Monthly Archives: February 2023

Horton – Here for who? For Nelson! Horton Park parkrun #333

Hordes of parkrunners high hoved to Horton indeed, but friendly ones. Happy hordees if you will, gathering together for who? For Nelson, that’s who! It being all the threes, three, three, three, a palindrome But really mainly just getting together for parkrun day, to have a nice yomp around a lovely park with gorgeous people. What’s not to like? That’s right dear reader, absolutely nothing. Hurrah! No wonder so many of us rocked up for fun times in February.

.

.

The RD is doing an ankle warm up by the way, niche, but might catch on.

You are wondering no doubt why it is that the number 333 rings a bell for you. Well dear reader, let me jog your memory, you will know of course when prompted that ‘Year 333 (CCCXXXIII) was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Dalmatius and Zenophilus’ or the geologists among you (yes, I mean YOU!) might be ruminating on AL 333 – that is the unforgettable “First Family“, ‘a collection of prehistoric hominid teeth and bones. Discovered in 1975 by Donald Johanson’s team in Hadar, Ethiopia, the “First Family” is estimated to be about 3.2 million years old, and consists of the remains of at least thirteen individuals of different ages‘. Impressive as this finding undoubtedly was, we can beat that gathering of thirteen, with a stonking turn out of 151 parkrunners of different ages rocking up for event # 333 at Horton Park parkrun in Bradford. I didn’t bother to work out the estimated collective age of participants, but concede it might not quite be 3.2 million years – but I’d bet my parkrun buff that if you added up all the ages of parkrunners who have completed a parkrun it could reach that figure. Please don’t check though, I like my parkrun buff and would prefer to keep it. Also, I’m not great with numbers, so might not be quite a fair contest. The point is, 333 is a fun number, an interesting number, and a lure to many to seek out a particular parkrun destination.

It is especially attractive to those parkrunners invested in completing parkrun challenges, in this case the Nelson Challenge, which is to complete a parkrun event (or sequence of events) with a number that’s divisible by 111. I’ve covered the accuracy of this nomenclature before when I did a post about coming together at Concord parkrun # 555 so I’ll spare you that again, lets just say it’s somewhat contested, might come from cricket, yet for parkrun Challenge purposes a Nelson it is. It’s also getting a bit angsty over whether or not it’s ok to chase number challenges at parkrun. The argument being that it can impose a huge influx of new parkrunners at events that might not be able to cope with such attendances. I think for the lower numbers it’s less of an issue, as more parkruns keep coming on board, however it’s certainly going to be a challenge when Bushy parkrun hits 999 and then 1000 in consecutive weeks as the first to do so. Similarly the 888s are few and far between at present. I’m not sure of my stance on this. It feels like the challenge is out of the box. Short of ceasing to number the events at all (which some have mooted) I don’t think this is easily undone. I view all the challenges I choose to take part in as an aid to choosing where to tourist. I’ve got into the Nelson Challenge somewhat by accident as I found two close to home in Sheffield, had already completed one without realising it, got an offer of a lift to another, and then found very handily, Horton Park parkrun was offering up the missing link parkrun number 333 just an hour away from where I live. I feel ok with what I’ve done, but not gonna lie, it does make me now want to complete the set, and perhaps that is going to swamp events. I reckon Bushy parkrun will cope, I was there on Christmas Day 2019 when there were something like 2,600 – hang on, I’ll go check – yep 2,545, but with soooooooooooooo many funnel duckers who had to get away for Christmas stuff it was more than that. The event coped really well, but it is exceptional, then again, it’s likely it will mop up the early challenge seekers, and ease numbers for the parkruns that follow. We shall see. It can be a fine line to step at times, celebrating discovering parkruns that you might not otherwise be drawn to, but not destroying the very event you want to enjoy.

Still, back to Horton Park parkrun. Lovely. Nice gates. Not a euphemism, just an actual fact. Yes, I know, my camera can’t cope, I’m hoping to replace at some point, but for now you’ll just have to use the image as a taster to get the gist, and then shifty on up (or down) there to have a looksie for yourself.

.

.

Let’s start though, with the official Horton Park parkrun blah de blah:

Where is it? The event takes place at Horton Park, Horton Park Avenue, Bradford, BD7 3BN

Course Description: This is a 3.5 lap clockwise course all on smooth, wide tarmac paths suitable for prams. The park dating from 1878 lies 1.6 km to the south-west of Bradford city centre and slopes gently up from north-east to south-west. The area is predominantly residential with some industrial development on Horton Park Avenue to the north-east. The start is on the broad central promenade at the top of the 19th century cast-iron bridge which carries the promenade over an irregular lake at the centre of the site, from here head straight up passing formal flowerbeds and the rose garden to the top of the park and turn right onto the perimeter path which gently rises to a peak before descending the entire length of the park past an avenue of poplar trees to the principal park entrance which is flanked by stone gate piers supporting two pairs of late 19th century iron gates. Continue on past the forecourt roundabout, where the path curves round to the right passing the play area and rising round past the bowling greens, an S bend round to the right offers a short reprieve from the climb. Continue on past the basketball court and now grassed former tennis courts where the path curves round to where you first joined it. To finish turn right at the bottom of the park after completing 3 full laps and head up the central promenade where to the right a stream from the lake winds alongside down a stone culvert with a number of small cascades.

Location of start: The start is on the broad central promenade at the top of the 19th century cast-iron bridge.

Getting there by road: Approximately 1.2 miles from Bradford City Centre, follow the A647 Great Horton Road, turn left into Horton Park Avenue, the entrance to the park is on the right. There is ample on street parking on Horton Park Avenue and Powell Avenue.

Post Run Coffee: Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in our local Tesco café (Great Horton Rd, BD7 4EY) – please come and join us!

and it looks like this:

.

.

Jolly good.

I’m still having to walk, so though I may as well get in touch and offer to be a parkwalker, and was welcomed for the role which is always a good sign. Also a good sign, from doing so it alerted one of the team, who is also a With Me Now (unofficial parkrun podcast) listener that I’d be going. They’d look out for me, we could have a mini meet up, it would be grand! I choose to think of their proactivity in noting I’d be there as being a good thing, a testament to reaching out. It was not at all that I had triggered some sort of public health alert scenario their end, with damage limitation and managing the situation safely being uppermost in their mind when reaching out. Yay for meeting fellow parkrun passionistas! parkrun people who live in your laptops but you’ve not yet had the joy of meeting up with.

On a more serious note, Horton Park parkrun had to cancel a couple of weeks back due to lack of volunteers. They’d done the usual multiple shout outs to no avail, and eventually had to make the agonising decision not to go ahead. There was some negativity about this along the lines of ‘why not do a shout out on the day’ but this response rather missed the point that some parkruns – increasingly since the pandemic – are spending hours and hours putting out appeals, begging almost for volunteers and this is demoralising and unsustainable. Last minute offers can be too little, too late, and waaaaaaaaaaaay too stressful for event teams to manage and it is very time consuming to keep on checking and making shout outs right to the wire. Ultimately, parkruns are community events, they need the communities they serve to get involved in delivering them too. Obviously not everyone is able to volunteer, and volunteering should not be compulsory, but events don’t happen by magic and so it’s important people think of stepping up now and again to keep them alive. For me, the tragedy is that volunteering at parkrun is not a sacrifice, it can be super fun, you see the parkrun from a different perspective and can get the whole parkrun joy without having to actually charge about. It astonishes me that some parkrunners have yet to embrace this, and it saddens me hugely that so many parkruns seem to be struggling of late. Maybe the awful truth is that it takes a cancellation for some to wake up to the notion that their parkrun needs them to volunteer too. Horton Park parkrun is a small event really. The average number of finishers being 62.6, so that’s not a huge pool to draw from. However, Endcliffe parkrun in Sheffield had to cancel last year due to lack of volunteers despite having 457.2 average finishers each week. It can’t just be about the numbers taking part, something else seems to be happening. This situation just makes me incredibly sad. Individual parkruns get cancelled but worse still, core teams burnout, jeopardising parkruns entirely. Saddest of all though, is that people are missing out on the joy that is volunteering at parkrun, it’s an actual FACT that volunteering makes you happy. The converse is true too. You know like in Peter Pan, when everytime someone says they don’t believe in fairies one falls down dead right then? Well it’s the same for parkruns too. Everytime someone declares ‘parkrun doesn’t need me to volunteer‘ or ‘volunteering is not for me‘ (without any particular reason why) a little bit of the parkrun spirit dies too, and core teams retreat, feeling battered. That’s what it can sometimes feel like anyway. Whatever, I just really hope people who maybe haven’t got around to volunteering yet at their event do so; or maybe introduce a non-running friend to parkrun so they can join in and be part of parkrun as a volunteer. Volunteering on a regular basis brings its own joy. You might even end up with your own corner on a course, and you’ll definitely get an appreciative round of applause at the start of every parkrun. Just do it! I mean look at the volunteers at this event for instance, jumping for joy and they’ve not even started the morning’s parkrun yet. Can hardly contain themselves. This could be you! Wait til you see how happy they are at the end. Those endorphins can last all week, swimming around your system powering you through.

.

.

And you think that’s happy. You should have seen them buzzing with endorphins at the end.

This photo was taken by a rather excellent volunteer photographer by the way. He made a point of gathering the volunteers at the start and taking a photo of us all together by the Horton Park sign to show where we were. On reflection, it would have been good if one of us had been holding the day’s newspaper too, so we could prove the date as well. It is a nice touch, I love group photos of this ilk, it helps build the volunteer community. He did one fairly standard photo and then one of us looking altogether more cheery. Hurrah! Nice touch, great pic. Actually, there were lots of great pics from today, which is handy as my own photos were, erm, let’s go with ‘sub optimal’.

Oh, and by the way, if you need encouragement to volunteer, check out Sherwood Pines parkrun volunteer appeals, they are brilliant at expressing the joy! Give that Facebook communications person a cheer! Loving their work. Worth following their page just for a weekly chuckle, even if you can’t get to run their, though it’s a fab parkrun too for the record. High time I went back to Sherwood Pines parkrun for another yomp round, it was one of my favourite courses.

.

.

Back to Horton Park parkrun though, because that’s where we were experiencing the parkrun love today.

I did my usual thing of setting off paranoically early so arrived at the park in good time. There was loads of parking, even allowing for it being a larger than usual turn out. I could have parked right by the very impressive gates, but wasn’t quite sure if that was allowed, so followed the actual instructions and popped myself on Powell Avenue, where, at that time, I could have the pick of positions. What joy!

.

.

It was surprisingly nippy out, so I had the usual pre parkrun faffery of deciding what to wear, and then I ventured into the park to explore. As before when parkrun touristing, I was really taken aback but the grandeur of the park. It had mature planting, a huge, wide central avenue, little bridges and hidden gardens with fountains – switched off at present, but no doubt spectacular when going. Sadly, there were signs warning of bird flu in the area, and maybe that’s why some of the little waterways were empty, I wonder if they are trying to discourage birds from gathering too much. There was also a weird structure of tree roots apparently covered in tarmac. I can’t be sure, but I wondered if this was the remnants of a fossilised tree. The only time I’ve seen anything similar was at another Bradford Park, at the Precious and Rare Bradford parkrun in Lister park, so that would make sense. Gotta be honest, it looks a bit underwhelming as displayed at present, but if you think about it a bit more, what a mind blowing thing to have in your local park. 330 million years old potentially, if we decide it was actually 333 million years ago, and I think I have now decided that, what a brilliant segway back into Horton Park parkrun #333. Phew. And you thought I was getting distracted again didn’t you! Oh ye of little faith!

.

.

Because of arriving early, I was before the volunteer team had set up, so I went for a little wander about, and then met someone who looked very much like – and indeed was – a fellow parkrunner, who pointed me back to from whence I’d come, which is the rendezvous point for volunteers. So basically, the volunteers meet near the main gates of the park, and then the first timers welcome and RD briefing is held a bit beyond the park steps. The start being a little further along again. It’s not a huge park to be fair, and there is very little chance of missing the parkrun unless, like me, you are there ahead of them 🙂

Very soon though, parkrunners started assembling, cones were being carefully placed, high vis handed around and the usual buzz of meeting and greeting as everyone gathered. Tourists too, I was found by my parkwalking buddy for the morning, another tourist along with the tailwalker. They were walking ahead of a 10k race not a run tomorrow so happy to walk at today’s parkrun not parkrace, so that was good. Oh, and I found or was found by, fellow With Me Nowers, and spotted the distinctive WMN merch on the RD too, so amongst friends, albeit ones I hadn’t met yet. Oh wait, and there was a Huddersfield parkrun buddy, not seen since Hillsborough parkrun #444, and another who was at Zielony Jar parkrun last week, the week after me and the others. Did I mention when we went, one of our party lost her barcode, so I choose to believe this other Huddersfield parkrunner made the trip particularly to see if it had been found and pick it up. It hadn’t been unfortunately, but she had a very nice time at the parkrun anyway, just so you know. So many stories to share, although annoyingly conversations were inevitably only half finished as is sometimes the parkrun way. That’s ok too though, it’s always good to leave your both a parkrun, and your audiences wanting more!

.

.

Roles allocated, ‘official’ volunteer photo taken albeit not everyone could be included as some were already busy undertaking their duties, we started to wend our way up to the bridge. More meeting and greeting went on, I always feel a bit emotional at this point, so many connections being made or renewed. Oh, and also, a rather splendid barkrunner, with own bespoke hi-vis, always a win. And even time to pose for a few group photos. I never saw the pop up sign somehow though, probably too busy chatting. There is one there, perfect for that team shot if you are so inclined.

