Posts Tagged With: Dirty Double Lakes 2015

Type two fun, and tackling running mind demons.

My running credentials speak for themselves.  Unfortunately.  One issue I do not face when running is the burden that elite runners routinely have to carry, that is, the burden of expectation that they will perform well every time out.  This worry I am free of.  However, this does not mean I am free of running angst.  Ooooh no.  You must know what I mean unless you are either supremely well endowed with self-belief and/or running talent combined with an unbleamished injury record.  For the rest of us mere mortals, it seems running is a mental challenge as much as a physical one.  Whether it is a chimp on your shoulder (which makes for a very asymmetrical running technique) or that all too common sense of imposter syndrome we all have our mental demons to battle with.  For me, it’s a constant voice in my head.  You might hear it too ‘I’m not a real runner, everyone must know I’m not a real runner, those few who don’t know yet will find out soon, then I will be exposed and – ironically – run out of my running club, humiliated by exposure of the truth I can no longer hide…‘  Sound familiar?  I hope not, but I suspect for many  it will be.


It is it seems, an extremely common affliction.  I finally made it back to woodrun today after a summer recess that would put any sinecure holder to shame.  It was nice to be back in Ecclesall woods, it definitely had a slightly different pre-autumnal feel to it.  It was also a bit like first day back at school after the summer holidays, with a few of us trooping in after a summer absence.  Some of us instantly started to get our apologies and excuses in first, out competing one another in respect of our woeful fitness levels/ innate (in)ability etc.  Many of us feeling somehow unworthy of the ‘runner’ moniker.   Why do we do this?  Talk ourselves down?  It may or may not be true that we are not at the top of our game, but does it really matter.  It’s not how fast we go, it’s that we go at all isn’t it?  The thing is, I can recognise this phenomenon in other people. I look at them in disbelief and awe at what they can achieve and see that it isn’t all that helpful or even relevant.  Lawks a lordy, it isn’t even true!  Of course they are ‘real’ runners. There is no exam, no certification required (although some of us at least should perhaps be certified)  how could they not be the real mckoy.  Owning the label for myself is another story, I need to keep chanting the mantra – you just have to leave the sofa and put one foot in front of the other, that’s it.  However slow I am going, I’m still lapping the alternative version of me that woud have stayed on the sofa…


It’s partly ,my fear of what ‘other people’ must think.  I know I’m not exactly poetry in motion out running, but I am at least giving it a go.  In my head I recognised that in most situations the mysterious  ‘other people’, whose judgement we, ok, well me, I am so in fear of,  really aren’t judging at all, they don’t care what we/I do. Firstly, I am not that important to merit being the centre of attention, most people wont even notice.  Secondly, even if people did steal a glance, it doesnt follow they are that interetsed about what anyone else is doing – people are thinking about their own goals at that point.  I’ve often thought at the start line for a race, or even a parkrun, you could turn up naked (apart from your trainers) and people would be far too focused on their own paranoia and performance to notice.  Obviously, this statement doesn’t apply if you happened to be wearing a more technical brand of running shoes then they were, in which case they’d be wanting to know all about the tread and drop and other stuff to do with running shoes that ‘proper’ runners are interested in, and fair enough.  Ostentatiously showy running shoes (and/or active wear gear) are always going to operate as attention magnets, so if you wear them, then you have to concede a degree of contributory negligence on your part  if you then attract the odd, covetous, sideways glance…. Posing in active wear will inevitably turn heads.  (Please, click on the video link, it just tickled me – how can you not want to sing along to the catchy line of ‘smoking on the streets in my active wear‘?, though I am a bit too easily entertained I know, it’s been pointed out to me before).


Even so, when it comes to myself, I still feel that it’s somehow different.  In my case I’m not so much talking myself down, just being realistic, managing expectations blah de blah.  No point in taking unnecessary risks out there…  Some smug person has produced a poster showing the limitations of this stance, ‘path to mediocrity..’ etc.  Well, I concede that might be true, but it is also annoying to have this pointed out to you in motivational poster format.  I prefer a bit of cynicism in my motivational phrases and posters to be honest.  So let’s balance it with the whisky advice one shall we?  That I can work with.  I’m also persuaded by that ubiquitous quote ‘whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right‘.   Seems we all have the innate gift of personal prophecy.   It’s certainly the case if you don’t give things a whirl then you will never find out what you are capable of, just have to trust that it won’t be too terminal a lesson in your absolute limitations I suppose…

So, what’s brought all this on?  Well, it’s The Dirty Double coming into view all over again.  This is a two-day Lakeland running festival.   I booked in ages ago, near as dammit a  year ago to be precise.  With a whole 11 months stretching ahead before I’d be required to run anywhere up and down hills in torrential rain, I’d fondly imagined that by the time the event came around, I’d have lost 30% of my body weight (by losing body fat, not through amputating extraneous limbs), done weekly hill-reps and generally metamorphosed from relatively inanimate grub to speedy running and flying beetle or whatever.  Are there beetles that run?  Cockroaches I suppose, but they don’t go through  metamorphosis properly though do they?  That’s a rhetorical question by the way as  I’ve just looked them up, they go through incomplete metamorphosis apparently, just so as you know… Actually, this analogy doesn’t entirely work does it?  As with much in life, I am finding myself really wishing I hadn’t gone down this particular route.  My entomological knowledge is not all that detailed, and, apart from insects I can only think of amphibians that undergo metamorphosis, and, much as I genuinely like frogs and toads, I can’t really stretch that to regarding them as perfect exemplars of aspirational running form.  When I was thinking of undergoing metamorphosis it was by way of transformation from earth-bound hobbit yomper to graceful, leaping fell runner.  Ironically, and coincidentally ,the  possibility that I have metamorphosed into a toad seems a rather more  apt analogy for my current state of physical readiness in respect of running round lake land trails in November, but it really wasn’t what I was aiming for when I signed up last November….


Oh for goodness sake, stop hassling me!  Surely you get my point!  No?

Well, it’s basically this:  I entered into this demanding trail race (Helvellyn Trail 15km Race + Ullswater Trail 14km Race on two consecutive days) basically through fear of missing out and the lure of having a boat trip out to the start of one of the races.  I overlooked the ‘running’, ‘inclement weather’ and ‘steep off road gradient’ elements of the events.  Also the ‘race on two consecutive days’ aspect.  I suppose I thought by then I’d have trained, or at least hung out with better runners than me so my own form and endurance would improve by osmosis, and that basically ‘it’ll be fine on the day(s)‘.  Now though, it’s just a few weeks away, and starting to feel a bit real.  Fellow Smilies are posting about it, and it’s slowly dawning on me that this may not be a completely blaggable event.   There is/was also the option of doing the same routes as a challenge (you get more time to finish), or doing a 10k on each day instead.  Those other options are looking ever more appealing.  It hasn’t helped all that much that hobbit buddy responded with ‘yikes’ when she realised I’d entered the longer race classes instead of the two 10k.  Oh here we go again with the peer pressure.  I don’t mind being slow going round, but I do want to finish before the cut off point so I don’t get left out there on the mountain long after all the marshals have packed up and gone home, and have to swim back to the hostel because I’ve missed the last boat ride home to boot!  Maybe I should swap…

However, I do expect this weekend away to meet the criteria of generating a few anecdotes, although possibly ones that are only hilarious and enjoyable in retrospect.  This brings me to the central point of this post (yes there was one), which is about understanding (and implementing) The Fun Scale.


The Fun Scale apparently originated in the climbing community, but as with many sports, there is a cross over to running.  Type One Fun is basically ‘fun at the time’.  You are consciously having a good time whilst doing it.  Personally, I’d put the Round Sheffield Run into this category. Then there is Type Two Fun.  This is the sort of fun which is only really fun in retrospect.  You do not get any inherent joy out of it at the time, but when you look back on it and laugh, it does seem in fact to have been incredibly joyful.  You forget how hideous it was at the time, and enter the same event again next year.  Personally, I think I’d put Percy Pud into this category.  Freezing cold, icy rain, road surface battering my arthritic feet and seeing returning runners speeding towards me on their way home before I was even half way out did not make this an unremittingly joyous occasion for me.  However, when you finish and get given a vegetarian Christmas Pudding at the end, you come to believe it was actually fun.  Other runners oozing endorphins reinforce this sensation, so each runner colludes with the others until there is a shared collective belief that the Percy Pud is brilliant fun.  Which it is, apart from when you are actually running the darned thing.


According to The Fun Scale for climbers at any rate, the third type of fun is basically no fun at all.  ‘Shoot me if I try to do it again’ sort of thing.  I appreciate what they are getting at here, but I think there’s a category missing.  I’d put this ‘truly, never again’ as Type Four Run  myself, and insert what I consider to be the missing third category here instead.  This is the sort of fun me and my erstwhile flat mate used to experience after attending an angst ridden studenty party in our youth.  (Yes, I was young once).  You must know the kind of thing.  Agonising social interactions at often dingy and dodgy locations, for long nights of excruciating ‘fun partying’, where you only went in the first place out of peer pressure, didn’t believe you’d come out alive, and spent the entire time wishing you at least knew where you were so you had a sporting chance of getting home.  (Actually, I have unconsciously described a fair number of my running experiences out on the hills in that statement).  Anyway, these were unrelentingly hideous occasions,and for that, you might reasonably assume they would be in the category of ‘never again’ but not so.  Whatever their inherent and known horrors, they would still score as Newly Calibrated Fun Scale Three for me because, when debriefing after the event we would have to concur that whilst we were ‘not at all sure I enjoyed myself’ we were nevertheless absolutely confident ‘ but I’d have been dead pissed off to have missed it‘.  Thus, whilst knowing to repeat the experience would be hateful and possibly dangerous, you are compelled to return to it again and again, like a moth to a flame (until I can think of a better analogy anyway, analogies are not going well today I know).


I think the Dirty Double, may well be lining up as Newly Calibrated Category Three Fun Scale score.  It has all the elements there.  Bit far, bit wet, bit hilly, fear of missing out.  Lure of the landscape.   How will it end? Well, we are all going to have to just wait and see..


I suppose I could try training a bit in advance, or is that taking it all a bit far?  I could start posing in my active wear out and about a bit more I suppose.  That would be a start… or is it really and truly a case that running this double is all in the mind.  A virtual run if you will.  High risk strategy to take that as a literal truth, but it might yet be worth a go.  I suppose the bottom line with my running journey is ‘must try harder’ not as in undertaking masochistice punishing workouts that would end up with me hating running for ever, but in not giving up too soon.   Hmm, we shall see.




Categories: motivation, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The irresistible lure of a Dirty Weekend

Beware the company you keep.  If you are weak, and suggestible, and hang out with the wrong/right crowd, it is very easy to become susceptible to peer pressure and end up committing to undertakings you’d never give into if of sound mind and more independent spirit.

Case in point, the Lakeland Trails, Dirty Double for 2016.  A couple of weeks ago a troupe of Smiley Paces comrades returned triumphant from their jaunt to the 2015 Lakeland challenge.  They were on a collective high, yes the weather was challenging and the conditions rough, but that was part  of the fun.  Them against the elements, battling to finish against the odds.  They were full of adventurous tales like pirates returning from the high seas.  Bonded together as only those who have survived adversity through leaning on one another can truly understand.  The evangelical zeal in their eyes, the persuasive stories, the inner confidence they exuded from having come out the other end of this apparently unsurvivable hell, well, it seemed bizarrely compelling.  Especially, if like me, you have this constant fear of missing out.  You can see the slight look of mania in the eyes in these three Smileys crossing the finish.  More than a slight look to be honest, but I don’t want to libel people on whom I may subsequently depend for my very survival, so let’s stick with ‘slight’ to be on the safe side…

For those not in the know, the event is one of a series of challenges in the lake district, but this particular one takes place over a weekend.  Day one is a trail run based in Helvellyn, and day two takes on the tracks round Ullswater.  You can choose from a range of challenges and races and distances.  The 2015 tales of rain like stair rods and scree covered slopes did leave me with more than a niggling sense that the only way to tackle this would be in a cagoule, but equally, there is something hilarious and heroic in heading out in such conditions… weirdly I can see the appeal.  Think of the anecdotes and bragging rights.  Wow, you’d probably never have to run a trail race again you’d be so richly supplied with laurels on which to rest and stories to tell – they’d easily last you a lifetime!

So, the next thing I know, is that a proactive Smiley is suggesting a Smiley Takeover for same time next year.  There is a Youth hostel that we can stay at, there are challenges for all abilities, next year the weather will be great (that bit’s a lie, the Lakes in November?  I think not).  Call your bluff time, there are 40 beds booked at the hostel, who’s in?  Not me, obviously, though I do stalk the conversation on Facebook.  Ooh, that Youth Hostel looks nice, four star eh – not damp sleeping bags and bedbugs any more.

Patterdale Youth Hostel

 I look at the event website (which is quite hard to work out to be honest but even so) the pictures are gorgeous.  They talk of a carnival atmosphere, even a boat ride to the start… I can feel myself beginning to see the attraction, albeit not for me, but for other hypothetical runners out there.

atmospheric shot

It is only a matter of time before  my regular, but rather fitter than me running buddy confronts me with the idea at Bushy Parkrun.  She’s doing it – not that that means anything in itself because she has developed cheetah like prowess in her own running journey – but it does mean I’d have at least one ally there, and what’s more, she clearly thinks the basic concept of me taking part is not utterly insane.  Unlikely and amusing perhaps, but not actually impossible.

Initially, I dismiss the idea out of hand.  I’m not fit enough, I’m pretty preoccupied with other stuff right now and I can’t think beyond today let alone this time next year.  ‘I could be dead by then.’  I point out, uncharitably.  Quick as a flash she reassures me ‘that would be fine, someone else would take your place no problem.’  You can’t really argue with that kind of compelling logic.  Although I am sure the notion of me running in the rain on two successive days after sleeping in a dorm is beyond bizarre, I concede she did plant the seed of an idea.  What if…

I revisit the Facebook discussion and start to post some queries – ‘Can I run in a cagoule?‘  Yes, apparently I can!  I can run in whatever I like. No-one will care.   Will I be fit enough (tactful responses follow along the lines of sure, it caters for people even less fit than you, which is really saying something).  I hover for a while.   Then embracing the ‘what the hell’ approach that has served me so well or got me into more scrapes than you can possibly imagine depending on how much I can get away with re-writing history I decide to go for it.  I sign up for the hostel, and I enter the race.  Two 10km romps out.  That’s OK, only a couple of Parkruns, it will be fine.  Now I’m a convert and really enthusiastic.  Forty Smileys on holiday together in the wilds of the lakes.  It will be hilarious.  The actual running part receded, it’s ages away.  There is something wonderful and empowering about a bunch of women going off and taking on some mountains (ish – I think you run round the lakes really, but let’s not split hairs).  Together, we will be invincible.  Hang on though – I do hope those white posts in the foreground don’t mark the last resting place of previous years runners who didn’t quite make it… still, let’s not dwell on that eh?  Let’s concentrate on being invincible!

2015 dirty double

Then a weird thing happens, a message pings into my own Facebook thingy.  If you know me at all, you won’t know whether to be more amazed at the content of the correspondence that follows, or the fact that I was using Facebook as a communication device, I really am not social media savvy, and only reluctantly joined Facebook at all a couple of months ago, and that was under extreme reluctance and duress, but necessity, to maintain my running relationships and facilitate photo exchanges.  The message is from a fellow Smiley who is an awesome runner, though recently beset by injuries, hesitating about whether or not to enter.  I can’t believe it, this is a first, someone conferring with me about running matters.  It would so brilliant if she came too!  With a bare-faced hypocrisy that would make my other aforementioned running buddy choke if she should ever find out (but obviously no chance of that), I enthuse.  ‘you’ll be fine, it’s for all standards, it will be hilarious, what’s the worst that can happen? Yes, yes, it is a lot of money to find before Christmas, but this time next year it will feel like a free holiday because you’ll have paid up front – besides Christmas is so materialistic these days, I’m sure a satsuma will be fine for under the  Christmas tree this year‘ and so on.  I am persuasive, she is in!  We can start really looking forward to it now.  Maybe by then I’ll have trained for it as well.  That would be quite something, cavorting across the landscape, at one with the world!  I’m not so confident about the communal living aspect of dorm life, but loads of time to whip myself into a frenzy of angst about that nearer the time!

So, that’s the lesson.  You think you can resist your peers, but it’s so easy to get sucked in, and then before you know it, you too are sharing their world view and espousing their values.  That’s why you have to be so careful with the company you keep.  It’s a sliding scale too.  Did I tell you I’d entered the two 10 km?  Well, that was true… but then there isn’t so very much difference between 10 and 14km and it would have been a shame not to be able to head out with my friends, and how would the post-run post mortem work if we’d all done different things?  It was only a matter of time before I’d emailed the race organisers to convert my entry to the 15km and then 14km race.  It’s ages away, it’ll be fine, now I just need to get onto Facebook again and persuade my Smiley friend that in for a penny in for a pound is the way to go. We can always change back again, but it would be awful to be left wondering what might have been after the event…

 what the hell

For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.

Categories: motivation, off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Perishing Parkrun

Shackleton weather this week at Parkrun.  That is, arctic conditions, those rising to the weekly challenge of the 5km jog out, would not just be running in the wet carrying a barcode and wearing deely-boppers (optional).  Instead, they (that is I) would be navigating the ice, dragging negative thoughts round the route with them/me (what was I thinking? why am here?  Will I ever feel my hands or feet again?), definitely a test of tenacity to turn up at this week’s Parkrun….

shackleton ice photo

 Wet is one thing, snow and ice quite another.  My relationship with snow is complex but perhaps familiar.  Yes, yes, it is very inconvenient and cold and all of that, but the first snow of winter is completely brilliant.   The possibilities for sledging and snow angels, and the sheer breath-taking loveliness of it all  means at first you forget  about the no public transport and ample chilblains aspects of it all.  Well, I do anyway.  Being in an attic flat with insufficient insulation meant it was absolutely freezing on Friday night.  True, the temperature had plummeted anyway, plus I’d just come back from a trip to London for a couple of weeks, so returning to Sheffield I did indeed find as a soft southerner that it is a bit grim up North just now –  (temperature wise, not local temperaments).  And, it happened that snow was forecast, and snow came!

I was so cold in the night I couldn’t really sleep, and in the small hours detected that change in sound that can only mean one thing, SNOW!  That was enough to get me out from under the duvet, first trying to peer through my Velux windows and excitedly realising I couldn’t see anything because they were completely obscured by snow.  This meant I had to resort to opening blinds and looking out properly onto the snow-scape outside.  Not an entirely poetic sight, as mainly from my bedroom window I can see a car park, but the cars were most definitely covered in a good couple of inches of snow, and the garden at the back (yep, I had to check out every possible window view in the house) was more working towards winter wonderland status with trees having a good covering and grassy areas obscured with a blanket of snow.  I was so excited.  This completely put paid to any further sleep, and I spent the rest of the night, blinking, getting up periodically to look out of the window and check that the snow was still there, whilst listening to Radio 4  Extra.

By morning, some of the snow had disappeared, though I can’t fathom why as there was an icy blast that made it feel way below freezing.  I was quite taken with the idea of running in freshly fallen snow, but in the cold (literal and metaphorical) light of day, Parkrun was seeming a bit less appealing if I’m really honest.  It was very icy, and nippy even by northern standards.  Maybe not enough for wearing a coat on a night out, but cold enough to remark on it whilst waiting at the bus-stop say.

People often say to me ‘what possesses you to run?‘  I tell myself this is  because they are in awe of my obvious commitment to the pursuit of athletic endeavours.  If their intonation has a slight tang of incredulity, it is surely that they are incredulous at my tenacity, not at all that they are incredulous that I bother to venture out at all given my physical limitations which are many and manifest. Running motivation is different for all of us, so I can only speak personally.  On this particular day it was largely on the basis that  the worse the weather, the greater the bragging rights post run, so the misery of running in the cold and wet is cancelled out by the joy of going on and on about it later on. This though, alas, is only partially true.  Because you can’t win a bragging contest with other runners who are out there running too anyway, and you can’t win a bragging war with non runners, because they just think you are stupid for going out in the first place.  What you can do though is generate a healthy glow, burn some extra calories and enjoy breakfast more than is entirely decent.  Plus, a handy motivational picture on the Graves Parkrun facebook page reminds us that –

its only cold if you are standing still

‘It’s only cold if you’re standing still.’  This is sort of true, but little comfort to the volunteers, who for all I know are still standing in their fluorescent jackets immortalised in ice around the route at Sheffield Hallam because even extreme commitment to clapping runners en route wouldn’t do much to keep the cold at bay.  Maybe as the winter finally draws in, we need motivational posters for the volunteers specifically as much as the runners.  There’d be no Parkrun without them after all…

Venturing out of the house, it’s a lot harder to get about than I’d imagined.  Black ice, thick ice, icy ice.  I nearly went arse over tit (and not in a glamorous way) just going down the front steps.  My route to the park takes me down a really steep hill.  It didn’t look too bad, but was adrenalin inducing treacherous to negotiate.  Quite quickly I was skidding out of control, and for quite a distance.  It was that thing of being too scared to try and stop the skid, because I thought I’d end up falling backwards and cracking my head open.  In my third skid, I built up such momentum that I saw my life flash before me.   I ended up bending my knees and adopting a sort of skiing posture.  (Well, what I think might be a ski posture but I’ve never been skiing so who knows?  I have though met a fortune teller who told me I’d meet a ski instructor one day who will take me to Switzerland and teach me for free, so I’m rather hanging on for that.  I’ve been waiting a quarter of a century so far, so I’m hoping it will happen quite soon now.)  In fact, this change in posture, just created extra acceleration, and in desperation I did a sort of slalom into the stone wall of one of the front gardens that I was otherwise whizzing past en route.  The good news was  that this did bring me to a halt. The bad news was that in grabbing the top of the wall it began to crumble under my weight, and then I realised the house owner was watching me from her car.  She was very nice actually, asking me if I was alright as I sheepishly tried to nonchalantly re-erect her garden wall.  It is just as hard as you might think to reassemble a stone wall without drawing attention to yourself and the damage you have caused to it, especially when you have just that moment been witnessed crashing into it.   I made the rest of the way down the hill clinging to the walls at the side of the way down.

I did start to wonder if Parkrun would be cancelled, but figured that if so, the worst that might happen in that event would be breakfast, but without the running first bit, which would be OK.  Actually, that’s not entirely true, the worst thing would be being made to run it anyway, but without it ‘counting’ towards milestone T-shirt. This happened last New Year’s day.  I headed off to Graves Parkrun, in fancy dress, and it was cancelled due to ice.  My over keen friends insisted on running it anyway, and because I never really got the hang of being assertive, and I don’t like to miss out, I traipsed round too, it was terrifying ice and hills, not a great combination … but then again, strangely pleasing at the end. It seems when it comes to my motivation for running, it is sort of complicated and hard to explain.   I do think though that there is one line that is not to be crossed.  I have recently become acquainted with a new running buddy who has floated the idea of possibly coming and doing Parkrun but without doing the breakfast bit afterwards.  This is surely a precedent not to be set.  I’m letting it go at the minute, because she’s new, but it may yet have to be tackled, we shall see…  That would be the absolutely worse scenario.  Run in ice, unofficially so no time, and then NO BREAKFAST either.  Disaster.

Because it took ages to get down to the start, I was quite late on the scene, and quickly joined the huddle of starters.  We were like penguins, in constant motion trying to get in the centre of the throng so others would shield us from the arctic wind.  It is one of those rare occasions when I don’t mind too much about my personal space, hell I’ll cuddle up to anyone when it’s this cold, could be a good opportunity to get to know some of my fellow runners a bit better.


So this is what it looked like basically.  The penguins on the edge are the hardy (or noble and self-sacrificing anyway) volunteer marshals and run-director.  You can see what I mean about how cold they must have got.  Shame.

The pre-run briefing warned of ice en route.  Now, I figured I’d already had  quite enough near death experiences for one day, so I made a really conscious decision, to go for just keeping safe, and see whether I might achieve a PW (personal worst).  I would put myself under no pressure at all, it was quite liberating in a way.  For clarification, you might not think it to watch me run, but slow and steady as I am, I do try… not as hard as others granted, but in my own special way, it was quite nice to just decide to pootle round gazing about  and trying not to skid around to much.

In such a mind set, running became an exercise in mindfulness.  The shout for ‘off’ went and I shuffled out.  The first patch of ice was within the first loop, and I gingerly picked my way through letting most of the field stream ahead of me.  It was good taking in the white hues of ice and frost in the park.  I was a bit unnerved at one point by an unpleasant grunting behind me.  This can happen, noisy breathing runners just at your shoulder can be unsettling.  Well I find it so, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few near miss spitting incidents, and those sounds were suggestive of an early warning  indicator that a trajectory of phlegm could be in the offing.  In the event, it turned out to be a dog hauling round a more hesitant owner.  Generally speaking having a dog is an advantage at Parkrun, but I wouldn’t fancy being dragged headlong over the ice by a hyper excited and super-animated canine in these conditions. However, for future reference, you may be interested to know that at  Graves Parkrun they occasionally auction the opportunity to run with their resident whippet Lily, so that you can achieve a personal best .. presumably as long as your nerve holds being hauled round. Oh, and before you ask, in the picture on the right Lily is in fancy dress for Halloween as a Mummy Dog, it isn’t a case of dog-abuse, no need to get Alan Davies round to check it all out.

It was quite an education going round deliberately slowly  I decided (uncharacteristically) to try to concentrate on improving running stride.  I was listening out for my footfalls, to see how heavily I was landing.  confusingly, it took a while for me to register that there was a runner behind me who was I think deliberately pacing in rhythm with me.  I felt quite honoured, normally it is me parasitizing someone elses pacing.

The words of the foundation running group guru at Smiley Paces are ringing in my ears.  I  try to gain more speed but keep stability by taking really short strides so I can use my weight being forwards to help rotate through my foot and so quicken my pace.  This is counter-intuitive, but it sort of works.  Get me, working on my technique.  If my old PE teacher could see me now…. and gawd help her if I saw her first to be honest, but that’s a petty grudge that’s been carried over decades longer than is probably absolutely healthy….

Going round I realised I’d left on my buff round my neck by accident.  This means  I am running in a scarf essentially.  Actually, it’s quite comfy, but I don’t look hard core or cool donned in it.  ‘How very unexpected’, I hear you exclaim!

Inevitably, I am lapped.  But I am completely mystified as to how these runners have come round quite so quickly  The ice was treacherous enough that I resorted to walking and picking my way over it in places.  They just fly through as if the ground is utterly predictable and firm under foot.  Have they been running in snow shoes?   Surely I’d have noticed, though my observation skills aren’t flawless I have noticed the trees along Rustlings Road bedecked with knitted bunting (an attempt to raise awareness of their imminent risk of being untimely ripped from the earth for reasons that I absolutely cannot fathom).  I notice too that leaf litter fairies have cleared some of path on the outside of the park, but as you turn into it again it has become a slushy slide of autumn leaves churned by runners into an organic orange slick of high risk terrain as you loop back in.  All good practice for off-road trails of the future I suppose.

So finally finished, to my amazement, the zero effort approach has only added a minute to my usual time.  This is perhaps telling. I do have a theory that when the weather is bad there are fewer runners, and those that come are typically more dedicated so fleeter of foot, and that speeds things up.  Even so it is food for thought, I walked longish sections and didn’t even get out of breath, maybe if I made just a bit more effort, I could improve my speed quite significantly… it remains to be seen if I can be bothered to put this theory to the test.

Some companionable chatting at the end of the run. Catching up with fellow Smileys nursing injuries (shin splints, sprains)  Some are wondering if they will have to miss the Percy Pud, which  as regular readers will know is THE Event of the Sheffield Running Christmas Calendar.  To pull out would be terrible, especially after such a scrap to get a slot in the first place!  The fear is that running would worsen existing injuries, true of my Smiley comrades who find it hard to suppress their competitive instincts.  I suggest enforced slowing by dint of wearing elaborate fancy dress.  Something spectacularly unaerodynamic would work for nursing the injured home safely, maybe a Christmas Tree made of foam, or even a papier mache plum pudding would do the trick.  I am not convinced my ideas were treated with the reverence and seriousness they deserved, personally, I think this idea is genius, and would save a lot of taping and ice-packing post run.

We didn’t linger too long.  Four of us go heading off to breakfast we found our favourite café pretty empty.  Unusually , the proprietor is waiting tables, and we take the opportunity to we complain to him about the reduced portion size for mushrooms we have noticed has crept in since they introduced a new menu.  He looks crestfallen, and I feel guilty.  Though it is true.  I’d rather they upped the price and kept the mushroom portion size the same, but it seems it isn’t that simple.  Confusingly, we then go on to order what we always ordered anyway, scrambled eggs on granary bloomer with mushrooms and a latte.  Is there a different breakfast option?  I can’t see the point.  It is delicious, it is still our favourite café.


Buoyed up by breakfast, buzzing with extra endorphins from running in the cold, we discuss future running challenges.  The further away they are in the future, the more inclined I am to imagine they will be doable, because by then I will have metamorphosed from an inadvertent runner to a toned and perfectly tuned running machine.  Hope over experience triumphs again, Lakes Dirty Double? Count me in…  Here is a cheesy quote to prove my current optimism, however misguided, might yet be enough to get me round.  Well, it’s either the optimism, or the large glass of alcohol that also features in the image, that should keep me both dosed up and deluded enough to at least give it a go.


 Seriously though, what’s the worst that could happen?  No doubt I’ll get to find out in due course if my running history to date is anything to go by… we shall all just have to wait and see!  In the meantime, let’s drink to over-optimistic challenges, and find out what we are really capable of.




Categories: 5km, motivation, parkrun, Percy Pud, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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