off road

Bringing the Highland Fling to Frosty Tring, parkrun tourism on St Andrew’s Day. Parkfun at Tring Kilted parkrun

Digested read: it was St Andrew’s Day, and it was parkrun day, the Venn diagram intersection therefore took me to Tring parkrun where they were having a themed, ‘bring a giraffe to parkrun day’.  It was very nice indeed, thank you for asking. Frosty terrain but warm welcome.  Also tea-cakes.

Undigested read:

It’s a long one, brace yourself…

Well, that was splendid.  It’s the simplicity of parkrun which is particularly awesome.  You get to rock up at the most spectacular of locations and be part of pop-up random wonderfulness in an infinite variety of manifestations. But today it was all about a kilted flashmob taking over the winter wonderland of Tring Park all in the name of St Andrew.  Dear reader, I give you Tring parkrun.  Epic.

Granted, I had a bit of insider info that gave me the nod that this was happening, but honestly, if you didn’t make it this year, then next year it could be you – there’s always room for a few more.  Go awn, you know you want to!

Yes please to this:

Tring Kilted parkrun.  Yes it is a thing.  Has been for half a decade now, my, you are late to the party.  You’ll be telling me you don’t know about Dulwich parkrun’s special day either at this rate!*  The exact origins are somewhat mysterious to me, but essentially one of the Run Directors at Tring is Scottish, so when St Andrew’s Day came around (not sure if that was with or without an apostrophe at the time) he suggested a kilted parkrun was the appropriate response.  Of course it was.  So the good parkrunning people of Tring took this directive to their hearts and thus the tradition of Tring Kilted parkrun began.  It is a fine thing, pretty much on a par with Burns night or Hogmanay in Scotland I understand – really and truly though, you have to go and find out for yourself.   This is what philosophers mean when they say travel broadens the mind.  Do your own primary research dear reader, don’t take my word for it.  Apart from anything else, it might well be a lot quicker for you to wait a while and head off to the next available Tring kilted parkrun than to spend the next few weeks and months wading through this blog post.  Each to their own though, and you have been warned.  It’s now contributory negligence on your part if you choose to read on and succumb to the time vampire that is a parkrun themed blog post.  All parkrunners have been there, photo albums are even worse.  Hours and hours dissecting every shot, blurred or otherwise, to relive parkrun adventures after the event.  Sigh, parkrun, the event that just keeps on giving eh…

Now, the pedants amongst you might be fretting at the missing apostrophe, is it St Andrews Day really or should it not be St Andrew’s Day?  Well, the thing is dear reader, this has become a moot point, as the Apostrophe Protection Society is no more.  This is obviously sad, and yet pleasingly, the person who I think practically single handedly fought the good fight, John Richards, resigned from his self-appointed post at the age of 96.  Here he is.  Looking at a very large apostrophe on his computer screen, in case you are the sort of philistine who isn’t even sure what an apostrophe looks like.  Might be your last chance to see one …

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Whilst I have no intention of still working, or indeed even being alive at 96, if I was founder of an apostrophe preservation society then I can think no better high on which to leave than when the numerals for your age look like back to back apostrophes!  Anyway, sad as this is, it does mean you can add or ignore apostrophes with gay abandon.  That battle has been lost.  On balance, I think it pains me, or as I shall be compelled to write in future ‘pain’s me’.  Oh the horror.

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However you choose to express it, the wrong way or indeed what I like to think of as the right way, Saint Andrew’s Day is the feast day of Saint Andrew. It is celebrated on 30 November according to not only Tring parkrun but also wikipedia, so at least we have consensus there. Saint Andrew’s Day is Scotland’s official national day. Did you know it is also a national holiday in Romania?  No, me neither.  Just think, that means if they had parkrun in Romania, then they could potentially have an extra parkrun today – oh only it’s Saturday anyway this year, so maybe that would be a bit of a waste.  I’m sure they have other celebratory days available to choose from if needs must.

Anyway, point is, I have contacts, I have insider info, I have an invite, I shall be there.  parkrun tourism is calling me….  Been wanting to go to Tring for ages, I mean the name is splendid for a start, and I hear they have a better class of parkrunners there.  Nice parkland location too, Tring it on!

It’s easy to over complicate things when choosing a parkrun destination.  Many of us started out innocently enough, venturing away from our home runs only when cancellations forced us to forage for parkrun opportunities elsewhere.  Next came the realisation that e.g. for me, within Sheffield, there were a fair few in reach, and it would be cool to do them all.  Has to be acknowledged though, that the gateway drug to more strategic travel for many of us is the running challenges chrome extension.  Suddenly the opportunity to get virtual badges that only you can see drives a compulsion to seek out parkruns to complete the alphabet (only you can’t because there isn’t an X and you have to go overseas for a Z and also loads of parkruns are going to be changing their names soon anyway…. oops.)  Not gonna lie, that was enough motivation for me to seek to complete, amongst others,  both my pirates and Stayin’ Alive challenges.  Yes, shallow, I know.  But look how fab they are, most decorative – and a correctly placed apostrophe, what’s not to like?

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Even so, the compulsion to complete challenges can become mildly toxic so it was good this weekend to take things back to basics.  The decision to go to Tring parkrun was simplicity distilled to its most basic form.  All I did was start a running blog about 5 years ago and include a post about my experiences of running the Sheffield Half Marathon (my first one) laying it as bait for a Tring parkrunner to stumble across when preparing to run it for myself.  Then there was just the little matter of securing a ballot place for the London marathon, but having to defer for a year, so that the year I did do it, was the same year as same Tring parkrunner also got lucky with the London Marathon ballot.  Unbeknownst to me, said Tring parkrunner would continue to read my blog because we were both training for our first marathon, and it was London.  She’s actually a reet good runner, whereas I’m, erm, what’s the word?  Oh yes, ‘not’.  Then the weather had to make it the hottest ever London Marathon, so that the night before facing London I was having a complete meltdown in my hotel room and did a looooooooooooooooong moany blog post about my angstiness.  The husband of said marathon runner would read my blog post, and then comment on it to share with me that his lovely wife – Tring runner previously referred to – was similarly stressed by unanticipated heat wave following months of training in ice and snow.  From that heartfelt message we bonded for all eternity, and it was basically from thereon in a foregone conclusion I’d be at Tring parkrun one day.  We both did London, we met up at some Sheffield parkruns, as you do, and then one auspicious day, I got the kilted parkrun nod.  The info this was happening, the offer of accomodation, and even assistance in scottish tartan beret making.  It was meant to be.  Like I said, parkrun tourism is just so simple when you strip it back to basics.  From the moment I hit ‘publish’ on my blog post button about the Sheffield Half marathon in 2016, fate directed my path so it would culminate in being part of Tring kilted parkrun on 30 November 2019.  Dear reader, this is how fate works.  You can’t fight it, you have to surrender to it sometimes, and embrace the adventures that henceforth unfold… submit to the inevitable and sometimes your life is the richer for it.

So that’s the backstory, in summary, three years blogging, a couple of Sheffield half marathons and two different parkrunners getting lucky with the ballot for the London Marathon leading to  mutual internet stalkery and becoming new best friends.  Simples.  What could possibly go wrong?  Of course, you could skip some of those stages and just rock up at a new parkrun of your choice anytime, but where’s the fun in that?  And there might not be kilts.  I rest my case.

Now what of the actual run?

Well, according to the Tring parkrun website blah de blah:

Course Description
The winter course is an out and back route on grass and dirt trails. Runners are asked to run on the left. Starting in the valley on the north side of the park next to the A41, the course heads into the NE corner of the grassy part of the park. Passing through a marshalled gate, shortly after turn right and climb a steep leafy path to the obelisk. Turn left here and carry on up to the Summer House where the path loops 180 degrees right to the top of the ridge. Follow this path south-west for 1.5 kilometres until the turnaround point just before Hastoe Lane and then returning along the same route. The finish is 200m beyond the start point. Trail shoes are recommended in winter.

and it looks like this:

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Yeah, whatever, sure it’ll be lovely, now on to think about fancy dress?  Kilted parkrun.  I take it that just means broad Scottish theme – or does it?  I wonder, does that mean deferential and respectful embracing of Scottish culture, or does it mean carb loading with a deep fried mars bar (ingredients mars bar, batter, hot spitting fat) the night before and putting irn bru in your water bottle?

Full woad as in Braveheart perhaps…  the woad would be easy enough

then again, getting the full flame effect as a backdrop would be a nightmare for the RD doing on the day risk assessments, need to think again…

Oh I don’t know, maybe better to go down the Nessie fancy dress option?

It helps that fortuitously in between me excitedly accepting the invite to go and the date dawning, we all became better informed about the Loch Ness monster FACT which is good to know.  They are  Monster eels apparently.  Clearly a conspiracy to keep people away.  Though to be fair, I’d be happy to see a ginormous eel or indeed a swimming elephant whilst visiting Loch Ness, or even Tring – is there a Loch in Tring?  Didn’t spot one on the course map…. mind you, I really like the thought of elephants in captivity, particularly not in circuses, so it would have to be a wild one to be acceptable as a nessie sighting, and I’m dubious there are indigenous elephants in Scotland – or indeed Tring.  They would trample and scare away the native haggis, and as haggis exist, the elephants can’t.  Fact.  I’m not happy about the midges though.  Lawks a lordy, Scottish midges,  now they are monstrous.  Back to eels, conger eels are potentially absolutely huge though seeing conga eels would be even more fun.  Makes you wonder…

Still, given how contentious it is with Nessie and all, perhaps I should stick with the tartan theme, which is towards the lower end of causing offence with casual racial stereotyping and/or cultural appropriation.  Hoping so.  Will be interesting to see if any other eeks nessie substitutes are present – or even a rubber chicken, that would be cool, that reminds me, I really must add Wyndham Vale parkrun to my to do list.  It’s in Australia, might take me a while to get there, even if I set off now…  Though I’ve already got a ‘W’ from Wakefield Thornes parkrun, that was a fun one – but lacking in rubber chickens now I come to think of it, though excellent on space ships.  What you lost on the fowl front you gained on the force front.  You had to be there really, no you did.  Trust me.

Incidentally, another monster at Loch Ness is this 80 mile ultra marathon, bet that’s amazing, but then it would have to be to brave the midges, they are the real monster resident in Scotland!  Looks blooming gorgeous though… seriously tempted. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do the full 80 – awesome as that would be, you can just do a few marathons instead if you prefer.  Go awn, go awn go awn….

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Anyway, you keep distracting me, we are heading to Tring not Loch Ness, and I’m going with the tartan.  I had a chat with Geronimo – oh, did I not mention she’d be coming too?  Well, we did London together, and so she’s part of our Tring twinning enterprise, it was only right and proper she comes along for the ride.  Also, I understand from my Tring contacts that exotic African creatures have historically had a home at Tring park.  I put her through the washing machine especially, she has never arrived at a parkrun more fragrant or more aptly attired…

geronimo

We talked about improvising with green tights to create a nessie creature, but it was a non- starter.  Geronimo felt that would cramp her running style, and she didn’t want to look stupid in the way that the wearing of green tights can so often result in.  It’s a look not everyone can carry off to be fair.  Upshot was that I came to think the tartan is a simpler and safer bet.  Granted, some may see our wearing of the tartan as lazy and casual racial stereotyping, but I see desperate times calling for desperate measures.  If Brexit happens I’ll be wanting to demonstrate my Scottish credentials as best I can, however tenuously, and surely a robust celebration of St Andrew’s Day will smooth the passage towards gaining Scottish citizenship further down the line.  Sporting some tartan along with happy smiles is sure to swing it should the need arise.  Decisions made.  Hurrah!  It’s all going to be just grand.  A wee adventure for the both of us!

Oh you want to know more about the exotic animals at Tring.  Fair does.  I was keen to find out more too.  Basically, my Tring parkrun contacts informed me that Zebras are ten a penny at Tring.  I can now confirm from personal experience that the parkrun route is carriage friendly, it even has a carriage turning circle at the top of the ridgeway which is most certainly a boon for anyone planning on taking their own zebra carriage for a spin along the paths there.   Look, spoiler alert, this was taken mid parkrun, but it I can’t keep it from you anymore, so exciting to be able to share:

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OK, I will concede it isn’t perhaps immediately obvious this is a turning circle for a zebra carriage, but surely you can see it now you are in the know?

I don’t honestly know if there are specific rules in the parkrun code regarding the inclusion of exotic animals at parkrun events, but for the record, Geronimo was made welcome, as a giraffe respected in her own right.  This was especially pleasing, as I do worry that once she’s spotted in a forthcoming feature film next year people might treat her differently.  Her meteoric rise to inevitable stardom is a foregone conclusion, hence it’s all the more important to treasure these personal memories before she becomes famous and potentially relationships shift.  Here it felt the welcome was authentic and genuine, and equally offered to all incoming parkrun tourists and regulars alike.  You are curious about her stardom?  Well, I can’t say too much about that just yet – confidentiality clauses and all that –  but I will say she could be upstaging big names on a big screen near you come summer 2020, no-one parties like Geronimo under a storm of confetti at a street party in Sheffield.  I’ll say no more…  I think we just all need to apply a bit of common sense, but those confidentiality clauses are a bind.

Clue though:

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Nope, that’s it, nothing more, my lips are sealed…

So back to kilted parkrun day.  As has already been established, Geronimo likes to party, so she came sporting a kilt, and that made her a shoo-in for a VIP welcome.  I daresay other African mammals would also make the cut, but contact the core team via the facebook page in advance if in doubt. This is the usual turn out convention with zebras at Tring – looks like the ‘one dog per runner’ rule is upped to four zebras per participant max here…

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I’m not sure of the ethics of riding an endangered giant tortoise round the route, although the photos would suggest it’s been done before.  Presumably this would have to be recorded as an ‘assisted run’ and only one barcode allowed.  Actually, that’s not true, I am pretty sure of the ethics around this.  It’s a terrible idea, let the poor animals be.

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Depressingly, most of Rothschild’s eclectic menagerie collection ended up being stuffed and displayed.  That makes me sad.  Then again, some of his impulses were around conservation, and much of his collection ended up in museums contributing to research.  It’s complicated.  You can read more about him and his life – including how he got given a museum for a 21st birthday present one year, as can happen apparently… here.  It does however explain the sign about wallabies roaming in Tring, I know wallabies aren’t from Africa, it’s the ‘exotic’ species link I’m making here.

and probably also explains why no-one really batted an eye about a giraffe rocking up at Tring parkrun, though they did like her fine tartan beret, as indeed they should.  It was a gift from the good Tring parkrunners who hosted me too.  Their hospitality was beyond compare…

Speaking of which.  This visitation was not so much ‘parkrun tourism’ as parkrun mini-break.  I set off from Sheffield on Friday afternoon, and arrived at my guests abode late afternoon, in daylight and in time for pre-parkrun faffery.  parkrun is even more fun if you prolong the experience with pre and post parkrun related activities.  In this case, we had to check out the various fancy dress options, experiment with tartan ribbons, and especially pleasingly for me, be the recipient of a fine parkrun tartan beret.  I had been alerted to this development in advance, and it was tailor made using a panda as a model.

parkrun beret modeling

They aren’t from Africa too, and this particular panda isn’t really into parkrun, but was happy to contribute to the success of the occasion by offering up a head to aid beret construction.  That’s one of the many things I love about parkrun, there is scope for everyone to be part of it, even if they aren’t running or even rocking up on the day.  It’s a community bigger even than the impressive Saturday morning attendance stats suggest.  Hang on, I’ll check it out – right, these are the summary stats as of today, 4 December 2019 (yes, that’s after the date of this blog post I know, so shoot me, time travel is possible in the land of blogs, you just post for whatever date, past or future – you don’t seriously think I’d have written all this on Kilted parkrun afternoon, as well as having post-parkrun eggy bread and going through all the photos?  Quite.)

Number of events: 156,628

Number of runners: 2,240,488

Number of runs: 32,284,453

Number of locations: 684

Number of clubs: 6,667

Number of PBs: 5,540,683

Average runs per event: 206.1

Average number of runs per runner: 14.4

Average run time: 00:28:46

Total hours run: 1,767 Years 233 Days 16 Hrs 33 Min 28 Secs

Total distance run: 161,422,265km

Wowsers!

No wonder it’s changed so many lives.  Hurrah that Mr P S-H, got awarded the he RSA Albert Medal this year, it’s given annually for innovation in the fields of creativity, commerce and social improvement.  You can watch the full presentation and his speech here:

but come back and do that later or you’ll never even get to the start line of Tring parkrun, and never find out if it was a Braveheart-esque line up on a big long start line like William Wallace and the massed Scottish armies, or a more sedate trot out as if on a carriage ride pulled by zebras.  However, you can snigger at the childish observation of Danny Norman of With Me Now who boasted that he got to touch Paul S-H’s Prince Albert.  (Chortle).

Hang on, there’s an official press release thingy parkrun Founder wins prestigious award  with a more formal portrait.  And the medal is so very fine, it even comes in it’s own box I see!  Now that’s class!

official photo RSA

Lots  of teeth in the pictures, most impressive.  I admire teeth, and intend to hang on to mine for as long as possible.  Not in a creepy way, if I do lose them I won’t be threading them on to a necklace, but you are unlikely to meet anyone as obsessive about brushing their teeth regularly as I am…  Anyway, stop distracting me with teeth talk, even though it is true that the best Batman and Robin episode ever was the one where Robin had to save himself from falling to his death by hanging on to a rope with his teeth because his hands were tied behind his back, and Batman said in the closing moments ‘and remember Robin, you owe your life to dental hygiene‘  He was so wise…  And ahead of his time too, oral hygiene prevents heart attacks too dear reader.  Actually, this isn’t a complete digression as Batman and Robin were both present at Tring parkrun too – how else do you explain the cape?

Can’t wait for the next With Me Now podcast, it’s going to be epic, even if it might be light on tooth care. Then again they all are, the podcasts, with or without oral hygiene segments, frankly, I could stay in the house til spring now, just listening to the WMN back catalogue and venturing out only to attend actual parkruns in between listening to, and poring over accounts of ones that have already passed…  I have to catch up on Free, Weekly Timed too, being a late adopter there.  In fact, that’s my Christmas Day indulgence sorted.  parkrun podcasts and a sofa post Christmas Day parkrun, and I shall be living in an earthly paradise indeed. Ho ho ho.  That’s lifted my Christmas spirit, can’t wait now.  Not many more sleeps to go…

Anyway, back to arriving at my hosts.  Fancy dress sorted, parkrun tales shared, just the little matter of carbing up nicely the night before.  We had vegetarian haggis with neaps and tatties which was excellent.  And then we had Scottish cranachan recipe courtesy of Mary Berry  fortunately, my host used the pictorial directions in the recipe dividing up the pudding into three portions… it was only the next day she noticed that the quantities were intended to serve 8.  Still, parkrunners like a challenge, we managed to polish of the lot, and very nice it was too!  Delicious in fact.  Great way to set ourselves up for the Scottish delights that would unfold before us on the morrow…

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and so the morrow came, which is actually today – if you believe the post date for this blog, or a few days ago if you are pedantic and want to know in real time what the timelines are.

Bracing.  That was the word.  A deep, picturesque frost – in fact, loads of parkruns in Sheffield and elsewhere were cancelled due to ice, so I got lucky in having already made it safely south.  Hot coffee was quaffed, and last minute parkrun faffing commenced.  My hosts with the most drove me through pretty villages – used as a backdrop for many a midsomer murder episode apparently, and towards Tring.  Now dear reader, Tring parkrun has many excellent attributes, but it is not blessed with conveniently located loos.  My regular reader knows I cannot countenance undertaking a parkrun without a precautionary pee, fortunately my hosts catered for all needs, so it was that we did a Tesco detour en route.  There are loos in the public car park apparently, but the Tesco ones are nicer, and have a handy tampon/ condom machine too.

Precautionary pees completed, off to the parkrun venue.  Apparently there are a couple of different car parks, but I didn’t pay too much attention to this, as I was chauffeur driven.  We arrived nice and early, passing the not at all conspicuously attired parkrun carpark marshal(s) already mustering and in situ extra early to keep parkrunners safe and on track.

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It was cold though, not gonna lie, was glad I’d not gone for the bare-legged kilted option, though kudos to my travelling companions who did.  Brrrrr.  Next challenge, fancy dress sorting.  This is what goes on behind the scenes quite probably at a parkrun near you.  I think the degree of self-sacrifice (baring legs in the cold) and creativity that goes into making the parkrun fancy dress transformations  happen adds to the parkrun magic, but look away now if you don’t want to see the smoke and mirrors lifted…

I think she was helping to put the kilt on… not sure.  You know what, the parkrun code requests that we all respect everyone else’s right to participate in their own way, so let’s do that, and not worry about the particular dressing/undressing car park shenanigans shall we, each to their own.

And that was it. OHMYGAWDTHISISSOEXCITING!  Kilts on? Check.  Barcodes present and correct?  Check.  Laden with shortbread tins of tunnocks teacakes?  Check  Ready for action dear reader,  Bring.  It.  On.

Last minute check round for anything left behind.  What’s that – a pair of gloves, bound to belong to a fellow parkrunner, my contribution was to scoop these up and take them along too.  Truthfully, I wasn’t much practical assistance to the Tring parkrun experience, unless you count enthusiastic and appreciative participant, which I do.  My hosts were doing a great job with their jenga balancing skills being tested by a quantity of tins and flasks of hot coffee, would have undermined their confidence if I’d thought to offer to help… probably.  Almost certainly, that’s why I didn’t risk it.  Anyway, I was too distracted by the stunning location and sights and sounds of the venue to focus on being useful.  And we’d not even left the car park for goodness sake!

In fact, the set up team, who’d been out even earlier, took some amazing photos of the frost-scaped early morning.  Reet nice out as we say up north!

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You leave the car park through a pretty gate, and turn right following the sign to Tring park (a clue for the observant amongst you) and head along the path towards a spectacular curly bridge.  Not hard, and the chances are there’ll be other parkrunners to follow.

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Don’t forget to admire the wildlife murals, they are to an impressive standard.  There was even artwork on the curly bridge, but I didn’t take a photo as I was clinging to the handrail to avoid skidding on the icy steps at the time.  If you are braver, or there is less ice, you could look for longer.

It’s super exciting when you get to the curly bridge, because it’s quite an architectural feature in its own right, but it also opens up the most fantastic views across Tring park and you get the fun spectacle of watching from above as ant sized parkrunners start to congregate.  They weren’t actually ant-sized FYI – well not unless there are some exceptionally large mutant ants in these parts, they just looked tiny because they were far away.  I’ve been through this before.  These are small, these are far away a la Father Ted,  Yes, she is carrying a bottle of irn-bru.  The coffee in flasks story was just a cover…

Rather epic isn’t it.  And VERY EXCITING!

So we trit trotted over the curly bridge, you can tell you are in the right place because of a strategically placed ‘caution runner’ signs.  Always a relief and frisson of excitement as a parkrun tourist when you espy one of those.  We tagged along with the gathering throngs.  It was not only beautiful and atmospheric, but also a lot of fun, as we started to espy other kilted parkrunners striding towards the gathering point.  My pictures make it look a bit bleak, but honestly it wasn’t, it was just lovely, and perfect… if a tad bracing for my liking – and I still had my fleece most definitely on at this juncture.  Pity those sporting naked legs.  I mean, kudos for honouring the kilted spirit but brrrrr.

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There is a pleasing mini optical illusion as you approach the clan gathering point.  You think it’s flat, but actually, the path – which is basically cross country rather than a formal walkway as such – ‘suddenly’ goes down into a dip.  These means even though you feel like you are basically walking on the flat, you unexpectedly (to me, you’ll know so I suppose I’ve potentially ruined the surprise for you now, oops) find yourself at what is the brow of little hill, and unfolding before you in a big reveal was the encampment!   So exciting.

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It’s hard to describe the scene, but I won’t let that stop me, why let a picture be a thousand words when you can type considerably more than that and gift your reader confusion wonderment?

It was like espying an arctic research station, or a first human settlement on some remote planet, or possibly even a festival tent, the first marker of a party tent for those that come.  It was epic!  Look at the early picture of it put up in the dawn light.  I say put up in the dawn light, but it looked quite complicated, they had probably been working on erecting this for many weeks, I doubt the cows hanging around were all that much practical assistance to be fair.  Good job.  This photo is amazing, it captures the Brigadoon like way that Tring parkrun sort of materialises out of the mist.  They do have regular results listed on their official parkrun page though, so I’m pretty sure it appears more often than one day every hundred years (imagine how annoying that would be, particularly if the one day that Tring appeared it was neither a Saturday nor bonus parkrun day. Oh, the horror!).  Still, wouldn’t hurt to check their Tring parkrun Facebook page in advance if you are making a special trip, just to be on the safe side.

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In fact, this domed cathedral was the VIP tent.  It covered a table groaning under the weight of Scottish consumables, and was adorned with flags as well as being awash with good will.  In fact, as you will appreciate, all parkrunners are equally important, so everyone could access all areas, and very nice it was too.  My hosts added to the weighty load of the table, whilst I helpfully lurked and took photos, and wondered at what point I’d have to take off my fleece.  More dedicated sports people warmed up for parkrun with traditional sword dances, as you do.  Impressive.

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People continued to arrive, all smiles and kilts.  Happy parkrunners a-gathering on an auspicious and frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Cèilidh!  I do like it when people make an effort, and I also like it when there are photos to document such dedication that can be endlessly looked at later.  It extends the timeline of joy that parkrun offers up, beyond the Friday night anticipation, the Saturday morning big event into potentially many months of memories and reflection and sometimes laugh ’til you think your knickers will never dry shared recollections.  I wonder why tena haven’t been approached as parkrun sponsors?  Other incontinence product manufacturers are available.  Only a matter of time surely.  I mean, they may not be so necessary if you are wearing a kilt and adhering to tradition in terms of what lies beneath, but pads could be a boon at non-kilted parkruns, particularly for those who lack strength with their pelvic floors.

There may have been a certain amount of posing, and those swords were most certainly a boon for creative play.  Every parkrun should have photo props methinks.  Game changer!

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I say I took photos, and indeed I did, but I also foraged for some subsequently, and so many of the better shots are not attributable to me, but to the Tring parkrun official photographers, for which many thanks.   They were fab.  All high vis heroes are.  Obvs.

Where was I? Oh yes, mingling at the start.  Another innovation at Tring, is that they lay out a huge blue tarpaulin on which you can leave all your stuff.  I feel they missed a bit of an opportunity to transform it into the Scottish flag the St Andrew’s Cross through the simple effort of tippexing a white saltire onto it, but maybe they didn’t have enough time after spending ages putting up the VIP tent.  The idea is that this keeps your stuff together and dry.  Hang on, I’ll find a pic:

Hurrah!  It’s the usual ‘leave at your own risk’ system, but you’d have to be a bold thief to take on the collective might of the ferocious-looking battle-ready broadsword- brandishing core team left behind at the pod to keep order whilst parkrunners did their thing.  Well, they were gathered around the finish funnel area nearby in their high-vis vests, which amounts to the same thing.

I still had the pair of gloves I’d picked up from the car park so tossed them in the middle of the tarpaulin where hopefully their rightful owners would discover them.  I mean surely only parkrunners would be roving round the carpark at this ungodly hour, carelessly dropping their gloves for others to find.  I did ask half heartedly around for glove droppers, and tried to discreetly look for gloveless hands turning blue with cold amongst those gathering in the hope of using my Miss Marple skills to find the person who had suffered this loss, but my efforts came to nothing.  …  Oops, hope there isn’t some poor random dog walker even now checking round their car puzzling about where on earth else they could have dropped their favourite woollen gloves on their sojourn to Tring park…  Oh the angst.  You have no idea!  At least the gloves were getting their own micro adventure I suppose, but at what cost.

What next?  First timers’ briefing I think.   There was a fair few of us from near and far.  Some who like me, had been wooed over by the prospect of kilts as well as the intrinsic glory of Tring.  Wave to the Poolsbrook traveller, who I didn’t meet on the day but found out we were fellow travellers from the north after the event.  Hello, next time maybe?

There were even a few first time everers!  What a one to choose for your debut.  I like to think they will have gone away believing kilts to be not just de rigueur at Tring, but actually compulsory at parkruns everywhere.  People came from near and far, with and without kiltery, which just goes to show, if you build it they will come!

The briefing was welcoming and succinct, something about a hill, and the route was described, and the ridgeway, and things to look out for.  Hills don’t particularly phase me, not because I’m fast, but quite the opposite, I’m really slow, and hills legitimise me walking, so all good.

Then there was a little bit of anticipatory waiting.

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At some point I availed myself of the thistle on the cheek temporary tattooing service, so that was good …  Actually, can we just pause for a moment to appreciate the magnitude of that particular offering.  Someone had the initiative, foresight and creativity to bring along with them a thistle stencil and a sponge preloaded with face paint or indelible ink, I forget which – purely for the purposes of helping fellow parkruns really rock the Scottish themes.  That’s awesome.  For this great public service fellow parkrunner – and your most excellent plumed hat, I thank you.  He got about 40+ marked up pre-parkrun I understand, and you can see his handiwork captured in some of the photos.  Grand is it not?  You might have to squint a bit to see them, but trust me, there are there, twice in one case, check it out!

He probably would have got more, but his efforts were interrupted as we were corralled for the mass walk to the start, which was just a little way on, up a slope.  The walk was lovely.  It was fun as a collective activity, and also fun because there were coos along the way.  Coo marshals shooed them to one side.

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The cows were calm, photogenic and placid. Unlike Sheffield cows which may be photogenic but need to be given a very wide berth.  Not phased by the parkrunners at all, which was a relief.  I also took a mandatory selfie.  Has to be done.  And I had by this point removed my fleece.  Kill me now.  It was very cold indeed.  I thought my nipples would freeze and fall off, they didn’t on this occasion, but it was touch and go I don’t mind telling you.

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Then we were gathered at the start, where by complete coincidence there was fiddler and an accordian player on hand to provide musical accompaniment to the run.  I mean, honestly, what were the chances of that, and how very fine!

It was apparently the Run Director’s event debut, you couldn’t tell, it all seemed very slick to me, clearly a well oiled team runs this show, or well lubricated by early morning seasonally appropriate Scotch Whisky on this particular occasion at any rate…

We were gathered in a semi-circle for the briefing, cheers for milestones, cheers for volunteers.  To mark the occasion, there was also the official kilt wearing shot, and the kilt lifting one too.  Has to be done.

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and then suddenly, there was the countdown and we were off!

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Up a hill, to the accompaniment of this: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=419351318973065

As usual, I just slotted myself in at the back.  I like to pootle these days, partly dodgy back, partly being unfit anyway but a great deal of liking to take my own time and take in the view.  The view from the back can be glorious, it is often the fun factory of a parkrun, and what’s more, on this particular route, being out and back, you get to see everyone at some point anyway.  Hurrah.

You head off up a fairly gentle incline, and then along a flat bit known locally as cowpat ally.  It was so cold, the ground was pretty much frozen, so no mud bath or slurry pit sliding required today.

Rather you could skip through, and cheerily greet the marshals on the gate in situ to see you safely through into the wood and the first of the proper uphill up to the ridgeway.

Well dear reader, I can report that it is indeed a hill.  Quite  a long one.  It’s picturesque (my signature word of the day forTring parkrun it seems) in the wood, and sheltered too, but it is also quite a long heave ho up the woodland track to the obelisk.  A full kilometer I think, but I didn’t check.  I did have a vague moment of clarity when I recalled my host telling me that when she was trying to get her husband into parkrun she deliberately didn’t take him along to Tring for his first one for fear of putting him off forever.  Hmmm.   Possibly a point.  I paced myself by walking.  Works for me.  As others peeled off ahead, you could see them through the trees.   There was also a lurking photographer at a corner spot, to capture the action.  All details attended to at this parkrun.

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It’s quite hard taking photos in the wood.  The trees are magnificent and tall, and bright sunshine above tried to break through their canopy.  You are heading towards the obelisk.  I do like a landmark on a parkrun, and this one was particularly fine.  It was so high the top was way up in the winter sunshine, so with the dark at the base it took on a near mystical quality.  This spot has its own regular marshal to keep you in order.  He offered smiles and words of encouragement on both the out and back.  Sometimes there is even music from speakers here apparently, though not today.  There is a story about that I gather, but I didn’t get to hear what it was.

From here, you do a zig towards the summer house, and then a zag back upwards to the ridgeway.

Lots of friendly marshals along the way.  Well, maybe not lots, but certainly sufficient, and they all had interactive settings so you could engage with them en route.  You could even pose for photographs with them, or get them to take photos of you and your new best friend you’ve just made at parkrun.  Inexplicably, some parkrunners just sprint round the whole course without stopping to pose for pictures, but perhaps they haven’t yet realised this is a viable option.  Maybe one not absolutely compatible with getting a pb, but then again, I pbed automatically on this route because it was my first time, just putting it out there as a thought.

Once you are on the ridgeway, breaks in the tree line now and again give amazing views, which once again are alas, hard to photograph, but you might get a broad gist from these two – it’s the same site, but with different emphasis on foreground in one and view in the other.  I tried dear reader, I tried:

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As I was having a leisurely event, I paused to try and photograph some runners at the carriage turning spot.  There being a distinct lack of zebra drawn carriages along the way today, there was plenty of room for runners in both directions.

Onwards, and a bit further up was another view point, and the uncontested winner for top trumps cameras in situ too.   Size might not be everything, but sometimes you have to acknowledge it can impress, as with the obelisk, so too with this lens thingamajig.  And you have to concede it is quite something to be able to draw attention away from the eye-catching redhead in full pelt as well as full tartan sprinting by in the foreground.

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Oh look more runners coming by – including mein hosts!  Hurrah!

Though if they are coming back the other way, maybe time to get a wiggle on myself.   It’s reasonably flat and sure footed along the ridgeway, and after a bit, you reach a turn around point, where you are invited to run round, if not the actual marshal, then the cone at this point.  It doesn’t specify how many times you should run round the cone, as many as you like, I was running a bit late, so just did the one, but others may have done more.  One enthusiast apparently overshot the point entirely, and had to be wrestled back by the marshal and spun round to head back to the finish funnel.  They are alert and primed for action at a moment’s notice these marshals.  Quality effort.

Coming back along the ridgeway, you see the views again, better actually, as the light was less whiting out and more illuminating.  Oh look, tailwalkers.  Always a welcome sight, and companionably putting the world to rights as they went along by the look of things.

I noticed more details on the way back.  There are little footpath signs and a Walter’s Wander walk of sorts.  I tried to get a parkrunner bordered by the cut out sigh, but never a parkrunner en route when you need one, maybe you can photoshop yourself in some time later.

And then check out this view – you can even see the finish area and the Rothschild stately home too, if you aren’t so worried about the prospects of getting premature wrinkles you can have a good squint.

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And friendly marshals again.  Still friendly and supportive second time round.  Marshalling in the cold of a crisp winter morning, and greeting all parkrunners with equal enthusiasm takes tenacity, stamina and grace, all were in evidence today, for which I thank them all.

And check out the summer house, spectacularly lit by the sun.  Great place to sit and watch the parkrun whizz by methinks.

and from the summer house, you can see the obelisk ahead, homeward bound now, and some proper downhill coming too, the yin to the yan of the up.

It was quiet by now, and I was nearly caught by surprise by a stealth photographer still en route, but he caught me and Geronimo in full flight.  For the dubious amongst you, and I think there may be a few, surely this shot is absolute proof that running with a Giraffe is not as much of a help on a run as you might think.  The psychological and emotional support of having a companion animal along with me cannot be overstated, but in terms of six legs better than two, maybe not quite so much of an asset as you might imagine!

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Actually, it might be time for some gratuitous parkrunning action shots, courtesy of the official photographers, a little interlude, before we come to the climactic finish.  Running with a buggy must have been tough.

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So after smiling and waving at the photographer en route, you charge on down the hill, depending on your courage and your faith in your trail shoes, and back out of the wood and into cowpat alley once again.  As I passed through, a runner who’d already finished was coming back the other way, holding refreshments I presume for the marshal(s), who must have been getting cold by now.

The light was beautiful, and the scenery lovely, and my erm, let’s go with ‘sedate’ pace meant I had it pretty much to myself too.

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The pictures don’t really do it justice I’m afraid, but think of them as but a spoiler, something to whet your appetite so you make the effort to go and see for yourself.

After a little while, again the finish funnel comes into view just as you are coming over the brow of the hill.  There is the usual glorious sight of welcoming volunteers, a well staffed finish funnel and a few parkrunners who had stayed behind to cheer the final few through.

What was less usual, but exceedingly glorious, was to be serenaded by the duo who were there from start to finish.  It was a.maz.ing!  Only problem is, I want live music at all my parkrun finishes now.  And not just live, but bespoke, so themed to each and every occasion.  Is that really so very much to hope for?

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Also, and this is a bit weird, it was like entering a different world on the return leg.  Sunshine had melted the frost and the grass was green and the shadows just as atmospheric but the scenery quite transformed somehow.  I had my barcode wristband thingy scanned in record time.  I treated myself to one of the anniversary wristbands, but it’s not had a great success rate scanning, two out of five occasions used it didn’t record for some reason.  No worries today, see, everything about this parkrun was practically perfect in every way!

So that was my parkrun ended, but it wasn’t the end of the fun.  So much still to do.  Specifically, to play with the swords, too good an opportunity to miss, particularly when you’ve come dressed for it especially.  You know, I think that’s one of the most brilliant things about parkrun, yes, yes, we all know it’s good to exercise and be part of a community blah de blah, and I am 100% behind those aspects too, however, maybe for me the bottom line is something about it creating a space where we have permission to play.   Being able to participate in parkrun in your own way includes joyful scampering about.  Where else would it be completely acceptable to mess about with swords in some country park somewhere and be confident that parkrun friends would join in and someone would have the wit to photograph the occasion for posterity – even direct the participants to ensure they captured the perfect shot!  I can’t quite decide which is the perfect one though, so you’ll have to look at the slide show for a whole load of them, and other posing too.  It’ll be fun, it was for us, you can have fun by association, or simply think yourself accursed you were not here, though it was St Andrew’s Day remember, and not St Crispin’s.

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No animals or parkrunners were injured or distressed in the posing for these photos.

Still time to linger, avail ourselves of refreshments, enjoy the view and welcome back the volunteers and tail walkers.

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However, all good things must come to an end.  Eventually everyone was accounted for, as the last of the marshals came in en masse

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Then there was just the little matter of taking down the VIP zone.  That was quite technical, and involved a great many people helping, and me circling around unhelpfully whilst I fretted about the gloves.  Remember them?  Well, they were still on the tarpaulin so not reunited with their rightful owner then.  Oh lawks a lordy, someone, somewhere has probably lost multiple digits from their hands because of me ‘helpfully’ removing them.  Just as I was falling into near despair at this thought, I vocalised my dilemma, only for someone to pipe up ‘oh, they are mine!  It’s OK, I had a spare pair!‘  Phew, it ended happily dear reader.

So too with the tent deconstruction, with some expert supervision, it was dismantled with exemplary teamwork.

I commented to anyone in earshot that this was the sort of high performance practical problem solving that would make me confident that Tring parkrunners are also able to fold up their collapsable start sign and even parkrun flag.  Awkward.  Apparently not.  One amongst our company disclosed they actually have the Tring parkrun start sign very much open on their kitchen floor, steadfastly refusing to be packed away despite having watched youtube tutorials on the theme.  It may even have been the cause of a blip in usual domestic harmony.  Oops.  Assume nothing dear reader, learn from me.  Mind you, those bannery things, they are tough!  Here’s Great Notley parkrun, grappling with the pop up so we don’t have to:

and that was that, everybody started to disperse, and where once there were runners, now there was nothing but footprints and the echo of laughter.  We took away photos and memories.  Some departing were noticeably more laden than others!  Bravo volunteer heroes, above and beyond on so many levels.  Your labours were very much appreciated.  Best kilted parkrun ever!

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Yes, I did notice it looks a little bit like they might be trying to dispose of a body, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.  Even if they are, I’m sure they will have had their reasons.  Talking through the run briefing does really need to be stamped out, I didn’t notice any of that at Tring, and perhaps this is why…

Oh, an in case you are regretting having missed it, you can relive the glory of the run through this actual footage of the kilted parkrun, or possibly the kilted coaches, but it looks broadly similar, so you’ll get the idea.  That’s a fancy dress haggis chasing them down at Tring by the way.  They aren’t real, that would be silly.  Real haggises (haggae?) are much, much smaller, but equally ferocious, and don’t wear fake tartan hat/hair combos, obvs.

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You’re welcome.

Back to the carpark – remembering to check out the lovely wildlife pics again:

Time for a quick pose by the gate – one for the family album surely, or at very least their fridge…

and alas, that was that.  Just the mud on the shoes remaining to prove we’d been there.  I’m not one to bear a grudge, but couldn’t help noticing my toesies were a lot muddier than Geronimo’s.  Still, we’d both had a fab morning out so no cause for complaint.

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So basically, this was indeed the best parkrun ever… until the next one.  That’s the funny thing, it was completely brilliant, but I never fear anticlimax at my next parkrun, because all parkruns are uniquely wonderful. Just as the capacity to love is infinite, so too is the capacity of parkrun to engage and enthrall… worst case scenario is type two fun – only fun retrospectively, but that’s still fun is it not, and parkrun is always parkfun, or your money back!

Also, for me, the awesomeness wasn’t even quite over yet, as it was back to mein hosts for post parkrun eggy bread – which I’ve not had in years and years, and steaming hot coffee, and a de-brief about all the fun we’d had and a sharing of some of the photos too.  Perfect end to a perfect parkrun.  Post parkrun brunches consolidate parkrun fun and parkrun memories.  It was just brilliant.  I felt like I’d been not so much on a mini break, but on an actual holiday, maybe in part because I had.  This might be the way forward for parkrun tourism, groom befriend people over the internet for a period of a few years and then turn up at their houses wanting to stay the night so you can run at their parkrun the next day.  Only moving house will prevent this occurrence from happening again.  Actually, now I come to think of it, there was some mention of a potential move further down the line… no surely not, had to be bluffing, and anyway, just a coincidental mention.

So sadly, the time came where I had to leave.   My hosts cheerily waved me off cheerfully.

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Possibly a little too cheerfully at seeing me go now I come to think of it, but then again they had to crack on with the rest of their busy day.  You can see they are just itching to get on with their spontaneous outburst of Scottish Country dancing, and that shortbread wouldn’t be eating itself now, plus there was scotch to be drunk also.  I think they keep the Drambuie back for bathing in.  It lightens the legs.  No rest for the wicked as the saying goes…  Just another typical parkrun morning, paying homage to their wannabe Scottish heritage.  Honestly, when they aren’t indulging in Scottish themed consumables, they are running up tartan accessories and working on their highland flings.  I know, I’ve been there.  …

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So thank you lovely Tring parkrunners all, but especially thank you to my virtual and now actual parkrunning Tring friends, we have officially bonded now, we have shared a kilted parkrun together, this can never be undone, not that we’d want to, because it was brilliant.  Exceeded expectations even, which is saying a great deal as I’ve been excited about it for ages and ages!  🙂

Incidentally, if you would like to triangulate my account of this Tring parkrun with another, then dip into the very fine debut run report for event #276 Highland (Fl)Tring!!!! which you can access here.  Recommended.  Full exposure of Tring parkrun.  There are also a gazillion photos (yes, I think it is an actual number) with albums aplenty included kilted parkrun album part one, Lucy’s perspective (yes, that’s me!)  and the final collection – like I said, really a lot of photos, but you can never have too much of a good parkrun thing.  FACT.  Also, what’s new year for if not for reminiscing about the high points of last one, all those pics could come in handy.

Same time next year anyone?  Or just get in the habit of wearing a kilt anyway, they are surprisingly warm to run in apparently, and handy if you need an al fresco precautionary pee I understand.

So keep on having parkrun fun y’all, here’s to new parkrunning adventures for all of us, wherever they may lead us.

By the way,  you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and you might be needing to get on with your life again now.  You are needed in it.

*Oh you want to know about Dulwich parkrun. Well, turns out it may be Dul by name but it is far from Dul by nature (see what I did there, gawd I’m hilarious sometimes, great punning action).  They only do a Eurovision Song contest themed parkrun every year.  That’s my 16 May 2020 parkrun destination sorted – hopefully it won’t be negatively impacted by Brexit.  Do love a parkrun that sets its own traditions. Colwick parkrun has its Hawaiian shirts, Tring parkrun its kilted run and Dulwich parkrun the full European spectrum.  Choose your parkruns wiseley dear reader, and your grand tour will be most enlightening, educational and – best of all – entertaining.  Start making your bespoke bunting now…

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Categories: 5km, off road, parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Giving Sheffield the Runaround: Round Sheffield Run 2019

Digested read: Round Sheffield Run came round again.  Did that, got the medal, six out of six.  Yay!

Undigested read:

It’s a long one, but then who wouldn’t want to linger at a location like this?

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Runaround NOW!!  Does anyone else remember that TV show.  No, only me?  Surely someone else is in my demographic.  It was a children’s quiz show, and they all had to run from one end of the studio to another to choose the right answer for some random quiz question and then there was a shout out to ‘runaround NOW!’ from Mike Reid and everyone ran around changing their mind about their answer.  Lots of running around basically, the clue is in the name of the show.  Ring any bells?  There was even a Runaround 1980 techno Christmas special in which an actual robot appeared as co-host.  Life changing AI on our TV screens, once the set had a chance to warm up of course.  You’ll be telling me next you don’t remember that, having to plan ahead and turn the TV on 15 minutes ahead of whatever programme it was.   Oh.  You don’t.  Sigh.  Did you really not even ever experience dispatching a household member to lean out of an upstairs window with a bent coat hanger, trying to improve reception on the aerial whilst you all shouted contradictory instructions at them?  Oh.  How times change.  Trust me dear reader. The past was another country indeed…. we did things differently there.

Hmm, granted, the caged children do in fact seem somewhat dodgy with the benefit of hindsight – anyway, you are completely missing the point.  The point is that come the summer solstice, near as dammit, cometh the hour, whilst the good people of Sweden are busy making their celebratory floral garlands – no really, they are – runners from near and far will be gathering in Endcliffe Park to commence the Round Sheffield Run, or … wait for it… the Sheffield Runaround!  See what I did there?  Because we all get to run-around Sheffield see?  Hilarious, not a laboured anachronistic niche buildup at all, just joyful, seamless expanding on a theme.

I’ll get my coat….

Phew.  That was hard work. It does rather spoil the overall affect if I have to explain it.  You know what, to be honest, if you aren’t experiencing being doubled up with laughter to such a degree that you fear your knickers may never dry RIGHT NOW, best walk away.  No honestly, that’s my humour at its peak, it doesn’t get any better.  For the most part it will get considerably blander.  You can just back away, and we’ll say no more about it.  You’ve not over-invested in reading this account, you can still scroll through a few photos if you want, I shan’t take it personally.  However, if you read on knowing what you know now, that’s contributory negligence, FACT. There isn’t a law firm in the country that will represent you whatever their ads may say to the contrary, so just don’t get drawn in.

Here’s a group sporting Swedish midsummer garlands by the way, just to prove a point.  This post may not amuse you, but you could learn something, nothing useful, but could save you come the compulsory ‘fun’ work quiz at Christmas. Your choice.

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Where was I?  Oh yes, cometh the summer solstice, cometh the Round Sheffield Run.  Not completely synchronised admittedly, which is an important detail, as it would have been a very long wait indeed if you hadn’t double checked the date for this year’s RSR and rocked up on the longest day.  That would have been 10 days early, but you get my drift – and at least that way you’d have been first in the toilet queue.

I lurve the Round Sheffield Run, and have been lucky enough to drag my weary carcass run round it every year so far.  It’s profile has skyrocketed since the year of its debut in 2014, when I’d venture it was just a few hundred from the local area rocking up to check it out.  Now it’s into ballot entry popularity territory and drawing runners from much further afield as a destination event.  Even so,  in my humble opinion it’s remained true to it’s essence of being friendly, inclusive, showcasing the best of Sheffield running and having a festival feel with guaranteed sunshine or your money back* and  it is also a flat one lap route, as in ‘Sheffield flat’ – the marshal at the end of Leg 1 was most conscientious and insistent on this point, alerting runners to the stretch of Sheffield flat just ahead as they approached Forge Dam.  Hilarious for the locals, potentially devastating for the out-of-towners of course, but what’s a bit of collateral damage to them set against the in-joke for them in the know eh?  Besides, all in good humour I’m sure!  You know who you are high-vis hero, but in case of ambiguity, here’s the body-cam footage I took en route.  Can also be seen keeping order at Sheffield Hallam parkrun, so has form on expert regulating of runners.  Hurrah! :

Personally, I really like events that are single lap as well.  It means once you set off you are basically committed aren’t you. You’ve got to make it back for tea at some point, so one foot in front of the other to make it so.  If you prefer the meditative quality of multi-lap offerings, then other options might suit you better.  There’s always the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100-mile race around a New York block. Yep, you read that right.  Not my bag to be fair, but people do it…  Some claim to have out of body experiences as they do.   Frankly I’m not surprised at all, out of mind might be more apt though…  At least you wouldn’t have to worry about navigation, though lord only knows how you keep count of laps. 5,649 of them you’d have to do.  What would happen if you lost count and had to start again from 1?  It would take a great deal of Zen calm to cope with that eventuality.

I’m not completely uncritical of the RSR though.  Where would be the fun in that?  I’m actually still quite peeved they’ve not taken on board my feedback at all about either increasing the number of unicorns cavorting about the wooded sections or having an archway of rainbows to get you through the finish – despite the latter suggestion clearly being way more reliable than the inflatable archway option (just saying), and probably more environmentally friendly too, now I come to think of it.
whatever it takes

Incidentally, do you think holding up the inflatable finish arch comes under the ‘any other duties’ line on the job description for Event Director?  There are worse unexpected tasks to be fair.  Only the other week I was a supporting artist on a film being made in Sheffield which I shan’t name but which is set in Sheffield and features a drag artist.  Between takes, one of the costume and make-up team was tasked with kneeling at the feet of the lead actor, who was overheating in his phenomenally impressive drag outfit – wig, heels, tights, the whole shebang – frantically flapping away with a paper fan to waft air up the drag artist’s dress in order to try to keep his nether regions suitably cooled.  When you imagine getting your lucky break as a dresser or in the costume department of a feature film I’m guessing this isn’t quite the scenario you’d imagined in your fantasy of a day tending to the stars on set… definitely a key supporting role though, and certainly encompassed by the ‘any other duties’ line, which all we serfs know covers a multitude.

Anyway, undeterred by the silent treatment my quite brilliant suggestions have received to date (I really thought the compulsory fancy dress suggestion would have been enthusiastically embraced at least, it’s inexplicable to me that this hasn’t happened – yet) I’m hopeful that my offering for this year will hit the mark.  Thing is, the after party is all well and good, but having recently discovered the joys of gardening, I feel the post run offering would be massively enhanced if they had a few plant stalls in between the coffee and pizza stalls.  Maybe even a horticultural swap shop, now that would be lovely.  Perfect end to a perfect day.   Just imagine, medal round your neck, pizza in one hand perennials in the other.  Bling and borders covered. Result.  I feel sure pop up plant nurseries are a thing, and if they aren’t, well clearly they should be, and it wouldn’t be the first innovative thing the RSR has brought into being now would it?

Anyway, look you really need to stop distracting me, this account is all over the place.  I want to get this post written up in time for next year’s run at least.  Still, best get the basics out the way.  For the uninitiated – apparently, there are still some of you out there who have yet to savour the delights of this splendid event and have still have no idea what I’m on about – the Round Sheffield Run website blah de blah explains the event thus:

The Round Sheffield Run is the original multi-stage trail running enduro.

​An original, unique, creative and social concept that brings all the best bits of running together into one exciting event.

A superb running journey linking some of the top trails and parkland Sheffield has to offer.

​It would be a tough task to find anywhere in the UK that showcases these kind of trails and scenery within its city limits.

​11 Individually timed Stages each with their own challenge and character make up 20km of racing over the 24.5km route.

The unique format breaks the route down into stages. Each stage being raced, and competitors receiving both results for each stage as well as a combined overall result. Plenty of opportunity for friendly competition!

​Between stages competitors have the opportunity to rest, relax, and regroup with friends (new and old) and refocus before the next stage begins. Competitors can walk or jog between stages. The novel concept creates a supportive and friendly social vibe.

The race format also opens up the course to a wide range of abilities. The support round the course is also something special.

​To top it all off a festival atmosphere at the end with draft ales, tasty food, and great DJ to ensures that everyone can celebrate in style.

Run as an Individual, Pair or even a Team with some top prizes to be won! Including beer!

Fancy yourself as an Elite? This years Elite wave has 250 runners going for top honours! See the entry form for the qualifying criteria.

On the way round, you can eat your body weight in jelly babies or even stop for a latte or ice lolly if the mood takes you if the pics on Facebook are anything to go by, and afterwards join in the big party in the park.

​Astonishingly, some participants choose to forgo the refreshment breaks en route, and actually run the whole thing crazily fast, like a proper race as opposed to a social run, but then again, there is some fine bling for the taking, and if you are sufficiently rapid to get yourself to the front of the queue for the beer tent, why wouldn’t you?  Kudos to those who can.  And, in deference to them as like that sort of thing and are speedy enough to do so, there is an ‘elite wave’ that departs first, so they don’t have to overtake slower runners on the trails as is inevitable if you are a fast runner in one of the following waves.  They have to demonstrate a qualifying time somehow or other.  Not quite sure how, but I think there’s a common sense rather than officious approach taken.

RSR fine trophy

That’s not my trophy by the way, in case you were wondering, though it is my age category for the record, which is why the Runaround reference made sense to me, but I’ve moved on now, I’ll let that go…   I just have to accept dear reader, that you may not even know how to use log books and a slide rule – possibly not even be familiar with colour factor, how you live independently I cannot begin to imagine.

colour factor

So you will have probably sussed by now that I have a huge soft spot for the Round Sheffield Run, I’ve run completed it every year since it started in 2014 and it’s always a joy.  Not even type two fun, but actually type one – in parts anyway –  which given the distance and elevation (1981 ft) is no mean feat!  I managed to enter and even get my preferred wave, the first one of the day!  No, not the elite wave obvs, but the one immediately after, which because you start off early, gives you extra time to get around, and, in my case, disguises my slow progress.  There was some shenanigans with the entry system this year, because of the increasing hype the event attracts. A veritable tsunami of wannabee Sheffield runarounders swamped the site as soon as the entries went live.  This resulted in a crashed site and a hastily introduced semi-ballot system in which I got lucky but others didn’t. There was some flack directed to the organisers which I think unfair. It’s hard when an event becomes so popular that it is over-subscribed, to come up with a universally approved and fair entry system.  However, in reality, as entries open so far in advance, there are always places that come up later on as injury or circumstance means others have to pull out. There is a waiting list that you can join, and you can always secure a ‘free’ place by volunteering to marshal at either the TenTenTen or the RSR in one year – or indeed, getting a friend to do that for you, and blagging their freebie.  Oooh, nice pic on the volunteering info link – am nabbing that – see the views that will unfold before you if you partake of this running banquet through the green spaces of our great city.  Yay, #lovesheffield 🙂  And it really is like that when you get there, there being Meersbrook park.  Stunning views.

panorama rsr

So you enter in, I don’t know, January or something insanely early like that, when you are sat on the sofa fondly imagining yourself having transformed your body into nothing but sinew and muscle by the time the event comes round ‘it’s ages away’ after all, and then you think no more about it.  Until, suddenly it seems it is upon you, and that rigorous training routine you dreamt of, well, in my case at least, spoiler alert – it hadn’t come to pass.  In my defence, I’ve had a particularly shite year, running, however badly, being way down on my list of priorities.  I did consider withdrawing, but then again, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d rocked up to a run woefully unprepared, and I do have the advantage of knowing the route really well.  Also, it is indeed true the event gets you round because of it’s supportive ethos.  It is also true that it is better to rock up under trained but uninjured than over trained and carrying some sort of running related twinging, better runners than me by far have been caught out by less.  This is unfair of course, but true.  As with much of life. But let’s not got too far down that line today.   Today is about positivity and all being well with the world, even if it isn’t at all really, and that’s just the running endorphins kicking in… we have to take what comfort where and when we can.

So I entered, and winter moved into spring, and spring into summer and suddenly the RSR Facebook page is commencing countdown, ooh look here are the t-shirts – here is a teaser of a run stage the week before.

Oops, this was becoming very real suddenly.  Then, after weeks of rain, it became scorchio.  Crappity, crap crap.  Heat is my running nemesis (oh, and hills, and roads, oh and the actually being required to run bits as well, also humidity – that’s even worse possibly –  but mostly heat.)  I am not good in the heat, this does not bode well.  Heat really stymied my London Marathon experience, and I really didn’t fancy doing the Round Sheffield Run under the glare of uninterrupted sunshine.  It didn’t help I got sunburnt on the Friday by accident.  I rocked up to Hallam parkrun on Saturday slathered in sunblock.  Yes, I know proper athletes rest up the day before a big event, but I’ve only really got one gear at the moment, so might as well do parkrun the day before – particularly as I had to go into Frontrunner anyway to make an emergency electrolyte purchase, I’d be near Endcliffe park anyway.  So at parkrun, a couple of things happened. First off, my thickly applied unblock sloughed off as I ran (cough), glooping in a sweaty pool of white stripes congealed in the deeply attractive folds of skin in my neck, giving me the appearance of a new born alien being recently ejected from my egg sac and still dripping afterbirth, or just been doused in ectoplasm or something.  Just to be absolutely clear here, this is not a good look.  Gloop pops up in many different guises, it’s hard to get the adjective that perfectly captures the texture, but you’ll get the general gist I’m sure.  That’s an actual picture of me post parkrun on the right.  Don’t use that look in the nivea sunblock ads now do they?

Some things, only a true friend will tell you, so special kudos to this fab friend, who pointed out this was not the best look, and promised to let me have a go with her non-glooping, but effective S20 the next day.  Wonderwear ambassador, once again I have you to thank for sharing your wisdom!

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Wiping the gloop off my turkey neck as best I could, I went on to Frontrunner in search of electrolytes.  Skip was in charge, effortlessly ignoring me as I went in.  I was thrown initially because they’d moved their display around, but then was informed in response to my enquiry that THERE WERE NO ELECTROLYTES! Well, not the tablets anyway. Oh my gawd, calamity.  This just did not compute.  I stared blinking at the alternative options but I know from bitter experience there is no point in using sports gels or drinks as they trigger my gag reflex more even than framing the tattooed skins of your loved ones for display in the lounge (other room choices are available) after they’ve died.  And trust me, that’s saying something.

Anyway, I used electrolyte tablets for the first time at London in the hottest marathon on record, and I’ve relied on them ever since when the temperature soars. They really do seem to help, they avoid that ‘inquenchable thirst’ sensation, and post run headaches, or have for me anyway.  The thought of doing a hot RSR without them was not the best.  I was annoyed with myself too, because I’d used the last one in my hydration pack for the Hathersage Hurtle, which was ages ago, and I’ve been meaning to nip in and replace them ever since.  Crap. Also, turns out, just blinking vacuously from time to time in between staring in disbelief at the space on the display stand where the electrolyte tablets are supposed to be, doesn’t make them magically appear.  Who knew?  I retreated.  I needed a plan b.  Plan b was maybe get some electrolyte sachets like the ones that are sold for tourists to re-hydrate after getting the runs in a different sense whilst on holiday.  Problem with plan b, was that I couldn’t be bothered to find a proper chemist, and they didn’t have any at the mini Sainsburys I pass on the way home.  Oh well…  eek.

Day before angstiness was well under way.   Things brightened up a bit when I dug out my hydration vest to get my kit ready.  There are water stations on the way round, but I knew I’d probably need more.  This route actually goes past shops during some of the recovery sections so in theory at least, you could nip into the co-op for a bottle of water en route if desperate, but best to go equipped I feel.  Anyway, good news, my slatternly habits are such that I still had an almost full reservoir of water in my running vest, and what’s more, one in which I had previously dissolved electrolytes for the Hathersage Hurtle.  Turned out, didn’t need as much fluid then as I thought.  I had been meaning to empty that out and sterilise it all for ages, but on this occasion, result!  I know it’s probably not the most hygienic thing in the world to keep the water thing filled and lying about for weeks on end, but my need for electrolytes outweighed any risk of near instant death by sepsis from being infected by my own germs.  Hurrah!  Anyway, clearly I’ve survived to tell the tale, so good to know, eh?

Just a matter of digging out my running top.  Erm.  Oh dear.  This was a problem too.  The thing is we have some new Smiley Paces kit.  Now, hear me out, I love my smiley paces buddies, and the ethos of this super friendly club crammed with awesome Sheffield women, however, the kit is not my friend.  The old kit was unforgiving to say the least, and so I was pretty excited when there was a prospect of ordering new kit, in a new design with a clean slate.  I ordered, it duly came.  Now granted, it looks epic on some, the new graphic design is fab, but the actual cut of the shirt.  It’s a no from me.  It only seems to suit a particular body shape which I do not share.  It’s best suited to a coat hanger, but failing that an athletic frame.  My frame is only athletic in the sense that a space hopper might be described as athletic, i.e. not really very athletic at all.

Space_hopper,_Walker_Art_Gallery

I ordered a size big enough to squeeze over my bust, but when it arrived it just swamped me everywhere else on account of being a mens’ fit.  Well, they call it ‘unisex’ but clearly this is bollocks – and I use that term advisedly, because ‘unisex’ always means designed for men.   I might as well run in a toupee teepee.  This garment doesn’t just belong on a coat hanger, but on a coat hanger popped on a rail hundreds of feet in the air.  Not being one to see the glass as always half-empty, I will say this.  Up until the point of trying it on I had thought my self-esteem had already hit rock bottom, but it seems I must have been feeling positively cheery, since the devastating effect of seeing my reflection in the glass whilst wearing this item suggested that in fact I hadn’t, there was still a fair old distance to fall.  I was beyond crushed, it made me never want to leave the house in daylight hours again, and no, I’m not posting a photo of me wearing it even for comedic effect.  It’s too humiliating.  It has been cast to the back of the wardrobe on the floor, never to see daylight again, unless I inadvertently ingest enough growth hormones through my diet to grow an extra three foot in height.  This is unlikely, as I’m vegetarian, so generally avoid ingesting growth hormone in my food.  The problem was, what to wear instead?

I dug out my original smiley vest, but this has endless variants of my name on it, as I personalised it for the London Marathon.  That’s a good top tip actually, if you have your name on your shirt, you get more shout outs from the crowd and it helps keep you going.  I don’t regret that, but such a highly personalised top seems a bit OTT to wear at a local run.  It just would feel a bit egotistical to head out on the RSR with my name front and back, and a bit misplaced given the speed with which I’d be progressing round the course.  Aaargh.  It felt bad, but I honestly didn’t want to be seen in public wearing either garb, so instead reached for my parkrun volunteering tee.  It’s the most forgiving of the running tops I own, and pleasingly, colour co-ordinates with my inov8 parkclaw trail shoes, which I love.  That would have to be the way to go, it seems my loyalty to my running club has some limits.  If only I were an international sporting icon – or indeed some other sort of celebrity, I could have my own kit custom made for my body shape and it would look and feel fab.u.lous.  Here’s hoping that I come to inhabit such a parallel universe comes to pass before the next time I venture out in public for a running event.  Not in time for this year’s RSR alas.

I felt sad not to have a Smiley Vest that I felt confident enough to wear in public, but hey ho, maybe it would be as well to go under the radar given my current fitness levels.  Wouldn’t want to bring the name of the club into disrepute after all, not so much with the requirement to run fast, it’s an inclusive group, speed isn’t everything, it’s more that if you have ‘Smiley Paces’ emblazoned across your front, there is something of an obligation to smile throughout any event when out and about.  Wearing a smile and wearing that new Smiley vest are mutually exclusive.  You can’t force a smile when you are blinking back hot tears of humiliation because what’s been seen in the mirror cannot be unseen. Also, I’d be out and about for rather a long time potentially, that’s quite an endurance test for smiling throughout, even if the smile came easily to begin with …  Maybe I could wear the top and distract people by, oh I don’t know carrying a giant carrot around with me for the duration?  That makes other people smile apparently, thereby potentially removing the obligation for me to do so.  It was a thought…  Mind you, timings a bit tight for making one overnight, that papier mache would too long to dry, and I have no orange paint either, still, there’s always next year.  It’s not Ken Livingston by the way, though possibly his doppelganger.

melbourne carrot man

I wonder how they did the leaves.  Do you think they are actual palm fronds, or made of plastic?  Hard to tell.  Will have to nip across to Melbourne and ask him in person sometime.  He is known for carrying a carrot with him by the way, it’s his thing. Maybe like our John ‘the man with the pram’ Burkhill with the green wig or Tony tending the War Memorial in Endcliffe park.  A known character, part of the landscape, with a particular USP.  We have running icons in Sheffield too.  Pirate Flag man anyone?  All Sheffielders know who I mean!  Spotted at the bottom of the Meersbrook Park hill by me today, but sure he will have popped up all over.  Always worth keeping an eye out for him on Sheffield runs – not that he’s especially hard to spot to be fair, but just so you know to be on the alert.  It’s like the notion of Sheffield flat – man brandishing his enormous jolly roger in the woods, no worries – it’s a Sheffield thing, you’ll work it all out in time!

Hydration ready?  Tick.  Kit ready?  Tick.  Legs ready?  Well, as Mr Loaf says, two out of three ain’t bad.

And you know what was even better?  Whilst I was getting myself ready, the kandoo team were getting the park ready.  So exciting.  This was the night before the morning after.

RSR night before

Looking good, quite a logistical operation. It’s a well oiled team that pull it all together, but even so, must be a relief for the organisers to get to this point. Yay!

So to bed, and slept appallingly and woke up stupidly early.  Oh well.  I was up and about by 5.00 I didn’t need to be, but was awake anyway, and didn’t want to risk dropping off again.  Anyway, pre-race prep rituals won’t do themselves.  Learning the trick of smothering your feet with Vaseline to avoid blisters was a game changer for me, but there is an art to the application so you avoid greasing your entire living space with oily hand and foot prints.  Anti chafing precautions also necessary, and much pinning and repinning of my race number to ensure compatibility with my running vest.  All takes time.  I was in the 8.35 wave, and headed out to walk to Endcliffe about 7.00.  It was a gorgeous day pending, and I felt surprisingly cheery heading on down.  There was a bit of a breeze and sunshine pending, but that was OK, I had my hat, and my tomtom feebie sunglasses, plus the day had dawned, I was going, all good.

The park looked lovely as I approached, all dressed up for a party and swathed in early morning light.  Plenty of route signs along the way too.  It seemed to me that they’d gone to town with directional arrows this year, there seemed to be loads of them, also chalk markings on the road at critical junctions.  Inevitably someone will miss a sign along the way, but hard to see how.

Queen Vic was overseeing everything as always.  I wonder how many different runners, walkers, joggers and doggers she’s seen using this park over the years.  Bit late to start counting now.  It was quiet, but building.  Volunteers were congregating, the bag drop and number and timer stations getting into gear.  Exciting!

and here are some way better official pics capturing the behind the scenes vibe:

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I dumped my bag in the bag drop, got my dibber, and began a scout of the grounds.  I was struck by the sight of the ambulance bike, corralled behind crowd control safety barriers.  I wasn’t sure if it was being secured in this way to protect it from us or we from it.  I commented as much to a fellow runner who had also noticed it.  ‘I’m not surprised it’s shut up, imagine all the great drugs in that lot!‘  Whilst this is potentially a good point well made, and it says much about my lack of imagination that this had never occurred to me, it just shows what a law-abiding lot we good folk of Sheffield are that no-one would dare desecrate the sanctity of such a boundary, oh no, that barrier would be unhurdled and whatever lay within the enclosure was safe as safe could be.  Even though I bet there was at the very least some highly desirable compeed plasters and more than a token foil blanket there for the taking but for those formidable barriers!

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I was extremely flattered to be greeted by name by first the event director and then the dibber distributor, ‘my they must only use super-recognisers to staff the laptops here, I had no idea so many of them lived in Sheffield‘ I thought to myself… before remembering that my number had my name on it.  Oh well.  The novelty didn’t wear thin though, loads of marshals throughout the day shouted support by name to every runner.  Impressive!  It’s nice, it makes you feel like you matter in that moment, however fleetingly, it also meant that in honesty I might as well have worn my old Smiley vest, but hey ho, too late now.

The marshals were being briefed and kitted out with the equipment for their various stations.  Looked like everyone got a set of ski poles as a precautionary measure.  Fair does, you do get pockets of micro-climate in Sheffield, Graves park especially is notorious for being in snow whilst everywhere else enjoys balmy climes and you never know what will face you as you emerge at the top of Ringinglow, it pays to be prepared.

Managed to make contact with one Marshal who is such a regular at this event she has her own nominated spot in Nether Edge.  My how pleased I’d be to make it to her later on in the day.  Also spotted a fellow Smiley – who was rocking the new look with confidence and panache, we paired up for precautionary pee (no queue there yet) and to pose.  We were desperately trying to get snapped by the official photographer, being extra smiley and trying to look casually enthusiastic and photogenic, or at least photo-interesting.  Epic fail, couldn’t get his attention at all.  Had fun trying.  I have form on this actually, decades ago, one long hot summer me and a next door neighbour decided to try to get in as many pictures in the local paper as we could by turning up at church fetes in huge hats or doing hilarious placards at local demonstrations.  That was also an epic fail, not a single picture, not one, but we did also have fun trying then too.  It’s a cheap and harmless hobby – as long as you don’t take things too far and put kittens up trees and dogs in lakes just so as you can rescue them, which is a version of Munchhausen’s I suppose and not to be recommended.  Today, we made do with our own selfies.  Aren’t we lovely?

and my wonderwear ambassador and Hallam parkrun buddy too.  And it wasn’t even 8.00 a.m.  The people are coming!

Traipsed over to get a squirt of S20 sunblock.  I’d got my own on as well, but just wanted to allergy test for the other stuff, as people keep telling me its fab, but it’s expensive if I react to it.  Then, coming back, the queues had suddenly started to appear.  I was glad I’d picked up my number and dibber already.  The queue was immense, and although it was moving relatively quickly, it was daunting to behold.

I say it was daunting, but it was also apparently invisible to some, well, maybe not ‘some’ maybe just one actually.  Who came round the corner, breezed up to the first laptop operative she saw and was all dibbed up before she raised her gaze to see the queue of other runners snaking over the horizon and out of the park.  Oops.  Maybe her route to the park took her along Twentywell Lane and this sign entered her subconscious – it wasn’t deliberate, but it was nifty!  Again, discretion prevents me outing anyone here, this is just a completely random shot of another friendly runner in the vicinity of the start at about that time.  Just so long as we are clear.  Any association arising in your mind as a consequence of the juxtaposition of the billboard signage and the female runner alongside apparently holding a newly acquired dibber is purely coincidental.  Good.

Still a bit of time, so decided to go for second precautionary pee of the morning.  Oh my.  This is a gripe to be fair.  The queue for the loos were beyond your worst imaginings.  There are never enough loos for the RSR, and it is tricky I guess because you need loads all at once and then they aren’t much needed for most of the day once all the runners are on their way, but there weren’t enough.  Good 20 minutes queuing and they got longer all the time, like some alien regenerating snake, the more you lob bits off as people did their bit and exited the queue, twice as much new length would be added at the end.  Is that the Jason and the Argonauts film, the one with the skeletons that replicate the more you cut them up… hang on, just a google moment – nope it wasn’t that – though it is an epic fight scene, I’m thinking of the hydra, cut off one of its heads, and two grow back.  Shudder.  Ray Harryhausen was amazing though, wasn’t he just?  Wow.  The toilet queue was too, but not in a good way.  Maybe more runners than usual turned up on the day, what the weather being great and the RSR becoming a destination run and all, but, more portaloos would be boon for next year.  Might stop some of the alfresco seekers, for whom desperation trumped decency.  And better signage for the urinal portaloos might have sped things up too…

The toilet queue was exactly like that.  No wonder the wait was scary.

I could hear the build up to the start of the red wave – the elites, but they were underway by the time I was wending my way to the start funnel.   This means I missed the panic stricken face of the photographer who nearly got trampled as the runners stampeded through, fortunately, this was captured by one of the (other?) official photographers, hurrah!  Probably one of my favourite pictures from the entire day!  Though, in fairness, I too always feel completely panicked at the start of any race.  ‘What, we have to run now!?!’  I’m invariably astonished, then alarmed to be surrounded by so many runners and then finally swept up by it.  By the way, lots of excellent photos have been made available on Facebook by the RSR team, they politely ask that you consider a donation to Weston Park Cancer Hospital in return for use of the images. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr19

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Spotted a Graves Junior parkrun RD inhaling a banana just before off.   Brave move, these elites eh, they live life on the edge!

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So I scurried to join the pen for the orange start at 8.35.  Announcements came over the speakers, and the shout went up to ‘Runaroouuuuuuuuuund NOW!’ or possibly a count down and then ‘go’, I can’t quite remember, and we all shuffled through to dib out in turn under the archway, and then we were spat through and launched and on our way!

No we hadn’t finished, it’s just that you come through the funnel at the end as well.  This is a consequence of running round in a great big circle.  You finish where you started from.  Clever eh?

One slightly bizarre thing about the event being set off in waves, is that as you you set out, running purposefully up through the park, leisurely arrivees are strolling down to registration, so it feels a bit weird.  Also, some people sprint off, whereas I take a while to get going, so the immediate first emotion for me is not so much a surge of adrenaline as shock and confusion.  Also, because it’s on the parkrun route, it’s like you’ve cheated and skipped the bit at the start, all very surreal.  It’s still uphill though, and a long way to go to get round the whole thing.  However, not too far to the first crossing point and the first dapper dibbing marshal of the day at the road crossing.  Not gonna lie, slightly disappointed not to see our ‘usual’ marshal in situ – another Hallam parkrun RD who has her designated spot at this event.  Not the same without her there, but she had selfishly opted to go fly a helicopter or something instead.  Honestly, the lengths eh?  Never mind, the spot was ably filled with competence, flair and excellently authoritative traffic control skills.  Can’t really argue with that.  Thank you marshal!

Over the road, onwards and upwards.  The field was thinning about, but other runners were coming up behind.  The overtaking had started.  On the plus side, I got to exchange cheery waves with familiar faces, some in a blur of speed as they passed, others pausing for brief sweaty hugs, all with big smiles.  There is something about the RSR that is inherently joyful, right from the off, once you’ve got your precautionary pee out the way of course.  Obviously it’s going to be stressful until you’ve got that bit of body maintenance sorted 🙂

This did sort of set the tone for the day to be fair.  People I knew, or friends I hadn’t yet made, sprinting up behind me, shouting a greeting and then whizzing by, their ever shrinking silhouettes disappearing over the horizon ahead of me.  Still, at least it gave me something to chase eh?  Plus, you get a chit chat opportunity at each dib point. Some people pressed on through, others eeked out each wait for as long as possible, strategically incorporating recovery time into their race day strategy, which is both the point of how the event is set up, and entirely mysterious to me.  The social anthropologists amongst you will notice the culturally significant green and gold bobble hat being sported by the high vis hero.  However, for me, the real interest lies in the fine exemplar of team work.  The Smiley Paces pair are saving precious seconds by having clearly demarked roles, whereby one does the donkey work of dibbing in and out and being responsible for custody of the timing lanyard, whilst the other nails looking triumphant and getting the glory.  Ran like that the whole way round, no mean feat!

Loving your work Smilies, loving your work.

On you go, into the woods, over the next road crossing – ‘thank you marshal’ I have a theory you can spot the parkrunners amongst the throng as they have been conditioned into shouting thanks to anyone in a high vis that they run past even if it’s a worker checking the wiring for a BT phone cabinet.

After the next road crossing, more Smilies!  We get everywhere, and these two in particular are a fab partnership, pathologically smiley, as is the smiley way!  Oh and they’re off again, smilies disappearing into the distance ahead of me, also a smiley staple.  Not running away from me as such, just giving me a lead!

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and somewhere around this stage I think, another Smiley caught me unawares with some action shots – you have to push yourself to get results… thank goodness for the dark glasses, I’m sure no-one will recognise me.

and this was around the end of Stage 1, where I’d been promised a sweaty high-five which I duly claimed.  Great to do a run where you see familiar faces on the way round.  This was the marshal sharing his local knowledge by declaring that ‘flat section ahead – Sheffield flat’ as runners dibbed out and headed towards Forge Dam.   The locals know, the blow ins will find out soon enough.  …. it’s not like they are going to come back down the hill to query it later are they!  Or are they?

Grand to see you my friend, thanks for the gardening tips at parkrun, and the backing for lobbying for the perennial plant stall, I’m quietly confident!

The forge dam cafe was just opening, and there was the opportunity to join another toilet queue if you’d missed out earlier.  Now into the woods. More familiar people whooping on their way past:

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My lack of training gave me a wobble, it’s a lot of uphill.  I doubted myself.  Then, soon I heard familiar chuntering coming up behind.  Yay!  My favourite twosome of the day.  Storming it.

also, it was somewhere around here, I met a Chorlton runner walking back down – I was concerned that this meant one of us at least was going the wrong way – unless he was just doubling back to remonstrate with the marshal about the ‘Sheffield flat’ quip – turns out his knee was crook, so game over for him.  It made me appreciate how lucky I was to be out there and injury free.  I wasn’t ever going to fly round fleet of foot, but I was going to get round, I was confident of that, time to stop fretting about what I can’t achieve and be grateful for what I can.  Poor guy, gutted for him.  Mind you, one remarkable thing about the RSR, which I’m sure is to do with the option to take part in a more relaxed way, is how very few are DNFs.  Less than 10 I’m sure.  No idea about the DNS though.  That may tell another story.

Onwards and upwards.  Doing a rare bit of overtaking of those following the route somewhat over prepared for the run -much like me on the Dig Deep Ultra, where I took absolutely everything with me because I had no idea what to expect. Well, the breeze blocks might have come in handy if I needed to create some steps to stand on to get over a dry stone wall for example.  Oh hang on, they were Duke of Edinburgh Award Schemers – did think the sleeping mat was possibly a bit OTT even if it did have definite appeal…

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And so you emerge from the wood, into the glade with tables laden with jelly babies, bananas and bottles of water, and friendly chit chatting – like you’ve stumbled on some sort of impromptu runners social – which you basically have.  There was plenty of water, and it felt leisurely, they’d put out a lot more sacks to keep the recycling together, but there was a lot of plastic waste.  I wonder if this event will follow recent welcome trends of other running events and try to go plastic free next year.  It ought to be possible, especially with the feed stations being in recovery stages and with the growing awareness of the problem with single use plastic.  I reckon so.

Restored, there is a 15 minute or so walk past the alpaca place and to the top of limb valley.  I always think this event must seem so peculiar to locals, as the road sections all tend to be recovery stages, and that means that in this ‘race’ no-one appears to be doing any actual running.  Worst run ever in that respect!  So called ‘runners’ strolling past chatting to one another and exchanging cheery waves with other participants ahead and behind.

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Stage three.  Limb valley section.  Basically, fab views, firm terrain – corralled away from scary cattle thanks to last year’s crowdfunding initiative – and you get to ‘whoop‘ and ‘wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee‘ all the way down, going as fast as your little legs – or long legs where applicable – will carry you!  Always time to take some pics along the way though, even if they are somewhat pitiful by comparison to the official pics, nevertheless, they capture moments in time and memories too.   And you know what, I actually think this picture, which I took all by myself, is fab.  If anyone knows this runner I’ve got a sequence of her in high resolution she can have if she gets in touch.

The official shots for this stage are fab – some possibly tipped over into not so much joyful but manic, however, that’s understandable in the circumstances.  You can also compare and contrast effortless running style of super speedy smilies v my trundling efforts.  Also, alarmingly, one Smiley has been caught on camera, not smiling and seemingly mid altercation with another runner, note to self – need to carry out an enquiry within my crochet club to check out what really happened there… More importantly, check out that Vegan jumper.  Respect!

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Oh hang on, they’ve just uploaded another album!  It’s great that there are so many pics, but it does take a while to scroll through them all. Oh the excruciating tyrrany of trying to pick out just the best… Lots of late nights for RSR runners the week after the event, poring over photos and reliving it all after a long day at work.  Anyways, picked out a few favourites below.  Please note, the guy apparently playing ‘chief bunny’ which I thought was a game everyone was familiar with – much like the rizla on the head game – but it might have been a shared house thing back in the day.  So I’ll leave that hanging.  Also, kudos to the levitating man, that’s some height you got to there, and then I just really liked the happy runners having a blast in blue.  Nice jump shot too.  That’s another thought actually, really ought to incentivise the giant leaping, spot prize for best photo capturing such athleticism, to be shared between jumper and photographer obvs.  Still think the vegan runner above is winning so far though…

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Wait, another album, album 3 – hope you are making your just giving donations people – and more evidence.   They have to be playing chief bunny, see the guy using both hands, he’s the chief and then those on either side should do one hand up each – the one nearest the chief bunny, and they are so doing it.  I need to seek out a Marple Runner at the next possible opportunity to verity my suspicions, but it’s too much of a coincidence to be otherwise, surely?

Oh, and breaking news, vegan jumper isn’t winning any more, this guy is.  For now…. he’s definitely taking the concept of a sugar rush to new heights, hard to be sure, but he has to have ODed on jelly babies.  Thought he could handle it I daresay, and then this!

RSR jump jump

At some events they have a ‘photographer 100m ahead sign’.  Well, only if they are 100m ahead, it can be changed to say 50m or ’round the corner’ or whatever, depending on context.  That gives runners the opportunity to pretend to be running hard, or to get a run up into a leap, or wipe the snot and sweat off their faces and ensure they have their boobs on an upswing in readiness, or do something equally eye catching, hilarious and camera ready which is harder to achieve when caught unawares.  I like that.  Mind you, these are universally fab pictures from this event, thank you Mr Linacre, it’s astounding to take, literally thousands of shots, and them all to be this good.  I sense a hive of activity on Facebook with people updating their profile picks with RSR run action portraits over the coming days… also a post run tradition.  That and running club caption contests, of which there will be many, the suggestions for some of which it is fortunate will remain forever contained within a closed Facebook group!

Where was I?  Where next?  Oh yes –  then into the woods down towards Whirlow, lovely section, and cool under the trees.  The running conditions were perfect, a cool breeze and bright, but not hot, so lucky, especially after yesterdays scorchio and soul sapping parkrun.  I gather that faster runners might have preferred harder ground, but my arthritic feet appreciated the soft forgiving terrain.  Reet nice out in fact.  Lovely.

and you emerge out the woods:

cross the road, and back into the woods. Ecclesall woods this time.  It was ages before I worked out how this relates to the Ecclesall Woods Discovery Centre.  I love Ecclesall Woods, but I seem to get very disorientated when I’m there.  Totally get why Hansel and Gretel got lost in the woods that time.  Trees are beautiful, but a wood in its entirety can swallow you up quite easily.  In this section I got the most fleeting of glimpses of Smiley Selfie Queen, but she did pause for long enough for a fellow runner to get a shot of us together, just for the record, we occupied the same space at the same time. You get to look longingly across at the miniature train in operation just the other side of the stream, but no time to take advantage of that today alas.  So this is where you emerge onto Abbeydale Road South, and stroll down past the railway station, trying not to think about the steps of doom which await you once you’ve traipsed up Twentywell Lane…

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Twentywell Lane, did have a queue to get into the woods.  I felt a bit for the marshal here, as this is point that requires a lot of proactive traffic management, and to be honest looked like one of the more stressful locations to be based at.  He was doing a fab job though, directing runners and traffic to keep everything moving.  Once we were over the road and into the wood, the steps awaited.  Oh my life, they are killers, that climb, untimed or not, is brutal.  I like this part of the route if I’m running on my own, but it is a tad stressful for the RSR.  I try to give way to faster runners as much as I can, but there are one or two really narrow bits on this path and you can’t step aside without plummeting down a vertiginous slope so it’s a tad stressful.  Having said that, runners were universally courteous, I think enough people now know the route to recognise it is what it is, and with the best will in the world, sometimes slower runners can’t give way and faster runners can’t over take.  All smiles. Well, to each other, they may have been some unseemly cursing about the challenge of the actual terrain!

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Phew, was glad when that section was over.  You emerge onto a road and have to run on by Beauchief golf course.  If you are called Sandra, you get your own signage to help you press on at this critical stage.  Go Sandra indeed, you chose your supporters well!  I don’t know if the idea is they will only have signs for Sandra, as this was a new development for this year, maybe other random names will appear, or maybe she has special dispensation to have her own signage. Will have to rock up next year and find out I suppose.

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The end of stage 5 takes you onto Greenhill Avenue, and more uphill and you go through Chancet Wood.  This stage I always forget about and get confused and think I’m already in Graves park, which you aren’t.  If you are ever lost on a course, and inexplicably see me ahead of you – which is fairly unlikely – don’t follow me, I’ll be lost too.

I was flagging a bit by now, so it was a fabulous surprise to see a Smiley superstar in support mode at the start of the Graves park section.  Hurrah!  Obviously, any Smiley is a fine sight on any and every occasion, but for the record, best thing EVER to happen to me on a run was when she and a fellow Brutelles turned up on the Houndkirk Road to see me towards the end of the Dig Deep Ultra. It was brilliant, so chuffed they’d turned out for me.  You know what, if you are a supporter rather than a runner on occasions, or indeed always, don’t under estimate the impact you have. You are awesome. Support en route can make or break an event.  All adds to the party atmosphere.   Now after that tribute, it’s unfortunate that I don’t have a suitably epic photo to share, but I do have an offering at least. Thank you Doctor Smiley!  Plus, she not only had vegan sweets – which had run out when I got there – but took photos of other smilies, even those who’d apparently got dressed in the dark which would account for them accidentally put on the wrong running vest. AND, she saw a rather cute mouse whilst waiting, which I find worthy of note.   Check out that half of the Smiley pair who is still managing to keep her arms aloft in triumph – she’s kept that up for over 15 km by this point I’d say – bearing in mind she was doing it throughout the recovery stages as well as the timed sections, that’s real dedication for you.  I’d expect nothing less.

Oh and she did a mean selfie shot too, which ought really to be mandatory whenever two or more smilies meet.  Evidence suggests it pretty much is already to be fair, if previous evidence is anything to go by:

Incidentally, it occurs to me, albeit rather belatedly, there is a really good breakdown of each section of the Round Sheffield Run course with nice concise descriptors and thumb nail maps on the event website so you could save yourself some time looking at that.   They also did something clever with Strava, marking the recovery sections in blue, but I can’t work out have to steal that as it’s a webpage, so you’ll have to make do with my Strava map, which looks like this:

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Makes more sense now I expect.  That’s good.  No of course I’m not uploading the version with my times on it!  What kind of a fool do you take me for?  (Rhetorical question, no need for answers on a postcard on this occasion).

Now I’ve found the section summary, I’ll refer to that for help with describing the Graves Park bit, er hem, the blah de blah says:

Stage 7   :  1.4km Graves Park

A gradual ascent through the mature woods of Graves park, this is another stage to take at a steady pace, up and over right across the park popping out at the main car entrance.

It only just occurs to me that the somewhat oblique reference to ‘another stage to take at a steady pace’ acknowledges that this is another bit with a long hard uphill trudge.  I don’t really like this section of the park.  Graves park is lovely, but this route misses out the nice bits like the Highland coos and Rose Garden cafe and sort of sneaks around a rather uncharacteristically dingy section.  Nearly said dinghy section, but I’m thinking of the boating pool at Millhouses.  Early runners in the elite wave, could in principle have seen junior parkrunners if not actually on their run, at the very least enjoying the post run partying.  One RD I met walking back home at the end of the event, said he was just sprinting past the back of the cafe for 10ish and could easily have joined the team in the cafe to help process the results if he’d but thought to do so on the way round.  I was probably still trying to cross Rustlings Road at that point.  Honestly, the elite runners inhabit a parallel universe.  I can’t imagine being that fast, even when I’ve taken advantage of deserted early morning airports to run full speed along travelators (doesn’t everyone), and even that makes me feel super human – these elite runners though, must be emitting sonic booms as they pass.  Well, I presume those booms are from breaking the sound barrier not for the food choices made on breaking their overnight fasts.

Graves park then, bit of a ho hum section for me.  A few people passing me asked if I was alright.  I appreciate their concern, but do wonder what this says about my natural gait, as I was absolutely fine, just choosing to strategically power walk, but I must look perpetually broken.  It reflects well on my fellow participants and the ethos of the event that people checked on me, but perhaps doesn’t reflect so well on my running style.  Not quite moving with the grace of a gazelle traversing the open grasslands of the savanna…. or wherever it is they live.  I’ve had worse.  The day after the London marathon, a next door neighbour rushed across the road to ask if I was alright as she thought I must have been in a car accident or something I was moving so stiffly.  Note to self, maybe other runners use rollers and recovery runs for a reason.

One good thing though, was as you come towards the end of the section, there was a couple of women doing excellent cheer leading.  Dear reader these two were ON FIRE.  Probably used more energy jumping up and down to motivate the participants to ‘just keep on running, it’s only 100 metres, don’t stop now’ then the actual runners did racing round.  No honestly, even the elite wave runners would have burnt up a fraction of the calories.  High five to you my favourite supporters of the day!  Liz is very lucky to have you 🙂 hope you hadn’t exhausted your mine of enthusiasm by the time she came into view.  Thank you for practising your cheering skills on the rest of us, you were awesome!

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As you come out of the park, you can espy an ice cream van parked up on the right hand side, quite hard to resist as you are clocking out ahead of the 15 minute recovery stage.

The temptation was in fact impossible to resist for some, who very sensibly, took time out to swap change for lolly – these two also knew how to roll!  Respect.  I wonder if they had 99s.  Not had one of those in ages.  I boycotted them for a bit once I discovered that they aerate them with air outside vehicle i.e. exhaust fumes (probably an urban myth) and that Margaret Thatcher, in her former life as a chemist, was partially responsible for developing the technique which led to Mr Whippy as we know it .  Probably also spurious, I might be able to eat them now…

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The next bit is

Liason between 7-8

Following the main road on the tarmac path up around 500m to the New Inn Pub, turn left onto road here, following to the start of the next trail.

The walk itself is unremarkable, though when you recce the route, I always think it feels a lot longer than it actually is.  The signage for the Round Sheffield Walk route is easy to miss here, though it was well signed for the RSR.  It’s a social section, I chatted to a few runners, some regulars at the RSR, some first timers, the lolly ladybird and lolly bee pair, and a guy who’d hoped to run as a pair with his wife but she’d had to pull out with dodgy knee or something, so he was going solo. Real shame when that happens, but it’s good that pairs who lose a partner can transfer to singleton status in such circumstances.

Eventually, you turn the corner, and then ahead is the sight of the next feed station. Wow, this was busy.  Excitingly, among the banana worriers was a familiar face from Graves junior parkrun.  Hurrah.  Oh, sorry, they were banana warriors, easy mistake.   Whatever, some nifty knife action, those bananas didn’t stand a chance.  Lots of people congregate here.  I’m sure this run was busier than last year, as I’m a slow runner, so usually by the time I come to feed stations things have calmed down a bit as the majority of participants have been and gone, but this was absolutely heaving.  Huge bags were to gather plastic bottles, though some had bizarrely chucked banana skins in amongst them which was hardly pro-social. It’s good that an attempt was being made to keep everything ripe for recycling, but it was a shock seeing such a mountain of single use plastic.  It’s good we are all more aware of it.  I can’t see that being allowed to happen again next year.  I needed to supplement my supply though, so was as guilty as any in taking a bottle.

I lingered only briefly, then it’s back down the hill.  This isn’t the most picturesque part of the route, but litter wise it was much better than last time I went down.  It was so bad once with litter outside the school gates I actually wrote to the school about it in one of my more pompous moments.  Never heard back.  It’s a bit of break neck section, if you take it fast you gather momentum going down, and it’s hard to stop.  I think it was no coincidence the bike paramedic was stationed in the undergrowth here, it was indeed a likely spot for rich pickings, though there were no discarded blood stained gauzes surrounding him when I passed, then again, he’d have put them in a proper biohazard waste bag probably, it’s not the done thing to leave blooded bandages lying around I imagine.

Oh hang on, the official description doesn’t mention the litter or the risk of injury or death if you take it too fast.

Stage 8   :  1.3km Lees Hall Golf Course

This is an exciting fast, flowing trail down between Lees Hall Golf course, down past the academy playing fields, opening up to some great urban views and then diving round to the left and back up towards Meersbrook

so where I experience fear, others experience ‘exciting’ I can see that actually.   I’m not sure about the views on this route, they really kick in in Meersbrook park.

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so the liaison stage here  is along the road in a straight line for about 500m, (more up hilliness) past the row of shops (a co-op you could nip into if you felt the urge.  I seriously contemplated picking up the bottle of wine I’d need for visitors later before my senses recovered sufficiently for me to realise that was a crazy idea, even if it would mean I wouldn’t have to go back out to the shops later.  Then you join the main road and up to Meersbrook park entrance.  Espying the amazing Bishop’s House as you approach.

This next section, section 9, is the best.  Well, maybe second best, Limb Valley (stage 3) is more picturesque and for me more forgiving terrain, but I love this stage too.  The views are extraordinary.  It’s quite moving seeing the city unfold in front of you – it helped that the skies were clear today, but on any day the horizon is amazing.  This park has a real community feel to it too, so it’s a well supported section, you’ll see friends probably, but failing that people generally out enjoying the day and offering cheers of encouragement too.  It’s down hill – always a boon, and has fond memories of small park BIG RUN too.   It’s just such a cool park, with a chilled vibe, I think it helps that, for me at least, psychologically I feel I’m nearly home now, that’s the bling in the bag near as dammit!

EVEN BETTER today at the entrance to the park were indeed buddies from small park BIG RUN, they were quite possibly still doing 1km loops of the park two weeks later – that’s dedication for you.  Also, pirate flag man.  So exciting.  I could see him waving his flag from the top of the hill, but he started to go round the corner out of sight, I genuinely put on an extra sprint for fear the flag would be all furled up again and out of sight by the time I got to the bottom of the hill. That would be unimaginable, missing the flag, when it was actually in sight, so near and yet so far.  Crisis averted dear reader.  The photos record I made it!  I also got whoops and hugs from my Smiley buddies, and the chance to see other smilies sprint on by as they had embraced more fully than me that this was actually within the timed section, so you shouldn’t really be stopping for a chat within it, though personally I don’t see the harm.  Also, I took some photos, quite pleased with the one with the Valley Hill Runners and the view, it’s just like that, it really is.

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Makes me so grateful that life has brought me to Sheffield, it really is the most extraordinary city to live in.  I felt weirdly emotional looking at that view of the city skyline.  It’s hard to say why, it’s not like I’m personally responsible for it or anything, and strictly speaking, I’m not even a ‘real’ Sheffielder, but I love this city I really do.  Admittedly mainly because it’s so easy to get out of and into the peaks, but I’m sure you know what I mean.  Bloody brilliant place

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Out the park, a very vocal marshal was encouraging every runner by name, which was impressive, if only for his speed reading skills!

You emerge, and it’s a bit of zig zag up towards Nether Edge for the next section.

Liason between 9-10 Out the park across the A61 following the permanent signs, across to Abbeydale rd and Edinburgh Cycles, turn left onto Abbeydale Rd, and then turn right by the mirror shop for the start of the next stage. Marshalls will be in key positions for this slightly tricky liaison.

Apart from the novelty value of seeing your reflection in a mirror, this isn’t the best part of Sheffield, but you know what, it’s grown on me.  Let’s celebrate B&M bargains and LiDL.  Why not appreciate the mural and that community wildflower garden is now blooming, literally as well as figuratively.  More chit chat if you fancy it

The best bit though, for me at least, was seeing my  magical Hallam parkrun buddy in situ.  Again, when I’d visualised myself doing this event, I knew once I got to this fabulous smile and slightly sweaty hug, I was nearly home.  Best hug of the day.  Also a selfie op!

Then the mirror moment: 

and then the bit I always forget, because it feels to me like it should be a recovery stage, down those narrow Nether Edge streets to Brincliffe woods. I find it a killer, more hills, and the heat rising by now.  I always end up walking it, with a slight garumphiness, because it’s hard, and I feel self-conscious and inadequate because I ought to be running but can’t or more accurately won’t.

Stage 10 :  2.2km Brincliffe Edge –  The end is getting close, this urban stage takes you up the road on a gradual climb to Brincliffe edge, keep going up the road and the duck into the woods onto the trail, contouring round, then up and down into Chelsea park, popping out in quiet surburbia on the otherside. A few quiet wide streets to negotiate on the pavement before finishing just before Psalter lane

Fortuitously, I came across a former Smiley and distance walking aficionado, who was also doing some strategic walking at the point, so we marched on together.  It was good to catch up, also I was able to pick her brains about using poles for walking/running, as she’s a fab advert for doing just that, although wasn’t using them today. She had them at the Hathersage Hurtle last year (2018), and was fair speeding round.

We stayed together until we emerged from Brincliffe Edge woods, then I waved her off as she skipped off through Chelsea park, the end in her sights.  Brincliffe Edge is a weird short sharp bit.  It’s nice and flat across the – you think – top of the ridge, and then just as you are settling in to that there’s a sharp right and more steep steps reveal themselves to take you up to Chelsea Park.  I didn’t witness this myself, but saw on Facebook that someone was alongside a non-local at this point – ‘and RSR virgin’ was the phrase used, and that poor soul caught sight of yet another set of steep steps unfolding before them they  just exclaimed ‘oh f$ck off!’ A sentiment other participants may well have shared!

Into the park, down the hill.  This is really near my home patch, although I don’t tend to go into the park that often, because frankly there are more open spaces within reach, but it was nice to jog through, and pleasingly I met one of my neighbours out walking her dog. She was a little bemused as to what exactly I was doing, but then again, so was I.  It possibly didn’t help that I was saying I was doing a trail run, but wasn’t noticeably doing a great deal of running.  I let that go…

You come out of the park, and again it’s still the timed section.  I feel it shouldn’t be, but anyway, that’s just voices in my head I expect.  Talking of which, I suddenly thought I could hear my name being called from the far distance, but I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it, and didn’t want to do that awkward thing of turning round and waving only to realise it was a shout out for someone else entirely.  It carried on.  I stopped.  I gazed about, and then look who sprinted into view:

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Another Hallam parkrun buddy.  Honestly, Sheffield parkrunners were like cockroaches on this run, they just popped up everywhere – only in a good way, obvs.  It was really nice to see a friendly face, and we jogged along and chatted and ended up staying together til the finish.

Past the last of the out of park marshals:

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Through the bright lights of Hunters Bar – trying not to notice the flood of runners who’d already finished and were strolling home adorned with the obligatory post-event metal wear!

And then back into the park for the final stage.  Can we have a moment please to appreciate the marshals at this stage who were particularly hilarious with their motivational banter.  Screaming at us to ‘run!  It’s not far, it’s a sprint finish, go go go!’  All the marshals throughout were epic, each had their own unique style to bring to the event and all are heroes, but this was a fun note to finish on for sure.  No-one was going to get away with nonchalantly strolling by this dibber point, it was do or die, and give it your all!

I therefore did dutifully run past, until I was safely out of view the other side of Queen Vic.  Then I did a bit of a walk to behind the hedge, before bursting out with a sprint finish.  Wasn’t going so fast that I missed waving at my Swiss Smiley friend – well met dear traveller, well met!

final flourish CS

I thought we did a reasonable job with our sprint finish – and thanks to Smiley Selfie Queen for capturing the moment even if it is a bit of a shame you aren’t captured looking into the camera in the front bottom corner of the frame as is usual for a selfie shot.  However, some really know how to tackle that finish or work the crowd.  The event ‘instructions’ state:

Stage 11 :  0.4km Endcliffe Park Finish – A final flourish, starting at the park entrance up onto the park itself where you will join the marked course for the dash for the finish outside Endcliffe park cafe. You will be greeted by fellow competitors, adulation from the crowd and if you wish a cold beer!

and it’s at least partly true.  You can indeed get adulation from the crowd, but it is best if you work it!  Look and learn:

just the little formality of the medal – ooh, and another Graves junior buddy, one big love in, how nice, it was like a personalised medal award ceremony!

Final dib to get results, queue for crisps and banana and water

Thanks to Swiss Smiley for coming to say hello, sorry I was a bit post-run perplexed, was grand to see you!  And that was that.  RSR all done for another year.

Well, all done apart from the partying of course.

I couldn’t linger this time round, you know how it is, places to go, people to see.  However, did get lucky meeting the Monday Mobsters.  … won’t give a spoiler, but ooh, I’m soooooooooooooo excited about next weekend now.  parkrun dreams really can come true!  I’m not giving a spoiler, but I will give a clue, what’s the parkrun dream destination once you’ve already done your parkrun pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun people?  I think we know…

So I said my farewells, and started the long trudge back up the hill to Nether Edge.  Blimey.  The return voyage was made easier once I bumped into the Graves junior RD for some company with him and his pal for the walk back.  Don’t worry dear reader, I did remember to nip into the local supermarket for a bottle of wine – only I accidentally got a large bottle of gin instead, and some pasta.  Perfecto!

That’s that then, for now.  I daresay there will be some edits coming later, and I’ll probably keep finding even better photos, which is the challenge when you keep discovering new ones days or even weeks later.

Thanks once again kandoo team and everyone who took part in or supported another fab RSR experience.  Those of us who are lucky enough to live in Sheffield are even more blessed to have this great event on my doorstep.  If they’d only sort out the horticultural supplies issues for next year, it will remain perfect.

Incidentally, it would seem that for the most part, runners at this year’s RSR got lucky and got round.  It’s been a good few weeks for off road runners.  Did you know  Damian Hall just set a new fastest known time for the Paddy Buckley Round, running over 61 miles – across some of Wales’ most remote mountain tops, climbing 47 peaks and ascending over 28,000ft  in 17hrs 31mins.  And the other week Sabrina Verjee won the 268-mile Montane Spine Race – the first female athlete to win the Spine race outright.  That’s a 268-miles non-stop race along the Pennine Way which she completed in 82 hours, 19 minutes and seven seconds, leading from start to finish, about 6 hours ahead of the second finisher. Fab.  Obvs.

But can’t help noticing that poor Sabrina’s medal doesn’t double as a bottle opener and has a trashy plastic sash, and as for Damian – well!  No medal at all!  Just glory, where is the fun in that.  I think we Sheffield Runarounders had the best fun and best bling of all.

So thanks y’all who made it so, and special thanks to the energetic and engaged marshals throughout, and the photographers who shared pics from throughout the day.  You can find these photo albums froms the 2019 event all on the Round Sheffield Run Facebook page.  There are thooooooooooooooooooooooousands, ’twill take a while to scroll through those, but just think how much fun you’ll have reliving the day!

The team politely request that people consider making a donation to Weston Park Cancer Hospital in return for use of the images. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr19 Uploaded in high res for you to use.

and on intrepid runner, Daniel Harris put together this Round Sheffield Run 2019 Timewarp Youtube video, which allows you to complete the whole route in 5 minutes or so.  You could have saved yourself a lot of time if only I’d listed this link right at the start.   Ooops.

Cheers all who took and shared pictures, accounts and videos.  Sharing the love 🙂   MInd you, it’s a Herculean labour keeping track of them all, never mind slaying the hydra, the epic shots just keep on coming…

Same time next year then, ballot and fate permitting?

Start planning your perennial beds now in eager anticipation.  I know I will.  That plant stall idea is a shoo in.

🙂

*oh hang on, that bit isn’t true actually, but you’ll feel sunshine in your hearts on the day because it’s one big running love-in

For all my Round Sheffield Run related posts, click this link and scroll down for older entries.  Or don’t.

Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

Undigested read:

Brace yourself.  It’s a long one.

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

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

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

and the strava profile looks like this:

strava route hathersage hurtle.png

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

more than you can shake a stick at

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

HH go explore

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

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

downhill-sign-road

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

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

Nicky Spinks from inov 8 facebook page

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

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

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

Tryfan-Nicky-Spinks-Paddy-Buckley-Double

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

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

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

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

ultra running eating contest

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

what the hell

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

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

Clangers weekend ahead

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

test card

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

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

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

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

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

arm-calf-sleeves-combo

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

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

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

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

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

Last year they were cotton and looked like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

what does running do to your brain

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

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

HH PS bit manic

They really are unforgiving those running vests are they not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSCF0331t

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

DSCF0330

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

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

Where was I?

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

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

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

pineapple cubes

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

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

PPAP song

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

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

Highlights, in chronological order included the following:

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

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

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

DSCF0397

Nice views:

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

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

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

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

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

Found her

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

half marathon meet up

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

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

HH PS epic run

I enjoyed the views:

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

 

as they chomped on their sandwiches, runners hurtled by:

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

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

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

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New Road goes up and up, but eventually goes down, and takes you to Dennis Knoll, the second feed station and the dusty incline that takes you finally up to the Edge.  It was at this last section of the road that I was blessed with my most treasured memory of the entire day.  I glimpsed the Event Director from Graves Junior parkrun, being dragged around at full speed, compelled methinks, to keep stride for stride with his running buddies for the day.  I don’t think I mispeak if I observe he definitely wasn’t having type 1 fun at that moment.  Seeing me, he cried out ‘save me Lucy, save me‘ as he swept on by, his desperate call for an intervention being carried off in the breeze. He barely paused for long enough to scan his tag let alone face plant into the cake table at the feed station as he ran on through.  Well, his type 2 fun, was my type 1, hilarious.  Gift of a memory. This is what happens to runners when their competitive instinct