off road

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?

Lingering location.jpg

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.

Midsummer_Sweden_09

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!

DSCF2072

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:

DSCF2033

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:

DSCF2038.jpg

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.

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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.

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

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

Where was I?

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

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

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

pineapple cubes

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

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

PPAP song

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

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

Highlights, in chronological order included the following:

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

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

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

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Nice views:

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

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

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

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

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

Found her

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

half marathon meet up

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

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

HH PS epic run

I enjoyed the views:

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

 

as they chomped on their sandwiches, runners hurtled by:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

small v far away

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

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

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

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

champagne runner

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

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

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

strychnine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Idyllic even.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hathersage Hurtle Facebook page reported that:

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

Bravo.  Fantastic performances indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

HH PS high vis heroes job done

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

nicky spinks completes dble paddy buckley round

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

See you out there on them there hills!

🙂

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Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

Discovering the Dizzying delights of Disley – Lyme park parkrun

Digested read: went to Lyme park parkrun, it was delightful, thank you for asking.

Undigested read:

Yes, you do get dizzy with delight at the beauty of it all, but you might also feel a bit dizzy with less than delight if you set off too fast up that hill at the start.  More of this later. Let’s start at the very beginning, as that’s well-known as being a very good place to start.

Lyme Park parkrun has been on my parkrun ‘to do’ list for ages and ages.  I did toy with the idea of doing it for my 200th run, but didn’t in the end, for reasons I can’t be bothered to elaborate on.  I felt like it ought to be saved for a special occasion, given the rave reports that echo outwards from its epicentre of parkrun gloriousness.  It’s beauty is legendary, the steepness of its start a marvel even to those of us who hail from Sheffield and think we know all about hilly parkruns, and the post run coffee options classy – it’s hosted at the National Trust property Lyme Park after all.  Also, a one-lapper, my favourite type of run, and they are few and far between.  What’s not to like?  The only down side is that it’s also quite a long way for me, and not really a route to drive in winter, well not for the lily-livered likes of me at least, so you have to pick the right day to go.  You can do this by ripping the innards out of a chicken and consulting The Oracle – not the premier Berkshire shopping destination, but the one at Delphi, which I understand has a more reliable track record in predicting the future depending on what you make of the ancient classics.  If like me,  you don’t live in Greece and are vegetarian anyway, as an alternative you can just check the weather forecast on the BBC website.  Whatever, for me the weather forecast runes looked good.  Even so, heading off to Lyme Park parkrun this morning was a bit of a last-minute call.  My running is so lamentable at the moment I feel more comfortable heading off to new parkruns where I can run (I use the term loosely) without any pressure by being anonymous.  I did consider going to Penistone parkrun, which had its inaugural today, but then felt they may prefer a low profile start – they don’t seem to have a Facebook page as yet, so I took that to mean they might be trying to stay under the radar – also, no loos at Penistone, maybe I should work on my pelvic floor for a bit before making the pilgrimage to that one, so all in all, I’ll save that for another time. Last night, I just decided, ‘why not Lyme Park parkrun?’ and why not indeed? (rhetorical question, there is no reason why not at all that could keep me from it!)  I charged up my sat nav and laid out my cow cowl in eager anticipation.  I would make it so.

I had a terrible night’s sleep.  I have completely lost the ability to slumber it seems.  If I could choose a super power it would be to be able to sleep at will.  Oh well, on the plus side, at least I was wide awake from about 4.00 a.m. so no worries about running late in the morning, only about actually potentially being expected to run, though parkrun is for all of course, walk, run, jog or – as in my case – walk/run/gaze about taking photos – all welcome.

Up, porridge, tea, arm out of the upstairs window revealed it was blooming cold, and blinking out there was actual frost on the grass and even ice on the car’s rear windscreen!  Well, I didn’t order that.  There was also the most glorious pink sunrise and a sky full of promise for a bright sunshiney day.  Hurrah!

The drive out to Lyme Park was beyond stunning.  I’ve been away from the Peaks for a while lately, and it’s ages since I’ve headed out through Hathersage, Hope and beyond to Winnats Pass.  Before I even got that far I thought my head would explode with the fabulousness of the views.  It was just stunning, completely perfect in morning sunshine.  I couldn’t capture it on film, but that didn’t stop me pulling over and having a bash

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you had to be there really.  The light was perfect.  It was hard not to be distracted by the scenery, it made me long to get back out and explore these fantastic open spaces we are so lucky to have on our doorstep from Sheffield.  Not today though, today I was passing on through.  When I got to Winnats Pass I thought my heart would burst.  I remember the first time I discovered this place, after relocating to Sheffield and I could hardly process what an extraordinary landscape was unfolding in front of me, it’s beyond comprehension really, when you see it without any advance warning, but even now I know what’s coming it remains amazing.  When I was driving back home later on this morning along the same route, there was a car coming up the other way and whilst the driver was resolutely focused on the road ahead, the passengers were lent out of the car windows at waist height, brandishing their mobile phones like tourists on safari, compelled to remain in their vehicle but desperate to capture on film the astonishing and unbelievable vision of the landscape in front of them.  Africa may have its lions, but the Peak District has geography to make your eyes pop just as much.  Go see for yourself.

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It was a bit heart thumping going up it in my little automatic car though.  I always worry it won’t quite make it up the hill, to be fair, this wasn’t the only time today I worried my carcass would never reach the summit of a steep incline.  Worth it though, on all occasions.  And I did make it too.

I drove past the heading off point for Mam Tor – not been there since the Mend Our Mountains sojourn, must get out and do that romp again in daylight this time.  Not my picture, but if you want a taster, this is what it looked like in the setting sun – not too shabby eh?  Not my photo, obvs.  Embarrassingly, I’m not sure who took it, think it was an ‘official’ one.  Thanks lovely photographer for sharing, whoever you were.

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It was a bit over an hour to get to Lyme Park, and it was very straightforward, apart from me being a scaredy-cat on the steep hills.  I wouldn’t attempt driving there in icy conditions.  There is a sharp, but well-signed turning off the A6, and you go through some incredibly grand gates that will either make you feel you were – or should have been – born for this, or that you are trespassing. I felt like I was trespassing.

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and that pic isn’t even the proper gate, but the extra mini one after you’ve turned off.  The drive to the actual house goes on for miles and miles, literally, not just metaphorically.  Top tip, if you are being dropped off for this parkrun, don’t wave away your ride cheerily at the gatehouse saying ‘it’s fine, I’ll walk from here‘ unless you are either a speedy and experienced ultra runner, or don’t mind delaying your Lyme Park parkrun until the following Saturday, you’d never make it to the start line in time.

I chugged down the driveway, and then there’s a little hut, where, once the park is officially open, you’d presumably have to stop and pay for parking.  I’m not sure from when to be fair, but I was there about 8.30 ish and just cruised on by.  Looked like if you were paying, it was cash only and right money preferred.

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Onwards, the park is jaw-droppingly lovely.  I did pick the most gorgeous weather imaginable to attend though, the light backlit the trees and landscape spectacularly.  I kept having to pause and wave my camera hopefully through the car windows to try and get some shots.  Poor substitute for being there I know, but will give you a flavour of it perhaps?

There were hidden treasures lurking, mysterious towers on the horizon, tempting paths, weaving up through trees and over hills.  Yep, so far the reports of the loveliness of Lyme would seem not to have been exaggerated.

Finally, there is the house on the left, a kiosk, a scattering of hi-vis, and a pleasingly empty car park – though of course that meant I had to do the ‘where is the best place to park dance’ which is quite complicated and references my indecisiveness a bit too authentically.  It’s factoring in how to get out later on when it’s full, as well as which is the best space to secure when empty.  A complex equation I find.  You will either relate to this or not. If you do, then your heart will bleed for me, too much choice, too challenging to decide, if you do not, then you will have to learn to live  on with that sense of genuine bewilderment and incomprehension.  I guess it’s like those puzzles which say can you see the elephant or whatever in this image and you either can or can’t and if you can’t it’s just beyond belief anyone sees otherwise.  This isn’t an elephant though:

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Actually, strictly speaking, it isn’t a duck or a rabbit either.  You do know your art history I take it?  This is not a pipe either….

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Glad we’ve cleared that up. Anyway, need to crack on, you’ll be wanting to know about the parkrun and I’m nowhere near describing that yet.  Once parked, I went over to where the Run Director and team were gathered, adjacent to a closed refreshment kiosk and some parkrun arrows yet to be put into place  to check out what was what.

I established the star and finish were in different places, and that you could – depending on the RD – potentially leave a coat to be taken to the finish, though I decided to leave mine in the car in the end.  Most importantly of all, I was directed to the loos. Just as I had thought my heart would burst from the beauty of the landscape en route to the event, now I’d arrived I thought my bladder would burst from the litres of tea I’d quaffed pre-departure.  Fortunately, the National Trust have lots of loos. Hurrah!

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They also had helpful signage about alternative names for dandelions, who knew?  And a lake.  And a tea rooms, and a National Trust gift shop, yet to open.

