Posts Tagged With: fancy dress

Yomping York parkrun in the company of (nearly) a world record holder. All coming up roses, well one anyway. Result.

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to York parkrun, that’s York, UK not York USA.  Made new besties and wanna be record breaker for three dimensional plant.  I know!  parkrun is indeed the phenomenon that just keeps on giving!

Undigested read:

Careful now, this could be a long one, might at least want to have a pee first, if not actually settle down with a cuppa.  That observation is advisory only though, you need to use your own skill and judgement to carry out your own health and safety risk assessment.  I’m sure you’re up to it.  Just believe in yourself, and all will be well with the world.

So, as every parkrunner knows, parkrun tourism starts with wondering where to head next.  I’m conscious the nights are drawing in, and my enthusiasm for early morning jaunts to far away parkrun destinations may wane as the season ends. Even so, late summer sunshine was forecast, and I’m vaguely working on my alphabet challenge, I mean it is actually impossible on account of there not being an x anywhere in the world – I mean cross flats and Exeter and similar are all well and good, and marvelous as creative solutions go, but they are not the same.  Then there’s the little matter of the Zeds all being in Poland or Russia or wherever which would be fab, but not going to happen any time soon.  There is a Zeds wholefood shop just down the road from me in fact, they are very nice there, but the shop is fairly cluttered, and I don’t know that they’d welcome having a parkrun within, which is a huge shame as that would be very handy, plus I could get my coconut yoghurt and decent bread afterwards. Oh well.  I’ve not got that many letters to go on this particular running challenge, but as I’ve already picked off all the low-hanging fruit so to speak, those I have still to get are increasingly elusive.  I’m holding out for an E and a J coming my way soon if the new parkrun rumour mill is anything to go by,  Queen Elizabeth is going to be an overnighter somewhere, as is the U, so that’s really leaves just the Y not accounted for.  York then, not even that far from Sheffield, I’m not sure quite why I’ve not been there before.  I’ll go there then.

First some research.

Ooh, well, I very much like their York parkrun Facebook page profile image – very classy and always a boon.

super cool york facebook image

Let’s just make sure it’s the correct York. There is a York in Pennsylvania which may or may not be quite delightful, but does not have it’s own parkrun – well not yet anyway.  These details matter, did you hear about the woman who entered the ‘wrong’ Worcester Half Marathon?  It was on the BBC website so it must be true.

Sheila Pereira booked a place at the Worcester City Half Marathon, thinking it was in her hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts.

But the event was 3,200 miles away in the English city of the same name.

Undeterred, Ms Pereira ran 13.1 miles on her own in the US on the same day as the Worcestershire event.

She has been praised by UK organisers, who are sending her a race finisher’s pack including a participation medal and T-shirt

Here she is after her run, all smiles, post run endorphins and  fresh faced, athletic loveliness:

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Why don’t I look like that after a run?  I am more inclined to rock the leaden, lumpy, purple-faced sweaty, ‘dragged through a hedge backwards’ look.  In fact I may well have cornered the market for it.  I’d settle for looking like that before a run to be fair.  Sadly, I think that aspiration is also destined to remain unfulfilled.  Sigh.  Maybe I just need to get myself a nice running visor, and it will transform me?  Probably not though.

That’s lovely – the organisers giving her a medal and all, but I don’t think it would work in quite the same way for a parkrun.  Not sure they’d add you to the results even if you had your barcode and a Strava record.  Mind you, I’ve not tried, and to be honest, if there was even a fleeting chance they might, I’d consider travelling the other side of the world to do that if it also meant I might be able to secure my outstanding parkrun bingo number at the same time. Well you’d have more control over variables would you not?  I’m on 223 runs now, and have had .20 outstanding for months and months now.  The frustration!  Mind you, I read a post somewhere that said 300 is around the norm. Seriously?  Ever wish you’d never embarked on something… although weirdly, one of the things I like about this challenge is that it’s so arbitrary, it’s just a waiting game, there is no advantage in being able to get yourself to some exotic location or other in order to bagsy it.  Level playing field and all that.  I’m not alone with my running challenges bingo despair though it seems.  Just seen a thread somewhere on the same theme.  Mighty parkrunners have been driven mad by less!  This is bad though – no idea where the original post comes from, but I’m sure it’s true:

bingo not

Anyway, you are distracting me with all these questions about running challenges, back to the decision in hand.   I would go to York parkrun in England, I would bagsy my ‘Y’ and probably not my solitary last outstanding bingo number (which is 20 by the way).  It would be fine.

Let’s check out the course info from their official website, erm, the York parkrun website blah de blah describes the course thus:

Course Description

1.5 laps (approximately) of the tarmac service road around the inside of the racecourse. Very flat, with few turns, making it a very fast course. On course map, start at green pin and head anti-clockwise round service road. Complete 1 full lap, then continue on round approximately another 1/2 lap to red Finish pin

and it looks like this: 

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Cool.  What else.  Whoooooooooooooa!  Wait, what cruel trick is this.  ALERT DEAR READER, ALERT!

Facilities
Please note that there are no toilets or changing facilities at York parkrun.

What!?  What about my compulsory pre parkrun precautionary pee?  How is this going to work, particularly after a long drive.  Uh oh?  This critical detail I remembered, is why I haven’t made it to York parkrun before.

I decided there must be something, there is a holiday inn near the start and I’d pass a garage en route.  As the only other alternative is Yeovil in Somerset, which is so far away it might as well be on the moon, I’d have to improvise if necessary.  You are supposed to do something that scares you every day anyway aren’t you?  The thought of no loos pre parkrun does terrify me, but hey ho, I’ll embrace the challenge.  Helps us to grow if we move out of our comfort zone.  Where there’s a will there’s a way as the saying goes.

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I’d do this dear reader, even if I had to wet my knickers to claim my Y!  It’d be OK, but just in case ‘having a will’ wasn’t enough to find a way, then plan b ensured that as I wasn’t using public transport and I’d have a plastic bag to sit on in my car for the journey home if required, I’d got this covered!  I may not have quite the ferocious tenacity of Lisa Nowak, but working towards it eh? 

So that was decision made.  Time to get excited about the prospect of a new destination.  To add to my frenzy of anticipatory excitement, I also was the recipient of a much coveted apricot tee.  It arrived on the Friday afternoon, all personalised with my home run and everything.  I’ve wanted one for ages, but am on a budget so couldn’t really justify it, but then I decided I wanted something special to wear to grace the 15th birthday celebrations at Bushy parkrun in a couple of weeks time.  What could be more perfect.  It feels lovely to wear, though the fabric is erm, flimsy and a bit, shall we say ‘unforgiving’ any  seam of clothing, any wobbly or undulating flesh, any erect – or even positively subdued – nipple will be highlighted once this garment is donned.  Oh well.  It’s a cheery hue, and makes me feel part of the club.  So yay!  When I finally rediscover my running mojo and sculpt my body into newly muscled contours I’ll be glad of the fabric I’m sure.  Shame that by that time the world will be awash with water due to the ice caps melting and so a) no one will care about what I look like in my official parkrun tee, and b) that extra body fat would have been a real boon to enable me to stay afloat.  It just goes to show one should always be most careful about what one wishes for.

That was Friday then, yesterday in fact, and then today’s the day!  A quick check of the York parkrun Facebook page to make sure that no unexploded ordnance would stop play as at Hogmoor Inclosure parkrun for example.  Not only is that a very dramatic cause for cancellation, it does sound like a made up place too, Hogmoor Inclosure parkrun, hmmm.  Now it’s accelerating to the top of my parkrun to do list.  Hippest parkrun in the UK I imagine (work it out).  No ordnance, all good, off I go.

There was bright late summer sun trying to break through as I headed off through the streets of Sheffield.

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Truly a gift of a day, one that rewards you for early rising, I was quite perky as I set off, then as I went through Sheffield centre, I remembered it was also arrival day for students, hmm, coming back would be interesting.  Oh well, I’d worry about that later.  It was a surprisingly straightforward drive to York, though the morning mist took on fog like density at times, I had my fog lights on as well as my headlights.  I stopped off for petrol and pee (I didn’t ingest the petrol, it was for the car) at a service station just on the outskirts of York, and followed the postcode that took me past the Holiday Inn York racecourse, and to Cherry Lane (YO24 1QF) where there is mention of a small carpark near to the start.  It was a battle of nerves the last bit, you go into seemingly a residential area, and I wasn’t following signs to the racecourse either – perhaps if you do, you end up parking on the Knavesmire Road where I think there is more space, and potentially – by negotiation – loos too.

For your information, hold your nerve.  I thought I’d gone wrong when I saw the drive down to Cherry Lane  car park, it was so narrow, it looked like it might just be pedestrian access and lead to a dead end.  I threw caution to the wind and hesitatingly crawled down there – not literally, but figuratively, I mean I drove down extra slowly.  You emerge from the dense tree lined path to the open expanse of York racecourse bathed in bright early morning sunshine. It looked spectacular, and vast.  There was parking, not much but I was early as always, so parked fine.  I was also sufficiently early I went to retrace my steps to take a pic of the entrance to Cherry Lane so you won’t be scared away, and also inspected the Holiday Inn.  It has to be the nearest accommodation to a parkrun start line ever!  I’m surprised it wasn’t heaving with parkrun tourists, maybe it was.  They had loos on the ground floor, but obviously it would not be appropriate for me to encourage anyone to use them without making a purchase.  Yeah, obviously not.

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So there I was.  Parked up and all ready to go.  The sun was coming out, and burning away the mist.  People seemed to be mustering just a few metres away from where I’d parked.  Back lit by the sunshine.

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I couldn’t see any obvious parkrun hi-vis heroes, but there were obvious parkrunners, and a mighty pilgrimage of people moving in a stream from the grandstand area of the race course.  This was going to be a busy one. They really did look like wildebeest on migration, resolutely moving in a seemingly unbroken ribbon across the landscape, only with fewer being picked off by hungry crocodiles en route – well, as far as I could tell anyway.

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Perhaps a few were lost, but not so many as would make all that much difference to the numbers.  parkrun would go on without them, it’s what they would have wanted I’m sure.  I’d want parkrun to continue without me if I fell en route.  There is at least one parkrun where it went ahead despite one of the volunteers being locked in the loo throughout.  I know this, I referenced it in one of my blog posts, can I find it now though?  Rhetorical question, no I can’t.  Let me know if you unearth it somehow.  Did happen though.  These things do, no point in ruining everyone’s parkrunday.    Maybe not being eaten by crocodiles en route, but sort of similar-ish barriers to participation can crop up unbidden.  I think Cairns parkrun routinely warns runners about crocodiles, but that could be a wind up for tourists – you aren’t going to risk ignoring it though are you?  They also have a Holiday Inn on their course route, so York and Cairns parkrun courses are therefore pretty much indistinguishable.  Did you know two Londoner’s a day call 999 because they are locked in a loo.  Strange but (possibly) true.

*EDIT*  good news dear reader, I’ve remembered.  It was Maureen, she got locked in the loo (by accident) at Whangarei parkrun, but was liberated by an international rescue team afterwards, so all’s well that end’s well eh!  Here they are trying to rescue her, takes a lot of parkrunners apparently…

international rescue whangerei parkrun

One run had a lion on their course.  A stuffed one admittedly (poor thing, but at least it’s usually used for educational pointers not stuck on some trophy hunter’s wall), but no-one told the runners that.  Hilarious!  Good on you iMfolzi Trail Run race organisers, what larks eh, what larks?  Not a parkrun though, sadly… bet there were a load of pbs anyway though!

There were a fair few tourists, you could tell, by the large number of us posing next to suitable landmarks for photos.  This was good though, as it meant I quickly identified my new BFFs for the morning, it’s grand to identify parkrun besties early on.  This was a fabulous fivesome from the brilliantly named Sole Mates (see what they’ve done there), they vacated a placard for me to photograph, after first querying if I’d like a shot of them there too.  Which set up a companionable photo fest for the run round later when we found we were at a similar pace.  They were a hoot actually (cheery wave if you are reading) and I always love seeing proper running club buddies enjoying each others company as much as the run out.  They also took a pic of me, looking pleased in my apricot tee and directionally pointing at the sign so you can tell where I am.    You can see others doing the same from the opposite side.  It’s a well photographed landmark it seems.  You know you’ll do the same if you make it there, has to be done… Some things we do at parkrun are almost reflex actions, instinctive.

More milling and chilling…

and then after a bit, someone in a hi-vis appeared and identified themselves as the first timer briefing person.  A little gaggle of us gathered around her for the briefing.

Key points was that there are some loos, but you have to ask to access them and they are over the grandstand side.  The course is one and a half laps basically, and can get congested at the start so stand clear unless you are going for a time.  Also, and I’ve not seen this before at a parkrun, they had some pacers who were specifically run/walk, one three minute run, one minute walk and one alternating walk one minute, run one minute, plus the compulsory tail walker too.  It seemed to be very genuinely welcoming of couch to 5k people, run/walkers everyone really.  The first timers’ briefing was still finishing off when the official RD briefing started, so we jogged down to join in that.  I noticed some high vis wearers had those flexi/ trug buckets  you use for gardening and mucking out stables, that kind of things – well I do anyway.  I think it was to gather together runners’ belongings so they could be carted from the start to the finish area by a willing volunteer, as they are at opposite sides of the racecourse.  I was actually warm enough to leave my fleece in the car, which is pretty much unprecedented, but it was heating up nicely.  Good to know for future reference.

Missed most of the RD briefing, but it seemed brief and to the point.

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and then it was awf!  Quite a fierce start, I just waited and watched until enough runners had piled past I felt safe to enter the back of the throng.  The path is wide, but there were a lot of participants, so it was congested at the front, the advice to hang back unless you were serious about going for a fast time was spot on.

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Quite a stampede!  It was a lovely sight ahead though, the ribbon of colour stretching round the rails of the racecourse and into the sun.

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It is a picturesque course, but as it’s all sort of laid out in front of you from the outset, there isn’t all that much to say about it.  There are landmarks along the way, the grandstand, the starters pens, poor gee gees, and an inordinate amount of seagulls, which was a bit surreal but made complete sense of the York parkrun Facebook profile pic, it really does say everything you need to know about the parkrun.  In fact, you could save yourself the bother of reading on and just have a good old stare at that pic instead, captures it all perfectly.  Then again, you’ve sort of committed now if you’ve got to this point, the running equivalent of being in blood stepped so far – maybe in bog stepped so deep on a trail run would be the nearest equivalent.  You’re here now, shame to bail now when you’ve already invested so much.

I just joined the throng and loped on round.  It’s a tarmac track, with grass to the side, but sufficiently busy that I found myself running on the grass for a fair old way before it thinned out enough for me to slot into the runners on the path again.  After a bit you turn round and are running towards the grandstand. It was quite exciting being at a racecourse, even though I’m not a fan of racing per se, it was just such an unusual and striking venue.  If you had a decent camera you’d get some amazing pics.

