Another parkrun day, another destination. It’s not been the best of years for me parkrun wise, but I suddenly realised I can get my 3/4 Cowell done this weekend if I moved out of my comfort zone and braved a but of tourism. Although strictly speaking a parkrun tomorrow on New Year’s Day is in 2023, because it’s all this one weekend, it feels like I’ll nail it this year.
Yesterday, in some quite ingenious procrastination activities, I set about doing some parkrun research, trying to fathom which parkruns I haven’t yet done are in realistic driving distance from Sheffield. This is basically a bottomless pit of distraction as each unique parkrun can take you down its own wormhole of parkrunpedia factoids and individual loveliness or character at the very least. I need never tackle an unpleasant activity again now I have landed on the perfect vehicle for endless procrastination. You might find it handy too.
I can report this research was both interesting and faffy in equal measure. Throwing up loads of venues that had inexplicably dropped off my radar, and generating a very long parkrun ‘to do’ list, that didn’t even include the destination parkruns like Bere Island and Somerdale Pavilion. Various parkrunning buddies of mine have taken to filling in whole spreadsheets of forward plans and I begin to see the attraction. Sometimes these shared documents float by my eyelines and up until now I’d only ever considered them as having value as a stalking activity. You get to see where other people are rocking up and can either stalk them or not and often they have done all the lengthy background research so you are guaranteed maybe a fancy dress display team, a particularly scenic venue or at the very least a milestone celebration with associated cake. That reminds me, did you see the lovely animation of the Charlie Mackesy book ‘The boy the mole the fox and the horse’ over Christmas. It’s just so perfect. Check it out on iplayer or at very least get yourself a copy of the book from world of books or whatever.
Anyway, I’m now thinking creating your own parkrun spreadsheet may in fact have merit, as it seems there are relatively near parkruns that are most worthy of visiting that I’ve yet to get too. In amongst the rediscovered parkrun treasures was Shipley Country parkrun. I don’t know quite why I’ve not already been, it’s relatively near and easy to get to from Sheffield, and from a cursory look at the website blah de blah seems to have all the things, parking etc. Hang on, I’ll prove it:
The official website blah de blah declares:
The event takes place at Shipley Country Park, Slack Lane, Heanor, Derbyshire, DE75 7GX and describes the course and facilities thus:
Course Description – The course is run on a mixture of tarmac, trail and gravel paths. The route starts on the main path between the Visitors Centre and the events field, near the childrens adventure playground. From here the route heads down onto Coppice Hill Bridleway. Participants veer right and then at the end of the bridleway, turn right onto Bell Lane. After approximately 200 metres turn right on to a footpath. The footpath passes Meadow Farm and heads back to the back of the Visitors Centre. Participants take a short path back on to the main path, and head down towards Osbornes Pond. At Osbornes Pond, take a right turn and take a short sharp gravel path up the hill. Participants follow this path and veer right, following the path all the way back round past the Visitors Centre and will again follow the path down to Osbornes Pond, take the right hand path up the short sharp gravel hill again. Follow this path back round towards the Visitors Centre, where the finish funnel will be at the events field.
Facilities – The Country Park has good facilities including a visitors centre (including gift shop, exhibition and display area of leaflets), baby changing facilities, toilets, first aid room, wildlife garden, Ramblers Café, Derby Lodge Tearoom, a number of childrens adventure play facilities, dedicated disabled parking, cycle pathways, bridlepathways, nature trail.
Location of start – The event starts on the main path between the Visitors Centre and the events field, near the childrens adventure playground.
Getting there by road – The main entrance to the country park is well signposted from Derby Road (A608) and from the motorway M1, junction 26. The park can also be accessed via Mapperley Village.
There are two car parks available at Shipley Country Park. The main car park has space for 216 vehicles and entrance is accessed via Slack Lane, Heanor, DE75 7GX. This car park is located within the country park and has 16 dedicated disabled parking spaces. You can also park at Mapperley Reservoir car park- accessed through Mapperley Village on Shipley Lane. Please note all car parks operate a pay and display facility; payments can be made by cash or card.
Post Run Coffee – Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in Ramblers Café, Nr Visitors Centre, Shipley Country Park. Show your parkrun barcode for special offers – please come and join us!
and it looks like this:
I did a bit of a results check and saw a full rota – though some people doing multiple tasks, and a friendly facebook page which is always a good sign of a proactive event team. Plus, lovely photo AND they give the what three words for the visitors’ centre which are apparently qualify.grumbles.stylists a trio that pleased me somehow. Grumbles and Stylists in particular sound like they might be reindeers that didn’t quite make the cut. Nice picture too
Why wouldn’t you want to rock up at a parkrun venue that looks as lovely as that? Precisely. No reason at all. Game on.
I didn’t sleep much the night before, like Lady Macbeth (though not for the same reasons I hasten to add) I seem to have completely lost the ability to sleep which is really annoying. On the plus side, wide awake in plenty of time for a leisurely drive over. The weather was pretty dire going across, standing water on the roads was a bit scary, I slowed right down, but others were less cautious so there was a lot of spray and the possibility of aquaplaning at any point. I wondered what the course would be like. In fact, the jolly volunteers had already posted a Facebook teaser:
Well, the course descriptors do always warn courses ‘may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain‘ so fair dos.
It was easy to find the venue from the postcode, and there are brown signs to the park too, which give you confidence since there is one turn off where you seem to be going through a very residential area before you emerge at the country park. I passed both a BP garage and a Tesco nearby but didn’t stop for my usual precautionary pee as I figured it likely there would be facilities on arrival and I like to live dangerously sometimes. Taking risks adds a certain frisson to events sometimes. They say you should do something that scares you every day to keep you feeling alive. I mean, this comes with the rider of exercising a certain amount of discretion, so talking to someone new say would work but jumping into a piranha filled river would be more sub-optimal, but whatever works for you. How can we know our limits unless we test them after all? Quite.
“There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?” as the great Erin Hanson puts it.
So I arrived pretty early, and headed in to the first car park. In fact, I could have gone on just a little further and there is one even nearer the start right by the visitors’ centre, but I was fine where I was. I pulled up partly because I’d seen what looked like an Easter Island Statue and wanted to go check it out, but investigation showed it as a bouldering stone I think. Squidging over slidey grass to check it out I did have a moment of angst I might have over-faced myself. Although my mobility is improved my balance can be off if my leg starts doing weird numby, tingling, dead leg things and the surface was more suited for body slides than picking round a parkrun. Much mud, and much standing water. Quite a lot of water still falling out the sky – no wonder the wonkies opted to stay in the car, just Red Ted game enough to accompany me on this occassion.
On the other hand, exciting old mining bits and bobs, open spaces, and the building anticipation of a parkrun event as I could see trainer clad folk gravitating towards the visitors’ centre. I followed them, and what great joy, there were loos and they were open! There is also a café – you could see inside that prepping was going on for the later onslaught though it wasn’t open before parkrun I think. There was loads of seating, some nice features like water bowls for dogs (though any self respecting dog would have found itself a puddle today I reckon, though it is the thought that counts) a bear (quite bijous, not to scale methinks, mosaics, all sorts really. There were signs to various activities and trails, including an Elf trail, oh and I passed a mounting block in one of the carparks so horse riders also welcome on certain paths. Lots to do at Shipley Country Park in their 700 acres, play equipment, nature walks all the things, but only one thing for me today, parkrun!
I sploshed my way towards the area where volunteers were congregating. They were in a tight circle like a rugby scrum or a team motivational chat. All busy about their preparations, there was a good atmosphere. One thing they did which I really like is that they all lined up for a high vis heroes photo together before scattering to their various posts. I really like it when volunteer teams do this at a parkrun, I think it helps build the community and it’s just really nice to acknowledge that without the volunteers the event wouldn’t happen. My favourite parkruns are those where the volunteers get a chance to know each other. At Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun, where I regularly rock up, they always walk all the volunteers en masse to their marshal pints so you can walk and talk and familiarise yourself with the course and the other volunteers as you head round. It makes it really friendly and social. I think the group photo is another variant on getting a gang together and a brilliant way to connect with each other. They shared the photo of them from the front, meanwhile I was taking the shot from the back – tis for you dear reader to decide which is their best side. I have ever so slightly photobombed their picture in the doing, but not so as you’d really notice, just like a ghost on their photo. Which reminds me, I feel a need to apologise for my pics, my camera is slowly dying on me, but I can’t bring myself to actually part with it, and anyway, rubbish photos have comedic value at least, plus, you get more of a sense of the penetrating wetness of the event at times. Perhaps we can tactfully agree that this adds atmosphere, if not actual clarity, to proceedings 🙂
I had a little wander about and a wonder about the general slipperyness of it all. Setting foot on the grass was properly hazardous, but although there was standing water on the compacted gravel path, that was fine if you didn’t mind the ankle deep sloshiness of accumulated puddles. You shouldn’t really as it is an actual fact, that running in rain over head or through water under foot just makes you a way more hardcore runner, so now you know.
This parkrun had a great atmosphere, people greeted and welcomed each other, it just felt extremely – almost pathologically – friendly and very well organised.
There was a jolly and informative first timers’ welcome. At this four parkrunners identified themselves as first time everers which was jolly exciting, although in fact I think the results suggested there were seven. What a day to pick! It was a lovely venue for sure, but a brave choice given the prevailing weather conditions that can fairly be described as ‘inclement’.
The briefing was thorough. We were told to basically keep going to the right as if you veer leftwards you’ll probably end up lost. There were of course marshals aplenty though to stop you going wrong. We were advised there would be a muddy bit through trees, and there was a normally hilarious as well as helpful quip about remembering to skirt around the lake, but if you ended up with wet feet you’d know you’d gone too far. Didn’t entirely help on this occasion, but the sentiment was apt. The RD stood by and diligently wrote down the names of any tourists’ home parkruns and any milestones and things, that was good. Not gonna lie though, that notepad looked like it would be papier-mâché before he made it to join the timers at the start line. Still, I do value an optimistic outlook. It’s amazing where self belief can take you. Absolute first timers were scooped up for an extra bit of explanation about barcodes and all, and the rest of us shuffled about wondering if the rain would pass. I was glad I was wearing my actual raincoat, which I’d wondered if would be over the top. Another parkrunning tourist was in a plastic poncho thing, which to be honest was a fab idea. Add to cart at the next small hours accidental shopping foray I reckon.
Next was the actual run briefing. The RD risked life and limb clambering up on a bench to address the assembled active wear clad parkrunners. Huge respect for the RD who did that classic of just waiting for everyone to be quiet. And it worked! I find it so stressful when people talk through run briefings, it’s just rude, and if you are new to an event then there’s stuff you need to hear – particularly on a day like today when the weather might impact on participation. He did so with good humour but authority too, there was a little bit of distant chit chat, but for the most part people were respectful. Hurrah. Nicely played. Milestones were shouted out, newbies welcomed, tourists acknowledged. I wanted to locate the tourists from Beeston parkrun as that is one of the friendliest events I’ve ever been to, but to be fair this event was pretty darned friendly too – though no parkrun is ever going to ace the Beeston parkrun Boathouse café, there’s only room for one Tony in the parkrun universe.
After the briefing, a little amble up the hill to the start area, and once everyone had gathered, off we went. Amazingly, just as the parkrun started it seemed to clear up a little, and even reached the point of actual dryness after the first half hour or so. Well, dry over head, under foot was a different matter all together.
Helpfully, although it was exceedingly wet, the actual path surface was hard and fine, apart from a couple of brief sections under trees where leaves had accumulated. Also helpfully, this seemed to be a genuinely walker friendly parkrun. There were two parkwalkers as well as the tail walker to be final finisher. There were a couple of intrepid nordic walkers, some jeffers walk/jogging the route, and others companionable walking and talking or twalking as I like to think of it. I made an effort to walk a bit more purposefully than for a while. I’m quite down about how little I can still do. I just remember last Christmas imagining a year ahead that I’d be running and mobile again, and I’m just not, and it’s crap. I have raged at the world over this quite a lot, although disappointingly it doesn’t seem to help much. I miss being properly part of parkrun, just being able to show up and take part without being an outlier or worrying about holding people up or creating paper work from toppling over somewhere. Praise be for the Walking at parkrun Facebook page and parkwalk initiatives for normalising walking to some extent… honestly, my experiences have been mixed as a walker, it’s always chancing it to go somewhere new. Today however, I needn’t have worried, this particular parkrun was very walker friendly and I had a genuinely good time, the erm ‘ambient moisture’ just making everything all the more memorable. I was very glad of my stick though, and just wish I could fit into my trail shoes again as I think they’d have been what we experienced parkrunners call a ‘boon’ to my performance!
I did a sort of awkward shuffle in between walking. And stopped at intervals to try to photograph the marshals. Each was a vision of loveliness of course, with every new marshal seemingly even more photogenic than the one I’d just passed, impossible though that might seem to be. They were all quite up for being photographed and so it’s a shame my camera can never do justice to their outstanding directional pointing, exceptional clappery and – at one spot in particular – full on karaoke and dance based supporting. Oh, and there was a marshal hiding in the woods too to scoop people up in case they skidded to such an extent they failed to take the intended corner and needed assistance being extricated from the pooled water that awaited the unwary. Attention to detail you see, that’s what makes a good parkrun truly great!
The course is described as ‘undulating’ but it’s pretty flat, there is one hill that you do twice that was a bit of a heave ho, but nothing too scary. Also, the way the course works, even though you do one bit twice, the faster participants are long gone by the time I got there so there wasn’t much of an issue with overtaking that I was aware of. I got passed a couple of times but it was all friendly and not particularly congested as far as I could tell.
You do a first biiiiiiiiiiiiig loop, and then a little one, and as you emerge from that you come by the finish funnel, which was being enthusiastically supervised by proactive and cheery marshals, There was such a good atmosphere as you rocked on by. I paused to get a couple of photos to capture a sense of the action. I mean, you’ll have to use your imagination to some degree because, well, not the best camera at the best of times, and in my possession, it’s not the best of times either. Still, maybe the pics will be a teaser to get you down to join the fun.
and off again for the mini loop, by this time I’d fallen into companionable stride with the two parkwalkers who were excellent company, sharing stories of upsideydown parkruns in Australia and being cajoled into starting parkrun by running club evangelists. I love hearing people’s parkrun stories. We all have our own origin tales. I gather there is a really successful junior parkrun here too, and they even held one on Christmas Day for them, figuring that the next time junior parkrun day coincides with Christmas day will be so many decades hence this might be their only ever opportunity to do a Christmas day parkrun. Good point, well made. I queried why they’d both had multiple parkrun volunteer roles, wondering if maybe they struggle to get volunteers, but apparently not, it’s just that volunteering is super fun. Which of course it is! It’s like opening a packet of Pringles (other savoury snacks are available) once you are on the volunteer rota you might as well bagsy all the spots you can because it’s rewarding. As my walking buddies were saying at the end of the day parkrun is all about community, the people you meet, the connections you make. Inclusivity and the joy of seeing others achieve goals is just The Best Thing EVER! I’d not really thought about it, but as one of them said, they put off going to parkrun for ages because they didn’t know anyone, which is totally the wrong way round, get stuck in, and you’ll soon know lots of people at your local parkrun. The beauty of doing an activity rather than blinking at one another in the awkward silence of other possible contexts is that you have something to do, and you can build up the levels of interactions as you feel comfortable with them. parkrun is just so brilliant.
It was with my new besties we shuffled past a well behaved gee gee, and then once again came across karaoke marshal, I think karaoke should be mandatory at parkruns where possible. It was lovely as well, that the parkwalkers greeted everyone they passed by name. Like I said, seems to be a very genuine community here. Hurrah! Yay for the instant party marshal spot though.
round again, puffing up the hill. I am so unfit. Wobbly leg is only part of the challenge. Then ‘suddenly’ back to the finish/ start. Past the blue cone, clicked in a barcode scanned, hurrah, and still no rain.
Safely scanned, I took a couple more shots of my new besties, and the final finishers who had been walking round but did an impressive sprint finish. At about this time the heaens properly opened in comedic torrential rain. I had no idea that it was possible there was so much water still left in the sky! It was properly hilarious.
Huge respect for the RD who made the most of the opportunity to do some full on puddle jumping. This is why we have puddles at parkrun, to play in! Fabulous. I think there should be a video of this doing the rounds somewhere, but you can make do with this still for now, it sort of encapsulates the whole parkrun today I reckon. Joyful, but ridiculously wet! I imagine the video will go viral in due course, I for one will be monitoring the Shipley Country parkfun Facebook page.
I thought it had started raining, but then water just fell out of the sky like a water tank exploding, it was beyond hilarious, you just had to go with it. Not gonna lie though, I was very pleased of my mac and even with it, was wet through to my knickers from water sploshing upwards, worth it though!
The high vis heroes were busy doing final course close down stuff, so I said my thanks and farewell and squelched away. It had been a good morning. I was invited to join the café conversations, but was too wet to stay and needed to get back, but I slightly regretted this as it was such a friendly group of runners. I chatted briefly to some in the café who were engaged in some good humoured banter around the risks of being allowed out without their carers. I think it was banter. I think it was carers. Might have been minders. One of them seems to have dodged death on innumerable occasions and still got a small scrap metal yard worth of medals to his name. Though with all those medical emergencies and falling over I was quite surprised he was to be trusted with a hot beverage. It was properly lovely though, I got a real sense of a community that comes together for a parkrun party week in week out and frankly probably doesn’t feel the need to trouble themselves with other parkruns because they are living the dream here. Having said that, a local running club does weekly tourism together, with members ndicating where they are bound so others can join in if they wish. Isn’t that lovely? Rhetorical question deear reader, because yes it is!
As we were chatting a great procession of marshals marched forward, carrying the pop up sign aloft, possibly because they needed to leave it somewhere to dry, though we all know that’s just a cover story for the fact that probably nobody has ever been able to fold it up again since the day it first landed at their event. It happens.
It was like they were parting the Red Sea as they processed by, parkrun paraphernalia carried aloft and carefully stored away til next week.
and that was that, suddenly time to splish home, aquaplaning the highways.
This was a great parkrun to finish the year with though, thank you lovely Shipley Country parkrun, you are the best, a memorable morning for sure. Yay you!