parkrun

Delectably Dishy Dishley, Dishley parkrun Loughborough parkrun tourists r us!

Digested read: parkrun tourism with Smiley Selfie Queen took saw us both at Dishley parkrun Loughborough today.  It was delightful, thank you for asking.

CS tourist twosome.jpg

 

Undigested read:

CAUTION – TIME VAMPIRE  – READ ON AT OWN RISK

 

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I was going to have my title for this blog post as ‘Dishing the Dirt on Dishley parkrun’ but, spoiler alert, there is no dirt.  It’s all lovely.  One or two constructive criticisms at best, but basically pretty much perfect in every way.  Well done Dishley!  You did good!  Well in my opinion anyway, which isn’t worth an awful lot, but is better than nowt surely.

Smiley Selfie Queen selected Dishley parkrun as our next parkrun tourism destination.   Last time we did some tourism together we conquered Conkers parkrun (see what I’ve done there)  and I drove.  So this time she drove and got to choose – not that I minded where we went, as all parkruns are lovely in their own way, not been to a dud one yet.  Dishley it was to be then.  Fair dos.  No idea where that is.

Checking out the Dishley parkrun website I learn that if coming by road ‘The only access to the event HQ at the rugby club is off Cotton Way which is accessed through the Bishop Meadow/Weldon Road Industrial Estate (there is no access directly off the A6). If using SatNav postcode is LE11 5FJ’.  Cue, google postcode to see how far away it is.  Alarmingly, google map directions tells me it will take me 16 hr 51 min to get there if you go via the A61 and B6179, though you can shave it down to a mere  15 hr 47 min if you stick to just the A61 more or less the whole way.  Hmm, this seems odd.  Oh hang on, it’s because google thinks I should walk there!  Nope wasn’t planning on that, if we ‘cheat’ and take a car we are allowed to use the M1 and can do it in 1 hr 11 mins.  Ok that’s more manageable.   Fortunately, my Smiley buddy also hates being late, so we will leave in plenty of time.  Though maybe not 17 hours worth of plenty, we are keen, but have some boundaries.  That may change of course, when our NENDYs (Nearest Event Not Done Yet as per running challenges chrome extension) are no longer within reach in a day’s travel.  Not there yet though, albeit it is only a matter of time.

NENDY

Dishley parkrun blah de blah course description from website states:

A flat, rural grass and trail course taking in two laps of the perimeter of the playing fields split by a snaking loop along footpaths and the River Soar towpath. The course starts at the southern edge of the playing fields near the end of the rugby pitches and finishes at the rugby club next to the main parking – around 250m from the start. The course consists of soft grass and earth paths, and is likely to have some muddy areas especially after rain, so we recommend using trail shoes. The course crosses Black Brook over a narrow bridge with a metalled surface, please take care there. Part of the route uses the beautiful River Soar towpath, take care along this section and please share the space with other river users. There is short stretch designated as ‘No overtaking’. In the event of contact with the water please be aware of the NHS advice regarding Leptospirosis (Weils’ Disease) by visiting the following website http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/leptospirosis

Hmm a lot of grass, but then again trail, always good news for my sad arthritic feet.  I loved Fountains Abbey parkrun last week, but those hard trails weren’t the comfiest for my tender tootsies to tackle.

Dishley parkrun is in Loughborough. Oh. I tried to think if I’d ever had cause to go to Loughborough before?  I don’t think so.  But I did have a vague sense that the university there specialises in sports.  Momentary panic, does that mean the entire parkrun field will be populated by sub 16 minute runners, driven mad by the ‘no overtaking’ rule if some bizarre association of unlikely events means I’m ahead of them at the point.  That could indeed lead to a dunking if frustration got the better of them and I’d be the one who ended up in the river, or canal, or sea, or whatever the rat pee contaminated water system is.  In those circumstances Weils’ Disease would be the least of my worries.  I float brilliantly, what with my inbuilt buoyancy aids, but hate getting wet and not sure how easy it would be to wrestle out of the waterway once in.  My companion would have no such worries having recently embraced aquathlons.  I mean really, I didn’t even know aquathlon is an actual real word.  I now find that it is, and, furthermore, as I understand it, is a gateway drug event for triathlons, but we’ll see.   She’s even been dealing in this, recruiting others to join her making a splash at Hathersage pool and elsewhere.  It’s only the start I feel sure…

 

She has come to crave getting wet before going for a run.  Thinking about it, might have to watch her and keep her safely coraled pre-parkrun in case she goes awol in search of a pre parkrun dip.  I mean I suppose she can if she wants – ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in parkrun in their own way’ blah, but I would worry about her sodden and pond weed laden feet slipping on the pedals during the drive home, and eau de river silt isn’t going to be the most fragrant of smells as a travelling companion for the way home, albeit definitely considerably up the food chain from those car air fresheners which are fundamentally asthma inducing toxins fashioned into a plastic fir tree.   What is that about?  They also induce instant car sickness.  Just the sight of them.  Oh no, further panic.  What if Smiley Selfie Queen has one in her car?  I may end up walking to Dishley after all.  … PANIC.

The Dishley course looks like this:

 

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Which personally, I think resembles a drawing of the female reproductive system.  You dear reader, may think that’s tenuous, but then you haven’t seen the scribble I produced for my biology ‘O’ Level exam.  It’s no coincidence I spent years thinking my ovaries were somewhere up round my armpits.  Just for clarification, I mean human female reproductive system other reproductive systems are available.

Hmm, on reflection, maybe more like a copepod.  What do you think?

copepod

Yes, maybe more like that.  Now I’ve made that connection I’m frankly astonished the event team don’t describe it as such on the course descriptor on their website, it would be so much easier.  But maybe it’s because it doesn’t quite fit the Pooh based themes?  Yeah, that probably…

In honour of this occasion I decided to invest in some new running socks.  I haven’t bought any in years, and mine are now thinning to the point of being dangerously close to becoming blister inducing, and/or shrunken, as let’s face it, those inov8 wool mix socks (which I love) do suffer from being bunged in the washing machine with everything else.  Bit shrunken now and past their use by date.  Anyway, nipped into Frontrunner where I found pleasingly, they had a half price sock sale, with only small sizes left.  Hurrah, these have my name on them.  I got some hill photon which are extremely pink, and proclaim to offer ‘day and night time visibility’ which personally I think is a weird USP for a sock.  I have no idea how that works or quite how it will help in an emergency situation but hopefully I’ll never find out.  They state that they have an eye catching reflective band between the shoe and running tights, maybe that’s what caught the eye of the low life that broke into Front Runner a few weeks back.  It makes me rage that thieves would pick on our local independent running shop AGAIN, but what is even more incomprehensible is that the shop is near a pub and it was 11.30 at night so someone must have seen something and no-one did anything.  What is wrong with people?  Still, every cloud has a silver lining.  This totally legitimises going on a sock related spending spree.  Furthermore, I would urge all runners, parkrunner and wannabe runners and active wear enthusiasts to get down to their local independent running shop and spend some money.  You aren’t being extravagant, you are showing solidarity.  It is the right thing to do!

 

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Anyway, I got my socks, and belatedly my electrolyte tablets, so that was me all sorted.  Hurrah!

I’m still puzzled over the reflective ankle stripe business and why this is an aid to safety.  Surely, that added visibility would only be a boon if I came to incorporate cartwheeling into my cross training routine and thereby brought my ankles into view.   Surely we have moved beyond the age where a finely turned ankle disported in public caused women to swoon and men to drool.  In that context I can see other people furtively keeping a look out, compulsively scanning the lower legs of all who crossed their paths, in the hope of a glimpse of such a coquettish display of shapely ankle.  That might make highlighting the ankles an effective – if risque – means of increasing a runners visibility, though I’m pretty sure running wasn’t even a thing back then.  Granted, I can’t any longer remember a time before parkrun, but I suppose there must have been, and Victorian Britain would have fallen within it.  Anyway, we’d see.  Or we’d not see.  I’d be keeping a count of how many people shaded their eyes and reeled back when my hi-vis socks blinded them as I approached though. Though I suppose it’s conceivable they’d be backing away at the very sight of me for other reasons altogether…  Nope, not going there.

 

Those are the socks.  They are very … pink!  I wonder if they’ll make me run faster* too?

Now if only I could find some mojo for actual running to go with my running related accessories my running plans for the future wouldn’t seem quite so laughable.  No chance this pic was taken at Dishley parkrun I suppose?

at last a doable pb parkrun

Nope, didn’t think so.  Are you sure though?  Looks like you run alongside water for it exactly like the course descriptor for Dishley parkrun?  Oh, you are quite, quite sure,  Thought so.  No harm asking is there…

Mind you, nightmare being the timekeeper for this one I’m guessing. That would be a looooooooot of people crossing the line all at the same time.

Whilst we are still on the subject of burglaries, yes we are, there have been a whole load down my road this week – well two.  People using a crowbar to break into the ground floor of properties at around 4.00 a.m., whilst the occupants are sleeping, help themselves to anything portable from downstairs then take car keys and car on the way out.  Nice.**  They cleared out one house, were disturbed at another and made attempts at two more.  Anyway, me and my immediate next door neighbour were discussing this recent spate of criminality and speculating on what we could do to prevent them and how we’d have reacted if we’d interrupted them mid break in. He advocates laying a lure of some sort to entrap them, and then bludgeoning the intruder(s) to death and burying  them in the back garden.  I’m not really comfortable with that, also, even though I agree we found a good spot, and lord knows the soil could do with some organic material to improve it at the back.  The problem is though, that if you conceal such a thing i.e in this instance the bloodied corpse of the miscreant,  then it doesn’t really act as any kind of a deterrent does it?  He took that on board and now favours putting their severed head on a pikestaff on the front door step instead.  Truth to tell,  I’m not sure about that either, this is after all a conservation area, planning would never allow it, also, importantly, neither of us is in possession of a pikestaff.  It’s a mine field.  Only it isn’t.   A mine field would actually work really well as a deterrent come to think of it.  Basically though, I think things need to be kept in proportion.  That’s why I applaud Dishley having stocks*** available and visible to act as a deterrent to funnel duckers located at the finish area of the event without making a big deal of it.  It wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the run briefing for example, but you get the impression it’s an unspoken given, and I’m pretty sure everyone got the general idea.  They keep them over near the Rugby Club, but I didn’t spot them til the end…  There were the scattered collapsed and deflated bodies of spent runners surrounding it.  The point was made.  Nicely understated.

 

I’m jumping ahead of myself though, back to the beginnings.  Exciting stuff, parkrun tourism, you never know what you’ll find.  New places to go, new people to see.  No end to the anticipatory joys pouring down on me this weekend which makes a pleasing change.  There was the final instalment of Simon’s Cat ‘Missing’ as well.  I’m not giving a spoiler, you’ll just have to watch them all yourself.  Blooming love Simon’s Cat, even if it is nail biting watching those animations at times.

simons cat

And so the day dawned.  7.00 a.m. rendezvous outside Smiley Selfie Queen’s residence and off we went.  There was some sort of diversion for reason or reasons unknown, so we went a back route to Dishley along roads I didn’t know existed even though they are local to me.  Yet another reason why parkrun tourism is always an adventure and a voyage of discovery to boot!

It was a really straightforward drive, clear roads and even though we missed the turn off we were aiming for we made it to the venue in exactly 70 mins.  The first surprise was that Dishley is actually a real place, not just the name of the location of the parkrun.  Who knew?  Well, people who live in Dishley possibly, but I’d never heard of it (no offence intended to the dear populace of Dishley, my bad, obviously).

The drive was a bit odd, in that you feel towards the end that you are driving through a housing estate and to a dead end.  The reason for this is that essentially you are!  Hold your nerve, and then, just as you think you are definitely lost, this vision of hi-vis loveliness appears ahead of you to guide your way! (Other hi-vis marshals are available, so can’t guarantee you will get exactly this amount of loveliness in your line of sight on arrival, but something thereabouts to greet you I’m sure).

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The take away from this is that the satnav recommended postcode works, and even though we were very early 8.10 to be precise if you couldn’t do the maths from earlier – there were already hi-vis heroes on hand to guide us in.  Very impressive.  Being a car park marshal is one of the less glamorous parkrun volunteering roles to be honest, although one up from dog poo bin monitor and I’ve done both, more than once – but here was a cheery and helpful trio in situ already, extremely impressive.  This was undoubtedly one of the best signed and most comprehensively marshalled events I’ve been to.  We were even waved into our car parking place, like ground staff do with planes landing at airports – though actually that’s  good point.  Not wishing to undermine the marshals, they were fab, but I think some flags would be a boon in helping them guide us in, or if not flags those weird batony things. You know, these ones:

ground-crew-signal-vest

Just a bit of constructive criticism for next time…

The car park, didn’t have any marked parking bays – hence the need to be guided in by ground control, but it did have deep gravel.  Very deep gravel indeed.  This was hard on the tyres and also made it very hard to creep up behind marshals unawares.  Maybe it’s a safety thing, like posh houses having gravel drives so burglars can’t approach unnoticed either.  This worked against having candid naturalistic photos, but on the plus side, these marshals were a pathologically friendly and thrillingly interactive bunch, so willingly obliged to be captured on film  Hurrah!

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We got the basic low down.  This car park, opposite the cricket pitches is about 200 yards or so from the Rugby club rendezvous point, and then the start and finish is beyond that.  Cue dithering.  Should we take cash for post parkrun refreshments or not.  What about my water bottle.  In the end we decided to just take a note / card for a drink and leave everything else in the car.  For the record, we could have just taken our backpacks and at our own risk left in the rugby club no problem.  It’s not that far to walk back, but would feel a drag to do so when you are all nice and cosy in the club house at the finish.  I do wish I’d taken my water bottle with me though – more of that later.

So, we found the exit from the car park, which was the gateway to Dishley parkrun.  Here is Smiley Selfie Queen with her eyes shut in the ecstasy of excitement at being almost in touching distance of our parkrun fix.  She’s good at taking direction. The first picture she had her arms just clamped to her sides, like she was practising the upper body rigidity stance for Irish dancing which is why I insisted she ‘just do something interesting’ which led to the more challenging bar work.  Ballet and Irish step dancing, on top of cricket and aquathlon there seem no end to her talents!  Selfie Queen is the one in the parkrun purple by the way.

 

That reminds me (‘oh good’ I can hear you say’).  I met an Irish woman on holiday once who said she was enormously proud throughout her childhood for having won a cash prize for achieving first place in an Irish dancing contest, aged about 7 I think.  This was much to the envy and amazement of all her school friends, who up until that point had doubted her talents.  Not just in Irish step dancing, but seemingly everything.  This award boosted her self-esteem and transformed her confidence with her peers and achievement in school.   It was a turning point in life.  She blossomed thereafter.  She showed them…. except that literally decades later she mentioned how this achievement had helped her so much in childhood to her mum, only to learn that she never won such a prize at all, but had confused getting birthday money on the day of the contest with having won it. The disillusion and associated devastation was absolute, even if we did all laugh til we cried as she drunkenly retold this story. Mind you, it raises a (to me) interesting point about how if a false belief helps us in hard times is that really such a bad thing?  I honestly think self-belief is a super power, we can achieve more than we know if only we aren’t held back by self doubt and fear of failure.  Also, frankly, great anecdote decades on, which is surely the main thing.  No experience in life is ever wasted, if it leads to a good story.  FACT.

Storyteller

Plus, maybe we should all learn to change the narrative in our own stories, so we talk ourselves up not down and instead of living a life half-lived in fear, start to believe we can fly, because you know what, I bet most of us can, if we dare but make the leap!  Self belief, can carry us further than we may know – or at very least, a leap of faith…

 

 

Anyway, enough of doing daring dance tributes on we went.  Although there wasn’t an actual yellow brick road (actually, that would be another constructive criticism I’d offer up as something to incorporate in future, funding permitting) the route to the start was impressively signed.  You’d really struggle to go astray here!  Loving the idea of parkrun HQ!  Excellent.

 

It wasn’t very far to walk at all, but it was a little bit twisty turny, but lots to explore en route.  Don’t go over the little bridge entirely for example, this is going the wrong way, but fun to go and have a little peek, and check out the SCARY warning signs.  Oh, and take the obligatory selfie together too.

 

Honestly, I don’t know if it is that the environs of Dishley parkrun are exceptionally dangerous, or if it’s just that they are particularly health and safety conscious folk in these parts.  But there were quite a lot of warning notices that I could have ticked off in my i-spy book of danger signs had I but thought to bring it with me.  Here are just a few to give you the gist:

 

Fortunately, it takes more than fear of death by electrocution, or drowning or being trapped in a confined space to deter a parkrun tourist.  We were made of sterner stuff than that!

Found the rugby club, which was handily signed:

 

I can report there were high quality loos, and evidence of a cafe already up and running.  There was an over powering smell of bacon cooking.  This made me heave as I’m vegetarian and it’s not my food stuff of choice, but other parkrunners would I know consider this to be an added incentive to rock up and run.  The do do veggie alternatives as well apparently, though I didn’t avail myself of these on this occasion.

The core team, and volunteers were assembling in all their cheery hi-vis glory.

 

In amongst them, we thought we espied a Dishley parkrun pop up sign.  This is like catnip for parkrun tourists, and no sooner than we’d had our precautionary pees (different cubicles, both were good) we were off in search of it.  … Much confusion.  Where was it?  Firstly though, I was distracted twofold, by the fine leggings of the tail walking two some, and their excellent backsides.  The leggings actually said ‘Smiley’ on them, and we are members of Smiley Paces running club so how cool is that!****  And check out those tails!  One of the things I particularly love about parkrun, is that it’s completely acceptable to ask to photograph someone’s backside, in fact, I’d go so far as to say I think people appreciate it when they’ve gone to some effort bottom wise, and have that recognised by other parkrun participants.  I’ve not seen such a fine display since I was at Wakefield Thornes parkrun on Star Wars day and one of the team had Star Wars themed briefs on over his leggings.  That was truly splendid indeed.  Anyway, check these rear enders out.

 

I know, marvelous!

But where was this sign.  The start was miles away, so we checked out the finish area first.  No Dishley parkrun sign.  There were some friendly marshals though, killing the time before parkrunners came through the funnel by playing a giant sized game of cat’s cradle, with mixed success it’s fair to say, but much jollity.

 

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They didn’t know anything about the Dishley sign, well they did, but just couldn’t think, maybe at the start.  We headed to the start, past the bike bay, past the sign for the first timers’ briefing point, past every last gasp sign of civilisation en route to the vast expanse of playing field ahead.

 

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Gulp, this was looking ominously like a cross country course.  Flash backs to mandatory school sports days.  Oh well, here now.  Nothing ventured.  The grounds were immaculately maintained, recently cut and verdant after recent rain, with mature trees at the boundaries.  It was pretty nice to be fair, but that cross country phobia was very present.  Eek.

Good news though, we found the start, and with it, hurrah, the Dishley parkrun sign.  This required a lot of photo taking, in all possible combinations, sign of us together, sign on its own, sign with each of us individually, selfie sign, sign and us requiring interrupting a hi-vis hero to come and photograph us – holding the phone vertically, portrait style – as that is the Smiley Selfie Queen way, she is most insistent on this point!

 

Then I went for an explore, checking out the very orderly and geometrically arranged cones.  There would be no corner cutting on this course, and Smiley Selfie Queen got simultaneous broadcasting of course directions that weren’t confusing at all, so that’s good.  I decided to outsource finding out the route to her, whilst I continued exploring.

 

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Gulp.  Definitely looking like a cross country course.  This doesn’t bode well…

Oops, hang on a minute, isn’t that the RD, coming in to land, with a megaphone as well.  And a step ladder!  He means business.  Ooh, look team of two timers too!  Not that they are two-timers, but there are two of them, timing, just to be clear.  The RD was carrying a lot of kit, quite a long way, this brings me to my next constructive suggestion, which is that this parkrun requires a parkrun packhorse, or mule, or actually, a donkey would be good, and then you could call it Donkey Oaty!  That would be hilarious, and no doubt highly original, don’t suppose anyone, anywhere, ever has thought of that stunning pun before.  I gift it to you, parkrunners of Dishley.  No don’t try to thank me, seeing Donkey Oaty in action in due course will be reward enough.   Eeyore won’t mind, he’s busy down by the river, different territory all together.  If that is a bit sensitive though, how about a yak, they are fabulous, and yet you never see them.  Could be a parkrun first.  You’re welcome.

 

The imminent arrival of the RD at the start, meant  we ought to be up at the first timers’ briefing, plus still needed to get that second pit stop in.  Busy, busy busy. It’s a mystery to me, that however early you arrive at a new parkrun, the time flies by what with having to chat to people and check it all out, an hour is quickly filled.  We scooted back up, and arrived to find the first timers’ briefing under way.  Oops,  We’d already had the course explained, so it wasn’t critical, I just felt it was a bit rude of us to have basically skipped it. Still, excitingly, we were there in time to establish there were some true first timers, people completely new to parkrun.  Sigh, I envy them in a way, all the joy of discovery that lies ahead, they can have no idea, on the cusp of new adventures their Saturdays will never be the same again.  How exciting!

 

Cool leggings again!  I’ve only ever had black, maybe I should be more adventurous.  Mind you I only replace my leggings once a decade or thereabouts, and my current ones are only 2 years old.  They seem essentially indestructible.  No wonder some of us like living in our active wear, active or not!

People were milling and chilling.  It seemed like a fair old turn out, though I forgot to check what a ‘usual’ field was.  People were mingling and chatting, and the person who was cooking up bacon in the cafe leaned out of her window with a mug of tea to join in the fun.  I really did get a sense this would be fab as your local parkrun, it felt really social, if you could get over the having to run round a grass field twice at the outset.

 

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We nipped back to powder our noses, and then had to sprint to catch up with the mass pilgrimage of people making its way to the start area.

 

Well yes, we were in a bit of a hurry, but not so much of a hurry we couldn’t stop for a photo op on the way, obvs!  We don’t always wear matching outfits by the way, that would be a bit weird, we just happened to do so today.

The sky in the photos look quite murky, but actually it was was pretty hot, humid really, too humid for me, and the sun did come out and smile on us from time to time.  There was the RD briefing at the start, complete with shout outs for milestones, volunteers and greetings for tourists including those from Sheffield ‘Oh my gawd, that’s us, they are clapping us by way of welcome, that’s so exciting‘ and further afield, Sunny Scunthorpe no less!   There weren’t that many tourists to be honest, but we all know that it’s about quality not quantity don’t we?  Those of us who were present were without exception, fabulous.  Individually as well as collectively!  🙂

 

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So course descriptor and usual stuff and then we were off!  You literally, head off around the perimeter of the big green pitches.

 

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I found this hard.  I don’t know why, but there is something about running round the outside of a field that I find challenging.  In all seriousness, I think it is to do with the ritualised humiliation of school sports days that seemed designed to celebrate the elite and shame everyone else.  I know it’s in my head, but it’s quite exposing, nowhere to hide.  On a practical note, starting the route in this way gets the – for me – grim part out of the way, and more importantly, allows the participants to spread out a bit.  Later on the course has single track sections so overtaking would be hard if not actually impossible, so best get any jostling sorted in the first half mile or so.

Cones and marshals kept us on track, and one boon of the course design is I could see faster runners streaming on ahead like lines of brightly coloured bunting fluttering in the wind.  Cue failed  attempts at arty, lovingly framed photos to capture this scene.

 

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Ok, well capture this scene -ish.  It’s the thought that counts dear reader, the thought.

Round we went, and then you come round to the bottom corner for the second time, and I coincided with the sight of the first finisher (I presume) speeding home, as I was just following the marshal’s handy directional pointing to head over the little bridge, which might be pooh stick bridge, or might not, because I got confused about where that was, and headed out alongside the water way.  The waterway is part river, part canal I think.  I got confused by it, then again, doesn’t take much!

 

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So over the little bridge, and ooh look, another marshal on hand to point you on your way.  There were a lot of marshals on this course.

 

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You are alongside water at this point, but dense vegetation means you can’t make much out.  Occasionally I’d see the bobbing head and shoulders of one of the front runners popping up above the undergrowth, but visibility wasn’t great.  You’ve seen Jurassic Parkt yes?  The bit when they are crossing the area of Long grass and the velociraptors give chase.  Like that basically.  The velociraptors aren’t wearing technical tees if that helps with identification at all.  Wait, what’s that, could it be a gruffa… no, can’t be.  What would that be doing there?

 

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The track surface was pretty firm.  After a bit, the path becomes more clearly defined and you can see the water to your left as you run out, and then there is a waterside path where faster runners are pounding along in the opposite direction having already made the turnaround, and then a hedge of sorts separating them from me on the slightly inner path.

 

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A conveniently situated marshal was on hand to keep order, but that didn’t deter me from popping out through some of the gaps in the hedge to try to photograph some of the runners coming the other way.  Wasn’t sure which was worse, to be thought to be some sort of rather ineffectual stalker, or to be thought to attempting to cut the parkrun course.  Actually, scratch that, nobody would want to be thought of as cutting any parkrun corners for sure!

 

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Yes, I  know ‘good in parts’, did you see the disappearing canal barge though!  They are speedier than you think. Nice though isn’t it.  And completely unexpected.  Apart from the midge factor it was lovely by the water, beautiful river views, with open countryside opening up beyond.  I mean, yep there were the pylons of course, but they are sort of structural, I didn’t mind them too much, it’s not like it’s virgin rainforest is it?  Risk of imminent death by electrocution if you go fishing is a bonus, leave those fish alone!

My pop up technique meant I was able to espy Smiley Selfie Queen and her new best friend running together up the path.  Nice waving there.  Good job!

 

Then, after a bit.  Surprise!  A good one.  Check this trio out!

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OK, quartet if you count the dog, which I think we should.  Best sign ever with that graphic U-turn beautifully illustrated and finely attired Pooh on hand to assist.  What a coincidence that Pooh Bear, should end up being on the rota to marshal at Pooh Corner!  What were the chances.  Also Pooh Bear was on the poo bin!  Not a strategy I’ve employed personally when charged with responsibility for the dog poo bin, but I’ll take that on board for next time and maybe give it a whirl.

Obviously, this turn of events necessitated me properly grinding to a halt and having an actual chat with the marshals.  Turns out, this is pooh corner, but there is also a pooh stick bridge (which I think I went over earlier) and still to come Tigger’s Bridge and Eeyore’s Hole.  Not sure I entirely sussed where these latter two were though, partly because I spotted neither Tigger nor Eeyore on my travels, but maybe they were busy elsewhere. Still, it’s a reason to come back again isn’t it, to spot them next time 🙂

 

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I also learned that one of the marshals had travelled to her marshal spot from her boat moored up behind her. That is super cool.  And I thought my mum had the shortest commute ever to a marshal point as she makes the jaunt from her care home to her Elisabeth’s Corner spot in Bushy Park.  I wonder what the record is.  This round was Dishley’s though.  Very impressive!

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So after we’d concluded our conversation, and I taken photos and learned more about the course, I got going again, waving at the bargees passing by, and at the tail walkers who were passing by on the other side of the hedge and on I went.

 

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There were ducks and a lovely stone bridge – one that I’d stood on earlier to take shots of Smiley Selfie Queen and then – ‘oh look, that marshal looks familiar’.  The marshal had teleported, or maybe just leapt, from one side of the hedge to the other.   Because I’d lingered for a chat, I was way behind most other runners now, so I ran this section alone. It was very tranquil, and unexpectedly lovely.   The high grasses were exceedingly picturesque, but also exceedingly hay-fever inducing, I felt quite itchy, worth it though.

 

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There was a swan with cygnets.  There was the unnerving and somewhat incongruous sound of a hunting horn… I could see the wagging of a mass of tails on the other side of the river bank, so I think they were out exercising hounds.  At some point, another runner crossed the bridge behind me.  My rational mind tells me this was a speedy runner, long since finished, going round again as a warm down lap, but it allowed me to indulge in the brief fantasy that it had taken him all that way to catch me up because I was so fast I was ON FIRE!

Oh hello.  Another marshal, another turn back, oh and more marshals, and back through the tall grass.  No need to worry about the velociraptors anymore, they’d have gorged their way through the earlier runners for sure and be sleeping it off by now.

 

There was a sign to reassure you you were going the right way, with one of those feedback things, you know where you push the relevant emoticon to indicate how you are feeling in relation to the service received.  Not seen that real time feedback innovation at a parkrun before.  Impressive.

 

So now you are turned away from the water a bit, and coming back towards the big field and the little bridge.  I hadn’t worked that out though, so was sort of caught by surprise – and experienced some degree of relief, when I re-emerged from the undergrowth into the vast expanse of newly mowed green and recognised where I was.  Hurrah!

 

Round I go, under the lovely mature willow trees, alongside the edge of the field, handling the right angle turns all coned out like a dog agility test with poise and panache, well sort of poise and panache, think puff and pant and that might be more along the right lines.  I tried not to be too discouraged by the sight of other parkrunners heading homewards, but to be fair, those I saw, paused to give me a cheer as I sprinted (cough) by.  Honestly, this was a super friendly parkrun, extremely welcoming to new faces.

 

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Then at last, there it is, the finish!  There she is, Smiley Selfie Queen, only not taking a selfie as such, but all ready to snap my sprint finish.  Wait, the finish line looked to still be a fair way off, surely I shouldn’t need to start my sprint quite this far away.  Oh no!

 

And then ‘suddenly’ all finished.  Finish token issued, barcode scanned – using a mobile phone, they are embracing new technology here.

Just time to document those marshals present for future reference (aren’t they lovely), and snap a couple more finishers sprinting in behind me:

 

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The eagle-eyed among you, will note they appear already to have a designated hay-making marshal, which means they’ve basically got everything they need in place to get that donkey sorted for next time.  It’s their first birthday soon, they could maybe celebrate with that.

This is the parkrun that just keeps giving, because pleasingly, they have a happy bell.  Not a PB bell, but a happy one.  We were happy ergo we got to ring the bell.  A lot.

 

Just time to talk token containers –

 

and then to the club house for coffee.  Also water.  Now they did have a jug, but they don’t usually provide glasses, though did when asked.  These are disposable cups though, so I did really wish I’d brought my bottle with me after all.  Coffee was mediocre and £2, but it was a social and comfy atmosphere.  Didn’t check out the food options.

 

Did check out the token sorting table though, and met a fellow cow cowl wearing tourist, from Sunny Scunthorpe.  Said I’d share the pics and say hello through t’internet so ‘hello’ and I’m waving at you!  Oh, you are waving back, that’s lovely, thank you!

 

And that was that.

We didn’t linger all that long, as we needed to get back, but we agreed on the drive home that this was an unexpectedly enjoyable jaunt out.  That’s yet another brilliant thing about parkrun, it takes you to places and introduces you to people you’d never otherwise encounter.  Everyone’s a winner.

It was hot though, and sticky.  I was very hot and sticky and not in a good way when I finished.   I mean to be fair, not the 53 degree heat and melted shoes heat of the Badwater ultramarathon say, but sticky enough for me.  Entrants who rock up to that have to run a 135-mile non-stop race over three mountain ranges in sweltering mid-summer desert heat with a vertical ascent of 13,000 feet.  And they don’t even have pooh corner with cheery marshals to help than round.  I mean imagine!  No don’t actually, you will be traumatised.  Mind you, the collapsed winner at the finish doesn’t look so very different from the collapsed parkrunners at the end of Dishley…  Pushing the notion of even type 2 fun though I’d say.  Still, mustn’t judge too harshly, who amongst us doesn’t fancy a bit of a lie down after the exertion of a busy morning at parkrun?  Quite so, point made.

 

 

So in summary, Dishley parkrun:

  • The good points include the following, which should be seen as an illustrative but not comprehensive listing: super friendly marshals, great facilities and unexpectedly gorgeous path along the waterway.
  • The ‘could have done without’: challenging for hayfever sufferers and nobody, not one person, commented on my ankles.  Gutted.  Attention grabbing reflective strips my arse!
  • Areas for improvement: suggest acquire donkey, yellow brick road and batons to aid direction of traffic, otherwise excellent – these omissions are fixable, so don’t feel bad.

In other news, it’s their first birthday on 27th July so they are having a birthday party with fancy dress, cake, spot prize bingo based on finishing position and a food bank collection.  Excellent.  What’s not to like?

Nevertheless another grand day out, so thank you Dishley parkrunners all for the warm welcome to your lovely run.  Good work people, good work indeed, spreading the parkrun love.

Bye bye.  It’s been fun, but time to move on.

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Dishley parkrun also do a run report.  Hurrah.  You can link to the one from 13 July 2019 here.

Where next I wonder.  I mean, I have to get to Tring parkrun obviously, but that’s a long way to go so a future date, and then there’s The Pastures at Alnwick, and I could start picking off some more letters for my alphabet, or the compass challenge.   So many parkruns so few Saturdays.  What to do?

Have fun til next time.  Don’t forget to watch the Dame Kelly : The Power of Parkrun on BBC in the interim.  SO EXCITED!  One of the ‘Our Lives’ series, so you’ll probably be able to find it on catch up if inexcusably and inexplicably (unless you live in Wales, poor Wales, not being shown there this time apparently – perhaps they have it on a loop on S4C instead) you missed out on the first broadcast.  Spreading the parkrun love indeed!

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Oh, and for all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries.

You’re welcome.  🙂

*Nope, totally didn’t do that.

**I’m being sarcastic, totally not nice.

***They might not always be available, it might have been a one off for an event happening later, but I say, why let the truth get in the way of a good story eh?

****Rhetorical question, very cool indeed!

 

 

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Finally to Fountains Abbey parkrun, pretty pleasing as a rule :) in fact – FAbbey!

Digested read: got lucky with a lift to Fountains Abbey parkrun.  O.M.G reet nice out!  Orsum. Fabbeylous actually.  Really, it was!  🙂

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Picture taken from Fountains Abbey Facebook page courtesy of Sarah Swinscoe, who not only takes a mean mid-run snap, but has a cool name too apparently!  🙂

Undigested read:

this could take a while, maybe get yourself a tankard of mead or something – failing that gin would do, unless you are reading this over breakfast before going to work, maybe not then, maybe then coffee would be best.  And if you are going for neat gin, maybe not a whole tankard, but you know what, each to their own.  I won’t judge, whatever it takes to get you through the read ahead.

Rolls up sleeves.  Here goes:

“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. For this reason the brethren should be occupied at certain times in manual labour and at other times in sacred reading.”
– From St Benedict’s Rule

As St Benedict quite literally set the rules for conduct at Fountains Abbey right at the outset, it seems only fair that anyone rocking up to the place on, oh I don’t know, let’s say a sunny Saturday morning 1,500 years later in 2019 for arguments sake, should at least pay a nod of respect to that legacy.  This can be achieved by avoiding idleness through being actively involved in parkrun, and then spending hours poring over social media posts all about it afterwards, in the spirit of ‘sacred reading’.  I reckon that has mind and body nicely covered.   And people do get most evangelical about parkrun, and rightly so, me too to be fair.  I am not alone in getting drunkenly emotional about it sometimes, how it brings people together.  All sorts of people, in all sorts of ways. Check out this octogenarian meet up at Bushy parkrun this weekend for starters.  Looks amazing, as does their celebratory cake.  Hurrah!

I know. Amazing!  Anyway, where was I, oh yes, Fountains Abbey, and filling you in on St Benedict, or ‘Big Ben’ as I shall think of him from now on.

Here he is  below, writing his rules apparently, in Latin, which isn’t massively inclusive to be fair, but I daresay he was a product of his time.  I’m sure nowadays he’d be more explicit about doing parkrun and then be pictured writing the run report afterwards (not in Latin), but here he is anyway.

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I’m glad I don’t have to write this blog post standing up, and by quill pen, that would be a bit of a palaver to be honest, but I daresay he had more self-discipline and less access to the interweb and a blogging platform, so we are all but products of our time.  Though times needn’t be what defines us as parkrunners.  No indeedy, not at all, you see, it’s not about the times necessarily at parkrun, it’s about the taking part, a run not a race and all that.   Head for a PB if you wish, or enjoy a social romp round at a more leisurely pace.  Anyways, it’s extremely hard to concentrate on running round at Fountains Abbey because the setting is distractingly spectacular and if you are me, you therefore have to stop every 20 yards or so to take a blurry photo or interact with a marshal.  These things take time.  Documenting a parkrun location like this just can’t be hurried.

I mean just look at it – this isn’t my photo to be fair, it’s one from the NT website, but you get the gist, mine are more, erm, blurred authentically atmospheric.

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Oh, am I making no sense?  That’s not a first for me.  The thing is, apparently, accordingtoWikipediasoitmustbetrue, The Rule of Saint Benedict (LatinRegula Benedicti) is a book of precepts written in 516 by Benedict of Nursia (c. AD 480–550) for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot.  Fountains Abbey is a National Trust site –  not only that, but Studley Royal park, which includes the ruins of Fountains Abbey was one of the first sites in the UK to be inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage Site listings in 1986. That’s really, really impressive.  No wonder they have a stone to that effect, even if it does say 1987 on it, and I got confused when I first saw it thinking as foundation stones go, that didn’t seem all that old for an abbey…  If I’d understood the stone correctly, that would mean the abbey was founded the same year that top film releases included Cry Freedom, The Fly and Dirty Dancing.  Now even allowing for a lack of general maintenance of the site since then, it shouldn’t really have crumbled into quite such of a ruin in the intervening years.   …. it was helpful therefore to establish indeed it hadn’t.  It had just got confirmation of its World Heritage Site status which is jolly good, and entirely different.  Chronology clarified.  Phew.

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In fact, the abbey was founded in 1132 by 13 Benedictine monks from St Mary’s in York. They’d grown fed up of the extravagant and rowdy way that the monks lived in York and so they escaped seeking to live a devout and simple lifestyle elsewhere. This was how they came to Fountains.  That’s what the NT website says anyway, so I’m guessing St Benedict didn’t deliver his rule book in person.  Not if he wrote it in 516, surely?

Incidentally, I think it a pleasing coincidence that right now, Unesco’s World Heritage Committee has been meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan to decide which sites deserve special status and protection.  How exciting. There will be new kids on the block, but just so you know, this means, Fountains Abbey ranks alongside these offerings, however, it exceeds them in respect of providing a parkrun, those other locations don’t …. yet.  It may of course only be a matter of time, but for now, Fountains Abbey is preferable as a destination of choice for a Saturday morning.  How fortuitous to me that is reachable from Sheffield if facilitated by an early start and a driver for the morning.  Yay!

 

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believe the hype!

It’s little wonder I’ve been wanting to do the parkrun here for ages, because whenever you see people’s photos of it it just looks stunning.  However, now I’ve been, I can report than not only is indeed stunning – stunning to such a degree that even the stunning photos you see don’t do it justice – but also it has a fascinating and extensive history.  You’ll have to google yourself but I will say this, according to historic uk . com Fountains Abbey:

lies along the valley of the River Skell about two miles west of Ripon. The Abbey, Britain’s largest monastic ruin, was founded in 1132 by thirteen Benedictine monks from St Mary’s Abbey in York seeking a simpler life, who later became Cistercian monks. The abbey was named Fountains Abbey because of the springs of water that existed in the area

and I have no reason to doubt any of this.  Upshot is, it provides the perfect overlap of parkrun and culture, all capped off with a particularly excellent cafe.  What’s not to like?

So back to basics, I’m ahead of myself..

My vague idea of ‘I’d really love to go to Fountains Abbey parkrun one day‘ became a more concrete plan after last week’s Round Sheffield Run.  In the post run chit chat, I bumped into some fellow Sheffield Hallam parkrunners, who are also very committed parkrun tourists who’ve ticked off a pretty phenomenal number of destinations, but crucially not as yet Fountains.  Let’s go together!  Hurrah.  It shall be so, how exciting!  Particularly for me as I’d got it into my head that Fountains Abbey is a million miles away from Sheffield, and you’d basically need to head off the Sunday before to get there in time for it the following Saturday – incidentally, that might in fact be true if you are reliant on public transport, as it doesn’t look as if there ish even a bus every day.  In fact, my fellow parkrunners were more optimistic thinking it was ‘about an hour’. Turns out we were both wrong, as it’s more like 90 mins if the roads are clear, and you aren’t as cautious as me about putting your foot down on the motorway, but you have to factor in YOU MUST NOT BE LATE.  There is a bit of a hike down to the start of this parkrun, and to avoid abusing the hospitality of the National Trust, if you ain’t within the boundary walls by 8.45, you ain’t getting in.  This may sound harsh, but having been to the event I can see why.  Also, they had a serious medical incident a while back, where paramedics were needed, and it brought home to everyone the importance of the run briefing and everyone being clued up on what to do.  Also, no late arrivals starting behind the tail walker.  Fountains Abbey parkrun have quite a good Facebook post explaining some of their course specific logistics as a pinned post.  I think it’s helpful.  Worth a gander.

Anyway, upshot was, date fixed, this was really happening BRING IT ON!

As with many parkrun adventures, this one began with an early morning start, and a trot down to my local corner supermarket, which is very fine spot indeed from which to embark on any new expedition or happening.  So it was, here I was 6.35 a.m. bright eyed and bushy tailed, all expectant and excited and on the look out for my conveyance for the morning.  Love Pops!  No wonder my eyes were popping out with excitement of it all!

It was drizzling a bit, but to be honest, I was quite relived about that, I’ve been struggling in the heat.

After a bit, good news, that’s it, that’s my conveyance coming up the road, with two cheery parkrunners within.  Soooooooooooooooooo exciting!   Even if in my excitement, I struggled to locate the door handle for the car.  Not my fault, it was all aerodynamically set in on the body work so disguised.  To gain access took a fair bit of initiative and problem solving skills on a par with completing a Rubik’s cube, which to be fair I’ve never actually achieved so let’s be a bit more realistic…. almost on a par with completing a Rubik’s cube.

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I was fully committed to getting to Fountains though, so it would take more than a hidden door handle to stop me getting in that car!  I was in, and we were on our way!

It was indeed an ok drive to get there, especially as I didn’t have the angst of actually driving.  The roads were clear, satnav took us to our destination, waving at Temple Newsam parkrun vaguely over the horizon as we passed it (sort of) en route.

And we arrived, at the deserted car park, around 8.15 I think.  The only problem was, because we were indeed pretty early – which is still waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay preferable to being even an eeny teeny bit late – there was no other sign of parkrun life. Also, the car parking area is sort of tastefully landscaped, which meant it was unexpectedly confusing about where you should park, it had lots of side parks, and the signage was tasteful and discrete so it took a little while to decide where to pull up and fathom what direction to head in.  The car park looks like this by the way, in winter – picture is from the handy Fountains Abbey parkrun pictorial guide.  In fact, I might nick some of their other pics, as they fill in the gaps in my own record very nicely.  🙂

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After a couple of strategic circuits, trying to find other life forms and the best place to park, we pulled up near to someone else who was heaving on trainers, and then followed signs to the visitors’ centre.  It wasn’t very far, nor was it too much of a navigational challenge on account of the fact the visitors centre is ENORMOUS!

It was all VERY exciting.  Such amazing facilities, a huge cafe, loos, indoor and outdoor seating areas, fab views, a gift shop and…. most importantly of all loos.  I say loos, but honestly, what loos were these?  Pretty much a destination in their own right I’d say.  Never seen anything like it, and I’ve seen the loos at Osterley parkrun, which have their own topiary lining the path on the way in:

Now my regular reader will know that I do like to be able to avail myself of a precautionary pee pre parkrun, never more so than when undertaking parkrun tourism, when you arrive full-bladdered after a long journey.  Well, what can I say about the Fountains Abbey loos?  Not only were they present – always a boon – but they were hi-tech to such a degree that the sinks had instructions on them so the user would know how to operate them.  I know!  I’m not even exaggerating for comedic effect.  These were space age, sleek, immaculately clean and ‘touch free’ steel and white porcelain designs.  I mean just look on in wonder:

 

And it wasn’t just me who was amazed and impressed in equal measure.  Emerging from our respective ablutions, newly arrived runners remarked to one another with wonderment about what they had just seen.  Who knew that posh toiletry fittings could be such an ice breaker, way more user friendly than the Monty Python’s Big Red Book chocolate box selections which it is true would break the ice at parties, but was not to everyone’s taste.  Take for example ‘Spring Surprise’, chocolate wrapped around two stainless steel bolts that “spring out and plunge straight through both [of the victim’s] cheeks”.  Would certainly get people talking, but also create an awkward health and safety issue which would have to be resolved before parkrun got under way.

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As if the delights of the toilets wasn’t enough, there were more big reveals still to come.  Specifically, after the devastating discovery that there was a  disappointing lack of perennials available for purchase at last weekend’s otherwise excellent Round Sheffield Run, I am pleased to report dear reader, that here the Fountains Abbey parkrun venue offered up an excellent selection of plants – not only for borders, but for complete garden redesign.  Hurrah.  Told you it would be a good move to have this offer at the RSR next year.  I mean just look, and this was just our fly-by observations en route to the start!

 

This kept us entertained for a bit, just browsing… for now but anyone from Sheffield could tell you that those Monday Mobsters know their onions.  She’ll be back if there’s a bargain to be bagged!

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and then we saw a sign pointing towards the start area, and espied a teasing glimpse of the horizon in the distance, through a gentle swishing screen of tall grasses.  O.M.G it was just so picturesque, if you haven’t been there yet, you’ll have no idea. Just go!

Now there was a dilemma.  We were still a good half hour early, but it takes 15 mins to get to start (ish) but I was thinking I might need a second pee before taking to the trail.  Well, the early start necessitated extra caffeine, and I hadn’t fully thought through the consequences of that.  But as we hadn’t been before didn’t want to cut it too fine trying to locate the start. What to do?  Well dear reader, I can report that as if by magic a cheery hi-vis hero appeared to save the day.  Not only did he give instructions to the start – which were quite complicated to be fair, but actually just follow the signs/ everyone else, but also he informed us there were more loos at the start!  This is the parkrun that just keeps on giving.  Stress alleviated, we could march on with confidence and without tena ladies.  Hurrah!  What a nice man.  You can just make out the abbey in the middle, but it sort of blends into the tree line.  Think of my photos as being about giving the gist of the occasion, a teaser to make you go find out for yourself, that way you will have managed your expectations and I can cease being embarrassed about my ineptitude with a camera and concentrate on being embarrassed about my ineptitude as a runner which frankly is quite time consuming enough!

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Thank you nice marshal.  He even took a team photo for us.  I think this is the only one that captures us all together, looking individually and collectively gorgeous I’m sure you’ll agree.

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so next mission, was to walk down to the start. Even this was lovely.  It was like a little treasure trail of discoveries.  Fantastic views, educational displays, interactions with other massing parkrunners, lots of wool – the only disappointment is that parkrunners were explicitly warned off the adventure playground prior to 10 a.m. which was a shame, as it looked extremely enticing!  Enjoy the smorgasbord of photos documenting our walk below:

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It isn’t massively far, but you do need a good 15 minutes because if you are newcomer you will definitely be distracted by the sights and delights on the way down.  You have to inspect the wicker monk for example, and spot the real hen alongside the model ones.  These things take time.

When you arrive though, wow.  I thought nothing was going to top the loos, but I was wrong.  It’s gorgeous, and we’d only seen a glimpse of what was to unfold.

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Once you reach the path at the abbey, you can spot the assembling volunteers, and a steady stream of runners coming to the start area.  I went for a mini explore, and can confirm there are indeed more toilets in this area, but also ruins, and views and places to go and people to see and also a random ladder on a path – in situ for the RD briefing, but I still couldn’t see that, but minor point.  Amongst the parkrunners was one adorned with a bespoke sash to mark the occasion of a both a birthday and a fiftieth run.  Nice planning there, well done.  I asked about a bag drop, and basically there is a handy ruin where you can stash things.  Excellent.

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After a bit of milling and chilling, there was a call to move towards the start, and 400+ of us duly did.  The paths are pretty good, but they do ask you to line up in approximate finish times and have signs to help with that.  Dogs and buggies – along with accompanying responsible adults – are at the back.  There were a fair few tourists, and you could feel the frisson of  excitement as we skipped to the starting pens!  I was a bit confused by the sweatshop running club, I thought sweatshop went into administration, so not sure if that is a hangover from one of their running shops, or something else entirely…

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Astonishingly, people were pretty silent for the run briefing, huge relief.  It does my head in when people talk through that.  Volunteers were thanked, milestones celebrated and the course was explained.  Usual things.  Thanks for some donated tops worn by the volunteers, but I didn’t catch quite what they were, maybe I’ll work it out retrospectively from the pics.

Oh you want to know the course, fair do-s.  The Fountains Abbey parkrun website blah de blah describes the course thus:

Course Description

Sheltered in a secluded valley only around 3 miles south west of Ripon lies Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden; a World Heritage site and one of the most historic and beautiful places in Europe. Starting from Huby’s Tower at the Abbey, this is a 2 lap gently undulating, clockwise course run entirely on National Trust land on firm footpaths, designed to ensure no runner will be lapped. The route is marked with high vis signs. All runners should wear road shoes in all weathers; there are no muddy sections.

The first shorter lap heads past the East Lawn, around the Rustic Bridge & Half Moon pond, following the River Skell back past the Abbey, the West Lawn and Abbey tea rooms.

The second lap passes the Abbey heading left of the Rustic Bridge around the stunning Studley Royal Water Garden crossing the narrow wooden footbridge in front of the Lake and following a stunning course back towards the finish line at Robin Hood’s Well, in sight of the Abbey.

The start and finish is a 10 minute walk from the Fountains Abbey visitor car park, cafe and toilet facilities.

and it looks like this:

 

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Which personally, I think looks a bit like a child’s scooter, but that is probably just me.  Not necessarily a pink one, but definitely that silhouette…

So that’s the theory, all well and good, but what about in practice eh?

Well, when the call for ‘off’ went out, there was the familiar ripple of movements as runners started rolling forwards. I was positioned pretty much at the back, so it took a little while to get going, but what really delayed me was having to dive to the side every few seconds to capture yet another shot of yet another view, that and to thank all the marshals, which I do endeavour to do wherever possible.  I found the marshals really friendly and encouraging, by which I mean most were game for posing for a shot in between clapping enthusiastically and expert directional pointing.  They were pros for sure.

The first part of the route takes you directly alongside the ruins

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The path seemed to me to be pretty wide, and runners courteous.   The team do warn of congestion at certain points on the course namely the rustic bridge corner for lap one and the narrow – single track only – wooden bridge that you encounter on lap two.  Where I was, it was fine, I suppose faster runners might have to be more aware of one another where the corner is sharp and the paths suddenly narrow, but it’s a run not a race after all, so I like to think common sense would prevail.

After the abbey, the route opens up and it’s lovely grassland, with an artificial waterway separating you from the speedier runners heading back on the loop the other way.  I did try for some arty distance shots, but my camera isn’t really up to it, but maybe if you squint, you’ll get the idea, and remember people, it’s the thought that counts.

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Lovely marshals, some in pairs, they looked like they were having a lot of fun.  The nice thing about a two lap course, is that you get to meet them all again.  Yay!

Couple of things you should look out for in the photo montage below.  Firstly, note the exquisitely even spone casing, sorry cone spacing skills of one marshal.  Nice work.  Don’t be fooled by the jauntily jolly smiley marshal shooing you round the lake, he pulls a bit of a trick on lap two.  Nearly caught me out, but I’ve spotted marshals teleporting round courses before, didn’t fool me.  Also note the fabulous reflection shots that show so much promise and deliver so much disappointment.  Reference earlier comment about it being the thought that counts.  Also, note how the sun has come out, just to sparkle more vividly on the water and pick out the stone ruins and green trees in all their detailed loveliness.  Told you it was a nice one.

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I was dropping further and further back down the field on account of my stop start approach.  I might have been able to pass it off as interval training to the untrained eye, but most eyes were trained and not to be fooled.  My favourite marshals today though – I know you shouldn’t really have them, but well, I couldn’t help it – pointed out that as course photographer I had a busy and important role to fulfil so it was inevitable my times would be compromised.  I mean, really, I was martyring myself by so sacrificing my run!  Well, she may not of actually said that in so many words, but I’m pretty sure that was the gist of it.

As I looped round the back, I found myself leapfrogging the same few runners.  Specifically, this awesome twosome.   As they passed marshals, and indeed a few other runners, people were asking ‘where’s the carrot?’  Hmm, puzzling.  Less puzzling once I’d used my Sherlockesque detective skills and found an earlier photo on the Fountains Abbey Facebook page.  I can’t entirely account for the choice or reason for this particular companion vegetable being carried en route, but I think a bit of mystery makes the world a better and more interesting place.  Great running though, and great company too!  Well it was for me anyway, I daresay you may have preferred a cuddly root vegetable, but glad you made the best of the situation in which you found yourselves!

As I was coming towards the end of the first lap, I could now see the runners looping round on the opposite side of the waterway again.  It was again a lovely sight, but oh so hard to capture on film.

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I have a renewed respect for those wildlife photographers who get stunning action shots of wildebeest on migration taken from a fair distance away.  Honestly, it’s way harder than you might imagine.  Mind you, if you were a ‘proper’ photographer, and got yourself down to this course you’d have an absolute field day, so much to see and so many brilliant spots to position yourself in.  Never mind feeling spoilt by an ambassador breaking open the Ferrero Rocher for a photographer, here you would rewrite the rule book about what it means to feel truly indulged!  Well probably, I’m not a photographer, I wouldn’t know, maybe you’d rather a challenge.  In which case, many congratulations for securing the gig for The M1 Appreciation Course.

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Also as you reach the end of the first lap, well if you are towards the rear of the field anyway, you get to see the marshals repositioning themselves for the finish tunnel and token scanning roles.  This is an event that has a lot of marshals, but they all seemed to be having a good time together, I get the impression if it was your local event you could join the volunteer team and get a warm welcome and feel part of it all quite quickly.  Oh, and hello, here is our friendly marshal from the gateway at the top earlier, also teleported down.  Hurrah.  I particularly enjoyed the guard of honour applauding in unison as I passed, but fine use of bright yellow flexi tubs being brought into operation.  As to for what purpose, all would be revealed later.

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So you loopity loop round and back to where you started from, and round you go again – now I could STILL see the faster runners, this time queuing up in the finish tunnel.  I reckon that cheery looking marshal was actually quite feisty, her smiling demeanour a cover for how she might turn were you to break ranks and sprint in a straight line to the finish, splashing through the gently trickling water feature as you did so.   She’d outrun you for sure.  Not to be under-estimated these marshals.

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You need to note that that the second loop is different, you go beyond the rustic bridge, finding the marshal has cunningly repositioned himself, almost brazen about it he was:

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So onward you go, no rushing across the rustic bridge this time, and lo!  You start to espy all these amazing – if slightly risque statues in amongst the water gardens.

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It was like being in a novel or on a film set or something. Actually, you probably are in a film set, I can’t imagine this hasn’t been the backdrop for plenty of costume dramas in its time, it’s begging for it.  What exactly are that naked couple doing, trying to recreate the scene in Dirty Dancing where they were practising in the water perhaps, but caught before they’d actually perfected the lift?  Yep,  that does seem the most likely explanation to be fair.  I mean look closely –

I have a point do I not?  Rhetorical question, I totally do!  I rest my case.

Did you know there is actually a Dirty Dancing Festival where they recreate the lifts amongst other pointless activities. I never really got that film to be honest, I was more a Fly person.  Not actually a fly person as in part fly part person, but as in liking that film The Fly better. It was partly a Jeff Goldblum thing if I’m completely honest.   This is a famous fly person though, George Brossard  sticking up for insects everywhere.

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so you romp on round, knowing, that at any minute you’ll finally get to run on to the MUCH EXCITEMENT little wooden bridge, that definitely has trolls underneath it. It must do, otherwise why would they marshal it so thoroughly and get you to keep in single file.  It’s because that minimises the number of people on the bridge at all times, so if the trolls should strike, you limit the numbers affected.  A bit of collateral damage perhaps, a few parkrunners lost en route, but a risk well worth taking for such a fun and iconic pathway.  It couldn’t have been lovelier, bright sunshine reflecting on the water, low flying swans gliding over head.  Marvellous.

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I wanted to get some arty shots of some other runners behind me crossing the bridge – obviously, I had mixed feelings about what I’d do if a troll came out to grab them whilst I was shooting – exactly the complex sea of emotions a wildlife photographer has to navigate when his migrating wildebeest negotiate a river crossing and some will get snatched by crocodiles, awful shame obvs, but great photo.  No trolls emerged this time though.  Took a while for the runners to cross.  I spoke to them later.  They weren’t hesitating because of troll watch, but because they’d seen me lining up my shot and didn’t want to spoil my landscape picture.  Very thoughtful!

Not too far to the finish now, but you have to drag yourself away from an astonishing statue of Neptune, I presume.  And check out the adornments on the folly – if it is a folly, it might be a building with a purpose, I have no idea.

those marshals can’t be expected to wave and high-five themselves now can they?  Hang on, haven’t I seen that teleporting marshal somewhere before?

DSCF2316.jpgand that most excellent view is calling you round, whilst behind you are photogenic runners giving their all.  Incidentally, I have the photos in higher resolution if anyone wants them, get in touch.  Or if you don’t want them in this post let me know and I can remove them. We will still have our memories.

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and then ‘suddenly’ there they all at the finish, to cheer you in!

It’s a great welcome through the finish funnel, but slightly odd in that because it’s a narrow spot, they encourage other runners to move on through and place the barscanners a hundred metres or so ahead.  Then you are on track to get back to the cafe, and parkrunners are, for the most part, to just keep on going once they can smell the coffee.  This means it’s a warm welcome from the core team, but not a place where you’d be encouraged to wait to cheer in your friends as I suppose it has the potential to get crowded.

No matter, have token, will scan:

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and then a lovely scenic wander back round to the start, where, if like me you have running buddies with you, there can be a grand reunion, before plodding back up the hill and to the cafe.  One of our group, see if you can guess who he it was, strode on a considerable distance ahead.  It’s just his their thing apparently. Good to know.  Maybe it’s like the royal family, you know, apparently they never risking travelling on the same plane together, you know, just in case.  Best not to be in the vicinity of your other half when on manoeuvres, you know, just in case!  🙂

Hilarious.

I thought so.

Mind you, it’s been said before, I can be all too easily entertained.  There are worse qualities to own in life surely.

I’d taken so long to get round, my buddies were having a lie down and a power nap by the time I got back to them, but they were roused on my return.  Our walk up the hill was interrupted by having to pose with wicker sculptures, you’ll do the same when your time comes.  It’s actually compulsory I think, for first timers anyway.

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There is also a picture of me, having a cuddle with a pig, because they are my favourite animal.  Well warthogs more specifically, but I’ll settle for a pig.  However, I have exercised editorial control over that snap for now.  Did you know that if you scratch a warthog on its chest, it makes the hairs on its back stand on end.  A tame one that is, I’m not sure a wild one would be quite so impressed.  Love a warthog.  Sigh.  Happy days.  Here is an actual warthog giving a proper cuddle, way better than a wicker pig.

Still no point in being nostalgic for pig encounters, time to focus on the cafe.  En route we passed a wedding party with huge hats and morning suits coming down the other way.  I suddenly felt very under dressed!  Apparently last week, a bride and entourage did parkrun pre their wedding at Fountains.  Hang on, let me see if I can find a pic.

There you go – taken from Fountains Abbey parkrun Facebook page photos.  I’m sure they won’t mind.  Looks like they both picked nice days for a white wedding.

Into the cafe.  Now, I thought the loos were good, but the cafe was grand too.  Spacious, not too noisy, and with ‘usual’ National Trust fare.  I was a bit discombobulated by finding not one but two queues, one very much longer than the other, but the short queue didn’t seem to have any cheese scones left, which every National Trust cafe user must appreciate is the food of choice.  Amusingly for me – but we’ve already established that doesn’t take much – the couple behind me in the queue were having exactly the same dilemma.  We all went to the long queue, but then joked – with slight tension – about what we’d do if we all got to the front and found only one left.  OH NO!

Fortunately dear reader, that eventuality did not come to pass, so all’s well that ends well.   There follow mandatory cafe shots:

We debated about where the cafe sat in our top ten of post parkrun eateries, and it’s definitely a contender for first place.  Spacious, clean, surprisingly not too expensive, and, not noisy either.  Also huge outdoor space for post parkrun lingering and putting the world to rights in the summer.  For general ambience, one of the best, for me, I’d have liked to have seen some more imaginative veggie breakfast options.  Pom in Sheffield a veggie/vegan cafe is the best for actual food, though not for comfort.  This place was excellent though

Only when we left, saying farewell to the token sorters, did we realise we’d missed out on the nibble and scribble option.  Never mind, next time eh, next time?  Hang on a parkrun minute – I’m sure I’ve seen that token sorter somewhere before…

We didn’t miss out on the shop stop though.  Browsing blooms and books with enthusiasm.  Wish I’d bought some basil now, bargain at £1 a pot.

and then, that was it, time to go.  Bye bye Fountains Abbey parkrun, it’s been a blast, thanks for the warm welcome and the wondrous memories, watch out though, we’ll be back! parkrun Wonder of the North indeed.

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For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.

Mind and body though, need to keep your sacred reading up alongside your parkrunning remember though, just sayin.

You’re welcome.

🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

Undigested read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then it was morning.

Headache.

No enthusiasm

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

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

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

The parkrun team were assembling:

The finish line was up:

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

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

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

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

vbc my new friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The official route looks like this:

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

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

featured image another place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here are some runners heading homewards:

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

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

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See?  Definitely same person more than one location.

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

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

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

WTP finish space ship

More being waved on by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

didn't we have fun folks

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

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

everest queue from bbc website

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

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

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

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

🙂

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

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

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

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Undigested read:

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

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

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

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

runner-alphabeteer

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

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

parkrun profile Temple Newsam parkrun

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Mail pool balls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and it looks like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Azalea shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surprise one:

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

Surprise two:

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

Surprise three:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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They got there own super-charged cheer leaders too:

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gainsborough parkrun

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

little stoke parkrun tribute

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

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

Went for rummage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only thing, wasn’t quite sure of how this would work health and safety wise?  It was a well run parkrun though so they must have done some sort of a risk assessment about what would happen if runners were caught in the fire stream of the jet engines as the ship rocketed ahead.   Anyway, small price to pay, there are loads of parkrunners now, and sacrifices sometimes have to made for the greater good, perhaps a bit of a cull now and again to keep the numbers manageable is no bad thing.  Plus, you don’t really argue with someone operating one of those, not if you expect to live to tell the tale!

Other particularly fine star wars day tributes included this canine caperer who was called SOLO.  How apt is that.  I’m not entirely sure if he was procured especially for this occasion, but I like to think so.

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Then there was a pleasing scattering of others who’d got into the spirit.  Star wars vests, some loud speakers were wheeled out, blasting out the Star Wars theme tune  – quite a party atmosphere.  A few Jedi knights jousted and chased about in mock fights, the atmosphere was building well!  One thing though, my it was chilly in that wind.  It was a fair old arctic blast laying into us at the top of the start hill.  Glad I’d got my dressing gown with me as a bit of a wind break.  You know, I might start wearing a dressing gown to all my parkruns in future.  Now I understand the thinking by the tough mudder tent cape thing dry robe thingamajigs, they must be super roasty toasty within, I’m surprised those thrill seekers haven’t thought to keep them on on the way round, it would be a much more comfy experience tackling the arctic enema from within one of those creations surely?

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Some people of course had gone the extra mile, I know parkrun tattoos are a thing now but I’m impressed people got extra themed ones just for today, I conceded my own efforts were positively pitiful by comparison, but hey ho, showed willing.  Check these out though, definitely raising the bar!

If you are going to go to all that effort, it’s good to know you can preserve tattoos after your death.  What could be a more treasured memento for your bereaved loved ones than your skinned hide displayed in a frame on the living room wall in perpetuity?*  That’s my gag reflex nicely triggered, each to their own though.  For those as like that sort of thing, it’s the sort of thing that they would like.

There was still a bit of time for milling about and I tried to get some shots.  My camera is playing up, maybe I’ve got some moisture in the lens, it’s disappointing as it’s a new camera but it just doesn’t take great shots, I wouldn’t buy it again.  It’s a Fuji compact tough one though, so it’s pretty much unbreakable, which is good.  Never mind, you’ll get a sense of the atmosphere, and if you want better quality images you’ll have to go and check it out for yourself!  Or, to be fair, you could browse the album of epic shots taken by the volunteer photographer at Wakefield Thornes parkrun today, Darren Williams’s ‘May the fourth be with you’ album.   They are quite brilliant and really capture the occasion, thank you Mr Photographer.  So whichever option takes your fancy really.  The volunteer team suddenly appeared as if from nowhere, and runners congregated in the start funnel.

Next stop, first timers’ briefing.  Fair few of us, some relatively local – Barnsley for one, but also, someone from Ottawa!  How impressive is that.  Hope they had a good time, then again how could they not!   So, the main point to register here, is that the first timers briefer had the best briefs ever!  Some star wars themed ones hoiked over his running tights.  I’m presuming they were donned especially for the occasion, but of course it might be that he wears then every week, and why wouldn’t you?  They were splendid!  It was a good welcome, ‘a long way to go, in a parkrun far away‘ and we were advised that yep, basically the course is really complicated, but don’t sweat it (well, you might sweat through the excursion of running, but not because of the potential of going wrong) as they’ve never (knowingly) lost anyone yet, so just go with the crowd.  Fair enough, that works for me.  I asked about etiquette for overtaking – this is a keep left course, and once underway you realise that’s actually really important, because there are a fair few sections where runners are going in both directions on the paths, keeps you on your toes though!