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There was a cute dog jogging along

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As I was running round, I suddenly spotted something weird ahead of me on the track.  No not a lion, but was that maybe a leek?  A fancy dress vegetable of some description away on the horizon for sure.   I wanted to put on enough of a sprint to catch that up and check that out.   And oh look, seagulls!  When not flapping about overhead, they line up and watch.  Loads of them, no idea why quite so many or why they are hanging out here, but it’s clearly a desirable location.

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Plus there were my new best friends coming into view.  Well, I was seeking to take some pictures anyway, might as well have my new besties in the frame – if you look carefully, you will see they are even acknowledging me in public with a cheery wave so clearly our friendship is reciprocated!  Good to know.  Is that a leek though?  Hmmm.

After you pass the grandstand area and the starting pens and the York racecourse posh stand entrance you turn the corner past a temporary tented encampment and there is the finish all set up with an abundance of hi-vis heroes in situ to channel everyone in.

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Belatedly, I noticed there seemed to be some permanent km markers on the route.  They appeared to align to parkrun, though as I didn’t spot all of them I can’t be 100% sure, but I can’t imagine what else they’d be… except that somewhat cryptically, I noticed on the York parkrun Facebook page that there seem to be a number of variant courses – as many as four I think, so it does vary, I don’t know on what basis, you’ll have to rock up yourself and find out.

Round again, back to where you started from.  It had thinned out quite a bit by now.  This parkrun is either ‘relaxed’ or anarchic depending on how you feel about parkrun rules.  I was very much at the back of the pack and the route isn’t really marshalled other than at the finish funnel, otherwise there are pacers and cones to stop you deviating from the fairly obvious route round.  However, I noticed leads came off dogs, and short leads were lengthened on others and at least one child on a bicycle.  It wasn’t so much that this caused any issues for me or other participants, but I did inwardly raise an eyebrow.  Particularly as just when we got back to the start area an older gentleman walking his dog was knocked to the ground by a parkrunners dog.  It was quite a tumble and I saw the aftermath rather than what happened.  The runner concerned stopped and was massively apologetic, though the man that had fallen insisted he was OK and it was his dog coming over that had caused the boisterous doggy greetings that had sent him flying.  It seems basically one or other jumped up and he got knocked over as a result.   I stopped too to see if help was needed, but he said he was OK and didn’t need any. It made me feel very uncomfortable running on.  I mean it was indeed just an accident, but falling over as an adult is no fun at all, and he wasn’t exactly  in his first flush of youth,  he’ll be stiff as anything tomorrow if not worse. It made me a bit nervous about other dogs not on leads and the lack of any marshals in sight.  I admit I’m getting increasingly wary of dogs these days, I don’t care if ‘they are just being friendly’ they do damage if they knock you down.  Still, it seemed a good natured mutually apologetic resolution, thankfully.  Could have been very much worse.  But it wasn’t, so back to happy thoughts and flowers and sunny days and sharing the parkrun love. I’d lost sight of the leek though, that was a shame.

All round again…

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and then finally, back to the finish, and the virtual embrace of the timers and the scanners and all that finish funnel jazz.  Thank you marshals.

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I stopped my watch and it looked like I’d finished with a .21 bingo time, a tantalising one second off my single outstanding bingo number.  I’d have to wait for the results, but it was within touching distance.

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, I then saw my leek man up ahead, striding off into the distance clutching his veg (not a euphemism).  Aaargh, I sprinted harder than I had all morning to go find them.  I wanted to see what that was all about and thought they might want my few pics forwarding onto them too.  After all, we all love a running photo, however poorly framed…

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Caught them!

Turns out, it isn’t a leek, it’s quite obviously a white rose.   Silly me, a leek looks like this, entirely different.  I can’t help wondering if it was disadvantaged by being a leek in an onion class, therefore robbed of first place.

jacob leeks mogg

They filled me in on their project which is fund raising for York against cancer as fastest marathon as a three dimensional plant.  And why not?  What could possibly go wrong?  Exactly.  You can chip in here to Steve Gaughan’s just giving page if you are a white rose fan, and get excited about Guiness World Records, and why wouldn’t you.

Of course I took some more pictures:

Totally epic.  You’d have thought things couldn’t get any better, but dear reader they did!  Because along came my new besties and there followed lots of group shot taking in all possible configurations of leek white rose and new best friends and me and anyone else in the vicinity. You can have a lot of fun doing this apparently.  Running in this costume requires a guide and an ability to withstand significant dehydration, it had to be super hot in there, and probably quite stinky over time too, like the wombles costumes, they got ever ranker over the years so the story goes, not sure any of them ever ran a marathon though.  Jimmy Saville used to hide in them to ogle young girls apparently, and he ran marathons, I don’t know if that counts but it creeps me out and puts me off the wombles quite a bit which is sad in a way… Is nothing sacred?

Never mind, back to kittens and flowers, or parkrunners and a collective appreciation of a perfect white rose at least.  It involved a fair few of us, documenting this auspicious occasion.

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Just think, that means I may have been in the presence of a nearly world record holder.  Proud moment, proud day!  Sigh, I’m quite giddy at the very thought.  Meeting them AND a quintet of new besties all at the same parkrun, that’s quite a morning’s haul.  Go me!  Slow and steady naturally, but going all the same!

I know his official photo in the york press article is marginally better than mine by the way, but you have to concede mine has more atmosphere do you not?  (Rhetorical question).  I think capturing my silhouette pirouetting in the foreground was a stroke of compositional genius, and I don’t care who says that proves only that I’m guilty of either delusional thinking or cognitive dissonance.

So we tore apart from one another and waved each other on our respective ways.  Bye bye lovely parkrun people, I hope our paths cross again on the parkrun tourist circuit, I’m sure they will.

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I really hope he walked all the way home in that…

There is supposed to be a coffee van somewhere, but I presume it must have been the opposite side to where I was parked and honestly I couldn’t be bothered to go and look, although a cup of coffee would have been great.  Instead I wandered back to say goodbye and thanks to the volunteers and soak up the venue one last time.

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I did seek out the RD to mention about the dog incident.  I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do or if I was just interfering, but then I figured if I was RD I’d want to know, and it was a bad fall.  Older people do break things and accidental or otherwise best that such incidents are recorded surely.

I left the volunteers packing up in the autumn sunshine. Thank you hi-vis heroes!

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That was that, parkrun done and dusted for another week. Oh, apart from junior parkrun tomorrow of course, but you know what I mean.  Bye bye parkrun, bye bye York racecourse.

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Oh, and my time came in.  Ending in an .18 seconds.  I was pleased in a way it was two seconds out, just one second would have finished me off.  Also, it just shows how you have to surrender to fate with this one, the chances of getting your watch exactly synched with the time keepers and avoiding the hiccups of funnel duckers or whatever are pretty minuscule.  Maybe I should start to change my mindset, and see if I can be the slowest ever to attain that elusive running bingo challenge!  Now there’s a thought.

For now that’s all though, thank you lovely York parkrun people for putting a fab show on the road, and especially thanks for being my new best friends Sole Mates of Matlock, you are epic. Fine parkrun York, coming up roses indeed, or at the very least one fine white Yorkshire rose, I do hope that’s to be a permanent fixture… speaking of which, good luck Yorkshire Rose, I’ll be on tenterhooks awaiting the outcome of your record attempt.  Exciting times!  I say I’ll be on tenterhooks, but actually I believe in you, it will happen, you’ve got this!

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If you want to prolong your parkrun fix, you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.

Same time next week then?  A venue of your choice for parkrunday.

Good oh.

🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Checking out the sea at Clifton parkrun.

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Clifton parkrun, Nottingham.  Sixth of the seven seas.  Result.

Undigested read:

I was contemplating going to Clifton parkrun anyway, it’s not too far away from Sheffield, and will nab me a sixth of my seven needed cs for the much coveted pirates badge.  I hadn’t particularly prioritised coming here, but was given a timely nudge by a recent parkrun blog post on alphabeteering challenges.  They featured Clifton parkrun as their possible ‘c’ to seize (c what I did there?  I know, genius!)  They pointed out:

Clifton parkrun in Nottingham is definitely one for you to ‘C’ – see what we did there? Clifton is a relative newcomer to the parkrun family having launched in January 2018 and involves two laps of the playing fields, followed by one shorter lap.

It’s already proved popular with the local community; in just seven months, almost 1,000 different women, men, girls and boys have had their barcodes scanned at Clifton!

Fair do’s.  I’ll go there then.  Never sure where / whether to put the apostrophe in fair do’s, I mean you can’t write it ‘does’ because that’s the wrong word entirely, whether as a plural of rabbits or referring to third person singular present of ‘do’. Nightmare, hope the grammar police are having a day off…

The other important factor about Clifton parkrun is that it is in Clifton Park Nottingham, not Clifton Park, Rotherham, although it wouldn’t be a disaster to go there by accident as they do in fact have a very nice parkrun there, but it’s Rotherham parkrun, so it wouldn’t be a ‘c’ (disappointing potentially for budding pirates) but would be a potential ‘r’ (cheering for budding pirates currently without an arrrrrrrrrrrrrrr).   Such is the yin and yan of parkrun life.  In fact, Rotherham parkrun may well have been where I got my arrrrrrr, now I come to think of it, although I have a feeling I wasn’t particularly chasing running challenges back then.  Those were simpler times perhaps, though I wouldn’t change a thing…  Or did I get it at Rother Valley parkrun?  Can’t remember and can’t be bothered to check the chronology.  Rotherham parkrun has better coffee and a museum on site though, and fits the Clifton park link best, so let’s go with that for the purposes of the narrative.   Sometimes you shouldn’t let absolute truth get in the way of a good story, or even, as in this case, a fairly mediocre one.  Where’s the harm after all?  There’s also Clifton Park in Bristol, but that doesn’t have a parkrun as far as I can tell so no point at all in a parkrunner to rocking up there for 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, that way disappointment lies.

You may think I’m banging on about all these many and varied Clifton locations at boring length simply stating the obvious, i.e. check out your parkrun destination prior to departure, but confusion can occur dear reader, although the truly dedicated will ride this out.  Did you not hear about the parkrun volunteer, Ian Guest,  who

had intended to help at a run in Clifton Park, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, on Saturday morning.  But on Friday evening he realised he had signed up for the run in Clifton, Nottingham, 37 miles (60km) away.  Despite his error – and thoughts of backing out – he made it to the race after an early morning bike ride to his local train station.

So there you have it, Ian Guest, parkrun hero, though you have to hope not a travel planner adviser by profession.  He got his 15 minutes of fame and immortality in the parkrun annals of history, so not an altogether bad outcome there.  High five to him all the same.  Respect!  #loveparkrun #parkrunhero

I don’t really know how hashtags work to be honest, but that seems fair… 🙂

Ian Guest parkrun hero

So, I’d be going to Clifton parkrun, though not by bike.  Best check out what to expect from the course then, now I know where I’m heading.  Well, the Clifton parkrun, Nottingham, official website course blah de blah describes it thus:

Course Description
The start and finish are located behind the pavilion building and are a short walk from the car park. The course follows the perimeter of two Clifton playing fields and alongside Fairham Brook. The route is run mainly on grass and consists of two full anticlockwise laps of the perimeter and a further short lap of part of the large playing field.

Oh crap, ‘mainly on grass’ I shall have to steal myself for that – but on the plus side, an on site coffee option, not seen one of them in the last few weeks.

and the course looks like this – sort of Marge Simpson in profile if you squint a bit and get the angle right.

 

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Can you see, her hair, her head and maybe her shoulders, it’s not an exact science I admit, but have a go.  It’s partly the blue outline I concede.  Still can’t see?  Have you heard of aphantasia ?  No reason, just asking.

Stalking the Clifton parkrun Facebook page in advance, I can’t help but note there is a distinct lack of Hawaiian shirts (not good), but a lot of shout outs for milestones and interesting links posted (good).  Yep, this will be a grand destination.  There are some fab photos of running across a bridge which seems to be shaded by some glorious trees, that’s good, oh, and quite a lot of what looks suspiciously like a sports field.  Hang on, I need to check average times now.  Please let this be one that welcomes slower participants…  OK, just checked, not going to lie, bit worried about this.  It has quite a teeny turn out, between 50-70 each week, and although of course it will be ‘inclusive’ as all parkruns are, there aren’t enough regular participants to make me confident that there’ll be a cohort of others at my pace.  Gulp.  Oh well, I’m committed now.  What is it they say, feel the fear and do it anyway.  As long as there’s an amusing anecdote in it further down the line and access to a post parkrun coffee it’ll be fine.  At least there’ll be less pressure on parking and a shorter queue at the cafe.  …  Eeek.

The day dawned, and off I went.  No offence to Nottingham, but I’m really over the roundabouts now. There are a crazy amount of them en route, and I don’t find it a very nice drive, the road layouts are to me confusing, and there seem to be endless fly overs and re-routing.  I don’t particularly like driving anyway.  I did notice I went down remembrance road at one point, handy reminder for #dfyb (don’t forget your barcode) although it would have been a bit late for me by that point if I had forgotten.  Don’t worry dear reader, I have loads of them, spares in the car, in various bags, my back pack and I wear the wrist band anyway.  I have yet to experience the catastrophe of forgetting it, but I daresay it wil happen one day.  When it does, I’ll have to pretend to make light of it, after all, you can still participate without it, but inside a little bit of me would die.  Brave face outside, heartbroken within.  I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s true, why else are there all those parkrun themed memes?

Precisely.

Anyway, I was ok in that respect, and following my satnav nicely.  The annoying satnav voice confidently announced I’d reached my destination in due course.  Oh.

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Unfortunately I clearly had not.  I drove on a bit though, and big relief, just a little further on, a humungous parkrun banner adorned Clifton Park.  Phew, I was in the right place.  All good!

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The sign was not only reassuring, because it meant I was in the right place, but it is welcoming too.  It has the strap line walk/ jog/ run.  Inclusive.

The sun was out, the park deserted, I went to explore.

The most immediately striking unexpected thing at this parkrun, was the presence of poultry.  No really.  I arrived, parked up, and then it was a case of ‘oooh, what strange sound is this?’  A rooster, sorry, that’s American isn’t it?  Of course I mean a cockerel.  How cool is that, definitely the calming morning sounds of hens waking up and scratching about.  Further investigation revealed, or at least strongly suggested, the park is adjacent to some allotments, hence hens.  I do like hens.  I think that’s quite a fine USP for a parkrun location.  Not as classy as having a parkrun peacock I suppose, I bet there’s a parkrun somewhere that has one, though admit I don’t know where for sure. There is a parkrun in Australia that has it’s own emu, Fluffy, Nambour parkrun.  On reflection, I think an emu would be better than a peacock.  Don’t get me wrong, peacocks look amazing, but they are scavengers.  I spent some time working overseas, and have never quite got over the shock and repulsion of seeing a group of peacocks – what is the collective noun for them – oooh, found it an ostentation of peacocks (great choice of collective noun)  scavenging and squabbling over the putrefying carcass of a long dead donkey, picking maggots out of it’s liquefying eye sockets.  Couldn’t see them in quite the same light thereafter, even if I do fully appreciate that is a useful ecological function!  Shudder, the very thought makes me heave.  Lets have a lovely picture of fluffy obliging with a parkrun pic pose instead – personally I wouldn’t stand quite that close to him/her, but not my call!  I’d certainly be stopping to take pictures of Fluffy en route though, mind you, I have been known to stop and take photos of almost anything on parkrun routes, if the mood takes me.

A morning cluck of awakening hens, punctuated with a cock crow on arrival was a new and pleasing parkrun experience for me.  Of course, one must always be prepared for the unexpected at parkrun.  Not as unexpected as inadvertently landing on a shark whilst out surfing say – which has happened, but things that aren’t quite the norm based on your previous parkrun experiences.  Having said that, I have seen a volunteer eaten by a shark at Graves junior parkrun so it could happen again elsewhere I suppose…  Mr Blobby was scarier though, and more unexpected another time.  About the shark thing though, I thought the guy was just leading the warm up at juniors, but on reflection, I wonder if he was actually trying to escape.  Maybe with the benefit of hindsight we should have assisted.  Oh well.  Life and learn. You can also be swallowed by hippos apparently. That’s happened too.  Be careful out there.

I love that all parkruns are the same but different, and have twists on familiar themes.  For example, did you know that Bedworth parkrun had a guest artist at their parkrun this week, who did sketches in real time (a bit like a court reporter artist but without the suspicion around criminal intent with respect to those attending) and got a photographer’s credit from Bedworth parkrun for doing so.  Her pictures are epic!  Love these, so wish I could do something like that.

Anyway, I may be going a tad off topic here, back to Clifton parkrun, Nottingham.  As well as the pleasing (and soothing) presence of hens, there was ample free parking, and an old-style municipal pavilion. Actually, not old style, but actually from the olden days of my more extreme youth.  Any number of similarly designed building would have popped up at playing fields back in the day.  I couldn’t decide if this made me nostalgic or induced trauma, hard to tell the difference sometimes.  The building was old but well maintained and excellent facilities.  I can report bicycle parking, loos, and an abundance of instructional signs inside and out.  This covered how to open doors, what not to do – they really don’t like ball games here, even on the tennis courts apparently which seems harsh.  There was also a warning about not over-staying or you’d be locked in the park overnight.  I was hoping very much my parkrun time would be fast enough to avoid that, but you if not, I wouldn’t be able to claim I hadn’t been warned about this eventuality in advance!

There was an excellent flower display with fine container planting in abundance.  This appeared to be a lovingly maintained outdoor and indoor space.    That was good, less good was the sight of this: 

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Yes, yes, I know it looks lovely, but it is also very definitely an expanse of sports field.  I couldn’t really grasp the run route from the course descriptor, but it did sound like you’d be running round more than once.  I suddenly felt really anxious.  There wasn’t anyone about – I was early of course – but the complete absence of anyone else suggested a small cohort of parkrunners and therefore the impossibility of getting lost in a throng.    It’s an interesting one, really huge parkruns can be over-crowded, noisy, over-whelming and a bit shovey at times, but you can be anonymous in a crowd, enjoy a mass buzz of collective enthusiasm and embrace the shared experience.  Smaller ones are often friendlier and more intimate, and generally quieter literally so less overwhelming, but you can’t just disappear into a mass of other runners.  For the first time, seeing the field, and realising ‘no-one will ever know’ I did consider bailing.  I’m not feeling great about my ‘running’ at the moment, and didn’t want to feel under pressure to be faster than I can comfortably manage.  I know this shouldn’t happen at parkrun, but it can, being a tail-walker is an art not all pull off.  The vast majority do, but as with my lamentable experiences of cross country, I’ve had appalling experiences with sweepers on organised runs (though not parkrun) which left me feeling completely crushed and humiliated and which the memories of which have never really gone away.  PE teachers and judgemental others have a lot to answer for in terms of turning plenty of people off exercise in general and running in particular.  The vitriol poured on slower runners at some organised events that should know better – fat-shaming at this year’s London Marathon for starters, is very real and heart breaking really.  That’s another reason to love parkrun, it  seeks to be inclusive for all, but unfortunately, it takes more than a few parkruns – or well over 200 in my case, to erase those negative voices that tell you you have no right to be there.  You aren’t the right shape, the right speed or have the right attitude to take up space at an activity based event.  And to be fair, the actual voices that have expressed directly to me that ‘there shouldn’t be walkers at parkrun’ even if that isn’t the official line.  Gulp, to run or not to run.

aaaargh

Well, I’m here now, it’ll still be a ‘c’ and I’ve always been conscientious if not keen.  And there is always the parkrun code – respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  It’ll be fine, probably, and even if it isn’t fine, there’s already been the calming cluck of hens by way of consolation and there may yet be an amusing anecdote in it afterwards.  Anyhow, type 2 fun is till fun right?  Just kicks in later on.  All good 🙂UK 5k parkrun Code (With Dogs) JPG

So I made my way into the pavilion for my precautionary pee.  I couldn’t initially find the loos, there was an enormous sign directing me to them, but as it was back lit by bright early morning sunshine it was in silhouette so I couldn’t see it.  A nice parkrunner not only pointed the way, but led me to them, that’s good service isn’t it.  I felt better already and was soon relieved in every sense.

There was an area set up for post parkrun tea and coffee, and volunteers were assembling.  Outside the pavilion signs were going up and parkrun paraphernalia coming out in force.  I went to explore.  I tried to get some nice unposed photos of volunteers setting up, but am conscious I make it look like I’ve taken surreptitious photos of dodgy looking characters hanging around behind the back of a hedge somewhere, near the bins.  Spoiler alert, sometimes the camera does lie.

I wandered out in the general direction of what must be the course.  Some signs were already in place, and did little to dispel my sense of confusion, though on the plus side, I was confident it would probably make sense when you were actually under way.  I found the sweet little bridge I’d seen on earlier Facebook pages, and there were some lovely mature trees around it’s true.  The grounds were immaculate, no litter, no dog poo, bright early morning sun illuminated the space, and there was a slight nip in the air and the hint of a smell of autumn, fallen leaves, that kind of thing.

There was also the dinkiest finish funnel I’ve ever seen:

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For the purposes of comparison, take a look at this pic of the finish funnel at Bushy parkrun the same weekend.  Admittedly in use, rather than standing empty in eager anticipation of the parkrunners coming through.  It’s not an entirely fair juxtaposition, but of interest I hope, like I said, parkrunning at a huge parkrun of 1400 plus is a very different proposition to one of just around 70, each have to be experienced I think to get the full parkrun picture:

31 aug 2019 finish funnel

Clifton parkrun, Nottingham, also has it’s own variation on the Nazcan lines by the way, or possibly low-budget crop circles.  Good though, shows initiative, and but a short evolution from here to the Long Man of Wilmington further down the line. Nice.  Be sure to look out for how it’s developed when you go visit as I’m sure you will one day.

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Time was moving on apace, and there still weren’t very many people around.  I went towards the few who were.  Fair play to this parkrun.  Of all the parkruns I’ve been to, and it’s not hundreds, but it is a fair few 40+ this is the most proactively friendly I’ve been to.  People approached me to say hello as I was an unknown face.  It was a little like Sheffield Castle parkrun in that respect, and that is also a smallish community based parkrun.  I suppose the good thing about smaller parkruns is they get to know their regulars, and by extension, can spot newbies and welcome them personally if they wish to do so.  I started to feel better.  Someone explained the course, acknowledging it is flat, but the grass is currently on the long side so it might be that be tougher than usual/ expected.  One of the hi-vis wearers said she’d never actually run the course – because of volunteering always, I said to be fair I wasn’t sure I’d be actually running the course today either.  Someone said I might as well seeing as I was here, and I clarified that I meant I’d be run/walking, but they were all very encouraging and reassuring about that.   No problem.  It was a personalised welcome, and it did feel very friendly, inclusive and non-judgemental.  All these things weighed very much in its favour, though it wasn’t possible to reconfigure the route so it was less reminiscent of school sports days and flashbacks to the cumulative petty humiliations of taking part in those…

The start area was a little bit away from the pavilion, so I headed down to join the gaggle of others. There were a few other tourists, including some from Colwick parkrun, where weirdly, by coincidence, I was only last week – though I suppose it’s not that weird as that’s a Nottingham based parkrun too.  This included a father/son combo, who were writing the run report, plus, I was told, and have no reason to disbelieve it, the youngest ever person to reach the 250 parkrun milestone, impressive.  This parkrun might have but a small turn out, but still could attract parkrun royalty.  This was very fine!

Because they were doing the run report, they also took some photos, I’m in one!  Though it might not be that easy to spot me, I know I’m there though, and that’s the important thing from my perspective, close second to being on Strava to believing a parkrun really happened!  (to the left, behind someone in hi-vis and mid taking a photo myself, though I can’t work out which one).

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It was good to see IKEA bags making an appearance again. They seem to be the go-to receptacle for parkruns who provide storage and/or porterage between start and finish options at many a parkrun.  I’m sure they’d be very pleased.

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There wasn’t a first timers’ briefing as such, but many first timers like me were personally greeted.  There was though a Run Directors briefing which was a breath of fresh air.  It was delivered ‘in the round’ which gave an intimate and inclusive feel to it and was listened to in ….

… you won’t believe this….

a respectful and attentive silence!

I know, a first surely.  There were milestones, welcomes, quick summary of the course basically twice past volunteer ‘mum’ (did he really say mum, I must have misheard that, my mum was at her usual corner at Bushy parkrun) with ‘mum’ on your right, and then once with her to your left. This was a course summary I could retain for the duration of the 5k run.  Result!  It was nice, just felt friendly.

I asked about any overtaking rules, because of me being slow, but it seemed to be common sense.  Hilariously two other first timers (at Clifton, not parkrun per se) seemed to think I’d be overtaking them and said just call out as I pass.  In fact we ended up sort of leap frogging one another en route, and by the end they were my new best friends (I’m waving at you now in case you are looking).  They were much photographed on the way round, but I don’t want to put those pics in just yet, you’ll have to wait with everyone else.

I say complete silence, and that is true, but in the far, far distance, some canicross runners had very excited dogs plunging about with excitement.  From above, it may well have looked like we parkrunners had been corralled by these ferocious hounds.  In fact they were friendly, just exuberant, just as many parkrun participants can be!

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Oh, there isn’t really an overtaking rule, it’s grass, so you should be able to overtake if you want to, just common sense, and that seemed to be true.  I think this could be a fast course for them as like to run fast, though potentially muddy in winter, you’d need to pick the right time of year for short grass and hard ground.

And ‘go!’

Off we went.  A shortish scamper down to the first corner, and you do indeed turn right in the direction a marshal is helpfully pointing you in.

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Granted, she doesn’t appear to be pointing in this actual pic, but she was for the most part, I must have distracted her with my paparazzi impulses.

Round the corner, and you emerge from darkness, onto another playing field, this one with goal posts, and already the field of runners is thinning out, so you can see faster parkrunners on the far side, sprinting in the opposite direction.  The grass wasn’t too long really, it was fine, there was one nice bit where I actually got to kick through some autumn leaves which I’ve not done in ages – well, for about a year to be specific, made me think I must get out and find myself a woodland run sometime soon, I just love that evocative smell of leaf mold as fallen leaves become part of their landscape.  I fully recognise this might sound weird to the uninitiated, but to those of us in the know, it’s a giddy aromatic thrill!  Plus, running through leaves is always fun.  Fact.  Here you can see some early shots of my new best friends in action. They didn’t know they were my new best friends at this point, but we did start to chit chat a bit in between leap frogging one another (not literally, disappointingly) as we shifted our positions in relation to one another.  They were even paced, whereas I kept stopping to take photos and then sprinting (cough) on again.  In my head I was sprinting, to the untrained eye it may have seemed a bit less fast, streamlined, elegant and energy efficient than the word ‘sprint’ might imply.

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After a circuit round this smaller field -smaller than the larger one you have yet to run round – you exit alongside a gorgeous willow and over the little bridge.  Lovely!  A duck to the right and you run on a path in the protective shade of a mature tree line with the big field along side.

So you are running round a field, but not on the field as such, so that’s OK.  You can see faster runners ahead and alongside again, and there is a cheery marshal to point you round and prevent you (in the nicest possible way) from making a premature beeline to the finish funnel, don’t worry though, your time will come.

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Look, there are my new best friends again – we are on waving terms by now I think.  And ahead another cheery and cheering marshal.  I made a point of thanking marshals on the first time past, as I’m never sure I’ll still be smiling on my next time through.  Don’t want to sound like your spitting out a sarcastic ‘thanks‘ through gritted teeth, that can rather kill the moment.

Round the field, and before you know it, you are alongside the finish funnel, seen from the back, where marshals are on hand observing, and obliging parkrunners by posing for photos when required.  I think it comes under the ‘any other duties‘ section of the volunteering agreement, tacitly agreed of course, but agreed nevertheless, an understanding…  Aren’t they lovely?

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Rhetorical question, of course they are!

That’s one lap down then, and then I started to be lapped by the faster runners.  All very polite though, no shoving here.

Round all over again, right at the marshal point, and look there are my besties again, ahead of me this time:

And then once again over the little bridge, and this time I emerged in time to see speedier runners coming towards the end of their parkruns.  Smiley, energetic and feeling and sharing the parkrun love.

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and round we go, past the woman guarding the finish funnel again, but still cheering encouragement, it looked like most people had finished by now.

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Round the field, wave at the marshal at the far end still clapping, and paused to take a shot of the finish funnel in action from the back:

Then round and this time you get to turn left at the marshal you pass three times – she’s clapping in this shot, told you she was encouraging every runner every time.  Ye of little faith.

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And finally back to the finish funnel guard marshal.  I nearly had a bit of a panic attack as it looked like she was going to make the runner ahead of me go round again, that would be an extra lap, if she tried that on me, well, I don’t wish to be unpleasant or unreasonable (I am those things entirely by accident) but we might have had a falling out over that.  Dear reader, crisis averted, no extra laps required, she was just making sure no corners were cut and we went the correct side of the cones, that’s fair enough, rules is rules, happy with that.

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And but a short sprint to the finish, and the warm embrace of time keepers, funnel managers, bar scanners and marshals already returned from their spots.  I paused to get a shot of the runner ahead finishing:

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This was possibly a mistake, as when I got my result I found I was but 6 seconds too slow for my last remaining stopwatch bingo time (I still need a 20), oh what might have been eh?  Still, nowt to be done about that, I suppose it will happen when it happens, perhaps never.  If it’s this hard to get a single number between 1-60, it makes you appreciate the impossibility of ever getting lucky on the national lottery say, so it is educational if frustrating to be so thwarted.  It’s been said before but I’ll say it again, parkrun is always most educational, albeit often in quite unexpected ways!

Through the funnel, token received.  A fellow parkrunner offered to take my pic in their frame.  Yay, that was brilliant.  Spoiled only marginally by the fact the photo didn’t take for some reason. I’ve had this before with people using my camera, I think the off button is too near the picture taking one.  There is also the photo of me and Geronimo with Jessica Ennis that never made it, this no-doubt brilliantly framed photo of me all glowing and gorgeous post run, expertly captured within the Clifton parkrun frame is similarly lost to posterity.  Never mind, I know I was there, and it’s the thought that counts.  It’s a training issue and my fault, should have checked.  My best friends also took advantage of the parkrun location frame whilst another parkrunner did the honours.

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Then there was the lingering, parkfaffery of watching other runners finishing behind me (there weren’t many), cheering the tail walkers in (there were many) and having a quick chat with the RD and other hi-vis heroes.

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And then that was it, parkrun over, course take down commenced

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I followed the mown path back to the pavilion, thanking the tailwalkers when some of them at least came into view.  I’m always very grateful to see tailwalkers, especially when it’s a little pair or gang of them as that suggests they are going to walk round and chat and it’s social and chilled.

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I hesitated in the pavilion, partly to admire the tiled mosaics,

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and partly because coffee was calling, but I didn’t really have time, since for the second Saturday on the trot I needed to be back in time for visitors.  Last Saturday I got stood up, was really hoping it wouldn’t happy again.  I decided I couldn’t risk being late, and scoffed a banana in the car park, noting the cheery parkrun flag that I’d missed seeing earlier – they had their own cylindrical hole in which to shove the parkrun flag, excellent, many other parkruns lack such an innovation and the placing of the parkrun flag has tested the patience and ingenuity of many otherwise calm and clever parkrunners, rarely thwarted in achieving their goals in day to day life.  Yet another reason why running can be a great leveller!

And that was finally that.  Time to be waving goodbye to Clifton pakrun, Nottingham, and heading off back to Sheffield.

Oh, and I wasn’t stood up this week, so ego salvaged, phew.  Even had time for a shower before receiving visitors.  All good.

So in conclusion, despite my considerable apprehension about this parkrun, such that were it not for the rather shallow reason that it begins with a ‘c’ I’d have given it a miss, it was in fact a really nice parkrun.  Very, very friendly and welcoming, nice and chilled and one where you would definitely make friends if it were your local.   Small, but perfectly formed, proof positive, it proof were needed, that sometimes the best things come in small packages!

My only regret is that I didn’t have time to linger for a coffee.  I’m still not entirely sold on running round fields but that’s an issue in my hear and not a fair criticism, for them as like that sort of thing, it is the sort of thing they like. Thank you lovely parkrunners of Clifton parkrun Nottingham, for welcoming me to your fine parkrun and sorting out some late summer sunshine for the occasion too!  I hope our parkrun paths may cross again in the future, until then, happy parkrunning!  🙂

Oh, and the official run report is here if you want to see another tourist perspective.  It’s an excellent report for many reasons, but particularly because it mentions tourists ‘including from Sheffield‘ and that would be me!   Who doesn’t fall for external validation.  I exist.  I was there.  As I said, excellent!

Meanwhile, back at Bushy parkrun, my mum was getting her usual chorus of good morning cheers.  I got something in my eye watching this, but you’ll probably be fine(ish).  My favourite comment on this post by the way, was from the runner who said he much enjoyed shouting out hello as he runs by, but spent several months calling ‘good morning Mary‘ before someone pointed out to him it is actually Elisabeth.  Excellent.   I love a good self-deprecating but completely relatable anecdote.

So that’s it, parkrun day all over for another week, but don’t worry, it’ll come round again before we know it.

In the meantime, you can, should you wish to do so, read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice.  Choose wisely.  🙂

If you’ve not started parkrun yet, you may be nearly 15 years late, but better late than never, find your local event here; register; print out your barcode and rock up there next parkrunday and your Saturdays will never be the same again…

but in a good way!

Just #dfyb

🙂

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

Well, aloha indeed to Colwick parkrun, which guarantees a Hawaiian welcome every time, or your money back!

Digested read: Colwick parkrun today for some tourism.  It was hot stuff.  We were transported to Hawaii.  Bagged the North Pacific too.  A good morning’s parkrun trawling.

Undigested read:

Put your feet up and get yourself a cocktail, it’s going to be a long one 🙂

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I’m still on the parkrun tourism trail for now.  Making the most of the longer summer days to go a bit further afield.  Smiley Selfie Queen suggested Colwick parkrun for this saturday.  It’s within range of Sheffield and also handily starts with a c.  This is quite brilliant for getting one sea/ c nearer to completing the Running Challenges Pirate Challenge and with it the prospect of a virtual badge only I will ever see.  Sigh, what a giddy day that will be for me, when I have sailed each of those seven seas to complement my already secured arrr!, got that eons ago at Rother Valley parkrun.   If I do Colwick parkrun, as long as I don’t forget my barcode, that treasure will be within my reach.  For the parkrunning challenges seeker, the pirates’ chest of gold manifests like this:

Pirates! – Run seven Cs and an R (say it out loud).

You can see the appeal I’m sure.

Result.  Well worth interrupting the in any case unattainable parkrun alphabet challenge for methinks.   Colwick parkrun is it seems the parkrun which just keeps on giving.  As if these twin wins of being in reasonable travelling distance and offering up a much needed ‘c’ were not enough, it had even more joys up its sleeve.  With just a tad bit of Facebook stalking on my part (don’t judge me, that is what Facebook was invented for), I discovered by happy coincidence, the very day we planned to visit was their Hawaiian shirt parkrunday.  This would involve not only the donning of optional(ish) Hawaiian shirts (the clue is in the naming of the event) but also a ‘hotly contested “Tropical Fruit PBs” ‘ contest!  I know, don’t you just love the sound of this parkrun?  Go on, add it to your ‘parkrun to do’ list  right now before you forget. I was definitely up for Hawaiian shirt wearing, and whilst I personally don’t want to introduce any element of competition with others into my own parkrun experience, I can still enjoy watching on in wonder as others find an outlet for their competitive zeal.  There is quite a backstory to this contest it seems, and fyi, because it is important, a Colwick parkrun post in the build up to this saturday’s event informed interested parties of the following context in advance of the 2019 gathering:

2017’s pineapple and fruit basket records (set by Steve Shanks and SuperKev respectively) remain unchallenged, as does Dave Greenwood’s contentious watermelon record from the same year (he dropped it en-route and it broke in half!).

Notable 2018 PBs were achieved in the following categories: physalis (Jessica Shanks), double coconut (Steve Shanks), coconut relay (Ashton mother and son), orange (Adam Akbar), pomegranate (Arry Nathan), tomato (Karen Archer, showing excellent knowledge of what constitutes a fruit. Hopefully it didn’t end up in a fruit salad), and date (Claire O’Neill).

The pineapple category was well represented last year with solo pineapple (Lisa Chan), tinned pineapple (Sam Rickett) and plastic pineapple filled with jelly babies (the hopefully DBS-checked Bernard Jarvis).

Also last year, Marlon Dunkley (double apricot) and Lou Read (single cherry) abided by the rules of the sport which stipulate that you run around with your fruit in your hand rather than in your in your stomach, and refrained from tucking in until over the finish line. This rule was less well respected by Graham Moffat and Martin Phillips which saw them downgraded from the bunched grape to the single grape category due to on-course consumption.

The Wards (father and son) dominated the citrus fruit category, and high participation was also noted in the competitive fields of banana (Rupert Killik, Evans father & son) and passionfruit (Jacqui Measures and Hannah Roberts).

I could hardly contain myself.  parkrun is a run not a race, but who wouldn’t appreciate the inclusion of a tournament with a tropical twist to further heighten the intoxicating excitement of taking part in this iconic event.  That’s the great thing about parkrun, wherever in the world you rock up on parkrunday, as long as you rock up at a parkrun venue at the appropriate time, you are guaranteed a micro-adventure that will set your pulse raising and restore your faith in the world,  Fact. wherever in the world.  If you don’t believe me, check out some of the cool dudes from last year.  This is probably happening at a parkrun near you, and if it isn’t then you yourself can make it so with some minor tweaks to your running kit.  Just do it!  Be the change you want to see in the world.  It can all start with you and your expression of your individual style through parkrun fashion.

Who wouldn’t want to parkrun party with this lot.  It was going to be epic!

And yet there is still more!  I’m not gonna lie, in my quest to sail the seven ‘c’s in order to secure the pre-requisite number of parkruns beginning with the letter c,  to add to one beginning with r and with it the coveted pirates badge, I’ve not previously paid all that much attention to which particular sea each c in seaquence was covered by each respective run.  On this occasion though, game changer.  There was no doubt about it, Colwick parkrun‘s sea has to be the North Pacific (other seas are available) as the c in question was Colwick parkrun, an they are  an Hawaiian themed event, fact.  By which I mean that today was their Hawaiian themed event.  What’s more as I can confidently report back that at 100% of the parkruns I’ve attended at Colwick parkrun everyone who was anyone was sporting a Hawaiian shirt or clutching some tropical fruit, or at the very least wearing a sunny smile, so that puts it firmly on the map as the North Pacific sea c. Look:

This exactitude pleases me. It’s the first time it’s happened.  I don’t know if it achievable at other parkruns, I’ll have to mull that over.  I mean Crosby parkrun is at the seaside I suppose, but lovely as it is, not sure the Irish Sea has entirely the same gravitas as those named in the official seven seas.  No offence meant, just speaking my mind… it had other qualities.  Bare-bottomed statues and sand and all sorts of things.  But, bottom line with respect to my Colwick parkrun expectations was that this was all very exciting!

Out of interest, can you name the seven seas? I found it harder than I thought, which is embarrassing…

Anyway, enough of pub quiz question challenges, back to my pre parkrun research, facilities looked good, there’s parking, loos, yep, that’ll do. Oh hang on, I suppose you want to know about the course.  You usually do.  Well, the course blah de blah on their official Colwick parkrun webpage describes it thus:

The parkrun course at Colwick Country Park is 5km long and is made up of 1 lap of the main lake and 2 laps of the smaller West lake. The route is mainly on informally surfaced paths combined with short road and grass sections. The run starts alongside the Colwick Adventure Centre and the west lake and follows the main path clockwise around the smaller west lake. After approximately two thirds of a lap of the lake runners split off to the left through the woods to then complete a lap of the larger main lake. Following the lakeside path clockwise, runners will reach the main entrance and fishing lodge, proceed along the straight main drive and then continue clockwise on round the south shore of the lake and past the marina. On nearing the Adventure Centre again the route will split left and complete a further whole lap of the small lake before returning to the start.

and it looks like this, which I think is a bit like a chef wearing a hat, just the head and hat bit:

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Yep, bit confused about the course descriptor, but sounding like it’s not too much repetition, and so the stars were aligning nicely, this was going to be a cool parkrun.  Spoiler alert, it wasn’t cool at all, it was actually boiling hot, hot stuff in fact, but all the better for that as you shall find out if you’ll just stop interrupting me and let me crack on with explaining it all to you.

So the day dawned, over in Colwick Country park it was looking like this – I know this, because Colwick parkrun kindly shared a couple of early morning photos later on.  Nice, eh?

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Meanwhile, back in Sheffield, I donned my Hawaiian shirt, and pink feather boa, and pink fascinator and pink leg warmers and pink fingerless gloves, as you do.  Fortunately my neighbours already regard me as eccentric, so I didn’t need to cover myself with a blanket rushing from house to car or anything.  The drive to Nottingham was OK, in a ‘ohmygawd why am I going round and round Nottingham town centre sort of way’.  There was one bit, where I followed the sat nav and honestly thought I’d ended up in a Premier Inn carpark as I trustingly followed city-link signs.  Thank goodness I don’t drive an HGV, I was having a moment of insight into why big lorries get stuck on hills or end up driving over the edge of harbour walls because of blindly falling into line with what the sat nav said.  I didn’t want to end up going viral for a sat nav fail

Amazingly, it did seem to be the right way, and, as a bonus I got a nice roundabout surprise, not quite in the same league as the centaur en route to Isabel Trail parkrun, but some very nice gee gees that from a distance really did look like they’d just strayed onto the roundabout for a bit of an early morning grazing session.

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I’ve always been a bit sniffy about the idea of a calendar featuring favourite roundabouts of the uk, but I’m beginning to think this is au contraire, a gap in the market just screaming out for an entrepreneur to make it so.  No, hang on wait, unbelievably I’m not the first, this is already a thing.  Oh well, good to know that the organisation roundabouts of Britain already exists and has a shop dealing in not just calendars, but key-fobs coasters and probably fridge magnets too.  Catering for all your British roundabout novelty gift needs, that’s Christmas sorted and we are only just at the end of summer.

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Eventually, through late summer mists, I arrived at Colwick park.  Oh wow!  This I did not expect at all.  You dodge down a seemingly urban side street and come upon this lakeside park.  It was very impressive.  I was greeted by the most friendly ambassador ever on car park shed duty.  I’d read on the Colwick Country park website that parking is £2 for the day, and assumed it was an error on the Colwick parkrun page where it said it was just £1.50 but you needed the right change.  Anyway dear reader, it turns out that it is just £1.50 as a parkrun special rate, and the reason you need the right money is because the machine is set up for £2 which is the normal charge.  This was explained to me by the nice man.  He also explained the parkrun route, the park amenities – you can do open water swimming and kayaking and water boarding – no, wait, paddle boarding, which I think is different.  There were geese, and a waterside view, and it was all looking great.  I was given directions where to go to park and generally made to feel most welcome.  I have a feeling I was amongst the first to arrive, so whether or not he was able to keep up that degree of personalised welcome for everyone who followed on after me I just don’t know, but I was impressed.  Thank you nice Colwick park car park man,

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Incidentally, it was only as I pulled away I remembered I was wearing all my Hawaiian themed regalia and he’d barely registered it, let alone remarked on it, neither of us had.  I was increasingly forming the view that the Colwick parkrunners dress in this kind of gear all the time, why wouldn’t they, when it brightens any day.   What other possible explanation could there be for his nonchalance, other than having completely desensitised to the appearance of colourfully and flamboyantly dressed parkrunners week after week.