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Phew, much relief.  Slight panic when I thought I’d picked a cubicle without loo paper, but worry not, it actually had not one, but two toilet roll dispensers, presumably to cater for exactly this eventuality – I do love National Trust hosted running events!  I saw there was a Trust 10k sign up by the lake, so presume there is a Lyme Park Trust10, that would be epic!

Precautionary pee satisfactorily executed, I was able to have a bit of an amble about and check out my surroundings.  Great selection of warning signs here – is it reassuring or alarming to know the tail walker has radio contact with HQ in case of emergency?  Just not sure… and don’t get me started on the BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!  It is bad for the nerves!  I nearly had to go back for a second precautionary pee because of all the anticipatory excitement!  Didn’t though.  Need to practise running with my legs crossed in case I make it to Penistone.

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There were enthusiastic – or possibly lost – runners doing warm up loops, and marshals were heading out to their designated clapping and directional pointing spots, the event team were milling and coordinating and going about the busy and important tasks that keep the parkrun show on the proverbial road.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all to hear one of them at least was in possession of a clipboard, that’s how busy and important they looked!  Friendly and welcoming too though, you’ll be glad but unsurprised to hear, it is the parkrun way 🙂 .

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As 9.00 a.m. drew near, people started to migrate towards the starting gate, which was at the bottom of a rather upward flat section.  Gulp.  The gathering commenced.

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Now would probably be a good time to describe the course to you, as it’s a well known fact I can’t talk and run at the same time, so it’ll be hard for me to properly tell you about it once I get going.  The Lyme Park parkrun website blah de blah describes the course thus:

Course Description – Breathtaking. Literally!
Lyme Park parkrun begins towards the back of the main car park – the open gate marking the start line. The first uphill section (almost exactly 800m) is tough, narrow and loose under foot, however your perseverance will immediately be rewarded as you pass through a second open gate into the woods, which is rich in colour, but more importantly, flat! As you pass under the trees and along this next section, you will reach a second open gate where you should turn 90 degrees to your left. This narrow trail runs parallel with the park wall and is gently undulated and highlighted with small crossing streams. Glance to your right and you may be treated to your first deer sighting. At the end of this section, turn left again, through a third open gate and run straight ahead, passing the archery field on your right and through the final open gate. Please take extra care at this short part of the run, as you pass the staff car park on your left. Bear round to the right and follow the road until you spot the first large stone, turning left as you reach it, and head towards Lyme Park’s Cage. This huge open space with spectacular panoramic views of Manchester and beyond, will almost certainly give you perspective, and take your mind away from any aches or pains. Pass to the right of the Cage and head downwards over a rocky path, taking care to lift your feet on this loose (and unforgiving) terrain. As the path blends into the grass, it becomes very slippery and ends with a sharp turn to the left. Marshals will be ready to catch you at the bottom! Dig deep for this last section, a gradual incline awaits up to the finish line, a few hundred feet in front of the house, and in perfect situ to head off for a well-earned breakfast at the Timber Yard Coffee Shop

and it looks like this:

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and Strava tells me that there is 496 feet of elevation, which doesn’t sound too bad to be fair, but in the doing of this parkrun, I did think I might bleed from my eyes at some point, so be warned.

Assembled, next thing was the run briefing.  Milestones various were acknowledged, this seemed a friendly parkrun with regular runners cheering each others various achievements.  There was just the one celebrity runner, the Incredible Hulk, something must have made him mad as he was in his green, bulked up form, but fair does to him, whatever else he might have to contend with, the Hulk doesn’t skip leg days when working out.  Good work.

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It was a brief briefing, and a refreshingly quiet and attentive parkrun crowd – though maybe they were saving their breath for that upward flat section starting out… and then it was awf, and awf we went, some with more enthusiasm than others!

You can’t really tell from the pictures, but the start is a bit of a shock.  It’s a steep climb upwards for about 800 metres.  You would get super fit if this was your regular parkrun.  Spoiler alert, I failed to run all the way up the hill.  I like to think this was because I was wanting to pause for photos en route, but I am well-known for harbouring self-serving delusions.  Don’t mock me, it is this delusional thinking that allows me to return to parkrun week after week.  A fair few people did opt to power walk as well, perhaps this is a known and legitimate run craft strategy and not a cop-out at all?  Yes. I like to think it is, therefore henceforth, that is what it shall be.  Strategy in action. Go us, but slowly, to save ourselves for the more forgiving inclines and genuinely flat bits!

There weren’t a massive amount of marshals on the course, it doesn’t really need that many, you can’t get lost, but the cheery support was welcome.  I’d swear some of those marshals had the super-power of teleportation though, as they seemed to Pop up more than once along the way.  Canny lot the Lyme Park parkrun crew….  Here are some, in all their glorious loveliness:

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So you go up a gravely roady bit, and through a foresty bit, and emerge onto a moorland bit and it undulates up and down and the views are a.maz.ing. FACT.  I was, as ever, in the fun factory that is the rear of the pack.  There were a fair few juniors embracing the event, which was quite motivating, as if they can do it on their little legs, I can do it on my little legs too. Granted, they aren’t carrying the same tonnage, but equally, they have less idea of what they have signed up to.  Maybe ignorance is indeed bliss sometimes, it’s so hard to be sure…

This is definitely one of the toughest parkruns I’ve done to date, but also one of the most beautiful.  It would probably be quite brutal in snow and ice, but it was blooming lovely today, despite it being pretty nippy out.  After a bit, you are directed off to cake!

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Oh hang on, no, not cake, cage.  Rookie error.  I have no idea why the folly, or castle or cage or whatever it is.  A hunting lodge according to google…. it does look a bit like the Tower or London, and to be honest, it wouldn’t have surprised me at all to learn we’d run that far as it was hard going up that hill, as well as being pretty breezy up top!  Still, you are rewarded with the most amazing views, and it’s amazing what you can put up with given an incentive like that to keep on going.

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Past the cage, and there was a lovely down hill where you could be an aeroplane if you wished on the way down.  More marshals were in position by trees and with a succession of rather cute canine companions.  There was also a high vis clad horse rider, I’m thinking that was just a coincidence, rather than a crowd control measure unique to Lyme whereby they have a mounted marshal/police presence just to be on the safe side.

The downhill bit continues, and then you have to curve round towards the left towards the final finish stretch (don’t get too excited, it goes up again before going down).  Here, I induced panic in the marshal at his station, as I veered to the right to get a shot of him in situ leading him to think there was a navigational emergency unfolding before his very eyes.  He shouted and waved at me with not a little desperation. It’s good to know marshals take their directional pointing responsibilities so seriously, thank you my hi-vis friends for your vigilance as well as diligence on course today!  Also, in my humble opinion, best bobble hat of the morning too, although that award brings with it only kudos, no other acknowledgement as such, you’ll have to make do with the warm glow of recognition I’m afraid.

Once I’d cornered successfully, it was past the plastic cone mine (or possibly resting place, I’m not sure).

On the summit behind, you could just make out the tail walkers and marshals standing down from their posts:

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ahead, parkrunners ran on, the finish funnel within their reach…

and just when your morale was beginning to sap, a further sign of encouragement, literal as well as metaphorical – I do love it when parkruns have their own personalised signs, it’s cheering!

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and even better, it was actually true!  You are nearly there, just a few metres round the corner, the finish funnel came into view, and you run into the warm embrace of a flurry of timers and funnel managers and finish token giver outers and barcode scanners.  Hurrah!

and so it ends.

I lingered to watch the tail come in – didn’t have to linger very long to be fair…

and you know what was especially heartwarming, to see the hi vis heroes jumping for joy.  And why not, volunteering at parkrun is fab fun.  Didn’t quite get him airborne, but this picture potentially has more comedic value, so every cloud eh?  Just realised, do those plastic cones match the bobble hat stripes?  Methinks they might.

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and that was that.

Lyme Park parkrun done.

I ambled back to the car, trying to get some atmospheric pics en route, along with the obligatory slightly awkward selfie.  Where is Smiley Selfie Queen when I need her?

We definitely had the best part of the day for the run, as it was getting decidedly nippy by this point.  As it was a long drive back, I stopped off at the cafe for a veggie egg and sausage sandwich and a latte.  Service was friendly but slow, presumably because they had to go and get a hen to lay an egg for me before they could cook it. However, that was fine, as queuing is an impromptu opportunity for parkrun socialising.  I met a fell devil runner who is also doing Round Sheffield Run in a few weeks time – note to self, I should train for that probably, and also was able to see the RD again, and marvel about the wonders of the Lyme Park venue, which I could confirm in person, most definitely had lived up to its most excellent reputation.  It is definitely ‘undulating’ though, and I run in Sheffield.  Just saying.

Mind you, it’s not as tough as the Marathon des Sables, and a dog just finished that, so perhaps we can all do more than we realise if we are but motivated enough, and we runners are mightily easily led by the prospect of a fine bit of bling…  This is most certainly a dog that’s finally had its day!

It really is exceedingly fine.  You should try it sometime. Best try to manage your expectations about the stately home actually levitating on the lake though, I mean it is very spectacular indeed, but there are limits.

DSCF8460

So once again, thank you parkrunners and parkfunners all in general and Lyme Park parkrunners in particular.  It was reet nice oot.  I’d love to come back some time soon.

