running

Having a right royal time leaping* round Queen Elizabeth parkrun

Digested read: long story short, parkrun tourism took me to Queen Elizabeth parkrun in pursuit of my Q.  Sub-optimum running conditions, but superb muddy fun and friendly too.  Nearly didn’t happen, but then it did!  Hurrah!

Undigested read:

For the short story made long, read onwards, but it’s not compulsory – or you could just idly scroll down to have a look at the photos in between eating crisps on the sofa wearing a walrus onesie**.  You choose…

I will say this though, had a filthy good time.  Mud, mud, glorious mud, what’s not to like?  Nothing quite like it indeed!

I’m half heartedly pursuing my alphabet challenge.  For a long time it seemed pretty unattainable, but now I’m down to just the last few, and finding myself down south again this weekend, it didn’t seem too much of a stretch to add on another hours driving, oh, and an overnight stay in a Premier Inn and get my weary carcass round Queen Elizabeth parkrun.  I was a bit nervous booking ahead, as the recent stormy weathers has led to many down south cancellations, but then when I looked at the Queen Elizabeth parkrun Facebook page I saw this event:

Leap Day Event – Fancy dress optional

leap parkrun

Where they helpfully explain:

This year is a leap year and February 29, 2020 falls on a Saturday, parkrun day !! The next time this will happen will not be until the year 2043, so the QE core team thought we would make this February 29, a special occasion and have a fancy dress event

So you could dress up as a frog, wear only green clothing, run in your frog wellington boots or an outfit that represents one of the many sporting events also happening this year the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Euro 2020 Football tournament, or the ICC World T20 Cricket tournament.

So two things, fancy dress – albeit they say it’s not compulsory, and if they are having a special event, then I’m guessing they’ll do everything they can to make sure it goes ahead.  I mean, you can postpone a parkrun birthday run, or even an inaugural, heartbreaking as that would be, but you can’t arrange for another 29th February to come around again on a Saturday for way more years than I can count.

In case it’s escaped you’ve not done the number crunching yourself, just to be clear, leap years happen every four years. I’m actually going to credit you with already knowing that. However, did you know the last leap day (i.e. 29th February) fell on monday 29 February 2016? A monday! I ask you, what good is that to a parkrunner? We are only interested in dates that fall on a Saturday parkrunday. This year (hurrah) it does. This means there is a total of 5 parkruns in February for the first time in parkrun history. (Wowsers). The last time 29th February fell on a Saturday was in 1992 – pre parkrun. I know, hard to imagine there was ever a world without it yet ’tis true! No-one in history has ever run a parkrun on leap day, so if you were part of the parkrun army that did so on the 29th February this year, you are a trailblazer in parkrun history. My doesn’t that feel good!

What’s more there won’t be another chance to run parkrun on leap year day until 2048! That’s ages and ages away, a literal lifetime for some, and if I’m still going then I’ll be hopping round in my frog outfit at the ripe old age of 83, and as I don’t really want to live that long because apart from anything else I’ll be in utter penury due to lack of adequate pension provision, that means for me, this is to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, because never before has the leap day falling on parkrun day. HOW EXCITING!  My, I’d better make it a good one.  Capturing a Q on a themed parkrun event would be just the job! That AND fancy dress all round, the intoxicating cocktail of excitement generated by these two opportunities appearing simultaneously was a seductive possibility.  Indeed, together they were the clincher, I’d be hopping off down to there then.  Hurrah!

Alas dear reader, when I came to check the forecasts a few days before it boded badly.  Gusts of 47mph and I know that the Queen Elizabeth Country Park close if the winds pick up above about 35 mph.  A Sheffield friend of mine – Smiley Selfie Queen – got caught out by just that when she was down there on 15th February. I naively thought it would be pretty unlucky/ unlikely to get such inclement weather again, hence had confidently booked and pre-paid for my hotel in advance.  Thus, I’d be there anyway, Q parkrun or no Q parkrun.  Undeterred, I went in search of a back up plan.

The handy ‘nearby parkruns’ information on the Queen Elizabeth parkrun home page gave me an idea of which were in reach, and then I used their historic results listings to see if they’d had to cancel a fortnight ago as I figured that would be a reasonable indication of whether or not they’d be vulnerable to inclement weather again.  It was with a bit of a heavy heart I scrolled through the options, until dear reader, I lighted on Lee on the Solent parkrun.  Not only was it looking like a goer, with a running club takeover but they were have a 250th number event; they have a super hero fancy dress theme. I sort of assumed in the circumstances if I should find myself a refugee from QE’s frog-themed event then Lee on the Solent parkrun would most likely be both accommodating and understanding. Besides, I could probably blag it that there is a frog superhero out there somewhere.  There must be, or am I thinking of ninja turtles?  Anyway, sounded good.

STOP PRESS – O.M.G. there is a frog superhero apparently!  Admittedly one I’d never heard of, though I suppose it is just conceivable I am not that particular superheroes target audience.  Anyways, googlesearch told me that:

Frog-Man is a well-meaning but often bungling superhero in the Marvel Universe and is the son of the villain Leap-Frog***.

Origin
Eugene Patilio was the son of the supervillain Leap-Frog, who had since reformed and retired. Eugene, deciding to clean up the family name decided to use his father’s old superhero suit to fight crime as Frog-Man

ok, maybe not a superhero to set hearts a-beating, but that’s 100% close enough for me.  Things are looking up!  I can totally blag this and will be a natural with my somewhat rotund form being an asset in the role!  This was meant to be!  I knew my frog costume would turn out to be endlessly versatile and become a wardrobe classic.  Result!

Even better, when I posted sheepishly on the Lee on the Solent parkrun Facebook page asking if they expected to be on, I got an almost telepathically instantaneous reply.  Yep, weather was even worse last week according to forecast and they cracked on.  Plus, there might even be cake!  Maybe the quest for a Q is over-rated, this wasn’t going to be second best at all.  What’s more, judging by the very fine profile picture (thanks to Paul Thompson) it looks like the sun always shines there anyway, or your money back, guaranteed.  Excellent.

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There’s even a cool aerial video of the parkrun back in 2016 – sun was shining then too.  Brilliant!  Super excited now.  Might even make this the A- plan!

Wouldn’t be a Q though…. oh the tyranny of too much choice eh?

I decided to throw my parkrun destination into the hands of fate.  I mean in an uncharacteristic burst of forward planning I had booked the hotel nearest to the Queen Elizabeth parkrun on a non-transferable basis (aargh), so that would remain my first choice, but if it were to be cancelled Lee on the Solent parkrun was sounded like a fab option too.  Maybe one to come back for…

Oh, I was staying at the Premier Inn Horndean if you are interested.  Actually, that’s not strictly true, there is a farm that looks fab if you are camping or camper vanning Upper Parsonage Farm might be worth checking out.  I liked the look of the shepherds hut – Linda Snell would be impressed I’m sure – but you needed to bring your own linen, and that’s too much faff for me as I’m heading on elsewhere afterwards.  Still, you might like it.  Have a looksie.

So, the night before the parkrun after, I had two options to weigh up in between paranoically refreshing the weather forecast.  Lover-Lee-on-the-Solent parkrun or Queen Elizabeth.  No wrong decision, but I was twitchy.  This was the forecast dear reader:

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I was fully prepared to activate my back up plan, but then again, all this way to get a Q, would be a shame if it didn’t come to pass.

I filled my idle, angsty hours with a bit of research about the Q course.  And according to the official website blah de blah the Queen Elizabeth parkrun course is described thus:

The course is in Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean. …

The course is undulating and is run on a mix of compacted gravel paths, grass and forest trails. The course consists of two loops. From the start (green pin), head up a short incline on the gravel path. After approximately 200m take a right turn onto a grassy downhill section. This is quite steep at the bottom so caution is advised. At the bottom of the hill take a right turn and follow the perimeter trail back to the start at approximately 2km. This completes the first loop.
The second loop ascends the initial incline up the gravel path. This time instead of taking the right turn from loop one. Continue on the gravel path for approximately 1km. At the crossroad adjacent to Holt Pond take a right turn onto a downhill trail. At the bottom of the hill turn right on to the perimeter path. This will join the end section of loop one and take you back to the finish funnel (red pin).

Oooh, it’s in a country park!  Queen Elizabeth Country Park to be precise.  That sounds grand, not only worth visiting for an elusive Q then.  Also, and I’m hoping that unlike at Bradford parkrun this won’t be delivering false hope, the information on facilities declares that ‘Toilets are open from 8am‘.  I’m properly excited now.  You have to pay for parking though, which I don’t begrudge at all, but can’t see how much it is or how you pay. I’ll worry about that when I get there.  Actually, no I won’t I’ll look now.  … ok, bit of googling later, looks like you pay on exit, and you can use a card or cash, but if you use cash you won’t get change.  Fair dos.  Good to know.  Venue looks amazing.  This is going to be grand.

The course looks like this:

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Ooh, lap two looks a lot bigger than lap one.  Nice though, not too much repetition.  This is going to be fab – if it happens.  Oh no, it might not happen, weather forecast is properly shite!  Oh well.  Que sera…

and then parkrun day finally dawned…

I woke early, and stared out of the window.  It didn’t look too windy.  I’m the last person in the world with no smartphone and I was a bit twitchy about what to do, as at some point I’d have to tear myself away from the weak but just about detectable wi-fi of the hotel, and from thereon-in I’d be on my own.  No updates.  Like those disaster movies where the central characters have to establish early on why they don’t just get their mobile phones out for help, information or a google map to guide them on their way.  I’d have to survive on nothing but my wits and my parkrun locating instincts.   My only hope was that I’d have left a paper bag in the car somewhere so I’d have something to breathe into in case of emergencies…

Lee on the Solent parkrun was much further away, so I’d need to get a wiggle on to get there, but Queen Elizabeth parkrun had promised to post either way as early as possible.  In the end, I decided to go straight there, but early, as it would be obvious if the park was closed and I could just turn around and head back to Lee on the Solent.  OK, a plan.

I checked out of the hotel, where the receptionist took my key pass off me without passing comment about my green tutu.  She’s probably learned from years of experience that sometimes it’s best just not to enquire.  In the car I peered through the windscreen to establish current weather conditions.  My windscreen is almost as good at identifying current weather conditions as the met office or seaweed hung in a porch, I was thinking it was going to be wet…

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Fortunately I had windscreen wipers, albeit slightly squeaky ones.

I got to the park after an angsty satnav journey which appeared to take me to a random stretch of dual carriageway.  Eventually, big brown signs headed me towards the country park.  You arrive and go through barriers, which make you wait like a conscientious but slightly bored dog humouring his or her deluded owner.  You know, the ones who will insist on doing random and pointless obedience training drills with a less than enthusiastic hound, as some sort mindless power game,  in this case ‘sit’ and ‘wait’.  I didn’t even get a treat for doing so.  Not so much as a veggie jelly bean, or even an actual bean, I’d have settled for that, breakfastless as I was.  I learned later, that this is because big brother photographs your number plate as you go in, but takes a little while to do so.  Presumably because he is lining up the perfect composition, or getting your number plates best side, i.e. the one which has the numbers on – so when you exit the car park paying and entering your number plate in the magic machine, it knows who you are and how long you’ve been a-lingering.   Clever, but ever so slightly unnerving too.

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Now I’ve been, it was fairly obvious where to go – past the visitors centre, and to the next car park along, the gravel one.  But I am of an easily confused disposition, so therefore got confused.  I sort of assumed the barriers wouldn’t have let me in if the country park was shut, but it was very, very quiet.  Well, I suppose I was extra early too.  I finally spotted some people walking and asked them hopefully if they knew anything about parkrun. They had no idea.  Seemingly, they were there to lay tracks for a film crew.  Oooh, how exciting, maybe I’d get to be an extra, I expect they are in need of a super-sized frog wearing a tutu in at least one of the background shots!  No?  Oh well, worth a try, anyway I’d rather do parkrun…

Then a bit further along, I espied a familiar assortment of parkrun related paraphernalia and signs being heave hoed along by a high vis hero.  I paused to check with the person in charge of this bounty and learned, yes, parkrun was indeed on!  Better yet, I was in the right place!  Hurrah!  There was the little matter of being about an hour early but I hate being late, this way I’d be able to fit in a precautionary pee for sure, probably several, shame I’d not had any breakfast.  Premier Inn is fine, but super basic.  I did have a coffee in my room, but hadn’t thought to bring so much as a banana with me for pre-parkrun sustenance.  Fortunately, I had coincidentally brought along with me a quite extensive layer of subcutaneous fat, so that was both my carb reserves and my heat generation systems sorted.  Excellent!

By the time I’d parked, some helpful signs were already up.  The venue is gorgeous too.  Mature trees, huge ones, everywhere.  And lots of mud.  I like mud!  I’m a slow runner anyway so I’m not going for speed, I’m just in search of a micro-adventure, mud ticks that box gloriously, and the fact it provides an excuse for a slow and steady romp round is but a welcome bonus.  Weirdly, others don’t feel quite the same, this I don’t understand, if you want predictable terrain, there are always treadmills, but where’s the fun in that?

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Off for my precautionary pee. It was a shortish 5 minute stroll back to the visitors centre.  There was a single, unisex disabled toilet open, so I nipped in there.  It was deserted as I approached, but as I emerged, there was a little orderly queue of other parkrunners all standing directly outside like a pop-up guard of honour.  I felt they ought to have applauded me as I exited really.  It was slightly alarming though, as I hadn’t realised they were there.  On reflection though, this was just as well, since I have a bashful bladder, and the thought of a trio of parkrun tourists – however empathetic and friendly – outside potentially listening would have entirely negated the positive provision of precautionary pee facilities.  I left them to it, hoping I didn’t have toilet paper stuck to the sole of my shoe or anything similar…

Back to the carpark.  There weren’t many people around, I was in two minds about my fancy dress, I’d not seen anyone else wearing anything green, let along amphibian themed – yet.  Then again, they did say it was fancy dress, and to be honest, I’m not really expecting my frog outfit to become a wardrobe classic, so really I just needed to brazen it out.  Not very likely to be passing this way again, and anyway, the advantage of the head attire was that I’d not be recognisable in any other context, it’ll be fine… what’s the worst…

I headed up the hill, following the signs to the start.  A little assembly of core volunteers had already gathered.  Couldn’t help noticing a distinct absence of green as I approached.

What was lacking in amphibian costumery, was compensated for by the friendliness of the welcome, as the small, but perfectly formed team greeted me.  I outed myself as being a bit thrown by the lack of others in fancy dress, but was doubly comforted.  Firstly, because the Run Director, had in fact come along with a frog companion, which was most apt, and secondly by the cheery reassurance of two self-identifying ‘grumpy old gits’ (their words, not mine, I’d have said something like ‘convivial silver foxes’, if only to be polite… one of whom said well ‘of course we wouldn’t but that’s because we are grumpy old men, I’m sure others will, well there’s always someone anyway‘.  Ah, I was wondering if by extension of that logic, that ‘always one’ might possibly be me.  No worries, ice was broken, and it was all friendly, and I was here now, and the frog outfit was staying, too late to squash it back in the jiffy bag and despatch back to the ebay seller from whence it came now. Anyway, grumpy or otherwise, I couldn’t help noticing one had a green beanie hat and the other green shoes, so they were practically embracing the theme really, just with a slightly more subtle and tastefully understated nod, that’d do!  They were probably wearing frog themed speedos underneath.  I didn’t ask, so can truthfully report they passed no comment on the matter, which we all know means they definitely were!

Time to pose for some pre-parkrun photos.  I was too embarrassed to ask the RD if the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ on her high vis was because this was our monarch doing her bit incognito but with her name discretely embroidered on the tabard to assist her personal protection officers (the cunningly disguised grumpy old men for sure) in identifying her from afar.  Or whether it was bespoke for the parkrun venue.  I think we all know though.  I wasn’t too embarrassed to ask to pose for a photo though.  Have to document those memories somehow!

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Nice frog companion she had with her.  I like to think it’s an emotional support animal she has with her at all times, and her claim this was just a children’s bath mitt she’d retrieved from the bathroom in a pre-parkrun panic in an effort to show willing re the leap-day theme was just a quick thinking tale intended to put us off the scent.

This was going to be great.  Sorry Lee on the Solent, I’m sure you had an ace morning too, and I will come back to see you one day, but for now I was really excited by the route to come.

The location is absolutely gorgeous.  Weirdly, despite the appalling forecast, the air was still, and although it was distinctly wet underfoot, it wasn’t actually raining either.  Huge trees lined the route, and someone explained the course to me.  It was going to involve running up a hill and a section that was a bit muddy because of forestry vehicles doing track work.  That’s ok, I’m used to mud.

I mentioned about not being sure if the event was on, and having spoken to the film crew support earlier.  I learned two things.  Firstly, the the park authorities are pretty good about trying to facilitate parkrun and have on occasion said ‘do it, but don’t hang around afterwards’ so they can close afterwards if necessary.  I also learned from the RD, that on at least one previous occasion, another film was being made that featured zombie roman centurions!  The parkrun was potentially in the back of shot, and so negotiations took place to ensure lycra clad puffing parkrunners, or hi-vis wearing marshals didn’t mess with their continuity.  Shame, that would have been a sight worth seeing.  A bit of gentle googling has led me to learn this was a Canadian company ‘perfect storms productions‘ back in 2012, but they are committed to historical accuracy, and were recreating the Battle of Teutoburg Forest which took place in Germany in AD9.  Not gonna lie, this does rather make me question the ‘zombie centurions’ angle, but then again, I wasn’t there, either for the 2012 filming or the Teutoburg Forest original battle, so might be true?  Also, the country park has been used for other film locations, including at least one Dr Who episode, so maybe it’s constantly populated with zombie roman centurions, and they occur more commonly in film than I had previously appreciated…  Maybe it’s like pokemons, they are everywhere, but not everyone can see them…  How else can you explain how I omitted to notice this:

pokemon

I rest my case.

I went for a little bit of an explore, up towards the start, yep, that would be an upward flat section, and to check out some of the lovely trees.

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I kept the assembly area under surveillance, in the hop that others in fancy dress might yet still appear.  It was a colourful gathering.  One person did come sporting an American footballer outfit without explanation, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to him or take his picture so we’ll never know if he was dressed in homage to the Louisiana Leapers say, or if he just always dresses like that.  Still, man of mystery, whosoever you were, your efforts were noted, and appreciated too.

Actually, **STOP PRESS** mystery solved.  I only got as far as ‘frog fancy dress’ on the official event announcement, but now I’ve read it in full I see there is a catch all  or ‘outfit that represents one of the many sporting events also happening this year the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Euro 2020 Football tournament, or the ICC World T20 Cricket tournament‘, so it seems not only was I not the only one to read the memo, there was another who actually read it in its entirety.  Whoever you are, I salute you!  Sorry we didn’t get to team up!  You are part of QE history too now.  A legend in your own time.  Though secretly, I was rather hoping it is your regular parkrun outfit of choice…

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Amongst those gathering were fellow tourists here for the Q, but giving the cue for more photo opps.

I struck up conversation with a few people asking if they were local or visitors. Most had come a-touristing.  One commented ‘oh god no!’ in response to my innocently posed question ‘so is this your local parkrun then?  Adding… ‘If this was my local parkrun I’d have to move house!’  I think this was a reflection on the terrain not the welcome by the way. I guess some love the tarmac, whilst others like the call of the wild and the giddying possibility of seeing a zombie centurion on the way round, or at least a gruffalo…  Here are some of us milling and chilling and pre-parkrun faffing:

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So after pre parkrun parkfaffing, there was a call to order and the first timers’ briefing.  There were a fair few of us.  ‘Before I start, I have to ask, why the frog?’  Oh, guess no-one else got the memo then.  ‘Erm, because it’s a leap day, and you are having a fancy dress green-themed/ frog parkrun‘ I croaked awkwardly.  ‘Oh yes, that makes total sense‘.  On to other business.  ‘Who’s here for the Q?’  Pretty much every touristing hand went up.  In fact, I don’t think there were any others present for any other reason.

It was quite a useful and comprehensive briefing.  We warned there would be ‘MUD’ lots of mud, not a pb course I think is the generic euphemism. Yeah, whatever.  Forestry vehicles had also contributed to path erosion so take care out there.  I didn’t really concentrate too much on the route description as I just follow everyone else, and as for the mud – well, I was just so relieved and delighted parkrun was ON, that wasn’t a cause for concern beyond vague registering of its existence.  All good.  Here we are, attentively listening to our hi-vis hero explaining the idiosyncrasies of the route ahead…

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Next stop, run directors briefing, she found a useful bank from which to address us.  Usual thanks and milestones and mudfest warnings.  Also, the usual chit chat from the assembled company.  It does my head in when people talk through run briefings, but it seems it’s a problem everywhere.  I’m never sure of etiquette as a visitor, is it ok to ‘shush’ others when you are only passing through.  Equally, at my home parkrun I wonder if ‘shushing’ seems officious, but really, it’s soooooooooooooo rude.  I couldn’t even give paddington stares, because my eyes were on the top of my head due to my choice of attire, just had to accept couldn’t really hear what was going on.  Got the gist, clapped when everyone else did, and hoped it wasn’t to endorse anything incompatible with my moral compass.  Always a concern…  Still, at least one person knelt in reverential homage to the RD at the front of the pack, so it wasn’t everyone being disrespectful.

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and then run briefing over, it was a mass troop up the hill to the start.

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then timers’ ready?  Yep?  Go!

And awf we went.  Or more accurately, off went everyone else, I lingered a bit to take some pictures of the start, and then just slotted in behind.

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I’m not sure what the red thing is, some sort of fungus, but it just caught my eye near the start and deserved to be immortalised, and why not.  I’ll look it up later and let you know what it is, it will be most educational!  DONE!  It’s a scarlet elf cap apparently, so that means some poor elf has been out in all that stormy weather capless.  Oh well.

I was at the back, and I was going up a hill, and I suddenly twigged that I was still wearing my coat, and my frog head gear – which would have been an asset in torrential rain – was less advantageous today, and was rather acting as somewhat OTT thermal insulation.  It was like I was running with my head in a pressure cooker.  Well, like I imagine that would be, not actually tried that, and not sure if it would be possible even with a gas operated one, you’d have to find a way of carrying a canister round with you I suppose.  Look just take the analogy with a bit of suspension of disbelief, the details aren’t important, the point I was trying to make, before you so rudely interrupted me with all these tedious questioning of the details, is simply that I was absolutely boiling, should have jettisoned the coat before.  The ground underfoot was pretty solid, but I was way too hot, and it was more uphill than expected.  A cheery marshal was on hand a bit further up, and waved us to our right,

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and down a hilariously slippery mud slide.  Brilliant.  No really it was, completely hilarious.  It was properly muddy.  Many parkrunners ahead of me ground to an almost halt, definitely walking, trying to pick their way through.  I think some may not even have had trail shoes.  I had mid-shoes inov-8 parkclaws which I love, but could have done with something much grippier.  Some tried to stick to the sides a bit.  I tried to do a bit of a zig zag to stay upright, but I’m not sure it helped.  Ahead of me was a woman who acted as a sort of early warning system, giving out little involuntary shrieks each time her feet threatened to disappear beneath her.  I didn’t witness any full on face plants or mud slides, but feel sure there must have been some.   It wasn’t just the stickiness and slippery of the mud you had to contend with, but the downward gradient, it was quite a slope!  It was great, my favourite sort of thing. I’m very slow at parkrun, so for me mud just offers enrichment rather than any further delay.  Having said that, most parkrunners around me anyway, seemed to abandon any attempt at going for a time in favour of picking a route through and so it was bonding, friendly and mutually supportive.

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One fellow parkrunner even stopped to take my photo for me mid course.  That’s a first, I thought it was just me that actually stopped to take pictures on the way round, so, this new development especially pleased me. Thank you parkrunner David Bailey much appreciated.

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and on we went, each of us negotiating the terrain in our own individual way!

At the bottom of the hill, you turn right again, and go along quite a firm chalk path – sploshing through a few standing puddles, on a long straight haul back in the direction you started from.

Pretty flat, maybe a little down hill with a slight upward hump – you actually run past what will be the finish funnel, only they don’t put it out until after everyone has finished the first lap.  The first lap is shorter, so presumably even the speediest of runners are not likely to be lapping anyone other than in pretty exceptional circumstances.  This meant you got a few extra whoops and cheers as you speed on by, or drag yourself past, depending on your average pace.  The whoops and cheers are equally loud for everyone by the way, it is only your speed that varies.  Slower participants get more time being cheered at as it takes them longer to pass by, which is a boon.

and then down to the V-turn at the end, which is basically a U-turn, only more V-shaped if you haven’t worked it out for yourself.  There is a marshal here to stop people careering off past the turning point and down the slope, and/ or to encourage people to stay upright as they turn back on themselves for the longer lap two. Well, I think that’s why the marshal was there.  It could also be that this was the best possible vantage point for people face planting in the mud, which would be completely understandable.  There should be some extra perks for marshals who are willing to give up their time to stand in the freezing cold, knee deep in mud to facilitate the parkrun for everyone else!  I did notice there were rather a lot of spectators around here, I hesitate to use the term ambulance chasers but…

So ding dong, round two!  Back up the hill, cheery marshal this time sending you straight on rather than back down the mud slide.  The field had very much thinned out by now, speedier runners well ahead, and quite a few walkers behind for whatever reason.  I was distracted by some of the scenery and signage along the way.  Replica roman villa anyone?  Add your own zombies.

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Realistically, I don’t know if I’ll make it back to this country park, I live in Sheffield, so it’s hardly on my doorstep, but I get the impression, there was loads to explore, with lots of bike trails and wildlife routes, it gave the sense of a well managed and interesting place.  Yet another thing I love about parkrun tourism, is that it has taken me to all sorts of places I’d otherwise probably never have thought to visit.

As I was heaving myself round, contemplating how hot I was, and generally gazing about, a late arrival at the parkrun ball appeared!  Well met my new friend!  He had cycled over, and was late to the start, but had put a fair old sprint on to overtake the tailwalker.  He was happy to pause and have a chit chat for a bit, which was really companionable, and another unusual occurrence.  Generally speaking I cant talk and run so I normally don’t chat to other parkrunners, but as I was actually walking at this point, and he was happy to do likewise, it was grand.  Plus, looks like we are following each other around future parkruns, I have Zamek w Malborku all booked up for the end of the month, and he is there the week before.  He’d done loads of overseas and other parkruns, starting his parkrun journey as an accidental tourist, so it was cool to hear parkrun tales from afar.  We carried on up the hill, until another marshal, at least I presume they were a marshal and not a decoy to send as astray, there was no obvious hi-vis but a familiar helpful disposition inspired confidence instead.  Anyway, we were sent back down a muddy path to our right once again.  Yay!  My new best friend was happy to pose for obligatory mud shots before we parted way as he picked up some speed again, and I trotted and hopped along behind in my own elegant trajectory.  ‘Elegant’ is a subjective concept I know, but where is the harm in a little bit of personal self-delusion?  No constructive criticism or feedback required or welcomed on this occasion.

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So yep, it continued muddy, but honestly this was a joyful route.  For them as hate mud, well, they are not going to love it, but I had a great time.  It was yomping territory, and as I was wet up to not just my ankles, but practically my knickers, there was no advantage in picking your way round puddles, you just had to splosh through. Unusually, I was running alone, i.e. not being pursued by tailwalkers and not in sight of any runners ahead, and in no danger of being lapped as faster runners would have been way ahead of me at this point. For the first time in months I could have an unselfconscious scamper, in gorgeous surrounds, still air and inexplicably rain free.  It really gave me my running mojo back.  I’ve ground to a halt with running really, and as I’ve taken on more run reporting and photographing volunteering it’s ages since I’ve just done a parkrun for the joy of it.  This reminded me of how I need to proactively carve out time for new running adventures.  I live in the peak district for goodness sake, the possibilities are endless, and although the weather has been absolutely horrendous of late, this trot out reminded me that actually, running in mud and rain and yomping on trails is absolutely part of the whole glorious adventure.  It just makes us more hardcore and makes us more likely to have the landscape to ourselves.  Note to self, lace up, head out, take to the trails!

The final straight line back to the finish seemed to go very quickly.  In next to no time I was in sight of the funnel, and the beaming smiles of high-vis heroes welcoming us home.

I lingered to cheer a few final finishers home – and check out a particularly cute canine who’d had a great lope round.

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My new best friend was waiting too, see, new parkruns are just full of parkrun friends you haven’t made yet!

Just time for a few final photos, thanks to the core team, and a quick lust over their all-terrain trolley for their parkrun kit:

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And that was that, parkrun wise it was a wrap!

I asked the RD if it was OK to share the photos and not only did she say yes it was, but I got a volunteering credit for doing so, result!  I did warn her they were quantity rather than quality, but it’s the thought that counts yes?

I headed back to the car to pick up some cash and then made my way to the visitors centre for breakfast with my new parkrun buddy.  We used the outside tap to wash our shoes of the worst of the mud, but that just had the effect of filling my trail shoes with slurry really.  Oh well.  Water is supposed to come out through the mesh fabric, but I suppose there are limits.  The visitors centre had good selection of cakes and cooked breakfast.  It was reasonable value, but coffee was a bit mediocre, I had a veggie breakfast which was generous in size but a bit on the hey-ho spectrum.  Friendly service though, and impressive tolerance of muddy shoes. To be fair, their entire clientele would be there because they were yomping muddy trails so they are prepared for it.

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There was a big pond outside the visitors centre, which I peered into at length in search of frogspawn, I couldn’t see any.  Oh well.

We said our farewells and I made my way back to the carpark, waving a farewell at other departing parkrunners who’d come on their bikes.

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I remembered to take a photo of the carpark this time, which might sound weird, but it’s actually a public service, so others coming in my wake know they have reached their final destination whatever their satnav may be saying to them to the contrary.  The sun came out, and the weather was glorious.  Aw, that was a lovely morning!

Finally, I went to the little wendy hut to pay for parking.  You put in your number plate and it calculates it automatically.  It was five quid!  I thought that was steep, but I guess they must charge from 8.00 a.m then, and staying for breakfast would have pushed me into an all day rate.  You pay with a card, well I did, maybe you can use cash, I’m not sure.  The car parking was steeper than anticipated, and although I didn’t quite begrudge it, it made it one of the more expensive ones I’ve been to.  Clearly better to bike it or walk it if you can, or forgo breakfast for a speedy exit … but where’s the fun in parkrun touristing if you do that.

So I got my Q, but that was the least important part of the fabulously, fun morning, albeit that is what took me there in the first place.  Come for the Q, stay for the crack!

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this parkrun, it was small but perfectly formed, friendly, fabulous location, great facilities, and my you’d get fit if it was your local.  So, thank you lovely QE parkrunners, core team, visitors and all, for the warm welcome to your wonderful venue.  It’s a shame that it was only me that got the fancy dress memo, but I wouldn’t change anything all the same!  I hope our parkrun paths cross again in the future, but in the meantime, many thanks for giving me a royally good run!

So date for the diary for 2048 people?  All that fun all over again, and only 28 years to wait until we do…

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or you could always rock up to a parkrun near you next parkrunday/saturday in the meantime.  You choose!

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Oh, and for my reader who likes to triangulate my accounts of parkrun for accuracy, there are not one, but TWO run reports from other participants at this weekend’s mudfest. This means for their 360th parkrun there is 360 degree coverage of the event.  (See what I’ve done there?  Genius!) One  is from Katie Reynolds a runner from Fareham and the second from Nickie Sale a visitor from South Africa – and they both mention the mud, so you can be confident that was indeed an actual thing!  Oh, and QE parkrun are a whizz with technology too, so they’ve uploaded my photos of the event here.

Thank you lovely Queen Elizabeth parkrun people!  I had a royally good time.

🙂

oh, and by the way, you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice

*ok, leaping – ish

**other onesies are available, but I’m not sure why you’d need to bother with them…

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***O.M.G!  What could be more apt!  A descendent of leap-frog for leap year!

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Brilliant Bradford parkrun

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me and my parkrun co-tourist to Bradford parkrun.  There are lots of parkruns around Bradford, but this is the one with the ‘teeny tiny hill’.  And a bandstand!  Hurrah.  It’s in Lister Park.  They have classy benches there it seems.

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Undigested read:

Well this trip was particularly exciting!  Not just the prospect of journeying from Sheffield to Bradford, which would be a cause for giddy excitement and anticipation on any day, but the prospect of doing so to rendezvous with a relatively new convert to parkrun.  Inexplicably, it’s taken my friend a little while to discover parkrun, I’ve been drip-feeding her for years – but you have to let people make the transition from bemused outsider to enthusiastic convert in their own time.  Better late than never, and they do say, the best time to join parkrun was 15 years ago, the second best time is next weekend.  Anyway, this weekend she demonstrated just how far she’s come in embracing the parkrun concept, by contacting me to say she was going to be away in Bradford this weekend, and why don’t I come up and join her for a tourist run.  This is hugely significant, because she has now officially recognised that there’s no point in being away anywhere for the weekend unless you check out the available parkrun options.  She has also noted that of course I’ll get up at stupid o’clock to come and join her. Also, it’s ‘proper’ tourism, because instead of going together, or travelling from home, this involved an overnight trip.  This is brilliant news, it opens up a whole new world of shared adventures, ‘nipping across’ to parkrun places – I’m hoping worldwide even one day – in the quest to complete a running challenge or discover a new parkrun community.  So.  Much.  Fun.  AND I’m so excited!  I just can’t hide it.  As I think may have been said before somewhere, sometime, but has never been more earnestly meant than here and now.  Hurrah!

So we agreed to go to Bradford parkrun

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It was just a couple of days before, that it dawned on me, there are a fair few ‘Bradford’ parkruns, like Sheffield, it is blessed with a few that might reasonably be said to fall within the environs of the city:

Horton Park (2.2m), Bowling Park (2.9m), Myrtle (3.4m), Bramley (5.8m), Oakwell Hall (6.7m), Cliffe Castle (7m), Halifax (7m), Brighouse (7.5m), Armley (7.6m), Woodhouse Moor (8.8m)

What’s more, some have epicly brilliant names.  How often do you get to hear of a place called Myrtle? That’s right, not nearly often enough.  There’s a Harry Potter themed challenge potential if ever there was one, that, then The Pastures parkrun, loads more I’m sure. And didn’t Horton find a Who?  That’s would merit a special trip.

Presumably Bramley is lined with fruitful apple trees, year round, albeit cooking ones.  I mean the possibilities are nigh on endless.  Well, maybe not actually endless, but at least reach double figures.  This is indeed a parkrun hotspot.  Oh well, no worries, I guess I’ll just have to keep coming back for me.  The important thing was we did both rendezvous at the same parkrun.  We did some research, poring over parkrun course descriptors – planning is part of the fun for such excursions after all.  In the end, we went with the ‘obvious’ i.e. the titular Bradford parkrun – for now, though it is actually in Lister Park, so I suppose it’s theoretically possible it may yet be swept up in parkrun namechangegate.  This phenomenon is sweeping the country and causing much consternation to some.  Honestly, I find it hard to mind too much, as I use the running challenges just as tool for choosing somewhere new to go really, though I think if I woke up and round all my lovely virtual badges vapourised I would be devastated, if it’s just the odd one or two that need rethinking I can live with that.  It does make sense though that some parkruns change their names as multiple new venues come on board, some with a greater claim to the name of their nearest centre of population.  For now though, this is Bradford parkrun, and that’s where we’d head.  I don’t know what Lister did to get a park named after them.  Invented Listerine mouthwash perhaps?  Patient Zero for Listeria?  I was confident all would become clear.  parkrun can be most educational like that.

I did the usual Facebook page stalking and was hugely impressed to see that only the week before our visit, the tailwalker completed their duties whilst knitting.  Excellent multi-tasking there, and taking inclusion to a new level. Crafty indeed.  I don’t know what she was knitting, but I like to think it might have been a knitted scanner holder.  I saw them at Barnsley parkrun on their 400th event and the concept blew my mind!  Inspired.  I’d be equally happy though if she was knitting parkrun protective headgear/ fancy dress as disported at Great Notley parkrun a while back.  I may never know, but that’s a boon, I can let my imagination run riot!  Look!  See how talented and creative parkrunners can be nationwide:

Anyway, enough of knitting although perhaps it’s good to know you can knit en route if you wish.  This doesn’t apply to me though, I’m not a knitter, I can barely sew a button back on, to tell the truth, well, not without being grumpy, still, perhaps for you dear reader, it’s a clincher for you in picking your parkrun destinations.  So, back to practicalities, according to the official Bradford parkrun website course description blah de blah, the course is described thus:

We are lucky that the paths in Lister park are so wide, smooth and well kept making an excellent course for running. The course starts by the fossilized tree along past the bandstand and the beautiful Cartwright Hall, through the formal gardens and past the mughal water gardens before turning left down a long gentle downhill path towards the entrance to the park on Manningham Lane, you then turn left again on a beautiful long meandering slightly downhill path, past the large playground – great for kids to play and cheer you on as you fly by! then up the teeny tiny hill to the fossilized tree again. It’s 3 laps then past the bandstand and to the right to a glorious finish on the elevated section just above the bandstand.

I do like the sound of a parkrun with a bandstand AND a fossilized tree, don’t see too many of them out and about. I wonder how tall it is? I’m hoping for something the size of a giant redwood, that would be cool.  And as for a teeny tiny hill – well, it’s teeny tiny, so probably hardly registers even as a speed bump for those of us used to trotting round Sheffield parkruns.

It looks like this:

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Three laps though.  Not over-keen on three lappers, but, then again it’s situated in the lovely looking Lister Park which even mentions Park Run (sic) on their website amongst activities available.  They may not be able to spell parkrun (aowalc) correctly, but at least they understand it’s dizzying allure.  However, the absolute clincher, was checking out the Refreshment Room in the Cartwright Hall Museum which, their website states authoritatively, is open from 8.00 a.m. on Saturday.  This means loos, and even potentially pre-parkrun coffee which I don’t normally do, but if arriving as a tourist paranoiacly early is definitely good to know.  You dear reader may feel likewise.  That’s settled then.

So the morning dawned, and it was the calm before the storm.  Bracing, but – for now at least – still.  I left Sheffield around 7.15.  It wasn’t the nicest drive, I got mightily confused with the road layouts as I neared Bradford, multiple lanes of traffic and ‘just-in-time. guidance from my satnav that would be more accurately described as ‘easy to be wise after the event’ guidance.  I was glad I’d allowed lots of extra time, as I did a few unintended diversions en route.

The approach to the park was, erm, without wishing to be rude, unpromising.  Apart from driving past the Alhambra theatre building which is A.Maz.Ing.  though I wasn’t sure if it was still operational as it had a rather shut up look – not unreasonable at 8.20 on a Saturday morning I suppose… However, ‘suddenly’ I found myself turning into North Park Road, and discovered I was alongside a glorious, mature park, a green oasis amongst the urban surrounds.  Very soon you pass some exceedingly magnificent gates, and get a sneak preview of Cartwright Hall, which you get to run past later on.  It’s very impressive.  Ooh, I’m going to like this.

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Now admittedly it doesn’t take much to confuse me, as I’m not over-confident driving to new places.  You need to hold your nerve to find the carpark, I didn’t find the signage particularly intuitive.  Also, there is a massive NO ENTRY sign on the left hand lane of the carpark entrance, with those metal spikey things that basically impale your vehicle if you attempt to drive over them.  I don’t really get why they were there, because you just drive through the unbarricaded lane on the right hand side, but it was a weird layout, and made me feel as if I was going the wrong way down a one-way system.  Fortuitously, as I pulled in, I espied my parkrunning friend from Victoria Dock, who’d come by bus from her hotel in Bradford.  She’d already checked out the car parking area, which is just above the bowling greens, right adjacent to the start.  Parking was free, which was a surprise, and although not by any means a huge parking space, there seemed to be ample.  I think the majority of attendees were genuine locals who’d walked in.  Always a relief to park up.

talking of relief, we strode out in search of the cafe and loos with high hopes and high spirits.  HOnestly, my worst nightmare is arriving as a tourist after a long dry to find no pee points are available.  We headed towards the hall past a very fine stag statue. and took time out to pose by the helpful poster that was clearly put up in anticipation of our visit as we are both precious and rare indeed.  That selfie just had to be done…

We circled round the hall, debating the relative merits of stretching as we did so, and whether or not it’s helpful for running.   She’s a disciplined stretcher, does yoga and everything, where as I am about as committed to stretching as I am to foam rollering.  I have a foam roller I bought about 6 years ago still in its cellophane…  As I understand it the evidence base isn’t that strong in favour of stretching, and in fact stretching before a run can increase risk of injury – though a warm-up is a different thing and generally thought to be a good idea.  However, for those who find it beneficial, feel free to crack on, and to show my sincerity in support of stretching, I’ve even managed to source this excellent video of an innovative stretch routine in case of interest.  You’re welcome.

So, we circled the building in search of the refreshment rooms and with it access to their posh loos. I  was imagining pre-warmed toilet seats and fluffy white towels.  Well dear reader.  CATASTROPHE.  We found the entrance to the cafe, but it was very much not open, and it was almost 8.40 by now.  Other tourists likewise appeared, wearing their cow cowls, and we all stood in a line together, blinking at the extremely closed doors.  There was a light on within, but no-one at home.  Uh oh.  This was not a good start.  A local materialised, and informed us that ‘unfortunately, it can be a bit hit and miss with the cafe and its opening hours’.  Aaaaargh!  There are some alternative toilets the other side of the park, but these are currently shut due to vandalism.  I’m shamed to report that desperate times called for desperate measures, and I may have resorted to nipping behind a tree and anointing the grounds with some shame.  I mean, it’s no worse, indeed very much better than what most dogs do, but it was such a well maintained park if did feel disrespectful.  I didn’t really pass any alternative stopping places en route either, so if you are coming a fair distance, arrive prepared!

A panicky al-fresco precautionary pee isn’t the best preparation for parkrun, so I feared i was in for an uncomfortable run.  Oh well, here now, an I was hoping a lot of my need for facilities is psychological.  One way to find out.  We also clung to the hope that maybe the loos would open shortly, and as we’d pass the cafe three times, if absolutely desperate you could nip in mid-parkrun.  They didn’t, you couldn’t.

We made our way back to the start, passing marshals heading out to their spots.  How exciting, the parkrun party is most definitely building.  This park is truly spectacular, with impressive features like the fabulously substantial bandstand, and a boating lake, with more statues of the great and good and various beasts (lions as well as the stag) than you could shake a stick at.

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Volunteers and runners were starting to assemble, and there was an upmarket coffee van serving up superior coffee and various snacks.  I’m not sure if it’s there every week, but it was doing an ok trade pre run and a positively roaring one afterwards.  One fun thing about this particular parkrun, was the number of bespoke signs, early warning of the teeny tiny hill, but also various spots on the course have their own names.  There is Tony’s Turn and Arthur’s finish and a helpful one to remind parkrun participants that they are ‘awesome’ just when it is most needed on the teeny tiny hill.  This is the parkrun that thinks of everything.  Care and creativity have gone into course signage.  Loving your work Bradford parkrun core team, good job, well done!

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Loving the personalised high-vis too.  Epic.

There was a bespoke sign for first timers too, but honestly, I’m not sure if there was an actual first timers briefing, as by the time we’d implemented emergency precautionary pee protocols we were a little late to the party, and people were starting to gravitate towards the start, which was a shortish stroll away, towards the fossilised tree. Which, spoiler alert, is not a tall giant red wood, but a stump.  Still impressive, but my expectations hadn’t been managed all that well in this instance.  Less traumatic than no loos, but worth a mention all the same.

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So we were gently shepherded down a gentle slope to the start.  There was a pretty good turn out, I overheard volunteers guesstimating the numbers ‘350, it’s always 350′ one said with considerable confidence.  In fact, I can report that it was 508.  Wow, that’s quite a lot actually.  You’d think it would feel crowded, but the paths are wide and tarmaced and participants courteous, so it didn’t feel congested beyond a bit of slow get away.  Then again, I always put myself towards the back, I’m sure further forward it would have been a speedier start if that’s your thing.

The RD was able to give a run briefing from sort of on high, flanked by hi-vis heroes.  There was a description of the course, and usual shout outs.  I think it’s a generic intro rather than having a separate first timers’ briefing.  However, lots of people approached us and chatted to us so it felt like a friendly place if you turned up on your own.  People did talk through the briefing though, that so infuriates me, and I never know whether it’s ok to ‘shush’ people not at your home run.  It feels a bit rude to do so, but honestly, what chatterboxes there were.

In the start funnel you get a great view of the bandstand ahead, and the gentle incline that you will get to run up not once, not twice, but a glorious three times!  Hurrah.  This is the parkrun with slopes that keep on giving!

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So after the RD pep-talk it was go!  And awf we went.

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this is an ace parkrun.   Don’t be put off by the inclines or the three lap thing – or indeed the precarious loo presence.  It was a cheery, inclusive group.  A lot of walkers, buggies, dogs, a good cross section of participants.  Although it is a three – lapper, there’s loads to see, and plenty of cheery marshals at strategic intervals to encourage you round.  Some showed very considerable stamina keeping up the clapping continuously til the last participant came home.  Much enthusiasm was in evidence.  Plus, as you get to pass the point where people break away to the finish, you get to see faster runners sprinting up hill to their climactic ends, as well as being lapped by some on the way round.  Unless you are the one doing the lapping of course, in which case you get to pass slower ones.

So it’s up the hill, past the token men at the end of the carefully choreographed finish funnel.  Round the side of the house where a super-smiley and clappy volunteer shooed you round past the still-closed refreshment cafe.  Quick dog leg round the corner, past some quite formal planting and grand statues towards the other side of the enormous iron gates I’d passed on the way in.

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Then you get to whizz down hill for a bit, with Mr Lister gazing down on you – a little sternly I felt – and corner past another clapping hi-vis hero, who, if my memory serves me correctly, was very wisely cradling a cup of coffee in between whooping encouragement.  Thank you marshal!

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Mr Lister was carrying some sort of cloak, but dragging it on the ground rather.  I’m not sure if he was poised to use it to cover any muddy puddles en route to protect the dainty feet of timid parkrunners.  I rather think not.  It turns out, Mr Lister is not in fact the Mr Man who embodies people who write ‘to do’ lists, nor even the one that has a tendency to lean to one side.  Rather he was very big in wool apparently.  The chimneyof his wool mill towers over the park if you but bother to look for it – I got this insight from the Talented Tony later on.  He invented the Lister Nip Comb.  That’s Mr Lister who invented it, not Tony – talented as he is.  Oh, and not nit comb either but nip comb, completely different thing – you need to concentrate more when you are reading.  Nope, me neither, had to look it up, and I learn that the Lister Nip Comb separated and straightened raw wool, revolutionising the industry apparently.  He – that’s Mr Lister again, not Tony, donated the land for Lister Park which was philanthropic I suppose, but the size of his fortune must have been absolutely immense for him to be able to do that, and you can’t help but assume he accrued such fortune on the backs of a great many workers in his mill.  He was a Baron as well.  Barons always make me think of Baron and Baroness Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – which for too many years I honestly thought was Shitty Shitty Bang Bang, which was unfortunate – I daresay other barons are available, but the Bombursts had better costumes if the photos are anything to go by.  The facial hair is equally spectacular for both though.  It could well be that is a prerequisite for such honours, I wouldn’t really know…

I didn’t have all these insights as I was pootling round though, but you can have the benefit of them in advance if you like.  It’s fun learning these things.

The route carried on past a quite impressive play area, and a boating lake with it’s own circular cafe building.  I found out too late that this opens at 10.00 and I think it’s where the core team adjourn to for results processing.  Might have been a better option than the cafe where we two ended up.

As I was taking my time, I think the first of the speedy runners came through when I was on this stretch.  The paths are wide though, so no hairy moments overtaking.

At the end of this stretch, is a marshal very much owning his spot.  Dear Reader I give you Tony’s Corner.  He was a very vocal supporting, giving extra loud encouragement to known regulars who he cheered by name, but enthusiastically cheering everyone by,.  it was great.  I reckon he would have made each and every one of us feel like a sporting superstar, or at least a pretty goddarned amazing humanbeing just for being there.  I think life would be so much nicer if we all had cheerleaders to encourage us as we go about our daily business.  Still, in the inexplicable absence of that, you can at least get an little inoculation of feel good adulation to get you through the week as on each of the three laps, multiple marshals applaud you for your efforts.  Excellent!

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Round the corner, there was another statue, no idea who that was – and another group were doing some sort of outdoor work out session, with their own loud speakers pumping out motivational music.  A sign pronounced that you were now embarking on Teeny Tiny Hill.  I do like visual aids at a parkrun.  OK then, let’s see what that’s like then:

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Ok, as a Sheffield parkrunning regular, I can report the hill is steep, but short and sharp, and not too bad if you are used to say Sheffield Castle parkrun or Graves parkrun in Sheffield.  However, it is definitely an upward flat section, and the field was mixed between those that embraced the challenge, taking a run up at it, and those that threw in the towel early on, power walking in preference.  At the top, of the steep bit, just where you corner, was another marshal flourishing a ‘you are awesome’ sign!  Like I said, this was a feelgood parkrun good for building your self-esteem if ever there was one.  From being acknowledged as ‘rare and precious’ on arrival, to ‘awesome’ on every lap, there was much positive reinforcement going on!

You pass by the fossilised tree root, and the start sign, and then it’s round all over again.  Past the token men, the bandstand, the hall, the amazing gates, Mr Lister, the boating pond, Tony’s Corner, up the Teeny Tiny Hill to complete lap two.

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This time, as I rocked up the hill, the finish area was pretty busy with returning runners.  Because the whole park is basically on a slope, if you look to the right running past you can see the finishers swept off to the side, but equally as you finish, you can see the parkrunners still enroute sweeping round like lycra-clad wildebeest on migration.  All very picturesque in my view.  It really is a lovely parkrun venue.  A hidden treasure indeed.

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I paused on the way round to stand on a bench to try to get a shot looking back at the bandstand and the finish, and ended up mutually photographing a fellow tourist.  Well, I say fellow tourist, turns out this is actually her home parkrun, but she was wearing a cow cowl, and astonishingly, had deduced I must be a tourist on account of me constantly stopping to take photos en route, though I think even she was a tad taken aback I took it to the lengths of clambering onto park furnishings.  I don’t really worry about times these days, I’m not sure I ever did, but I like to document parkruns the first time I attend them.  It’s so easy to forget stuff in the sensory overload of a new venue.  I didn’t get your name, but here’s a virtual wave to my 250 tee sporting parkrun friend!

and then it was just one more lap to go.  Obviously, the field had thinned out now, but I ended up taking it in turns to sort of leapfrog each other with another runner.  Her nearest parkrun is apparently Bramley, but that’s a four lapper – don’t fancy that, mind you, I’ve not tried a four lapper yet, maybe it’s less brutal than I imagine, though I panic about not being competent enough to confidently count to four….  anyway, she’s been to this one a fair few times too.  It was nice to make a new friend on the final lap.

Incidently, if you like me, balk at the very idea of a four lap course, spare a thought for this runner, quarantined because of the coronavirus, who has been doing laps IN HIS APARTMENT totalling 31 miles.  I can’t begin to imagine how tedious that must have been.  Respect.  Well, I think respect, it’s certainly impressive, but maybe a tad obsessive.  There’s a time to run round in teeny tiny circles, and there’s a time to lie on a sofa watching box sets.  He may not have got the balance entirely right in my view…. According to the Daily Mail (sorry – but they did have the Co-runner virus pun, which might well be in poor taste, but did make me snort a little bit) he ran 6,250 circuits of his apartment.  Imagine how annoying it would have been for him if he’d lost count and had to start again from one!

chinese-runner-coronavirus

Last chance to be reminded you are awesome, and drink up the cheers from supporting marshals, and a final romp up the teeny tiny hill.  Returning parkrunners smiled or whispered words of encouragement as I lolloped up the incline to the bandstand and the finish.

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Round the corner, and the finish funnel was in sight.  Again, these marshals were so enthusiastic and friendly.  I totally get parkrun is a run not a race, and there are no winners as such, but I felt like I was definitely their fastest ever first finisher as I crashed over the line and the timers clicked me in!

It’s a little weird, because the finish line – which obvs you have to do a sprint finish through, is at the apex of the hill, and then you have built up so much momentum you are in danger of crashing into the backs of other runners as it’s a down hill queue to the finish tokens.  Serious crowd control here, no danger of funnel ducking with that barrier, and I heartily approve!  Fortunately, I had the benefit of all this space in glorious isolation on account of being first finisher, clearly, so no domino affect of my carcass toppling other runners on the way through.  Phew.

My Victoria Dock parkrun buddy, was ready with a camera, which was a mixed blessing, but always good to be immortalised with flying feet, even if I’m inclined to feel the apricot does me no favours.  I’ve been trying to think what I remind myself of, and i think it might be an oompa loompa.  This isn’t a good look.  Oh well.

Just a matter of being scanned, and then posing for obligatory photos.  Oh and notice the coffee van.  If it hadn’t been cold, I think that would have been best option, looked like quality coffee.

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We’d had a lovely time.  How could we not.  But decided we wanted to get a proper shot of the Teeny Tiny Hill sign, well, it is Bradford parkrun’s ‘thing’ if you know what I mean.  We wandered back that way, passing returning volunteers, still holding ‘awesome’ signs aloft.  We spotted ‘our Tony’ who seemed to be dismantling the course on the way back.  We weren’t sure whether to offer to help or not.  It is a surprisingly little known fact that it isn’t helpful unless you are actually helping. Sometimes if people have their own systems you can mess them up by charging in.  I have before been caught out dismantling a finish funnel by removing tape from the poles only to find that at that particular parkrun they store the funnel with the tape left on.  Oops.  They were very gracious about it, noting that it was their fault for not having sat me down with the appropriate online interactive training video, but aaaaaaaaaaaawkward all the same!  Anyway, we used our initiative to ask, and actually, turns out, there was a limit to how many signs and stuff he could carry, so we did help minimally, and thereby also gained exclusive access to the Teeny Tiny Hill sign too.  Job done 🙂 !

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and that was that.  Bradford parkrun done and dusted.

We were cold, and so rejected coffee outside option, heading instead for the refreshment room cafe.  It’s just occurred to me what a spectacularly unimaginative name for a cafe that is.  Oh well.

The good news was that it was open.  The walls had tasteful William Morris wallpaper, and it was spotless, with a good value range of cakes and coffees.  However, it was a bit, erm, well weird.  Despite the plush surroundings, it was fairly bijoux, and the offerings were very much cake rather than breakfast.  Though there was a (not very nice) vegan roll, and cheese toastie options.  The coffee was distinctly mediocre, from a machine rather than proper ground with foamy milk.  The service was friendly, but to be honest, if going again in summer I’d have gone with the van, or checked out the boating cafe if open.  However, it was unhurried, and we could have a good old catch up.  Also, we could now access the toilets.  They didn’t have fluffy white towels or heated seats, but they did have an air lock entry system with an extraordinary amount of  doors to pass through to get to them, so that was novel.  Also, everyone was welcome to use them, though only one at a time in my experience.  I didn’t see any giraffes or elephants during my visit, but perhaps they were in the adjacent cubicle?

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We exited through the museum, which was freezing.  Maybe post parkrun chill had kicked in. This had an excellent photography exhibition on, and some fine statues.  If I hadn’t been a lightweight (novel concept for me) worrying about getting cold and driving back to Sheffield as storm Ciara kicked in I might have lingered longer.  Again, staff were friendly, and the interior immaculate and grandiose on an extraordinary scale.  Reet nice in fact.

I think the woman in the statue was emphasising a point about how annoying mansplaining is, but I guess all art speaks to the viewer in unique ways, so you can interpret as you wish.

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But, all good things come to an end.  This morning was no exception.  So we went back to the car, which still had loads of spaces by the way, and headed homewards, pausing only to take a snapshot of the chimney towering over the park as we exited.  It’s mahoosive indeed.

So thank you lovely Bradford parkrun people for your warm welcome and sharing your unexpectedly wonderful park.  This is definitely one I’d happily return to do again … were it not for the lure of all those other parkruns in the vicinity I have yet to run.  But thank you, hope our parkrun paths cross again soon.  Have fun til next time.

and remember how awesome you are, just for being part of the parkrun parkfun.  I’ve seen a sign just for you that proves it!

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Told ya!

🙂

You can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice

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

Nailing Northwich parkrun, double done! parkrun yay!

Digested read:  Did New Year’s Day Double today, staring at Delamere parkrun and then topping it off here at Northwich parkrun.  Very welcoming gathering, thanks for having me.  The End.

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Undigested read:

If you want to linger, I can oblige.  Hereafter follows the unexpurgated version of my Northwich parkrun immersive experience.  Enjoy or not as you wish, but remember if you choose to read on, you do so at your own risk, and so are guilty at the very least of contributory negligence if you reach the end and regret the minutes of your life you can never now recover.  Harsh, but true.

Right then, as long as we are clear, I’ll press on.

New Year’s Day Double for parkrun.  Are you with me so far?  This is the special parkrun dispensation which means for one day only, you can run not one, but TWO parkruns on the same day, and have them recorded.  Subject to logistics and parkruns available in your area. I know, fabulous!  Great start to the decade.  Or not, depending on whether or not you think the decade ended at midnight on 31  Dec 2019 or will end on 31 Dec 2020.  I opt for the former, though concede the logic of the later if you are interested at all.

So, I’d already spent a morning at Delamere parkrun before heading over to Northwich.  You can read my account of Delamere parkrun on New Year’s Day too here if you like.  Doing a parkrun double has become something of a tradition for me. This is the fourth year I’ve done it, though I did miss a year when working overseas – never been more homesick.  However, it was a first for me to go quite so far afield from my home base of Sheffield.  Apologies, but I’d never even really heard of Northwich parkrun before, it just popped up as an option when I was perusing New Year’s Day doable Double challenges based on my speed, and preference for off road and one lap courses.  Delamere parkrun seemed a great option, and they seemed to have teamed up with Northwich so rude not to combine the two really.

I did do a bit of research in advance, not over much, just enough to satisfy myself that there would be a reasonable amount of parking as I expected to be one of the later arrivals there.  Also I did have a quick gander at the official parkrun website where I discovered the blah de blah on the Northwich parkrun describes the course thus:

Course Description
The course explores the hidden Northwich Woodland whilst following the River Weaver. There is a mixture of both path and trail ground consisting of a small loop and a larger loop with views of Neumanns Flashes. The course ends near Old Marbury Road giving a short warm down walk back to the car park.

Fair does.  Didn’t altogether enlighten me, but as long as it isn’t 5 laps of a cross country field it’ll be grand.

Facilities
There are no toilets on the course, however the nearest toilets are located at Asda Barons Quay approximately 200 metres away.

Whoa, hang on, what horror is this?  Fortunately, forewarned is forearmed, I can attend to that prior to arrival.  Hopefully.

And it looks like this:

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which is basically very confusing.  Still, no worries, I’ll just do what I always do and follow everyone else.  And yes, that probably does mean I’d follow a gang of parkrunners pretty much anywhere, including over the edge of a cliff, because I am trusting of other parkrunners.  Also, to be fair, I’m quite slow, so even if such a strategy was ill-advised, trundling along at the back I’d land softly on the pile of previously landed strewn parkrunners, so it’d be fine.  It usually is all alright in the end in my experience, particularly if you take the view that if it isn’t fine, then it can’t be the end.  I find this logic helpful!  You can adopt it too if you like.  You’re welcome. 🙂

So I completed my parkrun at the delectable Delamere, and joined the convoy of cars making their way over to Northwich.  Ira can report that along the way, I spotted little hardy gaggles of parkrunners sprinting between the two venues.  Impressive, and no, they weren’t in need of a lift, they were doing it for fun and deliberately.  Hard though it may be to comprehend, I remind myself that I found the whole concept of parkrun mysterious and incomprehensible before I became a participant, and now I understand the intoxicating buzz of  parkrun day and the importance of respecting everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  Also, if I had the speed I can see the appeal of doing longer distances, it’s just not really a viable option for me, unless I ran between two different parkruns on two consecutive weeks perhaps – which might actually be a great way to do a UK run trip now I come to think of it.  One day maybe, one day.

Passing previously referenced parkrunners gave me confidence that I should be in time for the start of Northwich parkrun. I had told myself that in the worst case scenario I’d do a freedom run if I couldn’t catch up with the tail walker, and that would be ‘fine’, but in my heart of hearts I know if I hadn’t been able to finish and get a time I’d have inwardly sobbed buckets and outwardly adopted a pained expression of matyrdom whilst fighting back hot bitter tears railing at the awfulness of my plight.  Hoping now this wouldn’t be necessary, I followed the post code given on their info page – CW9 5LQ which was to take me to the Cumberland car park adjacent to the parkrun venue which is Carey Park.

Can’t lie, the approach to Northwich parkrun does suffer a bit by direct comparison to Delamere parkrun.  You are no longer amidst misty forest scapes, but in an urban sprawl, picking your way through a labyrinth of concrete superstores and rather more mini roundabouts than you might think strictly necessary.  However, on the plus side, lots of car parks.  Lots of spaces.  I was delighted when I spotted a queue of parkrunners waiting to get the car parking tickets and just pulled up and parked immediately alongside them.  I set about silently congratulating myself for my extraordinary deductive skills that would have pleased Jessica Fletcher and Miss Marple alike – did you know Jessica Fletcher is a parkrun tourist by the way?  She has a cow cowl, plus she’s jogging in the opening sequence, in fact she’s often out jogging, quite a committed runner I’d say…  Not sure which parkruns these pictures are at, but they could be American ones.

Unfortunately, my marvelling at my own genius and self congratulatory mood was short lived, as the awful consequences of the queue became apparent.  Now, car parking here was cheap – only a £1 for a whole day, that’s good. There was ample parking too.  Also good.  Not good, only one of four ticket machines was working, and they were the most ridiculously officious, complicated, non-intuitive machines to operate.  Every single parkrunner had to learn how to use it.  You had to put in your registration number, which not everyone knew off hand, so that was quite stressful, and if you were paying by card, you also had to input a pin number for that, and it too ages and ages.  Probably a minute for each person in the queue, and although I’d arrived at 10.15 for a 10.30 start, and you could almost see the start from where we were, it wasn’t looking good.  It was also the most depressingly fly-tipped and littered car park I’d ever seen*.  Not the best first impression.  I’d rather have paid double or even triple the amount, and them use the money to maintain the place. It was really sad…

*update*  I’ve been advised this was not typical, but an informal camp of some sort popped up in the car park over new year, so don’t be deterred dear reader, it may well be pristine when you appear!

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On the plus side, this is England and we do love a queue.  Also, parkrunners are very good at staying in order in queues on account of all the practise we have staying in order in the finish funnel. What’s more, it was long enough to make new friends and consider strategies.  Some bailed entirely, going with the ‘surely no-one will ticket us on New Year’s Day’ philosophy.  Bold I feel.  Speaking as someone who has been ticketed at a parkrun despite having a valid ticket because it wasn’t clearly enough displayed I presume no leniency or leeway with car park attendants.  Someone else who’d been stung with a £100 or possibly 100 euro fine in I think Denmark, for not knowing how to set his parking meter correctly during a 7 minute supermarket stop was like me more cautious.  His track record was pretty poor – he’d apparently also been stung for buying a ticket from a machine which issued a ticket which actually said ‘this ticket machine is out of order’ and so was fined despite not realising that’s what it said.  He’s not like Dracula, he can’t absorb the language of a new country by drinking the blood of its population even if that was either the parkrun way or a socially acceptable thing to do.  Don’t you think the new BBC Dracula adaptation is super scary by the way?  Can’t wait for the next episode, though I will be sure to have a couple of cushions handy to hide behind on stand by…  Funny and appropriately camp too, love it!

dracula

Spare non-driving parkrunners were despatched to check other ticket machines really weren’t working.  They weren’t, but at least sending them off and waiting for them to come and report back broke the tedium by providing some enrichment for us queuers.  Some of the faster parkrunners sent slower one’s off ahead on the basis they’d be more likely to catch up the tail if required.  I started off relaxed about the whole thing, but weirdly got increasingly stressed the closer I got to the front of the queue.  I was also near paralysed by performance anxiety when it came to operating the ticket machine.  Oh the pressure to get it right speedily first time!  It was worse than having someone watch me parallel park!  Fortunately dear reader, my fellow parkrunners were a compassionate and supportive lot, talking me through it and reassuring me it would all be fine.

I got my ticket, and it was on the dashboard at 10.29.  Phew.  I sprinted across to the start, through the distinctive iron gates with the torn apart ladybird, over the bridge with the strange industrial pipework and joined the back of the parkrun crowd wondering vaguely if that person hanging around might be… no, probably not.

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I was still wearing my fleece.  I contemplated leaving it in the car, but then someone said that there was a trolley at the start where you could dump stuff, and it got wheeled to the finish which was some distance away.  It was heaving with people, I couldn’t find any trolley.  I’d missed the first timers’ briefing, but not the main one.  Phew.  I felt very lucky to have made it by the skin of my teeth.  You know what, also, I didn’t need a precautionary pee. Whether this was because I’d already sweated out excess fluid at Delamere, or because I was running late it just hadn’t occurred to me I don’t know.  Either way, I was just relieved not to need relieving.  Phew.  I think a lot of it is psychological for me…  Sorry, you probably didn’t need to know that.  Some of you will be interested though, for women of a certain age it’s an exceedingly common topic of parkrun conversation and a top priority in planning tourism!  For future reference though, with that many shops around, as long as you were in time I’m sure you’d find a pee point somewhere.

