Digested read: parkrun tourism had me wending my way to Wakefield Thornes parkrun today. Don’t mind letting on that my old dressing gown went down a storm. Hurrah.
Undigested read: It’s a long one. Get comfy or decide against reading on and get a life instead. Either way, May the fourth be with you!
Special credit to Darren Williams, parkrun official photographer for the day who took some fab photos from which I’ve freely borrowed to enliven this post. You could even follow him here, on instagram Myviews555 should the mood take you, but don’t go exploring that ’til you’ve finished here first!
Well, today was always going to be either Star Wars Day or, World Naked Gardening Day.
It was touch and go which way’d I’d jump, obviously, but in the end the Jedis had it. Well, you know parkrun is not to be missed or messed with lightly. I need my parkrun fix to keep tipped towards the saner end of the continuum that takes in the wide spectrum of human existence. Besides, it’s not only that my garden is overlooked and the temperature distinctly chilly, but also I tend to get contact induced allergic dermatitis if I garden in anything less than one of those forensic clean up boiler suits and over-sized eye guards. Ideally, I’d garden wearing something like this (yes, of course it’s really me within!) but it really only works effectively if you have minions in abundance, in the manifestation of a whole army of under gardeners who can carry out your orders for you. Those protective gloves don’t allow for a great deal of dexterity, more like the suits which allow you to mimic the symptoms of arthritis as an awareness raising training experiential training exercise. Those weighted boots can be a bit challenging too – so usually I end up having to go with a more light weight disposable option so I can still use my hands, alarmingly high doses of anti-histamine, and (alas) not an under gardener in sight. Anyway, you can quite see why I won’t be doing any naked gardening any time, any place, soon. World Naked Gardening Day not withstanding.
Is that over-sharing? Oh well. Sorry-ish, though to be fair, if that disclosure makes you feel uncomfortable, be prepared for the fact I got waaaaay more inappropriate and disinhibited after parkrun was concluded, so consider yourself officially warned about the potential horrors that await you in this blog post should you choose to read on. Bottom line, (oh, and it is a bottom that features later too in a pleasing bit of inadvertent blogging symmetry), what with the nip in the air and my propensity to come out in a raging and prolific rash meant I wouldn’t be a pretty sight in any sense if I decided to embrace the naked gardening theme. It also meant I would celebrate World Naked Gardening Day by going to Wakefield Thornes parkrun, dressed, and embracing the opportunity for a bit of light fancy dress. Yay! Always a lure.
It wasn’t a given that I’d end up at Wakefield Thornes parkrun this morning though, I had also flirted with the idea of joining Gainsborough parkrun, as it was their 200th tpday, and they were trying to beat their record attendance – which they did, pleasingly. However, my early research suggested it didn’t look like they were going down the fancy dress route – missed opportunity methinks, and I couldn’t help noticing their event begins with a G, and I’ve got loads of those, enough I’ve even completed the Stayin’ Alive Running Challenge, so it was perhaps inevitable that the Star Wars potential of Wakefield swayed me.
Don’t worry, they had a great day apparently at Gainsborough, and beat their attendance record too. However, it looks like the excitement was all a bit much for their event wheelie bin, which was overcome and collapsed with a fit of the vapours right at the finish line. I hope its all right now. I know all events have defibrillators, but I have no idea how useful they are for resuscitating municipal bins…. parkrun people are pretty amazing though, I’m sure they’ll have revived it somehow. Congratulations parkrunners of Gainsborough!
Otherwise, there was a tribute run for Little Stoke parkrun. Bristol is a bit of a hike from Sheffield, so that was never going to happen, but it’s a nice idea though. It pleases me that this homage continues. Apparently, some of the refugees from the original Little Stoke parkrun, which was cancelled after a sorry spat with local councillors, who wanted to charge parkrunners for using the venue, do this each year. I will resist the temptation to go too far down the worm hole of self-indulgent ranting about how sad and bad it is it had to close, but suffice to say why do some people not get that parkrunners ARE the local community and that’s what the spaces are for? Of course there might be occasional conflicts of interest, but overall I would have thought a local parkrun revives local cafes, communities and green spaces. Anyway, as is the tradition, a group returned for a run on the third anniversary of it finishing. Nice that they continue to do that, though risky for anyone wanting to achieve their 50 parkruns in a year gold badge for their chrome extension running challenges. They do this every year apparently. Obviously, it would be much better if they had thought to run it in appropriate Star Wars themed fancy dress, but they still did fine work posing next to the deeply ironic running statue. Good work parkrun people, good work indeed. Nice height sequencing too. All good.
