Digested read: we’ve had an icy twixmas parkrun, then new year day double. Hurrah. Best way to start the year. Shame some people have picked up a mysterious 24 hour bug, but hey ho, job done. Go us! Happy New Year everyone. Also, let Smiletastic commence. Isn’t parkrun grand? Love parkrun. 🙂
*Strictly speaking, I was feeling a bit rough. But that messes with both the scanning and the opportunity to link to a fine Nina Simone power ballad, so forgive the artistic licence with my edit. Gotta love Nina…
Is it true you are supposed to start the New Year as you mean to go on? If so, I don’t know whether I have passed or failed in that respect. I did make it to a parkrun, twice in fact (yay) but I also felt distinctly queasy, sleep deprived and as a consequence loped round the two different courses lard-arsed, and with little vestige of either personal propulsion or personal dignity. On the plus side, awesome crowd, parkrun buddies old and new, with added Smiletastic Dragonfly vigour for good measure. Maybe a case of good in parts.
Last time I posted about parkrun it was to reveal all about my ill-judged, type 2 fun run out with Sophie at Concord on Christmas Day. By mutual consent, this romp round marked both the beginning and end of our running partnership. It’s OK, because she has decided she want’s to focus on her skiing – she thinks the photo ops with a backdrop of snow will be more flattering, and likewise I think I’ll have more flattering running photos too, without wrestling with a unicorn the whole way round. Running with dignity – that would be a great way to start the new year would it not.
It sure as heck wasn’t how I ended it though. Since Christmas,we’ve had our ‘twixmas run at Sheffield Hallam. That was something of an experience. Other parkruns local to Sheffield fell like flies, cancelled due to ice and slidy paths. Hallam gamely decided to brave it, but you know that it’s not going to be a PB run when you see the run director heading out with a shovel at the start don’t you? I promise you, he wasn’t just heading out for a wild-camping inspired dump. I know this, because I saw him ice breaking on Rustlings Road, above and beyond my friend. Respect to you.
It was something of a slide about,though those in the front of the line up seemed as fearless as ever…
but I like to think the mud snorkeling and iced pavements added a certain frissance to the occasion. We had our very own arctic enemas and mud crawls. Who needs tough mudder anyway?
Personally, I didn’t mind at all having to take it really slowly, but maybe with hindsight I’d have bottled it. You know it’s bad when dogs are being carried round rather than chased after by breathless runners. Unless our resident photographer inadvertently snapped a 101 Dalmatians inspired dog-knapper at the very moment of the dogduction, must check Sheffield animals lost and found to clarify.
Weirdly, it’s the rise in temperature that made the compressed ice especially treacherous, not so much slush, as a perfect skidway with meltwater pooling on top of the ice. Still, all’s well that ends well. They counted everyone in, and they counted everyone back, sighs of relief all round. What was not so grand, was discovering that apparently it isn’t running with a unicorn that makes me appear undignified in my gait. It is the actual act of ‘running’. The camera never lies, although it does have a very dry sense of humour it seems…
I have to accept I’m not a natural at this. I don’t know why I keep on going really. Hope over experience perhaps, or maybe the prospect of post-parkrun brunch? Probably brunch.
Still, love parkrun. The more parkruns the better. Hence, given that, as parkrun aficionados all over the world know:
New Year’s Day is the one day of the year where it is possible to walk, jog, run or volunteer at two parkruns on the same day! What better way to start 2018
I remain conscientious about the concept and commitment to parkrun if not always keen on the actual running component of the enterprise. New Year’s Day promised the possibility of a parkrun double, and as a parkrun partaker, that was too good a chance to miss. I couldn’t get to parkrun last year, but achieved the parkrun double the year before going to Nostell Priory and Pontefract parkruns and that was fab. This year, a host of us were planning to go, but inevitably it got a bit complicated, there were those with injuries or hosting obligations on New Year’s Eve that might prove incompatible with undertaking a parkrun shuffle. Then, an added consideration for me at least, was feeling torn between my conflicting desires on the one hand to be constant to my regular parkrun partners and brunching buddies or on the other to take flight and throw my lot in with my new Smiletastic compatriots in our newly formed Dragonfly team. Dropping my longstanding, loyal and unswerving running companions as my head was turned by short-lived glory that might be achieved through association with such swarming irridescent beauties. Tough call. Seductive, aren’t they? You’ve got to admit you’d have your head turned too, surely… and I’m way more suggestible and shallow than you probably are with your principles, stoicism, and fine running technique. Plus, well, it’s Smiletastic, that’s an annual game changer. All previous alliances, allegiances and agreements are off. It’s another new dawn, you exist for your team and they for you. One for all and all for one, and everyone for post run coffee and cake (other foods and beverages are available).
For those of you not in the know, firstly, where have you been? Secondly, in brief, Smiletastic is an annual team challenge for members of the Smiley Paces. I did it a couple of years ago, and participation in that helped me to put in the necessary training which got me round the Sheffield Half, in a fashion. It also was fairly traumatic, it’s a big responsibility pledging runs and knowing if you fail to deliver, you will bring your team down with you! STRESS! As with all running related stresses, after the event, trauma morphs almost seamlessly into nostalgia. That was sooooooooooo fun and not at all pressurised and stress inducing! No wonder we all worship Smiley Elder for bringing Smiletastic into being. After a year off when I was in Cambodia, this year when Smiletastic came round it was Bring. It. On!
Better yet. I was in team dragonfly. Hurrah. Great, we would be mutually supportive we quickly agreed. This would be fun and about team motivation, and we wouldn’t let it get stressful and none of us were going to be competitive about it. … mind you, doesn’t hurt to get in the mood, maybe we could pitch for some fun ‘getting in the Smiletastic spirit’ team points early on using the old tea-cosy on the head ruse, that might work? Failing that the dragonfly trail find has to be a win right? Loving your work fell flying smiley.
Then there is always the fancy dress dimension to be considered, but no spoilers regarding that today. Patience dear reader, patience, that time will come…
The Smiletastic rules pronounced that individual points would be available to those who rock up at parkrun. Hurrah. That’s me in, twice, it being a New Year’s Day double there for the taking. Then, we see that if we can get more than 50% of our 13 strong team along to a timed run (such as parkrun) then there are more points to be had. Well. I mean, no pressure, but ‘just out of interest, who’s thinking of rocking up on New Year’s Day’. Our Facebook exchanges were hilarious. Artistry of expression, as we all tried soooooooooooo very hard to be mutually respectful of each others circumstances and decisions whilst desperately, desperately trying not to reveal that every one of us was furtively counting up the takers to date on our fingers to see if it might be doable. Such was the swell of enthusiasm for the endeavour some of the ‘sorry, but categorically can’t make it‘ dragonflies were soon flitting back with a ‘but I have terrible fear of missing out, so maybe…‘. Anyway, dear reader, the upshot was, come New Year’s Day, we were all on the cusp of witnessing a miracle akin to that of dragonfly larvae emerging en masse from a pond and revealing their wings, were we to witness a similar magnificent display of dragonflies altogether for the New Year’s Day parkrun Double?
It nearly didn’t happen though. I was out on new year’s eve, by no means a given for me. My body is generally speaking a temple, albeit one for people who worship somewhat spherically inclined deities that have recently been dragged backwards through a hedge. Even so, I can tell within a microgram when I have reached capacity for alcohol and need to cease drinking and withdraw from social situations. On reaching this point about 11.30, I was ready to sneak away from the festivities but was caught in the act, persuaded to stay on, toast in the new year, less sleep, more alcohol, face-plant into a trifle (that was well worth staying up for) and to see the new year in with a ferocious display of fireworks. When one went off a bit too close for comfort I learned about myself that in adversity I will try to save myself before others. Oh dear. I may be a horrible human being, but at least I am self-aware… Anyway, it was a lovely new year’s eve celebration with fine hosts and fabulous folk all around, but it was not compatible with idealised double parkrun preparations. I knew I’d be dehydrated, so drank loads before I went to bed, and then had to get up loads in the night so I wondered why I’d bothered to go to bed at all.
