Posts Tagged With: Christmas

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new parkrun double for me… and I’m feeling good! (ish)*

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

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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.

man with shovel

It was something of a slide about,though those in the front of the line up seemed as fearless as ever…

how it started

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.

precious cargo

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?

YES!

WE WERE!

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).

NYD graves team

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.

graves parkrun dragonflies

Then there was a call to gather and the Run Director’s briefing.

graves RD song line 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.)

pools brook country park

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.

poolsbrook dragonfly

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…

poolsbrook dragonflies

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.

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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…

GP poolsbrook parkrun dash

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!

poolsbrook finish

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…

east midlands parkrun double migrations

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!

mum new years day

Phew.

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!

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas…! Concord parkrun Christmas Day spectacular 2017. Delivering Christmas cheer since 2012

Digested read: me and my companion animal the unicorn Sophie joined the festive fun at Concord parkrun today. It was the perfect winterval celebration.  What’s not to like.  Note to self.  It was all very jolly and jingling, but unicorns aren’t really the best running companions to be honest (though they have lots of other qualities), so I think she might be happier to stick to supporting and marshaling duties at parkruns in future.  Yuletide felicitations everyone.  Ho, ho ho / bah humbug etc.

parkrun merry christmas

What could be more festive than being sat in front of the telly drinking tea, eating my way through a pack of orange club biscuits and watching ‘My 600lb life‘ on Quest Red whilst waiting for the pinger to ping and announce to me that Christmas dinner is done.  You don’t know?  Taking your unicorn to a Christmas Day parkrun, that’s what!

rh unicorn flying

Further more, these activities are not mutually exclusive. You can do both. I am the living proof.  Let me elaborate …

First, a bit of a history lesson for you.  So, it’s hard to imagine ‘t’was ever otherwise, but there was a time when Santa couldn’t bring you what you most wanted on Christmas morning, not because he was off shift by then, or because he doesn’t exist, but because Christmas parkrun wasn’t a thing.  Later, when parkrun was a thing, parkrunning on Christmas day in particular, generally wasn’t.  These were dark and sad times, but we knew no other reality, so made the best of things, or not, depending on the dynamic of the human relationships that surrounded us.  Now however, in the season of goodwill, Christmas Day parkrun is not only a hypothetical option, but an absolute reality for the people of Sheffield.  Dear Reader, I bring you Concord parkrun, spreading the Christmas joy, by opening their proverbial doors to parkrun tourists from near and far.  Mostly near I think, refugees from the other Sheffield parkruns that have yet to run on Christmas Day.   If I have correctly interrogated and understood the Concord parkrun stats page, then it seems they have been hosting this Christmas spectacular for every year since 2012.  It is definitely become an established part of my Christmas ritual in Sheffield.  By which I mean I first went to the Concord Christmas parkrun in 2015 and it made my Christmas.  I resolved that henceforth, in perpetuity, I would always go to parkrun on Christmas Day if I could.   Last year I couldn’t.  But I did today, and as Mr Loaf says, two out of three ain’t bad.  Christmas Day parkrun is a splendid thing.

Incidentally, there is one at Poolsbrook on Christmas Day also this year, but I’m saving that destination of choice for the New Year’s Day Double.  Poolsbrook parkrun put on a good show for today though, so respect to them when they’ve not even made their second birthday yet.  Bodes well for parkrun’s ability to replicate itself.   They plotting a new Junior parkrun for 2018 too, so watch this space.  Oh, you know what, I might as well give them their own star billing,  here they are, looking festive.  Santa’s little helpers in all their glory.  You can see how we compared with our Concordian efforts for yourself by reading on. Or sated, conclude your reading of this post now, the choice is yours dear reader and yours alone.  Go with your gut instinct, usually works, though of course I don’t know what you’ve ingested on Christmas day, might be playing havoc with your normal peristalsis cycles, so you could be getting atypical signals.  Can’t help you there, just do what you think is best, and remember, it’s all at your own risk.  I know, elf and safety is critical whatever the season,  it has to said…

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Anyways, back to Concord.  Are we nearly there yet?  Nope, but let’s get the basics out of the way first shall we? With regards to the course, the website blah de blah states:

The course consists of two counter-clockwise laps, all on asphalt paths suitable for mobility aids including wheelchairs. The course starts with a flat of 500m then a slight downhill of 500m levelling out at the far end of the course. Passing through a gate and returning with a slight uphill of 400m before levelling out to complete the lap. On the second lap the finish is 400m before the start line, ensuring a total of 5km.

and according to Strava, when run, it looks like this:

Xmas Day parkrun sloth route

Fess up time.  I stole/borrowed shared this from my sloth buddy and (newly appointed) marathon run mentor.  I can’t upload my own strava as no internet. I’m using a dongle for rubbishy internet of a sort, but can’t use two devices at once. Then I thought (because occasionally I do) ‘why not use someone else’s strava’ and I chose this particular one because it was just so exciting meeting an Endurer Dash buddy and also, the photo we casually posed for together can’t now be found, so this little thumbnail advisory picture of the running man himself will have to do as the photographic evidence that we were indeed both there, same time, same place, same mission.  Yay! Grand to see you out there.  Storming it.  As indeed we both were (ahem.)

But we had to all get there first.

I was up in the dark, eager with anticipation, and also needing a bit of extra time to get me and Sophie kitted out for our run. She’s only really had the one outing so far, to Graves junior birthday parkrun, but that was only marshaling, and I’d promised I’d take her out for an actual run on Christmas Day.  Seemed like a good idea at the time. I was feeling somewhat dubious about my promise this morning to be honest, but she was up and ready by the door waiting at 6.00 a.m.  No backing out now!  Could hardly rain on that parade, besides, it seemed like a good idea at the time…  I mean, running 5k with a unicorn, what could possibly go wrong?

up and raring to go

The first challenge of the morning was heading out the door.  Astonishingly, the streets were pretty deserted – I’d expected a mass migration of people heading over to Concord – honestly, what else was anyone going to do today? I hardly saw anyone, apart from a car taking advantage of the empty roads to speed to its destination… spectacularly scraping its undercarriage on a speed bump as it did so.  Happy Christmas, ho ho ho etc.

I arrived at the logistical operations centre from where communal transport was to depart.  Three of us set off from transport HQ, scooping up another couple en route. For your information, unicorns aren’t entirely practical accessories in a car, although she did function as a personalised air bag, I think having her face squashed against the window wasn’t the best of preparations for a run out.  Next time, I think I need to organise proper transport for her, to ensure she is able to optimise her performance.  I think there are specialist companies that can do this.  … anyway, one of our number had apparently cut it a bit fine with his timings, so had to run in his jimjams, but then again, if you can’t spend all day in your festive themed pyjamas on Christmas Day when can you?  Good call.

rh overslee come in you jim jams

On a more serious note, it is a demanding and busy day for many, so all time-saving tips are helpful.  A fair few runners today therefore chose to run in their special yuletide outfits to save having to change again later. Good call.  Classy choices.  I appreciate it when people make an effort on these occasions.  Lucky it’s been quite a mild one though, is it not?

So, on arrival, we found the car park pretty empty, and at first I thought there weren’t all that many people around, which would have been a shame, as Concord parkrun is surely a Sheffield running tradition these days.  In fact, people rapidly started to gather, so I was back into ‘oh my gawd I’m so excited to see you‘ mode, as familiar faces a-plenty came into view.  I was especially pleased to see my sloth endurer dash buddy, who I’ve not seen for ages.  He can’t possibly have been avoiding me, it must be that we move in different orbits these days, what with all his hard-core tough mudding and my… well, my not tough mudding. So much so that we not only did big hugs and much whooping, but even posed for loads of pictures together, because these days, if you aren’t photographed together so you can tag all your other mutual friends and acquaintences then that social interaction never happened.  No idea what happened to those snaps, it’s not like he’d have deleted them on the quiet in the hope that no-one need ever know I’d cornered him, and due to his gammy leg he was unable to get away before the photoshoot that put us both in the frame same time same place  …  we will just have to settle for our memories on this occasion.  Don’t worry, there’ll be other opportunities for a re-shoot in 2018 I’m sure!

There were some more succesful pre-run group shots though, yay!

Christmas day concord smiley trio

Collectively we must have tested the logistical operation of the Concord team – the usual average attendance is given as about 53, though actually I think that’s the mean, it’s been creeping upwards to 80 or so in recent months. Even so, the two-hundred plus turn out is a massive surge in attendance.  The record attendance at the event before today was 259 for Christmas Day 2016.  Today though (cue drum roll, but you’ll have to do that yourself as I don’t have it in my gift to activate that sound effect through this blogsite), the number was smashed out of the water.   A nice round 300.  Isn’t that spectacular?  Imagine that though, having to cater for 300 guests for Christmas Day, with just six unknowns (does that correlate to gate crashers or welcoming strangers into your home to spread the yuletide joy) whatever.  Impressive turn out, and impressive event management, so we are all marvelous.  Thanks especially to all the volunteers who turned out to make it so.  I’m sure you must have been on the ‘good’ list for Christmas.  Hurrah!  Thank you too to photographer for the day Ray Hibberd, from whose Facebook album for Christmas Day at Concord I have borrowed freely.  🙂

As we were a bit early, there was time for mutual appreciation of outfits, and much milling and seasonal mingling.

KW concord mingling

There was also an opportunity for comparison of Christmas morning experiences, past, present and yet to come.  I was taken by tales from parents about how you cope with offspring who are terrified of Father Christmas.  Not unreasonably, children who you have spent the rest of the year warning not to talk to strangers, aren’t to be so speedily hoodwinked into allowing a strange bearded man to enter their room at night just because it’s Christmas eve!  Various strategies have been employed over the years apparently, house lock down, stockings by the fire-place rather than the end of the bed were all options.  My favourite though, was the deal whereby one parent had a personal arrangement with Santa that they’d meet him a bit down the road for the present exchange so he’d never have to enter the house or even work out quite where said child lives.  It just goes to show, with a little planning, it is possible to make reasonable adjustments so events can be inclusive for all, worth remembering I think.

Mind you, some Santas can be quite terrifying, not the real one I daresay but his body doubles.  Our very own Sheffield runderwear ambassador has espied one this very morning whilst out walking her dogs.  A santa suited man doing multiple drive-bys of a particular house – presumably to be a well-timed surprise with a live appearance on Christmas morning, but maybe a ram raider, hard to tell.  Here are some santa-suited runners from today.  If you are still off work, and a bit bored now that your food coma have faded and the needles have fallen from your tree, you could mark them out of ten for your own amusement.  You can use whatever criteria you like, but I suggest approachability; ho ho ho quotient; authenticity of outfit; contemporary interpretation of outfit; vividness of red; quality of trim/ facial hair.  Note, points should be deducted for any real fur, there is no need in this day and age, really not.  Did you know nowadays even faux fur might be real?  The irony that as real fur becomes unacceptable, it is sold as fake, fake news indeed.

Before the running though, the briefing.  And the barking.  There were some very excited hounds at this parkrun.  It helped build the excitement as they were gathered at the back, beside themselves with eager anticipation, just like the rest of us.  It was grand to see lily the wonder dog again, first sighting of her this year by me I think, though of course she is a regular fixture at Graves parkrun.  Our paths just haven’t crossed for some reason. Grand to see her out and about, again, I like that she never disappoints in her choice of outfits, and can be relied upon to dress appropriately for any and every occasion:

At the RD briefing, we also learned that two amongst us had pulled off an impressive double whammy, having perfectly timed their running rendezvous to ensure they both marked their 250 milestones on Christmas Day. Brilliant. Just a shame that all Christmases from hereonin will be somewhat anticlimactic.  Oh well. Still good job, well done Craig and Claire, I did applaud you, but honestly, not quite sure who you were.  Bravo though, and good luck with topping that next year….  Still, you’ve got time to plan I suppose. Maybe Lapland will have launched a new parkrun somewhere by then, so you could take a husky ride to the start of that.  Just a thought.  You’re welcome.  Lapland is the largest and most northern part of Finland by the way, in case you were wondering if it was a real or fictitious place.  Reindeer are real not fictitious as well.  One Christmas, when I was away traveling I was sharing tales of native traditions with both a Finnish and an American fellow nomad.  The Finn explained that reindeer is commonly eaten in Finland, less so than in the past, but definitely widely available.  I thought our poor American friend was going to implode.  She definitely went into existential meltdown.  For her this revelation encapsulated a moment of both complete joy and utter despair.  Joy because she’d previously thought reindeer were mythical creatures only to discover in the same breath that people willingly tucked into them as their primary protein source.  Just another smorgasbord opportunity, not a creature to be treasured at all.  We never discussed the flying ability of reindeers, mind you.  You might think it impossible, but then again, we were once told it’s impossible for bumble bees to fly, despite the evidence to the contrary.  Don’t think they can run though, so that’s a shame for the Bee team taking on Smiletastic in 2018… as part of the Smiley Paces running challenge to kick off the year.  In any event, I think we all know reindeers can definitely fly – better than most turkeys, which is why Santa has come to rely on them as a sustainable form of transport as well as a handy snack to act as a savoury antidote to all those mince pies and glasses of sherry.  Jerk reindeer anyone?

Anyway, back to empathy for Americans (stay with me dear reader) – can you imagine that, finding out that reindeer are both real and a legitimate food stuff on the same day!  It would be like finding out they eat dragons alongside the lava bread for breakfast in Wales, or that minced Nessie meat is a key component of haggis on the banks of Loch Ness.  Which I don’t think they do…  More a burger staple.  What is it with having live animals celebrating and endorsing the consumption of their own kind by the way?  Never understood that.  Does Babe appear on sausage packs?  Mostly nope, but bet his relatives do.  Sad but true.

nessy burgers

Fortunately, although we in Sheffield know unicorns are real (ref Round Sheffield Run route – look out for them particularly in the Whitely woods and Ecclesall Woods sections), as fas as I’m aware people haven’t identified them as a legitimate food source just yet.  Just as well, it’s not a thing to be done at all.

So after the appreciation by way of applause, we were off, to the baying of hounds bringing up the rear.  They were raring to go, it helped build the anticipation.  We must have been a festive sight, charging off into the park, following the tarmac road with the instruction ‘if in doubt, keep right’ ringing in our ears.  The dogs tore off with enthusiasm as you can see

between you and me, my own enthusiasm levels diminished quite rapidly. The thing is, *spoiler alert* it turns out Sophie is really rubbish as a running companion.  What may have seemed like a good idea at the time, was all too soon established to be patently not.  Probably my fault for not having briefed her properly, and also for being too short.  The thing is, well, lots of things actually.  For starters, all those limbs and wings take some co-ordination.  It must be a bit like trying to run a 6-legged two wings race.  I should have guessed this, it was hard enough for Paul and Harry when they did their three-legged walk challenge.  I should have made the connection, but I suppose I thought with the wings we’d be flying round, not hindering one another.

3 counties on 3 legs

We just never seemed to synchronise.   Her hooves kept scraping the top of my trainers and causing them to come undone.   Three times I had to stop to retie my shoes, and that’s harder than you might think  to do with a unicorn strapped round your midriff.  I was in constant fear of a tarmac directed faceplant, the only brake on my fear being the cushioning potential of my companion unicorn. Sort of the yin and yan of a catastrophic incident in the making being potentially both the cause of my falling and the instrument of my protection.  Then her head and neck kept sticking out at a weird angle, making it look broken and giving her a rather sinister appearance.  When her hooves weren’t sabotaging my laces then her legs had an alarming tendency to gravitate between my own legs in a way that not only considerably hampered progress, but gave me the weird sensation of having wet myself, which I don’t think I had. That reminds me though, I wonder whatever happened to the Smiley elder in search of a pee point at the outset?  All the facilities were closed, and she didn’t seem persuaded by my observation that this is why skorts were invented, and also there is a Smiley precedent for just doing what’s necessary without bothering to seek cover or even drop your knickers first.  That story though is for another day…  ‘The post event photos suggest she made it round though, so she must have had some solution presented to her other than the nuclear Paula Radcliffe option.  Personally, as I have a bashful bladder at the best of times, that tactic of last resort would never be available to me.

rh in the red

As if all that kerfuffle wasn’t bad enough, I also felt compelled to hang on to my Santa hat, which frankly was doing its darndest to abandon me.  It wasn’t the most elegant of runs.  Any vision of floating by in a magical mist of unicorn fairy dust (no she isn’t a my little pony) quickly evaporated.  This was a test of endurance, a mental battle, particularly as turns out (I’d forgotten) Concord is a two lap course.

This is the reality of my progress, hanging on to my accessories for grim life, teeth gritted, head bowed into the wind ‘I CAN do this, I WILL do this, parkrun IS FUN’ my mantra of choice as the entire field overtook me and sped ahead.  I gave up any pretence of giving chase to anything.  Watching other runners disappear into the distance.  ‘Oh well, maybe it will be type 2 fun‘, I thought to myself as I staggered onwards.

RH the way ahead

Mustn’t grumble though, Tough Mudder fancy dress options can be even more challenging, I think it was fancy dress, not an actual T-Rex, but then again, I wasn’t there.  They are also very good at fancy dress in Wigan I understand.  Note to self for next year perhaps.

tough mudder trex

On the plus side, there were friendly marshals a-plenty to offer encouragement and support on the way round.  These included those with bells to ring.  A Valley Hill Runner – this is my new favourite club by the way, I mean Barnsley Harriers are all lovely of course, but not in evidence today. However, at Hallam parkrun earlier in the week one of the VHR runners sought me out and explained the password that would have got me a free pass into the Valley Hill Runners tent at the XC course when I was lost and lonely and afeared because I couldn’t find my club anywhere.  Apparently, they’d have fed me buns, and offered moral support too, so I need never be alone at a XC event again if I can’t find my own club gazebo for whatever reason.  Isn’t that nice?  Anyways, one of the VHR crew was marshaling, albeit disguised in a santa suit, grand to have new friends.  The VHR had also written motivational slogans in chalk on parts of the route.  I parasitized some of them to help me round, no harm in that surely, I doubt they’d have begrudged me such succour in my hour of need.

As I trudged along towards the back, other marshals cheered me on.  One near to the railings at the start had a dog with her. This dog took extreme exception to Sophie for some reason.  The same thing happened at her inaugural outing at Graves Junior parkrun’s first birthday bash.  She seems to have something of a Marmite effect on those who come across her.  The marshal was a bit apologetic and embarrassed, but I have to concede, same thing happened again as I was walking home through the streets of Nether Edge later.  Another dog went into a frenzy of barking and straining at the leash to get at me the entire time I was within his sight – and that was from the opposite side of the road.  This is another reason why I think running with a unicorn is a lot nicer as a fantasy than as a reality.  The constant fear of being hunted down stalks you.

There were some bright moments, the en route selfie with my Hallam buddies (also never to be seen again, maybe they are saving it to capitalise on at a later date if I ever become famous or infamous. They can sell it to the highest bidder, legitimising their claim that they were with me at the beginning when it all started, before going on to the established go to script about ‘well, she mostly kept herself to herself‘ etc.  I can’t begrudge them that opportunity.

There was also a Christmas Day volunteer photographer, snapping us in all our glory, he managed to make me look magical at least.  A unicorn, for christmas, what more could one want – a think of beauty indeed! (Her not me).

rh a unicorn is a thing of beauty

Well actually, what more you could want would be a bike.  Another traditional christmas gift.  This parkrunner was so excited at getting one, he couldn’t wait til after parkrun to try it out.  Which is why it’s so very important to respect the right of everyone to participate in parkrun in their own way.

rh bike for christmas

There were festive costumes and smiles a-plenty.  I got to see some of these as the faster runners looped back whilst I was still running out. There were even a few friendly high-five exchanges to be had, some shared a bit more self-consciously than others, and there may have been at least one swerve away, like when you go in for a hug and realise you shouldn’t and have to pretend you were heading somewhere else entirely.  There was plenty of family fun and buggy runners too.  Cue a little slide show I think, you can check out your own favourite ‘aaaw‘ moments, spot those holding out for type two fun, the ‘oh yes we are having fun yet’ parkrunners as well as the deeley bopper challengers. You may even see some flying feet if you are particularly observant. 🙂

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Because I was distracted by my unicorn, it was only looking at the photos later that I realised I missed spotting this fancy dress offering on the day. Total respect:

RH how did I miss this

And we had a few naysayers too, also seasonally apt.  No Christmas would be complete without the bah humbug contingency after all:

Finally, finally I made it round.  By mutual agreement I think it’s safe to say Sophie and I wont be running together again.  I’m glad we did it once, but hey ho – or ho ho ho as is more traditional at this time of year – there is no need to repeat the indignity and peril of the occasion in future.

The marshals were still in good voice, and there was no queue for the scanners.  The runderwear ambassador ahead of me commiserated with the unicorns flying legs issue. If only I’d conferred with her in advance she could have warned me of such hazards.  A relative of hers who shall remain nameless but is RD at Hallam, did the Trunce in a fancy dress costume with an elaborate tail one time.  Long story short, it ended up reversing and sprouting up between his legs as he ran, the only way to keep it safe was to hang onto it.  This caused both hilarity and consternation to the runner behind, who every time she thought of overtaking, was confronted with the sight of him clutching an enormous erect phallus, and she was unable to pass.  A potential ‘me too’ moment indeed, were it not for the fact his awkwardness far exceeded her own.  That’s what I love about parkrun we can pool running knowledge and experiences and learn from one another.  If I could just remember what the darned creature was called I’d find a picture of it.  Then again, maybe best not.  Might add it in later…

Edit:  It was a pokemon character, pikachu – you’ll see the issue I think

pikachu pokemon

NEWSFLASH – you want more, I give you the photographic proof:

Sometimes say nothing

Sometimes there are no words…

So a bit more post run mingling.  A cheer for the final finishers, and that was that.  A great way to start Christmas.  Well that’s what I thought, others pointed out that their Christmases had actually started with excited wake up calls at 2.00 a.m. so they were well underway whether they wished to be or not.

Fond farewells, tinsely embraces were exchanged and all back in the car for the journey back to our own stomping ground, so I could have a dog bark ferociously at me on the way home.  So thanks everyone who shared in the parkrun spirit and made the Christmas Day walk/run/jog/ volunteering parkrun possible.  Best part of Christmas for me is this parkrun outing, you get to see all your friends, have a bit of a trot out, and all done and dusted so you can vegetate in front of the TV later on with a cup of tea (ahem) and an easy conscience.   Hurrah!

In the interests of fair reporting,  I should point out that there are of course other sporting events available on this day, though why they would take precedence over a local parkrun I can’t imagine.   Christmas day sea swim at Porthcrawl anyone?  To be fair, I can only assume this crowd go for the swim option as they didn’t know about the Christmas Compendium to find a parkrun on 25th December, because they look like definite parkrun material.  parkrunners working towards triathlons perhaps – or undertaking a searun in the inexplicable absence of a parkrun option locally.  I wonder what time the swim started, maybe some of them did a parkrun first anyway, duathlon option, now that would be grand…  Loving their work though. Most festive.

So there you go, something for everyone,  here’s hoping this parkrun malarkey is a Christmas tradition that endures… so now it’s a question of who’s going to make it to the New Year’s Day Double?  Oooooh the excitement.  I can hardly wait!

Happy running til then dear reader, hope you are having a good one.  If not, at least by now you’ve made it through to the other side, and as long as you have a barcode, all is well with the world, hope reigns.

Oh, and entertain yourself with Harrogate parkrun’s barcode exploits, most festive, and impressive.  I thank you.

Job done.

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

For my Christmas related running reports see here.

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

Who says parkrun’s a turkey? Sheffield Hallam parkrun pre-christmas dash, in all it’s glory.

Digested read: twas the parkrun before Christmas, and at Sheffield Hallam parkrun the first finisher was most definitely a turkey of a runner.  I tried to inculcate the joy of parkrun into an Australian visitor, it didnt work.  Oh well, we have to respect the right of everyone to participate (or not) in parkrun in their own way.  Ho ho ho everyone.  My those turkeys can move.

Every turkey has its day.  To be honest, whilst I can’t really speak for all turkeys, I’m going to take a wild punt and put it out there that they probably prefer that their day isn’t Christmas day, because I’m inclined to think they like to take centre stage in a different sense.  Today, dear reader, The Sheffield Hallam parkrun was led out by a complete turkey of a runner, it was quite something to behold. Eyes a bulging, it fair shot round.  Anyone would think it was trying to run away from something.  They can run pretty fast, wild ones can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour apparently, so maybe it was hardly a surprise this turkey was first finisher, having maintained it’s pacing throughout. This is my new favourite parkrun photo of all time by the way Mr Carman, you got that turkey legs of the ground and right in amongst the elite athletes from the start.  Job done. No-one else had a chance with a flying start like this really did they.

turkey leading by a head!

They can fly quite fast too, if the internet is to believed.  55 mph.  This might account for why Father Christmas did give them a go in an early prototype of his sleigh, but I guess ungrateful people kept nipping out and stealing them for their Christmas tables whilst he was otherwise engaged down a chimney somewhere dropping off presents on Christmas Eve. Something like that. Anyway, he ended up with just the two, and it just wasn’t sustainable, loads of kids didn’t get their presents, people complained, that kind of thing, so he went with the reindeers instead in the end.  Reindeers know how to handle themselves a bit better too I guess.  Big antlers, that sort of thing.  Point is, you tend to see turkeys trussed up rather than running free at Christmas these days, which is why it was a novelty to witness one in motion at Endcliffe Park.

wild turkeys pulling santa

This all goes to show that just when I think I have exhausted parkrun in general, and Sheffield Hallam parkrun in particular as a possible source of new material to write about, I learn something new.  I suppose it should come as no surprise to find that turkeys are on the run pre-christmas, it is after all the last chance these sensitive intelligent creatures have to make a final bid for freedom – but I didn’t previously appreciate that a ‘turkey run’ is quite such an actual thing. Albeit in America, and we don’t want to rush to embrace everything that comes from over there now do we?  Did you know turkeys appreciate music too by the way.  That’s why turkey whisperer is an actual job, trust me, I’m a qualified careers adviser, I know about these things.  Plus it was in The Guardian, so that clinches it.

turkey whisperer

Whereas turkeys show their appreciation of music by clustering around and joining in.  parkrunners show their appreciation a bit differently, by running on by. We did all like it a lot though.  Live music at our pre-Christmas Sheffield Hallam parkrun has become something of a tradition in recent years, and even though we ran past rather than gathered around the musical trio, it was rather lovely.  Oooh, spot the santa dashing round the back…  Most festive.  Kudos to these young musicians for turning out on a Saturday morning to perform as well.  I doubt I’d have been community minded enough to volunteer for that back in the day. Not that anyone would have wanted me to do so, as I never really got beyond a most pitiful rendition of  ‘Go and tell Aunt Nancy‘ on the descant recorder, which I concede would be a bit of a limited repertoire for an impromptu al fresco Christmas concert of even the most modest expectations…  This trio on the other hand, had a long play list of seasonal carols.  Impressive!  Thanks guys 🙂

christmas music trio

Where was I? Oh yes, turkeys running.  Well, according to the online urban dictionary (USA based) , so it must be true:

A turkey run is a very long run in a team until the whole team pukes. It is done before or after Christmas dinner

How very charming and festive.  Not.  Alternatively, Wikipedia tells us the Turkey Trot is more of a thanksgiving tradition, with less actual purging of the stomach and more with having a run to burn off some calories with the winner traditionally getting the prize of a frozen turkey. Think Percy Pud but with celebration of mass slaughter of turkeys as the focus of the occasion rather than the acquisition of a Christmas pudding. Confusingly though, some turkey trots are runs of actual turkeys, as opposed to people dressed up as them.  I suppose on reflection, that shouldn’t be confusing, since in the former case the descriptor is rather more literal and accurate than in the latter, but as a parkrun regular, I’m more familiar with the concept of people running around wearing random fancy dress for the most flimsy of reasons or none at all, so would lean towards expecting the latter.  Food for thought isn’t it? Working out what a turkey trot is, and actual food for you non-veggies out there too as well perhaps.

 

 

The point is, 23rd December was the last official parkrun before Christmas Day.  Whilst there are some Christmas Day parkruns available, for us Sheffield Hallam parkrun regulars, this was last chance saloon for a festive trot out on our home course.  A case of dusting down the santa suits, digging out the tinsel and generally getting in the Christmas groove according to seasonal requirements.  I suppose it was inevitable turkeys would be playing a most active part too.

Naturally, I was quite excited.  This Saturday promised all sorts of jolliness.  Not only festive fancy dress, but parkrunners celebrating milestones.  Specifically, our very own runderwear ambassador was running her 250th parkrun, either that or getting married.  Possibly both.  They look a lovely couple in the photo don’t they.  Congratulations, either way…

milestone lovely couple

Adding to my excited anticipation, I had brought with me a guest from Australia.  I was looking forward to seeing the smile on her face as I introduced her to the parkrun magic.  After all, fancy dress, musicians, parkrun, post parkrun breakfast,  the beauty of Endcliffe park, all my favourite people in the world gathered in one spot. She would be bowled over by the inherent wowiness of it all, her life would never be the same again. How lucky was she never to have been to parkrun before because she was about to do the parkrun equivalent of stepping through the back of wardrobe and entering Narnia.  How would she ever be able to thank me… and yet I wouldn’t need to be thanked, because welcoming a new participant into the fold is absolutely its own reward.  What could possibly go wrong?

We set off, armed with a box of Christmas Crackers, because you never know when they might come in handy on an outing to parkrun in December.  I was wearing my seasonally appropriate santa skirt (still not sure which way round it should go, bow at the front of bow at the back?) and my santa hat, which turned out to be a bit of a fashion fail to be honest, but more of that later.  With the benefit of hindsight, I was maybe a bit wide-eyed and naive to assume that everyone exposed to parkrun will instantly fall for its many and manifest charms, and to fail to pick up on the signals that my house guest was a case in point.  The early clues were her  disbelief that we’d have to walk to the park in the first place, coupled with apparently, not wanting to be seen walking with me whilst I was wearing a Santa hat.  I mean, I completely get the not wishing to be seen in public with me part of that equation, many would agree, but due to the presence of a mere smattering of festive fancy dress, that’s never a good sign.  Also, on reflection, the request that we buy a newspaper en route so she’d have something to do whilst we were all running now I come to think of it…. well, I didn’t need to be Miss Marple did I? Still,  I always get a Saturday Guardian anyway, so complied, and on arrival, positioned her outside the cafe, with instructions to watch us from the bench, and do the clapping and supporting from up there where she would have a grand view and it would be loads of fun.  You couldn’t not get caught up in the all-consuming joy that is parkrun from that vantage point could you?  Super fun would be guaranteed, more than most people can rightly cope with –  or your money back, as is the parkrun way.

start milling around

I skipped over to my parkrun family, excitedly demanding they all cheer her with a rousing greeting of ‘Merry Christmas‘, ‘ho ho ho‘, ‘bah humbug‘ or whatever, as they sped past.  Who could not be won over by such a welcome.  I love my parkrun friends, they are up for such community minded initiatives.  How splendid is that!  All that is best about humanity can be found milling about in a park pre parkruns all over the earth.  Joy to the world indeed.  One reindeer came across from Longshaw especially to take part.  Isn’t that splendid!

 

It was great milling about in the park.  Lots of festive cheer was in evidence.  Our reindeerector was co-ordinating it all with her usual aplomb, if a lack of reindeer accessorizing – still, she has a pass because she was being busy and important, plus others had pushed out the boat, and reindeerector is a very good pun, so that has to count for something.  There was an actual reindeer present too, so that was pretty impressive.  No idea where he put his barcode though.  That’s the problem with running in your birthday suit.  It’s hard enough to find official running clothes with a reasonably sized pocket in, bare skin running is another level of challenge altogether when it comes to secreting your tag, and don’t get me started on what do you do with the house keys!

 

 

Many were rocking festive Santa themed looks, some with more obviously visible outward manifestations of yuletide joy and goodwill to all than others.  I couldn’t help harbouring the thought that one or two must have been of the view that donning the costume slash hat was more than enough to show willing, and they couldn’t reasonably be expected to don a broad smile as well.  I almost prefer the grumpy santas sometimes.  The embodiment of the complexity of the Christmas spirit. Plus, the real one must have been feeling quite stressed.  Those of you who just have to get presents for just the secret santa at work and feel traumatized should spare a thought for the guy that has to visit every child in the world and what’s more, is now live tracked doing it.  I like strava I know.  but that’s for my personal use.  For poor Mr Claus, being tracked on his ultra route would I think add to the stress, it would be no wonder if he was looking a bit grumpy.  See if you can spot him in the smorgasboard of delightful shots that follow…  Some went for the whole his and hers combos.  Admittedly, possibly just by being snapped whist inadvertently running alongside a fellow santa during the run, but I choose to believe at least some couples did the long walk down in their matching outfits.

 

 

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It was great to see lots of santas out and about, but it did make it hard to identify which was the real one.  I know he would have been there somewhere, because

a) it makes sense to hide in plain sight some time and

b) Santa seems a generally cool dude, generous in nature and likely to be predisposed to embracing the parkrun spirit

I still like to think he would have been one of the grumpy looking ones though.  Needs to save his cheeriness for his big day.

Hi-viz heroes were out in force, though not as much force as the RD would have liked.   Still plenty of scope to volunteer people, send a message via the Sheffield Hallam parkrun Facebook page, or email  SheffieldHallamhelpers@parkrun.com ‘go on, go on, go on, go on, go on’, as Mrs Doyle would say.

go on

You wouldn’t want to disappoint her.  Plus, it is a lot of fun.  Also, volunteering is completely compatible with fancy dress, which I appreciate might be your main consideration.

 

 

So there was pre-christmas cheer, and exchange of season’s greetings, and expressions of joy at milestones (about to be) achieved and applause for our hi-viz volunteers who make it all possible.

All in all, it was looking to be another fine parkrunday.  Hurrah.  No wonder so many of us choose to bow down and worship at the temple which is the parkrun start line.  Well, one person did anyway.  That’s how lots of movements start, with just one person, making a public gesture, standing up – or kneeling down, to be counted.  Might go viral,  sort of like that iconic shot of the student in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square, but with marvelous rather than catastrophic consequences for all present.

 

 

This woman was pretty awesome in 2017 too though, was she not? In case you can’t remember because there have been so many horrors since, it was the moment when during an English Defence League protest in Birmingham, activist Saffiyah Khan faced down protestor Ian Crossland.  That’s courage, and inspirational, right there.

making a stand against edl

The start line was assembled

 

and the cry went up for off.  We all trotted round our mini circuit and then spread out heading towards the cafe…  I thought I’d burst such was my anticipatory excitement as I imagined my Antipodean friend on the receiving end of a multitude of season’s greetings!

running by

Except when I got there, she wasn’t.  Having nipped into the cafe for a cup of tea and a slice of cake when she’d imagined we were safely underway and would be none the wiser she had so absented herself.  Some cheerily cried out to other unsuspecting and slightly bemused coffee drinkers, others, not unreasonably, abandoned their task.  Shame.  Oh well, I suppose it demonstrates that some people are apparently immune to the charms of parkrun.  Whether that is because they have some sort of genetic abnormality, or whether it is because I am now so inculcated into the cult myself I am no longer able to view parkrun with any degree of objectivity I’m not sure.  I do acknowledge that I freely clap on command at all the RD briefings even when I can’t hear a word of what’s being said and yet I unquestioningly follow their directives.  That might be seen as a slippery slope.  Quizzed later about why she couldn’t embrace it she was able to give quite a full explanation which boiled down to the following key points:

  1. It’s completely pointless
  2. It involves running, and I hate running
  3. It’s outside and cold (by Australian standards)
  4. You wear stupid outfits which is embarrassing to watch and would be mortifying to actually put on
  5. You don’t even have a proper timing mat
  6. I could have had a lie in
  7. Why would anyone want to watch other people run round, some of them aren’t even very good runners
  8. Who wants to hang out with other people in their community
  9. You’ve made me come down before breakfast
  10. I don’t even understand why we are here

The thing is, these observations are hard to rebuff in that she’s sort of encapsulated quite a few of the key features of the enterprise. Also, if I’m honest, before I tried it, I’d perhaps have come up with a similar list – with the additional one of ‘and I’ll look ridiculous in lycra’ so I can’t be too judgemental I guess it just wasn’t to be.  If we are to follow the parkrun code and respect everyone’s right to participate in it in their own way, then I suppose that has to include the right not to participate at all. Oh well.  Maybe she’ll find out it was type two fun later on.  Look back on it all nostalgically and register for one of the Sydney parkruns on the quiet.

Meantime, here are lots of the pre-christmas runners enjoying parkrun in their own way.   So respect people, show respect!

 

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Mr Carman was on fire today to be honest, because there are even more fabulous photos I can’t bear to omit, here are some favourites:

What happens behind the bush, stays behind the bush:

what happens behind the bush stays behind the bush

and the deeley bopper award goes to (though like my santa skirt, I’m not 100% sure they are facing the usual way, but at parkrun we respect everyone’s choices, always, don’t we, even when they are erm, wrong – unless they are four-headed reindeer of course, mutants, and that would be a new level of wrongness altogether. Messes with my head quite frankly.):

favourite deeley bopper

And me running, in my own inimitable way.  I am trying to think of myself running (and life) wise as work in progress. After all, you have to learn to do a thing badly, before you can learn to do it well. I’m working towards being part of the running elite.  My bizarre expression is purely to put you off the scent.  Bow at the front here.  I had it at the back for the Percy Pud.  Still not sure which is conventionally ‘correct’.  I also have no idea at all why I am pulling that face, I’m sure I had my own reasons though.   Probably personal.

bizarre festive expression

So we trotted around, and fun was had and milestones were reached.  How exciting is that.  250 runs.  And not even the first one to do so. A huuuuuuuuuuuuuge cheer went up as this parkrun stalwart sprinted across the line.

 

It was all very emotional.

Oh, and back to the turkeys, some great shots of them in action too.

 

The only thing is.  Oh, I don’t know if I should say.  It feels a bit petty and unseasonal, but then again, the truth will out.  … It’s just that, well, oh gawd, should I say it… I thought there was only one turkey allowed at Sheffield Hallam in perpetuity, and this was it.  The trouble is, you see someone sporting a look like that and it catches on, suddenly turkeys are all the rage at Christmas, but we need to remember where it all started.  I don’t want to cause dissent but I’ll not say too much more – other than to note some of us were there at the inaugural appearance of the turkey at parkrun, and let’s just acknowledge what was seen then, can never be unseen.  I’ll say no more.

one turkey is enough

So finally, run over, and I was reunited with running buddies in general and my Antipodean guest in particular. Naturally, we had to capture the occasion with more photos.  Because that’s what you do isn’t it, and also we are all spectacularly photogenic:

 

Though this is the shot of the day I feel, share in the joy:

Yay smile for parkrun

So that was that, photos taken, congratulations passed on to milestone runners, next stop Jonty’s for breakfast.  Turns out, that one perk of watching parkrun, is that running in a santa hat has a catastrophic effect on a runner’s hair styling options. This is hilarious, and might even partly balance out the horror of all the bad things about parkrun as a saturday activity for visiting Australians.  For my part, and yes dear reader, it was my own hair that was so spectacularly rearranged, well, fortunately I feel that on removal of my santa hat the comedic value outweighed the personal humiliation of my static-induced bouffant hairdo.  It could have been worse.  The Chitty Chitty Bang Bang hair cutting machine might have led to less reversible hair styling options.

santa hat hair

Also, we had crackers, they were fun.  Instant party, and we got a table at Jonty’s which is an incredibly rare occurence these days, so the Christmas countdown was looking good.  How festive were we?  That’s not even a rhetorical question dear reader, you can see for yourself, we were precisely this festive:

 

Ho ho ho!

So there you go.  A turkey ran at Sheffield Hallam and was first finisher. It’s a run not a race so not a winner as such, obviously … What could be more seasonally appropriate. Even better,  there was still Christmas Day parkrun at Concord to come. But you know what parkrun is for life, not just for Christmas, so whether you make/made it here on 25th December or not, it’ll still be there for you when you are next ready.  How lucky we are.  Gawd bless us, parkrunners every one!

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

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sharing parkrun niceyness despite the icyness… Sheffield Hallam parkrun

Digested Read: Running isn’t really happening for me at the moment, plus no internet for months now, I’m not a happy bunny.  Fortunately, we still have parkrun. Share the lurve parkrun people in general and Sheffield Hallam parkrun personages in particular, and all will be well with the world. Ho ho ho etc.  parkrun remains the ultimate mood enhancer.  I went yesterday, and I feel less grumpy now, for which I thank you all.

I can’t lie, I’m definitely Ms Grumpy Knickers today. Mostly first world problems granted, but I’m feeling vaguely traumatized on a number of fronts, specifically running related and internet connectivity.  Running related because I’ve hardly been running lately, partly due to overwhelming business, and partly because I’ve got this annoying ‘niggle’ that I am reluctantly having to concede has been going on long enough that it constitutes an actual injury, and requires some sort of positive intervention over and above ignoring it and hoping it will go away. Running injuries are a bit like Christmas in that respect, sooner or later, you have to bow to the inevitable, there’s no avoiding either altogether, eventually they will punch through your defences of pointless denial and launch into your actual reality… Then on top of this startling realisation, recent icy weather is also massively impeding running play.  Did you know that yesterday saw a record number of cancellations for parkrun due to ice?  We missed out on parkrun last week.  Running is most definitely being restricted because of the cold.   Case in point just today.  Granted, I’d inadvertently double booked myself and so was always going to have to miss out on something, and also strictly speaking shouldn’t be running anyway because it hurts, but today both the Longshaw Tinsel 10k (part of the Trust 10 series)  AND Graves Junior parkrun were cancelled due to ice.  All that effort that went into organising these things and then the elements conspired against us.  Runners everywhere are feeling frustrated and thwarted, myself included. Technically I was even triple booked as I was at one point supposed to be doing XC  too, but I’d already bowed out of that because that environment is a bit more competitive and even I knew my knee wouldn’t hold out for that.  Ironically, the XC went ahead apparently, though to a depleted number of hard-core participants.  Go you though team TNT, awesome effort!  Special congratulations to the brave individual who sported shorts, and to the catering manager for the ameretto and mince pie combo, which is way better than the mince pies and lemsip option which I understand was also under consideration.  Are bikes allowed now at XC?  Must check that if I venture out again next year, that could be a game changer… also, nice head wear everyone.  Bravo!

tnt XC triumph

Anyways, I am digressing, back to case in point…

It certainly looks lovely out there though… (photos shamelessly taken from Longshaw Estate Facebook page)

Totally the right call by organisers, but it is disappointing.  What’s the point of snow if you can’t go out cavorting in it?  Having said that, have you seen this?  Best cancellation notice EVER in the history of running, by Perth junior parkrun ice manager (niche volunteer role granted) click on the link and marvel.  Why the running but not moving on the ice demo has not yet gone viral I simply can’t imagine!

perth junio parkrun

Frustratingly, other more intrepid runners are posting glorious photos of scampering about in the peaks, but the ice on my hilly road leaves me too scared to venture out and about. It’s not so much yaktrax I need as an actual yak.

yak

This is a particular dilemma for the following reasons:

  1. I don’t generally approve of keeping animals in captivity
  2. Even if I did, I don’t know how to look after yaks properly
  3. Even if i did and did, I don’t know where to source them from
  4. Even if I did, and I did and I do, you still should never, ever buy an animal at Christmas.  Animals are for life not just for Winterval and internet memes.  Apparently.

As if all these hardships weren’t enough troubles to weigh me down, I’ve been without internet for weeks now due to ‘supplier error’.  This wouldn’t be so bad, if it were not for the fact that there is no prospect of getting connected before new year. There’s only so much connectivity that can occur with a Vodaphone Dongle. If anything, being in possession of said dongle has only increased my frustration as it wafts the tantalising but elusive hope before me that if I can but find the sweet spot in my dwelling for a micro-second I might just get online.  It’s like trying to grab the end of a rainbow, only less compelling as a theme for fairy stories, and significantly less picturesque – well as far as I know, not honestly checked it out, but I can speculate as well as the next woman, and this is where my research has led me to date …. I don’t need  a survey monkey dataset to validate my instincts on this one surely?

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Without internet I have lost the ability to communicate with my running buddies and check out running related anecdotes so even if not actually running, I could live my running life vicariously through the exploits of others.  I can only tell myself a digital detox was long overdue for so long, 6 weeks and counting is too long.  This story does not wash.

What could I do?

Well, for those of you who are interested in emulating my personal Customised Reallyrubbishnotrunning Action Plan I can tell you so far my strategy has comprised the following:  I’ve done a bit of wallowing in self-pity.  Not terribly effective truth to tell, but then again, that packet of digestive biscuits wasn’t ever going to eat itself and lt’s face it, a mug of tea solves most problems.  Particularly Yorkshire tea.  Are there other teas available?  I suppose there must be…  However, nothing can be as fine as the tea from the plantations of Sheffield surely?

drink tea

Then yesterday, I decided to go to parkrun anyway, because I’ve finally got around to making an appointment to see a physio on Monday (tomorrow), so I figured I might as well see if parkrun does properly break me as if not, that’s fab, and if it does, then at least the physio will have something to treat.  I know, I know, but since when has an injured runner ever listened to any ‘sensible’ advice.  How do I know if I’m hurt or not if I don’t keep checking?

Honestly, given how cold and icy it’s been I wasn’t even that confident Sheffield Hallam parkrun would happen.  Last week lots of Sheffield parkruns were cancelled, and even yesterday Graves was cancelled.  It didn’t look tooooooooo bad when I headed out, but my there was a nip in the air. I wonder if we call it a ‘nip in the air’ because of what it does to your nipples?  I’ve never thought about that before, which is surprising given the ability of my mind to wander in unexpected directions at times.  Mine were, erm,  well let’s just say, signalling that they were most definitely very well aware of the cold, and communicating it quite markedly, pointedly even.  This is not just a ‘me’ thing I hope, or my reader will think this very weird.  Sorry (ish), but then again, the truth will out, just as my.. no enough now.

I wore road shoes, as if my London marathon attempt is to be anything other than hypothetical I need to start getting used to them. This was my first miscalculation of the morning, as it was way more slippery than I’d imagined.  If I’d allowed myself a bit more time, and quite frankly if I could have been arsed, I might have turned back and changed into trail shoes, but that would have meant lugging my weary carcass up a steep hill, and well, you know, might be OK.  If it’s that icy we wont have to run anyway, just go for brunch instead, that wouldn’t be so terrible surely..

I arrived at Sheffield Hallam parkrun  a bit later than usual.  Pink flags were a-flying and runners a-running and no doubt lords a-leaping someplace somewhere too.  One at least was in Endcliffe Park – not sure where his nine buddies were, but then again, maybe he was just practising ahead of time, it’s not the tenth day of Christmas yet…

GC high fliers

He looks quite chuffed with his technique there, and so he should, but his minders behind maybe need to work on their ‘I’m honestly really impressed’ faces in my unsolicited opinion.

parkrun was happening.  No sneaky breakfast without running first then.  You can tell I’m conflicted.  On the one hand I’m massively frustrated about not being able to run, on the other, running is painful at the moment, so if parkrun is cancelled I feel that’s a legitimate reason not to run, and breakfast sans run is permitted, so I’m still part of the parkrun gang and not missing out on anything.  But if it’s on, well rude not to run isn’t it, so parkrun then brunch it is, but my it hurts…  I was a bit later than usual, so less time for meeting and greeting than usual. There was a noticeably small (but perfectly formed) field, and a veritable army of volunteers.  There was also some ice. Uh oh. Right at the start in an area we run across three times. How would this work?

Well dear reader, our Run Directors have massively advanced problem solving skills it seems.  I think some of them may have evolved to use parts of the brain that most humans never activate, because some inventive trouble shooting was speedily put into place.  For starters (pun intended), instead of starting on the skiddy tarmac, the start funnel was shifted onto the frosty, crunchy grass, and then – and this was sheer genius quite honestly – our hi-viz heroes formed a guard of honour to cheer us off and steer us away from the section of ice that might otherwise have thwarted play.  To be fair, we use the human tunnel technique quite a lot at junior parkrun in a (misguided) attempt to direct junior runners, but mostly they just run into us or ignore our best efforts in joyful anarchy.    Look at this though.  Impressive!

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Putting themselves in harm’s way for the greater good (and 1/25 of a T-shirt and some D of E credits maybe).  Courage indeed.  They stayed in position to keep us the right side of the ice as we came back towards them.  Great team work, and effective too, not a single runner toppled that I saw.  I did see a youngster nearly veer into the pond at one point, but that seemed to be a steering rather than ice issue, I think they were able to swerve away in time.

I was noisily whingeing worried about my knee/ calf/ shins/ miscellaneous unfitness to run so slotted in even more towards the back than usual.  I broke my usual rule of not talking and running, and ended up in a companionable yomp with my Dig Deep running buddy.  To avoid any suspicion that this talking and running malarkey will ever become a regular occurence, I made sure I looked especially joyless in the parkrun photos that captured the occasion.  I don’t generally like to brag, but it would be false modesty to pretend I’d not completely nailed the ‘oozing air of hostility’ expression whilst running here don’t you agree?  (Good luck with working out which of those negatives cancel one another out grammar police, think of it as my Winterval quiz challenge for you to enjoy on Boxing day, after your long run).

GC grumpy knickers

You should not be deterred from parkrun by my outward appearance of grumpiness.  Sheffield Hallam parkrunners are in fact mostly joyful.  Not even just because it’s Christmas, but pretty much all the time. Here are some especially joyful ones by way of illustration:

You see, this is the thing.  You can’t be at parkrun and not share in the collective lurve.  I have been suffering from some serious grumpiness of late, but not only did parkrun lift my mood, when I finally managed to get some internet access to look at the photos from yesterday I was reminded with new vigour how completely brilliant this Saturday ritual is.  The photos really do tell a story about how fabulous the event is, and all who contribute to it as participants, spectators, whatever.  Some runners even added to the festive frolics with appropriate accessorizing. Rocking stylish headgear with considerable aplomb.

I also had stylish headgear, but alas never got the memo about needing to rock it with considerable aplomb, probably because it was sent by email, and my internet is STILL NOT WORKING.  I just stuck with a slightly pained expression instead.

not rocking headgear

Cynicism and unflattering photo shoots aside, parkrun is a marvel though.  When you look back at all the photos of our Sheffield Hallam regulars storming round in the freezing cold with huge smiles to complement their goose bumps it is pretty impressive. The phenomenon that is parkrun brings joy not just for Christmas, but year round, though clearly many will enjoy consulting the Christmas Compendium for their sneaky extra winterval parkrun fixes.  Those pitiful parkrunners who find themselves the sole parkrun passionista in their households will be hoping for the ultimate Christmas Gift from Santa this year in the form of a parkrun pass – hope they’ve been good:

parkrun pass

As always, everyone was free to participate in their own way, some taking on a quick sprint challenge, some companionably yomping, others finding parkrun is a manifestation of a dog’s life, but in a good way.   A few people were still basking in the afterglow of a succesful 2017 Percy Pud, sporting the trophy Tee-shirts, which have no doubt been worn continuously since the event as who would want such a garment wrenched from them in an untimely fashion when it was good to go another week or so at least?  I salute you all, co-conspirators; sprint finishers; leading the throngers; Percy Puddingers; unconvincingly camera-shyers and milestone celebrants.

Even Queen Victoria was amused, though sadly she was cut a bit out of shot in this image, but I promise you she was nigh on doubled up with merry laughter, so caught up was she in the infectious joy of being present at a parkrun event.  That’s why these two are laughing cheerily, just been sharing a merry joke with her I expect, as you do.

GC even vic would be amused by parkrun

Takes all sorts parkrun, and you know what, running at its best can pump out those endorphins to the point we can all feel magnificent and invincible.  Think that’s what’ happening here.  Spreading the joy people, we can all be part of this, walk, run, jog, volunteer, but just be there and marvel and life can feel great for a bit at least.

Point of information, I don’t actually look like this when I run (see evidence above, sadly) if we are honest, most of us don’t, and not only because of gender differences.  But the point is, sometimes you can feel like this, it’s all that positive affirmation from volunteers, the collective coming together, the being out on a glorious day.  It’s always worth it.  Always, even on the not so great days or days where there is less festive accessorizing and more rain.

GC santa dash

Yesterday though, we even had bad yuletide punning.  Life surely doesn’t get much better than that!

GC tree amigos

Mind you, only just realised, no actual Christmas Trees in the shot.  I’m hoping they’ve sold out, and aren’t just going to keep on felling the few trees Amey havent already lopped down and try to palm* those off on their unsuspecting public… (*see what I did there?  I know, genius – wood you credit it).

So, despite everything, despite my lack of running at the minute, and other complications in life, parkrun is still something that can put a smile on my face.  I’m so grateful to have stumbled across it, and feel incredibly lucky to be in Sheffield where we have a veritable plethora of runs to choose from and dedicated teams who do all they can to ‘make it so’ even in unpromising conditions.  Yay to the volunteers – always room for a few more of course, just contact the relevant parkrun team by email and you too could gain the glory of hi-viz and maybe one day graduate to a clipboard or scanner – even stopwatch if you have the nerve to operate one and at least one opposable thumb.

GC volunteers important huddle

So just one more parkrun to go before Christmas – two if you factor in junior parkruns on Christmas Eve which are guaranteed to be awesome or your money back as I understand it.  Next week’s at Sheffield Hallam is bound to be a Christmas Corker.  Hope to see you all there, doing your own thing, in your own way, because that’s all that’s needed for the awesomeness to continue.

Share the joy people, seeing as how it’s Christmas (nearly).  Let’s take a moment to remember how blooming brilliant parkrun is, lest we come to take it for granted.  Just think, there are already people in the world running at junior parkrun who have never known a world without parkrun to take part in.  Isn’t that amazing, to the next generation a world without parkrun will be as incomprehensible as a world without mobile phones ‘but how did you all manage?’ to which surely the honest to goodness truthful response has to be ‘I have no idea.  It was a dark and dismal time and place, but we knew no better’.

I suppose it must have been an unknown unknown, and we were all the poorer for it.

Ho ho ho everyone.  Yuletide felicitations too.

GC something in my eye

You’re welcome.

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

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

Packing a Punch – evaluating the Percy Pud Christmas 10K as a spectator sport.

Not standing in the hail watching it on the day, that would just be miserable.  I am, dear reader, referring to the extraordinary spectacle of watching the social media fall out as cometh the hour, crasheth the website.   5.00 p.m. today, Sunday 2nd October, was supposed to have been the moment that the proverbial launch button was pressed, the site went live, and the battle for Percy Pud Entries was on!   This is an event that seriously punches above its weight.  How else are we to account for the veritable shark feeding frenzy that is unleashed in the quest to secure a place.  Filial loyalties mean nothing, friends must fend for themselves.  Normal rules of engagement and standard moral and ethical compasses no longer apply.   It’s not so much ‘dog eat dog‘ as ‘this dog will hunt down and devour all and everything in its path leaving only the twilight aftermath of a zombie apocalypse in its wake in its quest to secure a place.‘  No really, I’m not even exaggerating (much)!  At least one member of Steel City Striders (who shall remain nameless) admitted candidly that ‘This year I will literally crawl over your lifeless bodies to get a place‘  They reinforced this message with an angry/ determined face emoticon, so they meant business!  Actually, that was relatively mild, at least they were only going to clamber over actual corpses, others would have happily ripped the hearts out of kittens to secure a place I’m sure (not explicitly stated, but definitely implied).  Trust me, securing an entry to the Percy Pud is to obtain a ticket for the hottest gig in town.  Which is ironic, as in all probability it will be the coldest and most miserable weather imaginable on the day, but it seems poor short-term memory is a pre-requisite for seeking to secure an entry to this race in consecutive years, that, and a disproportionate appreciation for Christmas Pud!

Oh hang on, I suppose I better clarify, though surely to goodness everyone knows about the Percy Pud by now don’t they?  Sigh, well for the uninitiated, the website blah de blah is basically:

We (Steel City Striders Running Club) organise South Yorkshire’s most popular 10km each year which takes place on the first Sunday in December.

The event has grown in popularity from the first race in 1993 when 600 finished the race to recent years when the entry has had to be limited to around 2,200.

Such is the demand for numbers that in each of the last 10 years the race has sold out ahead of time.

The 2013 race was no exception, as the race limit was reached within two weeks of the entries opening, in 2014 this was 36 hours and in 2015 it took just 2 hours to sell 2,200 entries.

Why is it so popular? Traditionally each finisher in the race receives a Christmas pudding for their efforts. Food and seasonal music are provided after the race. Of course, the route is not bad either.

For many, the Percy Pud signals the start of Christmas.

WHEN: Sunday 4th December 2016, 9:30am start.

They don’t mention that you will also get to see Santa, probably be overtaken by a guy dressed as a bottle of beer and if you are especially lucky, get to stand up close and personal to celebrity news-reader Harry Gration in the marqee at the finish.  You can’t honestly put a price on that can you.  I’ve not washed since I got a high-five from him at the start of the Sheffield Half.  It’s fine, I’ve got a healthy immune system, but thanks for your concern.

This moment, i.e. the moment when entries ‘go live’,  does indeed represent the official countdown to Christmas for every runner in the Sheffield, nay the whole of the South Yorkshire vicinity.  It was not, as you may have thought, the moment when I was in a Surrey garden centre last weekend and they were actually playing christmas songs (what fresh hell is this, we haven’t even had Halloween yet, this was still September).  Rather, it is this moment, when the final countdown has concluded, the slow hand of time finally reaches the 5.00 p.m. threshold, and the entry site goes live.  Thoughts turn to the challenge of acquiring a christmas pudding to call one’s own, the first hurdle is to secure entry, a process that for many can take considerably longer, and require rather more stamina than the race itself.  It seems the Percy Pud Christmas Puddings are to runners what catnip is to our feline friends.  They will do anything, and I mean anything to acquire a place…

Last year (2015) this race sold out in two hours, rewarding couch potatoes like me, who were sat on the sofa mainlining mars bars, whilst watching the telly, over the really committed athletes out on some epic masochistic road run that evening, who returned too late to nab a place.   Life can be cruel at times it seems, but who ever said it would be fair?

why-cant-it-be-unfair-in-my-favour

It isn’t always the fastest runners that reach the start line, let alone finish first at the end.  I’m sure there’s a wise saying there somewhere, but I can’t be bothered to think of one right now.  There’s the old ‘slow and steady’ one of course, but I’ve recently found out that’s only half the quote!  I know, who knew?  The full one is “..slow and steady wins the race, till truth and talent claim their place.”  Apparently.  I hope it isn’t true, it messes with my mind.  In fact, it messes with my mind almost as much as the notion that given a head start, a snail could beat the most elite of runners in any race.  This was explained on radio 4 at great length in a programme on ‘infinity’ and I just thought my brain would implode, or maybe explode.  One or the other, and it would be messy.  It’s Zeno’s paradox, good luck with figuring that out.  It’s never worked for me – but then again I do always commence my runs at the back of the line up, maybe if I edged to the front of the throng at parkrun now and again my whole running trajectory would have taken on a quite different arc…  What might have been, if only I’d got a philosopher’s mind…  Oh well, here is a gratuitous snail shot in the interim.

321-_sami_g_slownsteady_popexpert

So, what’s my point?  My point is, that in the build up to the moment when entries went live, there was much fanning of the frenzy of anticipation.  Think of the battle for one of Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ but with higher stakes.  Erm, oh, I don’t know, maybe imagine you are not so much seeking an entry for a fun and festive 10k, more securing an organ transplant for not so much a beloved relative, but for your actual self.  It is seemingly impossible to over-state just how much these places were coveted.  Yep, think of a cross between the last available golden ticket and a new organ of choice for your person of choice and you are only getting near to understanding the desperation people felt in trying to acquire one of only 2,200 running places.  You’d think that it was the only way on earth to get a Christmas Pudding, and further more, that most people actually like them.  I know!  Curiouser and curiouser!

golden-tickets-from-willy-wonka-and-the-chocolate-factory

Facebook posts, twitter no doubt for those savvy enough to engage with that, every running club I know of sent out reminders to ensure that cometh the hour, cometh the entrants.  Five, four, three, two one…  not so much blast off, as ‘oh blast!’  The website it seemed crasheth, and did so to spectacular effect.

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Basically, the computer said no.  A lot.  For a very long time.

Initially, there was a bit of good-natured incredulity, but, dear reader, frustration built, and the mood turned. Now this is basically where I have to hold up my hand and admit I am essentially a bad person.  I am a bad person because, as a spectator sport,  I found watching the hysteria build to fever pitch because of an IT glitch was pretty entertaining.  Granted, I can’t do Percy Pud this year, for reasons I’ll come to at a later date, maybe… so I had less immediately emotionally invested in the battle to join the starting line up, but I am sufficiently engaged in the whole Percy Pud anticipatory build up that I was interested to see how people fared in their shots at getting in.

For the record, I am sorry that I can’t run this year, because after all it is such a Sheffield Institution, but if I’m really honest, there may also be a smidgen of relief in there.  It has been sooooooooooo very cold and wet when I’ve done it.   It is fun, for sure, but I shudder at the memory of peering out of the event marquee at the start last year, watching stair rods of rain plunge down from the sky like shards of ice thrown to the earth by a vengeful god.  I did enjoy the actual race it is true, during it, because miraculously the sun came out, and indeed afterwards when I was no longer required to keep on running.  However, I cannot tell a lie, I most definitely entertained the near sacrilegious thought of ‘never again‘ whilst waiting for the off….  Even so, you can’t not be caught up in the anticipatory excitement of it all, and I was stalking various Facebook pages to see who’d get in as the countdown reached its climax.

With only 2,200 places up for grabs the competition was sure to be fierce.  Now the thing is, the thing that makes me a bad person is, that in terms of a spectator sport, it was quite hilarious watching reactions unfold on social media.  There were the nonplussed who assumed they themselves were liable due to their own deficiencies in technical understanding, those in denial, ‘it’ll be reyt soon enough‘ the incredulous ‘what, again!’ because they’d had problems with the technology last year as well, and those who used humour as the coping strategy to carry them through the torments of uncertainty.  This post is a tribute to you all.  I thank you, for providing me with a full Sunday evening of entertainment.

Reader, all of human emotion was laid bare that night.  Want to know the depths of feeling, despair, rage, disappointment, forgiveness, blame that people can display, well look no further.  I felt I was watching Armageddon itself, and this catastrophe alas did not bring out the best in all.  It doesn’t bode well if there is an actual zombie apocalypse, mob rule took over with depressing speed.

The panic hitting of the refresh buttons apparently contributed to the server meltdown.  Did potential entrants not realise that every time they hit refresh a kitten somewhere was kicked to oblivion?

Some confusion was understandable, because for a while at least it was possible to see a list of ‘entries so far’ and it seemed that one entrant had got through?  How was this possible, some held this up as a beacon of hope – if one had made it, others might follow.  Others suspected corruption and contacts ‘do they work for fr systems?’  The emerging conspiracy theories made holocaust deniers seem mild-tempered and rational by comparison. I was fearful a whole vigilante mob might yet be roused to hunt him down and take him out (not for dinner, the bad sort of being ‘taken out’, though being taken out for dinner can of course also be pretty tortuous in the wrong company). However, it seems the reality was rather more prosaic.  It was last year’s winner, the only person guaranteed an entry the following year apparently.  Personally, I’m a bit miffed this honour is not extended to the female winner as well, or maybe it is, but they haven’t been added yet.  It was quite comical seeing the reactions to this revelation though.  People doing the equivalent of screaming into the void, unheard, in outrage at this further injustice rubbing salt into their already open, sore and oozing wounds….

Some people took to the couch potato life with ease, settling down to sit it out (literally and metaphorically) too scared to leave their computers for fear of missing a window of opportunity when the server came back up.  One or two brave souls actually LEFT TO GO FOR  A RUN, figuring they’d come back later when it was all sorted.  Yes, gaining moral high ground, but whoa that was a high risk (though on this occasion successful) strategy.  The more productive elements of the running community variously did ironing, household tasks and comfort eating.  The more opportunistic broke open the wine/ beer with considerable cheer.  Others no doubt improvised by making running related purchases on Ebay or amazon.

attitude

Some became frankly petulant ‘didn’t want to do it anyway‘ (they were lying); a few resigned themselves to their fate.  Would they be the first to let go of a life raft at sea I wonder?  Others still perked up as they considered the plus side of not getting a place – you could spend that time in a nice warm pub enjoying the spectacle of the runners without any risk of having your nether regions frozen by having to run on the day.  A few lateral thinkers came up with alternative races, since they were all fired up to enter something why not an arctic ultra say.  What could possibly go wrong?  Disappointingly, at least one commentator had a somewhat (in my view) unhelpful rant about how this CATASTROPHE meant the event would be taken over by non-runners (I think he meant fun-runners, and probably people like me who are never going to break any records but want the sense of achievement to be gained from giving it a go). ‘This is disgusting … I bet actual runners don’t get in and you get loads of those WALKERS which seem to be invading RUNS these days!’  Whoa, where did that come from?  It made me sad to be honest, though I was glad that another responder calmed things down with a nice Buddha snap and a reminder that this is supposed to be an inclusive race with over 2000 entries available.  Serious runners might enjoy participating too – and there is an impressive £1000 up for grabs if anyone beats the course record, but  I find it hard to believe that really elite runners have this as their most important 10k in their annual cannon.  Also, if the race were to be over-run with walkers, wouldn’t that cancel out the effect of their slower pace?   Maybe it was drink talking.  The mood was turning though and not in a good way…  It is disturbing how quickly social media allowed a sort of mob rule hysteria to emerge!

After a bit, the servers were shut, and more speculation ensued.  I do find it extraordinary how heated people got, it was like they took it as a personal affront there had been an IT system failure.  I know it’s really annoying, I know you’d think it shouldn’t happen, but the bottom line is we’ve all experienced the extreme frustration of when the ‘computer says no‘, and at that point ranting doesn’t really help.  The organisers know, the IT people know, it will be fixed when it is fixed.  End of.

My favourite posts were the satirical ones.  They restored faith in human nature.  There was a spate of people outraged to the point of not just suing the race organisers, but threatening to pursue them for all eternity like an army of vengeful dementors, and/or demanding a pound of flesh by way of compensation with immediate effect. However, as a counter-balance to this, one poster gave details of his pooing schedule for the following day, requesting a hand-written note be delivered to him personally by a member of the organising team in the event of booking going live again when he was otherwise engaged.  Genius!  Plus, a much-needed lightening of the mood.  At least I presume that request was in jest, though with some of the remarks posted you do have to wonder…

dementors-during-prisoner-of-azkaban

Anyway, the upshot of the evening was, that there was an attempt to restart the servers and at this point a small trickle of further entrants made it through to the checkout.  Alas, then everything crashed again.  The race organisers, who must have been having the evening from hell, then decided to postpone entries entirely for a few days if necessary,  until the system has been stress tested all over again. They had already done significant stress-testing in anticipation of a surge of hits when entries opened, but even so were taken by surprise at the deluge of people all trying to enter at the same time.   Victim of its own success perhaps, but it’s not fair to make the race organisers victims of a vigilante mob as well.  I don’t think lynch mobs have a place anywhere, but especially not for a temporary delay in accessing a run on Loxley Road.  Maybe the Percy Pud will have to be renamed the ‘Angry Mob Fun Run’?  There is precedent for such an event I believe.

angry-mob-fun-run

So, what have we learned?

  1. The Percy Pud is really popular
  2. The only way to guarantee entry into the Percy Pud is to win in the event the year before
  3. People are very intolerant of failing IT
  4. Passions run high when there’s pudding at stake

For what it’s worth, I think its great that the Percy Pud is so popular, 2,200 places is still a lot and so I don’t see why it can’t remain an inclusive event.  However, nor do I  see a problem with say volunteers one year being guaranteed a place the following one or holding back a proportion of places for e.g. club members, and so staggering entry a bit.  However, I was pretty disgusted by how much rage was directed at the VOLUNTEER organisers.  It’s not life and death, it’s a run.  You wonder who will be willing to step up and take on these roles in future if they have to contend with that kind of abuse.  It’s an IT failure, not criminal negligence.  Or indeed criminal negligee, which I understand is something else entirely. The race team were as frustrated and disappointed as everyone else, and showering abuse on them and demanding reparations like victims of war crimes did seem a tad disproportionate.  On the plus side, there was a backlash (can you have a positive backlash) of more supportive comments, congratulating the team for what they had done.  So not everyone on Facebook was a troll, some were troll-fighters.  Yay!

awesome

Anyway, latest is, the booking fee has been removed (good will gesture), and two days notice will be given before the site booking system goes live again (possibly next Sunday).  I hope for everyone’s sake that systems run smoothly, ruffled feathers are smoothed and IT issues forgotten. Let’s all try to be friends again.   Ultimately this is a race that is great fun, should be supported and even if it isn’t possible to run I reckon it would be a great craik just to volunteer for it and soak up all the fun. The link to the latest Percy Pud 2016 entry information is here though, in case you are wondering

Lest you think I have exaggerated the drama, let me conclude by drawing your attention to the press interest generated by the calamitous turn of events – the crashing website making The Star no less.  This would surely have secured the legendary status of the Percy Pud for evermore were it not already an integral part of the history of running in Sheffield as any local (worth talking to) would be able to confirm.  HUGE demand indeed!

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So fingers crossed, it will be a case of all’s well that ends well.  In the meantime, I spent Sunday evening on the edge of my sofa watching the drama unfold.  So I’ve already got my money’s worth from the event … though on reflection I didn’t pay anything so basically I have to hold my hand up and admit to being a rubber-necker.  Sorry(ish) about that.  And to think previously I thought GBBO was exciting! Clearly I aint seen nothing yet.  Running for a pudding as a blood sport.  Who knew?

Bring on the Percy Pud, have fun y’all – if you think you’re hard enough!

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For all my posts relating to the Percy Pud, follow this link, including an account of my 2015 Percy Pud rainbow run.

Categories: 10km, Percy Pud, road, running | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Concord’s Cracking Christmas Compassion

In the midst of all the festive frolics, it is all too easy to lose sight of the fact that for some this time of year is not always a happy one.   Even within the resilient Parkrun community, there are some who find themselves homeless at Christmas, all dressed up yet nowhere to run… It therefore restores your faith in human nature to find that there are still compassionate others out there who will open their hearts and Parkrun home to displaced others at Yuletide.  So it is was for Christmas Day at Concord Park.  Parkrun refugees from across Sheffield and beyond embarked on what is rapidly becoming something of a traditional seasonal pilgrimage to the Shiregreen area of the city.  Displaced persons drawn to one place as if by the nativity star, to recreate the Parkrun dream of a mighty 5 km stampede around the hinterlands of Concord Park.  What could be more merry than this communal Christmas canter to kick start festive proceedings?  Concord Parkrun it seems welcomes migrants, in turbulent times, that’s good to know.   Nothing it seems, nothing at all, could be better than this – nor more apt – on a Christmas morning.  Let me explain…

The day however, did not entirely go according to plan.  It is the season to be merry, but also ’tis the season of prank phone calls.  Ask that woman who got Tim Peake on her land line asking if it was planet earth earlier on today.  Very droll, I hope he hadn’t reversed the charges, that would indeed have been an astronomical cost.  (Sorry, some puns just beg to be brought to life).  My morning was also to involve an early Christmas Day phone call, in this case from my running buddy announcing herself to be en-route to scoop me up and transport me to Concord for our festive frolicking.  The call came within a nano-second of the agreed time of 8.05 a.m., but the voice was unrecognisable.  Croaking tones sounded initially like a desperate last gasp cry for help, and I wondered if I needed to send an ambulance or at least a gift-wrapped strepsil by courier,  but further enquiry revealed them instead to be the incomprehensible utterings of my cheetah buddy on first waking.  Mammoth oversleep apparently.  A consequence of a perfect storm of unfortunate pre-running preparation comprising:  a later than planned night, inadvertent setting of the alarm for 3.00 a.m. by her normally loving and attentive spouse; heavier than expected alcohol consumption and no re-setting of the alarm for the correct hour.  My buddy had spontaneously opened one eye cautiously only seconds before, then seeing the time had been rudely catapulted into both consciousness and Parkrun panic.  Late, late, for a very important date.  I am pleased to report her first instinct was to get on the phone to me and come up with a plan.  I like to imagine the couple in question on such a rude awakening maintained that christmas tradition of starting the day if not with an actual row, then at least some seasonal frostiness and mutual blame.  Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without an undercurrent of tension between family and friends at some point during the Winterval break.

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Plan two devised and implemented, I headed off to theirs, willing to scoop them up instead, or at the very least have their place as our departure point for our Parkrun pilgrimage.  I was already bedecked in tinsel (but tastefully understated) and had hoiked on my Santa tutu with some poignancy as it is potentially its last outing of the season.  I’ve had some good wear out of it as it happens, great investment purchase.

The drive round to my running buddies was on deserted roads, it was quite fun to see brightly lit Christmas trees resplendent in the windows of some of the grander houses en route.  On arrival, I found my buddies awake and bustling, deprived of a pre-run caffeine fix, and sleep-deprived too, but up for it most certainly.  It was an easy drive to Shiregreen, really no-one about.  We arrived to find the car park at Concord pretty much empty, but then, as always happens, a mighty congregation gathered seemingly from nowhere in the last few minutes, and a festive crew at that.  They were a lot cheerier than they appear in the photos below which have capture them in more thoughtful mood.  The guy with his head in his hands is not representative of the spirit of the morning, and the bah humbug bobble hat (whilst a personal favourite of mine) isn’t either.  I think the serious expressions are on account of how each runner commences parkrun with their own private meditation as they psyche themselves up for the challenge ahead.  Thank you Mr Carman for all the photos by the way, like the tree falling in the forest, unheard and unseen,  if we ran without being captured on film it would be as if we we were never there.  Thanks to you we are all immortalised, even the runner with a turkey on their head, whether they wanted to be or not… you’ll have to scroll down for that one by the way,  I’m pacing myself for the photo postings, rather more effectively than I am able to pace myself when running.  Here though are some others to be getting on with.

We spilled out from the car to take our places under  the seasonal grey sky and icy wind alongside Santas, runners in turkey onesies; a herd of reindeer deeley bopper wearers and join the line up at the start.  There were some familiar faces – refugees from Sheffield Hallam Parkrun, as well as fellow Smilies on tour.  My first celebrity sighting though was of Lily, the famous greyhound from Graves in festive get up.  She sets a high standard in her outfits, last seen mummified at Halloween, but resplendent in her red and white faux fur outfit today.  She’s the real celebrity sports personality hereabouts – her and Jessica Ennis possibly, though much as I love Jess, Lily is definitely more cuddly.

Christmas Lily at Concord

So, at the start we huddled amongst the fancy dress efforts – I , inadvertently found myself next to a rather flatulent Santa who I’d say had been at the sprouts already which wasn’t the best starting point.  He was though a pretty fast runner when we got going – jet propelled possibly, so it wasn’t too prolonged an exposure, and anyway, Parkrun is an inclusive community as we know.  Rather sweetly, at Concord there is a communal bag in which you can squash your fleece or whatever at the start, which is magically moved to the finish at the end of the run.  How genius is that?  I love this kind of local attention to detail you discover through Parkrun tourism.  Welcoming, practical and completely brilliant.  Thank you volunteers, for making the day possible, you all deserve your own sparkly stars of recognition, as I don’t have the means to dispense them, please accept my words of thanks instead.

If the welcoming Concord marshals felt overwhelmed by the swelling in number of attendees from the usual 50 or so to nigh on 250 they didn’t show it.  A warm welcome was offered.  The run briefing was given against the unnerving soundtrack of a pack of baying dogs.  I kid you not, it was like the hounds of hell were on hand to pursue us round the course.  No wonder there was talk of a new course record when the results came out later.  Their rabid barking split the skies and you could feel the tension on their leashes as they leapt about in a state of hyper-stimulation no doubt in eager anticipation of the prospect of hunting down wayward runners any minute now.  I couldn’t hear much of the briefing, but there was a seasonal gift presentation and thank you for the run director, clapping of volunteers, and an over-optimistic attempt to outline the route for the benefit of Concord first timers.  We seemed to comprise half the field if the number of hands that shot up around me when we were asked to identify ourselves to the run committee were anything to go by.

The route by the way, for those of you who are interested in the technical details is described in the concord parkrun events blurb thus:

The course consists of two counter-clockwise laps, all on asphalt paths suitable for mobility aids including wheelchairs. The course starts with a flat of 500m then a slight downhill of 500m levelling out at the far end of the course. Passing through a gate and returning with a slight uphill of 400m before levelling out to complete the lap. On the second lap the finish is 400m before the start line, ensuring a total of 5km.

Anyway, eventually, the cry went up ‘unleash the hounds’ and to the noisy baying of dogs we departed.  The actual dogs were revealed in photos to be cute puppy Labradors and similar, along with the adorable Graves Lily doing her Christmas tour.  But my they sounded ferocious when all you could hear was their baying growing louder and louder as they picked up pace.  The start was a bit tumultuous, the front runners exploding outwards.

start concord rush

Apparently, someone took a dominoes tumble early on being impacted from the rear, but I didn’t spot this at the time, just became vaguely aware of some commotion in my peripheral vision at the start.  The tarmac path narrowed early on, and it felt a bit chaotic, adrenalin surged and I felt a fleeting panic that I’d started too near the front.   However, as always happens, the field settled, and people spread out a bit more soon enough, there was time to enjoy the run and take it all in.  The ferocious hell-dogs were revealed to be mainly the lovely Lily, and other cuddly looking puppy-eyed beauties.  Weird.  You can tell the bit about them straining at the leash was true though…

Personally, I found the route a bit disorientating.  You are sort of running a figure of eight, but you do it twice, so as a slow runner I always seemed to be in sight of someone running in completely the opposite direction to me.  As I saw faster runners pounding towards me at various points I had the unsettling feel that surely at least one of us must be going the wrong way.  From the air I wonder if we formed some strange geometric shapes like those famous ones in the Nasca desert –  a mutant humming bird perhaps.  Or maybe we were more akin to a rather too big and inept troop of synchronised swimmers, having to practice on terra firma due to not being in possession of a pool large enough to accommodate us all.  Who knows, once the new surveillance society really takes off we will no doubt be able to access some drone footage to check it our for ourselves.  For now though, you will have to imagine.  Here is what my new Tomtom said the route was actually like.  I am still enjoying my new toy, though it seems to vibrate ever such a lot and for no apparent reason.  Another mystery to be solved at some unspecified future date…

concord parkrun routemap

 

One unexpected hazard on the way round is that you have to negotiate those really narrow gate things, specifically designed to stop cyclists going round and narrower at the top than the bottom they only allow one person through at I time.  Because of the bottle neck to get through, the first time round I took the alternative option of stepping over a low wooden bar – I did briefly consider hurdling it, but didn’t fancy an ignoble face-plant that would lead inevitably to a morning in A&E which was a distinctly possible outcome.  I looked on in envy though as Lily bounded over with grace and elegance.  She really does personify (or should that be dogify) the essence of parkrun as she effortlessly races round positively oozing joy throughout.  Second time around, I discovered I can actually run through these without the necessity of turning sideways due to my particular physique bestowing a rare evolutionary advantage on this solitary occasion.  I showed off this attribute (it’s probably not reasonable to claim it as a skill) to my running buddy later on.  I could tell she was deeply impressed, and possibly even a teensy bit jealous, it is unusual for me to outdo her  with my physical prowess, so this was a rare moment of comfort and joy for me this year.  I don’t know quite how you’d manage those in a wheelchair to be honest, but the buggy runners managed fine.

Running in the early stages I did suffer (nearly) a major wardrobe malfunction as I realised I hadn’t tightened the cord on my leggings sufficiently, and could feel the crutch dragging down towards my knees and my running tights were at real risk of ending up round my ankles if I didn’t take pre-emptive action.  This pre-emptive  action early on necessitated the appearance of rummaging around in my knickers under my skirt whilst I continued to pound round.  I was in fear of being papped by the official photographer at just this moment of in-decorum.  Fingers crossed I would be in favour with the official censor this week.  Mind you with the other outfits on offer  I was possibly being a little precious.  The turkey head number was a brave choice methinks, and now is the moment we can enjoy that, that and the risque Santa chest-bearing outfit too:

Apart from enjoying the fancy dress (which I think MASSIVELY improves the running experience), I also got my usual kicks from eavesdropping on other people’s conversations going round.  A favourite of many, was one between a vegan and vegetarian who were comparing their respective christmas fare with some misunderstandings (and potential incredulity/ disappointment) as they did so.   The vegetarian was describing a roast comprising quorn wrapped in sausage meat.  As a fellow vegetarian I was definitely confused.  That doesn’t sound terribly vegetarian, and I’m not convinced as a hybrid option to cater for both the carnivores and the herbivores it would quite work.  It’s like that time I went for a meal and I wanted to drink white wine and my companion wanted to drink red and the waiter suggested we therefore ordered a bottle of rose.  Why?  So we would both be pissed off with the choice presumably?  Bonkers.  Anyway, fortunately for me the vegan also requested clarification, the sausage meat would actually be sosmix. Ooooooooooooooh, now that makes sense, that could work.

The vegan was going to do a vegan version of pulled pork for her meat-eating relatives.  Ambitious I felt, and I was delighted that she elaborated.  It seems you can do this by slow cooking a Jack fruit and covering in barbecue sauce.  I’m a bit dubious as to whether this would fool anyone, though I do get its texture might change on cooking.  Also, I was very excited at this reference to Jack Fruit.  I’d never even heard of it before I went to Vietnam, and they are extraordinary things. It’s quite fun to be reminded of them and to be able to pull a photo from my other now dormant blog (with apologies to those of you who have seen and marvelled at this picture of such a remarkable fruit before).  Amazing though, you have to concede:

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Enough of the foody digression. Also going round, I was slightly spooked by the sight of a runner who appeared to be carrying Santa’s detached head under his arm throughout … it turned out to be a themed muff (I think and hope), but it was most definitely unsettling.  Surely enough to set kids screaming if they’d witnessed it.  Though to be fair I suppose it being Christmas morning, even if it turns out this was from the real Santa, it wouldn’t matter too much.  After all, surely it is a safe bet he’d fulfilled his usefulness by this point in the year, so who cares really that he has been brutally decapitated and his head  carried aloft in sadistic triumph round a park today, no-one will really notice his absence until same time next year.   What do you reckon?  Passes the good taste test, or a little too much for Christmas morning…

concord disembodied santa head

Besides, there were other Santas in abundance, so I’m guessing they weren’t all the real one, one looked like he was hoping for a secret Santa slash rather than undertaking a parkrun Santa dash as he disappeared off-piste mid-run heading behind a random building.  In fact he reappeared soon afterwards gazing about in confusion.  I conclude he’d either thought the better of it, or was in search of some other runner.  I hope he was reunited with them eventually, or maybe he’d got a sort of snow-blindness (only from drizzle not snow) and is even now staggering around Concord disorientated and confused.  Hope not.  Here follow more jolly pictures of runners en route – it was fabulous, you should have been there – maybe you were?

I think I need to give special mention to my favourite fancy dress outfit of not only the day, but possibly the whole parkrun year.  It was buggy made into sleigh  through judicious use of cardboard and even rocking a blow up reindeer at the front.  That is class.  What’s more, the sleigh occupant was only 13 weeks old, parkrunners start younger and younger it seems, she could be in a 250 shirt when she’s barely out of nappies, and kudos to parents of a new-born for even making it out of the house without being covered in sick and poo let alone finding the time and energy to decorate a buggy and dress in themed running gear themselves.  Huge respect!

concord favourite outfit

Just as the dogs at the start were a bit unsettling, there were seagulls at the end which had a slightly sinister disposition.  I speak as someone who has recently re-watched ‘Finding Nemo’.  Those gulls screeching ‘mine, mine, mine‘ as they jostle to eat fish/ crabs/ anything at all had a mob mentality that these concord spectators seemed to replicate.  Look, it’s a worrying possibility.  I don’t know if they are always there, or it was a special festive outing for them too.  Maybe the prospect of all those first timers meant they were hoping for a harvest of collapsed runners at the finish.  Any minute now they could expect to be hopping amongst a bounty of carcasses pecking out the eyes of conked out parkrunners at will.

The route seemed to end somewhat unexpectedly.  On entering the finish funnel, I discovered the lovely volunteer marshals had indeed moved the bag containing my fleece from hanging on some railings at the start to placed on a bench at the finish line.  It seems the legends are true, magic elves at Christmas, and marvellous marshals the rest of the year, carry out this selfless act.  Thus I was able to be reunited with my fleece without even leaving the funnel or scanning queue.  This is a fabulous innovation, I think this could be just what  I need, a support crew to anticipate my every need and whim.  I wonder what it would take to have a masseuse waiting at the finish too, and maybe some minion with a steaming mug of hot-chocolate on standby in case of any sudden sugar drop?

The Concord team coped well with deluge of other runners, a cheery queue formed in animated chatter waiting for solitary scanner to process finish tokens, it was a bit like waiting to get into a night club (well, as far as I can recall, it’s been a very long time since I did that).  Good humoured chit chat.  I thought maybe the single scanner operative was due to a lack of volunteers (fair enough in the circumstances) however, it seems it’s actually because the Concord team are only in possession of a single scanner – it was a measure of how much the field had grown for this seasonal outing that it was under so much pressure today!

So finally, bar codes having been scanned, Christmas greetings and yo ho hos were  exchanged, and farewells said.. though many of us would be doing it all again the next day for the Boxing Day Saturday Parkrun as usual.  Bring it on.

Before departing, here is me in action.  As a special Christmas gift I get a flattering photo of me running.   Well, maybe not totally flattering, but definitely in action and no profile view so jowls temporarily hidden from view.  Hurrah, a first.

So we stumbled damply back to car, comparing gadgetry – I got a reading of 4.91 km which apparently is good enough re accuracy, though slightly shorter than my companion’s Garmin reading.  I must have taken an inner track as if by instinct on the way around.

As we approached our vehicle, my friend confidently used her electronic key to unlock the car in anticipation of our arrival.  It bleeped in recognition as it unlocked its doors…  and then in an act of seeming submission (or mischievous rebellion) it also started to wind down all its windows and open the sunroof too.  It was quite comical to witness, thank goodness she stopped pressing the button when when she did, the whole thing could have collapsed into pieces like a comedy clown car.

Although it is probably a mixed blessing to have a car that is more intelligent than all its occupants put together, it was a boon to have heated seats for the return journey.  (Well, it was for those of us in the front, sorry one of our number had to sit marinating in their own drizzle at the back).   I was worried I might suffer the slightly unsettling sensation of having wet myself as warmth oozed round my posterior.  Amazingly though I didn’t (either imagined or in reality)  despite having missed out on my usual precautionary pee on account of the  fact that the  Concord sports centre was not unreasonably shut for Christmas day when we arrived.  No pees possible, well not in less you are either helpfully accessorised as is the male of the species, or sufficiently dis-inhibited not to care about dropping your draws and peeing in public.  Today I was neither.  It just shows though, doesn’t it, how it’s all in the mind rather than in the bladder when it comes to pre-run toileting preferences…

Home for a perfectly cooked Christmas breakfast, courtesy of my hospitable and expert at catering  running buddies.  Yum, and I thank you.

runderfull

By the way, apparently, according to parkrun uk nearly 30,000 people around the world got out for a Christmas Day parkrun yesterday with over 2,500 volunteers making it all possible.  That’s pretty awesome is it not? Thank you Concord Parkrunners for your festive welcome.  It was my first Christmas Day parkrun and I am a complete convert.  Best Christmas ever. You provided a home to the homeless and a welcome to displaced parkrun people when it was needed most.  Concord at Christmas, what could be more appropriate?  I salute you.

Ho ho ho indeed, and Merry Winterval everyone!  Same time next year…

 

 

 

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

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