Why Wakefield Thornes parkrun then? Well why not? But also, it has a W (good for my alphabet challenge) and is, apparently, my current ‘as the crow flies’ NENDY – Nearest Event Not Done Yet. But the clincher, of course, was it looked like they were positively encouraging Star Wars themed fancy dress, this boded well! Bring it on!
I would have liked to don fancy dress myself, but initially couldn’t see how I’d be able to conjure up anything in time, only making the decision to go there at the last minute – though that wouldn’t prevent me from appreciating the efforts of others. Well, I say I couldn’t conjure up anything, but then it occurred to me late last night that actually, I do have a black dressing gown of sorts, and I can probably find a cardboard tube… how hard could it be to transform myself into a Jedi knight equipped with such versatile raw materials!
Went for rummage.
Ta da! I hit the jackpot. I found some brown parcel paper still in its cellophane wrap. Obviously, generally I don’t approve of cellophane, single use plastic and all that, but in this instance, mightily practical, it’s basically a tube, only a water proof one, just hte little matter of putting my smiley buff at one end to create a handle and job done. Definitely looked like a lightsaber! Yep, swished pleasingly, and I could always enhance it with my own extra sound effects too. It’s so convincing I probably ought to have a firearms licence for it! I’ll risk it though, I will only use my Jedi powers for good, so it should be fine.
I fondly imagined I’d be a shoo in for a prize if there was one for best fancy dress – unless they felt obliged to disqualify me thinking I must have been exploiting contacts within the George Lucas Star Wars franchise to enable me to engineer such convincing props. I would have liked to have gone as Chewbacca by way of tribute to the recently deceased Peter Mayhew, but that would have been harder to pull off, and anyway, I don’t like to draw undue attention to my excess facial hair, so another time maybe… RIP Chewy, it’s sad. Is it bad that I’m genuinely wondering which mug shot they’ll use on the order of service for his funeral? I know which I’d opt for.
I was at a funeral recently where somebody commented the buffet was so good it was ‘to die for‘. ‘Well, that’s lucky‘ I said, inappropriately. I wish I could develop the skill of not just always saying out loud what’s going on in my head, but then again, sometimes if you are handed an open goal you just have to take a shot at it. It’s like the tale of the scorpion and the frog, some things are just in our nature and really can’t be changed, we give into the impulse even when it is self-destructive and our undoing. Hey ho. Oh well. Worse things happen at sea – apparently. Who really knows?
I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep last night so buzzing was I with all that anticipatory excitement…. Still, fancy dress nailed, my next job was to check out the course. Whilst running wise, ignorance is often bliss, this has to be balanced against the ‘forewarned is forearmed’ bit of the equation. Don’t want to get caught out on any more cross country courses for a while longer yet! Well, the course blah de blah on the website was dizzying in its comprehensiveness, but also completely bewildering. I asked for insight from fellow parkrun tourists on one of many Facebook parkrun groups and got an hilariously plausible observation from one:
Suffice to say its the only parkrun I’ve done where I was so disorientated that I had no idea where I’d parked the car!
Fortunately, as a slower runner, I am confident I can just follow everyone else. That will get me round, but I might need to drop breadcrumbs behind me to help me back to the car park afterwards. In case you’d like a little looksie the course map looks like this – I presume you just do it all once… :
and the course blah de blah is described on the Wakefield Thornes parkrun website thus:
The course is contained within the three parks; Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks. The course itself is not entirely flat; the highest point is the top of the hill, just above the Changing rooms, opposite Wakefield College Campus Car Park. The lowest is the southern boundary of the parks which runs parallel to Thornes and Denby Dale Roads.
The start is just above the Changing rooms, almost in the centre of the park, at the top of the main drive which runs to the former Thornes House. Runners will go down the drive then turn left at Stork Lodge Café on towards the Holmfield Arms (Premier Inn Wakefield Central).
Just after the Ticket Pavilion on the cycle track runners double back along the southern boundary back towards Stork Lodge Café Car Park. The adjacent Cark Park will be in use and therefore be aware particularly of moving cars and stick to the marked course. Having passed the lake and aviary you now take in a clockwise circuit of the former Thornes House before joining a cycle track and the main drive to return you to the Changing Rooms.
At the changing rooms you are directed to head back down hill, running with the tree line on your left-hand side and parallel to the main drive. You head straight for the Play Area and join a tarmac path leading towards the miniature railway where you will turn right and run parallel to Lawefield Lane. Head uphill, once again keeping the tree line on your left-hand side, clockwise around the Football pitches and towards Chestnut Lodge. From the Lodge you go east, parallel to Park Ave and then south parallel to Denby Dale Road (A636) and to where it meets Chestnut Walk. You will be directed uphill along Chestnut Walk to complete a clockwise loop of the Clarence Park arena. Just before Chestnut Lodge you will complete a ‘cross country stretch’ across the parkland towards the Changing Rooms.
Turning left, with the College Car park on your right-hand side and then left again you turn back up the main drive towards the start. Runners will go a little way down the drive for a second time towards Stork Lodge Café but turn sharp right on to the red-brick track. You head downhill to the aviary turn left and the finish at the side of the Car Park beyond the lake.
I decided it was best to wilfully ignore the reference to a ‘cross country stretch across parkland’. I saw no alternative. I liked the idea of heading towards a miniature railway. Fondly hoping it would be like the Wallace and Gromit train chase one:
So it was that today, parkrun day on May the fourth was promising to be especially epic!
I woke early this morning, no surprise there. I hoiked on my running gear, donned my
dressing gown Jedi robe and clutching my lightsaber scrutinised the overall effect in the mirror. Full length mirrors are not my friend. It’s not so much that I particularly want to change any one feature of my body, more that I’d like to change the culture in which it is so harshly judged. Today though, I decided my cow cowl looked silly round my neck, bit yellow, so I swapped the smiley buff on the lightsaber for my tourist buff, way better. The overall effect was striking! Bound to get a pb with the super powers with which the Jedi knowledge would endow me! I am indeed magnificent!
How exciting. I’m sure my neighbours didn’t find it at all odd that I appeared to be driving off in the early morning still wearing my night attire. If they did, they were too polite to mention it, which is the main thing. Well, not to me directly, maybe to each other, it is the British way. Anyway, they already think I’m a bit odd, as I keep making any of them who make eye contact with come and look at how my tadpoles are developing. That’s not even a euphemism, I have actual tadpoles in my garden pond and I couldn’t be prouder if I’d spawned them myself! (Which I didn’t by the way). There are no scorpions native to the UK (though there is a now naturalised colony of escapees in Kent apparently) so they should be safe from risking their lives by feeling obligated to carry them over water courses once they have fully metamorphosed into frogs. This is good to know too. The newts might get them whilst they are still tadpoles of course, but there isn’t an Aesop’s fable based on that subject matter as far as I know.
Where was I? This happens a lot, you dear reader, distracting me with extra questions. Oh yes, I remember. I headed off to Wakefield, using their satnav WF2 8TY. It was an easy drive out from Sheffield, probably took about 50 minutes, I arrived stupidly early as always. The satnav takes you past the entrance, but what you are looking for is this:
You drive in, and there is a biggish car park to the left (free parking, yay) and the sports centre stadium to the right, which looks like this:
That’s grand, but what was less grand, was trying to locate evidence of parkrun activity. Not to worry, I needed to get my pre parkrun precautionary pee in anyway. Now, dear reader, there was an embarrassment of riches precautionary pee wise here, but also an embarrassment in my ability to correctly utilise them.
Venue one, I headed for the signed ‘public toilets’ which were to the right of the main entrance of the stadium. The door was unlocked (good) but when I went in, the door slammed behind me and I was in total darkness, it felt like being trapped in a lift, or worse, a metal box styled panic room. I waved my arms around hopefully, in case it was one of those motion activated lighting systems, but nothing. I even briefly considered trying to negotiate the facilities in the dark, clawing my way round the walls like unwise minor characters do when trapped in pitch black tunnel systems in horror films – but quickly thought the better of it, that would surely end badly. Makes you think, it must be a bit of a nightmare encountering new facilities if you are visually impaired, the lay out wasn’t at all obvious. Instead, I decided to brave reception in the stadium centre. I went to explain about the lack of lighting and ask if I could use their loos instead. Turns out, there was no light in the ladies loos, because they’d not turned those on yet. However, I was welcome to use their inside facilities. This is great, an upgrade, they were super friendly too, directing me to the ladies changing rooms.
Despite the lack of topiary lining the way – something to which I’d like to become accustomed after last week’s sojourn to Osterley parkrun – the facilities were pretty good. Lockers, showers, no queue. Weird poster though:
Now, why would you have that in the women’s changing rooms? Where is the ‘power’ for a woman pictured standing behind a man, what message is that trying to convey? To be fair, it’s probably not trying to convey anything, they just haven’t given it one iota of thought, but bit of feedback, that’s not a very aspirational or motivational image as far as I’m concerned. Is that what the marketing department for bodypump power workouts think women aspire to do? Does that represent ‘power’ in any sense for any woman anywhere? To be pushed to the back of the class by men, literally on the sidelines of the action but presumably expected to be grateful as they can from there swoon at the biceps of the man in the foreground. Only young, fit, white people do bodypump apparently. So depressing. Oh well, praise be for the inclusivity of parkrun, but it’s no wonder so many are turned off exercise with promotional materials like that to contend with in the women’s changing rooms ffs! I wouldn’t have been so wound up if it wasn’t in the female changing rooms, is that the best they can come up with. I despair! Still, at least it didn’t say ‘girls’ on the door, that I really hate, don’t get me started on that… Thankfully, the staff, who are the real gate keepers to these facilities, were fantastically friendly and welcoming. It was an extraordinary poster though, it felt like going back in time.
I used to like body combat too – ooh the stories I could tell you about that. The time our steroid fuelled instructor lost his temper so much he threw all his kit on the floor and stormed out was as nothing to his more general propensity to stand directly in front of you demanding that you tried to punch him in the face. It was quite cathartic and hilarious at the time, but does seem somewhat dysfunctional and unhealthy in retrospect. On reflection, I think he may have had some ‘issues’. He was always just on the cusp of an explosive meltdown. And thinking about it, the acne, the disproportionate muscle size, the volatility and constant loss of control, hmmm, maybe not all was well. It’s amazing what you can see but not notice if you aren’t expecting to see it. Tell, me honestly, if you have ever done body combat, did your instructor set up any exercises with the spiel ‘so visualise someone you really hate, I mean really h.a.t.e. HATE, now grab their head, and smash it down on you knee, and KEEP. ON. SMASHING. IT!’ I’m thinking probably not. Did add a certain frisson of excitement to the class though, not condoning it obviously, but what larks eh, what larks. I’ve honestly never been fitter in my life.
Enough of these distractions – I did what was necessary, exited and …. found myself in a completely unknown world. What the? How was this possible. Instead of being back in reception I was now alongside some sort of indoor sports court, with that distinctive musty smell of several thousand sweaty kits left to mature there over many years. A perplexing parallel universe, what sorcery was this? Had I teleported? Had I been abducted? Could I really not navigate my way out of the female changing rooms? Spoiler alert, seems I really couldn’t navigate my way out of the female changing rooms…. twice. I think it’s because that blooming poster left me feeling so disempowered. It’s the only plausible explanation. Nobody is that lacking in life skills and lives beyond a half century surely?
Is this the confusion Mr Benn used to experience exiting the changing rooms in the fancy dress shop I wonder? You know, he’d put on the costume of choice, and next thing he knew, he’d be living that reality in a parallel universe the other side of the changing room door. Mind you, I think he chose the costumes, so there was an element of at the very least contributory negligence in where he ended up, even if there was an element of surprise because he wasn’t quite sure exactly what destinations and adventures the donned outfits might lead too.
I checked my outfit anxiously, in case I found I was donned in hockey kit or something equally fear inducing, but it was OK, I was still just me. What had happened though? I was completely confused. The worst of it is the changing rooms aren’t even particularly vast. I went back in… and came out again, same thing. Well, logically it would be, I’d used the same door. I know I don’t have an especially advanced sense of direction, but this was a new low. I actually had to methodically search the changing rooms to locate the original door I’d come in through, like I was doing a bespoke challenge in the crystal maze. Well how was I supposed to know it had two entrances/exits front and back and notice it even when they were hidden round corners? Stupid changing rooms. I freely concede based on this evidence I might not be anyone’s companion of choice in a post-apocalypse survival situation, but then again, if you were being followed and needed to shake off a tail, I’m your woman. If I can’t predict where I’m going or follow any particular mapping logic, no-one would be able to track me were I on the run. Also, I have perfected the act of smashing heads on my knee, in theory… but actually, I don’t really want to survive any Apocalypse if it’s all the same to you, so I wont be putting that into practice unless the provocation is really extreme. Shouting at a volunteer marshal when it’s you who has forgotten your barcode might push me over the edge, that, and dropping litter oh and fly tipping would definitely do it, but for the most part I’m placid and more inclined to go with passive aggressive retrospective tutting. You have been warned. Jedi super powers are no substitute for a printed barcode either apparently 🙂 Thanks Tim Michael. Good to know, in case May the Fourth should fall on a Saturday again!
Mind you, didn’t bode well for finding the start of Wakefield Thornes parkrun, let alone navigating the course. Bread crumbs weren’t going to cut mustard for finding my way back here, I wish I’d thought to bring along a few kilometres of string with me instead.
I eventually composed myself sufficiently to manage to exit the way I’d come in, and affected nonchalance as I strode authoritatively (faking it to make it) past reception once again waving thanks as I did so. I was inwardly cringing, my inner voice screaming at me ‘they know you know, they’ve probably been watching you perplexed on CCTV‘ They hadn’t though. They were nice and helpful and even if they had noticed, it was objectively hilarious to have had not one, but two trapped in the toilet block interior experiences within minutes of one another. I have form on this. I once got trapped in some toilets at my local railway station as a 14 year old. I was there for almost an hour and resorted to hanging from a grill in the cubical screaming to the outside world that I needed rescuing. That wasn’t a good day… enough of these negative thoughts, today was going to be epic! I’m sure that I wouldn’t have got so lost if they’d had topiary to line the entrances though, you need landmarks to find your way home ask any bee.
Oh well, next challenge, find the start. There were teasing signs of parkrun paraphernalia placement in the proximity but no hi-viz heroes in sight. Where were they hiding?
Bit thin on Jedi knights too, but seeing as I’d made the effort, I tried not to let that deter me from sticking with the programme as planned. My dressing gown and parcel paper tube lightsaber were coming with me, appropriate or not! After all, doesn’t the parkrun code stipulate you should respect the right of parkrunners to participate in their own way. What could be more natural than striding to the start of parkrun clutching a roll of brown parcel paper wearing a dressing gown. No-one will even notice.
I accosted someone to ask for directions, but she turned out to be another tourist, so we agreed to try and locate the start together. I retrieved my robe and lightsaber from the car and then we were directed by other runners, the start area is basically straight ahead, up a hill and along a solid tarmac path. It’s a fair old walk from the Thornes Park Stadium to the start, you need to allow maybe 10 minutes or so, though we did actually pass another, nearer car park en route, so that could be another option. Looked like more loos there too, don’t know how likely you would be to get lost in those though, didn’t want to risk finding out.
As we summited the brow of the hill, a load of colourful parkrunners came into view. I love this bit, when it’s all new and familiar at the same time. Lots of people in little groups, chatting with one another, stretching, catching up.
It was then I spotted someone else in fancy dress. You know that feeling when you thought you’d made a bit of an effort managing to improvise something and you suddenly come to appreciate what really making an effort looks like? Well, respect to this team with their own space craft! It was AWESOME. Such a show stealer, barely noticed yoda in the background. Serious respect though. It was fully functional too – you should have seen the speed at which it covered the ground. A.Maz.Ing.
Only thing, wasn’t quite sure of how this would work health and safety wise? It was a well run parkrun though so they must have done some sort of a risk assessment about what would happen if runners were caught in the fire stream of the jet engines as the ship rocketed ahead. Anyway, small price to pay, there are loads of parkrunners now, and sacrifices sometimes have to made for the greater good, perhaps a bit of a cull now and again to keep the numbers manageable is no bad thing. Plus, you don’t really argue with someone operating one of those, not if you expect to live to tell the tale!
Other particularly fine star wars day tributes included this canine caperer who was called SOLO. How apt is that. I’m not entirely sure if he was procured especially for this occasion, but I like to think so.
Then there was a pleasing scattering of others who’d got into the spirit. Star wars vests, some loud speakers were wheeled out, blasting out the Star Wars theme tune – quite a party atmosphere. A few Jedi knights jousted and chased about in mock fights, the atmosphere was building well! One thing though, my it was chilly in that wind. It was a fair old arctic blast laying into us at the top of the start hill. Glad I’d got my dressing gown with me as a bit of a wind break. You know, I might start wearing a dressing gown to all my parkruns in future. Now I understand the thinking by the tough mudder tent cape thing dry robe thingamajigs, they must be super roasty toasty within, I’m surprised those thrill seekers haven’t thought to keep them on on the way round, it would be a much more comfy experience tackling the arctic enema from within one of those creations surely?
Some people of course had gone the extra mile, I know parkrun tattoos are a thing now but I’m impressed people got extra themed ones just for today, I conceded my own efforts were positively pitiful by comparison, but hey ho, showed willing. Check these out though, definitely raising the bar!
If you are going to go to all that effort, it’s good to know you can preserve tattoos after your death. What could be a more treasured memento for your bereaved loved ones than your skinned hide displayed in a frame on the living room wall in perpetuity?* That’s my gag reflex nicely triggered, each to their own though. For those as like that sort of thing, it’s the sort of thing that they would like.
There was still a bit of time for milling about and I tried to get some shots. My camera is playing up, maybe I’ve got some moisture in the lens, it’s disappointing as it’s a new camera but it just doesn’t take great shots, I wouldn’t buy it again. It’s a Fuji compact tough one though, so it’s pretty much unbreakable, which is good. Never mind, you’ll get a sense of the atmosphere, and if you want better quality images you’ll have to go and check it out for yourself! Or, to be fair, you could browse the album of epic shots taken by the volunteer photographer at Wakefield Thornes parkrun today, Darren Williams’s ‘May the fourth be with you’ album. They are quite brilliant and really capture the occasion, thank you Mr Photographer. So whichever option takes your fancy really. The volunteer team suddenly appeared as if from nowhere, and runners congregated in the start funnel.
Next stop, first timers’ briefing. Fair few of us, some relatively local – Barnsley for one, but also, someone from Ottawa! How impressive is that. Hope they had a good time, then again how could they not! So, the main point to register here, is that the first timers briefer had the best briefs ever! Some star wars themed ones hoiked over his running tights. I’m presuming they were donned especially for the occasion, but of course it might be that he wears then every week, and why wouldn’t you? They were splendid! It was a good welcome, ‘a long way to go, in a parkrun far away‘ and we were advised that yep, basically the course is really complicated, but don’t sweat it (well, you might sweat through the excursion of running, but not because of the potential of going wrong) as they’ve never (knowingly) lost anyone yet, so just go with the crowd. Fair enough, that works for me. I asked about etiquette for overtaking – this is a keep left course, and once underway you realise that’s actually really important, because there are a fair few sections where runners are going in both directions on the paths, keeps you on your toes though!
Where was I? What next. Oh yes, run directors briefing. She stood her ground atop the hill and against the elements. It was a lovely friendly welcome. Milestones were acknowledged; London marathon runners congratulated; donations for Wakefield junior parkrun requested; London marathon medal held aloft; volunteers thanked – congratulations to Lily on the occasion of her 25th volunteering … and to conclude, a rousing chorus of happy birthday, I think to Tom. Yay. It was a really good atmosphere, this would be great for your local parkrun I think, it had a good vibe. They had a signer too, which reminded me this is the local for a fellow parkrunner I met doing some tourism together with another mutual friend at Doncaster parkrun. What a small parkrun world eh? That was absolutely ages ago, back in Autumn 2018 I think, how time flies?
Eventually, briefing concluded and the shout went up to ‘go’ and for a bit nothing happened, as I was quite far back and it is quite congested in the start. The path has sloping sides, so you don’t really want to deviate from it too much. This never bothers me as I’m happy to pootle along at the back, but if you were going for a time it would make sense to position yourself nearer to the front.
Off we went, and lawks a lordy, I have no idea how to describe the route. It’s a bit of a blur. You do drop down the hill on a tarmac path, and apart from being a bit crowded that was fine. There was the official photographer in situ, Darren Williams, and he took some epic action shots, though not of me, probably a blessing, but check these out, I’ve chosen those who have gone for the Star Wars themes, inexplicably it seems more men have Star War t-shirts and lightsabers than women. How bizarre? Some joyful runners all around though, yay!
At the bottom of the path, there is a right angle turn, and some temporary fencing through which you could just about make out the runners ahead already cornered
a hard-working marshal shouted out ‘good morning runners‘ and ‘keep left‘ as we all stampeded down towards her. The warning was timely. You really did need to keep left, as very soon, faster runners were storming back along the same path, you do a weird sort of out and back. Also, for future reference, this really ought to have been an audience/ parkrunner participation chant. Bit like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, regulars now how to interact appropriately. Too late I heard a responding chant of ‘good morning’ and an echo of ‘keep left’, I did say thank you though, and I’ll know for next time.
The returning runners came at a fair old lick, and I quite liked being able to see them in action, storming round. You can see how you enter a more formal bit of park here. The route actually takes you through three different parks apparently, but I got completely confused about which was which and where I was. Definitely best to just live in the moment for this one!
However, it’s no wonder my times never get any faster, because, at the end of this section, there’s a little turn around triangle, where you get great views of many of the other runners. It’s good fun, highly social. I saw my friend Solo again for example, and Yoda, and the woman with the 100 balloon. Plus I got a glimpse of the tail walker – who appeared to be carrying round a bag of shopping with her, which is completely understandable. One slight issue with this course is that as the start and finish are in quite different places there isn’t really anywhere to leave your stuff, so if you did get your groceries pre run, you’d have little choice but to lug them round with you. Worth keeping in mind if that is your pre-parkrun thing.
So, back the way we came, past cheering and cheery marshals,
and then we went past a lake (nobody fell in) and through some wooded bits, and then was that the aviary? It must have been the aviary. A fieldy bit, wait, what are those graves of parkrunners that didn’t make it? What’s that about? Past a secret garden (which wasn’t altogether secret on account of the fact it had a sign directing you to its entrance) and braced ourselves as we clambered back up the hill past the track into gusting winds, and then by the skate board park – glancing to admire the jumps going on there – and past the marshal
and then what cruel trick is this? No, not straight ahead, following the runners you can see clearly directly back in front of you, but sharp right, back up the hill, round a tree and back to where you came from and then you get to run ahead. The route is hilarious. Good luck if you tried this as a freedom run, free of marshals and any sense of logical direction at all! I enjoyed the seeming randomness of it all, it keeps it interesting, though I wonder if the sharp turns and literal u-turns might slow down faster runners. Excellent directional pointing from the marshals though, I would have been literally lost without you all!
All very entertaining. Didn’t see the train though, but did get to see more runners coming back the other way.
Whilst I may have missed the train, there were plenty of other unexpected sights to behold. An actual amphitheatre, if you fancied doing a bit of spontaneous oratory on the way round – which of us hasn’t felt that itch on a parkrun before, but until now, been unable to scratch it? There was also a fair ground and some fairly spectacular old fountain features to name but a few:
All scattered between bits of green, wooded loveliness, with sunshine overhead and bluebells alongside. Not at all bad as venues go, not bad at all.
There is a lot of backtracking on this course. So it was, that somehow I found myself going back up the hill to the start point, and the inevitable, if somewhat dispiriting sight of other runners who’d already finished, walking back to their cars, or to the main stadium entrance at least. Most offered up smiles or words of encouragement, and the big plus is, you basically get a down hill finish, always a boon. Also, I liked to pretend that actually, I had more stamina, because I was still running (sort of) whilst they’d had to lapse back into a walk. I’ll overlook the more obvious conclusion of ‘well of course they are walking, they have finished, whereas you are still out there in the parkrun wilderness, heaving yourself round‘, no need to dwell on inconvenient truths and spoil the parkrun love.
and finally, the finish funnel, the other side of a tree in full blossom. Where you could whoop through the tunnel and be scooped up by hi-viz heroes in all their loveliness.
I took some photos of the parkrunners who came in behind me.
It’s harder than you think taking photos of runners. Here are the volunteer photographers shots, they are intrinsically epic obviously, but will be thrown into even sharper relief and generate even louder oohs and aahs when they are seen in contrast to my own humble offerings. No, don’t patronise me, the camera never lies. The truth is self-evident, and welcome too, these are fabulous shots from Darren Williams again – they really capture the occasion. Hurrah!
Good to see the tailwalker made it back with her shopping ok, and was welcomed in by the team.
Whilst waiting for her arrival, I got chatting to the friendly Star Wars brief wearing guy who did the first timers’ briefing. That’s not why is called that though, whilst people who do the first timers’ briefing are super heroes, it’s not an actual requirement that you wear your pants outside your leggings to deliver it. Turns out he was not just one of the core team, but the event director so that was really interesting, hearing a bit about how the course was chosen. Also, emboldened by our chit chat, I was able to proposition him for a decent bottom shot. Well, those briefs needed documenting, and he acquiesced, so that’s not completely inappropriate is it? Borderline maybe, but just shows, sometimes brazening things out is the way to go. Plus, he did say people are always asking for shots of it, so maybe he’s a bit desensitised to that? Anyway, here you go, the money shot of a brazenly briefed bottom:
Then I left the team being busy and important, doing course stand down and results processing and all of the bells and whistles behind the scenes that keeps the parkrun show on the road at venues worldwide:
and set about finding my way home.
Erm, well, it wont be a total surprise to you to learn that I probably didn’t go back via the most direct route, but I did have a lovely time. I checked out the gravestones – they weren’t for parkrunners, unless those parkrunners were either canicross ones or an actual mouse. Really a mouse? Probably another companion animal known as Mouse I’m guessing, but short of digging it up who can say? Can’t believe I didn’t get a shot of the headstone saying ‘My Mouse’ but you can go and find it for yourself. It must have been a HUGE mouse as it was the biggest headstone. I wonder if it was acquired in the same way people naively take on micropigs. ‘Yes, yes, of course it’s a mouse‘, the ‘mouse’ seller said, handing over a cute infant capybara encircled in a pod of comfycosy nest material. That would make a terrible pet, did you know they are highly social and typically live in groups of around 20 and are from South America? Well you do now. Main thing is, they are big, relatively speaking, weighing up to 66 kg which may not mean anything to you if like me you grew up with imperial measurements, but is clearly a great deal heavier than your average mouse. It would explain things I think.
I then continued my explorations, and contemplated the various bits of sporting equipment built into the landscape. I like that the park has these wooden exercise stations, but again was perplexed that the images were all white men, surely there is more unisex signage available these days, it’s like women are invisible in the sports signage here, so bizarre. Who are the firms that come up with these signs. Mind you, didn’t fancy having a go at what looked like a DIY crucifixion station, that seems a) extreme and b) unlikely to be beneficial to health. Hang on, maybe they really are serious about culling the park users here! It does make you wonder.
I took a detour into the secret garden, there were loads of cool things within, an actual dragon, some medieval masonry and some ace views. Nice. All the more so for being unexpected. The only problem is, I now want a full size dragon in my garden, and what with that and my new taste in topiary I’m not sure my horticultural budget is going to be entirely in line with my horticultural aspirations. It’s a worry, that, and the fact I have no idea what I’m doing
in the garden most of the time.
Then I came back a rather circuitous route,
but you know what, there was an unexpected bonus in that because look what I found. No, not that annoying man again, but this rock:
That’s right. A rock! Not just any old rock, but a rock with spots on it and a sign of ‘hope’. How fantastic is that. This was a Love on the rocks Wakefield rock and I have taken it away to rehide in Sheffield, probably Graves park somewhere at Graves junior parkrun tomorrow. I like the optimism of the painted rocks thing. It brings hope indeed!
Just a question of skirting round the skatepark:
and left wondering about what is it with trainers on a wire? The world is full of mystery and wonder.
There you go then, Wakefield Thornes parkrun done and dusted. This was a treat, I really enjoyed the course, though it is erm, let’s go with idiosyncratic. Super friendly, good facilities. I’m not sure about the post-run coffee options, I get the impression people scatter a bit as there was no obvious cafe in the parks themselves. On the website they say encouragingly
Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in the Holmfield Arms – please come and join us!
and I don’t doubt the invitation is sincere, though I’m not sure where that is and whether it was walkable from the finish, I presume so. I didn’t ask, as I needed to get back to Sheffield, I’ll save that pleasure for another time. So yep, would definitely recommend, and certainly encourage you to wear fancy dress whether it’s a specified fancy dress occasion or not, I’m sure you’d be made more than welcome.
Can’t be quite so confident how you’ll be received as naked gardeners, but they seem a tolerant and inclusive bunch, so why not. Anyway, what’s the point of having a secret garden on the course if you can’t disport yourself with abandon as you wish? These fine people may not be doing a great deal of actual gardening, but they are having a lot of actual fun.
I see plenty of parallels with my parkrun experiences. To the untrained eye, I may seem not to be doing an awful lot of actual running, but it’s all glorious all the same. Also, I often run in the buff. My cow cowl buff, or my Smiley paces buff, or my woodrun buff, lots of buff running.
So thank you once again parkrunners in general and Wakefield Thornes parkrunners in particular for laying on a splendid and forceful (see what I did there) event. Thanks too to Darren Williams as volunteer photographer, for taking fab pics on little sleep I gather, and capturing the parkrun magic. I hope to be back again for the next in the series in due course. My Jedi powers didn’t quite kick in to get me to the finish in record time, but at least I got my money’s worth on the way round. Always a consideration.
*Please note, this is a rhetorical question, the actual answer to which should be self-evident but in case you are in any doubt is ‘almost anything‘
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 though, and forward for new ones in time too, just so you know.
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