Sleep deprived, managing somehow to sport simultaneously an uncomfortably full bladder and a raging thirst, I staggered down to the rendezvous point where a group of us had pledged to meet and go together to the first parkrun of the day. As I dragged my weary carcass down the empty streets, I saw a couple of people, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, cheerily jogging along. ‘What are they doing, are they crazy?’ I thought, a bit too loudly for comfort – where did that headache come from, who is it who’s shouting? Before it occurred to me that in a way I was about to do the same, but with considerably less bounce, well boob bounce possibly, but spiritual bounce not so much. It is an interesting (to me anyway, you can be bored if you like) concept, that parkrun has become so much a habit, that I actually no longer associate it with running at all. It is just that when parkrunday comes around, I go and do it. No thinking, no negotiation, it is just a case of ‘make it so’. This is the great glory of parkrun – and indeed Smiletastic, on days when I wouldn’t normally entertain the idea of running anywhere or for any distance at all I find I’m almost doing so by accident. It is a wonderful thing. Shame that I’d obviously eaten something that disagreed with me yesterday, no other explanation for my constantly shifting consciousness. Thank goodness I wasn’t doing the driving!
Astonishingly, four of us did make the rendezvous as planned! We piled into the car, and off we went to Graves. We expected to find the place heaving, but it seems on New Year’s Day parkrunners work on just-in-time principles. Apart from the core team of hi-viz heroes who were out setting up the course whilst revelers from the night before were probably still making their way home. Kudos to you guys, your efforts were and are appreciated. 🙂 (Nothing like an emoticon to make someone feel valued apparently, so that’s good).
We sorted parking, and then some opted to sit in the car, I went in search of a loo. Disaster, they were shut. It would probably be unseemly to report that there was a fair exodus of wandering runners who all seemingly had dropped something in the bushes just before the run, and that something was possibly their pants. Don’t know why, desperate times call for desperate measures though.
Soon, there was quite a gang assembled. I found that, much like when I tried to save myself when the rogue firework went off, I was quite happy to ditch my loyal parkrunning buddies and lift providers at the first sniff of a dragonfly. Found one, found more. Then there was frenetic counting, would we make the 50% requirement. … not that we cared, because it was all fun, but ooooh, so teasingly close. We half-heartedly greeted others whilst distracted by our search for insect companions. We achieved one selfie, of the dragonfly team, only one of the people within it isn’t, no matter, we can always photoshop on the missing fellow dragonflies later on, so that’s fine.
Then there was a call to gather and the Run Director’s briefing.
Impressively, the poet laureate for Graves had composed something for just this occasion. You really should read the Graves parkrun report of the morning, because it contains not only pictures AND the note that this was a record-breaking start to the year with an attendance of 374 parkrun/jog/walkers AND an original poem to mark the occasion of the New Year but also the fabulous statistical insight that ‘of those taking part at Graves this morning, 131 then headed to Poolsbrook and a further 50 to Hillsborough’. Hurrah, I do like a good parkrun stat. I wonder how they number crunched that one.
These were pleasures yet to come. I just know that when the shout went off to start, we went off. It was a bit of a slow shuffle to be fair, a fact for which I was enormously grateful. I pootled round. Graves parkrun is actually my favourite of the Sheffield courses, because of the varied terrain, the scenic nature, the farm animals, but today it was a slog. Who lengthened the hill? Even so, there were some – indeed many – highlights en route. Specifically:
- WAtching regal smiley pause to take a photo of the donkey on lap one and a goat on lap two, because if it isn’t instagrammed it never happened, apparently. That’s what she said, I still think she was angling for a lift from the donkey when I rumbled her, but I suppose we’ll never know now.
- Spotting some fabulous junior parkrunners who instead of running were donned in over-sized hi-viz with matching over-sized smiles and proffering a succession of high fives. That was my favourite bit
- REalising at some point that we had made the count re dragonflies
- Seeing so many great people out and about, parkrun is a huge community of joy, because the double parkrun options locally are a bit limited, it seemed everyone had congregated at Graves today. ’twas truly a wondrous sight to behold.
- Finishing, without actually asphyxiating on the way round
- Realising, once again, that you always have a parkrun within you somewhere, even if in your heart you’d rather be under the duvet still
On completion, people vanished pretty rapidly. Some speedy runners were aiming to do their double at 10.00 a.m. at Hillsborough – ambitious! They had an express checkout for barcode scanning. No really, they did! We more leisurely doublers, were headed to Poolsbrook.
Thank you fine people of Graves parkrun for your hospitality, your poetry and your fine organisation and winning smiles and ways as always.
Farewells were said, and off we went again. Not exactly in convoy. As in, not in convoy at all, it was a bit of a rural magical mystery tour to get to Poolsbrook parkrun I was just passively parasitic, I left it to other with GPS and initiative to get us there. I only pitched in when I saw the sign for the country park, which I concede was probably a bit of a case of ‘too little too late‘ not sure they’ll buy ‘it’s the thought that counts’.
As we neared the entrance, I realised for the first time that Pools Brook is actually two words not one. Didn’t notice that when I was last here for the inaugural Poolsbrook parkrun (which was good actually, though now I understand new events try to discourage people from attending inaugurals so they have a chance to bed in first. Good point, well made. Respect that people.)
The place was heaving, and cars were being turned back from the park, so we ducked into a sort of industrial park alongside where there was space to park on the side roads. It was freezing, and we were still quite early. We sat for a bit, until i saw a carload of dragonflies rock up, and that, and my need for a precautionary pee, were enough for me to head up to the start. As at Graves parkrun, the core team had been hard at work early on to make the magic happen at 10.30. Thanks everyone 🙂 (See what I did again there with that smiley emoticon – they’ll be beside themselves with thrilledness!).
There were lots more new and familiar faces. An enormous queue for the loos, and – a considerable boon – a sort of cafe area where an urn and biscuits was set up for post-run refreshments in return for donations. Also, a working radiator and a store cupboard where you could leave your bags. All extremely well organised, although I was slightly worried that the drop in temperature as we entered the store-room was indicative of entering some one-way anomaly into a strange, sub-zero parallel universe, but I made it out OK. After a bit, it was announced the run start would be delayed by about 15 minutes, presumably to accommodate people who were having to park up further away and walk in. Never ones to waste an opportunity, we put some serious work into getting into the dragonfly team spirit. I think we did ok. See how we’ve near enough perfected those double wings there. I know, impressive! I’ve only just realised that one of our number somehow lost a hand in the melee. It was so cold I don’t think she noticed, as she never mentioned it at the time. Oh well, it was all for a good cause.
Eventually we had to venture outside, and I remembered a bit belatedly the start was slightly further away from the finish so we needed to allow time to get there. Still, plenty of time for another group dragonfly shot. We are getting better at this. Still a learning curve, but we’ll get there…
A quick trot down to the start. Brrrrr. Best and only option was to dive into the midst of the throng and, penguin-like, hope to benefit from the heat of huddling up with others. It’s lucky that all parkrunners are lovely and mostly accepting of such behaviours.
We were a fair old gang! A record Poolsbrook parkrun turnout, they put a Facebook post up declaring ‘WOW! A massive new attendance record with 473 finishers!! Last year we ‘only’ had 289!’ It felt big! I couldn’t hear much of the briefing, but got the general idea. Milestones, thank the volunteers. Three laps, counting to three is harder than you think by the way. They do put up kilometer markers, but that’s only helpful once you get the hang of them, to begin with they felt a bit random as I slowly registered I can’t possibly have done 4km already, I’m still on my first lap etc. We were quite a sight though, storming round, and round, and round again…
Hard to imagine, but I think I was even slower for this than at Graves, it was flat but quite congested, and frankly I just wanted it to end. It was a jolly crowd on the whole. I did regret not hearing the end of the conversation between two runners where one said ‘so basically the kids row deteriorated into an international incident‘ and the other said ‘what did you do?’ and the first said ‘left them to it.’ I have a feeling that wasn’t the expected response. I think it probably didn’t end there…. The marshals were all unfailingly lovely, I did try to splutter out thanks to each and everyone. I’ve since though read about another parkrunner at a different run (can’t remember where though, and it might have been on Christmas day now I come to think of it) who ran the whole parkrun with a box of chocolates, which he handed out to each and every marshal on the way round. That’s impressive! Maybe next year, if I’m not having to use my hands to keep my unicorn under control. I wasn’t so cheery about my proximity to the pimped up buggy that blared tinny tunes out throughout. Kylie should be so lucky indeed, I didn’t feel it myself. I gritted my teeth, reminding myself of the need to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way, whilst lamenting my inability to outrun this assault on my senses…
Round and round the lake I ran. It was quite social, or potentially so, my ability to run and talk was pretty much eroded. I was relieved when I knew I could finally take the right hand path up the finish funnel. Yay! It wasn’t quite as empty as this as I approached it, but it was just as much a vision of loveliness as this early morning photo suggests!
A bit of a queue for scanning, but that was fine, as an opportunity to mill and mingle. Then into the coffee area where a donation secured coffee and a choice of biscuits or mince pies. Loads on offer, very impressive. I wasn’t sure if dragonflies eat, so I checked. Not only are the nymphs impressive predators within a pond (I knew that already) but so are the adults. Veracious carnivores they will happily eat other winged insects according to the British Dragonfly Society. This meant we could still tap our inner dragonflies and eat with a clear conscience, but we’d have to make some adjustment in dietary expectations to take account of veganuary, obviously. That’s OK, we weren’t real dragonflies, only channeling them. In case you weren’t sure…. By the way, veganuary seems particularly high profile this year – even got an article about going vegan for runners in Runners World this week. It’s increasingly becoming ‘a thing’.
Refreshments quaffed, we were homeward bound. Some had ambitious plans for further activity. Personally I favoured a power nap – once I’d safely submitted my ‘tell Sue’ Smiletastic forms and could sleep easy in my bed. Well, had to be done…
Poolsbrook parkrun not only delivered up a fine event and coped with the unexpected influx of tourists from near and far, they also wrote an event report with fine pictures and stats. Read it here and be amazed, Poolsbrook parkrun news – records smashed!. Thank you fine people of Poolsbrook, both for the warmth of your welcome and polish of your logistics.
Just for the record, there were a fair few parkrun people on the move this morning. I have no idea how, but someone, somewhere, created this fabulous offering showing parkrunners migration paths across East Derbyshire on New Year’s Day. I know! You didn’t know you’d be interested in a pictorial representation of statistical information, but suddenly you are. It’s a splendid thing. Now if only someone could do that for South Yorkshire as well, just imagine the joy they would bring…
Also, according to the parkrun UK Facebook page:
18,393 parkrunners completed a New Year’s Day double by walking, jogging or running around two UK parkrun events on 1 January 2018…
That’s 33% of all those who completed a UK parkrun on the day!
At what point do we become an official movement I wonder. I mean movement is integral to the initiative is it not, maybe we are already?
I think in the circumstances, the final word should go to our founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, who did us a 2017 review which you can read here. But you know what, he also sent my mum a Christmas card to acknowledge her sterling support of Bushy parkrunners week in week out, and that’s even more exciting. To be fair, it was another parkrunner who set that particular train in motion, but to a fine end. Love parkrun, not just because of Mr S-H, but all the other lovely parkrunners who sent personal messages with their own parkrun stories! Thank you all.
So that’s it. New year’s day double done. Thank you everyone, everywhere, who helped make it so!
Including my mum, that’s Elisabeth with an ‘s’ by the way – who was out cheering at Bushy parkrun on New Year’s Day too!
Happy parkrunning into 2018. It will bring new runs, and new adventures aplenty I’m sure. Hurrah! Go us. Just #dfyb.
Happy new Year y’all!