Digested read: went to Mansfield parkrun for my twentieth parkrun tourism excursion. The cow cowl is now rightfully mine! Sun shone. I wasn’t (quite) last. Missed out on the Gavin and Stacey parkrun though. Oh well. Here’s to Mansfield parkrun, small, but perfectly formed.
No, I’m not picking a fight, I mean this quite literally. It was sufficiently warm that I ran gloveless! Even without a coat, and I briefly considered removing my buff (not to be confused with running in the buff, which would have been another blog post altogether) but didn’t, although with hindsight, it would have been fine. Considering it actually snowed last week at Brierley Forest parkrun, I consider these clothing choices newsworthy. Today, at Mansfield parkrun the sun shone, and like a reptile soaking up the thin winter sunshine, I could feel the restorative rays of solar power working their magic through my weary body.
In case your powers of deduction are failing you, and you haven’t deduced it for yourself yet, today I went to Mansfield parkrun, for a bit of parkrun tourism. I could have gone to the Gavin and Stacy parkrun, but unfortunately I didn’t find out about that until afterwards.
Long story short, but Billericay parkrun was cancelled for a fireworks do, so on a bit of whim, some Billericay parkrunners decided to decamp to Barry Island parkrun following in the steps of Gavin and Stacey. It was seemingly epic, according to Barry Island parkrun’s Facebook page, or more accurately ‘proper lush’ don’t know how you say that in Welsh. Anyway, they had a record attendance of 435 parkrun participants, lots of media attention and lots of fun judging from the parkrun’s flickr account! Lots occurring there today! Looking at the pics I definitely want to run there. Maybe that should be my next focus. Coastal parkruns – though starting that quest in November might not be the smartest move. Anyways, here’s a taster of what we could have won, if we’d but known.
No worries, there will be other opportunities I’m sure, and Mansfield had its merits – though I could have done without treading in dog poo at some point to be fair. Especially since I didn’t realise I’d done so until the smell of canine faeces permeated my whole car on the journey home. These things happen, I’m not holding them liable, but I’m pretty sure they’ll give me a free parkrun next time I rock up at Manor Park Sports Complex on a Saturday morning as a good will gesture if I ask. They gave all the Sherwood Pines parkrun refugees a freebie today after all! (A reference I think to the fact you have to pay for parking there, but that event too was cancelled today).
Where was I? Oh yes, heading to Mansfield. I’m picking off the parkruns that are reasonably close to me in a quest to both do some parkrun tourism, and take the pressure off my running for a bit by going places I won’t know anyone so I can tootle about and rediscover the joy of it all again. This is the theory. I’ve left my running mojo somewhere out in the peaks, and not been able to find it. I will at some point, but find it easier jogging round anonymously in the interim.
I didn’t know much about Mansfield parkrun. On the way there, I vaguely recalled isn’t there a book called Mansfield Park? Dear reader there is! Though if you are a reader then you probably already know that. It’s a Jane Austen. I wondered whether that meant there’d be people running round in early nineteenth century costume. I think that would be hilarious, then again, I’m easily amused. There weren’t though. Maybe that’s because the locals know that Mansfield Park isn’t based on Mansfield as such anyway. Her loss, obviously. Sad but true. Well, I say true, I mean true according to this random article that I googled when I got home, which amounts to the same thing, and is more due diligence than say the current US President bothers with before making his pronouncements. Mind you, that’s not really a good thing is it, although it does seem to be the new normal. Look, best if you don’t get me started on that one to be honest, I have quite strong views on the topic… It might be that, or it might be that regency costumes aren’t very practical for running wear, which is why parkrunners should all rush out and buy the new contra kit instead.
Emboldened by arriving crazily early to Brierley Forest parkrun last week, I set off from Sheffield a good half hour later to get to Mansfield. The two parkruns are just 5.5 miles apart. It took about 45 minutes to get there, another easy run, apart from being dazzled by sunlight on the way going. I had to wear my sunglasses driving. I know! Who’d have expected that in November! Fortunately they are massively fetching so that was OK.
I arrived just after 8.30. The Sat Nav postcode NG19 8JY took me directly to the Manor Park Sports Complex easily enough. It’s signposted well (the sports complex not the parkrun, though actually that is too) so even I struggled to get lost. You have to hold your nerve for the very last bit though, as it really feels like you are just driving into a cul-de-sac on a rather new housing estate, which was a little bizarre. But no, I was on the right path.
On arrival, I was spoilt for choice for parking. There were loads of courts and pitches for various sporting activities and endeavours each with seemingly separate parking areas. Well, you my regular reader will know it doesn’t take much to confuse me, so I changed parking places a few times before going and parking directly next to the sports centre. A nice young man told me that was OK, and pointed me in the direction of the parkrun start – which was actually in the opposite direction, but not hard to find, nor very far away. I used the loos first though. Of course I did!
I can report good facilities here, precautionary pee wise. A nicely warmed centre with changing rooms, even lockers, albeit that puzzlingly within them was only one loo with the worst flush I’ve encountered in a very long time. It did work eventually, but water dripped through at a speed and velocity usually associated with stalactite formation. There were loads of showers though. Maybe Mansfield folk exercise so hard they sweat off all their excess fluids and have no need of toilet facilities. I can think of no other explanation. It was fine though, there was no one else about. The picture is of the side entrance to the sports centre, not the glass fronted main entrance, I don’t know why I didn’t photograph that, crass stupidity on my part I suppose… An opportunity missed. You’ll have to go and witness that for yourself and enjoy the interaction with the automatic doors. I still think self opening doors are a miracle of science, though I have walked into glass doors before expecting them to open when they didn’t so it’s not always a win…
I headed over towards the start, following in the trainers of other runners who were trotting over in that direction. This isn’t (or wasn’t today anyway) an especially busy parkrun. In fact, I’d had a pre-parkrun panic looking at the results of previous events yesterday evening, with few runners, I fear not so much being last, as that’s happened before, but being so last, there is just tumbleweed and a dedicated timer waiting for me when I come in at dusk. I scanned the field for runners more in my league. I didn’t see any, but pleasingly, I did see a familiar face from Graves junior parkrun, an RD also on tour in a quest to secure his cow cowl, and accompanied by a friend celebrating his birthday and donning a new COИTRA top. That was a good opportunity for me to cop a feel – of the top I mean – honestly how childish and smutty are you exactly? You should be ashamed of yourself! I hadn’t previously been in close proximity to one of the tops before and I am tempted to get one. I tell myself my Ronhill tops are years old now and less lovely than they should be. More than a few stains and holes acquired over that time. Then again the COИTRA ones are pricey, though it’s raising funds for parkrun as well as being ethically produced … also, well, 20 tourist runs is surely a cause for celebration after all… I am surely justified in doing something to mark the occasion. It felt nice. I can feel myself giving in to that temptation even as I type. I don’t quite understand the sizing though. I also would like to know why they have the N in reverse on their logo. Anyone know? Shopping for running clothes is such a nightmare. No wonder I end up wearing the same couple of tops the whole time. We’ll see.
We speculated about what new wonders would await us the other side of our twentieth differently located parkruns. Would we feel different? Would we see parkrun with a new wisdom, indeed see the whole world, nay – the entirety of the known universe through a completely different light once we’d stepped past the timer and been spat out the finish funnel on completion of this run? I imagined so. Would there be a special handshake – or is the cow cowl the entire package? It was exciting to speculate. I never thought I’d get to this point, and yet here I am – or more accurately, there I was, about to transition to a brave new world! I wondered how many goodly creatures would be there the other side and obviously, as at any parkrun reflected on how beauteous parkrunkind is to have such people in it! Who’d have thought it! That I’d get be included in all of that! Also, is it at all odd to be excited about becoming eligible to buy a yellow and white and black running buff with cows on it? I think not, but then again, perhaps I’ve already passed through to the other side…
They were keen runners, so had already warmed up with a lap of the route, and whilst I was gazing about and wearing my fleece in a ‘best not risk wearing myself out by running around for a warm up when I can just stand around awkwardly sort of way‘, they jogged off to use the facilities, and I strolled over to the start, where a small group of volunteers were discussing tactics, and other parkrunners vaguely loitering. I found out later there were loads of first timers, which is possibly why I didn’t find this the friendliest of parkruns I’ve been to. I tried to strike up conversations with a couple of people but it was a bit minimalist, but maybe they weren’t regulars, so a bit reserved. Or maybe I’m not doing as well at suppressing my more bizarre behavioural tics just now, who knows. Surely not the fragrancy of my running top? Clean on this morning… and barely an hour old in the wearing! I’m not having that…
The parkrun venue was some open fields with autumnal trees around the perimeter. The autumn colours looked lovely in the morning sunshine. My camera couldn’t really cope with the light though. I’m actually wondering now if it might be broken, picture quality isn’t great, still you get the gist, and I can’t buy a new camera and a new COИTRA top can I?
I debated what to wear. I was actually hot in the sunshine, so dear reader, not only my fleece, but my gloves came off! They really did. There wasn’t any obvious bag droppy area, so I just dumped my backpack alongside the finish funnel where I hoped it wouldn’t be too much in the way,
My running gloves are excellent by they way, wish I could remember where I bought them.
After a bit, we were jollied along to the start area by the RD, who I now know was on his Running Director debut. Scary! Well done though. For what it’s worth, I feel you acquitted your role with glory, I had no idea it was your RD parkrun premier performance. Job done. 🙂
As we shuffled along to the start, I had a panic about which way we’d be running, in case I found myself at the front of the pack and got trampled but speedier participants. At this point a local took me under his wing, pointed me in the right direction and briefly explained the route. Dear parkrunner, I thank you. He was very friendly and welcoming, maybe other people were just shy?
That reminds me, you probably want to know about the course? According to the Mansfield parkrun course description blah de blah:
The course is a 3 lap clockwise route consisting of mainly concrete paths and gravel paths. Starting at the green pin runners follow three clockwise loops of the blue line. On the third lap taking the red line to finish at the red pin.
The course is generally flat, quick and ideal for runners of all abilities.
It is really, really flat – 38 ft total elevation, which by Sheffield standards is like running down hill. Good paths too, just one little slightly trail bit, I did wear my trail shoes, because I always do for unknown runs, but road shoes would have been fine, unless you are a complete wuss about overtaking on grass. I’m not a massive fan of the three loop thing, but you do weave in and out a little, so it’s not like my nemesis which is the Rother Valley parkrun route, where you can see the whole course from every point and can therefore tell exactly how far you still have to go and how many people have already finished. In my world this is depressing rather than motivating. You may inhabit a parallel universe where this data is helpful and conducive to putting on an extra burst of speed . I forgot to turn off my watch, so my Strava shows the walk back to the sports centre for coffee as well as the route, and my little photo stop detours too. You can compare and contrast with the official course map if you have nothing better to do.
Or, if you are really keen, you could look at this GoPro video of the Mansfield parkrun route taken on the same morning by Alex Hoggard. It’s amazing (for me) to see what parkrun is like at the front of the pack. He overtook me about 11.46 minutes in. Not sure backside is my best side, though others may beg to differ.
Not a huge turnout, around 100 I think in the end. But an attentive run briefing, milestones acknowledged, tourists and Sherwood Pines refugees welcomed, volunteers thanked
The run briefing was pretty brief and then it was ‘three, two, one GO!’ and we did. I was a bit more mid-field than I’d have liked, but sort of moved aside to the left as soon as I could so faster runners could pass.
One thing about this parkrun which was very noticeable and really fun too, was the number of cheery interactions with spectators. I got the impression these were local people who came to support the parkrun every week as part of their routine for a Saturday constitutional or dog walk. There were lots of ‘hello‘s, ‘good morning‘s, and ‘well done‘s. Plus a few ‘keep on running‘s too. It was really nice. I gained the impression of a community parkrun with other park users very happy to share the space with their local parkrun which is good to see. These were my favourite cheer leaders though, so much so I asked to take their photo on the final lap. They just looked like they were having a good time too, and sharing the joy.
Sad to say my home parkrun has got so big now I think non parkrunners are starting to object to it a bit in Endcliffe Park. I appreciate it must be intimidating if there are 700 + runners coming through, but I wonder if sometimes those other users forget we are locals too, and it is really only 30 minutes of congestion. Here, it was really nice. Also, because you do three laps, you get three lots of encouragement from those minded to give it.
I was towards the back, obvs. But on the plus side, it was nice to see the runners streaming ahead and cornering around the football pitches.
There weren’t very many marshals on the course, it didn’t really need them to be fair. Just one at the furthest point, and loads of carefully positioned arrows including kilometre markers, which is handy when you are doing a new route. Though you do need to be able to count to three to remember which lap you are on to make use of them most effectively.
It’s quite a sweet little route. It winds around the perimeter of the fields but goes over a couple of bridges and past a little stream where an abandoned chair was perhaps in tribute to a former parkrun cheerer no longer there, who knows?
I had a few adventures on the way round. I got lapped early on. The front runners were all as courteous as they were speedy. For those whose goals include getting a new PB this course might be quite good as it’s flat, tarmac paths pretty much throughout and uncrowded.
Being lapped is never great, even if it is for me at least, often inevitable. Still, on the plus side, it meant I could cheer my Graves junior compatriot as he romped round. Bravo!
And then I happened to be at the finish funnel (doing my second lap) as the birthday celebrating CONTRA wearing runner came on through – a pleasing bit of happenstance.
Although all the volunteers did sterling work, of course, special mention for the faraway marshal at the faraway point possibly beside his very own Faraway Tree. He clapped continuously, and came up with encouraging phrases every time I passed. Though I wasn’t entirely sure if for my final lapping if he said ‘keep going at that pace and you’ll soon be done‘ or ‘keep going at that pace and you’ll soon be done in’, either way, his enthusiastic and interactive support was much appreciated. The latter phraseology some might consider discouraging, but I think it acknowledges the reality of my situation. Also, I’m pretty sure he said the former anyway!
The other curious thing, well I thought it was curious, was that on my final lap there was music coming booming seemingly out of some shrubs and bushes about a third of the way round the course. It was really strange, I couldn’t work out at all its origins or purpose. It was cheering though, but was it an abandoned boom box or a very shy busker or possibly even musically minded doggers parked up the other side of the hedge, oblivious to the way more satisfying parkrun fun going on our side. I didn’t do a detour to find out. Sometimes best not to. Did you know dogging in Endcliffe park is a thing though? Well it nearly was anyway, you’ll have to follow the link to find out more…
The finish arrives ‘suddenly’ after a bend, which is quite nice if you are new to the route as it seems to come round quickly for being a bit unexpected – though it’s further than you might think so you need to pace yourself for a sprint finale. Timers shouted encouragement and there were loads of people on hand to cheer runners in. That was nice. parkrun enthusiasm is ubiquitous it seems. I hung on to see the final few finishers coming in, as did many others.
The tail walker was quite far behind, dismantling the course as she came through. Nice team work from all methinks.
Other volunteers came into view, similarly laden with flags and smiles.
and that was that. parkrun done and dusted for another week!
I mumbled thanks and headed off in search of coffee. Now, hate to be negative, but this was disappointing. The page says join people for coffee in sports centre, but when I got to the reception area, there was basically tumble weed and a vending machine. Whether locals with local knowledge go elsewhere, or whether post parkrun coffee is not part of the culture of this parkrun I have no idea. I got a cheap and cheerful coffee from said machine for £1.20 and ended up drinking it in the car. It was ‘acceptable’ way better than that say on offer at Doncaster parkrun, but their coffee sets a particularly low bar (their parkrun itself is of course lovely), however alas, not in the same league as those at my home parkrun at Hallam. Oh well. A somewhat anti-climactic conclusion to the morning, though my fault for not being brave enough to ask the other runners what the options were I suppose.
This parkrun was a particular milestone as I am now immortalised on the parkrun ‘most events‘ table, by dint of sneaking on to the bottom rung of the ladder with 20 different events now attended. I was quite chuffed to cross this threshold, bringing with it as it does, the eligibility to wear the cow cowl (giraffe buff) which is amongst parkrunners surely an item of fetishism as much as legend. The cow cowl thingymajig is completely unofficial by the way, but it has become ‘a thing’ to which some parkrunners aspire, myself amongst them. According to the parkrun jargon buster blog post:
Cow cowl – a distinctive black, white and yellow not-buff designed by Kathy Brown which members of the most events table are welcome to buy to allow themselves to be spotted by other tourists at home or away. Completely unofficial. Features no parkrun branding whatsoever at all
On that note, I espied a new glorious thing unique to this parkrun – well, first one I’ve seen anywhere that is. A cow cowl bobble hat being sported by one of the timekeepers. Wow, I looked on from afar in wonder. Quite something. Also, FYI the non-cow bobble hat wearing timer was a junior who’d been RD for junior takeover of Mansfield parkrun the weekend before. Kudos, that’s really impressive.
Although I was chuffed to have nailed (I use the term loosely) my twentieth different run, and so become eligible to pass through the gateway to the new glorious world of parkrun tourist
cultdom clubland. It is slightly deflating to see that at the top of the leader board, which is on the parkrun website, as of today, is a parkrunner who has done 411 different events! Just wow. Let me think – might need a calculator or this, that means I’d have to run a different event every Saturday for the next 391 weeks just to get level to where he is right now, although I dare say in the interim he will have done likewise and travelled the world and be on 802. That’s beyond belief. I know it’s considered to be poor form to be defeatest, but I’m not spending the next 7 years, 6 months and 3 weeks doing that. It sounds impossible. From the website I reckon there are 1,685 parkruns worldwide. I wonder if he’ll eventually have run them all. Quite possibly. Oh well, he started with just one too I suppose, so you never know – my 20 different events is still a stop along the way….
Ooh, you know what though – I’ve just noticed that the parkrun tortoise is wearing COИTRA spots on its shell! Is that a new edit, or has it always been spotted like that, and therefore provided the subtle the inspiration for the inaugural COИTRA long-sleeved tee? It’s a mystery. Exciting though isn’t it? Well, I think so, perhaps I should get out more.
Still ordered my buff when I got home though – and applied to join the UK parkrun tourists Facebook group – and not just anyone can do that I’ll have you know – you need to provide your parkrun ID for checking and vetting purposes. I may be a small fish in a big pond, but at least I get to swim about! As long as my new shiny giraffe buff doesn’t get too water logged and sodden and drag me under, down to the dark depths of said pond to thrash about before drowning that is. We shall see…
Bit previous to report back on whether or not there is a secret handshake or other such initiation ritual still to come. But then again, I wouldn’t be able to share that would I. There are two rules about parkrun tourist club… Actually, I made that bit up – or have I?
So there you go. Report on today’s parkrun tourism concluded. Thank you Mansfield parkrunners for your labours in making it so, and the cheery support on the way round. Thank you too for sorting the weather, it was reyt nippy out last week, so I valued the sunshine. Thank you Mansfield parkrun volunteer team, you were a bijou outfit, small, but perfectly formed – quality over quantity in every way!
Hope to see you out and about again sometime soon, until then – happy parkrunning y’all.
For more on parkrun tourism check out this blog post and these rules for parkrun tourism. Boils down to, do what you want, remember ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way’ that means you get to do what you want too, and everyone’s a winner. Hoorah!
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.