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It had a very friendly feel.  There were lots of familiar faces from Delamere just less than an hour before.  I asked a marshal about the trolley, and she confirmed it was around somewhere, but she couldn’t leave her spot as she was designated dog poo monitor, and was standing guard over a very impressive mound of faecal matter.  Apparently, they normally have bags for this purpose, but she couldn’t find them, so she’d taken on the role with good grace.  That dear reader is above and beyond, and should surely merit it’s very own running challenges virtual badge were it not for the fact that such an emblem might be seen as in poor taste.   Maybe it falls within the category of ‘other’ but that hardly seems adequate recognition.  Hi vis hero, I thank you!

Not since Frickley Country parkrun have I been at a parkrun with so much dog poo around the start area.  It seems a risk for parkruns that are near the entrance points for parks and near to car parking spaces.  My new year’s resolution to be non-judgemental and just delightful to everyone was already creaking under the pressure to offer good will to people who fly tip and people who let their dogs crap everywhere.  Fortunately, the prospect of a parkrun always raises the spirits.  Just mind where you put your feet if you are going.

The Run Director gave an enthusiastic briefing.  Asking for a cheer from those who’d already run a parkrun today, and another from those who’d run between the two!  There was a surprisingly loud cheer from the latter group, you’d have thought they’d have been all out of spare breath for cheering with after all that running around.

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I found out later that the gold baton was passed on at this parkrun too.  Strictly speaking the Leeds Building Society Golden Baton Relay has finished, but it’s fun it is carrying on unofficially I think. It had come all the way from Denmark apparently.   It’s the Big Community Relay thingamajig.  I’ve also seen one when I was at Cusworth Hall parkrun, I wonder how long they’ll carry on travelling for.  There were a few…

baton passing

Because I’d only just made it in time, and I couldn’t find the trolley, the call for off went up as I was still in my fleece.  I suppose I could have taken it off and tied it round my waist, but you know what, I was a bit chilled what with having worked up a sweat during round one at Delamere, so decided to run in it. This would never have been permitted at my home run, as I have parkrunning ‘friends’ who are dedicated to ensuring I remove excess clothing prior to a run.  However, they’ll never find out I reasoned, so off I trotted.

I say ‘off I trotted’ but the start was very congested.  I put myself right at the back, and it was a big turn out.  The path has fencing or hedging on either side, and although it’s not exactly narrow, it isn’t really ideal for almost 500 parkrunners heading off at the same time.  Again, you couldn’t overtake, and just had to go with the flow, which pleases me.  It was nice to watch the colourful thread of runners ahead, like bunting, following the curve of the fence line and heading on up a little hill.  I hadn’t really got my head around the route at all, so it was all going to be a surprise.  Good oh.

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As before, I settled into a bit of a stop start pace, running for a bit, stopping to take some pictures and then running off again, and it became clear there were some others at a similar pace, some of whom I’d already met.  It turned out to be quite an unexpectedly social morning. The marshals were, naturally, all excellent, and many were in the company of a canine assistant or more probably superviser.

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Scenery and terrain wise, this parkrun was maybe a bit more coy in revealing its treasures than its near neighbour of Delamore.  Obviously at this time of year the vegetation has died right back, and it was a gloomy day.  However, a lot of love has gone into creating this space.  There are waterways, and hedgerows, and sheep grazing.  Rushes and grassland providing lots of habitat for invertebrates, and industrial features like iron bridges providing an added dimension of interest. It’s probably more obviously picturesque in spring, but lots to enjoy today, even a grey day.  I really liked the details of ironwork on bridges, depicting birds and insects.  You also get quite a mix of terrain, some undulations, some mud – always a hit – and lots to look at.  Not least other parkrunners.  There is also a more industrial backdrop, with factories and the shopping mall surrounding the green oasis of the park.  It gives the place a very distinct character I think, and is a space to be treasured.

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The marshals all seemed in good spirits, and were appropriately encouraging.  Turns out some of these marshals were voice activated too, just like the ones at Delamer, they livened up noticeably when spoken to.  I murmured to one something about it being an ‘unexpectedly lovely venue’ and then wondered if that sounded a bit rude.  Oh well, I can apologise later.  They were all also exceptionally photogenic, I think it’s because they radiate parkrun positivity, always a good look to be rocking!  There was also a very nice robin, but I don’t know if it is always at the same spot.  Might be though, they are very territorial after all…

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Check out the bridges though.  Lots, each unique in its own way.

You could say the same of the marshals, though I didn’t specifically ask them about their iron workings, nice hats though:

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There was one slightly unexpected road bit, it’s very short, but you go out and then turn around a cone – they have blue cones here, not seen them before – and come straight back.  Pleasingly, this meant you get to pass other parkrunners, so that’s quite social.  Also, and I apologise, because I know you shouldn’t really have favourites, if you have your wits about you, you’ll espy the best marshal hat of the morning.  I doubt the other marshals will begrudge this, though there were other worthy contenders in evidence, I think this one wins by a whisker because it is so context appropriate, and more practical than an actual plastic cone on the head, don’t you agree?  All headgear sported though was very much appreciated by me at least, I do like a good hat.

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As is my way, I had absolutely no idea where I was until I spotted a familiar marshal coming round again and deduced I was homeward bound.  I also spotted a fellow tourist, who I recognised from some vague parkrun somewhere else who was running counter to the rest of us doing a warm down I think.  Hoped so, wouldn’t have wanted to be told I’d been running the wrong way for the whole previous 4.9k or whatever!

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The end again appears suddenly, round a corner.  I was amongst the last home, but can report it was a cheery and enthusiastic welcome from accomplished marshals keeping order at the end.  Fine hats here too. In fact, I’m sure I’ve seen that orange and white stripy bobble hat* somewhere before…  loving the jester one as well.

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I thanked the timers and said how much I’d enjoyed the run, because I had and she said ‘what really?’  I said.  ‘Yes’. And she said ‘because someone else just said they had, and when I said really?  They said ‘no’.’ I said ‘well, how very rude!’ because it is.  Though it might be they were referring to the act of running after a night before rather than the parkrun venue I suppose.  I know though I feel quite defensive of my own home parkrun, I recognise it has its foibles and its failings, but its still my home run and where it (for me at least) all began.  Anyway, this was a fine parkrun.  It was super friendly and enthusiastic, well organised and coped with extraordinary numbers.  In fact, this was a record breaking parkrun I gather.

It’s becoming  a bit of a habit for me of late to collect record breaking runs, I was at Bushy parkrun for their record Christmas Day attendance of 2545.  That was pretty cool, hobnobbing with parkrun royalty.  Paul and JOanne were lucky to hang out with me as I’m daughter of Elisabeth of Elisabeth’s corner fame, just so you know…

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then this second record breaking performance was 474 runners, smashing their previous record attendance by four!  Wow, that’s basically the beatles, or ABBA, or maybe even Little Mix, though to be fair the only celebrity I spotted today was Imran Ali (it’s a Parkrun Discussion Facebook Group thing, I’m not a member, bit toxic for me at times, but I am a hypocrite stalker of it, so not gonna lie, know who he is).  For those not in the know, I’d say basically parkrun Selfie King.  Fact.  Undisputed.

Mind you, all parkrunners are winners, so place was heaving with excellence to be fair.  Northwich even beat Delamere parkrun’s attendance (on the day) for the first time ever, but it would be rude and churlish to draw attention to that now wouldn’t it?

Np panorama shot

Where was I?  I got distracted, just as I was getting to the finish.  So I’m at the finish, and I got to linger and chat to my newly acquired parkrun friends from the morning.  One of ‘With me now‘  world tourist fame, so that’s good, and a fine selfie gift too, of which I am a beneficiary here:

Liz world tourist and me

but posed with other friends too for good measure – and did the obligatory selfie frame thing with some directorial input this time and hence more success than earlier!  Look carefully, and you will see jester hatted man in the back of the frame.  I choose to believe he is doing a classy bit of photo bombing there, and not just frantically waving at a friend. Loving your work!

The tailwalker came in, here demonstrating the newly requisitioned emergency barcodes issued too.  Like I said, a record breaking run!

Northwich tailwalker

And then that was that, time to go home.  It was a fair old walk back to the carpark, not miles and miles by any means, but far enough I was exceedingly glad of my fleece.  This is another parkrun that has attention to detail, and they’d put some arrow signs in to direct you back to the carpark and town centre.

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Bye bye for now Northwich parkrun, it’s been grand, thanks for a fabulous finish to a double dose of parkrun fun.  You were awesome.  Most hospitable, I’m so happy I chose you!

I’m also rather hoping given my effusive comments, you won’t mind that I’ve lifted some of your fine photos from your Facebook page?  Thanks in anticipation, you parkrun folks are the best EVER!

NP pic

So there we go.  Sadly, the best things come to an end.  On the plus side, not many sleeps til it’s parkrun day all over again, so mustn’t grumble eh?  parkrunday, that day formerly known as Saturday, sigh.  And if you really can’t be without parkrun til then, you can always top up with some parkrun related podcasts.  I’ve only recently discovered these, have you?

Check out: independent parkrun-based podcast “With Me Now” with parkrun Veterans and uber-tourists Danny Norman and Nicola Forwood, or there is always the official parkrun podcast “Free Weekly Timed“, with Vassos Alexander and Helen Williams.  Both are a great way to keep up to date with what is going on in the wider parkrun world, and extend the parkrun joy beyond a Saturday morning.  Or, if you are in reflective mood, you could peruse Paul’s review of the 2019 parkrun year.  Why not.

Before I go though, can I just finish with some pleasing parkrun UK stats trawling which inform us that:

📣 COMPLETELY USELESS RANDOM STAT KLAXON 🚨

Around the world, 101 parkrunners completed a parkrun on New Year’s Day in a time of 20:20 ⏱️

This pleases me.  Well done all.  If one of those runners had been me, not only would I have entered a parallel universe where I could run sub 21 let alone sub 35, I’d also have secured my last remaining parkrun Bingo number.  I’ve been after it for nearly a year now, possibly longer.  I have learned I do not possess a zen like countenance.  Then again, you should be careful what you wish for, once I do finally get it, it will probably feel something of an anti-climax.  Such is often the way…

By the way,  you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and you might be needing to get on with washing your hair or laying out your parkrun kit for Saturday or whatever, your time, your priorities.

That’s all folks.

I wish you happy parkrunning and other adventures in 2020.  Be kind to yourself.

🙂

Oh, and at risk of repeating myself to my regular reader, but not wanting my one off visitor to miss out, I learn from the most amazing creation and stats cruncher that I was one of 203 who made that particular double. Check it out for yourself on this fab stats New Year’s Day Double tracker.  Go on, treat yourself, have a browse.   Bit of a time vampire, but soooooooooooooo worth it!

google doubles

I don’t know too much about where this originated from but found this credit:

A map showing the parkrun ‘doubles’ that people managed on New Year’s Day 2020. The map is based on parkrun results, so may include errors where e.g. names have been manually entered. Unticking the Events layer makes the doubles more easy to see. Huge thanks to Ian Rutson for providing the base data. Please share freely!

And ‘with me now‘ say ‘Thanks to Charlie Pearce for creating the visualisation and Ian Rutson for supplying the data’ which is good enough for me!

– whatever wizardry created it though, respect!  There’s even an international one from Australia to Canada!  Hope some carbon offsetting went on…

Here’s to parkrunning adventures anew for 2020!

*EXCITING UPDATE REGARDING CONE HATS

They are a thing apparently a recent Northwich parkrun Facebook post states that:

We have received many comments on our “cone hats” and many of you may be wondering what it’s all about 🤷🏼‍♀️

One of our Run Directors, John, came up with the fantastic idea to raise funds for the North West Air Ambulance Charity following the support they provided when we sadly said goodbye to Terry out on our course last year.

To date, by either producing or providing kits to make the hats, John and the Northwich parkrun volunteers have managed to donate £232.50!

A fantastic idea in Terry’s memory!

So now we know.  Nice hats, nice gesture.

northwich cone hats

 

 

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

Delightful Dalliances at Delamere parkrun. Kicking of the NYDD parkrun challenge for 2020

Digested read: Early start and off to Delamere parkrun for my first of two parkruns for New Year’s Day.  It was very nice thank you for asking, and a most excellent way to start a new decade.

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Undigested read:

You want more?  Or maybe you just don’t want to face all those labours you’d been putting off doing until after the festive season had concluded, satisfactorily or otherwise.  Well, if you want quantity rather than quality, to assist you in your procrastination feel free to settle down with a hot beverage of your choosing and relive the parkrun adventures offered up by Delamere parkrun, kicking off 2020 in style.

You probably already know all about the parkrun New Year’s Day Double offerings.  In case inexplicably you do not, perhaps because very excitingly you are new to parkrun and have all those parkrunning related adventures still to unfold before you like a great red carpet of joy if you just choose to step on it, let me enlighten you.  Basically, parkrun 5k takes place on a Saturday.  However, each country that hosts parkrun is allowed one ‘special’ extra day – in the UK it’s Christmas Day, when they can put on an extra run because it’s a fabulously fun thing to do.  Better still, on New Year’s Day only, parkruns can not only put on an extra run, but it is the one day in the whole year when parkrunners can – if they wish and local logistics allow – take part in two parkruns and have them both recorded. This creates the dizzying possibility of parkrunners galavanting around en masse in local parkrun migrations.  I’ve done it a few times now, and it’s really good fun.  Stay local and you’ll meet all your local parkrun buddies, go further afield and you get a snapshot of other parkrun communities.

To aid and abet in the planning for New Year’s Day are various fabulous gizmos.  On a purely practical level, there is the official parkrun Christmas Compendium, listing all declared extra parkrun events with their timings, complete with explanatory text as follows:

This page shows events who have declared that they’re staging an extra event on Christmas Day and/or New Year’s Day. Please see the event’s own news page for more details. Note that some events choose to operate New Year events at a different times from usual. A red cross means that the team has declared that an event will not take place. A blank box means that the team has not yet decided whether an event will take place.  On Christmas Day you can register one result. On New Year’s Day we allow the option to register up to two results.

And that’s great, as a starting point.  However, the game changing gizmo I planned my 2020 exploits with is one which uses some technological wizardry to help you work out what’s possible for you, based on your estimated running time and location of origin on the morning. Check it out here – it even covers other parkrun countries.  It’s a fun adventure, whether you do one or two, nice way to start off 2020.  Initially, my plan was to stay local, and then it dawned on me that if I was game for an early start, there was nothing really stopping me from venturing further afield.  Roads would be clear, and I am a nobby no-mates who wasn’t planning on seeing in the new year anyway.  I pored over this tool for ages and ages.  Far longer than anyone other than a fellow parkrunner would deem reasonable.  I am a slow parkrunner so needed generous timings, and also parkrun number two needed to have good parking options in order that I avoided pre-parkrun panic.  One lappers and scenic locations preferred.  Not grass please, and not too much tarmac.  And as I’d be setting off too early to see any ‘on the day’ notifications, parkruns that wouldn’t be too susceptible to last minute cancellations.   I know, demanding aren’t I.  Amazingly, I managed to whittle down options to Delectable Delamere parkrun, followed by Notable Northwich parkrun.  They both looked lovely, and what’s more, were working together to facilitate doing both.  Yep, also Delamere is in a wooded area, and that sounds lovely.

For those of you who like to know this sort of thing, according to the official Delamere parkrun website, the course is described thus:

Course Description
The course starts from just past Old Pale car park, which is on the left a hundred yards past Linmere Visitor Centre. Coming out of the car park and turning left you will see the parkrun start just before a path branches off to the right. Heading down this path you will then turn right up a short hill at marker post 65. Crossing the train line and bearing left you will then turn right at marker post 66. At marker point 62 you will go straight ahead and then, upon reaching marker post 61, you will turn left onto the lakeside path. Keeping Blakemere on your right-hand side you will be treated to stunning views of the lake as you complete one full lap before re-tracing your steps back to the start.

Oh.  Not really any the wiser.  No worries, never stopped me from taking part in a parkrun before.  There’ll be friendly marshals, there’ll be other people who have thought to do parkrun to start the year too.  I can follow them. It’ll be fine, what’s the worst?

The worst that can happen apart from forgetting your barcode, is finding the toilets shut. Oh hang on, they will be according to the Delamere parkrun facebook page.  All very informative and welcoming and encouraging of double doers, but nope, no loos.  Hopefully there will be at least one tree in case of emergencies.  Oops.  Al fresco it may have to be…  Or is it al dente?  I get them confused.  Anyway, the course looks like this:

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Ok, just basically, try not to fall in the lake I’m guessing.  Yep, it’ll be grand.

So, I set my alarm for stupid o’clock, and lo, it rang out, and despite having felt like I’d passed another night awake throughout with insomnia, it seems I was jolted awake  as it from the slumber of the dead wondering where I was and what was going on!  No matter, it was extra parkrun TWICE day, so I soon recovered.  Coffee, dressed, and out the door, in darkness.  The streets were pretty deserted, just a few party-goers heading home, from Sheffield to Cheshire involves going over the Snake Pass.  I was a bit of a scaredy cat about this, as you get crazy drivers there and blind bits where you feel like you are going over the edge of the world up top.  Fortunately, it was an incident free drive, and by the time I started seeing signs to Delamere Forest I was feeling VERY excited by the scenery.  It had a tolkienesque feel to it, mysterious, misty woods, with early morning light creating shadows, and a strange expanse of other – worldly lake.  I could feel my inner smugness quotient rising pleasingly.  I had chosen well.

I headed for the postcode for the Old Pale Car Park – which is just past the Linmere Visitor Centre and used the postcode CW8 2JD on sat nav to get there.  Which worked.  Hurrah.  Yes I did have to stop twice on the way for precautionary pee purposes.  Once in a 24 hour garage, and once in a layby.  Don’t judge.  

The car park was due to be open at 8.00 a.m. but when I arrived a bit after that, alarmingly it was very much shut.  The only reassurance was that there were already a couple of cars hovering around, each containing within one or more parkrun tourists looking similarly angsty.  We emerged from our respective vehicles wondering what to do, and feeling thwarted, also unsure, because everything had looked so very shut the whole way in, and there didn’t look to be much in the way of other options anywhere near – plus where was the core team?  Yep, we were early, but often event teams are earlier still, had we got it wrong somehow?  One had come straight from a night shift and planned to go on to Crewe afterwards, we’d all come in search of a parkrun double. Good news was that we bonded over our shared uncertainty, and gleaned reassurance from each other, we were in the right place, and the Facebook page had declared the car parks would be open, so we just had to keep the faith.  This we did, and were rewarded by the giddy sight of a ranger bearing keys.  Not all heroes wear capes.  Dear reader, we were IN!

The next challenge, was working out the most efficient way to park in a space with no marked parking bays.  None of us were local, and none of us quite sure how to position ourselves.  It’s hard being a parkrun tourist.  I can’t help thinking that they’d fit quite a few more cars in if they had marked bays, it was all a bit random.  Oh well.  I got a spot near to the exit ready for a speedy (ahem) get away.  I knew you had to pay for parking and it was listed as £2 but that’s just for an hour, if you are an early bird arrival and like me a slower participant, be prepared to pay £4 for 3 hours.  I don’t begrudge it actually, fair enough if you are using the facilities, but good to know in advance.  My new parkrun best friend, the one with whom I shared angst both over whether the car park would be open and then how to park in it once it was – then spoke for majority of us by saying out loud what many would be thinking ‘and now for the other great per-parkrun challenge – toilets.’  Yep, they were shut.  However, whilst I’m not advocating wild peeing per se, lets just say there were a lot of trees in darkness, with soft forgiving pine needles deep littered around them.  I think some may have chosen to avail themselves of such forest attributes.  Top tip though, leave a biodegradable breadcrumb trail behind you if you are planning on going too deep within, pretty impenetrable in places that forest.

The parkrun start is literally, just by the carpark.  Volunteers started parking up past the ‘no entry’ signs, and have little volunteer passes to put on their cars to allow them to do so.  The pop up sign, duly popped up, and there were some lovely little local touches like.  Ikea bags (other large reuseable bags from other stores are probably available, but the IKEA ones are fairly ubiquitous); a little sign for the first timers briefing, a sign for different finish times to assemble, and a ‘dog start’ sign too.  Bit of feedback, there should maybe have been a ‘dog tired’ one too, but not visible on this occasion.  My favourite thing though – which is a tough call to be fair – was the lovingly hung up selfie frame, with its own hook from which it could be carefully hung.  No being flung carelessly in the mud for this reinforced frame.

Of course I took advantage of the selfie frame!  Rude not too, when they’d gone to all that trouble.  Shame my head obscures the name of the parkrun, but on the plus side, I’ll be able to reuse the snap when I go to other parkruns and don’t avail myself of the selfie frame ops.  Every cloud eh, every cloud.

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Despite the early start, and long drive I was really excited to be at Delamere.  It had a really friendly feel.  It was extremely well organised, and despite the huge turn out (though nothing like as huge as their Christmas Day field of 720) it felt relaxed, so whatever frantic paddling was going on was beneath the surface.  The location is spectacular, and the attention to detail impressive.  On a ‘normal’ parkrun day, there’d be good facilities too, with a whole visitors centre with I imagine toilets with actual toilet paper and a cafe too – I think it did open around 10 to be fair, but I wasn’t planning on lingering today at least.

I joined the milling and chilling, and oh look, someone in a 50 sash.  What’s more this was my parkrun buddy from the carpark.  Hurrah, what a great way to do your milestone run, even if you were wishing you’d got more than one safety pin to keep your sash in situ.

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A colourful gathering congregated and grew…

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In a bit, a megaphone gave a call out for first timers.  I’ll be honest, I don’t think every single first timer present bothered attending, but a few of us did.  It was a friendly and swift briefing for tourists.  Basically, the route was described with the summary advice of ‘keep the water to your right, if it’s not on your right, you have a problem’.  Fair does.  Then, the solitary identified first time everer, was given a one to one on how it all worked.  They had a route map to show people too. I’ve seen these at a few parkruns now, I think they are helpful.  My takeaways from the briefing were follow everyone else, there are no marshals on the 3k (approx) loop round the lake so keep an eye out for each other, defibrillator is in the visitors centre  and try not to fall in.   I think that covers it.  Oh, and the paths are pretty wide, so as long as you are realistic about how you place yourself in the starting line up, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about overtaking.  It’s effectively a one-lap course.  My favourite!

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Dogs started assembling at the Dog Start, which was fun, not all did, so I’m not sure how much this is enforced, but basically dogs start at the back here.  A few looked to have canicross type gear, and they seemed a well behaved lot, keeping their companion humans on appropriately lengthed leashes.

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I love the colours as people assemble.  The high-vis team formed a sort of guard of honour at the front. The Run Briefing covered the usual milestones, thanks to volunteers, and then we sort of walked forward a bit to get to the starting line.

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Incidentally, did you know that some other parkruns have formed their own New Year’s Day traditions?  Nope, me neither.  Well, case in point, Colwick parkrun, which is a most excellent parkrun to visit by the way, not least because they always wear Hawaiian shirtsstart their New Year’s Day Run with a parkrun communal handshake.  How brilliant is that?  Rhetorical question, very brilliant indeed!  Click on the link above for a video clip of the whole parkrun field shaking hands with one another.   Aw, would melt the hardest of hearts I’m sure…

Colwick handshake

Anyway, back to Delamere parkrun.  The start here was a bit peculiar, or at least to me unfamiliar, we all started trundling forward, and then I heard a vague ‘go’ but nothing really happened, we just continued our onward shuffle.  I don’t mind about times at all, that’s not what parkrun is about for me, and when I’m touristing I like to jump to one side and take pictures along the way, but I think if you were a speedy runner you’d do well to position yourself further forward, or even as an average runner, pay attention to where you are in the start funnel or you could be a bit boxed in. Those of us who were boxed in though, got to make new friends with others along the way, which is much more fun than sprinting off in glorious isolation in my parkrun world at least!  Plus I got to find out which of the runners at my sort of speed were also hoping for a double.  That was reassuring. I was determined not to take stupid risks getting to parkrun two, but wasn’t wholly convinced it would be doable at my speed, given the distance between the two, but others in the know seemed confident all would be well.  Again hurrah!

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Nice though isn’t it?  The paths are good, despite the forest location.  A bit muddy in places and I suppose it would class as off road, but a good firm surface and there were buggy runners taking park.  In fact, as we headed off, to our side, I saw some canine assisted runners, and an intrepid off-road buggy pusher fair sprinting on an alternative track, overtaking most parkrunners with ease.  Impressive.  I’m not sure if that was an official dog and buggy route, or just an unofficial overtaking lane for those in the know.   Good work though people.  Almost too fast to be captured on camera!  They almost look like they are absconding from the law here, maybe they were?  Where better to hide than in the plain sight of a mass parkrun start, and then use the confusion of the off to disappear over the horizon and into the cover of the woods.  Makes perfect sense when you come to think about it.

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Those of us not absconding from the law, continued along the paths, it’s not a completely flat course, but the inclines were fairly forgiving.  Cheery marshals pointed the way.  And my, how photogenic and enthusiastic they all were.  Voice activated too, if you greeted them with a ‘happy new year’ or whatever, they’d become extra animated.  I’ve noticed that many marshals seem to have this interactive feature, and it’s great fun.  They respond to positive stimuli like ‘thank you marshal’ or being offered chocolate, mince pies or a high five.  It was nice to see them all thriving in their natural habitat here at Delamere, glossy coated, lively and smiling.

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On we went, over a bridge with I think a 28 ton limit, which seems huge for a forest path – maybe it’s so logging vehicles can get through.  It was a fairly steady pace at the back, and nice for me not to be running out of sight of everyone else for a change.  Prior to my recent re-education, I’d go so far as to say that often it’s just me and the tumbleweed plodding round at the back – meaning to reference a place deserted, like in westerns.  I think of it as the filmic shorthand for silence or stillness, e.g. as the hero rides into an apparently deserted frontier town.  However, I learn from The Guardian that actually, tumbleweed can be almost smothering by way of company, not indicative of glorious isolation at all.  Check out these truckers overwhelmed by tumbleweed in Washington State.  I know, who knew?  Not me, until now.  This is a catastrophe, I’ll either have to speed up so I can parkrun as part of the pack, find parkruns with a bigger field so there are more at my pace or, worst of all, come up with another analogy.  Oh the pressure!

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My regular reader will know I can’t talk and run, so I don’t really like officially running with others as it’s too stressful, but I like the companionable element of running in the company of kindly disposed and friendly others, albeit we lope alongside one another in silence.  Delamere parkrun delivered in bucket loads, it was a companionable and friendly yomping ground indeed.  Thank you fellow parkrunners all.

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Along the way there were a couple of other forest users, who were seemingly enjoying the spectacle of lots of runners.  One quipped at me that he had assumed I’d be wanting to take his photo when I whipped out my camera to get a shot of a hidden gruffalo  – presumably also on a parkrun tour from Sherwood Pines – so I took that as an invitation to do so.  Hello cheery fellow forest goers.  They were doing a walk in reverse, and pleasingly, I saw them again on the way back.  It’s good when there are positive interactions with non parkrunners at a venue, it feels more of a sustainable community event that way. The gruffalo picture didn’t come out very well unfortunately, but maybe it just didn’t want to be photographed today.

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Onwards we went, more marshals.  A lot of marshals here had a companion canine.  This is Lola, she’s not very old and she was absolutely desperate to join the parkrunners, and completely bemused as to what she and her companion human were doing standing still.  She was very sweet though, as was the marshal too of course, but only Lola gave an affection lick to my hand and a look of longing to join me as I departed onwards…

After running through the woods, you eventually find yourself peeling off to run round the lake, or more accurately ‘mere’ I suppose, though I’m not entirely sure what the difference is.  Hang on, let me google that for you.  Ok so according to bald hiker:

Technically a mere is a lake that is really shallow in relation to its size (breadth). … The word mere comes from Old English ‘mere‘ which meant lake or ‘sea’ in Old Saxon, a broad term for a body of water. Time and many many generations and language differences can make it all more confusing

Ok, that’ll do.   Anyway, soon found myself jogging alongside the lake.  The early morning sunshine was hitting the water and it looked really spectacular.  Sometimes sun broke through and hitting the bracken under the trees turned it almost copper in colour.  Simply stunning.  The mere has really unusual ecology.  By which I mean I hadn’t seen anything like it before. It has a strange mystical look, all moss and submerged trees, you can imagine elves and goblins and trolls and shrek and hobbits and allsorts going about their business here.  It is like a setting for a film, and a very special place indeed.  My internet research subsequently tells me that Cheshire Wildlife Trust are working at conserving the area and protecting its fragile and very specialised ecology.  Good for them.

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It was a real privilege to be in the space and yet another example of how parkrun tourism gets you to see areas of the country you might not otherwise think to visit.  My photos won’t do it justice, but you may be sufficiently frustrated by how rubbish they are that you are spurned to go and visit for yourself.  Don’t worry, the loos will more than likely be open when you go and the location just as lovely.  Taking part in a parkrun as part of your visit is not even mandatory, although it is of course highly recommended.

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Somewhere along this section I made a new parkrun friend, just as we were going under the Go Ape rope works, which are alarmingly high up.  She was explaining about the origins of the flooded forests, which made a bit more sense of the mysterious habitat.  Always good to have a well informed local parkrunner on hand to give you the local low down.  Thank you new best friend parkrunner!  Hope you like the photo!  Looking fabulous.

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There were one or two spent runners limping homewards in the opposite direction.  Not sure if they’d fallen, or just thought the better or running. I  did ask if they needed help, but they were walking wounded, calling it a day.  That’s got to have been disappointing.  Still, there is always another parkrun but a few sleeps away, not worth getting injured for.

‘Suddenly’ I was back round to Lola.  Completed disorientated.  I have learned I have a terrible sense of direction.  I had no idea we’d finished the circuit.

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Around this point though, I started to notice a mysterious phenomenon at work.  parkrunners coming in the opposite direction.  What strange sorcery was this?  I was pretty confident I was going the right way.  Then it dawned on me, these were parkrunners already finished, who were now embarking on running to their second parkrun. Respect.  They were going at a fair old lick, and probably needed to, it was a fair distance to Northwich and I think Crewe was the other possible, though I have no idea where that was in relation to where we were.  My bad.

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You retrace the path you headed out on, though it looks completely different coming back the other way for some reason.  The finish seemed to come ‘suddenly’ I think it might be because it’s ever so slightly further up the track than the start and also you go over a little hump in the path just before it so you there is an optical illusion whereby the lovely finish funnel team materialise as if by magic.  Aren’t they lovely!

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Through the funnel, quick glance behind to see who’s there:

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Not bad eh?

I was a bit distracted by the view, and almost forgot to pick up a token!  Can you imagine.  The horror.  I shudder at the very thought.  Fortunately, the event team have apparently run a parkrun before, so I was issued with my finish token, and went on down the funnel to the security gang of four who were ready to corral wannabee funnel duckers and scan you on exit.  There would be no messing with this lot, and they were super friendly too, just calm authority oozing outward so you know what you are dealing with. This seems fair!

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And that was that.  Just the little matter of thanking the RD and the marshals, and then onward bound for event number two.

By the way, Delamere parkrun produced their own run report for the day if you like to triangulate your parkrun info by checking more than one data source.  You can access it here Delamere parkrun #342, Jan 1st 2020

It was hard to tear myself away in some ways.  This was honestly one of my favourite parkruns to date.  And no, I don’t feel too disloyal saying that, as all parkruns are practically perfect in their own way, and although some do spark particular affection, it doesn’t mean I love any of the others any the less, it’s just your capacity for parkrun love keeps on growing.  The more you discover the greater it is.  It would be fab if it was your local, very nice indeed…  Then again, even though the cafe at the visitors’ centre was now open I think – or near as dammit – the lure of another parkrun was stronger.  I was soon on my way.  Carefully.  Max speed of 15 mph in the park, and there were plenty of people around, you don’t want to end a lovely parkrun morning by squishing anyone.  No need.  I could see others trekking to retrieve their cars and was wondering who I might meet at venue two.

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So where next?  Oh yes, I remember, Northwich.  Bring. It. On!  There was even a handy route planner provided on their Facebook page to facilitate movement.  In fact, although I did use satnav, pretty much the entire parkrun population seemed to be travelling in convoy between the events, so I knew I was in good company.  Hurrah!

New Years Dble route finder

And, for your information, some people actually ran between the two.  No really, I passed them en route and nearly stopped to offer a lift before I realised by their cheery wave to the car in front that they were doing this evidently on purpose!  Blimey.  Respect.  Even if there is a bit of a short cut, and you are faster through the first parkrun than me, that’s still quite a lot of running to kick off the year.  Well done super parkrunners.  Awesome.  I would say inspirational, but I’m not sure that’s quite true, not planning on emulating that for next year, though seriously impressed.

So that was 50% of my parkrun adventures concluded.  Exciting eh?

Thank you lovely parkrunners of Delamere for the warm welcome and fine facilitation at your spectacular venue.  Special thanks to the volunteers who made it so.  It seemed to run like clockwork from my point of view, and super friendly.  I really hope to make it back some day.  Til then, happy parkrunning adventures for 2020 and beyond!

#loveparkrun

Oh, and if you want to know how I got on at Northwich parkrun, you can read all about it here.

I was one of 203 who made that particular double, according to this fab stats New Year’s Day Double tracker.  Go on, treat yourself, have a browse.

google doubles

I don’t know too much about where this originated from but found this credit:

A map showing the parkrun ‘doubles’ that people managed on New Year’s Day 2020. The map is based on parkrun results, so may include errors where e.g. names have been manually entered. Unticking the Events layer makes the doubles more easy to see. Huge thanks to Ian Rutson for providing the base data. Please share freely!

And ‘with me now‘ say ‘Thanks to Charlie Pearce for creating the visualisation and Ian Rutson for supplying the data’ which is good enough for me!

– whatever wizardry created it though, respect!  There’s even an international one from Australia to Canada!  Hope some carbon offsetting went on…

By the way,  you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and you might be needing to get on with the next decade of your life now, it’s amazing how quickly time flies, it’ll be another decade done in the blinking of an eye!

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

Having a relay good time at Cusworth Hall parkrun.

Digested read:  parkrun tourism took me to Cusworth Hall parkrun this Saturday.  It was relay nice!

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Undigested read:

Cusworth Hall parkrun is a relatively new addition to the parkrun family.  It takes place at Cusworth Hall Museum & Park, Doncaster.  Were it not for this parkrun, I would never even have heard of Cusworth Hall, let alone taken the trouble to go and visit it, and my life would have been the poorer for it.  Turns out, it’s a gem of a location, less than an hour from Sheffield, and I can only assume it has its own glorious microclimate, because on a day when zillions and squillions* of parkruns were cancelled due to forecast high winds, storms, and apocalyptic rain, and others because of the rugby (no really – some people have trouble prioritising) yet Cusworth Hall parkrun was going ahead and the venue was bathed in autumn sunshine.  A little oasis of sun, sanctuary and calm.  A.Maz.Ing.  I like to think the volunteers put this on especially – they were very welcoming, it seemed nothing was too much trouble.  I’m pretty confident therefore that they guarantee similarly glorious weather every time or your money back.  This is a pleasing reversal on my most common local parkrun weather experiences, which involve me peering out of the window on a Sunday morning in Sheffield pre Graves junior parkrun, establishing it’s lovely out – if necessary through a process of triangulation which involves sticking my arm out of an attic window … and then traveling to Graves park having crawled along in the car behind a snow plough (should have guessed that might have been an early warning sign), only to find stepping out of the car on arrival I can’t even see my hand in front of my face because of, if not total white out, then hail coming down on the earth like a vengeful deity hurling down shards of broken glass.  Don’t get me wrong, it can add a certain frisson to the parkrun occasion to be conducting it in extreme weather, but Cusworth Hall it seems has a microclimate which is altogether more welcoming and benign.  Reet nice out in fact. Go find out for yourself.  If you go next week, Mr parkrun himself is going to be there, so it won’t only be glorious weather, but the parkrun route will be paved with gold.  I don’t know if volunteers have to go out with little brushes and paint gold leaf everywhere, or if just Mr S-H stepping on the ground gilds the paths around him by magic. Like King Midas, but only his feet on the ground.  Even if it doesn’t work like that, there are plenty of golden leaves adorning the paths right now, so the effect is broadly the same.   Here, by way of illustration, is a parkrun he visited earlier.  I think this one is possibly in Narnia, and it was a trial run, but worth keeping an eye on the exit route at the back of your wardrobe over the next few weeks, as I imagine it will be going live soon.

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Mind you, there was gold at Cusworth Hall parkrun this week too, but only as a taster.  I’m getting ahead of myself though, let’s start at the very beginning instead, it’s a very good place to start.  Apparently.

Oh, by the way, there was an event photographer at Cusworth Hall parkrun this week, and he shared some pretty fab pics, which I’m going to use freely in this post.  Well, they are fab, would be a shame not to.  I did take some pictures of my own, but they suffer by comparison, let alone juxtaposition!  I acknowledge my own pictures may add, erm, character perhaps, and sometimes comedic value, but not necessarily fine focus.  Each snap a memory nevertheless.  Well, I like to think so, and they do say it’s the thought that counts, albeit mostly when the result is pretty horrible.  Even so, not gonna lie, it’s brilliant to have some proper shots to immortalise the day, so thanks to Chris Cull for the photos, which you, dear reader, can browse at will here.

Right, so pre-visit prep.  My touristing options are getting more limited now winter is drawing in. However, Cusworth Hall is less than an hour from Sheffield, so why not?  I checked the official Cusworth Hall parkrun website blah de blah in advance, and established that you head for postcode DN5 7TU but as you get close please ensure you follow the signs to the car park and do not park in the village. Alarmingly, they add, please note that the postcode does not work with all Sat-Nav devices.  Uh oh!  Since I have acquired a sat nav, I have lost the ability to operate a map, or paper based aids.  Oh well, nothing ventured.  They say toilets are available (yay) and parking too, free until 10.30 but you need to display a spare barcode.  No problemo, my car is littered with spare barcodes, admittedly in various states of sodden decay, but one at least must be laminated and recogniseable.   This is testament to the potential benefits of otherwise potentially paralysing and pointless parkrun paranoia re #dfyb (don’t forget your barcode), parking sorted!  I knew my precautionary angstiness might one day pay off!

Next pre parkrun research is to check out the course.  The course description reads thus:

Course Description
The course starts and finishes on the driveway in front of Cusworth Hall. It is a slightly extended out and back route which explores the undulating terrain of Cusworth Hall Park. Following level paths in front of the hall and around the car park, the course drops down to the lakes at the southern end of the park. After running around the lakes the course zig-zags uphill across the main lawn before heading towards the finish.

Nope, that makes no sense at all.  Fortunately, they provide a picture, which looks like this:

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It may be that this graphic was designed as a visual aid to illustrate the concept of ‘none the wiser’ to a class of students learning English as a Foreign Language.  It’s hard to think why else the team came up with quite this route.  I meant to ask them on arrival, but then I forgot.  I was too distracted by golden baton fondling.  It could be entirely intentional, and perhaps a mathematician is available to confirm that this is in fact the most efficient way to fit a 5k route into what is a fairly bijou space.  Or, it might be that the night before they had to formalise their route, somebody spilt cooked spaghetti over the map and this is what they ended up with.  Obviously, no-one is ever going to admit to such a catastrophe, nor if it was the other option which occured to me.  That is, a small child scribbled a doodle over the originally intended out and back route with an indelible pen, and so they were stuck with it in perpetuity.  It’s up to you to to choose which version of events to believe.  Whatever happy accident brought this about, I can report that the journey is indeed way more important than the destination, and it worked just fine, but lord help anyone heading out intending to do a freedom run on this route when it’s unmarked and they don’t have a small army of cheery marshals alongside pointing the way!  I’m sure you’d have a lovely run, and a splendid micro-adventure, but I seriously doubt you’d be able to replicate the route unassisted.  And up until now I just thought it was those doing the Bob Graham round that needed navigator guides throughout…  Oh well, maybe some people just like a challenge.

So, the morning dawned, and off I went.  The roads were clear, and the sky disarmingly clear too.  I passed some party goers from last night, walking home through the morning gloom in fancy dress from the night before. Well, I presume it was fancy dress, I don’t see that many hawaiian grass skirts and lime green shell jump suits sported in these parts generally speaking, but each to their own I suppose.  The drive was easy peasy, and in fact it was way under an hour, so I was ridiculously early.  For parkrun tourists out there who want to know about accomodation options, I passed Halstead cat hotel very near to my destination, which might be handy if you are a touristing feline.  I know of a rabbit that is a regular at Bushy parkrun, Peellie –  but I’m not aware of any cats as such.  Perhaps it’s a bit chicken and egg, why would they tourist if there are no suitable facilities to meet their needs.  Good to know Cusworth Hall parkrun is ahead of them.  I don’t think the rabbit always arrives dressed as a pumpkin by the way, I think it was because it was seasonally appropriate what with halloween last week and everything.

So I arrived, following the brown museum signs to the car-park as directed.  On arrival, there was a big sign saying you couldn’t pay for parking at the moment because someone had stolen the ticket machine… for the third time!  That’s mean, they ask you make a donation instead in the museum. I  decided to interpret this as basically an instruction to have post parkrun sustenance in their cafe.  Veggie brunch, totally vindicated result!

There were signs for the loo, and signs for the cafe, all basic needs accounted for.  The venue was unexpectedly stunning.  Lots of mature trees, ample parking – so ample I had to drive round the car park twice to decide on the perfect parking spot.  It was just a short walk to the front of the hall – to the start area, but as I followed the path round I was distracted by the wide vista with mist rising from a lake below the hall.  It really is very nice indeed.  The back of the hall looks like this (photo stolen from facebook somewhere, but captures it really well, thank you Facebook photo sharer 🙂 ).  Yes, those are busy bee marshals setting up the course in the morning sunshine too.  Not bad for the back porch is it?  My exposed backside is nothing like as photogenic, and, for the record, has fewer people dancing attendance on it as well.

DM hall

The only unsettling image on my way to the gathering area, was seeing some caged trees.  It just makes you wonder what it is these trees might do if free to roam.  Are we talking triffids, or Birnam Wood, or the Whomping Willow a la Hogwarts and Harry Potter.  All are terrifying in their own way.   They didn’t look like triffids, but then they’ve probably evolved since the original documentary in the 1980s, like antibiotic resistant bacteria, they could have been reincarnated in near unrecognisable forms.  I mean, what better cover could there be than to look perfectly innocuous?  Quite!  Must be dangerous then.  Then again, the volunteer team will surely have done a pre-course safety inspection, and I guess if they’ve herded this dangerous, wayward wood altogether like this, maybe their potential for violence had now been neutralised. 

Mind you, You’d have thought they might have put a marshal there just to be on the safe side.  Oh my gawd!  What if they had, and that marshal was no more!  Gulp.  I crept on by.  There were other scary things in the woodland area too, but I didn’t see those until later…

After the caged trees, I glimpsed my first sight of the marshals, going about their important business of setting up the parkrun.  Turns out, this was only their fifth event.  This was handy for me, as I ‘need’ a 5 for my Wilson index, not badly or keenly enough to actively seek one out, but it was pleasing to acquire one by chance.  I generally love the Running Challenges, but the Wilson one seems to require a bit too much planning and or serendipity to be worth actively investing in.  Oh, you don’t know what it is?  Hang on:

Wilson Index: The maximum contiguous series of parkrun event numbers you have attended (at any event), starting at 1. To start off your streak, this requires that you have run at an inaugural event (controversial!), and then to increase the value to 2 you need to run at event #2 somewhere (not necessarily the same event as you ran at the inaugural event). They do not have to be in order, so you can go back and fill in numbers later.

See?  Doable if you are in at the beginning of a local parkrun, but as most of us – barring the original 13 parkrun pioneers were late to the party, a bit out of reach for the many.  Kudos to those who can be bothered to play with their excel spreadsheets creatively enough to keep that number rising.  Anyway, where was I?  Can’t concentrate properly until I’ve had my precautionary pee, now, let me see, loos were promised… and delivered!  Great facilities, open, lit and with toilet paper as well as washing facilities. Hurrah.  I could breathe easy now.

Then, next stop, spy on the hi-vis heroes.  Here they are, volunteers in action.  Getting ready for the parkrun party in the morning sun.  Team work.  Excellent.

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I was early, and a bit awkward.  I never know whether to offer to help when you early as a tourist, people who don’t know what they are doing can get in the way. Then again, I didn’t want to be unfriendly, and I did want to take some pictures and not in too stalkery a way. So I went and said hello, and asked if I could take photos, and that was OK apparently so then I tried to take some only it’s harder than you might think, especially as the sun was bleaching out loads of shots.  It’s so hard being me and self-conscious, honestly you have no idea.  Here’s one attempt at photographing Cusworth Hall – which dates from 1740 I believe, although the parkrun flag is a later addition improvement.

After I’d busied myself with taking rubbish photos, other parkrunners began to arrive.  There wasn’t a huge crowd. Whether that was because of Rugby, forecast inclement weather, new kid on the block or the catchment area of the parkrun I don’t know, but people were slow to surface. Still, it’s quality not quantity, and there were some quality arrivals.  Not least, some brandishing a golden baton, part of the Big Golden Baton relay extravaganza, which probably is ultimately pointless, but it’s also fun, so why not.  These fine folk had collected the baton at Wythenshawe parkrun, and excitingly, were passing it on to some fine folk from Millhouses parkrun. That’s extra exciting as it’s one of my nearest, and another brand new and shiny parkrun which so far has only had its test run and its inaugural, where I joined them a couple of weeks back.  It’s therefore especially pleasing that it’s already networking more widely in the parkrun family, and that by happy coincidence I got to share the moment too.  Yay.

The arrival of the Leeds Building Society golden baton generated the kind of excitement that only a golden cylinder can bestow on an event.  You probably had to be there to fully appreciate it.  Obviously, everybody present had to be photographed either appreciating the baton; comedically fondling or flourishing the baton; in close proximity to the baton; doing a staged hand over of the baton; reverentially holding the baton or otherwise interacting with it.  These things take time.  There were surprisingly few quips along the lines of ‘is that a golden baton in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me’ but some things are best left unsaid, and anyway, people were thinking it loudly enough that the sound of the phrase echoed round the courtyard as only infantile quips can.  parkrunners were exceedingly pleased to be bestowed with the honour of having the golden baton in their grasp.  There was some debate about whether or not it is constantly tracking its whereabouts like surveillance equipment, and nobody really new.  This is how surveillance societies come about.  We don’t ask the right questions and anyway are too distracted by the shiney new baubles that come our way to really notice that we should.

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Some people were more intuitively gifted with the re-enactment relay shots than others.  Check out this sequence.

Respect.

The posing for photos necessitated a certain amount of garment removal for best display of running related tees and parkrun clothing.  Any unwatched running jacket was scooped up by an enterprising junior sweeper and offered up to his dad.  I think this may be an innovative fund-raising initiative on the part of the parkrun.  Some very nice running jackets were collected and I’d certainly have put in a bid for more than one of them if eagle eyed original owners hadn’t been so quick off the mark in retrieving them.  Good work though, he’ll go far, missed nothing!

I was a bit confused as to who would actually run with the baton, or indeed if anyone would.  It wasn’t that user friendly to hold, being of wide girth.  Fret not dear reader, all will be revealed.  First though, I had to check out the tail walker.  Excellent.  I desperately want a tail like this for our junior parkrun.  One day perhaps, one day.  Well, assuming we aren’t allowed an actual dinosaur, which would be my preference, but I recognise might be incompatible with the animals kept at Graves park.  With the possible exception of the highland coos, I think a T-rex would make short work of the other residents.

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The team were still busy with set up, meanwhile I was busy finding the tourist dog with the softest silkiest ears.  Which I did:

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Busy as they were, the volunteer team were easily seduced into posing for a team shot with baton and sign.  I tried to get them to jump in the air, which they did, but my camera failed to capture the moment. Again.  Oh well, thought that counts remember dear reader, tis the thought that counts.

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and then suddenly, it was all action stations. First timers’ briefing.  Lots of first timers, it being a newish run.

and then there was the official run briefing.  Including a mini ceremony with the baton being transferred, and documented for posterity by many a mobile phone and camera shutter. 

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And there was a special round of applause for the tail walker who was having a birthday I think, and someone else who was either having a 250th birthday or running a milestone today.  I forget which.  And volunteers were thanked, and the announcement made about PSH coming to Cusworth next week.  He’ll have missed clutching the golden baton, but I think he’ll have a nice time anyway.

And then we all mustered on the tarmac path, facing towards the arch in the start area.  It was all good natured, maybe a little crowded, but it didn’t take too much exertion on the common sense front to get into a reasonable spot depending on estimated time.  I tucked in at the back.  And then a count down and off!  The official photographer took some ace shots of everyone storming down towards him.  He is not only brave, and a good photographer, but has a telephoto lens to keep him at a safe distance when taking such action shots.

CC off

so the 140+ runners stampeded towards him, and then veered to the side at the end.  Some runners (see if you can guess which) spotted him en route, but others were focused on their run.  It may be a run not a race, but that doesn’t mean speedy runners can’t give it their all.

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Oh, and check out the fun factory bringing up the rear.  A quartet of talented tailwalkers, keeping us parkrunners safe and on track.

CC fun factory at the back

Clearly I could do a sub 17 minute parkrun if I a) had the prerequisite physiology, and b) did the necessary training, but added impeding factors today were that I’ve still got a dodgy back and also that I needed to stop and take photos en route.  Pleasingly, a couple of kindred spirits appeared to be doing likewise, documenting their runs.  As long as I stayed out of the way and ahead of the tailwalker I am fine with my approach which charitably might be referred to as jeffing, but more accurately is linked to poor stamina and a propensity to be distracted by photo ops at any and every given moment.  So, for your information and merriment, please find below my photos from start to corner one.  I don’t think there is any risk of confusion with the ‘proper’ photos.

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So after you turn away from the arch you do a little zig zag, and end up running alongside the car park.  That was a tad odd, to be fair, but I like that you could see faster runners coming back in the other direction on the opposite side of the car park.  Don’t worry, faster runners also get to see slower runners coming in the opposite direction too, it’s quite fair, but they haven’t necessarily got the time to turn their heads to enjoy the view, let alone take a load of pictures.   Fortunately, other parkrunners were on hand to perform this service.

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One of the (many) things I really liked about the course, is that the twisty turny route meant there were lots of opportunities to see other runners of different speeds running around in the general vicinity. It made it companionable, without the stress of being lapped.  It isn’t really a multi-lapped course as such, you do run twice round the little lake, but that’s sufficiently far on round the course that speedy runners were long gone by the time I set foot on it.  The course does however require super versatile marshals, who were not only fabulously helpful and particularly photogenic to a tabard, but also had the ability to teleport.  You’d see them at the start, and then they’d pop up somewhere on the course as well, and then magically reappear at the finish.  It was quite remarkable, I don’t think they were clones, though what with the caged trees maybe there are powerful magical forces at work that keep this parkrun show on the road.   There is a lot of creative cone placement too.  It’s needed, fine as the route is, I think it’s fair to observe it isn’t especially erm, let’s go with ‘intuitive’.

 So you cross the end of the car park, and up the other way, round a muddy field.  I always wear my trusty inov-8 parkclaw to new events, and I was glad of them. They are good for a mix of tarmac and grass.  Don’t be scared non-grass lovers though, the field bit wasn’t too horrific, it had trees and things and so did not induce flashbacks to the trauma of cross country or school sports days or anything like that.  It was brief, and jolly, and there was the joy of watching other runners, and supportive marshals.  One latecomer and child was sprinting to catch up with the tail by the time I got back to the corner of the field.  All good.

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So back, past the car park again, and this time you run round the back of the house, through some railings and past the amazing rear view of the stately home.  You can see the view of the lake and Doncaster vista beyond – I’d love to go inside the house and see the view from the upstairs windows there one day.  Not mid-parkrun though, that would be a bit much of a diversion even for me.  I did stop to take some pictures though, obvs.

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The photographer had either teleported or being transported by golf buggy, pack horse or his own two feet to a new position.  I think he may possibly have taken photos before as they were jolly good, and he is clearly used to both this venue and photographing runners as there were some brilliant pics. He even got not one but TWO photos of me multi-tasking by apparently running AND smiling AND waving AND having flying feet all at the same time, without even using photoshop.  I was impressed.  In other news, he also answers the question about what happened to the baton during the run.  Dear reader, people ran with it, and later on, different people person and/or persons unknown have it with them, so either it was freely surrendered and passed on in good-humoured parkrun tradition, or there was an almighty scrap and the winner took all.   All there to be pored over though.  Exciting isn’t it?  Check out the barkrunners too.  Having a grand day out indeed.  Oh, and the leggings.  This was a very good parkrun for colourful leggings, personally I’ve only ever had black, and as they are basically indestructible, and can accommodate a changing body shape due to the genius that is stretchy lycra, I’ve had my current leggings for almost a decade I think.  If they do ever give up the ghost, maybe I’ll go wild and go technicolour.  It’s tempting.

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Also, the RD had relocated and was looking exceptionally busy and important.  There’s something about the intoxicating combination of a unique high vis AND a clip board that bestows great power on the person in possession of the same.  With great power comes great responsibility.  He wore it lightly though.  Good job!

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So through more railings, and then you get a joyful downhill scamper.  It was a tad slippery and a bit of a test of nerves, but fun.  You go down through a nicely planted erm, shrubbery I think, and down towards the lake.  The field had spread out by now, so you also get to have a little companionable chit chat with other runners of your pace at this point, should you wish to do so.

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Marshals are on hand to shoo you round the right way, and round the lake you go.  At the far end is another marshal with a lap 1/lap 2 sign so you know you get to see him again later on.

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Come to think of it, there were faster runners coming through at this point, because I saw some of them sprint up the hill, along a woodland trail and back towards the house, as I turned to go around the lake.

and then from the other side of the lake, you can see the faster runners streaming along against the backdrop of the sunlit house.  In the foreground swans a-swimming, it was pretty god-darned photogenic I don’t mind telling you.

Looking straight ahead wasn’t too bad either.  There is a lot of mature planting in the grounds, and some amazing specimen trees pop up next to the bulrushes and little ornamental bridges or gulls overhead.  This is a fabulous venue, not only for a parkrun, but as a public space to get out into and enjoy.  I’d definitely come back some time and check out the museum as well.  Summer though, when being parkrun fresh doesn’t lead to damp shivering, misery and feeling like death in the chill of winter.  There were some muddy bits though, but that’s good isn’t it, it’s not a proper run if you return with clean trainers.

Another marshal, ready to turn you round, so you don’t end up inadvertently heading off to infinity and beyond, which would be awkward – not to say expensive if they had got their parking ticket machine back in operation by then.

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Round, by a wall, through more trees, back to some marshals you’ve been before.  A test, before you can continue – have you seen me before?  If yes go right, if no go left.  Not sure how that would work for those with Prosopagnosia (face blindness), just have to hope they can recognise bridges and vegetation instead.  This looked like a fun marshal spot, as you had a specific thing to do and also were in shouting distance of another marshal, so they could be a high performing double act, keeping order, and having a laff. Both are very important functions indeed.  I think the one enhances the other, if my experience at junior parkrun is anything to go by.  Then round back to the stopping you from running to infinity marshal, past 50% of the tail walkers and past the wall again.  It was a very nice wall…

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and then ‘suddenly’ you are back on the homeward straight, through the gap in the railings, with the house to your right and the lake to your left, and up to lap 1/lap 2 marshal, only this time you get to run up the hill.  Yay!

then there was an unexpected (for me) bit.  You cut across the grass in front of the hall, to a gesticulating marshal enticing you her way.  There is a lot of going back from whence you came, although pleasingly you don’t have to do so on an identical path.  I’m sure this was the fourth time that morning I’d met this marshal en route if you count the pre run photos too, which obviously I do.  Very versatile as well as photogenic marshals at this parkrun.  It is the Cusworth Hall parkrun way!

I got confused again though.  Granted it doesn’t take much. It’s just that my internal homing device meant I fully expected to be directed round to the finish by skirting round the side of the house from here, but it was not to be.  You head out again, and do a little corner of the field and back alongside the car park again. Praise be to the marshals for keeping us on track, I was completely clueless, even following the parkrunner just ahead I wasn’t overly confident of the path to take!

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Got there in the end though.

Oh hang on, what is this unexpected additional scary thing lurking in the woods?

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BOO!

Don’t worry dear reader, I sped past without incident.  I can’t say whether others were so lucky.  I mean, parkruns count runners back in with finish tokens it’s true, but they don’t generally speaking count us out… no cause for concern, just saying for future reference.

And then, before I knew it, it was past the archway, and homeward bound, you get to sprint down a very slight but significant incline towards the house, so you feel like you suddenly get a second wind which is quite satisfying.  A posse of hi-vis heros are on hand to cheer you in.  As is the parkrun way.

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Genius as my photos undoubtedly are not, fortuitously we have the yan to my yin, by way of the official finish shots.  Things to look out for here – apart from the obvious boon of runners being in focus – include the ownership of the baton and the gritting of teeth as parkrunners endure their sprint finishes.  Did you know swearing can improve your workout apparently.  I don’t think any parkrunner would utter an expletive, but their suppression of the impulse to do so might account for bleeding eyes and throbbing neck veins as they finish.  Also, check out the particularly adoring look of the barkrunner with his responsible adult running companion.  Awwww. 🙂

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I also think the official pics capture the inclusive nature of parkrun.  It accommodates both very tall people and very not tall people.  Although I am wondering if I maybe need to catch up on Father Ted to be really confident I’m reading the situation correctly.  That small or far away challenge has never been all that obvious to me to be honest.  Awesome buggy.  That’s got to be the way to travel round parkrun – maybe that was the transportation of choice for the photographer now I come to think of it. There’d be room for all the photography gear to hang off it too.  Very practical.

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So I came storming (ish) through the finish, and a very alert junior marshal was on it to make sure no finish token passed him and his tin. Quite right too, it’s important to set clear boundaries from the start!

All done.  I lingered a little while longer to await the tail, and try and nail an atmospheric finish shot.

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And that was that.  Cusworth Hall parkrun done and dusted.  Just a question of adjourning to the cafe.  The cafe, was extremely well stocked with generously portioned cakes and scones. The savoury options, especially if vegetarian seemed to be more limited, but to be fair I didn’t have my glasses on so had to fathom options based on limited information.  I had a vegetarian ‘sausage’ in a bap.  It was alright, quite nice even though more of a vegetable and cheese option than anything sausage like. Coffee, sorry to say  – particularly as the setting was glorious and cake and scone options magnificent – was poor.  One of those push a different button for a latte/ cappuccino whatever and it was tasteless and a textureless, no depth to the foam. I really don’t know why they don’t have a ‘proper’ coffee machine, it was a mismatch of expectations.  The eating area was nice though. Big wooden tables, and the whole place was rammed with parkrunners – always a boon.  Friendly service too.  So a good option, but if you are a coffee snob, brace yourself for disappointment.

I chatted a bit to other parkrunners.  We had the ‘most unexpected parkrun’ conversation.  I no longer ask people what their favourite parkrun is.  The question is meaningless as each parkrun is unique and it’s like asking someone to pick their favourite child perhaps?  Most unexpected seems fair, and turns up some interesting stories.  The story from this parkrun was a recommendation for Catterick parkrun, the parkrunner in question had been when a multitude of gurkhas were running it, it sounded amazing. So many elite runners, but also the atmosphere of support and music was extraordinary.  That’s been added to my ever lengthening to do list for sure!  They aren’t there every week, but with reasonable frequency.  You don’t get to go over the jumps though, so do try to contain yourself if you do go.

catterik parkrun

But this was Cusworth Hall parkrun, so I should conclude by saying it was a relay nice one.  No, relay it was, definitely one of my favourites so far – even though we’ve already established I haven’t really got one because each parkrun is unique.  This parkrun though was friendly, good facilities, lovely venue and full of interest.  Also not too far from Sheffield so I’d definitely come back and do it again sometime.  Thank you lovely parkrun makers all, and special thanks to the Cusworth Hall parkrun team for the warm welcome and fab event. It was a memorable day indeed.  Especially thank you for sorting the weather.  It was fabulous right up until the moment I got back in my car to drive home.  Perfection!

Happy days.

Oh, and if you want to read the Cusworth Hall parkrun event report for today, event #5, and I think you should, it’s here, with lots of pictures and some explanation about the baton relay thing too.  Hurrah!

Incidentally, it occurs to me I’ve not done a stats link in a while, and I love Elliott Line’s analysis week in week out. So, as a special treat dear reader, check out this link for a snapshot of the parkrun attendance and milestone stats for week of 2/3 November 2019.  Honestly, even if spreadsheets and stats aren’t your natural habitat, if you are into your parkrunning you may find this link awakens your inner parkstats geek.  You’re welcome. 🙂

By the way, you can waste further hours of your life by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice as well, reading is not compulsory, no sarcy #tldr comments please, it’s unkind and unnecessary I’m not trying to make you read anything, just scroll on by.

Happy running in general and parkrunning in particular ’til next time, wherever your feet may take you.  And remember, we live in the age of parkrun, however bad the world seems at time, we got lucky with that!  Yay, go us!

#loveparkrun

*well, maybe not ‘zillions and squillions’ as such, not least because I don’t know if they are actual real numbers, but a great many

 

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

Taking the plunge on parkrainday aquaplaning the undulations at Sheffield Castle parkrun

Digested read:  went back to Sheffield Castle parkrun today, it rained.  It’s been a while.

Undigested read:

I wasn’t going to do a blog post today, as it’s sort of my home patch and I’ve done a post about Sheffield Castle parkrun before, loved it then, two years ago – they had tadpoles* for goodness sake – what’s not to like?  But then this is such a fabulous parkrun and so under-recognised in my view, I changed my mind.  Putting up a post, even if no-one ever reads it, is my way of sort of writing a thank you letter to the individual and collective awesomeness that is the Sheffield Castle parkrun team.  They are dedicated, welcoming and cheerful, and I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to come back for another visit.  It’s a great run, and hardly ever cancels.  Once because of black ice, and once because of another event in the park, which isn’t bad going for a parkrun which started way back in August 2013.  Today was their 318th run.  And the ratio of volunteers to runners is impressive, how they pull it off week in week out is a minor miracle.  It would take more than apocalyptic flooding for them to pull the plug on their run.  Though to be fair, the irony is if that flooding did make them pull a plug, then the water would all drain away and everyone could run without getting their feet wet, so they wouldn’t need to pull the plug after all.  I know, the contradictory logic messes with your head!  Still, point is, lovely parkrun, why not celebrate it in a post.   Thank you lovely Sheffield Castle parkrun people, your parkrun is epic, as indeed are you!

Also, on the subject of plug holes, check this one out at Ladybower, not a magic portal to a parallel universe unfortunately, but pretty impressive all the same, although not a good idea to dive into it I’d venture.  It would have taken something on this scale to dry out the roads of Sheffield this weekend though.

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So there has been was a lot of rain.  No really a lot.  They say every cloud has a silver lining, and that is true, but they also hold an enormous amount of rain, and a great many large clouds have been jettisoning biblical quantities of rain for what seems like forever.   This plays havoc with my parkrun plans!  What to do?  I was thinking earlier in the week of venturing away from Sheffield before winter properly sets in.  However, parkrunning tourism isn’t that appealing when it might involve aquaplaning down motorways in early morning darkness through zero disability torrential rain.  I’m a bit of chicken driving, unlike rats, surprisingly.  No really.  Look, it was on the BBC website so it must be true check this out:   Rats taught to drive tiny cars to reduce stress levels.  I mean, they’d probably be less stressed if not in a lab in the first place, but even so.  Amazing.  Counterintuitive, as I find driving incredibly stressful, but then again, I’m not a rat, and maybe the roads are better in Canada?

Fab ratmobile though…  I wonder if this was inspired by the bat or popemobile, or vice versa. So hard to establish what is cause and what is effect sometimes, or indeed correlation.  We live in a world of mystery and wonder.  On the subject of bats (yes we were, albeit tenuously) did you see this?  Sweetest thing ever.   Bumblebee bat apparently.

bumblebee bat avant gardens

Stop distracting me by asking about the bat, I’ll never get to tell you all about the Castle of parkrun adventure at this rate what with all these pesky interruptions!

The other complication, was the amount of cancellations popping up.  Wouldn’t want to risk life, limb and worst of all sense of humour bypass, from turning up somewhere only to find it cancelled at the last minute.  I’m desperate to get my running challenges gold running obsessive badge this year by completing 50 parkruns within one calendar year. I know it’s basically a virtual sticker chart for grown ups and inherently pointless, but I don’t care.  I seek it out.  This compulsion hurts no-one.  Sigh, it would be awesome on my profile…  Blooming love the Running Challenges Chrome Extension.

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I’ve actually not missed a parkrun this year, but at three of them I didn’t get to run.  Two of them I ended up watching with my mum including supporting her getting her Spirit of parkrun award which was amazing by the way (parkrun royalty, had to be done, and well worth it), and one I turned up at only to find it had been cancelled at the last minute due to high winds, which I completely support – difficult decision for RDs and all that – but it meant it was too late to go anywhere else.  Can’t afford for that to happen again this year.  I’ve just one parkrun in hand, perilously close… in my reach, but not in my reach, like blooming parkrun bingo.  The idea for Stopwatch Bingo , is that you collect all the seconds from 00 to 59 in your finishing times.  I’m on my 227th run, and yet STILL the 20 second time eludes me.  So near and yet so far.  Aaaargh.  Would today be the day I scooped it.  Spoiler alert, nope, it wouldn’t.  But I did a whole lot worse than that, though you’ll have to read on to find out why.  Blooming hate the Running Challenges Chrome Extension.  Pointless stress-inducing obsessive-behaviour-cultivating oojamaflip.   As if life isn’t fraught enough!

Where was I?  Oh yes, in Sheffield, watching the parkrun cancellations tally be revised ever upwards on the parkrun cancellations page.

parkrun cancellations

Bit of a theme emerging eh?  It’s worth looking at this page from time to time, some parkruns are quite creative with their cancellation reasons.  My favourite was one stating the parkrun had actual polar bears on their course, such were the arctic conditions, which I daresay they did, though I can’t remember which one it was now… oh hang on, I can check.  Give me a minute…  it was Bradford parkrun!  I mentioned it in an earlier blog post.  I’m almost disappointed they didn’t cancel today, because they have a gift for communicating their cancellation reasons.  They’d have been building an ark or something.  Wish we’d thought to do that in Sheffield too to be fair.  And, of course I wouldn’t really wish a parkrun cancellation on anyone.  The horror of turning up and finding only tumbleweed or a solitary sodden marshal detailed with breaking the bad news to you.  Too cruel anywhere, as has been said before…

Best stay local.  I was thinking Millhouses parkrun, to continue to support it, what with it being both local and new having only had its inaugural last Saturday.  Then that became definite, because I was going to stand in and be tailwalker for someone else (complicated story), and then there was a suggestion it might be cancelled, due to stretches being not so much puddled as underwater and then it was cancelled.  Oh dear.  Now where?  And then there was a chance Sheffield Hallam parkrun might be cancelled too, on account of the fact it basically being a pond.  I didn’t want to leave it too late to decide where to go if I was going to need to drive.  I wasn’t 100% about whether Graves parkrun would go ahead (also good choice for halloween theme of course) it usually does.  Then as I was browsing through various Sheffield parkrun Facebook pages there was a little comment on one of the posts for Sheffield Castle parkrun Facebook page, just saying almost coyly – ‘yes, we’ll be there in the morning‘ with some fine running emojis.

we ll be there

It was meant to be dear reader, it was meant to be.  I’m in!  Sheffield Castle parkrun has slipped off my radar lately, mainly because it involves driving without the incentive of Highland coos at the end of it, but it’s a great reliable parkrun, so why not.  Make a change.  It’ll be fun, it’ll be fine.

In the morning there was some conferring and some last minute call outs and checks.  Smilie Selfie Queen was going for Castle, Sheffield Hallam reported flooding but would try to go ahead -though not confirming til 8.30.  It’s astonishing those that did as well as those that didn’t.  Penistone parkrun cancelled the night before on account of a bog:

Sheffield Hallam parkrun went ahead, too good an opportunity for triathlon training to pass up.  Plus, must have been hilarious to be fair.  Not to mention a triumph of hope over experience, as one parkrunner at least clung to a King Canute like belief he could turn back the tide.  You have to admire this kind of tenacity, not to mention my boundless appreciation for any parkrunner who seemingly never travels without a yard broom in case of just such a parkrun eventuality.  Yes, that is on the actual course by the way, and what’s more, a bit you get to run/ splash/ swim through four times.  The joy!

Sheffield Castle parkrun facebook page hadn’t got a more recent update, but that’s OK, I’d go there.  Point of information if you don’t know this particular parkrun, it’s a really cool parkrun (get me and my trendy yoof speak**), small (by Sheffield standards) and ‘proper’ community one.  It’s held in Manor Fields Park, which to be honest, when I first moved to Sheffield about ten years ago had a reputation for being something of a dump.  Dog shit and fly tipping, a sad and derelict site.  In recent years, it has been utterly transformed with wildflower planting, sculptures and – best of all – it’s very own parkrun!

Sheffield Castle parkrun is small but perfectly formed, so we can forgive it for being devoid of an actual castle.  The committed team of volunteers who run it are locals invested in the area rather than necessarily runners as such. This gives the run a uniquely friendly, welcoming and community vibe.  It also has a sort of informality to it, which to the uninitiated may seem disconcerting. For example, if you look at the volunteering rota as a way to check its on as tourists often do (blank rota usually means no run) you’ll just see a void, stretching into eternity, it only gets populated immediately after the run when they are events processing for the days parkrun.  In fact, they don’t really bother with it in advance, they have a dedicated team, who presumably rock up each week and sort it out on the day I think.  It works anyway, but is unnerving if you are traveling any great distance I imagine!  Concord parkrun similarly don’t really bother with their volunteer roster in advance either.  Nerves of steel to travel a long way to go there too, but each Christmas day they deliver parkrun magic, no excel spreadsheet required!

castle vol rota

The website also doesn’t list any facilities, but dear reader, on arrival you will find there is a loo, and a little warm room to wait at the start and ‘free’ (for an optional donation) tea and coffee in the community room at the end. Some limited free parking, but it’s on a tram route so accessible by public transport anyway.  if you are driving, I went with the postcode for the premier store next door at 525 City Road with a postcode of S2 1GF, and that worked fine, but be warned, it isn’t a premier store anymore, it’s called something else, so you could miss the turning on arriva.  However, the postcode will get you there – make sure you don’t use the store carpark, turn into the Manor Fields Park area instead.

Right, whilst I’m doing the routine stuff, I might as well tell you about the course, don’t think I did last time, honestly can’t remember. Anyway, the Sheffield Castle parkrun course blah de blah on the official parkrun website describes it thus:

Course Description
The course consists of three laps of Manor Fields park in an anti-clockwise direction.
The Start/finish line is situated at the entrance to the park from the car park adjacent to York House, City Road.
From the start head east following the tarmac path which descends gently and then takes a more north easterly direction. Take a right fork climbing gently on a curved path towards the Queen Mary Road entrance to the park keeping the houses to your right.
Adjacent to the Queen Mary Road park entrance take a left turn following the tarmac path north east towards the children’s playground.
Immediately prior to the playground, at the cross roads, turn left and take the gentle descent north westerly. Continue along the tarmac path following it north keeping rocks to your right and over the discreet, level bridge.
Take the next available right and continue along the tarmac path in a generally northerly direction as it ascends ever more steeply towards the Raynald Road exit from the park.
Follow the tarmac path left and north west as it descends steeply towards the Manor Park Crescent park entrance keeping within the park boundaries following the path as it bends left passed the entrance heading south in a steady climb.
Stick to the main tarmac path as it bends south westerly and commences its steady climb past the cemetery entrance on the right back to the start/finish line.

Which makes it sound reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally complicated.  It’s not, you can either just follow the person in front, or just be guided by the strategically positioned cones and smiley marshals.  You won’t be lost.  You do need to be able to count to three though, or you might over or under shoot your parkrun experience.  It has happened.  I was definitely at a parkrun where a first timer did an extra lap once, but then again, I like to think how chuffed he would have been on completing his ‘difficult second parkrun’ where he must have got a stupendous personal best!  Not sure if that would be absolute consolation though.

The course looks like this:

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What they don’t tell you with quite sufficient emphasis in my opinion, is that it’s Sheffield Flat.  i.e. undulating, i.e. some really quite big hills, two in fact, each of which you do three times.  The views are fab though, and what goes up must come down, so you do get to whizz down them again, which is always a boon.

Anyway, that’s the background info.  My day involved waking up early and thinking it was the middle of the night it was so pitch dark outside.  It wasn’t.  It sounded like torrential rain was beating down on my attic window, shudder.  It was.  This was definitely going to be a wet one. What’s more, at the minute my back is stuffed, so I’m just walking.  In a way, this was something of a relief as it legitimised me wearing waterproofs and even a scarf and woolly hat, but I am getting so sick of not being able to run or do anything very much.  It’s soooooooooooooooo frustrating just pootling round, I wonder if I’ll ever get back to running again, however ineffectually.  Mind you, pootling might be the better option to running to the point of collapse.  Super speedy runners are impressive, but sometimes I worry they don’t have as much fun as the walkers.  Here’s one trying to emulate Mr Kipchoge’s marathon pace for just a kilometer.

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It didn’t end well.  Worth a gander though, and if it’s still raining and you now know what happened in the Rugby***, what else are you going to do today?

Sometimes slow and steady will get you there more reliably.  Hare and tortoise anyone?  For longer distance challenges, pause for a moment to celebrate this woman.  Maggie Guterl.

Maggie Gurtel winner ultra

Oh yes she did!!! Maggie Guterl just won Big’s Backyard Ultra. She ran 250 miles straight and was on her feet for 60 hours!! She is the last WOMAN standing and the first woman to win this race. History is made and barriers have been smashed.

Both ends of the distance are impressive.  Beyond impressive, but I’m thinking for me the goldilocks zone is somewhere between a flat out 1 miler and 250 miles straight (averaging 4.1 miles an hour – about my parkrun speed today, so I’m on target 😉 ) that is, a nice 5k parkrun distance.  I’ll try that, but note the achievements of others in terms of acknowledging what is possible.  Maybe not for each one of us, but within the potential of humankind at least.

So up and out and off to Sheffield Castle parkrun.  My satnav obviously felt my life needed an element of surprise and enrichment, and not only took me the most roundabout route imaginable, I’m pretty sure I went via Aberystwyth, or possibly Cape Pembroke Lighthouse parkrun, but also had a 3 second delay as the signal dropped in and out, so I kept misunderstanding or missing altogether directional instructions.  Probably those things are related, but I choose to believe my satnav is sentient and mischievious, trick or treating me in keeping with the season.

It was pyjama parkrun day, so in theory you could run with your duvet, which would have been fab, but susceptible to extreme waterlogging, so that didn’t happen. Oh well.

I still arrived really early, and was seriously impressed to see a cheery finish funnel already up.  Welcoming lights gleamed out from the community building, this run was happening!

I love the sculptures in this park too, they truly are spectacular.  It’s a while since I’ve been, and I went for a quick wander a  gander.  I  think it was winter when I was here last, so I didn’t fully appreciate the amazing wetland bit with huge bulrushes and boardwalks as well as ducks, and I do love a duck as my regular reader will know.  There was also a great playground, and even though it’s basically winter now, still lots of flowers around.  It’s an amazing place.  It has taken real imagination, passion and dedication to transform this site, it’s astonishing.  It’s not promising when you approach, and then you find the oasis of green space for wildlife and people alike.

I also spotted another slow and steady potential parkrun participant.  This is the parkrun pact, thou shalt not finish last, there shalt be a tailwalker, and possibly even a mollusc, to reassure you there is a chance you’ll get to storm ahead of some living creature at least!

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And, for the first time, I spotted this fabulous revelation.   Finally, a pb parkrun, even if three laps!  I know, I know, the jokes been made before, but with an open goal like this one what are you supposed to do?  It might be raining, but this is doable, very doable indeed!

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It was definitely still raining, really rather a lot.  So I used the facilities for my precautionary pee.  Top tip, the light switch is inside and low down, you will be plunged into darkness if you shut the door first without locating it.  Just passing on the info for a friend, obvs.  Next door there is a store room, where the innovative Sheffield Castle parkrun team have completely solved the impossible challenge of working out how to pack away the start/finish banner.  Just leave it popped up the whole time!  Genius.  No more ritual humiliation trying to contort the parkrun pop-up banner cat back in the proverbial bag! Talented team here at Manor Fields Park like I said.

I went to join the little huddle in the brightly lit community room.  I didn’t take a picture as it didn’t seem appropriate.  But volunteers were assembling and hot steaming cups of tea and coffee were available as hi-vis was donned.  A few tourists appeared, I like to think it was quality if not quantity.  Some from Nottingham, braving it in shorts – skin is waterproof being their mantra.  I know they are right, but even so, brave and bold parkrunners there.  Properly hardcore.  There was a Rother Valley ‘local’, who like me had decided venturing too far for tourism with so many cancellations potentially pending was not the best move, so keeping it relatively local and visiting a too long neglected parkrun friend.  There were also some refugees from Millhouses parkrun as well as some who were clearly regulars.  A friendly and even optimistic vibe.  Call that rain?  Hardly drizzling!

This parkrun prides itself on starting bang on 9.00 (my watch today said I started my run at 9.01, which is pretty darned close).  So about 15 minutes before the run director braved the rain to put out the final course touches pre run briefings.  Seeing the activity, parkrunners began to emerge from their cars like crabs from under rocks.  It’s always amazing how from nothing a parkrun appears just at the last minute.

The unique selling point of this parkrun is that the volunteers are all spectacularly photogenic, and also have the most extensive collection of golfing umbrellas ever held aloft at a parkrun.  FACT****.  I had no idea golf was so big up at the Manor.  Assume nothing dear reader, rather expect and embrace the unexpected.  I don’t know (or care) enough about golf to make any golf-related small talk, but if it’s your thing I daresay you could give it a whirl.

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Whilst chatting with volunteers I also learned more about Manor Fields.  For example, it was among the first in the UK to adopt

an exemplar SuDS system reproducing natural wetland features to assist with drainage solutions designed to cope with major wet weather incidents.

That means, all the run off from the surrounding houses collects in Manor Fields, and so creates that amazing wetland habitat.   I also learned that the work that has gone into creating wildlife habitat has started to pay off.  I’m not a twitcher as such, so might be getting this wrong, but various endangered species have somewhat surprisingly found a safe haven here, including I think the grasshopper warbler.   According the the RSPB website:

The high, insect-like reeling song of the grasshopper warbler is the best clue to its presence. Even when you hear one it can be difficult to locate it due to the ventriloquial effect of its singing. If seen on migration it moves like a little mouse, creeping through the foliage. Dramatic population declines have made this a Red List species.

Who knew a bird could be a ventriloquist!  Every day’s a learning day!

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So that was great, but we were here to parkrun, and so volunteers headed off to the far corners of the fields, and parkrunners materialised in time for briefings.

Smiley Selfie Queen and her making-an-effort comrade were just in time arrivals, but appropriately attired.  Good work my running friends, good work.  Also, handily posing in the doorway of the community room, so you get a little hint of how welcoming and roasty toasty it was in there, pre or post run.

CS made an effort

There was a little comradely huddle of first timers:

the atmosphere built, the crowds assembled:

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and then the RD was astride his podium.  I like to think this was put in place especially for this purpose, but reluctantly concede it is part of the kit for an outdoor gym type initiative:

The brief was pretty focused and brief, with a pleasingly attentive but small cluster of a select 56 runners.  A late arrival didn’t mean there wasn’t time for a bit of parkrun posing.  Shame not to.  After all, if you can’t flash your boo at the parkrun nearest to halloween, when can you?  There were some fine skeleton earrings donned by a participant today, but you might need to be rather eagle eyed to spot them.  … Anyway, ages since I’ve been at such an intimate parkrun gathering.

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quick shuffle round to get in position

and then – a la junior parkrun – there was a collective countdown from ten, nine, eight… to go!  This was great, as it meant I had an accurate start time, creating the giddy possibility I might be able to help along acquisition of my last outstanding parkrun bingo number.  Ye gods, if only!

Awf we went.  Two tail walkers at the back, I wanted to keep just ahead of them.  Despite appreciating the social aspect of parkrun, I can’t bear running with other people, I just find it really stressful.  There was a jeffing run/walker with the tails, so I sort of did impromptu jeffing to keep just away from them, but interspersed with pauses for photo ops.  One thing about being really slow at the moment, is I can appreciate routes more and stop to take pictures on the way round.  Might as well quite frankly.  I think I overheard the tailwalkers say to one another ‘oh no, only runners today!’ which made me feel better in the event I was last one in.  They were looking forward to a walk and talk perhaps.  They were lovely anyway, I warned them I might have to walk a lot because of my back and they just said ‘no problem, that’s what we’re here for’ and more than saying it, clearly meant it.  I could feel the wave of relief wash over me.   The inclement weather did seem to mean only the more hardcore runners had turned out, numbers were definitely down – well, that and the Rugby apparently – so fewer slow and steady participants than usual perhaps.

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It’s a three lapper, and I normally don’t like them, but honestly, there’s so much of interest to look at going round this course is isn’t boring at all.  You can see the other runners in the distance, you can admire the views across Sheffield or the cemetery, you can admire the autumn leaves on the trees or the weird and wondrous sculptures, AND, as if that wasn’t bounty enough, you can interact with the cheery marshals on the way round.  No chance of getting bored here! 

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You start off down hill, but pretty soon have to go up, but it’s fun, no really it is, like a DIY roller coaster.  And it looked spectacular.  Those golfing umbrellas are great for creating a cheery and colourful vibe too!

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Check out the wildflowers too.  Reet nice oot!  Reet nice marshals too, which was fortuitous as you pass them at least three times, more if you are wandering around pre and post parkrun.  Here is one, strategically places at the bottom of heartbreak hill.

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What’s that you say?  Why heartbreak hill?  Erm. Tell you what, come find out for yourself, put on a spurt as you go past the entrance to the conveniently placed cemetery and you might be able to make an educated guess.  Alternatively, if like me you are walking at parkrun on the day, you can pause to admire the bog plants thriving at the wayside, look in admiration at the community orchard, planted so people can help themselves to the fruitful bounty (brilliant idea, don’t know if that’s a thing elsewhere too) and watch in wonder as front runners – admittedly somewhat sodden, come steaming by!

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Walking at parkrun is fine by the way, parkrun are rather proud of their walkers as it shows it is creating opportunities to be active for people who might not otherwise be so.  There is even a Walking at parkrun Facebook group.  Good to know.

You have a tantalising glimpse of the finish funnel, with a concentration of high-vis heroes all tooled up and ready to go, and then round you go for lap two.  Or lap three, if you are faster than me, and have just lapped me.

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Ding ding, round two.  Looking lovely curving round the uphill ahead.

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I love that you can see the houses, it really highlights how the park is city based resource.  There weren’t all that many other users out and about today, a couple of dog walkers.  And one guy with a huge umbrella in one hand and an enormous bap in the other, chomping away.  I’m not going to line, I did have a moment of thinking his approach to a walk in the park looked like it was potentially a bit more fun than mine – but then again, he didn’t have the camaraderie of an entire parkrun community alongside him.  Though he did have breakfast…  tough call.  Still, no breakfast is better than a post parkrun breakfast.  FACT!*****

As I went round again, I espied a different style umbrella, this one with unicorns.  Not real unicorns, just a pattern of them.  Not sure if this was here as an emergency resource, much like one of the volunteers was despatched to their spot clutching a first aid kit, and there’s a defibrillator somewhere – or if it was just soooooooooooooo wet now, even the bushes wanted a bit of respite from the inclement weather.

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Round we go, wave at marshals, back to heartbreak hill, oh look, more runners coming through, and sprinting to their finish.  Yay!  Go them.  Some still had time to shout encouragement or offer up a cheery wave as they sped on by.

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Past the finish again.  Inexplicably, I am never thought to have already done two laps, but I got cheers of encouragement as I set off for the final lap.

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In truth, I think it was me, the jeffer behind and the tail walkers on our own for the final lap.  A couple of the volunteers had started to wander back towards the start to see where we were.  They were still directing, just checking everything out, which was fair enough.  The tailwalkers were a bit further back, as they ‘released’ marshals as they passed, and scooped up the cones that had signalled the way.

In the final stretch, Smiley Selfie Queen appeared.  I thought she’d have had to rush off, so that was great.  And also, of course she obliged with photos.  Yay!  I concede I’m hardly dressed for running, but I was dressed for the elements.  And I still got wet through to my knickers.  It was a wet one, seriously, very wet indeed!

CS not very action stations

Finally, the end was in sight, and I glimpsed my watch.  Oh.  My.  Gawd.  So close to time, I jogged and then sprinted through the finish, and the time called something 20!!  BINGO!!  BLOOMING BINGO!!!  DONE IT DONE IT DONE IT!!!  If this comes good, I’ll get a pointless virtual badge that only I can see on my running profile!  I wondered if it was cheating to have helped it along, but decided not, because it’s not like I waited, and it’s so arbitrary, and anyway, it felt goo.  Hurrah.  This is the parkrun that keeps on giving.  Could this get any better?

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Through the fun of the funnel, token issue, 15th birthday flat-band scanned.  Job done.  Smilies reunited.  Boo!  I wasn’t alone in getting wet en route methinks!

Time for the obligatory group selfie, courtesy of Smiley Selfie Queen and facilitated by a volunteers golfing umbrella!

CS selfie

And that was that.  Team stood down.  Course dismantled, and volunteers disappearing off to the community hut, splashing through the standing water en route to get there.

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I had wanted to stay for coffee to be sociable, but I was so wet I decided to head home after thanking the team.  It was an excellent choice, and I’m really glad to have Sheffield Castle parkrun back on my radar once again.  It’s such an intimate run, and it’s an interesting course, challenging if you want it to be, but supportive if you are wanting to take it more slowly for whatever reason.  A good inclusive parkrun community.

Rained on the way home, but some nice views across the city from on high.  Don’t worry, I was stationary when I took the photo.

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And as I stepped through my front door, super fast results processing meant I heard the ping of the results coming through on my phone.  Just a formality to check.  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  Not my twenty second time as expected, worse it was twenty-one seconds.  One second awry!  That’s hard to take dear reader, I’d rather miss it by a mile.   If there’s one thing worse than not getting a bingo number, it is to miss it by just one second.  I don’t think I’m ever going to get that elusive 20, it is so very random.  Oh well, perhaps I should be grateful to have it still outstanding and something to chase.  Who knows, when all my bingo dreams are fulfilled, perhaps life will seem strangely pointless?  Best not to know.

Oh, and in a parallel universe, they were showcasing the joy of running, if not singing in the rain over at Sheffield Hallam parkrun. Good work behind the camera George, with these pics you have surpassed even yourself!  Just a bit of surface water, no great drama.

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There was a fair bit of water at Poolsbrook parkrun too!  Never have so many parkrunners had soooooo much fun, splashing through puddles.  You have to pity the poor trolls that normally live under the Poolsbrook parkrun bridge – where would they have gone to hide?  Heaton parkrun had a water feature too! 

So that’s that, thank you fellow parkrunners in general and Sheffield Castle parkrun team in particular for another precious parkrunday.  What a cracking parkrun Sheffield Castle is, I’m not going to leave it quite so long between visits next time!  Special thanks to the amazing volunteers who kept cheerful and enthusiastic with their clapping and directional pointing despite what might be referred to euphemistically as ‘sub-optimal’ conditions. You are all superstars!

What did we ever do with our Saturday mornings before.  I know one thing, as I stood dripping in my hallway, gazing at my one second out bingo time, there is no way on earth I’d have spontaneously out of the house for any sort of outdoor exercise today were it not for the pull of parkrun.  It’s been life changing for me as well as life enhancing.  #loveparkrun hope you do too!

That’s it for now then.  Don’t forget, clocks go back tonight, we all get an extra hour in bed in which to dream about parkrun, sigh.  Lucky it was a day full of adventures!

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You can waste more hours of your life by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Enter at your own risk.

You’re welcome.

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*just to be clear, the tadpoles were present, but not actually participating. That would be stupid.  Little did I know back then that 2 1/2 years later, I’d have tadpoles of my own.  Just goes to show, you never really know what the future holds.  Giddy times.

**sarcasm alert people, sarcasm alert.

***don’t tell anyone, but I don’t really care about the Rugby, and haven’t found out the result yet therefore.  Hence you’ll find no spoilers here.

****Lucy fact, that is, I choose to believe this to be true.  Works for me.

*****also Lucy fact.

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Making the Muster at Millhouses parkrun, an anything but run of the mill inaugural!

See what I did there with the heading?  I know, I astonish even myself sometimes.  ‘Run of the Mill/ Millhouses parkrun’, genius.  And anyway, now could a park with both super-sized swans and a very respectably sized heron be in any way at all ‘run of the mill’?  Particularly when it takes place against a backdrop of autumn copper and gold.  Precisely.

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Digested read: I went to Millhouses parkrun, the new kid on the Sheffield parkrun block.  I was not alone.

Undigested read:

And so it starts.  The literal start went off like this:

KW off

But my account starts way before that moment.  Obvs.

A great deal of work went into launching this inaugural of Millhouses parkrun.  Not that I can take any credit for it whatsoever, but just to make the point that there have been rumblings of a new parkrun at Millhouses for quite literally years.  Personally, I wasn’t confident it would ever happen as it’s not the most spacious of parks and it’s already really busy with a cafe, and children’s play area, and boating pond – quite crowded.  But a year or so ago, there was a call out for people to volunteer to give it another go, and lo, it came to pass!  It’s testament to the stubborn resolve tenacity and inability to taken ‘no’ for an answer persuasive skills of those Millhouses parkrun pathfinders that today ever happened.  I salute them, and applaud their endeavour, as did everyone else who was there today.  It was quite a feel good occasion.  A lot of work went on behind the scenes.  There were trial runs a while back, and then a practice run last weekend (timed etc but not ‘officially’ recorded as such).

I agonised over whether or not to attend the inaugural.  There had been a request for a low-profile launch, and there is a constantly churning debate about whether or not it’s OK to go to inaugural parkrun events.  At one point it was encouraged, but then the fear was new teams might be overwhelmed by huge turnouts before they’d perfected their systems, so the message was put out to stay away.  In fact I’ve come to think it’s more nuanced.  Don’t go chasing them, but follow the steer of the core teams, and if it’s your new local, and you’ll be a regular, that’s a bit different from uber road trips just so you can say you were there.  Even then there are exceptions, I’m going to stick my neck right out and suggest that when Cape Pembroke Lighthouse parkrun launches next week (26 Oct 2019 in case you are late to the party), it’s not going to be inundated with anything very much other than penguins at its debut event, but then again, that is the Falkland Islands.   Do they even have penguins, or is it just sheep.  Hang on.

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OK, yep, penguins, also seagulls.  Not sure about unexploded ordnance, but they do have a weekly publication called ‘The Penguin News‘ which makes me want to go there even more.   Millhouses parkrun did not have penguins.  But did have herons and swans.  So a reasonable alternative offer I’d say.  Also, no unexploded ordnance at all, as far as I was aware anyway.

The point is, Millhouses parkrun is walkable for me.  I will always keep a special place in my heart for my current home run of Sheffield Hallam, I mean, it’s where I first discovered parkrun and made so many of my parkrun friends, not to mention the fact I’ve only just had an apricot tee printed with its name emblazoned across my left boob.  However,  it has got sooooooo crowded, and I have felt knocked back when I’ve tried to get more involved with it,  so I am on the lookout for a new parkrun to be my second home I suppose.  I’m not ready to absolutely defect, but I’d like to dance between the two when tourism is no longer practical with dark and icy mornings being contra-indicated for long drives in the winter months.  Generally speaking I’m not sure about second homes, but I think having a parkrun second home is more acceptable somehow.  Like those who are parents tell me with respect to having more than one child.  You don’t have a finite amount of love to split between them, rather your capacity for love increases as extra offspring appear.  Obviously the parent I’m referring to told me this on a good day.  Anyway, I like to think it will be the same with parkrun homes.  You just find your affection for parkrun grows exponentially with every new parkrun you discover.  That’s been how it’s worked with the tourism.  And if Millhouses parkrun is to be my new base, then it would be a real shame not to be in at the start.  Only the other week I met a runner at Bushy parkrun who had the chance to be at the inaugural parkrun EVER, i.e. at Bushy parkrun’s first dash, but opted for a lie-in instead.  You can’t change history, seize the day, don’t live a life half-lived and risk being forever consumed by bitter regret.  What might have been eh?  What might have been …

Anyway, the inaugural was also the worst kept secret ever in Sheffield.  I’d known about it for weeks, and it seemed a bit self-defeating to piously martyr myself by staying away because we weren’t supposed to know about it when the entire Sheffield running community seemed to have shared it’s intention to be there and asked all their friends to come join the party.  The local pub announced on its Facebook page a 25% discount of post parkrun breakfasts with effect from 19th October 2019.  The Millhouses park cafe and kiosk similarly gave a Facebook heads up about the coming event.  See a pattern emerging here at all?  Add to this the stream of strava posts of 5k routes round Millhouses park titled ‘definitely not a trial parkrun’ and similar which I also took to be something of a clue. I’m no Jessica Fletcher, but even so, it was all looking pretty conclusive to me.  I mean, obviously, I do have finely tuned parkrun antenna I suppose, but you really just needed to be a sentient being in Sheffield to know this was going to be happening.  Bottom line, I’d go.   I mean the date of this inaugural parkrun is about as mysterious as the date of Christmas Day in the UK (25th December, in case you were thinking it was a trick question, it so isn’t).  What’s the worst…

They’d hardly send me away again would they?  Would they?  Oh gawd, that would be mortifying!  No, surely not… I mean how would they decide?  Ask for recent utilities bills as proof of address?  It’s hard enough filling core volunteer roles sometimes, they surely aren’t going to want to recruit a whole load of extra hi-vis heroes to operate as bouncers, carrying out routine ID and place of abode checks are they?  It’s going to be like school catchment areas if parkrun continues to be as popular as it is.  People pretending to be walking distance on the basis they are long distance/ ultra walking champions, or have temporarily lodged and an airbnb adjacent to the start.  Aaaargh, the angst is coming.

No, of course not.

They wouldn’t.

Oh the angst, properly here now…

Still, in other news, I am a little bit in love with Beverley Westwood parkrun, they just seem to have nailed building a community alongside building their new(ish) now, parkrun.  They have regular social meet ups, and also cows, which is impressive – and next week they are having a halloween themed parkrun

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– always a boon.  And today, this:
BW looking fabulous

Isn’t that great?  Because parkrunners are lovely, and yes, we do look fabulous in our apricot tees, or whatever we rock up in.  It’s going to be great, wherever we rock up.

All in all, it was going to be quite exciting.  Lots of exciting parkrun related things are happening of late.  Halloween themed parkruns, and duvet pyjama and teddy parkruns happening next week

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Then of course there’s the Leeds Building Society Golden Baton relay which is quite exciting too – all kicked off at Woodhouse Moor parkrun and the batons are now busily circumnavigating the world basically I think – one to Frickley Country parkrun, one to Marina parkrun Australia.  Fair do’s.

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but surely nothing, nothing at all, is as exciting as having a new parkrun set up just for you, walking distance from your home.  I may burst!

So the new day dawns, and dear reader, it was gorgeous!  A gift of an autumnal day, thin winter sunshine peeking through red and gold-leaved trees.  Not actual gold leaf unfortunately, but nature’s equivalent, which is pretty glorious all the same.  Look:

gold leaves

There are actual bronze oak leaves at Longshaw at the moment though, if you want to see metal in the landscape.

Sarah Cook bronze oak leaves

I left early, partly excitement, and partly to be sure I was there in good time, and partly because it’s ages since I’ve been to Millhouses park and couldn’t quite remember how long it would take to walk there.

The walk was fine, it’s only about 1 1/2- 2 miles, and took me past the extraordinarily exotic Abbeydale Road Tesco superstore, which was the first supermarket I discovered when I first relocated to Sheffield over ten years ago now.  OMG, that’s my life on fast forward racing by.  Kind of thought I’d be further forward with my life goals by now, maybe even be a grown up, but such things are more elusive than I knew.

You can take a shortcut if you dive down past the Tesco store itself, I never knew there was a path down there.  There’s a sort of suicidally slippery board walk you can take on at your own risk – and I was so naively confident donning road shoes before I headed out.

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There are loos at the park, but I nipped in to use the Tesco ones just in case the others weren’t open (they were).  Another parkrunner was doing likewise.  You could park here I reckon, it’s only a 10 minute walk or so to the start from here, but there’s also parking in Millhouses park, though you need to pay a modest fee for that (50p for first hour which starts at 9.30 from memory)  I don’t mind paying for parking when I’m touristing, it’s fair enough I think if you are using extra facilities to support them.  Today, foot power.  Yay.

So I made it along the boardwalk without either face or arse-planting, so that was a win, and then crossed the road into Millhouses park.  Not sure why you’d want to take the alternative route when you have already arrived, but hey ho …

Exciting.  I haven’t been in Millhouses park for…. actually for years.  I mean I drive past it fairly frequently, and pass it from the track above it when doing the Round Sheffield Walk, but actually go in it, can hardly remember.  Probably, festive shenanigans in the car-park for one Smiley games session involving fairy lights and crying with laughter ’til you wet yourself, but that would have been in pitch darkness.

I must say, I was massively impressed at how the space has been transformed since I last saw it in daylight.  It has always been a nice space, but wow, a lot of effort has gone into significant improvements, not just maintenance, but now there are fish runs.  Not for fish to run up, that would be silly, but to swim and jump up I suppose.  Yes they can jump, just not ride bikes.  Though don’t judge, they have other talents.  Awesome ones, like being able to breathe underwater and some can practically fly!  Those are super powers!

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Also, there were wildflower areas and even a skate boarding area and a sort of mini scooter track I think.  I’m not sure, might have just been incorrectly sited speed bumps, or a hiccup in laying some flat tarmac, I’d put nothing past Amey.  Little wildflower areas and bursts of full flower colour in ornamental borders.  An expanse of autumnal colour on the wooded hills to the side of the park, and silver leaved willows next to the stream (river sheaf more accurately I think) flowing under a gorgeous stone bridge.  Lovely!  Millhouses Park‘s makeover was to me a revelation.  It’s probably been like that for ages.

There was an actual heron.  Poised to fish – depressingly there were a couple of plastic bottles in the water alongside.  They were on the far bank and too distant for me to reach even if I hadn’t minded about disturbing the heron.

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For your information, education and merriment, I’m now going to include another photo of a heron in flight.  It hardly seems necessary to point out that I didn’t take this photo, but just to be on the safe side it’s another from the official parkrun photographer.  Great isn’t it.  I also like duck photos by the way, but they weren’t snapped this week (by a camera shutter, not by a predator) so look out for them making blog post appearances another time.  The heron is amazing though isn’t almost unreal…

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Excitingly, other parkrunners were appearing, and there were parkrun related signs and cones and other parkrun paraphernalia, most exciting,

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It was weird to be sort of touristing so close to home.  One of the things I really appreciate about going to different parkruns is that it takes you to destinations you might not otherwise visit,  Almost embarrassing to find a park not 2 miles from my front door falls into the category apparently.  Ah well, I’m here now.

And then it became a sort of I-spy of Sheffield parkrunners.  Familiar faces bobbing above parkrun tees.  Hi-vis marshals starting to make their way out to their spots.  I clearly got very distracted saying hello to anyone and everyone en route.  Some from Graves junior parkrun, some from Staveley junior parkrun (hello) – they’d come to Graves junior to see how it ran before setting up their own parkrun.  People from all the various Sheffield parkruns.  It was like a Sheffield running festival, not had such a good atmosphere at a run gathering since everyone assembled for the last Round Sheffield Run (which for future reference remains the outstanding Sheffield Running event of the year imho at least).  It takes longer than you think to say hello to everyone.  Particularly when mutual photo taking is also mandatory.  One passing parkrunner on a bike aided us by taking a group shot, so that was public spirited.  Thank you passing parkrunner.

Plus I wanted to check out the facilities for future reference.  There are loos, so that’s a tick,  – though, unlike the Tardis, these are smaller on the inside than on the outside.  Your hopes are raised by the exterior appearance of the building, but actually puzzlingly, there was only one cubicle within the space.  Also it has one of those automated, soap, wash, dry sinks.  They seem like a good idea, but it takes aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaages for each individual to wash their hands, and even if you bail on the drying stage in favour of waving the worst of the water off and wiping the rest half-heartedly on your leggins, the next person in line still has to wait for the cycle to finish.  It may indeed have seemed like a good idea at the time, but experience tells us otherwise. Still, not knocking it, all facilities are good facilities, and they were not only available, but stocked with loo-paper and clean.  A coffee kiosk was also open early, offering parkrun specials.  Variant spellings covering all possible configurations on the blackboard signage promoted the offers, but I think started possibly it started as Park Run – the horror – and got corrected to parkrun at some point during the morning.  I’m not sure how long that will continue – the opening of the kiosk not the spelling – as they weren’t getting much business pre-run despite offering parkrun specials, but there’s also a cafe, and a nearby pub (Wagon and Horses) offering a 25% discount for post-parkrun sustenance.  This is a well catered event with great facilities for parkrunners and their supporters alike.

Enough of the facilities, no time to linger, time to be heading towards the start.  I like this bit, the coming together of colourful tee-shirted people, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and enthusiastic about their morning to come, all congregating together.  I espied more people I recognised moving through the park.  Hello Monday Mobsters, always a treat!  You can’t see me yet, but I’ve seen you!

and then I was at the start area.  How exciting.  You could tell it was the start, because they have one of those start signs that are basically a recruitment tool for mensa or MI5 or MFI – I forget which, but basically any organisation targeting only the most elite of applicants, i.e. those who are able to compress the sign back into its bag at the end of the run.

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I love these signs, they not only handily locate the start, but satisfy the craving that some of us have for location identifying photo opportunities.    Yes of course I joined it, posing with some escapees from Sheffield Hallam parkrun.  Lovely as it was to see them, the are among the most stalwart of the volunteers there, I couldn’t help worrying if Sheffield Hallam parkrun might, as a consequence of their absence, disappear into a vortex of confusion without them there to keep order.  How it would happen without them is beyond my comprehension. Still parkrun will find a way, it usually does.

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More familiar faces!  Including a friend who’d brought along another friend for her absolutely first time ever parkrun.   A true first timer.  Not like many of the rest of us first timing because that was the only available option at a new parkrun.  Now that is exciting.  How amazing to start your parkrun career at an inaugural.  Grand to see you, may it be the first of many!

Sooooo many people.  This is an inaugural that did not go under anyone’s radar.  I am not the only one with pre-school level detective skills and/or the capacity to read social media posts it seems.  And oh look!  There was pirate flag man – his attendance is mandatory at big Sheffield running events.  I’m not sure why, that’s lost (to me anyway) in the annals of Sheffield running history, but I can only presume it’s a bit like the ravens in the tower, has to be there, if the flag is absent, terrible misfortune will follow.   Not actually the crown falling and Britain with it, but probably the sun falling out of the sky, something like that I expect, if the pirate flag is missing.  Hopefully we won’t ever find out.

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More selfie taking went on, by everyone, not just by me.  One of the people pictured is another parkrun pioneer.  That’s two out of a possible 13 present today as far as I’m aware which is, erm, around 15% of the original parkrun population at Bushy parkrun 15 years ago.  Impressive eh.  Mingling with the stars at Millhouses today.  Yay!  Well, not me, I didn’t get to meet him, and I’ve still to clap eyes on the golden barcodes, my how I’d love to see one of those for myself.  One day eh, one day.  Still, you have to have a dream don’t you, so the saying goes.

I may not have clapped eyes on the golden barcodes, but mercifully others did, and even hearing about them was tremendously exciting as the photo shows. The camera never lies apparently, good to know.  Anyway, you cannot fake a reaction like the one recorded below!

Another big reveal though, which pleases me hugely, is that the impromptu gathering spot was underneath a rather lovely tree, red with autumn leaves.  Just like Bushy parkrun has The Tree, so too Millhouses parkrun, has its own by way of sort of homage or happy accident, I forget wish.  Cool though.  Also photogenic, I’m expecting the ‘proper’ photos which will follow in due course to have captured it rather better than me, but you’ll get the gist, and anyway, I’m rather hoping you will go and check it out for yourself at some point, and seeing is believing I think you’ll agree.

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*STOP PRESS*  Good news, the proper photos are here, look at that lovely tree!  Methinks it will be a regular staple of Millhouses parkrun photos in runs to come.

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And under the tree, more familiar faces, yay!

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At some point, after negotiating with other parkrunners, we identified an informal bag drop.  Or ‘somewhere to dump our stuff’ on a bench alongside the straight bit of the course.  Obviously it’s all at your own risk, but plenty of others did the same, and with runners passing this point out and back I’d be running past it six times at least.  It wasn’t at the finish, which was the other option, but we reasoned we’d be walking back this way to get to cafe/pub/far carpark/ walking home.  So good call.  Actually, checkout the en route action shot and you can see how closely supervised that particular bench is, don’t forget to wave at the Monday Mobster as you are squinting at the photo seeing if you can spot a bag your recognise amongst the jumble.  Think of the action shot not so much as a spoiler for how the course unfolded, but a teaser, a trailer to whet your appetite for the parkrun delights that follow.  Agreed?  Good.

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Next, the official welcomes and introductions and general speechifying.  It was very well judged, the nice man from the Sheffield Town Trust, who put up a significant amount of the funding for this event, along with Steel City Striders running club – amongst others, the full list is in the run report for the event – spoke with enthusiasm, eloquence and brevity to wish the event well.  And was wearing a rather splendid looking medallion I thought. The RD asked if there were any first timers present and got a huge cheer for his troubles.  Couldn’t help noticing there was a rather smaller cheer in response to the question ‘and who’ll be coming back regularly’ but I suppose that’s inevitable, and frankly necessary, the park couldn’t really cope with the numbers that turned up for the first event every single week.  It will find its equilibrium.  There was a wild cheer of support for the volunteer team too, basically lots of cheering.  Here are some of the volunteer team in all their individual and collective magnificence pre run.

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What a fine sight indeed!

So welcomes were said, thanks given, the briefing done.

Oh hang on, I’ve not said about the course, I did look it up pre run, but as is often the way, it makes more sense when you come to run it.  However, according to the official Millhouses parkrun website course description blah de blah:

Just under three anti-clockwise laps of the park, starting near the Abbey Lane end car park. The course is fast, flat, and all on tarmac paths, but most of all, fun! We ask participants to please stay on the paths at all times to avoid damage to any of the ornamental areas of the park. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed at this event

and it looks like this:

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To be honest, I wouldn’t say it was three ‘laps’ because that implies you are only running the bit of the course that looks like a deflated balloon three times, whereas in fact you have to run a bit down the string bit and then turn around and run back again.  Think lollipops (weird shaped ones) if you don’t like the deflated balloon on a string analogy, even though that’s a way better description in my view.

Most of the speakers used a loudhailer, which was great.  The ambassador for the area, and indeed, parkrun pioneer then spoke by her own admission as ‘bad cop’ or The Enforcer if you like.  She dispensed with the loudhailer on account of her famed ability to project.  Unfortunately, it would have taken someone with a sonic boom to fully project their voice to the whole crowd, and there were a few people shouting they couldn’t hear, who then lapsed into chatting to each other which was annoying.  Mind you, I’m getting increasingly grumpy in my old age, so it takes less and less to annoy me.  However, I was able hear, and can report that she spoke with enthusiasm and support for the event, but emphasised that it is a small park relatively speaking and parkrunners need to be on their best behaviour to ensure they stay welcome there.  No running in the flower beds or on the grass to cut corners.  Here is the moderately attentive gathering of runners on debut day, pre briefing to be fair, in the gathering together part of the morning.

the briefing

This is also a windy course. Windy as in lots of twist and turns, not as in triggering flatulence – though if you have a swan phobia the boating lake could trigger an attack.  Just debating with myself whether or not it would be irresponsible of me to post a photo to illustrate the point, or whether that would require me to put in a ‘possible trigger’ warning at the top of the post, like they do on food packaging for allergens.  Oh what the hell, here it is: