race

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

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

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

Bring it on!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, now you know.

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

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

I really did.

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

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

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

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

Then I had a thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so it was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here we are doing our training:

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

Clipboard denotes absolute power. Clearly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring it on!

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

Job done.

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

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

Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Watch | Facebook

You’re welcome!

🙂

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

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

Wowzers – that was superhuman! Running into the history books with a weekend of running legends.

Digested read: marathon running records smashed this weekend for men and women and humankind.  I found some big pants up a tree.

Undigested read:

Wowsers, it’s been quite an epic weekend, running wise.  Really, it has!

Yesterday, Eliud Kipchoge, cracked the 2 hour marathon, today Brigid Kosgei broke Paula Radcliffe’s women’s marathon record and I went on a Runners Against Rubbish litter pick, ahead of the British Fell Relay Championships and found some enormous Calvin Klein boxer shorts up a tree whilst on a running related litter pick.  I know, beyond exciting, no wonder we all looked so delighted with ourselves, with me the most delighted of all!

Like I said, a weekend of running related triumphs.

We’ll do it chronologically, parkrun morning and whilst I was snug under the duvet, contemplating whether or not my back was up to a walk round parkrun, Eliud Kipchoge was staring into the tunnel of future history in the making, in readiness for his attempt on the sub 2 hour marathon.

Whilst I ambled down to the park, he was more than half way through, and before I’d completed one kilometer, he’d smashed it.  Loads has been written on this, so I’ll resiste the temptation to repeat it all here, but in summary,  courtesy of BBC news

Eliud Kipchoge has become the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours, beating the mark by 20 seconds.

The Kenyan, 34, covered the 26.2 miles (42.2km) in one hour 59 minutes 40 seconds in the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria on Saturday.

It will not be recognised as the official marathon world record because it was not in open competition and he used a team of rotating pacemakers….

Knowing he was about to make history on the home straight, the pacemakers dropped back to let Kipchoge sprint over the line alone, roared on by a large crowd in the Austrian capital.

The four-time London Marathon winner embraced his wife Grace, grabbed a Kenyan flag and was mobbed by his pacemakers, including many of the world’s best middle and long-distance runners.

Kipchoge, who compared the feat to being the first man on the moon in build-up to the event, said he had made history just as Britain’s Sir Roger Bannister did in running the first sub four-minute mile in 1954.

“I’m feeling good. After Roger Bannister made history, it took me another 65 years. I’ve tried but I’ve done it,” said the Kenyan.

“This shows no-one is limited,” said Kipchoge

done it.jpg

Also, to put this in some kind of context, just in case running 26.2 miles in less than 2 hours is too much for you to get your head around, parkrun thoughtfully informed us of this:

parkrun fact

Someone else posted somewhere else another parkrun fact, which also pleases me.  Perhaps I am finally opening my heart and mind to my inner stats geek.  I’ll be doing spreadsheets of my runs next!

Food for thought – there are currently 1704 parkruns in the world, and Eliud Kiphoge’s slowest 5km split this morning of 14:14 set whilst running his sub-2 marathon would have set a course record at 1693 of them.

Strava also helped with this infographic, which I include to further delight stats geeks out there:

strava marathon eliud

and that’s all lovely and everything, and kudos to him, and the footage of him running made me cry – especially at the end, when he sprinted to the finish without throwing up or anything, and still waved at the crowds and crossed the line wreathed in smiles.

Go Eliud

I LOVE this man.  See him run!

What’s more, afterwards, as reported on the BBC news website, he said this:

“This shows the positivity of sport. I want to make it a clean and interesting sport. Together when we run, we can make it a beautiful world.

and this made me cry (in a good way) because I can relate to what he says, especially after the emotional awesomeness of last week at Bushy parkrun for the 15th Birthday Bash.  I caught a bit of the coverage before heading off to Sheffield Hallam parkrun for my own parkrun fix, and just happened to hear the commentator saying ‘of course this isn’t a race as such, because it’s unofficial, it’s rather a challenge‘ or words to that effect.  I’m paraphrasing, not for the first time.  And that made me think again of how Eliud Kipchoge running his sub 2 hour marathon is basically identical to me (or anyone else) taking part in a parkrun, because that’s also a run not a race, and also all about personal challenge, and waving at supporters.  He had crowds lining his 26.2 miles of running, but we parkrunners have on hand our hi-vis heroes to cheer us round, dishing out the waves and high fives, and even post run hugs as required.  Bet you can’t tell from the photos below which is from a marathon and which is from parkrun.  The enthusiasm is infectious at both.  I rest my case.

See, it’s exactly the same.  He even has porridge for breakfast the morning before a long run.  Me Too!   Me and Eliud, basically twins separated at birth.  I know, who’d have thought it?  Sub 2 hour marathon, going for that is basically exactly the same as being at parkrun.  It’s about friends, fulfilling personal potential, team-work and seeing the best in the world.  Running as therapy, yay!  We can achieve more together than we can alone, and what seems impossible can be overcome.  Sometimes.  But that’s an important hope to hang on to in desperate times.

It’s really just what parkrun is at the end of the day.

There are great pictures of Eliud Kipchoge’s great challenge everywhere, and rightly so, I thought my allergies might settle after last week, but I’ve still got leaky eyes.  Maybe there’s poor air quality in these parts.  I need to up my antihistamines.

So that was him, marvelous.

Meanwhile, I was back at my home parkrun for the first time in weeks. I’ve been doing a fair bit of tourism, but fancied returning to base partly because I’ve knackered my back and so driving is probably a terrible idea, and partly because I’ve not seen my parkrun buddies in far too long.  It was nice to see familiar people again, but I struggled even to walk parkrun. Time to book in to see a physio.  Having said that, I think I got my last Running Challenges bingo number today.  Always a bit hit and miss as there are inevitable discrepancies between watch time and parkrun time. However, and this is a bit sad, for some reason my number and /or new commemorative 15th birthday flat band failed to scan, so I’m currently unknown on the results. I’ve emailed all the info through, and I’m sure they’ll update it, well hope so anyway, but it does mean if I do get my last bingo it will be a bit anti-climactic because I’ll never know if that was in fact the ‘official’ parkrun time. Oh well.  As long as they record my run I can live with that. And you know what, if I do get my BINGO as well, then my delight at having a new running challenges badge will outweigh any unease about whether it was truly bagged or not.  I’m shallow like that…

runner-stopwatch-bingo

So BINGO, fingers crossed…

STOP PRESS – did get a time added, but it didn’t match my watch time, so this is a challenge badge that still eludes me.  Never mind.  I still have my big brave pants to wear to keep me strong.  …. More of those later.

Back hurt so much I cried though.  I hate being me.

Fast forward to Sunday.  On sunday, I joined a Runners Against Rubbish litter pick, organised in conjunction with Dark Peak Fell Runners.  Long story short, Dark Peak Fell Runners are organising/ hosting the Fell Running British Fell Relay Championships for 2019.  I don’t really understand what this is, but as it’s the dpfr it will be pretty hardcore.  Runners Against Rubbish, is basically a group set up locally:

Runners against Rubbish is a small charity, committed to stopping the dropping of rubbish, particularly by runners. To join us please visit us as www.runnersagainstrubbish.org

They have stickers, and it’s only £2 a year to join.  They organise group litter picks, as well as trying to instil an ethos of leaving our lovely countryside better than you found it by taking home a couple of bits of litter with you everytime you go out for a run.  It’s depressingly easy to find it.  Anyways, Runners Against Rubbish, was doing a litter pick in conjunction with Dark Peak Fell Runners, the idea being, to leave the national park a better place than found on the occasion of hosting this auspicious event.

We’re proud of our Peak District National Park home, and we know you’ll be impressed when you run over beautiful wilderness moors in the Relays. But sadly, parts of this cherished landscape are being blighted by the fly tipping, car-flung rubbish and general littering that are afflicting so much of the British countryside.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Runners Against Rubbish (RAR) to try to make sure that our hosting of the Relays leaves the national park a slightly cleaner place than before we turned up.

So who are Runners against Rubbish?
They’re a simple but dynamic charitable campaign group that was set up three years ago by Dark Peak Fell Runners club member Stuart Walker. The RAR motto is that ‘Binners are Winners’ and that we can all make a difference by picking up rubbish every time we come across it when we go running.

Hooray!  I’m always up for a good community litter pick, weirdly, you get to see some awesome places.  And whilst finding rubbish when on your own is soul-sapping and depressing, if you are out with a group doing something about it you can make an impact and that is conversely good for the soul, and surprisingly entertaining. Mind you, I am very easily entertained.  Also, on this occasion picking litter is as close as I’m likely to come to actually participating in any running event as gruelling as the British Fell Relay Championships for 2019, so I’ll take glory by association, and consider that a grand morning’s work.

I say that, and then the morning dawned. Absolutely torrential rain.  A post went up on the Runners Against Rubbish page weeks ago suggesting the meet, but hardly anyone responded.  Now I was sat in the car parked up outside the Ladybower Inn with rain beating down on the car like it was the end of the world, I was a bit dubious as to whether this litter pick would be happening at all.  Would anyone else turn up at all?  Well dear reader, I should have had more faith.  Runners in general and fell runners in particular are not to be deterred by inclement weather, the DPFR positively thrive on temperatures that plummet and stair-rod rain that plummets also.  Where others see misery and hypothermia and misery they see personal challenge and adventure.  Of course others came. Quite a few others.  Whilst it is massively depressing that there is a need for litter picking initiatives, the more heartening aspect is that if someone takes the initiative and suggests a pick, others will rock up and help.  Happened before at the half marathon litter pic, ended up plogging in the snow round Ringinglow, that was fun too as it happened.  Strange but true!

Trail runners will turn out and turn up in all weathers it’s true, but they also seemed to operate on just in time principles, so it seemed like there was no-one else coming until about one minute to ten, and then loads of cars rolled up like we were going to have an impromptu road rally, aquaplaning our way along the bends of the A57.  We didn’t though, we just parked up politely, and allocated grot patches.

depressin litter.jpg

My patch, along with some others,  was down an embankment at the back of the car park for the Ringinglow Inn.  It was quite a scramble down, I was a bit wary, didn’t want to end up stranded down there unable to get back up, adn having to forage from the discarded waste of others until either the water levels rose enough to wash me into the reservoir, or mountain rescue stumbled across me whilst doing a training exercise of some sort.  In the event, a merry band of us went down, armed with litter pickers and bin bags, and once we’d got into position, it was surprisingly sheltered from the  rain and therapeutic. Tasks like this would be overwhelming alone, but as a team, we made good headway, and enjoyed sharing our litter ‘treasures’.  My fave find was a leather boot, so weathered and moss covered it was almost an art form.  Lots of plastic, depressingly, it is even worse when it starts to break down, creating thousands of shards of plastic that can contaminate water systems even more powerfully than a bottle remaining whole.  A helium balloon, they are depressing, I feel the tide will turn on those, and they will be as unacceptable as plastic straws one day.  There is so much evidence that balloons blow the marine conservation society has a paper on this for starters.  Perhaps the party is over (nearly) for helium balloon releases.  Why would you want to celebrate anything or commemorate a loved one by littering our precious earth?  Madness.

Latex-Kills-2

We made good progress, and although the wet weather meant some of the area we were hoping to clear was now underwater, and the litter perhaps already washed into the reservoir, we did make a difference in that small patch.  We agreed we still were sufficiently motivated to carry on, so next stop, convoy of cars to a layby up the A57.  For future reference this is the Cutthroat Bridge layby/ carpark/ illicit coupling area off the A57.  It didn’t look too bad, but when you start digging around it’s amazing what you can find.  We had a photographer on hand – two in fact, who were documenting the pick, so we took delight in the more extraordinary finds.  This is why I was so delighted to find previously referenced moss-covered boxer shorts tossed into a tree.  So bizarre.  A slightly more tolerable variant to the tossed dog poo bag, pre-filled with excrement – what is that about!  No wonder I was so delighted to be able to retrieve them.  There was a surprising amount of clothing, what with discarded tops and socks to go with the shoes and pants.  Not my size though, and also, I was already dressed, mercifully.

Calvin klein

At some point two cars pulled up in the layby at alarming speed, like they were being pursued by gun wielding assassins or something, but it turned out they’d had to pull over in an emergency as one of the drivers had found she was sharing her vehicle with a spider.  She burned her tyres pulling into the layby and jumped out of the vehicle as if it was on fire.  Not sure how the spider was dealt with, but they drove off shortly afterwards, in calmer mood.

There were plenty of comedic camera moments, but unfortunately, the camera angle for one picture in particular created consternation amongst my Facebook community, with an alarming number of my so-called friends, thinking I was posing with a used condom in my teeth for suggesting there are no limits to what I will do to sate my hunger for personal fame. It also begs the question why the person who took the photo didn’t intervene if that’s what she thought I was doing.  I thought there were risk assessments for this sort of thing, and I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t be putting such things in your mouth, particularly when you have a very good idea of where it might have been.  On the plus side, I learned a new word ‘gip’ as in ‘I know Lucy throws herself wholeheartedly into these things, so thought it was just another demonstration of her commitment to the cause. Did make me gip though!’ which means in Northern England informal – to vomit or feel like vomiting.  Yet again, I discover every day to be a school day.  Oh good.

Maybe not one for the album/ autobiography, but included here on comedic value criteria.  You’re welcome.  I might need to get an agent to vet my photos pre publication in future however.  This image could be a problem if I ever achieve great things in my future life.  Fortunately, that’s not massively likely so unlikely to be too much of an issue.  Even so…

condom moment

You do wonder how all this crappiness ended up in our lovely peak district, it is horrible obviously, and I sometimes despair at what is going through the heads of people who think it’s ok to dump stuff.  Even so, pity the poor person who brought along a pot of dulux in error when he was actually responsible for the durex.   As for the purpose of the hose and the nooky lube, doesn’t bear thinking about.  No really, it doesn’t.  Clear your head now.

dpfr litter pick with rar

As well as the more ‘novel’ items, there was a huge number of cans and bottles tossed a few feet away from the cars, it’s still littering people, it just makes it harder for us to retrieve.  Full nappies and a cardboard box of human excrement.  I’m going off people a lot you know, not runners in general and parkrunners in particular, but pooping people who leave a trail of their literal as well as figurative crap in their wake wherever they go.  So many wet wipes.  These made me gip (see what I’ve done there) judging from the discarded condoms and other aids I dread to think which body parts they’d been in contact with.  So much crap!

There may have been some posing for photos.  Juxtaposition of flowers and flotsam.  I have no idea how these will come out.  Might add them in later if they come my way.

Layby sorted, off down the Strines road.  The views from there were quite amazing.  It was more challenging picking here, as the verges were so overgrown, and you couldn’t really see that well.  One to come and do again in winter when the undergrowth has died back. Still, we got what we could, and one of our number one the find of the day award for a solitary, vertiginous bright red high heeled shoe.  Excellent work!  Hidden delights eh?

and the winner is

By about 1.00 ish, we were flagging a bit, and one van and one car were squished to the brim with bags full of rubbish, so we called time.  The weather amazingly had stayed clear, but now it was beginning to rain, so we could not have timed it better, which was extraordinary really.  I gather that we got around 50 bags of rubbish which is impressive, though also depressing.  Still, a lot of that rubbish was pretty old, and had been there for ages, so here’s hoping it will stay clearer for a bit longer at least.

A group of us drove up to the RAR HQ vehicle, which had thoughtfully left its windows downs and lights on so easy to spot and steal.  I left my hi-vis on the passenger seat, and we left a couple of bags of rubbish with the red high heeled shoe on top in pride of place, and then headed back to the Ladybower in to collect remaining cars.  I hope our leader isn’t still driving up and down the Strines road wondering where we all are?  Oh well, he’ll work it out eventually.

Bye bye new litter-picking/ running/ plogging friends!  Reet nice morning’s work.

A morning well spent.  Though I did feel icky afterwards, and undressed in the hall so I could put my clothes from the day straight into the washing machine.  Don’t worry, I had the front door shut.  I’m not that much of an exhibitionist.  Also, it was definitely a bit nippy by now.

Came back home to the news that Brigid Kosfgei had won the womens Chicago Marathon, and not just won it, but smashed the previous women’s marathon world record, previously held by Paula Radcliffe.  She won the event by 6 minutes!!  That’s insane!  Sky sports reported the achievement thus:

Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei has broken Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record as she defended her Chicago title.

The 25-year-old finished in a time of two hours, 14 minutes and four seconds, beating Radcliffe’s mark of two hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds – set at the London Marathon in 2003.

Kosgei finished more than six minutes ahead of Ababel Yeshaneh, who ran two hours, 20 minutes and 51 seconds, and Gelete Burka who ran two hours, 20 minutes and 55 seconds as Ethiopia finished second and third.

She was so far ahead, she must have felt a bit lonely out there, like she ran on her own, still sprinting to the finish though.  Wowsers.

This is completely amazing, but disappointingly, if not altogether surprisingly, she hasn’t got anything like the coverage that was given to Eliud’s achievement.  Still, as a consolation prize, 25 year old Brigid Kosgei earns $100,000 for the win and $75,000 for breaking the Chicago course record, which was 2:17:18, also held by Radcliffe.  She’s probably feeling OK about things.

Brigid Kosgei time

There is a cloud, and I don’t know enough about it to know if it arises from legitimate concern or disguised misogyny, but The Guardian no less added:

If there is one question mark over Kosgei’s thundering achievement it is that her agent, Federico Rosa, has had a high number of athletes who have been banned. They include Asbel Kiprop, the former world 1500m champion, Jemima Sumgong, the 2016 London marathon and Olympic champion, and Rita Jeptoo, who won this race in 2013. However there is no suggestion of wrongoing by Kosgei or Rosa.

Some will also point out that Kosgei was wearing the Nike Next% training shoes, which have been estimated to give between 60-90 seconds of performance benefit over other shoes. But on a stunning day in Chicago few appeared to care about that as she blasted into history.

Hmm.  I don’t believe shoes are that much of an advantage, I mean in principle anyone can access those, it’s not like she rode an e-bike on the tour de yorkshire or something.   Or that the shoes have springs in them or anything like that!  Oh wait, they do pretty much have springs in them?  Her’s and Eliud’s too.  Hmm, bit like the shark skin mimicking swimming suits that got banned from competitions for conferring an unfair advantage?   I honestly have no idea now.  Still think they can run very fast, and I still think they are faster than Zebedee would be, though I concede marketing the shoes as the 4% ones is a bit of a clue that they may also be advantageous to the wearer.  Oh dear.

zebedee

As for her coach.  Tricky, but I think if Mo Farah has ridden that wave, than why not she?  I hope the sport is clean, I honestly think it would be pointless otherwise.  It’s a shame she had to respond to questions about that on what should have been an untarnished day.

run clean

On the subject of clean, back to litter picking.  What larks eh?

So like I said, one way or another, quite a memorable and stand out running weekend.  Also potentially for me BINGO!  Albeit a bit anti-climactically, and as it happens, not at all!  Oh well, at least when it happens eventually it will be the real thing.

It’ll happen one day.  Eliud waited a long time to get his sub 2 hour marathon, he didn’t lose faith, his belief didn’t waiver.  I’ll get my last outstanding bingo time one day, and then I can enjoy the moment all the more for appreciating it appropriately when the time comes – literally, as well as figuratively.  Don’t worry, you’ll get to hear about it.

Also, remember now:

#nohumanislimited

Well, some of us might be a bit to be fair, but maybe the limits can sometimes be simply those of our imagination.  Simply believe.  Not the one about flying though, that’s not going to happen.  You’ve seen the ads right?  He was not able to fly.  I will concede though, we can do more that we often realise, and you have to move out of your comfort zone sometimes to find what your limits are.  It’s always worth just testing the boundaries a bit.  After all, what’s the worst…

what the hell

Make today the day you just feel the fear and do it anyway – just plunge right in, it might be awesome, it might be wet, but it will be an adventure, and adventures are fab, even when they are type two fun, so much better than a life half lived, which is what a life lived in fear all too often becomes.  So the saying goes.

Enjoy being human, there are no limits.  Also, drink tea, that’s one of the great boons to being human.  Yorkshire tea for preference.  And have a nice day.

You can find out more about the British Fell Relay Championships 2019 here

And this Runners Against Rubbish litter pick here.

But really, don’t waste time reading about litter picking, far better to just get out there and do it.  No regrets, no limits remember!

🙂

Categories: marathon, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dashing for DABKA, in action at the inaugural Round Donny Run

Digested read: I entered the DABKA Round Donny Run 30k event on a bit of whim, why not, wouldn’t want to miss out on an inaugural friendly distance event now would I?  It was hot, it was longer than 30k, but yep, it was well signed, it was fun and who knew about that amazing viaduct and the endemic population of pathologically friendly fellow runners and helpful marshals that are so prolific in these parts.  A few teething problems maybe, but I had fun, and loved the medal, which I think you’ll find is what running is all about.  Would recommend.

 

Now read on at your peril, this is a long one.  It’ll probably take you as long to read this as it did for me to run the blooming thing, but look at it as a test of your stamina and mental strength, these things count for distance running, trust me, I’ve googled it.  Or you could save yourself a lot of time and watch the video summary of the Round Donny run course.  Remember, the choice is yours, you read on now, it’s at your own risk, contributory negligence on your part for being sucked into a time vampire. You have been warned.  You’re welcome.

RDR viaduct

No sooner had my Smiley Buddy deposited me back on my doorstep after driving me home from the Round Donny Run, a concerned neighbour came scurrying across the road to ask if I needed any assistance.  She naturally assumed from my creaking and stiffly cautious progress towards my front door I must have experienced some sort of medical emergency and was in need of immediate help.  It possibly wasn’t the greatest testament to my athleticism that I had to admit that I was absolutely fine in a ‘but I have just run(ish) over 20 miles‘ sort of way, meaning, that whilst I was able to move immediately after the event, sitting in a car for the drive back to Sheffield stiffened me up completely.  To the point I did seriously consider just asking my buddy if I could just live in her car for a few days, until I’d regained the use of my legs.  In the end, I thought that was maybe asking a favour too far. After all, she had chauffeured me to Donny for the inaugural DABKA Round Donny Run, hung around for me waiting for me to finish, and taken me home, and to be fair, I probably wasn’t at my most fragrant post the event, and I’d have matured to an even riper pungency sat in her car for a few extra days during this seemingly endless heatwave.  Even the best of running buddy friendships need some boundaries.  By this I mean I did ask if I could, but then pretended I was only joking when she laughed in a ‘clearly that’s a joke’ sort of way.  I didn’t push the point.  Anyway, it was nice of my neighbour to enquire after my welfare, but she did look slightly horrified when I told her my temporary (hopefully) impairment to my mobility was self-inflicted.  ‘But why would you do that?  Run all that way in this insane heat?’ she queried.  I showed her my medal.

RDR medal

I think it is quite a nice one, enamel, that’s unusual, and the shoe tread design, it’s a fine bit of bling… she was unmoved, not even unmoved, completely nonplussed would be more accurate.  I concede it is hard to communicate what motivates people to run (I use the term ‘run’ loosely in relation to my own event performance) to those that don’t.  Honestly, I don’t even quite get why I put myself through these things myself, so you can’t really expect others to get it.  I speak from the heart here, as every event I enter I go through agonies of regret in the weeks and days before about whether or not I’ll actually turn up to the start.  I like lots of things about running: the people you meet; the places you discover; the post-run endorphins, coffee and chit-chat; the whole parkrun ethos; but the actual running bit…  Hmm.

Seriously, for the most part it’s fun retrospectively. I  am always astonished at races when the shout goes up ‘go’ and everyone sets to set off at a sprint and it suddenly dawns on me I’m expected to do likewise what’s more, with some semblance of enthusiasm!  My body protests as I lumber along, bits wobble, other bits threaten to chafe, and I have to contend with a noisy internal monologue berating me for turning up at all  ‘what was  I thinking?  How is this fun? It had better be a very fine medal indeed to justify all this physical unpleasantness that I’m currently undergoing.  Oh god, I think I need the loo again.  I wonder if there’ll be any loo stops.  Am I lost yet?‘ that kind of thing, hilariously, I don’t even think this experience is unique to me, there are loads of us out there enjoying our running as Type Two Fun, i.e. the fun is really only recognisable retrospectively for the most part,  such is the nature of the endeavour.  This is why the term  ‘fun run’ is often cited as the most easily identifiable and therefore obvious example of an oxymoron, pushing ‘happy Christmas’ into second place.   Me and running, well it’s sort of complicated….

The Round Donny Run is a case in point.  For those of you who like to know the blah de blah, the Round Donny Run website tells us that:

On Sunday 8th July The inaugural DABKA Round Donny Run takes place. It is a multi-stage trail race which will see entrants undertake a scenic 9 stage 30k course on footpaths and trials taking in the beautiful Don Valley Gorge, Sprotborough Flash Nature reserve, Conisborough Viaduct, Hatchell Wood, Cantley Park, Sandall Beat Woods, Doncaster Racecourse and back to your friends and family at the Town Fields during their annual Summer Gala.

The run can be done as an individual or with a friend as a pair doing the full distance or as part of a 3-person relay covering the 30k distance.

RDR event blurb

Details of the event popped up in my news feed months ago.  This is significant.  Any event that is ‘ages away’ allows me to delude myself that I will undoubtedly have put myself through rigorous training and preparation in the intervening weeks.  Also, I liked the idea of taking part in an inaugural event –  fear of missing out is a powerful thing.  It sounded as if it might be following the format brought into being by the Round Sheffield Run, which is  my favourite event of the year – i.e. friendly, sociable, inclusive and introducing participants to areas around they might otherwise never discover.  Yeah, why not, post London Marathon I’d be soooooooooooo fit, I’d romp round 30k effortlessly, you know what, I’d probably even have lost so much weight with all my training and cross training and everything I’d be OK going down a size in the tee-shirt. It would be fine.  Yeah, I’m in, it’ll be fun.  Why not?  Spoiler alert, I was delusional dear reader, but fortunately, I’m conscientious if not keen, and having entered took part anyway.  Also, it doesn’t matter that my T-shirt is a bit of a squeeze, as it’s white anyway, and therefore would be destined never to be worn even if it fitted ok.

I’m not going to lie, it did cross my mind that it might be a scam at first.  Hardly anybody entered, and it didn’t have that big a profile.  Granted, I’m over in Sheffield, but for many weeks it seemed very quiet compared to other events I’ve entered.  It’s a shame that these thoughts do crop up. There have been some scam events in recent years, night-light runs and obstacle courses being the most common contenders for fraud. I did feel though if you were going to do a scam event, you’d go for something more flashy, and frankly in support of a better known charity. I reckoned it was legit, definitely worth a punt.

This event was a fund-raiser for DABKA, which I’d never heard of before.  Oh, you haven’t either?  Erm, hang on, the RDR Facebook about section says:

DABKA; Doncaster and Bassetlaw Kidney Association helps kidney patients, their families and carers live with renal disease, from pre-dialysis through to transplant. DaBKA is run entirely on a voluntary basis for the benefit of renal patients. They provide information and support to patients, their families and carers. We are hoping that we will be able to raise some much-needed funds for them and raise awareness of the great work that they do

DABKA

The number of entrants was pretty small (but perfectly formed) for the inaugural event, and a lot of time, effort and funds went into getting the Round Donny Run up and running, so whether or not it did raise funds I just don’t know, but I’m sure it raised the profile of the charity, and I daresay as the event continues and grows it could be a money spinner for a local initiative.  Here’s hoping.

So I entered, and then largely ignored it, until a couple of weeks ago.   As the event drew near, there was a little flurry of e-mails explaining logisitics, where to park, an OS map of the route popped up on Facebook,

RDR route

this didn’t massively help me to be honest.  A Strava route would have been better.  I knew there would be different stages, but I never did work out how long each one was, and, significantly, nor did I discover the actual distance once you added in the recovery stages.  Because it was advertised as a 30k event, with the option of having relay teams of three people running 10k each, I’d imagined it wouldn’t be far off that distance.  In fact, on the day the walking sections added to the mileage quite significantly, and I’m not going to lie, that was a mental challenge of me as I found in searing heat I had literally no idea how much further there was to go, not helped by my TomTom watch expiring on my at the 18 mile mark, as if saying ‘this was what I signed up to, you are on your own now mate‘ not grand, also not strictly true as my TomTom is an inanimate object and can’t actually talk, but I’m sure you get the gist.

As the weekend drew nearer, I was half hoping they might cancel due to low numbers of entrants. It was just so insanely hot. I’d hardly been running at all, broken post London, my running mojo upped and left, I did do a few parkruns and the Round Sheffield Run a couple of weeks before but nothing since, and frankly didn’t want to venture out of the house in the heat, let alone head out for a long distance run.  As preparation for a 30k run goes I hold my hand up to being at the ‘lamentable‘ rather than ‘exemplary‘ end of the preparation continuum.  Nobody’s queuing up outside my door for running training tips.  At least it meant I wasn’t injured… little prospect of getting a running related injury if your primary state of activity is just about inert.

Still, on the plus side, I did know one other member of my Smiley Paces running club had entered, and so our fates became intertwined. I had a massive wobble a couple of weeks before hand and she talked me round pointing out it could be seen as just another training run.  Then I remembered about the bling and the t-shirt and the potential for generating amusing anecdotes etc and after some mental faffing I was back in. Also, she was up for going together and driving us both there and so that was it, destiny sealed. The thing is, there are pros and cons of jointly committing to doing a run together.  The pro is that agreeing to both go means that you are much more likely to do so, no baling or you let your running buddy down, that would be unthinkable!  By weird coincidence the con side of the equation is exactly the same thing, you have to do it now. Curses.

So the day dawned.  Hot, hot hot.  Ridiculously hot.  I did my usual faffing routine, there’d been some last-minute emails warning about the heat and saying there would be extra water stations and sponges with water along the route. I debated about whether to wear my running water belt.  I hate running with it, but being dehydrated would be worse.  I filled up my bottles with electrolyte laden fluids, stuffed some naked bars in, and some toilet paper for good measure.  I coated myself with factor 50 sunblock like a channel swimmer covering themselves with goose fat.  I was still fearful I’d sweat if off.   I have my hat and deeply unattractive but very practical freebie TomTom sunglasses and then porridge consumed and trail shoes on I was out the door and ready to go.

Disappointingly, my lift arrived soon after.  I was sweating even at 7.00 in the morning, this did not bode well.  She wasn’t feeling too good, nursing the end of a bad cold and a good night out the evening before.  I was feeling a bit guilty that she might only be coming because we’d pre-arranged it, so she felt obligated to come, but she was gracious about it.  ‘See how it goes‘, well quite.  I felt the same.

It was an easy drive out to Doncaster, but actually it’s further away from Sheffield than I thought.  It occurred to me, that I hadn’t really thought about the event very much at all apart from entering.  I don’t know the area at all.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been to Doncaster, other than passing through the railway station on a train en route to elsewhere.  Oh well, that’s the joy of trail running, you get to see new parts of the world.

We were sent directions in advance advising there’d be some parking at the Doncaster School for the Deaf, which was pretty much opposite Doncaster race course.  We round it OK, and we’d even remembered to bring our printed out car parking permit, but in fact a cheery marshal was on hand to wave us in the right direction and give us a freshly minted permit to display on the dashboard.

parking permit

We parked up near to a massive ambulance.  When you are at an event with a conspicuously high number of St John’s trained people in evidence I never know whether to be reassured that the event organisers are taking participant health and safety seriously, or terrified that it is basically thought necessary to stalk us all day with highly trained medical personnel as there could be a life threatening occurrence at any moment.  You have to question whether it’s a good idea to take part in any endeavour where ambulances follow you round as a matter of course.  Oh well.   There didn’t seem to be a massive amount of parking, but there were other car parks and roads around, and I guess locals would know other areas and maybe even walk down.

Oh well.  Parked at 8.00 exactly, we had some faffiness, sorting tops and water and what to take, other runners rocked up.  We debated with them whether or not to carry extra water, the consensus was we would.  Blooming good call, I’d never have made it round without.  Me and my Smiley buddy weren’t quite sure where we were heading, but basically followed a couple of other runners marching purposefully ahead of us, and sure enough, after a ten minute or so walk, following some yellow chalked arrows on the pavement we ended up at the Town Fields start area.

The fields were dry and the area huge.  We could see some tents at what must be the start line, but it looked like runners were congregating by a brick building in the opposite direction.  We followed the migrating lines of trainer clad people and after only a brief panic on my part, as we walked alongside what looked alarmingly like the track for a school sports day had me shuddering with unwelcome flashbacks of getting stuck in a tyre during an obstacle course race, we were at the building registration HQ.

The building was sort of the opposite of a Tardis, in that it seemed a lot smaller on the inside.  It was really well organised, with tables where you could pick up your number, another where you were issued with your dibber, an area where you got your (too small) tee shirt and could pin on your number and do all the hoiking of kit and joining queues for the loos that is a prerequisite of participation in any event.   As the numbers were small, the building could cope, but my those corridors were narrow, if there had been many more runners assembling it would have reached grid lock pretty quickly.  A large map of the route was on display, but it was hard to get to as it was up on a wall along the corridor, also, somewhat fatalistically I felt there was little to be gained by looking at the route at this point.  I was relying on the route being signed and marshalled and it was a bit late in the day for checking out the land marks to look out for along the way.   Maybe if next year, they stuck it on a board outside to avoid congestion I’d take the time to go and look.  There was a long, long queue for the loo, until someone in the know pointed out there were extra loos in the changing rooms.  A bit more signage would have been good.

Registration was speedy, and so once we’d got our numbers and had our precautionary pees we headed back across the dusty dried out grass to the start area, where the MC was practising with his mike and the start arch was speedily being inflated in front of our very eyes.

I was seriously impressed by the attention to detail in the organisation.  The place was crawling with pathologically friendly and helpful marshals (that is a compliment, in case you are wondering).   Yet more St John’s people were gathering (enough now, their extreme prevalence is starting to freak me out a bit), and the event compere was enthusiastically welcoming people as they assembled at the start, calling out the names of running clubs from vests various, and talking about the DABKA charity.

There were explanations about the dib dab dobbering. I  was quite chilled with this as it’s been a thing at the Round Sheffield Run for years, but some runners were a bit apprehensive about how they’d get on with them.  I’m probably tempting fate in saying this, but I’ve never had a problem with the technology, so it must be fairly well tested and robust, as long as you don’t do anything stupid like affix your wrist band to your ankle say so you have to do the can can at every check point in order to dab your dibber in chest high dobbing points.  Not quite sure if I’m referring to dibs, dobs and dabs correctly, but I’m sure you’ll get the gist.   There was a bag drop – big secure tent, so no worries there.  Lots of milling and chilling, all very relaxed and friendly, a really good vibe.

There was a photographer on hand, so plenty of opportunity for posing for official shots, and taking shots of each other, and making new friends, and taking photos of them too.  It’s always a good idea to get lots of snaps at the start, because you never know quite how the day will unfold.  One nameless pair shared their view that as we got given the tee-shirts on registration, and it was so very, very hot, no-one would be any the wiser if we all just went straight home now and skipped the run altogether.  Me and my smiley buddy tried to make out we were horrified by the very thought, we did the honourable thing and conceded we had nursed (and rejected) the very same thought.  Tempting though…

The organisers were having a few teething problems, so somewhat stressed, but as participants we were all tickety-boo.  Because of the heat, the event organisers had introduced a cut off time, as after that there would no longer be any first aid available on the course.  I did/do understand the rationale for that, but couldn’t get my head around whereabouts that would be as the instructions were given in relation to stage sections, but I was planning the route in miles.  Oh well, I decided que sera sera, given the heat I could only do what I could do, but I would be gutted if it was to be my first DNF, even so, a DNF is better than a DNS I figured just go with it.  We gathered, we fraternised, we checked out the different running clubs.  I found it a bit strange being out of my usual home patch, lots of new clubs were in evidence, and really none that I recognised other than Doncaster Athletics Club who were really well represented and seemed a friendly and inclusive bunch.

RDR the gathering

The event was going to start a few minutes late due to, erm, actually, I’m not sure why, sorting out the dib-dobbery I’m guessing.  But that didn’t spoil the fun, beyond me wondering if they’d add that on to the cut off time consideration.  There were some novelty treats to come. The BEST BIT, was that the organisers decided to line up the slower runners at the front, so they could dib through first, and have more time on course than the speedier runners at the rear.  This was a little strange, because it did also raise the possibility that we’d all get trampled by a stampede of faster sprinters behind, but it would have been well worth it, just for the experience of starting off at the front.  An absolute first for me!

RDR start line up

As we were being briefed, a white car came speeding across in front of us, the driver leapt out, and ran across to hand something to one of the organisers, as he did so, he hadn’t put on the handbrake, and nervous laughter went round as we all watched the white car continue with it’s forward momentum, wondering if it would come to a halt or collide with the next inanimate object in its way.  Disaster was averted as the driver leapt back in, drove off at speed, then came driving at speed back towards us with a velocity that at first was entertaining and then alarming as I seriously thought he was about to ram raid the starting line up. Suddenly being at the front didn’t seem such a coveted position!

DSCF3221

Once the car excitement had abated, there was a count down to dibberdom, and off we went.  As you have to dib out, it was a stuttering start, but joyful to be underway.  Although I was one of the first through, naturally I was soon being overtaken by speedier souls, I cling to my belief in the validity of the fable of the hare and tortoise, it is hope over experience that often gets me through on such occasions.  Heading off felt fun. This was going to be grand, I was here, we were all doing it, the event was happening.  Yay!  Oh look! They even had a photographer to capture the off!

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So I had a very brief moment of feeling like I was leading the field, VERY brief, and then yomped on along behind pretty much everyone else.  The first leg was really short, blink and you miss it – maybe 0.5km.  Phew, that wasn’t so bad, I can do a few more legs like this.  Dib out, and onto the first of the walking/ recovery sections.

DSCF3223

My only real criticism of this event, was that I had no idea how long each section was.  It would have been really handy to have had a list giving distance for each running section and each recovery stage, because it made it hard to judge how to pace yourself for each bit.  This information may have been buried somewhere in the advisory notes, but I couldn’t find it, and references to places didn’t help as I’m not local.  To be fair, I think section maps did go up on Facebook in advance of the event, but that isn’t particularly user-friendly or accessible on the day.  I don’t recall seeing a summary anywhere…

Never mind, it didn’t matter much, as I just blithely followed everyone else.  I like the element of surprise out yomping, it maintains interest and distracts me from the overall unpleasantness of being expected to run.  The first walk section though seemed to go on forever, though.  It took in the delights of a Sunday morning desolate Donny town centre, and coming so early on in the event seemed a bit bizarre.  I overheard one runner remarking to another ‘this is the weirdest race I’ve ever been in – are you sure we are supposed to be walking this bit?’  Yep, we were though. Some runners, frustrated by the pace, chose to sprint on by, this might have got them round the course as a whole faster, but wouldn’t have moved them up the rankings of the actual race results.  It is a strange one to get your head around if you aren’t familiar with similarly devised events.  I was on my own, but already groups of runners were sort of finding their pace, some ahead, some behind, plenty of time to go…  Highlights included going over the railway bridge – this is the Doncaster I know!

After what seemed like miles and miles, during which time I’d already started drinking my water, this did not bode well, but it was soooooooooo hot, especially in the town centre, with light reflecting back up from the hot tarmac.

Eventually, we espied a cheery marshal just over the bridge, pointing the way down a canal path and onto stage 2.  I found the signage pretty good for this event. There were loads of marshals, a reasonable amount of red and white tape at intervals and some yellow arrows in biodegradable powder paint I think on the off roady trails.  Some of these did wear off quite quickly, but for the most part I was in sight of other runners or had some vague idea where to go because of the excellently briefed and helpful marshals.  Others I gather did not fare so well, due to vandals laying a false trail at some point which is a darned shame as it was beyond the control of the organisers, but obviously pretty devastating for those who ended up going a couple of miles awry.  The organisers were on it as soon as they heard, putting extra marshals in place, so did all they could.  From a personal point of view, I thought the markings were ok, and you didn’t need any navigational skills.  I myself have also been caught out by small minded anti-social bastard vandals pranksters laying a false trail in the past, getting so lost I came in behind the sweeper at my first ever fell race the Wingerworth Wobble –  and it’s heart breaking but really not the fault of organisers, it just happens.  I felt pretty confident on this route for the most part, just a couple of minor wobbles navigationally speaking.  Here’s the next cheery marshal with excellent directional pointing skills, I tried to stop and photograph all the volunteers I passed along the way, too often they are the unsung heroes at events.  Not sure I got them all, but I did my best.

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And suddenly, we were out of the urban, and alongside the canal.  It has been so very hot and dry, I guess it wasn’t as lush or scenic as it might have been, but it was shaded, and the dry air meant there were no midges or biting insects laying siege to runners as they passed by. It was nice, not spectacular scenery, but pleasing nonetheless.

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We hugged the canal for quite a while, and then at some point, it widened out and we moved a bit away from it, as the adjacent land opened up into farm land.  It was dry and dusty, and you could hear traffic at times. The runners space out a fair bit, and I found I ran long sections on my own. I didn’t mind this particularly, I’m so slow, I do all my long runs on my own anyway, unless I can persuade someone to come out and do a walk recce of a new route with me.  I think the event would be improved by more runners though, so you don’t feel too isolated on unfamiliar paths.  It felt safe though.  The second section was incredibly long though, and that was a surprise after such a short opening sprint (cough).

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We romped on.  Up and over bridges, under bridges, giving and receiving thumbs up to marshals and volunteers.  Occasional runners passed, I offered to give way to some as they caught me up, but many were sticking with running buddies anyway so it was all pretty friendly and supportive.  People encouraging one another and exchanging small talk about the heat, the ludicrousness of running and the unexpected appeal of parts of the route.  I have no idea what the mood was like at the front of the pack.

Note for others, up until now I’ve always been somewhat contemptuous of people who are members of the flat earth society, but here running round Donny, you begin to appreciate why the idea of the earth as a slightly squashed sphere would indeed appear to be errant nonsense.  This is a really flat route.  There are no hills.  One incline, but that was going up to the viaduct, and not really a natural geographical feature in the same way as a mountain say.  The paths were largely tarmac, or compacted mud and grit, so pretty much like road running for the most part.  If there had been loads of rain I suppose some sections might have been muddy, but not too bad I would have thought.  I wore my trusty innov8 parkclaws, which are feeling their mileage a bit now, but are my go-to shoes for unknown terrain, but really road shoes here would have been fine.  My guess is that this course would be paradise for speed merchants, they could hare round unimpeded. Less opportunity for small talk with other runners out and about though, so they’d be missing out on a large part of the run in my book, but each to their own.

At one point I noticed a load of guys lurking by a rock face to the side of the canal.  I thought they were answering a call of nature, but in fact they seemed to be about to embark on some rock climbing adventure, not quite Stannage, but did the job.

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It was peaceful by the canal, and picturesque in places.  There was a diversion across the canal at one point, and extra marshals were on hand kitted out with life jackets presumably in case sirens started singing to them from the decks of canal boats and they felt compelled to jump in after them.  I assume that runners were deemed to be moving at too great a speed to hear such voices luring them waterwards, and therefore the event risk assessment allowed us to take part without wearing buoyancy aids.  I nevertheless threw caution to the wind, stopping to both take photos and pose for them. Well, seeing as I was there, why not – and I didn’t fall in, so no fear of either sirens of Weil’s disease for me!

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There were fishermen (they were all male) fishing.  I don’t get the fishing thing, it seems pointless and cruel, but the sitting by the water thing looked appealing.  Eventually, and this was odd too, though welcome all the same, there was a water tent.  Not a tent on or in the water, that would be a life raft, but a tent with bottles of water, so you could stop and get a drink, and refuel and cool off but it was in the middle of a run section.  I don’t care about my times, I was just aiming to get round, but again I found that confusing, that the clock was still running at the refueling point – though on reflection, I suppose that’s the case at most ‘normal’ events, so maybe I’m being unfair there.  It was much-needed though, I was more than ready for something to drink.  Again the marshals were super friendly, I think there may even have been jelly babies on offer, and – brilliant idea this – a bin full of water and sponges so people could cool down but without wasting the bottled water.  I’ve not seen this before at an event, but what a great idea. High five to whosoever it was who came up with that one.  I’m genuinely disappointed I didn’t think to take a photo of a barrel full of water and floating sponges by way of illustration and emphasis of this point, but I daresay dear reader you can use your imagination and recreate the scene almost as well in your mind’s eye.  See?  Clever eh?  Genius even.  Like all great ideas, ridiculously simple to execute, just needed some bright spark to think of it and make it so.

Refueled, rehydrated and revived I romped on. One of the advantages of running in a completely new area is that you get moments of real surprise. There was some fairly impressive industrial architecture along the canal, bridge wise, but then at one point a mighty viaduct came into view, Conisbrough Viaduct to be specific, and it really is extraordinary. It loomed into view from quite a way back, and then there was a bit of hike up hill to clamber on to it. There a fearless photographer was sat on the wall in defiance of gravity, snapping pictures of runners streaming past.  I wasn’t doing all that much streaming to be honest, so paused for a chat.  Turns out she was supposed to be running, but had twisted her ankle doing The Trunce, and very sensibly decided not to risk it running the Round Donny, but to bike up and take pictures instead.  Hurrah!

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We photographed each other, then, after pausing to take in both the view from on high, and the other runners hot on my trail,  I trotted off again.

Here is a smorgasbord of her photos, they capture the event nicely do they not?  Good job.

Honestly, bit of a blur after that, more hot trails, more running, more uncertainty about when the stage might end.  I followed the other runners, fading yellow arrows and sniggered inappropriately at the gratuitous knob graffiti which also seemed to be showing the way ahead with extra enthusiasm.  Eventually, just as I’d given up any hope of the section ever coming to an end, I emerged onto a road, just over the brow of the hill was another handily pointing marshal, always good to see!  This was a dib point, and then it was but a short walk to the next water station.

which was just the other side of a cut through by some houses, that felt a little strange, but hey ho. Quick pit stop, and on again.

So I guess that must have been a walk for a bit, just a short road section, past a graveyard, which I may have just hallucinated because I was pretty sure I was dying of the heat at this point, and then another cheery marshal (where does this run source so many smiley and supportive people, it’s very impressive, I’ve rarely felt so supported and welcome on a run, even on my own turf) was on hand to direct you into the woods.

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This was a shorter by comparison shady section.  I was on my own for the whole length of it, but this was not bad thing, as it enabled me to take a wilderness comfort break without fear of interruption, it was a lot better running after that – I obviously wasn’t as dehydrated as I thought!

One option for this event was to do a sort of relay in teams of three, but it wasn’t altogether clear to me where the handover points for this were.  It didn’t matter as such, but it did contribute to my growing confusion about what the actual mileage of the event was going to be. I’d long ago clocked up 10k, but seemingly was not a third of the way through the route.  Oh well, I’m here now. I have another Smiley running buddy, selfie queen, and her philosophy on longer runs is something along the lines of, ‘well tea time is going to come round eventually, so I might as well keep moving forward and try to get back for it, I got here under my own steam, so I can get back too‘.  I find this helpful, others may not.  Basically, onwards.  It was going to be a long one though, and I was slow, even my standards, it being so hot. I was starting to fret a bit about the cut off, as I didn’t know where and when it was.  I’d be gutted to be turned back after coming so far.

Over a road, over a bridge, directed down alongside another housing estate and…

Much excitement – spectator interaction!   Some local residents were out picnicking and playing with water guns, and – by mutual consent – took aim and gave me a good soaking with their guns. It was really fun, they cooled me off, and then waved me on my way over a little bridge – which was just as well, because even though just seconds earlier a marshal had clearly instructed me to do just that, I was in danger of heading off back down the crescent to where I’d just come from, destined to repeat that loop in perpetuity like a runner caught in some weird vortex. That would have been a bad thing dear reader, not grand at all.

The next section I was pretty much on my own.  There were dusty paths, long stretches adjacent to quite busy roads, so you could hear and occasionally see traffic rumbling by.  The trail markings were clear though, so even though I was alone, I wasn’t worried about getting lost.  There was some shade along the way, but it was quite nice to come across another water stop eventually, with again, friendly marshals and this time some pleasingly interactive fellow runners too. I’d actually been stalking them on and off from afar for a while, but not caught up with them before.

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It was fun meeting them.  They were having mixed experiences, but seemed to think we should make the cut off.  Was it here that one of them pronounced she’d cracked having a pee standing up, an achievement for which I warmly congratulated her.  It’s amazing what becomes interesting and relevant chat on a run.  I was a bit worried about washing off my sun block with the cooling sponges of water, so opted instead to fill my cap and let the water just run down from my head.  My new best friend running buddy offered some sun block, but I declined, I wanted to press on and was reasonably confident my slathering in factor 50 would hold.  I left them debating whether or not they’d both continue.  I wasn’t far ahead, but pushed on.

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The next section was a bit strange, well, maybe that’s the wrong word, sort of unexpected.  We went through what looked like quite a dreary landscape, but actually there were loads of pools which I think given a bit more rain would have been quite an impressive wildlife reserve, lush and green. As it was, it seemed a little bleak, adjacent to an enormous Amazon warehouse, it seemed extremely unlikely the actual amazon being so dry, though to be fair, we know great acreages there are being turned into dust bowls through deforestation. The path sort of looped round on itself, so at one point I could make out distant runners ahead, and then saw a solitary runner behind me, so I gathered one of the two must have decided to withdraw.  I think there are times when it’s sensible to do that.  No point in risking your health for what is at heart a pointless activity, and one that is supposed to be fun.  How does the saying go?  ‘Run often, run long, but never outrun your love of running‘.  Agree.

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If I’m honest, my enthusiasm was dipping a bit by this point.  I had no idea how long there was still to run, and it was dry and dusty.  Ahead of me was a limping runner, I wanted to crack on to meet the cut off, but wasn’t sure I’d make it anyway, and she looked sore, so I stopped to check she was OK, which she was sort of.  By which I mean she was in a lot of pain, but it was a recurrence of a known injury. She’d taken a punt on whether to run or not, and as she’d been in a team of three doing the relay didn’t want to let her buddies down. She had water she said, and food, so we just walked and talked for a bit, and then satisfied she really was OK, I half-heartedly picked up my pace again, more in hope than expectation.  I didn’t think the cut off would be in reach now.  Oh well, it’ll still be an experience and miles banked, you always learn something when you go out for a run, well I do anyway, I guess I’m still quite a blank canvas when it comes to this running malarkey, everything is news to me!  Dusty paths, more road crossings, cheery marshals all a bit of a heat baked blur!

I asked the next lot of marshals about the cut off, one had no idea what I was talking about, and then another said in a kindly tone ‘you’ve missed that now love’ fair enough.  I’d plod on though, game wasn’t over yet.  Ahead of me was the big-hatted runner I’d stood alongside at the start. I never actually asked her why she was wearing a large hat, but then again the correct response to such an enquiry would be ‘why not‘ I’ve run enough times with companion animals to know you don’t need an excuse to don a different outfit for a run, it raises spirits and morale, that should be enough.  I set myself the goal of trying to catch up with her. I did, and we trotted along together for a while, sort of leap frogging each other, I got ahead of her at one point, and then she overtook me later, so we had fragmented conversations.  Enough though for me to establish she is a pretty amazing ultra runner and did a 55 mile (I think) endure 24 event just last weekend, and she told me about other ultras she’d done which were many, magnificent and inspirational.  Wow, just wow.  It’s great hearing what other runners have done.   Might even check out the White Rose Ultra some time  it’s apparently got generous cut off times and clearly marked paths, plus you get fed proper food, always a boon.  Point of information if you are thinking of doing this Round Donny Run, there aren’t really feed stations as such, there were jelly babies, but you did need to carry your own supplies – I had my trusted naked bars – I underestimated the distance here and probably should have thought a bit more about nutrition and hydration in advance.  I’ll know for next time though.  I was fine, and because it was a small field and the marshals were fantastic they’d have given you their last sandwich if necessary I’m sure, but best to be self-reliant.

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We jogged along to catch up with a small group of runners ahead. I  had a theory, based on nothing other than wishful thinking, that if we were a big enough group close to the cut off, they might take pity on us and let us finish.  My watch was at 16 miles, so it seemed bizarre if they wouldn’t let us continue just another couple of miles.  Of course I now know we had another six to go at least, which is quite a different distance.  As it happened, when we arrived at the next water station, which was also a dibber point and should have been the cut off, we were told that the St John’s ambulance people had agreed to stay on a bit longer, so we were ok to continue!  Hurrah.  I didn’t want to go home with unfinished business, not when I was feeling ‘fine’ just slow, but I knew I’d be able to finish if they allowed the time to do so.

I’m so glad we were able to continue, because the last section was my favourite one.  We started in shady woodland, the pathways of which concealed marshals ready to ambush you if you were in danger of going the wrong way and who called encouragement.  This was one bit of the route that I didn’t feel entirely comfortable running on my own. The psychology of this is inconsistent.  I run on my own in woods and across fells all the time on my own patch, and never give it a moments thought. I didn’t really like being a lone female in dense wood where I didn’t know where I was.  Again, a few extra runners taking part would help, and maybe in future years participants won’t lament the isolation of the path, but the difficulty of overtaking others on congested narrow routes… here’s hoping!

It was a short section, then you emerged at the back of some houses, through a gunnel at the back.  There was another roady bit, I think this was another walk section, but to be fair, by this point the distinction was academic, as I’d given up any pretence of trying to run anymore, it was just so hot, and now I knew I was going to make the finish I sort of stopped trying. That’s sounds really bad actually doesn’t it, when I say it out loud.  I’m just being honest, I can’t be the only person in the world who undertaking a running event in that heat starts to think as long as I’m moving forwards that should be good enough.  Oh well.  Given that left to my own devices my natural state of motion would be inert, it’s pretty remarkable I was hoiking myself Round Donny at all, be it running, or otherwise.

go slowly

For those who need external motivation to help them pick up speed, there is always the jurassic run, that might help me put a wiggle on…  I think that would be the Round Dino Run though – do make sure you book into the correct event next year or you could be in for a surprise in the wooded sections…

running with dinosaurs

There was a mischievously positioned photographer in a collapsible chair sitting the opposite side of the road from one of the marshals who was offering up jelly babies as sustenance to the weary.  I snapped him snapping me, maybe we can do swapsies later?

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A strategically placed marshal stopped runners from continuing down the road, and waved us back to a cut through that took us past the most enormous and well manicured grounds of what looked like a stately home estate of some sort.  Not a clue where it was, but it was a completely unexpected landscape. I  wished I was a bit fitter, as this part would have been lovely to run through, wide fields on either side, and easy flat terrain.  About this point, my TomTom spluttered and gave up the ghost.  It had recorded 19 miles which was a puzzle, but my watch won’t upload at the moment – long and boring story.  I thought once the memory was full, it would ditch earlier runs, but no, it just turned itself off like it was having an almighty sulk.  I wouldn’t have minded quite so much, but a few minutes earlier it flashed a ‘memory nearly full’ warning, but I couldn’t work out how to delete any previous runs so it was just basically shouting ‘panic, just panic!’ at me in a really unhelpful way before completely refusing to engage with me. Blooming great.

