Posts Tagged With: fancy dress

Wahey for Welcoming Wakefield Thornes parkrun. May the fourth be with you indeed!

Digested read: parkrun tourism had me wending my way to Wakefield Thornes parkrun today.  Don’t mind letting on that my old dressing gown went down a storm.  Hurrah.

Undigested read:  It’s a long one.  Get comfy or decide against reading on and get a life instead.  Either way, May the fourth be with you!

Special credit to Darren Williams, parkrun official photographer for the day who took some fab photos from which I’ve freely borrowed to enliven this post.  You could even follow him here, on instagram Myviews555 should the mood take you, but don’t go exploring that ’til you’ve finished here first!

Well, today was always going to be either Star Wars Day or, World Naked Gardening Day.

It was touch and go which way’d I’d jump, obviously, but in the end the Jedis had it. Well, you know parkrun is not to be missed or messed with lightly.  I need my parkrun fix to keep tipped towards the saner end of the continuum that takes in the wide spectrum of human existence.  Besides, it’s not only that my garden is overlooked and the temperature distinctly chilly, but also I tend to get contact induced allergic dermatitis if I garden in anything less than one of those forensic clean up boiler suits and over-sized eye guards.  Ideally, I’d garden wearing something like this (yes, of course it’s really me within!) but it really only works effectively if you have minions in abundance, in the manifestation of a whole army of under gardeners who can carry out your orders for you.  Those protective gloves don’t allow for a great deal of dexterity, more like the suits which allow you to mimic the symptoms of arthritis as an awareness raising training experiential training exercise.  Those weighted boots can be a bit challenging too –  so usually I end up having to go with a more light weight disposable option so I can still use my hands, alarmingly high doses of anti-histamine, and (alas) not an under gardener in sight.  Anyway, you can quite see why I won’t be doing any naked gardening any time, any place, soon.  World Naked Gardening Day not withstanding.

garden gear

Is that over-sharing?  Oh well.  Sorry-ish, though to be fair, if that disclosure makes you feel uncomfortable, be prepared for the fact I got waaaaay more inappropriate and disinhibited after parkrun was concluded, so consider yourself officially warned about the potential horrors that await you in this blog post should you choose to read on.  Bottom line, (oh, and it is a bottom that features later too in a pleasing bit of inadvertent blogging symmetry), what with the nip in the air and my propensity to come out in a raging and prolific rash  meant I wouldn’t be a pretty sight in any sense if I decided to embrace the naked gardening theme.  It also meant I would celebrate World Naked Gardening Day by going to Wakefield Thornes parkrun, dressed, and embracing the opportunity for a bit of light fancy dress. Yay!  Always a lure.

It wasn’t a given that I’d end up at Wakefield Thornes parkrun this morning though, I had also flirted with the idea of joining Gainsborough parkrun, as it was their 200th tpday, and they were trying to beat their record attendance – which they did, pleasingly.  However, my early research suggested it didn’t look like they were going down the fancy dress route – missed opportunity methinks, and I couldn’t help noticing their event begins with a G, and I’ve got loads of those, enough I’ve even completed the Stayin’ Alive Running Challenge, so it was perhaps inevitable that the Star Wars potential of Wakefield swayed me.

runner-stayin-alive

Don’t worry, they had a great day apparently at Gainsborough, and beat their attendance record too.  However, it looks like the excitement was all a bit much for their event wheelie bin, which was overcome and collapsed with a fit of the vapours right at the finish line.  I hope its all right now.  I know all events have defibrillators, but I have no idea how useful they are for resuscitating municipal bins….  parkrun people are pretty amazing though, I’m sure they’ll have revived it somehow.  Congratulations parkrunners of Gainsborough!

Gainsborough parkrun

Otherwise, there was a tribute run for Little Stoke parkrun.  Bristol is a bit of a hike from Sheffield, so that was never going to happen, but it’s a nice idea though.  It pleases me that this homage continues.  Apparently, some of the refugees from the original Little Stoke parkrun, which was cancelled after a sorry spat with local councillors, who wanted to charge parkrunners for using the venue, do this each year.  I will resist the temptation to go too far down the worm hole of self-indulgent ranting about how sad and bad it is it had to close, but suffice to say why do some people not get that parkrunners ARE the local community and that’s what the spaces are for?  Of course there might be occasional conflicts of interest, but overall I would have thought a local parkrun revives local cafes, communities and green spaces.  Anyway, as is the tradition, a group returned for a run on the third anniversary of it finishing.  Nice that they continue to do that, though risky for anyone wanting to achieve their 50 parkruns in a year gold badge for their chrome extension running challenges.  They do this every year apparently.  Obviously, it would be much better if they had thought to run it in appropriate Star Wars themed fancy dress, but they still did fine work posing next to the deeply ironic running statue.  Good work parkrun people, good work indeed.  Nice height sequencing too.  All good.

little stoke parkrun tribute

Why Wakefield Thornes parkrun then?  Well why not?  But also, it has a W (good for my alphabet challenge) and is, apparently, my current ‘as the crow flies’ NENDY – Nearest Event Not Done Yet.  But the clincher, of course, was it looked like they were positively encouraging Star Wars themed fancy dress,  this boded well!  Bring it on!

may the fourth be with you

I would have liked to don fancy dress myself, but initially couldn’t see how I’d be able to conjure up anything in time, only making the decision to go there at the last minute – though that wouldn’t prevent me from appreciating the efforts of others.  Well, I say I couldn’t conjure up anything, but then it occurred to me late last night that actually, I do have a black dressing gown of sorts, and I can probably find a cardboard tube… how hard could it be to transform myself into a Jedi knight equipped with such versatile raw materials!

Went for rummage.

Ta da!  I hit the jackpot.  I found some brown parcel paper still in its cellophane wrap.  Obviously, generally I don’t approve of cellophane, single use plastic and all that, but in this instance, mightily practical, it’s basically a tube, only a water proof one, just hte little matter of putting my smiley buff at one end to create a handle and job done.  Definitely looked like a lightsaber!  Yep, swished pleasingly, and I could always enhance it with my own extra sound effects too.  It’s so convincing I probably ought to have a firearms licence for it!  I’ll risk it though, I will only use my Jedi powers for good, so it should be fine.

DSCF9318.JPG

I fondly imagined I’d be a shoo in for a prize if there was one for best fancy dress – unless they felt obliged to disqualify me thinking I must have been exploiting contacts within the George Lucas Star Wars franchise to enable me to engineer such convincing props.  I would have liked to have gone as Chewbacca by way of tribute to the recently deceased Peter Mayhew, but that would have been harder to pull off, and anyway, I don’t like to draw undue attention to my excess facial hair, so another time maybe… RIP Chewy, it’s sad.  Is it bad that I’m genuinely wondering which mug shot they’ll use on the order of service for his funeral?  I know which I’d opt for.

peter-mayhew-chewbacca-lucasfilm-getty-1120

I was at a funeral recently where somebody commented the buffet was so good it was ‘to die for‘.  ‘Well, that’s lucky‘ I said, inappropriately.  I wish I could develop the skill of not just always saying out loud what’s going on in my head, but then again, sometimes if you are handed an open goal you just have to take a shot at it.  It’s like the tale of the scorpion and the frog, some things are just in our nature and really can’t be changed, we give into the impulse even when it is self-destructive and our undoing.  Hey ho. Oh well.  Worse things happen at sea – apparently.  Who really knows?

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep last night so buzzing was I with all that anticipatory excitement…. Still, fancy dress nailed, my next job was to check out the course. Whilst running wise, ignorance is often bliss, this has to be balanced against the ‘forewarned is forearmed’ bit of the equation.  Don’t want to get caught out on any more cross country courses for a while longer yet!  Well, the course blah de blah on the website was dizzying in its comprehensiveness, but also completely bewildering.  I asked for insight from fellow parkrun tourists on one of many Facebook parkrun groups and got an hilariously plausible observation from one:

Suffice to say its the only parkrun I’ve done where I was so disorientated that I had no idea where I’d parked the car!

Fortunately, as a slower runner, I am confident I can just follow everyone else.  That will get me round, but I might need to drop breadcrumbs behind me to help me back to the car park afterwards.  In case you’d like a little looksie the course map looks like this – I presume you just do it all once… :

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

and the course blah de blah is described on the Wakefield Thornes parkrun website thus:

The course is contained within the three parks; Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks. The course itself is not entirely flat; the highest point is the top of the hill, just above the Changing rooms, opposite Wakefield College Campus Car Park. The lowest is the southern boundary of the parks which runs parallel to Thornes and Denby Dale Roads.
The start is just above the Changing rooms, almost in the centre of the park, at the top of the main drive which runs to the former Thornes House. Runners will go down the drive then turn left at Stork Lodge Café on towards the Holmfield Arms (Premier Inn Wakefield Central).
Just after the Ticket Pavilion on the cycle track runners double back along the southern boundary back towards Stork Lodge Café Car Park. The adjacent Cark Park will be in use and therefore be aware particularly of moving cars and stick to the marked course. Having passed the lake and aviary you now take in a clockwise circuit of the former Thornes House before joining a cycle track and the main drive to return you to the Changing Rooms.
At the changing rooms you are directed to head back down hill, running with the tree line on your left-hand side and parallel to the main drive. You head straight for the Play Area and join a tarmac path leading towards the miniature railway where you will turn right and run parallel to Lawefield Lane. Head uphill, once again keeping the tree line on your left-hand side, clockwise around the Football pitches and towards Chestnut Lodge. From the Lodge you go east, parallel to Park Ave and then south parallel to Denby Dale Road (A636) and to where it meets Chestnut Walk. You will be directed uphill along Chestnut Walk to complete a clockwise loop of the Clarence Park arena. Just before Chestnut Lodge you will complete a ‘cross country stretch’ across the parkland towards the Changing Rooms.
Turning left, with the College Car park on your right-hand side and then left again you turn back up the main drive towards the start. Runners will go a little way down the drive for a second time towards Stork Lodge Café but turn sharp right on to the red-brick track. You head downhill to the aviary turn left and the finish at the side of the Car Park beyond the lake.

I decided it was best to wilfully ignore the reference to a ‘cross country stretch across parkland’.   I saw no alternative.  I liked the idea of heading towards a miniature railway.  Fondly hoping it would be like the Wallace and Gromit train chase one:

maxresdefault (2)

So it was that today, parkrun day on May the fourth was promising to be especially epic!

I woke early this morning, no surprise there.  I hoiked on my running gear, donned my dressing gown Jedi robe and clutching my lightsaber scrutinised the overall effect in the mirror.  Full length mirrors are not my friend.  It’s not so much that I particularly want to change any one feature of my body, more that I’d like to change the culture in which it is so harshly judged.  Today though, I decided my cow cowl looked silly round my neck, bit yellow, so I swapped the smiley buff on the lightsaber for my tourist buff, way better.  The overall effect was striking!  Bound to get a pb with the super powers with which the Jedi knowledge would endow me!  I am indeed magnificent!

DSCF9441

How exciting.  I’m sure my neighbours didn’t find it at all odd that I appeared to be driving off in the early morning still wearing my night attire.  If they did, they were too polite to mention it, which is the main thing.  Well, not to me directly, maybe to each other, it is the British way.  Anyway, they already think I’m a bit odd, as I keep making any of them who make eye contact with come and look at how my tadpoles are developing. That’s not even a euphemism, I have actual tadpoles in my garden pond and I couldn’t be prouder if I’d spawned them myself!  (Which I didn’t by the way).  There are no scorpions native to the UK (though there is a now naturalised colony of escapees in Kent apparently) so they should be safe from risking their lives by feeling obligated to carry them over water courses once they have fully metamorphosed into frogs.  This is good to know too.  The newts might get them whilst they are still tadpoles of course, but there isn’t an Aesop’s fable based on that subject matter as far as I know.

Where was I?  This happens a lot, you dear reader, distracting me with extra questions.  Oh yes, I remember.  I headed off to Wakefield, using their satnav WF2 8TY.  It was an easy drive out from Sheffield, probably took about 50 minutes, I arrived stupidly early as always.  The satnav takes you past the entrance, but what you are looking for is this:

You drive in, and there is a biggish car park to the left (free parking, yay) and the sports centre stadium to the right, which looks like this:

That’s grand, but what was less grand, was trying to locate evidence of parkrun activity.  Not to worry, I needed to get my pre parkrun precautionary pee in anyway.  Now, dear reader, there was an embarrassment of riches precautionary pee wise here, but also an embarrassment in my ability to correctly utilise them.

Venue one, I headed for the signed ‘public toilets’ which were to the right of the main entrance of the stadium.  The door was unlocked (good) but when I went in, the door slammed behind me and I was in total darkness, it felt like being trapped in a lift, or worse, a metal box styled panic room.  I waved my arms around hopefully, in case it was one of those motion activated lighting systems, but nothing. I even briefly considered trying to negotiate the facilities in the dark, clawing my way round the walls like unwise minor characters do when trapped in pitch black tunnel systems in horror films – but quickly thought the better of it, that would surely end badly.  Makes you think, it must be a bit of a nightmare encountering new facilities if you are visually impaired, the lay out wasn’t at all obvious.  Instead, I decided to brave reception in the stadium centre.  I went to explain about the lack of lighting and ask if I could use their loos instead.  Turns out, there was no light in the ladies loos, because they’d not turned those on yet. However, I was welcome to use their inside facilities.  This is great, an upgrade, they were super friendly too, directing me to the ladies changing rooms.

Despite the lack of topiary lining the way – something to which I’d like to become accustomed after last week’s sojourn to Osterley parkrun – the facilities were pretty good.  Lockers, showers, no queue.  Weird poster though:

DSCF9332

Now, why would you have that in the women’s changing rooms?  Where is the ‘power’ for a woman pictured standing behind a man, what message is that trying to convey?  To be fair, it’s probably not trying to convey anything, they just haven’t given it one iota of thought, but bit of feedback, that’s not a very aspirational or motivational image as far as I’m concerned.  Is that what the marketing department for bodypump power workouts think women aspire to do?   Does that represent ‘power’ in any sense for any woman anywhere?   To be pushed to the back of the class by men, literally on the sidelines of the action but presumably expected to be grateful as they can from there swoon at the biceps of the man in the foreground.  Only young, fit, white people do bodypump apparently.  So depressing.  Oh well, praise be for the inclusivity of parkrun, but it’s no wonder so many are turned off exercise with promotional materials like that to contend with in the women’s changing rooms ffs!  I wouldn’t have been so wound up if it wasn’t in the female changing rooms, is that the best they can come up with.  I despair!   Still, at least it didn’t say ‘girls’ on the door, that I really hate, don’t get me started on that…  Thankfully, the staff, who are the real gate keepers to these facilities, were fantastically friendly and welcoming.  It was an extraordinary poster though, it felt like going back in time.

I used to like body combat too – ooh the stories I could tell you about that.  The time our steroid fuelled instructor lost his temper so much he threw all his kit on the floor and stormed out was as nothing to his more general propensity to stand directly in front of you demanding that you tried to punch him in the face. It was quite cathartic and hilarious at the time, but does seem somewhat dysfunctional and unhealthy in retrospect.  On reflection, I think he may have had some ‘issues’.  He was always just on the cusp of an explosive meltdown.  And thinking about it, the acne, the disproportionate muscle size, the volatility and constant loss of control, hmmm, maybe not all was well.  It’s amazing what you can see but not notice if you aren’t expecting to see it.  Tell, me honestly, if you have ever done body combat, did your instructor set up any exercises with the spiel ‘so visualise someone you really hate, I mean really h.a.t.e. HATE, now grab their head, and smash it down on you knee, and KEEP. ON. SMASHING. IT!’  I’m thinking probably not.  Did add a certain frisson of excitement to the class though, not condoning it obviously, but what larks eh, what larks.  I’ve honestly never been fitter in my life.

