Monthly Archives: August 2019

Checking out the sea at Clifton parkrun.

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Clifton parkrun, Nottingham.  Sixth of the seven seas.  Result.

Undigested read:

I was contemplating going to Clifton parkrun anyway, it’s not too far away from Sheffield, and will nab me a sixth of my seven needed cs for the much coveted pirates badge.  I hadn’t particularly prioritised coming here, but was given a timely nudge by a recent parkrun blog post on alphabeteering challenges.  They featured Clifton parkrun as their possible ‘c’ to seize (c what I did there?  I know, genius!)  They pointed out:

Clifton parkrun in Nottingham is definitely one for you to ‘C’ – see what we did there? Clifton is a relative newcomer to the parkrun family having launched in January 2018 and involves two laps of the playing fields, followed by one shorter lap.

It’s already proved popular with the local community; in just seven months, almost 1,000 different women, men, girls and boys have had their barcodes scanned at Clifton!

Fair do’s.  I’ll go there then.  Never sure where / whether to put the apostrophe in fair do’s, I mean you can’t write it ‘does’ because that’s the wrong word entirely, whether as a plural of rabbits or referring to third person singular present of ‘do’. Nightmare, hope the grammar police are having a day off…

The other important factor about Clifton parkrun is that it is in Clifton Park Nottingham, not Clifton Park, Rotherham, although it wouldn’t be a disaster to go there by accident as they do in fact have a very nice parkrun there, but it’s Rotherham parkrun, so it wouldn’t be a ‘c’ (disappointing potentially for budding pirates) but would be a potential ‘r’ (cheering for budding pirates currently without an arrrrrrrrrrrrrrr).   Such is the yin and yan of parkrun life.  In fact, Rotherham parkrun may well have been where I got my arrrrrrr, now I come to think of it, although I have a feeling I wasn’t particularly chasing running challenges back then.  Those were simpler times perhaps, though I wouldn’t change a thing…  Or did I get it at Rother Valley parkrun?  Can’t remember and can’t be bothered to check the chronology.  Rotherham parkrun has better coffee and a museum on site though, and fits the Clifton park link best, so let’s go with that for the purposes of the narrative.   Sometimes you shouldn’t let absolute truth get in the way of a good story, or even, as in this case, a fairly mediocre one.  Where’s the harm after all?  There’s also Clifton Park in Bristol, but that doesn’t have a parkrun as far as I can tell so no point at all in a parkrunner to rocking up there for 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, that way disappointment lies.

You may think I’m banging on about all these many and varied Clifton locations at boring length simply stating the obvious, i.e. check out your parkrun destination prior to departure, but confusion can occur dear reader, although the truly dedicated will ride this out.  Did you not hear about the parkrun volunteer, Ian Guest,  who

had intended to help at a run in Clifton Park, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, on Saturday morning.  But on Friday evening he realised he had signed up for the run in Clifton, Nottingham, 37 miles (60km) away.  Despite his error – and thoughts of backing out – he made it to the race after an early morning bike ride to his local train station.

So there you have it, Ian Guest, parkrun hero, though you have to hope not a travel planner adviser by profession.  He got his 15 minutes of fame and immortality in the parkrun annals of history, so not an altogether bad outcome there.  High five to him all the same.  Respect!  #loveparkrun #parkrunhero

I don’t really know how hashtags work to be honest, but that seems fair… 🙂

Ian Guest parkrun hero

So, I’d be going to Clifton parkrun, though not by bike.  Best check out what to expect from the course then, now I know where I’m heading.  Well, the Clifton parkrun, Nottingham, official website course blah de blah describes it thus:

Course Description
The start and finish are located behind the pavilion building and are a short walk from the car park. The course follows the perimeter of two Clifton playing fields and alongside Fairham Brook. The route is run mainly on grass and consists of two full anticlockwise laps of the perimeter and a further short lap of part of the large playing field.

Oh crap, ‘mainly on grass’ I shall have to steal myself for that – but on the plus side, an on site coffee option, not seen one of them in the last few weeks.

and the course looks like this – sort of Marge Simpson in profile if you squint a bit and get the angle right.

 

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Can you see, her hair, her head and maybe her shoulders, it’s not an exact science I admit, but have a go.  It’s partly the blue outline I concede.  Still can’t see?  Have you heard of aphantasia ?  No reason, just asking.

Stalking the Clifton parkrun Facebook page in advance, I can’t help but note there is a distinct lack of Hawaiian shirts (not good), but a lot of shout outs for milestones and interesting links posted (good).  Yep, this will be a grand destination.  There are some fab photos of running across a bridge which seems to be shaded by some glorious trees, that’s good, oh, and quite a lot of what looks suspiciously like a sports field.  Hang on, I need to check average times now.  Please let this be one that welcomes slower participants…  OK, just checked, not going to lie, bit worried about this.  It has quite a teeny turn out, between 50-70 each week, and although of course it will be ‘inclusive’ as all parkruns are, there aren’t enough regular participants to make me confident that there’ll be a cohort of others at my pace.  Gulp.  Oh well, I’m committed now.  What is it they say, feel the fear and do it anyway.  As long as there’s an amusing anecdote in it further down the line and access to a post parkrun coffee it’ll be fine.  At least there’ll be less pressure on parking and a shorter queue at the cafe.  …  Eeek.

The day dawned, and off I went.  No offence to Nottingham, but I’m really over the roundabouts now. There are a crazy amount of them en route, and I don’t find it a very nice drive, the road layouts are to me confusing, and there seem to be endless fly overs and re-routing.  I don’t particularly like driving anyway.  I did notice I went down remembrance road at one point, handy reminder for #dfyb (don’t forget your barcode) although it would have been a bit late for me by that point if I had forgotten.  Don’t worry dear reader, I have loads of them, spares in the car, in various bags, my back pack and I wear the wrist band anyway.  I have yet to experience the catastrophe of forgetting it, but I daresay it wil happen one day.  When it does, I’ll have to pretend to make light of it, after all, you can still participate without it, but inside a little bit of me would die.  Brave face outside, heartbroken within.  I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s true, why else are there all those parkrun themed memes?

Precisely.

Anyway, I was ok in that respect, and following my satnav nicely.  The annoying satnav voice confidently announced I’d reached my destination in due course.  Oh.

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Unfortunately I clearly had not.  I drove on a bit though, and big relief, just a little further on, a humungous parkrun banner adorned Clifton Park.  Phew, I was in the right place.  All good!

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The sign was not only reassuring, because it meant I was in the right place, but it is welcoming too.  It has the strap line walk/ jog/ run.  Inclusive.

The sun was out, the park deserted, I went to explore.

The most immediately striking unexpected thing at this parkrun, was the presence of poultry.  No really.  I arrived, parked up, and then it was a case of ‘oooh, what strange sound is this?’  A rooster, sorry, that’s American isn’t it?  Of course I mean a cockerel.  How cool is that, definitely the calming morning sounds of hens waking up and scratching about.  Further investigation revealed, or at least strongly suggested, the park is adjacent to some allotments, hence hens.  I do like hens.  I think that’s quite a fine USP for a parkrun location.  Not as classy as having a parkrun peacock I suppose, I bet there’s a parkrun somewhere that has one, though admit I don’t know where for sure. There is a parkrun in Australia that has it’s own emu, Fluffy, Nambour parkrun.  On reflection, I think an emu would be better than a peacock.  Don’t get me wrong, peacocks look amazing, but they are scavengers.  I spent some time working overseas, and have never quite got over the shock and repulsion of seeing a group of peacocks – what is the collective noun for them – oooh, found it an ostentation of peacocks (great choice of collective noun)  scavenging and squabbling over the putrefying carcass of a long dead donkey, picking maggots out of it’s liquefying eye sockets.  Couldn’t see them in quite the same light thereafter, even if I do fully appreciate that is a useful ecological function!  Shudder, the very thought makes me heave.  Lets have a lovely picture of fluffy obliging with a parkrun pic pose instead – personally I wouldn’t stand quite that close to him/her, but not my call!  I’d certainly be stopping to take pictures of Fluffy en route though, mind you, I have been known to stop and take photos of almost anything on parkrun routes, if the mood takes me.

A morning cluck of awakening hens, punctuated with a cock crow on arrival was a new and pleasing parkrun experience for me.  Of course, one must always be prepared for the unexpected at parkrun.  Not as unexpected as inadvertently landing on a shark whilst out surfing say – which has happened, but things that aren’t quite the norm based on your previous parkrun experiences.  Having said that, I have seen a volunteer eaten by a shark at Graves junior parkrun so it could happen again elsewhere I suppose…  Mr Blobby was scarier though, and more unexpected another time.  About the shark thing though, I thought the guy was just leading the warm up at juniors, but on reflection, I wonder if he was actually trying to escape.  Maybe with the benefit of hindsight we should have assisted.  Oh well.  Life and learn. You can also be swallowed by hippos apparently. That’s happened too.  Be careful out there.

I love that all parkruns are the same but different, and have twists on familiar themes.  For example, did you know that Bedworth parkrun had a guest artist at their parkrun this week, who did sketches in real time (a bit like a court reporter artist but without the suspicion around criminal intent with respect to those attending) and got a photographer’s credit from Bedworth parkrun for doing so.  Her pictures are epic!  Love these, so wish I could do something like that.

Anyway, I may be going a tad off topic here, back to Clifton parkrun, Nottingham.  As well as the pleasing (and soothing) presence of hens, there was ample free parking, and an old-style municipal pavilion. Actually, not old style, but actually from the olden days of my more extreme youth.  Any number of similarly designed building would have popped up at playing fields back in the day.  I couldn’t decide if this made me nostalgic or induced trauma, hard to tell the difference sometimes.  The building was old but well maintained and excellent facilities.  I can report bicycle parking, loos, and an abundance of instructional signs inside and out.  This covered how to open doors, what not to do – they really don’t like ball games here, even on the tennis courts apparently which seems harsh.  There was also a warning about not over-staying or you’d be locked in the park overnight.  I was hoping very much my parkrun time would be fast enough to avoid that, but you if not, I wouldn’t be able to claim I hadn’t been warned about this eventuality in advance!

There was an excellent flower display with fine container planting in abundance.  This appeared to be a lovingly maintained outdoor and indoor space.    That was good, less good was the sight of this: 

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Yes, yes, I know it looks lovely, but it is also very definitely an expanse of sports field.  I couldn’t really grasp the run route from the course descriptor, but it did sound like you’d be running round more than once.  I suddenly felt really anxious.  There wasn’t anyone about – I was early of course – but the complete absence of anyone else suggested a small cohort of parkrunners and therefore the impossibility of getting lost in a throng.    It’s an interesting one, really huge parkruns can be over-crowded, noisy, over-whelming and a bit shovey at times, but you can be anonymous in a crowd, enjoy a mass buzz of collective enthusiasm and embrace the shared experience.  Smaller ones are often friendlier and more intimate, and generally quieter literally so less overwhelming, but you can’t just disappear into a mass of other runners.  For the first time, seeing the field, and realising ‘no-one will ever know’ I did consider bailing.  I’m not feeling great about my ‘running’ at the moment, and didn’t want to feel under pressure to be faster than I can comfortably manage.  I know this shouldn’t happen at parkrun, but it can, being a tail-walker is an art not all pull off.  The vast majority do, but as with my lamentable experiences of cross country, I’ve had appalling experiences with sweepers on organised runs (though not parkrun) which left me feeling completely crushed and humiliated and which the memories of which have never really gone away.  PE teachers and judgemental others have a lot to answer for in terms of turning plenty of people off exercise in general and running in particular.  The vitriol poured on slower runners at some organised events that should know better – fat-shaming at this year’s London Marathon for starters, is very real and heart breaking really.  That’s another reason to love parkrun, it  seeks to be inclusive for all, but unfortunately, it takes more than a few parkruns – or well over 200 in my case, to erase those negative voices that tell you you have no right to be there.  You aren’t the right shape, the right speed or have the right attitude to take up space at an activity based event.  And to be fair, the actual voices that have expressed directly to me that ‘there shouldn’t be walkers at parkrun’ even if that isn’t the official line.  Gulp, to run or not to run.

aaaargh

Well, I’m here now, it’ll still be a ‘c’ and I’ve always been conscientious if not keen.  And there is always the parkrun code – respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  It’ll be fine, probably, and even if it isn’t fine, there’s already been the calming cluck of hens by way of consolation and there may yet be an amusing anecdote in it afterwards.  Anyhow, type 2 fun is till fun right?  Just kicks in later on.  All good 🙂UK 5k parkrun Code (With Dogs) JPG

So I made my way into the pavilion for my precautionary pee.  I couldn’t initially find the loos, there was an enormous sign directing me to them, but as it was back lit by bright early morning sunshine it was in silhouette so I couldn’t see it.  A nice parkrunner not only pointed the way, but led me to them, that’s good service isn’t it.  I felt better already and was soon relieved in every sense.

There was an area set up for post parkrun tea and coffee, and volunteers were assembling.  Outside the pavilion signs were going up and parkrun paraphernalia coming out in force.  I went to explore.  I tried to get some nice unposed photos of volunteers setting up, but am conscious I make it look like I’ve taken surreptitious photos of dodgy looking characters hanging around behind the back of a hedge somewhere, near the bins.  Spoiler alert, sometimes the camera does lie.

I wandered out in the general direction of what must be the course.  Some signs were already in place, and did little to dispel my sense of confusion, though on the plus side, I was confident it would probably make sense when you were actually under way.  I found the sweet little bridge I’d seen on earlier Facebook pages, and there were some lovely mature trees around it’s true.  The grounds were immaculate, no litter, no dog poo, bright early morning sun illuminated the space, and there was a slight nip in the air and the hint of a smell of autumn, fallen leaves, that kind of thing.

There was also the dinkiest finish funnel I’ve ever seen:

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For the purposes of comparison, take a look at this pic of the finish funnel at Bushy parkrun the same weekend.  Admittedly in use, rather than standing empty in eager anticipation of the parkrunners coming through.  It’s not an entirely fair juxtaposition, but of interest I hope, like I said, parkrunning at a huge parkrun of 1400 plus is a very different proposition to one of just around 70, each have to be experienced I think to get the full parkrun picture:

31 aug 2019 finish funnel

Clifton parkrun, Nottingham, also has it’s own variation on the Nazcan lines by the way, or possibly low-budget crop circles.  Good though, shows initiative, and but a short evolution from here to the Long Man of Wilmington further down the line. Nice.  Be sure to look out for how it’s developed when you go visit as I’m sure you will one day.

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Time was moving on apace, and there still weren’t very many people around.  I went towards the few who were.  Fair play to this parkrun.  Of all the parkruns I’ve been to, and it’s not hundreds, but it is a fair few 40+ this is the most proactively friendly I’ve been to.  People approached me to say hello as I was an unknown face.  It was a little like Sheffield Castle parkrun in that respect, and that is also a smallish community based parkrun.  I suppose the good thing about smaller parkruns is they get to know their regulars, and by extension, can spot newbies and welcome them personally if they wish to do so.  I started to feel better.  Someone explained the course, acknowledging it is flat, but the grass is currently on the long side so it might be that be tougher than usual/ expected.  One of the hi-vis wearers said she’d never actually run the course – because of volunteering always, I said to be fair I wasn’t sure I’d be actually running the course today either.  Someone said I might as well seeing as I was here, and I clarified that I meant I’d be run/walking, but they were all very encouraging and reassuring about that.   No problem.  It was a personalised welcome, and it did feel very friendly, inclusive and non-judgemental.  All these things weighed very much in its favour, though it wasn’t possible to reconfigure the route so it was less reminiscent of school sports days and flashbacks to the cumulative petty humiliations of taking part in those…

The start area was a little bit away from the pavilion, so I headed down to join the gaggle of others. There were a few other tourists, including some from Colwick parkrun, where weirdly, by coincidence, I was only last week – though I suppose it’s not that weird as that’s a Nottingham based parkrun too.  This included a father/son combo, who were writing the run report, plus, I was told, and have no reason to disbelieve it, the youngest ever person to reach the 250 parkrun milestone, impressive.  This parkrun might have but a small turn out, but still could attract parkrun royalty.  This was very fine!

Because they were doing the run report, they also took some photos, I’m in one!  Though it might not be that easy to spot me, I know I’m there though, and that’s the important thing from my perspective, close second to being on Strava to believing a parkrun really happened!  (to the left, behind someone in hi-vis and mid taking a photo myself, though I can’t work out which one).

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It was good to see IKEA bags making an appearance again. They seem to be the go-to receptacle for parkruns who provide storage and/or porterage between start and finish options at many a parkrun.  I’m sure they’d be very pleased.

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There wasn’t a first timers’ briefing as such, but many first timers like me were personally greeted.  There was though a Run Directors briefing which was a breath of fresh air.  It was delivered ‘in the round’ which gave an intimate and inclusive feel to it and was listened to in ….

… you won’t believe this….

a respectful and attentive silence!

I know, a first surely.  There were milestones, welcomes, quick summary of the course basically twice past volunteer ‘mum’ (did he really say mum, I must have misheard that, my mum was at her usual corner at Bushy parkrun) with ‘mum’ on your right, and then once with her to your left. This was a course summary I could retain for the duration of the 5k run.  Result!  It was nice, just felt friendly.

I asked about any overtaking rules, because of me being slow, but it seemed to be common sense.  Hilariously two other first timers (at Clifton, not parkrun per se) seemed to think I’d be overtaking them and said just call out as I pass.  In fact we ended up sort of leap frogging one another en route, and by the end they were my new best friends (I’m waving at you now in case you are looking).  They were much photographed on the way round, but I don’t want to put those pics in just yet, you’ll have to wait with everyone else.

I say complete silence, and that is true, but in the far, far distance, some canicross runners had very excited dogs plunging about with excitement.  From above, it may well have looked like we parkrunners had been corralled by these ferocious hounds.  In fact they were friendly, just exuberant, just as many parkrun participants can be!

