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.
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!
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.