Posts Tagged With: Frickley Country parkrun

Making the Muster at Millhouses parkrun, an anything but run of the mill inaugural!

See what I did there with the heading?  I know, I astonish even myself sometimes.  ‘Run of the Mill/ Millhouses parkrun’, genius.  And anyway, now could a park with both super-sized swans and a very respectably sized heron be in any way at all ‘run of the mill’?  Particularly when it takes place against a backdrop of autumn copper and gold.  Precisely.

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Digested read: I went to Millhouses parkrun, the new kid on the Sheffield parkrun block.  I was not alone.

Undigested read:

And so it starts.  The literal start went off like this:

KW off

But my account starts way before that moment.  Obvs.

A great deal of work went into launching this inaugural of Millhouses parkrun.  Not that I can take any credit for it whatsoever, but just to make the point that there have been rumblings of a new parkrun at Millhouses for quite literally years.  Personally, I wasn’t confident it would ever happen as it’s not the most spacious of parks and it’s already really busy with a cafe, and children’s play area, and boating pond – quite crowded.  But a year or so ago, there was a call out for people to volunteer to give it another go, and lo, it came to pass!  It’s testament to the stubborn resolve tenacity and inability to taken ‘no’ for an answer persuasive skills of those Millhouses parkrun pathfinders that today ever happened.  I salute them, and applaud their endeavour, as did everyone else who was there today.  It was quite a feel good occasion.  A lot of work went on behind the scenes.  There were trial runs a while back, and then a practice run last weekend (timed etc but not ‘officially’ recorded as such).

I agonised over whether or not to attend the inaugural.  There had been a request for a low-profile launch, and there is a constantly churning debate about whether or not it’s OK to go to inaugural parkrun events.  At one point it was encouraged, but then the fear was new teams might be overwhelmed by huge turnouts before they’d perfected their systems, so the message was put out to stay away.  In fact I’ve come to think it’s more nuanced.  Don’t go chasing them, but follow the steer of the core teams, and if it’s your new local, and you’ll be a regular, that’s a bit different from uber road trips just so you can say you were there.  Even then there are exceptions, I’m going to stick my neck right out and suggest that when Cape Pembroke Lighthouse parkrun launches next week (26 Oct 2019 in case you are late to the party), it’s not going to be inundated with anything very much other than penguins at its debut event, but then again, that is the Falkland Islands.   Do they even have penguins, or is it just sheep.  Hang on.

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OK, yep, penguins, also seagulls.  Not sure about unexploded ordnance, but they do have a weekly publication called ‘The Penguin News‘ which makes me want to go there even more.   Millhouses parkrun did not have penguins.  But did have herons and swans.  So a reasonable alternative offer I’d say.  Also, no unexploded ordnance at all, as far as I was aware anyway.

The point is, Millhouses parkrun is walkable for me.  I will always keep a special place in my heart for my current home run of Sheffield Hallam, I mean, it’s where I first discovered parkrun and made so many of my parkrun friends, not to mention the fact I’ve only just had an apricot tee printed with its name emblazoned across my left boob.  However,  it has got sooooooo crowded, and I have felt knocked back when I’ve tried to get more involved with it,  so I am on the lookout for a new parkrun to be my second home I suppose.  I’m not ready to absolutely defect, but I’d like to dance between the two when tourism is no longer practical with dark and icy mornings being contra-indicated for long drives in the winter months.  Generally speaking I’m not sure about second homes, but I think having a parkrun second home is more acceptable somehow.  Like those who are parents tell me with respect to having more than one child.  You don’t have a finite amount of love to split between them, rather your capacity for love increases as extra offspring appear.  Obviously the parent I’m referring to told me this on a good day.  Anyway, I like to think it will be the same with parkrun homes.  You just find your affection for parkrun grows exponentially with every new parkrun you discover.  That’s been how it’s worked with the tourism.  And if Millhouses parkrun is to be my new base, then it would be a real shame not to be in at the start.  Only the other week I met a runner at Bushy parkrun who had the chance to be at the inaugural parkrun EVER, i.e. at Bushy parkrun’s first dash, but opted for a lie-in instead.  You can’t change history, seize the day, don’t live a life half-lived and risk being forever consumed by bitter regret.  What might have been eh?  What might have been …

Anyway, the inaugural was also the worst kept secret ever in Sheffield.  I’d known about it for weeks, and it seemed a bit self-defeating to piously martyr myself by staying away because we weren’t supposed to know about it when the entire Sheffield running community seemed to have shared it’s intention to be there and asked all their friends to come join the party.  The local pub announced on its Facebook page a 25% discount of post parkrun breakfasts with effect from 19th October 2019.  The Millhouses park cafe and kiosk similarly gave a Facebook heads up about the coming event.  See a pattern emerging here at all?  Add to this the stream of strava posts of 5k routes round Millhouses park titled ‘definitely not a trial parkrun’ and similar which I also took to be something of a clue. I’m no Jessica Fletcher, but even so, it was all looking pretty conclusive to me.  I mean, obviously, I do have finely tuned parkrun antenna I suppose, but you really just needed to be a sentient being in Sheffield to know this was going to be happening.  Bottom line, I’d go.   I mean the date of this inaugural parkrun is about as mysterious as the date of Christmas Day in the UK (25th December, in case you were thinking it was a trick question, it so isn’t).  What’s the worst…

They’d hardly send me away again would they?  Would they?  Oh gawd, that would be mortifying!  No, surely not… I mean how would they decide?  Ask for recent utilities bills as proof of address?  It’s hard enough filling core volunteer roles sometimes, they surely aren’t going to want to recruit a whole load of extra hi-vis heroes to operate as bouncers, carrying out routine ID and place of abode checks are they?  It’s going to be like school catchment areas if parkrun continues to be as popular as it is.  People pretending to be walking distance on the basis they are long distance/ ultra walking champions, or have temporarily lodged and an airbnb adjacent to the start.  Aaaargh, the angst is coming.

No, of course not.

They wouldn’t.

Oh the angst, properly here now…

Still, in other news, I am a little bit in love with Beverley Westwood parkrun, they just seem to have nailed building a community alongside building their new(ish) now, parkrun.  They have regular social meet ups, and also cows, which is impressive – and next week they are having a halloween themed parkrun

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– always a boon.  And today, this:
BW looking fabulous

Isn’t that great?  Because parkrunners are lovely, and yes, we do look fabulous in our apricot tees, or whatever we rock up in.  It’s going to be great, wherever we rock up.

All in all, it was going to be quite exciting.  Lots of exciting parkrun related things are happening of late.  Halloween themed parkruns, and duvet pyjama and teddy parkruns happening next week

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Then of course there’s the Leeds Building Society Golden Baton relay which is quite exciting too – all kicked off at Woodhouse Moor parkrun and the batons are now busily circumnavigating the world basically I think – one to Frickley Country parkrun, one to Marina parkrun Australia.  Fair do’s.

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but surely nothing, nothing at all, is as exciting as having a new parkrun set up just for you, walking distance from your home.  I may burst!

So the new day dawns, and dear reader, it was gorgeous!  A gift of an autumnal day, thin winter sunshine peeking through red and gold-leaved trees.  Not actual gold leaf unfortunately, but nature’s equivalent, which is pretty glorious all the same.  Look:

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There are actual bronze oak leaves at Longshaw at the moment though, if you want to see metal in the landscape.

Sarah Cook bronze oak leaves

I left early, partly excitement, and partly to be sure I was there in good time, and partly because it’s ages since I’ve been to Millhouses park and couldn’t quite remember how long it would take to walk there.

The walk was fine, it’s only about 1 1/2- 2 miles, and took me past the extraordinarily exotic Abbeydale Road Tesco superstore, which was the first supermarket I discovered when I first relocated to Sheffield over ten years ago now.  OMG, that’s my life on fast forward racing by.  Kind of thought I’d be further forward with my life goals by now, maybe even be a grown up, but such things are more elusive than I knew.

You can take a shortcut if you dive down past the Tesco store itself, I never knew there was a path down there.  There’s a sort of suicidally slippery board walk you can take on at your own risk – and I was so naively confident donning road shoes before I headed out.