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Oh, there isn’t really an overtaking rule, it’s grass, so you should be able to overtake if you want to, just common sense, and that seemed to be true.  I think this could be a fast course for them as like to run fast, though potentially muddy in winter, you’d need to pick the right time of year for short grass and hard ground.

And ‘go!’

Off we went.  A shortish scamper down to the first corner, and you do indeed turn right in the direction a marshal is helpfully pointing you in.

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Granted, she doesn’t appear to be pointing in this actual pic, but she was for the most part, I must have distracted her with my paparazzi impulses.

Round the corner, and you emerge from darkness, onto another playing field, this one with goal posts, and already the field of runners is thinning out, so you can see faster parkrunners on the far side, sprinting in the opposite direction.  The grass wasn’t too long really, it was fine, there was one nice bit where I actually got to kick through some autumn leaves which I’ve not done in ages – well, for about a year to be specific, made me think I must get out and find myself a woodland run sometime soon, I just love that evocative smell of leaf mold as fallen leaves become part of their landscape.  I fully recognise this might sound weird to the uninitiated, but to those of us in the know, it’s a giddy aromatic thrill!  Plus, running through leaves is always fun.  Fact.  Here you can see some early shots of my new best friends in action. They didn’t know they were my new best friends at this point, but we did start to chit chat a bit in between leap frogging one another (not literally, disappointingly) as we shifted our positions in relation to one another.  They were even paced, whereas I kept stopping to take photos and then sprinting (cough) on again.  In my head I was sprinting, to the untrained eye it may have seemed a bit less fast, streamlined, elegant and energy efficient than the word ‘sprint’ might imply.

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After a circuit round this smaller field -smaller than the larger one you have yet to run round – you exit alongside a gorgeous willow and over the little bridge.  Lovely!  A duck to the right and you run on a path in the protective shade of a mature tree line with the big field along side.

So you are running round a field, but not on the field as such, so that’s OK.  You can see faster runners ahead and alongside again, and there is a cheery marshal to point you round and prevent you (in the nicest possible way) from making a premature beeline to the finish funnel, don’t worry though, your time will come.

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Look, there are my new best friends again – we are on waving terms by now I think.  And ahead another cheery and cheering marshal.  I made a point of thanking marshals on the first time past, as I’m never sure I’ll still be smiling on my next time through.  Don’t want to sound like your spitting out a sarcastic ‘thanks‘ through gritted teeth, that can rather kill the moment.

Round the field, and before you know it, you are alongside the finish funnel, seen from the back, where marshals are on hand observing, and obliging parkrunners by posing for photos when required.  I think it comes under the ‘any other duties‘ section of the volunteering agreement, tacitly agreed of course, but agreed nevertheless, an understanding…  Aren’t they lovely?

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Rhetorical question, of course they are!

That’s one lap down then, and then I started to be lapped by the faster runners.  All very polite though, no shoving here.

Round all over again, right at the marshal point, and look there are my besties again, ahead of me this time:

And then once again over the little bridge, and this time I emerged in time to see speedier runners coming towards the end of their parkruns.  Smiley, energetic and feeling and sharing the parkrun love.

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and round we go, past the woman guarding the finish funnel again, but still cheering encouragement, it looked like most people had finished by now.

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Round the field, wave at the marshal at the far end still clapping, and paused to take a shot of the finish funnel in action from the back:

Then round and this time you get to turn left at the marshal you pass three times – she’s clapping in this shot, told you she was encouraging every runner every time.  Ye of little faith.

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And finally back to the finish funnel guard marshal.  I nearly had a bit of a panic attack as it looked like she was going to make the runner ahead of me go round again, that would be an extra lap, if she tried that on me, well, I don’t wish to be unpleasant or unreasonable (I am those things entirely by accident) but we might have had a falling out over that.  Dear reader, crisis averted, no extra laps required, she was just making sure no corners were cut and we went the correct side of the cones, that’s fair enough, rules is rules, happy with that.

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And but a short sprint to the finish, and the warm embrace of time keepers, funnel managers, bar scanners and marshals already returned from their spots.  I paused to get a shot of the runner ahead finishing:

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This was possibly a mistake, as when I got my result I found I was but 6 seconds too slow for my last remaining stopwatch bingo time (I still need a 20), oh what might have been eh?  Still, nowt to be done about that, I suppose it will happen when it happens, perhaps never.  If it’s this hard to get a single number between 1-60, it makes you appreciate the impossibility of ever getting lucky on the national lottery say, so it is educational if frustrating to be so thwarted.  It’s been said before but I’ll say it again, parkrun is always most educational, albeit often in quite unexpected ways!

Through the funnel, token received.  A fellow parkrunner offered to take my pic in their frame.  Yay, that was brilliant.  Spoiled only marginally by the fact the photo didn’t take for some reason. I’ve had this before with people using my camera, I think the off button is too near the picture taking one.  There is also the photo of me and Geronimo with Jessica Ennis that never made it, this no-doubt brilliantly framed photo of me all glowing and gorgeous post run, expertly captured within the Clifton parkrun frame is similarly lost to posterity.  Never mind, I know I was there, and it’s the thought that counts.  It’s a training issue and my fault, should have checked.  My best friends also took advantage of the parkrun location frame whilst another parkrunner did the honours.

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Then there was the lingering, parkfaffery of watching other runners finishing behind me (there weren’t many), cheering the tail walkers in (there were many) and having a quick chat with the RD and other hi-vis heroes.

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And then that was it, parkrun over, course take down commenced

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I followed the mown path back to the pavilion, thanking the tailwalkers when some of them at least came into view.  I’m always very grateful to see tailwalkers, especially when it’s a little pair or gang of them as that suggests they are going to walk round and chat and it’s social and chilled.

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I hesitated in the pavilion, partly to admire the tiled mosaics,

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and partly because coffee was calling, but I didn’t really have time, since for the second Saturday on the trot I needed to be back in time for visitors.  Last Saturday I got stood up, was really hoping it wouldn’t happy again.  I decided I couldn’t risk being late, and scoffed a banana in the car park, noting the cheery parkrun flag that I’d missed seeing earlier – they had their own cylindrical hole in which to shove the parkrun flag, excellent, many other parkruns lack such an innovation and the placing of the parkrun flag has tested the patience and ingenuity of many otherwise calm and clever parkrunners, rarely thwarted in achieving their goals in day to day life.  Yet another reason why running can be a great leveller!

And that was finally that.  Time to be waving goodbye to Clifton pakrun, Nottingham, and heading off back to Sheffield.

Oh, and I wasn’t stood up this week, so ego salvaged, phew.  Even had time for a shower before receiving visitors.  All good.

So in conclusion, despite my considerable apprehension about this parkrun, such that were it not for the rather shallow reason that it begins with a ‘c’ I’d have given it a miss, it was in fact a really nice parkrun.  Very, very friendly and welcoming, nice and chilled and one where you would definitely make friends if it were your local.   Small, but perfectly formed, proof positive, it proof were needed, that sometimes the best things come in small packages!

My only regret is that I didn’t have time to linger for a coffee.  I’m still not entirely sold on running round fields but that’s an issue in my hear and not a fair criticism, for them as like that sort of thing, it is the sort of thing they like. Thank you lovely parkrunners of Clifton parkrun Nottingham, for welcoming me to your fine parkrun and sorting out some late summer sunshine for the occasion too!  I hope our parkrun paths may cross again in the future, until then, happy parkrunning!  🙂

Oh, and the official run report is here if you want to see another tourist perspective.  It’s an excellent report for many reasons, but particularly because it mentions tourists ‘including from Sheffield‘ and that would be me!   Who doesn’t fall for external validation.  I exist.  I was there.  As I said, excellent!

Meanwhile, back at Bushy parkrun, my mum was getting her usual chorus of good morning cheers.  I got something in my eye watching this, but you’ll probably be fine(ish).  My favourite comment on this post by the way, was from the runner who said he much enjoyed shouting out hello as he runs by, but spent several months calling ‘good morning Mary‘ before someone pointed out to him it is actually Elisabeth.  Excellent.   I love a good self-deprecating but completely relatable anecdote.

So that’s it, parkrun day all over for another week, but don’t worry, it’ll come round again before we know it.

In the meantime, you can, should you wish to do so, read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice.  Choose wisely.  🙂

If you’ve not started parkrun yet, you may be nearly 15 years late, but better late than never, find your local event here; register; print out your barcode and rock up there next parkrunday and your Saturdays will never be the same again…

but in a good way!

Just #dfyb

🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Well, aloha indeed to Colwick parkrun, which guarantees a Hawaiian welcome every time, or your money back!

Digested read: Colwick parkrun today for some tourism.  It was hot stuff.  We were transported to Hawaii.  Bagged the North Pacific too.  A good morning’s parkrun trawling.

Undigested read:

Put your feet up and get yourself a cocktail, it’s going to be a long one 🙂

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I’m still on the parkrun tourism trail for now.  Making the most of the longer summer days to go a bit further afield.  Smiley Selfie Queen suggested Colwick parkrun for this saturday.  It’s within range of Sheffield and also handily starts with a c.  This is quite brilliant for getting one sea/ c nearer to completing the Running Challenges Pirate Challenge and with it the prospect of a virtual badge only I will ever see.  Sigh, what a giddy day that will be for me, when I have sailed each of those seven seas to complement my already secured arrr!, got that eons ago at Rother Valley parkrun.   If I do Colwick parkrun, as long as I don’t forget my barcode, that treasure will be within my reach.  For the parkrunning challenges seeker, the pirates’ chest of gold manifests like this:

Pirates! – Run seven Cs and an R (say it out loud).

You can see the appeal I’m sure.

Result.  Well worth interrupting the in any case unattainable parkrun alphabet challenge for methinks.   Colwick parkrun is it seems the parkrun which just keeps on giving.  As if these twin wins of being in reasonable travelling distance and offering up a much needed ‘c’ were not enough, it had even more joys up its sleeve.  With just a tad bit of Facebook stalking on my part (don’t judge me, that is what Facebook was invented for), I discovered by happy coincidence, the very day we planned to visit was their Hawaiian shirt parkrunday.  This would involve not only the donning of optional(ish) Hawaiian shirts (the clue is in the naming of the event) but also a ‘hotly contested “Tropical Fruit PBs” ‘ contest!  I know, don’t you just love the sound of this parkrun?  Go on, add it to your ‘parkrun to do’ list  right now before you forget. I was definitely up for Hawaiian shirt wearing, and whilst I personally don’t want to introduce any element of competition with others into my own parkrun experience, I can still enjoy watching on in wonder as others find an outlet for their competitive zeal.  There is quite a backstory to this contest it seems, and fyi, because it is important, a Colwick parkrun post in the build up to this saturday’s event informed interested parties of the following context in advance of the 2019 gathering:

2017’s pineapple and fruit basket records (set by Steve Shanks and SuperKev respectively) remain unchallenged, as does Dave Greenwood’s contentious watermelon record from the same year (he dropped it en-route and it broke in half!).

Notable 2018 PBs were achieved in the following categories: physalis (Jessica Shanks), double coconut (Steve Shanks), coconut relay (Ashton mother and son), orange (Adam Akbar), pomegranate (Arry Nathan), tomato (Karen Archer, showing excellent knowledge of what constitutes a fruit. Hopefully it didn’t end up in a fruit salad), and date (Claire O’Neill).

The pineapple category was well represented last year with solo pineapple (Lisa Chan), tinned pineapple (Sam Rickett) and plastic pineapple filled with jelly babies (the hopefully DBS-checked Bernard Jarvis).

Also last year, Marlon Dunkley (double apricot) and Lou Read (single cherry) abided by the rules of the sport which stipulate that you run around with your fruit in your hand rather than in your in your stomach, and refrained from tucking in until over the finish line. This rule was less well respected by Graham Moffat and Martin Phillips which saw them downgraded from the bunched grape to the single grape category due to on-course consumption.

The Wards (father and son) dominated the citrus fruit category, and high participation was also noted in the competitive fields of banana (Rupert Killik, Evans father & son) and passionfruit (Jacqui Measures and Hannah Roberts).

I could hardly contain myself.  parkrun is a run not a race, but who wouldn’t appreciate the inclusion of a tournament with a tropical twist to further heighten the intoxicating excitement of taking part in this iconic event.  That’s the great thing about parkrun, wherever in the world you rock up on parkrunday, as long as you rock up at a parkrun venue at the appropriate time, you are guaranteed a micro-adventure that will set your pulse raising and restore your faith in the world,  Fact. wherever in the world.  If you don’t believe me, check out some of the cool dudes from last year.  This is probably happening at a parkrun near you, and if it isn’t then you yourself can make it so with some minor tweaks to your running kit.  Just do it!  Be the change you want to see in the world.  It can all start with you and your expression of your individual style through parkrun fashion.

Who wouldn’t want to parkrun party with this lot.  It was going to be epic!

And yet there is still more!  I’m not gonna lie, in my quest to sail the seven ‘c’s in order to secure the pre-requisite number of parkruns beginning with the letter c,  to add to one beginning with r and with it the coveted pirates badge, I’ve not previously paid all that much attention to which particular sea each c in seaquence was covered by each respective run.  On this occasion though, game changer.  There was no doubt about it, Colwick parkrun‘s sea has to be the North Pacific (other seas are available) as the c in question was Colwick parkrun, an they are  an Hawaiian themed event, fact.  By which I mean that today was their Hawaiian themed event.  What’s more as I can confidently report back that at 100% of the parkruns I’ve attended at Colwick parkrun everyone who was anyone was sporting a Hawaiian shirt or clutching some tropical fruit, or at the very least wearing a sunny smile, so that puts it firmly on the map as the North Pacific sea c. Look:

This exactitude pleases me. It’s the first time it’s happened.  I don’t know if it achievable at other parkruns, I’ll have to mull that over.  I mean Crosby parkrun is at the seaside I suppose, but lovely as it is, not sure the Irish Sea has entirely the same gravitas as those named in the official seven seas.  No offence meant, just speaking my mind… it had other qualities.  Bare-bottomed statues and sand and all sorts of things.  But, bottom line with respect to my Colwick parkrun expectations was that this was all very exciting!

Out of interest, can you name the seven seas? I found it harder than I thought, which is embarrassing…

Anyway, enough of pub quiz question challenges, back to my pre parkrun research, facilities looked good, there’s parking, loos, yep, that’ll do. Oh hang on, I suppose you want to know about the course.  You usually do.  Well, the course blah de blah on their official Colwick parkrun webpage describes it thus:

The parkrun course at Colwick Country Park is 5km long and is made up of 1 lap of the main lake and 2 laps of the smaller West lake. The route is mainly on informally surfaced paths combined with short road and grass sections. The run starts alongside the Colwick Adventure Centre and the west lake and follows the main path clockwise around the smaller west lake. After approximately two thirds of a lap of the lake runners split off to the left through the woods to then complete a lap of the larger main lake. Following the lakeside path clockwise, runners will reach the main entrance and fishing lodge, proceed along the straight main drive and then continue clockwise on round the south shore of the lake and past the marina. On nearing the Adventure Centre again the route will split left and complete a further whole lap of the small lake before returning to the start.

and it looks like this, which I think is a bit like a chef wearing a hat, just the head and hat bit:

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Yep, bit confused about the course descriptor, but sounding like it’s not too much repetition, and so the stars were aligning nicely, this was going to be a cool parkrun.  Spoiler alert, it wasn’t cool at all, it was actually boiling hot, hot stuff in fact, but all the better for that as you shall find out if you’ll just stop interrupting me and let me crack on with explaining it all to you.

So the day dawned, over in Colwick Country park it was looking like this – I know this, because Colwick parkrun kindly shared a couple of early morning photos later on.  Nice, eh?

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Meanwhile, back in Sheffield, I donned my Hawaiian shirt, and pink feather boa, and pink fascinator and pink leg warmers and pink fingerless gloves, as you do.  Fortunately my neighbours already regard me as eccentric, so I didn’t need to cover myself with a blanket rushing from house to car or anything.  The drive to Nottingham was OK, in a ‘ohmygawd why am I going round and round Nottingham town centre sort of way’.  There was one bit, where I followed the sat nav and honestly thought I’d ended up in a Premier Inn carpark as I trustingly followed city-link signs.  Thank goodness I don’t drive an HGV, I was having a moment of insight into why big lorries get stuck on hills or end up driving over the edge of harbour walls because of blindly falling into line with what the sat nav said.  I didn’t want to end up going viral for a sat nav fail

Amazingly, it did seem to be the right way, and, as a bonus I got a nice roundabout surprise, not quite in the same league as the centaur en route to Isabel Trail parkrun, but some very nice gee gees that from a distance really did look like they’d just strayed onto the roundabout for a bit of an early morning grazing session.

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I’ve always been a bit sniffy about the idea of a calendar featuring favourite roundabouts of the uk, but I’m beginning to think this is au contraire, a gap in the market just screaming out for an entrepreneur to make it so.  No, hang on wait, unbelievably I’m not the first, this is already a thing.  Oh well, good to know that the organisation roundabouts of Britain already exists and has a shop dealing in not just calendars, but key-fobs coasters and probably fridge magnets too.  Catering for all your British roundabout novelty gift needs, that’s Christmas sorted and we are only just at the end of summer.

roundabouts calendar

Eventually, through late summer mists, I arrived at Colwick park.  Oh wow!  This I did not expect at all.  You dodge down a seemingly urban side street and come upon this lakeside park.  It was very impressive.  I was greeted by the most friendly ambassador ever on car park shed duty.  I’d read on the Colwick Country park website that parking is £2 for the day, and assumed it was an error on the Colwick parkrun page where it said it was just £1.50 but you needed the right change.  Anyway dear reader, it turns out that it is just £1.50 as a parkrun special rate, and the reason you need the right money is because the machine is set up for £2 which is the normal charge.  This was explained to me by the nice man.  He also explained the parkrun route, the park amenities – you can do open water swimming and kayaking and water boarding – no, wait, paddle boarding, which I think is different.  There were geese, and a waterside view, and it was all looking great.  I was given directions where to go to park and generally made to feel most welcome.  I have a feeling I was amongst the first to arrive, so whether or not he was able to keep up that degree of personalised welcome for everyone who followed on after me I just don’t know, but I was impressed.  Thank you nice Colwick park car park man,

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Incidentally, it was only as I pulled away I remembered I was wearing all my Hawaiian themed regalia and he’d barely registered it, let alone remarked on it, neither of us had.  I was increasingly forming the view that the Colwick parkrunners dress in this kind of gear all the time, why wouldn’t they, when it brightens any day.   What other possible explanation could there be for his nonchalance, other than having completely desensitised to the appearance of colourfully and flamboyantly dressed parkrunners week after week.

So I trundled down the road really, really slowly past the lake and taking in the sights along the route.  A veritable mariner at one point, TOILETS – always a joy to behold in advance of any parkrun, and eventually made it to the car park.  There was lots of space, and a few people already gathering.  A few minutes later Smiley Selfie Queen appeared with her companion of choice for the morning.  It was a weird that we’d not all come together from Sheffield, but she and her running buddy are way faster than me, and were in a hurry to get away after the parkrun, so it seemed the least stressful option was to go separately, but cram in our mandatory selfie shots pre-run if possible.

Pre parkrun proper cometh parkfaff.  An important and integral part of any parkrun morning, but particularly so when touristing.  It’s a busy time, that pre-parkrun parkfaffing.  You know what I mean yes?  You aren’t sure?  Well, let’s just say that as surely as parkrun takes place on a saturday, parkfaff takes place immediately prior (and post) to it.  We all needed the loo, so there was the what to do with our water, where was the start, what are you wearing faff to be conducted and negotiated before we went in search of our pre-parkrun precautionary pees.  It was back the way we’d come.  Smart parkrunners would have parked up briefly and nipped in the loos before driving down to the start/finish area car parks.  However, on the plus side, this would mean we would be having our pees nearer in time to parkrun commencement, always an important consideration on such occasions.  Also, the walk down gave us a chance to appreciate our surroundings.  It was promising to be a bright sunshiney day, and there was a mist that gave a glorious and magical ambience to everything.  Also there was a retro playground horse.  Bit of an equine them to the morning it seems.  Well, not to the same extent as an Hawaiian theme, but I daresay you’ll catch my drift…

Toilets were adequate, but no soap in the loos and the flushes gave up pretty quickly, but hey ho, so grateful to see them they were minor inconveniences for the conveniences.

We sauntered back to the start, heartened to see other dressed up and fruit-carrying runners arriving and hi-vis volunteers striding out on course set up duties.  Exciting!

So then we followed the arrows to the start, and a colourful line up greeted us.  A huge climbing tower that reminded me of the rigging of a tall ship towered over us.  Hi-vis heroes resplendent with floral garlands milled and chilled amongst parkrunners in their Hawaiian best, clutching optional tropical fruits.  It was chatty and friendly, and well organised too.  There were boats moored up beside us, the other side of a barrier of rather marvellous bulrushes.  It definitely had a party vibe.  Oh, and it was easy to find the start from the car park, if you didn’t feel comfortable tailgating the other arriving runners, there was always the directional arrow strategically positioned to guide you.

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After roaming about a bit, gawping at the other Hawaiian shirt wearing runners (I wonder if anyone in Hawaii does actually wear shirts like these at all), it was over for the first timers’ briefing.  A few of us formed a cheery gaggle, and were given an effusive welcome – signed, FYI, to this special day.  We were told that if any of us were without suitable attire and wishing to join the fun, they had a heap of lei garlands from which we could freely borrow.  More evidence that they dress themselves up like this every week why else would you have an ikea bag full of lei as part of your mandatory parkrun kit for the core team, along with the defibrillator, hi-vis tabards and inflatable dolphin?  Well quite, I rest my case.  In any event, the point is, if for some inexplicable reason you’d embarrassed yourself by arriving garlandless, or your dog had eaten your lei, they had some stuff put aside for you specially.  A bit like wearing old sports kit in school if you forgot your PE stuff, only much more fun, much more appealing and with less congealed second hand sweat presumably.  I can’t be 100% sure about that as I didn’t make use of this resource, but I’m reasonably confident.  Anyway, sunshine is a natural disinfectant is it not?  It’d be fine.  Way better than missing out.

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The course was explained, along with the visual aid of a map.  Courses never really make sense to me until after I’ve done them.  I just logged the key bit of information ‘keep the lake to your right and you can’t go wrong‘.  Right, just keep the water to my right, that’s easy enough.   Could see the water and the boats from where we were standing.  This was going to be a breeze!  There were a fair few tourists, but a few ‘real’ first timers, so they stayed behind for an extra parkrun tutorial, whilst the rest of us continued with our parkrun milling and chilling.

Then, it was the Run Director’s briefing.  This was signed as well, which was good to see, though I do wish I’d paid more attention to what the sign was for ‘Hawaiian shirt’, bet it was something cool.  The RD took advantage of the slope to position herself and she also had a megaphone as well as some hi-vis heroes waving ‘be quiet’ paddles.

Cp quiet please

It was a cheery briefing, and reasonably attentive crowd of parkrunners which made a change.  Inevitably some background babble, but not so much I couldn’t hear what was going on.  Welcomes were given and thanks to the marshals.  There were shout outs for tourists.  Whilst having hailed from Sheffield did get a bit of a cheer, those parkrunners who’d come from Italy won that part of the day.  It seemed a really friendly parkrun, just comfy.  There were shout outs for milestones and birthdays and cake.  Instructions re fruit pbs, and best of all, a presentation to two of their very own parkrun royalty, one Roy, has his own marshal point on the course, and has been absent for a while due to illness,  He and Jacqui were warmly welcomed back with a big cheer and a presentation package, which they received wreathed in smiles as well as lei garlands.  This presentation brought a bit of a lump to my throat because my mum has Elisabeth’s corner at Bushy parkrun, and she was very ill and missed some months, but was similarly welcomed back with a cheer when well enough to do so.  She gets a Bushy parkrun run report mention most weeks which brings me joy.  I never thought she’d have made it back to her spot again, it’s great that she’s still there and part of the action week in week out.

I know how traumatic that time was for us.  I wondered what Roy and Jacqui might have been through, but know how fab it is to be restored to your parkrun family.  Families of choice are the best!  They looked happy to be welcomed home!

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Yep, I’d say the locals are friendly.  It does seem to be that folk generally are friendlier the further north you get.  Pathologically friendly sometimes, if you get lucky.  I’ve never been more grateful for anything than finally settling in Sheffield.  Yes, yes, it is a stereotype, but there is some truth in the one about it being generally friendlier up north, and although it’s perhaps pushing it to call Nottingham ‘north’, even if from a southerner’s perspective it is north of Watford Gap service station which is the generally accepted cut off for the London centric.  Personally, now I’m a Sheffielder, Nottingham is basically ‘in the south’ but I still feel they gave northerners everywhere a run for their money in terms of their friendliness quotient.  This therefore qualifies sufficiently for me to use it  as an excuse for including this video about a northerner terrifying Londoners by saying ‘hello’, because it pleases me.  My blog post, I can do what I like.  I reckon this Northerner may have been misidentified, could easily have been a Colwick parkrunner instead. I can’t be absolutely positive of course, but they do seem to be that sort of proactively friendly type that couldn’t be trusted not to make eye contact on the London tube…

parkfaff continued briefly, and I noticed others bagging parkrun selfies prior to mustering at the start line.

Right, at the start, keep the water on my right, where’s the water again – oh right, there it is with the boats:

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So why is everyone facing the wrong way apart from me?  Why am I surrounded by faster looking runners than normal?  Something just didn’t feel quiet…

Cp start line up

Dear reader, learn from me, at the start point, there is water to the right of you and water to the left.  Basically, water, water everywhere – and not a drop to drink on account of the blue-green algae – but more importantly you can’t see the actual lake at this point, because it’s obscured by a big hill with the adventure centre on top of it.  Astonishingly, rather than being the only one in the right I was completely in the wrong.  Who’d have guessed?  Confused, when the cry went up for awf, I was swept up in a stampede of runners, and in amongst them I ran too, at what was for me a fair old sprint.

Cp awf

It was all good natured which was just as well.  There was a tarmac path which most stuck too, but as soon as there was a border of grass I moved out of the way and took some photos.  Due to my misunderstanding early on, I was even ahead of Smiley Selfie Queen, so got some shots of her as she sprinted by and left me for dust, not for the first time.

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So off we went, round the little diddy lake for the first circuit, you go along an open bit, through a tree lined bit, and then there is a turn tighter than a right-angle so you get a great view faster runners streaming ahead towards what I now know to be Roy’s split.

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The marshal at the split didn’t look all that much like Roy to be fair, but they were doing their best, and even though only deputising for the main man, the high vis superstar did a great job of directionally pointing, cheering and clapping the parkrunners by.  She had big boots to fill, but was doing great.  And this was just the first lap, she had to completely reposition herself for lap two! Quite a lot of responsibility to take on here, but dear reader, spoiler alert, she totally nailed it.  Bravo!

Obviously, I had to stop to take photos along the way, if I hadn’t I’m sure I’d have pulled a sub 20, but hey ho, priorities.  It was ridiculously hot out there, and the sunlight was so bright, even though it looked gorgeous, it was quite hard to get decent shots as everything was just bleached out.  Still, you’ll get the gist.  Here is a cheering and cheery trio of marshals on a hill for example.

and on we went

resisted the urge for a quick sit-down and a picnic on a handily positioned bench

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paused to check out the bat carvery.  Not that sort of carvery, you aren’t supposed to eat them, just admire the woodcraft:

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onwards, you can definitely see the lake properly on the right now.  Follow the run signs, was that a cormorant?

Try not to heave at the stench coming from the water.  At least I hope it was coming from the water, it was either that, or a not very well concealed corpse being left to rot by the wayside.  Is that a consequence of the blue-green algae I wondered?  You know what, it looked lovely, but personally I wouldn’t want to be taking a dip in that pool of water any time soon.

Then after a bit, you emerge alongside the entrance where I met the friendly car-park attendant earlier.  More marshals, operating in pairs for safety purposes I imagine.  I don’t know if they always do this, or if it was to have a witness on hand in case of any fruit-related disputes in relation to the competition taking place.  I daresay they don’t quite have the budget for Video Assistant Referees (VARs) to cover a course of this length, and this is a practical compromise.  There was no-one else in sight when I reached this point, so I took this to mean I must be in the lead, which the marshals confirmed for me, so that’s official then.  It is of course a run not a race, but each one of us likes to have our little moment don’t we.  Like running on a travelator in empty airports so you get to feel like you can harness superhuman speed.  We’ve all done that!  Haven’t we?  Oh, so it really is just me then?  Got it.  Feel shamed.

Was fun though…

On and on, sweating more than just gently glowing by now, to the next marshal, who could rock a garland as well as an encouraging smile.

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Back to the car park, where there was both a marshal and a photographer lying in wait.  I had to focus on my ‘seen a photographer’ running pose, so didn’t take any photos of them

Then back to the start/finish area, where I realised that it was in fact only the start area.  I’d left my water bottle on the parkrun start post, thinking I could collect it at the finish, and it was there still, in glorious solitude.  It would be fine, I’d get it later.  Two notable points here, one, this is the first parkrun I’ve been to, where there are permanent wooden posts marking the start and each kilometre on route, and secondly, the finish isn’t in the same place as the start, though they aren’t that far away from one another.

Off again, just the little lap to do again now.  Finally, I understood the course descriptor.  It’s a nice course, lots to look at, friendly marshals, and almost qualifies as a single lapper in that the bit you do twice is fairly minimal, it doesn’t feel repetitious at all.  In the time it had taken me to get to this point, other events had kicked into gear.  I could hear a veritable festival going on with tents and flags and a sound system like it was a jousting tournament or something – not an authentic one granted, doubt they’d have had the same sound amplification.  I wondered briefly if all the cheering was coming from the parkun finish funnel, but it was coming from the wrong direction.   I eventually clocked them the far side of the river water.

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Jogging on, and I could hear the splash of multiple oars working in synchronised harmony.  Presumably there was a galley ship in action the other side of the reeds, which were after all extremely tall.  Can’t think of any other logical explanation, then again, I do lack imagination.  It would fit with the tall ship rigging I’d espied earlier, sticking with nautical themes I mean.

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not too many people around as I was looping the second loop.  I did swap a few words with a fellow parkrunner who wryly observed that it was just possible we were rocking more of a club Tropicana than authentic Hawaii look, she had a point.  Not sure where Hawaiian accessories sit in the casual racial stereotyping/ cultural appropriation continuum.  I like to think it’s on the harmless end of the scale, sort of the equivalent of ‘kiss me kwik’ Blackpool tat hats (other depressing seaside holiday venues are available), but maybe that’s just because I’m not sensitive to what I’m doing.  The Hawaiian tourist board certainly projects a more sophisticated seaside paradise image…  Oh well, no offence intended.  Also, Club Tropicana sounds fab!

Club-Tropicana-Square

Round you go, back to Roy’s split, where Roy’s stand-in had cleverly repositioned herself to shoo you the right way to the finish for your final (optional) sprint.  Some parkrunners were strolling home, already long finished, but they cheered me in as I ran on by.  Well I assume they were parkrunners, not just Colwick locals coincidentally out and about wearing Hawaiian shirts as well.  … though if they were, that would explain the earlier incident of apparent desensitisation to Hawaiian shirt wearing I had witnessed earlier.  Maybe it’s just what the good people of Colwick Country park do.  Like wearing a golfing jumper when playing golf, but way more expressive and fun.  If I ever find out this is an absolute truth, I’m going to start packing and planning my relocation to Colwick with immediate effect.

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And finally, as if by magic, the finish funnel appears.  Just ahead of it another parkrun photographer, on hand to snap you at the very moment of your glorious sprint finish.  The finish funnel was fab, not just inherently, because I’m always peculiarly delighted to see that, but because they’d recreated an actual Hawaiian beach there.  Not the plastic one, because that would be horrid…

plastic beach hawaii

but the one made of the stuff of tourists’ fantasies.  There was an actual dolphin, palm trees, a monkey and cocktail drinking revellers getting the party started whilst waiting for the last of us to finish.  Fab.u.lous.  Also a crocodile, they don’t mention them in the Hawaiian tourist board info, but I feel confident Colwick parkrun know what they’re doing.  The truth will out.

There was also a bell for ringing for just about reason at all, which is always welcome, and a trio of dinosaurs, because everyone knows there are always a minimum of three t-rexs at any one time on any one of the many Hawaiian beaches.

I’m glad they kept them in safe miniaturised custody here, under the supervision of the event team.  Other courses have been known to let their dinosaurs loose on the course, which sounds like a lot of paper work from a health and safety perspective, but I bet encourages people to get a bit of a wiggle on too.

junior parkrun

Desborough Green Space junior parkrun Tail Walkers, I salute you! 🦖 🦖

So time for a bit of post parkrun parkfaffery.

There was quite a party going on with cake and chatter and a lot of laughter too.  This just seemed like a parkrun where everyone was sharing the parkrun love.  Already finished parkrunners cheered in others still coming in.  Fruit accessories were compared and mutually admired.  A table groaned under goodies many and varied.  They know how to get the party started here!

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Aw, I love this parkrun.  I love the Colwick parkrun vibe!  Friends together, channelling the P S-H spirit ‘it’s all about the coffee’ not literally, but as in the meet up for a run is but a prelude to social bonding.

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It was all very heart warming, and very much in the parkrun spirit, though to be honest, I was already warm enough. Did I mention it was scorchio running in the heat, and quite uncomfortable at times.  In fact I was mafted.  Mafted is a new word I learned yesterday, and it means ‘too hot’, as in absolutely boiling hot.  Known in Hull apparently.   See, parkrun is always educational, even just reading about it.  Isn’t your life the richer for knowing that?  Unless you already knew it of course, in which case respect.  Your northern heritage can never be disputed.  I feel about being mafted, the way I do about being nesh, enlightened, now I know what the words convey, and delighted, because isn’t language a wondrous thing?  Still, we weren’t being delighted and full of wonder, we were being burned.  Still, let’s keep things in perspective.  Me being a bit burnt by the sun because I chose to sport a pink fascinator over a sensible running cap is as nothing compared the discomfort we will all feel further down the line now the rainforests are all burning down.  The phrase ‘hell in a hand cart’ springs to mind, but on the plus side, we can enjoy temporary distraction with the fine people of Colwick parkrun, Hawaii.  Try not to think about the fact the plumes of smoke can be seen from space.  You head will implode at the horror of it.  It’s going to take more than me and hopefully everyone else creating a wildlife friendly area in my garden to counteract this, though I hope people will still do what they can, at least it shows we care…

It was welcoming, but I didn’t avail myself of parkrun cakery as places to go people to see.  As I was leaving I had the privilege of meeting Colwick parkrun royalty in person.  They were on their way to join the party.

This is a happy place.  Full of inspirational people.

Other running related inspirational people are available.  Take for example Jennifer Smith.  JFDI as we say at Smiley Paces.  Anyways, she is the heaviest woman to complete a marathon, well, they say she is, I reckon there will be others who have quietly plugged away at it and achieved similar goals but without notify the Guinness Book of Records people, but I’m still going to celebrate her achievement and her tenacity, and yes, I do find such stories inspirational, She picked a multi-lap event taking place over many hours, so she could achieve her marathon distance without being timed out, this is why she has a cheer leader with her at Lap 9 of 12, with a sign to give encouragement, if not altogether practical advice.  I think it was more a question of running than swimming, but you’ll get the idea.  Bravo though, and good on ya!

