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.

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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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3 thoughts on “small park BIG RUN 2018, an exercise in hope, or maybe exercise and hope…

  1. I loved taking part in my first Small Park Big Run this year – hope to see you all again in 2019!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Round Sheffield Run 2018. Five out of five runs, and five out of five star rating too. Hurrah! | Running Scared

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