Battling The Beast and Cavorting with The Cobra – gallumphing round Gedling parkrun for my cow cowl debut outing.

Digested read: went to Gedling parkrun, sun shone, route undulating – no really, it actually was proper hilly –  locals friendly.  Would recommend.  Different parkrun no 21.  First outing for my long coveted cow cowl.  Hurrah!


Unabridged account:

It came!  My cow cowl.  The buff that has become the recognised signal to self-identify those who  have completed 20 different parkruns.  I’ve been on a quest to achieve this for a little while, and am ridiculously very excited to now be in possession of it.  It was a bit scratchy on arrival, but I chucked it in with a load of washing and it came out all soft and with that seductive fresh laundry smell just crying out to be worn.  I was going to have a bit of a break from parkrun tourism, but it turned out the lure of having an excuse to don my cow cowl for the first time was too great.  Plus, if I’m wanting to do a few more parkrun excursions further afield I need to do so before winter properly sets in.  The upshot was I set my alarm for an early start, and today it was Gedling parkrun in my sights.  I can’t quite remember why.  It’s one of the nearer to me parkruns not done yet, and because I’ve been heading out that way recently from Sheffield to get to both Mansfield parkrun and Brierley Forest parkrun it is a pretty and easy drive.  Gedling also promised only one lap, which would be novel, been a while since I got to do once of those.  Yep, that sounds like the makings of a plan,  I’ll do that then. I thought.

Cow Cowl - parkrun headwear

I was less enthusiastic this morning.  Like Lady Macbeth I seem to have entirely lost the ability to sleep, though don’t worry, it isn’t due to the quantities of core on my hands that I’m unable to wash off, in case you were wondering but too polite to ask. Nope, just ongoing insomnia.  I felt like I hadn’t slept at all anyway, but was properly awake but exhausted from 4.00 a.m. feeling blooming awful.  I debated the options as stair rods of rain pelted down on the velux windows.  Was I ill or just exhausted? I mean everything ached, and you aren’t supposed to run with ‘below the neck’ symptoms are you?  Maybe I could just lie in a bit longer, stay local, less taxing…  But then again, lying in wasn’t all that relaxing with the demon of insomnia sitting on my chest.  Obviously, this is exactly what I look like when reclining on my bed, and exactly what I wear in bed too, if only I’d remembered about the parkrun in pyjamas event it’s what I’d have worn for that run a couple of weeks back, what could possibly have gone wrong?

lady macbeth

In the end, I figured I was awake anyway, and as my kit was all laid out, including my freshly laundered co cowl I might as well stick to plan a.  It’s not like I run very fast and so my participation in parkrun was unlikely to be entirely ruinous to my health, I might even feel better afterwards.

lets go parkrun

If I felt rubbish, then it was a zero sum game, give I already felt rubbish, I’d be no worse off. The same logic was applied by a friend of mine who ate a grilled rat purchased from a road side vendor whilst in Cambodia.  She’d been really, really ill with dysentery that let her so dehydrated she could hardly stand.  Her thought was that as she was currently at death’s door it was highly unlikely that the consumption of grilled rat would make her any sicker than she was already, plus it would pass through her system at lightning speed. On the other hand, were she to eat same skewered rodent whilst well, and then become really ill she’d have been  most put out.  I sort of respect her logic, though grilled animals, rats or otherwise, are not for me. The principle works though.

grilled rat cambodia

So up and out, and the rain stopped by the time I was in the car.  The drive out was fine, beautiful even with the autumn colours of trees lining the route back-lit by bright, low winter sunshine.  The down side of all the lovely low sunshine is that I was dazzled by it for the whole drive, having to resort to wearing my shades whilst driving even though it was 7.30 in the morning.  Fortunately I’m confident I’d have looked super-cool wearing them at that hour and not at all ridiculous in any way whatsoever, so that’s a win.  I’d have looked even cooler (hard to imagine) if I’d only managed to get myself a pair of these!


I’m actually overdue to have my eyes tested, so here’s hoping that specsavers offer these as an option.  Then, what with getting some of those and now being in possession of a cow cowl basically all my worldly dreams will have come true!  I don’t mean to come across as inappropriately materialistic, but well, you know, we all covet something….  Or is it just me?

Just me then… Ooops.

Ah well, can’t put that cat bag in the bag now.  Truth will out.  As indeed I did.  Off I went.  And in almost exactly an hour, arrived at the entrance to Gedling Country Park, which the signs tell me, is on the sight of what was formerly Gedling Colliery.

The satnav for the on site car park is NG4 4PE, and works, always a boon.  I was a bit worried about parking – well I always am – but when I got there, about 8.40, there was still plenty of space.  The only confusing thing is that they don’t mark out the parking bays with lines, so it probably isn’t the most efficient way to park up, but no worries, I got in fine.  I went in search of loos.  Jackpot dear reader. There is a visitors centre with a cafe (not yet open) and loos a-plenty, all heated up and clean and welcoming.  No queue.  No other users even.  Two weeks on the trot I’ve been spoilt by the high standards of toilets available for my delight and convenience.  Very convenient it was too.

Not that I had the trots, I’m fine, I’ve not been dining on grilled rat, not that that would necessarily be detrimental on the guts, especially as presumably grilled is the healthier (though not necessarily tastier) option, than the deep-fried variety which was also ubiquitous in parts of Cambodia, but even if you did, you’d be alright.

By the way, if you want to know what rat tastes like, have a guess?

No, not like chicken, that would too easy.  Apparently, it tastes exactly like you’d imagine a dead rat to taste.  Not recommended therefore. Most undesirable, especially for the rat that gets eaten.

Back to the loos, marvellous – apart from, the cubicle I used had the noisiest door hinge in the known universe.  FACT.  It screamed like a bull elephant seal fighting for territorial rights, and that’s loud!  I know, I saw a programme with footage of just that only yesterday, it’s a noise that makes your bones and internal organs vibrate. This was exactly the same. No really, the sound recordists for the documentary in question could have saved themselves a lot of expense and trouble by just setting up their recording equipment outside cubicle three along from the left.  They might have picked up other interesting and informative sounds too now I come to think of it, though not during my visit particularly, I’m very poised and demure in my toilet habits.  Can’t speak for other facility users.

Elephant seal fight 1

I had time for a little explore and amble about.  I can report that once again this was an unexpectedly nice location.  Not wishing to be rude, but without the lure of parkrun tourism I’d have had no reason to even know Gedling Country Park existed, and yet here I was, being impressed by it in the earlyish hours of a Saturday morning.  It helped that the sun shone, and the park which covers a hill (reclaimed slag heap) was covered with beautiful trees, golden in their autumn colours and practically glowing in the sunshine.  There were helpful information boards such as this:


There were more boards with a map of the park, polite requests for £1 contribution (voluntary) towards parking.  I hesitated, being a beneficiary of the car park, but then I thought if I got my coffee in the cafe afterwards that would still be making a contribution of some sort.  If I’d had change on me at that point I would have popped something in, but I didn’t.

The exploring was fun, I got a sense of the expanse of the place. There is a new build housing estate – so new it’s still under construction in places – bang smack next to the country park.  There was a really imaginative play area – check out this coal rig themed climbing frame cum slide:


I ambled towards the familiar cluster of high vis wearing people, thinking I might have espied the start.  Don’t those marshals look busy and important!

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It wasn’t the start, it was actually the finish.  I was a bit confused, having not read beyond the ‘where to park’ bit of the course descriptor. I’m still not in possession of a smart phone, generally, I get on fine, but on occasions like this it would be handy for last-minute checks.  I saw a nice woman who pointed me in the right direction to find the first timers’ briefing and helpfully reassured me that there is a blue IKEA bag at the start where you can dump things to be taken to the finish.  It teleports there by magic as far as I can tell.  I think you have to qualify this with ‘dump things to be taken to the finish within reason‘.  Thus, I put my fleece in it, and it did indeed re-materialise at the finish, but if I’d climbed in myself I’m less confident I’d have been allowed to scan my barcode, whether I’d brought it with me or no.  Try it by all means though, I’m only giving an opinion here.

The Run Director was roaming in search of stories for the run report and saw some milestone runners assembling and spotted someone in a cow cowl.  Not me!  I however, alerted to its presence, decided to do some boldly going.  After all, earlier this week the  UK parkrun tourist group administrator informed me in a friendly welcoming message that ‘the sole purpose of the cowl is to allow group members to spot each other out and about, so wear it wherever and however you want, whenever you’re feeling sociable.’  Excellent!  This was an open invitation to go and say hello.  So I did.

Turned out the other wearer was at his home run!  Oh.  I thought your were supposed to wear it when actually touristing.  Not so.  It was rightly pointed out to me that you could where it wherever and however you pleased.  Round the wrist in hot weather, on the head when cool.  This was especially good news as I’d quite like to sleep in it for a bit, what with it being so comfy and welcome and all.  Seems there’s no rule to prevent me from doing so.  Even if there was, I doubt there is any enforcement regime as such, these things operate on trust.  Result.

This seemed to me a friendly parkrun.  I had quite a few chats whilst waiting.  Partly from the cow cowl affect, it is a licence to talk to people, especially others who are have also donned them.  But it wasn’t only that, people just seemed to have an open disposition, and also were chatting to each other whilst waiting, like they were catching up on local news, running and otherwise.  A nice vibe.

After a bit there was a first timers briefing.  It was really good, often these briefings are competent but formulaic. This one was extremely friendly and welcoming and also genuinely informative – albeit slightly alarming. We were warned that in this instance ‘undulating course’ was for real.  We would come to know The Beast, a humongous hill climb that loomed on upwards, and later another twisty hill that finishes with a steep upward thrust like a Cobra launching to strike, hence The Cobra.  Gulp.   It was going to be like doing a death ride at Alton Towers – only cheaper, obviously.  An opportunity to ask questions – I asked about if there was any overtaking etiquette as I’m slow and didn’t want to get in the way of other runners.  ‘gawd no, don’t worry about that, chat and go with the tail walkers if you want!‘  I appreciated that sentiment, and I suppose with a one lap course the faster runners should be able to get round unimpeded if they line up in the appropriate point at the start.

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Then the ‘first time ever at parkrun’ people were given an additional briefing about what to expect, and I joined the mingling melee of others waiting to go parkfun.

Oh hang on, you probably want to know the actual route, not just the names of the hills.  Well, the course blah de blah on the Gedling parkrun website says:

An undulating single lap figure of eight course set in the grounds of Gedling Country Park. The course is clearly marked with directional arrows.
The start is located close to the Spring Lane car park. From the start runners head East for 300 metres before turning right at a junction of paths, adjacent to the finish area, and heading in a Southerly direction downhill across the park. After approx. another 300 metres runners then turn left at the next junction of paths to begin the climb up Wicketwood Hill and then run in an anti-clockwise direction around the solar farm. Once runners return to the downhill path next to the finish area, they turn left to follow it again downhill across the park for approx. 300 metres. This time at the junction runners turn right and then take the third turning on the left to follow the ‘main bright’ route clockwise up and round back past the start point and head straight on to the finish.

And the map looks like this:

Gedling course

My strava also reports an elevation of 252 feet.  Felt like more though, those hills meant business.

So then RD briefing, which wasn’t that easy to hear – still some chatting at the back, though not as bad as at Brierley Forest.  We were told that you could join the team for post parkrun coffee in the Willowbrook, 13 Main Road, Gedling, Nottingham, NG4 3HQ afterwards.  Only they didn’t give the postcode then, obvs.  Seemed a genuine invite.  More marks for friendly inclusiveness awarded on my entirely arbitrary and subjective basis for this.  What with the warm welcome and bright sunshine I was feeling almost tickety-boo by the time the call went up for off.


Those are the actual IKEA bags that do the teleporting from start to finish by the way, just to reassure you this parkrun has a plan.  They used to do a similar thing at Concord til the numbers got unmanageable I think, but then again, I only ever go there for their Christmas parkrun so might not be quite up to date on that one.

Off we went.  It was a friendly trot out.  They seemed a social gaggle at Gedling.  Many of the runners alongside me were chatting companionably to one another as they headed out.  I dare say the faster runners were sprinting ahead too hard to talk, but there was a good atmosphere within the run.  Obviously I had to do my pausing to take some snaps along the way thing, which was quite onerous at this venue because there was quite a lot to see, fabulous views and some nice wood sculptures along the route too.  Kudos to whoever maintains Gedling Country Park, it was in fine order.

Here are some wildlife wood sculptures – though personally I think the hedgehog is downright creepy.  The other renditions are very fine though:

Bit of feedback though, not sure if it is for the local parkrun team or the country park, but maybe get some wood sculptures to warn parkfunners of the forthcoming Beast and Cobra with appropriately worded information panels to help them on their way. That would be fantastic!  Plus, who knows, maybe a bit of accidentally on purpose spreading of misunderstanding and the beast of Gedling could go viral and become a thing, much like the Beast of Bodmin moor or whatever.  Or not, obviously, both options are OK with me.  Something like this perhaps, what’s not to like?

Image result for beast of bodmin moor

On a still, sunny, autumnal day, this course was really lovely.  Spectacular views through silver birch woodland down to a village spire poking through mist below.  It goes up and down, and winds about, so plenty to distract you from the uphill bits.  Having said that, I couldn’t run all the way up the hills. I was a bit disappointed in myself as you’d think I’d be OK with hills given you can’t move in Sheffield you are never more than six foot away from a one in one gradient.  Not indeed more than six foot away from a man called Dave.  Also FACT.  On this parkrun alone there were two Davids running, but that doesn’t include the unknowns, who were probably nearly all Daves or Davids.  Bound to have been.  Don’t know if I captured any of them on film, but I did get some nice shots. I mean, they aren’t the most technically amazing pictures obviously, as I’m not a proper photographer, but you’ll get the mood music of the course from these I’m hoping.

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Of course no parkrun would happen without the volunteers.  Again, top marks for cheery marshals en route.  They weren’t many, but punched above their weight in offering personalised support and encouragement.  Also, naturally, helpful directional pointing, multi-tasking at times with cheering and interspersed clapping.  Top team happening at Gelding.

The tail walkers were a cheery, chatty trio, who kept at a respectable distance at the back.  I wasn’t quite final finisher, but nearly.  Everyone is different of course, but personally, I don’t like being chivvied along by tail markers, or anyone else for that matter, I find it super stressful, so I appreciated their chilled slightly behind approach.  They looked a top team too.  Also hurrah!

I realised en route that I’d not taken the obligatory selfie.  I blame Smiley Selfie Queen, she normally takes charge of such photo journalism on these excursions.  Our trip to investigate Ladybower’s bottom being a case in point… oh well, I did my best.  Not great, but at least the cow cowl is recorded here for posterity.  It will never have another debut outing, so that was worth documenting surely.


I made it my mission to stay ahead of the tail walkers and in sight of the runners ahead, but this still gave me a fair bit of lee-way for scenic shot spotting.  At various points on the course you can see faster runners streaming ahead up the hills.  But I also paused to look at the planted up lagoons, impressive teasels – they are great for goldfinches, I’m trying to grow some in my garden but they are biennials, so I won’t know if my plan has worked until next year.   Some lovely sculptural pieces too.  An ‘unmissable’ solar farm – I think as in ‘you can’t miss it‘ as opposed to a ‘your life will be incomplete if you don’t see it‘ feature in the park.

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Also cattle, but peacefully grazing the other side of a fence, so no worries about being trampled. Well, not this week anyway, a couple of weeks back I gather it may have been a different matter all together when, according to their Gedling event 178 run report

a tractor turns up on the course half way through a parkrun which some of you may have seen happen this week! The farmer had come to bring some more water for his cows and thought that Saturday morning would be a quiet time to do it! He certainly hadn’t imagined 161 parkrunners to get in his way. Very luckily there was a gap between parkrunners for him to get to the cows which meant that the course was cleared with about 30 seconds before the first finisher had to go along that part of the course. Phew!

Open gate between me and cows is not my favourite thing. parkrun is though, so perhaps another zero sum game effect now I come to think about it.  Also, tractors are always fun aren’t they?  I briefly worked on an alpaca farm, and driving the tractor was one of my favourite things.  Better yet, it was a red one, things don’t get better than that!

As I came round to the end of the course, you run alongside the car-park. That wasn’t great as I was acutely aware of all the long finished parkrunners coming back to their cars, drinking coffee and changing or doing stretches in the car park.  Having said that, 99% of those who passed me in the opposite direction as I came in shouted encouragement, or clapped or just smiled warmly and empathetically in my direction.  Like I said, a very friendly parkrun. Including the very nice woman who had helped me out on arrival, pointing me the right way to the start and explaining about the magically transporting IKEA bag.  That was nice, sort of top and tailed my Gedling parkrun immersive experience!  Thank you kind fellow parkrunner!


From the car-park area, it’s down hill, so you can go for your ‘chariots of fire’ sprint finish, and the added momentum provided by gravity will super charge your whizz into the finish funnel.  Or it would, if there weren’t other parkrunners who’d just finished strolling towards me, five a-breast up the path directly in front of the timekeepers. I’m not going to lie that was disappointing, but untypical of the Gedling parkrun experience up to that point.  Maybe they were just ‘in the zone’ having finished their run, but I had to swerve onto the grass to avoid this group with just a few feet still to go, they seemed completely oblivious to the fact I was still running and they were completely blocking the path to such an extent I couldn’t even see the finish past them.  The entire path – really?  Not to worry, the cheers of the finish funnel marshals, time keepers and bar scanners swept me up again.  You can’t be disappointed for long at a parkrun.  For the record, you also pass this team twice on the run due to the figure of eight formation, and they clapped and cheered every time, with genuine energy and enthusiasm. I appreciate your labours hi-vis team, I really do.  I thank you all!  🙂

I lingered to wait for the tail walkers to come on through, only they didn’t.  They didn’t have barcodes and for whatever reason opted not too.  A slightly anticlimactic finish, but a relaxed and pleasant one all the same. I think the timers clicked them in en masse any how, not sure to be honest.  All good though, and good-humoured too, like I said, this was a friendly one.  You could feel the parkrun love.  I’d definitely come back some time, I have unfinished business with those hills apart from anything else.  However, I’m thinking this could be quite an exposed course in winter so maybe one for the summer months as the days shorten and the wintry weather comes upon us…  brrrrrr.

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I said my thanks – particularly to the nice woman who’d done the first timers’ briefing who was at the finish as well.  Then I wandered in the general direction of the cafe, past the adventure playground, which was very tempting indeed.  Only my desire for caffeine prevented me from having a go on the zip line and other interactive pleasures that awaited those game enough to take the plunge.  Very impressive.  No really, genuinely so.  Also immaculately maintained.  I didn’t see one bit of litter, or one pile of dog poo all morning, and I think that may well be a parkrun first in my experience.

Final stop was a pit stop (see what I’ve done there) at the visitors’ centre cafe.  Not massively beautiful from the outside, but inside light and airy and not massively busy considering there’d just been a parkrun – maybe everyone did decamp to the aforementioned pub.

Inevitably there was a bit of a queue in the cafe, but not to worry, an opportunity to share parkrun stories with others.  A really nice woman (this wave is for you) was filling me in on other local runs if I want to extend my parkrun tourism.  She recommended Colwick parkrun as relatively near and flat – though precautionary pee alert – the loos are miles from the start and only for the completely desperate.  This is the kind of insider info you can’t put a value on.  She is doing a 12 run challenge next  year, so I was trying to persuade her to come and do the Longshaw 10k – one of the Trust 10k series nationwide in January as she was lacking an event for that month.  Bit rich coming from me, as although I love Longshaw, I don’t think I’ve made it once this year because of getting sucked into volunteering at Graves Junior parkrun – then again, junior parkrun is the most fun it’s possible to have on a Sunday morning so hardly surprising.  Having said that, I might try to do the pre-Christmas Longshaw one.  We’ll see….  Mind you I can hardly drag my weary carcass round a 5k at the minute, need to start doing some actual proper running training again before then.

So coffees bought, said farewell to my new best friend and her supportive partner and that was that.  Coffee was acceptable but unremarkable, I didn’t get any food, though there were good options in the croissant and cake department and toast and things as well I think.  There were cheap and cheerful breakfast at the pub though – I think next time I’d factor that in and head there.  Sounds like a bargain.  Veggie breakfast at Willowbrook for £4.50 – got to be checked out for research purposes next time…

I did feel better after my run for the record.  It’s true what they say, you never regret a run do you, however hurrumphy you might be to start out with, it’s always worth it in the end.

So thank you fine parkrunners and parkfunners of Gedling, a very welcoming and impressive set up you have there.  Also, the swiftest delivery of a parkrun event report I’ve ever experienced with Gedling Event 179 run report online within hours of the parkrunning.  Respect!  I’m mighty glad I found it for my cow cowl debut.  It was a memorable one.

Talking of remembrance, they also had this at the entrance to the park.  I’m not entirely comfortable with much of the gesture politics around acts of remembrance – Seeing world leaders whose foreign policies have propagated conflict and war world wide, or proactively profit from arms sales gather, sporting poppies and purporting to support peace sticks in the throat.  But I liked this statement.  A figure alongside the dates the pit was in operation for (1899-1991).  I couldn’t help wondering how many people who worked these seams and then died in one of the wars?  Were they even seams, or was it all open cast mining?  I have no idea.


This link may help – Heritage – Friends of Gedling Country Park.  What happened here in the eighties?  I don’t know, it obviously limped on into 1991, but this site has surely seen turbulent times.  As is often the way, I resolved to do some googling when I got home. It might not be the most robust and rigorous of research tools, but it is a cautious start.  As with parkrunning, the important thing is to just start, after that, things can often take on a momentum all of their own.

Happy parkfunning til next time!  🙂

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Battling The Beast and Cavorting with The Cobra – gallumphing round Gedling parkrun for my cow cowl debut outing.

  1. Pingback: Frolics at Frickley Country parkrun | Running Scared

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