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There are loos at the park, but I nipped in to use the Tesco ones just in case the others weren’t open (they were).  Another parkrunner was doing likewise.  You could park here I reckon, it’s only a 10 minute walk or so to the start from here, but there’s also parking in Millhouses park, though you need to pay a modest fee for that (50p for first hour which starts at 9.30 from memory)  I don’t mind paying for parking when I’m touristing, it’s fair enough I think if you are using extra facilities to support them.  Today, foot power.  Yay.

So I made it along the boardwalk without either face or arse-planting, so that was a win, and then crossed the road into Millhouses park.  Not sure why you’d want to take the alternative route when you have already arrived, but hey ho …

Exciting.  I haven’t been in Millhouses park for…. actually for years.  I mean I drive past it fairly frequently, and pass it from the track above it when doing the Round Sheffield Walk, but actually go in it, can hardly remember.  Probably, festive shenanigans in the car-park for one Smiley games session involving fairy lights and crying with laughter ’til you wet yourself, but that would have been in pitch darkness.

I must say, I was massively impressed at how the space has been transformed since I last saw it in daylight.  It has always been a nice space, but wow, a lot of effort has gone into significant improvements, not just maintenance, but now there are fish runs.  Not for fish to run up, that would be silly, but to swim and jump up I suppose.  Yes they can jump, just not ride bikes.  Though don’t judge, they have other talents.  Awesome ones, like being able to breathe underwater and some can practically fly!  Those are super powers!

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Also, there were wildflower areas and even a skate boarding area and a sort of mini scooter track I think.  I’m not sure, might have just been incorrectly sited speed bumps, or a hiccup in laying some flat tarmac, I’d put nothing past Amey.  Little wildflower areas and bursts of full flower colour in ornamental borders.  An expanse of autumnal colour on the wooded hills to the side of the park, and silver leaved willows next to the stream (river sheaf more accurately I think) flowing under a gorgeous stone bridge.  Lovely!  Millhouses Park‘s makeover was to me a revelation.  It’s probably been like that for ages.

There was an actual heron.  Poised to fish – depressingly there were a couple of plastic bottles in the water alongside.  They were on the far bank and too distant for me to reach even if I hadn’t minded about disturbing the heron.

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For your information, education and merriment, I’m now going to include another photo of a heron in flight.  It hardly seems necessary to point out that I didn’t take this photo, but just to be on the safe side it’s another from the official parkrun photographer.  Great isn’t it.  I also like duck photos by the way, but they weren’t snapped this week (by a camera shutter, not by a predator) so look out for them making blog post appearances another time.  The heron is amazing though isn’t almost unreal…

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Excitingly, other parkrunners were appearing, and there were parkrun related signs and cones and other parkrun paraphernalia, most exciting,

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It was weird to be sort of touristing so close to home.  One of the things I really appreciate about going to different parkruns is that it takes you to destinations you might not otherwise visit,  Almost embarrassing to find a park not 2 miles from my front door falls into the category apparently.  Ah well, I’m here now.

And then it became a sort of I-spy of Sheffield parkrunners.  Familiar faces bobbing above parkrun tees.  Hi-vis marshals starting to make their way out to their spots.  I clearly got very distracted saying hello to anyone and everyone en route.  Some from Graves junior parkrun, some from Staveley junior parkrun (hello) – they’d come to Graves junior to see how it ran before setting up their own parkrun.  People from all the various Sheffield parkruns.  It was like a Sheffield running festival, not had such a good atmosphere at a run gathering since everyone assembled for the last Round Sheffield Run (which for future reference remains the outstanding Sheffield Running event of the year imho at least).  It takes longer than you think to say hello to everyone.  Particularly when mutual photo taking is also mandatory.  One passing parkrunner on a bike aided us by taking a group shot, so that was public spirited.  Thank you passing parkrunner.

Plus I wanted to check out the facilities for future reference.  There are loos, so that’s a tick,  – though, unlike the Tardis, these are smaller on the inside than on the outside.  Your hopes are raised by the exterior appearance of the building, but actually puzzlingly, there was only one cubicle within the space.  Also it has one of those automated, soap, wash, dry sinks.  They seem like a good idea, but it takes aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaages for each individual to wash their hands, and even if you bail on the drying stage in favour of waving the worst of the water off and wiping the rest half-heartedly on your leggins, the next person in line still has to wait for the cycle to finish.  It may indeed have seemed like a good idea at the time, but experience tells us otherwise. Still, not knocking it, all facilities are good facilities, and they were not only available, but stocked with loo-paper and clean.  A coffee kiosk was also open early, offering parkrun specials.  Variant spellings covering all possible configurations on the blackboard signage promoted the offers, but I think started possibly it started as Park Run – the horror – and got corrected to parkrun at some point during the morning.  I’m not sure how long that will continue – the opening of the kiosk not the spelling – as they weren’t getting much business pre-run despite offering parkrun specials, but there’s also a cafe, and a nearby pub (Wagon and Horses) offering a 25% discount for post-parkrun sustenance.  This is a well catered event with great facilities for parkrunners and their supporters alike.

Enough of the facilities, no time to linger, time to be heading towards the start.  I like this bit, the coming together of colourful tee-shirted people, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and enthusiastic about their morning to come, all congregating together.  I espied more people I recognised moving through the park.  Hello Monday Mobsters, always a treat!  You can’t see me yet, but I’ve seen you!

and then I was at the start area.  How exciting.  You could tell it was the start, because they have one of those start signs that are basically a recruitment tool for mensa or MI5 or MFI – I forget which, but basically any organisation targeting only the most elite of applicants, i.e. those who are able to compress the sign back into its bag at the end of the run.

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I love these signs, they not only handily locate the start, but satisfy the craving that some of us have for location identifying photo opportunities.    Yes of course I joined it, posing with some escapees from Sheffield Hallam parkrun.  Lovely as it was to see them, the are among the most stalwart of the volunteers there, I couldn’t help worrying if Sheffield Hallam parkrun might, as a consequence of their absence, disappear into a vortex of confusion without them there to keep order.  How it would happen without them is beyond my comprehension. Still parkrun will find a way, it usually does.

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More familiar faces!  Including a friend who’d brought along another friend for her absolutely first time ever parkrun.   A true first timer.  Not like many of the rest of us first timing because that was the only available option at a new parkrun.  Now that is exciting.  How amazing to start your parkrun career at an inaugural.  Grand to see you, may it be the first of many!

Sooooo many people.  This is an inaugural that did not go under anyone’s radar.  I am not the only one with pre-school level detective skills and/or the capacity to read social media posts it seems.  And oh look!  There was pirate flag man – his attendance is mandatory at big Sheffield running events.  I’m not sure why, that’s lost (to me anyway) in the annals of Sheffield running history, but I can only presume it’s a bit like the ravens in the tower, has to be there, if the flag is absent, terrible misfortune will follow.   Not actually the crown falling and Britain with it, but probably the sun falling out of the sky, something like that I expect, if the pirate flag is missing.  Hopefully we won’t ever find out.

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More selfie taking went on, by everyone, not just by me.  One of the people pictured is another parkrun pioneer.  That’s two out of a possible 13 present today as far as I’m aware which is, erm, around 15% of the original parkrun population at Bushy parkrun 15 years ago.  Impressive eh.  Mingling with the stars at Millhouses today.  Yay!  Well, not me, I didn’t get to meet him, and I’ve still to clap eyes on the golden barcodes, my how I’d love to see one of those for myself.  One day eh, one day.  Still, you have to have a dream don’t you, so the saying goes.

I may not have clapped eyes on the golden barcodes, but mercifully others did, and even hearing about them was tremendously exciting as the photo shows. The camera never lies apparently, good to know.  Anyway, you cannot fake a reaction like the one recorded below!

Another big reveal though, which pleases me hugely, is that the impromptu gathering spot was underneath a rather lovely tree, red with autumn leaves.  Just like Bushy parkrun has The Tree, so too Millhouses parkrun, has its own by way of sort of homage or happy accident, I forget wish.  Cool though.  Also photogenic, I’m expecting the ‘proper’ photos which will follow in due course to have captured it rather better than me, but you’ll get the gist, and anyway, I’m rather hoping you will go and check it out for yourself at some point, and seeing is believing I think you’ll agree.

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*STOP PRESS*  Good news, the proper photos are here, look at that lovely tree!  Methinks it will be a regular staple of Millhouses parkrun photos in runs to come.

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And under the tree, more familiar faces, yay!

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At some point, after negotiating with other parkrunners, we identified an informal bag drop.  Or ‘somewhere to dump our stuff’ on a bench alongside the straight bit of the course.  Obviously it’s all at your own risk, but plenty of others did the same, and with runners passing this point out and back I’d be running past it six times at least.  It wasn’t at the finish, which was the other option, but we reasoned we’d be walking back this way to get to cafe/pub/far carpark/ walking home.  So good call.  Actually, checkout the en route action shot and you can see how closely supervised that particular bench is, don’t forget to wave at the Monday Mobster as you are squinting at the photo seeing if you can spot a bag your recognise amongst the jumble.  Think of the action shot not so much as a spoiler for how the course unfolded, but a teaser, a trailer to whet your appetite for the parkrun delights that follow.  Agreed?  Good.

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Next, the official welcomes and introductions and general speechifying.  It was very well judged, the nice man from the Sheffield Town Trust, who put up a significant amount of the funding for this event, along with Steel City Striders running club – amongst others, the full list is in the run report for the event – spoke with enthusiasm, eloquence and brevity to wish the event well.  And was wearing a rather splendid looking medallion I thought. The RD asked if there were any first timers present and got a huge cheer for his troubles.  Couldn’t help noticing there was a rather smaller cheer in response to the question ‘and who’ll be coming back regularly’ but I suppose that’s inevitable, and frankly necessary, the park couldn’t really cope with the numbers that turned up for the first event every single week.  It will find its equilibrium.  There was a wild cheer of support for the volunteer team too, basically lots of cheering.  Here are some of the volunteer team in all their individual and collective magnificence pre run.

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What a fine sight indeed!

So welcomes were said, thanks given, the briefing done.

Oh hang on, I’ve not said about the course, I did look it up pre run, but as is often the way, it makes more sense when you come to run it.  However, according to the official Millhouses parkrun website course description blah de blah:

Just under three anti-clockwise laps of the park, starting near the Abbey Lane end car park. The course is fast, flat, and all on tarmac paths, but most of all, fun! We ask participants to please stay on the paths at all times to avoid damage to any of the ornamental areas of the park. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed at this event

and it looks like this:

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To be honest, I wouldn’t say it was three ‘laps’ because that implies you are only running the bit of the course that looks like a deflated balloon three times, whereas in fact you have to run a bit down the string bit and then turn around and run back again.  Think lollipops (weird shaped ones) if you don’t like the deflated balloon on a string analogy, even though that’s a way better description in my view.

Most of the speakers used a loudhailer, which was great.  The ambassador for the area, and indeed, parkrun pioneer then spoke by her own admission as ‘bad cop’ or The Enforcer if you like.  She dispensed with the loudhailer on account of her famed ability to project.  Unfortunately, it would have taken someone with a sonic boom to fully project their voice to the whole crowd, and there were a few people shouting they couldn’t hear, who then lapsed into chatting to each other which was annoying.  Mind you, I’m getting increasingly grumpy in my old age, so it takes less and less to annoy me.  However, I was able hear, and can report that she spoke with enthusiasm and support for the event, but emphasised that it is a small park relatively speaking and parkrunners need to be on their best behaviour to ensure they stay welcome there.  No running in the flower beds or on the grass to cut corners.  Here is the moderately attentive gathering of runners on debut day, pre briefing to be fair, in the gathering together part of the morning.

the briefing

This is also a windy course. Windy as in lots of twist and turns, not as in triggering flatulence – though if you have a swan phobia the boating lake could trigger an attack.  Just debating with myself whether or not it would be irresponsible of me to post a photo to illustrate the point, or whether that would require me to put in a ‘possible trigger’ warning at the top of the post, like they do on food packaging for allergens.  Oh what the hell, here it is:

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Are you OK?  That’s good.  I’d have a fit it someone sprung a picture of a doll on my Facebook newsfeed, so I’m not entirely without empathy.

As you are now desensitised to large swan shots, here are some more, rather more impressive ones.  Not ducks though are they?

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Where was I?  Oh yes, the parkrun ambassador was warning the assembled company about there being some slippery parts and some blind spots, marshals are positioned strategically, and may even ask you to slow down in sections, so listen to them.  Also, no dogs.  The rule whilst running was ‘keep right’ but actually that didn’t entirely work at the turn around and finish points so I may either have completely misunderstood that directive, or it is one that requires some tweaking.  Fair enough, a new event is going to be on a learning curve for a while at least.  Indeed all parkruns are, as they evolve over time.   Incidentally, I used to work with a colleague who would become apoplectic at the word ‘tweak’.  It would reduce her to a blubbering mess.  It was completely perplexing, something about it made her squirm. The problem was, as colleagues initially our reaction to this discovery was disbelief, so we made it worse.  The conversations went something like this (she was an administrator):

Me: hi, this report is great, but my fault, I just had to tweak the intro so it has to be edited prior to distribution

Her: no stop

Me: (confused) stop what?  It’s only a small twea..

Her: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! (Primeval scream)

Me: What’s wrong?

Her: Don’t say that word?

Me: What word?

Her: (meaningfully) that word

Me: what tweak?

her: Stop!

Me: Seriously, the word tweak?

Her: please no

Open plan office colleagues who have been listening in on masse: a cacophony of voices all saying ‘tweak’ and ‘What do you/does she mean don’t say tweak’ lots of incredulous ‘tweak’, ‘tweaking’ and ‘tweak’ related sounds reaching a crescendo

Her:  STOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!! I mean it

Everyone (apart from her): but what’s wrong with tweak?

Her: runs screaming from desk

Everyone: silent blinking in mutual bemusement, followed by discussion of favourite and least favourite words.  Kumquat and casual slacks also caused distress to some, so it isn’t a unique thing to find certain words unsettling, but it is erm, well, unusual to have such a strong reaction I think.

And even if you were trying to avoid using it, it would slip out – like being told not to think about cheese.  Once the word ‘tweak’ or fromage of the day is put in your mind, it’s stuck there, just waiting to burst out.  For the more mischievously minded (not that I’m advocating this, could be workplace bullying) it’s surprising how often you can use the word legitimately, even in an office context, if you really try. Give it a go, your working environment will never have been so spontaneously and easily enriched.  Anyway, it was all very feel good and lovely.  The parkrun speechifying not the gratuitous use of the word ‘tweak’.  Oozing good will and positivity, which is always the best way to start a day.  This is not going to be a pb course, but it can be a fun one. Enjoy.

Where was I, you shouldn’t have distracted me on the tweaking cul de sac, that was a completely pointless diversion….  Oh yes thank you parkrun ambassador, and RD and nice man from Sheffield Town Trust who subsequently found a position from which to stand and cheer runners round.  Clearly someone who ‘gets’ parkrun.  Most refreshing.  Thanks too, to everyone else who spoke or volunteered or was part of the behind the scenes team that materialised this sparkly, shiney, new parkrun from out of the barren earth.  Good job!  They are magicians I tell, you, conjurers at the very least.

So finally, the moment came, and we were off!  Yay!  It must have been quite an emotional moment for the core team, like launching a ship on its maiden voyage only with less wasted champagne and broken glass shards.  That would have been contra-indicated by any risk assessment I’m sure.

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It was busy, 511 parkrunners in the end, and lots of volunteers, supporters and other park users too.  It was pretty congested at the start, and I was right at the back – I’m only really walking with the occasional half-hearted jog due to bad back.  I’ve seen my lovely reassuring physio though, and I’ve not done anything serious, but need to build back up slowly basically.  Anyway, I’m never fussed about times, much more interested in soaking it all up, but it was slow getting through, good natured though.  I dare say some runners were sprinting from the off, but I think everyone understood that it was important to make this first event successful and there was a lot of good will, no jostling, just lots of eager anticipation.

Underway!

It was leisurely at the back, which was great for me as I needed to take it very steadily.  People did start to spread out a little, and it wasn’t long before we came upon the first of the marshals.  There were loads on this course.  It was extra fun each new marshal was a surprise on the first lap and then you could look forward to seeing them again on the next two.  Lots of familiar faces from other Sheffield runs, but some new recruits too by the look of things, which is excellent.  The course does need a lot of marshals because of twists, and blind spots, and slippery bridges and ‘no treading on the flowers’ parts, as well as because obviously runners don’t quite know the route yet.  There were also tail walkers and some running marshals too I think.  You were never more than a stone’s throw from one, but clearly stone throwing is very much discouraged at parkrun so think of that as a figurative rather than literal tool of measurement.

Off you go down the balloon string bit, alongside the river.  Don’t fall in. Then you cross over a little bridge, with super efficient cheery marshals on either side. Special mention to the marshal at the near end of the bridge, who I swear shouted personalised encouragement to every parkrunner who passed, as well a calling out safety messages with a helpful rather than cajoling manner, impressive.  Your efforts did not go either unnoticed or unappreciated.  Although to be fair, all the marshals were excellent at directional pointing, clapping, cheering and conveying of positivity and enthusiasm.  You wonder at times if there may have been a selective breeding programme at some point to reinforce these traits, but I think not.  Partly because I don’t think eugenics is compatible with the parkrun ethos, and partly because 15 years isn’t long enough, cloning though, that’s much more likely.  But who knows, it’s not a matter of public record.  I do like to think though that junior parkrun (which is BEST THING EVER) will be ensuring future generations of enthusiastic, joy-filled, positive parkrunners who can deliver and receive high-fives with considerable panache, in perpetuity.  Quite right too.  There’s a new Sheffield junior parkrun starting up soon – the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun is going to be amazing.  They need volunteers ahead of their launch date Sunday 17 November 2019, still time to get involved if you are local.  And volunteering at junior parkrun is epic remember, so get in at the start to maximise your opportunities for junior parkfun!

Back on track at Millhouses, after the string, you pass the humpy bit, where you can see other runners coming back the other way, and then Surprise!  Another familiar face, this is awesome!

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Though again I did briefly wonder how Sheffield Hallam parkrun might be faring with some of their most loyal volunteers currently moonlighting at Millhouses?  Cross the park now, and oh look, a smiley!  Hooray. This was like one big reunion of every runner I know in Sheffield, some of whom I’ve not seen in months, literally partly because I’ve been touristing and partly because I’m hardly running these days anyway.  So exciting!  Would have loved to stop for a chat, but had to continue the illusion of scampering round.  Brilliant to see so many familiar faces.

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Round and down the other side, companionably romping in step with various friends and acquaintances.  Acknowledging the marshals, taking in the views across the lake and trying not to be unduly distracted by admiring the flowers on the way round.

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You also have to run past the cafe and kiosk area three times, so plenty of opportunity to contemplate post parkrun breakfasting options.

cafe temptations

One thing about a three lapper, is that it seemed like no time at all before the faster runners came speeding by. It is narrow, so could be a little alarming, but people were considerate of one another in both giving way and allowing space when overtaking.   I can’t make up my mind about how I feel about multi-lap courses.  My default is that I prefer single laps – apart from Rother Valley parkrun which I find a bit bleak, though I freely admit some of my prejudice is because the post parkrun coffee offer was the worst I’ve had in my life EVER, not just at parkrun, and I’ve been on municipal training days where mugs were cracked and coffee made of chicory was served up, so I’ve suffered in search of caffeine and know what I’m talking about.  However, on the plus side, you get to see pretty much every runner, so it’s social, and you get to see runners who operate at speeds of which I can only dream.  I think I’m going to reserve judgement.  The inaugural turn out I’m sure is untypical of how this parkrun will settle down, and maybe the multiple laps could be quite therapeutic, meditative even, when you are familiar with them.  The marshals were great at keeping people on track and alerting parkrunners to potential hazards.  But best of all, they seemed to be happy in their work!  Hurrah!

On we went, past the lake from the other side, and eventually back down the straight bit towards the start/ finish

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This was ‘fun’ because you had runners coming in both directions, and I spotted loads of people I knew, but it was also a bit confusing, because you have to do a u-turn at the end and I was desperate to not impede faster runners but ended up frozen to the spot as it wasn’t clear how best to manage that turn.  Still, made it round, and it passed without incident when I was there anyway.  Back out again, and the new addition for this lap was the positioning of the pirate flag on the course and Sheffield City Man in situ to cheer us round.  It’s a good game of observation this course, spotting the differences on each lap.  Faster runners bleeding from their eyes due to exertion might see nothing beyond red mist ahead of them, but I noticed and appreciated these things.

I also inadvertently got my favourite pic of the day.  Go Smiley!  I feel a meme coming on.

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Ding ding, round two.  I felt like the first lap took ages.  I’m not sure why, a lot to look at I suppose, and it being new.  Tried to emulate smiley selfie queen with an en route selfie – failed.  In my defence I don’t have a smart phone, only an actual camera, so can’t see what I’m taking.  It adds mystery to the occasion true, but not composition or focus unfortunately. Lap two was for Monday Mob spotting.  Ticked quite a few off my i-spy book second time round.

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In the meantime, pirate flag man had picked up his flag again and was taking his final lap of honour with it carried aloft, which must be quite hard going to be fair, it’s not aerodynamic and nor is it particularly light I’d imagine.  Still, threw up some nice photo ops, and his effort was greatly appreciated by fellow parkrunners and marshals alike

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End of my lap two was a little hairy, as the keep right didn’t really work at all, as you needed to be on an inside track so the faster runners could cut through to the finish funnel.  It sort of worked- ish, but I was confused, and a bit scared I’d be trampled.  Also bit forlorn about heading round again.  Mind you, in actual fact the last lap was the best one because the course had emptied out so you could just do your own thing without worrying too much about other runners around you.

Finally, back round, and down to the finish.  Into the collective cheer of the timers and scanners and funnel managers all.

So many people had been through they were using torn up paper position tokens, but they still scanned fine. The scanner was using the volunteering app on her mobile phone, I don’t know if they even issue scanners now, but it worked well.  In fact, it was a positive boon, because last week for some reason my barcode didn’t scan.  The event team added me in, which was fine, but I was a bit worried because it was the first time I’d used my parkrun flatband, and was worried it might be faulty. With the app, you can see if you’ve scanned or not visually, so I could be confident it had worked.  Yay.

Although parkrun is inherently extraordinarily entertaining, I don’t like to pass up any opportunity to make my own entertainment, so under the guise of thanking the event team (who were genuinely awesome) I got them to pose for some photos, which they did brilliantly.  Alas my photographic talent was not up to capturing the job, but here they are jumping for joy!  Use your imagination and just visualise the picture that got away and you will share my ecstasy at capturing the moments before and after as a pleasing tease of the picture that might have been…

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Remember dear reader, it’s the thought that counts, and it’s still a happy memory.

Also, and this pleases me greatly, possibly even a bit too much.  Whilst my venture may have been less than successful, fortuitously we have the companion shot taken from the other side.  Yay!  Love this pic.  Loving your work dream event team and photographer. 🙂

how it should have looked

and so it ended:

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Next stop coffee.   The walk there took me back out on the course, where returning volunteers were doing their reservoir dogs tribute acts.

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I went to the kiosk, and got an excellent flat white, but it was super expensive three quid!  With a vegan pasty I paid £5 which was steep I thought, although there were parkrun offers with just filter coffee or tea which were much better value.  I enjoyed it, but winced a bit at the price.  Still, seeing as it was a special occasion. Went to join some fellow parkrunner locals for a debrief.  Also, handed back responsibility for the photos to Smiley Selfie Queen, we would be in safe hands for the ‘how it ended’ pic!

CS and so it ends

So the consensus was it had gone off really well, and coped magnificently with the high turn out.  It’s not a fast course, despite being really flat, and great facilities, with everything from parking to precautionary pees covered.  However, because of its twists and turns, we wondered if it might end up being something of a safe haven for slow and steady runners as it might not appeal so much to people seeking a pb.  I know they did some community outreach talks to various groups to encourage them to start with C25K and similar, I’d love it if this run embraced that brief.  We all felt we’d be back, though the regularity with which it might show up in our parkrun progresses depended a bit on personal circumstances.  It was a fantastic start.  Yay!  You might say, they hit the:

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So happy to have an excuse to include a photo of this Sheffield shop!  I passed it on the way home, also this sports injury place.  Like I said, Millhouses parkrun has excellent facilities.

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And home I went, in Autumn sunshine, taking in views of the city skyline on the way.

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Reet nice out.

There we are, Millhouses parkrun officially launched.  I know the issue around attend inaugurals is contentious, but I’m really glad I went.  I wouldn’t proactively chase down another, but as it is my home patch, and I think I will go regularly, especially in winter when I’m not so inclined to tourist, it was great to be there at the start.  A little bit of Sheffield parkrun history in the making.

So thank you Millhouses parkrun team for being awesome and welcoming, you deserve medals – I’ve already made the point that really I think RDs and EDs should have superhero capes, but inexplicably it’s yet to be universally adopted.  You are all heroes to me though.  It was a fabulous debut.  Your hard work, positivity and tenacity delivered magnificently!  You have created an event that delivered the parkrun potential to cater for all.

That means young and old alike.  Incidentally, the young’uns are not to be under-estimated.  Check out this 9 year old, Kade Lovell who accidentally won a 10k event.  I know.  Or how about 13 year old Maureen Wilton who broke the women’s marathon world record, admittedly back in 1967, but even so.  And she didn’t get to wear shoes that were like running on trampolines either.  A.Maz.Ing.  There was at least one barefoot runner at Millhouses parkrun today by the way.  The other extreme end of the running footwear continuum.

Then again, if you are a few decades older than these youngsters, be inspired by this man doing his parkrun debut at Northampton parkrun at 92! There was a 93 year old woman also doing her parkrun debut at Leamington parkrun today apparently. Pamela HOLDER,  also now holds the age category record for Leamington parkrun in the VW 90-94 category  Wowsers.

It would be fabulous if Millhouses parkrun becomes a venue that also attracts such a wide span of age gradings.  I think it has the potential to do just that, good facilities, flat course, why not?  Never too late to do your first parkrun people, never too late.  You know how the parkrun proverb goes.  ‘Best time to join parkrun was 15* years ago, the second best time is next weekend’.  Assumptions are there to be challenged, and it’s great if parkrun can continue to be as inclusive as possible.  It seems to be moving ever more in that direction.  Good.

Like I said, Millhouses parkrun was anything but a run of the mill experience.  Good job, well done.  I hope you celebrated your triumph in style.  Also, as an aside, quickest results processing EVER.  I had them pinging to me on my phone before I’d even made it home.  Impressive.   They have set themselves a high bar to continue, but you know what, I reckon it will all be just fine.

Fine and dandy.  Well done indeed.

Incidentally, there will be a Millhouses parkrun facebook page where photos and news etc will appear, but it’s not yet live, I’ll add the link when it is, if I remember, and not if I don’t.  If it’s not here don’t despair, there’s always Google to check it out!

I did remember, their first post, thanking those who helped fund Millhouses parkrun is here

Thanks to everyone who walked, jogged, ran or volunteered at the very first Millhouses parkrun. We had over 500 runners including 53 people who completed their very first parkrun. Core team members had a sweep stake on expected numbers and we were all a long way off! Your support is much appreciated.

We would also like to thank the following for their funding and donations to get Millhouses parkrun off the ground: Sheffield Town Trust, Steel City Striders Running Club, Totley AC and the Monday Mob.

and the Millhouses parkrun inaugural run report is here: The one where everyone was a first timer!

And the ‘proper photos’ from our very own George, are in the Millhouses parkrun Facebook album for the first event, but I’ve already nicked some and included them as teasers above, however a little smorgasbord of loveliness follow below:

You can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments.  Bet there are loads.  And if inexplicably, you’ve not yet rocked up to the parkrun party, you could enjoy re-running your other running related adventures, bet you’ve loads of those.  Go on, go wild, indulge yourself.

til next time then?

🙂

*It’s a shifting proverb, which I concede prevents it quite running off the tongue, you’ll need to change the number according the year, but we can embrace the general principle I think, can we not?  And keeps us on our toes.

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

Fabulous Frolics at Frickley Country parkrun

Digested read: went to Frickley Country parkrun for some tourism.  It was only their fourth event (bless), but ran like a well oiled machine.  It was reet nice.  Thanks all.  You may be a relatively new arrival, but you appear to have emerged fully fledged.  Hurrah!

Undigested read: (it’s a long one, again, remember, read responsibly, leave time to adult, or not, where applicable and according to your needs and preferences but don’t blame me for tasks undone).

So much I want to tell you about this parkrun.  It was jam-packed with celebrities for starters (though we can take it as a given that all parkrunners are heroes). There is however, one particular completely brilliant feature that confounded all my previous parkrun expectations. Desperate to blurt it out right now, but you know what, I’m going to save it for later, because I think – hard as it is to comprehend –  it will be even more fun if you experience the delayed gratification that I too underwent on my sojourn to Frickley this morning, before getting to the big reveal.  Well, here’s hoping anyway.  I know, hope over experience, but you’ve gotta have hope, especially in times as dark, dismal and divisive as these…  In fact, I’m almost wondering if I shouldn’t tell you, in case that means you lose the element of surprise when you rock up for your inaugural Frickley Country parkrun experience.  It’s quite a dilemma, responsibility even.  I’ll have to wait and see…

I’ll tell you something straight up though (see what I’ve done there?  Pun intended) this was definitely an ‘undulating’ course, properly so.  And I speak as a veteran of many a Sheffield parkrun.  You know what, I’m going to really stick my neck out and concede there were actual hills.  You’ll get fit if Frickley Country is your home course for sure.  Even if ‘just’ hoiking yourself up to one of the higher marshalling points. And for your information, this isn’t even The Hill, and this hi viz hero still had to set off at dawn to allow enough time for him to summit before we parkrunners descended…

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But I’m getting ahead of myself here, stop distracting me with all this hill-talk all I’ll never be finished with this account, let’s get back to basics shall we – you can always skim read if you are getting bored impatient.

Confession time.  I’d never even heard of Frickley ’til  a couple of weeks ago.  No idea where it was, but it popped up as my NENDY (nearest event not done yet) and so it seemed that it’s a relatively new event (this was their fourth) that snuck under the radar, presumably wanting a quiet inaugural, which is fair enough. I’m upping my tourism lately, for various reasons I can’t be bothered to elaborate on here, and so it seemed a logical choice for a Saturday morning jaunt out from Sheffield.  So, in case you, like me, have been living in a state of ignorance about Frickley, I can tell you this, Frickley Country park

is a former colliery and now is now an attractive open space. It has over 7 miles of footpaths and cycle-ways, giving you great opportunities to walk, run, cycle and escape in this natural environment. There are also several works of art which hark back to the land’s industrial past.

and is located

to the immediate south of South Elmsall, West Yorkshire. It’s situated on the southern side of an urban settlement, bordered to the east and south by agricultural land with broadleaf woods, and to the west by a railway and spoil heaps

frickley country park

So now we all know.   Firmly in the Yorkshire and Humberside section of the parkrun events page.

I feel enlightened. One of the many fab things about parkrun tourism is that it has been most educational.  I’ve visited places that I might never have reason to stop at before and met some fab people along the way.  What’s not to like. Also, many fine mugs of coffee drunk along the way (apart from Doncaster parkrun, that was an ace visit but worst coffee ever experienced ever, not just at parkrun even).  No parkrun trip, however far ventured, is ever wasted.  FACT.

I was trying to remind myself of this when my alarm clock went off and I woke blinking and confused staring into the dark.  Felt like I hadn’t slept, but I peered out of window and established there was no ice, so it was trip on.  I always worry about getting lost so left loads of time, so it was pitch dark as I ventured out.  I hate driving in the dark, roll on long summer days when parkrun tourism can occur in daylight.  It was an easy drive from Sheffield to Frickley, though inevitably further than I thought.  The Frickley Country parkrun directions stated (correctly) that the

Sat Nav code WF9 2EQ. This postcode is accurate to within 200 metres of the entrance (do not turn into Colliers Way – dead end, unless on foot). The entrance (unmade road) is 200 metres ahead between Frickley Colliery Welfare Cricket Club and Broad Lane Business Centre. The Frickley Athletic Football Club Pavilion is located off Westfield Lane South Elmsall Pontefract. There is signage at the entrance to the Football ground.

There is ample car parking available free of charge at the Frickley Athletic Football Stadium/Pavilion. There is additional free car parking around the site (Doncaster Road car park entrance and at Curlew View car park entrance) however they are approximately a 10 minute walk to the start/finish line

It wasn’t difficult to find, but, as I was early, the entrance, though clearly marked, didn’t inspire confidence.  It takes you down a rather potholed track, and you approach it through quite dense housing, so it felt counter intuitive.

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I was quite relieved to espy the parkrun flag, and made my way through to a soft of fenced off carpark area.  There was indeed loads of parking first thing, anyway, however characteristically, I was immediately overwhelmed with the decision making involved in choosing the correct space.  I then went for a quick explore of the entrance area to the Frickley Athletic Football Club, which had some (to me at least) highly entertaining signage.  Loved the Big Fellas clothing notice and was especially taken by the evostick sponsorship as I didn’t realize adhesive was a natural bedfellow for football league support.  See, once again, parkrun was proving most educational.  There was plenty of extra parking space, though not marked out, so potentially a bit of a free for all in terms of finding a spot.  Less salubrious, was the copious amounts of dog poo everywhere around the entrance area.  Not a good impression, stick to the tarmac dear reader I’ll say no more.

Oh, and I took a ‘before’ selfie, because you have to, don’t you, it’s the rule at a new parkrun location.  I think it must also be a given that it’s deeply unflattering, well that rule works for me, please gawd I don’t actually look like this in real life – mind you, wait til you see the ‘after’ shot. After shock more like….

Emboldened by my foray around, I approached the club house.  You could see a veritable army mass of hi-vis marshals milling around through the windows.  Others were arriving too, loads of tourist buffs, and there was a sort of air of eager anticipation. Unlike other parkruns I’ve been to, because this is a relatively new event, there was a sort of collective uncertainty about where facilities and the course was, but it was exciting, like we were all about to embark on a grand new adventure.

The club house has much to recommend it. It was roasty toasty warm for one thing, which may or may not be a good thing on reflection, as it was hard to prize yourself away from it.  Coffee was available pre as well as post parkrun.  There were loos – indeed an actual changing room with showers and a treatment bench thing, if only I’d thought to bring my personal masseuse with me this morning we’d have managed just fine.   It did look a bit like an old-fashioned asylum as portrayed in an old horror film, but apart from that. Also, you get to feel important on the way in, as there is a sign up making it very clear that only VIPs are honored with using that particular entrance.

Having executed my first precautionary pee of the morning, it was time to have a little scout around the course.  The sun was rising, and I contemplated chugging up an adjacent hill to get a better shot, but instead tried for ones on lower ground.  Dog poo alert again, so much dog shite around the football pitch areas, I should have gone up the hill.  The poo problem seemed quite localised, I assume from people watching matches paying no attention to their hounds prolific ‘toileting’ – it didn’t help there were no obvious poo bins, it was a real shame, very off putting.  Basically, my top tip is treat the whole grass area around the football pitches and the rough parking areas around the entrance area as if they are mined with dog poo.  Tread on these areas at your peril.  You’ll have no recourse, I strongly suspect there is no DNA testing of dog poop in this location.  However, try not to be put off the whole parkrun experience by this first impression, granted the bar is set quite low, canine faeces proliferation wise, but honestly, things got very much better from hereon-in!  I will resist the temptation to insert here a photo of a dog mid-poo, instead going for this positive imagery of a very finely executed poop scoop by parkrunners and barkrunners doing the right thing. Good to know!

responsible dog owners

Back to cheerier themes, sunrise picture wise though, no worries, others did make this foray to higher ground and I am shamelessly using their pics alongside mine.  If you want to know which is which, basically their ones are the money shots, and mine isn’t.  Hope that helps.

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So first impressions. Well, sun rise, huge expanse of space, and yep ‘undulating’.  I was sort of lurking and overhearing other conversations.  One was pointing to a steep hill, and saying ‘of course that’s not The Hill, that’s over there‘ as she gestured wildly in some other direction.  I didn’t pay all that much attention. We have hills in Sheffield. It’d be fine.

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I wandered down to the finish area, distinguishable by a very fine pop-up finish sign, way more sophisticated than I’ve seen in any of our more local runs.  It is two-sided so one side says ‘finish’ and the other, creatively, says ‘start’.  However, although you might think this is a boon, it was actually a bit confusing, and I noticed it did get turned around a few times this morning.  So when I first went down ‘finish’ was towards me, but later it was changed to show ‘start’ so you could see where to assemble as you emerged into the park area from the clubhouse, but then you actually line up behind it so it feels like you are running through the ‘finish’ as you head out.  Don’t worry too much though, everything worked.  Here is a picture for identification purposes:

I got acquainted with another tourist from Huddersfield (wave of hello inserted here), who was telling me about a new run there, Storthes Hall parkrun, also new to the parkrun party, so that can be added to my to do list.  It’s quite exciting, all these extra parkruns popping up all over.  She was watching her tourist buddies warming up, they looked impressive sprinting down the hill.  Personally, I like to save my running around for the actual run, though with the benefit of hindsight, for this particular parkrun a warm up lope  along somewhere is probably a good move.  More of this later.

 I had to have my second precautionary pee of the morning, and did some milling around self-consciously.  Volunteers started to emerge from the club house and head out to their individually identified hot spots.

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More and more people started to descend on the area.  The anticipation built.

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After a bit, a call went out for the first timers briefing.  There was a fair few of us, the majority were tourists, but some were locals, some even first time ever parkrunners, sigh, their lives will never be the same again.  I followed the mob to the briefing.  There was a description of the course.  ‘See that hill, it’s not that one that everyone has been talking about‘.  Oh, maybe I should have concentrated a bit more on understanding what the course was like.  Clearly this mythical hill is a thing of wonder, and not to be approached too lightly.  All were welcomed, and having established no-one was intending to be faster than 20 minutes, the basic advice is to follow the person in front and listen to marshals, which always works for me.  All friendly though, and welcoming, which is the main thing. Thank you welcoming first time briefer.

Hang on, should probably do the official Frickley Country parkrun course blah de blah, here it is:

The start and finish are located at the Frickley Athletic Football Club Pavilion. The course consists of mixed trail surfaces. The course is exclusively the Frickley Country Park site. The majority of the course (4K) is one lap, with an additional (1K) loop. The course is undulating, with a challenging hill section at 1K point, however the views from the top are worth the effort of the climb.

Hmm, sounded innocuous enough.  It looks like this:

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So now we all know.

More milling and chilling.  Whilst we were waiting patiently assembled at the start, a fine dachshund caught my eye.  We were formally introduced later on, but he was clearly a parkrun pro.  He was outraged at the hanging around and trying to alert his handler to his impatience at this unexpected lull in proceedings.  Clearly he was used to a speedier start.  His handler made an abortive attempt to lead him away from the start to minimise the disruption caused by his barking, but this made things worse.  Troy (for that is of whom I am speaking) was provoked even further because his idiot handler was clearly trying to go the wrong way! Honestly, it must be so frustrating when you are a barkrun pro and the idiots around you are not following your expected parkrun protocols!

After a bit, there was a further call for attention, and this time it was the Run Director’s briefing.  She didn’t appear to be wearing the traditional (I thought) blue hi-vis.  Whether that was because they don’t yet have one, she preferred to go undercover for surveillance purposes or it was just forgotten I cannot say.  However, in a much more dramatic break from tradition, I can report dear reader that there was proper, respectful silence for the Run Director during the briefing.  Hallelujah!  That made a refreshing change.  I suppose it does rather suggest it was because this was a new event so people were paying attention.  The depressing truth that goes alongside this is all the people yakking through other run briefings at parkruns nationwide are regulars.  Oh well, not so here, we can celebrate that.  We were reminded that there is a loopy bit you do twice, so keep to the left on that unless overtaking.  This all makes sense once you’ve done it, but not really in advance.  You could get away with just doing it once, but really, you’d only be fooling yourself and you’d never get another pb so where would be the fun in that?  Not only do run directors in general rock, obvs, but this particular RD has her own rock on which to stand to deliver said RD briefing.  Another fine innovation from a new parkrun.  There was also a warning that there is a rogue Frickley Parkrun Facebook page out there, but it has a capital pee, so would fool no true parkrunner surely! 😉 Seriously though, how has that happened, bit weird for someone to choose to do that…

‘Twas a brief briefing.  3 2 1 Go!  And we were awf.  Troy was mightily relieved, and it did start punctually, the milling around was because we were all keenies in situ nice and early.  Of we went, up the path and then first left and  even more up as we tackle the  a hill.  Over two hundred runners.  It was a fair old heave ho.  Hence my earlier comment maybe a warm up would have been a good idea.  I found this parkrun hard from the off.

There were a few buggy runners.  Respect to them!  Although the paths were firm underneath, there was a fair bit of mud on top, and with that, and the hills from the outset, it was nigh on heroic to get a buggy round, but plenty did, and overtook me to boot (though that’s not quite such an impressive achievement as I might wish to believe).

Up, up the hill, thanking our cheery hi-vis heroes as we passed.

I was towards the back, I always do start further back these days, and it was quite something to see the colourful snake of runners snaking up ahead and over the brow of the hill, which somewhat made up for my growing sense of panic that I’d be left behind completely!  Maybe if I spent less time taking blurry photos and more time actually running that would be less of a real peril!

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Coming over the top of the hill you are rewarded by great views, the relief of a bit of flat, and then some down hill -which was fine but a bit steeper and rougher than the generally compact trails might suggest.  I was glad of my trail shoes – then again, I am a bit of a scaredy cat, so always favour a bit of extra grip on unfamiliar courses.

I found it quite interesting running through this reclaimed colliery site, though I guess inevitably its history will be complicated.  It reminded me – unsurprisingly of Gedling, another reclaimed colliery.  A lot of effort has gone into creating these spaces, and they are impressive, and over time, as trees mature, will become even more so.  Still, no time to think about that.  Getting to the 1 km mark, I saw it.  The Hill.  Yep, that’s a hill.  Sufficiently steep that the path zig zags up to it rather than going straight up.  Fab marshaling position at the bottom of the hill gave great views of the thread of runners hoiking themselves up, some with more grace and elegance than others!  There were some trodden linking sections where other walkers had taken ‘short cuts’ straight up, but I’m not sure you’d gain anything at a parkrun by so doing, they were pretty steep, you’d end up sliding right back down again if you gave into misguided temptation to cut a corner anywhere.  Looked great though. Again, I’ve borrowed some photos of others to create some mood shots for you.  Hoping those who put their photos on Facebook will be magnanimous about sharing them here.

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Not gonna lie.  That hill was tough going.  If this was your local parkrun you’d get seriously fit running up that hill even just once a week.  Weirdly, when I checked out the elevation for this route afterwards, it was ‘only’ 257 ft, compared to say Graves parkrun (new route) which is, according to my Strava more at 340 ft. Graves doesn’t feel so hard to me, but then again it is familiar.  Not loving the uphill finish at Graves though, oh the shame if you can’t keep you puff and running up for a final flourish!`

Mind you, don’t know what I’m moaning about, have you seen what some women are capable of?  Can we have a moment to celebrate these amazing women have done.  A group of five Aymara indigenous women from Bolivia – known as the cholita* climbers – have summited Aconcagua (6961m) in the Argentinian Andes near the border with Chile.  6961 metres is 22837.93 ft, apparently, let’s call it 22838 ft shall we? Which is like doing the ascent at Frickley Country parkrun 88.8638132296 times.  Let’s call that 89 times shall we?  Impressive.  They look very jolly, I think they’d make fine parkrunners, shame parkrun has yet to make it to Bolivia.

cholita climbers

I barely made it up the hill once.  To add to the stress of it all, there was a photographer lurking at the highest point!  Great sense of humour the Frickley folk were sporting there. They must have captured some corkers!

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Update: yes they did get some corker photos, and shared them too, here are some, thank you Frickley Country parkrun volunteer, much appreciated.  Told you those buggy pushers were hardcore, and that dachshunds are feisty.  Confusingly, I’m sure at least a couple of the photos were from a different spot at the bottom of a hill, but you get the gist, I’m sure.  Disappointingly, I don’t think the gradient is fully obvious from these shots, but maybe the grimaces on the photos tell their own story.  Come and run it for yourself and then decide…

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You are rewarded for this second ascent with more flat, which you can enjoy as long as your lungs aren’t too full of blood from the earlier exertion.  You can really see for miles, the landscape is in no way ‘natural’ but it is full of interest. There were lots of features to appreciate, strategically placed benches (NOT intended to be used as resting points mid parkrun but I suppose if you really had to), with lovely side silhouettes of people staring out to the view, and little design references to the history of the site.

Nice.

Again, the views stretch out in front of you, and you can follow the brightly coloured snaking line of running tees like a trail of bread crumbs to see your way ahead.

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Another smiling marshal stops you getting lost en route:

This is where it turned out there was a strategically placed video camera, recording everyone as they passed.  There was also an overhead buzz, which turned out to be a drone, seemingly following us along, but I don’t know if that was there by chance or a Frickley Country parkrun surveillance initiative, I think probably the former. Though the psychology of being watched is fascinating.  I definitely didn’t want to stop running for as long as I thought I could be seen. Childish, but true….

Oh, and the Frickley Country parkrun video for event #4 is here, I didn’t realise I looked quite so comical when I run, oh well, at least it got me scampering in an ‘I’m trying to run a bit’ rather than blowing my nose or gazing about or giving up and ‘power walking to save myself for a sprint finish’ all of  which were plausible options on this course.  I did manage to screen shot a still from it though, and it is actually quite fun and quite therapeutic to watch the whole field pass by if you have time to watch the whole sequence.  Quite a continuum of approaches on display there. Thanks Frickley Country parkrun for the video innovation.  It seems to have been a regular feature for the last couple of weeks, though I wouldn’t bank on it being there in perpetuity… however you never know do you.  So be prepared parkrunners, be prepared!  At least they had the generosity of spirit to capture us on a downhill section on this occasion – it may not always be just so!

video still

Shortly after being recorded for posterity, you encounter the looping the loop bit.  It sounds confusing but it just isn’t.  Marshals point the way, and signs back it up, plus, it is depressingly obvious you are going to have to run round twice, as you can see the faster runners on a downward descent for round two as you approach.  Don’t worry, if you are a faster runner, they have sentries marshals on hand to direct you back round so you don’t miss out on the two lap fun factory provided for your delight.

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The photos don’t reflect it all that well, but the loop goes up hill again,  I quite liked this bit.  You keep to the left unless overtaking, but it was quite spread out by this point and seemed good natured.  There was mud and puddles a-plenty, always a boon.  You emerge at the top alongside a housing estate that abuts the country park, they must have great views.  Another straight bit … which would take you to the finish, except for the cheery and vigilant marshal to direct you back down the hill again to have the fun of running round in a bit circle all over again.  There were also some runners that who had presumably already finished, as they were coming in the opposite direction doing a cool down lap I suppose, another bright idea I have yet to implement.  I’m a running minimalist at heart, I really do need to start getting more disciplined if I’m going to get my long runs in…  At least I hope they were doing a cool down lap, otherwise some of us were definitely going the wrong way…

Hurrah!  An added bonus, was I spotted this fine obelisk like structure on the second circuit.  Marking the site of some colliery construction or other.  It looked almost mythical with the early morning sun back lighting it quite gloriously. Yep, my camera has failed to capture that as well. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

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More breathless thanking of marshals and back up the hill

and then ‘suddenly’ you are homeward bound.

Surely it can’t be?  Is that the finish in sight?  Down hill as well?

The thing is dear reader, this was the most exciting bit that I wanted to blurt out right at the beginning. This was the unexpected, to me unprecedented and yet pleasing parkrun innovation.  Spoiler alert, if you want to keep the surprise for yourself, you are going to have to skip this whole paragraph, otherwise the secret will be out of the proverbial bag. Your call.  Ready?  Well, you aren’t going to believe this, but, I kid you not, they’d moved the proverbial goal posts in our favour!  Usually, as soon as I see the finish funnel (unless it’s an uphill finish like the aforementioned Graves parkrun) I immediately put on what is for me a sprint, due to this primeval fear that if I don’t the volunteers will all start to dismantle it and move it further away as I approach. Well, you’ll never guess, but here, the complete opposite happened! I’d assumed – nay, I’d go so far as to say ‘been led to believe’ the start and finish were at the same place, because of the push-me pull-you start/finish sign previously mentioned.  Here, whilst we’d all been parkrun/ walk/ jogging about up and down hill and round in circles the volunteers had moved the finish closer to where we were running from! This genius innovation is incredibly good for morale, and also has the added advantage of you finish at the entrance for the clubhouse, very handy for coffee cravers everywhere.  Brilliant.