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Bit of a time vampire, if you do, you might be stuck on the sofa for a while, ‘just researching options’.  Hmm.

Happy running in general and parkrunning in particular until next time.  I wonder what parkrun delights next Saturday will bring.

🙂

Categories: 5km, off road, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

Rocking the context appropriate look. Snow plogging microadventures r us.

Digested read: went plogging on the Sheffield Half-Marathon route.  It snowed.  It was still fun.

litter picking white out

Undigested read: I can hardly run a bath at the moment, let alone a half marathon.  This is a shame, because we are fully into not so much the run up (see what I did there?  Hilarious) as into the actual tapering period for the 2019 Sheffield Half.  This time last year I was well into my distance runs and used the Sheffield Half as a training run for the London Marathon. That seems like a life time ago. The past is another country I did things differently there.  Now, for various reasons, I’ve had my running goals for this year well and truly scuppered.  It is a source of much squirm-inducing regret that when my lovely running club asks us each month to volunteer our achievements and post them on Facebook for each return period that I find myself racking my brains trying to think of something to say.  Something – anything?  Nope, just an echoing void up there at present.  Nothing to report.  I blagged it the last two months, by explaining February was pretty much taken up with my merchandise testing commitments (Brooks Juno Bra thank you for asking) and then March brought with it my media commitments, culminating with my companion animal finding herself the poster giraffe for the Sheffield Half.  She was thrilled!  I got glory by association.  I might not make the start of the half this year, but hopefully the 5-10% of the population who are apparently particularly susceptible to hypnosis and suggestion will come to believe I was there just because they have seen this image circulating about the right time. I like to believe so.

sheffield half picture

Anyway, irrespective of whether or not I’m running, this is my blog, my rules, I can plog if I want to, however tenuous the theme in terms of its relationship to running.  Today’s theme is litter picking on the Sheffield Half Marathon loop, so that’s almost exactly the same as going for a run yes?

The background is that a group of us did this half marathon litter pick last year, after a last minute ‘who else is up for it’ Facebook post put out by a local running shop.  A fair few of us were, and rocked up, and it was fun. We got to dress up like Nemo and everything, though the amount of litter on the route was dispiriting.  It came about because those of us who’d been using the route for long run recces couldn’t help but notice the litter that had accumulated along the way, and it seemed a poor advert for our beloved Sheffield.  Instead of waiting around for some vague ‘other’ to take the initiative ‘somebody should do something’ Front Runner took the initiative, and put out the call. Seems that hit a nerve, and people came indeed.  Litter picking in general and plogging in particular is increasingly a thing – check out Runners Against Rubbish – which is good because it has to be done and bad because it shouldn’t be needed. Plogging runs featured at the Big Running Weekend a couple of weeks back too.  Anyway, pleased to report, they did the same again this year, suggested a group litter pick along the Sheffield Half-marathon route, and there was an even bigger turn out, this year than last.  yay!  Perhaps this will become an annual tradition.  Hope so.

shef half litter pick

So you see, whilst I might not be up to much running, I can still have running related fun times scrabbling about in mud and heave-hoing unsavoury discarded bits of rubbish out of polluted ditches with my running buddies.  We are hard core we Sheffielders, and we know how to make our own entertainment!  Plus, plogging in a ditch is pretty light weight compared to fell running which to the untrained eye might seem to stretch the definition of ‘fun times’ yet looks like great larks compared to the Barkley marathon.

You do know about the Barkley Marathons yes?  In case not – you might have just blocked the very thought as a subconscious protective reflex – this is a 100 mile plus suffer fest.  It has five laps, each lap of 20-plus miles in distance and includes about 12,000ft of brutally-steep, obstacle-laden, muddy mountain ascent through thick woodland.  That’s like climbing Everest twice, apparently,  which is another thing on my list of activities I have zero desire to undertake.  Just to be completely clear, I don’t even want to climb Everest once.  In conclusion, I think it’s fair to say that the Barkley Marathons stretches the definition of ‘fun’ a tad too far for even type two fun* recognition. Just saying.  Well done Nicky Spinks for giving it a go all the same.  Shame it meant you missed the first Trunce of the year but understandable in the circumstances.  Epic.  No-one came close to finishing the Barkley Marathons this year by the way.  I’m not surprised.  Nicky looks hard core yes, but she doesn’t look like she’s particularly having any real=time fun now does she?  It’s cool she’s wearing a dark peak fell runners bobble hat though.  Respect.  She’s still beyond awesome.

