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.
etc… until you’ve “bagged” every letter
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.