running

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.

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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.

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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: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 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.

runner-obsessive-gold

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!

grasshopper-warbler_adult_1200x675

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:

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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:

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Are you OK?  That’s good.  I’d have a fit it someone sprung a picture of a doll on my Facebook newsfeed, so I’m not entirely without empathy.

As you are now desensitised to large swan shots, here are some more, rather more impressive ones.  Not ducks though are they?

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Where was I?  Oh yes, the parkrun ambassador was warning the assembled company about there being some slippery parts and some blind spots, marshals are positioned strategically, and may even ask you to slow down in sections, so listen to them.  Also, no dogs.  The rule whilst running was ‘keep right’ but actually that didn’t entirely work at the turn around and finish points so I may either have completely misunderstood that directive, or it is one that requires some tweaking.  Fair enough, a new event is going to be on a learning curve for a while at least.  Indeed all parkruns are, as they evolve over time.   Incidentally, I used to work with a colleague who would become apoplectic at the word ‘tweak’.  It would reduce her to a blubbering mess.  It was completely perplexing, something about it made her squirm. The problem was, as colleagues initially our reaction to this discovery was disbelief, so we made it worse.  The conversations went something like this (she was an administrator):

Me: hi, this report is great, but my fault, I just had to tweak the intro so it has to be edited prior to distribution

Her: no stop

Me: (confused) stop what?  It’s only a small twea..

Her: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! (Primeval scream)

Me: What’s wrong?

Her: Don’t say that word?

Me: What word?

Her: (meaningfully) that word

Me: what tweak?

her: Stop!

Me: Seriously, the word tweak?

Her: please no

Open plan office colleagues who have been listening in on masse: a cacophony of voices all saying ‘tweak’ and ‘What do you/does she mean don’t say tweak’ lots of incredulous ‘tweak’, ‘tweaking’ and ‘tweak’ related sounds reaching a crescendo

Her:  STOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!! I mean it

Everyone (apart from her): but what’s wrong with tweak?

Her: runs screaming from desk

Everyone: silent blinking in mutual bemusement, followed by discussion of favourite and least favourite words.  Kumquat and casual slacks also caused distress to some, so it isn’t a unique thing to find certain words unsettling, but it is erm, well, unusual to have such a strong reaction I think.

And even if you were trying to avoid using it, it would slip out – like being told not to think about cheese.  Once the word ‘tweak’ or fromage of the day is put in your mind, it’s stuck there, just waiting to burst out.  For the more mischievously minded (not that I’m advocating this, could be workplace bullying) it’s surprising how often you can use the word legitimately, even in an office context, if you really try. Give it a go, your working environment will never have been so spontaneously and easily enriched.  Anyway, it was all very feel good and lovely.  The parkrun speechifying not the gratuitous use of the word ‘tweak’.  Oozing good will and positivity, which is always the best way to start a day.  This is not going to be a pb course, but it can be a fun one. Enjoy.

Where was I, you shouldn’t have distracted me on the tweaking cul de sac, that was a completely pointless diversion….  Oh yes thank you parkrun ambassador, and RD and nice man from Sheffield Town Trust who subsequently found a position from which to stand and cheer runners round.  Clearly someone who ‘gets’ parkrun.  Most refreshing.  Thanks too, to everyone else who spoke or volunteered or was part of the behind the scenes team that materialised this sparkly, shiney, new parkrun from out of the barren earth.  Good job!  They are magicians I tell, you, conjurers at the very least.

So finally, the moment came, and we were off!  Yay!  It must have been quite an emotional moment for the core team, like launching a ship on its maiden voyage only with less wasted champagne and broken glass shards.  That would have been contra-indicated by any risk assessment I’m sure.

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It was busy, 511 parkrunners in the end, and lots of volunteers, supporters and other park users too.  It was pretty congested at the start, and I was right at the back – I’m only really walking with the occasional half-hearted jog due to bad back.  I’ve seen my lovely reassuring physio though, and I’ve not done anything serious, but need to build back up slowly basically.  Anyway, I’m never fussed about times, much more interested in soaking it all up, but it was slow getting through, good natured though.  I dare say some runners were sprinting from the off, but I think everyone understood that it was important to make this first event successful and there was a lot of good will, no jostling, just lots of eager anticipation.

Underway!

It was leisurely at the back, which was great for me as I needed to take it very steadily.  People did start to spread out a little, and it wasn’t long before we came upon the first of the marshals.  There were loads on this course.  It was extra fun each new marshal was a surprise on the first lap and then you could look forward to seeing them again on the next two.  Lots of familiar faces from other Sheffield runs, but some new recruits too by the look of things, which is excellent.  The course does need a lot of marshals because of twists, and blind spots, and slippery bridges and ‘no treading on the flowers’ parts, as well as because obviously runners don’t quite know the route yet.  There were also tail walkers and some running marshals too I think.  You were never more than a stone’s throw from one, but clearly stone throwing is very much discouraged at parkrun so think of that as a figurative rather than literal tool of measurement.

Off you go down the balloon string bit, alongside the river.  Don’t fall in. Then you cross over a little bridge, with super efficient cheery marshals on either side. Special mention to the marshal at the near end of the bridge, who I swear shouted personalised encouragement to every parkrunner who passed, as well a calling out safety messages with a helpful rather than cajoling manner, impressive.  Your efforts did not go either unnoticed or unappreciated.  Although to be fair, all the marshals were excellent at directional pointing, clapping, cheering and conveying of positivity and enthusiasm.  You wonder at times if there may have been a selective breeding programme at some point to reinforce these traits, but I think not.  Partly because I don’t think eugenics is compatible with the parkrun ethos, and partly because 15 years isn’t long enough, cloning though, that’s much more likely.  But who knows, it’s not a matter of public record.  I do like to think though that junior parkrun (which is BEST THING EVER) will be ensuring future generations of enthusiastic, joy-filled, positive parkrunners who can deliver and receive high-fives with considerable panache, in perpetuity.  Quite right too.  There’s a new Sheffield junior parkrun starting up soon – the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun is going to be amazing.  They need volunteers ahead of their launch date Sunday 17 November 2019, still time to get involved if you are local.  And volunteering at junior parkrun is epic remember, so get in at the start to maximise your opportunities for junior parkfun!

Back on track at Millhouses, after the string, you pass the humpy bit, where you can see other runners coming back the other way, and then Surprise!  Another familiar face, this is awesome!

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Though again I did briefly wonder how Sheffield Hallam parkrun might be faring with some of their most loyal volunteers currently moonlighting at Millhouses?  Cross the park now, and oh look, a smiley!  Hooray. This was like one big reunion of every runner I know in Sheffield, some of whom I’ve not seen in months, literally partly because I’ve been touristing and partly because I’m hardly running these days anyway.  So exciting!  Would have loved to stop for a chat, but had to continue the illusion of scampering round.  Brilliant to see so many familiar faces.

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Round and down the other side, companionably romping in step with various friends and acquaintances.  Acknowledging the marshals, taking in the views across the lake and trying not to be unduly distracted by admiring the flowers on the way round.

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You also have to run past the cafe and kiosk area three times, so plenty of opportunity to contemplate post parkrun breakfasting options.

cafe temptations

One thing about a three lapper, is that it seemed like no time at all before the faster runners came speeding by. It is narrow, so could be a little alarming, but people were considerate of one another in both giving way and allowing space when overtaking.   I can’t make up my mind about how I feel about multi-lap courses.  My default is that I prefer single laps – apart from Rother Valley parkrun which I find a bit bleak, though I freely admit some of my prejudice is because the post parkrun coffee offer was the worst I’ve had in my life EVER, not just at parkrun, and I’ve been on municipal training days where mugs were cracked and coffee made of chicory was served up, so I’ve suffered in search of caffeine and know what I’m talking about.  However, on the plus side, you get to see pretty much every runner, so it’s social, and you get to see runners who operate at speeds of which I can only dream.  I think I’m going to reserve judgement.  The inaugural turn out I’m sure is untypical of how this parkrun will settle down, and maybe the multiple laps could be quite therapeutic, meditative even, when you are familiar with them.  The marshals were great at keeping people on track and alerting parkrunners to potential hazards.  But best of all, they seemed to be happy in their work!  Hurrah!

On we went, past the lake from the other side, and eventually back down the straight bit towards the start/ finish

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This was ‘fun’ because you had runners coming in both directions, and I spotted loads of people I knew, but it was also a bit confusing, because you have to do a u-turn at the end and I was desperate to not impede faster runners but ended up frozen to the spot as it wasn’t clear how best to manage that turn.  Still, made it round, and it passed without incident when I was there anyway.  Back out again, and the new addition for this lap was the positioning of the pirate flag on the course and Sheffield City Man in situ to cheer us round.  It’s a good game of observation this course, spotting the differences on each lap.  Faster runners bleeding from their eyes due to exertion might see nothing beyond red mist ahead of them, but I noticed and appreciated these things.

I also inadvertently got my favourite pic of the day.  Go Smiley!  I feel a meme coming on.

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Ding ding, round two.  I felt like the first lap took ages.  I’m not sure why, a lot to look at I suppose, and it being new.  Tried to emulate smiley selfie queen with an en route selfie – failed.  In my defence I don’t have a smart phone, only an actual camera, so can’t see what I’m taking.  It adds mystery to the occasion true, but not composition or focus unfortunately. Lap two was for Monday Mob spotting.  Ticked quite a few off my i-spy book second time round.

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In the meantime, pirate flag man had picked up his flag again and was taking his final lap of honour with it carried aloft, which must be quite hard going to be fair, it’s not aerodynamic and nor is it particularly light I’d imagine.  Still, threw up some nice photo ops, and his effort was greatly appreciated by fellow parkrunners and marshals alike

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End of my lap two was a little hairy, as the keep right didn’t really work at all, as you needed to be on an inside track so the faster runners could cut through to the finish funnel.  It sort of worked- ish, but I was confused, and a bit scared I’d be trampled.  Also bit forlorn about heading round again.  Mind you, in actual fact the last lap was the best one because the course had emptied out so you could just do your own thing without worrying too much about other runners around you.

Finally, back round, and down to the finish.  Into the collective cheer of the timers and scanners and funnel managers all.

So many people had been through they were using torn up paper position tokens, but they still scanned fine. The scanner was using the volunteering app on her mobile phone, I don’t know if they even issue scanners now, but it worked well.  In fact, it was a positive boon, because last week for some reason my barcode didn’t scan.  The event team added me in, which was fine, but I was a bit worried because it was the first time I’d used my parkrun flatband, and was worried it might be faulty. With the app, you can see if you’ve scanned or not visually, so I could be confident it had worked.  Yay.

Although parkrun is inherently extraordinarily entertaining, I don’t like to pass up any opportunity to make my own entertainment, so under the guise of thanking the event team (who were genuinely awesome) I got them to pose for some photos, which they did brilliantly.  Alas my photographic talent was not up to capturing the job, but here they are jumping for joy!  Use your imagination and just visualise the picture that got away and you will share my ecstasy at capturing the moments before and after as a pleasing tease of the picture that might have been…

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Remember dear reader, it’s the thought that counts, and it’s still a happy memory.

Also, and this pleases me greatly, possibly even a bit too much.  Whilst my venture may have been less than successful, fortuitously we have the companion shot taken from the other side.  Yay!  Love this pic.  Loving your work dream event team and photographer. 🙂

how it should have looked

and so it ended:

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Next stop coffee.   The walk there took me back out on the course, where returning volunteers were doing their reservoir dogs tribute acts.

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I went to the kiosk, and got an excellent flat white, but it was super expensive three quid!  With a vegan pasty I paid £5 which was steep I thought, although there were parkrun offers with just filter coffee or tea which were much better value.  I enjoyed it, but winced a bit at the price.  Still, seeing as it was a special occasion. Went to join some fellow parkrunner locals for a debrief.  Also, handed back responsibility for the photos to Smiley Selfie Queen, we would be in safe hands for the ‘how it ended’ pic!

CS and so it ends

So the consensus was it had gone off really well, and coped magnificently with the high turn out.  It’s not a fast course, despite being really flat, and great facilities, with everything from parking to precautionary pees covered.  However, because of its twists and turns, we wondered if it might end up being something of a safe haven for slow and steady runners as it might not appeal so much to people seeking a pb.  I know they did some community outreach talks to various groups to encourage them to start with C25K and similar, I’d love it if this run embraced that brief.  We all felt we’d be back, though the regularity with which it might show up in our parkrun progresses depended a bit on personal circumstances.  It was a fantastic start.  Yay!  You might say, they hit the:

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So happy to have an excuse to include a photo of this Sheffield shop!  I passed it on the way home, also this sports injury place.  Like I said, Millhouses parkrun has excellent facilities.

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And home I went, in Autumn sunshine, taking in views of the city skyline on the way.

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Reet nice out.

There we are, Millhouses parkrun officially launched.  I know the issue around attend inaugurals is contentious, but I’m really glad I went.  I wouldn’t proactively chase down another, but as it is my home patch, and I think I will go regularly, especially in winter when I’m not so inclined to tourist, it was great to be there at the start.  A little bit of Sheffield parkrun history in the making.

So thank you Millhouses parkrun team for being awesome and welcoming, you deserve medals – I’ve already made the point that really I think RDs and EDs should have superhero capes, but inexplicably it’s yet to be universally adopted.  You are all heroes to me though.  It was a fabulous debut.  Your hard work, positivity and tenacity delivered magnificently!  You have created an event that delivered the parkrun potential to cater for all.

That means young and old alike.  Incidentally, the young’uns are not to be under-estimated.  Check out this 9 year old, Kade Lovell who accidentally won a 10k event.  I know.  Or how about 13 year old Maureen Wilton who broke the women’s marathon world record, admittedly back in 1967, but even so.  And she didn’t get to wear shoes that were like running on trampolines either.  A.Maz.Ing.  There was at least one barefoot runner at Millhouses parkrun today by the way.  The other extreme end of the running footwear continuum.

Then again, if you are a few decades older than these youngsters, be inspired by this man doing his parkrun debut at Northampton parkrun at 92! There was a 93 year old woman also doing her parkrun debut at Leamington parkrun today apparently. Pamela HOLDER,  also now holds the age category record for Leamington parkrun in the VW 90-94 category  Wowsers.

It would be fabulous if Millhouses parkrun becomes a venue that also attracts such a wide span of age gradings.  I think it has the potential to do just that, good facilities, flat course, why not?  Never too late to do your first parkrun people, never too late.  You know how the parkrun proverb goes.  ‘Best time to join parkrun was 15* years ago, the second best time is next weekend’.  Assumptions are there to be challenged, and it’s great if parkrun can continue to be as inclusive as possible.  It seems to be moving ever more in that direction.  Good.

Like I said, Millhouses parkrun was anything but a run of the mill experience.  Good job, well done.  I hope you celebrated your triumph in style.  Also, as an aside, quickest results processing EVER.  I had them pinging to me on my phone before I’d even made it home.  Impressive.   They have set themselves a high bar to continue, but you know what, I reckon it will all be just fine.

Fine and dandy.  Well done indeed.

Incidentally, there will be a Millhouses parkrun facebook page where photos and news etc will appear, but it’s not yet live, I’ll add the link when it is, if I remember, and not if I don’t.  If it’s not here don’t despair, there’s always Google to check it out!

