, and the first finishers are too knackered to speak anyway, so you can say what you want without challenge.
Another observation from this role is that you do get exposed to an alarming quantity of bodily secretions. I mean, I’m talking a lot of snot. I couldn’t believe how much mucus was discharged and on show as the hard-core runners come through. I must say, this is less of an issue at junior parkrun. It made me appreciate that for some the perfection of a well-aimed snot rocket is perhaps a legitimate part of their training. I wouldn’t say it bothered me all that much, but I probably was less up for random high fives in the finish funnel than I would be at Graves Junior parkrun say. Then again generally speaking, less physical contact with adult runners was expected. At junior parkrun I dispense high fives in the finish funnel with uncensored abandon, but the first finishers at this 5k Sheffield Hallam parkrun didn’t look like they had the resources left for completing the walk through the funnel let alone returning any high fives. Shame.
One weird thing though, was how many people stopped to ask me questions even though I was clearly in the middle of frantically handing out the tokens and trying to keep the line moving. One guy even appeared behind me, not from the funnel, and started demanding a token, as ‘I need one too’. Not sure what had happened there, funnel ducker maybe? See what anomalies turn up in the results later on today…. I don’t mind particularly that people do these things, well I do mind about funnel ducking but presume it was a first timer who just didn’t know – but it is an interesting example of the post-run fug perhaps. People just not really thinking or able to process ideas properly at that moment just after you’ve given your all and then suddenly stop. Some didn’t want their tokens so I ended up with a little collection in my pocket, including one a runner returned having accidentally taken it home last week. Thumbs up to them. All of these tokens I nearly went home with, oops. That would have been an epic volunteering fail if I hadn’t realised in time!
It goes quickly doing finish tokens, there’s a bit rush in the middle, and then the field emptied out again. We were all looking out for our olympian tail. He actually came in all smiles, having run in encouraging a woman not quite at the back. A false bottom if you will. Like the sort you have in executive briefcases when you want to smuggle plans out of the country and are in some sort of spy thriller except not. A cheer went up for our game olympian and his companion as they crossed the line. Yay.
The stopwatch was stopped, and then there was minor consternation as it was realised the actual tailwalker was still out on the course. Oh well, all back on stations, the stop watch was restarted, and although maybe their finish times would have been fractionally out, the crisis was averted. Finish take two, cheers, and all home.
The final finishers were a family affair, which was most pleasing. Gotta love parkrun!
So the clear up team dissambled the funnel and folded hi-viz jackets. We returned unused tokens to the Run Director and that was it all done.
Apart from this. Funnel Duckers. Serendipity meant that the Soak a Scientist contingency were out in force in the park today. They were fundraising for MND (motor neurone disease) and gamely out there in less than clement weather with cake aplenty and lab coated scientists ready to be drenched. Now just a thought, but could this be a possible way forward in terms of re-education to help reform and realign habitual funnel duckers by using this as a correctional technique. There seemed to be volunteers enough to implement this so, there you go. I got some shots as my fellow parkrunners had a quick practise, what do you think? Could be a goer? And a nifty little fundraiser to boot. What’s not to like?
So the conclusion is yep, we maxed out on the fun, and fun was had by all, so much so it was probably viral on twitter by lunch time, but I’m not on twitter so I wouldn’t know. Thanks for the coming and tweeting Max Litchfield you clearly not only know your swimming game, but more importantly from my point of view, have completely nailed the group selfie. My we are collectively gorgeous are we not?
Happy days at Hallam eh?
Same time and place next week?
Happy yomping times ’til then. 🙂
For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.
For Sheffield Hallam parkrun seventh birthday post see here.
For all Sheffield Hallam parkrun posts see here scroll down for older entries.