Posts Tagged With: Beverley Westwood parkrun

Making the Muster at Millhouses parkrun, an anything but run of the mill inaugural!

See what I did there with the heading?  I know, I astonish even myself sometimes.  ‘Run of the Mill/ Millhouses parkrun’, genius.  And anyway, now could a park with both super-sized swans and a very respectably sized heron be in any way at all ‘run of the mill’?  Particularly when it takes place against a backdrop of autumn copper and gold.  Precisely.

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Digested read: I went to Millhouses parkrun, the new kid on the Sheffield parkrun block.  I was not alone.

Undigested read:

And so it starts.  The literal start went off like this:

KW off

But my account starts way before that moment.  Obvs.

A great deal of work went into launching this inaugural of Millhouses parkrun.  Not that I can take any credit for it whatsoever, but just to make the point that there have been rumblings of a new parkrun at Millhouses for quite literally years.  Personally, I wasn’t confident it would ever happen as it’s not the most spacious of parks and it’s already really busy with a cafe, and children’s play area, and boating pond – quite crowded.  But a year or so ago, there was a call out for people to volunteer to give it another go, and lo, it came to pass!  It’s testament to the stubborn resolve tenacity and inability to taken ‘no’ for an answer persuasive skills of those Millhouses parkrun pathfinders that today ever happened.  I salute them, and applaud their endeavour, as did everyone else who was there today.  It was quite a feel good occasion.  A lot of work went on behind the scenes.  There were trial runs a while back, and then a practice run last weekend (timed etc but not ‘officially’ recorded as such).

I agonised over whether or not to attend the inaugural.  There had been a request for a low-profile launch, and there is a constantly churning debate about whether or not it’s OK to go to inaugural parkrun events.  At one point it was encouraged, but then the fear was new teams might be overwhelmed by huge turnouts before they’d perfected their systems, so the message was put out to stay away.  In fact I’ve come to think it’s more nuanced.  Don’t go chasing them, but follow the steer of the core teams, and if it’s your new local, and you’ll be a regular, that’s a bit different from uber road trips just so you can say you were there.  Even then there are exceptions, I’m going to stick my neck right out and suggest that when Cape Pembroke Lighthouse parkrun launches next week (26 Oct 2019 in case you are late to the party), it’s not going to be inundated with anything very much other than penguins at its debut event, but then again, that is the Falkland Islands.   Do they even have penguins, or is it just sheep.  Hang on.

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OK, yep, penguins, also seagulls.  Not sure about unexploded ordnance, but they do have a weekly publication called ‘The Penguin News‘ which makes me want to go there even more.   Millhouses parkrun did not have penguins.  But did have herons and swans.  So a reasonable alternative offer I’d say.  Also, no unexploded ordnance at all, as far as I was aware anyway.

The point is, Millhouses parkrun is walkable for me.  I will always keep a special place in my heart for my current home run of Sheffield Hallam, I mean, it’s where I first discovered parkrun and made so many of my parkrun friends, not to mention the fact I’ve only just had an apricot tee printed with its name emblazoned across my left boob.  However,  it has got sooooooo crowded, and I have felt knocked back when I’ve tried to get more involved with it,  so I am on the lookout for a new parkrun to be my second home I suppose.  I’m not ready to absolutely defect, but I’d like to dance between the two when tourism is no longer practical with dark and icy mornings being contra-indicated for long drives in the winter months.  Generally speaking I’m not sure about second homes, but I think having a parkrun second home is more acceptable somehow.  Like those who are parents tell me with respect to having more than one child.  You don’t have a finite amount of love to split between them, rather your capacity for love increases as extra offspring appear.  Obviously the parent I’m referring to told me this on a good day.  Anyway, I like to think it will be the same with parkrun homes.  You just find your affection for parkrun grows exponentially with every new parkrun you discover.  That’s been how it’s worked with the tourism.  And if Millhouses parkrun is to be my new base, then it would be a real shame not to be in at the start.  Only the other week I met a runner at Bushy parkrun who had the chance to be at the inaugural parkrun EVER, i.e. at Bushy parkrun’s first dash, but opted for a lie-in instead.  You can’t change history, seize the day, don’t live a life half-lived and risk being forever consumed by bitter regret.  What might have been eh?  What might have been …

Anyway, the inaugural was also the worst kept secret ever in Sheffield.  I’d known about it for weeks, and it seemed a bit self-defeating to piously martyr myself by staying away because we weren’t supposed to know about it when the entire Sheffield running community seemed to have shared it’s intention to be there and asked all their friends to come join the party.  The local pub announced on its Facebook page a 25% discount of post parkrun breakfasts with effect from 19th October 2019.  The Millhouses park cafe and kiosk similarly gave a Facebook heads up about the coming event.  See a pattern emerging here at all?  Add to this the stream of strava posts of 5k routes round Millhouses park titled ‘definitely not a trial parkrun’ and similar which I also took to be something of a clue. I’m no Jessica Fletcher, but even so, it was all looking pretty conclusive to me.  I mean, obviously, I do have finely tuned parkrun antenna I suppose, but you really just needed to be a sentient being in Sheffield to know this was going to be happening.  Bottom line, I’d go.   I mean the date of this inaugural parkrun is about as mysterious as the date of Christmas Day in the UK (25th December, in case you were thinking it was a trick question, it so isn’t).  What’s the worst…

They’d hardly send me away again would they?  Would they?  Oh gawd, that would be mortifying!  No, surely not… I mean how would they decide?  Ask for recent utilities bills as proof of address?  It’s hard enough filling core volunteer roles sometimes, they surely aren’t going to want to recruit a whole load of extra hi-vis heroes to operate as bouncers, carrying out routine ID and place of abode checks are they?  It’s going to be like school catchment areas if parkrun continues to be as popular as it is.  People pretending to be walking distance on the basis they are long distance/ ultra walking champions, or have temporarily lodged and an airbnb adjacent to the start.  Aaaargh, the angst is coming.

No, of course not.

They wouldn’t.

Oh the angst, properly here now…

Still, in other news, I am a little bit in love with Beverley Westwood parkrun, they just seem to have nailed building a community alongside building their new(ish) now, parkrun.  They have regular social meet ups, and also cows, which is impressive – and next week they are having a halloween themed parkrun

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– always a boon.  And today, this:
BW looking fabulous

Isn’t that great?  Because parkrunners are lovely, and yes, we do look fabulous in our apricot tees, or whatever we rock up in.  It’s going to be great, wherever we rock up.

All in all, it was going to be quite exciting.  Lots of exciting parkrun related things are happening of late.  Halloween themed parkruns, and duvet pyjama and teddy parkruns happening next week

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Then of course there’s the Leeds Building Society Golden Baton relay which is quite exciting too – all kicked off at Woodhouse Moor parkrun and the batons are now busily circumnavigating the world basically I think – one to Frickley Country parkrun, one to Marina parkrun Australia.  Fair do’s.

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but surely nothing, nothing at all, is as exciting as having a new parkrun set up just for you, walking distance from your home.  I may burst!

So the new day dawns, and dear reader, it was gorgeous!  A gift of an autumnal day, thin winter sunshine peeking through red and gold-leaved trees.  Not actual gold leaf unfortunately, but nature’s equivalent, which is pretty glorious all the same.  Look:

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There are actual bronze oak leaves at Longshaw at the moment though, if you want to see metal in the landscape.

Sarah Cook bronze oak leaves

I left early, partly excitement, and partly to be sure I was there in good time, and partly because it’s ages since I’ve been to Millhouses park and couldn’t quite remember how long it would take to walk there.

The walk was fine, it’s only about 1 1/2- 2 miles, and took me past the extraordinarily exotic Abbeydale Road Tesco superstore, which was the first supermarket I discovered when I first relocated to Sheffield over ten years ago now.  OMG, that’s my life on fast forward racing by.  Kind of thought I’d be further forward with my life goals by now, maybe even be a grown up, but such things are more elusive than I knew.

You can take a shortcut if you dive down past the Tesco store itself, I never knew there was a path down there.  There’s a sort of suicidally slippery board walk you can take on at your own risk – and I was so naively confident donning road shoes before I headed out.

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There are loos at the park, but I nipped in to use the Tesco ones just in case the others weren’t open (they were).  Another parkrunner was doing likewise.  You could park here I reckon, it’s only a 10 minute walk or so to the start from here, but there’s also parking in Millhouses park, though you need to pay a modest fee for that (50p for first hour which starts at 9.30 from memory)  I don’t mind paying for parking when I’m touristing, it’s fair enough I think if you are using extra facilities to support them.  Today, foot power.  Yay.

So I made it along the boardwalk without either face or arse-planting, so that was a win, and then crossed the road into Millhouses park.  Not sure why you’d want to take the alternative route when you have already arrived, but hey ho …

Exciting.  I haven’t been in Millhouses park for…. actually for years.  I mean I drive past it fairly frequently, and pass it from the track above it when doing the Round Sheffield Walk, but actually go in it, can hardly remember.  Probably, festive shenanigans in the car-park for one Smiley games session involving fairy lights and crying with laughter ’til you wet yourself, but that would have been in pitch darkness.

I must say, I was massively impressed at how the space has been transformed since I last saw it in daylight.  It has always been a nice space, but wow, a lot of effort has gone into significant improvements, not just maintenance, but now there are fish runs.  Not for fish to run up, that would be silly, but to swim and jump up I suppose.  Yes they can jump, just not ride bikes.  Though don’t judge, they have other talents.  Awesome ones, like being able to breathe underwater and some can practically fly!  Those are super powers!

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Also, there were wildflower areas and even a skate boarding area and a sort of mini scooter track I think.  I’m not sure, might have just been incorrectly sited speed bumps, or a hiccup in laying some flat tarmac, I’d put nothing past Amey.  Little wildflower areas and bursts of full flower colour in ornamental borders.  An expanse of autumnal colour on the wooded hills to the side of the park, and silver leaved willows next to the stream (river sheaf more accurately I think) flowing under a gorgeous stone bridge.  Lovely!  Millhouses Park‘s makeover was to me a revelation.  It’s probably been like that for ages.

There was an actual heron.  Poised to fish – depressingly there were a couple of plastic bottles in the water alongside.  They were on the far bank and too distant for me to reach even if I hadn’t minded about disturbing the heron.

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For your information, education and merriment, I’m now going to include another photo of a heron in flight.  It hardly seems necessary to point out that I didn’t take this photo, but just to be on the safe side it’s another from the official parkrun photographer.  Great isn’t it.  I also like duck photos by the way, but they weren’t snapped this week (by a camera shutter, not by a predator) so look out for them making blog post appearances another time.  The heron is amazing though isn’t almost unreal…

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Excitingly, other parkrunners were appearing, and there were parkrun related signs and cones and other parkrun paraphernalia, most exciting,

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It was weird to be sort of touristing so close to home.  One of the things I really appreciate about going to different parkruns is that it takes you to destinations you might not otherwise visit,  Almost embarrassing to find a park not 2 miles from my front door falls into the category apparently.  Ah well, I’m here now.

And then it became a sort of I-spy of Sheffield parkrunners.  Familiar faces bobbing above parkrun tees.  Hi-vis marshals starting to make their way out to their spots.  I clearly got very distracted saying hello to anyone and everyone en route.  Some from Graves junior parkrun, some from Staveley junior parkrun (hello) – they’d come to Graves junior to see how it ran before setting up their own parkrun.  People from all the various Sheffield parkruns.  It was like a Sheffield running festival, not had such a good atmosphere at a run gathering since everyone assembled for the last Round Sheffield Run (which for future reference remains the outstanding Sheffield Running event of the year imho at least).  It takes longer than you think to say hello to everyone.  Particularly when mutual photo taking is also mandatory.  One passing parkrunner on a bike aided us by taking a group shot, so that was public spirited.  Thank you passing parkrunner.

Plus I wanted to check out the facilities for future reference.  There are loos, so that’s a tick,  – though, unlike the Tardis, these are smaller on the inside than on the outside.  Your hopes are raised by the exterior appearance of the building, but actually puzzlingly, there was only one cubicle within the space.  Also it has one of those automated, soap, wash, dry sinks.  They seem like a good idea, but it takes aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaages for each individual to wash their hands, and even if you bail on the drying stage in favour of waving the worst of the water off and wiping the rest half-heartedly on your leggins, the next person in line still has to wait for the cycle to finish.  It may indeed have seemed like a good idea at the time, but experience tells us otherwise. Still, not knocking it, all facilities are good facilities, and they were not only available, but stocked with loo-paper and clean.  A coffee kiosk was also open early, offering parkrun specials.  Variant spellings covering all possible configurations on the blackboard signage promoted the offers, but I think started possibly it started as Park Run – the horror – and got corrected to parkrun at some point during the morning.  I’m not sure how long that will continue – the opening of the kiosk not the spelling – as they weren’t getting much business pre-run despite offering parkrun specials, but there’s also a cafe, and a nearby pub (Wagon and Horses) offering a 25% discount for post-parkrun sustenance.  This is a well catered event with great facilities for parkrunners and their supporters alike.

Enough of the facilities, no time to linger, time to be heading towards the start.  I like this bit, the coming together of colourful tee-shirted people, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and enthusiastic about their morning to come, all congregating together.  I espied more people I recognised moving through the park.  Hello Monday Mobsters, always a treat!  You can’t see me yet, but I’ve seen you!

and then I was at the start area.  How exciting.  You could tell it was the start, because they have one of those start signs that are basically a recruitment tool for mensa or MI5 or MFI – I forget which, but basically any organisation targeting only the most elite of applicants, i.e. those who are able to compress the sign back into its bag at the end of the run.

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I love these signs, they not only handily locate the start, but satisfy the craving that some of us have for location identifying photo opportunities.    Yes of course I joined it, posing with some escapees from Sheffield Hallam parkrun.  Lovely as it was to see them, the are among the most stalwart of the volunteers there, I couldn’t help worrying if Sheffield Hallam parkrun might, as a consequence of their absence, disappear into a vortex of confusion without them there to keep order.  How it would happen without them is beyond my comprehension. Still parkrun will find a way, it usually does.

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More familiar faces!  Including a friend who’d brought along another friend for her absolutely first time ever parkrun.   A true first timer.  Not like many of the rest of us first timing because that was the only available option at a new parkrun.  Now that is exciting.  How amazing to start your parkrun career at an inaugural.  Grand to see you, may it be the first of many!

Sooooo many people.  This is an inaugural that did not go under anyone’s radar.  I am not the only one with pre-school level detective skills and/or the capacity to read social media posts it seems.  And oh look!  There was pirate flag man – his attendance is mandatory at big Sheffield running events.  I’m not sure why, that’s lost (to me anyway) in the annals of Sheffield running history, but I can only presume it’s a bit like the ravens in the tower, has to be there, if the flag is absent, terrible misfortune will follow.   Not actually the crown falling and Britain with it, but probably the sun falling out of the sky, something like that I expect, if the pirate flag is missing.  Hopefully we won’t ever find out.

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More selfie taking went on, by everyone, not just by me.  One of the people pictured is another parkrun pioneer.  That’s two out of a possible 13 present today as far as I’m aware which is, erm, around 15% of the original parkrun population at Bushy parkrun 15 years ago.  Impressive eh.  Mingling with the stars at Millhouses today.  Yay!  Well, not me, I didn’t get to meet him, and I’ve still to clap eyes on the golden barcodes, my how I’d love to see one of those for myself.  One day eh, one day.  Still, you have to have a dream don’t you, so the saying goes.

I may not have clapped eyes on the golden barcodes, but mercifully others did, and even hearing about them was tremendously exciting as the photo shows. The camera never lies apparently, good to know.  Anyway, you cannot fake a reaction like the one recorded below!

Another big reveal though, which pleases me hugely, is that the impromptu gathering spot was underneath a rather lovely tree, red with autumn leaves.  Just like Bushy parkrun has The Tree, so too Millhouses parkrun, has its own by way of sort of homage or happy accident, I forget wish.  Cool though.  Also photogenic, I’m expecting the ‘proper’ photos which will follow in due course to have captured it rather better than me, but you’ll get the gist, and anyway, I’m rather hoping you will go and check it out for yourself at some point, and seeing is believing I think you’ll agree.

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*STOP PRESS*  Good news, the proper photos are here, look at that lovely tree!  Methinks it will be a regular staple of Millhouses parkrun photos in runs to come.

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And under the tree, more familiar faces, yay!

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At some point, after negotiating with other parkrunners, we identified an informal bag drop.  Or ‘somewhere to dump our stuff’ on a bench alongside the straight bit of the course.  Obviously it’s all at your own risk, but plenty of others did the same, and with runners passing this point out and back I’d be running past it six times at least.  It wasn’t at the finish, which was the other option, but we reasoned we’d be walking back this way to get to cafe/pub/far carpark/ walking home.  So good call.  Actually, checkout the en route action shot and you can see how closely supervised that particular bench is, don’t forget to wave at the Monday Mobster as you are squinting at the photo seeing if you can spot a bag your recognise amongst the jumble.  Think of the action shot not so much as a spoiler for how the course unfolded, but a teaser, a trailer to whet your appetite for the parkrun delights that follow.  Agreed?  Good.

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Next, the official welcomes and introductions and general speechifying.  It was very well judged, the nice man from the Sheffield Town Trust, who put up a significant amount of the funding for this event, along with Steel City Striders running club – amongst others, the full list is in the run report for the event – spoke with enthusiasm, eloquence and brevity to wish the event well.  And was wearing a rather splendid looking medallion I thought. The RD asked if there were any first timers present and got a huge cheer for his troubles.  Couldn’t help noticing there was a rather smaller cheer in response to the question ‘and who’ll be coming back regularly’ but I suppose that’s inevitable, and frankly necessary, the park couldn’t really cope with the numbers that turned up for the first event every single week.  It will find its equilibrium.  There was a wild cheer of support for the volunteer team too, basically lots of cheering.  Here are some of the volunteer team in all their individual and collective magnificence pre run.

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What a fine sight indeed!

So welcomes were said, thanks given, the briefing done.

Oh hang on, I’ve not said about the course, I did look it up pre run, but as is often the way, it makes more sense when you come to run it.  However, according to the official Millhouses parkrun website course description blah de blah:

Just under three anti-clockwise laps of the park, starting near the Abbey Lane end car park. The course is fast, flat, and all on tarmac paths, but most of all, fun! We ask participants to please stay on the paths at all times to avoid damage to any of the ornamental areas of the park. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed at this event

and it looks like this:

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To be honest, I wouldn’t say it was three ‘laps’ because that implies you are only running the bit of the course that looks like a deflated balloon three times, whereas in fact you have to run a bit down the string bit and then turn around and run back again.  Think lollipops (weird shaped ones) if you don’t like the deflated balloon on a string analogy, even though that’s a way better description in my view.

Most of the speakers used a loudhailer, which was great.  The ambassador for the area, and indeed, parkrun pioneer then spoke by her own admission as ‘bad cop’ or The Enforcer if you like.  She dispensed with the loudhailer on account of her famed ability to project.  Unfortunately, it would have taken someone with a sonic boom to fully project their voice to the whole crowd, and there were a few people shouting they couldn’t hear, who then lapsed into chatting to each other which was annoying.  Mind you, I’m getting increasingly grumpy in my old age, so it takes less and less to annoy me.  However, I was able hear, and can report that she spoke with enthusiasm and support for the event, but emphasised that it is a small park relatively speaking and parkrunners need to be on their best behaviour to ensure they stay welcome there.  No running in the flower beds or on the grass to cut corners.  Here is the moderately attentive gathering of runners on debut day, pre briefing to be fair, in the gathering together part of the morning.

the briefing

This is also a windy course. Windy as in lots of twist and turns, not as in triggering flatulence – though if you have a swan phobia the boating lake could trigger an attack.  Just debating with myself whether or not it would be irresponsible of me to post a photo to illustrate the point, or whether that would require me to put in a ‘possible trigger’ warning at the top of the post, like they do on food packaging for allergens.  Oh what the hell, here it is:

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

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

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

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

Her: no stop

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

Her: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! (Primeval scream)

Me: What’s wrong?

Her: Don’t say that word?

Me: What word?

Her: (meaningfully) that word

Me: what tweak?

her: Stop!

Me: Seriously, the word tweak?

Her: please no

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

Her:  STOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!! I mean it

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

Her: runs screaming from desk

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

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

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

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

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

Underway!

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

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

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

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

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

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

cafe temptations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

how it should have looked

and so it ended:

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

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

CS and so it ends

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

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

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

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Reet nice out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fine and dandy.  Well done indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments.  Bet there are loads.  And if inexplicably, you’ve not yet rocked up to the parkrun party, you could enjoy re-running your other running related adventures, bet you’ve loads of those.  Go on, go wild, indulge yourself.

til next time then?

🙂

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

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

♫ (Go West) where the skies are blue? ♫ Beverley or bust. Beverley Westwood parkrun where there be coos!

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Beverley Westwood parkrun.  It rained.  A lot.

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Undigested read:

When the world is your lobster oyster, it’s hard to know where to travel next parkrun wise.  I was going to head to Isabel Trail parkrun, it’s on my ‘to do’ list, like trail, and an ‘i’ for my alphabet challenge would be a boon.  Ouch, it is a long way from Sheffield though.  Aargh.  Yep, a long way, but nearer than any other ‘i’ s, they are few and far between.  I’ll go there then.  … only then I remembered some fellow parkrunner that are seriously dedicated tourists, they have an itinerary, always worth a gander.  Where are they going I wonder?

Oooh, Beverley Westwood parkrun.  Never heard of it.  Google.  Google (which never lies) takes me to their official Beverley Westwood parkrun page seems this parkrun is but freshly emerged.  Now, I concede some might say that this is still a ridiculously long way away from Sheffield for a couple of hours excursion, but that would be in the eyes of non parkrunner tourists.  It’s doable.  It would be a chance to catch up with some fellow parkrun pilgrims, as a bonus, it might give me a ‘west’ for the compass challenge (not entirely sure of the basis of inclusion for that, but I think as long as a compass point is included anywhere in the title, it’s OK), and a 3 for my Wilson, which I’m only very halfheartedly aware of but I wouldn’t shun even if I can’t be bothered to actively seek any numbers out.

compass club

wilson index

Incidentally, be aware that attending inaugural events is generally discouraged to avoid scaring off new volunteer teams.  I think the consensus is now that if a new event is your new local, and/or the new event team are actively promoting it then it’s fine to attend, but otherwise, let them settle in.  Fair do’s.  It didn’t used to be an issue but now parkrun is soooooooooooooo much bigger – 6 million registrations now, that’s eye popping, and excellent, but also a tad scary if you are a new kid on the block!

You know about the running challenges thingamajig yes?    I’m never going to really get very far up the Wilson index, but I reckon I’ll succeed with the compass challenge one day, plenty parkrun options available for that!  Yes, I know it’s childish, but in bleak times, anything to cheer the spirits surely?  We are all going to hell in a handcart, granted, but at least we have parkrun.

Loon landing private eye

Quick change the record before it all gets too depressing!  Speaking of which, (yes we were) I know the perfect record, feel free to join in!  This calls for a rousing chorus of ‘Go West!’ – only you know if you want the Village People original or are a Pet Shop Boys kinda person, but either way it’s most jolly and uplifting and the chorus couldn’t be more apt!

Go West!

life is peaceful there
(Go west) in the open air
(Go west) where the skies are blue
(Go west) this is what we’re gonna do
(Go west, this is what we’re gonna do, go west

So what can I find out in advance about this parkrun?  We know already it will be in the open air and the skies will be blue, because the singers tell us so.  You should so watch the video* if for some inexplicable reason you haven’t done so in a while.  Absolute classic!   Yeah, jfdi, and you know what, you should totally join in, that’s what kitchen floors were made for!  I’m not endorsing the casual cultural appropriation aspects, clearly, but can’t help but be taken back when that comes on!

*The village people, version, obvs!

Right, enough of the distractions, back to the important preparatory research.

Well, according to the course blah de blah on the Beverley Westwood parkrun page:

Course Description
The start/finish is situated on an open area of Beverley Westwood adjacent to where Westwood Road meets Walkington Road.
The course is 2 anti-clockwise laps on the historic, scenic and undulating pasture and follows an ancient drove way, goes down then up Hill 60, crosses the Tan Gallop and circles Black Mill – entirely on grass so trail shoes are advisable in wet weather. Cows roam freely on the pasture from April to December and have right of way at all times. Follow the marked route to ensure you remain in the safe area away from the golf course. There is plenty of room near the start to park bikes and to warm up on the grass. Unfortunately the course is not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs.

Ok, so two things immediately strike me.  ‘Entirely on grass’ and the ‘presence of cows’.  I way prefer off – road, but I am a bit dubious about grass courses, horribly reminiscent of the humiliation of school sports days and my brief but misguided foray into XC running.  The very thought makes me nervous, though it sounds interesting and picturesque, so hopefully not too like a school sports field when you are actually there.

Apropos of the cows, I’m going to have to trust the event team.  I used to be fine with cows until I moved to Sheffield, where it seems bovines have been cross bred with aggressive carnivorous predators and there have been an alarmingly frequent number of incidents of runners being carted off in helicopters by mountain rescue after coming off the worse in bovine/runner encounters.  Still, at Beverley Westwood parkun they give the cows names according to their inaugural event report.

there are not many parkruns with a Cow Risk Assessment, however the cows were great and our marshals even named a few – Pat, Parsley and Pie behaved beautifully. So anyone afraid of cows should consider this. The only stampede was the one to the pub afterwards!

It’s hard to be scared of something when you’ve named it.  That’s why I called a resident house spider Christopher one winter.  The ones you see are most commonly male apparently, lost and lonely and looking for a mate.  We came to an understanding.  He could stay, as long as he never crossed the threshold into my bedroom.  I actually felt sufficiently protective of him, that before I moved out at the end of my tenancy, I relocated him to an attic where he’d be safe from over enthusiastic vacuuming by any new occupants.  Anyway, point is, they have cow marshals.  It’ll be fine!

Besides, indisputably, some runners benefit from external motivation to help them achieve their full potential.  For those in search of an elusive pb, maybe the cows will help?  A bear did this for the cohort pictured below, a whole herd of cows could do way more I reckon.  Also, illustrates rather brilliantly the accepted wisdom that when under threat, you don’t necessarily need to run super fast, just faster than at least one of your companions.  Harsh, but true.  Don’t worry fellow parkrunners, there’s always a tail walker, you can’t be last!  I’m not saying tail walkers are expendable, they are not, but it is one of the easier volunteering roles to fill, so it’ll be fine… probably.  I’ve been a tailwalker and I’d happily have martyred myself for the greater parkrunning good if required to do so.  I’m sure other community minded hi-vis heroes are willing to do likewise.

photographers fleeing

Where was I?  Oh yes, the course.  It looks like this:

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and as far as you can tell from the Beverley Westwood parkrun Facebook page, the locals are friendly.  They are setting up monthly gatherings, what a brilliant idea.  Spreading the parkrun love indeed.  I like the idea of a parkrun that starts  and finishes at a pub!  This parkrun would seem destined to be sustainable!  Hope they do veggie breakfasts…

Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in The Woolpack Inn on Westwood Road – please come and join us!

Woolpack pub

Yeah, definitely worth the early start.  What could possibly go wrong?  🙂  Yeah, bring it on!  Might be more than a couple of hours worth of Saturday morning fun at this one!

Bring.  It. On!

Bit worried about the heat though.  It’s soooooooooooooo hot.  At least I’m not a dog.  It’s worse for them poor things.  The RSPCA advice is to leave them at home when it’s like this.  Apparently (read it somewhere on Facebook so it must be true) Canicrossers use this rule: Temp (c) x humidity (%) and anything below 1000 is good to go, for instance 14 degrees and 45% humidity would be 630. If in doubt … do not run!  You know, I might start applying that rule to myself.  I just can’t function in heat.  I feel like a super-villain has caught me in an energy-draining spotlight and I will expire within seconds if I can’t move to a place of cool shade imminently. It’s so hard being me. A cap and shades and electrolytes will only get you so far.  Heatstroke can kill.  In fact, there is a whole blogsite ‘Hot Dogs –  heatstroke heatstroke education for dog owners. ‘ all about heatstroke prevention.  Quite scary stuff. They did a post about parkrunning with dogs in the heat, food for thought, and I haven’t even got a dog. Though I do have massive empathy for them as the temperature rises.  I am not a sun worshipper at all.  I’m sure I’m part vampire heritage, no other explanation.

Directions wise, well I would be heading to their suggested car park near to the start.

Getting there by road
Whichever route you take into Beverley, you need to drive into the town centre to access car parks. To get to the start from the town centre, head for Lairgate then follow ‘Getting there on foot’ below.

Grayburn Lane pay and display car park (HU17 8JR) is only 600m from the start and Tesco (HU17 9DB) which offers 3 hours’ free parking is a 15 minute walk away from the start. There are also several other car parks near the town centre.

To help us maintain good relationships with the Pasture Masters, local residents (people and cows) and the golf club, please do not park on the pasture verges, on Westwood Road or at the golf club.

Hmm, could be up to a couple of hours drive, allowing for paranoia, getting lost, pre parkrun angstiness etc.  Lucky I’m an insomniac, an early start makes no odds to me!  Also, in order to ‘Go West’ I actually have to head north-eastish from my starting point.  That spoils the theme somewhat, but hey ho, worse things happen at the seaside.  And I should know, I broke my kneecap at one (Hastings since you ask, that was a bad day).

Yep, very up for this, what could possibly go wrong?

So the day dawns.  Morning!

Morning

aaah, maybe that.  Gulp.

Thunderbolts and lightening?  Very, very frightening!

What happened to ‘Go West – where the skies are blue‘?  Asking for a friend.  On the plus side, at least I won’t be fretting about sunstroke and over-heating…

Up at stupid o’clock.  To some extent, I was lulled into a bit of a false sense of security as I peered out my attic window to assess what the weather gods were offering up.  It was raining, but not too hard as I left Sheffield.  Almost refreshing after the recent heatwave I thought to myself, (be careful what you wish for) naively.

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However, dear reader, I can report that once I hit the motorways, it was like entering a parallel universe of apocalyptic weather.  The sky was obscured by an other-worldly gloom, not so much from mist, but from the absolute density of rain reducing visibility to scarily short distances.  Oh well, I probably shouldn’t hold my hand in front of my face when driving anyway, it’ll be fine…  Once I’d talked myself down from a full on panic attack re visibility, there was the little matter of standing water and the awful suspicion that however slowly I was driving, I’d be aquaplaning at any moment!  This would have been ok if I had the sort of car that converted into a hydrofoil at the push of a button, or indeed had thought to source Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the day, but neither was the case.  Incidentally, whilst we are on the subject of children’s films and childhood humiliations, was I the only child who sang along to the movie track loudly pronouncing ‘shitty shitty bang bang’ for more years than I should because my nearest and dearest thought it was very much more amusing not to correct me?  Oh, it really was just me then.  I suppose that explains some things  …

I was glad I’d allowed plenty of time.  The roads were clear, fortunately, though to be fair I wouldn’t have been able to make out any of the other traffic on the roads anyway.  It sure was going to be a wet one!  Just to liven things up a bit more, periodically, a flash of distant lightening would pierce my eyeballs, causing momentary blindness as I drove onwards to my unknown destiny.

Once I came off the motorway and headed to Beverley, the roads got even worse.  I don’t know if my satnav took me a particularly odd way, but the roads seemed to twist through villages, and flood water was perilous.  I crawled along clinging to the middle of the road to avoid standing lakes on either side, other vehicles 4×4 ploughed through sending up tsunami waves of water as they passed. Cheers for that (not really).  At least I wasn’t on a bike.

One village had a sign advising of the presence of ducks!  That was particularly pleasing and apt.  So much so, I stopped to take a picture of it on the way back.  Shortly after the sign, is a beautifully picturesque village pond, which indeed had ducks on it, though it wouldn’t entirely have surprised me if they’d been swimming alongside me on the roads. It was wet, wet, wet.  No honestly, imagine the wettest you’ve ever been, yep, that time, and now get someone to chuck another bucket of water on you whilst you stand over a burst water hydrant.  That’s it.  That kind of wet.  ‘Nice weather for ducks’ indeed.

DSCF2891Smart ducks those, they did a good job with the hanging basket didn’t they?  The environs of Beverley were pretty classy, they get a better quality of mallard round here too I dare say.

From what I could make out in the rain, Beverley is pretty nice.  There are some wow moments en route with the architecture – making out the cathedral in the rain and indeed Westwood Pastures on the way into the town.  The buildings as you approach are stunning.  My satnav took me straight to the car park, although it seemed weirdly residential on the final approach.  Even the car park is posh here, it’s the first one I’ve ever graced that has its own art work on display!

There’s a long stay and a medium/short stay section. I was early, so dithered about which to choose.  There was loads of parking at 8.00 a.m. and still some spaces in the long stay when I came back to the car about 10.30 ish, so that was good.  Logistically speaking though, you do really need to be in an official car park, there weren’t other options, on street parking was restricted to residents only and anyway there weren’t any spaces.

It wasn’t cold, but it was very definitely wet.  In an uncharacteristic fit of forward planning, I brought with me a print out of the route from the car park to the parkrun.  I’m glad I did, as it wasn’t obvious without, and i don’t have a smart phone.  Maybe later on other parkrunners would have gathered and it would have been a case of follow the crowd, sheep like, to get to the start.

parking to start

Speaking of sheep, the next stop was the Woolpack.  It was very much open, and people were busy frying up sausages in prep for parkrunners a-plenty later on.  I asked if it was ok to use the loo, and it was fine.  Check this out – see what they’ve done there with the signs?  I know, hilarious and genius!  Also, it was equipped with a few extras in case you need a pre- or indeed post-parkrun preening.  This was the ladies loo, or ‘ewes’ I imagine the ‘rams’ have brylcreem, old spice and chamois leathers in their basket.  That sort of thing anyway.  Ace.

Pre parkrun pee executed, I headed to the start.  It really isn’t very far, and it’s an exciting revelation when it comes into view.  At the end of a tightly packed, but exquisitely beautiful row of terraces, the vista opens up into the vision of sodden loveliness that is Westwood Pastures, enhanced by little flashes of hi-vis on the horizon.  Hurrah!  I’m here!  More importantly, so is the parkrun core team.  Takes more than a little bit of  torrential deluge of rain to deter them.

It wasn’t really cold, but it did very much feel like the sky was falling in.  Chicken Licken would have had a complete meltdown.  In fact, this would be a terrible parkrun for Chicken Licken, there are chestnut trees along the way, with conkers already starting to fill out nicely.  Only a matter of time before they start plummeting down from above too.  Honestly, the risk assessments for this parkrun must fill several volumes!

Educational point of information. I’ve just re-read Chicken Licken, because it’s always as well to fact check important points, and I see Chicken Licken is gendered as ‘he’ in the version I came across.  I’d always assumed Chicken Licken was female, is that because I’d identified with the character I wonder, or does the ladybird book assign the female gender?  Would be so much easier if everyone was just ascribed non-binary in my view.  Ah well, onward.

I wended my way towards the hi-vis hubbub, where very sensibly volunteers were gathering and sheltering.  The sheltering was a bit redundant to be fair, wasn’t sure at what point someone was going to break it to them they were going to get soaked through to their knickers within seconds of leaving the sanctuary of the tree’s branches –  and I don’t mean from crying with laughter at the parkrun participants either.  Though to be fair, that is a given at junior parkrun, if my experience of volunteering there is anything to go by…  Hilarious.  Always.

I was trying to be discrete, you know, get some non-posed photos.  Epic fail, partly because  that’s not my forte, and partly because it was so blooming dark, my flash went off.  This nearly brought about apoplexy amongst the event team, who were mid-briefing about how they would implement their storm warning protocol  in the event of thunder and lightening bursting out.  It would have been pretty exciting I reckon, not so much sharknado as bovinado, which would any Sheffield runner would tell you is way scarier!  Isn’t there a documentary about that: cownado I mean?  Yes there is!

We have scary cows in Sheffield though I tell you, really scary ones.   I really wouldn’t want to be hit by a falling cow.  At least for the most part this course was in the open, no chance of being squashed by a falling tree say…. a tree branch fell in a storm at Preston parkrun today which caused quite a commotion, no-one hurt but event team emergency protocol well and truly scrambled.  It pays to be prepared people! No team wants squished runners, it can ruin your whole morning more even than unregulated funnel ducking, and that’s saying something!  Preston parkrun had to notify the council for heaven’s sake, I mean just imagine – the incident even made the local news!

preston parkrun

Funnel ducking is still worse however.  Just so you know.

Funnel ducker , n, parkrunner who crosses the finish line and thus gets a finish time but leaves the funnel without taking a finish token, thereby creating results processing grief for the event team.

You’d be surprised at the mishaps that can befall parkrunners though.   Spare a thought for poor Maureen of Whangarei parkrun who apparently missed the whole thing after become trapped in a loo cubicle.  No really, it was in their run report it must be true.  I daresay there are some out there who might pretend to be locked in a loo to avoid running, or hide in one to avoid school ‘games’ – which so weren’t fun at all as the titular ‘games’ misleadingly implies – but she was incarcerated due to mechanical error.  Just imagine.  She may still be there for all I know.  They say they don’t want any jokes about how many parkrunners does it take to repair a broken lock, but I reckon they’re bluffing.  Feel free to respond!

international rescue

I wonder if there is a special volunteer credit available for liberating fellow parkrunners from being locked in toilets – or indeed other receptacles like, oh I don’t know, panic rooms, skips, recycling containers?  Maybe there will be now.  Hope they filled in the relevant critical incident paperwork afterwards.  This crew they deem to be ‘international rescue’ I like that.  Could catch on… and there is definitely already a badge for that too!

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Anyway, in the circumstances, you can see why my camera flashing didn’t help settle the nerves of the still relatively new Beverley Westwood parkrun team.  Ooops.  Sorry about that.  Well, sorry-ish.  It’s hard to be properly penitent given the comedic value of the moment, can’t lie, made me laugh – still,  I’m sure they’ll understand…  Also, did nothing for my undercover photographer capturing candid camera moments.  Oh well.  At least I got a picture of the volunteer rota team, and the team, albeit I was outed as a potential ‘well sometimes quantity over quality isn’t all a bad thing’ in a back up parkrun photographer role!  Not official enough to merit a volunteer credit perhaps, but showing willing, that’s the main thing!

Having nicely spooked the event team, I headed off to explore.  Marshals were marching out like explorers, hunched into the rain.  Some already in post were sporting some exceedingly fine umbrellas, now, if only I’d thought to do likewise, and could work out a way to run with one  – and they’d left a top dog supervising the start area.  All contingencies were covered.  It has to be a new team, as this was only their 3rd parkrun, but it seemed very well organised and confidently handled.  Hurrah!

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Although it was early, the cones were out, the marshals were already actively on manoeuvre, cow cowl wearing tourist(s) were commencing warm up, and the cows were congregating too.

Really.  A great many cows.  Not over keen to be fair, however, I think you can pay a lot of money to a therapist to be exposed to flooding techniques to cure you of such fears.  Here you can do it for free.  Though actually, come to think of it, I think the idea of subjecting someone to their worst nightmare in order to desensitise them to it might now have been completely discredited on account of the fact it induces trauma.  You know what, I just don’t know!  Fortunately, I’m not absolutely phobic of cattle, just deeply cautious of them, which isn’t a bad thing to be to be fair.  They can trample people when spooked or provoked.  In Sheffield cattle have alarming form in this respect.  Not their fault, but worth knowing… eek.

flooding

 Also evidence of where other cows had previously passed this way.  Be warned dear reader. The cow pats are a real hazard.   Up until today, I had thought goose poo was the skiddiest substance known to humankind, but now I think it might actually be fresh cow poo, especially when drenched with newly fallen/ing rain.  It is truly skiddy, imagine running across a slurry spill on wet grass or smooth tarmac – actually, scrap that, you don’t have to imagine it, you can experience it for yourself!  Rock up to Beverley Westwood parkrun on a really wet day, make an exaggerated point of not looking where you put your feet and hey presto!  You too can undergo a whole new level of immersive slipperiness!  Hurrah!

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More people gathered, with various degrees of saturation and cow tolerance:

Oh look, some familiar faces, and a hurried pre-run group shot.  It is compulsory on such occasions to gather together as many tourists and anyone else who fancies being included all together in a group shot.  Never has a gathering of cow cowl wearers been in a context more apt. Here it is:

Group cow shot

‘Suddenly’ as if from nowhere, loads of other parkrunners appeared.  It’s always astonishing to me, in a pleasing way, how 20 minutes before parkrun it’s often just the hi-vis heroes, me (because I’m so paranoid about being late) and tumble weed, and then 15 minutes before people appear out of the mist (or rain on this occasion) and it’s like a flash mob or pop up party or something.  From nothing, comes something.  What strange sorcery is this?  Replicated in parkruns the world over.  A.Maz.Ing.

Next stop, first timer’s briefing.  This had a few unique (I think so anyway) elements.  We were instructed how to deal with cows.  Confidence and clapping, but there was a practical demo coming up later anyway.  Also warned of the cow pat frequency along the route.  They are like little land mines essentially, peppering the route.  I think it adds a certain frisson of excitement to proceedings myself. It also definitely elevates the course from sports field to proper off road pasture.  Result.  This is a course where not only the marshals may be required to clap!

There was more pointless sheltering from the rain, and I dumped my bag at the informal bag drop.  By which I mean in the general area under the designated tree hq.  Unfortunately, my aim meant my rucksuck was basically chucked into a puddle, which during the duration of the event turned into pretty much a pond of slurry by the end of the parkrun, dripping a giddy cocktail of rainwater and cow poo from it’s straps as I picked it up later.  Oh well, just another thing to up the memorability quotient of the event, and I didn’t realise I’d done this at this point, so all good.  It was a surprise for later!  What I did realise, as I stuffed my fleece into my backpack and donned my waterproof instead, is that my ‘lost’ cap had been in my backpack all the time, and on being liberated from it along with my running coat, landed splat in the nearest available cow pat.  Oh dear.  I’m pretty cool with animal waste from vegetarian animals, but decided against smearing it onto my hair through wearing said cap.  This would have to be a capless run.  Oh pooh indeed.

Excitingly, in amongst the tourists, and people who’d rocked up before, were some honest to goodness absolute first timers.  How exciting!  I was very impressed they’d braved the elements.  They had decided, quite rightly, that if they were going to do this parkrun malarkey, they best commit to it and not cry off at the first spot of rain.  Quite right too, though I’d have given them a pass myself as unless ‘spot’ and ‘raging torrent’ have become synonymous of late, this was inclement weather at it’s most extreme – though also most comedic, so that’s ok.

Here are the first timers, with their parkrunning buddies.  You’ll have to guess which is which or who is whom.  Everyone is smiling in the before shot anyway, and that’s the main thing.  They too may become some of Jessica’s parkrun heroes.  Have you seen those films yet?  You really should you know, mind you, all parkrunners are heroes, however they/we choose to be involved in it.  #loveparkrun

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There was much excitement.  The cows were especially excited!  I suppose you have to release the mounting tension of anticipation somehow, and so far, cows haven’t been specifically welcomed as participants at parkrun in the way canines have been, so they can’t relieve the stress by joining in the 5k run. I think that might constitute an assisted run by the way, also not one to try at home, obvs. Though probably better tried at home than in the rather public start funnel line up in case that wasn’t for you a self-evident truth.

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A bit more milling, some last minute pep talks by the run director, late arrivals and some final stretches.  Wish I’d thought to run in a cycle cape – even if the wearer said it was to be discarded during the parkrun.  Too much wind resistance apparently.  I’m sure that’s true, though it made me wonder if that was the voice of experience or creative imagination dispensing such wisdom.

Then everyone assembled for the RD briefing.  Facilitated by step ladder elevation.  Kicked off with thanks to the volunteers.  A warning that in the event of a storm, the team reserved the right to cancel even if the parkrun was underway.   Shout outs for visitors and milestoners – one of which is pictured, usual notices.  A gentle reminder that this is a tough parkrun, it’s ok to walk or even grind to a halt if you need to.  Plus some cow corraling hints and tips.  Most educational parkrun, particularly if you do a bit of touristing.  Did you know Beverley’s founding saint was John of Beverley?  I don’t suppose you did, I didn’t learn this until a good half way through the second lap myself!

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A reminder it isn’t a fast course and of cow moving techniques.  Though there are cow marshals out on the course to assist.  Like this:

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Not really, they are like this!

🙂

We were asked not to have any accidents if possible as some of team are still being trained up.  Sounds reasonable.

Briefing concluded, timers ready?  Gladiators ready? parkrunners ready?  Ready, steady GO!!!!

And off parkrunners ran, walked and jogged, cheered on by directionally pointing marshals and with a bovine guard of honour to keep us all on track as like a string of bunting, parkrunners flew over the brow of the hill!

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and you know what, I think it may have eased off with the rain a bit too.  The weather is always fabulous at parkrun or you get, to run for free – every time!

So you head off, and it is indeed a big loop round the pastures.  It is ‘all grass’ but it was nice grass, by which I mean not horrid, exposed sports field traumatic grass, but lovely hillocky, romping through country estate sort of tussocky grass.  The course was well marked and marshalled.  The terrain is pretty open, so you get to see faster runners looping ahead of you.  Cones and flags are used to assist with cornering, and enthusiastic marshals prevent corner cutting and shoo off cattle in between calling out encouraging cheers.  Serious multi-taskers had been recruited to take on these marshalling roles.  It looked quite energetic at times.

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There really are a great many cows.  They didn’t seem unduly bothered by the parkrun, and moved on when requested to do so by politely persistent marshals.  I tried to get some beautifully framed cows with parkrunner shots.  I meant well, you have to respect my intentions were good.  Plus remember dear reader, comedic value trumps quality on occasion, that’s the rule!  That cavorting cow – the pale one, it’s in post-shoo frolics.  They are quite surprisingly light on their feet it seems.  My favourite was the one with the panda black eyes and black nose.  Awww.  Did I tell you the story about the 4 year old or so at Graves junior parkrun, who seeing similarly marked sheep in the animal park they pass through en route, insisted they were baby pandas!  How wonderful, to exist in a world where you get to see baby pandas at parkrun, but having said that, getting this close to cavorting cows is pretty fabulous too!  And when you are four, or thereabouts, I suppose seeing a panda en route is no more remarkable than seeing an alpaca or a chicken or even a donkey, and they are all there for the gawping too.  Poor things.

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So you speed round the corner, or if you are me, drag your weary carcass.  I got distracted by taking lots of photos, and doubling back to try and get some new angles, and slowly but surely, found myself filtering further and further back, til I was in sight of the tail walkers, and then I wanted to get some shots of them, so I waited, and then I ran on a bit, it was all stop start.  Then I realised after a bit it wasn’t actually raining any more, but I was drenched from within by the extreme inner clamminess of my jacket.  I was way too hot, it was nigh on tropical in there, not good.  I really don’t know why I put it on in the first place, it was never going to end well as I was soaked long before the start.

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Still, the landscape was lovely, there’s a bit of an uphill, as you swerve away from the fast food van parked on the road straight ahead of you – and then you are rewarded with the site of a great tower, which was once a windmill.  It’s quite a landmark, so that required a lot of photographing too.

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Busy, busy, busy.

So you loop the loop round the old windmill, and then it’s a homeward straight, under an avenue of trees, alongside the road through the pastures, trying not to be too distracted by the vista to your right, that’s some cathedral they’ve got going there! Actually, correction, it’s not a cathedral, although it is a minster.  Beverley Minster accordingtowikipediasoitmustbetrue is apparently:

one of the largest parish churches in the UK, larger than one-third of all English cathedrals and regarded as a gothic masterpiece by many.

Whatever, I thought it was quite splendid anyhow.  Also, given how overcast it had been earlier, the views were extraordinarily clear.  Faster runners started lapping me, so I paused to watch a few of them pass by.

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I was rewarded for my tardiness by seeing a particularly fine demonstration of cow shooing in action.  A veritable five star class.  Loving your work hi-vis cow marshal.  If that doesn’t merit it’s own running challenge badge I don’t know what does?  The ‘other’ icon surely, as an absolute minimum?

Well, I say she was cow-shooing, and that’s definitely what I thought at the time.  But the photos make it look like either she was doing some impromptu (and to be honest, not particularly well executed) thai chi moves, or alternatively striding out water divining.  If the latter, I can’t quite decide if she was doing spectacularly well or spectacularly badly.  I mean, water water everywhere after all … I’ll never really know.  A bit of mystery is good though isn’t it.  Life should be full of unknowns as well as surprises.  Unless of course she was auditioning for a zombie film, arms outstretched in front of her, staggering off across uneven terrain?  Yep, that seems the most likely on reflection.  Probably that.  Glad that’s been sorted.  Those marshals who have completed the cow-shooing training would be shoo-ins (see what I did there) for supporting artistes on Zombie apocalypse films, they’ve nailed the stumbling along techniques.  Original steady paced zombies, not the faster than light ones that are currently in vogue, though having said that, I bet some of them can really shift too, so all ends of the zombie continuum are catered for.  Excellent.

zombie

So down you go, and the finish funnel is in sight, but only for people who’ve already completed both laps.  I could still record a few finishers coming through though. It’s such a great sight, a cheery parkrun finish funnel.  I mean just look at these lovely happy, smiley, welcoming faces, and they can all be your new best friends in that moment!

BW fab finish funnel

Check out the funnel-ducker defying security fencing being employed here.  This crew means business.   Respect!

So here are the speedier than me’s coming through.  The ones with the real stamina are those marshals though, still smiling and clapping:

Here was also a photo swapping opportunity.  See what we’ve done here!  Genius.

So I went past the funnel, despite the siren call of a distant cow bell and the lure of the homeward welcome, and round the loop at the bottom and out again for round two.  Ding ding!

By now, most other runners were way ahead and out of sight, so it was a more sedate second lap.  I tried to get shots I’d missed on the first time round, and ended up in what I hope was a mutually companionable power walk with my new best friend who was a Beverly Westwood local and second time parkrunner.  It was ace, because I got to learn about the Pasture master and the common ground, and St John, and the racecourse and the windmill and all sorts.  Like I said parkrun can be most educational! Thank you impromptu tour guide, much appreciated!  🙂

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Marshals dismantled the course behind us as we came in, but not before they’d cheered us on and pointed out newly deposited cow pats that I like to think had been presented in our honour.

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And then, before you know it, the parkrun adventure is about to conclude.  We ran together through the finish.

BW my new best friend

Cheered in by a fair old crowd, which was particularly impressive given the prevailing weather.  Even if it had brightened up a bit by then, we still all basically felt like we’d been ducked or dunked or otherwise fully immersed in liquid and spun round for the last hour or so!

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I had my barcode wrist band thingy, so no sooner had  I located a scanner, I was all scanned present and correct.  Job done.  Hurrah!  Now we are all au fait with #dfyb, it’s second nature.  Hard to remember there was a time when barcodes seemed but a far fetched futuristic fantasy.  That was when tank tops were quite in vogue and loud kipper ties too as I recall, though to be fair, in an ironic time warping twist, that seems far fetched fantasy too from this distance, so who knows.

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The volunteers were coming in behind, laden with the detritus of a comprehensively set out course.  Cones and flags and signs a-plenty.

And that was that, parkrun wise.  All over but the shouting.  Or more accurately in this case, the course shut down, blood caffeine stabilising and results processing, which amounts to the same thing.

Many adjourned to the Woolpack pub, I did too, and it was friendly and they did coffee for £1.80 and parkrun breakfasts of basically sausage or bacon rolls – but no veggie option alas.  Though the Woolpack has only been open under new ownership for a couple of weeks, so I think that may well change.  They said they do offer vegetarian sausages at lunch time, so I suppose it’s a work in progress.  They were friendly and welcoming though. I got a coffee anyway, because I felt I should support the business really, plenty were breakfasting, some sitting outside and the results processing HQ is here too I think.

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It definitely is.  Check out these pics lifted I’ve shared from their photo posts of the results processing team in action.  Nice candle display they have going on there.  Creating anagrams can be such fun!

I took my coffee and headed off for an explore and ended up in step with one of the volunteers who by coincidence works in Sheffield part the week.  (Cheery wave coming right atya if you’re reading).  I made my way to another possible gathering spot, near the long stay carpark – The Windmill.  Other parkrunners were there but it was dark and not really enough space to join them plus also lamentably poor veggie choices, so I abandoned the breakfast idea, deciding not to linger longer.  I reckoned my surplus body fat* would probably see me through ’til I got home.  *Spoiler alert, it did. Also, the novelty of being soaked through to my knickers was definitely wearing off, and the slurry seeping from my saturated backpack into my purple tee was making its presence felt!  Time to say goodbye…

I was homeward bound.  And hail and rain beat on the windscreen for the drive back to Sheffield.  How we managed to have most of our run in relative balmy dryness I have absolutely no idea!

So thank you parkrunners all who made Beverley Westwood fun-filled and fabulous.  I can’t believe you are but three runs old!  Definitely already punching above your weight.  One of my favourite courses bizarrely, I think the cows add a certain charm, the views are stunning, the locals friendly.  Throw in some pre-run toilet facilities, and I do declare that’s all boxes ticked.  Yay!  If the weather had been kinder it would have been well worth a day trip, I bailed I’m afraid, but perhaps I’ll return, places to go people to see, new horizons to be explored.  So it seems that when you go west, the skies aren’t necessarily blue, but it was definitely delightful in the open air, and the elements just made it more memorable.  Everybody knows running in the rain just proves you to be hardcore, and as for those who marshal in the rain?  Well they are the stuff of legend!

hardcore runners

Thank you high vis heroes, you were ace.  parkrun volunteers are indeed a whizz in hi-viz! I hope you have all managed to dry out by now and are being as cossetted and kept warm as your hi-vis attire!  Beverley Westwood Laundrette had a conveyor belt of washing and drying services in operation all afternoon if the picture is anything to go by.  Above and beyond I say.  Bravo indeed!

Beverley Westwood parkrun laundry mart

Oh, and if you want to check out the accuracy of my account by being a bit more robust in your research into this fine event then I offer you this link by way of triangulation.  Their run report for Beverley Westwood parkrun #3 offers another perspective.  Go on, do it.  It’s all about the milestones!

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

and finally, before I go, can I just share this?

just because

Why?

Just because, sometimes there doesn’t need to be a why.

You’re welcome.

🙂

Happy parkrunning people, share the parkrun love.

By the way, I have discovered this fab website for bulk resizing photos (so they don’t use up all your memory, well not your actual memory, your digital memory) and for adding a batch watermark.  Free and glitch free. Cool eh?

 

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

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