I did remember, their first post, thanking those who helped fund Millhouses parkrun is here

Thanks to everyone who walked, jogged, ran or volunteered at the very first Millhouses parkrun. We had over 500 runners including 53 people who completed their very first parkrun. Core team members had a sweep stake on expected numbers and we were all a long way off! Your support is much appreciated.

We would also like to thank the following for their funding and donations to get Millhouses parkrun off the ground: Sheffield Town Trust, Steel City Striders Running Club, Totley AC and the Monday Mob.

and the Millhouses parkrun inaugural run report is here: The one where everyone was a first timer!

And the ‘proper photos’ from our very own George, are in the Millhouses parkrun Facebook album for the first event, but I’ve already nicked some and included them as teasers above, however a little smorgasbord of loveliness follow below:

You can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer 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.  Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments.  Bet there are loads.  And if inexplicably, you’ve not yet rocked up to the parkrun party, you could enjoy re-running your other running related adventures, bet you’ve loads of those.  Go on, go wild, indulge yourself.

til next time then?

🙂

*It’s a shifting proverb, which I concede prevents it quite running off the tongue, you’ll need to change the number according the year, but we can embrace the general principle I think, can we not?  And keeps us on our toes.

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

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

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

Undigested read:

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

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

Like I said, a weekend of running related triumphs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

parkrun fact

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

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

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

strava marathon eliud

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

Go Eliud

I LOVE this man.  See him run!

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that was him, marvelous.

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

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So BINGO, fingers crossed…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

depressin litter.jpg

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

Latex-Kills-2

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

Calvin klein

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

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

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

condom moment

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

dpfr litter pick with rar

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

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

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

and the winner is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brigid Kosgei time

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

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

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

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

zebedee

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

run clean

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

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

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

Also, remember now:

#nohumanislimited

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

what the hell

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

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

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

And this Runners Against Rubbish litter pick here.

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

🙂

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

Right behind you all the way – tail walking tales from Graves parkrun

Digested read: tail-walking at Graves parkrun today.   Most educational.

Undigested read:

Yes, well, bit stream of consciousness today, but then, I wasn’t originally going to do a post about this particular parkrun.  Well, it’s one of my locals, and I’ve posted about Graves parkrun a fair few time before – and then I was just because.  But, spoiler alert, you might find this post to be even more parkrun-lite at times than usual.  The blogging reflex was instigated by my being at parkrun I readily concede, but the in terms of actual content, the linkage may be tenuous at best.  You might still enjoy scrolling through the pictures from today though.  Or you might not, because I have no innate photographic talent, but then again I was there, and might therefore offer up not so much the ‘least worst’ option, but the only available  photojournalistic documentation of the occasion.  Quite a responsibility on my part you’ll agree.  On the plus side, it will make you appreciate our fabulous, dedicated and regular Sheffield parkrun photographers even more – if such a thing is possible.  Also, maybe in the future my blurred offerings will seem innovative and genre challenging, you never know*.  Here is a taster to get you in the mood.  In my defence he was running awfully fast… faster than a speeding bullet at the very least.  Even Mr Carman would have struggled.**

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I like to manage expectations.  I think I’ve achieved that with the image above.

It’s been a very educational and pretty mind blowing few days to be honest.  Only yesterday, just before I had a flu jab, the pharmacist asked me if I was allergic to formaldehyde.  I said ‘surely everyone’s allergic to formaldehyde?‘ I mean, you don’t want to get a vial of that injected into your arm do you, even to protect you from the worst horrors of the latest strain of flu.  The vaccine however apparently includes this.  Only the smallest of trace elements I’m sure, allowing for the potential of some sort of homeopathic poisoning, falling into anaphylactic shock as a consequence of an underdose perhaps.  Even so, it seems allergy to formaldehyde is in fact a ‘thing’ raising the question of whether you can be similarly ‘allergic’ to strychnine.  It seems bizarre.  I know what they mean, an allergic response is a different biological phenomenon to that of poisoning, and I daresay the trigger quantities are entirely different but honestly who knew?  Unless you are a pharmacist or other medical specialist.  Just shows how every day has the potential to be a learning day.   This can be enlightening, but also terrifying.

I’ll get to the point eventually.

What if you discover that you are unwittingly in possession of a super power.  An ability to change history, and so influence the future in ways that are impossible to predict or control?  What’s more, that you have been unleashing anarchy for years, not so much a butterfly flapping its wings, but a crazed individual who has been carelessly lobbing grenades with untold potential to distort and contort future event,s without the slightest insight into what you’d been doing.  If a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state, then the cumulative impact of multiple changes could be almost infinite.  Gulp.  What. Have. I. Done?

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I know, scary.

Case in point, as I was tail walking at Graves parkrun today, I snapped away, trigger happy (with the camera button, not an actual gun, I’m not insane) and took photos en route.  It helps me remember each parkrun, and digital cameras allow an excess of photos to be taken.  If you get enough quantity, you never know, the occasional lucky quality picture might just sneak in.  I’m never 100% sure of photo sharing etiquette in public places.  But I’ve come to think as long as you are obvious and not sneaky in taking pictures it’s very apparent if people object to one being taken.  And I also have a personal rule that I delete any horrifically unflattering photos – the sort I wouldn’t want to see of myself – unless, and this is crucial, the hilarity induced by its inherent comedic value clearly outweighs the risk of personal humiliation to the subject of the shot.  This rule has I think served me well.  I’ll always delete a picture if requested to do so, so that’s a reasonable back-up plan.  Anyway, at the end of the parkrun, I just checked in with the core team about whether photo sharing would be ok, and explained about my unwritten personal rule.  Comedic talent v personal humiliation, and far from their agreement to me sharing them on this basis being given as a formality it was pointed out to me that this would never do.  It might not in fact be a good approach to take.  It could be, that the act of deleting photos was like trying to tamper with history.  In doing so I would basically be messing with the time/space continuum and this could have catastrophic results, not so much life changing for me necessarily (although, that too, obvs) but epoch altering.

Sentry

We’re all familiar with what might happen from Star Trek and Dr Who, surely.  And for the more literally minded, even the most casual reader of either Nineteen Eighty-Four or Brave New World must know, to rewrite history is a dangerous thing.  I have my 1981 ‘O’ level English Lit syllabus to thank for that insight.

We are right now living in a time where it seems a regime will indeed go ‘to any lengths to own and possess history, to rewrite and construct it, and to inculcate it by means of coercion.’ (thanks Christopher Hitchens for the quote, written in in the introduction to his 1999 article “Why Americans Are Not Taught History”, which I’ve lifted for here).  Where is my moral compass set if I start deleting photos because that version of what happened sits uncomfortably me.   What about my responsibilities as a guardian of the truth?  As someone who likes to document things, my travels in Cambodia and Vietnam as well as my running scared adventures, this messes with my head.  Living in the world as we would like it be, as opposed to the world as it is, requires each of us to take responsibility, and that must surely include a respect for truth and, another thing, not messing with the space/ time continuum and so inadvertently altering the course of history.  Whoa.  Scary times.  And I didn’t think it was possible for the world to feel any more frightening a space to inhabit than it does right now.

You see my problem.  How to document a morning at parkrun, where each of the 286 runners and umpteen volunteers and supporters will have a different version of ‘the truth’.  No wonder I have writer’s block.  And what about the pictures, should they stay or should they go?  It’s been a tough call.  Is it a personal or shared responsibility to be a chronicler of history.  Is there any such thing as objective truth anyway?***

Back to basics.

Graves parkrun is definitely one of my favourite runs, not even just of the Sheffield ones, but more widely too.  Sheffield Hallam parkrun is strictly speaking my home run, but it has got quite crowded and lacks highland cows.  I’ve been doing a fair bit of touristing of late and so fancied staying closer to home this week.  Also, a friend was doing her 25th Volunteering stint there, it would be good to support that.  I’ve been quite poorly, no idea what, but hurrah for the NHS and their probing and scanning and imaging apparatus as well as fab straff.  Upshot was, I wasn’t really up to running a parkrun, but figured I ought to be able to walk it… hopefully – what’s more fate decreed there was a gap in the tailwalking role on the volunteer roster.  It was meant to be!  I’m wanting to get to 50 parkruns this year if I can,  (gold badge for running challenges to add to my bronze and silver and so complete the virtual set) and so don’t want to miss any.  I have missed two this year so far, despite attending a parkrun on all saturdays to date.  One was cancelled a bit last minute,  and I was too witless to check prior to arriving there and then it was too late to go elsewhere.  Oh well, it happens, I feel for the event teams who only cancel in desperation.  On the other occassion I was watching at Bushy parkrun with my celebrity mum, at her very own Elisabeth’s corner, it’s quite an experience.  She, as you know dear reader is officially parkrun Royalty.  More Queen Elisabeth of parkrun than even these two Queen Elizabeth parkruns.  Wish I’d thought to make a load of fridge magnets years ago.  Cool plan though by the QEs.  parkrun kudos to them!  Let’s just agree there are three Queen Eliz/sabeths in the parkrun chronicles.  Loving the waving across the world initiative though, and I’ve always believed fancy dress at parkrun (or indeed in life) to be a boon.  Anyways, check out their international parkrun friendship story, and see how geographical miles can be vanquished by a parkrun wave across the waves.  No really, check it out 🙂   Queen Elizabeth parkrun (Horndean, UK) and Queen Elizabeth Casino parkrun (Australia) united.

where was I?  Oh yes, so the upshot was I missed, not really missed, but not recorded on the Running Challenges stats, two this year, so reaching 50 feels quite tight.  The Running Challenges chrome extension is fab, and weirdly compelling, with somewhat addictive potential.  It shouldn’t be the be all and end all of parkrun, but it is a fun tool for choosing where to go next….

This time though, Graves parkrun.  And then MORE GOOD NEWS (it was so meant to be) the Tring Travellers would be honoring Graves parkrun with their presence.  Oh good.  Catch up time.  parkrun and the vagaries of the internet bringing random people together.  Not quite as impressive as the link from Australia to the UK, but jolly impressive and pleasing all the same!

A while back the Graves course changed, I prefer it, it’s probably more challenging, finishing up a steep hill, but very much more picturesque.  I double checked the route.  Last time I tail walked it I was quite far behind the throng – having a lovely time admittedly, as the unadulterated photos from the February day show:

but got a bit confused about where the first loop went and the turnaround spot, didn’t want a repeat of that.  So to be clear, it now looks like this according the the Graves parkrun website course description blah de blah:

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and is described thus:

Course Description
A 2 lap course which starts on the path next to the main car park. From the start, a short flat section leads to a long shallow downhill behind the cafe. A sharp rise gives way to a sweeping descent through the treeline, before emerging at the lakeside and taking on another short hill. The course then loops all the way around the cricket pitch before heading uphill once again between the cow fields, in the direction of the historic Norton Hall. Following a sharp descent, the route splits, on lap one, a circuit of the east lake is undertaken; whereas on lap two, runners take the shorter option between the lakes. The course come back together for a final ascent of the hill towards the cafe, before hitting the finish straight on the ridge line.
Please note Graves parkrun requires that all dogs be kept on a short lead, held in the hand of the runner at all times during the event.

Yeah, don’t worry, just follow everyone else, or the way the marshals are pointing, and you’ll be fine.

I arrived at Graves park early.  As is my way.  Just in case you have inexplicably missed my previous posts about Graves and are checking it out for the first time, there is paid parking from 9.30 – free before.  50p for an hour and £1 for two.  Bargain.  Parking isn’t ample, but sufficient, and as I’m always paranoiacally early, I’ve never had a problem.  There are loos too, outside the Rose Cafe (which I think opens from 9.00 and has superior indoor loos) so precautionary pee or emergency pees are possible without the indignity of having to rush behind a bush.  You need change though – for the car park, not the loos.

Graves park has its own microclimate, so ignore whatever the forecasts say and dress for plague, blizzard, apocalyptic rain, whatever.  Be aware that if you do, there will suddenly be a localised blistering heat wave, or earth scraping wind, it is the Graves Park way.

I may be always early, but my milestone pacing friend was even earlier.  I could see her with a friend, down by the meet up bench where the core team muster early and the parkrunners themselves a little later.  She’s deaf, and so I’d tried to learn the sign for ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’, so as soon as she spotted me I gesticulated in what I hoped was an appropriate way.  I’m not sure how accurate I was, but the sentiment was clear, and also, it’s very pleasing that with sign language you can actually communicate over a greater distance than you can shout.  Excellent.  With her was a signer, who was volunteering for the morning, as lots of this high-vis heroes deaf running friends were also coming from near and far to join the celebrations.  Cool.

A little later, the RD appeared, and hi-vis tabards were distributed.  Roles allocated, Graves parkrun runs like a well-oiled machine these days it seems.  I was pleased to see more familiar faces, it’s worth staying home in Sheffield now and again to catch up with folk.  Also, conspiratorially share secrets.  I know, a teaser, but hang on in there, you’ll find out soon enough.   Congratulations to the junior parkrun co-volunteer still flushed with success (and a few aching muscles) from the Sheffield 10k last weekend.  Yay.  Awesome.  Also a multi-tasker, able to run and smile at the same time.  Surely a skill honed at parkrun?

SW sheffield 10k

So there was milling and chilling and meeting and greeting.  Mountains of cake arrived for the celebrations, parkrunners appeared seemingly from nowhere to congregate around the start.  RD briefing was given, with accompanying signing, I particularly like the ‘jazz hands’ that replace applause to signify thanks.  Awesome.

I didn’t take any photos at this point. I wasn’t planning on doing a post about this parkrun at this point, so didn’t see the point. However, fortuitously others did, here is a shot of the deaf parkrunners from near and far – Huddersfield, Leeds and Wakefield who came to celebrate with their friend and mine.  Also my namesake, we are mutually blessed.  Here they are, either before or after the parkrun, but posing rather brilliantly with both the RD and the all important parkrun sign.  Good job.  Glad someone was concentrating.

Lucy support crew

All in line, and I positioned myself at the back of the pack.  There were a couple of people even further behind which confused me.  Both looked like speedy runners, and had speedy hounds with them, they choose to start at the back and then enter the throng once underway, no point in positioning myself behind them or I’d never see the back of the run again, they’d be overtaking me in an instant!

And soon enough awf!

It was a fairly sedate start from the rear.  There were a couple of people who looked like they were walking companionably so I left a bit of space.  Tailwalking is an art rather than a science.  I know from being at the back of many organised events I actually find it quite stressful if a sweeper is right on my tail, so err on the side of the respectful distance unless it looks like someone is happy for company or on their own.  I resolved I’d wait a bit and then see if they wanted me alongside once they’d settled in.  In fact, I was so distracted by interacting with marshals and other park users and taking photos and trying to manage my own pain that I didn’t really catch up with them until we were nearly at the end of the first lap.  I hadn’t factored that in. You’d think I’d know better, one of my most challenging volunteering positions ever was as tailwalker at junior parkrun.  It’s a two lap course, and some junior participants inevitably drop out after one. That’s completely fine, but it does mean you have to do a mad sprint to catch up with the rest of the pack once the others have retired.  I’ve run faster doing that then I ever have on an actual run, and learned from bitter experience one should always wear a sports bra when tail walking, the walking moniker is not always strictly accurate!

So off I went, you start off down a hill and through the trees, the timers and RD were marching towards the finish funnel, the event temporarily out of their hands now parkrunners were go!

It was nice at the back.  Contemplative.  The hound dogs various quickly raced by, as predicted.  Also faster than a speeding bullet you’ll agree…

Quite soon, you are at the base of the hill, and friendly marshals are on hand to direct, encourage and assist.  I hadn’t entirely registered it at this, but a full circuit of the course revealed that every marshal had some sort of assistant or prop, or, as in this case, a pint-sized supervisor to keep order.  The supervisor in this location took the opportunity to alert me to the presence of a loose dog, that was being searched for by a concerned owner.  No sooner had she passed this information to me, a man and his re-acquired dog, now back on a lead – reappeared.  His dog had just wanted to join in all the parkrun fun it seems, but was thwarted in doing so because that wasn’t on his human companions agenda for the day.  You can’t really blame the dog in such circumstances, why wouldn’t it want to join in, parkrun is indeed a lot of fun.  In the circumstances I think it showed considerable restraint returning to its human at all.

Thank you first marshals of the morning.  Loving your work.

Ooh, with the canine interruption, I was a bit far back, sprinting on, oops, that’s up a hill then, quite a steep one, sprinting contraindicated.  Then at the top of the hill, good news, another smiling marshal, this one equipped with a canine assistant, equipped with their own high-vis.

Obviously I had to say hello.  Particularly as I’d been lucky enough to meet this particular hound earlier, being given temporary custody and control whilst the accompanying human was donning high vis.   I can therefore report as absolute fact, that this dog has the softest ears ever.  So greeting were enthusiastically exchanged, and then oops, lost the back of the pack again, so quick sprint(ish) and round towards the lake area.

and oh good, up the hill, and another marshal to stop you veering off too soon.  Another marshal, another hound.  This one also in high-vis.  Hopefully parkrun branded canine hi-vis will follow in due course we agreed.  Me and the human handler, not me and the dog.  Don’t be ridiculous, I can’t talk dog.   Like I said, you have to have an assistant, supervisor, dog, child or prop to marshal on this course.  I’m not sure how this is enforced exactly, but perhaps it’s just a general understanding, with occasional dispensations depending on your particular circumstances?

Had to stop for a bit to say hello, obvs, but strode onwards and upwards to the high point marshal.  He had the good fortune of a tree to shelter under, though you’d be pretty exposed up there in the wind.  What’s this?  No dog?  No child?  Like I said, there must be the occasional dispensation.  Fair dos.

My camera can’t cope with parkrun high-vis so just getting that excuse in while I can, but the thing is, you can’t change history, it’s dangerous to do so.  Tamper at your peril.  That’s what I’ve learned since.

Trit trot off to the right and a lovely expansive view down the hill, towards the huge wrought iron gated entrance at the far end of the park.  I say far end, I suppose strictly speaking that would depend on which end you typically approach and enter Graves park from, but I’m going with the ‘far end’ because this blog post is all about me and how I see everything.  Sorry about that.****  I seemed to have fallen even further back, not as agile as I’d hoped, I hate being injured/ poorly.  Did you know that stopping exercise (e.g. running) for as little as two days can contribute to low mood/ depression.  I can believe it.  What’s more, this is more pronounced in women.  Interesting.

I scampered onwards. Couple of cool things, I saw a bright green parakeet flap across the cricket pitch.  I’ve noticed them before squawking away in the trees down near the bottom entrance of the animal farm, but they do seem to be spreading out more.  I’m quite blasé about parakeets as  I’m from the south where they are naturalised almost to the extent of grey squirrels.  You see great flocks of them at Bushy parkrun in amongst the red deer and unicorns.  I don’t have too much of a problem with that, as those are managed landscapes anyway, but I’m a bit worried if they are making their way up north, they are certainly spectacular, but must negatively impact on native British wildlife for sure.  Oh well.  The other fun thing, was that you can see the faster runners storming round the far side of the cricket pitches in a colourful ribbon of milestone tees, race shirts and bravely close fitting lycra.  You can’t tell this from the photo I concede, but maybe if you squint and use your imagination.

You’ll need to use your imagination a bit more than that.

Can’t change history after all…

Eventually I was at the gate, where the marshal was accompanied by the required pooch.  Not gonna lie, this dog was actually rather cute.  It was just SO EXCITED to see me.  Well, admittedly, to see absolutely anyone passing by, and desperate for a bit of hello.  I’m shallow, so any animate being (or even inanimate object in truth) that shows delight at seeing me will absolutely melt my heart.  It’s horrifying to think how easy I would be to manipulate, just a small crumb of attention and you’ll have my undying loyalty.

So then here I was delayed by exchange of greetings, and also by a park user who I thought for a moment was going to complain about parkrun but actually was just very curious about what it was all about.  So I paused to explain a bit about the event and the ethos and encouraged her to think about maybe joining in herself some time. I’m not sure if she will, but she seemed positive about the whole parkrun vibe, so that’s a win.

Off again, past the cricket storage area.  Nice mural there I think, and a brief flat section alongside an overflowing ditch – that rain has really transformed the landscape, before the next heave ho up hill

It was just before the hill that I started to be lapped by the front runners.  They were a courteous as well as speedy lot.   Some managed to shout out encouragement as the whizzed on by.  I like that you get to see the faster runners on multi-lap courses.   Some of them are amazing to watch.  A few make it look effortless, but some demonstrate that I maybe could try a bit harder myself, as they are giving it everything, whereas I tend to veer on the side of caution keeping much in reserve just in case.  Just in case of what I’m not entirely sure – just in case they make me do another lap say?  Unlikely if I really think about it.

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I did a great job of photographing the litter bin didn’t I?  Good to know I can get something in focus, even if it’s just park furniture.

Onwards and upwards.  At the top of the hill, another cheery marshal but one inexplicably without a dog or other assistant.  Maybe it’s not a requirement for ones situated under trees?  She was in fine form clapping parkrunners with enthusiasm.  Clapping is a tricky one, based on my experience, once you start clapping parkrunners you feel obligated to continue until everyone has passed for fear of demoralising those most in need by stopping just as they come into range.  However, it’s way more strenuous than you might think, you have to pace yourself or it’s an exhausting work out that will leave you unable to move your arms again for the whole of the following week at least. This is tricky, as not all employers are impressed by a self-certified sick note giving cause of incapacity and inability to present at work as clapping related repetitive stress injury.  It’s like breaking a little toe or getting flu, only those of us who’ve experienced the real thing can truly empathise appropriately.  Just saying though, excellent work.  Maybe that’s why no dog come to think of it. Holding a lead whilst trying to clap would be really tough.

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From here, you turn off and run along the pathway with the iron railings, from where you can see and appreciate the highland cattle, you are heading now in the direction of the aptly named cowpoo corner.

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and there is another cheery and cheering marshal, acknowledging the parkrunners as they fly by.

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Looks like she didn’t get the dog memo either.  Maybe it isn’t a thing after all…

Now it’s round the corner and really steep downhill bit.  The ground was quite wet still, and honestly, I’m a bit of a scaredy cat going down such vertiginous slopes, but if you are brave or foolhardy and feel the urge, you can build up an astonishing amount of momentum going down this slope.  Just be careful though, sharp right on lap one at the bottom.  These front runners could go for it though, as lap two they’d be going straight on, and all that forward thrust would help drive them up the steep heart attack hill haul the other side.

 The marshals were working this section as a pair.  I wonder if they ever have had to heave ho anyone out of the water who didn’t either turn or brake in time?  I imagine they must have done.

The front runners rushed onwards, but we at the back, hooked right, and I briefly caught up with the walkers, who were happy in their companionable chat.  There was a cheery mood as we headed round the pond.  Pond?  Lake maybe.  Honestly, I’m not entirely sure when one becomes the other.  Round the water anyway, and past the sodden looking sheep and alpaca.

On guard at the farm entrance, a buggy assisted marshal, all smiles in high vis.

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and back down the other side of the lake or pond or water feature, and you are in time to see the front runners tearing up the hill for impressive sprint finishes.

I know, shite photos.  Think of it as another opportunity to use your imagination, and thank your lucky stars I didn’t tamper with time and bring about catastrophic unimagined consequences as a result.

However, you also get to see this awesome volunteer:

100th volunteer

On the one hundredth occasion of her volunteering.  I know, she doesn’t look old enough does she.  This proves, as if proof were needed, that volunteering keeps you young.  Bravo high-vis hero.  Glad to see you are suitable accessorized for the event too, starting the next generation of parkrunners and run directors off nice and early.  Good job.

Round the corner and up the hill towards the cafe.  It was quite a hive of activity here. There was the buzz of the finish funnel in operation, and parkrunners already home and dry were lining the finish area to cheer other participants in.  All very good natured.

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Good fortune rather than good timing meant I was at this point exactly as 50% of the Tring parkrun contingency arrived there too, so a bit of mutual cheering went on before she finished her final glorious lap and I heave hoed round to do it all again.

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The uphill finish is an acquired taste, and I’m not gonna lie, it is a bit hard to tear yourself away from all the post parkrun partying to do the second lap, but on the plus side, if you are a more sedate parkrunner at least you get to see it all now, because it will pretty much all have vanished by the time we’d come round again

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Ding ding, round two.

Marshals stand down as you pass through as tail walker, and a parkrunner who’d just finished came to join me for a while as was asking about whether or not this parkrun would be ok for walking at parkrun as a family member was thinking of coming but hesitant.  Of course it is!  Walking at parkrun is a thing,  It has been for years.  Although I have to be honest, I have heard some negativity expressed towards walkers, that’s not the norm, and it’s not ok, walkers welcome.  There are C25K groups, a dedicated ‘walking at parkrun’ Facebook page  and you can even put ‘walking at parkrun’ as your club name.  Some parkruns have walker meet up points, which is brilliant, and there seems to be a move to have walking groups for specific groups such as the ‘‘5k Your Way: Move Against Cancer.’ initiative

a community-based initiative to encourage those living with and beyond cancer, families, friends and those working in cancer services to walk, jog, run, cheer or volunteer at a local 5k Your Way parkrun event on the last Saturday of every month

Sheffield Hallam parkrun is one of the 5kyourway event hosts, according to their website, so that’s good.

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Not all parkruns proactively do this, but all are open to walkers.  Walking and talking your way around a parkrun is one of the most therapeutic activities you can do on this planet.  FACT.*****  

So that chit chat slowed me, so I had another sprint to catch up.  Jeffing parkrun after all, huff puff.  Before I knew it, that was the second lap nearly done and dusted, and I gathered up a couple of marshals to walk back in with.  It was most jolly and companionable.

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And then we were back on that there hill.  Oh no!  Have to do a final sprint in.  Well, you don’t actually have to of course, everyone has the right to enjoy parkrun in their own way and all that, but it is a shame not to, when the finish is within your grasp and the hi-vis heroes are greeting you like you are elite athletes smashing world records as you head for the line!

I’m in, I’ve done it!  My junior parkrun marshal buddy was on hand to welcome me through and act as official photographer to document this moment of triumph too.  I thank you.  I think that the fact it took a squillion attempts to work out how to use the camera and to switch off the video feature just made the whole occasion all the more memorable.  Anyway, perfect eyesight and technical prowess are over-rated.   Who needs eyesight good enough to see the mould on the ceiling when they are lying in the bath anyway?  Precisely.

Nailed it!  Thank you timers and scanners for making it so!

There was even someone profering sweets at the finish.  Better yet, I still managed to get one of the purple wrapped one.  After I had face planted into the open tin, and was bolting down the  smooth milk chocolate with runny caramel in the middle and that all-important hazelnut at the centre almost before I’d had time to peel back the brightly-coloured wrapper and foil –  I did think to ask what was the occasion. Not that parkruns generally need any particular occasion to break out bubbles, cake and edible delights, but sometimes some flimsy premise or other will be rustled up.  Today it was the giddy collision of both a fortieth birthday and fiftieth milestone. Hooray, definitely worth celebrating.  Thank you generous fellow parkrunner, and congratulations too.

Next task was to strike the set.  The course needed to be dismantled, but you know what, it’s harder than you think to get those stakes up.  There’s a knack to how you twist and my back was not helping.  Further more, in a break with junior parkrun pack-up protocols, here they keep the tape in place on the poles.  I nearly created future mayhem by trying to take it off.  In my defence, this was less a competency issue than a training one.  I’ve not had the training module on course stand down yet, and understand that this involves a competency based checklist and a powerpoint presentation.  Shows though, using initiative can set a dangerous precedent and you shouldn’t meddle with entities you don’t understand.  Why can people never grasp this.  It’s why the B flick disaster movie is the trope that just keeps on giving.  Anyway, disaster was good naturedly averted thanks to a gentle intervention by a more experienced – and fully trained up – volunteer.  Phew.

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I think that’s a British Military Bootcamp going on in the background, not a parkrun haka, but I wasn’t really concentrating so it’s hard to be sure.

Course collapsed and hi-vis surrendered, job done.  Just a matter of gathering up worldly goods – don’t forget your cymbals, or your bike, or your dog…. mutually congratulatory high fives… and then to the Rose Garden Cafe for results processing (events team) coffee quaffing (everyone else).

One very significant advantage of being among the final finishers in general, or tail walker in particular, is that on the whole by the time you reach any particular parkrun cafe, queues will have dispersed.  On this day, things were even better.  My best friends from Tring parkrun had already purchased a hot beverage just for me!  They had also somehow transformed themselves from flushed and sweaty lycra wearing parkrunners into the sort of mufty that ‘normal’ people wear.  It was almost unsettling.  Lovely sight though.  Thank you!  🙂

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I did offer to pay my way, honestly I did, but gave in a bit too quickly, as I realised I could quite do with saving my pound coins for parking for Graves junior parkrun the next day.  I’ll pay another time.  Probably.  I did appreciate it though.  A lot.  See earlier reference above about howa exceedingly grateful I am for any act of kindness, and today I was overwhelmed by parkrun bounty, what with doggy hellos, chocolate and now a steaming latte. Could a parkrun get any better than this?

We sat and chatted and shared parkrun tales and parkrun love.  They are going to do an Italian parkrun soon. Oh. My. Gawd.  Definitely on my wish list.  But then pretty much all parkruns are.  The parkrun world is our oyster indeed.  Whatever that means, and not if you have a shellfish allergy, then you may want another analogy to draw upon.  Point is, any Saturday with a parkrun is a win.  Every parkrunner knows that.

Coffee drunk, my companions had to drive back to Tring, which is a real, not a made up place by the way.  So I waved goodbye to them, and immediately transferred my allegiance to my namesake who was sat amidst her celebrating friends, armed with a glass of something bubbly and surrounded by gargantuan quantities of cakes, piled high.  You could hardly see her.  I mean she is fairly petite I know but even so!

I had to ask what the sign language is for ‘congratulations’ and it’s very jolly but hard to communicate in words.  I duly congratulated her on her 25 volunteering and pacing triumph, and then one of her party signed rather dryly ‘don’t congratulate her, she’s rubbish really‘ which sounds mean but was actually in context hilarious – but what made it especially brilliant is that even though I can’t sign, the meaning was self-evident.  It’s an expressive and rich way to communicate, nuanced and funny, it must be brilliant to be bilingual with BSL, it is innately expressive it seems.  Anyway, good job parkrun tourists, excellent rallying round our parkrunner of the moment and fine celebrating too.

It was time to disperse – just a quick check with the event team and my query about the photos that exploded my brain as I realised I was peering into the jumbled anomaly that represented the fragile boundary between fact and fiction and alternative truths.  Faced with the reality of this responsibility, I could do little other than stagger away reeling.  I can never unhear those words, or shrug off my responsibilities for being a guardian of the truth and a chronicler of history.  So be it.  It’s taken well over a century to understand this, but understand it I do.

That’s why all these photos get included whether flattering or not, it’s what the event team would want.  It’s unethical to try to edit history remember.

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You’re welcome.

but for my friend there was to be no immediate escape.  My camera has certain desirable attributes, being tough for one, but it can’t really cope with taking photos indoors, so I insisted on an outdoor photoshoot, and some nice posing, because shame not to.  I admit, the power goes to my head, but you’ve got to admit, it’s more memorable to have photos like these than the rigidly posed ones yes?  Or is that just me then.

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Oh.  Ok.  Probably good to know.

And that was parkrun concluded.  It might seem sad, but you have to remember it can all happen again tomorrow at junior parkrun and next week parkrun day will come round again on Saturday. What’s more, next Saturday is International parkun Day, 15th birthday of Bushy parkrun, so bring. it. on!  Imagine that, a world without parkrun?  I shudder at the very thought, and I have no idea what I used to do on a weekend, it’s just a void of tumble weed moving through a vacuum – if that’s possible, which I’m not entirely sure it is…

Thank you lovely parkrunners all, from wherever you hail.  And special thank you to the Graves parkrun team for delivering week in week out, you are a mighty force for good indeed.

Very tempted to get one of these to mark the occasion – 15 birthday limited edition barcode.  Rude not to, given all parkrun has done for me.

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So remember dear reader, however sad the world may make you feel sometimes, you are never more than a few sleeps away from a parkrun.  And parkrun will remind you of all that is good in the world, and all will be well.

If you want to prolong your parkrun fix, 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 this isn’t necessarily a recommendation, just a statement of fact.  Other blogs are available.

Before you go though, a final important message as we head into October.  Please don’t squish spiders.   Some are (almost) vegetarian too.  Who knew?  Bagheera kiplingi to be specific.  Amazing.  Also, rather cute.  See a spider, see a friend.  That’s why we are all wearing spider brooches now

You’re welcome.

🙂

Have a nice day, step out and be the change you wish to see in the world if you can, but at the very least, be careful how and where you go about flapping your wings.

BeTheChange_Gandhi

*though you could have a stab at an educated guess and say never-in-a-million-years, unless the person photographed becomes either infamous or famous in some way, which would be fab.  Maybe I should put a (c) sign on it just in case.  Hope over experience is clearly the way forward.

**probably not to be fair, but who reads this far down the footnotes to seek clarification on a controversial point?  That’s right, no-one.

***no.  Although the world is definitely not flat, so there may be exceptions.

****not really though.

*****Lucy fact, by which I mean I choose to believe this to be true.

 

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

Yomping York parkrun in the company of (nearly) a world record holder. All coming up roses, well one anyway. Result.

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to York parkrun, that’s York, UK not York USA.  Made new besties and wanna be record breaker for three dimensional plant.  I know!  parkrun is indeed the phenomenon that just keeps on giving!

Undigested read:

Careful now, this could be a long one, might at least want to have a pee first, if not actually settle down with a cuppa.  That observation is advisory only though, you need to use your own skill and judgement to carry out your own health and safety risk assessment.  I’m sure you’re up to it.  Just believe in yourself, and all will be well with the world.

So, as every parkrunner knows, parkrun tourism starts with wondering where to head next.  I’m conscious the nights are drawing in, and my enthusiasm for early morning jaunts to far away parkrun destinations may wane as the season ends. Even so, late summer sunshine was forecast, and I’m vaguely working on my alphabet challenge, I mean it is actually impossible on account of there not being an x anywhere in the world – I mean cross flats and Exeter and similar are all well and good, and marvelous as creative solutions go, but they are not the same.  Then there’s the little matter of the Zeds all being in Poland or Russia or wherever which would be fab, but not going to happen any time soon.  There is a Zeds wholefood shop just down the road from me in fact, they are very nice there, but the shop is fairly cluttered, and I don’t know that they’d welcome having a parkrun within, which is a huge shame as that would be very handy, plus I could get my coconut yoghurt and decent bread afterwards. Oh well.  I’ve not got that many letters to go on this particular running challenge, but as I’ve already picked off all the low-hanging fruit so to speak, those I have still to get are increasingly elusive.  I’m holding out for an E and a J coming my way soon if the new parkrun rumour mill is anything to go by,  Queen Elizabeth is going to be an overnighter somewhere, as is the U, so that’s really leaves just the Y not accounted for.  York then, not even that far from Sheffield, I’m not sure quite why I’ve not been there before.  I’ll go there then.

First some research.

Ooh, well, I very much like their York parkrun Facebook page profile image – very classy and always a boon.

super cool york facebook image

Let’s just make sure it’s the correct York. There is a York in Pennsylvania which may or may not be quite delightful, but does not have it’s own parkrun – well not yet anyway.  These details matter, did you hear about the woman who entered the ‘wrong’ Worcester Half Marathon?  It was on the BBC website so it must be true.

Sheila Pereira booked a place at the Worcester City Half Marathon, thinking it was in her hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts.

But the event was 3,200 miles away in the English city of the same name.

Undeterred, Ms Pereira ran 13.1 miles on her own in the US on the same day as the Worcestershire event.

She has been praised by UK organisers, who are sending her a race finisher’s pack including a participation medal and T-shirt

Here she is after her run, all smiles, post run endorphins and  fresh faced, athletic loveliness:

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Why don’t I look like that after a run?  I am more inclined to rock the leaden, lumpy, purple-faced sweaty, ‘dragged through a hedge backwards’ look.  In fact I may well have cornered the market for it.  I’d settle for looking like that before a run to be fair.  Sadly, I think that aspiration is also destined to remain unfulfilled.  Sigh.  Maybe I just need to get myself a nice running visor, and it will transform me?  Probably not though.

That’s lovely – the organisers giving her a medal and all, but I don’t think it would work in quite the same way for a parkrun.  Not sure they’d add you to the results even if you had your barcode and a Strava record.  Mind you, I’ve not tried, and to be honest, if there was even a fleeting chance they might, I’d consider travelling the other side of the world to do that if it also meant I might be able to secure my outstanding parkrun bingo number at the same time. Well you’d have more control over variables would you not?  I’m on 223 runs now, and have had .20 outstanding for months and months now.  The frustration!  Mind you, I read a post somewhere that said 300 is around the norm. Seriously?  Ever wish you’d never embarked on something… although weirdly, one of the things I like about this challenge is that it’s so arbitrary, it’s just a waiting game, there is no advantage in being able to get yourself to some exotic location or other in order to bagsy it.  Level playing field and all that.  I’m not alone with my running challenges bingo despair though it seems.  Just seen a thread somewhere on the same theme.  Mighty parkrunners have been driven mad by less!  This is bad though – no idea where the original post comes from, but I’m sure it’s true:

bingo not

Anyway, you are distracting me with all these questions about running challenges, back to the decision in hand.   I would go to York parkrun in England, I would bagsy my ‘Y’ and probably not my solitary last outstanding bingo number (which is 20 by the way).  It would be fine.

Let’s check out the course info from their official website, erm, the York parkrun website blah de blah describes the course thus:

Course Description

1.5 laps (approximately) of the tarmac service road around the inside of the racecourse. Very flat, with few turns, making it a very fast course. On course map, start at green pin and head anti-clockwise round service road. Complete 1 full lap, then continue on round approximately another 1/2 lap to red Finish pin

and it looks like this: 

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Cool.  What else.  Whoooooooooooooa!  Wait, what cruel trick is this.  ALERT DEAR READER, ALERT!

Facilities
Please note that there are no toilets or changing facilities at York parkrun.

What!?  What about my compulsory pre parkrun precautionary pee?  How is this going to work, particularly after a long drive.  Uh oh?  This critical detail I remembered, is why I haven’t made it to York parkrun before.

I decided there must be something, there is a holiday inn near the start and I’d pass a garage en route.  As the only other alternative is Yeovil in Somerset, which is so far away it might as well be on the moon, I’d have to improvise if necessary.  You are supposed to do something that scares you every day anyway aren’t you?  The thought of no loos pre parkrun does terrify me, but hey ho, I’ll embrace the challenge.  Helps us to grow if we move out of our comfort zone.  Where there’s a will there’s a way as the saying goes.

where-theres-a-will-theres-a-way-kume-bryant

I’d do this dear reader, even if I had to wet my knickers to claim my Y!  It’d be OK, but just in case ‘having a will’ wasn’t enough to find a way, then plan b ensured that as I wasn’t using public transport and I’d have a plastic bag to sit on in my car for the journey home if required, I’d got this covered!  I may not have quite the ferocious tenacity of Lisa Nowak, but working towards it eh? 

So that was decision made.  Time to get excited about the prospect of a new destination.  To add to my frenzy of anticipatory excitement, I also was the recipient of a much coveted apricot tee.  It arrived on the Friday afternoon, all personalised with my home run and everything.  I’ve wanted one for ages, but am on a budget so couldn’t really justify it, but then I decided I wanted something special to wear to grace the 15th birthday celebrations at Bushy parkrun in a couple of weeks time.  What could be more perfect.  It feels lovely to wear, though the fabric is erm, flimsy and a bit, shall we say ‘unforgiving’ any  seam of clothing, any wobbly or undulating flesh, any erect – or even positively subdued – nipple will be highlighted once this garment is donned.  Oh well.  It’s a cheery hue, and makes me feel part of the club.  So yay!  When I finally rediscover my running mojo and sculpt my body into newly muscled contours I’ll be glad of the fabric I’m sure.  Shame that by that time the world will be awash with water due to the ice caps melting and so a) no one will care about what I look like in my official parkrun tee, and b) that extra body fat would have been a real boon to enable me to stay afloat.  It just goes to show one should always be most careful about what one wishes for.

That was Friday then, yesterday in fact, and then today’s the day!  A quick check of the York parkrun Facebook page to make sure that no unexploded ordnance would stop play as at Hogmoor Inclosure parkrun for example.  Not only is that a very dramatic cause for cancellation, it does sound like a made up place too, Hogmoor Inclosure parkrun, hmmm.  Now it’s accelerating to the top of my parkrun to do list.  Hippest parkrun in the UK I imagine (work it out).  No ordnance, all good, off I go.

There was bright late summer sun trying to break through as I headed off through the streets of Sheffield.

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Truly a gift of a day, one that rewards you for early rising, I was quite perky as I set off, then as I went through Sheffield centre, I remembered it was also arrival day for students, hmm, coming back would be interesting.  Oh well, I’d worry about that later.  It was a surprisingly straightforward drive to York, though the morning mist took on fog like density at times, I had my fog lights on as well as my headlights.  I stopped off for petrol and pee (I didn’t ingest the petrol, it was for the car) at a service station just on the outskirts of York, and followed the postcode that took me past the Holiday Inn York racecourse, and to Cherry Lane (YO24 1QF) where there is mention of a small carpark near to the start.  It was a battle of nerves the last bit, you go into seemingly a residential area, and I wasn’t following signs to the racecourse either – perhaps if you do, you end up parking on the Knavesmire Road where I think there is more space, and potentially – by negotiation – loos too.

For your information, hold your nerve.  I thought I’d gone wrong when I saw the drive down to Cherry Lane  car park, it was so narrow, it looked like it might just be pedestrian access and lead to a dead end.  I threw caution to the wind and hesitatingly crawled down there – not literally, but figuratively, I mean I drove down extra slowly.  You emerge from the dense tree lined path to the open expanse of York racecourse bathed in bright early morning sunshine. It looked spectacular, and vast.  There was parking, not much but I was early as always, so parked fine.  I was also sufficiently early I went to retrace my steps to take a pic of the entrance to Cherry Lane so you won’t be scared away, and also inspected the Holiday Inn.  It has to be the nearest accommodation to a parkrun start line ever!  I’m surprised it wasn’t heaving with parkrun tourists, maybe it was.  They had loos on the ground floor, but obviously it would not be appropriate for me to encourage anyone to use them without making a purchase.  Yeah, obviously not.

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So there I was.  Parked up and all ready to go.  The sun was coming out, and burning away the mist.  People seemed to be mustering just a few metres away from where I’d parked.  Back lit by the sunshine.

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I couldn’t see any obvious parkrun hi-vis heroes, but there were obvious parkrunners, and a mighty pilgrimage of people moving in a stream from the grandstand area of the race course.  This was going to be a busy one. They really did look like wildebeest on migration, resolutely moving in a seemingly unbroken ribbon across the landscape, only with fewer being picked off by hungry crocodiles en route – well, as far as I could tell anyway.

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Perhaps a few were lost, but not so many as would make all that much difference to the numbers.  parkrun would go on without them, it’s what they would have wanted I’m sure.  I’d want parkrun to continue without me if I fell en route.  There is at least one parkrun where it went ahead despite one of the volunteers being locked in the loo throughout.  I know this, I referenced it in one of my blog posts, can I find it now though?  Rhetorical question, no I can’t.  Let me know if you unearth it somehow.  Did happen though.  These things do, no point in ruining everyone’s parkrunday.    Maybe not being eaten by crocodiles en route, but sort of similar-ish barriers to participation can crop up unbidden.  I think Cairns parkrun routinely warns runners about crocodiles, but that could be a wind up for tourists – you aren’t going to risk ignoring it though are you?  They also have a Holiday Inn on their course route, so York and Cairns parkrun courses are therefore pretty much indistinguishable.  Did you know two Londoner’s a day call 999 because they are locked in a loo.  Strange but (possibly) true.

*EDIT*  good news dear reader, I’ve remembered.  It was Maureen, she got locked in the loo (by accident) at Whangarei parkrun, but was liberated by an international rescue team afterwards, so all’s well that end’s well eh!  Here they are trying to rescue her, takes a lot of parkrunners apparently…

international rescue whangerei parkrun

One run had a lion on their course.  A stuffed one admittedly (poor thing, but at least it’s usually used for educational pointers not stuck on some trophy hunter’s wall), but no-one told the runners that.  Hilarious!  Good on you iMfolzi Trail Run race organisers, what larks eh, what larks?  Not a parkrun though, sadly… bet there were a load of pbs anyway though!

There were a fair few tourists, you could tell, by the large number of us posing next to suitable landmarks for photos.  This was good though, as it meant I quickly identified my new BFFs for the morning, it’s grand to identify parkrun besties early on.  This was a fabulous fivesome from the brilliantly named Sole Mates (see what they’ve done there), they vacated a placard for me to photograph, after first querying if I’d like a shot of them there too.  Which set up a companionable photo fest for the run round later when we found we were at a similar pace.  They were a hoot actually (cheery wave if you are reading) and I always love seeing proper running club buddies enjoying each others company as much as the run out.  They also took a pic of me, looking pleased in my apricot tee and directionally pointing at the sign so you can tell where I am.    You can see others doing the same from the opposite side.  It’s a well photographed landmark it seems.  You know you’ll do the same if you make it there, has to be done… Some things we do at parkrun are almost reflex actions, instinctive.

More milling and chilling…

and then after a bit, someone in a hi-vis appeared and identified themselves as the first timer briefing person.  A little gaggle of us gathered around her for the briefing.