Monthly Archives: June 2018

Round Sheffield Run 2018. Five out of five runs, and five out of five star rating too. Hurrah!

Digested read:  Round Sheffield Run fifth time round.  Still fun.  Would recommend.

You could read on, or you could save yourself a lot of time and trouble and just watch the RSR 2018 film of the day.  They aren’t mutually exclusive of course, but the choice is yours….

Oh, and thanks to everyone who made the RSR what it is and was.  I’ve used lots of photos from lots of sources, the RSR ones are freely available, but they do ask for a donation if you use them. They are hoping to raise some more funds for the fantastic Weston Park Cancer Charity – so if the photos please you, consider making a donation at  www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr18  Are you not entertained – I repeat, ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?  Those photographers work blooming hard, check out this perspective from Steve Frith, on his experience of the RSR waves of runners turning into a tsunami of potential picture subjects.  Sounds quite stressful!  Thanks Steve, and all the other snappers out and about.  You were/are awesome.  On a serious note, we are quite spoilt in Sheffield, loads of fabulous photographers document our every run.  We should never take this for granted.

Do I really need to explain what the Round Sheffield Run is?  For pities sake people, where have you been!  Hiding under a rock?  It’s half a decade old, surely it’s a given that this is a Sheffield running institution by now? Come the Summer solstice weekend – the Sunday to be specific – runners from near and far take on their annual migration to Endcliffe Park.  There is always early morning sunshine magically illuminating the event hub.  Rays of light giving dappled patterns to the paths as they shine through the trees.  Eventually about 1500 people will so gather, all to run round in a huge great circle together sharing thrills, spills (quite a few got spilled en route this year judging by the post run selfies of cuts and scrapes) and running bonhomie, before rejoicing together in the post event festival as they sit on hay bales, quaffing ale and regaling one another with tales of their micro adventures along the way.  What’s not to like.

YM smiley chilling

By the way, be careful not to mix up ‘bonhomie’ with ‘bon ami’, I nearly did, very embarrassing.  Whilst the former is a generic expression of exuberant friendliness and oozing good will, the latter is, of course, a household cleaner.  Good to know.  That reminds me, must have a go at being a domestic goddess later and tackle my household chrome…

Even so, in case you have been on the moon or something, or are just generally slow on the uptake (which to be fair is often my default position, still haven’t seen ‘The Wire’, but to be fair, I got scared off cult viewing after being erroneously sucked into ‘Lost’ what a lot of wasted hours of my life that turned out to be!  Once bitten, eh?) anyway, stop distracting me,  here’s the event blah de blah from the Round Sheffield Run website for those in need.

Described (correctly) as an ‘Epic *Multi-Stage* Trail Race’ through ‘The Parks and Trails of Sheffield’ on Sun 24th June 2018.  Not sure what the asterisks signify, probably referencing some sort of running masonic code, like the all-seeing eye, or maybe just for dramatic effect and emphasis,  anyways:

The Round Sheffield Run, trail running enduro is a unique creative “multi-stage” running event following the beautiful Round Sheffield route, a superb running journey linking some of the best trails and parkland. It would be a tough task to find anywhere in the UK that showcases these kind of trails & scenery within its city limits.

The 11 timed stages make up 20km of the 24.5km route.

The unique format breaks the route down into stages. Each stage being raced, and competitors receiving both results for each stage as well as a combined overall result.

Between Stages competitors have the opportunity to rest, relax,  and regroup with their friends and refocus before the next stage begins. Competitors are allowed to walk or jog inbetween stages. The unique concept creates a supportive and unique social vibe.  The race format also opens up the course to all abilities. 

A festival atmosphere at the end with draft ales, tasty food, and great DJ to ensure that everyone can celebrate in style.

 Run as an Individual, Pair or even a Team see the prizes and categories tab for further details on the prizes and how each category works.

For the record, it is a race not a run, but I like it because it feels like a run not a race, just to be clear.  Elite runners head off ahead of everyone else so they can run so fast their eyeballs spontaneously pop out of their sockets without being impeded by other runners along the way.  Everyone else heads off after them in waves, to avoid the crush of a mass start.  That’s not to say people in later waves aren’t fast and competitive, but the probability is they are more likely to embrace (or at least tolerate) the social side of things, and be accepting of differently paced entrants.  What I love about this event is that it feels to me to be genuinely inclusive.  People like me can lope around at a sedate trundle if we wish, but enjoy being part of a run that includes a continuum of runners.  It’s like a mahoosive parkrun in some ways, except instead of post parkrun breakfast and cake there’s a post run huge great festival with pizza, and beer and artisan coffee.  Oh, and it is a bit further to be fair, but as it’s broken up into sections, the longest one of which is just 2.8 km, it feels doable.  You can always knock out a parkrun yes?  So if you overlook the fact this is basically five in a row, it’s very accessible.  Hang on a minute, I’ll find the hand instruction card –

RSR instruction sheet

See? It looks pretty innocuous doesn’t it, in terms of distance.  Especially if you are like me inclined to skimp a bit on the details and not inclined to do any voluntarily mathematics.  It’s easy to overlook the minor detail of having to add up all these distances that you are expected to run so you are able to comprehend the full horror of what you are embarking on.  All the better for that say I!  In fact, I honestly believe (albeit delusionally) that this event was created especially for me.  It encompasses all the things I like about running (beautiful scenery; camaraderie of being with like-minded people; different terrain; post run smorgasbord; medal at the end; cheerful marshals who give out hugs as well as jelly babies; friendly organisation; near enough to walk to venue; welcoming of all abilities; tolerant of fancy dress) and removes all the stresses like being intimidated by faster runners. Or, my speciality, being angst ridden about either getting lost (no navigation required), or limping in hours and miles behind everyone else only to find the event hub abandoned as everyone else has long gone home. All that remains as dusk falls is tumbleweed and overflowing bins.  The contents of which (pizza boxes, banana skins; jelly baby wrappers and plastic beer glasses mainly) serving as testimony not only to the tragedy of the extent of single use plastics and lack of recycling options; but also to the joy of the run’s after party which  have missed on account of not being able to run fast enough to make it back in time for all the fun.  My life in a nutshell.  Almost got to be part of the adventure, but didn’t quite make it. Shame.  Not so with the RSR!  I shall go to the ball!  This event welcomes all-comers.

Don’t get me wrong, it is challenging, many people actively train for it for quite a long time, but it is also doable. The stop start format which might be an anathema to other participants fleeter of foot is fab for me.  You can get your breath back, have a bit of a chit chat with fellow participants whilst having a drink/ banana or whatever before you rock on.  The social element means you get lots of encouragement along the way.  As a slower runner I especially benefit from this as practically the entire field overtakes me at some point, and for the most part they offer cheery motivational phrases or friendly greetings as they whizz by.  My only gripe is they still haven’t made fancy dress compulsory and it was a bit thin on rainbows and unicorns again this year, but I daresay it’s only a matter of time before these brilliant ideas are implemented.  Rome wasn’t built in a day – well, so they say.  Nor is much flat pack furniture, so we have to give the organising team the benefit of the doubt.  Much as I’d like to see these enhancements made, I concede I’m pleased they focused instead on shifting the cows.  Not all bovines are as docile as Ferdinand.  Fact.

The_Story_of_Ferdinand

So, you will understand why I still get excited about the RSR, it was the first ‘proper’ event I ever did – apart from a few parkruns and a truly lamentable Women’s Running Nottingham 10k which remains 5 years on the most dull and uninspiring event I’ve ever entered had the misfortune to enter, godawful route running backwards and forwards on tarmac whilst tantalisingly close to what looked like a perfectly nice park to run in.  Anyway, hence therefore, I inadvertently entered the RSR in its first year, before it was a thing, and when you didn’t have to fret about whether you’d manage to get a place before it all sold out.  I did so because I took very literally the blurb about this being an inclusive event suitable for all comers hence failing to notice the details re distance and ‘undulations’ and stuff like that. I’m so glad I was that naive, I’d have been way too scared to have entered otherwise.  Since then, it’s grown to be the ‘must do’ trail run for Sheffield.  Well, I think it has.  Not just because it’s inherently a lovely route, but because of the whole running carnival that goes along with it.  You will see everyone you know (running wise) at this event, whether you want to or not.  Consequently, there is not only fun to be had at the event, but also all the anticipatory build up.  Hurrah!

The build up, like the route, comes in waves.  It starts way back in February I think, when you have the first challenge of remembering to enter on the day registration opens.  Places go fast.  In previous years, people that weren’t lucky could be reasonably confident of picking up a place nearer the time as others drop out because of injury, or maybe having a life outside of running or whatever, but in recent years less so.  You can arrange to swap your number up to about a month in advance of the run, after that too late.  Once the event is full, there is a plethora of ‘oh no, I missed it‘ followed by emoticons indicating heart break and grief, or alternatively the ‘whoop whoop, I’m in‘ exchanges on various Facebook pages as people share news of their entry attempt fortunes for better or worse.  Then it all dies down for ages, apart from the odd post on the Round Sheffield Run facebook page reminding us all they exist, which is obviously good to know.

Wow, after the weather at the solstice weekend, it’s hard to imagine Endcliffe Park under a foot of snow.   These pics are proof positive though of the year round loveliness of the Round Sheffield Walk which, (in case it isn’t a self-evident truth), is basically the Round Sheffield Run Route.

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Then, in the final few weeks, the anticipation builds up like magma beneath a volcano, ready to erupt in a glorious and breathtaking display, which will be magnificent to behold but could result in injury and pain if you misjudge how you approach it.  We are drip fed newsworthy milestones.  The arrival of the jelly babies; the coming of the numbers (oh, they did take note of the request for more rainbows!  See what they’ve done there with the colours for the starting waves); a big reveal of the bling and wow, some seriously good tankards with the route engraved on for the various category winners.  Even I’d put a bit of a wiggle on if I was even so much as in shouting distance of getting my hands on that!  Fortunately, I’m not, so my usual trotting rhythm could prevail.

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The next stage of the anticipatory journey is the traditional skip round to Front Runner to pick up your race number in advance of the day.  It is part of the whole ritual, much like buying a Christmas tree or having a family row/ meltdown in the car park of Tescos is part of the whole yuletide tradition.  For authenticity, this should really be done after completing a Sheffield Hallam parkrun, so you can be slightly sweaty and flushed with that giddy mix of post-run endorphins and caffeine when you pop in.  You will meet loads of people you know there doing the same thing.  You are supposed to remember your race number to speed up the collection process, but tradition demands that many don’t.  I have a feeling it’s also an established tradition that it is mandatory to make slightly risque quips about the latest 60 second Front runner on line product review whilst you are in their getting your number if you can.  Hmmm, actually, I’m not absolutely sure about that one, could be a more recent thing, like slime.  That never used to be a thing you know, no idea why it is now. Sometimes this is hard, the quipping, not the slime, and sometimes it’s basically shooting at an open goal – a most appropriate metaphor given that we are amid the world cup football season.  I submit the Saxx Underwear Kinetic Boxer Briefs by way of evidence.  Really, how is anyone supposed to hear the phrase ‘famous for its ball park pouch‘ and not snort with laughter and demand the ritual humiliation of the salesperson for the merriment of the merciless hordes in consequence.  I’m pretty confident no-one else has ever suggested that the product should have been modelled for the purposes of the review though.  I got there first.   That’s me, both innovative and uniquely hilarious!  Laugh?  Thought my knickers would never dry!  They say you shouldn’t laugh at your own jokes, but if I didn’t who would?  Shouldn’t always listen to what they say anyway, that way madness lies.

