Author Archives: Lucy Marris

Wait – there’s a hill? small park BIG RUN also penguins for Palestine, no really :) *

*Also gratuitous use of emoticon in title of this blog post

small park BIG RUN

Digested read:  took part in the small park BIG RUN again, in the early hours.  It was fun.

Undigested read:  It’s extra nice, when you get to do something that you allegedly like (ableit often in a type two fun sort of way)  – in this case running (badly), as part of an event that is aligned to your values.  Even better when it’s local, community based and gives you the chance to do a fun new thing.  That is, running round in big circles in a park in the middle of the night, which granted, doesn’t sound like an enormous amount of fun to the uninitiated, but it turns out it really is, especially if you get lucky with the company you keep on the way round. Oh, and another thing which adds to the fun, it’s also a ‘running’ event which doesn’t actually require you to run if you don’t want to.  Excellent.   Walking is fine, also uni-cycling and stilt-assisted circuits, though I’m inclined to think both of those approaches might have presented a few extra challenges along the way.  Possibly a case of ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ Still, nothing ventured eh? Or you could juggle, you might need to learn first though as I think that’s probably not intuitive either, but basically each to their own, that’s the main thing.

 

The event is proactively set out to be as inclusive as possible, and quite right too!  It actually put on a couple of  ‘Assisted Hours’:

ASSISTED HOURS During the hours of 4pm to 5pm on Saturday and 11am till noon on Sunday we will be offering help to anyone who would like to participate, but feels they need some support to make this happen. We want to help. Please contact us and together let’s try to work something out!

Genius!  There were times up that hill that I’d have quite appreciated some assistance too to be fair, but I never thought to get in touch in advance.  Looks from the photos that plenty did though and had a hoot going round.  This is such a good idea, parkrun in particular is waking up to doing a lot more to facilitate inclusion through e.g. promoting walking, training up guides for visually impaired runners and offering more signed run briefings at its events, but this is the first time I’ve been aware of an organised run proactively offering assistance as opposed to reacting positively to requests for adjustments.  It gives such a different feel.

trev run for all

Oh, what’s that, you have no idea what I’m talking about?  I do do that sometimes, get ahead of myself.  To be fair, I had no idea what small park BIG RUN was until about this time last year, so it’s fair enough if you don’t know what it is.  Erm, well it’s small park BIG RUN and it’s becoming an annual event for Sheffield.  According to the website blah de blah:

A 24-hour group challenge raising funds for Palestinian women and children Midday Sat 15 June – Midday Sun 16 June 2019 Meersbrook Park, Sheffield.

In 2018 we raised £7,000 the Khuza’a Children’s Play and Heal project and the Sheffield Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund. Can we do better this year?

We will run continuous circuits of Meersbrook park over 24 hours with at least two people on the course at all times. Entrants will be able to run, wheel, jog, walk, hop(!) shifts from 30 minutes upwards. You can choose how long and at what time you would like to run when you enter. You can run as an individual or as part of a team.

At 12.15pm on Sunday 16th we complete the 24 hours with a free Community/Family Fun Run of one lap. ALL WELCOME.

So it’s a fund-raiser for Palestine on one level, but it’s much more than that, because as the event happens in Meersbrook park, parallel events are taking place in Palestine, so there’s a bit of symbolic solidarity there.  As the organisers said: ‘several runs are being organised in Palestine: In Gaza, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Nablus. … It is so exciting to think that whilst we are running here in Sheffield there will be hundreds of people in Palestine running too! In some small way these runs can help bridge the gaps that are put between people.’

The event is definitely about raising awareness of serious inequalities and injustices too.  It treads an elegant line between holding a positive and joyful event in Sheffield, whilst keeping the politics of Palestine central in the breadth of activities that happen alongside the event.  That included a photo exhibition : ‘building bridges’ photos from Sheffield and Palestine and an opportunity to contribute to a ‘wall of words’

There was also communal poetry writing – a high risk activity in my experience, but conducted with enthusiasm and talent here I’m sure.   I just struggle with this idea and need to qualify why… as I’m not just being rude, I’m processing previous trauma.  I think I’m over influenced by formative experiences in respect of this. I’ve never quite recovered from attending a ‘hard-hitting’ poetry reading that was to raise awareness around the horrors of and damage caused by drug addiction.  Which included the climactic conclusion of a rhyme that was…

wait for it….

‘Youths clad so you cannot tell their sex

and smelling all of cop-y-dex’

It was read out in a particularly laboured way to get the rhythm and rhyme emphasised to best effect by a woman with a completely deadpan expression.  I have never been in such pain drying to suppress laughter.  I applaud the earnest endeavour of the writer(s), but it didn’t for me at least, conjure up a vision of brutal realism and horror, thereby eliciting the intended response of shock and repulsion that would motivate me to action!  It wasn’t just the laboured rhyme, it was that I associated copydex with primary school and smearing it on your hands so you could peel it all off again – that worked on tables too by the way – very therapeutic – and not a glue you can readily associate with the worst ravages of solvent abuse.  That recitation has a lot to answer for.  Poetry can indeed have punch, but my first thought now is always of crying with suppressed laughter at the back of a freezing cold community hall, horribly traumatised by the realisation that my corpsing was massively inappropriate but completely beyond my control.  Nobody likes to be powerless… that’s why what is happening in Palestine matters.

copydex

There were also as plenty of pithy information posters around the course that gave a snap shot of the reality of life in Palestine.

And alongside that, during the daylight hours there was live music along the course, a community choir for the final flourish.  No, it isn’t Garfield’s choir, though I’d love to see that there too next year if there is such a thing, which there really should be if there isn’t already.

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Some took on the running challenge to extreme, treating the endless circuits – it’s  a one kilometre loop but involves a steep hill – as punishing hill reps. One hardy soul kept going for the entire 24 hours, doing a personal ultra.  Some just did one loop for fun, others carried flags or banners along the route, keeping the politics central to their participation.  You can run as an individual, you can run with friends, you can be part of a 24 hour relay, passing on a baton, or sash or just a winning smile as you hand over to the next participant.   You can run/walk/jog/juggle  for just one half hour slot or as many as you like; you can chat your way round or use the time for silent contemplation. ‘The choice is yours’ as Our Graham would say…

So basically, you can engage with event as you choose.

Imagine a Venn diagram, and the outer circles are politics; running; community; festival; solidarity with Palestine; music; craft; personal challenge; team challenge; bunting; lanterns; inclusivity and lots more probably, and where they all overlap with one another in the middle, that’s small park BIG RUN.  Oh hang on, forgot one of the most important circles of all – no, not the circle of life, the one with cake.  There was lots of cake too, apparently, but a daylight thing I learned too late!

trev cake

So are we all on the same page now, in terms of understanding what it’s all about?  Hope so.  I took park in small park BIG RUN last year, entering at the last minute on something of a whim having been very confused about exactly what it was.  I enjoyed it a lot, and resolved to come back and do a night time spot this year.  So that’s what I did, and no regrets… oh, well that’s not strictly true, it’s a lovely event, but it would be so much better if it didn’t need to exist wouldn’t it?  That aside though, very nice indeed thank you for asking.  This is little gem of an event, and it seems to be growing organically.  It was noticeably much bigger this year compared with last, and slicker with the organisation too – not that it was bad last year, it just has evolved more since.  Run by a team with principle and passion and it shows, in the friendly vibe evident on the day  even in the middle of the night.  And what’s more, that was also all going on in real time in Palestine.  I know, how cool is that.  small world BIG RUN to borrow a phrase.  Here are smiles from Ramallah, that’s pretty amazing is it not.

Palestinian runners

So that’s the background.  What, do you mean, you are horrified that’s only the background?  Are you implying I’m going on a bit?  Don’t get all accusatory with me! I never claimed to be concise, you could have stopped after the digested read, if you are still here, even if only lured on by the photos, then that’s contributory negligence.  Fact.

So onto what happened next.  I’d have got to this point a lot quicker if we hadn’t had that little squabble about how long I was taking by the way … just sayin’.

What happened next is that a few months back, small park BIG RUN came up again on the Sheffield running community’s radar.   Last year only a couple of groups got it together to organise relays of runners to cover the full 24 hours, so there would always be someone on the course from their team throughout.  This year  there was a positive flurry of team entrants, including…. drum roll… one from my very own Smiley Paces.  Yay!  Go us!

Of course, teams don’t just materialise by magic, sadly.  It takes a fine organisational mind to step up and show leadership.  Cometh the hour, cometh the smiley, I give you exhibit a), our leader.

cometh the hour

Now there’s a look that oozes leadership and inspires confidence if ever I saw it!  Hurrah!

I say ‘leader’ but really that might be pushing it a bit.  A leader only if you believe in the ability of a leader to herd cats.  A leader in the sense of being a facilitator, enthusiasm generator and clearer up of confusion perhaps, but not really in the sense of being able to influence the direction of travel of any individual member, or being worshipped by followers.  We are an idiosyncratic lot we Smilies.  And all the better for it I’m sure.

So the gathering of a team began with a shout out for anyone interested, and then evolved into the creation of a shared google doc on which people could sign up and bagsy preferred time slots.  Now, not going to lie, this was problematic.  Problematic for all sorts of reasons.  Firstly, Smiley Paces members are all lovely, so there was a lot of unhelpful politeness.  ‘No you take that slot, I really don’t mind’, ‘don’t worry, I’ll take whatever slot is left over, so I’ll not sign up til everyone else has‘, ‘you first’, ‘no you first’ and so on. Resulting in a collective holding back and indecisiveness that took a while to be overcome. Then, there was the information technology divide between those for whom a spreadsheet acts as an erotic stimulant in much the same way as catnip does to cats, and those for whom the very thought of a spreadsheet brings on cold sweats and shudders.  For the former it is a case of ‘Bring it on!’  Because spreadsheets means super-charged fun, and that reminds me, must start an excel sheet on how to prepare for the party to mark International Spreadhseet Day‘ – which is 17th October for 2019 by the way.

spreadsheet day

For the latter, being expected to contribute to a shared spreadsheet engenders much the same horror as if they were being told they’d have to perform open heart surgery on a loved one without so much as access to a YouTube video in order to advise them how!  It seems that, magnificent as my fellow Smilies are, in some respects it is a miracle that they are able to pursue challenging careers and indeed, even live independently and dress themselves if the messages following this post were anything to go by.  ‘How do I open the document again?’  ‘I’ve accidentally signed up my dog for 12 hours can you edit it?’  ‘ooh, I think I’ve signed up twice by accident’, ‘well I thought I signed up, I definitely signed up for something, wasn’t it this – oh crap’.  You get the idea I’m sure!  This is where leadership was needed, in the sense that ‘you’re the leader you have to sort it for me‘ not so much in the ‘you’re the leader, it’s fine to delegate’.  Still, all worked out in the end, somewhat amazingly. All slots covered, and eventually the penny dropping that this was but the first stage in the process, you were also required to enter the event online as well.  We were all set.  Hooray!  We got there in the end.  Only a couple of people signed up without having bothered to check out the route.  There was one comment along the lines of ‘what there’s a hill?’ the night before, which turned out to be a serious enquiry and not a hilarious and spontaneous spew of sarcasm.  Ooops, oh well, you live and learn eh?  Not just any old hill either.  One well worth of the descriptor of ‘hill’, and one which rewards the upward climb with a fantastic panoramic view of Sheffield at the top – if you can but see it through your still bleeding eyes after making the effort to run up it…

I enjoyed the event last year, but this year decided I fancied doing a night time slot, as I wanted to see the beautifully crafted lanterns created to light the course in all their glory.  I also wanted to see the sun rise over Meersbrook park.  That would be glorious.

I will admit though, the day before my enthusiasm was waning a bit.  Partly because in Sheffield we’d had a solid few weeks of rain of near Biblical proportions.  Not so much ‘singing and dancing in the rain’ rain, as ‘we’re all going to die’ rain.  Didn’t honestly fancy running in that.  Then I also had a bit of a wobble, when I spotted through a handy ‘heat map’ of volunteers and runners for the event, that for the 3.30 a.m. slot there were likely to be very few people about.  I suddenly thought maybe running in the dark in a park I don’t really know, on my own might not be so appealing after all.  Oh well, committed now.  Alarm set for 2.20 a.m. and early to be I went.

What the f*** was that!’  It was my alarm going off at stupid o-clock.  I don’t know if anyone is able to quite explain this to me.  But how come, whilst I’m a perpetual insomniac who makes Lady Macbeth look like she suffers from narcolepsy I still managed to be sound asleep at the moment my dual alarms starting screaming at me.  Being woken in this way wasn’t good.  It didn’t feel like I was about to embark on a grand adventure, it felt like this was a terrible idea.  I didn’t dare go back to sleep again, so got up and then blinking into space realised I had no idea what to do next. Normally, if I was pre-run I’d have something to eat and some tea, but my body clock was having none of that.  I had a quarter of a cup of coffee and felt sick.  How do those all-night ultra runners do it.  I can’t even dress myself at that time of night it turns out.  No really, top went on inside out at first attempt.  How the Nicky Spinks of this world navigate the Lakes on no sleep is beyond my comprehension.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to navigate the fells of the Lake District, I just had to navigate the registration process for small park BIG RUN.

No traffic on the roads, I found easy parking right next to the park, and through the railings could see Meersbrook Hall brightly lit up and all inviting. A short walk down the drive and there were welcoming folk around and in the reception area of the hall collapsed runners who’d finished their rounds as well as suitably appointed loos (i.e. toilet paper in evidence) so no fretful angst about accessing the necessary facilities for my precautionary pee.  Also, and this is VERY important, I learned from one of the posters on display there that it turns out, the land at Meersbrook belonged to the Gotham family in medieval times.  No way.  The actual Gothams of Gotham City for sure – you don’t know any other Gotham’s do you?  Well then, it must be so.  Without Gotham there would have been no Batman – unimaginable, so it must be that Meersbrook Hall is ground zero for super heroes.  What could be a more apt venue for this event showing solidarity with Palestine.  Everyone involved a hero today!  And just shows, getting up in the middle of the night can be most educational.  Hurrah!

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So it was, I arrived at about 3.15 a.m. announcing to the impressively WIDE AWAKE night-time marshals, that I was there for the 4.30 a.m. slot.

They blinked back at me, unsure how to break the news.  ‘Erm, you are actually quite early‘ one ventured.  I looked back confused.  ‘Ah, no I meant 3.30‘ I said.  Having identified that not only was I unable to dress myself, or drink I had lost power of rudimentary cognition as well.  Oh well, hopefully my legs would still work.  Sighs of relief all round.

I was furnished with the Smiley baton – a thing of beauty, and personalised for smilies in perpetuity by dint of being infused with the perspiration from the palms of each previous runner.  Not just our running memories, but our actual sweaty DNA is held within that twig.  A heart warming thought if ever there was one.  Shame it got lost at one point and so was bereft in the registration tent awaiting a new claimant.  Actually, that baton had quite a few adventures over those 24 hours, but more of that later.  Let’s just say though, like the ravens in the tower of London, we now dare not lose it ever again…

It was pretty dark, but not pitch.  I had my head torch with me, and could see runners’ head torches bobbing about in the gloaming.  Eventually, I espied my team buddy, Smiley Elder, desporting herself with a headlong sprint downhill to the finish as she completed her 90 minute slot at full tilt, shin splints notwithstanding.  Honestly, it’s a complete mystery why her injuries persist so unreasonably.  Some people are just unlucky I guess.

Not seen her for far too long, and it was nice to have a quick hello and photo op before she trucked on back to Wolverhampton.  There’s smiley dedication for you.  Right there.

And that was it, I was launched, onto the 1km circuit.  You know what, the park felt lovely and calm.   There was no rain, and there were people around, not many, but enough not to feel spooked.  Volunteers walked the course in reverse whilst runners ran round.  I half wondered if some of the volunteers might have ended up doing more laps than those allegedly running, as I only ever broke into a jog when I saw the photographer up ahead, it was hard enough being awake at that hour, let alone actually sprinting about.  Also, it was quite meditative doing some solitary laps.  The lanterns were plentiful and gorgeous, it does create a magical feel.  It was also quite exciting spotting the imaginative creations from the solitary (I think) penguin to the impressive prehistoric looking fish – it reminded me of what I think an angler fish looks like, though I’ve never actually met one.  With each circuit I noticed different creatures. I was also very taken with the pig.  Pigs are one of my favourite animals ever, well warthogs specifically, but I’ll still always perk up at the sight of a pig.  Brilliant creatures. … well I think it was a pig.  It might have been a dog actually, oh well, it was a pig to me in the moment.  So be it!

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I kept my head torch on for the first lap, but really there was a surprising amount of light in the park.  There was a noisy chorus of birds, I mean like REALLY LOUD, and the place looked gorgeous.  I exchanged pleasantries with other participants and marshals.  Agreeing with one at least that we should promise ourselves to be out in the open and see this time of day in a park or rural space at least once a month from hereonin. You know, I might actually try to do that.  It was pretty special.  The sun started creeping up and reflected back off buildings or back lit the tree line.  The early hours weren’t spooky at all, rather quietly meditative.

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I say ‘quietly meditative’ but actually, after the first couple of laps, which went quickly, what with all the marshals to greet and sights to see, I was joined by another fellow Smiley for the sunrise stint.  Here we are together:

dawn runners

No, not just out for a stroll, actually power walking for Palestine very purposefully up a steep hill.  I can’t remember exactly why I’m gesticulating wildly, I like to think I was waving at someone not annoyingly emphasising a point, but I am known for my delusional tendencies.  What we can be confident about, is that as endurance events go, I think we did pretty well, managing to talk without pausing for breath for the next hour at least.  It was sort of like simultaneous broadcasting, which is a bit like circular breathing.  To the untrained ear we might have seemed to be talking over each other, but actually it’s a time efficient way to communicate if you can speak and listen simultaneously, and we had a lot to cover what with pond talk, gardening and running related topics to catch up on.

Lots of lovely marshals, and lots of lovely views:

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 And then, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better.  Another Smiley!  Honestly, we are like buses, suddenly three at once, and with what joy!

So then we had even more walking and talking and the route got busier and there was even an official photographer about.  Also, to my enormous joy, a couple of party goers, giddy from a night out were making their way home through the park.  One wearing vertiginous silver platform shoes, and both clutching tinnies and sporting slightly slurry, but warm and open grins.  They were fascinated by this spectacle of runners in the park in the small hours, and plonked themselves down on a bench to cheer us all by as they finished their cans and enjoyed the view.  It was brilliant, a really encouraging and mutually unexpected encounter.  So much good will in the middle of the night.

Some running occurred, but also quite a bit of important peer networking.  Also, a debate on how easy it was to convince smallish children who’d been ‘made’ to marshal the day before in torrential rain that type 2 fun does still constitute fun, and whether or not it is quite fair to explain to them the full horror of life in the Gaza strip as an example of what some children have to contend with.  It’s complicated….

My favourite shot of the night though is this one:

trev because hills are fun

We all know the camera never lies, and clearly this photo shows me cheerily sprinting up that hill, leaving our leader – and one might have thought the more resilient runner for dust. She maintains she has only been stopped by an over-riding compulsion to guffaw, brought on by my shameless ‘look, there’s the photographer‘ alarm call, which as all runners know, is a cue for making it look like you are really going for it.  Irrespective of who you choose to believe, I still think even if her version is true, she had fair warning and despite this instruction didn’t follow it, so, whilst I’m not entirely unsympathetic, sometimes it’s important for individuals to just own their actions, don’t you agree?

Also, that hill though, it’s ridiculously steep.  Some people got more representative shots than me, hang on, I’ll see what I can dig out:

If you are a Sheffield local, it’s the one your run down like pyroclastic flow as part of the Round Sheffield Run.  Yep, but going upwards this time, that is against gravity and, I would argue, defying the laws of nature too!

So a few laps as a cheery threesome, and then one peeled off to go home, and our leader decided to up her game and do some running, so I finished with a couple more laps on my own, just enjoying being alive and out on a beautiful morning, and enjoying a rare moment of positivity and calm in troubled times.  Basically dear reader, it was reet nice out.

I tried to get some atmospheric photos, they don’t really do it justice, but here they are for posterity in case of interest.

And then, after a couple of hours, I decided that was me done, though really, it does have a meditative quality, and it isn’t boring at all, I could imagine doing more laps, and – though I reserve the right to change my mind – at that moment, I had a brief fantasy of thinking how fab it would be to do as one did and just start at noon on Saturday and keep on going as long as you could.  So much to see and think about, it would be quite amazing.

Then again, the prospect of a cup of coffee was also quite amazing so back to the support tent where we’d been ticking off our team laps – as had other teams, Good Gym for one, and Striders for another – others too – and said my farewells and home I went.  Past the slumbering supporters and newly arrived, admiring the huge flag that had appeared – or maybe just come into view with the dawn – whilst I’d been out running on the course.

It was a bit sad leaving, as the fun was continuing. I actually felt really wide awake as well, which was strange, but also cold, despite my fleece, so time to go home. However, my leaving didn’t mean the event was concluded, oh no, Sunday morning was one big crescendo to the grand finale.

People gathered for a communal final lap, and for a link up with Palestine, and songs, and cake, and choirs, and poetry reading and basically a bringing together of all involved. Thankfully the weather was fair, and the mood buoyant.  It looked great in the pictures which I pored over afterwards.  Look how much fun they had!  Serious fun though, in every sense. This is fun in a serious cause.

and here are some stills of fun being had at the opening of the event, as well as the final fun run lap:

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Basically, a grand event, in a fine cause.

Alas, inevitably there were a few quibbles. I could of course let these go, but then again, wouldn’t want resentment to build up over the next year for things unsaid.  Firstly, never got to see these:

JB rewards

Now don’t get me wrong, obviously, participating was it’s own reward, but for those amongst us who need a bit of external motivation, cake promises and subsequent placement (or absence thereof) is a serious matter.

Gripe two.  Who nearly lost the Smiley baton?  I know it all ended happily in the end, but to think it was abandoned in the park and a party of small children had to be despatched to retrieve it cannot be Smilies finest hour.  No worries, we can learn from this, and we shall never speak of it again.  That seems fair.

Otherwise, all pretty much perfect in every way.  Hurrah!  So all signing up for next year yes?  And remember, marshalling is fun too – even in the rain – especially so, extra kudos to those that do!

So thanks to everyone who made this happen, and for keeping the message alive year on year.  Putting on the event was a labour of love, and very worthwhile, I’m already looking forward to next year.  It may only be a relatively localised initiative, but it matters, and the power in linking up with parallel events in Palestine is for me at least, genuinely thought provoking and moving too.

Oh, and for the record, the 24 hour smiley team clocked up approximately 269 laps.  Not everyone recorded every lap, and you’d be amazed how hard it is to count and run.  No really it is!  I’m not even exaggerating for comedic effect!  Not that the numbers matter, it was the opportunity to maximise participation that was the main thing, and a fine bonding experience it was too!  Special thanks to our great leader, who made it so!

laps

Lots of ace photos from the day by the way.  Many are brought together on the small park BIG RUN Facebook page under albums.  I’ve borrowed freely from them, alongside using some of my own.  Thanks for everyone who came, and snapped and shared.  Special thanks to Trevor Pollard for the atmospheric black and white ones, and to Kev Donnington for his colourful capturing of a fab event.  Cath Ager took loads too, thanks all for documenting the day(s).   If anyone spots a photo on this post they want removed, let me know and I’ll do so.  🙂

I’ll end it there.  Same time next year?

trev how to finish

For all my small park BIG RUN posts see here.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries.

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Another place for parkrun tourism? Fun and frolics at Crosby parkrun

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Crosby, sun, sea sand, what’s not to like?

Undigested read:

Crosby parkrun is on a beach!  How cool is that.  The best thing about running on a beach in the sunshine is that you get sand in your shoes so when you come home the memory comes with you.  Nice.  Very exciting.  So exciting in fact, that for some it can be overwhelming it seems.   Fair enough, we all need to know our limits.

DSCF0925

Before I get stuck in though, I feel compelled to offer up a bit of a warning.  Just to let you know that this is an arching tale, and has a forlorn bit early on, but then everything perks up and all ends happily – mostly.  So don’t be sad.  Life is too short. Without the lows, you wouldn’t get the full benefit of the highs.  Imagine a seesaw horizontal.  That’s right.  Pointless!  Safe and predictable perhaps, but entirely devoid of joy.  In fact, basically a plank.  Where’s the fun in that? Whereas if you embrace the potential of a see-saw you can have this much fun! Only in colour! Quite.

So I was enticed to Crosby parkrun to join a fellow parkrunner who was doing his 100th different parkrun.  That’s quite some touristing, and a good excuse for me to try a new parkrun.  Leaving aside the fact I nearly went to Corby parkrun – which I’m sure is lovely but lacks a coastline – Crosby appealed a lot because it’s by the sea, you get to see those iron men statue things and I get a ‘c’ for my pirates challenge , by going to an actual sea parkrun for one of the seven seas. (Pirates! – Run seven Cs and an R – say it out loud).  Hurrah.  Those Running Challenges have a lot to answer for, but what can I say, I blooming love it, chasing down virtual badges works for me!  The respectable face of sticker charts for grown ups.  I’m a long way off nabbing this yet, but one run closer for getting to Crosby…

runner-pirates

Living in Sheffield as I do, at a push, I could maybe have got up early and driven in the morning, but I loathe driving at the best of times and hate being late, it’s a weird drive too, unpredictable for timings.  I decided I’d go the whole hog and book a night’s B&B in Crosby and make a mini-break of it.  This is crossing into new parkrun tourism territory, booking a B&B purely to do a parkrun could smack of the extreme to the uninitiated.  Admittedly, last year I did go to Hasenheide parkrun with the pathologically friendly Tralee parkrunner (wave) but that was a bit different, because it was a full on jam-packed sight seeing trip to Berlin to boot.  It’s easier to exp lain why you are spending the weekend in Berlin to an acquaintance as opposed to Crosby.  No offence meant to Crosby there, but I think it would have to concede it’s not an obvious ‘go to’ location topping everyone’s parkrun bucket list – though maybe it will be from now on, once my account of the place goes viral.

There wasn’t an embarrassment of riches accommodation wise, but I plumped for Burbo Bank B&B, near the beach and just a mile from Crosby Leisure centre where the parkrun starts.  Looked OK.  I headed off from Sheffield on Friday afternoon, surrendering my route planning to the idiosyncracies of my satnav.  Not sure we have really evolved that much with satnav.  In the olden days, when I use one of those mahoosive AA road maps, I’d have worked out a much more sensible route.  This trip took me such a circuitous way it made Somerdale Pavilion parkrun look like a straight out and back course by comparison!  You know the one I mean – it’s the the curly-wurly one right – now that is a parkrun destination on my to do list for sure.

I somehow went to Glossop, did a massive loop round – I thought to bypass Glossop and then ended up back there again just a hundred yards down the road.  It was a grim drive, I was indeed wondering what possessed me to embark on such a road trip.  It took 3 hours ish, and was joyless.  The entire journey was accompanied by news updates re resignation of Theresa May and speculation about the blood bath to come.  And you thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse… No wonder life seemed grim by the time I got to Waterloo/Crosby.

I found the B&B, an impressive looking faded grandeur huge Victorian building from the outside with a ‘for sale’ sign outside.  It was imposing rather than welcoming judging by the exterior.  However, the welcome was warm.  Inside wasn’t faded grandeur, but recently refurbished grandeur.  Original tiles on the floor, not one, but two chandeliers gracing the hall entrance, as well as the picture of the Mona Lisa.  Not the actual Mona Lisa I think, but then again, I’ve never studied art history particularly, so I’m not really in any position to authenticate the image one way or the other.

I was led up to my room. There followed the most extensive health and safety briefing I have ever undergone.  I have had less thorough inductions when starting new jobs.  There was the caution to make sure I used the anti-slip mat in the shower.  Actually, that’s sensible, did I ever tell you about the time I was doing a course in Hastings and one of my house mates broke her arm falling over in the shower?  No?  Are you sure, it was the same course at the end of which I broke my knee? Not in the shower, but on the beach.  Long story.  We were an accident prone cohort.  Just shows, you have to take care.  Did you know umbrellas can cause terrible accidents on beaches too – even fatal ones, they can function like torpedoes when the wind is right apparently.  In 2016, Lottie Michelle Belk was killed when an errant parasol pierced her torso while she was on holiday in Virginia Beach according to the BBC website, so it must be true!

It was lucky there were no umbrellas in the B&B that I had to contend with, or the safety briefing would still be going on now.  The other hazard was the stairs down to my room, I had to be instructed to carefully pull aside a drape, ensure the light was on ‘actually, don’t worry about that, I’ll put it on now for you just in case‘ and then look ahead before negotiating the steps. If I got up in the night, no need to panic, another light would come on to help me guide my way to the bathroom.  Phew.  I had no idea staying over somewhere was so potentially risky.  Oh well, feel the fear and do it anyway as the saying goes.  Get me and my dare devil impromptu parkrun B&Bs!  Joking aside, it was a friendly and immaculately clean place, so I was happy.  Dumped my stuff and went for a wander down to the seaside.

It wasn’t a long walk to the beach. If you don’t know Crosby beach, it’s a massive expanse of seemingly flat sand, and relatively featureless apart from the wind farm or docks on the horizon.  I walked through a marine park area to get there, which was relatively deserted, apart from gulls jockeying for position on a beam like parkrunners on the line up at the start of Sheffield Hallam parkrun.

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I followed the sign out to the iron men, across what seemed to me to be quite a bleak landscape.  It was still light, but the temperature had cooled, and as there was no-one around it seemed desolate.

I’d been ridiculously excited about seeing the sea, and Antony Gormley’s iron figures, staring out on the horizon.  However, now I was there, I felt weird.  I walked out across the sand to one of the figures.  They are remarkable, and I really like the installation of the figures in the space the picture below is not my photo, but captures it well (taken it uk_anotherplace_1997_008from Antony Gormley’s website)

I stood with one of the figures for a while, and looked where he was looking, out to sea, and suddenly I felt weirdly emotional.  It was like this wave of profound loneliness came over me, the place seemed so desolate, the figures so separated from each other, immobile and consumed with a longing for what lay over the horizon that they couldn’t see let alone ever reach.  This chasm of emptiness engulfed us.  Everything seemed pointless, this excursion, human life on earth, planning for the future, any previous positivity vaporised as I was consumed in existential angst.  I think sometimes others can smell loneliness, and they back off from it as they would from a creature diseased for fear of contagion, and this is what is left.  Every figure on this beach ultimately companionless, isolated and cast out.  It didn’t matter there were other figures also gazing out, they couldn’t connect with one another or see each other, it just seemed so desperately, desperately sad.   I hadn’t expected to get that flood of emotion, it caught me unawares.  Like a punch to the solar plexus.  Feeling helpless that there is such loneliness and sadness in this world that leaves many of us unreachable, and maybe all of us feel both sides of that at various times throughout our lives, not knowing how  to reach out to others and /or unable to be reached ourselves.  How bloody depressing.  What is the point, really.  What is the point.

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I shivered a bit, and decided I didn’t want to pursue those thoughts right there right then.  I stepped back from the sink hole that was trying to suck me down to oblivion. I had a conscious reality check.  I remembered, another running buddy telling me how she experienced the amazing Phlegm exhibition The Mausoleum of the Giants in Sheffield a few weeks back.  I went and found it magnificent, uplifting, perhaps poignant, but mainly remarkable and a testament to human imagination and creativity .  I felt positive about my interactions with others in the queue and watching how people interacted with the exhibits was unqualified joy.  She for her part found it unbearably sad.  Who can say whether such artworks bring these emotions out in us or we bring the emotion with us to them.  Different day, different dynamic, maybe a different mood.  I’ll leave you to ponder that teaser as I share some images of the giants.  They made my heart sing.  I can see why they might not produce that effect in others, but they did me.  The iron men, not so much…

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My heart wasn’t singing on Friday night though.  I went to a rather grim tapas bar and had a lime juice and soda which came with a plastic straw, so then I felt like I’d personally practically held down an endangered turtle and killed it with a straw up the nostril and into its brain.  Still, at least such straws are a rarity these days.  Though it is weird, how we can all get outraged by plastic straws and rightly so, single use plastic is for the most part indefensible – yet the majority of plastic that ends up in the sea is apparently from fishing tackle and far more destructive and damaging, not to mention creatures getting caught up in nets etc, we seem able to blank out that reality.  Gawd life is depressing sometimes.  It was going to take a great deal of parkrun lurve to shift my mood.

Back to the B&B, early, ate all the free biscuits in the room and had the complementary hot chocolate.  Went through every cupboard and drawer, no rich pickings here, not so much as a Gideon bible let alone a moth-eared Reader’s Digest, but always good to have a rummage just in case.  And that was that, Friday night in Crosby.  Whoop a doo.

Then it was morning.

Headache.

No enthusiasm

Oh well, I’m here now.  I trundled down for breakfast.  I seemed to be the only guest, I was offered a cooked one, which was tempting, but contra-indicated pre parkrun, even at my leisurely pace.  I went with coffee and cereal and got a few anecdotes from the proprietor about her experiences of B&B hosting.  Incredibly friendly woman, even if she was a bit incredulous about the purpose of my visit ‘so you’ve come all this way just for the race‘ I resisted the urge to say ‘it’s not a race it’s a run’ because I felt that such pedantry would get in the way of getting acquainted.  Instead I asked her if she’d had other parkrunners come to stay.  Loads apparently, and I’m not surprised to hear this, it was a good choice.  I was even offered the option of coming back later to use the shower, but I declined, I think she might have even have done a later breakfast potentially, but I opted to just check out and head to parkrun.

It was a short jaunt to Crosby Leisure Centre, which looks like a space ship imagined from the 60s.  Maybe it actually is one, the beach would definitely offer up a suitable landing spot for a wayward UFO, and repurposing it would be the way to go if it was subsequently left abandoned.

There was loads of parking, all free, and toilets available, and, best of all, some cow buffs visible as I espied my parkrun tourist buddies.  My mood lifted, I bounced across the car park and down to the sand to join them, because it was pre-parkrun play time.   Catch ups to be had, photos to be posed for, stories to share.

The parkrun team were assembling:

The finish line was up:

I joined my tourist friends on the sand.  An extra boon was presence of mini greyhounds with their non-parkrunning attendant.  Fun times.

A great many photos had to be taken of the iron man in all possible guises and variations of the assembled company.  We posed separately, we posed together.  We took photos of other tourists.  We met some women also from Sheffield Hallam parkrun (wave) what were the chances!  Actually, quite high, this was the parkrun before the Liverpool Rock n Roll marathon (or half) the next day, so loads of tourists.  It was quite a party, and good to find out where everyone was from, and why we’d all come a gathering.  I think the iron men were cheered by being the centre of adoring attention, maybe hanging around on this beach wasn’t so bad after all, the parkrun lurve was working it’s magic.

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One thing though, those figures, they aren’t androgynous as you may have previously thought, closer inspection revealed they are definitely male.  No idea where they keep their barcodes.

I got temporary custody of Bully, the touristing cow, a great, if short-lived, honour.  Classy photo bombing action at the rear.  I reckon she’s had training in this, she never lets an opportunity pass her by.  Respect, I learned from the best today.  I had a good old go at trying to photobomb a group pic that was aiming for the run report, but don’t know if I made the edit just yet…  time will tell.

vbc my new friend

After a bit, I suddenly realised I was cutting it fine for my precautionary pee and made a swift exit from the beach just as my Sheffield Hallam compatriots had started to strike up a conversation. Fearing they’d think I was rude (which for the record I can be, but wasn’t being on this occasion) I explained my need for speed, and they were most understanding.  Didn’t want them to think I’d just made friends to get them to take photos and then dumped them as soon as their services were no longer required.  My buddies went for a warm up run.  I think that was what they were doing, it may have been just that I’d broken eye contact and they saw their chance to make a bid for freedom.  After using the facilities, which are unisex by the way – I scared a couple of men who thought they were in the wrong place.  Maybe I’m just scary…. I left my bag with other people’s clobber piled in a heap by the pavilion.  A volunteer explained it is ‘at your own risk’ but volunteers graciously magically move it to the finish line for you. This is indeed service above and beyond, I was definitely game for taking advantage of that!  Thank you fine Crosby parkrun peeps.  Excellent service, I’ll be adding some extra stars for that on the TripAdvisor review later.

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As I came back, a marshal waved me over ‘do you want to be in the photo?’  What photo?  Someone had been proactive enough to get a shot of all the tourists around – well probably not all, but a fair old net of them. I scampered over to be in the team pic.  Here we are, aren’t we all lovely!  And what a lovely marshal to co-ordinate it! And who is that waving and bobbing around so effectively in the back?  Loving your work there, loving your work.

There was still time to play with other parkrun toys. Specifically, the parkrun selfie frame.  This one had been customised by being tacked onto a proper wooden board with some nice silver holding knobs too.  This parkrun had some top personalised gear.  Do look out for Erik later on.

The sun was shining, the view astonishing, the mood buoyant.  Eventually, a call went up to head to the beach for the run director’s briefing.  And we all descended en masse onto the beach, and walking towards the sea, looking tiny on that wide horizon, like newly hatched turtles heading horizonwards.  I don’t know if that’s actually a word, but I feel it should be, so let’s just agree that it is now.  Thank you.

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They like their kit at this parkrun.  Huge speakers were set up, one looked like it had its own legs, it probably did – oh unless it was SpongeBob rocking up for his first parkrun wearing bondage gear? That’s possible…. The RD was appropriately miked and ready to rock’n’roll.

I was rather hoping he would burst into song in keeping with the legendary musical icons that have come from Liverpool, or at least in tribute to the rock’n’roll half marathon the next day.  He didn’t, maybe he was saving his voice.  Bet they could do some mean karaoke with that kit if the mood should ever seize them.

We had a good briefing though, volunteers thanked, a special shout out for tourists doing their 300th run, a special mention for my buddy on his 100th run – partly for tenacity in coming back again, after his last attempt to do Crosby was thwarted by inclement weather and cancelled at the very last minute for fear of runners being swept out to sea.  There was a birthday – ooh, and another one. ‘Good luck for the marathon tomorrow!’  Mutters of panic.  ‘What, oh, it’s a half marathon’ palpable relief moved through the crowd who’d feared a double dose of running fun might be more than they  could cope with, let alone had intentionally signed up for!  Shout out for tourists.  From everywhere basically.  Oh and ‘if anyone needs the defibrillator, that’s in the cafe‘, that’s all well and good, but I did rather get the impression, you’d be expected to go fetch it yourself, but I could have misunderstood, and anyway, whilst seemingly unconventional in approach, each parkrun has its own idiosyncrasies, and as a guest I think ours is not to reason why.  It wasn’t clear to me if they have a given procedure in the event of an umbrella breaking free and making its way down the beach like and exocet missile, but maybe that’s why one of the marshals had binoculars and could be seen constantly scanning the horizon.  No need to alarm everyone about what might happen, as long as the proper precautionary procedures are in place.

That’s it then’, he said ‘where do we go‘- oh yes.  I always forget this too, but people like to know the route before hand, I think the novel element of surprise can work quite well too.

So you probably want to know the course blah de blah?  Well, according to the Crosby parkrun website the course is described thus:

The course starts adjacent to Crosby Leisure Centre and runs along grass with views of the Mersey Estuary on the left. After a left turn onto the promenade the course has views of Anthony Gormley’s Iron Men on the right. Towards the end of the course it turns right onto the beach giving runners the opportunity to run near to the iconic Iron Men before running back to Crosby Leisure Centre for the finish line.

Only, they must have different courses according to the tide, because that isn’t quite the route we took, though near enough, takes in the same sights, but we started on beach and finished on grass.  Almost like this course backwards.  Not us running backwards, but the course in reverse.

The official route looks like this:

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but you know what, it’s one to take your time on so you can enjoy the views and not be frustrated at being thwarted by deep sand, so just follow the crowd.  Incidentally, I think Antony Gormley‘s iron men are just parkrun tourists, who got there a bit early and were hanging around waiting for the start.  A little shy about approaching others until they were properly confident they were in the right place, as opposed to just another place.  Perhaps that’s why they looked lonely and with longing out to sea, waiting for the parkrun boat to come in, that is all.

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What does this image capture if not parkrunners on the horizon?  I rest my case.

featured image another place

Because, you know what, the iron men were an integral part of the course.   Honorary marshals, kitted out in high – vis and in at least one case, a helmet too.  Some were paired up with human marshals, just to buddy up and make things companionable, a small spirited stand against loneliness, hurrah!

So on ‘go’ or whatever it was, awf we all went.

It was running on sand.  Fairly compact sand at this point, but it is quite hard running on sand. It’s a lovely romantic idea, and feels nice, but it you don’t seem to go anywhere, it’s like the wet sand here and dry sand later act like Kryptonite draining the energy from your legs so you think you are running, you are certainly trying to move your legs in the required manner,  but not actually moving forward in any noticeable way.  Weird.

I was distracted as always, by the sea views, and the colourful vision of loveliness of runners streaming ahead.  You run out, past various iron men, some of whom have names,  I think the one at the turn around is Brenda, but I can’t be sure.

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until you get to the furthest one, where you turn around and run back the way you came

This means that if you are in the fun factory that is the slower half of the field, you get to see the faster runners flying back up the beach towards you, which is social.

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By the time I’d made the turn around the front runners were streaming back up off the beach.  In the distance you could make out the leisure centre.  I took the opportunity to snap some marshals as I passed them again on the way back.  Most were ready for their close up.  I like that one marshal has binoculars, they miss no tricks here.  Towards the back of the pack were some smartly clad parkrunners in matching kit, power-walking, I think stretching their legs the day before the half-marathon, but never got the chance to ask them.

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You leave the beach through deep powdery sand, that personally I think must be unrunnable, though I’ll bet some of the speed merchants sprinted over it, or just bounded across in one gargantuan seemingly effortless stride.  Then you are on the tarmac promenade.  I say tarmac, and it is, but sand has blown across in parts, so it’s a slightly unpredictable surface.

So if you look ahead you see parkrunners, if you look back you see parkrunners, if you look to the left you see iron men and sea and sand, and if you look to the right you see dunes, maybe marshals, and as you get further on, you see the front runners doubling back again through the grassy bit behind the sand dunes and back to the finish.

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Here are some runners heading homewards:

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I know they aren’t the best photos every, but I am showing willing, plus it’s harder than you think to take pics mid run and from a distance.  Will give you a bit of ‘mood music’ as to what it was like though.  Hot in the sun by the way, though I imagine a sea fret and a strong wind could change the ambience of this route pretty spectacularly creating ‘memorable’ if not actual endurable enjoyable running conditions as the sand and salt whipped up around you.

As well as the runners, there were teleporting marshals everywhere.  You’d see one on the way out on the concrete promenade, and then by the time you’d come back again on the grass higher up there they’d be again!  Must have teleported, or maybe this parkrun has a particularly high proportion of identical twins on its volunteer roster, and they are all in the habit of dressing in matching outfits.  I favour teleportation.  They clearly have the technology, they must do.  It all makes sense doesn’t it, the space ship, the lost alien humanoids staring out to see, and the ability of both kit and marshals to translocate when your back is turned without you seeing how.  It is the only logical explanation,

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See?  Definitely same person more than one location.

Then again, not all marshals did this, so that would favour the twin theory.  All marshals did however demonstrate excellent support, superb directional pointing and clapping skills, for which I would like to thank them.  Bravo to all of you for turning out and volunteering. You are superstars.

After the turn around at the coastguard station, you have a bit more tarmac and you go through a car parky bit where you get to meet Erik.  Erik the awesome.

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In fact, closer inspection reveals this to be Erik 1, so that could mean there is an Erik 2, even an Erik 3.  All equally epic. This is what all parkruns need, equipment chariots with if not actual personalities (though I like to believe they have those too) then at the very least customised designs and personalised number plates.  And I thought the X space ship at Wakefield Thornes parkrun for May the Fourth was the apex of bespoke carriage making.  I knew nothing back then, I am older and wiser now….  Still cool though:

WTP finish space ship

More being waved on by

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and then you really are on the homeward stretch.  It is basically grass, but there are quite a few rabbit holes, or just holes in general as the soft sand gives way quite quickly.  I’d been stopping and starting a fair old bit, what with taking pictures and chatting to marshals, and trying to nab photos of my tourist buddies running back the other way.  I tried to run for a bit, and then realised to my horror, my running pace was barely keeping up with the walkers right ahead of me.  Oh dear, I really do need to get back with the programme if I’m ever to actually run a whole 5k continuously ever again.

Then ‘suddenly’ the finish is in view, and the warm embrace of other parkrunners welcoming you back is made manifest with whoops and cheers.  I don’t know if it was partly because there were so many tourists and a lot of walkers at the rear saving their legs for the half the next day, but there was still a lot of support at the finish by the time I came in.  Also, they seemed to be using mobile phones for timing and scanning, I’m not sure if that was exclusively, but they have definitely embraced the parkrun app here, and it seemed to be working smoothly.  As I’m one of the very few people left in the world yet to own a smart phone, I’m still a bit suspicious of the technology, but no problems were made manifest today.  So I’ll keep an open mind.  I don’t think a defibrillator should be an app, but who knows what future AI technology is capable of. Thinking about it, if they’ve succeeded with the teleporting, I think they’ve established their credentials innovation wise.    And actually, thinking about it,  that might not even be twins, maybe they’ve also sussed effective cloning, to avoid any last minute panic in terms of filling vacant volunteering slots.  Respect Crosby parkrun, you have thought of everything!

A few people were still coming in, and oh look, the selfie sign again!  An open invitation for some more experimentation there:

Reunited with my teleported belongings, time for coffee and run debrief.

Couple of points in summary. This is quite an unexpectedly tough parkrun, because turns out, running in soft sand is really hard, even with practically zero elevation.   Still, let’s keep it all in perspective, it’s hard, but not hard hard, not like running the Great Wall of China Marathon hard for example – although granted I’ve not actually done that one myself yet, so it may be I’ve  just swallowed the hype! Perhaps, I’m just a wuss, I know I’m nesh, but talk of a course ‘Containing more than 20,000 unrelenting stone steps, many vary in height from a few centimeters to over 40 cm in height, with many of the original sections little more than rubble, and no less than 30 km of running‘ makes me a tad nervous.  Can’t knock it for firming the calves and thighs though if you did decide to take it on…

It would be good as your home run as you get so much variation in terrain over the course, plus a sprint section along the promenade if the mood took you.  Not good for hills though.

In the cafe, it was fairly small, but social.  Cow cowl themed cup cakes were brought out to mark 300 runs.  We spared a thought for absent friends. One friend in particular, you were missed, get well soon, you know who you are.  You are not only Troy’s side kick, but a parkrunner in your own right.  See you out and about soon.  We thought of you a lot.  cheery wave is coming right at you from here right now!

and a disturbing yet compelling personal buff donned to mark the 100th different run. I think I’ll just leave that out there for you to draw your own conclusions.  Sometimes, just because you can do something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should…

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More games, my fellow tourister cleverly appropriated someone’s camera to add some little surprises for him whilst his back was turned, thus gaining the exquisite extra of having him photobomb his own stolen camera shots. Hurrah!  I just love making my own entertainment sometimes!  This parkrun tourist clearly has talent and form in this respect, I can learn much from her opportunism and wit!  Such rituals are all part of the post parkrun faffing – parkfaff if you will, a mandatory part of parkrun tourism in particular.

The cafe was too rammed to be conducive to sitting in, so we went back out for final beach explorations and photo ops.  It was a quite different place, suffused with parkrun joy on a Saturday morning.  Another Place indeed.

didn't we have fun folks

There was alas, one down side to this whole excursion.  Like I said, it mostly ended well, but, the thing is, if you will run on a beach you get sand in your shoes, and in your knickers, so the memory lingers, often trapped in orifices for longer than you might ideally wish for.  Swings and roundabouts eh?

Still, if you don’t fancy a beach, and can handle crowds, there’s a new scenic one in Nepal that’s attracting a lot of attention and is as far away from the sea as you can get at 8,848 m (29,029 ft), doesn’t appeal to me, but each to their own.

everest queue from bbc website

Meantime, there’s always a parkrun near you.  Don’t be lonely, find a parkrun friend.

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So thank you lovely Crosby parkrun people for your warm welcome to your lovely venue.  It was a super friendly and efficient team, and you laid on sunshine for us, impressive.  Also, lots of post parkrun cake.  I forgot to say, someone offered me my pick from a Tupperware container of iced buns at one point, and I asked naively what the occasion was only to be met with a nonplussed expression of incomprehension.  Then, after a pause ‘we need a reason?  But this is parkrun, there is always cake’.  Well said my friend, that’s the parkrun spirit right there!  Thank you fellow tourists familiar faces and new ones too, and thank you non parkrunning fellow travellers, grand to meet you.

I’m sure our parkrunning paths will cross and intersect again sometime, somewhere, but til then, happy parkrunning.

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and forward for new ones in time too, once there are some just so you know.  That’s amazing when you think about it, you’ll be able to travel in time.  Cool.  You won’t be able to alter the past as is always the way, but you can splash about in parkruns past with abandon.  You’re most welcome.

🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Hathersage Hurtle take two – show us your grit they said …

Digested read:  did the Hathersage Hurtle again.  It was long.  It was fun.  I reached my capacity in cake consumption.

Undigested read:

Brace yourself.  It’s a long one.

Provocative aren’t they?  These Hathersage Hurtle pictorial teasers.  All this awaits you.  The lure of the peaks, yours for the taking, if you’ll just head off from Hathersage round in a big circle for 20 miles and crack on up and over the 2,800 feet of ascent.

The event blah de blah on the Hathersage Hurtle website describes it thus:

The Hathersage Hurtle is an exciting event in the Hope Valley, covering 20 miles and 2,800 feet of ascent, a challenging course that you can run or walk. It will start and finish in Hathersage with walkers setting off before a mass start for the runners at 10am. There will be hot drinks available at the start and lovely home-baked cakes at the finish.

and the strava profile looks like this:

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The thing is, it didn’t take much persuasion to get me to enter when the bookings went live way, way back in the depths of time.  I took part in the Hathersage Hurtle last year, and it was fantastic fun.  Fabulous scenery of course, more cake than you could shake a stick at (I’ve just realised, I have absolutely no real idea what that phrase refers to, a google interlude may follow)

more than you can shake a stick at

and, best of all, super friendly and inclusive.   Yep, naturally I’d want to come back and do it all again.  Might even go for a walk run strategy this year.  What the heck, I’ll properly train.  I’ll run the whole thing, I’ll manoeuvre over boulders with agility and confidence of a mountain goat, I’ll scamper up the ascents without breaking a sweat let alone a stride, my descents will exude the grace of an ethereal being, flowing effortlessly down vertiginous drops, what’s more, I shall have flattering race photos to document the occasion at the end.  It’ll be grand, what could possibly go wrong and what’s not to like?  What an opportunity!  I will join hundreds of others on the day who get to do something amazing just by dint of signing up and taking part.  Life is great, and the Hathersage Hurtle can once again be the gateway to the peaks and get me out into that fabulous landscape right on the doorstep of Sheffield.  You’ve got to want to dive in and explore when you keep being fed with glimpses of possibility and promise like this photo – one of many that kept popping up on the Hathersage Hurtle Facebook page.  If you’ve ever reaped the benefits of forest bathing, well, you should know that that experience can be turbo charged when you find yourself leaning into the wind and looking out from the top of Stannage Edge.  The scramble to the top of is an inherent part of the experience.  A day out in the peaks is never a wasted day, rather a rich seam of micro-adventures and awesomeness.  Yay!  Bring it on!  

HH go explore

That was the feeling on entering. Which, on reflection, I probably did sitting on the sofa clutching a mug of tea, possibly eating toast as I did so.  It’s ages away…  it’ll be fine.

However, in the interests of full disclosure, as the date came closer for this year, I found that life, the universe and everything had derailed a lot of things, including running training, or indeed any exercise very much at all, I had a bit of a gulp and reality check about my experiences on the 2018 event.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I did really enjoy it.  But, it does mean I knew what I’d signed up to.  Specifically, it turns out, 20 miles is actually a really long way, and 2,800 feet is actually quite a lot of ascent.  777 metres of ascent according to my friend’s Strava of the route (which I know isn’t a direct mathematical conversion but Strava never lies).  Point is, you need to respect them there hills.   Don’t be drawn in by the old ‘it’s just an uphill flat section‘ and definitely don’t buy the well intended but misguided comments from those ‘supporting’ en route  who cheerily declare ‘all down hill from here!’  as they point the route ahead which looks suspiciously like it might be heading upwards…  You might benignly decide these are well meant motivational phrases intended to encourage you onward. That might be true.  Indeed it probably is.  However, you should be aware that I can say from direct personal experience that I do hold a sneaking suspicion that some only feel confident enough to say this to you because they judge – correctly – that once you have confirmed just how misleading their guidance was, it’s too late to do anything about it.  Be honest, who’s going to retrace their steps 5 miles just to remonstrate with them about the accuracy of their advice on the terrain and topography ahead because then they’d have to hoik yourself up those ascents and repeat those 5 miles all over again.   Not going to happen.  Then again, they could probably have another dibs at the feed stations if they did so, so not an entirely pointless endeavour…  Point is, those hills are pretty unforgiving on the untrained calf muscles.  What’s more, when you do finally get to the sections from where it is indeed ‘all down hill‘ if not from here, then at least for a fair old bit, you find that actually going down hill can be hard on the legs too…   I think signs along the lines of these are possibly the way forward.  It’s all about managing expectations.

downhill-sign-road

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a great route, but it is tough, and whereas last year I’d done a fair bit of distance running and preparation ahead of the Hurtle, this year I just hadn’t.  Oops.  I do love the route, and it was such a positive experience last time round,  but I was having a few second thoughts about rocking up and trying to blag it on so little training.  Time to withdraw, maybe defer – do they allow that?  Don’t know, that would clearly be the most sensible.

But here’s the thing.  FOMO.  Fear of missing out. It’s powerful.  Also, it slowly dawned on me, that, as previously reference, you never regret a day in the peaks.  I might be a DNF – do not finish, but even then, probably nobody would care really (in a good way) and there’d still be cake, probably.  The real deciding factor though was this woman:

Nicky Spinks from inov 8 facebook page

Yep, that would be Nicky Spinks.  Fresh from an attempt at the Barkley Marathons (now entering that is genuinely hard to see as a rational choice, not even type 2 fun surely?). I read that the weekend of the Hurtle Nicky Spinks was/is attempting a Double Paddy Buckley Round.  In case dear reader it has slipped your mind,

The Paddy Buckley Round is a gruelling 61-mile circuit of 47 mountain peaks in Snowdonia (North Wales), that includes approximately 28,000ft of ascent (a fraction less than the height of Mount Everest from sea level). It was first completed by Wendy Dodds in 1982 and the current record is 17hrs 42mins, set by Tim Higginbottom 10 years ago. Although there is no official time limit set, contenders generally aim to do it in under 24 … If Nicky is to become the first person to complete a Double Paddy Buckley Round she will need to summit all 47 peaks twice (including two visits to Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales at 3,560ft), cover a total distance of 122 miles and ascend approximately 56,000ft (almost twice the height of Mount Everest from sea level).

I couldn’t even stay awake for 48 hours, let alone climb Everest twice in that time.  I mean, she has to tackle this hill, twice.

Tryfan-Nicky-Spinks-Paddy-Buckley-Double

Anyway, it sort of put in perspective my own self-indulgent angstiness.   Granted, it isn’t a fool proof logic, I am not Nicky Spinks (in case you were wondering or confused about this matter in any way).  However, she does inspire me.  And I do wear inov-8 shoes so that makes us practically interchangeable and indistinguishable from one another.  (Though I can’t lie, I’m quite relieved that her sponsors didn’t mix us up and pick me up and cart me off to the start of the Paddy Buckley and then look at me expectantly waiting for me to sprint off just after someone said ‘go‘!) She can’t have replicated doing this challenge in her training, it would break her.  My, possibly misguided, logic, tells me if she can take on that seemingly impossible, never previously achieved feat then maybe I can do more than I realise.  I’m over thinking it.  If I go, I’ll end the day with a great sense of achievement even if that is only consuming my own body weight in cake on the way round.   It’s just a long walk really, in a spectacular location, with support, and friendly marshals and, yes, cake.

After all, longer endurance events are, it is said by some, – basically about mental resilience and correct fuelling.  That is, ultra running in particular, is essentially an eating competition, according to Sunny Blende, who it turns out is a sports nutritionist and not a type of coffee at all.  Strange but true.  She gave this

definition of an ultramarathon, “An eating and drinking contest, with a little exercise and scenery thrown in.”

Maybe it’s indeed true that ultra marathons are easier than you think... therefore, 20 miles is but a stroll in the hills by comparison.  Take it slow, take in the view.  All good.

ultra running eating contest

I’m up for that.  Besides,  I’m only walking it, that’s just one foot in front of another, and endlessly repeat.   There are limits obviously, but there was a bit of me that thought if I don’t try I won’t know, I’m not actually injured, just embarrassingly unfit.  I am tenacious, and I’ve not been out for ages, so if I treat the event like basically a day out and a picnic I can probably get around, and even if I don’t it’s not life and death is it.  A missed parkrun opportunity granted, but there are other parkruns coming around again each Saturday, I’d have to wait another year for another Hurtle, and suffer the pain of seeing everyone else posting about how fab their adventures were, and muster the good grace to post appropriately admiring and supportive comments through a veil of tears of frustration as an inner voice screams in my head that ‘that should’ve been me!’  What the hell…. I’ll just do it.

what the hell

Or possibly not.  But I would turn up, and I would start, can’t say fairer than that.  If I don’t make it round, at least I know there will be lots of cake for comfort eating purposes back at the base afterwards. They think of everything at this event, they really do. Attention to detail is one of its many selling points…

Ok then.  Eek.  I’m in.  I was looking forward to the weekend ahead now.  All good indeed.

Clangers weekend ahead

That’s what these clangers are doing, looking forward to the weekend ahead.   I bloody love the clangers, times were simpler back then when the Clangers were new to tv.  Imagine that?  The test card didn’t rock though, some things are better now.  Not Trump obvs, and climate change for starters –  but I don’t look back fondly at that scary melting clown thingamajig, made me shudder, and having to wait 15 minutes for the TV to warm up after you turned it on.  I know, I’m back doing my oral history talk aren’t I.  I’m definitely ageing fast.

test card

Just the little matter of getting organised.  The event sent good instructions out by email.   A few tweaks on last year.  They set up a car sharing database which is a great idea, although I didn’t take advantage of it because I was clueless about my times and likelihood of completing and didn’t want the stress of worrying about someone waiting around for me on top of everything else.  They were cutting down on plastic, so you needed to bring your own cup for water stations.  Grand idea, and I was already sorted on this, having secured one of those collapsible cup thingies after doing Dig Deep carrying round a ceramic mug with me for 30 miles after only realising at the last minute that I needed something.  Honestly, I had soooooooooooooo much ballast in my back pack for that event a mug chucked in alongside the kitchen sink and satellite transmitter in case of emergency, was the least of my concerns, but clearly not ideal.   Shoes, easy, always my inov-8.

The morning of the event.  Slathered my feet with vaseline, debated endlessly over what top to wear.  Long sleeve or short sleeve.  I mean I’ll get hot with my pack and going up hill and everything, definitely short-sleeved.  But then again, can be cold up there – opening window and sticking arm out there was a distinct nip in the air.  Long sleeves that’s my default.  Wear that.  … But I got so hot just doing parkrun last Saturday.  OK, go with short sleeve, that’s the default, that’s what everyone else will be wearing, and you have stuffed you long sleeve rain jacket in just in case, so that’s your back up.  Short sleeved it was, phew, always better when a decision is made.  Went with my purple volunteering one from parkrun as it has good associations.

Porridge consumed, running vest packed, shoes on. Hang on a minute.  What new horror is this?  Definite hole in the linings at the back of each shoe, right on the heel, the fabric has given way and there is a teasing glimpse of the white plastic edge within like seeing a bone protruding from through the skin after a compound fracture.  Yes, I have seen that, and it’s not a pretty sight and it did make me heave a bit.  Same here.  I know from bitter previous experience that once that plastic is fully emerged, it’s edge on the heel is like a shard of glass sawing away at your achilles, you have to hope it satisfies itself with just drawing blood and doesn’t go the whole hog and severe your tendon.  Oh crappity, crap crap.  Haven’t really got other suitable alternatives, I mean it is a fairly roady off-road course, but I do want a bit of traction on the sections that are more technical.  My Irocks are amazing for grip but have zero cushioning, so too uncomfortable to wear for the long road bits, more the go to shoe when your life depends on it because of slippery stones and bog.  I’d risk my parkclaws.  I chucked some compeed blister plasters in my backpack as an afterthought, really though that was classic hope over experience.  I’d have zero chance of getting them to stick on my vaseline slathered tootsies.  Oh well, too late now, que sera sera…

Off and out the house.  Lovely morning, what a day.  I headed off towards Hathersage, one of my favourite drives.  The route took me down Ringinglow Road and out along Fiddlers Elbow which passes between Burbage and Stannage, both edges included in the Hathersage Hurtle route.  How lovely they looked in the mist, ageless and mystical. Hang on a minute, mist.  That’s going to be cold and damp up there.  Oh crappity crap crap all over again.  I should have gone with long sleeves.  What was I thinking?  Of course it will be cold up there, and I’ll be out for hours I’m so slow, days quite possibly.  I did consider turning back for my long sleeved top, but decided against it.  I would have had time, but I was sort of committed to my journey now.  Too much of a faff.  Made me think those arm bandagey things might be a good idea though, all eventualities covered, plus, easy fancy dress costume if you ever want to have a base layer for you mummy costume otherwise created entirely out of toilet paper.  Case in point, these mummy creations would have had greater arm mobility if they’d had separately clad arms.  Also, top tip, maybe best not to get someone else to wrap the dressings round you or you will indeed end up trussed up and unable to move, winding up (pun intended) desiccated and indeed mummified over time.  All completely avoidable, if you’d gone with the running sleeve option and used the loo paper for body wrapping purposes only.

Not sure why you would wear running sleeves and not bother with a top though.  That’s curious.  Fortunately I have found a whole article on why to wear arm sleeves when running, that takes in UV protection, warmth and making it easier for your running friends to spot you if you go for something especially eye-catchingly ludicrous, particularly when paired with matching clashing calf sleeves too.  Good point, well made.  I don’t have any though, and am put off by one description of them as ‘a bit like wearing old fashioned thick tights on your arms‘ not a strap line written by a top notch advertising exec I suspect, though it resonates truth.  Handy to know.  Maybe I should save myself the bother of picking a colour off the internet, and just get busy with a pair of pinking shears and some of the scrunched up, semi-decomposed old tights that are a legacy from office work days, and are probably to be found stuffed down the back of my drawers somewhere, if I bother to excavate.  Project for another day. I’m busy crocheting a blanket at the moment (long story) and it’s a close call whether or not it will be finished before I die, so we’ll have to see.  Turns out, craft activities aren’t my forte either…

arm-calf-sleeves-combo

I arrived, stupidly early.  The site was all set up though, and high vis marshals aplenty were in situ. Big signs directed you to the car-parking field, which still had sheep in it, and the first impression – as last year – was that this was a fantastically well organised event.

After a bit of faffing, I pottered over the road to the event HQ.  It was a hive of activity, even though it was only just 7.15 a.m..  There was a registration tent, loads of portaloos (big tick) promising looking coffee and cake areas, section for children to explore caving and all sorts really.

I hung back a bit whilst the marshals were getting organised, and then joined the registration queue once a few more people had appeared.  It was very well set up, you gave your name and were then issued with a watch – like tag which they scanned to register your arrival.  I don’t know whether I have particularly sensitive hearing or am just of a nervous disposition, triggered into hyper vigilance because I knew I’d not prepared adequately for the day ahead, but, it was THE LOUDEST BLEEP IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE EVER.  Blimey, there’d be no wondering whether or not your tag had scanned in this event.  I’m surprised the scanning marshals hadn’t been issued with safety ear protecting headphones.  Maybe that will be one of the tweaks for next year.  Oh, I should say about the photos I’m using in this post.  Basically, some are mine, and some are from the various expert photographers out and about on the day – who I’ve credited at the end.  It’s not too hard to fathom which is which.  Basically, if it’s a well-framed, in focus shot, perfectly capturing a characterful face, stunning expansive landscaoe or encapsulating some quintessential atmospheric moment that communicates the very essence of the day, then it is probably not one of my mine.  If it’s a slightly blurred snapshot that has inadvertently captured someone in the background in a stage of undress, then it’s probably mine – but not always.

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Next stop, tee-shirt gathering.  I had pre-ordered one, which was good, as I couldn’t remember whether or not I had, so it was nice surprise.  I couldn’t remember what size I had ordered though.  There were a few extras for sale on the day, so once they’d put aside the pre-ordered ones, those who came early enough could swap for one of the extras up to a certain point.

I really liked the tee-shirts this year!  They  were a technical fabric, and looked like this:

Last year they were cotton and looked like this:

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  Last year’s t-shirt had a certain idiosyncratic charm, but, setting aside the fact that orange isn’t really my colour, it’s design meant that really it was so special, that it was one I opted to save to wear only for very special occasions.  Indeed, occasions so exceptional, I have yet been able to wear it at all.  This year’s offer being technical fabric, a more forgiving colour and with a fab design was more my thing.  Of course, I hadn’t seen any photos of me wearing it at that point, and wasn’t aware of just how unfortunate the combination of my body shape, choice of bra and the mushroomy colour would look captured by the camera.  I’d like to say the pics of me are particularly unflattering, but of course I may have to face up to the horrific realisation I do actually look like that.  Running vests don’t help, they are designed for, if not the absolutely flat chested runner, at very least androgynous ones.  All that squishing of boobs into a letter box shape is especially unforgiving for pretty much any female runner.  Note to self.  Never go out in public again wearing a running vest, or if you must, do so only in the hours of darkness.  Despite this, the top was comfy enough I decided to wear it there and then, embracing the t-shirt over the long sleeve option, and as there was (astonishingly) no full length mirror on hand in which I could check my appearance before heading out on the trails, I had t-shirt on and number pinned and was none the wiser.  Probably for the best.

Oh, whilst I was waiting for the start, I checked out some of the pictures school children had come up with to create posters for the event.  Epic.

I still had some time to amble about and have a precautionary pee in the changing room block. This wasn’t entirely a good move, as the loo didn’t have a lock. What it did have though, was that ‘who gives a crap‘ toilet paper that I keep seeing advertised and have been vaguely thinking of buying, but I’m not quite sure about.  Not because it’s 100% recycled, I’m sure they aren’t recycling used toilet paper to make it… well pretty sure – but because that’s a lot of toilet paper if it isn’t up to standard.  Consequently, I inspected the rolls quite carefully, only to have some poor other punter inadvertently burst in on me mid inspection.  She was mortified, I was fine, I have way more humiliating experiences to draw on than that.  She looked a bit traumatised, and when I explained about the lock being broken, headed off to the portaloos to avoid being subject to the same levels of exposure I presume.

there was time to make new friends, and enjoy the general ambience.  The official photographer was busy taking group shots and risking life and limb to do so. I failed to get a snap of him doing a comedic stumble backwards over a low wall which culminated in a fairly spectacular somersault.  His preservation instincts kicked in, and his camera was held aloft in safety throughout, like you sometimes see when people fall over holding a pint, but spill not a drop. Impressive.  I wonder if professional photographers do training in that, or whether it is just a gift?

I hooked up with two companionable women who were also walking, and we agreed we start together but feel free to separate when it felt right to do so. It’s too far a distance to commit to doing it alongside someone else in my view, unless you have compelling reasons to do so, like, oh I don’t know, you like each other and wish to spend quality time together.   You need to be confident you share the same pace though otherwise I think it’s a recipe for frustration.  One person feeling dragged along, the other feeling held back over 20 miles might not end prettily.  I feel this particularly acutely, as I’m always telling people I’m slow, and they always say ‘that’s fine’ and then they always either try to hurry me or worse still offer patronising reassurance along the lines of ‘don’t you worry, I’m feeling injured / hungover/ really pathetic today so I don’t mind staying with you!’  Top tip people, that never goes down well and is not supportive, but au contraire dispiritingly undermining. I have lost count of how many times I’ve gone home in tears from events where people have done that.  Didn’t happen today though I’m glad to report, and it was indeed really nice to start out together with a couple of awesome and interesting women.

There was a bit of a briefing, not sure if the event director was taking on liquid pre or post briefing, but you do need to keep your vocal chords well lubricated to perform properly in that role, and they would have been up from stupid o’clock getting everything ready so 8.00 a.m. was probably practically supper time for the organising team:

and then off!  A fairly sedate start, as we all waited patiently to be bleeped LOUDLY through the gate

You do warm up pretty quickly, so you know what, the t-shirt option was fine.  The route was really well marked.  I was a bit unsure on that point, because last year I just trotted along with someone else (which worked well, because it was negotiated) and didn’t really notice the signage one way or the other.  You start by crossing the road, and it’s an uphill through fields, the photographer already in position to snap walkers heading out at first, and then later the runners, who start en mass at 10.00.  Walkers can begin anytime between 8.00 and 9.00.  All very civilised.

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You start up the hill, and quite quickly you can look back and admire the view, and then you get onto more obviously pathy part, and then tarmac, and then, I’m not gonna lie, an almost 3 mile climb upwards.  It was great that the weather was so much cooler than last year, but I think you’d have to have put in some serious hill training to sprint up that incline the whole way – though judging by the times of the first few runners who finished, they must have done just that, but then again, they are probably super human.  My photos inevitably don’t do the scenery justice, but they will give you the general idea.

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We walked and talked and tried to blag a piggy back from faster walkers passing us – or was that just me?  It was amazing hearing about what other participants had done, running wise or life wise.  One had worked in international aid in conflict zones.  Rwanda and the Congo I think.  It was great sharing stories.  One of the things I really like about running events (yes, I’m counting this as one) is that it reminds me of travelling in a way.  In that I mean, you meet people fleetingly, possibly only once – though it’s amazing too how familiar faces will keep popping up again at events if you but choose to look.  Anyway, what this means, is that sometimes you cut to the chase and have more intense, interesting and even personal conversations than you’d perhaps ever risk having with someone you might work alongside and see everyday.  I think it’s something to do with the productive cocktail of firstly, sharing an experience; secondly being with people who realistically you might never see again so there is no jeopardy if the conversation goes awry and thirdly the compression of time – there isn’t the time to build a relationship as such, so you may as well just get in there!  There is also something inherently therapeutic and open about walking alongside someone  in step that is conducive to talking.  It’s not potentially confrontational like a face to face exchange, and not impossible like if you are running and can’t spare the breath.

So, for the record, my conversations throughout today included the following illustrative but not exhaustive topics: global inequalities; nature of identity; qualities of endurance runners; the scenery; best place to get a coffee in Nether Edge; aphantasia  (the inability to conjure images in your minds eye); synesthesia (the phenomenon of e.g. tasting words or associating colours with numbers); the difficulty (inability) to read analogue clock faces which is apparently a form of dyscalculia; community theatre; complexity of global aid; burn out in the work place; nature of trauma; experiences of travel; difficulty of getting running kit to fit; self-confidence; the frustration of trying to help individuals when actually what is needed it societal/ political change or even revolution; self-consciousness; multi-faceted nature of homelessness and poverty; other running events; cake choices; why we run – timely article on ‘what does running do to your brain‘ here;

what does running do to your brain

mental health; the weather; safety implications of running wearing nail varnish.  No really, but I’ll come to that in time.  Favourite Sheffield trail race – the Round Sheffield Run; Red Bull Steeplechase experiences; gardening blogs; wildlife ponds; Nicky Spinks; Jasmin Paris;  and littering.  I didn’t talk about Brexit with anyone.  I mean, you don’t want to push things that far… and anyway, I can’t walk and weep.  It was much like having radio 4 on all day to be honest, but without the torture of ‘just a minute’  – surely that’s long past its ‘best broadcast before’ date?  One of the great advantages of being at a slower pace is that you can walk and talk, the faster runners are epic, but I’m guessing they don’t chit chat the whole way round, missing out on those random interactions as well as the full repertoire of cake choices at the feed stations, another great loss…

The photographer had relocated to the top of a hill by the time we got there.  I had already previously contracted with my new best friends forever  – or until our paces were no longer compatible – that unflattering photos wouldn’t make this blog post, unless their comedic element outweighed the impulse to censor. Case in point, here I am with my temporary besties, working on, if not our running technique exactly, then our ‘seen the photographer’ one.  Good work!  By the way I never said, if you are reading this 766, and need a place to stay pre Round Sheffield Run, message me, I’ve lots of room!

HH PS bit manic

They really are unforgiving those running vests are they not?

We weren’t the only people who saw the photographer out there though, there are some classics, here are just a few of my favourites from the day, also look out for inadvertent undressing person in the background shot, just to show it isn’t only me:

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Actually, on reflection, I reckon those two in their orangey yellow tops hadn’t seen the photographer at all, but went round the whole route like that from the look of things… oh well, still great photos.  And they look like they are having a lovely time, maybe that running style could yet catch on.  Plus, levitating for the most part has got to be kinder on the knees hasn’t it?  We can all learn from that.  Might give it a go for next time.

So onward and upward as the saying goes.  As I find myself falling further and further to the back, one bonus is that you get the glorious sight of the line of runners and walkers streaming ahead like a line of bunting.  All very picturesque.

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Reet nice views along the way, I kept being distracted by them, and stopping to take pictures, consequently we three who’d started off together naturally separated as our different hill strategies kicked in.  Two of the trio striding up rather more purposely than the third, ehem:

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Nonplussed sheep observed our progress.  Did I already tell you that one of the junior parkrunners who takes part in the Graves junior parkrun is convinced the black and white lambs in the animal park are actually baby pandas?  Wouldn’t that be great!

Marshals were at strategic intervals to bleep you by.  There is a map somewhere that marks all the check points, but I really don’t see how you’d miss them, as they tended to be positioned where paths were narrow and there was only one route, like at a gate or just before a feed station say.

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By this stage in the game, the walkers were strung out, and the runners had yet to lap us,  It was a long and lonely road, but in a good way. This path is very familiar from my Dig Deep recces, and I was glad to see a familiar face en route too.

DSCF0331t

You get some good views up here.  The Hope Cement Works may not exactly be a thing of beauty, but it is a landmark in it’s own right, and curious to see it from this vantage point.

DSCF0330

Views aside, it is a bit of a trudge this road.  The surface has quite loose chippings in places too, so although after a stretch of up you do get a descent, you’d need to be quite careful running down it. I did a bit of a jog, but wasn’t overly confident.  Oh yes, and also not overly motivated to do so.  Eventually, as the road curves, a marshal is on hand to direct you into a tree lined path to the right, it was nice to get a change of scenery.  I like the way a pink arrow on the road seemingly identifies the marshal for you, in case the wearing of a luminous vest was an insufficient clue!

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I picked up some new walking companions along the way for a bit here, and that was fine.  It was interesting doing this route a year on, when there’s actually been some rain, and the landscape looked lush and green.  Last year it was scorched and brown, quite depressing really, a relief to see it recovered and verdant.  With this couple I discussed relocating to Sheffield and new and pleasing eateries that are popping up all over.  Why have I not yet been to the cutlery works.  Need to moving it back up my ‘to do’ list.

Where was I?

Oh yes, en route of the Hathersage Hurtle.  Emerging from the paths, there was a little cheer squad proferring high fives, and then it was across the road to the first of the feed stations.

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There was an abundance of cake.  Vegan options also available, also bananas and bear gums and water in jugs.  It worked well with the no plastics rule.  You could buy a collapsible cup at the start if you didn’t have one with you by the way, and it looked like most walkers and probably runners too, were carrying their own hydration packs as well for the most part.  I had a sort of fruit cake but with bits of ginger in it. Yum.  I probably didn’t really require it for refuelling purposes at this point, but rude not too, and also, opportunism kicking in.  Why wouldn’t I?

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More leapfrogging (not literally) of walkers, and the start of speculation as to when we might be passed by the runners.  I also picked up a new bit of event terminology from some fellow participants when discussing the the pleasing proliferation of marshals on the course.  ‘Oh the custards!’  What?  ‘or lemonades‘, this it seems is their terminology of choice for the marshals in their yellow high viz.   I can see what they are doing there, and I quite like it in a way.  Mind you, as I was mulling this over later, after our paths had once again diverged, I couldn’t help thinking those aren’t quite accurate colour chart wise, maybe pineapple cubes would be more representative. Do you remember them?

pineapple cubes

A friend of mind used to sometimes by them from the newsagent on the way to junior school – surprised she had any teeth left at all, maybe she doesn’t now – in a little white paper bag full of the cuboid rocks for 1d.  She’d share them out occasionally at morning break, and the cubes would scrape the roof off the inside of your mouth, and the shock of the concentrated sugar would make your teeth vibrate.  My, we knew how to make our own entertainment back then.  Colour wise though, basically fluorescent.  They were probably infused with uranium radium to achieve that intensity of colour.  I wonder if you can still get them, or if, not unreasonably, they’ve been withdrawn from sale to minors on account of being basically a concentration of toxins, now available only on request in a brown paper bag from under the counter.  Only thing more destructive to the teeth and roof of the mouth than them was pear drops.  I can feel my mouth beginning to disintegrate just at the memory of consuming them.  Pineapple cubes were – possibly still are – the oral equivalent of stepping on a lego brick in bare feet.  I have no idea what possessed us to attempt to consume them.  Children are clearly more resilient than you might expect.   Anyways, whether the marshals were custards, lemonades, pineapples or hi-vis heroes, they were all fab.

Incidentally, that reminds me, I’ve been meaning to ask was PPAP a thing over here?  The Pen Pineapple Apple Pen song?  When I was teaching in Cambodia, my students were completely obsessed by the hilarity of it.  They would therefore probably implode with explosive laughter if I was to refer to a marshal as a pineapple.  You don’t know it? Consider yourself blessed, a lucky escape… What, you are intrigued?  You want to know more you say? Do you know what an ear worm is?  Well, just saying, if you click on this link and watch the PPAP video you will be pursued with this as the inner soundtrack in your head from hereon-in. I really wouldn’t…

PPAP song

I’m guessing you just couldn’t help yourself.  I’m so very sorry.  Have to say though, contributory negligence, if you won’t abide by the health and safety warnings there’s little I can do to save you from yourself.  I do understand the temptation though, and it is  bizarre.  Travel is all about cultural exchange isn’t it.  I’d never have encountered this song had I not been working in Cambodia. Strange but true.  For the record, that wasn’t the most significant element of cultural exchange, but it was the most relevant here.

So the Thornhill path section heading towards Yorkshire Bridge. I was alone with my thoughts for this section.  Admiring the wild flowers, and mulling things over.

Highlights, in chronological order included the following:

A tractor!  I like to think this was laid on especially for me by way of compensation for the disappointment of this year’s Hathersage Hurtle failing once again to clash with the vintage tractor run.

I paused to let it pass, and turn down the lane ahead of me. Bad move, turns out, tractor fumes aren’t the best to walk behind.  I should have hitched a ride instead.  Nevertheless, I have a soft spot for tractors so all good.

Then there was a reappearance of the cheer squad, who seemingly had teleported from their previous position to this new spot.  They were looking out for another participant with whom I must have been currently in step, I parasitised the ginormous high five inflatable, obvs.  I think on a run route any proffered high five is fair game.  Also, every high five received boosts you for the mile that follows, guaranteed.  Excellent work with the cow bells there too.  Respect.

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Nice views:

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Next exciting sighting, was some of the event team, mustered all together at a marshal point.  Now, I don’t want to create dissent, but, in the interests of transparency, I will admit to taking advantage of the fact that we’d had got acquainted earlier on.  I like to think this is best thought of not as shameless nepotism, but proactive networking. Sometimes you have to just make your own luck!   I paused to be scanned, and then to my delight, based on this most tenuous of relationships, I was able to secure preferential treatment in relation to their dispensing of gummy bears.   I was offered my pick from a brand new pack of sugar fixes, instead of having to run the proverbial gauntlet of the jelly baby container being made available to the rest of the walking and running hoi polloi,  awash as it was with sweat, phlegm and an assortment of running related bodily fluids added by the many sticky hands of runners that had been diving into the mix before I arrived.  Same principle as contaminated ice cubes in pubs I suppose, best not to think too much about that to be fair. I felt blessed indeed.  It also gave me first dibs on the colour choices.   Thank you lovely event team.  All about who you know sometimes!  … of course it may have been a coincidence of timing and them being mid replenishing of stock, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story eh?

Here they are snapped together, this wasn’t the only photographer I papped en route incidentally, keep your eyes peeled for the other one later.

Aren’t they clever to line up so well in height order, I wonder if that happens instinctively.  The familial version of Ant and Dec, whereby identification by the casual observer is aided by everyone always standing in the same place.  Mind you, I still don’t know which is which from Ant and Dec, it’s not noticeably disadvantaged me in life to date, but it’s not game over yet, so who knows… I may yet come to rue the day.   The way things are going it may well be that being able to correctly identify TV celebrities becomes a necessary life survival skill in future, perhaps after all it is not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’.  Shudders.  And I thought the mandatory ‘popular culture’ questions in pub quizzes was torture enough.  Enough of Ant and Dec, we are wasting time, we’ll never complete the route if we keep getting distracted.

So waved on my way, the next stretch took me down to Yorkshire Bridge.  You cross that, and then after a bit of an uphill, friendly marshals guide you across the road and then you get the long, long slog up New Road.

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Now, the good thing about going up New Road, is that you start to get the teasing view of Stannage Edge ahead.  It is however I think one of the toughest sections of the hurtle, because I find tarmac hard on the legs, and that road just goes on an on.  Never mind, views were great, and I was able to distract myself by trying to spot an online acquaintance with red hair, who would have set off behind me, but was run/walking so would catch up and overtake at some point. This meant, I basically propositioned all female redheads, who, it turns out, are like buses.  Because I did literally have three turn up at once.  Two were not my target, but the third saw me first and we were able to get the obligatory selfie before she strode on off ahead.

Found her

It’s great when things work out.  I had a similarly magical experience at Sheffield Half this year, I was only spectating, but did manage to finally meet in person a fellow runner who I’ve been communicating with online for a while after finding we were both running the London Marathon in 2018.  I was giddy with excitement to meet in the flesh.  (Companionable virtual wave just for you, if you are reading now – that was indeed a grand moment – next time, let’s see if we can manage an actual coffee as well as a catch up eh.   Your parkrun or mine?).

half marathon meet up

And then, amazingly, the front runner came through!  He was romping up that hill with an even stride, seemingly barely breaking a sweat.  He was significantly ahead of all the other runners, and looking strong.  I wondered if he’d be able to maintain that pace and length of lead.  Spoiler alert, he did, and what’s more, was snapped looking effortless in his running along the route, amazing running.

The next runner to pass was a woman, and again, so far up the field, and looking so fresh, that, to my eternal shame, I thought she must be a run / walker.  She just looked so relaxed.   If I’d known she was lead woman and ended up coming in second finisher and first female I’d have given her a mahoosive cheer, and set off a load of party poppers were it not for the fact that a) I didn’t have any with me and b) I wouldn’t want to litter our beautiful hills.  Fantastic running though.

HH PS epic run

I enjoyed the views:

and I made more new transient friends.  Now, I now you shouldn’t really have favourites, but I have a special place in my heart for this trio, who actually stopped for a picnic on a bench on the way round, just at the point when the trickle of runners coming through had become a stream.  Classic.

 

as they chomped on their sandwiches, runners hurtled by:

Check out the Dark Peak Fell Runner’s vest in action there, another record was being set by a DPFR elsewhere today…

I tried to get a few atmospheric shots of the stream of runners ahead.  I know, I know, you need super human vision to spot them, but please do try to remember it’s the thought that counts, and sometimes, you really do just have to be there to experience things for yourself. Think of this as but a teaser to encourage you to enter yourself next year if you haven’t already done so.  Yep, those microscopic dots, they are actual runners.  I will concede that if I had the memory space in my blog that would allow me to upload a higher resolution picture then my claim might be more convincing, but I don’t, so you’ll just have to take it on trust.  Or not.  Up to you.

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Here are more random pics, because it’s just a place I can share them really, good in parts.  I cheered club runners with shirts I recognised, and I can confirm, that it remains true that Barnsley Harrier runners are particularly friendly and likely to respond positively to random shout outs from along the way. I mean, obviously Smiley Paces runners are the best, but we know one another, so that’s a given!

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New Road goes up and up, but eventually goes down, and takes you to Dennis Knoll, the second feed station and the dusty incline that takes you finally up to the Edge.  It was at this last section of the road that I was blessed with my most treasured memory of the entire day.  I glimpsed the Event Director from Graves Junior parkrun, being dragged around at full speed, compelled methinks, to keep stride for stride with his running buddies for the day.  I don’t think I mispeak if I observe he definitely wasn’t having type 1 fun at that moment.  Seeing me, he cried out ‘save me Lucy, save me‘ as he swept on by, his desperate call for an intervention being carried off in the breeze. He barely paused for long enough to scan his tag let alone face plant into the cake table at the feed station as he ran on through.  Well, his type 2 fun, was my type 1, hilarious.  Gift of a memory. This is what happens to runners when their competitive instincts kick in, fabulous running yes, but maybe not 100% fun within each moment. I applaud it, but don’t imagine myself ever embracing such run strategies myself. There is probably quite a strong correlation between my inability to push myself to my limits and my ever slowing event speeds.  Oh well, each to their own.  Great running though Graves junior friend, and you gave me a good laugh for which I thank you!

Whilst hard core runners sped on by, I was happy to pause at the feed station and take it all in.  It was a nice social spot, and I notices here, as elsewhere en route there was a lot of child labour support which was good to see.  I picked up another chunk of fruit cake the size of my head, which was a case of my eyes being bigger than my stomach.  Turns out I quite like fruit cake, I didn’t know I did.

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Even though this is a fair old up hill stretch, it felt like a relief to finally be approaching the edge.  The sun had come out, so it was hot, and the route was pretty social.  I had a slight panic on seeing this sign, just a bit on from the feed station:

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Wait, what?  This is the official start of the Hathersage Hurtle?  What were those previous 10 miles about then?  I know you can’t always get parked up close to a start line, but I’m pretty confident they could have done a bit better that that?  Oh hang on.  A vague memory formulated in my minds eye – because I don’t have aphantasia  I was able to do that – something in an email. Something about a designated Strava section to test speed across that chunk of the course.  Well, good luck to them.  They picked a brutal part of the course to make people run up.  And many did. Go them.  Respect.  A fair number of other participants took the strategic power walk option, saving their energy for the fun, flat bounce across boulders at the top of Stannage Edge.

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Once again, I feel the need to point out those are not soldier ants in search of new territories, but tiny runners.  Not really small of course, but far away.  You follow yes?

small v far away

I even started to see some familiar faces on the course about this point. That was fun, even though I was only walking, one of the real joys of this event is that it mixes together the runners and walkers in a companionable way, and that makes it quite social.  If you want to go for it as fast as you can, you are able to do so, but there is space too for more interactions along the way if you choose to have them.  Top sightings included my Smiley Buddy who I always seem to meet whenever I go out running in this part of the world, whatever day of the week or time of day.  She must be there all the time, like a heather sprite, scampering about, there can be no inch of that terrain across which she has not run!  Go you!  Well met Smiley, well met indeed.

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Also on this section, I was spotted by, and duly spotted in return, an off-duty, on-running photographer.  Normally, he’s the other side of a telephoto lens – not in a creepy sense, lurking behind a tree (as far as I’m aware) but at a vantage point to snap runners at local events.  Nice to get exchange a cheery wave before he too disappeared up and over the horizon.  Hope you had a grand run.  How could you not?

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I think this is my favourite part of the course, well it’s one of my favourite places, so it would be.  I just love that you can see so far, and that the landscape is so spectacular.  Usually, when I’m on this path I see no-one other than my ubiquitous smiley buddy who pops up everywhere, heather sprite smiley – but today obviously it was like a commuter belt.  Walkers and runners taking part in the Hurtle adding to the boulderers, rock climbers, solo runners and independent walkers, dog walkers all making the most of a glorious day.  Just as I got to the top of the edge, I espied the red heads I’d talked to earlier, paused for a picnic too.

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There aren’t many events that facilitate the picnicking on the way round option.  Way to go Hathersage Hurtlers!  I guess, the only way to improve on that would be to have a bespoke butler service on request, whereby you are met at the top with a white table clothed spread with the contents of a wicker basket and with champagne in a bucket of ice on hand to revive you before you complete the hurtle circuit.  Lest you think this might impede athletic performance, I’ll have you know that in 1908 athletes used Champagne as an energy drink to get them round the London Marathon (apparently).  Here is a picture of a competitor Dorando Pietri being helped across the finish line while holding a cork in his hand according to the caption in the article.  Splendid!

champagne runner

Mind you, they also imbibed rat poison on the way round, so I think I’d draw selectively on the history of nutrition for running if I were you…

For a badly needed boost, a number of competitors turned to unlikely, but common-at-the-time sources: brandy, glasses of bubbly, and strychnine (best known now as rat poison). … Wild as it may seem today, people once believed alcohol and strychnine cocktails were performance enhancers. The drinks were doled out like Gatorade or energy gels to endurance athletes.

so now we know.  And I thought energy gels were toxic.  Actually, I think they are, I strongly suspect strychnine would be easier to keep down for me at least.  Also, much more decorative packaging don’t you agree?

strychnine

At last, on the edge.  Love it up there.  My though, it was heaving up there.  You have to pick your own route, but there’s lots of space. I suppose it’s vaguely technical, but I’m relatively sure footed along this section because it’s so familiar.   It’s also beautiful, no wonder so many people were wearing broad smiles along with their running gear.

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Somewhere along this edge I picked up a new temporary best buddy, who shall be known as kiltman.  He was great companion, full of good stories. He’d done some seriously hard core stuff, including completing the Red Bull Steeplechase when it was held in the peak district.  Just 500 start and then only a certain number are allowed to continue on through each of three checkpoints so only 40 get to the end of the 21 mile course.  It’s brutal.  I marshalled it once, and nearly collapsed with exhaustion just walking up to the marshal point, got a very nice hoody out of it though, so well worth the exertion.  Despite his obvious ability, he seemed happy to chill and go slow and soak up the atmosphere.  In fact, he said he likes sometimes to start at the back and pick off and pick up people as he passes.  The event photos suggest he made loads of friends on the way round!

He litter picked as we went, and also sported an awareness raising sign to check yourself for cancer.  All very public spirited, but that isn’t his unique selling point as a hurtle companion, no sorreeeeey.   What made our shared time together especially epic was one particular anecdote. Now this is where, dear reader, if you’ve stuck with me for the long run (or walk in my case) you are rewarded with the reason why nail varnish can be a safety hazard on a long run.  I believe the wait is well worth it, and I flatter myself that I’m not often wrong about these things.  Well, not in my world anyway.  Self-delusion is my friend.  Don’t disillusion me, everyone needs a friend.

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So the story went something like this.  He was doing some hard core, overnight challenge in the Lake District, and that necessitated using a head torch.  Personally, I’ve never really got the hang of using  a head torch off-road, possibly I need more practice, but it’s something about the way it makes tree roots and boulders cast huge shadows that makes me struggle to read the ground properly and I’m scared of falling.  Well, turns out, that’s not the only hazard they create.  So kilt-man was wearing some glow in the dark nail varnish for this particular run, and as it was pitch dark, he suddenly thought it would be good to check out how effective that was, so as he was running along he held up his finger nails in front of him to check them out, lost concentration and basically face planted as far as I can gather.  Amazingly, he wasn’t hurt, though he was soaked, but the worst of it all was that it didn’t even work.  Turns out, you have to sort of solar charge the nail varnish in sunlight for a few hours first.  Well, we all know now.  Point is, best race accident ever.  Can you imagine the incident report on Mountain Rescue’s Facebook page if they had been called out to rescue him?  I think it would have had a certain terseness in its account.  Anyway, bet they don’t cover that eventuality on the fell runners first aid courses!  Maybe they should… Thank you Kilt man, epic companion and great running tale.

More pics.  More familiar faces.  Motivational markings in the sand.  All good.   Kilt lacked stretch for the descents apparently.

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We said goodbye at the Fiddler’s Elbow/ Burbage Edge check point, I was waaaay slower than him, and coincidentally, we both saw people we knew there so it was a natural separation.

I saw my woodrun buddies, who’ve I’ve not seen in yonks, mainly because I’m not really running, it was nice to see some familiar friendly faces.  I even went in for a hug, realising too late that I probably wasn’t all that fragrant.  I don’t worry so much hugging other runners, we are mutually sweaty and dust covered, they looked a bit more freshly washed.  Still, they are runners themselves, and so forgiving.  Good to have a brief hello before heading off again.  We even bagsied another smiley, plus – though I didn’t know it yet, another online acquaintance.  Everyone (who was/is anyone) was out and about today!

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On I trotted, taking more snaps along the way.  The view is quite distracting.  Unwittingly, I see I was in the presence of the seen-a-photographer stick man.  One of my favourite photos of the day, sort of makes him look like he’s doing a hop skip and a jump a la wee willie winky or something.  In a good way, it’s a compliment not an insult just to be clear.  I think it was him…  There were some fluffy and relaxed cows too

no pandas though.  I’ve told you about the junior parkrunner who is firm in his belief that the black and white lambs in the animal park are baby pandas previously I think. I’d like to live in that world.  One where baby pandas can be seen gamboling in Graves park.  To be fair, I’d rather there were loads out in the wilds of China where they should be, but I’m sure you know what I mean…

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Best thing on this stretch though, was seeing this stupendous Smiley duo, who clearly just had a blast the whole way round.  There isn’t a single photo of them all day where they aren’t radiating joy.  They are batteries of concentrated energy, energising and enthusing all they encountered along the way I’m sure!  Love these guys!

Then a bit further along, another best bit, this route was full of them. Found another online friend I’ve not previously met.  Turns out, I also caught them at the feed station too, but didn’t make the connection.  Epic.  We walked and talked for a wee while until it was obvious their natural pace was significantly speedier than mine, and we parted company at the next feed station, which came round quickly.  No worries, we’ll reconvene at the Round Sheffield Run I’m sure!  Thanks for saying hello.

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This was another laden feed station, with smiling marshals to refuel and rehydrate you before sending you on your way.  Across the road and down through Padley Gorge.

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Last year, this event was on the day of a heat wave, and this whole section was thick with families having picnics or splashing about in the water.  This time round, the section was pretty much deserted. The temperature started to drop and I suddenly started to feel a bit of a chill, some spots of rain came, but not far to go now.  I’ve only ever come to this section as part of a run, I really should come back and explore properly some time, it’s very, very picturesque.

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Unfortunately, my camera battery then died on me.  Well, I had been snapping away with abandon, so it’s not really a surprise.  I declare this to be a shame, as this part of the route is so very different from what has come before.  You descend through woodland glades through carpets of bluebells, past the weird stump into which passers by have stuck squillions of coins, past the little path leading up to Longshaw where you can see an ice cream van calling to you from the road side.  You of course, may consider this to be something of a blessing, as I’m aware I do go on, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, well, you’ll never get your life back to do with as you will if I keep on adding them to this post and you feel somehow obligated to finish what you started.  If you are still with me now, I salute your tenacity.  Sorry if it has led you to feel consumed with regret, we are however nearly at the end now.  …. just don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ve avoided them completely though, I have other sources you know.  Like this one.  Bluebells, nice.

RW bluebell woods

Idyllic even.

There is a tree rooty, quite dark section that follows.  I was tiring now.  And on my own for the most part of this section.  I started to wonder if I had gone wrong as there were few yellow strips to mark the way (biodegradable plastic by the way, in case you were horrified by the sight of them, and I’m sure they get removed anyway).  There wasn’t anywhere you could have gone wrong, so I think it was just fatigue creeping in. Also, I was having a knicker admin issue.  A bit of adjustment was needed.  Plus, perhaps I’d overdone it at the last feed station but I’d got a bit of a stitch.  Well, I say a stitch, but I think we all know it was actually trapped wind.  The thing is, you think a route is isolated, but they never are quite enough for you to throw caution to the wind by purging your own.

It was good to see another Graves junior regular!  Yay, who paused for a brief hello before sprinting off.  I knew she had another couple of friends coming up behind, so that was good. Nice bit of needed reassurance as I ploughed on.  Definitely feeling properly cold now.

strider buddies

Pleased my blister had not come to pass, but wishing my flatulence would.  I did some knicker adjustments along the way, but seemed to make things worse.  Oh no, chaffing was becoming a real possibility, and with less than a parkrun to go, so harsh!

At some point, not sure where to be fair.  You emerge onto the last section which is a gentle grassy downward incline, that then flattens out, and it is in fact invitingly runnable unless you have become preoccupied with knicker chaffing and trapped wind.  A few runners did still pass me in this section, many actually pausing to ask if I was ok.  I appreciated that, but it was a little disconcerting, as I was actually feeling fine – well apart from the aforementioned issues – and it is a worry if I was moving as if injured to the point of requiring outside assistance!

Right to the end marshals offered applause and encouragement, and then before you know it, you are back emerging from the path just next to the finish, and it’s round the corner and down the finish funnel that sweeps round the field, past the beer tents and to a flying finish!  Even though it was a bit cooler by now, and I was amongst the last trickle of finishers, there were still cheers for me coming in, and you get swept up into the welcome of the team, who do a final scan, remove your electronic tag and thrust you towards more coffee and cake.  Job done!

There was a finish photographer who got some classic finish pics of people working their last few metres home.  Excellent 🙂  Don’t know who 165 is, but he clearly doesn’t believe in letting youngsters win, fabulous sprint from both there.  Also like the umbrella hat, genius.   It’s good to come prepared.  Plus check out the flip flop runner – worked for him!  Impressive!

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Some emotional pair hugs, group hugs and reunions at the end – those post run endorphins doing their bit.

Plenty had finished before me and been milling and chilling and had their prizes and been and gone by the time I got back.  However, I can report there was still an abundance of cake, and some really, really good vegan burgers.  Only £3 and with a good kick to them.  There was a beer tent too, and straw bales to sit on.  Jolly nice.   There had also been quite a lot of activities laid on for any young people, to keep them entertained if they were having to hang around whilst one of their parents was running say.  In fact, I gather they mainly just ran riot in the field, rather than particularly using the lovingly put together activities, but to be fair, that’s what the hurtlers were out doing all day, romping round in a great big circle for no particular reason, and having a ball working off all that excess energy.  Everyone was happy!

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It was a good atmosphere, and I sat and chatted for a wee while with my Graves junior pal as we chomped on our burgers together and debriefed about our hurtling experiences of the day.  All good.

I didn’t find out until later, but the results were phenomenal, with three women in the top six finishers and some stonking times.   How fast? Just wow!  No wonder everyone was astonished.

The Hathersage Hurtle Facebook page reported that:

Absolutely fantastic results at the Hurtle this year – in first place was Dave Archer with a staggering time of 2.14.24, and in second place, also the first woman, was Zanthe Wray with an awesome 2.29.03

Bravo.  Fantastic performances indeed.

So debrief concluded and vegan burgers consumed, legs started to seize up.  Time to go home.  Before doing so, me and my junior parkrun companion went to say thanks and congratons to the organisers.  It had been another great day.  I also mentioned how much I liked the design of the t-shirt and was told the person who came up with it was in fact there, in a blue top under her hi-vis.  Great, I’ll seek them out.  Question.  Do you have any idea how many marshals were wearing blue under their pineapple?  Answer.  A great many.  I did however seek her out eventually, because it is a good design.  I think they plan to keep it for next year, but maybe change the colours each time.  Watch this space. Thanks said, I waved goodbye only to  be offered yet more cake.  ‘Are you sure you wouldn’t like to take any away with you‘ the marshal asked.  It was then I uttered a phrase I never thought to speak ‘you know what, that’s incredibly kind, but I think I’ve actually reached capacity with cake now.  Thank you though‘.  Because I had!  Who knew.

I hadn’t quite got rigor mortis, but my body felt like it was working towards that, so I sort of unfolded myself sufficiently to stagger back to the car park where junior marshals were doing awesome work waving us off home.

Thank you fine Hathersage Hurtle team, I’m loving your work.  I still hope to actually run it one year, but I may have to think again about wearing my running vest to do so…  perhaps fancy dress is the way forward.  Thinking about it, it almost always is!  Why didn’t I think of that before.

It just remains to say thanks to the many photographers who gave of their time at the event, specifically to Phil Sproson Photography, also Lisa Daniels, Rachel Rennie Photography and Chris Dainton, all of whom gave their services all day for free and have shared some fabulous photos from which I’ve borrowed freely for this blog post.  If you want to have a browse yourself you’ll find them here:

there are squillions to browse through!  You didn’t have anything else in particular planned did you?  That’s lucky.

Here are some of the tired but happy Hathersage Hurtle people.  They rock!

HH PS high vis heroes job done

Oh, wait you want to know about Nicky Spinks before I go?  You don’t know already?  She only blooming did it, the 122-mile Double Paddy Buckley Round.  Not only is that epic and awesome and amazing and all of those things, but I love that she finished it wearing her Dark Peak Fell Runners vest.  And I thought I couldn’t love her any more…  Read all about it here.  Ooh, and is that one of her crew sporting a Dig Deep tee-shirt?  I’ve got one of those, and I wear inov-8 parkclaws for trail running so basically that means I practically did the double Paddy Buckley challenge too!  No wonder I’m a bit stiff negotiating the stairs this morning, the morning after the day before.  We are so blooming lucky in Sheffield, Dig Deep, Hathersage Hurtle, the landscape opens up ahead of us, we have but to rush in!

nicky spinks completes dble paddy buckley round

Oh, and another thing, if you want to read my other posts about the Hathersage Hurtle, click here – you’ll need to scroll back for earlier entries.  But you know what would be even better?  Enter it yourself next year and find out first hand what a fun factory it is.  If you can’t wait that long, there’s always Dig Deep… or, you know what, you could just pull on your running shoes and head out on your own, what’s to lose?

See you out there on them there hills!

🙂

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Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

That’s parkrun to a ‘T’! – Totally Terrific Touristing, Tearing round Temple Newsam parkrun

Digested read:  parkrun tourism took me to Temple Newsam parkrun today.  It was very nice, thank you for asking.

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Undigested read:

you have chosen this option?  Well, I take it you don’t have anything else planned for a bit then?  Read on at your own risk, personally I’d get a cup of tea first, and maybe even have a little snackette to help provide the necessary fuel for the marathon that follows.  You need to keep hydrated and fuelled to sustain yourself for the long haul, all distance runners can attest to that.

Back to the topic in hand.  Firstly, sorry, did I say ‘tearing‘ round Temple Newsam parkrun in the title sequence just above? FYI, that was just a bit of artistic licence on my part, for alliterative purposes.  ‘Trotting’ round is alliterative too I suppose, but sounded a bit prim and not strictly accurate as really I was pootling round to be honest.  Pootling, as in ‘to pootle’.  Now, whilst that might indeed have been more representative of my actual pace, I think we can all agree that to use this word would have totally ruined the alliterative sequence I was going for with my title wordking, by failing to begin with the obligatory ‘t’, so, whilst it might have been nearer the mark, ‘pootling’ just didn’t make the cut.  What are you going to do about it? Sue me?  Good luck with that…  Surely everyone knows you can’t let absolute truth get in the way of a good story, where would be the fun in that…. it is not deceit, it is just strategic artistry, on this occasion necessary, an instance perhaps of the ends justifying the means.

Right, having got that out of the way, let’s get back to the events of the parkrun in question… Where was I, oh yes, heading off to Temple Newsam parkrun, I’m embracing parkrun tourism for the summer months.  Partly simply so I can run where I can be anonymous and hence feel no pressure to run at any particular pace or style.  You’ll find all sorts of runners at parkruns everywhere.

Another motivating factor is to take advantage of the more clement weather to go further afield and take in some new parkrun destinations, and what’s more, on this occasion, to bagsy a ‘t’ for my running challenges alphabet.  (Run a parkrun beginning with each letter of the English alphabet apart from x because that’s not possible).   I’m a long, long way off from getting this, but it helps decide on where to go if I have in mind a particular objective, so where’s the harm in that.  That’s me – goal driven!  (Ahem).  Amazing what lengths people will go to for a virtual badge.  I was trying to explain the concept of the running challenges badges to someone the other day, and the best analogy I could come up with was ‘think a sticker chart, but for grown-ups’ because that is essentially what it is. One day, if I look at my parkrun profile on chrome, I’ll get to see this alongside my other volunteering and running achievements, and it will make my heart soar:

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but only if I fork out for a trip to Poland to nab a Z at some point – (Zielona Góra), so could be waiting a while yet!  Also, in case you are wondering, you don’t have to get an ‘x’ as such because there aren’t any, though you can be creative and bagsy say an Exeter Riverside parkrun should you wish to do so.  You know what, I think an actual sticker chart would be excellent too.  Star charts and sticker charts weren’t a thing in my day, so I feel I’ve missed out.  Would be fabulous.

As you know dear reader, I’m Sheffield based, and this parkrun is a good hour away from me, and honestly, not one that had particularly been on my radar until I started to seek out a drive-able T from my home.  I did a bit of half-hearted googling.   I discovered that Temple Newsam parkrun is another one that has got its own parkrun profile on the official parkrun UK website.  Splendid!  It has a severe looking house there, it would be a nightmare cleaning all those windows, but I presume if you live in a pile like that you either have staff to come and do for you, or you’d be willing to sacrifice any urchins left over from scampering up chimney breasts to scale the walls and polish your glass.  Actually, that’s a stupid thing to say, you’d do it the other way round wouldn’t you, or you’d get soot on your windows, and that would be terrible.  Windows first, and any survivors from that could do the chimneys afterwards.  I don’t think soot is good for cleaning windows, just as charcoal is rubbish for teeth whitening. Handy, if unsurprising, to know.  Here’s the pic from the parkrun profile article, quite a pile eh?:

parkrun profile Temple Newsam parkrun

The profile also refers to an undulating course.  Those will be the uphill flat stretches that are ubiquitous in these parts!  They need hold no fear for me!

The Temple Newsam parkrun website gives useful info, satnav postcode and pronounces free parking up until 10.00, which is handy, but if that means a 10 a.m. departure, wouldn’t allow me enough time for the all important post run coffee options which are also on site.  I couldn’t find out what the parking cost would be, but figureded I’d fathom that later.  It seemed to suggest one of the car parks Home Farm, stays free, but I’d set off prepared with lots of change as always.  I did once get a parking fine at a parkrun, which was particularly devastating as I’d bought a car parking ticket, but it got blown of the dashboard as I shut the door, and was hiding out in the foot well of the car.  I was able to get a refund eventually, but it was a trauma I’d rather not repeat.  I don’t begrudge paying for parking at parkrun, I take the view that this may persuade venues to carry on hosting it, but it’s indeed a boon when the fee is waived and helpful when costs are transparent.

This morning dawned.  Oooh gawd, what was I thinking when I set the alarm for stupid o-clock.  I was not in the mood for bounding out of bed and embracing the day.  However, conscientious if not keen, I unpeeled myself from my slumber, and fortified with Yorkshire tea and porridge (not served together, the tea was in a mug and the porridge in a bowl separately) I headed off.  It was a gorgeous morning.  The drive was OK, apart from, my satnav tormenting me with it’s annoying new policy of operating to just-in-time principles in relation to turn notifications.  This basically means it only suggests turning as you sail through the intersections concerned.  A consequence of this was that I missed the first turning to Temple Newsam completely and ended up overshooting it for some way, then turning into a random Lidl in a panic when the satnav suddenly shouted at me to ‘TURN LEFT’.  This would have been completely OK, except that, when I tried to exit, the Lidl lights were stuck on red and I was too chicken to just shoot them onto the fast moving carriageway ahead.  In the end, I bailed, and, with a queue of traffic just did a u-turn back into the  car park so it was someone else’s problem, and watched all those cars that had been waiting behind me just shoot the red light, with fearless confidence.  Maybe the lights there never work?  Eventually I did the same, emboldened because they all survived to tell the tale, and also reasoning I couldn’t spend the rest of my life in a Lidl carpark. Whilst Lidl has many bargains, albeit somewhat random ones, it’s not where I’d choose to end my days.  I am getting a bit paranoid now though, last week at Wakefield Thornes parkrun I couldn’t find my way out of the female toilets, and this week I found myself trapped in a Lidl car park.  I mean, I’m not really working my way up the food chain very effectively am I?  Oh well.  I’ll have to claim credit for ‘working towards‘ escapology excellence in a formative sense, and hope I do better come the summative assessment that will no doubt await me in due course.  How I will know when I’ve achieved escapology excellence I’m not sure – perhaps I’ll have to fight my way out of a wet paper bag or something.  That would probably be OK.  We shall see.

I’d allowed plenty of time to get to Temple Newsam, but it’s as well I did, as with the diversions, it took longer than expected.  Also, and this is weird.  My ears kept popping, like they do when you fly in an aeroplane (not sure what else you’d be flying in, but just to be clear).  I felt like they needed clearing, but I also know you the official advice is not to put anything smaller than your elbow into your ears for fear of damaging them.  I take the point, but I’ve always felt that the advice is a bit stupid.  Surely it would be profoundly unwise to shove anything bigger than your elbow in your ear as well?

I mean you wouldn’t try to shove an elephant down one would you?  OK, that’s a stupid example, there aren’t many accessible elephants to hand in the UK, let’s choose something more relateable, like, oh, I don’t know – pool balls!  There’s an urban myth about them isn’t there?  Anyway, case in point, just because you can get three pool balls in your mouth for example (and apparently only a trained professional can do this, which is odd, because I didn’t know that the ability to put three pool balls in your mouth was a potential career path for anybody until two seconds ago), it doesn’t follow you’d be able to get them in your ear(s) even with outside assistance.

Daily Mail pool balls

By the time I’d contemplated all of this, my ears had cleared – maybe I was just acclimatising to the higher altitude of my destination.

I arrived at the estate through a back entrance.  It was another remarkable arrival, in that you approach through some fairly unremarkable urban sprawl and then ‘suddenly’ you turn a corner and are in amongst extraordinary greenery.  It was a very impressive approach.  Also, a slightly perplexing one, as the way I came in wasn’t all that clearly signed, and there was a random one-way/roundabout thing slightly off set that really confused me.  Then again, it doesn’t take much.  I found the car park nearest the house, fine, but then stared in confusion at the notice board.  I couldn’t fathom what or how to pay.  There was a charge for the car park, but the machine was out of order, and I knew I might not have to pay until after 10.00. but the charge seemed to be for the day not per hour.  Ooh, the dilemma!  Fortunately, at that point a parkrun hero appeared and told me it was fine before 10.00 and yes, this was the right place to park and he waved me towards the house where I’d find the start.  Phew, crisis averted, I parked up, after just one short circuit of the car park trying to secure the perfect parking spot.  There seemed to be loads of parking, certainly at that time anyway.

The car park was actually in amongst trees and in a bit of a dip, so when I walked up and in the direction of the house I was in for a treat.  This is a really spectacular setting.  It’s not wild and glorious like say Lyme park parkrun, but it is stunning.  You feel like you are walking through the set of a period drama feature film indeed you probably are, this venue must have been used for a squillion of film locations over the years.  Whether you presume yourself to be from upstairs or downstairs within the house probably depends on you current levels of self-esteem.  Can’t fail to appreciate it either way, surely?  Not that you should appreciate and accept the crushing inequalities of an antiquated class system of course, only that it really is a very nice view indeed, that’s what I’m encouraging you to appreciate.   It helped that the sun was shining and the  vesta beyond verdant following the much needed rain of the past couple of days.  However, it has a ‘wow’ factor for sure.  There’s Temple Newsam House itself, which was extraordinary.   The museum website tells us:

Built in 1518, Temple Newsam House is a Tudor-Jacobean country mansion with grounds landscaped by Capability Brown. Following extensive restoration over 40 interiors now display one of the most important collections of fine and decorative arts in Britain which were designated as being of pre-eminent importance in 1997 – the first country house to be recognised in this way. It is a treasure house of outstanding collections including furniture, ceramics, textiles, silver and wallpaper. The collections also show how the house was used as a family home, which was once birthplace to Lord Darnley, notorious husband of Mary Queen of Scots.

Try not to confuse Capability Brown with Calamity Jane, though it’s easy to do, the syllable patterns of the two names just screaming inside your head to be transposed with one another…. Just from the outside you can see it’s not only enormous, but no expense spared.  Huge doorways, and wording all along the parapet of the mansion.  Whether or not it might be to your taste, you can’t not be impressed by it.

I’d have settled for the stable block – now a nice cafe, with a shop, and cobblestones and yep, well serviced loos.  All that a parkrunner requires laid out before you, if this was your home run, you’d want for nothing. Even an amphitheatre, that’s two weeks running I’ve seen them, albeit this one wasn’t actually on the course like the one at Wakefield Thornes parkrun last week.

and if buildings aren’t your thing, well, never has a view been more worthy of the epithet ‘vista’ been more aptly applied.  It was like a fantasy landscape.  A sculptured open space stretching out in front of you, with the eye led up hills and along tree lines.  Pretty amazing.  Quite manicured I’d say, and immaculate.  Wow indeed.  Also, fairly impossible to capture on film.  Best you check it out for yourself and treat this just as a teaser…

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First things first, precautionary pee.  All very straightforward this week, didn’t get lost or trapped or anything, and then time for an explore.  There were some hi-vis heroes who seemed already to have everything set up.  I asked again about the parking, and they explained as long as you arrive before 10.00  you don’t have to pay anything, which was a huge relief as it meant there’d be time for post run coffee.  They also told me there is a parkrun breakfast special (only they don’t call it that, it’s between 9.00 and 10.30 Sat and Sun only offer as I discovered later) of a sausage sandwich and a coffee for £3.  Now that is a breakfast bargain in anyone’s book, surely.  Yes they had a veggie option too.  Phew, I could relax now.  Mind you, I’m not surprised those pigs are now ‘rare’ they are bound to be scarce if they keep insisting on slaughtering them and popping them in baps aren’t they now?

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Exploring, I checked out the views, and watched people gather as is the parkrun way.  Although the course set up here was fairly minimalist, they do take the pre-parkrun event day course inspection very seriously here, I was in time to see a JCB despatched to go check all was in order and flatten any obstacles pre run.  Definitely actions worthy of that chrome extension badge!  I wonder who has to store that bit of parkrun equipment though?  And I thought the wheelie bin for Graves junior was a bit cumbersome at times.

The course finish funnel was set out with cones, and motivational chalking.  I did like that.  Core team definitely making an effort to finesse the details there.  Plus, good to appreciate this pre-run as no doubt mid my sprint finish later on my eyes would be so fixed on the horizon up ahead and I’d be travelling with such speed, there’d be a danger of missing it altogether. That would indeed be an unforgivable omission, inadvertent or otherwise.  I’m not entirely sure if the guy in the pic is doing dynamic stretching or going for the ministry of silly walks accreditation, but either way, that’s an impressive up swing range of movement being demonstrated there.  Well done indeed!

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There was a fine parkrun flag in evidence, and a single stake, bedecked with trainer laces of possibly runners that never made it, or possibly runners that did.  In the former case the laces would stand as a memorial in perpetuity, in the latter they may have been added over time, like climbers add those  Tibetan prayer flags at various stages on the way up Everest.   Here at Temple Newsam I suspect there is less need to step over dead bodies and discarded oxygen tanks to get to your final destination I presumed, well, I hadn’t done the run yet.  I think the stake was called Albert, or possibly Alfred, but I couldn’t really get an explanation why.  It wasn’t Archie, that was a different news story all together.  That’s OK, I think it’s good to have some mysteries in life.  I like the idea of all the stories those laces could tell, miles run, places been, adventures shared.  Nice.

Hang on, nearly forgot, in case you are interested, the official course blah de blah pn the Temple Newsam parkrun website states:

Course Description
This is a 2 lap course. Starting at the benches near farm, at the start keep on the path towards the house then a right and left turn through the orchard towards the pathway down towards motorway,then turn left and following the gravel path into Charcoal Wood before turning left to complete the first of the two laps. Toward the end of the second lap runners turn right at the bottom of the hill following the path alongside the ponds before turning left to finish which is located by the lower set of benches from the start.

and it looks like this:

it looks like a sort of mis-shapen heart.  Maybe that is a consequence of tackling those ‘undulations’  I would find out soon enough.  The elevation was 255 ft according to my Strava, so that must be true.  Felt like more to be honest, but that’s partly because of the business with the hill surprise.

I ambled about, took some pics, tried to spot any other tourists.  Admired the kit boxes and the sunshine laid on especially for the parkrun occasion.

After a bit, a call went up for the first timers’ briefing, and I joined a merry throng who gathered together for the course low down.  I don’t think there was anyone at the briefing who was absolutely brand new to parkrun, which is a shame in a way as this would be an epic one with which to kick off your parkrun journey.  Friendly welcome, main thing is that it’s a two lap course, and you do start off up a steepish hill and past the house but you don’t have to do the hill twice.  Good oh.  There’s also a corresponding downhill section after the Pegasus trail (the what?) and that is actually more hazardous potentially.

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More milling and spilling, then the official run briefing.  Again, a friendly welcome, congratulations to milestone runners, some exchange of banter between regulars.  Milestone tabards were a feature here.  I do like a milestone tabard – they have milestone capes at some parkruns I gather, and  Leamington parkrunners get to rock milestone tabards too, I seem to recall.  Whatever manifestation it takes, I think it’s a nice touch, parkrunners sporting their milestone triumphs with appropriate pride!

The run briefing included a(n), to me cryptic, alert to look out for the surprise on the way round.  A surprise!  How exciting, but if not a regular how would I know what the surprise was?  Everything is a surprise if you are new.  Even things that aren’t inherently surprising still catch me unawares – like when they say ‘go’ or ‘off’ at the start of either parkrun or a an actual race and everyone starts running.  I seem to have amnesiac tendencies there, always forgetting there is an implicit expectation that at least some of those present will head off at a run and you too might reasonably be expected to be inclined to do the same.  I’m always astonished when the call goes up and everyone lunges off at a sprint… I was hoping it might be some sort of mythical creature – I’d seen signs for Fantastical Beasts on the way in, and someone had already mentioned Pegasus. If not an actual dragon, then maybe an animatronics one, either would be pretty cool.  How exciting!

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Failing that, my money was on something along the lines of a full brass band jumping out from behind the shrubbery like a Brassed Off flash mob. I’d seen photos of the Azaleas in full bloom on the official Temple Newsam parkrun Facebook page earlier – I thought they were rhododendrons to be honest, but apparently not.  We can all agree they were spectacular though, and definitely expansive enough to conceal a brass band, tubas, trombones, music stands and all… thinking about it, that was the most likely happening, and let’s be honest, there’s surely hardly a parkrun in the land that wouldn’t be improved by the addition of a brass band flash mob. Well maybe not improved inasmuch as all parkruns are perfect anyway, but it might just be the cherry on the already lavishly ices parkrun cake.  Couldn’t wait!

Azalea shot

Whilst I was distracted by such thoughts, ‘suddenly’ the shout went up for awf, and off indeed everyone went. Straight up that hill. Some with more of a spring in their step than others.  It was impressive sight, all those colourful runners streaming off ahead, lit by the bright sunshine and framed by the mighty house.

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So you scoot round the side of the house, and then it is down hill, and there is this avenue of hedging, which you find out at the end is the Pegasus path. Well, there’s  a huge tombstone like pillar with a sign on it, which is something of a clue.  It would have been better if Pegasus himself was there wearing a high-vis and giving high-fives, but he was away today, busy elsewhere I suppose.  I imagine spring would be the busy season for mythical winged divine stallions, shame, but you can’t guarantee these things will always be there at a particular parkrun.  All run by volunteers remember.  There’s a main route through the centre, but also some narrow side paths which some canny runners whizzed through, it’s not a short cut as such, but could operate as an overtaking lane perhaps.

Some of the shots were taken on the second lap – not too many people left running alongside me by that point, I’d like to think it was because I’d shot ahead, leaving them for dust, but we all know that isn’t strictly true. Who cares anyway?  parkrun is after all, a run not a race!  Impressive hedging don’t you think?

There is then a steeper descent, nothing too challenging, but it is a surprise after the steep uphill so I guess it would be easy to shoot off too fast and then it’s hard to control your pace and I wouldn’t fancy that in the ice.  Tree’s provided picturesque shade.  Basically, parkrun loveliness as far as the eye could see.  I wonder if Calamity Jane Capability Brown had a premonition about parkrun when he created his spaces?  The landscape certainly invites you to move through it and explore.

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It looked like someone had taken a tumble here, as there was a cluster of parkrunners surrounding a stricken fellow runner, offering reassurance and support.  I asked if help was needed, but it really wasn’t so I jogged on.

Towards the bottom of the hill you reach a junction and the potential for bikes as it looked like cycle paths crossed.  No worries, a cheery marshal was on hand to support, directionally point, motivate and no doubt act as bike/ runner mediator too should the need arise.  No surprises there.

So, you hook left, and through a gate, and then gentle roll on a compact path, along a fence line and again, I liked this bit.  You could see the runners in a line ahead, also reminiscent of prayer flags, all colourful and fluttering by.  Each on their own personal parkrun voyage of joy, discovery or exorcising demons.  That’s one of the things I love about parkrun it is very individual for each runner, but the act of taking part collectively, being in the same space feels to me to be both quite nurturing and powerful.  #loveparkrun See them go!  Cattle to the right, landscaping to the left.  Trees and greenery everywhere, nice.

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On this section, the parkrunner who’d done the briefings, and had also paused to help the fallen runner earlier on (that makes it sounds terminal!  I’m sure it wasn’t quite that bad, though it may be she returned to the start rather than ran on!) passed me.  Shouting encouragement as she did so.  This parkrun certainly had a nice friendly feel to it, quite a coup to have it as your home run methinks.

At the end of this long straightish, basically flat section, there was another friendly hi-viz hero to keep you on track, and prevent you going straight on and running to infinity and beyond, nice in theory, but not really sustainable in practise.

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Bit further on, and there’s another marshal, by a lake, and by some directional signage – presumably put there to prevent him from having to point in two different directions at once, which would add to rather than diminish confusion amongst runners.  This was welcome, but, no offence, not particularly surprising.

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Onwards, from here, on the first lap you do head on up a hill.  It is a gentle slope, barely discernable on the pictures, but it does rather build, more than you might expect.  You have been warned.  Looking back towards the marshal I’d just passed, you could see the faster runners who’d near enough lapped me, taking the lap 2 option towards the finish.

As you lumber up the hill, or sprint enthusiastically if you have been conscientious about doing your hill reps in training, you pass the finish.  I paused for long enough to see some of the runners coming in and capture the finish funnel team working their magic.

and then onward and upward.  Hang on a minute.  Upwards?  Weren’t we told very explicitly that you only did the hill once?  Oh gawd.  Maybe this was the surprise.  I’m definitely being required to do this steep bit for the second time this morning if I want to legitimately complete the parkrun, and to be fair, the briefer never said it was a pleasant surprise that we should be looking out for.  Oh well, bring it on.

Up the hill and past the house and through the Pegasus highway, and down through the tree lined path and past the marshal guarding the bike tunnels and keeping the underpass trolls at bay too no doubt.  All underpasses have trolls do they not?  Fact.  Thinking about it, maybe those things I took to be tree supports are actually markers for individual burials for those not agile enough to avoid the trolls on earlier runs?  Through the invitingly open gate and along the paths again.  It was quite meditative running, I was on my own for much of it, but you couldn’t get lost, and I liked being able to soak it all in, without comparing myself to other runners.  It was most fine.

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And then, like buses, it seems surprises don’t come when you are looking for them, but then three all turn up together unexpectedly, taking you completely unawares.  Who knew?

Surprise one:

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The lakeside marshal had acquired a dog!  This has happened to me before at a parkrun, when a marshal transforms their appearance between laps, conjuring delight and confusion in equal measure amongst those participants who chose to indulge in ‘spot the difference’. Happened at Conkers parkrun too – there a quick change expert marshal switches signs mid-run.  Very impressive.

Surprise two:

Oh right.  Of course, they meant that you don’t run up the entire hill twice, you skip the first two thirds of it second time round by turning off to the right on the second lap.  Still feel my confusion was understandable, but it was nice that my parkrun world was beginning to make sense again.

Surprise three:

It wasn’t his dog, he’d acquired it from a runner, I expect they were very surprised that that happened.  I concede this is a bit of a stretch surprise-wise, as it’s rather individualised, but you will understand the ‘three buses all at once’ analogy is ruined if I couldn’t complete the trio.  Bear with dear reader, bear with.

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I scampered off in the direction of the more manicured gardens, but not before I’d given a backward look and wave to runner behind me. He was very fast using poles, not so much nordic walking as nordic running – if that’s a thing.  I keep thinking I should try that properly I mean.  I did once, and it definitely redistributes your weight, but I didn’t find it intuitive, need to practice.  This gent was a great advert for them, fairly sprinting along.  I was going to try to catch him afterwards to ask him about them but the moment passed.  I just caught sight of him striding off into the distance once he’d finished, and didn’t have the necessary turn of speed to pursue him.  Also, that would have been a bit stalkerish methinks, so best not!

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Nearly done now. Couple of delays en route, first off, there was a moment of panic when I thought I was going to be swept up in what seemed to be some sort of Boot Camp as they were doing a high intensity exercise that had them darting across the parkrun route. This picture makes it all look like they are relaxing and chilled, they are not.  They are collapsed with exhaustion path side.  Impressive.

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Onwards, and the next distraction was the rhododendrons, which it turns out, are really difficult to photograph, especially if you are doing this when you are trying not to get too far off piste of your current parkrun.  The planting was really impressive, and the blooms in full expansive glory.  Honestly, I’ve always been a bit sniffy about rhododendrons as over-rated and a potential invasive pest species, but here, in the landscaped context and presumably expertly pruned to perfection they were really spectacular.  No wonder so many people were by now out and about clutching cameras and stalking the shrubbery in search of the perfect flower shot.

‘Suddenly’ you emerge from the woodland garden wonderland and the finish funnel is in sight. Yay.  Ubiquitous and friendly marshals cheered me in, and I was spat out the funnel and scanned in record time.  I retrieved my fleece (honestly, superfluous to requirements) that I’d left on the bench alongside the funnel, and went in search of photo ops of some who finished behind me, and the volunteer teams.

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I could see the surprise marshal making his way back, laden with signs, and, in due course, the dog was reunited with its original human companion.  Much tail wagging and yelping ensued, and that was just from the parkrunner.

The only outstanding tasks were then to try for an artistic location shot, so I started wrestling with the selfie board to achieve this:

Featured image Temple Newsam parkrun

The idea I like to think was sound, even if the execution teeters towards the disappointing end of the continuum.  The problem is with my arms, they just aren’t long enough to create quite the desired effect.

No worries, in other news, the surprise marshal came to my aid and captured the obligatory ‘parkrunner tourist in sign’ shot.  Hooray!  Also, thank you.

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It’s good being able to hide behind signage in photographs.  Really, I should aim to be more body confident, but honestly, I think it’s really important to learn to dress appropriately to make the most of your natural body shape.  I was therefore really delighted to find this advice on my Facebook news feed the other day.  That’s ‘what to wear’ sorted in perpetuity!

what to wear bikini

There’s more than enough body-shaming in the world without colluding with it right?  I’m still fuming at the tales from the back of the pack runners at London last month.

You did hear about that right?  (More accurately ‘wrong’).

Shame on London Marathon for the fiasco with the slower runners – still supposedly within the official cut off times – for their appalling treatment of them this year.  Hopefully, the pendulum will swing the other way for next year.  Even with the publicity, they seemed unable to hold their hands up, claiming only ‘a small number of runners were affected’ not the point surely.  I just wonder if they have such a slick pr machine they can get away with anything.  I did London last year and there was no water for more than half the course, and they seemed to be able to gloss over that too.  It was still an extraordinary experience, but a tarnished one, it just didn’t seem fair that those of us who were out the longest, and needed the water most not only didn’t get it, but were told we must have imagined all the empty and deserted water stations en route and having to nip off to the shops mid run to buy water in desperation!  It makes it even more amazing, inspirational and important that parkrun manages mostly to be inclusive, welcoming and encouraging to all.  If you want to feel even more parkrun love, check out the recent Jessica’s parkrun heroes videos on youtube video .  If they don’t make you feel you may have just got something in your eye then you must have a heart of stone!

Hope you took advantage of that link for a nice cathartic cry there, great for clearing the sinuses too, if you are suffering from either an early summer cold or the misery of hay fever.  Proof once again – if proof were needed – that parkrun is beneficial to the health. Hurrah!

Still, let’s keep things positive, we not only have parkrun to feel the running love whatever pace you take it, there are marathons out there that can get it right.  Here is one such story of the  back of the pack runners at Pittsburgh Marathon last week.

Pittsburgh marathon

They got there own super-charged cheer leaders too:

The pair even got their own raucous spectators. Pittsburgh’s Steel City Road Runners Club (SCRRC) hosts a cheer station near the 25 mile marker every year, Daniel Heckert, an SCRRC coach, told Runner’s World. While the group peaked around 30 people earlier that morning when runners were coming thick and fast, Heckert … and a half dozen SCRRC members were still there when the Mazur and Robertson ran by. “The six of us got as loud and as crazy as we could, because we wanted them to feel just as loved as the people who finished in four hours,” Heckert said. “That’s the whole point of what that cheer station is. It doesn’t matter if you’re first or last—the ones in the back of the pack are just as important as the person winning the marathon.”

You can get super-charged cheer leaders and often the same support at a parkrun near you, without having to complete a whole marathon, but kudos to you if you do.

So it was, Temple Newsam parkrun ended,  I said my slightly self-conscious thanks, confirmed with one of the marshals, that most definitely, the sun always shines at this parkrun, and then went to check out the cafe.  Dear reader, there was indeed a bargain breakfast for £3 veggie option.  Coffee wasn’t the best, but at that price, who’s complaining.  parkrun done and dusted, hi-vis back in the bag for next week and coffee and baps respectively quaffed and consumed, it was time to go.

Thank you lovely parkrunners of Temple Newsam, that’s a very fine venue and team you have there.  I got a lovely welcome and what a fantastic course.   I had no idea this place existed until a couple of days ago.  It is for me an unexpected bonus of parkrun tourism that you get to discover the most amazing places.  Hopefully I’ll be back some time soon, not sure when quite, it can be a surprise!  We all like them.  🙂

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For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and forward for new ones in time too, once there are some just so you know.  That’s amazing when you think about it, you’ll be able to travel in time.  Cool.  You won’t be able to alter the past as is always the way, but you can splash about in parkruns past with abandon.  You’re most welcome.

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

Wahey for Welcoming Wakefield Thornes parkrun. May the fourth be with you indeed!

Digested read: parkrun tourism had me wending my way to Wakefield Thornes parkrun today.  Don’t mind letting on that my old dressing gown went down a storm.  Hurrah.

Undigested read:  It’s a long one.  Get comfy or decide against reading on and get a life instead.  Either way, May the fourth be with you!

Special credit to Darren Williams, parkrun official photographer for the day who took some fab photos from which I’ve freely borrowed to enliven this post.  You could even follow him here, on instagram Myviews555 should the mood take you, but don’t go exploring that ’til you’ve finished here first!

Well, today was always going to be either Star Wars Day or, World Naked Gardening Day.

It was touch and go which way’d I’d jump, obviously, but in the end the Jedis had it. Well, you know parkrun is not to be missed or messed with lightly.  I need my parkrun fix to keep tipped towards the saner end of the continuum that takes in the wide spectrum of human existence.  Besides, it’s not only that my garden is overlooked and the temperature distinctly chilly, but also I tend to get contact induced allergic dermatitis if I garden in anything less than one of those forensic clean up boiler suits and over-sized eye guards.  Ideally, I’d garden wearing something like this (yes, of course it’s really me within!) but it really only works effectively if you have minions in abundance, in the manifestation of a whole army of under gardeners who can carry out your orders for you.  Those protective gloves don’t allow for a great deal of dexterity, more like the suits which allow you to mimic the symptoms of arthritis as an awareness raising training experiential training exercise.  Those weighted boots can be a bit challenging too –  so usually I end up having to go with a more light weight disposable option so I can still use my hands, alarmingly high doses of anti-histamine, and (alas) not an under gardener in sight.  Anyway, you can quite see why I won’t be doing any naked gardening any time, any place, soon.  World Naked Gardening Day not withstanding.

garden gear

Is that over-sharing?  Oh well.  Sorry-ish, though to be fair, if that disclosure makes you feel uncomfortable, be prepared for the fact I got waaaaay more inappropriate and disinhibited after parkrun was concluded, so consider yourself officially warned about the potential horrors that await you in this blog post should you choose to read on.  Bottom line, (oh, and it is a bottom that features later too in a pleasing bit of inadvertent blogging symmetry), what with the nip in the air and my propensity to come out in a raging and prolific rash  meant I wouldn’t be a pretty sight in any sense if I decided to embrace the naked gardening theme.  It also meant I would celebrate World Naked Gardening Day by going to Wakefield Thornes parkrun, dressed, and embracing the opportunity for a bit of light fancy dress. Yay!  Always a lure.

It wasn’t a given that I’d end up at Wakefield Thornes parkrun this morning though, I had also flirted with the idea of joining Gainsborough parkrun, as it was their 200th tpday, and they were trying to beat their record attendance – which they did, pleasingly.  However, my early research suggested it didn’t look like they were going down the fancy dress route – missed opportunity methinks, and I couldn’t help noticing their event begins with a G, and I’ve got loads of those, enough I’ve even completed the Stayin’ Alive Running Challenge, so it was perhaps inevitable that the Star Wars potential of Wakefield swayed me.

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Don’t worry, they had a great day apparently at Gainsborough, and beat their attendance record too.  However, it looks like the excitement was all a bit much for their event wheelie bin, which was overcome and collapsed with a fit of the vapours right at the finish line.  I hope its all right now.  I know all events have defibrillators, but I have no idea how useful they are for resuscitating municipal bins….  parkrun people are pretty amazing though, I’m sure they’ll have revived it somehow.  Congratulations parkrunners of Gainsborough!

Gainsborough parkrun

Otherwise, there was a tribute run for Little Stoke parkrun.  Bristol is a bit of a hike from Sheffield, so that was never going to happen, but it’s a nice idea though.  It pleases me that this homage continues.  Apparently, some of the refugees from the original Little Stoke parkrun, which was cancelled after a sorry spat with local councillors, who wanted to charge parkrunners for using the venue, do this each year.  I will resist the temptation to go too far down the worm hole of self-indulgent ranting about how sad and bad it is it had to close, but suffice to say why do some people not get that parkrunners ARE the local community and that’s what the spaces are for?  Of course there might be occasional conflicts of interest, but overall I would have thought a local parkrun revives local cafes, communities and green spaces.  Anyway, as is the tradition, a group returned for a run on the third anniversary of it finishing.  Nice that they continue to do that, though risky for anyone wanting to achieve their 50 parkruns in a year gold badge for their chrome extension running challenges.  They do this every year apparently.  Obviously, it would be much better if they had thought to run it in appropriate Star Wars themed fancy dress, but they still did fine work posing next to the deeply ironic running statue.  Good work parkrun people, good work indeed.  Nice height sequencing too.  All good.

little stoke parkrun tribute

Why Wakefield Thornes parkrun then?  Well why not?  But also, it has a W (good for my alphabet challenge) and is, apparently, my current ‘as the crow flies’ NENDY – Nearest Event Not Done Yet.  But the clincher, of course, was it looked like they were positively encouraging Star Wars themed fancy dress,  this boded well!  Bring it on!

may the fourth be with you

I would have liked to don fancy dress myself, but initially couldn’t see how I’d be able to conjure up anything in time, only making the decision to go there at the last minute – though that wouldn’t prevent me from appreciating the efforts of others.  Well, I say I couldn’t conjure up anything, but then it occurred to me late last night that actually, I do have a black dressing gown of sorts, and I can probably find a cardboard tube… how hard could it be to transform myself into a Jedi knight equipped with such versatile raw materials!

Went for rummage.

Ta da!  I hit the jackpot.  I found some brown parcel paper still in its cellophane wrap.  Obviously, generally I don’t approve of cellophane, single use plastic and all that, but in this instance, mightily practical, it’s basically a tube, only a water proof one, just hte little matter of putting my smiley buff at one end to create a handle and job done.  Definitely looked like a lightsaber!  Yep, swished pleasingly, and I could always enhance it with my own extra sound effects too.  It’s so convincing I probably ought to have a firearms licence for it!  I’ll risk it though, I will only use my Jedi powers for good, so it should be fine.

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I fondly imagined I’d be a shoo in for a prize if there was one for best fancy dress – unless they felt obliged to disqualify me thinking I must have been exploiting contacts within the George Lucas Star Wars franchise to enable me to engineer such convincing props.  I would have liked to have gone as Chewbacca by way of tribute to the recently deceased Peter Mayhew, but that would have been harder to pull off, and anyway, I don’t like to draw undue attention to my excess facial hair, so another time maybe… RIP Chewy, it’s sad.  Is it bad that I’m genuinely wondering which mug shot they’ll use on the order of service for his funeral?  I know which I’d opt for.

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I was at a funeral recently where somebody commented the buffet was so good it was ‘to die for‘.  ‘Well, that’s lucky‘ I said, inappropriately.  I wish I could develop the skill of not just always saying out loud what’s going on in my head, but then again, sometimes if you are handed an open goal you just have to take a shot at it.  It’s like the tale of the scorpion and the frog, some things are just in our nature and really can’t be changed, we give into the impulse even when it is self-destructive and our undoing.  Hey ho. Oh well.  Worse things happen at sea – apparently.  Who really knows?

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep last night so buzzing was I with all that anticipatory excitement…. Still, fancy dress nailed, my next job was to check out the course. Whilst running wise, ignorance is often bliss, this has to be balanced against the ‘forewarned is forearmed’ bit of the equation.  Don’t want to get caught out on any more cross country courses for a while longer yet!  Well, the course blah de blah on the website was dizzying in its comprehensiveness, but also completely bewildering.  I asked for insight from fellow parkrun tourists on one of many Facebook parkrun groups and got an hilariously plausible observation from one:

Suffice to say its the only parkrun I’ve done where I was so disorientated that I had no idea where I’d parked the car!

Fortunately, as a slower runner, I am confident I can just follow everyone else.  That will get me round, but I might need to drop breadcrumbs behind me to help me back to the car park afterwards.  In case you’d like a little looksie the course map looks like this – I presume you just do it all once… :

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and the course blah de blah is described on the Wakefield Thornes parkrun website thus:

The course is contained within the three parks; Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks. The course itself is not entirely flat; the highest point is the top of the hill, just above the Changing rooms, opposite Wakefield College Campus Car Park. The lowest is the southern boundary of the parks which runs parallel to Thornes and Denby Dale Roads.
The start is just above the Changing rooms, almost in the centre of the park, at the top of the main drive which runs to the former Thornes House. Runners will go down the drive then turn left at Stork Lodge Café on towards the Holmfield Arms (Premier Inn Wakefield Central).
Just after the Ticket Pavilion on the cycle track runners double back along the southern boundary back towards Stork Lodge Café Car Park. The adjacent Cark Park will be in use and therefore be aware particularly of moving cars and stick to the marked course. Having passed the lake and aviary you now take in a clockwise circuit of the former Thornes House before joining a cycle track and the main drive to return you to the Changing Rooms.
At the changing rooms you are directed to head back down hill, running with the tree line on your left-hand side and parallel to the main drive. You head straight for the Play Area and join a tarmac path leading towards the miniature railway where you will turn right and run parallel to Lawefield Lane. Head uphill, once again keeping the tree line on your left-hand side, clockwise around the Football pitches and towards Chestnut Lodge. From the Lodge you go east, parallel to Park Ave and then south parallel to Denby Dale Road (A636) and to where it meets Chestnut Walk. You will be directed uphill along Chestnut Walk to complete a clockwise loop of the Clarence Park arena. Just before Chestnut Lodge you will complete a ‘cross country stretch’ across the parkland towards the Changing Rooms.
Turning left, with the College Car park on your right-hand side and then left again you turn back up the main drive towards the start. Runners will go a little way down the drive for a second time towards Stork Lodge Café but turn sharp right on to the red-brick track. You head downhill to the aviary turn left and the finish at the side of the Car Park beyond the lake.

I decided it was best to wilfully ignore the reference to a ‘cross country stretch across parkland’.   I saw no alternative.  I liked the idea of heading towards a miniature railway.  Fondly hoping it would be like the Wallace and Gromit train chase one:

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So it was that today, parkrun day on May the fourth was promising to be especially epic!

I woke early this morning, no surprise there.  I hoiked on my running gear, donned my dressing gown Jedi robe and clutching my lightsaber scrutinised the overall effect in the mirror.  Full length mirrors are not my friend.  It’s not so much that I particularly want to change any one feature of my body, more that I’d like to change the culture in which it is so harshly judged.  Today though, I decided my cow cowl looked silly round my neck, bit yellow, so I swapped the smiley buff on the lightsaber for my tourist buff, way better.  The overall effect was striking!  Bound to get a pb with the super powers with which the Jedi knowledge would endow me!  I am indeed magnificent!

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How exciting.  I’m sure my neighbours didn’t find it at all odd that I appeared to be driving off in the early morning still wearing my night attire.  If they did, they were too polite to mention it, which is the main thing.  Well, not to me directly, maybe to each other, it is the British way.  Anyway, they already think I’m a bit odd, as I keep making any of them who make eye contact with come and look at how my tadpoles are developing. That’s not even a euphemism, I have actual tadpoles in my garden pond and I couldn’t be prouder if I’d spawned them myself!  (Which I didn’t by the way).  There are no scorpions native to the UK (though there is a now naturalised colony of escapees in Kent apparently) so they should be safe from risking their lives by feeling obligated to carry them over water courses once they have fully metamorphosed into frogs.  This is good to know too.  The newts might get them whilst they are still tadpoles of course, but there isn’t an Aesop’s fable based on that subject matter as far as I know.

Where was I?  This happens a lot, you dear reader, distracting me with extra questions.  Oh yes, I remember.  I headed off to Wakefield, using their satnav WF2 8TY.  It was an easy drive out from Sheffield, probably took about 50 minutes, I arrived stupidly early as always.  The satnav takes you past the entrance, but what you are looking for is this:

You drive in, and there is a biggish car park to the left (free parking, yay) and the sports centre stadium to the right, which looks like this:

That’s grand, but what was less grand, was trying to locate evidence of parkrun activity.  Not to worry, I needed to get my pre parkrun precautionary pee in anyway.  Now, dear reader, there was an embarrassment of riches precautionary pee wise here, but also an embarrassment in my ability to correctly utilise them.

Venue one, I headed for the signed ‘public toilets’ which were to the right of the main entrance of the stadium.  The door was unlocked (good) but when I went in, the door slammed behind me and I was in total darkness, it felt like being trapped in a lift, or worse, a metal box styled panic room.  I waved my arms around hopefully, in case it was one of those motion activated lighting systems, but nothing. I even briefly considered trying to negotiate the facilities in the dark, clawing my way round the walls like unwise minor characters do when trapped in pitch black tunnel systems in horror films – but quickly thought the better of it, that would surely end badly.  Makes you think, it must be a bit of a nightmare encountering new facilities if you are visually impaired, the lay out wasn’t at all obvious.  Instead, I decided to brave reception in the stadium centre.  I went to explain about the lack of lighting and ask if I could use their loos instead.  Turns out, there was no light in the ladies loos, because they’d not turned those on yet. However, I was welcome to use their inside facilities.  This is great, an upgrade, they were super friendly too, directing me to the ladies changing rooms.

Despite the lack of topiary lining the way – something to which I’d like to become accustomed after last week’s sojourn to Osterley parkrun – the facilities were pretty good.  Lockers, showers, no queue.  Weird poster though:

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Now, why would you have that in the women’s changing rooms?  Where is the ‘power’ for a woman pictured standing behind a man, what message is that trying to convey?  To be fair, it’s probably not trying to convey anything, they just haven’t given it one iota of thought, but bit of feedback, that’s not a very aspirational or motivational image as far as I’m concerned.  Is that what the marketing department for bodypump power workouts think women aspire to do?   Does that represent ‘power’ in any sense for any woman anywhere?   To be pushed to the back of the class by men, literally on the sidelines of the action but presumably expected to be grateful as they can from there swoon at the biceps of the man in the foreground.  Only young, fit, white people do bodypump apparently.  So depressing.  Oh well, praise be for the inclusivity of parkrun, but it’s no wonder so many are turned off exercise with promotional materials like that to contend with in the women’s changing rooms ffs!  I wouldn’t have been so wound up if it wasn’t in the female changing rooms, is that the best they can come up with.  I despair!   Still, at least it didn’t say ‘girls’ on the door, that I really hate, don’t get me started on that…  Thankfully, the staff, who are the real gate keepers to these facilities, were fantastically friendly and welcoming.  It was an extraordinary poster though, it felt like going back in time.

I used to like body combat too – ooh the stories I could tell you about that.  The time our steroid fuelled instructor lost his temper so much he threw all his kit on the floor and stormed out was as nothing to his more general propensity to stand directly in front of you demanding that you tried to punch him in the face. It was quite cathartic and hilarious at the time, but does seem somewhat dysfunctional and unhealthy in retrospect.  On reflection, I think he may have had some ‘issues’.  He was always just on the cusp of an explosive meltdown.  And thinking about it, the acne, the disproportionate muscle size, the volatility and constant loss of control, hmmm, maybe not all was well.  It’s amazing what you can see but not notice if you aren’t expecting to see it.  Tell, me honestly, if you have ever done body combat, did your instructor set up any exercises with the spiel ‘so visualise someone you really hate, I mean really h.a.t.e. HATE, now grab their head, and smash it down on you knee, and KEEP. ON. SMASHING. IT!’  I’m thinking probably not.  Did add a certain frisson of excitement to the class though, not condoning it obviously, but what larks eh, what larks.  I’ve honestly never been fitter in my life.

Enough of these distractions – I did what was necessary, exited and …. found myself in a completely unknown world.  What the?  How was this possible.  Instead of being back in reception I was now alongside some sort of indoor sports court, with that distinctive musty smell of several thousand sweaty kits left to mature there over many years.  A perplexing parallel universe, what sorcery was this?  Had I teleported?  Had I been abducted?  Could I really not navigate my way out of the female changing rooms?  Spoiler alert, seems I really couldn’t navigate my way out of the female changing rooms…. twice.  I think it’s because that blooming poster left me feeling so disempowered.  It’s the only plausible explanation.  Nobody is that lacking in life skills and lives beyond a half century surely?

Is this the confusion Mr Benn used to experience exiting the changing rooms in the fancy dress shop I wonder?  You know, he’d put on the costume of choice, and next thing he knew, he’d be living that reality in a parallel universe the other side of the changing room door.  Mind you, I think he chose the costumes, so there was an element of at the very least contributory negligence in where he ended up, even if there was an element of surprise because he wasn’t quite sure exactly what destinations and adventures the donned outfits might lead too.

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I checked my outfit anxiously, in case I found I was donned in hockey kit or something equally fear inducing, but it was OK, I was still just me.  What had happened though?  I was completely confused.  The worst of it is the changing rooms aren’t even particularly vast.  I went back in… and came out again, same thing.   Well, logically it would be, I’d used the same door.  I know I don’t have an especially advanced sense of direction, but this was a new low.  I actually had to methodically search the changing rooms to locate the original door I’d come in through, like I was doing a bespoke challenge in the crystal maze. Well how was I supposed to know it had two entrances/exits front and back and notice it even when they were hidden round corners?  Stupid changing rooms.   I freely concede based on this evidence I might not be anyone’s companion of choice in a post-apocalypse survival situation, but then again, if you were being followed and needed to shake off a tail, I’m your woman.  If I can’t predict where I’m going or follow any particular mapping logic, no-one would be able to track me were I on the run.  Also, I have perfected the act of smashing heads on my knee, in theory…  but actually, I don’t really want to survive any Apocalypse if it’s all the same to you, so I wont be putting that into practice unless the provocation is really extreme.  Shouting at a volunteer marshal when it’s you who has forgotten your barcode might push me over the edge, that, and dropping litter oh and fly tipping would definitely do it, but for the most part I’m placid and more inclined to go with passive aggressive retrospective tutting. You have been warned.  Jedi super powers are no substitute for a printed barcode either apparently 🙂  Thanks Tim Michael.  Good to know, in case May the Fourth should fall on a Saturday again!

Tim michael parkrun cartoon

Mind you, didn’t bode well for finding the start of Wakefield Thornes parkrun, let alone navigating the course.  Bread crumbs weren’t going to cut mustard for finding my way back here, I wish I’d thought to bring along a few kilometres of string with me instead.

which way now

I eventually composed myself sufficiently to manage to exit the way I’d come in, and affected nonchalance as I strode authoritatively (faking it to make it) past reception once again waving thanks as I did so.  I was inwardly cringing, my inner voice screaming at me ‘they know you know, they’ve probably been watching you perplexed on CCTV‘  They hadn’t though.   They were nice and helpful and even if they had noticed, it was objectively hilarious to have had not one, but two trapped in the toilet block interior experiences within minutes of one another.  I have form on this.  I once got trapped in some toilets at my local railway station as a 14 year old.  I was there for almost an hour and resorted to hanging from a grill in the cubical screaming to the outside world that I needed rescuing.  That wasn’t a good day… enough of these negative thoughts, today was going to be epic!  I’m sure that I wouldn’t have got so lost if they’d had topiary to line the entrances though, you need landmarks to find your way home ask any bee.

Oh well, next challenge, find the start.  There were teasing signs of parkrun paraphernalia placement in the proximity but no hi-viz heroes in sight.  Where were they hiding?

Bit thin on Jedi knights too, but seeing as I’d made the effort, I tried not to let that deter me from sticking with the programme as planned.  My dressing gown and parcel paper tube lightsaber were coming with me, appropriate or not!  After all, doesn’t the parkrun code stipulate you should respect the right of parkrunners to participate in their own way.  What could be more natural than striding to the start of parkrun clutching a roll of brown parcel paper wearing a dressing gown.  No-one will even notice.

I accosted someone to ask for directions, but she turned out to be another tourist, so we agreed to try and locate the start  together.  I retrieved my robe and lightsaber from the car and then we were directed by other runners, the start area is basically straight ahead, up a hill and along a solid tarmac path.  It’s a fair old walk from the Thornes Park Stadium to the start, you need to allow maybe 10 minutes or so, though we did actually pass another, nearer car park en route, so that could be another option.  Looked like more loos there too, don’t know how likely you would be to get lost in those though, didn’t want to risk finding out.

As we summited the brow of the hill, a load of colourful parkrunners came into view.  I love this bit, when it’s all new and familiar at the same time.  Lots of people in little groups, chatting with one another, stretching, catching up.

It was then I spotted someone else in fancy dress.  You know that feeling when you thought you’d made a bit of an effort managing to improvise something and you suddenly come to appreciate what really making an effort looks like?  Well, respect to this team with their own space craft!  It was AWESOME.  Such a show stealer, barely noticed yoda in the background.  Serious respect though.  It was fully functional too – you should have seen the speed at which it covered the ground.  A.Maz.Ing.