10km

Out of the mist, came forth sun… and runners, lots and lots of runners. Loving Longshaw Trust10 in the spring sunshine.

Digested read:  back to the Longshaw Trust 10k (Trust10).  Misty start, sunny finish.  Very nice to be back.

Undigested read:

Everybody loves Longshaw.  Well they should do. Just look at it, it’s spectacular, whatever the season.

DSCF7469

We all need to reboot our systems now and again don’t we?  Don’t we?  Please don’t let on it really is just me?  Oh you were kidding,  it isn’t just me who gets a bit ground down now and again and needs to be reminded to look up and out and breath in the air.  That’s good, otherwise you’ll have no idea what I’m banging on about and that will make for a very confusing mismatch in our conversation, and nobody wants that.

So, Sunday morning. Now normally Sunday is junior parkrun day, and I do really love junior parkrun, supercharged fun however you look at it, especially at my local Graves junior parkrun where you get to run through the animal farm and by the lake and everything.

However, fun as it is, I realised last year that I’d got out of the habit of going to the Longshaw Trust 10k.  This is ridiculous, because I blooming love the Trust10, it’s always super friendly and welcoming and mostly ‘proper’ off road.  I mean not completely hard-core, but enough to get your feet muddy and feel alive and a very long way from the grind of running on pavements or tarmac.

Anyway, longshaw story short, I’ve decided to try to prioritise the Longshaw 10k a bit more this year, after all I can still do junior parkrun the other three weeks of the month (the Longshaw 10k takes place on the fourth Sunday of each month- check website just in case, but that’s worked so far, snow and ice permitting).  This morning, it being the fourth Sunday of the month, Longshaw it would be.

The website says succinctly:

Enjoy a 10k run in the special surroundings of the Longshaw Estate. Free, informal and for everyone

adding

Join us on the fourth Sunday of the month for our free 10k run. Registration is on the day 8.15 in the café, and the run starts at 9 am. A number will be issued to you at your first run.

The route is two laps, and takes in some wide paths and some more technical off-road sections on grass, rocks and sometimes muddy ground. It is suitable for runners of all abilities.

Timing will be via paper and stopwatches, so if your time is important to you please use your own system.

so that’s all you really need to know, you could just finish here, I wont know, I haven’t a clue if anyone ever reads my posts or not, so no offence taken.  Also, you might have a life to lead, places to go, people to see, whatever. I don’t do concise though, so I’m not prepared to leave this account at that, read on at your own risk. Maybe have a precautionary pee first, and pour yourself a mug of tea or glass of wine in readiness. You’ll need something with which to fortify yourself if you intend to stick with me for the long run. Not that Longshaw is especially long by everyone’s standards, but I’ll make it feel long for you.  It’s a 10k route, but two 5k laps, so if you are unsure you could always do one loop and then bail finish at that point. You’ll be at the front of the cafe queue and have seen the route.  But you won’t get a time and you won’t know the fun you’ve missed out on by doing so. Your call though, nobody will judge you.   Really they wont.  In a good way, nobody cares what you do, as long as you are having a good time and stay safe.  Think parkrun, it’s that sort of ethos.   Good natured, celebrating what you do, and although there are definitely speedy runners pegging round at the front, there is nothing to stop you taking a more sedate romp round at the rear – as did I today.

Despite everything, I did feel a little disloyal to be heading Longshaw way instead of to Graves.  Also, it was freezing when I woke.  Really misty, and was that even a bit of ice on the car?  Possibly.  It was like that at Graves parkrun yesterday, so misty you could hardly see your hand in front of your face on arrival, but then it did clear enough later on the second lap for an en route selfie with highland coo.  Such selfies ought to be mandatory anyway at Graves parkrun, what’s the point of a parkrun going to all that effort of supplying highland coos if nobody bothers to do so, but it was made easier yesterday by dint of me being busy and important as tail walker for the day, no pressure to rush on by.  Oh and also having a smart phone carrying selfie wannabee to accompany me, result.  Hurrah!  Fab walk and talk yesterday.  I thank you. 🙂

Where was I?  You’ve distracted me. Oh yeah, not at Graves, but heading to Longshaw.  It was misty enough that I contemplated putting on my headlights, and cold enough that I considered wearing one of my deeply unflattering beanies.  I thought the better of it, though on reflection, my pink Trust10 bobble hat would have been OK, it’s more forgiving than my cow bob and TpoT offerings.  Too late, didn’t take one, wondered if I might regret it, blooming cold.

I won’t lie, I’ve not been feeling the running lurve lately.  My mojo has not so much temporarily departed as actually abandoned me leaving no forwarding address and only memories and dreams of what might have been.  Despite this, I do sort of miss what we had, and it is slowly dawning on me, that astonishingly, the only way to get back my running form is to actually go out and do some running. Harsh, but true.  Perhaps today would be the day.

I arrived crazily early at Longshaw, got my self parked up in ‘my’ parking spot. Yes, I do have a favourite parking spot at Longshaw, doesn’t everyone?  It was £3.50 for non National Trust members for up to four hours – was hoping that I wouldn’t take that long to get around, even allowing time for a fairly substantial cheese scone afterwards. You can park for free along the road outside the Fox House, but I suppose I feel paying for parking is a way of supporting the otherwise free event.  Also, less far to retreat back to the car on days when it is so cold your legs won’t work.  That might just be me though. You are probably so hard-core you’ll be incorporating the Longshaw Trust10 into your long run and jog out, run the 10k and run home again.  Go you!  Not me though, that wasn’t my plan, though I do have a bit of a fantasy that I might do that one day.  Maybe when the weather is a bit warmer so I don’t have to worry about getting cold in between running legs.

The air was still, the car park already beginning to fill up, and the views, as always, just breathtaking.  Of course my photos don’t do it justice, why would they? You’ll have to go check it out for yourself.

Keenie volunteers had already put the little pink flags up to mark the way.  I had my first precautionary pee of the morning.  The bolt on the toilet door wasn’t working, but that didn’t matter as the queue for the loo is always so extensive, someone will look out for you.  The gents of course just breezed past us, waving as they went to make free with their own more ample facilities.  Structural injustice strikes again.  I read a whole article about exactly this issue of why there are never enough female toilets (as in toilets for use by women, not for bathroom sanitation ware that identifies as female – I’m pretty sure most would be non-binary anyway), but now I can’t find it.  Bet you are gutted.  Worry not, I’ll add it in later if I do.  Hang on, you’re OK, I’ve found it, great article on the deadly truth about a world built for men You’re welcome.  Found this one on the American Potty Parity movement too, who knew?  Having said that, compared to other running events, the provision at Longshaw is pretty darned good.  Warm registration area, toilets- not just toilets, but ample toilet paper and hot running water too. Thrown in an informal bag drop, parking,  and post run coffee and carb options and that covers everything really.

Headed in to the cafe area to register, my camera can’t cope with interior shots, but you’ll get the gist. First timers have to complete a registration form, returners, wearing their own reused numbers have a quicker process.

It’s all very self-explanatory and pretty slick, though the volume of participants these days does make for some good-natured queuing. That’s OK though, it’s a chance to catch up with everyone you’ve ever met in the running community of Sheffield. This event brings loads out of the woodwork.  I went on my own, but bumped into many familiar faces.  Grand.

The high vis heroes were discussing tactics, being efficient and heading off to their posts, some of which are a fair old hike away from the cafe area:

Here they are en masse at the end. What a fine and photogenic lot they are. Hurrah for them.  That’s not even all of them.  It takes a lot of effort to keep the event running smoothly.  (Pun intended, I’m super quick-witted like that – less quick on my feet unfortunately.  Oh well, we can’t all be good at anything everything).

Volunteers are epic

Runners arrived and milled and chilled, some did some voluntary extra running, by way of warm up.  Respect.  Others did some voluntary extra running by way of sustainable transport options.  Also respect:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The sun was beginning to peak through, and I started to see familiar faces from woodrun and even a few other break away-ers from Graves junior.  It was like big reunion!

It was definitely still misty, but the day seemed full of promise.  An air of eager anticipation started to build. It seemed busy to me, but then again, apart from the Christmas Tinsel Trust 10 I’ve hardly been to Longshaw Trust10 of late.  I decided NOT to wear my coat, which is quite a big deal for me, as normally I have to have it forcibly wrestled away from me pre run.  Now though, the air was still, and the runes seemed good.  It was one of those days where you really get why ancient peoples worshipped the sun, it seemed miraculous how it began to appear and burned through the fog to reveal a glorious landscape of wonder and promise. In a bit though, not straight away.

After a bit, there was a sort of collective move towards the start, as if drawn by a silent beacon, like in Close Encounters, only a lot jollier and with more visible Lycra. Honestly, I don’t know if Lycra was even a thing when the film Close Encounters came out in 1977, the Wikipedia entry inexplicably completely fails to mention it.  This is the problem with becoming over reliant on search engines on the interweb, the entirety of human knowledge becomes reduced to dust.

The Devil’s Tower is pretty much indistinguishable from Carl Wark in my view, and you can only differentiate the assembling of runners from the assembly of the alien seekers by the presence of tarmac beneath the feet of the non runners.  Spooky isn’t it?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once we were all assembled, more or less, bit of fraternising went on, I noticed the runderwear ambassador ingratiating herself to the tail walkers.  Well, she was trying to communicate something important anyway.  Also a few ill-advised selfies were taken alongside other reunions. You know, it occurs to me, maybe it isn’t the hats that make me spectacularly unphotogenic, maybe I actually look like this hatted or otherwise.  Horrible thought.  Oh well, this selfie is significant because the two of us have been Facebook stalking each others for some months but until this weekend never met, now two-day on the trot, yesterday Graves, today Longshaw. We’re properly best friends now!  Clearly Smiley Selfie Queen has more experience in these matters, or maybe a more forgiving filter.  I’ll never know…  I was slightly disappointed to see she was no longer wearing her sash from yesterday, when she celebrated her 100th parkrun with cakeage+, bunnage+ and a sash proclaiming her achievement.  Oh well.  At least I saw her on the day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

there was the run briefing.

Take care, be sensible, usual information about following marshals directions, but today was special, because today was also a day to sing Happy Birthday en masse in honour of stalwart volunteer Frances, soon to be eighty.  I think it’s fair to say that on the whole attendees are better at running than singing, but the rendition that followed this announcement was full of affection and enthusiasm.  Go Frances!  Excellent hat sporting as well as time keeping. We, who are about to run, salute you!

Birthday celebrant

It’s been a week of awesome octogenarians here in Sheffield.  Tony Foulds did good too did he not, getting his fly-by and all. Maybe that’s when life begins, at eighty, I can but hope… I’m post 54 and still don’t feel like I’ve made it off the starting block…

This is what runners look like whilst singing and waving in the start ‘funnel’ there are helpful signs to suggest where to place yourself to avoid congestion once underway by the way.  Also attentive looking runners during the run briefing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So then, pre run socialising and communal singing satisfactorily completed, we were awf, with that Longshaw staple the wolf whistle to get us underway!  You had to be there, but trust me, it’s true and it was audible and off everybody went.  It was somewhat quirky, like lighting a cigarette to start off the Barkley Marathons, but with more attention to Health and Safety.

And off we went.  It was fairly steady start from where I was at the back.  I daresay the front runners do speed off, but the mass of the back were happy to be more relaxed as we departed.  It’s a narrow path and a bit of a dog leg, and you are just warming up so no great haste.  Not on my part anyway.  The promise of good weather had brought along a fair few spectators to cheer us off, and no doubt then nip into the cafe for reviving coffee for a bit before the faster runners were back at the end of their first lap.

There was a bit of a bottle neck through the first gate, and then onto the compressed mud track where you run perilously close to a ditch, or more accurately a ha ha, presumably called this because that is the noise your so-called friends would make if you were to tumble into it due to either ice or a lapse in concentration.  Wikipedia doesn’t say.

There are many pleasing sights on the way round, but a fine marshal with psychedelic leggings and winning smile is always going to be a hit.  What’s more, on this route, you get to see all the lovely marshals twice if you do the whole 10k.  Now there’s an incentive to keep on running round!  Isn’t she lovely. (Rhetorical question, of course she is!)  Plus, I can personally vouch for her outstanding directional pointing, clapping and generally supportive whooping.  She’s always had a talent for this, starting way back at the finish line in the early days of parkrun, but totally perfected and finessed here at Longshaw.  Thank you marshal.  Top Tip, best to shout out your thanks on loop one, as by the time lap two comes round you may well be a) breathless and b) somewhat less enthusiastic about the whole thing, it all depends.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Off we went, runners streaming ahead and round the lake, or is it a pond?  Not sure what the difference is, but it was all very scenic. You could tell the first timers who ground to a halt at the slightest hint of mud, not having yet learned the fun is in the plunging through it.  I heard one fellow runner explain to his running mate he would have done, but was getting a lift back and didn’t want to get mud in the car!  Can’t be a proper running buddy if they object to mud surely, but each to their own.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Usually, the entire field has run out of my field of vision quite early on, but today I seemed to stay at least in sight of people for the whole of the first lap.  Others were also being distracted by the scenery, it was lovely, and getting lovelier by the minute as the sun burst through.  Handily placed marshals held open gates and pointed the way towards Narnia, and we followed the paths with delighted eager anticipation

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Through the trees, skipping through more open spaces, mud dodging or not, as the mood took us, thanking marshals, queuing at the kissing gate – good for a regroup, catch up and reconnaissance with other runners.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then into the proper woody bit, which is all tree roots and hobbit country.  It was surprisingly dry, and perfect for running today, it can be muddy and slippery, but today was fab, you need to pick your way a bit, but I enjoy this section, though you are a bit restricted to single file.  I tell myself this is why I made no attempt to overtake other runners, instead preferring to pause for photo ops en route.  Ahead of me, my parkrun buddy and Runderwear ambassador had befriended another runner, she does that a lot… takes other runners under her wing, it’s a good quality, and also a super power, it’s pretty much impossible to resist her advances – only this parkrun 50 tee wearing runner had just got swept up in the event and was doing her own run.  She wasn’t persuaded to join the fun this time round, well, no number I suppose, unless she blagged the number 50 – but I’m hoping next month she’ll be back.  She’d have fitted right in!  I am proud of my moody atmospheric shots.  The sky is moody not the runners. Well they may have been moody, I couldn’t tell from my scenic shot seeking detour standing in the bog.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You emerge from the woodland section, through a gate, scramble over some rocks and you get spat out onto the ‘proper’ trail moorland section.  Sometimes when it’s wet this is really squidgy, but today it was easy running, apart from the little matter of being expected to run uphill.  I ran a bit, but pretty soon ended up power walking. They have ‘improved’ the route to minimise erosion, so there is now a clear path and even a little bridge so you no longer get to  have to launch yourself into flight over the little stream.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A cheery marshal directs you and offers encouragement as you look upwards to the first serious climb of the morning, up, up skyward, into the blinding light of the morning sun. You can just make out the marshal standing astride the style in the wall at the top of the ascent, back-lit, like a super hero making an entrance.  Good work there, today Longshaw marshal, tomorrow deus ex machina at a theatrical happening of your choice!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This marshal, as others, has commandeered this as his regular spot.  He is always friendly, and up for a chat, though it has to be said I do feel he has a somewhat unfair advantage in this respect as he hasn’t just had to drag his weary carcass up a steep hill. He is supportive though, and promised to see about putting in some sort of stairlift contraption or escalator in time for the second lap.  Top tip, don’t get your hopes up, it’s like at the Sheffield Half marathon when well-meaning spectators tell you at the Norfolk Arms ‘it’s all downhill from here!’  They are all well-intentioned, but they lie.  It’s inadvertent, but good to know.

He quipped at my Runderwear buddy just ahead ‘not last today then?’ in cheery tones. She most definitely was not. My job I thought silently, and so in time it proved to be.

So after the style and the wall and the chat, you have a long straight bit on a compacted service path.  Through a gate, and on a bit more, and then, just when your homing instinct is screaming at you to go straight on as ‘cafe ahead’ cheery marshals send you off to the right and up the second hill of the day.  This I find really hard, I don’t know why it feels quite as tough as it does, but it plays mind games.  I ended up walking and feeling pathetic for doing so.  Others ahead were walking too.  Blimey I need to up my game.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Towards the top of this hill, you emerge alongside one of the other car parks, a marshal directs you – the route used to go through the carpark, but this route is better.  About this point the front runners started to come through, lapping me.  They make it look effortless.  Very impressive, they might be great athletes, but this is a good natured event, most shouted some sort of acknowledgement or encouragement as they passed.  I was a bit disappointed that unlike at the Tinsel Ten, none of the front runners were wearing a turkey on their heads.  Not one.  There was also a distinct lack of fancy dress.  Maybe they didn’t get the memo…  The pictures don’t capture the steepness of the climb, or maybe it really is all in my head.  The run is in fact flat, the earth is flat* and I have found a sports bra that is both comfy and supportive, and can also still fit into my interview suit.  All things are now possible.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Over the hill, literally and metaphorically, and you are out on the exposed ridge and a flat track back to the start/ finish.  It was a lovely spot today, but I have seen marshals nearly frozen to the spot in less clement weather.  The marshal is ready to stop cars running you down – always a boon, and I think furnished with a first aid kit too, or maybe a very large packed lunch, I didn’t pause to check.  I’m sure I saw a big back pack somewhere.  It’s not in the photos, maybe I was hallucinating, or maybe some other marshal had that responsibility.  I’ll try to remember to look out for it properly next time.  On this stretch, you have to remember to take in the views.  They are spectacular.  I got overtaken a lot, but there are also walkers coming the other way.  The first lap is nearly complete though, so that’s a boost.  I have this weird thing that once I’m half way through an event, irrespective of distance, I believe I will complete it because I’ve only got to do the same again. This isn’t quite logical, but positive thinking probably goes a long way so I don’t want to challenge myself on this point for fear of my self-belief coming crashing down.  It is hovering quite precariously as it is.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is a narrow marshal-assisted gate at the end which you pass through into the comparative darkness of the woodland area again. I once saw a runner crash spectacularly into the stone gate post here, because there is a bit of an optical illusion going on.  There was a lot of blood, and staggering about, that’s probably why it’s marshalled now.

Once you are safely through, it’s a downhill sprint to the finish, unless you are on your first lap, in which case you cruise on through. Inexplicably, no-one has ever confused me for a finisher at the end of my first lap, even though I’m still behind a good number of others who’ve completed their two.  Oh well, at least I get my monies worth for time out on the course!

So I charged through the finish and round again for lap two. I  spotted the RD and one of her noble side-kicks and called out to them to take a photograph. Confusingly, they thought I wanted them to take one of me!  How bizarre, I have a lifetime’s supply of deeply unflattering photos of myself running, no, what I was after was one of them.  After all, runners are ten a penny at events like these, but the volunteer and organising team, well, they are priceless.  It’s a shame I didn’t get a better picture, but it is the thought that counts, and I was trying to think I promise!

Round again,through the gate into the woods again, this time I felt like I was the only runner left on the course.  There was one other just ahead, but it had definitely emptied out.  A family out walking graciously moved aside to let me pass ‘as I was racing’ which was gracious of them as I’m not sure I really was worthy of such a descriptor,  back to smiley marshal still in situ, doing a double wave just for me.

DSCF7607

I usually enjoy a steady solitary second lap more than the first at Longshaw, because it can be quite meditative. Today though, I heard frantic stomping of feet and breathless runners coming up behind me, it was like being hunted down! I thought maybe it was people who’d already finished doing a final cool down lap or something, but it turned out to be the two tail runners. They’d been with some other runner who’d stopped after one lap, and were now on a mission to catch me up at the back.  They were friendly and supportive, and darted about picking up flags and trying to engage in conversation a bit, but unfortunately, as my regular reader will know I really can’t talk and run so wasn’t as much fun at the back as  if they’d had the pleasure of the company of the Runderwear ambassador who’d been cavorting with them like long-lost friends reunited earlier.  However, today she was on fast forward the whole way round, the tail runners didn’t even have her in sight. So sorry lovely tail walkers, I just can’t cope with running with other people, it is my strange way.  I did my best to romp on ahead, but couldn’t quite catch and overtake the penultimate runner, however now and again I put enough space between me and the tail to get some photos of their awesome twosome tail teamwork in action.  Enjoy!  Oh, and she’s wearing a backpack under her hi-vis, no need to stare.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Back into the woods, and oh, it was this marshal with the pack lunch/ first aid kit.  Phew, glad that mystery is solved… also nice moss, shapely trees, no time to stop, scared of being chased down, still, my polar watch was thrilled, I exceeded my exercise goals for today apparently.  That’s smugness inducing I must concede.

back onto the open hillside

past the deus ex machina at the summit – he was offering lifts back in his truck to anyone wishing to bail at this point, but no not I!

DSCF7622

Flat bit, puff puff, up the blooming hill, more puffing, flat and fast bit, through the gate, into the woods, down the hill, people at the finish, parkrun buddies and smiley friends shouting me in, I even managed a little burst of speed to the finish flag, though that might also have been because I tripped a bit going down hill and then couldn’t stop myself with all my substantial weight behind that bit of inadvertent forward momentum!

All done.  Phew.  Drank a full litre of water once I’d been reunited with my bag, which I’d just left in the cafe, you do so at your own risk, but it feels safe to me.  My rucksack is pretty distinctive, people know it’s mine. That’s not to say it means they would stop someone else from taking it, but I’d expect them to mention it later when it was gone ‘oh, I saw someone with your backpack disappearing earlier, wondered who it was‘.  Very reassuring.  FYI, I left my backpack in Jonty’s cafe a couple of weeks ago. When I went to pick it up they asked me to describe it, ‘it’s black and turquoise‘ I said.  ‘Oh dear,’ they said ‘we do have one, but it is black and aquamarine, so cannot possibly be yours!’  I thought that was funny.  I was reunited, panic not.

Joined the very extensive queue in the Longshaw tea rooms. I’ve never seen it so long, normally, because I’m slow, by the time I’ve finished, everyone else has recarbed up and yomped off home.  Maybe the warm weather brought more people out, or perhaps there was another event.  It didn’t really matter.  When I got to the front of the queue, I asked for an extra shot in my latte, but the server queried this as it already has two shots in it.  I think it’s good.  They obviously have and enforce an ‘enjoy caffeine responsibly’ policy, and I just didn’t look like I’d be able to handle it.

Sat outside in the sun for a post run debrief. Very nice it was too.

and then cheese scone (that was sooooooooooooooooooooo nice) consumed and coffee quaffed, it was time to go home.  What a fine morning had been had by all though.

Thank you lovely Longshaw people and fellow Trust10 participants for making it so.  Hope to be more regular in my visits in the year ahead.

🙂

By the way, if you are a fan of Longshaw and want to support them a bit more, there’s currently a big push for support for their Peak District Appeal, Woods for the Future A £20 donation doesn’t quite get you a dormouse named after you, but it could pay for a nest for a whole family, so that’s even better right?

£20 could get a nest for dormice

Also, just to be clear, a few footnotes for your edification and improvement:

+cakeage and bunnage refer to the practise of bringing large quantities of cake/ buns/ muffins etc to parkrun related celebrations or running related gatherings more generally.  Bunnage refers to any quantity greater than one bun, and cakeage to any quantity greater than one person can reasonably be expected to consume unaided.  Communal baking basically, and a very fine thing it is too.  Helped this one to a pb the following day, there’s a lot to be said for carbing up, clearly.

*FYI the earth is not flat.  Definitely not.  You’re welcome

So there you go, today’s Trust10 Longshaw 10k, Trust 10, call it what you will, done and dusted.  Nice wasn’t it?

For all my Trust 10k posts, click here.  Or don’t, it’s not compulsory.  You’ll have to scroll down for older entries

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or then again, don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll still need to scroll down for older entries though.

Happy trail running ’til next time.  Hope the sun shines on you wherever you are.

 

Categories: 10km, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmasss. Percy Pud 2017.

Percy pud 2017

Digested read:  has to be done.  Percy Pud 2017, nearly bottled it, then found out about the commemorative 25th anniversary T-shirt so as I’m shallow that was me back in.  Was quietly dreading the freezing start and drudgery of an icy road, but you know what, it was fab.u.lous.  Of course it was, it always is.   With it, the countdown for a Sheffield Christmas was properly underway, ready or not, it’s started.   You might as well try to hold back the tide, way better to just go with the flow.  Bravo all.  Same time next year?

Whether we choose to embrace them or not, the Winterval weeks are all about traditions.   Whether that is the relatively innocuous tradition of being required to don a festive Christmas jumper at work ‘because it’s for charity and you don’t want to be wearing the Scrooge placard for the rest of the year now do you?’; the more serious one of ending up in A&E on Christmas morning because you dropped a giant musical toblerone on your foot (substitute alternative injury of choice here); the massive family row/meltdown in a crowded, slush-filled supermarket car park because you’ve been clamped/ locked out of the car/ couldn’t buy sprouts because you came too late; the olfactory torture of being stuck in a store whilst a ‘christmas hits’ musak tape is on an 8 minute loop and the queue to the till is looking like a 32 minute one at least,  or the seasonal tyranny of receiving an unexpected Christmas card from someone you’d completely overlooked/ thought you’d agreed not to do cards with this year when you’ve missed the last posting dates to shoot back a retaliatory missive in timely fashion. Curses, the stress of it all.  The very thought of it is enough to make you implode.  Still, has to be done.  As sure as night follows day, some or all of the above will feature in your yuletide goings on.

Mind you, the primary school in Plymouth promoting a charity christmas jumper day in their newsletter did indeed put a smile on my face. Couldn’t make it up could you?  The tensions and complexities of the minefield that is Christmas made manifest.  Enjoy

christmas jumper day

Into this category of bowing to the inevitable, is the annual Percy Pud.  For those of you who are predominantly moon-based dwellers, or live outside the boundaries of Sheffield, this is an annual 10k road race, organised by a local running club the Steel City Striders, for which participants are rewarded for their efforts not with a medal on completion, but with a vegetarian friendly (gluten-free option also available) christmas pudding. There are festive trimmings a-plenty with santa leading the runners out and lots of fancy dress and general count down to Christmas cheeriness.  For seasoned runners, and once-a-year runners alike, the Percy Pud has become something of a Sheffield institution.

The Steel City Striders website page blah de blah blurb describes the Percy Pud thus:

We organise South Yorkshire’s most popular 10km each year which takes place on the first Sunday in December.

The event has grown in popularity from the first race in 1993 when 600 finished the race to recent years when the entry has had to be limited to around 2,200.

Such is the demand for numbers that in each of the last 10 years the race has sold out ahead of time.

The 2013 race was no exception, as the race limit was reached within two weeks of the entries opening, in 2014 this was 36 hours and in 2015 it took just 2 hours to sell 2,200 entries.

Why is it so popular? Traditionally each finisher in the race receives a Christmas pudding for their efforts. Food and seasonal music are provided after the race. Of course, the route is not bad either.

For many, the Percy Pud signals the start of Christmas.

There is indeed a massive scrum for places when they come available each year and it sells out incredibly quickly – though ironically there are always last-minute places available as injuries and illness take their toll nearer the time.

For my part – and I’m aware this is going to sound almost sacrilegious – I maintain an element of ambivalence about the Percy Pud. It is indeed a fine Sheffield institution, it does mark the start of Christmas, everyone who is anyone is there, it’s one massive reunion of not just running buddies but friends and acquaintances across the city.  It’s tough to fess up to having a few reservations about taking part. The problem is, I’d twice run the Percy Pud previously, and frankly both times have been type 2 fun at it’s most extreme.  Hideous and freezing at the time, but all that frost-bitten hardship and the humiliation of being overtaken by the bottle man quickly forgotten the moment a pudding is pressed into your hand.  I’m sure last time I did it in 2015 I vowed never again….  Then I couldn’t do it last year because I was working away in Cambodia and so you watch it all unfold from afar on Facebook and slip into a sort of treacherous nostalgia for it all.  I wasnt going to give in, too  cold, too wet, too much horizontal hail and too much roadiness, nope, not for me not this year.  Definitely not, I’m out, let others more committed than I take part.  I don’t even particularly like Christmas pudding.  Then came The Announcement and all change…

Sunday 3rd December 2017, 9:30am start.

Also, with it being the 25th running of the race, every finisher will receive a commemorative anniversary T-Shirt as well as a traditional Christmas Pudding.

Hang on a minute.  Let me just allow that news to sink in for a bit.  So you are saying there’ll be a T-shirt as well as a traditional Christmas PUdding? This is a game changer, only once in a quarter of a century will there be this option.  Bring it on.  I’m fickle, I’ll hold my hand up to being shallow, I’m so in now.  I’ll run for a T-shirt, even though it will probably be deeply unflattering, a male cut and not really fit properly anyway. These are but minor consideration compared to the kudos of a trophy like that.  Frankly, I’ve run for a lot less.

So, once entries opened on-line back on the 1st October I was lurking over the keyboard like the most sinister of online trolls. Waiting for my moment to pounce. Because of problems with registering in previous years the organisers brought in a new online booking system.  I thought it worked well.  If you logged in at or after the alloted time the system went live, you were randomly allocated a queue place in line with the number of available places for the event, you were given an estimated waiting time for when you’d be able to enter and then a 15 minute window to do so when it came around.  Worked for me. There was the – also traditional – usual flack from some who seem to think what is basically a local running club should have the IT booking systems of the international olympic committee  moaning about glitches, but to me that seems unfair.  Most people did get through eventually, and there were still places to be taken the following day.  There is no perfect system, and the event might fairly be said to have become a victim of its own success, but it seemed pretty smooth to me. Plus, it’s surely part of the Percy Pud ritual that you have to scrap to get in it.  It would be like doing musical chairs without taking away a chair each time. Yes, it’s stressful, but the exasperating tension about how the challenge will unfold all part of the fun!

After the succesful entry came the waiting, and the buyer’s remorse.  Life events and an annoying niggle meant I hardly did any of the training I was hoping for.  In fact in the month before the Percy Pud I managed a solitary XC run and a parkrun (I think) and that was it.  Fairly pitiful.  To fuel my growing unease was the ever growing survivors guilt.  Other runners truly gutted at having to pull out due to more obvious injury or illness.  The practicalities of it started to weigh me down. What about parking? How will I get there? What if I don’t know anyone?  What was I thinking?  What if I fall in the ice?  What if I can’t fit into my Smiley Paces running vest anymore?  Also, now I come to think of it, where is my number anyway?  I’ve just moved house, can’t find anything, disaster.  Hang on, no found it!  Phew…

Mercifully, I eventually came to my senses, reminding myself I only ever run to complete rather than compete so really it’d be fine. Then (of course) my Smiley Paces running buddies delivered up opportunities to share a lift.  It’s not that I’m actually incapable of driving there, but parking is a nightmare and it’s a lot more fun going with others – apart from that one time when we arrived early to watch the pouring rain pounding the windscreen of the car and my over-enthusiastic smiley buddies announced ‘oh good, we’ve still got a good twenty minutes to warm up‘ and they weren’t even joking!  I know.  This is what comes of hanging out with proper runners.

This year, I headed over to join some running buddies coming from Greystones.  The morning was actually pretty mild, with just a gentle drizzle in the air, pretty good for running.  We were three smilies and a designated driver (thank you), and after a brief delay for finishing off of breakfast, precautionary pees (that was me, and I was really awkward about it too, insisting the bike was moved so I could shut the door of the loo before I did so, me and my bashful bladder eh, sorry guys) and general faffing we boarded our tour bus. It wasn’t an actual tour bus, but it felt like it was, what with it being a shared adventure and everything.

Knowing parking would be a challenge the plan was to park a reasonable distance away from the event and facing homewards to allow for a speedier getaway.  As a consequence fo this we basically parked in Chesterfield I think.  En route, we passed a couple of runners who we joked must be running to the Percy Pud, only to have our collective smiles comprehensively wiped when we later saw that indeed they were, having come across from Fulwood.  I did clock that one of them was wearing a marathon kit bag, so that sort of explained their commitment to distance running. Then I felt a bit sick, as strictly speaking, that ought to be me then, but it never crossed my mind that I’d want to rack up an extra 8 miles with a race in between to get my long run in.  I really need to up my game and get my injuries sorted so I can crack on with a proper training regime… if I’m ever to make it to the start line of London next year, let alone the finish.

Parked up, we clambered up the hill to the start. This is when the fun commenced.  Yes we were having fun already.  There was not the biting chill wind of previous years more reminiscent of ill-fated trips to the antarctic than joyful sporting events.  Rather there was a merry trail of trainer-wearing people, many adorned with festive trimmings and sunny smiles all ready to take the 10k on.

On arrival, there wasn’t much to do, you pre-register, so other than dumping stuff in the tent and admiring the very fine bespoke marshal tops that certain officials were sporting it was just a question of joining the queue for the portaloos and trying to see people you knew.  I suppose some people did earnest warm ups, but I stuck with the spotting friends and going over for group selfies options.  Well, I needed to save my energy for the actual run, plus, if it’s not on Facebook it didn’t happen.  Of course it needs to be on Strava too as the gold standard of proof, but nothing wrong with belt and braces approach at an event as critical to the Sheffield running calendar as this one.

I managed to spot a couple of familiar faces, one an injured Smiley/Strider hybrid, with a knack for a fine selfie, and my new best friends forever bonded as we are through shared TNT XC exploits.  It is brilliant how you see sooooooooooooooooooo many people you know from the broader running and running related constituencies of Sheffield.  Loads of familiar faces from parkrun, Trust 10, The Trunce, RSR everything and anything really.  All incredibly friendly and good spirited.  Most people are nice you know, running people especially.

Various shots were taken to prove our individual and collective attendance, and then as time was short we joined the process to the start.  While we were waiting, there was still time to practise a bit of running form to get in the mood.  Remember people, running is basically a one-legged sport.

practising running technique CS

I’ve not been able to get to woodrun for a while, and I think it’s just possible it’s taken its toll, I think my form may just possibly have suffered somewhat due to my extended absence.  Ooops, hope I don’t bring shame and dishonour to my accelerate mentors…  I like to think they’ve seen worse, but then again, someone has to be at the bottom of the heap.  I know this to my cost.  I was once at a gym induction and was explaining to the pre-adolescent in charge that I struggled to use some of the weights machines as they didn’t seem to be able to adjust to my proportions ‘on no, you’ll be fine, they can do all sorts of weird shaped people‘ she cheerily retorted, attempting to put me at ease in accordance with requirement 4.7.2 of her NVQ competency recording book no doubt, only to have her face fall as I plonked myself in situ, and to blurt out unbidden ‘OMG – you really do have ridiculously short arms and legs!’ and I’m not even exaggerating for comic effect… you have no idea how hard it is to be me sometimes.   I’m only surprised she didn’t call over her fellow PTs in training so they could have a gawp  at my bizarre physique.  That’s what happened when I had my wrist examined at a physio appointment following a savage ferret attack some weeks earlier.  Suddenly everyone in the department wanted to come and have a gander at my novelty injury.  They must have been disappointed that there were so little to see to be fair.  Those sharp little teeth just delivered a multitude of near invisible puncture wounds, but did a lot of nerve and tissue damage in doing so.  The Grundys were playing with fire when they were keeping those potentially dangerous critters in my book.  Not that I approved of them being bludgeoned to death, even if Jo was down about being evicted, but I wouldn’t go near one again.  A ferret that is, not a Grundy.

Where was I, oh yes, fearful on the start line.  Along with everyone else.

It was a big start, over 2000 people signed up, and because the weather was mild I’d say we were pretty much all there.  It was a miracle I was facing the right way when the call to start went off.  It was a reasonably sedate start, it’s chip timed so no point in anyone shoving.  You start on a bit of a downhill, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt.  I was really worried due to almost total lack of running of late, but although I was slow and steady I did manage to run the whole thing (I fully appreciate for some runners this claim may sound pathetic, but I do resort to run/walking when I have to) the only time I walked was at the water station, which is allowed, definitely, though I still had hiccups for a bit afterwards.

You head down and quickly there are undulations – who put the sneaky uphill bit in? Then you are over the dam bridge with the reservoir. There were cheery supporters lining the route.  For some unknown reason, there was a noticeably thicker density of crowds in proximity to the pubs en route, I wonder why/  There was also some enthusiastic householders our front cheering runners on.  It’s such a good atmosphere.  Who doesn’t love being cheered on by complete strangers, it makes you feel great, even if the generic cheering isn’t particularly aimed at you, you will nevertheless get glory by association as other runners alongside you experience unfiltered adulation.

kindness of strangers

Sometimes more organised marshals/ supporters gave personalised shout outs ‘Go Smiley’ (other running clubs are available) this guy with a megaphone was working hard at that as I went out and still hard at it when I returned back later.  Impressive.

JC vocal support going round

Then there were the groupings of festively clad children.  They were brilliant, ecstatic if you returned their high-fives and keeping up vocal encouragement all morning if my experience was anything to go by.  I’m glad Santa took time to acknowledge their services, I think that’s what he’s doing.  Hope he’s not stealing from them, the body language is somewhat ambiguous, looks suspiciously like he’s asking for contributions, or looting their festive red bag, rather than passing out presents, but appearances can be deceptive I suppose..   Thank you nice Accelerate people for the use of photos.

Acc Santa

I’m not quite sure if he was the real santa, it’s so hard to know these days, and he wasn’t using the traditional form of transport which might mean he must be the real one as he has nothing to prove and can ride in whatever conveyance he so chooses, or could be proof positive he doesn’t know his Rudolph’s from his Blitzen or Buxom or Dunder or whoever it is.  Here are some other contenders, take your pick:

It’s basically an out and back course.  Generally speaking I don’t like those so much as circular routes.  However, for the Percy Pud, one of the great joys of the course is that as a relatively slow runner, whilst heading out you get to see the front runners storming back, led by Santa in his sports car.  There were marshals on hand also warning us ‘keep left, first man coming’.  The first man was extraordinary, so far ahead of the field, he must have run the whole thing on his own.  I gather last year’s winner arrived late so had to catch up which meant there wasn’t an opportunity for a direct sprint battle between the two.  Mind you, can’t remember where I read that now, so maybe I’ve imagined the whole thing.   I’m writing this up a couple of weeks after the event (no internet, long and dull but painful story) so that moment has passed.

Acc how to do it

A few minutes later,  another shout went up ‘first woman coming’, I was a bit surprised to be honest.  I mean there are some awesome women runners, but that front guy was super fast, and usually the strong men athletes are ahead of the first women, much as I’d love it to be otherwise. But no, it was true.  Storming through was the first woman with a little entourage of the elite men, it was really amazing to see them full on sprinting.  As someone who’s usually at the back I don’t often get to see that kind of action and focus, it was amazing, quite inspirational.  Inspirational rather than aspirational I concede, but stunning all the same. I stole this photo from somewhere, thanks AB for sharing.

First woman flying round AB

Not only did I see the great and the good, the fictional and the real, and fellow smilies aplenty, you also get to appreciate those who have made an effort on the costume front.

I was a bit under dressed this year I felt, but fortunately others compensated for my short comings with their grand designs.  I also think I had a pudding like silhouette by way of tribute to the occassion.  Channeling my inner pudding if you like, method acting at it’s best.

PH pudding run

Although costumes and fancy dress in particular are always a welcome feature of the Percy Pud, I feel a special mention needs to go to two of the fancy dress stalwarts without whom the Percy Pud would presumably be unable to take place.  It would be like having no ravens at the tower, catastrophe of unknown but epic proportions would inevitably follow.  It’s just not worth the risk.  I give you, in second place – the Christmas Tree.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong if you run dressed in a tree costume?  How hard can it be?

However, I think we all know the winner in the sense of being a quintessential part of the Percy Pud running experience, is the obligatory bottle of beer.   It’s not just sighting this which is critical for enjoyment on the day, for many it is being over-taken by it en route in all it’s glory. There is no shame in that people, just another Christmas tradition at the Percy Pud.  On this day in Loxley, many will be outrun by a 7 foot beer bottle, you aren’t special.

An honourable mention should also go to the bin man, fast on his way to being a PP institution too I’d say.  It’s good when people make an effort.  Fancy dress is always an option in my running world.  He looks very happy to have got his pudding at the end doesn’t he?

binning it CS

So as these runners were heading homewards,  I was still heading outwards.  It was all friendly and companionable.  I didn’t particularly chat to anyone, but pleasantries were exchanged.   Some expressed sympathy to me for being a member of a club with a name that put so much pressure on its members to maintain a smile whilst running at all times.  In fact it’s true, we do.  All smilies smile all the time.  Not sure what would happen if you didn’t, it’s never arisen.   Worth thinking about though, if you can’t maintain that outer countenance, you’ll need to find or found another club ‘grumpy gallumphers’ or similar I suppose.  Marshals merrily cheered us by, they were an exceptionally jolly lot this year, though I wasn’t going to be so easily fooled by the ‘nearly home‘ shouts as I was in my rookie Percy Pud years.  I’ve still not recovered from the shock of my first year of participation when someone shouted to me ‘100 metres to go‘ and I believed them, taking their call as my cue to launch into a sprint, it was more like 500 metres, I nearly died.  Some of the naive innocence within me died then also.  I do of course appreciate marshals still, but I am more wary and cynical about whether or not to take their protestations of either proximity to the finish (‘keep going, you’re nearly there!’) or course flatness/ terrain (reference Sheffield half marathon ‘all down hill from here‘ remarks).  I don’t wish to sound ungrateful, and of course I know such shouts are well-meaning and intended to be motivational but dear reader, don’t be too shocked to learn they are not always exactly true….  Trust is a precious thing, once it’s shattered, it’s hard to rebuild.

Thank you marshals though, you were all awesome, I did try to splutter thanks as I passed, but I know it can come across as being sarcastic when I’m struggling to breathe.  Glad Santa stopped off to see you all, you were definitely all good this year if your excellent delivery of Percy Pud support services was anything to go by.

After the half way point it’s a u-turn and back to the start.  The route seemed shorter this year, instead of icy wind scraping away my face as I ran, I actually felt a bit too warm.  It was lovely coming back over the bridge to see a friendly face – sorry you were injured running buddy, but thanks for the encouragement in the final stages.  The photo has the advantage of making it look like I must be so far in the lead there is not another runner in sight, it also has the disadvantage of making it look like I only just made it back before darkness fell.  As is often the case with these things, the truth lies somewhere in between!

dam improvements

Over the dam, round the corner, up the hill. There was still a fair old crowd as I approached the finish line.  Just a bit ahead of me there was another runner who seemed to be slowing, for reasons which now entirely escape me, I saw my moment and dug deep for a sprint finish.  It was really fun, I thought I’d snatched ahead, but I think as I ‘overtook’ she heard me and put up a mighty fight.

In our own small way, we were just as competitive as the first woman crossing the line, though she was marginally more photogenic at her moment of triumph. This was the winning picture in the 2017 Percy Pud photo competition by the way.  You can see why, could have been me(ish).  I’m sure our reception was just as celebratory, I can still hear the cries of congratulation ringing in my ears even now!

13-Kev-D-1000x677 winning photo

Last year’s (2016) top three are here.

So that was that.  Spat through the finish and slammed into the back of a very, very long queue of people waiting for T-shirts and puddings, because that was basically what the whole thing was about.  Patient marshals proffered puddings, and your number had a cross put on it to stop you turning round and coming back for more.  Only, there was a flaw in the system, as I went to chat to a marshalling Smiley buddy, and by crossing my tracks in this way found myself to be the recipient of another cross leading to false accusations of pudding hoarding.  I wouldn’t mind so much but I don’t even like christmas pudding particularly, even if I did, there is only so much christmas pudding one can consume!

Even more exciting than the pudding, was the first sighting of the proffered tops.  ‘What size do you want?’ asked a marshal.  Another corrected, loudly ‘irrelevant, what size did you order?’.  I didn’t like to let on I really had no idea, so I just opted for a medium.  Initially I was a bit hesitant about the muddy brown look of it, but you know what, this T-shirt has really grown on me.  It’s not muddy brown, more plum pudding coloured.  To be worn with pride by many and for years to come I’d say.  It could yet be one of my very few (two) running event tops that I’m actually minded to wear from time to time, this is high praise indeed. There follows a sequence of happy smilies with puddings and T-shirts and ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt‘ smiles of yuletide joy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then, in keeping with another long-held smiley tradition, which extends to Christmas, I found I missed out on the semi-official Smiley group shot.  I’m always back too late for these after race picture.  Oh well.  They are still lovely though, even without me.  To be fair, this can’t have been the full Smiley contingent, there were loads of us out and about causing merriment.

smiley team shot

Never mind, there is a photo of me with my car share buddies post run.  I don’t know why it looks like I’ve photoshopped on the T-shirt, I did honestly get given it fair and square, but I concede the photographic evidence may plant a small seed of doubt in your mind dear reader.  I can only say come on dear reader, it’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas, show a bit of generosity of spirit and give me the benefit of any such shadow of doubt.

photoshopped tshirt

And that was pretty much that.  Just the long walk back to Chesterfield to retrieve the car. The sun was out, the scenery was stunning, I doubt my photos will do it justice but hey ho.  Thank you carpool buddies for the solidarity, co-conspiratorial companionship and the free ride.  Yay us!  What larks eh?  What larks.

And that was that, all over for another year.  Another event triumph.  It always delivers the Percy Pud, it has a rightful claim to be known as a Sheffield institution.  Same time next year?  More than likely, I enjoyed it, despite my bursting calf and lack of proper preparation, it’s a feel good event.  I keep forgetting it’s basically a road run, as I don’t really like road running, but this is fun, it seems to have become an almost tribal gathering of Sheffield runners at a given time in a given place, to miss out on it, is to miss out on some of the annual bonding rituals that brings runners together.  If you can just make it through the stress of the entry system, it’ll be worth all that angstyness on the day!

Oh, almost forgot, for those of you who need to know, because I do have to concede it’s a race not a run – the results for the Percy Pud 2017 event are here.  To be fair, even though I’m not generally especially interested in the results, this year they were very exciting.  This is because:

Breaking news is that for the second year in a row both male and female course records were broken today and the club handed over £1000 cheques to each of the winners.

Local runner from Hallamshire Harriers Andrew Heyes took 15 seconds off last years course record winning in a stunning 29:42.

In the ladies race, Rio 2016 Olympic 5000m finalist Eilish McColgan of Dundee Hawkhill Harriers broke her own course record by 10 seconds by finishing in 32:32.  She also finished 2nd overall behind Andrew highlighting her dominance today.  Her time was the second best 10k time in the country this year.

That’s pretty impressive is it not, on all counts.  Wow.  Her performance even made a write up in The Star last year (2016), which is basically the Sheffield equivalent of winning sports personality of the year, pretty impressive, but not enough to merit a golden pillar box a la the lovely Jessica.  Good effort though. Jolly well done.

And maybe, just maybe, despite my protestations to the contrary, sometimes my inner competitive spirit will make an unexpected lunge outwards in a desperate bid for freedom!  It does wear off quite quickly though.

having you MH

And if you need to know the route, it’s here, prettier than you might think, with winter sunshine lighting the way.  Don’t worry about getting lost though, even if you are in the lead it’s still just a question of keeping santa in your sights and you’ll be reet.  Enjoy.

The route

So there you go. If you want to know any more about the legendary event that is the Percy Pud, you’ll have to sign up next year and do your own primary ethnographic research.  You won’t regret it.

See you there!  🙂

With thanks to all who shared photos including ste Smith, Sheena Woodhead, Carol Speight, Accelerate, and fellow Smilies and the many nameless others who took photos on the day.  It’s always fun looking back through them and reliving the day.  Some professional photos are availabe for a fee from Mike Hall photographyThe Star did a medley of Percy Pud photos as a video, complete with annoying background music.  And a late last minute find, I stumbled across this one from Mark Walton of the passing masses en route posted on the ‘Pictures of Sheffield old and new Facebook page.  Grand is it not?  This is what running always looks like to me at organised events.  A sea of the backs of people speeding away from me into the distance.  Sigh.  Memories eh?

mark walton en route shot

For all my Percy Pud related posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

Merry Winterval until next time.

 

PS bit of a cheat this one, am publishing backdated to 3 december 2017 but actually did the write up today, 18th December.  Life in general and lack of internet access in particular getting in the way of my blogging career at times, would you credit it? Some think such extended silence from me is a blessing.  You have to decide for yourself.

Categories: 10km, Percy Pud, race, road, running | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

The power of ten – TenTenTen 2017

Digested read:  It was the TenTenTen last Sunday.  The quintessential Sheffield Trail 10k no less.  I went.  I ran (sort of) it was very nice thank you for asking.  There were some moment of high drama like when the toilets didn’t materialise but crisis was averted, bladder infections avoided and all’s well that ends well.  For those that lingered there were extra bananas!  What’s not to like. Are you coming same time next year? Do so, you won’t regret it.

Is the re-writing of history ever completely innocuous?  I don’t honestly know, but it certainly seems to be the case that ‘facts’ are often evolving and fluid and not as nailed down as some might choose to believe.  Case in point. I thought (knew even), that the 101010 was so called, because the inaugural event took place on 10th October 2010. So in a genius bit of race naming, the TenTenTen was born.  (You can see what they’ve done there 10/10/10, smart eh?).  Hurrah!

tententen logo

It may have been genius, but it was unfortunately short-sighted genius, as what was a rousing and apt name choice in 2010, lost some of its relevance when you get to 2011 and beyond. This is harsh, as the very success of the event, and its longevity, made the naming of it potentially problematic.  No worries, just a little tweak of history, and now the accepted wisdom has become ‘well, it’s a 10k, and it takes place in October (tenth month everyone, keep up) and it always starts at 10.00 a.m. so hence TenTenTen!  Voila!’  I accept it is the prerogative of race/run organisers everywhere to name races as they choose, but it does mess with my head a bit.  I have now heard disbelief from others as I state my recollection of the origins of this classic Sheffield trail run.  Is that how easy it is to reframe history?  We should all be scared.  Just saying.

Even with this factual re-write, the name is confusing to some.  It’s a problem with a lot of runs round here that unless you’ve experienced them the name doesn’t immediately communicate what they are.  Trunce anyone?  Dark and White series? I rest my case.  Only last night I met a friend who was really impressed I’d done the 101010 (and rather surprised) as she’d thought it was called the TenTenTen because you run 10k three times. Three times!  I ask you. Blimey, imagine doing 6 laps from Endcliffe park to get to the 30k, diminishing fun quotient I feel.   Though I did like the marshal who on lap two was proclaiming ‘8 more laps to go’ insisting it is a ten lap course, hence it’s nomenclature.  The possibilities for interpretation are seemingly endless.  More so if I understood binary numbering systems.  It’s probably computer code for something even more mysterious if I but only knew…

In any event, we can all agree that it is a 10k run, it started in 2010 and has become a (hopefully) permanent fixture since.  Another from the kandoo stables of event conjury, it is described as ‘the quintessential 10k running race‘ this tag line makes me happy.  ‘Quintessential’ is a fine adjective that gets not nearly enough exposure.  It makes  me love the event even more.  For those of you not in the know, the TenTenTen website blah de blah describes the event as follows:

What is the Sheffield TENTENTEN?

It’s an exciting and creative multi-terrain trail 10k,  attracting over 1000 runners each year the event has a great atmosphere, and is well supported. The first edition was on the 10th October 2010, hence the funny name!

Who is it for?

This is an all-inclusive event, anyone from 4 upwards can compete in the 2.5k Fun Run, and 15 upwards for the 10k. All abilities are represented, many have started their running journey at this event. The range is wide we have even had international standard representation (see course record). Then there is the rest of the family, bring them along to soak up the atmosphere and support. 

The Course

The course has been created with a twist of creativity and innovation. It’s not your regular road race, it is run on grass, road, paved paths and woodland trails. It’s a really balanced mix, and introduces novices to the world of trail running gently. The course does have a few lumps and bumps, twists and turns, and all adds to the fun

So for the record, the official line seems to be that the naming of the TenTenTen is a indeed a reference to its historical origins, and those who spin other truths risk being branded purveyors of fake news, and that never ends well.  The Kandoo team is very good at organising running events, but I wouldn’t necessarily have them at as the headline act topping the bill at an international comedy festival say. The name is novel, but not really side-splittingly hilarious to be fair.  Perhaps funny-peculiar rather than funny ha-ha? They do have a sense of humour though, they must have to have initiated the doggy dash amongst other innovations.  Plus all running events are inherently hilarious. So all is not lost. Well, I think they are anyway.  On a personal level I sure as hell don’t participate in any running endeavour to experience individual sporting glory, but rather for the intrinsic merriment of what is essentially a pointless collective endeavour.  It is completely illogical and ridiculous to just run round in two big circles for no particular reason if you stop to think about it.  But you mustn’t stop, because then it wouldn’t bea  10k run.  That’s not to say there aren’t members of the sporting elite at these events, only that the race caters for both ends of the running spectrum.  If my experience is anything to go by, they are genuinely inclusive and celebrate the social side of running whilst applauding and rewarding running excellence as well.  Quite an organisational coup to pull off I’d say.  It all takes place starting in Endcliffe Park.  Here is the park looking lovely, before the event village made camp, thereafter it still looked lovely, but in a very different way.

ten calm endcliffe

By the way, one of the attention to detail things they typically do is to make TenTenTen run photos freely available via their Facebook page, but request that if you use them, you make a donation to their nominated charity  The photos are always excellent and pop up on profile pages everywhere, so here’s hoping if you enjoy them, you’ll be minded to make a contribution too.  It’s not so very much to ask, as the organisers put it …

Some inspiring Finish pics from Race Image Photography – Ian has very kindly decided to donate his photography fee to Weston Park Cancer Charity If you do end up using your pics do consider a small donation www.justgiving.com/tententen2017 Photos also supplied by True Glass Photography and Ben Lumley Photography

So there were plenty of snappers on hand for runners to direct their ‘seen a photographer face’ at.  Always a boon.  This is my favourite photo of the day by the way:

ten hill fun VHR

I’m guessing swift up that hill but I’m thinking fractionally slow on the uptake in spotting the paparazzi, but the result is a gift to us all in the form of this photo that is a joy to behold.  So can we have a shout out to all the photographers on the day for fabulous photographing throughout?  I thank you.

That might be my favourite photo of the day, but this was my favourite sight:

beautiful sight indeed

Sometimes you don’t really appreciate a thing until you think it has been taken away from you.  More of this later.

I will out myself now. I do have a bit of a soft spot for the TenTenTen.  When I first moved to Sheffield as a complete non-runner (as opposed to the pretend runner I pass myself off as currently), I saw signs for the forthcoming 10k trail run and marveled that people did such a thing and hankered after being able to do such a seemingly impossible thing myself one day too.  On the day itself, it was torrential rain, really, a lot of water out there.  All coming out the sky (unsurprisingly) and bouncing back at ya from the ground as well.  I happened to see my bedraggled next door neighbour returning from having run it sporting his bling and looking hardcore.  I was very impressed. Six miles running on a trail in that was clearly not for the faint hearted.  Fast forward, and it still seems extraordinary to me that I can now count myself as one of its participants. I’ve only run it a couple of times, and last year volunteered in return for a free place this time round (an enjoyable option if you fancy a year off or can’t run because injured some time). Through volunteering I made two new friends and so sourced some outstanding running buddies, and you can never have too many of them.  However, the event has a symbolism that goes beyond what it is, which is a basically a very nice 10k trail in two laps from Endcliffe park. As I could in theory at least run that any time, it’s appeal is perhaps a bit disproportionate, but it is the camaraderie and added value that being able to access a proper coffee and pizza wedge afterwards that elevates the event beyond the ordinary.  I was looking forward to it.

Well,  I was looking forwards to it, and then the unthinkable happened.  Not in this instance the realisation that I’d be expected to run.  But when I had my pre-event peak at Facebook in case of any updates I saw this:

Morning guys – we have a bit of an issue this morning – our toilets have been cancelled on us at 3am this morning! As a result there are very limited toilets onsite – we are trying to rectify the problem quickly!
Please try and arrive Having done your business! Please bear with us!

ten loo alert

They tried to ease the pain with a nice photo, but really.  It was all very well saying ‘fingers crossed’ it’ll be sorted, but I had visions of having to run the whole event with my legs crossed!  That was my whole pre-race ritual out of the window.  I must have a multitude of precautionary pees before any organised event.  This was bad.  I imagine though, my horror, was as nothing to that of the organisers.  What good is a 3 a.m. cancellation to anyone. Co-incidentally, that is about the time that always wake spontaneously for my night-time pee.  We must all be synchronised to do so across the land, if this is when cancellation emails are sent and received.

I’ve no idea how they got it sorted, but amazingly they did.  An hour later, new loos were in situ.  Not just any loos, but luxury ones with fluffy white hand towels, gold-plated taps and a spa whirlpool annexe round the back.  (Not really, but it was such a joy to behold them, they may as well have done).

luxury loo

Presumably Mr Kandoo has a batphone link to emergency toilet purveyors. I suppose they get helicoptered (or bat-dropped) in on demand if you have the right contacts.  I so wish I did, that would be such a boon at events when you are desperate for the loo and there is ne’er a toilet cubicle in sight.  Mind you, I can’t help but think if they had gone ahead with the Doggy Dash plan (doggy run as a prelude to the main event), then most people present would have come with a supply of poop bags for their canines and incontinence products for themselves as a precautionary measure in case they wet themselves with either fear or laughter during the K9 run proceedings.  This has all been documented previously..  In that case the lack of loos would have been less of an issue as runners would have been prepared. Just some helpful feedback for the race team to take on board there.

Even so, I would welcome that as a super power quite frankly, the ability to conjure up a loo any time, any place, anywhere.  Would be great if you could extend it to introducing sanitation into areas of the world where there is none, I wouldn’t only use it out of narrow self-interest, though I can’t lie, I’d probably do that too.

helicopter portaloo drop

I decided against an early show at Endcliffe Park, delaying departure as long as possible.  I’d picked up my number in advance from Front Runner anyways so no particular need to go early other than to queue up perpetually for the loos.  Once a Facebook update indicated the problem was sorted, I ambled down.

It was a glorious running day, perfect autumnal weather.  No rain, cool but a little promise of sunshine to come perhaps.  It was fun walking down and enjoying the familiar rituals of the event, the ‘road closed’ signs and coned off entrance to Bingham park ahead of The Hill.

 

Better yet there were familiar faces in their expected marshaling points.  This particular marshal pretty much owns this mini-roundabout.  It wouldn’t be the TenTenTen without her in place.  Apparently this marshalling  post requires someone arsey, gobby and with a voice like a fog-horn who is not to be messed with with excellent leadership and negotiation skills as it can be a bit challenging being situated where the road is blocked off.  Fortunately, cometh the hour, cometh the woman who can. Shout out to one of our very own Sheffield Hallam parkrun run directors and volunteer par excellence strutting her funky stuff.  We who are about to run salute you!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then you start to encounter the first of many red arrows – not quite as exciting as I first thought to be fair, being more earth-bound than flight bound, but nevertheless, leading the way.

 

As I went through the park, I met with the first of the 2.5km fun runners.  I had a bit of a pang that I was missing Graves junior parkrun today, but this was almost as good.  Some of the young runners really do sprint by, but there were a few merrily making their way with miscellaneous adults in tow which was quite sweet.  And I was delighted to spot a Smiley out and about so soon as well. Go Smilies!  I didn’t think the adults on bikes was entirely sporting, but then again, you have to stay ahead/ keep up with those speeding juniors somehow!

 

I missed the communal warm up for the junior event, but the photos made that look well impressive. It was led by the amazing levitating man from Trib3, but even more impressively, he had some of those juniors levitating too!  What do they get up to at that gym?

ten levitating man

Coming into the event village, there was a joyous sight for sore eyes to soak up before taking in the glories of the other facilities on offer.

sight for sore eyes

I did get to see some of the juniors return victorious.  Cute quotient of junior runners for a Sunday was thus fulfilled.  Phew.  You’d have to be in possession of an ice-cold heart not to smile and share the joy in some of these shots.  I like the use of a personal trainer at the finish and the hand holding over the line.  Altogether now …. ‘aaaah!’

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After cheering back some of the juniors, then it was milling and chilling time.  Trying to find other smilies mainly.  I did a circuit to say some hellos to the great and the good and then joined the perpetual motion immersion experience that is queuing for the loos.

 

ten venue

I didn’t find all that many smilies to be fair, but enough for a couple of pre-run selfies which was the main thing.  Other smilies were volunteering, and there were plenty of familiar faces from other clubs in general and parkrun in particular.  It’s great doing local events in that respect, you can’t fail to recognise loads of people and it makes the whole thing feel supportive and friendly. Well I find it to be so anyway.  Depends how you feel about the value of anonymity when running.  I had to field a few disappointed queries from those wondering why I was solo ‘what no giraffe‘ but I explained about Geronimo resting up at the moment.  I think I did a bit too much with her a couple of months back what with Vitality Move and the Round Sheffield Run so I’m keeping her rested up til Christmas now probably.  Maybe next year though. We’ll see.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It is perhaps a little unfortunate that the group shot was snapped at the precise moment one of our number spotted the Endcliffe Park flasher, but these things happen.  At least it gives the photo an authenticity it might otherwise have lacked.  Can’t accuse us motley crew of being too posed!

Photos snapped, gossip shared, bags dropped. There was a warm up for the main event, but I took the precaution of not joining in too much for fear of wearing myself out.  Instead, I took my place in the starting pens alongside new best friends from TNT who let me peer inside their tops for sizing purposes.  I seem to have accidentally signed up to do some cross country with them next month, and needed to know about kit. Those tops look tight though, even by running top standards.  Could be a squeeze.  I love that it’s OK in running start line ups to ask such questions, you aren’t normally allowed to put such posers when queuing in the post office say, but in a running context, completely acceptable behaviour.  Discussions on moisture management socks are probably OK too, but I’d generally make my opening question about choice of running shoes to be on the safe side.

 

So after milling and chilling, there was warm up, hanging about and then ‘suddenly’ we were off.  Actually, it was a bit slow going over the starting mats, but no worries, it’s all chip timed anyway, so only the purists focusing on gun times would have had an issue, and I expect they all started at the front anyway.

The first obstacle of the morning was an impromptu lake.  This was before we’d even left the park, and it was hilarious how many of us tried to pick our way around it, as if this would be the only water we’d encounter en route.  I am learning that it’s best to get your feet soaked early on in trail events so you stop pussy footing around and just plough through.  You’ll get wet feet anyway, but surrendering to the inevitable early on, you gain confidence and a more direct route round.  A sound investment if you are but bold enough to take it!  Here is the puddle, and some gratuitous trainer shots, courtesy of the TenTenTen photography team, who know the power of such titillating running shoe images.  Well I think it’s the shoes, not the calf shots.  Each to their own though.  That water feature would have been quite good for the doggy dash incidentally … maybe next year that fantasy will become a reality.  We can cross our fingers for that, now we don’t have to keep our legs crossed any  more.

 

Out of the park, onto Rustlings Road.  Lawks a-lordy how I hate running on roads, especially in my trail shoes. Not anywhere near enough cushioning, I could feel my feet splintering.  I need to go to Trib3 and learn to levitate, or concentrate more at Accelerate trail runs so I can be lighter on my feet.  Meantime, I’ll just wince a lot.  And complain.

AFter the road, it’s pretty much straight away The Hill.  It’s only a really short section, but it’s a steep grassy bank of exceptional slipperiness.  You are supposed to cycle up it according to the signage, maybe that’s part of the problem.

The Hill

The photo makes it seem pretty innocuous, but it is like trying to ascend a greased up slide.  Have you ever watched  Total Wipeout?  Pleasingly, I learned from Front Runner on a recce of the course some years ago that it is legitimate race craft to just walk up this hill. Why exhaust yourself over such a short distance, only to be thwarted by a bottle neck as you enter the woods down a narrow path at the top of it. For all but the elite, running up it is pretty much futile, though it is massively entertaining for spectators, so it comes down to how much of an exhibitionist crowd pleaser slash competitive athlete you are on the day. Great photos though.  On a serious note, I have no idea at all how the lead bike got up it, it was a mud slide by lap two…

 

Mercifully, I was spared a photo of myself tackling the hill.  Possibly because I crawled up on my hands and knees, and therefore was under the sight line of the photographer throughout.

This hill is probably the worst/best bit, depending on your point of view.  On reaching the top, you duck into the wood and it’s a lovely sheltered woodland trail. You have to watch out for tree roots, and it is narrow, so pretty much impossible to overtake.  Again, that doesn’t worry me, but it did slow me quite a bit, maybe I should have gone a bit further forward in the starting line up after all.  It was a nice yomp through, periodically marshals appeared to point and cheer and warn of any particular hazards ahead.  It all feels very well supported and safe. There was one moment in the trails where I heard the tell-tale shriek that signified we had a runner down, a woman had taken a tumble in the woods.  By the time I got there a number of people were helping, I asked if any help was needed but was told not. A bit further on there was a marshal who had obviously been alerted to the incident and was making their way back to her clutching a first aid kit.  Hope it was a first aid kit with something more than a sling and an elastoplast or it might have been a challenge. Joking apart, she was walking wounded, so even if a regrettable DNF, which seems likely, I don’t think it was too serious.  Hope not anyway, recover soon whoever you are.

The 10k is in two 5k laps, so you emerge from the woods at intervals onto road crossings, so there are plenty of opportunities for supporters to cheer you around, and in between are smiling clapping marshals.  Here’s one by way of illustration, but other marshals were available to. Thank you all for being all-round awesome.  Much appreciated – which isn’t an observation I’d automatically make to any random man loitering in the woods in the expectation of runners coming by shortly.  So much etiquette in life is context specific don’t you agree?

hi viz hero

Have I mentioned already how brilliant it is doing a local race because you’ll know so may people out and about on the day?  I did?  Well, every silver lining has its cloud. The downside of being part of the local vibrant running community is that there is really nowhere to hide.  It was like running under surveillance, every time I nursed even a distant thought of slacking off a smiley or woodrun supporter would pop out from behind a tree and shout some words of encouragement and support.  It would be rude to be caught out walking in such scenarios.  If I saw them first I was able to implement my ‘I’ve been doing perfect running form all the way round‘ mode, and knock out a few strides of graceful (by my standards) bounding.  If they saw me first, I had to do an apologetic little spurt of ‘honestly, this is the first time I’ve backed off the whole time‘, not sure how convincing either performance was…  With some I just stopped and went in for the hug or the shameless wave.  It’s quite a complex social interaction to be fair.  We all have our own tactics when running under observation.  It’s not just me, it’s well documented.  Have you never heard of the Hawthorne effect?  Nevertheless, it was unconditionally brilliant to be cheered round. You almost feel like a celebrity if you hear the Go Smiley shout out, and as for an actual name call, well, that’s the ultimate accolade. So thanks everyone who popped up.  I applaud you all.  Whether you bounced out from behind the railings on Rustlings Road; gave a post- Tissington hug in Endcliffe Park; shooed me round the mini-roundabout at Oakbrook road; high-fived me in a family quartet near the lake; cheered me on the road as I turned back for home; enquired about my party hat at the road crossing or cajoled me up the hill.  You are appreciated.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Running buddies are The Best.  Fact.

Known supporters are particularly welcome, but you know what, I’m shallow, I’ll take encouragement from wherever it comes.  There was lots.  A few children offered up high-fives which is always a boon.  I made one miscalculation though, going in for a high-five with a little girl who seemed up for it, but then the sight of me bearing down on her caused her to have a change of heart.  I fear I may have left her mildly traumatized even though I aborted my manoeuvre just in time.  Feeling guilt ridden, I was therefore massively cheered to see as I cornered a family quartet of known supporters, positioning themselves so I could go for the full monty of a perfect four high fives on passing.  Reader I did it.  I couldn’t have been more impressed by our co-operation and co-ordination if I had indeed been part of a red arrow fly past display.  We were genius, and far better in terms of CO2 omissions too.  I mean no family experiences that much fatulence surely, even with the excitement of procuring cumulative high fives factored in?

Alarmingly early on in my first lap a bike started to push through.  I was initially annoyed, ‘why is a cyclist being so assertive in the midst of a load of runners?’ then I realised it was the lead bike. The first runner home was way ahead of the pack.  Admittedly I have been lapped previously at the TenTenTen, but only just at the half way point, this was much earlier on. He led by a good few minutes, it was impressive, but almost disturbing, that’s got to be super-human speed surely.  It’s not a massively challenging course, but it isn’t as predictable as road running, he was super fast.

ten how its done

By the time I got to half way, there were a few more runners streaming to the finish.  I contemplated joining them, but figured first woman home was a bit of a stretch, and what’s the point.  I headed on round and to the water station, where a fellow smiley was on the bottles so to speak.  I haven’t sussed drinking and running, so stopped to drink and walked on for a bit.  I really do need to work out how to hydrate on longer runs, it isn’t efficient to just zone out for a while, though it is fun watching other runners pass.

Soon I was back at the hill.  It was even more slidey now, and I struggled to get up it even with my grippy innov8 shoes.  I didn’t mind too much that I was struggling up as other runners were similarly cautiously trying to pick their way through the mud.  Less supportively, and more mysteriously, by the time we came round for the second lap there were some kids playing by just running up and down the hill apparently entirely effortlessly.   I could have wept.  How do they do that?  How come it’s even possible?  They were veritably skipping up it I tell you. SKIPPING!

The field spread out a bit more in the second lap, and weirdly I found this second 5km much easier than the first.  It seems to take me 5k to warm up.  Maybe I should try doing an actual warm up before a run one day and see if that helps.  High risk though, don’t want to use up all my stored carbohydrate supplies too early on in proceedings.  It was fun seeing the same marshals the next time round. All of them kept up a constant stream of words of encouragement.  Well maybe the ‘only eight laps to go‘ quip wasn’t entirely encouraging, but it was funny, and that marshal did correctly inform us this was the highest point of the run so kudos to him.

Oh yes, and there were the race photographers too, they took some great photos (make your donation to Weston park people, it’s the least you can do).  Now might be a good time to put some more in:

 

Whilst the photographers did a grand job of taking photos (not entirely unexpectedly, that is sort of their area of expertise I suppose) also out on the course was the Selfie Queen and back marker for the day.  Injury limiting her running plans, she was making the most of taking it relatively steady en route.  Bonding, sharing the joy of running and documenting the occasion. Plus, on flag removal duty on the second lap, that’s a lot of multi-tasking going on there.  I have been accompanied by a back marker on fell runs. On one particular occassion (Bamford Sheep Dog Trials) the tail runner kept disappearing into the bushes every few hundred metres or so.  I spent a long time thinking he really should get his prostate checked out before I twigged he was dismantling the course behind me!  Anyway, I give you the perfected running selfie.  I know, impressive.  I don’t know how she does it, she hasn’t even got a selfie stick, or go pro or anything, just a natural I suppose…

backmarking and selfie queen

So then almost suddenly, it was the final loop and back in the park towards the finish funnel. There was still a crowd to cheer runners home, and it is wonderful to experience that.  There is such an outpouring of goodwill at the kandoo events.  For that moment you can really believe that running is fun, and be all enthused about doing it all again as soon as possible!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So you pass through the finish, get your bling (always excellent at this event, though the fun runners are under a directive only to use the bottle opener feature for ginger pop opening unless they are catering for the needs of their adult supervisors).  You could queue up for a DIY goodie bag (crisps, banana, rather good peanut butter and caramel or something bar, water, voucher for Trib3 all within a Sainsburys bag for life).  Better yet, there were smilies about and even a Smiley supporter (and my high-five quartet) who was distributing slices of pizza!  I know. Oh my god that was brilliant.  I felt a bit guilty accepting (didn’t want the family to go hungry) but I got over that pretty quick, and then further exploited the child labour on hand by getting them to take some post run shots.  Well, in for a penny eh? Thanks though 🙂

smiley finishers

Then I joined a short queue to get an instantaneous print out of my time, before rejoining my Smiley buddies ahead of the prize giving because one of our own was champion V60 Smiley. Back and on it after an injury induced absence.  Yay!  We gathered by the podium for the awards.  It was a very cheery spectacle.  It was also the occasion of the annual moss family photo as between them they won just about everything in all categories.  I wonder if that is a genetic coincidence or the product of a captive breeding programme.  I didn’t like to ask.  Well done though, very impressive.

The awards are great,  not just the cash vouchers which were no doubt welcome, but the silver trainer trophies with writing on the side. Very good.

 

As the awards ceremony was underway, a shout went up for the final finisher and back marker coming in.  We broke off to go and cheer them home. It was quite emotional watching them come across the finish holding hands.  They’d had a ball out there.  Congratulatory hugs all round and new running buddies forged.

 

I might have had something in my eye watching that.

More prizes, and then it was foraging for coffee, massages, post run anecdotes.  All needs were catered for!

 

So I lingered for post run coffee with awesome running buddies. And then just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, there were bananas being gifted in abundance, like they grew on trees or something.  We final few went home laden.  Hurrah.

So that was that, goodbye TenTenTen for another year.  Thanks everyone, organisers, volunteers, running buddies all.  All ended apart from the chafing.  I do so wish they did enormous g cup compeed plasters, then there would be no more bra related injuries for me.  I’ll add that to my wish list of sponsored goods for when I’m a famous sporting personality and get to commission my own gear.

Oh I nearly forgot, for them of you as care about such things, the TenTenTen results from over the years are here.

You’re welcome.

Happy running til next time.

This could be you in the frame same time next year. Just saying.  🙂

 

For all my TenTenTen related posts click here, scroll down for older entries

For Kandoo Round Sheffield Run related posts click here, scroll down for older entries.

Like the pictures?  Go on, make a donation, every little helps, and the feel good factor will make you run faster next year www.justgiving.com/tententen2017

Categories: 10km, off road, running | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Longshaw Revisited: Resolute Romping Round the Rear

Digested read: panicked by having inadvertently entering a 12 mile trail run, I finally made it back to Longshaw for the Trust 10k to try to get some miles on my legs.  Still there, still fabulous.  Nice chit chat romping round at the back.  Cross training insights too.  You’ve got to love the Longshaw Trust 10k. No honestly, you actually really have.

Loving Longshaw

It’s been a while since I had a good romp round Longshaw.  The monthly trail run which is part of the wondrous National Trust 10k running series.  In my defence I’d been away in Cambodia for a few months when I couldn’t run at all, so lost my running mojo/ confidence entirely.  Then when I got back to Sheffield those blooming hills had grown even higher and steeper in my absence, and seemed to thwart my feeble attempts to scramble up them at anything other than a breathless crawl.  Going back to do the Longshaw 10k seemed a bit over-ambitious when I could hardly walk to the shops without risk of asphyxiation due to over-exertion on local gradients.  Also I’ve been volunteering at Junior parkrun, that is a great way to spend a Sunday morning, and then there was the Round Sheffield Run, another Longshaw 10k weekend missed.  Before I knew it, months had passed. Time moves on.

Then, the other week I thought, hang on, I’m missing out here.   I do love Longshaw, it’s a shame to miss it. Besides, as experienced runners will tell you, the only way to improve at running round trails and up hills is to actually do some running round trails and up hills by way of practice (alongside your cross training – but more of that later).  Although my fitness levels remain lamentable, the Longshaw event is friendly and fun (think parkrun, only trails and twice as long) – why not go? Also, weighing on my mind is that I’ve committed now to completing the 12.12 later next month – the Dig Deep 12 mile off-road option.  Entering seemed like a good idea at the time, in a post-parkrun euphoria of misplaced optimism.  I’ve even written my pledge down for pity’s sake, that means I have to ‘make it so‘, or risk a public humiliation even greater than that I will experience from being witnessed puffing round it, whilst any passing walkers (and make no mistake, they will be passing me) mutter to each other ‘what was she thinking?’ as they stride on by.

pledge photos

You can see what’s happening can’t you.  My confidence and enthusiasm have somewhat waned. The idea seems even less inspired now I realise I can’t navigate my way out of a paper bag, let alone off Higger Tour… Oh well.  I’ve committed now, and I remain conscientious if not still keen.  Plus, the setting will be gorgeous with the heather out, less so if there is horizontal rain and you can’t see your hand in front of your face admittedly, but that might still qualify as type two fun (retrospective not contemporaneous fun), potentially generating an amusing anecdote to boot.   Always a boon on any running related endeavour, and everyone appreciates a good boon.  However, even in my most optimistic moments, you have to respect the (to me) longer route and uneven terrain, this isn’t an event you can just rock up to on the day and hope for the best.  Well you can, but it would definitely end in tears, I do feel a need to some training in advance.  It’s a good excuse to get out in some fantastic local landscapes, which brings me neatly (if not concisely) back to Longshaw.   Time to heave on my fell shoes and get back over to join the fell-based running fun, a 10k will be a great addition to my hypothetical training plan and show commitment when added to Strava…  When is the Longshaw Trust 10 again?

PANIC!  When I went to check the date the events list seemed to have vanished from the  relevant section of Longshaw website.  What horror was this?  Had the event been discontinued?  Have I been personally blacklisted from attending and my computer hacked to prevent me researching the event and reduce the likelihood of me turning up?  Nope.  IT improvements apparently.  Much as with sports bras, no sooner you find one that fits, (which takes more than a lifetime) manufacturers will ‘improve’ that particular line thereby effectively discontinuing the only bra that ever worked for you. Adding insult to injury by giving you a short-lived glimpse of what might have been before cruelly snatching it away.  Of course I’m bitter.  Running is hard enough without being subjected to an assault on your assets each time you head out.    Anyways, same with the Longshaw IT department. the site was down, because it is being ‘enhanced’, except, in this instance the interruption in service was indeed temporary. FYI, the plan is to update the ‘behind the scenes’ IT systems so eventually people attending Trust 10 events can sign up on-line and it will all be more streamlined etc by 2020 or whenever.  Personally I shall miss the slightly Heath-Robinsonesque quality of the current set up.  However, we don’t need to worry our pretty little heads about all that right now, as recent experience suggests a lot can happen in that sort of time scale.  The sky will probably have fallen in at the very least.  Chicken Licken was right all along.  If you read the original story the world did end, they all did get eaten so no ridiculing the poor bird for being alarmist when she was right all along! Hard as it is to imagine, running Longshaw might not be a priority in that scenario.  Also, in fact the Trust 10 series are always on the fourth Sunday in the month, so you don’t need to check online each time, only to be able to refer to a calendar and count to four.  FACT.  Apart from when they are not, because of Christmas say, but you get the gist…

chicken licken

It is July.  I shall go.  So went my logic.  I was apprehensive as it’d been such a while, but I was looking forward to it too.  It could be part of my training plan, if I had a plan at all.  I would attend to the cross bits another time…. Which brings me onto some startling new insights about cross training, which recently came my way, and that I now I feel compelled to share.

The thing is, for a long time I thought cross-training was a purely descriptive term.  A variant on ‘no pain no gain’ perhaps.  That is, you improve at whatever you are doing if you are able to push through the stage when you are just really annoyed at how hard it is, hate running, hate the world, that kind of thing, basically ‘training when cross’ gets abbreviated to ‘cross training’ but put in the hours and voila!  Improvement follows.   Then, I came to realise it was a bit more sophisticated than this, runner’s world no less gave this plausible enough sounding definition:

In reference to running, crosstraining is when a runner trains by doing another kind of fitness workout such as cycling, swimming, a fitness class or strength training, to supplement their running. It builds strength and flexibility in muscles that running doesn’t utilize.

So I started indulging in my own cross training, mostly courtesy of Thursday Accelerate woodrun sessions (thank you) involving wobbling about standing on one leg (balance), bunny hopping along woodland trails (strength, but also amuses run leader I think), and, most importantly of all, working on the upper body and arms whilst simultaneously attending to hydration, by slurping on a post-run latte on conclusion of the run.  It might not technically be cross-training in the purest sense, but it is a start.  Besides, it’s surely preferable to the fate of some poor souls who inevitably take the cross training a bit far, adding in cycling and swimming resulting in becoming inadvertent tri-athletes.  It happens. Before they know it, they’re off doing Ironman events just to improve their parkrun times.  I don’t think there’s too much risk of that happening to me.

Even so, I’m always open to a bit of running related advice, so I ambled down to my local running shop for some clues on tackling the Dig Deep. Specifically re kit requirements and navigation, and also as an alternative to actually having to go out and run.  It is a well-known fact, that visiting a running shop equates to an actual run in terms of training. You improve technique and running credentials just by breathing in the air of a specialist running shop.  Anyway, turns out, this particular visit was most enlightening.  Not only did I find out that there is no path off Higger Torr, you just jump off the edge and hope you fly basically; and that skip the running dog has his own instagram account, I also got a new insight into what motivates some individuals to embrace new sporting disciplines.  Injury basically.  Cross training at its source if you will.  So, of those in the shop at the time – and I won’t name names as that’s not my style – one only took up running after a climbing-related hand-garrotting / palm-slashing injury made further ascent of rock-faces impossible, so they accidentally entered a marathon for seven weeks later instead.  What could possibly…  and the other had ruptured something crucial in a leg (their own leg I think) so started swimming and one thing led to another and they’ll probably have to do an Ironman one day now, poor thing.  Ironman completion seems to lead to obligatory tattooing as well, which is another blog post altogether.  Marathon runners are compelled to talk about their marathon running achievements incessantly, and in perpetuity – a bit like the curse of the Ancient Mariner, only running related, and they won’t be limiting themselves to just stopping the ‘one of three’.  Ironman completers on the other hand, have to get their skin inked.  Them is the rules. To be fair, if and when I do complete a marathon I will tell everyone, a lot, and maybe even get an Ironman tattoo if in a parallel universe that happened.  Not on my stomach though, brave choice I think… at least I think that’s his stomach, but he must have detachable nipples and no tummy button, so I’m fearful it may be some other body part, and I don’t wish to scrutinise further. Surely not his back?  I did get my ‘O’ Level for Biology, but it’s not helping here over much to be honest, although I could probably still explain to you about worker bee dances if you’d like.  Do your own research dear reader, I can only take you so far along the journey of discovery.

The sport you end up using for cross training purposes depends on what body part you remove from use.  I understand a dislocated shoulder leads naturally to competitive one-handed knitting, but that’s subject to confirmation.  The knack is to secure one of the needles by grasping it between your thighs apparently, great for toning an all too often ignored body part, and such a strengthening technique would undoubtedly be a boon to both your knitting post recovery and your running. Or you could take up pole dancing, you need good thigh muscles for that too.  Good to know.  As far as cross training options are concerned, the only limit is your imagination, and human dignity.

Oh, and because you’ll be fretting, my kit is OK for a fell race apparently, as they only will check the seams are taped, not that I can fit into it.  So look out for me in something like this – you must have full waterproof body cover, but I reckon I’ll carry it off.  The guy on the right of the picture is risking disqualification heading out so ill-prepared.  His look out.

kit requirements

So where was I?  Oh yes, heading back to Longshaw.  It had been raining, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect weather wise on Sunday morning, but the inclement elements meant as I drove across to Longshaw the mist was rising from the dips in the hills, it looked really spectacular.  In my absence, the car park ticket machines have been updated for the new £1 coins, which caused a few problems for me and much bag rummaging as I feared I’d only got the old ones. I also think the cost has gone up, which I don’t begrudge as the run is free and I am happy to support he National Trust but is worth noting.  I keep meaning to get around and join them, but if I do, that will definitely make me a grown up, and I’m not sure I’m quite ready to do that.

In other news, they have put in a new woodland path to the cafe.  It was really lovely, lots of signs explaining what you were looking at and pointing out where owls have nested and woodpeckers pecked.  I was a bit disappointed to have it made plain that the hobbit house is actually the old ice house, some myths should be allowed to endure…

I arrived at the cafe, and saw the volunteer team were already hard at it, flags up, war conference in session, the big sail sign being carried to the start.  At least I think that was what they were up to.  Either that, or trying to find a surfing beach somewhere, in which case they must have given up, because it would have been a very long walk indeed.  We are a long way from the sea here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I already had my number – 999 – because I have saved it from a previous run because it is a rather marvelous number to have and to hold on to.  Plus it saves a bit of money for the Trust 10 and time for me if you bring your number with you.  The registration system has got a bit more organised. To protect confidentiality, everyone now signs up on a separate bit of pre-printed paper and has to agree to having results shared via email (you can opt out if you wish).  I can see why they have done this, before everyone could potentially see any other previous participants email and other contact details if they had good enough eyesight to squint through the lists of entrants as they signed up.

sign up form

Once I’d signed up, I stood around awkwardly, wondering whether or not anyone I’d know would turn up in between trying not to skid on the super-slippery slate stones adjacent to the cafe.  I don’t know why they’d become so treacherous.  Previously, I’d have stated with 100% confidence that the slipperiest substance known to humankind is goose shit, but now I’m not so sure, it really challenged my assumptions there as I struggled to remain upright on the flagstones.   Eventually, a friendly face!  Yay. The Runderwear ambassador putting in an appearance.  We negotiated that we would romp round together at the back, but as both of us have had negative experiences being compelled to run with others we each reserved the right to either abandon the other, or tell them to ‘go away’ using language which would leave little ambiguity as to the strength of feeling on the matter.   I mean, we obviously weren’t going to be quite as colourful as Anthony Scaramucci, but pretty direct communication all the same.  Yay, a running buddy!  I felt a bit less uncertain about rejoining the trail running fray.  Bring it on, there will be fun to be had!

running buddy

Pleasingly, other familiar faces started to materialise, and soon there was quite a jolly crowd assembled.  We ambled down to the start, I stood right at the back, and there was the usual briefing, thanks to the volunteers; watch out for tree roots and cows (the cows may move the tree roots won’t, unless they are magic trees, but not expected today); it’s a ‘long 10k’, so expect a slower than usual time, and then, almost suddenly, we were awf!  Hooray!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a run at talking pace with a buddy. In fact, on this occasion I got two buddies for the price of one as they were both Valley Hill Runners, and also romping round together. So I guess that makes me either the gate-crasher or the gooseberry, I’m not sure. Fortunately, I didn’t have the social skills to pick up on it if I was in the way, and it was really nice.  Hilariously, (I thought) there were not one, not two, but three tail runners.  One each!  It was like we were under close supervision whilst on day-release from borstal or something except we are a bit old for that and they probably don’t call them borstals any more.  Open prison then.   Initially, it was a bit unnerving being tailed at quite such close quarters, but I got used to it.    They do this so if say the slowest runner drops out after one lap, because they are significantly behind the next slowest participant, the tail runner doesn’t have to do a four-minute mile across bog to catch up with the new back mark.  Makes sense really.  (Edit:  update, I have a witness statement advising the tail runner in question subsequently described this experience as like doing a 5k warm up with a 4k sprint followed by a 1k cool down.  I think we can conclude that was challenging!  Type two fun for sure.)  Maybe in 2020, when they have the new IT booking system and it all goes very high-tech, runners romping at the rear will each have their own electronic tag.  For now, it’s low tech, each of us had our own personal detail to trail us on our heels throughouth. Maybe that’s why it’s called a trail run?

Important things were shared as we ran.  Most important of all, unanimous agreement as to which was our favourite marshal.  We might love her, but she isn’t altogether convinced by us.  I think I might actually bring dog biscuits with me next time (for the dog, not the volunteer) and bribe her into loving me back best of all the other runners.  Shallow to need that level of approval I know, but gratifying all the same to be on the receiving end of such canine adoration I would imagine.  Only time and forward planning will tell.

everyones favourite marshal

The volunteers are great, and also always in demand. If you don’t want to run but do want to be part of the fun (and get a bacon butty or veggie equivalent and a cup of coffee in return) then get in touch with the sports development officer and you will be welcomed.  I have volunteered once at Longshaw, when I first got back from my travels, and it was really fun, you get all the fabulousness of the scenery without the sweat of actually having to run up that really steep hill.  Plus you can high-five runners and cheer on those you know as well as those you don’t.  What’s not to like?

We tried to remember to look up and look around. Longshaw was truly beautiful.  Green, lush and emerging from the mists.  It did rain a bit, well drizzle really, but it was quite hot. There were a lot of insects.  I inadvertently swallowed a few, which might be a protein boost but did nothing for my vegetarian credentials.  Nevermind, plenty bit me back.  I was slathered in ‘Skin so soft’ which does work actually, but it is pretty over-powering stuff.  I used it to rid my flat of ants in Cambodia, which it did, and which is no mean feat!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As well as admiring the view, and swallowing insects, we were able to chat quite a lot about bra fitting, which is my current topic of choice.  We did this to such an extent that the ‘top of the stone wall’ marshal, admonished us for our chit-chat, but rather regretted doing so as we filled him in our discussion themes, which moved from bra fit on lap one, to chafing remedies on lap two.

I also got to hear lots more about the Valley Hill running club, which was rather good.  I do love my Smiley Paces, but I struggle to keep up on group runs, so am open to running with other groups too. Smileys aren’t affiliated, so lots of members do pop up in more than one running group, for a variety of reasons.  They are in a slightly different part of Sheffield so have different run routes and also different club races that feature on their annual fixtures list.   A whole load of them are heading off to do some multi-lap ultra next weekend.  Sounds tough, endless 5k laps with a bangle on completion of each.  The Manvers Dusk to Dawn, it happened for the first time in 2014, and is very much a social event.  Food available, run when you like, with whoever you like.   That year the winner completed a staggering twenty-two laps (71.6 Miles).  Quite aside from the distance, I can’t imagine the tedium of doing that, but then again, having others about probably does motivate you, and the format is great in that you are only ever a short distance from assistance should you require it, which means you can be braver in going for ‘just one more lap.’  It was  interesting hearing about new to me races, and there is clearly some cheery camaraderie in action, disguised by a continuous line of mutually abusive banter.  I like that.  Also, they have a chip butty run.  Head turning stuff.

So it was we loped round, three tail markers (one a Smiley), a couple of Valley Hill Runners, me a Smiley and another fellow Smiley in ear shot ahead.  It wasn’t a fast romp round, but it was a fun and companionable one.  It was also really good haring downhill at the end on masse, our own sports day finish, into the arms of the waiting hi-viz team. Yay. Aren’t we all great.  Longshaw 10k is super friendly, it’s a great introduction to off-road running and a very supportive environment to join.  The views are outstanding and the running buddies awesome too.  I don’t know why I’d left it so long to get back to it.

There we go, that was it.  Run done.  One of the benefits of a slow finish is no queue at the cafe.  Fine latte and a cheese scone – which I’d swear has reduced in size since my last visit.  Like Wagon Wheel biscuits, you look at them, and just know, things are not as they once was.  Nevermind.  It’s not like I’m going to fade away.  Final chit-chat, and then farewells.   A grand morning out indeed.  Thank you volunteers.

So, in conclusion, I’m very happy to be back doing the Longshaw 10k.  It’s great in its own right, as well as hopefully helping me on my way to the 12.12.  For me that Dig Deep event will be a challenge enough I think.  Others have higher goals, check out the Masochists Marathon (only $1.60 to enter, but you might die); or there’s always the Bob Graham if you want to stay closer to home, don’t get that mixed up with the Billy Graham challenge though, might get awkward.  And try to remember it’s supposed to be fun, harder than you might think when you are six seconds outside the cut off of a one hundred mile, 120,000 feet, sixty hour ultra marathon.  Do your research people, pick your challenge wisely.  If you get it wrong you might end up broken like this at the end of your run of choice:

1500922688-esq080117barkley001mod

Whereas really you want to end up like this lot.   Some lovely Valley Hill Runners post the Longshaw 10k by way of illustration.  Not sure how many chip butties they have had between them over the years, but they’ve done a great deal of running.  Thanks for letting me tag along with you guys, much appreciated.

Valley Hill Runners

And that was it. We dispersed our separate ways into the mist, until next time.

Maybe see you there?  Fourth Sunday in the month at Longshaw.  Be there.  They put the flags out specially!

Happy running til next time.  🙂

flags out

Categories: 10km, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geronimo’s Grand Day Out – VitalityMove event Chatsworth 10k 2017

Digested Read: I had no idea what to expect from the VitalityMove event at Chatsworth, and initially didn’t sign up because of the hefty price tag.  Subsequently got in on a freebie and ‘yay’, fantastic time, brilliant festival of running-related fun crammed with awesome people.   Also, finally, got the chance of a photo-op with Sheffield idol Jessica Ennis… (fail, oh well) and that was only the start of encounters with other brilliant people I met throughout the day. Would recommend.  That hill is long and steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep though.  Be warned.  It was hot.  This could yet turn out to be the Brigadoon of running events, a one off appearance every hundred years, so you may have missed out, but I hope not.

Longer read follows.  Make a cup of coffee first, it could take a while, think more ultra-running than musical mile in reading terms.

sighting the start of the musical mile

Jessica Ennis was quite taken by Geronimo on Sunday, I’m pretty sure that was what was behind the ‘oh look Reggie, a giraffe!’ comment she made, so in my book that means she and I  are now practically related.  Me and Jess, I mean, not me and Geronimo, that would be stupid. I’m now looking forward to knocking out some massively improved running times and maybe even taking up some other olympic sports by way of tribute, celebration and acknowledgement of this important new development in relation to my running network.  That is, I’m hoping by establishing tenuous connections to this demigod of sporting excellence (and local hero to boot) some of her athleticism will rub off on me.  I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that just thinking about exercise improves your muscle tone, so if you’ve had an actual interaction with an olympian gold holder that’s got to count for something surely?   If my old PE teacher could see me now eh?  Actually, if she could, she’d probably asphyxiate to be fair, I don’t think running with a giraffe would have been encouraged in our cruelly and ironically named ‘games’ sessions at school.  Fortunately, it seems times have changed.  The VitalityMove event at Chatsworth last sunday was more a joyful celebration of family activity related fun.  Giraffes and fancy dress were positively encouraged, the sun shone, and the emphasis was on having a collective go, especially getting young people running.  Very young people, you know the little ones, before the instinctive joy of running has abandoned them.  My kind of event really.  If I’d read the event guide before rejecting it out of hand on price grounds, I might have got that in advance….

event guide 2017

So, back to basics.   Before I signed up for this, and afterwards as well to be honest, I had very little idea of what to expect.  The ‘about us’ blurb on the VitalityMove website didn’t really help either.

Running is a natural activity that everyone can get involved with anywhere – it could be you run and walk the distance or train to keep going all of the way – whatever suits you, we want to cater for you. Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill is working with a team of like-minded people to create VitalityMove – two events that seek to fuse music and running and bring an energy to running that entices the reticent runner to join in. Here’s what Jessica has to say!

I have been so lucky to have got so much out of my sport – not only a career but a lifestyle. Fitness really can be enjoyable and I have teamed up with Vitality to share my passion for running and music and how the two together can make exercise fun.

We have created VitalityMove – a big day out with music and running at its heart. There will be lots of great things for families and committed runners to get involved with from 1 mile fun-runs, family relays to the more traditional 5k and 10k distances – all themed to music designed to keep you moving by DJ Trevor Nelson. Our venues are iconic; Chatsworth House and Windsor Great Park – both stunning backdrops for the event. Whether you are a first time runner or a seasoned athlete we will cater for you – and hopefully make it a day to remember.

I hope you will sign up and enjoy the journey to the events with me!

Nope, not really getting it, maybe I’m slow in processing event descriptors as I am in running.  In fairness I think this is possibly the first event of its type that I’m aware of anyway, so maybe it was inevitably hard to get across what it would involve, and therefore what participants might be paying for.  I got that you could pick a run distance and there’d be music, but honestly, and sorry if this is harsh, it was a whopping price for a 10k in this neck of the woods.  When it was first promoted I think it was about £35, when I actually came to enter it was showing around £29 for anyone over 16 (children were always free) and about £25 for the 5k and then parking (£5) on top.  It seemed a lot for a race of those distances.  We are perhaps unusually spoilt in Sheffield.  It is easy to access a Trust10 trail 10k race for free every fourth Sunday of the month at Longshaw; there are parkruns a-plenty offering free 5ks every Saturday five in Sheffield alone with a junior 2k parkrun each Sunday locally too (also free).  Then there are a wealth of reasonably local fell races starting from £1.50 for the legendary off-road Oxspring Trunce series.  Anyway, the consequence was, as soon as I saw the price tag I lost interest and didn’t bother to research the VitalityMove event any further.   I think I’m not alone in having thought it bizarre to the point of incomprehensible that an event would price a 5k or a 10k at that level.  We just aren’t accustomed to forking out for running events of those distances maybe, opportunities for running surround us.  We are blessed!  I didn’t get the USP at that point.  It seemed most peculiar!

That was then.  But circumstances change.  At the last-minute, I was lucky enough to get wind of a code that gave me free entry (cheers parkrun), and then it became a no-brainer.  Who wouldn’t want to go to a venue as lovely as Chatsworth for a 10k run and bag some fetching bling to add to their medal collection into the bargain?  So I went forth and ran.  Now I’ve actually been to the event, I get that the 10k and 5k runs were really just the icing on the cake for a much broader inter-generational running/sport festival.   A lot of thought went into the day, the planning was meticulous, I met some great people and I had a fabulous time.

Basically, the whole day far exceeded my expectations and I think it’s a bit of a shame that (in my view anyway) the pre-event publicity didn’t really communicate what would happen on the day, and I think many may have missed out as a consequence.  It would still have been very pricey, but I got the impression that the event could have managed many times the number of participants easily (apart from in the loo provision department, but then what running event has ever had enough portaloos at the critical moment).  It is/was a huge venue, I’d love to see this event become a regular fixture but more modestly priced to encourage more to come along.  I’m sure it would be a case of more the merrier.

Incidentally, in case you are worried about this, although the event is clearly aimed at families, I went on my own – well just me and the giraffe – and it was great.  Geronimo is a handy ice-breaker it’s true, but it was such a friendly and fun day, I reckon anyone standing still on their own for more than 10 seconds would end up in cheery chit-chat with a fellow attendee soon enough.  Well, unless they had seriously hostile body language.  I met some fantastic people, I’ve even launched my video career now so, you know, anything is possible if you take along your running shoes, sense of humour, broad smile and an open mind, just as in life!  (Giraffe/ fancy dress optional, but fabulous, so you should).

I’m going to tell you all about our grand day out together by way of supporting evidence.  Really you will need to triangulate my personal, and therefore subjective account, with other primary sources to be properly informed.  That’s what critical analysis is all about.  The best way to achieve this would be to get yourself along to the next one and see how our accounts tally…  There’s still VitalityMove at Windsor Great Park to come, allegedly (date tbc), so it’s doable. Well I think it’s doable, I have a slightly sinking feeling that ticket sales have been low across the two events so it might not come to pass, but maybe lessons learned from Chatsworth will help to ‘make it so’ and so spread further running happiness.

make it so

So, the event build up started on entering with my special code via the website.  That was really straightforward, I did have to pay for parking but that was fair enough in the circumstances.  Only after signing up for the 10k did I look at the course, and remember there is a massive hill at Chatsworth, it’s only 759 feet of climb according to Strava, which isn’t all that much in Sheffield terms, but it is compressed into a couple of short stretches at the early part of the course.  Oops.  I heard ‘free’ and forgot ‘huge hill’ in all the excitement.  Reading the event guide I picked up that fancy dress was ‘positively encouraged’ that’s more like it!  I was going to give Geronimo a bit of a break from running, I mean we’ve had both the Round Sheffield Run and Sheffield Hallam’s birthday parkrun outings lately, I was a bit worried it might be getting tedious.  On the other hand, what the hell.  It would be her first 10k and as I was otherwise going on my own I thought it might be a good way to get to chat to people, she could rest up later.  Plus if they are ‘positively encouraging’ fancy dress, I think it would be rude not to.  Here’s the strava profile by the way – see what I mean?  Yes, you can see I ended up walk/running the steep sections, so what, shoot me, I still did it.

Strava

Even though I was a late entrant, my pack (number and chip timer) arrived in the post with a few bits of other info promptly, and my car-park pass was duly emailed to me on the Wednesday before.  I thought that was pretty impressive.  You could also pay on the day for parking by the way, still a fiver.  No free parking for Blue Badge holders though, which I thought was poor, even possibly just a complete oversight as no dedicated parking for them either.  This didn’t impact on me, but it did on a fellow Smiley, and that wasn’t good.  As if life isn’t hard enough sometimes if you have, or care for someone who has, limited or no independent mobility.

parking voucher

Then on the Sunday morning, it was sooooooooooooo hot.  I wasn’t sure what to wear, I haven’t the body confidence, or indeed physique to wear my Smiley Paces running club vest without a T-shirt under it, but that would be stupid in such heat. Then I thought, well Vitality are one of the parkrun sponsors, so I decided to go with my parkrun top.  Good call.  I was up early, so lots of time to pin my number on Geronimo Sky, have porridge for breakfast and debate the relative merits of which running shoes to wear.  I mean  I love my Hokas for their cushioning, but they definitely have been giving me knee issues which may or may not be a temporary thing due to an inevitable change in running style that new trainers sometimes causes.  I put them on but stuffed my more hard-core trail shoes salomon fell-raisers in my backpack just in case.  Car pass printed out, water bottle filled and off I went.

It was gorgeous driving over to Chatsworth, I feel really lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.  Yes, not great for running hot and humid as it was, but indisputably a gorgeous day.  I was quite excited pulling up to the grand golden gates of Chatsworth where a friendly marshal shooed me off in the right direction.  It was pretty quiet when I arrived.  The rolling grounds of Chatsworth were truly spectacular, sheep milled around under the trees seemingly unconcerned by the cars arriving.  There were even a few lambs cavorting. Shame they’ll all end up being eaten (not by me, I’m vegetarian) but let’s not dwell on that today.  I parked up, and you could see ahead bright pink flags and inflatables of the event camp.  Excited others were gathering.  Yep, it felt like the day was going to be fun.

I followed the pink signs to the event, I wasn’t cross at the cross point, I felt no need, but I think it is quite a good idea to have a special zone where cross people are made to gather together so they don’t spoil events for everyone else.  I might start putting that in surveymonkey responses the next time I get a post-event feedback survey emailed through to me.

As I walked down a companionable fellow runner fell into step with me.  It was only one of  the tigger runners from the Round Sheffield Run!  She hadn’t so much recognised me as Geronimo, and us fancy dress ambassadors, well,  we share a bond and need to stick together. Turns out she was at Chatsworth to do some pacing but it was good to actually meet.  Plus I found out the significance of her costume choice…. drum roll… it’s because her nickname is Tigger!  Genius is it not!

MJ tiger tiger

No tigger outfit today, so I hadn’t recognised her. That’s another amazing thing about fancy dress if you are interested, you’d think it would make you more conspicuous, but it’s actually the opposite.  People notice Geronimo but not me, so by simple dint of removing her (or previously Roger) it’s like I’ve donned a cunning disguise.  My absolutely serious and heartfelt recommendation for self-conscious runners out there is go for fancy dress.  Nobody sees you or judges your body silhouette picked out in unforgiving lycra if you have a giraffe strapped round your waist.  It’s a simple distraction technique.  Not that anyone actually cares what you look like when you’re running or judges you anyway, but them as share my anxiety about appearing in public wearing lycra will know what I mean.  Anyway, she bounded off to do whatever it is that Tiggers do as warm up for pacing, and I had a wander round the event village.  I stole this photo from the official photographers’ Facebook page, cheers AWOL event photos, I’m sure they won’t mind 🙂 It’s the view from the stage at around 8.30 a.m. on the day of the event.  Impressive eh?

awol calm before the storm

As I got nearer to the centre of it all I started to get a feel for the mood of the day.   There were colourful tents in abundance.  Areas where children could have a go at netball, or GoApe, a clearly defined food area, well signed bag-drop, registration, some event-standard portaloos set against the backdrop of the magnificent Chatsworth House.

As I approached, I had my first star-struck moment of the day. There was Jessica Ennis milling about and very graciously posing for selfies and photos with people various. On a serious note I have a lot of respect for Jessica Ennis (aside from her not having a barcode with her when she did Sheffield Hallam parkrun) and she may be an extraordinary olympian, but she is also (only) human and pregnant. Even so, she spent the whole of Sunday smiling, chatting to people and posing for photos in scorchio heat.  That was impressive.  Actually scrap that, she’s not human, she is indeed super-human.  An amazing athlete of course, but radiates down-to-earth honest-to-goodness cheery decency and tolerance too.  I wonder if she trains as hard for selfie posing  as she must have done for the high jump?

Now, as my regular reader will know, the only time I felt homesick when I was working in Cambodia earlier in the year was when I missed Jess and Paul rocking up to Hallam parkrun.  I was beyond gutted.  Two of my absolute icons, at my home parkrun and I missed it!  The pain!  Anyway, here she was, in touching distance, this was my moment, the opportunity was within my grasp.   I could let it pass and spend the rest of my life in sullen regret, or I could seize the moment!  Reader, let me report that I did indeed commandeer a bystander to act as a photographer and approached Jess to request a photo.  This was the moment when Jess complimented my Giraffe with her (unforgettable to me) ‘oh look Reggie, a giraffe‘ comment. I did some incoherent gushing about how much I admired her and how I was sorry to have missed her before when she was at Hallam.  I was not cool at all, but then in my defence when have I ever been that?  Anyway,  she patiently stood as my nominated photographer took a few snaps.  I was sooooooooooooooo happy.  Alas, as I wandered off looking at them, I realised none had been taken.  Curses.  My camera is a bit odd, you have to push the button quite hard, and sadly, this was an epic fail.  Not one shot to capture the moment.  I was disappointed, but you know what, we have our memories, and I like to think we shared a moment.

Incidentally, despite my disappointment at missing my two idols Jess and Paul when they went to Hallam and I didn’t, I have subsequently ‘met’ both.   At Chatsworth it was Jess, but I also shared an (awkward) moment with Paul Sinton-Hewitt, albeit a similarly tongue-tied one once I was back from my travels.  I suppose I’m saying that we must never give up on our dreams, as we never know what the future holds.  I was so sad to miss the hobnobbing opportunities back in February, but had my own individual encounters later on.  Dreams really do come true!  Also, there was an official photographer around at the same time as I was posing with Jess, and clearly Geronimo Sky is spectacularly photogenic, so I’m really hoping that a photo is out there somewhere.  Even if it’s not, in the absence of any photographic evidence of the encounter I can embellish the story at will for either comedic and/or dramatic effect.  Everyone’s a winner!

In a daze of celebrity awe-struckness (well it is a word now), I went to further explore my surroundings.  Geronimo was taking it all in too.  She’s pretty non-flighty for a prey animal.

exploring

There were huge deck chairs and tiny pink bean bags  scattered around, a massive event stage, and various partnership company stands.  There was a main stage at the finish, and tables groaning under the weight of frozen-themed water bottles.  There was an alarming number of ambulances in evidence, but I suppose that’s sensible.  I don’t know though, same with armed police officers, maybe it is a sensible precaution to have all that first aid/emergency cover on hand, but I find it unnerving rather than reassuring.   There weren’t any armed police at Chatsworth though, so only had to worry about the hill, not the presence of weaponry in the vicinity.

There were some friendly looking marshals/ water station people sporting the fine grey Vitality T-shirts so I had a natter with them.  They liked Geronimo too, so we played around with selfies.  They encouraged me to instagram these using such-and-such movetothemusic hash tag, I think they confused me with someone with a smart phone and a basic understanding of twitter.  Still, it was a friendly and fun encounter.  And at least I now had a selfie by way of consolation for missing out on the one with Jess earlier.  I hope their selfie technique was better than mine!

Next stop was the pledge pod.  I’d done a summer pledge photo at parkrun yesterday, but hey, the pod looked fun. A maintenance guy was just getting it going so was game to talk me through using it.  Apparently you are much more likely to complete a goal if you write it down and share it.  I don’t think it’s a substitute for training though, which is a disappointment.

You write your goal on a dry-wipe white board and get four differently posed photos opportunities.  You can then upload these to Facebook, using the touchscreen within the pod, which didn’t work for me as I obviously don’t know either my own username or log in password, on the plus side, no-one’s hacking me.  However, I did get a physical print out, and that was fun.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Not wishing to diss Jess or anything, but I reckon my pledge was smarter, i.e. specific, measurable etc, than hers which was a bit on the vague side ‘as active as possible during pregnancy‘ isn’t very easy to pin down really is it?   I am not necessarily pleased about this, me having a more specific goal that is – since it will make it way harder for me to wriggle out of and it’s only a few weeks away.  I said ‘I will complete the Dig Deep 12.12 mile trail race at Whirlow August 2017! (Not necessarily with a giraffe).’  So we’ll see.  My training to date has consisted of entering.  Well, it does show willing at least.  You can pledge your own goal at https://mysummergoal.co.uk/ apparently and admire Jess and Ellie and that other guy making their own here.  I like Ellie Simmonds a lot too, which I’m sure would please her enormously if she but knew.  It was hearing her talking on Woman’s Hour the other day about liking to have a nap in the afternoon that clinched it for me.  I, like her, fear this particular penchant of mine will have to go when I next enter gainful more conventional employment.  Unlike her, I don’t think opportunity providers will be queuing up to find a compromise on this point.

So more milling around. Mr Kandoo (Round Sheffield Run and Kandoo events) pitched up in a tententen T-shirt (I like those, tasteful grey with Autumn Leaves logo).  Anyway, his presence gave me an opportunity to thank him for creating my favourite race of the year.  It is honestly like he sat down and thought of all the things that would make a Lucy-friendly running event and scattered then kandoo magic fairy dust all over it and so it sprang into life.  A bit like Frankenstein’s monster, only more user-friendly and less killing, more trail running related fun and (marginally) less existential angst. He made a cunningly ambiguous reference to Geronimo’s participation on the day, saying something like ‘so you and fancy dress‘.  I respect that.  I suppose just like local running shops, running event organisers have to navigate local running politics and interactions with their event participants with some care.  They mustn’t appear to have a favourite running club, or get drawn into sharing potentially controversial views.  Their business model rests and falls on their skills in diplomacy as much as event management.  The listener can put whatever interpretation they wish on such a phrase.  It might be complimentary about the wearing of fancy dress, or it might  in fact be an expression of disbelief verging on horror, but the actual phrase used? Well, read it back, and you’ll see that it gives nothing away.  Sort of ‘neither confirm nor deny’ when you see it written down.  Hopefully the listener will hear what they want to hear rather than pick up on the inconclusiveness of the statement, everyone stays friends, everyone is happy!

It’s a bit like when you see a friend in an amateur play or performance or something and you attend it nursing and apprehension bordering on terror.  You fear it will be absolutely dire and yet you will need to have some encouraging phrase to utter to them afterwards in order to maintain the friendship thereafter.  Something that isn’t an actual lie but will communicate apparent enthusiasm, and stop you from blurting out that you have just sacrificed two hours of your life that you can never get back sitting through that pretentious nonsense.  Hence, the wily audience member will have a reference pack of useful phrases to fall back on as they see their friend post show. Common one’s include ‘What can I say!’ uttered with gushing intonation as you pace towards them arms outstretched or ‘Amazing, you’ve done it again!’ similarly delivered or the old favourite ‘I knew it!’  The calculation being that hopefully the hearer will be too self-absorbed in their post-show bubble to request any further critique.  True opinions are not required.  Of course you might get lucky and see something brilliant, but still good to have a repertoire non-commital phrases at your disposal.  This ‘so, you and fancy dress‘ remark had a more neutral delivery, but worked on the same criteria, so well done, nicely played.    I choose to take it as endorsement.  Just another of my many delusional thoughts in evidence.

Next stop, precautionary pee, then I changed into my more fell shoes after all as my knee was giving me gyp.  Then to the bag drop. We’d been warned it would be really busy so best to leave bags with friends and family.  As I have neither friends nor family,  it was bag-drop all the way for me.  At that time it was really quiet, I think my number was four, which is a clue to its busy-ness.  You get a wrist tag, and a matching one was put on my bag.   There was an anxious moment when I approached, and the woman seemingly in charge stopped me proclaiming most assertively (bordering on aggression to be blunt) that they wouldn’t take responsibility for any animals whilst I was running.  As if I’d leave Geronimo in the charge of strangers!  Even nice ones like at the VitalityMove Chatsworth event bag drop!  It would be akin to leaving a dog in the car on a hot day.  I blustered indignantly protesting at the very idea, but happily the confusion was swiftly resolved and we were all soon friends again.

I made my way to the music mile start, evidenced by the presence of large blue musical notes.  I didn’t know what to expect, but my plan was to do a musical mile by way of warm up (er hem) and not at all because I wanted a trophy wrist band.  I was curious to find out what it was about, and I reckoned that it was so hot I wouldn’t feel like running  a mile once I’d done the 10k, but I knew I’d finish the 10k once started if I did it the other way around.  It was a good plan.

musical mile

Hanging around at the start I soon got chatting to a couple of other runners.  We compared running tales. They’d done the moonwalk in London which sounded amazing. You basically do the London Marathon route overnight wearing only a bra!  Brave I thought, wish they hadn’t clarified that they did actually wear jogging bottoms too.  It’s an annual event ‘united against breast cancer’ the next one is 12 May 2018.  It is £48 and you have to raise a minimum of £100 sponsorship, but these two had clearly had a ball.

As we were chatting, a woman waved at us, and called me over.  This was my modest claim to fame for the day I suppose, as it marked my video debut.  I can’t entirely take the credit, it was Geronimo who first caught their eye, but I gained glory by association, which is good enough for me. So it was that Geronimo Sky and I made the Derbyshire telegraph VitalityMove event video, it went up on their webpage, so I’m just waiting in now for a TV agent to approach me with an impossible-to-refuse lucrative sports TV presenter contract offer.   The phone’s not rung yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.  I’m ex-directory so they’ll have to do a bit of research to track down my phone number. You need to click on the second video down, and wait for 8.44 mark.  I see us as a double act like Rod Hull and Emu only hopefully marginally less annoying, I’ll be really disappointed if she gets an offer and I don’t though.  Hope she’ll remember me on the way up…  Seeing the clip I do cringe at the sound of my own voice and rotund physique on the one hand, but on the other hey, local stardom!  We all have to suffer for our art I suppose.  Plus, it does give a fine glimpse of the goings on at the start of the day.

TV career launch video

A scattering of us duly assembled for the 10.00 a.m. start time, but a delay was immediately announced as they needed to get the music stations out on the course.  A crew of spectacularly attired dancers in impractical shoes were ushered past to be positioned on the course.  I didn’t get the chance to take a photo of them until the end of the day, here are two of them by way of example.  I hope they had sunblock on, that was a lot of exposed flesh to be standing out in the sun all day with.

dancing queens

It was fine, nobody minded.  A photographer posed us for some publicity shots.  Yes I did get in the frame.

musical mile not posing at all

Famous DJ Trevor Nelson pretended to sound the start horn.  If I track any of these fine images down later I’ll add them into this post in due course.  About ten minutes late, it was start time.  At this moment a little girl who was the first to arrive at the start line was chosen to do the start countdown. She was duly led off to clamber up on high atop of the crowds to do the official opening from the top of a scaffolding tower.  Check her out in the top left of this photo as the runners whizz away…

musical mile start off

Now, this was a lovely thought, but I was in earshot of her mum (I think – someone who knew her anyway) who said, words to the effect of ‘oh no, that’s a shame, she wanted to be at the front of the start line, not watching it go off‘.  To be fair, she didn’t look particularly upset, a little overwhelmed possibly, but then weren’t we all.  We were told to look out for ‘exciting things’ and ‘join in with the dancing and enjoy the music on the course’.  So finally off we went.  It was a cross-section of runners, parents/carers and children, people warming up for longer events and a few ‘what the hell’ types.  The one mile route was a flat circuit out towards the parking area, round by the river and back in a little loop.

Musical mile route

It was slightly odd, because it wasn’t really marshaled as such, although the route was obvious, you just sort of romped out.  As you ran, people just arriving at the event were ambling towards and alongside you.  At the Cross Zone were the first of the dancing troupe, a duo stood next to speakers that were blaring out music.    They were smiling and clapping, but also looking a tad self-conscious rather than encouraging dancing at this point in the day.  Friendly and fun certainly, but also fairly low-key.

The official photographers were on hand to snap away. For the record, I was in about 61 different shots, so they weren’t slacking in their paparrazzi duties.  The overwhelming majority of photos are one’s that do indeed capture the occassion, but also make me never want to be seen in public again. However, one or two were really fun – check out my jazz hands in homage to the occassion.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I found the route incredibly hot, we were in direct sun, and although it was only a mile it was a bit of a reality check for the not flat at all 10k to come.  As we circled back along the river there were I think three more stations each with loud speakers and a couple of dancers.  One pair were up for a bit of a boogie the others less so.  I don’t normally run just for a mile so it all seemed really quick. The finish was spectacular, there was a wrist band and a huge clunking medal for everyone, which was unexpected.  Then you went up some steps which took you to the back of the huge stage, so everyone had their moment leaving via the big performance platform where you could pause for a selfie with famous DJ Trevor Nelson as you exited.  It was great, some of the children were so excited and proud of their achievements it was infectious.  Made up for missing out on the fun of volunteering at Junior parkun, this morning, seeing all those happy, joyful faces.  I don’t have any pictures of that because I didn’t have my camera but maybe some will follow. These are the medals though – different ribbon, but same bling.  Quality eh?

bling plenty of bling

Spat off the stage, you could pick up a bottle of water, and I got some sort of princess label on mine from frozen, so that was grand!  My mile done, what with the later start, the milling about etc, I took one look at the queue for the loos and decided I did have basic bladder control after all.  I wasn’t originally going to take Geronimo on the 10k, but then I bumped into familiar face (fellow Smiley and RSR recce buddy) who was there with her two daughters.  Hooray, photo op.  Aren’t we grand, this is the medal from the musical mile.  Seeing my trophy helped motivate the two young women to run and nab one for themselves.  Yay.  Whatever it takes!  Anyway, after all that chit chat, I didn’t think there was time to go back to the bag drop and leave Geronimo there, besides, given our earlier exchange it would be a bit hypocritical to dump a giraffe with them following my righteous indignation at the mere suggestion of the very idea that I would do such a thing barely an hour previously – so I just thought ‘oh well, maybe it’ll be fun doing it together‘.  And she stayed put.

friends at the start

Once we’d had a quick chat, my Smiley running buddy headed off to drop bags and check out the loos, whilst I continued my milling about.  I ended up in conversation with a couple of finely turned out TomTom pacers who were ace.  The starting point may have been mutual appreciation of dress (I don’t think that was the real hair of the guy in the kilt) but evolved into a really good chat. They had both got loads of experience of pacing the London Marathon so I basically took the opportunity to download their collective brains for top tips on how to approach it (I have a deferred ballot place for next year, which still feels unreal).  This guy is going to be one of the five hour pacers so you never know, we may yet meet again:

tomtom pacer with jess

For me, this was one of the stand out features of this Chatsworth event, I got to talk to so many brilliant people who shared hilarious and/or interesting stories, or taught me new things about running techniques and events, or simply inspired with their own efforts and motivation.  It was brilliant.  One of the TomTom guys turned out to be an olympic torch carrier no less, and promised I could go and have a hold of his big torch later!  He was nominated to carry it for a section due to charity work he has done for Barnardos.  How fabulous is that?  I did as well, go and check out his torch.  Tigger is in the shot below as well by the way, but in disguise without the outfit.  Be impressed.

There was a sort of grand warm up for the 10k led from the stage, but I didn’t want to wear myself out doing that, so I just hung out at the back and enjoyed the view.  It looked fab though, like community popmobility, something which I am inclined to feel should be encouraged at every opportunity.  Early morning (pre-dawn) moving to music happens all over the place in Cambodia by the way, it’s brilliant.  We need that ethos here too!

Grand warm up

This was much busier than the musical mile start, and ‘proper’ runners were congregated at the front.  As people moved into the start funnel there was still time to fraternise with other runners though.  I’m looking forward to seeing for myself how that sheep costume turns out at a later run event in the vicinity.  Sounds brilliant.  Jess was there to set us off.  At least I think she was, I couldn’t see what was going on, and it becomes a bit of a blur with so many different run distances and events going on almost continuously.  I do know that at some point I heard a voice put out a plea not to trample Jessica as you ran because she was pregnant.  I’m not sure if the inference that it would have been OK otherwise to trample her was intentional.  In any event, I don’t think  it is ever OK for runners to trample Jess, or anyone else for that matter, it’s easy enough to give a people a bit of a berth as you overtake, especially at an event where the focus was on fun and participation rather than flat-out racing. Because of where I was in the line up I didn’t get to high-five Jess or Trev as I was passing, but they were there, cheering us all on!  I think these photos might be of the Disney mile start, but hey ho, you get the idea.

The 11.00 a.m. 10k starting stampede was captured on film. It wasn’t a  massive turn out by local standards, but it was respectable.  The results look like there were about 1000 10k runners across the two events of the day.  ‘Serious runners’ went towards the front, there were pacers towards the back doing 60 minute and 65 minute times.

As we headed off, it dawned on me that it was indeed a long haul up that hill.  It was a steep, steep and somewhat demoralising climb.  You hoik yourself up, and after what seemed like an age, you get to the first sign (literally, it was a hi-vis poster) warning you were about to start the Ennis hill. What?  What the heck was that first killing kilometer then.  I wasn’t massively impressed.  The setting is scenic, but apart from the grassy first bit, much of the track upwards to the hunting lodge was on a sort of compressed gravel that was hot and very dusty underfoot. It wasn’t the springy woodland trail surface I’d fondly imagined and it was hard on my arthritic feet.  I did have to walk from quite early on.  I told myself this was a legitimate strategy as power walking was faster than my feeble running efforts at this point, but it did feel a bit of an epic fail to be walking so early on. I mean I can do a parkrun 5k without stopping, so I should have surely managed 2k – except it was almost vertical in ascent.  What was encouraging though, was as the tomtom pacers passed me – which inevitably they did, they shouted out cheery words of encouragement, one was playing upbeat music on some hand-held speaker, so that was fun and cheering.  Good for morale.  Another advantage of having a giraffe you see, it makes you relatively easy to spot amongst the heaving throngs!

If you like a few visuals by way of reference, then whilst we are on the theme of tenuous links (yes we were), the terrain was a bit like that at the early part of the Bushy parkrun route (you can see it really clearly from 1.45 mark). Thanks to Dean Carter for this video of his parkrun in Bushy park – the final in his epic quest to complete all 47 parkruns in the Greater London area.  (Yes, this is mainly an excuse to upload a go-pro of the iconic Bushy parkrun course, but can you blame me really?)

I’d like to say as I stormed up that hill I looked like an extra from Chariots of Fire, but unfortunately I didn’t, however, I did reach the top eventually, and then it got a lot more fun and straightforward.  Again, not many marshals, but the route was obvious, and bold kilometre markers told you how far you’d come.  I got a few cheery shouts of appreciation for Geronimo which was nice.  My favourite though was the two women running together who said the ‘you’ve got a giraffe line‘ which was fair enough, I gave my usual retort of ‘where’s yours?‘ and quick as a shot the reply whizzed back to me from one of them ‘if you’d seen me on the hill you’d know I came as a grumpy cow!’  Genius quipping there. Respect.  I like that in a fellow runner.

Here’s the route by the way – their event guide map, and my strava one, hope it helps:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There was short part where the returning runners shared the track with those of us still heading out.  The temptation to slot in behind the front runner who I saw out of the corner of my eye was pretty strong at that point, but I had a feeling such subterfuge would not go unnoticed.  At various stages I struck up conversations with other runners, it was a very chatty event. Well it was for me, faster runners were killing themselves with different race plans.  I suspect there may have been some throwing up at the finish line by them.   I met other parkrunners, first time 10k runners, people who’d lost huge amounts of weight, charity runners,  those who’d traveled from afar, and locals too.  There weren’t many running club vests, a few I recognised, but this felt more parkrun community than race like in atmosphere and I really liked that.  Faster runners were celebrated in the prize giving at the end, but the day as a whole was inclusive.  I spent quite a bit of the route step in step with a guy in training for a marathon in a couple of months, he’d just restarted his fitness quest.  He actually did his first half-marathon as a smoker on three-weeks training, he got round, but wow, that would have been tough.  A bit of companionable chat made this part of the route pass more quickly.  I really think slower runners, of which I am one, must have more fun at longer races, whilst I can’t talk and run for a 5k, if it’s more of an endurance, then chatting to marshals or snatched conversations with other runners as you pass one another is part of the shared experience.  It’s good for morale. Those fast runners whizzing by miss out on that.   It’s all very well going for a sub two-hour marathon, but wouldn’t Eliud Kipchoge have enjoyed it all much more if he’d been able to have a natter with pacers en route.  He didn’t crack the time anyway, so he could have just had a nice morning out instead.  He seems a friendly guy, looked smiley on the telly.  I bet he’dhave  loved to have had a chat about running sock preferences on the way round – especially as his attempt was all on a track.  How dull must that be, running round in circles, much better to take your mind of it all by discussing anti-chafing strategies instead.  I might message his Facebook account and suggest it, I expect he’d be glad of the top tip.

There was a St Johns First Aid station around the 7km mark.  Hilariously, just as one of the marshals there helpfully called out to be careful of the uneven terrain, I, in turning to look at him and hear what he was saying  lost concentration and stumbled over a tree root much to the merriment of those around.  A bit further on there was a much-needed water station.  It was so hot and humid and hilly. There was only one woman tending it and she was super stressed, all the bottles she’d put out before hand had gone and she seemed a bit panicked.  It was all good-natured though.

It was a big relief to get into the shade of the trees. There are some beautiful scenic parts of the route as you are up high, you need to remember to look to the right to take in the views. We passed a water feature and a stunning cascading waterfall at one point.  I wasn’t taken with the surface under foot but that’s probably petty of me, and a reflection on my arthritic feet as much as anything.  After a while I pulled ahead of my new friend as we weren’t really pacing the same as the gradient shifted – though we did seem to leap-frog each other for a fair bit afterwards.

There were a few fun surprises en route – the unexpected steel band was completely brilliant, they were positioned so both 5k and 10k runners would pass them, but they were only in place for our return run not on the way out.  Also there were some random full fur suited chipmunks/rabbit I know not what disney-esque creatures. Clearly I thought these were great, and we shared high fives.  I wonder if a live music station at the mid point of the music mile might have been a better option than the several quieter speaker stations, but I suppose there are cost implications to doing that.  Live music was really good.  A proper party atmosphere.  If I had to choose, I’d have had them on the music mile where everyone could enjoy them even if not running, they were a hidden delight for the few up in the woods.  Grand though.  Cheers people!

Eventually we emerged from the woods onto the grass descent.  It was basically through a tall grass meadow, where they’d put a mower through to make a path for runners. The consequence was a mass of dried and drying, recently cut tall grass under foot.  Loose hay basically.  It was a timotei-esque romp through a hay field, only down a really stepp hill.  I like running through hay, kicking it up. It was fun, but also strange and unfamiliar, it felt the surface underfoot was moving, I’ve only had that sensation once before, running on a beach when a wind whipped up the sand so it was blustering round your feet and you couldn’t really see the actual ground through it – it was that same sense of your eye making you think the ground is in motion.  I liked it, surreal, but enjoyable.  Towards the end of the course there were more photographers on hand to capture the emotion of the final 1k.  Not sure what adjectives should apply here, but I’ll go with ‘determined’, and leave it at that.  In my defence, it wasn’t the easist of 10ks you know…

determination

It was still a good 2k to the end, and we ran in past newly arriving participants.  In the last 1km or so there was some tape up marking the route, and competitors who’d finished earlier or not yet run were lining the course.  I saw one Smiley who cheered me in, and a few of the people I’d struck up conversations with earlier who’d finished ahead of me also shouted out support.  It was fun. Then we veered round to the same finish point as the musical miles, so again bling (different ribbon) and onto the stage. There were photographers at the end, and a few at the early stages of the course too, so I posed appropriately.  The photographer pointed out that Geronimo had really done all the work and was the more deserving of the medal, so I repositioned it on her neck rather than mine in recognition of this.  Yay, we’d done it!  In the absence of the official photo as yet, here is my own post event selfie.  It’s a start.

And as a late addition, here are the ‘official ones’, yay!  What a team eh? What, a team?

Again there was loads of water on tables so you could help yourself (got a snowman bottle this time) also had some coconut water which was fab.  One minor gripe was that there was an enormous amount of water bottles on the day (good) but no plastic recycle bins to put the empty ones in (bad), so I really, really hope the litter did get sorted through, the thought of so much plastic ending up in landfill causes me physical pain.  Or worse, getting into our oceans – will there really be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.  I could weep.

seabird and plastic

Didn’t stop me drinking it though, and then after the run, and post-run rehydration,  I went in search of the olympic torch and copped a feel of that.  I was honoured indeed!  Just how many brushes with fame can a person manage in one short day!

having a hold

Yay, then I did some more random mingling. I sighted a few more familiar faces, but most people were on their own different trajectories so not much chatting to people I knew to be fair.  Good to see them all the same, even if at least one of them was fair sprinting away no sooner than she caught sight of me.  I cheered off the afternoon 10k people – it was even hotter then, respect to those who headed off with gusto at one o’clock in the afternoon.

I didn’t really have the energy for more running, tempting as the prospect of getting Disney mile bling was.  The musical miles went on all day, you could run as many as you liked and got a different wrist band for each themed run as far as I could tell.  Some tiny kids were romping round loads of times getting an impressive haul of wrist bands and medals.  That part of the event was pitched well I think.  Even so, I let that opportunity pass, and instead I made a new best friend.  It was an accident, I trod on her bag whilst stepping backwards trying to get this shot.   You can see why I got distracted, it being Wimbledon fortnight, I thought it would be cool to recreate that famous Athena poster again.  Definitely an eye-catching way to raise awareness for a cause!

Anyway, don’t worry, it was a happy accident, as it led to conversation. Turns out she was a marshal at the RSR and we had a fab conversation all about that, and marshaling, and body confidence issues when running, and how the ultimate aspiration is really to feel invisible when running sometimes.  As a slow runner I know others are supportive to me as they stay to cheer me through the finish when I plod home last at a fell race or whatever, and that’s great and I do really appreciate it.  However, it is possible to simultaneously hold two conflicting truths, you know nobody cares what you look like, other runners are supportive, the important thing is that you are having a go etc etc, and yet…  simultaneously you can feel self-conscious and awkward and wish yourself invisible.  I blame being picked last for the netball teams a few too many times at school to be honest.  That lingering sense of inadequacy never really goes away.   Anyway, kindred spirit, you know who you are I salute you.  See you at the TenTenTen.  We hugged, and went our separate ways.  I don’t have a photo of her, but it was like my moment with Jess, we both know what passed between us, we don’t need a  photo to prove a point!

Also, she was able to explain to me who famous celebrity DJ Trevor Nelson was, so that was good.  He did look sort of familiar, and did a great high-energy job on the day, but I’m guessing Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra aren’t really his natural habitat so we haven’t had the opportunity to get acquainted previously.  Still I know now. So that’s good.  There was also a super enthusiastic side-kick/presentation buddy Vassos Alexander who bounced about doing lots of live commentary and who is a famous celebrity sports journalist apparently.   I should not jest, as a google search tells me he writes for The Guardian, so should be taken seriously.  At this inaugural (I think) VitalityMove event you could hardly move for celebrities, it was a shame I wasn’t the right demographic to necessarily appreciate it at the time. Having said that, cynicism aside, I quite liked the way Jess, Trev, and Vasso (we are all friends now) got stuck in and engaged with everyone.  This is definitely not a conventional running event… that’s both it’s selling point and it’s problem. The razzmataz/ festival feel of it all might appeal to new groups of runners, but also might deter those expecting a more traditional event.  I appreciated it though, so that was good enough for me.  I’m self-centred in that respect.

Next, I was on a mission.  A fellow runner en route had told me how he’d blagged some giant foam hands from the TomTom stand.  Good plan.  He just went and asked for them. Basic assertiveness sometimes pays off. I’ve been searching for one of those for a while (long story for another time) and this was my moment.  I went up to the first tomtom rep who made eye-contact and used immense skill and judgement to frame the wording of my request. ‘I’d like a giant foam hand please?’  Something like that, straight to the point, no messing. He nodded, and headed towards a ball pit surrounded by children and for an awful moment I thought he was just going to take a foam hand off one of them!  My mistake, there was a whole pile of them (foam hands, not children), I got not just one hand but two!  Hurrah.

handy

It seemed only polite by way of appreciation to show that I do have a tomtom and I do really like it, even though it has a few features I still don’t know how to use. Well, this turned into another brilliant chat.  Not only is my TomTom now properly set to miles, and I understand it isn’t broken when it won’t move back from a screen straight away (that’s a protective feature to stop it being over-sensitive and stopping mid-run apparently)  but also  I also got to learn a whole load about ultra running from the Australian rep.  He himself is hoping to do the Marathon des Sables in 2019 as part of a team who were the first aboriginal participants to complete the insanely challenging 251km in six days ultrarun which is basically all across desert.  I think last year.  Exasperatingly I can’t find any references to this awesome achievement on google, there is the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, which raises funds for entries to the New York Marathon for indigenous Asutralians, and is interesting but not the same at all. However, this organisation did the Marathon des Sables as a fund-raiser for the IMF at some point so that came up at the top of all the google hits, so I couldn’t locate the aboriginal team.  Oh well.   Anyway it was so interesting hearing about that, and the inspiration this runner got from reading ‘Born to Run‘ which I keep hearing about and must actually read one day.   The book that is, not the Bruce Springsteen album, different motivational sequence altogether!  Plus we talked about what it’s like living and working in a different country. It was two and a half decades ago, but I did spend a year in Australia and it was fantastic, but I missed unexpected things like radio, a shared sense of humour – which it turns out is much more culturally specific than you may think, strange things, so it was interesting to hear what it was like in reverse, an Australian living long-term in London.  Well, I enjoyed the chat anyway.  As we said farewell, I realised I’d spent the whole conversation stood up on a mini stage whilst he was standing on the ground.  It was only departing that I realised he was very tall, but I hadn’t noticed, I wonder if he had noticed my giraffe?  Thanks tomtom people, for the nice pacers, my nice watch, the foam hands, the opportunity to hold an olympic torch and the running insights.  Good to meet you and you were all great ambassadors for the brand too IMHO for what it’s worth.  Here are all the TomTom gang.  Can you spot the Marathon des Sables wannabee amongst them?  Also foam hand.  Fab eh?

tomtom team spot the Australian

I didn’t feel like leaving straight away though I was peckish by now.  I’d had more water, some coconut water (fab freebie) and splashed out on a cup of decent coffee, but the food options were a bit out of my budget, though in line with the sort of upmarket food stands you get at this kind of event.  I decided to stay for the prize giving.  Winners for 5k and 10k morning and afternoon men and women. Quite good prizes too, tomtom watches and things.  There were some stonking times.   This celebrated the competitive part of the day.  It was good, and nice to see.  I did wonder though, if given this was supposed to be a more inclusive event if they could maybe have had some more random spot prizes so celebrating the non-speedy as well.  You know like at fell races, when they have, oh I don’t know: muddiest legs; finish position same as race number; furthest traveled entrant; most radiant smile; best face-plant of the day whatever. They wouldn’t have to be particularly expensive ones – a foam hand would have done, but something to acknowledge different ways of participating were valid too.  I suppose it depends again what the target group is for this event, it still isn’t entirely clear to me, maybe that’s why it was a hard sell… Even so, it was fun cheering the winners – it was a young girl who picked up second woman for the morning 5k, or maybe even the 10k, I had very little grasp of who got what.   Awesome achievement though, super speedy run!

Oh I nearly forgot, if you care about the actual results then they are here for the VitalityMove event.  Weirdly the results for each distance are merged into one table.  I’m not fussed about my time and can see some merit in this approach for a fun event.  However, it could be a high risk strategy as I suspect more competitive types may think otherwise, if their places in one 10k are diminished in comparison to times for the other.  It will be interesting to see what the feedback about that is.  I say ‘feedback’ what I really mean though is expressions of indignation on facebook, no way of knowing how representative that is of anyone to be fair.  Some will mind though, I’m sure of that.

Prizes dolled out, I decided it was time to go home.  As I was leaving, on a whim I decided I would actually like an event T-shirt and it seemed a way to contribute to the event a bit as I hadn’t paid.  There was no-one queuing for merchandise so it was an opportunity to have a bit of a natter with the woman selling the T-shirts.  Tenner a time.  Large sizes, I think though possible all men’s fit rather than women’s.

tumbleweed corner

Anyway, to cut to the proverbial chase, it quickly became apparent that this was yet a further celebrity sighting for the day!  After debating the relative merits of the T-shirt sizing, and breaking the ice by me wrestling in and out of various sizes whilst she provided real-time feedback on their fit (she didn’t need to say anything, you could see from her facial expressions) we got onto running related story telling. Well dear reader, she is only the current Guinness World Record holder for the Fastest half marathon running backwards (female).  I know!  How exciting is that.  I have a sort of fascination for backwards running because I only found out relatively recently that it is an actual thing and it seems to me truly remarkable.  I tried to pump her for information as much as possible before someone else turned up actually wanting a T-shirt and so she was able to break eye-contact and end the conversation, and it is just as amazing as you might think.  So, to get a few things straight:

  1. Shantelle Gaston-Hird ran in aid of an anti-bullying charity at the Wimslow half earlier this year.  Running for a cause she felt really passionately about helped to motivate her.
  2. The answer to the question ‘but how do you train for a running backwards event?’ is, remarkably enough ‘by running backwards in training.’  Who knew?  The thing is – and I speak as a fancy dress wearer of some experience – I can totally see how it’s easy enough to carry off what might be (erroneously) considered to be an eccentric approach to a running as part of an event.   Half-marathons and marathons everywhere positively welcome the fun-runners and their crowd pleasing antics, but pounding the roads in the dark of winter during training running backwards, or in fancy dress – well that’s a whole new level of dedication.  However, and it’s obvious really when you think about it, the people who live near where she runs locally are so used to it apparently they don’t bat an eyelid these days.  I love that.
  3. Running backwards uses five times more effort than running forwards, so it’s very much more physically demanding
  4. She has only ever fallen over (or was it crashed into something) once in training, and that was because she was distracted by catching her long hair in a zip in her top and didn’t stop running whilst trying to disentangle herself from this mishap.  Distraction related face plant then, we’ve all had them out running.  Haven’t we?
  5. She has a running forward guide on the day to keep it all safe.  Training is a more solitary undertaking
  6. She did it in about 2 and a half hours, that’s splendid is it not?

I was so in awe, I actually remembered to ask for a photo (I’ve so regretted not getting a selfie with the mankini marathon man at London, and I’ve learned from that).  So here it is, plus one from the Wilmslow Guardian article celebrating her world record breaking run by way of further illustration of her achievement, and in case there are still some doubters out there.  A.Maz.Ing.  Fact!  Maybe I’ll try to Photoshop me in alongside her later.  First of all I have to see if I have that on my laptop and learn how to use it, so best you don’t wait up in anticipation.

So you see, this whole event was jam-packed with awesome people.  All runners are great, you just have to bother to find out their individual stories, everyone has one. You have your own too, I’m sure.

I drifted back to the car park, snapping the dancing troupes and a couple of particularly photogenic children in the throng as I left.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So there you go. Debut VitalityMove, yep, a grand day out indeed.  Geronimo  Sky is quite tired now though, so I think she’ll have a break from running for a bit, but her medal count is pretty good to date.  Bodes well.

For my part, I think this is a model for a running event that could indeed run and run (pun intended) but whether it is a financially viable one I’m not so sure.  I gained the distinct impression that many of the people I’d met were last-minute entries who used coupons many and various to get generous discounts.  I hope they do try to offer the  event again, with a bit of tweaking there should be room in the running calendar for more days out and about like this.  However, I do fear the VitalityMove offering may instead disappear into the mists of time like the town of Brigadoon. For those of us who discovered it and were there, it will be the stuff of joyful memories and legend, but fated not to be seen again for a hundred years.  For my part though, I had a grand day out, as did Geronimo, so thanks Jess and everyone who had the imagination to think this day up and make it happen.  It was worth doing, and I for one appreciated it, which is a start.  Cheers!

So til next time, happy running y’all.  Get out there and embrace them there hills! 🙂

 

P.S.   PHOTOS: There are/will be lots of photos – you could buy a bundle in advance for £10 which was pretty good value as there were lots  of cameras around on the day – O had 61 photos of me to browse through.  Granted about 50 of them made me want to vanish off the face of the earth instantaneously, or at the very least never be seen in public again, but some were really run.  All captured the sense of occassion.  I didn’t find the website user-friendly though, it took some tenacity to get the darned photos to download and I never worked out how to get them directly onto facebook, which in retrospect is probably a massive blessing.  Otherwise it was £25 afterwards which is a bit of a jump in price.  AWOL have some in the public domain here taken from social media sites; and Jessica Ennis put loads of vidoes up on her official facebook page on the day.  Here’s one of the general atmosphere on the stage by way of example. I’m guessing more photos will follow on both the VitalityMove Facebook page and the AWOL Facebook page at some point.

and they have!  Check out this selection from the  Chatsworth Album here from VitalityMove for a start.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Categories: 10km, off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Silverdale Stampede – reimagining the school run

Digested read:  Silverdale School put on an inaugural 10k trail run on 14 May 2017.  I went.  It was fun.  I went home with a pineapple!*  Will go again next year.  *Note, not everyone got a pineapple, but that’s OK because running in such a lovely setting is its own reward.

It always seems a good idea at the time, entering a trial run. To be honest, that’s how it starts. You see the innocuous looking poster for a local 10k at some vague and distant point in time.  From the sanctuary of your sofa, you imagine the joy you will experience as you cavort through idyllic fields whilst breathing in the loveliness of the local countryside.  I think it’s called positive visualisation. This leads you to believe you will romp round hardly breaking a sweat, before concluding this graceful10k trot out with a seemingly effortless sprint through a perfectly configured finish funnel.  This finale flourish of your glorious finish, will be to a chorus of congratulatory screams from an assembly of awe-struck spectators, who will be crying with admiration at your achievement and tossing victory laurels at you in between shouting your name in adulation.  You yourself will conclude your challenge with a self-deprecating wave of your hand to indicate ‘really, it was nothing‘  subtext ‘see me, super human, born to run‘.  I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Truthfully, the actual experience of participating in the inaugural Silverdale Stampede wasn’t entirely in keeping with how I envisaged it from the sanctuary of my own sitting room some weeks earlier, but it was still well worth the effort of getting my weary carcass up and out on a Sunday morning.  Hopefully it will be just the first Silverdale Stampede of many more, and next year, maybe you too dear reader will come join the fun.  Find out for yourself whether or not ‘fun run’ is the ultimate oxymoron or a cast iron guarantee of grit, glory and gratification, and yes indeed running fun!  Albeit susceptible to type one (genuinely fun at the time) and type two (only identifiable as fun retrospectively) variants, depending on your point of view.  Do your own research people, don’t rely on what others tell you, thereby lies most of the misinformation in the world. FACT.  But obviously, don’t take my word for it.  Way too ironic.

So this was the first clue – a poster proclaiming the intention to cause a Stampede at a local school.  There were some surprises in the initial publicity.  Back in my day, schools didn’t particularly encourage stampedes, for example British Bulldog was banned early on in my school career for health and safety reasons – you can have one too many unconsious school pupils on a school playground apparently –  though I’m proud to say at my junior school we continued to play it under the new branding of ‘sheep sheep come home’.  Enterprising peers I had at the time.  I don’t know if British Bulldog is still alive and kicking (literally and metaphorically) in playgrounds today, but it seems that the practise of chasing down a quarry in the name of sport at school is still alive and well.  Feel for the teachers subjected here not only to the pressures of Ofsted inspections and sats but being pursued cross county by a manic mass.  Still, whatever it takes to gather the necessary enthusiasm and momentum to get people along to the event I suppose.   Perhaps students will be lured by the opportunity to hunt down their esteemed mentors.  I expect that on catching them they’d want to thank them for all their educational labours on behalf of their teenage charges.  For me, the push to commit to entering was more the strictly-off-the-record insider information that amongst the (many) spot prizes donated that might potentially be bestowed on participating runners, was a large quantity of gin. Also, at that point in time, more prizes than runners.  Result!  I might yet be truthfully able to claim having one something at a sports day!   Where running is concerned, it really helps to think about what motivates you at an early stage in your training.  The most elite of runners will tell you so.  Check out the strap line for our very own local GB triathletes Les Brutelles for confirmation if you must, they proclaim ‘We swim a bit, bike a bit, run a bit and drink gin quite a lot‘. So fair enough to have them as role models whose lead we must follow. Surely?  Totally legitimate part of a training plan, apparently. (But see note earlier, about always checking out primary resources in research for yourself)

bargain prices

So, I set about entering…. and found to my amazement that early entries required the inclusion of a cheque.  It’s been a while since I’ve had to write out one of them. Not to worry, sourcing my cheque book in amongst the debris of my living space was  a sort of cross training exercise all of its own.  Much squatting and stretching into dark corners before it was located.  The cheque was sent, and a couple of days later my email acknowledgement was duly received.  I was in.  So ever conscientious if not keen, that meant I was going to be running in this Silverdale Stampede, ready or not.  Mostly not, but hey ho.

It has been ridiculously dry of late, so I was impressed that the Silverdale School PTA managed to organise quite a downpour overnight the day before to ensure the off-road trails would be appropriately bouncy and the vegetation newly washed and bursting out with fresh growth.  On waking there was still some rain about, but it brightened up.  In an unprecedented turn of events, my temperature testing ritual (arm out of an upstairs window) indicated it might get pretty hot out there.  Today I would run in a T-shirt under my Smiley vest, I don’t think this has ever happened to me at an organised event before – I always wear a long-sleeved top.  It offers more protection against inclement elements, allergy inducing under-growth and frankly is a more forgiving cut.  I don’t reject it lightly.  However, even I had to concede I’d probably collapse in the heat if I insisted on wearing it today. Well, I would if I was planning to wear a Smiley vest as well, and I couldn’t not wear that.  Hence, a running first in my world anyway.  I would bare my arms to the world in pursuit of glory at the Silverdale Stampede.  Two inaugural events on one day!  The planets must have aligned in some special debut inducing way.

I’d never actually been to Silverdale School before, or indeed any school for years and years, decades probably.  I expect schools to smell of cabbage and carbolic soap, be fitted with huge noisy radiator pipes that will, according to oral history, give you extensive piles for life should you risk sitting on them even for a snatched instant. Toilets will have cracked sinks and corners heaped with tapeworm eggs amongst the dust of ages.  Honestly, in ‘O’ level biology we were told that this was a common finding in the crevices of old school toilets with cracked tile floors.

I was quite taken aback then, to cruise into the car park of the school and be greeted by a grand spanking new building that was more reminiscent of a recently developed university campus than a traditional school.  It was impressive, space age, pristine buildings towering upwards – but also somewhat intimidating.  I parked over in a discrete corner (I was very early) and surveyed the coming and goings for a bit before plucking up courage to check out the registration system for the run.

Once it got to what seemed to me to be a critical mass of people in hi-vis and miscellaneous looking runners, I ventured out.  It was a really efficient set up. There were two tables, one for pre-registered keenies (er hem) like me, and one for enter on the day, fair-weather running chancers.   There was also a sea of marshals donned in epilepsy-inducing orange hi-viz, and a slightly manic looking organiser, but it would be rude to draw undue attention to that.  I’m sure these event days are quite stressful enough as it is without my adding to the trauma with pointing and laughing in a less than supportive fashion just at the point of delivery…

I got my number 303. I found the symmetry of these digits most pleasing.  Accelerate donated the race bibs, which I think you’ll agree was jolly sporting.  I was also impressed by the number of entrants… until I found out that in fact the organisers had deliberately allocated the numbers quite randomly, to avoid people being deterred by the realisation that entry levels were quite low.  It was a slow burn getting people to enter.  I think partly the ‘cheque in the post’ system was a deterrent, and some people deliberately opted to pay on the day as it was ‘more money for the school coffers’ that way.  A noble sentiment, but possibly a misguided one.  They may have felt pushing the organisers to the point of nervous collapse as they had a growing fear there would be nowt by tumble weed to be seen on the course on the day was but a small price for someone else to pay in the circumstances. Next year though people, do the right thing, sign up early.  Give the organisers the gift of sleep in the weeks coming up to The Big Day.  Best start looking for your cheque book now though, to save time.

Number collected, the next great challenge was to collect other runners I knew, and in particular herd together fellow Smiley Paces members for the obligatory pre-event selfies.  I found wood-runners, Monday Mobsters and Smiley Paces in abundance.  Quite a few local running clubs also had a smattering of attendees, but it was a pretty mixed field, which is always good.  I know I’m always going to be the ballast at the back, but I like to think I have a chance of staying in sight of the faster runners for a bit at least…

The next mission was to get an idea of the route.  There was a map of sorts on display, but as usual I couldn’t really make sense of it.  Enough to know that it was 10k, mostly off-road, involving country tracks, up through the Limb Valley woodland trails ‘undulating’ or ‘hilly’ depending on your current levels of fitness and optimism on setting out.  I did romp round wearing my tomtom watch – more for adornment than extra speed, but it means I can upload a view of the route for you here. …. inevitably, I forgot to turn it on until we were already underway, but it gives you some idea of where we went.  Also, on the plus side, it might make my finish time look less lamentable as well…  Looking at the strava map afterwards it makes it seem quite a ‘bitty’ course,  but in fact it flowed really well when running, I wasn’t aware of going round in pointless circles at the time, which is rather what it looks like with the dubious benefit of hindsight.  Does anyone else think it looks like a bad Strava art kangaroo?  No?  Just me then.

Silverdale stampede route

So, basically how it went was this.  Lots of vague milling around when people collected numbers, marshals set off excitedly to stand and point and clap where appropriate on the course.  I don’t like to label people generally, but what can you do when choose to label themselves?  One Smiley was right in the middle of  a venn diagram where ‘smilies’ and ‘teachers from Silverdale school’ intersect.  She therefore was tooled up with a ‘chase me’ sign.  Schools do have to have their targets after all, even if they are not always entirely realistic.  I am pleased to report that she took the precaution of heading off before the majority of the field, disappearing up the hill and out of sight, and from the pictures no doubt retaining that lead until the end! Go Smiley!

As she went on her way, the rest of us were shooed towards the start area.  There was a tarpaulin on which you could leave your stuff, and a bit more milling about, during which time super-keen people did stretches and Jenny drills, whilst the more nonplussed of us blinked into the sun, focusing less on warm up and more on personal energy conservation.

Eventually, aided by a megaphone – always a boon at pre-race briefings – there was the official welcome to this auspicious inaugural event… and then came the health and safety warnings. The gist of the latter was beware below for roots and above for low hanging branches, and of each other, and other route users, and the sky falling in as well I think.  Not that any of this mattered as we’d all signed away all and any liability at the outset anyway.  Yay, that’s the thrill of the chase indeed.  The other teachers to chase were hauled before the crowd for adulation and identification purposes, and sent on their way, the rest of us gathered ready to depart.

I was a bit perturbed by the presence of a beautifully marked out athletic track, but too late to pull out now.  Please don’t make me run 10k in laps!  Soon enough we were off and on our way.  Not a huge field, but a perfectly formed one. Tail marker at the back, and then, set off to chase and overtake all of us, stealth Dark Peak super-runner, picking us off one by one as she made her way through to the front.  Mostly, I got the view from the back, and why not, it was a very fine view, and anyway, I like to get my money’s worth on a race by spending as much time as possible out on the course, plus it’s good to be consistent.  I believe I was, maintaining my position in the rankings throughout.

Shortly after our departure, the fun runners were sent on their way to do the 4km route, dragging panting parents in their wake.  Some of the younger participants were also sporting local running club tops – who knew Dark Peak started them so young?  Perhaps that explains some of the single-minded resolve of those fell runners you glimpse vanishing into the hill mists in these parts, as elusive as any mysterious mountain yeti.   They are drawing on decades of self-discipline to keep them going on like the machines they are.   I didn’t see the photos of the fun-run start until afterwards, but my, they looked at the take off as if this running malarkey was a serious endeavour indeed. Go them!   Ooh – and I see a Smiley in the throng too. That’s grand!  We get everywhere.  Hallamshire Harriers too!  A veritable rash of them.  Well supported run I’d say!

dark peak starting young

Although the start makes it seem flat, in fact you immediately have to heave-ho up a hill, which wouldn’t matter quite so much if it weren’t for the fact that you are being waved off by the fun runners so have to keep running for fear of ridicule and shame if you do not. Friendly marshals did indeed line the way. Some were really communicative and encouraging, some young women early on (students I presume) were excellent ambassadors for the school with the claps, directional pointing and encouraging comments.   Their male counterparts a bit further up the gravel track didn’t do too badly either.   I do always try to thank marshals on every run I do, but sometimes I am able to communicate my breathless appreciation more eloquently than others.  May I thank all you lovely marshals here at least.  You were fab!

The route was well-marked, but the field spread out quickly.  The overwhelming majority of runners pulled out of sight from me within minutes, I had a couple of runners in view for a while, but as soon as we got to twisty turny bits I couldn’t see them any more.  A few runners behind me were soon out of earshot, so I did most of the run on my own. That was OK.  There were interactions with other people out and about. There were two women on a bench early on who, seeing I was struggling a bit,  stated emphatically ‘well, you can see we aren’t running anywhere!’ which I took as encouragement rather than rebuke as I hauled on past them with their cheery raucous (but benign)  laughter still ringing in my ears.  There were a few dog walkers, some other runners – which was confusing, as they were coming the other way.

The route went up and down, and in and out, and it was really, genuinely lovely.  I did have a couple of nervous moments navigating, one early on as I romped down a footpath that terminated at the roads near to Whirlow Hall but a marshal did appear out of the woods in my peripheral vision and sent me on up limb valley. I’ve only ever run down that before, when it is a lovely bouncy woodland trail.  It seemed a lot longer on the way up, running it in reverse, but it was scenic.   I did nearly asphyxiate it is true, but that was only because I inadvertently swallowed a larger than I’d have liked insect of some sort which got caught in my throat.  Earlier a smiley first aider had headed out clutching a first aid kit, but I reckoned I wouldn’t make it to that point on one breath, and seriously feared I’d have to flag down a walker at some point and somehow communicate to them that they needed to carry out an emergency tracheotomy with the tube from a biro.  This sounds a bit alarming, but fortunately it is such a commonplace plot device on everything from Casualty to Doctors that I reckon most of us would happily have a bash at doing a DIY tracheotomy on someone else given the chance.  Just imagine the bragging rights.  I suppose it would have to be successful if you were to dine out on the story to be fair, but you aren’t going to get good at it if you don’t take up chances to practice are you?  In the event my obstruction cleared itself, so I could spend the rest of the run not worrying about death by suffocation, but rather hating myself for inflicting death on some poor unwitting insect.  Not compatible with my claim for vegetarian credentials.  Dark thoughts can often come upon me when I run, but that’s OK, I get to work through them and replace them with jollier ones in due course.  I think that’s quite common.  Although now I write it down I have induced a wave of personal paranoia that no, it is only me on whom this tidal wave of negative thought has landed….

Up, up through the valley.   Between you and me, I might have caved in and walked for some of the uphill bits, but I think you’ll find if you walk and no-one is there to see you, it doesn’t really count.   Then, at exactly the point I most wished for it, there was a smiling marshal holding out plastic cups of water.  I never carry water when I run, and it didn’t occur to me until I was under way that there might not be water stations on this route. It was only a small event after all.  I was very glad of it at this point, and the excuse to get my breath back before heading off.  I didn’t want to gulp down too much though, so just had a few sips before handing the cup back.  Don’t want to litter these precious routes.  As you emerge from the woods of Limb valley, there was a path to the left, almost doubling back on yourself, that I’ve never noticed before.  You head off along this, over some wooden boards, and up and over a couple of styles and then  you get to green, green meadows that were like something out of an award-winning costume drama set in the English countryside. Verdant fields of swaying grasses with gamboling lambs skipping about them in all their late-spring gorgeousness.  Even better, I realised that I was in fact still in sight of other runners.  Yay, no need to navigate, only blindly follow. The views were stunning. It might not have been the best running weather in that it was a bit hot, but my it was really gorgeous, and lovely to be introduced to a local route that I hadn’t discovered before.  No particular reason, I suppose I’ve just got used to running the trials I usually run, and have become lazy about exploring new footpaths.

Joy on joy – another Smiley marshal ahead, also brandishing water and throwing out words of encouragement. Initially somewhat unnervingly even greeting me by name!  Closer inspection revealed we’d met before at a Trust 10 Longshaw 10k some months ago, yay.  Small world, Smiley solidarity goes a long way.  Mind you, I genuinely believe all local runners will support other runners, but it’s human nature to have an extra soft spot for you own running club especially one as all round awesome as we Smilies.  A group built as much around coffee and cake stops (sometimes prosecco and gin) as it is about social running rendezvous!

The woods were lovely, but pretty empty…

to the woods

At one or two points there were photographers lurking.  Mixed blessing.  At one point in the empty woods, when I thought no-one was about I resorted to hopping for quite a way. It’s a great running drill as running is basically a one-legged sport, might as well give it a go whilst no-one is watching.  Anyway, another Smiley was in situ, lurking ready to snap me in action.  It may not be an entirely graceful sight, but hopping off-road for that sort of distance is harder than you think, especially when there are loads of tree roots to be negotiated.

action shot LM

There weren’t any km markers on the route, and my tomtom wasn’t set properly due to operator error.  However, towards the end the route became a bit familiar again. Some fo this was because you do go back along partially the same tracks, and some of it is because it takes similar paths to the Dig Deep Whirlow 10k, which meant I wasn’t quite so caught out by the sneaky uphill towards the end.  You emerge from the woods to a style where the route was confusing, do you go left across to the next style or down the hill?  The path went in two directions.  There was a marker but it had clearly fallen down and wasn’t pointing anywhere.  I saw other runners ahead and decided to continue my sheep like following, it is a strategy that has served me well before.  It was a good call.  It really was nearly home now.  A few twists and turns, but lots of marshals, and soon I was back in the playing fields and could see the finish.

The last bit is all down hill and a pleasing ‘weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ moment.  Less pleasingly, everyone else was assembled round the little tent where the prize – giving was underway, so although the event wasn’t entirely done and dusted, there was no mistaking that I was definitely a comparatively late finisher.  I could hear the announcements, and then the presiding official espied me and encouraged everyone to cheer me home!  That was pretty cool.  I may be shallow and misguided.  In fact, I almost definitely am.  However, rather than weep at the humiliation of my slow time, I chose to celebrate and embrace the shouts that helped speed me in.  It is fun!  My five seconds of fame.  Even more pleasing, I had no sooner come through the finish, than my number was pulled out of the raffle for a spot prize!  What?

Couldn’t have timed it better if it was scripted.  I picked up the fastest turn of speed I’d managed all day and sprinted  over to the tent to choose my prize. There was a ridiculous number of offerings, eye-popping choice.  I went for the fruit and veg hamper, because that seems the sort of fell-race appropriate local produce option.  Though I don’t think Waitrose necessarily grew the pineapple in the Sheffield area.  Very fine hamper though.  Yay!

Hamper of goodies (1)

Loads of us got prizes, and we managed to gather a few Smilies for a post race shot.  Not sure why it looks like teacher Smiley has dropped her trousers especially for the photo, but I don’t suppose anyone will notice. There’s always one with exhibitionist tendencies though isn’t there?

Smiley winners all ish

The prize giving and raffle was speedily concluded, and then, right on cue, the wind picked up and icy rain started to fall. This brought about the rapid dispersal of most of the runners, whilst the many marshals huddled together for bodily warmth.  All great team building I’m sure.

seeking bodily warmth

After a few more minutes, eventually the final finisher and back marker came into view.  The timer rushed back out to put back up the funnel which had blown over in the sudden unexpected storm and those of us around got into position to cheer then home!

I’d rather ostentatiously left my hamper at the finish, as a sort of lure.  I think she earned a hobgoblin legendary ruby beer at the finish as much as I did.  Lucky there were two bottles, one each perfect.   She wasn’t immediately effusive as to the degree of fun she’d had en route, but I’m sure the post run endorphins kicked in eventually!

For my part, home, and the next project was to work my way through as much of the produce as possible starting with the new potatoes (which I did cook first) and hobgoblin beer, which was actually pretty fine.  Also, I think I have a similar profile. Perhaps it is my kindred wood-spirit finally found?  So, since I’m here drinking from the sanctuary of my sofa once again, flushed with alcohol and a post run high, no harm in having a little surf to see what other runs are out ther is there… now let me see…

So there you have it.  Inaugural Silverdale Stampede.  Done.  Only one person got lost, and they were found again so that’s fine and dandy. A grand morning out, and a fixture that I hope will run and run (see what I did there).

See you there next year?  Hope so, ’til then, we have our memories…  Didn’t we do well?  Thank you Silverdale PTA for an excellent initiative, and the just the first of many more I hope.

Happy running y’all.  🙂

Categories: 10km, motivation, off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It takes all sorts… volunteering at the inaugural Run for All Sheffield Road 10k October 2016

This event could have done without the ranting, racist vicar.

On the other hand,  Scooby Doo was definitely an asset to the occasion.  Thank you Race Image Photography for the shot.

scooby-dooby-doooooooo

Plus, I got a Certificate of Awesomeness for volunteering on the day, which is not quite like getting a medal to mark the occasion, but is nice to get all the same.  You have to write your own name in though, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Au Contraire, I can give myself extra letters after my name, or use this as a baseline document from which to forge a whole new identity if ever I decide I really do need to reinvent myself and take flight to  – oh I don’t know – Cambodia say, to start a new life overseas and anonymous.   I know it says Certificate of Achievement by the way, I can read, but I think you’ll find that is an easily enough remedied typo.  Us volunteers were awesome all the way!  It says as much. Without my personal presence, the entire event would have imploded and nobody would have been able to run anywhere at all.  It’s actually quite a responsibility when you come to think of it…

certificate-of-awesomeness

So, on to the main business of the day.  This is  not an entirely jolly post.  You have been warned.  I’m not even sure it’s entirely running related.  And it’s definitely not about dogging in Sheffield either so I’m expecting a few dissatisfied readers on this occasion.  Don’t be one of them.  Turn around now.  Or stay if you must, but remember, no refunds, no apologies and as for expecting a dose of dry humour?  Well, only hollow laughs are on offer at best – probably not even those.  Though I might treat you to a trainee philosopher’s wise words right at the end, so I suppose you could take a punt that, that might contribute to your personal and professional development journey.  You could perhaps stick it on a sunset photo and make it into a poster to go up in your room or in your PDP file/log book/ Record of Achievement or something.  I might even try to work out how to do that myself!  Would be a hoot…  Are you going to go with delayed gratification and wait and see if I do this, or do you prefer to scroll down now and fast forward to the finish to find out now?  The choice dear reader, is yours.  Just remember though, it is a FACT that an inability to wait for delayed gratification is a known psychopathic trait.  I’m sure I read it in Readers’ Digest or possibly People’s Friend, so it must be true….

yin-yang-running

So, back on topic…. Perhaps it’s the yin and yang of running events.  To date, maybe I’ve been unusually blessed with witnessing almost exclusively the sunny side of race days, today, well… not so much.  Let’s just say not everyone I came across was sharing the joy of having the inaugural Sheffield 10k on their doorstep.  From my perspective far too many were keen to direct  their displeasure rather personally at the volunteer team, aggressively, abusively and – in the case of the aforementioned dog-collared ‘friend’ – with a side-order of bigotry that was so unexpected it was genuinely shocking.   I was in two minds about doing a post on this event.  I try to avoid negative perspectives on the whole, and I wouldn’t want to put anyone off volunteering because it was still a very positive thing to do, and this was certainly a fun event to be part of.  But then again, I figure both my readers are worldly enough to cope with the volunteer’s eye-view exposé  that follows.  Besides, I think some of the behaviours displayed today should be called.  I hope if you are reading this and agree, you might be more likely to volunteer in future not less, you could be part of the solution perhaps?  Go you!  The more the merrier after all.

So, the traditional blah de blah – this was the inaugural Run for All Sheffield 10k.    The Sheffield 10k route is described as follows:

Runners will take on a fantastic city centre route, starting in Arundel Gate, and taking runners on a journey along Charter Row and along Ecclesall Road, before skirting the edges of pretty Endcliffe Park.

It continues along Riverdale Road, along Endcliffe Vale Road, close to the Botanical Gardens, then travels down Brocco Bank and back to an exhilarating city centre finish.

Sheffield 10K route map

So now you know.  Personally though, today I wasn’t running, I’d opted to volunteer, so didn’t really care all that much about the route.   I was far more excited by the prospect of being able to volunteer so near to my house.  Now I come to write that down, it does seem really stupid that this should be so appealing.  I mean, I could stand on a street corner clapping passers-by any time I choose, but it was always going to be better as part of an organised event.  Runners and other road users can be so self-conscious when not part of organised events.  Try standing on a pavement and clapping every passer-by outside a formal race and you’ll see what I mean.  Not everyone appreciates it as much as you might think they would

I didn’t enter the 10k because road races aren’t really my thing – which is a shame as I’ve got a ballot place for the London marathon, but you have to be flexible about these things don’t you.  Also, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be around.  Once I knew I was, I was keen to volunteer as it’s a fab way of being involved in the fun of an event without the effort of being made to run. As it happened I’ve had a horrible cold all week anyway, so wouldn’t have got round, although I was quite well enough to stand and support.  For future reference, there are lots of different ways to volunteer, through the main website is the obvious one, but I did so through a local charity Snowdrop Project, which I’d not heard of before, but which put out a Facebook appeal for helpers.  They were one of the charity partners, and so needed to meet a certain quota of volunteers for the event.

snowdrop-logo

The Snowdrop Project is a relatively small Sheffield based charity, run by a seemingly close-knit and impassioned team who are committed to helping ‘survivors of human trafficking to live lives that are no longer defined by their past and we work to reduce the risk of those vulnerable to this crime‘.  This strikes me as being an incredibly important enterprise, particularly right here right now, when the world seems to be imploding and vulnerable people are on the move in their thousands.  If you fancy supporting them then you can donate here, every little helps.  And, I like to think, it isn’t just the money that helps, it’s the act of solidarity in giving anything at all.  Victims of trafficking and abuse can be so invisible, or even blamed for their situation, honestly, we’d probably all like to look away from that dark underbelly of human nature I’m sure, however, how can we fight it if we don’t face it?   The Snowdrop Project may indeed be the proverbial ‘drop in the ocean’ but even drops of water can erode mountains over time, or evaporate to form mighty stalagmites and stalactites, which might be a rubbish analogy, but is a very good excuse for a  spectacular cave photo.  Like this one perhaps.  No, I don’t know where the cave is.

cave-wonders

So, clocks changed, therefore not even a particularly early start.  I put on as many layers as I could whilst still retaining the ability to walk and do directional pointing.  It can get colder than you think standing around, and wandered down the road to the rendezvous point.   It was quite fun seeing the first road closed signs,   Also reassuring, I live in perpetual fear of getting the wrong day.  I don’t know why, maybe I’m panicked about this as part of my empathetic response to Cheetah Running Buddy who turned up a day late for the Flower and Produce show at her newly acquired allotment patch.  Beyond devastating, I shudder to think if someone as organised as she could make such a diary error, it could happen to any one of us!

It was easy to spot the volunteer assembly point due to the crush of people wearing hi-vis.  No-one looks nonchalant in hi-vis.  Everyone looks important.  The downside of this, was because everyone looked purposeful and in charge, it was a while before I could identify who actually was.  Also, there seemed to be the same muster point for volunteers of different origins.  Not that we didn’t all embrace the multiculturalism and work together, it’s just the allocation of correct t-shirts was a bit problematic.  I eventually, got to tick my name off a list, to meet other volunteers from Snowdrop.  I was offered a T-shirt, but they only had small, and my it was small, so I just stuffed it in my backpack along with my banana which I’d brought along as a snack for later, just in case.  Whilst we hung around waiting for others to appear there was a bit of small talk. We each got given a smallish mars bar.  It became apparent that there were a lot of no-shows.   Thirty-two volunteers were expected, only about 20 of us turned up. I was genuinely shocked.  Why would you be proactive enough to volunteer and then just not show on the day?  Communication had been really good in advance, lots of emails explaining expectations, where to meet and who to contact if any problems.  What’s more, my understanding was that charity partners have to provide x many volunteers, if they fail to do so, they can be charged, so no-shows might end up costing a small charity a not insignificant sum.

Our volunteer organiser was getting a bit twitchy.  We considered taking direct action to press-gang any passers-by and up the numbers.  One lost looking pair clutching a map were clearly looking for their volunteer point.  How we chortled in disbelief that they’d managed to miss us in all our hi-vis as they walked past heads down – we called them over… only to find they were actually en route to the water point further down the route.  Curses.  Time was ticking by.  ‘Has anyone marshaled before?’  Me and one other.  Owning up was a mistake, it meant extra responsibilities potentially, taking on the complexity of junction controls.  Fortunately, the first person was paired up with a woman who was previously a special constable with lots of traffic management experience therefore.  Just as well, since there seemed to be quite a lot of traffic heading down roads that were allegedly closed….  What bit of ‘Road Closed’ was ambiguous to road users I wonder?  Sensing I might actually be required to do something other than clap and point I asked for clarification on what to do if drivers ignored us. I’m glad I did.  The basic upshot is that you tell drivers the road is closed, it isn’t safe to proceed, as it’s an official closure this means if they chose to drive they are not insured to do so.  Be polite, but persist… but not to the point of personal risk obviously.  We all got given a nice lanyard with extra information too, emergency numbers, how to do CPR that kind of thing, though I was inclined to think that the chances of recovery for a runner wouldn’t be all that great if I was having to fumble for my glasses so I could read the instructions  prior to taking life-saving action of any kind.  Fingers crossed all would be well…  Shit selfie isn’t it?  Really must work on my technique for those – but it does capture the lanyard pretty well, and that is the educational point of including it.  You’re welcome.

great-lanyard

Having given up on the other volunteers, and time pressing on, we headed off to our designated spots.  I was amongst the first to be dropped off at the corner of graham Road.  I watched the other volunteers departing like an action shot from the men in black or something.   They marched onwards, fearless, focused, phenomenal!  (Clever with the alliteration there wouldn’t you say?)

marching-onwards

I had quite a big patch of road to watch, but  fortuitously there was a ‘proper’ traffic management guy at my junction.  Despite his alarmingly youthful looks, he did seem to have some experience, and shared with me stories of near miss traffic violations he’d witnessed in his time as event security personnel.    This turned out to be quite handy.  His advice was if you have a problem take a photo of any offending vehicle, and report immediately.  I admit now, I was listening with sort of absent-minded indulgence, it all sounded a bit unnecessarily officious to me, and quite unlikely that we would be at the front line of such altercations.  Unfortunately, not so irrelevant as I’d hoped and imagined.  His insights were in fact, much needed.

The first challenge was that a steady stream of vehicles kept heading up the ‘closed’ road towards us. This meant seemingly endless waving down of vehicles and hoiking the metal road blocks out of the way to get them off the course.  EAch driver insisted the police had directed them up, which was confusing.  It later emerged that this was precisely what was happening, some officers elsewhere on the course hadn’t known our road was shut too, and were intentionally diverting them along Riverdale Road towards us.  Not the best organisational start, but fortunately the problem was identified and nipped in the bud before any runners came round.

After I’d been in place about 15 minutes, another volunteer came sprinting back towards me. She’d been sent to help at this spot, thankfully, it definitely needed not only both of us, but a couple extra would have been good.  She also had some paper work that hadn’t been to hand before.  If you are thinking of volunteering, this is good to know. We got really clear briefing sheets showing where to stand, what to do, who to contact.  It had lots of easy to understand detail, right down to the use of a smiley face emoticon to help us with our appropriate facial expressions.    All very well organised.

We had not only the junction to contend with, we were also a ‘retiree collection point’, at which we sniggered more than was entirely appropriate.  You have to admit though, it does make it sound like you just round-up any random OAPs and kettle them in this one area for… well, I don’t know what exactly, some sort of despotic population control measure or other I imagine…

retirees-welcome

Once the flow of misdirected traffic was cut off, there was a pleasing lull before the tide of runners came into view.  I got chatting with my new BFF the second marshal. She was also a snowdrop volunteer, so we got chatting about why it was she and I had opted to volunteer through that route, as opposed to the more generic volunteer link on the 10k website.  It led to one of those unexpectedly profound conversations that you sometimes have with strangers where communication is accelerated by some coincidence.  I’ve had them on trains sometimes, or when traveling.  I think we covered bereavement; prostitution; sex tourism; paedophilia; criminal legislation; Brexit;  forthcoming American elections; The Jungle in Calais; immigration policy; rise of the far right; the power bestowed by a hi-vis; running injuries; UK foreign policy; experiences of living in other countries; the difficulties of language learning and how to get a job in export.  Usual stuff.  I don’t think it would be quite accurate to say we put the world to rights, because it is very much not to rights just now, but we had a go, and it is the thought that counts.  Apparently.

thought-that-counts

This was all quite fine and dandy. A few spectators drifted into view.  Nothing too demanding.  Eventually, the front of the race came into view, led on by a police motorcyclist with blue flashing lights (the bike not the police officer) and the three front-runners sped by.  This was the fun bit.  At first there was just a trickle of runners, the super fast leaders, but gradually the numbers grew, until it went from a trickle, to a stream, to a river to a great torrent of runners pounding by.  We clapped and cheered, and I looked out for familiar faces.  We also tried to spot Snowdrop runners, but honestly, their’s wasn’t the most eye-catching of T-shirts so only limited success.  I tried to cheer all the runners and running clubs I knew, plus, special cheers for my endurer dash buddy and for those who made an effort with fancy dress.  A cheer for the Strider pacers, a special shout to my Porter Plodder Personal Photographer, shouts of encouragement to Hallam parkun regulars and, of course, plenty of ‘go smiley’ shout outs for Smiley Paces runners too.  These photos are sourced from various Facebook pages and Ian Fearn from Race Image photography. Thanks all who shared them so generously.  Good to see the mandatory morris dancer made it round, and plenty of ‘digging deep’ facial expressions, the mark of the really hard-core runner, and not at all a cause for either concern or outside assistance.  Also, gurning whilst running is in fact evidence of an admirable ability to multi-task, so extra impressive.  Go all of you. Awesome efforts!

This is definitely the fun part of marshaling.  It was great clapping, cheering and watching the world go by. Kids offered high-fives, spectators cheered, fund-raisers rattled buckets.  I tried to take some Smiley snaps. You can’t help but notice I don’t quite have the gift with a camera that others can claim. Methinks, we are back to ‘it’s the thought that counts’ territory. What do you think?  I like to think I shouldn’t take it personally that most of my compatriot smileys are self-evidently doing their utmost to run away from me on sight.  It is my encouragement that helped them put on a turn of speed, not a desire to escape.  Likewise, those hand movements are cheery waves, not wild gesticulation urging me to go away in a ‘get thee behind me satan’ sort of impulse…

I did my best with the shout outs, but I realised at one point, too late, that I’d been doing the unforgivable thing of saying ‘all down hill from here‘ and then realised it wasn’t strictly true.   There was definitely at least one more biggish hill to tackle ahead.  I really hated it when people shouted that to me at the Sheffield Half – still, no runners were going to have the energy to come running back up and headbutt me were they?  Even if they wanted to, seeing the queue of angry car drivers waiting in line to have a pop at me they would have soon realised best to not jeopardise their finish times any more and just press on to the finish without delay.  Even so, I did edit my cheer to ‘downhill-ish, from here on‘ I like to think the runners would have appreciated that nod to accuracy.

Oh, have I not told you yet about the angry car drivers?  That wasn’t great to be honest.  It was really not great at all.

So, I’d fondly imagined that basically I’d be pointing, smiling, cheering and offering good-natured information to passers-by and other road users.  Most of it was like that to be fair, but not all.  It only takes a couple, but there were a couple of people who were deeply unpleasant and did take the shine off the day.  For example…

So the race is literally in full flow.  I am talking runners ten deep completely across the road, when I spotted a vehicle trying to sneak out along Graham Road.  Now fortunately, because it was so blooming obvious this was an unsafe manoeuvre, I behaved with uncharacteristic confidence, waving the vehicle to a halt, standing in front of it. The driver rolled down his window and was saying he only wanted to go a short way and I did my ‘I appreciate your frustration, but this road is closed, you can see an event is currently taking place, it is not safe for you to proceed, and further more if you choose to do so, your insurance is not valid‘ speech.  Now, this guy wasn’t directly rude, but he was pretty much laughing in my face, and shrugging in an ‘I’m going to completely ignore you anyway‘ sort of way.  So I repeated that it was unsafe to drive, there are children spectating  comments and added ‘you need to turn off your engine‘.  Which he did.  I walked back to my marshaling post, but did take a photo of his vehicle, which seemed paranoid, but I’m glad I did, it was needed later.

I’m glad, because no sooner was I in position, than another driver, who was very tall, and very angry, came over – on foot – and was towering over me remonstrating at the situation ‘who is in charge‘, ‘this is outrageous‘, ‘down with this sort of thing‘.  He was feeling trapped, as he couldn’t get his vehicle out of a side road.  He was claiming as he’d been away he didn’t know about the road closures etc, all of which may well be true, but I fail to see how he thought by being abusive and angry at me this would improve things.  Another marshal had already phoned our volunteer co-ordinator to see if she could come and escort  him out, and there really was precisely zero I could do.  As we were ‘talking’ by which I mean, he was shouting at me and I was feeling sad, there was a sudden screech of wheels, and the other driver, seeing his moment, started his engine, and sped round the corner causing spectators to gasp and jump aside and narrowly missing running over our poor events management guy with his road closed sign.  Hence, I was glad I’d already got his number plate recorded.  I ran to take another photo just in case, and as I did so, I heard behind me the other driver saying with not a hint of irony, the very person who seconds before had been remonstrating with me because we wouldn’t let him drive said ‘well, that was dangerous and uncalled for!’ Weirdly, I think witnessing this episode of clearly dangerous driving shocked him out of his immediate complaint.  It did illustrate just how risky it was to try to drive through the middle of the run. It might be a temporary inconvenience, but was it really worth risking running someone over for?  Tall man disappeared back to his vehicle, I checked on our road marshal.  He was fine, fortunately, having jumped aside and busy reporting the incident to both his supervisor and the police – aided by my having the number plate on film.  I doubt they will take any action, but they should really, it was so unnecessary.  I wouldn’t have felt so strongly if he’d snuck out at a snail’s pace, but he skidded round the corner.  Do people not realise that a car hitting a person is a lethal weapon?  No, I’m not being melodramatic, there were spectators as well as marshals and runners, and nobody is looking out for moving vehicles on a road that is officially closed.  The official term for drivers in such circumstances is not repeatable here.

The only good thing was that a number of spectators who witnessed it were supportive and offered to be witnesses etc.  Plus it got tall angry man off my back, but it wasn’t at all what I’d expected to happen whilst marshaling, and if my previous experience is anything to go by, not typical by any means.  Me and my fellow marshal got together for an impromptu debrief along the lines of ‘what was he thinking?’ and ‘that was outrageous‘ which didn’t change the situation but did make me feel better.

On a cheerier note though, let’s be grateful for the happy moments of the day. This interaction between the spectators and the runners for example  Aaaaah.  Good example of small child vulnerability as well.   And the battle ready runner too, could have done with his help now I come to think of it, were he not otherwise engaged….  You wouldn’t mess with a gladiator now would you, no matter how great your sense of entitlement?

There was also the team that came prepared for a triathlon – well you can’t be too careful, and there is talk of making Endcliffe Park into a pooling area for flood water, so possibly wise to plan ahead.  I don’t like to comment on other people’s running technique generally, as who I am to judge, but I couldn’t help thinking they’d not really made it easy for themselves there, and wriggling out of those morph suits would really hamper you when attempting your precautionary pee, surely?  Still, made me smile, which is the main thing.  I am increasingly of the view that all running events in the Sheffield calendar have been put on for my personal amusement.  This is a good thing.

be-prepared

In other celebrity sightings, there was our very own Sheffield Macmillan Man.  Our local hero, he is ceaseless in his fund-raising quest, coming round towards the back in his distinctive green wig – a look not everyone can carry off to be honest, but one he sports with gusto, verve and real style!

A special cheer should go to the final finisher of the day.  Well I say final finisher, strictly speaking as we were only just after the half-way point it is potentially possible,  that she might have put a wiggle on and made up some ground.  There was, to be fair, still the opportunity to go for a sprint finish and wielding the power of a negative split do some overtaking…  Anyway, she  was AWESOME.  Properly smiley and making the most of it.  Good for her.  I’ve been last enough times to celebrate the importance of that key role.  She was great.  She had an impressive cloud of support vehicles around her, bit like a celebrity who can’t venture out without a series of minders, or when politicians go for a run and they have to be followed by men in black cruising behind in their 4 by 4 dark-windowed vehicles and flanked by weapon carrying security guards looking mean.  Their dark glasses perhaps hiding their slightly pissed off expressions at being made to go for a run in a public place which is  a body guard’s ultimate nightmare.  She was working it.  Go her.  Thanks for the thumbs up.

So towards the end of the race, I was quite relieved the end was in sight, I’d had enough of being on the receiving end of angry remonstrating for one morning.  The runners were coming in dribs and drabs at the back, and the spectators were drifting away too. To be honest, in some ways this was the worst time for traffic as impatient drivers wanted to get going, but runners coming one by one with a runners haze surrounding them were more vulnerable than the runners en masse like a great mammalian migration.

Me and my companion marshal shared a giggle at how the morning had gone.  It was a way to relieve the tension.  It had been more stressful than anticipated.   As we did so, we found ourselves witnessing yet another angry altercation in progress.  A guy in a royal blue car shouting out of his window with an aggressively officious manner to an approaching police officer on his motor bike ‘I want to talk to you!’ (He didn’t want to talk to anyone, he wanted to shout at everyone, so he wasn’t even telling the truth!).  He’d apparently tired of giving grief to the poor marshals who had the unenviable task of trying to prevent him from driving down the race route whilst the run was still in full flow, and now had set his sights on higher prey.  Me and my marshaling buddy did that really juvenile thing of sniggering together like you do in school when another classmate is in trouble, and it isn’t that you wish them to be as such, but you are just so grateful that you yourself are not in the firing line at the moment of time you can’t help but giggle with relief.  This motorist was shouting aggressively and clearly not in a mood to be reasoned with.  After some animated repostes from him (except that repostes are supposed to be quick-witted and smart, whereas I suspect he was neither) he too sped away, passing us… as he did so, we caught sight of him ….  No mistake, he was wearing a dog collar!  We both exchanged a look and fell about laughing, his manner was so at odds with what I would imagine to be the more obviously desirable attributes of his profession.  You had to laugh.

We laughed less though when we later on got the full story of what had happened from the marshal who had been directly in his firing line.  It seems that, faced with the reality of the blocked road, and frustrated in his quest to get to church, he not only was unhelpfully angry – note to drivers, being horrible to a volunteer marshal will not magically cause a closed road to open – but also chose to underline his fury by raving ‘they wouldn’t have an event and close a road on a Friday afternoon when Muslims are wanting to go and pray‘!  It was jaw dropping to hear this. Quite apart from being errant nonsense – there are  many reasons why races and other events are not organised on a Friday and they have precisely zero to do with taking account any potential inconvenience to any particular faith community.  Furthermore his dubious belief structure had absolutely nothing to do with the situation in question, he might as well have blusteringly proclaimed ‘the earth is flat you know‘ in an attempt to move things on in a constructive way. Besides, holding this race on a Sunday was not a conspiracy directed personally against him, tempting though that idea might be in future years…  He was also demonstrating an arrogant and breath-taking disregard for the lived experiences of other faiths.  Like maybe, oh I don’t know, say Friday being considered a ‘normal working day’ might potentially be a bit more inconvenient when it comes to religious observance  than any organised community event you might care to conjure.  Worst of all, whilst of course anyone can be legitimately angry if they find themself caught up in an unexpected road block, what dark undercurrent of racist beliefs do you  have to hold that your knee jerk response to this is to hit out at other faiths.  And how pitiful are your negotiation skills if your response to this situation is further to shout at volunteers rather than seek some compromise.  I wonder if when he turned up at his church and was preaching his sermon to his congregation later on, they could see the  hypocrisy oozing from his pores?  Or would he be utterly shameless in peddling his offensive rhetoric and signing his ‘faithful’ up to the next Britain First rally in the neighbourhood?  Later on shaking hands with the departing faithful repeating his offensive and paranoid line on Muslims to exiting church-goers nodding in agreement?  It makes me shudder, it really does.   Even though earlier the speeding driver behaved in a way that endangered runners and pedestrians, it is the racist, ranting vicar / priest whose behaviour most appalled me.  That even wearing his dog collar he felt completely comfortable expressing such views and treating volunteers with utter contempt.  Where are his priorities?  There were 3282 runners (Sheffield 2016 10k results here if you care about that sort of thing) taking part, many for charity (and I get that supporting charities is complicated, but I’d still rather be counted with those that support than those that do not on the whole).  Then the organisers, spectators, many of both participants and supporters having their own personal stories as their motivation to run or support the day.  Yet he saw this community, collective endeavour, and apparently felt nothing but indignation and hate.  He could have had a good day, he could have shared the joy, but no.  Not a happy bunny.  Maybe his dog-collar causes chafing?   I really hope so. 🙂

run-for-all-be-inspired

The final finisher having passed us, then there was another flurry of activity as various support vehicles rolled into place and more cones were set up, and the clean up began.  Me and my marshal buddy looked on with the kind of enthusiasm for admiring trucks that is normally the domain exclusively of small children seeing their first tractor.  One of the great things about volunteering (I think) is that you see things in a new light and from a fresh perspective.  I don’t normally spend a lot of time appreciatively watching trucks laden with traffic control paraphernalia, and I’ve been missing out.  Look, it’s marvelous!

exciting-traffic-control-truck

We concluded our cheery chat swapping undertaker tales.  Not the usual ice breakers perhaps, but apt for Halloween arguably, and anyway, I love the random conversations you can have with people you are unlikely to meet again.  It’s a  licence sometimes to dig deep and grow, in a rather splendid way.

The race concluded, we hovered for a bit before we were scooped up by our volunteer co-ordinator.  She was puffing her way up the hill, which she’d had cause to pedal up and down on her bike a squillion times during the course of the event.   I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps for her the novelty of this journey had worn off quite early on.  It must have done, as weirdly, she didn’t laugh all that loudly when i pointed down the hill behind her saying ‘ooh, I think you’ve dropped something important back there down the bottom of the hill...’ as one of my more original and spontaneous quips.

Back at the support vehicle, we were then offered some luminous Asda sponsored volunteering T-shirts.  I took one.  Why not?  Apart from the deeply unflattering hue, it’s a souvenir of sorts.  Plus, it enables you to occupy the moral high ground next time you are doing parkrun or whatever…. though whether that is worth the risk of being seen wearing luminous yellow I’m not entirely sure.

We filled in some incident report and swapped emails ‘just in case’ though there wasn’t any incident follow-up that involved me.   We swapped stories about being berated by the public before we were encouraged to volunteer again next year. Some laughs, not the best timing perhaps to ask about that one amongst us ventured, given how things had unfolded.  However, the weird thing is, we sort of bonded in adversity.  I feel we did get a rough deal from some people, but that was a minority.   A really small minority.  Most people were great.  The runners were fab, the spectators encouraging, the volunteer team awesome of course.  It was still good fun, nobody died (miraculously), and the shared experience was memorable, it was an adventure, and it felt worthwhile, there was an anecdote in it, plus a free mars bar.  What’s not to like.  I was pleased I’d taken part in some way, even though I couldn’t run.  It was great to be there at the inaugural event, and although there were hiccups, it was all fine, all’s well that end’s well as the saying goes.

Next day, I remembered the bananas I’d popped in my rucksack as an emergency snack and retrieved them.  Too late, everything that had come into contact with them (spare clothing, the rucksack itself, my scarf and special woollen hat) now smells faintly (and unpleasantly) of banana.  Note to self.  Bananas are not great as portable snacks unless you fully intend to consume them at the occassion in question, potassium rich or not.  Learn from me folks, learn from me.  Volunteer by all means, but keep your bananas safely contained to avoid cross contamination with clothing that will persist longer than seems possible.

And finally, your inspirational saying of the day, which I did all by myself using  add text, a.maz.ing.

There is a story behind this, but I can’t be bothered to share.  May it speak for myself.  The words are those of a PhD student of philosophy.  ‘Existentially not so much‘ is to be my strapline of choice in future.   You heard it hear first.

existentially-not-so-much

So who’s up for volunteering same time next year?  Of indeed any one of the multitude of events that take place in between?

Sign up here with Run For All – or check with your local charity.  It could be you looking busy and important and rocking the hi-vis tabard.  You know you want to.

Categories: 10km, race, road, running | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

It’s not every 10k that gives you the red arrows. Marshalling at the Sheffield TenTenTen 2016.

Ambitious, but hey, why shouldn’t a Sheffield based 10k kick off with a bit of a fanfare? Frankly, promising the red arrows en route was only the beginning of the delights on offer at today’s tententen!  I’m genuinely touched by the efforts everyone went to to give we the marshals (not sure I can absolutely speak for all of us, but hey ho, why stop me now) such a grand day out!

So today was Sheffield TenTenTen day.  Yay.  The blah de blah on this is:

What is the Sheffield TENTENTEN?  Its an exciting and creative multi-terrain trail 10k,  attracting over 1000 runners each year the event is well supported and has a fantastic atmosphere. The first edition was on the 10th October 2010, hence the funny name, and has stuck ever since.

 Who is it for?  This is an all inclusive event, anyone from 4 upwards can compete in the 2.5k Fun Run, and 15 upwards for the 10k. All abilities are represented, many have started their running journey at this event. The range is wide we have even had international standard representation (see course record). Then there is the rest of the family, bring them along to soak upthe atmosphere and support.

 The Course  The course has been created with a twist of creativity and innovation. Its not your regular road race, it is run on grass, road, paved paths and woodland trails. Its a really nice mix, and introduces novices to the world of trail running gently. The course does have a few lumps and bumps, twists and turns, and all adds to the fun.

 We hope to see you on Sunday the 9th of October 2016 in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield

This time though, instead of running (slowly) as in the previous two years, I was marshalling.  Yay.  The night before I wasn’t quite sure what to do in the way of race preparation.  I mean if you’re running then it’s all about the carbing up and tapering isn’t it.  I wasn’t so sure with the volunteering role.  I mean, would I be better off just resting up, or should I practise a bit more with the directional pointing and clapping bit, and maybe even have a go carrying a clipboard with an authoratitive but friendly air?  Tricky.  I was rather regretting having sold myself so assertively in the sign-up email.  What if they did some sort of audition at the 8.00 a.m. rendezvous and I messed up on say the decibel levels of my clapping (which can happen if you are wearing gloves or just miss when you are trying to get the palms of your hands to connect). The shame of being drummed out of the marshaling team would really sting.  I’d have to give up running, move from Sheffield, the whole of South Yorkshire, blimey, maybe I should start planning a complete relocation to Phnom Penh just to be on the safe side?  I didn’t want to peak too soon with the applause either, and find I had nothing left in the proverbial bag for the actual event.  It’s more stressful than you might think, this anticipatory angst regarding the responsibilities that go with marshalling.  Oh well, stick with what you know. Carbe Diem it was.  They do say don’t make any big changes prior to race day don’t they?  Why buck the trend.