running

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

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

Undigested read:

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

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

Like I said, a weekend of running related triumphs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

done it.jpg

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

parkrun fact

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

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

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

strava marathon eliud

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

Go Eliud

I LOVE this man.  See him run!

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that was him, marvelous.

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

runner-stopwatch-bingo

So BINGO, fingers crossed…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

depressin litter.jpg

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

Latex-Kills-2

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

Calvin klein

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

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

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

condom moment

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

dpfr litter pick with rar

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

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

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

and the winner is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brigid Kosgei time

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

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

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

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

zebedee

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

run clean

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

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

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

Also, remember now:

#nohumanislimited

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

what the hell

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

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

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

And this Runners Against Rubbish litter pick here.

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

🙂

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

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

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

Undigested read:

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

DSCF5378

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

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

I’ll get to the point eventually.

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

maxresdefault

I know, scary.

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

Sentry

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

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

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

Back to basics.

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

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

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

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

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

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and is described thus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

SW sheffield 10k

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

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

Lucy support crew

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

And soon enough awf!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t change history after all…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, you also get to see this awesome volunteer:

100th volunteer

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

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

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

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

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Ding ding, round two.

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

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

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

5kyourway.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You’re welcome.

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

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Oh.  Ok.  Probably good to know.

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

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

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

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

If you want to prolong your parkrun fix, you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  And this isn’t necessarily a recommendation, just a statement of fact.  Other blogs are available.

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

You’re welcome.

🙂

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

BeTheChange_Gandhi

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

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

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

****not really though.

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

 

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

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

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

Undigested read:

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

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

First some research.

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

super cool york facebook image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bingo not

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

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

Course Description

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

and it looks like this: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

international rescue whangerei parkrun

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

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

More milling and chilling…

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

Key points was that there are some loos, but you have to ask to access them and they are over the grandstand side.  The course is one and a half laps basically, and can get congested at the start so stand clear unless you are going for a time.  Also, and I’ve not seen this before at a parkrun, they had some pacers who were specifically run/walk, one three minute run, one minute walk and one alternating walk one minute, run one minute, plus the compulsory tail walker too.  It seemed to be very genuinely welcoming of couch to 5k people, run/walkers everyone really.  The first timers’ briefing was still finishing off when the official RD briefing started, so we jogged down to join in that.  I noticed some high vis wearers had those flexi/ trug buckets  you use for gardening and mucking out stables, that kind of things – well I do anyway.  I think it was to gather together runners’ belongings so they could be carted from the start to the finish area by a willing volunteer, as they are at opposite sides of the racecourse.  I was actually warm enough to leave my fleece in the car, which is pretty much unprecedented, but it was heating up nicely.  Good to know for future reference.

Missed most of the RD briefing, but it seemed brief and to the point.

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and then it was awf!  Quite a fierce start, I just waited and watched until enough runners had piled past I felt safe to enter the back of the throng.  The path is wide, but there were a lot of participants, so it was congested at the front, the advice to hang back unless you were serious about going for a fast time was spot on.

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Quite a stampede!  It was a lovely sight ahead though, the ribbon of colour stretching round the rails of the racecourse and into the sun.

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It is a picturesque course, but as it’s all sort of laid out in front of you from the outset, there isn’t all that much to say about it.  There are landmarks along the way, the grandstand, the starters pens, poor gee gees, and an inordinate amount of seagulls, which was a bit surreal but made complete sense of the York parkrun Facebook profile pic, it really does say everything you need to know about the parkrun.  In fact, you could save yourself the bother of reading on and just have a good old stare at that pic instead, captures it all perfectly.  Then again, you’ve sort of committed now if you’ve got to this point, the running equivalent of being in blood stepped so far – maybe in bog stepped so deep on a trail run would be the nearest equivalent.  You’re here now, shame to bail now when you’ve already invested so much.

I just joined the throng and loped on round.  It’s a tarmac track, with grass to the side, but sufficiently busy that I found myself running on the grass for a fair old way before it thinned out enough for me to slot into the runners on the path again.  After a bit you turn round and are running towards the grandstand. It was quite exciting being at a racecourse, even though I’m not a fan of racing per se, it was just such an unusual and striking venue.  If you had a decent camera you’d get some amazing pics.

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There was a cute dog jogging along

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As I was running round, I suddenly spotted something weird ahead of me on the track.  No not a lion, but was that maybe a leek?  A fancy dress vegetable of some description away on the horizon for sure.   I wanted to put on enough of a sprint to catch that up and check that out.   And oh look, seagulls!  When not flapping about overhead, they line up and watch.  Loads of them, no idea why quite so many or why they are hanging out here, but it’s clearly a desirable location.

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Plus there were my new best friends coming into view.  Well, I was seeking to take some pictures anyway, might as well have my new besties in the frame – if you look carefully, you will see they are even acknowledging me in public with a cheery wave so clearly our friendship is reciprocated!  Good to know.  Is that a leek though?  Hmmm.

After you pass the grandstand area and the starting pens and the York racecourse posh stand entrance you turn the corner past a temporary tented encampment and there is the finish all set up with an abundance of hi-vis heroes in situ to channel everyone in.

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Belatedly, I noticed there seemed to be some permanent km markers on the route.  They appeared to align to parkrun, though as I didn’t spot all of them I can’t be 100% sure, but I can’t imagine what else they’d be… except that somewhat cryptically, I noticed on the York parkrun Facebook page that there seem to be a number of variant courses – as many as four I think, so it does vary, I don’t know on what basis, you’ll have to rock up yourself and find out.

Round again, back to where you started from.  It had thinned out quite a bit by now.  This parkrun is either ‘relaxed’ or anarchic depending on how you feel about parkrun rules.  I was very much at the back of the pack and the route isn’t really marshalled other than at the finish funnel, otherwise there are pacers and cones to stop you deviating from the fairly obvious route round.  However, I noticed leads came off dogs, and short leads were lengthened on others and at least one child on a bicycle.  It wasn’t so much that this caused any issues for me or other participants, but I did inwardly raise an eyebrow.  Particularly as just when we got back to the start area an older gentleman walking his dog was knocked to the ground by a parkrunners dog.  It was quite a tumble and I saw the aftermath rather than what happened.  The runner concerned stopped and was massively apologetic, though the man that had fallen insisted he was OK and it was his dog coming over that had caused the boisterous doggy greetings that had sent him flying.  It seems basically one or other jumped up and he got knocked over as a result.   I stopped too to see if help was needed, but he said he was OK and didn’t need any. It made me feel very uncomfortable running on.  I mean it was indeed just an accident, but falling over as an adult is no fun at all, and he wasn’t exactly  in his first flush of youth,  he’ll be stiff as anything tomorrow if not worse. It made me a bit nervous about other dogs not on leads and the lack of any marshals in sight.  I admit I’m getting increasingly wary of dogs these days, I don’t care if ‘they are just being friendly’ they do damage if they knock you down.  Still, it seemed a good natured mutually apologetic resolution, thankfully.  Could have been very much worse.  But it wasn’t, so back to happy thoughts and flowers and sunny days and sharing the parkrun love. I’d lost sight of the leek though, that was a shame.

All round again…

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and then finally, back to the finish, and the virtual embrace of the timers and the scanners and all that finish funnel jazz.  Thank you marshals.

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I stopped my watch and it looked like I’d finished with a .21 bingo time, a tantalising one second off my single outstanding bingo number.  I’d have to wait for the results, but it was within touching distance.

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, I then saw my leek man up ahead, striding off into the distance clutching his veg (not a euphemism).  Aaargh, I sprinted harder than I had all morning to go find them.  I wanted to see what that was all about and thought they might want my few pics forwarding onto them too.  After all, we all love a running photo, however poorly framed…

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Caught them!

Turns out, it isn’t a leek, it’s quite obviously a white rose.   Silly me, a leek looks like this, entirely different.  I can’t help wondering if it was disadvantaged by being a leek in an onion class, therefore robbed of first place.

jacob leeks mogg

They filled me in on their project which is fund raising for York against cancer as fastest marathon as a three dimensional plant.  And why not?  What could possibly go wrong?  Exactly.  You can chip in here to Steve Gaughan’s just giving page if you are a white rose fan, and get excited about Guiness World Records, and why wouldn’t you.

Of course I took some more pictures:

Totally epic.  You’d have thought things couldn’t get any better, but dear reader they did!  Because along came my new besties and there followed lots of group shot taking in all possible configurations of leek white rose and new best friends and me and anyone else in the vicinity. You can have a lot of fun doing this apparently.  Running in this costume requires a guide and an ability to withstand significant dehydration, it had to be super hot in there, and probably quite stinky over time too, like the wombles costumes, they got ever ranker over the years so the story goes, not sure any of them ever ran a marathon though.  Jimmy Saville used to hide in them to ogle young girls apparently, and he ran marathons, I don’t know if that counts but it creeps me out and puts me off the wombles quite a bit which is sad in a way… Is nothing sacred?

Never mind, back to kittens and flowers, or parkrunners and a collective appreciation of a perfect white rose at least.  It involved a fair few of us, documenting this auspicious occasion.

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Just think, that means I may have been in the presence of a nearly world record holder.  Proud moment, proud day!  Sigh, I’m quite giddy at the very thought.  Meeting them AND a quintet of new besties all at the same parkrun, that’s quite a morning’s haul.  Go me!  Slow and steady naturally, but going all the same!

I know his official photo in the york press article is marginally better than mine by the way, but you have to concede mine has more atmosphere do you not?  (Rhetorical question).  I think capturing my silhouette pirouetting in the foreground was a stroke of compositional genius, and I don’t care who says that proves only that I’m guilty of either delusional thinking or cognitive dissonance.

So we tore apart from one another and waved each other on our respective ways.  Bye bye lovely parkrun people, I hope our paths cross again on the parkrun tourist circuit, I’m sure they will.

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I really hope he walked all the way home in that…

There is supposed to be a coffee van somewhere, but I presume it must have been the opposite side to where I was parked and honestly I couldn’t be bothered to go and look, although a cup of coffee would have been great.  Instead I wandered back to say goodbye and thanks to the volunteers and soak up the venue one last time.

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I did seek out the RD to mention about the dog incident.  I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do or if I was just interfering, but then I figured if I was RD I’d want to know, and it was a bad fall.  Older people do break things and accidental or otherwise best that such incidents are recorded surely.

I left the volunteers packing up in the autumn sunshine. Thank you hi-vis heroes!

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That was that, parkrun done and dusted for another week. Oh, apart from junior parkrun tomorrow of course, but you know what I mean.  Bye bye parkrun, bye bye York racecourse.

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Oh, and my time came in.  Ending in an .18 seconds.  I was pleased in a way it was two seconds out, just one second would have finished me off.  Also, it just shows how you have to surrender to fate with this one, the chances of getting your watch exactly synched with the time keepers and avoiding the hiccups of funnel duckers or whatever are pretty minuscule.  Maybe I should start to change my mindset, and see if I can be the slowest ever to attain that elusive running bingo challenge!  Now there’s a thought.

For now that’s all though, thank you lovely York parkrun people for putting a fab show on the road, and especially thanks for being my new best friends Sole Mates of Matlock, you are epic. Fine parkrun York, coming up roses indeed, or at the very least one fine white Yorkshire rose, I do hope that’s to be a permanent fixture… speaking of which, good luck Yorkshire Rose, I’ll be on tenterhooks awaiting the outcome of your record attempt.  Exciting times!  I say I’ll be on tenterhooks, but actually I believe in you, it will happen, you’ve got this!

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If you want to prolong your parkrun fix, you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.

Same time next week then?  A venue of your choice for parkrunday.

Good oh.

🙂

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

The bear truth about Congregating at Congleton parkrun

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Congleton parkrun.

Undigested read:

This could be another long one, so maybe have a precautionary pee first, before you settle down with a mug of tea or gin or whatever.  Not that I’m advocating having a mug of neat gin, that would be very ill-advisable, you should at least be supplementing that with some nibbles or consider adding in a mixer.  Though, for the record, I’m not medically qualified (astonishing revelation I know) so use your own judgement, but for what it’s worth, I’d go for a mug of Yorkshire tea myself, with unsweetened soya milk, no other beverage will quite hit the spot.  Each to there own though, I’ll never know.  Even if you don’t want to read any further, there’s always time for a sit down and a nice cup of tea.  Mrs Doyle was right on that score for sure.

cup of tea

and if you are procrastinating anyway, well, reading a blog might make a change from the usual four horseman of procrastination don’t you think?  It’s not social media per se, it’s parkrun research, that’s practically keep fit, which comes under the category of self-improvement.

procrastination

Where was I, oh yes, Congleton.  It’s still just about parkrun tourist season, the mornings are not yet too dark nor the weather too inclement to want to venture out in the car on an early Saturday morning. I was still in search of a final sea/c to complete my pirates running challenge.  Shallow but true, and a vague browse of the various parkrun location resources revealed Congleton as being in striking distance of Sheffield, about 45 miles away or so.  Hmm, didn’t know anything about Congleton.  More research revealed it to be in Cheshire.  Oh Ok then.

Because the interweb never lies, and is the font of all knowledge, my next stop was the official Congleton parkrun website course description, where the blah de blah reads as follows:

Course Description
Congleton is a pretty course consisting of 3 anticlockwise laps around the mere plus 100m to finish. It is flat, on hardcore and tarmac and should be suitable for fast times. There is a small section on an access road in front of the Watersports centre but there is a pedestrian route painted on the road. A marshal will be available here.

and it looks like this:

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which is obviously a cross section of an eel.  No doubt the course will also be electrifying, though whether it will reach the wattage of the newly discovered electric eel recently found in the Amazon.  As I’m sure you know, and will readily recall at the first possible pub quiz opportunity, the Electrophorus voltai can deliver a jolt of 860 volts, much more than the existing record of 650 volts.  I dare say that the Congleton  course will similarly light up its parkrunners with the joy of parkrun.  Still, no harm in going to check that out for myself.

electric eel most powerful guardian image

On the subject of pub quizzes, yes we were, did you know the electric eel is actually a type of fish and not a type of eel?  I know, remarkable, who knew? I’m allergic to fish actually, which is a shame on account of my being a Pisces, but I’m not allergic to parkrun so I expect it will be fine.  Anyway, in truth, it’s more likely to be a cross section of a conger eel at Congleton, that would make more sense.  Can’t wait to join everyone doing the conger conga on Saturday, bet it’s Congleton’s unique selling point, missed opportunity otherwise….  On reflection, I was somewhat surprised they don’t make more of this point on their website, or on the about us section of their Congleton parkrun Facebook page. Still, nowt as queer as folk, I’d best go check it out for myself.  Bit of parkrun themed ethnographic research to kickstart the weekend is always a good call.  Hurrah, decision made.

So my alarm went off at stupid o-clock on Saturday morning, it was still dark and I did wonder if it really was such a good idea to be venturing out early on a Saturday morning. Oh well, I was up now, and it was my plan, and I’ve always been conscientious if not keen, and I’d said I’d go, even if only to myself, so go I would.

By the time I stepped out of the house the day was dawning in gorgeous gloriousness!  I love this time of year and this time of day.  Mornings are awesome, pink sky, promise of autumnal sunshine, this was going to be epic. Off I went, and the drive was fantastic.  Heading off towards Bakewell, there was quite a thick mist which gave a surreal other worldly look to the drive.  Then as I ascended over moors in the general direction of Buxton the views were just stunning.  Bright sunshine illuminating huge expanses of moor and hills. Although the purple heather has died back to brown now, it looked like copper under the early morning sunlight, it was the sort of view that lifts your heart and makes you happy to have ventured out.  It was like going on an impromptu holiday. I didn’t get any decent shots because the roads were windy and there were a lot of warning signs that you could die because of a collision at any moment – well words along those lines, I’m not entirely surprised, although there was no traffic, the views were distracting and if you lost concentration you could ricochet off a bend with most unpleasant consequences.  Unless you were will be Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, she’d be fine,  what with her wing and boat conversion options – but I’m going to stick my neck out and take a punt that you probably won’t be, so drive with care.  I did stop and take a couple of snaps, but they make me feel inadequate as they don’t really capture the scene at all, however, I showed willing, and I took the blooming pictures so here they are, don’t judge, just go check it out for yourself sometime, think of this as but a teaser, like a peep through the key hole to whet your appetite for the feast for your eyes that awaits you if you make the trip in your own right.

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Not a route to be doing in winter though, you are high up, and those roads are twisty and steep at times.

I’d got confused (doesn’t take much) about where to park on arrival. There was mention of both the Nobanno Lakeside Indian Restaurant for parking and that car parking would be available at the Visitor Centre on Sandy Lane.  In the end, I saw signs to the visitor centre first, and went there.  Because I am always ridiculously early (about 8.30) there was lots of parking at that time, and you are incredibly near the start, so it was fine.  However, it did fill up, so I guess it depends when you’ll get there.  I’d arrived.  Hurrah!  Always a relief.  What’s more, there was a ‘caution runners’ sign already in situ, so I knew I was in the right place AND toilets which were even open!  Phew, on all counts.  It was just 50p for 4 hours parking, which is an absolute bargain and enough time for even me to complete my parkrun.  There was also a coffee place, and a map of the mere and, allsorts really.  Quite a hub, with far superior facilities than I’d expected from the website, which is grand if you are touristing.

Paid up and peed out I went for an explore.

The parkrun location is a bit of a surprise, because after all the moorland I’d been prepared for a more exposed and wild site. In fact it is indeed a very pretty location.  But, what they didn’t mention is….

can’t believe they didn’t…

the usp of this parkrun – well surely unique I’ve not seen the like before, even though Sherwood Pines parkrun has a Gruffalo, that’s not the same at all, and anyway it’s only in the general vicinity, it isn’t supervising the whole parkrun operation from above –

is that the Congleton parkrun is overseen by its very own bear!

YES!  A bear!  How fantastic is that.  Taking an overview of proceedings thus!

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They must be so habituated to their bear that they no longer even notice it.  I mean, quite frankly I’m beside myself with excitement if I just get a robin in my garden, and when I got little froglets emerging anyone that made eye contact with me in the street was dragged round to my back garden to appreciate them.  If I had an actual bear, well, I think I’d implode.  Still, Congleton parkrunners are apparently pretty laid back about the whole thing.  I wasn’t though, I think this is a major asset to the parkrun.  The bear is Sandy Bear apparently, making this parkrun a mandatory destination for any parkrunners called Sandy (or Sandi, just saying, you know who you are).  Also, the bear is the symbol of Congleton, and this one keeps watch over the mere at Astbury from his elevated perch, like a lifeguard.  That’s what is says on the interweb so it must be true.  I’m not sure you should rely on Sandy to rescue you if you fell in though, looked to me like the bear was more supervisory than hands on.  Super cool though. An actual bear!

I could bearly believe it.

So, once I’d got over that excitement, I checked out the view. Which was lovely.  Water sparkling under the morning light, and Congleton parkrun marshals congregating to get the event under way.

There was a sign for the first timers’ new runners briefing, and an enthusiastic and early to post marshal on hand, proactively asking people if they were new as they came within ear shot.  I was new!  I therefore responded to the affirmative, and got a personalised welcome, and course description.  Three times round basically.  A polite enquiry about whether or not I’d survived the crossing from Sheffield without getting a nose bleed – a valid point, it was pretty high up there, very close to Flash which I believe has recently been revalidated as the highest village in the UK – although this claim is not without controversy.  He was extremely welcoming, and up for a one to one intro, even though there’d be plenty of other first timers’ coming in my wake I was sure.  I also learned there was an injured badger nearby, but the RSPCA were on their way to rescue it, so I hope that ended ok, poor thing, as if badgers haven’t got enough to cope with what with being pointlessly  and painfully culled all over as well.  I got a picture of me and the nice first timer briefing marshal.  Here it is, and here is him on his own, holding the sign with panache and welcoming smile.  It is the hi-vis way.

I left him drumming up further takers, as other runners were starting to emerge from the various hedgerows and surrounding paths.  The core team were loitering with intent by the freshly erected finish funnel, and Sandy Bear was surveying the scene with quiet authority as is no doubt the Sandy Bear way.

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I meanwhile went back the short distance to the car park to dump stuff. By this time the car park was pretty busy.  They had some car park marshals on hand to direct traffic into extra little corners of the car park to squeeze in – safely – as many vehicles as possible.  I would like to take this opportunity to give a special shout out to the hi-vis hero who was literally, not just figuratively, sprinting about waving cars into position.  It was very impressive, and totally worthy of a special volunteering running challenges badge for being a car park marshal.  I declare a vested interest in this, as the following day, I too got this iconic purple badge for being car park marshal at Graves junior parkrun – I’ve done the role a few times before, but not been uniquely credited for it previously.  I’m not sure if this is a new badge, or just we’ve changed how we name the various marshals on the volunteer rota.  Whatever, it’s a beauty, and I have to concede this car park marshal in particular was grafting in the role.

Car Park Marshal – Keep everyone safe and organised in the car park

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Here he is, and there’s a pic of his companion hi-vis hero, who no doubt was equally proactive, but in this shot is demonstrating in between doing essential directional pointing as opposed to actually sprinting around.  Directional pointing is very important too, one of those roles that is perhaps undervalued until it is done incorrectly!  Thank you both!

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For the record, I didn’t run around when I was car park marshal, but I did give out a great many high-fives.  Every car park marshal role has its own unique vibe and context specific responsibilities.

So after observing the car park synchronised vehicle dancing, it was back to the start, through the little gateway and passing under Sandy Bear.  You don’t have to wave every time you pass Sandy, but I personally think it’s only polite to do so.

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I followed the migrating runners to the start funnel area.  There were more runners than I expected, and the start is a bit narrow.  People squashed into the funnel with good natured banter and outstanding spatial awareness.

Some waited til the last minute, warming up for their parkhop challenge.  Remember people, you have to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  parkrun code and all that.

The start funnel got increasingly intimate, and I wasn’t sure quite where to put myself.  I didn’t want to be too far forwards and be an obstruction to other runners, so in the end I slotted in almost at the very back, and outside the formal start funnel structure.  A few late comers were sprinting up, and excited anticipation continued to bill as the RD and team came down for the briefing.  New Runners marshal was waving his sign to try to attract the attention of anyone who might have missed him.  I approve of this actually.  It is daunting turning up at new venues and if you are a completely new runner to parkrun, nothing is obvious and everything can seem intimidating.  This proactive welcoming and identifying of newbies was great.  I mean, you weren’t actually stalked.  If you wanted to blend in unobtrusively you could without being hunted down and outed, leading to you being surrounded by an enthusiastic but alarming crowd of parkrunners encircling you shouting crazed good wishes in a cult like altered state – but no-one could have rocked up and taken part without knowing there was someone on hand who would willingly welcome then and answer any questions and calm any nerves.

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The RD briefing was completely impossible to hear.  Everyone around me was chatting loudly, and completely ignoring it, which made me inwardly squirm but not do anything.  I’m always staggered by how rude some parkrunners can be at this point.  Talking through the run briefing isn’t by any means unique to Congleton, but it was so frustrating.  I hadn’t heard any of it before even if they had, and I also think just a base line of respect to the poor RD who’s given up their morning to facilitate the run, keeping quiet for 5 mins isn’t really a lot to ask is it.  Anyway, I joined in the clapping at what seemed like appropriate points, and tried to remember to feel the parkrun love for my fellow parkrunners even if they were apparently incapable of of the briefest of silences.  It wasn’t even a very long briefing, extraordinarily brief, and the call to start was bang on 9.00 a.m. too.  Thank you RD, I think you and your team were awesome, I’m sure everyone did, even if they weren’t proactively demonstrating it in any very obvious way.

So, the cry went off, probably, didn’t hear it, and immediately nothing happened.  It was a sedate start.  This bothers me not one iota, because I’m not interested in times at all at the moment, just going round and taking it all in.  However, if you are a faster runner or going for a pb you’d need to position yourself further forward in the line up.  It has the potential to be a fast course as it’s flat and once the runners spread out the paths are wide enough for overtaking, but it took me a good 15 seconds to get across the start.  However, good news, they may be a noisy lot in the funnel line up, but they are good natured, and there was no shoving, it was all very sedate shuffling forward and honestly, it would have been an excellent opportunity for a nice big collective parkrun conga!  We were all squashed together and shuffling forwards anyway, a few high kicks and hip thrust would have added greatly to the occasion.  They should at least do that on their Christmas Day parkrun, if they have one, or maybe their birthday one, they must have a parkrun birthday, every parkrun does!  Or International parkrun day, that’s coming soon, what better excuse for a Congleton Conga, as if one were even needed!  As if an excuse were needed I mean, not a Conga, Congleton parkrun unquestionably needs that!

They could get even more ambitious with a bit of practice, and get an entry in for either the longest distance Conga dance like this Ipswich group, or the most people participating in a Conga line on ice like the good students of Oswego don’t know how often the mere freezes over, so that would be a challenge, but who doesn’t like a challenge eh?  The actual longest Conga, in terms of numbers of participants was  the Miami Super Conga consisting of 119,986 people gathered in Miami, Florida, USA on 13 March 1988, but I don’t think that would be practical.  They’d run out of tokens and it would be a nightmare adding those other results manually afterwards don’t you think?  I mean I know hi-vis marshals are absolute heroes, but I agree there need to be some boundaries.  Even so, that’s my constructive criticism for Congleton parkrun for what it’s worth – implement Congleton Conga parkrun protocol at the commencement of the parkrun, that would really put the fun in start funnel would it not!  (See what I’ve done there?  Genius.) Also, I’m sure it would make Sandy Bear incredibly happy, you could probably even do a ouroboros round the mere, quite something I’m sure you’d agree.  The mere was made for it!

Serpiente_alquimica

I suppose the hokey cokey would also be fun, but less practical for achieving forward momentum.  So many options to explore, so few Saturday mornings with which to experiment…

giant hokey cokey

So off we went eventually, in a good natured train of unfortunately non-congaring parkrunners.  There’s not much to say about the course, it is indeed three laps, as long as you can count to three, you should be fine.  There seemed to be a fair few slower back of the pack parkrunners which I personally find reassuring. It had a relaxed feel, although there were plenty of speedier runners sprinting off ahead, already little dots in the distance as the cohort of parkrunners I was in started to thin out.

So you keep the mere to your left, and away you go.  Although the water is ever present, it’s often obscured by trees or hedging, but the occasional glimpses across the water were lovely.  There were a few ducks, swans and even…  I think seagulls.

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Fishermen aplenty (they did all seem to be men) but then again, it is a fishing lake so I suppose that’s to be expected.  And a multitude of benches, never seen so many.  Plenty of opportunities for a quick sit down if the mood seized you.

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The first lap was about just getting into a rhythm really, and finding a pace, though of course I was stop starting to take photos whilst pretending to myself it was a legitimate jeffing parkrun tactic.

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After a short stretch, you emerge at the restaurant which was where it was suggested you might park.  There was some parking here, although some of it was fenced off too.  But basically, those directions work as well.  There is the potential for traffic here, but worry not!  In the absence of Sandy Bear, a friendly marshal is on hand to direct and supervise.  I know this, because I stopped to take a picture of him – I try to take a photo of every marshal I see en route at parkruns these days, because they are often overlooked when people are photographing events – but I misjudged this, as somehow another runner ran right into me.  Oops.  I’d thought I’d moved way off the path, but apparently not.  Embarrassing, ‘don’t worry’ said the marshal encouragingly.  Just one of those things.  I clearly need to work on my spatial awareness, as well as my personality, shortcomings in my social skills; risking being seen or out in public and running skills.  I’ll add it to the list.

Onwards, and round and round, glancing sideways at the views, and enjoying seeing Sandy Bear from directly opposite the water.

I’d describe the experience of this run as pretty contemplative, it wasn’t particularly chatty, not that I can talk and run anyway.  And being three laps it takes on a meditative quality.  I didn’t particularly interact with other runners, although I did catch snippets of conversation between others as they passed.  I think we should all give a particular shout out to Caroline who apparently bought ice creams for everyone.  Generous, and much appreciated.

Astonishingly, I got lapped on the first lap.  They are super speedy these front runners.  Mind you, three lappers are growing on me.  I like that you get to see the faster runners pass, and it also means you have more company on the way round, instead of running round in glorious isolation once everyone else has pulled away.

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You come back round to the mustering point, which is now in readiness for the finish.  What a fine sight and vision of loveliness this team were!  It’s always amazing to see how many people it takes to put on a parkrun.  It’s an act of faith everyone coming together week in week out to keep the parkrun show on the road.  Thank you parkrun marshals everywhere.

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And round all over again, this time for lap two.  Hope you are counting.  

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This would probably be a good training route if you were aiming for consistent splits or the giddy heights of a progression run – a feat of which I can only dream, unless I started a a crawl.  It is a very flat and consistent surface.  I didn’t find it dull in fact, though I’d thought the novelty might wear off a bit.  How Bob Becker won his ‘race for the ages’ ultra marathon did 230 one mile laps I cannot imagine.  Oh you don’t know about this?  Well, dear reader, FYI:

The race consists of a 1-mile loop in Manchester, Tennessee, and runners only have a certain amount of time to run it—and how long depends on their age.

For example, Becker, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is 74. Therefore, by race rules, he will get 74 hours to run as many loops as he can, whereas someone who is 67 will have to start seven hours after Becker. This gives the old timers a chance to win outside of their age group for a change.

Even so, that’s a lot of laps, way more than three.  I can only assume he entered some sort of altered state to do so.  Mind you, great advert for jeffing, it’s all a question of scale, maybe if I can jeff a parkrun I could do 231 laps jeffed nicely, as long as I live long enough to be eligible for loads of extra time to do it in, not sure I want to live that long though, I’ve not made adequate provision for my old age as it is, even so, as a hypothetical aspirational running goal fantasy, I could do worse. Also, I’d need someone else to be keeping count, even counting to three takes a fair bit of concentration.  Respect to BB though, fab achievement.

photo-by-john-price-2-1567786340 bob becker

So I kept on running(ish), and by the time I made it round to the finish funnel at the end of lap two, there were some speedier runners romping home.  I paused to try and capture the scene. Runners who’d already finished were milling and chilling, and Sandy Bear was watching on from above, it was a lovely colourful and cheery scene.  #loveparkrun

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And round again for the final lap, which, dear reader you will already know if you’ve been concentrating, was lap three.  Always is here at Congleton, for parkrun purposes anyway.  I think it was on lap three that I did have a bit of parkrun friendship with another runner, who was being really consistent and steady, and we were sort of the same time with my stop starts keeping pace with her romping on.  Cue some companionable leapfrogging until my pauses for photo ops made keeping up anymore impossible. Thank you new parkrun best friend!  Happy parkrunning.

For the final lap, I decided to check out the multitude of benches a bit more. I’ve never previously been to a parkrun with quite so many.  It was fun reading the dedications.  There was one for ‘Rush’ which seemed apt, for runners, but the next bench along encouraged you to ‘sit a while, rest and enjoy the view’ and another to ‘don’t worry, be happy’.  All approaches are viable options at parkrun – everyone’s right to participate in their own way, very appropriate.  Every bench a store of memories, as well as a statement of commemoration and an opportunity to dispense wisdom.  I wish I’d stopped to photograph them all now.  Each their own unique character, set aloft on a viewing mound or moss covered, a great way to keep a memory alive.  Also, very practical, not only for runners in need of a sit down, but for all the mere side users too.

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It was my last chance to capture car park marshal man, who posed beautifully for me with directional pointing and gazing into the distance that would be worthy of a catalogue man pose.  Wasted at parkrun – no scrap that, everyone should be at parkrun, it’s never a waste to give up your time to be there, what I’m really getting at is that there’s a whole new parallel world of opportunity available to him – he could start with workwear given his existing expertise in high vis and take it from there.

By the way, no alcohol at this parkrun, not round the lake anyway, and not in wine glasses either – presume swigging straight from the bottle is ok?  Anyway, it means you have to take your milestone celebrations back to the coffee hut area later I suppose, not such a hardship as all that!

So round again, taking in the view, taking some pics. Yes, I liked this parkrun, it wasn’t perhaps the most ostentatiously sociable one I’ve been to, but it had a friendly and comfortable vibe, and it was indeed picturesque and great for facilities too.

Round three, done and dusted.  Into the finish funnel and the virtual embrace of the welcome back.

It was very efficient, time keepers clicked me in and barcode scanners were on hand using the phone apps, which I think are increasingly becoming standard.  They certainly seem to be efficient, but I find they make the scanners harder to spot, the bizarre advantage of a bar scanner on a lanyard, is you spot the lanyard wearing marshal near the funnel and it’s usually the scanner.  Still, using my skill and judgement backed up with the directional guidance given to me by one of the finish funnel volunteers, I found the barcode scanner who cheerily obliged and posed for a photo too, always a win!

And, excitingly, I finished in position 222, this is not only pleasing in the number sequence, but today was my 222nd parkrun.  No really, it was!  What are the chances eh?  I’m not going to lie, I’d have preferred to get my last outstanding stopwatch bingo number, but as that apparently is never going to happen, ever, I’ll settle for the satisfying text from parkrun that read as follows:

Congratulations on completing your 222nd parkrun and your 1st at Congleton parkrun today. You finished in 222nd place

Little pleasures eh?  🙂

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What were the chance eh?  Very pleasing.  My birthday is 22/2 too, this pleases me, even though objectively I know it all to be very random, still, where’s the harm.  We have to snatch what joy in the world we can, we live in dark times.

The weather was lovely, so I lingered a little longer to watch some other finishers and try to get the perfect shot, which it turns out is a lot harder than you think.  Here are some of the finishers behind me:

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and here are some of my attempts to get the perfect shot to capture the spirit of Congleton parkrun.  Remember, I didn’t say I succeeded, only that I’d tried…  Check out the juniors token sorting though, great bit of team work there.  Also like the looking out across the horizon to seek out the last few runners pic.  Everybody matters, it’s still 5k irrespective of what position you cross the finish line in.

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So finally, off in search of coffee.  Once again, I can report this parkrun somewhat undersells itself.  The official blah de blah says ‘Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee at the mobile coffee van – please come and join us!’ and I’m sure I heard someone refer to a ‘hut’, like it was some kind of ramshackle wooden structure held together with optimism and string, I was imagining a sort of Victorian bathing hut, like these:

it was almost disappointing to find that in fact, there is a purpose built, rather chic and sleek coffee bar.  Spotlessly clean and doing decent coffee and snackery, including ice creams enabling Caroline’s earlier referenced benevolence.  You couldn’t get a cooked breakfast, but there were toasties.  If the posters are anything to go by, they are very hot on identifying potential allergens, though the crustacea on their posters look way too cute to eat anyway.

I had a coffee from them,  and a banana I’d brought with me.  People sat in the autumn sunshine catching up, it had a nice social feel to it, and I think if this was your local parkrun you’d soon make friends if you wanted to.  The glass panels did make it look as if the people eating outside were actually entombed in if not a glass dome as such, then at the very least a terrarium.  They looked happy enough though, but then I suppose parkrun is really it’s own self contained ecosystem when operating at its finely tuned best, as is clearly the case here at Congleton parkrun.

And that was that, time to go home, I departed just as the Dogfather (see what he’s done there) was gathering some hounds around him for some sort of instructional dog related activity.  It was all happening here.

Mission accomplished, because also, rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, I am now a pirate!  Hurrah!  Pirates! – Run seven Cs and an R (say it out loud).  I have this virtual running badge, courtesy of the running challenges chrome extension, that I can now admire, like Gollam, poring over my own private treasure, though unlike poor Gollam and his precious, no-one else can wrestle this virtual trophy away from me.  No wonder he was such a tortured soul, I can’t imagine how I’d feel if some blooming hobbit tricked me into losing this.  Poor Gollam, he didn’t deserve that really now did he.  The picture is of me, staring at my laptop, admiring my new icon on my runners profile.  That’s how obsessions start apparently, we shall see…

To be fair, it’s a bit weird, because I am pleased to have this badge, really I am, but it is also a bit anti-climactic.  Perhaps I should have dressed up as a pirate or something to make it more of a thing, or maybe it turns out it was the journey to get this that was more the point than the thing itself.

So parkrun remains fun, although whether it is as much fun as a rat has playing hide and seek I just don’t know.  I am pretty confident it is though, and you just can’t hear the parkrunners squeaks of joy because those sonic giggles are also at too high a frequency.  Yep, that’ll be it.  No other explanation would suffice.

happy hide and seek rat

Oh, and another thing, if you are feeling down, and you don’t have a rodent around as an emotional support animal with which you can distract yourself by playing hide and seek, and if it’s too long to wait until next parkrunday, why not just purchase an emotional support clown to accompany you for any important work meetings.  Like this guy did when they were being fired.   No really he did, took a clown along to his redundancy meeting to help break the tension!  It was on the BBC news website so it must be true!  The clown made balloon animals throughout.  Excellent.  I do feel if one is going to burn one’s bridges, one ought to do so in style!

Well, I say to break the tension, but really as an almighty piss take and give his bosses the finger, even so, we all know this is genius, and definitely now incorporated into my future fantasy leave my job scenarios.  Excellent.  And to think I previously regarded myself as a bit phobic about clowns, but now I see they can indeed really bring joy into the world.  Hurrah.  See, things seem bad, really really bad, but we can still find things to smile at despite ourselves!  There is hope yet, slim hope perhaps, but hope nevertheless.  And if clowns aren’t your thing, well, we still have parkrun, and there’s even a new one just started at Castle Howard!  How awesome is that!  Can. Not.  Wait!

But whatever your running goals, or parkrun goals, keep reaching for them.  Sometimes the struggle to get there is actually the best thing.  Case in point.  I’m pleased with my pirates badge, but also feel a bit flat.  It was both the whole point and pointless and actually, the real point, was using it as a tool for choosing which parkrun to go to next.  And there are still a lifetime of parkuns out there for the taking, with more every week.  Aren’t we lucky, aren’t we blessed, and isn’t parkrun a wondrous thing.  Enjoy the parkrun journey, don’t worry about it being a cliche, it can still be a thing, and we needn’t let on.  It’s a Woodland Trust picture by the way,  I know, a pic that’s epic!

keep reaching for your goals

and also, you know how I said I get super excited at seeing a robin in my garden or froglets, well check out this siting.  An eft!  I nearly burst!  You can’t tell in the picture, but it’s just over an inch long and super cute.  FACT.

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By the way,  you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Hide and seek with your rodent companion  of choice might be more fun, but more energetic too, maybe some power napping in the guise of parkrun research is in order after all…

🙂

 

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

Checking out the sea at Clifton parkrun.

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Clifton parkrun, Nottingham.  Sixth of the seven seas.  Result.

Undigested read:

I was contemplating going to Clifton parkrun anyway, it’s not too far away from Sheffield, and will nab me a sixth of my seven needed cs for the much coveted pirates badge.  I hadn’t particularly prioritised coming here, but was given a timely nudge by a recent parkrun blog post on alphabeteering challenges.  They featured Clifton parkrun as their possible ‘c’ to seize (c what I did there?  I know, genius!)  They pointed out:

Clifton parkrun in Nottingham is definitely one for you to ‘C’ – see what we did there? Clifton is a relative newcomer to the parkrun family having launched in January 2018 and involves two laps of the playing fields, followed by one shorter lap.

It’s already proved popular with the local community; in just seven months, almost 1,000 different women, men, girls and boys have had their barcodes scanned at Clifton!

Fair do’s.  I’ll go there then.  Never sure where / whether to put the apostrophe in fair do’s, I mean you can’t write it ‘does’ because that’s the wrong word entirely, whether as a plural of rabbits or referring to third person singular present of ‘do’. Nightmare, hope the grammar police are having a day off…

The other important factor about Clifton parkrun is that it is in Clifton Park Nottingham, not Clifton Park, Rotherham, although it wouldn’t be a disaster to go there by accident as they do in fact have a very nice parkrun there, but it’s Rotherham parkrun, so it wouldn’t be a ‘c’ (disappointing potentially for budding pirates) but would be a potential ‘r’ (cheering for budding pirates currently without an arrrrrrrrrrrrrrr).   Such is the yin and yan of parkrun life.  In fact, Rotherham parkrun may well have been where I got my arrrrrrr, now I come to think of it, although I have a feeling I wasn’t particularly chasing running challenges back then.  Those were simpler times perhaps, though I wouldn’t change a thing…  Or did I get it at Rother Valley parkrun?  Can’t remember and can’t be bothered to check the chronology.  Rotherham parkrun has better coffee and a museum on site though, and fits the Clifton park link best, so let’s go with that for the purposes of the narrative.   Sometimes you shouldn’t let absolute truth get in the way of a good story, or even, as in this case, a fairly mediocre one.  Where’s the harm after all?  There’s also Clifton Park in Bristol, but that doesn’t have a parkrun as far as I can tell so no point at all in a parkrunner to rocking up there for 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, that way disappointment lies.

You may think I’m banging on about all these many and varied Clifton locations at boring length simply stating the obvious, i.e. check out your parkrun destination prior to departure, but confusion can occur dear reader, although the truly dedicated will ride this out.  Did you not hear about the parkrun volunteer, Ian Guest,  who

had intended to help at a run in Clifton Park, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, on Saturday morning.  But on Friday evening he realised he had signed up for the run in Clifton, Nottingham, 37 miles (60km) away.  Despite his error – and thoughts of backing out – he made it to the race after an early morning bike ride to his local train station.

So there you have it, Ian Guest, parkrun hero, though you have to hope not a travel planner adviser by profession.  He got his 15 minutes of fame and immortality in the parkrun annals of history, so not an altogether bad outcome there.  High five to him all the same.  Respect!  #loveparkrun #parkrunhero

I don’t really know how hashtags work to be honest, but that seems fair… 🙂

Ian Guest parkrun hero

So, I’d be going to Clifton parkrun, though not by bike.  Best check out what to expect from the course then, now I know where I’m heading.  Well, the Clifton parkrun, Nottingham, official website course blah de blah describes it thus:

Course Description
The start and finish are located behind the pavilion building and are a short walk from the car park. The course follows the perimeter of two Clifton playing fields and alongside Fairham Brook. The route is run mainly on grass and consists of two full anticlockwise laps of the perimeter and a further short lap of part of the large playing field.

Oh crap, ‘mainly on grass’ I shall have to steal myself for that – but on the plus side, an on site coffee option, not seen one of them in the last few weeks.

and the course looks like this – sort of Marge Simpson in profile if you squint a bit and get the angle right.

 

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Can you see, her hair, her head and maybe her shoulders, it’s not an exact science I admit, but have a go.  It’s partly the blue outline I concede.  Still can’t see?  Have you heard of aphantasia ?  No reason, just asking.

Stalking the Clifton parkrun Facebook page in advance, I can’t help but note there is a distinct lack of Hawaiian shirts (not good), but a lot of shout outs for milestones and interesting links posted (good).  Yep, this will be a grand destination.  There are some fab photos of running across a bridge which seems to be shaded by some glorious trees, that’s good, oh, and quite a lot of what looks suspiciously like a sports field.  Hang on, I need to check average times now.  Please let this be one that welcomes slower participants…  OK, just checked, not going to lie, bit worried about this.  It has quite a teeny turn out, between 50-70 each week, and although of course it will be ‘inclusive’ as all parkruns are, there aren’t enough regular participants to make me confident that there’ll be a cohort of others at my pace.  Gulp.  Oh well, I’m committed now.  What is it they say, feel the fear and do it anyway.  As long as there’s an amusing anecdote in it further down the line and access to a post parkrun coffee it’ll be fine.  At least there’ll be less pressure on parking and a shorter queue at the cafe.  …  Eeek.

The day dawned, and off I went.  No offence to Nottingham, but I’m really over the roundabouts now. There are a crazy amount of them en route, and I don’t find it a very nice drive, the road layouts are to me confusing, and there seem to be endless fly overs and re-routing.  I don’t particularly like driving anyway.  I did notice I went down remembrance road at one point, handy reminder for #dfyb (don’t forget your barcode) although it would have been a bit late for me by that point if I had forgotten.  Don’t worry dear reader, I have loads of them, spares in the car, in various bags, my back pack and I wear the wrist band anyway.  I have yet to experience the catastrophe of forgetting it, but I daresay it wil happen one day.  When it does, I’ll have to pretend to make light of it, after all, you can still participate without it, but inside a little bit of me would die.  Brave face outside, heartbroken within.  I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s true, why else are there all those parkrun themed memes?

Precisely.

Anyway, I was ok in that respect, and following my satnav nicely.  The annoying satnav voice confidently announced I’d reached my destination in due course.  Oh.

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Unfortunately I clearly had not.  I drove on a bit though, and big relief, just a little further on, a humungous parkrun banner adorned Clifton Park.  Phew, I was in the right place.  All good!

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The sign was not only reassuring, because it meant I was in the right place, but it is welcoming too.  It has the strap line walk/ jog/ run.  Inclusive.

The sun was out, the park deserted, I went to explore.

The most immediately striking unexpected thing at this parkrun, was the presence of poultry.  No really.  I arrived, parked up, and then it was a case of ‘oooh, what strange sound is this?’  A rooster, sorry, that’s American isn’t it?  Of course I mean a cockerel.  How cool is that, definitely the calming morning sounds of hens waking up and scratching about.  Further investigation revealed, or at least strongly suggested, the park is adjacent to some allotments, hence hens.  I do like hens.  I think that’s quite a fine USP for a parkrun location.  Not as classy as having a parkrun peacock I suppose, I bet there’s a parkrun somewhere that has one, though admit I don’t know where for sure. There is a parkrun in Australia that has it’s own emu, Fluffy, Nambour parkrun.  On reflection, I think an emu would be better than a peacock.  Don’t get me wrong, peacocks look amazing, but they are scavengers.  I spent some time working overseas, and have never quite got over the shock and repulsion of seeing a group of peacocks – what is the collective noun for them – oooh, found it an ostentation of peacocks (great choice of collective noun)  scavenging and squabbling over the putrefying carcass of a long dead donkey, picking maggots out of it’s liquefying eye sockets.  Couldn’t see them in quite the same light thereafter, even if I do fully appreciate that is a useful ecological function!  Shudder, the very thought makes me heave.  Lets have a lovely picture of fluffy obliging with a parkrun pic pose instead – personally I wouldn’t stand quite that close to him/her, but not my call!  I’d certainly be stopping to take pictures of Fluffy en route though, mind you, I have been known to stop and take photos of almost anything on parkrun routes, if the mood takes me.

A morning cluck of awakening hens, punctuated with a cock crow on arrival was a new and pleasing parkrun experience for me.  Of course, one must always be prepared for the unexpected at parkrun.  Not as unexpected as inadvertently landing on a shark whilst out surfing say – which has happened, but things that aren’t quite the norm based on your previous parkrun experiences.  Having said that, I have seen a volunteer eaten by a shark at Graves junior parkrun so it could happen again elsewhere I suppose…  Mr Blobby was scarier though, and more unexpected another time.  About the shark thing though, I thought the guy was just leading the warm up at juniors, but on reflection, I wonder if he was actually trying to escape.  Maybe with the benefit of hindsight we should have assisted.  Oh well.  Life and learn. You can also be swallowed by hippos apparently. That’s happened too.  Be careful out there.

I love that all parkruns are the same but different, and have twists on familiar themes.  For example, did you know that Bedworth parkrun had a guest artist at their parkrun this week, who did sketches in real time (a bit like a court reporter artist but without the suspicion around criminal intent with respect to those attending) and got a photographer’s credit from Bedworth parkrun for doing so.  Her pictures are epic!  Love these, so wish I could do something like that.

Anyway, I may be going a tad off topic here, back to Clifton parkrun, Nottingham.  As well as the pleasing (and soothing) presence of hens, there was ample free parking, and an old-style municipal pavilion. Actually, not old style, but actually from the olden days of my more extreme youth.  Any number of similarly designed building would have popped up at playing fields back in the day.  I couldn’t decide if this made me nostalgic or induced trauma, hard to tell the difference sometimes.  The building was old but well maintained and excellent facilities.  I can report bicycle parking, loos, and an abundance of instructional signs inside and out.  This covered how to open doors, what not to do – they really don’t like ball games here, even on the tennis courts apparently which seems harsh.  There was also a warning about not over-staying or you’d be locked in the park overnight.  I was hoping very much my parkrun time would be fast enough to avoid that, but you if not, I wouldn’t be able to claim I hadn’t been warned about this eventuality in advance!

There was an excellent flower display with fine container planting in abundance.  This appeared to be a lovingly maintained outdoor and indoor space.    That was good, less good was the sight of this: 

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Yes, yes, I know it looks lovely, but it is also very definitely an expanse of sports field.  I couldn’t really grasp the run route from the course descriptor, but it did sound like you’d be running round more than once.  I suddenly felt really anxious.  There wasn’t anyone about – I was early of course – but the complete absence of anyone else suggested a small cohort of parkrunners and therefore the impossibility of getting lost in a throng.    It’s an interesting one, really huge parkruns can be over-crowded, noisy, over-whelming and a bit shovey at times, but you can be anonymous in a crowd, enjoy a mass buzz of collective enthusiasm and embrace the shared experience.  Smaller ones are often friendlier and more intimate, and generally quieter literally so less overwhelming, but you can’t just disappear into a mass of other runners.  For the first time, seeing the field, and realising ‘no-one will ever know’ I did consider bailing.  I’m not feeling great about my ‘running’ at the moment, and didn’t want to feel under pressure to be faster than I can comfortably manage.  I know this shouldn’t happen at parkrun, but it can, being a tail-walker is an art not all pull off.  The vast majority do, but as with my lamentable experiences of cross country, I’ve had appalling experiences with sweepers on organised runs (though not parkrun) which left me feeling completely crushed and humiliated and which the memories of which have never really gone away.  PE teachers and judgemental others have a lot to answer for in terms of turning plenty of people off exercise in general and running in particular.  The vitriol poured on slower runners at some organised events that should know better – fat-shaming at this year’s London Marathon for starters, is very real and heart breaking really.  That’s another reason to love parkrun, it  seeks to be inclusive for all, but unfortunately, it takes more than a few parkruns – or well over 200 in my case, to erase those negative voices that tell you you have no right to be there.  You aren’t the right shape, the right speed or have the right attitude to take up space at an activity based event.  And to be fair, the actual voices that have expressed directly to me that ‘there shouldn’t be walkers at parkrun’ even if that isn’t the official line.  Gulp, to run or not to run.

aaaargh

Well, I’m here now, it’ll still be a ‘c’ and I’ve always been conscientious if not keen.  And there is always the parkrun code – respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  It’ll be fine, probably, and even if it isn’t fine, there’s already been the calming cluck of hens by way of consolation and there may yet be an amusing anecdote in it afterwards.  Anyhow, type 2 fun is till fun right?  Just kicks in later on.  All good 🙂UK 5k parkrun Code (With Dogs) JPG

So I made my way into the pavilion for my precautionary pee.  I couldn’t initially find the loos, there was an enormous sign directing me to them, but as it was back lit by bright early morning sunshine it was in silhouette so I couldn’t see it.  A nice parkrunner not only pointed the way, but led me to them, that’s good service isn’t it.  I felt better already and was soon relieved in every sense.

There was an area set up for post parkrun tea and coffee, and volunteers were assembling.  Outside the pavilion signs were going up and parkrun paraphernalia coming out in force.  I went to explore.  I tried to get some nice unposed photos of volunteers setting up, but am conscious I make it look like I’ve taken surreptitious photos of dodgy looking characters hanging around behind the back of a hedge somewhere, near the bins.  Spoiler alert, sometimes the camera does lie.

I wandered out in the general direction of what must be the course.  Some signs were already in place, and did little to dispel my sense of confusion, though on the plus side, I was confident it would probably make sense when you were actually under way.  I found the sweet little bridge I’d seen on earlier Facebook pages, and there were some lovely mature trees around it’s true.  The grounds were immaculate, no litter, no dog poo, bright early morning sun illuminated the space, and there was a slight nip in the air and the hint of a smell of autumn, fallen leaves, that kind of thing.

There was also the dinkiest finish funnel I’ve ever seen:

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For the purposes of comparison, take a look at this pic of the finish funnel at Bushy parkrun the same weekend.  Admittedly in use, rather than standing empty in eager anticipation of the parkrunners coming through.  It’s not an entirely fair juxtaposition, but of interest I hope, like I said, parkrunning at a huge parkrun of 1400 plus is a very different proposition to one of just around 70, each have to be experienced I think to get the full parkrun picture:

31 aug 2019 finish funnel

Clifton parkrun, Nottingham, also has it’s own variation on the Nazcan lines by the way, or possibly low-budget crop circles.  Good though, shows initiative, and but a short evolution from here to the Long Man of Wilmington further down the line. Nice.  Be sure to look out for how it’s developed when you go visit as I’m sure you will one day.

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Time was moving on apace, and there still weren’t very many people around.  I went towards the few who were.  Fair play to this parkrun.  Of all the parkruns I’ve been to, and it’s not hundreds, but it is a fair few 40+ this is the most proactively friendly I’ve been to.  People approached me to say hello as I was an unknown face.  It was a little like Sheffield Castle parkrun in that respect, and that is also a smallish community based parkrun.  I suppose the good thing about smaller parkruns is they get to know their regulars, and by extension, can spot newbies and welcome them personally if they wish to do so.  I started to feel better.  Someone explained the course, acknowledging it is flat, but the grass is currently on the long side so it might be that be tougher than usual/ expected.  One of the hi-vis wearers said she’d never actually run the course – because of volunteering always, I said to be fair I wasn’t sure I’d be actually running the course today either.  Someone said I might as well seeing as I was here, and I clarified that I meant I’d be run/walking, but they were all very encouraging and reassuring about that.   No problem.  It was a personalised welcome, and it did feel very friendly, inclusive and non-judgemental.  All these things weighed very much in its favour, though it wasn’t possible to reconfigure the route so it was less reminiscent of school sports days and flashbacks to the cumulative petty humiliations of taking part in those…

The start area was a little bit away from the pavilion, so I headed down to join the gaggle of others. There were a few other tourists, including some from Colwick parkrun, where weirdly, by coincidence, I was only last week – though I suppose it’s not that weird as that’s a Nottingham based parkrun too.  This included a father/son combo, who were writing the run report, plus, I was told, and have no reason to disbelieve it, the youngest ever person to reach the 250 parkrun milestone, impressive.  This parkrun might have but a small turn out, but still could attract parkrun royalty.  This was very fine!

Because they were doing the run report, they also took some photos, I’m in one!  Though it might not be that easy to spot me, I know I’m there though, and that’s the important thing from my perspective, close second to being on Strava to believing a parkrun really happened!  (to the left, behind someone in hi-vis and mid taking a photo myself, though I can’t work out which one).

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It was good to see IKEA bags making an appearance again. They seem to be the go-to receptacle for parkruns who provide storage and/or porterage between start and finish options at many a parkrun.  I’m sure they’d be very pleased.

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There wasn’t a first timers’ briefing as such, but many first timers like me were personally greeted.  There was though a Run Directors briefing which was a breath of fresh air.  It was delivered ‘in the round’ which gave an intimate and inclusive feel to it and was listened to in ….

… you won’t believe this….

a respectful and attentive silence!

I know, a first surely.  There were milestones, welcomes, quick summary of the course basically twice past volunteer ‘mum’ (did he really say mum, I must have misheard that, my mum was at her usual corner at Bushy parkrun) with ‘mum’ on your right, and then once with her to your left. This was a course summary I could retain for the duration of the 5k run.  Result!  It was nice, just felt friendly.

I asked about any overtaking rules, because of me being slow, but it seemed to be common sense.  Hilariously two other first timers (at Clifton, not parkrun per se) seemed to think I’d be overtaking them and said just call out as I pass.  In fact we ended up sort of leap frogging one another en route, and by the end they were my new best friends (I’m waving at you now in case you are looking).  They were much photographed on the way round, but I don’t want to put those pics in just yet, you’ll have to wait with everyone else.

I say complete silence, and that is true, but in the far, far distance, some canicross runners had very excited dogs plunging about with excitement.  From above, it may well have looked like we parkrunners had been corralled by these ferocious hounds.  In fact they were friendly, just exuberant, just as many parkrun participants can be!

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Oh, there isn’t really an overtaking rule, it’s grass, so you should be able to overtake if you want to, just common sense, and that seemed to be true.  I think this could be a fast course for them as like to run fast, though potentially muddy in winter, you’d need to pick the right time of year for short grass and hard ground.

And ‘go!’

Off we went.  A shortish scamper down to the first corner, and you do indeed turn right in the direction a marshal is helpfully pointing you in.

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Granted, she doesn’t appear to be pointing in this actual pic, but she was for the most part, I must have distracted her with my paparazzi impulses.

Round the corner, and you emerge from darkness, onto another playing field, this one with goal posts, and already the field of runners is thinning out, so you can see faster parkrunners on the far side, sprinting in the opposite direction.  The grass wasn’t too long really, it was fine, there was one nice bit where I actually got to kick through some autumn leaves which I’ve not done in ages – well, for about a year to be specific, made me think I must get out and find myself a woodland run sometime soon, I just love that evocative smell of leaf mold as fallen leaves become part of their landscape.  I fully recognise this might sound weird to the uninitiated, but to those of us in the know, it’s a giddy aromatic thrill!  Plus, running through leaves is always fun.  Fact.  Here you can see some early shots of my new best friends in action. They didn’t know they were my new best friends at this point, but we did start to chit chat a bit in between leap frogging one another (not literally, disappointingly) as we shifted our positions in relation to one another.  They were even paced, whereas I kept stopping to take photos and then sprinting (cough) on again.  In my head I was sprinting, to the untrained eye it may have seemed a bit less fast, streamlined, elegant and energy efficient than the word ‘sprint’ might imply.

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After a circuit round this smaller field -smaller than the larger one you have yet to run round – you exit alongside a gorgeous willow and over the little bridge.  Lovely!  A duck to the right and you run on a path in the protective shade of a mature tree line with the big field along side.

So you are running round a field, but not on the field as such, so that’s OK.  You can see faster runners ahead and alongside again, and there is a cheery marshal to point you round and prevent you (in the nicest possible way) from making a premature beeline to the finish funnel, don’t worry though, your time will come.

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Look, there are my new best friends again – we are on waving terms by now I think.  And ahead another cheery and cheering marshal.  I made a point of thanking marshals on the first time past, as I’m never sure I’ll still be smiling on my next time through.  Don’t want to sound like your spitting out a sarcastic ‘thanks‘ through gritted teeth, that can rather kill the moment.

Round the field, and before you know it, you are alongside the finish funnel, seen from the back, where marshals are on hand observing, and obliging parkrunners by posing for photos when required.  I think it comes under the ‘any other duties‘ section of the volunteering agreement, tacitly agreed of course, but agreed nevertheless, an understanding…  Aren’t they lovely?

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Rhetorical question, of course they are!

That’s one lap down then, and then I started to be lapped by the faster runners.  All very polite though, no shoving here.

Round all over again, right at the marshal point, and look there are my besties again, ahead of me this time:

And then once again over the little bridge, and this time I emerged in time to see speedier runners coming towards the end of their parkruns.  Smiley, energetic and feeling and sharing the parkrun love.

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and round we go, past the woman guarding the finish funnel again, but still cheering encouragement, it looked like most people had finished by now.

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Round the field, wave at the marshal at the far end still clapping, and paused to take a shot of the finish funnel in action from the back:

Then round and this time you get to turn left at the marshal you pass three times – she’s clapping in this shot, told you she was encouraging every runner every time.  Ye of little faith.

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And finally back to the finish funnel guard marshal.  I nearly had a bit of a panic attack as it looked like she was going to make the runner ahead of me go round again, that would be an extra lap, if she tried that on me, well, I don’t wish to be unpleasant or unreasonable (I am those things entirely by accident) but we might have had a falling out over that.  Dear reader, crisis averted, no extra laps required, she was just making sure no corners were cut and we went the correct side of the cones, that’s fair enough, rules is rules, happy with that.

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And but a short sprint to the finish, and the warm embrace of time keepers, funnel managers, bar scanners and marshals already returned from their spots.  I paused to get a shot of the runner ahead finishing:

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This was possibly a mistake, as when I got my result I found I was but 6 seconds too slow for my last remaining stopwatch bingo time (I still need a 20), oh what might have been eh?  Still, nowt to be done about that, I suppose it will happen when it happens, perhaps never.  If it’s this hard to get a single number between 1-60, it makes you appreciate the impossibility of ever getting lucky on the national lottery say, so it is educational if frustrating to be so thwarted.  It’s been said before but I’ll say it again, parkrun is always most educational, albeit often in quite unexpected ways!

Through the funnel, token received.  A fellow parkrunner offered to take my pic in their frame.  Yay, that was brilliant.  Spoiled only marginally by the fact the photo didn’t take for some reason. I’ve had this before with people using my camera, I think the off button is too near the picture taking one.  There is also the photo of me and Geronimo with Jessica Ennis that never made it, this no-doubt brilliantly framed photo of me all glowing and gorgeous post run, expertly captured within the Clifton parkrun frame is similarly lost to posterity.  Never mind, I know I was there, and it’s the thought that counts.  It’s a training issue and my fault, should have checked.  My best friends also took advantage of the parkrun location frame whilst another parkrunner did the honours.

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Then there was the lingering, parkfaffery of watching other runners finishing behind me (there weren’t many), cheering the tail walkers in (there were many) and having a quick chat with the RD and other hi-vis heroes.

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And then that was it, parkrun over, course take down commenced

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I followed the mown path back to the pavilion, thanking the tailwalkers when some of them at least came into view.  I’m always very grateful to see tailwalkers, especially when it’s a little pair or gang of them as that suggests they are going to walk round and chat and it’s social and chilled.

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I hesitated in the pavilion, partly to admire the tiled mosaics,

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and partly because coffee was calling, but I didn’t really have time, since for the second Saturday on the trot I needed to be back in time for visitors.  Last Saturday I got stood up, was really hoping it wouldn’t happy again.  I decided I couldn’t risk being late, and scoffed a banana in the car park, noting the cheery parkrun flag that I’d missed seeing earlier – they had their own cylindrical hole in which to shove the parkrun flag, excellent, many other parkruns lack such an innovation and the placing of the parkrun flag has tested the patience and ingenuity of many otherwise calm and clever parkrunners, rarely thwarted in achieving their goals in day to day life.  Yet another reason why running can be a great leveller!

And that was finally that.  Time to be waving goodbye to Clifton pakrun, Nottingham, and heading off back to Sheffield.

Oh, and I wasn’t stood up this week, so ego salvaged, phew.  Even had time for a shower before receiving visitors.  All good.

So in conclusion, despite my considerable apprehension about this parkrun, such that were it not for the rather shallow reason that it begins with a ‘c’ I’d have given it a miss, it was in fact a really nice parkrun.  Very, very friendly and welcoming, nice and chilled and one where you would definitely make friends if it were your local.   Small, but perfectly formed, proof positive, it proof were needed, that sometimes the best things come in small packages!

My only regret is that I didn’t have time to linger for a coffee.  I’m still not entirely sold on running round fields but that’s an issue in my hear and not a fair criticism, for them as like that sort of thing, it is the sort of thing they like. Thank you lovely parkrunners of Clifton parkrun Nottingham, for welcoming me to your fine parkrun and sorting out some late summer sunshine for the occasion too!  I hope our parkrun paths may cross again in the future, until then, happy parkrunning!  🙂

Oh, and the official run report is here if you want to see another tourist perspective.  It’s an excellent report for many reasons, but particularly because it mentions tourists ‘including from Sheffield‘ and that would be me!   Who doesn’t fall for external validation.  I exist.  I was there.  As I said, excellent!

Meanwhile, back at Bushy parkrun, my mum was getting her usual chorus of good morning cheers.  I got something in my eye watching this, but you’ll probably be fine(ish).  My favourite comment on this post by the way, was from the runner who said he much enjoyed shouting out hello as he runs by, but spent several months calling ‘good morning Mary‘ before someone pointed out to him it is actually Elisabeth.  Excellent.   I love a good self-deprecating but completely relatable anecdote.

So that’s it, parkrun day all over for another week, but don’t worry, it’ll come round again before we know it.

In the meantime, you can, should you wish to do so, read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice.  Choose wisely.  🙂

If you’ve not started parkrun yet, you may be nearly 15 years late, but better late than never, find your local event here; register; print out your barcode and rock up there next parkrunday and your Saturdays will never be the same again…

but in a good way!

Just #dfyb

🙂

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

Well, aloha indeed to Colwick parkrun, which guarantees a Hawaiian welcome every time, or your money back!

Digested read: Colwick parkrun today for some tourism.  It was hot stuff.  We were transported to Hawaii.  Bagged the North Pacific too.  A good morning’s parkrun trawling.

Undigested read:

Put your feet up and get yourself a cocktail, it’s going to be a long one 🙂

feature colwick

I’m still on the parkrun tourism trail for now.  Making the most of the longer summer days to go a bit further afield.  Smiley Selfie Queen suggested Colwick parkrun for this saturday.  It’s within range of Sheffield and also handily starts with a c.  This is quite brilliant for getting one sea/ c nearer to completing the Running Challenges Pirate Challenge and with it the prospect of a virtual badge only I will ever see.  Sigh, what a giddy day that will be for me, when I have sailed each of those seven seas to complement my already secured arrr!, got that eons ago at Rother Valley parkrun.   If I do Colwick parkrun, as long as I don’t forget my barcode, that treasure will be within my reach.  For the parkrunning challenges seeker, the pirates’ chest of gold manifests like this:

Pirates! – Run seven Cs and an R (say it out loud).

You can see the appeal I’m sure.

Result.  Well worth interrupting the in any case unattainable parkrun alphabet challenge for methinks.   Colwick parkrun is it seems the parkrun which just keeps on giving.  As if these twin wins of being in reasonable travelling distance and offering up a much needed ‘c’ were not enough, it had even more joys up its sleeve.  With just a tad bit of Facebook stalking on my part (don’t judge me, that is what Facebook was invented for), I discovered by happy coincidence, the very day we planned to visit was their Hawaiian shirt parkrunday.  This would involve not only the donning of optional(ish) Hawaiian shirts (the clue is in the naming of the event) but also a ‘hotly contested “Tropical Fruit PBs” ‘ contest!  I know, don’t you just love the sound of this parkrun?  Go on, add it to your ‘parkrun to do’ list  right now before you forget. I was definitely up for Hawaiian shirt wearing, and whilst I personally don’t want to introduce any element of competition with others into my own parkrun experience, I can still enjoy watching on in wonder as others find an outlet for their competitive zeal.  There is quite a backstory to this contest it seems, and fyi, because it is important, a Colwick parkrun post in the build up to this saturday’s event informed interested parties of the following context in advance of the 2019 gathering:

2017’s pineapple and fruit basket records (set by Steve Shanks and SuperKev respectively) remain unchallenged, as does Dave Greenwood’s contentious watermelon record from the same year (he dropped it en-route and it broke in half!).

Notable 2018 PBs were achieved in the following categories: physalis (Jessica Shanks), double coconut (Steve Shanks), coconut relay (Ashton mother and son), orange (Adam Akbar), pomegranate (Arry Nathan), tomato (Karen Archer, showing excellent knowledge of what constitutes a fruit. Hopefully it didn’t end up in a fruit salad), and date (Claire O’Neill).

The pineapple category was well represented last year with solo pineapple (Lisa Chan), tinned pineapple (Sam Rickett) and plastic pineapple filled with jelly babies (the hopefully DBS-checked Bernard Jarvis).

Also last year, Marlon Dunkley (double apricot) and Lou Read (single cherry) abided by the rules of the sport which stipulate that you run around with your fruit in your hand rather than in your in your stomach, and refrained from tucking in until over the finish line. This rule was less well respected by Graham Moffat and Martin Phillips which saw them downgraded from the bunched grape to the single grape category due to on-course consumption.

The Wards (father and son) dominated the citrus fruit category, and high participation was also noted in the competitive fields of banana (Rupert Killik, Evans father & son) and passionfruit (Jacqui Measures and Hannah Roberts).

I could hardly contain myself.  parkrun is a run not a race, but who wouldn’t appreciate the inclusion of a tournament with a tropical twist to further heighten the intoxicating excitement of taking part in this iconic event.  That’s the great thing about parkrun, wherever in the world you rock up on parkrunday, as long as you rock up at a parkrun venue at the appropriate time, you are guaranteed a micro-adventure that will set your pulse raising and restore your faith in the world,  Fact. wherever in the world.  If you don’t believe me, check out some of the cool dudes from last year.  This is probably happening at a parkrun near you, and if it isn’t then you yourself can make it so with some minor tweaks to your running kit.  Just do it!  Be the change you want to see in the world.  It can all start with you and your expression of your individual style through parkrun fashion.

Who wouldn’t want to parkrun party with this lot.  It was going to be epic!

And yet there is still more!  I’m not gonna lie, in my quest to sail the seven ‘c’s in order to secure the pre-requisite number of parkruns beginning with the letter c,  to add to one beginning with r and with it the coveted pirates badge, I’ve not previously paid all that much attention to which particular sea each c in seaquence was covered by each respective run.  On this occasion though, game changer.  There was no doubt about it, Colwick parkrun‘s sea has to be the North Pacific (other seas are available) as the c in question was Colwick parkrun, an they are  an Hawaiian themed event, fact.  By which I mean that today was their Hawaiian themed event.  What’s more as I can confidently report back that at 100% of the parkruns I’ve attended at Colwick parkrun everyone who was anyone was sporting a Hawaiian shirt or clutching some tropical fruit, or at the very least wearing a sunny smile, so that puts it firmly on the map as the North Pacific sea c. Look:

This exactitude pleases me. It’s the first time it’s happened.  I don’t know if it achievable at other parkruns, I’ll have to mull that over.  I mean Crosby parkrun is at the seaside I suppose, but lovely as it is, not sure the Irish Sea has entirely the same gravitas as those named in the official seven seas.  No offence meant, just speaking my mind… it had other qualities.  Bare-bottomed statues and sand and all sorts of things.  But, bottom line with respect to my Colwick parkrun expectations was that this was all very exciting!

Out of interest, can you name the seven seas? I found it harder than I thought, which is embarrassing…

Anyway, enough of pub quiz question challenges, back to my pre parkrun research, facilities looked good, there’s parking, loos, yep, that’ll do. Oh hang on, I suppose you want to know about the course.  You usually do.  Well, the course blah de blah on their official Colwick parkrun webpage describes it thus:

The parkrun course at Colwick Country Park is 5km long and is made up of 1 lap of the main lake and 2 laps of the smaller West lake. The route is mainly on informally surfaced paths combined with short road and grass sections. The run starts alongside the Colwick Adventure Centre and the west lake and follows the main path clockwise around the smaller west lake. After approximately two thirds of a lap of the lake runners split off to the left through the woods to then complete a lap of the larger main lake. Following the lakeside path clockwise, runners will reach the main entrance and fishing lodge, proceed along the straight main drive and then continue clockwise on round the south shore of the lake and past the marina. On nearing the Adventure Centre again the route will split left and complete a further whole lap of the small lake before returning to the start.

and it looks like this, which I think is a bit like a chef wearing a hat, just the head and hat bit:

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Yep, bit confused about the course descriptor, but sounding like it’s not too much repetition, and so the stars were aligning nicely, this was going to be a cool parkrun.  Spoiler alert, it wasn’t cool at all, it was actually boiling hot, hot stuff in fact, but all the better for that as you shall find out if you’ll just stop interrupting me and let me crack on with explaining it all to you.

So the day dawned, over in Colwick Country park it was looking like this – I know this, because Colwick parkrun kindly shared a couple of early morning photos later on.  Nice, eh?

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Meanwhile, back in Sheffield, I donned my Hawaiian shirt, and pink feather boa, and pink fascinator and pink leg warmers and pink fingerless gloves, as you do.  Fortunately my neighbours already regard me as eccentric, so I didn’t need to cover myself with a blanket rushing from house to car or anything.  The drive to Nottingham was OK, in a ‘ohmygawd why am I going round and round Nottingham town centre sort of way’.  There was one bit, where I followed the sat nav and honestly thought I’d ended up in a Premier Inn carpark as I trustingly followed city-link signs.  Thank goodness I don’t drive an HGV, I was having a moment of insight into why big lorries get stuck on hills or end up driving over the edge of harbour walls because of blindly falling into line with what the sat nav said.  I didn’t want to end up going viral for a sat nav fail

Amazingly, it did seem to be the right way, and, as a bonus I got a nice roundabout surprise, not quite in the same league as the centaur en route to Isabel Trail parkrun, but some very nice gee gees that from a distance really did look like they’d just strayed onto the roundabout for a bit of an early morning grazing session.

horses-on-Nottingham-Racecourse-roundabout

I’ve always been a bit sniffy about the idea of a calendar featuring favourite roundabouts of the uk, but I’m beginning to think this is au contraire, a gap in the market just screaming out for an entrepreneur to make it so.  No, hang on wait, unbelievably I’m not the first, this is already a thing.  Oh well, good to know that the organisation roundabouts of Britain already exists and has a shop dealing in not just calendars, but key-fobs coasters and probably fridge magnets too.  Catering for all your British roundabout novelty gift needs, that’s Christmas sorted and we are only just at the end of summer.

roundabouts calendar

Eventually, through late summer mists, I arrived at Colwick park.  Oh wow!  This I did not expect at all.  You dodge down a seemingly urban side street and come upon this lakeside park.  It was very impressive.  I was greeted by the most friendly ambassador ever on car park shed duty.  I’d read on the Colwick Country park website that parking is £2 for the day, and assumed it was an error on the Colwick parkrun page where it said it was just £1.50 but you needed the right change.  Anyway dear reader, it turns out that it is just £1.50 as a parkrun special rate, and the reason you need the right money is because the machine is set up for £2 which is the normal charge.  This was explained to me by the nice man.  He also explained the parkrun route, the park amenities – you can do open water swimming and kayaking and water boarding – no, wait, paddle boarding, which I think is different.  There were geese, and a waterside view, and it was all looking great.  I was given directions where to go to park and generally made to feel most welcome.  I have a feeling I was amongst the first to arrive, so whether or not he was able to keep up that degree of personalised welcome for everyone who followed on after me I just don’t know, but I was impressed.  Thank you nice Colwick park car park man,

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Incidentally, it was only as I pulled away I remembered I was wearing all my Hawaiian themed regalia and he’d barely registered it, let alone remarked on it, neither of us had.  I was increasingly forming the view that the Colwick parkrunners dress in this kind of gear all the time, why wouldn’t they, when it brightens any day.   What other possible explanation could there be for his nonchalance, other than having completely desensitised to the appearance of colourfully and flamboyantly dressed parkrunners week after week.

So I trundled down the road really, really slowly past the lake and taking in the sights along the route.  A veritable mariner at one point, TOILETS – always a joy to behold in advance of any parkrun, and eventually made it to the car park.  There was lots of space, and a few people already gathering.  A few minutes later Smiley Selfie Queen appeared with her companion of choice for the morning.  It was a weird that we’d not all come together from Sheffield, but she and her running buddy are way faster than me, and were in a hurry to get away after the parkrun, so it seemed the least stressful option was to go separately, but cram in our mandatory selfie shots pre-run if possible.

Pre parkrun proper cometh parkfaff.  An important and integral part of any parkrun morning, but particularly so when touristing.  It’s a busy time, that pre-parkrun parkfaffing.  You know what I mean yes?  You aren’t sure?  Well, let’s just say that as surely as parkrun takes place on a saturday, parkfaff takes place immediately prior (and post) to it.  We all needed the loo, so there was the what to do with our water, where was the start, what are you wearing faff to be conducted and negotiated before we went in search of our pre-parkrun precautionary pees.  It was back the way we’d come.  Smart parkrunners would have parked up briefly and nipped in the loos before driving down to the start/finish area car parks.  However, on the plus side, this would mean we would be having our pees nearer in time to parkrun commencement, always an important consideration on such occasions.  Also, the walk down gave us a chance to appreciate our surroundings.  It was promising to be a bright sunshiney day, and there was a mist that gave a glorious and magical ambience to everything.  Also there was a retro playground horse.  Bit of an equine them to the morning it seems.  Well, not to the same extent as an Hawaiian theme, but I daresay you’ll catch my drift…

Toilets were adequate, but no soap in the loos and the flushes gave up pretty quickly, but hey ho, so grateful to see them they were minor inconveniences for the conveniences.

We sauntered back to the start, heartened to see other dressed up and fruit-carrying runners arriving and hi-vis volunteers striding out on course set up duties.  Exciting!

So then we followed the arrows to the start, and a colourful line up greeted us.  A huge climbing tower that reminded me of the rigging of a tall ship towered over us.  Hi-vis heroes resplendent with floral garlands milled and chilled amongst parkrunners in their Hawaiian best, clutching optional tropical fruits.  It was chatty and friendly, and well organised too.  There were boats moored up beside us, the other side of a barrier of rather marvellous bulrushes.  It definitely had a party vibe.  Oh, and it was easy to find the start from the car park, if you didn’t feel comfortable tailgating the other arriving runners, there was always the directional arrow strategically positioned to guide you.

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After roaming about a bit, gawping at the other Hawaiian shirt wearing runners (I wonder if anyone in Hawaii does actually wear shirts like these at all), it was over for the first timers’ briefing.  A few of us formed a cheery gaggle, and were given an effusive welcome – signed, FYI, to this special day.  We were told that if any of us were without suitable attire and wishing to join the fun, they had a heap of lei garlands from which we could freely borrow.  More evidence that they dress themselves up like this every week why else would you have an ikea bag full of lei as part of your mandatory parkrun kit for the core team, along with the defibrillator, hi-vis tabards and inflatable dolphin?  Well quite, I rest my case.  In any event, the point is, if for some inexplicable reason you’d embarrassed yourself by arriving garlandless, or your dog had eaten your lei, they had some stuff put aside for you specially.  A bit like wearing old sports kit in school if you forgot your PE stuff, only much more fun, much more appealing and with less congealed second hand sweat presumably.  I can’t be 100% sure about that as I didn’t make use of this resource, but I’m reasonably confident.  Anyway, sunshine is a natural disinfectant is it not?  It’d be fine.  Way better than missing out.

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The course was explained, along with the visual aid of a map.  Courses never really make sense to me until after I’ve done them.  I just logged the key bit of information ‘keep the lake to your right and you can’t go wrong‘.  Right, just keep the water to my right, that’s easy enough.   Could see the water and the boats from where we were standing.  This was going to be a breeze!  There were a fair few tourists, but a few ‘real’ first timers, so they stayed behind for an extra parkrun tutorial, whilst the rest of us continued with our parkrun milling and chilling.

Then, it was the Run Director’s briefing.  This was signed as well, which was good to see, though I do wish I’d paid more attention to what the sign was for ‘Hawaiian shirt’, bet it was something cool.  The RD took advantage of the slope to position herself and she also had a megaphone as well as some hi-vis heroes waving ‘be quiet’ paddles.

Cp quiet please

It was a cheery briefing, and reasonably attentive crowd of parkrunners which made a change.  Inevitably some background babble, but not so much I couldn’t hear what was going on.  Welcomes were given and thanks to the marshals.  There were shout outs for tourists.  Whilst having hailed from Sheffield did get a bit of a cheer, those parkrunners who’d come from Italy won that part of the day.  It seemed a really friendly parkrun, just comfy.  There were shout outs for milestones and birthdays and cake.  Instructions re fruit pbs, and best of all, a presentation to two of their very own parkrun royalty, one Roy, has his own marshal point on the course, and has been absent for a while due to illness,  He and Jacqui were warmly welcomed back with a big cheer and a presentation package, which they received wreathed in smiles as well as lei garlands.  This presentation brought a bit of a lump to my throat because my mum has Elisabeth’s corner at Bushy parkrun, and she was very ill and missed some months, but was similarly welcomed back with a cheer when well enough to do so.  She gets a Bushy parkrun run report mention most weeks which brings me joy.  I never thought she’d have made it back to her spot again, it’s great that she’s still there and part of the action week in week out.

I know how traumatic that time was for us.  I wondered what Roy and Jacqui might have been through, but know how fab it is to be restored to your parkrun family.  Families of choice are the best!  They looked happy to be welcomed home!

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Yep, I’d say the locals are friendly.  It does seem to be that folk generally are friendlier the further north you get.  Pathologically friendly sometimes, if you get lucky.  I’ve never been more grateful for anything than finally settling in Sheffield.  Yes, yes, it is a stereotype, but there is some truth in the one about it being generally friendlier up north, and although it’s perhaps pushing it to call Nottingham ‘north’, even if from a southerner’s perspective it is north of Watford Gap service station which is the generally accepted cut off for the London centric.  Personally, now I’m a Sheffielder, Nottingham is basically ‘in the south’ but I still feel they gave northerners everywhere a run for their money in terms of their friendliness quotient.  This therefore qualifies sufficiently for me to use it  as an excuse for including this video about a northerner terrifying Londoners by saying ‘hello’, because it pleases me.  My blog post, I can do what I like.  I reckon this Northerner may have been misidentified, could easily have been a Colwick parkrunner instead. I can’t be absolutely positive of course, but they do seem to be that sort of proactively friendly type that couldn’t be trusted not to make eye contact on the London tube…

parkfaff continued briefly, and I noticed others bagging parkrun selfies prior to mustering at the start line.

Right, at the start, keep the water on my right, where’s the water again – oh right, there it is with the boats:

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So why is everyone facing the wrong way apart from me?  Why am I surrounded by faster looking runners than normal?  Something just didn’t feel quiet…

Cp start line up

Dear reader, learn from me, at the start point, there is water to the right of you and water to the left.  Basically, water, water everywhere – and not a drop to drink on account of the blue-green algae – but more importantly you can’t see the actual lake at this point, because it’s obscured by a big hill with the adventure centre on top of it.  Astonishingly, rather than being the only one in the right I was completely in the wrong.  Who’d have guessed?  Confused, when the cry went up for awf, I was swept up in a stampede of runners, and in amongst them I ran too, at what was for me a fair old sprint.

Cp awf

It was all good natured which was just as well.  There was a tarmac path which most stuck too, but as soon as there was a border of grass I moved out of the way and took some photos.  Due to my misunderstanding early on, I was even ahead of Smiley Selfie Queen, so got some shots of her as she sprinted by and left me for dust, not for the first time.

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So off we went, round the little diddy lake for the first circuit, you go along an open bit, through a tree lined bit, and then there is a turn tighter than a right-angle so you get a great view faster runners streaming ahead towards what I now know to be Roy’s split.

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The marshal at the split didn’t look all that much like Roy to be fair, but they were doing their best, and even though only deputising for the main man, the high vis superstar did a great job of directionally pointing, cheering and clapping the parkrunners by.  She had big boots to fill, but was doing great.  And this was just the first lap, she had to completely reposition herself for lap two! Quite a lot of responsibility to take on here, but dear reader, spoiler alert, she totally nailed it.  Bravo!

Obviously, I had to stop to take photos along the way, if I hadn’t I’m sure I’d have pulled a sub 20, but hey ho, priorities.  It was ridiculously hot out there, and the sunlight was so bright, even though it looked gorgeous, it was quite hard to get decent shots as everything was just bleached out.  Still, you’ll get the gist.  Here is a cheering and cheery trio of marshals on a hill for example.

and on we went

resisted the urge for a quick sit-down and a picnic on a handily positioned bench

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paused to check out the bat carvery.  Not that sort of carvery, you aren’t supposed to eat them, just admire the woodcraft:

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onwards, you can definitely see the lake properly on the right now.  Follow the run signs, was that a cormorant?

Try not to heave at the stench coming from the water.  At least I hope it was coming from the water, it was either that, or a not very well concealed corpse being left to rot by the wayside.  Is that a consequence of the blue-green algae I wondered?  You know what, it looked lovely, but personally I wouldn’t want to be taking a dip in that pool of water any time soon.

Then after a bit, you emerge alongside the entrance where I met the friendly car-park attendant earlier.  More marshals, operating in pairs for safety purposes I imagine.  I don’t know if they always do this, or if it was to have a witness on hand in case of any fruit-related disputes in relation to the competition taking place.  I daresay they don’t quite have the budget for Video Assistant Referees (VARs) to cover a course of this length, and this is a practical compromise.  There was no-one else in sight when I reached this point, so I took this to mean I must be in the lead, which the marshals confirmed for me, so that’s official then.  It is of course a run not a race, but each one of us likes to have our little moment don’t we.  Like running on a travelator in empty airports so you get to feel like you can harness superhuman speed.  We’ve all done that!  Haven’t we?  Oh, so it really is just me then?  Got it.  Feel shamed.

Was fun though…

On and on, sweating more than just gently glowing by now, to the next marshal, who could rock a garland as well as an encouraging smile.

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Back to the car park, where there was both a marshal and a photographer lying in wait.  I had to focus on my ‘seen a photographer’ running pose, so didn’t take any photos of them

Then back to the start/finish area, where I realised that it was in fact only the start area.  I’d left my water bottle on the parkrun start post, thinking I could collect it at the finish, and it was there still, in glorious solitude.  It would be fine, I’d get it later.  Two notable points here, one, this is the first parkrun I’ve been to, where there are permanent wooden posts marking the start and each kilometre on route, and secondly, the finish isn’t in the same place as the start, though they aren’t that far away from one another.