Posts Tagged With: 10km

Out of the mist, came forth sun… and runners, lots and lots of runners. Loving Longshaw Trust10 in the spring sunshine.

Digested read:  back to the Longshaw Trust 10k (Trust10).  Misty start, sunny finish.  Very nice to be back.

Undigested read:

Everybody loves Longshaw.  Well they should do. Just look at it, it’s spectacular, whatever the season.

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We all need to reboot our systems now and again don’t we?  Don’t we?  Please don’t let on it really is just me?  Oh you were kidding,  it isn’t just me who gets a bit ground down now and again and needs to be reminded to look up and out and breath in the air.  That’s good, otherwise you’ll have no idea what I’m banging on about and that will make for a very confusing mismatch in our conversation, and nobody wants that.

So, Sunday morning. Now normally Sunday is junior parkrun day, and I do really love junior parkrun, supercharged fun however you look at it, especially at my local Graves junior parkrun where you get to run through the animal farm and by the lake and everything.

However, fun as it is, I realised last year that I’d got out of the habit of going to the Longshaw Trust 10k.  This is ridiculous, because I blooming love the Trust10, it’s always super friendly and welcoming and mostly ‘proper’ off road.  I mean not completely hard-core, but enough to get your feet muddy and feel alive and a very long way from the grind of running on pavements or tarmac.

Anyway, longshaw story short, I’ve decided to try to prioritise the Longshaw 10k a bit more this year, after all I can still do junior parkrun the other three weeks of the month (the Longshaw 10k takes place on the fourth Sunday of each month- check website just in case, but that’s worked so far, snow and ice permitting).  This morning, it being the fourth Sunday of the month, Longshaw it would be.

The website says succinctly:

Enjoy a 10k run in the special surroundings of the Longshaw Estate. Free, informal and for everyone

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Join us on the fourth Sunday of the month for our free 10k run. Registration is on the day 8.15 in the café, and the run starts at 9 am. A number will be issued to you at your first run.

The route is two laps, and takes in some wide paths and some more technical off-road sections on grass, rocks and sometimes muddy ground. It is suitable for runners of all abilities.

Timing will be via paper and stopwatches, so if your time is important to you please use your own system.

so that’s all you really need to know, you could just finish here, I wont know, I haven’t a clue if anyone ever reads my posts or not, so no offence taken.  Also, you might have a life to lead, places to go, people to see, whatever. I don’t do concise though, so I’m not prepared to leave this account at that, read on at your own risk. Maybe have a precautionary pee first, and pour yourself a mug of tea or glass of wine in readiness. You’ll need something with which to fortify yourself if you intend to stick with me for the long run. Not that Longshaw is especially long by everyone’s standards, but I’ll make it feel long for you.  It’s a 10k route, but two 5k laps, so if you are unsure you could always do one loop and then bail finish at that point. You’ll be at the front of the cafe queue and have seen the route.  But you won’t get a time and you won’t know the fun you’ve missed out on by doing so. Your call though, nobody will judge you.   Really they wont.  In a good way, nobody cares what you do, as long as you are having a good time and stay safe.  Think parkrun, it’s that sort of ethos.   Good natured, celebrating what you do, and although there are definitely speedy runners pegging round at the front, there is nothing to stop you taking a more sedate romp round at the rear – as did I today.

Despite everything, I did feel a little disloyal to be heading Longshaw way instead of to Graves.  Also, it was freezing when I woke.  Really misty, and was that even a bit of ice on the car?  Possibly.  It was like that at Graves parkrun yesterday, so misty you could hardly see your hand in front of your face on arrival, but then it did clear enough later on the second lap for an en route selfie with highland coo.  Such selfies ought to be mandatory anyway at Graves parkrun, what’s the point of a parkrun going to all that effort of supplying highland coos if nobody bothers to do so, but it was made easier yesterday by dint of me being busy and important as tail walker for the day, no pressure to rush on by.  Oh and also having a smart phone carrying selfie wannabee to accompany me, result.  Hurrah!  Fab walk and talk yesterday.  I thank you. 🙂

Where was I?  You’ve distracted me. Oh yeah, not at Graves, but heading to Longshaw.  It was misty enough that I contemplated putting on my headlights, and cold enough that I considered wearing one of my deeply unflattering beanies.  I thought the better of it, though on reflection, my pink Trust10 bobble hat would have been OK, it’s more forgiving than my cow bob and TpoT offerings.  Too late, didn’t take one, wondered if I might regret it, blooming cold.

I won’t lie, I’ve not been feeling the running lurve lately.  My mojo has not so much temporarily departed as actually abandoned me leaving no forwarding address and only memories and dreams of what might have been.  Despite this, I do sort of miss what we had, and it is slowly dawning on me, that astonishingly, the only way to get back my running form is to actually go out and do some running. Harsh, but true.  Perhaps today would be the day.

I arrived crazily early at Longshaw, got my self parked up in ‘my’ parking spot. Yes, I do have a favourite parking spot at Longshaw, doesn’t everyone?  It was £3.50 for non National Trust members for up to four hours – was hoping that I wouldn’t take that long to get around, even allowing time for a fairly substantial cheese scone afterwards. You can park for free along the road outside the Fox House, but I suppose I feel paying for parking is a way of supporting the otherwise free event.  Also, less far to retreat back to the car on days when it is so cold your legs won’t work.  That might just be me though. You are probably so hard-core you’ll be incorporating the Longshaw Trust10 into your long run and jog out, run the 10k and run home again.  Go you!  Not me though, that wasn’t my plan, though I do have a bit of a fantasy that I might do that one day.  Maybe when the weather is a bit warmer so I don’t have to worry about getting cold in between running legs.

The air was still, the car park already beginning to fill up, and the views, as always, just breathtaking.  Of course my photos don’t do it justice, why would they? You’ll have to go check it out for yourself.

Keenie volunteers had already put the little pink flags up to mark the way.  I had my first precautionary pee of the morning.  The bolt on the toilet door wasn’t working, but that didn’t matter as the queue for the loo is always so extensive, someone will look out for you.  The gents of course just breezed past us, waving as they went to make free with their own more ample facilities.  Structural injustice strikes again.  I read a whole article about exactly this issue of why there are never enough female toilets (as in toilets for use by women, not for bathroom sanitation ware that identifies as female – I’m pretty sure most would be non-binary anyway), but now I can’t find it.  Bet you are gutted.  Worry not, I’ll add it in later if I do.  Hang on, you’re OK, I’ve found it, great article on the deadly truth about a world built for men You’re welcome.  Found this one on the American Potty Parity movement too, who knew?  Having said that, compared to other running events, the provision at Longshaw is pretty darned good.  Warm registration area, toilets- not just toilets, but ample toilet paper and hot running water too. Thrown in an informal bag drop, parking,  and post run coffee and carb options and that covers everything really.

Headed in to the cafe area to register, my camera can’t cope with interior shots, but you’ll get the gist. First timers have to complete a registration form, returners, wearing their own reused numbers have a quicker process.

It’s all very self-explanatory and pretty slick, though the volume of participants these days does make for some good-natured queuing. That’s OK though, it’s a chance to catch up with everyone you’ve ever met in the running community of Sheffield. This event brings loads out of the woodwork.  I went on my own, but bumped into many familiar faces.  Grand.

The high vis heroes were discussing tactics, being efficient and heading off to their posts, some of which are a fair old hike away from the cafe area:

Here they are en masse at the end. What a fine and photogenic lot they are. Hurrah for them.  That’s not even all of them.  It takes a lot of effort to keep the event running smoothly.  (Pun intended, I’m super quick-witted like that – less quick on my feet unfortunately.  Oh well, we can’t all be good at anything everything).

Volunteers are epic

Runners arrived and milled and chilled, some did some voluntary extra running, by way of warm up.  Respect.  Others did some voluntary extra running by way of sustainable transport options.  Also respect:

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The sun was beginning to peak through, and I started to see familiar faces from woodrun and even a few other break away-ers from Graves junior.  It was like big reunion!

It was definitely still misty, but the day seemed full of promise.  An air of eager anticipation started to build. It seemed busy to me, but then again, apart from the Christmas Tinsel Trust 10 I’ve hardly been to Longshaw Trust10 of late.  I decided NOT to wear my coat, which is quite a big deal for me, as normally I have to have it forcibly wrestled away from me pre run.  Now though, the air was still, and the runes seemed good.  It was one of those days where you really get why ancient peoples worshipped the sun, it seemed miraculous how it began to appear and burned through the fog to reveal a glorious landscape of wonder and promise. In a bit though, not straight away.

After a bit, there was a sort of collective move towards the start, as if drawn by a silent beacon, like in Close Encounters, only a lot jollier and with more visible Lycra. Honestly, I don’t know if Lycra was even a thing when the film Close Encounters came out in 1977, the Wikipedia entry inexplicably completely fails to mention it.  This is the problem with becoming over reliant on search engines on the interweb, the entirety of human knowledge becomes reduced to dust.

The Devil’s Tower is pretty much indistinguishable from Carl Wark in my view, and you can only differentiate the assembling of runners from the assembly of the alien seekers by the presence of tarmac beneath the feet of the non runners.  Spooky isn’t it?

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Once we were all assembled, more or less, bit of fraternising went on, I noticed the runderwear ambassador ingratiating herself to the tail walkers.  Well, she was trying to communicate something important anyway.  Also a few ill-advised selfies were taken alongside other reunions. You know, it occurs to me, maybe it isn’t the hats that make me spectacularly unphotogenic, maybe I actually look like this hatted or otherwise.  Horrible thought.  Oh well, this selfie is significant because the two of us have been Facebook stalking each others for some months but until this weekend never met, now two-day on the trot, yesterday Graves, today Longshaw. We’re properly best friends now!  Clearly Smiley Selfie Queen has more experience in these matters, or maybe a more forgiving filter.  I’ll never know…  I was slightly disappointed to see she was no longer wearing her sash from yesterday, when she celebrated her 100th parkrun with cakeage+, bunnage+ and a sash proclaiming her achievement.  Oh well.  At least I saw her on the day.

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there was the run briefing.

Take care, be sensible, usual information about following marshals directions, but today was special, because today was also a day to sing Happy Birthday en masse in honour of stalwart volunteer Frances, soon to be eighty.  I think it’s fair to say that on the whole attendees are better at running than singing, but the rendition that followed this announcement was full of affection and enthusiasm.  Go Frances!  Excellent hat sporting as well as time keeping. We, who are about to run, salute you!

Birthday celebrant

It’s been a week of awesome octogenarians here in Sheffield.  Tony Foulds did good too did he not, getting his fly-by and all. Maybe that’s when life begins, at eighty, I can but hope… I’m post 54 and still don’t feel like I’ve made it off the starting block…

This is what runners look like whilst singing and waving in the start ‘funnel’ there are helpful signs to suggest where to place yourself to avoid congestion once underway by the way.  Also attentive looking runners during the run briefing.

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So then, pre run socialising and communal singing satisfactorily completed, we were awf, with that Longshaw staple the wolf whistle to get us underway!  You had to be there, but trust me, it’s true and it was audible and off everybody went.  It was somewhat quirky, like lighting a cigarette to start off the Barkley Marathons, but with more attention to Health and Safety.

And off we went.  It was fairly steady start from where I was at the back.  I daresay the front runners do speed off, but the mass of the back were happy to be more relaxed as we departed.  It’s a narrow path and a bit of a dog leg, and you are just warming up so no great haste.  Not on my part anyway.  The promise of good weather had brought along a fair few spectators to cheer us off, and no doubt then nip into the cafe for reviving coffee for a bit before the faster runners were back at the end of their first lap.

There was a bit of a bottle neck through the first gate, and then onto the compressed mud track where you run perilously close to a ditch, or more accurately a ha ha, presumably called this because that is the noise your so-called friends would make if you were to tumble into it due to either ice or a lapse in concentration.  Wikipedia doesn’t say.

There are many pleasing sights on the way round, but a fine marshal with psychedelic leggings and winning smile is always going to be a hit.  What’s more, on this route, you get to see all the lovely marshals twice if you do the whole 10k.  Now there’s an incentive to keep on running round!  Isn’t she lovely. (Rhetorical question, of course she is!)  Plus, I can personally vouch for her outstanding directional pointing, clapping and generally supportive whooping.  She’s always had a talent for this, starting way back at the finish line in the early days of parkrun, but totally perfected and finessed here at Longshaw.  Thank you marshal.  Top Tip, best to shout out your thanks on loop one, as by the time lap two comes round you may well be a) breathless and b) somewhat less enthusiastic about the whole thing, it all depends.

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Off we went, runners streaming ahead and round the lake, or is it a pond?  Not sure what the difference is, but it was all very scenic. You could tell the first timers who ground to a halt at the slightest hint of mud, not having yet learned the fun is in the plunging through it.  I heard one fellow runner explain to his running mate he would have done, but was getting a lift back and didn’t want to get mud in the car!  Can’t be a proper running buddy if they object to mud surely, but each to their own.

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Usually, the entire field has run out of my field of vision quite early on, but today I seemed to stay at least in sight of people for the whole of the first lap.  Others were also being distracted by the scenery, it was lovely, and getting lovelier by the minute as the sun burst through.  Handily placed marshals held open gates and pointed the way towards Narnia, and we followed the paths with delighted eager anticipation

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Through the trees, skipping through more open spaces, mud dodging or not, as the mood took us, thanking marshals, queuing at the kissing gate – good for a regroup, catch up and reconnaissance with other runners.

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Then into the proper woody bit, which is all tree roots and hobbit country.  It was surprisingly dry, and perfect for running today, it can be muddy and slippery, but today was fab, you need to pick your way a bit, but I enjoy this section, though you are a bit restricted to single file.  I tell myself this is why I made no attempt to overtake other runners, instead preferring to pause for photo ops en route.  Ahead of me, my parkrun buddy and Runderwear ambassador had befriended another runner, she does that a lot… takes other runners under her wing, it’s a good quality, and also a super power, it’s pretty much impossible to resist her advances – only this parkrun 50 tee wearing runner had just got swept up in the event and was doing her own run.  She wasn’t persuaded to join the fun this time round, well, no number I suppose, unless she blagged the number 50 – but I’m hoping next month she’ll be back.  She’d have fitted right in!  I am proud of my moody atmospheric shots.  The sky is moody not the runners. Well they may have been moody, I couldn’t tell from my scenic shot seeking detour standing in the bog.

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You emerge from the woodland section, through a gate, scramble over some rocks and you get spat out onto the ‘proper’ trail moorland section.  Sometimes when it’s wet this is really squidgy, but today it was easy running, apart from the little matter of being expected to run uphill.  I ran a bit, but pretty soon ended up power walking. They have ‘improved’ the route to minimise erosion, so there is now a clear path and even a little bridge so you no longer get to  have to launch yourself into flight over the little stream.

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A cheery marshal directs you and offers encouragement as you look upwards to the first serious climb of the morning, up, up skyward, into the blinding light of the morning sun. You can just make out the marshal standing astride the style in the wall at the top of the ascent, back-lit, like a super hero making an entrance.  Good work there, today Longshaw marshal, tomorrow deus ex machina at a theatrical happening of your choice!

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This marshal, as others, has commandeered this as his regular spot.  He is always friendly, and up for a chat, though it has to be said I do feel he has a somewhat unfair advantage in this respect as he hasn’t just had to drag his weary carcass up a steep hill. He is supportive though, and promised to see about putting in some sort of stairlift contraption or escalator in time for the second lap.  Top tip, don’t get your hopes up, it’s like at the Sheffield Half marathon when well-meaning spectators tell you at the Norfolk Arms ‘it’s all downhill from here!’  They are all well-intentioned, but they lie.  It’s inadvertent, but good to know.

He quipped at my Runderwear buddy just ahead ‘not last today then?’ in cheery tones. She most definitely was not. My job I thought silently, and so in time it proved to be.

So after the style and the wall and the chat, you have a long straight bit on a compacted service path.  Through a gate, and on a bit more, and then, just when your homing instinct is screaming at you to go straight on as ‘cafe ahead’ cheery marshals send you off to the right and up the second hill of the day.  This I find really hard, I don’t know why it feels quite as tough as it does, but it plays mind games.  I ended up walking and feeling pathetic for doing so.  Others ahead were walking too.  Blimey I need to up my game.

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Towards the top of this hill, you emerge alongside one of the other car parks, a marshal directs you – the route used to go through the carpark, but this route is better.  About this point the front runners started to come through, lapping me.  They make it look effortless.  Very impressive, they might be great athletes, but this is a good natured event, most shouted some sort of acknowledgement or encouragement as they passed.  I was a bit disappointed that unlike at the Tinsel Ten, none of the front runners were wearing a turkey on their heads.  Not one.  There was also a distinct lack of fancy dress.  Maybe they didn’t get the memo…  The pictures don’t capture the steepness of the climb, or maybe it really is all in my head.  The run is in fact flat, the earth is flat* and I have found a sports bra that is both comfy and supportive, and can also still fit into my interview suit.  All things are now possible.

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Over the hill, literally and metaphorically, and you are out on the exposed ridge and a flat track back to the start/ finish.  It was a lovely spot today, but I have seen marshals nearly frozen to the spot in less clement weather.  The marshal is ready to stop cars running you down – always a boon, and I think furnished with a first aid kit too, or maybe a very large packed lunch, I didn’t pause to check.  I’m sure I saw a big back pack somewhere.  It’s not in the photos, maybe I was hallucinating, or maybe some other marshal had that responsibility.  I’ll try to remember to look out for it properly next time.  On this stretch, you have to remember to take in the views.  They are spectacular.  I got overtaken a lot, but there are also walkers coming the other way.  The first lap is nearly complete though, so that’s a boost.  I have this weird thing that once I’m half way through an event, irrespective of distance, I believe I will complete it because I’ve only got to do the same again. This isn’t quite logical, but positive thinking probably goes a long way so I don’t want to challenge myself on this point for fear of my self-belief coming crashing down.  It is hovering quite precariously as it is.

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There is a narrow marshal-assisted gate at the end which you pass through into the comparative darkness of the woodland area again. I once saw a runner crash spectacularly into the stone gate post here, because there is a bit of an optical illusion going on.  There was a lot of blood, and staggering about, that’s probably why it’s marshalled now.

Once you are safely through, it’s a downhill sprint to the finish, unless you are on your first lap, in which case you cruise on through. Inexplicably, no-one has ever confused me for a finisher at the end of my first lap, even though I’m still behind a good number of others who’ve completed their two.  Oh well, at least I get my monies worth for time out on the course!

So I charged through the finish and round again for lap two. I  spotted the RD and one of her noble side-kicks and called out to them to take a photograph. Confusingly, they thought I wanted them to take one of me!  How bizarre, I have a lifetime’s supply of deeply unflattering photos of myself running, no, what I was after was one of them.  After all, runners are ten a penny at events like these, but the volunteer and organising team, well, they are priceless.  It’s a shame I didn’t get a better picture, but it is the thought that counts, and I was trying to think I promise!

Round again,through the gate into the woods again, this time I felt like I was the only runner left on the course.  There was one other just ahead, but it had definitely emptied out.  A family out walking graciously moved aside to let me pass ‘as I was racing’ which was gracious of them as I’m not sure I really was worthy of such a descriptor,  back to smiley marshal still in situ, doing a double wave just for me.

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I usually enjoy a steady solitary second lap more than the first at Longshaw, because it can be quite meditative. Today though, I heard frantic stomping of feet and breathless runners coming up behind me, it was like being hunted down! I thought maybe it was people who’d already finished doing a final cool down lap or something, but it turned out to be the two tail runners. They’d been with some other runner who’d stopped after one lap, and were now on a mission to catch me up at the back.  They were friendly and supportive, and darted about picking up flags and trying to engage in conversation a bit, but unfortunately, as my regular reader will know I really can’t talk and run so wasn’t as much fun at the back as  if they’d had the pleasure of the company of the Runderwear ambassador who’d been cavorting with them like long-lost friends reunited earlier.  However, today she was on fast forward the whole way round, the tail runners didn’t even have her in sight. So sorry lovely tail walkers, I just can’t cope with running with other people, it is my strange way.  I did my best to romp on ahead, but couldn’t quite catch and overtake the penultimate runner, however now and again I put enough space between me and the tail to get some photos of their awesome twosome tail teamwork in action.  Enjoy!  Oh, and she’s wearing a backpack under her hi-vis, no need to stare.

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Back into the woods, and oh, it was this marshal with the pack lunch/ first aid kit.  Phew, glad that mystery is solved… also nice moss, shapely trees, no time to stop, scared of being chased down, still, my polar watch was thrilled, I exceeded my exercise goals for today apparently.  That’s smugness inducing I must concede.

back onto the open hillside

past the deus ex machina at the summit – he was offering lifts back in his truck to anyone wishing to bail at this point, but no not I!

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Flat bit, puff puff, up the blooming hill, more puffing, flat and fast bit, through the gate, into the woods, down the hill, people at the finish, parkrun buddies and smiley friends shouting me in, I even managed a little burst of speed to the finish flag, though that might also have been because I tripped a bit going down hill and then couldn’t stop myself with all my substantial weight behind that bit of inadvertent forward momentum!

All done.  Phew.  Drank a full litre of water once I’d been reunited with my bag, which I’d just left in the cafe, you do so at your own risk, but it feels safe to me.  My rucksack is pretty distinctive, people know it’s mine. That’s not to say it means they would stop someone else from taking it, but I’d expect them to mention it later when it was gone ‘oh, I saw someone with your backpack disappearing earlier, wondered who it was‘.  Very reassuring.  FYI, I left my backpack in Jonty’s cafe a couple of weeks ago. When I went to pick it up they asked me to describe it, ‘it’s black and turquoise‘ I said.  ‘Oh dear,’ they said ‘we do have one, but it is black and aquamarine, so cannot possibly be yours!’  I thought that was funny.  I was reunited, panic not.

Joined the very extensive queue in the Longshaw tea rooms. I’ve never seen it so long, normally, because I’m slow, by the time I’ve finished, everyone else has recarbed up and yomped off home.  Maybe the warm weather brought more people out, or perhaps there was another event.  It didn’t really matter.  When I got to the front of the queue, I asked for an extra shot in my latte, but the server queried this as it already has two shots in it.  I think it’s good.  They obviously have and enforce an ‘enjoy caffeine responsibly’ policy, and I just didn’t look like I’d be able to handle it.

Sat outside in the sun for a post run debrief. Very nice it was too.

and then cheese scone (that was sooooooooooooooooooooo nice) consumed and coffee quaffed, it was time to go home.  What a fine morning had been had by all though.

Thank you lovely Longshaw people and fellow Trust10 participants for making it so.  Hope to be more regular in my visits in the year ahead.

🙂

By the way, if you are a fan of Longshaw and want to support them a bit more, there’s currently a big push for support for their Peak District Appeal, Woods for the Future A £20 donation doesn’t quite get you a dormouse named after you, but it could pay for a nest for a whole family, so that’s even better right?

£20 could get a nest for dormice

Also, just to be clear, a few footnotes for your edification and improvement:

+cakeage and bunnage refer to the practise of bringing large quantities of cake/ buns/ muffins etc to parkrun related celebrations or running related gatherings more generally.  Bunnage refers to any quantity greater than one bun, and cakeage to any quantity greater than one person can reasonably be expected to consume unaided.  Communal baking basically, and a very fine thing it is too.  Helped this one to a pb the following day, there’s a lot to be said for carbing up, clearly.

*FYI the earth is not flat.  Definitely not.  You’re welcome

So there you go, today’s Trust10 Longshaw 10k, Trust 10, call it what you will, done and dusted.  Nice wasn’t it?

For all my Trust 10k posts, click here.  Or don’t, it’s not compulsory.  You’ll have to scroll down for older entries

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or then again, don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll still need to scroll down for older entries though.

Happy trail running ’til next time.  Hope the sun shines on you wherever you are.

 

Categories: 10km, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geronimo’s Grand Day Out – VitalityMove event Chatsworth 10k 2017

Digested Read: I had no idea what to expect from the VitalityMove event at Chatsworth, and initially didn’t sign up because of the hefty price tag.  Subsequently got in on a freebie and ‘yay’, fantastic time, brilliant festival of running-related fun crammed with awesome people.   Also, finally, got the chance of a photo-op with Sheffield idol Jessica Ennis… (fail, oh well) and that was only the start of encounters with other brilliant people I met throughout the day. Would recommend.  That hill is long and steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep though.  Be warned.  It was hot.  This could yet turn out to be the Brigadoon of running events, a one off appearance every hundred years, so you may have missed out, but I hope not.

Longer read follows.  Make a cup of coffee first, it could take a while, think more ultra-running than musical mile in reading terms.

sighting the start of the musical mile

Jessica Ennis was quite taken by Geronimo on Sunday, I’m pretty sure that was what was behind the ‘oh look Reggie, a giraffe!’ comment she made, so in my book that means she and I  are now practically related.  Me and Jess, I mean, not me and Geronimo, that would be stupid. I’m now looking forward to knocking out some massively improved running times and maybe even taking up some other olympic sports by way of tribute, celebration and acknowledgement of this important new development in relation to my running network.  That is, I’m hoping by establishing tenuous connections to this demigod of sporting excellence (and local hero to boot) some of her athleticism will rub off on me.  I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that just thinking about exercise improves your muscle tone, so if you’ve had an actual interaction with an olympian gold holder that’s got to count for something surely?   If my old PE teacher could see me now eh?  Actually, if she could, she’d probably asphyxiate to be fair, I don’t think running with a giraffe would have been encouraged in our cruelly and ironically named ‘games’ sessions at school.  Fortunately, it seems times have changed.  The VitalityMove event at Chatsworth last sunday was more a joyful celebration of family activity related fun.  Giraffes and fancy dress were positively encouraged, the sun shone, and the emphasis was on having a collective go, especially getting young people running.  Very young people, you know the little ones, before the instinctive joy of running has abandoned them.  My kind of event really.  If I’d read the event guide before rejecting it out of hand on price grounds, I might have got that in advance….

event guide 2017

So, back to basics.   Before I signed up for this, and afterwards as well to be honest, I had very little idea of what to expect.  The ‘about us’ blurb on the VitalityMove website didn’t really help either.

Running is a natural activity that everyone can get involved with anywhere – it could be you run and walk the distance or train to keep going all of the way – whatever suits you, we want to cater for you. Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill is working with a team of like-minded people to create VitalityMove – two events that seek to fuse music and running and bring an energy to running that entices the reticent runner to join in. Here’s what Jessica has to say!

I have been so lucky to have got so much out of my sport – not only a career but a lifestyle. Fitness really can be enjoyable and I have teamed up with Vitality to share my passion for running and music and how the two together can make exercise fun.

We have created VitalityMove – a big day out with music and running at its heart. There will be lots of great things for families and committed runners to get involved with from 1 mile fun-runs, family relays to the more traditional 5k and 10k distances – all themed to music designed to keep you moving by DJ Trevor Nelson. Our venues are iconic; Chatsworth House and Windsor Great Park – both stunning backdrops for the event. Whether you are a first time runner or a seasoned athlete we will cater for you – and hopefully make it a day to remember.

I hope you will sign up and enjoy the journey to the events with me!

Nope, not really getting it, maybe I’m slow in processing event descriptors as I am in running.  In fairness I think this is possibly the first event of its type that I’m aware of anyway, so maybe it was inevitably hard to get across what it would involve, and therefore what participants might be paying for.  I got that you could pick a run distance and there’d be music, but honestly, and sorry if this is harsh, it was a whopping price for a 10k in this neck of the woods.  When it was first promoted I think it was about £35, when I actually came to enter it was showing around £29 for anyone over 16 (children were always free) and about £25 for the 5k and then parking (£5) on top.  It seemed a lot for a race of those distances.  We are perhaps unusually spoilt in Sheffield.  It is easy to access a Trust10 trail 10k race for free every fourth Sunday of the month at Longshaw; there are parkruns a-plenty offering free 5ks every Saturday five in Sheffield alone with a junior 2k parkrun each Sunday locally too (also free).  Then there are a wealth of reasonably local fell races starting from £1.50 for the legendary off-road Oxspring Trunce series.  Anyway, the consequence was, as soon as I saw the price tag I lost interest and didn’t bother to research the VitalityMove event any further.   I think I’m not alone in having thought it bizarre to the point of incomprehensible that an event would price a 5k or a 10k at that level.  We just aren’t accustomed to forking out for running events of those distances maybe, opportunities for running surround us.  We are blessed!  I didn’t get the USP at that point.  It seemed most peculiar!

That was then.  But circumstances change.  At the last-minute, I was lucky enough to get wind of a code that gave me free entry (cheers parkrun), and then it became a no-brainer.  Who wouldn’t want to go to a venue as lovely as Chatsworth for a 10k run and bag some fetching bling to add to their medal collection into the bargain?  So I went forth and ran.  Now I’ve actually been to the event, I get that the 10k and 5k runs were really just the icing on the cake for a much broader inter-generational running/sport festival.   A lot of thought went into the day, the planning was meticulous, I met some great people and I had a fabulous time.

Basically, the whole day far exceeded my expectations and I think it’s a bit of a shame that (in my view anyway) the pre-event publicity didn’t really communicate what would happen on the day, and I think many may have missed out as a consequence.  It would still have been very pricey, but I got the impression that the event could have managed many times the number of participants easily (apart from in the loo provision department, but then what running event has ever had enough portaloos at the critical moment).  It is/was a huge venue, I’d love to see this event become a regular fixture but more modestly priced to encourage more to come along.  I’m sure it would be a case of more the merrier.

Incidentally, in case you are worried about this, although the event is clearly aimed at families, I went on my own – well just me and the giraffe – and it was great.  Geronimo is a handy ice-breaker it’s true, but it was such a friendly and fun day, I reckon anyone standing still on their own for more than 10 seconds would end up in cheery chit-chat with a fellow attendee soon enough.  Well, unless they had seriously hostile body language.  I met some fantastic people, I’ve even launched my video career now so, you know, anything is possible if you take along your running shoes, sense of humour, broad smile and an open mind, just as in life!  (Giraffe/ fancy dress optional, but fabulous, so you should).

I’m going to tell you all about our grand day out together by way of supporting evidence.  Really you will need to triangulate my personal, and therefore subjective account, with other primary sources to be properly informed.  That’s what critical analysis is all about.  The best way to achieve this would be to get yourself along to the next one and see how our accounts tally…  There’s still VitalityMove at Windsor Great Park to come, allegedly (date tbc), so it’s doable. Well I think it’s doable, I have a slightly sinking feeling that ticket sales have been low across the two events so it might not come to pass, but maybe lessons learned from Chatsworth will help to ‘make it so’ and so spread further running happiness.

make it so

So, the event build up started on entering with my special code via the website.  That was really straightforward, I did have to pay for parking but that was fair enough in the circumstances.  Only after signing up for the 10k did I look at the course, and remember there is a massive hill at Chatsworth, it’s only 759 feet of climb according to Strava, which isn’t all that much in Sheffield terms, but it is compressed into a couple of short stretches at the early part of the course.  Oops.  I heard ‘free’ and forgot ‘huge hill’ in all the excitement.  Reading the event guide I picked up that fancy dress was ‘positively encouraged’ that’s more like it!  I was going to give Geronimo a bit of a break from running, I mean we’ve had both the Round Sheffield Run and Sheffield Hallam’s birthday parkrun outings lately, I was a bit worried it might be getting tedious.  On the other hand, what the hell.  It would be her first 10k and as I was otherwise going on my own I thought it might be a good way to get to chat to people, she could rest up later.  Plus if they are ‘positively encouraging’ fancy dress, I think it would be rude not to.  Here’s the strava profile by the way – see what I mean?  Yes, you can see I ended up walk/running the steep sections, so what, shoot me, I still did it.

Strava

Even though I was a late entrant, my pack (number and chip timer) arrived in the post with a few bits of other info promptly, and my car-park pass was duly emailed to me on the Wednesday before.  I thought that was pretty impressive.  You could also pay on the day for parking by the way, still a fiver.  No free parking for Blue Badge holders though, which I thought was poor, even possibly just a complete oversight as no dedicated parking for them either.  This didn’t impact on me, but it did on a fellow Smiley, and that wasn’t good.  As if life isn’t hard enough sometimes if you have, or care for someone who has, limited or no independent mobility.

parking voucher

Then on the Sunday morning, it was sooooooooooooo hot.  I wasn’t sure what to wear, I haven’t the body confidence, or indeed physique to wear my Smiley Paces running club vest without a T-shirt under it, but that would be stupid in such heat. Then I thought, well Vitality are one of the parkrun sponsors, so I decided to go with my parkrun top.  Good call.  I was up early, so lots of time to pin my number on Geronimo Sky, have porridge for breakfast and debate the relative merits of which running shoes to wear.  I mean  I love my Hokas for their cushioning, but they definitely have been giving me knee issues which may or may not be a temporary thing due to an inevitable change in running style that new trainers sometimes causes.  I put them on but stuffed my more hard-core trail shoes salomon fell-raisers in my backpack just in case.  Car pass printed out, water bottle filled and off I went.

It was gorgeous driving over to Chatsworth, I feel really lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.  Yes, not great for running hot and humid as it was, but indisputably a gorgeous day.  I was quite excited pulling up to the grand golden gates of Chatsworth where a friendly marshal shooed me off in the right direction.  It was pretty quiet when I arrived.  The rolling grounds of Chatsworth were truly spectacular, sheep milled around under the trees seemingly unconcerned by the cars arriving.  There were even a few lambs cavorting. Shame they’ll all end up being eaten (not by me, I’m vegetarian) but let’s not dwell on that today.  I parked up, and you could see ahead bright pink flags and inflatables of the event camp.  Excited others were gathering.  Yep, it felt like the day was going to be fun.

I followed the pink signs to the event, I wasn’t cross at the cross point, I felt no need, but I think it is quite a good idea to have a special zone where cross people are made to gather together so they don’t spoil events for everyone else.  I might start putting that in surveymonkey responses the next time I get a post-event feedback survey emailed through to me.

As I walked down a companionable fellow runner fell into step with me.  It was only one of  the tigger runners from the Round Sheffield Run!  She hadn’t so much recognised me as Geronimo, and us fancy dress ambassadors, well,  we share a bond and need to stick together. Turns out she was at Chatsworth to do some pacing but it was good to actually meet.  Plus I found out the significance of her costume choice…. drum roll… it’s because her nickname is Tigger!  Genius is it not!

MJ tiger tiger

No tigger outfit today, so I hadn’t recognised her. That’s another amazing thing about fancy dress if you are interested, you’d think it would make you more conspicuous, but it’s actually the opposite.  People notice Geronimo but not me, so by simple dint of removing her (or previously Roger) it’s like I’ve donned a cunning disguise.  My absolutely serious and heartfelt recommendation for self-conscious runners out there is go for fancy dress.  Nobody sees you or judges your body silhouette picked out in unforgiving lycra if you have a giraffe strapped round your waist.  It’s a simple distraction technique.  Not that anyone actually cares what you look like when you’re running or judges you anyway, but them as share my anxiety about appearing in public wearing lycra will know what I mean.  Anyway, she bounded off to do whatever it is that Tiggers do as warm up for pacing, and I had a wander round the event village.  I stole this photo from the official photographers’ Facebook page, cheers AWOL event photos, I’m sure they won’t mind 🙂 It’s the view from the stage at around 8.30 a.m. on the day of the event.  Impressive eh?

awol calm before the storm

As I got nearer to the centre of it all I started to get a feel for the mood of the day.   There were colourful tents in abundance.  Areas where children could have a go at netball, or GoApe, a clearly defined food area, well signed bag-drop, registration, some event-standard portaloos set against the backdrop of the magnificent Chatsworth House.

As I approached, I had my first star-struck moment of the day. There was Jessica Ennis milling about and very graciously posing for selfies and photos with people various. On a serious note I have a lot of respect for Jessica Ennis (aside from her not having a barcode with her when she did Sheffield Hallam parkrun) and she may be an extraordinary olympian, but she is also (only) human and pregnant. Even so, she spent the whole of Sunday smiling, chatting to people and posing for photos in scorchio heat.  That was impressive.  Actually scrap that, she’s not human, she is indeed super-human.  An amazing athlete of course, but radiates down-to-earth honest-to-goodness cheery decency and tolerance too.  I wonder if she trains as hard for selfie posing  as she must have done for the high jump?

Now, as my regular reader will know, the only time I felt homesick when I was working in Cambodia earlier in the year was when I missed Jess and Paul rocking up to Hallam parkrun.  I was beyond gutted.  Two of my absolute icons, at my home parkrun and I missed it!  The pain!  Anyway, here she was, in touching distance, this was my moment, the opportunity was within my grasp.   I could let it pass and spend the rest of my life in sullen regret, or I could seize the moment!  Reader, let me report that I did indeed commandeer a bystander to act as a photographer and approached Jess to request a photo.  This was the moment when Jess complimented my Giraffe with her (unforgettable to me) ‘oh look Reggie, a giraffe‘ comment. I did some incoherent gushing about how much I admired her and how I was sorry to have missed her before when she was at Hallam.  I was not cool at all, but then in my defence when have I ever been that?  Anyway,  she patiently stood as my nominated photographer took a few snaps.  I was sooooooooooooooo happy.  Alas, as I wandered off looking at them, I realised none had been taken.  Curses.  My camera is a bit odd, you have to push the button quite hard, and sadly, this was an epic fail.  Not one shot to capture the moment.  I was disappointed, but you know what, we have our memories, and I like to think we shared a moment.

Incidentally, despite my disappointment at missing my two idols Jess and Paul when they went to Hallam and I didn’t, I have subsequently ‘met’ both.   At Chatsworth it was Jess, but I also shared an (awkward) moment with Paul Sinton-Hewitt, albeit a similarly tongue-tied one once I was back from my travels.  I suppose I’m saying that we must never give up on our dreams, as we never know what the future holds.  I was so sad to miss the hobnobbing opportunities back in February, but had my own individual encounters later on.  Dreams really do come true!  Also, there was an official photographer around at the same time as I was posing with Jess, and clearly Geronimo Sky is spectacularly photogenic, so I’m really hoping that a photo is out there somewhere.  Even if it’s not, in the absence of any photographic evidence of the encounter I can embellish the story at will for either comedic and/or dramatic effect.  Everyone’s a winner!

In a daze of celebrity awe-struckness (well it is a word now), I went to further explore my surroundings.  Geronimo was taking it all in too.  She’s pretty non-flighty for a prey animal.

exploring

There were huge deck chairs and tiny pink bean bags  scattered around, a massive event stage, and various partnership company stands.  There was a main stage at the finish, and tables groaning under the weight of frozen-themed water bottles.  There was an alarming number of ambulances in evidence, but I suppose that’s sensible.  I don’t know though, same with armed police officers, maybe it is a sensible precaution to have all that first aid/emergency cover on hand, but I find it unnerving rather than reassuring.   There weren’t any armed police at Chatsworth though, so only had to worry about the hill, not the presence of weaponry in the vicinity.

There were some friendly looking marshals/ water station people sporting the fine grey Vitality T-shirts so I had a natter with them.  They liked Geronimo too, so we played around with selfies.  They encouraged me to instagram these using such-and-such movetothemusic hash tag, I think they confused me with someone with a smart phone and a basic understanding of twitter.  Still, it was a friendly and fun encounter.  And at least I now had a selfie by way of consolation for missing out on the one with Jess earlier.  I hope their selfie technique was better than mine!

Next stop was the pledge pod.  I’d done a summer pledge photo at parkrun yesterday, but hey, the pod looked fun. A maintenance guy was just getting it going so was game to talk me through using it.  Apparently you are much more likely to complete a goal if you write it down and share it.  I don’t think it’s a substitute for training though, which is a disappointment.

You write your goal on a dry-wipe white board and get four differently posed photos opportunities.  You can then upload these to Facebook, using the touchscreen within the pod, which didn’t work for me as I obviously don’t know either my own username or log in password, on the plus side, no-one’s hacking me.  However, I did get a physical print out, and that was fun.

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Not wishing to diss Jess or anything, but I reckon my pledge was smarter, i.e. specific, measurable etc, than hers which was a bit on the vague side ‘as active as possible during pregnancy‘ isn’t very easy to pin down really is it?   I am not necessarily pleased about this, me having a more specific goal that is – since it will make it way harder for me to wriggle out of and it’s only a few weeks away.  I said ‘I will complete the Dig Deep 12.12 mile trail race at Whirlow August 2017! (Not necessarily with a giraffe).’  So we’ll see.  My training to date has consisted of entering.  Well, it does show willing at least.  You can pledge your own goal at https://mysummergoal.co.uk/ apparently and admire Jess and Ellie and that other guy making their own here.  I like Ellie Simmonds a lot too, which I’m sure would please her enormously if she but knew.  It was hearing her talking on Woman’s Hour the other day about liking to have a nap in the afternoon that clinched it for me.  I, like her, fear this particular penchant of mine will have to go when I next enter gainful more conventional employment.  Unlike her, I don’t think opportunity providers will be queuing up to find a compromise on this point.

So more milling around. Mr Kandoo (Round Sheffield Run and Kandoo events) pitched up in a tententen T-shirt (I like those, tasteful grey with Autumn Leaves logo).  Anyway, his presence gave me an opportunity to thank him for creating my favourite race of the year.  It is honestly like he sat down and thought of all the things that would make a Lucy-friendly running event and scattered then kandoo magic fairy dust all over it and so it sprang into life.  A bit like Frankenstein’s monster, only more user-friendly and less killing, more trail running related fun and (marginally) less existential angst. He made a cunningly ambiguous reference to Geronimo’s participation on the day, saying something like ‘so you and fancy dress‘.  I respect that.  I suppose just like local running shops, running event organisers have to navigate local running politics and interactions with their event participants with some care.  They mustn’t appear to have a favourite running club, or get drawn into sharing potentially controversial views.  Their business model rests and falls on their skills in diplomacy as much as event management.  The listener can put whatever interpretation they wish on such a phrase.  It might be complimentary about the wearing of fancy dress, or it might  in fact be an expression of disbelief verging on horror, but the actual phrase used? Well, read it back, and you’ll see that it gives nothing away.  Sort of ‘neither confirm nor deny’ when you see it written down.  Hopefully the listener will hear what they want to hear rather than pick up on the inconclusiveness of the statement, everyone stays friends, everyone is happy!

It’s a bit like when you see a friend in an amateur play or performance or something and you attend it nursing and apprehension bordering on terror.  You fear it will be absolutely dire and yet you will need to have some encouraging phrase to utter to them afterwards in order to maintain the friendship thereafter.  Something that isn’t an actual lie but will communicate apparent enthusiasm, and stop you from blurting out that you have just sacrificed two hours of your life that you can never get back sitting through that pretentious nonsense.  Hence, the wily audience member will have a reference pack of useful phrases to fall back on as they see their friend post show. Common one’s include ‘What can I say!’ uttered with gushing intonation as you pace towards them arms outstretched or ‘Amazing, you’ve done it again!’ similarly delivered or the old favourite ‘I knew it!’  The calculation being that hopefully the hearer will be too self-absorbed in their post-show bubble to request any further critique.  True opinions are not required.  Of course you might get lucky and see something brilliant, but still good to have a repertoire non-commital phrases at your disposal.  This ‘so, you and fancy dress‘ remark had a more neutral delivery, but worked on the same criteria, so well done, nicely played.    I choose to take it as endorsement.  Just another of my many delusional thoughts in evidence.

Next stop, precautionary pee, then I changed into my more fell shoes after all as my knee was giving me gyp.  Then to the bag drop. We’d been warned it would be really busy so best to leave bags with friends and family.  As I have neither friends nor family,  it was bag-drop all the way for me.  At that time it was really quiet, I think my number was four, which is a clue to its busy-ness.  You get a wrist tag, and a matching one was put on my bag.   There was an anxious moment when I approached, and the woman seemingly in charge stopped me proclaiming most assertively (bordering on aggression to be blunt) that they wouldn’t take responsibility for any animals whilst I was running.  As if I’d leave Geronimo in the charge of strangers!  Even nice ones like at the VitalityMove Chatsworth event bag drop!  It would be akin to leaving a dog in the car on a hot day.  I blustered indignantly protesting at the very idea, but happily the confusion was swiftly resolved and we were all soon friends again.

I made my way to the music mile start, evidenced by the presence of large blue musical notes.  I didn’t know what to expect, but my plan was to do a musical mile by way of warm up (er hem) and not at all because I wanted a trophy wrist band.  I was curious to find out what it was about, and I reckoned that it was so hot I wouldn’t feel like running  a mile once I’d done the 10k, but I knew I’d finish the 10k once started if I did it the other way around.  It was a good plan.

musical mile

Hanging around at the start I soon got chatting to a couple of other runners.  We compared running tales. They’d done the moonwalk in London which sounded amazing. You basically do the London Marathon route overnight wearing only a bra!  Brave I thought, wish they hadn’t clarified that they did actually wear jogging bottoms too.  It’s an annual event ‘united against breast cancer’ the next one is 12 May 2018.  It is £48 and you have to raise a minimum of £100 sponsorship, but these two had clearly had a ball.

As we were chatting, a woman waved at us, and called me over.  This was my modest claim to fame for the day I suppose, as it marked my video debut.  I can’t entirely take the credit, it was Geronimo who first caught their eye, but I gained glory by association, which is good enough for me. So it was that Geronimo Sky and I made the Derbyshire telegraph VitalityMove event video, it went up on their webpage, so I’m just waiting in now for a TV agent to approach me with an impossible-to-refuse lucrative sports TV presenter contract offer.   The phone’s not rung yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.  I’m ex-directory so they’ll have to do a bit of research to track down my phone number. You need to click on the second video down, and wait for 8.44 mark.  I see us as a double act like Rod Hull and Emu only hopefully marginally less annoying, I’ll be really disappointed if she gets an offer and I don’t though.  Hope she’ll remember me on the way up…  Seeing the clip I do cringe at the sound of my own voice and rotund physique on the one hand, but on the other hey, local stardom!  We all have to suffer for our art I suppose.  Plus, it does give a fine glimpse of the goings on at the start of the day.

TV career launch video

A scattering of us duly assembled for the 10.00 a.m. start time, but a delay was immediately announced as they needed to get the music stations out on the course.  A crew of spectacularly attired dancers in impractical shoes were ushered past to be positioned on the course.  I didn’t get the chance to take a photo of them until the end of the day, here are two of them by way of example.  I hope they had sunblock on, that was a lot of exposed flesh to be standing out in the sun all day with.

dancing queens

It was fine, nobody minded.  A photographer posed us for some publicity shots.  Yes I did get in the frame.

musical mile not posing at all

Famous DJ Trevor Nelson pretended to sound the start horn.  If I track any of these fine images down later I’ll add them into this post in due course.  About ten minutes late, it was start time.  At this moment a little girl who was the first to arrive at the start line was chosen to do the start countdown. She was duly led off to clamber up on high atop of the crowds to do the official opening from the top of a scaffolding tower.  Check her out in the top left of this photo as the runners whizz away…

musical mile start off

Now, this was a lovely thought, but I was in earshot of her mum (I think – someone who knew her anyway) who said, words to the effect of ‘oh no, that’s a shame, she wanted to be at the front of the start line, not watching it go off‘.  To be fair, she didn’t look particularly upset, a little overwhelmed possibly, but then weren’t we all.  We were told to look out for ‘exciting things’ and ‘join in with the dancing and enjoy the music on the course’.  So finally off we went.  It was a cross-section of runners, parents/carers and children, people warming up for longer events and a few ‘what the hell’ types.  The one mile route was a flat circuit out towards the parking area, round by the river and back in a little loop.

Musical mile route

It was slightly odd, because it wasn’t really marshaled as such, although the route was obvious, you just sort of romped out.  As you ran, people just arriving at the event were ambling towards and alongside you.  At the Cross Zone were the first of the dancing troupe, a duo stood next to speakers that were blaring out music.    They were smiling and clapping, but also looking a tad self-conscious rather than encouraging dancing at this point in the day.  Friendly and fun certainly, but also fairly low-key.

The official photographers were on hand to snap away. For the record, I was in about 61 different shots, so they weren’t slacking in their paparrazzi duties.  The overwhelming majority of photos are one’s that do indeed capture the occassion, but also make me never want to be seen in public again. However, one or two were really fun – check out my jazz hands in homage to the occassion.

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I found the route incredibly hot, we were in direct sun, and although it was only a mile it was a bit of a reality check for the not flat at all 10k to come.  As we circled back along the river there were I think three more stations each with loud speakers and a couple of dancers.  One pair were up for a bit of a boogie the others less so.  I don’t normally run just for a mile so it all seemed really quick. The finish was spectacular, there was a wrist band and a huge clunking medal for everyone, which was unexpected.  Then you went up some steps which took you to the back of the huge stage, so everyone had their moment leaving via the big performance platform where you could pause for a selfie with famous DJ Trevor Nelson as you exited.  It was great, some of the children were so excited and proud of their achievements it was infectious.  Made up for missing out on the fun of volunteering at Junior parkun, this morning, seeing all those happy, joyful faces.  I don’t have any pictures of that because I didn’t have my camera but maybe some will follow. These are the medals though – different ribbon, but same bling.  Quality eh?

bling plenty of bling

Spat off the stage, you could pick up a bottle of water, and I got some sort of princess label on mine from frozen, so that was grand!  My mile done, what with the later start, the milling about etc, I took one look at the queue for the loos and decided I did have basic bladder control after all.  I wasn’t originally going to take Geronimo on the 10k, but then I bumped into familiar face (fellow Smiley and RSR recce buddy) who was there with her two daughters.  Hooray, photo op.  Aren’t we grand, this is the medal from the musical mile.  Seeing my trophy helped motivate the two young women to run and nab one for themselves.  Yay.  Whatever it takes!  Anyway, after all that chit chat, I didn’t think there was time to go back to the bag drop and leave Geronimo there, besides, given our earlier exchange it would be a bit hypocritical to dump a giraffe with them following my righteous indignation at the mere suggestion of the very idea that I would do such a thing barely an hour previously – so I just thought ‘oh well, maybe it’ll be fun doing it together‘.  And she stayed put.

friends at the start

Once we’d had a quick chat, my Smiley running buddy headed off to drop bags and check out the loos, whilst I continued my milling about.  I ended up in conversation with a couple of finely turned out TomTom pacers who were ace.  The starting point may have been mutual appreciation of dress (I don’t think that was the real hair of the guy in the kilt) but evolved into a really good chat. They had both got loads of experience of pacing the London Marathon so I basically took the opportunity to download their collective brains for top tips on how to approach it (I have a deferred ballot place for next year, which still feels unreal).  This guy is going to be one of the five hour pacers so you never know, we may yet meet again:

tomtom pacer with jess

For me, this was one of the stand out features of this Chatsworth event, I got to talk to so many brilliant people who shared hilarious and/or interesting stories, or taught me new things about running techniques and events, or simply inspired with their own efforts and motivation.  It was brilliant.  One of the TomTom guys turned out to be an olympic torch carrier no less, and promised I could go and have a hold of his big torch later!  He was nominated to carry it for a section due to charity work he has done for Barnardos.  How fabulous is that?  I did as well, go and check out his torch.  Tigger is in the shot below as well by the way, but in disguise without the outfit.  Be impressed.

There was a sort of grand warm up for the 10k led from the stage, but I didn’t want to wear myself out doing that, so I just hung out at the back and enjoyed the view.  It looked fab though, like community popmobility, something which I am inclined to feel should be encouraged at every opportunity.  Early morning (pre-dawn) moving to music happens all over the place in Cambodia by the way, it’s brilliant.  We need that ethos here too!

Grand warm up

This was much busier than the musical mile start, and ‘proper’ runners were congregated at the front.  As people moved into the start funnel there was still time to fraternise with other runners though.  I’m looking forward to seeing for myself how that sheep costume turns out at a later run event in the vicinity.  Sounds brilliant.  Jess was there to set us off.  At least I think she was, I couldn’t see what was going on, and it becomes a bit of a blur with so many different run distances and events going on almost continuously.  I do know that at some point I heard a voice put out a plea not to trample Jessica as you ran because she was pregnant.  I’m not sure if the inference that it would have been OK otherwise to trample her was intentional.  In any event, I don’t think  it is ever OK for runners to trample Jess, or anyone else for that matter, it’s easy enough to give a people a bit of a berth as you overtake, especially at an event where the focus was on fun and participation rather than flat-out racing. Because of where I was in the line up I didn’t get to high-five Jess or Trev as I was passing, but they were there, cheering us all on!  I think these photos might be of the Disney mile start, but hey ho, you get the idea.

The 11.00 a.m. 10k starting stampede was captured on film. It wasn’t a  massive turn out by local standards, but it was respectable.  The results look like there were about 1000 10k runners across the two events of the day.  ‘Serious runners’ went towards the front, there were pacers towards the back doing 60 minute and 65 minute times.

As we headed off, it dawned on me that it was indeed a long haul up that hill.  It was a steep, steep and somewhat demoralising climb.  You hoik yourself up, and after what seemed like an age, you get to the first sign (literally, it was a hi-vis poster) warning you were about to start the Ennis hill. What?  What the heck was that first killing kilometer then.  I wasn’t massively impressed.  The setting is scenic, but apart from the grassy first bit, much of the track upwards to the hunting lodge was on a sort of compressed gravel that was hot and very dusty underfoot. It wasn’t the springy woodland trail surface I’d fondly imagined and it was hard on my arthritic feet.  I did have to walk from quite early on.  I told myself this was a legitimate strategy as power walking was faster than my feeble running efforts at this point, but it did feel a bit of an epic fail to be walking so early on. I mean I can do a parkrun 5k without stopping, so I should have surely managed 2k – except it was almost vertical in ascent.  What was encouraging though, was as the tomtom pacers passed me – which inevitably they did, they shouted out cheery words of encouragement, one was playing upbeat music on some hand-held speaker, so that was fun and cheering.  Good for morale.  Another advantage of having a giraffe you see, it makes you relatively easy to spot amongst the heaving throngs!

If you like a few visuals by way of reference, then whilst we are on the theme of tenuous links (yes we were), the terrain was a bit like that at the early part of the Bushy parkrun route (you can see it really clearly from 1.45 mark). Thanks to Dean Carter for this video of his parkrun in Bushy park – the final in his epic quest to complete all 47 parkruns in the Greater London area.  (Yes, this is mainly an excuse to upload a go-pro of the iconic Bushy parkrun course, but can you blame me really?)

I’d like to say as I stormed up that hill I looked like an extra from Chariots of Fire, but unfortunately I didn’t, however, I did reach the top eventually, and then it got a lot more fun and straightforward.  Again, not many marshals, but the route was obvious, and bold kilometre markers told you how far you’d come.  I got a few cheery shouts of appreciation for Geronimo which was nice.  My favourite though was the two women running together who said the ‘you’ve got a giraffe line‘ which was fair enough, I gave my usual retort of ‘where’s yours?‘ and quick as a shot the reply whizzed back to me from one of them ‘if you’d seen me on the hill you’d know I came as a grumpy cow!’  Genius quipping there. Respect.  I like that in a fellow runner.

Here’s the route by the way – their event guide map, and my strava one, hope it helps:

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There was short part where the returning runners shared the track with those of us still heading out.  The temptation to slot in behind the front runner who I saw out of the corner of my eye was pretty strong at that point, but I had a feeling such subterfuge would not go unnoticed.  At various stages I struck up conversations with other runners, it was a very chatty event. Well it was for me, faster runners were killing themselves with different race plans.  I suspect there may have been some throwing up at the finish line by them.   I met other parkrunners, first time 10k runners, people who’d lost huge amounts of weight, charity runners,  those who’d traveled from afar, and locals too.  There weren’t many running club vests, a few I recognised, but this felt more parkrun community than race like in atmosphere and I really liked that.  Faster runners were celebrated in the prize giving at the end, but the day as a whole was inclusive.  I spent quite a bit of the route step in step with a guy in training for a marathon in a couple of months, he’d just restarted his fitness quest.  He actually did his first half-marathon as a smoker on three-weeks training, he got round, but wow, that would have been tough.  A bit of companionable chat made this part of the route pass more quickly.  I really think slower runners, of which I am one, must have more fun at longer races, whilst I can’t talk and run for a 5k, if it’s more of an endurance, then chatting to marshals or snatched conversations with other runners as you pass one another is part of the shared experience.  It’s good for morale. Those fast runners whizzing by miss out on that.   It’s all very well going for a sub two-hour marathon, but wouldn’t Eliud Kipchoge have enjoyed it all much more if he’d been able to have a natter with pacers en route.  He didn’t crack the time anyway, so he could have just had a nice morning out instead.  He seems a friendly guy, looked smiley on the telly.  I bet he’dhave  loved to have had a chat about running sock preferences on the way round – especially as his attempt was all on a track.  How dull must that be, running round in circles, much better to take your mind of it all by discussing anti-chafing strategies instead.  I might message his Facebook account and suggest it, I expect he’d be glad of the top tip.

There was a St Johns First Aid station around the 7km mark.  Hilariously, just as one of the marshals there helpfully called out to be careful of the uneven terrain, I, in turning to look at him and hear what he was saying  lost concentration and stumbled over a tree root much to the merriment of those around.  A bit further on there was a much-needed water station.  It was so hot and humid and hilly. There was only one woman tending it and she was super stressed, all the bottles she’d put out before hand had gone and she seemed a bit panicked.  It was all good-natured though.

It was a big relief to get into the shade of the trees. There are some beautiful scenic parts of the route as you are up high, you need to remember to look to the right to take in the views. We passed a water feature and a stunning cascading waterfall at one point.  I wasn’t taken with the surface under foot but that’s probably petty of me, and a reflection on my arthritic feet as much as anything.  After a while I pulled ahead of my new friend as we weren’t really pacing the same as the gradient shifted – though we did seem to leap-frog each other for a fair bit afterwards.

There were a few fun surprises en route – the unexpected steel band was completely brilliant, they were positioned so both 5k and 10k runners would pass them, but they were only in place for our return run not on the way out.  Also there were some random full fur suited chipmunks/rabbit I know not what disney-esque creatures. Clearly I thought these were great, and we shared high fives.  I wonder if a live music station at the mid point of the music mile might have been a better option than the several quieter speaker stations, but I suppose there are cost implications to doing that.  Live music was really good.  A proper party atmosphere.  If I had to choose, I’d have had them on the music mile where everyone could enjoy them even if not running, they were a hidden delight for the few up in the woods.  Grand though.  Cheers people!

Eventually we emerged from the woods onto the grass descent.  It was basically through a tall grass meadow, where they’d put a mower through to make a path for runners. The consequence was a mass of dried and drying, recently cut tall grass under foot.  Loose hay basically.  It was a timotei-esque romp through a hay field, only down a really stepp hill.  I like running through hay, kicking it up. It was fun, but also strange and unfamiliar, it felt the surface underfoot was moving, I’ve only had that sensation once before, running on a beach when a wind whipped up the sand so it was blustering round your feet and you couldn’t really see the actual ground through it – it was that same sense of your eye making you think the ground is in motion.  I liked it, surreal, but enjoyable.  Towards the end of the course there were more photographers on hand to capture the emotion of the final 1k.  Not sure what adjectives should apply here, but I’ll go with ‘determined’, and leave it at that.  In my defence, it wasn’t the easist of 10ks you know…

determination

It was still a good 2k to the end, and we ran in past newly arriving participants.  In the last 1km or so there was some tape up marking the route, and competitors who’d finished earlier or not yet run were lining the course.  I saw one Smiley who cheered me in, and a few of the people I’d struck up conversations with earlier who’d finished ahead of me also shouted out support.  It was fun. Then we veered round to the same finish point as the musical miles, so again bling (different ribbon) and onto the stage. There were photographers at the end, and a few at the early stages of the course too, so I posed appropriately.  The photographer pointed out that Geronimo had really done all the work and was the more deserving of the medal, so I repositioned it on her neck rather than mine in recognition of this.  Yay, we’d done it!  In the absence of the official photo as yet, here is my own post event selfie.  It’s a start.

And as a late addition, here are the ‘official ones’, yay!  What a team eh? What, a team?

Again there was loads of water on tables so you could help yourself (got a snowman bottle this time) also had some coconut water which was fab.  One minor gripe was that there was an enormous amount of water bottles on the day (good) but no plastic recycle bins to put the empty ones in (bad), so I really, really hope the litter did get sorted through, the thought of so much plastic ending up in landfill causes me physical pain.  Or worse, getting into our oceans – will there really be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.  I could weep.

seabird and plastic

Didn’t stop me drinking it though, and then after the run, and post-run rehydration,  I went in search of the olympic torch and copped a feel of that.  I was honoured indeed!  Just how many brushes with fame can a person manage in one short day!

having a hold

Yay, then I did some more random mingling. I sighted a few more familiar faces, but most people were on their own different trajectories so not much chatting to people I knew to be fair.  Good to see them all the same, even if at least one of them was fair sprinting away no sooner than she caught sight of me.  I cheered off the afternoon 10k people – it was even hotter then, respect to those who headed off with gusto at one o’clock in the afternoon.

I didn’t really have the energy for more running, tempting as the prospect of getting Disney mile bling was.  The musical miles went on all day, you could run as many as you liked and got a different wrist band for each themed run as far as I could tell.  Some tiny kids were romping round loads of times getting an impressive haul of wrist bands and medals.  That part of the event was pitched well I think.  Even so, I let that opportunity pass, and instead I made a new best friend.  It was an accident, I trod on her bag whilst stepping backwards trying to get this shot.   You can see why I got distracted, it being Wimbledon fortnight, I thought it would be cool to recreate that famous Athena poster again.  Definitely an eye-catching way to raise awareness for a cause!

Anyway, don’t worry, it was a happy accident, as it led to conversation. Turns out she was a marshal at the RSR and we had a fab conversation all about that, and marshaling, and body confidence issues when running, and how the ultimate aspiration is really to feel invisible when running sometimes.  As a slow runner I know others are supportive to me as they stay to cheer me through the finish when I plod home last at a fell race or whatever, and that’s great and I do really appreciate it.  However, it is possible to simultaneously hold two conflicting truths, you know nobody cares what you look like, other runners are supportive, the important thing is that you are having a go etc etc, and yet…  simultaneously you can feel self-conscious and awkward and wish yourself invisible.  I blame being picked last for the netball teams a few too many times at school to be honest.  That lingering sense of inadequacy never really goes away.   Anyway, kindred spirit, you know who you are I salute you.  See you at the TenTenTen.  We hugged, and went our separate ways.  I don’t have a photo of her, but it was like my moment with Jess, we both know what passed between us, we don’t need a  photo to prove a point!

Also, she was able to explain to me who famous celebrity DJ Trevor Nelson was, so that was good.  He did look sort of familiar, and did a great high-energy job on the day, but I’m guessing Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra aren’t really his natural habitat so we haven’t had the opportunity to get acquainted previously.  Still I know now. So that’s good.  There was also a super enthusiastic side-kick/presentation buddy Vassos Alexander who bounced about doing lots of live commentary and who is a famous celebrity sports journalist apparently.   I should not jest, as a google search tells me he writes for The Guardian, so should be taken seriously.  At this inaugural (I think) VitalityMove event you could hardly move for celebrities, it was a shame I wasn’t the right demographic to necessarily appreciate it at the time. Having said that, cynicism aside, I quite liked the way Jess, Trev, and Vasso (we are all friends now) got stuck in and engaged with everyone.  This is definitely not a conventional running event… that’s both it’s selling point and it’s problem. The razzmataz/ festival feel of it all might appeal to new groups of runners, but also might deter those expecting a more traditional event.  I appreciated it though, so that was good enough for me.  I’m self-centred in that respect.

Next, I was on a mission.  A fellow runner en route had told me how he’d blagged some giant foam hands from the TomTom stand.  Good plan.  He just went and asked for them. Basic assertiveness sometimes pays off. I’ve been searching for one of those for a while (long story for another time) and this was my moment.  I went up to the first tomtom rep who made eye-contact and used immense skill and judgement to frame the wording of my request. ‘I’d like a giant foam hand please?’  Something like that, straight to the point, no messing. He nodded, and headed towards a ball pit surrounded by children and for an awful moment I thought he was just going to take a foam hand off one of them!  My mistake, there was a whole pile of them (foam hands, not children), I got not just one hand but two!  Hurrah.

handy

It seemed only polite by way of appreciation to show that I do have a tomtom and I do really like it, even though it has a few features I still don’t know how to use. Well, this turned into another brilliant chat.  Not only is my TomTom now properly set to miles, and I understand it isn’t broken when it won’t move back from a screen straight away (that’s a protective feature to stop it being over-sensitive and stopping mid-run apparently)  but also  I also got to learn a whole load about ultra running from the Australian rep.  He himself is hoping to do the Marathon des Sables in 2019 as part of a team who were the first aboriginal participants to complete the insanely challenging 251km in six days ultrarun which is basically all across desert.  I think last year.  Exasperatingly I can’t find any references to this awesome achievement on google, there is the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, which raises funds for entries to the New York Marathon for indigenous Asutralians, and is interesting but not the same at all. However, this organisation did the Marathon des Sables as a fund-raiser for the IMF at some point so that came up at the top of all the google hits, so I couldn’t locate the aboriginal team.  Oh well.   Anyway it was so interesting hearing about that, and the inspiration this runner got from reading ‘Born to Run‘ which I keep hearing about and must actually read one day.   The book that is, not the Bruce Springsteen album, different motivational sequence altogether!  Plus we talked about what it’s like living and working in a different country. It was two and a half decades ago, but I did spend a year in Australia and it was fantastic, but I missed unexpected things like radio, a shared sense of humour – which it turns out is much more culturally specific than you may think, strange things, so it was interesting to hear what it was like in reverse, an Australian living long-term in London.  Well, I enjoyed the chat anyway.  As we said farewell, I realised I’d spent the whole conversation stood up on a mini stage whilst he was standing on the ground.  It was only departing that I realised he was very tall, but I hadn’t noticed, I wonder if he had noticed my giraffe?  Thanks tomtom people, for the nice pacers, my nice watch, the foam hands, the opportunity to hold an olympic torch and the running insights.  Good to meet you and you were all great ambassadors for the brand too IMHO for what it’s worth.  Here are all the TomTom gang.  Can you spot the Marathon des Sables wannabee amongst them?  Also foam hand.  Fab eh?

tomtom team spot the Australian

I didn’t feel like leaving straight away though I was peckish by now.  I’d had more water, some coconut water (fab freebie) and splashed out on a cup of decent coffee, but the food options were a bit out of my budget, though in line with the sort of upmarket food stands you get at this kind of event.  I decided to stay for the prize giving.  Winners for 5k and 10k morning and afternoon men and women. Quite good prizes too, tomtom watches and things.  There were some stonking times.   This celebrated the competitive part of the day.  It was good, and nice to see.  I did wonder though, if given this was supposed to be a more inclusive event if they could maybe have had some more random spot prizes so celebrating the non-speedy as well.  You know like at fell races, when they have, oh I don’t know: muddiest legs; finish position same as race number; furthest traveled entrant; most radiant smile; best face-plant of the day whatever. They wouldn’t have to be particularly expensive ones – a foam hand would have done, but something to acknowledge different ways of participating were valid too.  I suppose it depends again what the target group is for this event, it still isn’t entirely clear to me, maybe that’s why it was a hard sell… Even so, it was fun cheering the winners – it was a young girl who picked up second woman for the morning 5k, or maybe even the 10k, I had very little grasp of who got what.   Awesome achievement though, super speedy run!

Oh I nearly forgot, if you care about the actual results then they are here for the VitalityMove event.  Weirdly the results for each distance are merged into one table.  I’m not fussed about my time and can see some merit in this approach for a fun event.  However, it could be a high risk strategy as I suspect more competitive types may think otherwise, if their places in one 10k are diminished in comparison to times for the other.  It will be interesting to see what the feedback about that is.  I say ‘feedback’ what I really mean though is expressions of indignation on facebook, no way of knowing how representative that is of anyone to be fair.  Some will mind though, I’m sure of that.

Prizes dolled out, I decided it was time to go home.  As I was leaving, on a whim I decided I would actually like an event T-shirt and it seemed a way to contribute to the event a bit as I hadn’t paid.  There was no-one queuing for merchandise so it was an opportunity to have a bit of a natter with the woman selling the T-shirts.  Tenner a time.  Large sizes, I think though possible all men’s fit rather than women’s.

tumbleweed corner

Anyway, to cut to the proverbial chase, it quickly became apparent that this was yet a further celebrity sighting for the day!  After debating the relative merits of the T-shirt sizing, and breaking the ice by me wrestling in and out of various sizes whilst she provided real-time feedback on their fit (she didn’t need to say anything, you could see from her facial expressions) we got onto running related story telling. Well dear reader, she is only the current Guinness World Record holder for the Fastest half marathon running backwards (female).  I know!  How exciting is that.  I have a sort of fascination for backwards running because I only found out relatively recently that it is an actual thing and it seems to me truly remarkable.  I tried to pump her for information as much as possible before someone else turned up actually wanting a T-shirt and so she was able to break eye-contact and end the conversation, and it is just as amazing as you might think.  So, to get a few things straight:

  1. Shantelle Gaston-Hird ran in aid of an anti-bullying charity at the Wimslow half earlier this year.  Running for a cause she felt really passionately about helped to motivate her.
  2. The answer to the question ‘but how do you train for a running backwards event?’ is, remarkably enough ‘by running backwards in training.’  Who knew?  The thing is – and I speak as a fancy dress wearer of some experience – I can totally see how it’s easy enough to carry off what might be (erroneously) considered to be an eccentric approach to a running as part of an event.   Half-marathons and marathons everywhere positively welcome the fun-runners and their crowd pleasing antics, but pounding the roads in the dark of winter during training running backwards, or in fancy dress – well that’s a whole new level of dedication.  However, and it’s obvious really when you think about it, the people who live near where she runs locally are so used to it apparently they don’t bat an eyelid these days.  I love that.
  3. Running backwards uses five times more effort than running forwards, so it’s very much more physically demanding
  4. She has only ever fallen over (or was it crashed into something) once in training, and that was because she was distracted by catching her long hair in a zip in her top and didn’t stop running whilst trying to disentangle herself from this mishap.  Distraction related face plant then, we’ve all had them out running.  Haven’t we?
  5. She has a running forward guide on the day to keep it all safe.  Training is a more solitary undertaking
  6. She did it in about 2 and a half hours, that’s splendid is it not?

I was so in awe, I actually remembered to ask for a photo (I’ve so regretted not getting a selfie with the mankini marathon man at London, and I’ve learned from that).  So here it is, plus one from the Wilmslow Guardian article celebrating her world record breaking run by way of further illustration of her achievement, and in case there are still some doubters out there.  A.Maz.Ing.  Fact!  Maybe I’ll try to Photoshop me in alongside her later.  First of all I have to see if I have that on my laptop and learn how to use it, so best you don’t wait up in anticipation.

So you see, this whole event was jam-packed with awesome people.  All runners are great, you just have to bother to find out their individual stories, everyone has one. You have your own too, I’m sure.

I drifted back to the car park, snapping the dancing troupes and a couple of particularly photogenic children in the throng as I left.

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So there you go. Debut VitalityMove, yep, a grand day out indeed.  Geronimo  Sky is quite tired now though, so I think she’ll have a break from running for a bit, but her medal count is pretty good to date.  Bodes well.

For my part, I think this is a model for a running event that could indeed run and run (pun intended) but whether it is a financially viable one I’m not so sure.  I gained the distinct impression that many of the people I’d met were last-minute entries who used coupons many and various to get generous discounts.  I hope they do try to offer the  event again, with a bit of tweaking there should be room in the running calendar for more days out and about like this.  However, I do fear the VitalityMove offering may instead disappear into the mists of time like the town of Brigadoon. For those of us who discovered it and were there, it will be the stuff of joyful memories and legend, but fated not to be seen again for a hundred years.  For my part though, I had a grand day out, as did Geronimo, so thanks Jess and everyone who had the imagination to think this day up and make it happen.  It was worth doing, and I for one appreciated it, which is a start.  Cheers!

So til next time, happy running y’all.  Get out there and embrace them there hills! 🙂

 

P.S.   PHOTOS: There are/will be lots of photos – you could buy a bundle in advance for £10 which was pretty good value as there were lots  of cameras around on the day – O had 61 photos of me to browse through.  Granted about 50 of them made me want to vanish off the face of the earth instantaneously, or at the very least never be seen in public again, but some were really run.  All captured the sense of occassion.  I didn’t find the website user-friendly though, it took some tenacity to get the darned photos to download and I never worked out how to get them directly onto facebook, which in retrospect is probably a massive blessing.  Otherwise it was £25 afterwards which is a bit of a jump in price.  AWOL have some in the public domain here taken from social media sites; and Jessica Ennis put loads of vidoes up on her official facebook page on the day.  Here’s one of the general atmosphere on the stage by way of example. I’m guessing more photos will follow on both the VitalityMove Facebook page and the AWOL Facebook page at some point.

and they have!  Check out this selection from the  Chatsworth Album here from VitalityMove for a start.

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Categories: 10km, off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Silverdale Stampede – reimagining the school run

Digested read:  Silverdale School put on an inaugural 10k trail run on 14 May 2017.  I went.  It was fun.  I went home with a pineapple!*  Will go again next year.  *Note, not everyone got a pineapple, but that’s OK because running in such a lovely setting is its own reward.

It always seems a good idea at the time, entering a trial run. To be honest, that’s how it starts. You see the innocuous looking poster for a local 10k at some vague and distant point in time.  From the sanctuary of your sofa, you imagine the joy you will experience as you cavort through idyllic fields whilst breathing in the loveliness of the local countryside.  I think it’s called positive visualisation. This leads you to believe you will romp round hardly breaking a sweat, before concluding this graceful10k trot out with a seemingly effortless sprint through a perfectly configured finish funnel.  This finale flourish of your glorious finish, will be to a chorus of congratulatory screams from an assembly of awe-struck spectators, who will be crying with admiration at your achievement and tossing victory laurels at you in between shouting your name in adulation.  You yourself will conclude your challenge with a self-deprecating wave of your hand to indicate ‘really, it was nothing‘  subtext ‘see me, super human, born to run‘.  I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Truthfully, the actual experience of participating in the inaugural Silverdale Stampede wasn’t entirely in keeping with how I envisaged it from the sanctuary of my own sitting room some weeks earlier, but it was still well worth the effort of getting my weary carcass up and out on a Sunday morning.  Hopefully it will be just the first Silverdale Stampede of many more, and next year, maybe you too dear reader will come join the fun.  Find out for yourself whether or not ‘fun run’ is the ultimate oxymoron or a cast iron guarantee of grit, glory and gratification, and yes indeed running fun!  Albeit susceptible to type one (genuinely fun at the time) and type two (only identifiable as fun retrospectively) variants, depending on your point of view.  Do your own research people, don’t rely on what others tell you, thereby lies most of the misinformation in the world. FACT.  But obviously, don’t take my word for it.  Way too ironic.

So this was the first clue – a poster proclaiming the intention to cause a Stampede at a local school.  There were some surprises in the initial publicity.  Back in my day, schools didn’t particularly encourage stampedes, for example British Bulldog was banned early on in my school career for health and safety reasons – you can have one too many unconsious school pupils on a school playground apparently –  though I’m proud to say at my junior school we continued to play it under the new branding of ‘sheep sheep come home’.  Enterprising peers I had at the time.  I don’t know if British Bulldog is still alive and kicking (literally and metaphorically) in playgrounds today, but it seems that the practise of chasing down a quarry in the name of sport at school is still alive and well.  Feel for the teachers subjected here not only to the pressures of Ofsted inspections and sats but being pursued cross county by a manic mass.  Still, whatever it takes to gather the necessary enthusiasm and momentum to get people along to the event I suppose.   Perhaps students will be lured by the opportunity to hunt down their esteemed mentors.  I expect that on catching them they’d want to thank them for all their educational labours on behalf of their teenage charges.  For me, the push to commit to entering was more the strictly-off-the-record insider information that amongst the (many) spot prizes donated that might potentially be bestowed on participating runners, was a large quantity of gin. Also, at that point in time, more prizes than runners.  Result!  I might yet be truthfully able to claim having one something at a sports day!   Where running is concerned, it really helps to think about what motivates you at an early stage in your training.  The most elite of runners will tell you so.  Check out the strap line for our very own local GB triathletes Les Brutelles for confirmation if you must, they proclaim ‘We swim a bit, bike a bit, run a bit and drink gin quite a lot‘. So fair enough to have them as role models whose lead we must follow. Surely?  Totally legitimate part of a training plan, apparently. (But see note earlier, about always checking out primary resources in research for yourself)

bargain prices

So, I set about entering…. and found to my amazement that early entries required the inclusion of a cheque.  It’s been a while since I’ve had to write out one of them. Not to worry, sourcing my cheque book in amongst the debris of my living space was  a sort of cross training exercise all of its own.  Much squatting and stretching into dark corners before it was located.  The cheque was sent, and a couple of days later my email acknowledgement was duly received.  I was in.  So ever conscientious if not keen, that meant I was going to be running in this Silverdale Stampede, ready or not.  Mostly not, but hey ho.

It has been ridiculously dry of late, so I was impressed that the Silverdale School PTA managed to organise quite a downpour overnight the day before to ensure the off-road trails would be appropriately bouncy and the vegetation newly washed and bursting out with fresh growth.  On waking there was still some rain about, but it brightened up.  In an unprecedented turn of events, my temperature testing ritual (arm out of an upstairs window) indicated it might get pretty hot out there.  Today I would run in a T-shirt under my Smiley vest, I don’t think this has ever happened to me at an organised event before – I always wear a long-sleeved top.  It offers more protection against inclement elements, allergy inducing under-growth and frankly is a more forgiving cut.  I don’t reject it lightly.  However, even I had to concede I’d probably collapse in the heat if I insisted on wearing it today. Well, I would if I was planning to wear a Smiley vest as well, and I couldn’t not wear that.  Hence, a running first in my world anyway.  I would bare my arms to the world in pursuit of glory at the Silverdale Stampede.  Two inaugural events on one day!  The planets must have aligned in some special debut inducing way.

I’d never actually been to Silverdale School before, or indeed any school for years and years, decades probably.  I expect schools to smell of cabbage and carbolic soap, be fitted with huge noisy radiator pipes that will, according to oral history, give you extensive piles for life should you risk sitting on them even for a snatched instant. Toilets will have cracked sinks and corners heaped with tapeworm eggs amongst the dust of ages.  Honestly, in ‘O’ level biology we were told that this was a common finding in the crevices of old school toilets with cracked tile floors.

I was quite taken aback then, to cruise into the car park of the school and be greeted by a grand spanking new building that was more reminiscent of a recently developed university campus than a traditional school.  It was impressive, space age, pristine buildings towering upwards – but also somewhat intimidating.  I parked over in a discrete corner (I was very early) and surveyed the coming and goings for a bit before plucking up courage to check out the registration system for the run.

Once it got to what seemed to me to be a critical mass of people in hi-vis and miscellaneous looking runners, I ventured out.  It was a really efficient set up. There were two tables, one for pre-registered keenies (er hem) like me, and one for enter on the day, fair-weather running chancers.   There was also a sea of marshals donned in epilepsy-inducing orange hi-viz, and a slightly manic looking organiser, but it would be rude to draw undue attention to that.  I’m sure these event days are quite stressful enough as it is without my adding to the trauma with pointing and laughing in a less than supportive fashion just at the point of delivery…

I got my number 303. I found the symmetry of these digits most pleasing.  Accelerate donated the race bibs, which I think you’ll agree was jolly sporting.  I was also impressed by the number of entrants… until I found out that in fact the organisers had deliberately allocated the numbers quite randomly, to avoid people being deterred by the realisation that entry levels were quite low.  It was a slow burn getting people to enter.  I think partly the ‘cheque in the post’ system was a deterrent, and some people deliberately opted to pay on the day as it was ‘more money for the school coffers’ that way.  A noble sentiment, but possibly a misguided one.  They may have felt pushing the organisers to the point of nervous collapse as they had a growing fear there would be nowt by tumble weed to be seen on the course on the day was but a small price for someone else to pay in the circumstances. Next year though people, do the right thing, sign up early.  Give the organisers the gift of sleep in the weeks coming up to The Big Day.  Best start looking for your cheque book now though, to save time.

Number collected, the next great challenge was to collect other runners I knew, and in particular herd together fellow Smiley Paces members for the obligatory pre-event selfies.  I found wood-runners, Monday Mobsters and Smiley Paces in abundance.  Quite a few local running clubs also had a smattering of attendees, but it was a pretty mixed field, which is always good.  I know I’m always going to be the ballast at the back, but I like to think I have a chance of staying in sight of the faster runners for a bit at least…

The next mission was to get an idea of the route.  There was a map of sorts on display, but as usual I couldn’t really make sense of it.  Enough to know that it was 10k, mostly off-road, involving country tracks, up through the Limb Valley woodland trails ‘undulating’ or ‘hilly’ depending on your current levels of fitness and optimism on setting out.  I did romp round wearing my tomtom watch – more for adornment than extra speed, but it means I can upload a view of the route for you here. …. inevitably, I forgot to turn it on until we were already underway, but it gives you some idea of where we went.  Also, on the plus side, it might make my finish time look less lamentable as well…  Looking at the strava map afterwards it makes it seem quite a ‘bitty’ course,  but in fact it flowed really well when running, I wasn’t aware of going round in pointless circles at the time, which is rather what it looks like with the dubious benefit of hindsight.  Does anyone else think it looks like a bad Strava art kangaroo?  No?  Just me then.

Silverdale stampede route

So, basically how it went was this.  Lots of vague milling around when people collected numbers, marshals set off excitedly to stand and point and clap where appropriate on the course.  I don’t like to label people generally, but what can you do when choose to label themselves?  One Smiley was right in the middle of  a venn diagram where ‘smilies’ and ‘teachers from Silverdale school’ intersect.  She therefore was tooled up with a ‘chase me’ sign.  Schools do have to have their targets after all, even if they are not always entirely realistic.  I am pleased to report that she took the precaution of heading off before the majority of the field, disappearing up the hill and out of sight, and from the pictures no doubt retaining that lead until the end! Go Smiley!

As she went on her way, the rest of us were shooed towards the start area.  There was a tarpaulin on which you could leave your stuff, and a bit more milling about, during which time super-keen people did stretches and Jenny drills, whilst the more nonplussed of us blinked into the sun, focusing less on warm up and more on personal energy conservation.

Eventually, aided by a megaphone – always a boon at pre-race briefings – there was the official welcome to this auspicious inaugural event… and then came the health and safety warnings. The gist of the latter was beware below for roots and above for low hanging branches, and of each other, and other route users, and the sky falling in as well I think.  Not that any of this mattered as we’d all signed away all and any liability at the outset anyway.  Yay, that’s the thrill of the chase indeed.  The other teachers to chase were hauled before the crowd for adulation and identification purposes, and sent on their way, the rest of us gathered ready to depart.

I was a bit perturbed by the presence of a beautifully marked out athletic track, but too late to pull out now.  Please don’t make me run 10k in laps!  Soon enough we were off and on our way.  Not a huge field, but a perfectly formed one. Tail marker at the back, and then, set off to chase and overtake all of us, stealth Dark Peak super-runner, picking us off one by one as she made her way through to the front.  Mostly, I got the view from the back, and why not, it was a very fine view, and anyway, I like to get my money’s worth on a race by spending as much time as possible out on the course, plus it’s good to be consistent.  I believe I was, maintaining my position in the rankings throughout.

Shortly after our departure, the fun runners were sent on their way to do the 4km route, dragging panting parents in their wake.  Some of the younger participants were also sporting local running club tops – who knew Dark Peak started them so young?  Perhaps that explains some of the single-minded resolve of those fell runners you glimpse vanishing into the hill mists in these parts, as elusive as any mysterious mountain yeti.   They are drawing on decades of self-discipline to keep them going on like the machines they are.   I didn’t see the photos of the fun-run start until afterwards, but my, they looked at the take off as if this running malarkey was a serious endeavour indeed. Go them!   Ooh – and I see a Smiley in the throng too. That’s grand!  We get everywhere.  Hallamshire Harriers too!  A veritable rash of them.  Well supported run I’d say!

dark peak starting young

Although the start makes it seem flat, in fact you immediately have to heave-ho up a hill, which wouldn’t matter quite so much if it weren’t for the fact that you are being waved off by the fun runners so have to keep running for fear of ridicule and shame if you do not. Friendly marshals did indeed line the way. Some were really communicative and encouraging, some young women early on (students I presume) were excellent ambassadors for the school with the claps, directional pointing and encouraging comments.   Their male counterparts a bit further up the gravel track didn’t do too badly either.   I do always try to thank marshals on every run I do, but sometimes I am able to communicate my breathless appreciation more eloquently than others.  May I thank all you lovely marshals here at least.  You were fab!

The route was well-marked, but the field spread out quickly.  The overwhelming majority of runners pulled out of sight from me within minutes, I had a couple of runners in view for a while, but as soon as we got to twisty turny bits I couldn’t see them any more.  A few runners behind me were soon out of earshot, so I did most of the run on my own. That was OK.  There were interactions with other people out and about. There were two women on a bench early on who, seeing I was struggling a bit,  stated emphatically ‘well, you can see we aren’t running anywhere!’ which I took as encouragement rather than rebuke as I hauled on past them with their cheery raucous (but benign)  laughter still ringing in my ears.  There were a few dog walkers, some other runners – which was confusing, as they were coming the other way.

The route went up and down, and in and out, and it was really, genuinely lovely.  I did have a couple of nervous moments navigating, one early on as I romped down a footpath that terminated at the roads near to Whirlow Hall but a marshal did appear out of the woods in my peripheral vision and sent me on up limb valley. I’ve only ever run down that before, when it is a lovely bouncy woodland trail.  It seemed a lot longer on the way up, running it in reverse, but it was scenic.   I did nearly asphyxiate it is true, but that was only because I inadvertently swallowed a larger than I’d have liked insect of some sort which got caught in my throat.  Earlier a smiley first aider had headed out clutching a first aid kit, but I reckoned I wouldn’t make it to that point on one breath, and seriously feared I’d have to flag down a walker at some point and somehow communicate to them that they needed to carry out an emergency tracheotomy with the tube from a biro.  This sounds a bit alarming, but fortunately it is such a commonplace plot device on everything from Casualty to Doctors that I reckon most of us would happily have a bash at doing a DIY tracheotomy on someone else given the chance.  Just imagine the bragging rights.  I suppose it would have to be successful if you were to dine out on the story to be fair, but you aren’t going to get good at it if you don’t take up chances to practice are you?  In the event my obstruction cleared itself, so I could spend the rest of the run not worrying about death by suffocation, but rather hating myself for inflicting death on some poor unwitting insect.  Not compatible with my claim for vegetarian credentials.  Dark thoughts can often come upon me when I run, but that’s OK, I get to work through them and replace them with jollier ones in due course.  I think that’s quite common.  Although now I write it down I have induced a wave of personal paranoia that no, it is only me on whom this tidal wave of negative thought has landed….

Up, up through the valley.   Between you and me, I might have caved in and walked for some of the uphill bits, but I think you’ll find if you walk and no-one is there to see you, it doesn’t really count.   Then, at exactly the point I most wished for it, there was a smiling marshal holding out plastic cups of water.  I never carry water when I run, and it didn’t occur to me until I was under way that there might not be water stations on this route. It was only a small event after all.  I was very glad of it at this point, and the excuse to get my breath back before heading off.  I didn’t want to gulp down too much though, so just had a few sips before handing the cup back.  Don’t want to litter these precious routes.  As you emerge from the woods of Limb valley, there was a path to the left, almost doubling back on yourself, that I’ve never noticed before.  You head off along this, over some wooden boards, and up and over a couple of styles and then  you get to green, green meadows that were like something out of an award-winning costume drama set in the English countryside. Verdant fields of swaying grasses with gamboling lambs skipping about them in all their late-spring gorgeousness.  Even better, I realised that I was in fact still in sight of other runners.  Yay, no need to navigate, only blindly follow. The views were stunning. It might not have been the best running weather in that it was a bit hot, but my it was really gorgeous, and lovely to be introduced to a local route that I hadn’t discovered before.  No particular reason, I suppose I’ve just got used to running the trials I usually run, and have become lazy about exploring new footpaths.

Joy on joy – another Smiley marshal ahead, also brandishing water and throwing out words of encouragement. Initially somewhat unnervingly even greeting me by name!  Closer inspection revealed we’d met before at a Trust 10 Longshaw 10k some months ago, yay.  Small world, Smiley solidarity goes a long way.  Mind you, I genuinely believe all local runners will support other runners, but it’s human nature to have an extra soft spot for you own running club especially one as all round awesome as we Smilies.  A group built as much around coffee and cake stops (sometimes prosecco and gin) as it is about social running rendezvous!

The woods were lovely, but pretty empty…

to the woods

At one or two points there were photographers lurking.  Mixed blessing.  At one point in the empty woods, when I thought no-one was about I resorted to hopping for quite a way. It’s a great running drill as running is basically a one-legged sport, might as well give it a go whilst no-one is watching.  Anyway, another Smiley was in situ, lurking ready to snap me in action.  It may not be an entirely graceful sight, but hopping off-road for that sort of distance is harder than you think, especially when there are loads of tree roots to be negotiated.

action shot LM

There weren’t any km markers on the route, and my tomtom wasn’t set properly due to operator error.  However, towards the end the route became a bit familiar again. Some fo this was because you do go back along partially the same tracks, and some of it is because it takes similar paths to the Dig Deep Whirlow 10k, which meant I wasn’t quite so caught out by the sneaky uphill towards the end.  You emerge from the woods to a style where the route was confusing, do you go left across to the next style or down the hill?  The path went in two directions.  There was a marker but it had clearly fallen down and wasn’t pointing anywhere.  I saw other runners ahead and decided to continue my sheep like following, it is a strategy that has served me well before.  It was a good call.  It really was nearly home now.  A few twists and turns, but lots of marshals, and soon I was back in the playing fields and could see the finish.

The last bit is all down hill and a pleasing ‘weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ moment.  Less pleasingly, everyone else was assembled round the little tent where the prize – giving was underway, so although the event wasn’t entirely done and dusted, there was no mistaking that I was definitely a comparatively late finisher.  I could hear the announcements, and then the presiding official espied me and encouraged everyone to cheer me home!  That was pretty cool.  I may be shallow and misguided.  In fact, I almost definitely am.  However, rather than weep at the humiliation of my slow time, I chose to celebrate and embrace the shouts that helped speed me in.  It is fun!  My five seconds of fame.  Even more pleasing, I had no sooner come through the finish, than my number was pulled out of the raffle for a spot prize!  What?

Couldn’t have timed it better if it was scripted.  I picked up the fastest turn of speed I’d managed all day and sprinted  over to the tent to choose my prize. There was a ridiculous number of offerings, eye-popping choice.  I went for the fruit and veg hamper, because that seems the sort of fell-race appropriate local produce option.  Though I don’t think Waitrose necessarily grew the pineapple in the Sheffield area.  Very fine hamper though.  Yay!

Hamper of goodies (1)

Loads of us got prizes, and we managed to gather a few Smilies for a post race shot.  Not sure why it looks like teacher Smiley has dropped her trousers especially for the photo, but I don’t suppose anyone will notice. There’s always one with exhibitionist tendencies though isn’t there?

Smiley winners all ish

The prize giving and raffle was speedily concluded, and then, right on cue, the wind picked up and icy rain started to fall. This brought about the rapid dispersal of most of the runners, whilst the many marshals huddled together for bodily warmth.  All great team building I’m sure.

seeking bodily warmth

After a few more minutes, eventually the final finisher and back marker came into view.  The timer rushed back out to put back up the funnel which had blown over in the sudden unexpected storm and those of us around got into position to cheer then home!

I’d rather ostentatiously left my hamper at the finish, as a sort of lure.  I think she earned a hobgoblin legendary ruby beer at the finish as much as I did.  Lucky there were two bottles, one each perfect.   She wasn’t immediately effusive as to the degree of fun she’d had en route, but I’m sure the post run endorphins kicked in eventually!

For my part, home, and the next project was to work my way through as much of the produce as possible starting with the new potatoes (which I did cook first) and hobgoblin beer, which was actually pretty fine.  Also, I think I have a similar profile. Perhaps it is my kindred wood-spirit finally found?  So, since I’m here drinking from the sanctuary of my sofa once again, flushed with alcohol and a post run high, no harm in having a little surf to see what other runs are out ther is there… now let me see…

So there you have it.  Inaugural Silverdale Stampede.  Done.  Only one person got lost, and they were found again so that’s fine and dandy. A grand morning out, and a fixture that I hope will run and run (see what I did there).

See you there next year?  Hope so, ’til then, we have our memories…  Didn’t we do well?  Thank you Silverdale PTA for an excellent initiative, and the just the first of many more I hope.

Happy running y’all.  🙂

Categories: 10km, motivation, off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Loving Longshaw: Trust 10 springtime yomping

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Brrrr, bracing out!

So, this was London Marathon day, it was also Blackpool Marathon day, which may have slipped under the radar for many, but just so you know, that was a venue where many Smiley Paces members also triumphed in their respective age categories, so ‘Go Smileys!’  Just saying.

In the circumstances, given so many Smileys were out and about, running around doing Marathons and Kinder Downfall in the snow (I know, sounds scary), and even the OMM lite (which is an oxymoron if ever there was one), I felt the least I could do by way of solidarity was turn out for the Trust 10 at Longshaw last Sunday.  I always enjoy this event, I’ve been a few times now and it is just lovely.  However, even though it’s most definitely worth it when you get there, the whole business of waking up and venturing out the door into an arctic blast is always a bit of a challenge.  Lucky then, that due to high level negotiations at parkrun the day before, I’d agreed with other Smiley Paces members that we’d all turn out in force.  I am ever conscientious if not keen as you may know.  If I say I’ll do it, then do it I will.  It really helps with my motivation if I’ve told someone what I’m up to, and we’ve shaken on the plan to do it together…  Less lucky then, was a last minute message from one of aforementioned running partners to say family illness would stop play.  Oh well, by the time I got the message I was in my off-road shoes anyway, so in a sense the mutual pact to attend had still worked it’s magic.  I was committed now. Off I would go!

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I have just had an extraordinary light bulb moment.  It occurs to me that, inexplicably, there may be people out there who have not yet seen the light with respect to the Trust 10 series.  As a concession to the uninitiated, the blah de blah about this event is as follows:

Trust10 is a free monthly trail run across selected National Trust sites, open to both members and non members. Come along with your friends and family, explore the landscape and enjoy the outdoors

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It’s really not that complicated, you just have to remember that at Longshaw at any rate, this event takes place on the fourth Sunday of every month (except when Easter and Christmas holidays annoyingly mess up the timetabling) and turn up in time to register on the day.  That means from 8.15 a.m. for a 9.00 a.m. start.  I can’t speak for other host venues, but it’s all friendly and straightforward at my local Longshaw, and it’s lovely too.  First timers have to fill in a few basic contact details, repeat runners just sign in and help themselves to a number, write this number alongside their name which is listed on a pre-printed sheet, and once it’s pinned into position, they are ready to go.  Longshaw even provide safety pins, but as there is no cost to attend the event I’d suggest bringing your own to keep it as low cost for the organisers as possible.

So I made it to Longshaw early as always.  There was a volunteer helping direct vehicles in the carpark.  I scrabbled around in search of change – it’s just £2.60 for 4 hours parking, so a bargain.  I keep meaning to join the National Trust though since, as the attendant pointed out, if you go to the Trust 10 regularly, then the membership would soon pay for  itself through free parking.  This is true, and it is worth mentioning that if you do join, and do so at the Longshaw site rather than online say, then some of that membership fee goes directly to that particular venue apparently.  The problem with joining at a running event, is that as all runners will tell you, you tend to just carry the absolute minimum with you, so a five pound note stuffed into my pocket for emergencies (like say a latte and a scone post run for example) and not a debit card suitable for the purchasing of NT membership say.  Oh well, maybe next time…

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Longshaw always rewards the effort of stepping out the door.  Even though it was absolutely freezing in the chill wind as I stepped out of the car, there was still a sense of occassion as I joined the other runners mustering at the assembly point.  The estate looks lovely, I am terrible at taking photos, but game all the same, so here are some atmospheric moss shots, enjoy.

I know, I know, it looks grim and dark.  Trust me, it’s loads nicer when you get there.  So first stop, roasty toasy warmth of the Tea rooms to pick up my number.  Pleasingly it was 789.  Easy to remember.  It was a bit of a squash in there, with newbies turning to the left to register and repeat offenders to the right to just sign in.  I saw a few people I knew to exchange ‘hellos’ with, so that was nice.  Including one poor soul who is suffering from Plantar Fasciitis, which I’d never heard of before I started running, but the thought of which now makes my blood run cold with fear.  It’s a rubbish ailment as it seems to just mysteriously appear and sometimes eventually, resolve itself, yet is stubbornly resistent to any particular treatment as such.  It can go on for months and months and it really does stop you running.   Really unfair and frustrating because you can’t DO anything much apart from rest… or maybe not, because even that isn’t definitive advice… She was volunteering instead which was good of her, and also I got the silver lining to her cloud, i.e. benefit of another familiar face to cheer us round. She got the double cloud, misery of Plantar Fasciitis, compounded by misery of standing around in the cold.  Sorry about that.  You are appreciated though, little comfort though that may be…

The volunteers here are always fabulous, very encouraging and supportive on the way round.  Also very cold I would think.   They are lured to volunteer by altruism, the fun of watching the runners pass by and the bait of a bacon sandwhich (or vegetarian equivalent) at the end.  It is lucky they are so rewarded, as they are also made to wear an orange high viz jacket and a pink bobble hat which isn’t the best colour combo to be honest, though it is certainly eye catching.  (They are allowed to wear their own clothes underneath as well, it isn’t quite as cold or eye-catching as all that).   If you like the idea of being involved in some way, but don’t fancy the actual running bit and think you can carry off a pink bobble hat with gusto, then remember volunteers are always needed.  You will be welcomed with open arms, just get in touch with the organisers.   Marshals help direct the runners, but also shout out encouragement and clap a lot too.  I think the clapping part is quite important, if only to help keep warm!  Don’t worry though, it’s easy enough to pick up what’s involved, there is no actual audition, and full training is provided.   The route is also well signed for runners by a succession of colourful pink flags all the way round too.  I don’t think you could get lost on this run.  Mostly, this is a good thing, but it’s worth remembering you also therefore lose any excuse to duck out early on by claiming you would have loved to continue but alas inadvertently strayed from the track, so what could you do?  Lost on the moors, your only option was to navigate your way back to the safety of the tea rooms.  Hmm, won’t work, sorry, you will need a better plan.  A pink flag picture follows to illustrate the point, pretty unambigious I think you’ll agree.

There was a horrifying near miss incident in the cafe, when one of the staff carrying two huge tray, laden with scones tried to squeeze past a runner who was signing in  just as they and their backpack repositioned themself.  There was nearly a (tragi-)comic moment of the trays flying upwards and the scones falling downwards in slow motion due to the impact of a seemingly inevitable collision.  However, the skilful staff member somehow averted a crisis, swinging the trays out of the way and to safety and continuing on his path.  It was extremely impressive evasive action.   I can report scones were available after the run, and very nice too.  I had a rhubarb scone which was a first.  It was very nice actually, but it did look a bit like it had grass (not that sort) sticking out of it, which some diners may find off-putting.  Not me, I’m quite open minded when it comes to carbohydrate options along the cake-scone-bread continuum.

So I extricated myself from the heaving mass of runners to head off for my precautionary pee (good facilities here).  Toilet paper aplenty, and mirrors too (not so much appreciated by me at least).  Here in the queue I caught up with more Smiley Paces – veritable plague of us out and about today.  Including one who was sporting a new running backpack in preparation for some marathon off road or other (Nine edges?  No, it was a longer one than that I can’t remember).  Her plan was to practise running in it as she’ll need to carry provisions for that longer yomp.  The backpack did have slightly the look of bondage gear, but naturally I was too polite to mention it.  The fitting also had a sort of armoury lift and separate look to it, it was unclear at this stage whether that would offer helpful stabilising or unhelpful chaffing, but then again, that was the whole point of the exercise.  You can see it here in profile – what do you think?

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I couldn’t make up my mind whether or not to go back inside where it was warm, but then the shock of coming outside again would be even worse by comparison.  Or whether to loiter outside as part of a process of acclimatisation.  I did the latter in the end, watching some of the more hardcore (or just sensible) runners warming up by sprinting back and forth from the start line.  (Just to be absolutely clear, they were doing the sprinting back and forth, I was doing the watching).  I think that’s what they were doing, maybe some of them were just going the wrong way or trying to get a sneaky head start.

So, people, and dogs, continued to gather.  As the registration area got ever busier, crowds spilled outside.  I was still wearing my running jacket at this point, wondering how close you can stand next to people in order to maximise the benefit of mutually exchanging body heat whilst not too obviously invading their personal space or breaking important British conventions around being too intimate with people on first acquaintence.  I’m all too aware of what you can get away with on a tube train, and believe me, I’d have loved to have got squashed up to any number of people to get protection from the icy winds of Longshaw, but fortutiously my natural inhibitions prevented me from doing so  Good turn out though:

I’d already left my backpack on a seat in the cafe.  You do so at your own risk, but I’ve never had a problem.  If someone is that bothered about knicking my carkeys, so be it (it isn’t a swingers party though, so don’t get your hopes up).  I’ll make it easy for you.   Mine’s the magenta range rover spread across two parking bays with a valet in situ.  Take that one if you dare!  We did get a celebrity guest this week to spectate – Jess Ennis (who we love most of all) has strolled by before, but this time it was Royal patronage.

Most people ignored her though, in favour of standing around shivering in the cold; looking hangdog and forlorn; jumping about between handy rocks; hanging around under the bird feeders (that was just the ducks to be fair); faffing about with numbers; stretching and queuing for the loo.  By the way the shivering runner in her parkrun 50 milestone Tee doesn’t have a wooden leg, it’s just an optical illusion.  The shivering was real though.

Eventualy, the start time drew near.  I had a last minute moment of bravery, admittedly in part because of giving in to peer pressure from other running buddies, and rushed back into the cafe to dump my jacket, before joining the migration of runners snaking towards the start.  The marshals having long before made their lonely tracks to wherever it was they were standing out on the trails.

It was a good, but not record turn out – just about a hundred and fifty I think, with a fair few first timers.  Bit hard to hear the briefing, though the run organiser made sterling efforts to walk up and down the line repeating the instructions so everyone had at least a sporting chance of hearing some of it.  No doubt, the collective consciousness and comraderie of The Sheffield Running Community (I believe there is such a thing) filled in the gaps.  The gist of it is that it is off road so watch out for tree roots, mud and each other.  I think that last point was meaning in the sense of looking after each other, rather than a warning about the risk of other runners shoving you out the way or deliberatbely tripping you up, but I didn’t ask for clarification.  It’s a two lap course, follow the flags if you are in the front, follow the leader if you’re not.  Then we were off!  Yay!

It was a slow and steady start, as it takes a while for the line of runners to thin out.  At intervals on the course there are gates which you have to pass through in single file.  Personally I prefer just to jog along enjoying the views and the company and leave the more competitive runners to fight it out at the front.  Despite the bitter wind at the start, it was amazing how I warmed up as soon as I started running.  The sun came out and the setting was just glorious.  The woodland  parts were full of fairy glades, mossy walls and picturesque fallen tree trunks as well as tall elegant trees bursting into life with spring.  On the more exposed hill section you could enjoy bog jumping, and if you took the time to look across to your left as you climbed upwards (good excuse for a breather anyway) you could enjoy the sight of new born lambs all a-frolic no doubt positioned there especially for our benefit.  It was really beautiful.  I snuck back along the route after the run to take some photos, which don’t do the scenery justice, but may give you a flavour of what was possible.  Couldn’t be bothered to walk right back to the lambs though – (well, I had just run 10k and I needed to get back home in time to be able to sit on the sofa in my pants, drinking tea and watch the London marathon on TV later, interspersed with live updates on Facebook about how various Smiley Paces runners had got on with their multitude of super-human running challenges over the weekend).

The marshals were as ever fabulous.  Holding gates open, cheering and clapping in support, and slowly turning blue as time passed.  Second time round their valient attempts to stay upbeat were looking a little more precarious, no number of layers were enough to stave off the cold it seemed.  There is a pattern emerging with the volunteers.  There are a couple in the wooded area to make sure you don’t overshoot the sharp turn left up and out the trees to carry on the route.  Then there is another distinctive tall character who stands astride a stone wall gazing down on the ant-like runners traipsing up the steep off road hill section, some with more enthusiasm and speed with others.  This must be quite an exposed place to watch the action, but a great vantage point for seeing runners facing their inner demons as they try to keep going up that gradient.  Further on there is The Bike Man, who points, silently, dettering you from  taking the short cut back to the cafe, instead tacitly commanding you to continue along the longer route round taking in more uphilliness whether you like it or not.  His positioning is cunning.  I don’t believe it was just me who felt a great moral pressure NOT to cut the corner there, however much of a temptation it seemed.  There was definitely a sense that even if he didn’t actually make you come back and run it properly, he and you would both know you ‘cheated’.  (‘It’s not me you’ve let down, it’s yourself‘ – you know how  that lecture goes I’m sure). Later, there is a flattish bit, coming up to the second car park.  Here again are two volunteers – three, if you count the one actually in the car park.  One was standing looking over the wall, you could see her bobble hat like a pink beacon from miles off, again, this compels you to try and run a bit at least so as not to disappoint.  Drawing closer, there was another volunteer standing in the gap in the stone wall, smiling and shouting appreciation of my Smiley Paces vest as I passed.  Further down and in the carpark another volunteer insisted that there was just ‘a little bit uphill’ and then flat all the way.  Full marks for this trio of volunteers too, who like the others, managed to shout out encouragement and greetings both times I passed.

The description of the rest of the route from there was sort of true, but that ‘short bit of hill’ before the homeward straight is punishing.  I love it once you get back onto that final track though, you know it’s flat and then down hill, and it’s only half a mile if that, so if you have it in you to sprint finish now’s your chance.

As I came round to the end of the first loop, there was a little quartet of volunteers/ organisers, clutching clip boards and wearing matching pink bobble hats.  They looked for all the world like a choir of carol singers, wrapped up against the cold and clutching songsheets.  I took the precaution of telling them this as I passed, and they did say they might sing next time round, but I couldn’t help noticing they didn’t.  Maybe I just took too long on that second loop, and they’d long finished their repetoire of Christmas Carols by the time I made it to the finish.

The second looop saw me running mostly on my own.  Some runners dropped out after just 5k, so I was well towards the back of those left on the 10k route.  I don’t mind that, and weirdly, found that I did better on the second loop, just got in a rhythm and enjoyed that feeling of running on my own.  I had a sort of competition with a runner just behind me, I didn’t want her to over take, and a runner ahead, who I didn’t want to quite disappear from view.  The runner behind me did (of course) overtake me, but only on the hills.  She was impressive, running up them whilst I just gave up.  However, I seemed to recover more quickly than her as a result, and whilst she was still getting her breath back, I managed to pass her again once we got to flat bits.  We kept leap frogging each other for quite a way, and it helped us motivate one another too. It was supportive more than competitive, we called congratulatory encouragement to each other as we took turns passing, albeit through breathless gasps.

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Finally, and a bit randomly, when we got to the final flat bit, I did sprint ahead ‘you coming?’ nope, I was on my own, I managed to just catch up with the woman ahead.  A male friend of hers had already finished, and double backed to keep her company for the last mile or so.  As I approached, he called out ‘sprint finish!‘ I tried to accelerate, but my, that woman went off like a rocket!  I must have really scared her!  She shot off, and finished a good few seconds ahead of me, very impressive turn of speed.  I stumbled to the finish, and was welcomed by familiar faces cheering me home.  Thanks Smileys, and National Trust people, it was great to have you waiting for me at the end.

Also at the end, were free water bottles.  You’ve got to like a good freebie.  They are quite cool I think, and an incentive to remind people to fill in the online survey about sporting activities and the National Trust I would encourage people to fill this in if you can as it would be great for free activities like the Trust 10 series to continue, but I guess as with all things now the Powers That Be will want an evidence base to feel justified in keeping these events going.

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There wasn’t any water in the bottle, so I joined the queue in the cafe for my latte, previously mentioned rhubarb scone, and a complimentary glass of water.  It was all very cheery, debriefing on the run and generally catching up and feeling warm and pleased with ourselves.  Chilled volunteers joined the throng too.  That is as in cold, rather than ‘cool dudes’ though many of course would be categorised as both in a suitably drawn venn diagram displaying their many and various delightful qualities.  Restored, I headed off, taking a quick detour for photos, and thanking again the organisers and volunteers as I left, they too were slipping away until next time…

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So that was that, all done ’til next time, I got back in time to watch the first finishers returning from the marathon.  However, it’s a sobering thought that the whole time I’d been at Longshaw, running, drinking coffee, driving back and generally pottering about, some runners had been out there continuously running.  What’s more, plenty more still had hours more running ahead of them.  Pretty inspirational is it not.  Oh well, good for them, Longshaw was way more fun for me.  I got to run in a beautiful landscape and still soak up the ambience of London from the safe sanctuary of my sofa afterwards.  What’s not to like?

So til, next time, thank you Longshaw and happy running y’all.

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Oh, and for those of you who care about such logistical details.  Timings here are done by hand with stop watches and then manually updated on to a spreadsheet of some sort, so you will get a time emailed within a couple of days of the event, but it won’t necessarily be all that accurate.  If you are bothered about that, take your own timings is my advice.  This week, the times came by lunchtime the next day, which was super slick and speedy – which was more than can be said for my 10k time.  Oh well, work in progress eh?

For other accounts of my fun times at Longshaw Trust 10 see here.

Categories: 10km, motivation, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Running Ups and Downs – the Sheffield TenTenTen

crowd scene tententen

In this case the running ‘ups’ included a particularly steep hill (twice) and the downs included falling over.

So, today being the 18th October 2015 it was show time for the annual Sheffield TenTenTen.  The name comes because the first time it was held, it was a 10km race on the 10th October (tenth month) quite possibly in 2010.  So you can see what they did there (although I suppose if all those details are correct it ought by rights to have been called the TenTenTenTen, so perhaps there is some myth making going on there too.)  Now years have passed, the name is marginally less apt, but sticks.  This is a 10km trail race, very local to me.  Some of it is on the same trails and paths used by my weekly Parkrun, so it is a very familiar route.  I only have to roll out of bed and stagger down, I’ve even already picked up my number in advance from the local running shop.

My leg still feels a bit numb, and I’ve got a sore throat, so I’m a bit whingey to be honest, but there is no-one about to hear my moaning, and I decide I will just go and take it easy.  I don’t want to miss out, and it’s not an especially tough course.  I decide on my pre-race goals (see, I’ve learned nothing from experience).  I decide I will be happy not to be lapped by the faster runners (it is a two loop course) and not to fall over on the way round.  I know all about setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic – and Relevant, and Timebound).  These goals are definitely that….

I woke really early, so had a coffee and some porridge with nuts and seeds and dates in it.  Yum.  I realised to my consternation that I do now have a bit of a pre-event faffing routine.  I always use a hair drier to dry my feet after a shower, because I think if my feet are damp at all then I’ll get blisters when I run.  This could be a good theory, but last couple of runs have involved getting seriously soaked crossing streams or sinking in bogs, so it’s rather an academic point.   This being so, maybe I should face up to the possibility that maybe I’m just a bit weird doing that, at any rate definitely displaying behaviour that’s towards the puzzlingly eccentric end of the continuum.   I also usually wear my long sleeved top, but today, I thought I’d go wild and break with tradition, and wear a short sleeved one instead.  I’d like to say this is because I plan to run fast and furious and this will be cooler, but the real reason is I hope it will be marginally more flattering than my long sleeved one as I am heaving my Smiley Paces vest on over the top of it, and frankly that is always a bit of a squeeze with my bulkier top.  I safety pin my number on.  A running friend did say she’d got me some magnets to use instead, but they haven’t found their way to me and I’d rather be organised.

The race  starts  at 10, but there is a 2.5km fun run for children before (don’t tempt me), I head out just after 9.00.  I am met by a forlorn looking older couple in a car.  They wind down their window.  They have lost their much loved dog.  It is a golden Labrador/ Staffordshire cross, with a pink sparkly collar – and they look heart-broken.  I say I’ll try and get it put on social media at the event I’m going to as there will be lots of runners there.  I did ask at both the café and at the bag drop, but don’t know if they did, pretty sure they didn’t.  I felt like it was my responsibility, I did let some other generic runners know as well.  Oh it’s so sad.

Walking down I pass the kids running their 2.5 km challenge.  Some of them are seriously fast. How can they do that?  It’s extraordinary, and many of them are positively laughing with joy as they stream by.  There is a photographer waiting to snap them as they pass.  He sees me, clocks my Smiley Vest and queries why I don’t appear to be Smiling as it claims on my top.  I promise I will try and smile at him when I come running past later (astonishingly, I do achieve this, albeit it has something of the quality of a pained grimace after all that running around, but it shows willing does it not?).  It is the second lap though, smiling comes more easily when the end is in sight…

   smiling in my smiley vest - must be lap two!

Reaching the start I find that it is as always (well, I say as always, it’s only the second time I’ve done it) incredibly friendly, well organised and well laid out.  There is a bag drop; registration; ambulance (delete the memory of that but good to know it’s there); coffee; food; kit for sale; physiotherapists; podium for presentations later (doesn’t impact on me to be honest, but shows the attention to detail), and lots and lots of fluorescent jacketed marshals and helpers.  I feel at home here, because it’s very much my Parkrun patch, it makes the whole event less intimidating.  It is crowded though, lots of runners and their supporters too.  There are also loads of smiling enthusiastic marshals, that really helps to get you round!

paramedic support en route 2015

Arrival turned out to be quite social.  A veritable pleasing plague of Smileys are in evidence, and quite mixed abilities too which is always heartening.  I meet one who had also been dithering about whether or not to run, she has a poorly ankle as well as problems with her feet.  We debate whether if we took the working parts from each of us we might be able to create some super runner, but regrettably this seems very unlikely.  We are both not blessed in the feet department, and that would be a problem, also neither of us is particularly tall – she gets to tower over me at 5’2″ to my 5’1.5″.  The plan is abandoned.

A gaggle (or should that be a giggle?) of Smiley’s assemble in the start funnel. We are having a really good natter in fact, which annoyingly is cut short by some sort of collective warm up.  We wave our hands aloft, copying the people in front, and not really sure what is going on.  It seems benign but a more serious point would be how easy is appears to be to get people following orders in this way.  It could have been some bizarre cult initiation ceremony for all we knew, goodness only knows what we’ve now been inducted to… The conversation picked up again (on the topic of social media faux pas mainly) and then again was annoyingly interrupted by having to go for a 10km run.  I’d been so stuck into a conversation about the tyranny of  ‘to like or not to like’ on Facebook, that I’d genuinely temporarily forgotten that was why we were there, I was somewhat shocked and affronted therefore to find myself in a stampede of whooping runners, but hey ho, here we go!

shooting off at the start 2015    smiley start

I’m not entirely sure how many starters there were – around 950 perhaps?  I was in the 60-70 minute band, and it took a while for us to get through the start, doesn’t really matter as the chip timers are in the number anyway.  The first bit of the route is snaking across the grass of Endcliffe Park.  This is my least favourite bit of the course, because you feel like you are doubling back on yourself (perhaps because you are) and also, I feel a bit conspicuous as here are spectators, you have to pretend to run with vim and vigour!  You quite quickly leave the park and end up on the road.  This was a bit confusing to me, as we are so programmed to NOT RUN ON THE ROAD at Parkrun, that I instinctively migrate onto the pavement which slows me down loads.  Then it dawned on me I could take the more direct route, I sped (in my terms) along there, feeling quite anarchic!  Oh the joys of the open road…  This momentary pleasure is displaced by the first encounter with The Hill.  It is very steep it is true, but honestly not that long.  It is  a grassy bank that seems to rise almost vertically up, and is surrounded by spectators that are either there to offer moral support, or could be there in the hope of witnessing some sort of blood-fest as runners tumble back down the slope with a dominoes effect on all those in their wake depending on your perspective.  I do start by running up, but quickly give way to walking.

uphill struggle

To be honest, I’m also quite relieved to find a bottle neck at the top where a narrow path takes you back into the woods again.  An opportunity to catch my breath.  The next bit is my favourite part of the run, it’s a nice woodland trail, not desperately fast because of the uneven path people do stop and start a bit.  There are a couple of friendly marshals warning about specific hazards (sudden down hill or unexpected fallen trees) but the BEST BIT is that someone has put up some posters saying ‘Come on Smileys’ at intervals in the wood.  It does really give your spirits a lift.  A much needed lift, as I’d just overheard someone pointing out to a friend the exact point where they’d taken a tumble in last year’s race.  We cross a couple of roads, a few non-running Smileys appear as Marshals or spectators and shout encouragement.  I feel like I’ve been caught slacking as they always seem to appear from the woods as I’ve started to slow.  Wearing a Smiley Vest is great for support though – that and the fact that this year’s race labels have your name on them, it makes you feel like a celebrity if you run and someone calls your name.  Actually, that’s not strictly true, the first time I heard my name called I thought I was in trouble, but that’s probably just me!

snaking across the green

Eventually we turn around and run back down through the wood, yay, downhill, it is a lot easier.  As we go back towards Endcliffe Park we are back on tarmac paths, and spectators and slightly non-plussed walkers are around.  One runner remarks to another ‘those people must think we are completely mad!’  I am compelled to interject ‘actually, I do too!’  They laugh in recognition – and then overtake me and speed away – surely not something I said?  We pass the steep hill again – this time we can see the fleeter runners tackling it for the second time – some of them look like they are actually bounding up it!  I like seeing the better runners, I don’t like being lapped by them, but I do love to see them in action.   It is amazing what the human body can do, not mine perhaps, but some people’s somewhere, somehow!

Back into the park, more woodland, I started to feel more confident again as it’s very familiar paths and almost the half way point.    I am snapped in action unawares, and seem to be actually voluntarily running  (as opposed to posing for the camera running) in the shots which is a first – even airborne in one (if you squint)

       woodland running Finally airborne lucy in the woods

Reader, alas, this temporary elation is short lived.  A couple of hundred metres later and I am lapped on the path round the corner, where the finish is in sight it is true, but definitely lapped.  Seconds later I also fall over.  How did that happen?  I didn’t hurt myself (well, grit in the palms and public humiliation, but nothing much), nearby runners did stop which was nice of them, I felt very foolish.  Then I had to do the horrible grassland plateau run again. This is so much harder second time around as I was sort of on my own rather than in a big herd of other runners like wildebeest on migration.  Also, I can hear the commentator bigging up the first few finishers and cheers of adulation and appreciation go up on their return.  The second lap is going to be tough.  I get a stich and feel a bit miserable, but I am determined to get round.  Road then that hill again, this time a bystander shouts ‘it’s OK to run up here you know’ and because I recognise him from Parkrun I retort ‘it’s OK to give us a helping shove from behind!’ and then I have a moment of panic that this could be read as an open invitation for assault.  Last time I got helped round a course was at the Endurer Dash and I had a huge number of strangers shoving my ample arse to get it (with me attached) over the obstacles there – this isn’t quite the same situation, and I didn’t really want to be assisted in the same manner here.  Doh.  No such assistance was forthcoming in any event – much more fun to watch us all heaving ourselves up the slope looking like we’d perish in the attempt or perhaps they were running a book on who would vomit first (or most prolifically) on reaching the summit.

Despite my fading morale, I did get around – helped a lot by upbeat marshals who seemed to have a word of encouragement for everyone who went by.  I even enjoyed the last kilometre – there was a real crowd at the finish, and I passed by grabbing my medal and into the collective warmth of a smiley hug.  They are so good my fellow Smileys it doesn’t matter if you are fast or slow the cheer is the same on your return.  In fact, people like me who are final finishers probably do get more people cheering for us at the finish line, just because more have made it back ahead to welcome you.  It’s quite humbling.

I still don’t quite look like they do crossing the finish in Chariots of Fire but I’m sure my sense of achievement is just the same!

the finish  medals

The only downside is that I was way too late for the smiley team photo, oh well, not the first time that’s happened to me, and wont be the last either…  I swapped stories with some other Smiley runners, thrills and spills en route; injuries; running adventures.  It’s amazing how much you can find to chat about at the end of a race with all those endorphins charging through your system.

group shot

Even our fastest runner (second woman back no less) had a tale to tell.  She had apparently suffered a serious wardrobe malfunction en route.  Her compression shorts, were, it seems, ill advised, ultimately compressing into a thong, leaving little to the imagination as she hurtled round.  I’m not surprised she went so fast, anyone would be in a hurry to get to the safety of the finish line in similar circumstances!

So just a question of picking up the goodie bag.  We already had bling. This goodie bag had: banana; crisps; bottle of water; Lucozade sport; weird looking popcorn bar and some chewy sweets.  Very respectable and in a quality bright red plastic bag which pleased me probably disproportionately.  Once this was safely in my possession, I joined the queue for the physios.  A local company provide quick sports massages in return for a charity donation to help restore runners aching muscles post run.  They turn up at quite a few local events and I am a complete convert.  I never understood the point of sports massages, but I had one after the Round Sheffield Run last year, and although it really hurt at the time, the following day was the first time EVER I’d not had cramp in my calves the day after a run.  Miracle.  Plus, today I hope that they’ll be able to tell me if I should worry about my numb leg.  Which isn’t particularly worse after the run, but definitely still has a pins and needles feel to it.  The woman who massages my calf calls over a more experienced colleague.  He has me on my back and stretching my legs up in the air to test their flexibility – he pronounces that it probably is a bit of sciatic pain (though this is not the same as sciatica as such) and that I oughtn’t to ignore it.  Actually, I’ve been meaning to get it checked out for a while, and as there is a 20% discount for TenTenTen runners AND I find they offer physio in the local running shop I will do this now.

So over-animated conversation with a fellow smiley as we go through our race experiences together.  We pose for a photo, hoping our juxtaposition next to the ‘sub 40’ sign will send a subliminal message to anyone who subsequently sees it, that we actually, honestly, ran really fast.  Of course, they are unlikely to fall for this, and it may well be they assume this time relates to a 5km not a 10km, oh well, it can still be my little joke for me…  I also get a really excellent cup of coffee from the back of a mobile coffee place at the finish.  That was great!

sub 40 crowd tententen

Home, bath, blog, photos, I love the post run feeling, smug and happy – tomorrow I will be stiff and sore, I shall just concentrate therefore on enjoying today!

Oh, and to recap on my goals: no falling over, no being lapped.  Epic fail on both counts.  Still, there’s always next time I suppose.

Categories: 10km, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments

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