Where was I?  Oh yes, digressing.  So went in to get my number, and whilst there marvelled at these.

Pictures by running ink – I lurve them!  He’s done some other prints of Hallam parkrun and Sheffield half.  They are in my view, genius.  Somehow they manage to capture both the spirit of the events and locations perfectly.   Christmas presents sorted for Sheffield runners/ parkrunners everywhere say I.  Well I say that, the Limb Valley one lacks verisimilitude due to the absence of aggressively stampeding cattle taking down the runners, then again, it does picture race day, and in fairness the cattle were moved to facilitate that this time around anyway.  Joking apart, the cattle in that particular field coming down the Limb are a bit scary.  I’m usually fine with farm animals, but I wouldn’t mess with them.

cattle down the limb

There have been a few incidents involving the same herd over the years, leading to runners or walkers being hospitalised by the cows, two in the last few weeks; as well as a marshal kicked at the RSR only last year.   For reasons I don’t fully understand despite the right of way going through it, the farmer apparently isn’t obliged to keep his stock clear of the path, it is farmland after all and animals have to graze somewhere. However, it seems logic is prevailing, it’s in everyone’s interests to get this sorted, and there is a plan afoot to crowdfund for a decent fence to keep cattle and people apart.  Hope it comes off, the farmer has I think agreed to maintain and in effect surrender a strip of land for this, if others pay for the actual fence, I don’t know really, something like that – but it essentially sounds like a grand plan.  I’m in.  Hope you are too.  Great good people, the greater good.  Mind you, can’t really blame the cattle for being a bit mardy, when you think how they end up being eaten.  The truth will out.

had a farm

So entry made, number collected, training either done or not done, and all too soon it was the evening before the morning after.

RSR event village night before

And so it begins!

The morning dawned. I know, you are still stuck here reading and I’ve not even made the start line yet. Sorry(ish) about that, but if you are still with me at this point you are either guilty of contributory negligence (you could have walked away at any point, reading this is not compulsory) or, you are carrying an unwanted childhood legacy of believing that once you start reading something (book, article whatever – not the actual phone book) you are somehow, for some unknown reason obligated to finish it.  Or is that just me? Either way, can’t help.  Sometimes people need to own their own decisions, your ability to ‘just say no’ lies within you, and you alone.  Just so you know.

Anyway, hurray RSR day!  I was a bit dejected that I wasn’t facing the day all fit and lean and fired up post my first every marathon. Have I mentioned yet in this post that I ran London earlier this year?  I struggle to believe that is possible too if it’s any consolation.  I was unsure whether or not to take Geronimo with me.  She was a star last year, but since London she’s been carrying a quite severe neck injury.  Not so much lopsided, but actually broken, I know some run brilliantly with a brace, but I don’t feel a neck brace would be appropriate for her just now, she’s earned her retirement.   Whilst I have had some physio for my poorly knee (I have patella tendonopathy apparently, which is why I’m not really running much at the minute, it’s got nothing to do with running apathy, although it’s easy to see how the confusion arises) she’s basically been resting…. in the back of my wardrobe.  It looks quite bad, and it was going to be a hot day anyway, too hot to take her out injured and untrained, don’t want to find myself featuring in the next series of Animal Rescuers SOS UK on Quest Red/ Animal Planet or whatever, I decided this year I’d be running naked.  Here’s a shot from last year though, looking fabulous!  Wow, she looks so much younger then, a fair few miles on the clock since, sigh.  What adventures we’ve had…

go geronimo 2017

Not that sort of naked.  Honestly, how childish.  You are the sort of person who is probably still sniggering about the saxx ball park pouches!   Grow up!

I was up ridiculously early because I couldn’t sleep.  Also I have my pre-run rituals, like eating porridge, and slathering my feet with Vaseline which is messy, but amazingly does keep my twinkle toes* miraculously blister free.  Then I was distracted because there was a rather cute mouse scavenging under the bird feeder.  I like having wildlife in the garden, it makes me feel special that they have chosen to co-exist with me somehow.  This meant I actually left later than planned, but it’s only a short hop, skip and a jump from my house to Endcliffe park. I did have my TomTom watch on, it’s basically a really expensive watch at the moment as it won’t upload anything, but it does still record what I’m doing and vibrate after every mile which I find pleasing.  I’m quite low maintenance in some respects.  I was dithering about whether or not to wear my ultimate direction waist pouch. It was going to be hot, hot hot, but one of the rare pleasures of doing a long run at a race is that you have water stations along the way and don’t need to lug everything along with you.  I took it anyway, preferring to wait and see what happened in the way of peer pressure when I got there as that’s always a deciding factor.

Look!  They were expecting me:

RSR starting pen ready

As I got nearer to the epicentre of the event, I exchanged nods with fellow runners making their way down.  Once in the park I met a spectacularly smiley smiley, who was all set to run in a pair with her other half.   Because she is pathologically good humoured and smiley she was beaming as she explained that they’d only managed one practice run together at Longshaw, the Trust 10 – he’d abandoned her after one 5k lap, in favour of a coffee at the National Trust cafe whilst she completed the second lap…  ‘but it’ll be fine‘ she grinned.  And it was.

RSR they did fine

I find the concept of running as part of a pair terrifying and hilarious in equal measure.  I did it as a pair in the first year – not realising until too late we were 118 118 and so missing out on a fabulous fancy dress op – and it was comforting having a running buddy at the time, but never again.

The problem with being a pair is that unless you are identical twins, and face it, most pairs are not – particularly the mixed pairs – one person is either being constantly held back and the other dragged along.  Although I suppose we might like to think the shared struggle might bind people closer together it can also fracture friendships and probably marriages too, as previously hidden tensions are exposed and exploded messily outwards for the duration of the route.   It’s pretty much make or break for relationships I reckon.   I know some pairs have worked out that it’s best to give the slower runner control of the dibber (you have to dib in and out of the various stages and pairs need to be within a few paces of one another) that way they get to dictate the pace.  The rumour mill has it that sometimes the faster runners sprint ahead and dib in then wait for their partner, but I’ve never seen that, I have seen faster runners sprint ahead and then wait for their partners cajoling them to ‘move their blooming arse‘ by way of encouragement.

Other practical suggestions for ensuring pairs stay as pairs include shackling runners together, or going with mandatory pantomime cow/ horse outfits- clearly my preferred option.  I mean it’s been done before, so there is precedent.  Newcastle race course I thank you… honestly, wouldn’t it gladden your heart to see this at the RSR as the elite pairs wave takes off?  It’s like my idea for more unicorns, you just know it would win hearts and minds if they’d only bite the bullet and make it so!

So I dithered, exchanged pleasantries.  Drank most of the water I’d carried down with me, and then decided I’d not bother with my belt as I’d drunk most of the water I had with me anyway.   There were two water stations en route I knew, and I knew a couple of marshals, I decided instead to carry money so if I was really desperate I could take a detour and go buy some.  In the end I found I didn’t need to.  I collected my timing device, dibbery thing, from the dib dabbery dispensing team

RSR collect dib dob

deposited my bag in the bag drop and then set about mingling on my way to the loos, which had already gathered quite a queue.  I can think of no event which has cracked the algorithm for calculating the appropriate number of loos for an event.  The RSR is no exception.   I did make it though, although my cubical was without toilet paper even at 8.00 a.m. I have a strong suspicion it had never been in possession of any.  I was OK as it was only a drip dry visit, I can only hope other takers were not caught unawares.

I was in the 8.35 wave, so early and it was relatively cool.  Loads of Smilies were about (other running clubs are available) so good to catch up with a few.  I ditched my camera with my bag so didn’t get many shots before that, but maybe there’ll be others later, or maybe there wont. Either way is fine, we have our memories.

It all went pretty quickly, we waved off the elites.  Fun watching them kick off at a sprint – they had to pause to dib in first though…

They are amazing. The first guy home did the route in 1 hour 10 minutes.  I mean that’s crazy fast!  I’m glad I wasn’t in their way.

The waves are organised by colours – colours of the rainbow in fact, isn’t that lovely.  So the elites were red, and my wave was orange. Once the reds were off, we oranges ambled into the starting funnel, and then sent on our way, you  have to dib your dibby thing in as you pass the start, so it isn’t a mass stampede, more like shaking tic tacs out of one of those dispensers.  Coming across in ones and twos.  Although there were loads of people I knew in my wave, I didn’t particularly run with anyone, and it was surprising how quickly we all spread out.  No worries, you are never alone at the RSR, always running buddies around to interact with as the mood takes you.

So far so good, but to be fair, but this is why I won’t wear strings of pearls.  Not only when running, but in life generally as a rule.  I think it’s a good one.  I was reminded of the wisdom of this at the Round Sheffield Run.  It’s the dib dobbery thing that they issue, it’s on a lanyard.  Wearing it gave me flashbacks to working in an office and having to be permanently sporting my id on a similar lanyard.  They aren’t the most elegant of accessories.  Essentially, unless you physically strap your boobs (or moobs) down to achieve a twenties  flipper flapper girl flat line silhouette the thing is in perpetual motion.  It bounces from one boob to the other before swinging up to hit you in the face periodically just to make sure you are concentrating.  It was a tad annoying, but you do sort of get used to it. It’s amazing what you can get used to, that’s why some frogs end up being boiled alive, albeit only very unlucky ones that are subjected to pointless experiments by sadistic scientists.   Unless that’s a myth, it’s probably a myth.  I don’t know.  Prefer the stories about the crabs and crayfish that escape though, even if they are the minority.  Those flappers though, didn’t they have a blast with their Charleston routines, no fly away beads were going to be cramping their style!  I’m expecting this image to be spookily similar to my action running shots.  I am also prepared to be disappointed, so all bases covered there.  My shoes will be a tad different for a start.  I was rocking my trusty innov8 s even though they are developing an annoying hole at the side.

charleston

Anyway, for better, for worse, I was underway.

Stage 1   :  2.9km Endcliffe Park to Forge Dam

A pleasant gradual ascent leaving Endcliffe Park, up through Bingham Park and Whiteley woods, a stage to take nice and steady through the paved and dirt tracks up to Forge Dam.

 Liason between 1-2

A short walk / jog up past the Cafe to the start of the next stage

I’m always taken aback at being expected to run at these events, and after 100 metres in I was quite relieved to see an early get out.  There at the sidelines was Smiley Selfie Queen – just arrived as she was in a later wave than me.  It is a rule that you can’t not have a selfie with Selfie Queen so naturally I departed the course to sort one – and very fine it is too!  Well, I thought it was at the time, but now I can’t find it, so I probably imagined the whole thing, still nice to see a buddy early on.  Oh, hang on, it’s been reissued, hurrah!  Here you go, yep, I do like it, happy days 🙂

selfie queen and me at start

I headed on with a new spring in my step, and it was only another couple of hundred metres to the end of the park and the first crossing point. I was a bit confused to find the ‘usual’ marshal wasn’t in situ, not that her replacement wasn’t totally delightful, but there are some traditions that I irrationally expected to be repeated year on year.  Over the road, along past the Shepherd’s Wheel, and up towards Forge Dam, where, much excitement, I took advantage of the first of the official recovery sections to avail myself of the loo, for which there was no queue, and there was toilet paper.  I would be able to concentrate now for the rest of the run.  Insider knowledge you see, helpful for race-craft planning on the day.

There was a stealth photographer lurking somewhere in the woods in Stage one or two, not entirely sure which as I didn’t spot them, fab pics though.  Nice to see a photographer the other side of the lens for a change too.  Thanks RSR for supplying these each year in return for donations to raise funds for the fantastic Weston Park Cancer Charity – you too can make a donation at: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr18

Somewhere around here, a fellow runner was asking how hard the uphill section really was compared to say the Graves park uphill bit.  She wasn’t that familiar with the route, despite being a Sheffield local, and was wandering whether to save herself or just go flat out as much as she could from early on. Tricky one. The uphill to Ringinglow is most definitely the hardest part, steep and tree rooty. The problem is, that then there are other parts which turn out also to be the hardest part later on – Graves park and Brincliffe Edge spring to mind, though spookily they are then immediately erased from it post race, so you forget how hard it all is and naively put yourself forward for it all over again the following year.  More than one female friend has compared the RSR experience to childbirth, by which I presume they mean agony at the time with a lot of pushing through to get the job down, rather than actually going home with an addition to the family.  Also, and I am just getting here, rather less cards on the mantle piece and bouquets of flowers subsequently.  On the other hand, after the RSR there is beer and bling, so it’s really swings and roundabouts.  Anyways, always good to make a new friend along the way.  Happy running new best friend!  Somewhat excruciating photo of me but hey ho, good to be snapped with a chit chat buddy along the way.

RSR new best friends

I love the social atmosphere of this event, it’s all pretty conversational at my level, and the camera never lies, lots of buddied up runners were out in force:

It was in this section that cheery marshal/ Hallam RD was in situ to dib us out and cheer us on.  I do like to see a known marshal, it’s very encouraging.  What’s more, somewhere around Quiet Lane there there was even our very own rock’n’roll Smiley.  She wasn’t doing the RSR as still recovering from the Liverpool Rock’n’Roll marathon from a few weeks back, but had planned her morning run to take in the atmosphere of the RSR. It was sooooooooooooooooo exciting to see her.  We exchanged sweaty hugs and went on our respective ways in opposite directions with shouted promises to meet again at the festival hub later on. Hurrah!

BA quiet lane crossing

Stage 2   :  2.5km Porter Valley Ascent

Up from the Forge Dam Cafe this stage leads us up the porter valley and away from town towards the Peak. The gradual ascent becomes slightly more aggressive half way up leading up. This is possibly the toughest part of the course, a good one to get under the belt early on.

 Liason between 2-3

The “Recovery” Stage along fulwood road sticking to the trail on the left past the Alpaca farm to ringinglow road, this stage is nice and flat and will allow for nice recovery after the endeavours of the previous two

Imaginatively, stage one, is followed by stage two.  They don’t miss a trick at the RSR!  For the competitively minded, this also incorporates the King / Queen of the Hill section, so a fair few would have put a sprint on up here.  Not me though. It’s been very dry, so no mud, though there were a few tree roots and scrabbly bits towards the top. I like this part of the route, is very familiar, but it must come as a shock to those who aren’t used to running it, it’s pretty darned steep.  This section is often referred to as ‘the hardest’ part of the course.  It is, whilst you are doing it, then you get to other ‘hardest’ sections and your perspective shifts. It is however picturesque, and there is much wildlife to enjoy.  Or more accurately, much wildlife to enjoy you, you could here the insects chomping down on flesh all around – I was spared to some extent by wearing full length leggings (on a serious note I like to protect my milky limbs from tics, nettles and bites alike) and also by having doused myself in jungle insect repellent, which is probably carcinogenic, but long term death wish aside, it’s use did spare me to some extent in the short term from the biting insect plague that surrounded us.

I can’t lie, I may have walked a bit here.  More than a bit, but I did also get some welcome encouragement as I did so.  A fellow parkrunner from Hallam stormed past ‘you’ve done London you can do this‘ he called out – I was both chuffed and touched.  And yes I did and yes I can.   Thanks for the support cardiac parkrunner super hero , appreciated 🙂

MH cardiac runner hero

It’s easy (for me) to feel defeated before I’ve even really started when running, I’m not a natural (in case you hadn’t already worked that out for yourself), but I can still crack on and participate in my own way.  At least I always get my monies worth at events in terms of time spent on course, practically mates rates costings the length of time I’m out and about.  Encouraged I put on a bit of a spurt, until the thundering of feet behind me led me to dive into the bushes and let a load of other runners come past.  I didn’t mind, I wasn’t going for a time, and so I do try to give way when I can, also it’s an excuse for a pause, and you can marvel at the speedos (not the shorts, the fast runners) as they effortlessly pass by.

It is steep that hill though.  I mentioned to a runner behind me who was similarly lamenting the gradient that it’d be a whole lot easier if someone would just give you a good old shove from behind.  Astonishingly, she obliged.  Now, I’m aware that retrospectively that might sound a bit weird, maybe even a little too intimate, but in the moment it was actually fabulous, and what’s more, it even works. It is way easier to get up hill if someone is pushing you.  If I’d bothered to notice who she was a bit more I’d have booked her again for next year. She did rather sprint off ahead though, once we got to the top, so unlikely as it might seem, it seems possible she isn’t holding out for a repeat booking.  Oh well, I still got the benefit this year.

At the top of the hill, you get the first of the two feed stations, groaning under the weight of jelly babies and water, staffed by happy looking marshals.  I reached over to get a bottle and managed to pretty much topple the entire table’s worth as they tumbled like dominoes.  My ineptitude was noted, but laughed off and forgiven, phew. Imagine the shame of being disqualified for messing with the water.  Still, it can happen to the best of us.  Me and Mo, indistinguishable in this respect, losing our bottles inexplicably.

mo bottle

This is the first major social stop though, you see loads of people you know as there was 12 minutes recovery before heading off down the limb, so plenty of time to chit chat to new arrivals or wave off those marching on to section three.  I found I met up with a Smiley buddy I’d bonded with first last year, at this very event I think, when I demanded to see inside her TNT top for sizing purposes.  Or it might have been at the TenTenTen, doesn’t matter, point is, we were able to have a catch up and companionable walk and talk to the start of Stage 3, where she left me for dust, obviously.   We have bonded through my short-lived foray into cross country running, I shudder at the memory, but hey ho, more new running buddies, and you can never have too many of them can you?  Like running shoes, always room for another pair, all have their own unique qualities, and idiosyncrasies, and you lay down running memories together for better or worse!  He she is, on the way to catch me up  – not that hard for her it seems…

RSR right behind me

However, I was then joined by Smiley selfie queen ensuring suitable photo ops at the top of Limb valley before our speeding descent.

Stage 3   :  2.5km Limb Valley Descent

Wide open grassy trail, leading into windy, flowing singletrack down through the Limb Valley, a real nice downhill section that everyone is bound to enjoy. Our personal favourite.

Liason between 3-4

A short walk / jog across the main road and down onto the playing fields to the start of the trailhead. 

Sadly I missed these tooled up smiley supporters at the Norfolk Arms area, but I’m confident they were there and doing sterling work!  Thanks guys!

CH aw missed this

There were a few people sat in chairs at the Ringinglow turn though, clapping us as we trudged past. They were most cheery, though to be fair they must have thought we were the least motivated and slackest runners ever, what kind of a race is it where everybody walks?  I wonder if anyone paused to tell them it was an official recovery stage.  Not that it really mattered, they seemed to be enjoying the sense of occasion, and smiled back as we greeted them on passing.

Time for a pair shot, courtesy of a multi-tasking marshal:

CS top of limb valley

and we headed off down together. She is a faster runner than me, but even I can enjoy a bit of a romp downhill.  We espied a photographer and it was our big moment, I say ‘our’ but actually, I was beaten at my own game.  No wonder Smiley Selfie Queen can run faster than me if she basically hover glides round the whole course on a wave of air like pyroclastic flow!  That’s my ‘it should have been me’ face.  I’ll own it.

limb valley descent jump

There were loads of other epic running down the valley shots – and not a stampeding cow in sight!  Thanks Mark Havenhand, the pictures make me happy, as does running down hill.  Go Monday Mobsters!  Go small park BIG RUN.

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We didn’t fall out over her high jinks, but she just out paced me and sped off, once we got to the style at the bottom of the descent.  Another photographer was handily positioned there and got some great atmospheric shots (thanks Steve Frith) I particularly like the black and white portraits, but there are some crackers in this set, including a few levitaters and jumpers.  One woman was clearly expecting the doggy dash, not sure that was quite within the rules…

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I loped onward, down through the woods.  I love this bit.  It was strange to think that last time I ran this path it was treacherous because of inches thick ice and snow. That doesn’t seem possible now!

Some shouted out as they raced by.  I wasn’t going that fast they couldn’t, only fast for me, which is different, everything is relative you know.  A few asked after Geronimo, I was slightly regretting not bringing her, she’d have enjoyed it, and would definitely have been first giraffe home this year.  If I get in for 2019  I think I’d like to run with a companion animal again, they are a reassuring presence, might see if I can even blag it as an emotional support animal and have one with me at all times, after all, they also cover a multitude on the tummy front, and sides also.  So we’ll see.  It’s nice that people cared though.  I kept forgetting I had my name on my shirt still, so some who greeted me by name I maybe really didn’t know,  hard to tell, they whizz by in such a blur, I can but dream of covering the ground so fast …

Down until spat out around Whirlow, a bit of concentration was required for the road crossing and onto stage four.

Stage 4   :  1.8km Ecclesall Woods

Having crossed Eccleshall road south on the liason between stages, we are into Eccleshall woods, a favourite with locals. The first section stretches through pine, skipping between roots and pine needles, then up onto the main trail and down through to Abbeydale Road.

Liason between 4-5

Along the road past Dore Station and the a left up over the railway and up to the next trailhead, up the stairs to the start of the next stage. We were kind enough not to make the stairs part of the timed section. 

There was a ‘regular’ marshal here, in  his usual spot, apart from one year when he missed it for some unspecified reason. It was a good one, with nice views, handy bench, before you turn into the cool calm of Ecclesall Woods.  I had a few speedy runners tear by me here.  They are fearless, I’m still cautious with all the tree roots, but they seem to be able to pick their way through like mountain goats.  Maybe not mountain goats, they do more hillsides don’t they, wood sprites then, yep, they sprinted through like wood sprites, they’d have given Puck girdling the world a run for his money, and he can put a girdle round the world in forty minutes.  Really, he can!  I think Puck might be more into OCR events though, he’s on record as being especially scathing about road runners I understand…

In the second part of the woods – the bit before you emerge onto Abbeydale Road and Dore Station, I spotted a doubled up runner ahead.  At first I thought she’d maybe got a stitch, but she’d fallen and was holding a pad against her bloodied knee to try and stem the flow a bit from what looked like quite a nasty gash.  I stopped and offered help, but as I had no first aid kit, and no medical insight, all I could really offer was companionship and helpful phrases such as ‘oh no, it must be awful for you’.  Other runners also stopped, until there was a little huddle, one of whom actually had some plasters.  I offered to stay but was assured there was no need, so I went ahead to let the marshals know.

The next marshal was an ally!

DW happy marshal

Hurrah!  Not running himself due to injury, he was nevertheless offering cheerful support and, on request, access to a stash of water.  I wasn’t too bad, but didn’t want to let the opportunity to rehydrate a bit pass me by knowing the killer steps that were just ahead.  I mentioned about the injured runner, but he didn’t have a first aid kit either. She emerged whilst I was chit chatting, no idea if she continued or not, I’m guessing not, but then again, these trail runners, they are a hardy breed.

So spat out the woods and on past Dore station, phew, it was hot now…

DW road trudge

and the next challenge was The Steps.

CS those steps

This is also ‘the hardest’ section of the RSR, even though they are no longer part of the actual run, they are brutal.  Even when they end and the next stage starts the incline is more than just ‘undulating’ and the paths narrow.  So we were into Stage five.

Stage 5   :  2.5km Beauchief Golf Course

Undulating Single track up and over lady woods, until Beauchief golf course can be seen on the left, the track then hugs the course through the woods popping out onto the road down to the beautiful Beauchief abbey, back into the woods continuing on next to the GC eventually coming out onto the road.

 Liason between 5-6

A short walk across the main road and up the pavement and down into the next set of woods.

I love this stretch if I’m running alone, but it is quite challenging within the context of the RSR.  To be fair, many walk sections of this, it’s deceptive as the uphill goes on and on, but of course some do want to speed by and the narrowness of the path, and steepness of the hill makes it hard to move out of the way.  It was all good natured though.  I jumped off the track where I could, and put a wiggle on in other areas to avoid slowing up others too much.  Came across some woodrunners, and I told them how useless I’d felt when trying to help the fallen runner earlier. They ventured that they’d got a foil blanket which would have been of almost as much practical support as my offer of companionship – though I did point out they might have fashioned it into a cloak so they’d take at least the look of superheroes saving the day.  How we laughed.  …

a bit later I came across them, tending to one of their number who’d got something in his eye I think ‘what not using the foil blanket‘ I quipped as I sprinted shuffled on by.  In my defence, I still have a dodgy knee, so I’m supposed to be extra careful going up hill.  I meant to get that excuse in earlier to be fair, still, better late than never!  Soon enough she leapfrogged me again (not literally, I mean overtook me) and couldn’t see the injured party anymore. Presume the group cut their losses and left him for dead. It happens, it’s the way of the trails….

… not really though – in fact, post the event there were quite a few appreciative posts on Facebook from runners who’d fallen along the way, but been helped up and on by other participants who’d stopped to offer assistance.  The ethos of the event definitely encourages that, though I think it helps that Sheffielders are, on the whole, pathologically friendly anyway, or at the very least inquisitive enough to stop and find out what’s going on.  Plus maybe parkrun has helped build a sense of a supportive running community as well.  This will henceforth be known as a ‘Lucy fact’ that is, something I believe to be true, but am completely unable to evidence.  I daresay I hold a fair few delusions thoughts as a consequence, you just have to hope and trust that for the most part they are benign…

Some clearly whizzed through the road with the golf course on either side:

DW storming through golf course

The scattered trio?  Snapped together again later, so all good, well good-ish, looks like a bit of navigational negotiation is going on here, or at the very least something’s been spotted hiding in the woods.  We may never know 🙂

RSR caption contest

Time for some more official photos that pleased me.  Check out the woman who has totally nailed the ‘seen the photographer look’ one to beat surely?   I’m liking the pairs action shot too though.  The high-fiving smiley; the jolly orange team mates and, in the interests of random questions, did anyone else spot the Byzantine Pottery Club contingent?  Got to be a story behind those runners in red… or maybe they just really like Byzantine Pottery and associating with like minded people.  Much like members of Chorlton runners like chortling and running I suppose. That makes sense…

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Stage 6   :  0.9km Chancet Woods

A cheeky fast short section of flowing undulating singletrack.

Liason between 6-7

Across the busy A61 and along the pavement up to the entrance to Graves park. The stage starts a little further in.

Yep, did that, nothing to report, crossing the road was a bit of a mare.  I had fell-flying Smiley join me on the walk section.  She was all smiles and storming it in a mixed pair too.  We were able to compare notes about who we’d seen where on the course, to get a steer on who else would be coming up behind me anytime soon.

Stage 7   :  1.4km Graves Park

A gradual ascent through the mature woods of Graves park, this is another stage to take at a steady pace, up and over right across the park popping out at the main car entrance.

Liason between 7-8

Following the main road on the tarmac path up around 500m to the New Inn Pub, turn left onto road here, following to the start of the next trail.

Maybe it’s because I’m always tiring by the time I reach this section, but I think this is also the hardest part. It just goes on and on, deceptively tough.  There are a few bystanders to gaze at you in bemusement, or proactively cheer you on, depending largely on the luck of the draw.  You know what, it’s well worth clicking on the thumbnail pictures on the description of the stages section of the website, you can see the elevation there, it’s brutal!  No wonder it’s hard going.

You bypass the back of the Rose Garden Cafe and exit the park at the bottom, then there’s another walkie talkie bit, before you end up at the second feed station, which was heaving.  Well maybe not when this photo was taken, those resplendent in their red numbers were the elite wave, by the time I rocked round it was ten deep at the water station – but good natured bustling rather than elbowing each other out the way vibe.  This was no open water swim at a triathlon, room for basic courtesy.

DW feed station

Just before we got to it, there was a woman standing by some recycling bins near to the pub car park in the shade of a tree. She had a few bottles of water and was clapping everyone with enthusiasm ‘hats off to you, don’t know how you can manage this in all this heat’ she was saying, apparently genuinely impressed.  Again, this was a walking session, but her enthusiasm was appreciated by me at least and others too I’m sure.  I wonder if over time this will become an event more people come out and support.  I mean it’s a trail race, so you’ll never get absolutely loads, but it did seem to me that there were far more spectators in the public areas (Graves, Meersbrook, Ringinglow village) than in previous years.  Who knows, it might yet become a thing, like the Sheffield half even, now that would be a.maz.ing!

It was like being at a party, with everyone jostling for the buffet in a good humoured way.  Jelly babies were piled high, the good gym team had a big banner up as they were staffing it.  There were also some novel proteiny snack pyramidy things.  Trek chunks I think?  Vegan and gluten free, and with 12 g of protein, which is a lot isn’t it.  In the interests of being able to accurately report back, I tried both types.   The chocolate and peanut one, which I thought vile  not to my taste, – though others reported preferring them, and some toffee and something ones which I really liked.  I do wish there were savoury options too though, that seems to me a gap in the protein/ energy bar market.  I saw smilies, Monday mobsters in their team sloth incarnation – always a treat, it was grand.  I’ve stalked you to get this shot people, is that weird?  Is it very wrong?  Any objection to its inclusion let me know.

team sloth

Any amongst the assembled scrum of runners with a penchant for squeam-inducing reality TV shows focused on blood and gore from gruesome accidents or DIY surgery say, were in for a treat!  This seemed to be an impromptu gathering point for people with bloody gashes, and there were some pretty impressive ragged-edge gouges being sported, and in one or too particularly spectacular cases prodigious amounts of blood.  Maybe I just got lucky but I was witness to more seeping, or even gushing wounds than I anticipated.  Astonishingly, nobody seemed to be complaining (though some were most definitely limping), injuries were more being worn as badges of honour – all smiles at the finish by the walking wounded – maybe they were just mightily relieved to have made it.  The nipple chafing sights were more evident on the finish line.  That’s got to hurt hasn’t it, imagine the screams of pain issuing out of the shower once the water gets turned on with them.  I’ve spared the blushes of those who didn’t adequately lube up pre race here, and resisted the temptation to include pictures of them without consent, they know who they are, crossing the line looking like they’ve survived being shot in the chest, not once but twice.  Not just hardcore, but apparently immortal… or maybe just mean with the sticking plasters/body glide purchases pre run.

But honestly, I’ve not seen so many skinned knees, grazed elbows and bloodied clothes since I was at junior school and the marbling craze coincided with the skateboarding one.  I think there were three concussions in one week before both were banned.  This was back in the seventies, and I don’t think my school was progressive enough to imagine that one day skateboarding would become an Olympic sport.  No really, it is, from 2020 according to the Skateboarding wikipedia entry.  I really hope marbling also becomes an Olympic sport one day, I don’t see why not, bowling is under consideration.  I’d like to see conkers feature too, but I recognise there are both seasonal considerations with that one, plus conkers is incredibly open to cheating.  I had fine conkers of mine taken out but others that I swear had been hardened by being dried in an oven or soaked in vinegar.  It would be a minefield to referee.  Still, point is, many gashes on show, if that’s your thing, I can’t absolutely guarantee you’ll be witness to this, but I’d say there’s a reasonably high probability you will.

After this feed station, you are nearly home really, though unfortunately the last bit of the run – with one notable exception as you whoop your way down Meersbrook park – isn’t my most favourite.

Stage 8   :  1.3km Lees Hall Golf Course

This is an exciting fast, flowing trail down between Lees Hall Golf course, down past the academy playing fields, opening up to some great urban views and then diving round to the left and back up towards Meersbrook.

Liaison between 8-9

Along the road in a straight line for about 500m, past the row of shops joining the main road and up to Meersbrook park entrance.

Stage 8 is a downhill stretch, but couple of issues with it.  Every single year, I’ve downed a whole bottle of water immediately before tackling it, so it sort of sloshes around and ends in if not quite the exact sensation of water boarding then most definitely hiccups. Also, there’s a lot of rubbish on this route, which is depressing.  This is also the stretch where bladder control fails runners, so you are treated to the sight of sheepish looking fellow participants going through the charade of trying not to be seen as they dive in and out the undergrowth in desperate search of a hidden spot in which to releive themselves.  Spoiler alert dear reader, there are no such spots, however, running etiquette demands that we all pretend not to notice, so that’s OK then.

Maybe it’s because people are tiring now, but I also seem to always see runners take a tumble here, I think the surface is not as reliable as it seems, it’s quite scree like when dry, not conducive to running headlong down in my view, though many do.

Some aren’t afraid to charge down through the undergrowth though, go them!

DW downwards

Not to worry, it is followed by…. drum roll… stage nine!

Stage 9   :  0.8km Meersbrook Park

This stage is extremely fast, bearing left along the paved path and hooking right down to the far corner of the park. One for the short distance specialists. Do take care, and don’t go too fast!

Liason between 9-10

Out the park across the A61 following the permanent signs, across to Abbeydale rd and Edinburgh Cycles, turn left onto Abbeydale Rd, and then turn right by the mirror shop for the start of the next stage. Marshalls will be in key positions for this slightly tricky liason.

Because Stage nine is Meersbrook park, past Bishops House

and into the park proper – which is where you get the now iconic views of Sheffield, they really are breath taking.  No wonder people were leaping for joy as the city skyline came into glorious view!

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You also get to run down hill, which is fun, and if you are a Smiley, you get to see and potentially hug at least one Smiley and often more, as this is a favourite picnicking and spectating spot.  I was bit puzzled as to why this particular smiley wasn’t running herself but it turns out it was her turn for childcare duty whilst her partner was running.  Inexplicably, you apparently aren’t allowed to put your children voluntarily into temporary care to enable you to participate in the RSR,  Like the situation with the cows in Limb valley this makes no sense to me, but fair enough, I’ll accept it as true.  On the plus side, it was nice to get some Smiley support.

There is  a drone video taken during the event from above Meersbrook, that’s fun.  Everyone gets to hurtle headlong downhill it’s weird to think only last weekend I was endlessly trudging up this very same hill for small park BIG RUN, don’t mind admitting coming down it is a lot more fun. Really, a LOT.

At the base of the hill was a glamorous looking photographer resplendent in floaty clothes, over-sized shades and a fabulous floppy hat.  Consequently, I completely failed to register her as a Smiley at the time – well she was practically in disguise.  Others were quicker off the mark, and she got some great coming down that hill shots.  Hurrah!

See nay sayers.  Running is super fun!  You just have to pick your trails and races carefully.

This section is all over a bit too soon, and is followed by, can you guess?  Stage ten.  Are you spotting the pattern yet?  Bravo!

Stage 10 :  2.2km Brincliffe Edge

The end is getting close, this urban stage takes you up the road on a gradual climb to Brincliffe edge, keep going up the road and the duck into the woods onto the trail, contouring round, then up and down into Chelsea park, popping out in quiet surburbia on the otherside. A few quiet wide streets to negotiate on the pavement before finishing just before Psalter lane.

Liason 10-11

A nice gentle trot down the hill to Hunters bar roundabout and the entrance to Endcliffe Park saving those legs for the final push knowing the end is in sight.

This section is also the hardest section.  I am not a fan.  Every year I forget just how joyless the urban trudge section is, I swear I blank it from my mind –  plus more uphill, savage up hill that makes you taste blood in your mouth as your lungs explode with the effort of dragging your carcass in defiance of gravity.  Worse still, as I moved house a few months back, the route now takes me past the end of my actual road, the temptation to nip home for a lie down is pretty strong, but my house keys were in my bag at the RSR bag drop, so I was going to have to retrieve them from Endcliffe park anyway, might as well run on.

One improvement for this year though, was prefacing the section  – which shall henceforth be known as the vile section – with a friendly familiar marshal and Sheffield Hallam parkrun stalwart who was conveniently positioned adjacent to a handy mirror, so you could check your look,  and smooth – or coquettishly ruffle – your hair, depending on your preferences and density of mane, before approaching the finish.  She was also game for restorative hugs, which, trust me, are much needed at this stage. Plus, it was mighty hot.  Phew what a scorcher some would say.  Lucky I have endured worse at London – did I mention that I ran that in record breaking heat this year yet?  Oh I did, just checking…

FM marshall spot mirror check

The liaison section before Stage 11 turned out to be unexpectedly jolly though, as I buddied up with another smiley for the walk down to Hunter’s Bar, and then finally back in to Endcliffe park, for the concluding stage.

Stage 11 :  0.4km Endcliffe Park Finish

A final flourish, starting at the park entrance up onto the park itself where you will join the marked course for the dash for the finish outside Endcliffe park cafe. You will be greeted by fellow competitors, adulation from the crowd and if you wish a cold beer!

Tradition requires a sprint finish here.  Top tip though people if you are that rare breed who hasn’t done this event before and is thinking of doing it for the first time in some future year, you can’t be seen by the crowd until after you’ve passed the hedge line.  Unless you are going for the fastest sprint prize (I wasn’t) you might as well pootle that first last bit, and then only once you round the hedge and are in view of the finish funnel and adoring crowds, put on your sprint.   No-one will be any the wiser. Well, I say that, but this year I did get ever so slightly rumbled by Swiss Smiley who is over for the summer and was positioned next to the children’s playground so could espy me sneaking in.  No worries, I’m sure she won’t judge, rather she enthusiastically high fived me, so that was good, and I ran in. The finish stretch is quite a sight.

DW and so it ends

Inevitably, practically every smiley in the world had finished before me, but on the plus side they were lining the finish with beer glasses in hand, quaffing and cheering, so you do get a sense of achievement coming to the finish as fellow club runners cheer, and other randoms do also, just because.  I mean do, I always cheer other runners coming in, whether I know them or not.  I’m programmed to do so, partly I think it’s an inherent genetic trait, and partly because it’s been brought to life and honed by many a Sunday at Graves junior parkrun, which is the most joyful thing in the world ever.  Fact.  No inhibitions about whooping or cheering or high-fiving there!

The atmosphere at the finish is great, the support as you come through, the pop-up festival going on in Endcliffe park, and the broad smiles and air punching of runners as they complete their sprint finishes flushed with endorphins, what’s not to like?

and then suddenly it’s over.  That’s actually quite sad.  You dib your final dib as you come through the finish.  A marshal loops a medal (which doubles as a bottle owner as has become tradition with the RSR bling) over your neck and you stagger to the dibber dabber control laptop area where in return for your dib dab thingy, after a few seconds of angst in case you haven’t dibbed properly throughout, a little print out of your splits is spat out.

DW results processing

The technology is amazing.  Then you join the orderly queue for your goody bag.  Glad to see this year it was held together by a paper bag.  You get a banana, a choice of crisps (I draw the line at monster munch, others did not, maybe as a parent you get desensitised to such things and are able to regard them therefore as a legitimate food source?  I can think of no other explanation).  I think there was a trek bar, can’t really remember.  There was a bottle of water, and a chance to sign up for an organic veg box delivery service – the display ones did look really nice, but it wasn’t really the interaction I was anticipating, so I didn’t really engage.  Sorry about that.

I did however get chatting to a woman in the queue who it turns out ran the Hathersage Hurtle a couple of weeks back, in even greater heat than today, so kudos to her.  You can’t  move for making new running friends at the RSR, another reason for its complete fabulousness, or for needing to relocate to another galaxy if you do anything really shameless en route, there is nowhere to hide.  NOWHERE.

I said goodbye to my new friend as various Smilies appeared over the horizon, and I was distracted by the important mission of getting into as many post race photos as possible.  Always a challenge. Normally, I’m back so long after everyone else has finished I miss out on these. The RSR offers a rare exception, as the different timed start waves means I can actually be back ahead of a few and alongside many. Hurrah!

We actually managed to muster a fair few smilies for a group shot, and even commandeered a bystander to snap us.  Hilariously, one photo was taken with one of our number arse uppermost.  Not entirely inappropriate that she was facing the wrong way, as she had also done the whole event wearing her vest back to front . I’ve done that before truth to tell, it’s easily done – but you can’t pass over an opportunity like that to roll around laughing can you, albeit I like to think we did so in an empathetic and supportive way.  Who knows?  Can you spot the difference between the two shots though – go on, give it a go!  Herding cats springs to mind…

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Unusually for me, I was tempted by the post run beer offer.  I don’t normally ever drink beer, and I don’t drink alcohol much either anyway, especially not after a run.  However, on this occasion, due to a fortuitous cock up (ill wind and all that) which was basically I think a failure to secure an alcohol licence in a timely fashion, all race participants got a free bevy or either full strength of 0.5% alcohol beer.  Why not.  No queues, and at last, the I espy the mysteriously missing (in my view) marshal.  Worry no longer, she is not mislaid or a victim of misadventure, au contraire, she has been promoted to bar staff!  Phew.  She had a marker pen and struck through your race number as you passed through the barrier to secure your drink. An important job, and one she did with good humour and aplomb!  Didn’t even need to brandish a clip board to maintain authority – that’s leadership skills for you.  All’s well that ends well.

For the record, and to my complete shock and astonishment, the low alcohol beer was absolutely delicious, really light, and refreshing with a sort of elderflower tone I thought, though as I know next to zero about such matters I wouldn’t put too much store by my critique, nevertheless, I’d definitely have it again, which is high praise indeed from me as I’m more of lime juice and soda or possibly G&T kind of gal.  I think it was called Big Easy or something, which sounds weird actually, I’ll have to check it out next time I can be bothered.   Oh yes, it was, found a picture – also, is it just me who noticed the woman on the label seems to be pulling a Mo Farah pose?  Good choice Thornbridge people, good choice!

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Cheers though, great innovation. Here’s hoping they continue to mess up the licence plans so we can quaff at the expense of Thornbridge Brewery year on year.  Every cloud people, every cloud.  It certainly helped the post run party go with a swing.  Also, no queue for the bar as only runners got to quaff, which might well have been a shame for everyone else, but was very fine for me.  Hurrah!

Equipped with my Big Easy, or whatever, I positioned myself on the grass alongside my Smiley compatriots.  As a welcome bonus, we were even joined by some Smilies who hadn’t been able to run due to injury/ recovery but who came along to join in the fun, and very fine to was to see them too, even if it was a bit strange to see them in non-running attire, who knew they had parallel non-running related lives and wardrobes to dress them accordingly? I thought everyone just lived in their active wear.  It was lovely sat on the grass, chillaxing I think is the correct term.  I also got free pizza, by dint of my proximity to another smiley who was offering some around. Oh my god, that was good, thank you so much Dig Deep buddy, very welcome sustenance.  Incidentally, I can’t promise all runners will get free pizza, but I will say this is the second year running I’ve pulled off this coup of freeganism, another runner freely offered it last year too (thanks regal smiley), I must have sort of ‘feed me’ eyes.

I say it was lovely sat on the grass, and it was mostly, it’s just that sooner or later the realisation hits you that getting up from the ground has become unexpectedly challenging. All too soon I realised when I tried to get up periodically that I was no longer as agile as I had been on waking.  Still, it was companionable, and we got to cheer others in as they came tearing down the tunnel all smiles.  I actually felt quite emotional watching some of the finishers. There were teams tackling it en masse; a few walking wounded; some sprinters to the line and a fair few who, once they came into view were joined by family members, children or running club buddies who ran in with them.  I like that, I know in some events it’s disallowed, but it’s fun to watch and as long as it doesn’t impede other runners I don’t see the problem.  I tried to take some photos, but what with the struggling to get up from the ground and my innate inability to take a decent photo my offerings are limited, but they are well intentioned, so there you go.

Eventually, one among us with initiative and a grasp of time, registered that there would be a prize giving shortly.  I got up, and as I’d made that effort anyway, went and got a coffee (another RSR innovation, proper coffee available post run, and this year I didn’t even have to queue for it!), and made our way to a different set of grass to witness the awards ceremony.  This was pretty entertaining, though I don’t get out much and am known to be easily entertained.  It’s just nice to see who the winners were, and there were team prizes as well as pair prizes this year.  I have no idea how they were calculated, but why not.  There were loads of official photos taken, but they’ve not been uploaded yet, I might add some in later, or I might not, depends whether I maintain interest in this blog post, or must move on to the next shiny thing I espy in my line of vision.

It was impressive to hear the times of the fastest runners, but I can’t help feeling they didn’t really get their monies worth in terms of time on the course.  Mind you, loved the tankards.  The times for the fastest man (David Addenbrooke Sheffield Running Club 01:10:1)  and the fastest woman (Lauren Davies-Beckett in 01:20:31) are pretty stunning though.  How is that even possible.  I suspect they chat a bit less and do less sight-seeing on the way round, though I suppose they still get the recovery stages, so do get to pause for a jelly baby en route if the mood takes them.

Most prize winners were there to collect their trophies and goodies.   Pleasingly, in an act of complete spontaneity, that wasn’t at all staged for the forthcoming film of RSR the fourth sequel, which is coming to a Facebook page near you soon – the male category winner used his medal bottle opener to take the top off his Thornbridge bottle of beer, decant it into his etched tankard, downed the beer in one and then upturned the empty vessel on to his head in triumph and proof the feat was complete. It was pure chance that a whole paparazzi crew were on hand at the time to capture the occasion. The ease with which this sequence was executed garnered real respect from the race organiser, I mean, just look at his face – he was in awe

DW caption contest

and once he’d managed to compose himself once again, observed that this performance  boded well if ever the runner in question fancied his chances in the beer mile challenge, which is another relatively recent addition to the Sheffield running calendar, though I’m not entirely sure how you get to take part – maybe through being talent spotted at outreach events such as this Round Sheffield Run. Wow, I wonder if the whole event was not in fact put together especially for me, but is a recruitment drive for the beer mile?  I don’t feel too used though, it’s still fun.  And it isn’t humiliating like the X factor auditions, they don’t show you failing on national prime time TV being crap, you just don’t get the surreptitious tap on the shoulder. I can live with that.

