Posts Tagged With: concord parkrun

Coming together at Comely Concord parkrun #555

You never regret a parkrun ever. FACT.

I’m so happy I made it out on this lovely sparkling morning, and was reunited with lovely sparkling parkrun people and the joy of winter sunshine. Hurrah! It was reyt good. And the thing is, it nearly didn’t happen, and if it hadn’t, that would have been properly sad. Still, all’s well eh?



You’d think I’d know this by now, but it was a very close call for me as whether or not I’d be parkrunning today, to parkwalk or not to parkwalk, that was very much the question. Yesterday I had a complete tantrum-throwing pity party. It was a fairly ineffectual tantrum as I was on my own, and much like the tree that falls in the forest unseen, it’s quite hard to have a tantrum without an audience, but I did my best. I have been in excruciating pain of late, and it really compromises what I can do. Objectively, I’m more mobile than I was a year ago, and it was always going to be a tough week after adventuring so far afield last Saturday for lovely Trentham Gardens parkrun, I am learning I can do stuff up to a point but adventures have consequences. I had been recovering ok from my excursion to Stoke last week, but then I had a stumble over a kerb, both literally and figuratively, and it seems to have set me back quite a bit. I’m back to not being able to put weight through my foot, and that sets off my other symptoms and it’s all just completely crap. I try to be positive, but living with pain is not just disabling but exhausting. I dealt with this like a proper grown up by crying a lot, not bothering to get dressed or shower all day and ate most of a fresh loaf of bread and butter, which didn’t particularly help, and in fact probably made things worse, but comfort eating is my coping strategy, inadequate as it is, and be fair, there are worse things to self medicate with than fresh bread, it’s just I can’t get hold of them. Anyway, that Sainsbury’s walnut cob is pretty spectacular.

Then it was parkrun eve. Ice was all around. I’m nervous about ice at the best of times, and I wasn’t sure how my foot would hold up to driving, I do have an automatic, but even so. I clearly wouldn’t be going far afield. Lots of parkruns were being cancelled because of ice, and it was unclear what would happen locally. Hmmm. I did some parkrun related research. Oh look, Concord is having its event number 555. In case you aren’t aware dear reader, this is one of the 5k running challenges event numbers for something called the Nelson Index. I don’t even have the 5k running challenges app because I don’t have a smart phone, and labour under the delusion it’s not a challenge I’m particularly bothered about. But then again, a rare Nelson on my doorstep? Rude not to go. Oh, and the Nelson challenge is basically involves completing runs at events where the event number is a multiple of 111′ I don’t know how many you need to complete the challenge – there’s only ever been one 888 at Bushy parkrun so it would be harsh if you had to have all of them. It’s called the Nelson either because the ‘slang term “Nelson” applied to team or individual scores of 111 or multiples of. It has been ascribed to referring to Nelson’s 3 major naval victories (won, won, won) or more popularly to him being injured in battle from a musket ball shot in his right arm, resulting in surgical emergencies and him then apparently only having one eye, one leg and one arm. 111. The problem with that story is that there isn’t proof that he lost a leg, only that he lost an arm and his eyesight in one eye!’ Who knows, anyway, Nelson it is. And it seems that much as I don’t really care about such challenges, actually I clearly do, because the prospect of one on my doorstep was an irresistible lure. Worth not only getting up and dressed for, but maybe putting an actual bra on too. Oh giddy days! I mean, it would be ouchy, but probably doable if I just walked on the heel and side of my foot and used my stick. I have a wood pigeon that visits daily that only seems to be able to use one of its legs, and that gets on with stuff. It is also inelegant getting around, but hey, it’s still doing its pigeon thing admirably. I would channel my inner wood pigeon. Yeah, yeah they have a tendency to crash land into trees and fly into windows and things, but mostly they get up again. I’ll be that, but with less window crashing, hopefully.

But then there was ice! Ice, ice everywhere. Would it be dancing on ice, or would it be a cancellation casualty of the weather? Concord tends to keep radio silence. For whatever reason they don’t fill in the volunteer roster in advance, and the social media channels are generally quite, though splutter into life for big events like Christmas Day. This is a parkrun I’ve done a couple of Christmas Days (2018 and with a unicorn in 2017) and odd other occasions to meet up with friends. I’m not aware of it cancelling often at all, but it’s always a risk at this time of year. Having said that, looked like Hillsborough parkrun was very confident about going ahead, they had volunteer course gritters tooled up and ready to tackle the icier patches en route before the event. I decided I would venture to Concord and if it was cancelled I could always just go for a walk there on my own, people do take exercise on a Saturday morning even without a parkrun apparently, worth a try, or alternatively, if time allowed, head back to Hillsborough. Yep, that would be a plan. Always good to have a plan. A plan and a cup of tea is even better though. Speaking of which, I might just check out the status of my kettle, probably about time to check it’s still serviceable. A cup of tea solves everything after all. Apart from murder mystery dramas, but that’s a minor detail. A cup of tea definitely makes everything better, which is splendid.

Great cup of tea. Thanks for asking. Now, where was I?

Oh yes, up early, COLD and frosty morning. I peered out. Hmm, everything looked white, but it was sort of dry white. I noticed a car drive up my road and park up apparently without incident so decided I’d give it a whirl. I had real time communication with a fellow parkrunner who was heading darn sarf for the Running Show at Birmingham. He had to negotiate freezing fog which sounded horrific, but did make it to Babbs Mill parkrun so all’s well. Yeah, I should be grand just heading over to the other side of Sheffield.

First though, scrape the car, took a while. But success and on my way. The drive turned out to be fine. No traffic and not really any challenging conditions particularly either. It was blooming freezing, below freezing in fact, but dry cold so I didn’t encounter any ice. I still wasn’t sure if Concord would be able to go ahead, locally Millhouses and Rother Valley had both cancelled. Endcliffe was keen to go ahead and potentially welcome their 250,000 finisher, which is pretty cool to be fair.

As I approached the Concord Leisure Centre I was hugely cheered by the site of distant cow bobble hats, and glimpses of fluorescent Lycra flashing around. Ooh, this was looking most promising. If the event had cancelled I’d expect to see disappointed tourists driving away in search of another parkrun, this was looking more like game on. Better yet, as I pulled into the carpark, familiar faces. Yay, the Sheffield Olympic park junior parkrun volunteers were represented in force. It was just lovely to see friendly faces. I had no idea in advance if I would see anyone I knew, but hurrah, so many people from parkruns past had gravitated here. It seems a great many of us who ‘don’t really do the challenges’ had collectively done a ‘but oh look!’ and here we were! What’s more, for those of us who don’t really do challenges, it seems Hillsborough parkrun is on for event number 444 next week, well, basically rude not to.



Hello lovely parkrun people!



Parked up, delighted by familiar faces and ecstatic to see this parkrun was very much going ahead, I wended my way to the start area. Oh wow, it’s true my foot was very ouchy and legs very wobbly but oh I’d forgotten how lovely the setting for Concord parkrun can be. With bright winter sunshine piercing the frosty air it looked absolutely stunning. Christmas card perfect. There was a great buzz of people arriving, and I was quite giddy with seeing all these people I hadn’t seen for ages and ages and ages. One I hadn’t seen for at least a fortnight, and I was quite pleased I’d resisted the temptation of wearing her gifted new llama leggings (which are genuinely AMAZING) today. I’d thought about putting them on because they are lovely and soft and warm and colourful, but decided against as I am supposed to be saving them for a collective tourist jaunt in a few weeks time when we will have matchy matchy outfits. It would have been embarrassing to have been caught breaking ranks early, however great the temptation, but it was indeed splendid to have the unexpected joy of another reunion AND we’ll probably get to do it all again at Hillsborough parkrun next week! parkrun keeps on giving!

First stop the pop up sign, and choreographing photos. I do love a parkrun pop up sign, it’s sort of the parkrun equivalent of the water coolers so ubiquitous in Americans’ offices or the queue for the loo in a British one. It was where everybody hung out, and greetings were exchanged, new friends made and old friends became reacquainted with one another, hurrah! We all took turns photographing each other, and some photo bombing probably occurred, but that’s fun too! Mandatory photos taken and posed for by all. There were some 71 first timers at Concord today, and the number of finishers at 182 was more than double their usual average number of finishers which is 75.1. Nelson brought some, cancellation brought others and happenstance and a sunny day more still. Good to see people posing with a bit of energy and enthusiasm, it saddens me when people stand there rigid and solemn faced like they have to stay immobile for a Victorian pinhole camera or something. Couldn’t help noticing a fair few were posing the other side of the sign for the also obligatory, or at the very least irresistible for some, (s)Tart photos. #simplepleasures



The park looked gorgeous, but the bright sunshine made it hard to really capture it. Still, I thought I’d show willing and snapped some shots of gathering parkrunners and lovely trees and winter sunshine. If you squint a bit and use your imagination, you’ll get the general ambience of it all ok I think.



I don’t think there was a first timers’ welcome as such, but then I was wandering about trying – and failing – to take the perfect photo. However, after a little bit, the RD gathered us all together for a lovely welcome and briefing. Acknowledging the event number, giving a cheer of acknowledgement to Rose who had a balloon for her arbitrary 200th parkrun. We were reminded to stay safe, and advised there were some extra marshals out and about to keep an eye on things.


Good news for me, two parkwalkers, and a cheery tailwalker too. The field of runners quickly disappeared over the horizon, with the pale blue parkwalkers following on behind. Me and the tail were quite significantly further back. I felt a bit bad really as I was definitely struggling and maybe shouldn’t have attempted the parkrun, but then again I was here now. It hurt. It hurt a lot. But I’m so glad I went. The tailwalker was very patient and we spent a great deal of time sharing running stories and trying to work out how we knew each other. Must have seen each other at a parkrun somewhere, most puzzling…



The park looked lovely, the frost coating everything like sparkly fairy dust. There was a bright mist which gave everything a magical, mysterious hue. It also seemed exceptional calm, quiet and peaceful. I’m not sure if it really was quieter than normal, but there didn’t seem to be many people around.

As we walked around we met some lovely marshals, some of whom you pass more than once. One of whom had his very own corner apparently, but has resisted the impulse to have a special flag erected in the spot, or to have a plaque or at very least get the corner named after him. The issue is that were this to happen, he would feel unable to ever be absent again. Fair point, it’s still his corner, and referred to as such, the bench dedication or whatever can come later. All the marshals were in good spirits despite the cold. One was definitely dancing about, my tailwalking companion reckoned it was to keep warm, but maybe she just likes to dance like no-one is watching, parkrun can bring that out in people.



The way the course is set up, you do get lapped as a slower participant, but there are also two sections where you get to see other runners coming charging towards you. This is less scary and more fun than you might imagine. If you get lucky you might even see someone you know, but even if you don’t it’s just nice to pass one another and get the sense of being part of a group event. Runners in the mist look even more athletic and lovely than they normally do. Silhouetted against the winter sun they were almost other worldly.



I struggled a bit when we were being overtaken as we had to move to the side of the path and the camber wasn’t great for my foot, but I hobbled onwards. All participants were courteous and encouraging. It’s a two lap course, so we passed the finish funnel as some were coming in at the end of their parkruns.



For the second lap we had the route to ourselves, me and the tailwalker. There were very few other people about, apart from aforementioned good natured marshals. The space was stunning. I have never really taken the time to appreciate this route, coming for Christmas Day doing the parkrun and disappearing off typically. It was quite a privilege to take time walking it.



so we walked and talked and oohed and aahed. We were slightly discombobulated by a breathless runner in search of his wife. He’d finished his parkrun and returned on the course to meet her but met up with us as the tail of the event without having found her. I hope by now they are safely reunited. We hadn’t seen her, I don’t think we saw another soul.

Then we were at the finish!



and it was as I had my token scanned, I recognised a fellow regular volunteer from Sheffield Olympic Legacy park junior parkrun, and then me and the tailwalker had a ‘duh’ moment and realised it was there we must have met before! Small parkrun world and all that.

And that was that, parkrun concluded. I’m so glad I went. Physically it took its toll, my foot does feel like it’s been crushed by a mallet and my body like it’s been hit by a truck, but mentally I feel lighter, which is especially novel after polishing off all those carbs yesterday. I didn’t stay for breakfast as needed to get home and rest up, but for the record there are good facilities in the leisure centre with loos and cafe and good companions too no doubt.

Another lovely parkrun, with a bonus challenge as well as happy accidents of parkrun paths crossing. A grand day out indeed.

If the mood takes you, you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Reading is not compulsory.

Otherwise, same time next week? parkrun near you? Stay warm and safe til then if you can.



Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Happy Extra parkrun Day! Christmas Concord parkrun 2018

Digested read: Christmas Day means Happy Extra parkrun Day!  More options than ever, but Concord parkrun it was, and all the threes for me. Not just three hos, but three 3s – I finished in position 333, which pleases me.  Yay!

parkrun merry christmas

Unabridged version:

It may well be that all I want for Christmas is EU, but as that isn’t available the best gift ever for Christmas is an extra parkrun just for Christmas Day.  I can hardly remember a time when it wasn’t a thing.  What’s more it’s getting increasingly more ginormous.  Some have even worked out that the most valued present ever is a free pass out to take part in this 5k frolic on Christmas Day, or even a promise to accompany a parkrunner en mass to the same.  Look:


Those of us without families around them can head off with abandon, legitimately wear fancy dress, just because, and see all their favourite people in the running world at one fell swoop. Yay!  What’s not to like?  There were increased options available near to me this year, and I cannot tell a lie, I did flirt with the idea of breaking away to Bakewell or even Poolsbrook this year, some of my parkrunners did do this – the adventurous types, and/or the ones who live nearer to them anyway … still reet nice out everywhere though, don’t you agree, and more Santa hats than you could shake a stick at:


but in the end, Christmas at Concord prevails.  It’s sort of become part of my own yuletide traditions, such as they are.  It’s delivered before, why not?  Plus they set out a suitably enticing Christmas invite, always a boon, rude not to:

christmas concord some year or other

What’s more, I’m sure I saw a post somewhere from a runner intending to go there asking ‘would it be alright to give out mince pies/ chocolates to other runners after the run?’  I’m all for adherence to basic manners, but surely a no-brainer for anyone.  Heavens, even when post Christmas (yep, I can time travel when it suits me) a young athlete Alex got the second fastest parkrun time EVER, his picture on the parkrun UK Facebook page was captioned above with the – no doubt accurate –  observation ‘Alex was clearly in a rush to get to the cafe! 😂☕️’

Alex speedy

Kudos to him, the post added:

🚨 Since the very first event in 2004, so far there have been 40,605,326 completed parkruns…

Today (29 Dec 2018) Alex Yee ran the second fastest EVER!

Alex ran a time of 13:57 at Dulwich parkrun in London 🔥

And we may infer, that also, pleasingly, he was not in too much of a rush to remember his barcode.  Respect.  Athletics weekly focused on other aspects of his run achievement.

Astonishingly, we, the good parkrunners of Sheffield weren’t the only people to congregate at our nearest available parkrun, other parkrunners across the land had the same idea.  Stats geek alert (courtesy of

A remarkable 67,744 people started their Christmas Day with a U.K. parkrun, over 50% of the previous Saturday’s attendance. Scotland is the most enthusiastic Christmas parkrunning region (64% of previous Saturday), and Wales the least (36%).

For the first time ever two-thousand was reached by a U.K. event, with Bushy Park registering 2,011 parkrunners to smash its own 10th anniversary record (1,705). Also among the massive 30 new records were Norwich (1,104) going above a thousand for its first time and Forest Rec (738) seeing four times as many parkrunners as the previous week.

The total attendance on Christmas Day was 67,744 at 231 events.


You know what, you should totally go play with that website link for parkstats, through some sort of number and web-based sorcery you can click on the various icons and find out even more cool stuff, hard as that is to imagine.  This means, that whilst we may all like to think we are unique and who knows, even ‘special’ in our own ways, those who ran on Christmas Day are more accurately described as one in 67,744, but that’s OK.  Great club to be a part of.

Bushy parkrun cracked the two grand turnout point though, wow.  I like to think this is all down to my mum rocking up on the day, she always pulls a crowd.  She had a queue of well wishers apparently.  Quality not quantity you may say, and I agree, but check out the quality of the fancy dress rocked at Bushy and you can see indeed why it’s become a place of parkrun pilgrimage. Not going to lie though, I still find dolls make me shudder, even so, memorable.  Quantity wise, check out the video of the start and beyond for Bushy parkrun Christmas Day, epic.  Thanks Keith Riding.  There is a Bushy parkrun Christmas Day run report too, even a podcast for goodness sake.  Ho ho ho indeed. All such revels thanks to our very own Paul Santa-Hewitt.  Hurrah!


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Still, enough of other parkrun shenanigans, glorious as they are, let’s get back to Concord parkrun in all it’s festive cheer.  You know, I’m not sure I’ve ever done the course blah de blah for Concord, so for you as would like to know, their parkrun page describes the Concord parkrun Course 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.

and it looks like this:


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Not really the point though.  Good to know perhaps, but for festive fun, what you need to know is that there is a warm welcome, a cheery vibe and lots and lots of Santa hats – plus at least one pleasingly traditional Bah Humbug offering, albeit on this occasion its wearer inadvertently almost cracked a completely atypical smile, which was somewhat at odds with his choice of festive dress.  Don’t judge him for this though, it is totally out of character, and I’d put good money on the fact he’s been grumpy and kicking himself about that infuriating loss of control ever since, and this moodiness will prevail well into 2019 – all being well of course.

happy smiling concord faces

First things first though.  Woke up and remembered it was Extra parkrun Day.  Yay!  Did some under duvet texting of friends to find out which of them had already had their Christmas Day meltdown.  A fair few had, not sure if they were getting it out of the way early or just practising for even greater showdowns later on.  Both are fairly traditional ways to spend the day.  This makes Christmas parkrun even more essential, where else can people run down their rage and release suppressed seasonal tension and be set up pumped full of feel good endorphins as a reboot to face the challenges of the day to come?  Precisely.

I have two American guests staying, quite reasonably (in my world) their stay has been conditional on them embracing parkrun, which to be fair they have, wholeheartedly. Even making the Graves junior parkrun report and succesfully ingratiating themselves into the one for Graves parkrun report for the last one of the year too (thanks Laura! 🙂 ) quite the grand finale to their parkrun year.

29 december 2018 graves

Ask and you shall receive really does seem to work sometimes.  That’s why some children are made to visit scary Substitute Santas or write letters each year.  No really.  How else is he to know what’s needed.   So it was we three donned our home knitted (not by us) Santa hats and fancy dress offerings and piled into the car on a gorgeous morning to head to Concord.  As is traditional, we were ridiculously early.  I always fear being late, getting lost and having nowhere to park, set against these angst-filled thoughts, was the angst of needing a precautionary pee on Christmas day when facilities are shut and when the venue lacks suitable cover.  Thankfully we were OK on that front, which was unusual for me, but quite marvellous. Honestly, this was the Christmas that just kept on giving!  Also, I did get one accidental shot that at least is proof they were there, even if not wishing to be in a photograph with me, which is fair enough, now I’ve seen how that hat looks…


Oh, and I forgot to say, the elf came too, but no barcode, and we all know the rule.  No printed barcode, no result, no exceptions, and as not even registered, can’t really kick off about that one.  I wasn’t sure if he’d still be here at Christmas, expected him to head off back with Santa, but it seems he decided to stay as Sheffield is so much better than the North Pole, well it would be wouldn’t it?


The only real problem I had, was too much choice of car parking spaces.  I find not only does lack of choice terrify me in a car park – don’t like pressure of reverse parking into only available space whilst a queue of other wannabe parkers eye me with disdain – but also too much choice paralyses me.  Should I go up to the upper car park, is that against the rules or savvy parking to be near the start?  Which space will offer best view, smoothest get away, closest proximity to parkrunning buddies yet to arrive?  It’s a nightmare isn’t it!  Isn’t it?  Oh, just me then… In the end, I threw caution to the wind and parked in pretty much the nearest one, and we gazed out at the view, such as it was, waiting for others to arrive as the sun rose ever higher above us bringing the gift of a gorgeous day.

My American visitors have many attributes, but bringing a camera along to parkrun events is not one of them,  and I didn’t either on this occasion, so there aren’t many pictures of today, others than those I have sourced through other informal channels* or by photo bombing other people’s photos, intentionally or otherwise.  I like this one though a lot, an infamous Sheffield parkrunning family choosing to celebrate Christmas Day in the car park of Concord Sports Centre, rather than miss a parkrun.  Quite right too!  I’ve not seen them since, they are probably still there, hanging on for a New Year’s Day Double.  I wonder if someone should let them know Concord aren’t hosting one…

christmas carpark greetings

We emerged from the car, donned our fancy dress, and excitedly watched other festively suited parkrunners appear from all directions.  It wasn’t even cold, not really, we made our way to the assembly point, and kept an eye out for familiar faces.  There were many.  Some sharing Christmas horror stories of nights passed entirely devoid of sleep but all delighted, or at very least relieved to have made it.  If you can just get to parkrun, the rest of the day will be the better for it.

Selfie Queen panicked me for a bit by not arriving ’til the very last minute, but mercifully we did achieve a selfie before she disappeared off in a spin of Christmas busy-ness at the end.  Look, here I am, with Geronimo too, she’s not run out with me in ages.  I think the hat suits her rather well too.  Alas, my Santa bobble hat does me no favours at all, well, at least I hope it does me no favours, otherwise I’ll have to accept I really do look like that,  heaven portend I’ve actually been going out in public up to this point blissfully unawares, with or without festive headgear.  I shudder at the very thought.

concord selfie

We all gathered dutifully for the run briefing.  There was the usual welcomes, applauding of volunteers etc, but to be honest, what struck me most was the hue and cry of excited dogs plunging around barking like hell hounds about to be unleashed to run down their quarry to the ends of the earth.  Some might find this unsettling, but I found it hilarious.  Their enthusiasm was boundless, and in many respects but an outward manifestation of the building excitement many of we humans held hidden within.  I so wished I’d had my camera with me. Surely that wasn’t Lily the Wonder Dog catapulting about on the end of a leash with an elfin friend somewhat helplessly hanging on to the other end?  Love fancy dress parkruns.  No photo of her on the day – serious omission, but here she in action at Graves for the final barkrun of the year and her 250th I think.  Impressive eh?


Eventually, the cry went up unleash the hounds for ‘awf’ and awf we went.  It was most jolly.  Not a speedy start, with so many of us on course and novel fancy dress to negotiate, but all extremely good natured.  Plus, I was extra delighted to see some yuletide first timers come from Hallam, hurrah!  Somehow we lured her to the Trust 10 Tinsel run and now she’s spontaneously come along to this too – there’ll be no stopping this force of nature in 2019, this makes me exceedingly happy. I can’t lie though, I do have massive donkey onesie envy.  Not often you see an outfit like that which is comfy and versatile enough to don on any occasion – note to self, check out eBay for adult size donkey onesies come the new year…  Plus, they aid speed, they must do, as this one got a mahoosive pb out on the course today (well, thought so at the time, which amounts to the same thing).  Bravo!  Shooting ahead under the guardianship of a suitably speedy adult.  Impressive.   I think they are in possession of a post parkrun mince pie there, rather than pre-run carbing up, but clearly both are sensible options.  That wasn’t just a mince pie by the way, it was a home made, post parkrun most excellent mince pie.

parkrun yuletide first

The romp round was lovely.  Friendly people – lovely punning from my light-headed friend with fairy lights in her hair, and Christmas greetings from parkrunners cruising  past me – which was basically the entire field. I must have started further forward than I meant to.  Cheery marshals, suitably attired in Elfin outfits amongst others clapped and directionally pointed with considerable aplomb – methinks many of them must have done this before.

concord runaround

It’s a really good route, I really should come and do it not on Christmas day sometime.  There were some motivational phrases chalked on the path from previous runs.  It had more uphill than I choose to remember.  Those uphill flat sections do take their toll.  It’s a jolly good thing you can run/walk/jog parkrun and demand respect for participating in parkrun in your own way, as my running parkruns are getting ever slower.  There was someone walking parkrun in reverse at Concord on Christmas Day, that could be me soon, running has definitely gone into reverse.  I’m hoping next year I’ll be back on it, and doing more than going through the motions, still lapping those on the couch though, and it was a lovely day for it…

Being slow is not all bad though.  Apart from getting my monies worth by being out on the course longer, I got to really appreciate the extent of the fancy dress offerings, I think people are upping their games as the years go by, and, as faster runners pelted home I got in some extra mutual cheering and high fives as we passed each other with me still heading out for lap too.  Love parkrunners, they are all awesome and each and every one of us is practically perfect in every way, so that’s good.

The views around the park are fun, I find it a bit of a strange looping the loop course, so have never quite fathomed quite where I am at any point, but lots of green and marshals to cheer you round just when you most need them.  Christmas marshals the land over are known for being especially awesome.  Here are some I came across earlier, whilst trawling for photos:


See, practically perfect in every way.  I was going to say the slightly manic look is optional for hi-vis participants, but it isn’t really, not when you are spreading the parkrun love.

I might not have taken photos out and about, but others did, well, I say others in general, and I’m sure they did, but I remain loyal to smiley selfie queen on such occasions for furnishing the pictorial accompaniment to my blog post offering.  It was fab out there I tell you!  Fun for all the family.


Finally, I was homeward bound, and pulled out my sprint finish (ahem) to race through the finish tunnel.  I was pleased with my 333 finish token, not pleased enough to keep it, that would be rude, but just pleased with the pattern of the numbering, if not the speed of the parkrunning.  I didn’t manage to secure a mince pie or chocolate, though my American friends did. One was lovingly carrying a home made mince pie in cupped hands as this is a novelty to her, and to be treasured.  I was impressed at how game she was to be fair, as their only previous encounter with a mince pie was a freebie whilst decorating Magic Magid’s Christmas tree (another story and a lot of fun, we can’t take credit for all of it, but we player our part) but that resulted in contorted faces and spluttered out pastry and mince meat.  This mince pie looked a classier offering altogether, and worth giving a tasting another shot.  I can in fact report that it was very nice indeed, properly made and served warm with brandy butter a much better ambassador for the mince pie tradition.  Phew.  Thank you master pastry and mince pie maker.  That was how it should be done.


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We lingered to cheer the final finisher home and thank the hi-viz heroes for turning out on Christmas Day to facilitate such parkrun fun and shenanigans.  Looking around, the place was suddenly deserted.  parkrunners scattered to the four winds, all set up to plunge in to whatever misadventures might lie ahead.

Ho ho ho, etc.

Thanks parkrunners and parkfunners everywhere.  It’s been grand.  Hope it was with you too.  Wherever in the world you found yourself.


And then, if that wasn’t all fun-filled and indulgent enough, there’s still the extra, extra parkrun day to come on New Year’s Day. That’s next year though.  A whole long year away.  Who will be lucky enough to do the Nordish Noir Denmark and Sweden NYDD turn I wonder?  Not me alas, on my wish list for years to come though.

So happy parkrun Christmas y’all, yuletide felicitations or wondrous winterval, whatever greeting you will.  Well done to those of you who now find another icon has appeared on their parkrun challenges chrome extension widget for the first time.  It’s a thing of wonder is it not.

running challenge christmas day


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

*basically stolen from friends or other Facebook pages, well they are in the public domain… that’s OK isn’t it?  Seriously though, any objections peep, let me know, the photos can be removed and we will still have our memories.

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

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: , , , , , , , , | 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.


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:


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.


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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