Digested read: volunteered at Graves junior parkrun today. It was awesome!
National ‘Get Outside Day‘ Oh GOD! Is that really a thing? I mean apparently so accordingtofacebooksoitmustbetrue. Never heard of it, but it seems that today, Sunday 29th September has been declared National Get Outside Day! They said so on the (very marvellous) Let’s Go Peak District Facebook page and even put an enticing image on it to emphasise both the point, and the unambiguous loveliness of the great outdoors.
What could possibly go wrong?
Nothing at all.
Apart from apocalyptic weather. This is what the great outdoors looked like to me at 8.00 o’clock this morning.
Still, the thing is, there is still no better place to be on a Sunday morning than a junior parkrun. Granted, in an ideal world it would always be Graves junior parkrun, but for those of you not fortunate enough to live within either the catchment area of Graves park, or to be able to commute to it, there are other junior parkruns available, they too offer up their own unique fun factories, whatever the weather!
I was a late signee for volunteering duties this weekend. I’ve had a bad back (lawks-a-lordy that makes me sound both aged and decrepit, both of which adjectives I’m currently inclined to ‘own’ as is the current zeitgeist). I wasn’t sure I’d be up for it. Also, the weather. Ooooooooooooooooooh my loooooooooooooord. Did you see the forecast? Basically torrential rain ALL DAY. Not just all day, but I think for all eternity. I wasn’t over keen. But then again, I very much prefer dramatic weather to low key miserableness. There might be an anecdote in it. Storms and torrential rain might be pretty awesome, as long as I was dressed for it. Graves park is its own micro-climate, and whatever weather is happening in Sheffield more broadly you have to multiply the wind speed by 100 and drop the temperature by 20 degrees and add in snow, fire, ice and flood to get a more accurate indicator of what to expect. FACT.* Never a dull moment up at Graves. Anyways, when I did send my rather late in the day email to offer up my services to firstname.lastname@example.org the Run Director (it’s a run not a race even more so at junior parkrun) he promised glorious sunshine and chortled at the nonsensical and alarmist rumour mill that included “earlier on today, apparently, someone said they heard there was a hurricane on the way, well, don’t worry, there isn’t!” As if! The sun always shines at junior parkrun. Ha ha, might have caught out Mr Fish – or might not, depending on what you choose to believe – (he did say it though, YouTube never lies) but definitely not our RD. Guaranteed sunshine it would be, or your money back. Count me in.
Besides, volunteers bring their own sunshine with them wherever they go, here are some of them from today, basking in it. Lovely indeed.
So it was, alarm went off at stupid o’clock, not that it really needed to. The rain had been battering on my attic window all night. I was half expecting to find myself marooned in my roof space, rising waters surrounding the entire house. It wasn’t though, although it was definitely exceedingly wet. Waterproof over trousers it would be. Not only waterproof trousers, other clothing as well, but just an extra top layer. Woolly hat too.
I ventured out. Yep, definitely raining. Got to Graves park car park. Pretty much deserted apart from the RDs car, we’re on then. I got my ticket for the car park and then sat in the car waiting to the RD to appear out of the rain, which he duly did, dragging the all important kit wheelie bin with him. We were ON!
Other core team members started to emerge from the mist, and, each furnished with newly laundered and fresh smelling fluorescent tabards (comes under ‘any other duties’ for the RD of whichever week apparently)…
we divvied up the set up tasks and off we went about our hi-vis business. Astonishingly though, and this is indeed nigh on miraculous and proves that Mr P S-H does absolutely have supernatural powers, it had basically stopped raining. I know, amazing!
Distinctly damp yes, but no longer a need to actively wear life-saving floats or other buoyancy aids prior to entering the park. Better yet, we even had some early arrivals to the Graves junior parkrun ball, so what with a venue, volunteers and hardy parkrunners that was it, we had all the necessary ingredients for a fab event. We would make it so!
I set off as is my way, to do course set up. I enjoy this, it’s a refreshing stomp round the 1km route to clear your head and you always see cool stuff. Gorgeous trees whatever the season, sometimes parakeets, today a bedraggled fluffed up robin, sheltering in amongst the red berries of a hawthorn tree. There are challenges of course. Carrying all those signs is harder than you might think, though I’ve developed an idiosyncratic knack of sorts:
I’m not going so far as to say I’ve perfected the art, but I have found my own pathway through. The real challenge is with the parkrun tape, putting it in place around the lake to try to deter participants from running into the water. The capacity of small children to run into inanimate objects is extraordinary, and the tape seems a modest barrier, but, alongside attentive marshals and accompanying adults has worked to date. That’s good. Disentangling the officially sanctioned parkrun tape is however really tough. It’s also somewhat contrary, some days you effortlessly unfurl the tape as if unwinding a silken ribbon from a fairy’s spool – or like I imagine that would be, I’ve never actually experienced that to be fair. On other occasions it’s a veritable Gordian knot, especially if you are in a hurry, have spectators or are trying to show a rookie volunteer how easy course set up is.
Got there in the end. Phew. The distance shot is taken at a parkrun earlier in the year 10th Feb to be precise, but I realised to my horror, I’d failed to snap my handywork in action today. I was also responsible for that fine tape work earlier in the year though, so I think the inclusion of this shot for illustrative purposes is probably fair enough in the circumstances.
You get to say hello to other hardy park users, and to admire the wildlife and livestock. Next to the pond are often some guinea fowl in amongst the waterfowl, protected by a fence. They are sort of 3D / 2D birds. From the front they are most definitely three dimensional, but from the side, they look absolutely flat. Honestly they do, go check it out. Nope, no photos – hang on, that’s what google is for…
Hmm, not sure if it entirely captures what I mean, you have to see them for real. Honestly, side view, like a cartoon drawing, then head on, a perfect sphere. This pleases me, the amazing 2D/ 3D guinea fowl. Awesome. Some sort of optical illusion, perhaps induced by the extreme contrast in the two perspectives. I look wide from both angles, but then I’m not a guinea fowl.
Carried on with course set up. Oooh, Humungous puddle on the way to the entrance to the animal farm! That’s not going to stop our junior parkrunners though, that’ll just add to the fun, a splish sploshing opportunity to enjoy not fear!
oh, mustn’t forget about change in access route from next week – wasn’t too confident how that would unfold (I know, I know, ‘ye of little faith and all that) but no time to fret about that because oh look! A highland coo! One of the highlights of Graves for junior and 5k parkrunners alike! Not sure why this one is being kept away from the others, could be a promotion or a demotion due to illness, or injury, who knows?
Despite my ambivalence about animals in captivity generally, and the sanitisation of how farm animals are kept, it is nevertheless pretty cool to see the critters in the morning. Today they were drenched, and a bit put out to be honest. For whatever reason, breakfast was clearly late, and most came to check me out in case I’d brought along a bucket of alfalfa pellets, or whatever along with my flags, and looked exceedingly unimpressed when it became clear I hadn’t. Messed with my head a bit. They galloped over ecstatic at the sight of me as I first came into view and then disdainfully – petulantly even – went off in search of a more promising candidate for breakfast service. I understand their point of view, I need to learn to handle rejection better. I’m just saying, if you’ve not been pointedly ignored by a trio of llamas you’ve never really been ignored at all. Love the piglets though. Warthogs will always be my favourites, but pigs hold a pretty fine second place in my heart.
Up through the park, nice cone work in evidence from my fellow course setter upperers
One of the big container planters was a bit in the way of the course, but we couldn’t move it, basic physics really, it was full of water from the rain. Still, seems junior parkrunners are a svelte lot, they managed to negotiate the narrow space into the car park without incident. Wonders will never cease. They run into marshals and the sides of buildings often enough. Still, all good today.
It took me longer than usual to set up, partly because of the Gordian knot, partly because of the standing water everywhere, partly because of my back and partly because I got distracted by the animals. By the time I got back to the mustering area, there was a pleasing assembly of people, and the first timers’ briefing was just starting. That’s one of my favourite roles at junior parkrun, so much eager anticipation and excitement and so much parkrun good will. Not for me today though, someone else had the giddy joy of delivering that.
I put the final arrow in place in the finish funnel, and checked out the other hi-vis heroes newly arrived. The mist was thickening. Strictly speaking every child is in view of a marshal at all times, it was however looking like we might struggle to see our hands in front of our faces if this trend continued. Oh well. What’s the worst…
Back to the start, all happening now…
It is always so worth rocking up to junior parkrun. The weather may have been inclement, but it takes more that an arctic blast and world ending downpours to deter our juniors, particularly when they are to be running their 100th parkrun and have a balloon to accompany them en route by way of marking the occasion. Anyway, it wasn’t raining. It might be a stretch to say it was glorious sunshine beating down on us, but, as already explained, we’d brought our own sunshine along with us, parkrunners always do! Plus flamboyant rainbow golfing umbrellas are guaranteed to lift your mood.
More juniors and accompanying adults rocked up, but always time for an attempt at a selfie. Really, I prefer to leave selfies to experts such as Smiley Selfie Queen, but in her absence we didn’t do too badly – if by ‘not doing too badly’ you mean we captured our gurning selves within the frame of the lens. Anything else a bonus. We also managed to alternate wide-eyed wide-mouthed deranged-demeanours with one another, which, dear reader, you must concede is good work.
back to the main business in hand, and the RD briefing. It seemed like fewer people than usual, not entirely surprising, but it was a keen and attentive crowd. We kicked off with a big round of applause for the parkrunners themselves this week. ‘Our junior athletes’ no less! Normally, the applause is for all the volunteers – and of course individual milestones and wrist band achievers, but in the elements today, the junior participants earned their recognition for turning out. Usual rules and awards,
Also, good news! We are the only junior parkrun in the UK, probably in the world over, that gets to run through an animal farm. This is a great USP and quite a privilege. New rules from next month mean the path through the animal park is going to be shut from Monday – oh no! However, expert negotiation has secured the Graves junior parkrun special dispensation to continue running the same parkrun route as always for a trial period at least – as long as all participants make sure they only run though. So no stopping to interact with the animals on the way round. That’s OK, plenty of time to scratch a goats jaw afterwards, through the ‘official’ entrance, and excellent news for Graves junior parkrun as there isn’t any really viable alternative route as it’s hardly health and safety gone mad not to want to have 4 year olds running through an active car park. That could quickly negate the positive effects of exercising outdoors, doesn’t take a genius to realise cars and children don’t mix. Although you might think so, the way some drivers behave dropping off their precious cargo outside school gates in the morning in cow bar adorned 4 by 4s. Terrifying.
Next base, warm up! I was documenting this rather than participating, but in my head I was doing the swimming exercise with particular aplomb, and I reckon the hula hooping looked fun too. Yay, go junior parkrunners, you are awesome!
Then a slidey trudge to the start line up:
Under starters order, with volunteers lined up like so many tenpins on a bowling lane, the tunnel of fear, and GO!
The front runners sprint past! Others skip, trundle and weave. All are brilliant. There can be no more joy-filled scene to behold on a Sunday morning. Honestly, in dark times, this spectacle will lift the most hardened and embittered of hearts. FACT.**
Gone. Disappeared into the midst. Oops. Perhaps we should have counted them all out, in order that we could count them all back. Never mind, too late now!
parkrun underway, cue the Reservoir Dogs routine as hi-vis wearers move to their new stations.
It’s a two lap course. I was on the entrance of the finish funnel, to try to ensure everyone did the required two laps and didn’t enter the funnel unless they had. To encourage runners and to shoo away parents from the funnel. Well, except in exceptional circumstances. Sometimes at the end you get some really scared juniors, we aren’t completely heartless, and can exercise discretion if faced with distraught participants who have completed the run quite happily, but are then overwhelmed by the sight of a veritable fluorescent army of towering scary looking marshals! How are they to know they are entirely benign? Well, for the most part… some of the warm up sessions can be quite full on!
It’s quite fun, because you do get to see all the runners at least once before you have to leap into full funnel management mode, and so get a little bit of the stories of some of the participants as they complete their first lap. The ones who are digging deep, the ones who smile the whole way round. The knowing ones who like to be photographed, the ones who seem to be running in their pyjamas/ fancy dress/ favourite dinosaur or skeleton shirt (why not, I would if I could). I was pleased to see the balloon was still attached to the 100th event runner. One junior wanted to finish at one lap, but I explained she couldn’t come in the funnel unless she’d done two, but there was still time. Negotiations went on. The outcome was unclear. Oh no, had I done the right thing, or had I morphed into Cruella De Ville. Still, rules is rules, and it would have messed up the timings something chronic if one-lappers in the finish funnel started to be a thing. With great power comes great responsibility it seems, I wore the mantle heavily. Still, at least I didn’t have to wear an actual mantel, that would have been worse, particularly with my back in the sorry state it is at present.
Before you know it, the first finishers are hurtling round. Blimey, they weren’t deterred by the mud! Sprinting to the finish at breakneck speeds. Astonishingly, I didn’t see any either face plant or backslide in the finish funnel, more luck than my dulcit tones imploring them to take care. I did see one really spectacular slide – but that was of a parent, racing to get a barcode to their offspring. Good recovery if I may say so.
The RD surveyed all, deep in profound contemplation…
probably, he might have just been thinking about what to have for lunch later though.
I know you shouldn’t have favourites… . I don’t really, but even so, can we have a special mention for the two runners who finished holding hands together, and also for the brave parkrunner who, having been turned away from the finish funnel after lap one, did indeed go on to complete lap two. Powered by haribos, she even achieved a sprint finish. I got something in my eye watching those moments. It happens a lot at junior parkrun. Also, the parkrunner who had to stop for a pee after the first lap, also made it back out on the route and completed the run. Yay! Catastrophe averted.
Good news, our 100th junior parkrunner completed his parkrun too – we should give an anticipatory shout out to his sister who will be doing the same next Sunday. Luckily the family have practised how to celebrate properly ready to up their game even further next week. For today, they celebrated with ace star jumps. This is the junior parkrun way! It would be the 5k parkrun way too if it was down to me, but I recognise I need to win hearts and minds to bring that about over time…
And then, in what seemed no time at all, the tail walker came into view, and that was that, parkrun done, we could all stand down. Just a question of dismantling the course and we would be good to go. There was one anxious moment when we nearly lost the RD for next week. She momentarily took leave of her senses, contemplating retrieving some cones from the bottom of the kit wheelie bin. This was contraindicated for her on account of her height, which is on the petite end of the continuum. If she’d disappeared head first into the bin that would have been the end of her, never seen her again. And with fewer adventures than Alice down the rabbit hole, and more complaints about how surprising it was to fine our normally reliable RD a ‘no show’ and why was the wheelie bin seeming to be a bit heavier than usual and why are there some stiffened legs sticking out of it? No worries, junior parkrun is about nothing if not team work. A taller marshal was sourced, and saved the day by effortlessly reaching in to retrieve said cones. Crisis averted. Especially good news as it’s her birthday next week! Happy Birthday awesome one!
Team work is fun you know. And you know what, you should really have a stab at volunteering if you haven’t already done so. If you have, and so already discovered for yourself that volunteering at regular parkrun is fun, then volunteering at junior parkrun will blow your mind, so much so, you must understand you undertake such a role at your own risk. FACT*** Clangers would be ace at marshalling, they have innate cheeriness already on tap, but you too could harness and channel your inner clanger by joining whatever parkrun team is in striking distance for you. Go on! It will be splendid! Which one will you be? Actually, I might be a froglet…
Adjourned to the cafe for results processing and token sorting. Normally I bagsy token sorting, but I was
sacked gazumped on this occasion, so instead took on busy and important supervisory duties. I must have supervised brilliantly – assisted by a junior parkrunner stationed at the opposite end of the table – as results were processed, tokens sorted and stashed and thank you texts to volunteers all sent out by 9.45. A record surely? Like I said before, team work.
So there you go, job done, all done and dusted for another week. Oh no, ages to wait. Still, if you want to prolong your parkrun fix, you can read all my parkrun related posts here. Or not. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.
I shall miss my junior parkrun fix next Sunday, but it’s for a good cause. I’m joining Bushy parkrun for their 15th Birthday celebrations and International parkrun day. It’s going to be SO EXCITING! The park looks like this:
I know this, because this picture was taken by Sue Lindenberg in Bushy park just yesterday in the early morning by the Leg Of Mutton pond in the park. Granted, she has photography skills a tad superior to my own, but that’s a pretty stunning location whatever talent you have behind the lens. Can’t wait!
So happy parkrunning people. Share the parkrun love.
Oh, and yes, on balance, I think it was worth getting outside for today. Funny thing is, it always is! Get Outside Day or not. Good to know.
*When I say FACT, I mean Lucy fact, i.e. what I choose to believe. Works for me. You’re welcome.
** as above
*** also as above
PS I’ve been careful in the photos I’ve used, but if anyone wants any removing, then let me know, and I’ll happily delete.