Digested Read: still doing my long walk for endurance, round Sheffield walk take two, augmented by a golden segment, ice and fire. Unaugmented by litter and the casual misogyny of youth. Progress is slow, marathon training wise, but I suppose slow progress is still progress. Here’s hoping. Hope over experience is sometimes the only hope you have to hang on to. Also #votesforwomen still work to be done.
When I say todays’ yomping out on the Round Sheffield Walk involved encounters with both fire and ice, I am not referring to my tendency to blow hot and cold about what I laughably call my ‘running’ exploits, but I mean today I quite literally came across both. Look:
Sheffield’s answer to a volcano erupted through snow. All the spectacular scenery of Iceland, but none of the sulphuric gases and unpronounceable names. See, practically indistinguishable.
Though to be fair, both represent sub-optimal running conditions. Just as well it wasn’t really a running day as such. Also, I’m hard core, so lived to tell the tale. Plus, I set out on my Round Sheffield Walk route march a bit better prepared than last week. Every little helps.
Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about? That’s not a first. Well, I’m allegedly in training for the London Marathon, but not so as you’d really notice. Because I’m a run/walker/yomper rather than an actual runner, I’m building up my distances through long walks to build stamina, and adding in the running as a greater proportion of each walk, rather than doing continuous long runs of ever increasing mileages. It’s not maybe a conventional training plan, and it remains to be seen if it will work. All the same, I think it’s my best bet to avoid injury and get me round. I’m not seeking a podium place, just to get round with my dignity in tact. Actually, I don’t really care about retaining my dignity, as long as I finish before the cut off point and get the bling and therefore associated blagging rights. This may sound shallow, but it is at least honest. All this being so, you’d think it would be a commitment to my marathon training plan that got me out the door today to do my 15.7 mile route march, but honestly, it was probably more Smiletastic. You know, the Smiley Paces running club winter challenge. Soooooooooooooooo stressful you have no idea.
It wasn’t supposed to have worked out like this. Today shouldn’t have been my long run day. However, I’d pledged to do a 15 mile long run this week for Smiletastic, so mission critical that I achieve this or my whole Dragonfly team suffers (and I thought collective punishment was clearly defined as a war crime under the Geneva Convention). The fact that I’m allegedly in training for a marathon so need to rack up the distances for that as well is almost incidental. I keep forgetting. I think I’m in denial about the whole thing. Anyways, the point is, I only have a limited repertoire of long runs on which to draw, and also very limited ability to run any long distance at all. However, not to worry, I had a cunning plan. Unfortunately, as Baldrick himself would vouch for me, the best laid plans don’t always quite turn out as anticipated, irrespective of the quality of the turnips used in their execution.
The cunning plan, such as it was, was brilliant in it’s simplicity. One of the great boons of being part of a fine and friendly running club, apart from the access to a gang of awesome, funny and smart women with whom to eat cake obviously, is the access to a wide network of amazing runners. Not just any old runners (even the old ones are young at heart) but ultra-runners. Excellent. All I had to do, was befriend a couple, throw myself at their individual and collective mercy, and parasatise all their run routes. I worried a bit about exploiting their good will, because anyone who is willing to run with me, will end up doing a lot of walking. I wasn’t entirely sure what I could offer in return for their time and navigational insights. You might like to think it was the pleasure of my company, but that’s a completely implausible explanation. Maybe they’ll get credits for their Duke of Edinburgh gold badge or something. Or maybe they’ll agree by accident because of my grooming skills, be instantly consumed with regret, and subsequently be motivated to join up for assertiveness classes. That would benefit them in the long run, (pun intended), so they’d not be entirely wasting their time acting as guides for me if it led to such important personal skills development.
Point is, I reeled a couple of them in, and we were going to go off and do a 14 mile explore round the reservoirs at Derwent and Howden and have a chat along the way and coffee on conclusion. It was all set for Friday. Then (cue dramatic music) disaster! One of my guides was declared ill with unknown affliction, and only able to venture out with an accompanying drip (awkward for walking long distances, those drip stands are rarely all terrain) and the other incapacitated due to foot injury, which turned out to be a stress fracture. She would therefore only be able to venture out if carried the whole way round in a sedan chair.
That’s fine, and I’ve even found a suitable one on ebay or whatever which is a snip at £9,900 but I just don’t think it would have arrived in time for our sojourn. Also, bit nippy out for minions to be carrying you round shirtless. I wonder how you sourced sedan chairs before the arrival of the internet? It’s a mystery.
The upshot was, I’d have to motivate myself to go out, and once again the weather has been shocking, cold, snow, ice. I decided to take the easy option, and just do the Round Sheffield Walk route again today instead, with the added literal and metaphorical bonus, that I could take in this week’s Smiletastic golden segment whilst I was about it. I could still meet with my ultra running buddies
to check if they are really incapacitated or just in cahoots to avoid going out with me just for coffee and a catch up. Granted, this is a slippery slope, as recently, when parkrun was cancelled due to ice I found you can still have a post parkrun brunch without doing parkrun firsts if you are all there anyway. If I learn this latte minus the pre-run option is effective and available everywhere and in all circumstances, well, let’s just say it will be elasticated waists for me in perpetuity thereafter. No Friday run, but Friday coffee, that’s not so bad. My running tights have an elasticated waist anyway, so I can go prepared…
In the meantime, today was Round Sheffield walk, incorporating a new golden segment. What could possibly go wrong?
As I cannot be trusted to run segments on my own (last week I had to go back and do the golden segment round Chelsea Park all over again after inadvertently cutting off the beginning of it, mightily displeased about that) I took the precaution of enlisting the help of another dragonfly to pick up en route, so we could do the segment together. Mind you, I felt I was being unnecessarily cautious in this respect. I knew exactly where this was and no mistake. Just up from Endcliffe Park.
It was bitterly cold on waking, but mercifully dry, so as I picked my way down to the park rendezvous the pavements weren’t slippery at all, the sun shone, and my sandwiches bounced up and down in my backpack with a pleasingly reassuring thud as I went down. I was first to the rendezvous point by the café, so sat in the sun watching the world go by, and marvelling at the Endcliffe Park Independent Café’s moss-covered roof. It is really stunning. Should have taken a photo for illustrative purposes really. Never mind, here is a parkrun one from the week before. You’ll get the idea.
I did have the foresight to take a photo of the frog, or possibly toad. I like this wooden sculpture a lot, it’s time it got a showing. It wasn’t tremendously interactive to be fair, I think it might be hibernating, or if not actually hibernating, being dormant, which I think is more accurate in the UK context. I’m sure Frog Life know their amphibians.
I think toad actually, frogs are more smooth-skinned. Let’s go with toad.
So I’m sat in the sun, watching the world go by, and eventually my dragonfly buddy appeared. We marched up to forge dam putting the worlds to rights, and then at the forge dam café, decided to get some take away lattes because we’d walked all of a mile and a bit by then, and were having a nice morning out so why not. The lattes were really good actually, and would have been improved only by our admitting to ourselves that it would have been nice to sit down and drink them at leisure, rather than carrying them round with us. We asked not to have lids, in an attempt to reduce plastic a bit, but a sit down would have been more eco-friendly still, as well as more enjoyable.
We reached a bit of road where we thought the segment might start. Complete confusion. My eyesight wasn’t good enough to read the map I’d printed out, and now we were actually there I was confused as to whether or not it was the right place. Critically, I’d also been planning to run it in completely the wrong direction. After much dithering, picking our way through ice patches to read road signs (did I mention that as we ascended, there was a lot of thick and treacherous ice patches along the way) we reached agreement as to which way to go. Worse case scenario, we’d upload it immediately afterwards to check, and then run again if necessary. I was so relieved I didn’t risk heading off on my own.
The first part was absolutely fine, but when we turned into Mark lane we hit a comically extreme patch of ice. Even in broad daylight it was a nightmare to negotiate. No chance of heading out after dark to bagsy this one without fear of instant death. Water was still streaming under the ice, and adding to it, if the temperature dropped again, as forecast, it would practically be it’s own glacier, probably visible from space. Or would be, were it not for the tree cover thereabouts.
I’m a bit disappointed by the ice photos, it looks less hazardous than it was. The weird nondescript photo is of beautiful icicles that had formed where water ran out of a dry stone wall, so there are my photography credentials exposed for all to see, no wonder I have to borrow freely from others for so many of my blog posts. Oh well. You get the idea.
With all the faffing and chatting, the 1km loop took blooming ages to get round, but we had a nice time, so that’s the main thing. Then we said our farewells, as dragonfly buddy had important things to do and I had another 10 plus miles to tick off and (unfortunately) those miles weren’t going to walk themselves now were they.
I was in quite good spirits heading up the valley. I think having a latte before I’d even really started was good for morale. The sun was bright, the air crisp, and the scenery gorgeous. Very few people were out and about. I went a slightly different route, clambering up what I call Jacob’s Ladder, but which might not be. It’s a steep hillside clamber that takes you on the footpath through the alpaca farm (gawd those fields and field shelters look a mess and you emerge a bit below the Norfolk Arms. I marched past there, and then crossed the road to head down Limb Valley. There was less snow, but a fair bit of ice. I rather regretted not having nipped into the pub for a precautionary pee – maybe having a latte wasn’t such a good idea after all, so went slightly off piste for a – well you get the idea. This brought a new discovery. How have I not see this leaf man before? A creature from the undergrowth. I like it. It’s sort of hidden, so not too intrusive, and the art work sufficiently impressive that I’d call this urban art rather than vandalism or graffiti, though perhaps strictly speaking it is both. Actually, not really ‘urban’ either, so I suppose that makes me wrong on all counts… Not a first.
You see this is what happens. I head out on a Sheffield yomp, convinced I won’t do a blog post this time because it will all be a bit samey, and the Sheffield Round Walk, lovely as it is, has been done to death by everyone, and yet you only have to venture a few metres off the track to discover new hidden treasures.
Look how lovely it is out there. Cold yes, but picturesque certainly. And this was just ice, not come across the fire yet!
Down through the valley, the ice was really bad. There were was one section where a couple of walkers from amongst a larger group had managed to traverse and ice patch, but those behind them were thwarted. It was like one of those action adventure films where the rope bridge has fallen down the canyon leaving some of the hapless adventurers stranded on the wrong side. One older man tentatively stepped on the ice patch and we all looked on in horror as he slid helplessly in slow motion down the slope with gathering momentum. I can’t have been alone in thinking he’d end up plummeting onward into the stream at the bottom of the vertiginous hill. Somehow he used his walking sticks to brake, but the randomness of this approach did not inspire confidence in those behind. In the end, I clung onto a nearby tree as sort of ballast, and linked arms with each of the walkers in turn so they could pass. A bit like this, only I was clinging to a tree not a mountain side.
It was all very companionable and community initiative based. It was treacherous out there though. I’d half wondered if I should don the running shoes this week and build my speeds, but there’s no way I’d have felt safe running this route again today. I’m going to have to bow to the inevitable and find some lower level and even – heaven portend – road routes even, if I’m ever to pick up the pace. Still, worry about that another day.
I emerged through Whirlow, which again was looking picturesque, and then stopped for sandwiches at the bench at the entrance to Ecclesall Woods. Point of information, that I think is interesting, because this is all about me, even though I was out for ages today, my stamina was way better for having some snackettes on the way round. Who knew nutrition was an asset for endurance? Granted, you probably aren’t supposed to actually stop for a picnic en route at a marathon (though wouldn’t it be lovely if you could) but keeping my blood sugar levels replete stopped mid-excursion grumpiness for sure. Anyway, it meant I was having a nice enough time that I felt no need to abort my romp out and catch a bus instead, rather carrying on to explore the delights of Ecclesall woods and the secrets it had yet to reveal.
Through the woods, sharing hellos and greeting with the few others I came across. After that blooming climb in Ladies Spring Wood (which did not feel any easier at all this time)
Fuelled as I was with my humus and watercress in pitta super food, I even had sufficient surplus energy to go and finally take a detour to look at Beauchief Abbey, which I’ve never bothered to do before. I couldn’t go in, which was disappointing, but I could admire the mossy grounds, golden weather vane and immaculate architecture, and try to memorise the guide board that was helpfully in situ. It’s an impressive history to be fair.
The most amusing sighting of the day however, if by ‘amusing’ you mean jaw-droppingly outrageous, was on the Beauchief golf course. I refer to the tees. Initially, there was the simple disappointment of the misleading signs. I didn’t get so much as a sniff of a cup of Yorkshire tea at any of the tee signs, let alone the fourth tee, and don’t get me started on their spelling! But the real shocker was this:
It took me a while to comprehend this. I note as usual the men are on top and the women covered in mud and being asked to go to the side whilst the men can crack on straight ahead. Ladies and mens golf tees. What the? Has the world gone mad? Is this a known thing? Do the men hang out smoking cigars, drinking brandy and guffawing at misogynistic jokes whilst the women pose on their tee eating lady-friendly crisps and discussing what to cook their husbands for dinner later on whilst trying to avoid getting their kitten heels caught on either their crinoline petticoats or worse still the green? Or is this actually a progressive innovation, and the eleventh tee has extra toilet facilities for the ladies, who are usually ill-served in relation to such provisions at sporting events? Is it that men running golf courses, like those organising cross-country events, fear women’s wombs will fall out with the exertion, or do they just fear women? It’s a mystery. Some are campaigning for change in the XC running different race lengths ‘norm’ though the reasons some give against change are toe curling in their ludicrousness. Marshals out for longer? Seriously? Apart from the fact it just depends how you time and order events, and that women marshal too, and many marshals are more than happy to support runners who finish at different times, have they not come across the phenomenon of super speedy women runners who can run the arses off their male counterparts. Would that not add interest to the event. Percy Pud 2017 anyone?
I have no idea why there are different tees, the Beauchief Golf Club website offers no clues. Though the ladies course is shorter than the men, and they refer to ladies and men as opposed to women and men which I find bizarre. They do have a very fine 1951 course map though, which we can all agree is quite splendid.
So I pondered this as I plodded on in the sunshine.
Subsequently I would be informed, to some disappointment, that this is apparently accepted practise because the average woman cannot hit as far as the average man – I don’t know if that’s true. I’m dubious, but it’s possible I suppose. Fortunately sexism in golfing remains rampant in other respects, even if that particular example may have some basis in logic. The world is mad. Bro-go areas still exist though. And it’s been said golf’s biggest problem is sexism however, I enjoy the reasoning given for in the Womens Golf Journal article Gentlemen Only which reports that – admittedly back in the 19th century.
a certain Lord Moncrieff who, would you believe, decreed that women should not hit the ball any further than 60-70 yards.
“Not because we doubt a lady’s power to make a longer drive but because that cannot well be done without raising the club above the shoulder,” he wrote. “Now we do not presume to dictate but we must observe that the posture and gestures requisite for a full swing are not particularly graceful when the player is clad in female dress.
Remind me again why adherence to ‘tradition’ is seen as a legitimate justification for discrimination, abuse, pretty much anything quite frankly. It isn’t immediately clear…
The next cause of excitement was I think when I encountered a youth and his dog in I think Chancet wood, but actually I have no idea now. Could have been any one of the woodland trails with a steep slope towering overhead on one side, and plummeting down beneath me on the other. Anyway, initially unseen, they lost their footing and tumbled down a bank and nearly landed on top of me. Oh dear. We all lived to tell the tale. I managed to embarrass myself by inadvertently shrieking as honestly, it was like he fell from the sky and caught me unawares. (Not like that). He was mortified at having so somersaulted, and in his anxiety to remove himself from the awkward social situation, promptly slipped again, arse first, down the remainder of the bank, shouting up behind me that he was ‘absolutely fine’, while his companion canine was having the most fun out on a walk EVER, as it jumped and barked around him as he continued his descent. I think not, but on balance, was happier to be left to attend his own wounds, than have a middle-aged Smiley fussing round him.
The latter part of the walk, after Graves Park is not as interesting, and doesn’t really improve with familiarity. This time, as I was going down litter lane. I don’t know whether to call it litter lane or dog poo pass. I coincided with school children bolting out of the rear entrance of Newfield School at the end of the school day. The litter and dog shite in bags hanging from trees are really bad here. One thing of interest though, just as I was getting really cold, was a sudden blast of heat coming from a huge but orderly bonfire. It was extraordinary, like walking past a great furnace, so you see I wasn’t lying when I said today’s effort was about ice AND fire. Unlikely as it seems, both were present. If it hadn’t been behind a locked gate, I’d have lobbed some of the rubbish on it.
I noticed there is a particular accumulation of rubbish by the school gate, and I can’t lie, it does make me think that maybe a major source of the littering has to be from pupils making their way to and from school along this path. Not exclusively, but it created a really bad impression. I’d be ashamed if I was in the management of that school and pathways around it were knee-deep in litter. Whoever is responsible, surely you’d want to clear up your own back yard, and you could involve the school community in it, as they would be obvious beneficiaries as many of them no doubt walk it every day. Some of that trash is faded and half buried in the ground, it’s been there for a long, long time. Many months, maybe even years.
The children coming out were in big groups and boisterous, releasing pent-up energy, shoving each other as they negotiated the paths. It was pretty unpleasant. I found my mindset shifted. Only last week when I did this route I thought I’d come and litter pick it myself in better weather, but now I strongly suspect the culprits are some of the pupils and their littering is compounded by general apathy from the school in not clearing up even outside their own gate, I felt a bit differently. Nursing fantasy rage scenarios of strongly worded letters to the school. At the same time I recognise it might have been in part that I felt quite intimidated by the large groups yelling at each other, and as I passed by the co-op heading into Meersbrook Park, I witnessed some ‘friends’ shouting ‘bitch, bitch, ugly bitch’ at one of the girls who’d had the misfortune to stoop to tie a shoelace just where there was a dog typing up ring outside the shop. It was a large crowd, and my perception was boys shouting ‘bitch’ at a girl, and encouraging others to do the same. I lingered for a bit to see if I should intervene. The language calling was certainly inappropriate, and I found it offensive, but the ‘victim’ did appear to taking it all in her stride and so I thought the better of it. It troubled me though. In a way it’s worse she appeared OK with it, is that sort of behaviour so normalised at that age? Ganging up against a young woman just because you can, and it makes you feel powerful, and what can she do about it because you are ‘only larking about’. Gender based assault masquerading as ‘just a bit of fun’ between school children? Lawks a lordy we need MeToo. Might yet contact the school. Children can be cruel, but they can also have a wicked shared sense of humour, from the outside you can’t always tell. Upshot was it did spoil my mood and my walk and I made a mental note to run round faster next time so as not to get caught up in Newfield School pupils pouring out the school and swarming the streets around on their way home. That and raged at the injustice of the world. I did quite a lot of the inwardly raging.
Not all were riotous of course. There were some children rather sweetly gathering up tree branches in the wooded areas just playing. Just ahead of me, two firm friends, one really tall, and one significantly shorter, walked purposefully along, deep in conversation. I wondered if they were the same year, or neighbours perhaps of different ages. I’ve worked in schools, and one thing that really struck me, especially with the boys, was how young people of the same age could be so physically different depending on when puberty hits. Some clearly young men, others pre-pubescent and awkward. Adolescence is a challenging time. Even so, maybe a strongly worded email, just to make the point. I might start it with ‘Why oh why oh why‘ that would definitely add impact. I won’t at all come across as a mad middle-aged woman with an axe to grind. Even so, might just give my axe a good old grind, could come in handy, and you have to do something to bring about change sometimes. Those suffragists and suffragettes did a bit more than a letter writing campaign to get the vote. Hurrah for them! One hundred years on from getting the vote for women, I do celebrate and acknowledge that, but I despair at how far we still have to go. People don’t like to surrender privilege without a fight. Then again, I do want to say about the rubbish and the ‘bitch’ comments, but I don’t want to either have to go on hunger strike or be force fed, which was basically state torture of women campaigning for the vote. It’s a dilemma.
Male and female tees
Men and ladies different XC courses
Calling your female class mate a ‘bitch’
Characterising women who raise their voices as frustrated, ugly, middle aged – not much changes does it?
Sound familiar anyone?
I’m properly depressed now. The walk that was to clear my head started well, ended badly. My mood sure, took a nose dive after the school.
Oh well, I must think instead of the women who went on campaigning, in spite of the resistance, the hardship and the unknown outcomes. They showed physical and mental endurance, as such, they too can be my marathon training role models. If I can just channel my inner suffragette, I can nail this. Maybe I should ditch Geronimo as my running companion for London and go as a suffragette. Did you know that at the time a photographer Christina Broom documented a lot of their actions. Me neither til just now, but any one of these outfits in Green, White and Violet would be splendid. Now, who do I know with a sewing machine who might help. I’m sure there must be a broken-toed Smiley somewhere willing and able to step up to the task..
and I do like a fine hat, so there’s a thought.
A thunk indeed.
So there you go, that was my endurance test for the week done and dusted. It was physically much easier than last time, having food on the way round helped. The weather was better. The ice is an issue though. I still haven’t done anything like enough actual running, but I tell myself the elevation and uneven terrain must help a bit from a cross training point of view. Also, it remains reet nice out, so all is not lost. Yet. Plenty of time to lose it before April.
Yep, I am confident I will definitely have lost it by then. Definitely.
So that’s alright then. Yes?
Oh, and this is the route, my slowest ever rendition of the Round Sheffield Walk, but hey ho, that’s more hours on the legs isn’t it, good for endurance. 15.78 miles and 2003 feet. That’s good to know. Not necessarily helpful or relevant, but the numbers please me.
So that’s still alright then. Yes?