As you pass the time keepers you get a token the far end of the funnel, and then there was a scanner metres away, all extremely efficient.  This may be a new parkrun but their systems seem to be up and running with gusto as well as well oiled efficiency.

I lingered a while at the finish, cheering in the few who were still trailing in behind me.

I espied the first aid kit and defibrillator on hand. I was going to make some quip about didn’t know ipads could do that, but turns out there was a reminder of the life saving potential of defribs as one had to be used at Bushy parkrun this morning.  The person concerned seems to be doing well, but it I suppose as more and more people embrace parkrun, law of averages means there will be occasional incidents when these are needed. I know of a few incidents now. I wonder how many parkrun purchased kits have been used, not necessarily at parkrun, they often become an asset and resource for whatever venue hosts them.

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I tried to get some arty shots from the steps by the pavilion.  I know, but sometimes remember it is the thought that counts, and in these early days of Frickley Country parkrun’s evolution, maybe even blurry photos will play their part in contributing to the event archive.

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I’d hit the jackpot earlier with my parking, being just outside the club house, so easy enough to retrieve my fleece and cash for coffee.  First though, the mandatory after selfie shot:

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Yep, the running had taken it’s toll with all those hill, no wonder I was looking a little green around the gills.

Still, not to worry, fleece on and into the warm embrace of the cosy club house. You could pay £1 for cheap and cheerful coffee – there was also a hatch selling bacon baps and circus tickets (?) but I’m vegetarian and anyway, had my eye on the Proper Coffee.  I made my way to the proper coffee corner, where the vendor was diligently mopping up quantities of hot foamy spilt milk with a rather inadequate looking paper towel.   ‘There’s been a catastrophe‘ he said, or something similar.  ‘Not a catastrophe‘, I helpfully advised ‘a learning opportunity!’  I don’t really think that, it was post-run endorphins speaking probably, but also, you know what they say about spilt milk.  No point. No point at all.  I’m sure it wasn’t a world weary look I got in return.  I did however get an extremely fine latte for the bargain price of £2.  It was really good.  Only observation was that I couldn’t see anywhere you could get water from, though I didn’t ask to be fair.  Coffee was great and cafe area really warm, in every sense.    A very friendly hub bub was all around.

Fortuitously, my tourist buddy I’d met at the very beginning of the day, was the person in front of me in the coffee queue.  She invited me to join some other tourists who all meet up together at various events all over the place.  I was greatly honoured.  Who knew that there was this whole parallel universe of traveling parkrunners.  I was invited to take a seat, which was initially somewhat awkward as the most obvious place was already taken by another parkrun touring celebrity, dear reader I give you Bully, the touring mascot:

cant go wrong with a cow

Cow cowl made manifest!  I’m a bit confused about what the name Bully might infer in terms of gender identity, but then again, that’s an artificial construct isn’t it, maybe they identify as non-binary or something…

Even so, I was made very welcome, and it was great hearing about all sorts of touring adventures and meeting Troy properly and hearing about specialist parkrun groups – did you know there is a closed Facebook parkrun group for the deaf and hard of hearing no?  Me neither.  It’s great to see how parkrun is evolving.

It was good to meet a true local on her first ever parkrun too (wave).  She was telling me about running in Canada, which got to the minus twenties I think she said.  I can’t even imagine that.  Frickley Country parkrun would be great to have as your local I think, it seemed really friendly and a challenging course too.  All good.

Photos, obviously, in many and varied permutations, it wasn’t just me who was after photos this time.  Love parkrun tourists, they get it!  Smiley Selfie Queen would be among friends here:

You’d have thought the delights of hobnobbing with parkrun tourists and locals alike, couldn’t be topped. But before I left, I sought out the erm, not sure how to express this with due reverence and political correctness – let’s go with veteran marshal.  He’d been out cheering us at the top of the hill, and I reckoned it was a reasonable punt that he was probably post fifty say and particularly wanted to say hello to him because I thought my mum might be interested in hearing about another vintage volunteer.  Well dear reader.  Result!  Not only was he incredibly friendly and obliging posing for lots of snaps so I could get the perfect pose

but also, turns out he is a parkrun celebrity in his own right!  My mum may have Elisabeth’s corner at Bushy parkrun – of which she is rightly proud, but this was Ken of Ken’s corner at Pontefract parkrun!

As my regular reader knows, I never name anyone in this blog… unless, they are a celebrity and therefore already in the public domain.  Clearly Troy and Ken both fall into this category.  Respect!  I felt really honoured!

Is there anyone involved with Pontefract parkrun that is more inspirational than our very own Ken Bingley?   With 167 volunteer sessions behind him and 112 runs, it’s no surprise that we’ve named a corner after him.

It was chance that brought him to Frickley Country parkrun today, apparently Pontefract parkrun was cancelled, their loss, our gain.  Because it basically launched Ken off on his winter progresses, like Elizabeth I, I think it was her, that did progresses out and about. I’ll need to google that now…  Yep, ’twas apparently she headed off when London was hot and insalubrious  Ken was off exploring because he couldn’t miss a parkrun fix.  Quite right too.

Now I’ve got to put Pontefract back on my list so I can get a high-five from the great man himself in his native habitat.  Can’t wait!   Anyway, he and his family were individually and collectively awesome, full of running stories and top tips for races (Grim up north series anyone?) and parkrun tales.  Result.  Also, only now I’m home and making merry with Bing (having a day off Google) have I discovered he ran his first marathon in Sheffield, back in the day when we still had one. Rumour has it you got an ashtray instead of a medal for running that at one point, I wonder if he got one too!  Another reason for hoiking myself round Pontefract, I now need to know!  Mind you there are other surreal findings in post-run doggy bags even now….

So that was that, pretty much last to leave, the hub bub of the coffee drinkers abated and the floors were being swept around us.   Call me massively intuitive and empathetic, but I took that as non verbal communication from our hosts that they were wanting to pack up and go home.  I’m sensitive like that.

Fond farewells were exchanged, along with promises to meet again, as I’m sure we will!

Job done.

Can we have a virtual cheer and hi-fives all round for the Fabulous Frickley Country parkrun event team and volunteers, it’s no mean feat to get a parkrun off the ground, and they have done brilliantly, if today was anything to go by.  Thank you all, your efforst are appreciated, you should have your own capes in recognition of your parkrun super-hero statuses.

Oh, and finally, you can read the incredibly speedily produced run report for Frickley Country parkrun #4 here.  Another tourist perspective.  There were a lot of tourists and visitors today.

and talking of parkrun reports, my mum got a mention in the Bushy parkrun Run Report 773 for today too.  Hurrah.  Really ace photo of her waving brilliantly too I think!  She’s had a lot of practice though, so not really surprising that she’s nailed it.

mum 26 jan 2019

So get yourself down there.  Don’t forget your barcode #dfyb – and for clarity, that means your parkrun barcode athlete individual identifier.  Pesenting an identikit library card for scanning instead will only lead to embarrassment!  Yes, that happened.  You’d need to be wise indeed to sort that one out after the event though. I mean, strictly speaking you didn’t bring your barcode did you, but if it got scanned, as in this case, because neither runner nor scanner could spot the difference, I’m thinking that might be genuinely exceptional circumstances. Glad I don’t have to decide.  Tough call.  Still, to be on the safe side, take your parkrun barcode along rather than your old Blockbuster video rental card or Morrisons loyalty card or whatever.  Better safe than sorry.

blockbuster store

So in conclusion, thanks lovely Frickley Country parkrun people, you were fab.  All of you, in every parkrunning manifestation from hi-vis clad to walk run joggers.  Not going to lie, my favourite bit was finding you’d moved the finish line in my favour, but that was really the cherry on the cake, because so much to recommend you.  Much parkrun parkfun to be had indeed!

So happy parkrunning ’til next time, hope to be back to see you again soon.

🙂

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

 

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