Digested read: it was Graves junior parkrun‘s first birthday this weekend. Hurrah! Fancy dress, cake and brilliant sunshine – what’s not to like. A fine time was had by all. Apart from the llamas. They weren’t too impressed. Same time next year? Be there.
It turns out llamas don’t like unicorns. In my defence, I didn’t previously know this, otherwise I might have chosen a different companion animal to accompany me to Graves junior parkrun’s first birthday celebrations at the weekend, but some things you just don’t know about until you experience them for yourself. In my defence, most reasonable people would surely agree that is quite niche knowledge, obscure even for winning pub quiz teams, and I will take on board their feedback at future events I promise.
So, let’s start at the very beginning – a very good place to start. Sunday 19th November 2017 marked the first birthday of Graves junior parkrun, and their fiftieth run. I am really hoping by know everyone in the whole world knows about junior parkrun, but just in case you don’t, junior parkrun is basically spin-off from the original 5k parkrun phenomenon, which has now evolved as a force to be reckoned with in its own right. The website blah de blah describes it thus:
junior parkrun is a series of 2k runs for children aged between 4 and 14. They are held in areas of open space around the UK. They are open to all, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. If you are not a junior please come along to one of our weekly Saturday parkrun events instead.
Registered parkrunners do not need to register separately for the junior events. However, if you are not already registered with parkrun you can do so here.
So that’s good. It even has its own junior parkrun code. This however needs a bit more work because it doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to either the desirability of fancy dress nor the extreme abundance of hilarity at these events, and the superior cake concoctions sported by them at anniversary celebrations say. Perhaps it is to maintain the element of joyous surprise for those new to the fold? Who knows.
Personally, I originally got involved as a volunteer to ‘give something back’ to parkrun as I enjoy the Saturday 5k events, but the phenomenon we know and love isn’t sustainable unless runners step up and volunteer from time to time. Getting involved in a new, local junior parkrun seemed to me a great way to salve my conscience and volunteer without forfeiting my Saturday run. However, now I no longer give a toss about ‘giving back to anything’ I volunteer because it is a weekly fix of joyfulness that acts as an antidote to any stress or unjoyfulness which you might currently be experiencing. Thus, my volunteering is shallow self-interest with the collateral benefit of chalking up some marshaling credits along the way. There is no martyrdom required to sign up to volunteer at junior parkrun, more an unseemly scrabble to nab a spot so as not to miss the boat – though to be fair, ‘my’ junior parkrun never turns a volunteer away. It’s the perfect start to any Sunday I promise. Nothing is more hilarity inducing than an hour or so at junior parkrun, guaranteed – or your money back!*
Anyways, if there is one thing more fun than a Sunday morning at junior parkrun, it is a Sunday morning at junior parkrun on the occasion of their birthday celebrations! Specifically, last Sunday was Graves junior parkrun’s first anniversary. What a year it’s been. Although I’ve not been involved from the outset, I’ve been turning up for long enough to see it grow and flourish. A birthday party was bound to be a lot of fun. Really, a LOT.a
Naturally, there was much excitement at the prospect. Anticipation grew as the event date grew closer. Cake was promised. Fancy dress too! Strictly speaking, the fancy dress was optional, but in my world that’s ‘optional’ as in, ‘well you don’t have to, but I’ll be so grief-stricken and disappointed if you don’t make some sort of effort a little part of my heart will wilt and die forever‘ which translates as ‘really it is‘. So just to be absolutely clear, whilst the fancy dress was strictly speaking not compulsory, in my world it was. Hurrah!
The night before the run, when a reminder post went up on Facebook, eager marshals responded with enthusiastic use of emoticons and gifs by way of expressing excitement. That was so much fun, the build up was almost (only almost) as good as the celebration itself. We were reminded again of the promise of cake and encouraged to don fancy dress. The photo chosen as an ideas generator has some slightly startling components, but I’m confident most people would have got the idea.
I responded with, I felt, some lateral-thinking genius using a rainbow unicorn gif (thank you Facebook) as a subliminal clue as to my fancy dress intentions for the morning. Not the most subtle of responses, but then again, perhaps not everyone is familiar with the importance of semiotics in everyday life. Will my use of imagery be seen and understood I pondered, as I wondered if anyone had correctly interpreted this. However, the next person who did likewise put a shark gif up, which briefly raised my hopes before I forlornly lapsed into disillusion as a quick reality check indicated that clearly such a costume would be impossible. Unicorns may be thought to be fictitious creatures, but there are loads on the Round Sheffield Run, skipping along the arches of the rainbows that line the whole route – sharks on the other hand, well, they are marine creatures, and wouldn’t do well out of the water surely. Oh well. I’m sure someone will be donning fancy dress, surely not only me…
Nice gifs though..
Sorry I am too much of a cheap skate to get you a paid package that will enable the shark gif to be seen in all its glory, but you could always follow the link here and be amazed…
I barely slept on Saturday night I was so exciting. I imagine it would be like trying to get to sleep on Christmas eve if I lived in a parallel universe where I joyfully looked forward to Christmas Day.
At last, the morning dawned. Cold, very cold, but bright sunshine. I wore a ridiculous amount of clothes, but needs must, and after eyeing her for a bit and wondering if her eyes were maybe just a bit sinister, I squashed my new companion animal into the car and away I went. This was to be my unicorn’s first outing in public. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I acquired her ages ago as a possible marathon running buddy. However, even I have to concede, that whilst she may have many desirable qualities, suitability as a running outfit does not appear to be one of them. She went back into her bag, and until now, there hasn’t seemed to be the right time to take her out and about. Graves junior parkrun birthday bash though – what could be more perfect!
Hmm, I’m still not quite sure about the eyes….
Despite my apparent bravado, on arrival at Graves park I was relieved to see the RDs out and about in fancy dress along with their child labourer assistants. It set the mood. Even so, I decided to have my pre-event pee sans unicorn as don’t think this magical ethereal creature particularly needed to see the interior of the Graves park municipal toilets. Also, I have a feeling unicorns poo glitter, and I don’t want to encourage that in case it ends up in the sea. I left her in the custody of a conveniently located Pippi Longstocking, who took her unicorn chaperoning responsibilities very seriously, carefully standing over her and stroking her mane. When I returned, she asked what the unicorn was called. I had to admit she didn’t yet have a name, so I asked what would be a good choice. ‘Sophie‘ apparently. When I asked why that name, it was explained ‘because Sophie is a very good name for a unicorn‘. You can’t argue with logic like that. Thanks Pippi!
I felt much happier once Sophie was so named, we partnered up and headed off to set off the course. It was good fun. Even at 8.00 a.m. in the morning fancy dress can bring joy. As I ambled down the path I came across a little crocodile of beavers all with hi-vis jackets and toggled scarves round their necks. It seems they had come en masse to take part in the Birthday celebrations. How splendid is that. They were really excited, and so pleased to meet my unicorn too. This was getting off to a grand start!
I can’t lie though, Sophie and I didn’t meet with universal approval as we did our walk round. As I was wrestling with the twisted plastic string that we laughingly refer to as ‘tape’ to cordon off the lake area, a very unimpressed labrador approached me with real hostility, much to the embarrassment of its owner. I’m sure the dog wasn’t inclined to animosity in general, but it was mightily suspicious of Sophie. It was actually quite funny, like I’d been caught out by the fashion police for some massive infringement of rules regarding what one might legitimately wear in public. This hound was NOT pleased.
The next hostile encounter was with one of the llamas. I love llamas, alpacas too, but I have a particular soft spot for the llamas. They always look slightly horrified by human activities, and definitely give off an air of some considerable disdain even when they are really just having a good look. However, I realised quite quickly that one that looked up from eating as I approached, and then came over to the fence to have a good stare was actually outraged by our audacity in being in the vicinity of her pen. I started to approach to see what might happen, but got scared away but the head being drawn back and some noticeable pouting. I decided not to stick around to be spat at – though weirdly, and just between you and me, I was quite chuffed to have got such a strong reaction. Sophie was certainly making a stir, even if not meeting with universally uncritical acclaim! Whilst I most definitely did not set out to alarm a llama, I was pleased to have learnt this new thing about them. Llamas do not like unicorns. Who know? Or maybe they just didn’t like this one. I didn’t hang around to enquire further…
We carried on without much further incident. The pig didn’t care. It takes more than a unicorn to put this one off its stride.
By the time I got back to the starting area, loads of people had started to gather, and there was a really good vibe, lots of smileys started to appear with offspring in fabulous fancy dress or at the very least fine fettle, and you have to appreciate a Smiley. Here’s one, with their (self-described) matching rainbow puke tops. The thing is, I honestly don’t even think that descriptor is derogatory, just factually accurate. If you were to ingest a rainbow and then regurgitate it, I’m positive this is exactly the effect that would be achieved. That may even be what they do as part of the manufacturing process to achieve this stylish finish. I might google it later and see what I can find out…
Anyway, they were pleased to see Sophie, and encouraging about her debut appearance at this auspicious sporting occasion:
So it seems that although I’d been a bit worried she might seem a bit sinister, in fact nope, Sophie was a big hit. Despite the placid looking labrador growling at me during set up, and a llama building up to spit at her, reactions were mostly good. One child actually said to me (true story) and what’s more spontaneously and without any accompanying adult – ‘I just want to say to you that you are amazing because you have come to parkrun with an actual unicorn’. Maybe I should go everywhere with a unicorn in future. Whilst I may have little or no intrinsic merit, perhaps I can work round this to some extent by milking the glory by association angle of proximity to a unicorn. It is more achievable than having a personal daemon a la His Dark Materials, which is surely the apex of companion animaldomness.
Pleasingly, Sophie wasn’t even th only unicorn present. We sort of found each other out, like the fellow ethereal creatures we were. The other unicorn was on cake duty. A very important job.
Over time more and more marshals appeared, many in fine fancy dress formations, some quality effort went into outfits for the occasion. Frankly, I think the adults were just as immersed in the joys of fancy dress as their junior charges… self-evidently more so in many cases! See if you can spot the family resemblance between some of those attending.
even better, amongst the arrival of the great and good was
wait for it….
I couldn’t have been more delighted if a bare-chested Paul Sinton-Hewitt himself had rocked up astride a real unicorn of his own! (You know, like Putin is prone to doing, charging around on horseback, only marginally less ludicrous).
More accurately, a man being eaten by a shark. Hurrah. He should have just swum faster (a fact he himself acknowledged whilst leading the warm up). Great costume, though just to be clear, sharks are more at risk from us than we from them many are critically endangered, in fact. Little known one. Did you know the writer of jaws has dedicated much of his life trying to restore the reputation of sharks in the wake of his book/ film?
It was great, such a fab turn out. Most regular volunteers had turned out, along with the core run director team, and as for the juniors, they rocked up in great, joyous hoards. A record attendance indeed. Fab.U.Lous!
Another happy surprise was spotting Regal Smiley and family en masse. This was despite her having done a pre-dawn run earlier. I’m not proud to admit that when I’d seen her post her intention to go and run 10,000 miles and then run 10,000 more at 6.30 in the morning with a fellow Smiley buddy DESPITE having previously given me her personal assurance that she’d not miss the Graves junior birthday bash for the world, I thought dark resentful thoughts. Anticipating being stood up, my first instinct was to indulge my passive aggressive tendencies with a carefully crafted Facebook message along the lines of ‘hope you have a lovely run I’m sure it will be charming and just as much fun as a birthday party and well worth standing up your so-called friends/Smiley compatriots for and you won’t be (made to) regret your choice for all eternity at all.’ Mercifully, lack of internet access rather than self-control prevented me from commenting. She only did BOTH the early morning run AND made it to the party. Impressive. Thank goodness she’ll never get to know about my shallow bitterly judgemental assumptions, I couldn’t bear for them to end up in the public domain! That was a near miss indeed and no mistake!
Mingling was fun, so many awesome people to meet and greet! Bullseye too! Love Bullseye. Love junior parkrun!
It was a busy morning, as I still had to go and check out the under the gazebo action.
Oh. My. God
Best cake ever. It comprised a model of graves park, including such details as the lakes (granted, not easy to miss) and not only some of the animals from the park, but also an aerial view of the finish funnel, complete with the Graves junior parkrun idiosyncracies of arrow shaped entrance (keeps adults from crowding the finish) Genius. Also, HUGE. Be amazed dear reader, be amazed.
After much mandatory milling about, eventually we were mustered to gather together for the pre-event briefing
The briefing was noisy – partly due to extra numbers, including a lot of first timers but also noisy due to general excitement levels. Super heroes whizzed among us, and tutus bobbed up and down and donkies mingled with Frankenstein’s monster. It was fun. Fancy dress is always fun. Don’t let anyone ever persuade you otherwise. There was much thanks to milestone volunteers and celebration of juniors reaching their marathon and half-marathon wrist band goals. All good, much cheering and clapping.
There was indeed a record turn out of runners and volunteers, which helped fuel a great party atmosphere. To be fair, there always is a great atmosphere at junior parkrun, but this was a high even higher than usual, I promise!
There was even a game and enthusiastic rendition of ‘Happy Birthday‘ though I have to be honest, there may have been a slight scanning issue with the ‘happy birthday dear…. graves juuuuuuuuuuu-nior’ versus ‘dear graves junior parkrun’ which was a bit of a mouthful, but all very much in the spirit of self-conscious communal singing I feel. It would hardly have been a birthday party without all of that.
Then, quick about turn, and everyone was soon into position and whisked up into a frenzy of physical activity for the mandatory group warm up… The warm up was possibly the best ever, not only for the inherent hilarity of watching a person being eaten by a shark lead it, but for surprise addition of a music tape accompaniment AND the inclusion of a freestyle dancing section. Genius. Also, lest we forget, the old ones are indeed always the best, so good when we did our ‘bottom kicking’ exercise, squeezed between the fast feet and the high knees, it was grand to be reminded that you were only allowed to kick your own bottom for the purposes of this exercise, however great the temptation to go off piste… Some tellers just own their material – no-one else could ever do it justice! All engaged with gusto, a warm up just as warm ups should be!
From here, a count down, and then a mass migration to the start line. Anyone else got the herding cats knack? Just wondering…
Lined up for off, human cones angles taking on a new level of interest with fancy dress options in hi-vis in abundance, but it didn’t really make us any more effective as a funnel the excited young runners ignoring us as much as always.
The official photographer for the day showed new levels of courage to the point of recklessness standing in the path of the runners as the shout went up to off. I mean, photographers take their lives in their hands doing it at senior parkruns across the land, but my experience of marshaling suggests adults will on the whole take evasive action if meeting an obstacle such as a paparazzi in hi-vis. No such instinctive avoidance reaction appears to kick in at junior events. Those juniors will crash into anything. The frissance of danger as you stand in formation to create a human shield lining the start funnel of junior parkrun only adds to the sense of occassion. I’m sure that adrenalin rush contributes to the post junior parkrun euphoria most marshals seem to experience as they skip away at the end of our near death experience of a Sunday morning. I’ve survived that, I can survive anything, I am invincible! (It fades quite quickly to be fair, but it’s fun while it lasts!)
He may or may not have been trampled, only if photos appear covering the period after the immediate start appear will I know if he survived. Still, if not, I daresay it’s what he would have wanted. Isn’t that what you are supposed to say in such situations? I think so. I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted to put a damper on things on our birthday after all. (Spoiler alert, he made it. Phew. Great shots too, thanks Dougal pics🙂 )
Finally they were off, at a fair old sprint. They were even nippier than usual, no doubt hurried on their way by the prospect of cake in abundance at the end.
As they sped off, I got my job allocation for the morning. Bar code scriber. At this particular junior parkrun we write down the names and barcode numbers of any juniors who have brought along non-scanning barcodes, but also if someone doesn’t have a barcode with them we note the finish token number and record it as a no barcode/ unknown runner, as this helps with processing the results. Without wishing to go all Donald Rumsfeld on you, basically if the RD has an idea of the known unknowns there is less angst about missing places. Apparently.
I love cheering round the juniors, but it was quite challenging this week what with there being so many of them. When people have made an effort with fancy dress I always try to give them a personalised cheer ‘keep going wonder woman’ or ‘great effort donkey’ or whatever, but it was hard to keep up with so many glorious costumes resplendent in the sun. Top effort from everyone, lots of smiles today. Hurrah!
As the juniors strutted their funky stuff, whether or not trailing breathless adults in their wake, volunteer marshals moved into formation. Impressive eh?
The park looked magical, almost too bright. The event seemed to go really quickly.
There seemed to be lots of unknowns – this was a shame, particularly as many of those were first timers, especially the beavers, who had come en masse but not necessarily registered. To be fair, I was disappointed on their behalf, but none of them seemed especially bothered, then again cake is a great comforter in such circumstances, and there was indeed plenty of cake!
I can report the day had a record turn out of 188 junior participants. Pretty fine eh? Had the field exceeded 240 then the finish tokens would have run out although there was an emergency plan that could kick in! That would involve the scanners starting to handwrite the details of the final finishers. We were spared that today, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before that threshold is indeed crossed. An exciting prospect, and it would be grand to share the joy even more widely.
The run/ walk/ jog concluded by all, as always, the course disassembled as if by magic. Never was there a better manifestation of the principle that many hands make light work. Struck in and instant.
There followed a bit more lingering than usual, enticed by cake which tasted even better than it looked. I reckon the star baker must have been working on it the whole year, but apparently not, although it did take best part of a long, long day to concoct the extraordinary confectionary creation.
I met some beavers again, on the conclusion of their run. They were so excited, and all full of what they done and they’d clearly had a lovely time taking part, though some of the bounciness could possibly have been attributed to massive sugar highs I suppose. One wanted met to guess where he’d come ‘sixty-second’ I hazarded. Aiming for mid-field not wanting him to feel deflated if I was too far out. Wrong. In fact he was first, but out of the beavers. He seemed to have memorised where every one of them had come in relation to one another which was pretty spectacular to be fair! I congratulated him because that is indeed great, but it’s also great to participate wherever you come in the line up I reminded him. He didn’t believe me. Fair enough, you have to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way. I might seek but to complete events, he was clearly out to compete!
As people started to disperse, a random dog appeared and kept sneaking cake bits from table. A few minutes later a mortified owner rushed over apologetically, explaining he will always beeline for a gazebo associating them with food from camping trips. As she explained this the dog espied a jolly hat and set about savaging it and galloping away with it being ripped about in its jaws. It was too funny to mind about, reminiscent of the infamous Fenton/ Benton ill-disciplined dog in Richmond park video for them as you as can recall that epic viral display of dog-owning mortification. Order was restored eventually, but not sure the hat made it, hope Santa has a spare. If not, no worries, there’s probably still time for his elves to rustle up a new one. Just as well!
It was all good-humoured, and I think it’s fair to say a grand and glorious time was had by all. However, all good things, and eventually party-goers and parkrunners alike dispersed our different ways. However, Graves Junior parkrun had indeed offered up a fine morning of celebrations. We couldn’t have asked for more. Even the weather gods were kind to us. What a great climax to an awesome parkrun year!
And so we all vanished again, into the wintry mist. Job done.
Happy Birthday to us!
More proof, if proof were needed of how the parkrun spirit extends to celebrating in style. Graves junior parkrun’s birthday bash was executed with considerable aplomb. That’s the fiftieth run. parkrun/walk/jog/marshalers are good at pop up parties it seems. If further evidence is needed, check out this Red Arrow display on the occasion of a Bushy parkrun runners 500th run, that’s pretty impressive as a way to mark the acquisition of a milestone tee…
even so, I feel confident Graves Junior parkrun has done a fine job of flaunting its partying potential, Red Arrows are impressive certainly, but Graves has more llamas, and unicorns too apparently, so we can respect and rejoice in the right of each parkrun to celebrate their own milestones in their own ways. Agreed?
Good oh. So now just party on and let us eat cake!
Nom nom nom nom nom.
So, same again same time, same place next year? Also every Sunday in-between. Just so you don’t miss out! See you there. 🙂
For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.
*did I mention that all parkrun events are free to participate in, just #dfyb don’t forget to bring along your printed barcode if you’d like to know your time.