Posts Tagged With: bushy park parkrun

Brooking at Bushy parkrun and seeing what comes out in the wash…

Digested read: test run for the Brooks Juno Sports bra at Bushy parkrun.  Hmm, some promise, but I’m reserving judgement until I’ve done a longer and more strenuous run. For now, good in parts.  Which is still significant progress in my world.  🙂

This is the bra I was wearing (not the actual bra, but a stock image of one)

brooks bra front

and this is the actual parkrun on the actual day I was running in it.  A view from the back of the early stages of the course.  I might even be in this photo, in fact I most definitely am… it’s just I’m not quite sure where.  I’ll be wearing a bright orange beanie hat and my purple running coat.  Good luck spotting me!  Nice though, isn’t it?  #loveparkrun #bushyparkrunisepic

MDH parkrun start

I’m taking my product review responsibilities extremely seriously. If Brooks ill-advisedly want feedback on their bra, than I’m up for it, and not just on any old run either.  This brasserie brassiere would have it’s debut outing at that iconic site of pilgrimage for parkrunners everywhere, Bushy parkrun.  Where it all began.  This is the narrative I’m going with anyway, even though it is stretching it a bit.  The truth is since collecting my sample bra I’d not really been able to face the workout of putting it on again, but fair dos, there’s no point in having it if I don’t give it a whirl, and given I was to be at Bushy parkrun this weekend anyway, why not.  One should never get the absolute truth get in the way of a good story.  Besides, I’m not sure there is any such thing as objective truth, though I do think the claim of ‘alternative facts’ in some quarters is cynical and tenuous at the very least.  Anyway, bottom line, or more accurately top line on this occasion is that my Brooks Bra was in situ at Bushy parkrun last Saturday.

It was pretty cool at Bushy parkrun, but that’s another (long) story, however, suffice to say it was brilliant winter sunshine, ice underfoot but the warmth of a mass descent by Tralee parkrunners on Tour was surely enough to warm the cockles of anyone’s heart.  As part of their migration to Bushy parkrun, they were going to greet my mum – celebrity honorary parkrun marshal of Elisabeth’s corner fame – and that point is significant later on, because it meant that I maybe didn’t test my bra to its full workout potential, don’t worry though, there’ll be other runs.

Anyway, you are distracting me. Where was I?  Oh yes, Saturday morning, and I eyed my Brooks bra with some suspicion.  It has considerable heft, and even looks like some sort of alien life form all of its own.  After the heave ho shenanigans whilst trying the darned thing on I was hoping I’d allowed enough time to wrestle my way into it and still make the start line in good time to greet my Irish friends.

In case you haven’t been concentrating, this is the Brooks Juno Sports Bra, it is available in different colours apparently, but I was given the one in black as a sample to try. Frankly though, I’m so desperate for a decent sports bra, if and when I find one that does the job, I don’t care what colour it comes in. It could have sequins and pom poms and a guard of honour of a hundred unicorns escorting me at all times whilst wearing it and I wouldn’t even notice, let alone query it, I’d be so transfixed by its supportive and cosseting properties.  To be fair, if I did notice, that would be quite a cool range of accessories though I don’t know if that’s in Brooks production plans just at the moment.  If I can’t have a hundred unicorns I’d settle for one, or maybe a pair of dragons. Either would be fine…  I suppose if it went for branding along the lines of ‘Make America Great Again’ that would be taking things a bit too far and I’d have to bow out at that stage,  but I’m going to stick my neck out here and say I don’t think that’s a planned initiative either.  Really hoping not.

This is how the Brooks Juno gets described on their website:

Juno £40 – £5040.00GBP
High Impact
For women who prefer a controlled fit, our best-selling racer back powerhouse has it all — it’s the ultimate in support and shape with a customizable fit

Now normally, I’d run a mile (ironically) from a racer back, because unless you have staff on hand to assist you daily I can’t imagine how anyone can get into them.  This bra has a cunning design though,  so that  although the racing back style is present, you still have a bra strap to do up to the correct tightness after you’ve got the darned thing over your head, so that requires considerably less contortion than the ‘usual’ racer back.  You pull it over your head, do up the underband and then finally lob the shoulder straps, which are loose, over your shoulders a few times until you’ve succesfully wrangled them, and then you just slip them through a hole at the front and can tighten them to the required tension.

The wrestling the bra over my head bit was way less stressful this time out.  Turns out, it’s a hell of a lot easier to achieve this physical feat when you have a whole room to thrash about it, as opposed to the rather restrictive confines of a bijou running shop changing room.  Basically, you just hoik the underband into position and then do up the catch as you would on a conventional bra.

 

 

So far, so good.

Of course that is only half the battle.  Then you have the straps flailing about.  It is a genuinely good idea that these are hanging loose, as it does make it a lot easier to get into the darned thing. However, a consequence of this design decision is you have to work out a way to propel the straps back over your shoulder to the front so you can slip them through the hole and fasten the little velcro strap to the appropriate tightness to give the security required, thus:

front strap

I suppose there is a knack to this too, albeit one I have yet to acquire, I basically let gravity do the work and leaned forwards until I had the straps dangling to my prow and then you can reach for them and loop them through.  It was easier than I remembered.  I’m not sure what my actual maximum heart rate was whilst dressing, as I had forgotten to set my Polar watch going, but you know what, I’m going to do that next time just to see, it can be incredibly stressful getting into a sports bra unaided, would be interesting to see if that does typically end up being the most strenuous part of any work out.  We’ll all have to wait and see.  Actually, getting off a sweaty sports bra is even harder, I know of at least one friend who confided in me that they had a brilliantly supportive bra that they’d ended up jettisoning, because after they ran in it they were trapped in it mid removal, helpless until someone (I can’t remember if it was a fellow runner, passer by, known family member or a paramedic) came and offered outside assistance to free them.  That ended up in the bin.  It just seems ridiculous that, for better or worse human kind has put people on the moon and into space, yet for many of us a functional sports bra seems to remain elusive.   …  This bra, does pass the putting it on unaided test, which is a good thing.  I don’t know if that design is unique to Brooks, but I hadn’t seen it before.

Just in case you are in any doubt. These photos are not of me.  It’s much more of a performance and test of character when I’m getting ensconced in my breast armour than these models seem to be experiencing.  I have always had the good foresight not to allow photographers to be present whilst I’m dressing, but strongly suspect my expression would be somewhat other than serene during my attiring manoeuvres.  That model does look extraordinarily pleased with herself for being able to successfully operate a velcro fastening though does she not?  I can’t make up my mind whether I find that annoying, and patronising because being able to dress yourself independently is quite a modest life goal and the picture suggests this woman is pleasantly surprised to find herself smart enough to operate velcro without outside help, or whether it reflects accurately the degree of challenge presented by most sports bra, so hence her relief and delight is not only palpable but proportionate in this instance. You’ll need to decide for yourself.

Once on, I remain somewhat undecided about what to make of the bra.  It feels erm, rather substantial.  It claims not to be padded, but rather ‘cushioned’ I don’t know what the difference is.  Because it doesn’t have differentiated breast cups in the way say my current shock absorber does (it describes itself as ‘unicup’ a bit of vocab that is new to me) it is comfy, but I didn’t feel all that supported.  Now this might be a question of what you are used to.  I’m used to feeling a bit more squished in.  My initial reaction to being less squished is that surely this bra would allow for too much movement for comfort.  Granted, bras that squish you in aren’t comfortable, but you do at least feel like nothing is going to shift.

crush your boobs

Actually, it can be positively uncomfortable in honesty, but less movement. The Brooks is much more comfortable than my current shock absorber, but I’m not sure I felt really held in place.  Maybe I’m not used to the style, maybe the cup size isn’t quite right for me. Hmm.

Anyway, off I trotted to Bushy parkrun with my perforated unicup design purporting to give me shape and modesty.  It definitely gives modesty, I felt like I had a futon strapped to my front, and it does give shape, just not necessarily a desirable one. However, I am at the point I don’t care too much any more about whether a bra is flattering or not – won’t lie, it would be great if it was  – but much more precious is whether it is functional for sporting use.

What I would say is that I very quickly forgot I was wearing it. If  I consciously thought about the bra, I did feel that it was still allowing a bit too much jiggling for my liking, but in truth whilst I was running, I wasn’t aware of any excessive movement at all and it is definitely a comfy bra, and I like the racing strap for security.  I was also a bit dubious about whether a velcro fitting would be strong enough to stay in place once I got going, but that didn’t move at all once fastened, and the velcro strip is long enough you have quite a bit of choice as to your preferred fitting.  Result.

In terms of my ‘run’ well, it was a bit of a special day at Bushy parkrun, because a huge contingent had come over from Tralee parkrun in Ireland and they had kindly brought some birthday cards for my mum in recognition of her recent ninetieth birthday, which they gave to her mid run. She is an honorary marshal/ parkrun celebrity who sits and cheers parkrunners at the 2.5 km point on the course.  Obviously, I stopped to say hello, and then got chatting with other parkrunners of all possible running clubs and parkrun event denominations as they too paused for selfies, birthday wishes whatever.  The upshot was I ended up pausing here, and only starting up again to finish off the route with the tail walkers, which was highly social and a lot of fun, but not really a proper test of my Brooks bra.

Nice selection of parkrun pics though:

 

 

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You can see why it took a while… paused there.

So basically, I only really ran 2.5 km and then just did a stop/ start walk /run to the finish.  I had a lovely time, which was fine and dandy, but got an all time pw (personal worst) and record breakingly high number finish token to boot!  Yes, I do indeed belong to parkrun. Isn’t that lovely!

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But it wasn’t a proper full on run test.  I did power walk about 7 miles in total, and the bra was comfy for that. It claims to have ‘breathable cups’ with (warning, another made-up word fast approaching) ‘drilayer fabric’ and ‘chafe-free bonded seams’.  Now, you need to put this in context of it being  a minus a squillion degrees out there, however I was wearing a lot of layers.  It didn’t chafe, and yeah, maybe I didn’t run all that much, but another professionally fitted underwired sports bra I tried onec had my boobs bleeding, literally, within 30 minutes of first wearing, so full marks for this one for not only not drawing blood, but also for leaving no permanent scaring and even being seemingly comfy.  Not a bad hat trick to pull.

Further more, this bra did indeed feel like it stayed pretty dry, so maybe the breathable unicup drilayer fabric thing has some merit despite its stupid pseudo scientific nomenclature –  and I basically forgot all about the trauma of trying out a new bra. So, my intermediate impression is that this is a bra that merits being worn again, and on a ‘proper run’ which is way further up the food chain than most bras I try get to venture.  It’s still in the running (see what I did there) as a potentially really good sports bra.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I love it, yet, but I am open minded about it, and it could yet be a significant improvement on my Shock Absorber which I wear because it fits basically, but feels like the least worst of available options rather than an item I would evangelise about or actively like.  My plan is, to do a proper long run in the next couple of days and see if I can properly put it through it’s paces.  Before that though, there was another big test for this asset protector to pass.  The Wash Test.

One problem, I am no domestic goddess.

Now, I want to be really, really clear about some things.  Two things actually:

First, I’d never deliberately put an octopus through a wash cycle, not only because it would be a catastrophe for my smalls but also because octopuses are beautiful, intelligent and curious creatures, that can escape aquariums, use jets of water to short circuit light switches and open jars .  They have even been reported undertaking trekking holidays in Devon.  Though, for the record, I don’t believe they can forecast the result of international sporting fixtures. Well, they probably could, but why would they be interested in doing so?  Just too smart to take an interest I say.

 

 

Second: I have better things to do with my life than hand wash sports bras, yeah, yeah, I get that I’m supposed to but life is too short and used sports kit too potentially rank for me to faffing about with warm basins of gentle bubbles every time I need clean gear.  Anyone who claims religiously to do so, either has someone else to do this for them, or is lying.  All my clothing has to take it’s chances in the same wash cycle.  Even so, I concede I probably do need to refine my technique if this Brooks Bra and I are to have any conceivable future together.

So what happened is this:

Bra got chucked in with everything else on usual wash cycle, but then my wash emerged in one huge knot, not dissimilar to a rat king in fact, though with less animal matter and more polyester and spandex.

rat king

Basically, if you chuck this bra in your wash without a bit of prep then you realise too late, that basically it’s all tentacles that twist and clutch.  To be frank, I might as well have lobbed a couple of octopuses and a giant squid in with my leggings and sports tops for the Gordian knot of intertwined fabric that came out in one enormous clump at the end of the spin cycle.  Oops.  The problem is, you have not only those two loose straps each with velcro fastenings, which have enormous potential to appropriate any other items of clothing they share a washing machine drum with, but also the two loose ends of the hook clasp function as well.  What with that, and my running leggings, and my thermal tights, and my long sleeve thermal jumper and my long sleeve running top it was just one huge knot-tying party in there.  Terriffic,  NOT.  Or Terrific knot more accurately…  Very tempting to get the scissors out, or at least have a major tantrum.

This is an actual picture of my wash:

cutting the gordian knot

I was miffed with myself, although I was able to disentangle all garments eventually, it took an age.  Reluctantly, I have to concede that it would have made life a lot easier if I’d taken the precaution of re-securing the straps and doing up the back clasp before tossing it in the wash, I could even have put the boat out, and kept it separate in one of those net delicate wash baggy things.  Exasperatingly, I’m sure I’ve got one somewhere, no idea where though. Considering how expensive sports bras are, it would probably be a good investment for me to get a couple more.  Maybe, canny sports bra manufacturers would like to start giving these away as freebies to accompany a bra purchase instead of running buffs, which I’ve had as freebies over the years. I’ve got loads of running buffs now, and I do like them, but some bra wash bags would be fab.  Thank you for asking.  I’m not proud, I’d welcome a freebie! Send lots.john lewis brabantia wash bags

So I spent hours of my life I’ll never get back disentangling the contents of my wash,  so be warned.  I’ve sacrificed my time so you don’t have to.  The result was OK, but not as rewarding as rescuing squirrels from tail entanglement and super frustrating because it could have been avoided.

 

 

Afterwards, because I like to torment myself in this way, I did read the actual washing instructions. Now fair play to Brooks, they do concede that you don’t always hand wash your bras.  Hallelujah, some basic pragmatism, they suggest the following:

Care Instructions
Hand washing is ideal, but not always possible. Fasten all hooks and straps, place in a lingerie bag, and use the gentle or delicate cycle. Always line dry, and never use dryer sheets or fabric softeners—they can clog the fabric and shorten the life of the bra.

Whatever, hindsight.  Thanks.

Despite its ordeal by rat king and octopus tentacle, the actual bra seems to have emerged relatively unscathed.  I’m torn between feeling a bit guilty if I’ve trashed it through not observing the washing instructions correctly and thinking you know what, the reality for this sports bra is that’s how it’s going to be treated if it shares a life with me.  For my road testing to have any merit, I should replicate my honest care routine otherwise what’s the point.  Precisely dear reader.  None whatsoever.

The plan now is to let it air dry, and then I’ll don it again for a long and harder run as soon as I get a day when I don’t have to stay in for hours waiting for builders or painters or whatever it is.  It will be genuinely interesting to see what I make of it second time out.

So in conclusion?

I’m reserving judgement, I can put it on unaided, it’s comfy when worn and seems to have survived my less than idealised laundry routine.  It didn’t get me a PB at parkrun, but I suppose I might have to meet my bra half way and actually make an effort to try to run a bit faster through voluntarily moving my legs more quickly to make that a thing in my world again.  The bra hasn’t caused any chafing as yet and it shows promise.  On the less positive side, it seems very bulky, isn’t very flattering and I don’t quite feel supported. … then again the only times I ever do is if I run with one breast cupped in each hand, and I have resorted to that technique on occasion.   I am not alone in this.  FACT.

running bust

Maybe if I could have some sort of genetic modification to enable me to  sprout a couple of extra arms purely for boob holding purposes whilst running – detachable ones would be even better – then that would be fine and dandy and problem solved.  Alternatively, it may be I need to tweak my cup size, though I don’t think so, the fit is good.  Maybe it’s a question of racheting up the tightness on the shoulder straps instead.  Upshot, I’ll stick with it for now and keep it all under review.  Watch this space, or not, it’s up to you.

Also this, can’t resist:

The ladies’ bras – not yet something to sing about, but one day… meantime, who can forget this mesmerising top of the pops number?

 

That’s right.  Everyone, but not any more, it’ll stay with you for days now!

You’re welcome.

I wonder if they could do a follow up on sports bras specifically, if I do get one that truly works, I’ll definitely be up for singing about it!

‘Til next time, hold onto your assets and run, run I say!  And don’t forget to report back with your experiences.  This woman’s bra seems pretty solidly in place, but I can’t help thinking she should maybe look where she’s going a bit more.  Then again, maybe she’s running away from someone playing a medley version of The Ladies’ Bras on a mouth organ or accompanied by ukuleles or something, and you’d need to keep your wits about you and your eyes on your pursuer to stay safe in those circumstances.  This is why we should support one another, and respect each others running choices, you never really know someone’s circumstances do you. So don’t judge, just run!

Run-E-Cop-HoldingShot-920x613

For all my comments on Brooks Bras see here – scroll down for older entries

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

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Feeling the parkrun love – back to Bushy parkrun to join the TpoT troupe. #parkrunfriendsarethebest

Digested read: back at Bushy parkrun this week to meet up with Tralee parkrunners on Tour.  It was jolly nice.

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Undigested read:

I wasn’t going to do another blog post about Bushy parkrun, because, well you know, maybe cyberspace is already awash with enough parkrun accounts, and then I went and you know how it is.  The fabulousness of the morning unfolded and it just seems a shame to let it pass undocumented.  Reading this account is optional after all, and I like the idea that I can capture my fond memories of the morning before they fade away entirely. Also, I really, really wanted to share this picture.  I don’t know who drew it unfortunately, but apparently a GP, presumably from Durham as Durham parkun originally shared.  So many truths within, perhaps not quite all universal ones – personally I’ve abandoned any aspiration to a new pb, and my alarm goes off way earlier than 8.10 – but the other aspects of the parkrun emotional rollercoaster I can completely relate to.  Particularly the axis (can’t remember if it’s x or y) that charts the shift from being ‘bitter and resentful’ to ‘loving life’!  So true!  Thank you J Stutchbury(?).  Great name by the way.  When I’m a best selling author I’m going to name a character after you.

parkrun emotional rollercoaster

Where was I?  Oh yes, heading off to Bushy parkrun.  The reason for this particular sojourn was to coincide with the pathologically lovely TpoT people!  That’s Tralee parkrunners on Tour for the uninitiated.  I have the extreme good fortune to have become an honorary member of this group that oozes parkrun love and general all-round fabulousness.  It was they who invited me to join them for my first bit of international parkrun tourism at Hasenheide parkrun last year.  The Tralee Troupe have tourism down to a fine art, cheap flights from Kerry airport mean they seem to relatively frequently take flight en masse and descend on parkruns the world over.  I wasn’t sure if they should be more accurately described as a troop or a troupe.  According to the interweb, troop apparently usually refers to a group of soldiers or people more generally, whereas a troupe implies a traveling contingent of theatrical performers.  I rest my case.  Any parkrun contingent including a juggler in their midst surely qualifies as the latter?  A toupee is something entirely different, and arises from either a typo or a spelling error, so hope we’ve cleared that up.

tpot juggling still

The real miracle is how they can literally remove 100 parkrunner regulars who head off on these trips, but still leave behind a fully operational parkrun with 200 plus people running the parkrun show. Awesome!

Hooray.  I have the official orange beanie that marks me out as such.  Not going to lie, it isn’t the most flattering item in my running wardrobe, but it is among my most valued ones, who doesn’t like glory by association?  I’m super chuffed to get to be an acknowledged part of such an awesome parkrun troupe.  Strictly speaking I think I must be on probation at the moment, as I’ve not actually yet got to run at Tralee parkrun itself.  One day I hope to actually go and run on their hallowed course at Tralee, and that will make my membership truly official. They haven’t actually said it out loud, but I know in my heart of hearts I can only ever be considered to be on probation until I’ve joined the Tralee parkrunners in all their glory in their native habitat. It’s little wonder that Tralee parkrun is most definitely at the top of my parkrun tourism destinations for the future.  I’ll need to renew my passport first mind

Oh, here is the picture of me modelling my TpoT hat.  ‘nuf said. When I’m a best selling author I’m not using this shot to illustrate my author’s bio, but I can still be weirdly fond of the beanie all the same.  After all, who wouldn’t experience a little puff of pride and pleasure and a frisson of joy for being able to sport such a beacon of shared identity and gain glory by association with surely the most famed of parkrun tourists anywhere!  If I’d given it a bit more forethought, I’d have adopted a t-pot pose for the picture as well, but not quite sure how that would work doing a selfie, which is not my area of expertise at the best of times, maybe the world has had a lucky escape on all counts!  I’m not saying I won’t try some other time, but some things are best not shared aren’t they.  We can take social media too far…

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Where was I.  Oh yes, staying in Teddington, up early to allow sufficient time to get into my new sports bra – which I’m testing out for Brooks – it’s a juno, and doing ok.  Having wrestled into this, I headed off to Bushy park via my mum’s.  She was taking her honorary marshaling duties very seriously, and had all her kit laid out in readiness, including a bespoke sign for the TpoTs and her fine orange beanie, also gifted to her by the lovely folk of Tralee, partly as a ninetieth birthday present and partly to allow her to demonstrate support to the parkrunners on the move.  Hurrah!

It was blooming cold in the park, but really beautiful.  I’d been really worried about the ice and forecast of arctic conditions, but in fact, although there was some ice around, it was limited to patches and the roads were clear.  Mum would be making it through the magic gateway…

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The sun was popping through the trees, and all looking fabulous as always. I love this park.  It’s extraordinary how it continues given the amount of people and dog walkers and everything else that use it every day.  Even so, you can feel like you have the whole expanse to yourself if you time your arrival right in the early mornings.

I borrowed some pictures from the Bushy parkrun facebook page, well they were quite fabulous. Some are mine, general rule of thumb is where a shot is blurry and erm, idiosyncratic, it’s probably mine, if it looks like a vision of heaven and is perfectly focused and composed, then it probably isn’t.  You’ll work it out.

I was distracted by squawking parakeets and silhouettes of stags in the park and the sight of seagulls standing around on ice and swans thrusting through it like ice breakers.  Eventually though, I saw a beacon approaching.  A fellow TpoTer.  These hats may not flatter, but my they do mean you can spot a fellow sporter of one at a thousand paces. Very handy.

I always get a little frisson of excitement arriving at Bushy parkrun.  The set up is so impressive.  A team was putting the finish funnel up – it is a thing of beauty, and elsewhere token sorter tables were being erected and other bits of purposeful blustering about were going on.  It’s the same but not at every parkrun.  Familiar elements but writ large here.

I dumped my backpack on a handy tree railing:

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and then I soon found myself meeting and greeting my Tralee buddies, not seen since Berlin Hasenheide parkrun yet I feel like I know them, it was a grand reunion. There were so many of them.  I don’t know what the collective noun is for a group of Tralee parkrunners but it’s probably a magnificence of parkrunners I think.  That will serve for now at least.

Everything about Bushy parkrun is epic.  Today, there was (obviously) a flash mob, singing and dancing to celebrate a fellow runner’s 500th run.    They were wearing face masks and everything, which sounds a bit weird and stalkery when I write it down, but in context was both appropriate and brilliant.

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I don’t know why I was surprised. This is the parkrun that once had a fly past for someones milestone tee!  I’m sure I’ve seen a video clip somewhere, though I’m darned if I can find it just now… maybe one day.

It was a busy morning, what with various people trying to rendezvous with each other.  One of my Tralee buddies was lamenting that he couldn’t spot a friend he was trying to find, as although he’d promised to wear his 250 milestone tee in order to be distinctive, but frankly, here at Bushy parkrun they honestly aren’t that much of  a rarity!   In better news, I was able to reassure that yep, mum was coming. The cold wouldn’t stop her, but ice would have, but I’d checked her route from the nursing home and astonishingly it was clear.  Hooray.  It actually turned into the most unexpectedly glorious of mornings. At least one errant parkrunner is known to have come to regret rolling over in bed and going back to sleep on parkrun morning…

dont miss parkrun

I suppose as long as you learn from your mistakes, that is the important thing…  Like the running cup from lidl, and are those the Kingston phone boxes I see.  That’s pretty cool actually, but not as cool as parkrun obviously.  Fortunately there is always next Saturday.  Unless you live in Durham and a forest has been planted over your usual Durham parkrun route whilst you were sleeping.  I mean trees are good, and planting them is excellent, but a bit of communication might have helped all round…

Mr S-H was present, which was a surprise, as I’d have thought he’d be much too busy with his contra range right now. I understand he personally supervises every item produced, with some enthusiasm, if the photos are to be believed.  I reckon he might even iron on those spots himself you know, bet that bit is quite rewarding.  I have one of the sage base layer tops, it’s roasty toasty.   It’s official colour is ‘green marl’ by the way, but I have no idea what that actually means, except it probably means sage, just so you know.

personally made by psh himself

Maybe he was there because his better half was part of the fame-inspired flash mob.  (Cheery wave, I would have said hello, but you were mid star-jump at the time) wearing the face mask didn’t fool me.   Or maybe they were both there, with dog, because, well you know, parkrun is fun.

I was distracted by so many people to talk to, and such a hubbub.  The ground was declared to be icy in parts, so after the first timer’s briefing

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marshals were dispatched to their marshal points, and

then we were all shooed a bit further over than usual for the Run Director’s briefing. They had slightly shifted the start to avoid a HUGE icy patch just before the ant hills.  This made the pre run understandably but uncharacteristically chaotic and I couldn’t honestly hear properly. I improvised and clapped along when it seemed as if audience participation was expected and then joined the mass scamper of the start when the parkrun was declared underway.

Considering how many runners there are, it was a good natured start.  I started a bit further forward than intended, so it seemed as if pretty much the entire field got to overtake me. Oh well, one day I’ll cause a sensation by overtaking someone, even if it is only because they have to stop to rescue a puppy from up a tree or something.

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Being in among so many runners is uplifting though.  I love that you get to hear the chit-chat of other runners, putting the world to rights, comparing running goals or injuries or good-naturedly trying to shove their 500 milestone running friend into an icy bog.  What larks eh?

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She survived the support of her friends and made it through to the finish funnel and reviving prosseco though, so don’t feel too sorry for her…

survived the ice

On the way round were excellent marshals, including mini marshals with bells, warning of ice, and wearing their own special hi-vis for the occasion.

However, a special mention should go to the especially heroic paramedic ice marshal, who, disappointingly, wasn’t actually made of ice, but who put himself in harm’s way, by standing on a huge skiddy patch of treacherous ice, just before you turn sharp left beside the cricket pitch, shooing people away. That’s parkrun dedication.  And I thought standing in a line of human cones at the start of Graves junior parkrun was scary!  I’ve never seen a braver marshal than this top man today.  Hurrah to you my friend. There should be a special chrome extension badge for your profile for brave parkrun duties ‘above and beyond’ if I had anything to do with it.  I think something like this would be appropriate:

pow badge

I trotted on through the cold, admiring my fellow runners legging choices and taking in the views:

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As I approached the half way point, I was wondering if my mum would have made it out in the cold as planned.  Good news, I could see her bright orange hat like pulsing outwards like a radioactive beacon.  I was very pleased.  Even more pleased to find as I approached she already had a Tralee parkrun acolyte with her, and what’s more, she was successfully brandishing the signage I’d supplied for this purpose.   Nicely tooled up. Result!  🙂  The bikes aren’t hers by the way, in case you were wondering…

mum and TpoT signs

Though no, I still don’t know why the Irish flag has those colours.  Note to self, must google this…

Obviously I paused for the first of many photo shots!

It was fun.  There was quite a party atmosphere, so I elected to hang on and wait for others to get their photo ops and for further Tralee parkrunners to rock on up

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There was quite a multitude!

I feel I’ve really missed a marketing opportunity here!  It was a fair old pop up party going on at Elisabeth’s Corner today.  Eventually I saw a huge Tralee contingent, festooned with flags, weighed down with cards and coming round just ahead of the tail walker.  It was lovely. They presented cards, posed with photos, said lovely things.  All very touching to behold.

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Don’t worry though dear reader, she did her best not to neglect her regular runners, there were high-fives and waves a-plenty. It really is the best thing ever about parkrun, the feel good waves that radiate outwards.  Good will doesn’t weaken as it disperses, it magnifies.

be kind

‘In a world where you can be anything be kind’ is a good motto, and for me at least, parkrun personifies that ethos.  Kindness cubed and magnified in all directions.  Excellent multi-tasking going on there though, I’m sure you’ll agree, with waving at oncoming runners happening whilst simultaneously greeting those already present.  Look on in wonder and learn dear reader.  Impressive eh?

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So, I’d pretty much ground to a halt now, and the tail runners were coming round.  Now, I’ve been wanting to meet some of this fine cohort for a while now, as I keep seeing them in photos with my mum, and feel therefore like I know them even though we’ve never met.  I decided today was the day, and ended up walking round with the tails, which are multiple here at Bushy parkrun and all the better for it. The back of the pack is often the fun factory of any event in my experience, and Bushy parkrun is no exception.  It was really grand to walk and talk and share some laughs along the way too.  Love parkrun!

Said farewell to the marshals at Elisabeth’s corner as they dispersed once the tail walkers had come through

and then I sort of split my time between trotting ahead with the Tralee parkrunners for a bit, and then dropping back to chit-chat with the tails.  Busy, busy, busy.  The sun was out, the park looked gorgeous, as it always does to be fair, but I was so pleased that the weather smiled on tourists and home runners alike.

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Yes, of course we posed for photos along the way:

DSCF7387

and I stopped to snap a few marshals, not sure I got the full set, but my I-spy book of parkrun marshals sticker book is pretty full:

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and on we romped

Until finally the finish funnel was in sight

and I stormed(ish) through, feeling like a winner, because everyone’s a winner at parkrun right?  Having a personal worst just means I got best value for time out on the course.  It was an emotional run, so much positivity, so much parkrun love, so much all round awesomeness.

and then ‘suddenly’ it ends. Only it doesn’t really, post parkrun celebrations were everywhere, cakes being doled out, prosecco poured, and cheery laughter permeating the park.

As one poster said, if Carlsberg did mornings…

if carlsberg did mornings

Until finally, we dispersed, and I headed back to my mum’s to admire her latest lot of cards, birthday cards this time, to complement the Christmas stash, all of which absolutely delighted her, as they did me. Thank you lovely parkrun people.

and that was that.  Job done, til next time.  Which pleasingly, would be tomorrow, with the monthly Bushy junior parkrun. Hurrah!  Two days on the trot with my lovely TpoTers.  Life is good.  🙂

#loveparkrun

Miss it.  Miss out. Just sayin!

HW atmosphere

Oh, and there is an official run report for Bushy parkrun event 774 2 feb 2019 here.

and an even lovelier one for the following week giving details of all the Bushy parkrun marshal points including Elisabeth’s corner for the 9th Feb report. Love this.

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

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

My claim to fame. How I link to Bushy parkrun’s iconic ‘Elisabeth’s Corner*’.

or maybe Elisabeth Corner?  Can’t make up my mind which sounds better…

Digested read: you know the celebrity marshal at Bushy parkrun? The one who sits each week at the Sandy Lane Gate corner of the course cheering runners round.  The one from whom getting a high five was the highlight of Paul Sinton-Hewitt’s morning?  That’s my mum. Cool eh?  Form an orderly queue people.  Keep calm.

So for those of you who don’t know, my mum had her 15 minute of fame, when a Bushy parkrunner, Paul Killick, dropped off a Christmas card to her at the residential care home where she now lives.   He posted on the parkrun discussion Facebook group about how pleased she was to get it and how she’d shared that parkrun was the highlight of her week.

mum at bushy parkrun

As a result of this, there was an online outpouring of appreciation, and a flurry of cards were sent.  The story even got picked up in one of the parkrun uk newsletters and tweeted – and quite right too!

tweet december 2017

Mum had however been a regular and much photographed fixture at Bushy parkrun for many months previously.  To such an extent, that one parkrunner shared online that when they do their post Bushy parkrun debrief, they actually refer to the bit on the course where she sits as one of the landmarks en route.

 

Even so, it was fantastic that mum got lots of cards and greetings in response to Paul Killick’s post.  She wanted to write her own reply, which I sent on to parkrun UK with my own top and tail to share her story.  It follows here:

January 2018

Dear parkrun UK,

I thought you might like an update about my mum, Elisabeth, who you featured in your newsletter just before Christmas.  She lives at a residential care home just over the road from the Sandy Lane Gate in Bushy park, which is right on the route of the iconic Bushy parkrun.  Every Saturday, she joins marshals at this spot to cheer parkrunners as they pass.  She first went last May, and after she had been doing this for a few weeks the Bushy parkrun community awarded her her very own hi-viz, of which she is enormously proud, so making her an official ‘honorary marshal’.  Since then, more and more people greet her on their way by.  Some pause to talk to her en route and the faster runners, who have no time to shout a greeting during their parkrun, will often have a chat to her as they leave the park on their way home instead.  She has learnt the art of the ‘high-five’ and made many new friends, and renewed old acquaintances from being there each week.  Not only parkrunners, but others who regularly walk in the park at about the same time each week.

Just before Christmas, Paul Killick, a Bushy parkrun regular – more than that, with a mighty 570 runs (and counting) to his name of which 553 have been at Bushy park – dropped off a Christmas card to my mum at the home, and they posed for a selfie together.  My mum was really delighted to have the card and frankly astonished to find that her involvement in parkrun was so appreciated.  Paul posted about this and it got picked up on some Facebook forums, which resulted in a little flurry of cards and greetings being sent to my mum.  The Christmas cards were very much appreciated.  Mum was particularly touched by the personal messages, with some runners sharing their own stories about what parkrun means to them.  A few signed off with their parkrun number, and she was impressed to receive a card ‘from someone with an CBE’.  Who can that have been?  A couple of junior parkrunners even sent some sweets and a lovely photo of themselves at Rogiet parkrun, noting, ‘everyone appreciates you clapping at parkrun’, which sort of sums it up!

So thank you everyone who got in touch, I may have missed a few in which case apologies, your card was still massively appreciated, but the tally I came up with included greetings from near and far.  Thanks to: Donabate parkrun, Dublin; Bob and a thousand other parkrunners!; Wendy and Orla; Gina and Steve from Tredegar House Newport parkrun; Gillian and Paul, Heaton parkrun Manchester runners; Jenny from Congleton parkrun, Cheshire; Anita, Bromley parkrun; Danny and Tiffany Waterworks parkrun, Belfast, Norther Ireland; Jacqueline, Druridge Bay, Northumberland; Paul S-H CBE; Paul K; Krysin, Martin, Selt and Kirst; Eva (5) and Rosa (6), Rogiet parkun; Tess and Morag; Pat and many more.

 

There were lots of messages, but one that resonated for me was the comment: ‘people like you make parkrun the amazing experience it is.  parkrun changed our lives, so we are always grateful to the volunteers and supporters.’  parkrun has changed my life too.  The actual ‘running’ part has become almost incidental to the community support, friendships made, post-parkrun brunches and laughs along the way.  What I hadn’t anticipated, was how great an impact it would have on my mum’s life too, for which I am incredibly grateful.  For her, it is something she really enjoys and looks forward to – carefully putting out all her kit the night before so she will be on time to her marshal point and there are lots of photos of her at parkrun on display in her room as well.  Quite right too!

My mum celebrated her 89th birthday at the weekend, so I was visiting from Sheffield. She wanted to write her own message of thanks to the parkrun community about what it means to her.  Enjoy:

Lucy Marris, A448776

 

Elisabeth’s parkrun story, in her own words:

Happy New Year!

parkrun has enriched my life ever since May 2017 when I came down to the Sandy Lane Gate to watch.  It links with two of my children who run at Sheffield Hallam and Livingston parkruns.  The marshals are really friendly.  I clap along with them and have become an honorary marshal!  I learnt how important community activity is as well as how important drawing others into the community is.  1300 plus participants stream past in the same order in about 20 minutes.  ‘Personal Besters’ have no time to greet marshals. Middle field runners are truly friendly and there is much reciprocal greeting and many photos taken.  Tailwalkers are just brilliant!  Because of my weekly involvement in parkrun I find I am greeted everywhere I go in Teddington!  Could it be because of the internet?

Thank you, thank you everyone for many Christmas cards and greetings, as well as being the highlight of my week!  parkrun is a truly special community organisation, in which I feel wonderfully included.  It is amazing that it has become international in a brief 13 years.  Congratulations.  I love all your stories.

Elisabeth, Honorary Marshal at Bushy parkrun, Sandy Lane Gate.

Update:  I think following a recent tweet by parkrun royalty, we can safely claim that henceforth this marshal spot will be known as ‘Elisabeth’s Corner’ – or maybe Elisabeth Corner.  Whatever, you get the gist!

Thank you parkrunners all.

The tweet in question:

tweet

So that’s official then!

No wonder she’s such a celebrity she often gets her own billing in the Bushy parkrun event reports!  I claim glory by association.  Form a line people, form a line…

 

PS for the record, I really like how in the parkrun UK blog post the top picture is of my mum with one of the Bushy parkun regular marshals but it sort of implies it’s me.  I am happy with this for two reasons. Firstly, Lorraine, pictured, has been a fantastic friend to my mum since she started marshaling at parkrun. Secondly, I’m worried if my face becomes too well known I won’t be able to go about my normal life of angst ridden social encounters interspersed with the occassional jog out to the hills.  Better to stay incognito, a woman of mystery.  Don’t tell.

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

Loved how they linked to the blog from parkrun uk facebook page and my favourite comment (so far) was from someone simply saying ‘just when I thought I couldn’t love parkrun any more’.  Love that.  Parkrun spirit in buckets.

Categories: parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Smilies hanging out at Bushy parkrun, the epicentre of the parkrun phenomenon. Running with the stars!

Digested read: Thirteenth of Jan – lucky for some.  Smiley Paces on tour to Bushy parkrun.  The epicentre of the parkrun phenomenon, where it all began, under the mighty oak. Awesome. It just goes to show dear reader, that dreams really can come true!  In the interests of accuracy, I feel I should also remind you that it is also true you must sometimes be careful what you wish for, because things don’t always happen quite as you planned, but on this day all was well.  Hurrah!

ADVISORY WARNING: I don’t do concise, and this post could be a bit of a time vampire so read on at your own risk, it’s not compulsory.  I recommend coffee or wine as an accompaniement, and maybe an energy gel if that’s more your thing and you can safely ingest without heaving. Enjoy, or not, really it’s up to you.

Look at this magnificent tree!  Witness to the birth of parkrun, imagine that?  And what else it must have seen unfold before it over the last few hundred years.  Iconic indeed.  I wonder if it is the most photographed tree in Bushy Park?  Could be….

Bushy parkrun The Tree

The parkrun logo is uncannily similar, almost indistinguishable in fact:

campervan cookies

Clever. That’s a campervan cookie by the way.  Limited edition.

Anyways, sooooooooooooooo much to tell you about this particular parkrun day, my head might actually burst as I try to organise the memories.  It’s sort of like defragmenting my brain I think, putting it down in a blog post.  I’m back in Sheffield.  A whole week has passed. I’m actually trapped in my house because of snow and ice, and it seems incredible that just this time last week I was on the post run high only ever experienced by those who have been privileged enough to parkrun/walk/jog on such hallowed ground.  A week later, and parkruns all across Sheffield have been cancelled due to snow and ice.  Cue lots of comedy near death experiences trying to get to said runs on black ice, even though I knew in my heart of hearts they’d have to cancel.  Oh well, nothing ventured eh, and that’s another story entirely…

Suffice to say all the stories about Bushy parkrun are true.  The park has unicorns in abundance.   An arch of rainbows guide you through the finish funnel, and smiling marshals a-plenty cheer you round. Add in to this giddy mix the exotic parakeets, and impressive deer – some with gargantuan antlers that make them too look like mythical beasts – and you can see why setting foot in this Royal Park on parkrun day can indeed feel like entering a parallel universe, our very own wonderland.  If you come from Ireland, the organising team at Bushy parkrun will even make you edible shamrocks and Irish themed cupcakes.  FACT.

Point of information, the unicorns are quite shy so you sometimes only catch a vanishing glimpse of them out of the corner of your eye, and the rainbows are often tricky to make out through the emotional veil of tears that may obscure your view in the finish funnel. But just because you can’t quite see them, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Keep the faith!  Also, unicorns can deliver some surprises on meeting.  Whether this disappoints or pleases you I can’t say.  Did you now they fart glitter and crap rainbow icecream?  It’s no wonder they find toilet humour completely hilarious, but that isn’t what you expect from what seems outwardly at least, to be majestic and other worldly is it now?

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Even so, I’m surprised they stooped (or should that be ‘pooped’) to product endorsement for toilet accessories, but I suppose you have to make a living somehow. How otherwise do you account for those actors who did the original ‘we washed half of his hair in head and shoulders…‘ adverts for head and shoulders, and now find themselves forever immortalised raining down dandruff in close up.  Makes me shudder.  Other anti dandruff products are available, with equally crushing photos to accompany them. I’d say the unicorns had a better agent to be honest.

Still, I’m jumping ahead. Let’s start at the beginning shall we?  So I was back on marathon training today, inasmuch as I’m sure I’ve heard somewhere that running when fatigued (within certain limits) is a good way to habituate yourself to the mental challenge of pushing through when you aren’t feeling the love at a marathon.  I am told that this can often kick in around mile 17, which is pleasing, because normally I find I’ve completely fallen out of love with running after about 100 yards, so that could well be an improvement on my general running mood.  Anyway, the upshot of this philosophy, is that, a sleepless night at our Twickenham student house was just the thing to keep me on the programme.  Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about? Well basically, I was here with some buddies from my Smiley Paces Sheffield based Women’s Running Club on a running weekend organised by Run with Karen.  We had a session on the track on the friday before and a long run in Richmond Park on the Sunday following, but clearly the visit to the spiritual home of parkrun was always going to be the highlight.  I say we were all Smilies, well some of us were, but we had other welcome running buddies along with us too. Londoners and others from further afield who’d joined the weekend of running fun. For the purposes of this blog post I think we can safely say all were either actual Sheffield Smilies or honorary Smilies by association, which amounts to the same thing.  Hurrah!

For the record though, even though I was probably too excited to sleep anyway, the plastic mattresses in the student accommodation were not cool, in both the literal and metaphorical sense.  Just a bit of feedback for our host venue, maybe they were also not the ideal choice for a group of largely peri and actually menopausal women. There is a skill set for sleeping on these things that I have yet to acquire. The slidy nature of them means that if you have any part of your body in contact with the sheet whilst moving your position the entire made-bed construct disassembled as duvet goes in one direction and sheet in another.  the only way to avoid this is to become airborne pre any such adjustment, but this requires violent moves likely to put your back out, comedic value and cross training possibly yes, but compatible with a good nights sleep no.

In other news, on top of the sleep deprivation, I was also really stiff today which was a shocker as the track session was only about 4 miles. This either shows how effectively you can work out on a track, or shows that trying to run with ‘good form’ for extended periods is catastrophic.  Purists may argue this shows how terrible my running form usually is, since evidently making an effort to run in unfamiliar ‘good form’ sprint clearly nigh on crippled me.  An inevitable and totally forseeable consequence of being required to use muscles that I have never previously found need to call upon during my half century plus years of existence.  Personally, I prefer to think it shows there is some merit in loping along, and for my own preservation it was to be a loping gait that would be in evidence as I romped round Bushy parkrun …. unless I happened to spot a photographer or something, clearly that requires any runner to adopt their own variant of the ‘photographers pose’ whereby you either pull a ridiculous face or ape perfect running form for the microsecond of the shot.  However, I’ve done a fair few runs at Bushy parkrun now – though not with a mass of other Smilies before – and not ever seen a photographer out on the course, so that tends not to be an issue.  Plenty of atmospheric shots though. Check out the Bushy parkrun Flickr account if you are ever incapacitated for many months and want to pass the hours, days, weeks and months fantasizing about this parkrun paradise.  20,000+ and counting. That’s a lot of photos.

bushy parkrun flickr

On the plus side, I wasn’t alone in finding my limbs weren’t at their best and the night had been spent entirely devoid of sleep. Giddy with excitement, we cavorted and guffawed as only a collective gathering of Smilies can.  Then we trotted out to the front gate of the Twickenham campus of St Mary’s University where we were staying…

look where we are

Here we were honoured to be met by parkrun royalty times two.  Not only parkrun founder Mr P S-H himself but also, the power behind the throne and one of the original volunteers without whom parkrun would never have continued as it has, the lovely Jo S-H. How exciting!

Smilies and parkrun royalty

I’d love to say we were all nonchalant and blasé about the whole thing, but we weren’t.  I certainly wasn’t.  I was completely starstruck, again.  Not so starstruck that we didn’t manage to nab a group photo.  So that was the main thing.   However, the unexpected highlight was that Mr S-H asked for me by name!  I know, how amazing is that!? Granted, this was nothing to do with my own intrinsic merits, because they are known to be negligible, it was entirely because of my genetic association to Elisabeth, the landmark honorary parkrun marshal who happens to be my mum! For months now she has cheered on runners at her spot on the Bushy parkrun route which is at the Sandy Lane Gate in Bushy park.  She is a legend in her own right.  Generally speaking I don’t approve of nepotism, but then I’ve never had the chance to benefit from it before.  Turns out i’m quite fickle with respect to my moral compass.  I’ll take glory by association.  happy to step up and milk it.  Wouldn’t you?

We were on a deadline though, as we all had to get to Bushy park in time for awf. Plus, I wanted to meet up with the lovely other Paul, Paul Killick, who’d set in motion a magnificent train of events that led to my mum getting lots of extra christmas cards, with his ‘meet Elisabeth‘ Facebook post.  Long story.

meet Elisabeth

The original Paul, honestly, gets confusing, you’d think it would be a lot easier if everyone had the same name, but it turns out that’s not so.  Anyway, founder Paul, he made to set off at a fair old sprint, deliberately going extra fast to see our reaction. We had originally talked about jogging down to the start, but that was the night before. With the reality of stiff joints that plan was rapidly abandoned.  Our reaction was three-fold.  Firstly, we did laugh appreciatively.  Secondly, no-one was going to be duped into unnecessarily running anywhere at this stage, even with Mr S-H (well, we’d got our photos now, so job done), limbs aching too much and we had to save ourselves for parkrun. Thirdly, on my part at least, ‘oh my he can shift‘.  I hadn’t realised he was so super fast.  Maybe it’s partly to do with having extra long legs, or maybe the South Africa connection, or maybe he just wanted to escape from us?  Surely not? Who’d ever want to ditch a load of Smilies?  He ran like something with very long legs that might run very fast across the plains of Africa.  Giraffes have long legs, but I’m not sure they can run all that fast and elegantly.  My experience suggests giraffes have limitations as running buddies.

Antelope maybe?  Oh for goodness sake. I don’t know!  Stop hassling me about my african animal analogies, pick your own, let’s get back on topic.

Point is we got our celebrity meet and greet, and then headed off through Teddington to Bushy park.  It was nippier than I’d expected, so we walked briskly. Smilies and non-smilies sharing running and life tales as we did so. I love hearing people’s stories. Every one of us has many to tell.  Inspirational stuff.

We arrived into the park to find a dark and dank day, but the park is always glorious.   It was exciting to see it through new eyes as well.  First time in the park for some, and it is I suppose huge and unexpected if you haven’t been there before.

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I was relieved to spot Paul 2, (other Pauls are available) quite easily.  There aren’t that many 500 parkrun milestone tees around, plus it helped that the two Pauls knew each other anyway.  I’m afraid (only not really) that there followed an enormous amount of gratuitous posing for photos in all possible permutations of Pauls/ Smilies/ me and Pauls/ Smiletastic Smilies (Smiley sub-group) and so on.  In our defence, I don’t think we are the only parkrunners ever to have seized a photo opportunity at Bushy parkrun.  Also, no regrets.  Enjoy:

I was a bit giddy with all the excitement to be honest.  I wondered if I was a bit too huggy what with being so hyped.  The weird thing is, I don’t think I’m an especially tactile person.  Generally speaking I like my personal space, I will edge away  from others when sat at cafe tables lest their elbows intrude on my brunch plate. However, parkrun seems to unleash my inner huggyness.  I love everyone at parkrun, they are all my best friends forever, and I think that affection is entirely genuine, I’m so grateful to the community that is parkrun, and Founder Paul for setting it up and other Paul for being so lovely to my mum.  Even though we haven’t met before I feel like I know them because of the common parkrun thread.  It restores your faith in humankind. There really are more good people in the world than not.  Within parkrun at least, all seems well with the world….

Even though we were all a bit giddy, we weren’t so giddy with excitement that we couldn’t see a Smiletastic opportunity when it presented itself.  For those of you that haven’t been concentrating, Smiletastic is a winter running challenge amongst we Smiley Paces. Points are awarded for actual running related activities within teams, but also for ‘smiletastic spirit‘.   As we were a cross team alliance of Smiletastic Smilies on this London running weekend, we decided to go for a cross team shot.  I love this photo, and not only because it did indeed deliver some Smiletastic bonus points!  Gotta love a Smiley!

Bushy parkrun smiletastic smiles

Pleasingly, after we had been photographed in all possible combinations, a nearby runner, also a parkrun tourist quizzed me about who we all were, so that a fun.   I only wish I’d anticipated this question so I could have come up with a better cover story.  Oh well, next time.  Bushy parkrun runs like a well oiled machine, not just the logistics of it all, but maintaining a community feel, and producing a weekly run report so everyone stays informed and involved.  So we learned we Smilies and are visit were to be a feature in that week’s Bushy parkrun report – 13 Jan 18.  How exciting is that!  It is only a matter of time before Smiley Paces goes viral in its own right… granted, our visit of what was by comparison just a handful of Smilies at about 12 or so of us, was superseded the following week by a contingent of 100 visitors from Tralee parkrun, but I’m sure all parkrun tourists are made equally welcome. Thank you Bushy parkrunners all, for the warmth of your welcome.  Just shows, everyone’s a winner at Bushy parkrun.

Despite all being winners, I needed to fit in my precautionary pee.  Fortunately, there are loos a-plenty at Bushy park.   I jogged off to the toilet block, leaving fellow smilies still trying to capture their elusive perfect selfies.  Good work people, good work.

Despite the normally ample amount of toilet cubicles. The queue was long, very long.  I put this down to maybe a larger than usual parkrun turn out because of  New Year’s Resolutions being put into action.  However, this queue wasn’t moving.  On the plus side, I got to meet a woman who it turned out had been at the second ever parkrun, and so had bagged a 15th finisher place at Bushy parkrun. This pleased me greatly. I felt I really was mingling with the stars.  Now 15th finisher at parkrun would have a time between 17 or 18 minutes.  That’s super speedy.   I felt this merited a selfie, if only to while the time whilst waiting for the queue to move.  Check me out, hobnobbing with even more parkrun celebrities.  That’s the closest I’ll ever get to being in the company of top twenty finishers anywhere, let alone at Bushy parkrun!

worth a selfie

Eventually, it became apparent that the long and slowly moving loo queue was due to some large-scale catastrophe within the toilet block. Almost every cubicle was out of action, but not due to broken loos as such, but due to all the doors being off their hinges.  Whether this was due to wanton vandalism or interrupted maintenance I have no idea. What I do know, is that as the clock was ticking fast, and we were all conscious of parkrunners gathering at the start line, a sort of free-thinking collective action came about.  Women threw inhibitions into orbit and soon each cubicle loo had a parkrunner in situ, pulling a Paula caring little who saw what. To be fair, we were all women, we’ve all seen it all before, and anyway, each of us was far too preoccupied with taking up our own squat opportunities to care one iota what anyone else was up to.  It was quite liberating really, all these  women in free flow and why not.  It is hardly a shocking or unknown revelation that women (and people even) in general do pee in general, but parkrunners in particular need a precautionary pre-parkrun pee.  All the same, it did have a comedic element.  The unicorns would have loved it (see toilet humour appreciation reference above).  Is it wrong that it briefly gave me a flash back to the more depressing and shocking sight of seeing women standing displaying their goods in the narrow windows of the red-light district of Amsterdam. I’m inclined to think that the toilet block cubicles of Bushy park were more of a niche area of interest, and anyway this was no shop window, just doing the necessary…

All this broken doors shenanigans delayed me getting to the start.  I rushed across, and the briefing was already underway, the lead bike off ahead.  (Photos stolen courtesy of Bushy parkrun)

The start line is truly amazing.  It’s huge, and wide.  A guy was balancing half way up a tree to observe the field, I wondered if he might be armed with a loudspeaker to help parkrunners hear the briefing, but I couldn’t tell.  Maybe he was just stuck up there actually, now I come to think of it.  Hope he’s managed to get down now.  Anyway, it was inspiring to see so very many people, gathered together for this amazing, yet intrinsically ridiculous undertaking.  I didn’t label my photos all that well, so some might be mixed up, but these are basically all capturing the parkrun start line, some more re-imagined than others, granted… 🙂

In amongst the mass of people, I felt very luck to happen upon a little trio of Smilies, but I was too late for any in the starting throng line up shots.  Here’s one someone else took earlier though. They are looking suitably excited and shiny eyed with eager anticipation don’t you think!  Well, I say shiny-eyed, bit manic would be more accurate, but you get the general idea.  Bushy parkrun was a bit overwhelming, it was bound to test our ability to use facial expressions to convey euphoria to the very limit, maybe slightly over-cooked here, but great shot all the same people.

startline selfie

All too soon, the shout went up and were off.  A veritable stampede across the ant hills as 1300 plus runners head out on their 5k circuit.  Considering how many runners there are, it is a pretty polite start.  By the time the path narrows, runners have strung out, and as it’s a single lap course you don’t have to worry about being lapped.  A rare joy for me!

You probably can’t tell by looking at me when I’m running, but I do love taking part in parkrun.  Overhearing conversations.  Some are sharing running stories, others catching up on gossip, some updating others on quite personal stuff.  People look out for each other too. I didn’t witness this myself, but one of my fellow Smilies said as she was running she commented out loud that her hands were freezing, and another runner immediately offered her the use of her gloves.  She was really impressed and touched, to be so trusted that she’d get them back.  I maybe shouldn’t have pointed out it was probably partly because she’d identified that this Smiley could be outrun, also we are quite distinctive. None of this is to take away from the selfless offer though. Love parkrunners!

I was excited about seeing my mum.  I’d nipped round to see her the night before to make sure she was tooled up with a Smiley placard, and she’d had all her parkrun kit carefully laid out.  She doesn’t have a barcode, but if she did, she’d not forget it! #dfyb.  I’d briefed everyone I’d seen to shout hello as they passed, but as I was approaching her corner, I couldn’t see any Smilies. Catastrophe!  Then, just as I was losing hope, a gaggle of them appeared out of the mist.  No idea how they came to be running behind me, that never happens, must have been an anomaly in the line up at the start.  I have never rarely been so over-joyed to see my running buddies!

We descended en masse.  Of course we had to capture the moment, although afterwards I did wonder if I’d been quite fair to interrupt my fellow Smilies run as we paused for (blurry) photos.  Still, this picture rivals that of us with Mr S-H himself, here we had another example of parkrun royalty but this time one proactively endorsing Smiley Paces. That could be argued to trump our other example of association with parkrun celebrity, though not in the Donald sense, obviously, that would be horrid.

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It was very grand to get some Smiley shots and witness some shouts and high fives being proffered as other runners streamed by.

I felt quite emotional. Sleep deprivation has a lot to answer for.  As I ran on, the other Smilies now streamed ahead.  I overheard new conversations about my mum.  Other runners commenting on how amazing it was she is there week in week out, and being just generally lovely.  It’s hard being in Sheffield with her in Teddington, I find it immensely reassuring to know that from parkrun there is this outpouring of goodwill towards her.

I loped onwards, in my own inimitable way.  Thanking the marshals as I passed.

Eventually, the finish came into sight.  Other runners that had already finished were cheering others in.  I saw Paul S-H who called out that he’d managed to exchange a high-five with my mum en route.  It would be fun one day to observe her from a hide as she marshals, and count the interactions she has on a typical parkrun day.  Tricky to co-ordinate though.

 

Into the funnel – which as anyone who has been to Bushy parkrun will report are a thing of wonder.  More chatting – I found myself between two bushy parkrun regulars, one explained how first time her son offered my mum a high-five she had tried to shake his hand, I was able to tell her that since then she’s had training in this skill and is most adept at it, which was readily acknowledged. The other told me she and her friends refer to her at this spot as their ‘half point highlight‘ which I though grand.  I’d love to be the highlight of someone’s parkrun!  I felt a glow of reflected glory.  Maybe I should print out a load of photos of her, and get her to sign them, I could bestow them on any worthy beneficiaries at will.  Of course there’s always a risk they’d end up on Ebay, like the black market in Blue Peter badges, but I like to think parkrunners are an honourable lot, and would treasure such an artefact as beyond price. Did you know that one blue peter presenter had their badge rescinded for taking cocaine?  Richard Bacon had to actually hand it back!  The shame.  That would never have happened in John Noakes’ day!

So through the finish tunnel, and back into the arms of chilly but still smiling smilies.

 

Obviously, no parkrun would be complete without a companionable post parkrun brunch.  We decided against the Pheasantry cafe, since lovely as it is, it would be just too crowded, instead we were heading back to campus.  However, I took a Smiley detour to check in with my mum.  More photos:

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Then a romp back to the St Mary’s campus canteen, for a pretty impressive brunch. Good value, though I can’t lie, I was gutted there were no veggie sausages today.  Or the next day, seemingly it’s always a case of veggie sausages either yesterday or tomorrow.  Sad but true.  Still, it wasn’t the venue or the food particularly that bonded us.  It was our Bushy parkrun adventure.

You will have to take my word for it that we were a lot cheerier than this photo makes us look.  Smiley Paces club membership is conditional on being able to smile at all times, but with genuine cheer, unlike the ironically named cheerleader troupes who often have smiles that appear to be quite forced.

We were also very taken with the rotating tray clearing system.  I’ve rarely been so excited since I first encountered the famous Sheffield Arts Tower paternoster lift.  Technology eh?  Amazing! As if we hadn’t encountered more than enough wonder for one day!

Some might think Smilies are all too easily amused.  I prefer to think it just goes to show we can see the wonder in the world all around us!

Oh, and just so you know, Smiley Paces got star billing in the Bushy parkrun run report for 13th January 2018.  Well I say Smiley Paces, really I mean my mum did, but she does officially endorse our club, so that amounts to the same thing!  And no, it isn’t elder abuse to get your nearing 90-year-old parent to brandish a sign supporting your running club, just to be really clear there.  Nepotism possibly, but nothing worse than that!

Bushy parkrun 13 jan 2018 Elisabeth supports Smileys

So there you go. That was our Smiley pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun done and dusted.  We had a lovely time thank you for asking.  Would recommend. But you know what, the really, honestly and truly fantastic thing about parkrun, is that even if you can’t get to Bushy Park, you can recreate the parkrun magic anywhere there’s a parkrun. Currently that means across 17 parkrun countries all over the world.  Nearly 500 different events in the UK alone – probably more if you factor in junior parkrun, which you should, because that’s even more hilarious hard though that is to believe – and as of today (22 Jan 2018, I lied in the date published field above) 1,348 separate locations.

parkrun participation jan 2018

Just wow.

So thank you parkrunners in general and Bushy parkrunners in particular.   Everyone who takes part in whatever capacity makes it so.  If you have already embraced parkrun, yay, go you, happy parkrunning til next time.

If you haven’t?  Well, you are lucky indeed, because you have yet to discover one of the wonders of the world, and if you just give it a try, it will open up a whole new world of community loveliness that might be life enriching and at the very least, will put a smile on your face and increase your brunching opportunities henceforth. Got to be worth a punt, surely.

Go on. What’s the worst….*

Sign up to parkrun here, remember, fear of missing out is a terrible thing.

*…. the worst is that parkrun is a sort of gateway drug for not just other running activities, but community engagement, volunteering and a move from life in black and white to living life in glorious technicolor.  You wont mind though, that’s the funny thing.  Go on. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

 

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

For all my Bushy parkrun related posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

For all my Run with Karen related blog posts, see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

 

 

 

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

Back to Bushy parkrun, stag do and all. Plus, I officially have the X factor. Good to know.

Digested read:  went to Bushy parkrun. It was great.  I got awarded the x-factor.  There were some amazing stags around.  Plus I got to see the famous Sandy Lane super-marshal in action for myself.  Result!  Also, debut outing for new trail shoes. Hurrah.

Every time I journey down south, I think maybe this time I’ll try a different venue for a bit of parkrun tourism, but the lure of Bushy parkrun is too strong to resist.  Rude not to, when I’m so near.  Plus they have the best marshals ever.  Then I think, I’ll go, but I won’t do a blog post, because what more is there to add to my previous sycophantic tributes? And then I go, and there is always more to add, because new mysteries reveal themselves if you but choose to look for them.  Also, it’s my blog, my rules.  Reading is not compulsory.  Continue at your own risk.

So this was back on the 2nd September 2017, a fine Autumnal day.  I got to the park early, and it really is breathtakingly beautiful.  It’s not a natural environment, but in context it is a sort of wilderness, and it is remarkable that even in this busy part of greater London you can find a bit of solitude and sanctuary.  At the risk of sounding more than usually pretentious it does have a dreamlike quality in the mist. The deer are lovely and plentiful, the parakeets squawk and swoop through the trees. Crows stomp about.  And what it with those mahoooooosive fish.  They are like creatures from a fantasy world.  However jaded you might feel about your running, a sojourn to the parkrun mecca that is Bushy parkrun is sure to restore your mojo.  Look at what you’ll encounter, probably:

and that’s just walking to the start line.

Generally speaking parkruns everywhere have the feel of a flash mob.  You know, arrive 30 minutes ahead and there’s seemingly no-one there but by 8.45 a stream of people start to swarm on the epicentre of the event, apparently from nowhere, as if drawn by an invisible force like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind but with less of a musical back-track in the form of the five-tone motif to accompany them as they converge at ground zero.  Bushy parkrun is slightly different because it’s just on such a vast scale.  It is like a full on logistical festival set up operation, with a mass of hi-viz heroes marching about with purpose in evidence as you arrive.  The construction of the finish tunnel alone is worthy of note.  I can get tangled trying to just mark out a few feet of funnel for Graves junior parkrun, here you can but look on in wonder as the volunteers labour to work their double funnel magic.  It is a thing of wonder.

Unfortunately, inevitably with an event that has grown this big, you will get the occasional alpha male, strutting their stuff and disrupting the proceedings, completley unwilling to acknowledge the needs of other park users, let alone defer to them. Whilst this might seem annoying, sometimes you just have to roll with it, and recognise the greater presence.  Be honest, you’d move your finish funnel to accommodate this guy too wouldn’t you?  You don’t need to have read the warning signs to appreciate this is not a beast to be messed with!

I’m used to seeing the deer in Bushy park, but they are still extraordinary every time.  They are habituated to people being around, so seemingly completely unconcerned by the comings and goings of parkrunners and other park users. However, you should not confuse their nonchalance with tameness. They are not to be messed with and require a respectful berth.  I can relate to that. Like marshals who prefer not to be hugged, just give them some personal space and there’ll be no awkwardness or near death experiences you have to untangle yourself from in the aftermarth of your Bushy park ramblings.  You have been warned.  And lest you think I jest, I once inadvertently got close to a young fawn hiding in bracken and had to back off whilst pursued by a herd of angry hinds.  It was way scarier than it sounds.  They are very protective of their young, and not averse to taking decisive collective action to remedy any perceived wrongs.  Bambi is not a documentary I’m telling you, and you don’t want to know about the tooth fairy either….

In any event, or more specifically at this one, the team had to improvise a new funnel route to avoid the deer which was chomping acorns and not in a mood to be moved on. And to be frank, why should he?  parkrun may feel long-established but it’s a child conceived and given life in 2004, so barely a teenager. The deer on the other hand have been in Bushy park since around 1529, that gives them a tenure of nearly five hundred years – half a millenium – a bit of deference is only fair.  I’m not in favour of honouring all establishment creations by default incidentally, but this one, it’s no-brainer.  So, the hi-viz heroes here have to think on their feet and improvise under pressure like the most taxing of corporate team building activities you’ve ever imagined.  No really.  They are up to it though, they are awesome they can do anything.  Multi-taskers too, because they work their magic and smile too!

Whilst they were doing anything, I ambled about.  I had my precautionary pee, and watched people doing various warm up routines and marshals heading off to marshal points or mustering first timers for their briefing.  What a place for an absolute debut at parkrun eh?  You know they have a ticker tape and glitter gun at the end of the finish funnel every time right? It’s quite something to behold. All biodegradable so as not to damage the park obviously, but impressive all the same.

first timer briefing

As 9.00 a.m. came round there was the Run Director’s briefing, they have a loud-haler to help with this and even speakers, which are held aloft by high-viz wearing disciples of parkrun.  At times, it does feel like I imagine an evangelical rally would.   I am a parkrun believer, but have to concede it may appear to have some cult like tendencies when viewed from the outside. The wide-eyed intensity of the converted parkrunner is evident wherever you look, everyone is seemingly unconditionally euphoric at just being here together. Me too.  There is periodic clapping and whooping as parkrun milestones are celebrated.  Unnerving to the uninitiated but joyful to those of us already enfolded by parkrun lurve.  You just want to share the joy. Everyone should do this!

There was still scope for some comedic element at the RD briefing though, which is always most pleasing.  Two incidents spring to mind on this occasion.  Firstly, the overheard conversation as we were mustering on the start line.  I paraphrase, but it was along the lines of ‘it’s not that I mind being overtaken by Mo Farah per se, it’s just that I was on my bike at the time!’  Made me laugh anyway.  I’ve never seen Mo in action here, but he does train regularly in Bushy park apparently, he’s probably running too fast for me to focus on him as he speeds by.  Then there was the phone call received by the RD on his ‘event phone’ – which is a bit like the bat phone only a mobile I suppose – mid briefing.  He paused his briefing to take the call, it was THAT important.  Turned out, some recalcitrant runner had apparently dropped his/her barcode en route to the start.  They had to do the walk of shame to collect it from the RD before we could start.  Still, a walk of shame is but a small price to pay to be reunited with your barcode.  No barcode, no result, no exceptions.  Even if it was recorded on strava later, without a barcode and time that parkrun didn’t happen. FACT.  It disappears into the abyss of ‘unknowns’ never to be restored.  I think that might also be where single socks end up.  The single socks that aren’t removed by RSPCA inspectors that is.  It did look a bit like a lizard to be fair, but I’d have been mortified as well…

rare lizard

So then, eventually, we were off.  I was towards the back. I haven’t done a lot of running lately, and I’d decided in advance this was going to be a leisurely yomp with photo stops.  As indeed it was. I snapped some marshals on the way, it’s quite freeing not to worry at all about speed and just consciously soak it all up.

There were also some participants of note.  Bushy parkrun seems to have quite a high quotient of Visually Impaired runners who take part with guides. Different techniques of communication seem to operate.  But it is poetry in motion as team work.  I wonder how long it takes to build those partnerships.

Other notable participants included the milestone runners.  One brave soul was galloping round in possession of a balloon. This is game on two counts in my opinion. Firstly, because running with a helium balloon is way harder than you think, and secondly, because non-parkrunners and new-parkrunners will wish you a happy birthday, which is fine if you are over fifty, but less so if you are decades under.  I know this, because I have seen traumatised parkrunners in Sheffield expressing disbelief that their post parkrun demeanour was so aging as to put twenty years on them when well-meaning passers-by have wished them ‘happy birthday’ assuming the balloon is for something as trivial as that rather than as massive as the point at which you claim your milestone tee.  Can’t lie though, I find that funny.  Nice balloon choice though.  Respect.

fifty milestone

The high point for me though was coming round the corner to the Sandy Lane gate marshaling point.  Here was stationed parkrun super-marshal my mum!  Resplendent in hi-viz, with a neighbour buddy alongside.  It was really fun to see them both.   Also, to hear the little chorus of greetings for her as parkrunners sped by. ‘Morning Elisabeth‘s echoed around.  It was glorious 🙂 .

I lingered a while, making the rookie error of hugging a non-hugging bystander, but hey, you live and learn. It was an ambush hug anyway, all over before he even realised what was happening. We spoke later, I apologised.  It’s sorted.  Sorry though, but a bit of feedback, you need to work on your hostile body language to avoid future unsolicited tactile encounters, but I’ll wash off.  You will survive.  There’s even a song track on that theme I think – check out your old vinyls, you’ll know it when you see it.

Then onward again, and to the finish funnel.  Here though, I had a new first.  Oh. My. God.  I was only chosen of all the runners assembled on the day (and that was 1316 according to the run stats, with a further 59 volunteers) as the person present most in possession of the X-factor!  No really, they gave me a placard (well smallish sign) especially so everyone would know (as if it wasn’t immediately obvious!  Pah). It was like being given a big kiss – in a good way, not like creepy sexual assault.  It made me very happy indeed.

Lucys got the x factor

Pretty awesome eh?

I had to surrender it eventually though, all good things I suppose…

I also am now in possession of some of the secrets of the double funnel, but it’s sort of a rite of passage to discover these for yourself.  So I’m not saying.

I bimbled through the funnel, chit chatting to other finishers. It was lovely.  Then we were spat out the other end to a team of token women who again were doing sterling work to keep the queues moving.

Everything about this parkrun is on an epic scale – check out their token sorting system.  I’m sure they had a time and motion expert in to advise on that one.

finish token sorting

There was a table laden with cakes and champagne to celebrate some special milestones – there were a couple doing their 250th for starters. There was a first timer nearby who asked me if they always have champagne at the end. I like to think they probably do.  Stands to reason with that many runners, there is always surely something worthy of a sparkling celebration coming round.  I’m surprised they haven’t sorted out a system to have the prosecco permanently on tap.  Bet there are event planners amongst the Bushy parkrunners who could sort that. Chocolate fountain too, and maybe a decent latter – though there is the cafe for that of course I suppose.

champagne finish

It felt like a mini-bereavement walking away from all that good will.  I lingered a bit at the finish, cheering in some coming in behind me, before wending my way back out of the park.

Even heading homeward, there were more sights to see, the returning marshals, purposefully marching as only marshals on a mission will.

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I also took great delight in watching what were in reality probably BMF (British Military Fitness) people being put through their paces, but who I like to think were fellow parkrunners doing a supervised finger search for a misplaced barcode.  That’s the parkrun spirit in evidence, looking out for each other, even when it is at back-breaking personal cost!  Looks like that guy in the middle might have found it actually.  Yay!  High five to him next time you see him out and about!

finger search.jpg

So just a pony left to remark upon, and some ducks. Gotta love a duck.  Spoiler alert, I don’t think that was an actual police horse.

And suddenly that was it.  parkrun done and dusted for another week. Oh, and I got to debut in my new trail shoes!  Maybe they are what clinched me getting the x-factor?  I’ll never know.  I do know though, that despite being Teddington born and bred, I must now have morphed into a proper Sheffielder.  ‘But why? How do you know?’ I hear you cry.  Well, because I subsequently was talking trail running shoes with a fellow runner from these southern parts, as you do, and they were talking about preferring to run off-road locally. And I said ‘but where can you do that?’ and they looked at me like I’d lost the plot or something (which in fairness I often have, albeit not on this particular occasion) and said ‘in Bushy park.’  With a slight incredulity in their intonation.  And the thing is, I realised I have at some point recalibrated my definition of off-road, as I have my definition of ‘hill’ since moving to Sheffield.  Off road to me now means bog and gritstone and heather bashing, not just absence of traffic.  Bushy park is beautiful beyond measure, but fairly firm under foot as a running circuit.  Trail perhaps, ‘proper’ off road, I’m not sure I’d categorise it that way myself.  Gorgeous though, and a worthy destination for a special parkrun pilgrimage.  There’s even a monthly Bushy junior parkrun now I think, so pick your weekend carefully and it could be a full on family affair where appropriate. First Sunday of every month at 10:00am according to their website.  That’s a break from the norm, but hey people, this is Bushy parkrun remember, they wrote the rule book, they can do as they please!

Here are my new shiny shoes.  I think I like them. They are nice and roomy for my wide and be-bunioned feet, with good grip. Not a massive amount of cushioning, which was noticeable on these hard compacted trails but no regrets.  Innov 8 parkclaws since you were asking.  And no, I didn’t take this photo by accident.  Honestly, what some non-runners will say eh!

new shoes

So thanks again Bushy parkrun people for your fab hospitality.  It was a blast.  I have treasured memories to tide me over ’til next time.  Happy running in general and parkrunning in particular ’til then.  🙂

 Yay!

For all my parkrun blog posts see here – you’ll need to scroll down beyond this one to get to the others.

For all my Bushy parkrun blog posts see here – scroll through for the historic ones.  Enjoy, or not, reading is not compulsory.

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

Giving parkrun the thumbs up!

Digested read:  I like parkrun.  It is the gateway drug to all that is great about running, be it badly or brilliantly.  Thus Mr S-H is my hero.  I have now met him. I am happy. The end.

Is it ethical to take a DNA sample without express consent?  I’m just putting it out there, I’m not talking about shoving a cotton bud up someone’s nostril say, that could get messy.  More how about if the DNA capture was more sort of inadvertent?  Then once this hypothetical sample had come into your hypothetical possession who does it belong to really?  What is the most responsible way to handle it?  So many questions to ponder, you can see why I have to seek guidance from the online running community for this….  I don’t think it’s entirely straightforward.  You might think you know absolutely which way your principles would direct you to behave in a whole range of circumstances, but unless you’ve been in that situation can you honestly say?  I mean really, hand on heart?  Have you never found yourself in a new situation where your previously heart-felt definitive ‘what I’d do’ assumptions just aren’t enough to navigate the new reality?  It can’t just be me left waivering about what to do!  I’m not accepting that!

I accept that you are thinking re this ‘getting a DNA sample without consent’ broadly speaking it is probably not OK, but, well you know.   You don’t know the full story.   What about if I came by it as the product of a happy accident.  The acquisition being inadvertent rather than the outcome of malice and forethought it can’t be that bad surely?  So now I’m in possession of this prized and rare resource (it’s high quality superhero DNA), it would therefore surely be criminal to simply chuck it in on a 30 degree economy wash cycle and so consign it to history.  It would be as if it had never existed, it is socially responsible therefore to at least think through the consequences of what might otherwise be idle irreversible destruction.  The upshot is, that right now I’m thinking I’m never washing again.  Probably not anyway. I mean truthfully I suppose I might yet care and have a shower one day myself as a nod to personal hygiene and an expression of good – manners to my fellow parkrunners on a Saturday morning, but my running top?  Nope.  Never.  That’s where the DNA lies and that becomes a site of special scientific interest and I need to preserve it.   There are other options though.  I’m considering possibly getting it framed – but then the picture framer might contaminate it with their own DNA, which would be catastrophic (they can be funny about being asked to wear latex gloves when working, I know from experience, whatever happened to ‘the customer is always right’?) – so the other obvious option is cryogenically freezing in a vault somewhere.  I’ve not researched the financial implications of that, but I’m sure that’s what crowdsourcing was made for.  I’m personally a bit skint now what with the flat tyre on the motorway coming back to Sheffield.  We’ll have to wait and see.

So what’s brought all this on?  I hear you chorus. Well, it was my unexpected brush with parkrun royalty at Bushy parkrun earlier on today.  Not just a metaphorical brush, but a literal, actual one, you know, physical contact with the living deity himself, parkrun creator, our esteemed founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt!  I know!  I’ve previously marvelled at the unicorns and rainbows at Bushy parkrun, I didn’t think they’d be able to top that.  But today? Well, today was transformational for me….  I know, extreme joy, I will try to share the love, but you will have to wait a bit for it.  Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start as Maria would say….

So I heave ho-ed myself to Bushy park first thing.  I’d had to come to London anyway, and as I was staying locally it would be rude not to. I wasn’t entirely in the mood though to be honest.  I appreciate that statement seems borderline sacrilegious now, but as my regular reader knows I do battle with my running motivation all the time.  Being conscientious but not keen is what gets me out there.  I am a parkrunner, therefore I attend parkrun, decision-making doesn’t really come into, it’s just what Saturdays were made for.

I arrived ridiculously early because I was in the car.  You can park for free if you time it right, but there is quite a bit of pressure on parking spaces and I usually walk, sorry, ‘jog’, obviously if I can.  I found a spot next to a gnarled old tree, which turned out to be a great move as I could watch a mini-colony of jackdaws hopping about and checking out the nest-building options.   They are truly amazing birds, smart, and I love the way they sort of flop about, they don’t look like they are natural fliers.  Though to be fair, one of them didn’t help this impression by trying to take off carrying a twig practically the size of a branch.  Credit where credit is due, after a few aborted attempts it did eventually leave the ground and headed to a hole in said tree. The twig/branch was too wide to fit in the space, but unlike YouTube dogs thwarted by stick size and gaps, the bird worked out how to tilt it to fit it through.  Smart things jackdaws  I love them.  Hang on, I don’t have a camera any more, I’ll find a shot from google..

20150507_e60_20150321_1055_120_fb3 jackdaw about to land on perch (adjusted crop)(r+mb id@768)

Got to love a jackdaw, in my world anyway.

It was a bit nippy, so I didn’t venture out straight away, I briefly entertained the idea of getting out and going for a warm up, but well, you know.  Eventually I did emerge, and went on a quest to find another runner who was supposed to be there.  I couldn’t.  I did mistakenly proposition quite a few random people who fitted his description though, and then gave up.   You can only take so much rejection on a Saturday morning I find  Precautionary pee – great loos at Bushy parkrun, though not great supplies of toilet paper.  Worth noting for future reference.  I strolled up to the start, taking in the morning chill and brilliant sunshine, and looking on in admiration at the co-ordination of the first-timers briefing.  They have their own sign and everything!  I love this photo, I didn’t take it, but acquired it from the Bushy parkrun run report, love all the stretching and silhouetted figures milling about in the background, makes me think of a Lowry painting – does that sound pretentious, or just accurate.  Oh well…

Duncan Scoble new runners briefing

Then I joined the run director’s briefing.  apparently it was his debut performance, well it seemed pretty proficient and expertly executed to me.

Bushy parkrun is huge.  There was a lot of chit-chat going on during the briefing that really irritates me.  I was near a couple of teenagers who were noisily slagging off a mutual acquaintance throughout which put me in a bad mood.  I did my passive aggressive thing of ineffectually glaring at them, and then felt a bit stupid.  I mean, is annoying, but hey ho, it will happen when you get a crowd that big, and I probably did more thoughtless things as a teenager.  Then something happened that completely changed my mood.  An adult and child – his son I think, were discussing shared tactics.  An under 11 for sure as they were running together.  ‘What time are you going for today, 24 minutes?’  (Needless to say I didn’t see them again after the awf) they debated it a bit. Then, and this is what filled my heart with joy, after the toing and froing about times had been concluded the parent said to the child ‘I don’t mind what time you get at all, just as long as at the end of the run you give me a big thumbs up!’  Heart warming indeed, surely that captures in essence what parkrun is all about.  It brought perspective to the occasion, parkrun is supposed to be fun. It’s a run not a race after all. That is all.

thumbs up sculpture

So then, after the usual bouts of applause for volunteers, milestones, and I know not what else, we were on our way, on the bushy parkrun course, which is indeed a particularly glorious one. The park was looking absolutely stunning, mist clearing, and trees bursting with life. Well, for the most part they were, some of those big chestnuts are looking a bit poorly, but it was still gorgeous.   This venue is rightly iconic.  Not only because it is for parkrunners the sacred site where it all began, but also because of its inherent loveliness.  Call me unnecessarily sceptical by all means, but I have harboured the secret thought that parkrun might not have evolved as it has if the pioneers had gone for circuits of Bentalls multi-storey car park for their first time trial rather than the Royal Park.

This is a photo of the parkrun briefing which I have lifted from Bushy parkrun run report. Hope you don’t mind Duncan Scoble, lovely shot 🙂

Duncan Scoble photo 8 4 2017

On cue, the stampede of runners took off like startled herd animals, some more gazelle like than others, I was probably more on the lumbering bison end of the continuum to be honest, but you get better value for money that way don’t you?  Longer out enjoying your run, whereas those speedy ones at the front are all done and dusted in 16 minutes and some have even been known to throw up at the end from all the effort. Where’s the fun in that?

As I settled in to my pace I was vaguely aware of others around me.  There was another interaction between an adult and child.  This was initially less uplifting. The girl was tearful and profoundly upset, berating her mum over something.  I was listening in, I’m always alert for bullying parents at parkrun, it’s something I’ve seen only very rarely but I have once intervened when an adult ran off and left his distraught child behind because they couldn’t keep up.  To be fair, just by my stopping the adult was mortified and the situation resolved, but it wasn’t OK.  I had an awful feeling this might be a repeat.  How wrong was I. This was not an infant compelled to run, oh no, this was a girl distraught because ‘I’ll never get a PB if I have to run with you!’  Harsh, but true, and for me, whilst you couldn’t not feel the girl’s agony of frustration, hardly an indictment of the parkrun spirit!  Life just isn’t always as we might wish it, can’t blame parkrun for that.  I don’t think she was ever going to buy the ‘it’s a run not a race’ mantra today.  I though, could jog on heartened.

You see all sorts at parkrun, I love that.  I saw the best behaved cani-cross dog ever.  No idea what breed it was, but it was poetry in motion, constantly looking over its shoulder to make sure that it’s owner and s/he were still perfectly synchronised.  I googled afterwards, and I think it might have been a Weimaraner, because google never lies.  No fake news there.  I’m usually a bit cautious around big dogs, they can be intimidating, but this was extraordinary teamwork.  Extremely impressive to behold, quite a partnership.

Weimaraner-Running-Dog-ADB250028DC012528

There were quite a few dogs about, not all on leads, but all unusually well-behaved.  One shot off, at a fair old lick, only to then take a detour to splash about in one of the waterways that criss-cross the park.  Well, you need a cool down after all that running around and water is fun as any Trunce runner will tell you.   The jury is out on whether or not having a dog offers an unfair advantage at parkrun – I think you can list it as an ‘assisted’ run, and Lily the Wonder Dog at Graves parkrun in Sheffield definitely confers a PB on all that are honoured enough to escort her, other dogs not so much I’m guessing. Cani cross is one thing, the Sheffield Inaugural Doggy Dash quite another!  Just saying…

It was the usual pick’n’mix fest of all shapes, paces and sizes.  One curiosity that seems unique to Bushy Park parkrun, is the number of small children weaving through the course route on bikes.  I don’t know if it is official policy to allow this at Bushy Park or whether it’s a question of turning a blind eye, but they are always there.  Some months ago I did see one pile up at Bushy parkrun as a child wobbled off their bike taking out assorted surrounding runners as they did so.  Personally I gave them a wide berth, I’m quite relieved that hasn’t been an issue at my home parkrun as yet.  Tricky one, you want the event to be inclusive, but I don’t think runners and bikes mix. Buggies are different, there is an adult in control of that, very small children on bikes I find less predictable.  Still, they were having fun, and every parkrun can have its unique variations.   We at Hallam now have a four-funnel finish for instance.   Suddenly the two-funnel innovation at Bushy parkrun is a lot less scary and unfathomable – though it remains phenomenally impressive!

So I ran round, thanking the abundant and cheery marshals en route, squinting into the sunshine, and like Orpheus, trying to exercise quite a bit of willpower and not to turn my head and glance across at the front runners who were visible looping towards the finish as I was puffing out barely half way round.  Not so much that I was scared of consigning others to Hades, or being pillars of salt or whatever, more that it can be bad for morale.  However,  I failed, and watched them streaming ahead, like prayer flags colourful and moving in the distance.  If parkrun isn’t your thing, you won’t get how uplifting it all is. Being part of a sea of people in sweaty lycra running round in a big circle ending up pretty much where you started.  I do concede it’s not an easy sell from the outside.  If parkrun is your thing, you will smile even now as you recall the memory of your last run and look forward to your next.  If parkrun is not, your eyes will glaze over and you will be at best politely non-plussed and at worst mocking with incomprehension the very idea of it all – particularly first thing on a Saturday morning.

Then almost suddenly the end is in sight.  The person I’d been looking for at the start had finished ages before and come to cheer me and other runners in, which is always great.  It’s great both to be cheered and to cheer others in. When I’m particularly hormonal I can actually get quite tearful at my home run seeing the final finishers come in.  Sometimes it’s a newbie runner, maybe someone returning from injury, often small children determined to battle round that whole 5k.  It is always glorious, everyone has their own story to tell.

Personally, I always like to go for a sprint finish.  Well, my idea of a sprint finish, objectively it’s not all that impressive, but I do try.  It has occurred to me that the fact I almost always have the energy for this suggests I don’t try hard enough on the way round, but who cares it’s a run not a race after all.  You shoot past the timer and are swallowed up into the double funnel which is rightly the stuff of myth and legend.  Here are some runners captured on film speeding into it.  This happens at Bushy parkrun at the finish. You are suddenly back-lit by glorious sunshine and morph into superhuman as you hear the click of the time-keeper snapping you in.

Duncan Scoble sunny finishers

The archway of rainbows come later, you can’t see them in this photo, but if you’ve seen the video clip of that final finisher at the Rotterdam Marathon the other day you’ll get the idea. This is certainly what it feels like at parkrun mecca!  Every time. Whatever position you end up in.

rotterdam marathon final finisher

Once in the funnel, you are encouraged to squash up with unexpected intimacy to other runners as you need to make space to accommodate other runners still coming in.  It’s not like United Airlines I mean, the funnel managers won’t start dragging you out and breaking your nose or anything, but they do like you to do your best to keep on moving through when space is at a premium, fair enough.  I got chatting with a fellow runner – I love the randomness of how you make parkrun acquaintances and evolve into friends.    I still don’t think of myself at all as a runner, however you do get to know the regulars who run around at your speed at your local.  For me, a pivotal moment in my parkrun journey was going back to my local parkrun after some weeks absence following a difficult bereavement and being welcomed back by ‘strangers’ who had noticed my absence. ‘Where’ve you been?’  It was the first time I identified as being part of a ‘running community’ I wasn’t invisible.  It was incredibly supportive, even though it was just a seemingly little thing.

So we struck up a chat and she was telling me about her half-marathon adventures leading to an accidental entry into the London Marathon, and successful completion too.  Such accidents are more common than you might think, only recently I heard of a Sheffield local who accidentally ran the whole thing in a Ghillie suit, gaining a Guinness World Record in the process.  I know, who’d have thought it!  This shot is from the Sheffield Half 2016 but it does show a ghillie suit, and I had no idea that’s what it was called until quite recently, so maybe you don’t either…

GC name check well done Kate Moss

My own effort to take place in 2018 is similarly inadvertent.  I got lucky with a ballot place for 2017 but have had to defer.  Bring it on for 2018 though.  It’s reassuring to hear from others who have already achieved that seemingly impossible feat.  I overheard someone at this year’s Sheffield Half saying to another runner apropos of the London Marathon ‘I cried all the way round, it was brilliant!‘  I’m scared.  I still want to do it though.  If it weren’t for parkrun I’d never had done the Sheffield Half-Marathon and that was just brilliant.  Yeah, yeah, my time was nothing to write home about, but I had a ball, and at the end of it I felt super-human. I could do that, I could do anything…. admittedly the feeling does wear off more quickly than I’d have liked, but you still have a glimpse of a potential new reality, that’s powerful stuff!  Oh, and that’s Roger.  He’s a great running buddy.

GC so pleased to see you

So the reason I digress is because parkrun has done so much for me on every level.  It has in fact been the gateway drug to the whole parallel universe of a life enriched by running.  I’ve crossed into a community defined by running related fun.  Yes there is the running bit, which can seem like a shame before you start but is always brilliant retrospectively.  But, in return you get parkrun breakfasts, parkrun fancy dress, parkrun milestone celebrations, parkrun cake eating opportunities (your body-weight in cake before you know it or your money back!  Oh hang on… ) parkrun volunteering, parkrun vocabulary (isn’t your life enriched now you know what a funnel-ducker is as well?).  Then through parkrun I found Smiley Paces which just happens to be the most awesome women’s running club in all of Sheffield.  Through that ‘what the hell’ entries to off road runs like the Round Sheffield Run (which I entered by accident the first year but have never looked back).  The joy of being cheered home as final finisher in fell races.  Top tip, if you panic the organisers enough by coming in behind the tail runner due to getting lost you will get an even bigger crowd looking out for you in the finish funnel. Plus, as no-one else is about it will actually look like you are winning in the photo if you want to impress your non-running friends and acquaintances.

final finisher

I might be guilty of the ‘seen a photographer’ syndrome, but I’m not alone with that… we all know who we are.

running bible

Obviously this recommendation comes with a warning.  As with any drug there are sometimes unwanted side effects.   Not just the obvious ones like chaffing and missing Saturday Live** but more subtle ones like, in my case hanging out almost exclusively with ‘proper’ runners so finding myself forever destined to be the fat friend in photographs.  It’s the yin and yan of it all.

Basically though, parkrun has been great for me.  It helps you see the good in the world, it has made me feel part of a community, it reminds me that what we share is more important than what we disagree on.  By providing a constant familiar place of sanctuary it has helped me and others too through multiple life crises.  Be it bereavement, illness, redundancy – anything…  It spreads the joy too.  parkrun birthday celebrations; running routes backwards; any excuse for a pop-up party at the Sheffield parkruns for sure.  I’ve made new friends and rediscovered old ones.   Three decades it took me to bump into an old school friend in a new city and yet we did.   I’ve commenced my radio career (OK that’s tenuous, but it was on my bucket list) and even started a running blog.  I’d never have got a National Trust pink bobble hat if it were not for that. So basically, there is much to be said in Praise of parkrun.  It is true to say it has changed my life (though I know that sounds really pretentious to the uninitiated).  As surely as the sun rises in the East and the world turns around come Saturday parkrun will burst into life all over the world.  That’s awesome.  Hence, the only time I was homesick when working in Cambodia recently, was when I discovered I had missed seeing Jess and Paul at a Sheffield Hallam parkrun. Two great icons.  What was I thinking missing out on that Saturday gathering just because of teaching overseas.  Gutted doesn’t cover it.

paul-and-jess-parkrun

You will understand therefore why it was I was so excited when my new funnel friend commented ‘oh look, I see we have parkrun royalty here today.’  Oh.  My.  God.  Could this be it?  Was it possible that I wasn’t just running the sacred ground of the inaugural parkrun, but actually in the vicinity of the great man himself?  I turned to look behind me, and there he was!  It was as if time stood still.   A great shaft of sunlight breaking through the sky to illuminate him like he was standing in a spotlight all of his own.  Chatting to other parkrunners with his dog (or at any rate a dog) at his feet.  What to do?

I was torn.  I mean on the one hand the poor guy has just been doing his local parkrun, maybe the last thing he wants is some giddy star-struck groupie stalking him. On the other, who wouldn’t like to be told that they have done an awesome thing.  I might regret it if I didn’t say anything and let this chance to say thank you to him pass me by.  I pondered as I gathered up my finish token and got my barcode scanned.  I wasn’t that starstruck, unless you forget your barcode it would take nothing less than complete collapse to stop me getting it scanned once I was over the finish, and even then I’d count on fellow parkrunners to ensure it was anyway.  To be fair, plenty of runners have documented their thanks to other runners for ensuring this happened after their own inopportunely timed collapses.  I remember one guy in particular posting on a forum somewhere his thanks to a fellow runner for ensuring his barcode and finish token got scanned after he fell and broke a hip I think in the finish funnel. Still, all’s well that ends well eh?

Scanning completed I sidled over to where our founder was standing, lurking and eavesdropping on the ongoing conversation. I did consider aborting my mission, as it sounded like a ‘proper’ conversation about maybe setting up another parkrun somewhere, and I was losing my nerve about lingering just to be pointlessly effusive.  I mean, every parkrunner worth talking to will be wanting to get to their post parkrun breakfast rendezvous I wouldn’t want to come between P S-H and that.  Maybe he’d done enough fraternising for one day?  The conversation ended, as he said he was off for coffee.  It was now or never!  Seize the moment or endure a lifetime of regret (yep, I am a bit prone to melodramatic over-statement, so what, sue me).  I stepped forward, and I realised belatedly I hadn’t really thought the subsequent interaction through at all.  I just blurted out ‘I know you are off for coffee, but I just wanted to say thank you so much for parkrun it has changed my life!’  Because I am grateful and it has.  So it was true.

You know what he smiled broadly and… gave me a hug (DNA transfer moment)!  and beaming broadly said something like ‘that’s wonderful, how has it changed your life?’  Which was a reasonable enough question in the circumstances, but not one I was able to articulate a response to in the moment.  It was like that episode in Father Ted, where Dougal for the first and probably only time, inadvertently has a brilliant idea.  However, asked to follow-up with how to implement it, he is thrown into panic, so he stomps off instead. Thus it was with me, I was completely tongue-tied.  There was so much I could have said, all of the above just for starters. I didn’t though, I just gushed incoherently for a bit and staggered away feeling both joyful at the encounter and furious at my awkwardness.  Aaargh.  Still, on the plus side, at least he didn’t disappoint, he actually looked genuinely pleased by my self-conscious outpouring of goodwill.  Well, I like to think so anyway.

So afterwards I was trying to think what I could have said.  I found myself thinking back to the man and boy at the start.  All the stuff that happens on a parkrun, irrespective of the time you make, the adventures you have, the camaraderie, it all just boils down to this, a thumbs up at the end.  Every time.  Simples.  That’s what I should have said.

Essentially I’m just putting it out there that for me and for many others parkrun is a precious thing.  In the circumstances, given that we can’t condone a captive breeding programme of community focused runners recruited from parkrun (though to be fair I think some of that has evolved organically if the number or wedding themed parkruns is anything to go by), I think you’ll understand why I will nevertheless treasure my DNA harvest.  I’m not so creepy I’m actually going to arrange to clone it, but you know what, we live in uncertain times.  It wouldn’t harm to preserve it for a bit just in case.  Bragging rights at least in the interim.  I might have texted some friends to tell them what had just happened too. Shallow me?  Guilty as charged.

So you see parkrun dreams can come true. I got to meet my hero.  Even if I hadn’t I’d still get to go to parkrun every week.  So thank you Mr Sinton-Hewitt. You have done a great thing with parkrun.   That’s some legacy in your wake.   I salute you.*

Our glorious founder P S-H

*Oh, and I have washed my top now.  You are quite safe!  🙂

Thanks Bushy parkrun for the use of your photos, and to lovely George Carman for the many and varied Sheffield snaps.

For all my parkrun blog posts see here – you’ll need to scroll down beyond this one to get to the others.

For all my Bushy parkrun blog posts see here – scroll through for the historic ones.  Enjoy, or not, reading is not compulsory.

 

** and Runderwear will help with the chaffing and I understand Saturday Live is available on podcast, so be gone with your exercise avoidance strategies!

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Parkrun Safari: Bushy park delights

One of the (many) brilliant things about parkrun, is that it can take you to some lovely places, and encourage you to experience them in all the different seasons.  Last week, I was back at Bushy park, and it was just stunning.  No real report this time around, just enjoy the photos.  It was like being on safari as one of my Smiley Paces buddies quipped.  It really was.

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As well as the wildlife, there were keen volunteers in abundance:

Even some actual runners, gathering, and then running!  Who’d have thought it?

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So, I’m trying to let the pictures speak for themselves today, and they do say a picture speaks a thousand words so this is officially my longest blog post ever.

Bushy parkrun perfect ten on this day I’d say.  Run happy.

You’re welcome!   🙂

 

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

Bouncing Back to Bushy, parkrun ponderings – in it for the long run?

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So far, in relation to my half-marathon training, I’ve mainly focused on stock piling the rest days.  My stealth training regime is going so well and being conducted in such secrecy that even I have not managed to spot any suspicious changes in behaviour suggestive of extra running sessions in preparation for my forthcoming hypothetical half marathon.  I do have some legitimate reasons for my tardiness (dodgy hip, being away la de la blah etc), but it does not bode well.  Today therefore, I returned to parkrun, parkrun tourism it is true, but parkrun all the same.  It is a start.

Attendance at parkrun is pretty much preprogrammed now, I can’t imagine doing anything else on a Saturday morning, but if I had planned on slacking, and slipping under the radar by dint of being off my home patch this weekend, I had a rude awakening this week that made me realise I do actually need to do something other than browse running magazine articles from the safety and comfort of a sofa if the half-marathon distance is ever to be in reach.

But why so Lucy?’ I hear you cry. Well, let me explain…

I’m not sure if it was a set back exactly, but I certainly had a reality check this week.  Visiting a friend with two young boys, she told them that I was planning to run a half marathon.  They are at that sweet age of innocence, completely disinhibited and as yet unaware of the requirement to pretend approval or admiration – rather than state the uncomfortable  obvious truth –  if social etiquette requires it.  This is either refreshing or demoralising depending on whether or not you are planning to take on the Yorkshire Half Marathon,  – Sheffield, in a few months time.  Their immediate response to this news was to, quite literally, roll around on their backs, clutching their sides, laughing with uncontrolled hysteria.  One on his bed, the other on their bedroom floor, they cavorted like lion cubs, playing and laughing and writhing around.  The very idea of me undertaking such a physical challenge had them exploding with not just giggles, but cackles of bottomless mirth, that are probably still echoing across the universe even now.  My friend corrected them ‘no she really is, it isn’t a joke!‘  The younger one continued laughing (in his world this was clearly a double bluff, and one he could see straight through, he wasn’t to be fooled that easily!).  The older sibling however stopped laughing, and sat up on his bed, staring at me directly in the face.  Examining my expression for clues as to whether or not this might actually be true.  As I returned his eye contact I could see his incredulity morph into horror.  ‘Oh my god, she’s serious‘, he said not a word more.  He didn’t have to, he clearly recognises such a feat to be not only impossible, but the very idea is insane.  He is a well brought up young man, teetering in his early teens, he knows it isn’t nice to laugh and point at the insane, but he doesn’t have words to communicate any more about this.  To him I at fifty years old, must seem beyond ancient, I am the physical manifestion of decrepitude.   He blinks, and stays silent.  This silence speaks volumes.  His younger brother picked up on the mood, and also sat up suddenly, staring at me impassively. After a silence that stretched seemingly to eternity, he said ‘but that’s miles and miles‘  ‘13 miles,’ his brother chipped in eventually.   They looked genuinely concerned.   As has previously been established in this blog, I am very suggestible.  I could feel my fragile confidence not so much wavering, as vaporising.   Their concern was quite sweet to be honest, but also quietly (literally) mortifying.  Oh dear, here’s hoping I can prove them wrong.  I can feel a knot in my stomach though, what is it they say about ‘from the mouths of children?’  They have an insight, and honest integrity others do not.  The truth can hurt…

truth

The weather has been like the end of the world this week, flooding and pooling water creating impromptu lakes everywhere.  I took to stalking the Bushy parkrun facebook page as I’d heard a rumour that it might even be cancelled if the mud was too bad (fears of churning up the iconic Chestnut Avenue) it is true, a thousand plus runners will leave a bit more than the odd footprint on saturated ground.  Some wags on the Bushy parkrun facebook page have been teasing the run director about ensuring the weather fairies were benevolent.  Prayer was mentioned, and the challenge this might present what with his dodgy knee and everything particularly referred to.  As it happened, all was well, after an unpromising start, the skies stayed dry.  Whether this was as a direct result of interceding prayers I have no idea.

So, I was heading back to Bushy, I decided to try and up my mileage a bit.  It might be my first run in a  week, but I can still make this half marathon deadline… maybe.  I latched on my Tomtom, and headed out the door. Ironically, I found this initially had a demotivating effect.  I couldn’t get a satellite positioning, and found myself thinking ‘well there’s no point in running just yet, it wont count’  which is ridiculous!  Fortunately/ unfortunately, it did eventually lock on (or whatever it is it does to make sure stalkers can find me) and so I stumbled into a wobbly trot.  It is true, if somewhat infantile, that wearing the Tomtom did make me run for most of the way to the start, albeit reluctantly and half-heartedly.  I was quite pleased though to find it’s about 1.7 km from where I was staying to the start.  This once again suggests that if I get into the habit of jogging to and from parkrun I will build my distance and stamina too (hopefully) without noticing too much.  It was nippy out though, I wore my running coat, and didn’t even feel guilty.  I’d had a panic because I was unable to locate, and therefore could not wear, my running buff.  I feel naked without it.  Ironically running without my buff feels like running in the buff.  Do you see my point?

white stag bushy park

Inevitably, I got distracted en route though.  Bushy park was gorgeous today, I saw a white deer, not sure if it was actually albino, but it was definitely distinctly different from any others I saw, like something out of a fairy tale.   In fact, professor Google tells me that fallow deer do have a natural colour variance from white to brown, so maybe not as rare as all that.  Magical all the same though… I’m still holding out for a unicorn sighting there one day.  As I dawdled, I also fell into wondering whether in the future archaeologists will think we live in a time when excrement was worshipped?   This is no more bizarre than believing in a dog poo fairy.  There is NO DOG POO FAIRY, s/he does not exist.

dog poo fairy never comes

This thought came from seeing a bag of dog poo, abandoned.  If there is one thing worse than  coming across random dog faeces, it is dog shit in a bag, suspended from a tree as if it were some sort of decorative bauble.  Who are these dog walkers kidding?  They never come back for them whatever they tell themselves at the moment of hanging up so prominently.  If they aren’t going to clear up properly, I’d rather  the deposit in question was left in situ to biodegrade, rather than displayed in all its glory at eye level.  There they stay for months or years, swaying in whatever wind that blows, until the bag becomes tatty subjected to the elements, shredded by tree branches.  Eventually, with awful inevitably it’s contents will spill downwards like a deeply unpleasant hatchling emerging from its egg,  leaving the discarded pooh bag swinging shredded and vile in the shrubbery.  It isn’t even just dog poo bags.  What about all those disposable nappies in landfill, infant poo, wrapped in cotton wool, sealed in plastic and buried deep in the earth.  If dug up at some later date it will look like these faeces have been lovingly preserved for future generations and to ensure their passage to the afterlife.  We aren’t exactly offering our descendants the same rewards for exploration and excavation as the ancient Egyptians did are we?

Egypt.Giza.Sphinx.01

The jog to the start, not only made me feel a bit smug, but also made me feel quite snug and warm.  I was wearing my ‘proper’ running jacket, which was quite expensive, and so I didn’t want to just leave it at the start.  Fortunately, it sort of packs down into its own pocket so you can wear it round your waist.  Unfortunately, this then bounces up and down on you as you jog round, and is quite unflattering too (then again, so is my whole running outfit).  Even so, I disrobed, and joined the thousand strong throng (which is quite hard to say out loud actually, strong thongs magically appear through the tongue twisting effects of it all).  There was a great run briefing.

First timers were warmly welcomed, there was a shout out for some expected New Zealanders, who delightedly identified themselves; the usual call to parkrun tourists to identify themselves (I didn’t this time, as I now view Bushy as sort of my second home, as I’ve racked up a fair few runs here now).  There were congratulations to people who had just achieved landmark Tees.  A novelty call out for Happy Wedding Anniversary wishes from parkrun as a surprise to one lucky wife.  Her husband had requested this as a romantic surprise, which it probably was, shame he didn’t actually tell them what her name was, so she was just Mrs ‘whoever’, no identify of her own at all, only an adjunct to him. Still, they do say it’s the thought that counts, and this was indeed a good thought.  I like this aspect of Bushy a lot.  This parkrun has somehow managed to maintain an intimate and friendly field, despite an enormous field week after week, it’s very impressive.  I had a warm glow of inclusiveness as I clapped away as seemed appropriate.

The course was muddy, and very slippery in parts, I was pleased I’d had the foresight to put on my trail shoes.  The bits on tracks are fine, but the grass had almost turned to fiendishly slidey mud in parts.  I set off a bit confused.  I somehow was a bit in the middle of things, and there were so many people there, I couldn’t really manoeuvre.  Navigating the ant hills was quite comical, loads of us bobbing up and down on the uneven terrain like, well I don’t know what really.   Panicking picnickers running away from a wasps’ nest in all directions in ungainly arm-flapping abandon perhaps?

I didn’t try too hard today, just felt pleased to be running at all after an unpromising week.  I made a point of thanking all the marshals as I passed and got some cheery responses, which was fun.  Plus, I do love that little ricochet effect of ‘thankyous‘ that sounded in my wake…  My hip, which was better for not being run on was complaining a bit again.  Small strides seem to help.  I was beaten home today by a huge lumbering dog and his rugby player physiqued human companion, even though he’d stopped for a ‘motion’ en route.  (The dog, not the human  – as far as I could gather anyway) .  There was also a speed walker very  much ahead.  I hope he was a  speed walker, I wasn’t having a great running day, but I’d like to have kept pace at least with someone strolling along.  He had a T-shirt on Richard Walks London so I think it was this guy, surely there aren’t two of them, leaving parkrunners for dust as they do that weirdly effective walking gait thing.  I’ve just seen he describes himself on his facebook page as ‘New Zealand ultra-distance race-walker and multiple record holder’, so actually, that makes me feel loads better.  I was within touching distance of a record holder, not in the wake of a walker at all!  I wonder if he spotted me?  I was certainly a sight I can tell you.

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I was in reflective mood again today, I did notice the most amazing skies going round.  The park was extraordinarily beautiful, I felt lucky to be experiencing it.  Approaching the finish line, I thought I saw someone I knew clapping me home, I picked up speed in anticipation, and slapped on my cheeriest smile and most gazelle like bouncy stride.  Neither saved me, but on the plus side, it wasn’t him at all.  Maybe the parkrunner in question is still injured after that freak, who-could-possibly-have-anticipated-it tumble he took the other day?  This is someone who has clearly never watched the opening credits of Casualty.  Alone in his flat, he decided to use a folding chair to stand on to reach up to a top shelf (what was the worst that could happen).  It did not end well, a near death experience apparently, when he had time to imagine he would be taking his last breath, he shouted out instinctively.  As he stared death in the face, it is unclear whether he found himself getting a glimpse of a bright light, or the flames of hell in the moment.  He did survive, and now has a brilliantly impressive bruise.  Shame it isn’t mankini weather, such war wounds should be on display.  It looks like a shark bite, no really, it does.  I was actually slightly jealous.  I mean my dodgy  hip has nothing visible by way of stimulating the sympathy impulse in others, more like repulsion, as I’d have to move a roll of fat out of the way to expose it.  I shan’t be doing that.   His bruise was epic, and no doubt will get bigger and bolder and bluer over the next week or so.  Spreading like an oil spill outwards until the entire available surface area is covered in a great slick of blackened, blooded skin.

On entering the finish funnel, the great boon of having worn my jacket round my waist, was that I was able to put it on straight away and stay warm.  However, within a few seconds, a cheery funnel marshal teased me for wearing it.  ‘You must be hot, what are you doing running in that?‘ he queried.  I over-explained that I’d only put it back on after I’d finished.  Defensive, moi?  My cheetah buddy clearly has spies everywhere.  Even here, hundreds of miles away from our home run at Sheffield, she has found a way to call out the mantra ‘walk away from the fleece‘.  She can’t seriously have outsourced this activity, can she?  It seems extraordinary, impossible even, but then again….

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Still debating this, I made it out of the funnel.  There was a good turn out today.  Despite the inclement weather threat, it stayed dry overhead, if wet underfoot, and the sky was beautiful.  We nearly had a triple funnel moment, but due to cunning marshalling this emergency procedure was averted.  I was a bit disappointed, it would have been quite something to behold.  I gathered later that apparently, for those statisticians out there, this was the fourth EVER biggest attendance at Bushy.  I’m surprised, because I reckon numbers will have been down because of the cold, and wet, and general grimness of the morning at about the time you’d need to set off to participate.  However, it did seem crowded I suppose, and I got quite boxed in.  Mind you, I didn’t try at all hard to escape those limiting factors in order to stretch out for my run.   Slow and steady wins the race, they say, sometimes. Anyway, as we all know, it isn’t a race it’s a run.  Here are the stats, just because really, I think its wondrous that Bushy parkrun publishes this sort of detail, plus you get a sense of how fast those fingers are moving on the clicker coming through.  Ooh, the pressure on the timers, I’d find that way too stressful to volunteer for myself!  The final total was 1214 participants – the biggest parkrun attendance in the UK today, hooray – I helped make it so!  Amazing really isn’t it?  All those people coming together from nowhere, and then vanishing afterwards, for a shared experience of running in a park on a Saturday morning.  How can anyone not love park run.  The continuum of times was spectacular too, fastest home 16.31 and final finisher 1.08.41.

Jan 2016 fourth largest attendance apparently

Exiting the tunnel (which was very busy this week – New Year’s Resolutions in action perhaps) a little crowd was chanting my name which was rather paranoia inducing ‘Lu-cy, Lu-cy, Lu-cy!’  Of course it wasn’t for me, it was for some other imposter Lucy, very alarming though, I felt I was under surveillance everywhere today!  The way they cheered my namesake home was however, quite something to witness!  It should’ve been me!

cheerleaders

Walking away, it was fun to cheer the final finishers home.  There were a few coming back well post the one hour mark today, but that is awesome to behold.  Two women in particular caught my eye as they neared the last 600 metres or so to the finish line.  They had slowed to a walk, but were grinning broadly, and holding hands, determined to finish together.  It was brilliant.  They were a distinctive pair, and I really wish I was going to be at Bushy next week as I bet they’ll be back. I clapped what I hope was encouragement and shouted ‘the end is in sight, I promise, it will be worth it when you finish’, they smiled back.  I reckon their endorphins had kicked in early!  I love parkrun, what’s not to like – oh, apart from the being expected to run bit, obviously…

tribesport jan running 2016

Just the little matter of the jog home – it gave me a running total of just under 10km in terms of distance, in terms of time per mile, well, that’s not the point is it, arguably, the slower you go, the more you prolong the pleasure of parkrun, no point in rushing round, you’d miss out on all the fun – parkrun parkfun indeed!

 

 

Categories: 5km, half marathon, motivation, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Smiley Paces Going Places – Blasting Bushy Parkrun

Did you know that ‘choosing a wheelie bin is an incredibly personal thing’? No? Me neither.  It’s funny the kind of thoughts that pop into your mind as you run, this was one of mine today yomping round Bushy parkrun, as I recalled a phone conversation with an especially passionate purveyor of said bins who was trying to help me to select from one of the many possibilities available  on their website.  I like that I live in a world where someone cares so much about wheelie bins, though really I myself don’t.

It wasn’t quite accurate to describe it as a Smiley Paces take over, but it was surely a start.  Two of us out of a throng of 934 is still a 100% increase on any previous turn out of Smiley’s at Bushy parkrun as far as I am aware.  If we keep doubling our attendance on a weekly basis exponentially in this way then by Christmas Day Parkrun we’d be up to 128 which is over 10% of the field.  What’s more, if you believe Wikipedia (and obviously I do in all things, always) then, based on the ‘wheat and chessboard story’ whereby you keep doubling the number of grains of wheat as you move through each of the squares of the chessboard then the sum of grains is: 1 + 2 + 4 + 8… and so forth for the 64 squares, then the total number of grains equals 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 by the time you get to the end.  Apparently.  I don’t even know how to say that number out loud, but I’m thinking that if we really aim to hit this target 64 weeks from now, i.e. on Saturday 4th Feb 2017, then we are going to need a membership drive.  A worthy ambition though I feel, whilst I would concede perhaps we should start more modestly with a more local takeover event at say Sheffield Castle parkrun which apparently averages around 40 or so runners, and we can then move like a locust swarm further afield as we wish.  Just a thought…

chessboard problem

Anyway, for reasons way to complicated (and possibly dull) to explain, it happened that me and one of my Sheffield Hallam parkrun breakfast club running buddies were both in the vicinity of this parkrun Mecca at the same time and so agreed to rendezvous at the Bushy parkrun, so we could together inhale the heady delights of that enchanted place.  I was disproportionately excited at the prospect of us doing it together, so to speak, and even more intoxicated at the embellishment to the plan which was  to make it a threesome as her sister was joining us too.  Now, my loyal and regular readers will know how I like to big up my Bushy parkrun associations, with the tales of stags and carp and mythical creatures cavorting in the bracken, thousands of people gazelle-like tripping though the ant hills and bracken (albeit actually tripping at times) and the sun forever shining, though in the very unlikely event of rain, there are a thousand arching rainbows covering the entire 5km route.  Sadly, this morning the rain was icy, and the aspect gloomy.  I was a tad in fear of being exposed for a teensy weensy bit of creativity in my evocation of place as I trudge towards the loo for our pre-race rendezvous.  The deer are all in hiding from the rain, there is not so much as a unicorn dropping in evidence, let alone an actual unicorn and even the parakeets have taken cover in the trees, and frankly who can blame them?  I’d be half inclined to shelter in the canopy myself if I thought I had the upper body strength to get me there.

The first challenge is finding somewhere to dump my backpack, which isn’t waterproof, but which I have brought with me to put in my fleece and raincoat for warmth and protection post run.  There is no bag drop at Bushy.  To be fair there isn’t really at my home Parkrun either, but I’ve got used to dumping my backpack on the floor by the volunteers stuff, Bushy Park is so vast I feel a bit more vulnerable.  It is another thing to angst about.  First off is mustering the courage to whip off my fleece in the first place, as it is decidedly nippy.  Given the last few outings and drenchings I’ve had, I’m really beginning to think I’d rather be running in a cagoule or duffle coat.  Maybe I will one day, just to see… I strip off, stuff my fleece into the backpack and bracing myself into the chill wind, I select a tree with a wooden railing surround. I wish I’d concentrated more watching survival programmes  in he past, and then I’d know how to tell which way the elements are likely to lash down most furiously over the next half hour.  I decide against leaving my pack on the ground at the base of the tree as I dread to think how many dogs will have peed on it by the time I get back.  Instead I hang it off the top of one of the wooden stakes, and cover the whole thing with a plastic bag which I have fortuitously (but inadvertently)  brought with me (the backpack is over 16 years old now and whilst it has a whiff of vintage it has no whiff of waterproofing any more).  The plastic bag is bearing the logo of an employer for a job I much hated doing, so I am happy to rip it up so it fits over my backpack, even though that is like tossing a 5 pence piece aside these days, which is maybe a tad profligate, but I believe running is worth such ostentatious extravagance.  Anyway, whilst not wishing to incite jealousy exactly, I think it only fair to point out I may well be a plastic bag millionaire –  now if I actually dig out and count the plastic bags I have been collecting under my sink for the past half-century or thereabouts. Frankly, I can afford to indulge in this act of abandon, so why shouldn’t I?

I miss my friend and her sister at the loos, but amazingly, find them in the throng of nearly one thousand starters and am able to join them in time to hear the pre-race briefing.  It is as always, pretty comprehensive.  Milestone runners are congratulated, champion rickshaw fundraisers (Children in Need but I didn’t see it) cheered, and marshals warmly applauded. The new Parkrun code is alluded too.  I agree this is a worthy initiative, but have already seen some creative additions suggested.  One favourite is: ‘Can you add ‘don’t make your children run with you if they are hating it and crying’?’ I have never witnessed this at Bushy parkrun to be fair.  Well, it’s something in the air here of course – a stronger, fitter, leaner, faster, more enthused, runner has evolved from Bushy Park.  With other creatures it’s harder to pinpoint the exact moment in evolution that leads to a seismic shift and so the emergence of a new species.  With parkrun we have a documented moment when the DNA exploded outwards which is the literal origin of The Parkrunner.  Sadly though, as I suppose must happen with any evolutionary developmental process, mutations creep in.  Whilst some are to be celebrated, others are not.  Alas I have seen the occasional sobbing child being bullied round  at Sheffield Hallam and it is an obscenity to behold, (and yes people do try and intervene, but such situations are hard to manage)  Not in the spirit of Parkrun at all.  The following rules  are in the spirit of parkrun however, and should be read, inwardly digested and abided by.  One day I will do a spoof of this, but for now, I’m actually enjoying the original.  Embrace the moment.

parkrun rules november 2015

So we listen to the briefing.  My running buddy claps almost a bit too evangelically to be cool at each one of  the announcements.  I think the excitement has rather overcome her, I’m sure she whooped and even jumped up and down a bit.  Positively giddy. I look on her with compassion and benevolence, I  remind myself she is a Bushy parkrun virgin so it is inevitable she will be a inappropriately euphoric with it all,  as an ”old hand’ of Bushy parkrun I have perhaps become a little too nonchalant.  She is so intoxicated with the reality of just being here, that she doesn’t even seem to have noticed there are neither unicorns nor a tunnel of rainbows, I might yet get away with this.  Bushy parkrun is rising to the occasion too, and will seduce her as surely as it has me.

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She comes with her ‘really slow’ (at running) sister, whose presence here,  whilst not entirely in breach of the rule ‘don’t force your friend/ child/ relative to run if they are crying and hating it’, has possibly come in response to the application of prior extreme cajolement – surely a grey area of running etiquette.   That line between motivational pep talks and unreasonable pressure.  For the record, said sister, still manages to romp home way ahead of me by the way.  Which would have been completely acceptable were it not for the fact that she kept saying how ‘no, honestly, I’m pathetically slow, really, really slow’.  Yes, well you may be, but you are still 2 minutes ahead of me on your second ever parkrun, so maybe for next time around work on the phrasing of your running achievements in order that I may retain some small vestige of self-esteem to carry me through the winter months ahead…

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All too soon we are off!  Sprinting towards the ant hills and the bottle neck of the start.  It feels quite a squash today, but the park is gorgeous in the rain – which has abated a bit to be honest.  The leaves on the ground are kicked up underneath the runners releasing a wonderful smell of autumn.  I feel happy running, it is unusual for me, but I’m in a rhythm, in thought, and jollily jogging along, eavesdropping, which is what I do best.  That’s not to say I don’t waiver from time to time – there is one woman who passes me with a long thick plait tantalisingly bobbing up and down on her back.  She is like Rapunzel with her locks (although the runner’s hair is black and I think Rapunzel was blonde – she was in my Ladybird book of the name I’m sure, though I don’t honestly know how well researched that was prior to publication).  I fantasise briefly about grabbing hold of that plait and being dragged round, like those runners who do canicross with their dogs?  She is too fast though, and flown by before I can latch on – SPOILER alert  Matt Damon (The Martian) might have had a chance of link up, but not me.  The things that man did with gaffer tape were pretty good, but that join up – inspirational.

Mars

Loads of good chit chat today, some reactions to the horrors that unfolded in Paris yesterday, which sort of puts a lot of things in context to be honest, like my wet feet, which are annoying but not so terrible in the grand  scheme of things really, are they?  Some first timers, suitably excited and in awe of it all, wondering how far left, whether they could do it at all?  The second timers ‘I think we’ve done better at not being squashed this week and also, my legs don’t feel like they will fall off this time round … (pause) … not so far anyway.’  A rather animated exchange between father and (youngish) son about Boldemort.   ‘Who’s Boldemort?‘  (blah response) ‘no you mean Voldemort duh – Boldemort, that would have to be an extra white face, you know like whiter than white, that would be so stupid!’  Hilarious, though strictly speaking, wasn’t it Daz that was whiter than white?  picky, I know.  Today’s favourite, the two women running together, pace for pace, with warmth and empathy as they struck out stride for stride, mainly in what seemed to be companionable silence.  One then said to the other ‘I sometimes  wonder what it would be like to run if you could actually be bothered with it’  No audible reaction, she obviously spoke with wisdom and insight… it’s certainly a thought – maybe I should take it on board myself?

I enjoyed the run today, it had all the criteria, modest physical challenge, blustery weather, friendly folk, good audio accompaniment, abstract thoughts (see wheelie bins reference above) not too bad with my arthritis or bunions, and no hanging around in the cold at the end waiting for anyone else to finish, because I’m always last in from amongst my cohort anyway.   Cheery marshals.  The one who smiled most was in the funnel, clapping and cheering us back in the rain.  I asked if he was smiling and laughing so much because he wasn’t having to run anywhere, but he said he wasn’t running today because he was recovering from completing a marathon last weekend.  The high from that must have been quite something, he was still cavorting on cloud nine all these days later, and in the rain too!

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So mission accomplished, post run breakfast in the pheasantry coffee shop.  This appeared to be the site of some sort of impromptu occupation by parkrunners, who had descended like a flash mob on the premises.  It was fun though.  Lots of complex bar code sorting and counting going on, many coffees being drunk, running injuries shown off and PBs achieved and missed being regaled around us. Just one table occupied by the camouflage crew from British Military Fitness, who, for the record, looked slightly less hard and intimidating when sipping their choca-mocha-lattes with extra marshmallows than they had roaring commands to their numbered-tabard wearing charges being beasted earlier on.

There was also a Christmas Tree.  Decorated and everything. I despair.  But that hadn’t participated in either parkrun or indeed British Military Fitness, so I don’t think it requires further comment.  It was quite attention gaining enough without me further giving it the oxygen of publicity on which to flourish.

On departing, we tried to pose for a selfie, but were defeated by the technology.  A yellow-cagoule wearing passer by took pity on us and stepped in as our very own David Bailey, he even took a directorial role, galvanising us to relax and smile, and especially pleasingly, made a noise of a ‘phut’ like a proper old fashioned flash bulb going off on a proper old tripod camera with a hood and everything as he did so .  It was fun. Clearly, it doesn’t take much to entertain me.  Thank you nice man in the park.

Puce at Bushy Parkrun 14 nov 2015

I was marginally less enamoured of him when I saw the photo.  Do I really go that colour of puce after a run?  Maybe so.  The truth can hurt and they do say the camera never lies after all.  On the plus side, it was deemed of sufficient quality for my running buddy to post on Facebook to give us bragging rights in relation to our attendance at parkrun with our Smiley Paces  running club and Sheffield Hallam parkrun comrades.  I fear I had let the side down by not wearing my Smiley vest, nevertheless, maybe the snapshot will still serve to galvanise others to make the pilgrimage. I’d so love to see a snake of our red smiley shirts curling through the trails of Bushy Park.  And at the back, my spot, I’d get a great view of the full extent of it, stretching into infinity almost, if we just follow the grains of wheat on a chessboard principle, it shouldn’t take too long to get there at all.  No time at all.  Prepare yourself Bushy, we Smileys are stepping out and stepping up and coming your way, ready or not!

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Bushy Parkrun Pilgrimage

People don’t always seem to fully appreciate just how much time went into getting my body into the state it is right now.  I’ve been in possession of most of it for more than fifty years (teeth a bit less) and so that’s five decades of succumbing to the temptation of cake and not voluntarily engaging in exercise because it looks like it might drizzle later and I wouldn’t want to be caught out by that.  It does seem that, regrettably, you reap what you sow health wise,  so now I’m trying to remedy things with embarking on this new-fangled running craze and other fitness experiments.  I do want to lose weight and improve stamina, but sadly lack will power to spontaneously exercise as often as I should and what’s more I am easily distracted by delights like last night’s packet of McCoy crisps with a tub of houmous, yum.  (What do you mean a tub isn’t a portion size?  That’s ridiculous!)  Hence, progress is slow, and a boost is sometimes needed.   Some opt for detox fasts and other such extreme measures, I prefer a less punishing approach.  What I felt was needed was a pilgrimage. A reconnection with my inner runner.  The moral and spiritual home of parkrun was calling out to me.  I would journey to the shrine that is spoken of in a reverential hush by serious parkrunners, I would get myself to Bushy Parkrun where it all began.

bushy parkrun

So, dear reader, last Saturday found me joining the throngs at Bushy parkrun.  Well, it was a bit like that.  Actually, I was in the area anyway so thought I’d trot round, and I have been a fair few times before, but I like to big it up a bit.  After all, Bushy parkrun does have a particular significance in the history of the phenomenon that is parkrun, it is where it all began and if there were any justice in the world then those of us who have made the effort to incorporate this destination into our parkrun Progresses Tourism trips ought to get some sort of indulgence for having done so.  Something modest would suffice.  I don’t know, maybe a few seconds shaved off your personal best say, a couple of pounds off the midriff (or body part of your choosing) and at the very least a bit more respect from your home Parkrun buddies on your return.  That seems only reasonable.  Otherwise something that marks you out as having made the pilgrimage might suffice like, erm, a facial tattoo  That would work.  And providing the tattooing service at the finish would make a welcome change from scanning all those barcodes for the volunteers.  How hard could it be?

Personally though, I was thinking along the lines of some reverential recognition that I have seen sights of which others have only dreamt, and experienced first hand the hallowed ground of Bushy Park.   In joining the throng of nigh on a thousand other runners I have after all been temporarily within the beating heart which is the origin of Parkrun. – even inhaled the sweat of those for whom Bushy is their home patch – surely a higher order of beings?    I have passed through the mysterious ‘double funnel’ that is unique to Bushy, emerging the other end inevitably changed by the experience as if reborn. Taking part is surely like undergoing some sort of rite of passage, right up there with getting a parkrun milestone T-shirt?    Engagement with parkrun can no longer  be characterised as a whim or a crush, oh no, by pounding the trails at Bushy Park at 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I have demonstrated this is for real.  A little kudos by association is all I’m asking for, Bushy parkrun stardust brushing off on me, I’ll never wash my running top again…. Well, that’s how it should be in my parallel universe at least, the reality hasn’t so far borne this expectation out to be honest.  Maybe people are just to too much in awe of my voyage of literal and metaphorical self-discovery they don’t like to mention it?  I myself have been known to clam up on meeting my idols – remind me to tell you about when I met Tony Benn sometime.  You will weep at the tale.

So, here’s what it was actually like.  A lovely day, bit nippy, so I headed out early to walk to the park.  It is in all seriousness a stunning location.  The Royal Parks are gorgeous as the trees are turning into the full spectrum of autumn colours, and it is amazing the wildlife you see.  There are ENORMOUS stags with full antlers on patrol.  These creatures are massive, and not to be messed with in the rutting season.  They have been known to stray onto the double funnel tracks at the finish, though as far as I know the one pictured below hadn’t got a barcode so probably didn’t get a time on this occasion.  (Staggering that some still haven’t grasped that ‘no barcode no official time’ really is non-negotiable no matter the size of your antlers…)

Warren Nolan photo August 2015

Warren Nolan photo August 2015

The walk through the park to the start is lovely, but it is also a bit surreal.  Have you ever seen the opening sequence of the Americanised version of 101 Dalmatians?  You know the one, it’s set in London but there are skunks and raccoons cavorting about.  Well, Bushy Park has an element of that.  You see and hear large numbers of screeching bright green parakeets.  They are so ubiquitous and naturalised they are just part of the landscape here now, but they are still incongruous.  squawking tropical birds flying overhead. The other sight that is bizarre, are the huge motionless carp in the waterways that hang suspended in the shallow water visible from one particular bridge I cross en route to the start.  They are a legacy from the days when you won goldfish as prizes at fairs.  There used to be one held regularly  at Hampton Court Green nearby, children returning home through Bushy Park would often be clutching a veritable shoal of goldfish gasping in little plastic bags.  Not sure quite what to do with them, they would sometimes liberate the poor creatures in the waterways of the park.  Most presumably perished, but a few hardy specimens not only survived but flourished.  They are massive torpedo like creatures, pretty uniform in size, easily over a foot and a half long, and grey and weathered rather than bright gold, but still impressive.  It’s weird with non-native species, they shouldn’t be there, and they will play havoc with natural ecosystems, but these have survived against the odds, and I admit I do like to see them.  They must be pretty ancient now.

So after taking in nature’s bounty on my way, the next hazard was to make sure I wasn’t swept up inadvertently in one of the many British Military Fitness (other outdoor boot camps are available) sessions that were about to commence.  Running is bad enough, I didn’t want to be made to do press-ups and burpees in a tabard as well.  Bushy Park on a Saturday morning seems to be not only a mecca for Parkrunners, but for any other manifestation of violent physical exercise you can imagine.   I have said before that the arrival of people for a parkrun always makes me think of that scene in Close Encounters where silently people assemble at a particular time and place  as if compelled to do so by an invisible force.  Whilst this is true of all parkruns I think, it is especially noticeable at Bushy Park.  Hundreds of people emerge from the trees and mist and start to gather, it’s very weird.  Part of the gathering is by the loos.

I am a bit of a pro where the precautionary pee is concerned, so head straight to the ladies.  My prior knowledge of this location really comes into its own here.  Whilst the facilities are really good, an actual building with lots of cubicles near to the start, you still have to take care.  There is one particular cubical at the end that is missing a panel at the side.  This isn’t obvious until you are in situ so to speak, and it can have an arresting affect on your rate of flow when you are positioned in all your glory and suddenly feel like you are on display to the world.  In fact, people queuing directly outside can’t really see in, because the missing panel is quite low, but when you are stiing down you can see everyone outside so it really does feel exposed.  I prefer to avoid it.  So that’s a top tip for you if you are heading off to Bushy parkrun for yourself.  There is probably similar insider information available regarding etiquette in the gents, but I didn’t check that out, you’ll have to make that voyage of discovery for yourself!

Start line address, October 215 - picture taken from Bushy Parkrun Flickr feed

Start line address, October 215 – picture taken from Bushy Parkrun Flickr feed

So, eventually, I made it to the start line.  It is like being at a proper organised race here, there are serious logistics in operation.  An army of hi-viz marshalls, and the race director gives an address with a microphone, speakers held aloft by volunteers elsewhere.  It has the feel of a cross between a school assembly and an open air political rally.  A community coming together for a common cause.  Because I’m short, and placed myself towards the back, I couldn’t make out entirely what was going on.   Despite the size of the crowd, it was a fairly personal introduction.  People were congratulated on the previous week’s milestones; some of that days runners were picked out for applause.  Volunteers thanked – I think there was probably a mention of the Alzheimers ‘Donate your time’ project, which is an ace initiative.  I clapped when it felt appropriate.  Which wasn’t always correct.  There was one point when the race director asked for the following people to come forward to collect something, and assuming it was some sort of local prize giving I clapped dutifully – only to subsequently realise that this wasn’t people being awarded trophies, but rather miscreants, who had carelessly lost their barcodes on previous runs being reunited with them.  Oh well, you live and learn.

After the speeches, the stampede.  It was a bit of a free for all, you start on even grass, between a wide avenue of trees, but quite quickly you converge on a narrower path. You have to either risk the scrum of the bottle neck, or bound across the multitude of mole hills – strictly speaking I think they are ant hills, they are, solid, ancient, and everywhere, and pretty challenging.  I opted for the latter, it takes a good kilometre to even out the field, but I quite like the uneven terrain, it feels like you are in the great outdoors and it’s a sort of mini-adventure.  The event was well marshalled, no pacers this week, but they do have them with some frequency.  Here though I noticed there were a lot more runners with dogs on those waist leads – you know the ones, they drag the runner along at phenomenal speeds.  There are also a large number of what I term ‘Thunder Buggies’  all – terrain  two seaters which you can hear bearing down on you from metres behind, sometimes with a small child inside shouting encouragement (instruction) to their pushers ‘faster, faster!’  I did my best to keep out of the way of them.  The one thing that Bushy parkrun has that seems a less desirable anomaly, is that there are also a fair few very small kids on bikes.  They seem to whizz about rather randomly.  You know what happens to a balloon if you blow it up and then let it go without tying the end?  How they shoot off at speed in unpredictable ways, well it was a bit like that.   Still, good for the reflexes I suppose.

This route suits me, not for speed – it’s a slow one because of the crowds, and in my case because I don’t run very fast anyway, but I really like that you go through such lovely parkland and can take in the deer, and trees and everything else that surrounds you.  It is also just one loop, which I find much easier than being ‘made to do it all again’ like failed homework, which is how I sometimes feel on my two laps home run.  The conversations around me are quality.  People chatting about future running plans, hilariously (to me) moans at ‘the hill’!  There really isn’t a hill, I’m not sure there’s even a slope, a teensy weensy incline maybe, but that would be pushing it. These people will be in a shock if they ever come to Sheffield. city of hills and pathological friendliness.

I felt like part of an in-crowd when I recognised one of the marshals, and was recognised back getting a special wave and shout of encouragement.  I make a point of always thanking marshals, generally runners do I think, but I like that if you make a point of saying ‘Thank you marshal’ loudly enough, you trigger a chorus of other ‘thank yous’ in your wake.  It is very pleasing, if a bit goody two-shoes for some.  As an aside, I’ve heard tell that Richmond parkrun doesn’t have (any?) or at any rate many marshals for some reason.  I heard from someone who did volunteer as a marshal there, that he didn’t get much acknowledgement at all.  This seems very wrong to me.   Runners out there, hail your marshals, (and whilst I’m about it, cough up donations in lieu of free photos for the TenTenTen and think about donating your time for Alzheimer’s too, it’s a way of paying back for the gratis pleasure of Parkrun week after week.)  I was shocked by the Richmond tale if true.  Those people would struggle in Sheffield where you can be tutted off a bus if you fail to thank the driver on disembarking.  I guess it’s the anonymity of city living made manifest in the park…  Culture shock is inevitable if you travel I suppose.  On the other hand, in the interests of balance, I have also heard that Richmond parkrun is organised a bit differently from other runs, everyone follows behind a bike, so there isn’t the same culture of marshals around. This being so, perhaps the runners are a bit confused when they see them.  Much like if you were to spot a unicorn or a leprechaun out running, you might be quite chuffed and delighted to see such a precious rarity, but you wouldn’t necessarily know immediately what to say (see Tony Benn reference above), so let’s give them all the benefit of the doubt.  I’ll go and see for myself one day.

So back to Bushy parkrun.  Favourite overheard conversation today was when I found myself amongst a group of people who were running together.  One was obviously more serious than the others, kitted out with a Garmin (or whatever) and telling tales of races and duathlons and triathlons past and pending.  With him was a guy of similar age who at a guess was doing his first parkrun.  I strongly suspect he’d underestimated how hard it would be and he was definitely struggling to maintain a conversation whilst his mate chatted away companionably (or in this case possibly competitively), but he wasn’t going to back down and slacken his pace.  There were some others in the gang too, it all looked good-humoured and bonding.  Then, at the 4 km mark (a particular big tree is a clue, that and the chorus of mechanical beeps ticking off the route on other runners various gizmos as they go by).  The ‘serious’ runner, began to say ‘Right 4 km, our exact time is and our kph rate is ..’  he was cut dead by a chorus of  ‘nos’!  ‘we don’t want to hear!’  For me this sort of encapsulates the continuum of parkrun participants, the puffing rounders, the statisticians, and the ‘I’ll just do my own thing’ runners – there is room for us all!  The statistician and the human interest runners perhaps represent the yin and yan of the parkrun community.

So course completed, through a crowded finish line and in to the double funnel, which I find unfathomable still, even after nearly a dozen outings to Bushy.  You just have to trust it.  It is perhaps the eighth wonder of the world – or in any event it ought to be.  I was quickly scanned and that’s was that for another morning.  I passed the finish on my way out of the park, and clapped a few returners back.  I felt a pang of conscience for my mean-spiritedness about the kids on trikes.  An exhausted looking woman pushing a double buggy with one occupant, had another small child on a bike at her side, and they were hammering towards the finish, she calling encouragement to them both.  It was truly inspirational.  Of course parkrun should be as inclusive as it can – lawks a lordy, it’s made room for me after all!

I love parkrun, I really do.  Even better when combined with stag sightings, it’s like an urban safari, you should see the packs of photographers with their telephoto lenses queuing up to get shots of the really majestic males posing in the bracken.  They are a sight to behold as much as their quarry.   Got to be worth the effort of getting up on a Saturday morning to take in all that.  Thank you Bushy parkrun for your hospitality.  You may be the Mecca of the parkrun community, but you have retained your integrity, inclusiveness and ability to extend a welcome to tourists and regulars alike!

Maxwell Hamilton photo 11/2013

Maxwell Hamilton photo 11/2013

So til next time, wonder where parkrun tourism will take me next…

Oh, and as to whether or not this parkrun pilgrimage has delivered up fitness benefits through my reconnecting with my inner runner, well it remains to be seen.  It was great to be there, and would be something to tell wide-eyed off-spring one day if I actually had any issue to inflict such stories on, never mind, I’ll have to settle with accosting random strangers like that ancient mariner – worked for him  – or maybe I should I keep a running blog!  That might work…

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

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