Enough of these distractions – I did what was necessary, exited and …. found myself in a completely unknown world.  What the?  How was this possible.  Instead of being back in reception I was now alongside some sort of indoor sports court, with that distinctive musty smell of several thousand sweaty kits left to mature there over many years.  A perplexing parallel universe, what sorcery was this?  Had I teleported?  Had I been abducted?  Could I really not navigate my way out of the female changing rooms?  Spoiler alert, seems I really couldn’t navigate my way out of the female changing rooms…. twice.  I think it’s because that blooming poster left me feeling so disempowered.  It’s the only plausible explanation.  Nobody is that lacking in life skills and lives beyond a half century surely?

Is this the confusion Mr Benn used to experience exiting the changing rooms in the fancy dress shop I wonder?  You know, he’d put on the costume of choice, and next thing he knew, he’d be living that reality in a parallel universe the other side of the changing room door.  Mind you, I think he chose the costumes, so there was an element of at the very least contributory negligence in where he ended up, even if there was an element of surprise because he wasn’t quite sure exactly what destinations and adventures the donned outfits might lead too.

Mr-benn-651114

I checked my outfit anxiously, in case I found I was donned in hockey kit or something equally fear inducing, but it was OK, I was still just me.  What had happened though?  I was completely confused.  The worst of it is the changing rooms aren’t even particularly vast.  I went back in… and came out again, same thing.   Well, logically it would be, I’d used the same door.  I know I don’t have an especially advanced sense of direction, but this was a new low.  I actually had to methodically search the changing rooms to locate the original door I’d come in through, like I was doing a bespoke challenge in the crystal maze. Well how was I supposed to know it had two entrances/exits front and back and notice it even when they were hidden round corners?  Stupid changing rooms.   I freely concede based on this evidence I might not be anyone’s companion of choice in a post-apocalypse survival situation, but then again, if you were being followed and needed to shake off a tail, I’m your woman.  If I can’t predict where I’m going or follow any particular mapping logic, no-one would be able to track me were I on the run.  Also, I have perfected the act of smashing heads on my knee, in theory…  but actually, I don’t really want to survive any Apocalypse if it’s all the same to you, so I wont be putting that into practice unless the provocation is really extreme.  Shouting at a volunteer marshal when it’s you who has forgotten your barcode might push me over the edge, that, and dropping litter oh and fly tipping would definitely do it, but for the most part I’m placid and more inclined to go with passive aggressive retrospective tutting. You have been warned.  Jedi super powers are no substitute for a printed barcode either apparently 🙂  Thanks Tim Michael.  Good to know, in case May the Fourth should fall on a Saturday again!

Tim michael parkrun cartoon

Mind you, didn’t bode well for finding the start of Wakefield Thornes parkrun, let alone navigating the course.  Bread crumbs weren’t going to cut mustard for finding my way back here, I wish I’d thought to bring along a few kilometres of string with me instead.

which way now

I eventually composed myself sufficiently to manage to exit the way I’d come in, and affected nonchalance as I strode authoritatively (faking it to make it) past reception once again waving thanks as I did so.  I was inwardly cringing, my inner voice screaming at me ‘they know you know, they’ve probably been watching you perplexed on CCTV‘  They hadn’t though.   They were nice and helpful and even if they had noticed, it was objectively hilarious to have had not one, but two trapped in the toilet block interior experiences within minutes of one another.  I have form on this.  I once got trapped in some toilets at my local railway station as a 14 year old.  I was there for almost an hour and resorted to hanging from a grill in the cubical screaming to the outside world that I needed rescuing.  That wasn’t a good day… enough of these negative thoughts, today was going to be epic!  I’m sure that I wouldn’t have got so lost if they’d had topiary to line the entrances though, you need landmarks to find your way home ask any bee.

Oh well, next challenge, find the start.  There were teasing signs of parkrun paraphernalia placement in the proximity but no hi-viz heroes in sight.  Where were they hiding?

Bit thin on Jedi knights too, but seeing as I’d made the effort, I tried not to let that deter me from sticking with the programme as planned.  My dressing gown and parcel paper tube lightsaber were coming with me, appropriate or not!  After all, doesn’t the parkrun code stipulate you should respect the right of parkrunners to participate in their own way.  What could be more natural than striding to the start of parkrun clutching a roll of brown parcel paper wearing a dressing gown.  No-one will even notice.

I accosted someone to ask for directions, but she turned out to be another tourist, so we agreed to try and locate the start  together.  I retrieved my robe and lightsaber from the car and then we were directed by other runners, the start area is basically straight ahead, up a hill and along a solid tarmac path.  It’s a fair old walk from the Thornes Park Stadium to the start, you need to allow maybe 10 minutes or so, though we did actually pass another, nearer car park en route, so that could be another option.  Looked like more loos there too, don’t know how likely you would be to get lost in those though, didn’t want to risk finding out.

As we summited the brow of the hill, a load of colourful parkrunners came into view.  I love this bit, when it’s all new and familiar at the same time.  Lots of people in little groups, chatting with one another, stretching, catching up.

It was then I spotted someone else in fancy dress.  You know that feeling when you thought you’d made a bit of an effort managing to improvise something and you suddenly come to appreciate what really making an effort looks like?  Well, respect to this team with their own space craft!  It was AWESOME.  Such a show stealer, barely noticed yoda in the background.  Serious respect though.  It was fully functional too – you should have seen the speed at which it covered the ground.  A.Maz.Ing.

Only thing, wasn’t quite sure of how this would work health and safety wise?  It was a well run parkrun though so they must have done some sort of a risk assessment about what would happen if runners were caught in the fire stream of the jet engines as the ship rocketed ahead.   Anyway, small price to pay, there are loads of parkrunners now, and sacrifices sometimes have to made for the greater good, perhaps a bit of a cull now and again to keep the numbers manageable is no bad thing.  Plus, you don’t really argue with someone operating one of those, not if you expect to live to tell the tale!

Other particularly fine star wars day tributes included this canine caperer who was called SOLO.  How apt is that.  I’m not entirely sure if he was procured especially for this occasion, but I like to think so.

DSCF9352

Then there was a pleasing scattering of others who’d got into the spirit.  Star wars vests, some loud speakers were wheeled out, blasting out the Star Wars theme tune  – quite a party atmosphere.  A few Jedi knights jousted and chased about in mock fights, the atmosphere was building well!  One thing though, my it was chilly in that wind.  It was a fair old arctic blast laying into us at the top of the start hill.  Glad I’d got my dressing gown with me as a bit of a wind break.  You know, I might start wearing a dressing gown to all my parkruns in future.  Now I understand the thinking by the tough mudder tent cape thing dry robe thingamajigs, they must be super roasty toasty within, I’m surprised those thrill seekers haven’t thought to keep them on on the way round, it would be a much more comfy experience tackling the arctic enema from within one of those creations surely?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some people of course had gone the extra mile, I know parkrun tattoos are a thing now but I’m impressed people got extra themed ones just for today, I conceded my own efforts were positively pitiful by comparison, but hey ho, showed willing.  Check these out though, definitely raising the bar!

If you are going to go to all that effort, it’s good to know you can preserve tattoos after your death.  What could be a more treasured memento for your bereaved loved ones than your skinned hide displayed in a frame on the living room wall in perpetuity?*  That’s my gag reflex nicely triggered, each to their own though.  For those as like that sort of thing, it’s the sort of thing that they would like.

There was still a bit of time for milling about and I tried to get some shots.  My camera is playing up, maybe I’ve got some moisture in the lens, it’s disappointing as it’s a new camera but it just doesn’t take great shots, I wouldn’t buy it again.  It’s a Fuji compact tough one though, so it’s pretty much unbreakable, which is good.  Never mind, you’ll get a sense of the atmosphere, and if you want better quality images you’ll have to go and check it out for yourself!  Or, to be fair, you could browse the album of epic shots taken by the volunteer photographer at Wakefield Thornes parkrun today, Darren Williams’s ‘May the fourth be with you’ album.   They are quite brilliant and really capture the occasion, thank you Mr Photographer.  So whichever option takes your fancy really.  The volunteer team suddenly appeared as if from nowhere, and runners congregated in the start funnel.

Next stop, first timers’ briefing.  Fair few of us, some relatively local – Barnsley for one, but also, someone from Ottawa!  How impressive is that.  Hope they had a good time, then again how could they not!   So, the main point to register here, is that the first timers briefer had the best briefs ever!  Some star wars themed ones hoiked over his running tights.  I’m presuming they were donned especially for the occasion, but of course it might be that he wears then every week, and why wouldn’t you?  They were splendid!  It was a good welcome, ‘a long way to go, in a parkrun far away‘ and we were advised that yep, basically the course is really complicated, but don’t sweat it (well, you might sweat through the excursion of running, but not because of the potential of going wrong) as they’ve never (knowingly) lost anyone yet, so just go with the crowd.  Fair enough, that works for me.  I asked about etiquette for overtaking – this is a keep left course, and once underway you realise that’s actually really important, because there are a fair few sections where runners are going in both directions on the paths, keeps you on your toes though!

Where was I?  What next.  Oh yes, run directors briefing.  She stood her ground atop the hill and against the elements.  It was a lovely friendly welcome.  Milestones were acknowledged; London marathon runners congratulated; donations for Wakefield junior parkrun requested; London marathon medal held aloft; volunteers thanked – congratulations to Lily on the occasion of her 25th volunteering  … and to conclude, a rousing chorus of happy birthday, I think to Tom. Yay.  It was a really good atmosphere, this would be great for your local parkrun I think, it had a good vibe.  They had a signer too, which reminded me this is the local for a fellow parkrunner I met doing some tourism together with another mutual friend at Doncaster parkrun.  What a small parkrun world eh?  That was absolutely ages ago, back in Autumn 2018 I think, how time flies?  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Eventually, briefing concluded and the shout went up to ‘go’ and for a bit nothing happened, as I was quite far back and it is quite congested in the start.  The path has sloping sides, so you don’t really want to deviate from it too much.  This never bothers me as I’m happy to pootle along at the back, but if you were going for a time it would make sense to position yourself nearer to the front.

Off we went, and lawks a lordy, I have no idea how to describe the route.  It’s a bit of a blur.  You do drop down the hill on a tarmac path, and apart from being a bit crowded that was fine.   There was the official photographer in situ, Darren Williams, and he took some epic action shots, though not of me, probably a blessing, but check these out, I’ve chosen those who have gone for the Star Wars themes, inexplicably it seems more men have Star War t-shirts and lightsabers than women.  How bizarre?  Some joyful runners all around though, yay!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the bottom of the path, there is a right angle turn, and some temporary fencing through which you could just about make out the runners ahead already cornered

DSCF9407

a hard-working marshal shouted out ‘good morning runners‘ and ‘keep left‘ as we all stampeded down towards her.  The warning was timely.  You really did need to keep left, as very soon, faster runners were storming back along the same path, you do a weird sort of out and back. Also, for future reference, this really ought to have been an audience/ parkrunner participation chant.  Bit like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, regulars now how to interact appropriately.  Too late I heard a responding chant of ‘good morning’ and an echo of ‘keep left’, I did say thank you though, and I’ll know for next time.

The returning runners came at a fair old lick, and I quite liked being able to see them in action, storming round.  You can see how you enter a more formal bit of park here.  The route actually takes you through three different parks apparently, but I got completely confused about which was which and where I was.  Definitely best to just live in the moment for this one!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

However, it’s no wonder my times never get any faster, because, at the end of this section, there’s a little turn around triangle, where you get great views of many of the other runners.  It’s good fun, highly social.  I saw my friend Solo again for example, and Yoda, and the woman with the 100 balloon.  Plus I got a glimpse of the tail walker – who appeared to be carrying round a bag of shopping with her, which is completely understandable.  One slight issue with this course is that as the start and finish are in quite different places there isn’t really anywhere to leave your stuff, so if you did get your groceries pre run, you’d have little choice but to lug them round with you.  Worth keeping in mind if that is your pre-parkrun thing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So, back the way we came, past cheering and cheery marshals,

and then we went past a lake (nobody fell in) and through some wooded bits, and then was that the aviary?  It must have been the aviary.  A fieldy bit, wait, what are those graves of parkrunners that didn’t make it?  What’s that about? Past a secret garden (which wasn’t altogether secret on account of the fact it had a sign directing you to its entrance) and braced ourselves as we clambered back up the hill past the track into gusting winds, and then by the skate board park – glancing to admire the jumps going on there – and past the marshal

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

and then what cruel trick is this?  No, not straight ahead, following the runners you can see clearly directly back in front of you, but sharp right, back up the hill, round a tree and back to where you came from and then you get to run ahead.  The route is hilarious.  Good luck if you tried this as a freedom run, free of marshals and any sense of logical direction at all! I enjoyed the seeming randomness of it all, it keeps it interesting, though I wonder if the sharp turns and literal u-turns might slow down faster runners.  Excellent directional pointing from the marshals though, I would have been literally lost without you all!

DSCF9473

All very entertaining.  Didn’t see the train though, but did get to see more runners coming back the other way.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Whilst I may have missed the train, there were plenty of other unexpected sights to behold.  An actual amphitheatre, if you fancied doing a bit of spontaneous oratory on the way round – which of us hasn’t felt that itch on a parkrun before, but until now, been unable to scratch it?  There was also a fair ground and some fairly spectacular old fountain features to name but a few:

All scattered between bits of green, wooded loveliness, with sunshine overhead and bluebells alongside.  Not at all bad as venues go, not bad at all.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is a lot of backtracking on this course.  So it was, that somehow I found myself going back up the hill to the start point, and the inevitable, if somewhat dispiriting sight of other runners who’d already finished, walking back to their cars, or to the main stadium entrance at least.  Most offered up smiles or words of encouragement, and the big plus is, you basically get a down hill finish, always a boon.  Also, I liked to pretend that actually, I had more stamina, because I was still running (sort of) whilst they’d had to lapse back into a walk.  I’ll overlook the more obvious conclusion of ‘well of course they are walking, they have finished, whereas you are still out there in the parkrun wilderness, heaving yourself round‘, no need to dwell on inconvenient truths and spoil the parkrun love.

and finally, the finish funnel, the other side of a tree in full blossom.  Where you could whoop through the tunnel and be scooped up by hi-viz heroes in all their loveliness.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I took some photos of the parkrunners who came in behind me.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s harder than you think taking photos of runners.  Here are the volunteer photographers shots, they are intrinsically epic obviously, but will be thrown into even sharper relief and generate even louder oohs and aahs when they are seen in contrast to my own humble offerings.  No, don’t patronise me, the camera never lies.  The truth is self-evident, and welcome too, these are fabulous shots from Darren Williams again –  they really capture the occasion. Hurrah!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Good to see the tailwalker made it back with her shopping ok, and was welcomed in by the team.

DSCF9573

Whilst waiting for her arrival, I got chatting to the friendly Star Wars brief wearing guy who did the first timers’ briefing.  That’s not why is called that though, whilst people who do the first timers’ briefing are super heroes, it’s not an actual requirement that you wear your pants outside your leggings to deliver it.  Turns out he was not just one of the core team, but the event director so that was really interesting, hearing a bit about how the course was chosen. Also, emboldened by our chit chat, I was able to proposition him for a decent bottom shot. Well, those briefs needed documenting, and he acquiesced, so that’s not completely inappropriate is it?  Borderline maybe, but just shows, sometimes brazening things out is the way to go.  Plus, he did say people are always asking for shots of it, so maybe he’s a bit desensitised to that?   Anyway, here you go, the money shot of a brazenly briefed bottom:

DSCF9579

Then I left the team being busy and important, doing course stand down and results processing and all of the bells and whistles behind the scenes that keeps the parkrun show on the road at venues worldwide:

DSCF9576

and set about finding my way home.

Erm, well, it wont be a total surprise to you to learn that I probably didn’t go back via the most direct route, but I did have a lovely time.  I checked out the gravestones – they weren’t for parkrunners, unless those parkrunners were either canicross ones or an actual mouse.  Really a mouse?  Probably another companion animal known as Mouse I’m guessing, but short of digging it up who can say?  Can’t believe I didn’t get a shot of the headstone saying ‘My Mouse’ but you can go and find it for yourself.  It must have been a HUGE mouse as it was the biggest headstone.  I wonder if it was acquired in the same way people naively take on micropigs.  ‘Yes, yes, of course it’s a mouse‘, the ‘mouse’ seller said, handing over a cute infant capybara encircled in a pod of comfycosy nest material.  That would make a terrible pet, did you know they are highly social and typically live in groups of around 20 and are from South America?  Well you do now.  Main thing is, they are big, relatively speaking, weighing up to 66 kg which may not mean anything to you if like me you grew up with imperial measurements, but is clearly a great deal heavier than your average mouse.  It would explain things I think.

I then continued my explorations, and contemplated the various bits of sporting equipment built into the landscape.  I like that the park has these wooden exercise stations, but again was perplexed that the images were all white men, surely there is more unisex signage available these days, it’s like women are invisible in the sports signage here, so bizarre.  Who are the firms that come up with these signs.  Mind you, didn’t fancy having a go at what looked like a DIY crucifixion station, that seems a) extreme and b) unlikely to be beneficial to health.  Hang on, maybe they really are serious about culling the park users here!  It does make you wonder.

I took a detour into the secret garden, there were loads of cool things within, an actual dragon, some medieval masonry and some ace views.  Nice.  All the more so for being unexpected.  The only problem is, I now want a full size dragon in my garden, and what with that and my new taste in topiary I’m not sure my horticultural budget is going to be entirely in line with my horticultural aspirations.  It’s a worry, that, and the fact I have no idea what I’m doing in the garden most of the time.

Then I came back a rather circuitous route,

but you know what, there was an unexpected bonus in that because look what I found.  No, not that annoying man again, but this rock:

That’s right.  A rock!  Not just any old rock, but a rock with spots on it and a sign of ‘hope’.  How fantastic is that. This was a Love on the rocks Wakefield rock and I have taken it away to rehide in Sheffield, probably Graves park somewhere at Graves junior parkrun tomorrow.  I like the optimism of the painted rocks thing.  It brings hope indeed!

Just a question of skirting round the skatepark:

and left wondering about what is it with trainers on a wire?  The world is full of mystery and wonder.

DSCF9628

There you go then, Wakefield Thornes parkrun done and dusted.  This was a treat, I really enjoyed the course, though it is erm, let’s go with idiosyncratic.  Super friendly, good facilities.  I’m not sure about the post-run coffee options, I get the impression people scatter a bit as there was no obvious cafe in the parks themselves.  On the website they say encouragingly

Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in the Holmfield Arms – please come and join us!

and I don’t doubt the invitation is sincere, though I’m not sure where that is and whether it was walkable from the finish, I presume so.  I didn’t ask, as I needed to get back to Sheffield, I’ll save that pleasure for another time.  So yep, would definitely recommend, and certainly encourage you to wear fancy dress whether it’s a specified fancy dress occasion or not, I’m sure you’d be made more than welcome.

Can’t be quite so confident how you’ll be received as naked gardeners, but they seem a tolerant and inclusive bunch, so why not.  Anyway, what’s the point of having a secret garden on the course if you can’t disport yourself with abandon as you wish?  These fine people may not be doing a great deal of actual gardening, but they are having a lot of actual fun.

I see plenty of parallels with my parkrun experiences.  To the untrained eye, I may seem not to be doing an awful lot of actual running, but it’s all glorious all the same.  Also, I often run in the buff.  My cow cowl buff, or my Smiley paces buff, or my woodrun buff, lots of buff running.

So thank you once again parkrunners in general and Wakefield Thornes parkrunners in particular for laying on a splendid and forceful (see what I did there) event.  Thanks too to Darren Williams as volunteer photographer, for taking fab pics on little sleep I gather, and capturing the parkrun magic.   I hope to be back again for the next in the series in due course.  My Jedi powers didn’t quite kick in to get me to the finish in record time, but at least I got my money’s worth on the way round.  Always a consideration.

🙂

*Please note, this is a rhetorical question, the actual answer to which should be self-evident but in case you are in any doubt is ‘almost anything

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, and forward for new ones in time too, just so you know.

Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Extra parkrun Day! Christmas Concord parkrun 2018

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

parkrun merry christmas

Unabridged version:

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

 

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

 

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

christmas concord some year or other

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

Alex speedy

Kudos to him, the post added:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stats

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

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

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

and it looks like this:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

happy smiling concord faces

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

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

29 december 2018 graves

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

parkfunners

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

 

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

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

christmas carpark greetings

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

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

concord selfie

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

 

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

parkrun yuletide first

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

concord runaround

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

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

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

HERE ONE DAY THERE MAY BE A PHOTO, AWAITING PERMISSION TO USE

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

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

 

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

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Ho ho ho, etc.

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

 

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

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

running challenge christmas day

 

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

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

Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Party on… Graves junior parkrun Totally Terrific and Two Today!

Digested Read:  Graves junior parkrun, two today!  Hurrah.

45217138124_1223c8fb7d_k

Unabridged version:

You might think I’d get bored with parkrun in general and junior parkrun in particular eventually.  Surely there is a point at which it all becomes boring and repetitious you might erroneously speculate?  But you could only possibly think that if you’ve never yourself surrendered to the Sunday morning gloriousness which is Graves junior parkrun.  It never disappoints, and sometimes it truly excels itself. For example on this day, which was our second birthday.  Hurrah!  How awesome is that?  Our first birthday celebrations were pretty epic, but today was epic squared.  Even the normally tarmac paths were transformed into rainbow routes especially for the occasion, that cake creation above, it’s not a fantasy creation it’s hyper-realism.  Who needs a yellow brick road when you can have actual rainbows to run round on Graves junior parkrun’s birthday?  Come and see for yourself next year if you missed it this time around.  Logically it will be epic cubed by then.  It won’t just be lollipop trees all around you, but cavorting unicorns and woodland fairies marshalling the route as well.  Miss it, you’ll miss out.

So dear reader, I’m sure you must know all about parkrun and junior parkrun by now.  But it occurred to me I may not yet have been so proactive as to share the official blah de blah about the Graves junior parkrun course.  So here it is (well, I know how arduous it can be to click on a link after the rigours of a stressful day, or indeed any time, so just happy to help):

The course is 2000m (2K) long. It’s run in Graves Park, Sheffield, and run mostly on tarmac paths, with some grass. A two lap anticlockwise course starts in the field, by the car park (beside the animal farm, off Hemsworth Road).

From the Start run down to the Rose Garden cafe, then turn left and downhill towards the lakes. Run between the two lakes and turn left following the path towards the Animal Farm. Take the path going up through the farm, and back towards the Start.

Whilst all animal enclosures are fenced off, normal public health warnings and information about farm dangers applies and some basic rules need to be adhered to:
(1) Children to be discouraged from touching animals and eating or drinking near the animals. (2) Do not enter any of the animal enclosures. (3) Follow any instructions given by farm staff. (4) Open wounds to be covered. (5) Pregnant women to avoid contact with sheep and lambs.

Today it happened in a park that was a lovely as this:

45941269811_c88f97e529_k

and the course looks like this on the google map aerial view thingymajig:

graves junior parkrun course

Well, I say it looks like that, to be honest, sometimes it’s hard to tell.  Graves park is infamous for having its very own micro-climate, so sometimes you can arrive and find it in total white out, or, as today, enveloped in an ever thickening mist.  I like to think it just adds to the unique atmosphere of the place, and introduces a welcome element of surprise and frisson of excitement to every Sunday morning.  If you are risk averse however, you might like to ensure all your loved ones are wearing fully charged trackable devices before you unleash them in the park.  To be fair, based on today’s conditions, we may need to start counting the runners out and then counting them all back in again….

32070137058_531df5592b_k

Naturally, hardly slept a wink the night before.  What would the morning bring?  I mean, there were some obvious clues, parkrun, cake, fancy dress – that’s a pretty dizzy cocktail of delights to wake up to for anyone.

It also brought a thick mist.  Arriving at Graves park it had an other-worldly feel.  Various volunteers emerged through the fog, all most atmospheric.

31002466397_f8c3da45af_o

To the untrained eye, that shot may make it look a little forlorn, but that untrained eye knows nothing.  Whilst I was doing my usual course set up – in the company of Geronimo who wasn’t as much practical help as I’d hoped to be fair… others were making the magic happen by setting up the cake stall options.  From the fog, eventually appeared this!

cake

Pretty cool eh?

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Quelle surprise!

So there was a good turn out of volunteer for the occasion, many sporting fancy dress in various incarnations. Some sacrificed personal comfort and the warmth of layers to honour their costume choices – the wally outfit was fabulous, but not one to keep you warm to your cockles methinks, the unicorn onesie sported by the tailwalker for today may have been a cosier option.  Kudos to all though.  It’s nice when people make an effort.

Some outfits were a little more eyebrow raising than others. The Wolverine outfit being perilously close to cosplay I felt and distinctly scary, but this was as nothing to the living, breathing mischief-making incarnation of Mr Blobby!

32070086808_dee69e9558_k (1)

It would be fair to say he caused quite a stir!  Also, quite a debate as to his recognizability and scariness quotient for our young parkrunners.  Mr Blobby  first materialised in 1992.  I know, I actually thought it was in the eighties, but even so, for the average junior parkrunner that timeline would sound sufficiently long ago that it probably coincided with the age of the dinosaurs.  And no, I’m not exaggerating for comic effect here.  My friend’s daughter once asked her mum, in my presence, what dinosaurs she remembered from when she was growing up.  I know….  Point is, decontextualised, or indeed in context, Mr Blobby is pretty unsettling presence isn’t he?  They wouldn’t have a clue who he was, and without that clue, well ‘disturbing’ is indeed the word  I thought there might be some tears, or at least wide-berths being given, but apparently not.  Not sure what to make of this.  Does it mean I could come as the child snatcher next year and not raise so much as an eyebrow, let alone a shudder?

child snatcher

Hmm. maybe not.  I think I best not risk it.  Tempting as the notion is…

Anyway, soon enough there was a grand gathering of chattering cheeriness.  To be fair, although a great many juniors had also donned fabulous costumes, I think the grown-ups were having even more fun.

Geronimo was warmly welcomed of course – though a few did ask after Sophie, my unicorn companion for last year.  Truth is, she went off to join some university students on a skiing trip and enjoyed herself so much she’s stayed on out there in the snow, and very happy she is too.  Geronimo was a hit with the llamas especially, judging by the curious stares they latched onto us as we were walking through the animal farm whilst setting out the course.  Actually, bit of self-awareness called for here, I don’t think she was a hit, I think she was a cause of outrage.  Llamas do disdain better than any other mammal I can think of, and I can think of quite a few.  Camels are pretty good at it too, but then again, they are from the same camelid family, so that’s no great surprise , no really, they are.  I think the ability to express disdain might well be one of their distinguishing characteristics.  Oh well.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the usual greetings and milling about, we all gathered enthusiastically for the Run Director’s welcome and briefing.  As it was a special event, there was a reminder of Graves junior’s milestones and history, all brilliantly captured in the official run report for the Graves junior parkrun birthday bash:

As the Event Director said, it was time to say THANK YOU to everyone at Graves juniors: volunteers who help, runners who enjoy the event, and parents who get up early, sort breakfasts and transport, make sure barcodes aren’t forgotten, and support their kids healthy lifestyles, week after week! The organisers were a small group of volunteers and from the very beginning, as any other parkrun event, we relied on a wider support from Sheffield runners, volunteers, and families. Sergei also shared some of the statistics on our 2nd birthday: we’ve had 1568 runners so far, and the little feet have pounded over 10, 000 km in Graves Park! We are so proud of everyone who is part of Graves juniors, in any capacity, so let the music play, and we’ll all have some cake!

Milestone wrist bands were given out, I think they are a great idea, instant gratification on achieving half-marathon, full marathon or ultra distances.

32070130148_9ec8e1b8d9_k

It was fortunate there were a fair few super heroes around this morning,

superheroes

as it seems  super villain Reverse Flash had infiltrated the hi-vis heroes today.  He didn’t fool me.  On no.  Jessica Fletcher would have been proud of my observation skills, nowt gets past me on a good day – apart from other runners, who constantly overtake me on every run I’ve ever done ever, obviously, but this was a bit different.  He was indeed super fast, leading a feisty and furious warm up for the over= excited runners and other parkfun participants.

Then there was the gathering at the misty start line

32070122198_2eed168b83_k

and then they were off!  A bit of a false start this week, due to the muffling effect of the wolverine mask, however, that matters not, it is after all a run not a race, and just see how they run!  I particularly like the butterfly in flight and the Usain Bolt posed photo.

Bravely high-fiving Mr Blobby as they passed:

I was about to say, you can just stick a hi-vis on anyone at a junior parkrun and it makes them appear safe. But I see in this photo that Mr Blobby is not even sporting his.  I wonder if perhaps he was just randomly walking in the park and we just abducted him assuming him to be in fancy dress and therefore one of our own, we never really checked his credentials now I come to think about it… and nobody seemed to really know who he was.  Oh well, all’s well that ends well, as the saying goes.

I never tire of watching junior parkrunners taking on the course.  The speedier ones sprinting at the front, and others pootling round taking it all in and enjoying the many and varied sights and delights of the parkrun experience.  Today though was particularly memorable.  The first two runners were brothers I think, and they ran round stride for stride and then when they got to the finish… oh gawd, I think I’ve got something in my eye just thinking about this – when they got to the finish funnel, they paused, and held hands so they could cross the line together!  Oh my gawd.  Isn’t that amazing?  So proud of these runners.  Totally harnesses what parkrun should be.

We on the finish funnel, welcomed them in and shooed them down to have their barcodes scanned

Granted, I’m not looking at my most animated in that shot right there, but it was a lull after most of the runners had gone through. It’s hard work cheering everyone through, you need to take the power breaks when you can.

Barcodes scanned, the parkrunners joined the next even more impressive queue for custody of cake

32070091778_9cef7ec08f_k

No question, that cake was quite a hit, and the queues long.  Thinking ahead to next year maybe we need some volunteer buskers to entertain them with juggling and magic tricks like they do for the lines in Disneyland (I think), that, or have satellite marshals patrol the line handing out the chocolate vegan cupcakes on a tray for those who were fading with the wait.  All very good-natured though, as you’d expect.  That’s because all parkrunners are lovely (fact) and junior parkrunners are lovelier still!  🙂

32070090328_a9b2d784ed_k

Inevitably, the final finisher came through, all smiles of triumph and that was that.  Course dismantled and runners disappearing into mist to carry on with the rest of the day, carrying the extra ballast of celebratory cake in their stomachs as a happy memory.

32070141708_d4a78b35dd_o

But you know what.  That wasn’t the end of the morning’s fun.  Oooooooooooooooh no, something completely brilliant was still to happen.

Firstly, there was the hilarity factor in when some of us gathered marshals collectively realised that Mr Blobby was marshalling at the most complicated of marshalling points apropos post run course dismantling.  He would need to take down the tape that keeps runners away from the lake, haul up the plastic stake, and carry a bag of tape and hi-vis vests back up the hill through the mist.  One option might have been to go and offer assistance.  However, we were operating on democratic principles which means we go with what the majority agree on even if that disadvantages a minority, or indeed everyone.  In this case, we decided it would be completely hilarious to watch him try to complete this task and then make his way up the hill.   And you know what, I can’t regret it one little bit, it was indeed truly hilarious.  Now that’s a boon you don’t get at many parkruns I’d venture, seeing Mr Blobby undertaking a practical challenge to comedic effect.  Laugh?  I thought my knickers would never dry!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And that wasn’t even the end of it.

Once Mr Blobby had rejoined us, he was quickly mobbed by a group of junior parkrunners, who delighted in watching him messily eat cake and generally ‘josh around’.  There was much lively play.  After a bit, he took himself off behind the cafe to disrobe, a couple of youngsters went after him, but not all.  This last bit of information is critical.  Remember it.

So after a bit, a new adult male appears as if from nowhere.  ‘Oh no‘, I exclaimed to him ‘if only you had been here just a few minutes earlier you’d have seen Mr Blobby!  It’s been so very exciting, he was quite a spectacle!’  He replied in kind, ‘I’d love to have met him, what a shame‘ etc etc.  Now dear reader, you might be ahead of me here, but the point is, the genius things is, the junior parkrunners assembled at this point were on the cusp of belief.  They strongly suspected there must be a person inside the Mr Blobby outfit but weren’t 100% confident on this point.  They were also unsure what was at stake if they declared one way or the other and backed the wrong side.  A couple of the bolder juniors protested ‘no, that’s him, that’s him!  He was Mr Blobby‘.  I held my ground though, it couldn’t possibly be him, because Mr Blobby was extremely rotund, whereas this gentleman was positively svelte.  I could see puzzlement and mental processing etched on their faces.  ‘But I saw him take the costume off‘ insisted one.  I was having none of it.  What could they possibly mean.  Mr Blobby had clearly gone home for breakfast, most people had, that was just as it should be.  Eventually, one of the feistier young runners had a stroke of genius ‘I’ll prove it to you‘ she exclaimed, and reaching up to this (now slightly alarmed) new arrival, triumphantly unzipped his coat, expecting to reveal a pink costume adorned with yellow spots.  Dear reader, her expression, and that of her fellow parkrunners was just brilliant.  He was just wearing a normal shirt, therefore, he can’t possibly have been dressed up as Mr Blobby, and if he wasn’t dressed up as Mr Blobby well then, you guessed it, that can only mean Mr Blobby was most definitely for real!

It was brilliant.  Best conclusion to the run ever!

I love that some of these youngsters must presumably still believe in Father Christmas and who knows, the tooth fairy too.  In fact, while we are on the topic, a friend of mine told me that she believed in the tooth fairy for far, far longer than her peers due to a mishap in her youth.  One time, she lost a tooth, put it out for the tooth fairy and the tooth fairy never came.  Tearfully, she showed her lost tooth to her mum, saying the tooth fairy couldn’t be real because she never came.  Her mum was having none of it. This was an absolute outrage, what was going on with the tooth fairy supposedly servicing their road.  She would sort it there and then.  In her presence, her mum rang the tooth fairy’s manager and complained, and was promised that the tooth fairy would definitely come tonight instead, they were very sorry and they’d leave an extra something by way of apology. And that’s what happened!  Therefore, the tooth fairy was most definitely real, just not infallible.  Proof indeed!

So that was that, we took ourselves off to the cafe for results processing and token sorting and tale sharing and then shored up with feel good endorphins went our separate ways.

32070139758_4e15d9a947_k

All ended, but don’t be deflated dear reader, you can come along to Graves junior parkrun any Sunday you like.  And if you are so unlucky as not to live anywhere near Sheffield, there are other junior parkruns available that make fun of their own too.  And it’s only another 51 weekends to go before we celebrate our birthday all over again.  make a note in your diary now, just to be on the safe side.  Meantime, thanks for virtually joining in the fun by reading to the end of this post, and thank you everyone at Graves junior parkrun for making Sunday the highlight of my week.  And no, that’s not because I don’t get out much, it’s because junior parkrun is the best thing EVER.

You’re welcome.  🙂

Also, don’t you think our very own George surpassed himself today on the photography front?  I do. Thank you.

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

For my posts including a reference or more to Graves junior parkfun click here.

Oh, and in case you missed it, the official run report for the Graves junior parkrun birthday bash is here.

welcome to graves

 

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

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. London Marathon 2018 done and dusted. #SpiritOfLondon

Digested read:  did it.

done it

Brace yourself.  It’s a long one.  Then again, if running a marathon is considered a test of endurance, I see no reason why reading about it shouldn’t also be a test of resolve.  You can always scroll down to be fair, whereas it’s a lot harder to fast forward on the roads of London, so be gracious before your judge me too harshly!  All the same maybe fuel yourself before settling down to read this, and make sure you stay hydrated, or you’ll be wobbly and light headed before you even reach the half way marker.  You have been warned.  If you choose to read on and then get bored or annoyed, then you are at the very least guilty of contributory negligence.  Much as if you go for a recovery run when your toenails are black, blistered and bruised and then find they all fall off.  You will get no sympathy or truck from me.  So we are clear about all that then?  Good.  I thank you.

So here I am, out the other side. Stormed it!  Sort of, I maybe wasn’t quite the storm the warrior claimed, but was tenacious enough to make it round.  Somewhat shell-shocked.  It’s so hard to process all that has happened over the last 48 hours, or whatever it is.  It feels unreal.  I think that must be why they give you a medal at the end, so you can remind yourself it all really happened. Unfortunately in my official photo you can’t see my medal as I was too disoriented to hold it up, don’t panic though, there are plenty of other photos so you can relive the experience with me whether you want to or not!

There are already a plethora of London Marathon accounts out there, it’s a cliché but it’s true nevertheless that each of the 40,000 or so of us at the start would have had our own unique experiences.  Don’t worry, if you meet any of the other runners they’ll tell you about their marathon run in their own words too.  Aren’t you lucky?  This is the thing about running marathons.  Apparently 1% of the population have run a marathon now, no idea where that figure comes from, but I daresay it’s no more made up than the Lehman Brothers accounts and considerably less likely to lead to catastrophic collapse in the global economy, so let’s just go with that.  1% of the population is actually quite a lot of people, and all but one of them will tell you about it at length whether or not you have the slightest interest in their, sorry ‘our‘ endeavour.  There is only one person in history who has run a marathon without telling anyone and even then her friends felt compelled to remark on this so you’d still have got to hear about it.  Arguably, in the future, one of the most compelling reasons to run a marathon – apart from to prove your womb won’t fall out on the way round – is to enable yourself to get a word in edge ways when you encounter other people who have.   I think the belief your womb will fall out if you run too far mainly applies to men, but whatever.  It’s a thought, can’t beat ’em, join em. That’s the way it goes.

ran and didnt tell

If for whatever reason you don’t want to run a marathon, but would like to get those who have to shut up about it, here follows in microscopic detail my memory of my marathon adventure such as it was.  Truthfully it’s all a bit of a blur, some of the details are foggy, the chronology will be all over the place, but that will only add authenticity if you choose to tell my story as your own.

First things first.  I’d set my alarm for 5.00 a.m..  In fact I got a text from Virgin London Marathon at 5.02 anyway, so clearly early starts are the order of the day.  I was sweating already in the humid hotel room. It reminded me of when I was working in Cambodia, you know it’s going to be hot, hot, hot.  No question. The text said:

Today’s forecast is for hot weather with possible wet conditions early on. Temperatures may rise to 23C.  Adapt your goal, slow down& listen to your body.  Drink when thirsty. Take only one bottle at water stations & remember to Drink, Douse, Drain, Drop.  Good luck & enjoy the #SpiritOfLondon

Two things.  The temperature actually got to 24.1C (75.3F) –  recorded in St James’s Park, the Met Office said.  Also, why oh why did they tell runners to drain their bottles?  That’s rhetorical by the way, I know it was to assist with recycling, but when I was scrabbling around in the gutter trying to find any water left anywhere I was inwardly cursing that directive.  More of that later.

I was up, had a shower. Not going to lie, pretty gutted at the temperatures in prospect, but also feeling fatalistic in a positive way (is that a contradiction in terms). I suppose I mean it was like waking up on exam day.   You are at the point it’s now or never, you can either rail against the world screaming futilely into the wind at the injustice of the extreme heat of the event after training in the extreme cold, snow and ice, or accept it is what it is, and you have to get on with it.  In a way, it was a relief. I  wasn’t really believing it, but I told myself this heat would remove all expectations on me running wise, at least if it was a ‘record-breaking marathon’ because of this I’d get to be a record breaking marathoner by association, and anyway que sera sera.

I had a shower, and my first big triumph of the morning was – and I make no apologies for too much information because any fellow runner will know how much this can soothe both body and soul – a successful and significant poo!  Don’t be shy people, there are whole articles dedicated to perfecting this art of ;how to poop before a race’. Please note, I do however apologise for the use of the word ‘poop’ in the headline for the article, but that’s American journalism for you.  Hurrah, that was my first pre race angst vanquished.  They say don’t make any sudden changes to your diet in the run up to event days, but a big pasta meal recommended for carb loading the night before was to me exactly that. I knew I’d need the energy stores, but I’d been worried it would just sit there, like I’d swallowed a rock, weighing me down.  Instead, result! This was a good omen.

I put on my running kit straight away.  I went for vest only – on the top I mean, obvs I wore leggings and trainers and socks and runderwear knickers and an industrial sports bra as well – but before donning any garment, I squelched almost a whole tube of factor 50, once only application, water-resistant sunscreen everywhere that might be exposed. Arms, neck, arm pits, face, nose, ears, everywhere.  My skin hasn’t seen the sun all year, and is so white it might even reflect sunlight back to the sky and reverse global warming, but I wasn’t taking the risk.   I also put body glide on my inner arms, and legs – though I’ve never previously rubbed there but I thought I may as well.  I’ve also got another anti-chafing product, lanacane which I think is amazing, but it is expensive and I seem to get through loads of it, but I used that under my boobs because I know from bitter experience that needs special attention. I filled my two water bottles on my ultimate direction running belt with water and dissolved electrolytes in them.  THANK GOODNESS!  Other runners were going to rely just on the water on course, but I’d decided I’d drink the water en route, and then in the later stages drink my electrolyte laden water to stop me cramping or getting dehydration related salt imbalance.  I put in far more naked bars than I could possibly consume, and added in as an after thought some straight glucose tablets – again these turned out to be a life safer.

Down to breakfast.  The hotel was serving from 5.30, I’d imagined it would be a reduced offering for runners, but in fact a full buffet was out. That was hard.  Normally the opportunist in me would have made merry and cavorted with abandon amongst the hash browns, scrambled eggs and croissants.  However, I was disciplined, I stuck to my game plan of just a cup of horrible coffee – it wasn’t my plan that the coffee would be horrible, it just was – and some porridge. The porridge was not good.  It was nothing like the porridge I make myself.  It was mostly milk, with the odd porridge oat floating in it as a possible choking hazard.  I would have had it much thicker and packed with seeds and things.  I was worried I wouldn’t have had quite enough fuel, so I broke with my plan and had a banana as well.  I figured it would be a good 5 hours before I even crossed the start line, so probably not too high risk, though I have suffered before eating bananas too close to or mid event at the Round Sheffield Run.  On a more positive note, I was quickly joined by other runners.  One was from Denmark I think, and a veteran marathoner.  Another first time marathoner who has been a poster girl for the British Heart Foundation as she has a pace maker and spent many, many months in hospital having multiple surgeries, so the BBC are following her round.  Then there was another runner, more of my ilk. Got a ballot place and knew she had to do it, so here she was.  We were a mixed bunch, but excitedly chatting together about the day ahead. Another runner joined us…. with two tags on her shoes!  Immediate panic, why had she got two tags? Were we supposed to have two tags too? Turns out she was an elite runner taking part in some championship or other, she even had a striped back to her number.  I was too relieved that I was properly equipped to notice her name or number, but her physique suggested a professional, or near enough, athlete was walking amongst us.

We scampered to our respective hotel rooms for final teeth cleaning and trainer donning, and more poo stops, poo two from me, could things get any better in terms of pre race protocols?  I drank loads of water and put a litre or so in one to take with me to the start.  I do drink loads anyway, especially when I was sweating this much at 7.00 a.m..

A coach was going from the hotel to the start.  Some preferred to go planned routes via tube, but I wanted to make as few decisions as possible and stay off my feet so opted for that.   I waited outside with my other new best friends in our marathon gear, feeling somewhat self-conscious about both my upper arms and Geronimo, but also sort of enjoying the unlikely continuum of runners we collectively represented.  The sun was bright, and there was a breeze, it felt almost tropical.  It was a gorgeous morning, just not one you’d want before say having to run a marathon.  We got someone to take a photo. The first photo was into direct sunlight, so we got another facing the other way, just because.  Aren’t we lovely?

The coach pulled up just after 7.00 a.m. and set off promptly at 7.15.  Our elite runner was asking earlier whether we trusted the coach to come. Apparently a friend of hers at the Boston marathon got a package coach and it got lost en route to the start, for hours.  Not sure if the runner even made the off.  I had complete confidence in the organisation of the London marathon though, because this was before Watergate, and anyway, there was so long before start I figured even if it broke down there’s still be time to clamber on a tube and get to Blackheath.

The coach trip was quite exciting. Coach trips, whilst they always make me feel a bit queasy also have that sense of anticipation as you are being transported to a new destination.  Even more so when you are surrounded by other awesome runners.  I was feeling a bit nervy, but mainly just wanted to get there. It was amazing being driven through the streets of London, extraordinary landmarks all around.  At one point someone pointed out the start and parts of the route – oh my, it looked a long, long way.  The charity runners were comparing details of post race arrangements.  Both of the two I was near said their hospitality finished at 5.00 p.m, when realistically, particularly considering they might not even cross the start until 11.00 they would probably still be out on course. One had queried the wisdom of this, being a new runner and recognising her goal was to get round before cut off and was told that the hospitality was for friends and family too. ‘But I expect my friends and family to be out on course supporting me not quaffing free coffee at the charity’s expense‘ was her point.  I thought it was interesting that they did finish so early, particularly with charity places where you might expect people who were/are not natural runners, but passionately wish to support a cause for personal reasons to be well represented amongst their marathoners.  Some runners had also had to raise huge sums, those in ear shot had achieved this, but I’d have found that hugely pressurised.  I only found out recently that apparently charities pay a significant premium for their race places, and risk losing a lot of money if they misjudge who their share their places with – it is hard not to see an element of cynicism in how that plays out…  that discussion though is for another time.

We were deposited at Blackheath about an hour or so later.  Just as we got to the common I espied a whole load of the rhino fancy dress costumes all laid out on the side of the road. They are HUGE.  We disgorged from the coach, and immediately were amongst throngs of runners, streaming across wet grass towards the respective starts. If you are thinking of doing London and worried about the logistics of finding your way around don’t be. There were huge signs up everywhere indicating the respective start areas for red, blue and elite.

this is real

The grass was soaking wet with dew, and I remembered belatedly vaguely that Martin Yelling had advised having plastic bags to put over your trainers at the start so you don’t get wet feet from the off. To be honest, the sun was so strong it was pretty clear we’d dry up soon anyway.  There was also quite a breeze.  Perfect for eating ice creams in the shade sort of weather! I joined the migration pack of runners to the blue start, my eyes popping out on stalks at the spectacle all around.

Finally, I made it under the blue inflatable arch into the collecting ring. It reminded me very much of a festival, albeit a rather healthy lifestyle one.  There was lots of space, and music playing.  A huge screen relayed messages of support to runners, and some coverage of the marathon from different areas of the course.  There were loads of toilet cubicles, the famous female urinals, that didn’t have queues but I didn’t fancy using for the first time pre event.  There were instructions in our goody bags from the expo but frankly they’d left me none the wiser, and I didn’t fancy embarking on my marathon adventure with both me and Geronimo doused in my own pee.  Also, I wasn’t entirely trusting my digestive tract at this point in time either, and let’s not entertain the idea of that calamity before set off.

It was HOT. There was no shade. I have never been more grateful for an impulse buy of my cap, and the addition of my tomtom sunglasses.  I got them as a freebie at a Vitality 10k at Chatsworth earlier in the year.  They might not be flattering, but they are effective, they sit proud of your face so you don’t get rubbing and sweat on your cheeks and air can circulate.  Plus they are slightly turned down at the ends so wont fall off.  I’d never run in either before, but both were completely brilliant on the day – apart from not being especially photogenic, but then neither was I, so who cares.  I scanned my kit bag and decided I didn’t really need any of it other than sunblock and water so deposited it at the baggage drop so as not to have to worry about that again.  The baggage drop people were great, asking me to check I’d not left critical things and posing indulgently for photos.  The guy on the lorry was attached by a hook and wire to the vehicle, it wasn’t clear if this was to stop him escaping for the purpose of my health and safety and for the protection of the general public, or to stop him falling for the purpose of his own health and safety. He didn’t look like a wild axe murder, but I understand most wild axe murderers never do. Good bye kit bag.

I went for a wander around.  It was so tempting to just go exploring, and I did for a bit, then thought that was probably unwise as it was so hot and it was all time on my legs and it would be 2 hours before I crossed the start.  Even so, it was extraordinary soaking it all up.  A few people asked for selfies with Geronimo which was cool.  There were hardly any people in fancy dress that I saw at that stage, though chilled groups hung out on reflective sheets.  Any scrap of shade be it by a toilet or bin was crowded with runners desperately trying to avoid the sun.

I was a bit worried that I’d not quite reached all my bits that were susceptible to sunburn.  I didn’t really want to ask another runner, I don’t know quite why, people were friendly, but it was all overwhelming. Instead I drank my water and headed to the first aid station.  They were functional rather than welcoming, but the woman I asked did help.  To be fair she was distracted by her walkie-talkie.  Gist of the conversation as that a runner had fallen somewhere outside the elite start pen and was asking for first aid assistance.  However the person concerned was saying they still intended to run.  The senior first aider was insisting that if they wanted to run, then they needed to present in person at the first aid tent which was only 200 or so metres away if that. I  could sort of see her point.  If the person concerned couldn’t manage that, they clearly weren’t going to manage 26.2 miles were they?

I found a patch of shade and got chatting to loads of people really.  Experienced marathoners shared top tips, with others we just traded nervous energy.  I was hoping I’d see a familiar face, or at least a running club top that I recognised from Sheffield.  In fact, the only close encounter I had, was whilst I was in the loo queue.  A welcome shout and embrace from a friendly Dark Peak Runner – I can’t tell you how heartening that was.  Plus he is a seriously awesome runner, the London marathon is amazing like that, that people like me who try hard but are never going to set the world alight with our athletic prowess can participate alongside hardcore runners like he.  So thank you my friend, best hug of the day.  Actually, maybe second best, the hug at the end just after the finish line from a kindred from way back was better, but that’s a high standard to have to meet!

dark peak hero

In the waiting area there were heaps of official photographers taking snaps.  They were less in evidence on the course, but I had a fair few shots taken at this point, in all of which I look flabby and rather posed, which is probably an accurate representation of my outward manifestation unfortunately.

801492_273868355_Medium

Then the big screen started showing the various starts.  In the pre event information we’d been warned that it could take up to 45 minutes to cross the start, but even so the loo queues were now absolutely monumental.  I decided to join one.  10 o’clock came and went, but I was in pen 8, the final one.  The good news was that this gave me the confidence to hang on in the queue whilst others abandoned it wrestling with twin worries of full bladders and blind panic.  The less good news was by the time I’d relieved myself I was literally at the very back of the starters.  This did cause me some problems as although I’d be the first to acknowledge I’m slow, I was behind people who weren’t planning on running at all, and that did hamper me increasingly round the route, although I suppose you get the morale boost of over-taking many, it is hard work to do so.  I did an extra half mile at least just weaving around en route.

loo queue

It was clear nothing was moving anywhere, so I sat about a bit, then went to see what the fuss was and discovered the lung costumes.  These were extraordinary creations, light weight they ought to have been perfect for running in, except that unfortunately there was quite a strong breeze which would be a nightmare.  There was one man and the other turned out to be being worn by Katie Price, so there was a little media flurry around her.  I looked on with another runner who was hilarious and who I subsequently ran with for part of the course, if by ‘running with’ you mean ‘we took it in turns to over take each other’.  She gave a running commentary on the shenanigans, as Katie Price was crawling about on the ground apparently trying to put on her timing tag which was a not insignificant challenge wearing a fancy dress lung.  Earlier in the day, one of the people on the coach said that when they went to pick up their number Katie Price was next to them at the same cubicle.  She was at the wrong stand but couldn’t seem to grasp this and in the end the steward gave up trying to redirect her to the correct desk and instead went off to retrieve her pack for her. I’m torn, because I do rather enjoy that anecdote as reinforcing a certain stereotype and I do believe it to be true – it’s not something you’d make up.  On the other hand I can identify with the runners fog that descends at the expo and sometimes the dismissal of Katie Price’s achievements has a smack of misogyny.  Fair play to her, trying to run a marathon in a lung, I’m not a fan of hers especially, but that’s stepping up to a challenge, and she has completed marathons before, so it wouldn’t be fair to assume it is just a vanity project for her – though is suspect some of her endeavours may be.

Finally, about 10.45, it looked like our pen was about to be moved forwards.  I was so far at the back of the line up I wasn’t even in the pen.  The plus side of this was that I avoided the claustrophobia of being rammed up against other runners for a motionless 45 minutes, and instead had been able to amble about gawping at lung costumes and fraternising with other runners.  The down side was that this was a great many runners I’d need to pass later on.  Oh well, que sera.

The start line is weird.  We were sort of marched through the seven, now empty, pens ahead of us.  It was then I began to feel quite emotional, this was suddenly actually about to happen.  The various red-jacketed marshals who’d been staffing baggage lorries and directing runners were now free of their duties so lined the railings clapping us towards the start.  So much good will, it’s bizarre objectively, I mean on one level it is just a run which is ultimately futile, after all, we now know for sure that whilst a 5km run might add 30 minutes to your life it remains a net loss given that it can take 40 minutes to achieve by the time you’ve faffed about.  However, on another level it is this incredible coming together for a shared purpose, and people willing each other to achieve.  You know what, the London Marathon is basically one enormous parkrun on acid.  Maybe a parkrun celebrating its birthday, but essentially that.   We passed pens where you could discard clothing – thin pickings this year, nobody was wearing extra layers to keep warm at the start this year.  Worth knowing if you are running another year though. The clothing gets picked through by charities who wash and reuse where possible.

The anticipation was really building.  I struck up conversations with other runners, including a marathon veteran fancy dresser. His advice, pick a side and stay close to the crowd, smile and engage with them and you’ll get their support.  If you see someone in more spectacular fancy dress or with a more emotive back story, put space between you.  Again, and again the advice was ‘just enjoy it, soak it all up’.

Finally the start was in sight you could hear the commentary.  Oh.  My.  Gawd!

nearly across the start (2)

Oh, and those balloons I saw earlier – they were marking the start! Who knew?

hot air balloons at start

You my dear reader will know I make it a rule never to commence running until I have a foot on the starting mat, but the excitement was tangible. When the arch of the start came into view many around me broke into a full on sprint.  You can really see why the repeated advice is ‘don’t go off too fast!’ it’s oh so tempting.  Finally my foot was on the timing mat.  It was unreal.  ‘I’ve done it, I’ve done it, I’ve crossed the start of the London marathon!’ up until the heat wave, I was always quietly confident that if I made it to this point of the marathon, I’d make it to the end.  I was so excited, but also a bit apprehensive ‘please don’t let me blow it, please don’t let me blow it‘, I was thinking to myself.  On the right was the grandstand, probably packed with the great and the good but I didn’t really care about that, on my left was the band of the horse guards!  Stupidly, even though I’d seen them on the large screen TV I had absolutely no idea they were playing at the start. Astonishingly, as I’m not particularly into pomp and ceremony, I found that really moving.  There is a sense of being part of a significant national occasion, yeah, yeah as a bit part, but even so, it was a remarkable wave of emotion.  Then there was a bank of photographers, snapping us marathon runners (get me, marathon runner now) as we passed.  I wanted to freeze frame the moment on the back of my eye, I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, and after all that waiting around, despite the heat, it was fantastic to actually be running the streets of London.   I can’t find a single shot with the horse guards playing, all the photos are facing towards the grandstand, still, here are the wheelchairs screaming out the starting hatch.  Impressive.

start line

Edit – found one picture in an article ‘running on empty’ which includes lots of dispiriting shots of collapsed runners, but also one of the bank behind the mass start lead runners.  It gives you the gist…

start band

There was support right from the start, so many images, so much enthusiasm. It’s hard as I sort of wanted to take each and every moment in, but also wanted to keep moving, get properly underway and put some miles behind me.  I was very aware it was already nearly 11.00 o’clock, the heat was going to get increasingly oppressive and I didn’t know how I was going to cope with that.  I was however thinking of friends of mine who didn’t make the start, or had missed out on the ballot, and sort of locked down a promise to myself that I would do my darndest to get around this, and be sensible about listening to my body to give myself the best chance of doing so.

The first mile went past quickly, I decided I’d try to take a photo at each mile marker, to help me recall the event.  It honestly is such a blur.  This is an official photo of the mass starters at the one mile mark – it was a little less crowded when I went through!  Even now, looking back at these photos, I find it really hard to believe I was actually there.  It’s so bizarre.  At the risk of increasing the levels of irritation at my account you are probably already suffering, I can honestly confirm taking part in London seems to me to be a unique experience.  It makes it hard to process and recall, the memories are there, but elusive, trying to shape them is like trying to pick up mercury with a fork, although possibly less hazardous.  Mercury is dangerous stuff.  Stay safe people, stay safe.

first mile mark

Even though I’d consciously been slow, my first mile was a lot faster than I intended.  I felt tickety boo, yep, swept up in the occasion no doubt, but strong, hydrated, my sun hat was doing its job, my sunglasses remaining in situ, I just decided to slow a bit and try to find the trot, trot, plod, plod rhythm that I finally discovered on my last few long runs and stick to it as long as I could.  What I laughingly refer to as my training plan was, well, let’s say ‘idiosyncratic’, but oh my, I’m glad that I prioritized my long runs over everything else, if I hadn’t I would never have worked out spontaneously what that steady pace was and been able to recognise it.  The heat was building, but I knew my legs and lungs could do the distance, everything else was going to be race day management.  Not easy in unknown conditions, but not impossible either.  I tried to remember all the advice I’ve been given about coping with the first few miles of the marathon.  Pacing, all about pacing.

Mile two.

Trot, trot, feeling fine.  This was through the residential outskirts of London.  There was little shade, and it was quite quiet compared with the crowds later on, but there was still support and encouragement from marshals.  One called out when there was a little trio of portaloos for any desperate for a pit stop.  I was still a bit shell-shocked, I was aware of other runners, but it wasn’t especially chatty at this point, people were sort of trying to slot into their pace I suppose.

One particular highlight though were the humping volunteers.  I think they were a scout troop, equipped with warning signs they worked in pairs standing either side of the road at every speed hump just shouting out ‘hump’ constantly, to warn oncoming runners of the hazard. This struck me at the time as quite comical, honestly, road runners are delicate flowers!  Many miles later on though I stomped down too hard after an unseen bump and really felt it, I wished the designated humping marshals were present then!

humping marshals

Mile three.

Mile three stood out because another runner took my camera off me to take some action shots of me running.  He threatened offered to do a video but I talked him down from that rash move.  Not only because I suspect had I actually watched any footage subsequently, that would definitely have brought me face to face with an unedited version of my aesthetic awfulness whilst in running motion that would mean I’d never run again, but also because it would have drained my camera battery. I’d need some power for the finishing flourish!  The photos aren’t great, but they are authentic. At the end of mile three was the first water station.  This delivered early promise, lots of water, and volunteers holding it out.  I had drunk a good litre just in the waiting area at the start (bottles were available there and I’d taken extra with me) so I felt OK, but drank anyway.  The bottles being given out were quite dinky 250 ml ones I think.

Mile 4

I was excited going into the fourth mile.  It was at this stage in the course the blue start and red start merged, so you get a sense again of how enormous the event is.  Also, I knew at the end of this mile, all being well, I had a reasonable chance of seeing my first familiar faces en route.  And, I hadn’t yet keeled over and died, and that was one parkrun down already!  Things were looking good.  The supporting crowds were more in evidence and I was enjoying the different signs spectators were displaying.  I hijacked one ‘go Lucy’ as my own, I think that was fair game, and loved the creativity on show.

Not the most salubrious of surroundings, and quite exposed to the ever hotter sun, but still a good atmosphere.  My watch was bleeping slightly ahead of each mile marker, which was great, because it meant I knew to look out for my personal cheer squad.  My Erstwhile Flatmate and her dearly beloved daughter and sign maker extraordinaire, who had so handily relocated to London just last week, to find their new house right on the London route.  I looked about and THEY WERE THERE!  What’s more, they had a personal sign just for me!  It even had a likeness of Geronimo on it.  This was completely brilliant.  If ever you support a runner at a marathon, or indeed any race, I can promise you, you will bestow a joy you can’t imagine on your runner of choice.  It was fantastic to see familiar cheering faces.  It also made the experience seem real for the first time. Like and external validation that I was really doing this.  Plus, once hugs were exchanged and photos taken, it meant the tracking app was doing its stuff and so there was a reasonable chance I might even see others amongst the crowd as I went round  – though I did set my expectations pretty low about that, I thought better to be pleasantly surprised if I did see people rather than carry the burden of crushing disappointment if I didn’t.  It’s harder than you might think to sport people when running and no doubt for spectators to espy their runners too.

MIle 4 vision of loveliness

Buoyed up by the sight of my personal cheer team, I rushed on through the mile four arch with a new spring in my step, feeling hot, but positive.

DSCF2148

Into mile 5.

This is the point where things settled down.  I was amongst similarly paced runners.  There was a bit of gentle leap-frogging of other participants as we passed and repassed each other.  I had a bit of a chat with a guy in an old British military uniform who was running the whole thing with a back pack containing loud speakers blasting out various uplifting military tunes like the dam busters theme.  He was friendly.  Asked if I’d practised in my fancy dress – I had – he hadn’t. His view was it was going to chafe on the day whatever, so why put yourself through that discomfort twice.  One guy was holding a structure with an old-fashioned honky horn attached,  offering ‘free honks’ which I took advantage of.  We had another water station – the amount of discarded bottles was a bit terrifying.  I wasn’t desperate, but was a bit perplexed that there didn’t seem to be any water available.  Some volunteers seemed to be picking through the debris looking for bottles with some water left in.  I had a momentary wave of anxiety.  It seemed a bit off that a water station would have been drunk dry already, but I pushed that to the back of my mind. This is the London marathon, they’ll be on it. I’m not even thirsty yet and anyway there’s water every mile they said, so just rock on. It was somewhere around the mile 5 arch I took advantage of some portaloos with no queue for a quick pee, that was my only pit stop and a good call.

Mile 6

For me, this was one of the best miles of the day.  It wasn’t yet too hot, support was building and I felt strong and was actively enjoying myself.  I started to soak it all up a bit more, there was Dave the Samaritan’s phone box, one of my new buddies from the hotel breezed by looking strong.  Point of information, she’d nipped into Toni & Guy the day before somewhere in London to get her hair plaited up so it was out of the way for the marathon. They’d done it for free as she was a charity runner AND she got an upgrade on the train from Manchester.  She must have a particularly winning way about her, I got no such privileges, but I did still soak up a lot of spirit of London good will.

Best bit of this section FREE ICE LOLLIES.  Obviously when you are drilled with the warning ‘don’t do anything new on race day’ that can’t possibly apply to taking sweets from strangers or mean you would run on by a line of women waving cooling ice lollies in your eye line.  I took full advantage of that and walked for a bit. Some people high up in flats alongside the route started screaming at ‘giraffe woman’ and I waved back, we went under some sort of flyover and there was a full steel band playing in the shade, it noisy beats echoing round the concrete cavern.  I found a woman with a giraffe and requested a selfie – she looked bemused.  Maybe she doesn’t quite buy into the giraffe kindred thing?  I was feeling the heat now, well it was moving into hottest part of the day, noon ish or so if I’d hit the 10k mark, it takes me a bit over an hour to run 10k and I’d crossed the start about 10.50 a.m. I thought.  There was a rhino-suited runner keeping on putting one foot in front of another though, no idea how he was coping.  Everywhere there were high-fiving crowds, people shouting your name and punching the air screaming how amazing and awesome we all were.  Imagine the most enthusiastic junior parkrun marshals ever, cloned, multiplied and ten deep on either side of the road the whole way round.  Well the enthusiasm levels and joyfulness were akin to that.  Others in the crowds picnicked by the road side, toasting your efforts as you passed or just simply soaking up the sun and the spectacle from outside their houses.

mile 6 done.

Into mile 7.

This was a corker!  Lots of highlights.  Unexpectedly I saw – or more accurately was seen by – a full on Smiley Support team.  Complete with massively enthusiastic(ish) off spring and bespoke Smiley Paces support signage.  Again, completely brilliant, more so for being unexpected. I’d known they were down supporting another speedier runner from Steel City Striders, but because I was going to be so far behind them I honestly had zero expectation they’d still be hanging around to cheer me on afterwards.  It was just great, a real lift.  Then I unexpectedly arrived at the Cutty Sark.  I was trying to remember what this meant in terms of breaking down the distance.  Martin Yelling in one of his pep talks, described using the London landmarks to break down the run.  It is a truly amazing sight, the glorious sunshine that was making running hard, did create a spectacular backdrop to the shape of the ship.  This wasn’t a  massively congested area for spectators either, I think it would be a good place to spot runners from the comfort of a balcony bar.

A little later on another fabulous treat in the form of one of my London Marathon Superstars support-group. Armed with an encouraging smile and lots of haribos she gave me a hug and a shove, and soon I was off again.  ‘This is brilliant!’

Mile 8

At this point, things started to unravel a bit, I reached another water station that had no water.  I’ve really tried to ‘park’ my fury at this, because my experience of London was at least half the water stations had nothing left by the time I reached them.  I can cope with the idea that this was because of unprecedented heat, and that the logistics meant it wasn’t possible to restock quickly enough to cater for all runners. What does enrage me though it the official statement that declared they were aware of water running out at stations 8 – 10 as if they were the only one’s affected.  NOT SO!  I struggled to get water almost the whole way round.  I found only one snuck in reference on the telegraph news page that stated ‘They later said: “We have supplied additional water from our contingency stocks to water stations 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 23.”  My recollection is water was missing before mile 8 as well.  Not good.  Some comments on twitter in response to the London Marathon tweet on the day support my contention I was not alone in finding the route a desert at times.  Soooooo disappointing.  No idea how karaoke man – at the risk of stating the obvious, a guy who sang enthusiastic karaoke all the way round – survived with his vocal chords in tact!

I sort of did a mental calculation, I wasn’t dehydrated yet, I was carrying some water albeit with electrolytes in it that I’d intended to have later on in the course, but it meant it wasn’t game over.  I asked at the water stations if there was water ahead, but the response was vague.  To be fair, these stations were staffed by volunteers who didn’t have any overview of what was happening. I actually felt a bit sorry for them, there must have been thousands of thirsty runners behind me, and it was getting even hotter, particularly with glare back up from the road.

There were more sights and sounds to distract me from the water issue. The Wolverhampton bobsleigh team, two minnie mouse women from Sheffield who later got 15 minutes of fame helping a fellow runner across the finish who’d fractured her leg.

Then there was the first of the walk through showers.  These are actually quite discretely located by the side of the road, so you can choose whether or not to avail yourself of them.  I did.

A bit further on, the fire station had set up much more impressive cooling showers.  If you are really shallow, you might have imagined these cooling heroes would look like this:

fire fighter

The reality is way hotter people.  It was fantastic to see them out in force, soaking it all up, and giving runners and spectators alike a welcome soaking.  Rainbows and everything,  Fantastic.  It was joyful too, like when you see kids running through fountains in public spaces.  We don’t always get a chance to do that once over the age of 10!  I might have swallowed a bit of London Thames water though, I wasn’t quite so enamoured of that!

So, some definite highs.  However, then I got to a third water station with no water.  I could feel myself panicking.

Mile 9

I was starting to think that might be it now for the rest of the course.  Also, the more consecutive water stations there were without water, the more the following one was likely to be fallen on. These blooming water stations were less oases in a desert and more mirages.  A guy in a van had 6 water bottles wrapped up, I joined the queue in time to get one – only for another runner to snatch it away!  I was quite shocked.   What followed though was a moment of clarity.  I was determined to this thing.  I did have some agency here, I still had the water I was carrying, and I didn’t want to be one of those people who blamed others or circumstance for not getting round. This was not game over, but I did need to think.  I also needed to eat, but I couldn’t because I was getting too thirsty and dry mouthed to cope with any naked bars.  I sort of mentally went through my options and decided to work my way out of this. I’d done the Sheffield half marathon dehydrated, that was horrible too, but I did it.  I’d also done that awful 17 miler feeling sick and hungry early on in training.  This was where the mental challenge came in.  My legs and lungs could do this, I just had to work out how.  I stopped, decided to walk and drink my electrolyte laden water.  I couldn’t manage my naked bars, but I had some of my glucose tablets instead, and that revived me.  I made a very conscious decision that I was going to finish this, or at the very least, wasn’t going to give up with anticipatory defeat before I really could no longer put one foot in front of another.

It was galling to see so many emptied bottles.  There was not a drop left in any of them. Some children had cottoned on to what was happening and were scrabbling about trying to find traces and pour them all together to create sips of water to hand out.  however, I think the advice early on to drink, douse, drain and drop meant very few bottles had any liquid left in them.  I saw the official record attempt for armour power walking.  I told myself I was OK, it wasn’t game over yet, I’d just need to be resourceful.  Spirit of London and all that.  See what happens.

Mile 10 and 11

Still no water.  Four consecutive stations.  I began to despair if there was ever going to be water again.  I begged a sip from a first aid station, but they literally just gave me enough to wet my mouth.  Outside a pub a guy was standing with a circular tray of cups of water so I had that, and then a little later on a woman beside the road had brought a jug out.  Her children I think, had scavenged some discarded cups from somewhere and was filling them up as best she could, I tried not to think about how dirty they were I was just grateful for the liquid. Then another runner ahead of me was holding a bottle out.  ‘Are you seriously offering that?’ I asked. He was, he’d been into a shop to buy some, this was sparkling water but I didn’t care, I drank about half and then passed it on to another desperate runner.  It’s a tough one, I am sorry I wasted time and energy on this marathon of all marathons searching for water.  However, the fact it wasn’t there did bring out the best in people, it gave me more interactions with spectators and runners, and added perhaps to making this a very memorable event.  I think had I ended up as a DNF because of it I’d be taking a different line, and I was actually quite scared at points.  Maybe it’s good to be reminded that we should value clean water as a scarce and precious resource, it’s so easy to take it for granted, even though I have witnessed first hand how hard it is for communities who don’t have this ‘luxury’ in Cambodia and elsewhere.  At the end of the day this run is/was an indulgence, and lack of water is exceptional not a daily struggle in the UK.

Mile 12

 

Mile 12- 13 including tower bridge

I can’t quite remember when we finally got water again, I think it was somewhere along mile 13.  I do know I was so desperate for it I just gulped it down, but stocks didn’t look that plentiful.  It was galling that the massive Buxton water cheer point didn’t even have supplies!  Even so, at some point, I must have got water because I remember being relieved, and able to enjoy the next bit which coming towards the half way point was a highlight.  Tower Bridge!

This was an emotional moment, realising I’d made the half way near as dammit.  Plus, it’s so iconic.  You channel across the bridge and try to take it all in. It is architecturally stunning ,and it’s such a privilege to cross it as a pedestrian.  I wasn’t alone in stopping to take photos I’m sure!

I went over, and then remembered it isn’t quite the half way point after all.  Also, if you look to your left, you can see on the other side of the road, the faster runners streaming along towards the homeward stretch as you pass then going out, as they are heading back.  That is psychologically tough I suppose.  However, the plus side is that it’s quite fun watching other runners.  Alarmingly though, many of them looked absolutely terrible, stumbling about and collapsing by the wayside.  I’d seen a few fallen runners going round, but not with the density as was apparent now. It does seem that the ‘stronger’ runners who push themselves more, collapse more suddenly and more heavily, and it is quite distressing to observe.

However, the course lay out meant that spectators had two opportunities to spot any runners they were looking out for. This led to a highlight of the day for me.  No offence to my own supporters, but the prize for the loudest roar of support I hear all day goes to the East End Road Runners, who went into an ecstatic frenzy of shouting and purple pompom waving at the sight of one of their compatriots even though he was on the opposite side of the road at the time.  It was epic!  I couldn’t not stop to take a shot of them all in action, it might not be the best of photos, but it was an inspirational moment along the course.  That’s why I had to stop and snap it…

Go yogi go east end road runners

and you know what?  They snapped right back!  Go them.  Go us!  Mutual awesomeness all around!

east end runner celebrity sighting

Then through the 13 mile archway and on to mile 14, taking in the half way mark at last.  I have a strange logic when running.  Once I get to the half way point of any run, I feel like well, with every step I’ve got less far to go than I’ve already run, so I know I’ll be fine. This is illogical of course, you still have another half marathon to go, but it gave me a lift to get to this point.

Mile 14 and beyond.

It gets a bit vague here, which you are probably quite relieved about.  Things that do stand out in my mind though were NO BLOODY WATER.  Again, empty water stations for mile after mile.  Some had given up any pretence of having ever had water and were completely abandoned.  It was demoralising.  I was pretty sure I’d make it now, but it was going to be really tough, and again I consciously slowed.

One thing though, I don’t know if it was because it was hot, or because of the lack of water, or because it always happens at marathons, but from about the half way point, I found because I started so far back, almost everyone around me was walking for the last third of the marathon or so.  This mean that I had to constantly over take people, and as I was in a minority in wanting to keep trotting on, albeit slowly, it was hard to stay motivated and physically tiring to weave through the crowd.  It hadn’t been such an issue in the early stages, but it became an issue later on.  Next time (laughs and coughs to self) I’d try and start in a pen a bit further forward so I was alongside others aiming to keep on running.  Easier said than done though…

Sights worthy of note included:  well lubricated-latex gloved St John’s Ambulance staff all along the route.  They weren’t offering impromptu manual prostate tests to runners as part of a public health campaign despite appearances to the contrary. Rather, they were  proffering Vaseline to any runner in need.  They were everywhere.  It ceased to be remarkable after the first few miles!

DSCF2338

Mile 15 – into the tunnels

I am on record as someone who lurves running in tunnels.  So these were fab.  There were two subterranean sections on the course.  It was such a relief to enter the cool of being underground.  The next day a runner a bit faster than me said that when she went into this underground world it was like entering a post-apocalyptic world.  People taking advantage of the shade suddenly were collapsing with exhaustion against the cool concrete walls.  Like the battered survivors from a zombie attack of victims of an air raid who’d struggled to the tunnels for shelter, but had no notion of whether or not they would survive the night, or indeed, what horrors might be unfolding above them unseen.  One of the unexpected bonuses of being a slower runner, was that by the time I got to this point, most of the carcasses had been removed, so it was less disquieting to pass through.  Normally I like to run through tunnels as fast as I can, but on this occasion I thought discretion was the better part of valour, and walked through to try to cool off.

 

Mile 16 – emerging the tunnels

Mile 17 – Grenfell Tower firefighters

I found myself alongside the Grenfell Tower Fire Fighters running pretty much in full kit I was with them for quite a while.  That was moving. Whilst at many other points on the route fancy dress wearers were rewarded with whoops, and shouts and encouraging name calling, for large stretches these firefighters  were flanked by a standing ovation as the crowds applauded them every step of the way.  It was an extraordinary spectacle. They were really nice guys actually, constantly asking other runners if they were all right. With hindsight, I wish I’d engaged with them a bit more. What they have seen and had to deal with is beyond imagining.  From a selfish perspective though, it was hard running alongside them, because whatever effort I put in seemed insignificant by comparison, you are always going to come off worst if you compare yourself to a superhero.  I enjoyed watching how the crowd engaged with them for a while, and then when they paused at one of the fire stations I peeled ahead of them.

It must have been beyond extraordinary to watch them cross the line together at the end though.

grenfell finish

End of mile 17 – supporters en route

I was tiring again by the end of mile 17.  I must have had water again by now, but I felt exhausted by the heat, and erratic hydration had really messed up my fuelling as well as my drinking.  I started to walk.  To be fair, I ran considerably more of the marathon than I expected.  Very slowly it’s true, but it gave me some confidence that I can indeed run a lot further than my innate tendency to stop would have you believe.  Even during the event I found myself questioning how different a run it might have been if the water had been available when promised and the temperatures even fractionally more benign.  I don’t think though that I’m entirely sold on road marathons, but I do have a curiosity about what else might be achievable for me, if I committed to the correct preparation…  At breakfast one of my hotel buddies was instantly my friend when she ‘fessed up to putting on weight during marathon training – I honestly thought it was just me!  And no, it isn’t muscle, my waist bands say otherwise.  The irony of having to wait until after the marathon to get fit is not lost on me, I just didn’t see how dieting for weight loss would fit with trying to carb up in the final few weeks of marathon training.  First world problems I know….  However, I do think if I lost a bit of weight, now I know I can do the distance, I could probably improve my times a bit, I’ll never be exactly speedy, but I do think I’m capable of a faster finish time for a marathon that the one that was achieveable at London on this day.

walking onwards

and then, just as I was thinking how nice it would be to see some smiley support right now, look what appeared as a vision of loveliness in front of me.   To be fair, the photos make it look as if Geronimo saw then first.  It was great!

I gabbled on to them about lack of water and just generic nonsense.  They offered some, but actually I was rehydrated by now and although clearly in possession of runner’s fog, was doing OK.  Their hugs and sporting display of Sheffield running tops from Dark Peak and Smiley Paces running clubs gave me the necessary boost to power on.  My it was hot though.  Nearly there.  I told them I thought water situation was OK now…. it wasn’t.

Mile 18 – nope, can’t remember any salient details,  but into mile 19 and another bonus sighting of a London Marathon superstar, which was fantastic.  She was still brandishing haribos, and possibly snacking on them if the photo is anything to go by.  Well, there are plenty of terrible photos of me from today, it is in the interests of balance if I include unflattering snaps of other people too!

Very soon water stations were dry all over again.  I couldn’t believe it.  Not even staffed any more!  That was better than the false promises earlier on, also, the weather was beginning to cool, there was a breeze coming and it clouded over a bit.

Mile 20 – nearly home,  the highlight of this mile was most definitely getting a cheese sandwich.  That was somehow just what I wanted.  I was sick of my glucose tablets and sweet stuff.  Thanks to this woman for her foresight and generosity!  There were egg mayonnaise sandwiches too, but they were a much less appealing prospect.

Mile 21

Mile 22 – 23 -24

I do like it when spectators make an effort!  The crowds were thinning, but the air was cooling.  Those still watching roared appreciation at any acknowledgement.  I think I wasn’t alone in feeling my increasingly half-hearted loping didn’t really merit such appreciative adulation, but I was taking all on offer all the same.

I kept a watchful eye for the realbuzz team of virtual supporters who were near a garage after the 22.5 mark or thereabouts.  Didn’t see them, I was late though, unthinkable though it may seem, possibly the spectators got bored of standing around cheering before I was done with running.  I know.  Bizarre!

Under the bowels of canary wharf there was music being channelled through speakers and a moving light show with #spiritofLondon displayed on the walls.

Amazingly, my London marathon buddy was here too.  I feel I may have miscounted somehow, but anyway, she took a photo of me so she must have been here, I think it is framed deliberately as an act of vengeance for the photo I took of her earlier.  I think that’s fair!  We can have an understanding about it.

canary wharf

It was great to see her, but it was not all good news.  I was asking her about how she was getting on with tracking our other London Marathon superstars.   Turns out two of the four of us were safely back, I had the end in sight, but one of our number, my fellow smiley pacer, who had been really, really strong suddenly collapsed with a suspected hip stress fracture around the 40km mark, she was morphined and blue lit off to hospital.  I was stunned.  If you’d had to say in advance which of us would have the most realistic chance of getting round you’d have laughed at being asked to state the blindingly obvious in advance and pointed to her – possibly with a slightly apologetic glance in my direction which I’d return with a look of acceptance and understanding.  It was really a no-brainer.  This news shook me a bit, it just shows, even with the best of preparation, training and fitness you need to have luck on your side.  It seemed unfair if I got round when she hadn’t. I also had a moment of thinking hang on, I’ve not finished yet, and had to compose myself a bit to remind myself I was most unlikely to do a face plant into the river at this stage, and even if I did, surely at this stage only an alien abduction should stop me crawling home.  Smiley supporters at home though watched the tracker with horror as I crept up on the other Smiley and eventually over took her.  What was going on?

Mile 25 on

Pleasingly, I did know I had one more supporter to look out for.  Last year I volunteered on a Shelter cheerstation on the embankment and made a new buddy who would be there again this year and had promised to look out for me even though I’d be a long time coming round.

I romped on.  I’d slightly forgotten where the cheerstation was, and vanity meant I really wanted to be actually running when spotted, so I did run, slowly, but consistently, until eventually to my absolute delight she was there!  Hurrah!  So exciting.  It might not have been much of a run, but it was my run, and forward motion at least.

When I’d been imagining running this thing, I’d visualised this moment.  I knew, well, thought I knew, that once I was here, nothing was going to stop me finishing.  It really wasn’t far.  I couldn’t believe it.  I actually felt fine.  It hadn’t been brilliant with Watergate and all, but the #spiritoflondon part, that was cool.  The next stand out moment was int he final stages, the crowd was pretty thin now, but there was a family leaning against a low wall, and the woman shouted across ‘giraffe lady!  We’ve been tracking you!’  How bizarre, I went across and gave high fives and romped on.

Finally, the endgame. The bit you imagine from the telly.  Oh my gawd.  It felt surreal.  Because I was slow, it wasn’t crowded, and the way it’s set up it suddenly quietens. Although it isn’t very far in distance this is a contemplative moment.  I was thinking of the people who hadn’t made the start, my fellow smiley who didn’t make the finish.  I was also wondering what would happen at the end.  I wasn’t completely confident there’d be anyone to meet me because London is chaotic and it’s a big ask for friends to wait in that heat and crowds for hours and hours because you will be wrecked and over-emotional from completely self-inflicted causes.  You could forgive non-running friends for querying ‘well if it’s going to upset you so much and make you ill with fatigue why don’t you just not do it them?‘  Fortunately, my friends are better than that, running or otherwise.

There had been hardly any official photographers along the route – well not that I saw anyway, but there were lots scattered in the end stages.  It remains to be seen what their photos are like.  I did some high-five sweeps on the way in and tried to enjoy the moment whilst simultaneously knowing the euphoria of completion would all too soon become bemused anti-climax.  Blooming endorphins, they wear off fast!  The great advantage of being a slower runner, is that by the time I’d got to this part of the course the crowds had been well trained to proffer up high fives almost instinctively as you come through. Consequently it looks like I have an adoring fan base – and it felt a bit like that too – even though it is just yet another example of the #spiritoflondon and perhaps the kindness of strangers.  Go all of us!

I finally crossed the line.  It was weird, beyond the finish arch I couldn’t see anyone doing finish photos so I sort of shuffled over.  Top Tip if you run.  Charge across arms outstretched you will be caught the other side and your photo will be so much the better for it than my shambling effort.  I think I peaked too soon.

801492_274447950_Medium

You have to keep walking before you get your medal.  That’s nice, the marshals giving medals out also dispense hugs and take photos.  Multi-tasking!

got the medal

I then posed for an official finish photo – which I might add in later depending on how mortifying I find it to be once seen.

801492_273923237_Medium

and then made a dazed trek towards the baggage area and had snippets of chat with others, I’d run with.   One guy said he’d been trying to catch me for miles as he didn’t want to be beaten by the giraffe ‘but fair play to you, couldn’t catch you‘.  This pleased me.  I also coincided with the East End Road Runner with his personal purple cheer squad and told him I’d try to get him the photos I’d taken en route over to him somehow.  he was most gracious.  Everyone I meet running is fantastic, it must bring out the best in people, or maybe only lovely people do it, hard to know which is cause and which is effect.

One of the baggage marshals wanted a photo with Geronimo and me because her daughter loves giraffes, that was nice.  You can’t get lost, signs direct you towards the meet and greet area.  It’s like airports.  You think it’s going to be daunting to navigate because the area is so huge, but ultimately you just traipse along behind everyone else, and if in doubt there were huge signs telling you were to go, and loads of helpful staff to point you the right way and offer reassurance and tell you how awesome you are.  That last bit is nothing like my experience of air travel by the way. Staff at airports routinely subject you to ridicule, discomfort and humiliation, and I’ve never once been given a medal let alone an upgrade, just so you know.

I headed down to the meet and greet.  The advice for main pack runners is to agree to meet at a less popular letter x or z or something, but I just went for L as I thought, rightly, by the time I made it to the rendezvous point most people would have dispersed.  As I was investigating my goody bag and digging liquids out of my kit pack another runner appeared alongside.  Her daughter also loves giraffes, though her daughter was a grown up. So we paused and nattered and I gave her top tips about how to source a giraffe just like Geronimo and we took photos together and then, I heard a scream from the sidelines.  Oh my gawd.  My kindred.  A former work colleague from years back with whom I bonded in adversity was at the side.  She’d come all the way from Leicester to cheer me round.  We’d not seen each other en route, but she found me at the end.  We had an emotional and shell-shocked reunion. It was a bit bizarre, because 18 years ago when we worked together she was the athlete and gym bunny, I did cycle as transport and that was about it.  Again, of the two of us, she was the one who was most likely to do the marathon.  A massive fan of athletics she has a real interest in the sport and the elite women runners in particular.  It was just the hug I needed.  Also, because she is very sporty, she was one of the very few people who wouldn’t recoil at my sweaty, salty and increasingly stinky state. That’s true friendship for you people, right there!

It worked out well, because it also meant we got to spend some time catching up before we got to the rendezvous where other friends joined us.  I say ‘catching up’ but obviously what I really mean is I gabbled some sort of narcissistic self-serving gibberish all about me, and my marathon, and what I’d done in a high-speed monologue, and showed an alarming disregard for her experiences of the day.  Oh well, hopefully forgivable in the circumstances.  She also brought me exactly what I’d requested, a huge family pack of McCoy crinkle cut salt and vinegar crisps, which I pretty much inhaled, in between talking at her.

Whilst we waited at the letter L the woman and family who had earlier shouted ‘giraffe lady’ joined us.  By coincidence the person they were there to support was meeting them at the same letter.  She explained I was approximately the same speed as their runner, and the children were enjoying looking out for my giraffe – they’d actually seen me four times on the way round using the tracker.  That was so strange, it never occurred to me that random people would track me, it was nice though.  More photos.   I was even asked if I would like some prosecco, which I would have, very much, but decided against as it would have been a really terrible idea to follow through with!

After a bit, we were joined by my cheer squad from mile 4.  They were brilliant, bringing sign and logistical certainty with them.  More photos, obviously, but they decided after all not to be photographed wearing medals as ‘it just doesn’t feel right‘ OK then. Check out the graphics on that sign though people, quality work.  On closer inspection, I can’t help noticing it looks as if Geronimo dumped me before the finish arch.  Then again, to be fair, she did strictly speaking cross the line before me, though I obviously prefer to see our achievement as a team effort…

house moving cheer squad london marathon 2018

and then, just when I thought it was impossible to feel any more supported, my London marathon superstar buddy turned up exactly as promised for post race debrief.

and finally with BFF marathon running buddy

I felt truly blessed.  I think what made it special was feeling like the whole city wanted you to succeed in this endeavour and would do whatever it took to help to get you round.  Then, at the end, my friends turned out for me, just when I needed them most, and that’s awesome too.  We are not as alone in the world as sometimes it seems.  Eventually my kindred and my marathon superstar buddies went off to catch their respective trains whilst my erstwhile flatmate and daughter escorted me back to the hotel which was much appreciated and much needed. I just couldn’t think straight, and it was so nice not to have to try to work out where the nearest tube was, or worry about rummaging in my bag to find my room key.   They even whipped out a spare oyster card for me, anticipating I’d not have thought of that.  Reader, I didn’t need one!  One of the coolest things about marathon day as a participant, is that on the sight of your number the barriers at tube stations part for you as if by magic.  Smiling underground staff give you the thumbs up and wave you through as if you are a goddarn celebrity!  It’s pretty awesome. This system worked fine.  One runner who no longer had his number on was a bit worried about being turned away, but was able to blag it with his finish medal.  On arrival at Gloucester Street I had a momentary panic it wouldn’t work as I didn’t immediately spot a staff member around.  I had visions of being made to walk right back to the embankment and being made to start all over again – but it was fine, a laughing official waved me through. Phew.

Once at the hotel, in the highest act of friendship of all, they left me so I could collapse under a shower and go to bed which is all I was fit for.  The hotel had left this in my room though:

Bravo

It was very tempting, but again I resisted, indulging instead in electrolyte laden water, whilst gazing at my medal (which was rather heavy to be honest) in stunned disbelief.  I also browsed through the results to check out which of my fellow runners had made it to the end. Shout out to Cathy Bishop – we didn’t meet, but yay, saw you did it!  We rock.

What the hell happened today?  Nope, can’t really make sense that at all.  Strava tells me this happened:

London marathon strava route

and if you want more detail, there are loads of course maps in sections and as a whole picture on the spectator info section of the London Marathon website here.

Some final thoughts:

Hot runners?  I certainly was, I am a bit disappointed my hot running photo didn’t quite turn out like Sophie Raworth’s at the marathon des sables. I tell myself that even though begrudgingly I concede she ran a tad further than me, she did have the advantage of knowing in advance that she’d have to battle with the heat on the way round.  If I’d been able to do some training somewhere hot so I could acclimatised I’m sure I’d have romped round looking similarly effortless.  (Cough), can you tell which is me?

Oh, in case you care, here is the link to the 2018 results so you can endlessly search random people and see how they fared at the Virgin Money London Marathon 2018 . To save time the Radio Times has helpfully put together a guide to celebrity finishers.  Though in my world, all of us who put in the training – whether or not we made the start line let alone the end, are London Marathon Superstars!

There were loads of marriage proposals en route too, so that’s getting old hat now – no wonder one had to propose wearing a dinosaur suit to up the ante a bit again!  I saw him en route, brave man, as if running a marathon and running a marathon in a dinosaur suit weren’t quite stressful enough eh?  Oh she said yes by the way.

Oh, and there were a shed load of people who still made their Guinness World Record attempts, for the fastest marathon in whatever get up – which is extra impressive in the heat – though, alas I fear even more wouldn’t have done what they set out to achieve.  The stilts one is particularly hard to imagine – how did they get any water at water stations I wonder. Did they have a winch system?  The BBC article about the world record breakers had some fab pics of the Guinness ones, but remember dear reader, all of us who ran on Sunday are record-breaking marathoners, because we took part in the hottest London Marathon on record. Thus, I stake my claim to being not just a marathoner (go me) but a record-breaking one at that.  Yay!

_100991540_michellefrostfastestmarathononstilts

I can truthfully report that running the London Marathon is indeed an amazing experience, the crowds do carry you round. The other runners are extraordinary, and it is all emotional. Everything you have heard about the event is true.  You should wear your name on your vest, you will come to rely on the kindness of strangers, and you will see and hear things you never dreamt of.  The problem is it is so outside ‘normality’ it feels surreal. I swear, now I’m back home were it not for the comforting presence of the medal to stare at I’d think I’d imagined the whole thing.  It’s so unlikely a thing for me to have done, and so outside my other running experiences. I feel very lucky to have had the chance to do it, and slightly shell-shocked that I actually did.

So today, two days later, I can report that I feel surprisingly ‘fine’.  Zero chafing, one minor blister on my little toe, which I always get on a run longer than a half marathon for some reason, and isn’t that bad anyway. I’m a bit stiff, but by no means crippled, though I’m not planning on running for a while and venturing downstairs is not done with the graceful seamless progress and lightness of foot I might wish.  I just really hope my bannisters are pretty securely fixed.   My main aftermath was the next day feeling really wobbly and faint, in fact I did have an anxious moment on the train ride home when I thought I might pass out. I’m sure that’s to do with getting so dehydrated yesterday.  I had electrolytes and just went to bed when I got in and now I feel tired, rather than wiped out.  Also, just for the record, my womb didn’t fall out, not even once, or not that I noticed anyway, so that’s good.

Accepted wisdom about when to run again after a marathon suggests I’m in the clear for doing nothing for about a week, so that’s my plan.  Bit of walking and I’d like to get to parkrun on Saturday, though if I’m being completely honest, that’s partly so I can accidentally on purpose wear my marathon finishers t-shirt  in a ‘oh this old thing, no idea I’d put that on‘ sort of way.   Of course my parkrunning buddies will see straight through me, but you know what.  I don’t care!  I’ll never have just completed my first marathon again though will I? So that will have to be my moment.  I’d wear the medal too if I thought I’d get away with it… maybe at junior parkrun, I might need it as proof if I’m trying to blag a marathon wristband from the RD!  Besides, ultimately, what is the point of running a marathon, if not to bestow temporary bragging rights at least.  I will feel sheepish in the presence of those who ran in half the time it took me to get round, and mindful in the company of those who either did not start or did not finish, but I’m proud of my achievement all the same. Yes, I had some luck on the day, but I did put the training in too, so I like to think I gave that luck the best chance it could to deliver on the day.

So there you go, I ran a marathon and wrote all about it so you don’t have to. But you know what, I really think you should.

Go on. I’m the most unlikley marathon runner in the world, it might be more achieveable than you think, but you do have to watch out for those curve balls.  Luck plays a part for sure, but it’s true what they say if you put in the miles in training it is apparently not impossible, but the mental challenge is very real.

Ballot opens next week.  Just saying….

For all my London Marathon related posts see here

Flor all my marathon training related posts see here

I bought a photo bundle in advance.  I did get loads of photos, most of which are excruciating, but they are still good to have.  You get a load of gallery images too, which is fun, or not, depending on whether or not you have participated in the event yourself, or just been made to endure it by someone you previously thought to be your loved one, but have now gone off quite a lot because actually, them talking about shoe choices, long run challenges and nutrition angst is really boring unless  you are either planning on running a marathon yourself, or have already done so.  Sorry about that*.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*not really though

Post script:

So now we know there was one fatality at the London marathon 2018.  A young man, it seems so desperately sad.  Matt Campbell collapsed at the 22.6 mile mark, and now there is a movement to finish his missing 3.7 miles as a sort of tribute to him, and to donate to his charity of choice as well.  He was only 29 for pities sake.  You have to respect the marathon distance.  Fatalities are actually pretty rare, though I suppose as the first one was Pheidippides himself, the original marathon runner, the warning is there.  News like this brings you up short (pun unintended).  Why him?  Why anyone? What a waste.  #finishformatt

Matt Campbell finish for matt

Whilst not suggesting the two situations are equivalent, we Smiley Paces people are going to run to finish our fellow Smiley’s marathon as well, by turning out in force at Sheffield parkruns, and likewise donating to the charity she was supporting by getting sponsorship for her run.  These are small gestures, but a way to offer some solidarity to those who DNF.

It seems that whatever your level of prior fitness or preparation, you can’t really take a challenge of this distance for granted.  You need to train, you need to prepare, you need to listen to your body and you need to be lucky too.  Or failing that, at the very least not unlucky on the day.  Events can certainly unfold in  unexpected and unwanted ways, that’s what makes the challenge worth taking on…  His death is truly sad, all those who DNF I’m gutted for them, would it put me off tackling another one, honestly, not really.  I can think of worse ways to go…

 

Categories: marathon, motivation, race, road, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

London Marathon 2018 – the final countdown.

Digested read: Hottest marathon on record?  Kill me now, I’ve moved beyond maranoia now into complete panic.  Trouble is, only one cure, getting to the end of the route on Sunday.  Aaaaargh.

This is getting serious now.

It’s no longer maranoia that we can chuckle about conspiratorially, sort of masochistically relishing the range of symptoms that are common amongst runners facing their first (maybe even any) marathon, that are part of whole marathon experience and help make it real.  What I’m now is experiencing full on panic!  In addition to the standard marathon angst of being fearful that I’ve not trained enough; conjuring up random niggles; and the growing realisation that I have no innate athleticism gifted to me by my genetic inheritance I have added, super sized angst from the addition to the mix of the likely DLR strike over the marathon weekend and a forecast of a sudden heat wave on the Sunday which I’m completely unprepared for.

It looks likely that the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) planned strike action by the RMT union will affect services over a four-day period from 04:00 on Friday 20 April until 03:59 on Tuesday 24 April.   As this line services the ExCel centre where the London Marathon expo is held, and every runner needs to visit, this is going to impact plenty of people.  Even so, regarding the DLR strike, I’m actually (at the moment, could all change when I get there) reasonably philosophical about this.  Workers do have the right to strike, and I’ve been on strike myself, so it would be inconsistent of me to object to others doing the same.  Of course they have more leverage over the London marathon weekend, so who can blame them for upping the ante then.  Funny how it’s always workers who get the blame for going ahead with a disruptive strike rather than employers for not addressing issues that have led to any dispute in a timely fashion.   The DLR strike I can’t do anything about.  It matters, because it will make getting to the Expo centre to register for the marathon a complete pain.  However, in this instance there are tens of thousands of other runners in the same situation.  Logically therefore, there must be some contingency plans in place.   Indeed there is some talk of extra buses and some limited information on alternative routes.  I wasn’t too impressed though with the advice:

We advise runners to register for the race at ExCeL before strike action takes effect where possible. The Expo is open from 11:00-20:00 on Wednesday 18 April and 10:00-20:00 on Thursday 19 April.

Not all that helpful if you don’t live in London and/ or have any kind of occupation or daily responsibilities.  I get their point, but really?  Bottom line, I can’t do anything about this beyond allowing time to find an alternative route and trusting the London public transport system to provide a solution.  I’m glad though, that I’d already planned to go up Friday afternoon, as that does give me some extra lee way.  So I’m conflicted.  I say I’m philosophical about all of this… but actually, worrying about the logistics has left me crapping myself, which is not helpful for maintaining either electrolyte balance or dignity pre the event.

Not to worry, I am distracted from focusing exclusively on the transport challenges, by self-defeating trauma over the weather forecast for next Sunday.  Pretty much all my training has been dogged by ice, snow and blooming freezing conditions.  I’ve been in a constant battle to avoid hypothermia, and only in the last couple of weeks have I been able to run even without a jacket.  Now, it seems likely that on Sunday, the weather forecast is not just in double figures, which I’ve not seen all year, but could even hit 25 degrees (depending on which weather forecast your believe). That’s crazy!  It’s actually dipped down a little just now to a ‘mere’ 21 degrees on the BBC website, but even that is going to feel really, really tough. I’m rubbish in the heat at the best of times, but with zero opportunity to acclimatize, it’s not going to be pretty.

weather forecast

The problem is, that mantra ‘don’t do anything different on marathon day‘ is really, really important, and yet… if it’s really going to be 15 degrees hotter than I’m used to, and with sunshine, maybe I do need to think about electrolytes? Gels and sports drinks might be the ‘obvious’ answer, but I can’t tolerate those and haven’t used them in training.  Obviously I’ve sweated a bit, but I think the highest temperature run I’ve done to date would be significantly under 10 degrees.  Plus, running in the heat will slow me down, so I could well be out there for even longer than anticipated based on my training to date?  What about a hat and sunglasses?  I hate running with a hat, but that could be my best defence against the sun’s rays, similarly sun glasses, I can’t imagine running in them.  Aaaargh.  Whilst it is beyond my control to order the elements to deliver up better meteorological options, at least along the route, there are some precautionary measures I could take, but they all represent changes to kit, nutrition, hydration and pace, all things you really shouldn’t do pre a marathon and definitely not as a hat trick of variables to mess with all at once.  Also, if it was within my power to control the elements and conjure up rain or clouds at will, then it is arguable I ought to harness those powers for the greater good.  Some people, granted maybe non-runners on the whole – might argue that controlling the elements to reverse climate change or relieve drought might be a higher purpose.  Tough call though, faced with the forecast for London.  I like to think I’d do the right thing, but, having to choose between perfect weather for my first and only marathon or reverse climate change and save the world in perpetuity, well, let’s just agree it’s lucky I don’t have to choose!

Not to worry, there is plenty of advice on-line Runners’ World issued an article ‘what hot temperatures do to your running and how to cope‘.  I’m sure it was a well-intentioned article, but it did nothing to reassure me.  The key points seem to be to give yourself a week to ten days to acclimatize, and you will cope best if you weigh about 7 stone (spoiler alert, not applicable to me dear reader) and/or have high surface area to body mass ratio.  Don’t be solidly built basically, bit late to do owt about that either.  It also provided grades of awfulness of conditions, starting with anything about 10 degrees C as impacting negatively on performance, over 20 degrees, might as well lie down and die on the spot is the general gist I think.  I am not feeling confident at all.

820-02248140

This post by Ben Parkes has a few more practical suggestions relating to running London in a heat wave.  There are some showers en route.  Note to self, find a place to stash dove shower lotion to make the most of these on the day.

I’ve done a few things in anticipation to try to help me to cope.  I’m going to put electrolytes in my water bottles that I carry, so if desperate I can use that. I  can’t tolerate gels or sports drinks, so daren’t risk suddenly switching to them. I’m also going to try to identify and carry some sort of salty snack – nuts maybe, as I think that would be OK. I’ve got a sun reflecting cap I bought to wear when I was working in Cambodia.  Honestly, I never really got on with it, plus it’s deeply unflattering, but it is a running cap, and it’s light so could be a practical option.  I’ve also bought sun block, as that’s an easy thing to sort, though of course I have to worry about sweat causing it to run into my eyes and blinding me en route.  Oooh the angst, it’s unbelievable what I can find to stress about.

However, shallow as it is to take comfort in such things, I do console myself with the thought that at least I’m not running in a rhino costume.  Or a the back-end of a camel.  Or giant ostrich costume, or carrying the angel of the north.  All of which just goes to show that a) I don’t know what the green dinosaur/gruffalo thing is and b) there is always someone worse off than yourself.

Geronimo is officially my running buddy, we are in it together, at least as a giraffe she, unlike me, should have some genetic adaptations to cope with the heat.  Also, if I do fall to the pavement, she will cushion my fall.  Also, it may yet be that the salty tears streaking down my face at the pain and horror of the heat might actually help, providing a cooling effect as they evaporate, and allowing me to lick them off my face in order to re-ingest the salt.  Thinking about it, I wonder if that’s an acceptable alternative to carrying electrolytes? Just gathering up the tears of fellow runners in a vial under the pretext of offering them comfort, and using them to replenish my lost salts instead?  I’m feeling more hopeful now.   Perhaps there are some proactive steps I can take after all!  We’ll fly round, just like at the Sheffield half, only for twice as long and with worse race photos at the end of it.  That’s not so bad.  As long as I make it round in time for the bling, that’s doable…

I’m also not feeling well.  Sore throat, which has properly transitioned to shivers and sleepless nights.  The only comfort I take is that I’ve still got a couple of days to go.  Lovely Martin Yelling, who has been doing fortnightly marathon training pep talks has kept saying that this last week wont make too much – indeed any – difference in terms of fitness, so I probably gain more from rest and allowing my body to recover than from forcing myself out to try to ‘keep things ticking over’.  I’ve lost hope that any part of my body will tick over properly ever again anyway.  Right now, as of this moment, I couldn’t spring up to answer the front door, let alone spring round a marathon route.   Even so, I tell myself that once I’m at the start, I’ll have to get to the end to pick up my stuff so might as well just put one foot in front of the other and get on with it.  To be on the safe side I’ve googled ‘running marathon feeling ill’ and basically got loads of people saying they got round and it was horrible but that way no regrets.

Personally, given that I can’t defer again anyway, whatever the weather, however rough I feel, I can not, and will not let this opportunity pass me by.  I am so grateful for this chance, and mindful of other talented runners who either missed out on the ballot, or, arguably worse, got knocked out in training by injury or illness.   It’s hard to say why, ultimately it is only a run, and an inherently pointless activity.  The thing is though I’ve watched this event on the telly for years and years thinking how amazing it would be to run London but with the sub-text ‘but I could never do that.’  Contrary to popular belief, I am not completely delusional, I know I am an unlikely candidate to get round a marathon.  Nevertheless, I’ve trained, I’ll try, and if I can do this, it matters not whether the result is pretty, what matters is that it will be a minor victory for the underdog.  If I can do this, then maybe it shows me and others too, that we can all do more than we think.  We wont know what unless we plunge out of our comfort zone and give it our best shot, you only know your limits when you’ve tested them. There is no getting away from the symbolism of completing a marathon, it’s supposed to be testing, that’s sort of the whole point…. I  suppose  I was just kind of hoping the test would not involve running in heat like an ant trying to flee from the focused rays of a magnifying glass. That seems a little harsh.  But hey, there’d be no point if it was easy would there?  And think of the anecdotes?  All will be well, or not.  But we get to find out really soon now.  Aaargh.

I need to keep it in perspective.  To help me rationalise this, I made a little list to try to see my situation objectively.  You should try it, it really helps, basically, I reckon the only things I really need to stress about are the following:

Angst (all variants); Boiling hot weather; Chafing (everywhere); Dehydration; Electrolytes (take/dont take; Fancy dress fails; General malaise; Hydration (over/under); Injury (pre/ during and post even); Just everything really; Knee niggles – why is it doing that wobbly thing NOW also KIT what to wear; Looking stupid if I don’t make it round (or looking stupid anyway) and/or Leaving Geronimo behind somewhere; Missing my supporters (if any) en route; Niggles; Over emotional (becoming); Precautionary pee opportunities; Queues (for loos/ start/ registration); Running; Sunburn, Strike, Socks choice, Shoe lace tightness and Sore throat; Temperature; Trainers, Timing device and Tomtom malfunctioning, Travel plans; Underwear (see chafing); Virgin London Marathon (being required to run it); Water stations – Where are they? Watch – will battery last; Xcel arena – how to get there; Yes, basically everything – Zikes, not quite what I was looking for in putting things in perspective!

The only real comfort is that this day is coming round ready or not.  It will be what it will be, and being part of the adventure is going to be amazing.  That part, I’m confident about.

I’ve been trying to distract myself by checking out other marathon stories.  Mercifully this has been a feel good week marathon wise – unless you are talking about the Callum Hawkins at the commonwealth