So I trundled down the road really, really slowly past the lake and taking in the sights along the route.  A veritable mariner at one point, TOILETS – always a joy to behold in advance of any parkrun, and eventually made it to the car park.  There was lots of space, and a few people already gathering.  A few minutes later Smiley Selfie Queen appeared with her companion of choice for the morning.  It was a weird that we’d not all come together from Sheffield, but she and her running buddy are way faster than me, and were in a hurry to get away after the parkrun, so it seemed the least stressful option was to go separately, but cram in our mandatory selfie shots pre-run if possible.

Pre parkrun proper cometh parkfaff.  An important and integral part of any parkrun morning, but particularly so when touristing.  It’s a busy time, that pre-parkrun parkfaffing.  You know what I mean yes?  You aren’t sure?  Well, let’s just say that as surely as parkrun takes place on a saturday, parkfaff takes place immediately prior (and post) to it.  We all needed the loo, so there was the what to do with our water, where was the start, what are you wearing faff to be conducted and negotiated before we went in search of our pre-parkrun precautionary pees.  It was back the way we’d come.  Smart parkrunners would have parked up briefly and nipped in the loos before driving down to the start/finish area car parks.  However, on the plus side, this would mean we would be having our pees nearer in time to parkrun commencement, always an important consideration on such occasions.  Also, the walk down gave us a chance to appreciate our surroundings.  It was promising to be a bright sunshiney day, and there was a mist that gave a glorious and magical ambience to everything.  Also there was a retro playground horse.  Bit of an equine them to the morning it seems.  Well, not to the same extent as an Hawaiian theme, but I daresay you’ll catch my drift…

Toilets were adequate, but no soap in the loos and the flushes gave up pretty quickly, but hey ho, so grateful to see them they were minor inconveniences for the conveniences.

We sauntered back to the start, heartened to see other dressed up and fruit-carrying runners arriving and hi-vis volunteers striding out on course set up duties.  Exciting!

So then we followed the arrows to the start, and a colourful line up greeted us.  A huge climbing tower that reminded me of the rigging of a tall ship towered over us.  Hi-vis heroes resplendent with floral garlands milled and chilled amongst parkrunners in their Hawaiian best, clutching optional tropical fruits.  It was chatty and friendly, and well organised too.  There were boats moored up beside us, the other side of a barrier of rather marvellous bulrushes.  It definitely had a party vibe.  Oh, and it was easy to find the start from the car park, if you didn’t feel comfortable tailgating the other arriving runners, there was always the directional arrow strategically positioned to guide you.

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After roaming about a bit, gawping at the other Hawaiian shirt wearing runners (I wonder if anyone in Hawaii does actually wear shirts like these at all), it was over for the first timers’ briefing.  A few of us formed a cheery gaggle, and were given an effusive welcome – signed, FYI, to this special day.  We were told that if any of us were without suitable attire and wishing to join the fun, they had a heap of lei garlands from which we could freely borrow.  More evidence that they dress themselves up like this every week why else would you have an ikea bag full of lei as part of your mandatory parkrun kit for the core team, along with the defibrillator, hi-vis tabards and inflatable dolphin?  Well quite, I rest my case.  In any event, the point is, if for some inexplicable reason you’d embarrassed yourself by arriving garlandless, or your dog had eaten your lei, they had some stuff put aside for you specially.  A bit like wearing old sports kit in school if you forgot your PE stuff, only much more fun, much more appealing and with less congealed second hand sweat presumably.  I can’t be 100% sure about that as I didn’t make use of this resource, but I’m reasonably confident.  Anyway, sunshine is a natural disinfectant is it not?  It’d be fine.  Way better than missing out.

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The course was explained, along with the visual aid of a map.  Courses never really make sense to me until after I’ve done them.  I just logged the key bit of information ‘keep the lake to your right and you can’t go wrong‘.  Right, just keep the water to my right, that’s easy enough.   Could see the water and the boats from where we were standing.  This was going to be a breeze!  There were a fair few tourists, but a few ‘real’ first timers, so they stayed behind for an extra parkrun tutorial, whilst the rest of us continued with our parkrun milling and chilling.

Then, it was the Run Director’s briefing.  This was signed as well, which was good to see, though I do wish I’d paid more attention to what the sign was for ‘Hawaiian shirt’, bet it was something cool.  The RD took advantage of the slope to position herself and she also had a megaphone as well as some hi-vis heroes waving ‘be quiet’ paddles.

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It was a cheery briefing, and reasonably attentive crowd of parkrunners which made a change.  Inevitably some background babble, but not so much I couldn’t hear what was going on.  Welcomes were given and thanks to the marshals.  There were shout outs for tourists.  Whilst having hailed from Sheffield did get a bit of a cheer, those parkrunners who’d come from Italy won that part of the day.  It seemed a really friendly parkrun, just comfy.  There were shout outs for milestones and birthdays and cake.  Instructions re fruit pbs, and best of all, a presentation to two of their very own parkrun royalty, one Roy, has his own marshal point on the course, and has been absent for a while due to illness,  He and Jacqui were warmly welcomed back with a big cheer and a presentation package, which they received wreathed in smiles as well as lei garlands.  This presentation brought a bit of a lump to my throat because my mum has Elisabeth’s corner at Bushy parkrun, and she was very ill and missed some months, but was similarly welcomed back with a cheer when well enough to do so.  She gets a Bushy parkrun run report mention most weeks which brings me joy.  I never thought she’d have made it back to her spot again, it’s great that she’s still there and part of the action week in week out.

I know how traumatic that time was for us.  I wondered what Roy and Jacqui might have been through, but know how fab it is to be restored to your parkrun family.  Families of choice are the best!  They looked happy to be welcomed home!

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Yep, I’d say the locals are friendly.  It does seem to be that folk generally are friendlier the further north you get.  Pathologically friendly sometimes, if you get lucky.  I’ve never been more grateful for anything than finally settling in Sheffield.  Yes, yes, it is a stereotype, but there is some truth in the one about it being generally friendlier up north, and although it’s perhaps pushing it to call Nottingham ‘north’, even if from a southerner’s perspective it is north of Watford Gap service station which is the generally accepted cut off for the London centric.  Personally, now I’m a Sheffielder, Nottingham is basically ‘in the south’ but I still feel they gave northerners everywhere a run for their money in terms of their friendliness quotient.  This therefore qualifies sufficiently for me to use it  as an excuse for including this video about a northerner terrifying Londoners by saying ‘hello’, because it pleases me.  My blog post, I can do what I like.  I reckon this Northerner may have been misidentified, could easily have been a Colwick parkrunner instead. I can’t be absolutely positive of course, but they do seem to be that sort of proactively friendly type that couldn’t be trusted not to make eye contact on the London tube…

parkfaff continued briefly, and I noticed others bagging parkrun selfies prior to mustering at the start line.

Right, at the start, keep the water on my right, where’s the water again – oh right, there it is with the boats:

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So why is everyone facing the wrong way apart from me?  Why am I surrounded by faster looking runners than normal?  Something just didn’t feel quiet…

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Dear reader, learn from me, at the start point, there is water to the right of you and water to the left.  Basically, water, water everywhere – and not a drop to drink on account of the blue-green algae – but more importantly you can’t see the actual lake at this point, because it’s obscured by a big hill with the adventure centre on top of it.  Astonishingly, rather than being the only one in the right I was completely in the wrong.  Who’d have guessed?  Confused, when the cry went up for awf, I was swept up in a stampede of runners, and in amongst them I ran too, at what was for me a fair old sprint.

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It was all good natured which was just as well.  There was a tarmac path which most stuck too, but as soon as there was a border of grass I moved out of the way and took some photos.  Due to my misunderstanding early on, I was even ahead of Smiley Selfie Queen, so got some shots of her as she sprinted by and left me for dust, not for the first time.

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So off we went, round the little diddy lake for the first circuit, you go along an open bit, through a tree lined bit, and then there is a turn tighter than a right-angle so you get a great view faster runners streaming ahead towards what I now know to be Roy’s split.

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The marshal at the split didn’t look all that much like Roy to be fair, but they were doing their best, and even though only deputising for the main man, the high vis superstar did a great job of directionally pointing, cheering and clapping the parkrunners by.  She had big boots to fill, but was doing great.  And this was just the first lap, she had to completely reposition herself for lap two! Quite a lot of responsibility to take on here, but dear reader, spoiler alert, she totally nailed it.  Bravo!

Obviously, I had to stop to take photos along the way, if I hadn’t I’m sure I’d have pulled a sub 20, but hey ho, priorities.  It was ridiculously hot out there, and the sunlight was so bright, even though it looked gorgeous, it was quite hard to get decent shots as everything was just bleached out.  Still, you’ll get the gist.  Here is a cheering and cheery trio of marshals on a hill for example.

and on we went

resisted the urge for a quick sit-down and a picnic on a handily positioned bench

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paused to check out the bat carvery.  Not that sort of carvery, you aren’t supposed to eat them, just admire the woodcraft:

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onwards, you can definitely see the lake properly on the right now.  Follow the run signs, was that a cormorant?

Try not to heave at the stench coming from the water.  At least I hope it was coming from the water, it was either that, or a not very well concealed corpse being left to rot by the wayside.  Is that a consequence of the blue-green algae I wondered?  You know what, it looked lovely, but personally I wouldn’t want to be taking a dip in that pool of water any time soon.

Then after a bit, you emerge alongside the entrance where I met the friendly car-park attendant earlier.  More marshals, operating in pairs for safety purposes I imagine.  I don’t know if they always do this, or if it was to have a witness on hand in case of any fruit-related disputes in relation to the competition taking place.  I daresay they don’t quite have the budget for Video Assistant Referees (VARs) to cover a course of this length, and this is a practical compromise.  There was no-one else in sight when I reached this point, so I took this to mean I must be in the lead, which the marshals confirmed for me, so that’s official then.  It is of course a run not a race, but each one of us likes to have our little moment don’t we.  Like running on a travelator in empty airports so you get to feel like you can harness superhuman speed.  We’ve all done that!  Haven’t we?  Oh, so it really is just me then?  Got it.  Feel shamed.

Was fun though…

On and on, sweating more than just gently glowing by now, to the next marshal, who could rock a garland as well as an encouraging smile.

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Back to the car park, where there was both a marshal and a photographer lying in wait.  I had to focus on my ‘seen a photographer’ running pose, so didn’t take any photos of them

Then back to the start/finish area, where I realised that it was in fact only the start area.  I’d left my water bottle on the parkrun start post, thinking I could collect it at the finish, and it was there still, in glorious solitude.  It would be fine, I’d get it later.  Two notable points here, one, this is the first parkrun I’ve been to, where there are permanent wooden posts marking the start and each kilometre on route, and secondly, the finish isn’t in the same place as the start, though they aren’t that far away from one another.

Off again, just the little lap to do again now.  Finally, I understood the course descriptor.  It’s a nice course, lots to look at, friendly marshals, and almost qualifies as a single lapper in that the bit you do twice is fairly minimal, it doesn’t feel repetitious at all.  In the time it had taken me to get to this point, other events had kicked into gear.  I could hear a veritable festival going on with tents and flags and a sound system like it was a jousting tournament or something – not an authentic one granted, doubt they’d have had the same sound amplification.  I wondered briefly if all the cheering was coming from the parkun finish funnel, but it was coming from the wrong direction.   I eventually clocked them the far side of the river water.

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Jogging on, and I could hear the splash of multiple oars working in synchronised harmony.  Presumably there was a galley ship in action the other side of the reeds, which were after all extremely tall.  Can’t think of any other logical explanation, then again, I do lack imagination.  It would fit with the tall ship rigging I’d espied earlier, sticking with nautical themes I mean.

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not too many people around as I was looping the second loop.  I did swap a few words with a fellow parkrunner who wryly observed that it was just possible we were rocking more of a club Tropicana than authentic Hawaii look, she had a point.  Not sure where Hawaiian accessories sit in the casual racial stereotyping/ cultural appropriation continuum.  I like to think it’s on the harmless end of the scale, sort of the equivalent of ‘kiss me kwik’ Blackpool tat hats (other depressing seaside holiday venues are available), but maybe that’s just because I’m not sensitive to what I’m doing.  The Hawaiian tourist board certainly projects a more sophisticated seaside paradise image…  Oh well, no offence intended.  Also, Club Tropicana sounds fab!

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Round you go, back to Roy’s split, where Roy’s stand-in had cleverly repositioned herself to shoo you the right way to the finish for your final (optional) sprint.  Some parkrunners were strolling home, already long finished, but they cheered me in as I ran on by.  Well I assume they were parkrunners, not just Colwick locals coincidentally out and about wearing Hawaiian shirts as well.  … though if they were, that would explain the earlier incident of apparent desensitisation to Hawaiian shirt wearing I had witnessed earlier.  Maybe it’s just what the good people of Colwick Country park do.  Like wearing a golfing jumper when playing golf, but way more expressive and fun.  If I ever find out this is an absolute truth, I’m going to start packing and planning my relocation to Colwick with immediate effect.

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And finally, as if by magic, the finish funnel appears.  Just ahead of it another parkrun photographer, on hand to snap you at the very moment of your glorious sprint finish.  The finish funnel was fab, not just inherently, because I’m always peculiarly delighted to see that, but because they’d recreated an actual Hawaiian beach there.  Not the plastic one, because that would be horrid…

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but the one made of the stuff of tourists’ fantasies.  There was an actual dolphin, palm trees, a monkey and cocktail drinking revellers getting the party started whilst waiting for the last of us to finish.  Fab.u.lous.  Also a crocodile, they don’t mention them in the Hawaiian tourist board info, but I feel confident Colwick parkrun know what they’re doing.  The truth will out.

There was also a bell for ringing for just about reason at all, which is always welcome, and a trio of dinosaurs, because everyone knows there are always a minimum of three t-rexs at any one time on any one of the many Hawaiian beaches.

I’m glad they kept them in safe miniaturised custody here, under the supervision of the event team.  Other courses have been known to let their dinosaurs loose on the course, which sounds like a lot of paper work from a health and safety perspective, but I bet encourages people to get a bit of a wiggle on too.

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Desborough Green Space junior parkrun Tail Walkers, I salute you! 🦖 🦖

So time for a bit of post parkrun parkfaffery.

There was quite a party going on with cake and chatter and a lot of laughter too.  This just seemed like a parkrun where everyone was sharing the parkrun love.  Already finished parkrunners cheered in others still coming in.  Fruit accessories were compared and mutually admired.  A table groaned under goodies many and varied.  They know how to get the party started here!

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Aw, I love this parkrun.  I love the Colwick parkrun vibe!  Friends together, channelling the P S-H spirit ‘it’s all about the coffee’ not literally, but as in the meet up for a run is but a prelude to social bonding.

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It was all very heart warming, and very much in the parkrun spirit, though to be honest, I was already warm enough. Did I mention it was scorchio running in the heat, and quite uncomfortable at times.  In fact I was mafted.  Mafted is a new word I learned yesterday, and it means ‘too hot’, as in absolutely boiling hot.  Known in Hull apparently.   See, parkrun is always educational, even just reading about it.  Isn’t your life the richer for knowing that?  Unless you already knew it of course, in which case respect.  Your northern heritage can never be disputed.  I feel about being mafted, the way I do about being nesh, enlightened, now I know what the words convey, and delighted, because isn’t language a wondrous thing?  Still, we weren’t being delighted and full of wonder, we were being burned.  Still, let’s keep things in perspective.  Me being a bit burnt by the sun because I chose to sport a pink fascinator over a sensible running cap is as nothing compared the discomfort we will all feel further down the line now the rainforests are all burning down.  The phrase ‘hell in a hand cart’ springs to mind, but on the plus side, we can enjoy temporary distraction with the fine people of Colwick parkrun, Hawaii.  Try not to think about the fact the plumes of smoke can be seen from space.  You head will implode at the horror of it.  It’s going to take more than me and hopefully everyone else creating a wildlife friendly area in my garden to counteract this, though I hope people will still do what they can, at least it shows we care…

It was welcoming, but I didn’t avail myself of parkrun cakery as places to go people to see.  As I was leaving I had the privilege of meeting Colwick parkrun royalty in person.  They were on their way to join the party.

This is a happy place.  Full of inspirational people.

Other running related inspirational people are available.  Take for example Jennifer Smith.  JFDI as we say at Smiley Paces.  Anyways, she is the heaviest woman to complete a marathon, well, they say she is, I reckon there will be others who have quietly plugged away at it and achieved similar goals but without notify the Guinness Book of Records people, but I’m still going to celebrate her achievement and her tenacity, and yes, I do find such stories inspirational, She picked a multi-lap event taking place over many hours, so she could achieve her marathon distance without being timed out, this is why she has a cheer leader with her at Lap 9 of 12, with a sign to give encouragement, if not altogether practical advice.  I think it was more a question of running than swimming, but you’ll get the idea.  Bravo though, and good on ya!

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On the subject of swimming, (yes we were), maybe that was the point of the sign, and the error was in the choice of venue not the sign composition.  It was a random child, not associated with her brought into the picture, and they’d rocked up  in the wrong place, and were meaning instead to support the other super woman of the week, Sadie Davies, who has just become the first woman, and only the fourth person ever, to swim  from Hartland to Lundy Island.  Hooray for her too!  That’s 15 miles.

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That’s a lot of swimming.  In a forwards direction too!  I mean, I’m brilliant at floating, my body fat comes in handy for some things, but I have more of a natural aptitude for bobbing about where the current takes me, rather than for actually progressing in the direction of my choice. I am in awe of swimmers, particularly those that take on the open water, or take up synchronised swimming.  Genius.

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But a late arrival at the run celebrants ball is this woman.  A big cheer for Karly Tardiff please, she may have a seemingly made up name that makes it seem like she sprung from the imagination of script writers for twin peaks or something, but nevertheless, she’s hardcore.  The co-leader of the Badass Lady Gang run group kicked off her wedges before taking up the chase and running down the thief who’d tried to steal her bike wheel.  High five and great kudos to her please.

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what do you mean I’ve digressed?  Surely you want to hear today’s random ‘strange but true’ feature is this, on the fierce competition to secure No.1 Customer status in a Melbourne coffee shop.  You’re welcome.  And I thought expressing loyalty with tattoos was just a parkrun rather than an espresso thing!  How little I knew…

So, the point I’m trying to make, is that there are little patches of joy in the world, you just have to keep your eyes peeled for them.  One such joyful place was Colwick parkrun earlier on today – I defy anyone to be miserable in the company of such a proliferation of Hawaiian shirts.  No wonder the mood lifted and it was party on!  That (biodegradable) confetti cannon at the end was an absolute blast!  (see what I did, hilarious).  Here are just a few of the bystanders cheering the runners through the finish tunnel at the end.  That confetti cannon was an absolute blast in every sense!

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Yep, that’s right dear reader, if you weren’t there, you missed out.  Sad but true.

And that was that.  All done and dusted, time to go home.  Just a last look at that climbing rig.  Amazing.

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It was pleasing though watching the inflatable dolphin swim by in the car park though as the volunteers too started to disperse and marine animals were presumably returned once again to their natural habitat until next year*

*You don’t seriously  believe that do you?  This ‘it’s only the once a year’ trope they were wheeling out.  There was just too much evidence to the contrary.  The parkrun man who didn’t react (like the mysterious incident of the dog in the nighttime – the dog who didn’t bark remember), the happening to have a shed load of spare garlands, the Colwick parkrunner sporting one in Canada… that’s a lot of evidence. Oh I haven’t told you about that last one yet.  Well, basically, even though they were trying to make out it’s just a once a year thing, it clearly is more of a Colwick parkrun uniform, bit like the Tralee parkrunners on tour who always sport their distinctive fluourescent TpoT beanies.  Tralee parkrunners have their bright orange hats, why shouldn’t Colwick parkrunners have their Hawaiian shirts.  Sometimes it’s good to know you belong.  And if you are dubious dear reader, well, how else can you explain the fact that one of the Colwick parkrunners on holiday in Canada was running at a parkrun over there in Hawaiian shirt and clutching a mango?  You can’t.  Exactly. I rest my case.

I don’t know why they are coy about it. It’s completely splendid, commendable, and to be celebrated.  Don’t be shy Colwick parkrun it’s your parkrun USP.  Somerdale Pavilion parkrun has its curly wurly, Woolacomb Dunes parkrun has its, erm, well dunes – the clue is in the name.

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You at Colwick parkrun however, have an aloha Hawaiian welcome and a tropical vibe that would warm the cockles of the coldest hearts at any time of year.

Cp fruity stuff

Take it from me, if you are going to Colwick parkrun, put on a Hawaiian vest whatever the date, you’ll fit right in!  🙂 They’ll take you for a local, and into their hearts, or your money back.  Actually, you will get a very warm welcome whatever you rock up in, but I guarantee they will love you for ever even more ardently if you are in an Hawaiian shirt, particularly if accessorised with a flower garland and you have thought to bring along a brace of coconuts to carry with too.  Go awn, go awn, you know you want to!

So thank you lovely Colwick parkrun people, you were/ are fabulous. It was a great event and a lovely welcome too.  I’ve stolen taken some photos from your most excellent Colwick parkrun Facebook page and used them in the blog post which I hope you will see as a flattering tribute and reflection of how much I hold you in my esteem rather than crude plagiarism on my part.  Thanks in anticipation 🙂 Any objections though, please let me know!

I can’t conclude though, without giving a special shout out to this man, who the photo suggests, single-handedly correctly folded up the parkrun pop up sign.  This is basically a super power, there are very, very few people out there who have the particular mutation that allows them to perform this task.  It isn’t just a skill, it’s a miracle.  He must be some kind of savant.  Well done.  Superstar indeed!

Cp the real star ofparkrun

I wonder if he got it into its bag as well, or if he is still standing there, arms aloft in triumph still, but smile flagging a tad by now.

You can read the official Colwick parkrun run report for their 422 event here.  Think of it as a way to triangulate my version of events, and therefore legitimate parkrun related research, not unnecessary faffing at all, rather mandatory parkfaff, it is the parkrun way.

Oh wait, wait, come back!  Forgot to tell you the best bit!  When I got home and got my result it also wished me Happy parkrun Anniversary!  Yep, get that, get me, it was my parkrun birthday, that’s so exciting.  I got an Hawaiian themed birthday party courtesy of all my new best friends at Colwick parkrun!  Can’t think of a better way to have spent it. Thank you parkrunners all, for sharing the parkrun love!

happy parkrun anniversary

Happy parkrun anniversary Lucy! 🎈

Congratulations! On 2013-08-24 you took part in your first parkrun and during the past 12 months you have finished 49 parkruns, bringing your grand total to 218 completed – that’s pretty awesome! 🎉

Actually, I’ve done 219, they don’t count Hasenheide parkrun Germany one for some reason, but there’s no way I’m going to forget that adventure – that’s where I first properly encountered the TpoTs and their flourescent beanie hats, once seen, never forgotten!

By the way, if you are feeling bereft of parkrun stories right now, or just need to procrastinate a bit longer before taking the bins out or doing something about tea,  you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice.  Choose wisely.  🙂

Remember:

“The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance, and a small soy flat white.”

That’s all folks.

#loveparkrun

hawaii pineapple

Categories: parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Northallerton parkrun? Who wouldn’t fancy (dress) that!

Digested read: Northallerton parkrun now done and dusted.  It was fancy dress.  Hurrah!

Undigested read:

Not only was it a fancy dress parkrun, there was also a participant going for the fastest continuous line dancing 5k. He did good too if the picture is anything to go by.  Fine grapevine technique being demonstrated right there.   Respect.  Yet another example of how parkrun always bringeth forth unexpected joy.

Np behind you

What with the Morris dancing parkrunners and The Juggling parkrunner too, you never know what the new parkrun day might bring!  I don’t think the linedancing parkrunner has his own Facebook page though, well not yet anyway.

juggling parkrunner royal canal parkrun

Still, I’m running ahead of myself, which doesn’t happen all that often on account of the fact I’m more a slow and steady galumpher than a runner as such, so it almost seems a shame to rein it back in.  Nevertheless, back to basics.  My account of my visit to Northallerton parkrun follows.  Remember dear reader, I’m not concise, so I urge you to exercise caution, time vampire ahead, lots to share.  Continue at your own risk.  Or just scroll through for the photos, I won’t know, won’t care.  That reminds me:

dont know dont care

Genius!

All the decent photos are courtesy of the Northallerton parkrun volunteer photographer team, they were out in force for this event, what with it being their birthday and all.  You could be papped from all angles, ready or not!  Naturally I feel obligated to intersperse their fab shots with my blurry ‘well, it captures the atmosphere/ has comedic value’ ones, so as to make their efforts look even better by comparison. Thank you lovely Northallerton parkrun for taking and sharing on their Facebook page though, appreciated 🙂  Look for the albums for 3rd August 2019 and be amazed.

Now, where was I?

Oh yes, wanting to travel the four corners of the parkrun world.  Well, UK anyhow.  Well, figuratively, if not literally?  What’s that?  What is this ‘four corners’ adventure of which I speak?  Dear Reader, I remind you once again of the running challenges chrome extension, which today brings with it me working towards the compass challenge virtual badge.  Hurrah!

tourism

I’m on a roll with my compass challenge it seems.  By which I mean I accidentally bagged a south when I went to Southwark parkrun over two years ago.  That was definitely before I knew about the running challenges thingamajig, and may even have been before its inception.  I honestly have no idea. then last week went West with Beverley Westwood parkrun and now here I am going for north, that’s two weeks on the trot, nailing my compass points.  Go me!   I was aided and abetted in my execution of this plan by this cool picture courtesy of Richard Gower who did a whole blog post about the compass challenge and put together this map earlier in the year which is an easy way to check out where they all are.  More have since been added, but it’s still a great start.  By which I mean it was for me anyway, and it’s  my post so I’ll generalise if I want to.  Cheers Mr Gower, loving your work!

parkrun+Compass+Club+UK Richard Gower

For me in Sheffield, Northallerton was the obvious choice to bagsy my ‘north’ and get one step nearer to securing that coveted virtual badge.   Mind you, considering I live in the north it’s a fair old way.  Especially if you hate being late and therefore have to leave stupidly early to allow plenty of time for emergencies such as not being able to park, getting lost, being stuck behind a tractor en route etc.  Ok, I’ll check that out.

So, beginning with online research, also known as lmgtfy – let me google that for you -other search engines are available, and probably more ethical if less convenient.  Incidentally, I don’t mind googling stuff for other people, and think the lmgtfy is not so much passive aggressive as actually rude, however, by referencing it here Ii am able to include the cartoon below, which I think offers an insightful and searing commentary on the limitations of regarding google as the font of all knowledge.  We need to be critical thinkers people?Let-me-Google-that-for-you-LMGTFY_o_50693

But you know what, for checking out your parkrun factoids, Google does just fine, so let me share with you that the Northallerton parkrun page course description blah de blah describes the route thus:

The course is three laps which use the playing fields behind Hambleton Leisure Centre and two footbridges over Brompton Beck. Starting and finishing behind the leisure centre, the course is approximately 900m on tarmac footpath, 1300m on gravel track and 2800m on grass. The course is almost flat with only two small banks (one up / one down), and there are a few narrow sections to navigate which are well signed. The area is open to the public during the event, so expect to meet cyclists and dog walkers during your run.

Yep, that’s three laps.   Give me strength!  Also, that’s a lot of grass.  Should I be panicking about the amount of grass?  Will it be sports field grass, the stuff of school sports day humiliations or lovely running through meadows like a timotei ad sort of grass?  I have a gnawing suspicion ’twill be the former not the latter…

and it looks like this:

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Hmm, not massively appealing to be fair.  However, on the plus side ‘There is ample free car parking at the venue – use the civic centre car park – follow the parkrun parking signs. Satnav postcode is DL6 2UU’.  That’s a boon, however, I could in principle go to Northampton parkrun, that is a bit further away, but their course is but two laps and it has not only toilets but also a defibrillator to entice me over.  What to do.

More research, that may help.

GAME CHANGER – further research unearths a post on the Northallerton parkrun Facebook page that 3rd August is a birthday and what’s more FANCY DRESS! Basically, pop up parkrun party. Yay!  Decision made.  Northampton parkrun will have to wait for another time.

fancy dress parkrun

I know some might think my response shallow, but I can embrace that.  After all, if fancy dress is good enough for PS-H himself then it’s good enough for me.  Just look, Bushy parkrun were celebrating their 800th run today, and it looks like he went as a disembodied head.  Impressive, albeit I concede slightly disturbing. Still, you know what they say, ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.’  Fair do’s.  You take it up with him if you must.

Bushy parkrun slightly scary

And he wasn’t the only representative of parkrun royalty in fancy dress either.  My mum was equipped with Cleopatra apparel.  I don’t know if any photographic evidence of this exists, but in my mind’s eye she will have been splendid, accessorising her usual hi-vis with a spectacular asp head-dress – it’s what all the best marshals will be sporting at a parkrun near you soon.  So much better than putting poultry on your head methinks.  Though I refer you once again to the point above ‘everyone in their own way’.

cleopatra-Egypt13-150x211

Oh hang on, *STOP PRESS* we have pictures.  Blooming love Bushy parkrun folk for furnishing me with these.  Thank you Bushy parkrunners, you are the best!

So where was I?  Oh yes, fancy dress.  What’s not to like?  Apart from clowns, obvs.  I really hope there aren’t any clowns.  Surely parkrunners wouldn’t do that?  That would be taking the idea of ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way’ a step too far.  Everyone knows clowns are scary yes?

There’s a reason why ‘killer clowns’ are a thing you know, and you can be fined for public order offences for dressing up as them.  Quite right too.  Some behaviour is just too anti-social to tolerate.

And on the subject of anti-social behaviour, my regular reader will be interested to know that the burglaries down my street are still continuing by the way.  It’s a bit unsettling, the same people came back to the same house 2 weeks on, presumably targeting the property in anticipation of all the goods having now been replaced. That’s not good is it?  However, I did laugh when another neighbour complained about having a parcel delivery stolen from outside her door.  It was a mail order delivery of kefir from guffawing goat company or something.

chucklinggoat-logo

I’m not surprised the goat is chuckling.  That people drink her fermented milk must give her a right laugh!  Payback time for nicking her milk in the first place.  My point is, that  I’d only ever vaguely heard of kefir when I’ve accidentally listened to The Archers, and didn’t think it either really existed at all, or if it did, that anybody actually really consumed it other than as a fictionalised fad, fetishised by hipster social media influencers.  Whoever and whatever they may be.  It was a genuine surprise to me that it’s a real thing, let alone one that is actually to some desirable.  Although clearly I condemn all such anti-social behaviour, having your kefir stolen doesn’t quite put you in the same category as someone who has been the victim of a life-changing assault.  What’s more, the victim in this case might have the last laugh, as she said that unless stored correctly kefir is basically an unstable compound that can explode spectacularly and messily and presumably honkingly at any moment.  Equally, consumption of said kefir can have catastrophic and explosive consequences for the uninitiated.  Maybe karma will get those thieving bastards yet.  Not quite as good as the guy who booby trapped baited parcels with exploding glitter bombs that would erupt if stolen, but it’s a start.  It’s worth forfeiting 9 minutes of your life to watch his YouTube clip of the glitter/ stink bomb device in action.  Well, I think it is, but maybe my life doesn’t count for much, you might be more busy and important and careful of how you squander your time – which would beg the question of what you are doing reading this then, but I daresay you have your reasons…

23089799-boom-in-pop-art

That would be such poetic justice.  Actually, just a thought, but maybe anyone dressed as a clown at parkrun should be offered a complementary cup of kefir at the finish, that might deter them from a second outing in clownish apparel!  Mind you, that could backfire horribly in every sense.  If there’s one thing scarier than a clown, it’s an exploding enraged one.  Thankfully, I’ll be a guest there, it’s up to the core team how they chose to keep order…  frankly, I’m glad it’s not my responsibility to uphold parkrun regulations – there aren’t many, and at junior parkrun the number one rule is quite simply ‘have fun!’ and it ought to be the rule for 5k parkruns too.  I think it’s a given, which is why it isn’t on the posters, also the lack of a specific reference to ‘don’t wear a clown (or gimp) outfit’ is an omission, but I suppose they believe common sense will prevail. That doesn’t always work, case in point, at our Graves junior parkrun the RD once turned up for the  junior parkrun birthday run in the most terrifying werewolf head mask I’ve ever seen!  I shudder at the very memory!  Still, he hasn’t done it again to be fair.  Sometimes you just have to trust in people to do the right thing.  And/or, recognise everyone has a right to make mistakes now and again.  Next time it might be me or indeed you!  Perish the thought, but could just happen!

Think this offering might have won the internet fancy dress for the day though – even if strictly speaking it’s ineligible what with being an actual puppet at Brighton Pride, but you get my point I’m sure!  Have to concede they made a bit more effort than I did, digging my companion animal out the back of the cupboard for the first time since Christmas.  Oops.

this might win fancy dress internet today

Oh didn’t I say?

I decided to take Geronimo with me, turned out though, last time she had an outing was on Christmas day at Concord parkrun, she still had her Santa hat on when I went to ask her about coming along to Northallerton.  About time she had a run really, and I thougth I’d lost my running mojo, blimey she’s not been out even once in 2019.  No worries, it’ll be fine!  Just a question of putting one foot in front of another, times four – or six, if you include me.  I should have remembered that she’s less of a boon when running than you might think, but we’ve had fun together out and about in the past.  It’ll be nice to have a comeback reunion run with my companion animal of choice.  Whatever happens, we’ll always have London…  sigh.

well always have london

Decision made.  Northallerton parkrun it would be.

Not gonna lie.  Northallerton parkrun is a looooooooooooooong way from Sheffield.  At stupid o’clock I did start to contemplate the wisdom of my ways travelling such a long way for parkrun tourism and the chance to bagsy a ‘north’.  Then again, fancy dress.  Sometimes these decisions are finely weighed.

The day dawned, eventually, and it was lovely.  Too lovely in fact.  Whilst the terror of driving to Westwood nearly scared me off the roads entirely, this time the brilliant orb of early morning sun nearly burned the back of my eyes to dust, despite my sunglasses.  This seemed almost bizarre, following the recent nigh on apocalyptic rain, which has literally washed away some parkrun courses (Lyme park parkrun case in point), left others inches deep in water and poor Whaley Bridge junior parkrun in fear of complete annihilation.  Hard to imagine.  There aren’t many things more important that parkrun on a Saturday or junior parkrun on a Sunday, but in a rare moment of perspective, I’d venture cancelled parkruns are the least of their worries in Whaley Bridge.  Hope it ends well, I really do.

So I’m driving along, squinting into the sun, and periodically, great layers of mist create amazing landscapes as I drive past.  The roads were empty, the wind turbines still, and everywhere seemed verdant and bursting with life.  Reet nice out in fact.

Then, as I neared my destination, ‘I say, this mist is really getting awfully thick.’ I was saying to myself.  I often talk to myself.  This is what can happen if you spend too much time alone.  A bit later ‘hang on a goddarn minute! This isn’t mist any more, this is actual fog!’  It was like I was trying to circle in on Brigadoon or something!  Really hoping I’ve picked the right single day in a hundred year cycle to head out to this parkrun…  Mind you, the seem a joyful lot in Brigadoon, if that is where I’m to be heading, I’m sure they’ll have a parkrun there, if they choose to emerge on a Saturday it would be very rude not to, and they look hospitable enough.  I wonder though it that would make it a 9.30 start as it would count as Scotland, and also presumably not qualify as a North.  Oh well, would still be an unexpected adventure I suppose, and I do like them.

Next thing I know, I’m crawling along through dense fog, trying to work out where the road was, periodically checking my rear view mirror, until I noticed it was almost entirely obscured by a police van.  Cue paranoia.  I’m great at that.  That and getting the munchies, ace at both.

So eventually I arrive, crazily early even by my standards.  There is indeed loads of parking.  Squillions of parking places.  So many in fact, I get confused about which would be the best one to park in, decisions, decisions.  The venue is indeed based around a mahoosive leisure centre. I am in desperate need of a loo, please let it be open, please let it be open.  It was!  Hooray.  I’m in. Behind the reception desk is a disabled loo which I spotted first and then bolted towards in desperation, only temporarily blind sided by my inability to get the lights to come on despite frantically waving my hands about.  Spoiler alert, this is because the lights weren’t motion activated, but there is a switch inside the loo by the door, but you can’t see this, because once the door is shut you are basically enclosed in a panic room in the pitch black.  They are called panic rooms because they induce panic by the way, in case you were wondering.  Relieved in every sense, I could start my exploration of the venue.

So easy to find, loos available nice and early, loads of parking.  What’s this?  Slightly disconcerting outline of a body on the ground, presumably left over from some ‘scene of crime’ shenanigans earlier.  Oh well, best not ask.

I went back to my car, and slowly registered that there was a lot of green green grass around.  It did look very much like proper playing fields.  Gulp.  They were immaculately maintained, but definitely grass of school sports day flash backs, only with fewer imperfections.

There were the beginnings of signs of parkrun life.  A gazebo was going up – I later learned this is an actual parkrun gazebo, which is a glorious innovation from the Northallerton event team.  There was some indication of other runners appearing over the horizon, and other hi-vis clad people were out with flags and cones doing the course set up.  ‘Oh god.  Cones, it’s not going to be an obstacle course as well as sprint events at this school sports day is it?‘ Screamed the voice in my head.  Childhood trauma has much to answer for.

I went for a bit of an explore.  The course was a bit confusing, arrows pointing all over the place, but it seemed to go round the perimeter of a couple of fields, and take in a bridge or two and alongside a waterway.

I have never seen so many poo bins in such a small space, including some that were positively vintage. This seemed to be working as there was no sign of any actual dog poo, which was clearly a boon. I liked the mosaics, particularly the one of the person in a red parkrun milestone tee, hand held aloft ready to make contact with a high five was a particularly nice touch!  I retreated back to my car to watch what was going on.

More people gathered.  More alarmingly, a distinct absence of people in fancy dress.  Wait hang on, someone was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, I know another parkrun is having a Hawaiian shirt day, maybe either he or I have mixed the two events up?  Hang on, nope, I’ve checked, it’s Colwick parkrun having a Hawaiian shirt day, and that’s still a couple of weeks off.   Aloha Colwick parkrun people, loving your look there.  Ahead of the fashion curve I’m sure, but will definitely catch on.

aloha colwick parkrun august 2018

No, he might just be wearing it because it looks fabulous.  Curses.  I eyed Geronimo.  I mean, it seemed a shame to have brought her all this way and not brave it, but then again, standing around awkwardly on the periphery of a new parkrun when you are a visitor can be stress inducing at the best of times.

Mercifully, I eventually saw a couple of others who I was more confident were rocking the fancy dress vibe.  Hurrah!  These people could be my new best friends!  They might not know it yet, but I would seek them out and grind them down.  They’d only have to pretend for half an hour or so it would be fine, better than fine, it would be fun.  Here’s the first!

That’s Berta the dragon not Bernie the dinosaur, just as I am with Geronimo the giraffe not Melman.  Many things were not as they first appeared. This is unicorn not a dog for example.  You’re welcome.

Np not a dog a unicorn

We bonded over our clothing choices.  I confided I’d nearly bottled it but was reassured it was good to make the effort as that would give more people the confidence to do likewise next time.  ‘It’ll be like Jurassic park at your next parkrun birthday‘ I cried out enthusiastically, implying all would be emulating her choice of dinosaur-wear – before realising I’d immediately soured things by falling in to the dragon/ dino confusion trap. Put it down to nerves, and anyway, maybe everyone else would come as dinosaurs next time because dinosaurs are super fun for running in/ with/ away from and parkrunners might not want to copy Berta given that she was too excellent and magical a manifestation ever to be equalled again.  It was explained a lot of thought had gone into that outfit of choice earlier on in the day, it was not at all a case of frantically rummaging in the deepest corners of her child’s bedroom cupboard in just in time desperation and clutching at the nearest fluffy onesie that presented itself.  Not at all like that.  Not at all.

This was my other kindred spirit, but we didn’t get properly acquainted til later on.  Still, best things eh?  She was being busy and important in the way that you can only be when in possession of the giddy might that comes with possession of a clipboard.  With the power of being co event director comes mighty responsibility it seems.

Np taking control

There was someone in a bridal running outfit, but maybe that’s just on trend and not actual fancy dress.  I remember an unfortunate fashion trend when people started wearing their underwear as outfits for the evening – underwear as outerwear in fact.  I found it completely bewildering.  I can recall more than one occasion when I wondered if I should mention to my next door neighbour she seemed to have inadvertently forgotten to finish dressing before heading out of an evening.  I wouldn’t want to be guilty of judging what anyone else is wearing, her body, her business, but then again I’d want someone to have a quiet word with me if I was heading out the front door with only my marks and sparks basics protecting my decency – and protecting me from inclement weather –  before I embarked on a big night out.  It’s such a sensitive topic.  I remember back in the eighties being out at an ‘alternative night’ and spending some time agonising over whether or not another attendee had got her skirt caught in her knickers or making a statement to challenge the tyranny of societal expectations in relation to female fashion.  Spoiler alert, she had actually got her skirt caught in her knickers, though we could agree that the fashion industry is indeed tyrannous.  Around the same time as the outerwear/ underwear malarkey, it was also considered elegant to where a faux satin or silk lacy nightdress.  I say considered elegant, but obviously only those with a narrowly defined aesthetic which was also actually pretty narrow.  For mere mortals like myself it was just another tyranny of the fashion industry.   Now if I could have just worn my brushed cotton pyjamas all the time I’d have embraced it!  And if I’d have got away with a onesie, well, I’d totally be in.  In Cambodia, many of the women wear absolutely gorgeous outfits that we in the west would view as pyjamas, I’d love to be able to do that here.  Found this photo at this website by the way, the random observations about Cambodia resonated with me.  Why 31 I wonder?  That is indeed random…

women-pyjamas-cambodia

Anyway, stop distracting me.  Why are you asking me about Cambodia now?  We’ll be here all day if I don’t crack on.  Where was I?  Oh yes, at Northallerton parkrun and now, finally, I was out of the car and so there was an opportunity for some self-conscious milling and chilling.  I, or more accurately Geronimo, was sporting the cow cowl tourist buff – though I do wish she’d looked in a mirror before stepping out, it was partly inside out which didn’t help.  I didn’t see any others, so it was hard to tell tourists from regulars.  It was also a relatively small parkrun, and so it wasn’t all that easy to approach people somehow.  Perhaps not everyone warms to giraffes either?  Still, there were plenty of distractions, including a enormous cheque from Tesco which was quite fun.  Got to like a giant cheque haven’t you? Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real one of those before, only on TV.  I really hope they have to go and pay it in like that. That would make me so happy!*

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After a bit, it was over for the first timers’ briefing.  There were a fair few of us, and, just for pleasing symmetry, the person doing the first timers’ briefing, was also doing that for the first time!  I know, good isn’t it.  I think it might also have been the RD’s debut appearance too, but I’m less sure about that one. Main thing is, it was friendly and welcoming, but I was none the wiser about the route the course took, only really noting it was three laps, and follow everyone else.

Shortly after the we first timers’ had been inducted we were all shooed over to the start area.  I was acutely aware that this had the look of a fast field of runners.  I know it’s a bit of a generalisation, but it just looked like the majority of runners were towards the more serious end of the spectrum.  More people warming up with drills or stretches as opposed to say comparing fancy dress outfits or checking out the cakes.  I was feeling apprehensive.  I mean, I’ve been final finisher a fair few times, but didn’t relish the extreme visibility of being that as one of very few who were sporting fancy dress.  Yes, I know the tail walker is actually last, but I didn’t want to keep the volunteer team hanging around for too long.  Eek.  Oh well, here now, and it wasn’t like I’d be able to slope off inconspicuously either.  I think the rising fear was exacerbated by the awful present reality I’d be having to run round playing fields, two playing fields to be precise, and each three times.  That’s a lot of replaying of childhood trauma.  I would try not to cry.

So hi-vis heroes went to their marshal spots, whilst we parkrunners headed down the surprisingly steep slope to the gathering ground and the runners briefing.

Np dogs life

The cheque was presented, the system with the gazebo and donations for tea and cake explained, volunteers thanked, there was a big cheer for the hen do party – so it was dressing up outfit rather than fashion being sported there.  Good to know.  This briefing had the most politely behaved dogs ever.  Usually at parkrun briefings any canine companions are barking uncontrollably and bouncing about in eager anticipation like the dogs of hell waiting to be unleashed.  Not so here.  Not so much as a polite whimper, and there were dogs, because I met some later.  A shout out for tourists… I thought I’d made a good effort coming from Sheffield, but there was a woman and child present who’d come from Vietnam, so win for them methinks.  I don’t know that they’d only come that morning though.  I’d have loved to have talked to them as I have fond memories of working in Vietnam, but they were super speedy runners and long gone by the time I came through the finish funnel.  So many stories every individual participant holds within them at parkrun, I wonder what theirs was.

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And then, the shout went up and we all went!  This is what it looked like from a distance for the volunteer parkrun photographers:

and this is what it looked like for me in the midst of all that running around:

and this is what we looked like disappearing over the fields from behind.

Np view from the rear.jpg

and what fine parkrun posteriors are on show.  No exceptions.  Because the bottom line is we are all fabulous at parkrun.  Fact.  Mind you, this beehind is pretty fine too, so I suppose I’d have to concede reluctantly, that parkrunners don’t have the monopoly of brilliant backsides.

beehind

So of we went, and the event kicks off with a sprint round one playing field.  I was worried about how the logistics would work with it being a three lapper – that means over-taking is inevitable, and I’m slow and paranoid about getting in faster runners’ way.   The cornering round the perimeter of the fields did mean you get to see the faster runners ahead, or I suppose, by logical extension, if you are a faster runner you can look back and see the slower ones trailing behind you in a colourful train like a stampeding fan base trying to catch up with you.  Except, I don’t think the faster runners have time to look behind them, that would cost precious seconds, the line dancing parkrunner would have seen though, he would have had to look behind a fair bit to get that grapevine technique correctly executed.

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After the first little field, you go up the ‘hump’ which you descended to listen to get to the start, and past the car park and right round the far side of another bigger playing field.  There was a crowd of volunteers and spectators and a proper cheerleader with shiny pompoms and everything, who I truly like to believe is there every week, but I have been wrong before.  Sorry, the photos are a bit rubbish aren’t they, I’m not completely lacking in insight, but then again, they capture a flavour of what it was like, so here they are anyway, recording the event for posterity.  I take comfort from knowing these won’t be the worst photos cluttering up the interweb, not by a long way, not by a very, very long way indeed.

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The route has cones in place to guide you away from rabbit holes and stop you from cutting corners.  As you come to the end of the perimeter of the second field, a jolly marshal pointed you towards the first of the wooden bridges, where clearly the path narrows:

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In fact, the route meant you spread out a fair bit skirting round the playing fields, so by the time you were at the narrower sections it seemed to be OK.  It wasn’t a huge attendance either, and it seemed a good natured run.  I wasn’t aware of any jostling going on.  There is the potential for bottle necks over the two small bridges, but I think regulars must get themselves sorted before they encounter those, and for those chasing a pb, maybe it’s an added incentive to secure your position before you enter the potential no overtaking zones.

Over the bridge, and then there is a narrowish path but room for over taking with a bit of communication and common sense. It’s only a short stretch, but a picturesque one.  You can make out faster runners heading back up – or is it down – the first playing field the other side of the water way.  After a couple of hundred metres, if that, another jolly marshal (is that tautology, I mean all marshals are jolly here to be fair?) waves you over the second bridge.  I think his role was partly directional pointing, partly cheery clapping and partly troll patrol.  He was excellent on all counts, particularly the latter, as I didn’t see a troll all morning, despite 6 bridge crossings.  Good work.

A little bit of a zig and a zag round some hedges – wave at Charlie canix dog as he passes…

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and you come out by a dog poo bin and the mosaic depiction of the high-fiving 50 milestone tee wearing runner.  Hurray.  An actual hi-viz hero was in situ there to wave you round, and this time I could see runners sprinting back in the opposite direction to me, having already embarked on their second lap. Oh look!  My new best friend was among them!

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Round the corner, and a bit further on there was super friendly canine marshal – well, strictly speaking a unicorn, was a huge distraction because it took something of a shine to Geronimo and I, and because I’m quite shallow, that was flattering and necessitated a stop and bit of interaction on each loop.  Oh, and the marshal with the unicorn was also jolly and friendly by the way, but I was rather assuming by now you’d have taken that as a given…

You carry on along the  tarmac path, and continue along a flat section with photographers in situ taking action shots of approaching runners and then shooing you back down the hill to ensure you do the correct number of laps, or cheering you on when  finally you have done all the laps required and are now free to shoot off for your sprint finish three laps done.

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There weren’t a massive amount of marshals out on the course, but those that there were were without exception friendly and encouraging.  I was near the back, and clearly yomping along near to a Northallerton regular.  Every marshal we passed greeted him by name, shouting encouragement.  It felt friendly.

There were almost as many dedicated photographers as marshals out on the course, giving terrific scope for entries to the ‘seen a photographer’ pose contest.  I would say competition for that was fierce, and I won’t presume to pick a winner, but here are a few of my favourites.  Yes you did see the photographer!  We can all tell.  Loving your work.

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So that was lap one down.  Down an alarmingly steep bank for lap two, and off I went again.  This course is definitely overwhelmingly on grass you know, no getting around that – figuratively not literally.  Literally you do have to get around it, three times, or parkrun hasn’t happened.  Tough love I’m afraid, but it is what it is.

Np definitely a field

Still, the hens were having a blast out there I’m sure, inside anyway.  Each to their own.

Np team support.jpg

I found it hard.  I don’t rule out the possibility that I may one day learn to love running on the grass of sports fields, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Then again, there’s hard, and there’s hard.  I do find running round a sports field hard.  So does Geronimo.  But probably it isn’t quite as hard as running from John O’Groats to Land’s End, and a 55 year old woman has just broken the record for that!  Go Sharon Gaytor.  What’s even more mind blowing, is that she plans to go back to work on Monday.  I don’t know what her job is, but I really hope it isn’t open heart surgeon or anything like that, or indeed any job that requires her to stay awake.  Bus driver would be contra-indicated as well methinks, although her clothing should be COИTRA indicated, because apparently she ran a parkrun just before heading out.  Respect.  Not sure it that was immediately before, or if it’s just a rumour, but she is a parkrunner, all the best people of course are – one way or another walk/ run/ lope/ volunteer. We are all heroes.  Hurrah!

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So maybe it is just a question of mind over matter?

Round I went again.

I was a bit stop start, because of wanting to interact with marshals and take photos, and I’m not fast at the best of times so was constantly dropping right to the back, and then putting on a bit of a sprint to get ahead a bit again.  I hope it wasn’t too annoying.  Less of an issue at one lap courses, but for a three lapper I did worry I might be in the way.  It gave opportunities for some interactions though.  My favourite, well one of them anyway, was the pair that I leapfrogged by for the umpteenth time and one of them called out ‘oh hello there – we’ve seen a fair few of your herd about already this morning!’  Which I thought was genius and hilarious. I could see what they did there!

I tried to explain to some of the marshals that I was actually ‘on fire’ for the third lap, it’s just that I have one of those faces that does turning bright red rather better than looking determinedly but attractively ‘on fire’ as a communicative expression.  Not sure if any of them actually bought that, but hope over experience eh?  Anyway, they were all too polite to argue the point with me mid run which is the main thing.

I heard a few quips along the lines of Geronimo giving me a competitive advantage what with four long legs to help me round.  I protested that it wasn’t giving me quite the edge I’d been hoping for, and another participant pointed out she was always going to come in ahead of me by a neck which was a good point well made.  I tried to interact positively, but on at least one occasion I fear what was meant as a witty if dry retort came across as breathlessly indignant rudeness.  If you were a cheery runner who was on the receiving end of this unintentional rejection, please accept my apologies.  Note to self, what you think are clearly witty retorts lose a lot on delivery if you are sweating buckets and can hardly speak.  Maybe next time just go for a ‘thanks’ and weak smile to acknowledge encouragement instead.  Glad we’ve cleared that up

Round again. Round the field, up over the hump, by the car park, wave at cheery marshal, over the bridge, along the path, it had emptied out a lot by now.  Over the other bridge, zig zag, say hello to unicorn dog, wave at photographers, acknowledge lapping runners, exchange pleasantries with own speed parkrunners, check out other runners toing and froing in all directions, spot photographer and marshal at lap point – don’t suppose there’s any chance?  Nope, down the slippery bank again for round  lap three.  There’s a lot of multi-tasking that goes on at a parkrun.  How people get bored running I have no idea.  And then as I headed off past the car park on my final lap, you could see the cheery gathering of people who’d already finished.  Some parkrunners were heading home as I was still heading out.  Still, that happens to me at most parkruns to be fair, so no change there.

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By the final lap, there seemed to be only a few of us left on the course.  However, the marshals where still there, still clapping, cheering, shouting encouragement and directionally pointing with quite as much enthusiasm as they had at the start.  Much appreciated.  Meanwhile, other runners were coming in, all flying feet with their sprint finishes.  Some great action shots captured some of those moments.  Can you guess who got the Timotei award for great hair from these?  Go on, have a wild stab at it, you might just get lucky!  Some of those runners look positively ecstatic approaching the line, not sure if that’s running endorphins kicking in, or relief at it being all over.  Both probably.

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Finishing the final loop was challenging for me, but fortunately, the fun factory for parkrun is always the back, so it was good natured quality if not quantity left out on the course!  The sun had come out in full force, burning away the earlier mist, and I was super hot, but not in a good way!

Np fun factory at the back

It was a relief to see the lap turning point again and realise that this time I could sprint on ahead.  Yay!  A guard of honour lined the finish funnel, and a friendly cheer went up as I finally made it through at the end.  Hallelujah!

Through the finish, and some lovely fellow parkrunners not only offered to take a finish photo of me and Geronimo (we’d clearly totally nailed it, and such an achievement needed immortalising on camera) but also one went to fetch the Northallerton parkrun picture frame AND made sure I was posed correctly so as not to obscure the venue name.  Now that’s a quality service I’ve not experienced before, and was fun and appreciated since as a lone tourist it can be hard to get those sort of shots.  Honestly, I’ve never been so photographed at a parkrun.  This must be what it’s like for my mum at Bushy parkrun every week!  Quite an experience!  Also, that bike wheel makes it look like I’m wearing an enormous bracelet.  This pleases me.

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That was that. All done and dusted.  I waited for the final finishers, and did some more post parkrun pottering.

Got chatting to my other new best friend.  The one I mentioned earlier, with a clipboard?  Do you remember who I mean now.  Anyway, turns out she was part of the core team, so it was good to get some Northallerton parkrun intel.  For example, it was from her I learned that the gazebo was purchased by parkrun to facilitate these monthly coffee and cake ‘sales’ (actually a donation).  Astonishingly, the huge leisure centre has no cafe within, so that’s why the local event team have come up with the gazebo and fundraising refreshments plan, to encourage parkrunners to linger.  There is a cafe people adjourn to on other days, but it’s a walk back into town to get there, and inevitably not everyone will want to do that, or be able to for that matter.  It was good to talk, and I was made to feel welcome.  I also learned that yep, the turnout is generally not huge, and that other runners who are local also recall school sports days of their youth which may well have actually taken place on those very fields, so I wasn’t alone with that association, for others it was a more literal flashback.  Some may have fonder memories of such times, and a lot of current athletic events and running clubs still use the venue regularly.   Interestingly (well, I thought so) although numbers drop back a bit at winter, there are always those who relish the mud quagmire the fields can become as a peculiarly delightful challenge its own right, and those seeking north will also continue to make the trek of course!  Well, I should know about that.  Also, she shared that she had run parkrun on the morning of her actual wedding day, so I thought that was impressive.  I forgot to ask her if that meant she had to run in her wedding dress or whether or not she’d allowed time to change in between times.  I like to think the former, no need to disabuse me of this delusion 🙂

So photos taken and chit chat over, I made my way to the gazebo for coffee.  They’d run out of polystyrene cups, I should have brought my reusable one with me, don’t know why I didn’t think of it.  Anyway, I had a plastic cup instead, which was functional if not ideal.  Then I got chatting with some other parkrunners, one of whom is dedicated canicrosser and the other of whom is a ‘proper’ triathlete.  So that was interesting, finding out about both of those, and being generally amazed at what they had achieved.  Nice to meet you fellow parkrunners, thanks for the touristing tips too!  Good luck at the championships!

And all too soon, that was that.

parkrun people dispersed.  The gazebo was taken down, arrows and cones dematerialised, and Northallerton parkrun disappeared without a trace.  I’m fairly confident it will be back again for business next Saturday rather than you needing to wait a whole other hundred years for a showing, but do keep an eye on the parkrun cancellation page as well as the Northallerton parkrun news page and Northallerton parkrun Facebook page just to be on the safe side.

You’re welcome.

So me and Geronimo, now soon to be homeward bound.

Thank you Northallerton parkrun for the warm welcome, for giving me the opportunity to take Geronimo for a welcome yomp round too.  Thanks especially to the marshals, photographers and event team for pulling it all together, cheering me round and giving up time to take photos, set up, and do all the other smoke and mirrors magic that keeps the parkrun show on the road each week. Thanks too to fellow parkrunners for companionable chatting, words of support and sharing the parkrun joy.  Sorry if I got in your way with my erratic pathfinding – as a first timer it was hard to know which way to move out of the way on the course as it turns around so much!  Special thanks to fellow fancy dress sporters and good luck to the bridal party too.  New adventures await.

Oh, and – can’t believe I nearly forgot!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

happy birthday

So where next for parkrun tourism I wonder?  I’d love a trip to one of the seaside ones, but they aren’t on my agenda as yet, and they are a bit of a performance to get to.  Maybe combined with a weekend away?  I’d have to go off season though, expensive in the summer holidays.  Incidentally, if, like me, you were struggling to find an alphabetical list of parkruns, one way to get this is to look at the parkrun pages for the official course records.  Handy top tip there, can’t remember where I stumbled across that.  Would love to think it was all my own idea, but it definitely wasn’t.  I genuinely don’t know where I’ll be next Saturday, it will be a surprise.  Wherever I end up I’m sure it will be splendid!  Hope you have happy parkrunning adventures too, whether that’s home or away.

where next

By the way,  you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  And you might have places to go, people to see and/or a life to live, so I’ll understand if you leave it for now.  🙂

Whatever adventures are awaiting you, parkrun related or otherwise, step out and embrace them.  Be happy, be brave, be yourself.  They start with a single step, how hard can it be?

every adventure

🙂

*Yes, I do know, but I can dream!

 

 

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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.

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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… :

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?  

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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!

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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

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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!

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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.

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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

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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!

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

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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: