Posts Tagged With: Conkers parkrun

An out of this world parkrun, Alvaston parkrun welcomes wandering earthlings

Digested read:  went to Alvaston parkrun for a spot of parkrun tourism.  It was very nice thank you for asking.  An absolute blast in fact.

pooh

Undigested read:

Yes indeedy, it was an out of this world parkrun, because it offered up an earth rise, and not (m)any parkruns do that, and I particularly appreciated this what with today being  the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing it was a nice touch.  My photo of this Alverston offering is almost as good as those taken by the actual moon landing crew of the actual earth.  I wonder if you can tell the difference?  I’m giving no clues…

… though I will say this, I think mine is actually better because you can make out the UK and therefore if you squint a bit, quite possibly the location of Alvaston parkrun itself.  Win for me therefore, though I suppose to be fair the crew maybe had other skills, but they also had a team behind them.   The Clangers made exactly this point in their Facebook post today – it takes a team to make history.  I love the Clangers.  I hope they have survived the moon landing.  Not so much as take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints, we left a load of trash last time we visited including 96 bags for poo, urine and vomit.  Poor Clangers, hope their planet is still safe.

Coincidentally, that is exactly the guiding principle of parkrun too.  Not the leaving your poo behind, that’s a definite no no, but in that it takes a team to deliver parkrun too.  It’s all about the team work – and there was a well-oiled team in operation at Alvaston today, hurrah!  Here are just some of them:

Alvaston parkrun team

In less joyful mood, Alvaston parkrun might as well have been on the moon given how lost I got on the way there.  The directions they give are good, the satnav postcode works.  However, I somehow, somewhere missed a turn off, and then I got caught up in road closure and a veritable vortex of roundabouts and circles that would have left even a Somerdale Pavilion parkrun regular, dizzy with confusion.  I’ve yet to experience their Curly Wurly route to be fair, but I nevertheless know it to be the stuff of legend, but going by their ace video of it, I’m confident I was doing the vehicle based equivalent.  Either that, or possibly Scalextric, but not in quite such a fun way.

Somerdale Pavilion parkrun

It didn’t help that my satnav was soooooooooo judgemental about the whole thing, suggesting U-turns, ‘at the first possible opportunity’ even though it wasn’t safe to do so, and then having a definite edge in her voice when I failed to oblige.  Why can’t my satnav be all friendly and supportive when it comes to a U-turn, like the lovely Alvaston parkrun marshals, such as the one exhibited below for illustration purposes?  (Thank you lovely marshal).

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At one point my satnav just entirely gave up on me and started to give my ETA as post parkrun start.  At that point I can’t lie, I did start to catastrophise a bit, WORST DAY OF MY LIFE, and may even have cried with frustration momentarily before I had a self imposed reality check.  It’d all be alright in the end, and if it wasn’t alright then it wasn’t the end, and anyway, it’s parkrun, it’s supposed to be parkfun, not worth getting into such a disproportionate state of angstiness about the whole thing.  Worse case scenario, freedom run.  That’s not so bad.

Even so, I was relieved when I got back en route, even if my need to get to my destination promptly meant I had to drive straight past Tile Town, which I’m sure is a great loss.  I imagine it’s a bit like legoland, and they recreate extraordinary wonders out of tiles.  They are bound to have done something lunar related given the significance of the day, I’d love to see the whole known universe miniaturised and recreated in ceramic tiles.  Oh well, next time.  Disappointingly, I couldn’t even find any images of this exhibition on the interweb, but I did find this very nice cactus sculpture made out of glass tiles which gives a glimpse of what might be possible, so that’s good.

On arrival at Alvaston parkrun I was reminded anything is possible apparently, so that’s good to know too.

Yeah, OK, to pacify the pedants among you, what they actually say is ‘impossible is nothing‘ which is very Yoda, but it that’s good enough linguistically for a Jedi Master then it’s good enough for me.  I took the image from Yoda’s Wikipedia page by the way, not quite sure how to attribute it properly.

Oh, you want to know what possessed me  made me choose Alvaston parkrun as my destination of choice?  Well, partly I was in search of an ‘A’ (alphabet challenge for the running challenges chrome extension), it’s amazing how even a virtual badge can assist with running motivation.  If you’ve not come across this yet, it’s basically like a sticker chart for grown ups.  Having said that, I find the running challenges operates more as a guide to choosing a parkrun to head off to for tourism purposes.  It’s all a bit arbitrary, and picking up an ‘A’ is a good a reason to rock up somewhere new as any.  Alvaston is also reachable from Sheffield, particularly if you don’t get lost in all the flyover dual carriageway scary bits, and a relatively new one.  It’s only 8 weeks old (bless).  Perfectly formed though, like my new froglets!  Have I mentioned them recently?  I do try to at every possible opportunity.  No visitor to my house, or indeed anyone who walks past it but makes eye contact with me as they do so, is entrapped and made to come and admire them in my back garden.  I’m so excited, they’ve all just appeared en masse, exiting my pond.  It’s my first year of home grown spawn to froglets and I couldn’t be prouder if I’d given birth to each and everyone of them myself, even if, had I done so, I’d probably have been burned as a witch a few centuries back – heavens, even today, given how bigoted this world seems to have become.  Maybe heading off the moon and staying there isn’t such a bad idea.  … Nope, not going down that wormhole of misery and despond, let’s admire a newly emerged frog instead.

See, gorgeous aren’t they?  Phew, now doesn’t that feel better  🙂  everybody loves a froglet.  Well, they should do, surely this is something we can unite around!  They are so very tiny, and yet completely perfect.

Where was I?  Oh I remember.  Lost, hopelessly lost.  And a bit panicky.  When my satnav was telling me (with rather unnecessary insistence and a somewhat patronising tone I felt) that I’d ‘reached my destination’ I was apparently in the midst of some sort of out of town shopping centre/ industrial estate.  Surely not?

Just as I was losing hope, this vision of loveliness and competence appeared:

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I know, how fortuitous was that!

I overshot the entrance, but this legend in a tabard, stopped the traffic so I could reverse back and into the designated Derby Homes car park.  I’m not sure how the core team have negotiated this, but it is a boon, as they have agreed:

Free parking (approx. 110 spaces) is available at Derby Homes (the entrance is opposite Wickes) on London Road, DE24 8UZ between 8:30am – 10:30am

It is worth noting the finish time though.  I completely didn’t.  More of this later.  I parked up, alongside loads of work vehicles and motivational bannering.  I do like a motivational banner.

Parked up, at around 8.30 fortuitously enough – in fact, if I hadn’t got lost, I’d probably have been too early, and never spotted the marshal or the entrance at all, overshot, and still be driving towards Dover even now, and there isn’t even a parkrun there.  Well I don’t think so anyway.  Look, it’s not important, I was just trying to emphasise a point.  Move on dear reader, move on.  The point is, it it isn’t hard to spot the car park entrance once you know it’s directly opposite Wickes, and also that it does look like you are going in to an industrial estate, because you sort of are.

The directions I’d printed out, said exit car park and turn right.  In fact, the marshal directed us left, unless I’ve forgotten how to tell my left from my right which is entirely possible, but I think not on this occasion.  So I went left, following other parkrunners to the bus stop and the slightly hidden entrance into the park just behind it.  Leaving our friendly car park marshal expertly coraling cars and parkrunners with extreme competence (yes, that is a thing).  It should be an extreme sport really, like extreme ironing.

So, I sheep like followed other parkrunners into Alvaston park.  Well, this is a surprise.  It possibly helped that near biblical rain and storms of the night before suddenly gave way to glorious sunshine, but you enter this gorgeous verdant park, which comes as a complete surprise as you’ve just been driving on a rather dull and grey roadway to get here.  Just wow!  Mature trees lined the walk way down to where the volunteer team were congregating.  It smelt wonderful, the trees heavy with pollen after rain.  The joy of that wore a bit thin as I was near asthmatic by the end of it, but you have to appreciate it all the same.  On the horizon were giant sculptural wind turbines.  I quite like them, I think they are rather elegant, I recognise not everybody feels the same, but, at least one other parkrunner paused en route to capture the scene.  We can’t both be wrong!

Other worldly indeed.  You get to pass Mars on the way in, which was a first, and if you listen out carefully, no, more carefully than that – there you go!  You can just make out the melodic tones of Holst’s The Planets, carried across to you on the breeze.  Very atmospheric.  It all helps to set the scene.

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The finish funnel was all set up.  There was a gathering of folk near the imaginatively named Waterside Cafe.

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There are loos, and I made a new friend in the queue, bonding over the mutual necessity of a pre parkrun precautionary pee.  There are only two loos, so a bit of a queue potentially, and they had alarmingly weak flushes, but fine.  There was also an informal bag drop (at your own risk) which rather sweetly, kept your bags of the ground.  We have no such provision at my home parkrun Sheffield Hallam parkrun.

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People milled and chilled, and I had a little explore.  So glad I did.  I not only discovered another planet – well, not in absolute terms, I think others had found it first, but it was a surprise to me – but I also hooked up with Jessica Ennis!  I’ve been trying to get a photo with her for years.  First tried at a VitalityMove event at Chatsworth, and she even commented on how fine my companion animal Geronimo was – and someone took some pics of me and her (and Geronimo) all together – only they didn’t, missed opportunity. Today though.  Result!  Also, I’m ahead of her on this occasion!  The camera never lies remember dear reader, humour me!

Oh look, first timers’ briefing, went and joined in that.  The briefing was good, but oh my that course is complicated, wait, what two out and back sections you say?  That’s erm, not my first choice…

It all seemed very well organised, with a lot of volunteers, the course is quite complicated so does need a fair few marshals to keep people literally as well as metaphorically on track.  Oh I suppose you’ll be wanting to know the course, well, according the Alvaston parkrun website the course blah de blah the route is as follows:

Course Description
This is a ‘pancake flat’ course on tarmac and is a creative variant of an ‘out and back’ route. We start next to the community/café building in the centre of the park completing one and half laps of the grass field ending up at the corner of Lakeside school. From there we then do a long ‘out and back’ up the Route 6 cycle super-highway turning around near Aldi. Once back at the school there is a second short ‘out and back’ section in the opposite direction turning around at the end of the park’s lake. You then finish close to where you started back in the centre of the park.

and it looks like this:

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Maybe a bit like a kite, with a string flowing out behind?  Oh I don’t know, you’ll have to come up with your own idea.  But you know what dear reader, unless you are super fast, you can just follow the person in front, and if you are super duper fast, then it’s extremely clearly signed and marshalled – just watch you don’t overshoot at those U-turns, your internal satnav will be furious.

After the briefing, parkrunners moved to the start, which was pretty near to be fair.  Although it’s a 5 minute walk to the start from the car park, the cafe, start, finish, loos are all pretty close together.

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Check out the super polite dog too – one for barkrun methinks.

then it was the Run Director’s Briefing.  It was her debut apparently, but I didn’t know this at the time as she seemed like a pro to me.  It was nice and friendly, welcoming, milestones acknowledged, tourists acknowledged, first time everers greeted, an invite for a family day in the park tomorrow and a big cheer for the graduating group from the Alvaston C25K.  It was all very friendly.  About 200 or so runners I think, I didn’t count, and can’t be bothered to go check the results – I don’t know what the normal turn out is, but I expect with it being a new one, it may take a while to plateau.  Anyway, here is the RD in action, with attentive wide-eyed in wonder parkrunners taking it all in.  It’s genuinely refreshing when people are quiet during the briefing.  Long may that habit continue, it’s a rare thing indeed.

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and then, ‘suddenly’ we had count down, 10, 9, 8 etc*, and then lift off!

I turned my watch off instead of on by mistake.  I’d like to think that was the critical point at which a new pb became out of the question, but it wasn’t.  Off we all went.  Scampering down the avenue of trees.  You do sort of one and half laps of the field, but it’s not too bad as it isn’t miles and miles and it’s fun seeing the runners all streaming ahead.  I think must thin things out a bit for faster runners too, though I think it’s a good pb course for anyone wanting to chase those, as it’s a cunning layout that means if you position yourself in the right place at the start, then you shouldn’t really be having to do all that much overtaking.  By the way, before you get too critical, it’s harder than you think to take photos whilst running, even at my lamentable speed.

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I think it’s fair to call this course erm, ‘idiosyncratic’ but no worries dear reader, it’s well signed.  At the top corner of the park there are signs to differentiate between the first and second lap routes – and then, it changes again later.  As if by magic.  These are high end marshals, not just directional pointing, high fives and cheering – though they perform those tasks admirably too, but actual relocating of cones and selves mid course.  Respect!

One new thing I saw here, which I’ve never seen before but which is genius and lovely, was the presence of an official parkrun buddy!  What a great idea.  I mean I’m just assuming that’s sort of part running marshal (keeping and eye on things on the course) and part befriending anyone that might want a friend.  Aw.  Every parkrun should have one!  Or lots.  I mean, on one level, every parkrun has the potential to become a parkrun buddy, but this sort of breaks the ice if you are new and feeling a bit of a wall flower or otherwise lost and lonely.

So we carried on round for the first lap, past the satellite dishes that are actually whispering domes which sounds a lot of fun and to the next set of marshals in situ to stop you running on to infinity and beyond, because being space themed is all well and good, but it’s better all round if we just stick to the usual 5k.  Also, you might end up in the lake if you didn’t take a sharp right here.

As you corner, you can see faster runners on the other sides of the square.  Very scenic!  And then you are back up at the ‘lap 1/ lap 2’ intersection, only this time you get to travel onwards, past the (slightly scary) owl cut out and on to pastures new.  How exciting!

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You jog on – or perhaps in your case sprint, it’s all tarmac, waving at the marshals as you pass and then you do the first out and back bit.  Caution, it’s a lot further than you expect, I don’t know why.  I think because I hadn’t looked at the route in advance, and I just assumed the out and back sections would be evenly split, and they most certainly are not!  However, it is pleasing all the same.  For example, you get to pass the marshal with the classiest leggings of the morning. Check out those different patterned legs.  You espy the dancing car-park marshal from earlier, now relocated and dishing out high fives and high tens even like they are going out of fashion, you even get to see the speedier runners rushing back towards you.  Lots to take in and all marvellous of course!  I also saw my toilet buddy from earlier – but my reflexes weren’t quick enough to snap her, and an actual proper first time ever at parkrun parkrunner and the parkrun buddy with her buddies, having a ball. Hurrah!  Feel the parkrun love people, bask in that glow of parkrun joy!

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And then you reach the end, and the turning point.  This could be viewed as a metaphorical turning point in your life, things will be different from now on, you can be the person you want to be – or you could just turn around and start over again – though that would be figuratively rather than actually, it was a 5k not a 10k today remember.  The 10k was yesterday, apparently…. I  met someone who’d run it and someone who’d marshalled it, but couldn’t find what the event actually was. Oh well, no worries, it’s been and gone now, I’m sure it was lovely, if a bit wet and blustery out!

Or it might just have been a turn around point of course, but where’s the fun in that.  Lovely helpful marshalling though.  Another highly trained special operative in action here!

And if you set your course up, people will come!  And they did, running up, turning around, running back to the tunnel and the high-fiving hi-vis hero and back to the right and down to the park bit where you can see where you started and runners trailing on right in front of you …  Wave at the tail walker, check out those leggings again, wave at pee partner, check out the tunnel mural.  It’s busy, busy, busy, out on them there paths at parkrun I don’t mind telling you!  All parkrun life present and correct.  And those photos won’t take themselves!

My favourite overheard conversation of the morning though, was when a dog walker (not a parkrunner) was strolling towards runners and her friendly hound was tempted to come up and greet parkrunners as they passed. She immediately called the dog back ‘nobody wants to say hello to you right now‘ she said firmly but with good cheer, and then I heard an immediate desperate chorus from parkrunners behind me calling out ‘but we do want to say hello, we really do!’  It was quite a cute dog to be fair, and another polite one.   I heard doggy hellos and greeting hugs being exchanged behind me as I ran on.  They seem do seem to be particularly polite the pooches in this park, no Wellard rough necks in these parts to be sure!

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and oh no, we aren’t allowed to carry on straight, we have to go out and back all over again!  They weren’t joking about these out and back bits, oh no sorree.

So awf we go again, back out towards the pond.  Haven’t we been this way before?  We go a bit further, taking in planet earth, mercury and more marshals until we get to another turn around, fair play, this is a much shorter section.  Oh, and I actually found a living thing I could overtake, left that slug standing.  Well, I say ‘standing’ I don’t know if that’s anatomically correct, upright maybe more accurate…

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Then, finally, you get back to the place you were earlier shooed away from, and you can weeeee down the hill (it’s a very, very slight downward incline) and the end is in sight.

So down you go and then another right angle turn past the marshals and you are on the homeward straight.  It’s not far now, through a spectacular avenue of trees, and towards the finish line, where it feels like you must be the first parkrunner through as a veritable mob of well wishers line the finish funnel, cheering and clapping and making you feel truly a.maz.ing.  Now, I’m not completely delusional, I may have benefited from the extreme solidarity of the C25K group who came en masse for their graduation run.  Every member was there at the finish to cheer all the other runners in their band through.  They supplemented the event team, who were also out cheering and clapping in force.   Heart warming, and also brilliant fun.  Who wouldn’t feel better after being cheered home by this fabulous lot!

Featured image Alvaston parkrun 20 july 2019

So the experience is nearly over, through the finish funnel, scooped up by the lovely scanners and time to cheer through the last few finishes.  It’s always emotional parkrun, and this seemed a particularly cheery and supportive one.  What parkrun should be, it felt inclusive and fun, with the super speedies through to the slow and steadies and the long in the tooth experienced runners to the just starting out.  #loveparkrun

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There was bell ringing, by those who felt the urge, and the C25K group, gathered for post parkrun photos, which is compulsory.  It takes a great deal of photographers to faciliate that.  These milestones matter,  good job people, good job!

and the last few volunteers found their way back to the finish hub from their spots on the course.  And I had my suspicion that occasionally the start and finish lines at parkrun do get moved whilst you are en route.  I’m not saying it’s not the event team’s prerogative to do this should they so wish, is just that I’ve never caught them in the act before.  I don’t think they were moving it any further away on this occasion though, or indeed closer, perhaps just testing the water in case of future need.  Stress testing I think it’s called.  Yep, that’ll be what it is/was.

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Aw, love the parkrun picture, check out this tableau and all’s right with the world, for this snapshot in time at least.

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Before I peeled away, I checked in with a couple of parkrunners that they’d be OK with me using their pics.  100% I spoke to seemed fine with it.  I explained my rule which is I delete any really unflattering ones unless comedic value is strong enough to outweigh compliance with personal dignity.  This seemed broadly acceptable.  However, if youa re reading this and I have included a photo in this that makes you want to crawl into a hole and never emerge again, or you just don’t want to be here, let me know and I will immediately delete.  By the way, I didn’t get any peeing shots, the person to whom this statement is relevant will understand.  All good.  😉

I then I retrieved my bag, and headed to the cafe via checking out the waterfowl, which are numerous and impressive:

Then to the cafe.  Turns out, the cafe is really good value, I got a veggie cob/bap/roll/breadcake  with quorn sausage and egg and a latte for £5 which is pretty good I think.  They also had cake and ice cream, a fairly impressive menu for the size of cafe, and it was immaculate, with seating inside and out.  I wasn’t sure I’d find a seat, but good news, my pee partner from earlier was outside on a table, which she’d been saving for her husband, but he’d been waylaid by token sorting duties inside, so room for me.  Yay!  We had a companionable chat, good to hear more of other tourist options.  Walsall Arboretum sounds fab!  The coffee was a bit rank, I think they make it with UHT but the bap was OK, and the company grand.

We were chatting away quite companionably, until, thankfully, a friendly local asked if we were in the carpark, as it shuts at 10.30.  Eek, I had no idea.  ‘What happens at 10.30 then?’ I asked, revealing myself as the dullard half-wit I am ‘erm, it shuts.‘  OK then, best get moving, what with it being 10.23.  Our conversation ended abruptly, I bolted the last of my bap, and got in the fastest parkrun sprint finish in many moons.  Those affected, made their speedy way back to the car park.

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and that was that.

For the record, I was the last to leave the car park, waving to the security guard who emerged from his hut at 10.29 just as I was pulling out.  Phew, that was a close one.  I honestly don’t know what would happen if you over stayed.  You’d be unpopular for sure, or stuck.  10.30 is plenty of time, you just mustn’t forget.  The marshals were discussing this as a group of us sprinted off, I think ‘remind visitors they need to leave by 10.30’ may be added to the ‘to do’ list for oneo r more of the hi-vis heros in future.  It probably comes under ‘any other duties’ that always covers a proverbial multitude does it not?

By the way, today was an extra special parkrun, at Alvaston because of the following happenings, all of which are epic, and all of which were reported on the Alvaston parkrun Facebook page in a post following the event.  Hurrah!

Congratulations to all 222 finishers today. A special mention to the Alvaston joggers couch to 5k group who ‘graduated’ today and Val Naylor for breaking the Age Grade course record at 99.26%. Also well done to Clare for her first time Run Directing.

Alvaston joggers couch to 5k

Did you see that though?  99.26% that’s insanely impressive.  Just wow.  In fact, it definitely is, because it set a new age category record for this week for the 75-79 age group, and I reckon it’s one that will stand a loooooooong looooooooooooooong time, as other age category records have been achieved largely by runners hitting ‘just’ the high eighties.  She got a mention in the Alvaston parkrun run report for event #8, and quite right too – ‘rocket-propelled Val’ indeed!

Mind you, having said that, she has a young whipper-snapper at her heels with Angela Copson achieving  97.12% in the 70 – 74 at Nobles parkrun today as well.  Blimey.  And I’ve never even come near their finish times now, let alone these percentages.  Hurrah for the VW.  They are bringing running home.  Mind you, some women runners are pretty hardcore.   What about that one that got knocked down by a deer in the middle of a 10k but still bounced back and recovered sufficiently to come first in her age category.  Not only that, but Karen Brewer, for it was she, told the BBC news

 “I heard a rustle and seconds later I was thrown into the bushes and a deer landed right on top of me. … After I found out I was OK, I got up straight away, I didn’t want to waste any precious seconds.  … I actually found it quite hilarious.”

and, on Friday, July 12, Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands broke the women’s mile world record at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco by running a time of 4:12.33.  Just believe dear reader.  It’s amazing what is possible.  She didn’t get hit by a deer though, so I suppose she had it a bit easy really, but even so, fair do’s, that’s still impressive.

It’s been a good week for running veterans to be fair.  Did you see that Roy Englert, a 96-Year-Old man ran a 42-Minute 5K to Break World record for his age group a couple of days ago too.  He shaved 8 minutes off the previous record, and, was still faster than me today, though I dare say he didn’t stop to take photos and chat to the marshals on the way round. parkrun is a run not a race people, so I’m allowed….  Here he is:

m96-roy-englert-5000m-gold-wr-42-30-23-1563369702

So there you go, that was that.   Pretty epic.  Other epic parkruns are available of course.  Conkers parkrun did a fancy dress theme, or at the very least, some game parkrunners unilaterally decided to don fancy dress, which amounts to the same thing.  That’s pretty epic.  Went to Conkers parkrun with Smiley Selfie Queen on a penguin mission, I can imagine they’d embrace any excuse for a parkrun party to be fair, and quite right too!  They had quite a cool Conkers parkrun run report from their space-themed event in fact.  Worth a gander, particularly if procrastination is your thing.  You’re welcome, happy to help.

Bushy parkrun also had an ace run report with space referencing a-plenty.  Loving your work run writers parkrun world over!  Also, they included a picture of my mum, in good form, cheering on the runners.  Good choice.  I was pretty over the moon about that I don’t mind saying…

mum cheering 20 july 2019.jpeg

Also this courtesy of  Durham, NC parkrun, America:

Durham NC parkrun

Respect.

In other news, there was an actual al pacino, cappucino, al fresco, Acapulco, A capella chorus, when Hallmark of Harmony were a flash mob of singing marshals at Sheffield Hallam parkrun this morning.  That would have been quite something.  Thing is, all parkruns are epic in their own ways.  Wherever you are epicness will out.  I’m happy to have experienced Alvaston epic today.  I hope you embraced epic wherever you were today, or if – inexplicably – you didn’t get to parkrun, enjoyed being epic in your own way!

Only this flash mob could better that – credit to AXEL SCHMIDT / REUTERS. People dress like singer-songwriter Kate Bush as part of the “The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever” flash mob in Berlin, Germany.  Excellent.  With this photo BBC week in pictures you spoil us indeed.  Imagine that lot singing ‘running up that hill‘  just wowzers!  Maybe if  Hallmark of Harmony recruit enough new members they may yet make it so… stranger things have happened.

best flash mob ever

parkrun all done and dusted for another week.  Yes, yes, that is a wee bit sad, but there is always next week.  And remember dear reader, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened!  Dr Suess – indeed Mr P S-H himself too no doubt – wouldn’t want it any other way!

dr suess

There was one poignant moment though.  I couldn’t find the moon, not anywhere.  I asked, but we all concluded it must be up in the sky where it belongs.  Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it will be safe there.  This park hosts Venus, Mars, Earth and Mercury and yet the moon sits apart.  It is a thing of wonder.  Stay safe.

Full-Moon

Of course in the meantime, no need to moon around (see what I did there?  Lawks a lordy I can be hilarious at times) if you want to prolong your parkrun fix, 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.

So thank you lovely Alvaston parkrun people however you participated to make it the fab event it is.  May I just conclude by saying thank you for posing so beautifully, what an exceptionally photogenic lot you are!  One small point – constructive criticism if you will, any chance of a lead emu for next time I come?  Thanks in anticipation.   Appreciated.  This one is called Fluffy apparently, and after all, if Nambour parkrun can, then…

How exciting that so many new people were doing their first EVER parkrun at Alvaston today.  I predict a rosy future for you all!

parkrun day

#loveparkrun

*only they didn’t actually, I think it was just ‘go’ but you get the general idea

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Conquering Conkers parkrun and sailing the cees in an ongoing quest to save penguins

Digested read:  parkrun tourism took me to Conkers parkrun this morning.  It was great, one of my favourite events to date!

Undigestible Unabridged Read:  (also time vampire, recommend wine and comfy chair, read on at your own risk)

It’s been in the diary since last year this one. Me and Smiley Selfie Queen, co-ordinating our diaries and finding a mutual window for the 19th January 2019 months ago.  Crazy really.  I can’t even remember why we picked Conkers parkrun specifically, except it has a reputation for being lovely, it will help contribute to my pirate challenge (seven cees and an R as in aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarr) see what they’ve done there?

Did you know there were lots of women pirates as well by the way.  Maybe not lots, but here are eight female pirates you should maybe know about if you want to excel in pub quizzes and feel a bit smug about your pc general knowledge too.

woman pirate

Conkers parkrun is sort of within range of Sheffield, by which I mean, it’s actually quite a long way, but doable in the interests of parkrun tourism.   We are running out of nearer options that one or other of us hasn’t already done.   I don’t mind the distance in terms of early departure as I have lost the ability to sleep entirely, but do mind in terms of what if it’s icy or still dark on departure.  Plus there is all the inevitable angst about how long it will take to get there.  Unknown territory.   Oh well.  It will be an adventure we thought.  Me and Smiley Selfie Queen have form going on adventures together, it’ll be fine….    Conkers parkrun it would be.

Except, that the night before DISASTER, snow falling from the sky, messages popping up everywhere on Facebook pages for local parkruns basically doing the Facebook equivalent of sucking in air through your teeth and saying ‘looking doubtful’.  Me and Smiley Selfie Queen independently contacted the Conkers team to check out the lie of the land their end.  I was being confused about a note saying to everyone ‘remember we are starting at the Discovery Centre, not the usual Waterside’ and giving a new postcode so I had a momentary doubt about what to put in the satnav.  She posted on their Facebook page for weather check.  Well, dear reader, have to say, both of us got almost instantaneous and friendly responses. How impressive is that. The event team/ social media communications manager are on fire in terms of their reflexes. I learned that yep,

you will always get an answer. We are currently operating from a different car park but they are connected by a tunnel. If you are going to join us in the cafe use the 6GA one. Otherwise it doesn’t matter.   It will be chilly here tomorrow but no rain expected. Safe journey from up north.
Roger x

and she learned that it might be nippy in the morning, but no snow or ice was expected:

will we make it

How kind and awesome is Roger to soothe our worries last thing on a Friday night!  (Rhetorical question, clearly very kind and awesome, and more of this later).

This was reassuring, but blinking out through a gap in the shutters the night before the morning after it wasn’t looking good.  It might be the case that Kilian Jornet can skip up Mount Everest twice in a week with nothing but a 2 litre bottle of water ten energy gels and some mittens but I’m not venturing outside my house if it’s icy.  I’m near the top of a seriously steep hill, it can’t be done.  Kilean Jornet is clearly some sort of enchanted sprite that’s taken on mortal form.  Dual ascent of Everest is taking hill reps a bit far in anyone’s training plan surely, even for an ultra?

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Fretful that Sheffield weather might yet mean our target parkrun trip might not happen, I treated myself to a night nurse capsule to get some slumber and resigned myself to the hands of fate que sera sera as Doris Day would coin it.  Isn’t she marvellous?

after all, you can’t risk death on the roads just in the name of parkrun tourism… actually though, I said that line out loud to my tourist buddy after the event in an ‘I’m glad the weather was OK as ultimately, can’t really justify going to a parkrun as an essential trip if it really was a white out‘ and she definitely hesitated and couldn’t bring herself to speak agreement out loud.  What’s more, she may have a point… it’s so hard doing the right thing sometimes.

Anyways, woke up at stupid o-clock, peered out the window and …. hurrah!  Although there was snow on my car, the road was clear, and closer investigation reassured me that the road was ice-free and snow could be just wooshed aside and we were on!  As I said in a message to Smiley Selfie Queen pre 6.00 a.m. it is testament to her parkrun commitment that she replied immediately, can’t remember saying what exactly, but it was along the lines of ‘yay!’  So all good.

It was dark and cold though.  Seriously dark.   I was relieved that my satnav was operational, the weather was in our favour and off I chugged on empty roads until I was parked up outside my Smiley buddy’s house at stupid o-clock.  The lights were on, so that was good.  We left bang on our estimated departure time.  For the record, left mine at 7.00 a.m. and hers at 7.15.  It was an easy run, using the postcode DE12 6GA though the traffic was slooooooooooooooooow, and I was extra cautious.  There had been an earlier quite nasty looking accident leading to speed restrictions on the M1 and I’m cautious anyway.  Lots of other vehicles had proper snow coverings, so we got off quite lightly.

I didn’t get lost, but I did get confused at a couple of almost intersecting mini roundabouts almost on arrival.  Weird layout. The only confusing thing, directionally, is that the Conkers Park, where the magic of parkrun happens (I know, a happy coincidence that the parkrun’s chosen name is the same as that of the actual park – what were the chances? (rhetorical again) – must be mahoosive, because there were loads of signs to the park pointing in different directions depending on which bit or activity you were heading off too. So if you are touristing, check out the map and satnav to avoid parking up the other end of it.  It was easy to find though.

On arrival, just after 8.35 ish, we were greeted by an enormous car park with ample free parking. There was a huge centre with loos and you could spot the hi-vis heroes gathered together in an appropriately  penguiny huddle (more of this later) at the far end of the car park.  This boded well.   I love a parkrun with easy access to facilities for a precautionary pee, and good parking if touristing.  Top marks for Conkers parkrun and its host venue Conkers park for seriously ace facilities.

I say easy access, but actually, it wasn’t as easy as you might think.  We made our way to the Discovery Centre, pausing for the obligatory location-based photo ops …

and then stood blinking with incomprehension outside the door to the centre.  It had a sign on it saying ‘automatic doors’ but nothing happened.  We kept trying to activate the trigger by walking towards it at different angles.  Other parkrunners appeared behind us, and joined the non-plussed attempts to gain entry.  I’m not sure who it was who had the bright idea of just pushing the door to get in. It opened inwards without resistance!  That was embarrassing.  Top tip for other visitors who might come in our wake. Just because it says ‘automatic’ on the outside, doesn’t mean you can’t get in by just opening the door in the old-fashioned manual way using a handle and a bit of shove inwards.  Good to know. Humiliating it took us quite so long to work out!

Possibly even a bit more embarrassing that we then did a reconstruction of this incident in order to document it for this very blog post, causing a small queue of bewildered fellow parkrunners left wondering why it was exactly we needed to take a picture of one of us failing to get through a door.  Sometimes though, I think a little mystery in life is a good thing, we didn’t take the time to explain ourselves.   After all, the lovely other people were all fellow parkrunners, all signed up to the code to ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way‘.  Phew.

parkrun code

Once inside, I can report fabulous loos, lots of them.  However, in the interests of transparency I must report that one unlucky occupant was caught unawares due to a malfunctioning lock – not by me but in an adjacent cubicle – so just a quick heads up to check you are properly secured before settling in for whatever business you require pre- run.  Also, the doors in the Discovery Centre are hilariously tall.  I felt like Alice in Wonderland mid-shrink.  They tower over you.  I thought this sufficiently odd that it required a photo to indicate scale.  Having subsequently come to see just how tall the hi-vis hero doing the parkrun first timers’ briefing was, I wonder if the height is by way of being accommodating to all users.  It’s a thought.

Smiley Selfie Queen doesn’t always stand like that, by the way, her pose was on account of the Penguin Challenge…  She’d come tooled up for business.

So, about the penguins then.  Long story short, my Smiley Paces running club is once again doing a Smiletastic challenge, splitting members into teams to take on various running activities and challenges to help motivate them to get out and run during the long dark winter months.  This year the teams are walruses, seals, penguins and reindeer.  I’m not taking part this year, but lots of my running buddies wisely are.  This week’s challenge, is to do something to mark Penguin Awareness Day, which is actually tomorrow (at time of writing) 20th January 2019.

happy penguin awareness day

Hence my buddy, who is a seal (not an actual seal, but in team seal obvs) was on a quest to do something running related that would help raise necessary awareness of the plight of penguins. Clearly, once alerted to this great cause, I was on board to help as best I could.  Hence we had along with us penguin companions as emotional support animals, and a mission to raise awareness as best we could to all and any present by whatever legal means we could.  First off though, we needed to carb up.  You can’t take on a mission like this without a bit of pre-run sustenance, so we’d p.. p… p… picked up some penguin biscuits to fortify us for the adventures ahead:

We had ample time to faff about and wonder what to wear, and then dumped unneeded stuff back in the car before heading to the hi-vis cluster.  This was a busy parkrun.  A very busy parkrun.  A very, very busy parkrun.  But you know what, it managed to be incredibly user-friendly and welcoming as well, which is no mean feat.

We made our way to the hi-vis mob, where there was a welcome sign for new parkrunners from various GP surgeries- there has been a recent drive to get new parkrun/walkers along and I think today was their launch. It’s a practice parkrun initiative, of which Conkers parkrun is apparently one. This doesn’t mean you have to practice before you can go there or indeed any other parkrun au contraire, it means GP practices in the area are proactively trying to get their staff and patients to come along and give it a go.  Splendid!  Lots of smiley faces too. Also splendid.  I do like a well-judged emoticon.

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There was a token table set out in anticipation of finishing runners handing back hundreds of tokens.  Although, actually it may have been an unofficial swingers system or some sort of roulette/ bingo system, as at intervals people had left keys on certain numbers.  Sometimes best not to ask.  Good system though.  For sorting tokens I mean, not for arranging swingers parties.  They also are in possession of a yellow wheelie bin, the existence of such a thing of which I was previously unaware, and an item which now I covet.  Shallow, but true.  Also, I know in my heart of hearts it wouldn’t make me happy even if I got one, it would just be the gateway acquisition that made me long for ever more ostentatious waste disposal/ storage solutions.  It is pretty cool though isn’t it? It didn’t give me quite the elevated heart rate I experience on entering a really fine stationery shop, but I had a momentary flutter I must concede.  No defibrillator needed on this occasion, but lucky they have one thereabouts if they are going to shamelessly flaunt their yellow bin every week

We weren’t quite sure at what point to enlist others in the penguin awareness raising challenge. We went to the first timers briefing, which was helpful welcome and course description.   It was organised so after that bit for tourists, he did a more details intro for first time ever at parkrun, which was all very reassuring, mentioning tail walker and it’s OK to run/walk/jog whatever you like.  He seemed friendly and approachable and important looking, what with his authoritative air and placard holding technique. He’d do.  Smiley Selfie Queen made the approach, well, it was her challenge after all, and I’m happy to report dear reader, that it took very little persuasion to get him on board with penguin related posing. Result!

penguin power

As Smiley Selfie Queen remarked afterwards, that’s one of the many completely brilliant things about parkrun, you can rock up wearing penguin pictures and ask to be photographed with people eating penguin biscuits, or indeed posing as penguins, and that’s quite acceptable. Expected even.  Today at Conkers parkrun, there was a guy wearing half a suit of armour, and we didn’t even comment on it particularly… though I regret not getting a photo now, obviously, but then again, it’s only just occurred to me that yes, that is slightly unusual, even for parkrun.

Edit – don’t panic dear reader, the official Conkers run report writer was on it, and I’ve stolen the photo from them. Thank you!  See, these Conkers people, they pay attention to detail.  Epic.

knight in half a suit of armour

More usual are milestone runs and pre-wedding parties and superheroes, but really anything goes.  There were some of those two of course, and we had to get more of ourselves, because to be frank, what’s the point of travelling with Smiley Selfie Queen if you don’t make full use of her photographic talents?

From this gathering point, we followed the crowds through a tunnel (reminiscent of Bakewell parkrun) and alongside a mini railway line, over a level crossing (which had automatic gates again, they like them at Conkers apparently, and to the back of the start funnel which stretched seemingly for miles ahead of us (only not really).

Point of information, if we’d parked up at the other car park, which I think is waterside it is very literally the other side of the tunnel, so you end up in the same place though I think as a newbie, the assembly point was very much more visible at the Discovery Centre side, plus that’s nearer the cafe and loos, an important consideration in route planning methinks.

I was quite taken aback at how busy it was.  It felt a bit like arriving at an organised event. They like their signs here. I do too.  Volunteers held up huge brightly coloured signs with different anticipated run times to encourage people to organise themselves into appropriate speed groups. It was friendly, and not intimidating.  You go out and back along the same mile at the start and finish, so some parkrunners left bags on railings or hung from trees where they’d be in sight of finish funnel volunteers.  It was cold and grey and started to rain freezing, fat globules of water, but the atmosphere was warm and welcoming.  People spotted we were a bit confused and helped us know where to leave stuff.  We also very quickly enlisted participants to take part in penguin posing, always a win, thank you good people of Conkers parkrun, you are fabulous ambassadors for parkrun in general and Conkers parkrun in particular and I’m sure the penguins are very grateful too!

The starting area is in a dip, there are embankments on either side and a humongous ditch perfectly sited for inattentive parkrunners to tumble in to.  Also, the bank was quite good for posing as a penguin in the background of a selfie shot.

penguin pose

The track was hard compacted path, with some surface mud, but definitely OK for buggies.  It was fun milling around.

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but the best bit was when I had the genius idea of clambering up on the muddy hillside of the embankment to try to get some shots of the whole snake of starters.  I was spotted and people all waved en masse as I clicked away.  It was hilarious, I felt I was recording an epic moment of history, which in a way I was, because parkrun is always epic, and for some this would have been their first brush with it.  How there lives will change from hereon-in.  Unfortunately, my camera can’t really cope with this kind of sweeping panoramic shot, also it’s broken,  I’m trying to ignore this fact, but it keeps jamming, or not working or creating a blank picture, this injects an element of surprise into any photo taken.  The pictures aren’t that good therefore, but they are still memories, and maybe some people will enjoy playing ‘Where’s Wally?’ and trying to spot themselves in them, so I’ll post them all anyway, and that’s hours of your life you’ll never get back dear reader, if you should choose to peruse and pore over them all…

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Now might be a good time to mention the course.  Increasingly I find the running component almost incidental to the parkrun fun package, but I daresay purists will want to know more.  I didn’t know anything about the course before hand, the Conkers parkrun course blah de blah is, pretty minimalist to be fair:

The route is best described as an out and back loop but it is very scenic and takes in the Ashby Woulds and Donisthorpe Woodlands trail paths with a small section running adjacent to the Ashby Canal.

Location of start – The course starts and finishes just beyond the train track crossing at Conkers Waterside.  Address: CONKERS Waterside, Bath Yard, Bath Lane (B5003), Moira, Swadlincote, Derbyshire DE12 6BA

There is a very nice parkrun profile all about Conkers parkrun on the official parkrun pages.  Most impressive.

and it looks like this:

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So hard to get lost, but will have to witness faster runners thundering home whilst still heading out potentially.  Not necessarily a bad thing, who knows, some may even be up for a high-five…

The map of the route makes it look a little on the ho-hum border line dull side, but it really wasn’t, it was fab!

I’m not going to lie, the start was very congested, and when the cry went up for ‘awf’ or ‘go’ or whatever it was, absolutely nothing happened, and then there was a slow trudge forward.  You can’t overtake for the first few hundred metres because there is a huge bank towering over you to the left hand side and a deep ditch to the right. There was also the RD standing atop of, well I’m not sure what exactly, but he basically shouted ‘you can run from here’ as you passed him, and indeed you could.  The route is on good terrain and for speedier runners could potentially be a fast one, but you’d need to position yourself toward the front. I’m happiest pootling, so didn’t worry me.

You head out, you really can’t go wrong, there aren’t any alternative options.  You just follow the path, there are trees on either side, there’s a tunnelly bit, then you emerge onto more open ground where you can see runners ahead snaking round, it was really lovely, though astonishing just how far ahead some were.

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Towards the top of this hill, where the route bent round, there was a full on paparazzi squad with the most enormous telephoto lenses I’ve ever seen, all set up on tripods.  I presume this was part of the practice parkrun rather than we were all photo-bombing a twitcher who’d seen an extremely rare rainbow unicorn stork on a wayward migration stop or something and was trying to frame the perfect shot before we all came storming through, but I didn’t actually stop to ask so can’t be sure.

EDIT and update:  just seen on the Conkers parkrun Facebook page that the man with the impressive lens was a certain Darren Cresswell. Ensconced with his camera equipment at the top of the first slope,  Darren was taking photographs and some footage for the National Forest for a future article about National Forest activities in the Winter, and what better than a Conkers parkrun.   So now we know. And here are some of his shots by way of illustration.  Somewhat better than my own offerings I concede, I can be gracious like that…

The route then went through some trees and we all yomped on puddle jumping when necessary.

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After a bit, we were rewarded with the first of the sign-bearers. These were cheery, helpful sign brandishers, not doom-laden bad-omen mongerers warning us to beware the ides of march or anything like that.  The first sign was advising us to keep to the side of the cones, now remember this  man, because he does something really unexpected later on.

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And it was indeed good advice to keep to the right of the cones, because very soon, the front runner was storming back.  Impressive.  It’s about a mile out, then you do the looping the loop bit by some water, and then you rejoin the trail for a mile back in.

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There is a sort of three-way junction point where runners coming back emerge and slower runners are still heading out.  Fortuitously, another friendly marshal is sited there to keep an eye on proceedings and ensure all runs smoothly.  Loving your work hi-vis hero, good job!

STOP PRESS EDIT:  So, bit of insider info for you hear dear reader, you are rewarded for being a later arrival at this post with an added morsel of information.  I have it on the considerable authority of a former core member of the Conkers team that, and I quote:

each of the major points on course has a name, as per tshirt we did years ago (attached). The ‘three-way’ point as you call it is ‘Stephen’s Gate’, but as your photos show there is no longer a gate, and I’m very rarely there, having been on the Core team for five years I shuffled across to the new (at the time) Rosliston – very much as friendly and welcoming as Conkers!

Now, clearly it’s a bold claim about Rosliston, and I shall be sure to add it to my ‘to do’ list of parkruns so I can go check that out for myself, but in the meantime, we can all benefit from this photo of the T-shirt map, and be enlightened.  Hurrah!  I feel much better informed now!  Thank you fellow parkrunner, for coming forward so graciously!

conquered conkered conkers

Shortly after this, you run on a bit, and the… and this is really excellent… there was another sign, warning you that you were about to encounter cheeky hill!  This is genius dear reader, informative, but also entertaining and motivating, very considerate hosts these Conkers parkrun people.

So you go up the Cheeky Hill, which I can confirm is a bit deceptive, as it isn’t that long, well not by Sheffield standards, and not even all that steep (Strava said the elevation on this route was 38m) but it was puff inducing for me anyway, and although many gamely hoiked themselves up, there were a few wise power walkers who were no doubt saving themselves for a sprint finish. What about me?  Well, I had to stop and document the course didn’t I, so that necessitated a stop start strategy, which I like to think of as a sort of hybrid between hill training and interval training and ethnographic research.

At the top, there is another marshal, to congratulate you on your efforts, and direct you round.  Again, some exemplary sign sporting in evidence here, they must train them. It’s actually quite hard, and quite a responsibility to brandish a sign for any length of time.  I know, I’ve been on loads of demonstrations.

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Then there was a watery bit alongside, and an al fresco pee point, judging from the person or person(s) unknown who took a little detour into the woods…  Also ducks, and dear reader, if you have been loyal to me over the years you will know that these have a soft spot in my heart. Gotta luvva duck.

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You then see another cheery marshal – lawks a lordy then were everywhere on this route, to stop you heading off to infinity and beyond and send you back en route, and, just in case you are flagging at this point, there is yet another genius sign pointing out you are lapping everyone on the sofa, as indeed we were.  They were very much into their motivational signage here.  Well judged lovely Conker parkrun people, well judged indeedy.  I thank you.

Then, to me unexpectedly quickly, ‘suddenly’ you were back round at the three-way meeting point and about to be heading homeward.  Recognise this cheery hi-vis hero?

You may well do… but the next volunteer marshal along was more challenging!  More challenging because?  Because, dear reader, he’d metamorphosed into a completely new incarnation, and was brandishing a different sign entirely! Wow, that’s upping the placard bearing stakes.  Has to do a quick change at a critical point in the parkrun pantomime of runners.  Genius.  I spotted what he’d done though. What I don’t know, and didn’t establish, is if I’d run back later to retrace my steps whether the sign would have been changed again.  I like to think so.  He probably had a whole stash of purple placards there, ready to brandish as appropriate on any or all occasions.  Sorry, out of focus, this is my camera in its death throes for sure, there is a fair amount of operator error I know, but not to the extent in evidence today…

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The surprises weren’t over though, oh no. If you could but resist the temptation to nip into the open cafe and carry on

you’d get to my favourite sign of the morning.  You are awesome!  It proclaimed. And yes we are!  I paused to take a photo and demanded a high-five – it was very uplifting. At this point on the course, other runners who’d already finished had come back up to cheer in fellow runners still out there, it was all extremely friendly and supportive.  I genuinely got the impression that if this was your local parkrun you could get involved and meet people really quickly if that’s what you wanted to do.  It was a great event.

and then, seemingly we were nearing the finish, through the tunnel and the end was in sight!

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Smiley Selfie Queen, long since finished, was there to cheer me in, as were a load of friendly and feisty hi viz heroes. They were like a well oiled machine, moving me through the funnel, anyone would think they’d done this before. Fantastic experience!

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but you know what, that wasn’t even the end of the excitement. Oh no, there were further climaxes to come!

We were still on a quest to do more for penguins, because whatever you do is never enough what with their habitats so threatened and all.  Then we were distracted by the sight of a parkrun bell!  Now, I have seen these before, but usually the ringing of these is reserved for those who have achieved PBs (or believe they have) and I haven’t for many years, and indeed expect to PB approximately never again.  I therefore reluctantly concede that bell ringing at parkrun was alas to be an activity that did not include me. Well, dear reader, Conkers parkrun is most liberal in its offer to ring their bell.  You can to it for a PB if you wish, but also for being a tourist, or being at your first parkrun, or for being happy, or pretty much for being whatever!  How very inclusive, and how very inspired. Surely we could ring the bell for penguin awareness, it would be most apt. However, much as a run on strava never happened, and a barcodeless parkrun disappears into the void of invisibility, a parkrun bell rung without being captured in a photo similarly never came into being. We’d need to interact.  Well, I haven’t quite got enough effusive words to communicate what happened next.  Long story short (not that short to be fair, I don’t really do concise, which may come as a surprise, or may not, depending on how good you are at skim reading…), we made a brilliant discovery!  Casting around for someone to act as official photographer, we settled on someone who asked directly ‘what’s with the penguin’ well, clearly this was just the shoo in we needed, we were able to give a brief lecture on the importance of raising awareness about penguins and it being part of a running  club challenge and all, and many further brilliant things tumbled forth.  It was a positive embarrassment of riches. First off, turned out, this was the fine person who’d replied so promptly to our enquiries the day before. Then, he submitted agreed to be videoed by way of evidence of our penguin awareness activities (though I don’t know how to upload the video here so you’ll just have to take my word for it and make do with this rather inadequate screen grab)

penguin awareness with event director

and best of all, revealed at the end that his son actually, my gawd, I can’t believe this really happens SPONSORS AN ACTUAL PENGUIN, and what’s more, hard to believe I know HIS SON WAS THE RUN DIRECTOR OF TODAY’S EVENT!  What were the chances – clearly photos were needed:

and what’s more (yes there is more) his penguin is called Pedro, which is an excellent name for a penguin and his dad, who we’d just been talking to, is Event Director for the whole shebang.  Basically dear reader we were hobnobbing with the elite of Conkers parkrun, and I would say it’s not beyond the realm of possibility penguin awareness day might yet get a mention in the Conkers parkrun run report for today.  Fingers crossed.  All in all, one of the happiest parkrun days of my entire life, and there have been many!

He even agreed to get us a few decent bell ringing snaps, and executed them amazingly.  We played it cool with the ding dongs, but I think the perceptive reader will spot we were secretly pretty goddarned chuffed!

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All in all, we had an amazing time.

UPDATE: Seems the event director was today completing his 300th run, so I hope he got to have a good ding dong with the bell once we’d vacated it, and I’m sure his hi-vis comrades would have carried him aloft to the Discovery Centre for celebratory coffee afterwards, but we missed that display of celebration unfortunately, preoccupied as we were with our own adventures.

Bell ringing done, we crossed to the other side of the tracks, espying an unexpected train as we did so

and then you walk down the path, under the tunnel, back to the gathering place, where a squad of hi-vis scanners formed a guard of honour to greet you and scan your barcode.  I’m quite surprised that they don’t lose a lot of tokens between the end and the scanners, but then again, they were quite a visible if not formidable presence blocking the exit route, so perhaps hard to dodge.

Also, despite their barcode scanning efficiency, they weren’t agin doing some penguin posing for the cause, so another good result there. Thank you accommodating barcode scanning team.  You make a fabulous penguin colony you really do.  Which is a good thing to be, and you huddle beautifully, which is an excellent way to keep warm in inclement weather, so well done all of you!

penguin posed

So we passed on by the token table, which incidentally subsequently teleported to the cafe where everyone could take a turn at the token sorting, a little like doing a large communal jigsaw each week.

and we went to the cafe for post run pee and then re-hydration with coffee (me) and hot chocolate (Smiley Selfie Queen).  I can report it was good coffee, and there were also jugs of water on hand too.  Only negative comment was that they use disposable cups and I regretted not having my reuseable one with me.  Oh well. The culture is changing. We had a post penguin parkrun debrief and felt happy.

penguin refreshments

So that was that, job done.

A grand day out indeed!

Thank you Conkers parkrun, it was a lovely, memorable, welcoming and hilarious at times morning.  You will have a special place in our tourism hearts and hope to be back soon.

Be sure to wish Pedro a happy penguin awareness day from we two Smilies.

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Bit of a time vampire, if you do, you might be stuck on the sofa for a while, ‘just researching options’.  Hmm.

Happy parkrunning until next time!

🙂

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PS  Thank you lovely Conkers parkrun people for the comments on my blog after you shared it on your Facebook page.  I am hugely grateful to anyone who stops by to read my posts, and elated if you comment too. However, there is a special place in my heart for the penguin puns and penguin emojis and penguin wit and wisdom many of you took the trouble to include in your feedback.  No wonder the penguins in Conkers park are dancing!

dancing penguins

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