off road

RSR Returns – Round Sheffield Run – lace up for the seventh edition 2021

Finally, once again a Saturday morning when Sheffield runners could get laced up and ready to go! For some this would mean squashing covid kilos into Lycra and dragging their weary carcasses around the green trails of our great city. For others, toned from months of newly adopted training regimes that started with Joe Wicks and somehow morphed into backyard marathons and obsessive implementation of press up challenges this would be their moment to test their newly honed and toned physiques against the gradients of Sheffield. Those of us not running fit due to injury, apathy or lack of a golden ticket to take part in this too long anticipated and too oft postponed event could still (flabbily) muscle in on the action as volunteers or supporters. For this weekend, dear reader, Endcliffe Park was The Place. The only running destination on the radar. Prepare yourselves, the event is after all billed as ‘epic’, no-one wants to miss out on that – best get lacing…. And make an effort, it was after all this time surely going to be an extra special occasion. Super-sized epic, with an extra side of epicicity* for good measure.

What’s more, this dose of epicness was not because we’d all suddenly collectively woken up to the sound of a shower only to discover the entire pandemic has been but a bad dream, but because – oh still my giddy heart – it was true. This was indeed to be (sort of) The First** Major Sporting Event Back. It must be so, The Sheffield Telegraph reported it.

Bring it on!

Wait? Seriously? You still don’t know what I’m talking about? Only The Round Sheffield Run dear reader. Bringing that back on! I know, mega!

Even so, sequels are risky aren’t they? Not to the same extent of shot for shot re-makes, which are obviously an abomination of nature (why with Psycho, why?), but a risky endeavour all the same. Will there always be a nostalgia for the original and therefore the best, or will doing it all over again mean bigger, better bolder, ironing out glitches and embracing innovation? Not just incremental shift but exponential change. To date, the Round Sheffield Run has bucked the trend of bombing, disappointing literal re-runs (apart from the running bit, there has always been running – by some participants at least). It’s had a straight series of six impeccable (re)incarnations. Could it pull it off again? This time round the stakes were inevitably particularly high. I suppose on the one hand in the absence of any alternatives many of us might be quite grateful just to hobble round a litter strewn car park in horizontal hail if it meant we got in a little bimble followed by a nice bit of bling. To actually be in the presence of actual other people doing the same thing whilst a forlorn looking high vis marshalled clapped half heartedly at us from a distance would be more than enough after such prolonged abstinence. On the other though, this event had been not just once but twice postponed from its original due date. The weight of anticipation and expectation was mahoosive. That was a significant gestation period. Could it deliver?

Honestly, what do you think? Exactly that! Sometimes the predictable is what’s wanted.

The Round Sheffield Run, like pretty much every other happening of the last gawd knows how long, has been a casualty of Rona. It was supposed to take place June 2020, but put back (or is it put forward? I’ve never really understood how that grammatic sorcery quite makes sense) to a much anticipated inaugural Winter Edition. That was originally planned to take place once the pandemic was loooooooooooooooong over and we could look forward to skidding and sliding and slipping our way around snowy and icy Sheffield trails in January 2021. That would mean returning to base camp for no doubt hot roasted chestnuts, steaming mugs of hot chocolate and mulled wine. The mulled wine being compulsory even though everyone*** knows it to be absolutely vile because it would provide necessary evidence of being seen to get into the appropriate spirit of things. Spoiler alert. That didn’t happen. Postponed again. Instead, we had to wait until this weekend of 26-27 June 2021 for the RSR to return for its seventh incarnation. What a wait.

The event was slightly re-imagined to take account of covid compliance. So this time around it was happening over two days to help with social distancing along with other precautions. And I couldn’t help noticing – with a Kandoo Events characteristic attention to detail – the added precaution of omitting the actual year date on the medal at the finish. Doug is clearly a man who does not wish to tempt fate.

Well, that was my initial thought, on reflection, he probably is just like the rest of us, no idea what year it is any more, let alone what month or day of the week. Who cares anyway, these days, one decade is pretty much like any other, apart from us being that much closer to global annihilation as we continue accelerating our rampant destruction of the planet chucking facemasks into the sea, carbon dioxide into space, ripping out our forests and squirting glyphosate into our streets. Other than that, no consequences at all from the passing of time.

You must know about the Round Sheffield Run by now? I’m notoriously a late adopter myself, but even I got round to binge watching Breaking Bad eventually albeit it took the pandemic for me to do so. All the same, I’m bored of explaining all about how the Round Sheffield Run works, as really it should be mandatory for everyone to know by now. If you are any kind of a runner, or supporter of a runner or know a runner, or once saw a runner whilst out and about doing your own thing in Sheffield, then there is really no excuse. Knowledge of the RSR should be part of your DNA whether you are consciously aware of it or not. If you are unlucky enough to live outside of Sheffield you might not be quite so lucky or enlightened enough to have it on your radar, but basically think parkrun on steroids. Yes, it really is that much fun! It’s inclusive, joyful, all the best bits about running communities brought together in one magnificent whole whilst scampering around the green bits of Sheffield. The only real differences between the Round Sheffield Run and parkrun are that – for some people – it is actually a race not a run, the name of the event is capitalised and not one word, and it’s on a Sunday. This time though, it was even on a Saturday, and started off running round in a park too. So you have runners gathering in a park on a Saturday morning with hi-vis marshals to cheer the on. So EXACTLY like parkrun apart from it being a bit longer. Quite a bit longer, but that’s just more time out and about having parkrun type fun isn’t it? Yes it is! They even have post event faffery, which as any parkrunner will tell you, is not merely an integral part of any parkrun but a necessary precondition for any parkrun to occur. No really, it is. Even at the planning stages, proximity to post run refreshments is crucial It was always about the coffee after all…

The run is one thing, but the coffee is absolutely crucial to the whole thing so that people can connect, chat and in turn build community.

Just in case inexplicably you are still in the dark, you can read all about it on their website, the link for which is here: https://www.roundsheffieldrun.com but in case the link doesn’t work – and embarrassingly it doesn’t even for me right now because my computer says ‘no’ because it doesn’t like the security settings and is being hyper vigilant in this new age of viruses I think – the digested read is that:

The EPIC “multi-stage” running race linking the best trails and parkland around Sheffield, a social and memorable experience.‘ And you know what? It actually is. ‘The creative format allows the course to be accessed by all runners. Walking / Jogging is encouraged between stages to recover and refresh before the next challenge. The stages mean that the racing takes place on the best and beautiful sections of paths and trails on route. Taking in a fantastic tour of Sheffield. People who have never run this route will be surprised by the hidden gems that this uncovers! ….. Of course we are hoping for a pleasant summer’s day and on completion of the route, there will be a bar and BBQ to replenish and help with the celebrations!’

So, now you know.

Well, would the 2021 Round Sheffield Run experience be seventh heaven or the seventh circle of hell? Might depend on how much pre-event training you’ve done, but really only one way to find out…

I blooming love the RSR. I am of the view that it was basically designed especially for me. It has a special place in my heart because it was my first ever ‘proper’ event, other than parkrun. Naïve and new to (park)running, I saw the first ever RSR advertised, and as it was all expressed in very open and inclusive terms, and split into sections – the longest of which was just 3 km, I sort of thought ‘well, I’ve done 5k at a parkrun – how hard can it be?’ and sort of missed the bit of basic arithmetic that means you need to add all those little chunks together – oh, and the additional recovery stages too – so that gets you to around 24k, oh and maybe think about the elevation aspect (500m), and when you’ve done all of that, it’s actually quite a bit longer and more challenging than hoppity skipping around my home parkrun. But you know what, sometimes ignorance is indeed bliss. If I’d over thought it, or even thought about it very much at all, I’d never have rocked up, and you know what, that would have been a crying shame. Because it does what it says. It is indeed epic. What’s more, it’s an event which has created a format where people of different abilities can all take on the same route and have the same fun and because it’s friendly and supportive it’s fine. Really it is. I mean obviously way better to train and know a bit about what you are letting yourself in for, but much like a parkrun you don’t need to be elite by any means to get around, you’ll just have more time on the course and more fun interactions with others if you take your time. Plus, if you are slow like me, start early, and then pretty much the entire field will overtake you at some point so you get to interact with pretty much everyone. In each new iteration of the event, more and more people have discovered the event, and I’m sure for many it will have been for them, like it was for me their first baptism into trail runs and longer distances. You never forget your first time. I think the usp for the event though has to be its inclusiveness at both ends of the continuum. Whilst being accessible to newbies and steady runners, for the super speedy elite runners it offers up a truly challenging course and a competitiveness that would make the eyes of mere mortal (park)runners like myself bleed at the very thought. I really, really wanted to do this event again.

I really did.

Plus, I’d already done the online shopping order for the RSR slumber party. I’d be hosting some now critically endangered Tring parkrunners for the weekend. We needed to experience this event together somehow, it had after all been almost two years in the planning!

Alas, it was not to be. Over the last 18 months I’ve become increasingly immobile due to arthritis, and although I held out for ages in the vain hope of a miraculous recovery or at least period of remission dear reader it was not to be. Weight bearing is nigh on impossible at times, and the fact I’m bearing more weight than ever due to pandemic pounds hasn’t helped. What to do?

I have the complete set of medals, and I thought of the tees too – but maybe not them, as I was too stingy to fork out for them initially. I don’t know why I covet them so. I’m sort of Gollum like, I never wear the t-shirts or medals other than on the day of issue, but my I do like to stare at these my precious things. It is within the realms of possibility that I’ve come to over identify with Gollum living alone and bubble-less in lockdown, with only my running memories for company. I might have been known to lovingly stroke my collection of RSR t-shirts now and again. Well they are pretty special. It’s not odd at all, it’s entirely proportionate. Gollum gets a bad press. You do forge unlikely attachments if you spend too much time on your own, surely everybody understands about that by now?

Also, the tees pinpoint a particular time in history don’t they. I reckon most runners have a drawer full of tees somewhere, and be honest, don’t you get a little frisson of excitement if you see another runner wearing a tee you yourself have earned. Bet you do…. virtual high five to anyone else who perked up seeing this on the trails of the RSR weekend:

Then I had a thought.

I’d volunteer! I’d be snapped up, there were probably hardly any volunteers as everyone was so looking forward to running, plus two days to cover now. I duly emailed (you should too – ready for the inaugural winter edition or next summer even) https://www.roundsheffieldrun.com/volunteer-4-entry and got an almost instant reply.

Anti climax. The rota was full! Didn’t expect that…

However, all was not lost, not wanting to turn away any volunteers, a role was found. Not only that, a sitting down one, so the brittle and deformed bones in the joints of my feet wouldn’t shatter and explode like fireworks from the trauma of all that excessive weight bearing. Hurrah! I wasn’t going to have a gazillion bone splinters pumping through my blood, inducing septicaemia, and then almost inevitably gangrene with amputation to follow as sure as night follows day. All would be well. I was going to include an aside rant here about how much I hate it when volunteers are turned away from events, it takes some courage to offer sometimes, and it is nerve wracking doing some roles for the first time, and particularly after lockdown loneliness isolation really kicks in, people need to be included and feel included. I’m not going to go too far down the rant road on this occasion, but will instead say hurrah for RSR for extending inclusivity to the volunteer team too. I wish it were always so in other spheres. Yay for volunteering and extra yays for those who make volunteers feel welcome too.

Kandoo generally look after their volunteers, you get a t-shirt, glory by association, free entry to the event next time around at a time of your choice (worth a lot as it’s always oversubscribed), in previous years lunch and coffee, and best of all, avoid the appalling FOMO of being otherwise stuck at home sobbing in a foetal position on a cold tiled floor whilst EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WHOLE ACTUAL ENTIRITY OF THE RUNNING WORLD is having all that fun without you – probably without even noticing you aren’t there – with only passing tumble weed for company. For me, on this day at least, this was not to be. I would get to the RSR ball. I would be mingling with the royalty of the Sheffield Running Community and best of all, an RSR t-shirt would once again be within my grasp. All the hurrahs!

I was SO EXCITED! Also though, quite apprehensive. Not done social interaction at all for the past year or so, working from home, living alone, my only forays out were with Red Ted to Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun, which has been pretty awesome to be fair, but also quite contained.

I was therefore SO SCARED. Fortunately, I know a wise woman to turn to for advice. There are two things you need to know about this person. Firstly, she is a woman, and secondly she is wise. She advised that no-one else has had much practice with social interactions of late either, so we’d all be equally confused and hopeless. The main thing in such instances is to blag it and remember as long as there’s an anecdote in it then all will be well. Great advice. It would all be well

And so it was.

My Tring parkrunner friends arrived, and after some initially weird indoor social distancing dancing we got the hang of things pretty well, though forgot to do selfies in all the 2 metres apart excitement. Did remember to loving lay out parkrun tees and race numbers in eager anticipation though.

I limped down to Endcliffe park whilst they were still (just) slumbering as it was a 7.00 a.m. rendezous for volunteers. It was perfect running weather. Coolish, but dry – though there had been some rain in the days before making me wonder about path slipperiness and – for me more worryingly grass pollen and biting insect clouds.

It was weirdly ‘normal’ in the early morning light. As usual, the event village was already lovingly set up and signs of life were everywhere as organisers moved around setting up stuff and carrying stuff. It was a go go. (Unlike tough mudder the following weekend which had its plug pulled the night before. Good medical call I’m sure, but I feel the agony of those staring in the eyes of what might have been).

Early morning light, lots of tents, signs of life – also less familiar things, social distancing signs, gated areas for participants. Partly to stop them escaping, but also to keep others out. Attention to detail again. Impressive.

After meeting up with another parkrun volunteer who’d be heading up to the first feed station, we made our way to the rendezvous point to be issued with tee-shirts and hi-vis for the uniformed marshals – I myself was in the plain clothes technical support team. Responsible for Dibber Dibber Do Doling out. This is a bit like being the Yabba Dabba Doo section only less 100% authentic stone age**** and more state of the art dibber issue. I volunteered for this role alongside some Hathersage Hurtle compatriots. Yay to these two blasts from the past – it’s amazing how this event really does bring everyone and anyone together! The Close Encounters mysterious gatherings have nothing on this.

Daunting as it is to sit behind a laptop, it does instantaneously bestow a ‘busy and important’ air to be there. Our team got a fab view of the start and the ground, and being responsible for dibber issue meant between us we saw every single participant on the day. The role wasn’t too challenging to be fair. You had to dib a dibber into a magic box that generated a unique number on screen, ask participants their race number, type it in, check the name popping up corresponded to that given and if a pair that both were present, and if it showed green on screen then this meant ‘the computer says yes’ so you could click enter and hand them their dibber for the day. Wishing them well and encouraging them to pick up a stages card (like a dance card but not) which explained the length of sections and allowed recovery times before wishing them well. The main challenges were steaming up glasses, and the occasional CODE RED. If a red line appeared then you summoned help from the SI team professionals who would leap up and save the day.

Here we are doing our training:

See what I mean about proximity to a computer bestowing authority? Good isn’t it. Topped only by a clip board I’d say.

Clipboard denotes absolute power. Clearly.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, other volunteers were similarly setting up and getting their stalls in order. All across the route, tooling up then all eager anticipation for the first arrivals of the day. Oooh the suspense! Water bottles out? Check. Pompoms at the ready? Check. Bring. It. On.

Training nailed, we then had a suspenseful build up waiting for the first arrivals. The elite wave came first. At the risk of sounding a bit stalkery some of these runners seem to be an entirely different species to me. Lithe and light on their feet they seemed to ooze athletic ease from their very pores. I don’t normally get up close and personal to any runners of this elk. Dibber issuing was mostly straightforward. At this point in proceedings masks were donned and interactions good natured, the pace was not just manageable, but almost leisurely. I had a gnawing angst ‘what if’ in case I’d given out a dibber wrongly or something, but in fact the system can’t really go wrong without you noticing. A lot of Round Sheffield Runners are RSR veterans, so know the drill, and for the few that don’t, a timer gave a talk in the start funnel to explain the system, and setting out participants have to dib to set themselves off so can’t get underway without being in the know.

Even so, not going to lie, I felt a surge of pride on looking at the event photos later on as I saw for myself the excellence of dibbing done en route. Participants were nailing it, over and over again! The stats are amazing – some 2,500 people out and about on the course (only one number for each pair of runners remember), and I don’t know maybe 25-30 dibbing opps with road crossings as well, that’s an enormous amount of in and out. More probably than even at the the largest ever hokey cokey dance. That was 7,384 participants, and was organised by FRY Fest (USA) at FRY Fest in Coralville, Iowa, USA on 3 September 2010 – according to the Guinness Book of Records. I know, both stats are impressive. It would be even more impressive if I had a precise dibbing and participant count and the patience to do a calculation. Where’s Elliott Line when you need him? Still, let’s just accept that it’s a great deal of dibbery. It’s lucky it’s such a fun thing to do! Don’t this lot look ridiculously proud of their achievements putting a dibber into a box. And rightly so!

After the first few dibbers were safely issued, I found I could relax into it a bit more. My lovely Tring parkrunners appeared and they did think to do selfies. Hurrah. I really wanted them to have a fab time, they have hosted me at a memorable Tring parkrun for St Andrew’s day before, and I wanted them to have the bestest ever of times. They were decked out in splendid parkrun apricot. Yay. I also got an early practice group selfie shot, this was most timely as things unfolded…

I had been quite apprehensive about seeing people again, but it was surprisingly ok. In fact, some bits were positively brilliant. Throughout lockdown, as well as working on building up my subcutaneous fat levels so I will float better in the event of being caught up in rising flood waters, I have taken much solace from the With Me Now podcast community. This is a podcast all about parkrun passion by passionate parkrunners. It not only kept up a weekly podcast in the absence of parkrun, but also did daily lives on everything from downcount; parkrun pictionary, to parkrupedia (researching history and interesting facts about various parkrun locations which was amaaaaaazingly interesting and increased my trivia knowledge to an extraordinary degree) to lives linking up with restarting parkruns globally (Australia 10th bday anyone – or my favourite live from Pigisus parkrun in NZ when parkrun returned there A YEAR AGO – oh the heart ache that we are still waiting); a parkrun cafe world cup contest; and even parkrun and WMN specific sea shanties. Talented lot WMN parkrunners, plenty of transferable skills. It was With Me Now Danny who did the video of how to use the parkrun volunteer app by the way – check it out don’t stop there, keep this link to all the videos and WMN podcasts and check out the back catalogues when the next lockdown hits. … but I digress, hang on, that’s never happened before, must be a consequence of lockdown causing me to lose my train of thought as well as all reason and the ability to filter what’s in my head before putting it out there … Where was I? Oh yes –

I actually made new virtual friends through this community, which is a pleasing addition to my otherwise mainly imaginary friends. In the sense of both people who I imagine to be my friends but are maybe not, and those who are entirely a figment of my imagination. Virtual friends could turn out to be but an ethereal manifestation. Perpetually ever so slightly out of reach, or just out of my field of vision like some sort of phantom. Maybe they don’t really exist at all in real life, perhaps they were always but a product of my diseased imaginings. Or what if they do exist, but then it turned out to be all awkward silences, shuffling and wishing a hole in the ground would swallow me up. Or worse still, they existed, and were quite as lovely as I’d imagined, but realised I wasn’t and so I would be rejected by my own community. Oh no! What if they hate me? The stress, the pressure, how would it all end? Well, on RSR day I got to find out because MUCH EXCITEMENT a number of With Me Nowers who were expected to materialise at this very event did. I was on tenterhooks – who’d come, would I find them, what would happen the other side of these laden with expectation encounters?

Devastatingly, one got a track and trace ping just 48 hours or so before so had to self isolate, but his running buddy did make it, and using my cunning research and earwigging skills I flushed him out, and that set the selfies in motion for the day ahead. More merched up WMNers appeared, constituting a sort of mini gathering or micro pow wow in the WMN jargon. These people weren’t just in my head after all. They were physically here in all their individual and collective loveliness. And they didn’t have time to notice whether I was lovely or not, so that was another win! And that doesn’t include the Sheffield native WMNers out in force over the weekend, nor the one who shouted out the recognised call sign of ‘Dolly or Bev’ as he ran past me on Sunday when I was up at Brincliffe Edge marshal point. I was so excited I failed to do the return ‘arbitrary’ shout out – my cheeks are still hot with shame at this omission. Don’t know who it was, but maybe someone can identify him from the shot of him disappearing into Brincliffe Edge Woods. Social media is great for things like that! What with the power of the interweb and my extraordinary photographic prowess, I consider that puzzle solved, case closed. Hurrah!

But you know what WMNers look out for one another, a shirt was sourced for him and delivered. And this WMNer rose to the occasion, completing a kitchen social isolation half marathon instead. I can’t imagine the mental strength involved in that, or indeed in many of the really long distance challenges. So basically, he did the RSR twice, once vicariously through us and with us in spirit, and then all over again in his kitchen. I’m hoping no family members wanted a cup of tea for the duration of that challenge. Respect! No wonder he looks chuffed – good that someone taped out the route for him too – easy to get lost on long runs after the first few miles. All the boops to you my friend. Good job 🙂

Another WMNer spent the following weekend completing a 65 mile challenge in torrential rain to check it out for us all so we didn’t have to. It’s further than you’d like was the conclusion. The last 15 miles are unnecessary. Good to know. High five to WMNers everywhere, known or unknown.

Mind you, I wasn’t the only one overwhelmed with excitement to the point of confusion. Check out these line dancers who look awesome, but possibly got their event challenges mixed up. Loving the leg work. I thought camera gimbals were a bit more light weight though:

Meanwhile, back on desk duty, all was going swimmingly. We did have to do a bit of stern ‘put your mask on’ calling. The overwhelming majority were fine about this. I know the event was outside, but actually being at a desk with 2,500 people near enough standing over you breathing heavily pre and post event is quite overwhelming. The SI guys doing this every weekend are seeing literally thousands. I was mighty glad of my face mask. We were given the option of visors on arrival too. I was initially delighted by this, but found out quite quickly that really it’s function was more to provide a practical craft activity as you assembled it, rather than for it to be of any actual use. They sit quite close to your face and instantly steamed up and felt claustrophobic with glasses as well, so that was abandoned pretty fast. Returning runners, with post running brains were less compliant, and that felt uncomfortable sometimes, but I think only one out of all the runners got stroppy about being asked to put one on, most just weren’t thinking. So face masks were fine. The computers didn’t have any anti virus protection for some reason, but there was a lot of hand gel. The challenge was as always in my own head. Probably influenced by proximity to WMNers, I suddenly became acutely aware of the innuendo laden nature of my dibbing instructions. ‘That’s right, perfect, in there – you can tell you’ve got it right because everything flashes and beeps, no worries with going straight back in and out for good measure if you aren’t sure you’ve nailed it’. ‘Don’t worry – everyone is nervous first time, but most people come back radiant’. After dishing out several hundred dibbers all I could hear echoing around the issue tent was thinly veiled smut!

As this was the first event of size back in Sheffield a lot of special protocols had had to be developed. We were warned to expect an inspection. This gave rise to the novelty game of trying to spot the council official. We were vigilant anyway, because who wouldn’t want to be covid safe, but it was quite fun trying to guess. I don’t know if we did or not, but the guy in the blue jacket was a strong contender.

It was busy but not manic, and there was time for a little bit of chit chat. I found out a couple of mega things. Firstly, that there was a jelly baby emergency. RSR is basically fuelled by jelly babies. I’m a little conflicted on this as I’m vegetarian so wouldn’t partake myself, but seeing them on the course and hearing of their arrival at base camp is a measurable milestone on the Gantt chart that pulls the event together. I presume there’s a Gantt chart. Actually, I prefer to imagine a huge wall of glass in an underground bunker somewhere with loads of post it notes, string and dry wipe marker annotations. Yep, probably that. Well, apparently, this year RSR nearly had to be cancelled because, whilst the Sheffield Half can be launched by Rebel Runners without water, the RSR without jelly babies is actually unthinkable. Well dear reader, it seems that the much hyped shortages are real https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-57690505 Be it Brexit or be it Covid, either way it seems that just 48 hours or so before the event organisers were scouring the country to source jelly baby supplies. Yep, they had to go out of area entirely. I can’t remember if it was as far as John o’ Groats or Lands End, or it might have been Barnsley, but the threat was real. It’s quite extraordinary what goes on behind the scenes to put the RSR show on the road. Phews all round when laden with boxes skidding around their car they made it into event HQ by the skin of their teeth, just as the jelly babies were made by the skins of many cows and pigs. Not a good thought, but this event does have vegan options. Incidentally, all the jelly babies were portioned out in little paper cups this year to avoid sweaty covid laden hands from rummaging around in them in search of the black ones. Like I said, details.

The other thing I found out, was that I was in touching distance of an ultra running mega star. So were you if you were there. Not that you should touch because, that would be creepy and rude and an invasion of personal space even if it we didn’t live in an age where it would also be an unforgiveable breach of social distancing. This man is a distance running super hero!

He’s not asleep. He’s power napping. Pacing yourself is key to long distance running, and so is mental strength apparently. Ok, so in case you don’t immediately know, granted, identification is hard with face masks. This is the man who in 1987 completed the first – and until just last year I think – the only solo unsupported Mid-Winter Bob Graham in under 24 hours. Later the same year, running solo, he added a big extension to the Ramsay Round, and in 1989 completed the only Mid-Winter Paddy Buckley Round, also solo unsupported. All this happened more than 30 years ago……In 1992 Helene Diamantides and Martins Stone won the first ever Dragon’s Back race. O.M.G. I can’t even imagine all that. This is pre GPS and a lot of hi-tech running gear. They are extraordinary achievements. Why do we not hear more of such stories. Ooh a google search has thrown up an action shot of him at that amazing event:

Like I said, the RSR brings together a great spectrum of runners and you never quite know what icons you move amongst. Isn’t that the best?

But you know what, whilst some runners are beyond extraordinary in their achievements, others are pushing more personal boundaries. When they came back to have their dibbers thrust in the box one last time to print out their results, I got to hear some such stories. Elated runners, fancy dress runners, exhausted runners, runners running in memory of others, runners for causes, runners of all shapes and sizes and all clubs and none. Special shout out though to the woman running with a friend to complete a challenge she set herself last year whilst still having chemotherapy. RSR is a joyful event, but the individual stories of each participant can be extraordinary and powerful too. No wonder so many people got a bit giddy with all the excitement on the way round. I can’t possibly choose a photo, so you’ll just have to feast your eyes on the smorgasbord I offer up below.

Incidentally, isn’t it a great testament to both the event and the skill of the photographers capturing it that so many runners look ecstatic to the point of mania whilst actually running! No really! This is type one fun of the highest order. yay for running highs!

But the photos just keep on giving. Check out Llama man, who paused to pose with a handy alpaca (the difference is not just in the size but you can tell them apart by the banana ears of a llama – true fact) en route – same camelid family, and it’s not every event that would put itself out to that degree to ensure a photo op for a particular participant. I think he was running for a Peru based charity…

and then there was running the world man – would love to have heard his story. Also PANDA:

You can’t know everyone’s story, but you sure can have fun guessing. Sometimes my almost psychic powers spot subtle ticks that might be missed by the untrained eye. I can exclusively reveal this person was running on his birthday. I know – spooky! It’s a gift. Something you are born with that I can’t quite explain.

More speculative are the stories behind the team names. It’s worth a browse, so many secrets, so many dreams. I like to speculate as to whether team names evolve from year to year. Offerings included – with some options more imaginative than others:

The original official Steve and Dave; Maverick and Goose; The Cooper Payne Partnership; Andy and Dave; Lentil Stew – Stuart and Leni – see what they’ve done there; Byzantine Pottery Club (no, they really are and they have the t-shirt accreditation to prove it):

Rivelin Rent Boys; wondering if the ‘couples shouldn’t run together’ was the rebranding of last year’s ‘the newlyweds’; Not fast, just furious; Fat and Furious; (I do love a pun and here are some!) Scrambled Legs; FizzyWobbles; Legs Miserables; Chafing the Dream; Eat, Shit, Run, Repeat; Sole Sisters; Sweep Sisters (love that one); Married next week (well, fingers crossed for Roland and Pippa – see previous ‘couples shouldn’t run together’); Your Pace or Mine; Borrowash Jolly Joggers running as Lickety Split (now that’s just lovely); S10 wine club (not the one up at Ranmoor surely? I used to live near there and had assumed it to be a venue for swingers not that running and swinging are mutually exclusive necessarily, just hadn’t expected to find common ground); We thought they said rum ( one from north derbyshire running club, they were like colourful cockroaches out on the course on Sunday sooooooooooooooooooooooooo many of them. I love the team spirit of these guys.

Then we have the Pancakes; Frontrunner Should’ve stuck to parkfun; Team Squirrel (they rather hit the jackpot with the RSR tee didn’t they); The dirty Dibbers, (made me grateful for covid protocols on the dibber desk afterwards I don’t mind telling you); Hummus Harriers; Eat Pasta, Run Fasta; The Onion Terrors; Cirque de SoreLegs (personal favourite for me); Clowne Road Runners Club included a Flying Circus optiono – see what they’ve done there and Clowning Around; I will if you will; Ali Men; Saif Salih/Faith Salih Rhyming Couplets; It ain’t easy being wheezy; Madness; Step Brothers – though only one name so maybe a bit out of step on the day – much like last years’ ping pong team which only put out one of their pair in the end, pong presumably and ping couldn’t take it any more. Decades apart; Water Radish 3 – genius name for Rashid and Waterman – see what they’ve done there; Chuf and Chicken; Prematureacceleration – (guessing they’d over pumped the hills on previous attempts) and last but most definitely not least… Team Sloth!

I blooming love the Team Sloth guys. Do you know what, they literally – not metaphorically or figuratively, but literally – carried me round an Endurer Dash obstacle course many moons ago. These guys are heroes. Just proper team work, friends that support each other, and great athletes too. They’ve done a great many more challenges since, they’ve also shown true commitment in getting some rather swanky bespoke sloth tees. Respect. Happy to see you all romping round.

Lots of teams and running clubs – including the locally famous Crescent Runners, back for a re-run on the RSR

But then what about all the lovely pairs, synchronising their footwork, holding hands or just looking radiant with joy and being together on the way round. Can’t choose:

Some RSRers made an effort with matchy matchy outfits, best leggings and best tutus.

Some were forced to improvise with numbers on the day. So one paired runner who left his number at home created an ultra-realistic version on his day that must have Mr Kandoo quaking in his boots for fear of counterfeit entry numbers in future. I don’t think he has too much to worry about personally, there is a lot of good will towards the RSR, people won’t want to jeopardise it. Kate’s late substitution accepted it was too late to change the name on the number so changed his name by deed poll to come into alignment. Essentially, there was a great deal of initiative in evidence out and about over the weekend. No-one was going to risk being turned away after all that waiting. No sorree. Or is it no soiree? So confusing…

See what I mean, very like a parkrun what with the tutus, smiles and fancy dress. Also very like a parkrun in that there was a multitude of parkrun tees, as well as actual recognisable local parkrunners. Isn’t that splendid. Loving the cross over, one impossible thing at a time eh:

Oh and talking of cross overs, the venn diagram with parkrunners, WMNers, RSRers, and Beeston AC club members wearing theirt Christmas Tees just because they could had three participants at the point of intersection. How exciting is that. Here they all are, delighted to be alive! They didn’t just spontaneously strike a pose apparently, the photographer made them do it. I’m not convinced there was actual coercion myself, at the very least some festive contributory negligence, but I report this detail in the interests of transparency. You’re welcome.

As well as the obvious thrills and spills along the way, there was many a micro adventure to be have. Cheer squads en route, and assorted animal companions too – with cows safely behind fencing thanks to a crowdsourcing initiative a couple of years back, I like the cows, but I like them a lot more kept away from runners…

Oh, and on the subject of assorted animal companions, did I mention that one of the prizes was a sorsage dawg! don’t worry, with characteristic RSR attention to detail they’d have done a home check and made sure the winner understood that a dog, like parkrun, is for life not just for Christmas.

Where was I? I don’t think I’ve done very well in terms of producing an account in any kind of chronological order or indeed logical order of any sort, still we established quite a bit earlier that this whole timey wimey thing has gone a bit A over T recently. We are living in a post time age. Anyway, if you’ve any sense at all you’ll have scrolled down endlessly to look at the pictures and been dipping in and out at will anyway. This account will read like Woyzeck – play the scenes in any order in you choose, it may impact surprisingly little on how much you comprehend about the event.

So I’d done the doling out of dibbers, the researching of backstories and the people watching. There was a slight overlap of returning runners coming down the finish funnel into the yet to start starters who were shooed to the side. I’d have found it demoralising seeing someone finish before I’d even started, but then again amazing to see the elites coming home. I believe it was an RSR record on the day, with the top finish time of 01:01:15 – I can’t even comprehend that time. I’ve done parkruns slower. It’s a tough route, and although the inclusive format is lovely, the nature of the trails means runners don’t have exclusive right of way and road crossings aren’t closed. Amazing.

There was a slightly heart stopping moment as the first two runners home came over to do their last dib of the day. After dibbing into the finish they stopped to pick up medals, hug loved ones, hoik children over their heads (their own child/ren I believe, not just random children that happened to be in the vicinity as far as I know) and sauntered over to us. I had the honour of watching the screen as the dibber dibbed in. Uh oh! ‘Is it supposed to be all red?’ FAIL of the final finish dibbing point. Merciful it was the last point though, as no sooner had the fault been identified then a replacement was re programmed and put up. Anywhere else on the course would have been a catastrophe. To my amazement and relief, the two runner affected were very chilled and understanding about the whole thing. Much effort was put into trying to correct the results, working from the runners own watch times, estimates and reference to incoming runners final sprint times. It was impressive seeing the care the SI team put in to trying to get it as accurate as possible. After that hiccup, the results went smoothly. Over the two days there was only a handful of results that went awry, and one set was because the runner just said he hadn’t dibbed anything until about half way through! No, I have no idea why either?

Once that initial panic had subsided, watching people print their results was definitely the fun bit. Runners tended to have abandoned facemasks at this point, that was a problem. A box of facemasks was quickly emptied, and some runners just heaved their t-shirts over their faces. It was okayish, but sub optimum. The briefing did tell people they needed masks at the beginning and end, but the rest of the event had felt quite ‘normal’ and like any other year, so what with that and the brain fog that falls post run it felt like we were doing a lot of ‘masks first please!’ shouting and ricocheting backwards on our chairs away from too close for comfort heavy breathers. Did any of you watch the unexpectedly impressive ‘Together‘ on BBC 2 the other week – there is a bit to camera where the ‘he’ in a couple recounts his horror at watching someone lean in over a supermarket worker, maskless, and oppressively which will make you squirm. It wasn’t that bad, not by any means, but you can see why people snap or break under the cumulative effect of person after person after person thinking that ‘as just the one without a mask, it surely won’t hurt’. If you don’t have an exemption, and there are very few instances where that is needed (though needing to interpret for a lip reader and/or to avoid trigger of trauma are good reasons) then please do wear one. It is literally the least you can do, and will be appreciated. Waiting for people to ask you to puts a lot of pressure on whoever is around you. I’m in no way getting at those genuinely confused, who had forgotten in the moment, or couldn’t wear one. If you are the person who said ‘how were we supposed to know, to wear a mask, no-one said?’ and got really pissed off, yes I am getting at you – have you entirely missed the last 18 months, and you were told, in the notes and in the briefing at the start. Bet you talk through the run briefing at parkrun too. Unless you have indeed just woken up from a deep sleep to the sound of a shower running, you have no excuse. Still, out of 2,500 runners, just one stroppy one is really not bad. There is always one after all.

So my final task was to point at the important box, get RSRers to ‘just stick your dibber in there please for one last time, wait for it to flash and beep, and once it starts printing toss your dibber off into this bucket so I don’t have to touch it and take your print out of performance today, well done!‘. And well done it was. The dibbers on their lanyards went into a bucket to minimise having to touch them. Then another of our number gathered them all up, separated out the lanyards from the dibbers, and they all got put into washing bags for a service wash at 3.00 pm so they’d all be nicely laundered ready for the next day. ‘just think of how much covid is swimming around in that bucket of sweat, spit and lanyards‘. True, but I’d really rather not.

And then, by about 3.00 we were all done and dusted. Well, we volunteers were, the organisers had to strike the set, check all the equipment and do it all again the next day. The day went quickly. We never got any lunch or coffee this year though. I think that was a covid compliance issue about serving of food, it would have been handy to know that in advance, but to be fair I am not someone in danger of fading away. It was still a massive positive to be part of the event, and if I don’t ever get properly mobile again I’d totally want to volunteer instead. It’s a great way to experience the event in a new way and fantastic to see the breadth of runners that I don’t necessarily always get to see as a firmly back of the pack participant.

On Sunday, I hobbled out again, this time to the Nether Edge Brincliffe Edge marshal point to cheer on Crescent Runner and Millhouses parkrun ED as he took to the trails. It was good to watch people pass. It was a bit hairy on the course here though, with parked cars and runners taking shortcuts on the road, could probably do with an extra couple of marshals there, or even tweaking the route so there’s a walking stage as I was a bit concerned someone would be taken out by a car. Drivers were pretty patient really, and I did a bit of waving them down and directing runners, though to be fair, it seemed every time I called out ‘watch out, uneven surface, three steep steps and sharp right‘ I distracted them mid stride and they lost footing. Oh well. It was all incredibly good natured, good fun, and all round feel good. Would recommend.

It all went pretty quickly. Ending with Dad Karaoke slots if the photos are anything to go by, and lots of happily tired runners pouring over photos and sharing stories of thrills and spills.

So cheers all, another RSR done and dusted, and hopefully not too long to wait for the next time out and the new winter edition. Wowsers!

So how did the event go down? Pretty good I say, not just because of runner desperation despite the observation from one participant that ‘I even enjoyed queueing for the toilets‘. I’m sort of assuming that wasn’t the actual highlight of the day though, not when you’ve got views like this!

but as long as there’s a good anecdote in it eh? This runner looks delighted to have ended up at the ambulance. Result. Still, just like at parkrun, it’s important to let everyone enjoy the event in their own way. And they do. He might just be delirious of course, but giddy joy was the mood music of the day, so perhaps it was inevitable it would carry through to this moment too… The guys who succumbed to nipple chaffing weren’t smiling so much though, and I’m not posting those pics, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too graphic.

Some participants brought existing injuries along with them – takes a lot to deter people from turning out for this one!

Oh you want to know the results? For me that’s really not the important thing, but I will bow to public demand on this occassion, they are here if you require them 2021 RSR results. and there was a prize of bespoke framed PB vest prints for 777 placed winners. 666 placed would have made me laugh more though…

That’s it then, til next time. Still, nights are drawing in, winter is coming, not long now. Meantime, memories, yay for those. Not gonna lie, bit poignant not to have done the comeback RSR of 2021, but you know what, it’s still a great event to be witness to, just seeing it from a different perspective. Yay for RSR, and bring on the winter edition! Oh, and volunteers do get free entry at a start time of their choice for the next RSR – and that is a guarantee money can’t buy. Cheers Doug – well played 🙂

Bring it on!

Oh – and Tring parkrunner friends, same room ok for you next time out? Excellent. Always good to have a plan! And I know you a) enjoyed yourselves, and b) have unfinished business, because you put it out there in your own excellent account of the RSR running commentary blog – Reasons to be Cheerful – yay you!

Job done.

Can we have a shout out for all the organisers behind the scenes, volunteers on the day, supporters and the photographers too, who got some amazing shots that were shared freely on facebook. I do have Segway envy though. Add that to cart for sure given half a chance! Also, if my guess as to how you operate the thing hands free is anything to go by, it must be terrific for working your pelvic floor. Wonder if you can blag it on prescription from the nhs….

For all my Round Sheffield Run related posts, click this link and scroll down for older entries.  Or don’t. You might want to save it for the next lockdown. Yes, it might yet get that desperate. I got excited every time someone walked past my window in the first one – now I get why dogs and cats stare out all day. A day where you got dressed was not only novelty in the extreme, but exhausting. Getting dressed is definitely over-rated and don’t even get me started on the masochism of under-wired bras and being expected to wear shoes. Life is all a bit hard work sometimes.

Footnotes:

*er, yes epicicity is a word actually. I’ve just decided.

**I concede it is possible the Sheffield Telegraph may have somewhat over-reached themselves here if taken in a global context, but for those of us who are in Sheffield, it is pretty much the centre of the known universe, and for Sheffield Runners, the RSR is at the epicentre of that. Ground Zero of epic trail running, so the point stands. Don’t spoil it with a quibble over requiring evidence based claims with regard to this event, or you’ll be exiled from Sheffield faster than you can say Henderson’s Relish.

***when I say ‘everyone’ in this instance, I quite clearly mean me, but, point of information, my blog, my rules. You’re welcome.

****The flintstones may not have been 100% authentic stone age. More of a drama-documentary than an actual fly on the wall documentary to be fair.

oh – and check out the event video, Sheffield’s grand is it not? You have to click on the facebook link to make it work.

Watch | Facebook

You’re welcome!

🙂

For all my Round Sheffield Run related posts check this link out – or don’t, it’s optional, you’ll need to scroll up and down for newer and older entries though.

Categories: off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

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

Undigested read:

It’s a long one, brace yourself…

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

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

Yes please to this:

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

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

John-Richards-e1575382725538

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

ApostropheCatastrophe

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

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

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

badges

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

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

Now what of the actual run?

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

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

and it looks like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

loch-ness-royalty-free-image-1568372847

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

geronimo

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

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

DSCF7486

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

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

Clue though:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Number of events: 156,628

Number of runners: 2,240,488

Number of runs: 32,284,453

Number of locations: 684

Number of clubs: 6,667

Number of PBs: 5,540,683

Average runs per event: 206.1

Average number of runs per runner: 14.4

Average run time: 00:28:46

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

Total distance run: 161,422,265km

Wowsers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rather epic isn’t it.  And VERY EXCITING!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there was a little bit of anticipatory waiting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kilted coaches haggis

You’re welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

celebrating guests departure

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

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

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

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

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

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

dulwich parkrun.jpg

 

 

Categories: 5km, off road, parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Giving Sheffield the Runaround: Round Sheffield Run 2019

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

Undigested read:

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

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.