 

 

 

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, having running related fun in the great outdoors.  So it was that last night I scooped up a friend and together we chugged up to the Norfolk Arms rendezvous for the collective litter picking endeavour.  Tooled up with our heavy duty gloves, we sat in the car, admiring the moody sky and dramatic clouds.  About five minutes ahead of our rendezvous time, heavy drops started to land on the windscreen.  ‘I hope it’s not going to rain’ remarked my litter picking buddy.  We laughed nervously.  It would only be a couple of hours.  We exited our vehicle and joined the gathering by the van, joining the queue for bin bags, struggling into our junior sized high-vis and delightedly welcoming our parkrunning buddy, Regal Smiley who’d rocked up to join the fun=fest and frolics in the name of keeping our run routes litter free. Yay!

As we greeted one another, the rain stopped.  That sounds good doesn’t it, except it wasn’t because there was no longer precipitation, oooooooooooooooooh no.  It was because it transmogrified into fat flakes of snow. Proper snow.  Full on white out, snow snow. It settled on our hats, and snowed with an intensity and density that is usually reserved for the closing climactic sequence of cheesy American films set against the backdrop of Christmas holidays. You know, where every problem is overcome, every misunderstanding cleared, and loving couples or families rush out red cheeked, starry-eyed and bobble hatted through a forest of Christmas trees already laden with snow, or along a city street with shop windows a-bling with Christmas lights as fresh snow falls and the credits roll.  Like that. Exactly like that, only colder and wetter and with less joyful cavorting on our part.  We did laugh though.  A lot.  And to be fair, if the weather was going to be dramatic, I’d sooner take the apocalyptic drama of unexpected decent snow over the soul-sapping water torture of horizontal rain.  Also, definitely better than having a helicopter induced storm hurl roadside barriers at you mid-marathon in China.  It happened.  It really did… quite relieved I didn’t bother entering that one now, especially after learning I wouldn’t get away with taking along the bike for part of the route after all.

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Besides, we were here now, committed.

We took our bags, our gloves, out litter picker and our resolve and off we went, a trio of awesomeness, to take on Sheephill Road.  Time for a quick selfie first though…  Just for clarification purposes, that’s the start of the snow you can see in the flurry of white flakes, not a severe dandruff episode by a fellow litter picker just out of shot.

what larks eh

We bagsied the upper end of Sheephill Road from the Norfolk arms downed.  I thought we might have to fight for it – I feel a tad territorial for this section because it’s the same bit I did last year, which is ridiculous, but true.  As it happened, we three got it all to ourselves, and off we went.  We were an awesome team, covering both sides of the road like police forensic investigators seeking out clues in a finger tip search.  Litter picking is disturbingly surprisingly addictive.  No fag end is safe, no bottle too remote to be hunted down and caught bang to rights and bagged – probably to end up in land fill which is depressing, but preferable to choking wildlife at least.

There aren’t any whales in Sheffield, so I don’t think we were saving them particularly from consuming plastic on this occasion but then again, who knows where discarded plastic can end up.  No really, I spent some time volunteering at a wildlife centre in Zimbabwe and one day found myself removing plastic wrap from cucumbers flown in from the UK – probably grown in a poly tunnel, that were past their sell-by date and so were discarded from the shop and were now being used as animal food. How many countries had that plastic wrap visited in its single use lifetime? What is that about?  Crazy.  That’s why 44 kg of plastic was found in a dead whale only last month.  No fun to be had in that story, none at all.  Don’t need to be Hercule Poirot to work out contributory factors for cause of death for that one.  Or even James Herriot, or whatever the marine biology veterinary equivalent for that might be… This is plastic that emerged from a whale gut, I couldn’t be more astonished if it was a picture of Jonah himself bursting forth.

plastic in dead whale guardian

It was surprisingly companionable yomping along plogging and picking our way through the undergrowth with varying degrees of concentration. We evolved a system whereby Regal Smiley/ bicentennial woman who was in possession of the grabber (well, she does command natural authority, plus she was the one who had the foresight to bring it with her) responded to a sort of directional pointing system whereby we other two, lacking her reach, would get the bits we could and then point out to her the more elusive finds.  She would do well in the opal mines of Coober Pedy as once she was convinced of the presence of something, in this case litter, nothing would deter her from ferreting it out. Together, we were invincible.  That dear reader, is what team work is all about.

coober pedy

‘This image is courtesy of John Park, who you can follow on instagram at  https://www.instagram.com/parky.au/  if you fancy some virtual travel browsing through some stunning pictures of the great land down under and beyond!’

We didn’t find any opals, but we did find some vintage crisp packets, they don’t have the same market value though, well, not as far as I can tell anyway.  I didn’t research it all that conscientiously, I’ll be kicking myself when a vintage salt’n’shake crisp pack suddenly appears on eBay, with the faded lettering being described as ‘adding authenticity and character’ … I can feel my blood boiling at the very thought!

The weather did crazy things.  At times there were blizzard conditions, at times bright sunshine broke through, and there was the most extraordinary rainbow that seemed to arch across the whole city, I wished I’d got my camera with me, but then again it probably wouldn’t quite have done it justice, plus, I was able to delegate photo duties to Regal Smiley who did a fair enough job in the circumstances!

Here is the snow:

reet nice out

Well, some of it, and here is the rainbow. Also just some of it…

rainbow road

We were merry in our labours.  Also, encouragingly, the litter situation was way better than last year, and although there was still plenty, we made speedy progress.  No especially epic finds – well, apart from the almost buried plastic Christmas Tree and associated baubles, really people?  There was inevitably, lots of plastic, haylage bags, fast food polystyrene wrappers, huge amounts of cigarette ends, discarded bottles, one solitary gel pack wrapper. and debris from miscellaneous road accidents.   Had we but the time and inclination – oh yes and skill too – we could quite possibly have built our own vehicle with the bits of body work accrued along the way.  Some duct tape would have helped maybe, but then you can do anything with duct tape and imagination!  After all, if it can be used to fix a plane after a bear attack, I’m sure it could assemble some discarded car panels without too much difficulty.

 

After an hour or so, there was the pitter patter of tiny feet behind us.  Breathless, and inappropriately dressed for the inclement weather was a trio of youths.  I must be getting exceedingly old, because when they introduced themselves, still wet and shivering as ‘students’ my immediate thought was they were a detail from a local school sent to join the community initiative, but no dear reader, they were actual university students, doing a journalism course and in search of a local story.  Mind you, I do find increasingly I have become that person who notices that my GP and other officials look alarmingly youthful.  The logical conclusion of this I am actually old, not just old before my time.  I don’t know quite how to process that thought, so now I’ve shared it, I’ll ignore it and move one… Anyway, where was I, oh yes, clearly, we were the most newsworthy thing going on at the time, and so we were within their grasp. Also, I secretly suspect they’d got wind of my recently acquired poster girl status so perhaps were hoping for some sort of celebrity coup to boot, though they were far too professional to let on to that insider knowledge, didn’t want to seem all giddy in my presence I expect… So, what they wanted to do was a little piece on the community litter pick for one of their assignments. Fair enough, sounded entertaining.  ‘We are like the wombles!  You know “underground, overground, wombling free“‘ I half-said half (badly) sung, being met with looks of confused incomprehension, oh gawd, I really am old, surely they haven’t been forgotten – I had their LP at one point, ‘wombling free’ it’s a tragedy if that cultural heritage has now been lost, we do indeed need the Wombles more than ever!

wombles

We continued our litter pick, whilst they found a suitable lay-by to set up their gear.  To the casual observer they would have looked like spectacularly well equipped doggers.

They wanted some litter picking shots, featuring the grabber in action and in close up.  This required quite a lot of practise, and hilariously (well I thought so) the initial actual litter that was being used for the shot just didn’t cut it as camera eye candy.  Fortunately, one of the trio had brought along her own, more photogenic litter just in case.  This was in the form of a bottle of lucozade sport (I like to think, as the ‘sport’ reference seems especially apt, but I might have imagined the whole thing just because I wished it so), which she downed in one, so that she could jettison the bottle on the verge where it could be picked up and popped in a black bin bag on endless repeat until caught from all possible angles and the perfect shot, like the discarded bottle, was safely in the bag.  (Honestly, I’m on fire tonight!)

Then we stood in a slightly self-conscious line and the director said he was going to ask us each a question to camera as a sort of vox pox segment (well, what with my work as a supporting artist elsewhere, I have all the media lingo down to a tee). Now, this is where we approach the comedy climax of the evening…  but to fully appreciate this, you need context.

The thing is Regal Smiley has many talents.  Epic runner, parkrun run director blah de blah, but one of her most public-spirited duties is linked to her being the power behind the photographic throne occupied by Mr Carman.  Yes, yes, he takes squillions of pictures week in, week out, selflessly giving his time for the running community of Sheffield, but it is Regal Smiley who acts as upholder of human dignity and public decency, acting as censor to any shot that might unduly humiliate or embarrass the subject of the photo.  Obviously due humiliation is a different thing altogether, and comedic value can outweigh an unflattering shot, but even so, she has much respected form in saving us runners from the brutal reality of seeing in high-definition our true running likenesses if that truth might mean we never left the house again.  She is the guardian of our individual and collective self-esteem, for this we should all be grateful.  Therefore, it was not unreasonable, that before consenting to our vox pox section she politely enquired

Do we look OK?‘. I know what she meant, save us from the spinach caught in our teeth or the inside out jacket or the river of snot that I’ve failed to notice because my face is too numb from the stinging hail. It was self-evident to all.

You look great!’ he said confidently.   The reassurance he gave us was to be short lived.

It wasn’t self-evident to all.  I know this, because he added with a bit too much enthusiasm in his voice ‘being bedraggled and cold and windswept and filthy is exactly the appropriate look for this piece when you’ve all been out litter picking in the snow!’  Oh how we laughed!  I’m paraphrasing only slightly, we rocked our context specific look, it is fortuitous that these clips will never see the public light of day.  Well, unless one or more of us was to go missing on the way home and they had to play that snippet of us on Look North as the last sighting of us for identification purposes, oh the shame.  And that nearly happened to be fair, but more of this later.

We did our slightly stilted commentary on the community cohesion of litter picking, and love of the peaks and running, and how we met through parkrun and all of that. Then, in a moment of clarity me and Regal Smiley realised this could be our running related achievement for April when reporting back to our Smiley record keeper, so more photos of us all together and separately in all possible permutations were taken. The sun came out, rather spoiling our hardcore claims.  I think it’s fair to say the weather was changeable.

 

 

 

We left them doing there final ‘to camera’ summary and continued our meander back along the verges.  It started snowing again, we were on a mission.

snow

It’s amazing how you see missed bits of litter when you view the landscape through a different angle.   We’d already done this section on the outward march.  Regal Smiley was emboldened to scamper over walls and criss-cross wobbly stones to reach tantalizingly placed litter the other side of walls.   There was definitely more than one point when I thought we might lose her over a crumbling dry stone wall. We discussed this possibility.  I was thinking at first we’d get away with pretending we’d never seen her, there weren’t many cars about and nobody was taking much interest in us… as long as we other two stuck to our story we’d be fine – then we remembered the cursed vox pox sequence, and if those keen journalism students got wind of her disappearance they’d be like the blooming Scooby Doo team, endlessly screening their now highly marketable footage as they tried for a ‘true crime’ documentary full length feature on ‘what really happened’. We’d never have got away with it.  So all in all, it was very fortunate, that we were able to haul her back roadside, and make it back safely!  No search team required…. this time.

scooby doo

Pleasingly, just as we returned to the corner of Lady Cannings plantation entrance, where we’d piled up all our bags, the Front Runner white van appeared to gather up our rubbish offerings.  It was a leaky, sodden and unsavoury mess of stuff, I wouldn’t have wanted it in the back of my car.  Above and beyond I’d say.  You can get Sheffield City Council to pick up bags from organised litter picks if you let them know in advance, but there was a different plan at work here.

And that was that, we said goodbye and went our separate ways.

I feel however I need to add this postscript.  As me and my tail walking buddy – did I mention that already?…

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were derobing and clambering back into my car, we got chatting to a guy in the vehicle next to us.  He hadn’t been litter picking with us but he does solitary litter picks around his road all the time.  I mentioned to him that there is the Sheffield Litter Pickers Facebook group if he wants help.  He brooded on this point for a bit and then said words to the effect of he quite liked the cathartic effect of doing it alone and raging at the awfulness of mankind with every bottle plucked from a hedge or broken glass from the gutter he weirdly liked finding justification for his misanthropic view of the world.  I rather respect that.  It made me laugh.

And so dear reader, it was but two sodden hours on an April evening, but it was crammed with hilarity and micro-adventures a-plenty. Sometimes, it is worth just stepping outside the front door and seeing what unfolds.  Just be wary of cameras unless you are dressed in a context appropriate way. Oh and also, I feel a  need to share that really, in our own way, we three, and indeed all the other litter pickers out there last night, were tackling the same elements as the Barkley marathoners, because they too started their quest in sunshine, only to be caught out by wintry conditions and snow.  I may not quite be in Nicky Spinks’ league just yet, but I am somewhere on the continuum of weather she has experienced in her running challenges, and that’s a start.  Also, other litter pickers took independent initiative to play their part in an afternoon pick as they couldn’t make the evening one, ploggers are everywhere it seems, how splendid is that!  See them rock their context appropriate hi-vis too.

independent action litter pickers

Heart warming isn’t it?  And we could all do with a bit of good news in these dark times I’m sure.

You’re welcome.

*type two fun – things that are fun only when viewed retrospectively, from a very safe distance.

Categories: off road, teamwork | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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

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

Undigested read:

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

DSCF7469

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

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

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

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

The website says succinctly:

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

adding

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

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

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

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

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