Monthly Archives: July 2019

♫ (Go West) where the skies are blue? ♫ Beverley or bust. Beverley Westwood parkrun where there be coos!

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Beverley Westwood parkrun.  It rained.  A lot.

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Undigested read:

When the world is your lobster oyster, it’s hard to know where to travel next parkrun wise.  I was going to head to Isabel Trail parkrun, it’s on my ‘to do’ list, like trail, and an ‘i’ for my alphabet challenge would be a boon.  Ouch, it is a long way from Sheffield though.  Aargh.  Yep, a long way, but nearer than any other ‘i’ s, they are few and far between.  I’ll go there then.  … only then I remembered some fellow parkrunner that are seriously dedicated tourists, they have an itinerary, always worth a gander.  Where are they going I wonder?

Oooh, Beverley Westwood parkrun.  Never heard of it.  Google.  Google (which never lies) takes me to their official Beverley Westwood parkrun page seems this parkrun is but freshly emerged.  Now, I concede some might say that this is still a ridiculously long way away from Sheffield for a couple of hours excursion, but that would be in the eyes of non parkrunner tourists.  It’s doable.  It would be a chance to catch up with some fellow parkrun pilgrims, as a bonus, it might give me a ‘west’ for the compass challenge (not entirely sure of the basis of inclusion for that, but I think as long as a compass point is included anywhere in the title, it’s OK), and a 3 for my Wilson, which I’m only very halfheartedly aware of but I wouldn’t shun even if I can’t be bothered to actively seek any numbers out.

compass club

wilson index

Incidentally, be aware that attending inaugural events is generally discouraged to avoid scaring off new volunteer teams.  I think the consensus is now that if a new event is your new local, and/or the new event team are actively promoting it then it’s fine to attend, but otherwise, let them settle in.  Fair do’s.  It didn’t used to be an issue but now parkrun is soooooooooooooo much bigger – 6 million registrations now, that’s eye popping, and excellent, but also a tad scary if you are a new kid on the block!

You know about the running challenges thingamajig yes?    I’m never going to really get very far up the Wilson index, but I reckon I’ll succeed with the compass challenge one day, plenty parkrun options available for that!  Yes, I know it’s childish, but in bleak times, anything to cheer the spirits surely?  We are all going to hell in a handcart, granted, but at least we have parkrun.

Loon landing private eye

Quick change the record before it all gets too depressing!  Speaking of which, (yes we were) I know the perfect record, feel free to join in!  This calls for a rousing chorus of ‘Go West!’ – only you know if you want the Village People original or are a Pet Shop Boys kinda person, but either way it’s most jolly and uplifting and the chorus couldn’t be more apt!

Go West!

life is peaceful there
(Go west) in the open air
(Go west) where the skies are blue
(Go west) this is what we’re gonna do
(Go west, this is what we’re gonna do, go west

So what can I find out in advance about this parkrun?  We know already it will be in the open air and the skies will be blue, because the singers tell us so.  You should so watch the video* if for some inexplicable reason you haven’t done so in a while.  Absolute classic!   Yeah, jfdi, and you know what, you should totally join in, that’s what kitchen floors were made for!  I’m not endorsing the casual cultural appropriation aspects, clearly, but can’t help but be taken back when that comes on!

*The village people, version, obvs!

Right, enough of the distractions, back to the important preparatory research.

Well, according to the course blah de blah on the Beverley Westwood parkrun page:

Course Description
The start/finish is situated on an open area of Beverley Westwood adjacent to where Westwood Road meets Walkington Road.
The course is 2 anti-clockwise laps on the historic, scenic and undulating pasture and follows an ancient drove way, goes down then up Hill 60, crosses the Tan Gallop and circles Black Mill – entirely on grass so trail shoes are advisable in wet weather. Cows roam freely on the pasture from April to December and have right of way at all times. Follow the marked route to ensure you remain in the safe area away from the golf course. There is plenty of room near the start to park bikes and to warm up on the grass. Unfortunately the course is not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs.

Ok, so two things immediately strike me.  ‘Entirely on grass’ and the ‘presence of cows’.  I way prefer off – road, but I am a bit dubious about grass courses, horribly reminiscent of the humiliation of school sports days and my brief but misguided foray into XC running.  The very thought makes me nervous, though it sounds interesting and picturesque, so hopefully not too like a school sports field when you are actually there.

Apropos of the cows, I’m going to have to trust the event team.  I used to be fine with cows until I moved to Sheffield, where it seems bovines have been cross bred with aggressive carnivorous predators and there have been an alarmingly frequent number of incidents of runners being carted off in helicopters by mountain rescue after coming off the worse in bovine/runner encounters.  Still, at Beverley Westwood parkun they give the cows names according to their inaugural event report.

there are not many parkruns with a Cow Risk Assessment, however the cows were great and our marshals even named a few – Pat, Parsley and Pie behaved beautifully. So anyone afraid of cows should consider this. The only stampede was the one to the pub afterwards!

It’s hard to be scared of something when you’ve named it.  That’s why I called a resident house spider Christopher one winter.  The ones you see are most commonly male apparently, lost and lonely and looking for a mate.  We came to an understanding.  He could stay, as long as he never crossed the threshold into my bedroom.  I actually felt sufficiently protective of him, that before I moved out at the end of my tenancy, I relocated him to an attic where he’d be safe from over enthusiastic vacuuming by any new occupants.  Anyway, point is, they have cow marshals.  It’ll be fine!

Besides, indisputably, some runners benefit from external motivation to help them achieve their full potential.  For those in search of an elusive pb, maybe the cows will help?  A bear did this for the cohort pictured below, a whole herd of cows could do way more I reckon.  Also, illustrates rather brilliantly the accepted wisdom that when under threat, you don’t necessarily need to run super fast, just faster than at least one of your companions.  Harsh, but true.  Don’t worry fellow parkrunners, there’s always a tail walker, you can’t be last!  I’m not saying tail walkers are expendable, they are not, but it is one of the easier volunteering roles to fill, so it’ll be fine… probably.  I’ve been a tailwalker and I’d happily have martyred myself for the greater parkrunning good if required to do so.  I’m sure other community minded hi-vis heroes are willing to do likewise.

photographers fleeing

Where was I?  Oh yes, the course.  It looks like this:

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and as far as you can tell from the Beverley Westwood parkrun Facebook page, the locals are friendly.  They are setting up monthly gatherings, what a brilliant idea.  Spreading the parkrun love indeed.  I like the idea of a parkrun that starts  and finishes at a pub!  This parkrun would seem destined to be sustainable!  Hope they do veggie breakfasts…

Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in The Woolpack Inn on Westwood Road – please come and join us!

Woolpack pub

Yeah, definitely worth the early start.  What could possibly go wrong?  🙂  Yeah, bring it on!  Might be more than a couple of hours worth of Saturday morning fun at this one!

Bring.  It. On!

Bit worried about the heat though.  It’s soooooooooooooo hot.  At least I’m not a dog.  It’s worse for them poor things.  The RSPCA advice is to leave them at home when it’s like this.  Apparently (read it somewhere on Facebook so it must be true) Canicrossers use this rule: Temp (c) x humidity (%) and anything below 1000 is good to go, for instance 14 degrees and 45% humidity would be 630. If in doubt … do not run!  You know, I might start applying that rule to myself.  I just can’t function in heat.  I feel like a super-villain has caught me in an energy-draining spotlight and I will expire within seconds if I can’t move to a place of cool shade imminently. It’s so hard being me. A cap and shades and electrolytes will only get you so far.  Heatstroke can kill.  In fact, there is a whole blogsite ‘Hot Dogs –  heatstroke heatstroke education for dog owners. ‘ all about heatstroke prevention.  Quite scary stuff. They did a post about parkrunning with dogs in the heat, food for thought, and I haven’t even got a dog. Though I do have massive empathy for them as the temperature rises.  I am not a sun worshipper at all.  I’m sure I’m part vampire heritage, no other explanation.

Directions wise, well I would be heading to their suggested car park near to the start.

Getting there by road
Whichever route you take into Beverley, you need to drive into the town centre to access car parks. To get to the start from the town centre, head for Lairgate then follow ‘Getting there on foot’ below.

Grayburn Lane pay and display car park (HU17 8JR) is only 600m from the start and Tesco (HU17 9DB) which offers 3 hours’ free parking is a 15 minute walk away from the start. There are also several other car parks near the town centre.

To help us maintain good relationships with the Pasture Masters, local residents (people and cows) and the golf club, please do not park on the pasture verges, on Westwood Road or at the golf club.

Hmm, could be up to a couple of hours drive, allowing for paranoia, getting lost, pre parkrun angstiness etc.  Lucky I’m an insomniac, an early start makes no odds to me!  Also, in order to ‘Go West’ I actually have to head north-eastish from my starting point.  That spoils the theme somewhat, but hey ho, worse things happen at the seaside.  And I should know, I broke my kneecap at one (Hastings since you ask, that was a bad day).

Yep, very up for this, what could possibly go wrong?

So the day dawns.  Morning!

Morning

aaah, maybe that.  Gulp.

Thunderbolts and lightening?  Very, very frightening!

What happened to ‘Go West – where the skies are blue‘?  Asking for a friend.  On the plus side, at least I won’t be fretting about sunstroke and over-heating…

Up at stupid o’clock.  To some extent, I was lulled into a bit of a false sense of security as I peered out my attic window to assess what the weather gods were offering up.  It was raining, but not too hard as I left Sheffield.  Almost refreshing after the recent heatwave I thought to myself, (be careful what you wish for) naively.

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However, dear reader, I can report that once I hit the motorways, it was like entering a parallel universe of apocalyptic weather.  The sky was obscured by an other-worldly gloom, not so much from mist, but from the absolute density of rain reducing visibility to scarily short distances.  Oh well, I probably shouldn’t hold my hand in front of my face when driving anyway, it’ll be fine…  Once I’d talked myself down from a full on panic attack re visibility, there was the little matter of standing water and the awful suspicion that however slowly I was driving, I’d be aquaplaning at any moment!  This would have been ok if I had the sort of car that converted into a hydrofoil at the push of a button, or indeed had thought to source Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the day, but neither was the case.  Incidentally, whilst we are on the subject of children’s films and childhood humiliations, was I the only child who sang along to the movie track loudly pronouncing ‘shitty shitty bang bang’ for more years than I should because my nearest and dearest thought it was very much more amusing not to correct me?  Oh, it really was just me then.  I suppose that explains some things  …

I was glad I’d allowed plenty of time.  The roads were clear, fortunately, though to be fair I wouldn’t have been able to make out any of the other traffic on the roads anyway.  It sure was going to be a wet one!  Just to liven things up a bit more, periodically, a flash of distant lightening would pierce my eyeballs, causing momentary blindness as I drove onwards to my unknown destiny.

Once I came off the motorway and headed to Beverley, the roads got even worse.  I don’t know if my satnav took me a particularly odd way, but the roads seemed to twist through villages, and flood water was perilous.  I crawled along clinging to the middle of the road to avoid standing lakes on either side, other vehicles 4×4 ploughed through sending up tsunami waves of water as they passed. Cheers for that (not really).  At least I wasn’t on a bike.

One village had a sign advising of the presence of ducks!  That was particularly pleasing and apt.  So much so, I stopped to take a picture of it on the way back.  Shortly after the sign, is a beautifully picturesque village pond, which indeed had ducks on it, though it wouldn’t entirely have surprised me if they’d been swimming alongside me on the roads. It was wet, wet, wet.  No honestly, imagine the wettest you’ve ever been, yep, that time, and now get someone to chuck another bucket of water on you whilst you stand over a burst water hydrant.  That’s it.  That kind of wet.  ‘Nice weather for ducks’ indeed.

DSCF2891Smart ducks those, they did a good job with the hanging basket didn’t they?  The environs of Beverley were pretty classy, they get a better quality of mallard round here too I dare say.

From what I could make out in the rain, Beverley is pretty nice.  There are some wow moments en route with the architecture – making out the cathedral in the rain and indeed Westwood Pastures on the way into the town.  The buildings as you approach are stunning.  My satnav took me straight to the car park, although it seemed weirdly residential on the final approach.  Even the car park is posh here, it’s the first one I’ve ever graced that has its own art work on display!

There’s a long stay and a medium/short stay section. I was early, so dithered about which to choose.  There was loads of parking at 8.00 a.m. and still some spaces in the long stay when I came back to the car about 10.30 ish, so that was good.  Logistically speaking though, you do really need to be in an official car park, there weren’t other options, on street parking was restricted to residents only and anyway there weren’t any spaces.

It wasn’t cold, but it was very definitely wet.  In an uncharacteristic fit of forward planning, I brought with me a print out of the route from the car park to the parkrun.  I’m glad I did, as it wasn’t obvious without, and i don’t have a smart phone.  Maybe later on other parkrunners would have gathered and it would have been a case of follow the crowd, sheep like, to get to the start.

parking to start

Speaking of sheep, the next stop was the Woolpack.  It was very much open, and people were busy frying up sausages in prep for parkrunners a-plenty later on.  I asked if it was ok to use the loo, and it was fine.  Check this out – see what they’ve done there with the signs?  I know, hilarious and genius!  Also, it was equipped with a few extras in case you need a pre- or indeed post-parkrun preening.  This was the ladies loo, or ‘ewes’ I imagine the ‘rams’ have brylcreem, old spice and chamois leathers in their basket.  That sort of thing anyway.  Ace.

Pre parkrun pee executed, I headed to the start.  It really isn’t very far, and it’s an exciting revelation when it comes into view.  At the end of a tightly packed, but exquisitely beautiful row of terraces, the vista opens up into the vision of sodden loveliness that is Westwood Pastures, enhanced by little flashes of hi-vis on the horizon.  Hurrah!  I’m here!  More importantly, so is the parkrun core team.  Takes more than a little bit of  torrential deluge of rain to deter them.

It wasn’t really cold, but it did very much feel like the sky was falling in.  Chicken Licken would have had a complete meltdown.  In fact, this would be a terrible parkrun for Chicken Licken, there are chestnut trees along the way, with conkers already starting to fill out nicely.  Only a matter of time before they start plummeting down from above too.  Honestly, the risk assessments for this parkrun must fill several volumes!

Educational point of information. I’ve just re-read Chicken Licken, because it’s always as well to fact check important points, and I see Chicken Licken is gendered as ‘he’ in the version I came across.  I’d always assumed Chicken Licken was female, is that because I’d identified with the character I wonder, or does the ladybird book assign the female gender?  Would be so much easier if everyone was just ascribed non-binary in my view.  Ah well, onward.

I wended my way towards the hi-vis hubbub, where very sensibly volunteers were gathering and sheltering.  The sheltering was a bit redundant to be fair, wasn’t sure at what point someone was going to break it to them they were going to get soaked through to their knickers within seconds of leaving the sanctuary of the tree’s branches –  and I don’t mean from crying with laughter at the parkrun participants either.  Though to be fair, that is a given at junior parkrun, if my experience of volunteering there is anything to go by…  Hilarious.  Always.

I was trying to be discrete, you know, get some non-posed photos.  Epic fail, partly because  that’s not my forte, and partly because it was so blooming dark, my flash went off.  This nearly brought about apoplexy amongst the event team, who were mid-briefing about how they would implement their storm warning protocol  in the event of thunder and lightening bursting out.  It would have been pretty exciting I reckon, not so much sharknado as bovinado, which would any Sheffield runner would tell you is way scarier!  Isn’t there a documentary about that: cownado I mean?  Yes there is!