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On the subject of swimming, (yes we were), maybe that was the point of the sign, and the error was in the choice of venue not the sign composition.  It was a random child, not associated with her brought into the picture, and they’d rocked up  in the wrong place, and were meaning instead to support the other super woman of the week, Sadie Davies, who has just become the first woman, and only the fourth person ever, to swim  from Hartland to Lundy Island.  Hooray for her too!  That’s 15 miles.

Sadie Davies

That’s a lot of swimming.  In a forwards direction too!  I mean, I’m brilliant at floating, my body fat comes in handy for some things, but I have more of a natural aptitude for bobbing about where the current takes me, rather than for actually progressing in the direction of my choice. I am in awe of swimmers, particularly those that take on the open water, or take up synchronised swimming.  Genius.

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But a late arrival at the run celebrants ball is this woman.  A big cheer for Karly Tardiff please, she may have a seemingly made up name that makes it seem like she sprung from the imagination of script writers for twin peaks or something, but nevertheless, she’s hardcore.  The co-leader of the Badass Lady Gang run group kicked off her wedges before taking up the chase and running down the thief who’d tried to steal her bike wheel.  High five and great kudos to her please.

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what do you mean I’ve digressed?  Surely you want to hear today’s random ‘strange but true’ feature is this, on the fierce competition to secure No.1 Customer status in a Melbourne coffee shop.  You’re welcome.  And I thought expressing loyalty with tattoos was just a parkrun rather than an espresso thing!  How little I knew…

So, the point I’m trying to make, is that there are little patches of joy in the world, you just have to keep your eyes peeled for them.  One such joyful place was Colwick parkrun earlier on today – I defy anyone to be miserable in the company of such a proliferation of Hawaiian shirts.  No wonder the mood lifted and it was party on!  That (biodegradable) confetti cannon at the end was an absolute blast!  (see what I did, hilarious).  Here are just a few of the bystanders cheering the runners through the finish tunnel at the end.  That confetti cannon was an absolute blast in every sense!

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Yep, that’s right dear reader, if you weren’t there, you missed out.  Sad but true.

And that was that.  All done and dusted, time to go home.  Just a last look at that climbing rig.  Amazing.

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It was pleasing though watching the inflatable dolphin swim by in the car park though as the volunteers too started to disperse and marine animals were presumably returned once again to their natural habitat until next year*

*You don’t seriously  believe that do you?  This ‘it’s only the once a year’ trope they were wheeling out.  There was just too much evidence to the contrary.  The parkrun man who didn’t react (like the mysterious incident of the dog in the nighttime – the dog who didn’t bark remember), the happening to have a shed load of spare garlands, the Colwick parkrunner sporting one in Canada… that’s a lot of evidence. Oh I haven’t told you about that last one yet.  Well, basically, even though they were trying to make out it’s just a once a year thing, it clearly is more of a Colwick parkrun uniform, bit like the Tralee parkrunners on tour who always sport their distinctive fluourescent TpoT beanies.  Tralee parkrunners have their bright orange hats, why shouldn’t Colwick parkrunners have their Hawaiian shirts.  Sometimes it’s good to know you belong.  And if you are dubious dear reader, well, how else can you explain the fact that one of the Colwick parkrunners on holiday in Canada was running at a parkrun over there in Hawaiian shirt and clutching a mango?  You can’t.  Exactly. I rest my case.

I don’t know why they are coy about it. It’s completely splendid, commendable, and to be celebrated.  Don’t be shy Colwick parkrun it’s your parkrun USP.  Somerdale Pavilion parkrun has its curly wurly, Woolacomb Dunes parkrun has its, erm, well dunes – the clue is in the name.

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You at Colwick parkrun however, have an aloha Hawaiian welcome and a tropical vibe that would warm the cockles of the coldest hearts at any time of year.

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Take it from me, if you are going to Colwick parkrun, put on a Hawaiian vest whatever the date, you’ll fit right in!  🙂 They’ll take you for a local, and into their hearts, or your money back.  Actually, you will get a very warm welcome whatever you rock up in, but I guarantee they will love you for ever even more ardently if you are in an Hawaiian shirt, particularly if accessorised with a flower garland and you have thought to bring along a brace of coconuts to carry with too.  Go awn, go awn, you know you want to!

So thank you lovely Colwick parkrun people, you were/ are fabulous. It was a great event and a lovely welcome too.  I’ve stolen taken some photos from your most excellent Colwick parkrun Facebook page and used them in the blog post which I hope you will see as a flattering tribute and reflection of how much I hold you in my esteem rather than crude plagiarism on my part.  Thanks in anticipation 🙂 Any objections though, please let me know!

I can’t conclude though, without giving a special shout out to this man, who the photo suggests, single-handedly correctly folded up the parkrun pop up sign.  This is basically a super power, there are very, very few people out there who have the particular mutation that allows them to perform this task.  It isn’t just a skill, it’s a miracle.  He must be some kind of savant.  Well done.  Superstar indeed!

Cp the real star ofparkrun

I wonder if he got it into its bag as well, or if he is still standing there, arms aloft in triumph still, but smile flagging a tad by now.

You can read the official Colwick parkrun run report for their 422 event here.  Think of it as a way to triangulate my version of events, and therefore legitimate parkrun related research, not unnecessary faffing at all, rather mandatory parkfaff, it is the parkrun way.

Oh wait, wait, come back!  Forgot to tell you the best bit!  When I got home and got my result it also wished me Happy parkrun Anniversary!  Yep, get that, get me, it was my parkrun birthday, that’s so exciting.  I got an Hawaiian themed birthday party courtesy of all my new best friends at Colwick parkrun!  Can’t think of a better way to have spent it. Thank you parkrunners all, for sharing the parkrun love!

happy parkrun anniversary

Happy parkrun anniversary Lucy! 🎈

Congratulations! On 2013-08-24 you took part in your first parkrun and during the past 12 months you have finished 49 parkruns, bringing your grand total to 218 completed – that’s pretty awesome! 🎉

Actually, I’ve done 219, they don’t count Hasenheide parkrun Germany one for some reason, but there’s no way I’m going to forget that adventure – that’s where I first properly encountered the TpoTs and their flourescent beanie hats, once seen, never forgotten!

By the way, if you are feeling bereft of parkrun stories right now, or just need to procrastinate a bit longer before taking the bins out or doing something about tea,  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.  Your choice.  Choose wisely.  🙂

Remember:

“The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance, and a small soy flat white.”

That’s all folks.

#loveparkrun

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Categories: parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I-catching tourism as I iccomplished Isabel Trail parkrun – Ay ay, that would be an ‘I’. A-Z challenge I’m coming to get ya!

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Isabel Trail parkrun.  It was very nice thank you for asking.

Undigested read:

That’s me, nothing if not I-catching!  See what I’ve done there, hilarious!

All a bit of a blur, as you can see.  I feel bad for saying so, but before I went to Isabel Trail parkrun to see it for myself I thought that Stafford was basically the middle of nowhere.  Now I see it is au contraire, the centre of everything, it’s all simply a question of how you choose to look at it. I will concede that sometimes the visions of loveliness that were the hi-vis heroes for the day were somewhat blurred, their busy perpetual motion meaning they were at times moving faster than the speed of light to keep the parkrun show on the road, but their cheery animated all round wonderfulness  shines through all the same I’m sure you’ll agree.  Look, aren’t they lovely?

featured image Isabel Trail parkrun

Rhetorical question, yes they are!

But I’m jumping ahead of myself, lets start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start.

start at the very beginning

Oh my gawd, those outfits are classic!  I am so going to make my own version out of repurposed curtains if a singalonga Sound of Music makes it to my neck of the woods anytime soon…  They would work as an alternative to the parkrun hi-vis too I think , certainly distinctive and hard to miss.  By logical extension the RD would have to sport the full Maria outfit, but that’d be OK, it’s not all that different from the distinctive RD outfit sported here anyway, not so much a radical departure from the norm as a welcome upgrade surely?

Practically indistinguishable.  Could catch on.

Right, stop distracting me or we’ll never get this parkrun tale related and I expect you have places to go, people to see, things to do, a life to lead even if I don’t, so let’s crack on shall we.  Agreed?

So, waking up in the small hours, it was still dark.  I lay blinking into the abyss of gloom above me and was overcome with foreboding and existential angst.  This did seem a bit desperate, setting the alarm for stupid o-clock to go to some unknown part of the world blooming miles away, where you wouldn’t know anyone, all on your own, to run a parkrun beginning with ‘i’ to get one stage nearer completing the Alphabet Challenge just to get a coveted – but pointless – virtual (i.e. not even real) running challenges badge…. eventually.  What’s more, any purist will tell you, you can’t even really do a proper alphabet, because there is no parkrun beginning with ‘x’ anywhere in the world – (Cross Flatts parkrun and Exeter Riverside / Exmouth parkruns show willing but aren’t the same) and a ‘z’ requires an excursion to either Poland or Russia.  Russia one sounds more fun to be fair – which would be a great adventure, but is pretty unlikely to occur.  What was I thinking?  The ridiculousness of it all nigh on engulfed me.  Maybe a duvet day would be a better option?

Hmm, dear reader NO IT WOULDN’T.  I did feel low, but when I fired up my laptop to check for any last minute cancellation notices by Isabel Trail parkrun on Facebook, I saw a post from a fellow parkrun tourist, who was already on a train station heading off to their faraway parkrun destination. Yay!  I’m not alone, there is a whole parallel universe of parkrun tourists, emerging from duvets, heading off into the night to board planes, trains and automobiles to join their parkruns of choice.  What’s more, a helpful exchange followed.  She was off to Newcastle, but had already done Isabel Trail, and revealed a handy top tip – the start is not easy to find apparently, but she shared an infographic photo she’d taken on the day to assist me in locating it:

infographic find the start

Ah, ok, the phrase ‘none the wiser’ sprang to mind on seeing this, I’m not gonna lie, didn’t feel fantastically enlightened, looking like a rather indistinct hedge mostly concealed by fog, but hey ho, it’s the thought that counts.  More helpfully, she said that despite having a minor panic about locating the start when she arrived, she was eventually greeted by a pink unicorn.  I’m thinking a pink unicorn would be fairly noticeable.  Also, that is grand to hear, what greater incentive could there possibly be to head out the door and make your speedy way to a parkrun than knowing that it has it’s own resident unicorn.  Other animals are also available there too apparently.  Things were looking up!  There are all sorts of reasons for choosing a particular parkrun on any given day  – since discovering Ross-on-Wye parkrun has individualised signs like this:

ross on wye parkrun sign

it’s shot up my ‘must do’ list, but the prospect of seeing a unicorn, a real one, and a pink one at that, that would be motivation for many a runner surely?

I’ve lifted other comedic sign shots from the UK parkrun tourists page, cheers for sharing people, you make the world a better place!

So I was not alone, after all what is the point of a Saturday morning if not parkrun.  Let the parkrun adventure commence!

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I’d already done a bit of research which I shall share with you.  The Isabel Trail parkrun course blah de blah  on the official parkrun website describes it thus:

The course is an out and back route on a tarmac path along the Isabel Trail. The start and finish is at the end closest to Sainsbury’s

so not overly complicated to be fair.  And it looks like this:

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It seems even if I can’t find the start, I am exceedingly unlikely to get lost on the course, unless I inadvertently take off facing in the wrong direction and there is no marshal on hand to shoo me back the right way again.  That seems pretty unlikely. At least, I hope it’s unlikely.  Running indefinitely might be a boon for the likes of Ellie Pell – who not only has one of the best names ever but just won a 50k ultra trail marathon outright – exposing the race organisers assumption that it would be a male winner.  To be fair, history suggests that has historically been the default, but times there are achanging – women distance runners are coming into their own.  Not me though, I can cover distances, but not at any pace worth making a trophy for.  Point being, if it’s all the same to everyone else, I’d prefer to be facing the right way at the start.  Here’s Ellie though, dual wreathed.  Well done.  I reckon she ought to be wearing at least one of those on her head, but I’ve not been in possession of a similar set of laurels myself before, so what do I know.  Well done though, excellent!

Ellie Pell 50 k winner

There is a bit of a worry re loos, the nearest are in Sainsbury’s 0.5 miles away according to the blah de blah, but there is a lot of pay and display parking.  Forewarned is forearmed, the precautionary pee would happen, just a matter of timing.  It’d be fine, yay!

The dawn began peeking out, and I headed out.  It wasn’t at all a bad drive from Sheffield, though it was rather long, though not as long as the parkrunner I saw recently stating they’d flown to Tasmania, Australia, purely to do a parkrun, returning the same or next day.  I’d struggle to justify that, not least, because to go all that way and not spend time in that amazing place seems criminal.  Even so, I recognise the shifting sands I inhabit, for a long time I didn’t even try the other parkruns in Sheffield because I felt if you couldn’t get to your parkrun on your own two feet, that defeated the object.  I suppose in honesty, for community, it is good to stay local, but to rediscover your running mojo and see the big wide world with serial parkrun micro adventures, parkrun tourism or voluntourism is definitely a seductive option….

One thing about the drive though.  Roundabouts.  I swear I went round every roundabout in the known universe getting to Stafford.  It was insane, there seemed to be not just a proliferation of roundabouts, but of those silly-isles type roundabouts with interconnecting ones as if the road planner was trying to create their own version of crop circles of the Nazca Lines.  Crazy.  On the plus side, towards the end of my journey one had a great big bull on it and another a huge centaur. It wasn’t a real one sadly, but a teaser for the unicorn that might be awaiting me.  Bring it on!

Yeah, yeah, they weren’t the actual roundabout signs, but I was hardly going to lean out and take pictures of the signage whilst trying to negotiate them was I?  I may live life on the knife edge with my dare devil parkrun tourism, but I’m not completely stupid.

So I arrived, the satnav took me to the car which is absolutely mahooooooooooosive.  It is split into short and long stay parking, and sort of morphs into the Sainsbury’s car park.  You can get 2 hours free parking if you spend more than £5 in Sainsbury’s and present the voucher you get with your ticket.  It is also split into flooded and non-flooded sections, which made sense of the negative reviews I’d stumbled across when I was googling Doxey Road Car park.  I never knew people felt sufficiently passionately about car parks to post reviews for them.  It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again, parkrun tourism can be very educational and mind expanding.  I have included some photos of the car park below, in case you aren’t familiar with what a car park might look like.  Also, you can see the parking lines over the humungous mound that spanned two spaces, I would not have been impressed had they been the last remaining spaces, but I couldn’t really have a rant about that in a review post, on account of the fact there were about 500 other spaces to choose from.  I paid £3 for 4 hours parking, which was more than enough, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be staying for post parkrun coffee at this stage.

On the way in, I espied a ‘caution runners’ sign, to the left of the car park entrance, and at the end of a footpath.  This made locating the parkrun pretty easy to be fair.  However, first things first, precautionary pee.  Over a little footbridge and into Sainsbury’s where there is a cafe for post parkrun dining options, and, more importantly, loos for pre-parkrun precautionary pee purposes.  Phew, was in need of them.  As you’d expect these are clean and fit for purpose, but the ladies loos have a mysterious left over bit of space next to the cubicles, like they measured the slots wrong.  It was just odd.  If you go with a friend to this parkrun, you could hide in this space and surprise them either going in or coming out of their cubicle.  Coming out would be fairer, if you jumped them going in, they’d wet themselves.  Also, best to do this if you are female and travelling with a female fellow parkrunner, a male parkrunner secreting themselves in this hidey-hole and jumping out at unsuspecting female relief takers would have a great deal of explaining to do.  And you think forgetting your barcode is the worst thing that could happen at a parkrun….  I don’t know if there is a similar use of space in the gents, didn’t check. The cafe was conveniently sited, but didn’t look all that inviting.  Still, it’s people that make a place, not their environs, so don’t be deterred!

Now I could concentrate on finding the start.  A few other parkrunners had appeared, and although many were tourists, there were sufficient locals, or people who knew where they were going, that you could just follow them.  Head to the end of the trail at the far end of the Sainsbury’s car park, hopefully, they’ll have the sign up as well, but if not, there is an information board about the trail, so head for that, then just follow the path down a couple of hundred yards.  It’s nothing like half a mile, and there is only one path to take so you’d struggle to get lost I think.

I pootled down the track, following others, and soon saw the cheery gang of hi-viz heroes busy about their work.  The RD was sporting an umbrella hat at this point, but disappointingly had removed it by the time I arrived on the scene.  There were a fair few other eyecatching ‘I’ catching tourists already there, and greetings were being exchanged and parkrun tourism tales shared.  There was no unicorn.  That was disappointing, but the warmth of the welcome more than made up for it.

Despite rain on the way down, the sun was shining, the start all set up, the parkrun buzz building up nicely.  A few innovations here of which I particularly approved.  A little pop up tent for keeping bags etc not only safe but dry and free from being peed on by territory marking dogs – or indeed other parkrunners now I come to think of it, though I like to hope think such occurrences are relatively rare, even when lack of toilet facilities necessitates wild wee improvisation.  Bottom line, it was a jolly scene.

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Isn’t that a cheery sight to behold on a Saturday morning.  I don’t know if perhaps it’s partly because it’s a relatively narrow path, so you have no choice but to mingle with other runners, but this was a noticeably friendly parkrun.  Marshals and runners seemed to know each other and, more importantly, be genuinely pleased to see one another.  This also seemed to be a truly inclusive run.  A good cross section of participants of all shapes, sizes, ages with and without buggies, dogs, children etc.  The finish times for this event ranged from 17.26 to 1.06, which I think is excellent, as it shows it is welcoming to and catering for a continuum of parkrunners.  Lately I’ve been very conscious of being a minority bringing up the rear, and although it’s true you can’t be last because of the tail walker and all of that, it is nevertheless reassuring to be part of group of slow and steadies rather than feeling like you are conspicuously slow.  Well, that’s my subjective experience anyway.  It’s just nice to feel a bit invisible.

People gathered, I made some new friends and checked out the start area.  One of my new friends is awaiting her purple tee, and we were agreeing that it is our favourite colour of the milestone tees and turns out it is her favourite colour anyway – her wedding dress was purple even, though she expressed regret that she only got to wear it the once.  Not that she was hoping to remarry, just that by convention it isn’t worn on a regular basis.  I tried to persuade her to give it a parkrun outing, it would fit right in, and be a great stand in whilst waiting for her volunteering t-shirt to arrive.  She didn’t exactly promise to do so, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before she sees the wisdom of such a clothing choice.   If not parkrun, then there’s always the Polish wedding dress run in September each year.  Another good option.  Actually, that might have just been a one off – but why let the truth get in the way of a good story eh?

Can’t see any possible down side, and it would even be a good choice for hiding blackberry stains, so a great option once they come properly into season.  Did I mention the blackberries?

There were indeed plenty of blackberries along the way – in a few weeks’ time you could gorge yourself with them along pretty much the whole route I reckon, powered by foraging.  Nice.  Kinder on the gut than sports gels too.

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It really couldn’t be much more straightforward, you do just literally run out and back along a flat, well surfaced path.  I was a bit worried that the path seemed very narrow, and I wasn’t sure how that would work with other trail users and faster runners coming back the other way.  Still, you have to have faith in the event team, I’m guessing they’d thought of this and done it a fair few times before so not my worry.  Also, I was distracted by the fine backside of the designated tail walker.

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I love the fact that you can ask to photograph someone’s bottom at parkrun and it’s considered not only acceptable but completely understandable.  Other parkrun bottoms have also been captured elsewhere this weekend, and quite right too.  Check out these offering from Chipping Sodbury parkrun apparently they have a selection from which to choose a tail for the day.  Yes, they do wear them all day, not just for the parkrun.  Well, I like to believe so anyway.

I met some voluntourists from Newcastle, at Graves junior parkrun the other day, well today actually, just got back from volunteering there and so even though I’m writing as if this is Saturday, it’s actually tomorrow Sunday now, so I’ve sort of been travelling in time.  Lord only knows when you stumbled across this.  Could be decades later for all I know, that would be really confusing.  I like to think parkrun will now exist in perpetuity so at no point will this be echoing around in cyber space and future generations are pondering ‘what is this strange parkrun phenomenon of which she speaks?’ that would be too depressing….  Anyway, hope that’s not overly confusing.  Bottom line point is, they told me that at their local junior parkrun they also have a selection of tails for the tail walker, and if a junior runner has a birthday on junior parkrun day, they get to select which tail is to be donned.  How brilliant is that?  That’s right, very brilliant indeed!  Now that’s class, right there, may it catch on everywhere.  They even have a dinosaur tail.   That would be really good…  If you can’t have an actual dinosaur, which would clearly be better still, and have the added bonus of motivating everyone to achieve a pb potentially too!  Not that everyone is necessarily after a pb, just being part of it is enough.  Having said that, I have a feeling even I’d put a wiggle on if a dinosaur was chasing me down.

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Anyway, got chatting with another runner about the it being ok to ask to photograph someone’s bottom at parkrun and how much fun the ‘anything goes’ ethos is.  It was pointed out there are other occasions when you can dress up as animals, and have fun too, but they aren’t necessarily quite so family friendly, and it may not be appropriate to take photos either.

Back to Isabel Trail parkrun.  People gathered and chatted and milled and chilled.  After a bit a call went up and a merry cohort trustingly followed the hi-viz wearers round the back of a hedge for the first timers briefing.  Amazingly, there seemed to be no first everers so the briefing was pretty brief.   There was however a focus on where all the tourists had come from, the RD acted as minute taker and the locations just kept on coming, she was going to need a bigger sheet of paper for sure – to coin a phrase!  That reminds me, have you seen the 30 second parody bunny movies?  You could just invest 30 seconds of your life on the Jaws one and take it from there.  Good in parts it’s true, but you are missing out if you don’t have a bit of a rummage around at the options available.  Your call.

were-gonna-need-a-bigger-boat

People had come from South Wales, St Helens, Sheffield (erm, well that was me) all over.  The RD dutifully scribed all she could fit on her paper, so everyone could have a shout out at the RD briefing later.  Nice touch.  I presume she had shorthand.

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The briefing was to the point.  A plea not to be a token magpie, and a warning that, although the trail is flat, there is one eroded patch of path which, despite being surrounded by cones, every week someone manages to fall into, we were warned not to be that person!

Back to the path. …. Did I really see a volunteer come striding back with a shovel?  What on earth?

And a few minutes later, all down towards the start, where the RD fought her way through to the starting point clutching a ladder and megaphone, to give the briefing.  Now, I had seen a proliferation of signs earlier imploring for quiet during the run briefing, including some that looked like paddles with which I would have cheerfully whacked the miscreants who talked loudly throughout the whole thing.  I couldn’t see them being deployed though, and it would have been good if they had been.  I really struggled to hear anything, which is a shame, as it was a nice welcome and run briefing.  I vaguely caught milestones being recognised and even birthdays.  It had a lovely community feel.  It enrages me that people won’t just shut up for this, it’s part of what builds a parkrun community, celebrating each others achievements, and noting who has a special day, as well as of course thanking volunteers.  I probably mind disproportionately about this to be fair, but this was such a welcoming parkrun, and it isn’t too much to ask for a bit of quiet during the briefing.  It was like people shouting over the sound system in a noisy pub round me at times.  I felt like as it wasn’t my parkrun so not my role to shush them, but I passively aggressively steamed inwardly, that would show them!  Rant over.  Until next time.

Still, I joined in the clapping when it seemed appropriate, and looking around, it was a jolly and colourful crowd.  And anyway, it was parkrun day, can’t be too pissed off for too long today!  I wonder how the shopping trolley was acquired, quite a boon for moving of stuff.  I’m sure it was legitimate, but even if not, there were alas, plenty for the taking dumped in the watercourses round and about the superstore.  Sad but true.  If they have retrieved it from being dumped, that would be a great public service, though I rather suspect it was willingly offered up by Sainsbury’s.

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So then, after a bit, a surge forwards.  Well, not too much of a surge, as I’d slotted myself in quite far to the back, and it took a while to get going.  I don’t mind that at all, in fact, I find it reassuring as it takes the pressure off and I’m never going for a time, just a positive experience.  However, I guess if you were a faster runner it would make sense to put yourself towards the front if you could.  It was a little bit congested going over the line, but all very good natured, and surprisingly quickly, the field spread out and it really didn’t seem to be an issue with giving way to other park users or taking over the path.

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I dodged to the side now and again to take some shots along the way.  I was trying to get one of every marshal I passed as well, which was made easier by dint of the fact you pass them all at least twice – on the way out, and then again on the way back! Who’d have guessed it.

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Although it’s ‘just’ a trail, the route was surprisingly diverse.  There were wooded bits, and you get to run under a couple of bridges which is a fun thing to do, and over a couple of bridges which is also a fun thing to do.  You can interact with clapping, smiling marshals – they didn’t do a great deal of directional pointing, but to be fair, there wasn’t all that much call for that.  You pass by a cemetery, which I suppose it handy for disposing of runners that are spent before they make it back.  Was that what the shovel was for earlier I wonder?

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They start ’em young as marshals here.  A pint-sized marshal was on hand to dish out high fives to passing runners.  Excellent work there!

And then soon enough, the front runners were flying back, homeward bound.  There was plenty of room for all, and it was fun watching them sprint towards the finish area. One thing which was really nice to see, was the number of returning runners, high fiving their friends who were still heading out.  Like I said, this was a friendly parkrun, I got the impression people knew each other, and were open to meeting new people too.

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The route is a bit unexpected in that you pass some open water bits that feel like full on countryside / rural idyll, and then other parts have a distinctly urban feel, complete with car grave yard – perhaps to complement the human one, and graffiti/ street art/ vandalism, depending on your point of view.  Ever felt like someone was watching you on a run…

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Each marshal and marshal spot seemed to have a particular USP, whether that was due to dress, responsibility, age, high-five deliveries or marshal buddying up system.  This one was responsible for raising bump awareness over a bridge.  It worked, out and back, nice chalkery.

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And don’t these two make a lovely pair?  I reckon they clapped the entire time, even when no runners were in sight.  That’s dedication for you.  Having said that, they have ceased applauding in this photo, but that’s only because I distracted them and put them off their game.  Sorry about that.  As you were.

The marshals along the way were really outstanding.  For different reasons I noticed a couple offering non-judgemental assistance to runners in need.  I’d have no hesitation in recommending this particular parkrun to a newbie runner, it was chilled and supportive and very good natured.  Just seemed a happy place, and we all need them don’t we.  Also, gotta love a parkrun where someone is donning a pink tutu.  Why wouldn’t you?  A pink tutu rocks at any occasion. Fact.  Try it for yourself if you are sceptical.  Go on, rock up at work tomorrow in one (unless it isn’t a working day for you tomorrow, that would be weird) they aren’t that hard to get hold of, or you could make you own out of a repurposed net curtain stained with ribena.  Someone, somewhere near you could provide them I’m sure.  You only have to reach out and ask for help sometimes, and friends and neighbours can make it so.

After a bit, well, more specifically, at the half way point, there is some fine cone positioning and a U-turn with a smiley marshal to ensure you don’t shoot on by and run to infinity and beyond.   Though strictly speaking, you can’t run to infinity in this direction, as this is pretty much the end of the trail and near to a handily positioned ambulance HQ if the overheard conversation between other runners near to me is anything to go by.  It must be a tight turn if you are going at speed, but if you are stopping periodically to line up photos, not so much of an issue.

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All good.  All smiley.  All going according to plan.  I trotted off again, and after a bit got to wave at the tail walkers coming up the path to the half way point in the other direction.  Always time for a high five and a cheery wave.

So homeward bound.  It always seems quicker on the return leg.  I spotted the big coned off hole this time, which I’d somehow missed on the way out, don’t know how.  At least I didn’t ankle turn into it, I wonder who did?  It did look a bit like a newly dug grave though.  Was that what the shovel was for?  Maybe they take talking through the run briefing more seriously than I realised.   Good for them!

Homeward bound, and there was a rather cute dog, with its walker still attached, watching from the side lines, desperate for someone, just one person, to stop and say hello.  I decided to be that one person, it was very pleased indeed that I did so.  It made me feel special in a good way, not something that happens to me all that often at a parkrun.  I must be going soft in my old age, I’m not really a doggy person, but this one seemed to be so genuinely delighted to meet me it melted my icy heart just a little bit…

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Past the last couple of marshals, still all in good voice and good cheer:

Then, there it is, the finish funnel, and the happy scene of welcoming smiling faces to cheer you in.  I wanted to take a picture, and paused to do so, securing  photo of someone photographing me as they did likewise.  We will probably now be caught in this loop for all eternity.  As they seemed up for it, I even did a ‘one, two three JUMP!’ for them, to secure an action shot, but they didn’t twig initially, and so we had to do it all again, when they obliged brilliantly.  A finely choreographed team I’d say.  Wish my camera had been quick enough to properly capture it.

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I wonder why I never seem to get any faster at parkrun.  Honestly, it’s a mystery.

That was me done, through the finish funnel, token secured, token scanned.  Marshals photographed, next few finishers cheered in, busy, busy busy!

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Done and dusted.  Just the little matter of mutual photographing with fellow tourists to get that all important ‘I’ve been framed’ Isabel Trail parkrun shot.

And that was that.  Time to go home.

I decided not to hang around for coffee in Sainsbury’s in favour of heading home, but I get the impression you’d be warmly welcomed if you chose to do so.

Overall then, have to say I was impressed by Isabel Trail parkrun.  I only really went there because of the ‘I’ to be honest.  Shallow, but true.  But it was such a friendly, supportive and welcoming team.  I think if it was your local you’d end up with over a hundred new best friends pretty fast.  They are rightly proud of their run, and it seems a well run event with a healthy pool of volunteers and a genuinely inclusive ethos.  I can’t promise you a unicorn, as that wasn’t my experience, but you do get a centaur en route if you come through Uttoxeter, and with all those mini roundabouts to contend with too, it’s really quite an adventure.  I wish Uttoxeter would start a parkrun, no idea how I’m ever going to get within touching distance of a ‘U’…

centaur uttoxeter

Why not add it to you to-do list, you will be welcomed, and if you are a speed merchant it has the potential to be a pb course as it’s flat and straight, but welcoming of the slow and steadies too.  Definitely a parkrun in the Goldilocks zone, and that’s grand!

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Hmm, maybe we should do an update of this poster for parkrun purposes, the ‘just right’ parkrun?  Oh wait, we have, here it is:

Isabel trail parkrunners in the goldilocks zone

See:  lovely, and practically perfect in every way!

Thank you Isabel Trial parkrunners, volunteer team, participants, spectators and all you were fab.  Hope to grace your trails again someday, but maybe I’ll see some of you out and about on the parkrun tourism trail in the meantime.  Thanks for sharing the parkrun love.  Only one teeny weeny, but heartfelt bit of I hope constructive criticism.  I really would have liked to have seen the pink unicorn, but then again, maybe it adds to the mystery and folklore of the run.  It has been espied in the past, and it may yet be glimpsed again, but only fleetingly, out of the corner of your eye, if you turn to stare, it will be gone again.  Fair enough, I understand, just another bit of parkrun magic mystery.

pink unicorn

🙂

So there you go, that’s that for another parkrun week.  Sigh.  If you are really desperate  you can relive some more by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.

Incidentally, can we have a random shout out for Elliot Line?  He just does great stuff week in, week out, and I don’t think I’ve given him any recognition for a while.  Would that be alright, to give him a shout out?  Oh we can, that’s good. He produces these ace parkrun stats, week in, week out.  I thought I had zero interest in statistics, but guess what?  Turns out I do, these are fun, check out the parkrun stats for this week by way of a taster, go on, go on, you know you want to!

And finally, if you are feeling like a can crushed under the jackboot of all the current inhumanity evident in the world, these might raise a wry smile.

You’re welcome.

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

parkrun perfection at Victoria Dock parkrun, a victorious parkrun debut, a V nabbed and everyone’s flying high!

Digested read: went to Victoria Dock parkrun for some parkrun tourism, nabbed a V and got to accompany a friend on her parkrun debut.  Hurrah!

previously known as

Undigested read:

Oh so much to share.  Brace yourselves people, could be a long voyage, though not a rocky one, apart from some early turbulence, but we’ll come to that in a bit.  I’m knot sure how long I’ll be able to keep going with the nautical references, it’s inevitable I’ll dry up schooner or later, but remember dear reader it’s the thought that counts.

Sooooooooooooooooooooooo excited!  I was heading to London for the weekend anyway, to assist a friend and my personal favourite EWFM* with the celebrating of her birthday. She has thoughtfully recently relocated to London, and, even more fortuitously if not proactively thoughtfully, found accommodation for which the nearest parkrun (as the crow flies) is Victoria Docks parkrun. BIG excitement.   What is most excellent about all this, is that this particular friend, whilst she has many and manifest redeeming qualities, she had not previously taken part in parkrun.  I realise increasingly, that friends, or indeed just people I know who aren’t parkrunners in some way, shape or form are quite a rarity.  I tend to live in a parkrun echo chamber, where people are either already converts to the faith, or just haven’t yet transitioned. This particular friendship however, predates my own encounter with parkrun so she is one of very few in my social circle who is allowed not to actively participate in it – I think friends should never require their friends to change or do new things unless they want to, each to their own etc – although inevitably she has been subject to my anecdotes about parkrun participation on quite possibly more than one occasion… and has been required to hang around for me whilst I was parkrunning when the situation necessitated this. That is, it was Saturday morning, and I was doing parkrun before we were going to do whatever it was we were going to go on to do.  All of this makes sense to parkrunner people, though possibly not to those as yet uninitiated into the joys of parkrun. There are some.  Hard to imagine I know.

Anyways, the point is, when we were planning my sojourn to the giddy delights of our great capital city, my only request was that I’d be allowed to do parkrun at Victoria Dock parkrun because, ‘it’s a V, and I really want to do a V‘.  Well, dear reader, not only did she agree to this, but also (drum roll) a couple of days before D-Day (or should that be V-Day?) messaged me a picture of her VERY OWN parkrun (allonewordalllowercase remember) BARCODE.  Yep, you’ve guessed it, she’d been following a C25K programme on the quiet in anticipation of joining me for parkrun by way of climax.   The big reveal, was sending me a picture of her own actual one.   OH MY GOD!  I was so excited. Best thing ever.  It would be her parkrun debut, and hopefully the start of a new shared life of parkrun playfulness together which will be massively enhanced by her having a London pad with proximity to a veritable treasure trove of parkrun possibilities.  parkrun has been so fantastic for me, the thought of being with someone as they took the plunge and had their parkrun debut was positively intoxicating.  Once she comes through that finish funnel at parkrun for the first time, her life will be changed forever.  Her Saturdays will be reconfigured, things will never be the same again.

never the same

Things would never be the same again?  Gulp.

Suddenly, I felt the burden of responsibility weighing heavily upon me.  You only get one shot at a maiden voyage.  I wanted it all to be perfect for her.  I wanted her to feel the parkrun love as much as I do.  What if Victoria Dock parkrun is the one parkrun in the whole wild world that is off with newbies and laughs and points at slower runners in between ignoring them.  I know, I know ‘ye of little faith‘.  I wonder if this is what it is like to be a new parent, feeling suddenly overwhelmed with how fragile a newborn seems to be and how it is up to you how they experience the brave new world which they have freshly entered?  I just really, really wanted her to ‘get it’ and cross over to the other side without regret.  If it was awful we wouldn’t be able to ‘undo’ this experience, things would never be the same again.  Tumble weed being blown about between us where before there was always chatting and hilarity.  Too terrible to contemplate.  I shuddered at the very thought.  I mean some things like broken noses, pets and EWFMs are for life not just for Christmas, but even so….

I was worried, not gonna lie, especially when I looked at the results and clocked it was quite a speedy one, with relatively small numbers so not many slow and steadies coming in at the back.  I also know next to nothing about his part of London, and therefore didn’t know how it’d be for practicalities like loos and leaving stuff, let alone for friendliness and scenery.  Ah well, it would be   a V, and parkrun always delivers, sometimes you just have to trust that everything will be alright in the end, and if it isn’t all right then it isn’t the end.  Just so.

Checking out the Victoria Docks parkrun Facebook page didn’t reveal a huge amount.  It’s clearly monitored but not super active, though top marks for team work and this offering on their 50th run, that’s class, right there, good job parkrun celebrants, it’s not easy doing those sort of shots.  I wonder how they got the shot, from a drone, from a very tall person, or from dangling from a cable car over head. Oh, have I not mentioned the cable cars yet – oh my you are in for a treat dear reader – they are magnificent!

victoria dock parkrun at fifty

So, did some research, according the the Victoria Docks parkrun website blah de blah the course is:

Course Description
The course is a horseshoe around Victoria Dock, entirely on the dockside path. Starting near the community hut in the Crystal gardens, proceed along the north side of Victoria Dock. When you reach the far (east) end of the ExCeL, turn around. Come back past the Crystal, then along the south side of the dock to the SS Robin. Turn around here and head back to the Crystal to finish.

hmm, not sounding overly exciting.  I mean dockside paths sounds a bit ropy… oh well, and the course looks like this:

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Also, hmmm, not the most inspiring, but you know what, it’d still be a V.

How to get there.  I had wanted to do something spectacular in honour of the first ever parkrun experience.  You know, sort out transport like ‘young people’ do to get to their proms which wasn’t even a thing for my generation.  Maybe not a stretch limo, too carsick inducing, but were it not for my awareness of the negative environmental impact of sorting out an arrival by helicopter that would have been good.  I understand it is traditional to have some sort of high impact happening to mark a participants first parkrun. Well it ought to be a thing.  Worry not dear reader, a bit of research, and things were looking up!  Literally, not just figuratively.  The best way to get from her house, to the Victoria Dock parkrun rendezvous point was to fly there!

I know!  A first for me too!  Not the city airport route, though I daresay some could, but by Emirates Air Line ….

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Yay!  We’d get to go on a cable car.  Hooray!  What could possibly go wrong.

OK, maybe not quite the same as an actual aeroplane, but just as much fun and less having to hate yourself for contributing to climate change and acceleration the rate of  extinction of life.  I mean, we won’t be taking it to quite the same level as Greta Thunberg in terms of forgoing home comforts for the greater good I know, but showing willing eh?

greta thunberg guardian

Everybody wins.  Except at parkrun, because it’s a run not a race, although all parkrunners are winners just for being there, though you don’t get a trophy as such every time, just the warm glow of satisfaction for being part of something so awesome –  so that’s a bit of a mind knot to be untangled.  I’ll leave it with you to ponder and get back to me…

So we’d get to fly in, and I’d get to be there alongside her at her first ever ever parkrun.  Like being there at the big bang, the starting point of the creation of the known universe.  It was going to be epic!

The day dawned.  Windy.  Windy in a blustery sort of way and wet too. Wet in a ‘we may escape it or we may be drenched’ sort of way.  Not enough to deter true parkrunners, but enough to wonder if the cable car would still run.  I hadn’t entirely thought through this aspect, as I was too excited by triple whammy of new parkrun, a V and my bestie having her parkrun debut.  We had an easy bus ride to the base of the cable car, and although it’s expensive to catch £6 or something crazy like that, because you can pay by contactless it feels like it’s free until you see your bank balance later on.  The cable cars move continuously, so you can recreate the giddy excitement of the first people to step onto those paternoster lifts by clambering on board whilst it is still in motion!  I’m actually quite blasse about extreme sports having both travelled in the University of Sheffield paternoster lift and indeed clambered over the Millenium Dome – though that was after not prior to Victoria Docks parkrun adventures, so I was quietly confident about taking on the cable car challenge!

paternoster lift

You do get sealed in before it heads off across the water, giving you a sense of being entombed just before the wind picks up and an error message appears on the computer screen in you cable car suggesting you are now in the opening sequence of some sort of London based disaster flick.  FYI you may find out at this point that your travel and  parkrun companion isn’t over enamoured of heights and turbulence in cable cars which swing about really quite a lot in gusty winds.  You may also find out at about this point that you aren’t over keen on these things either!  However, none of these momentary flickers of self-awareness will derail you sufficiently that you forget to take the obligatory over-posed slightly manic selfie shots during the voyage.

Oops.

And then.  Something amazing.  Oh my gawd.  The views from up there, it was just beyond awesome.  I felt pretty stupid for not having worked it out before, but the Victoria Dock parkrun is in the middle of the redeveloped docklands area of London. The weather stormy with moody clouds – gave us amazing skyscapes of iconic London landmarks.  Canary wharf, the O2 arena – which is actually the millenium dome obvs, big eff off boats and the teeny tiny toy trains that are not teeny tiny but far away and nipping along the docklands light railway route.  A somewhat bizarrely annotated marriage proposal marked out on a roof top I didn’t know that you were supposed to give your age when proposing.  Good to know.  No idea what the outcome was – in fact, it may even be a cynical marketing ploy of some sort, though as it’s too clever to know what it was advertising, maybe not as clever as it thinks…  And even the slightly scary aircraft taking off and landing from the London City Airport was impressive if a bit discombobulating.  I just don’t know if you should be landing aircraft on that teeny tiny runway, which was actually teeny tiny by the way and not all that far away at all, in case you were wondering.  Still, at least it took our minds off the cable car swaying.  It was fantastic.

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And what a way to make a parkrun entrance too!  You can see the whole dock spread out before you as you approach and descend, and no prizes for guessing what the crystal centre is when you see it from on high.  How did I ever think this was going to be a bit of a ho-hum parkrun experience I can’t imagine.  I can only say I’m shamed and apologise unreservedly.  My bad, my oops.  This was by far and away the most impressive approach to a parkrun I’ve made.  I was EVEN MORE EXCITED now.

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Any fear of finding the rendezvous point quickly evaporated.  You can see the crystal building even though I didn’t know before hand what it was, it is very distinctive.  And as you descend the cable car you are deposited just a hundred yards or so from it really.

So we’d arrived. There weren’t any parkrun flags up as such, but there were some people in running gear hanging around.  I thought they might be fellow tourists, since we were all so early.  In fact it was their local.  They were very welcoming, pointing out the hut where you can in fact leave your gear, and where there is a single loo for pre-parkrun precautionary pee purposes.  They explained the route – which is basically a horse shoe, and were great ambassadors for parkrun in general and Victoria Dock parkrun in particular.  They were faster runners than me ( not hard) so were actually heading off home whilst I was still on the course finishing, but I did get to wave goodbye to them before they vanished. Thank you nice welcoming fellow parkrunners and Victoria Dock natives 🙂  You can tell they are friendly can’t you?  Very reassuring. Never underestimate the impact of a friendly smile of welcome on any occasion, but especially at a new parkrun.

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So then we got chatting with some other new arrivals, who were also tourists.  One had Bushy parkrun as his home run, though usually runs at Kingston apparently (wave if you are reading) and was also after his V.  It became apparent from him, and other parkrunners who started to appear, that not only is this a V opportunity, it’s also a known fast run.  Flat and sufficiently spacious and even surfaced to attract those heading for an all time pb.  Oops again.  Obviously, faster runners are going to want to make the most of that, and good luck to them, but it made me a bit twitchy about how we slower runners might fit in, I wasn’t worried for myself, but for my first timer friend I didn’t want her to have that isolated plodding round at the back through a veil of tears experience that I myself have encountered at running events, though never at parkrun.  I hadn’t thought to check the course records for this one, but have now and they are impressive….

Female record holder: Jess SAUNDERS – 18:22 – Event 56 (18/05/19)
Male record holder: Paul MARTELLETTI – 14:43 – Event 55 (11/05/19)
Age graded record holder: Ros TABOR – 95.99 % – 22:27 – Event 8 (05/05/18)

though not as impressive as Bushy parkrun, their stats are dazzling indeed, but then again, a lot more people have run there and it is a site of pilgrimage, though I’d say the terrain was tougher at Bushy.  Strange but true:

Female record holder: Justina HESLOP – 15:58 – Event 379 (22/10/11)
Male record holder: Andrew BADDELEY – 13:48 – Event 422 (11/08/12)
Age graded record holder: Jane DAVIES – 100.23 % – 21:30 – Event 645 (24/09/16)

and, whilst we are on the subject of being impressed by the physical capabilities of others, what about Germany’s Fiona Kolbinger becoming the first female winner of the Transcontinental cycling endurance race.  She cycled more than 2,485 miles across Europe in just over 10 days, unsupported.  I know.  That is impressive.  She must be a parkrunner too I’d imagine, inside if not actively participating on the outside just now… she looks smiley and all round awesome, so would fit the parkrun bill.

Mind you, so would this lass.  Jeannie Rice, setting a half marathon record for her age group with a 1.37.07 half marathon aged 71.  Yep, that’s very impressive too! Not sure if she’s a parkrunner either, she is American, and parkrun is less of a thing over there, I’m sure otherwise she’d be up for it too.  Why not?

And then we have Cynthia Arnold and her triple buggy running exploits.  Also awesome.  Cynthia Arnold, 35, finished the Missoula Marathon in 3:11 while pushing her three children in a buggy, unofficially breaking the Guinness World Record for fastest marathon ran while pushing a triple-person stroller.  That means she maintained sub-7:20 pace for 26.2 miles with her six-, four-, and one-year-old in tow.

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You know what, these women are extraordinary, and I want to note and celebrate their achievements, but I’m beginning to feel a bit inadequate now.  Maybe I’ll feel better after I’ve eaten a six pack of doughnuts…  Hope over experience, usually makes me feel worse, but I’m game.

On the subject of awesome women and their endurance and tenacity, did you see the parkrun blog post about Yorkshire woman Stephanie Evans who moved from London to Michigan at the start of 2018 she biked 30 miles each way through the snow to get from Ann Arbor to Livonia, so that she could join a parkrun.  I know.  Puts my parkrun tourism efforts into perspective, I hesitate about driving that far, even if there’s no snow.  High five to her!  Shame they haven’t got a picture of her cycling in the snow, she looks very happy now though doesn’t she?  She has a more local parkrun these days apparently.  I wonder if she shouts ‘weeeeeeeee’ when running with her arms outstretched, I told my parkrun first timer that it’s traditional to do so, but it might just be a me thing to be fair…

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So, on the subject of miraculous physicality, me and my new to parkrun buddy were gazing about, milling and chilling and/or possibly feeling a bit apprehensive.  One of us because we were worried about what on earth we’d consented to take part in, and one of us because she was so desperate that this conversion and inculcation to the parkrun way would run (pun intended) smoothly.  Only time would tell…

It was a bit of an atypical parkrun, in that because it was so gusty, they’d not been able to put out any of the flags, cones or other parkrun paraphernalia that indicates you are at parkrun central.  No matter, hi-vis wearing volunteers began to come into view, and a little queue materialised at the crystal community hut where the loo was situated.  Cue companionable queuing where a lot of the parkrun magic happens!  There was no paddling poo today, but there was a specialist eye care first aid kit, which sort of puzzled me, it’s very niche, maybe something to do with being near the water?  I like that the centre was signed ‘bliss events’ apt indeed, and the extreme enthusiasm for hand hygiene judging by the number of bottles of carex gel in the loo, was also noted and a boon!  Well, I took it that they are of a exceptionally clean disposition but I suppose it’s possible it goes the other way, and that in fact they require such copious quantities of antibacterial gel because they are not generally friends of hand washing.  Some unknowns are best left that way I think, you can draw your own conclusions…  I didn’t feel the need to ask anyone if I could inspect their finger nails, so I reckon it was all fine.  Anyway, you are attending parkrun, not signing up for any surgical procedures so it matters not.  Bottom line is, there was more antibacterial handwash than you could shake a stick at, by which I mean, a very great deal.

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parkrunners assembled in their apricot and milestone tees, and I found myself explaining to my parkrun buddy what they all meant.  ‘Ah!  I see, it’s basically the  essential semiotics of parkrun‘ she exclaimed in enthusiastic recognition of what I was saying.  Dear reader, now I appreciate this is very niche indeed, but it was at that exact moment that a heavy penny dropped and I understood the meaning and application of the word ‘semiotics‘.  I fully recognise it would be possible to pass your whole life without this insight, and indeed most, if not all people could still have a rich and full existence without ever needing to reach for this word.  But what you need to know, is that one of the reason me and my EWFM buddy are so bonded, is because we studied together at one point, and this included a whole year module on the theme of ‘the semiotics of theatre’ and I never understood what it meant, despite apparently passing the course.  Total mystery, until now, some three decades later.  Another parkrun miracle, of which there are many, every week, happening more than likely, at a parkrun near you.  Anyway, it was fab to share the semiotics of parkrun and the parkrun jargon in context.  This was going to be grrrrrreat as  Tony Tiger would say!

theyre great

It was good to witness the gathering of parkrun people.  I know you shouldn’t have favourites, but I was particularly delighted by this attendee and his ‘well, this is what happens when you dress in the dark‘ bravado!  Well, you can’t be expected to miss a parkrun over a minor detail like this can you?  Hilarious and most excellent, anonymous parkrunner I salute you!  That’s the parkrun spirit right there!

The real worry to me would not be the colour issue, conspicuous as that was, but the differentiation in drop. What if that led to veering to one side or the other, you might end up in the water, and that would ruin your morning for sure… unless you were in training for a triathlon, which some may well have been.  There were people swimming in the dock, deliberately and not by accident as far as I could tell…

There was time for a few scenic shots, and I explained that it was customary and tradition to have a pre-parkrun selfie shot on the occasion of your first parkrun.  Was planning on milking that trope for as long as possible…  Hurrah!

As is traditional, some selfie shots were noticeably better than others.  Also, turns out it’s really quite hard to get a selfie with a cable car in the background, but you have to admit we tried, giving it a good shot if not actually securing a very good one.  Go on, you try when you go, you’ll struggle too, unless you are very, very tall indeed, which you may be.

So then, after much faffing, and wondering whether it was coat on or coat off weather – also a parkrun tradition, we conferred over participation tactics.  The agreement was companionable ignoring.  I hate it when people run with me or try to engage me in conversation, so am never offended if people shun this in me.  But I didn’t want my first timing buddy to feel abandoned, so we agreed to stay in sight of one another, and she could initiate communication if required.  Above all else, I pledged not to shout any words of encouragement that might imply judgement, because they can push you over the edge when you are starting out.  Good, all settled then.

In due course, by general consent, people started to gather around the RD for the pre-event / first timers briefing. We stood on fake grass, which was practical, but always makes me sad.  Granted, elsewhere they’d made an effort with wild flower planting.  Drainage was perhaps a bit of an issue though as I managed to stand in an unexpected indentation (those are the worst) and almost ankle deep in water. Oh well, my trainers were going to get wet anyway.

First timers briefing was brief, friendly, route was explained, but hard to go wrong really, as if you went the wrong way or tried to cut a corner you’d end up in the Thames.  The only really important warning was when you come back to the finish after the second half of the horse shoe, you need to add on a little u-shape at the end past the crystal centre before you get to do your sprint finish arms aloft etc in the usual manner.  Also, a general ‘keep left’ rule, as the nature of the course means inevitably runners will be going in both directions for most of the course as speedier runners come back against the flow of others still heading out.   It will make life interesting!  There was an option to hang back if there were any more detailed questions for true first timers as opposed to first timers through tourism, but we were ok so didn’t take advantage of that.

Then we edged our way to the start line, where moody skies provided a splendid backdrop to the suspended cable cars.  When the wind gusted it was pretty strong, it seemed likely we’d have a headwind for at least half the time, but hey ho, it all adds to the unique qualities of the event.  Was rather hoping we wouldn’t be beneficiaries of any surprise splashing, as per the overhead signage, but there was a railing alongside the dock so should be easy enough to avoid.

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There was a second RD briefing, but we’d tucked ourselves in towards the back, so I couldn’t really hear it, so didn’t get to manically point at my EWFM during the ‘any first timers’ moment.  Not to worry, I’d find a way to rectify that later.  Some clapping, presumably for the volunteers not for Trump’s latest tweets, though always a concern when clapping a message you’ve not actually heard… and then awf!

The paths are wide, and some were definitely going for pbs so people took off quite quickly.  I did my leap frogging technique of stopping to take pictures, and take in the view and the sights and sounds, and then running on as fast as I could in an attempt to keep ahead of the tailwalker.  Might even have been able to spin it as intervals if I’d only thought to do so, but jeffing at a push.  Love legitimising walk/ run approaches.  It is the future.  Oh look, here’s the first marshal!  She was super friendly – all of them were of course.  There weren’t that many about but then again, the course doesn’t really require them, only at the far turning points really.  You will note, that even just a few yards in, there was nothing but the dockside equivalent of a trail of dust as all the other runners had disappeared out of view.  A fast field indeed.  I however, can always make time for a stop and shoot (photo) opportunity.

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Off parkrunners sped, along the dockside, cornering past the cable car terminal building and after a mini zig zag the first long straight outward stretch to the turning point.  There was a random guy on a bike giving high fives.  The one in the blue sweat shirt, that was good.  And as is often the way for me, I could see the stream of colourfully clad runners who’d already cornered ahead of me.  Nice.

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It is such an amazingly picturesque location, albeit in urban dockside glory, it’s really hard not to be distracted by the novelty of the sights and sounds en route.  A tad disconcerting to have life buoys lining the route, but then again, probably even more disconcerting if they were absent.  Those faster runners are running past the restaurant by the way, not trying to nab their post parkrun breakfast tables with indecent haste by elbowing other participants out the way.  That would not be in the spirit of parkrun at all.  Not one little bit.

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Ridiculously soon, the front runners were coming back the other way.  Now, can’t lie, I’m extremely pleased to have inadvertently got a couple of flying feet photo.  I think being airborne early on must have sort of set the tone of the event somehow, I’d never have caught these if I’d been trying!

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Oh, you’re disappointed.  I never said they were all flying feet photos, that would have been too much to hope for.  Even so, you get a sense of the fab setting at least don’t you?  And the wideness of the path and the way the out and back bit works I hope?  You do?  That’s good.

So we trotted down to the turning point, companionably ignoring each other as was prearranged.  A cheery marshal called encouragement as we cornered, always appreciated.  Thank you marshal!

And you get to run back the way you’ve just come!  This does offer up some great views, but also, not gonna lie, as you get towards the end of the straight and turn a corner again you got a full head wind which was pretty hard core demotivating.  Still, we like a challenge!  And nothing like a wind eddy near a big drop to make a parkrun course the more memorable.  However, you get to see the big red boat; you get to see the O2 which we’d be clambering over later; you get to see the runners on the other side of the water – if you squint a bit; you get to see the marketing model used by sports bras manufacturers as a terrible warning of what will happen to your boobs if you don’t wear a properly fitted brassiere; you get to see the seal in the dock – oh no, not a seal, a spent swimmer perhaps; you get to see the life saving marshal in a kayak, hooray, don’t fall in people, but if you do, there is someone on hand to save you!  Well, strictly speaking I think they were there for the swimmers, but didn’t look like a jobsworth, I reckon they’d drag you out too if required to do so, isn’t that the law of the sea that you help others in need – unless you are Sicilian fisherman rescuing drowning, desperate migrants, when you risk being jailed for doing so.  Such are the dark, distorted times in which we live.  Topple into Victoria Dock though, you’d be rescued I reckon… most probably.

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I actually felt quite emotional, seeing London landmarks laid out along the way, especially having come in by plane cable car, for the first time I got a real sense of how the river shapes the London landscape, and a renewed appreciation for what a fantastic city it can be.  It was a great choice for a debut parkrun outing, what’s not to like?  Apart from the feeling compelled to run, and the gusting headwinds, but that’s just what happens with type 2 fun experiences, it’d be grand by the time she was clutching her first finish token and allowing the post run endorphins so surge through her veins.  Hurray!  We done good.  Also a V.  Or we would have done, by the end of the parkrun immersive experience – hopefully without immersion into water, which wasn’t on my ‘to do’ list irrespective of the likelihood of rescue, but only with immersion into the loveliness that it intrinsic to parkrun.  Perhaps ‘experiential’ would be a better choice of descriptor in the circumstances.

So, back to the crystal centre, and the gusty wind.  Some of the super speedy runners were finishing, and others just behind them were doing the little extra u-shaped loop, which was handy to see as I hadn’t really grasped where to go from the briefing, but when you see others running the route it becomes very obvious.

I ran on ahead a bit of my running buddy to try to get some photos, and paused to talk to the Run Director who was doing sterling work cheering runners by. I couldn’t resist informing on my EWFM by alerting the RD to the fact she was a FIRST EVERER at parkrun, which as all parkrunners know merits extra special cheers of encouragement.  After all, you never get a second go at your first ever parkrun participation.  Sad, but true.  She obliged brilliantly, bigging it up with the support as is traditional, though should never be taken for granted!

You run past the fake turf where the finish funnel and post run chilling and milling was taking place.  I knew pretty much everyone would have gone by the time I got back there again, so I paused again for some snaps.

Then you are off again back out along the other side of the dock.  It was thinning off a bit by now.  The second stretch is significantly shorter than the first, so you are about two thirds through by now.  Wide paths, and a good view across to the opposite side is quite fun, as you can see more clearly the route you’ve taken, and take in the visual feast from another angle.  I tried to get arty shots of runners through the life buoys.  Didn’t really work to be fair, but it’s the thought that counts.

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The paths were very clean by the way.  I was impressed by how immaculate everywhere was.  I’m not sure if it’s because all the litter gets blown away, or perhaps people in London know better than to drop rubbish everywhere or maybe they employ people to do a fine job at picking it all up.  Whatever way, it was impressive, and a refreshing change from the rubbish strewn streets of Sheffield which are beyond depressing.  I suppose it helps that this is such an iconic location.  Even so, very nice.  Clean hands, clean paths too.  Tip top, spick and span and  spit spot as Ms Poppins would say.  Possibly, or maybe not.  Didn’t ‘spit spot’ mean hurry up?  Whatever.  I’m sure she’d be pleased anyway, she liked things neat and orderly, for ever tidying up with a song.  Also the spoonful of sugar reference is apt, because a lot of the docks around here were – indeed are still known as Silvertown, because of the link to Tate & Lyle and Silver Spoon sugar.  Interesting isn’t it?  Well I think so.  It may also explain why towards the end of this parkrun you may feel like you are running through treacle.  Again.  Good to know.

Onward we yomped.  Oh look, there are people in the water and they’ve gone in on purpose.  Bobbing about by a buoy, taking it in turns to swim off.  I’m not sure what the deal was quite.  These were clearly an organised group in training, but I guess if open water swimming is your thing, this is somewhere you could jump in at the end of the parkrun if you want to get a swimming fix.  There were a couple of places that with the benefit of hindsight were platoons pontoon type structures that were where people could plunge into the water if they felt the urge to do so.

to the final turn around point, where there was a still smiling marshal to cheer us round and back for the homeward straight.

And back we went, jeffing along nicely.  Using the cranes to judge walk run intervals and running together in parallel but incommunicado.  Companionable ignoring remember dear reader, that was the agreement.  Wave at the tail walker coming on through…

Oh look, my parkrun friends from earlier just as we cornered the fake grass again:

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Then just the final u-turn and back past the crystal centre:

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and then the final marshal and to the finish!

Yay!  Job done!

That was it, my EWFM through the finish funnel successfully and now clutching her very own finish token as a matching accessory for her personal barcode.  Temporary possession only of course, she was going to get that scanned, and she had been well briefed on the importance of not being a token magpie.  Take a finish token home with you and token sorters and run directors weep and a kitten dies.  Every time. FACT.

So me and my EWFM both had run, both had our finish tokens, and were in the line for barcode scanning.  We are all parkrunners now!

I felt a lump in my throat at being there at the beginning of this initiation into the parkrun family.  So proud of my EWFM for being there, and parkrun too, for delivering when it mattered most.  (Though it does always to be fair, so I should have had more faith…).

I explained about it being traditional to have your photo taken with your finish token at the end, and that everybody looks fabulous with their post run glow!

Then I explained it was parkrun tradition to be photographed having your barcode scanned and posing with parkrun hi-vis heroes.

She got a bit suspicious when I tried to persuade it was parkrun tradition to be thrown in the air by a cohort of hi-vis clad heroes at the end of your first run.  Worth a try though…

I took some photos of the final few coming through.  One runner ended up sort of on her own for the final u-shape addition, and I noticed a man who’d finished his run quite a bit earlier, accompanied her round before peeling away at the finish funnel.  That was very public spirited I thought, sort of unassuming but necessary assistance, perfectly judged.  My EWFM did stretches amidst other collapsed runners on the astroturf.  This is admirable, I personally don’t favour sitting on the ground immediately after parkrun because of the fear I will stiffen and set there, unable ever to stand again.  It’s a real concern.  One not to try at home, unless you are lithe and fit, or at least stretchy.  I am none of these.  Kudos to those who are.  On reflection, maybe that’s what the RD was conferring about with that other parkrunner.  How to raise the cross-legged parkrunner from the ground, maybe they were fixed to the spot too after ill-advised, over confident post parkrun sitting down.  It can happen.  I think parkrun HQ probably makes you do risk assessments about what to do in those sort of situations now I come to think of it.

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It is however most definitely a parkrun tradition to be photographed with the RD at your first event.  And if it isn’t, then it should be.  So we went to seek her out and to thank her, and she obliged with photogenic gloriousness as well as personal charisma and charm!

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It was a revelation talking to the RD,  not least, because turns out she was actually Event Director too.  This makes her Paul S-H’s earthly representative, or at least his Victoria Docks one, huge kudos by association to be photographed with her.  Thank you for obliging lovely RD!  🙂 Plus, it was interesting hearing a bit about the history of the event and how it had evolved.  When it was being set up, the core team imagined it would be a smallish one, not thinking then that people would be on a quest for a V, or that it would attract lots of tourists to London, irrespective of the running challenges alphabet questing.  That, and it turns out to be a pb course for many, which again attracts runners from outside.  Such visitors are all extremely welcome, but it had been anticipated that they’d get mostly locals because this parkrun is held pretty much on a well worn run route for the local population.  This means it can take longer to work out who the locals are, and although there is apparently a healthy, friendly and welcoming team of volunteers, it isn’t always obvious if people are just passing through or there to stay.  I’d not thought of any of those things.  Most fascinating of all, was the moment when my running buddy had a penny drop moment on a par with my comprehension of semiotics.

EWFM: ‘Oh, they are after the letter V!’

Me: ‘erm, yep… that’s what I’ve been saying...’

EWFM:  ‘I thought you meant the run was shaped like a V!’

Me: blinks.

Glad we cleared that one up.  parkrun outings are always most educational.

So we thanked the lovely RD and the high vis heroes still out and about, and then we wended our way off.  You can hang around for a coffee in the community hut I think, but to be honest, there are so many coffee shop offerings around that may explain why people seemed to disperse.  We were going back by the DLR, which is but a hop, skip and a jump from the crystal centre.  This is an incredibly accessible parkrun in terms of proximity to modes of transport.

So just remains to say big thanks to the whole Victoria Docks parkrun team for the fab welcome and brilliant event.  What an amazing location and a memorable induction into parkrun for my old friend and new parkrun buddy.  It was a spectacular and positive experience.  So much so, my EWFM proclaimed that she would ‘definitely be back’ though we didn’t set an absolute timeline for this. I’ll take that, my biggest fear was that it’d be a ‘we shall never speak of this again’ experience, and we were way the other side of the continuum to that!  Hurrah. Better yet, she also conceded that whilst it wouldn’t have been accurate to describe it as type 1 fun at the moment she was being blown back along the dockside path coming back towards the crystal centre for the first time, that moment was now recognised as complying with type 2 fun regulations, and the approach to the finish funnel and being processed bit was genuinely type 1!  Result.  A new convert, we can all rejoice!  New parkrun possibilities await, like I said before, never the same again, but in a good way…

Took the parkrun plunge and didn’t fall (into the river or anywhere else) but rather flew.  Literally too, what with the sky train and all.  Hurrah!

what if i fly

Yeah yeah, I get that it’s a cliche, but it seems especially apt here, and I like the sentiment it expresses.  Post parkrun highs make use of inspirational quotes acceptable.  FACT.

I expect you are longing to know about our post-parkrun breakfast options.  Well dear reader, I can report we ended up going to Jade at Woolwich for a truly spectacular breakfast, but the real high point was seeing the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Association trough.   What the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Association would have to say about this water receptacle being appropriated and re-purposed for non-cattle drinking related use I dread to think, but how pleasing that such an association (once) existed/s

And then later in the weekend, we checked out the Victoria Dock parkrun espied from the roof of the O2 arena.  That was cool.  It would be better if it had been labelled as such with the parkrun logo, but there you go. This was a birthday treat for my EWFM who seemingly shares a birthday with Mr S-H, it was meant to be.  They are practically twins, apart from age, and having dates a day apart, but clearly, it’s a sign, you know it is.  All’s good with the world.

So there  you go, here’s to a parkrun that’s practically perfect in every way !

Right, that’s your lot, I need to crack on, can’t spend my whole day chatting away to you much as I’d like to.  Hope you are enjoying your own running in general or parkrun in particular adventures.  Have fun remember, that’s really the only rule.  Run for fun!  Type one for preference but type two is also acceptable.  parkrun is for everyone. Yay!

parkrun for all

🙂

If you want to see more of Victoria Docks parkrun – Vicky D to her friends apparently –  and can’t get there yourself, you could check out this video of Victoria Docks parkrun taken by a participant back in June.  It’s very cool.  Taken by Andrew from Action Go! Thanks Andrew, appreciated, loving your work there, loving your work.

By the way,  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 you might have places to go, people to see and/or a life to live, so I’ll understand if you leave it for now.  🙂  I do not have a separate blog about semiotics, though I daresay they exist.

Oh and finally, because the world can seem a dark and dismal place at times, have you seen this or this?  No?  Well maybe you should.  They will give temporary respite.  Try not to dwell on whether or not the atypical snow in Australia is yet another indication of apocalyptic climate change, that would rather cancel out the feelgood effects.  Also this statue, isn’t she splendid!  No shame in having crabs in your pubes for her.  No need for body shaming, be proud of who you are!  Listen to Eilish people, she is an epic runner and speaks the truth – the statue isn’t her however, though maybe she’ll get her own statue one day!

*Erstwhile Flatmate, what else?  And yes I know it strictly speaking should be EF, but that has connotations of Ef Off, which is most definitely contrary to the esteem and affection with which she is held and how we choose to interact with one another.  I suppose I might have gone with EW, but who wants to refer to their friend as ‘ew‘ which sounds more like an expression of disgust rather than affection, so by custom and practice this has become EWFM, which is a sort of abbreviation rather than an actual acronym, and not at all a mnemonic.  Which is something else all together.  Thought it would have been obvious, but then semiotics wasn’t to me til just now so I suppose I have to make allowances…  Bottom line is that it is traditional that we recognise each other as EWFMs, and if it’s good enough for us, it’s good enough.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Northallerton parkrun? Who wouldn’t fancy (dress) that!

Digested read: Northallerton parkrun now done and dusted.  It was fancy dress.  Hurrah!

Undigested read:

Not only was it a fancy dress parkrun, there was also a participant going for the fastest continuous line dancing 5k. He did good too if the picture is anything to go by.  Fine grapevine technique being demonstrated right there.   Respect.  Yet another example of how parkrun always bringeth forth unexpected joy.

Np behind you

What with the Morris dancing parkrunners and The Juggling parkrunner too, you never know what the new parkrun day might bring!  I don’t think the linedancing parkrunner has his own Facebook page though, well not yet anyway.

juggling parkrunner royal canal parkrun

Still, I’m running ahead of myself, which doesn’t happen all that often on account of the fact I’m more a slow and steady galumpher than a runner as such, so it almost seems a shame to rein it back in.  Nevertheless, back to basics.  My account of my visit to Northallerton parkrun follows.  Remember dear reader, I’m not concise, so I urge you to exercise caution, time vampire ahead, lots to share.  Continue at your own risk.  Or just scroll through for the photos, I won’t know, won’t care.  That reminds me:

dont know dont care

Genius!

All the decent photos are courtesy of the Northallerton parkrun volunteer photographer team, they were out in force for this event, what with it being their birthday and all.  You could be papped from all angles, ready or not!  Naturally I feel obligated to intersperse their fab shots with my blurry ‘well, it captures the atmosphere/ has comedic value’ ones, so as to make their efforts look even better by comparison. Thank you lovely Northallerton parkrun for taking and sharing on their Facebook page though, appreciated 🙂  Look for the albums for 3rd August 2019 and be amazed.

Now, where was I?

Oh yes, wanting to travel the four corners of the parkrun world.  Well, UK anyhow.  Well, figuratively, if not literally?  What’s that?  What is this ‘four corners’ adventure of which I speak?  Dear Reader, I remind you once again of the running challenges chrome extension, which today brings with it me working towards the compass challenge virtual badge.  Hurrah!

tourism

I’m on a roll with my compass challenge it seems.  By which I mean I accidentally bagged a south when I went to Southwark parkrun over two years ago.  That was definitely before I knew about the running challenges thingamajig, and may even have been before its inception.  I honestly have no idea. then last week went West with Beverley Westwood parkrun and now here I am going for north, that’s two weeks on the trot, nailing my compass points.  Go me!   I was aided and abetted in my execution of this plan by this cool picture courtesy of Richard Gower who did a whole blog post about the compass challenge and put together this map earlier in the year which is an easy way to check out where they all are.  More have since been added, but it’s still a great start.  By which I mean it was for me anyway, and it’s  my post so I’ll generalise if I want to.  Cheers Mr Gower, loving your work!

parkrun+Compass+Club+UK Richard Gower

For me in Sheffield, Northallerton was the obvious choice to bagsy my ‘north’ and get one step nearer to securing that coveted virtual badge.   Mind you, considering I live in the north it’s a fair old way.  Especially if you hate being late and therefore have to leave stupidly early to allow plenty of time for emergencies such as not being able to park, getting lost, being stuck behind a tractor en route etc.  Ok, I’ll check that out.

So, beginning with online research, also known as lmgtfy – let me google that for you -other search engines are available, and probably more ethical if less convenient.  Incidentally, I don’t mind googling stuff for other people, and think the lmgtfy is not so much passive aggressive as actually rude, however, by referencing it here Ii am able to include the cartoon below, which I think offers an insightful and searing commentary on the limitations of regarding google as the font of all knowledge.  We need to be critical thinkers people?Let-me-Google-that-for-you-LMGTFY_o_50693

But you know what, for checking out your parkrun factoids, Google does just fine, so let me share with you that the Northallerton parkrun page course description blah de blah describes the route thus:

The course is three laps which use the playing fields behind Hambleton Leisure Centre and two footbridges over Brompton Beck. Starting and finishing behind the leisure centre, the course is approximately 900m on tarmac footpath, 1300m on gravel track and 2800m on grass. The course is almost flat with only two small banks (one up / one down), and there are a few narrow sections to navigate which are well signed. The area is open to the public during the event, so expect to meet cyclists and dog walkers during your run.

Yep, that’s three laps.   Give me strength!  Also, that’s a lot of grass.  Should I be panicking about the amount of grass?  Will it be sports field grass, the stuff of school sports day humiliations or lovely running through meadows like a timotei ad sort of grass?  I have a gnawing suspicion ’twill be the former not the latter…

and it looks like this:

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Hmm, not massively appealing to be fair.  However, on the plus side ‘There is ample free car parking at the venue – use the civic centre car park – follow the parkrun parking signs. Satnav postcode is DL6 2UU’.  That’s a boon, however, I could in principle go to Northampton parkrun, that is a bit further away, but their course is but two laps and it has not only toilets but also a defibrillator to entice me over.  What to do.

More research, that may help.

GAME CHANGER – further research unearths a post on the Northallerton parkrun Facebook page that 3rd August is a birthday and what’s more FANCY DRESS! Basically, pop up parkrun party. Yay!  Decision made.  Northampton parkrun will have to wait for another time.

fancy dress parkrun

I know some might think my response shallow, but I can embrace that.  After all, if fancy dress is good enough for PS-H himself then it’s good enough for me.  Just look, Bushy parkrun were celebrating their 800th run today, and it looks like he went as a disembodied head.  Impressive, albeit I concede slightly disturbing. Still, you know what they say, ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.’  Fair do’s.  You take it up with him if you must.

Bushy parkrun slightly scary

And he wasn’t the only representative of parkrun royalty in fancy dress either.  My mum was equipped with Cleopatra apparel.  I don’t know if any photographic evidence of this exists, but in my mind’s eye she will have been splendid, accessorising her usual hi-vis with a spectacular asp head-dress – it’s what all the best marshals will be sporting at a parkrun near you soon.  So much better than putting poultry on your head methinks.  Though I refer you once again to the point above ‘everyone in their own way’.

cleopatra-Egypt13-150x211

Oh hang on, *STOP PRESS* we have pictures.  Blooming love Bushy parkrun folk for furnishing me with these.  Thank you Bushy parkrunners, you are the best!

So where was I?  Oh yes, fancy dress.  What’s not to like?  Apart from clowns, obvs.  I really hope there aren’t any clowns.  Surely parkrunners wouldn’t do that?  That would be taking the idea of ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way’ a step too far.  Everyone knows clowns are scary yes?

There’s a reason why ‘killer clowns’ are a thing you know, and you can be fined for public order offences for dressing up as them.  Quite right too.  Some behaviour is just too anti-social to tolerate.

And on the subject of anti-social behaviour, my regular reader will be interested to know that the burglaries down my street are still continuing by the way.  It’s a bit unsettling, the same people came back to the same house 2 weeks on, presumably targeting the property in anticipation of all the goods having now been replaced. That’s not good is it?  However, I did laugh when another neighbour complained about having a parcel delivery stolen from outside her door.  It was a mail order delivery of kefir from guffawing goat company or something.

chucklinggoat-logo

I’m not surprised the goat is chuckling.  That people drink her fermented milk must give her a right laugh!  Payback time for nicking her milk in the first place.  My point is, that  I’d only ever vaguely heard of kefir when I’ve accidentally listened to The Archers, and didn’t think it either really existed at all, or if it did, that anybody actually really consumed it other than as a fictionalised fad, fetishised by hipster social media influencers.  Whoever and whatever they may be.  It was a genuine surprise to me that it’s a real thing, let alone one that is actually to some desirable.  Although clearly I condemn all such anti-social behaviour, having your kefir stolen doesn’t quite put you in the same category as someone who has been the victim of a life-changing assault.  What’s more, the victim in this case might have the last laugh, as she said that unless stored correctly kefir is basically an unstable compound that can explode spectacularly and messily and presumably honkingly at any moment.  Equally, consumption of said kefir can have catastrophic and explosive consequences for the uninitiated.  Maybe karma will get those thieving bastards yet.  Not quite as good as the guy who booby trapped baited parcels with exploding glitter bombs that would erupt if stolen, but it’s a start.  It’s worth forfeiting 9 minutes of your life to watch his YouTube clip of the glitter/ stink bomb device in action.  Well, I think it is, but maybe my life doesn’t count for much, you might be more busy and important and careful of how you squander your time – which would beg the question of what you are doing reading this then, but I daresay you have your reasons…

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That would be such poetic justice.  Actually, just a thought, but maybe anyone dressed as a clown at parkrun should be offered a complementary cup of kefir at the finish, that might deter them from a second outing in clownish apparel!  Mind you, that could backfire horribly in every sense.  If there’s one thing scarier than a clown, it’s an exploding enraged one.  Thankfully, I’ll be a guest there, it’s up to the core team how they chose to keep order…  frankly, I’m glad it’s not my responsibility to uphold parkrun regulations – there aren’t many, and at junior parkrun the number one rule is quite simply ‘have fun!’ and it ought to be the rule for 5k parkruns too.  I think it’s a given, which is why it isn’t on the posters, also the lack of a specific reference to ‘don’t wear a clown (or gimp) outfit’ is an omission, but I suppose they believe common sense will prevail. That doesn’t always work, case in point, at our Graves junior parkrun the RD once turned up for the  junior parkrun birthday run in the most terrifying werewolf head mask I’ve ever seen!  I shudder at the very memory!  Still, he hasn’t done it again to be fair.  Sometimes you just have to trust in people to do the right thing.  And/or, recognise everyone has a right to make mistakes now and again.  Next time it might be me or indeed you!  Perish the thought, but could just happen!

Think this offering might have won the internet fancy dress for the day though – even if strictly speaking it’s ineligible what with being an actual puppet at Brighton Pride, but you get my point I’m sure!  Have to concede they made a bit more effort than I did, digging my companion animal out the back of the cupboard for the first time since Christmas.  Oops.

this might win fancy dress internet today

Oh didn’t I say?

I decided to take Geronimo with me, turned out though, last time she had an outing was on Christmas day at Concord parkrun, she still had her Santa hat on when I went to ask her about coming along to Northallerton.  About time she had a run really, and I thougth I’d lost my running mojo, blimey she’s not been out even once in 2019.  No worries, it’ll be fine!  Just a question of putting one foot in front of another, times four – or six, if you include me.  I should have remembered that she’s less of a boon when running than you might think, but we’ve had fun together out and about in the past.  It’ll be nice to have a comeback reunion run with my companion animal of choice.  Whatever happens, we’ll always have London…  sigh.

well always have london

Decision made.  Northallerton parkrun it would be.

Not gonna lie.  Northallerton parkrun is a looooooooooooooong way from Sheffield.  At stupid o’clock I did start to contemplate the wisdom of my ways travelling such a long way for parkrun tourism and the chance to bagsy a ‘north’.  Then again, fancy dress.  Sometimes these decisions are finely weighed.

The day dawned, eventually, and it was lovely.  Too lovely in fact.  Whilst the terror of driving to Westwood nearly scared me off the roads entirely, this time the brilliant orb of early morning sun nearly burned the back of my eyes to dust, despite my sunglasses.  This seemed almost bizarre, following the recent nigh on apocalyptic rain, which has literally washed away some parkrun courses (Lyme park parkrun case in point), left others inches deep in water and poor Whaley Bridge junior parkrun in fear of complete annihilation.  Hard to imagine.  There aren’t many things more important that parkrun on a Saturday or junior parkrun on a Sunday, but in a rare moment of perspective, I’d venture cancelled parkruns are the least of their worries in Whaley Bridge.  Hope it ends well, I really do.

So I’m driving along, squinting into the sun, and periodically, great layers of mist create amazing landscapes as I drive past.  The roads were empty, the wind turbines still, and everywhere seemed verdant and bursting with life.  Reet nice out in fact.

Then, as I neared my destination, ‘I say, this mist is really getting awfully thick.’ I was saying to myself.  I often talk to myself.  This is what can happen if you spend too much time alone.  A bit later ‘hang on a goddarn minute! This isn’t mist any more, this is actual fog!’  It was like I was trying to circle in on Brigadoon or something!  Really hoping I’ve picked the right single day in a hundred year cycle to head out to this parkrun…  Mind you, the seem a joyful lot in Brigadoon, if that is where I’m to be heading, I’m sure they’ll have a parkrun there, if they choose to emerge on a Saturday it would be very rude not to, and they look hospitable enough.  I wonder though it that would make it a 9.30 start as it would count as Scotland, and also presumably not qualify as a North.  Oh well, would still be an unexpected adventure I suppose, and I do like them.

Next thing I know, I’m crawling along through dense fog, trying to work out where the road was, periodically checking my rear view mirror, until I noticed it was almost entirely obscured by a police van.  Cue paranoia.  I’m great at that.  That and getting the munchies, ace at both.

So eventually I arrive, crazily early even by my standards.  There is indeed loads of parking.  Squillions of parking places.  So many in fact, I get confused about which would be the best one to park in, decisions, decisions.  The venue is indeed based around a mahoosive leisure centre. I am in desperate need of a loo, please let it be open, please let it be open.  It was!  Hooray.  I’m in. Behind the reception desk is a disabled loo which I spotted first and then bolted towards in desperation, only temporarily blind sided by my inability to get the lights to come on despite frantically waving my hands about.  Spoiler alert, this is because the lights weren’t motion activated, but there is a switch inside the loo by the door, but you can’t see this, because once the door is shut you are basically enclosed in a panic room in the pitch black.  They are called panic rooms because they induce panic by the way, in case you were wondering.  Relieved in every sense, I could start my exploration of the venue.

So easy to find, loos available nice and early, loads of parking.  What’s this?  Slightly disconcerting outline of a body on the ground, presumably left over from some ‘scene of crime’ shenanigans earlier.  Oh well, best not ask.

I went back to my car, and slowly registered that there was a lot of green green grass around.  It did look very much like proper playing fields.  Gulp.  They were immaculately maintained, but definitely grass of school sports day flash backs, only with fewer imperfections.

There were the beginnings of signs of parkrun life.  A gazebo was going up – I later learned this is an actual parkrun gazebo, which is a glorious innovation from the Northallerton event team.  There was some indication of other runners appearing over the horizon, and other hi-vis clad people were out with flags and cones doing the course set up.  ‘Oh god.  Cones, it’s not going to be an obstacle course as well as sprint events at this school sports day is it?‘ Screamed the voice in my head.  Childhood trauma has much to answer for.

I went for a bit of an explore.  The course was a bit confusing, arrows pointing all over the place, but it seemed to go round the perimeter of a couple of fields, and take in a bridge or two and alongside a waterway.

I have never seen so many poo bins in such a small space, including some that were positively vintage. This seemed to be working as there was no sign of any actual dog poo, which was clearly a boon. I liked the mosaics, particularly the one of the person in a red parkrun milestone tee, hand held aloft ready to make contact with a high five was a particularly nice touch!  I retreated back to my car to watch what was going on.

More people gathered.  More alarmingly, a distinct absence of people in fancy dress.  Wait hang on, someone was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, I know another parkrun is having a Hawaiian shirt day, maybe either he or I have mixed the two events up?  Hang on, nope, I’ve checked, it’s Colwick parkrun having a Hawaiian shirt day, and that’s still a couple of weeks off.   Aloha Colwick parkrun people, loving your look there.  Ahead of the fashion curve I’m sure, but will definitely catch on.

aloha colwick parkrun august 2018

No, he might just be wearing it because it looks fabulous.  Curses.  I eyed Geronimo.  I mean, it seemed a shame to have brought her all this way and not brave it, but then again, standing around awkwardly on the periphery of a new parkrun when you are a visitor can be stress inducing at the best of times.

Mercifully, I eventually saw a couple of others who I was more confident were rocking the fancy dress vibe.  Hurrah!  These people could be my new best friends!  They might not know it yet, but I would seek them out and grind them down.  They’d only have to pretend for half an hour or so it would be fine, better than fine, it would be fun.  Here’s the first!

That’s Berta the dragon not Bernie the dinosaur, just as I am with Geronimo the giraffe not Melman.  Many things were not as they first appeared. This is unicorn not a dog for example.  You’re welcome.

Np not a dog a unicorn

We bonded over our clothing choices.  I confided I’d nearly bottled it but was reassured it was good to make the effort as that would give more people the confidence to do likewise next time.  ‘It’ll be like Jurassic park at your next parkrun birthday‘ I cried out enthusiastically, implying all would be emulating her choice of dinosaur-wear – before realising I’d immediately soured things by falling in to the dragon/ dino confusion trap. Put it down to nerves, and anyway, maybe everyone else would come as dinosaurs next time because dinosaurs are super fun for running in/ with/ away from and parkrunners might not want to copy Berta given that she was too excellent and magical a manifestation ever to be equalled again.  It was explained a lot of thought had gone into that outfit of choice earlier on in the day, it was not at all a case of frantically rummaging in the deepest corners of her child’s bedroom cupboard in just in time desperation and clutching at the nearest fluffy onesie that presented itself.  Not at all like that.  Not at all.

This was my other kindred spirit, but we didn’t get properly acquainted til later on.  Still, best things eh?  She was being busy and important in the way that you can only be when in possession of the giddy might that comes with possession of a clipboard.  With the power of being co event director comes mighty responsibility it seems.

Np taking control

There was someone in a bridal running outfit, but maybe that’s just on trend and not actual fancy dress.  I remember an unfortunate fashion trend when people started wearing their underwear as outfits for the evening – underwear as outerwear in fact.  I found it completely bewildering.  I can recall more than one occasion when I wondered if I should mention to my next door neighbour she seemed to have inadvertently forgotten to finish dressing before heading out of an evening.  I wouldn’t want to be guilty of judging what anyone else is wearing, her body, her business, but then again I’d want someone to have a quiet word with me if I was heading out the front door with only my marks and sparks basics protecting my decency – and protecting me from inclement weather –  before I embarked on a big night out.  It’s such a sensitive topic.  I remember back in the eighties being out at an ‘alternative night’ and spending some time agonising over whether or not another attendee had got her skirt caught in her knickers or making a statement to challenge the tyranny of societal expectations in relation to female fashion.  Spoiler alert, she had actually got her skirt caught in her knickers, though we could agree that the fashion industry is indeed tyrannous.  Around the same time as the outerwear/ underwear malarkey, it was also considered elegant to where a faux satin or silk lacy nightdress.  I say considered elegant, but obviously only those with a narrowly defined aesthetic which was also actually pretty narrow.  For mere mortals like myself it was just another tyranny of the fashion industry.   Now if I could have just worn my brushed cotton pyjamas all the time I’d have embraced it!  And if I’d have got away with a onesie, well, I’d totally be in.  In Cambodia, many of the women wear absolutely gorgeous outfits that we in the west would view as pyjamas, I’d love to be able to do that here.  Found this photo at this website by the way, the random observations about Cambodia resonated with me.  Why 31 I wonder?  That is indeed random…

women-pyjamas-cambodia

Anyway, stop distracting me.  Why are you asking me about Cambodia now?  We’ll be here all day if I don’t crack on.  Where was I?  Oh yes, at Northallerton parkrun and now, finally, I was out of the car and so there was an opportunity for some self-conscious milling and chilling.  I, or more accurately Geronimo, was sporting the cow cowl tourist buff – though I do wish she’d looked in a mirror before stepping out, it was partly inside out which didn’t help.  I didn’t see any others, so it was hard to tell tourists from regulars.  It was also a relatively small parkrun, and so it wasn’t all that easy to approach people somehow.  Perhaps not everyone warms to giraffes either?  Still, there were plenty of distractions, including a enormous cheque from Tesco which was quite fun.  Got to like a giant cheque haven’t you? Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real one of those before, only on TV.  I really hope they have to go and pay it in like that. That would make me so happy!*

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After a bit, it was over for the first timers’ briefing.  There were a fair few of us, and, just for pleasing symmetry, the person doing the first timers’ briefing, was also doing that for the first time!  I know, good isn’t it.  I think it might also have been the RD’s debut appearance too, but I’m less sure about that one. Main thing is, it was friendly and welcoming, but I was none the wiser about the route the course took, only really noting it was three laps, and follow everyone else.

Shortly after the we first timers’ had been inducted we were all shooed over to the start area.  I was acutely aware that this had the look of a fast field of runners.  I know it’s a bit of a generalisation, but it just looked like the majority of runners were towards the more serious end of the spectrum.  More people warming up with drills or stretches as opposed to say comparing fancy dress outfits or checking out the cakes.  I was feeling apprehensive.  I mean, I’ve been final finisher a fair few times, but didn’t relish the extreme visibility of being that as one of very few who were sporting fancy dress.  Yes, I know the tail walker is actually last, but I didn’t want to keep the volunteer team hanging around for too long.  Eek.  Oh well, here now, and it wasn’t like I’d be able to slope off inconspicuously either.  I think the rising fear was exacerbated by the awful present reality I’d be having to run round playing fields, two playing fields to be precise, and each three times.  That’s a lot of replaying of childhood trauma.  I would try not to cry.

So hi-vis heroes went to their marshal spots, whilst we parkrunners headed down the surprisingly steep slope to the gathering ground and the runners briefing.

Np dogs life

The cheque was presented, the system with the gazebo and donations for tea and cake explained, volunteers thanked, there was a big cheer for the hen do party – so it was dressing up outfit rather than fashion being sported there.  Good to know.  This briefing had the most politely behaved dogs ever.  Usually at parkrun briefings any canine companions are barking uncontrollably and bouncing about in eager anticipation like the dogs of hell waiting to be unleashed.  Not so here.  Not so much as a polite whimper, and there were dogs, because I met some later.  A shout out for tourists… I thought I’d made a good effort coming from Sheffield, but there was a woman and child present who’d come from Vietnam, so win for them methinks.  I don’t know that they’d only come that morning though.  I’d have loved to have talked to them as I have fond memories of working in Vietnam, but they were super speedy runners and long gone by the time I came through the finish funnel.  So many stories every individual participant holds within them at parkrun, I wonder what theirs was.

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And then, the shout went up and we all went!  This is what it looked like from a distance for the volunteer parkrun photographers: