running

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

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

CS tourist twosome.jpg

 

Undigested read:

CAUTION – TIME VAMPIRE  – READ ON AT OWN RISK

 

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

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

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

NENDY

Dishley parkrun blah de blah course description from website states:

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

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

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

 

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

The Dishley course looks like this:

 

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

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

copepod

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

at last a doable pb parkrun

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

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

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

 

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

simons cat

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

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

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

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

ground-crew-signal-vest

Just a bit of constructive criticism for next time…

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

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

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

 

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

Storyteller

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Found the rugby club, which was handily signed:

 

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

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

 

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

 

I know, marvelous!

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Just time to talk token containers –

 

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

 

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

 

And that was that.

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

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

 

 

So in summary, Dishley parkrun:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re welcome.  🙂

*Nope, totally didn’t do that.

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

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

****Rhetorical question, very cool indeed!

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Undigested read:

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

Rolls up sleeves.  Here goes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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believe the hype!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Course Description

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

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

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

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

and it looks like this:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Brossard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No matter, have token, will scan:

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

Hilarious.

I thought so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re welcome.

🙂

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

Giving Sheffield the Runaround: Round Sheffield Run 2019

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

Undigested read:

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

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Runaround NOW!!  Does anyone else remember that TV show.  No, only me?  Surely someone else is in my demographic.  It was a children’s quiz show, and they all had to run from one end of the studio to another to choose the right answer for some random quiz question and then there was a shout out to ‘runaround NOW!’ from Mike Reid and everyone ran around changing their mind about their answer.  Lots of running around basically, the clue is in the name of the show.  Ring any bells?  There was even a Runaround 1980 techno Christmas special in which an actual robot appeared as co-host.  Life changing AI on our TV screens, once the set had a chance to warm up of course.  You’ll be telling me next you don’t remember that, having to plan ahead and turn the TV on 15 minutes ahead of whatever programme it was.   Oh.  You don’t.  Sigh.  Did you really not even ever experience dispatching a household member to lean out of an upstairs window with a bent coat hanger, trying to improve reception on the aerial whilst you all shouted contradictory instructions at them?  Oh.  How times change.  Trust me dear reader. The past was another country indeed…. we did things differently there.

Hmm, granted, the caged children do in fact seem somewhat dodgy with the benefit of hindsight – anyway, you are completely missing the point.  The point is that come the summer solstice, near as dammit, cometh the hour, whilst the good people of Sweden are busy making their celebratory floral garlands – no really, they are – runners from near and far will be gathering in Endcliffe Park to commence the Round Sheffield Run, or … wait for it… the Sheffield Runaround!  See what I did there?  Because we all get to run-around Sheffield see?  Hilarious, not a laboured anachronistic niche buildup at all, just joyful, seamless expanding on a theme.

I’ll get my coat….

Phew.  That was hard work. It does rather spoil the overall affect if I have to explain it.  You know what, to be honest, if you aren’t experiencing being doubled up with laughter to such a degree that you fear your knickers may never dry RIGHT NOW, best walk away.  No honestly, that’s my humour at its peak, it doesn’t get any better.  For the most part it will get considerably blander.  You can just back away, and we’ll say no more about it.  You’ve not over-invested in reading this account, you can still scroll through a few photos if you want, I shan’t take it personally.  However, if you read on knowing what you know now, that’s contributory negligence, FACT. There isn’t a law firm in the country that will represent you whatever their ads may say to the contrary, so just don’t get drawn in.

Here’s a group sporting Swedish midsummer garlands by the way, just to prove a point.  This post may not amuse you, but you could learn something, nothing useful, but could save you come the compulsory ‘fun’ work quiz at Christmas. Your choice.

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Where was I?  Oh yes, cometh the summer solstice, cometh the Round Sheffield Run.  Not completely synchronised admittedly, which is an important detail, as it would have been a very long wait indeed if you hadn’t double checked the date for this year’s RSR and rocked up on the longest day.  That would have been 10 days early, but you get my drift – and at least that way you’d have been first in the toilet queue.

I lurve the Round Sheffield Run, and have been lucky enough to drag my weary carcass run round it every year so far.  It’s profile has skyrocketed since the year of its debut in 2014, when I’d venture it was just a few hundred from the local area rocking up to check it out.  Now it’s into ballot entry popularity territory and drawing runners from much further afield as a destination event.  Even so,  in my humble opinion it’s remained true to it’s essence of being friendly, inclusive, showcasing the best of Sheffield running and having a festival feel with guaranteed sunshine or your money back* and  it is also a flat one lap route, as in ‘Sheffield flat’ – the marshal at the end of Leg 1 was most conscientious and insistent on this point, alerting runners to the stretch of Sheffield flat just ahead as they approached Forge Dam.  Hilarious for the locals, potentially devastating for the out-of-towners of course, but what’s a bit of collateral damage to them set against the in-joke for them in the know eh?  Besides, all in good humour I’m sure!  You know who you are high-vis hero, but in case of ambiguity, here’s the body-cam footage I took en route.  Can also be seen keeping order at Sheffield Hallam parkrun, so has form on expert regulating of runners.  Hurrah! :

Personally, I really like events that are single lap as well.  It means once you set off you are basically committed aren’t you. You’ve got to make it back for tea at some point, so one foot in front of the other to make it so.  If you prefer the meditative quality of multi-lap offerings, then other options might suit you better.  There’s always the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100-mile race around a New York block. Yep, you read that right.  Not my bag to be fair, but people do it…  Some claim to have out of body experiences as they do.   Frankly I’m not surprised at all, out of mind might be more apt though…  At least you wouldn’t have to worry about navigation, though lord only knows how you keep count of laps. 5,649 of them you’d have to do.  What would happen if you lost count and had to start again from 1?  It would take a great deal of Zen calm to cope with that eventuality.

I’m not completely uncritical of the RSR though.  Where would be the fun in that?  I’m actually still quite peeved they’ve not taken on board my feedback at all about either increasing the number of unicorns cavorting about the wooded sections or having an archway of rainbows to get you through the finish – despite the latter suggestion clearly being way more reliable than the inflatable archway option (just saying), and probably more environmentally friendly too, now I come to think of it.
whatever it takes

Incidentally, do you think holding up the inflatable finish arch comes under the ‘any other duties’ line on the job description for Event Director?  There are worse unexpected tasks to be fair.  Only the other week I was a supporting artist on a film being made in Sheffield which I shan’t name but which is set in Sheffield and features a drag artist.  Between takes, one of the costume and make-up team was tasked with kneeling at the feet of the lead actor, who was overheating in his phenomenally impressive drag outfit – wig, heels, tights, the whole shebang – frantically flapping away with a paper fan to waft air up the drag artist’s dress in order to try to keep his nether regions suitably cooled.  When you imagine getting your lucky break as a dresser or in the costume department of a feature film I’m guessing this isn’t quite the scenario you’d imagined in your fantasy of a day tending to the stars on set… definitely a key supporting role though, and certainly encompassed by the ‘any other duties’ line, which all we serfs know covers a multitude.

Anyway, undeterred by the silent treatment my quite brilliant suggestions have received to date (I really thought the compulsory fancy dress suggestion would have been enthusiastically embraced at least, it’s inexplicable to me that this hasn’t happened – yet) I’m hopeful that my offering for this year will hit the mark.  Thing is, the after party is all well and good, but having recently discovered the joys of gardening, I feel the post run offering would be massively enhanced if they had a few plant stalls in between the coffee and pizza stalls.  Maybe even a horticultural swap shop, now that would be lovely.  Perfect end to a perfect day.   Just imagine, medal round your neck, pizza in one hand perennials in the other.  Bling and borders covered. Result.  I feel sure pop up plant nurseries are a thing, and if they aren’t, well clearly they should be, and it wouldn’t be the first innovative thing the RSR has brought into being now would it?

Anyway, look you really need to stop distracting me, this account is all over the place.  I want to get this post written up in time for next year’s run at least.  Still, best get the basics out the way.  For the uninitiated – apparently, there are still some of you out there who have yet to savour the delights of this splendid event and have still have no idea what I’m on about – the Round Sheffield Run website blah de blah explains the event thus:

The Round Sheffield Run is the original multi-stage trail running enduro.

​An original, unique, creative and social concept that brings all the best bits of running together into one exciting event.

A superb running journey linking some of the top trails and parkland Sheffield has to offer.

​It would be a tough task to find anywhere in the UK that showcases these kind of trails and scenery within its city limits.

​11 Individually timed Stages each with their own challenge and character make up 20km of racing over the 24.5km route.

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

​Between stages competitors have the opportunity to rest, relax, and regroup with friends (new and old) and refocus before the next stage begins. Competitors can walk or jog between stages. The novel concept creates a supportive and friendly social vibe.

The race format also opens up the course to a wide range of abilities. The support round the course is also something special.

​To top it all off a festival atmosphere at the end with draft ales, tasty food, and great DJ to ensures that everyone can celebrate in style.

Run as an Individual, Pair or even a Team with some top prizes to be won! Including beer!

Fancy yourself as an Elite? This years Elite wave has 250 runners going for top honours! See the entry form for the qualifying criteria.

On the way round, you can eat your body weight in jelly babies or even stop for a latte or ice lolly if the mood takes you if the pics on Facebook are anything to go by, and afterwards join in the big party in the park.

​Astonishingly, some participants choose to forgo the refreshment breaks en route, and actually run the whole thing crazily fast, like a proper race as opposed to a social run, but then again, there is some fine bling for the taking, and if you are sufficiently rapid to get yourself to the front of the queue for the beer tent, why wouldn’t you?  Kudos to those who can.  And, in deference to them as like that sort of thing and are speedy enough to do so, there is an ‘elite wave’ that departs first, so they don’t have to overtake slower runners on the trails as is inevitable if you are a fast runner in one of the following waves.  They have to demonstrate a qualifying time somehow or other.  Not quite sure how, but I think there’s a common sense rather than officious approach taken.

RSR fine trophy

That’s not my trophy by the way, in case you were wondering, though it is my age category for the record, which is why the Runaround reference made sense to me, but I’ve moved on now, I’ll let that go…   I just have to accept dear reader, that you may not even know how to use log books and a slide rule – possibly not even be familiar with colour factor, how you live independently I cannot begin to imagine.

colour factor

So you will have probably sussed by now that I have a huge soft spot for the Round Sheffield Run, I’ve run completed it every year since it started in 2014 and it’s always a joy.  Not even type two fun, but actually type one – in parts anyway –  which given the distance and elevation (1981 ft) is no mean feat!  I managed to enter and even get my preferred wave, the first one of the day!  No, not the elite wave obvs, but the one immediately after, which because you start off early, gives you extra time to get around, and, in my case, disguises my slow progress.  There was some shenanigans with the entry system this year, because of the increasing hype the event attracts. A veritable tsunami of wannabee Sheffield runarounders swamped the site as soon as the entries went live.  This resulted in a crashed site and a hastily introduced semi-ballot system in which I got lucky but others didn’t. There was some flack directed to the organisers which I think unfair. It’s hard when an event becomes so popular that it is over-subscribed, to come up with a universally approved and fair entry system.  However, in reality, as entries open so far in advance, there are always places that come up later on as injury or circumstance means others have to pull out. There is a waiting list that you can join, and you can always secure a ‘free’ place by volunteering to marshal at either the TenTenTen or the RSR in one year – or indeed, getting a friend to do that for you, and blagging their freebie.  Oooh, nice pic on the volunteering info link – am nabbing that – see the views that will unfold before you if you partake of this running banquet through the green spaces of our great city.  Yay, #lovesheffield 🙂  And it really is like that when you get there, there being Meersbrook park.  Stunning views.

panorama rsr

So you enter in, I don’t know, January or something insanely early like that, when you are sat on the sofa fondly imagining yourself having transformed your body into nothing but sinew and muscle by the time the event comes round ‘it’s ages away’ after all, and then you think no more about it.  Until, suddenly it seems it is upon you, and that rigorous training routine you dreamt of, well, in my case at least, spoiler alert – it hadn’t come to pass.  In my defence, I’ve had a particularly shite year, running, however badly, being way down on my list of priorities.  I did consider withdrawing, but then again, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d rocked up to a run woefully unprepared, and I do have the advantage of knowing the route really well.  Also, it is indeed true the event gets you round because of it’s supportive ethos.  It is also true that it is better to rock up under trained but uninjured than over trained and carrying some sort of running related twinging, better runners than me by far have been caught out by less.  This is unfair of course, but true.  As with much of life. But let’s not got too far down that line today.   Today is about positivity and all being well with the world, even if it isn’t at all really, and that’s just the running endorphins kicking in… we have to take what comfort where and when we can.

So I entered, and winter moved into spring, and spring into summer and suddenly the RSR Facebook page is commencing countdown, ooh look here are the t-shirts – here is a teaser of a run stage the week before.

Oops, this was becoming very real suddenly.  Then, after weeks of rain, it became scorchio.  Crappity, crap crap.  Heat is my running nemesis (oh, and hills, and roads, oh and the actually being required to run bits as well, also humidity – that’s even worse possibly –  but mostly heat.)  I am not good in the heat, this does not bode well.  Heat really stymied my London Marathon experience, and I really didn’t fancy doing the Round Sheffield Run under the glare of uninterrupted sunshine.  It didn’t help I got sunburnt on the Friday by accident.  I rocked up to Hallam parkrun on Saturday slathered in sunblock.  Yes, I know proper athletes rest up the day before a big event, but I’ve only really got one gear at the moment, so might as well do parkrun the day before – particularly as I had to go into Frontrunner anyway to make an emergency electrolyte purchase, I’d be near Endcliffe park anyway.  So at parkrun, a couple of things happened. First off, my thickly applied unblock sloughed off as I ran (cough), glooping in a sweaty pool of white stripes congealed in the deeply attractive folds of skin in my neck, giving me the appearance of a new born alien being recently ejected from my egg sac and still dripping afterbirth, or just been doused in ectoplasm or something.  Just to be absolutely clear here, this is not a good look.  Gloop pops up in many different guises, it’s hard to get the adjective that perfectly captures the texture, but you’ll get the general gist I’m sure.  That’s an actual picture of me post parkrun on the right.  Don’t use that look in the nivea sunblock ads now do they?

Some things, only a true friend will tell you, so special kudos to this fab friend, who pointed out this was not the best look, and promised to let me have a go with her non-glooping, but effective S20 the next day.  Wonderwear ambassador, once again I have you to thank for sharing your wisdom!

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Wiping the gloop off my turkey neck as best I could, I went on to Frontrunner in search of electrolytes.  Skip was in charge, effortlessly ignoring me as I went in.  I was thrown initially because they’d moved their display around, but then was informed in response to my enquiry that THERE WERE NO ELECTROLYTES! Well, not the tablets anyway. Oh my gawd, calamity.  This just did not compute.  I stared blinking at the alternative options but I know from bitter experience there is no point in using sports gels or drinks as they trigger my gag reflex more even than framing the tattooed skins of your loved ones for display in the lounge (other room choices are available) after they’ve died.  And trust me, that’s saying something.

Anyway, I used electrolyte tablets for the first time at London in the hottest marathon on record, and I’ve relied on them ever since when the temperature soars. They really do seem to help, they avoid that ‘inquenchable thirst’ sensation, and post run headaches, or have for me anyway.  The thought of doing a hot RSR without them was not the best.  I was annoyed with myself too, because I’d used the last one in my hydration pack for the Hathersage Hurtle, which was ages ago, and I’ve been meaning to nip in and replace them ever since.  Crap. Also, turns out, just blinking vacuously from time to time in between staring in disbelief at the space on the display stand where the electrolyte tablets are supposed to be, doesn’t make them magically appear.  Who knew?  I retreated.  I needed a plan b.  Plan b was maybe get some electrolyte sachets like the ones that are sold for tourists to re-hydrate after getting the runs in a different sense whilst on holiday.  Problem with plan b, was that I couldn’t be bothered to find a proper chemist, and they didn’t have any at the mini Sainsburys I pass on the way home.  Oh well…  eek.

Day before angstiness was well under way.   Things brightened up a bit when I dug out my hydration vest to get my kit ready.  There are water stations on the way round, but I knew I’d probably need more.  This route actually goes past shops during some of the recovery sections so in theory at least, you could nip into the co-op for a bottle of water en route if desperate, but best to go equipped I feel.  Anyway, good news, my slatternly habits are such that I still had an almost full reservoir of water in my running vest, and what’s more, one in which I had previously dissolved electrolytes for the Hathersage Hurtle.  Turned out, didn’t need as much fluid then as I thought.  I had been meaning to empty that out and sterilise it all for ages, but on this occasion, result!  I know it’s probably not the most hygienic thing in the world to keep the water thing filled and lying about for weeks on end, but my need for electrolytes outweighed any risk of near instant death by sepsis from being infected by my own germs.  Hurrah!  Anyway, clearly I’ve survived to tell the tale, so good to know, eh?

Just a matter of digging out my running top.  Erm.  Oh dear.  This was a problem too.  The thing is we have some new Smiley Paces kit.  Now, hear me out, I love my smiley paces buddies, and the ethos of this super friendly club crammed with awesome Sheffield women, however, the kit is not my friend.  The old kit was unforgiving to say the least, and so I was pretty excited when there was a prospect of ordering new kit, in a new design with a clean slate.  I ordered, it duly came.  Now granted, it looks epic on some, the new graphic design is fab, but the actual cut of the shirt.  It’s a no from me.  It only seems to suit a particular body shape which I do not share.  It’s best suited to a coat hanger, but failing that an athletic frame.  My frame is only athletic in the sense that a space hopper might be described as athletic, i.e. not really very athletic at all.

Space_hopper,_Walker_Art_Gallery

I ordered a size big enough to squeeze over my bust, but when it arrived it just swamped me everywhere else on account of being a mens’ fit.  Well, they call it ‘unisex’ but clearly this is bollocks – and I use that term advisedly, because ‘unisex’ always means designed for men.   I might as well run in a toupee teepee.  This garment doesn’t just belong on a coat hanger, but on a coat hanger popped on a rail hundreds of feet in the air.  Not being one to see the glass as always half-empty, I will say this.  Up until the point of trying it on I had thought my self-esteem had already hit rock bottom, but it seems I must have been feeling positively cheery, since the devastating effect of seeing my reflection in the glass whilst wearing this item suggested that in fact I hadn’t, there was still a fair old distance to fall.  I was beyond crushed, it made me never want to leave the house in daylight hours again, and no, I’m not posting a photo of me wearing it even for comedic effect.  It’s too humiliating.  It has been cast to the back of the wardrobe on the floor, never to see daylight again, unless I inadvertently ingest enough growth hormones through my diet to grow an extra three foot in height.  This is unlikely, as I’m vegetarian, so generally avoid ingesting growth hormone in my food.  The problem was, what to wear instead?

I dug out my original smiley vest, but this has endless variants of my name on it, as I personalised it for the London Marathon.  That’s a good top tip actually, if you have your name on your shirt, you get more shout outs from the crowd and it helps keep you going.  I don’t regret that, but such a highly personalised top seems a bit OTT to wear at a local run.  It just would feel a bit egotistical to head out on the RSR with my name front and back, and a bit misplaced given the speed with which I’d be progressing round the course.  Aaargh.  It felt bad, but I honestly didn’t want to be seen in public wearing either garb, so instead reached for my parkrun volunteering tee.  It’s the most forgiving of the running tops I own, and pleasingly, colour co-ordinates with my inov8 parkclaw trail shoes, which I love.  That would have to be the way to go, it seems my loyalty to my running club has some limits.  If only I were an international sporting icon – or indeed some other sort of celebrity, I could have my own kit custom made for my body shape and it would look and feel fab.u.lous.  Here’s hoping that I come to inhabit such a parallel universe comes to pass before the next time I venture out in public for a running event.  Not in time for this year’s RSR alas.

I felt sad not to have a Smiley Vest that I felt confident enough to wear in public, but hey ho, maybe it would be as well to go under the radar given my current fitness levels.  Wouldn’t want to bring the name of the club into disrepute after all, not so much with the requirement to run fast, it’s an inclusive group, speed isn’t everything, it’s more that if you have ‘Smiley Paces’ emblazoned across your front, there is something of an obligation to smile throughout any event when out and about.  Wearing a smile and wearing that new Smiley vest are mutually exclusive.  You can’t force a smile when you are blinking back hot tears of humiliation because what’s been seen in the mirror cannot be unseen. Also, I’d be out and about for rather a long time potentially, that’s quite an endurance test for smiling throughout, even if the smile came easily to begin with …  Maybe I could wear the top and distract people by, oh I don’t know carrying a giant carrot around with me for the duration?  That makes other people smile apparently, thereby potentially removing the obligation for me to do so.  It was a thought…  Mind you, timings a bit tight for making one overnight, that papier mache would too long to dry, and I have no orange paint either, still, there’s always next year.  It’s not Ken Livingston by the way, though possibly his doppelganger.

melbourne carrot man

I wonder how they did the leaves.  Do you think they are actual palm fronds, or made of plastic?  Hard to tell.  Will have to nip across to Melbourne and ask him in person sometime.  He is known for carrying a carrot with him by the way, it’s his thing. Maybe like our John ‘the man with the pram’ Burkhill with the green wig or Tony tending the War Memorial in Endcliffe park.  A known character, part of the landscape, with a particular USP.  We have running icons in Sheffield too.  Pirate Flag man anyone?  All Sheffielders know who I mean!  Spotted at the bottom of the Meersbrook Park hill by me today, but sure he will have popped up all over.  Always worth keeping an eye out for him on Sheffield runs – not that he’s especially hard to spot to be fair, but just so you know to be on the alert.  It’s like the notion of Sheffield flat – man brandishing his enormous jolly roger in the woods, no worries – it’s a Sheffield thing, you’ll work it all out in time!

Hydration ready?  Tick.  Kit ready?  Tick.  Legs ready?  Well, as Mr Loaf says, two out of three ain’t bad.

And you know what was even better?  Whilst I was getting myself ready, the kandoo team were getting the park ready.  So exciting.  This was the night before the morning after.

RSR night before

Looking good, quite a logistical operation. It’s a well oiled team that pull it all together, but even so, must be a relief for the organisers to get to this point. Yay!

So to bed, and slept appallingly and woke up stupidly early.  Oh well.  I was up and about by 5.00 I didn’t need to be, but was awake anyway, and didn’t want to risk dropping off again.  Anyway, pre-race prep rituals won’t do themselves.  Learning the trick of smothering your feet with Vaseline to avoid blisters was a game changer for me, but there is an art to the application so you avoid greasing your entire living space with oily hand and foot prints.  Anti chafing precautions also necessary, and much pinning and repinning of my race number to ensure compatibility with my running vest.  All takes time.  I was in the 8.35 wave, and headed out to walk to Endcliffe about 7.00.  It was a gorgeous day pending, and I felt surprisingly cheery heading on down.  There was a bit of a breeze and sunshine pending, but that was OK, I had my hat, and my tomtom feebie sunglasses, plus the day had dawned, I was going, all good.

The park looked lovely as I approached, all dressed up for a party and swathed in early morning light.  Plenty of route signs along the way too.  It seemed to me that they’d gone to town with directional arrows this year, there seemed to be loads of them, also chalk markings on the road at critical junctions.  Inevitably someone will miss a sign along the way, but hard to see how.

Queen Vic was overseeing everything as always.  I wonder how many different runners, walkers, joggers and doggers she’s seen using this park over the years.  Bit late to start counting now.  It was quiet, but building.  Volunteers were congregating, the bag drop and number and timer stations getting into gear.  Exciting!

and here are some way better official pics capturing the behind the scenes vibe:

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I dumped my bag in the bag drop, got my dibber, and began a scout of the grounds.  I was struck by the sight of the ambulance bike, corralled behind crowd control safety barriers.  I wasn’t sure if it was being secured in this way to protect it from us or we from it.  I commented as much to a fellow runner who had also noticed it.  ‘I’m not surprised it’s shut up, imagine all the great drugs in that lot!‘  Whilst this is potentially a good point well made, and it says much about my lack of imagination that this had never occurred to me, it just shows what a law-abiding lot we good folk of Sheffield are that no-one would dare desecrate the sanctity of such a boundary, oh no, that barrier would be unhurdled and whatever lay within the enclosure was safe as safe could be.  Even though I bet there was at the very least some highly desirable compeed plasters and more than a token foil blanket there for the taking but for those formidable barriers!

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I was extremely flattered to be greeted by name by first the event director and then the dibber distributor, ‘my they must only use super-recognisers to staff the laptops here, I had no idea so many of them lived in Sheffield‘ I thought to myself… before remembering that my number had my name on it.  Oh well.  The novelty didn’t wear thin though, loads of marshals throughout the day shouted support by name to every runner.  Impressive!  It’s nice, it makes you feel like you matter in that moment, however fleetingly, it also meant that in honesty I might as well have worn my old Smiley vest, but hey ho, too late now.

The marshals were being briefed and kitted out with the equipment for their various stations.  Looked like everyone got a set of ski poles as a precautionary measure.  Fair does, you do get pockets of micro-climate in Sheffield, Graves park especially is notorious for being in snow whilst everywhere else enjoys balmy climes and you never know what will face you as you emerge at the top of Ringinglow, it pays to be prepared.

Managed to make contact with one Marshal who is such a regular at this event she has her own nominated spot in Nether Edge.  My how pleased I’d be to make it to her later on in the day.  Also spotted a fellow Smiley – who was rocking the new look with confidence and panache, we paired up for precautionary pee (no queue there yet) and to pose.  We were desperately trying to get snapped by the official photographer, being extra smiley and trying to look casually enthusiastic and photogenic, or at least photo-interesting.  Epic fail, couldn’t get his attention at all.  Had fun trying.  I have form on this actually, decades ago, one long hot summer me and a next door neighbour decided to try to get in as many pictures in the local paper as we could by turning up at church fetes in huge hats or doing hilarious placards at local demonstrations.  That was also an epic fail, not a single picture, not one, but we did also have fun trying then too.  It’s a cheap and harmless hobby – as long as you don’t take things too far and put kittens up trees and dogs in lakes just so as you can rescue them, which is a version of Munchhausen’s I suppose and not to be recommended.  Today, we made do with our own selfies.  Aren’t we lovely?

and my wonderwear ambassador and Hallam parkrun buddy too.  And it wasn’t even 8.00 a.m.  The people are coming!

Traipsed over to get a squirt of S20 sunblock.  I’d got my own on as well, but just wanted to allergy test for the other stuff, as people keep telling me its fab, but it’s expensive if I react to it.  Then, coming back, the queues had suddenly started to appear.  I was glad I’d picked up my number and dibber already.  The queue was immense, and although it was moving relatively quickly, it was daunting to behold.

I say it was daunting, but it was also apparently invisible to some, well, maybe not ‘some’ maybe just one actually.  Who came round the corner, breezed up to the first laptop operative she saw and was all dibbed up before she raised her gaze to see the queue of other runners snaking over the horizon and out of the park.  Oops.  Maybe her route to the park took her along Twentywell Lane and this sign entered her subconscious – it wasn’t deliberate, but it was nifty!  Again, discretion prevents me outing anyone here, this is just a completely random shot of another friendly runner in the vicinity of the start at about that time.  Just so long as we are clear.  Any association arising in your mind as a consequence of the juxtaposition of the billboard signage and the female runner alongside apparently holding a newly acquired dibber is purely coincidental.  Good.

Still a bit of time, so decided to go for second precautionary pee of the morning.  Oh my.  This is a gripe to be fair.  The queue for the loos were beyond your worst imaginings.  There are never enough loos for the RSR, and it is tricky I guess because you need loads all at once and then they aren’t much needed for most of the day once all the runners are on their way, but there weren’t enough.  Good 20 minutes queuing and they got longer all the time, like some alien regenerating snake, the more you lob bits off as people did their bit and exited the queue, twice as much new length would be added at the end.  Is that the Jason and the Argonauts film, the one with the skeletons that replicate the more you cut them up… hang on, just a google moment – nope it wasn’t that – though it is an epic fight scene, I’m thinking of the hydra, cut off one of its heads, and two grow back.  Shudder.  Ray Harryhausen was amazing though, wasn’t he just?  Wow.  The toilet queue was too, but not in a good way.  Maybe more runners than usual turned up on the day, what the weather being great and the RSR becoming a destination run and all, but, more portaloos would be boon for next year.  Might stop some of the alfresco seekers, for whom desperation trumped decency.  And better signage for the urinal portaloos might have sped things up too…

The toilet queue was exactly like that.  No wonder the wait was scary.

I could hear the build up to the start of the red wave – the elites, but they were underway by the time I was wending my way to the start funnel.   This means I missed the panic stricken face of the photographer who nearly got trampled as the runners stampeded through, fortunately, this was captured by one of the (other?) official photographers, hurrah!  Probably one of my favourite pictures from the entire day!  Though, in fairness, I too always feel completely panicked at the start of any race.  ‘What, we have to run now!?!’  I’m invariably astonished, then alarmed to be surrounded by so many runners and then finally swept up by it.  By the way, lots of excellent photos have been made available on Facebook by the RSR team, they politely ask that you consider a donation to Weston Park Cancer Hospital in return for use of the images. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr19

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Spotted a Graves Junior parkrun RD inhaling a banana just before off.   Brave move, these elites eh, they live life on the edge!

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So I scurried to join the pen for the orange start at 8.35.  Announcements came over the speakers, and the shout went up to ‘Runaroouuuuuuuuuund NOW!’ or possibly a count down and then ‘go’, I can’t quite remember, and we all shuffled through to dib out in turn under the archway, and then we were spat through and launched and on our way!

No we hadn’t finished, it’s just that you come through the funnel at the end as well.  This is a consequence of running round in a great big circle.  You finish where you started from.  Clever eh?

One slightly bizarre thing about the event being set off in waves, is that as you you set out, running purposefully up through the park, leisurely arrivees are strolling down to registration, so it feels a bit weird.  Also, some people sprint off, whereas I take a while to get going, so the immediate first emotion for me is not so much a surge of adrenaline as shock and confusion.  Also, because it’s on the parkrun route, it’s like you’ve cheated and skipped the bit at the start, all very surreal.  It’s still uphill though, and a long way to go to get round the whole thing.  However, not too far to the first crossing point and the first dapper dibbing marshal of the day at the road crossing.  Not gonna lie, slightly disappointed not to see our ‘usual’ marshal in situ – another Hallam parkrun RD who has her designated spot at this event.  Not the same without her there, but she had selfishly opted to go fly a helicopter or something instead.  Honestly, the lengths eh?  Never mind, the spot was ably filled with competence, flair and excellently authoritative traffic control skills.  Can’t really argue with that.  Thank you marshal!

Over the road, onwards and upwards.  The field was thinning about, but other runners were coming up behind.  The overtaking had started.  On the plus side, I got to exchange cheery waves with familiar faces, some in a blur of speed as they passed, others pausing for brief sweaty hugs, all with big smiles.  There is something about the RSR that is inherently joyful, right from the off, once you’ve got your precautionary pee out the way of course.  Obviously it’s going to be stressful until you’ve got that bit of body maintenance sorted 🙂

This did sort of set the tone for the day to be fair.  People I knew, or friends I hadn’t yet made, sprinting up behind me, shouting a greeting and then whizzing by, their ever shrinking silhouettes disappearing over the horizon ahead of me.  Still, at least it gave me something to chase eh?  Plus, you get a chit chat opportunity at each dib point. Some people pressed on through, others eeked out each wait for as long as possible, strategically incorporating recovery time into their race day strategy, which is both the point of how the event is set up, and entirely mysterious to me.  The social anthropologists amongst you will notice the culturally significant green and gold bobble hat being sported by the high vis hero.  However, for me, the real interest lies in the fine exemplar of team work.  The Smiley Paces pair are saving precious seconds by having clearly demarked roles, whereby one does the donkey work of dibbing in and out and being responsible for custody of the timing lanyard, whilst the other nails looking triumphant and getting the glory.  Ran like that the whole way round, no mean feat!

Loving your work Smilies, loving your work.

On you go, into the woods, over the next road crossing – ‘thank you marshal’ I have a theory you can spot the parkrunners amongst the throng as they have been conditioned into shouting thanks to anyone in a high vis that they run past even if it’s a worker checking the wiring for a BT phone cabinet.

After the next road crossing, more Smilies!  We get everywhere, and these two in particular are a fab partnership, pathologically smiley, as is the smiley way!  Oh and they’re off again, smilies disappearing into the distance ahead of me, also a smiley staple.  Not running away from me as such, just giving me a lead!

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and somewhere around this stage I think, another Smiley caught me unawares with some action shots – you have to push yourself to get results… thank goodness for the dark glasses, I’m sure no-one will recognise me.

and this was around the end of Stage 1, where I’d been promised a sweaty high-five which I duly claimed.  Great to do a run where you see familiar faces on the way round.  This was the marshal sharing his local knowledge by declaring that ‘flat section ahead – Sheffield flat’ as runners dibbed out and headed towards Forge Dam.   The locals know, the blow ins will find out soon enough.  …. it’s not like they are going to come back down the hill to query it later are they!  Or are they?

Grand to see you my friend, thanks for the gardening tips at parkrun, and the backing for lobbying for the perennial plant stall, I’m quietly confident!

The forge dam cafe was just opening, and there was the opportunity to join another toilet queue if you’d missed out earlier.  Now into the woods. More familiar people whooping on their way past:

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My lack of training gave me a wobble, it’s a lot of uphill.  I doubted myself.  Then, soon I heard familiar chuntering coming up behind.  Yay!  My favourite twosome of the day.  Storming it.

also, it was somewhere around here, I met a Chorlton runner walking back down – I was concerned that this meant one of us at least was going the wrong way – unless he was just doubling back to remonstrate with the marshal about the ‘Sheffield flat’ quip – turns out his knee was crook, so game over for him.  It made me appreciate how lucky I was to be out there and injury free.  I wasn’t ever going to fly round fleet of foot, but I was going to get round, I was confident of that, time to stop fretting about what I can’t achieve and be grateful for what I can.  Poor guy, gutted for him.  Mind you, one remarkable thing about the RSR, which I’m sure is to do with the option to take part in a more relaxed way, is how very few are DNFs.  Less than 10 I’m sure.  No idea about the DNS though.  That may tell another story.

Onwards and upwards.  Doing a rare bit of overtaking of those following the route somewhat over prepared for the run -much like me on the Dig Deep Ultra, where I took absolutely everything with me because I had no idea what to expect. Well, the breeze blocks might have come in handy if I needed to create some steps to stand on to get over a dry stone wall for example.  Oh hang on, they were Duke of Edinburgh Award Schemers – did think the sleeping mat was possibly a bit OTT even if it did have definite appeal…

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And so you emerge from the wood, into the glade with tables laden with jelly babies, bananas and bottles of water, and friendly chit chatting – like you’ve stumbled on some sort of impromptu runners social – which you basically have.  There was plenty of water, and it felt leisurely, they’d put out a lot more sacks to keep the recycling together, but there was a lot of plastic waste.  I wonder if this event will follow recent welcome trends of other running events and try to go plastic free next year.  It ought to be possible, especially with the feed stations being in recovery stages and with the growing awareness of the problem with single use plastic.  I reckon so.

Restored, there is a 15 minute or so walk past the alpaca place and to the top of limb valley.  I always think this event must seem so peculiar to locals, as the road sections all tend to be recovery stages, and that means that in this ‘race’ no-one appears to be doing any actual running.  Worst run ever in that respect!  So called ‘runners’ strolling past chatting to one another and exchanging cheery waves with other participants ahead and behind.

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Stage three.  Limb valley section.  Basically, fab views, firm terrain – corralled away from scary cattle thanks to last year’s crowdfunding initiative – and you get to ‘whoop‘ and ‘wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee‘ all the way down, going as fast as your little legs – or long legs where applicable – will carry you!  Always time to take some pics along the way though, even if they are somewhat pitiful by comparison to the official pics, nevertheless, they capture moments in time and memories too.   And you know what, I actually think this picture, which I took all by myself, is fab.  If anyone knows this runner I’ve got a sequence of her in high resolution she can have if she gets in touch.

The official shots for this stage are fab – some possibly tipped over into not so much joyful but manic, however, that’s understandable in the circumstances.  You can also compare and contrast effortless running style of super speedy smilies v my trundling efforts.  Also, alarmingly, one Smiley has been caught on camera, not smiling and seemingly mid altercation with another runner, note to self – need to carry out an enquiry within my crochet club to check out what really happened there… More importantly, check out that Vegan jumper.  Respect!

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Oh hang on, they’ve just uploaded another album!  It’s great that there are so many pics, but it does take a while to scroll through them all. Oh the excruciating tyrrany of trying to pick out just the best… Lots of late nights for RSR runners the week after the event, poring over photos and reliving it all after a long day at work.  Anyways, picked out a few favourites below.  Please note, the guy apparently playing ‘chief bunny’ which I thought was a game everyone was familiar with – much like the rizla on the head game – but it might have been a shared house thing back in the day.  So I’ll leave that hanging.  Also, kudos to the levitating man, that’s some height you got to there, and then I just really liked the happy runners having a blast in blue.  Nice jump shot too.  That’s another thought actually, really ought to incentivise the giant leaping, spot prize for best photo capturing such athleticism, to be shared between jumper and photographer obvs.  Still think the vegan runner above is winning so far though…

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Wait, another album, album 3 – hope you are making your just giving donations people – and more evidence.   They have to be playing chief bunny, see the guy using both hands, he’s the chief and then those on either side should do one hand up each – the one nearest the chief bunny, and they are so doing it.  I need to seek out a Marple Runner at the next possible opportunity to verity my suspicions, but it’s too much of a coincidence to be otherwise, surely?

Oh, and breaking news, vegan jumper isn’t winning any more, this guy is.  For now…. he’s definitely taking the concept of a sugar rush to new heights, hard to be sure, but he has to have ODed on jelly babies.  Thought he could handle it I daresay, and then this!

RSR jump jump

At some events they have a ‘photographer 100m ahead sign’.  Well, only if they are 100m ahead, it can be changed to say 50m or ’round the corner’ or whatever, depending on context.  That gives runners the opportunity to pretend to be running hard, or to get a run up into a leap, or wipe the snot and sweat off their faces and ensure they have their boobs on an upswing in readiness, or do something equally eye catching, hilarious and camera ready which is harder to achieve when caught unawares.  I like that.  Mind you, these are universally fab pictures from this event, thank you Mr Linacre, it’s astounding to take, literally thousands of shots, and them all to be this good.  I sense a hive of activity on Facebook with people updating their profile picks with RSR run action portraits over the coming days… also a post run tradition.  That and running club caption contests, of which there will be many, the suggestions for some of which it is fortunate will remain forever contained within a closed Facebook group!

Where was I?  Where next?  Oh yes –  then into the woods down towards Whirlow, lovely section, and cool under the trees.  The running conditions were perfect, a cool breeze and bright, but not hot, so lucky, especially after yesterdays scorchio and soul sapping parkrun.  I gather that faster runners might have preferred harder ground, but my arthritic feet appreciated the soft forgiving terrain.  Reet nice out in fact.  Lovely.

and you emerge out the woods:

cross the road, and back into the woods. Ecclesall woods this time.  It was ages before I worked out how this relates to the Ecclesall Woods Discovery Centre.  I love Ecclesall Woods, but I seem to get very disorientated when I’m there.  Totally get why Hansel and Gretel got lost in the woods that time.  Trees are beautiful, but a wood in its entirety can swallow you up quite easily.  In this section I got the most fleeting of glimpses of Smiley Selfie Queen, but she did pause for long enough for a fellow runner to get a shot of us together, just for the record, we occupied the same space at the same time. You get to look longingly across at the miniature train in operation just the other side of the stream, but no time to take advantage of that today alas.  So this is where you emerge onto Abbeydale Road South, and stroll down past the railway station, trying not to think about the steps of doom which await you once you’ve traipsed up Twentywell Lane…

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Twentywell Lane, did have a queue to get into the woods.  I felt a bit for the marshal here, as this is point that requires a lot of proactive traffic management, and to be honest looked like one of the more stressful locations to be based at.  He was doing a fab job though, directing runners and traffic to keep everything moving.  Once we were over the road and into the wood, the steps awaited.  Oh my life, they are killers, that climb, untimed or not, is brutal.  I like this part of the route if I’m running on my own, but it is a tad stressful for the RSR.  I try to give way to faster runners as much as I can, but there are one or two really narrow bits on this path and you can’t step aside without plummeting down a vertiginous slope so it’s a tad stressful.  Having said that, runners were universally courteous, I think enough people now know the route to recognise it is what it is, and with the best will in the world, sometimes slower runners can’t give way and faster runners can’t over take.  All smiles. Well, to each other, they may have been some unseemly cursing about the challenge of the actual terrain!

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Phew, was glad when that section was over.  You emerge onto a road and have to run on by Beauchief golf course.  If you are called Sandra, you get your own signage to help you press on at this critical stage.  Go Sandra indeed, you chose your supporters well!  I don’t know if the idea is they will only have signs for Sandra, as this was a new development for this year, maybe other random names will appear, or maybe she has special dispensation to have her own signage. Will have to rock up next year and find out I suppose.

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The end of stage 5 takes you onto Greenhill Avenue, and more uphill and you go through Chancet Wood.  This stage I always forget about and get confused and think I’m already in Graves park, which you aren’t.  If you are ever lost on a course, and inexplicably see me ahead of you – which is fairly unlikely – don’t follow me, I’ll be lost too.

I was flagging a bit by now, so it was a fabulous surprise to see a Smiley superstar in support mode at the start of the Graves park section.  Hurrah!  Obviously, any Smiley is a fine sight on any and every occasion, but for the record, best thing EVER to happen to me on a run was when she and a fellow Brutelles turned up on the Houndkirk Road to see me towards the end of the Dig Deep Ultra. It was brilliant, so chuffed they’d turned out for me.  You know what, if you are a supporter rather than a runner on occasions, or indeed always, don’t under estimate the impact you have. You are awesome. Support en route can make or break an event.  All adds to the party atmosphere.   Now after that tribute, it’s unfortunate that I don’t have a suitably epic photo to share, but I do have an offering at least. Thank you Doctor Smiley!  Plus, she not only had vegan sweets – which had run out when I got there – but took photos of other smilies, even those who’d apparently got dressed in the dark which would account for them accidentally put on the wrong running vest. AND, she saw a rather cute mouse whilst waiting, which I find worthy of note.   Check out that half of the Smiley pair who is still managing to keep her arms aloft in triumph – she’s kept that up for over 15 km by this point I’d say – bearing in mind she was doing it throughout the recovery stages as well as the timed sections, that’s real dedication for you.  I’d expect nothing less.

Oh and she did a mean selfie shot too, which ought really to be mandatory whenever two or more smilies meet.  Evidence suggests it pretty much is already to be fair, if previous evidence is anything to go by:

Incidentally, it occurs to me, albeit rather belatedly, there is a really good breakdown of each section of the Round Sheffield Run course with nice concise descriptors and thumb nail maps on the event website so you could save yourself some time looking at that.   They also did something clever with Strava, marking the recovery sections in blue, but I can’t work out have to steal that as it’s a webpage, so you’ll have to make do with my Strava map, which looks like this:

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Makes more sense now I expect.  That’s good.  No of course I’m not uploading the version with my times on it!  What kind of a fool do you take me for?  (Rhetorical question, no need for answers on a postcard on this occasion).

Now I’ve found the section summary, I’ll refer to that for help with describing the Graves Park bit, er hem, the blah de blah says:

Stage 7   :  1.4km Graves Park

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

It only just occurs to me that the somewhat oblique reference to ‘another stage to take at a steady pace’ acknowledges that this is another bit with a long hard uphill trudge.  I don’t really like this section of the park.  Graves park is lovely, but this route misses out the nice bits like the Highland coos and Rose Garden cafe and sort of sneaks around a rather uncharacteristically dingy section.  Nearly said dinghy section, but I’m thinking of the boating pool at Millhouses.  Early runners in the elite wave, could in principle have seen junior parkrunners if not actually on their run, at the very least enjoying the post run partying.  One RD I met walking back home at the end of the event, said he was just sprinting past the back of the cafe for 10ish and could easily have joined the team in the cafe to help process the results if he’d but thought to do so on the way round.  I was probably still trying to cross Rustlings Road at that point.  Honestly, the elite runners inhabit a parallel universe.  I can’t imagine being that fast, even when I’ve taken advantage of deserted early morning airports to run full speed along travelators (doesn’t everyone), and even that makes me feel super human – these elite runners though, must be emitting sonic booms as they pass.  Well, I presume those booms are from breaking the sound barrier not for the food choices made on breaking their overnight fasts.

Graves park then, bit of a ho hum section for me.  A few people passing me asked if I was alright.  I appreciate their concern, but do wonder what this says about my natural gait, as I was absolutely fine, just choosing to strategically power walk, but I must look perpetually broken.  It reflects well on my fellow participants and the ethos of the event that people checked on me, but perhaps doesn’t reflect so well on my running style.  Not quite moving with the grace of a gazelle traversing the open grasslands of the savanna…. or wherever it is they live.  I’ve had worse.  The day after the London marathon, a next door neighbour rushed across the road to ask if I was alright as she thought I must have been in a car accident or something I was moving so stiffly.  Note to self, maybe other runners use rollers and recovery runs for a reason.

One good thing though, was as you come towards the end of the section, there was a couple of women doing excellent cheer leading.  Dear reader these two were ON FIRE.  Probably used more energy jumping up and down to motivate the participants to ‘just keep on running, it’s only 100 metres, don’t stop now’ then the actual runners did racing round.  No honestly, even the elite wave runners would have burnt up a fraction of the calories.  High five to you my favourite supporters of the day!  Liz is very lucky to have you 🙂 hope you hadn’t exhausted your mine of enthusiasm by the time she came into view.  Thank you for practising your cheering skills on the rest of us, you were awesome!

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As you come out of the park, you can espy an ice cream van parked up on the right hand side, quite hard to resist as you are clocking out ahead of the 15 minute recovery stage.

The temptation was in fact impossible to resist for some, who very sensibly, took time out to swap change for lolly – these two also knew how to roll!  Respect.  I wonder if they had 99s.  Not had one of those in ages.  I boycotted them for a bit once I discovered that they aerate them with air outside vehicle i.e. exhaust fumes (probably an urban myth) and that Margaret Thatcher, in her former life as a chemist, was partially responsible for developing the technique which led to Mr Whippy as we know it .  Probably also spurious, I might be able to eat them now…

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The next bit is

Liason between 7-8

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

The walk itself is unremarkable, though when you recce the route, I always think it feels a lot longer than it actually is.  The signage for the Round Sheffield Walk route is easy to miss here, though it was well signed for the RSR.  It’s a social section, I chatted to a few runners, some regulars at the RSR, some first timers, the lolly ladybird and lolly bee pair, and a guy who’d hoped to run as a pair with his wife but she’d had to pull out with dodgy knee or something, so he was going solo. Real shame when that happens, but it’s good that pairs who lose a partner can transfer to singleton status in such circumstances.

Eventually, you turn the corner, and then ahead is the sight of the next feed station. Wow, this was busy.  Excitingly, among the banana worriers was a familiar face from Graves junior parkrun.  Hurrah.  Oh, sorry, they were banana warriors, easy mistake.   Whatever, some nifty knife action, those bananas didn’t stand a chance.  Lots of people congregate here.  I’m sure this run was busier than last year, as I’m a slow runner, so usually by the time I come to feed stations things have calmed down a bit as the majority of participants have been and gone, but this was absolutely heaving.  Huge bags were to gather plastic bottles, though some had bizarrely chucked banana skins in amongst them which was hardly pro-social. It’s good that an attempt was being made to keep everything ripe for recycling, but it was a shock seeing such a mountain of single use plastic.  It’s good we are all more aware of it.  I can’t see that being allowed to happen again next year.  I needed to supplement my supply though, so was as guilty as any in taking a bottle.

I lingered only briefly, then it’s back down the hill.  This isn’t the most picturesque part of the route, but litter wise it was much better than last time I went down.  It was so bad once with litter outside the school gates I actually wrote to the school about it in one of my more pompous moments.  Never heard back.  It’s a bit of break neck section, if you take it fast you gather momentum going down, and it’s hard to stop.  I think it was no coincidence the bike paramedic was stationed in the undergrowth here, it was indeed a likely spot for rich pickings, though there were no discarded blood stained gauzes surrounding him when I passed, then again, he’d have put them in a proper biohazard waste bag probably, it’s not the done thing to leave blooded bandages lying around I imagine.

Oh hang on, the official description doesn’t mention the litter or the risk of injury or death if you take it too fast.

Stage 8   :  1.3km Lees Hall Golf Course

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

so where I experience fear, others experience ‘exciting’ I can see that actually.   I’m not sure about the views on this route, they really kick in in Meersbrook park.

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so the liaison stage here  is along the road in a straight line for about 500m, (more up hilliness) past the row of shops (a co-op you could nip into if you felt the urge.  I seriously contemplated picking up the bottle of wine I’d need for visitors later before my senses recovered sufficiently for me to realise that was a crazy idea, even if it would mean I wouldn’t have to go back out to the shops later.  Then you join the main road and up to Meersbrook park entrance.  Espying the amazing Bishop’s House as you approach.

This next section, section 9, is the best.  Well, maybe second best, Limb Valley (stage 3) is more picturesque and for me more forgiving terrain, but I love this stage too.  The views are extraordinary.  It’s quite moving seeing the city unfold in front of you – it helped that the skies were clear today, but on any day the horizon is amazing.  This park has a real community feel to it too, so it’s a well supported section, you’ll see friends probably, but failing that people generally out enjoying the day and offering cheers of encouragement too.  It’s down hill – always a boon, and has fond memories of small park BIG RUN too.   It’s just such a cool park, with a chilled vibe, I think it helps that, for me at least, psychologically I feel I’m nearly home now, that’s the bling in the bag near as dammit!

EVEN BETTER today at the entrance to the park were indeed buddies from small park BIG RUN, they were quite possibly still doing 1km loops of the park two weeks later – that’s dedication for you.  Also, pirate flag man.  So exciting.  I could see him waving his flag from the top of the hill, but he started to go round the corner out of sight, I genuinely put on an extra sprint for fear the flag would be all furled up again and out of sight by the time I got to the bottom of the hill. That would be unimaginable, missing the flag, when it was actually in sight, so near and yet so far.  Crisis averted dear reader.  The photos record I made it!  I also got whoops and hugs from my Smiley buddies, and the chance to see other smilies sprint on by as they had embraced more fully than me that this was actually within the timed section, so you shouldn’t really be stopping for a chat within it, though personally I don’t see the harm.  Also, I took some photos, quite pleased with the one with the Valley Hill Runners and the view, it’s just like that, it really is.

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Makes me so grateful that life has brought me to Sheffield, it really is the most extraordinary city to live in.  I felt weirdly emotional looking at that view of the city skyline.  It’s hard to say why, it’s not like I’m personally responsible for it or anything, and strictly speaking, I’m not even a ‘real’ Sheffielder, but I love this city I really do.  Admittedly mainly because it’s so easy to get out of and into the peaks, but I’m sure you know what I mean.  Bloody brilliant place

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Out the park, a very vocal marshal was encouraging every runner by name, which was impressive, if only for his speed reading skills!

You emerge, and it’s a bit of zig zag up towards Nether Edge for the next section.

Liason between 9-10 Out the park across the A61 following the permanent signs, across to Abbeydale rd and Edinburgh Cycles, turn left onto Abbeydale Rd, and then turn right by the mirror shop for the start of the next stage. Marshalls will be in key positions for this slightly tricky liaison.

Apart from the novelty value of seeing your reflection in a mirror, this isn’t the best part of Sheffield, but you know what, it’s grown on me.  Let’s celebrate B&M bargains and LiDL.  Why not appreciate the mural and that community wildflower garden is now blooming, literally as well as figuratively.  More chit chat if you fancy it

The best bit though, for me at least, was seeing my  magical Hallam parkrun buddy in situ.  Again, when I’d visualised myself doing this event, I knew once I got to this fabulous smile and slightly sweaty hug, I was nearly home.  Best hug of the day.  Also a selfie op!

Then the mirror moment: 

and then the bit I always forget, because it feels to me like it should be a recovery stage, down those narrow Nether Edge streets to Brincliffe woods. I find it a killer, more hills, and the heat rising by now.  I always end up walking it, with a slight garumphiness, because it’s hard, and I feel self-conscious and inadequate because I ought to be running but can’t or more accurately won’t.

Stage 10 :  2.2km Brincliffe Edge –  The end is getting close, this urban stage takes you up the road on a gradual climb to Brincliffe edge, keep going up the road and the duck into the woods onto the trail, contouring round, then up and down into Chelsea park, popping out in quiet surburbia on the otherside. A few quiet wide streets to negotiate on the pavement before finishing just before Psalter lane

Fortuitously, I came across a former Smiley and distance walking aficionado, who was also doing some strategic walking at the point, so we marched on together.  It was good to catch up, also I was able to pick her brains about using poles for walking/running, as she’s a fab advert for doing just that, although wasn’t using them today. She had them at the Hathersage Hurtle last year (2018), and was fair speeding round.

We stayed together until we emerged from Brincliffe Edge woods, then I waved her off as she skipped off through Chelsea park, the end in her sights.  Brincliffe Edge is a weird short sharp bit.  It’s nice and flat across the – you think – top of the ridge, and then just as you are settling in to that there’s a sharp right and more steep steps reveal themselves to take you up to Chelsea Park.  I didn’t witness this myself, but saw on Facebook that someone was alongside a non-local at this point – ‘and RSR virgin’ was the phrase used, and that poor soul caught sight of yet another set of steep steps unfolding before them they  just exclaimed ‘oh f$ck off!’ A sentiment other participants may well have shared!

Into the park, down the hill.  This is really near my home patch, although I don’t tend to go into the park that often, because frankly there are more open spaces within reach, but it was nice to jog through, and pleasingly I met one of my neighbours out walking her dog. She was a little bemused as to what exactly I was doing, but then again, so was I.  It possibly didn’t help that I was saying I was doing a trail run, but wasn’t noticeably doing a great deal of running.  I let that go…

You come out of the park, and again it’s still the timed section.  I feel it shouldn’t be, but anyway, that’s just voices in my head I expect.  Talking of which, I suddenly thought I could hear my name being called from the far distance, but I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it, and didn’t want to do that awkward thing of turning round and waving only to realise it was a shout out for someone else entirely.  It carried on.  I stopped.  I gazed about, and then look who sprinted into view:

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Another Hallam parkrun buddy.  Honestly, Sheffield parkrunners were like cockroaches on this run, they just popped up everywhere – only in a good way, obvs.  It was really nice to see a friendly face, and we jogged along and chatted and ended up staying together til the finish.

Past the last of the out of park marshals:

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Through the bright lights of Hunters Bar – trying not to notice the flood of runners who’d already finished and were strolling home adorned with the obligatory post-event metal wear!

And then back into the park for the final stage.  Can we have a moment please to appreciate the marshals at this stage who were particularly hilarious with their motivational banter.  Screaming at us to ‘run!  It’s not far, it’s a sprint finish, go go go!’  All the marshals throughout were epic, each had their own unique style to bring to the event and all are heroes, but this was a fun note to finish on for sure.  No-one was going to get away with nonchalantly strolling by this dibber point, it was do or die, and give it your all!

I therefore did dutifully run past, until I was safely out of view the other side of Queen Vic.  Then I did a bit of a walk to behind the hedge, before bursting out with a sprint finish.  Wasn’t going so fast that I missed waving at my Swiss Smiley friend – well met dear traveller, well met!

final flourish CS

I thought we did a reasonable job with our sprint finish – and thanks to Smiley Selfie Queen for capturing the moment even if it is a bit of a shame you aren’t captured looking into the camera in the front bottom corner of the frame as is usual for a selfie shot.  However, some really know how to tackle that finish or work the crowd.  The event ‘instructions’ state:

Stage 11 :  0.4km Endcliffe Park Finish – A final flourish, starting at the park entrance up onto the park itself where you will join the marked course for the dash for the finish outside Endcliffe park cafe. You will be greeted by fellow competitors, adulation from the crowd and if you wish a cold beer!

and it’s at least partly true.  You can indeed get adulation from the crowd, but it is best if you work it!  Look and learn:

just the little formality of the medal – ooh, and another Graves junior buddy, one big love in, how nice, it was like a personalised medal award ceremony!

Final dib to get results, queue for crisps and banana and water

Thanks to Swiss Smiley for coming to say hello, sorry I was a bit post-run perplexed, was grand to see you!  And that was that.  RSR all done for another year.

Well, all done apart from the partying of course.

I couldn’t linger this time round, you know how it is, places to go, people to see.  However, did get lucky meeting the Monday Mobsters.  … won’t give a spoiler, but ooh, I’m soooooooooooooo excited about next weekend now.  parkrun dreams really can come true!  I’m not giving a spoiler, but I will give a clue, what’s the parkrun dream destination once you’ve already done your parkrun pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun people?  I think we know…

So I said my farewells, and started the long trudge back up the hill to Nether Edge.  Blimey.  The return voyage was made easier once I bumped into the Graves junior RD for some company with him and his pal for the walk back.  Don’t worry dear reader, I did remember to nip into the local supermarket for a bottle of wine – only I accidentally got a large bottle of gin instead, and some pasta.  Perfecto!

That’s that then, for now.  I daresay there will be some edits coming later, and I’ll probably keep finding even better photos, which is the challenge when you keep discovering new ones days or even weeks later.

Thanks once again kandoo team and everyone who took part in or supported another fab RSR experience.  Those of us who are lucky enough to live in Sheffield are even more blessed to have this great event on my doorstep.  If they’d only sort out the horticultural supplies issues for next year, it will remain perfect.

Incidentally, it would seem that for the most part, runners at this year’s RSR got lucky and got round.  It’s been a good few weeks for off road runners.  Did you know  Damian Hall just set a new fastest known time for the Paddy Buckley Round, running over 61 miles – across some of Wales’ most remote mountain tops, climbing 47 peaks and ascending over 28,000ft  in 17hrs 31mins.  And the other week Sabrina Verjee won the 268-mile Montane Spine Race – the first female athlete to win the Spine race outright.  That’s a 268-miles non-stop race along the Pennine Way which she completed in 82 hours, 19 minutes and seven seconds, leading from start to finish, about 6 hours ahead of the second finisher. Fab.  Obvs.

But can’t help noticing that poor Sabrina’s medal doesn’t double as a bottle opener and has a trashy plastic sash, and as for Damian – well!  No medal at all!  Just glory, where is the fun in that.  I think we Sheffield Runarounders had the best fun and best bling of all.

So thanks y’all who made it so, and special thanks to the energetic and engaged marshals throughout, and the photographers who shared pics from throughout the day.  You can find these photo albums froms the 2019 event all on the Round Sheffield Run Facebook page.  There are thooooooooooooooooooooooousands, ’twill take a while to scroll through those, but just think how much fun you’ll have reliving the day!

The team politely request that people consider making a donation to Weston Park Cancer Hospital in return for use of the images. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr19 Uploaded in high res for you to use.

and on intrepid runner, Daniel Harris put together this Round Sheffield Run 2019 Timewarp Youtube video, which allows you to complete the whole route in 5 minutes or so.  You could have saved yourself a lot of time if only I’d listed this link right at the start.   Ooops.

Cheers all who took and shared pictures, accounts and videos.  Sharing the love 🙂   MInd you, it’s a Herculean labour keeping track of them all, never mind slaying the hydra, the epic shots just keep on coming…

Same time next year then, ballot and fate permitting?

Start planning your perennial beds now in eager anticipation.  I know I will.  That plant stall idea is a shoo in.

🙂

*oh hang on, that bit isn’t true actually, but you’ll feel sunshine in your hearts on the day because it’s one big running love-in

For all my Round Sheffield Run related posts, click this link and scroll down for older entries.  Or don’t.

Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wait – there’s a hill? small park BIG RUN also penguins for Palestine, no really :) *

*Also gratuitous use of emoticon in title of this blog post

small park BIG RUN

Digested read:  took part in the small park BIG RUN again, in the early hours.  It was fun.

Undigested read:  It’s extra nice, when you get to do something that you allegedly like (ableit often in a type two fun sort of way)  – in this case running (badly), as part of an event that is aligned to your values.  Even better when it’s local, community based and gives you the chance to do a fun new thing.  That is, running round in big circles in a park in the middle of the night, which granted, doesn’t sound like an enormous amount of fun to the uninitiated, but it turns out it really is, especially if you get lucky with the company you keep on the way round. Oh, and another thing which adds to the fun, it’s also a ‘running’ event which doesn’t actually require you to run if you don’t want to.  Excellent.   Walking is fine, also uni-cycling and stilt-assisted circuits, though I’m inclined to think both of those approaches might have presented a few extra challenges along the way.  Possibly a case of ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ Still, nothing ventured eh? Or you could juggle, you might need to learn first though as I think that’s probably not intuitive either, but basically each to their own, that’s the main thing.

 

The event is proactively set out to be as inclusive as possible, and quite right too!  It actually put on a couple of  ‘Assisted Hours’:

ASSISTED HOURS During the hours of 4pm to 5pm on Saturday and 11am till noon on Sunday we will be offering help to anyone who would like to participate, but feels they need some support to make this happen. We want to help. Please contact us and together let’s try to work something out!

Genius!  There were times up that hill that I’d have quite appreciated some assistance too to be fair, but I never thought to get in touch in advance.  Looks from the photos that plenty did though and had a hoot going round.  This is such a good idea, parkrun in particular is waking up to doing a lot more to facilitate inclusion through e.g. promoting walking, training up guides for visually impaired runners and offering more signed run briefings at its events, but this is the first time I’ve been aware of an organised run proactively offering assistance as opposed to reacting positively to requests for adjustments.  It gives such a different feel.

trev run for all

Oh, what’s that, you have no idea what I’m talking about?  I do do that sometimes, get ahead of myself.  To be fair, I had no idea what small park BIG RUN was until about this time last year, so it’s fair enough if you don’t know what it is.  Erm, well it’s small park BIG RUN and it’s becoming an annual event for Sheffield.  According to the website blah de blah:

A 24-hour group challenge raising funds for Palestinian women and children Midday Sat 15 June – Midday Sun 16 June 2019 Meersbrook Park, Sheffield.

In 2018 we raised £7,000 the Khuza’a Children’s Play and Heal project and the Sheffield Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund. Can we do better this year?

We will run continuous circuits of Meersbrook park over 24 hours with at least two people on the course at all times. Entrants will be able to run, wheel, jog, walk, hop(!) shifts from 30 minutes upwards. You can choose how long and at what time you would like to run when you enter. You can run as an individual or as part of a team.

At 12.15pm on Sunday 16th we complete the 24 hours with a free Community/Family Fun Run of one lap. ALL WELCOME.

So it’s a fund-raiser for Palestine on one level, but it’s much more than that, because as the event happens in Meersbrook park, parallel events are taking place in Palestine, so there’s a bit of symbolic solidarity there.  As the organisers said: ‘several runs are being organised in Palestine: In Gaza, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Nablus. … It is so exciting to think that whilst we are running here in Sheffield there will be hundreds of people in Palestine running too! In some small way these runs can help bridge the gaps that are put between people.’

The event is definitely about raising awareness of serious inequalities and injustices too.  It treads an elegant line between holding a positive and joyful event in Sheffield, whilst keeping the politics of Palestine central in the breadth of activities that happen alongside the event.  That included a photo exhibition : ‘building bridges’ photos from Sheffield and Palestine and an opportunity to contribute to a ‘wall of words’

There was also communal poetry writing – a high risk activity in my experience, but conducted with enthusiasm and talent here I’m sure.   I just struggle with this idea and need to qualify why… as I’m not just being rude, I’m processing previous trauma.  I think I’m over influenced by formative experiences in respect of this. I’ve never quite recovered from attending a ‘hard-hitting’ poetry reading that was to raise awareness around the horrors of and damage caused by drug addiction.  Which included the climactic conclusion of a rhyme that was…

wait for it….

‘Youths clad so you cannot tell their sex

and smelling all of cop-y-dex’

It was read out in a particularly laboured way to get the rhythm and rhyme emphasised to best effect by a woman with a completely deadpan expression.  I have never been in such pain drying to suppress laughter.  I applaud the earnest endeavour of the writer(s), but it didn’t for me at least, conjure up a vision of brutal realism and horror, thereby eliciting the intended response of shock and repulsion that would motivate me to action!  It wasn’t just the laboured rhyme, it was that I associated copydex with primary school and smearing it on your hands so you could peel it all off again – that worked on tables too by the way – very therapeutic – and not a glue you can readily associate with the worst ravages of solvent abuse.  That recitation has a lot to answer for.  Poetry can indeed have punch, but my first thought now is always of crying with suppressed laughter at the back of a freezing cold community hall, horribly traumatised by the realisation that my corpsing was massively inappropriate but completely beyond my control.  Nobody likes to be powerless… that’s why what is happening in Palestine matters.

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There were also as plenty of pithy information posters around the course that gave a snap shot of the reality of life in Palestine.

And alongside that, during the daylight hours there was live music along the course, a community choir for the final flourish.  No, it isn’t Garfield’s choir, though I’d love to see that there too next year if there is such a thing, which there really should be if there isn’t already.

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Some took on the running challenge to extreme, treating the endless circuits – it’s  a one kilometre loop but involves a steep hill – as punishing hill reps. One hardy soul kept going for the entire 24 hours, doing a personal ultra.  Some just did one loop for fun, others carried flags or banners along the route, keeping the politics central to their participation.  You can run as an individual, you can run with friends, you can be part of a 24 hour relay, passing on a baton, or sash or just a winning smile as you hand over to the next participant.   You can run/walk/jog/juggle  for just one half hour slot or as many as you like; you can chat your way round or use the time for silent contemplation. ‘The choice is yours’ as Our Graham would say…

So basically, you can engage with event as you choose.

Imagine a Venn diagram, and the outer circles are politics; running; community; festival; solidarity with Palestine; music; craft; personal challenge; team challenge; bunting; lanterns; inclusivity and lots more probably, and where they all overlap with one another in the middle, that’s small park BIG RUN.  Oh hang on, forgot one of the most important circles of all – no, not the circle of life, the one with cake.  There was lots of cake too, apparently, but a daylight thing I learned too late!

trev cake

So are we all on the same page now, in terms of understanding what it’s all about?  Hope so.  I took park in small park BIG RUN last year, entering at the last minute on something of a whim having been very confused about exactly what it was.  I enjoyed it a lot, and resolved to come back and do a night time spot this year.  So that’s what I did, and no regrets… oh, well that’s not strictly true, it’s a lovely event, but it would be so much better if it didn’t need to exist wouldn’t it?  That aside though, very nice indeed thank you for asking.  This is little gem of an event, and it seems to be growing organically.  It was noticeably much bigger this year compared with last, and slicker with the organisation too – not that it was bad last year, it just has evolved more since.  Run by a team with principle and passion and it shows, in the friendly vibe evident on the day  even in the middle of the night.  And what’s more, that was also all going on in real time in Palestine.  I know, how cool is that.  small world BIG RUN to borrow a phrase.  Here are smiles from Ramallah, that’s pretty amazing is it not.

Palestinian runners

And here are some pictures from Nablus – looks like they  had serious fun day and night too!

So that’s the background.  What, do you mean, you are horrified that’s only the background?  Are you implying I’m going on a bit?  Don’t get all accusatory with me! I never claimed to be concise, you could have stopped after the digested read, if you are still here, even if only lured on by the photos, then that’s contributory negligence.  Fact.

So onto what happened next.  I’d have got to this point a lot quicker if we hadn’t had that little squabble about how long I was taking by the way … just sayin’.

What happened next is that a few months back, small park BIG RUN came up again on the Sheffield running community’s radar.   Last year only a couple of groups got it together to organise relays of runners to cover the full 24 hours, so there would always be someone on the course from their team throughout.  This year  there was a positive flurry of team entrants, including…. drum roll… one from my very own Smiley Paces.  Yay!  Go us!

Of course, teams don’t just materialise by magic, sadly.  It takes a fine organisational mind to step up and show leadership.  Cometh the hour, cometh the smiley, I give you exhibit a), our leader.

cometh the hour

Now there’s a look that oozes leadership and inspires confidence if ever I saw it!  Hurrah!

I say ‘leader’ but really that might be pushing it a bit.  A leader only if you believe in the ability of a leader to herd cats.  A leader in the sense of being a facilitator, enthusiasm generator and clearer up of confusion perhaps, but not really in the sense of being able to influence the direction of travel of any individual member, or being worshipped by followers.  We are an idiosyncratic lot we Smilies.  And all the better for it I’m sure.

So the gathering of a team began with a shout out for anyone interested, and then evolved into the creation of a shared google doc on which people could sign up and bagsy preferred time slots.  Now, not going to lie, this was problematic.  Problematic for all sorts of reasons.  Firstly, Smiley Paces members are all lovely, so there was a lot of unhelpful politeness.  ‘No you take that slot, I really don’t mind’, ‘don’t worry, I’ll take whatever slot is left over, so I’ll not sign up til everyone else has‘, ‘you first’, ‘no you first’ and so on. Resulting in a collective holding back and indecisiveness that took a while to be overcome. Then, there was the information technology divide between those for whom a spreadsheet acts as an erotic stimulant in much the same way as catnip does to cats, and those for whom the very thought of a spreadsheet brings on cold sweats and shudders.  For the former it is a case of ‘Bring it on!’  Because spreadsheets means super-charged fun, and that reminds me, must start an excel sheet on how to prepare for the party to mark International Spreadhseet Day‘ – which is 17th October for 2019 by the way.

spreadsheet day

For the latter, being expected to contribute to a shared spreadsheet engenders much the same horror as if they were being told they’d have to perform open heart surgery on a loved one without so much as access to a YouTube video in order to advise them how!  It seems that, magnificent as my fellow Smilies are, in some respects it is a miracle that they are able to pursue challenging careers and indeed, even live independently and dress themselves if the messages following this post were anything to go by.  ‘How do I open the document again?’  ‘I’ve accidentally signed up my dog for 12 hours can you edit it?’  ‘ooh, I think I’ve signed up twice by accident’, ‘well I thought I signed up, I definitely signed up for something, wasn’t it this – oh crap’.  You get the idea I’m sure!  This is where leadership was needed, in the sense that ‘you’re the leader you have to sort it for me‘ not so much in the ‘you’re the leader, it’s fine to delegate’.  Still, all worked out in the end, somewhat amazingly. All slots covered, and eventually the penny dropping that this was but the first stage in the process, you were also required to enter the event online as well.  We were all set.  Hooray!  We got there in the end.  Only a couple of people signed up without having bothered to check out the route.  There was one comment along the lines of ‘what there’s a hill?’ the night before, which turned out to be a serious enquiry and not a hilarious and spontaneous spew of sarcasm.  Ooops, oh well, you live and learn eh?  Not just any old hill either.  One well worth of the descriptor of ‘hill’, and one which rewards the upward climb with a fantastic panoramic view of Sheffield at the top – if you can but see it through your still bleeding eyes after making the effort to run up it…

I enjoyed the event last year, but this year decided I fancied doing a night time slot, as I wanted to see the beautifully crafted lanterns created to light the course in all their glory.  I also wanted to see the sun rise over Meersbrook park.  That would be glorious.

I will admit though, the day before my enthusiasm was waning a bit.  Partly because in Sheffield we’d had a solid few weeks of rain of near Biblical proportions.  Not so much ‘singing and dancing in the rain’ rain, as ‘we’re all going to die’ rain.  Didn’t honestly fancy running in that.  Then I also had a bit of a wobble, when I spotted through a handy ‘heat map’ of volunteers and runners for the event, that for the 3.30 a.m. slot there were likely to be very few people about.  I suddenly thought maybe running in the dark in a park I don’t really know, on my own might not be so appealing after all.  Oh well, committed now.  Alarm set for 2.20 a.m. and early to be I went.

What the f*** was that!’  It was my alarm going off at stupid o-clock.  I don’t know if anyone is able to quite explain this to me.  But how come, whilst I’m a perpetual insomniac who makes Lady Macbeth look like she suffers from narcolepsy I still managed to be sound asleep at the moment my dual alarms starting screaming at me.  Being woken in this way wasn’t good.  It didn’t feel like I was about to embark on a grand adventure, it felt like this was a terrible idea.  I didn’t dare go back to sleep again, so got up and then blinking into space realised I had no idea what to do next. Normally, if I was pre-run I’d have something to eat and some tea, but my body clock was having none of that.  I had a quarter of a cup of coffee and felt sick.  How do those all-night ultra runners do it.  I can’t even dress myself at that time of night it turns out.  No really, top went on inside out at first attempt.  How the Nicky Spinks of this world navigate the Lakes on no sleep is beyond my comprehension.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to navigate the fells of the Lake District, I just had to navigate the registration process for small park BIG RUN.

No traffic on the roads, I found easy parking right next to the park, and through the railings could see Meersbrook Hall brightly lit up and all inviting. A short walk down the drive and there were welcoming folk around and in the reception area of the hall collapsed runners who’d finished their rounds as well as suitably appointed loos (i.e. toilet paper in evidence) so no fretful angst about accessing the necessary facilities for my precautionary pee.  Also, and this is VERY important, I learned from one of the posters on display there that it turns out, the land at Meersbrook belonged to the Gotham family in medieval times.  No way.  The actual Gothams of Gotham City for sure – you don’t know any other Gotham’s do you?  Well then, it must be so.  Without Gotham there would have been no Batman – unimaginable, so it must be that Meersbrook Hall is ground zero for super heroes.  What could be a more apt venue for this event showing solidarity with Palestine.  Everyone involved a hero today!  And just shows, getting up in the middle of the night can be most educational.  Hurrah!

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So it was, I arrived at about 3.15 a.m. announcing to the impressively WIDE AWAKE night-time marshals, that I was there for the 4.30 a.m. slot.

They blinked back at me, unsure how to break the news.  ‘Erm, you are actually quite early‘ one ventured.  I looked back confused.  ‘Ah, no I meant 3.30‘ I said.  Having identified that not only was I unable to dress myself, or drink I had lost power of rudimentary cognition as well.  Oh well, hopefully my legs would still work.  Sighs of relief all round.

I was furnished with the Smiley baton – a thing of beauty, and personalised for smilies in perpetuity by dint of being infused with the perspiration from the palms of each previous runner.  Not just our running memories, but our actual sweaty DNA is held within that twig.  A heart warming thought if ever there was one.  Shame it got lost at one point and so was bereft in the registration tent awaiting a new claimant.  Actually, that baton had quite a few adventures over those 24 hours, but more of that later.  Let’s just say though, like the ravens in the tower of London, we now dare not lose it ever again…