Monthly Archives: January 2018

Up’n’at it at Attercliffe Alphabet soup run. Dragonflies are ready to go!

Digested read: wow, the Smiletastic challenge for February was a bit daunting.  Run a street for every letter in the alphabet, seriously?  Guess what, what seems impossible as an individual is achieveable as part of a team.  Go Smilies in general and Smiletastic dragonfly Smilies in particular. We’ve got this.  Run planned, just need to execute now. Eeeeezeee.  🙂

Did you know that the Air Guitar World Championships take place each year in Oulu, Finland?   Me neither to be fair, until recently.  But some things, once you know, can never be unknown.  On my bucket list now, just saying. The rules are here – I love that your air guitar can be either electric or acoustic. Very inclusive.

The thing is, whilst not disputing that an Air Guitar World Championships would be über cool, even if it wasn’t set in the super cool location of Finland, we do have some pretty cool contests happening here in Sheffield.  I speak dear reader, of course, of Smiletastic 2018.  Our Smiley Paces Running Club winter challenge, to keep us Sheffield women up and running in the cold and dark.   This is for the most part good, but can be stressful, as some challenges require not only the inclination and ability to run about, but also initiative, team work and creativity.  Fortunately, you don’t have to find all the skills within yourself, you can parasitise harness the skills of fellow team mates.  Thus, we achieve more collectively than might be possible for us as individuals. Such is the nature of teamwork, and the awesome power of the collective endeavour of any  group of motivated Smilies.  Together we are invincible.  Eventually.  Took a while though.

So it was, the new month of February, brought with it a new challenge.  Expressed as follows:

 

2. Team Challenge: By Midnight Sunday February 25th the team who has incorporated
streets/roads/lanes/tracks in Sheffield which start with different letters of the alphabet into the shortest number of runs will earn the most points. Here’s a website to help your planning. https://www.proviser.com/regional/towns/sheffield/street_maps
(there’s no X, but I’m sure that’s no barrier to your imagination!)
• A team’s submission can be made up from a number of runs from different people or you can delegate planners and runners.
• The distance of each run can be as long or as short as you want, but each one must be continuous – ie. You can’t run along a road starting with “B”, then pause your watch, drive to another area and unpause your watch to run along a road stating with “H”. That should be uploaded as TWO separate runs not ONE. However, if there’s a tie, then the team who did it in the shortest total distance will win.
• The team’s submission should come to me from ONE PERSON in a table form as shown in the
example (obviously, you’ll need more rows than this…. or will you?)
• I’m not going to check every street or even every run – again its up to your honesty.
As the month progresses you’ll be able to refine your first “full-house” and focus your team’s runs to “collect” letters. Please don’t submit your team’s result too soon – there are no prizes for the first. If you want me to check anything, then feel free to send it to me to ask questions.
Example:

table
etc… until you’ve “bagged” every letter
Happy Running!
Smiley Elder

(She doesn’t actually sign herself off like this, as ‘Smiley Elder’, but I think she should, so editorial licence here).

So that was the requirement.  I wasn’t overly enamoured with this.  Too hard, impossible even.  I could have wept.  Fortunately, very fortunately indeed, it wasn’t all down to me.  Rather there was a mighty swoosh of dragonfly wings, and by mutual consent, we agreed to collective action and collective responsibility.  As will all such calls for action, we would commence with a planning meeting. We would do this in an evening so we could multi-task and segment bag an after 9.00 a.m run at the same time.  We were on fire, we would be invincible, we were so on this, see us visualise and so achieve our own glorious success.

Well, something like that.  It was nippy, but we did gather.  It was very jolly to meet up with fellow Dragonfly team mates, but it is just possible, that our gathering together led to an element of colluding with mutual inaction in relation to go out in the cold and dark to bag a segment for example, rather than motivating us to act.  The problem was partly due to our host’s extreme hospitality.  I mean answer honestly – which would you rather do, stay inside drinking tea and gorging on giant chocolate buttons or venture out in the icy darkness and try to find a golden segment.  I mean golden segment bagging is all well and good, but the novelty does wear off.  We Smilies may love to run, but we are also mortal. Well most of us, quite clearly the ultra runners and GB triathletes, Smiley founders and Smiley elders are all basically deities in human form, speaking personally though, I am definitely mortal.   It is my job to make others look fabulous by comparison, I undertake this task quite brilliantly, if I say so myself. I’m not sure if that is quite the strategy this motivational quote is advocating, but I say, just do what works for you and yours.

be somebody

So where was I?  Oh yes, at our planning meeting which was cold and where we were not very good at motivating one another to go out segment bagging, but extremely good at eating giant chocolate buttons instead.  That, and planning fancy dress, which to be fair is very distracting, particularly when there are so many genius ideas, individually and collectively to be explored.  Mermaid leggings are a boon are they not?  How have I lived my whole life through to this point, that’s over half a century of possibilities, and not known of even the existence of these splendid clothing options?  I say ‘lived’ my whole life, but until now I had no idea what I was missing out on, now I realise I have just been barely existing, hanging on to the edges of life, moving through hours, days, weeks and years as if living in black and white.  A two-dimensional twilight world where mermaid leggings had never appeared in my frame of reference. Yet here we were, gathered in a Sheffield home gazing in admiration at this amazon acquisition made by one of our number.  We were in awe!  These were game changers.  I was seeing in 3d for the first time.  Oh brave new world that has such wonders in it.

mermaid leggings

Granted, only a doll could actually fit into them, or a particularly skinny pre-pubescent child, but even so.  Having said that, it disturbs me somewhat that infinitesimally sized metallic leggings are described as ‘sexy’.  That feels very wrong suggesting that the writer of the strap line could look at an underweight child wearing cheap see-through metallic fish scaled tights and objectify them in such terms.  Still, ignoring that, and focusing instead on the self-serving ‘oh my gawd, they are completely brilliant, let;s all splash out and buy two pairs each and wrap them round stretched out coat hangers to make dragon-fly wings‘ they were potentially absolutely fabulous purchases.  This is what eBay and Amazon were made for!  Supplying consumer items you didn’t realise you wanted, but now you know they are out there, it’s not so much a ‘want’ any more, but an actual raw raging desire. Mermaid leggings are no longer trivial fluffy take-it-or-leave-it flotsam, they have transitioned into purchases that are essential not only for mental health, but for the very continuation of life.  If we do not acquire these in bulk, with immediate effect, we will not be able to breath…

Then again, I’ve still not given up on the plan for sparkly tights and reused plastic cups to make the abdomen as an alternative fancy dress option. We still have work to do. We are working towards excellence though, for sure.  Cling film and coat hangers are always a boon too, lots of potential there.

dragonfly fancy dress sorted

So as you can imagine, despite convening at the agreed hour, it took quite a while to excitedly exchange fancy dress ideas and eat our way through the assorted snacking options.  Ultimately though, we did have to turn our hive brain to the task in hand.   This alphabet run, what are we going to do to ‘make it so’?

I had no idea.  I was feeling quite negatively inclined towards it, I’d imagined it would require trial and error, go out and bagsy as many street names as you could within our local vicinity and then add in the missing street names to fill the gaps.  In the circumstances, it was extremely fortuitous that the success or otherwise of this task did not stand or fall by dint of my efforts.  Even more fortuitously, it seems we had at least one smart, funny, creative and logical thinker in our midst.  Turns out, rather than doing the whole trial and error thing until you lost the will to live, there is a better way!  Who knew?

All you have to do, is first located the street names that begin with letters t;hat occur really infrequently, like Z say, and then look for routes near that. This took us to Zion Street, in Attercliffe, which is the single road name within Sheffield that begins with Z.  Then it was a simple matter of picking off roads in the same postcode area by simply using the street names index in our A-Zs.  It took a while, but amazingly, we found pretty much all of them. There are no streets beginning with X, but we thought maybe a trip to the cemetery would help us bagsy a cross and that would do it.  Hurrah.  In the end (spoiler alert) when we actually went out and did our alphabet run for real, we plumped for a different genius option, but that was later this was now.

I was hampered in contributing in any meaningful way to  this exercise by poor eyesight, poor initiative and, despite having had the foresight to bring along a Sheffield A-Z with me to the meeting, I spent quite a bit longer inadvertently staring at completely the wrong page  than I could reasonable explain away as a deliberate attempt at self-deprecating humour.  Once exposed as being this clueless, I subsequently limited myself to nodding earnestly at other people’s suggestions, and thrusting my A-Z under the noses of other runners with more seeing eyes. Well, sometimes it’s in the interests of the greater good to accept your limitations and instead bolster the efforts of others with more appropriate skills sets for the tasks in hand.  This is what I like to tell myself anyway.  I’m still working towards identifying and unlocking my unique skills set.  I’m really hoping I’m a late developer, and I didn’t really peak when I made that very fine caterpillar out of egg boxes in nursery when I was about three.  It was a very good caterpillar though.  Shame it fell down the back of the old Victorian radiator it had been left on to dry, impossible to retrieve, and never again to see the light of day.  I wonder if it might still be there?  Maybe future generations will some day find it, and think it was deliberately preserved because it was such a delightful and precious artefact?  If that was the pinnacle of my achievements in life, it would be quite a comfort to think that might be so.

Ironic really, I thought dragonflies had really good eyesight.  Not me though.

the eyes have it

Astonishingly, once we were focused on the task and agreed strategy, we had a list of the entire alphabet (apart from the non eXistent X) nailed!  Hurrah!  Gawd we are an awesome team!  Here are some of our workings, in case the point scoring system for Smiletastic requires this in the event of a tie. You know, like in maths exams, where you get credit for how you approach the problem even if you decimal point is a few places out at the end.  I think that’s why CEOs of major companies like BHS or Carillion or Barings Bank  get mighty payoffs despite bankrupting their businesses and running off with pension funds as long as they are able to wave some paperwork showing they were honestly trying and not at all just asset stripping and lining their own pockets as quickly as possible before doing a runner.  How otherwise did they pass their audits?  Quite.

road list

So there was an initial warm glow of enthusiasm and relief that we had our target road names in our sights, and then there was the realisation this somehow had to be converted into a runnable route.  Uh oh.  That seemed impossible all over again….  honestly (yes, I’m sorry team, I should have had more faith in our collective wisdom) I’d expected some awkward shuffling about and people avoiding eye contact, fearful that the slightest twitch might imply we’d volunteered to take on the task.  However, in fact one of our number just stepped up, immediately, with a can-do attitude and superhero cape.  Amazing.  Smilies are extraordinary.  I’d give a bonus point for that myself.

And you know what, she did exactly that, harnessing the services of bespoke technology to communicate the route intentions to us all.  Fair genius all of this.  It’s like a parallel wonderland, I had no idea you could do this. ‘You’ being the operative word, I’m still not quite sure I could, but then again, I didn’t need to, that task had been effectively outsourced, and here is the result.  Amazing.  plotaroute attercliffe alphabet run

plot a route alphabet

There remained however just one teensy issue.  Ophidiophobia.  I know, easy to say.  The thing is, none of us knew at the point of route plotting (or if they did, they weren’t letting on)  but there is a snake shop along the way.  I find this hilarious, but I’m not in the ophidiophobic category, which in some ways is a shame as it’s the most brilliant word I’ve come across in ages and ages.    On the contrary, I do positively like snakes.  I have seen some amazing ones in my time, from adders in Northumberland to snakes in Africa.  I like warthogs more though. They are the best animals in the world.  FACT.

The shop in question has an unambiguous name, so generally should be easy to avoid. However, not it seems,  if you are doing a scheduled Smiletastic alphabet run, we would be running on by.  Never mind, we dragonflies would protect our ophidiophobic comrade.  You can’t say fairer than that.  We would help her to feel the fear and do it anyway.

the snake shop attercliffe

Afterwards she would feel invincible, we would share high fives, there would probably be a group hug and everything, it would be fine and dandy.  We are so awesome.  All of us.

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As an added boon, our run would start at a running shop. Accelerate being a good location to meet up.  Unfortunately, we were going to meet on a Sunday, so we’d have to satisfy our lust for running gear by salivating on the window pane as our noses pressed up against the windows of the closed shop front.  Never mind.  There will be other days and other opportunities to splash the cash at our running shop second home.

Best of all, in a fit of synchronicity, we had near unanimous agreement to undertake the run.  All for one and one for all – well near as dammit.  We’d set about this run in two turnouts on consecutive Sundays.  We might even get a whole team turn out.  Surely, if there was any justice in the world (which alas there isn’t, see reference to CEO payouts above) we’d get heaps and heaps of Smiletastic points.

This would be greater even than The Poem.  The Poem, penned by one of our very own, in tribute to the Hill of Doom Golden Segment run, which Smiley Elder herself decreed to be – and I quote:

one of the best ever poems connecting running the Hill of Doom and Valentines Day

and we all know there are a great many poems on exactly that theme, I myself have an old compendium lurking that gathers together the many words poured out on the topic.

generate

I’ve only got the paper back, not the leather bound, gold embossed collectors’ edition.  I’m sure there will be a rush to print a new edition now, as soon as word of this new verse gets out.  In the interim here is a sneak preview, copyright of the author of course.

Hill of Doom?
Valiant and virtuous, we step out in the night
Arms feeling chilly in the waning moonlight
Legs moving slowly, then gaining speed
Energy rising at the thought of our deed
Nothing can stop us as we pound up the hill
Time becomes trivial, just driven by will
Injured ones resting, weight off their toes
Nurture recovery, no worries or woes
Elated and joyful as the end becomes near
Sophie and I, yes, we’re full of good cheer

Dragonflies, effortless, passed darkened trees
Along flightpaths of grasshoppers, ladybirds, bees
You never know what you might see, it is said
Segment uploaded, now get home to bed!

As she’s a dragonfly to the core, I expect she’ll end up using this as her author photo, isn’t she fabulous people?  Fabulous and awesome.

dragonfly to the core

Oh hang on, have I gone off topic?  I’m so sorry, I really don’t think that’s ever happened before, I just thought you might be interested.  And the hill of doom is quite steep.  You know what, in for a penny, we are on a detour anyway, so why not go the whole hog and let you see the Strava, then you can enjoy an interactive poetry experience, go run it yourself, and recite the poem in the great outdoors once you get to the highest point.

golden segment

You’re welcome.  After all, why should we smilies have the monopoly on Sheffield running joy?

I’m done now though, we had our plan for the alphabet run, we abandoned our late run plans, but you know what, what we achieved collectively was pretty epic.  We had a plan, just the little question of implementing it, but I had faith. What seemed to me impossible as an individual, was within grasp by dint of my amazing team mates.  Hurrah!  Team work is a wondrous thing.

We so have this!

Read about how we got on when we were up and at it in Attercliffe for real here

Read about all our Smiletastic adventures here – scroll down for older entries.

Or just don’t eat buns and watch telly instead, all are viable options.

Where are your running adventures going to take you?  Hope you have a team to watch your back, and I especially hope you have a penchant for collective fancy dress, everything running related is extra fun where that is concerned.  Ask a ladybird.  They can’t help themselves, they really can’t.

ladybird smilies cant help themselves

Just saying.

 

Categories: motivation, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Healing Botanicals – communal golden segment bagging by team dragonfly for Smiletastic 2018

Digested read: we dragonflies met, we ran a golden segment in the Sheffield botanical gardens together as stipulated by our running club’s Smiletastic challenge, we departed, but not before we’d taken some photos.

botanical dragonflies meaning

So that’s good to know. We, the Dragonfly Smiletastic team is pretty awesome if you believe everything that comes up in a Google search, which for the purposes of this blog post I most definitely do.  Whether or not other users of the Sheffield Botanical Gardens fully appreciated that witnessing us bagging a Smiletastic golden segment this lunchtime was an opportunity for them to move closer to self-realisation, and greater emotional and mental maturity that might bring an understanding of the meaning of life within their grasp I’m not sure.  To be honest, I’d go so far as to say I’m actually dubious.  I guess we running dragonflies were as pearls cast before swine.   We were a lovely sight to behold all the same don’t you think?

Botanical gardens dragonflies fly past

Not to worry, their loss.  Anyway, the actual meaning of life is now widely accepted as being 42, so perhaps they didn’t feel any need to engage with our running exploits. It’s a thought?

meaning of life is 42

The point is,  Elder Smiley stipulated that the Golden Segment to be run this week, was located in the Sheffield Botanical gardens, and because we Dragonflies are a social and supportive lot, those of us that were able to do so, congregated outside the Pavilion Glasshouse to run it together this Friday lunchtime.   This also involved quite a lot of companionable and nurturing chit-chat, and was followed up with a bit of a walk. But that’s OK, because walks are not only an acceptable strategy within the rules of Smiletastic, making it compatible with taking a buggy out with you, but walking is also highly recommended not just for marathon training purposes, but for actual marathon running,  so everyone’s a winner.  Hurrah!

So here we are assembling and being lovely and photogenic:

botanical gardens dragonflies

The Smiley youth movement rep wasn’t entirely feeling the love.

And here are some of us actually running it:

Which just goes to show that all:

Dragonfly

Runners

Are

Glorious.

Out

Nabbing

Fabulous

Little

Individual

Elusive

Segments

as companionably as they can. And this is where/ what we ran.  Only a short one, but by the time I’d run down and back and rambled through the Botanical Gardens it ended up being 5 miles.  Who knew?

botanical gardens segment and constitutional

The segment was the blue bit by the way, from the Pavilion, down, round the fountain at the bottom and back up to the top. Great place for doing hill reps…. in theory.  We didn’t entirely feel a need to check it out in practice.

That’s all.

Be seeing you.

Timitalia_-_dragonfly_(by)

😉

 

 

 

 

Categories: running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Snow fun or it’s no fun? You decide. Nine after nine Dragonflies as the Smiletastic contest continues in the snow.

Digested Read:  nippy out, but we nine dragonflies nabbed after nine Smiletastic points.  I nearly got hypothermia and died out on them there hills, but that was but a small price to pay in the name of snow art.  Smiley solidarity saw me through.

Oh my life.  That was unpleasant.  Smiletastic has a lot to answer for.  I was practically hypothermic by the time I got home from my run last night, but needs must when the call goes out from team dragonflies. One for all, and all for one. Ours is not to reason why, it might be dark and snowing and treacherous out there, but type 2 fun is still fun after all… of a sort.

In case you are exceptionally slow on the uptake and haven’t grasped what was going on here, once again, me and some fellow Smiley Paces buddies were on Golden Segment banging duties.  The blah de blah for this in brief, is that basically, Smiletastic is a three-month team-based challenge amongst fellow members of the Smiley Paces Women’s Running Club. Smiley Elder, founder of the initiative, summarises it most succinctly as follows: ‘SMILETASTIC is a motivational challenge to help runners to keep up their running targets throughout the winter months.’ Alongside committing to doing so many runs a week, bonus points can be nabbed by entering into the Smiletastic spirit, running before 7.00 a.m. and after 9.00 p.m. at night, and also, as in this case,  for running specified Strava sections, known as ‘golden segments’ which, to be fair, makes it sound like nabbing them should be way more fun than it actually is.  There are a number of team, but I’m a dragonfly, so that’s the most important one and you don’t need to worry about those bees, grasshoppers and erm, can’t even remember the other team – oh yes ladybirds.  Those other insects are of no consequence in this context.  Generally speaking though, insects are massively important to the world’s ecosystem and should be nurtured not swatted away.

We are in week three of the Smiletastic challenge, and after we dragonflies stormed ahead in week one we were knocked into second place in week two.  Whilst we do all claim to be non competitive, nevertheless we clearly can be goaded into collective action.  Case in point.  The weather this week has been horrendous.  I mean, seriously vile.  Whilst pristine snow glittering under a starlit sky might be appealing to run in, here we have had driving bullet like blizzards and lethal slush and ice in abundance.  Being intrepid is all very well, but in honesty, were it not for the impetus of my Smiletastic team buddies I’d favour staying in and working on perfecting the art of embracing an absolute rest day, – which is actually a recognised and important yet often neglected part of any decent training programme –  rather than venturing out anywhere possibly never to return…

The ‘Golden Segment’ was announced. When it went up it sounded innocuous enough, appealing even, but that was last week when the weather was altogether more clement and less life-threatening. Smiley Elder cheerily posted:

The Golden Segment for the week beginning 15th January 2018 is slightly further afield but is one you should all know and is not too difficult to get to (unless it snows!!). The link is https://www.strava.com/segments/14206248 and its called “Ringinglow Road -going up” which just about sums it up. If you run uphill from Hangram Lane to the Norfolk Arms you’ll definitely go along it.

With a helpful Strava picture too, just in case:

ringinglow going up

Yep, that looked fine and dandy.  Bit of a hill, but nothing we Sheffielder’s aren’t all too familiar with.  Plus, classic stretch of the half marathon route, so not too complicated navigationally speaking, and it’s nice to make the effort to head out to the hills.  It would be grand.

I know it’s only 0.2 mile but remember dear reader we had to get up to it and back again.  For the record the snowy dash bit ended up at 3.1 miles plus I had to walk a bit over a mile to get down to meet my lift so I suppose I did about 5.5 miles out in the blizzard in total.  You see what happened was, the the weather changed, and every sinew in my body and brain cell in my head screamed at me to stay inside.  It went from being dank January to ‘run out of energy and supplies in antarctica‘ within a couple of hours.  No idea how that happened.  Vile is an understatement.  Don’t tell, but I was even thinking that I might duck out of this particular segment snatching session all together.  We’d prearranged to meet on Wednesday night last week, but that was before the ice storm came.  By Tuesday, there was a blizzard blowing and thick ice which meant I could barely venture out of the house on foot, let alone in a car to make the rendezvous point, and it’d be too far to run the whole way out there with my fitness levels even if I did think I’d survive the elements.  There was a bit of nervous chit-chat on our Facebook group (it’s closed, like a secret society, so don’t bother trying to find it anywhere to spy on us), but no-one really wanted to be the first to wimp out.  I think if anyone had though at this stage, there might have been an eager torrent of wussing out runners behind in tight formation.

And then.

This.

On the Smiletastic page, those pesky bees had only gone out in a blizzard being all smiley spirited and cheery against the odds.

bee’s braved the snow blizzards tonight to run the golden segment with an after 9pm finish 💪💪 thank you ladies for a lovely hill run with a muddy off road trial section added. #Teambees🐝

What’s more, they accomplished the task all solidarity and smiles, and returned a bit bedraggled and with a hood full of snow which was inadvertently emptied onto a hall floor in one case, but fundamentally not dead.  AND they were getting an extra bang for their buck by collectively achieving post 9.00 p.m. runs.

The bees are upping their game. Their fancy dress offering was a sight to behold.  Granted they may have done a bit of tinting post run with photoshop, but I believe this is how they rocked their look on the way round Graves parkrun last Saturday. Impressive, I mean some of those deeley boppers are pretty substantial, you’d think it would alter your centre of gravity, but maybe not as much as actually having your arms bound to your sides by black gaffer tape as at least one runner had to contend with.  Respect team bees.  Loving the personalised nature of the outfits too.   Can’t wait to see them all out and about again soon!

busy bees in fancy dress at Graves

One solitary grasshopper reported mournfully that they had limped out all alone along the segment and returned sodden.  Discovering en route that even her walking boots were insufficient protection against the elements as a previously unnoticed hole let a whole glacier pass through her footwear whilst she trudged up the hill.  It is testament to her great mental strength that she was still able to see a plus side, commenting ‘On the positive side I had a free microdermabrasion facial walking through the hail on Ringinglow road this afternoon!! #newrunner #illequippedgrasshopper #justaboutstillsmiling!‘  To be fair, I think that probably did merit a bonus point.  It’s hard enough going out in this, going out all alone is tougher still.  No wonder she was hearing voices from under the snow by the end of it.  Not sure who took these photos for her, she maybe was being tailed by a drone.

Well, that’s all very impressive and all, from the bees and one grasshopper (it’s a start) and it did rally our resolve.  We couldn’t cave in now could we, seeing as how the bees had been out in a blizzard.  Besides, we’d already agreed we would go for late points, and we’d already established most of us were free in principle at least and now we’d had the standard set by those pesky busy bees buzzing about … well,  we felt compelled to follow through what we started.  We would do this. We can do this!  What’s the worst…  Cue a flurry of ‘OH MY GAWD have you seen the weather out there!?’ posts.  And checks and double checks that we were all going through with it, no-one fancied heading off out up there on their own.

So urged on by a surge of ‘I will if you will‘ promises and counter promises, 8.00 p.m. came and I headed off on foot to a rendezvous point on Ecclesall Road at 8.25.  I was cold. It was freezing.  So cold in fact, that I abandoned the plan of running in a conventional running jacket in favour of a ‘proper’ walking coat.  I had a head torch and hi-viz and a bobble hat and also brought with me a bad attitude.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t too slippery underfoot, but then I was wearing my Irock shoes which are brilliant.  I stood shivering in the vicinity of where I thought we were meeting. I was a couple of minutes early but standing still even briefly brought with it a real risk of being frozen rigid to the spot.  As the seconds ticked by I started to lose confidence in whether I was waiting in the right place, which is better than losing consciousness due to cold I suppose but not the greatest of feelings all the same.  I don’t have a smart phone, so started to imagine ending my days here, collapsed in a foetal position outside the Trinity United Reformed Church – or whatever it is – whilst my dragonfly buddies were cavorting with cheery abandon in front of a cosy open fire somewhere, ignorant of my demise.  Fortunately, just as I was at the point of wondering what to do, always a worrying trend, the other liftee appeared and we shivered together for a few minutes.  Eventually, she had the bright idea of checking for messages on Facebook, and result.  We were indeed waiting in the wrong place, and our driver was similarly fretting in their car a short distance away, lamenting our absence.  A quick scurry across the road and we were all united and lift secured we were on our way, heading on up to the Hammer and Pincers.

Coming up the hill from Endcliffe Park, it was amazing how quickly the weather deteriorated.  You could hardly see out of the car as a combination of thick sleet, hail and snow tumbled out of the sky.  The roads which had been clear just a bit lower down were now lined with slush, and then piles of snow.  By the time we got to the car park, it was feeling ominous.  Good news, our fellow running buddies were already there, some waiting inside granted, but basically raring to go.  There were nine of us.  Yay!  That was heartening, team solidarity, go us.  I nearly had a tantrum as I wasn’t going anywhere without my GPS being picked up, but disaster was averted as my TomTom bleeped its satisfaction I was being tracked.  And that was it, off we went, heading out about 8.40 ish.

I was soon at the back, I’m always at the back anyway because I’m a slow runner, but on this occasion I wasn’t feeling too confident as it was so dark, and the mix of ankle-deep snow / slush combo meant I couldn’t get a sense of what was under my feet.  The others streamed ahead and I got further behind. This was not joy-filled running.  It was head down, teeth gritted, try not to get run over venturing out.  ‘You go on without me‘ I called after them, as my voice was carried away on the wind.

mawson-wind1

There were a few cars around, most were OK, but one or two roared past, crazy.  The pavements were so deep in snow we ended up having to run on the road at some points and I felt vulnerable. This is not a run I’d have liked to do on my own.  Onwards and upwards, it was a bit of a trek to get to the segment, but then we could heave ho up from Hangram Lane to the Norfolk Arms.  We paused only when we got to the top – and then we ran on a bit just to make absolutely sure we’d gone far enough.. and then turned back again as pretty quickly, away from the light of the pub it was like we were heading into an abyss.  We bottled it. Back to outside the pub and then…  we espied virgin snow.

What can you do with virgin snow? Well, it was quite obviously still there for our merriment and as an outlet for our artistic talents.  One immediately went for a daintily drawn dragonfly in the soft white snow. I thought it looked beautiful.  Dragonflies are supportive, but we are also honest, and have integrity and are prone to giving one another unsolicited feedback.  At least you know where you stand.  ‘That looks like a gnat‘ said one of our number, who shall remain nameless.  Harsh I thought.

Meanwhile, I was engaged in my own excavation endeavour.   I was pretty pleased with it:

CM genius dragonfly

As ever, I find the non-running aspects of Smiletastic challenges play to my strengths more than the actual running challenges.  An observation which has not gone unnoticed by Smiley Elder.  Still, where would we Smiley Paces be without Smiley Spirit eh?  The thing is, genius as my creation clearly was, you couldn’t really get a sense of scale, and it was a perfectly Lucy-sized construction.  The best way to demonstrate this would be to wear the wings, a la creating a snow angel.  To be frank, I was ready for a bit of a lie down after all that strenuous running, so it didn’t seem to be such a bad idea at the time, and the dragonfly fitted me like a glove!

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A couple of astonishing things though that I noticed in retrospect. Firstly, bizarrely, none of the other dragonflies wanted to have a go at lying down in 6 inch deep melt water in the interests of a photo-opportunity and the outside chance of a Smiletastic point. I know!  How strange.  Secondly, despite our shrieking, and me lying down spreadeagled and motionless with Smilies leaning in around me like they’d come across a corpse in Midsummer Murders, no-one in the Norfolk Arms pub came out to help/investigate or even point and laugh.  Missed opportunity for all of them. Still, it goes to show just how bitter it was out there, not the kind of night you’d choose to venture out for anything at all, unless it was an emergency such as the need to honour a pledge to nab a golden segment in week three of Smiletastic.

After a bit, we were bored with the photos and messing around in the snow, so we headed off again back down the hill this time.  I had a brief moment of feeling ‘oh wow, my running’s really improved now I’m all warmed up, I feel like I’m flying now we’ve done a couple of miles’ before I remembered that having gravity on your side is a real asset in this running games malarkey.  Oh well, it was still an improvement on running up hill into driving hail.  I was in the most spectacular hi-viz, that lights me up like I’m my very own solar system if headlights hit it.  I’m even spherical by way emphasis.  I therefore ‘volunteered’ to stay at the back as others in the group had less hi-viz about them.  This was a great cover story for me too, since it implied ‘well obviously I could sprint all the way home, but I’m prepared to martyr myself and jog at a leisurely pace for the greater good.‘  On a serious note though, at the back as I was, it was quite shocking how invisible the group looked, despite head torches and a few reflective strips, they just disappeared into the night sky.  It was a timely reminder that hi-viz is essential on night runs, especially when you are having to venture on to the roads because the pavements are thick with ice, snow and slush.  Scary.

We paused for photo opps by Hangram Lane to match the one taken outside the Norfolk Arms.  I concede reluctantly, the bees might have managed better with their photos, but then – and I don’t like to rub it in too much but I’m only saying what is true here – they had only seven bees to fit in the frame whereas we were nine dragonflies.  Much more challenging on the group selfie front!

By the time we got back to our starting point of the Hammer and Pincers, it was well past 9.30.  I was sodden.  I was inwardly cursing at how poor the ventilation and waterproofing was on my jacket, before it occurred to me that it might possibly be that lying in the hill-top slush earlier could be a contributing factor.  Some departed, some of us went into the pub for post run refreshments.

I haven’t been in there for ages. Some shared a bottle of wine, I opted for a lime juice and soda.  It came with a plastic straw.  ‘Oh no, why have you done that?’ I exclaimed with a bit too much passion to the bemused looking bar staff.  I tried to explain that I’d not asked for a straw, so it was complete waste, and as a non recyclable item it will probably end up in the ocean, so giving me a straw is basically like sentencing an endangered turtle to a slow and painful death. I felt a bit guilty that I’d been so abrupt, but I was hyped from running, and hypothermic from snow.   In fact, it was a good thing, as after me another dragonfly also ordered a lime juice and soda – no straw.  He asked her ‘what’s with this plastic straw thing’ and she explained in more measured tones, and afterwards he said he’ll ask customers in future if they want one or not, which is only a very minor change, but minor shifts in behaviour do add up.  Nobody really needs a straw more than the oceans need to be plastic free, and if they do, paper or bamboo straws could always be used instead.  To be fair, I think the Blue Planet series has really raised awareness on this, and that’s grand.  I just hope it isn’t all too little too late…

plastic waste

It was nice in the pub to begin with.  Despite plastic strawgate, it was friendly and welcoming with a flame effect fire and lots of places to sit.  However, quite soon I started to shake with cold.  I was quite pleased when it was time to go home.  I was dropped off by my driver at Endcliffe and by then there was a fair old blizzard going.  It wasn’t a long walk home by any means, but I was quite shocked at how much the cold seemed to take hold inside.  By the time I got to my house I could hardly hold my house keys, and once I got in my skin was burning and red as the warmth of the house hit my frozen flesh. Brrrr.  We better have nabbed both a segment, and some post nine bonus points and some smiley spirit or I’ll… well, cry probably, but at least the hot tears running down my cheeks might help my face to thaw out a bit, ill wind and all that 🙂

The things we do for Smiletastic.  It is my primary source of running motivation for the early part of the year.  Without Smiletastic, I’d basically hibernate.

So the conclusion. Mainly type two fun, but type one in parts.  Definitely worth doing, there’s no way on earth I’d have ventured out to do that on my own. I still have three more runs to do this week, and I wasn’t feeling the love for running today either, still chilled through from yesterday.  Oh well. Resting is also part of training.  At least I have that part of the regime cracked.

Oh, by the way, the grasshoppers have got as far as new book cover for their ‘grasshoppers guide to running fun’.  I like it.  I’m hoping it will include vegan nutrition ideas.

grasshopper FGR SMiley guide

No idea what the ladybirds are up to.  I think they are keeping their Smiletastic strategy under wraps.  It will all come out in the spreadsheets at the end.  The suspense is killing me!

So next week, we get to do it all again, with another segment.  I wonder where that will take us? New adventures ahead, new runs to explore.  You know what, running is fun, mostly.  Running buddies on the other hand – they are awesome always.  I thank you all, but my dragonfly comrades in particular. We can crack this!  Probably.

By the way, hypothermia in runners is no joke – this blog post by Simon Green – hypothermia as a lifestyle choice really hit home to me, even experienced runners just need one bit of bad luck and everything changes in an instant. Sobering thought.  Always pays to be prepared. Keep safe out there!

Don’t have nightmares.

Do have a nice time out running… though be prepared for type 2!

no such thing

For all my smiletastic related posts click here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

 

Categories: motivation, off road, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

My claim to fame. How I link to Bushy parkrun’s iconic ‘Elisabeth’s Corner*’.

or maybe Elisabeth Corner?  Can’t make up my mind which sounds better…

Digested read: you know the celebrity marshal at Bushy parkrun? The one who sits each week at the Sandy Lane Gate corner of the course cheering runners round.  The one from whom getting a high five was the highlight of Paul Sinton-Hewitt’s morning?  That’s my mum. Cool eh?  Form an orderly queue people.  Keep calm.

So for those of you who don’t know, my mum had her 15 minute of fame, when a Bushy parkrunner, Paul Killick, dropped off a Christmas card to her at the residential care home where she now lives.   He posted on the parkrun discussion Facebook group about how pleased she was to get it and how she’d shared that parkrun was the highlight of her week.

mum at bushy parkrun

As a result of this, there was an online outpouring of appreciation, and a flurry of cards were sent.  The story even got picked up in one of the parkrun uk newsletters and tweeted – and quite right too!

tweet december 2017

Mum had however been a regular and much photographed fixture at Bushy parkrun for many months previously.  To such an extent, that one parkrunner shared online that when they do their post Bushy parkrun debrief, they actually refer to the bit on the course where she sits as one of the landmarks en route.

 

Even so, it was fantastic that mum got lots of cards and greetings in response to Paul Killick’s post.  She wanted to write her own reply, which I sent on to parkrun UK with my own top and tail to share her story.  It follows here:

January 2018

Dear parkrun UK,

I thought you might like an update about my mum, Elisabeth, who you featured in your newsletter just before Christmas.  She lives at a residential care home just over the road from the Sandy Lane Gate in Bushy park, which is right on the route of the iconic Bushy parkrun.  Every Saturday, she joins marshals at this spot to cheer parkrunners as they pass.  She first went last May, and after she had been doing this for a few weeks the Bushy parkrun community awarded her her very own hi-viz, of which she is enormously proud, so making her an official ‘honorary marshal’.  Since then, more and more people greet her on their way by.  Some pause to talk to her en route and the faster runners, who have no time to shout a greeting during their parkrun, will often have a chat to her as they leave the park on their way home instead.  She has learnt the art of the ‘high-five’ and made many new friends, and renewed old acquaintances from being there each week.  Not only parkrunners, but others who regularly walk in the park at about the same time each week.

Just before Christmas, Paul Killick, a Bushy parkrun regular – more than that, with a mighty 570 runs (and counting) to his name of which 553 have been at Bushy park – dropped off a Christmas card to my mum at the home, and they posed for a selfie together.  My mum was really delighted to have the card and frankly astonished to find that her involvement in parkrun was so appreciated.  Paul posted about this and it got picked up on some Facebook forums, which resulted in a little flurry of cards and greetings being sent to my mum.  The Christmas cards were very much appreciated.  Mum was particularly touched by the personal messages, with some runners sharing their own stories about what parkrun means to them.  A few signed off with their parkrun number, and she was impressed to receive a card ‘from someone with an CBE’.  Who can that have been?  A couple of junior parkrunners even sent some sweets and a lovely photo of themselves at Rogiet parkrun, noting, ‘everyone appreciates you clapping at parkrun’, which sort of sums it up!

So thank you everyone who got in touch, I may have missed a few in which case apologies, your card was still massively appreciated, but the tally I came up with included greetings from near and far.  Thanks to: Donabate parkrun, Dublin; Bob and a thousand other parkrunners!; Wendy and Orla; Gina and Steve from Tredegar House Newport parkrun; Gillian and Paul, Heaton parkrun Manchester runners; Jenny from Congleton parkrun, Cheshire; Anita, Bromley parkrun; Danny and Tiffany Waterworks parkrun, Belfast, Norther Ireland; Jacqueline, Druridge Bay, Northumberland; Paul S-H CBE; Paul K; Krysin, Martin, Selt and Kirst; Eva (5) and Rosa (6), Rogiet parkun; Tess and Morag; Pat and many more.

 

There were lots of messages, but one that resonated for me was the comment: ‘people like you make parkrun the amazing experience it is.  parkrun changed our lives, so we are always grateful to the volunteers and supporters.’  parkrun has changed my life too.  The actual ‘running’ part has become almost incidental to the community support, friendships made, post-parkrun brunches and laughs along the way.  What I hadn’t anticipated, was how great an impact it would have on my mum’s life too, for which I am incredibly grateful.  For her, it is something she really enjoys and looks forward to – carefully putting out all her kit the night before so she will be on time to her marshal point and there are lots of photos of her at parkrun on display in her room as well.  Quite right too!

My mum celebrated her 89th birthday at the weekend, so I was visiting from Sheffield. She wanted to write her own message of thanks to the parkrun community about what it means to her.  Enjoy:

Lucy Marris, A448776

 

Elisabeth’s parkrun story, in her own words:

Happy New Year!

parkrun has enriched my life ever since May 2017 when I came down to the Sandy Lane Gate to watch.  It links with two of my children who run at Sheffield Hallam and Livingston parkruns.  The marshals are really friendly.  I clap along with them and have become an honorary marshal!  I learnt how important community activity is as well as how important drawing others into the community is.  1300 plus participants stream past in the same order in about 20 minutes.  ‘Personal Besters’ have no time to greet marshals. Middle field runners are truly friendly and there is much reciprocal greeting and many photos taken.  Tailwalkers are just brilliant!  Because of my weekly involvement in parkrun I find I am greeted everywhere I go in Teddington!  Could it be because of the internet?

Thank you, thank you everyone for many Christmas cards and greetings, as well as being the highlight of my week!  parkrun is a truly special community organisation, in which I feel wonderfully included.  It is amazing that it has become international in a brief 13 years.  Congratulations.  I love all your stories.

Elisabeth, Honorary Marshal at Bushy parkrun, Sandy Lane Gate.

Update:  I think following a recent tweet by parkrun royalty, we can safely claim that henceforth this marshal spot will be known as ‘Elisabeth’s Corner’ – or maybe Elisabeth Corner.  Whatever, you get the gist!

Thank you parkrunners all.

The tweet in question:

tweet

So that’s official then!

No wonder she’s such a celebrity she often gets her own billing in the Bushy parkrun event reports!  I claim glory by association.  Form a line people, form a line…

 

PS for the record, I really like how in the parkrun UK blog post the top picture is of my mum with one of the Bushy parkun regular marshals but it sort of implies it’s me.  I am happy with this for two reasons. Firstly, Lorraine, pictured, has been a fantastic friend to my mum since she started marshaling at parkrun. Secondly, I’m worried if my face becomes too well known I won’t be able to go about my normal life of angst ridden social encounters interspersed with the occassional jog out to the hills.  Better to stay incognito, a woman of mystery.  Don’t tell.

For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries

Loved how they linked to the blog from parkrun uk facebook page and my favourite comment (so far) was from someone simply saying ‘just when I thought I couldn’t love parkrun any more’.  Love that.  Parkrun spirit in buckets.

Categories: parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Realising the Riches of Richmond Park with a Recreational Recovery Run

Digested Read: in saying so, I may be officially outing my inner bumpkin, rather than channeling my lurking London metropolitan hipster, but I have to say, whilst Richmond Park is an impressive location for running certainly, it’s pretty busy out there and for me doesn’t quite give off an off road vibe.  Spectacular in its way, but no glorious isolation. Also, those aren’t hills.

So this was the third day of running wonders on our Run With Karen weekend.  Which focused on running. Can you see what’s she’s done there?  It’s not subliminal marketing maybe, but it is fairly easy to grasp the gist of what’s on offer, and all the better for that.  Anyways, a gaggle of Smiley Paces women had consequently descended on London with Day One – cavorting in the footsteps of Olympians for a track session; Day Two – hobnobbing with parkrun Royalty at Bushy parkrun and finally, Day Three – today,* romping round Richmond Park for a gentle recovery run.  Hurrah!

*I say ‘today’ but actually I’m writing this up a bit later, so go on sue me.  However, I like to keep my posts in correct chronological order or my brain might implode, so the posted date above will reflect the inner truth of the date written, if not the actual outward truth. Fair enough, my blog I can do what I like!

By the way – this might amuse you – I’ve just been doing a bit of idle Googling (is there any other sort of Googling I wonder, or is that tautology?) Anyway, I was looking for a gym near to where I live, as I was nursing a brief fantasy that I might do cross training indoors in inclement weather to help out with my marathon training strategy which is current at a stand still due to ice, snow and absence of any running routine. So I typed ‘gym’ into the search engine, as you do, only I didn’t!  I typed ‘gyn’ by accident. The things is, that you know how if you make an obvious typo it will usually make some sensible suggestion as to what you were actually looking for, or sometimes out of sheer contrariness it will insist that you must have made a typo when ‘No, I really was looking for… whatever’.  Well, on this occassion, my search engine clearly thought my request was fair enough, and I got loads of hits for gynaecological services but a stone’s throw from my current dwelling place.  That’s fair enough, it is a legitimate search of course, but I’d have been so much happier if it hadn’t twigged I was after a gym it had assumed I was in need of a gin palace instead.  Just saying.  Maybe it’s the impact of Dry January, you aren’t even allowed to dream of alcohol until the end of the month.  I wouldn’t have minded, but it took me an alarmingly long time to work out what had gone wrong.  ‘Oh, my! Gyms have certainly diversified their offer since last time I looked‘ I was thinking, for a bit longer than should have been strictly necessary…

Call me super-conventional, but I thought I’d go with the gin images rather than the gyn ones.  You can do your own Googling if you really feel the need.

Anyway, back to the serious business of running. Today was the final day of our running sojourn. We were happy but tired after running on the track on the Friday, running Bushy parkrun on the Saturday and running the gauntlet of our unsleepable beds on the Friday and Saturday nights. Weary, but cheery, we then gathered on Sunday morning, to head off in convoy to Richmond Park and a gentle and inclusive recovery run.  Loooooooooooong and slooooooooooooooooooooooow.

There was a bit of angsty decision making, what to wear what to bring.  The major crisis was first thing when a number of us were trying to secure breakfast porridge and none of us could work out how to operate the microwave.  It was not intuitive. Eventually a teacher who does a lot of supply came to our aid. She’s seen more microwaves in her career than you can shake a stick at, and nothing stumped her.  Have a feeling she might be handy with photocopiers and maybe even fax machines, but I didn’t like to press her on that, seemed unfair as it was her weekend break away as well.

There was some  confusion about where to meet, and who was to travel with whom, but eventually we piled into separate cars and pulled off together. As we were driving down the road outside our house, we saw a little trio of road runners, pounding the pavement with some speed.  One immediately did a spectacular face plant tripping over I have no idea what.  We considered stopping, as it looked bad, but his mates seemed to have everything under control and the cars we were following were in danger of disappearing from sight, so we continued on our way, freshly reminded of the inherent risks of running wherever you do it. I’d expect to be wary of taking a tumble off road, or at night, but in morning daylight on a road run, that’s really unlucky.  Mind you, I did have a next door neighbour once, who broke his ankle whilst out on a job because he jumped sideways to get out of the way of a blind person out with a guide dog.  Does it make me a bad person that the irony of this scenario made me laugh.  I did drive him to hospital though, so I can’t be a wholly bad person.  Can I?

We sped off through Twickenham – I did wonder if the lead car was actually tyring to shake us off rather than pave the way – and weaved through Kingston, before arriving at one of the Richmond Park carparks.

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I think we were at the Pembroke Lodge car park.  Not overly sure. What I am sure about though, is that there were some handy loos, maps and a little coffee hut for later on.  The loos did have a flintstones-esque look to them, but that hasn’t come out in the photos.  So I’ve just got some random, rather dull shots of random people standing around outside the toilet block.  Oh well, since I went to all that trouble to take them, would seem a shame not to share…

Granted, we weren’t massively early, it was maye 9.00 ish by the time we got htere, bit later even, but the car park was already pretty busy. On the way in to the park I was struck by the number of cyclists, runners and walkers already out and about with their Sunday morning constitutionals well under way. The place was heaving.  We were able to park, but it was filling up. This was not a ‘let’s get away from it all’ rendezvous point, it was going to be busy.

We split into groups, speedier runners tearing ahead, I hung at the back with the slow and steadies, always a good place to be.  The plan was to keep it simple, and just do a loop of the park which is around 7 miles ish I think.  Quick team consultation, and then off we went, separating into separate running pods pretty organically.

Perhaps because of this choice, we ended up on the more manicured trails which also lend themselves to bikers, people with push chairs, and every other runner in a 100 mile vicinity, I found the route ridiculously busy.  In Sheffield, if you run off-road you will see people of course, but you don’t generally have to duck out of each others way, and mostly you either will actually  know them, or broadly recognised them from one of the parkruns or running clubs so people always swap greetings, even if only a semi-strangulated smile, but often it’s words of encouragement or a full on gossip with paused watches before you head off again.  In Richmond, I found the running experience very different.  It’s not that it’s unfriendly per se, just that you couldn’t possibly greet every runner when there are thousands of you, and I suppose locals have become immune to seeing such numbers of other runners out and about so are familiar with the dodging each other etiquette.  I did find it a bit intimidating in parts, faster runners shoving you aside as they overtook (not all of them of course, but more than one), or thundering towards you with an expectation you’ll dodge into the ditch to avoid them.  Mostly stony faced and not acknowledging others, like people on a tube train, trying to create the illusion of  having their own personal space by an effort of superhuman will, and ignoring everyone else around them, even when if their nose is rammed into their armpit.  If I choose not to see it isn’t there.  Like ostriches with their heads in the sand.  But that isn’t true people.  Same here, you can try to ignore and will away your surroundings all you like, but that’s got to be stressful, and surely you shut out the joy of seeing deer and parakeets, even Smilies on tour for heaven’s sake!  I can understand a Richmond Park runner wanting to run like an ostrich for sure, but to ignore what’s in front of them like ostriches don’t?  Well that’s nonsensical. Just saying.

Perhaps, you get used to it, and it becomes the new normal, but honestly, I wouldn’t want to, I may be a country bumpkin but Iwill freely admit that I muh prefer the solitary peak district trails, social runners and the glory of breathing in the landscape as you romp out and about.  The hills just add interest and texture to a run.  You’ll never hear me complain about them when out running. Granted, that is only because when negotiating them I am too breathless to utter anything at all, but that just further demonstrates the technical truth in what I am claiming.

On the plus side, Richmond Park is absolutely gorgeous.  Lovely mature trees, and plenty of deer lurking in the bracken.

richmond running

Quite early on we paused for a deer in the bracken shot.  This clearly required a lot of posing, and trying to mimic their camouflage.   Can you spot the Smilies desporting themselves in this shot.  Spookily good at feigning antlers are we not!  Amazing!

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As this was relatively early in our run, and the novelty of seeing deer was quite powerful, we were able to briefly muster ourselves to allow for a group shot, before everyone sped off on the relative merry ways.

richmond team photo

My we are collectively gorgeous are we not?

As we went round, our local guides pointed out local landmarks.  Who knew the famous Priory Rehab Clinic adjoined the park.  There were certain spots where you got an amazing view across the London skyline, but my camera couldn’t capture that.  The proximity to famous buildings is impressive though, and it was fun passing over the Thames en route to get there.  You sort of have to be there to appreciate it.  My photos are, I know, pretty uninspiring.

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Not to worry, here is one from the Richmond Park website, view of St Paul’s cathedral from Henry’s Mound – ironically a view I didn’t consciously see, but it sort of illustrates a point all the same, in terms of the potential for panoramic London views if you but take the time to pause and look on in wonder.  Oh, and it’s a different time of year too.  And different weather, but essentially identical to the vista we enjoyed today (ish).

St pauls cathedral from henrys mound

So off we yomped.  Each person finding their own comfort zone. This wasn’t to be a fast one, but a genuine recreational, conversational, recovery one.  That was lucky, as so very much to talk about.

Fortuitously, I happened to end up with a fellow London Marathoner for 2018, who had also run last year (both charity places, not that lucky with the ballot in case you were wondering). Best of all, I don’t think she’ll mind me saying I saw a kindred spirit in her in terms of her approach to running. Relatively new to it all, looking to complete not speed round and wanting to enjoy the experience.  Obviously, it became my mission to essentially separate her from the rest of the group, groom her with cheery chit-chat and then download all her knowledge so I could shameless mine her training experiences and use them for my own ends.  That seems fair. I don’t think she minded.  I quickly secured her as my new best friend forever and virtual marathon training buddy.  Job done. Seriously though, it made me feel so much better.  To date, the people I know who are running the marathon are very much more experienced than me, and/or much fleeter of foot.  In my head I know they have different goals, aspirations and potential, but in my heart it’s so hard not to compare myself to them and feel my confidence ebb away as I fall so short by comparison.  It was heartening to talk to someone who has successfully nailed the London marathon with a walk run strategy.

We ran and walked and talked as we romped round Richmond.  There were some cultural differences though.  Two particularly struck me.  One was how whenever traffic cleared, my running buddies had a tendency to gravitate back onto the road, or harder surfaces, I always favour mud.  The other thing which was a moment of absolute revelation for me. Was the different perspective on hills.  My yomping buddies were in favour of a walk/run strategy, which suits me just fine, I feel I can go all day like that.  Anyway, we got to a bit where we were walking, and then our guide suggested it was a good part to run, as actually there was a steep hill coming up ahead, where we’d bound to want to revert to walking up.  I ended up jogging on ahead, and jogged, and jogged, and it was fine, couldn’t see a hill though.  I was ascending a bit of a gentle incline, and when I got to the top, I hit a literal cross roads with cars, and had to stop as I didn’t know which way to go.  I paused, and looked behind me.  I could see my running buddies walking up behind me.

surely not a hill

Then it dawned on me ‘ooooooooooooh, that was what Londoners think of as a hill!’  Barely registered as an undulation by Sheffield standards.  As I am a relative newcomer to Sheffield – not yet a decade – I can still be taken by surprise by how steep our hills are.  When I first moved to Sheffield I’d stand looking up the hill I had to climb to get to my flat and feel like crying.  It might as well have been the moon.  And as for the gradients of driveways where it was considered appropriate to park a car – well, they were eye-popping!  No wonder cars lose control on Sheffield streets in the snow as this dashcam footage illustrates all too scarily!

Nevertheless, it seems I have unconsciously absorbed a new reality. A new understanding of just how much gradient is required before a hill is worthy of the name.  It was strange, and sort of symbolic.  I hadn’t realised I’d become so habituated to a particular terrain for off-road running.  In my own way, I’ve come to love our Sheffield Hills.  Perhaps they will help me with my training too, they are unavoidable out and about, and surely will bring a bit of added strength training to my running repertoire, whether I want it or not.

So thing I learnt along the way about the London Marathon.

  • The marathon is in fact doable.  Probably.  Hard, but doable.  Even for me.  Others have got round from a lower base point than even I am at now, and with a lot less insider information and help to get them to the start.
  • I need to think about my walk run strategy.  In the peaks, we have so many hills I just pause to walk up them and then run on the flatter bits.  I never consciously plan this, it just evolves.  The London route is a lot flatter.  Maybe I need to prepare for this in a more strategic way.  One person I know listens to music and her strategy is to walk one song, run the next.  I don’t run with music though and don’t really want to.  My new best friend ran for five minutes, walked for one – or thereabouts.  That way, she always knew a break was coming, and she could sustain five minutes running.  It got her round.  I need to think about that, time to up my attention to my TomTom which I basically use as a post run recording device, rather than for real-time feedback en route.
  • You can enjoy it, and the finish photos from the slow and steadier runners make it look like they had a lot more fun out there than some of the grey-faced collapsed speedier types who gave it their all, but then spent the aftermath in a blur of dehydrated, sugar low collapse.  I’d like to still have enough in me to bear the weight of my London Bling round my neck, and remain standing for that finish photo.  Eek, I wonder if it will ever really come to pass.

To illustrate the point, compare and contrast these finish photos and consider for a moment which category you think might suit my running style best.

Quite so.  In my world, running should be fun.  I don’t want to be one of those people you come across now and again who pronounce ‘running a marathon killed running for me’, all burnt out, angry and disillusioned.  I’d like to be able to look back on the achievement and – even if only fleetingly – be able to remind myself that I am capable of more than I realise, as are we all.  Not to say it won’t be hard, but I don’t want it to break me.  Where’s the fun in that?  Not even type 2 fun, not even close!  Also, now I have secured the finish picture, I can always photoshop my face onto it post the 2018 marathon if I don’t make it across the finish line.  Granted, I’ll have to change my name by deed poll to ‘Noreen’ for it to appear authentic, but I consider that to be but a small price to pay for such photographic glories.

Here is me with my new best friend. She was a legend. You have really helped to inspire and motivate me. I can’t wait to be there and share the London experience with you in April. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.  Just think, our next photo together could yet be with us posed wearing the bling!  How exciting is that!

my best friend

Although I was claiming her as my new best friend, in honesty, I’m not sure she actually had a vacancy. That can happen sometimes can’t it.  Not to worry, I am happy to share.  Also, it might be that I bagsied quite a few new best friends along the way this weekend, just spoilt for choice I guess, with so many lovely generous runners around Lots of us buddied up in various ways with our new London running friends, so plenty of permutations on running together in Richmond park friendship photos.  Here are but some:

You can just feel the love oozing out.

Other sights to behold including undercarriage of aircraft overhead and horse riders.  The aircrafts are much more noticeable in Bushy park and on the Twickenham track to be fair, but you are very conscious of planes in general moving around this part of greater London.  I take for granted the total absence of aircraft where I live.  When I was growing up I used to spend a lot of time in Bushy Park, and I remember the sonic boom as concorde passed overhead. Giddy times.  That was exciting back then, now I’m glad to be free of aircraft noise.  Even so, flight is pretty remarkable.  I’m still somewhat sceptical as to how it’s possible, even though the evidence suggests it really truly is.   I say that, and then I remember didn’t one of the last Concorde planes actually crash in France somewhere.  Oh dear.  Not quite the way for an iconic aircraft to bow out is it.  Sad to think about, but a great deal sadder for the people who died in a fireball and never got to go on their cruise either.  Insult to injury.  I hope they didn’t know what was happening, makes me shudder.

That’s all a bit heavy, sorry about that.  Back to the joys of recreational running!  Where was I.  Oh yes, we had fun.  Somehow or other, we ended up back where we started pretty much at the same time.  Those at the front must have added on an extra bit, and we at the rear may possibly have taken a few short cuts en route to ensure we made it to the cafe in time for the bulk latte order.  Thanks cheetah buddy for treating us all. An expensive round!

At the conclusion of our run, some did stretching, some did not.  I choose to be a woman of mystery, so will not reveal in which category fell I.  You can’t stretch and take a selfie shot at the same time, so the absence of any photographic evidence proves nothing.

So there you go, Richmond Running Romp concluded.  We were happy runners, and it was a majestic setting with fine company.  however, whilst I loved my new best friends forever London running buddies, I did find the park congestion and busyness pretty overwhelming.  It seems I love the loneliness of the peak moors more than I knew.  I’m so grateful too that we can take on long runs without resorting to three laps of a London park, however lovely, and however handy its proximity to both the Priory and the Royal Ballet School at White Lodge!

For those of you who are interested in such things, here is the Strava map showing our run round in the footsteps of over-excited Fenton. The dog who got even more excited at seeing deer than we Smilies did.  We did almost exactly 6 miles. 5.96 according to my TomTom

richmond park strava run

And that dear reader, was the end of our London running weekend sojourn. A fine way to finish it all off too, it was grand out, and a royal park is just the thing for a Sunday morning rump.

It is possible Fenton ran a lot further than our 6 miles, certainly a lot faster, as he disappeared over the ‘hill’ chasing deer.  Not bad for a labrador.  This incident is not funny of course, not funny at all.  Not really, but sometimes you can’t help yourself.

It’s wrong to laugh, but then again, if we don’t laugh at the human condition and our ineptitude in the face of forces beyond our control, we surrender to tragedy.  What kind of life is that?  In the spirit of laughing in the face of horrors too great to comprehend, I’d like to conclude with a random, potentially life enhancing, but not running related, fact:

Did you know Donald Trump hates and is terrified of Sharks?.  You didn’t?  Well, just a thought.  If you are shallow enough to want to indulge in a bit of needling you might think of donating to a shark conservation marine life charity such as the shark trust as a little act of protest.  Just saying, I’m thinking it might help me at least feel a little less powerless in a crumbling world.  I can’t think why this fact isn’t included in the list of top ten reasons to love sharks.

the-eights-orders-of-sharks

See, you can learn something new every day!  Not necessarily something useful, but possibly something pleasing if you just choose to keep your curiosity alive.

So stay curious.  Happy running, and don’t forget to look around and marvel at the world around you.  Choose to dull your senses and you might suffer the collatoral damage of dulling your whole life.  Too high a price to pay, surely.

More trite truisms are available, hang on, let me see if I can find a motivational running meme to push you over the edge.

Found one!  This should do the trick:

be awesome

Don’t try to thank me.

Really.  Don’t.

 

For all my Run with Karen related blog posts, see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

Categories: off road, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Smilies hanging out at Bushy parkrun, the epicentre of the parkrun phenomenon. Running with the stars!

Digested read: Thirteenth of Jan – lucky for some.  Smiley Paces on tour to Bushy parkrun.  The epicentre of the parkrun phenomenon, where it all began, under the mighty oak. Awesome. It just goes to show dear reader, that dreams really can come true!  In the interests of accuracy, I feel I should also remind you that it is also true you must sometimes be careful what you wish for, because things don’t always happen quite as you planned, but on this day all was well.  Hurrah!

ADVISORY WARNING: I don’t do concise, and this post could be a bit of a time vampire so read on at your own risk, it’s not compulsory.  I recommend coffee or wine as an accompaniement, and maybe an energy gel if that’s more your thing and you can safely ingest without heaving. Enjoy, or not, really it’s up to you.

Look at this magnificent tree!  Witness to the birth of parkrun, imagine that?  And what else it must have seen unfold before it over the last few hundred years.  Iconic indeed.  I wonder if it is the most photographed tree in Bushy Park?  Could be….

Bushy parkrun The Tree

The parkrun logo is uncannily similar, almost indistinguishable in fact:

campervan cookies

Clever. That’s a campervan cookie by the way.  Limited edition.

Anyways, sooooooooooooooo much to tell you about this particular parkrun day, my head might actually burst as I try to organise the memories.  It’s sort of like defragmenting my brain I think, putting it down in a blog post.  I’m back in Sheffield.  A whole week has passed. I’m actually trapped in my house because of snow and ice, and it seems incredible that just this time last week I was on the post run high only ever experienced by those who have been privileged enough to parkrun/walk/jog on such hallowed ground.  A week later, and parkruns all across Sheffield have been cancelled due to snow and ice.  Cue lots of comedy near death experiences trying to get to said runs on black ice, even though I knew in my heart of hearts they’d have to cancel.  Oh well, nothing ventured eh, and that’s another story entirely…

Suffice to say all the stories about Bushy parkrun are true.  The park has unicorns in abundance.   An arch of rainbows guide you through the finish funnel, and smiling marshals a-plenty cheer you round. Add in to this giddy mix the exotic parakeets, and impressive deer – some with gargantuan antlers that make them too look like mythical beasts – and you can see why setting foot in this Royal Park on parkrun day can indeed feel like entering a parallel universe, our very own wonderland.  If you come from Ireland, the organising team at Bushy parkrun will even make you edible shamrocks and Irish themed cupcakes.  FACT.

Point of information, the unicorns are quite shy so you sometimes only catch a vanishing glimpse of them out of the corner of your eye, and the rainbows are often tricky to make out through the emotional veil of tears that may obscure your view in the finish funnel. But just because you can’t quite see them, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Keep the faith!  Also, unicorns can deliver some surprises on meeting.  Whether this disappoints or pleases you I can’t say.  Did you now they fart glitter and crap rainbow icecream?  It’s no wonder they find toilet humour completely hilarious, but that isn’t what you expect from what seems outwardly at least, to be majestic and other worldly is it now?

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Even so, I’m surprised they stooped (or should that be ‘pooped’) to product endorsement for toilet accessories, but I suppose you have to make a living somehow. How otherwise do you account for those actors who did the original ‘we washed half of his hair in head and shoulders…‘ adverts for head and shoulders, and now find themselves forever immortalised raining down dandruff in close up.  Makes me shudder.  Other anti dandruff products are available, with equally crushing photos to accompany them. I’d say the unicorns had a better agent to be honest.

Still, I’m jumping ahead. Let’s start at the beginning shall we?  So I was back on marathon training today, inasmuch as I’m sure I’ve heard somewhere that running when fatigued (within certain limits) is a good way to habituate yourself to the mental challenge of pushing through when you aren’t feeling the love at a marathon.  I am told that this can often kick in around mile 17, which is pleasing, because normally I find I’ve completely fallen out of love with running after about 100 yards, so that could well be an improvement on my general running mood.  Anyway, the upshot of this philosophy, is that, a sleepless night at our Twickenham student house was just the thing to keep me on the programme.  Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about? Well basically, I was here with some buddies from my Smiley Paces Sheffield based Women’s Running Club on a running weekend organised by Run with Karen.  We had a session on the track on the friday before and a long run in Richmond Park on the Sunday following, but clearly the visit to the spiritual home of parkrun was always going to be the highlight.  I say we were all Smilies, well some of us were, but we had other welcome running buddies along with us too. Londoners and others from further afield who’d joined the weekend of running fun. For the purposes of this blog post I think we can safely say all were either actual Sheffield Smilies or honorary Smilies by association, which amounts to the same thing.  Hurrah!

For the record though, even though I was probably too excited to sleep anyway, the plastic mattresses in the student accommodation were not cool, in both the literal and metaphorical sense.  Just a bit of feedback for our host venue, maybe they were also not the ideal choice for a group of largely peri and actually menopausal women. There is a skill set for sleeping on these things that I have yet to acquire. The slidy nature of them means that if you have any part of your body in contact with the sheet whilst moving your position the entire made-bed construct disassembled as duvet goes in one direction and sheet in another.  the only way to avoid this is to become airborne pre any such adjustment, but this requires violent moves likely to put your back out, comedic value and cross training possibly yes, but compatible with a good nights sleep no.

In other news, on top of the sleep deprivation, I was also really stiff today which was a shocker as the track session was only about 4 miles. This either shows how effectively you can work out on a track, or shows that trying to run with ‘good form’ for extended periods is catastrophic.  Purists may argue this shows how terrible my running form usually is, since evidently making an effort to run in unfamiliar ‘good form’ sprint clearly nigh on crippled me.  An inevitable and totally forseeable consequence of being required to use muscles that I have never previously found need to call upon during my half century plus years of existence.  Personally, I prefer to think it shows there is some merit in loping along, and for my own preservation it was to be a loping gait that would be in evidence as I romped round Bushy parkrun …. unless I happened to spot a photographer or something, clearly that requires any runner to adopt their own variant of the ‘photographers pose’ whereby you either pull a ridiculous face or ape perfect running form for the microsecond of the shot.  However, I’ve done a fair few runs at Bushy parkrun now – though not with a mass of other Smilies before – and not ever seen a photographer out on the course, so that tends not to be an issue.  Plenty of atmospheric shots though. Check out the Bushy parkrun Flickr account if you are ever incapacitated for many months and want to pass the hours, days, weeks and months fantasizing about this parkrun paradise.  20,000+ and counting. That’s a lot of photos.

bushy parkrun flickr

On the plus side, I wasn’t alone in finding my limbs weren’t at their best and the night had been spent entirely devoid of sleep. Giddy with excitement, we cavorted and guffawed as only a collective gathering of Smilies can.  Then we trotted out to the front gate of the Twickenham campus of St Mary’s University where we were staying…

look where we are

Here we were honoured to be met by parkrun royalty times two.  Not only parkrun founder Mr P S-H himself but also, the power behind the throne and one of the original volunteers without whom parkrun would never have continued as it has, the lovely Jo S-H. How exciting!

Smilies and parkrun royalty

I’d love to say we were all nonchalant and blasé about the whole thing, but we weren’t.  I certainly wasn’t.  I was completely starstruck, again.  Not so starstruck that we didn’t manage to nab a group photo.  So that was the main thing.   However, the unexpected highlight was that Mr S-H asked for me by name!  I know, how amazing is that!? Granted, this was nothing to do with my own intrinsic merits, because they are known to be negligible, it was entirely because of my genetic association to Elisabeth, the landmark honorary parkrun marshal who happens to be my mum! For months now she has cheered on runners at her spot on the Bushy parkrun route which is at the Sandy Lane Gate in Bushy park.  She is a legend in her own right.  Generally speaking I don’t approve of nepotism, but then I’ve never had the chance to benefit from it before.  Turns out i’m quite fickle with respect to my moral compass.  I’ll take glory by association.  happy to step up and milk it.  Wouldn’t you?

We were on a deadline though, as we all had to get to Bushy park in time for awf. Plus, I wanted to meet up with the lovely other Paul, Paul Killick, who’d set in motion a magnificent train of events that led to my mum getting lots of extra christmas cards, with his ‘meet Elisabeth‘ Facebook post.  Long story.

meet Elisabeth

The original Paul, honestly, gets confusing, you’d think it would be a lot easier if everyone had the same name, but it turns out that’s not so.  Anyway, founder Paul, he made to set off at a fair old sprint, deliberately going extra fast to see our reaction. We had originally talked about jogging down to the start, but that was the night before. With the reality of stiff joints that plan was rapidly abandoned.  Our reaction was three-fold.  Firstly, we did laugh appreciatively.  Secondly, no-one was going to be duped into unnecessarily running anywhere at this stage, even with Mr S-H (well, we’d got our photos now, so job done), limbs aching too much and we had to save ourselves for parkrun. Thirdly, on my part at least, ‘oh my he can shift‘.  I hadn’t realised he was so super fast.  Maybe it’s partly to do with having extra long legs, or maybe the South Africa connection, or maybe he just wanted to escape from us?  Surely not? Who’d ever want to ditch a load of Smilies?  He ran like something with very long legs that might run very fast across the plains of Africa.  Giraffes have long legs, but I’m not sure they can run all that fast and elegantly.  My experience suggests giraffes have limitations as running buddies.

Antelope maybe?  Oh for goodness sake. I don’t know!  Stop hassling me about my african animal analogies, pick your own, let’s get back on topic.

Point is we got our celebrity meet and greet, and then headed off through Teddington to Bushy park.  It was nippier than I’d expected, so we walked briskly. Smilies and non-smilies sharing running and life tales as we did so. I love hearing people’s stories. Every one of us has many to tell.  Inspirational stuff.

We arrived into the park to find a dark and dank day, but the park is always glorious.   It was exciting to see it through new eyes as well.  First time in the park for some, and it is I suppose huge and unexpected if you haven’t been there before.

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I was relieved to spot Paul 2, (other Pauls are available) quite easily.  There aren’t that many 500 parkrun milestone tees around, plus it helped that the two Pauls knew each other anyway.  I’m afraid (only not really) that there followed an enormous amount of gratuitous posing for photos in all possible permutations of Pauls/ Smilies/ me and Pauls/ Smiletastic Smilies (Smiley sub-group) and so on.  In our defence, I don’t think we are the only parkrunners ever to have seized a photo opportunity at Bushy parkrun.  Also, no regrets.  Enjoy:

I was a bit giddy with all the excitement to be honest.  I wondered if I was a bit too huggy what with being so hyped.  The weird thing is, I don’t think I’m an especially tactile person.  Generally speaking I like my personal space, I will edge away  from others when sat at cafe tables lest their elbows intrude on my brunch plate. However, parkrun seems to unleash my inner huggyness.  I love everyone at parkrun, they are all my best friends forever, and I think that affection is entirely genuine, I’m so grateful to the community that is parkrun, and Founder Paul for setting it up and other Paul for being so lovely to my mum.  Even though we haven’t met before I feel like I know them because of the common parkrun thread.  It restores your faith in humankind. There really are more good people in the world than not.  Within parkrun at least, all seems well with the world….

Even though we were all a bit giddy, we weren’t so giddy with excitement that we couldn’t see a Smiletastic opportunity when it presented itself.  For those of you that haven’t been concentrating, Smiletastic is a winter running challenge amongst we Smiley Paces. Points are awarded for actual running related activities within teams, but also for ‘smiletastic spirit‘.   As we were a cross team alliance of Smiletastic Smilies on this London running weekend, we decided to go for a cross team shot.  I love this photo, and not only because it did indeed deliver some Smiletastic bonus points!  Gotta love a Smiley!

Bushy parkrun smiletastic smiles

Pleasingly, after we had been photographed in all possible combinations, a nearby runner, also a parkrun tourist quizzed me about who we all were, so that a fun.   I only wish I’d anticipated this question so I could have come up with a better cover story.  Oh well, next time.  Bushy parkrun runs like a well oiled machine, not just the logistics of it all, but maintaining a community feel, and producing a weekly run report so everyone stays informed and involved.  So we learned we Smilies and are visit were to be a feature in that week’s Bushy parkrun report – 13 Jan 18.  How exciting is that!  It is only a matter of time before Smiley Paces goes viral in its own right… granted, our visit of what was by comparison just a handful of Smilies at about 12 or so of us, was superseded the following week by a contingent of 100 visitors from Tralee parkrun, but I’m sure all parkrun tourists are made equally welcome. Thank you Bushy parkrunners all, for the warmth of your welcome.  Just shows, everyone’s a winner at Bushy parkrun.

Despite all being winners, I needed to fit in my precautionary pee.  Fortunately, there are loos a-plenty at Bushy park.   I jogged off to the toilet block, leaving fellow smilies still trying to capture their elusive perfect selfies.  Good work people, good work.

Despite the normally ample amount of toilet cubicles. The queue was long, very long.  I put this down to maybe a larger than usual parkrun turn out because of  New Year’s Resolutions being put into action.  However, this queue wasn’t moving.  On the plus side, I got to meet a woman who it turned out had been at the second ever parkrun, and so had bagged a 15th finisher place at Bushy parkrun. This pleased me greatly. I felt I really was mingling with the stars.  Now 15th finisher at parkrun would have a time between 17 or 18 minutes.  That’s super speedy.   I felt this merited a selfie, if only to while the time whilst waiting for the queue to move.  Check me out, hobnobbing with even more parkrun celebrities.  That’s the closest I’ll ever get to being in the company of top twenty finishers anywhere, let alone at Bushy parkrun!

worth a selfie

Eventually, it became apparent that the long and slowly moving loo queue was due to some large-scale catastrophe within the toilet block. Almost every cubicle was out of action, but not due to broken loos as such, but due to all the doors being off their hinges.  Whether this was due to wanton vandalism or interrupted maintenance I have no idea. What I do know, is that as the clock was ticking fast, and we were all conscious of parkrunners gathering at the start line, a sort of free-thinking collective action came about.  Women threw inhibitions into orbit and soon each cubicle loo had a parkrunner in situ, pulling a Paula caring little who saw what. To be fair, we were all women, we’ve all seen it all before, and anyway, each of us was far too preoccupied with taking up our own squat opportunities to care one iota what anyone else was up to.  It was quite liberating really, all these  women in free flow and why not.  It is hardly a shocking or unknown revelation that women (and people even) in general do pee in general, but parkrunners in particular need a precautionary pre-parkrun pee.  All the same, it did have a comedic element.  The unicorns would have loved it (see toilet humour appreciation reference above).  Is it wrong that it briefly gave me a flash back to the more depressing and shocking sight of seeing women standing displaying their goods in the narrow windows of the red-light district of Amsterdam. I’m inclined to think that the toilet block cubicles of Bushy park were more of a niche area of interest, and anyway this was no shop window, just doing the necessary…

All this broken doors shenanigans delayed me getting to the start.  I rushed across, and the briefing was already underway, the lead bike off ahead.  (Photos stolen courtesy of Bushy parkrun)

The start line is truly amazing.  It’s huge, and wide.  A guy was balancing half way up a tree to observe the field, I wondered if he might be armed with a loudspeaker to help parkrunners hear the briefing, but I couldn’t tell.  Maybe he was just stuck up there actually, now I come to think of it.  Hope he’s managed to get down now.  Anyway, it was inspiring to see so very many people, gathered together for this amazing, yet intrinsically ridiculous undertaking.  I didn’t label my photos all that well, so some might be mixed up, but these are basically all capturing the parkrun start line, some more re-imagined than others, granted… 🙂

In amongst the mass of people, I felt very luck to happen upon a little trio of Smilies, but I was too late for any in the starting throng line up shots.  Here’s one someone else took earlier though. They are looking suitably excited and shiny eyed with eager anticipation don’t you think!  Well, I say shiny-eyed, bit manic would be more accurate, but you get the general idea.  Bushy parkrun was a bit overwhelming, it was bound to test our ability to use facial expressions to convey euphoria to the very limit, maybe slightly over-cooked here, but great shot all the same people.

startline selfie

All too soon, the shout went up and were off.  A veritable stampede across the ant hills as 1300 plus runners head out on their 5k circuit.  Considering how many runners there are, it is a pretty polite start.  By the time the path narrows, runners have strung out, and as it’s a single lap course you don’t have to worry about being lapped.  A rare joy for me!

You probably can’t tell by looking at me when I’m running, but I do love taking part in parkrun.  Overhearing conversations.  Some are sharing running stories, others catching up on gossip, some updating others on quite personal stuff.  People look out for each other too. I didn’t witness this myself, but one of my fellow Smilies said as she was running she commented out loud that her hands were freezing, and another runner immediately offered her the use of her gloves.  She was really impressed and touched, to be so trusted that she’d get them back.  I maybe shouldn’t have pointed out it was probably partly because she’d identified that this Smiley could be outrun, also we are quite distinctive. None of this is to take away from the selfless offer though. Love parkrunners!

I was excited about seeing my mum.  I’d nipped round to see her the night before to make sure she was tooled up with a Smiley placard, and she’d had all her parkrun kit carefully laid out.  She doesn’t have a barcode, but if she did, she’d not forget it! #dfyb.  I’d briefed everyone I’d seen to shout hello as they passed, but as I was approaching her corner, I couldn’t see any Smilies. Catastrophe!  Then, just as I was losing hope, a gaggle of them appeared out of the mist.  No idea how they came to be running behind me, that never happens, must have been an anomaly in the line up at the start.  I have never rarely been so over-joyed to see my running buddies!

We descended en masse.  Of course we had to capture the moment, although afterwards I did wonder if I’d been quite fair to interrupt my fellow Smilies run as we paused for (blurry) photos.  Still, this picture rivals that of us with Mr S-H himself, here we had another example of parkrun royalty but this time one proactively endorsing Smiley Paces. That could be argued to trump our other example of association with parkrun celebrity, though not in the Donald sense, obviously, that would be horrid.

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It was very grand to get some Smiley shots and witness some shouts and high fives being proffered as other runners streamed by.

I felt quite emotional. Sleep deprivation has a lot to answer for.  As I ran on, the other Smilies now streamed ahead.  I overheard new conversations about my mum.  Other runners commenting on how amazing it was she is there week in week out, and being just generally lovely.  It’s hard being in Sheffield with her in Teddington, I find it immensely reassuring to know that from parkrun there is this outpouring of goodwill towards her.

I loped onwards, in my own inimitable way.  Thanking the marshals as I passed.

Eventually, the finish came into sight.  Other runners that had already finished were cheering others in.  I saw Paul S-H who called out that he’d managed to exchange a high-five with my mum en route.  It would be fun one day to observe her from a hide as she marshals, and count the interactions she has on a typical parkrun day.  Tricky to co-ordinate though.

 

Into the funnel – which as anyone who has been to Bushy parkrun will report are a thing of wonder.  More chatting – I found myself between two bushy parkrun regulars, one explained how first time her son offered my mum a high-five she had tried to shake his hand, I was able to tell her that since then she’s had training in this skill and is most adept at it, which was readily acknowledged. The other told me she and her friends refer to her at this spot as their ‘half point highlight‘ which I though grand.  I’d love to be the highlight of someone’s parkrun!  I felt a glow of reflected glory.  Maybe I should print out a load of photos of her, and get her to sign them, I could bestow them on any worthy beneficiaries at will.  Of course there’s always a risk they’d end up on Ebay, like the black market in Blue Peter badges, but I like to think parkrunners are an honourable lot, and would treasure such an artefact as beyond price. Did you know that one blue peter presenter had their badge rescinded for taking cocaine?  Richard Bacon had to actually hand it back!  The shame.  That would never have happened in John Noakes’ day!

So through the finish tunnel, and back into the arms of chilly but still smiling smilies.

 

Obviously, no parkrun would be complete without a companionable post parkrun brunch.  We decided against the Pheasantry cafe, since lovely as it is, it would be just too crowded, instead we were heading back to campus.  However, I took a Smiley detour to check in with my mum.  More photos:

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Then a romp back to the St Mary’s campus canteen, for a pretty impressive brunch. Good value, though I can’t lie, I was gutted there were no veggie sausages today.  Or the next day, seemingly it’s always a case of veggie sausages either yesterday or tomorrow.  Sad but true.  Still, it wasn’t the venue or the food particularly that bonded us.  It was our Bushy parkrun adventure.

You will have to take my word for it that we were a lot cheerier than this photo makes us look.  Smiley Paces club membership is conditional on being able to smile at all times, but with genuine cheer, unlike the ironically named cheerleader troupes who often have smiles that appear to be quite forced.

We were also very taken with the rotating tray clearing system.  I’ve rarely been so excited since I first encountered the famous Sheffield Arts Tower paternoster lift.  Technology eh?  Amazing! As if we hadn’t encountered more than enough wonder for one day!

Some might think Smilies are all too easily amused.  I prefer to think it just goes to show we can see the wonder in the world all around us!

Oh, and just so you know, Smiley Paces got star billing in the Bushy parkrun run report for 13th January 2018.  Well I say Smiley Paces, really I mean my mum did, but she does officially endorse our club, so that amounts to the same thing!  And no, it isn’t elder abuse to get your nearing 90-year-old parent to brandish a sign supporting your running club, just to be really clear there.  Nepotism possibly, but nothing worse than that!

Bushy parkrun 13 jan 2018 Elisabeth supports Smileys

So there you go. That was our Smiley pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun done and dusted.  We had a lovely time thank you for asking.  Would recommend. But you know what, the really, honestly and truly fantastic thing about parkrun, is that even if you can’t get to Bushy Park, you can recreate the parkrun magic anywhere there’s a parkrun. Currently that means across 17 parkrun countries all over the world.  Nearly 500 different events in the UK alone – probably more if you factor in junior parkrun, which you should, because that’s even more hilarious hard though that is to believe – and as of today (22 Jan 2018, I lied in the date published field above) 1,348 separate locations.

parkrun participation jan 2018

Just wow.

So thank you parkrunners in general and Bushy parkrunners in particular.   Everyone who takes part in whatever capacity makes it so.  If you have already embraced parkrun, yay, go you, happy parkrunning til next time.

If you haven’t?  Well, you are lucky indeed, because you have yet to discover one of the wonders of the world, and if you just give it a try, it will open up a whole new world of community loveliness that might be life enriching and at the very least, will put a smile on your face and increase your brunching opportunities henceforth. Got to be worth a punt, surely.

Go on. What’s the worst….*

Sign up to parkrun here, remember, fear of missing out is a terrible thing.

*…. the worst is that parkrun is a sort of gateway drug for not just other running activities, but community engagement, volunteering and a move from life in black and white to living life in glorious technicolor.  You wont mind though, that’s the funny thing.  Go on. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

 

For all my parkrun related posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

For all my Bushy parkrun related posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

For all my Run with Karen related blog posts, see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

 

 

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting on track – in the footsteps of Olympians. Smiley Paces on tour to Twickenham

Digested read: a guffaw of Smiley Paces went on tour to Twickenham for a weekend of running related coaching and fun. We spent Friday night running round in circles at the Mo Farah athletics track.  I found out that Charlie’s Angels wasn’t a fly on the wall documentary after all.  I was allowed to wear a fleece for some of it. There were photo opportunities.  I now think track sessions are potentially fun, but very disorienting.  Wouldn’t say never again, but don’t think I’ll be heading off to train at one on my own.

mofo track

FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out essentially. That’s what keeps me engaged in running, and as a consequence of that, signing up to do unlikely and possibly unwise running-related activities, just so I can tag along with fellow Smilies and get glory by association with some awesome women who are also awesomely good runners, which is why our strap line acronym is FGR (work it out people.)

Last weekend was a case in point. I found myself on a London-based running weekend, organised by fellow Smiley and running coach Run With Karen.

For those of you with the misfortune not to come from Sheffield and not to engage in running related exploits, Smiley Paces us a Sheffield based women’s running group.  A group I feel genuinely privileged to be a part of. It is an inclusive, supportive and hilarious guffaw of brilliant women, with members ranging from the ‘recreational runners’ like me, who yomp round at the back with a perpetual feeling of disbelief that they have found themselves out there running because of some dreadful misunderstanding, to GB triathletes, A-class fell runners and everything in between.  It isn’t only the activity of running that brings us together, in some ways over time that has become for me almost incidental, albeit it is the glue that sticks us all together.  For me Smiley Paces is also an endless fountain of life affirming smiley support and solidarity that give you hope for the world, as well as,  – in my case at least – the startling revelation that running can be fun.  Who knew?  What’s more,  you don’t have to be an elite athlete to enjoy it. Even if statistically some of that fun will inevitably be ‘Type 2 Fun‘ and therefore only identifiable after the event when safely back home tucked up on the sofa under a duvet.  Anyway, the essential point is, hanging out with other Smilies is always fun, even if sometimes of the type 2 variant, and so when news breaks of the possibility of  a Smiley adventure whether that is a mass exodus to the Lake District for a running weekend at the Lakeland trails or rocking up at a fellow Smilies milestone parkrun we do all like to join in.

It actually started with a cautious question from Karen on our Smiley Paces Facebook page back in September:

I am thinking about putting on a training weekend for those doing a spring marathon or half marathon (or any road event really) in early January but it would be down in Twickenham staying at St Marys University which is where Mo Farah used to train and has a brilliant athletics track. It is also a short jog from Bushy Park, home of the first ever parkrun – so you’d have the chance for some parkrun tourism on the Saturday morning. Would be a good way to kick off training in the new year too. So would include a track session on the Friday evening, parkrun on Saturday morning, perhaps a yoga for runners class, technique session and some classes around training and programmes for marathon and half marathon …. Then long-ish guided run Sunday morning in Richmond Park (tailorable based on pace and distance).

An offer like this is akin to bringing a tray of oven-fresh brownies to any Smiley gathering.  Heads turned, interest was stirred and enthusiasm for the idea conveyed.  So it evolved to:

London running weekend outline

Back to my earlier stated FOMO, and fast forward to the inevitable.  It was Friday 12th January, and there I was in Twickenham, surrounded by an assortment of Smiley buddies plus some lovely London locals drawn in for the occassion and from further afield but darn south, a virtual coachee who was using the weekend to finally meet her distance coach and bag some quality running miles into the bargain (hello new friends).

After a not-too-bad-considering-I-dont-really-like-driving-all-that-much trip down, we rocked up at our accommodation for the weekend. The Waldegrave Park house was a stunning building, beautifully warm, with huge spacious rooms.

our humble abode 33 waldegrave

So first impressions were good.  We we were yet to encounter the comedy beds with which we were supposed to tussle in order to achieve sleep.  These featured plastic coated mattresses which were both super-conductors of heat AND super slidey to the point that teflon coating has nothing on them.  Basically, designed to be entirely incompatible with so much as a sniff of slumber.   For the record, I don’t think any one of us survived the night with the sheets and the person remaining in situ… clearly, sleeping on these beds requires a specialist and minority skill set none of us possessed.  Nevertheless, with the sleeping challenge still to come, we were all bright-eyed and optimistic in the early evening as we gathered at the athletics track just behind the residence in which we were staying.

This wasn’t just any old athletics track though. This was the Mo Farah Athletics track.  Astonishingly, despite his obvious disadvantage in not being a member of Smiley Paces, Mo Farah is really a jolly good runner.  Like me, and many other Smilies, he appreciates his running bling.  In that respect we are practically identical.

Another thing me and Mo have in common, is that we are both doing the London Marathon this year.  (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH).  And also, the focus on marathon running is a relatively new departure for both of us.  We’d be perfect running mates.   As one of the attractions this weekend was that it might help to kick-start marathon training for those among us who are wanting to do one in 2018 I was a bit surprised to find that Mo himself wasn’t joining us for the track session, even though the actual track is named after him!  I think maybe he was a bit intimidated by the prospect of being faced by so many awesome Smilies all at once.  I do get that, I was intimidated at the thought of joining a running club, or even going to parkrun before I did it, but once done it’s fine. More than fine it’s brilliant!  You just have to get over it and take the plunge.  It’s lovely once you’re in… you never look back. Which coincidentally is also good advice when running.  Look where you are going, worry about what’s ahead not what’s behind and all will be well.  I think he’d have enjoyed hanging out with us. Maybe next time.  We could have shared anti-chafing tips. Did I mention I’ve finally caved in and bought some body glide?  Vaseline can only do so much for so long it seems.  I got the blue one though, I can’t bring myself to get the pink, and I think the only difference is one is scented. Can you guess which.  The other is made of slugs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails , so not really vegan friendly to be honest, but needs must…

what the hell

So we arrived at the track.  Did I mention we were brimming over with enthusiasm?  No? That’s because we generally weren’t. It was freezing, it was dark, it was cold.  I for one had no idea what to expect, but feared being required to sprint and therefore getting injured.  I’m also more of an off-road ‘runner’ (I use the term loosely) and so although I was game to give it a go I wasn’t overly keen on the running round in circles aspect of it all.

Apprehension aside, we chattered cheerily as we assembled.  It is/was quite cool to be on a flood lit track. It does make you feel instantly like a pro.  Go us!

track session on fire

As we stepped onto the track, my first impression was slight disappointment that the surface wasn’t actually super springy.  I think maybe with hindsight my expectations weren’t entirely realistic.  The surface is forgiving, but not actually bouncy all the way along like you are running on those jumping stilts.  Oh well, I’ll just have to buy a pair of those to experience that degree of bounding another time. Did you know that pro-jump stilts can enable you to jump 6ft high and to run 25mph+.  I’m surprised I’ve not thought of getting hold of some of those before quite frankly. What could possibly go wrong?

Once I got over the initial shock of finding we weren’t going to be bounding round a giant size trampoline, there was some better news.  Two lots of it to be precise. Good news one, we were encouraged to keep our fleeces on during the warm up.  Result!  Good news two, we were expected to chat to each other for the first part of the session, to avoid heading off too fast.  Now, I’m never guilty of the latter point, but happy to go along with the chit-chat option.  We Smilies always have loads to catch up on when we rendezvous, plus, on this occasion there was the extra enrichment and potential offered up by new running buddies a-plenty. A few of whom were also doing, or had done, the London marathon. Great opportunity for me to stalk them, and then groom them into downloading all their skills and experiences for me so I can learn from them. Things were looking up.

So we did some general ‘gentle jogging’ round the track.  I got disoriented immediately.   I have zero idea of how people who regularly do track work keep count of how far they have travelled.  I mean, we had someone to direct us, but I couldn’t imagine doing this session on my own, helpful as it was.

The next part of the session involved various running drills.  It’s always interesting doing these.  On a serious note, I rarely think about my running technique unless someone actually makes me, or I espy a particularly horrific running photo where my twisted torso and earthbound running style are hard to ignore.  It definitely makes a difference if I consciously improve my form, not only to speed, I am genuinely unconcerned about that, but also, and more importantly to injury prevention.  Some of the drills were familiar from the Accelerate woodrun sessions in Ecclesall Woods  (guilt, not been for ages, note to self go back and soon), others were completely new.  Although we only did the various drills for short bursts, it was surprising how strenuous they were.  I suppose that demonstrates how rarely I run with good form.  Sad but true.

I enjoyed some unfamiliar running drills too.  Some were to illustrate the impact of poor form alongside others to try to get us to experience the feel of flow when you are doing it right.  So for example, if you run with a stiff frame (firm core I think more technically expressed) it is actually more energy-efficient and easier than if you are all floppy.  It was good to demonstrate this, but honestly, I was quite smug on this point as I already knew all about this because of sheep.

ewe northumberland black face

True story, My great-aunt Elisabeth ran a Northumbrian sheep farm all on her own well into her eighties and who could still vault a 5 bar gate aged 70.  When I was little, we used to go on family holidays staying at a nearby cottage, and join her to ‘help’ with the August sheep dipping.  This was back in the days when the poor creatures were pushed into a long trench of foul-smelling liquid organophosphates and had their heads submerged by being pushed down under the mustard coloured effluent with a big curved stick, or by my rubber-clothed covered aunt standing alongside the trough shoving them under by hand.  I so wish I had some original photos of that time, but worry not, this is what google images are for, it honestly truly looked like this still in 1970s Northumberland.

Unsurprisingly, the sheep tried to resist. Now, the young sheep would spring about stiff and rigid trying to get away, but the stiff frames made it easy to grab hold of them and manoeuvre them into the trough. The experienced older ewes on the other hand had it all sussed. They would lie down and make themselves go completely limp, talk about dead weight. They were almost immoveable.  Little did I know back then, that this experience of dipping sheep would be an asset to my running theory arsenal.  Just shows, you never do quite know when some random bit of knowledge might come in handy.  It’s only a matter of time before I am called upon to once again use a slide rule.  It’s a shame I can’t remember how….

My personal favourite was when we had to try running with our arms pointing straight ahead hands locked like holding a pretend weapon.  The point being you can’t really run like this, so demonstrating the importance of good arm technique when running too.  I struggled with this one a bit more, because whilst the lived experience suggests that this is true and straight arms aren’t an effective way to cover the ground at speed,  this was nevertheless a big surprise to me because it was clearly never a problem for Charlie’s Angels. It just goes to show you shouldnt believe everything you see on TV, even if it is a documentary.

charlies-angels-r5-fb

So this track session malarkey was turning out way better than expected.  I got to keep wearing my fleece, it was both informative and entertaining, there was times for a laugh and a chit-chat between the drills. Excellent.  Most pleasing.  I was wearing my new shoes – did I mention I also got some new running shoes?  This is my other concession to marathon training, the first being body glide.  I like my Brooks ghost road shoes, but fear if I use them for training they will wear out just at the point I need them for the actual marathon –  hence I’ve invested in another pair so I can rotate them.  Also, this new pair is wide fitting and half a size smaller, so I think they’ll be better than my original size 5s where I went up a size to get the width. Thank you nice Frontrunner people for attending to my every whim whilst I was trying on lots and lots of shoes and agonising over their fit for ages.  Just think of the job satisfaction you’ll get when I’ve finally run a marathon in them and you can out yourselves as the folk who helped equip me.  I expect I’ll be the runner who goes viral for ‘being plucky’ as I’m still crawling round the route trying to finish a week later.  Imagine the glory of being aligned with that!  You’re welcome.

Anyway, so that bit was all grand, I was feeling quite confident that I had this nailed, applying my all.  Rookie error people.  It then became apparent astonishingly, all these drills were just the prelude to our actual running session not the entirety of it!  Phew, that was a worry.  Further trials followed.  We then had to finish of the first part of the session with a series of squats.  All well and good in theory, but not being allowed to hold on the fence whilst executing them was a bit of a blow.  I mean we were allowed to sort of ‘finger tip touch’ for balance purposes of course, but personally I’d have favoured the full white knuckled grab on technique.  Shame.

Next came various actual running sessions, that were good at the time, but frankly a bit of a blur now I’m trying to recall them a few days later.  It’s snowed since then, and I’ve come home to a leak in the ceiling, plus I always try to erase running memories quite quickly after the event in case I start to recall how very hard it was at the time and it dawns on me that running isn’t always intrinsically fun after all.

I have strava though!  Look, this is what I got up to:

round and round the track we go

Astonishingly, nearly 4 miles of track running.  I was amazed.  It didn’t feel that much.  Well, not until the next morning when I could hardly move, but that’s another story.

So, I think the next bit was we had to run two and a half laps of the track running as if at your 10k pace for 1000 metres.  Now I struggle with this, as all the evidence suggests I really have only one running pace, and I don’t differentiate between how I run whether it’s 5k, 10k or 12.12 miles, I just pootle about as best I can, and put on a show of sprinting if there is a photographer’s lens bearing down on me.  I blinked with incomprehension, as our leader clarified that this meant if you usually ran a  60 min 10k then this should take 6 minutes, and went on to expand adding ‘so this might take some of you 6 minutes,  some of you will take just 5 or 4.5′ blah de blah.   I was panicking inwardly as for me the numbers most definitely needed to be counting upwards in the other direction.  I’ve never done a sub one hour 10k in my life.  Not even close.  I think honestly, this is what I find both intimidating, and potentially helpful about the track, you do feel under surveillance, and in my case, that pushes me to do more, run faster than I would normally do. I am almost invariably the slowest runner in any pack, this becomes very evident over a short distance when all the other runner have completed a their session minutes ahead of you.  I felt my confidence making a run for it, which was ironic, as it was me that was more in need of the running tour de force…

Off we went.  An assistant stood at the mid-point to cheer us on and presumably scoop us off the track were we to fall over, whilst our official coach was at the end, shouting our finish times so we could gauge how closely we kept to our intended pace. The results were quite interesting, as without exception, we’d all run way faster than we’d be able to maintain over a 10k. Even me. Suggesting, annoyingly, that maybe I do have another pace within me after all. Curses.  I think I got away with it though, attributing my being so significantly fleeter of foot than I imagined to my transformation in running form as a result of all the insightful drills we’d just been doing.   I think sycophancy is a good way to blag things on such occasions, not a technique to be over-used, but one to have in reserve for emergencies such as these.  I think being on a flat surface probably helped, but it is true I had absolutely no idea how fast or far I was going.  I think the idea is that it is helpful to learn to ‘feel’ your pace, and we were supposed to be at threshold, so able to maintain it for relatively extended periods.

So then we had to do the exercise all over again, only slower.  It’s nice being instructed to take it easy.  As I was the slowbie of the group, I had the slightly surreal experience of running alone on the track at one stage, under the floodlights.  It was weird, I did sort of like it in a ‘well this is novel’ sort of way.  The even terrain and surface means you don’t have to think at all, you can just get in a rhythm, and I imagine that for them as want to disconnect from their surroundings and enter a trance like state that could be almost therapeutic.  On balance though one thing I learned over the weekend is that I really do run to get out in the peaks, and feel hyper alert to my surroundings, track running seems to me by contrast to be potentially a form or meditation.

 

Anyway, ’twas all good and interesting.  I did learn a lot, but I think track will remain a novelty feature in my running regime rather than a regular fixture.  Yep, I would do it again, but I’m not going to rush to find where the nearest track to me in Sheffield is.  We ended the session with a sort of tag relay.  We were in threes,  spread around the track, and you ran to your team-mate, tagged them and they ran to the next, but I was a bit unclear about when it ended, and were it not for someone shouting out to me that I could stop now I might have ended up running to infinity and beyond. This would have been terrible, as apart from anything else it would have led to my missing out on Bushy parkrun and hobnobbing with parkrun royalty the following day.  I shudder to think of how awful that would have been.

We finished with some stretches. Some undertook these with more enthusiasm and rigour than others.  Then we had to do lots of posing in front of The Mo Farah Sign, which was hilarious.  It was pointed out that possibly doing so in dark was not the best plan as our coach did laughingly point out we could come back and do it all in daylight tomorrow, but where would be the fun in that?  Plus, Smilies aren’t great at delayed gratification. That’s why it’s easy to get us to sign up to races in the heat of a moment as I’m not the only one who doesn’t always think things through…

I got one centre stage shot

CC has to be done

For the record, some of our number followed through with the forward planning and managed daylight selfies.  I respect these people, though I cannot truthfully count myself amongst them:

So our weekend was off to a good start. That was that, session done, strava recorded, photo shoot completed and we were all crazily hyped, like infants recently gorged on sherbet lemons and red bull.  Yay!  We can do anything, we are invincible, we are all indeed FGRs!

Back to base for communal smiley dining and then to take on the major challenge of the weekend which was to achieve sleep on the high-slide sleeping receptacles.   Not that I’d be able to sleep anyway. I was far too excited by the prospect of meeting parkrun royalty tomorrow and romping round the spiritual home of parkrun under the famous Bushy parkrun tree.

Bushy parkrun The Tree

Bring it on!

Just one more sleep…

For all my Run with Karen related blog posts, see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

Categories: running | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The misterious pleasures of running round Longshaw…

Digested read: I went a-yomping round Longshaw with two running buddies.  It was very misty, but fantastic to get out on the moors damp as they were.  Wet feet all round, and some minor near death experiences.  Still, we all made it back safely. Note to self, learn to navigate.  Second note to self, make the effort to get out more on them there hills. Always fabulous.

seriously misterious

See what I did there?  Genius I know.  I wouldn’t go so far as to describe myself as a stable genius, that would be the declaration of only the most narcissistic idiot, but I’m happy with being a self-declared genius when the evidence of appropriate punning is so incontrovertible.  Misterious instead of mysterious.  I am ON FIRE!

So the deal was this. Yesterday morning I  rendezvoused with two running buddies, one previously unknown to me, to have a romp round the Longshaw 10k route.  There was a small flaw in the plan, well a couple of small flaws to be fair, maybe even several. For starters, firstly, I don’t think any of us had reckoned on such thick mist – you could hardly see your hand in front of your face at times.  Secondly, not having done the route for ages it’s amazing how different it all looks in a different season and without hi-viz marshals doing helpful directional pointing at key junctions and thirdly, we were all a bit at crossed purposes.  One set on doing the actual route, another on just an ‘in the general vicinity run‘ and another on the let’s go out yomping elsewhere and have an adventure.  Finally, we were all a bit ‘no, no, whatever way you think‘ with no-one really being assertive about the route or their plans. In the circumstances it’s a miracle we made it out at all, let alone back, yet out and back we did, and it was grand!

The day dawned.  Well, I say dawned, not much sun in sight, just dank and dismal mist.  We rendezvoused in the Fox House car park which was pretty deserted first thing.  Inevitably I arrived first (I’m invariably early because I’m paranoid about being late).  As I sat in the car waiting my compatriots I was feeling a bit less than committed to the prospect of running. Honestly, is there anything more depressing than rain beating down on a car windscreen which you can barely see through because of a near impenetrable fog outside, knowing that sooner or later there will be an expectation you venture out into the cold and gloom and voluntarily engage in physical exertion?  Not much I think.

Since I was early.  I used the time alone with my thoughts to consider whether or not rather than ploughing on with this ludicrous plan of running a marathon, I should rather be ending my running career on a high, and be announcing my retirement. The thing is dear reader. Something unlikely, unbelievable even and amazing has happened. Smiletastic results for week 1 have inexplicably placed me at the top of the leaderboard for individual performance!  I know, who knew? Who saw that coming?  No-one is more astonished than I. For clarification, it is the case that all my individual points were for timed runs, and week one of January offered up two parkruns on New Year’s Day, then the saturday following ‘usual’ parkrun  – other Smilies took advantage of all of these  – but where I snuck in an extra critical 5 points was by marshaling at Graves Junior parkrun, hardly a hardship. I love volunteering there.  Because Smiletastic is designed to be inclusive, you get points for marshaling/ volunteering at organised events, thus, on a technicality, it could be argued that my ‘winning’ status has little to do with running and rather more to do with boisterous high-fiving and directional pointing.  I concede this point entirely, but then again, it is precisely because of this I am most unlikely ever to equal let alone exceed this sporting triumph, greater athletes than I have quit whilst they were ahead.  If I did announce my retirement, I could avoid going out in the wet and cold and spend the morning with dry feet. Worth thinking about.  On the other hand, I do have my Dragonfly team-mates to consider, ‘one for all and all for one’, wouldn’t really want to turn my back on them now…  Only the day before we had been out in force, we mighty dragonflies, segment bagging again, this time round Millhouses park.  It was crazily busy.  Like Piccadily circus with runners hurtling round in all directions, with just as much in the way of illumination as the neon lights of the titular location.  Me and fell-flying Smiley who’d gone down together nearly ended up gate crashing a Totley AC run. Then when we were er hem debriefing afterwards in the Wagon and HorsesWagon and Horses there was a constant to and fro of I think hi-viz Steel City Striders doing intervals on the road outside.  A veritable plague of runners, I wonder how many of them are genuinely hardcore and how many are starting out with the outward confidence of  a newly forged New Year’s Resolutions albeit an inward shudder at the cold?

piccadily circus

Anyway, enough of my digression from the theme … in the event, I couldn’t announce my retirement, because I don’t have a smart phone, and also you can’t really announce anything unless people are listening, and/or are moderately interested in what you have to say and I’m not sure these particular pre-requisites applied in my case.  Maybe it’s like the tree falling in the forest and no-one hearing, does it make a noise dilemma, don’t think that’s been settled yet has it?  Maybe it has.  If only I could be bothered to google it, I’d be so much better informed. Sigh.  Here is a tastefully photographed fallen tree we saw out today at Longshaw (spoiler, you can see I did get out the car), in case you aren’t quite sure what a fallen tree looks like.  I’m going to put it out there that I believe this tree did make a noise when it fell, even though I personally was not on hand to hear it do so.  Not sure if that supports or counteracts my ‘I’m a genius‘ claim earlier.  Oh well.  I’m prepared to risk it.

artistic tree shot

Bottom line.  I’d be running. No retirement yet.

The others arrived, and had soon bounced out of their car, and our designated photographer for the day had us organised us into our ‘before’ selfie.

before shot

Although obviously it was a bit of a worry that this implied there’d be an ‘after’ shot, so we were expected to get out there and run, on the plus side, this recent photo might prove handy for identification persons if any of us were to get lost on them there hills.  Off we went.

I am so used to parking in the Longshaw car park, I headed off down the road leading the others through the fog, dodging cars as best we could. (Yes we were facing oncoming traffic, but it was so foggy).  Our designated photographer jokingly queried whether I was trying to kill her off as she’d done this route with someone else last week, and they took her a different entrance into the estate avoiding the road.  I jokingly brushed it off, inwardly cursing that this perceptive Smiletastic bee had unwittingly seen through my ruse.  Oh well.  There are still 11 weeks to go, and I have to concede she is a companionable running buddy and queen of the collective selfie so worth hanging onto … for now.

We set off (after our precautionary pees without which no run in my training calendar can be undertaken), and our initial plan was to follow the Longshaw Trust 10k route, which I’ve done loads of times before, albeit only once this year.  We started confidently, but very quickly got confused about whether we turned off quite so soon. Maybe it’s because of having to take important phone call on the way round.  Threw me.  Busy, busy, busy.

day at the office

scampering past the lake – it was surprisingly ice-covered, it didn’t actually feel too cold once we were out.

by the lake

Confusingly (for me, but then it doesn’t take much) they have greatly ‘improved’ signage at Longshaw.  I mean they really have, but the proliferation of previously  lacking signs threw me a bit, as they have a pink signed 5k route and I started to wonder if this was the 5k loop for the 10k.  No, none of us had a map, or had thought about the actual route much in advance. Turns out, if there is no marshal doing their directional pointing, then I don’t know where to go, particularly when there are three of us with varying degrees of confidence about the route.  It also shows how I abdicate responsibility for navigation at a marked event.  Not sensible really.  Part of how I managed to come in behind the tail-marker at my first fell race, blithely following signs.  Mind you, gotta love a Wingerworth Wobble, I’ll always have a soft spot for that crowd, go wobblers!

One of our number enthusiastically pointed ahead, we could embrace the adventure, we could head off up them there hills.  It would take us up high, we could yomp, what’s not to like!

Off we went.  Quickly we were out across the road and heading to new horizons, or what might have been new horizons if we could actually see anything very much, which we couldn’t.  However, you know what, it was completely brilliant. Despite my initial apprehension it is always fantastic to get out in the peaks. The area around Longshaw is gorgeous, it’s a different kind of atmospheric beauty in the mist, but you get to feel intrepid and hardcore venturing out and clambering over boulders when it’s like that.  Actual running was a bit tricky because the terrain was rough, the path unclear and it was really slippy in parts – I was wearing my innov8 parkclaw, which are my go-to trail shoes (size 5 if you’d like to sponsor me nice innov8 people), but actually I was wishing I’d got my Irocks on.  Oops, guess that’s blown the free pair of trail shoes from innov8 now, oh well, I daresay it’ll be their loss.  (Slight cough moment).

The thing is, you go out, and you get to see amazing things within just a couple of kilometers, if anything, the mistiness just made everything even more dramatic.

We even stumbled across this mahoosive rock formation which I like to think of as Longshaw’s Uluru (though it’s OK to climb this one, whereas you really, really shouldn’t be scampering around on the Australian original) but think it might actually be Mother Cap at Owler Tor.  Great opportunity for more exploring, scampering, gratuitous photographing and, inevitably, some very fine photobombing.  Had to be done.

Obviously we ran really, really hard in between times, but you can’t take photos when you are pushing yourself that hard, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.  It was an amazing spot. Check out these photos around Owler from a late summer photographer James Grant, pretty impressive are they not?  Any time is a good time to be out there and up high, you feel like you have the whole world to yourself.  Amazing. What the heck, here’s one of his photos, so you get the idea, it’s almost as good as our very own official photographer’s ones I’m sure you’ll agree.

Over-Owler-Tor-Sunset-Peak-District-Photography-1024x684

We found ourselves at one point with a choice between plummeting over the edge of the earth, which must therefore be flat after all, or going off-piste.

over the edge

We went off-piste.  Much scampering, a bit of hesitance, some shrieking, a few near misses and a bit of toing and froing. This is what makes off-road fun.  One of we three amigos was the official photographer (not me), one was our pathfinder and navigator (not me) and then there was me.  I’m not entirely sure what my role was.  Is ballast a role as such or just a state of being.

I did have one anxious moment when, simultaneously, both of my running companions took a tumble.  That raised the horrific possibility for the briefest of moments that I’d have to be the ‘responsible adult’ whilst my broken, fallen, crumpled and unconscious running buddies lay contorted in a heap together.  I did at least have a phone with me, and I know to call mountain rescue, but I don’t think I’d have been too good with instructions.  ‘What can you see?’ they might say ‘mist‘ I’d reply.  ‘Anything else?’ they’d prompt hopefully ‘ice-covered puddles and rocks‘ I’d add.  I was minded of a time (true story) when I worked in an open plan office.  A young recruit was driving to a venue she’d not been to before with a colleague, pre sat nav, they were lost on a motorway so rang the office for help with directions. As they had no idea where they were exactly, the person taking the call asked ‘what can you see?’ the reply they got ‘We’re following a volvo and there’s a lorry on the inside lane‘  I have never heard the team of an open plan office guffaw as one so loudly before or since.  It was quite a moment.  Even better, the caller heard us, and added ‘what are you laughing at?’  I reckon all those swivel chairs had to be professionally cleaned after that…

Anyways, panic over, they were fine, we ran onwards:

I tried to trick my buddies into a dragonflies wings pose, but it didn’t quite work, it’s hard this stealth dragonfly insertion strategy.  Surely some credit for effort.  The mist started to lift and as we descended the scenery changed again.  It was still a bit treacherous underfoot, with some ice patches.  I did slide about a bit, but as I explained to the others I’d be fine about my moment of demise being up there, and more than content to be just rolled into a ditch or whatever.  The timing would guarantee that my obituary could truthfully state that I was leading the field for the demanding Smiletastic challenge giving a huge implied truth that it was inevitable I’d have won it overall had I but lived, plus, I’m already on record as wanting the Khmer version of achy-breaky heart played at my funeral, or if I don’t have a funeral, at any associated wake.  It’s not so much of a niche offering as you might think. Very popular at the Olympic Stadium early morning workouts in Phnom Penh.  I know, educational this blog post is it not?

We descended, back onto the road, we didn’t hitch a lift, even though that’s what it looks like we were trying to do.  I’m not sure about my hat?  It’s a trust 10 one, but maybe a bit much other than for when actually doing the Longshaw 10k do you think?  Comfy, and stays put.  Very pink though.  Why is everything pink?

hitching a ride

Across the road, back into the Longshaw estate, where there was a fine waterfall.

Bit of a heave-ho in parts, but I was after miles on the legs rather than speed. I’ve only just got back into running (I use the term loosely) after various niggles and lack of routine) so I have a terror of getting injured.  Walking is grand for getting strength back. Apparently, if you run the load on your calves is about 8 – 12 times your body weight, but if you walk it’s just about twice.  To be fair, I have no idea if these figures are correct, but they ring true. My calves are the Achilles heel of my running, which is weird, as the achilles is somewhere else entirely. Still, you get my point I’m sure, or wont especially care if you don’t.  Bottom line, I want to take it slowly, and build up my distances without breaking anything other than involuntary wind during my training regime.  Any runner who claims never to have broken that when running is either a medical curiosity who should be euthanized and dissected for the greater good, or lying. You choose. Anyway, it wasn’t only me walking, though I do concede the hands on hips pose is somewhat petulant…

where now

We ended up looping round and coming in near to the fox house pub.  We still hadn’t done the 10k route though,  even though we’d been out ages, so after much debate, we agreed we’d add that on.

any which way you can

We had one wrong turn – oops, but got there in the end.  It was grand.  It is really remarkable how the landscape changes in what is a relatively short route.  We had woodland bits, and heather bits, and boggy bits, and heather bits.   All good.  You can see we were all complete naturals in front of the camera.

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I took a pause for dry-stone walling tutorial. There is a team doing amazing work rebuilding these, some of the walls on the estate go back about 400 years apparently, though this one is ‘only ‘ about 150 years old.  Looking good.   Repairing them is most definitely a labour of love, but imagine the satisfaction of getting those walls back up for maybe another 150 years of service. Quite a legacy.

dry stone walling tutorial

Also on our ‘to do’ list for the day. Yes we did have one. Was to go up the steps spotted on a previous run, and check out the view from the top. The steps are towards the end of teh 5k lap of the Trust 10k.  Embarrassingly I’d not particularly noticed these before – obviously running too fast and too focused on the finish.  But they are enticing… steep but with a pretty little tree towards the top.

steps gorgeous

Up we went.  You basically hit the road the other side, but turn around and look back from whence you came, and you get this:

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Really stunning. Also good for posing for shots so brace yourself people, here we are doing are very own version of the Barbary Lane steps of San Francisco.  Oh and a random non step photo just because I like it. See if you can tell which one it is.

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And so after the steps, it was back onto the main path, through the gate and we were soon back at Fox House.  Yomping concluded. The original plan had been to have a coffee here afterwards, but time ran out so we will have to save ourselves for next time. This is where we went by the way, about 12km in total I think, just under maybe:

misty longshaw strava route

Not strictly speaking a recreation of the Trust 10k, but pretty darned fabulous, and way better for achieving both a spontaneous bit of exploration as well as near enough one 5k loop of the 10k which is all that was required really.  Great to be reminded of what is on our doorstep, must make the effort to get out exploring it more all over again.

Oh yes, nearly forgot, here is the mandatory ‘after’ shot.  We did it, we ran, we conquered, made it onto Strava as well, everyone’s a winner.

after shot

So back on it.  I need to embrace those trails.  I recognise I will get wet feet, and never again see the natural skin colour around my toes, or for quite  a way up my legs too if you take the real extent of peat-stained splash back into account – but I consider this but a small price to pay for such adventures in the mist.

There you go, misterious joys of running demystified.  You’re welcome.

See you on the moors.  Unless you see me first.  Obviously.

 

 

Thanks Carol Speight for the photos, and thank you running buddies both. We are all awesome.  Evidently!

Categories: motivation, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Running for gold! Smiletastic 2018 has begun.

Digested read: smiletastic got us dragonflies out and running. There was a bit of moaning, what with the inclement weather and torrential rain,  but we still did it, and got our golden segment.  Now we feel awesome.  Storm Eleanor was not to be messed with though.   Breezy out.

You wouldn’t believe the state of my wheelie bins this morning!  They were in absolute turmoil.  I imagine the scene that greeted me through my window was pretty much identical to that which would greet me post the apocalypse. Bins heaped up in a cowering pile where they’d been blown across the paving into a convenient wall. Bird feeders empty. The end of the world to be sure.  This, dear reader, as perhaps you know already if you so much as peeked out from under the duvet, or listened to the screaming wind battering your place of dwelling last night, was the aftermath of Storm Eleanor which swept through the UK last night.   It brought those who ventured out in it, not just grazed knees and bad hair experiences, but for us Smiletastic Dragonflies, a display of running guts and glory.  Because we are hard-core, dedicated and awesome, we went, we conquered, we will crack this!

So for those of you who need to be brought up to speed Smiletastic 2018 is an annual three-month team challenge, for members of the Smiley Paces Sheffield Women’s Running Club who choose to opt in.  The idea is it motivates you to get out and run even when the weather is less than clement, and as a pleasing side-effect you get to know other club members you might not have met before and also to laugh together to such an extent your knickers may never dry, but it won’t matter, because mostly you’ll be running in a deluge anyway so no-one will notice.  As well as laughing ’til you either wet yourself or cry, you can also do some actual crying, as it can get more stressful than you might think, being amongst a scrum of motivated runners.

For a three-month period we pledge to do so many runs each week, and a longer run.  A ‘run’ can be anything from 2 miles upwards, and, to avoid people doing too much when injured, you can ‘run’ at any speed, walk if you must.  You get points according to how well you stick to your own pledges, not for just doing lots of runs.  So you set a goal that is individual to you. So far, so dull. The exciting/extraordinarily stress inducing bit, is that there are lots of potential for extra team and individual points.  These are awarded for e.g. attending timed runs parkrun, Longshaw 10k or other organised running events), getting together as a group, creativity and ‘team spirit’ and, teasingly, for picking off specified strava segments as they are revealed week by week.  Plus, we are hoping that as in previous years they will also be awarded for shameless sycophancy, expressions of adoration via strava outlines or original poetry for example.  Did I mention that in some ways, Smiletastic is also an emergent cult of personality, and none the worse for that say I!  Here are some still-to-be-topped offerings from 2016:

This year the best team is the Dragonflies. Because I am in this team, and we are individually as well as collectively brilliant.

dragonfly

There are some gaps in the scoring, you seem to able to get points by wearing down the Smiley Elder who founded this Smiletastic movement with pleading emails on spurios tenuous grounds of demonstration of smiley spirit. To date there are no points awarded – or indeed deducted – for the spread of misinformation to rival teams.  And quite right too. ‘ It is the chequered flag that’s at the start of a strava route people isn’t it?  Yes, that’s right, I’m sure, now off you go team bees, ladybirds and grasshoppers, I know we dragonflies ran it the other way round, but for us it’s the taking part not the winning that’s important, so we feel no need to run it again the other way.  Have fun fellow insects, flutter by!’

So, let me explain.  Smiletastic commenced on 1st January this year, was that only a couple of days ago? It seems like a lifetime.  Already we dragonflies have tried to co-ordinate ourselves. We are all quite a nurturing, ‘don’t want to pressurize anyone’ sort of lot, but we also apparently have inner competitive instincts, tempered only by a reluctance to go out in the cold and wet.  In a fit of post-run / pre challenge euphoria, we agreed we’d all meet early in the New Year – or as many of us that reasonably could – at the Greystones pub to bond, do a little gentle run out, talk tactics, and who knows, maybe accidentally do the pub quiz at the same time…. We’d already fixed a date for this when the news broke, basically, there was a golden ticket that was ours for the taking!

golden ticket

Smiley Elder announced that ‘for one week only’ points could be nabbed for those amongst us who managed to run this particular strava segment – pronounced as ‘The Golden Segment’ before the week ended.  Oh. My. Gawd!  It was a gift, so near to the Greystones, and we were meeting there for a run and team talk anyway, it was meant to be!

golden segment

I think it’s fair to say we were feeling pretty darned pleased with ourselves, possibly even marginally smug. And then the day dawned.  Eleanor started weaving across.   The day darkened, the wind picked up, the rain fell. I for one felt my enthusiasm not so much waning as nowhere to be seen. Whose idea was this? Do we really need to obsess about this so early on?  It’s only one little run? Then again – and this is where Smiletastic kicks in, I’d already promised (being conscientious if not keen is a heavy burden to bear) and I didn’t want to let my team members down. They’d be chaffing at the bit to get out there.

I arrived first, and stood in the doorway of the pub, in my hi-vis, shivering, and looking pitifully out at the torrential rain.  After a while, another Dragonfly Smiley put in a somewhat dishevelled appearance.  ‘Are we seriously going to do this?’ she ventured.  We commiserated with one another, hardly able to hear one another over the howling wind, secretly hoping no-one else would show.   We could then occupy the moral high ground by dint of having shown up, but bail because of  ‘safety’ – don’t want to be out on the roads other than in a larger group when it’s so dark  Then another put in a less than half-hearted appearance: ‘I was really hoping someone would post on Facebook to suggest we’d rearrange‘ she said ‘then I was planning to be all supportive and say, “of course, I would have gone, but quite understand, happy to be flexible and rearrange blah de blah if you feel you don’t want to”‘.  The next dragonfly to show up wasn’t even wearing her running gear and was astonished we were.   I think it would be fair to say we weren’t visibly oozing the enthusiasm we voiced when the run was just a theoretical future possibility rather than a near present unpleasant reality….  Just as we were pooling our reluctance and on the cusp of activating our ‘mutual permission to opt out’ exit plans in bounced another senior Smiley, with smile, head torch and a ‘shall we go then!’ exclamation, and before we knew what was happening, we were all changed into running gear, armed up with head torches and on the street outside.  Moaning.   ‘This is actual sleet!’ ‘We will get a bonus point for doing this won’t we’ and such like.  ‘Someone better get a photo.’  ‘Wait, wait, my watch hasn’t picked up my GPS’  Usual pre-running laments.

We headed off, it was OK, little bit of road, down through to Bingham Park, and although it was really, really dark, we had a bit of a boost from collective smugness, marveling at our ability to get 8 of us out together on a dark and stormy night. It was good bonding. Down, down we went, and then off to the left and into the woods. We were a bit nesh, well I was, but I was not alone in putting on the brakes at the edge of the ocean, ther was something of a collective emergency stop when we reached not so much as a puddle, but a dark muddied lake crossing the whole path. It was so dark, you couldn’t see the other side of it, and it was daunting.  To be fair, it was HUGE, I reckon, were it not for the dark, this mass of water would have been visible from space.  No really, it would.   In your head you know it’s tarmac underneath and it can’t be that deep, but in my heart it looked like we were being asked to place our trust in fate and step out into an endless ocean.  I got wet feet, but we all made it to the other side, proving, if proof were needed, that we dragonflies are invincible.

We trotted on, wondering if eight dragonflies running would be apt for the eighth day of Christmas.  To be fair, it may well have been, but unfortunately I’ve since found out it was the ninth day of Christmas so that doesn’t work quite so well.  Eventually we reached the point where we thought the strava section commenced. Everything was on the line here.  We had 200 metres of running ahead, but which path to take?  Given that the whole point of Smiletastic is to get us all running, the irony of the fact that we all stood around for an age debating in the dark whether we were at the right point and right side of the river over what was just a short segment was not lost on me. We agreed eventually that we were pretty sure, but worse case scenario we’d run up it, then back and up again the other side,  after all, an extra 400 metres probably wouldn’t actually lead to our early demise.

So, we trotted on, and when we got to the end, hung around, whilst those with superior eyesight and better hi-tech equipment pored over their strava uploads until they were able to pronounce that we had indeed nailed it.  Whoops and high fives followed.  Plus, pleasingly, we had run exactly a mile, inadvertently it’s true, but it meant that by the time we got back to the pub we’d have done 2 miles, making this a permissible claim as one of our pledged runs if needed.

On the way back, we felt fantastic.  Apart from when we had to climb back up the hill. We had the wit and foresight to pose for a photo, because what could better communicate our awesomeness and commitment than a poorly framed composition of bedraggled barely recognisable faces than this one of we eight dragonflies going for gold:

dragonflies golden segment

So by the time we were back at the pub, we were feeling extremely pleased with ourselves.  More logistical challenges followed, ordering a jug of soda and lime juice is way harder than you might think, and somehow we ended up talking up the price of it, which seems less than financially prudent.  We then sat and shared running tales, and with our post run glow all thoughts of how but 30 minutes earlier we’d all been trying to wriggle out of it were gone. ‘Nope, I don’t remember that, was always totally up for running in torrential sleet in the dark and open swimming through the impromptu lakes, awesome outing, totally love running‘ we chorused as one.

So conversation turned to new challenges, new glories and best of all, fancy dress options. But I don’t want to spoil that. Suffice to say that sparkly tights could yet turn out to be an asset to my wardrobe, memo to self, hit those redundant Christmas wear sales ASAP, there could be a run on iridescent tights in the Sheffield area.

So thank you dragonflies, it bodes well. We were on fire last night.  Fireflies rather than dragonflies, with our torches and high vis lighting the way in the dark.  Day two of Smiletastic, done.  Golden segments secured, and we’ve barely started…  One day all dragonflies will come together and that will be even more awesome.  I know, hard to imagine. Oh, here’s another group photo of us all running, amazing aren’t we.  Whitely woods isn’t looking too shabby either.

fireflies in the forest

And you want to know the best bit?  The best bit, was waking up this morning to the sound of the elements crashing about outside, and knowing I’d already planned today as a non-running day, I can stay inside not only with an easy conscience, but with the warm glow of self-righteous satisfaction, that my golden segment for this week at least, is already in the bag…. strava permitting.  That feels good.

Result.

Hope you reach your running goals too, but remember people, it is supposed to be fun!

As a reward for making it to the end of this post, here is a picture of a puffling, running.    I don’t believe it is possible to look on this without smiling.

puffling

You’re welcome.

 

Categories: motivation, off road, running | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new parkrun double for me… and I’m feeling good! (ish)*

Digested read: we’ve had an icy twixmas parkrun, then new year day double. Hurrah.  Best way to start the year. Shame some people have picked up a mysterious 24 hour bug, but hey ho, job done. Go us!  Happy New Year everyone.  Also, let Smiletastic commence. Isn’t parkrun grand?  Love parkrun.  🙂

*Strictly speaking, I was feeling a bit rough.  But that messes with both the scanning and the opportunity to link to a fine Nina Simone power ballad, so forgive the artistic licence with my edit.  Gotta love Nina

5898bc4adc8ba198a0161811b70f8639--nina-simone-best-songs

Is it true you are supposed to start the New Year as you mean to go on?  If so, I don’t know whether I have passed or failed in that respect.  I did make it to a parkrun, twice in fact (yay) but I also felt distinctly queasy, sleep deprived and as a consequence loped round the two different courses lard-arsed, and with little vestige of either personal propulsion or personal dignity.  On the plus side, awesome crowd, parkrun buddies old and new, with added Smiletastic Dragonfly vigour for good measure.  Maybe a case of good in parts.

Last time I posted about parkrun it was to reveal all about my ill-judged,  type 2 fun run out with Sophie at Concord on Christmas Day.  By mutual consent, this romp round marked both the beginning and end of our running partnership.  It’s OK, because she has decided she want’s to focus on her skiing – she thinks the photo ops with a backdrop of snow will be more flattering, and likewise I think I’ll have more flattering running photos too, without wrestling with a unicorn the whole way round.  Running with dignity – that would be a great way to start the new year would it not.

It sure as heck wasn’t how I ended it though.  Since Christmas,we’ve had our ‘twixmas run at Sheffield Hallam.  That was something of an experience.  Other parkruns local to Sheffield fell like flies, cancelled due to ice and slidy paths. Hallam gamely decided to brave it, but you know that it’s not going to be a PB run when you see the run director heading out with a shovel at the start don’t you?  I promise you, he wasn’t just heading out for a wild-camping inspired dump.  I know this, because I saw him ice breaking on Rustlings Road,  above and beyond my friend.  Respect to you.

man with shovel

It was something of a slide about,though those in the front of the line up seemed as fearless as ever…

how it started

but I like to think the mud snorkeling and iced pavements added a certain frissance to the occasion.  We had our very own arctic enemas and mud crawls. Who needs tough mudder anyway?

Personally, I didn’t mind at all having to take it really slowly, but maybe with hindsight I’d have bottled it.  You know it’s bad when dogs are being carried round rather than chased after by breathless runners.  Unless our resident photographer inadvertently snapped a 101 Dalmatians inspired dog-knapper at the very moment of the dogduction, must check Sheffield animals lost and found to clarify.

precious cargo

Weirdly, it’s the rise in temperature that made the compressed ice especially treacherous, not so much slush, as a perfect skidway with meltwater pooling on top of the ice. Still, all’s well that ends well.  They counted everyone in, and they counted everyone back, sighs of relief all round. What was not so grand, was discovering that apparently it isn’t running with a unicorn that makes me appear undignified in my gait.  It is the actual act of ‘running’.  The camera never lies, although it does have a very dry sense of humour it seems…

I have to accept I’m not a natural at this.  I don’t know why I keep on going really.  Hope over experience perhaps, or maybe the prospect of post-parkrun brunch?  Probably brunch.

Still, love parkrun. The more parkruns the better.  Hence, given that, as parkrun aficionados all over the world know:

New Year’s Day is the one day of the year where it is possible to walk, jog, run or volunteer at two parkruns on the same day! What better way to start 2018

I remain conscientious about the concept and commitment to parkrun if not always keen on the actual running component of the enterprise.  New Year’s Day promised the possibility of a parkrun double, and as a parkrun partaker, that was too good a chance to miss.  I couldn’t get to parkrun last year, but achieved the parkrun double the year before going to Nostell Priory and Pontefract parkruns and that was fab.  This year, a host of us were planning to go, but inevitably it got a bit complicated, there were those with injuries or hosting obligations on New Year’s Eve that might prove incompatible with undertaking a parkrun shuffle. Then, an added consideration for me at least, was feeling torn between my conflicting desires on the one hand to be constant to my regular parkrun partners and brunching buddies or on the other to take flight and throw my lot in with my new Smiletastic compatriots in our newly formed Dragonfly team. Dropping my longstanding, loyal and unswerving running companions as my head was turned by short-lived glory that might be achieved through association with such swarming irridescent beauties.  Tough call.  Seductive, aren’t they?  You’ve got to admit you’d have your head turned too, surely… and I’m way more suggestible and shallow than you probably are with your principles, stoicism, and fine running technique. Plus, well, it’s Smiletastic, that’s an annual game changer.  All previous alliances, allegiances and agreements are off.  It’s another new dawn, you exist for your team and they for you.  One for all and all for one, and everyone for post run coffee and cake (other foods and beverages are available).

For those of you not in the know, firstly, where have you been?  Secondly, in brief, Smiletastic is an annual team challenge for members of the Smiley Paces.  I did it a couple of years ago, and participation in that helped me to put in the necessary training which got me round the Sheffield Half, in a fashion.  It also was fairly traumatic, it’s a big responsibility pledging runs and knowing if you fail to deliver, you will bring your team down with you!  STRESS!  As with all running related stresses, after the event, trauma morphs almost seamlessly into nostalgia.  That was sooooooooooo fun and not at all pressurised and stress inducing!  No wonder we all worship Smiley Elder for bringing Smiletastic into being.  After a year off when I was in Cambodia, this year when Smiletastic came round it was Bring. It. On!

Better yet. I was in team dragonfly.  Hurrah.  Great, we would be mutually supportive we quickly agreed. This would be fun and about team motivation, and we wouldn’t let it get stressful and none of us were going to be competitive about it.  … mind you, doesn’t hurt to get in the mood, maybe we could pitch for some fun ‘getting in the Smiletastic spirit’ team points early on using the old tea-cosy on the head ruse, that might work?  Failing that the dragonfly trail find has to be a win right?  Loving your work fell flying smiley.

Then there is always the fancy dress dimension to be considered, but no spoilers regarding that today.  Patience dear reader, patience, that time will come…

The Smiletastic rules pronounced that individual points would be available to those who rock up at parkrun. Hurrah. That’s me in, twice, it being a New Year’s Day double there for the taking. Then, we see that if we can get more than 50% of our 13 strong team along to a timed run (such as parkrun) then there are more points to be had.  Well.  I mean, no pressure, but ‘just out of interest, who’s thinking of rocking up on New Year’s Day’.  Our Facebook exchanges were hilarious.  Artistry of expression, as we all tried soooooooooooo very hard to be mutually respectful of each others circumstances and decisions whilst desperately, desperately trying not to reveal that every one of us was furtively counting up the takers to date on our fingers to see if it might be doable.   Such was the swell of enthusiasm for the endeavour some of the ‘sorry, but categorically can’t make it‘ dragonflies were soon flitting back with a ‘but I have terrible fear of missing out, so maybe…‘. Anyway, dear reader, the upshot was, come New Year’s Day, we were all on the cusp of witnessing a miracle akin to that of dragonfly larvae emerging en masse from a pond and revealing their wings, were we to witness a similar magnificent display of dragonflies altogether for the New Year’s Day parkrun Double?

YES!

WE WERE!

It nearly didn’t happen though. I was out on new year’s eve, by no means a given for me.  My body is generally speaking a temple, albeit one for people who worship somewhat spherically inclined deities that have recently been dragged backwards through a hedge.  Even so, I can tell within a microgram when I have reached capacity for alcohol and need to cease drinking and withdraw from social situations.  On reaching this point about 11.30, I was ready to sneak away from the festivities but was caught in the act, persuaded to stay on, toast in the new year, less sleep, more alcohol, face-plant into a trifle (that was well worth staying up for) and to see the new year in with a ferocious display of fireworks.  When one went off a bit too close for comfort I learned about myself that in adversity I will try to save myself before others.  Oh dear.  I may be a horrible human being, but at least I am self-aware…  Anyway, it was a lovely new year’s eve celebration with fine hosts and fabulous folk all around, but it was not compatible with idealised double parkrun preparations.  I knew I’d be dehydrated, so drank loads before I went to bed, and then had to get up loads in the night so I wondered why I’d bothered to go to bed at all.

Sleep deprived, managing somehow to sport simultaneously an uncomfortably full bladder and a raging thirst, I staggered down to the rendezvous point where a group of us had pledged to meet and go together to the first parkrun of the day.  As I dragged my weary carcass down the empty streets, I saw a couple of people, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, cheerily jogging along. ‘What are they doing, are they crazy?’ I thought, a bit too loudly for comfort – where did that headache come from, who is it who’s shouting?  Before it occurred to me that in a way I was about to do the same, but with considerably less bounce, well boob bounce possibly, but spiritual bounce not so much.  It is an interesting (to me anyway, you can be bored if you like) concept, that parkrun has become so much a habit, that I actually no longer associate it with running at all.  It is just that when parkrunday comes around, I go and do it.  No thinking, no negotiation, it is just a case of ‘make it so’.  This is the great glory of parkrun  – and indeed Smiletastic, on days when I wouldn’t normally entertain the idea of running anywhere or for any distance at all I find I’m almost doing so by accident.  It is a wonderful thing.  Shame that I’d obviously eaten something that disagreed with me yesterday, no other explanation for my constantly shifting consciousness. Thank goodness I wasn’t doing the driving!

Astonishingly, four of us did make the rendezvous as planned!  We piled into the car, and off we went to Graves.  We expected to find the place heaving, but it seems on New Year’s Day parkrunners work on just-in-time principles.  Apart from the core team of hi-viz heroes who were out setting up the course whilst revelers from the night before were probably still making their way home.  Kudos to you guys, your efforts were and are appreciated.  🙂  (Nothing like an emoticon to make someone feel valued apparently, so that’s good).

NYD graves team

We sorted parking, and then some opted to sit in the car, I went in search of a loo.  Disaster, they were shut.  It would probably be unseemly to report that there was a fair exodus of wandering runners who all seemingly had dropped something in the bushes just before the run, and that something was possibly their pants.  Don’t know why, desperate times call for desperate measures though.

Soon, there was quite a gang assembled.  I found that, much like when I tried to save myself when the rogue firework went off, I was quite happy to ditch my loyal parkrunning buddies and lift providers at the first sniff of a dragonfly.  Found one, found more.  Then there was frenetic counting, would we make the 50% requirement.  … not that we cared, because it was all fun, but ooooh, so teasingly close.  We half-heartedly greeted others whilst distracted by our search for insect companions.  We achieved one selfie, of the dragonfly team, only one of the people within it isn’t, no matter, we can always photoshop on the missing fellow dragonflies later on, so that’s fine.

graves parkrun dragonflies

Then there was a call to gather and the Run Director’s briefing.

graves RD song line briefing

Impressively, the poet laureate for Graves had composed something for just this occasion.  You really should read the Graves parkrun report of the morning, because it contains not only pictures AND the note that this was a record-breaking start to the year with an attendance of 374 parkrun/jog/walkers AND an original poem to mark the occasion of the New Year but also the fabulous statistical insight that ‘of those taking part at Graves this morning, 131 then headed to Poolsbrook and a further 50 to Hillsborough’.  Hurrah, I do like a good parkrun stat.  I wonder how they number crunched that one.

These were pleasures yet to come.  I just know that when the shout went off to start, we went off.  It was a bit of a slow shuffle to be fair, a fact for which I was enormously grateful.  I pootled round.  Graves parkrun is actually my favourite of the Sheffield courses, because of the varied terrain, the scenic nature, the farm animals, but today it was a slog. Who lengthened the hill?  Even so, there were some – indeed many – highlights en route.  Specifically:

  • WAtching regal smiley pause to take a photo of the donkey on lap one and a goat on lap two, because if it isn’t instagrammed it never happened, apparently. That’s what she said, I still think she was angling for a lift from the donkey when I rumbled her, but I suppose we’ll never know now.
  • Spotting some fabulous junior parkrunners who instead of running were donned in over-sized hi-viz with matching over-sized smiles and proffering a succession of high fives. That was my favourite bit
  • REalising at some point that we had made the count re dragonflies
  • Seeing so many great people out and about, parkrun is a huge community of joy, because the double parkrun options locally are a bit limited, it seemed everyone had congregated at Graves today.  ’twas truly a wondrous sight to behold.
  • Finishing, without actually asphyxiating on the way round
  • Realising, once again, that you always have a parkrun within you somewhere, even if in your heart you’d rather be under the duvet still

On completion, people vanished pretty rapidly. Some speedy runners were aiming to do their double at 10.00 a.m. at Hillsborough – ambitious!  They had an express checkout for barcode scanning. No really, they did!  We more leisurely doublers, were headed to Poolsbrook.

Thank you fine people of Graves parkrun for your hospitality, your poetry and your fine organisation and winning smiles and ways as always.

Farewells were said, and off we went again. Not exactly in convoy. As in, not in convoy at all, it was a bit of a rural magical mystery tour to get to Poolsbrook parkrun I was just passively parasitic, I left it to other with GPS and initiative to get us there.  I only pitched in when I saw the sign for the country park, which I concede was probably a bit of a case of ‘too little too late‘ not sure they’ll buy ‘it’s the thought that counts’.

As we neared the entrance, I realised for the first time that Pools Brook is actually two words not one. Didn’t notice that when I was last here for the inaugural Poolsbrook parkrun (which was good actually, though now I understand new events try to discourage people from attending inaugurals so they have a chance to bed in first. Good point, well made.  Respect that people.)

pools brook country park

The place was heaving, and cars were being turned back from the park, so we ducked into a sort of industrial park alongside where there was space to park on the side roads.  It was freezing, and we were still quite early.  We sat for a bit, until i saw a carload of dragonflies rock up, and that, and my need for a precautionary pee, were enough for me to head up to the start.  As at Graves parkrun, the core team had been hard at work early on to make the magic happen at 10.30.  Thanks everyone 🙂  (See what I did again there with that smiley emoticon – they’ll be beside themselves with thrilledness!).

There were lots more new and familiar faces.  An enormous queue for the loos, and – a considerable boon – a sort of cafe area where an urn and biscuits was set up for post-run refreshments in return for donations. Also, a working radiator and a store cupboard where you could leave your bags. All extremely well organised, although I was slightly worried that the drop in temperature as we entered the store-room was indicative of entering some one-way anomaly into a strange, sub-zero parallel universe, but I made it out OK.  After a bit, it was announced the run start would be delayed by about 15 minutes, presumably to accommodate people who were having to park up further away and walk in.  Never ones to waste an opportunity, we put some serious work into getting into the dragonfly team spirit.  I think we did ok.  See how we’ve near enough perfected those double wings there.  I know, impressive!  I’ve only just realised that one of our number somehow lost a hand in the melee.  It was so cold I don’t think she noticed, as she never mentioned it at the time. Oh well, it was all for a good cause.

poolsbrook dragonfly

Eventually we had to venture outside, and I remembered a bit belatedly the start was slightly further away from the finish so we needed to allow time to get there. Still, plenty of time for another group dragonfly shot. We are getting better at this.   Still a learning curve, but we’ll get there…

poolsbrook dragonflies

A quick trot down to the start. Brrrrr.  Best and only option was to dive into the midst of the throng and, penguin-like, hope to benefit from the heat of huddling up with others. It’s lucky that all parkrunners are lovely and mostly accepting of such behaviours.

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We were a fair old gang!  A record Poolsbrook parkrun turnout, they put a Facebook post up declaring ‘WOW! A massive new attendance record with 473 finishers!! Last year we ‘only’ had 289!’  It felt big!  I couldn’t hear much of the briefing, but got the general idea. Milestones, thank the volunteers.  Three laps, counting to three is harder than you think by the way. They do put up kilometer markers, but that’s only helpful once you get the hang of them, to begin with they felt a bit random as I slowly registered I can’t possibly have done 4km already, I’m still on my first lap etc.  We were quite a sight though, storming round, and round, and round again…

GP poolsbrook parkrun dash

Hard to imagine, but I think I was even slower for this than at Graves, it was flat but quite congested, and frankly I just wanted it to end. It was a jolly crowd on the whole.  I did regret not hearing the end of the conversation between two runners where one said ‘so basically the kids row deteriorated into an international incident‘ and the other said ‘what did you do?’ and the first said ‘left them to it.’  I have a feeling that wasn’t the expected response.  I think it probably didn’t end there….  The marshals were all unfailingly lovely, I did try to splutter out thanks to each and everyone. I’ve since though read about another parkrunner at a different run (can’t remember where though, and it might have been on Christmas day now I come to think of it) who ran the whole parkrun with a box of chocolates, which he handed out to each and every marshal on the way round. That’s impressive!  Maybe next year, if I’m not having to use my hands to keep my unicorn under control.   I wasn’t so cheery about my proximity to the pimped up buggy that blared tinny tunes out throughout.  Kylie should be so lucky indeed, I didn’t feel it myself.  I gritted my teeth, reminding myself of the need to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way, whilst lamenting my inability to outrun this assault on my senses…

Round and round the lake I ran.  It was quite social, or potentially so, my ability to run and talk was pretty much eroded.  I was relieved when I knew I could finally take the right hand path up the finish funnel.  Yay!  It wasn’t quite as empty as this as I approached it, but it was just as much a vision of loveliness as this early morning photo suggests!

poolsbrook finish

A bit of a queue for scanning, but that was fine, as an opportunity to mill and mingle. Then into the coffee area where a donation secured coffee and a choice of biscuits or mince pies.  Loads on offer, very impressive.  I wasn’t sure if dragonflies eat, so I checked.  Not only are the nymphs impressive predators within a pond (I knew that already) but so are the adults.  Veracious carnivores they will happily eat other winged insects according to the British Dragonfly Society.  This meant we could still tap our inner dragonflies and eat with a clear conscience, but we’d have to make some adjustment in dietary expectations to take account of veganuary, obviously.  That’s OK, we weren’t real dragonflies, only channeling them.  In case you weren’t sure….  By the way, veganuary seems particularly high profile this year – even got an article about going vegan for runners in Runners World this week.  It’s increasingly becoming ‘a thing’.

Refreshments quaffed, we were homeward bound. Some had ambitious plans for further activity.  Personally I favoured a power nap – once I’d safely submitted my ‘tell Sue’ Smiletastic forms and could sleep easy in my bed.  Well, had to be done…

Poolsbrook parkrun not only delivered up a fine event and coped with the unexpected influx of tourists from near and far, they also wrote an event report with fine pictures and stats. Read it here and be amazed, Poolsbrook parkrun news – records smashed!.  Thank you fine people of Poolsbrook, both for the warmth of your welcome and polish of your logistics.

Just for the record, there were a fair few parkrun people on the move this morning.  I have no idea how, but someone, somewhere, created this fabulous offering showing parkrunners migration paths across East Derbyshire on New Year’s Day.  I know!  You didn’t know you’d be interested in a pictorial representation of statistical information, but suddenly you are.  It’s a splendid thing.  Now if only someone could do that for South Yorkshire as well, just imagine the joy they would bring…

east midlands parkrun double migrations

Also, according to the parkrun UK Facebook page:

18,393 parkrunners completed a New Year’s Day double by walking, jogging or running around two UK parkrun events on 1 January 2018…

That’s 33% of all those who completed a UK parkrun on the day!

At what point do we become an official movement I wonder.  I mean movement is integral to the initiative is it not, maybe we are already?

I think in the circumstances, the final word should go to our founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, who did us a 2017 review which you can read here.  But you know what, he also sent my mum a Christmas card to acknowledge her sterling support of Bushy parkrunners week in week out, and that’s even more exciting.  To be fair, it was another parkrunner who set that particular train in motion, but to a fine end.  Love parkrun, not just because of Mr S-H, but all the other lovely parkrunners who sent personal messages with their own parkrun stories!  Thank you all.

So that’s it.  New year’s day double done.  Thank you everyone, everywhere, who helped make it so!

Including my mum, that’s Elisabeth with an ‘s’ by the way – who was out cheering at Bushy parkrun on New Year’s Day too!

mum new years day

Phew.

Happy parkrunning into 2018.  It will bring new runs, and new adventures aplenty I’m sure.  Hurrah!  Go us. Just #dfyb.

Happy new Year y’all!

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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