We have scary cows in Sheffield though I tell you, really scary ones.   I really wouldn’t want to be hit by a falling cow.  At least for the most part this course was in the open, no chance of being squashed by a falling tree say…. a tree branch fell in a storm at Preston parkrun today which caused quite a commotion, no-one hurt but event team emergency protocol well and truly scrambled.  It pays to be prepared people! No team wants squished runners, it can ruin your whole morning more even than unregulated funnel ducking, and that’s saying something!  Preston parkrun had to notify the council for heaven’s sake, I mean just imagine – the incident even made the local news!

preston parkrun

Funnel ducking is still worse however.  Just so you know.

Funnel ducker , n, parkrunner who crosses the finish line and thus gets a finish time but leaves the funnel without taking a finish token, thereby creating results processing grief for the event team.

You’d be surprised at the mishaps that can befall parkrunners though.   Spare a thought for poor Maureen of Whangarei parkrun who apparently missed the whole thing after become trapped in a loo cubicle.  No really, it was in their run report it must be true.  I daresay there are some out there who might pretend to be locked in a loo to avoid running, or hide in one to avoid school ‘games’ – which so weren’t fun at all as the titular ‘games’ misleadingly implies – but she was incarcerated due to mechanical error.  Just imagine.  She may still be there for all I know.  They say they don’t want any jokes about how many parkrunners does it take to repair a broken lock, but I reckon they’re bluffing.  Feel free to respond!

international rescue

I wonder if there is a special volunteer credit available for liberating fellow parkrunners from being locked in toilets – or indeed other receptacles like, oh I don’t know, panic rooms, skips, recycling containers?  Maybe there will be now.  Hope they filled in the relevant critical incident paperwork afterwards.  This crew they deem to be ‘international rescue’ I like that.  Could catch on… and there is definitely already a badge for that too!

thunderbirds badge 1e7ead8855086987fa66334b6028cab6

Anyway, in the circumstances, you can see why my camera flashing didn’t help settle the nerves of the still relatively new Beverley Westwood parkrun team.  Ooops.  Sorry about that.  Well, sorry-ish.  It’s hard to be properly penitent given the comedic value of the moment, can’t lie, made me laugh – still,  I’m sure they’ll understand…  Also, did nothing for my undercover photographer capturing candid camera moments.  Oh well.  At least I got a picture of the volunteer rota team, and the team, albeit I was outed as a potential ‘well sometimes quantity over quality isn’t all a bad thing’ in a back up parkrun photographer role!  Not official enough to merit a volunteer credit perhaps, but showing willing, that’s the main thing!

Having nicely spooked the event team, I headed off to explore.  Marshals were marching out like explorers, hunched into the rain.  Some already in post were sporting some exceedingly fine umbrellas, now, if only I’d thought to do likewise, and could work out a way to run with one  – and they’d left a top dog supervising the start area.  All contingencies were covered.  It has to be a new team, as this was only their 3rd parkrun, but it seemed very well organised and confidently handled.  Hurrah!

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Although it was early, the cones were out, the marshals were already actively on manoeuvre, cow cowl wearing tourist(s) were commencing warm up, and the cows were congregating too.

Really.  A great many cows.  Not over keen to be fair, however, I think you can pay a lot of money to a therapist to be exposed to flooding techniques to cure you of such fears.  Here you can do it for free.  Though actually, come to think of it, I think the idea of subjecting someone to their worst nightmare in order to desensitise them to it might now have been completely discredited on account of the fact it induces trauma.  You know what, I just don’t know!  Fortunately, I’m not absolutely phobic of cattle, just deeply cautious of them, which isn’t a bad thing to be to be fair.  They can trample people when spooked or provoked.  In Sheffield cattle have alarming form in this respect.  Not their fault, but worth knowing… eek.

flooding

 Also evidence of where other cows had previously passed this way.  Be warned dear reader. The cow pats are a real hazard.   Up until today, I had thought goose poo was the skiddiest substance known to humankind, but now I think it might actually be fresh cow poo, especially when drenched with newly fallen/ing rain.  It is truly skiddy, imagine running across a slurry spill on wet grass or smooth tarmac – actually, scrap that, you don’t have to imagine it, you can experience it for yourself!  Rock up to Beverley Westwood parkrun on a really wet day, make an exaggerated point of not looking where you put your feet and hey presto!  You too can undergo a whole new level of immersive slipperiness!  Hurrah!

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More people gathered, with various degrees of saturation and cow tolerance:

Oh look, some familiar faces, and a hurried pre-run group shot.  It is compulsory on such occasions to gather together as many tourists and anyone else who fancies being included all together in a group shot.  Never has a gathering of cow cowl wearers been in a context more apt. Here it is:

Group cow shot

‘Suddenly’ as if from nowhere, loads of other parkrunners appeared.  It’s always astonishing to me, in a pleasing way, how 20 minutes before parkrun it’s often just the hi-vis heroes, me (because I’m so paranoid about being late) and tumble weed, and then 15 minutes before people appear out of the mist (or rain on this occasion) and it’s like a flash mob or pop up party or something.  From nothing, comes something.  What strange sorcery is this?  Replicated in parkruns the world over.  A.Maz.Ing.

Next stop, first timer’s briefing.  This had a few unique (I think so anyway) elements.  We were instructed how to deal with cows.  Confidence and clapping, but there was a practical demo coming up later anyway.  Also warned of the cow pat frequency along the route.  They are like little land mines essentially, peppering the route.  I think it adds a certain frisson of excitement to proceedings myself. It also definitely elevates the course from sports field to proper off road pasture.  Result.  This is a course where not only the marshals may be required to clap!

There was more pointless sheltering from the rain, and I dumped my bag at the informal bag drop.  By which I mean in the general area under the designated tree hq.  Unfortunately, my aim meant my rucksuck was basically chucked into a puddle, which during the duration of the event turned into pretty much a pond of slurry by the end of the parkrun, dripping a giddy cocktail of rainwater and cow poo from it’s straps as I picked it up later.  Oh well, just another thing to up the memorability quotient of the event, and I didn’t realise I’d done this at this point, so all good.  It was a surprise for later!  What I did realise, as I stuffed my fleece into my backpack and donned my waterproof instead, is that my ‘lost’ cap had been in my backpack all the time, and on being liberated from it along with my running coat, landed splat in the nearest available cow pat.  Oh dear.  I’m pretty cool with animal waste from vegetarian animals, but decided against smearing it onto my hair through wearing said cap.  This would have to be a capless run.  Oh pooh indeed.

Excitingly, in amongst the tourists, and people who’d rocked up before, were some honest to goodness absolute first timers.  How exciting!  I was very impressed they’d braved the elements.  They had decided, quite rightly, that if they were going to do this parkrun malarkey, they best commit to it and not cry off at the first spot of rain.  Quite right too, though I’d have given them a pass myself as unless ‘spot’ and ‘raging torrent’ have become synonymous of late, this was inclement weather at it’s most extreme – though also most comedic, so that’s ok.

Here are the first timers, with their parkrunning buddies.  You’ll have to guess which is which or who is whom.  Everyone is smiling in the before shot anyway, and that’s the main thing.  They too may become some of Jessica’s parkrun heroes.  Have you seen those films yet?  You really should you know, mind you, all parkrunners are heroes, however they/we choose to be involved in it.  #loveparkrun

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There was much excitement.  The cows were especially excited!  I suppose you have to release the mounting tension of anticipation somehow, and so far, cows haven’t been specifically welcomed as participants at parkrun in the way canines have been, so they can’t relieve the stress by joining in the 5k run. I think that might constitute an assisted run by the way, also not one to try at home, obvs. Though probably better tried at home than in the rather public start funnel line up in case that wasn’t for you a self-evident truth.

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A bit more milling, some last minute pep talks by the run director, late arrivals and some final stretches.  Wish I’d thought to run in a cycle cape – even if the wearer said it was to be discarded during the parkrun.  Too much wind resistance apparently.  I’m sure that’s true, though it made me wonder if that was the voice of experience or creative imagination dispensing such wisdom.

Then everyone assembled for the RD briefing.  Facilitated by step ladder elevation.  Kicked off with thanks to the volunteers.  A warning that in the event of a storm, the team reserved the right to cancel even if the parkrun was underway.   Shout outs for visitors and milestoners – one of which is pictured, usual notices.  A gentle reminder that this is a tough parkrun, it’s ok to walk or even grind to a halt if you need to.  Plus some cow corraling hints and tips.  Most educational parkrun, particularly if you do a bit of touristing.  Did you know Beverley’s founding saint was John of Beverley?  I don’t suppose you did, I didn’t learn this until a good half way through the second lap myself!

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A reminder it isn’t a fast course and of cow moving techniques.  Though there are cow marshals out on the course to assist.  Like this:

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Not really, they are like this!

🙂

We were asked not to have any accidents if possible as some of team are still being trained up.  Sounds reasonable.

Briefing concluded, timers ready?  Gladiators ready? parkrunners ready?  Ready, steady GO!!!!

And off parkrunners ran, walked and jogged, cheered on by directionally pointing marshals and with a bovine guard of honour to keep us all on track as like a string of bunting, parkrunners flew over the brow of the hill!

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and you know what, I think it may have eased off with the rain a bit too.  The weather is always fabulous at parkrun or you get, to run for free – every time!

So you head off, and it is indeed a big loop round the pastures.  It is ‘all grass’ but it was nice grass, by which I mean not horrid, exposed sports field traumatic grass, but lovely hillocky, romping through country estate sort of tussocky grass.  The course was well marked and marshalled.  The terrain is pretty open, so you get to see faster runners looping ahead of you.  Cones and flags are used to assist with cornering, and enthusiastic marshals prevent corner cutting and shoo off cattle in between calling out encouraging cheers.  Serious multi-taskers had been recruited to take on these marshalling roles.  It looked quite energetic at times.

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There really are a great many cows.  They didn’t seem unduly bothered by the parkrun, and moved on when requested to do so by politely persistent marshals.  I tried to get some beautifully framed cows with parkrunner shots.  I meant well, you have to respect my intentions were good.  Plus remember dear reader, comedic value trumps quality on occasion, that’s the rule!  That cavorting cow – the pale one, it’s in post-shoo frolics.  They are quite surprisingly light on their feet it seems.  My favourite was the one with the panda black eyes and black nose.  Awww.  Did I tell you the story about the 4 year old or so at Graves junior parkrun, who seeing similarly marked sheep in the animal park they pass through en route, insisted they were baby pandas!  How wonderful, to exist in a world where you get to see baby pandas at parkrun, but having said that, getting this close to cavorting cows is pretty fabulous too!  And when you are four, or thereabouts, I suppose seeing a panda en route is no more remarkable than seeing an alpaca or a chicken or even a donkey, and they are all there for the gawping too.  Poor things.

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So you speed round the corner, or if you are me, drag your weary carcass.  I got distracted by taking lots of photos, and doubling back to try and get some new angles, and slowly but surely, found myself filtering further and further back, til I was in sight of the tail walkers, and then I wanted to get some shots of them, so I waited, and then I ran on a bit, it was all stop start.  Then I realised after a bit it wasn’t actually raining any more, but I was drenched from within by the extreme inner clamminess of my jacket.  I was way too hot, it was nigh on tropical in there, not good.  I really don’t know why I put it on in the first place, it was never going to end well as I was soaked long before the start.

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Still, the landscape was lovely, there’s a bit of an uphill, as you swerve away from the fast food van parked on the road straight ahead of you – and then you are rewarded with the site of a great tower, which was once a windmill.  It’s quite a landmark, so that required a lot of photographing too.

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Busy, busy, busy.

So you loop the loop round the old windmill, and then it’s a homeward straight, under an avenue of trees, alongside the road through the pastures, trying not to be too distracted by the vista to your right, that’s some cathedral they’ve got going there! Actually, correction, it’s not a cathedral, although it is a minster.  Beverley Minster accordingtowikipediasoitmustbetrue is apparently:

one of the largest parish churches in the UK, larger than one-third of all English cathedrals and regarded as a gothic masterpiece by many.

Whatever, I thought it was quite splendid anyhow.  Also, given how overcast it had been earlier, the views were extraordinarily clear.  Faster runners started lapping me, so I paused to watch a few of them pass by.

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I was rewarded for my tardiness by seeing a particularly fine demonstration of cow shooing in action.  A veritable five star class.  Loving your work hi-vis cow marshal.  If that doesn’t merit it’s own running challenge badge I don’t know what does?  The ‘other’ icon surely, as an absolute minimum?

Well, I say she was cow-shooing, and that’s definitely what I thought at the time.  But the photos make it look like either she was doing some impromptu (and to be honest, not particularly well executed) thai chi moves, or alternatively striding out water divining.  If the latter, I can’t quite decide if she was doing spectacularly well or spectacularly badly.  I mean, water water everywhere after all … I’ll never really know.  A bit of mystery is good though isn’t it.  Life should be full of unknowns as well as surprises.  Unless of course she was auditioning for a zombie film, arms outstretched in front of her, staggering off across uneven terrain?  Yep, that seems the most likely on reflection.  Probably that.  Glad that’s been sorted.  Those marshals who have completed the cow-shooing training would be shoo-ins (see what I did there) for supporting artistes on Zombie apocalypse films, they’ve nailed the stumbling along techniques.  Original steady paced zombies, not the faster than light ones that are currently in vogue, though having said that, I bet some of them can really shift too, so all ends of the zombie continuum are catered for.  Excellent.

zombie

So down you go, and the finish funnel is in sight, but only for people who’ve already completed both laps.  I could still record a few finishers coming through though. It’s such a great sight, a cheery parkrun finish funnel.  I mean just look at these lovely happy, smiley, welcoming faces, and they can all be your new best friends in that moment!

BW fab finish funnel

Check out the funnel-ducker defying security fencing being employed here.  This crew means business.   Respect!

So here are the speedier than me’s coming through.  The ones with the real stamina are those marshals though, still smiling and clapping:

Here was also a photo swapping opportunity.  See what we’ve done here!  Genius.

So I went past the funnel, despite the siren call of a distant cow bell and the lure of the homeward welcome, and round the loop at the bottom and out again for round two.  Ding ding!

By now, most other runners were way ahead and out of sight, so it was a more sedate second lap.  I tried to get shots I’d missed on the first time round, and ended up in what I hope was a mutually companionable power walk with my new best friend who was a Beverly Westwood local and second time parkrunner.  It was ace, because I got to learn about the Pasture master and the common ground, and St John, and the racecourse and the windmill and all sorts.  Like I said parkrun can be most educational! Thank you impromptu tour guide, much appreciated!  🙂

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Marshals dismantled the course behind us as we came in, but not before they’d cheered us on and pointed out newly deposited cow pats that I like to think had been presented in our honour.

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And then, before you know it, the parkrun adventure is about to conclude.  We ran together through the finish.

BW my new best friend

Cheered in by a fair old crowd, which was particularly impressive given the prevailing weather.  Even if it had brightened up a bit by then, we still all basically felt like we’d been ducked or dunked or otherwise fully immersed in liquid and spun round for the last hour or so!