I emerged at the end of this section, to be greeted by the sight of a quartet of St John’s people, I say St John’s but they looked more like ghost busters, all tooled up and ready to go.  They smiled encouragement and pointed the way to the next tent.  I don’t know if they were going to assist someone, or just standing down as the end was very nearly in sight.

My only real hiccup of the day followed shortly afterwards.  I made my way down to the next marshal point, where there was water and melted jelly babies and a cheery marshal again

The route went across an open field, and then into woodland beyond. There was a group of young lads, some on bikes, who were curious about what I was doing and what the event was. They started chanting ‘Smiley Paces’ and taunting me for being a slow runner, ‘well you try running with me then’ I said, one did, another on his bike, I protested that using the bike was cheating, so he ditched that and ran instead, not for very long, as I’d correctly assessed that despite their youth and my fatigue they wouldn’t actually be able to run more than a couple of hundred metres, so I put on a sprint and they peeled off.  It felt really uncomfortable though, they were being overly interactive rather than deliberately harassing me, but I guess groups of youths just don’t get what it’s like to be a lone female runner.  I was mightily relieved to shake them off before I got into the woods.

The woods were cool and it was a relief, but I felt like I’d gone miles by now and still had no idea where the finish was.  I had one moment after I clambered over a bridge when I couldn’t see any more tape and my heart sank.  There was only a fifty-fifty choice of direction though, and I took a punt which was correct, as some guys on a bench had been watching other runners go through and asked me what the event was and where we’d been. It was hard to respond to the latter question as I didn’t really know, I recalled the viaduct, and the canal and the amazon lakes, and they nodded, saying I was definitely nearly back now, just about to emerge at the back of the racecourse.   Which indeed I did!

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The school for the deaf where we’d parked up was bang smack opposite the Doncaster Race Course, so I felt like I was indeed nearly home when I saw the familiar white rails which instantly signify a race track.  Only who knew a race course covered such an extensive area.  It was a straight line to the exit point, but it was blooming miles.  I passed posh stable blocks with hundreds of immaculate wheelbarrows all lined up ready for use.  The grandstand was there, and a little dot in the distance was a hi-vis marshal ready to receive dibbers.  I caught up with my behatted buddy here, but her walk pace was phenomenal, but it was company for a welcome while, before she marched off into the distance with me scuttling along in her wake!

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Finally, we were spat out and it was the last few hundred metres back to the start.  I’m not gonna lie, the novelty of the event had rubbed off a bit by now and I was looking forward to finishing.  As I wended my way back, I passed other runners who’d finished and were sporting their bling. That was nice actually, as it included runners I’d met at the start, and it’s always good to know how things unfold.  I’d say they were pretty happy with how it all worked out.

More marshals were there to make sure I’d not overshoot the final turn:

At last, the end was literally in sight.  As I was one of the last few stragglers, I had the undivided attention of the compere who called my name and I got a huge cheer from the remaining few bystanders as I loped in, which was lovely if not entirely merited.  I dibbed in, was handed my medal, which we have already established as being both fine and original bling that quite cut the proverbial mustard. I have no idea where that phrase comes from or what it quite means, but who cares.  I surrendered my dibber in return for which I got an instantaneous print out of my times by section, the compere announced my finish time for all to marvel at, whether they were astonished by my speed or by my sloth was not a question  I pursued.

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Erm, nothing to write home about perhaps, but then again, they’re all going to be PBs by definition as first time out, and if I do make it back next year, it’ll be fun to have a base line from which to improve.  I was reunited with my bag and got a paper goodie bag which had water, a banana, I think and some fliers for local physio deals.  Best of all, there was my Smiley buddy on hand to greet me home.  Hurrah!  I earned that white tee.

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Alas my Smiley Buddy hadn’t had such a good time. She’d fallen foul of the misdirected course, and after a 2 mile detour, what with her cold and failing morale decided to withdraw.  It was the mental blow of doing so many extra miles early on that was impossible to overcome.  It’s true what they say, running can be much a test of mental strength as physical sometimes.  So, she made a good decision, particularly as she wasn’t well to begin with, but disappointing all the same, and I did feel a bit bad that she’d consequently had to hang around for me for three hours or so.  Oops.  I owe her, big time.  Thank you Smiley buddy.   A few didn’t make the cut off, which did happen, but later, some withdrew and some didn’t make the start.  Lots of these guys were sacrificed and harmed in the running of this race, they all most definitely didn’t make it through to the end of the day.  However things may unfold in Russia at the weekend, these guys will not be coming home. Sad but true…

RDR AJ jelly babies didnt make it

Still, we got to debrief on the way home as I stiffened up nicely as already described.  by now I’d forgotten how dispirited I’d felt once my TomTom abandoned me and I moved into limbo land, and instead was feeling encouraged and inspired by having had another micro adventure.

Oh, by the way, whilst it’s true that my TomTom gave up the ghost, but others did manage to Strava the route, so I’ve basically stolen another runner’s version in the interests of the greater good.  According to their gps, the distance was in fact 21.96 miles, which I think we can safely call 22 miles, and elevation of 802 feet, which is basically mill-pond flat and smooth by Sheffield standards.  Here’s the route, enjoy:

RDR strava

It’s also worth mentioning that whilst I thought it was hot out there in Donny and was quite chuffed relieved just to make it round before the cut off and indeed at all.  It was sobering as well as exciting to hear later that whilst I was hulking my weary carcass around the dusty Donny trials, Kilian Jornet was on target to complete a record breaking Bob Graham Round and in fact smashed Billy Bland’s long-standing record by 1hr in a totally amazing run.  That’s 106km  across the Lake District with an 8,200m ascent over 42 fells, which must be done within 24 hours.  How is that even possible?  Respect.  Mind you, I reckon I felt like I’d done something pretty similar, so that practically amounts to doing the same thing doesn’t it?  Well it should, just saying.   Trail Running magazine, amongst others, has done a write-up – about Kilian, not about me, just to be clear.

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Oh, nearly forgot, for those of you who are more interested in the arrival than the journey to get there, here are the DABKA Round Donny Run 2018 results, for me though, that really isn’t the point, but stats geeks out there, get stuck in, loads of numbers to crunch and pore over.

So, if you are still here and still reading, well done you.  You have proven yourself capable of acts of endurance too.  Either that, or there is some horrific task that you really, really don’t want to do.  You do know you are going to have to tackle it eventually don’t you, this blog post really is nearly at an end now, and that’ll be that.

So conclusions, this event had a lot of merit.  It was the inaugural so there were a couple of teething issues – for me the critical one is knowing the length of each section and recovery stage in advance in km would have been helpful. I thought the organisation was great, the team worked really, really hard to pull it off.  Some sort of coffee or refreshments available at the end would have been good, but hard to justify for such a small field. There was a gala event going on the other end of the fields and for those with any energy left I guess you could have foraged there.  I’d recommend it though, you see parts of Donny you don’t expect, it’s extremely flat so potentially fast for speedy runners, and doable for non-speedy ones like me who to be blunt are somewhat portly in the midriff and struggle up the hills.  It was really friendly, with a supportive ethos and I’d really like to see the event continue and grow.  Local(ish) events like this are most welcome and need support if we want them to carry on.  Fingers crossed it was worth all the hard work and will be the first of many.  Look out for it people, and yeah, give it a go.  It is almost a marathon at the end of the day, but felt doable, because of the friendly and supportive vibe along the way.

So thank you everyone who made it so, especially the cheery marshals for being awesome, and my fellow runners for being encouraging and funny and of course to Tony Vout for having the vision and getting it off the ground in the first place, no mean feat!  Job done.

RDR lovely marshals

See you same time same place next year?  It’ll be even bigger and better and the weather gods will be more benign. Probably.  Possibly, well, it’ll be what it will be, but you wouldn’t want to miss out two years on the trot now would you?

Quite.

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Categories: off road, race, running | Tags: , , | 25 Comments

Round Sheffield Run 2018. Five out of five runs, and five out of five star rating too. Hurrah!

Digested read:  Round Sheffield Run fifth time round.  Still fun.  Would recommend.

You could read on, or you could save yourself a lot of time and trouble and just watch the RSR 2018 film of the day.  They aren’t mutually exclusive of course, but the choice is yours….

Oh, and thanks to everyone who made the RSR what it is and was.  I’ve used lots of photos from lots of sources, the RSR ones are freely available, but they do ask for a donation if you use them. They are hoping to raise some more funds for the fantastic Weston Park Cancer Charity – so if the photos please you, consider making a donation at  www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr18  Are you not entertained – I repeat, ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?  Those photographers work blooming hard, check out this perspective from Steve Frith, on his experience of the RSR waves of runners turning into a tsunami of potential picture subjects.  Sounds quite stressful!  Thanks Steve, and all the other snappers out and about.  You were/are awesome.  On a serious note, we are quite spoilt in Sheffield, loads of fabulous photographers document our every run.  We should never take this for granted.

Do I really need to explain what the Round Sheffield Run is?  For pities sake people, where have you been!  Hiding under a rock?  It’s half a decade old, surely it’s a given that this is a Sheffield running institution by now? Come the Summer solstice weekend – the Sunday to be specific – runners from near and far take on their annual migration to Endcliffe Park.  There is always early morning sunshine magically illuminating the event hub.  Rays of light giving dappled patterns to the paths as they shine through the trees.  Eventually about 1500 people will so gather, all to run round in a huge great circle together sharing thrills, spills (quite a few got spilled en route this year judging by the post run selfies of cuts and scrapes) and running bonhomie, before rejoicing together in the post event festival as they sit on hay bales, quaffing ale and regaling one another with tales of their micro adventures along the way.  What’s not to like.

YM smiley chilling

By the way, be careful not to mix up ‘bonhomie’ with ‘bon ami’, I nearly did, very embarrassing.  Whilst the former is a generic expression of exuberant friendliness and oozing good will, the latter is, of course, a household cleaner.  Good to know.  That reminds me, must have a go at being a domestic goddess later and tackle my household chrome…

Even so, in case you have been on the moon or something, or are just generally slow on the uptake (which to be fair is often my default position, still haven’t seen ‘The Wire’, but to be fair, I got scared off cult viewing after being erroneously sucked into ‘Lost’ what a lot of wasted hours of my life that turned out to be!  Once bitten, eh?) anyway, stop distracting me,  here’s the event blah de blah from the Round Sheffield Run website for those in need.

Described (correctly) as an ‘Epic *Multi-Stage* Trail Race’ through ‘The Parks and Trails of Sheffield’ on Sun 24th June 2018.  Not sure what the asterisks signify, probably referencing some sort of running masonic code, like the all-seeing eye, or maybe just for dramatic effect and emphasis,  anyways:

The Round Sheffield Run, trail running enduro is a unique creative “multi-stage” running event following the beautiful Round Sheffield route, a superb running journey linking some of the best trails and parkland. It would be a tough task to find anywhere in the UK that showcases these kind of trails & scenery within its city limits.

The 11 timed stages make up 20km of the 24.5km route.

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

Between Stages competitors have the opportunity to rest, relax,  and regroup with their friends and refocus before the next stage begins. Competitors are allowed to walk or jog inbetween stages. The unique concept creates a supportive and unique social vibe.  The race format also opens up the course to all abilities. 

A festival atmosphere at the end with draft ales, tasty food, and great DJ to ensure that everyone can celebrate in style.

 Run as an Individual, Pair or even a Team see the prizes and categories tab for further details on the prizes and how each category works.

For the record, it is a race not a run, but I like it because it feels like a run not a race, just to be clear.  Elite runners head off ahead of everyone else so they can run so fast their eyeballs spontaneously pop out of their sockets without being impeded by other runners along the way.  Everyone else heads off after them in waves, to avoid the crush of a mass start.  That’s not to say people in later waves aren’t fast and competitive, but the probability is they are more likely to embrace (or at least tolerate) the social side of things, and be accepting of differently paced entrants.  What I love about this event is that it feels to me to be genuinely inclusive.  People like me can lope around at a sedate trundle if we wish, but enjoy being part of a run that includes a continuum of runners.  It’s like a mahoosive parkrun in some ways, except instead of post parkrun breakfast and cake there’s a post run huge great festival with pizza, and beer and artisan coffee.  Oh, and it is a bit further to be fair, but as it’s broken up into sections, the longest one of which is just 2.8 km, it feels doable.  You can always knock out a parkrun yes?  So if you overlook the fact this is basically five in a row, it’s very accessible.  Hang on a minute, I’ll find the hand instruction card –

RSR instruction sheet

See? It looks pretty innocuous doesn’t it, in terms of distance.  Especially if you are like me inclined to skimp a bit on the details and not inclined to do any voluntarily mathematics.  It’s easy to overlook the minor detail of having to add up all these distances that you are expected to run so you are able to comprehend the full horror of what you are embarking on.  All the better for that say I!  In fact, I honestly believe (albeit delusionally) that this event was created especially for me.  It encompasses all the things I like about running (beautiful scenery; camaraderie of being with like-minded people; different terrain; post run smorgasbord; medal at the end; cheerful marshals who give out hugs as well as jelly babies; friendly organisation; near enough to walk to venue; welcoming of all abilities; tolerant of fancy dress) and removes all the stresses like being intimidated by faster runners. Or, my speciality, being angst ridden about either getting lost (no navigation required), or limping in hours and miles behind everyone else only to find the event hub abandoned as everyone else has long gone home. All that remains as dusk falls is tumbleweed and overflowing bins.  The contents of which (pizza boxes, banana skins; jelly baby wrappers and plastic beer glasses mainly) serving as testimony not only to the tragedy of the extent of single use plastics and lack of recycling options; but also to the joy of the run’s after party which  have missed on account of not being able to run fast enough to make it back in time for all the fun.  My life in a nutshell.  Almost got to be part of the adventure, but didn’t quite make it. Shame.  Not so with the RSR!  I shall go to the ball!  This event welcomes all-comers.

Don’t get me wrong, it is challenging, many people actively train for it for quite a long time, but it is also doable. The stop start format which might be an anathema to other participants fleeter of foot is fab for me.  You can get your breath back, have a bit of a chit chat with fellow participants whilst having a drink/ banana or whatever before you rock on.  The social element means you get lots of encouragement along the way.  As a slower runner I especially benefit from this as practically the entire field overtakes me at some point, and for the most part they offer cheery motivational phrases or friendly greetings as they whizz by.  My only gripe is they still haven’t made fancy dress compulsory and it was a bit thin on rainbows and unicorns again this year, but I daresay it’s only a matter of time before these brilliant ideas are implemented.  Rome wasn’t built in a day – well, so they say.  Nor is much flat pack furniture, so we have to give the organising team the benefit of the doubt.  Much as I’d like to see these enhancements made, I concede I’m pleased they focused instead on shifting the cows.  Not all bovines are as docile as Ferdinand.  Fact.

The_Story_of_Ferdinand

So, you will understand why I still get excited about the RSR, it was the first ‘proper’ event I ever did – apart from a few parkruns and a truly lamentable Women’s Running Nottingham 10k which remains 5 years on the most dull and uninspiring event I’ve ever entered had the misfortune to enter, godawful route running backwards and forwards on tarmac whilst tantalisingly close to what looked like a perfectly nice park to run in.  Anyway, hence therefore, I inadvertently entered the RSR in its first year, before it was a thing, and when you didn’t have to fret about whether you’d manage to get a place before it all sold out.  I did so because I took very literally the blurb about this being an inclusive event suitable for all comers hence failing to notice the details re distance and ‘undulations’ and stuff like that. I’m so glad I was that naive, I’d have been way too scared to have entered otherwise.  Since then, it’s grown to be the ‘must do’ trail run for Sheffield.  Well, I think it has.  Not just because it’s inherently a lovely route, but because of the whole running carnival that goes along with it.  You will see everyone you know (running wise) at this event, whether you want to or not.  Consequently, there is not only fun to be had at the event, but also all the anticipatory build up.  Hurrah!

The build up, like the route, comes in waves.  It starts way back in February I think, when you have the first challenge of remembering to enter on the day registration opens.  Places go fast.  In previous years, people that weren’t lucky could be reasonably confident of picking up a place nearer the time as others drop out because of injury, or maybe having a life outside of running or whatever, but in recent years less so.  You can arrange to swap your number up to about a month in advance of the run, after that too late.  Once the event is full, there is a plethora of ‘oh no, I missed it‘ followed by emoticons indicating heart break and grief, or alternatively the ‘whoop whoop, I’m in‘ exchanges on various Facebook pages as people share news of their entry attempt fortunes for better or worse.  Then it all dies down for ages, apart from the odd post on the Round Sheffield Run facebook page reminding us all they exist, which is obviously good to know.

Wow, after the weather at the solstice weekend, it’s hard to imagine Endcliffe Park under a foot of snow.   These pics are proof positive though of the year round loveliness of the Round Sheffield Walk which, (in case it isn’t a self-evident truth), is basically the Round Sheffield Run Route.

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Then, in the final few weeks, the anticipation builds up like magma beneath a volcano, ready to erupt in a glorious and breathtaking display, which will be magnificent to behold but could result in injury and pain if you misjudge how you approach it.  We are drip fed newsworthy milestones.  The arrival of the jelly babies; the coming of the numbers (oh, they did take note of the request for more rainbows!  See what they’ve done there with the colours for the starting waves); a big reveal of the bling and wow, some seriously good tankards with the route engraved on for the various category winners.  Even I’d put a bit of a wiggle on if I was even so much as in shouting distance of getting my hands on that!  Fortunately, I’m not, so my usual trotting rhythm could prevail.

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The next stage of the anticipatory journey is the traditional skip round to Front Runner to pick up your race number in advance of the day.  It is part of the whole ritual, much like buying a Christmas tree or having a family row/ meltdown in the car park of Tescos is part of the whole yuletide tradition.  For authenticity, this should really be done after completing a Sheffield Hallam parkrun, so you can be slightly sweaty and flushed with that giddy mix of post-run endorphins and caffeine when you pop in.  You will meet loads of people you know there doing the same thing.  You are supposed to remember your race number to speed up the collection process, but tradition demands that many don’t.  I have a feeling it’s also an established tradition that it is mandatory to make slightly risque quips about the latest 60 second Front runner on line product review whilst you are in their getting your number if you can.  Hmmm, actually, I’m not absolutely sure about that one, could be a more recent thing, like slime.  That never used to be a thing you know, no idea why it is now. Sometimes this is hard, the quipping, not the slime, and sometimes it’s basically shooting at an open goal – a most appropriate metaphor given that we are amid the world cup football season.  I submit the Saxx Underwear Kinetic Boxer Briefs by way of evidence.  Really, how is anyone supposed to hear the phrase ‘famous for its ball park pouch‘ and not snort with laughter and demand the ritual humiliation of the salesperson for the merriment of the merciless hordes in consequence.  I’m pretty confident no-one else has ever suggested that the product should have been modelled for the purposes of the review though.  I got there first.   That’s me, both innovative and uniquely hilarious!  Laugh?  Thought my knickers would never dry!  They say you shouldn’t laugh at your own jokes, but if I didn’t who would?  Shouldn’t always listen to what they say anyway, that way madness lies.

Where was I?  Oh yes, digressing.  So went in to get my number, and whilst there marvelled at these.

Pictures by running ink – I lurve them!  He’s done some other prints of Hallam parkrun and Sheffield half.  They are in my view, genius.  Somehow they manage to capture both the spirit of the events and locations perfectly.   Christmas presents sorted for Sheffield runners/ parkrunners everywhere say I.  Well I say that, the Limb Valley one lacks verisimilitude due to the absence of aggressively stampeding cattle taking down the runners, then again, it does picture race day, and in fairness the cattle were moved to facilitate that this time around anyway.  Joking apart, the cattle in that particular field coming down the Limb are a bit scary.  I’m usually fine with farm animals, but I wouldn’t mess with them.

cattle down the limb

There have been a few incidents involving the same herd over the years, leading to runners or walkers being hospitalised by the cows, two in the last few weeks; as well as a marshal kicked at the RSR only last year.   For reasons I don’t fully understand despite the right of way going through it, the farmer apparently isn’t obliged to keep his stock clear of the path, it is farmland after all and animals have to graze somewhere. However, it seems logic is prevailing, it’s in everyone’s interests to get this sorted, and there is a plan afoot to crowdfund for a decent fence to keep cattle and people apart.  Hope it comes off, the farmer has I think agreed to maintain and in effect surrender a strip of land for this, if others pay for the actual fence, I don’t know really, something like that – but it essentially sounds like a grand plan.  I’m in.  Hope you are too.  Great good people, the greater good.  Mind you, can’t really blame the cattle for being a bit mardy, when you think how they end up being eaten.  The truth will out.

had a farm

So entry made, number collected, training either done or not done, and all too soon it was the evening before the morning after.

RSR event village night before

And so it begins!

The morning dawned. I know, you are still stuck here reading and I’ve not even made the start line yet. Sorry(ish) about that, but if you are still with me at this point you are either guilty of contributory negligence (you could have walked away at any point, reading this is not compulsory) or, you are carrying an unwanted childhood legacy of believing that once you start reading something (book, article whatever – not the actual phone book) you are somehow, for some unknown reason obligated to finish it.  Or is that just me? Either way, can’t help.  Sometimes people need to own their own decisions, your ability to ‘just say no’ lies within you, and you alone.  Just so you know.

Anyway, hurray RSR day!  I was a bit dejected that I wasn’t facing the day all fit and lean and fired up post my first every marathon. Have I mentioned yet in this post that I ran London earlier this year?  I struggle to believe that is possible too if it’s any consolation.  I was unsure whether or not to take Geronimo with me.  She was a star last year, but since London she’s been carrying a quite severe neck injury.  Not so much lopsided, but actually broken, I know some run brilliantly with a brace, but I don’t feel a neck brace would be appropriate for her just now, she’s earned her retirement.   Whilst I have had some physio for my poorly knee (I have patella tendonopathy apparently, which is why I’m not really running much at the minute, it’s got nothing to do with running apathy, although it’s easy to see how the confusion arises) she’s basically been resting…. in the back of my wardrobe.  It looks quite bad, and it was going to be a hot day anyway, too hot to take her out injured and untrained, don’t want to find myself featuring in the next series of Animal Rescuers SOS UK on Quest Red/ Animal Planet or whatever, I decided this year I’d be running naked.  Here’s a shot from last year though, looking fabulous!  Wow, she looks so much younger then, a fair few miles on the clock since, sigh.  What adventures we’ve had…

go geronimo 2017

Not that sort of naked.  Honestly, how childish.  You are the sort of person who is probably still sniggering about the saxx ball park pouches!   Grow up!

I was up ridiculously early because I couldn’t sleep.  Also I have my pre-run rituals, like eating porridge, and slathering my feet with Vaseline which is messy, but amazingly does keep my twinkle toes* miraculously blister free.  Then I was distracted because there was a rather cute mouse scavenging under the bird feeder.  I like having wildlife in the garden, it makes me feel special that they have chosen to co-exist with me somehow.  This meant I actually left later than planned, but it’s only a short hop, skip and a jump from my house to Endcliffe park. I did have my TomTom watch on, it’s basically a really expensive watch at the moment as it won’t upload anything, but it does still record what I’m doing and vibrate after every mile which I find pleasing.  I’m quite low maintenance in some respects.  I was dithering about whether or not to wear my ultimate direction waist pouch. It was going to be hot, hot hot, but one of the rare pleasures of doing a long run at a race is that you have water stations along the way and don’t need to lug everything along with you.  I took it anyway, preferring to wait and see what happened in the way of peer pressure when I got there as that’s always a deciding factor.

Look!  They were expecting me:

RSR starting pen ready

As I got nearer to the epicentre of the event, I exchanged nods with fellow runners making their way down.  Once in the park I met a spectacularly smiley smiley, who was all set to run in a pair with her other half.   Because she is pathologically good humoured and smiley she was beaming as she explained that they’d only managed one practice run together at Longshaw, the Trust 10 – he’d abandoned her after one 5k lap, in favour of a coffee at the National Trust cafe whilst she completed the second lap…  ‘but it’ll be fine‘ she grinned.  And it was.

RSR they did fine

I find the concept of running as part of a pair terrifying and hilarious in equal measure.  I did it as a pair in the first year – not realising until too late we were 118 118 and so missing out on a fabulous fancy dress op – and it was comforting having a running buddy at the time, but never again.

The problem with being a pair is that unless you are identical twins, and face it, most pairs are not – particularly the mixed pairs – one person is either being constantly held back and the other dragged along.  Although I suppose we might like to think the shared struggle might bind people closer together it can also fracture friendships and probably marriages too, as previously hidden tensions are exposed and exploded messily outwards for the duration of the route.   It’s pretty much make or break for relationships I reckon.   I know some pairs have worked out that it’s best to give the slower runner control of the dibber (you have to dib in and out of the various stages and pairs need to be within a few paces of one another) that way they get to dictate the pace.  The rumour mill has it that sometimes the faster runners sprint ahead and dib in then wait for their partner, but I’ve never seen that, I have seen faster runners sprint ahead and then wait for their partners cajoling them to ‘move their blooming arse‘ by way of encouragement.

Other practical suggestions for ensuring pairs stay as pairs include shackling runners together, or going with mandatory pantomime cow/ horse outfits- clearly my preferred option.  I mean it’s been done before, so there is precedent.  Newcastle race course I thank you… honestly, wouldn’t it gladden your heart to see this at the RSR as the elite pairs wave takes off?  It’s like my idea for more unicorns, you just know it would win hearts and minds if they’d only bite the bullet and make it so!

So I dithered, exchanged pleasantries.  Drank most of the water I’d carried down with me, and then decided I’d not bother with my belt as I’d drunk most of the water I had with me anyway.   There were two water stations en route I knew, and I knew a couple of marshals, I decided instead to carry money so if I was really desperate I could take a detour and go buy some.  In the end I found I didn’t need to.  I collected my timing device, dibbery thing, from the dib dabbery dispensing team

RSR collect dib dob

deposited my bag in the bag drop and then set about mingling on my way to the loos, which had already gathered quite a queue.  I can think of no event which has cracked the algorithm for calculating the appropriate number of loos for an event.  The RSR is no exception.   I did make it though, although my cubical was without toilet paper even at 8.00 a.m. I have a strong suspicion it had never been in possession of any.  I was OK as it was only a drip dry visit, I can only hope other takers were not caught unawares.

I was in the 8.35 wave, so early and it was relatively cool.  Loads of Smilies were about (other running clubs are available) so good to catch up with a few.  I ditched my camera with my bag so didn’t get many shots before that, but maybe there’ll be others later, or maybe there wont. Either way is fine, we have our memories.

It all went pretty quickly, we waved off the elites.  Fun watching them kick off at a sprint – they had to pause to dib in first though…

They are amazing. The first guy home did the route in 1 hour 10 minutes.  I mean that’s crazy fast!  I’m glad I wasn’t in their way.

The waves are organised by colours – colours of the rainbow in fact, isn’t that lovely.  So the elites were red, and my wave was orange. Once the reds were off, we oranges ambled into the starting funnel, and then sent on our way, you  have to dib your dibby thing in as you pass the start, so it isn’t a mass stampede, more like shaking tic tacs out of one of those dispensers.  Coming across in ones and twos.  Although there were loads of people I knew in my wave, I didn’t particularly run with anyone, and it was surprising how quickly we all spread out.  No worries, you are never alone at the RSR, always running buddies around to interact with as the mood takes you.

So far so good, but to be fair, but this is why I won’t wear strings of pearls.  Not only when running, but in life generally as a rule.  I think it’s a good one.  I was reminded of the wisdom of this at the Round Sheffield Run.  It’s the dib dobbery thing that they issue, it’s on a lanyard.  Wearing it gave me flashbacks to working in an office and having to be permanently sporting my id on a similar lanyard.  They aren’t the most elegant of accessories.  Essentially, unless you physically strap your boobs (or moobs) down to achieve a twenties  flipper flapper girl flat line silhouette the thing is in perpetual motion.  It bounces from one boob to the other before swinging up to hit you in the face periodically just to make sure you are concentrating.  It was a tad annoying, but you do sort of get used to it. It’s amazing what you can get used to, that’s why some frogs end up being boiled alive, albeit only very unlucky ones that are subjected to pointless experiments by sadistic scientists.   Unless that’s a myth, it’s probably a myth.  I don’t know.  Prefer the stories about the crabs and crayfish that escape though, even if they are the minority.  Those flappers though, didn’t they have a blast with their Charleston routines, no fly away beads were going to be cramping their style!  I’m expecting this image to be spookily similar to my action running shots.  I am also prepared to be disappointed, so all bases covered there.  My shoes will be a tad different for a start.  I was rocking my trusty innov8 s even though they are developing an annoying hole at the side.

charleston

Anyway, for better, for worse, I was underway.

Stage 1   :  2.9km Endcliffe Park to Forge Dam

A pleasant gradual ascent leaving Endcliffe Park, up through Bingham Park and Whiteley woods, a stage to take nice and steady through the paved and dirt tracks up to Forge Dam.

 Liason between 1-2

A short walk / jog up past the Cafe to the start of the next stage

I’m always taken aback at being expected to run at these events, and after 100 metres in I was quite relieved to see an early get out.  There at the sidelines was Smiley Selfie Queen – just arrived as she was in a later wave than me.  It is a rule that you can’t not have a selfie with Selfie Queen so naturally I departed the course to sort one – and very fine it is too!  Well, I thought it was at the time, but now I can’t find it, so I probably imagined the whole thing, still nice to see a buddy early on.  Oh, hang on, it’s been reissued, hurrah!  Here you go, yep, I do like it, happy days 🙂

selfie queen and me at start

I headed on with a new spring in my step, and it was only another couple of hundred metres to the end of the park and the first crossing point. I was a bit confused to find the ‘usual’ marshal wasn’t in situ, not that her replacement wasn’t totally delightful, but there are some traditions that I irrationally expected to be repeated year on year.  Over the road, along past the Shepherd’s Wheel, and up towards Forge Dam, where, much excitement, I took advantage of the first of the official recovery sections to avail myself of the loo, for which there was no queue, and there was toilet paper.  I would be able to concentrate now for the rest of the run.  Insider knowledge you see, helpful for race-craft planning on the day.

There was a stealth photographer lurking somewhere in the woods in Stage one or two, not entirely sure which as I didn’t spot them, fab pics though.  Nice to see a photographer the other side of the lens for a change too.  Thanks RSR for supplying these each year in return for donations to raise funds for the fantastic Weston Park Cancer Charity – you too can make a donation at: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr18

Somewhere around here, a fellow runner was asking how hard the uphill section really was compared to say the Graves park uphill bit.  She wasn’t that familiar with the route, despite being a Sheffield local, and was wandering whether to save herself or just go flat out as much as she could from early on. Tricky one. The uphill to Ringinglow is most definitely the hardest part, steep and tree rooty. The problem is, that then there are other parts which turn out also to be the hardest part later on – Graves park and Brincliffe Edge spring to mind, though spookily they are then immediately erased from it post race, so you forget how hard it all is and naively put yourself forward for it all over again the following year.  More than one female friend has compared the RSR experience to childbirth, by which I presume they mean agony at the time with a lot of pushing through to get the job down, rather than actually going home with an addition to the family.  Also, and I am just getting here, rather less cards on the mantle piece and bouquets of flowers subsequently.  On the other hand, after the RSR there is beer and bling, so it’s really swings and roundabouts.  Anyways, always good to make a new friend along the way.  Happy running new best friend!  Somewhat excruciating photo of me but hey ho, good to be snapped with a chit chat buddy along the way.

RSR new best friends

I love the social atmosphere of this event, it’s all pretty conversational at my level, and the camera never lies, lots of buddied up runners were out in force:

It was in this section that cheery marshal/ Hallam RD was in situ to dib us out and cheer us on.  I do like to see a known marshal, it’s very encouraging.  What’s more, somewhere around Quiet Lane there there was even our very own rock’n’roll Smiley.  She wasn’t doing the RSR as still recovering from the Liverpool Rock’n’Roll marathon from a few weeks back, but had planned her morning run to take in the atmosphere of the RSR. It was sooooooooooooooooo exciting to see her.  We exchanged sweaty hugs and went on our respective ways in opposite directions with shouted promises to meet again at the festival hub later on. Hurrah!

BA quiet lane crossing

Stage 2   :  2.5km Porter Valley Ascent

Up from the Forge Dam Cafe this stage leads us up the porter valley and away from town towards the Peak. The gradual ascent becomes slightly more aggressive half way up leading up. This is possibly the toughest part of the course, a good one to get under the belt early on.

 Liason between 2-3

The “Recovery” Stage along fulwood road sticking to the trail on the left past the Alpaca farm to ringinglow road, this stage is nice and flat and will allow for nice recovery after the endeavours of the previous two

Imaginatively, stage one, is followed by stage two.  They don’t miss a trick at the RSR!  For the competitively minded, this also incorporates the King / Queen of the Hill section, so a fair few would have put a sprint on up here.  Not me though. It’s been very dry, so no mud, though there were a few tree roots and scrabbly bits towards the top. I like this part of the route, is very familiar, but it must come as a shock to those who aren’t used to running it, it’s pretty darned steep.  This section is often referred to as ‘the hardest’ part of the course.  It is, whilst you are doing it, then you get to other ‘hardest’ sections and your perspective shifts. It is however picturesque, and there is much wildlife to enjoy.  Or more accurately, much wildlife to enjoy you, you could here the insects chomping down on flesh all around – I was spared to some extent by wearing full length leggings (on a serious note I like to protect my milky limbs from tics, nettles and bites alike) and also by having doused myself in jungle insect repellent, which is probably carcinogenic, but long term death wish aside, it’s use did spare me to some extent in the short term from the biting insect plague that surrounded us.

I can’t lie, I may have walked a bit here.  More than a bit, but I did also get some welcome encouragement as I did so.  A fellow parkrunner from Hallam stormed past ‘you’ve done London you can do this‘ he called out – I was both chuffed and touched.  And yes I did and yes I can.   Thanks for the support cardiac parkrunner super hero , appreciated 🙂

MH cardiac runner hero

It’s easy (for me) to feel defeated before I’ve even really started when running, I’m not a natural (in case you hadn’t already worked that out for yourself), but I can still crack on and participate in my own way.  At least I always get my monies worth at events in terms of time spent on course, practically mates rates costings the length of time I’m out and about.  Encouraged I put on a bit of a spurt, until the thundering of feet behind me led me to dive into the bushes and let a load of other runners come past.  I didn’t mind, I wasn’t going for a time, and so I do try to give way when I can, also it’s an excuse for a pause, and you can marvel at the speedos (not the shorts, the fast runners) as they effortlessly pass by.

It is steep that hill though.  I mentioned to a runner behind me who was similarly lamenting the gradient that it’d be a whole lot easier if someone would just give you a good old shove from behind.  Astonishingly, she obliged.  Now, I’m aware that retrospectively that might sound a bit weird, maybe even a little too intimate, but in the moment it was actually fabulous, and what’s more, it even works. It is way easier to get up hill if someone is pushing you.  If I’d bothered to notice who she was a bit more I’d have booked her again for next year. She did rather sprint off ahead though, once we got to the top, so unlikely as it might seem, it seems possible she isn’t holding out for a repeat booking.  Oh well, I still got the benefit this year.

At the top of the hill, you get the first of the two feed stations, groaning under the weight of jelly babies and water, staffed by happy looking marshals.  I reached over to get a bottle and managed to pretty much topple the entire table’s worth as they tumbled like dominoes.  My ineptitude was noted, but laughed off and forgiven, phew. Imagine the shame of being disqualified for messing with the water.  Still, it can happen to the best of us.  Me and Mo, indistinguishable in this respect, losing our bottles inexplicably.

mo bottle

This is the first major social stop though, you see loads of people you know as there was 12 minutes recovery before heading off down the limb, so plenty of time to chit chat to new arrivals or wave off those marching on to section three.  I found I met up with a Smiley buddy I’d bonded with first last year, at this very event I think, when I demanded to see inside her TNT top for sizing purposes.  Or it might have been at the TenTenTen, doesn’t matter, point is, we were able to have a catch up and companionable walk and talk to the start of Stage 3, where she left me for dust, obviously.   We have bonded through my short-lived foray into cross country running, I shudder at the memory, but hey ho, more new running buddies, and you can never have too many of them can you?  Like running shoes, always room for another pair, all have their own unique qualities, and idiosyncrasies, and you lay down running memories together for better or worse!  He she is, on the way to catch me up  – not that hard for her it seems…

RSR right behind me

However, I was then joined by Smiley selfie queen ensuring suitable photo ops at the top of Limb valley before our speeding descent.

Stage 3   :  2.5km Limb Valley Descent

Wide open grassy trail, leading into windy, flowing singletrack down through the Limb Valley, a real nice downhill section that everyone is bound to enjoy. Our personal favourite.

Liason between 3-4

A short walk / jog across the main road and down onto the playing fields to the start of the trailhead. 

Sadly I missed these tooled up smiley supporters at the Norfolk Arms area, but I’m confident they were there and doing sterling work!  Thanks guys!

CH aw missed this

There were a few people sat in chairs at the Ringinglow turn though, clapping us as we trudged past. They were most cheery, though to be fair they must have thought we were the least motivated and slackest runners ever, what kind of a race is it where everybody walks?  I wonder if anyone paused to tell them it was an official recovery stage.  Not that it really mattered, they seemed to be enjoying the sense of occasion, and smiled back as we greeted them on passing.

Time for a pair shot, courtesy of a multi-tasking marshal:

CS top of limb valley

and we headed off down together. She is a faster runner than me, but even I can enjoy a bit of a romp downhill.  We espied a photographer and it was our big moment, I say ‘our’ but actually, I was beaten at my own game.  No wonder Smiley Selfie Queen can run faster than me if she basically hover glides round the whole course on a wave of air like pyroclastic flow!  That’s my ‘it should have been me’ face.  I’ll own it.

limb valley descent jump

There were loads of other epic running down the valley shots – and not a stampeding cow in sight!  Thanks Mark Havenhand, the pictures make me happy, as does running down hill.  Go Monday Mobsters!  Go small park BIG RUN.

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We didn’t fall out over her high jinks, but she just out paced me and sped off, once we got to the style at the bottom of the descent.  Another photographer was handily positioned there and got some great atmospheric shots (thanks Steve Frith) I particularly like the black and white portraits, but there are some crackers in this set, including a few levitaters and jumpers.  One woman was clearly expecting the doggy dash, not sure that was quite within the rules…

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I loped onward, down through the woods.  I love this bit.  It was strange to think that last time I ran this path it was treacherous because of inches thick ice and snow. That doesn’t seem possible now!

Some shouted out as they raced by.  I wasn’t going that fast they couldn’t, only fast for me, which is different, everything is relative you know.  A few asked after Geronimo, I was slightly regretting not bringing her, she’d have enjoyed it, and would definitely have been first giraffe home this year.  If I get in for 2019  I think I’d like to run with a companion animal again, they are a reassuring presence, might see if I can even blag it as an emotional support animal and have one with me at all times, after all, they also cover a multitude on the tummy front, and sides also.  So we’ll see.  It’s nice that people cared though.  I kept forgetting I had my name on my shirt still, so some who greeted me by name I maybe really didn’t know,  hard to tell, they whizz by in such a blur, I can but dream of covering the ground so fast …

Down until spat out around Whirlow, a bit of concentration was required for the road crossing and onto stage four.

Stage 4   :  1.8km Ecclesall Woods

Having crossed Eccleshall road south on the liason between stages, we are into Eccleshall woods, a favourite with locals. The first section stretches through pine, skipping between roots and pine needles, then up onto the main trail and down through to Abbeydale Road.

Liason between 4-5

Along the road past Dore Station and the a left up over the railway and up to the next trailhead, up the stairs to the start of the next stage. We were kind enough not to make the stairs part of the timed section. 

There was a ‘regular’ marshal here, in  his usual spot, apart from one year when he missed it for some unspecified reason. It was a good one, with nice views, handy bench, before you turn into the cool calm of Ecclesall Woods.  I had a few speedy runners tear by me here.  They are fearless, I’m still cautious with all the tree roots, but they seem to be able to pick their way through like mountain goats.  Maybe not mountain goats, they do more hillsides don’t they, wood sprites then, yep, they sprinted through like wood sprites, they’d have given Puck girdling the world a run for his money, and he can put a girdle round the world in forty minutes.  Really, he can!  I think Puck might be more into OCR events though, he’s on record as being especially scathing about road runners I understand…

In the second part of the woods – the bit before you emerge onto Abbeydale Road and Dore Station, I spotted a doubled up runner ahead.  At first I thought she’d maybe got a stitch, but she’d fallen and was holding a pad against her bloodied knee to try and stem the flow a bit from what looked like quite a nasty gash.  I stopped and offered help, but as I had no first aid kit, and no medical insight, all I could really offer was companionship and helpful phrases such as ‘oh no, it must be awful for you’.  Other runners also stopped, until there was a little huddle, one of whom actually had some plasters.  I offered to stay but was assured there was no need, so I went ahead to let the marshals know.

The next marshal was an ally!

DW happy marshal

Hurrah!  Not running himself due to injury, he was nevertheless offering cheerful support and, on request, access to a stash of water.  I wasn’t too bad, but didn’t want to let the opportunity to rehydrate a bit pass me by knowing the killer steps that were just ahead.  I mentioned about the injured runner, but he didn’t have a first aid kit either. She emerged whilst I was chit chatting, no idea if she continued or not, I’m guessing not, but then again, these trail runners, they are a hardy breed.

So spat out the woods and on past Dore station, phew, it was hot now…

DW road trudge

and the next challenge was The Steps.

CS those steps

This is also ‘the hardest’ section of the RSR, even though they are no longer part of the actual run, they are brutal.  Even when they end and the next stage starts the incline is more than just ‘undulating’ and the paths narrow.  So we were into Stage five.

Stage 5   :  2.5km Beauchief Golf Course

Undulating Single track up and over lady woods, until Beauchief golf course can be seen on the left, the track then hugs the course through the woods popping out onto the road down to the beautiful Beauchief abbey, back into the woods continuing on next to the GC eventually coming out onto the road.

 Liason between 5-6

A short walk across the main road and up the pavement and down into the next set of woods.

I love this stretch if I’m running alone, but it is quite challenging within the context of the RSR.  To be fair, many walk sections of this, it’s deceptive as the uphill goes on and on, but of course some do want to speed by and the narrowness of the path, and steepness of the hill makes it hard to move out of the way.  It was all good natured though.  I jumped off the track where I could, and put a wiggle on in other areas to avoid slowing up others too much.  Came across some woodrunners, and I told them how useless I’d felt when trying to help the fallen runner earlier. They ventured that they’d got a foil blanket which would have been of almost as much practical support as my offer of companionship – though I did point out they might have fashioned it into a cloak so they’d take at least the look of superheroes saving the day.  How we laughed.  …

a bit later I came across them, tending to one of their number who’d got something in his eye I think ‘what not using the foil blanket‘ I quipped as I sprinted shuffled on by.  In my defence, I still have a dodgy knee, so I’m supposed to be extra careful going up hill.  I meant to get that excuse in earlier to be fair, still, better late than never!  Soon enough she leapfrogged me again (not literally, I mean overtook me) and couldn’t see the injured party anymore. Presume the group cut their losses and left him for dead. It happens, it’s the way of the trails….

… not really though – in fact, post the event there were quite a few appreciative posts on Facebook from runners who’d fallen along the way, but been helped up and on by other participants who’d stopped to offer assistance.  The ethos of the event definitely encourages that, though I think it helps that Sheffielders are, on the whole, pathologically friendly anyway, or at the very least inquisitive enough to stop and find out what’s going on.  Plus maybe parkrun has helped build a sense of a supportive running community as well.  This will henceforth be known as a ‘Lucy fact’ that is, something I believe to be true, but am completely unable to evidence.  I daresay I hold a fair few delusions thoughts as a consequence, you just have to hope and trust that for the most part they are benign…

Some clearly whizzed through the road with the golf course on either side:

DW storming through golf course

The scattered trio?  Snapped together again later, so all good, well good-ish, looks like a bit of navigational negotiation is going on here, or at the very least something’s been spotted hiding in the woods.  We may never know 🙂

RSR caption contest

Time for some more official photos that pleased me.  Check out the woman who has totally nailed the ‘seen the photographer look’ one to beat surely?   I’m liking the pairs action shot too though.  The high-fiving smiley; the jolly orange team mates and, in the interests of random questions, did anyone else spot the Byzantine Pottery Club contingent?  Got to be a story behind those runners in red… or maybe they just really like Byzantine Pottery and associating with like minded people.  Much like members of Chorlton runners like chortling and running I suppose. That makes sense…

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Stage 6   :  0.9km Chancet Woods

A cheeky fast short section of flowing undulating singletrack.

Liason between 6-7

Across the busy A61 and along the pavement up to the entrance to Graves park. The stage starts a little further in.

Yep, did that, nothing to report, crossing the road was a bit of a mare.  I had fell-flying Smiley join me on the walk section.  She was all smiles and storming it in a mixed pair too.  We were able to compare notes about who we’d seen where on the course, to get a steer on who else would be coming up behind me anytime soon.

Stage 7   :  1.4km Graves Park

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

Liason between 7-8

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

Maybe it’s because I’m always tiring by the time I reach this section, but I think this is also the hardest part. It just goes on and on, deceptively tough.  There are a few bystanders to gaze at you in bemusement, or proactively cheer you on, depending largely on the luck of the draw.  You know what, it’s well worth clicking on the thumbnail pictures on the description of the stages section of the website, you can see the elevation there, it’s brutal!  No wonder it’s hard going.

You bypass the back of the Rose Garden Cafe and exit the park at the bottom, then there’s another walkie talkie bit, before you end up at the second feed station, which was heaving.  Well maybe not when this photo was taken, those resplendent in their red numbers were the elite wave, by the time I rocked round it was ten deep at the water station – but good natured bustling rather than elbowing each other out the way vibe.  This was no open water swim at a triathlon, room for basic courtesy.

DW feed station

Just before we got to it, there was a woman standing by some recycling bins near to the pub car park in the shade of a tree. She had a few bottles of water and was clapping everyone with enthusiasm ‘hats off to you, don’t know how you can manage this in all this heat’ she was saying, apparently genuinely impressed.  Again, this was a walking session, but her enthusiasm was appreciated by me at least and others too I’m sure.  I wonder if over time this will become an event more people come out and support.  I mean it’s a trail race, so you’ll never get absolutely loads, but it did seem to me that there were far more spectators in the public areas (Graves, Meersbrook, Ringinglow village) than in previous years.  Who knows, it might yet become a thing, like the Sheffield half even, now that would be a.maz.ing!

It was like being at a party, with everyone jostling for the buffet in a good humoured way.  Jelly babies were piled high, the good gym team had a big banner up as they were staffing it.  There were also some novel proteiny snack pyramidy things.  Trek chunks I think?  Vegan and gluten free, and with 12 g of protein, which is a lot isn’t it.  In the interests of being able to accurately report back, I tried both types.   The chocolate and peanut one, which I thought vile  not to my taste, – though others reported preferring them, and some toffee and something ones which I really liked.  I do wish there were savoury options too though, that seems to me a gap in the protein/ energy bar market.  I saw smilies, Monday mobsters in their team sloth incarnation – always a treat, it was grand.  I’ve stalked you to get this shot people, is that weird?  Is it very wrong?  Any objection to its inclusion let me know.

team sloth

Any amongst the assembled scrum of runners with a penchant for squeam-inducing reality TV shows focused on blood and gore from gruesome accidents or DIY surgery say, were in for a treat!  This seemed to be an impromptu gathering point for people with bloody gashes, and there were some pretty impressive ragged-edge gouges being sported, and in one or too particularly spectacular cases prodigious amounts of blood.  Maybe I just got lucky but I was witness to more seeping, or even gushing wounds than I anticipated.  Astonishingly, nobody seemed to be complaining (though some were most definitely limping), injuries were more being worn as badges of honour – all smiles at the finish by the walking wounded – maybe they were just mightily relieved to have made it.  The nipple chafing sights were more evident on the finish line.  That’s got to hurt hasn’t it, imagine the screams of pain issuing out of the shower once the water gets turned on with them.  I’ve spared the blushes of those who didn’t adequately lube up pre race here, and resisted the temptation to include pictures of them without consent, they know who they are, crossing the line looking like they’ve survived being shot in the chest, not once but twice.  Not just hardcore, but apparently immortal… or maybe just mean with the sticking plasters/body glide purchases pre run.

But honestly, I’ve not seen so many skinned knees, grazed elbows and bloodied clothes since I was at junior school and the marbling craze coincided with the skateboarding one.  I think there were three concussions in one week before both were banned.  This was back in the seventies, and I don’t think my school was progressive enough to imagine that one day skateboarding would become an Olympic sport.  No really, it is, from 2020 according to the Skateboarding wikipedia entry.  I really hope marbling also becomes an Olympic sport one day, I don’t see why not, bowling is under consideration.  I’d like to see conkers feature too, but I recognise there are both seasonal considerations with that one, plus conkers is incredibly open to cheating.  I had fine conkers of mine taken out but others that I swear had been hardened by being dried in an oven or soaked in vinegar.  It would be a minefield to referee.  Still, point is, many gashes on show, if that’s your thing, I can’t absolutely guarantee you’ll be witness to this, but I’d say there’s a reasonably high probability you will.

After this feed station, you are nearly home really, though unfortunately the last bit of the run – with one notable exception as you whoop your way down Meersbrook park – isn’t my most favourite.

Stage 8   :  1.3km Lees Hall Golf Course

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

Liaison between 8-9

Along the road in a straight line for about 500m, past the row of shops joining the main road and up to Meersbrook park entrance.

Stage 8 is a downhill stretch, but couple of issues with it.  Every single year, I’ve downed a whole bottle of water immediately before tackling it, so it sort of sloshes around and ends in if not quite the exact sensation of water boarding then most definitely hiccups. Also, there’s a lot of rubbish on this route, which is depressing.  This is also the stretch where bladder control fails runners, so you are treated to the sight of sheepish looking fellow participants going through the charade of trying not to be seen as they dive in and out the undergrowth in desperate search of a hidden spot in which to releive themselves.  Spoiler alert dear reader, there are no such spots, however, running etiquette demands that we all pretend not to notice, so that’s OK then.

Maybe it’s because people are tiring now, but I also seem to always see runners take a tumble here, I think the surface is not as reliable as it seems, it’s quite scree like when dry, not conducive to running headlong down in my view, though many do.

Some aren’t afraid to charge down through the undergrowth though, go them!

DW downwards

Not to worry, it is followed by…. drum roll… stage nine!

Stage 9   :  0.8km Meersbrook Park

This stage is extremely fast, bearing left along the paved path and hooking right down to the far corner of the park. One for the short distance specialists. Do take care, and don’t go too fast!

Liason between 9-10

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

Because Stage nine is Meersbrook park, past Bishops House

and into the park proper – which is where you get the now iconic views of Sheffield, they really are breath taking.  No wonder people were leaping for joy as the city skyline came into glorious view!

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You also get to run down hill, which is fun, and if you are a Smiley, you get to see and potentially hug at least one Smiley and often more, as this is a favourite picnicking and spectating spot.  I was bit puzzled as to why this particular smiley wasn’t running herself but it turns out it was her turn for childcare duty whilst her partner was running.  Inexplicably, you apparently aren’t allowed to put your children voluntarily into temporary care to enable you to participate in the RSR,  Like the situation with the cows in Limb valley this makes no sense to me, but fair enough, I’ll accept it as true.  On the plus side, it was nice to get some Smiley support.

There is  a drone video taken during the event from above Meersbrook, that’s fun.  Everyone gets to hurtle headlong downhill it’s weird to think only last weekend I was endlessly trudging up this very same hill for small park BIG RUN, don’t mind admitting coming down it is a lot more fun. Really, a LOT.

At the base of the hill was a glamorous looking photographer resplendent in floaty clothes, over-sized shades and a fabulous floppy hat.  Consequently, I completely failed to register her as a Smiley at the time – well she was practically in disguise.  Others were quicker off the mark, and she got some great coming down that hill shots.  Hurrah!

See nay sayers.  Running is super fun!  You just have to pick your trails and races carefully.

This section is all over a bit too soon, and is followed by, can you guess?  Stage ten.  Are you spotting the pattern yet?  Bravo!

Stage 10 :  2.2km Brincliffe Edge

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

Liason 10-11

A nice gentle trot down the hill to Hunters bar roundabout and the entrance to Endcliffe Park saving those legs for the final push knowing the end is in sight.

This section is also the hardest section.  I am not a fan.  Every year I forget just how joyless the urban trudge section is, I swear I blank it from my mind –  plus more uphill, savage up hill that makes you taste blood in your mouth as your lungs explode with the effort of dragging your carcass in defiance of gravity.  Worse still, as I moved house a few months back, the route now takes me past the end of my actual road, the temptation to nip home for a lie down is pretty strong, but my house keys were in my bag at the RSR bag drop, so I was going to have to retrieve them from Endcliffe park anyway, might as well run on.

One improvement for this year though, was prefacing the section  – which shall henceforth be known as the vile section – with a friendly familiar marshal and Sheffield Hallam parkrun stalwart who was conveniently positioned adjacent to a handy mirror, so you could check your look,  and smooth – or coquettishly ruffle – your hair, depending on your preferences and density of mane, before approaching the finish.  She was also game for restorative hugs, which, trust me, are much needed at this stage. Plus, it was mighty hot.  Phew what a scorcher some would say.  Lucky I have endured worse at London – did I mention that I ran that in record breaking heat this year yet?  Oh I did, just checking…

FM marshall spot mirror check

The liaison section before Stage 11 turned out to be unexpectedly jolly though, as I buddied up with another smiley for the walk down to Hunter’s Bar, and then finally back in to Endcliffe park, for the concluding stage.

Stage 11 :  0.4km Endcliffe Park Finish

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

Tradition requires a sprint finish here.  Top tip though people if you are that rare breed who hasn’t done this event before and is thinking of doing it for the first time in some future year, you can’t be seen by the crowd until after you’ve passed the hedge line.  Unless you are going for the fastest sprint prize (I wasn’t) you might as well pootle that first last bit, and then only once you round the hedge and are in view of the finish funnel and adoring crowds, put on your sprint.   No-one will be any the wiser. Well, I say that, but this year I did get ever so slightly rumbled by Swiss Smiley who is over for the summer and was positioned next to the children’s playground so could espy me sneaking in.  No worries, I’m sure she won’t judge, rather she enthusiastically high fived me, so that was good, and I ran in. The finish stretch is quite a sight.

DW and so it ends

Inevitably, practically every smiley in the world had finished before me, but on the plus side they were lining the finish with beer glasses in hand, quaffing and cheering, so you do get a sense of achievement coming to the finish as fellow club runners cheer, and other randoms do also, just because.  I mean do, I always cheer other runners coming in, whether I know them or not.  I’m programmed to do so, partly I think it’s an inherent genetic trait, and partly because it’s been brought to life and honed by many a Sunday at Graves junior parkrun, which is the most joyful thing in the world ever.  Fact.  No inhibitions about whooping or cheering or high-fiving there!

The atmosphere at the finish is great, the support as you come through, the pop-up festival going on in Endcliffe park, and the broad smiles and air punching of runners as they complete their sprint finishes flushed with endorphins, what’s not to like?