Posts Tagged With: Bushy Park

The Spirit of Bushy parkrun. 15th Birthday Brilliance at Bushy parkrun.

Digested read:  I went to Bushy parkrun for their 15th Birthday Bonanza.  It was epic.  There is however a darkside to parkrun I discovered.  But in a good way…

LC the awards

Undigested read:

Well, yes it was ‘epic’ but I’m hardly going to leave my account at that now am I?  Have you not been concentrating on my previous parkrun posts?  Concise isn’t really my thing, but on the plus side, that’s what scroll buttons are for, and you can always just whizz through the photos if you prefer.  On the other hand, if you are up for the account then best to strap yourself in, it’s going to be a long one.  Maybe get some tissues to go with your pot of tea/bottle of neat vodka and/or other assorted victuals, it was after all quite an emotional roller coaster of a day.  A good one, but overwhelming for sure, and reliving it all, might just trigger a purely reflex reaction of general teariness.  Or it might not.  I don’t know, maybe you dear reader have a heart of stone, but keep the tissues handy anyway, just in case a friend needs them, or you are coming down with the first cold of autumn, it would be the right thing to do.

So, where to start?

Well, let’s start with a swirly scene dissolve sequence to signify traveling back in time, because, my perspective on Bushy parkrun’s 15th Birthday (which by happy and fortuitous coincidence just happens to be actual parkrun’s birthday too – what were the chances of that?) started a few weeks prior to the day. 

I got a message.

Not from some weird spirit or voices from the sky, or even from deciphering the imagery in my morning bowl of porridge, rather more prosaic.  An actual message through Facebook.  Not just any old message, but one from the epicentre of parkrun.  One from the Bushy parkrun Event director himself!  So actually, pretty awesome, and way preferable to hearing voices in my humble opinion.  It said, basically,

…  we have a little* prize giving every year on our anniversary, this year it falls on Oct 5th. One of the awards we introduced a few years ago was Spirit of parkrun and we would love to present it to Elisabeth this year … do you think we’d be able to get her across to the start area for the presentation?

For clarification, this Elisabeth. That’s my mum.  I exist in the parkrun world only as ‘Elisabeth’s Daughter’, it is my tenuous claim to fame.

Oh.  My.   Gawd.  This was amazing news.  She’d be beyond ecstatic, and I’ve been wanting to get her to see the start and finish of Bushy parkrun for herself for years.  This would be a great excuse to get her over there and ‘make it so’.  There were a few logistical challenges to work out, but I could go down from Sheffield, and there would be a veritable parkrun army of well wishers on hand to help if needed.  This was going to happen.  It couldn’t be a surprise as I needed to work out the details with mum, but it was going to happen.

I replied with what I hoped was an appropriate level of effusive enthusiasm, both on my behalf and mum’s too.   She was chuffed, delighted, totally up for it.  I could not wait.  How as I going to keep it secret when I was bursting with wanting to share.

‘I’ll have to think about outfits for us both too’ I said

‘Outfits?’

‘Fancy dress outfits, it is going to be fancy dress right?’

‘Erm…’

Not fancy dress then.  Lucky the topic came up, it was only because I made a chance remark about I found out.  It just never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be fancy dress.  I had just assumed it would be because I understood that is the default parkrun party celebratory way. It shows yet again, everyday is a learning opportunity.  Mind you, it would have been hilarious if I’d rocked up with mum and me in complementary themed fancy dress outfits.  Not gonna lie, there’s a teensy bit of me that wishes I hadn’t been disabused of my misunderstanding, it would have been a classic.  And you know what, if we had, it would have been fine.  There’s usually a few people sporting fancy dress at any given parkrun anyway, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t have been us on this particular day.   If junior parkrunners can turn up at parkrun in minion onesies just because they felt like it, why not us too – apart from the fact I don’t have a minion onesie – but otherwise my point still stands.  Still, maybe just as well, finding something to go with her traditional Happy Birthday parkrun sash  might have been a challenge.  I got on with ordering that, and asked her what colour she wanted.  ‘It has to be orange that’s the parkrun colour!’ well apricot technically, but good call.  All those months and years of watching parkrun have not been wasted, she has totally internalised the parkrun palette.  It’s not only the high fives she’s nailed since she became an honorary marshal on the Bushy parkrun course.

kudos to parkrun

The semiotics of parkrun eh?  Someone should write a book on that – or maybe do a podcast.  Perhaps a niche OU sponsored variant special edition of With Me Now – a With Me Know broadcast has a certain ring to it?

Re the keeping it a secret bit, I did try really hard, but I may have sort of accidentally told a couple of very exceptional individuals who weren’t in the Bushy parkrun circle ‘in total and absolute confidence‘ as in ‘this is a secret but not a secret, it’s only ever to be divulged on a strictly need to know basis‘.  You need to understand this was basically a necessity for health and safety purposes, I’d have imploded if I’d had to keep that to myself, and with my brain splattered around the interior of my Sheffield home, and my undiscovered imploded carcass adorning my hallway in a star shape, who’d have taken mum to the start line in Bushy park?  Precisely.  I know, unthinkable!

The excitement continued to build as the countdown continued.  Little teasers appeared on the parkrun uk Facebook page.  The 15th anniversary commemorative barcode flatband, the poster for the first ever Bushy parkrun time trial was dug out from someone or other’s attic and reposted for the digital age.  Also, some uplifting videos reminding us why we do parkrun, not that we all need reminding necessarily, but it’s still nice to hear other people’s stories. 

Whangarei parkrun excelled even themselves by having their very own darkrun by way of celebration. This was run as a freedom run, simultaneously with everyone taking off on the start line of Bushy parkrun at 9.00 a.m..  That was 9.00 p.m. in New Zealand, hence they were in the dark, but a select group darkran/parkran and celebrated with cake and probably fizz as well.  It is the parkrun way!  I really want to go to Whangarei parkrun one day, they positively ooze the parkrun ethos.  Darkruns are catching on over there thanks to them!

sept5 18A small group gathered for Whangarei darkrun and I understand a thoroughly enjoyable event resulted. Denise very kindly provided a celebratory cake. The night was made memorable by a visitor from Hamilton , Joseph Morgan, who ran the course in 16:01 which would be a course record. Of course it being a Freedom Run and an unofficial event it will not take the official title, but nonetheless it is a stunning time and we congratulate Joseph. Incidentally his brother Adam also ran and was not far behind! (Apologies, the picture is badly cropped, but you get the idea!)

sept6 19Whangarei was also the catalyst for a South Island darkrun at Pegasus which was very successful and included a live link with Market Harbororo parkrun in the UK . Quite a day down there with the celebration earlier in the day of the completion of 500 parkruns by Steve Darby, the first time that has been achieved by anyone outside the UK.

It isn’t even the first time they’ve done this, here are the original darkrun crew from 2017.

Whangarei original darkrun

That’s dedication isn’t it.  High Five to Whangarei parkrun!  And to Pegasus parkrun too!  I wonder if there is a Running Challenges badge for nabbing parkruns linked to mythical beasts?  There should be, gap in the market I’d say.  Greytown Trail parkrun had a darkrun too.  Double the parkrun fun all in one day!  Yay.  Like the New Year’s Day double here except only one counts, they are 12 hours apart and one is in the pitch dark and a freedom run, but otherwise identical.  Bound to catch on. Not.

greytown woodside trail parkrun darkrun

Mind you who expected 13 on 2nd October 2014 to become 1838 13 years later?  That’s right dear reader.  Nobody at all.  Can you tell which starting line up is which?  Go on, be brave, take a wild guess…  Maybe New Zealand freedom darkruns of the future will have similarly grown exponentially.  Only a matter of time.

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Anyway, where was I?  Stop distracting me with all these questions about darkrun, fine innovation as that is.  Oh yes, I was indulging in the anticipatory build up to the big day.  My Facebook feed was full of it, mind you it is always full of all things parkrun, no idea what the point of Facebook is otherwise to be honest.

The actual anniversary was 2nd October, though the nearest Saturday/ parkrunday was 5th october, and parkrun UK reminded us of this with some handy stats.

birthday stats

Time ticked by, and eventually, amazingly there was just one more sleep to go.  I had a nightmare drive down from Sheffield, a record 8 hour drive due to the M1 being closed in a couple of sections.  However, you have to think of those who never made it to their destination at all, and I did, so let’s keep perspective eh?  Quick visit to mum, she had her hi-vis all ready, and her birthday sashes too, looking good.  One more sleep.  Not that it was a sleep really because I was SO EXCITED!  And also, had to invest time in excited texts and messages with parkrunners and supporters various to check out who was going to be there for the big celebration.  Turns out, it was basically everyone in the whole wide parkrun world, so I could have saved myself the trouble of contacting people.  Joking apart, it was brilliant to be sharing the anticipatory excitement, and many  of the Bushy parkrun team touched base too, offering support on the day as needed.

And then it was tomorrow!  Which was, in case you haven’t been concentrated, or maybe just skipped ahead parkrun day and Bushy parkrun’s 15th birthday!  Yay!  Let’s get this party started.

Over to pick up mum, and she was pretty much in readiness, with her hair done specially and so it was just a question of gathering up everything bar the kitchen sink ‘just in case’ into the car and – after texting to say we were en route –  off we went round to the carpark near the coffee shack and the Bushy parkrun finish line.  I knew there was a couple of disabled parking bays there, but we went early because it was going to be rammed.  It was about 8.10 a.m. as we were driving along Chestnut avenue, we could see some runners whizzing about – with the benefit of hindsight, I wonder if this was some of the original golden barcode bearing parkrunners, who I gather met and ran the original route, started by Paul S-H himself after he’d given the traditional run briefing apparently.  It was on the With Me Now, special Bushy parkrun Birthday Edition broadcast – more of that later.  There were some humungous stags about, it is the rutting season, and they had to cancel Bushy junior parkrun because of them potentially charging.  The threat is real, but I think even a rutting stag might give way to 1800 plus runners.  This roaring beastie was snapped in Richmond Park.  Respect.

jules cox photo

Photo taken by https://www.instagram.com/julescoxphotography/ following the British Deer Society Code of Conduct: https://bit.ly/2Eqr0EK

You could see from a distance the car park was full, and as we cornered there was a TV van, and hundreds of people purposefully setting up for the occasion.  It was amazing, and we’d not even parked up.  I could feel myself filling up, this was going to be quite an extraordinary day.  The scale of the event takes your breath away. I’ve run at it loads of times over the years, but this day was something else.

exciting!

Mercifully, the disabled space was free, and we pulled up.  Mum was soon safely out of the car and into her wheelchair, sash straightened, hi-vis on,  and into the collective embrace of parkrun.  Honestly, it took seconds for her ‘regulars’ to spot her and come rushing over.  Although mum has got to know people at her corner, obviously there are limits to how long they can talk for as inconveniently they are mid-parkrun and have to press on.  It was just brilliant that many came across for ‘proper’ hellos and yep, the photos started.  I wonder if this is what it is like being in the entourage of a famous celebrity, you are just stunned by the attention, the paparazzi, the fan base.  It’s overwhelming.  Actually scratch that.  What am I saying ‘I wonder if this is what it is like being in the entourage of a famous celebrity’.  No need to wonder dear reader, that is exactly what I was.   And it was great.

I left mum surrounded by well-wishers taking selfies.  I was filling up already and we’d not even left the car park.

and rang the RD who was organising the awards ceremony.  They had two RDs today, one doing run stuff and one doing awards stuff.  The team at Bushy parkrun is amazing.  It’s huge, but still friendly, and the whole event runs like a well-oiled machine.  A well oiled machine fuelled by cake and prosecco and the positive endorphins that fly around the park I think.

I headed to the big birthday balloons, which are mandatory for Bushy parkrun’s birthday as it is a parkrun rule that Paul S-H has to be photographed alongside them. In years to come this may no longer be environmentally acceptable what with the plastic and helium and all, but this impulse was nevertheless indulged today, and, I’ll let you into a secret, quite a few other people embraced the photo opportunity they presented too.  The pictures tell their own story.  Here’s the starter though:

Paul and balloons

Despite getting my contact on the phone, I had a little trouble spotting him because firstly, I was looking in completely the wrong direction, and secondly, he was in disguise not yet wearing a high vis.  However, we made contact, and I got a lovely welcome, and directed to where the awards were to be presented.  It wasn’t too far, and mercifully the rain of the last few seemingly months had stopped.  The compact path was pretty good, I’d been in a panic about whether the wheelchair would be robust enough for it, but all was well.  What I hadn’t factored in was how slow progress would be as it was like doing a royal walkabout wheelabout.  So many well-wishers.

By the time I got back to mum, she had been located by the Bushy parkrun team who were in on the awards and around to help.  Happy reunions, they were awesome, not only because all parkrunners are awesome anyway, and they were great company, but also because they helped make the magic happen by clearing routes, sourcing balloons and selfie-frames and carrying out all those individually small but cumulatively huge and magnificent gestures that made the morning get better and better!  I now realise, my whole life would just run so much more smoothly if I had a couple of attentive and proactive personal assistants to accompany me about my daily business.  It was fantastic!  Thanks team Bushy!

We passed the film crew – it was going live on the BBC apparently, later I had a moment of disappointment at having missed it, but then again, that’s ridiculous as WE WERE THERE ACTUALLY EXPERIENCING IT ALL FIRST HAND which is way better.  Anyway, I was still sulking after the One Show coverage, so annoyed about how negative the guests present were about it afterwards, totally missing the point.  Oh well, let it go, their loss after all.  Poor people not yet inducted into the way of parkrun, their lives must seem strangely pointless without it…  They deserve our pity not our hate.  It must be awful for them.  I’ve moved on already.

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Next challenge, was to make it down the long path, but there were lots of micro-adventures and distractions along the way.  Photo ops and greetings too.  Our Bushy parkrun snatch squad managed to requisition the balloons so we could take pictures in all possible combinations of groupings.  It was hilarious.  You’d be amazed how much fun potential is contained within a couple of balloons.  Awesome.  That was going to be hard to top…. 

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Hard, but not impossible it turns out.  It turns out, that this yellow brick road was studded with ever escalating awesomeness along the way.  I say this, because ‘suddenly’ out of the autumnal mist (I might have made up the bit about the autumn mist, but I like to think it adds atmosphere) not one, not two, but THREE Pauls emerged.  This was amazing, the holy trinity of Pauls.  All of these Pauls are important in different ways.  One founded parkrun, which you might have heard of, one was responsible for posting a picture of when he delivered a Christmas card for mum and she shared with him what parkrun means to her which set in motion many more Christmas cards, and one is another Bushy parkrun stalwart, Bushy junior parkrun instigator who has proactively offered support to mum in practical ways.  The problem is, that up until now, they have never been gathered together in one place.  I don’t know if that’s because like the royals who travel on different planes, they daren’t risk all being taken out simultaneously by a rutting stag or falling tree; or if it is because time and space will invert and collapse if they are all seen at once; or – and I’ve thought about this a lot – if it’s because like Superman and Clark Kent, they are actually all the same person.

superman and alter ego

Well, you do start to wonder.  I’ve invested quite a lot of time and effort trying to explain to my mum who is who (or should that be who is whom?  My grammar fails me), but they’ve all sort of merged into one multi-talented, multi-faceted, interchangeable Paul, and it’s hard to differentiate one from the other.  I mean she knows each individual identity, but as soon as we have any conversation in which I refer to a parkrun Paul, it becomes immediately confusing trying to explain which one I mean.  Similarly when looking at pictures, all Pauls can seem pretty much the same if you only see them one at a time apparently.  In my defence, I mentioned this to the partner of one of the Pauls and they agreed that this was a valid point and they felt the same on occasion, that they seemed interchangeable at times and it does get confusing,  so it isn’t just my mum.  Anyway, today was the day that kept on giving, because they all came, and they all posed, and it was THE BEST THING EVER ALL DAY (until the next best thing ever all day, because like I said before, it just kept getting better).

Here they are a-gathering 

And they did attract a lot of attention:

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and it was so exciting there might have been so over excited and opportunistic photo bombing going on.  I was trying to play it super cool alongside parkrun royalty myself, but not sure I totally nailed it on this occasion:

Despite the mass of people, there was time for some proper conversation too.  This photo is another BEST THING EVER that happened on Bushy parkrun’s birthday.  Thanks Wendy Stokes for the pic.  It is taken from her awesome run report for the Bushy parkrun 15th Birthday event which is a must read too.  Here are two icons of Bushy parkrun sharing words of wisdom.

sharing words of wisdom

It was basically like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Bushy parkrun.  Like I said before EVERYONE was there.  Oh, and then we found the selfie frame. This was just the beginning, gets even more genius later on…  I’m not sure I’d properly inducted mum into the joys of selfie frames at this point, but even though it looks marginally like elder abuse to the ill-informed, all these photo based activities were in fact consensual.

and we continued our slow progress to the area near the start where a table was set up in readiness for the awards.  But more friends emerged from the throng.  This one is my namesake, and, although it’s a bit tricky to pinpoint exactly at what point Elisabeth was first noticed by the Bushy parkrun community, her formal recognition was as a result of this member of the core team, saying very sensibly, well, if she’s there every week anyway it’s high time she had her own hi-vis.  And someone, not sure who, maybe a team, maybe Lucy herself, duly walked down to present her with her very own marshaling tabard many moons ago.  From thereon in she was an honorary marshal for Bushy parkrun.  I remember that day, because when I spoke to mum in the evening afterwards she was so thrilled to have been recognised and welcomed into the parkrun community. It was both a small thing and an enormous thing at the same time.  I might have got something in my eye that evening too.  Honestly, I do like Bushy parkrun, but the allergens there are so powerful they could bring tears to my eyes even over a phone line to Sheffield.  I know, almost unbelievable.  I do have a tendency to be allergic to things, but it’s still quite bad. I think it may be that sadly I’m allergic to unicorn hair or something, there are loads of unicorns in Bushy park, so perhaps it’s that.  Anyway, high time we got a picture of these two together.  The start of the chain reaction that culminated in today. 

One day, I’m going to use my hallway wall to create an incident room time line of the sequence of events that led to the naming of Elisabeth’s corner and the celebrations of today.  Like on Vera, or maybe Sherlock Holmes, the new version with Benolin Cumbersnatch, I like the idea of those hi-tech interactive glass boards to work with.  It’s higher up the food chain than post it notes, though I do like Vera, maybe she could be my consultant…  Also, on reflection, I get quite excited by colourful stationery, and this would be a great pretext for getting a stash of new highlighter pens and novelty post it notes so potentially something like this:

investigation wall

but with more hi-vis, milestone tees, fancy dress, christmas cards, and TpoT orange beanie hats.  A project for another time, you must be on your second pot of tea/ bottle of vodka by now, and we’ve not even made it to the start line yet…

More and more friends emerged, some pre-arranged, some by happy chance.  Many were delighted to see mum at the start, if a bit perplexed as to what the implications for this might be when they got to Elisabeth’s Corner and found her absent.  I was kicking myself for not having thought to put some sort of hi-vis substitute in place for the duration, that could have been hilarious.  What about her parkrun public who count on seeing her at the half-way mark to give them the necessary energy boost to make it round to the end?  Oh well too late now.  Hello best ever photographer for taking fab photos of mum over the years (sorry I don’t have the skills to quite return the favour), hello pioneer parkrunner – congratulations on your 250th milestone and well done for having a balloon – nice to see a fellow Smiley here,  hello everyone! 

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While we were having our micro-adventures trying to get to the start area and the presentations table, others were similarly migrating across the park.  Not least, David Moorcroft, who was to be presenting the awards.  One of my favourite posts from today (of which there are a great many to be fair, often the one I’ve most recently looked at) is this one, of a cheery parkrunner welcoming a newbie to her home parkrun.  ‘Do you run much/ at all?‘  Oops.  Only not oops at all, because she was appropriately welcoming and that makes her a winner to me.  Yay!

do you run much.png

It is amazing, everyone of the 1838 runners plus volunteers and parkrun entourage had their own physical, mental and emotional journey to get to the start.  It can be both the simplest and hardest thing to rock up.  If you listen to the With Me Now parkrun special edition podcast, you might like me, be surprised to hear from others how it took a bit of courage to turn up the first time, and sometimes still does.  But it’s always worth it.  You just start by reaching out and saying hello, or not even that, just turn up and observe from the sidelines if you want, you are still significant and a part of parkrun for doing so.

Anyway, on the subject of ‘oops’ as we went towards the start, mum struck up conversation with David Moorcroft.  She had no idea who he was at this point.  Sorry.  Thought he was very nice and friendly though, which is actually more important and more of a compliment isn’t it.  She was querying why his N was the wrong way round on his tee shirt.  I’ve clearly not kept her up to speed with the merits of the COИTRA brand.  Oops.   A few people were sporting the raspberry tees today by the way, they were really nice.  I’m tempted, but then I’ve just splashed out on my apricot tee…

contra.png

En route I spotted another familiar face – a splendid individual to whom I am still grateful for securing us extra Smiletastic points during a running challenge on account of her dragonfly necklace.  Long story.  Smiletastic can be quite hard to explain… We first met when I was on a running weekend including a track session, Bushy parkrun (obvs) and a recovery run round Richmond park too.  Also, and this is crucial, a meal out, during which she wore said dragonfly necklace, and through some shameless meddling with the points allocation system, nabbed our Smiletastic Dragonfly team some extra points.  Yay.  We even requisitioned it for a photo op, and one of the Pauls took the picture too, proving they can be handy accessories to have around in all sorts of unexpected contexts.  Also, I think it must have been quite a novel experience for him standing the other side of a camera lens, so everyone’s a winner!  I’m actually quite surprised he knew how to operate it at all.  We probably had to direct him… 

We were pointing at the dragonfly brooch.  Don’t be childish.

Anyway, as well as her being intrinsically awesome, and getting us smiletastic points, on this occasion she introduced me to the RD for Colwick parkrun, another of my favourites, who was touristing at Bushy parkrun today.   I went to Colwick parkrun earlier in the year, but this RD was away then for some reason, so it was nice to say hello.  It’s a great run, if you go, you have to wear a Hawaiian shirt, I mean the RD was trying to convince me that’s not strictly true, but trust me on this one.   Love the parkrun network, it reaches everywhere.  Finally, we found ourselves at the front of the presentation audience, my lovely Bushy parkrun assistants having cleared a way through the throngs to secure us prime position.  Having contacts does help.

And then the awards commenced.  The RD did a lovely intro – encouraging us to look at our watches around the 13 minute mark and note where we were and that back in the day David would have been zipping down the finish funnel at just that point.  David Moorcroft added some heartfelt comments too, he was a great choice.  Fortuitously, a friend took a video of the start and some of the early awards, they are also documented in the aforementioned run report, so I’ll resist the temptation to go through it all again here.  Just take it from me that it was all heartwarming, celebrating and sharing the joy of parkrun.  A very special morning indeed.  I freely admit I was quite overcome, but for the record, the photo below, which I’ve included in the interests of transparency and because it meets the comedic element criteria which overrides my default reflex of deleting unflattering photos, is the face I pull when I recognise a parkrun face in the crowd.  In this instance the amazing Waterworks parkrunner who became my best friend when we bonded pre marathon at Southwark parkrun.  She’s not only awesome in her own right, but appreciates the importance of fancy dress on any and all occasions.  Of course it was emotional seeing her, even though I’d known she was coming.  I can’t help having a slightly manic and over-excitable disposition on occasions so I may as well embrace it.  I may look pained and in shock, but it was coming from a happy place.  Just shows how hard it is to read emotions.  No wonder social interactions can be so fraught, it’s a complete minefield.  You can never really tell what someone is thinking, just have to go with your instincts and hope for the best. 

And you can click on the link to see for yourself if you want the full immersive experience.  And let’s face it, why wouldn’t you?  Hope the link works.

So the various awards were dished out to worthy winners all, and it was lovely how the parkrun family came together to celebrate diverse achievements.

But then, the for me BEST BIT OF THE MORNING EVER was coming with the final award.  The RD did an awesome build up, not naming mum but referring to her as ‘this person…. more famous that Paul Sinton-Hewitt‘.  Credit where credit is due, this RD knows how to work a crowd.  He spoke of how she’s at her corner week in week out – ‘but she’s not there today‘ a gasp of horror from the assembled company… to be replaced by a cheer of relief as he added ‘because she’s here at the start!’.  It was just the best noise in the world ever, real affection.  And then when she was presented with her award, the applause went on for ever.  Well, nearly for ever, I mean we still had to stop to have parkrun happen at some point – and then she held her award aloft and a great collective whoop went up.  Best thing in the world ever!  It is- quite a solid chunk of glass with a personalised inscription on it  and has considerable heft, anyone would be delighted.  This moment gave rise to my favourite photo of the morning EVER, until the next picture popped up in my newsfeed obvs.

mum and david moorcroft

But you know what,  you don’t have to take my word for it, you can see if for yourself in the clip below.   The volunteer of the year gets his recognition first, and then it’s the final award of the morning to my mum about one minute in.  Not a dry eye in the park I can tell you.  Those blooming unicorn allergens eh?

It all went off to perfection.  All the award winners were present, the day stayed dry, and now it was time for the run.  As people dispersed snatched a few more hellos, and a little bit of trophy admiring (more of this later).  I took the opportunity to go in with a big hug of emotional gratitude to David Moorcroft, he looked a bit startled.  It was only as I walked away it dawned on me that although I was meaning to just express appreciation for the brilliant way he gave out the awards to everyone including my mum, he would have had no idea at all who I was and what I was doing.  In the circumstances he handled it well, all the same, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise for scaring him and potentially invading his personal space.  The irony is I’m not even all that huggy generally speaking, but something about the whole parkrun/ running vibe that stimulates this impulse in me.  I think it does for others too.  We’re all on hugging terms here… but even so, note to self, maybe check first next time.

and then positioned ourselves in a good spot to watch the start.  It was the first time mum had ever seen this, and what a day to choose.  Some good parkrun citizen had the wit to take a video of the start line.  It went on for ever!  Mind you, even the stills are quite impressive:

AB start

It’s an extraordinary sight to see a whole sea of people moving like a tsunami across the grass and towards the ant hills.  Amazing.  Here is another video clip of the start from a different – more courageous angle some would say

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Wow, a lot of people pile past pretty speedily – and then they are gone, winding their parkrun way out of sight

Bushy parkrun around they go

see them run!

SG parkrun surge

Time to turn about, and make our way to the finish funnel, or more specifically a new, one time only honorary marshal point from where we could cheer the parkrunners in.  Time for a bit more trophy admiring en route though, and a proper chat with parkrun supporter friends who’d come especially to see mum’s prize giving.  That was fantastic, it is wonderful to share such moments.  Mum was really taken with the way running gear adorned the railings round the trees.  Funny the things you notice being there for the first time.  One of the hi-vis heroes sped off as she was in charge of spot prizes for the finish funnel.  I’m not quite sure what the prizes were – a lifetime of free parkruns maybe?  But what she’d done was use the letters that they give out to organise the funnel, to spell out Happy Birthday Bushy parkrun, and whoever got one of the letters appearing in the phrase would get a prize.  Presumably not necessarily in the right order, the turnout was certainly great, but they weren’t expecting that many on the day!  Genius idea.  As someone who has no chance of ever winning a prize on account of my athletic prowess at any organised run, I’m a massive fan of spot prizes!

We found a good spot, and a non-running parkrunner to share it with.  She was doing the Kingston Half Marathon the next day, so tapering ‘us too!’ I said, a bit too forcefully, I think my ploy was well and truly rumbled. 

If you want to experience the actual run, number one option is to come and take part in it.  However, an acceptable position two, is to take a bit of time to watch this brilliant youtube video which basically summarises the whole event.  To be honest, I could have saved us all a great deal of time and bother by just putting this link up in the first place, but where would be the fun in that.  My blog post might be uncomfortably long, but it is a much more effective procrastination tool, so basically you make your choice and you take your chance.  Nevertheless, I offer up Here we are running’s take on the morning.  It omits my mum, but don’t worry, I think it’s fair to say I’ve more than compensated for that oversight, so no hard feelings eh?

I sat and watched this YouTube video with my mum.  She’s never seen the course from a runner’s perspective and was completely rapt.  Recognising parts of the park she used to explore a lot.

So after not very long at all, first the lead bikes came into view.  I don’t know why they have two, I mean it’s sensible to do so, but wouldn’t it be more fun if they whizzed round on a tandem.  Or even a rickshaw – now that would be prime position to have a ride in the back of one of them.

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Right behind the bikes, the front runners, they are insanely fast, and giving it their all.

After the run I was asking mum what her main observations were from the day, there were lots, she’d had a great time, but one comment that made me chuckle was that she said she noticed the runners looked a lot more tired at the end of the run than they did at the half-way mark.    Good point, well made!

She was in fine form cheering and clapping with considerable stamina.

It was lovely to see the reactions of parkrunners.  Not all had heard the briefing so some were concerned that she hadn’t been at her usual spot of Elisabeth’s Corner.  I resisted the temptation to pretend we were still at the halfway point by calling out ‘well done, just one more lap to go!‘ as I think that joke has been done to death and isn’t always as funny as you think when you are actually running.  I have learned this from bitter personal experience.  You have to appreciate the runners who are fleet of foot and speed by, but it’s extra fun if you are cheering and people wave or high five.  My mum was ecstatic when she spotted one of her ‘regulars’ and there are loads of them.  You can’t not feel good giving out high fives and cheers at a marshal point, it’s just the best.  Especially brilliant was seeing happy parkrunners who’d obviously been worried because she’d not been at her usual spot.  Such an outpouring of affection.  People do care about each other, more than we maybe realise, but perhaps we need to give ourselves permission to express it somehow, and that’s what parkrun does.  Allows us to see the best in others and ourselves.  Giving and receiving a high five is quite an art though, some of those parkrunners could take you out with one, I should know, I’ve been almost flattened by the force of a four year old high fiving at full velocity on the course of Graves junior parkrun.  I wonder if RDs do a risk assessment for shoulder dislocations as part of the generic parkrun preparations?  Note to self, must ask.

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In the midst of all this clapping, and cheering and high fiving, we had a visitation from Danny of With Me Now, who – quite rightly – had worked out no account of a visit to Bushy parkrun would be complete without including the infamous Elisabeth.  It was quite a trick to pull off though, interviewing her when every other runner was shouting greetings, and parkrunners were in need of their long awaited high fives to get them through the sprint finish!  In the circumstances he did really well.  And mum showed off both her trophy and birthday sash.  Listening to the audio later, it was really comical and appropriate that the conversation was constantly interrupted by mutually appreciative shouts.  It was great, and another pleasing micro adventure to add to the morning’s tally.  Plus, more photo ops, some classics here, mum has totally nailed selfies now!

Front runners called out breathless greetings, but her ‘regulars’ less focused on a time, stopped for a catch up, and some finished their parkrun first and then came back for a proper talk, to admire her trophy and yes, get a photo too of course.

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And then, much excitement for me as my Waterworks parkrun buddy came into view.  She, like me, has a propensity for collecting new best friends on her parkruns, and did not disappoint today.  This was a parkrunner making the trek from Burgess parkrun I think, with a cohort of others donning Uganda tops because it is Ugandan Independence Day next Saturday.  I so wish I was near enough to Camberwell to join them for that parkrun, I bet it will be epic!***  They clearly have plans for the morning.  Anyways, once they joined us obviously that was more photo opps, and then others joined in, and so the picture party continued…  The Ugandan Runners were the subject of one of the Jessica’s parkrun heroes stories.

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This new temporary Elisabeth’s Corner turned out to be quite a prime spot, but eventually as the runners thinned we tore ourselves away. I generally do like to wait for the tail walkers to come through, but I was also mindful that I wanted mum to experience the cake and prosecco celebrations and see the finish funnel in action too, so time to relocate.  That took time too, as we had to stop to have the trophy admired and catch up with a whole new set of Bushy parkrunners, some of who were now departing.  A few select individuals got to hold the trophy – under supervision –  it has considerable heft, and it is very satisfying to feel the weight of it in your hands. 

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There is a special place in my heart though for this parkrunner:

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He normally runs, and when he does always greets Elisabeth on his way round.  However, today he couldn’t – injured I think – so had gone to her corner to keep her company for the morning.  When he found she wasn’t there, but was at the start, he’d come up to find her (and yes, probably other people too) all of which was of course really welcome.  However, when we got chatting about our parkrunning stories, he confessed he was aware of the original time trial 15 years ago, and could have gone, but it was 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and he just didn’t fancy getting up and over there at that time on what might have been a cold day.  He was very matter of fact about it, but I couldn’t help thinking on his behalf ‘oh, what might have been!’  Just shows people, you never know what opportunities have been lined up for you, you just have to learn to spot them and embrace them so they don’t slip through your grasp.  Look around you RIGHT NOW, there’s probably an opportunity waving at you even in this instant!   Thank you for sharing your story nearly parkrun pioneer!

Finally, we were within reach of the cake and prosecco offer, which was extensive.  Obviously this was a particularly special occasion, but I reckon on any given Saturday there will be cake and prosecco at parkruns everywhere.  It did make for a party though, and such an abundance of offerings.  Little individually wrapped cupcakes, themed homemade cheese biscuits of 1 and 5.   A fresh bottle was duly popped and bubbles flowed, more parkrun friends old and new appeared.

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The trophy was much admired, but it was also carefully inspected by those in the know who were carrying out quality control spot checks.  Apparently, one year all the awards were engraved with ‘Busy parkrun’ instead of ‘Bushy parkrun’, in fairness, it is very busy, so you can understand the mistake, but they didn’t want a recurrence.  This is mum’s reaction to hearing of this past calamity.  Serious business, the administering and supervising of awards production.  This award passed its inspection with flying colours.  Hooray!

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Astonishingly, not enough photos had been taken of the morning yet.  There were still queues of people trying to get the perfect balloon/ parkrunners combo for their social media accounts.  This has to be the most photographed and documented parkrun of all time.

All the fun of the run wasn’t over yet though.  I was worried mum was flagging a bit, and so one of our entourage went in search of coffee.  I got distracted by – I don’t know – spotting another parkrun friend probably, and when I got back, With Me Now were trying to get the perfect shot with a WMN selfie frame.  They were doing ok.  Bit of negotiation and shuffling around secured the backdrop of The parkrun Tree.

but then I had a genius idea if I say so myself.  In my great and unmatched wisdom I proposed we go for a tunnel of selfie frames.  It took a bit of team work, but oh my, this is the best thing ever. In a way it makes it even more fun that you need at least five people to capture this effect!

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and then, someone – my Belfast Buddy in fact – in her great and unmatched (except by me) wisdom suggested that I get in shot too. And the result is this, another of my absolutely definitely favourite pictures of the day.

selfies

Thanks to With Me Now for the picture, which, in their great and unmatched (except by me and my Belfast Buddy) wisdom, they used as the clickbait for their special edition podcast.

What’s the plural for genius?  Genii, yep, probably, we are all that.  Magical presences certainly.

Still time for more mingling.  You know what, I discovered it’s a great boon to hang out with parkrun royalty, I’ll take glory by association.  Loads of people came to say hello and introduce themselves, which was wonderful.  So many parkrun doors thrown open to me because I’m Elisabeth’s daughter!  I explained my origins at Sheffield Hallam parkrun by pointing to my newly personalised apricot tee – though in reality, it would be even better if it just said ‘Elisabeth’s Daughter’ rather than the more prosaic ‘Sheffield Hallam’.  It was noticeable how in many introductions people basically pointed to their boob area to indicate their parkrun of origin, it’s like a sign language for parkrunners.  It works well if you are indeed wearing a bespoke apricot tee, less well if you are just wearing a random running top – people have discovered this to their cost.  Also, on my last parkrun visit, a parkrun core team member who will remain anonymous, lamented how they were so proud of their new apricot tee they got a friend to take a close up of the Bushy parkrun strapline under the parkrun logo.  Let’s just say the resulting photo was not really ‘appropriate’ which might be why prodirect use a photo of a flattened t-shirt for promotional purposes, rather than an extreme close up of a female parkrunner’s assets.

apricot tee

So here are more parkrun people, sharing the Bushy parkrun party.  In possibly the weirdest ever twist of fate, we also met some people walking their dogs, one of whom I was at junior school with and haven’t seen since I left around forty-four years ago, that was bizarre.  With her was the parent of my bestest friend from that time too, see how parkrun brings people together!  I had not expected that.

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Inevitably this account is very much focused on me and my mum, or more accurately my mum and me, but for the record, she wasn’t the only celebrity present.  Here are more, including the parkrunner who has done the most parkruns of anyone on the planet – 741 and counting.  Also, I feel I should have given the deer in the park higher billing, they are amazing at any time of year, but this Saturday the stags in mid rut were particularly impressive.  The deer certainly need to be treated with respect though!  Don’t know if they remembered their barcodes.  Plus a pic of a parkrunner I’m more used to seeing in fancy dress, who was today doing her unofficial milestone 350 run.  Yay!

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At around this point, as if by magic the coffee appeared.  I wasn’t sure how mum would be able to juggle a cup of coffee and a flute of prosecco, but not to worry dear reader, she quaffed her remaining half glass of fizz in one go and freed up her hand for the caffeine fix.  A very fine cup of coffee it was too.

All good things come to an end eventually, but luckily we have not only memories on this occasion, but actual silverware.  Here it is for one last time, with the backdrop of the famous parkrun tree where it all began.

Totally the spirit of parkrun, I’m sure you’ll agree.

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And the morning was nearly over, the last few parkrunners peeling away, the course dismantled, prosecco bottles drained and cake tins emptied.  The Bushy parkrun core team were so attentive and asked if we needed any help getting back, which we didn’t.  I’d felt we were so welcomed and looked after all day, it was a blast.  As we made our way back to the car, the contrast between the scene a few hours earlier and now was extraordinary.  All was quiet and calm and clean, nothing but footprints was left behind** and nothing but photographs were taken away.  A lot of photos though,  No really, a lot.  Think of the biggest number you can imagine, ok, got that?  Is it huge?  Well, I’ve news for you, you are not even close 🙂  What’s more, every picture holds a memory.  A.Maz.Ing.

Another parkrun done and dusted, and added to the annals of parkrun history.  I wonder what the next 15 years will bring?

Even though it’s another whole week before parkrun day comes round again, the good news is you can continue to indulge your parkrun passions by checking out the awesome Bushy parkrun Big Birthday Bash run report (thanks to Wendy Stokes) for Event no 809, 5 October 2019 here

If you prefer your parkrun fix to be delivered by audio, then immerse yourself in the With Me Now podcast link which is here, or you could check it out via the With Me Now Facebook page post if you prefer.

And no doubt there will be a squillion other photos and posts out there on the interweb too, yours for the finding, plus the personal reflections of the 1838 parkrunners and multitude of volunteers, spectators and cheery melee of others who joined the occasion.  Quite something it really was…

So thank you Bushy parkrun for putting on such a show, not just on this special day, but delivering the parkrun magic week in week out.  It was just the best day ever.  Mum loved her trophy, but more than that, she loved meeting and mingling with so many fantastic parkrun friends.  All parkrunners are equally epic, what a wonderful shared adventure it is for all of us.  For me and mum today, entering Bushy park, was like being drawn into a collective supportive parkrun hug.  Best day ever!

Bloody unicorn hair.  Leaking eyes again.

And when you’ve finished reliving Bushy parkrun’s Birthday Bash, you can prolong the parkrun party for longer still by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  And maybe you have a life.  There is life outside parkrun so I’m told, which might be true, but it’s also true that parkrun is a little microcosm of life as it should be, which is sometimes a great deal preferable to life as it is, though on the plus side, parkrun also perhaps shows us what might be possible, and brings together the positivity that is out there in the world if we are but open to it.

Incidentally, Mr S-H said something – I think on the podcast, about how every week he gets hundreds of emails and messages from people talking about what parkrun means to them, and the funny thing is, that almost none of them mention the actual running!  Rather it is about the community cohesion, the coffee, the coming together, the sharing of adventures, the mutual encouragement, the being outdoors.  The run is the glue that holds it all together, or the catalyst that sets the reaction in motion, but it’s all the things that spin outwards from it that makes parkrun the global phenomenon it has become.  And better yet, anyone can join in, how fabulous is that?  There’s a research report just come out about that wider impact too, volunteering is even more fun than running for some it seems.  So we have the yin and yan of parkrun, it needs the runners and it needs the hi-vis heroes and wider community too.  That’s the open secret.  Yay!

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Even people disappointed by finding out this week they did not get a ballot place in the London Marathon can find solace here.  All welcome.  Volunteers as well remember, the parkrun community has a wide reach.

youre in

#loveparkrun indeed

(No idea how to use hashtags, but that seems about right eh?  🙂 )

*The occasion wasn’t all that ‘little’ to be honest, but I suppose it depends on what you are comparing it too.  Anyway, I’ll let that go.

**actually, one poor runner lost their garmin when it broke somewhere round the start apparently, so that might have been left behind by accident.  That’s a shame, but unusual to be fair.

***Yep it was, check out this video clip courtesy of Ian Feeley who was there, and keep an eye on the Burgess parkrun Facebook page too, as surely more pictures will follow… AND they got a mention in parkrun uk newsletter assante marshal for 16 October 2019 – well worth a gander

PS to save you the effort of googling it, the ‘Jog On’; podcast referenced in with WMN podcast is Ep 36, Darren Wood – the most parkruns ever.  You’re welcome

PPS Mum, if you are trying to find the podcast it’s here.  CLICK ON THIS LINK FOR THE WITH ME NOW BUSHY PARKRUN SPECIAL EDITION.  It should just start playing by magic.  🙂  It’s like a radio programme, so the screen might go blank.  It’s about an hour long.

Are you still here?  That’s amazing!  Well done.  You get the prize for making it through to the end.  It’s a virtual prize, not an actual one, but you’ll know you did good.  A round of applause from me (I’m clapping you now) and free parkruns for life!  Congratulations.

🙂 x

As a reward here is are some early morning photos in Bushy park, taken this very week, though not by me.

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Quite a special place eh?

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

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.

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

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:

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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: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Running London …. ish. Work in progress a horrible long run in marathon training. I so haven’t got this! Aaargh.

Digested read:  I had to do a 17 mile long run today. I did it even though I felt rubbish, and did everything wrong.  A lot of it was walking, but probably it was a good test of my mental strength if not physical prowess.  I did at least complete it.  The Thames route was scenic, the royal parks lovely.  I really hope it isn’t true about all the peeing at the Marathon.  Type 2 fun, and a learning curve.  This is scary now.  Aaaargh indeed.

This popped up on Facebook recently, and made me cry with laughter:

anyone can win the marathon

That’s right dear reader.  ‘Anybody can win the race‘, the ‘race’ in this context being the London Marathon. So says last year’s winner, who incidentally, has his family watch the ‘movie’ of the race twice a week or so.   To be fair, if I win, I will expect anyone with whom I have even the most tenuous or fleeting acquaintance to be watching the coverage on a continuous loop between now and the end of eternity.   I will nail them to the spot if necessary in order to facilitate this, but on the whole, unless an unexpected Tsunami from the Thames wipes out all 39,999 runners ahead of me and leaves me as the sole contender  I think the parkrun populus of Sheffield are safe.  And no, I’m not being unnecessarily self-deprecating in stating this.   Methinks reigning champion Daniel Wanjiru is possibly somewhat overestimating the competition across the field – or maybe elite runners never look behind them and have yet to realise the London Marathon is a mass participation event.  They see only the finish line and hear only the pitter patter of their immediate rivals alongside and behind.  It’s another world, another world entirely.

Talking about running alongside the Thames (yes I was), that was my long run venue of a week or so ago.  It was a really tough one, something of a misery to be honest, but in the interests of completeness I feel I should record it here. It can be the yin to the yan of the more positive experience of a long run a week later on the Monsal Trail.  Not sure if that’s quite what yin and  yan are, but highs and lows certainly.  My Thames side long run was more of a low.  Not that it wasn’t beautiful, and I didn’t absolutely regret it, but my goodness I felt rough before, during and for many days after.

The thing is, I was staying in London.  I’d decided I’d fit in my long run whilst I was there, partly because I needed to, and partly because the weather in Sheffield has been so dire (white out and wash out alternating to stop all running fun, races tumbling all around as they got cancelled due to arctic conditions) I figured I’d take advantage of the milder southern climes.   Plus, running round Sheffield is so hilly, I end up having to walk some sections, I thought maybe doing a flatter route would help me hit more of a rhythm and replicate the London marathon terrain.  Also, I thought maybe it would be a good mental discipline to run an unknown route and see how far my legs would carry me.

Reading that back, that rationale makes me sound super organised and equipped for running a London marathon, but I’m just not. Everything feels bumbling and improvised.  I have little idea what I’m doing, and honestly, sometimes I think I just decide what I want to do, and then think up some post activity rationalisation as to why it was a legitimate strategy or idea.  A bit like when you are trying to make a decision, and you seek advice from loads of different people, but really, what you are doing is keeping on asking everyone you meet until someone, FINALLY, gives you the answer you’ve been wanting to hear.  I actually don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing, it at least crystallizes in your mind what it is you want to do, albeit you are seeking some sort of external validation for doing so, but I do think it’s worth being self-aware about it.  Maybe even more so with a physical challenge like this, where actually, if I don’t prepare my body physically and mentally for what it’s up against, then it just isn’t going to happen, as it is, the attempt may not be pretty.  PANIC!

Point of information, as usual, I’m writing up this post belatedly – I nearly said ‘posthumously’ there, perhaps that’s apt – I’m sat at a table looking out on a snow swamped garden, lamenting the fact that this is another day when my running aspirations will not be met.  I have made it out far enough to dig out the bird feeders and put some food on the ground.  I didn’t think they’d found it, but I’ve just noticed a pigeon’s head peering up from out of the snow.

It’s head high for a pigeon. Which probably doesn’t sound all that high to be fair, but it’s high enough to mean running isn’t an option. You can’t see where your feet are landing, and it’s way over my ankles.  Deeper where it’s drifted.  Can’t make up my mind whether or not to risk venturing out.  I’ve been watching the Martin Yelling marathon talks (I’m slightly in love with him, he’s so positive and smiley) and he was saying the other week that you have to consider the risk of injury v potential training benefit and adds in ‘any run is better than no run’ but equally you shouldn’t stress niggles too much at this late stage.  I might try for a walk later.  Surely a snow trudge constitutes cross training, even if it is just to check out the interior of the nearest open cafe?  One way to find out.

Back to where I was, about a week ago, contemplating a long run.  I was aiming for 17 miles, and hadn’t honestly planned a route as such, beyond a vague idea of starting off by parking at The Pheasantry Cafe in Bushy Park.  However, this was one of those runs, where just everything seemed stacked against if from the off.  To begin with, because I was away from home I’d not eaten particularly appropriately the day before, just salad all day and where I was staying the only breakfast option was high sugar kiddies mini pack cereals.  Then I had the most terrible night’s sleep ever, even for me, and I can’t remember when I last slept through the night, and when I did finally ‘wake’ properly I had a raging sore throat and felt dire. I wasn’t sure what to do. I consumed the only available breakfast option, which was a little pack of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, which was vile, and had half a cup of not very nice coffee, which just made my insides slosh about.  I felt shattered, poorly hydrated, ill, and a bit queasy.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  It was definitely not the best preparation for the run, but then again, what if I feel like this on marathon day, I’m not going to bale then surely?  Plus, if I didn’t get my run in this day, I might end up missing it, and back in Sheffield with the weather as it is, it would be another week of really inadequate preparation.  I also needed to drive back to Sheffield after the run, if I abandoned the run and drove back early, I knew there was no way on earth I’d head out for a long run after dark.  Aaaargh.

In the end, I decided I might as well at least start off, worst case scenario I could cut it short.  I just thought if I didn’t try I’d regret it, and I was imagining how I’d feel the next day –  fabulous if I’d succeeded and a worthless failure if I hadn’t.  I decided I’d prefer the former scenario – though in fact it didn’t entirely work out like that.  Running when you are so depleted knocks you out for days afterwards apparently.  So now I know.  Weirdly though, I still think not running at all would have been worse, but worth noting for another time.

Belt packed, naked bars, water, and vague sense of a route.  Even the weather was against me though. The place I was staying, Bushy Park Lodge, had great views of Bushy Park.  Only the day before I’d had runner envy watching people job past in the early morning.

This day it was dark and threatening ‘proper’ rain.  I am increasingly hating this weather. I do still cope better with cold than heat running wise, but there are limits.  This is not fun.  This was the view at the start of my run out:

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Joy.  Not.  Originally, I’d planned to do sort of figure of eight loops around Bushy Park, but then the ground was too saturated for that to allow for even running, besides which I thought it might get a bit dull, I hate running in laps.  However picturesque the setting.  I then hit upon what I considered to be a genius plan!  I’d start in the park, head over to Hampton Court palace, dip down onto the Canal path and then maybe loop through Home park, something like that.  This would guarantee move even terrain and a longer route, with less temptation to abandon the run when the going got tough.

Off I went.  It was sploshy, dark and pretty empty really.  Though to be fair it was a weekday. Even so, it surprises me how you can find space even in this jam-packed area of greater London.  It was wet, even the deer were lying down, trying to keep at least a small area of ground dry. There was a dramatic white stag, which I failed to photograph as I didn’t want to disturb it by going too close, and trees heavy with bright green mistletoe.  I wished my stomach wasn’t heaving so much though.  That breakfast was not a good start to the day at all.

Onwards, I decided to head straight out of the park.  On my way, just walking, trying not to heave, I found a bit of discarded steel wire, where on earth did that come from?  That could seriously damage a deer or horse in the park.  It was huge and heavy, I didn’t really know how best to dispose of it, but I did at least pick it up and put it in a bin.  A small gesture to improve the place I was running in, though not perhaps in the same league as those ploggers who in Sweden, have identified the ultimate rubbish way to get fit, but a start.

Soon, I was at the Hampton Court gate to Bushy park, that’s an impressive bit of iron work right there

and out, over the road, past the separate entrance to the old tennis courts – oh, don’t you have a separate entrance for your on site sporting facilities?

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and towards Hampton Court Palace.  Even though I grew up not far from here, I’ve very rarely done the touristy things, and stopping to look at Hampton Court palace, and the grand statues on the posts surrounding it I have to acknowledge it is really impressive.  Spectacular even.  You can see why it’s such a tourist attraction with it’s grand visage and photogenically sited red telephone box just outside – even if you can’t use that for actual telephone calls any more.  It was harder than you might think to photograph those impressive statue thingies, which is why I appear to have carefully framed a shot right up a unicorn’s arse.  Perhaps this is apt, as I have a unicorn’s arse in hell’s chance of getting round the London Marathon the way my training was feeling on this day…  The selfie also tells me my outfit wasn’t offering up the most photogenic of possibilities, however practical it may have been.   I look like a badly animated lollipop my face is so round. That has to be an optical illusion.  I’ve surely not really been seen out in public looking like that.  It’s not great for my body image to be fair.   I have subsequently inadvertently shrunk my woolly hat in the wash.  Gutted, it was really good at keeping my ears warm, even if it did look like I was wearing an alpaca-fleece giant condom on my head, by choice.  Sacrifices have to be made in running, all athletes know this.  Dignity is just the first of many things that have to go if you are serious about getting out there and running, however ineptly and for however long.  Harsh but true.

I was still feeling headachey and hardly underway, but I often feel rubbish in the early stages of runs, it takes me ages to get going.  I honestly think it’s partly that my body is in denial about the whole thing, so for the first few miles I just pant, and sweat and feel every twinge and ache and find it nigh on impossible to make myself run.  It takes super human strength to force myself to propel my feet forwards.  Once I’m far away from home that carrying on with my planned route is going to take just as long as retracing my steps and going home, I seem to move into the ‘acceptance’ as opposed to ‘denial’ stage and it’s fine. Well, maybe not exactly fine, but so far, I’ve never thought I wouldn’t complete once I get to that point.

Just beyond Hampton Court Palace, there was a really clear sign onto the Thames Cycle path.  This was great, and a revelation.  The path was wide, clearly marked, not very busy and offered spectacular views.  A bit of a contrast to the industrial heritage you view from the canal path in Sheffield through to Attercliffe.  Plenty of runners do use the canal paths in Sheffield for training, but I don’t fancy them, this Thames canal path felt a lot roomier, more open and frankly safer.

Still pretty wet though – I’ve just realised, you can, in theory run this all the way to Tower Bridge!  Wow, I’d love to do that.  Or even take on the whole of the Thames Path, that would be a lovely running challenge.   Well, I say ‘run’ but might be more fun to cycle that far.  Never say never though, if I’m really a more efficient runner than Usain Bolt, and I’m allowed to walk chunks, maybe I will surprise myself one day yet.  Oooh, what’s that overhead?  Is it a bird, is it a plane?  Oh, no it’s just a cloud.  A big black rainy one…

Pigs-might-fly

Inevitably, it being a new route, I had to stop and take in unusual views, and admire the palace from a new angle.

And then there was a yellow submarine, and more mistletoe, and cooing parakeets

I saw hardly anyone, a few cyclists, including one with an incredibly speedy and athletic dog.  That was impressive, but somewhat intimidating, it took time out from loping alongside its cycling companion to chase down wildlife along the river, ducks, swans, geese, nothing was safe.  It annoys me when owners let their dogs do that.  It spoilt my run, plus, whilst it may be true ‘they never catch anything’ they still stress the wildlife, which have to use much-needed energy stores to get away, endless times each day, and in winter especially when food may be harder to come by and they need those reserves just to keep alive in the outdoors 24/7, whereas the dog can go home to it’s centrally heated home and automatic meal.   Then there is the risk of them chasing and stressing deer, sheep whatever to the point of death.  It isn’t funny.  I’m consistent on this, I hate it when adults allow children to chase down birds too.   What is that about?  Scaring animals for fun.  People are weird.   What with that and the bagged dog poo strung up everywhere, I’m really going off irresponsible dog owners, responsible ones are a different matter entirely.  Impressive hound though, my it could run.  It looked really fit and healthy too.  Dread to think what damage it would do in a herd of livestock though.

The path was VERY wet.  But it was also flat, straightforward to navigate and punctuated with unexpected and interesting views.  Crazy amounts of mistletoe and many delightful boats.  Not that I really knew what any of them were, but most picturesque.

I was cold, and uncomfortable, but the miles did roll by quite easily, if not exactly speedily.  I was soon approaching Kingston:

Now, this was something of a cross roads, in a literal as well as metaphorical sense.  I could have gone back through Home Park, but I decided instead to press on along the Thames Walk to Teddington Lock.  Partly as this was a more definitive destination, and partly because it committed me to doing a longer distance, and rough as I felt, I didn’t want to abandon the run just yet.  Also, I was aware I might not get a chance to do this route again, and it was enticing, even with my head aching, my stomach sloshing and temperature falling. When is the sun going to come out.  Is it ever going to come out ever again?  Is this what the end of the world feels like.

Over the bridge, then down some steps to a freezing series of tunnels alongside John Lewis where an unexpected mural cheered up the grey iciness of the route.

I was feeling thirsty by this point.  I reached for my water bottle and discovered to my horror, that I couldn’t get into it.  I washed it in the dishwasher and I think maybe I’d damaged the top somehow (though update, subsequently realised I had accidentally ‘locked it’ which I didn’t know you could do, and was too lacking in initiative to unlock it).  Fortunately I did have another bottle with so not a disaster, but food for thought.  Not great to run out of water on a long run.  I had one of my naked bars, but that just made me feel really sick, and my stomach was cramping a bit, I felt physically awful to be fair.  Light headed.  The cornflakes were too sweet but also just hadn’t provided enough or at least appropriate fuel to run on.  In better news, the sun was at least coming out periodically, and that made everything feel better.  I was astonished how deserted the route was, and how picturesque too.  My run took my past the Hawker Centre, which I think is the starting point for Kingston parkrun, there were pretty parks to pass through, some amazing trees, and at points, two paths to choose from, an upper tarmac and lower mud path. I took the mud path, more my natural habitat and definitely kinder on my feet, even if it did mean they got saturated.  Also not great on a long run, note to self, buy new socks.   I liked the stacked up rowing boats at one point, with their inspiring names upturned vigour was just the attribute I was needing to channel.

If I’d had more time, I’d have lingered more over the notices which explained the history of some of the landmarks and names along the route.  The Elm Tree – which is no longer there, being a case in point, it must have been a mighty tree indeed, as it lives on in the name of the place where it stood for hundreds of years.

Onward I went, cold, bit grumpy.  This run was only fun in parts.  I really needed the loo, but when I found one, and I did find a couple of public toilets en route, I seemed unable to er hem, ‘perform’.  I felt so sick.  I NEVER get digestive problems, so this is/was a first for me, and I really do think it was related to change in diet and too much sugar.  I just have low tolerance for that, I suppose that’s why I can’t tolerate gels, the very thought of them makes me heave.

I tried to remind myself that this run was as much about tackling mental running demons as covering the physical distance.  It didn’t matter if I was slow, what mattered was putting one foot in front of another.  I could learn from this run, however miserable and inept it was turning out to be.  It was great that I’d made so many rookie errors, as I’d learn so much more.  How genius am I for cramming so many ‘what not to do’ learning opportunities into one relatively short, ‘long run’.  Great.  Blooming great.  I had a lot of quite negative thoughts, but kept trying to bury them, and remind myself I was just doing what needed to be done.  It was normal to doubt myself.  Blah de blah.

One mantra that keeps being trotted out by those who know, is that you should try to replicate as many of the conditions of the marathon as possible in training, whether that is practising with gels, making sure your kit is comfy and appropriate, and working through the ‘mental strength’ challenges of putting in the necessary miles in training.   That’s all well and good, but should not be taken to extremes.  I found out a couple of days ago, to my absolute horror, that one dark secret about marathon running, is that you will be showered in pee en route. ‘You have got to be kidding me?’   Apparently, this is a dirty secret that isn’t widely shared but is true.  A fellow marathon runner in training was telling me about a mutual friend of ours who has run the London Marathon twice.  (You know who you are) I don’t know why this ‘mutual friend’ hadn’t thought to tell me this herself.  Perhaps she was just trying to protect me. The problem is, the truth will out. As will a build up of urine in the bladder apparently.   Both are inevitable.

She shared how her first time, a few miles in there is a part of the route where there a few less spectators and it opens up a bit.  She became aware of her legs getting wetter and wetter as she ran, and couldn’t work out at first what it was.  It turns out, it was because many male runners had used the opportunity to relieve themselves whilst running and were happily disporting their assets and in full flow, running onwards, running free.   Really not caring that basically they were pissing on all the other runners in their wake.  I was and am horrified.  I do not intend to replicate this in training by having members of my Smiley Paces running club spray urine at me as I run.  Since when has this been OK?  I really and truly didn’t know if this was a wind up, so have googled it so you don’t have to. It seems, sadly, this is indeed a thing (though be careful what your search engine will throw up – might want to hide history afterwards).  I get that you might inadvertently wet yourself through stress incontinence or just not being able to hold on, but basically peeing on your fellow whilst running as a deliberate strategy because your need to save 30 seconds on your marathon in your view over-rides other runners right not to have you urinate on them strikes me as a rather arrogant perspective.   Wet yourself by all means, but please don’t piss on me.  I don’t want my abiding memory of London to be wading through other runners’ bodily fluids.    What if I face plant in it, having lost my footing.  Lawks a lordy, if it’s so commonplace, I might actually drown.  That’s really not up there in my list of top ten ways to go.  Not even the top fifty to be fair.

Hmmm, not sure I wanted to know this in advance.  I may report back on this, and the extent to which it was an issue, and if it was, whether in all that heady atmospheric context I even cared.  However, dear reader, if you are thinking of getting your todger out for a piss, or projecting a snot rocket for that matter during the marathon, consider where it might land, please.   And if you must practise peeing whilst running (and it is recommended apparently), choose wisely where to do so.  If you pee on me I won’t be impressed, and it will put me off supporting whatever charity you may be running in support of, unless it’s for urinary incontinence support or the fistula foundation, in which case respect.  I’d even persuade every other runner to wait for you to finish so you aren’t disadvantaged by nipping in to use the loo if that’s your preferred option.  Then again, who knows, maybe I too will be the one unable to contain myself, peeing during the marathon or worse yet, crapping myself.  It’s happened to greater runners than me.  Maybe I should revisit the idea of running in skorts, they have helped many retain their dignity whilst running.  Not about making a fashion statement people, more about hiding your inability to control your bodily functions.  I know elite runners who have got sport prizes at fell races in respect of this.  FACT.  Enough of this now.  Here is a Sheffield snow shot by way of distraction.  (Stolen from Round Sheffield Run Facebook page, but I’m sure they won’t really mind…)  Looking so very pretty, and yet so very incompatible with my marathon training aspirations.

sheffield snow

So many things to fret about.  I feel very naive.  There are whole forums dedicated to peeing whilst undertaking all sorts of sports from running, through cycling and swimming.  I’m definitely not doing tri now.  I suppose though, that’s sort of the point.  I can’t really know what this is like until I’ve done it, or died trying.  What other things though have more experienced runners been keeping from me?  I dread to think.  However bad things have been in training, I’ve yet to change my mind about doing this, I still really, really want to take part, but do I really want full knowledge of what I’m letting myself in for?  Possibly not, it will only scare me, sometimes, a bit of naivety is what’s needed or I’d never do anything.

Where was I.  Oh yes, finding it hard down the Thames Path.  I made it down to Teddington Lock.  Up close, it is impressive, but really difficult to capture in photographs.  There was the option of heading across Ham common and on to Richmond Park, maybe one day, but not today. I was properly cold, and feeling a bit sorry for myself, although there was some comfort that having come this far, I was going to get a reasonable distance under my belt.   Disappointingly, you are not allowed to dive from the bridge into the churning white water and hidden under water hazards below.  No worries, as already clarified above, I’m not training for a tri.

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Having admired the view, it was a case of turning round and heading back.  It was really, really cold, and I felt drained and uncomfortable, this run seemed to be taking forever.  There had been a brief interlude of sunshine, but now the sky was dark again, and I felt like I was running into a chilling headwind.

Back past the Hawker centre, back past the river boats and house boats, pit stop in the Boaters Inn where I was able to refill my water bottle too.  Nice pub actually, and they seem to have some local agreement whereby members of the public are allowed to use their loos.  Not that this really helped me, I was feeling increasingly rough.  Eventually I was back at Kingston bridge – which does look magnificent.

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Back onto the Barge walk and heading back towards Hampton Court.  This was really, really tough.  Light relief was only available through unexpected sights.  Such as the vision of an enormous bumble bee, alongside an open winged swan on the opposite side of the river as I made my way back – Smiletastic team references get everywhere:

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To achieve my desired mileage, I’d need to double back again. There was a gate from the canal path, near to Hampton Court Bridge, where you could dodge into Home park.  I figured I could nip in there, go through Home park, come out at Hampton Wick and back into Bushy Park from there.  This is what I did, but it was really hard to make myself do it.  I just felt ultimately I’d have regretted it if I didn’t do the mileage, and also Home park is really lovely.  A bit wilder than Bushy park and generally deserted. Which it was on this day too, apart from some well-heeled golfers, availing themselves of these exclusive greens.  I’m so glad I made the effort, even if I was basically just walking by this point.  Lovely herds of deer, spectacular views of Hampton Court along the Long Water,

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and a chance to pause by a tree that is special to me.

I was pretentiously contemplative by this point.  Exhausted maybe, rubbish nutrition, dehydrated, cold, not feeling the running lurve at all.  I have been getting weepy on my long runs, I thought it was just me, but – another previously unknown revelation has been that – this is apparently quite common. What’s more, you think you’re weeping now, wait until the marathon!  Not just at the end, I have heard from others it’s quite likely you’ll be blubbing the whole way around.  Particularly if you are running for a charity that has personal meaning for you, but whether you are running for a charity or not (I’m not, I got lucky in the ballot, and besides, I don’t think I could cope with the pressure of running for a charity myself).  Oh no!  Will that constant uncontrollable sobbing cause further dehydration and electrolyte loss?  Yet another factor to take into consideration. This is proving to be ridiculously hard.

What were these abandoned wings about?  A fallen angel? Maybe it was all that was left of the bait laid for the crocodile trap.  I think that must be what the wire cage is for.  There is after all a famous crocodile alongside the stream in the Woodland gardens of Bushy park.  It’s not such a stretch to imagine a cunning saltie navigating the water courses hereabouts to end up in Home park too…

Soon, I gave up any pretence of running, and just told myself it would still be time on my legs and endurance, so I might as well check out the ice house.  Can it really have been standing since the 17th century, late or otherwise, that’s a lot of years.

The ice house is pretty near the Kingston Bridge entrance to Home Park. There was a handy cafe at the edge of Bushy park as I crossed the road.  So I nipped in to use their loo, but felt no better.  It was a slog to go on, but I had little choice at this point.  Don’t know what the London Loop is, might check that out (150 miles of London sights apparently).  I had no idea there were so many options round here.  It’s a quite different running environment from the peaks, but in inclement weather it has its advantages most definitely.

Into Bushy park, and I found myself on part of the Bushy parkrun course.  This was good for morale.  Because, it is a well-known fact that you can always push out a parkrun, no matter how rubbish you may feel.  I made a rather half-hearted attempt to jog on a bit, but it was tokenistic, if not actually non-existent.  I pressed on:

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The final bit of mind over matter, was about 15 miles in (is that all) I realised I still needed to add on another couple to meet my target. It would have been so easy to finish as I neared the Pheasantry, but I went on.  Fortuitously, at exactly this moment, I got a text message from a Smiley friend, I told her I was crawling my way round 15 miles into a 17 mile ‘run’, she sent much virtual support, and because I’d ‘fessed up to what I was doing, I felt motivated to finish what I’d started.  Back round the park.  Brief nip in to see my mum – who is nearby – and a final farewell, back at last to the woodland gardens with the Pheasantry cafe within.

and the crocodile without:

They are indeed still and log like.

Into the cafe.  I had the most fantastic soup ever (tomato and red pepper I think) and sweet potato fries with more salt than I care to admit.  I sat shattered and teary.  Everyone else was on a table a-buzz with friends, with one solitary exception. An older man, sitting alone.  That made me feel a bit sad.  And then I thought of me all wet, and broken and also sitting alone and over-emotional and I just thought how ridiculous this whole thing is.

It was not a good run.  The 17.3 mile route looked like this:

strava long run london

I like that Strava helps you get a sense of where you went, so many other possibilities – ham common and on to Richmond park another time maybe…

I’m really glad I did it, but it wasn’t fun.  Possibly type 2, I saw some amazing things.  And I did learn a lot, albeit about what not to do in training.  I followed the run with an epic 7 hour drive back to Sheffield,

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which I don’t mind telling you is most definitely contraindicated after a long run.  I spent the next few days practically unable to move I was so wiped out.  I could not longer tell if such fatigue was a ‘normal’ response to being out for so long, a result of over-training (by my terms, doing too much too soon) or actually being ill. Maybe though, going out when I felt crap to begin with wasn’t the best idea, though I did subsequently bag a really good long ‘run’ along the Monsal Trail   (run walk) which restored some small measure of self-belief.

It’s hard this marathon training thing.  Really hard.  The actual marathon should be a breeze if I survive the run up!

And that was that.  Long run.  It was progress, but still need to add another 10 miles on.  I don’t understand how that is possible.  I do want to break the 20 mile barrier in training.  Oh well.  I’m not going to be a speed merchant, and this run did leave me drained and crap, but I suppose there’s a little bit of me which was chuffed I’d drawn on mental strength to complete what I set out to do, even though this was probably my most miserable run out to date.

Oh well, that’s past now, new runs and adventures lie ahead.

Bring them on.

Eek.

Don’t even ask about times, it’s not the point and also it depresses me.  In all the uncertainties about what will happen in London, I’m going to put it right out there, that I don’t think Daniel Wanjuri has anything to worry about from me.

PS I wrote this on 18 march, but it relates to a run on 7th March, so I’m going to post it retrospectively.  Think of it merely as a form of time travel, don’t worry about inconsistent chronology within my references, they matter not.  It’s the broad sweep of time that is the important thing, and how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things.  I at least find that ultimately comforting.  Nothing matters nobody cares, kind of liberating.  Same with the marathon.  I’ll do it, or I won’t do it, it shouldn’t matter that much, the journey getting there is the thing.  The marathon itself just the icing on the cake.  I like being reminded of how small and insignificance we are in the universe, it means I no longer need to burn up with embarassment at the memory of my many social faux pas.  Nothing really matters.  Not even being peed on whilst runing a marathon.  Hurrah!

dr who title sequence

Categories: motivation, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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.

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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…