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I had my barcode wrist band thingy, so no sooner had  I located a scanner, I was all scanned present and correct.  Job done.  Hurrah!  Now we are all au fait with #dfyb, it’s second nature.  Hard to remember there was a time when barcodes seemed but a far fetched futuristic fantasy.  That was when tank tops were quite in vogue and loud kipper ties too as I recall, though to be fair, in an ironic time warping twist, that seems far fetched fantasy too from this distance, so who knows.

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The volunteers were coming in behind, laden with the detritus of a comprehensively set out course.  Cones and flags and signs a-plenty.

And that was that, parkrun wise.  All over but the shouting.  Or more accurately in this case, the course shut down, blood caffeine stabilising and results processing, which amounts to the same thing.

Many adjourned to the Woolpack pub, I did too, and it was friendly and they did coffee for £1.80 and parkrun breakfasts of basically sausage or bacon rolls – but no veggie option alas.  Though the Woolpack has only been open under new ownership for a couple of weeks, so I think that may well change.  They said they do offer vegetarian sausages at lunch time, so I suppose it’s a work in progress.  They were friendly and welcoming though. I got a coffee anyway, because I felt I should support the business really, plenty were breakfasting, some sitting outside and the results processing HQ is here too I think.

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It definitely is.  Check out these pics lifted I’ve shared from their photo posts of the results processing team in action.  Nice candle display they have going on there.  Creating anagrams can be such fun!

I took my coffee and headed off for an explore and ended up in step with one of the volunteers who by coincidence works in Sheffield part the week.  (Cheery wave coming right atya if you’re reading).  I made my way to another possible gathering spot, near the long stay carpark – The Windmill.  Other parkrunners were there but it was dark and not really enough space to join them plus also lamentably poor veggie choices, so I abandoned the breakfast idea, deciding not to linger longer.  I reckoned my surplus body fat* would probably see me through ’til I got home.  *Spoiler alert, it did. Also, the novelty of being soaked through to my knickers was definitely wearing off, and the slurry seeping from my saturated backpack into my purple tee was making its presence felt!  Time to say goodbye…

I was homeward bound.  And hail and rain beat on the windscreen for the drive back to Sheffield.  How we managed to have most of our run in relative balmy dryness I have absolutely no idea!

So thank you parkrunners all who made Beverley Westwood fun-filled and fabulous.  I can’t believe you are but three runs old!  Definitely already punching above your weight.  One of my favourite courses bizarrely, I think the cows add a certain charm, the views are stunning, the locals friendly.  Throw in some pre-run toilet facilities, and I do declare that’s all boxes ticked.  Yay!  If the weather had been kinder it would have been well worth a day trip, I bailed I’m afraid, but perhaps I’ll return, places to go people to see, new horizons to be explored.  So it seems that when you go west, the skies aren’t necessarily blue, but it was definitely delightful in the open air, and the elements just made it more memorable.  Everybody knows running in the rain just proves you to be hardcore, and as for those who marshal in the rain?  Well they are the stuff of legend!

hardcore runners

Thank you high vis heroes, you were ace.  parkrun volunteers are indeed a whizz in hi-viz! I hope you have all managed to dry out by now and are being as cossetted and kept warm as your hi-vis attire!  Beverley Westwood Laundrette had a conveyor belt of washing and drying services in operation all afternoon if the picture is anything to go by.  Above and beyond I say.  Bravo indeed!

Beverley Westwood parkrun laundry mart

Oh, and if you want to check out the accuracy of my account by being a bit more robust in your research into this fine event then I offer you this link by way of triangulation.  Their run report for Beverley Westwood parkrun #3 offers another perspective.  Go on, do it.  It’s all about the milestones!

Incidentally,  if you want to prolong your parkrun fix, you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.

and finally, before I go, can I just share this?

just because

Why?

Just because, sometimes there doesn’t need to be a why.

You’re welcome.

🙂

Happy parkrunning people, share the parkrun love.

By the way, I have discovered this fab website for bulk resizing photos (so they don’t use up all your memory, well not your actual memory, your digital memory) and for adding a batch watermark.  Free and glitch free. Cool eh?

 

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

An out of this world parkrun, Alvaston parkrun welcomes wandering earthlings

Digested read:  went to Alvaston parkrun for a spot of parkrun tourism.  It was very nice thank you for asking.  An absolute blast in fact.

pooh

Undigested read:

Yes indeedy, it was an out of this world parkrun, because it offered up an earth rise, and not (m)any parkruns do that, and I particularly appreciated this what with today being  the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing it was a nice touch.  My photo of this Alverston offering is almost as good as those taken by the actual moon landing crew of the actual earth.  I wonder if you can tell the difference?  I’m giving no clues…

… though I will say this, I think mine is actually better because you can make out the UK and therefore if you squint a bit, quite possibly the location of Alvaston parkrun itself.  Win for me therefore, though I suppose to be fair the crew maybe had other skills, but they also had a team behind them.   The Clangers made exactly this point in their Facebook post today – it takes a team to make history.  I love the Clangers.  I hope they have survived the moon landing.  Not so much as take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints, we left a load of trash last time we visited including 96 bags for poo, urine and vomit.  Poor Clangers, hope their planet is still safe.

Coincidentally, that is exactly the guiding principle of parkrun too.  Not the leaving your poo behind, that’s a definite no no, but in that it takes a team to deliver parkrun too.  It’s all about the team work – and there was a well-oiled team in operation at Alvaston today, hurrah!  Here are just some of them:

Alvaston parkrun team

In less joyful mood, Alvaston parkrun might as well have been on the moon given how lost I got on the way there.  The directions they give are good, the satnav postcode works.  However, I somehow, somewhere missed a turn off, and then I got caught up in road closure and a veritable vortex of roundabouts and circles that would have left even a Somerdale Pavilion parkrun regular, dizzy with confusion.  I’ve yet to experience their Curly Wurly route to be fair, but I nevertheless know it to be the stuff of legend, but going by their ace video of it, I’m confident I was doing the vehicle based equivalent.  Either that, or possibly Scalextric, but not in quite such a fun way.

Somerdale Pavilion parkrun

It didn’t help that my satnav was soooooooooo judgemental about the whole thing, suggesting U-turns, ‘at the first possible opportunity’ even though it wasn’t safe to do so, and then having a definite edge in her voice when I failed to oblige.  Why can’t my satnav be all friendly and supportive when it comes to a U-turn, like the lovely Alvaston parkrun marshals, such as the one exhibited below for illustration purposes?  (Thank you lovely marshal).

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At one point my satnav just entirely gave up on me and started to give my ETA as post parkrun start.  At that point I can’t lie, I did start to catastrophise a bit, WORST DAY OF MY LIFE, and may even have cried with frustration momentarily before I had a self imposed reality check.  It’d all be alright in the end, and if it wasn’t alright then it wasn’t the end, and anyway, it’s parkrun, it’s supposed to be parkfun, not worth getting into such a disproportionate state of angstiness about the whole thing.  Worse case scenario, freedom run.  That’s not so bad.

Even so, I was relieved when I got back en route, even if my need to get to my destination promptly meant I had to drive straight past Tile Town, which I’m sure is a great loss.  I imagine it’s a bit like legoland, and they recreate extraordinary wonders out of tiles.  They are bound to have done something lunar related given the significance of the day, I’d love to see the whole known universe miniaturised and recreated in ceramic tiles.  Oh well, next time.  Disappointingly, I couldn’t even find any images of this exhibition on the interweb, but I did find this very nice cactus sculpture made out of glass tiles which gives a glimpse of what might be possible, so that’s good.

On arrival at Alvaston parkrun I was reminded anything is possible apparently, so that’s good to know too.

Yeah, OK, to pacify the pedants among you, what they actually say is ‘impossible is nothing‘ which is very Yoda, but it that’s good enough linguistically for a Jedi Master then it’s good enough for me.  I took the image from Yoda’s Wikipedia page by the way, not quite sure how to attribute it properly.

Oh, you want to know what possessed me  made me choose Alvaston parkrun as my destination of choice?  Well, partly I was in search of an ‘A’ (alphabet challenge for the running challenges chrome extension), it’s amazing how even a virtual badge can assist with running motivation.  If you’ve not come across this yet, it’s basically like a sticker chart for grown ups.  Having said that, I find the running challenges operates more as a guide to choosing a parkrun to head off to for tourism purposes.  It’s all a bit arbitrary, and picking up an ‘A’ is a good a reason to rock up somewhere new as any.  Alvaston is also reachable from Sheffield, particularly if you don’t get lost in all the flyover dual carriageway scary bits, and a relatively new one.  It’s only 8 weeks old (bless).  Perfectly formed though, like my new froglets!  Have I mentioned them recently?  I do try to at every possible opportunity.  No visitor to my house, or indeed anyone who walks past it but makes eye contact with me as they do so, is entrapped and made to come and admire them in my back garden.  I’m so excited, they’ve all just appeared en masse, exiting my pond.  It’s my first year of home grown spawn to froglets and I couldn’t be prouder if I’d given birth to each and everyone of them myself, even if, had I done so, I’d probably have been burned as a witch a few centuries back – heavens, even today, given how bigoted this world seems to have become.  Maybe heading off the moon and staying there isn’t such a bad idea.  … Nope, not going down that wormhole of misery and despond, let’s admire a newly emerged frog instead.

See, gorgeous aren’t they?  Phew, now doesn’t that feel better  🙂  everybody loves a froglet.  Well, they should do, surely this is something we can unite around!  They are so very tiny, and yet completely perfect.

Where was I?  Oh I remember.  Lost, hopelessly lost.  And a bit panicky.  When my satnav was telling me (with rather unnecessary insistence and a somewhat patronising tone I felt) that I’d ‘reached my destination’ I was apparently in the midst of some sort of out of town shopping centre/ industrial estate.  Surely not?

Just as I was losing hope, this vision of loveliness and competence appeared:

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I know, how fortuitous was that!

I overshot the entrance, but this legend in a tabard, stopped the traffic so I could reverse back and into the designated Derby Homes car park.  I’m not sure how the core team have negotiated this, but it is a boon, as they have agreed:

Free parking (approx. 110 spaces) is available at Derby Homes (the entrance is opposite Wickes) on London Road, DE24 8UZ between 8:30am – 10:30am

It is worth noting the finish time though.  I completely didn’t.  More of this later.  I parked up, alongside loads of work vehicles and motivational bannering.  I do like a motivational banner.

Parked up, at around 8.30 fortuitously enough – in fact, if I hadn’t got lost, I’d probably have been too early, and never spotted the marshal or the entrance at all, overshot, and still be driving towards Dover even now, and there isn’t even a parkrun there.  Well I don’t think so anyway.  Look, it’s not important, I was just trying to emphasise a point.  Move on dear reader, move on.  The point is, it it isn’t hard to spot the car park entrance once you know it’s directly opposite Wickes, and also that it does look like you are going in to an industrial estate, because you sort of are.

The directions I’d printed out, said exit car park and turn right.  In fact, the marshal directed us left, unless I’ve forgotten how to tell my left from my right which is entirely possible, but I think not on this occasion.  So I went left, following other parkrunners to the bus stop and the slightly hidden entrance into the park just behind it.  Leaving our friendly car park marshal expertly coraling cars and parkrunners with extreme competence (yes, that is a thing).  It should be an extreme sport really, like extreme ironing.

So, I sheep like followed other parkrunners into Alvaston park.  Well, this is a surprise.  It possibly helped that near biblical rain and storms of the night before suddenly gave way to glorious sunshine, but you enter this gorgeous verdant park, which comes as a complete surprise as you’ve just been driving on a rather dull and grey roadway to get here.  Just wow!  Mature trees lined the walk way down to where the volunteer team were congregating.  It smelt wonderful, the trees heavy with pollen after rain.  The joy of that wore a bit thin as I was near asthmatic by the end of it, but you have to appreciate it all the same.  On the horizon were giant sculptural wind turbines.  I quite like them, I think they are rather elegant, I recognise not everybody feels the same, but, at least one other parkrunner paused en route to capture the scene.  We can’t both be wrong!

Other worldly indeed.  You get to pass Mars on the way in, which was a first, and if you listen out carefully, no, more carefully than that – there you go!  You can just make out the melodic tones of Holst’s The Planets, carried across to you on the breeze.  Very atmospheric.  It all helps to set the scene.

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The finish funnel was all set up.  There was a gathering of folk near the imaginatively named Waterside Cafe.

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There are loos, and I made a new friend in the queue, bonding over the mutual necessity of a pre parkrun precautionary pee.  There are only two loos, so a bit of a queue potentially, and they had alarmingly weak flushes, but fine.  There was also an informal bag drop (at your own risk) which rather sweetly, kept your bags of the ground.  We have no such provision at my home parkrun Sheffield Hallam parkrun.

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People milled and chilled, and I had a little explore.  So glad I did.  I not only discovered another planet – well, not in absolute terms, I think others had found it first, but it was a surprise to me – but I also hooked up with Jessica Ennis!  I’ve been trying to get a photo with her for years.  First tried at a VitalityMove event at Chatsworth, and she even commented on how fine my companion animal Geronimo was – and someone took some pics of me and her (and Geronimo) all together – only they didn’t, missed opportunity. Today though.  Result!  Also, I’m ahead of her on this occasion!  The camera never lies remember dear reader, humour me!

Oh look, first timers’ briefing, went and joined in that.  The briefing was good, but oh my that course is complicated, wait, what two out and back sections you say?  That’s erm, not my first choice…

It all seemed very well organised, with a lot of volunteers, the course is quite complicated so does need a fair few marshals to keep people literally as well as metaphorically on track.  Oh I suppose you’ll be wanting to know the course, well, according the Alvaston parkrun website the course blah de blah the route is as follows:

Course Description
This is a ‘pancake flat’ course on tarmac and is a creative variant of an ‘out and back’ route. We start next to the community/café building in the centre of the park completing one and half laps of the grass field ending up at the corner of Lakeside school. From there we then do a long ‘out and back’ up the Route 6 cycle super-highway turning around near Aldi. Once back at the school there is a second short ‘out and back’ section in the opposite direction turning around at the end of the park’s lake. You then finish close to where you started back in the centre of the park.

and it looks like this:

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Maybe a bit like a kite, with a string flowing out behind?  Oh I don’t know, you’ll have to come up with your own idea.  But you know what dear reader, unless you are super fast, you can just follow the person in front, and if you are super duper fast, then it’s extremely clearly signed and marshalled – just watch you don’t overshoot at those U-turns, your internal satnav will be furious.

After the briefing, parkrunners moved to the start, which was pretty near to be fair.  Although it’s a 5 minute walk to the start from the car park, the cafe, start, finish, loos are all pretty close together.

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Check out the super polite dog too – one for barkrun methinks.

then it was the Run Director’s Briefing.  It was her debut apparently, but I didn’t know this at the time as she seemed like a pro to me.  It was nice and friendly, welcoming, milestones acknowledged, tourists acknowledged, first time everers greeted, an invite for a family day in the park tomorrow and a big cheer for the graduating group from the Alvaston C25K.  It was all very friendly.  About 200 or so runners I think, I didn’t count, and can’t be bothered to go check the results – I don’t know what the normal turn out is, but I expect with it being a new one, it may take a while to plateau.  Anyway, here is the RD in action, with attentive wide-eyed in wonder parkrunners taking it all in.  It’s genuinely refreshing when people are quiet during the briefing.  Long may that habit continue, it’s a rare thing indeed.

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and then, ‘suddenly’ we had count down, 10, 9, 8 etc*, and then lift off!

I turned my watch off instead of on by mistake.  I’d like to think that was the critical point at which a new pb became out of the question, but it wasn’t.  Off we all went.  Scampering down the avenue of trees.  You do sort of one and half laps of the field, but it’s not too bad as it isn’t miles and miles and it’s fun seeing the runners all streaming ahead.  I think must thin things out a bit for faster runners too, though I think it’s a good pb course for anyone wanting to chase those, as it’s a cunning layout that means if you position yourself in the right place at the start, then you shouldn’t really be having to do all that much overtaking.  By the way, before you get too critical, it’s harder than you think to take photos whilst running, even at my lamentable speed.

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I think it’s fair to call this course erm, ‘idiosyncratic’ but no worries dear reader, it’s well signed.  At the top corner of the park there are signs to differentiate between the first and second lap routes – and then, it changes again later.  As if by magic.  These are high end marshals, not just directional pointing, high fives and cheering – though they perform those tasks admirably too, but actual relocating of cones and selves mid course.  Respect!

One new thing I saw here, which I’ve never seen before but which is genius and lovely, was the presence of an official parkrun buddy!  What a great idea.  I mean I’m just assuming that’s sort of part running marshal (keeping and eye on things on the course) and part befriending anyone that might want a friend.  Aw.  Every parkrun should have one!  Or lots.  I mean, on one level, every parkrun has the potential to become a parkrun buddy, but this sort of breaks the ice if you are new and feeling a bit of a wall flower or otherwise lost and lonely.

So we carried on round for the first lap, past the satellite dishes that are actually whispering domes which sounds a lot of fun and to the next set of marshals in situ to stop you running on to infinity and beyond, because being space themed is all well and good, but it’s better all round if we just stick to the usual 5k.  Also, you might end up in the lake if you didn’t take a sharp right here.

As you corner, you can see faster runners on the other sides of the square.  Very scenic!  And then you are back up at the ‘lap 1/ lap 2’ intersection, only this time you get to travel onwards, past the (slightly scary) owl cut out and on to pastures new.  How exciting!

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You jog on – or perhaps in your case sprint, it’s all tarmac, waving at the marshals as you pass and then you do the first out and back bit.  Caution, it’s a lot further than you expect, I don’t know why.  I think because I hadn’t looked at the route in advance, and I just assumed the out and back sections would be evenly split, and they most certainly are not!  However, it is pleasing all the same.  For example, you get to pass the marshal with the classiest leggings of the morning. Check out those different patterned legs.  You espy the dancing car-park marshal from earlier, now relocated and dishing out high fives and high tens even like they are going out of fashion, you even get to see the speedier runners rushing back towards you.  Lots to take in and all marvellous of course!  I also saw my toilet buddy from earlier – but my reflexes weren’t quick enough to snap her, and an actual proper first time ever at parkrun parkrunner and the parkrun buddy with her buddies, having a ball. Hurrah!  Feel the parkrun love people, bask in that glow of parkrun joy!

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And then you reach the end, and the turning point.  This could be viewed as a metaphorical turning point in your life, things will be different from now on, you can be the person you want to be – or you could just turn around and start over again – though that would be figuratively rather than actually, it was a 5k not a 10k today remember.  The 10k was yesterday, apparently…. I  met someone who’d run it and someone who’d marshalled it, but couldn’t find what the event actually was. Oh well, no worries, it’s been and gone now, I’m sure it was lovely, if a bit wet and blustery out!

Or it might just have been a turn around point of course, but where’s the fun in that.  Lovely helpful marshalling though.  Another highly trained special operative in action here!

And if you set your course up, people will come!  And they did, running up, turning around, running back to the tunnel and the high-fiving hi-vis hero and back to the right and down to the park bit where you can see where you started and runners trailing on right in front of you …  Wave at the tail walker, check out those leggings again, wave at pee partner, check out the tunnel mural.  It’s busy, busy, busy, out on them there paths at parkrun I don’t mind telling you!  All parkrun life present and correct.  And those photos won’t take themselves!

My favourite overheard conversation of the morning though, was when a dog walker (not a parkrunner) was strolling towards runners and her friendly hound was tempted to come up and greet parkrunners as they passed. She immediately called the dog back ‘nobody wants to say hello to you right now‘ she said firmly but with good cheer, and then I heard an immediate desperate chorus from parkrunners behind me calling out ‘but we do want to say hello, we really do!’  It was quite a cute dog to be fair, and another polite one.   I heard doggy hellos and greeting hugs being exchanged behind me as I ran on.  They seem do seem to be particularly polite the pooches in this park, no Wellard rough necks in these parts to be sure!

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and oh no, we aren’t allowed to carry on straight, we have to go out and back all over again!  They weren’t joking about these out and back bits, oh no sorree.

So awf we go again, back out towards the pond.  Haven’t we been this way before?  We go a bit further, taking in planet earth, mercury and more marshals until we get to another turn around, fair play, this is a much shorter section.  Oh, and I actually found a living thing I could overtake, left that slug standing.  Well, I say ‘standing’ I don’t know if that’s anatomically correct, upright maybe more accurate…

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Then, finally, you get back to the place you were earlier shooed away from, and you can weeeee down the hill (it’s a very, very slight downward incline) and the end is in sight.

So down you go and then another right angle turn past the marshals and you are on the homeward straight.  It’s not far now, through a spectacular avenue of trees, and towards the finish line, where it feels like you must be the first parkrunner through as a veritable mob of well wishers line the finish funnel, cheering and clapping and making you feel truly a.maz.ing.  Now, I’m not completely delusional, I may have benefited from the extreme solidarity of the C25K group who came en masse for their graduation run.  Every member was there at the finish to cheer all the other runners in their band through.  They supplemented the event team, who were also out cheering and clapping in force.   Heart warming, and also brilliant fun.  Who wouldn’t feel better after being cheered home by this fabulous lot!

Featured image Alvaston parkrun 20 july 2019

So the experience is nearly over, through the finish funnel, scooped up by the lovely scanners and time to cheer through the last few finishes.  It’s always emotional parkrun, and this seemed a particularly cheery and supportive one.  What parkrun should be, it felt inclusive and fun, with the super speedies through to the slow and steadies and the long in the tooth experienced runners to the just starting out.  #loveparkrun

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There was bell ringing, by those who felt the urge, and the C25K group, gathered for post parkrun photos, which is compulsory.  It takes a great deal of photographers to faciliate that.  These milestones matter,  good job people, good job!

and the last few volunteers found their way back to the finish hub from their spots on the course.  And I had my suspicion that occasionally the start and finish lines at parkrun do get moved whilst you are en route.  I’m not saying it’s not the event team’s prerogative to do this should they so wish, is just that I’ve never caught them in the act before.  I don’t think they were moving it any further away on this occasion though, or indeed closer, perhaps just testing the water in case of future need.  Stress testing I think it’s called.  Yep, that’ll be what it is/was.

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Aw, love the parkrun picture, check out this tableau and all’s right with the world, for this snapshot in time at least.

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Before I peeled away, I checked in with a couple of parkrunners that they’d be OK with me using their pics.  100% I spoke to seemed fine with it.  I explained my rule which is I delete any really unflattering ones unless comedic value is strong enough to outweigh compliance with personal dignity.  This seemed broadly acceptable.  However, if youa re reading this and I have included a photo in this that makes you want to crawl into a hole and never emerge again, or you just don’t want to be here, let me know and I will immediately delete.  By the way, I didn’t get any peeing shots, the person to whom this statement is relevant will understand.  All good.  😉

I then I retrieved my bag, and headed to the cafe via checking out the waterfowl, which are numerous and impressive:

Then to the cafe.  Turns out, the cafe is really good value, I got a veggie cob/bap/roll/breadcake  with quorn sausage and egg and a latte for £5 which is pretty good I think.  They also had cake and ice cream, a fairly impressive menu for the size of cafe, and it was immaculate, with seating inside and out.  I wasn’t sure I’d find a seat, but good news, my pee partner from earlier was outside on a table, which she’d been saving for her husband, but he’d been waylaid by token sorting duties inside, so room for me.  Yay!  We had a companionable chat, good to hear more of other tourist options.  Walsall Arboretum sounds fab!  The coffee was a bit rank, I think they make it with UHT but the bap was OK, and the company grand.

We were chatting away quite companionably, until, thankfully, a friendly local asked if we were in the carpark, as it shuts at 10.30.  Eek, I had no idea.  ‘What happens at 10.30 then?’ I asked, revealing myself as the dullard half-wit I am ‘erm, it shuts.‘  OK then, best get moving, what with it being 10.23.  Our conversation ended abruptly, I bolted the last of my bap, and got in the fastest parkrun sprint finish in many moons.  Those affected, made their speedy way back to the car park.

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and that was that.

For the record, I was the last to leave the car park, waving to the security guard who emerged from his hut at 10.29 just as I was pulling out.  Phew, that was a close one.  I honestly don’t know what would happen if you over stayed.  You’d be unpopular for sure, or stuck.  10.30 is plenty of time, you just mustn’t forget.  The marshals were discussing this as a group of us sprinted off, I think ‘remind visitors they need to leave by 10.30’ may be added to the ‘to do’ list for oneo r more of the hi-vis heros in future.  It probably comes under ‘any other duties’ that always covers a proverbial multitude does it not?

By the way, today was an extra special parkrun, at Alvaston because of the following happenings, all of which are epic, and all of which were reported on the Alvaston parkrun Facebook page in a post following the event.  Hurrah!

Congratulations to all 222 finishers today. A special mention to the Alvaston joggers couch to 5k group who ‘graduated’ today and Val Naylor for breaking the Age Grade course record at 99.26%. Also well done to Clare for her first time Run Directing.

Alvaston joggers couch to 5k

Did you see that though?  99.26% that’s insanely impressive.  Just wow.  In fact, it definitely is, because it set a new age category record for this week for the 75-79 age group, and I reckon it’s one that will stand a loooooooong looooooooooooooong time, as other age category records have been achieved largely by runners hitting ‘just’ the high eighties.  She got a mention in the Alvaston parkrun run report for event #8, and quite right too – ‘rocket-propelled Val’ indeed!

Mind you, having said that, she has a young whipper-snapper at her heels with Angela Copson achieving  97.12% in the 70 – 74 at Nobles parkrun today as well.  Blimey.  And I’ve never even come near their finish times now, let alone these percentages.  Hurrah for the VW.  They are bringing running home.  Mind you, some women runners are pretty hardcore.   What about that one that got knocked down by a deer in the middle of a 10k but still bounced back and recovered sufficiently to come first in her age category.  Not only that, but Karen Brewer, for it was she, told the BBC news

 “I heard a rustle and seconds later I was thrown into the bushes and a deer landed right on top of me. … After I found out I was OK, I got up straight away, I didn’t want to waste any precious seconds.  … I actually found it quite hilarious.”

and, on Friday, July 12, Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands broke the women’s mile world record at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco by running a time of 4:12.33.  Just believe dear reader.  It’s amazing what is possible.  She didn’t get hit by a deer though, so I suppose she had it a bit easy really, but even so, fair do’s, that’s still impressive.

It’s been a good week for running veterans to be fair.  Did you see that Roy Englert, a 96-Year-Old man ran a 42-Minute 5K to Break World record for his age group a couple of days ago too.  He shaved 8 minutes off the previous record, and, was still faster than me today, though I dare say he didn’t stop to take photos and chat to the marshals on the way round. parkrun is a run not a race people, so I’m allowed….  Here he is:

m96-roy-englert-5000m-gold-wr-42-30-23-1563369702

So there you go, that was that.   Pretty epic.  Other epic parkruns are available of course.  Conkers parkrun did a fancy dress theme, or at the very least, some game parkrunners unilaterally decided to don fancy dress, which amounts to the same thing.  That’s pretty epic.  Went to Conkers parkrun with Smiley Selfie Queen on a penguin mission, I can imagine they’d embrace any excuse for a parkrun party to be fair, and quite right too!  They had quite a cool Conkers parkrun run report from their space-themed event in fact.  Worth a gander, particularly if procrastination is your thing.  You’re welcome, happy to help.

Bushy parkrun also had an ace run report with space referencing a-plenty.  Loving your work run writers parkrun world over!  Also, they included a picture of my mum, in good form, cheering on the runners.  Good choice.  I was pretty over the moon about that I don’t mind saying…

mum cheering 20 july 2019.jpeg

Also this courtesy of  Durham, NC parkrun, America:

Durham NC parkrun

Respect.

In other news, there was an actual al pacino, cappucino, al fresco, Acapulco, A capella chorus, when Hallmark of Harmony were a flash mob of singing marshals at Sheffield Hallam parkrun this morning.  That would have been quite something.  Thing is, all parkruns are epic in their own ways.  Wherever you are epicness will out.  I’m happy to have experienced Alvaston epic today.  I hope you embraced epic wherever you were today, or if – inexplicably – you didn’t get to parkrun, enjoyed being epic in your own way!

Only this flash mob could better that – credit to AXEL SCHMIDT / REUTERS. People dress like singer-songwriter Kate Bush as part of the “The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever” flash mob in Berlin, Germany.  Excellent.  With this photo BBC week in pictures you spoil us indeed.  Imagine that lot singing ‘running up that hill‘  just wowzers!  Maybe if  Hallmark of Harmony recruit enough new members they may yet make it so… stranger things have happened.

best flash mob ever

parkrun all done and dusted for another week.  Yes, yes, that is a wee bit sad, but there is always next week.  And remember dear reader, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened!  Dr Suess – indeed Mr P S-H himself too no doubt – wouldn’t want it any other way!

dr suess

There was one poignant moment though.  I couldn’t find the moon, not anywhere.  I asked, but we all concluded it must be up in the sky where it belongs.  Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it will be safe there.  This park hosts Venus, Mars, Earth and Mercury and yet the moon sits apart.  It is a thing of wonder.  Stay safe.

Full-Moon

Of course in the meantime, no need to moon around (see what I did there?  Lawks a lordy I can be hilarious at times) if you want to prolong your parkrun fix, you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.

So thank you lovely Alvaston parkrun people however you participated to make it the fab event it is.  May I just conclude by saying thank you for posing so beautifully, what an exceptionally photogenic lot you are!  One small point – constructive criticism if you will, any chance of a lead emu for next time I come?  Thanks in anticipation.   Appreciated.  This one is called Fluffy apparently, and after all, if Nambour parkrun can, then…

How exciting that so many new people were doing their first EVER parkrun at Alvaston today.  I predict a rosy future for you all!

parkrun day

#loveparkrun

*only they didn’t actually, I think it was just ‘go’ but you get the general idea

Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Delectably Dishy Dishley, Dishley parkrun Loughborough parkrun tourists r us!

Digested read: parkrun tourism with Smiley Selfie Queen took saw us both at Dishley parkrun Loughborough today.  It was delightful, thank you for asking.

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Undigested read:

CAUTION – TIME VAMPIRE  – READ ON AT OWN RISK

 

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I was going to have my title for this blog post as ‘Dishing the Dirt on Dishley parkrun’ but, spoiler alert, there is no dirt.  It’s all lovely.  One or two constructive criticisms at best, but basically pretty much perfect in every way.  Well done Dishley!  You did good!  Well in my opinion anyway, which isn’t worth an awful lot, but is better than nowt surely.

Smiley Selfie Queen selected Dishley parkrun as our next parkrun tourism destination.   Last time we did some tourism together we conquered Conkers parkrun (see what I’ve done there)  and I drove.  So this time she drove and got to choose – not that I minded where we went, as all parkruns are lovely in their own way, not been to a dud one yet.  Dishley it was to be then.  Fair dos.  No idea where that is.

Checking out the Dishley parkrun website I learn that if coming by road ‘The only access to the event HQ at the rugby club is off Cotton Way which is accessed through the Bishop Meadow/Weldon Road Industrial Estate (there is no access directly off the A6). If using SatNav postcode is LE11 5FJ’.  Cue, google postcode to see how far away it is.  Alarmingly, google map directions tells me it will take me 16 hr 51 min to get there if you go via the A61 and B6179, though you can shave it down to a mere  15 hr 47 min if you stick to just the A61 more or less the whole way.  Hmm, this seems odd.  Oh hang on, it’s because google thinks I should walk there!  Nope wasn’t planning on that, if we ‘cheat’ and take a car we are allowed to use the M1 and can do it in 1 hr 11 mins.  Ok that’s more manageable.   Fortunately, my Smiley buddy also hates being late, so we will leave in plenty of time.  Though maybe not 17 hours worth of plenty, we are keen, but have some boundaries.  That may change of course, when our NENDYs (Nearest Event Not Done Yet as per running challenges chrome extension) are no longer within reach in a day’s travel.  Not there yet though, albeit it is only a matter of time.

NENDY

Dishley parkrun blah de blah course description from website states:

A flat, rural grass and trail course taking in two laps of the perimeter of the playing fields split by a snaking loop along footpaths and the River Soar towpath. The course starts at the southern edge of the playing fields near the end of the rugby pitches and finishes at the rugby club next to the main parking – around 250m from the start. The course consists of soft grass and earth paths, and is likely to have some muddy areas especially after rain, so we recommend using trail shoes. The course crosses Black Brook over a narrow bridge with a metalled surface, please take care there. Part of the route uses the beautiful River Soar towpath, take care along this section and please share the space with other river users. There is short stretch designated as ‘No overtaking’. In the event of contact with the water please be aware of the NHS advice regarding Leptospirosis (Weils’ Disease) by visiting the following website http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/leptospirosis

Hmm a lot of grass, but then again trail, always good news for my sad arthritic feet.  I loved Fountains Abbey parkrun last week, but those hard trails weren’t the comfiest for my tender tootsies to tackle.

Dishley parkrun is in Loughborough. Oh. I tried to think if I’d ever had cause to go to Loughborough before?  I don’t think so.  But I did have a vague sense that the university there specialises in sports.  Momentary panic, does that mean the entire parkrun field will be populated by sub 16 minute runners, driven mad by the ‘no overtaking’ rule if some bizarre association of unlikely events means I’m ahead of them at the point.  That could indeed lead to a dunking if frustration got the better of them and I’d be the one who ended up in the river, or canal, or sea, or whatever the rat pee contaminated water system is.  In those circumstances Weils’ Disease would be the least of my worries.  I float brilliantly, what with my inbuilt buoyancy aids, but hate getting wet and not sure how easy it would be to wrestle out of the waterway once in.  My companion would have no such worries having recently embraced aquathlons.  I mean really, I didn’t even know aquathlon is an actual real word.  I now find that it is, and, furthermore, as I understand it, is a gateway drug event for triathlons, but we’ll see.   She’s even been dealing in this, recruiting others to join her making a splash at Hathersage pool and elsewhere.  It’s only the start I feel sure…

 

She has come to crave getting wet before going for a run.  Thinking about it, might have to watch her and keep her safely coraled pre-parkrun in case she goes awol in search of a pre parkrun dip.  I mean I suppose she can if she wants – ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in parkrun in their own way’ blah, but I would worry about her sodden and pond weed laden feet slipping on the pedals during the drive home, and eau de river silt isn’t going to be the most fragrant of smells as a travelling companion for the way home, albeit definitely considerably up the food chain from those car air fresheners which are fundamentally asthma inducing toxins fashioned into a plastic fir tree.   What is that about?  They also induce instant car sickness.  Just the sight of them.  Oh no, further panic.  What if Smiley Selfie Queen has one in her car?  I may end up walking to Dishley after all.  … PANIC.

The Dishley course looks like this:

 

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Which personally, I think resembles a drawing of the female reproductive system.  You dear reader, may think that’s tenuous, but then you haven’t seen the scribble I produced for my biology ‘O’ Level exam.  It’s no coincidence I spent years thinking my ovaries were somewhere up round my armpits.  Just for clarification, I mean human female reproductive system other reproductive systems are available.

Hmm, on reflection, maybe more like a copepod.  What do you think?

copepod

Yes, maybe more like that.  Now I’ve made that connection I’m frankly astonished the event team don’t describe it as such on the course descriptor on their website, it would be so much easier.  But maybe it’s because it doesn’t quite fit the Pooh based themes?  Yeah, that probably…

In honour of this occasion I decided to invest in some new running socks.  I haven’t bought any in years, and mine are now thinning to the point of being dangerously close to becoming blister inducing, and/or shrunken, as let’s face it, those inov8 wool mix socks (which I love) do suffer from being bunged in the washing machine with everything else.  Bit shrunken now and past their use by date.  Anyway, nipped into Frontrunner where I found pleasingly, they had a half price sock sale, with only small sizes left.  Hurrah, these have my name on them.  I got some hill photon which are extremely pink, and proclaim to offer ‘day and night time visibility’ which personally I think is a weird USP for a sock.  I have no idea how that works or quite how it will help in an emergency situation but hopefully I’ll never find out.  They state that they have an eye catching reflective band between the shoe and running tights, maybe that’s what caught the eye of the low life that broke into Front Runner a few weeks back.  It makes me rage that thieves would pick on our local independent running shop AGAIN, but what is even more incomprehensible is that the shop is near a pub and it was 11.30 at night so someone must have seen something and no-one did anything.  What is wrong with people?  Still, every cloud has a silver lining.  This totally legitimises going on a sock related spending spree.  Furthermore, I would urge all runners, parkrunner and wannabe runners and active wear enthusiasts to get down to their local independent running shop and spend some money.  You aren’t being extravagant, you are showing solidarity.  It is the right thing to do!

 

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Anyway, I got my socks, and belatedly my electrolyte tablets, so that was me all sorted.  Hurrah!

I’m still puzzled over the reflective ankle stripe business and why this is an aid to safety.  Surely, that added visibility would only be a boon if I came to incorporate cartwheeling into my cross training routine and thereby brought my ankles into view.   Surely we have moved beyond the age where a finely turned ankle disported in public caused women to swoon and men to drool.  In that context I can see other people furtively keeping a look out, compulsively scanning the lower legs of all who crossed their paths, in the hope of a glimpse of such a coquettish display of shapely ankle.  That might make highlighting the ankles an effective – if risque – means of increasing a runners visibility, though I’m pretty sure running wasn’t even a thing back then.  Granted, I can’t any longer remember a time before parkrun, but I suppose there must have been, and Victorian Britain would have fallen within it.  Anyway, we’d see.  Or we’d not see.  I’d be keeping a count of how many people shaded their eyes and reeled back when my hi-vis socks blinded them as I approached though. Though I suppose it’s conceivable they’d be backing away at the very sight of me for other reasons altogether…  Nope, not going there.

 

Those are the socks.  They are very … pink!  I wonder if they’ll make me run faster* too?

Now if only I could find some mojo for actual running to go with my running related accessories my running plans for the future wouldn’t seem quite so laughable.  No chance this pic was taken at Dishley parkrun I suppose?

at last a doable pb parkrun

Nope, didn’t think so.  Are you sure though?  Looks like you run alongside water for it exactly like the course descriptor for Dishley parkrun?  Oh, you are quite, quite sure,  Thought so.  No harm asking is there…

Mind you, nightmare being the timekeeper for this one I’m guessing. That would be a looooooooot of people crossing the line all at the same time.

Whilst we are still on the subject of burglaries, yes we are, there have been a whole load down my road this week – well two.  People using a crowbar to break into the ground floor of properties at around 4.00 a.m., whilst the occupants are sleeping, help themselves to anything portable from downstairs then take car keys and car on the way out.  Nice.**  They cleared out one house, were disturbed at another and made attempts at two more.  Anyway, me and my immediate next door neighbour were discussing this recent spate of criminality and speculating on what we could do to prevent them and how we’d have reacted if we’d interrupted them mid break in. He advocates laying a lure of some sort to entrap them, and then bludgeoning the intruder(s) to death and burying  them in the back garden.  I’m not really comfortable with that, also, even though I agree we found a good spot, and lord knows the soil could do with some organic material to improve it at the back.  The problem is though, that if you conceal such a thing i.e in this instance the bloodied corpse of the miscreant,  then it doesn’t really act as any kind of a deterrent does it?  He took that on board and now favours putting their severed head on a pikestaff on the front door step instead.  Truth to tell,  I’m not sure about that either, this is after all a conservation area, planning would never allow it, also, importantly, neither of us is in possession of a pikestaff.  It’s a mine field.  Only it isn’t.   A mine field would actually work really well as a deterrent come to think of it.  Basically though, I think things need to be kept in proportion.  That’s why I applaud Dishley having stocks*** available and visible to act as a deterrent to funnel duckers located at the finish area of the event without making a big deal of it.  It wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the run briefing for example, but you get the impression it’s an unspoken given, and I’m pretty sure everyone got the general idea.  They keep them over near the Rugby Club, but I didn’t spot them til the end…  There were the scattered collapsed and deflated bodies of spent runners surrounding it.  The point was made.  Nicely understated.

 

I’m jumping ahead of myself though, back to the beginnings.  Exciting stuff, parkrun tourism, you never know what you’ll find.  New places to go, new people to see.  No end to the anticipatory joys pouring down on me this weekend which makes a pleasing change.  There was the final instalment of Simon’s Cat ‘Missing’ as well.  I’m not giving a spoiler, you’ll just have to watch them all yourself.  Blooming love Simon’s Cat, even if it is nail biting watching those animations at times.

simons cat

And so the day dawned.  7.00 a.m. rendezvous outside Smiley Selfie Queen’s residence and off we went.  There was some sort of diversion for reason or reasons unknown, so we went a back route to Dishley along roads I didn’t know existed even though they are local to me.  Yet another reason why parkrun tourism is always an adventure and a voyage of discovery to boot!

It was a really straightforward drive, clear roads and even though we missed the turn off we were aiming for we made it to the venue in exactly 70 mins.  The first surprise was that Dishley is actually a real place, not just the name of the location of the parkrun.  Who knew?  Well, people who live in Dishley possibly, but I’d never heard of it (no offence intended to the dear populace of Dishley, my bad, obviously).

The drive was a bit odd, in that you feel towards the end that you are driving through a housing estate and to a dead end.  The reason for this is that essentially you are!  Hold your nerve, and then, just as you think you are definitely lost, this vision of hi-vis loveliness appears ahead of you to guide your way! (Other hi-vis marshals are available, so can’t guarantee you will get exactly this amount of loveliness in your line of sight on arrival, but something thereabouts to greet you I’m sure).

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The take away from this is that the satnav recommended postcode works, and even though we were very early 8.10 to be precise if you couldn’t do the maths from earlier – there were already hi-vis heroes on hand to guide us in.  Very impressive.  Being a car park marshal is one of the less glamorous parkrun volunteering roles to be honest, although one up from dog poo bin monitor and I’ve done both, more than once – but here was a cheery and helpful trio in situ already, extremely impressive.  This was undoubtedly one of the best signed and most comprehensively marshalled events I’ve been to.  We were even waved into our car parking place, like ground staff do with planes landing at airports – though actually that’s  good point.  Not wishing to undermine the marshals, they were fab, but I think some flags would be a boon in helping them guide us in, or if not flags those weird batony things. You know, these ones:

ground-crew-signal-vest

Just a bit of constructive criticism for next time…

The car park, didn’t have any marked parking bays – hence the need to be guided in by ground control, but it did have deep gravel.  Very deep gravel indeed.  This was hard on the tyres and also made it very hard to creep up behind marshals unawares.  Maybe it’s a safety thing, like posh houses having gravel drives so burglars can’t approach unnoticed either.  This worked against having candid naturalistic photos, but on the plus side, these marshals were a pathologically friendly and thrillingly interactive bunch, so willingly obliged to be captured on film  Hurrah!

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We got the basic low down.  This car park, opposite the cricket pitches is about 200 yards or so from the Rugby club rendezvous point, and then the start and finish is beyond that.  Cue dithering.  Should we take cash for post parkrun refreshments or not.  What about my water bottle.  In the end we decided to just take a note / card for a drink and leave everything else in the car.  For the record, we could have just taken our backpacks and at our own risk left in the rugby club no problem.  It’s not that far to walk back, but would feel a drag to do so when you are all nice and cosy in the club house at the finish.  I do wish I’d taken my water bottle with me though – more of that later.

So, we found the exit from the car park, which was the gateway to Dishley parkrun.  Here is Smiley Selfie Queen with her eyes shut in the ecstasy of excitement at being almost in touching distance of our parkrun fix.  She’s good at taking direction. The first picture she had her arms just clamped to her sides, like she was practising the upper body rigidity stance for Irish dancing which is why I insisted she ‘just do something interesting’ which led to the more challenging bar work.  Ballet and Irish step dancing, on top of cricket and aquathlon there seem no end to her talents!  Selfie Queen is the one in the parkrun purple by the way.

 

That reminds me (‘oh good’ I can hear you say’).  I met an Irish woman on holiday once who said she was enormously proud throughout her childhood for having won a cash prize for achieving first place in an Irish dancing contest, aged about 7 I think.  This was much to the envy and amazement of all her school friends, who up until that point had doubted her talents.  Not just in Irish step dancing, but seemingly everything.  This award boosted her self-esteem and transformed her confidence with her peers and achievement in school.   It was a turning point in life.  She blossomed thereafter.  She showed them…. except that literally decades later she mentioned how this achievement had helped her so much in childhood to her mum, only to learn that she never won such a prize at all, but had confused getting birthday money on the day of the contest with having won it. The disillusion and associated devastation was absolute, even if we did all laugh til we cried as she drunkenly retold this story. Mind you, it raises a (to me) interesting point about how if a false belief helps us in hard times is that really such a bad thing?  I honestly think self-belief is a super power, we can achieve more than we know if only we aren’t held back by self doubt and fear of failure.  Also, frankly, great anecdote decades on, which is surely the main thing.  No experience in life is ever wasted, if it leads to a good story.  FACT.

Storyteller

Plus, maybe we should all learn to change the narrative in our own stories, so we talk ourselves up not down and instead of living a life half-lived in fear, start to believe we can fly, because you know what, I bet most of us can, if we dare but make the leap!  Self belief, can carry us further than we may know – or at very least, a leap of faith…

 

 

Anyway, enough of doing daring dance tributes on we went.  Although there wasn’t an actual yellow brick road (actually, that would be another constructive criticism I’d offer up as something to incorporate in future, funding permitting) the route to the start was impressively signed.  You’d really struggle to go astray here!  Loving the idea of parkrun HQ!  Excellent.

 

It wasn’t very far to walk at all, but it was a little bit twisty turny, but lots to explore en route.  Don’t go over the little bridge entirely for example, this is going the wrong way, but fun to go and have a little peek, and check out the SCARY warning signs.  Oh, and take the obligatory selfie together too.

 

Honestly, I don’t know if it is that the environs of Dishley parkrun are exceptionally dangerous, or if it’s just that they are particularly health and safety conscious folk in these parts.  But there were quite a lot of warning notices that I could have ticked off in my i-spy book of danger signs had I but thought to bring it with me.  Here are just a few to give you the gist:

 

Fortunately, it takes more than fear of death by electrocution, or drowning or being trapped in a confined space to deter a parkrun tourist.  We were made of sterner stuff than that!

Found the rugby club, which was handily signed:

 

I can report there were high quality loos, and evidence of a cafe already up and running.  There was an over powering smell of bacon cooking.  This made me heave as I’m vegetarian and it’s not my food stuff of choice, but other parkrunners would I know consider this to be an added incentive to rock up and run.  The do do veggie alternatives as well apparently, though I didn’t avail myself of these on this occasion.

The core team, and volunteers were assembling in all their cheery hi-vis glory.

 

In amongst them, we thought we espied a Dishley parkrun pop up sign.  This is like catnip for parkrun tourists, and no sooner than we’d had our precautionary pees (different cubicles, both were good) we were off in search of it.  … Much confusion.  Where was it?  Firstly though, I was distracted twofold, by the fine leggings of the tail walking two some, and their excellent backsides.  The leggings actually said ‘Smiley’ on them, and we are members of Smiley Paces running club so how cool is that!****  And check out those tails!  One of the things I particularly love about parkrun, is that it’s completely acceptable to ask to photograph someone’s backside, in fact, I’d go so far as to say I think people appreciate it when they’ve gone to some effort bottom wise, and have that recognised by other parkrun participants.  I’ve not seen such a fine display since I was at Wakefield Thornes parkrun on Star Wars day and one of the team had Star Wars themed briefs on over his leggings.  That was truly splendid indeed.  Anyway, check these rear enders out.

 

I know, marvelous!

But where was this sign.  The start was miles away, so we checked out the finish area first.  No Dishley parkrun sign.  There were some friendly marshals though, killing the time before parkrunners came through the funnel by playing a giant sized game of cat’s cradle, with mixed success it’s fair to say, but much jollity.

 

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They didn’t know anything about the Dishley sign, well they did, but just couldn’t think, maybe at the start.  We headed to the start, past the bike bay, past the sign for the first timers’ briefing point, past every last gasp sign of civilisation en route to the vast expanse of playing field ahead.

 

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Gulp, this was looking ominously like a cross country course.  Flash backs to mandatory school sports days.  Oh well, here now.  Nothing ventured.  The grounds were immaculately maintained, recently cut and verdant after recent rain, with mature trees at the boundaries.  It was pretty nice to be fair, but that cross country phobia was very present.  Eek.

Good news though, we found the start, and with it, hurrah, the Dishley parkrun sign.  This required a lot of photo taking, in all possible combinations, sign of us together, sign on its own, sign with each of us individually, selfie sign, sign and us requiring interrupting a hi-vis hero to come and photograph us – holding the phone vertically, portrait style – as that is the Smiley Selfie Queen way, she is most insistent on this point!

 

Then I went for an explore, checking out the very orderly and geometrically arranged cones.  There would be no corner cutting on this course, and Smiley Selfie Queen got simultaneous broadcasting of course directions that weren’t confusing at all, so that’s good.  I decided to outsource finding out the route to her, whilst I continued exploring.

 

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Gulp.  Definitely looking like a cross country course.  This doesn’t bode well…

Oops, hang on a minute, isn’t that the RD, coming in to land, with a megaphone as well.  And a step ladder!  He means business.  Ooh, look team of two timers too!  Not that they are two-timers, but there are two of them, timing, just to be clear.  The RD was carrying a lot of kit, quite a long way, this brings me to my next constructive suggestion, which is that this parkrun requires a parkrun packhorse, or mule, or actually, a donkey would be good, and then you could call it Donkey Oaty!  That would be hilarious, and no doubt highly original, don’t suppose anyone, anywhere, ever has thought of that stunning pun before.  I gift it to you, parkrunners of Dishley.  No don’t try to thank me, seeing Donkey Oaty in action in due course will be reward enough.   Eeyore won’t mind, he’s busy down by the river, different territory all together.  If that is a bit sensitive though, how about a yak, they are fabulous, and yet you never see them.  Could be a parkrun first.  You’re welcome.

 

The imminent arrival of the RD at the start, meant  we ought to be up at the first timers’ briefing, plus still needed to get that second pit stop in.  Busy, busy busy. It’s a mystery to me, that however early you arrive at a new parkrun, the time flies by what with having to chat to people and check it all out, an hour is quickly filled.  We scooted back up, and arrived to find the first timers’ briefing under way.  Oops,  We’d already had the course explained, so it wasn’t critical, I just felt it was a bit rude of us to have basically skipped it. Still, excitingly, we were there in time to establish there were some true first timers, people completely new to parkrun.  Sigh, I envy them in a way, all the joy of discovery that lies ahead, they can have no idea, on the cusp of new adventures their Saturdays will never be the same again.  How exciting!

 

Cool leggings again!  I’ve only ever had black, maybe I should be more adventurous.  Mind you I only replace my leggings once a decade or thereabouts, and my current ones are only 2 years old.  They seem essentially indestructible.  No wonder some of us like living in our active wear, active or not!

People were milling and chilling.  It seemed like a fair old turn out, though I forgot to check what a ‘usual’ field was.  People were mingling and chatting, and the person who was cooking up bacon in the cafe leaned out of her window with a mug of tea to join in the fun.  I really did get a sense this would be fab as your local parkrun, it felt really social, if you could get over the having to run round a grass field twice at the outset.

 

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We nipped back to powder our noses, and then had to sprint to catch up with the mass pilgrimage of people making its way to the start area.

 

Well yes, we were in a bit of a hurry, but not so much of a hurry we couldn’t stop for a photo op on the way, obvs!  We don’t always wear matching outfits by the way, that would be a bit weird, we just happened to do so today.

The sky in the photos look quite murky, but actually it was was pretty hot, humid really, too humid for me, and the sun did come out and smile on us from time to time.  There was the RD briefing at the start, complete with shout outs for milestones, volunteers and greetings for tourists including those from Sheffield ‘Oh my gawd, that’s us, they are clapping us by way of welcome, that’s so exciting‘ and further afield, Sunny Scunthorpe no less!   There weren’t that many tourists to be honest, but we all know that it’s about quality not quantity don’t we?  Those of us who were present were without exception, fabulous.  Individually as well as collectively!  🙂

 

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So course descriptor and usual stuff and then we were off!  You literally, head off around the perimeter of the big green pitches.

 

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I found this hard.  I don’t know why, but there is something about running round the outside of a field that I find challenging.  In all seriousness, I think it is to do with the ritualised humiliation of school sports days that seemed designed to celebrate the elite and shame everyone else.  I know it’s in my head, but it’s quite exposing, nowhere to hide.  On a practical note, starting the route in this way gets the – for me – grim part out of the way, and more importantly, allows the participants to spread out a bit.  Later on the course has single track sections so overtaking would be hard if not actually impossible, so best get any jostling sorted in the first half mile or so.

Cones and marshals kept us on track, and one boon of the course design is I could see faster runners streaming on ahead like lines of brightly coloured bunting fluttering in the wind.  Cue failed  attempts at arty, lovingly framed photos to capture this scene.

 

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Ok, well capture this scene -ish.  It’s the thought that counts dear reader, the thought.

Round we went, and then you come round to the bottom corner for the second time, and I coincided with the sight of the first finisher (I presume) speeding home, as I was just following the marshal’s handy directional pointing to head over the little bridge, which might be pooh stick bridge, or might not, because I got confused about where that was, and headed out alongside the water way.  The waterway is part river, part canal I think.  I got confused by it, then again, doesn’t take much!

 

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So over the little bridge, and ooh look, another marshal on hand to point you on your way.  There were a lot of marshals on this course.

 

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You are alongside water at this point, but dense vegetation means you can’t make much out.  Occasionally I’d see the bobbing head and shoulders of one of the front runners popping up above the undergrowth, but visibility wasn’t great.  You’ve seen Jurassic Parkt yes?  The bit when they are crossing the area of Long grass and the velociraptors give chase.  Like that basically.  The velociraptors aren’t wearing technical tees if that helps with identification at all.  Wait, what’s that, could it be a gruffa… no, can’t be.  What would that be doing there?

 

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The track surface was pretty firm.  After a bit, the path becomes more clearly defined and you can see the water to your left as you run out, and then there is a waterside path where faster runners are pounding along in the opposite direction having already made the turnaround, and then a hedge of sorts separating them from me on the slightly inner path.

 

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A conveniently situated marshal was on hand to keep order, but that didn’t deter me from popping out through some of the gaps in the hedge to try to photograph some of the runners coming the other way.  Wasn’t sure which was worse, to be thought to be some sort of rather ineffectual stalker, or to be thought to attempting to cut the parkrun course.  Actually, scratch that, nobody would want to be thought of as cutting any parkrun corners for sure!

 

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Yes, I  know ‘good in parts’, did you see the disappearing canal barge though!  They are speedier than you think. Nice though isn’t it.  And completely unexpected.  Apart from the midge factor it was lovely by the water, beautiful river views, with open countryside opening up beyond.  I mean, yep there were the pylons of course, but they are sort of structural, I didn’t mind them too much, it’s not like it’s virgin rainforest is it?  Risk of imminent death by electrocution if you go fishing is a bonus, leave those fish alone!

My pop up technique meant I was able to espy Smiley Selfie Queen and her new best friend running together up the path.  Nice waving there.  Good job!

 

Then, after a bit.  Surprise!  A good one.  Check this trio out!

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OK, quartet if you count the dog, which I think we should.  Best sign ever with that graphic U-turn beautifully illustrated and finely attired Pooh on hand to assist.  What a coincidence that Pooh Bear, should end up being on the rota to marshal at Pooh Corner!  What were the chances.  Also Pooh Bear was on the poo bin!  Not a strategy I’ve employed personally when charged with responsibility for the dog poo bin, but I’ll take that on board for next time and maybe give it a whirl.

Obviously, this turn of events necessitated me properly grinding to a halt and having an actual chat with the marshals.  Turns out, this is pooh corner, but there is also a pooh stick bridge (which I think I went over earlier) and still to come Tigger’s Bridge and Eeyore’s Hole.  Not sure I entirely sussed where these latter two were though, partly because I spotted neither Tigger nor Eeyore on my travels, but maybe they were busy elsewhere. Still, it’s a reason to come back again isn’t it, to spot them next time 🙂

 

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I also learned that one of the marshals had travelled to her marshal spot from her boat moored up behind her. That is super cool.  And I thought my mum had the shortest commute ever to a marshal point as she makes the jaunt from her care home to her Elisabeth’s Corner spot in Bushy Park.  I wonder what the record is.  This round was Dishley’s though.  Very impressive!

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So after we’d concluded our conversation, and I taken photos and learned more about the course, I got going again, waving at the bargees passing by, and at the tail walkers who were passing by on the other side of the hedge and on I went.

 

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There were ducks and a lovely stone bridge – one that I’d stood on earlier to take shots of Smiley Selfie Queen and then – ‘oh look, that marshal looks familiar’.  The marshal had teleported, or maybe just leapt, from one side of the hedge to the other.   Because I’d lingered for a chat, I was way behind most other runners now, so I ran this section alone. It was very tranquil, and unexpectedly lovely.   The high grasses were exceedingly picturesque, but also exceedingly hay-fever inducing, I felt quite itchy, worth it though.

 

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There was a swan with cygnets.  There was the unnerving and somewhat incongruous sound of a hunting horn… I could see the wagging of a mass of tails on the other side of the river bank, so I think they were out exercising hounds.  At some point, another runner crossed the bridge behind me.  My rational mind tells me this was a speedy runner, long since finished, going round again as a warm down lap, but it allowed me to indulge in the brief fantasy that it had taken him all that way to catch me up because I was so fast I was ON FIRE!

Oh hello.  Another marshal, another turn back, oh and more marshals, and back through the tall grass.  No need to worry about the velociraptors anymore, they’d have gorged their way through the earlier runners for sure and be sleeping it off by now.

 

There was a sign to reassure you you were going the right way, with one of those feedback things, you know where you push the relevant emoticon to indicate how you are feeling in relation to the service received.  Not seen that real time feedback innovation at a parkrun before.  Impressive.

 

So now you are turned away from the water a bit, and coming back towards the big field and the little bridge.  I hadn’t worked that out though, so was sort of caught by surprise – and experienced some degree of relief, when I re-emerged from the undergrowth into the vast expanse of newly mowed green and recognised where I was.  Hurrah!

 

Round I go, under the lovely mature willow trees, alongside the edge of the field, handling the right angle turns all coned out like a dog agility test with poise and panache, well sort of poise and panache, think puff and pant and that might be more along the right lines.  I tried not to be too discouraged by the sight of other parkrunners heading homewards, but to be fair, those I saw, paused to give me a cheer as I sprinted (cough) by.  Honestly, this was a super friendly parkrun, extremely welcoming to new faces.

 

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Then at last, there it is, the finish!  There she is, Smiley Selfie Queen, only not taking a selfie as such, but all ready to snap my sprint finish.  Wait, the finish line looked to still be a fair way off, surely I shouldn’t need to start my sprint quite this far away.  Oh no!

 

And then ‘suddenly’ all finished.  Finish token issued, barcode scanned – using a mobile phone, they are embracing new technology here.

Just time to document those marshals present for future reference (aren’t they lovely), and snap a couple more finishers sprinting in behind me:

 

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The eagle-eyed among you, will note they appear already to have a designated hay-making marshal, which means they’ve basically got everything they need in place to get that donkey sorted for next time.  It’s their first birthday soon, they could maybe celebrate with that.

This is the parkrun that just keeps giving, because pleasingly, they have a happy bell.  Not a PB bell, but a happy one.  We were happy ergo we got to ring the bell.  A lot.

 

Just time to talk token containers –

 

and then to the club house for coffee.  Also water.  Now they did have a jug, but they don’t usually provide glasses, though did when asked.  These are disposable cups though, so I did really wish I’d brought my bottle with me after all.  Coffee was mediocre and £2, but it was a social and comfy atmosphere.  Didn’t check out the food options.

 

Did check out the token sorting table though, and met a fellow cow cowl wearing tourist, from Sunny Scunthorpe.  Said I’d share the pics and say hello through t’internet so ‘hello’ and I’m waving at you!  Oh, you are waving back, that’s lovely, thank you!

 

And that was that.

We didn’t linger all that long, as we needed to get back, but we agreed on the drive home that this was an unexpectedly enjoyable jaunt out.  That’s yet another brilliant thing about parkrun, it takes you to places and introduces you to people you’d never otherwise encounter.  Everyone’s a winner.

It was hot though, and sticky.  I was very hot and sticky and not in a good way when I finished.   I mean to be fair, not the 53 degree heat and melted shoes heat of the Badwater ultramarathon say, but sticky enough for me.  Entrants who rock up to that have to run a 135-mile non-stop race over three mountain ranges in sweltering mid-summer desert heat with a vertical ascent of 13,000 feet.  And they don’t even have pooh corner with cheery marshals to help than round.  I mean imagine!  No don’t actually, you will be traumatised.  Mind you, the collapsed winner at the finish doesn’t look so very different from the collapsed parkrunners at the end of Dishley…  Pushing the notion of even type 2 fun though I’d say.  Still, mustn’t judge too harshly, who amongst us doesn’t fancy a bit of a lie down after the exertion of a busy morning at parkrun?  Quite so, point made.

 

 

So in summary, Dishley parkrun:

  • The good points include the following, which should be seen as an illustrative but not comprehensive listing: super friendly marshals, great facilities and unexpectedly gorgeous path along the waterway.
  • The ‘could have done without’: challenging for hayfever sufferers and nobody, not one person, commented on my ankles.  Gutted.  Attention grabbing reflective strips my arse!
  • Areas for improvement: suggest acquire donkey, yellow brick road and batons to aid direction of traffic, otherwise excellent – these omissions are fixable, so don’t feel bad.

In other news, it’s their first birthday on 27th July so they are having a birthday party with fancy dress, cake, spot prize bingo based on finishing position and a food bank collection.  Excellent.  What’s not to like?

Nevertheless another grand day out, so thank you Dishley parkrunners all for the warm welcome to your lovely run.  Good work people, good work indeed, spreading the parkrun love.

Bye bye.  It’s been fun, but time to move on.

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Dishley parkrun also do a run report.  Hurrah.  You can link to the one from 13 July 2019 here.

Where next I wonder.  I mean, I have to get to Tring parkrun obviously, but that’s a long way to go so a future date, and then there’s The Pastures at Alnwick, and I could start picking off some more letters for my alphabet, or the compass challenge.   So many parkruns so few Saturdays.  What to do?

Have fun til next time.  Don’t forget to watch the Dame Kelly : The Power of Parkrun on BBC in the interim.  SO EXCITED!  One of the ‘Our Lives’ series, so you’ll probably be able to find it on catch up if inexcusably and inexplicably (unless you live in Wales, poor Wales, not being shown there this time apparently – perhaps they have it on a loop on S4C instead) you missed out on the first broadcast.  Spreading the parkrun love indeed!

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Oh, and 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.

You’re welcome.  🙂

*Nope, totally didn’t do that.

**I’m being sarcastic, totally not nice.

***They might not always be available, it might have been a one off for an event happening later, but I say, why let the truth get in the way of a good story eh?

****Rhetorical question, very cool indeed!

 

 

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Finally to Fountains Abbey parkrun, pretty pleasing as a rule :) in fact – FAbbey!

Digested read: got lucky with a lift to Fountains Abbey parkrun.  O.M.G reet nice out!  Orsum. Fabbeylous actually.  Really, it was!  🙂

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Picture taken from Fountains Abbey Facebook page courtesy of Sarah Swinscoe, who not only takes a mean mid-run snap, but has a cool name too apparently!  🙂

Undigested read:

this could take a while, maybe get yourself a tankard of mead or something – failing that gin would do, unless you are reading this over breakfast before going to work, maybe not then, maybe then coffee would be best.  And if you are going for neat gin, maybe not a whole tankard, but you know what, each to their own.  I won’t judge, whatever it takes to get you through the read ahead.

Rolls up sleeves.  Here goes:

“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. For this reason the brethren should be occupied at certain times in manual labour and at other times in sacred reading.”
– From St Benedict’s Rule

As St Benedict quite literally set the rules for conduct at Fountains Abbey right at the outset, it seems only fair that anyone rocking up to the place on, oh I don’t know, let’s say a sunny Saturday morning 1,500 years later in 2019 for arguments sake, should at least pay a nod of respect to that legacy.  This can be achieved by avoiding idleness through being actively involved in parkrun, and then spending hours poring over social media posts all about it afterwards, in the spirit of ‘sacred reading’.  I reckon that has mind and body nicely covered.   And people do get most evangelical about parkrun, and rightly so, me too to be fair.  I am not alone in getting drunkenly emotional about it sometimes, how it brings people together.  All sorts of people, in all sorts of ways. Check out this octogenarian meet up at Bushy parkrun this weekend for starters.  Looks amazing, as does their celebratory cake.  Hurrah!

I know. Amazing!  Anyway, where was I, oh yes, Fountains Abbey, and filling you in on St Benedict, or ‘Big Ben’ as I shall think of him from now on.

Here he is  below, writing his rules apparently, in Latin, which isn’t massively inclusive to be fair, but I daresay he was a product of his time.  I’m sure nowadays he’d be more explicit about doing parkrun and then be pictured writing the run report afterwards (not in Latin), but here he is anyway.

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I’m glad I don’t have to write this blog post standing up, and by quill pen, that would be a bit of a palaver to be honest, but I daresay he had more self-discipline and less access to the interweb and a blogging platform, so we are all but products of our time.  Though times needn’t be what defines us as parkrunners.  No indeedy, not at all, you see, it’s not about the times necessarily at parkrun, it’s about the taking part, a run not a race and all that.   Head for a PB if you wish, or enjoy a social romp round at a more leisurely pace.  Anyways, it’s extremely hard to concentrate on running round at Fountains Abbey because the setting is distractingly spectacular and if you are me, you therefore have to stop every 20 yards or so to take a blurry photo or interact with a marshal.  These things take time.  Documenting a parkrun location like this just can’t be hurried.

I mean just look at it – this isn’t my photo to be fair, it’s one from the NT website, but you get the gist, mine are more, erm, blurred authentically atmospheric.

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Oh, am I making no sense?  That’s not a first for me.  The thing is, apparently, accordingtoWikipediasoitmustbetrue, The Rule of Saint Benedict (LatinRegula Benedicti) is a book of precepts written in 516 by Benedict of Nursia (c. AD 480–550) for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot.  Fountains Abbey is a National Trust site –  not only that, but Studley Royal park, which includes the ruins of Fountains Abbey was one of the first sites in the UK to be inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage Site listings in 1986. That’s really, really impressive.  No wonder they have a stone to that effect, even if it does say 1987 on it, and I got confused when I first saw it thinking as foundation stones go, that didn’t seem all that old for an abbey…  If I’d understood the stone correctly, that would mean the abbey was founded the same year that top film releases included Cry Freedom, The Fly and Dirty Dancing.  Now even allowing for a lack of general maintenance of the site since then, it shouldn’t really have crumbled into quite such of a ruin in the intervening years.   …. it was helpful therefore to establish indeed it hadn’t.  It had just got confirmation of its World Heritage Site status which is jolly good, and entirely different.  Chronology clarified.  Phew.

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In fact, the abbey was founded in 1132 by 13 Benedictine monks from St Mary’s in York. They’d grown fed up of the extravagant and rowdy way that the monks lived in York and so they escaped seeking to live a devout and simple lifestyle elsewhere. This was how they came to Fountains.  That’s what the NT website says anyway, so I’m guessing St Benedict didn’t deliver his rule book in person.  Not if he wrote it in 516, surely?

Incidentally, I think it a pleasing coincidence that right now, Unesco’s World Heritage Committee has been meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan to decide which sites deserve special status and protection.  How exciting. There will be new kids on the block, but just so you know, this means, Fountains Abbey ranks alongside these offerings, however, it exceeds them in respect of providing a parkrun, those other locations don’t …. yet.  It may of course only be a matter of time, but for now, Fountains Abbey is preferable as a destination of choice for a Saturday morning.  How fortuitous to me that is reachable from Sheffield if facilitated by an early start and a driver for the morning.  Yay!

 

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believe the hype!

It’s little wonder I’ve been wanting to do the parkrun here for ages, because whenever you see people’s photos of it it just looks stunning.  However, now I’ve been, I can report than not only is indeed stunning – stunning to such a degree that even the stunning photos you see don’t do it justice – but also it has a fascinating and extensive history.  You’ll have to google yourself but I will say this, according to historic uk . com Fountains Abbey:

lies along the valley of the River Skell about two miles west of Ripon. The Abbey, Britain’s largest monastic ruin, was founded in 1132 by thirteen Benedictine monks from St Mary’s Abbey in York seeking a simpler life, who later became Cistercian monks. The abbey was named Fountains Abbey because of the springs of water that existed in the area

and I have no reason to doubt any of this.  Upshot is, it provides the perfect overlap of parkrun and culture, all capped off with a particularly excellent cafe.  What’s not to like?

So back to basics, I’m ahead of myself..

My vague idea of ‘I’d really love to go to Fountains Abbey parkrun one day‘ became a more concrete plan after last week’s Round Sheffield Run.  In the post run chit chat, I bumped into some fellow Sheffield Hallam parkrunners, who are also very committed parkrun tourists who’ve ticked off a pretty phenomenal number of destinations, but crucially not as yet Fountains.  Let’s go together!  Hurrah.  It shall be so, how exciting!  Particularly for me as I’d got it into my head that Fountains Abbey is a million miles away from Sheffield, and you’d basically need to head off the Sunday before to get there in time for it the following Saturday – incidentally, that might in fact be true if you are reliant on public transport, as it doesn’t look as if there ish even a bus every day.  In fact, my fellow parkrunners were more optimistic thinking it was ‘about an hour’. Turns out we were both wrong, as it’s more like 90 mins if the roads are clear, and you aren’t as cautious as me about putting your foot down on the motorway, but you have to factor in YOU MUST NOT BE LATE.  There is a bit of a hike down to the start of this parkrun, and to avoid abusing the hospitality of the National Trust, if you ain’t within the boundary walls by 8.45, you ain’t getting in.  This may sound harsh, but having been to the event I can see why.  Also, they had a serious medical incident a while back, where paramedics were needed, and it brought home to everyone the importance of the run briefing and everyone being clued up on what to do.  Also, no late arrivals starting behind the tail walker.  Fountains Abbey parkrun have quite a good Facebook post explaining some of their course specific logistics as a pinned post.  I think it’s helpful.  Worth a gander.

Anyway, upshot was, date fixed, this was really happening BRING IT ON!

As with many parkrun adventures, this one began with an early morning start, and a trot down to my local corner supermarket, which is very fine spot indeed from which to embark on any new expedition or happening.  So it was, here I was 6.35 a.m. bright eyed and bushy tailed, all expectant and excited and on the look out for my conveyance for the morning.  Love Pops!  No wonder my eyes were popping out with excitement of it all!

It was drizzling a bit, but to be honest, I was quite relived about that, I’ve been struggling in the heat.

After a bit, good news, that’s it, that’s my conveyance coming up the road, with two cheery parkrunners within.  Soooooooooooooooooo exciting!   Even if in my excitement, I struggled to locate the door handle for the car.  Not my fault, it was all aerodynamically set in on the body work so disguised.  To gain access took a fair bit of initiative and problem solving skills on a par with completing a Rubik’s cube, which to be fair I’ve never actually achieved so let’s be a bit more realistic…. almost on a par with completing a Rubik’s cube.

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I was fully committed to getting to Fountains though, so it would take more than a hidden door handle to stop me getting in that car!  I was in, and we were on our way!

It was indeed an ok drive to get there, especially as I didn’t have the angst of actually driving.  The roads were clear, satnav took us to our destination, waving at Temple Newsam parkrun vaguely over the horizon as we passed it (sort of) en route.

And we arrived, at the deserted car park, around 8.15 I think.  The only problem was, because we were indeed pretty early – which is still waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay preferable to being even an eeny teeny bit late – there was no other sign of parkrun life. Also, the car parking area is sort of tastefully landscaped, which meant it was unexpectedly confusing about where you should park, it had lots of side parks, and the signage was tasteful and discrete so it took a little while to decide where to pull up and fathom what direction to head in.  The car park looks like this by the way, in winter – picture is from the handy Fountains Abbey parkrun pictorial guide.  In fact, I might nick some of their other pics, as they fill in the gaps in my own record very nicely.  🙂

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After a couple of strategic circuits, trying to find other life forms and the best place to park, we pulled up near to someone else who was heaving on trainers, and then followed signs to the visitors’ centre.  It wasn’t very far, nor was it too much of a navigational challenge on account of the fact the visitors centre is ENORMOUS!

It was all VERY exciting.  Such amazing facilities, a huge cafe, loos, indoor and outdoor seating areas, fab views, a gift shop and…. most importantly of all loos.  I say loos, but honestly, what loos were these?  Pretty much a destination in their own right I’d say.  Never seen anything like it, and I’ve seen the loos at Osterley parkrun, which have their own topiary lining the path on the way in:

Now my regular reader will know that I do like to be able to avail myself of a precautionary pee pre parkrun, never more so than when undertaking parkrun tourism, when you arrive full-bladdered after a long journey.  Well, what can I say about the Fountains Abbey loos?  Not only were they present – always a boon – but they were hi-tech to such a degree that the sinks had instructions on them so the user would know how to operate them.  I know!  I’m not even exaggerating for comedic effect.  These were space age, sleek, immaculately clean and ‘touch free’ steel and white porcelain designs.  I mean just look on in wonder:

 

And it wasn’t just me who was amazed and impressed in equal measure.  Emerging from our respective ablutions, newly arrived runners remarked to one another with wonderment about what they had just seen.  Who knew that posh toiletry fittings could be such an ice breaker, way more user friendly than the Monty Python’s Big Red Book chocolate box selections which it is true would break the ice at parties, but was not to everyone’s taste.  Take for example ‘Spring Surprise’, chocolate wrapped around two stainless steel bolts that “spring out and plunge straight through both [of the victim’s] cheeks”.  Would certainly get people talking, but also create an awkward health and safety issue which would have to be resolved before parkrun got under way.

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As if the delights of the toilets wasn’t enough, there were more big reveals still to come.  Specifically, after the devastating discovery that there was a  disappointing lack of perennials available for purchase at last weekend’s otherwise excellent Round Sheffield Run, I am pleased to report dear reader, that here the Fountains Abbey parkrun venue offered up an excellent selection of plants – not only for borders, but for complete garden redesign.  Hurrah.  Told you it would be a good move to have this offer at the RSR next year.  I mean just look, and this was just our fly-by observations en route to the start!

 

This kept us entertained for a bit, just browsing… for now but anyone from Sheffield could tell you that those Monday Mobsters know their onions.  She’ll be back if there’s a bargain to be bagged!

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and then we saw a sign pointing towards the start area, and espied a teasing glimpse of the horizon in the distance, through a gentle swishing screen of tall grasses.  O.M.G it was just so picturesque, if you haven’t been there yet, you’ll have no idea. Just go!

Now there was a dilemma.  We were still a good half hour early, but it takes 15 mins to get to start (ish) but I was thinking I might need a second pee before taking to the trail.  Well, the early start necessitated extra caffeine, and I hadn’t fully thought through the consequences of that.  But as we hadn’t been before didn’t want to cut it too fine trying to locate the start. What to do?  Well dear reader, I can report that as if by magic a cheery hi-vis hero appeared to save the day.  Not only did he give instructions to the start – which were quite complicated to be fair, but actually just follow the signs/ everyone else, but also he informed us there were more loos at the start!  This is the parkrun that just keeps on giving.  Stress alleviated, we could march on with confidence and without tena ladies.  Hurrah!  What a nice man.  You can just make out the abbey in the middle, but it sort of blends into the tree line.  Think of my photos as being about giving the gist of the occasion, a teaser to make you go find out for yourself, that way you will have managed your expectations and I can cease being embarrassed about my ineptitude with a camera and concentrate on being embarrassed about my ineptitude as a runner which frankly is quite time consuming enough!

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Thank you nice marshal.  He even took a team photo for us.  I think this is the only one that captures us all together, looking individually and collectively gorgeous I’m sure you’ll agree.

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so next mission, was to walk down to the start. Even this was lovely.  It was like a little treasure trail of discoveries.  Fantastic views, educational displays, interactions with other massing parkrunners, lots of wool – the only disappointment is that parkrunners were explicitly warned off the adventure playground prior to 10 a.m. which was a shame, as it looked extremely enticing!  Enjoy the smorgasbord of photos documenting our walk below:

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It isn’t massively far, but you do need a good 15 minutes because if you are newcomer you will definitely be distracted by the sights and delights on the way down.  You have to inspect the wicker monk for example, and spot the real hen alongside the model ones.  These things take time.

When you arrive though, wow.  I thought nothing was going to top the loos, but I was wrong.  It’s gorgeous, and we’d only seen a glimpse of what was to unfold.

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Once you reach the path at the abbey, you can spot the assembling volunteers, and a steady stream of runners coming to the start area.  I went for a mini explore, and can confirm there are indeed more toilets in this area, but also ruins, and views and places to go and people to see and also a random ladder on a path – in situ for the RD briefing, but I still couldn’t see that, but minor point.  Amongst the parkrunners was one adorned with a bespoke sash to mark the occasion of a both a birthday and a fiftieth run.  Nice planning there, well done.  I asked about a bag drop, and basically there is a handy ruin where you can stash things.  Excellent.

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After a bit of milling and chilling, there was a call to move towards the start, and 400+ of us duly did.  The paths are pretty good, but they do ask you to line up in approximate finish times and have signs to help with that.  Dogs and buggies – along with accompanying responsible adults – are at the back.  There were a fair few tourists, and you could feel the frisson of  excitement as we skipped to the starting pens!  I was a bit confused by the sweatshop running club, I thought sweatshop went into administration, so not sure if that is a hangover from one of their running shops, or something else entirely…

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Astonishingly, people were pretty silent for the run briefing, huge relief.  It does my head in when people talk through that.  Volunteers were thanked, milestones celebrated and the course was explained.  Usual things.  Thanks for some donated tops worn by the volunteers, but I didn’t catch quite what they were, maybe I’ll work it out retrospectively from the pics.

Oh you want to know the course, fair do-s.  The Fountains Abbey parkrun website blah de blah describes the course thus:

Course Description

Sheltered in a secluded valley only around 3 miles south west of Ripon lies Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden; a World Heritage site and one of the most historic and beautiful places in Europe. Starting from Huby’s Tower at the Abbey, this is a 2 lap gently undulating, clockwise course run entirely on National Trust land on firm footpaths, designed to ensure no runner will be lapped. The route is marked with high vis signs. All runners should wear road shoes in all weathers; there are no muddy sections.

The first shorter lap heads past the East Lawn, around the Rustic Bridge & Half Moon pond, following the River Skell back past the Abbey, the West Lawn and Abbey tea rooms.

The second lap passes the Abbey heading left of the Rustic Bridge around the stunning Studley Royal Water Garden crossing the narrow wooden footbridge in front of the Lake and following a stunning course back towards the finish line at Robin Hood’s Well, in sight of the Abbey.

The start and finish is a 10 minute walk from the Fountains Abbey visitor car park, cafe and toilet facilities.

and it looks like this:

 

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Which personally, I think looks a bit like a child’s scooter, but that is probably just me.  Not necessarily a pink one, but definitely that silhouette…

So that’s the theory, all well and good, but what about in practice eh?

Well, when the call for ‘off’ went out, there was the familiar ripple of movements as runners started rolling forwards. I was positioned pretty much at the back, so it took a little while to get going, but what really delayed me was having to dive to the side every few seconds to capture yet another shot of yet another view, that and to thank all the marshals, which I do endeavour to do wherever possible.  I found the marshals really friendly and encouraging, by which I mean most were game for posing for a shot in between clapping enthusiastically and expert directional pointing.  They were pros for sure.

The first part of the route takes you directly alongside the ruins

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The path seemed to me to be pretty wide, and runners courteous.   The team do warn of congestion at certain points on the course namely the rustic bridge corner for lap one and the narrow – single track only – wooden bridge that you encounter on lap two.  Where I was, it was fine, I suppose faster runners might have to be more aware of one another where the corner is sharp and the paths suddenly narrow, but it’s a run not a race after all, so I like to think common sense would prevail.

After the abbey, the route opens up and it’s lovely grassland, with an artificial waterway separating you from the speedier runners heading back on the loop the other way.  I did try for some arty distance shots, but my camera isn’t really up to it, but maybe if you squint, you’ll get the idea, and remember people, it’s the thought that counts.

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Lovely marshals, some in pairs, they looked like they were having a lot of fun.  The nice thing about a two lap course, is that you get to meet them all again.  Yay!

Couple of things you should look out for in the photo montage below.  Firstly, note the exquisitely even spone casing, sorry cone spacing skills of one marshal.  Nice work.  Don’t be fooled by the jauntily jolly smiley marshal shooing you round the lake, he pulls a bit of a trick on lap two.  Nearly caught me out, but I’ve spotted marshals teleporting round courses before, didn’t fool me.  Also note the fabulous reflection shots that show so much promise and deliver so much disappointment.  Reference earlier comment about it being the thought that counts.  Also, note how the sun has come out, just to sparkle more vividly on the water and pick out the stone ruins and green trees in all their detailed loveliness.  Told you it was a nice one.

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I was dropping further and further back down the field on account of my stop start approach.  I might have been able to pass it off as interval training to the untrained eye, but most eyes were trained and not to be fooled.  My favourite marshals today though – I know you shouldn’t really have them, but well, I couldn’t help it – pointed out that as course photographer I had a busy and important role to fulfil so it was inevitable my times would be compromised.  I mean, really, I was martyring myself by so sacrificing my run!  Well, she may not of actually said that in so many words, but I’m pretty sure that was the gist of it.

As I looped round the back, I found myself leapfrogging the same few runners.  Specifically, this awesome twosome.   As they passed marshals, and indeed a few other runners, people were asking ‘where’s the carrot?’  Hmm, puzzling.  Less puzzling once I’d used my Sherlockesque detective skills and found an earlier photo on the Fountains Abbey Facebook page.  I can’t entirely account for the choice or reason for this particular companion vegetable being carried en route, but I think a bit of mystery makes the world a better and more interesting place.  Great running though, and great company too!  Well it was for me anyway, I daresay you may have preferred a cuddly root vegetable, but glad you made the best of the situation in which you found yourselves!

As I was coming towards the end of the first lap, I could now see the runners looping round on the opposite side of the waterway again.  It was again a lovely sight, but oh so hard to capture on film.

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I have a renewed respect for those wildlife photographers who get stunning action shots of wildebeest on migration taken from a fair distance away.  Honestly, it’s way harder than you might imagine.  Mind you, if you were a ‘proper’ photographer, and got yourself down to this course you’d have an absolute field day, so much to see and so many brilliant spots to position yourself in.  Never mind feeling spoilt by an ambassador breaking open the Ferrero Rocher for a photographer, here you would rewrite the rule book about what it means to feel truly indulged!  Well probably, I’m not a photographer, I wouldn’t know, maybe you’d rather a challenge.  In which case, many congratulations for securing the gig for The M1 Appreciation Course.

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Also as you reach the end of the first lap, well if you are towards the rear of the field anyway, you get to see the marshals repositioning themselves for the finish tunnel and token scanning roles.  This is an event that has a lot of marshals, but they all seemed to be having a good time together, I get the impression if it was your local event you could join the volunteer team and get a warm welcome and feel part of it all quite quickly.  Oh, and hello, here is our friendly marshal from the gateway at the top earlier, also teleported down.  Hurrah.  I particularly enjoyed the guard of honour applauding in unison as I passed, but fine use of bright yellow flexi tubs being brought into operation.  As to for what purpose, all would be revealed later.

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So you loopity loop round and back to where you started from, and round you go again – now I could STILL see the faster runners, this time queuing up in the finish tunnel.  I reckon that cheery looking marshal was actually quite feisty, her smiling demeanour a cover for how she might turn were you to break ranks and sprint in a straight line to the finish, splashing through the gently trickling water feature as you did so.   She’d outrun you for sure.  Not to be under-estimated these marshals.

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You need to note that that the second loop is different, you go beyond the rustic bridge, finding the marshal has cunningly repositioned himself, almost brazen about it he was:

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So onward you go, no rushing across the rustic bridge this time, and lo!  You start to espy all these amazing – if slightly risque statues in amongst the water gardens.

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It was like being in a novel or on a film set or something. Actually, you probably are in a film set, I can’t imagine this hasn’t been the backdrop for plenty of costume dramas in its time, it’s begging for it.  What exactly are that naked couple doing, trying to recreate the scene in Dirty Dancing where they were practising in the water perhaps, but caught before they’d actually perfected the lift?  Yep,  that does seem the most likely explanation to be fair.  I mean look closely –

I have a point do I not?  Rhetorical question, I totally do!  I rest my case.

Did you know there is actually a Dirty Dancing Festival where they recreate the lifts amongst other pointless activities. I never really got that film to be honest, I was more a Fly person.  Not actually a fly person as in part fly part person, but as in liking that film The Fly better. It was partly a Jeff Goldblum thing if I’m completely honest.   This is a famous fly person though, George Brossard  sticking up for insects everywhere.

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so you romp on round, knowing, that at any minute you’ll finally get to run on to the MUCH EXCITEMENT little wooden bridge, that definitely has trolls underneath it. It must do, otherwise why would they marshal it so thoroughly and get you to keep in single file.  It’s because that minimises the number of people on the bridge at all times, so if the trolls should strike, you limit the numbers affected.  A bit of collateral damage perhaps, a few parkrunners lost en route, but a risk well worth taking for such a fun and iconic pathway.  It couldn’t have been lovelier, bright sunshine reflecting on the water, low flying swans gliding over head.  Marvellous.

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I wanted to get some arty shots of some other runners behind me crossing the bridge – obviously, I had mixed feelings about what I’d do if a troll came out to grab them whilst I was shooting – exactly the complex sea of emotions a wildlife photographer has to navigate when his migrating wildebeest negotiate a river crossing and some will get snatched by crocodiles, awful shame obvs, but great photo.  No trolls emerged this time though.  Took a while for the runners to cross.  I spoke to them later.  They weren’t hesitating because of troll watch, but because they’d seen me lining up my shot and didn’t want to spoil my landscape picture.  Very thoughtful!

Not too far to the finish now, but you have to drag yourself away from an astonishing statue of Neptune, I presume.  And check out the adornments on the folly – if it is a folly, it might be a building with a purpose, I have no idea.

those marshals can’t be expected to wave and high-five themselves now can they?  Hang on, haven’t I seen that teleporting marshal somewhere before?

DSCF2316.jpgand that most excellent view is calling you round, whilst behind you are photogenic runners giving their all.  Incidentally, I have the photos in higher resolution if anyone wants them, get in touch.  Or if you don’t want them in this post let me know and I can remove them. We will still have our memories.

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and then ‘suddenly’ there they all at the finish, to cheer you in!

It’s a great welcome through the finish funnel, but slightly odd in that because it’s a narrow spot, they encourage other runners to move on through and place the barscanners a hundred metres or so ahead.  Then you are on track to get back to the cafe, and parkrunners are, for the most part, to just keep on going once they can smell the coffee.  This means it’s a warm welcome from the core team, but not a place where you’d be encouraged to wait to cheer in your friends as I suppose it has the potential to get crowded.

No matter, have token, will scan:

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and then a lovely scenic wander back round to the start, where, if like me you have running buddies with you, there can be a grand reunion, before plodding back up the hill and to the cafe.  One of our group, see if you can guess who he it was, strode on a considerable distance ahead.  It’s just his their thing apparently. Good to know.  Maybe it’s like the royal family, you know, apparently they never risking travelling on the same plane together, you know, just in case.  Best not to be in the vicinity of your other half when on manoeuvres, you know, just in case!  🙂

Hilarious.

I thought so.

Mind you, it’s been said before, I can be all too easily entertained.  There are worse qualities to own in life surely.

I’d taken so long to get round, my buddies were having a lie down and a power nap by the time I got back to them, but they were roused on my return.  Our walk up the hill was interrupted by having to pose with wicker sculptures, you’ll do the same when your time comes.  It’s actually compulsory I think, for first timers anyway.

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There is also a picture of me, having a cuddle with a pig, because they are my favourite animal.  Well warthogs more specifically, but I’ll settle for a pig.  However, I have exercised editorial control over that snap for now.  Did you know that if you scratch a warthog on its chest, it makes the hairs on its back stand on end.  A tame one that is, I’m not sure a wild one would be quite so impressed.  Love a warthog.  Sigh.  Happy days.  Here is an actual warthog giving a proper cuddle, way better than a wicker pig.

Still no point in being nostalgic for pig encounters, time to focus on the cafe.  En route we passed a wedding party with huge hats and morning suits coming down the other way.  I suddenly felt very under dressed!  Apparently last week, a bride and entourage did parkrun pre their wedding at Fountains.  Hang on, let me see if I can find a pic.

There you go – taken from Fountains Abbey parkrun Facebook page photos.  I’m sure they won’t mind.  Looks like they both picked nice days for a white wedding.

Into the cafe.  Now, I thought the loos were good, but the cafe was grand too.  Spacious, not too noisy, and with ‘usual’ National Trust fare.  I was a bit discombobulated by finding not one but two queues, one very much longer than the other, but the short queue didn’t seem to have any cheese scones left, which every National Trust cafe user must appreciate is the food of choice.  Amusingly for me – but we’ve already established that doesn’t take much – the couple behind me in the queue were having exactly the same dilemma.  We all went to the long queue, but then joked – with slight tension – about what we’d do if we all got to the front and found only one left.  OH NO!

Fortunately dear reader, that eventuality did not come to pass, so all’s well that ends well.   There follow mandatory cafe shots:

We debated about where the cafe sat in our top ten of post parkrun eateries, and it’s definitely a contender for first place.  Spacious, clean, surprisingly not too expensive, and, not noisy either.  Also huge outdoor space for post parkrun lingering and putting the world to rights in the summer.  For general ambience, one of the best, for me, I’d have liked to have seen some more imaginative veggie breakfast options.  Pom in Sheffield a veggie/vegan cafe is the best for actual food, though not for comfort.  This place was excellent though

Only when we left, saying farewell to the token sorters, did we realise we’d missed out on the nibble and scribble option.  Never mind, next time eh, next time?  Hang on a parkrun minute – I’m sure I’ve seen that token sorter somewhere before…

We didn’t miss out on the shop stop though.  Browsing blooms and books with enthusiasm.  Wish I’d bought some basil now, bargain at £1 a pot.