Running for gold! Smiletastic 2018 has begun.

Digested read: smiletastic got us dragonflies out and running. There was a bit of moaning, what with the inclement weather and torrential rain,  but we still did it, and got our golden segment.  Now we feel awesome.  Storm Eleanor was not to be messed with though.   Breezy out.

You wouldn’t believe the state of my wheelie bins this morning!  They were in absolute turmoil.  I imagine the scene that greeted me through my window was pretty much identical to that which would greet me post the apocalypse. Bins heaped up in a cowering pile where they’d been blown across the paving into a convenient wall. Bird feeders empty. The end of the world to be sure.  This, dear reader, as perhaps you know already if you so much as peeked out from under the duvet, or listened to the screaming wind battering your place of dwelling last night, was the aftermath of Storm Eleanor which swept through the UK last night.   It brought those who ventured out in it, not just grazed knees and bad hair experiences, but for us Smiletastic Dragonflies, a display of running guts and glory.  Because we are hard-core, dedicated and awesome, we went, we conquered, we will crack this!

So for those of you who need to be brought up to speed Smiletastic 2018 is an annual three-month team challenge, for members of the Smiley Paces Sheffield Women’s Running Club who choose to opt in.  The idea is it motivates you to get out and run even when the weather is less than clement, and as a pleasing side-effect you get to know other club members you might not have met before and also to laugh together to such an extent your knickers may never dry, but it won’t matter, because mostly you’ll be running in a deluge anyway so no-one will notice.  As well as laughing ’til you either wet yourself or cry, you can also do some actual crying, as it can get more stressful than you might think, being amongst a scrum of motivated runners.

For a three-month period we pledge to do so many runs each week, and a longer run.  A ‘run’ can be anything from 2 miles upwards, and, to avoid people doing too much when injured, you can ‘run’ at any speed, walk if you must.  You get points according to how well you stick to your own pledges, not for just doing lots of runs.  So you set a goal that is individual to you. So far, so dull. The exciting/extraordinarily stress inducing bit, is that there are lots of potential for extra team and individual points.  These are awarded for e.g. attending timed runs parkrun, Longshaw 10k or other organised running events), getting together as a group, creativity and ‘team spirit’ and, teasingly, for picking off specified strava segments as they are revealed week by week.  Plus, we are hoping that as in previous years they will also be awarded for shameless sycophancy, expressions of adoration via strava outlines or original poetry for example.  Did I mention that in some ways, Smiletastic is also an emergent cult of personality, and none the worse for that say I!  Here are some still-to-be-topped offerings from 2016:

This year the best team is the Dragonflies. Because I am in this team, and we are individually as well as collectively brilliant.

dragonfly

There are some gaps in the scoring, you seem to able to get points by wearing down the Smiley Elder who founded this Smiletastic movement with pleading emails on spurios tenuous grounds of demonstration of smiley spirit. To date there are no points awarded – or indeed deducted – for the spread of misinformation to rival teams.  And quite right too. ‘ It is the chequered flag that’s at the start of a strava route people isn’t it?  Yes, that’s right, I’m sure, now off you go team bees, ladybirds and grasshoppers, I know we dragonflies ran it the other way round, but for us it’s the taking part not the winning that’s important, so we feel no need to run it again the other way.  Have fun fellow insects, flutter by!’

So, let me explain.  Smiletastic commenced on 1st January this year, was that only a couple of days ago? It seems like a lifetime.  Already we dragonflies have tried to co-ordinate ourselves. We are all quite a nurturing, ‘don’t want to pressurize anyone’ sort of lot, but we also apparently have inner competitive instincts, tempered only by a reluctance to go out in the cold and wet.  In a fit of post-run / pre challenge euphoria, we agreed we’d all meet early in the New Year – or as many of us that reasonably could – at the Greystones pub to bond, do a little gentle run out, talk tactics, and who knows, maybe accidentally do the pub quiz at the same time…. We’d already fixed a date for this when the news broke, basically, there was a golden ticket that was ours for the taking!

golden ticket

Smiley Elder announced that ‘for one week only’ points could be nabbed for those amongst us who managed to run this particular strava segment – pronounced as ‘The Golden Segment’ before the week ended.  Oh. My. Gawd!  It was a gift, so near to the Greystones, and we were meeting there for a run and team talk anyway, it was meant to be!

golden segment

I think it’s fair to say we were feeling pretty darned pleased with ourselves, possibly even marginally smug. And then the day dawned.  Eleanor started weaving across.   The day darkened, the wind picked up, the rain fell. I for one felt my enthusiasm not so much waning as nowhere to be seen. Whose idea was this? Do we really need to obsess about this so early on?  It’s only one little run? Then again – and this is where Smiletastic kicks in, I’d already promised (being conscientious if not keen is a heavy burden to bear) and I didn’t want to let my team members down. They’d be chaffing at the bit to get out there.

I arrived first, and stood in the doorway of the pub, in my hi-vis, shivering, and looking pitifully out at the torrential rain.  After a while, another Dragonfly Smiley put in a somewhat dishevelled appearance.  ‘Are we seriously going to do this?’ she ventured.  We commiserated with one another, hardly able to hear one another over the howling wind, secretly hoping no-one else would show.   We could then occupy the moral high ground by dint of having shown up, but bail because of  ‘safety’ – don’t want to be out on the roads other than in a larger group when it’s so dark  Then another put in a less than half-hearted appearance: ‘I was really hoping someone would post on Facebook to suggest we’d rearrange‘ she said ‘then I was planning to be all supportive and say, “of course, I would have gone, but quite understand, happy to be flexible and rearrange blah de blah if you feel you don’t want to”‘.  The next dragonfly to show up wasn’t even wearing her running gear and was astonished we were.   I think it would be fair to say we weren’t visibly oozing the enthusiasm we voiced when the run was just a theoretical future possibility rather than a near present unpleasant reality….  Just as we were pooling our reluctance and on the cusp of activating our ‘mutual permission to opt out’ exit plans in bounced another senior Smiley, with smile, head torch and a ‘shall we go then!’ exclamation, and before we knew what was happening, we were all changed into running gear, armed up with head torches and on the street outside.  Moaning.   ‘This is actual sleet!’ ‘We will get a bonus point for doing this won’t we’ and such like.  ‘Someone better get a photo.’  ‘Wait, wait, my watch hasn’t picked up my GPS’  Usual pre-running laments.

We headed off, it was OK, little bit of road, down through to Bingham Park, and although it was really, really dark, we had a bit of a boost from collective smugness, marveling at our ability to get 8 of us out together on a dark and stormy night. It was good bonding. Down, down we went, and then off to the left and into the woods. We were a bit nesh, well I was, but I was not alone in putting on the brakes at the edge of the ocean, ther was something of a collective emergency stop when we reached not so much as a puddle, but a dark muddied lake crossing the whole path. It was so dark, you couldn’t see the other side of it, and it was daunting.  To be fair, it was HUGE, I reckon, were it not for the dark, this mass of water would have been visible from space.  No really, it would.   In your head you know it’s tarmac underneath and it can’t be that deep, but in my heart it looked like we were being asked to place our trust in fate and step out into an endless ocean.  I got wet feet, but we all made it to the other side, proving, if proof were needed, that we dragonflies are invincible.

We trotted on, wondering if eight dragonflies running would be apt for the eighth day of Christmas.  To be fair, it may well have been, but unfortunately I’ve since found out it was the ninth day of Christmas so that doesn’t work quite so well.  Eventually we reached the point where we thought the strava section commenced. Everything was on the line here.  We had 200 metres of running ahead, but which path to take?  Given that the whole point of Smiletastic is to get us all running, the irony of the fact that we all stood around for an age debating in the dark whether we were at the right point and right side of the river over what was just a short segment was not lost on me. We agreed eventually that we were pretty sure, but worse case scenario we’d run up it, then back and up again the other side,  after all, an extra 400 metres probably wouldn’t actually lead to our early demise.

So, we trotted on, and when we got to the end, hung around, whilst those with superior eyesight and better hi-tech equipment pored over their strava uploads until they were able to pronounce that we had indeed nailed it.  Whoops and high fives followed.  Plus, pleasingly, we had run exactly a mile, inadvertently it’s true, but it meant that by the time we got back to the pub we’d have done 2 miles, making this a permissible claim as one of our pledged runs if needed.

On the way back, we felt fantastic.  Apart from when we had to climb back up the hill. We had the wit and foresight to pose for a photo, because what could better communicate our awesomeness and commitment than a poorly framed composition of bedraggled barely recognisable faces than this one of we eight dragonflies going for gold:

dragonflies golden segment

So by the time we were back at the pub, we were feeling extremely pleased with ourselves.  More logistical challenges followed, ordering a jug of soda and lime juice is way harder than you might think, and somehow we ended up talking up the price of it, which seems less than financially prudent.  We then sat and shared running tales, and with our post run glow all thoughts of how but 30 minutes earlier we’d all been trying to wriggle out of it were gone. ‘Nope, I don’t remember that, was always totally up for running in torrential sleet in the dark and open swimming through the impromptu lakes, awesome outing, totally love running‘ we chorused as one.

So conversation turned to new challenges, new glories and best of all, fancy dress options. But I don’t want to spoil that. Suffice to say that sparkly tights could yet turn out to be an asset to my wardrobe, memo to self, hit those redundant Christmas wear sales ASAP, there could be a run on iridescent tights in the Sheffield area.

So thank you dragonflies, it bodes well. We were on fire last night.  Fireflies rather than dragonflies, with our torches and high vis lighting the way in the dark.  Day two of Smiletastic, done.  Golden segments secured, and we’ve barely started…  One day all dragonflies will come together and that will be even more awesome.  I know, hard to imagine. Oh, here’s another group photo of us all running, amazing aren’t we.  Whitely woods isn’t looking too shabby either.

fireflies in the forest

And you want to know the best bit?  The best bit, was waking up this morning to the sound of the elements crashing about outside, and knowing I’d already planned today as a non-running day, I can stay inside not only with an easy conscience, but with the warm glow of self-righteous satisfaction, that my golden segment for this week at least, is already in the bag…. strava permitting.  That feels good.

Result.

Hope you reach your running goals too, but remember people, it is supposed to be fun!

As a reward for making it to the end of this post, here is a picture of a puffling, running.    I don’t believe it is possible to look on this without smiling.

puffling

You’re welcome.

 

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

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new parkrun double for me… and I’m feeling good! (ish)*

Digested read: we’ve had an icy twixmas parkrun, then new year day double. Hurrah.  Best way to start the year. Shame some people have picked up a mysterious 24 hour bug, but hey ho, job done. Go us!  Happy New Year everyone.  Also, let Smiletastic commence. Isn’t parkrun grand?  Love parkrun.  🙂

*Strictly speaking, I was feeling a bit rough.  But that messes with both the scanning and the opportunity to link to a fine Nina Simone power ballad, so forgive the artistic licence with my edit.  Gotta love Nina

5898bc4adc8ba198a0161811b70f8639--nina-simone-best-songs

Is it true you are supposed to start the New Year as you mean to go on?  If so, I don’t know whether I have passed or failed in that respect.  I did make it to a parkrun, twice in fact (yay) but I also felt distinctly queasy, sleep deprived and as a consequence loped round the two different courses lard-arsed, and with little vestige of either personal propulsion or personal dignity.  On the plus side, awesome crowd, parkrun buddies old and new, with added Smiletastic Dragonfly vigour for good measure.  Maybe a case of good in parts.

Last time I posted about parkrun it was to reveal all about my ill-judged,  type 2 fun run out with Sophie at Concord on Christmas Day.  By mutual consent, this romp round marked both the beginning and end of our running partnership.  It’s OK, because she has decided she want’s to focus on her skiing – she thinks the photo ops with a backdrop of snow will be more flattering, and likewise I think I’ll have more flattering running photos too, without wrestling with a unicorn the whole way round.  Running with dignity – that would be a great way to start the new year would it not.

It sure as heck wasn’t how I ended it though.  Since Christmas,we’ve had our ‘twixmas run at Sheffield Hallam.  That was something of an experience.  Other parkruns local to Sheffield fell like flies, cancelled due to ice and slidy paths. Hallam gamely decided to brave it, but you know that it’s not going to be a PB run when you see the run director heading out with a shovel at the start don’t you?  I promise you, he wasn’t just heading out for a wild-camping inspired dump.  I know this, because I saw him ice breaking on Rustlings Road,  above and beyond my friend.  Respect to you.

man with shovel

It was something of a slide about,though those in the front of the line up seemed as fearless as ever…

how it started

but I like to think the mud snorkeling and iced pavements added a certain frissance to the occasion.  We had our very own arctic enemas and mud crawls. Who needs tough mudder anyway?

Personally, I didn’t mind at all having to take it really slowly, but maybe with hindsight I’d have bottled it.  You know it’s bad when dogs are being carried round rather than chased after by breathless runners.  Unless our resident photographer inadvertently snapped a 101 Dalmatians inspired dog-knapper at the very moment of the dogduction, must check Sheffield animals lost and found to clarify.

precious cargo

Weirdly, it’s the rise in temperature that made the compressed ice especially treacherous, not so much slush, as a perfect skidway with meltwater pooling on top of the ice. Still, all’s well that ends well.  They counted everyone in, and they counted everyone back, sighs of relief all round. What was not so grand, was discovering that apparently it isn’t running with a unicorn that makes me appear undignified in my gait.  It is the actual act of ‘running’.  The camera never lies, although it does have a very dry sense of humour it seems…

I have to accept I’m not a natural at this.  I don’t know why I keep on going really.  Hope over experience perhaps, or maybe the prospect of post-parkrun brunch?  Probably brunch.

Still, love parkrun. The more parkruns the better.  Hence, given that, as parkrun aficionados all over the world know:

New Year’s Day is the one day of the year where it is possible to walk, jog, run or volunteer at two parkruns on the same day! What better way to start 2018

I remain conscientious about the concept and commitment to parkrun if not always keen on the actual running component of the enterprise.  New Year’s Day promised the possibility of a parkrun double, and as a parkrun partaker, that was too good a chance to miss.  I couldn’t get to parkrun last year, but achieved the parkrun double the year before going to Nostell Priory and Pontefract parkruns and that was fab.  This year, a host of us were planning to go, but inevitably it got a bit complicated, there were those with injuries or hosting obligations on New Year’s Eve that might prove incompatible with undertaking a parkrun shuffle. Then, an added consideration for me at least, was feeling torn between my conflicting desires on the one hand to be constant to my regular parkrun partners and brunching buddies or on the other to take flight and throw my lot in with my new Smiletastic compatriots in our newly formed Dragonfly team. Dropping my longstanding, loyal and unswerving running companions as my head was turned by short-lived glory that might be achieved through association with such swarming irridescent beauties.  Tough call.  Seductive, aren’t they?  You’ve got to admit you’d have your head turned too, surely… and I’m way more suggestible and shallow than you probably are with your principles, stoicism, and fine running technique. Plus, well, it’s Smiletastic, that’s an annual game changer.  All previous alliances, allegiances and agreements are off.  It’s another new dawn, you exist for your team and they for you.  One for all and all for one, and everyone for post run coffee and cake (other foods and beverages are available).

For those of you not in the know, firstly, where have you been?  Secondly, in brief, Smiletastic is an annual team challenge for members of the Smiley Paces.  I did it a couple of years ago, and participation in that helped me to put in the necessary training which got me round the Sheffield Half, in a fashion.  It also was fairly traumatic, it’s a big responsibility pledging runs and knowing if you fail to deliver, you will bring your team down with you!  STRESS!  As with all running related stresses, after the event, trauma morphs almost seamlessly into nostalgia.  That was sooooooooooo fun and not at all pressurised and stress inducing!  No wonder we all worship Smiley Elder for bringing Smiletastic into being.  After a year off when I was in Cambodia, this year when Smiletastic came round it was Bring. It. On!

Better yet. I was in team dragonfly.  Hurrah.  Great, we would be mutually supportive we quickly agreed. This would be fun and about team motivation, and we wouldn’t let it get stressful and none of us were going to be competitive about it.  … mind you, doesn’t hurt to get in the mood, maybe we could pitch for some fun ‘getting in the Smiletastic spirit’ team points early on using the old tea-cosy on the head ruse, that might work?  Failing that the dragonfly trail find has to be a win right?  Loving your work fell flying smiley.

Then there is always the fancy dress dimension to be considered, but no spoilers regarding that today.  Patience dear reader, patience, that time will come…

The Smiletastic rules pronounced that individual points would be available to those who rock up at parkrun. Hurrah. That’s me in, twice, it being a New Year’s Day double there for the taking. Then, we see that if we can get more than 50% of our 13 strong team along to a timed run (such as parkrun) then there are more points to be had.  Well.  I mean, no pressure, but ‘just out of interest, who’s thinking of rocking up on New Year’s Day’.  Our Facebook exchanges were hilarious.  Artistry of expression, as we all tried soooooooooooo very hard to be mutually respectful of each others circumstances and decisions whilst desperately, desperately trying not to reveal that every one of us was furtively counting up the takers to date on our fingers to see if it might be doable.   Such was the swell of enthusiasm for the endeavour some of the ‘sorry, but categorically can’t make it‘ dragonflies were soon flitting back with a ‘but I have terrible fear of missing out, so maybe…‘. Anyway, dear reader, the upshot was, come New Year’s Day, we were all on the cusp of witnessing a miracle akin to that of dragonfly larvae emerging en masse from a pond and revealing their wings, were we to witness a similar magnificent display of dragonflies altogether for the New Year’s Day parkrun Double?

YES!

WE WERE!

It nearly didn’t happen though. I was out on new year’s eve, by no means a given for me.  My body is generally speaking a temple, albeit one for people who worship somewhat spherically inclined deities that have recently been dragged backwards through a hedge.  Even so, I can tell within a microgram when I have reached capacity for alcohol and need to cease drinking and withdraw from social situations.  On reaching this point about 11.30, I was ready to sneak away from the festivities but was caught in the act, persuaded to stay on, toast in the new year, less sleep, more alcohol, face-plant into a trifle (that was well worth staying up for) and to see the new year in with a ferocious display of fireworks.  When one went off a bit too close for comfort I learned about myself that in adversity I will try to save myself before others.  Oh dear.  I may be a horrible human being, but at least I am self-aware…  Anyway, it was a lovely new year’s eve celebration with fine hosts and fabulous folk all around, but it was not compatible with idealised double parkrun preparations.  I knew I’d be dehydrated, so drank loads before I went to bed, and then had to get up loads in the night so I wondered why I’d bothered to go to bed at all.

Sleep deprived, managing somehow to sport simultaneously an uncomfortably full bladder and a raging thirst, I staggered down to the rendezvous point where a group of us had pledged to meet and go together to the first parkrun of the day.  As I dragged my weary carcass down the empty streets, I saw a couple of people, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, cheerily jogging along. ‘What are they doing, are they crazy?’ I thought, a bit too loudly for comfort – where did that headache come from, who is it who’s shouting?  Before it occurred to me that in a way I was about to do the same, but with considerably less bounce, well boob bounce possibly, but spiritual bounce not so much.  It is an interesting (to me anyway, you can be bored if you like) concept, that parkrun has become so much a habit, that I actually no longer associate it with running at all.  It is just that when parkrunday comes around, I go and do it.  No thinking, no negotiation, it is just a case of ‘make it so’.  This is the great glory of parkrun  – and indeed Smiletastic, on days when I wouldn’t normally entertain the idea of running anywhere or for any distance at all I find I’m almost doing so by accident.  It is a wonderful thing.  Shame that I’d obviously eaten something that disagreed with me yesterday, no other explanation for my constantly shifting consciousness. Thank goodness I wasn’t doing the driving!

Astonishingly, four of us did make the rendezvous as planned!  We piled into the car, and off we went to Graves.  We expected to find the place heaving, but it seems on New Year’s Day parkrunners work on just-in-time principles.  Apart from the core team of hi-viz heroes who were out setting up the course whilst revelers from the night before were probably still making their way home.  Kudos to you guys, your efforts were and are appreciated.  🙂  (Nothing like an emoticon to make someone feel valued apparently, so that’s good).

NYD graves team

We sorted parking, and then some opted to sit in the car, I went in search of a loo.  Disaster, they were shut.  It would probably be unseemly to report that there was a fair exodus of wandering runners who all seemingly had dropped something in the bushes just before the run, and that something was possibly their pants.  Don’t know why, desperate times call for desperate measures though.

Soon, there was quite a gang assembled.  I found that, much like when I tried to save myself when the rogue firework went off, I was quite happy to ditch my loyal parkrunning buddies and lift providers at the first sniff of a dragonfly.  Found one, found more.  Then there was frenetic counting, would we make the 50% requirement.  … not that we cared, because it was all fun, but ooooh, so teasingly close.  We half-heartedly greeted others whilst distracted by our search for insect companions.  We achieved one selfie, of the dragonfly team, only one of the people within it isn’t, no matter, we can always photoshop on the missing fellow dragonflies later on, so that’s fine.

graves parkrun dragonflies

Then there was a call to gather and the Run Director’s briefing.

graves RD song line briefing

Impressively, the poet laureate for Graves had composed something for just this occasion.  You really should read the Graves parkrun report of the morning, because it contains not only pictures AND the note that this was a record-breaking start to the year with an attendance of 374 parkrun/jog/walkers AND an original poem to mark the occasion of the New Year but also the fabulous statistical insight that ‘of those taking part at Graves this morning, 131 then headed to Poolsbrook and a further 50 to Hillsborough’.  Hurrah, I do like a good parkrun stat.  I wonder how they number crunched that one.

These were pleasures yet to come.  I just know that when the shout went off to start, we went off.  It was a bit of a slow shuffle to be fair, a fact for which I was enormously grateful.  I pootled round.  Graves parkrun is actually my favourite of the Sheffield courses, because of the varied terrain, the scenic nature, the farm animals, but today it was a slog. Who lengthened the hill?  Even so, there were some – indeed many – highlights en route.  Specifically:

  • WAtching regal smiley pause to take a photo of the donkey on lap one and a goat on lap two, because if it isn’t instagrammed it never happened, apparently. That’s what she said, I still think she was angling for a lift from the donkey when I rumbled her, but I suppose we’ll never know now.
  • Spotting some fabulous junior parkrunners who instead of running were donned in over-sized hi-viz with matching over-sized smiles and proffering a succession of high fives. That was my favourite bit
  • REalising at some point that we had made the count re dragonflies
  • Seeing so many great people out and about, parkrun is a huge community of joy, because the double parkrun options locally are a bit limited, it seemed everyone had congregated at Graves today.  ’twas truly a wondrous sight to behold.
  • Finishing, without actually asphyxiating on the way round
  • Realising, once again, that you always have a parkrun within you somewhere, even if in your heart you’d rather be under the duvet still

On completion, people vanished pretty rapidly. Some speedy runners were aiming to do their double at 10.00 a.m. at Hillsborough – ambitious!  They had an express checkout for barcode scanning. No really, they did!  We more leisurely doublers, were headed to Poolsbrook.

Thank you fine people of Graves parkrun for your hospitality, your poetry and your fine organisation and winning smiles and ways as always.

Farewells were said, and off we went again. Not exactly in convoy. As in, not in convoy at all, it was a bit of a rural magical mystery tour to get to Poolsbrook parkrun I was just passively parasitic, I left it to other with GPS and initiative to get us there.  I only pitched in when I saw the sign for the country park, which I concede was probably a bit of a case of ‘too little too late‘ not sure they’ll buy ‘it’s the thought that counts’.

As we neared the entrance, I realised for the first time that Pools Brook is actually two words not one. Didn’t notice that when I was last here for the inaugural Poolsbrook parkrun (which was good actually, though now I understand new events try to discourage people from attending inaugurals so they have a chance to bed in first. Good point, well made.  Respect that people.)

pools brook country park

The place was heaving, and cars were being turned back from the park, so we ducked into a sort of industrial park alongside where there was space to park on the side roads.  It was freezing, and we were still quite early.  We sat for a bit, until i saw a carload of dragonflies rock up, and that, and my need for a precautionary pee, were enough for me to head up to the start.  As at Graves parkrun, the core team had been hard at work early on to make the magic happen at 10.30.  Thanks everyone 🙂  (See what I did again there with that smiley emoticon – they’ll be beside themselves with thrilledness!).

There were lots more new and familiar faces.  An enormous queue for the loos, and – a considerable boon – a sort of cafe area where an urn and biscuits was set up for post-run refreshments in return for donations. Also, a working radiator and a store cupboard where you could leave your bags. All extremely well organised, although I was slightly worried that the drop in temperature as we entered the store-room was indicative of entering some one-way anomaly into a strange, sub-zero parallel universe, but I made it out OK.  After a bit, it was announced the run start would be delayed by about 15 minutes, presumably to accommodate people who were having to park up further away and walk in.  Never ones to waste an opportunity, we put some serious work into getting into the dragonfly team spirit.  I think we did ok.  See how we’ve near enough perfected those double wings there.  I know, impressive!  I’ve only just realised that one of our number somehow lost a hand in the melee.  It was so cold I don’t think she noticed, as she never mentioned it at the time. Oh well, it was all for a good cause.

poolsbrook dragonfly

Eventually we had to venture outside, and I remembered a bit belatedly the start was slightly further away from the finish so we needed to allow time to get there. Still, plenty of time for another group dragonfly shot. We are getting better at this.   Still a learning curve, but we’ll get there…

poolsbrook dragonflies

A quick trot down to the start. Brrrrr.  Best and only option was to dive into the midst of the throng and, penguin-like, hope to benefit from the heat of huddling up with others. It’s lucky that all parkrunners are lovely and mostly accepting of such behaviours.

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We were a fair old gang!  A record Poolsbrook parkrun turnout, they put a Facebook post up declaring ‘WOW! A massive new attendance record with 473 finishers!! Last year we ‘only’ had 289!’  It felt big!  I couldn’t hear much of the briefing, but got the general idea. Milestones, thank the volunteers.  Three laps, counting to three is harder than you think by the way. They do put up kilometer markers, but that’s only helpful once you get the hang of them, to begin with they felt a bit random as I slowly registered I can’t possibly have done 4km already, I’m still on my first lap etc.  We were quite a sight though, storming round, and round, and round again…

GP poolsbrook parkrun dash

Hard to imagine, but I think I was even slower for this than at Graves, it was flat but quite congested, and frankly I just wanted it to end. It was a jolly crowd on the whole.  I did regret not hearing the end of the conversation between two runners where one said ‘so basically the kids row deteriorated into an international incident‘ and the other said ‘what did you do?’ and the first said ‘left them to it.’  I have a feeling that wasn’t the expected response.  I think it probably didn’t end there….  The marshals were all unfailingly lovely, I did try to splutter out thanks to each and everyone. I’ve since though read about another parkrunner at a different run (can’t remember where though, and it might have been on Christmas day now I come to think of it) who ran the whole parkrun with a box of chocolates, which he handed out to each and every marshal on the way round. That’s impressive!  Maybe next year, if I’m not having to use my hands to keep my unicorn under control.   I wasn’t so cheery about my proximity to the pimped up buggy that blared tinny tunes out throughout.  Kylie should be so lucky indeed, I didn’t feel it myself.  I gritted my teeth, reminding myself of the need to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way, whilst lamenting my inability to outrun this assault on my senses…

Round and round the lake I ran.  It was quite social, or potentially so, my ability to run and talk was pretty much eroded.  I was relieved when I knew I could finally take the right hand path up the finish funnel.  Yay!  It wasn’t quite as empty as this as I approached it, but it was just as much a vision of loveliness as this early morning photo suggests!

poolsbrook finish

A bit of a queue for scanning, but that was fine, as an opportunity to mill and mingle. Then into the coffee area where a donation secured coffee and a choice of biscuits or mince pies.  Loads on offer, very impressive.  I wasn’t sure if dragonflies eat, so I checked.  Not only are the nymphs impressive predators within a pond (I knew that already) but so are the adults.  Veracious carnivores they will happily eat other winged insects according to the British Dragonfly Society.  This meant we could still tap our inner dragonflies and eat with a clear conscience, but we’d have to make some adjustment in dietary expectations to take account of veganuary, obviously.  That’s OK, we weren’t real dragonflies, only channeling them.  In case you weren’t sure….  By the way, veganuary seems particularly high profile this year – even got an article about going vegan for runners in Runners World this week.  It’s increasingly becoming ‘a thing’.

Refreshments quaffed, we were homeward bound. Some had ambitious plans for further activity.  Personally I favoured a power nap – once I’d safely submitted my ‘tell Sue’ Smiletastic forms and could sleep easy in my bed.  Well, had to be done…

Poolsbrook parkrun not only delivered up a fine event and coped with the unexpected influx of tourists from near and far, they also wrote an event report with fine pictures and stats. Read it here and be amazed, Poolsbrook parkrun news – records smashed!.  Thank you fine people of Poolsbrook, both for the warmth of your welcome and polish of your logistics.

Just for the record, there were a fair few parkrun people on the move this morning.  I have no idea how, but someone, somewhere, created this fabulous offering showing parkrunners migration paths across East Derbyshire on New Year’s Day.  I know!  You didn’t know you’d be interested in a pictorial representation of statistical information, but suddenly you are.  It’s a splendid thing.  Now if only someone could do that for South Yorkshire as well, just imagine the joy they would bring…

east midlands parkrun double migrations

Also, according to the parkrun UK Facebook page:

18,393 parkrunners completed a New Year’s Day double by walking, jogging or running around two UK parkrun events on 1 January 2018…

That’s 33% of all those who completed a UK parkrun on the day!

At what point do we become an official movement I wonder.  I mean movement is integral to the initiative is it not, maybe we are already?

I think in the circumstances, the final word should go to our founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, who did us a 2017 review which you can read here.  But you know what, he also sent my mum a Christmas card to acknowledge her sterling support of Bushy parkrunners week in week out, and that’s even more exciting.  To be fair, it was another parkrunner who set that particular train in motion, but to a fine end.  Love parkrun, not just because of Mr S-H, but all the other lovely parkrunners who sent personal messages with their own parkrun stories!  Thank you all.

So that’s it.  New year’s day double done.  Thank you everyone, everywhere, who helped make it so!

Including my mum, that’s Elisabeth with an ‘s’ by the way – who was out cheering at Bushy parkrun on New Year’s Day too!

mum new years day

Phew.

Happy parkrunning into 2018.  It will bring new runs, and new adventures aplenty I’m sure.  Hurrah!  Go us. Just #dfyb.

Happy new Year y’all!

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

It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas…! Concord parkrun Christmas Day spectacular 2017. Delivering Christmas cheer since 2012

Digested read: me and my companion animal the unicorn Sophie joined the festive fun at Concord parkrun today. It was the perfect winterval celebration.  What’s not to like.  Note to self.  It was all very jolly and jingling, but unicorns aren’t really the best running companions to be honest (though they have lots of other qualities), so I think she might be happier to stick to supporting and marshaling duties at parkruns in future.  Yuletide felicitations everyone.  Ho, ho ho / bah humbug etc.

parkrun merry christmas

What could be more festive than being sat in front of the telly drinking tea, eating my way through a pack of orange club biscuits and watching ‘My 600lb life‘ on Quest Red whilst waiting for the pinger to ping and announce to me that Christmas dinner is done.  You don’t know?  Taking your unicorn to a Christmas Day parkrun, that’s what!

rh unicorn flying

Further more, these activities are not mutually exclusive. You can do both. I am the living proof.  Let me elaborate …

First, a bit of a history lesson for you.  So, it’s hard to imagine ‘t’was ever otherwise, but there was a time when Santa couldn’t bring you what you most wanted on Christmas morning, not because he was off shift by then, or because he doesn’t exist, but because Christmas parkrun wasn’t a thing.  Later, when parkrun was a thing, parkrunning on Christmas day in particular, generally wasn’t.  These were dark and sad times, but we knew no other reality, so made the best of things, or not, depending on the dynamic of the human relationships that surrounded us.  Now however, in the season of goodwill, Christmas Day parkrun is not only a hypothetical option, but an absolute reality for the people of Sheffield.  Dear Reader, I bring you Concord parkrun, spreading the Christmas joy, by opening their proverbial doors to parkrun tourists from near and far.  Mostly near I think, refugees from the other Sheffield parkruns that have yet to run on Christmas Day.   If I have correctly interrogated and understood the Concord parkrun stats page, then it seems they have been hosting this Christmas spectacular for every year since 2012.  It is definitely become an established part of my Christmas ritual in Sheffield.  By which I mean I first went to the Concord Christmas parkrun in 2015 and it made my Christmas.  I resolved that henceforth, in perpetuity, I would always go to parkrun on Christmas Day if I could.   Last year I couldn’t.  But I did today, and as Mr Loaf says, two out of three ain’t bad.  Christmas Day parkrun is a splendid thing.

Incidentally, there is one at Poolsbrook on Christmas Day also this year, but I’m saving that destination of choice for the New Year’s Day Double.  Poolsbrook parkrun put on a good show for today though, so respect to them when they’ve not even made their second birthday yet.  Bodes well for parkrun’s ability to replicate itself.   They plotting a new Junior parkrun for 2018 too, so watch this space.  Oh, you know what, I might as well give them their own star billing,  here they are, looking festive.  Santa’s little helpers in all their glory.  You can see how we compared with our Concordian efforts for yourself by reading on. Or sated, conclude your reading of this post now, the choice is yours dear reader and yours alone.  Go with your gut instinct, usually works, though of course I don’t know what you’ve ingested on Christmas day, might be playing havoc with your normal peristalsis cycles, so you could be getting atypical signals.  Can’t help you there, just do what you think is best, and remember, it’s all at your own risk.  I know, elf and safety is critical whatever the season,  it has to said…

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Anyways, back to Concord.  Are we nearly there yet?  Nope, but let’s get the basics out of the way first shall we? With regards to the course, the website blah de blah states:

The course consists of two counter-clockwise laps, all on asphalt paths suitable for mobility aids including wheelchairs. The course starts with a flat of 500m then a slight downhill of 500m levelling out at the far end of the course. Passing through a gate and returning with a slight uphill of 400m before levelling out to complete the lap. On the second lap the finish is 400m before the start line, ensuring a total of 5km.

and according to Strava, when run, it looks like this:

Xmas Day parkrun sloth route

Fess up time.  I stole/borrowed shared this from my sloth buddy and (newly appointed) marathon run mentor.  I can’t upload my own strava as no internet. I’m using a dongle for rubbishy internet of a sort, but can’t use two devices at once. Then I thought (because occasionally I do) ‘why not use someone else’s strava’ and I chose this particular one because it was just so exciting meeting an Endurer Dash buddy and also, the photo we casually posed for together can’t now be found, so this little thumbnail advisory picture of the running man himself will have to do as the photographic evidence that we were indeed both there, same time, same place, same mission.  Yay! Grand to see you out there.  Storming it.  As indeed we both were (ahem.)

But we had to all get there first.

I was up in the dark, eager with anticipation, and also needing a bit of extra time to get me and Sophie kitted out for our run. She’s only really had the one outing so far, to Graves junior birthday parkrun, but that was only marshaling, and I’d promised I’d take her out for an actual run on Christmas Day.  Seemed like a good idea at the time. I was feeling somewhat dubious about my promise this morning to be honest, but she was up and ready by the door waiting at 6.00 a.m.  No backing out now!  Could hardly rain on that parade, besides, it seemed like a good idea at the time…  I mean, running 5k with a unicorn, what could possibly go wrong?

up and raring to go

The first challenge of the morning was heading out the door.  Astonishingly, the streets were pretty deserted – I’d expected a mass migration of people heading over to Concord – honestly, what else was anyone going to do today? I hardly saw anyone, apart from a car taking advantage of the empty roads to speed to its destination… spectacularly scraping its undercarriage on a speed bump as it did so.  Happy Christmas, ho ho ho etc.

I arrived at the logistical operations centre from where communal transport was to depart.  Three of us set off from transport HQ, scooping up another couple en route. For your information, unicorns aren’t entirely practical accessories in a car, although she did function as a personalised air bag, I think having her face squashed against the window wasn’t the best of preparations for a run out.  Next time, I think I need to organise proper transport for her, to ensure she is able to optimise her performance.  I think there are specialist companies that can do this.  … anyway, one of our number had apparently cut it a bit fine with his timings, so had to run in his jimjams, but then again, if you can’t spend all day in your festive themed pyjamas on Christmas Day when can you?  Good call.

rh overslee come in you jim jams

On a more serious note, it is a demanding and busy day for many, so all time-saving tips are helpful.  A fair few runners today therefore chose to run in their special yuletide outfits to save having to change again later. Good call.  Classy choices.  I appreciate it when people make an effort on these occasions.  Lucky it’s been quite a mild one though, is it not?

So, on arrival, we found the car park pretty empty, and at first I thought there weren’t all that many people around, which would have been a shame, as Concord parkrun is surely a Sheffield running tradition these days.  In fact, people rapidly started to gather, so I was back into ‘oh my gawd I’m so excited to see you‘ mode, as familiar faces a-plenty came into view.  I was especially pleased to see my sloth endurer dash buddy, who I’ve not seen for ages.  He can’t possibly have been avoiding me, it must be that we move in different orbits these days, what with all his hard-core tough mudding and my… well, my not tough mudding. So much so that we not only did big hugs and much whooping, but even posed for loads of pictures together, because these days, if you aren’t photographed together so you can tag all your other mutual friends and acquaintences then that social interaction never happened.  No idea what happened to those snaps, it’s not like he’d have deleted them on the quiet in the hope that no-one need ever know I’d cornered him, and due to his gammy leg he was unable to get away before the photoshoot that put us both in the frame same time same place  …  we will just have to settle for our memories on this occasion.  Don’t worry, there’ll be other opportunities for a re-shoot in 2018 I’m sure!

There were some more succesful pre-run group shots though, yay!

Christmas day concord smiley trio

Collectively we must have tested the logistical operation of the Concord team – the usual average attendance is given as about 53, though actually I think that’s the mean, it’s been creeping upwards to 80 or so in recent months. Even so, the two-hundred plus turn out is a massive surge in attendance.  The record attendance at the event before today was 259 for Christmas Day 2016.  Today though (cue drum roll, but you’ll have to do that yourself as I don’t have it in my gift to activate that sound effect through this blogsite), the number was smashed out of the water.   A nice round 300.  Isn’t that spectacular?  Imagine that though, having to cater for 300 guests for Christmas Day, with just six unknowns (does that correlate to gate crashers or welcoming strangers into your home to spread the yuletide joy) whatever.  Impressive turn out, and impressive event management, so we are all marvelous.  Thanks especially to all the volunteers who turned out to make it so.  I’m sure you must have been on the ‘good’ list for Christmas.  Hurrah!  Thank you too to photographer for the day Ray Hibberd, from whose Facebook album for Christmas Day at Concord I have borrowed freely.  🙂

As we were a bit early, there was time for mutual appreciation of outfits, and much milling and seasonal mingling.

KW concord mingling

There was also an opportunity for comparison of Christmas morning experiences, past, present and yet to come.  I was taken by tales from parents about how you cope with offspring who are terrified of Father Christmas.  Not unreasonably, children who you have spent the rest of the year warning not to talk to strangers, aren’t to be so speedily hoodwinked into allowing a strange bearded man to enter their room at night just because it’s Christmas eve!  Various strategies have been employed over the years apparently, house lock down, stockings by the fire-place rather than the end of the bed were all options.  My favourite though, was the deal whereby one parent had a personal arrangement with Santa that they’d meet him a bit down the road for the present exchange so he’d never have to enter the house or even work out quite where said child lives.  It just goes to show, with a little planning, it is possible to make reasonable adjustments so events can be inclusive for all, worth remembering I think.

Mind you, some Santas can be quite terrifying, not the real one I daresay but his body doubles.  Our very own Sheffield runderwear ambassador has espied one this very morning whilst out walking her dogs.  A santa suited man doing multiple drive-bys of a particular house – presumably to be a well-timed surprise with a live appearance on Christmas morning, but maybe a ram raider, hard to tell.  Here are some santa-suited runners from today.  If you are still off work, and a bit bored now that your food coma have faded and the needles have fallen from your tree, you could mark them out of ten for your own amusement.  You can use whatever criteria you like, but I suggest approachability; ho ho ho quotient; authenticity of outfit; contemporary interpretation of outfit; vividness of red; quality of trim/ facial hair.  Note, points should be deducted for any real fur, there is no need in this day and age, really not.  Did you know nowadays even faux fur might be real?  The irony that as real fur becomes unacceptable, it is sold as fake, fake news indeed.

Before the running though, the briefing.  And the barking.  There were some very excited hounds at this parkrun.  It helped build the excitement as they were gathered at the back, beside themselves with eager anticipation, just like the rest of us.  It was grand to see lily the wonder dog again, first sighting of her this year by me I think, though of course she is a regular fixture at Graves parkrun.  Our paths just haven’t crossed for some reason. Grand to see her out and about, again, I like that she never disappoints in her choice of outfits, and can be relied upon to dress appropriately for any and every occasion:

At the RD briefing, we also learned that two amongst us had pulled off an impressive double whammy, having perfectly timed their running rendezvous to ensure they both marked their 250 milestones on Christmas Day. Brilliant. Just a shame that all Christmases from hereonin will be somewhat anticlimactic.  Oh well. Still good job, well done Craig and Claire, I did applaud you, but honestly, not quite sure who you were.  Bravo though, and good luck with topping that next year….  Still, you’ve got time to plan I suppose. Maybe Lapland will have launched a new parkrun somewhere by then, so you could take a husky ride to the start of that.  Just a thought.  You’re welcome.  Lapland is the largest and most northern part of Finland by the way, in case you were wondering if it was a real or fictitious place.  Reindeer are real not fictitious as well.  One Christmas, when I was away traveling I was sharing tales of native traditions with both a Finnish and an American fellow nomad.  The Finn explained that reindeer is commonly eaten in Finland, less so than in the past, but definitely widely available.  I thought our poor American friend was going to implode.  She definitely went into existential meltdown.  For her this revelation encapsulated a moment of both complete joy and utter despair.  Joy because she’d previously thought reindeer were mythical creatures only to discover in the same breath that people willingly tucked into them as their primary protein source.  Just another smorgasbord opportunity, not a creature to be treasured at all.  We never discussed the flying ability of reindeers, mind you.  You might think it impossible, but then again, we were once told it’s impossible for bumble bees to fly, despite the evidence to the contrary.  Don’t think they can run though, so that’s a shame for the Bee team taking on Smiletastic in 2018… as part of the Smiley Paces running challenge to kick off the year.  In any event, I think we all know reindeers can definitely fly – better than most turkeys, which is why Santa has come to rely on them as a sustainable form of transport as well as a handy snack to act as a savoury antidote to all those mince pies and glasses of sherry.  Jerk reindeer anyone?

Anyway, back to empathy for Americans (stay with me dear reader) – can you imagine that, finding out that reindeer are both real and a legitimate food stuff on the same day!  It would be like finding out they eat dragons alongside the lava bread for breakfast in Wales, or that minced Nessie meat is a key component of haggis on the banks of Loch Ness.  Which I don’t think they do…  More a burger staple.  What is it with having live animals celebrating and endorsing the consumption of their own kind by the way?  Never understood that.  Does Babe appear on sausage packs?  Mostly nope, but bet his relatives do.  Sad but true.

nessy burgers

Fortunately, although we in Sheffield know unicorns are real (ref Round Sheffield Run route – look out for them particularly in the Whitely woods and Ecclesall Woods sections), as fas as I’m aware people haven’t identified them as a legitimate food source just yet.  Just as well, it’s not a thing to be done at all.

So after the appreciation by way of applause, we were off, to the baying of hounds bringing up the rear.  They were raring to go, it helped build the anticipation.  We must have been a festive sight, charging off into the park, following the tarmac road with the instruction ‘if in doubt, keep right’ ringing in our ears.  The dogs tore off with enthusiasm as you can see

between you and me, my own enthusiasm levels diminished quite rapidly. The thing is, *spoiler alert* it turns out Sophie is really rubbish as a running companion.  What may have seemed like a good idea at the time, was all too soon established to be patently not.  Probably my fault for not having briefed her properly, and also for being too short.  The thing is, well, lots of things actually.  For starters, all those limbs and wings take some co-ordination.  It must be a bit like trying to run a 6-legged two wings race.  I should have guessed this, it was hard enough for Paul and Harry when they did their three-legged walk challenge.  I should have made the connection, but I suppose I thought with the wings we’d be flying round, not hindering one another.

3 counties on 3 legs

We just never seemed to synchronise.   Her hooves kept scraping the top of my trainers and causing them to come undone.   Three times I had to stop to retie my shoes, and that’s harder than you might think  to do with a unicorn strapped round your midriff.  I was in constant fear of a tarmac directed faceplant, the only brake on my fear being the cushioning potential of my companion unicorn. Sort of the yin and yan of a catastrophic incident in the making being potentially both the cause of my falling and the instrument of my protection.  Then her head and neck kept sticking out at a weird angle, making it look broken and giving her a rather sinister appearance.  When her hooves weren’t sabotaging my laces then her legs had an alarming tendency to gravitate between my own legs in a way that not only considerably hampered progress, but gave me the weird sensation of having wet myself, which I don’t think I had. That reminds me though, I wonder whatever happened to the Smiley elder in search of a pee point at the outset?  All the facilities were closed, and she didn’t seem persuaded by my observation that this is why skorts were invented, and also there is a Smiley precedent for just doing what’s necessary without bothering to seek cover or even drop your knickers first.  That story though is for another day…  ‘The post event photos suggest she made it round though, so she must have had some solution presented to her other than the nuclear Paula Radcliffe option.  Personally, as I have a bashful bladder at the best of times, that tactic of last resort would never be available to me.

rh in the red

As if all that kerfuffle wasn’t bad enough, I also felt compelled to hang on to my Santa hat, which frankly was doing its darndest to abandon me.  It wasn’t the most elegant of runs.  Any vision of floating by in a magical mist of unicorn fairy dust (no she isn’t a my little pony) quickly evaporated.  This was a test of endurance, a mental battle, particularly as turns out (I’d forgotten) Concord is a two lap course.

This is the reality of my progress, hanging on to my accessories for grim life, teeth gritted, head bowed into the wind ‘I CAN do this, I WILL do this, parkrun IS FUN’ my mantra of choice as the entire field overtook me and sped ahead.  I gave up any pretence of giving chase to anything.  Watching other runners disappear into the distance.  ‘Oh well, maybe it will be type 2 fun‘, I thought to myself as I staggered onwards.

RH the way ahead

Mustn’t grumble though, Tough Mudder fancy dress options can be even more challenging, I think it was fancy dress, not an actual T-Rex, but then again, I wasn’t there.  They are also very good at fancy dress in Wigan I understand.  Note to self for next year perhaps.

tough mudder trex

On the plus side, there were friendly marshals a-plenty to offer encouragement and support on the way round.  These included those with bells to ring.  A Valley Hill Runner – this is my new favourite club by the way, I mean Barnsley Harriers are all lovely of course, but not in evidence today. However, at Hallam parkrun earlier in the week one of the VHR runners sought me out and explained the password that would have got me a free pass into the Valley Hill Runners tent at the XC course when I was lost and lonely and afeared because I couldn’t find my club anywhere.  Apparently, they’d have fed me buns, and offered moral support too, so I need never be alone at a XC event again if I can’t find my own club gazebo for whatever reason.  Isn’t that nice?  Anyways, one of the VHR crew was marshaling, albeit disguised in a santa suit, grand to have new friends.  The VHR had also written motivational slogans in chalk on parts of the route.  I parasitized some of them to help me round, no harm in that surely, I doubt they’d have begrudged me such succour in my hour of need.

As I trudged along towards the back, other marshals cheered me on.  One near to the railings at the start had a dog with her. This dog took extreme exception to Sophie for some reason.  The same thing happened at her inaugural outing at Graves Junior parkrun’s first birthday bash.  She seems to have something of a Marmite effect on those who come across her.  The marshal was a bit apologetic and embarrassed, but I have to concede, same thing happened again as I was walking home through the streets of Nether Edge later.  Another dog went into a frenzy of barking and straining at the leash to get at me the entire time I was within his sight – and that was from the opposite side of the road.  This is another reason why I think running with a unicorn is a lot nicer as a fantasy than as a reality.  The constant fear of being hunted down stalks you.

There were some bright moments, the en route selfie with my Hallam buddies (also never to be seen again, maybe they are saving it to capitalise on at a later date if I ever become famous or infamous. They can sell it to the highest bidder, legitimising their claim that they were with me at the beginning when it all started, before going on to the established go to script about ‘well, she mostly kept herself to herself‘ etc.  I can’t begrudge them that opportunity.

There was also a Christmas Day volunteer photographer, snapping us in all our glory, he managed to make me look magical at least.  A unicorn, for christmas, what more could one want – a think of beauty indeed! (Her not me).

rh a unicorn is a thing of beauty

Well actually, what more you could want would be a bike.  Another traditional christmas gift.  This parkrunner was so excited at getting one, he couldn’t wait til after parkrun to try it out.  Which is why it’s so very important to respect the right of everyone to participate in parkrun in their own way.

rh bike for christmas

There were festive costumes and smiles a-plenty.  I got to see some of these as the faster runners looped back whilst I was still running out. There were even a few friendly high-five exchanges to be had, some shared a bit more self-consciously than others, and there may have been at least one swerve away, like when you go in for a hug and realise you shouldn’t and have to pretend you were heading somewhere else entirely.  There was plenty of family fun and buggy runners too.  Cue a little slide show I think, you can check out your own favourite ‘aaaw‘ moments, spot those holding out for type two fun, the ‘oh yes we are having fun yet’ parkrunners as well as the deeley bopper challengers. You may even see some flying feet if you are particularly observant. 🙂

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Because I was distracted by my unicorn, it was only looking at the photos later that I realised I missed spotting this fancy dress offering on the day. Total respect:

RH how did I miss this

And we had a few naysayers too, also seasonally apt.  No Christmas would be complete without the bah humbug contingency after all:

Finally, finally I made it round.  By mutual agreement I think it’s safe to say Sophie and I wont be running together again.  I’m glad we did it once, but hey ho – or ho ho ho as is more traditional at this time of year – there is no need to repeat the indignity and peril of the occasion in future.

The marshals were still in good voice, and there was no queue for the scanners.  The runderwear ambassador ahead of me commiserated with the unicorns flying legs issue. If only I’d conferred with her in advance she could have warned me of such hazards.  A relative of hers who shall remain nameless but is RD at Hallam, did the Trunce in a fancy dress costume with an elaborate tail one time.  Long story short, it ended up reversing and sprouting up between his legs as he ran, the only way to keep it safe was to hang onto it.  This caused both hilarity and consternation to the runner behind, who every time she thought of overtaking, was confronted with the sight of him clutching an enormous erect phallus, and she was unable to pass.  A potential ‘me too’ moment indeed, were it not for the fact his awkwardness far exceeded her own.  That’s what I love about parkrun we can pool running knowledge and experiences and learn from one another.  If I could just remember what the darned creature was called I’d find a picture of it.  Then again, maybe best not.  Might add it in later…

Edit:  It was a pokemon character, pikachu – you’ll see the issue I think

pikachu pokemon

NEWSFLASH – you want more, I give you the photographic proof:

Sometimes say nothing

Sometimes there are no words…

So a bit more post run mingling.  A cheer for the final finishers, and that was that.  A great way to start Christmas.  Well that’s what I thought, others pointed out that their Christmases had actually started with excited wake up calls at 2.00 a.m. so they were well underway whether they wished to be or not.

Fond farewells, tinsely embraces were exchanged and all back in the car for the journey back to our own stomping ground, so I could have a dog bark ferociously at me on the way home.  So thanks everyone who shared in the parkrun spirit and made the Christmas Day walk/run/jog/ volunteering parkrun possible.  Best part of Christmas for me is this parkrun outing, you get to see all your friends, have a bit of a trot out, and all done and dusted so you can vegetate in front of the TV later on with a cup of tea (ahem) and an easy conscience.   Hurrah!

In the interests of fair reporting,  I should point out that there are of course other sporting events available on this day, though why they would take precedence over a local parkrun I can’t imagine.   Christmas day sea swim at Porthcrawl anyone?  To be fair, I can only assume this crowd go for the swim option as they didn’t know about the Christmas Compendium to find a parkrun on 25th December, because they look like definite parkrun material.  parkrunners working towards triathlons perhaps – or undertaking a searun in the inexplicable absence of a parkrun option locally.  I wonder what time the swim started, maybe some of them did a parkrun first anyway, duathlon option, now that would be grand…  Loving their work though. Most festive.

So there you go, something for everyone,  here’s hoping this parkrun malarkey is a Christmas tradition that endures… so now it’s a question of who’s going to make it to the New Year’s Day Double?  Oooooh the excitement.  I can hardly wait!

Happy running til then dear reader, hope you are having a good one.  If not, at least by now you’ve made it through to the other side, and as long as you have a barcode, all is well with the world, hope reigns.

Oh, and entertain yourself with Harrogate parkrun’s barcode exploits, most festive, and impressive.  I thank you.

Job done.

For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.

For my Christmas related running reports see here.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Who says parkrun’s a turkey? Sheffield Hallam parkrun pre-christmas dash, in all it’s glory.

Digested read: twas the parkrun before Christmas, and at Sheffield Hallam parkrun the first finisher was most definitely a turkey of a runner.  I tried to inculcate the joy of parkrun into an Australian visitor, it didnt work.  Oh well, we have to respect the right of everyone to participate (or not) in parkrun in their own way.  Ho ho ho everyone.  My those turkeys can move.

Every turkey has its day.  To be honest, whilst I can’t really speak for all turkeys, I’m going to take a wild punt and put it out there that they probably prefer that their day isn’t Christmas day, because I’m inclined to think they like to take centre stage in a different sense.  Today, dear reader, The Sheffield Hallam parkrun was led out by a complete turkey of a runner, it was quite something to behold. Eyes a bulging, it fair shot round.  Anyone would think it was trying to run away from something.  They can run pretty fast, wild ones can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour apparently, so maybe it was hardly a surprise this turkey was first finisher, having maintained it’s pacing throughout. This is my new favourite parkrun photo of all time by the way Mr Carman, you got that turkey legs of the ground and right in amongst the elite athletes from the start.  Job done. No-one else had a chance with a flying start like this really did they.

turkey leading by a head!

They can fly quite fast too, if the internet is to believed.  55 mph.  This might account for why Father Christmas did give them a go in an early prototype of his sleigh, but I guess ungrateful people kept nipping out and stealing them for their Christmas tables whilst he was otherwise engaged down a chimney somewhere dropping off presents on Christmas Eve. Something like that. Anyway, he ended up with just the two, and it just wasn’t sustainable, loads of kids didn’t get their presents, people complained, that kind of thing, so he went with the reindeers instead in the end.  Reindeers know how to handle themselves a bit better too I guess.  Big antlers, that sort of thing.  Point is, you tend to see turkeys trussed up rather than running free at Christmas these days, which is why it was a novelty to witness one in motion at Endcliffe Park.

wild turkeys pulling santa

This all goes to show that just when I think I have exhausted parkrun in general, and Sheffield Hallam parkrun in particular as a possible source of new material to write about, I learn something new.  I suppose it should come as no surprise to find that turkeys are on the run pre-christmas, it is after all the last chance these sensitive intelligent creatures have to make a final bid for freedom – but I didn’t previously appreciate that a ‘turkey run’ is quite such an actual thing. Albeit in America, and we don’t want to rush to embrace everything that comes from over there now do we?  Did you know turkeys appreciate music too by the way.  That’s why turkey whisperer is an actual job, trust me, I’m a qualified careers adviser, I know about these things.  Plus it was in The Guardian, so that clinches it.

turkey whisperer

Whereas turkeys show their appreciation of music by clustering around and joining in.  parkrunners show their appreciation a bit differently, by running on by. We did all like it a lot though.  Live music at our pre-Christmas Sheffield Hallam parkrun has become something of a tradition in recent years, and even though we ran past rather than gathered around the musical trio, it was rather lovely.  Oooh, spot the santa dashing round the back…  Most festive.  Kudos to these young musicians for turning out on a Saturday morning to perform as well.  I doubt I’d have been community minded enough to volunteer for that back in the day. Not that anyone would have wanted me to do so, as I never really got beyond a most pitiful rendition of  ‘Go and tell Aunt Nancy‘ on the descant recorder, which I concede would be a bit of a limited repertoire for an impromptu al fresco Christmas concert of even the most modest expectations…  This trio on the other hand, had a long play list of seasonal carols.  Impressive!  Thanks guys 🙂

christmas music trio

Where was I? Oh yes, turkeys running.  Well, according to the online urban dictionary (USA based) , so it must be true:

A turkey run is a very long run in a team until the whole team pukes. It is done before or after Christmas dinner

How very charming and festive.  Not.  Alternatively, Wikipedia tells us the Turkey Trot is more of a thanksgiving tradition, with less actual purging of the stomach and more with having a run to burn off some calories with the winner traditionally getting the prize of a frozen turkey. Think Percy Pud but with celebration of mass slaughter of turkeys as the focus of the occasion rather than the acquisition of a Christmas pudding. Confusingly though, some turkey trots are runs of actual turkeys, as opposed to people dressed up as them.  I suppose on reflection, that shouldn’t be confusing, since in the former case the descriptor is rather more literal and accurate than in the latter, but as a parkrun regular, I’m more familiar with the concept of people running around wearing random fancy dress for the most flimsy of reasons or none at all, so would lean towards expecting the latter.  Food for thought isn’t it? Working out what a turkey trot is, and actual food for you non-veggies out there too as well perhaps.

 

 

The point is, 23rd December was the last official parkrun before Christmas Day.  Whilst there are some Christmas Day parkruns available, for us Sheffield Hallam parkrun regulars, this was last chance saloon for a festive trot out on our home course.  A case of dusting down the santa suits, digging out the tinsel and generally getting in the Christmas groove according to seasonal requirements.  I suppose it was inevitable turkeys would be playing a most active part too.

Naturally, I was quite excited.  This Saturday promised all sorts of jolliness.  Not only festive fancy dress, but parkrunners celebrating milestones.  Specifically, our very own runderwear ambassador was running her 250th parkrun, either that or getting married.  Possibly both.  They look a lovely couple in the photo don’t they.  Congratulations, either way…

milestone lovely couple

Adding to my excited anticipation, I had brought with me a guest from Australia.  I was looking forward to seeing the smile on her face as I introduced her to the parkrun magic.  After all, fancy dress, musicians, parkrun, post parkrun breakfast,  the beauty of Endcliffe park, all my favourite people in the world gathered in one spot. She would be bowled over by the inherent wowiness of it all, her life would never be the same again. How lucky was she never to have been to parkrun before because she was about to do the parkrun equivalent of stepping through the back of wardrobe and entering Narnia.  How would she ever be able to thank me… and yet I wouldn’t need to be thanked, because welcoming a new participant into the fold is absolutely its own reward.  What could possibly go wrong?

We set off, armed with a box of Christmas Crackers, because you never know when they might come in handy on an outing to parkrun in December.  I was wearing my seasonally appropriate santa skirt (still not sure which way round it should go, bow at the front of bow at the back?) and my santa hat, which turned out to be a bit of a fashion fail to be honest, but more of that later.  With the benefit of hindsight, I was maybe a bit wide-eyed and naive to assume that everyone exposed to parkrun will instantly fall for its many and manifest charms, and to fail to pick up on the signals that my house guest was a case in point.  The early clues were her  disbelief that we’d have to walk to the park in the first place, coupled with apparently, not wanting to be seen walking with me whilst I was wearing a Santa hat.  I mean, I completely get the not wishing to be seen in public with me part of that equation, many would agree, but due to the presence of a mere smattering of festive fancy dress, that’s never a good sign.  Also, on reflection, the request that we buy a newspaper en route so she’d have something to do whilst we were all running now I come to think of it…. well, I didn’t need to be Miss Marple did I? Still,  I always get a Saturday Guardian anyway, so complied, and on arrival, positioned her outside the cafe, with instructions to watch us from the bench, and do the clapping and supporting from up there where she would have a grand view and it would be loads of fun.  You couldn’t not get caught up in the all-consuming joy that is parkrun from that vantage point could you?  Super fun would be guaranteed, more than most people can rightly cope with –  or your money back, as is the parkrun way.

start milling around

I skipped over to my parkrun family, excitedly demanding they all cheer her with a rousing greeting of ‘Merry Christmas‘, ‘ho ho ho‘, ‘bah humbug‘ or whatever, as they sped past.  Who could not be won over by such a welcome.  I love my parkrun friends, they are up for such community minded initiatives.  How splendid is that!  All that is best about humanity can be found milling about in a park pre parkruns all over the earth.  Joy to the world indeed.  One reindeer came across from Longshaw especially to take part.  Isn’t that splendid!

 

It was great milling about in the park.  Lots of festive cheer was in evidence.  Our reindeerector was co-ordinating it all with her usual aplomb, if a lack of reindeer accessorizing – still, she has a pass because she was being busy and important, plus others had pushed out the boat, and reindeerector is a very good pun, so that has to count for something.  There was an actual reindeer present too, so that was pretty impressive.  No idea where he put his barcode though.  That’s the problem with running in your birthday suit.  It’s hard enough to find official running clothes with a reasonably sized pocket in, bare skin running is another level of challenge altogether when it comes to secreting your tag, and don’t get me started on what do you do with the house keys!

 

 

Many were rocking festive Santa themed looks, some with more obviously visible outward manifestations of yuletide joy and goodwill to all than others.  I couldn’t help harbouring the thought that one or two must have been of the view that donning the costume slash hat was more than enough to show willing, and they couldn’t reasonably be expected to don a broad smile as well.  I almost prefer the grumpy santas sometimes.  The embodiment of the complexity of the Christmas spirit. Plus, the real one must have been feeling quite stressed.  Those of you who just have to get presents for just the secret santa at work and feel traumatized should spare a thought for the guy that has to visit every child in the world and what’s more, is now live tracked doing it.  I like strava I know.  but that’s for my personal use.  For poor Mr Claus, being tracked on his ultra route would I think add to the stress, it would be no wonder if he was looking a bit grumpy.  See if you can spot him in the smorgasboard of delightful shots that follow…  Some went for the whole his and hers combos.  Admittedly, possibly just by being snapped whist inadvertently running alongside a fellow santa during the run, but I choose to believe at least some couples did the long walk down in their matching outfits.

 

 

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It was great to see lots of santas out and about, but it did make it hard to identify which was the real one.  I know he would have been there somewhere, because

a) it makes sense to hide in plain sight some time and

b) Santa seems a generally cool dude, generous in nature and likely to be predisposed to embracing the parkrun spirit

I still like to think he would have been one of the grumpy looking ones though.  Needs to save his cheeriness for his big day.

Hi-viz heroes were out in force, though not as much force as the RD would have liked.   Still plenty of scope to volunteer people, send a message via the Sheffield Hallam parkrun Facebook page, or email  SheffieldHallamhelpers@parkrun.com ‘go on, go on, go on, go on, go on’, as Mrs Doyle would say.

go on

You wouldn’t want to disappoint her.  Plus, it is a lot of fun.  Also, volunteering is completely compatible with fancy dress, which I appreciate might be your main consideration.

 

 

So there was pre-christmas cheer, and exchange of season’s greetings, and expressions of joy at milestones (about to be) achieved and applause for our hi-viz volunteers who make it all possible.

All in all, it was looking to be another fine parkrunday.  Hurrah.  No wonder so many of us choose to bow down and worship at the temple which is the parkrun start line.  Well, one person did anyway.  That’s how lots of movements start, with just one person, making a public gesture, standing up – or kneeling down, to be counted.  Might go viral,  sort of like that iconic shot of the student in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square, but with marvelous rather than catastrophic consequences for all present.

 

 

This woman was pretty awesome in 2017 too though, was she not? In case you can’t remember because there have been so many horrors since, it was the moment when during an English Defence League protest in Birmingham, activist Saffiyah Khan faced down protestor Ian Crossland.  That’s courage, and inspirational, right there.

making a stand against edl

The start line was assembled

 

and the cry went up for off.  We all trotted round our mini circuit and then spread out heading towards the cafe…  I thought I’d burst such was my anticipatory excitement as I imagined my Antipodean friend on the receiving end of a multitude of season’s greetings!

running by

Except when I got there, she wasn’t.  Having nipped into the cafe for a cup of tea and a slice of cake when she’d imagined we were safely underway and would be none the wiser she had so absented herself.  Some cheerily cried out to other unsuspecting and slightly bemused coffee drinkers, others, not unreasonably, abandoned their task.  Shame.  Oh well, I suppose it demonstrates that some people are apparently immune to the charms of parkrun.  Whether that is because they have some sort of genetic abnormality, or whether it is because I am now so inculcated into the cult myself I am no longer able to view parkrun with any degree of objectivity I’m not sure.  I do acknowledge that I freely clap on command at all the RD briefings even when I can’t hear a word of what’s being said and yet I unquestioningly follow their directives.  That might be seen as a slippery slope.  Quizzed later about why she couldn’t embrace it she was able to give quite a full explanation which boiled down to the following key points:

  1. It’s completely pointless
  2. It involves running, and I hate running
  3. It’s outside and cold (by Australian standards)
  4. You wear stupid outfits which is embarrassing to watch and would be mortifying to actually put on
  5. You don’t even have a proper timing mat
  6. I could have had a lie in
  7. Why would anyone want to watch other people run round, some of them aren’t even very good runners
  8. Who wants to hang out with other people in their community
  9. You’ve made me come down before breakfast
  10. I don’t even understand why we are here

The thing is, these observations are hard to rebuff in that she’s sort of encapsulated quite a few of the key features of the enterprise. Also, if I’m honest, before I tried it, I’d perhaps have come up with a similar list – with the additional one of ‘and I’ll look ridiculous in lycra’ so I can’t be too judgemental I guess it just wasn’t to be.  If we are to follow the parkrun code and respect everyone’s right to participate in it in their own way, then I suppose that has to include the right not to participate at all. Oh well.  Maybe she’ll find out it was type two fun later on.  Look back on it all nostalgically and register for one of the Sydney parkruns on the quiet.

Meantime, here are lots of the pre-christmas runners enjoying parkrun in their own way.   So respect people, show respect!

 

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Mr Carman was on fire today to be honest, because there are even more fabulous photos I can’t bear to omit, here are some favourites:

What happens behind the bush, stays behind the bush:

what happens behind the bush stays behind the bush

and the deeley bopper award goes to (though like my santa skirt, I’m not 100% sure they are facing the usual way, but at parkrun we respect everyone’s choices, always, don’t we, even when they are erm, wrong – unless they are four-headed reindeer of course, mutants, and that would be a new level of wrongness altogether. Messes with my head quite frankly.):

favourite deeley bopper

And me running, in my own inimitable way.  I am trying to think of myself running (and life) wise as work in progress. After all, you have to learn to do a thing badly, before you can learn to do it well. I’m working towards being part of the running elite.  My bizarre expression is purely to put you off the scent.  Bow at the front here.  I had it at the back for the Percy Pud.  Still not sure which is conventionally ‘correct’.  I also have no idea at all why I am pulling that face, I’m sure I had my own reasons though.   Probably personal.

bizarre festive expression

So we trotted around, and fun was had and milestones were reached.  How exciting is that.  250 runs.  And not even the first one to do so. A huuuuuuuuuuuuuge cheer went up as this parkrun stalwart sprinted across the line.

 

It was all very emotional.

Oh, and back to the turkeys, some great shots of them in action too.

 

The only thing is.  Oh, I don’t know if I should say.  It feels a bit petty and unseasonal, but then again, the truth will out.  … It’s just that, well, oh gawd, should I say it… I thought there was only one turkey allowed at Sheffield Hallam in perpetuity, and this was it.  The trouble is, you see someone sporting a look like that and it catches on, suddenly turkeys are all the rage at Christmas, but we need to remember where it all started.  I don’t want to cause dissent but I’ll not say too much more – other than to note some of us were there at the inaugural appearance of the turkey at parkrun, and let’s just acknowledge what was seen then, can never be unseen.  I’ll say no more.

one turkey is enough

So finally, run over, and I was reunited with running buddies in general and my Antipodean guest in particular. Naturally, we had to capture the occasion with more photos.  Because that’s what you do isn’t it, and also we are all spectacularly photogenic:

 

Though this is the shot of the day I feel, share in the joy:

Yay smile for parkrun

So that was that, photos taken, congratulations passed on to milestone runners, next stop Jonty’s for breakfast.  Turns out, that one perk of watching parkrun, is that running in a santa hat has a catastrophic effect on a runner’s hair styling options. This is hilarious, and might even partly balance out the horror of all the bad things about parkrun as a saturday activity for visiting Australians.  For my part, and yes dear reader, it was my own hair that was so spectacularly rearranged, well, fortunately I feel that on removal of my santa hat the comedic value outweighed the personal humiliation of my static-induced bouffant hairdo.  It could have been worse.  The Chitty Chitty Bang Bang hair cutting machine might have led to less reversible hair styling options.

santa hat hair

Also, we had crackers, they were fun.  Instant party, and we got a table at Jonty’s which is an incredibly rare occurence these days, so the Christmas countdown was looking good.  How festive were we?  That’s not even a rhetorical question dear reader, you can see for yourself, we were precisely this festive:

 

Ho ho ho!

So there you go.  A turkey ran at Sheffield Hallam and was first finisher. It’s a run not a race so not a winner as such, obviously … What could be more seasonally appropriate. Even better,  there was still Christmas Day parkrun at Concord to come. But you know what parkrun is for life, not just for Christmas, so whether you make/made it here on 25th December or not, it’ll still be there for you when you are next ready.  How lucky we are.  Gawd bless us, parkrunners every one!

For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sharing parkrun niceyness despite the icyness… Sheffield Hallam parkrun

Digested Read: Running isn’t really happening for me at the moment, plus no internet for months now, I’m not a happy bunny.  Fortunately, we still have parkrun. Share the lurve parkrun people in general and Sheffield Hallam parkrun personages in particular, and all will be well with the world. Ho ho ho etc.  parkrun remains the ultimate mood enhancer.  I went yesterday, and I feel less grumpy now, for which I thank you all.

I can’t lie, I’m definitely Ms Grumpy Knickers today. Mostly first world problems granted, but I’m feeling vaguely traumatized on a number of fronts, specifically running related and internet connectivity.  Running related because I’ve hardly been running lately, partly due to overwhelming business, and partly because I’ve got this annoying ‘niggle’ that I am reluctantly having to concede has been going on long enough that it constitutes an actual injury, and requires some sort of positive intervention over and above ignoring it and hoping it will go away. Running injuries are a bit like Christmas in that respect, sooner or later, you have to bow to the inevitable, there’s no avoiding either altogether, eventually they will punch through your defences of pointless denial and launch into your actual reality… Then on top of this startling realisation, recent icy weather is also massively impeding running play.  Did you know that yesterday saw a record number of cancellations for parkrun due to ice?  We missed out on parkrun last week.  Running is most definitely being restricted because of the cold.   Case in point just today.  Granted, I’d inadvertently double booked myself and so was always going to have to miss out on something, and also strictly speaking shouldn’t be running anyway because it hurts, but today both the Longshaw Tinsel 10k (part of the Trust 10 series)  AND Graves Junior parkrun were cancelled due to ice.  All that effort that went into organising these things and then the elements conspired against us.  Runners everywhere are feeling frustrated and thwarted, myself included. Technically I was even triple booked as I was at one point supposed to be doing XC  too, but I’d already bowed out of that because that environment is a bit more competitive and even I knew my knee wouldn’t hold out for that.  Ironically, the XC went ahead apparently, though to a depleted number of hard-core participants.  Go you though team TNT, awesome effort!  Special congratulations to the brave individual who sported shorts, and to the catering manager for the ameretto and mince pie combo, which is way better than the mince pies and lemsip option which I understand was also under consideration.  Are bikes allowed now at XC?  Must check that if I venture out again next year, that could be a game changer… also, nice head wear everyone.  Bravo!

tnt XC triumph

Anyways, I am digressing, back to case in point…

It certainly looks lovely out there though… (photos shamelessly taken from Longshaw Estate Facebook page)

Totally the right call by organisers, but it is disappointing.  What’s the point of snow if you can’t go out cavorting in it?  Having said that, have you seen this?  Best cancellation notice EVER in the history of running, by Perth junior parkrun ice manager (niche volunteer role granted) click on the link and marvel.  Why the running but not moving on the ice demo has not yet gone viral I simply can’t imagine!

perth junio parkrun

Frustratingly, other more intrepid runners are posting glorious photos of scampering about in the peaks, but the ice on my hilly road leaves me too scared to venture out and about. It’s not so much yaktrax I need as an actual yak.

yak

This is a particular dilemma for the following reasons:

  1. I don’t generally approve of keeping animals in captivity
  2. Even if I did, I don’t know how to look after yaks properly
  3. Even if i did and did, I don’t know where to source them from
  4. Even if I did, and I did and I do, you still should never, ever buy an animal at Christmas.  Animals are for life not just for Winterval and internet memes.  Apparently.

As if all these hardships weren’t enough troubles to weigh me down, I’ve been without internet for weeks now due to ‘supplier error’.  This wouldn’t be so bad, if it were not for the fact that there is no prospect of getting connected before new year. There’s only so much connectivity that can occur with a Vodaphone Dongle. If anything, being in possession of said dongle has only increased my frustration as it wafts the tantalising but elusive hope before me that if I can but find the sweet spot in my dwelling for a micro-second I might just get online.  It’s like trying to grab the end of a rainbow, only less compelling as a theme for fairy stories, and significantly less picturesque – well as far as I know, not honestly checked it out, but I can speculate as well as the next woman, and this is where my research has led me to date …. I don’t need  a survey monkey dataset to validate my instincts on this one surely?

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Without internet I have lost the ability to communicate with my running buddies and check out running related anecdotes so even if not actually running, I could live my running life vicariously through the exploits of others.  I can only tell myself a digital detox was long overdue for so long, 6 weeks and counting is too long.  This story does not wash.

What could I do?

Well, for those of you who are interested in emulating my personal Customised Reallyrubbishnotrunning Action Plan I can tell you so far my strategy has comprised the following:  I’ve done a bit of wallowing in self-pity.  Not terribly effective truth to tell, but then again, that packet of digestive biscuits wasn’t ever going to eat itself and lt’s face it, a mug of tea solves most problems.  Particularly Yorkshire tea.  Are there other teas available?  I suppose there must be…  However, nothing can be as fine as the tea from the plantations of Sheffield surely?

drink tea

Then yesterday, I decided to go to parkrun anyway, because I’ve finally got around to making an appointment to see a physio on Monday (tomorrow), so I figured I might as well see if parkrun does properly break me as if not, that’s fab, and if it does, then at least the physio will have something to treat.  I know, I know, but since when has an injured runner ever listened to any ‘sensible’ advice.  How do I know if I’m hurt or not if I don’t keep checking?

Honestly, given how cold and icy it’s been I wasn’t even that confident Sheffield Hallam parkrun would happen.  Last week lots of Sheffield parkruns were cancelled, and even yesterday Graves was cancelled.  It didn’t look tooooooooo bad when I headed out, but my there was a nip in the air. I wonder if we call it a ‘nip in the air’ because of what it does to your nipples?  I’ve never thought about that before, which is surprising given the ability of my mind to wander in unexpected directions at times.  Mine were, erm,  well let’s just say, signalling that they were most definitely very well aware of the cold, and communicating it quite markedly, pointedly even.  This is not just a ‘me’ thing I hope, or my reader will think this very weird.  Sorry (ish), but then again, the truth will out, just as my.. no enough now.

I wore road shoes, as if my London marathon attempt is to be anything other than hypothetical I need to start getting used to them. This was my first miscalculation of the morning, as it was way more slippery than I’d imagined.  If I’d allowed myself a bit more time, and quite frankly if I could have been arsed, I might have turned back and changed into trail shoes, but that would have meant lugging my weary carcass up a steep hill, and well, you know, might be OK.  If it’s that icy we wont have to run anyway, just go for brunch instead, that wouldn’t be so terrible surely..

I arrived at Sheffield Hallam parkrun  a bit later than usual.  Pink flags were a-flying and runners a-running and no doubt lords a-leaping someplace somewhere too.  One at least was in Endcliffe Park – not sure where his nine buddies were, but then again, maybe he was just practising ahead of time, it’s not the tenth day of Christmas yet…

GC high fliers

He looks quite chuffed with his technique there, and so he should, but his minders behind maybe need to work on their ‘I’m honestly really impressed’ faces in my unsolicited opinion.

parkrun was happening.  No sneaky breakfast without running first then.  You can tell I’m conflicted.  On the one hand I’m massively frustrated about not being able to run, on the other, running is painful at the moment, so if parkrun is cancelled I feel that’s a legitimate reason not to run, and breakfast sans run is permitted, so I’m still part of the parkrun gang and not missing out on anything.  But if it’s on, well rude not to run isn’t it, so parkrun then brunch it is, but my it hurts…  I was a bit later than usual, so less time for meeting and greeting than usual. There was a noticeably small (but perfectly formed) field, and a veritable army of volunteers.  There was also some ice. Uh oh. Right at the start in an area we run across three times. How would this work?

Well dear reader, our Run Directors have massively advanced problem solving skills it seems.  I think some of them may have evolved to use parts of the brain that most humans never activate, because some inventive trouble shooting was speedily put into place.  For starters (pun intended), instead of starting on the skiddy tarmac, the start funnel was shifted onto the frosty, crunchy grass, and then – and this was sheer genius quite honestly – our hi-viz heroes formed a guard of honour to cheer us off and steer us away from the section of ice that might otherwise have thwarted play.  To be fair, we use the human tunnel technique quite a lot at junior parkrun in a (misguided) attempt to direct junior runners, but mostly they just run into us or ignore our best efforts in joyful anarchy.    Look at this though.  Impressive!

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Putting themselves in harm’s way for the greater good (and 1/25 of a T-shirt and some D of E credits maybe).  Courage indeed.  They stayed in position to keep us the right side of the ice as we came back towards them.  Great team work, and effective too, not a single runner toppled that I saw.  I did see a youngster nearly veer into the pond at one point, but that seemed to be a steering rather than ice issue, I think they were able to swerve away in time.

I was noisily whingeing worried about my knee/ calf/ shins/ miscellaneous unfitness to run so slotted in even more towards the back than usual.  I broke my usual rule of not talking and running, and ended up in a companionable yomp with my Dig Deep running buddy.  To avoid any suspicion that this talking and running malarkey will ever become a regular occurence, I made sure I looked especially joyless in the parkrun photos that captured the occasion.  I don’t generally like to brag, but it would be false modesty to pretend I’d not completely nailed the ‘oozing air of hostility’ expression whilst running here don’t you agree?  (Good luck with working out which of those negatives cancel one another out grammar police, think of it as my Winterval quiz challenge for you to enjoy on Boxing day, after your long run).

GC grumpy knickers

You should not be deterred from parkrun by my outward appearance of grumpiness.  Sheffield Hallam parkrunners are in fact mostly joyful.  Not even just because it’s Christmas, but pretty much all the time. Here are some especially joyful ones by way of illustration:

You see, this is the thing.  You can’t be at parkrun and not share in the collective lurve.  I have been suffering from some serious grumpiness of late, but not only did parkrun lift my mood, when I finally managed to get some internet access to look at the photos from yesterday I was reminded with new vigour how completely brilliant this Saturday ritual is.  The photos really do tell a story about how fabulous the event is, and all who contribute to it as participants, spectators, whatever.  Some runners even added to the festive frolics with appropriate accessorizing. Rocking stylish headgear with considerable aplomb.

I also had stylish headgear, but alas never got the memo about needing to rock it with considerable aplomb, probably because it was sent by email, and my internet is STILL NOT WORKING.  I just stuck with a slightly pained expression instead.

not rocking headgear

Cynicism and unflattering photo shoots aside, parkrun is a marvel though.  When you look back at all the photos of our Sheffield Hallam regulars storming round in the freezing cold with huge smiles to complement their goose bumps it is pretty impressive. The phenomenon that is parkrun brings joy not just for Christmas, but year round, though clearly many will enjoy consulting the Christmas Compendium for their sneaky extra winterval parkrun fixes.  Those pitiful parkrunners who find themselves the sole parkrun passionista in their households will be hoping for the ultimate Christmas Gift from Santa this year in the form of a parkrun pass – hope they’ve been good:

parkrun pass

As always, everyone was free to participate in their own way, some taking on a quick sprint challenge, some companionably yomping, others finding parkrun is a manifestation of a dog’s life, but in a good way.   A few people were still basking in the afterglow of a succesful 2017 Percy Pud, sporting the trophy Tee-shirts, which have no doubt been worn continuously since the event as who would want such a garment wrenched from them in an untimely fashion when it was good to go another week or so at least?  I salute you all, co-conspirators; sprint finishers; leading the throngers; Percy Puddingers; unconvincingly camera-shyers and milestone celebrants.

Even Queen Victoria was amused, though sadly she was cut a bit out of shot in this image, but I promise you she was nigh on doubled up with merry laughter, so caught up was she in the infectious joy of being present at a parkrun event.  That’s why these two are laughing cheerily, just been sharing a merry joke with her I expect, as you do.

GC even vic would be amused by parkrun

Takes all sorts parkrun, and you know what, running at its best can pump out those endorphins to the point we can all feel magnificent and invincible.  Think that’s what’ happening here.  Spreading the joy people, we can all be part of this, walk, run, jog, volunteer, but just be there and marvel and life can feel great for a bit at least.

Point of information, I don’t actually look like this when I run (see evidence above, sadly) if we are honest, most of us don’t, and not only because of gender differences.  But the point is, sometimes you can feel like this, it’s all that positive affirmation from volunteers, the collective coming together, the being out on a glorious day.  It’s always worth it.  Always, even on the not so great days or days where there is less festive accessorizing and more rain.

GC santa dash

Yesterday though, we even had bad yuletide punning.  Life surely doesn’t get much better than that!

GC tree amigos

Mind you, only just realised, no actual Christmas Trees in the shot.  I’m hoping they’ve sold out, and aren’t just going to keep on felling the few trees Amey havent already lopped down and try to palm* those off on their unsuspecting public… (*see what I did there?  I know, genius – wood you credit it).

So, despite everything, despite my lack of running at the minute, and other complications in life, parkrun is still something that can put a smile on my face.  I’m so grateful to have stumbled across it, and feel incredibly lucky to be in Sheffield where we have a veritable plethora of runs to choose from and dedicated teams who do all they can to ‘make it so’ even in unpromising conditions.  Yay to the volunteers – always room for a few more of course, just contact the relevant parkrun team by email and you too could gain the glory of hi-viz and maybe one day graduate to a clipboard or scanner – even stopwatch if you have the nerve to operate one and at least one opposable thumb.

GC volunteers important huddle

So just one more parkrun to go before Christmas – two if you factor in junior parkruns on Christmas Eve which are guaranteed to be awesome or your money back as I understand it.  Next week’s at Sheffield Hallam is bound to be a Christmas Corker.  Hope to see you all there, doing your own thing, in your own way, because that’s all that’s needed for the awesomeness to continue.

Share the joy people, seeing as how it’s Christmas (nearly).  Let’s take a moment to remember how blooming brilliant parkrun is, lest we come to take it for granted.  Just think, there are already people in the world running at junior parkrun who have never known a world without parkrun to take part in.  Isn’t that amazing, to the next generation a world without parkrun will be as incomprehensible as a world without mobile phones ‘but how did you all manage?’ to which surely the honest to goodness truthful response has to be ‘I have no idea.  It was a dark and dismal time and place, but we knew no better’.

I suppose it must have been an unknown unknown, and we were all the poorer for it.

Ho ho ho everyone.  Yuletide felicitations too.

GC something in my eye

You’re welcome.

For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.

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

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmasss. Percy Pud 2017.

Percy pud 2017

Digested read:  has to be done.  Percy Pud 2017, nearly bottled it, then found out about the commemorative 25th anniversary T-shirt so as I’m shallow that was me back in.  Was quietly dreading the freezing start and drudgery of an icy road, but you know what, it was fab.u.lous.  Of course it was, it always is.   With it, the countdown for a Sheffield Christmas was properly underway, ready or not, it’s started.   You might as well try to hold back the tide, way better to just go with the flow.  Bravo all.  Same time next year?

Whether we choose to embrace them or not, the Winterval weeks are all about traditions.   Whether that is the relatively innocuous tradition of being required to don a festive Christmas jumper at work ‘because it’s for charity and you don’t want to be wearing the Scrooge placard for the rest of the year now do you?’; the more serious one of ending up in A&E on Christmas morning because you dropped a giant musical toblerone on your foot (substitute alternative injury of choice here); the massive family row/meltdown in a crowded, slush-filled supermarket car park because you’ve been clamped/ locked out of the car/ couldn’t buy sprouts because you came too late; the olfactory torture of being stuck in a store whilst a ‘christmas hits’ musak tape is on an 8 minute loop and the queue to the till is looking like a 32 minute one at least,  or the seasonal tyranny of receiving an unexpected Christmas card from someone you’d completely overlooked/ thought you’d agreed not to do cards with this year when you’ve missed the last posting dates to shoot back a retaliatory missive in timely fashion. Curses, the stress of it all.  The very thought of it is enough to make you implode.  Still, has to be done.  As sure as night follows day, some or all of the above will feature in your yuletide goings on.

Mind you, the primary school in Plymouth promoting a charity christmas jumper day in their newsletter did indeed put a smile on my face. Couldn’t make it up could you?  The tensions and complexities of the minefield that is Christmas made manifest.  Enjoy

christmas jumper day

Into this category of bowing to the inevitable, is the annual Percy Pud.  For those of you who are predominantly moon-based dwellers, or live outside the boundaries of Sheffield, this is an annual 10k road race, organised by a local running club the Steel City Striders, for which participants are rewarded for their efforts not with a medal on completion, but with a vegetarian friendly (gluten-free option also available) christmas pudding. There are festive trimmings a-plenty with santa leading the runners out and lots of fancy dress and general count down to Christmas cheeriness.  For seasoned runners, and once-a-year runners alike, the Percy Pud has become something of a Sheffield institution.

The Steel City Striders website page blah de blah blurb describes the Percy Pud thus:

We organise South Yorkshire’s most popular 10km each year which takes place on the first Sunday in December.

The event has grown in popularity from the first race in 1993 when 600 finished the race to recent years when the entry has had to be limited to around 2,200.

Such is the demand for numbers that in each of the last 10 years the race has sold out ahead of time.

The 2013 race was no exception, as the race limit was reached within two weeks of the entries opening, in 2014 this was 36 hours and in 2015 it took just 2 hours to sell 2,200 entries.

Why is it so popular? Traditionally each finisher in the race receives a Christmas pudding for their efforts. Food and seasonal music are provided after the race. Of course, the route is not bad either.

For many, the Percy Pud signals the start of Christmas.

There is indeed a massive scrum for places when they come available each year and it sells out incredibly quickly – though ironically there are always last-minute places available as injuries and illness take their toll nearer the time.

For my part – and I’m aware this is going to sound almost sacrilegious – I maintain an element of ambivalence about the Percy Pud. It is indeed a fine Sheffield institution, it does mark the start of Christmas, everyone who is anyone is there, it’s one massive reunion of not just running buddies but friends and acquaintances across the city.  It’s tough to fess up to having a few reservations about taking part. The problem is, I’d twice run the Percy Pud previously, and frankly both times have been type 2 fun at it’s most extreme.  Hideous and freezing at the time, but all that frost-bitten hardship and the humiliation of being overtaken by the bottle man quickly forgotten the moment a pudding is pressed into your hand.  I’m sure last time I did it in 2015 I vowed never again….  Then I couldn’t do it last year because I was working away in Cambodia and so you watch it all unfold from afar on Facebook and slip into a sort of treacherous nostalgia for it all.  I wasnt going to give in, too  cold, too wet, too much horizontal hail and too much roadiness, nope, not for me not this year.  Definitely not, I’m out, let others more committed than I take part.  I don’t even particularly like Christmas pudding.  Then came The Announcement and all change…

Sunday 3rd December 2017, 9:30am start.

Also, with it being the 25th running of the race, every finisher will receive a commemorative anniversary T-Shirt as well as a traditional Christmas Pudding.

Hang on a minute.  Let me just allow that news to sink in for a bit.  So you are saying there’ll be a T-shirt as well as a traditional Christmas PUdding? This is a game changer, only once in a quarter of a century will there be this option.  Bring it on.  I’m fickle, I’ll hold my hand up to being shallow, I’m so in now.  I’ll run for a T-shirt, even though it will probably be deeply unflattering, a male cut and not really fit properly anyway. These are but minor consideration compared to the kudos of a trophy like that.  Frankly, I’ve run for a lot less.

So, once entries opened on-line back on the 1st October I was lurking over the keyboard like the most sinister of online trolls. Waiting for my moment to pounce. Because of problems with registering in previous years the organisers brought in a new online booking system.  I thought it worked well.  If you logged in at or after the alloted time the system went live, you were randomly allocated a queue place in line with the number of available places for the event, you were given an estimated waiting time for when you’d be able to enter and then a 15 minute window to do so when it came around.  Worked for me. There was the – also traditional – usual flack from some who seem to think what is basically a local running club should have the IT booking systems of the international olympic committee  moaning about glitches, but to me that seems unfair.  Most people did get through eventually, and there were still places to be taken the following day.  There is no perfect system, and the event might fairly be said to have become a victim of its own success, but it seemed pretty smooth to me. Plus, it’s surely part of the Percy Pud ritual that you have to scrap to get in it.  It would be like doing musical chairs without taking away a chair each time. Yes, it’s stressful, but the exasperating tension about how the challenge will unfold all part of the fun!

After the succesful entry came the waiting, and the buyer’s remorse.  Life events and an annoying niggle meant I hardly did any of the training I was hoping for.  In fact in the month before the Percy Pud I managed a solitary XC run and a parkrun (I think) and that was it.  Fairly pitiful.  To fuel my growing unease was the ever growing survivors guilt.  Other runners truly gutted at having to pull out due to more obvious injury or illness.  The practicalities of it started to weigh me down. What about parking? How will I get there? What if I don’t know anyone?  What was I thinking?  What if I fall in the ice?  What if I can’t fit into my Smiley Paces running vest anymore?  Also, now I come to think of it, where is my number anyway?  I’ve just moved house, can’t find anything, disaster.  Hang on, no found it!  Phew…

Mercifully, I eventually came to my senses, reminding myself I only ever run to complete rather than compete so really it’d be fine. Then (of course) my Smiley Paces running buddies delivered up opportunities to share a lift.  It’s not that I’m actually incapable of driving there, but parking is a nightmare and it’s a lot more fun going with others – apart from that one time when we arrived early to watch the pouring rain pounding the windscreen of the car and my over-enthusiastic smiley buddies announced ‘oh good, we’ve still got a good twenty minutes to warm up‘ and they weren’t even joking!  I know.  This is what comes of hanging out with proper runners.

This year, I headed over to join some running buddies coming from Greystones.  The morning was actually pretty mild, with just a gentle drizzle in the air, pretty good for running.  We were three smilies and a designated driver (thank you), and after a brief delay for finishing off of breakfast, precautionary pees (that was me, and I was really awkward about it too, insisting the bike was moved so I could shut the door of the loo before I did so, me and my bashful bladder eh, sorry guys) and general faffing we boarded our tour bus. It wasn’t an actual tour bus, but it felt like it was, what with it being a shared adventure and everything.

Knowing parking would be a challenge the plan was to park a reasonable distance away from the event and facing homewards to allow for a speedier getaway.  As a consequence fo this we basically parked in Chesterfield I think.  En route, we passed a couple of runners who we joked must be running to the Percy Pud, only to have our collective smiles comprehensively wiped when we later saw that indeed they were, having come across from Fulwood.  I did clock that one of them was wearing a marathon kit bag, so that sort of explained their commitment to distance running. Then I felt a bit sick, as strictly speaking, that ought to be me then, but it never crossed my mind that I’d want to rack up an extra 8 miles with a race in between to get my long run in.  I really need to up my game and get my injuries sorted so I can crack on with a proper training regime… if I’m ever to make it to the start line of London next year, let alone the finish.

Parked up, we clambered up the hill to the start. This is when the fun commenced.  Yes we were having fun already.  There was not the biting chill wind of previous years more reminiscent of ill-fated trips to the antarctic than joyful sporting events.  Rather there was a merry trail of trainer-wearing people, many adorned with festive trimmings and sunny smiles all ready to take the 10k on.

On arrival, there wasn’t much to do, you pre-register, so other than dumping stuff in the tent and admiring the very fine bespoke marshal tops that certain officials were sporting it was just a question of joining the queue for the portaloos and trying to see people you knew.  I suppose some people did earnest warm ups, but I stuck with the spotting friends and going over for group selfies options.  Well, I needed to save my energy for the actual run, plus, if it’s not on Facebook it didn’t happen.  Of course it needs to be on Strava too as the gold standard of proof, but nothing wrong with belt and braces approach at an event as critical to the Sheffield running calendar as this one.

I managed to spot a couple of familiar faces, one an injured Smiley/Strider hybrid, with a knack for a fine selfie, and my new best friends forever bonded as we are through shared TNT XC exploits.  It is brilliant how you see sooooooooooooooooooo many people you know from the broader running and running related constituencies of Sheffield.  Loads of familiar faces from parkrun, Trust 10, The Trunce, RSR everything and anything really.  All incredibly friendly and good spirited.  Most people are nice you know, running people especially.

Various shots were taken to prove our individual and collective attendance, and then as time was short we joined the process to the start.  While we were waiting, there was still time to practise a bit of running form to get in the mood.  Remember people, running is basically a one-legged sport.

practising running technique CS

I’ve not been able to get to woodrun for a while, and I think it’s just possible it’s taken its toll, I think my form may just possibly have suffered somewhat due to my extended absence.  Ooops, hope I don’t bring shame and dishonour to my accelerate mentors…  I like to think they’ve seen worse, but then again, someone has to be at the bottom of the heap.  I know this to my cost.  I was once at a gym induction and was explaining to the pre-adolescent in charge that I struggled to use some of the weights machines as they didn’t seem to be able to adjust to my proportions ‘on no, you’ll be fine, they can do all sorts of weird shaped people‘ she cheerily retorted, attempting to put me at ease in accordance with requirement 4.7.2 of her NVQ competency recording book no doubt, only to have her face fall as I plonked myself in situ, and to blurt out unbidden ‘OMG – you really do have ridiculously short arms and legs!’ and I’m not even exaggerating for comic effect… you have no idea how hard it is to be me sometimes.   I’m only surprised she didn’t call over her fellow PTs in training so they could have a gawp  at my bizarre physique.  That’s what happened when I had my wrist examined at a physio appointment following a savage ferret attack some weeks earlier.  Suddenly everyone in the department wanted to come and have a gander at my novelty injury.  They must have been disappointed that there were so little to see to be fair.  Those sharp little teeth just delivered a multitude of near invisible puncture wounds, but did a lot of nerve and tissue damage in doing so.  The Grundys were playing with fire when they were keeping those potentially dangerous critters in my book.  Not that I approved of them being bludgeoned to death, even if Jo was down about being evicted, but I wouldn’t go near one again.  A ferret that is, not a Grundy.

Where was I, oh yes, fearful on the start line.  Along with everyone else.

It was a big start, over 2000 people signed up, and because the weather was mild I’d say we were pretty much all there.  It was a miracle I was facing the right way when the call to start went off.  It was a reasonably sedate start, it’s chip timed so no point in anyone shoving.  You start on a bit of a downhill, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt.  I was really worried due to almost total lack of running of late, but although I was slow and steady I did manage to run the whole thing (I fully appreciate for some runners this claim may sound pathetic, but I do resort to run/walking when I have to) the only time I walked was at the water station, which is allowed, definitely, though I still had hiccups for a bit afterwards.

You head down and quickly there are undulations – who put the sneaky uphill bit in? Then you are over the dam bridge with the reservoir. There were cheery supporters lining the route.  For some unknown reason, there was a noticeably thicker density of crowds in proximity to the pubs en route, I wonder why/  There was also some enthusiastic householders our front cheering runners on.  It’s such a good atmosphere.  Who doesn’t love being cheered on by complete strangers, it makes you feel great, even if the generic cheering isn’t particularly aimed at you, you will nevertheless get glory by association as other runners alongside you experience unfiltered adulation.

kindness of strangers

Sometimes more organised marshals/ supporters gave personalised shout outs ‘Go Smiley’ (other running clubs are available) this guy with a megaphone was working hard at that as I went out and still hard at it when I returned back later.  Impressive.

JC vocal support going round

Then there were the groupings of festively clad children.  They were brilliant, ecstatic if you returned their high-fives and keeping up vocal encouragement all morning if my experience was anything to go by.  I’m glad Santa took time to acknowledge their services, I think that’s what he’s doing.  Hope he’s not stealing from them, the body language is somewhat ambiguous, looks suspiciously like he’s asking for contributions, or looting their festive red bag, rather than passing out presents, but appearances can be deceptive I suppose..   Thank you nice Accelerate people for the use of photos.

Acc Santa

I’m not quite sure if he was the real santa, it’s so hard to know these days, and he wasn’t using the traditional form of transport which might mean he must be the real one as he has nothing to prove and can ride in whatever conveyance he so chooses, or could be proof positive he doesn’t know his Rudolph’s from his Blitzen or Buxom or Dunder or whoever it is.  Here are some other contenders, take your pick:

It’s basically an out and back course.  Generally speaking I don’t like those so much as circular routes.  However, for the Percy Pud, one of the great joys of the course is that as a relatively slow runner, whilst heading out you get to see the front runners storming back, led by Santa in his sports car.  There were marshals on hand also warning us ‘keep left, first man coming’.  The first man was extraordinary, so far ahead of the field, he must have run the whole thing on his own.  I gather last year’s winner arrived late so had to catch up which meant there wasn’t an opportunity for a direct sprint battle between the two.  Mind you, can’t remember where I read that now, so maybe I’ve imagined the whole thing.   I’m writing this up a couple of weeks after the event (no internet, long and dull but painful story) so that moment has passed.

Acc how to do it

A few minutes later,  another shout went up ‘first woman coming’, I was a bit surprised to be honest.  I mean there are some awesome women runners, but that front guy was super fast, and usually the strong men athletes are ahead of the first women, much as I’d love it to be otherwise. But no, it was true.  Storming through was the first woman with a little entourage of the elite men, it was really amazing to see them full on sprinting.  As someone who’s usually at the back I don’t often get to see that kind of action and focus, it was amazing, quite inspirational.  Inspirational rather than aspirational I concede, but stunning all the same. I stole this photo from somewhere, thanks AB for sharing.

First woman flying round AB

Not only did I see the great and the good, the fictional and the real, and fellow smilies aplenty, you also get to appreciate those who have made an effort on the costume front.

I was a bit under dressed this year I felt, but fortunately others compensated for my short comings with their grand designs.  I also think I had a pudding like silhouette by way of tribute to the occassion.  Channeling my inner pudding if you like, method acting at it’s best.

PH pudding run

Although costumes and fancy dress in particular are always a welcome feature of the Percy Pud, I feel a special mention needs to go to two of the fancy dress stalwarts without whom the Percy Pud would presumably be unable to take place.  It would be like having no ravens at the tower, catastrophe of unknown but epic proportions would inevitably follow.  It’s just not worth the risk.  I give you, in second place – the Christmas Tree.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong if you run dressed in a tree costume?  How hard can it be?

However, I think we all know the winner in the sense of being a quintessential part of the Percy Pud running experience, is the obligatory bottle of beer.   It’s not just sighting this which is critical for enjoyment on the day, for many it is being over-taken by it en route in all it’s glory. There is no shame in that people, just another Christmas tradition at the Percy Pud.  On this day in Loxley, many will be outrun by a 7 foot beer bottle, you aren’t special.

An honourable mention should also go to the bin man, fast on his way to being a PP institution too I’d say.  It’s good when people make an effort.  Fancy dress is always an option in my running world.  He looks very happy to have got his pudding at the end doesn’t he?

binning it CS

So as these runners were heading homewards,  I was still heading outwards.  It was all friendly and companionable.  I didn’t particularly chat to anyone, but pleasantries were exchanged.   Some expressed sympathy to me for being a member of a club with a name that put so much pressure on its members to maintain a smile whilst running at all times.  In fact it’s true, we do.  All smilies smile all the time.  Not sure what would happen if you didn’t, it’s never arisen.   Worth thinking about though, if you can’t maintain that outer countenance, you’ll need to find or found another club ‘grumpy gallumphers’ or similar I suppose.  Marshals merrily cheered us by, they were an exceptionally jolly lot this year, though I wasn’t going to be so easily fooled by the ‘nearly home‘ shouts as I was in my rookie Percy Pud years.  I’ve still not recovered from the shock of my first year of participation when someone shouted to me ‘100 metres to go‘ and I believed them, taking their call as my cue to launch into a sprint, it was more like 500 metres, I nearly died.  Some of the naive innocence within me died then also.  I do of course appreciate marshals still, but I am more wary and cynical about whether or not to take their protestations of either proximity to the finish (‘keep going, you’re nearly there!’) or course flatness/ terrain (reference Sheffield half marathon ‘all down hill from here‘ remarks).  I don’t wish to sound ungrateful, and of course I know such shouts are well-meaning and intended to be motivational but dear reader, don’t be too shocked to learn they are not always exactly true….  Trust is a precious thing, once it’s shattered, it’s hard to rebuild.

Thank you marshals though, you were all awesome, I did try to splutter thanks as I passed, but I know it can come across as being sarcastic when I’m struggling to breathe.  Glad Santa stopped off to see you all, you were definitely all good this year if your excellent delivery of Percy Pud support services was anything to go by.

After the half way point it’s a u-turn and back to the start.  The route seemed shorter this year, instead of icy wind scraping away my face as I ran, I actually felt a bit too warm.  It was lovely coming back over the bridge to see a friendly face – sorry you were injured running buddy, but thanks for the encouragement in the final stages.  The photo has the advantage of making it look like I must be so far in the lead there is not another runner in sight, it also has the disadvantage of making it look like I only just made it back before darkness fell.  As is often the case with these things, the truth lies somewhere in between!

dam improvements

Over the dam, round the corner, up the hill. There was still a fair old crowd as I approached the finish line.  Just a bit ahead of me there was another runner who seemed to be slowing, for reasons which now entirely escape me, I saw my moment and dug deep for a sprint finish.  It was really fun, I thought I’d snatched ahead, but I think as I ‘overtook’ she heard me and put up a mighty fight.

In our own small way, we were just as competitive as the first woman crossing the line, though she was marginally more photogenic at her moment of triumph. This was the winning picture in the 2017 Percy Pud photo competition by the way.  You can see why, could have been me(ish).  I’m sure our reception was just as celebratory, I can still hear the cries of congratulation ringing in my ears even now!

13-Kev-D-1000x677 winning photo

Last year’s (2016) top three are here.

So that was that.  Spat through the finish and slammed into the back of a very, very long queue of people waiting for T-shirts and puddings, because that was basically what the whole thing was about.  Patient marshals proffered puddings, and your number had a cross put on it to stop you turning round and coming back for more.  Only, there was a flaw in the system, as I went to chat to a marshalling Smiley buddy, and by crossing my tracks in this way found myself to be the recipient of another cross leading to false accusations of pudding hoarding.  I wouldn’t mind so much but I don’t even like christmas pudding particularly, even if I did, there is only so much christmas pudding one can consume!

Even more exciting than the pudding, was the first sighting of the proffered tops.  ‘What size do you want?’ asked a marshal.  Another corrected, loudly ‘irrelevant, what size did you order?’.  I didn’t like to let on I really had no idea, so I just opted for a medium.  Initially I was a bit hesitant about the muddy brown look of it, but you know what, this T-shirt has really grown on me.  It’s not muddy brown, more plum pudding coloured.  To be worn with pride by many and for years to come I’d say.  It could yet be one of my very few (two) running event tops that I’m actually minded to wear from time to time, this is high praise indeed. There follows a sequence of happy smilies with puddings and T-shirts and ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt‘ smiles of yuletide joy.

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Then, in keeping with another long-held smiley tradition, which extends to Christmas, I found I missed out on the semi-official Smiley group shot.  I’m always back too late for these after race picture.  Oh well.  They are still lovely though, even without me.  To be fair, this can’t have been the full Smiley contingent, there were loads of us out and about causing merriment.

smiley team shot

Never mind, there is a photo of me with my car share buddies post run.  I don’t know why it looks like I’ve photoshopped on the T-shirt, I did honestly get given it fair and square, but I concede the photographic evidence may plant a small seed of doubt in your mind dear reader.  I can only say come on dear reader, it’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas, show a bit of generosity of spirit and give me the benefit of any such shadow of doubt.

photoshopped tshirt

And that was pretty much that.  Just the long walk back to Chesterfield to retrieve the car. The sun was out, the scenery was stunning, I doubt my photos will do it justice but hey ho.  Thank you carpool buddies for the solidarity, co-conspiratorial companionship and the free ride.  Yay us!  What larks eh?  What larks.

And that was that, all over for another year.  Another event triumph.  It always delivers the Percy Pud, it has a rightful claim to be known as a Sheffield institution.  Same time next year?  More than likely, I enjoyed it, despite my bursting calf and lack of proper preparation, it’s a feel good event.  I keep forgetting it’s basically a road run, as I don’t really like road running, but this is fun, it seems to have become an almost tribal gathering of Sheffield runners at a given time in a given place, to miss out on it, is to miss out on some of the annual bonding rituals that brings runners together.  If you can just make it through the stress of the entry system, it’ll be worth all that angstyness on the day!

Oh, almost forgot, for those of you who need to know, because I do have to concede it’s a race not a run – the results for the Percy Pud 2017 event are here.  To be fair, even though I’m not generally especially interested in the results, this year they were very exciting.  This is because:

Breaking news is that for the second year in a row both male and female course records were broken today and the club handed over £1000 cheques to each of the winners.

Local runner from Hallamshire Harriers Andrew Heyes took 15 seconds off last years course record winning in a stunning 29:42.

In the ladies race, Rio 2016 Olympic 5000m finalist Eilish McColgan of Dundee Hawkhill Harriers broke her own course record by 10 seconds by finishing in 32:32.  She also finished 2nd overall behind Andrew highlighting her dominance today.  Her time was the second best 10k time in the country this year.

That’s pretty impressive is it not, on all counts.  Wow.  Her performance even made a write up in The Star last year (2016), which is basically the Sheffield equivalent of winning sports personality of the year, pretty impressive, but not enough to merit a golden pillar box a la the lovely Jessica.  Good effort though. Jolly well done.

And maybe, just maybe, despite my protestations to the contrary, sometimes my inner competitive spirit will make an unexpected lunge outwards in a desperate bid for freedom!  It does wear off quite quickly though.

having you MH

And if you need to know the route, it’s here, prettier than you might think, with winter sunshine lighting the way.  Don’t worry about getting lost though, even if you are in the lead it’s still just a question of keeping santa in your sights and you’ll be reet.  Enjoy.

The route

So there you go. If you want to know any more about the legendary event that is the Percy Pud, you’ll have to sign up next year and do your own primary ethnographic research.  You won’t regret it.

See you there!  🙂

With thanks to all who shared photos including ste Smith, Sheena Woodhead, Carol Speight, Accelerate, and fellow Smilies and the many nameless others who took photos on the day.  It’s always fun looking back through them and reliving the day.  Some professional photos are availabe for a fee from Mike Hall photographyThe Star did a medley of Percy Pud photos as a video, complete with annoying background music.  And a late last minute find, I stumbled across this one from Mark Walton of the passing masses en route posted on the ‘Pictures of Sheffield old and new Facebook page.  Grand is it not?  This is what running always looks like to me at organised events.  A sea of the backs of people speeding away from me into the distance.  Sigh.  Memories eh?

mark walton en route shot

For all my Percy Pud related posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

Merry Winterval until next time.

 

PS bit of a cheat this one, am publishing backdated to 3 december 2017 but actually did the write up today, 18th December.  Life in general and lack of internet access in particular getting in the way of my blogging career at times, would you credit it? Some think such extended silence from me is a blessing.  You have to decide for yourself.

Categories: 10km, Percy Pud, race, road, running | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Cross country round two: an acquired taste? Taking on Penistone XC in the fine and fabulous company of TNTers

Digested read: well I did go forth, but didn’t really conquer the XC at Penistone in any meaningful way. Still, showed my face, that’s the main thing.

I’m not sure if this post is more reminiscent of a dog returning to it’s vomit or a bee revisiting a favourite flowering shrub, but whichever you choose I have to ‘fess up this isn’t a freshly written post.  Due to lack of internet (yawn) since 6th November, I’m writing this post on 19th December, so I’m probably giving a less than reliable witness testimony of the event, but here’s hoping you’ll find an emotional truth all the same.

So, since as has previously been established I’m generally conscientious if not keen, I had agreed to going along to the Penistone cross country (XC) event on 19th November 2017 as ballast for the TNT ladies XC team.  That reminds me, I wonder if I should update my LinkedIn profile with my sporting team memberships?  I’m sure there’s a section for it somewhere, although it may necessitate upgrading my membership option.  If I did, I might be able to pop in a note about early membership of the Tufty Club too, I’m sure both would represent a mighty boon to my professional memberships section and therefore help jump-start my currently flagging career.  Food for thought….

The day dawned.   With it came my usual trepidation.  Truthfully, I’m still a bit on the fence about the whole XC thing.  It is definitely a competitive arena, generally friendly, but there is a certain tension given off by being in the presence of others that are clearly there to push themselves to the limits.  I can’t help feeling a bit out-of-place amongst the tiny shorts and spiked shoe runners.  It’s like I’m a different species entirely.

I dug out the instructions for getting to the show ground at Penistone. Good, they looked really clear.  The blah de blah directed:

There is a reasonable-size parking area off St Mary’s Street: coming up the hill fromthe Bridge Inn traffic lights, take the final turn-off from the small roundabout just beyond the railway bridge and follow the road leading straight ahead into a large flat area to park – this is the old goods yard. There is access to the Trans Pennine Trail from here and you can see the Showground.    For Satnav put in:  “The old goods yard Penistone S36 6DT”  When this gets full, there is parking on the roads around the Showground and a small car park down next to The Paramount cinema. Please take care not to restrict access for residents. Tesco will not be over-pleased if we fill their car park, I imagine.

So I set off with a complete confidence which turned out to be entirely without foundation.  I followed the satnav and ended up on what I thought was the right road near a church but seemed to end up in a sort of vortex of narrow impossible-to-park in roads.  I was completely lost.  I ended up heading back to the railway station I’d passed on the way in, and then after loitering there a while worked out how to find the nearest Tesco to where I was using my satnav and headed there instead.  I parked in their car park in direct contravention of the stated parking policy, but this did facilitate nipping in to use their nice clean loos.  There was a queue of XC runners doing the same thing so I knew I was in the right place.  Well I assumed I was, it might be that the good folk of Penistone like to do their weekend shop in their active wear complete with a XC number for extra credibility.  A sort of wannabe runners take on the country look of hunters wellies and a 4X4 outside, even if you don’t have chickens and/or a country estate that you need to monitor.

Comfort break concluded, I bought some chocolate cornflakey things to share with other runners, and then fearful of being caught out by clampers for misuse of tesco parking facilities being a fundamentally law-abiding and compliant individual, I left the car park and tried to find the show ground which I could see from where I was parked.  After a bit of circling around, I ended up in a residential street adjacent to the grounds.  There was a fair bit of space to park.  I hoped it wouldn’t annoy the locals too much, but I couldn’t see any reason not to park there, and I made my way to the show ground.

Hmm, the show ground.  It was a fairly dark and dismal day, and the ambience of the place filled me with foreboding rather than eager anticipation. Whereas the XC venue at the Kimberworth fixture had been unexpectedly lovely and reminiscent of a jolly festival of quidditch and camping, this venue seemed somewhat grim.  I walked past a playground, and the facilities – no queue though, and took in the view of tesco’s car park along the way.

Mud underfoot, it was really cold, the sky was so low I’m pretty sure it was on the verge of falling in, and the scattered tents looked somewhat makeshift and ramshackle rather than proud and majestic.  More start-up refugee camp than splendid medieval tournament tent HQ to be honest.  I felt unsettled.  This didn’t feel immediately like it was meeting my desired fun quotient for a Sunday.  Luckily I’d already had some of that at Graves Junior parkrun first birthday party earlier.  Maybe I’d already had my allocated fun for the day, whole week even – and so it was inevitable all the hours that followed would seem dark and hollow by comparison?

 

I think some of my growing apprehension was because I couldn’t find anyone I knew.  I saw the Valley Hill Runners tent and vaguely sauntered in that direction as I figured I might see a friendly face there, but it was abandoned.   When I say ‘abandoned’ what I actually mean is I wasn’t sure I recognised anyone well enough to say ‘hello’ and those present looked to be in conference over tactics so I slunk away without making first contact.

 

seeking a friendly face

 

I didn’t really recognise anyone else, and because the ambience is a bit different to parkrun where it’s quite acceptable to strike up a conversation with pretty much everyone i didn’t know quite what to do.  Where was the TNT tent? Where were my running buddies?  I’m not saying other runners wouldn’t have been friendly, I’m sure they would, but I felt really intimidated, what with being a different species from all these toned athletes sprinting about.   I couldn’t find an obvious organisers tent where I could find out what was going on, and I didn’t even know what time the women’s XC was supposed to start.  I can’t lie, I was on the brink of turning round and going home, figuring if no-one else had shown up, no-one need ever know I’d ventured into this alien territory.  I could gorge the chocolate cornflakey things when I got home by way of comfort food, and chalk up the whole thing to experience.

Just as I was about to act on this impulse, a shout went up ‘Lucy?!’  I’ve never rarely been so relieved to hear a familiar voice.  It was a TNT buddy from before.  Hurrah!  It seems everyone had turned up late for various reasons, including the holder of the tent HQ. She’d spotted me wandering around like a lost soul, and rounded me up to join the little huddle of other TNTers who were up for a run.  Phew, that was something, you are never alone at an organised run it seems.  It also seems to be the case that people really do bond in adversity.  In that moment, she was absolutely my best friend in the whole world, and I’d happily have given her possession of all my worldly goods so grateful was I to have been seen by her and called back to the fold.  Phew.  I say all my worldly goods, but I do have a pebble with a cat painted on it of which I’m particularly fond.  I might have regretted parting with that.

It was all a bit last-minute, and our co-ordinator/ tent holder had been delayed en route (partly by struggling to negotiate the navigational challenge of the labyrinth of confusion that following the parking directions led to) so worryingly we had to use our own initiative to work out where the start was.  Working out the route was even more perplexing to me.  Lots of running round in circles basically.  Big circles, little circles, then doing them again (and again and again for the mens’ races) but without the reward of creating a crop circle at the end of it all.  Hang on, I wouldn’t normally introduce a spoiler at such an early stage, but in the interest of clarity, this is the route we ended up running:

Strava route

So you see it is indeed pretty much a case of running round in badly shaped circles (twice).  I don’t mean to be negative about the route, but l think it’d be tough to argue that the shape is as geometrically pleasing to the eye as either a crop circle or the Nazcan desert shapes of deepest, darkest Peru.  I think Paddington drew them, but I’m not sure.

I think Paddington and I probably would have similar running styles XC now I come to think of it.  It’s a real shame he’s London-based, otherwise he might have been a grand addition to the TNT XC teams.  Oh, and also that he’s a fictional character, since I get the impression XC organisers are sticklers for the rules so that could be a problem.  It would be like Babe at the sheepdog trials all over again.  Might get away with it ultimately if he put in a good performance, but some upsetting consternation along the way could be perturbing.   As a newbie, I don’t want to cause trouble this early on in my Cross Country career, but food for thought…

 

So where was I?  Oh yes,  panicking, then rescued.  We assembled, and tried to pool our knowledge about the course.  Turned out that was approximately zero. There were people running round the fields in circles all around us. The best guess was that at least one of our number said they’d done the event before.  ‘Great!’  we collectively exclaimed ‘what’s the course?’ She froze. Zero recollection.  Couldn’t even think where the start was. The only promising detail was that she seemed very confident that the route would be obvious.  I was dubious, people seemed to be running in all directions and marshals looked thin on the ground. This did not bode well, but hey ho, here we were with a job to do. We would make it so!  Just as we had resolved to run onward, Doctor Smiley/ TNT XC co-ordinator appeared and the sun came out and all was well, just time to pose for a quick women’s team snap:

 

Women's Team XC TNT

and then we headed over to the start.

start

Because I was a bit vague about start times, and the direction in which we were supposed to be heading, and still trying to pump my fellow TNTers for information about what to expect, I found I was quite literally facing the wrong way when the start shout went off!  Oops, that was a first for me, and a new low in my running experiences to dat, as although my running ineptitude can manifest in many forms, I’ve never previously considered that I might be caught out looking the wrong way.  In the circumstances it was fortunate that I realised my mistake and didn’t actually run off in the wrong direction altogether.  Somewhat embarrassing though.  I’m beginning to understand now, why no other running clubs have tried to poach me.  I dread to think how I’d fare in an actual blindfold race.  Memo to self, don’t bother to try to find out.

It was almost a relief to be underway.  Incidentally, I now realise that there was in fact a pdf file explaining the route – but I couldn’t find a map even retrospectively, so that didn’t really help.  Here it is in case of interest, good luck making sense of it!

xc penistone laps

To be fair, these guides that are intended to be helpful might instil fear in the uninitiated, but I can honestly say that on the day, it was marshaled, and it was ‘obvious’ where to go, albeit sometimes not until you got to a friendly marshal who was pointing the way.  However, you do get a sense of the running round in circles feel to it all that’s 1 small loop, one medium loop and one large loop to be run twice.  I increasingly feel this is not a Lucy-friendly format.  I also had a moment of realisation when running at Penistone, because you are basically running round the perimeter of grassy playing fields, and this necessitates looping through the tent base where other (more serious and better athletes than me) are hanging about waiting for their events to start, I got flashbacks to the humiliation of school sports days.  It just feels quite exposed.  I don’t mind being a shite runner when I’m invisible out on the trails or part of a huge gang of other runners, but there’s nowhere to hide at these XC runs.  It feels like you are running under surveillance.  Although in my head I know nobody is really that interested in what I am or am not doing, and of the minority who are there is only support and encouragement being offered, it does rather play into my insecurities.   I don’t want to let the team down by being caught walking, I’m worried that I won’t know where to go, and I’m worried about falling because that grass gets slippery when you are at the back of a pack of runners who have already run through leaving mud baths in their wake.  XC perhaps epitomizes the truism that successful  running is as much about what happens in your head as in your legs.  I have nothing but respect for those who embrace this as a sport and put themselves through such angstyness year after year.  Horses for courses I suppose.

So, underway, and it immediately felt a bit better.  Yes, I wasn’t going to set any records, but I could put one foot in front of the other, there were a couple of other runners at my speed and it became clear the marshals were going to support us and not let us get lost.  It was hard for me circling back round to the start in a mini loop straight off – you get a tantalising look at the finish but have to run on by.  Through the tent city and then off round and bypassing the fields, down more of gravel path, and up a hill.  I preferred this bit as I felt less watched. However, disaster struck. My dark & White buddy did a face plant in slow motion just ahead of me.  It looked really bad.  At first I thought maybe it was because she was wearing running spikes and this was hard under foot, but in fact it turned out it was nothing to do with that, she had literally just mis-stepped on a stone.    Looked nasty.  I stopped, and so did our fellow TNTer who was also just behind.  A marshal came running to check she was OK and she bravely got to her feet, protesting she was OK. We walked as a trio for a bit, which is how come I was able to clock that the route passed by a somewhat unlikely placed small cemetery!   No, it really, truly did!  It was bizarre, but I couldn’t help thinking that would have been handy had her fall been fatal. We could probably just have rolled her in amongst the graves and her demise would have been all done and dusted in less time than in takes even Jessica Fletcher to resolve deaths in Murder she Wrote.  For the record, I was pleased we didn’t have to take such action, convenient as it would have been, as I am counting on said buddy for Smiletastic purposes, but that’s for a future post.   Anyway, our fallen runner bravely continued for a bit, but then retired so as not to exacerbate a likely injury.

Incidentally, falling over is something that can happen to even the most elite of runners.  I am most grateful to the Smiley who sportingly shared this action tweet of Dr Smiley showing how to fall with real grace at a previous XC fixture. Expertly executed roll I think we can all agree. Here she is,  doctor smiley showing how it’s done.  Most impressive.   Thank goodness for social media and its infinite capacity to recall what might otherwise have been forgotten and consigned to history eh?

We stayed together for a bit, and then as she protested she was OK started off running again. The course was twisty and had a couple of fairly savage hills to be negotiated as part of it.  The marshals were genuinely superb though. Super friendly and encouraging.  I was feeling self-conscious about my manifest ineptitude, but they cheered me on.  I tried to thank each as I passed, sometimes in slightly strangled tones.  They do help though. There was one really muddy bit where I slid about, but hills aside, it wasn’t too bad terrain.  Towards the end of the big loop you end up back in amongst the XC village.  I was spotted by one of the frontrunner team who gave me a cheery shout.  Thank goodness I was actually running at the time, always a worry to be caught out either walking, or worse yet, collapsed in a star shape or sobbing on the ground when you are supposed to be taking part in an organised running event. Well, that’s my experience anyway.

Past the finish again, ooh, the temptation to join that funnel of people who were all done was pretty strong, but one of the marshals at the finish tape spotted me and gave me a sympathetic but firm look indicating in a glance that I’d be welcome to take that path at the alloted time, but there’d be no sneaking through any earlier – so round I went again.

 

I did find it a bit of a slog, it was cold, and I’ve not been running regularly so that made it harder.  I am desperate to get back into a decent running routine, but life is a bit all over the place just now.  XC feels to me quite a solitary discipline ultimately.  It’s very much a team in terms of the being part of a gang at the start, and the party at the tent flaps afterwards with shared goodies. Plus as the women and men’s teams run at different start times and come through the camp you can shout support at each other as they pass, but you are on your own for the actual running bit.  Maybe that’s what I find hard.  Participants are focused and giving their all whilst running, you can’t really be having a chat with other runners on the way round, it wouldn’t feel quite the done thing.

Eventually, I made it round to the finish, and parasitising supportive cheers from valley hill club members, smiling with relief I stumbled back to our TNT gang.  There  a few more were gathered in a chilly huddle, ready to support the men who were shortly starting their event.  Or possibly already had, I can’t remember!

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We shared provisions, and stood to watch the men running by, which they did loads of times.  They were like they were on a running carousel, I don’t know how many laps they did officially, but unofficially it was dizzying just watching them.

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No wonder at least one of them had to stop for a refreshment break and pep talk before continuing.

 

refreshment stop

 Once the hardship of running was concluded, it was nice to chat to my new TNT gang, and there was a multitude of biscuits and other goodies to be shared.  For future reference, there was also a sports club of sorts where you could have got a hot drink and for non-veggies a bacon sandwich.  For our club there was an impromptu knobbly knees picture contest (pick your own winner, I think it was an unofficial contest, and there may be sensitivities around the placings – it’s always hard with these more subjective competitions) – good turn out though!  🙂

knobbly knees competition

So as the day got darker and the races were finished and the chill set in, we all started to depart our separate ways.  For various reasons many of us had come on our own, I’d come from Graves junior parkrun, others had also had busy mornings pre XC so it was a bit sad saying farewells at the showground and missing out on the in the car going home debrief.  Ah well, there will be other XC opportunities for such race dissections I’m sure.

Oh, if you want the results from the day, the final Penistone XC results for 2017 are here.

There you go, my observations (belatedly) on my second XC experience.  I’m still a bit on the fence about it all to be honest.  I get why other people enjoy it.  I like the social being part of a club aspect, but I feel a bit overwhelmed by the inherent competition which is understandably the focus of it all.  I guess it’s a confidence thing.    I certainly couldn’t imagine rocking up on my own to do a XC event, whereas I would a bigger race or a new parkrun quite happily, then again, as XC is inherently a team thing, I’m not sure you ever would.

I had wanted to complete the season – there was final winter fixture in December, but alas I didn’t make it due to a knee/ calf/ shin thing going on.  That was a darned shame, as I feel I have unfinished business.  I don’t know if TNT will still exist as a club in its current form next year, so whether or not I’ll be organised and proactive enough to seek out another group to have another bash in 2018 remains to be seen. Still, where would be the fun in life if we knew exactly what the future held.  It will be good to be able to maintain some element of surprise right through to the end of next year!

So, thank you TNT buddies for making me welcome and Elder Smiley for recruiting me in the first place.  Thank you XC organisers, marshals and fellow runners for being open to a wide-eyed newbie.  I’m glad to have given it a go, but I hope if I do again I’ll have upped my game a bit to reduce the stress.  At least I’ve now understood the importance of catering on such occasions.  Can’t believe I missed out on mince pies and Amoretti for the pre-Christmas XC shenanigans.   These XC clubs have really cracked the motivational and team building aspects of running, or TNT have anyway.  Bravo.

Plenty of time to up my game before next winter, so will I be there next year?  Well, let’s say the jury’s out, which is a pretentious way of saying I haven’t decided yet.  Then again, one should always leave one’s reader wanting more, apparently…  I understand The Guardian believes XC to be running in its purest form:

Foul-smelling mud, biting wind, freezing rain and dangerously uneven ground – the English National Cross Country Championships has it all. What’s not to like?

and the thing is, I actually agree with that statement, so I do have the potential capacity to enjoy it, it’s the running round in circles aspect I wrestle with.  Now maybe if it were more point to point?  Maybe if I did some different courses?  Just think, I do all that, and one day this could be me!  Now that does look like fun!

xc running in its purest form

Hurrah!

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

Graves Junior parkrun’s first Birthday Bash – setting the standard for pop up parkrun partying

Digested read: it was Graves junior parkrun‘s first birthday this weekend.  Hurrah!  Fancy dress, cake and brilliant sunshine – what’s not to like.  A fine time was had by all. Apart from the llamas.  They weren’t too impressed.  Same time next year?  Be there.

apricot tee

It turns out llamas don’t like unicorns.  In my defence, I didn’t previously know this, otherwise I might have chosen a different companion animal to accompany me to Graves junior parkrun’s first birthday celebrations at the weekend, but some things you just don’t know about until you experience them for yourself.  In my defence, most reasonable people would surely agree that is quite niche knowledge, obscure even for winning pub quiz teams, and I will take on board their feedback at future events I promise.

So, let’s start at the very beginning – a very good place to start.  Sunday 19th November 2017 marked the first birthday of Graves junior parkrun, and their fiftieth run.  I am really hoping by know everyone in the whole world knows about junior parkrun, but just in case you don’t, junior parkrun is basically spin-off from the original 5k parkrun phenomenon, which has now evolved as a force to be reckoned with in its own right.  The website blah de blah describes it thus:

junior parkrun is a series of 2k runs for children aged between 4 and 14. They are held in areas of open space around the UK. They are open to all, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. If you are not a junior please come along to one of our weekly Saturday parkrun events instead.

Registered parkrunners do not need to register separately for the junior events. However, if you are not already registered with parkrun you can do so here.

So that’s good.  It even has its own junior parkrun code. This however needs a bit more work because it doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to either the desirability of fancy dress nor the extreme abundance of hilarity at these events, and the superior cake concoctions sported by them at anniversary celebrations say.  Perhaps it is to maintain the element of joyous surprise for those new to the fold?  Who knows.

junior parkrun code

Personally, I originally got involved as a volunteer to ‘give something back’ to parkrun as I enjoy the Saturday 5k events, but the phenomenon we know and love isn’t sustainable unless runners step up and volunteer from time to time.   Getting involved in a new, local junior parkrun seemed to me a great way to salve my conscience and volunteer without forfeiting my Saturday run.  However, now I no longer give a toss about ‘giving back to anything’ I volunteer because it is a weekly fix of joyfulness that acts as an antidote to any stress or unjoyfulness which you might currently be experiencing.  Thus, my volunteering is shallow self-interest with the collateral benefit of chalking up some marshaling credits along the way.  There is no martyrdom required to sign up to volunteer at junior parkrun, more an unseemly scrabble to nab a spot so as not to miss the boat – though to be fair, ‘my’ junior parkrun never turns a volunteer away.  It’s the perfect start to any Sunday I promise.  Nothing is more hilarity inducing than an hour or so at junior parkrun, guaranteed – or your money back!*

Anyways, if there is one thing more fun than a Sunday morning at junior parkrun, it is a Sunday morning at junior parkrun on the occasion of their birthday celebrations!  Specifically, last Sunday was Graves junior parkrun’s first anniversary.   What a year it’s been.  Although I’ve not been involved from the outset, I’ve been turning up for long enough to see it grow and flourish.  A birthday party was bound to be a lot of fun. Really, a LOT.a

Naturally, there was much excitement at the prospect. Anticipation grew as the event date grew closer.  Cake was promised. Fancy dress too!  Strictly speaking, the fancy dress was optional, but in my world that’s ‘optional’ as in, ‘well you don’t have to, but I’ll be so grief-stricken and disappointed if you don’t make some sort of effort a little part of my heart will wilt and die forever‘ which translates as ‘really it is‘.  So just to be absolutely clear, whilst the fancy dress was strictly speaking not compulsory, in my world it was.  Hurrah!

The night before the run, when a reminder post went up on Facebook, eager marshals responded with enthusiastic use of emoticons and gifs by way of expressing excitement.  That was so much fun, the build up was almost (only almost) as good as the celebration itself.  We were reminded again of the promise of cake and encouraged to don fancy dress.  The photo chosen as an ideas generator has some slightly startling components, but I’m confident most people would have got the idea.

fancy dress run

I responded with, I felt, some lateral-thinking genius using a rainbow unicorn gif (thank you Facebook) as a subliminal clue as to my fancy dress intentions for the morning.  Not the most subtle of responses, but then again, perhaps not everyone is familiar with the importance of semiotics in everyday life.  Will my use of imagery be seen and understood I pondered, as I wondered if anyone had correctly interpreted this. However, the next person who did likewise put a shark gif up, which briefly raised my  hopes before I forlornly lapsed into disillusion as a quick reality check indicated that clearly such a costume would be impossible.  Unicorns may be thought to be fictitious creatures, but there are loads on the Round Sheffield Run, skipping along the arches of the rainbows that line the whole route – sharks on the other hand, well, they are marine creatures, and wouldn’t do well out of the water surely.  Oh well.  I’m sure someone will be donning fancy dress, surely not only me…

Nice gifs though..

Sorry I am too much of a cheap skate to get you a paid package that will enable the shark gif to be seen in all its glory, but you could always follow the link here and be amazed…

I barely slept on Saturday night I was so exciting.  I imagine it would be like trying to get to sleep on Christmas eve if I lived in a parallel universe where I joyfully looked forward to Christmas Day.

At last, the morning dawned.  Cold, very cold, but bright sunshine.  I wore a ridiculous amount of clothes, but needs must, and after eyeing her for a bit and wondering if her eyes were maybe just a bit sinister, I squashed my new companion animal into the car and away I went.  This was to be my unicorn’s first outing in public.  Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I acquired her ages ago as a possible marathon running buddy.  However, even I have to concede, that whilst she may have many desirable qualities, suitability as a running outfit does not appear to be one of them.  She went back into her bag, and until now, there hasn’t seemed to be the right time to take her out and about. Graves junior parkrun birthday bash though – what could be more perfect!

DSCF0197

Hmm, I’m still not quite sure about the eyes….

Despite my apparent bravado, on arrival at Graves park  I was relieved to see the RDs out and about in fancy dress along with their child labourer assistants.  It set the mood.  Even so, I decided to have my pre-event pee sans unicorn as don’t think this magical ethereal creature particularly needed to see the interior of the Graves park municipal toilets.  Also, I have a feeling unicorns poo glitter, and I don’t want to encourage that in case it ends up in the sea. I left her in the custody of a conveniently located Pippi Longstocking, who took her unicorn chaperoning responsibilities very seriously, carefully standing over her and stroking her mane.  When I returned, she asked what the unicorn was called.  I had to admit she didn’t yet have a name, so I asked what would be a good choice. ‘Sophie‘ apparently. When I asked why that name, it was explained ‘because Sophie is a very good name for a unicorn‘.  You can’t argue with logic like that.   Thanks Pippi!

unicorn guardian

I felt much happier once Sophie was so named, we partnered up and headed off to set off the course.  It was good fun.  Even at 8.00 a.m. in the morning fancy dress can bring joy.  As I ambled down the path I came across a little crocodile of beavers all with hi-vis jackets and toggled scarves round their necks. It seems they had come en masse to take part in the Birthday celebrations.  How splendid is that.  They were really excited, and so pleased to meet my unicorn too.  This was getting off to a grand start!

 

I can’t lie though, Sophie and I didn’t meet with universal approval as we did our walk round.  As I was wrestling with the twisted plastic string that we laughingly refer to as ‘tape’ to cordon off the lake area, a very unimpressed labrador approached me with real hostility, much to the embarrassment of its owner.  I’m sure the dog wasn’t inclined to animosity in general, but it was mightily suspicious of Sophie.  It was actually quite funny, like I’d been caught out by the fashion police for some massive infringement of rules regarding what one might legitimately wear in public. This hound was NOT pleased.

The next hostile encounter was with one of the llamas.  I love llamas, alpacas too, but I have a particular soft spot for the llamas. They always look slightly horrified by human activities, and definitely give off an air of some considerable disdain even when they are really just having a good look.  However, I realised quite quickly that one that looked up from eating as I approached, and then came over to the fence to have a good stare was actually outraged by our audacity in being in the vicinity of her pen.   I started to approach to see what might happen, but got scared away but the head being drawn back and some noticeable pouting.  I decided not to stick around to be spat at – though weirdly, and just between you and me, I was quite chuffed to have got such a strong reaction.   Sophie was certainly making a stir, even if not meeting with universally uncritical acclaim!  Whilst I most definitely did not set out to alarm a llama, I was pleased to have learnt this new thing about them. Llamas do not like unicorns. Who know?  Or maybe they just didn’t like this one.  I didn’t hang around to enquire further…

alarming a llama

We carried on without much further incident.  The pig didn’t care.  It takes more than a unicorn to put this one off its stride.

By the time I got back to the starting area, loads of people had started to gather, and there was a really good vibe, lots of smileys started to appear with offspring in fabulous fancy dress or at the very least fine fettle, and you have to appreciate a Smiley.  Here’s one, with their (self-described) matching rainbow puke tops.  The thing is, I honestly don’t even think that descriptor is derogatory, just factually accurate.  If you were to ingest a rainbow and then regurgitate it, I’m positive this is exactly the effect that would be achieved. That may even be what they do as part of the manufacturing process to achieve this stylish finish.  I might google it later and see what I can find out…

rainbow puke styling.jpg

Anyway, they were pleased to see Sophie, and encouraging about her debut appearance at this auspicious sporting occasion:

Sophie funtimes

So it seems that although I’d been a bit worried she might seem a bit sinister, in fact nope, Sophie was a big hit.  Despite the placid looking labrador growling at me during set up, and a llama building up to spit at her, reactions were mostly good.  One child actually said to me (true story) and what’s more spontaneously and without any accompanying adult – ‘I just want to say to you that you are amazing because you have come to parkrun with an actual unicorn’.  Maybe I should go everywhere with a unicorn in future.  Whilst I may have little or no intrinsic merit, perhaps I can work round this to some extent by milking the glory by association angle of proximity to a unicorn. It is more achievable than having a personal daemon a la His Dark Materials, which is surely the apex of companion animaldomness.

Pleasingly, Sophie wasn’t even th only unicorn present.  We sort of found each other out, like the fellow ethereal creatures we were.  The other unicorn was on cake duty.  A very important job.

unicorns find one another

Over time more and more marshals appeared, many in fine fancy dress formations, some quality effort went into outfits for the occasion.   Frankly, I think the adults were just as immersed in the joys of fancy dress as their junior charges… self-evidently more so in many cases!  See if you can spot the family resemblance between some of those attending.

even better, amongst the arrival of the great and good was

wait for it….

A shark!

I couldn’t have been more delighted if a bare-chested Paul Sinton-Hewitt himself had rocked up astride a real unicorn of his own! (You know, like Putin is prone to doing, charging around on horseback, only marginally less ludicrous).

shark attack

More accurately, a man being eaten by a shark.  Hurrah.  He should have just swum faster (a fact he himself acknowledged whilst leading the warm up).  Great costume, though just to be clear, sharks are more at risk from us than we from them many are critically endangered, in fact.  Little known one.  Did you know the writer of jaws has dedicated much of his life trying to restore the reputation of sharks in the wake of his book/ film?

 

It was great, such a fab turn out.  Most regular volunteers had turned out, along with the core run director team, and as for the juniors, they rocked up in great, joyous hoards.   A record attendance indeed.  Fab.U.Lous!

Another happy surprise was spotting Regal Smiley and family en masse.  This was despite her having done a pre-dawn run earlier.  I’m not proud to admit that when I’d seen her post her intention to go and run 10,000 miles and then run 10,000 more at 6.30 in the morning with a fellow Smiley buddy DESPITE having previously given me her personal assurance that she’d not miss the Graves junior birthday bash for the world, I thought dark resentful thoughts.  Anticipating being stood up, my first instinct was to indulge my passive aggressive tendencies with a carefully crafted Facebook message along the lines of ‘hope you have a lovely run I’m sure it will be charming and just as much fun as a birthday party and well worth standing up your so-called friends/Smiley compatriots for and you won’t be (made to) regret your choice for all eternity at all.’  Mercifully, lack of internet access rather than self-control prevented me from commenting.  She only did BOTH the early morning run AND made it to the party.  Impressive. Thank goodness she’ll never get to know about my shallow bitterly judgemental assumptions, I couldn’t bear for them to end up in the public domain!  That was a near miss indeed and no mistake!

Regal Smiley

Mingling was fun, so many awesome people to meet and greet! Bullseye too!  Love Bullseye.   Love junior parkrun!

It was a busy morning, as I still had to go and check out the under the gazebo action.

Oh.  My. God

Best cake ever.  It comprised a model of graves park, including such details as the lakes (granted, not easy to miss) and not only some of the animals from the park, but also an aerial view of the finish funnel, complete with the Graves junior parkrun idiosyncracies of arrow shaped entrance (keeps adults from crowding the finish) Genius.  Also, HUGE.  Be amazed dear reader, be amazed.

happy birthday cake

After much mandatory milling about, eventually we were mustered to gather together for the pre-event briefing

The briefing was noisy – partly due to extra numbers, including a lot of first timers but also noisy due to general excitement levels. Super heroes whizzed among us, and tutus bobbed up and down and donkies mingled with Frankenstein’s monster.  It was fun. Fancy dress is always fun. Don’t let anyone ever persuade you otherwise.  There was much thanks to milestone volunteers and celebration of juniors reaching their marathon and half-marathon wrist band goals.  All good, much cheering and clapping.

There was indeed a record turn out of runners and volunteers, which helped fuel a great party atmosphere.  To be fair, there always is a great atmosphere at junior parkrun, but this was a high even higher than usual, I promise!

There was even a game and enthusiastic rendition of ‘Happy Birthday‘ though I have to be honest, there may have been a slight scanning issue with the ‘happy birthday dear…. graves juuuuuuuuuuu-nior’ versus ‘dear graves junior parkrun’ which was a bit of a mouthful, but all very much in the spirit of self-conscious communal singing I feel.  It would hardly have been a birthday party without all of that.

Then, quick about turn, and everyone was soon into position and whisked up into a frenzy of physical activity for the mandatory group warm up… The warm up was possibly the best ever, not only for the inherent hilarity of watching a person being eaten by a shark lead it, but for surprise addition of a music tape accompaniment AND the inclusion of a freestyle dancing section. Genius.  Also, lest we forget, the old ones are indeed always the best, so good when we did our ‘bottom kicking’ exercise, squeezed between the fast feet and the high knees, it was grand to be reminded that you were only allowed to kick your own bottom for the purposes of this exercise, however great the temptation to go off piste…  Some tellers just own their material – no-one else could ever do it justice!  All engaged with gusto, a warm up just as warm ups should be!

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From here, a count down, and then a mass migration to the start line.  Anyone else got the herding cats knack?  Just wondering…

start line

Lined up for off, human cones angles taking on a new level of interest with fancy dress options in hi-vis in abundance, but it didn’t really make us any more effective as a funnel the excited young runners ignoring us as much as always.

human cones start line

The official photographer for the day showed new levels of courage to the point of recklessness standing in the path of the runners as the shout went up to off.  I mean, photographers take their lives in their hands doing it at senior parkruns across the land, but my experience of marshaling suggests adults will on the whole take evasive action if meeting an obstacle such as a paparazzi in hi-vis.  No such instinctive avoidance reaction appears to kick in at junior events.  Those juniors will crash into anything.  The frissance of danger as you stand in formation to create a human shield lining the start funnel of junior parkrun only adds to the sense of occassion. I’m sure that adrenalin rush contributes to the post junior parkrun euphoria most marshals seem to experience as they skip away at the end of our near death experience of a Sunday morning.  I’ve survived that, I can survive anything, I am invincible!  (It fades quite quickly to be fair, but it’s fun while it lasts!)

He may or may not have been trampled, only if photos appear covering the period after the immediate start appear will I know if he survived. Still, if not, I daresay it’s what he would have wanted.  Isn’t that what you are supposed to say in such situations?  I think so. I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted to put a damper on things on our birthday after all. (Spoiler alert, he made it.  Phew.  Great shots too, thanks Dougal pics🙂 )

Finally they were off, at a fair old sprint. They were even nippier than usual, no doubt hurried on their way by the prospect of cake in abundance at the end.

As they sped off, I got my job allocation for the morning. Bar code scriber.  At this particular junior parkrun we write down the names and barcode numbers of any juniors who have brought along non-scanning barcodes, but also if someone doesn’t have a barcode with them we note the finish token number and record it as a no barcode/ unknown runner,  as this helps with processing the results.  Without wishing to go all Donald Rumsfeld on you, basically if the RD has an idea of the known unknowns there is less angst about missing places.  Apparently.

 

I love cheering round  the juniors, but it was quite challenging this week what with there being so many of them. When people have made an effort with fancy dress I always try to give them a personalised cheer ‘keep going wonder woman’ or ‘great effort donkey’ or whatever, but it was hard to keep up with so many glorious costumes resplendent in the sun.  Top effort from everyone, lots of smiles today.  Hurrah!

As the juniors strutted their funky stuff, whether or not trailing breathless adults in their wake, volunteer marshals moved into formation.  Impressive eh?

volunteers ready

The park looked magical, almost too bright.  The event seemed to go really quickly.

There seemed to be lots of unknowns – this was a shame, particularly as many of those were first timers, especially the beavers, who had come en masse but not necessarily registered.  To be fair, I was disappointed on their behalf, but none of them seemed especially bothered, then again cake is a great comforter in such circumstances, and there was indeed plenty of cake!

I can report the day had a record turn out of 188 junior participants.  Pretty fine eh?  Had the field exceeded 240 then the finish tokens would have run out although there was an emergency plan that could kick in! That would involve the scanners starting to handwrite the details of the final finishers. We were spared that today, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before that threshold is indeed crossed.  An exciting prospect, and it would be grand to share the joy even more widely.

The run/ walk/ jog concluded by all, as always, the course disassembled as if by magic.  Never was there a better manifestation of the principle that many hands make light work.  Struck in and instant.

There followed a bit more lingering than usual, enticed by cake which tasted even better than it looked.  I reckon the star baker must have been working on it the whole year, but apparently not, although it did take best part of a long, long day to concoct the extraordinary confectionary creation.

I met some beavers again, on the conclusion of their run. They were so excited, and all full of what they done and they’d clearly had a lovely time taking part, though some of the bounciness could possibly have been attributed to massive sugar highs I suppose. One wanted met to guess where he’d come ‘sixty-second’ I hazarded.  Aiming for mid-field not wanting him to feel deflated if I was too far out.   Wrong.  In fact he was first, but out of the beavers.  He seemed to have memorised where every one of them had come in relation to one another which was pretty spectacular to be fair!  I congratulated him because that is indeed great, but it’s also great to participate wherever you come in the line up I reminded him.  He didn’t believe me.  Fair enough, you have to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  I might seek but to complete events, he was clearly out to compete!

As people started to disperse, a random dog appeared and kept sneaking cake bits from table.  A few minutes later a mortified owner rushed over apologetically, explaining he will always beeline for a gazebo associating them with food from camping trips. As she explained this the dog espied a jolly hat and set about savaging it and galloping away with it being ripped about in its jaws. It was too funny to mind about, reminiscent of the infamous Fenton/ Benton ill-disciplined dog in Richmond park video for them as you as can recall that epic viral display of dog-owning mortification.  Order was restored eventually, but not sure the hat made it, hope Santa has a spare.  If not, no worries, there’s probably still time for his elves to rustle up a new one.  Just as well!

happy dog

It was all good-humoured, and I think it’s fair to say a grand and glorious time was had by all.  However, all good things, and eventually party-goers and parkrunners alike dispersed our different ways. However, Graves Junior parkrun had indeed offered up a fine morning of celebrations.  We couldn’t have asked for more. Even the weather gods were kind to us.  What a great climax to an awesome parkrun year!

And so we all vanished again, into the wintry mist.  Job done.

Happy Birthday to us!

More proof, if proof were needed of how the parkrun spirit extends to celebrating in style.  Graves junior parkrun’s birthday bash was executed with considerable aplomb.  That’s the fiftieth run. parkrun/walk/jog/marshalers are good at pop up parties it seems.  If further evidence is needed, check out this Red Arrow display on the occasion of a Bushy parkrun runners 500th run, that’s pretty impressive as a way to mark the acquisition of a milestone tee…

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even so, I feel confident Graves Junior parkrun has done a fine job of flaunting its partying potential, Red Arrows are impressive certainly, but Graves has more llamas, and unicorns too apparently, so we can respect and rejoice in the right of each parkrun to celebrate their own milestones in their own ways.  Agreed?

Good oh.  So now just party on and let us eat cake!

Nom nom nom nom nom.

So, same again same time, same place next year?  Also every Sunday in-between.  Just so you don’t miss out!  See you there.  🙂

 

For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.

*did I mention that all parkrun events are free to participate in, just #dfyb don’t forget to bring along your printed barcode if you’d like to know your time.

 

 

 

Categories: parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Making my explosive Cross Country debut with TNT. XCSYCAA Go me. :)

Digested read:  My first time XC, an adventure.  Bit intimidating initially, but you know what, it was more fun than not. Definitely would recommend.  There is always prosecco and cake if you choose your running club carefully.  Both harder and not harder than expected, but you wont lose any internal organs if my experience is anything to go by. Stay safe people. Also, happy halloween.cross country

I’m pretty sure that in life the accepted wisdom is that you should try everything once except Morris dancing and incest.  I’ve tried Morris dancing, and it wasn’t too bad to be fair, quite a laugh even, so on the whole I do try to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities.  I then spend the intervening time between agreement and surrendering to whatever experience it is wrestling with inner angst and trepidation.  Mostly, even if things are type two rather than type one fun i.e. fun retrospectively rather than at the time, worst case scenario is usually ‘I’m not sure I enjoyed myself but I’d have been dead pissed off to have missed it.’   Give these universal truths, it was pretty much inevitable that once I was talent-spotted and the call came to join the throng at TNT to give XC a whirl I was always going to  be so flattered and taken aback I’d be bound to accidentally accept.

I say talent spotted, but in truth, ballast spotted might be more accurate. The thing is, and it’s taken a while for me to grasp how these things work, cross-country depends on team turn out as much as talent.  Yes, yes, quality is desirable at the upper echelons of the running game, but there is also a desire for simple quantity.  If you can drag enough of your team out on the day, there will be points to be had, and what do points mean? Erm, honestly, I’m not exactly sure what points mean, never having previously acquired any for anything, but they are a good thing apparently.

To take part in cross-country or XC as we athletes refer to it, you need to be part of an affiliated running club.  Whilst of course Smiley Paces is my original and first call running club – we have shared experiences now that leave us intertwined for all eternity, Smilies are not an affiliated club.  To dip my toe in the waters – or more accurately muddied fields – of XC, I’d need to join a club that is affiliated. This feels like quite a grown up thing to do, running wise.  Even so, when Dr Smiley mentioned getting up a team with her triathlete buddies I was in a naively misguided ‘what’s the worst that could happen‘ sort of place, and so pretty much immediately said, ‘yep’.  I’d be in.  It sounded a laugh, which is my main criteria for doing new things. You get to scamper about across muddy fields in a slightly anarchic way.  The more the merrier, a bit like British Bulldog really, if I’d grasped it OK, and that was always a laugh until it got banned from the school playground for being too dangerous and we had to rebrand it as ‘sheep, sheep come home’ instead.  (True story).  I might not be able to contribute much in terms of quality, but I could certainly assist with quantity.  What could be more affirming than getting a point for your team pretty much just for turning up. Yay! This is my kind of sporting endeavour.

I had a slight wobble when it dawned on me that the TNT group are actually known more correctly as Racing TNT Triathlon Team.  Slightly daunting, but hey ho, I’d signed up by then.  As long as the requirements to ‘race’ and take part in actual triathlons remained optional, it would probably be doable.  …  I put such fears to the back of my mind.  I paid my membership, I got my England Athletics card in the post, which I think automatically endows the holder with athletic prowess if I’ve understood correctly, and wrote down the dates in my diary.  Of even more critical importance, I negotiated for the loan of a large-sized running vest.  No squelching into a children’s small size black and tan one on the day for me.  I practically felt like a sponsored athlete.  No-one has ever approached me to join a sporting team before, I was more often than not the one chosen last for the school netball team – an experience which has left me scarred, yet here I was, being scouted out and approached, invited to join others in a collective expression of sporting excellence.  I was born to do this.  My time had finally come!  I would be invincible.  It will be fine.  Competitive triathlons has probably been my spiritual home all along, doing XC will be just the beginning…

racing TNT triathlon team

It will be fine… well that was what I was thinking ages and ages again when I wasn’t going to have to do any actual running until some vague distant point in the future.  However, as the day of my debut XC run drew ever closer I was a bit worried. The unlikely issue was I hadn’t been doing very much running at all in the interim, most recently I’ve not run for a whole week, since I picked up a sporting injury at last weekend’s Sheffield Way Relay recce.  I fully appreciate this sounds unlikely, and it might even be funny if it weren’t so debilitating.  It’s a chafing one.  Chuffing chafing injuries. Specifically, a bra related chafing injury.  As if this wasn’t humiliating enough, the initial squirm inducing chafing was exacerbated to an unbelievable degree by my subsequent liberal application of sudocrem to the affected areas.  I’ve used this product for years with no problem at all, but inexplicably I got a really severe and extensive allergic reaction to the darned stuff this time round.  Acres of skin on my not insignificantly sized midriff erupted in blister like protestations that made me look like I’d been a burn victim.   I’m not even exaggerating.  I briefly wondered if I’d got or would get sepsis.   Astonishing really, and not compatible with clothes wearing in general and sports bra wearing in particular, which made me limit forays out and about as far as possible.  I did dress for these excursions by the way, just to be clear, but basically lived in the dark all week, moving in the shadows of my flat, and very definitely not doing any running at all.  I did make a brief foray to the chemist’s (twice) for supplies and advice, but basically spent the week sitting it out.  By the time the morning of the event dawned I seemed to be much better, though I am increasingly thinking a purchase for anti-chafing balms may be on the horizon despite all my previous protestations that they can’t possibly be worth the money.  I never want to undergo that degree of pain again.

So, the morning dawned, my sports bra was again donned with only minor wincing, and I would be there.  XCs was to be my new adventure for the weekend.  I had to miss volunteering at Graves Junior parkrun in order to attend so there was some pressure for it to be fun. But nothing ventured  as the saying goes…

Sporting injuries aside, I was all set.. until I crashed shin-first into a random heavy wooden box I’d left in the hallway of my flat, on the very morning of the big race. It blooming hurt, ripping the skin and creating a not-insignificant blood flow and what’s worse, it was all my fault as I’d left it there deliberately. I’d been trying to flatten out a rug I’d misguidedly tried to wash in the washing machine and which came out all bumpy, misshapen and semi-shrunk. ‘That’s an ill-advised trip hazard that needs flattening out’ I thought to myself, eyeing  it critically as it lay wrinkled and dangerous in situ in my hall.  I therefore took some care to  responsibly load it up with heavy objects in order to try to  squash said wrinkles out of it. What could possibly go wrong?  ‘I’ll just leap across the top of this major obstacle to my passing that obstructs the entire hallway, it will be good practise for the cross-country course tomorrow.’ I thought, as I headed to bed on Saturday night.  Best laid plans eh,..  I am aware of the irony of tripping over my defence strategy that was intended to prevent future trips. The humiliation is significant, so too is the pain, but worst of all, my newly washed rug now has blood on it.  I think I’ll leave it.  It will bring character to my soft furnishings, always a boon.  I was going to upload a photo of the injury, but the picture doesn’t do it justice.  Maybe I will in a couple of days time when the bruising has come out, meantime you’ll just have to imagine it as best you can for yourself.

So XC.  My weather test of sticking my arm out of my attic window suggested a decidedly nippy day was in prospect.  Good oh, I could wear my long-sleeved top and hoik the TNT vest over the top.  I headed out for my rendezvous and was swept up by a Smiley elder, who was also doing her XC debut with TNT last Sunday (though in fairness, that is where our similarities end, as  I think when she was scouted it was for quality not quantity to tell the truth, oh well, kindred spirits all the same). We then scooped up Dr Smiley who was the brains and recruitment sergeant of operations, as well as being in possession of the official TNT pop up tent (with instructions), so pretty important to have along on the day.  We headed off to Kimberworth (near Tinsley apparently, but who was listening to anyone protesting that navigational hint).

Strictly speaking, this was the second fixture of the South Yorkshire County Athletics XC season, and XC League Fixture 2, Winter hill, Kimberworth.  I couldn’t do the first on account of it being the Smiley Lakes Dirty Double trip, so my debut.  Hurrah!  En route, as we discussed the format of the day, I started to realise a bit belatedly I possibly should have given this XC malarkey a bit more planning.  I’d taken on board the mud potential, and not wanting to splash out on new shoes for spikes was going with my new favourite off-road shoes which are the Irock, and that was that.

favourite shoes irock

En route I learned that there would be multiple laps, that there would be loads of clubs, there were even different races.  It was sounding increasingly like the living hell I remember without affection as a school sports day.  ‘Didn’t you ever do cross-country at school?’  Erm, ‘nope.’  No fields surrounded my schools where I was growing up, also I put quite a lot of effort into skipping games  – more because of communal showers than anything else!  I looked at my two traveling companions with new objectivity. Hang on a minute, I’m in a car with two of the most elite Smiley runners I know, sponsored athletes, GB representatives, FGRs indeed.  How did this happen? What if the ballast requirement whilst true in and of itself, wasn’t sufficiently well used by other teams.  Would I find myself hobbling in some hours after everyone else had packed up and gone home, having only set off their most gazelle like runners as the gun went off.  Eek.

With only minor directional squabbling, we made it to the venue, and as we were early, managed to get a space in the school car park – though not before doing some impressive kerb crawling up a back lane and a nifty bit-more-than-a-three-point-turn to get out of it again.  Incidentally, and pleasingly, as you turn into the entrance to the fields and school, you pass a pub called The Colin.  This is officially the best named pub ever, not only because I say so, but also because this is a self-evident truth.  No fake news here.

The Colin

Parked up, stuff was removed from the car, including considerable provisions and the collapsible tent (note to self, bring communal provisions next time) and headed to the playing fields.  I lagged behind, my inner apprehension manifesting itself in physical form. For the record, I did offer to help carry, but was declined.  Instead I documented the labour of others, a worthy activity in and of itself I’m sure you’ll agree.

to the field

We turned the corner and the XC race HQ came into view.

Oh.  My.  Gawd.

This I had not expected!  The field was set up with an array of colourful tents and flags as each XC team had laid claim to some bit of territory. It was like a scene from a film portraying a tournament camp for gladiators, jousting or Quidditch or something.  I would have said Glastonbury, but it was a bit less muddy and more clean-cut than that.  Also, there were proper loos you could use in the sports hall, in case you are worrying about me and my need for my precautionary pee.  Some clubs were taking their emblematic presence more seriously than others.  I wasn’t sure the shield wall was entirely in keeping with the spirit of the occasion, but it doesn’t appear to be explicitly disallowed in the rules as far as I could tell.  Well, I presume not, as I gather XC is quite traditional in relation to rule book observance, so it wouldn’t otherwise have gone unchallenged.

Energetic young people were sprinting about doing elaborate warm ups.  No doubt within some of the more lavish tents, favoured athletes were being oiled and massaged by minions to ensure they’d arrive at the starting lines primed and ready to go like well oiled springs.  I stood blinking into the sun, aware of my stomach spontaneously somersaulting within….

Our tent was erected with an expert flick of the wrist by Dr Smiley, and adorned with the TNT flag.

Size isn’t everything just so you know.

size isnt everything (2)

Then it was down to business.  Running vests were provided – I’m just loaning one for now, mercifully I got first dabs and appropriated the only large one. There were two others, but they were sample sizes for display only on doll-size models as far as I could tell.  Altruism is all very commendable and everything, but I’d defy anyone to wrestle the large running vest off me. Suitably attired, it was then time for pre run drinks!  A rich red port all round to get us in the mood.  Well, Dr Smiley said it was beetroot juice, but I’m not sure.

in the XC spirit

It was a very, very beetrooty red wine to be fair, but I’m normally more of a white wine drinker myself, so not too sure what ‘normal’ port would taste like.  Anyways, now I had some dutch courage sloshing within, I went for an explore to calm my nerves.  I didn’t yet have my race number (you get allocated one to keep for the whole season), so went naked amongst the throng.

I nervously sashayed by the various other athletic teams affecting confident nonchalance.  Given my lack of a number, I was half expecting some at least of them to try to poach me for their own clubs, but astonishingly none did. They probably just knew instinctively I would be out of their league and didn’t want the embarrassment of refusal.  It’s true one club member did say to me  ‘what are you doing here?’ but I’m sure they just momentarily misspoke and weren’t incredulous at my presence at all.  Once I got over the initial terror of being surrounded by ‘proper’ athletes, in what was quite clearly a competitive set up and therefore way out of my usual comfort zone, it was quite fun seeing various runners pop up with unexpected affiliations. There’s so and so from Dark Peak – wearing a Sheffield Tri top.  Ooh, look at that frontrunner in a Totley top, get that parkrunner flaunting a Hallamshire Harrier vest and so on.  It was like all these runners have a parallel existence.  I suppose to be fair I did too. It was my first outing in a non-smiley vest.  It felt somewhat alien.  I said hello to a few people and all seemed friendly enough. Phew.

well hello

I sauntered over to the start to look at the course, which was bothering me a bit as it was apparently multiple laps, and I couldn’t fathom any obvious signage other than a big flag at the start.  There was a map it’s true, but it didn’t massively instil confidence:

 

 

I went to watch the junior women’s race.  This was for me the low point of the day. They all looked super focused, really competitive, lining up, bright-eyed, lean and hungry for the race.  It would be a race. The marshal gave some sort of briefing I couldn’t really hear, then there was an actual starting gun, and they took off, elbows out and jostling for position. This was a serious business.  No fancy dress here.  They looked amazing in their club vests, but they also looked like the kind of young women who would have massively intimidated me at school.  It was impressive.  The race started down hill so they hurtled off, not a slow runner in sight.  This did not strike me as an altogether ballast friendly undertaking, whatever the recruitment rhetoric might have implied at the time…

I made my way back to the safety of my TNT team mates.  Pleasingly, our numbers had swelled a little in my absence, although my number had yet to appear, some familiar faces had.  My new best friend from the Dig Deep 12.12 and my TNT buddy I’d met at the TenTenTen, who’d let me peer down her top for sizing purposes, phew. There were allies here.

One of the peculiarities (for me) of cross-country, is that there are multiple races taking place on the day. Different categories run at different times, that’s possibly what gives a bit of a school sports day feel to proceedings.  On reflection, I think the junior races probably attract a more self-selecting group of already sporty youngsters.  For the adult events, whilst it is true there were some formidable runners, there was also a scattering of what I would regard as the have a go participants, in which I include myself.

Somewhat bizarrely, there were different length courses not just by age, but for men and women.  The details were all on the cross country section of the South Yorkshire County Athletics Association website.  Hang on though, I’ll see if I can get a pic of some of the details just so you can share my confusion:

xc race kimberworth oct 2017

There you go.  So the men had to run three laps and just over 9000 metres, the women only just 6200 metres or thereabouts, and two laps.  I think this must be for our own protection in case our wombs fall out that was part of the problem for the legend that is Kathrine Switzer when she was wanting to run a marathon.  I wonder if the XC rule makers think women’s uteruses will fly out if they travel by train as well?   This fixture was safe as there was no railway station at the venue, but I suppose it is worth considering if future events are located at train terminuses, you’d have to do a proper risk assessment then.  Personally I worry more about sexual harassment on public transport than losing my womb when traveling at speed, but then I’m past child-bearing age so could manage without so can perhaps afford to be blasé about such risks.

Having scooped up other runners, we went again to look at the map, this time equipped with someone who knew how to make sense of the route.  I was still quite confused, there seemed to be lots of looping about, like the old Spirograph sets I so coveted in my youth, only more complex and less symmetrical.  I  wasn’t much the wiser, but I was reassured by my more experienced runners protestations that the course was well-marked and well marshalled.  That’s OK then.

now it makes sense

BAck at base camp, other TNTers had assembled, and pleasingly (I think) my number had materialised too.  Here it is, and here I am wearing it!

We even organised ourselves sufficiently for a team women’s photo, hurrah!

Team TNT XC Oct 2017

After this faffing, I discovered our race was at noon, not 12.30 as I’d thought, so I went off to the start line.  I was too hot, for the record, I should have just worn a T-shirt under my vest, but I hadn’t expected the glorious sunshine.  I lurked nervously at the back of the line up. The starter shouted out some vague instructions.  My favourite of which was the earnest direct to keep that side for this part and that side for the other. As none but the front row of runners could hear him, this seemed something of a triumph of hope over experience.  I was just hoping I’d stay in sight of the faster runners so could just literally as well as metaphorically follow their lead.

Then ‘suddenly’ there was an actual gun shot (not actual live bullets as far as I could tell,  but a starting pistol) which made me jump and then we were off!  The women started with the veteran 65+ men.  I was right at the back of the field as we stampeded off downhill.  Immediately, apart from the shock of being expected to run, which always astonishes me at running events – I felt reassured.  Unlike the junior women earlier on, this was a bit more sedate. There was quite a longish crocodile of runners, and a slightly narrow start and sharp left turn meant it was a bit congested.  It felt manageable. Watching the colourful snake of runners ahead it honestly reminded me a bit of a parkrun, albeit one on a trail. Without a doubt at the front of the field people were really pushing themselves, but at the back it was more collaborative than competitive with friendly smiles and words of encouragement.

We headed off across a field basically.  In previous years Dr Smiley has run this whole course with just one shoe. Not because  she didn’t allow enough time to get dressed at the start, but because she lost one in the mud on lap one and didn’t want to lose time or places by stopping to retrieve it.  I had explained if this happened to me I wouldn’t be continuing without first restoring my shoe to my foot.  I’m more of an ugly sister than a Cinderella at heart.  I like to have my shoes correctly adorning my person when out and about on the whole.  This year, the course was completely dry.  As we took off it turned out the route was very clear. The marshals were spread out, but the course was obvious.  There were some men warming up and running back and forth along the route, some cheery officials and even some supporters at strategic points.

The route took us up and down over hills and if you remembered to look up there were some pretty good views, it was very much more scenic than I’d anticipated, a partly urban landscape, with a housing estate at one side, but impressive all the same.   There was a heave ho up quite a steep hill, then a sort of strange loop within a loop, emerging for a bit of a downward stretch where I saw a friendly face in the form of SCS photographer who gave cheery encouragement as well as taking a couple of fine photos, having been trained up specially to delete any deeply unflattering ones I presume.  I mean, I might not be svelte exactly, but I am both airborne and smiling, for which I am most grateful! Must stop crossing those arms over when I run, inefficient use of energy and also obscures my team shirt logo!  Disaster!  Thanks Sheena Woodhead for the pic, sorry you weren’t running yourself, but good to see you all the same.  Seeing people I know definitely motivates me to run more, I feel I owe it to them to make an effort, seeing as they are making the effort to cheer us round!

SW in action in air TNT

After a bit of a down hill, and a slightly humiliating (for me) romp through race HQ where all the really good runners could watch you wobble by before they joined the start line for their own run, you went over a road and then hoiked up another steep hill. The faster runners were already looping back at this point, and it was fun to cheer some by.  I tried my best going up the hill but it was hard.  I might have walked a bit to be fair.  At this point three of us TNT runners were in a little row like flying ducks, only with less actual flight.   One of the marshals encouragingly remarked on this ‘oh look, you are three in a row!’ he said, before apparently whispering to the one in the lead ‘but you are in the front of them’.  The marshals were great all the way round, cheering us on as well as providing necessary directional pointing.

After the hill, another sharp left and then there was a properly undulating bit, narrow mud track and ditches on either side, it was fun to try to get enough momentum on the down to clamber up the hills ahead.  Like a DIY roller coaster.  Red paint like stuff was on the ground to aid navigation.  It was pretty clear, apart from at one point where I did got the right way, but one of our lead runners overshot I think.  A bit frustrating, but one of those things I suppose. Not quite as bad as the Venice marathon where the race had an unexpected previously unknown winner, Eyob Faniel after a motorcycle escort led the lead group off route, but unfortunate all the same.  Round the corner, down the hill, past the same marshal who’d earlier been urging us up hill, across the road and then back on to the edge of the HQ field, down and over a little wooden bridge.

Then just towards end of the first lap was a sculpture very similar to those we’d passed doing the SWR leg 1 recce   last week, clearly part of the same sculpture trail.  I rather like them.  Enough that I bothered to walk down and look at them properly after I’d finished running, and attempted to take some artistic shots of them and the runners juxtaposed.

That was the first lap done.  It felt manageable, and there was enough variety for it not to be boring, which was my big fear.  The hills were more challenging than I expected, but I just focused on the TNT runner ahead of me. I’ve followed her before at Carsington Water Dark and White trail event where we finished in very similar times, so I really let her do the pacing for me which is either parasitic of me or good race craft.  As we were the same team on this occasion, I am going to go with the latter!

The second lap went quickly.  The field had spread out. I was vaguely aware that the men would be heading off at 12.30, and was a bit worried about being lapped, or more specifically, where I’d be when that moment inevitably came.  I was just reaching the top of the hill within the second part of the figure of eight, when the marshal warned they were in sight. Curses. They caught me at exactly the worst part of the course where the undulations and the DIY roller coaster were in situ.  I decided it would be too antisocial to press on as there wasn’t really anywhere for the faster runners to overtake so I’d either be trampled, or really piss some runner off which didn’t seem fair.  I opted instead to stand to one side to let the first swarm pass and then periodically nipped in and out to navigate the route as best I could without getting in the way, clapping where I could.  Hang on, let me find the route map on strava, you’ll see what I mean:

route kimberworth xc

Not the most obvious of routes, but it did work, and you don’t need to navigate.  Once the majority of the men had shot by, I got sort of swept up with those that remained.  I did get quite breathless trying to hold my own. Many shouted words of encouragement as they passed, including some from TNT, it was competitive certainly but friendly still. Even so, I was quite relieved when I made it back into the HQ field, round over the little bridge and soon the finish flags were in sight. A quick burst up the hill and there were the already finished TNT women to cheer our little strung out trio of finishers in.  It was great actually.  Not too bad at all.  My womb didn’t fall out, but (shh, don’t tell) I was secretly quite pleased not to have to do a third lap.

Because the men had started at 12.30 and were doing three laps, I got a drink and then joined the others at the finish line to cheer the rest of our TNT team and other known runners home. It was quite fun.  As TNTers finished, they joined the support throng. It was like playing sardines only with less hiding in cupboards and more furious running round.  It was fun at the finish. Quite novel for me to get to cheer fellow team members home in.  Usually, I’m the last Smiley home, this format meant the men finished after me.  Something of a boon to my self-belief in future!

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Some of the men looked quite tired after all that running round in circles.  I wonder if any of them lost internal organs during the final lap?  There was a first aid tent at the finish just in case, but patient confidentiality meant those paramedics were giving nothing away.  There was also an impromptu wrestling match going on.  Fair enough.  I must have missed the sign up for that.

So Doctor Smiley counted all the TNT runners out, and then she counted them all back. Once secure in the knowledge that all were accounted for, it was back to base for compulsory prosecco.  Prosecco and cake!  Well, vegan rockie road which is basically cake.   No really. Every time apparently, and as this comes from a reliable source I have no reason to disbelieve it.  My ending up part of the TNT team offering at this event may have been through serendipity, but it seems a fitting home for me.  We were having fun.  The prosecco was even dressed for the occasion.  Marvellous.

compulsory prosecco

The prosecco was good for team morale, but maybe less helpful in terms of enhancing spatial awareness and problem solving skills as evidenced by those trying to pack up the tent.  You will note that once again I just stayed out of proceedings, leaving it to those with greater initiative than me to wrestle with the situation. Which they did.  It was touch and go, but the tent lost out in the end.  It got desperate enough that at one point the directions were dragged out and referred to.  I mean that has got to be quite a low point I’m sure you’ll agree, but desperate times do indeed call for desperate measures.

All around us tents were being dismantled and bags being packed, and pretty soon we were all trekking back to the carparks like festival goers departing after a weekend rave.  Tired and filthy but happy.   There was one anxious moment when our driver got caught up in the gate by her turtle shell, but she’s just not used to being so overtly ninja in public. She’ll get there.  You just need to own those labels sometimes.  You will from henceforth be known as Ninja Smiley to me 🙂 , which is a compliment by the way, in case that is in any way ambiguous.

 

smiley ninja

Back to the car, and homeward bound.  For our return voyage, I tried to get my head around the discipline of triathlon.  Granted, it probably takes more than a half hour car journey to truly grapple with it, but I’ve got the basics.  Three disciplines, so three lots of training, and they sort of mimic running i.e. speed, strength, endurance. That made sense until I realised I can’t imagine how you do hills in swim sessions, please not by trying to negotiate huge waves.  Also, I still haven’t quite recovered from the shock of realising that ‘proper’ triathletes don’t swallow huge amounts of water when they swim.  I’d idly mentioned to Dr Smiley previously that I couldn’t see how she could possibly  swim in the sea and then cycle or run anywhere after drinking all that salty water.  It was a complete revelation to me when she looked slightly bemused and said simply ‘but, I don’t swallow water when I swim.’  That had really and truly never crossed my mind as a possibility.  I’d always suspected triathletes to be super human, but that particular skill totally blows my mind!  Imagine that, swimming without swallowing any water let alone nearly drowning!  Amazing.  I’m more buoyant than anything though, I don’t think I’d ever sink or drown, but forward motion might be an issue, so  it would never be my thing.  Cycling stage is tough too. Have you seen how lean some of those cyclists get?

Halloween evil kneivel triathlete

So that was it.  My XC debut done and dusted.

It was definitely more fun than not.  I would – indeed will – do it all again.  The arrival at base camp was intimidating, this is probably the only running event I’ve ever done where the focus is so very clearly on competition.  It was friendly, but I did feel a bit in the way when lapped.  Having said that, how refreshing that just turning up to be counted means you have some intrinsic value for your team.  Plus, there is clearly a huge social, eating, drinking, cross fertilisation between running clubs thing going on that I hadn’t appreciated.  It’s not a just turn up and run and then depart kind of thing, it eats into the day. That doesn’t bother me, but wouldn’t be massively compatible with a family Sunday unless everyone was running.  Good though.  I’d say try it.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was certainly doable today without spikes, and I think quite a few people do just run it in trail or fell shoes quite happily, though I suppose in serious mud you’d need to take care.

So thanks TNT for welcoming me on board and Dr Smiley in particular for guiding me  and Ninja Smiley through our debut outings.  Thank you for arranging a birthday so there was cake and prosecco, and weather so there was sunshine, and running buddies so it was fun.  It was a fine romp out, and you can’t say fairer than that.

Come on people, give it a go, and do yourself a favour, next time bring rations for your club buddies, or at the very least leaden lard cakes to feed to the opposition, that should slow them down nicely.

You’re welcome.

Just think, this time next year, you could be running in the shadow of Keppel’s Column.   Your life will be the richer for it.  Plus, could arm you with the answer to an obscure, regionally based pub quiz question in future.  Just be there.  Take responsibility for your future, and join the race.

DSCF9998

Oh the results?  If you care, the prelim results for the SYCAA XC league race two are here.  Other XC leagues are available, apparently, no idea how you find out where and when, go discover for yourself, it’s all part of the adventure.

Happy running ’til next time.  Also, happy halloween.

BOO!  Don’t look back

halloween-run runners edge 2016.png

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Sheffield Way Relay – Recce Leg 1, the sculpture trail

Digested Read:  The Sheffield Way Relay SWR is a September run that requires teams of ten people to run in five pairs, with each pair running one leg, each of which comprise a ten-mile section round the trails and roads of Sheffield.  However, the separate legs are complex, confusing even.  Hence, some intrepid Smilies plan to go off a-navigating each in turn, to check them out terrifyingly far in advance, in order to build the collective hive knowledge of the whole route in anticipation of next year’s challenge.  Today was Leg 1.  I went too. Hurrah.  Fine yomping was had.  We got lost, we had fun, there were autumn leaves, rainbows and, most importantly of all, sculptures and a pigeon loft.  Hurrah!  We shall do it all again for other legs soon.  Are you coming? The more the merrier, so please do.  Build the Smiley Hive mind and have fun on the way! 🙂