So event run, medals bagged, beer and coffee drunk, pizza eaten and winners applauded it was time to depart for another year.  A few scattered people were still lounging around on straw bales or snoozing in a deckchair under the still scorching sun, but most went off, maybe to watch football, or to check the functioning of their bottle opener medal, count how many RSR medals they have now amassed in their collection or just to lie down and reflect on another fine day.

RSR medal set

So there you go wasn’t that just dandy and fabulous.  Hope we all get to run it again next year, but if you don’t fancy the actual running bit, and it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, you can always inhale the intoxicating vibe by partaking as part of the RSR event team volunteers! Go awn, go awn, go awn, go awn.  You know you want to!

Results?  You care about the results, anyone would think this was a race not a run.  For those who need to know RSR 2018 results were streaming live on this link, but historic results are on the main RSR event website here.  Go on stats geeks, knock yourselves out – that’s half a decades worth of data you can swim around in, and counting! 🙂

And if you want to relive other years of the RSR, you can find all my posts here – scroll down for older entries.  Don’t have nightmares

*I say twinkle toes, but it’s an open secret I actually have hobbit feet, even so, they are, for the record, blister free.

 

Oh and photos, loads of photos, squillions in fact.  If running the RSR doesn’t make your eyes bleed, then checking out all the pictures afterwards definitely will.  Actually, I’m not entirely sure what constitutes a squillion but I’m fairly confident that this number of photos would meet the criteria.  Anyways, they are freely available on the ROUND Sheffield Run Facebook photo page, you can scroll through albums of previous years too if you don’t mind been swallowed up by a time vortex and spending the rest of eternity gazing at race photos.  It might not be such a bad way to end your days, some of the pictures are epic, and whilst not universally flattering (though some are fantastic portraits) they offer up hilarity or caption competition potential by way of consolation.  Always a boon.

 

In any event, browsing squillions of  race pictures whilst reliving the RSR has got to be more than one up from gazing at you own reflection Narcissus like.   I can’t imagine any race/ run participant being so delusional as to be consumed and overcome by their own beauty on sighting themselves in a running photo if my own experience is anything to go by, but the law of averages requires there must be at least one participant taking part snapped en route with an Adonis like physique or Helen of Troy like captivating attractiveness.  Other genders and cultural reference points for beauty are available of course, but I’m sure you know what I mean.  The point is, speaking personally, I’ve never found myself unable to leave the beauty of my reflection, or unable to tear myself away from a digital image or me running captured on camera, to such an extent I’ve lost the will to live. Weirdly though, I have frequently lost the will to live mid-way through a run.  So maybe it’s true, that we do indeed have More in common with one another than we realise…

However many photos or albums you choose to browse, be aware that in return, the RSR are politely requesting you consider making a donation to the Weston Park Cancer Charity, as in previous years, by way of recognition.

Remember people, the request is photos from ‘the gloriously Sunny Round Sheffield Run on Sun 25th June. We are hoping to raise some more funds for the fantastic Weston Park Cancer Charity – if you do use any of the images do consider a donation at: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr18

Right, roll up the sleeves and here we go thanks to:

Same time next year people?

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Categories: off road, race, running | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

small park BIG RUN 2018, an exercise in hope, or maybe exercise and hope…

Digested read:  I couldn’t really understand the logistics of this small park BIG RUN event so never made it last year, and only really went on a whim this time round.  So glad I did.  A relaxed, worthwhile event for a good cause, just rock up and run whenever within a 24 hour period, laps of 1k.  It really isn’t that complicated.  No, it wasn’t boring, surprisingly enough.  At the end I got a high-five from the mayor, an unexpected ice pop and best of all, did 10 k without my leg falling off even a bit. Yay.  Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Also, Meersbrook park is actually really lovely, hidden gem, and there were some sound people out and about.  You could be too this time next year!

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small park BIG RUN took place for the first time last year (2017) but at the time I couldn’t really get my head around quite what the event was, so somehow, life got in the way and I never went, which was a shame.  I did want to go, but, well you know… didn’t really understand how it worked and was too lacking in initiative to find out, and too lacking in bravado to just go along and brazen it out.

It seemed to be some sort of a fund-raising run, and all night (24 hour) team challenge.  I thought you needed to be organised enough to be part of a team, get sponsorship for taking part.  The latter case being a nightmare scenario for me, even if I do support a cause.  Frankly, I don’t have that many friends anyway I don’t want to give those I do have more reasons to avoid me.  Also, most of them are awesome runners, I couldn’t look them in the eye and beg them to fund my shambling efforts, pottering round a local park whilst they are busy ascending vertiginous mountain ranges in nothing more than some grippy fell shoes and a technical tee (and shorts probably to be fair) or cycling into biblical storms for miles on end.  The shame.  Also, you are basically asking people to pay you for doing something you supposedly do for ‘fun’, though I think many of us who run for fun would recognise this to be a thoroughly contested concept.  For the record, I recognise my inconsistency on the sponsorship thing, when I sponsor people, it’s generally because I want to support them in whatever endeavour they are undertaking and I don’t care about the cause, or because I am happy to donate to whatever charity it is they are supporting. There are limits to this, I won’t pay people to go on holiday (no horse riding round Mongolia or cycling round Vietnam challenges will entice me to part with my cash, you can pay for your own adventure holiday and donate to a linked charity if you wish) and I’d draw the line at forking out for the ‘Pro Trump Alliance’ or whatever, but otherwise I don’t insist people seeking sponsorship put themselves in personal peril or horrific discomfort or even complete said challenges as a prerequisite for supporting them. Obviously it’s more fun if they do, particularly when they have the foresight to record such occasions on camera but I don’t wish to be too pedantic on such matters.  Or at least, I don’t want to get caught out being so anyway…  Oh, and I do feel uncomfortable about giving money to ‘charities’ that are doing work that ought really to be a government responsibility or are too focused on the self-aggrandisement of the donor rather than addressing the causes of need or inequality so best not get me started on that.  The business of charity is complicated… Nevertheless, sometimes giving to a cause is important as an act of recognition and validation as much as it is of practical help.  And yep, it often is just a sticking plaster, but if you are the person in need of that, then you’ll still want it, even if it isn’t a permanent and all encompassing solution.  You surely know how the starfish story goes:

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Then the team thing.  How to organise a team, I don’t have the necessary charismatic leadership qualities to rally others, if I had, by now I’d already have either organised some sort of self-serving cult or harnessed my powers for good and brought about world peace starting with a resolution for Palestine.  I haven’t done either, so draw your own conclusions.

Then the 24 hour thing,  can I do more than one slot?  Do you have to pay for every hour you do?  How do you choose what time to go, what if you are on your own, can you still do it?  The on-line entry was asking a lot of questions that weren’t catering for the pathologically indecisive such as myself.

Upshot was, that confusion led to inertia, and an ‘oh well, I can always go next year, I’ll worry about it then.’  As I write this, I do fully appreciate how inadequate as a human being this makes me sound, but on the plus side, I do this so you don’t have to, so now I’ve sussed it, you can be all smug and wise after the event, and join the fun next year with a clarity of vision and purpose that will make you scamper round the 1km route in Meersbrook park with an extra spring in your step and an extra wide smile on your face.  Hurrah!  Because, it is now next year, and I did go.  So now I know.  And look at these smiling faces from the fun run start in 2017 – who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

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Because, well, dear reader, turns out all my confusion was misguided errant nonsense.  It’s like The Trunce, seemingly all a bit confusing if you’ve not been before, but in reality, just rock up on the day and go with it, you’ll be fine.  It all makes perfect sense, nothing complicated at all.  No really, there isn’t.  Let me explain.

The official blurb on the small park BIG RUN website says:

small park, BIG RUN
A 24 hour group challenge for Palestine
Midday Saturday 16 June – Midday Sunday 17 June 2018
Meersbrook Park, Sheffield 

We will run continuous circuits of Meersbrook park over 24 hours with at least two people on the course at all times. Entrants will be able to run, jog or walk shifts. You can choose how long and at what time you would like to run when you enter. You can run as an individual or as part of a team. At 12.15pm on Sunday 17th there will be a free Community/Family Fun Run of one lap. ALL WELCOME.

In 2018 we will be raising funds for the Khuza’a Children’s Play and Heal project and the Sheffield Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund.  More here

Palestinians do not enjoy freedom of movement. Journeys we take for granted, like going to school or work, visiting friends or family or trips to hospital can be much more demanding or even impossible for Palestinians faced with the ever-changing restrictions on movement imposed by the Israeli security forces.  Our event will draw attention to the situation and raise funds for two Sheffield based projects in aid of Palestine

Some groups – Goodgym for one, did put together teams to cover the whole 24 hours (noon Saturday to noon Sunday) in one hour slots.  Some people probably did get sponsorship for taking part.  This is an event which attracted non-runners and local activists who care passionately about the cause, but might not care quite so passionately for hoiking up that mahoosive Meersbrook park hill over and over again.  Kudos for them for fundraising on that basis.  But if you a local runner, who wants to take part but is also something of a commitment phobe and so doesn’t want to sign up in advance, you can just turn up on the day, pay your £12 entry fee (£5 non-waged) and then just join whatever time slot is coming up next – and they seemed to be every half hour not just on the hour for the record.  So it really was that simple, and that is what I did. Obviously I’m not going to leave my account there though, so get yourself a cup of tea and come and join in the fun vicariously…  I’m not saying you’ll enjoy reading this account, but if you are trying to procrastinate because of some other even more undesirable activity, then this blog post might be just the thing.  It might not though, so continue at your own risk.

So I did go, but it wasn’t a given. Truth to tell, I’ve been really down about my running lately.  Lost my running mojo entirely.  This is largely due to an insane number of niggles – shin pain, patella tendinopothy (overuse of the knee, not glamorous at all) which means I basically can’t really run at all.  However half-hearted my running might typically be, not being able to do it cuts out my entire social network and I feel like I’ve missed out on loads of stuff, from the Smiley solstice run to the Dig Deep Recce I was signed up for on Sunday.  Even parkrun seems to have faded to black and white I’m so far away from what I want to do.  It’s partly because I’d fondly imagined post the London Marathon (did I mention that at all?) and after a couple of weeks for recovery I’d be at the apex of my physical fitness.  Lean and toned, a coiled spring of muscle and mighty marathoner mania,  I’d be romping round trail ultras dishing out high-fives to passing walkers; bestowing pearls of training wisdom to anyone in earshot; allowing junior parkrunners to hold my medal  and, best of all, finally be able to keep up with the crowds enough to join the Smiley off-road monthly runs.  Alas, It was not to be, and not only because all of those thoughts were delusional in the first place.   Instead I find I am a physical wreck, the heaviest I’ve ever been and frankly lost running wise.  I seem barely able to get off the sofa, let alone head off for a run, and when I do, I’m in pain.  It’s not fair.  Even my beloved tomtom watch has stopped working.  Woe is me.  I’m not gonna lie, I may have had a bit of a pity party.  Conceding I’d never make it up Win Hill for the planned Dig Deep recce even if I crawled, let alone attempting to run up it, I pulled out of that.  I’d never have kept up, and my knee was hurting after parkrun on a flat 3 miles, so yomping off up and over 10 miles of hills wouldn’t be helpful – I was supposed to be joining an organised recce on Sunday, small park BIG RUN-day.  I’d left it too late to volunteer for Graves junior parkrun, well I could have rocked up but they had a full roster, and also it was father’s day and I didn’t really want to be reminded of that and family fun at Graves seemed likely to feature that prominently.  Sunday run plans were officially aborted…

Soooo, what to do instead?  Stay under the duvet all day was obviously one option, but that is never as enjoyable as you might think… then I remembered about small park BIG RUN.  I’d said last year I’d try to go to this.  Nothing to lose.  It was only 1km laps, I could walk it and test out my knee, it might be entertaining, it is in a good cause, no harm in rocking up and seeing how the day unfolded.  Plus, what better way to put my first world problems into some sort of perspective.  My decision was made.  small park BIG RUN it would be.  So that’s what I did.

Here’s the route by the way – that’s quite some hill, it really is!  Also another thing, disappointingly, it isn’t Garfield’s Primary School.  Shame.  Maybe in a parallel universe somewhere?

strava small park BIG RUN route

The event was taking place over 24 hours.  I knew there was a lantern workshop on the Saturday, so it would be lit up overnight, I toyed with the idea of going Saturday night to enjoy that, but that was before it started to rain.  In the end, I opted to head over on Sunday morning and see how things unfolded.  I got there around 8.30 ish.  There was a fair bit of parking around near the park at that time, and the first thing I noticed in the Sunday morning quiet is just how lovely Meersbrook park is. I’ve only ever passed through it before when either doing the Round Sheffield Walk route or participating in the Round Sheffield Run. As I typically start that in Endcliffe Park, by the time I make it to Meersbrook park my eyes are usually bleeding with fatigue and I’m too exhausted to focus on my surroundings, I just want the run to end.  Whizz down that hill hoping not to somersault like the most reckless of cheese rolling chasers, and out past the playground area barely registering the location at all.  Seeing it whilst positively lively by comparison was a revelation. It’s a lovely mature park, the views are stunning, and there are whole sections of it I’d never seen before – specifically the community hall which was where you went to register – how have I missed that?

AD community hall

and there were some hidden away walled gardens. where later on there was cake.  Who knew?  Turns out, the Round Sheffield Walk is lovely, but it’s worth deviating from the route now and again to explore the environs it passes through a bit more thoroughly.

I could see a high-vis marshal stationed on the course, and made out a solitary runner pounding round through the iron railings.  Suddenly I felt quite excited. I do like a micro adventure, this was just the job, it was going to be grand!

The event was well signed, with a huge banner outside proclaiming what was happening, then I could see some colourful bunting and various tents.  I don’t know why, but I’d been half expecting the place to seem a bit deserted at this time, but actually there were a fair few around, organisers, runners and volunteers, all friendly, and committed to the endeavour.  It all oozed positivity and optimism.

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I wasn’t joking (although I may have been punning somewhat) when I said this was an exercise in hope.  Although this is an inclusive run/ walk/ jogging event it is first and foremost a fund-raiser.  The organisers  identify themselves as:

… a broad based group of people from Sheffield Palestine Cultural Exchange, Sheffield Palestine Solidarity CampaignSheffield Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund and from the local Heeley and Meersbrook communities in Sheffield.

Sheffield Palestine Cultural Exchange is a group of people committed to ensuring exposure of Palestinian culture in Sheffield and to putting on events where it is possible to make live links with Palestinians. In this event we hope to ensure a run in Gaza and the West Bank at the same time.

The Scholarship Fund is a UK based charity and was set up in 2007 following an International Women’s Day Conference in 2006, where a call was made to support women into education in Gaza. The Fund raises money for scholarships to pay the university fees of Palestinian women into higher education in the Gaza Strip.

Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been active in Sheffield since 1990s. It is made up of a group of people committed to highlighting injustices suffered by Palestinian people.  SPSC supports children’s projects in Gaza and has funded better play facilities and a mobile library. More recently we have funded a trauma centre to help recovery from the psychological impact of war.

It was appropriate therefore that there were various stalls connected to these issues around, and many of the volunteers I spoke with were passionate campaigners for the cause.  It took me back decades to when I was a teenager, first hearing about the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the early eighties, which a google search tells me must have been when it just started in 1982.  It is depressing, but also a triumph of hope over experience in that although if anything things have got very much worse since then, nevertheless impassioned people still campaign for the cause.  It’s easy to turn away in despair, which is why, in my opinion anyway, events like small park BIG RUN are important to keep reminding us of what is going on as well as being a gesture of solidarity as much as anything else.  Like I said, hope over experience.  It reminded me I’ve lost touch with my inner activist to some extent.  It just seems to me that so many campaigns I’ve given energy and time too have been exhausting and futile.  I just got disillusioned and burnt out, it’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I feel powerless.  The current political climate doesn’t help.  Those dizzy days when me and my next door neighbour endlessly replayed the ansaphone message from Tony Benn when he’d called us to say he couldn’t talk at our Stop the War meeting but wished us well seem but a memory. Never been so star struck.  It was heartening to see people who are still fighting the fight, and it isn’t futile, it makes a difference for some individuals at least.

I pootled around, peering into the various tents. There was a registration tent, a massage tent, a run director/ organisers tent, an open gazebo for I know not what (shelter from the rain) tent.  I was expecting runners to head off on the hour, so felt an explore was in order as time was on my side.

Pleasingly, there were some running romping, and as it is only a 1km route, they trotted by with reasonable frequency.  Even more pleasingly, turned out there were a couple of fellow Smilies already on the cause, as with all good members of Smiley Paces, they were able to interrupt their circuit for a huggy photo.  I didn’t wear my Smiley top, I wasn’t sure it would be appropriate to do so at what is more a community event than a running club one, club vests were a minority overall.  It didn’t matter too much.  A fair few were sporting the official small park BIG RUN tops, which were rather fabulous and clearly the best choice, but my budget didn’t stretch to that.

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I registered, which took about a millisecond.  You have to fill in a form with your contact details and emergency contact, in return for which you get a number (pins provided).  It was very relaxed, frankly although I’m sure it would save organisers a lot of stress if you sign up in advance, the reality was I just paid my money and then you could set off whenever at the next half hour point.  Once you’ve done one slot, no-one was going to forcibly prevent you notching up a few extra laps if the mood took you – it was hardly the Boston Marathon circa 1976 with over zealous officials trying to wrestle  Kathrine Switzer from the course.   Nor did anyone call out your number and require you to leave the field, which I seem to remember being a thing if you hired a boat by the hour on a boating pond back in the day. Maybe that’s still a thing?  I really have no idea.  Here is my number, I got one all of my own, later on in the day they actually ran out, and had to improvise, writing on the back of previously issued ones. That’s good really, shows the event was well supported – better than anticipated even.

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I then had my obligatory precautionary pee (proper toilets people) and dumped my stuff in the community hall, the reception are of which was doubling as an unsupervised bag drop, then I decided to just walk a loop and take some pictures and see what the lie of the land was.  It was nice just ambling through the park.  There were lots of lanterns around, one or two with still flickering tea lights within, it must have looked lovely in the dark with the paths all lit up.  I paused to say hello to all the marshals, and admired the views.  I also puffed at the steepness of The Hill. What is it with Sheffield hills?  They are brutal.

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As I was walking round, some marshals were walking in the opposite direction, having harvested the lanterns now it was daylight again.  It turns out carrying a load of lanterns is a lot harder than you might expect.  It was quite joyful to witness though!  They were quite smart those marshals though, walking the route anti-clockwise, they got to come down the extra steep hill.   This is what happens if you have initiative.  Result.

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There were lots of things to behold.  At intervals around the course, the organisers had put up placards detailing aspects of life in the Gaza strip.  It was sobering to read these, and as well as being educated about the plight of Palestinians over there, you could also take a bit of a breather on the way up the hill whilst taking it all in.  Look up, and there was an amazing view back across the city.  I do love Sheffield, it’s taken me a long time to find it, but it is an extraordinary place.

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As I was taking this lap at a leisurely stroll, I also noticed things in the park I’d not seen before, including some rather fine wood carvings.  Running round later I also spotted an amazing hare, set back off the path, but I cannot lie, I couldn’t be bothered to go back and photograph it, maybe next year…  wish I’d made the detour now, it was class, right there.

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I also took some shots of runners, running, or yomping or jumping for joy.  There were a fair few out and about.  I took my time walking round as I’d got aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaages until the 9.00 a.m. next start up.

I got back to the start/finish, just as another Smiley arrived.  Hello!

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I went to ditch my camera and then returned to the start – to realise I’d cleverly just missed it.  The run director had disappeared.  I stalked him, and basically it was fine, he gave me a quick ‘look out for hazards’ sort of briefing, and then off I popped.  There was no chance of me keeping pace with fellow Smiley anyway, and I figured she’d lap me eventually, which indeed she did, although it took me longer than expected.

Generally speaking I’m really not a fan of multi-lap courses, due to tedium and the inherent pointlessness of it. However, on this occasion I was willing to give it a go.  The low/no pressure element suited me because I knew I’d have to walk up all the hills because of my knee injury, and I could pull out at any time if it was all too painful and the way the event was set up no-one would care how many laps I’d done even if they noticed at all (in a good way).  Trotting round though, was surprisingly OK.  Meditative even.  The marshals were all super friendly – a couple I recognised which I suppose isn’t altogether surprising given how the Venn diagrams of Sheffield communities interconnect all over the place.  It was weirdly reassuring having them come round back into view every few hundred metres.  Because people were setting off at different times, running at different paces and doing different numbers of laps, it was quite social too.  Particularly going uphill when I was not alone in dropping back to a walk.  I got snatches of others conversations, and involved in some too.  I met a woman who I’d previously come across whilst overwhelmed in a plant nursery (which is not the same as a garden centre apparently) I was overwhelmed, she rescued me.  It was nice to catch up!  There were families taking part, I couldn’t help noticing one dad (I think) punching the air (ironically) and proclaiming to the applauding marshal ‘I’ve just beat a seven year old!’ as he summitted (is that a real word? Sorry grammar police, but if sort of feels like the right one) The Hill.  Honestly, I think that would justifiably have been a cause for real – not ironic – celebration – have you seen how fast those junior parkrunners can go!  These photos were taken by Alan Dalton, and are throughout the 24 hours I think, but they give a real flavour of the participants in all their glory.  Special kudos to the guy in the Sheffield half marathon purple tee.  He lapped me countless times and I swear he ran every step of the way up that hill, super human.  If I’d ever caught up with him I’d have told him so.

The marshals offered encouragement and quips.  I wasn’t inclined to believe the ‘down hill all the way‘ now comment though, I mean strictly true if it was your final lap, but the odds were against that being so!  I liked pausing to read the signs, and the people watching element of it all.  There were non-runners, waving flags as they walked round with determined expressions as they ploughed up the hill. There was the guy who collected two greyhounds from some people sitting on a bench and did a round with them attached cani-cross style around his waist.  If he was banking on them to haul him up the hill it was a miscalculation.  I noticed them trotting round ahead of him on the downward and flat sections very happily, but he was in front tackling the hill.  I think he returned them to the custody of their carers after that.

canicross man

Occassionally, as I was trudging up hill, a runner would come sprinting down, I recognised most – looked like people doing recces for next week’s round sheffield run to me.  I’m supposed to be doing that.  I’ve picked my number up, but not sure if I’ll make it, could be over-ambitious what with my knee and running inertia and all….

There was a photographer positioned right at the top of the hill, where, granted the views were fab but the challenge to try to be running for the photo was also great.  I put on a bit of a sprint at the last possible moment and was rewarded with these pictures, I’m not sure how I feel about them, they are action shots, the view is stunning, but I really do need to get fit again.  Eek. Even so, good to have. Maybe I can learn to Photoshop more quickly than I can lose that weight?

As I cornered to go down the hill two marshals on the bench applauded my splendid turn of speed.  ‘Wow, that was amazing‘ said one, momentarily genuinely impressed.  This was followed up with the sound of a penny dropping and a cautious ‘that wasn’t just because there was a photographer there was it?’  Erm, well yes, obvs.  I’m guessing that particular marshal was a non runner therefore not initiated into the code of conduct of how to behave when you see a camera en a race run route.

This photo on the other hand, just happened to capture a completely spontaneous moment.  No really.

Loads of people took part over the 24 hours, from babes in arms to this fine nonagenarian.  Impressive eh?

BB 94 year old participant

It is only one kilometre, so you are quickly back where you started and off again.  Just after the start there was a sort of right-angle round the corner of the building.  Here at one point there was a small child playing football, possibly this was to recreate the authenticity of the hazards a child en route to school might face in Gaza.  Hang, on there’s a picture somewhere, not of the footballer, but of the corner, and you’ll need to remember this layout for later on mayoral hiding purposes.

AD corner shot

I took it really steady, running slowly all but the hill sections – though I was shamed into doing the final uphill sprint even when the photographer wasn’t there just because I really felt I should.  It took on a meditative quality.  Because I knew I could stop at any time, I did more than I expected.  For the record, it’s harder than you might think to count laps, even if you do less laps than you have fingers. Fortunately, I have my tomtom watch, it won’t upload anything or synch with strava, but it will record distance in real time so that enabled me to keep count.  It helped that each lap was 1km, even my maths skills can cope with multiplying or dividing by one.  Without my watch to keep track, I’d either have bailed after lap one or still be out there now, running endlessly round in circles, trying to find the exit point.  No need to chip in with your view of which is the most likely scenario of the two by the way, just so you know.

It took me ages, but I did complete my goal of 10 laps, plus the one I walked earlier.  I’m embarrassed by how slow I was, but, on the plus side, I feel my endurance is still there.  My knee did start to niggle after about 8 laps, but I did do what I set out to do, and it felt no worse afterwards, not really.  If my knee had held out I could have done longer, I wasn’t shattered or anything. I really believe the one thing to come out of my London marathon training is having found my zero effort ‘running’ pace, I feel I could keep it up almost indefinitely.  It’s true many people can power walk faster than I can run, and the down side of its inherent energy efficiency is that I probably burn zero calories doing it, but it cheered me to think I can still do distance, well, maybe not distance, but hours on my legs, which if I do enough of them amounts to the same thing, I just have to cover the miles in my own unremarkable way.   There was some water at the start/finish point by the way, and I did stop for a drink a couple of times there, but basically, round and round I went.

I was gasping for a coffee, and wasn’t sure what to do.  The event closed at noon anyway,. and there was a promise of a mayoral visit (oh my gawd,  he is such a cool dude) – this topped the Miriam Margolyes was nearly with us facebook announcement made earlier on.  Granted, it was cool to see her message of support, but it was still a celebrity near miss rather than result which leaves you disappointed.  Like those game shows where they used to draw back the curtains so the losers might see ‘what you could have won!’  but absolutely didn’t.  Salt in the wound.  For the record though, her words seemed heartfelt, she said…

 “Hey guys! So proud and grateful you’re running for Palestine. I’m suffering with hip agony or I’d be puffing beside you. Much love.”

I wonder if she really would have come?  We may never know.  I like her though, would definitely have hijacked her for a pic given the chance.  Shallow, but true.

Miriam margoyles

Then there was the hope of a mobile phone link up with one of the projects pending, and a synchronised fun run with Gaza too (I know because someone made an announcement).  It seemed a shame to push off and miss these concluding climactic moments of the event, just because I was craving caffeine.  I’d seen a note somewhere about a cafe nearby but I don’t know the area and didn’t know where that was. That would be my only criticism of the day really, somewhere to get a coffee throughout the day would have been fab – or signage to the nearest cafe.  I could have asked to be fair, but who wants to show initiative post a run?

I sat on the hillock by the Palestinian flag and just observed.  I had one anxious moment when a dog tried to pee on me, but I managed an agile shift at the critical moment as the leg was cocked.  Close shave though. I’m sure it was symbolic of something.  I don’t know if it makes me lucky because I avoided being pissed on from a great height, or unlucky because I was clearly identified by the dog in question as a legitimate target.  Meanwhile, a choir sang unaccompanied and rather beautifully, their performance only spoiled when I realised it was Carfield community choir.  Easy mistake.  Garfield’s choir probably wouldn’t have bothered to rehearse so seriously though.   I espied them first practising in what I took to be the walled garden, but then they performed in front of the hall as the last lappers ran round.

I did really want a coffee though.  Eventually I overheard someone in possession of a steaming mug of tea telling someone else that there was coffee and cake in the mysterious ‘walled garden’ which it turns out, is not next to the hall at all, but opposite it, over the little hill. Tip for organisers next time, a directional arrow pointing it that direction would have been a boon.  No worries, off I went, and was restored with coffee and a raspberry jam filled scone, just what was needed.  Yum.

Restored by caffeine, I had a look around the exhibition and wandered round the gardens too.   There was a separate marquee up (I always want to say marquis, but that’s different isn’t it?) where they did the lantern making and community poetry writing (no really) workshops earlier on.   I had no idea this space was all here in Meersbrook park, really impressive.  What a revelation, and how great to see it being used by the local community in such a positive, proactive and inspirational way.

Back to people watching.  Just as I was getting a bit bored, the mayor rocked up.  Can’t lie, I was a bit star struck.  In an age where it feels all news is bad news, the election of Magid Magid – a Somalian born refugee as Sheffield mayor aged just 28 is blooming great.  Maybe there is room for hope after all.   I am a huge fan of him, but hadn’t met him before, so I am relieved as well as pleased to report he came across really well. Affable, committed, principled and just a very nice thoroughly cool dude.  A good speaker also, he spoke about the importance of the day and came across as genuine and well-informed. Plus, he was game to run the final slot of the event, and turned up wearing very impressive bling, and we runners do know how to appreciate bling!

Off he went, I think then the choir sang actually, can’t remember now.   A group read the poetry they had composed inspired by the event and by running.  Think more community event than running event, and enriched by that ethos I think.  A departure from the usual race vibe.

Eventually, it was noon again, and the final runners romped in to loud cheers of support.  Top tip, if you are thinking of coming next year and can make the final 11- or 11.30 a.m. to noon slot, pick that, you’ll get loads of support, whoops and high fives, you’ll feel awesome.  Other time slots offer different rewards, the lantern walkers,  the night runners lit by lanterns and hearing the disembodied voices of the choir on the hill had their own unique experiences too.

the lantern walk:

PR lantern walk

night-time runners:

Final slot runners being cheered in:

Then there was some speechifying, which was important.

speechifying

It contextualised the event.  People spoke with poignancy and passion.

After many aborted attempts, there was even a live link up with the children’s project in Gaza over a mobile phone!

phone linke

We all crowded round in an anticipatory circle as eventually the connection was made.   Even the challenge of getting this to work was a reminder of what a scarce resource electricity is for the people over there, 2 hours a day perhaps, maybe 4 if really lucky.  Through a speaker system the children shouted greetings, and we assembled in Meersbrook park roared back in return.  It was quite unexpectedly moving and made the purpose of the event feel very real.  Real people being encouraged because others far away in a city they will probably never visit and might never have heard of, are trying to help them.  I think they were also doing some sort of run of their own over there too, but that bit got a bit lost in translation to be fair.

This was a good launch for the final fun run lap, which was basically a mass anarchic roar round the loop for all and sundry, whatever they were wearing and whatever demographic they fell in to.  It’s worth noting that the fun run in particular, and the whole event in general was a sort of symbolic celebration of the right to free movement.  I presume this informed the decision to built a fundraising event around running.   See what they’ve done there?  It’s easy to take the ability to move freely in the place you live for granted.  Not everybody can.  Hence…

The Fun Run will take place at 12.15pm on Sunday 17 June after the small park BIG RUN finishes. It will be celebration of our own right to free movement; we will be running at the same time as a tandem run in Palestine. There will be a live telephone link up – be sure to make some noise!

A tape was drawn across the start,

PR fun run

and the mayor cut it with due solemnity,

fun run start

and the children at the front tore off, scooping up Magid with them in the tide of people.  This is where you need to refer to the previous photo of the corner shot.  As I turned the corner the mayor was crouched hiding behind a wall.  I wish I’d thought of that!  To be fair, he’d ducked out at the first sensible opportunity, after having been swept up in the stampede of the mass start to enable him to backtrack so he could be at the finish (which was also the start) to greet incoming runners as they completed their circuit.  Glad to have cleared that up.  It was hilarious though, well in my world, he did rather have the look of someone trying to get out of a mandatory cross-country run!  Personally,  I did head out and complete the final lap, and I’m glad I did, it was joyful.

Finishing, I was welcomed by a high-five from the mayor – which is right up there with the one I got from Harry Gration at the start of the Sheffield half a couple of years back.  Maybe even better.  What’s more, there was a run organiser Smiley at the finish, dolling out ice lollies to finishing youngsters.  However, shameless nepotism secured me an orange icicle and you know what, it was really, really nice!  Sometimes it pays to have contacts!

I enjoyed it whilst cheering in the final finishers.  What a day!  It did really help put things in a proper perspective.  Me having lost my running mojo isn’t such a drama in the grand scheme of things is it.  I can move freely and have electricity for starters.

And there was more gentle milling and chilling until finally people began to disperse ….

But there was one surprise still to come.  I espied a smiley, who offered to take a photo of me so I could have a record of my own presence at the event, and did so just as our esteemed Mayor was walking on by, so we shamelessly ambushed him, and got the shot!  He was most gracious, having posed for more photos than even Jessica Ennis when she showed up at that Vitality move event at Chatsworth.  I’m pleased and proud to have this shot though, maybe it’s capturing a little moment in history, when a small green shoot of hope found a way up through the concrete politics of hate that seem all around.  Well, I did say this whole 24 hours was basically an exercise in hope, you can surely  indulge me by allowing me to belief in this hope too.  🙂

And that was that.

So in summary, just rock up, rock round and rock on.  Job done.  You don’t have to be a team – though that sounds fun; and you don’t have to be sponsored – though it is a good cause. You can even be all spontaneous and impulsive and just roll up and run on the day.  What’s not to like?  I can’t promise you’ll get an icicle ice lolly, but there will probably be a banana in it for you.  I got two.

bananas

Thanks to all those involved in organising the event, the cheery marshals, fellow participants, supporters and those who shared photos, which I’ve freely borrowed, especially Alan Dalton; Paul Ree and Cath Ager.  I’m sure there will be more photos on the small park BIG RUN website in due course.  There you go. Same time same place next year?  I think so.

The final word should go to the organising team who sent out a fine summary of the small park BIG RUN 2018 event.  A grand success is the summary conclusion. Hurrah!  A great many people helped to make it so.

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

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