.

.

I somehow missed the first timers’ welcome, I think because I was slow joining the throng from the volunteers photo. I know it would have been excellent though, how could it have been otherwise. Then the RD did his briefing. Welcoming people to Horton Park parkrun #334! See what he did there! Hilarious. Well, it should have been #334 if they hadn’t had to cancel, so just a reminder. That’s a With Me Now hoodie he is sporting there – you can see it in full glory on this fellow WMNer who did the first timers’ welcome, albeit it was a shame he had the wrong lettering on the back of his.

.

.

A printing error surely? #sitdownnotcooldown. They say you have to respect the right of everyone to participate in parkrun in their own way I know, but just saying I doubt very much the RD would have made the same mistake, although maybe it’s just as well you can’t see that under his rather fine monochrome RD high vis… New blue RD high vis is no doubt incoming. Quite possibly at a parkrun near you too very soon, if not already.

.

.

There were the usual thanks and milestones and loveliness, and then we gathered for the start, and everyone ready? Timers ready? Awf!

I tried to take some pics, and then joined as a walker towards the back of the pack, quickly drifting to the tailwalker. It is a weekly irritation that even my walk is so slow. I am generally very much better than I was, and almost sprightly at home and on the flat, but I still can’t walk very far or for very long time wise, and cold weather doesn’t help. I’m a little more hopeful than I was that the summer may bring some improvements, but I found walking this particular route felt a stretch. I think a combination of the cold, and a slightly faster walking pace than I can maintain. When spring finally properly is sprung, I plan to try to get out and test myself more, but I need to feel confident it is safe to do so. Back to parkrun though, Horton Park parkrun was go, and go we did!

.

.

What a fine body of parkrunners in action we were! All of us. Yes, you too, if you were there, or even if you weren’t – all parkrunners are fabulous always and so are parkrunners yet to be. It’s only a matter of time before you join the happy throng I’m sure 🙂

The route is pretty straightforward, although it being a multi-lap course, you do need to be able to count to three preferably, which is harder than you think. Don’t worry too much though, there are lots of marshals around who as well as being exceedingly good at directional pointing and cheering, can also count to three – perhaps even beyond! There was no need to test the latter competency on this occasion, but I reckon they very possibly could. Stars, each and every one.

I tried to get photos of each of the marshals en route. The cheery top of the hill marshal who’d lost her signs but not her enthusiasm. The chilly duo who were good spirited despite having to bounce up and down quite a lot to keep warm. The ones at the bottom of the hill to cheer you round again or back up the hill to the finish funnel depending on your lap quotient, the solitary smiley marshals oozing enthusiasm and authority as they managed their spots solo. The ones not small but far away, and the close to the hive of activity at the finish funnel marshals at the end. Then there was the photography marshal, and the cheery marshals and everything and everyone in between.

.

.

off we went, soon the two parkwalkers and tailwalker found ourselves in step. The rest of the pack being far ahead. It is a lovely park, and the snowdrops were amazing at this time of year. Mature trees abound, I saw catkins which are always a particular joy. We were cheered by passing parkrunners lapping us as well as the marshals at intervals on the course. It had a good friendly vibe, much parkrun positivity was bursting out along with the spring bulbs. I’d swear the sun even came out briefly, possibly also following the ‘always leave your audiences wanting more’ principle no doubt. The volunteer photographer was on hand to capture the whole occasion. All the photos for Horton Park parkrun #333 are up on the Facebook page but here is a smorgasbord to save you the exertion of having to click on the link. Oh, and I included a couple of mine too, but I don’t think you’ll struggle too much to work out which are mine and which are his.

.

.

We walked and talked – twalked, and chatted and pootled – chootled round. Even though there were three of us we did get a bit discombobulated about how many laps we’d done, but don’t worry, completed the course most satisfactorily in the end. Don’t worry though, even though we were kept busy twalking and chootling, we were sufficiently alert to our surroundings to strike a pose for the photographer on our way around. I’m not even going to try to pretend we weren’t fussed about having our picture taken! Fabulous though aren’t we? Three volunteers for event #333 I like this photo, even if it does make me look like a jumbly. Or maybe I do look like a jumbly and the camera has just captured that reality, oh well, it’s still a fun shot, and jumblies have their own charm too. Plus, I’d happily go to sea in a sieve if I thought that sieve would take me to Bere Island parkrun, so we have much in common. More in common than divides us in fact, as the saying goes.

,

,

The route goes round the outer paths of the park, and takes in some Yorkshire flat. It isn’t massively steep, but if you were running, as opposed to walking, I think it would feel like a fair old climb as it’s quite a distance up hill, but then you get to run down in on the other side of the park, so swings and roundabouts or ups and downs, it all levels out in the end. On our final lap, some of the marshals walked companionably along with us for a bit before they headed back down the central path to the finish funnel. Meanwhile, faster parkrunners sprinted home, captured with flying feet, flailing arms, smiles and grimaces all by our heroic photographer. Action shots are The Best! Not everybody demonstrated all these things, but there is always next week to complete the challenge, should you choose to accept it. Good luck!

.

.

And so the time came for us to pass up the finish funnel to the chorus of cheers from the timers and finish funnel managers and scanners all still in place. There were a few stoical, supportive parkrunners still milling around, and enough volunteers for a further photo op. Hurrah!

.

.

And that was that, time to pack up and go home, and think of ideas for the inevitable caption contest photos that would be incoming later on.

.

.

All in all, a pretty fine parkrun. There was just one critical incident, which unfortunately probably would have had to be reported to HQ, but these things happen. It was bungate.

A kind parkrunner had some particularly impressive buns. S/he’d brought them along to share in order to celebrate either the 333, or touristing, or a milestone, or just to be nice – some people are. Anyway, because the photographer was busy with their camera, his special bun was carefully placed to one side, to keep it safe until he could step down from his duties, documenting the parkrun. At the very end, as close down was underway and high vis tabards were being gathered and cones and other parkrun paraphernalia collected together on a handy bench DISASTER STRUCK! His iced bun did a kamikaze topple, iced side down (isn’t that just always the way) tumbling over in slow motion to gasps of horror from onlookers. Gutting.

I think there was talk of salvaging the situation, or replacing the bun, but that must have hurt. Hopefully there will be future parkruns with future offerings by way of recompense. In the circumstances, it was most fortunate that the photographers blood sugar levels sustained him for as long as they did!

And so it was time to disperse. I did get a kind and sincere offer to join the team who would be gathering at their local Tesco up the road for parkfaffing purposes. Possibly results processing and all those things too. Alas, I couldn’t stay this time, but it’s always really nice when teams or locals do encourage people to join in for the post parkrun catch ups. After all, as we all know by now, parkrun was always about the coffee.

Thanks you Horton Park parkrun for the warm welcome to your lovely park. It was a great team and a friendly vibe. Your snowdrops are breathtaking and fossilised tree roots a one in a 333 million year spot. Yay you. Hope our paths cross again some day, but in the meantime yay for keeping the parkrun love alive, well done on you #333 parkrun, here’s to the next 333 million years. I wonder if any parkrun memorabilia will last that long. A golden barcode from a parkrun pioneer perhaps, or just the parkrun spirit, leaving it’s aura behind wherever a parkrun has been run, in perpetuity. That would be nice.

So there we go, that was that.

But only ’til next time. See you there! 🙂

Of course in the meantime you could always browse through all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though. And check out the Horton Park parkrun photos for event #333 in case you think I’ve missed out the best ones, which is quite possible, as it’s sooooooooooooooo hard to choose which ones to include!

Don’t worry though, I remembered to include this one of the WMN mini meet up, yay, I did spot another WMNer en route in the photos, but they had vanished by this point, we held the in our thoughts though, so that’s ok!

.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, Uncategorized, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yay for Yarborough Leisure Centre parkrun #3 for a pribbonacci gathering

This is a parkrun that is all about the people. I was twalking again (walking and talking) but saw a comment from a participant on the Yarborough Leisure Centre parkrun Facebook page saying how much they enjoyed their ‘chatty pootle’ so maybe chootling is the way forward? We shall have to wait and see. What is clear, is that this pretty new kid on the block laid on a fabulous welcome at it’s super organised and perfectly accessorised parkrun event. It’s just three today, isn’t that sweet? Yet sassy and confident in it’s delivery, which included not only cheery and cheerful volunteers, and enthusiastic attendees but even glorious sunshine. #livingtheparkrundream. Oh, and a ‘Y’ for alphabet chasers – only the second in actual Europe. Which sort of overlooks the fact that alas, we are part of the EU no more, so don’t really feel all that European anymore to be honest, so really England has the parkrun Y monopoly in this area at present. Spoiling us with both a York and now a Yarborough. There was a Yeovil Montacute parkrun at one point, but that is no more. Only the parkrun, not the place, just to be clear. Wouldn’t want you to think there’d been some sort of top secret annihilation of the town that has been all hushed up, there are more than enough conspiracy theories as it is. Mind you, I’ve never actually been, and now I look Yeovil up on Wikipedia I’m not sure it is an actual real place. Key messages include ‘One symbol of Yeovil is “Jack the Treacle Eater”, a folly consisting of a small archway topped by a turret with a statue on top.’ hmm, see what I mean, and other claims to fame include that ‘Yeovil is known in Thomas Hardy’s Wessex as “Ivell”. … (it) … is the location for the fictional School of Lifemanship in a series of novels by Stephen Potter: Gamesmanship (1947), Lifemanship (1950), One-Upmanship (1952), Supermanship (1958), Anti-Woo (1965) and The Complete Golf Gamesmanship (1968).’ I mean, where would a fictional school be located other than in a fictional town? Quite, just sayin. Also, ‘Montacute’, think about it, how can that be a real name? Kudos to those who did manage to bag a parkrun there though, I’d have thought that was pretty much like timing it right to arrive to join in a jig at Brigadoon once in every centur. Respect to those who found it. Today though, was all about Yarborough Leisure Centre parkrun. And jolly splendiferous it was too!

This is a relatively new kid on the parkrun block. As one of only two Ys, the launch must have been a bit scary for the team, but it coped brilliantly with its inaugural event. This is a new event that is within reach of Sheffield, so was on my radar, but I was happy to let it settle in a bit rather than crash the first event, even though I did get wind of it before hand. I hadn’t particularly got a date in mind to head over, but then my new parkrun besties from Huddersfield declared their intention to go today, and as I’ve been experiencing MASSIVE separation anxiety since waving them goodbye last week, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass by. Yep, I’d be there. Despite still feeling a bit broken from all the excitement of last weekend and indeed last week.

I was filming again last week, and had an exhausting day of early call time meaning 4.45 a.m. start to arrive at unit base in time for huge breakfast, hair and make up, then in holding on squidgy sofas so bit of a nap, woke up for long enough to compare conspiracy theories (though puzzlingly, we didn’t get onto whether or not Yeovil actually exists) then played table tennis for first time in decades. Turns out it’s super fun, even if you are terrible at it (me, my opponent used to play in a tt league apparently). Do you remember when Boris madly started calling it wiff – waff? What planet is he on? Mind you, that wasn’t the craziest thing he ever said or did to be fair, so let’s keep things in proportion. Then broke for lunch, more kipping, much hilarity with the other extras, trying to spot ourselves in ‘Better’ watching in on fastforward on iplayer, and crying with laughter at our shadowy figures fleetingly glimpseable in the very back of shots only when the frames were frozen brief half hour on set then realeased by 6.00 p.m. #livingthedream I always think a day where you cry with laughter at work is a good one. Remind me to tell you about the job interview I had with Dogs for the Disabled. Only time I’ve literally wet myself crying with laughter during a job interview. Gawd it was hilarious though… Also, I think this means I am officially a professional table wiff-waff player, on account of the fact I was being paid for playing it. I may yet become part of the sporting elite! Hurrah. Anyway, stop distracting me, or we’ll never get to the start line of Yarborough. Here is a sneak preview, just to keep you on board…

.

.

I would be there at the start, I would meet with Huddersfield friends, it would be magnificent, being further broken is but a small price to pay to hang out with parkrun besties. I would get to wear my giraffe llama leggings all over again. Well, strictly speaking I’ve not taken them off since departing for Poland and our epic trip to parkrun Zielony Jay. Why would I? They are the comfiest thing ever, are linked to happy memories, a much appreciated gift and also, I like giraffes. Then again, I don’t think we should have to justify our clothing choices whoever we are. Want to know what to wear? Have clothes? Have human shaped body? Then put clothes on and voila! Job done! Fancy dress is always a good option though obvs, but more of that later…

Shall we start with the official blah de blah? Just for some context? Yes? Good. So, according to the parkrun website:

Yarborough Leisure Centre parkrun is a ‘A free, fun, and friendly weekly 5k community event. Walk, jog, run, volunteer or spectate – it’s up to you!‘ and the event takes place at ‘Yarborough Leisure Centre, Riseholme Road, Lincoln, LN1 3SP.

The course is described thus: ‘The course makes use of the cycling club’s race track. It is three and a bit anticlockwise laps around the perimeter of the Yarborough fields. Flat and wide tarmac all the way around’ so fairly minimalist, but also fairly straightforward. As long as you can count to three and a bit, which to be fair is suprisingly hard on multi-lap courses, no worries, marshals would be bound to help.

The course looks like this:

.

.

All good!

Early start again, and off out. It was exceedingly blustery out, fallen branches and bins going awol. I had a brief moment of angst re driving, all those high sided vehicles being blown around is a bit of a scary thought. Oh well, nothing ventured. Up and out and satnav on. Whilst I was gingerly venturing out, the Yarborough Leisure Centre parkrun team were up and at it!

.

.

The drive was actually ok, it was windy but some sunshine and relatively mild, almost spring like. The only real complication was that my satnav took me the most extraordinary route, maybe my bad because I opted for a route which would avoid paying a toll. I’d swear I went via the channel islands, the Isle of Man and an overnight stay in Dover, before arcing up to Glasgow and making my way back down again. I also got stuck behind a tractor for quite a while just outside Aberystwyth, which is fair enough as a tractor can only go as fast as it can go, but was quite stress inducing. Then when my satnav announced ‘you have reached your destination’ I very clearly hadn’t so had a moment of panic. Fortunately, I’d printed out all the directions and there was a bit of detail

Getting there by road – For SATNAV use LN1 3SP – what3words: ///buddy.humble.above

The leisure centre is on the north side of Lincoln. Follow the A46 around to the intersection with the A15 and turn in towards Lincoln on Riseholme Road (B1226). Yarborough Leisure Centre is half a mile on the right signposted Lincoln Castle Academy.

Plentiful free parking is available at the leisure centre.

Well, the what3words didn’t help on account of being person not in possession of smartphone, but just a bit further on from the garage I’d pulled in at was a large entrance, signed for the Lincoln Castle Academy, and you follow road round to see well signed parking for the Yarborough Leisure Centre. It was a bit tighter time wise than I’d have liked and I was concerned I wouldn’t get a space, but Yay! Loads of parking, even at 8.45. There were plenty of parkrunners still arriving, many a tourist buff, and the excited chit chat of gathering participants.

SO EXCITING!

Amongst those a-gathering were my Huddersfield buddies, they took the precaution of doint carpark selfies, it has to be done. I didn’t though, but did try to do some snaps of the little trek to the start. It’s not especially far, but nor is it very obvious. With so many newbies at present, there were cheerful volunteers on hand to guide the way. There was also a high vis hero to gently steer you away from the leisure centre loos. Panic not though, there are alternative loos near the start in a sort of sports hub. It’s just the leisure centre got a bit overwhelmed by precautionary pee-ers the first week so they’ve made this change. There was even a toilet monitor at the sports hub loos to ensure orderly and fair queuing. Give that marshal an ‘other’ running challenges credit immediately, job well done!

.

.

As with all good parties, I met loads of people in the queue for the loos. My Huddersfield humans were just emerging, and then as I exited, good news and lovely surprise, look what I found:

.

.

Yep, that’s actual Yogi! Smarter than the average bear. It was a great surprise, ‘Yogi’ was actually a rather splendid Humber Bridge parkrunner, who is completing her second parkrun alphabet, only this time in fancy dress, as you do. With the fancy dress costume of choice to start with the same initial letter as that of the parkrun, clever eh? Like I said, smarter than the average bear. I have previous with Yogi, as she was a very attentive and supportive tailwalker at Humber Bridge parkrun back in July last year when I was just tentatively trying to return to parkrun as a walker. That was an especially scary and tough time, and in a way, it’s good to be reminded of this. I still despair quite often at my physical limitations, but actually, compared wtih July last year I have made some progress. Only using one stick and a lot less wobbly these days. It’s hard not to dwell on what I still can’t do, but actually there are things I now can. And also, were it not for my having to come back as a walker, I’d have missed out on connecting with many people who are my twalking/ chootling buddies and my life would be the poorer for it. Perspective can help on a bad day, and on a good day like today, I feel genuinely lucky. Portly yes, but lucky too!

Oh, and fyi, there is no pop up sign at this parkrun, so if you want a location photo memento, then the Yarborough leisure centre sign is probably your best bet. This will, over time I’m sure, become the most photographed leisure centre sign in the parkrun world, possibly the actual world. They must wonder what’s hit them! It’s grand it’s in parkwalk colours, the little details are much appreciated…

Fortunately, the other bears in attendance today, are also a lot smarter than average, so no risk of offence there, phew! Bear Running Club is known for its high percentage of mensa members amongst its number. FACT. Probably. Should be really anyway… I certainly think they are all pretty smart, and that’s good enough for me. Just look at them, intelligence, insight and parkrun positivity pretty much visibly oozing out from their very pores!

.

.

After we’d done some meeting and greeting, it was all a-gathering for the first timers’ welcome. To be fair, there were a lot of first timers, it being a new Y and a prime and a fibonnacci number and all. The cheery RD (who is also an ambassador I gather) helped the first timers welcomer onto a raised step and there was a great intro to the event. All were welcomed warmly, including some actual first time everers, who got a huge cheer – and there was also a welcome for a new arrival in every sense. In attendance was a parkrun newbie who had attended inside their mum’s tum (not anatomically correct I know, but I like the rhyme and you get the gist, she hadn’t been eaten or anything) and then burst out into the world on Thursday, and was now in attendance in their own right, wrapped up warm in a pram with happy parents gazing on. That was pretty awesome. I wonder if this is the youngest parkrun attendee to date, and not to have EVER missed a parkrun even prior to arrival is especially spectacular. I’m all for starting parkrun as young as possible, but this newbie newborn takes that to the literal limit. I wonder how many parkruns they’ll get to during their life time. AWESOME!

.

.

Yogi, who incidentally is a paramedic noted that it would be really cool to assist a birth at a parkrun and who can disagree with that. I wonder if you’d still be able to get your finish token scanned afterwards. I suppose it would depend whether or not the tailwalkers held back for you, that would seem fair. And another huge cheer for the tailwalker resplendent in his 100th different event banner, a true cowell, so that was very exciting. He was a bit sneaky in that he removed his sash on the way around after being nearly garrotted with it twice. I know we should really respect everyone’s right to participate in parkun in their own way, so I tried not to be too judgy but it was only nearly garrotted, and don’t they say ‘third time lucky’. Just sayin. It did make it back on for the photos at the end thankfully. Massive phews all round!

.

.

Just checked the results stats, out of 306 participants, there were 223 first timers at this parkrun and 5 first time everers. That’s a lot of newbies. It didn’t feel like a new parkrun though, it ran like clockwork. The numbers didn’t seem to be an issue – perhaps it feels positively quiet after their inaugural turn out of 449!

It was a such a feel good welcome, everyone seemed in really good spirits, the event team seemed unphased by the numbers, people were greeted from all over Kent, Huddersfield, Hull, Doncaster – and there was an Isle of Man Veteran listed on the results. I could have maybe stopped off en route to pick them up if I’d only known. It was all very jolly. The announcing of it being the number 3 event got a huge reaction, prompting a slightly bemused reaction from our meeter and greeter. Audience participation clarified ‘it’s a prime‘, ‘it’s a Fibonnacci’ and – best heckle yet ‘it’s a pribonnacci!’ And they’ve only just got over the shock of being a Y! I gather that this parkrun is one that is delivered by people who genuinely come from the local community, as opposed to existing parkrunners. Maybe this helps it feel so welcoming and inclusive, they seeme happy to have everyone rock up, proud of their venue and committed to ensuring everyone would have a great time, and why wouldn’t we, it was perfect! The crowd listened with enthusiasm, and attentiveness, this was going to be grand!

.

.

and then there was the RD briefing. He gave a shout out for milestones, locations and a nod to the ‘not mad at all’ fancy dress alphabeteer, as he said, why not? Why not indeed. This was the first time I’ve seen the new dark blue Run Director High Vis, I like it, I get that there is loyalty to the striking monochrome, but really, it’s cool. My favourite remains the powder blue parkwalking volly vest, but I was too late to bagsy it for this particular event. Other quicker off the mark parkwalkers having made it onto the roster first. No worries, my turn will come around again, and I’ll get to wear the high vis at junior parkrun tomorrow. Meantime, check out that merch – missed a ‘Dolly or Bev’ shout out moment there methinks…

.

.

The briefings took place a short way from the start line, so there was a mass walk to the start. I was trying to get to the back of the line up so was in fact facing in the wrong direction when everyone started moving forward. That was somewhat discombobulating, but I was able to re-orientate myself and slot in at the back, alongside my various buddies Yogi buddy, parkwalker buddies, tailwalker buddies, lots of company for the party at the back at this parkrun!

.

.

and that was it, we were awf! The start!

OMG you have to check out this Facebook post with a video clip of the start, just brilliant, thanks for taking and posting lovely Yarborough Leisure Centre parkrun team, you are The Best!

.

What to say about the course. It’s what it says. A really wide tarmac path track throughout. It makes for a very inclusive surface, easy for buggies, wheelchairs, wobbly walkers, guided runners anyone really because it’s spacious and predictable. You could honestly take a carriage and eight horses round that route, no worries, though I suspect that would count as an assisted run, you’d need to check with the RD, also, don’t take the horse and cart on the running track, that needs to be treated with due reverence. Fair enough.

It was to me a slightly unexpected course in that you are surrounded by houses that back onto it for much of the route, and you go past running track and playing fields and all sorts of sporting amenities. It feels like it’s in quite a built up area, but equally you get glimpses of Lincoln Cathedral at various points on the course. It’s sort of an angular off-set figure of eight. You do the far loopy loop bit twice, then the whole lot three times, so it was a bit confusing as to which lap you are on, whether it is a three lap, four lap or five lap course is hard to say, as it depends what you decide constitutes a lap. Fortunately, there are marshals and signs to assist, and Red Ted was concentrating so able to keep us all on track. There was some outstanding directional pointing going on, some assisted by giant foam hands, always a win at parkrun, and there were juniors on hand to give assistive high fives which was very much appreciated. Massive extra kudos to the local resident who has taken to coming out and giving a cheer to passing parkrunners. This make me a tad emotional, as it reminds me of my mum’s parkrun journey, she started off as a local cheering passing runners, and was adopted by her parkrun family in Bushy park. Check out the reference to Elisabeth’s Corner, marshal point 5 in this run report. I hope that happens here, this woman definitely deserves her own high vis, check out those supportive jazz hands, and friendly disposition, she’s a shoo in as an honorary if not actual marshal!

.

.

We may have struggled a bit with the lap counting, but we did well with the soaking it all up and cheering the other participants side of things. The great joy of having multiple laps, is that you get to see and cheer other people running round, and you are never really alone en route either. |It sort of mixes up all the different speeds of parkrunners in a parkrun potpourri, giving a whole new spin to the concept of parkrun fresh. Fragrant in an altogether different way you see. You spot most people a couple of times at least, and it was all very friendly, and lovely too. I think this is where pictures help. Not mine so much, because my camera needs to retire, but fortunately I’ve freely borrowed from others so you don’t have to. There was an official photographer there too, so hopefully I’ll be adding to this account with other ones in due course, this is the parkrun that keeps on giving!

.

.

So we twalked and chootled and soaked up the atmosphere, and counted the laps, special mention for the intersection which is affectionately known as ‘chaos corner’. Nope, no idea why… good fun though 🙂 You feel like you can see just about everyone at this spot, and the marshal at this point can look one way to see parkrunners scampering around in circles and the other to see a view of Lincoln Cathedral. I know! Splendid.

.

.

and cheered fellow runners and all was right with the world. ‘Suddenly’ we found ourselves approaching the finish. We quickly got in order and processed through with considerable panache if I say so myself. The finish funnel was still surrounded by helpful and cheerful marshals ready to time us in and scan us safely home.

.

.

Thanks, as always, to the amazing volunteer team. And thank you too to my Huddersfield and Humber Bridge parkrun friends. It’s humbling to think of all the people I’ve come to know all over the place, purely because of parkrun. It’s taken me to places I’d never have otherwise visited, and introduced me to brilliant people I’d never otherwise have met. At the end of the day, parkrun really is all about community, for the most part it brings out the best in people, and restores faith in the world. Today was a case in point. Thank you all!

.

.

That was the parkrun part completed, but we still had some quite extensive parkfaffing to do. Particularly we wanted a parkrun photo. We espied some handy steps adjacent to the running trap, and crossed over to pose. This was not the right thing to do apparently, as they are sensitive about who sets foot on this track, something about having the right shoes, and not obstructing runners using the track. Actually, there weren’t any anyway, and we negotiated for a photo op, but maybe be mindful if you are doing the same. We got some fab pics though, and fab memories too, I mean just look at us, in all possible configurations, gawgeous!

.

.

But wait, there was more, then we had to get the obligatory leggings shots:

.

.

and then we had to get the group shot in front of the leisure centre sign. To be fair, it was more arduous than being on set, never had so many cameras pointing at me at one time! Good to capture the memories though, eh?

.

.

We left the team results processing and token sorting in the leisure centre cafe, and went our separate ways. They were happy in their work though, so that’s good.

.

.

and then suddenly, that was that. The end.

But only til next time, obvs. 🙂

.

.

Oh, and as always, if you find yourself at a loose end, you could always browse through all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  But it’s even better if you can get yourself to an actual parkrun near you and experience it for yourself in glorious technicolour.

Thank you Yarborough Leisure Centre parkrun people and parkrun buddies, it was grand. I may well pop back here later on with extra pics and a link to the run report for this third event in due course,

oh, hang on here they are – and here is the event report for the day too. For triangulation purposes.

Here is a little smorgasbord of pics, check out the 2 day old parkrunner doing their second parkrun gawgeous, and the lovely high vis heroes. Each as photogenic as the one before, impossible though that is to imagine!

.

.

So for now hey, hey hey and –

That’s all folks!

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

ea-Zee does it Zielony Jar parkrun

I might burst. No really, I was just so excited at the prospect of getting to Poland, not just to bagsy a Zee, but to go adventuring and to meet with international parkrunners AND get to know my new parkrun besties from Huddersfield parkrun a bit better. Not gonna lie, a bit apprehensive, but mostly super keen. Not scared just EXCITED. Eazee to confuse the too.

Look where we went, and it was all I hoped for and more! Oh yes indeedy, simply the best, as has been sung before!

.

.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start. The plan came about from me being introduced to some llama leggings I think. Something like that anyway. I was at Huddersfield parkrun for their 500th event, with my giraffe, as one does, and met up with friends I hadn’t made yet but felt like I knew already. Shouty Lady – to whom I’d given a shout out in a remotely written run report for Endcliffe parkrun back in October 21, little imagining one day we’d be off on a parkrun holiday together – , a friend of a friend parkrun ambassador, oh and a fellow parkrun tourist who I’ve met a few times but forgot had Huddersfield parkrun as her home event. Anyway, turns out they are all huge fans of llama leggings and – get this – even though they are called llama leggings they have actual giraffe ones, that pretty much have my name on them, what with me and my emotional support giraffe Geronimo often to be found hanging out together. Honestly, I’m not quite sure how we went from that exchange, to planning a trip to visit a parkrun Poland, but it will be both parkrun logical and parkrun inevitable to most parkrun passionistas. Essentially we bonded over parkrun, fancy dress and fabulous leggings I suppose, and one thing led to another. It is the parkrun way. In our case, it led to z-chasing in Poland. Hurrah!

I just, sheep-like, went along with what everyone else suggested. We want to do the same things anyway, and with a parkrun at the epicentre of our plans there was unlikely to be a clash of priorities. We settled on Krakow. Basically, it was easy to get flights to there from Manchester, and once landed there were many parkruns in reach – including a Z – so less angst inducing if there were any cancelling on the day. Hurrah. Then we found a date and ‘suddenly’ it was booked and happening. Turns out, there are a couple of fabulous organisers/ leaders in the Huddersfield parkrun set, and who am I to undermine their talents by showing any initiative? Without followers there would be no leaders after all, and I was only too happy to oblige. Yes, I do worry sometimes where my compliance might lead, but so far it’s led to fine adventuring and unexpected turns which has enriched my life rather than leading to my joining a cult. Unless you count parkrun as a cult of course? But it’s clearly #notacult because I’ve been told that, a lot. And even if it is a teensy bit, it is for the most part a benign one.

Our destination would be Zielony Jar parkrun. Fortunately, google automatically translated their official parkrun webpage with information about the course, and better still, the translation is absolutely adorable, just look at their official webpage blah de blah:

route description – The route consists of four laps leading through two parks “Zielony Jar” and the Pocket Park “Osiedle Na Stoku” along paved alleys. The start and finish are in the same place, ie at the stage/amphitheater in the “Zielony Jar” park. The meeting place for participants is located near the start and finish. The profile of the route is slightly demanding, because the sum of the elevation gains is almost 80 meters.

Amenities – The covered stage in the amphitheater allows you to hide your personal belongings. Near the start there are exercise equipment, a children’s park (swings, slides, merry-go-rounds, etc.), benches with tables to rest, a fenced football/basketball court and an outdoor children’s pool.

Launch location – The start and finish are located at the stage/amphitheater in the “Zielony Jar” park.

They have a launch location and an amphitheatre, this is going to be splendid! There are tables you can rest at and an ice cream parlor. Why let snow get in the way of frozen treats after all.

Wait, there’s more – the course looks like this:

.

.

In the spirit of just going along with what everyone else was doing, and knowing I’d be walking anyway, I got in touch with the team by email to offer to volunteer. SUCH A POSITIVE RESPONSE. Even a blue heart emoji, this is living the dream in terms of anticipatory parkrun positivity!

.

Just when you think you couldn’t love them any more! They also forewarned me – with a twinkle in their eye (can an email have a twinkle? I’ve decided that Yes! It can!) that this is the ‘most difficult parkrun in Poland‘.

Oh. Really? Erm, wasn’t quite sure what to make of that, but hey ho. And wait? What fresh joy is this. ZUMBA! Granted, they were apologising for the lack of it, but turn that on its head in a half full rather than half empty way, this means that this Polish parkrun has a Zumba warm up role as part of its weekly parkrunday offer. This is beyond awesome. Look! The camera never lies, these are from the parkrun Zielony Jar Facebook page so it must be true! And what’s more, is that actual snow I see. OMG, this is the parkrun that keeps on giving. Cold might not be super fun, but snow very much is!

.

.

I was pretty sure we’d be able to improvise something as an alternative. Zig Zagging on the icy paths perhaps? We would see…

One thing was for sure, this parkrun party was happening. I did have some moments of wondering if it was maybe a bit weird to go away to a foreign land with people you hardly know, but then again, once you have a parkrunner’s Athlete ID that’s all you need. Some Tralee parkrunning friends of mine said their only thing they needed to know about their offsprings’ potential romantic partners was whether they were registered parkrunners and what their home parkrun was. Fair enough. Besides, past experience strongly suggests I’ll be the one with the peculiar eccentricities, I’m pretty sure I snore for a start, I have perfected all sorts of amusing and diverting/decidedly annoying* (*delete as appropriate) tics from living on my own unchallenged for decades and what’s more, I’ll certainly be the slowest out on course, so more of a risk to them than they to me :). To be fair, this very concern was shared by one of my most recent house guests. Have I mentioned recently that I rent rooms out to people working at the Sheffield Theatres? It’s been life enhancing on the whole, so many anecdotes created and shared. Anyway, one of my most recent lodgers arrived with a day in hand so I insisted on taking him out to Stanage Edge because I think a trip out to one of the peak district’s most iconic edges should be mandatory for any first timer in Sheffield. It was as we were driving out to the moors he commented ‘my mum wanted to know how I could be sure you wouldn’t murder me?‘ Leaving aside my abject horror at being old enough to be a parent to this grown up, I had to point out I’d not previously considered this, but now he came to mention it…. Stranger Danger is still a thing apparently. Anyway, I don’t think of a mandatory trip to the Peak District as abduction as such, more a public service. And he didn’t put up all that much of a fight, even though it was a bit of a squeeze in the boot what with all my litter picking paraphernalia already in there. There were even paragliders when we got there, just like in this photo taken by the amazingly gifted Phil Sproson – it’s from October last year. Sometimes I can’t quite believe what glories are just a few miles away from where I live. Get out there and stride about people, it restores the soul.

.

.

Back to Poland!

Acknowledging we’d not really met up before, we were hoping to gather at Scunthorpe parkrun early in the New Year. Not just for the smutty words parkrun challenge (childish but true) but reachable for them from Huddersfield and me from Sheffield. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, snow and ice and scary driving conditions meant I bottled it. Oh well, we’d meet at the airport – except – spoiler alert, we had a pre meet! Very excitingly, when I headed to Sheffield Castle parkrun who should I meet, but one of my Polish bound parkrunner buddies bearing gifts. She was volunteering as tailwalker and had espied me on the roster too. I had employed no such initiative, so was hugely, and pleasantly, surprised to see her. The gift she bore was in the form of llama leggings, which confusingly, in fact had actual giraffes on them. Unlike llamas (and alpacas and guanaco and vicuna and camels) Giraffes aren’t even part of the camelid family, though weirdly the latin name for the Northern Giraffe is Giraffa camelopardalis. Weird. Oh hang, OMG there was yet more, llama leggings with giraffes on them AND a matching scrunchie. We would all have them, it would be our matchy matchy kit, and to be honest, I was almost as excited about getting to wear my leggings for the first time as getting a z for my parkrun alphabet! It took not inconsiderable willpower to hold back from wearing them straight away I don’t mind admitting.

And then we were on a meet up roll. Next stop Nelson 555 at Concord parkrun and then all over again at Hillsborough parkrun #444 we really must carry on meeting like this. It’s fab.u.lous!

And then, finally it was nearly time to go. What to pack? As little as possible, I’d travel in my parkrun gear, and Red Ted was attached to my walking pole. A million barcodes, a smothering of thermal underwear my favourite hat, and that was about it. At last, the morning dawned – early rise as off to Manchester airport paranoically early. I’ve never driven there before, and didn’t really want to, but there would be no trains after my flight back, so it was drive or have to sort out some accomodation.

Up, and finally, I got to officially wear my llamaleggingswhicharen’tllamasatallbutgiraffeones #llamaleisure

Oh. My. Gawd. About the leggings, before I tried them on, I couldn’t really grasp why people rave about them so much and have so many different pairs – a pattern for any and every occassion. Once I’d had a little go – just to check they fitted ok obvs – I totally got it. Soft and comfy and with pockets. Of course you’d want loads of pairs! Then again, once I’d put them on in the morning for this Polish trip, they have stayed on 24/7 ever since, so maybe the real question is why would you ever need another pair when once on, you don’t want to take them off. I’m now a believer, and happy to be 25% of the legs of Llama Leisure’s recent Facebook post, which immortalises our Poland parkrun jaunt in the marketing archives of llama leisure. It’s a start on the pathway to worldwide fame I suppose. After all, I’m in most excellent company! All I need now is a discount code, and to be persuaded to change into a new pair of leggings. The thing is though, I do really, really like the giraffe ones. Nothing beats having the tallest living terrestrial animal and the largest ruminant on earth etched on your legs after all. Well, actually, having a family of warthogs might, but inexplicably I don’t think they’ve got around to doing that print yet. Never mind, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, if they want me to endorse their merch, there needs to be some give and take on both sides. Still, fabulous pins all round though I think you can agree. We rock this look like a hurricane! Plus, easy to find each other at the airport.

.

.

I was really worried about the drive to the airport but in fact it wasn’t too bad. I’d prepaid for parking but was thwarted on trying to enter the carpark as the number plate recognition didn’t work. No worries, I had printed out my booking form and buzzed through to the nice man who lives in the carpark. I confidently stated my situation, and after some faffing, he asked me to repeat my number plate again, which I did. Oops, that’s not what I’d typed in with my fat fingers apparently. Oh well, a little token popped out like a copper coin from a penny arcade only more plasticy – this would allow me to exit, and up came the barrier. I had to drive around for ages, sweating, before finally finding one last space which was a really tight squeeze as it was sandwhiched between what were essentially two monster trucks. What I’d have done if there were no spaces at all I just don’t know, it was precarious, but hey ho, in safely. Really short walk to the terminal and phew, I was in.

I was also ridiculously early, so settled down for a wait, exchanging messages with the Heavenly Huddersfielders to get real time updates as to their progress.

SO EXCITING.

And then, at last, we were all together in the giddying embrace of Manchester airport, which was a lot nicer than I remembered it. Then again, last time I went it was pretty much post apocolyptic hell on earth, mid rebuild – possibly even a differet airport. Now it was all spacious clean and even had places to sit! I’m sure there was a photo of Red Ted and RD Ted checking out the departures board, but I can’t find that now, they were excited too though, fyi. Anyway, cue photo dump of excitedly gathering at airport. Turns out, waiting at an airport is waaaaaay more fun when surrounded by parkrun buddies than when all on your lonesome. Who knew? Oh, and wait, I do have photos, thanks to emergency rapid response facebook messaging service! Phew.

.

.

What’s that? It seems to be taking me rather a long time to get to the actual parkrun? Dear reader, you think the waiting is bad! Try being us in the weeks between booking the flights and making it to this point. I have missed so many planned parkruns due to pandemic (Poland; Malmo and a gazillion cancelled uk ones); surgery then illness I was in a state of permanent heightened alert in anticipation of some unexpected horror that might have prevented us from going. I’m sure you can cope with a few minutes of delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is totally not my preferred thing either, but sometimes needs must. Incidentally, did you know that being unable to delay gratification in anticipation of a greater reward later on is associated with psychopathic traits according to some research. Just sayin’. Sociopaths and Psychopaths r us would have to fast forward. Even so, worth mentioning you don’t really have to wait, you can always just scroll down to the ‘good bits’ – assuming there are some still to come, but honestly, at this point, who knows. In fact who amongst us ever really knows anything at all now I come to think of it. So many mysteries in life…

Where was I. Oh yes, about to board a plane.

Guess where we were going! Only actual Krakow in actual Poland!

We were protected for our journey not only by our parkrun wrist bands, but some wrist band keep sakes supplied by one of our number and chosen with great care. Thank you :). So one of us supplied llama leggings, one supplied personally chosen wrist bands and one basically booked all the accommodation and flights. One of us didn’t. But they did remember to pack Red Ted and bring along a copy of ‘How parkrun changed our lives’. Maybe it was a case of from each of us according to our ability. I felt somewhat lacking in terms of my actual contribution to be fair, but I did bring along considerable gratitude and enthusiasm, and perhaps that counts for something too! Oh no, another missing photo of our wrist bands. You’ll have to just take my word for it. This is terrible though, it’s like we are actually supposed to remember things in our head, instead of having lots of pictures on our facebook pages. This is like the bad old days when great swathes of our history went undocumented for decades at a time. I mean, some things can be communicated, but if I don’t find a photo of that little dog we saw… it frankly doesn’t bear thinking about! Some things just have to be seen to be believed. If you know, you know!

The plane journey was for the most part unremarkable, though not the smoothest of rides. And although I say ‘unremarkable’ it is actually pretty remarkable that we all piled into this little aluminium or whatever tin can thingy and flew through the air up high and landed the other side of the sea, so let’s not take such daily minor miracles for granted shall we. Then we arrived! It was cold, it was dark, but we were here! Snow on the ground, well what was once snow compacted into mucky icy patches, but you take my point. Super exciting. Part one of mission Zee accomplished. The llamas had landed!

.

.

The next challenge was getting to the apartment. There is a taxi rank right where you arrive, but instead we went for the uber option. This seemed like a grand idea, but because of the veritable army of vehicles about, it prooved incredibly difficult to spot our actual uber, not helped by our traipsing off in completely the wrong direction to meet it. When our driver and we finally met up, he was decidedly grumpy. Turned out, this was because the confusion meant he’d stayed too long in the pick up area so had to pay extra on exit. We paid the fee in cash (I say ‘we’ but I think we all know that I wasn’t massively proactive in sorting any of this). Our ambassadorial leader sat in the front trouble shooting, and the rest of us squidged companionably in the back of the taxi peering out into the dark and cold night.

The journey wasn’t all that long, and was fun because we were all together, but would have been angst inducing alone. It was pitch out, and for reasons I still can not entirely fathom because it was different on the return, our route out from the airport took us down seeming dirt roads where we bumped about alarmingly. Maybe this is what it felt like for my lodger in the boot of my car? Split four ways though, the 20 minute journey was super cheap – £10.40 in total. So no brainer to get an uber really, hassle free option, I daresay others have done things even more cheaply by public transport, but I was happy to get into a taxi and be magicked to our destination.

And what was your destination? I hear you cry. Well, it was an apartment, picked for being not too far from anything between old and new towns and pretty near the parkrun too. There were detailed instructions of how to get in on arrival. Well, that all looks jolly straight forward, hurrah!

.

.

Teensy problem, on arrival, in the pitch dark, it seemed a somewhat sinister location. Think atmospheric film set for some sort of dark, edgy thriller. Nobody is coming out of this alive. Graffiti daubed buildings, and huge thick inpenetrable doors with grids and brutalist overtones. If I’d been on my own I’d have cried and wet myself. Getting in, was a challenge worthy of any escape room. There was a code by the intercom, but in the dark it was nigh on impossible to read, and it took several attempts before we made our way through the door…

.

.

… and into a freezing hallway which seemed like we’d entered a parallel universe and found ourselves in a long derelict building in a different time zone. I couldn’t fathom if it was times long gone or a future age where all that remained of once grand buildings were screaming ghosts and half formed memories. Never mind, it would be fine. There seemed to be loads of keysafes at every doorway we came to, we tried our second code on each ane every one. Nothing. Zip. Just endlessly rolling numbers like a broken one armed bandit. This did not bode well

.

.

We staggered to the end of the hall, and to yet another door Passing through and found ourselves in a sort of hidden courtyard. Hurrah, surely this must be where we were supposed to be. A huge rusted iron spiral staircase towered up one side, abandoned bikes chained to it’s base. It was atmospheric, but unnerving. We found the next door ajar and entering went up some steps. More key safes. It was like trying to find the holy grail in amongst all those storage containers at the end of whichever Indiana Jones film that was! We found a door that looked like it should be ours, but no means of entry. We scurried up and down stairs and passages trying the entry codes everywhere but to no avail. I stepped back a bit and watched the adventure unfold. Not sure what I could offer in the way of practical assistance, I went for the keeping out of the way option. After all, a wise woman once said ‘it’s not helpful unless you are actual helping‘. I have found this to be good advice, too often unheaded! As I was gazing about, I espied a further hidden keysafe we hadn’t yet tried. Why would we, it was adjacent to a completely different door to the one we actually wanted to enter. I punched in the code without saying a word, after all, what were the chances I’d be lucky where so many before me (well, three to be precise) had repeatedly failed? Well dear reader. You won’t believe this only you better had… it was like Arthur removing the sword in the stone, there was a distinctive clunk and the key toppled from its hiding place into my hand! I felt like an absolute conquering hero. Of course it was unadulterated genius on my part, and not at all an accident of fate.

.

.

Not gonna lie, a bit of a collective sigh of relief too. We were tired from our travels, and it was just borderline getting to the not actually very funny any more stage. Phew, we were in!

Oh wow, it was like entering another world. The apartment was properly amazing. Boiling hot, immaculately clean and extremely well fitted out. Fancy furnishings, including a weird feathered light fitting thing. Oooh, this was a proper adventure. Honestly, if I’d been coming alone I’d have played it safe and gone for a hotel, but this atmospheric, beautifully equipped apartment, now we were actually safely in, was way nicer and a lot more fun. Hurrah! Almost a shame we’d hardly be in it. There was one room with two double beds, a further room with just one double bed and then the living room had a sofa which opened up into a small dble/ large single. Well lush. So cosy as well, I couldn’t believe how much heat was blasting out. I could totally live here, at least until spring anyway.

.

.

We explored the flat, oohed and aahed over all the soft furnishings, divied up the rooms – I got one to myself #livingtheantisocialdream and then after some generic faffery, we opted to head out for the evening for some gentle exploring. None of us wanted a late night, but we did want to explore a little and get something to eat.

We headed down the stairs, and were spat out of our spooky looking apartment onto the icy streets – after we’d worked out how to get out of that huge door again. This was even harder than getting in, did survivalist preppers work out the entry system for this building I wonder? I had to pinch myself at being actually in Poland. The walk was brief, we passed by some cannabis shops – is that legal here then? ‘Medical’ CBD presumably is – and nearby was a marijuana light variant on offer, presumably for any weight watchers out there.

.

.

When we arrived at the main touristy old square it was gorgeous. Stunning architecture surrounded the square. The outer areas of the square were filled with brightly lit outdoor covered restaurants with surrounding greenery making it look positively christmassy. As we walked along we were greeted by various people trying to entice us in. It was clearly very touristy, but you know what we were tourists and it was very nice. We eventually did pick one and pile in and tried dumplings which were properly amazing mushroom filled morsels of delight. The veggie options weren’t brilliant, but the soup I had, mushroom, served in a bowl carved out of lovely bread, the ultimately comfort food. Lovely. Periodically, blanket covered tourists taking rides in the back of horse drawn carriages clip clopped past – the horses, not the tourists. It was all very atmospheric. We wandered back, gazing in awe at the towering basillica and other extraordinary buildings that surrounded us, I had no idea that it was such an impressive city. My bad.

.

.

We were happy bunnies indeed.

Back to our temporary home, and then it was but one more sleep before it was actual international parkrun day. What’s more, it would come around even more quickly than usual, because the clocks had all jumped forward an hour. I know, this was the trip that kept on giving!

So we went to bed, and then we woke up and it was PARKRUNDAY!

It was an early start, but we were all super excited and bouncing about in our matchy matchy outfits in good time. We fell out into the street, admiring our digs in daylight, and onto the pavement outside awaiting our second uber of the trip. The Happy Huddersfield trio took the opportunity to do quite a major workout to keep warm. Surely this would have more than made up for missing out on the parkrun Zumba for this week. This Uber to parkrun was £7.25. Bargain.

.

.

It’s weird being driven about and not knowing where you are going, we ended up being dropped off near a load of high rise flats in the most unpromising of locations but uh, ok. Quick snoop about and then, OMG a parkrun flag. This is really happening now. SO EXCITING!

.

.

By the way, have you noticed our matchy matchy apricot parkrun tops to go with our matchy matchy llama leggings? It just seemed appropriate for our journeying to wear ones from our home parkruns in the UK. One of our number was sad because she had got jam on her apricot tee and it was now stained. However, turns out – get this – it is actually stained with jam that landed on her top whilst at the parkrun ambassadors’ conference last year, so it is in fact parkrun ambassadorial jam, quite probably parkrun ambassadorial apricot jam to boot, so if anything, that enhances her top rather than detracts from it. It’s practically a sacred artifact now, certainly iconic. She should probably frame it for safekeeping, but having said this, I was super excited to get to see that parkrun tee for myself. Sigh, it’s basically like being anointed with apricot jam, very special indeed. And doesnt the high vis and Run Director wonky bear set it off beautifully? Hurrah!

.

.

We couldn’t scurry our way down to the park quickly enough. Soon we were greeted by the sight of an arched erm – well I guess ‘amphitheater’. They had a similar one when I went to Hasenheide parkrun in Berlin, I’d never seen such a structure before, but maybe they are a think in this part of the world. A huge stage with a sweeping arch of heavily graffitied concrete at the back and sides creating shelter of sorts in a brutalist way. The back drop was of bare black trees and the remnants of snow, giving the space a sort of monochrome look. However, as is the parkrun way, little figures in high vis, burdened with cones and signs were busying themselves about the park getting the course set up.

We were actually, properly here! I thought I might burst. I never really thought this day would come! We were pretty early, and knowing overseas parkruns often operate on a ‘just in time principle‘ in relation to turning up, it was impressive to see such activity early on. We were all massively over excited. Imagine a small child on a sugar and food colouring high who has just snorted a line of caffeine and sherbet and bounced around on a trampoline. Got that? Well, that was nothing compared to how excited we were, you need to multiply that by a gazillion and then quadruple it, because the energy and excitement sparked between us like electricity pylons, still live, falling into water. Nobody in the world has ever been more excited than we four this morning. And I’m including when I got a high five from Harry Gration at the start of the Sheffield Half Marathon one year. I know. That excited. Hard to believe. Scary perhaps too, but true!

After a little hesitation, partly due to ice and snow, we scampered down a little slope to the amphitheatre area. Oh my, so many things. Same but different. The lovingly laid out finish line with tape. An actual parkrun urn! Sweet treats as well. A selfie sign, welcoming volunteers. Oh, and signs, so many customised signs to explore. We were warmly greeted by a lovely volunteer who apologised that as we were early their official translator hadn’t yet appeared. She did this in perfect English pretty much. I never even learned to say ‘thank you’ in Polish. It is both handy and mortifying, that for the most part, those we met had near perfect English. I felt shamed at my inability to speak only English, and frankly that often eludes me in times of need. The absence of the interpreter did not stop play. We launched ourselves into photo taken, high vis grabbing and selfie posing. Just like every parkrun everywhere!

.

.

This was beyond excellent, but wait there’s more. Check out the signs, each a new cause of delight and celebration, but one in particular delighted me beyond all the rest. Here be squirrels, not just grey squirrels but actual red ones. If I could see one of them it would be the cherry on the icing on the cake, but surely too much to hope for. Still, no harm in doing some posing. Then we did posing with the volunteers. Then more tourists arrived, I think it ended up about half tourists from the UK and half authentic Polish parkrunners. Some had come on public transport without difficulty, and one couple had also had a bit of a performance getting into their pre booked apartment. Perhaps it is some sort of informal initiation ceremony or rite of passage for incoming tourists? Then our interpreter arrived, a junior with a huge enthusiasm for speaking English and coming to England one day and using an oyster card and travelling on the tube. I wonder why an oyster card is such a cause of fascination, I was kicking myself for not having brought one with me. I had one in my wallet but discarded it as unnecessary to take to Poland so nearly did have one to pass on. It was amazing to have someone to explain and interpret. The welcome was just extraordinary. I think the team may have been a bit bewildered as to why we were all coming over – especially as right now it is winter so in their eyes not massively appealing (in our eyes, there be snow and it be cheap) but they were so up for it. Could not have been more warm and accommodating. They joined in the posing and photographing too. All possible variations were snapped I think before we were done. Here we go, feast your eyes on these shenanagins:

.

.

The sun was out, our hearts were full. The ground was packed with ice. We were told again that this was the toughest parkrun in all of Poland, I was struggling to believe this. I think they must have meant in relation to elevation, but the park seemed pretty flat. For us Yorkshire lasses it takes more than a bit of an upward flat section to scare us – that ice though, the Event Director amongst us remarked she’d have had no hesitation cancelling with similar conditions at home. Lucky for us she was tail walker and not RD here today!

We had a bit of a confab about what to do with the parkrun book, magazine and parkrun lanyards. We’d assumed we’d pass them on to the event RD but we weren’t sure where he was. Also, we didn’t know who it was who’d sent the cheery communications in advance. Oh the angst of it. In the end, we decided to pass them on to the lovely woman who had made us so welcome at the outset. Communication was a bit random, but she was super chuffed to receive the book on behalf of her parkrun. I’m not sure how they’ll share it around, or whether it will be launched round Poland as the original book did for Eileen’s bookrun relay, first during the pandemic a tag team delivered it from her home in the Lakes to PSH himself in Bushy park. Then other books have been journeying around the uk, it’s rather grand. You know what though, it doesn’t matter, it was just brilliant to have thought to bring something. Granted, part of the reason I thought to do so was because of the spectacular fail at Amager Straandpark parkrun where only one of the hundreds of visiting tourists had thought to bring a gift, and it seemed such a great gesture. Anyway, it was well received and again photos! We all inscribed the front cover, along with our parkrun id numbers. One of us, not me, had the simply brilliant idea of transcribing the polish for Caution Runners from their parkrun sign and adding ‘English’ in between. Creative genius she is.

.

.

Wait though, there is a follow up for this, I let Eileen know about how I’d passed on my copy of the book whilst in Poland and how well that had been received, and she was so thrilled we not only made her bookrun relay Facebook page (that’s twice we’ve been Facebook famous in just one weekend) but also sent me a new inscribed copy all of my own. I was beyond thrilled. I’d resigned myself to having to buy a new copy but now I have one anyway AND it’s especially for me. Hurrah. I do feel like I ought to have a whole boxload of them, to distribute when touristing. So well received. Maybe I can stockpile the parkrun magazine instead, there are still copies kicking around and they weren’t produced outside of the UK as far as I’m aware. Anyway, check this out – the pic with all the inscriptions from parkrunners is especially cool:

.

.

Are you still here? Oh good, I thought you might have given up on me with all this faffing before we even get to the run fun director’s briefing. Few basics. I don’t think there were any loos, we went just before coming and were ok, thankfully. There is a trolly in which you can leave your bits and pieces and which is also the start and finish area so feels pretty safe, there are always volunteers there. Arrive with time to take lots of photos. Expect to be welcomed with sweet and coffee. I was too worried about needing a pee to take advantage of this but it is a lovely tradition. It is a small parkrun in numbers although as has already been demonstrated it has a big heart. When we were there there were plenty of parkrunners around who could communicate in excellent English so it’s not a big culture shock. Having said that, the real beauty of parkrun internationally, is that you can rock up at a new event, and because it operates more or less the same way at every location – barring a few bits of personalisation and charming quirks that make each venue unique – you don’t need to worry too much about not understanding everything, as long as you have your barcode and aren’t expecting to be first finisher (I wasn’t) you’ll be reyt. There is some elevation, but not so as you’d notice by Yorkshire standards, the snow and ice though was a challenge. The field of participants was small, and to be honest, the regular Zielona Jar parkrunners were more the sporty athletic types who lead the field at UK events. They were definitely serious runners. Very friendly, but I don’t know quite what they made of a quartet of slightly hysterical middle aged women arriving, three ‘just’ to walk and one to go for it with more gusto. We made up the tailwalking/ parkwalking team between us, sort of marshaling each other.

After a bit we had the RD briefing/ first timers’ briefing. Our interpreter whispered his translation specially for the British/ English speaking tourists. The book got a shout out. We were told it was 4 and a bit laps. We were reminded it was the toughest parkrun in all of Poland.

.

.

We gathered at the start, and soon we were off!

The fearless locals sprinted ahead, compacted ice and snow hold no fear for them. I was stomping along at the back, still in awe of actually being there, and wanting to inhale each and every moment. The course I found a little confusing, but not sure why. There was only one marshal, all the volunteers had multiple roles – so the interpreter was also time keeper and scanner too I think, and the person who received the book, set up the course and took lots of photos, also was the marshal on course. Small but might team here. The course was well signed, as as a four and a bit lapper, other parkrunners pass you which was jolly. It is a little pocket park of sorts, the trees against the snow looked impressive and gave it a more wild feel than you might expect from the urban surrounds. Food had been put out for birds, of which there were many. Snow on the ground was atmospheric, ice on the paths was scary. Weirdly you run past what are essentially corner shops, which were shut when we first arrived, but had clothing and cabbage displays outside as they started opening up around the time the parkrun began. There was so much to look at, it was all very distracting. A friendly vibe. We made slow progress, but in our defence, we kept being distracted by exciting things. There was the turn around point where we met up with our actually running Huddersfield parkrunner, and all the things.

.

.

You know what, it was just like a ‘normal’ parkrun, except we were in POLAND!

The first lap I started heading towards the finish area as I’d assumed we ran past that each time but no! I was shooed away, ‘it’s a four lap course’ they called out to me. Not mistaking me for first finisher then. The second lap we were really delayed though because, guess what we say. Only ACTUAL RED SQUIRRELS. OMG I nearly wet myself I was so excited. They are super cute. I love my chunky grey squirrels at home, but there is no disputing the delicate beauty of these tufty rodents. Although ‘red’ they were so dark, they looked almost black.

.

.

As we passed at the end of our second lap, I was trying to communicate about having seen the squirrels and there was some crossed communication meaning that my enthusiasm for what I’d seen was taken as confirmation that we were embarking on our last lap. We weren’t. Oops.

There were consequences from this, as we came round again, they tried to call us to the finish, and we had to persuade them we knew we still had another lap to go. Not gonna lie, they were a bit uncomprehending about this ‘that’s impossible’ came the shout back. I don’t think they are used to walkers being so slow. They weren’t being stroppy, but just concerned we were going wrong on the course and further than we needed too. I think with their regular participants being very much runners rather than walkers they couldn’t entirely compute our speeds. Still, all good natured. Especially as by now they were pretty cold and we’d got their hopes up that we were nearly finished earlier on. All my bad. Oh the shame!

Off we went round again. We met a confused marshal who was mid course take down and completely mortified when she realised we were still out there. It was fine, we knew the way and I knew it was me who’d created the misunderstanding in the first place. Honestly, you can’t take me anywhere! Then again, if it weren’t for me finding the keys, we’d still be stood outside that apartment block, trapped in limbo and by now definitely needing the loo, so swings and roundabouts eh. Also, others stood as human cones to guide the way for our final lap. It was all exceedingly jolly and joyful! What larks eh.

.

.

The last lap though – or was it the penultimate one? Actually, I have no idea, it’s all a bit of a blur, all that running round in circles I expect, and gazing about. But, those of us who were chootling (chatty pootling) at the back saw the most amazing thing ever. This image will be seared on the back of my eyeballs for ever. It is the stand out extraordinary sight from this Polish parkrun, the funniest thing I’ve ever seen bar none! This dog though. Had to be seen to be believed. Here the pictures have to do the talking, words cannot convey nor reproduce the impact! Those little feet though, in their little shiny shoes. Poor pooch! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both. If ever you need taking out of yourself, just save these pictures to go back and look at from time to time. I defy anyone not to be distracted from their darkest thoughts by this extraordinary sight!

.

.

and finally, back through the finish to great cheers of relief as much as respect, to be timed and scanned and welcomed home. Job done!

.

.


Weirdly, it felt a bit sad finishing, I’m really suffering from separation anxiety at present, maybe I’ll grow out of it one day. The core team busied themselves putting stuff away. And it was time to wave goodbye.

.

.

Pretty much everyone else had dispersed at this point which is their bad because they missed out on more fun things.

Specifically, snow angels! I couldn’t be surrounded by so much snow and not indulge. Our interpreter was making his way home across the park and accompanied us on our search for the perfect spot. He waved goodbye and we espied a bank. It maybe wasn’t my brightest idea to get myself up there, but it was one of my funnest. I did my best in the snow, which was a bit too compacted for full effect, but you get the gist I’m sure. On reflection, possibly should have got my agent to veto the less than flattering angles, but all the best human self expression requires you to give of yourself utterly. Why not my snow angel as well?

.

.

And then it really was time to go home. An uber back to our apartment cost but £6.50. Crazily cheap, but confusingly differently priced. We were back in not time and trundled into the apartment to change before heading out again for post parkrun breakfast. Turns out, it was just as hard getting into our apartment in daylight as it was in the dark, but we managed. We headed off to a coffee shop at the end of the road we’d spotted the day before. Red Ted was somewhat shocked by some of the street ornamentations…

.

.

The breakfast we ha was pretty sensational, excellent coffee and huge breakfast portions. Hilariously – for us, not for him – there was another uk visitor in the queue in front of us ‘have you been to parkrun?’ he enquired. ‘why yes!‘ we chorused with enthusiasm, ‘how about you?’. Poor guy, he’d come all the way to Krakow with his family, was a keen parkrunner and just hadn’t thought it would be doable to combine the trip with a parkrun. He looked a bit crushed as we were the personification of what might have been. So near and yet so far. I guess he’ll just have to come back. To be fair, I’d like to come back again as well, so not too much of a hardship.

.

.

They really know how to do a toastie, pretty much a scooby snack in truth, and all the better for it!

And that was that, parkfaffery concluded. For now.

Oh, and I nearly forgot one of the other best bits from doing a Polish parkrun – you get your results email and ‘thank you for volunteering’ emails in Polish! Well of course you do, it being in Poland and all, but it sort of added to the thrill of the adventure. Hope you get a new language in your parkrun results emails one day too!

.

.

You can as always continue your parkrun pondering if you wish by browsing through all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though and forward for more recent ones.

It was not of course the end of our Krakow adventure, but I won’t go into that here and now. What I will say is that we loved exploring the city on foot. We did take a tour out to Auschwitz and Birkenau on the Sunday. Of course that was a complete change of mood, and difficult though important to include.

We found the castle, the cathedral but alas no dragons. I lost my favourite hat in a coffee shop, but mercifully it was still there where I’d left it the next day, which whilst reflecting badly on the attention to detail there cleaning wise, was a joyous reuniting for me.

Get yourself to Poland. It really was the most extraordinary trip. It felt like we’d been away for ages, but really it was just within a weekend. It was fun connecting with new people, and of course it was nice to bagsy a Z, yet ultimately, if it were not for parkrun I’d probably never have got around to visiting Poland and taking the sobering trip out to Auschwitz either. parkrun tourism might provide the catalyst to go exploring, but the ripples from such adventuring go so very much wider.

Thanks so much to the Polish parkrunners for welcoming us with such enthusiasm, I hope so much they make it over to the UK one day and experience similar hospitality, they certainly deserve it and some. Thank you too my Huddersfield buddies for letting me gatecrash your parkrun voyaging, it was The Best. Special thanks to the taxi driver who did a kiss and fly drop off for us on the journey home. Lovely touch!

.

.

Here’s to future adventures.

meantime, here’s a smorgasbord of snaps just to whet your appetite…

You’re welcome 🙂

Thanks for staying the course.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Well Babbs was Well Banging! Babbs Mill parkrun #111 – another nanoparkun!

You may find I have quite a bit to waffle on about from this particular Saturday … those of you who know will know (nom, nom, nom etc), and those of you who don’t will soon 🙂 !

.

.

To be fair, why wouldn’t you want to go to a parkrun known as Babbs Mill, no excuse needed, it’s such a brilliant name! It has a sort of snigger inducing ring to it. Like when small children shriek with hilarity on hearing the word bottom. I have personal experience of this, when doing the warm up at junior parkrun I encourage participants to try to kick their own bottoms with the heels of their feet – not anybody else’s, obvs – and the delighted laughter this instruction unleashes every time gives me a brief moment of believing I’m a comic genius. It’s glorious. There is something about the ring of the name ‘Babbs Mill’ that has the same effect on me. I’m not even quite sure why. It’s not even a euphemism as such, though it should be. It feels apt for the midlands as it sounds like the Birmingham term of endearment ‘Bab’ sort of like saying ‘hun’ or ‘babe’. Though please don’t call me either of those things unless it’s due to regional dialect. I find ‘duck’ or even ‘love’ absolutely fine. and being called ‘hen’ is positively melting in the right context, but it’s a nope to use ‘babe’ or ‘girl’ in reference to me. Just to be clear, it’s fine to use ‘babe’ in reference to an actual babe or Babe the Sheep Pig (obvs) and ‘girl’ in reference to an actual girl. In Birmingham, to be referred to as Bab would be fine too, almost like acceptance. Glad we’ve cleared that up.

I’m on a Nelson Roll it seems (not to be confused with a Nelson Breadcake; a Nelson Teacake; a Neslon Bap; a Nelson Cob; a Nelson Bun; a Nelson Batch; a Nelson Barm Cake; Nelson Muffin or even a Half Nelson). Remember how I said I wasn’t that fussed about the parkrun number based challenges? No? That’s good. I do hate being caught out.

So, having outed myself as knocking off a few Nelsons of late, partly by opportunistic chance at Concord parkrun #555 and then by a bit of enlightened forward planning at Hillsborough parkrun #444, I was offered the chance to join a local(ish) parkrun ambassador who has similarly started to eye up these nano (Nab A Nelson Opportunity) parkruns, seemingly ‘suddenly’ popping up all over the place. Including, most helpfully, some within reach of Sheffield. There is in fact a numbers predictor spreadsheet for parkrun out and about, which is brilliant and terrifying in equal measure. I would have carried on with maths and indeed taken spreadsheets very much more seriously if I’d known they could be such a game changer, parkrun wise. A worm hole of numerical joy, who knew? Keith BENNETT, creator of the same is a creative genius. I wonder how far the ripples from his creation have spread out. It’s certainly encouraged me to look at how I choose my parkrun destinations differently.

Anyway, back to me and my local parkrun ambassador and his other half, both of who I have come to know through volunteering all together at Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun. They had already planned to set forth to go to Solihull for the Babbs Mill parkrun 111 event, and kindly offered me a lift. Well, would have been rude not to galumph along with them given the invite. Hang on, I’ll see if I can find any pics of us all together at juniors – we had a hoot on Sunday last, it was our 100th event #lovejuniorparkrun – ok, so not one of us altogether it seems (note to self, serious omission, will attempt to rectify that shortly) but plenty of us and the event in general to give you the idea:

.

.

FYI, let me tell you dear reader, being offered a lift to a Nelson event is basically living the dream parkrun tourism wise. This has to be the way forward. You just rock up at some other person’s house and get chauffeur driven to your parkrun destination in style. What’s not to like? Rhetorical question dear reader, nothing whatsoever, it is a quite brilliant plan. Thank you parkrun buddies for your outstanding facilitation, as well as company. What an excellent parkrun adventuring morning we had. Just wait ’til you hear about the post parkrun faffery, you will be super impressed!

Where to start then, erm, how about some basic factoids. According to the Babbs Mill parkrun official website blah de blah:

The course is at Babbs Mill Local Nature Reserve, Kingshurst. The course is run on a mixture of tarmac paths and grass, paths can be narrow at certain points.

Course Description: The course starts on a tarmac path along the River Cole. After passing a playground on the right, turn left and cross over the bridge and then turn right. Continue along the path until you come across the open field on the left. Complete a circuit of the field and re-join the path going clockwise around the lake. Cross the car park and then follow the path back to the bridge. Cross the bridge and complete a 2nd identical lap. Next time upon reaching the bridge, continue straight on the path back to the finish line.

Please note: this parkrun may not be suitable for pushchairs due to the narrow and uneven surfaces. Please either visit the park or contact the event team who will be happy to discuss the course with you so you can make your own assessment.

Facilities: There is a café in the KEC church on Cooks Lane, opposite the park entrance*. This is open between 9:30am – 11:00am.

Car parking is at Tudor Grange Academy Kingshurst, Cooks Lane, Kingshurst, Solihull, B37 6NU.

*note, serious underselling of Church café here, it’s a destination in its own right. More of this later.

and it looks like this:

.

Yep, there is an actual Babb’s Mill too. That Babb’s gets an appropriately placed apostrophe, but – TRIGGER WARNING – the Babbs Mill Lake and parkrun seemingly do not. Though one of the notice boards did include an apostrophe in the name. So confusing! Perhaps this is a parkrun best avoided by any former members of the now disbanded ‘Apostrophe Protection Society‘ it might just cause them to implode, and frankly they have suffered enough. That’s not to say they wouldn’t be welcome, parkrun is always inclusive and of course they would be greeted with open arm’s. Its’ jus’t that it might all be jus’t too much for them to bear. That’s ok, we all mus’t do what we must for our own mental health and well being after all. However, I do feel a quick heads’ up is appropriate for tho’se impacted by ‘such thing’s. Your welcome.

And some parkrunpedia, by way of edutainment:

According to the Solihull.gov websiteBabbs Mill Park was created in 1977 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II. A haven for wildlife, it was recognised as a Local Nature Reserve in 2002‘ It’s a completely manmade lake which is quite extraordinary when you come to see it. It has it’s own Wikipedia page too. Which, excitingly, gives parkrun an actual mention, though not why Babbs Mill is called Babbs Mill, though it does give the giddying possibility that at one stage the parkrun might have been named Kingfisher or even Kingshurst parkrun. All the Kings. Good for any card based running challenges out there. It also explains the random houses you pass on the way round, that do seem a bit out of keeping, though great location for those lucky enough to live in one of them.

Babbs Mill Lake, sometimes called Kingshurst Lake, is a man-made lake in the Kingfisher Country Park in Kingshurst, Solihull in England. The lake was created as a balancing feature in times of flooding from the nearby River Cole.

History – The lake gives its name to Babbs Mill Park, created to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977. It was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 2002. In March 2016, Solihull Council’s planning committee approved a scheme to build 52 houses on land amounting to approximately seven per cent of the reserve.

Since August 2019, Babbs Mill Lake has hosted a parkrun, a free, weekly timed 5 km run/walk, every Saturday morning at 9am.

.

I’m going to assume that Babbs was a person. Of course, now I come to think of it there are many famous Babbs. A cursory search of the interweb reminds me that there was ‘Ken Babbs – a famous Merry Prankster who became one of the psychedelic leaders of the 1960s. He along with best friend and Prankster leader, Ken Kesey wrote the book Last Go Round.‘ I know, was on the tip of your tongue. How wonderful to be immortalised as a ‘merry prankster’, there are worse epitaphs. If not he, then surely you will know of ‘Speedy Babbs was a pioneering stunt motorcyclist who was famous for riding his “Globe of Death” at fairs and carnivals across America from the 1930s through the 1960s. Babbs performed his act into his 60s‘ In 1999 he was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame ‘where heroes live on’ so that’s good. He was a wing walker and stunt parachutist too if the globe of death isn’t impressive enough for you. I really want to do a wing walk one day, but it’s very expensive, though there is a place near York where you can do that. One day. And then there is of course ‘Keedie Green (née Babb, 21 October 1982, Wolverhampton) … a British classical crossover soprano[1] with a vocal range of three octaves, reaching a top A above a top E’ Accomplished lot these Babbs apparently. AccordingtoWikipediasoitmustbetrue ‘Babb is surname of mostly English origin which has been documented as far back as 1322 in Devon County, England.[1] While the name appears to have originated in the Devon area, Y-DNA Genetic testing has revealed a number of distinct lineages throughout various parts of England. The surname also appears in the Bavaria state of Germany. Y-DNA Genetic testing has confirmed that this Bavarian line does not relate to the Babbs of England.’ Oh, and it has since been pointed out to me that the most famous of Babbs is of course Barbara Windsor! Which of course my explain my Pavlovian snigger response to the word – a product of the comedy of her time, she is forever associated with the possession of a double entendre.

And in more *stop press* news, a kind soul has now enlightened me as to the original Babbster. It was apparently John Babb , a Miller who used to live at Babb’s Mill cottage. That makes a lot of sense. I also now know the parkrunpedia faction that whilst the parkrun is in Solihull but Babb’s Mill itself is in Birmingham. Love a bit of Facebook feedback. Thank you Babbs Mill parkrun people for the extra info. You are the best!

Personally I’ve never met anyone with the surname Babb or Babbs, but I have just had a looksie in the parkrun results for the UK and found…. drum roll… there are loads of Babb and Babbsies, who knew? Apart from those blessed with the name itself. None were running at Babbs Mill parkrun for even #111 though, which is somewhat disappointing, maybe you’ll get lucky if you go. If it was done to me I’d try to connect all those Babbettes and get them to Babbs Mill on the same day – OMG people, 21st October 2023 is an actual Saturday, parkrunday, AND the birthday of Keedie Babb who only lives in Wolverhampton, that’s totally the day to do it! There must be a Babb out there who can channel their inner star trek meme and ‘Make it so’. And FYI, there are two people called John BABB and one John Babbidge registered, one of them is bound to be a miller. If so, I think they’d have to if not be the actual RD, at least start the parkrun, it’s going to be such a grand event!

Even if they don’t all get to go to Babbs Mill parkrun one day, you most certainly should, it’s a properly lovely space! I stole this photo from the Babbs Mill parkrun Facebook page, you can’t blame me though can you, not so much ‘stealing’ more ‘sharing’ – people need to know!

.

.

Shamefully perhaps, I hadn’t researched any of this in advance, the offer of a lift to a new-to-me event and a Nelson was more than enough to entice me. I have to face the truth, it’s like if someone set up an X initialled parkrun that was 500 laps of a multi storey I have to admit I’d probably rock up there. I may be shallow, but I know my buttons. Anyway, the choosing might be on peripheral attributes, but the challenges in general do encourage seeking out places and people you might never otherwise have reason to encounter. And you know what, I am so very glad I made it to Babbs Mill parkrun, because, turns out, this is a pretty extraordinary and wild space, despite being a less than promising location on the approach.

On a more sombre note, what I had forgotten until arriving at the park, was why the name seemed so familiar to me. Alas, it is because in December last year, three boys drowned in the Lake here after falling through ice, with a fourth dying later in hospital. It was a big news story nationwide at the time, and for the local community must still feel very raw. The parkrun was cancelled in the weeks following, up to and including on Christmas Day, but restarted earlier this year. It’s a tough call. I can understand people potentially feeling uncomfortable about attending a parkrun in this space given its association with such terrible events. For myself though, I feel that filling such community parks with more positive memories and encouraging people to come together can only be a good thing. I don’t doubt all parkrun venues will have witnessed awful things over their histories, but perhaps we should not let the worst thing to happen in a space define it in perpetuity. However, this is very recent history. it is worth being sensitive to the impact of these events these deaths. Remembering the lost boys is important, and the floral tributes in abundance make it clear that their memory is very much to the fore. I feel I can’t write up an account of our visit without acknowledging all of this context. I made a point of taking a moment to absorb where we were, reflect on what had happened, and then focused on my parkrun. Reclaiming the space and allowing the community to come together to heal seems the right course for me, but you do you. Notice the flowers though. I’m not keen on floral tributes as dead flowers make me sad, but I get the need for people to do something to express solidarity and sympathy with those impacted by what has happened, and the visible offerings certainly shows the sense of shared loss the area is experiencing.

.

.

Take a moment. And breathe.

Back to parkrun, and to the big event.

And a big event was anticipated indeed. I don’t know if it’s just that I’ve suddenly noticed Nelson so to speak, or if it really is becoming a bit more of a thing. Either way, Babbs Mill parkrun was bracing itself for a biggie!

.

.

There are plenty of versions as to why a 111 (or multiple thereof) is a Nelson, he never actually lost a leg though did he? But then why let the truth get in the way of a good story eh. Quite. I don’t particularly care, just want to nab one, and wish I’d thought to wear a fancy admiral hat, though I did walk with a stick, so that makes me a three legger or possibly a one one one in my own right. Like Jake the Pake (with an extra leg) but without the unfortunate Rolf Harris associations…

.

.

Point is, they were expecting a larger crowd than usual, though they do have form for that. They had a big jump in numbers when the Running Show was on as many down for that took the opportunity to gather at Babbs. Check out the vlog from Danni Runs for more about that. They had 352 finishers that day, compared with their average finish numbers of about 108.1 – which is tantalisingly close to 111 I think we can agree. Only need another 2.9 average finishers to bump it up. This week, the numbers were raised again, but to 153, still nearly double the previous week though. Oh, and fyi, at event 101 there were exactly 111 finishers, which pleases me, a splendid two palindromes right there! There were also exactly 111 finishers at event #84, but that is a somewhat less inspiring number combination for me, although I do recall that in 1984 was a turbulent year politically, I seemed to go on lots of demonstrations. Supporting miners, protesting at other things. It was also the year of the Brighton bombing at the Tory party conference, the year Thomas the Tank Engine was first broadcast and that Geneticist Alec Jeffreys discovers DNA fingerprinting apparently. Band Aid happened this year, and discussions began re the return of Hong Kong to China. Oh and the last episode of The Young Ones was broadcast on tv – although as far as I’m aware those two happenings are unrelated. This makes me think actually was quite an extraordinary year for me in terms of my personal and political awakening, but it wasn’t an especially fun one. I also now feel really old, as I realise my formative years are now part of a younger generation’s distant history. 1984 must seem as distant to them as 1948 does to me. Oh Lordy, I believe I even had a perm, though in my defence I also had purple hair for part of the eighties. Can you still get Crazy Colour, that was truly fabulous! Blimey this was pre interweb even. And when you had to find places using physical maps or by asking directions, and we didn’t even have a landline in the house yet alone a mobile phone! I don’t just feel old, I feel really old. Oh well, lucky I’ve still got a hobby eh, given my extreme ancientness and ever approaching decrepitude. parkrun will keep me eternally young or your money back right? I think that’s how it goes. Lucky I didn’t disappear down a wormhole of recalling 1984 and just stuck with the palindrome thing eh.

Although, wasn’t room 101 from the book 1984? Spooky. See how all numbers can be linked? Yep, just checked, it was ‘Room 101, located in the Ministry of Love, is the room where prisoners are sent to be confronted by their deepest fear.’ So for me, on Saturday, that would be oversleeping and missing my appointment with parkrun… Just to illustrate the point, shudder. For Winston in 1984 it was rats, for Indiana Jones, snakes I believe.

Anyway, stop distracting me with all these questions about 1984 and 101 and 111 or we’ll never make the parkrun start line. Where was I? Oh yes, adding to the numbers of participants nabbing a Nelson at Babbs Mill. Part of the parkrun crowd would be we three, meeting again. Now where have I heard a variation on that phrase before I wonder? Nope, it entirely escapes me.

Our meeting up on parkrun day began with my lying awake all night fearful of oversleeping and somewhat wired. I’d had a really good – but full on – week, doing some filming over in Manchester which was just joyful. I can’t tell you anything about it or I’d have to kill you, but it was affirming and I came away with anecdotes (albeit secret ones); a very nice vintage tea cake recipe book; top tips on vegan cake baking; a wider network and I met an actual hand doubling super star. I know. The circles I move in, I get why some might be well jel, to use the funky youth speak. And the head of wardrobe loved my charity shop jacket, so I felt vindicated in my impulse buying splurge in the interests of extending my costuming repertoire. Phew. Eventually, the actual alarm went off and I was up and out the door. It was a dry day, perfect driving conditions, and it was an easy drive over Chesterfield way to pick up my lift. It was dark, but quiet, and I felt really good about the day ahead. I was a bit early, because I always panic about being late, and was somewhat discombobulated to find their house in darkness, was it the right one? It was, the lights were soon on and the door opened and I was welcomed in. Then off we went to Solihull.

Long drives to parkrun are sooooo much easier when you are just the deadweight absolved of all responsibility in the back of the car. The vehicle eased through the miles with a smooth and silent ride, and we talked all things parkrun as we went. We arrived at the parkrun venue in good time, and saw the start pop up sign and various cones up and high vis heroes busying themselves around the park. There was a smallish carpark near to the start, but we were in search of a precautionary pee point. This was another big win for me, travelling companions who view this as a necessity not an optional extra, it wasn’t just me longingly gazing through the windows in search of a suitable venue for a pit stop! The downside, was that we ended up in McDonalds, somewhere I try never to cross the threshold into. We only nipped in to use the facilities and for that I was grateful. They were immaculate, no queues and parking outside, and in an age where there just aren’t public loos to be found any more, I am grateful for that. And we didn’t have to buy anything either, so good to know. It was I think about a mile away from the parkrun.

En route to the McDonalds, we passed the suggested parking for the parkrun, but we chanced the small carpark as we returned, no joy, but worth a looksie. We headed back from whence we came, and espied a solitary space behind a van just around the corner. Another parkrun tourist emerged and we mutually congratulated ourselves on our good fortune and swapped tourist tales as we walked over the road to the starting line up. Everything was going perfectly!

The sun was shining, the atmosphere was buzzing, the locals were friendly, the tourists were plentiful! I love a bit of parkrun tourism, and it is definitely more fun if you can do it with others.

.

.

After a bit of exploration and faffery, we were summoned for the first timers’ welcome. It was a jolly affair, with an actual map, and much encouragement. There were some actual genuine first time everers which always heartens me. I can’t remember if it was this briefing or the RDs one where there was a suggestion that really all the marshals should be standing on one leg throughout in acknowledgement of the event number. It’s a cricketing thing again apparently – actually, it might have been on Facebook, but you get the idea. Yep it was on the Facebook post letting everyone know the naval hats were optional, and it was umpires who had to stand on one leg when the score was 111 it seems, so that would suggest RD rather than marshal, but I’d make both hopping around on one leg and wearing naval hats compulsory if it was down to me. Oh well, don’t want to undermine the core team, they did a grand job overall, just needed to hold their nerve a bit more apropos of the fancy dress.

Oh, and we were warned about the main hazard for the event which is early on, where there is a concrete bollard in the middle of the path. It had it’s own cone though, so unless you had a visual impairment it was pretty clearly highlighted. Mind you, at junior parkrun I’ve seen juniors run headlong into the side of skips so there is no accounting for the unpredictability of human movements at a parkrun it seems! There were no casualties today, as far as I’m aware.

.

.

Next stop, mandatory pop up sign photos. They still have a big Babbs sign, the mini pop up having not made it out here as yet. We both posed for our own photos and photographed others. I love these little rituals. It’s perhaps the parkrun equivalent of a water cooler moment. Tourists all gather and interact as they queue and help facilitate photos for others or pose themselves, and it’s all good natured and fluid and helps to build the anticipatory excitement.

.

.

I ambled about doing more photos. I was trying to capture a flavour of the event. The downside of touristing is that you can just parachute in to do an event one and only time and if I don’t make a point of recording it somehow they can blur into one. That’s partly what’s behind this blog to be fair, I want to capture the memories for myself at least, every parkrun matters, they are all unique and interesting and joyful in their own way. parkrun tourism is always a micro adventure worth undertaking from when it is little more than a name on your radar to post parkfaffery and returning home. What did any parkrunner ever do before parkrun day was a thing? It pains me to even think of it. Was there ever really truly such a time? It seems inconceivable to me now. Lawks a lordy – that’s perhaps why the eighties were so tough, parkrun wasn’t even a glint in our founder’s eye back then. #hardtoimagine Dark days indeed!

.

.

Next happening was the Run Director’s Briefing. People politely assembled in the start funnel, seeing a couple of parkwalkers resplendent in their powder blue high vis was an encouraging sight – so too the parkwalk sign leaning against the pop up banner when we arrived. It was low key, but visible. There was a friendly welcome, an acknowledgement of the Nelson Number luring tourists from near and far, a happy 40th Wedding Anniversary greeting, a milestone cheer and welcome to tourists from near and far – oh and an enthusiastic round of applause for the high vis heroes too.

.

.

And then pretty swiftly and we were AWF!

I continue to be taken by surprise by the running aspect of parkrun, the mass start gets me every time! Yes, yes, I need a new camera, but also they were just running so fast at the front they passed by in a blur!

.

.

and I slotted in towards the back as is my way, and pootled onwards. Inevitably I drop further and further back, partly because I can’t maintain my pace, partly because I needed to stop and reorientate myself from time to time and partly because not only were there spectacularly photogenic marshals who needed to be thanked and acknowledged, but the park itself was full of hidden treasures.

.

The lake itself is surprisingly wild. It’s not the formal city park pond I’d imagined. The edges have tall waving reedbeds which look beautiful and provide plenty of cover for wildlife. There is native planting and running water as well. There are kingfishers to be seen – though not by me today, and the bird song was amazing. It took me a while to recognise that some of the noise was from parakeets, but once a marshal mentioned them they seemed to be everywhere. They remind me so much of Bushy parkrun. I’m a a little conflicted because it probably isn’t the best that non native parakeets are making their way ever further north, we even have some in Sheffield. They are however spectacular. I accept them in Bushy park because they are so well established and it isn’t a natural habitat any more, though it is a sanctuary for some species. I feel though for the parakeets as with the grey squirrels in London they are here to stay and a colourful part of the city wildlife. The route went over little bridges, through wooded paths. The surface was overwhelmingly good, but if I recollect correctly there was a short more traily bit, but nothing too technical. It’s also basically flat, certainly by Sheffield standards.

.

.

My favourite bits were the huge reeds alongside the water, but gazing up into the tree tops was pretty cool too. It is an extraordinary nature reserve in the middle of seemingly urban space. A fabulous sanctuary with much to see.

.

.

Oh, and another favourite bit was seeing my travel buddies the other side of the water as they were finishing a lap round the lake I was just starting out on! Maybe you had to be there to get the full impact, but we did do some enthusiastic waving and whooping at one another before heading off on our respective parkrun pathways! You get to go around the lake twice, so that’s fun.

.

.

One thing that was a bit weird was the proximity of quite dense housing seemingly right within the boundaries of the reserve. It would be amazing to live in one of them, but seemed sub optimum for protection of wildlife. I couldn’t help wondering if that was partly why the litter situation was so lamentable. This was the shocker. Whilst Babbs Mill parkrun gets 10/10 for the welcome, the venue, the post parkrun parkfaffery all the things, it was unquestionably the most horribly littered parkrun I’ve ever been to. Maybe it’s a consequence of recent rain raising water levels which have then dropped back leaving rings of discarded litter surrounding every water course as a tide mark. The path was strewn with not just the odd bit of litter but no patch seemed clear, and big litter items too. Full nappies chucked aside endless takeaway boxes, cans, bottles, crisp packets, it was very depressing. I always try to pick up a couple of bits of litter when I attend any event but here it was so overwhelming I wouldn’t have known where to start and I guess that’s the problem. It is a beautiful space but in desperate need of a mass clean up, and then perhaps it might stay in better order as there would be an incentive to keep it so. It did detract somewhat from the experience because it makes me so sad. There were cheery robins cheeping, and parakeets overhead and amazing habitat everywhere and yet the polluting litter would be hazardous to any creature actually making its home there. Maybe I was unlucky with the timing of my visit, but I hope a team, volunteers or otherwise, are able to tackle it soon. I thought littering could be bad near me, but fortunately we have a very active Sheffield Litter Pickers group which maybe helps, as well as several ‘friends of’ groups for the various green spaces, they keep on top of things. This park is a fabulous place, but could do with a little tlc (tender, loving care).

*stop press* there is a dedicated team of litter pickers on an endless quest to keep the park clean. I salute them. There is also a volunteer who regularly litter picks the area around the parkrun start, and in fairness, that area was indeed pristine – no litter at all, so thanks to them for their efforts. I litter pick myself and it can be demoralising at times so yay for those who keep on, keeping on, you are super heroes!

Despite this, it was a friendly space, dog walkers exchanged greetings with me warmly as I wended my way around, and it was being well used, not just by parkrunners and dogwalkers but plenty of others too. If I lived nearby I’d be out there every day for sure, I bet you see loads of life through the seasons, and you’d get to know all the regulars too.

Unsurprisingly, I soon found myself the final finisher bar the tail walkers. My parkrun buddies who’d finished, circled back to join me which was nice and companionable. As I did the final lap marshals stood down and took down the various course markers. It felt relaxed and friendly and there are clearly regulars who all know one another which is always a good sign at a parkrun.

.

.

We twalked to the finish (walked and talked) and as they’d already been through, they peeled off as I headed through the funnel. The volunteers were cheerily waiting with the funnel in tact, and I didn’t feel under any pressure as a parkwalker which was a big relief, and always a bonus rather than a given at my speed. The returning marshals carrying the ‘caution runner’ and other signs looked like a very polite placard possessing protest group. More flashbacks to the eighties perhaps. Once me and the tailwalkers were scanned in, the pack up and results uploading happened in earnest. Busy, busy busy!

.

.

As everything was very much under control, we said our thanks and then we headed out of the park, over the road and the short distance to the community café, which is situated within a church nearby. This was the recommended place for coffee. I’d heard it was good, but oh my, not this good!

We entered the rather characterless red brick building with modest expectations. Unfolding before us was a large busy café space within a church which was big on Alpha courses in case that is a factor that would influence your decision to go. A singer with a microphone provided musical accompaniment, and a large video of a real fire was being projected onto one of the walls. There was a lively buzz. One of the staff was sporting a large ’18 today’, birthday badge, and church members circulated to welcome parkrunners at their tables. The menu is limited, but as it was limited to basically the most enormous and delicious waffles the world has ever seen I was prepared to forgo my usual savoury post parkrun feed in favour of these things of beauty. The coffee was great too, and it was really good value. £3 for a waffle – and just wait ’til you see the size of it; £2 for a very good coffee, and then bizarrely 50p for a glass of tap water. I did not begrudge them this at all, as it was ridiculously good value for the waffles, but it was so inconsistent to be charged for that. The atmosphere was great, and everyone sang happy birthday to the young woman who was 18 today and cheered a happy anniversary in chorus to the couple who were celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary. They looked a bit awkward at that, but who cares! It was a lovely debrief at the end of a most excellent parkrun experience. Oh, and there was an abundance of immaculate toilets too, as well as tea served in a pot, all very civilised.

It is true you may well come to Babbs Mill for the parkrun, or your Nelson number, or the Babbs gathering on 21st October 2023 – but you’ll surely stay for the waffles! If you don’t, you are missing a trick, unless you are vegan, I don’t recall a vegan option, but happy to be corrected on that point.

.

.

Tempting as the waffles were, we did take the precaution of photographing prior to eating them and some photos made it up on social media. This caused terrible, FOMO nigh on existential FOMW amongst some. It was bad enough forgoing the parkrun and the nelson but the FOMW (fear of missing waffles) catapulted this sense of exclusion to a whole new level. I would like to say I’m sorry about that, but I’m not really. You’ll just have get yourself down there and make it right! And I know that one respondent has indicated that the only cure for FOMW is a very good pie, but I think that was just a bit of Facebook posturing in the comments, no-one really believes you Ambassador Z.

And that was that. A particularly splendid morning of parkrun tourism. Thank you team Babbs Mill for welcoming so many tourists and providing an enthusiastic, supportive, friendly and chilled event. It must be a bit daunting ahead of a Nelson number, having no idea how many might descend, but the event went with great aplomb. It’s one I’d happily return to. Incidentally, Wimbledon has a 777 coming up next week I think, they are going to need a bigger funnel.

All parkruns are unique and magnificent in their own ways, but I did genuinely like this one a lot, and it would be a good one to go back to in a different season perhaps. If you are local to it, I have a sense it would be one you could feel a part of too. Isn’t that grand. Rhetorical question, yes it is.

And then it was drive home to Sheffield, and photo gazing and then junior parkrun all over again the next day. Hurrah for parkrun weekends. They are The Best.

Are you still here? Thanks for staying the course. Hope your parkrun or other adventuring was just as grand.

If you are at a loose end and game to keep going with your parkrun research then you could always browse through all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Hopefully though you’ll have an actual parkrun story of your own to reflect on or look forward to, every parkrunner does.

or you could triangulate my version of events by checking out the Babbs Mill parkrun report for event #111 shout outs and reference to the eleventy first happening of Babbs Mill parkrun – now why didn’t I think of that? I do like an eleventy something number 🙂

Be happy til next parkrun day.

🙂

Oh, and if you do make it to Babbs Mill, check this graffiti out, you’ll see it exiting the church, it must relate to something, but I know not what.

.

*Stop press* I got some feedback about the graffiti, it’s sad I’m afraid, but maybe a positive spin on it is that the search goes on. It refers to ‘the milk carton boys‘ two children aged 13 and 11 who went missing on Boxing Day 1996, the pair, became known as the Milk Carton Kids after a nationwide campaign. On the 25th anniversary of their disappearance interest was reignited in their case following a TV documentary, and a dig was organised. They remain unaccounted for, but this powerful image shows they are not forgotten. A poignant image indeed.

Hold your loved ones close.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy/Ebury Press or watch the film on iPlayer. It will make you cry though. Unless you have a heart of ice. But in a nice way, it’s just such a delightful and warm perspective on life and friendship and everything. Check it out.

please.

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

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: