Posts Tagged With: Graves junior parkrun

Out of the mist, came forth sun… and runners, lots and lots of runners. Loving Longshaw Trust10 in the spring sunshine.

Digested read:  back to the Longshaw Trust 10k (Trust10).  Misty start, sunny finish.  Very nice to be back.

Undigested read:

Everybody loves Longshaw.  Well they should do. Just look at it, it’s spectacular, whatever the season.

DSCF7469

We all need to reboot our systems now and again don’t we?  Don’t we?  Please don’t let on it really is just me?  Oh you were kidding,  it isn’t just me who gets a bit ground down now and again and needs to be reminded to look up and out and breath in the air.  That’s good, otherwise you’ll have no idea what I’m banging on about and that will make for a very confusing mismatch in our conversation, and nobody wants that.

So, Sunday morning. Now normally Sunday is junior parkrun day, and I do really love junior parkrun, supercharged fun however you look at it, especially at my local Graves junior parkrun where you get to run through the animal farm and by the lake and everything.

However, fun as it is, I realised last year that I’d got out of the habit of going to the Longshaw Trust 10k.  This is ridiculous, because I blooming love the Trust10, it’s always super friendly and welcoming and mostly ‘proper’ off road.  I mean not completely hard-core, but enough to get your feet muddy and feel alive and a very long way from the grind of running on pavements or tarmac.

Anyway, longshaw story short, I’ve decided to try to prioritise the Longshaw 10k a bit more this year, after all I can still do junior parkrun the other three weeks of the month (the Longshaw 10k takes place on the fourth Sunday of each month- check website just in case, but that’s worked so far, snow and ice permitting).  This morning, it being the fourth Sunday of the month, Longshaw it would be.

The website says succinctly:

Enjoy a 10k run in the special surroundings of the Longshaw Estate. Free, informal and for everyone

adding

Join us on the fourth Sunday of the month for our free 10k run. Registration is on the day 8.15 in the café, and the run starts at 9 am. A number will be issued to you at your first run.

The route is two laps, and takes in some wide paths and some more technical off-road sections on grass, rocks and sometimes muddy ground. It is suitable for runners of all abilities.

Timing will be via paper and stopwatches, so if your time is important to you please use your own system.

so that’s all you really need to know, you could just finish here, I wont know, I haven’t a clue if anyone ever reads my posts or not, so no offence taken.  Also, you might have a life to lead, places to go, people to see, whatever. I don’t do concise though, so I’m not prepared to leave this account at that, read on at your own risk. Maybe have a precautionary pee first, and pour yourself a mug of tea or glass of wine in readiness. You’ll need something with which to fortify yourself if you intend to stick with me for the long run. Not that Longshaw is especially long by everyone’s standards, but I’ll make it feel long for you.  It’s a 10k route, but two 5k laps, so if you are unsure you could always do one loop and then bail finish at that point. You’ll be at the front of the cafe queue and have seen the route.  But you won’t get a time and you won’t know the fun you’ve missed out on by doing so. Your call though, nobody will judge you.   Really they wont.  In a good way, nobody cares what you do, as long as you are having a good time and stay safe.  Think parkrun, it’s that sort of ethos.   Good natured, celebrating what you do, and although there are definitely speedy runners pegging round at the front, there is nothing to stop you taking a more sedate romp round at the rear – as did I today.

Despite everything, I did feel a little disloyal to be heading Longshaw way instead of to Graves.  Also, it was freezing when I woke.  Really misty, and was that even a bit of ice on the car?  Possibly.  It was like that at Graves parkrun yesterday, so misty you could hardly see your hand in front of your face on arrival, but then it did clear enough later on the second lap for an en route selfie with highland coo.  Such selfies ought to be mandatory anyway at Graves parkrun, what’s the point of a parkrun going to all that effort of supplying highland coos if nobody bothers to do so, but it was made easier yesterday by dint of me being busy and important as tail walker for the day, no pressure to rush on by.  Oh and also having a smart phone carrying selfie wannabee to accompany me, result.  Hurrah!  Fab walk and talk yesterday.  I thank you. 🙂

Where was I?  You’ve distracted me. Oh yeah, not at Graves, but heading to Longshaw.  It was misty enough that I contemplated putting on my headlights, and cold enough that I considered wearing one of my deeply unflattering beanies.  I thought the better of it, though on reflection, my pink Trust10 bobble hat would have been OK, it’s more forgiving than my cow bob and TpoT offerings.  Too late, didn’t take one, wondered if I might regret it, blooming cold.

I won’t lie, I’ve not been feeling the running lurve lately.  My mojo has not so much temporarily departed as actually abandoned me leaving no forwarding address and only memories and dreams of what might have been.  Despite this, I do sort of miss what we had, and it is slowly dawning on me, that astonishingly, the only way to get back my running form is to actually go out and do some running. Harsh, but true.  Perhaps today would be the day.

I arrived crazily early at Longshaw, got my self parked up in ‘my’ parking spot. Yes, I do have a favourite parking spot at Longshaw, doesn’t everyone?  It was £3.50 for non National Trust members for up to four hours – was hoping that I wouldn’t take that long to get around, even allowing time for a fairly substantial cheese scone afterwards. You can park for free along the road outside the Fox House, but I suppose I feel paying for parking is a way of supporting the otherwise free event.  Also, less far to retreat back to the car on days when it is so cold your legs won’t work.  That might just be me though. You are probably so hard-core you’ll be incorporating the Longshaw Trust10 into your long run and jog out, run the 10k and run home again.  Go you!  Not me though, that wasn’t my plan, though I do have a bit of a fantasy that I might do that one day.  Maybe when the weather is a bit warmer so I don’t have to worry about getting cold in between running legs.

The air was still, the car park already beginning to fill up, and the views, as always, just breathtaking.  Of course my photos don’t do it justice, why would they? You’ll have to go check it out for yourself.

Keenie volunteers had already put the little pink flags up to mark the way.  I had my first precautionary pee of the morning.  The bolt on the toilet door wasn’t working, but that didn’t matter as the queue for the loo is always so extensive, someone will look out for you.  The gents of course just breezed past us, waving as they went to make free with their own more ample facilities.  Structural injustice strikes again.  I read a whole article about exactly this issue of why there are never enough female toilets (as in toilets for use by women, not for bathroom sanitation ware that identifies as female – I’m pretty sure most would be non-binary anyway), but now I can’t find it.  Bet you are gutted.  Worry not, I’ll add it in later if I do.  Hang on, you’re OK, I’ve found it, great article on the deadly truth about a world built for men You’re welcome.  Found this one on the American Potty Parity movement too, who knew?  Having said that, compared to other running events, the provision at Longshaw is pretty darned good.  Warm registration area, toilets- not just toilets, but ample toilet paper and hot running water too. Thrown in an informal bag drop, parking,  and post run coffee and carb options and that covers everything really.

Headed in to the cafe area to register, my camera can’t cope with interior shots, but you’ll get the gist. First timers have to complete a registration form, returners, wearing their own reused numbers have a quicker process.

It’s all very self-explanatory and pretty slick, though the volume of participants these days does make for some good-natured queuing. That’s OK though, it’s a chance to catch up with everyone you’ve ever met in the running community of Sheffield. This event brings loads out of the woodwork.  I went on my own, but bumped into many familiar faces.  Grand.

The high vis heroes were discussing tactics, being efficient and heading off to their posts, some of which are a fair old hike away from the cafe area:

Here they are en masse at the end. What a fine and photogenic lot they are. Hurrah for them.  That’s not even all of them.  It takes a lot of effort to keep the event running smoothly.  (Pun intended, I’m super quick-witted like that – less quick on my feet unfortunately.  Oh well, we can’t all be good at anything everything).

Volunteers are epic

Runners arrived and milled and chilled, some did some voluntary extra running, by way of warm up.  Respect.  Others did some voluntary extra running by way of sustainable transport options.  Also respect:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The sun was beginning to peak through, and I started to see familiar faces from woodrun and even a few other break away-ers from Graves junior.  It was like big reunion!

It was definitely still misty, but the day seemed full of promise.  An air of eager anticipation started to build. It seemed busy to me, but then again, apart from the Christmas Tinsel Trust 10 I’ve hardly been to Longshaw Trust10 of late.  I decided NOT to wear my coat, which is quite a big deal for me, as normally I have to have it forcibly wrestled away from me pre run.  Now though, the air was still, and the runes seemed good.  It was one of those days where you really get why ancient peoples worshipped the sun, it seemed miraculous how it began to appear and burned through the fog to reveal a glorious landscape of wonder and promise. In a bit though, not straight away.

After a bit, there was a sort of collective move towards the start, as if drawn by a silent beacon, like in Close Encounters, only a lot jollier and with more visible Lycra. Honestly, I don’t know if Lycra was even a thing when the film Close Encounters came out in 1977, the Wikipedia entry inexplicably completely fails to mention it.  This is the problem with becoming over reliant on search engines on the interweb, the entirety of human knowledge becomes reduced to dust.

The Devil’s Tower is pretty much indistinguishable from Carl Wark in my view, and you can only differentiate the assembling of runners from the assembly of the alien seekers by the presence of tarmac beneath the feet of the non runners.  Spooky isn’t it?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once we were all assembled, more or less, bit of fraternising went on, I noticed the runderwear ambassador ingratiating herself to the tail walkers.  Well, she was trying to communicate something important anyway.  Also a few ill-advised selfies were taken alongside other reunions. You know, it occurs to me, maybe it isn’t the hats that make me spectacularly unphotogenic, maybe I actually look like this hatted or otherwise.  Horrible thought.  Oh well, this selfie is significant because the two of us have been Facebook stalking each others for some months but until this weekend never met, now two-day on the trot, yesterday Graves, today Longshaw. We’re properly best friends now!  Clearly Smiley Selfie Queen has more experience in these matters, or maybe a more forgiving filter.  I’ll never know…  I was slightly disappointed to see she was no longer wearing her sash from yesterday, when she celebrated her 100th parkrun with cakeage+, bunnage+ and a sash proclaiming her achievement.  Oh well.  At least I saw her on the day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

there was the run briefing.

Take care, be sensible, usual information about following marshals directions, but today was special, because today was also a day to sing Happy Birthday en masse in honour of stalwart volunteer Frances, soon to be eighty.  I think it’s fair to say that on the whole attendees are better at running than singing, but the rendition that followed this announcement was full of affection and enthusiasm.  Go Frances!  Excellent hat sporting as well as time keeping. We, who are about to run, salute you!

Birthday celebrant

It’s been a week of awesome octogenarians here in Sheffield.  Tony Foulds did good too did he not, getting his fly-by and all. Maybe that’s when life begins, at eighty, I can but hope… I’m post 54 and still don’t feel like I’ve made it off the starting block…

This is what runners look like whilst singing and waving in the start ‘funnel’ there are helpful signs to suggest where to place yourself to avoid congestion once underway by the way.  Also attentive looking runners during the run briefing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So then, pre run socialising and communal singing satisfactorily completed, we were awf, with that Longshaw staple the wolf whistle to get us underway!  You had to be there, but trust me, it’s true and it was audible and off everybody went.  It was somewhat quirky, like lighting a cigarette to start off the Barkley Marathons, but with more attention to Health and Safety.

And off we went.  It was fairly steady start from where I was at the back.  I daresay the front runners do speed off, but the mass of the back were happy to be more relaxed as we departed.  It’s a narrow path and a bit of a dog leg, and you are just warming up so no great haste.  Not on my part anyway.  The promise of good weather had brought along a fair few spectators to cheer us off, and no doubt then nip into the cafe for reviving coffee for a bit before the faster runners were back at the end of their first lap.

There was a bit of a bottle neck through the first gate, and then onto the compressed mud track where you run perilously close to a ditch, or more accurately a ha ha, presumably called this because that is the noise your so-called friends would make if you were to tumble into it due to either ice or a lapse in concentration.  Wikipedia doesn’t say.

There are many pleasing sights on the way round, but a fine marshal with psychedelic leggings and winning smile is always going to be a hit.  What’s more, on this route, you get to see all the lovely marshals twice if you do the whole 10k.  Now there’s an incentive to keep on running round!  Isn’t she lovely. (Rhetorical question, of course she is!)  Plus, I can personally vouch for her outstanding directional pointing, clapping and generally supportive whooping.  She’s always had a talent for this, starting way back at the finish line in the early days of parkrun, but totally perfected and finessed here at Longshaw.  Thank you marshal.  Top Tip, best to shout out your thanks on loop one, as by the time lap two comes round you may well be a) breathless and b) somewhat less enthusiastic about the whole thing, it all depends.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Off we went, runners streaming ahead and round the lake, or is it a pond?  Not sure what the difference is, but it was all very scenic. You could tell the first timers who ground to a halt at the slightest hint of mud, not having yet learned the fun is in the plunging through it.  I heard one fellow runner explain to his running mate he would have done, but was getting a lift back and didn’t want to get mud in the car!  Can’t be a proper running buddy if they object to mud surely, but each to their own.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Usually, the entire field has run out of my field of vision quite early on, but today I seemed to stay at least in sight of people for the whole of the first lap.  Others were also being distracted by the scenery, it was lovely, and getting lovelier by the minute as the sun burst through.  Handily placed marshals held open gates and pointed the way towards Narnia, and we followed the paths with delighted eager anticipation

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Through the trees, skipping through more open spaces, mud dodging or not, as the mood took us, thanking marshals, queuing at the kissing gate – good for a regroup, catch up and reconnaissance with other runners.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then into the proper woody bit, which is all tree roots and hobbit country.  It was surprisingly dry, and perfect for running today, it can be muddy and slippery, but today was fab, you need to pick your way a bit, but I enjoy this section, though you are a bit restricted to single file.  I tell myself this is why I made no attempt to overtake other runners, instead preferring to pause for photo ops en route.  Ahead of me, my parkrun buddy and Runderwear ambassador had befriended another runner, she does that a lot… takes other runners under her wing, it’s a good quality, and also a super power, it’s pretty much impossible to resist her advances – only this parkrun 50 tee wearing runner had just got swept up in the event and was doing her own run.  She wasn’t persuaded to join the fun this time round, well, no number I suppose, unless she blagged the number 50 – but I’m hoping next month she’ll be back.  She’d have fitted right in!  I am proud of my moody atmospheric shots.  The sky is moody not the runners. Well they may have been moody, I couldn’t tell from my scenic shot seeking detour standing in the bog.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You emerge from the woodland section, through a gate, scramble over some rocks and you get spat out onto the ‘proper’ trail moorland section.  Sometimes when it’s wet this is really squidgy, but today it was easy running, apart from the little matter of being expected to run uphill.  I ran a bit, but pretty soon ended up power walking. They have ‘improved’ the route to minimise erosion, so there is now a clear path and even a little bridge so you no longer get to  have to launch yourself into flight over the little stream.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A cheery marshal directs you and offers encouragement as you look upwards to the first serious climb of the morning, up, up skyward, into the blinding light of the morning sun. You can just make out the marshal standing astride the style in the wall at the top of the ascent, back-lit, like a super hero making an entrance.  Good work there, today Longshaw marshal, tomorrow deus ex machina at a theatrical happening of your choice!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This marshal, as others, has commandeered this as his regular spot.  He is always friendly, and up for a chat, though it has to be said I do feel he has a somewhat unfair advantage in this respect as he hasn’t just had to drag his weary carcass up a steep hill. He is supportive though, and promised to see about putting in some sort of stairlift contraption or escalator in time for the second lap.  Top tip, don’t get your hopes up, it’s like at the Sheffield Half marathon when well-meaning spectators tell you at the Norfolk Arms ‘it’s all downhill from here!’  They are all well-intentioned, but they lie.  It’s inadvertent, but good to know.

He quipped at my Runderwear buddy just ahead ‘not last today then?’ in cheery tones. She most definitely was not. My job I thought silently, and so in time it proved to be.

So after the style and the wall and the chat, you have a long straight bit on a compacted service path.  Through a gate, and on a bit more, and then, just when your homing instinct is screaming at you to go straight on as ‘cafe ahead’ cheery marshals send you off to the right and up the second hill of the day.  This I find really hard, I don’t know why it feels quite as tough as it does, but it plays mind games.  I ended up walking and feeling pathetic for doing so.  Others ahead were walking too.  Blimey I need to up my game.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Towards the top of this hill, you emerge alongside one of the other car parks, a marshal directs you – the route used to go through the carpark, but this route is better.  About this point the front runners started to come through, lapping me.  They make it look effortless.  Very impressive, they might be great athletes, but this is a good natured event, most shouted some sort of acknowledgement or encouragement as they passed.  I was a bit disappointed that unlike at the Tinsel Ten, none of the front runners were wearing a turkey on their heads.  Not one.  There was also a distinct lack of fancy dress.  Maybe they didn’t get the memo…  The pictures don’t capture the steepness of the climb, or maybe it really is all in my head.  The run is in fact flat, the earth is flat* and I have found a sports bra that is both comfy and supportive, and can also still fit into my interview suit.  All things are now possible.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Over the hill, literally and metaphorically, and you are out on the exposed ridge and a flat track back to the start/ finish.  It was a lovely spot today, but I have seen marshals nearly frozen to the spot in less clement weather.  The marshal is ready to stop cars running you down – always a boon, and I think furnished with a first aid kit too, or maybe a very large packed lunch, I didn’t pause to check.  I’m sure I saw a big back pack somewhere.  It’s not in the photos, maybe I was hallucinating, or maybe some other marshal had that responsibility.  I’ll try to remember to look out for it properly next time.  On this stretch, you have to remember to take in the views.  They are spectacular.  I got overtaken a lot, but there are also walkers coming the other way.  The first lap is nearly complete though, so that’s a boost.  I have this weird thing that once I’m half way through an event, irrespective of distance, I believe I will complete it because I’ve only got to do the same again. This isn’t quite logical, but positive thinking probably goes a long way so I don’t want to challenge myself on this point for fear of my self-belief coming crashing down.  It is hovering quite precariously as it is.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is a narrow marshal-assisted gate at the end which you pass through into the comparative darkness of the woodland area again. I once saw a runner crash spectacularly into the stone gate post here, because there is a bit of an optical illusion going on.  There was a lot of blood, and staggering about, that’s probably why it’s marshalled now.

Once you are safely through, it’s a downhill sprint to the finish, unless you are on your first lap, in which case you cruise on through. Inexplicably, no-one has ever confused me for a finisher at the end of my first lap, even though I’m still behind a good number of others who’ve completed their two.  Oh well, at least I get my monies worth for time out on the course!

So I charged through the finish and round again for lap two. I  spotted the RD and one of her noble side-kicks and called out to them to take a photograph. Confusingly, they thought I wanted them to take one of me!  How bizarre, I have a lifetime’s supply of deeply unflattering photos of myself running, no, what I was after was one of them.  After all, runners are ten a penny at events like these, but the volunteer and organising team, well, they are priceless.  It’s a shame I didn’t get a better picture, but it is the thought that counts, and I was trying to think I promise!

Round again,through the gate into the woods again, this time I felt like I was the only runner left on the course.  There was one other just ahead, but it had definitely emptied out.  A family out walking graciously moved aside to let me pass ‘as I was racing’ which was gracious of them as I’m not sure I really was worthy of such a descriptor,  back to smiley marshal still in situ, doing a double wave just for me.

DSCF7607

I usually enjoy a steady solitary second lap more than the first at Longshaw, because it can be quite meditative. Today though, I heard frantic stomping of feet and breathless runners coming up behind me, it was like being hunted down! I thought maybe it was people who’d already finished doing a final cool down lap or something, but it turned out to be the two tail runners. They’d been with some other runner who’d stopped after one lap, and were now on a mission to catch me up at the back.  They were friendly and supportive, and darted about picking up flags and trying to engage in conversation a bit, but unfortunately, as my regular reader will know I really can’t talk and run so wasn’t as much fun at the back as  if they’d had the pleasure of the company of the Runderwear ambassador who’d been cavorting with them like long-lost friends reunited earlier.  However, today she was on fast forward the whole way round, the tail runners didn’t even have her in sight. So sorry lovely tail walkers, I just can’t cope with running with other people, it is my strange way.  I did my best to romp on ahead, but couldn’t quite catch and overtake the penultimate runner, however now and again I put enough space between me and the tail to get some photos of their awesome twosome tail teamwork in action.  Enjoy!  Oh, and she’s wearing a backpack under her hi-vis, no need to stare.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Back into the woods, and oh, it was this marshal with the pack lunch/ first aid kit.  Phew, glad that mystery is solved… also nice moss, shapely trees, no time to stop, scared of being chased down, still, my polar watch was thrilled, I exceeded my exercise goals for today apparently.  That’s smugness inducing I must concede.

back onto the open hillside

past the deus ex machina at the summit – he was offering lifts back in his truck to anyone wishing to bail at this point, but no not I!

DSCF7622

Flat bit, puff puff, up the blooming hill, more puffing, flat and fast bit, through the gate, into the woods, down the hill, people at the finish, parkrun buddies and smiley friends shouting me in, I even managed a little burst of speed to the finish flag, though that might also have been because I tripped a bit going down hill and then couldn’t stop myself with all my substantial weight behind that bit of inadvertent forward momentum!

All done.  Phew.  Drank a full litre of water once I’d been reunited with my bag, which I’d just left in the cafe, you do so at your own risk, but it feels safe to me.  My rucksack is pretty distinctive, people know it’s mine. That’s not to say it means they would stop someone else from taking it, but I’d expect them to mention it later when it was gone ‘oh, I saw someone with your backpack disappearing earlier, wondered who it was‘.  Very reassuring.  FYI, I left my backpack in Jonty’s cafe a couple of weeks ago. When I went to pick it up they asked me to describe it, ‘it’s black and turquoise‘ I said.  ‘Oh dear,’ they said ‘we do have one, but it is black and aquamarine, so cannot possibly be yours!’  I thought that was funny.  I was reunited, panic not.

Joined the very extensive queue in the Longshaw tea rooms. I’ve never seen it so long, normally, because I’m slow, by the time I’ve finished, everyone else has recarbed up and yomped off home.  Maybe the warm weather brought more people out, or perhaps there was another event.  It didn’t really matter.  When I got to the front of the queue, I asked for an extra shot in my latte, but the server queried this as it already has two shots in it.  I think it’s good.  They obviously have and enforce an ‘enjoy caffeine responsibly’ policy, and I just didn’t look like I’d be able to handle it.

Sat outside in the sun for a post run debrief. Very nice it was too.

and then cheese scone (that was sooooooooooooooooooooo nice) consumed and coffee quaffed, it was time to go home.  What a fine morning had been had by all though.

Thank you lovely Longshaw people and fellow Trust10 participants for making it so.  Hope to be more regular in my visits in the year ahead.

🙂

By the way, if you are a fan of Longshaw and want to support them a bit more, there’s currently a big push for support for their Peak District Appeal, Woods for the Future A £20 donation doesn’t quite get you a dormouse named after you, but it could pay for a nest for a whole family, so that’s even better right?

£20 could get a nest for dormice

Also, just to be clear, a few footnotes for your edification and improvement:

+cakeage and bunnage refer to the practise of bringing large quantities of cake/ buns/ muffins etc to parkrun related celebrations or running related gatherings more generally.  Bunnage refers to any quantity greater than one bun, and cakeage to any quantity greater than one person can reasonably be expected to consume unaided.  Communal baking basically, and a very fine thing it is too.  Helped this one to a pb the following day, there’s a lot to be said for carbing up, clearly.

*FYI the earth is not flat.  Definitely not.  You’re welcome

So there you go, today’s Trust10 Longshaw 10k, Trust 10, call it what you will, done and dusted.  Nice wasn’t it?

For all my Trust 10k posts, click here.  Or don’t, it’s not compulsory.  You’ll have to scroll down for older entries

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

Happy trail running ’til next time.  Hope the sun shines on you wherever you are.

 

Categories: 10km, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stonking Storthes Hall parkrun – a woodland wonderland

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Storthes Hall parkrun  It was lovely!  Very sunny and delightful woodland trails. Hurrah!

Undigested read:

Before I start, one thing, my new polar watch is saying I am currently ‘detraining’ whatever that is.  It’s not happy with me basically, and even without fully comprehending the word, I get the gist.  I am weak, I am inactive, I am as good as inert, I’m achieving nothing.

detraining apparently

The running world is full of made-up words.  I’m still struggling with the notion of a unicup, which my Juno sports bra boasts as a desirable design feature whilst cradling my most definitely non uni boobs. It’s all very unfortunate.   I have ended up with a unibreast.  Not to be confused with a unibeast such as a unicorn.   I do not mean by this that my bust has independently graduated from a higher education institution – well not as far as I’m aware anyway, and I think I’d have noticed – though of course we have all just got back from a roaring romp round some university accommodation now I come to think of it, so maybe that’s a contributing factor? Anyways, it’s just that my boobs have been thrust together as one amorphous mass.  The bra I’m testing out is comfy, definitely, but I’m still a bit ambivalent about the whole design.  Ultimately, it’s not quite supportive enough for me, and I’m not sure a uniboob is the best look.  Live-able with perhaps, but not a look to celebrate.  No selfie here.   Instead you got to see my admonishing watch, it really does look quite cross though doesn’t it?  When I’m feeling resilient this running commentary (see what I did there) amuses me, but on other days it feeds my sense of inadequacy, this is relationship that will need work.  I daresay we’ll reach an understanding eventually. It’s just complicated. Like active wear hard to resist wearing it all the time with its forgiving elasticated waistlines …

"Excuse me. I'm a running watch, not a watch TV and eat junk food watch."

Re my watch, I think it’s basically really unimpressed with any sofa based time, and only really happy if I’m actively cavorting around in some way. It was quite pleased with me earlier, confidently telling me I’d exceeded maximum training just after parkrun,  I felt epic!  High five to me.  But now we are a few hours on and it seems I have once again fallen into disfavour.  I do like this watch, but I sense it’s perpetual disappointment with me.  It seems to sigh with an unspoken and yet still audible inside my head mumble of ‘it’s not that you’ve let me down, it’s that you’ve let yourself down‘ and don’t I know it. Really need to up my game.  Later.  Tomorrow maybe.  Now is the time for drinking tea and posting about my latest parkrun adventures, because today at Storthes Hall parkrun was especially epic, and I bet you can’t wait to hear all about it!

The great thing about parkrun tourism, is that you get to meet some great people.  Specifically, when I was at Frickley Country parkrun a couple of weeks back, I met a well established group of parkrun tourists from the Yorkshire area, who get together fairly regularly at different parkruns all over the place. They were full of ideas of fabulous places to add to my parkrun tourist ‘to do’ list, which is already quite long.  They even have a timetable for target venues.  Plus, one of them tipped me off about a relatively new event that I hadn’t heard of before, where she is one of the core team.  Whilst descending en masse at inaugural parkruns is generally agreed to be unhelpful, rocking up a few weeks down the line to support is fine and dandy.  So it was there was a plan afoot to all hail to Storthes Hall this weekend. Yay!  Turns out, this is a proper traily one too  apparently, it’s not that far from Sheffield really, and another part of the world I’ve not really explored. What’s not to like. Plus, coffee available afterwards.  Sounding good.

Course wise, the official Storthes Hall parkrun course blah de blah says:

Starting at the bottom of the field below the Stafflex Area, Shelley Community Football Club, the course goes anticlockwise round the edge of the field, before going into the woods. There are three clockwise laps of the course through the woods before coming back out into the field and finishing by the oak tree. The course follows the main paths straight on from the field, right along the wall up to Wood Lane, along to the perimeter of the old hospital and then back around the edge of the sports fields without leaving the woods. The course will be very muddy in winter or after periods of heavy rain.  Unfortunately this course is not suitable for buggies.

Important note: As this course is on private land, whilst it can be enjoyed with us every Saturday morning at parkrun, please note that freedom runs are not permitted.

and it looks like this:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So the good news is trails and mud.  Hooray. I much prefer running off road – well I say that to myself now, in advance of running, but obviously I reserve the right to revise my decision if I do too many face plants on the way round.  Less good news is the three laps issue.  Not a favoured course design, but hey ho, all parkruns are magnificent in their own way, just need to keep an open mind.

Reading up on the ‘how to find us’ was a bit confusing, there is a nearest workable post code of HD8 0WA but it tells you to then look out for marshals and also to allow 10 minutes to walk to the site. That’s fine of course, but how will this fit with arriving paranoically early? Oh well, all would be revealed.  Parking seems to be in the student village NOT the football club.  It’s helpful that there are such seemingly comprehensive instructions, hopefully no last minute surprises

plus, to keep everything sweet, you are politely told that

Facilities: Shelley Community Football Club kindly offer us the use of their changing rooms, toilets and cafe. Please look for the signs which will clearly tell you which rooms you are allowed to use. Please respect this facility by wearing clean footwear only in the changing rooms and the cafe. We request bringing a pair of clean shoes and a bag to store your muddy shoes in. Otherwise, please leave all muddy footwear outside or do not use these facilities.

Extra pre parkrun preparatory packing required.  Cue go off and rummage for spare footwear and bag in which to keep mud laden ones the night before.  If there’s one torment worse than a parkrun lacking facilities for a precautionary pee, it is a parkrun having such facilities but finding yourself denied them on account of not observing the dress code.  It’s fair enough, but forewarned is forearmed. This is clearly a parkrun where you must not only #dfyb but also don’t forget your clean shoes and muddy trainer bag.  I’m on it!

So I was all ready the night before, cow bob also laid out for its inaugural outing alongside my barcode wrist band and charged up satnav.  The day dawned.  Such a relief to be heading off in daylight.  It’s not that far in miles from Sheffield, but did take an hour. I was chugging along the A629 which was clear, but has frequently changing speed limits so you need to keep your wits about you.  Navigationally, the satnav worked fine, and the instructions were all accurate, you just have to believe in them.  Once I turned off towards Storth Hall it was quite exciting – reet nice out!  Here’s my en route shot:

DSCF7004

Others were also progressing to the site of our target parkrun, and taking their own en route selfies to confirm their attendance in due course:

all making our way to storthes

I might have gone for a selfie shot myself, were it not for four critical factors:

  1. my arms aren’t long enough
  2. I don’t have a smart phone so can’t see what I’m doing
  3. uniboob issues
  4. cowbob also deeply unflattering …

Mind you, I did succumb later, which was ill-advised perhaps, but also inevitable.

I was on the right road, and passed some very grand iron gates, which I presume go to the original stately home Storthes Hall, and then ended up at a very grand looking entrance which at first I thought couldn’t possibly be right, it looked more like a posh corporate wedding venue than student accommodation.  I approached the artificial barrier with caution, but it raised itself as if by magic, so I inched forward figuring it had to be the right place.  It was, but if you are following in my wake, it might help to know that the days of disintegrating HMO hovels in which to warehouse student are it seems a thing of the past. This is seriously high quality campus/ conference facility style facility.  The entrance looks like this:

I was pretty early, it was about ten past eight, but was quickly reassured by the sight of a hi vis volunteer carrying a helpful sign, which was encouraging. Also, note this marshal carefully, because she transforms her look and then reappears in a different – but equally cheery and helpful – incarnation later on. These high vis heroes, they have super powers!

She, and some other car park marshals pointed me to the parking area next to the imaginatively named ‘The Venue’ where visiting parkrunners could park.  There seemed to be a reasonable amount of parking, but not absolutely loads.  I parked up fine, but not sure what you would do if it was full.  The location is pretty spectacular, it helped that the sun was shining and the air still.  I don’t know what I was expecting exactly, but nothing as fabulous as this.

I love parkrun tourism, but I always have a bit of momentary angst at arriving at a new place.  Even though in my experience all parkrunners and their ilk are pathologically friendly, I still harbour some fearfulness that I will stumble on the exception that proves the rule.  My social awkwardness will be made manifest as I fidget self-consciously at the outside of all the fun, berating myself for even thinking of venturing out inwardly quaking at the challenge ahead of not just a parkrun but the associated interactions that might surround it. Aaaargh.  However, pleased to report (spoiler alert) that once again this was a magnificently friendly gathering. Plus, good news, at around the same time as I arrived, I saw another couple of vehicles pulling up, squashed full of cow cowl adorned fellow travellers.  Was it? Yes it was?  It was reassuring to hear one holler out in recognition. Yay, this was my new parkrun tourist buddies.  It was actually really good to rock up and see some familiar and friendly faces.  I did some faffing with cow bob and backpack sundries and then we all emerged at around the same time to try to locate the start. Fortunately there were some helpful and pleasing signs to show you were in the right place – that big sign relates to The Venue cafe which opened for post run refreshments especially for parkrunners, and which was rather fabulous.  In the circumstances, we’ll overlook the capitalisation and what appears to be perilously close to a space between the letters K and R in the signage.  Shudder (#aowalc)

You’d have a job getting lost on the way to the start, there were signs, arrows, and helpful marshals pointing the way.

Is the phrase ‘helpful marshal’ tautology I wonder?  I’ve yet to meet an unhelpful one.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, the signs help, however, it is a good 10 minutes by the time you’ve faffed and gazed about, and in my case succumbed to taking an unfortunate selfie along the way, so they aren’t joking when they warn you need to allow a bit of time to get to from the car park to the start.  I daresay as with all running related challenges, you could cover the distance quite a bit faster if you put a wiggle on, but that tends not to happen in my universe.

See what I mean about the cow bob, really don’t think it’s helping me out in the selfie department.  This might be its first and last outing.  It’s a dilemma though, because, unflattering as it seems to be (on me – other people rock it with style) it is a brilliant identifier, so we’ll see, maybe it’s just because I have a ridiculously sized head it makes it sort of pop off me upwards, perhaps with a bit of stretching over time, it will become me a little more. Hard to imagine it will get worse…

You follow the path down, and end up at a little handy hut, where a gaggle of volunteers had already assembled.

Here you can meet and greet others, throw a stick for the border collie who was auditioning parkrunners for a ‘job for life’ as official stick throwers – stamina and a resistance to repetitive strain injury seemingly the main requirements – and, where applicable, leave your tourist cow Bully for safe-keeping.  Then, you could either head off down towards the starting field,

or, if you are me, follow your nose to the Shelley Community Football Club building to make use of their loos pre-run.  Excellent facilities, though, FYI, one of the loos in the women’s toilet had a very broken toilet seat, didn’t fall in this time, but close thing.  There is a cafe area in the football pavilion too, it was locked pre parkrun but open afterwards – though this particular day there was a football match going on so more space at The Venue. Still, choice of options is impressive.  A two-cafe parkrun doesn’t come up all that often!  It was immaculate inside, you can see why they ask you do remove muddy footwear before crossing the threshold.

Found a way to get a flattering cow cowl bob photo:

DSCF7038

And then wended my way down the hill to the start field. With the sun coming up over the trees it looked really spectacular.  Not sure my pictures will do it justice, and if I’m really honest, I can’t absolutely guarantee the sun shines every time they do parkrun here, but I like to think it does.  You’ll just have to go and discover for yourself.

I had a slight moment of worry that we might be required to run up the hill we were descending, especially as some keenies were warming up with hill sprint reps, but you know what, it’s parkrun, you just have to respect everybody’s right to participate in their own way.

The big open field where the start and finish areas were, had the parkrun flag up and was adjacent to the wooded area where the main fun factory of the parkrun takes place.  I enjoyed the view, chatted to some marshals, met some absolute first timers and debated whether or not it was a jacket / gloves on or off parkrun.  In the end all were off, for reasons justified by the ambient temperature, not by any inclination on my part for a ‘gloves off’ confrontation. I’m very risk averse confrontation wise, and inclined to apologise to people who bump into me if you know what I mean.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is a shiny new parkrun, and they had some grand new ideas too.  Like a guest book, a sign up area for volunteers and a token sorting box, which was great.

It was such a scenic location, I wasn’t alone in trying to get some photos, others also posed, photo-bombed, adopted quite cheeky poses(!) and there were tourist reunions and chit chat a-plenty.  All chilled, but also a sense of anticipation, because of course, many people were if not absolute first time everers (though there were a few of them) were first time visitors.  Check out the compare and contrast 250 tee shots.  There is a vintage and a hot-off-the-press version juxtaposed if you know where to look!  Also, a particularly fine example of photo bombing, almost an art form – and not the only instant that I got to document today!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I like the ambling about anticipation pre-start.  Eventually though, a shout went up for the first timers’ briefing.  As it’s a new parkrun, fourth today, as in, fourth occurrence of the event not fourth birthday, a huge crowd mobbed the speaker.  Lots of tourists, but a few lucky first time evers amongst the mob. It would be pretty fabulous to have this as your home run. Some were refugees from Huddersfield parkrun, which apparently has got huge, so those within reach of this one at Storthes Hall were checking out alternatives.

The talk covered the usual bases.  Three laps, one narrow section through woods, watch out for tree roots, because it is a proper woodland trail (and it is) and also for the trees that are attached to said roots, because they have low and sticking out branches. Also, look out for holes underfoot, and look out for uneven ground and look out for each other too.  Fair enough.  Eyes wide open throughout.  I never take all that much notice of the route description as I figure I’ll just follow everyone else, and that worked again this time round…  and round again and round once more.  (Three laps remember).

Then we milled down to the start:

and we gathered on what seemed to be quite a steep slope for the general Run Director’s briefing.  It was quite hard to hear, despite the loud haler.  I don’t know whether that was partly the slope, but it wasn’t helped by some incredibly rude people amongst those gathered together just talking really loudly through and over it all.  Maybe a sign to SHHHH during the run briefing, like they hold aloft at Bushy parkrun woudn’t go amiss here.  It does astonish me how people will shout through parkrun briefings, apparently oblivious to how loud they are and how disruptive it is for everyone else – not to mention dispiriting for the poor speaker, as if the RD hasn’t enough on their plate already.  Some of the noise was possibly over-exuberance at the excitement of the whole thing, and it was jolly exciting,

and also, incredibly picturesque:

DSCF7090

I like to think that guy in the start line up isn’t just retying his shoe laces or seeking out a lost contact lens, but getting ready for a proper off the blocks sprint start.

So after run briefing, which was hard to hear, I just about made out the countdown ‘3, 2, 1 Go!’  I think that’s what was said, might have been this though, like at Lough Key parkrun, the core team at Storthes Hall I’m sure could sing and bob along with the best of the Muppet crowd!  There were certainly parkrunners game for a dance party on the dance floor of The Venue later on.  But I’ll come to that in due course…

courtesy of loughkey parkrun

Eventually, there was a general surge, and everyone moved forward, if not exactly as one, as a sort of starlings murmuring in a heave ho up the hill.  My it’s a steep start.  I hadn’t really concentrated on the directional information about the course, so was pleasantly surprised when the lead runners, instead of continuing in a breathless hurl up the hill, did a collective swing round to the left, and towards the woods.  It was nice this bit, not only because it went back down hill (only to be come up again later) but also because you got some great views of the parkrunners ahead in a colourful line like a herd of wildebeest on migration.  Albeit wildebeest in Lycra which is not a sight you get to see all that often on the mighty plains of Africa I daresay, but otherwise I think the two spectacles would be pretty indistinguishable.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then, quicker than you can say ‘Severance‘, you are in the woods!

It was lovely in the woods.  It felt soft and forgiving underfoot.  Hi-vis marshals lined the way smiling and directional pointing like old hands, and you didn’t need to drop a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way as there were also directional signs a-plenty.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The route is a little deceptive.  It doesn’t look like it’s particularly uphill, but honestly, I found it quite hard going.  I suppose, even though the incline is relatively slight, you do have to go round it three times, and it has a slightly Escher painting effect, you feel like the whole thing is uphill, which logically can’t be true.  The three loop bit, is all within the woods, and that was a bit disorientating.  It’s not the Barkley Marathons but it felt like it was a route a lot longer than the average parkrun, though of course it isn’t.  I’d seen Troy up ahead, and was sort of hoping inwardly that I could at least keep him and his little legs in sight to motivate me to keep going.  Maybe he’d stop for a poo and that would give me a chance to catch up.

Oh, this is Troy by the way, pictured here with his three-footed handler, not quite sure how that works whilst running, must ask next time:

DSCF7092

No, not a person.  Why, who did you think I was talking about?

One of my issues is I tend to be overly influenced by those around me, struggling to run faster than my natural pace and then get stressed because I can’t keep it up, once I slowed down a bit, and went at a more comfortable and for me sustainable lope I started to actively enjoy it.  I love running through the woods, and then there were bits where you came along the edge of the tree line and got some great views.  All the marshals were friendly and interacted, and other runners were forgiving too.

There is one bit where there is what seems like a sharp right turn into the woods, with a marshal bravely standing at the far end of the path as a human bollard to stop you inadvertently failing to turn and instead running off into infinity and beyond.  There the path isn’t obvious, and one runner confused me by apparently cutting the corner off altogether as they passed me, but the marshal called out that there isn’t a path as such, you just choose your own route, as indeed you do.  It seemed I was lapped quite early, and obviously I apologised to the runners who overtook me for existing.  They all were friendly and encouraging too, and one woman made a point of saying ‘don’t you apologise for anything, we’re all at parkrun together’ or something similar which was lovely, and also true!

DSCF7111

If you look carefully, not that carefully to be fair, it is quite obvious, you will see I also got a shot of the talented Steve Frith who was out on the course today (you might know him from The Trunce and fundraising for Mossienets and more recently Woodhead Mountain Rescue Team, snapping some awesome shots.  Here he was trying to get some of the front runners, and did so with considerable style.  I love these photos, classy and how he captures these portraits of runners whilst in motion just astonishes me. Thank you Mr Photographer.  Epic pics as always. Oh, and the guy with the orange shirt and the running vest, he isn’t really a giant, I don’t think, it’s just a pleasing optical illusion that makes it look like he’s running down the woman in front, only she isn’t she’s behind.  Look again.  He is very good at supportive clapping though.  More of this later….

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’d just caught up with Troy at this point, who was actually only just ahead, but round the corner, or maybe I was slightly ahead at this point, and I photographed them as they passed me by now I come to think of it. In any event, these the other parkrun tourists laughed at themselves for their collective ‘seen a photographer posing’, which was extremely flamboyant shrieking and waving…  that in fact was completely wasted as the front runners shot by and into frame, the understandable focus of the camera’s gaze at that point in time. No worries, I got a great shot of them from behind, and don’t they look fabulous?  Even blurred a bit because they were running so fast!

Other runners were apparently a little more camera shy, either that, or this is in fact an enchanted woodland where the trees sprout arms when you least expect it, but I think the former basically.  Just to be clear.  Or maybe he just wasn’t looking where he was going, and didn’t listen at the pre-race briefing when they warned you to watch out for trees attached to tree roots on the way round.  That’s got to have hurt actually.  Ouch!

SF photographer dodging

I was more relaxed now, but just as I had a moment of thinking ‘I love trail running’ and picking up my pace a bit, I nearly nose dived over a tree root and total face plant.  Oops.  Unlucky.  Not as unlucky as the other parkrunner I met at the end who had to bail after tripping over, and neither of us was as unlucky as the poor Tilgate parkunner who broke their leg this morning. That’s not funny, it really isn’t, especially as the poor individual concerned was on their 99th run and not only will this delay their hundredth, it’s not clear if they finished and got their barcode scanned first or not.  Whilst I’m on the subject, the bit of the story that made me raise an eyebrow, is the bit about the ambulance getting stuck in the mud of the course en route and needing to be rescued itself.  Fortunately, parkrunners are awesome, and all ended well, apart from a parkrunner having broken their leg of course, which isn’t very well at all really is it?  Oh well, only not, obvs. I’m sure you get what I mean.  Maybe whilst he’s off running he can colour in his 100 parkrun tracker shoe chart, which I have just discovered and stolen from the parkrun discussion group facebook page (unofficial).  Good isn’t it?

parkrun 100 tracker

It seems to have been an incident filled day.  Nostell parkrun also reported an incident with an injured runner, however, pleasingly added:

Everyone pulled together whether it was first aid, taking volunteer roles on or generally helping out. Big thanks also to the staff at Nostell for their support. It was amazing to see the parkrun family come together making me very proud of you all. I also have to admit to being amused by the fact that everyone who stopped to help went back and ensured they completed ALL of their 5k this morning!

though I do understand blue-lit ambulance enabled course completion PBs are disallowed under current parkrun rules… unless they are logged as an ‘assisted run’ presumably…

Back to the run, there was signage to help you with counting laps and directional awareness, he cunningly moved from one side to the other to stop anyone bailing after just one lap:

There was a marshal with the best gloves I’ve ever seen for marshalling purposes, and I’ve seen a few.  She has to get herself to a Canada parkrun to give these mitts the exposure they so clearly deserve:

And there was the marshal with the dog in need of a stick thrower with the capacity for perpetual motion, who multi-tasked brilliantly taking pictures as well as directionally pointing, clapping and shouting out support to passing runners.  No mean feat.

One notable feature about this parkrun, is that it looks like it requires quite a bit of pre-event set up. There was definitely attention to detail here, with gift wrapping of stones and tree roots that were particularly hazardous and lots of tape to guide the way.  Kudos to those who do the course set up each week, it looks a time consuming one.  Also, and I speak from bitter personal experience of tape usage at Graves junior parkrun each week – handling that plastic tape is way harder and more problematic than it looks!

Proud of my tape use skills though, no wonder I look busy and important!  I mean a hi-vis conveys a certain authority, but couple it with a clipboard and frankly you could take on the world!  Or at least look like you might, which amounts to the same thing..  Yep, I put that tape up round the big pond in Graves park, and not one runner fell in NOT ONE, so definitely I did a good job there. High five to me!

Back to Storthes Hall parkrun, so you run round in circles a few times, and then eventually, you are allowed to run out, towards the finish funnel, out of the woods, into the radiant sunshine and an uphill but short finish. I’m pleased to report that there was a very enthusiastic parkrunner cheering in us final finishers.  I like to think he was there for me personally, but he was in good voice and kept the support up for everyone behind me.  Kudos to him.  It was grand. Thank you fellow parkrunner!

and through the finish funnel, in my case resisting the temptation to manipulate my finish time to secure my last outstanding parkrun bingo time (20 seconds since you are asking) and through to the token woman …

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Job done.  Just a matter of getting barcode scanned, adding my token into the cleverly constructed token sorting box, and trying to work out what to write in the visitors’ book.  My entry wasn’t imaginative, but at least it’s there for posterity, that’s good.

Still sunny, and lovely and warm, so plenty of opportunity for post parkrun posing.  Milestone tee line ups, new friend pic and photobombs.  What could be more perfect?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After a bit of discussion, we opted to go back to The Venue for post parkrun coffee, as a football match had started and the club house was likely to be full, so we sauntered back towards the carpark

DSCF7170

To The Venue, and complied with their understandable shoe-removal policy.  It was all very civilised, there were chairs to sit on whilst you took your shoes off, and a colourful array of trainers lined up outside. Whilst I’m not advocating a spontaneous upgrade of shoes if you found some in your size that you liked better than those you’d come in, you could at least indulge in a bit of running shoe porn by gazing at options that might have been.. Did you know there it is possible to get a customised running shoe coffin? No idea why or who.  Being buried in your shoes is one thing, but interred in one, not sure about that, not sure about that at all.  Gotta be a joke, surely?  Not surely? Don’t know…

Inside The Venue and oh wow!  This is not your usual post run breakfast venue. It was super posh, with flashing lights, a bar area, very clean.  A choice of communal tables or funky squishy sofas in side rooms, and a dance floor!  Pop-up party boogie anyone?  We went for squishy sofa section.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That wasn’t the best thing though. The best thing was the parkrun breakfast.  Here, reincarnated as the breakfast buffet enabler was the cheery volunteer who was lugging a sign around earlier.  You can see why I didn’t immediately recognise her though, without the sign and hi-vis she’s in disguise in mufty!

DSCF7180

So the deal is, there is a table set up with bread and crumpets and a variety of toppings and a catering style toaster (crumpets need to go through a squillion times apparently, but the raisin toast was good to go after just one circuit) and you take what you want and drop the money into an honesty basket. There was also filter coffee for a pound I think, but I actually took advantage of the toast with Philadelphia cheese topping (can’t remember when I last had that, though it didn’t play well with my rather pitiful attempts to try to eat more vegan) and upgraded to ‘proper’ coffee from The Venue caterers.  The Venue apparently opens just for the parkrunners, so probably good that at least some of us supported this so it’s worth their while to do so.  Likewise, parkrunners are asked to support the football clubhouse too – they have a hatch from which they can dispense post-parkrun carbs and caffeine apparently.  Might check that out next time…

So whilst you couldn’t get a hot cooked breakfast as such, it was a very neat and enjoyable solution.  Again, a lot of work has evidently gone into setting up this parkrun, with great attention to detail.  So we all gathered round for the mandatory parkrun debrief:

and I think it’s fair to say the consensus was very positive. This is really a lovely parkrun, friendly, lovely trail – if trail is your thing, picturesque and great facilities. In fact, I think it is probably the first parkrun I’ve done that is properly off road, I mean obviously that’s a shame for buggy runners or wheel chair users, but a welcome addition to the parkrun mix as a change from the tarmac formula. The three loop thing didn’t seem too bad, as it’s picturesque through the woods, and surprisingly, even though it had 157 runners (250 the run before) it didn’t feel particularly congested, as long as you exercise a bit of common sense and stick to the left and in single file through the one narrow path in the woods, but if you were a speedy runner and wanted to get past a bit of tree weaving would see you through.

Oh, and whilst debriefing, I found out from one of the core team that the first finisher today was a woman, which pleased me. Also, the highest age percentage runner was female too, with a 75.28% score.  I like looking at the percentage for age rankings, they can throw up some extraordinary performances you might otherwise miss.  It is a run not a race, obvs, but we can still all celebrate a quality run.  Thanks Steve Frith for taking and sharing many fabulous photos as ever.

SF first finisher

and then, inevitably the party over, it was time to go our separate ways.  But that was another fine parkrun.  Would definitely recommend, it was great to be on some bouncy forest trails.  I mean, I do concede we were lucky with the weather, it could get super muddy when wet, but not today, today was practically perfect in every way!

If you still want more about Storthes Hall parkrun, then you could check out this video of Storthes Hall parkrun in the ice and snow.  It’s pretty fabulous, 2nd Feb 2019 event.  Love this.  Captures parkrun to perfection.  Thanks to Andis Ozols for taking and sharing to the Storthes Hall parkrun Facebook page, where I found it.  🙂

Home, abducted by my sat nav, and seemingly incapable of independent thought I went back a completely different route, on the M1, which took longer weirdly, but did give me some great views of this transmitter, which you could also see from the Shelley Community Football Clubhouse building at the start of the parkrun.  I like it.  Quite a landmark.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All done and dusted.  Thank you Storthes Hall parkrun for your fab course and warm welcome, and thank you parkrun tourists for letting me hang out with your great gang.

So that’s it, for another week, where next I wonder?  Wherever it is, #dfyb #loveparkrun

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.

Happy running ’til next time.

🙂

 

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

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

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

45217138124_1223c8fb7d_k

Unabridged version:

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

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

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

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

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

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

45941269811_c88f97e529_k

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

graves junior parkrun course

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

32070137058_531df5592b_k

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

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

31002466397_f8c3da45af_o

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

cake

Pretty cool eh?

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

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

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

32070086808_dee69e9558_k (1)

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

child snatcher

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

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

32070130148_9ec8e1b8d9_k

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

superheroes

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

Then there was the gathering at the misty start line

32070122198_2eed168b83_k

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

Bravely high-fiving Mr Blobby as they passed:

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

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

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

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

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

32070091778_9cef7ec08f_k

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

32070090328_a9b2d784ed_k

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

32070141708_d4a78b35dd_o

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And that wasn’t even the end of it.

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

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

It was brilliant.  Best conclusion to the run ever!

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

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

32070139758_4e15d9a947_k

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

You’re welcome.  🙂

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

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

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

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

welcome to graves

 

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

Brrrrrr at Brierley Forest parkrun. Snow, actual snow. The weather was cold but the welcome was warm :)

Digested read: went to Brierley Forest parkrun for a bit of parkrun tourism.  It snowed!  It was very nice though thank you for asking.  Would recommend.  Wear big warm pants in winter though.

halloween parkrun

The unabridged version:

I know I’m only a nesh southerner, but really, snow?  In October?  Lucky for this (almost) Halloween I was shrouded  (see what I’ve done there?) in the warm embrace of a new parkrun or I’d never have made it home alive.  Well, ok, that might be a teeny bit of an exaggeration, but honestly only a teeny-weeny bit –  I’d most definitely never have made it out of the house to go for a run otherwise, which amounts to the same thing on a Saturday.  Because, after all, what is a Saturday for, if it is not for parkrun?  parkrun, and making new friends – pretty much synonymous to be fair.

parkrun day

There are lots of ways to make new friends if you engage in a bit of proactivity it’s true.  Well, maybe not quite forever friends straight off, but social interaction on the path to that outcome certainly.  One way is to randomly accost people trying to have a quiet coffee on a bench and use your charms so you can join them, direct approaches work best (go mum!). #itsgoodtotalk indeed!

Another approach is just to rock up at any parkrun and start with a slightly awkward smile as a precursor to parkrun small talk and then you’re in.  Or your money back!  What do these displays of brilliance have in common?  Why dear reader, parkrun of course! It’s a FACT (albeit one I’ve not actually been able to provide a statistical evidence base for, but just has to be true based on my subjective personal experience – or ‘ethnographic research’  if you prefer) that people who are involved in parkrun are more likely to be pathologically friendly and receptive to approaches from other people involved in parkrun than the population as a whole.  Actually, I am of the view that most people are friendly if you approach them, even non parkrunners, but that doesn’t work quite so well as the premise for this post, so hey ho, bit of creative licence here – ‘bear with, bear with’.  Most people are nice, or try to be.  But parkrun people are extra so.

bear-with-me

Also, I can’t work out how to do the Venn diagram, but I’m sure you can grasp the general idea. Case in point, today whilst my mum was hobnobbing with the deer and celebrities and parkfunners in all their many and glorious manifestations in Bushy Park, I was shivering in the warm and welcoming company of Brierley Forest parkrunners.

I’m getting ahead of myself though.

My regular reader will know, if they’ve been paying attention, I’ve been really struggling with my running lately.  Can’t be bothered to explain why, but in an attempt to counter this, and rediscover my love of running (it’s complicated), I thought I’d ring some parkrun changes.  Take the pressure off by heading off to a new place for some parkrun tourism and just romp round anonymously, taking pictures and taking in the view.  What’s not to like.

I settled on Brierley parkrun because it’s definitely a doable distance from Sheffield, in fact it only took about 40 minutes to get there, but of course I didn’t believe that so left at stupid o-clock this morning.  It was still dark when I ventured out the house:

DSCF5018

It was freezing stepping out the door.  The roads were clear, and the sky too.  At one point a load of birds – gulls maybe – flew across the moon in a great swarm, back-lit they looked like a load of bats heading out or heading home, who knows?  Very spectacular.  It’s worth getting out early sometimes, the world looks difference in the silence pre dawn.

The drive was easy, and I arrived at Brierley Forest just after 8.00.  There were loads of parking places, so many I got confused about where to pull up (doesn’t take much to be fair).

DSCF5021

I then had a bit of a panic.  I’d been asking some fellow parkrunners (hello Monday Mobsters) from my home parkrun at Sheffield Hallam for some tourist ideas and they mentioned this run and one other.  One doesn’t have toilets for a pre parkrun precautionary pee, the other does.  They couldn’t remember which was which and nor could I.  This is the problem with getting advice from well-meaning fellow parkrunners, their opinions are all well and good, but sometimes the omission of detail is near ruinous.  York parkrun I recall definitely lacks loos.  Good to know.  Only the most slender of parkrunners would manage a surreptitious pee behind one of the racecourse railings, it’s a no-go area for me then.  Back to Brierley Forest though – curses, this could yet turn out to be my WORST NIGHTMARE EVER!  On the plus side, I was early and there were seemingly plenty of al fresco options for the desperate/ disinhibited, so all was not lost.

Car parked:

DSCF5020

Time for an explore.  It’s grand going to new places.  I didn’t know anything at all about this one before I arrived, other than the post code to get there which by the way is if using SATNAV, NG17 2PL.  It helped maybe that the autumn colours were at their finest, but this is a wood that has been lovingly sculpted. There were well-marked trails, including – drum roll – parkrun signs!  Not seen them before.  I mean permanent ones, hang on…

there you go.  This parkrun isn’t going anywhere.

Then there was a lovingly put together adventure playground with obstacles to climb over, swing on or run across.  Some cool woodland sculptures,

Then there was a rather moving wooden memorial in commemoration of the five miners who died in the 1957 Sutton Colliery (Brierley Pit) disaster and in tribute to all those who worked at the colliery 1872 to 1989.

Aside from being a parkrun venue, the Brierley Forest site has a pretty interesting history.  This site has been dug, and hewn and reshaped over the years.

The trees were good, though disappointingly, I couldn’t find any acorns, I’m on a quest to find a really good one, still in its little egg cup cover.  None to be found here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I did find something else though.  Hit the veritable jackpot with these:

There was a mobile catering van outside the very shut looking visitors centre.  I got chatting with the woman running it, to find out about post run veggie options (more of this later) and asked her about loos.  She directed me to the adjacent visitors’ centre.  It wasn’t locked.  What’s more, it was spotlessly clean and roasty toasty warm with toilet paper and running water and everything. Phew, crisis averted.  I always feel better for my precautionary pee.

This was definitely fast becoming my new favourite parkrun – all needs catered for:

DSCF5066

Here is the visitors’ centre, and the adjacent mobile catering outlet in case you are wondering what they looked like.  I don’t think they were doing curries at that time in the morning, but then again, I didn’t enquire.  They were doing hot drinks and hot baps from about 8.00 a.m.  It seems they were not there exclusively for parkrunners, but dog-walkers, people fishing and other day trippers too.

I did a bit of exploring, and found the hi-vis heroes out in force, setting up the course.  This parkrun doesn’t have volunteers, it has voluncheers instead, apparently.  Aren’t they lovely and particularly photogenic to boot?

voluncheers

This wasn’t the only genius innovation though.  They also mark up their course markers like this:

Clever eh?  No wondering every single week if you are carrying the right number of signs out with you for the course set up.  It seemed a well oiled machine in action, with hi-vis voluncheers marching purposefully about.

It was still early, so I temporarily retreated back to the relative warmth of my car until a few more people had assembled.  I do like it when people make an effort at parkrun, and a quartet duly arrived who I assumed, had done just that.   So much so that I asked to take their photos:

I congratulated them for making an effort with their fancy dress – only to be completely mortified to discover they weren’t in fancy dress at all, but had come straight from work!  Oh no, I quickly stammered out something unconvincing about meaning ‘making an effort by coming in uniform’ but not sure I quite pulled it off.  Shame, not a crowd to get the wrong side of I’m guessing.

More milling and chilling.  I love watching people gather at parkrun, the coming together of people for a common purpose, familiar and yet unfamiliar.  Familiar, because the same characters are at every parkrun, and unfamiliar because, well, not been here before, so all new!

The chilling was very literal.  I could have sworn I got a dusting of ice from the sky at one point.  There was cheery herding of first timers to the first timers briefing, we assembled, and then yes, actual snow fell.  Quite a lot of it. Not just a little bit of ‘is it or isn’t it’ wintry showers, but full on, proper snow. That was most unexpected.

It was quite exciting in a way, but mostly very, very cold.  Still, made for an adventure I suppose.  And I probably didn’t feel it quite as much as the poor guy who was a tourist runner from Vermont, who was wearing shorts, a brave choice I felt.  Wonder if he’s done the Barkley Marathons too?

DSCF5093

Glad to see some tourists – more than that treasured cow cowl sporters had also made an effort for the season.  I wished I’d been able to find my halloween deely-boppers from a couple of years ago, but have a feeling they ended up with a friend in Bangladesh (long story). I wonder how you train a spider to hang on like that?  Also, I wonder if it helps keep your head warm. I’d consider an arthropod as a companion animal if that was the case, I was rather regretting not having my woolly hat out with me this morning.

First timers briefed.  Included in our number were a couple of completely new to parkrun people.  That’s always exciting.  They might be on the cusp of something new.  How their lives might change from hereon in.  Or not.  The snow wasn’t maybe the most enticing of welcomes…

Into the melee for the run directors briefing.  The RD had a somewhat evangelical presence in his delivery.  I have to say though, this was the noisiest run briefing I’ve ever been too.  I seemed to be surrounded by people seemingly chatting extra loudly so they could hear themselves over the to them irritatingly noisy RD. I was quite shocked actually, how rude.  If they really didn’t want to listen they could have at least stood further away.  I even asked a few to ‘maybe keep it down’ – which is extreme behaviour from me as normally the most I’ll do faced with such anti-social behaviour is direct an ineffectual Paddington Bear Stare. The provocation here was extreme though. The shouters paused just long enough to look at me like I was mad before carrying on shouting at one another. This is clearly their parkrun ‘normal’.   Pity the poor run director faced with that.  Obviously, I then felt uncomfortable for having even tried, not the done thing here.  I really hope today wasn’t typical though.  Being quiet for 4 minutes for the briefing isn’t a lot to ask when the volunteers voluncheers have given up so much time for a parkrun to happen surely.  Junior parkunners are way more attentive than this crowd, and many of them are only four at Graves junior anyway! #itsgoodtotalkbutnotduringtherdbriefingatparkrun

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That was it, before we knew it we were awf…

Oh hang on, you probably want to know the official course blah de blah, here it is from the Brierley Forest parkrun site:

An undulating 2 lap course set in the grounds of Brierley Forest Park. The course is clearly marked with directional arrows.

The start is located close to the Brierley Forest Visitors Centre. From the start runners head North East for approximately 1KM. From there arrows will direct through a small S bend onto an access road where a marshal will be present. From here runners will continue forward onto the Brierley Branch for approximately 250 metres before heading back onto Brierley Park heading South West following the path to the pond. At approximately 1800metres follow an arrow taking you around the left of the pond, through the trees back onto a straight path towards the finish.

Before the finish, turn right following the path of trees towards the visitors centre and past for approximately 170m back onto the second loop of the course and head straight on to the finish.

My version is though, two loops, basically flat, through woods and on tarmac/ compacted gravel trails. It was very scenic.  I was inadvertently caught up in the middle of the throng as we set off, but it was all very good-natured.  This parkrun has an excellent vibe.  The route is lovely.  Through trees, past a lake, a few turns means you don’t always see other runners ahead but sometimes there are glimpses of them over the horizon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There weren’t many marshals on the course as such, but there were loads of arrows, no chance of getting lost. Also, another fine innovation, their marshal points are named in honour of presumably, some of Brierley Forest parkrun’s finest.  Check these signs out.

Especially heart-warming is the correct use of the apostrophe.  Such a relief.  This is what my mum needs for Elisabeth’s Corner.  Only a matter of time, surely.

Other hi-vis heroes a-plenty, and especially impressive as it was cold enough that I’m sure a few of them must have had bits freeze and fall off, law of averages, a few would be sacrificed for the many…  The more wily amongst them had bought steaming hot flasks and other provisions.  Impressive forward planning methinks!

DSCF5108

I did my usual leisurely trundle along at the back, only it was so cold I could feel my lungs freezing every time I inhaled.  I had to stop periodically to photograph the sights and delights along the route, even doing a detour to take in the dragon egg.  Well, rude not too, and it isn’t something you see everyday now is it?

DSCF5119

You can see my little dragon’s egg detour on my strava if you like:

strava route

You’re welcome.  🙂

It’s a two lap course, so you have to look longingly at the finish funnel and sprint on by.  All very well laid out though, no danger of going astray.

I enjoyed my yomp at the back.  I wasn’t quite last, but nearly.  The tail walker was way behind me though, I think that someone had come and just done one lap, which is fair enough, but meant the tail walker then had to put a wiggle on to catch up with the next runner.  Always a risk in that role!

I’m slow, and so it was quiet round me, I was always in sight of other runners, but very much had my own space.  It was a nice change to do a run that was a lot quieter than my home run, which obviously I feel loyal too, but no-one can deny that Sheffield Hallam parkrun is now consistently on the ‘snug’ side in terms of crowds.

I was relieved when I finally came back round to the finish.  I even put on – what is by my standards at least – a bit of a sprint finish.  Didn’t start it too early for fear of collapsing ahead of the timers and having to crawl in like that poor Japanese relay runner with her broken leg!  Not a good look.   I’m not that dedicated, I’m just scared they’ll either move the finish funnel further away, or start dismantling it before I get there if I don’t get a wiggle on in the final few metres.

bleeding finish

That was it, all done!  Loads of volunteers on the funnel, time keeping, funnel managing and generally providing solidarity with the final few finishers.  Loving your work Brierley Forest Voluncheers.  I thank you.

I waited for the tailwalker to come through, complete with an entourage clad in hi-vis and clutching course signs and tape stripped from the route as she passed.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

and soon that was that, parkrun binned for another week…

Just time for obligatory post parkrun selfies

DSCF5146

Goodbye Brierley Forest parkrun people, hope to be back sometime summertime.

Time to go in search of post parkrun breakfast options.  Now, the official delegation was heading through the car parks to the golf club which has catering options apparently.  However, I felt should honour my promise to the mobile caterer who’d promised a veggie option in a bap earlier on.

I passed by the officious sign about not leaving your horse unattended – lucky I didn’t have Roger with me this week, though actually, he’d have been fine, he’s very well-behaved…  Mostly retired now though.  Presume Geronimo would have been ok.

Returning to the mobile catering van was a good move.  It was very social, as I met a couple of other parkrun tourists who were playing a sort of mild version of Top Trump parkrun tourism having visits to Malmo parkrun and  one of the Florida ones respectively.  The Florida one was not recommended – 100% humidity and ridiculously hot.  An adventure, and an impressive addition to the tourism tally for sure, but to be that sticky at 7.30 a.m. doesn’t sound grand. ‘I’ve done Bridlington – does that count?‘ chipped in Cob-woman*. This would have won, undoubtedly, except it wasn’t true.  Shame.  I hope Bridlington does have a parkrun- hang on, will google…

drum roll….

Yes!  It does, dear reader I give you Sewerby parkrun.  It’s on my hit list!

The veggie cob option was basically gluten, and it came in a tin like this – not the most appetising in appearance to be fair:

But you know what, with onions and mushrooms it was really unexpectedly good.  Also a bargain, coming it at £3.50 for that and a large coffee too.  I say cob*, but by instinct I would call it a bap though strictly speaking I think a Sheffielder would say it was a breadcake.  Confusing.  I think we can agree based on the signage, that this is best taken as cobs courtesy therefore of cob-woman, which if it isn’t yet a wildly recognised super hero should be henceforth.

The parkrunner was parent of the fancy dress children previously identified.  ‘Where are they, have you left them in the wood?’ I enquired, having noted their absence.  ‘They are a devil-witch and a zombie, they can look after themselves, they’ll be fine!’ she quipped back.  They could indeed, having found sanctuary in the warmth of the semi-operational visitors’ centre.

I sat and ate my seitan cob/bap/breadcake and found out a bit more about life at Brierley Forest from my two companions. The pond bailiff who was having his daily sausage cob fix, and the woman in charge of the catering -today’s superhero Cobwoman. It seems she is taking over the centre when it reopens in a few weeks time.  Sounds really good.  She will be opening in evenings as well, the park are also putting up some lights, and rebuilding an access road to the cafe and park.  a lot of care and investment has gone into the place.  It seemed brim full of optimism.  Definitely one to come back to.

Thanks for the welcome new best friends for the day:

DSCF5160

Seitan bap eaten, coffee drunk, farewells said, that was that.  I was quite sad to be going.

The verdict?  Yeah, would definitely recommend this parkrun, super friendly – thanks to all that made it so.  Very scenic, good facilities, not so keen on the snow but then again, that makes it all the more memorable does it not.  Even a choice of loos.  There was a sort of container with an outdoorsy loo as well, but I got the upgrade for being cheeky.  Good to know.  Lovely autumn colours too, catch them while you can, nights are drawing in from tomorrow…

DSCF5149

So more parkrun love tomorrow at Graves junior, so excited.  Will there be snow?

Don’t worry about snow though people, especially if you life in Shropshire.  Gritty McGritface is on it!  Just shows, it’s an ill wintry shower that brings nobody any good!

gritty mcgritface

Addendum.  There was no snow at Graves Junior parkrun.  It was beautiful out there.  As usual I set out the course on arrival, but unusually, the skill and judgement I used in putting up the tape by the lake and strategic placement of a hi-viz tabard on the pillar hazard at the turn were captured on film.  Hurrah!  Well, on digital upload whatsamajig which amounts to the same thing.  Also, a fine duck. Gotta love a duck, as I’m sure you know. Enjoy!

Also, best overheard comment of the morning (the juniors run through an animal park which includes llamas FYI) ‘how big would the wings need to be on a llama, for it to be able to fly?‘  Great question. Testimony to the meditative potential that is realised through participation in parkrun.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

and for spooky halloween themed events click here – scroll down for older entries.

Happy parkrunning til next time.  Feel the parkrun love and joy!

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A glimpse into the wonderful world of parkrun volunteering

Digested read: it was my fiftieth time of volunteering at parkrun last Sunday.  The lovely RD at Graves junior parkrun did a special post about volunteering based on me!  Wow.  I was really touched.  Thanks guys!   I feel a tad guilty given how many out there have achieved this milestone way ahead of me, but I’m enjoying the moment all the same!   Blushing a bit though, just a bit.

There isn’t a way to repost from the parkrun blog, so here is a cut and paste job instead.  Uncharacteristically sentimental post from me therefore follows…

Posted on September 13, 2018 by gravesjuniorsoffice
Last Sunday one of our regular volunteers, Lucy, volunteered with us for the 50th time!

A cause for celebration – how did it all start?
I was actually really nervous the first time I joined the volunteer team at Graves. What if I point someone the wrong way? What if I drop all the finish tokens? What if nobody talks to me? In fact it was the best thing I ever did, because of course everyone was very welcoming. I have made lots of new friends, shared lots of laughter and learned to appreciate the micro-climate of Graves park in all seasons from brilliant sunshine, to blustering winds and white out snow! My weekends feel incomplete if I have to miss junior parkrun – I can’t really remember what I used to do on a Sunday morning before. It’s a complete mystery.

volunteering in the snow

volunteering in the snow

Sounds like you enjoy volunteering at Graves juniors?
I was super excited when I realised that today barcode scanning at Graves junior parkrun was my fiftieth time of volunteering. I never imagined when I first started volunteering that they’d tot up quite so quickly. It’s so true, time really does fly when you are having fun, and volunteering at Graves is always brilliant entertainment on a Sunday morning! So much so that it’s become the highlight of my week!

What do you enjoy most?
There are so many things l love about junior parkrun – it is such a feel-good initiative!
I love the fact there are so many different ways to take part in the event: speedy runners charging by like rockets, young runners encouraging one another, some carrying a favourite toy, some enjoying family run in big groups, some stopping to pick up feathers or stones as they finish the course in their own way. Every junior parkrunner from the first to get their token to the final finisher is celebrated, and rightly so.

Lucy is also often the first to arrive! Tell us why?
I love arriving before the runners and setting up the course when the park is all quiet and you can enjoy the views and see the animals in the animal park waking up too. Then you can feel the excitement building as everybody gathers, and runners meet each other.

Would you recommend volunteering to others?
Yes! From my point of view there are basically two facts you need to know when it comes to volunteering at your local parkrun (though parkrun voluntourism is a good thing too, of course). These are as follows:

Fact one. Volunteering at regular parkrun is fun, lots of fun.
Fact two. Volunteering at fun-size junior parkrun is even more fun. Fun in inverse proportion to the average height of those participating.

Any words of wisdom for those who have never volunteered, yet?
So if you are thinking of volunteering please do give it a go. You will be warmly welcomed and will get to enter a whole parallel universe of parkrun playfulness. And as many of you have already discovered, parkrun in all its many manifestations can be strangely addictive! You have been warned!

 

It’s not always that glamorous though, just so you know.  Very grounding to see myself in the school themed shots, hilarious too though and that’s the main thing!

Graves junior school theme

Hi-viz heroes rock!

🙂

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

For more on my take on volunteering at parkrun, see this earlier post:   On the subject of superheroes, a call to capes

and for my claim to parkrun fame check this link out!

 

 

Categories: parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Maranoia mended? Running fun rediscovered, but it took a while to come into view…

Digested read:  wasn’t feeling the running lurve today, too cold, too lethargic.  Then I went to Graves junior parkrun and bathed in the parkrun love and then I went for a run which started badly and ended well, and I made a new friend, and I found a running pace and you know what?  Running is fun again!  Yay.  My maranoia might not quite be mended, but it is most definitely in remission, for today…  No doubt normal service will be resumed shortly.

What a difference a day makes eh?  First thing today I was staring into a void of disillusion and despair. If I thought running a marathon seemed an impossible dream 16 weeks ago, roll forward to today and I felt a pang of nostalgia for those dizzy days of rose tinted positivity that induced me to commence training in the first place. Honestly, what was I thinking?  This marathon malarkey is never going to happen.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  The regime I laughingly refer to as my ‘training plan’ appears to have a) led to zero improvement to my running  – in face I’ve got progressively slower, and b) I lost my long run last week due to the aftermath of an ill advised sports massage.  It’s all going horribly wrong!  Woe is me.  I am a failure as a runner, as a human being, in life – the only thing I’m really good at is personalised pity parties.  Bring on the bulk buy hot cross buns and find me a sofa on which to lie and weep the hot, not-very-healing tears of self-indulgent self-pity.  At that at least I may excel…

 

and then …   lots of running related fun came my way, and now I’m fine and tickety-boo.  No physically  fitter than I was this morning, but a lot more mentally positive.   And they do say a lot of running is in the mind, albeit not all of it unfortunately.   I’m thinking now that I’m just experiencing ‘maranoia‘ the paranoia that I’ll ruin everything in these last few weeks, and probably not even make it to the start of the London Marathon, let alone the finish.  I reckon my maranoia is reasonably severe when it flares up, but I have the kind that goes into occasional spontaneous remission, for this I am thankful.  It is still unpleasant and debilitating though, but hopefully survivable…  Personally, I find what lifts my mood is basically being in complete denial about having to run a marathon, and just doing running related fun things.  One of the saddest Facebook posts I ever read was on some discussion forum somewhere where someone posted that training for London had ‘killed the joy of running’ for them.  I don’t want that to happen to me.  I reckon I’m pretty safe on that score though, I can but dream of being over-trained!

So up early, Easter Sunday and April Fool’s day.  Hurrah.  Grapes disguised as mini creme eggs anyone?

_100652416_easteraprilfool's

My roof is leaking again.  That’s not funny.  Seventh leak now since I moved in.  Not a happy bunny.  In fact, not a bunny at all, and not for lack of trying.  It being Sunday, it is of course, junior parkrun day, and it being Easter Sunday I was hoping to rock some bunny ears whilst on marshalling duties.  I tried moderately hard to source some, but to no avail.  The closest I got was in one shop where they said in response to my request ‘no, but we stocked loads of those last year‘.  Not helpful  Really not.  I thought about repurposing my dragonfly wings, but in the end made do with sticking some undersized Easter chicks onto my hat.  It was a start.  Not quite a full on Easter bonnet, but a nod to fancy dress all the same.

Off to Graves park, oh my, how cold was it up there.  I mean, I know it’s a micro-climate of apocalyptic ice-age proportions, but it’s not funny any more.  The return of the Beast from the East isn’t supposed to be until tomorrow.  Fortunately, despite cold weather there were warm hearts.  I trotted off round with a fellow volunteer to set out the course, and that is my favourite job.  It feels purposeful, plus you get a bit of stomp about to get warm, and you can check in on the animals.  I couldn’t help noticing that most of these weren’t game for venturing out, they aren’t stupid, but I still find it calming being in the vicinity of them all.  I mean obviously it would be better if there were goats and warthogs, but the donkey is vocal and entertaining and on dry days the porcines are always up for a companionable scratch.  Not today though.  Having a duvet day.  Those animals that did make it outside weren’t looking overly impressed.  I take their point.

En route with the flags I came across another marshal who was quick enough to not only notice, but also appreciate my Easter chick efforts.  I feel such observational skills should be rewarded, so reached into my pocket to supply her with one of her own, on the understanding it should be sported throughout the run. Dear reader, I’m happy to report she carried out this promise with considerable aplomb.  She is clearly a natural at having a plastic bird sit on her head.  An important life skill I’m sure.  Well, to be fair, it served me well at parkrun today for starters, so you never know when such capabilities may be drawn on.

Once I made it back to the start, which is also the finish

finish funnel

oh joy.  International parkrun celebrities in evidence, all the way from the legend that is Tralee parkrun, and sporting a most excellent array of bunny ears.  My hat chicks were a gesture I suppose, but definitely more minimalist than was appropriate for the occasion.

Tralee parkrun incidentally is quite possibly the most friendly parkrun in the entire world, pathologically so. They have also taken parkrun to tourism to new heights as they head out across the globe, not as little ambassador / special envoys to other parkruns, but en masse.  They quite literally took a plane load of 80 parkrunners to go on pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun back in January – that’s an impressive percentage of their parkrun regulars – their stats as of today say the average number of parkrunners each week is 169 – so that’s half of them.  More really, as numbers fluctuate.  What’s more this wasn’t even a one – off more a trial run.  Next stop Germany.  Plus, they did a Copacabana song and dance tribute to one of their runners / hi-viz heroes on the occasion of his 100th parkrun.  That’s a service not all parkruns are able to offer.  Impressed?  I am.  Let’s hear it for the World’s Best parkrun ambassador indeedy!  They don’t skimp on balloons there either.  Respect.

Anyway, was grand to meet up with the Tralee contingent once again, and swap a few parkrun tales before I headed off to my marshal point.  I was in a different spot to usual, but it was just as much fun.    I got to see the warm up and the start funnel of volunteers all lined up like a human pin ball machine from afar, and watch the runners stream off like ball bearings pouring out of a jar as they scattered down the first hill.

High fiving the runners storming by as they passed by the ponds on the way to the rear entrance to the animal park. There was a respectable turn out of bunny ears, and familiar faces.  Hail fell at one point, but these juniors are made of stern stuff, they stormed round for the most part.

Only glove less accompanying adults looked close to tears…  The official photographer had most definitely lost the use of his  hands by the time he made it back to base, but I consider that to be a sacrifice well worth him making for capturing such glorious shots of our worthy juniors and esteemed visitors alike.  His hands were always at risk of dropping off with frostbite eventually, so it’s just basically grand he got his shots off first.  (Not a euphemism).  There were some fine portraits available for download after today.

As the tail walker traipsed on by, all a-grin, I wandered back to the start in reverse, picking up another bunny eared volunteer en route.   Turns out, a lot of us volunteers were rocking matching looks today, with blue under our hi-viz.  A lack of consistency in head gear perhaps, but individual expression is important too.

We were in time to see the final finishers bombing down the mudslide into which the finish funnel had morphed.  There was a lot of mud.  Soft landings I suppose.  There was some dissent about how many face plants there’d been at the finish, but most estimates were around the five mark, though no tears apparently, so that’s impressive.  My favourite interaction of many this morning though, was when a young runner finished and the scanner asked for her barcode but her parent explained she didn’t have one as she’s currently too young to register being only three!  We were all a bit surprised as she was tall for her age and physically had made easy work of the run.  ‘When will you be four?’ enquired one of our hi-viz number, figuring it couldn’t be that many more weeks away.  Well,  without missing a beat she responded ‘at my next birthday‘  which is quite clearly a genius response with all its unintentionally withering accuracy.  That told him. What a stupid question.  Much hilarity ensued. Grown ups can be so dumb sometimes.  She was very polite to give a civil response at all in the circumstances! Ha-de-ha indeed.

The course was dismantled as if by magic, and soon there was nothing but memories and muddy footprints where once the parkrun had been.  I was lured to the cafe by the promise of latte and a final chance to debrief with our lovely Irish visitors.  I was supposed to be heading out for a long run later – the forecast for tomorrow being heavy snow I really did have to get out today, but I figured there was time.  But the cafe was cosy, the company fine. The tales varied.  The Tralee junior tourists really made me laugh by telling me that their mum was so passionate about parkrun that any potential partners would have to pass the ‘but do they have a barcode’ test.  If they did, a criminal record or similar misdemeanours would be no barrier, but no barcode, well, no result.  We regular parkrunners all know that!  Sounds a fair enough criteria to me!  We had to talk about Lily the wonder dog, we had to pose for every possible variant of selfie and group photos.  Those pictures won’t take themselves.

tralee parkrun team

Then there was other chat about Bob Graham plans.  There is a reason why this should be run in a clockwise direction I now know.   Not that I’m likely to have to try this out for myself, but it’s nice to keep informed on such matters.

Upshot was, I didn’t get back until almost 12.

Now what.  I needed to get out, but it was arctic blast cold.  I wanted to do 10 miles at least, I thought maybe I should eat something first as a latte might not be enough.  Channelling my inner wannabee millennial hipster chick vibe I had avocado and tofu on toast.  I thought that would be healthy and delicious.  It probably was, well definitely delicious, but also a bit much to eat just before a run, and now it was midday and I didn’t want to leave it two hours before I went out. The skies were darkening, the elements promised inclement times ahead.  What to do?  I did briefly consider abandoning run altogether, but in an uncharacteristic display of mental fortitude I rationalised I’d really regret that.  Plus I was doing a virtual Easter Sunday run to nab some bling like this:

As a friend of mine had the genius idea of sending these out to people who do an Easter Sunday run in return for a £10 donation to the charity she is/was running the London Marathon for.  Great idea.  You make your donation, do your run, send proof, get sent medal.  Nice.  I like to think I’m not shallow, but basically I clearly am.  Who doesn’t appreciate running bling, even if they claim otherwise, and I want to support my running buddy/ new running best friend acquired on a January trip to London.

is there a medal

I decided to be brave, strap on my shoes with my motivational bling:

motivational bling

and head out.  I did head out.  Oh.  My.  Gawd!  That’s so cold.  I actually (shhhush, don’t tell) put on my fleece and contemplated going out in that, but then the hail started, and although my fleece would have been roasty toasty, it isn’t waterproof, and to be fair, even I recognise I can’t run London in a fleece.  Running coat it was, and multiple buffs, and pissed off expression. The chickens were coming too.  Here is the unimpressed before shot for ease of reference:

before

I set off.  Aaaargh, it was hard.  My legs feel strong, my lungs are fine, but eating that close to a run. Terrible idea. What was really annoying, is that I knew that, before I even ate.  What was I thinking.  I mean if I was mid run I wouldn’t have bolted all that down.  I was kicking myself for not just having had a naked bar and heading out earlier.  Plus I was thirsty, because I hadn’t drunk enough, and cold, because I had to walk a fair stretch and wasn’t moving fast enough.  I started to panic.  This is NOT WORKING.  Self doubt started screaming at me.  So stupid, is there any point?  I honestly didn’t know.

I am struggling a bit with what I’m supposed to be doing at this stage.  Really I think I need one more long run – but then I’ve got the Sheffield half next weekend, so when can I fit it in?  Plus, I’ve heard recently, and no, annoyingly I can’t remember where, that if you go out for longer than three hours at a stretch at this stage, you aren’t giving your body enough time to recover. This directly contradicts other advice about just reducing your mileage gradually down.  Truth is, if I did the latter, I’d still be going out for 5 hour runs, and that is a long time on the feet, and it does take its toll.  I just decided that some time on my feet was better than no time on my feet.  I’d not beat myself up, just do what I could.  Heading off on the ‘nice bit’ of the Sheffield  half there was an element of verisimilitude in the experience as there were so many other runners out doing the same recce.  I was constantly either being over-taken, or spotting runners on the return leg sprinting down the hill towards me.  Oh joy.

At one point a driver stopped and asked me for directions, which I gave, at length, having forgotten all about the chickens on my head.  She passed no comment.  It reminded me of an interaction years ago when I was out riding with a friend.  We’d taken horses down a track to a beach, and found perfectly grown wild garlic in abundance.  We had no means to carry it but wanted it for cooking – I was working for her at a veggie B&B.  We gathered up huge armfuls of it, and then basically stuffed it in our every pocket, tied around our waists with scarves, shoved it into the top of our boots, tucked it under the front and back of our saddles and stuck into the elastic bands around our hard hats. We must have looked like we were carrying out our own Green Man homage, plus we smelt to high heaven.  As we did it, we were of course mindful of the comedic value of how stupid we must look, but after a bit, gently walking our horses home some hours later we’d forgotten.  An American tourist drew up alongside us in his hire car to ask for directions.  As my friend gave them, I watched his expression change as his eyes widened in disbelief.  We were practically encased in this wild garlic, and he had no idea what to make of it. Was it some strange Welsh ritual?  Was it a festival that he knew not of.  My friend was completely oblivious to his increasing discomfort, as he was clearly beginning to fear what closed community he may have happened upon like in The Wicker Man for example.  I wasn’t, but was enjoying observing his incredulity at what he was witnessing. I could imagine him once safely back at home trying to relate this story of the wild women he’d encountered on his trip with the wild-eyed passion of those who insist they have been abducted by aliens.  Few if any would believe him, over time, he might not even believe this had happened himself.  He’s probably still researching this phenomenon to this day.  Maybe he thought we were just really scared of vampires.  This is the destiny of those who bear witness alone.  I found it hilarious though, so that was the main thing.  My  chicks were more understated and more easily explained, but I like to think they played their part in this mid-run interaction too.

wild garlic

It was something of a labour trudging up hill, feeling bloated.  On the plus side, there were some cute spring lambs in abundance

I kept finding excuses to grind to a halt.  It was very, very muddy going up along Ringinglow road and my road shoes were slipping all over the place.  I really don’t want to be injured at this point so picked my way through gingerly, blaming the mud for my lack of speed, whilst inwardly thanking it for being their and legitimising my lard-arsed tardiness.

Crossing the road opposite the Norfolk Arms, there were so many cyclists and walkers around I couldn’t run either on the road or pavement.  But my walking meant I did get to see this adorable little bird’s nest from last year, exposed in a hedge that had shed its leaves over winter.  How completely perfect is this?  I briefly considered putting one of my chicks in it as a sort of visual gag, but then thought the better of it as it could equally be perceived as littering.  Took a photo though.  You can’t see the scale here really, but it was tiny, the size of half a tennis ball maybe.  Just adorable

DSCF1899

At long last, I was on Sheephill road.  I genuinely love this bit of the route.  Finally, I started a bit of a trot, and found my rhythm and just loped along admiring the city-scape views.  For a city marathon it’s pretty spectacular.  It was cold, but the wintry showers had abated, and after a bit of undulation it started to slope downwards towards Dore. The route is increasingly familiar and I hit my stride, belatedly perhaps, nearly 4 miles in, but I felt strong and like I could have kept that up indefinitely.  I know I wasn’t doing a long run, but it helped my confidence rally a little to feel that yep, my legs have remembered what to do. The secret really is to slow down, and not to worry that ‘proper runners’ might guffaw at me for imagining my sloth like movements constituted sufficient action to create forward motion, let alone merit the descriptor ‘running’.  Mental strength people remember, mental strength.

My feeling of being strong was marred slightly by being constantly overtaken by speedy other runners, but hey ho, that is inevitable in my universe.  Some of them were in shorts for goodness sake!  Little wonder they were in such a hurry to get home.

Plod plod, trot trot.  I felt good.  Maybe I should have added on more miles, but I decided instead to just keep up a constant run for as long as I could.   The miles ticked by, I’m starting to think it does take me about 4 miles to find my pace, which might be partly why my parkrun times are so increasingly lamentable these days.  I suppose if I seriously wanted to improve them I could warm up before hand say, but that seems somewhat extreme.  For today, I decided to just make myself keep on running, for as long as I could, and it was a lot longer than I expected.  I am not sure I entirely welcome the findings of my increasing self awareness running wise, it seems that if I desist from pausing to take photos, and remind myself to keep on running up that hill as Kate Bush would have it, then I can go on and on like the Duracell bunny.  I don’t tire, I just give up.  It’s like my body cottons on to what i’m doing and draws my attention to the fact that all this exertion is entirely avoidable and unnecessary, and it would be so much more pleasing to just stop and gaze about. If I don’t give into that urge, it will reluctantly press on, until it becomes a  habit.  Cue sound of penny dropping – maybe this is what my marathon pace is supposed to feel like?  I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s slow, very slow, some people can power walk faster, but it’s still faster than me walking and if i could maintain it for many more miles I’ll definitely be getting round London a lot more quickly than if I stop start with the frequency of an over-sensitive car alarm.  Knowledge is complicated, with it comes responsibility.  I genuinely have absolutely no idea how I’ll fare in London, but this slow pace running might actually be an option if the course is as flat as I’m led to believe.

I had to stop to cross roads though, and you no what, that got to be quite annoying.  Though the spring flowers were nice.  Shame about the dead badger(s) though. I  suppose it shows there must be a population out there which is good, but sad to see not one, but two, taken out by cars.

Trot trot, plod plod.  Through Dore, off down whatever road it is that takes you off Hathersage road, off on an almighty diversion and then rejoining the road couple of hundred yards later – one downside of becoming increasingly familiar with the route, is I’ve started to notice all the potential short cuts available, that call out to you on the way round.  I want to run the distance, but presented with a way shorter route home it does seem pretty dim to deliberately add miles to an outing when that time could be reclaimed and channelled into sofa sitting time for example…  I mean just look at it, definitely not the most direct route out and back is it?

strava route

It defies reason – no wonder even Strava gives the strava art thumbs down to that unnecessary triangle into Dore!

Eventually I was on the homeward straight, Ecclesall Road South and downward towards the city.  A couple of miles from home another runner appeared alongside me.  Oh my, that was fantastic.  I normally hate running with other people, but it was a running miracle.  She was quite genuinely running at my pace, having seen me a good mile or so back and really cracked on to catch up with me (that’s a first, me being the target for a faster runner) now she was tiring and nearing the end of an 18 mile run asked if we could run together for a bit to help the miles pass and – you won’t believe this – it actually worked.  I have randomly found someone who runs at exactly my pace.  It was great, no huffing to keep up and resenting being dragged round whilst my sense of personal inadequacy grows to the point it overwhelms me and I not only decide to give up running, but to never leave the house in daylight hours again, EVER.

We chatted, we swapped running stories. She’s preparing for Brighton but has previously done London, albeit a decade ago. She was still buzzing with memories and positivity though.  Top tips from her, don’t worry about being slow and steady, it pays off.  Apart from finding herself running between a pepperoni and a rhino at one point, she also noted that she ended up passing ‘faster runners’ who’d basically set off too fast at the start and blown up.  I don’t think she meant literally as in spontaneously combusted, I think we’d have heard about that, but as in just burning out way too soon.  There is something to be said for slow and steady where marathons are concerned.  Other helpful comments included a warning that it is a stop start frustrating first 4 miles or so before people spread out enough you can actually run. Weirdly, that might favour me, as it takes me an age to get started anyway.   It was really heartening.  I started to believe again that I might actually do this, my maranoia seemed to lift.  She also described the final stretch down the mall really vividly.  Even though it was a decade ago the memory was still strong.   There are no crowds on the Mall – I hadn’t twigged that point, anyway, it means it’s suddenly relatively quiet and contemplative, and she found herself reflecting back on all the things that had brought her to that point.  Oh my god. It was so what I needed to hear.  I can’t wait to experience that for myself.  I think finally, it’s going to be such an amazing experience it shouldn’t matter how fast or slow I am, I’m just so very lucky to be able to go there at all.  If I get to the start, I should get to the finish.  Lucky me!  Best marathon advice ever?  Just enjoy it.

I left my new best friend heading off to Hunters Bar as I swung up towards Brincliffe Edge, but we have promised to meet up post our respective marathons to show off bling and share running tales.  What a turn around from the start of my run, when I could hardly imagine setting foot out of the door, and now I’m all skippy and happy and Bring.  It. On.

Don’t worry, the feeling will wear off pretty soon I reckon.  My lobster red legs were not a pretty sight as they incubated chilblains, and my running chick buddy passed out on completion.  Still, a run’s a run.  10 miles is better than no miles, and once again, my legs and lungs are feeling fine.  There are worse ways to prepare for a marathon. The snow may come tomorrow, I would like to get one longer run in if I can, but then again I’ve already banked a 21 miler, and although that was two weeks ago now, I do believe I can do the distance actually, I just need to hold my nerve and not allow myself to turn to lard too quickly.  Some people apparently climb the walls during the taper, all that pent up energy needing an outlet.  I fear I rather embrace the resting and carbing up. Show me a sofa, I can lie on it eating donuts no worries. Trouble is, annoyingly, I’m coming to understand tapering is a tad more sophisticated than that. Shame.

Still, I’ve lived to run another day.  Unlike chick buddy here.  At least s/he saw something of the world before turning toes up.

after

Love running.  Love running related fun.  Love parkrun, Love my running buddies old and new and not yet met.  Hoping I’ll love London too, at the very least it will be an adventure, and adventures are what make life interesting, so I’ll have a few of those please, if I can. So the final words of wisdom in terms of the best advice I’ve had so far with respect to tackling a first time marathon remain:

Just enjoy it.

I finally think I will!  🙂

 

 

 

Categories: marathon, motivation, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Best laid plans… long run thwarted but feeling the running lurve, besides, tomorrow is another day and we runners, well we can do anything!

Digested read: fairly mundane running reflections, didn’t manage to get out for my run today, that’s all really. Still some running related ponderings though, supplements, running fatigue, Big Running Weekend, subjective stuff, maybe just best to skip this post and instead just scroll down to the end to see the best parkrun fancy dress photo ever.  Personally I think historical re-enactment themes have hitherto been under represented at parkruns across the UK.  Time for change people.  Time for change!

Today was supposed to be my long run, 18 miles, and I was all set up and ready – if not exactly raring – to go.  Water bottles filled, route mapped (to be fair, that wasn’t too complicated, as I was planning on just heading out to the Monsal trail again); naked bars stowed, porridge consumed, and then my entire day just got hijacked.  My free day to head out and run in a teasing gap between a stretch of seemingly endless torrential rain and the threat of snow to come later in the week disappeared over the horizon.  It was really frustrating.  In  case you think I was just looking for an excuse (and to be fair, sometimes I am) this was not the case today.  I had a major leak last night, the fourth since I’ve moved in to my new home.  The apocalyptic weather was without mercy.

storm cloud

However, despite my initial despair, virtual if not actual sun was shining on me, and the good news is that not only was I able to get in touch with the builder, but his representative on earth appeared, tooled up to fix it.  Trust me, you don’t stand up a builder ever.  FACT.  Unfortunately, every silver lining has its cloud, and the presence of said builder involved a certain amount of being in and hanging around.  Then more people were doing landscaping work out the back, which was more accurately an homage to hysterical historical re-enactment of life in the trenches.  Never seen so much mud and water, and not in a good way. Bogs when you want the fun of scampering through them on the hills is one thing, but trench-foot inducing crumbling pits swallowing up any mortal who dared to brave them is another thing altogether.  Also, my car got blocked in by skips and vans and although I could have got them moved, it would have interrupted multiple building projects as by coincidence neighbours up and down the street are also having building work done. It seems the recent snow and epic amounts of rain have tested the housing structures nearby to breaking point, remedial work all round.

Eventually, I was freed up to go out, but by that time it was mid afternoon, and for me (don’t laugh superior runners) I felt it was realistically too late for me to fit in a really long run.  I considered doing a shorter one, maybe the half marathon route, but then I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough left in the engine to do my proper planned one tomorrow.  I feel so clueless, maybe it would have been good to do another longish run, but then again, the whole point of my running goals for this week is to try to go slow and steady but consistently, and I’d like to start the run feeling OK not broken.  Tomorrow looks like it’s the only other weather window where I can rearrange things so I can get out for a decent length of time.  I’ll have to, or I’ll end up doing my long run in the dark, rain or snow, none of these options appeal to me.

Much as it goes against the grain, I’m trying to put a positive spin on this interruption. I have been feeling absolutely dreadful for nearly a week – ever since my miserable long run down in London.  Just exhausted, weak, sore throat, no energy blah de blah.   Today for the first time I’m feeling a bit brighter. I genuinely don’t know if this is because I have in fact been ill with a low-level virus and now I’m better, if it just takes me a long time to recover from my long runs or if it is a placebo effect because I have dear reader, caved in and started taking an iron supplement.  Whatever the reason, I’m  hugely relieved and actively looking forward to heading out on a run without having to fight back the impulse to cry through sheer fatigue.  One positive I have hung on to though, even when feeling really, really rough, is that at no stage have I felt like pulling out of London.  I most definitely want to get there, it isn’t a case of not being committed, more the mind and heart are willing but the body is weak.  I wouldn’t mind having been so exhausted if I looked like this when fatigued, but unfortunately I don’t.  Not to worry, maybe I will after running the London Marathon, because that is the inference in the Daily Mirror article it is used to illustrate.  Now that would be a win…

Female-runner-resting-on-suburban-street

Oh, re the supplement, I’ve only been taking it a couple of days, so I don’t believe it can possibly have made a difference already, but I suppose if I have been really depleted that might be so.  For your information – I know how you are probably hanging on my every word for top tips on nutrition as I’m such a running role model in these parts – I’ve gone for Floradix.  It was eye-wateringly expensive, I actually wonder if the shock at the price tag basically reboots your metabolic rate, and any temporary boost in perceived energy levels has nothing to do with the intrinsic contents of the bottle at all, but rather is just your body implementing fright and flight mode.  Frankly, I don’t care how it works, whatever it takes.

floradix

I’ve gone for a liquid iron supplement because at last weekend’s Accelerate Big Running Weekend I learnt, amongst other things, that liquid iron is easier to absorb and less likely to cause digestive issues. Also, that it’s apparently very common for long distance runners (yes, like me) or people in general who are upping their running regimes, to become depleted in iron, and as I’m a vegetarian who does far too much meal planning by gazing in the fridge to see what’s lurking at the back and not enough actual working out a balanced food diary a week ahead, I know I more than likely am not following an ideal diet.  Maybe now I’m doing significantly increased mileage by my reference terms I just can’t get away with it any more.  It will be genuinely interesting to see if I do notice a difference over the coming weeks.

Would you like to know about the Big Running Weekend?  If you don’t already know about it, you’ll be really annoyed because you’re too late now, you’ve missed it.  Oh well, hopefully it will come round again same time next year.   Or maybe it will be more like Brigadoon, and only appear once  Basically, this was a sort of weekend festival of running, organised by a local to Sheffield independent running shop Accelerate, and held at the rather fine venue of the Woodland Centre in Ecclesall Woods.  For but a tenner, you got a fetching wrist band, just like at a proper festival, which allowed access all areas for the duration of the event.  There were loads of things to dip in and out of: guided runs; running shoes to try on; talks and films; a whole weekend trail school (there was an extra charge for that) led runs; Q&A sessions.   Really though, and this is a complement not a criticism, the absolutely best bit was being able to hang out with running buddies and talk about running related things with like-minded people who not only don’t back away when you try to talk to them about blisters, trainer grip or running technique but actively engage with you and offer useful tips!  Amazing.  Plus there were other helpful things like pizza (vegan options available); coffee and cake.

big running weekend

More specifically, there were guided runs deliberately at night, they weren’t just running in the dark because they couldn’t find their way home.  There were woodrun drills, which are actually useful and not only a means of manipulating others for the personal amusement of the running coaches (though clearly that is a pleasing additional benefit) and much inter-disciplinary networking fuelled by caffeine and cake.  Hurrah!  Great photos too, actually – hang on, I’ll go nick a few, so you can also enjoy them. Thanks nice people at Accelerate in general and Ben Lumley photography in particular.  Some of these photos are really crying out for a caption competition, but that’s not in my remit.  Create your own dear reader, create your own.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As previously reference, my energy levels have been non-existent of late, so I wasn’t up for any of the runs, I barely dragged my weary carcass around Bakewell parkrun on Saturday morning, but I did get along to some of the talks, and you know what they were great!  Not just engaging, but inspirational too.

I went on the Saturday night, pizza first, then into the woodlands meeting room which was roasty toasty warm and all invitingly lit up with fairy lights and a room full of both familiar faces from the Sheffield running community (yes there is) and friends you haven’t made yet.  All good.

As is often the case, I’d rolled up with little idea of who the speakers were going to be, I enjoy the element of surprise, the pleasure of a lucky dip.  Anyway, I have to admit I didn’t know either of the speakers before, but now I am going to stalk them both.  First up was Damian Hall:

Damian Hall
7pm, Saturday 10th March 2018, Sycamore Suite (Main Building).

Fresh from his win at the multi day Ice-Ultra  and author of the book, ‘A Year on the Run’, Damian takes centre stage.

Damo is an outdoor journalist and ultra runner.  Like Ben, he too has represented Great Britain and last finished 1st Vet at the infamous Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc. He has also placed on the Spine Race and holds the odd long distance running record.
As to his talk, Damian describes it as, “A midlife-crisis, a toilet and the power sob : what running long distances has taught me about life, the universe and everything”.

He looks like this:

What to say about his talk? I don’t know it’s hard to summarise because it wasn’t so much the anecdotes about the races impressive as they were; the self-deprecating humour at the photos of him running in with ecstatic happy children at the climax of the UTMB where he sheepishly pointed out his wife pushing a buggy behind and the time it took for his children to revert to calling him poo-head; nor the amazing photos of the roads less travelled he’d run across, nor even the extraordinary lengths – literally – he’d run.  I honestly think it was the positivity, the idea you won’t know you limits if you never try to find them.

dh and kids

and, best of all these three key take-away points that spoke as if directly to me:

  • Ultra running is as much an eating competition as a running one, you need to fuel loads. (Tick).
  • No-one can run that far, so you are better of training by going on a hiking holiday and carrying a pack and doing lots of walking (result, I don’t even have to carry a pack because my own supplies of adipose layers provide my own bespoke weight belt at all times).  (Tick).
  • ‘We all know that we could cover 100 miles if we really had to, if our children’s lives depend upon it say, or the house is burning down’ (I guess that would depend how much you like your children or house, but I take the general point) so of course a marathon should be doable for pretty much anyone, if your mind is focused enough on doing it. He used the analogy of how people can often put on a sprint finish when they see the finish line even if one hundred metres before they thought them self to be well and truly spent.  It should be doable, if you want to.  (Tick).
  • You don’t necessarily need to do crazy mileage in training, what you do need is hours on your feet to build endurance without risking injury – walking is your friend (tick).  For ultra runs you can’t possibly run a 100 mile plus ‘long run’ each week, so cannier regimes are needed.  Excellent news.

The second speaker was Geoff Cox.  He looks like this:

big run running legend

What a legend!  In his sixtieth year, he set himself the challenge of running three named Lake District fell running rounds, Bob Graham, Joss Naylor lakeland challenge and the Gerry Charnley Round, which I’d not heard of before but links three youth hostels so is doable over three days with comfy night stops for the less adventurous explorers out there.  Don’t tell anyone, but I might be a little bit in love with Geoff, he seemed to have just decided to do it and so he did. That is remarkable enough – though it wasn’t from a base of nothing, he’d done football and things before.  However, the real tour de force was how he described what being out on the fells meant to him. After he’d completed this challenge, he tried to process all his thoughts by writing it down.  However, he found he just couldn’t, not in prose, so he just wrote it as a poem.  A love poem to the land in a way, and this got picked up and made into a film, and it’s just joyful.  It reminded me of all that draws me to the hills.  However badly I run, when my little legs have taken me up through the heather and on to the peaks, and I can finally look across the landscape opening up before me and feel the wind rush through me and everything falls into perspective.  The earth solid beneath me, the elements wild around me, yep, this is worth it, you don’t have to run well to reap these rewards, just put one foot in front of another and look about you.  He gave only a brief introduction and then let his film, Trailpike, speak for itself, and it did.  The Trailpike film is here, it’s amazing, go on, have a look, it’s only 11 minutes of your life.  I don’t know what was more inspiring, the physical challenge, or the way he suddenly, and unexpectedly embraced poetry as a vehicle to communicate what the running challenges meant to him. What’s more, in case you are worried, it isn’t cringy poetry of the ‘oh bless’ type, it’s genuinely using language in a way that I think transports you to that parallel world of the long and lonely trails.  Epic.  Oh and did I mention that he found out recently he’d been running a while with a busted carotid artery, the man is a medical marvel!  Wonder if he remembered to mention that on his disclaimer prior to taking part in the woodrun drills earlier…

geoff cox

I say, ‘lonely’ trails, but for the record, all the speakers had teams around them, the camaraderie of the fells and mountains being a recurring theme. As Damo said (well, everyone else seems to call him that, why shouldn’t I feign a personal connection now we’ve been in the same room together for over 60 minutes) ‘there are people I know from running that would do anything for me and me for them, we might not know the names of each others partners or children, but if asked to be on a stormy mountain side in the snow at 2 in the morning with coffee and cake for each other, we’d be there in a heartbeat‘.  I paraphrase, but I think we all get the gist.  He also spoke of hallucinations brought about by sleep deprivation, but they seemed largely benign.. flying lanterns anyone?

Then, even though you might have thought the room was so jam-packed with good will, mutual supportive appreciation and all round huggyness that it could stand no more, extra feel good fell factor was generated by showing the Nicky Spinks film of her extraordinary Double Bob Graham triumph.  I thought I’d seen this account of how on 15 May 2016, Spinks completed a double Bob Graham Round in 45 hours 30 minutes, beating the previous record set by Roger Baumeister in 1979 by more than an hour.  He was from Sheffield by the way.  Turns out I hadn’t.  It’s such a feel good film.  Again, there is the triumph over adversity theme as it interweaves the story of her cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment and recovery.  It is most certainly a tale of individual tenacity, but again the outpouring of support from her crew, family and friends and indeed Joss Naylor himself.

Nicky Spinks is extraordinary.  I’ve sort of met her, in that I gave her my £1.50 for the Truncerace where she was collecting entry money the DAY AFTER her double Bob Graham success.  I was too star struck to say anything other than ‘thank you’, as she told me my number, but I still felt the aura of her presence.  The main thing from her film though, was an observation she made early on.  She’d been half thinking of maybe doing the double Bob Graham, and not really ‘come out’ and told anyone of her idea.  She seemed to be saying that absolutely critical to her success was that when she did, she told Joss Naylor I think, and he basically said ‘of course you must!  You can absolutely do this!‘  and so she did!

After the film when we doing some mingling and chatting – much as after any run, only on this occasion without having run anywhere first, we pondered this point in particular.  My running buddies and I agreed that a large part of us achieving our running goals, admittedly more modest ones, but even so – was seeing that when we tested the idea on other better/ more experienced runners they didn’t laugh in our faces, they just said ‘why not?’  We are but fragile creatures, but give us a shove in the right direction, thrust us upwards, and we might yet fly!  I remember mooting the idea of doing the 12.12 to the guys at Frontrunner, and they were so supportive, I was astonished, and you know what, the Dig Deep is my new favourite event now, so there you go.  I don’t know about track running at all, but in terms of the off-road runners hereabouts, there is very much a give it a go attitude and plenty of really talented people around who are generous in sharing their insights and expertise.  Sort of restores your faith in human nature really, and there is a sense of some shared values too, an appreciation of the wonders of the natural world laid out before us, and maybe some basic humility that goes along with the territory for off road runners, who amongst us has not done a face plant in a bog, got lost in heather or cried with gratitude when a marshal has freely given of a hug when most needed.  Even the mighty Damo is an advocate of the power cry after all, we are all vulnerable out on them there hills.

So talking of generous sharing of expertise, I went back for more on Sunday afternoon.  I mean, obviously I went to marshal at Graves Junior parkrun first, because there is no greater feel good factory in the whole of Sheffield:

and then it was back to the woods for the women’s Q&A session.  A wide circle and a simple to and fro contemplative, supportive dissemination of running wisdom from some formidable but approachable women athletes, all local.  How fabulous is that.  Answer, pretty fabulous, but it would have been grand to give each of these women an individual platform to share their stories too.  The event brought us a panel comprising:

  • Jen Scotney: Jen has recently completed the Spine Challenger coming 3rd lady in a distance of over 100 miles — non stop! This is not even the longest run she is planning this year. Jen, is a vegan runner and happy to answer questions on her running nutrition too.
  • Laura Inglis: Accelerate Performance Centre coach. Laura has coached beginners to high performance club athlete’s and through determination and continued learning is making rapid progress as a coach. She is also an ultra runner and last year won the Ladybower 50.
  • Margo Duncan: Wood Run leader and family GP who is a very experienced runner. Having turned her attention to triathlon she has since competed for GB within her age group. She also has a wealthy of experience at trail and road racing.
  • Debbie Smith: Climber, turned Adventure Racer turned ultra distance mountain biker and then runner. Few will know that Debs has won every UK Adventure Racing title and was consistently in the top 3 for 24Hr mountain biking. In turning her attention to Ultra running she has completed the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc, taking a top 10 spot in her age category. In Mountain Marathons, such as the OMM she has also been a regular winner or podium finisher.

That’s quite a lot of running expertise in anyone’s estimation!

q and a panel

Again it’s hard to pick highlights because so much got covered in such encouraging terms.  Two of this epic panel are vegan runners, which is encouraging, it rather exposes the tedious lie about not being able to have proper nutrition on a plant-based diet.  I’m only vegetarian (vegan-curious) and have felt under pressure from some quarters to re-evaluate that.  Not negotiable by the way…  The mood was supportive.   The discussion moved through nutrition; cross training; hormones; impact of menstruation on running (not much research, but nobody fancied doing an ultra with a period even if some evidence suggests you might be stronger then – maybe mooncups are the way to go – woman’s hour had a great feature on these a while back by the way); goal setting; ‘fitting it all in’; supplements; fatigue; female running idols (Jasmin Paris came up amongst others, not least for her capacity to run at a high level, throughout her pregnancy)  – anything and everything really.

The panel shared memorable moments, and again, the sense that goals can motivate you, and if you want that goal enough you can make time to prepare for them. Having said that, there was perspective here too, ‘it’s not open heart surgery, you are just putting one foot in front of another so just try it’.  Enjoy it, was a theme.  Anecdotes about hallucinations were quite graphic, but not necessarily unpleasant, almost a boon you might think!  I learned that greater love hath no one for their running partner than offering up their own dry sleeve in lieu of a hanky when all the runner’s clothing and tissues are too saturated to offer service.   I’m not really sold on triathlon though, call me lightweight by all means (that would be a first to be fair) but I don’t want people swimming over me and elbowing me in the face before I have to ride and then run for a very long way!

Favourite moment. Question from an awesome veteran runner who moves amongst us within the smiley pack  ‘I’d like to do some of these challenges, but how do you get a team, what about the logistics, how to make it happen?  Who can support me, how can I learn by supporting others?‘  and this triggered a collective communal outpouring of the running equivalent of ‘I am Spartacus‘ as each person in the room rose as one and volunteered to support any such venture.  The running hive will make it so, you have only to believe and it can happen.  I felt quite emotional.  Together anything is indeed possible, this can happen.  Just name the day and bring it on!

support

These women all had innate talent for sure, but they also oozed constructive support, it made me believe that whilst not exactly anything is possible, we most certainly won’t know our limits if we don’t try, and really why not try?  With a bit of common sense and commitment we can probably achieve more than we think, especially if we utilise the support and expertise that surrounds us.  I suppose maybe I just needed to be reminded of what I said about myself, some years ago when I started keeping this blog.  I made then, and make now, no claim to be a ‘proper runner’ I hardly run at all, what’s more, if anything my running has got worse since I started, but ultimately, for me running has never been important because I can be good at it, rather it is important because I can learn to enjoy doing it badly.  It has linked me to some extraordinary, awesome and amazing people and taken me to unexpected places and on unexpected adventures, and anything else is frankly a bonus.

So you see, it was all lovely.

The afternoon ended with a warm glow of optimism and appreciation for all things runners and running related.  This weekend was timely for me, I’ve had a rubbish couple of weeks.  The enthusiasm and practical positivity of those around the run HQ brought a bit of perspective to things.  Running is supposed to be fun, challenges are best when self-selected and can help you stretch and grow they offer the chance to succeed not fear of failure.  With regards to this London Marathon malarkey, I don’t know if I can do it, but I do know there is nothing to be lost by giving it my best shot. Yep, training hasn’t gone how I hoped, but this is the first – possibly only – attempt, I’m bound to make mistakes.  The fact I’m making loads merely demonstrates how resourceful and experimental I am.  My goal remains to get around, and that should be completely realistic, if I can get to the start uninjured, I do believe I can get to the end, and whatever happens it’ll be an adventure, what more could I wish for.  I will be one of the lucky ones for even being able to embark on this adventure.  Hurrah!  Everything’s grand.

So cheers Accelerate. I know it took a team of people working really hard to pull this off, but for what it’s worth, i thought it was an informative, enjoyable and inclusive event.  A running tonic on my doorstep. How blessed am I.  🙂

Oh, you want to know what the best parkrun fancy dress photo ever is?  It’s from Ormskirk parkrun, in honour of International Women’s Day, a re-enactment of Emily Wilding Davison’s  protest at the Epsom Derby in 1913.  The verisimilitude is uncanny.

I find this effort heartening.  The timing of this homage to past protest seems especially apt as university staff have just voted to continue in their own strike action centred around pensions entitlement today.  The power of protest can deliver, but sometimes you do have to fight for what you believe in.

That fight might of course be in your head.  Running is in the mind, believe you can, and you will.

between the ears

That’s what I’m hoping for anyway.

A lot of hoping.  I might have to do a bit of training too though, just to be on the safe side.

Fingers crossed for a long run triumph tomorrow.  Think of me!  🙂

Over and out.

 

Categories: motivation, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

There’s snow runners like Graves junior parkrunners!

… and there’s snow fun like junior parkfun!

Digested read: junior parkrun in general is lovely, Graves junior parkrun in particular is exceptionally so.  That is why it is my one misanthrope and cynicism free hour of the week.  Graves park however is a micro climate of chill and ice-age memorabilia, hence last week it snowed, and this week several hands were (nearly) lost to frost bite. Still, small price to pay for being part of something so joyful.  Are you coming to a junior parkrun near you sometime soon?  You should. Really.  parkrun fun squared to infinity and beyond.

Just got back from my weekly fix of junior parkrun.  It remains joyful, despite the challenge of the microclimate of Graves Park which has to be experienced to be believed.  Last week, it was my contributory negligence that brought about the white out.  I stood in the car park about 8 o’clock and pronounced it to be ‘unexpectedly nice albeit nippy’.  What possessed me to think I might get away with so tempting fate by flaunting such a misguided belief in front of its mocking  ever-present malign force I can’t now recall. Suffice to say that within minutes, we’d gone from bright winter sunshine to a disorienting blizzard worthy of the best winter-set horror film/ disaster films ever.  My bad.  Sorry everyone.

25329872517_2138b310c9_z

You can just make out the hi-vis army through those snow globules in the foreground.  There was snow way a sprinkling of the white stuff was going to stop our junior athletes battling round the hill’s of Graves.

To be fair, if it’s going to be cold, I’d rather have the high drama of a snow storm, it definitely makes for a more memorable parkrun, whilst each event is unique in its own way, this was one that will go down in the annuls of Graves Junior parkrun history as particularly epic.  Five hardy souls even made this their debut event, impressive.  The juniors on the whole are.  Little seems to deter them.  I think there are a number of possible explanations for this:

  1. They lack the imaginative foresight to realise just how horrific and cold it will be out there in the elements, with little more than a nylon t-shirt to preserve them from such inclement weather – to be fair, I do the same when entering winter races from the comfort of an armchair at home
  2. Payback time for when their parents/ responsible adults have dragged them out at an unearthly hour of a morning to do unreasonable things like go to do the supermarket shop
  3. parkrun is just really fun – you always forget the horrors of taking part as they are lost under a blanket of euphoria at completion

In any event, I overheard a couple of parents/ responsible adults commiserating with one another at the start.  One was saying ‘took one look out of the window at the weather and thought, well, parkrun definitely won’t be happening today, had pot of coffee on, and everything lined up for a cooked breakfast…. – and then junior appeared in his running kit announcing it was time to go!’  The other was commiserating empathetically. These two were well aware of the sacrifices parents sometimes have to make for their offspring, to turn their backs on a steaming hot pot of coffee to go and stand on a muddy field in the snow to cheer your junior runner round, that takes real dedication and commitment.

So too from the junior athletes themselves, storming round.  There was so much mud, and so much thrill from the sudden appearance of the white stuff, that some juniors appeared to actually run off down the hill, disappearing into the white out going completely AWOL during the warm up. The temptation to just dive right in and make the most of it being an instinct too strong to resist.  To be fair I felt a bit the same.  Snow is ridiculously fun, when you get to roll around and play in it, and cheer juniors and offer up high fives.

Look at how joyful it was….. in parts.

 

Still, I’m jumping ahead.  First off, there was the little matter of the course set up.  I like doing this, you get to feel busy and important, have a march around the park, and greet other park users. I’ve done the role regularly enough that I recognise some of the dog walkers now, and it’s fun just having little exchanges.   Carrying the arrows is a bit of a practical challenge, but the really hard bit is disentangling the tape we use to keep junior athletes from getting too close to the edge of the water at the point on the course when they pass between two large ponds.  Those of you who have never had to undertake this task, will have no comprehension of just how tangled up and impossible to manage a few metres of many-times-mended and string like plastic tape can be.  It’s not good for the ego.  It should be a simple thing, but it’s always a challenge.  However, successful disentangling feels great, I imagine some people would get the same buzz from completing a cryptic crossword, or doing the ridiculously tricky maths related puzzles on the Today Programme.  Aside – what are they all about?  I can’t even understand the questions.  Has anyone ever solved them other than through chance or googling?  Seems unlikely.  I don’t know if my incomprehension is a reflection of my stupidity or the fact I have a life.  Actually, on reflection, the latter seems unlikely so let’s not go there. Where was I.  Oh yes, putting up the course. That was grand, but the tape was wet and my hands got really, really cold as a result.  I was wearing gloves, but they were saturated.  By the time my arrows were out and I was back at the start, the snow had started to fall.  I nipped into the loos to use the hand dryer to try to offset frostbite, but it was only partially successful.  Even so, I think I did a grand job with the arrows on the whole.  Check this out.  You’ve got to admit, pretty darned fabulous directional pointing going on there.

great directional pointing

Hi viz heroes may have been all a-shiver, but the juniors were undaunted by either the snow, or the warnings of mud.

There was the gathering for the run briefing:

the gathering

This concluded, then the warm up commenced:

The start line up took place on tarmac rather than the grass, for fear of a mudslide.  It was really exciting, you could hardly see the youngsters through the snow as it started to really fall in earnest.  There was a sort of survivalist euphoria to it all.  Plus, cheering and clapping others is a great way to keep warm.  Plus, how could you do anything else in the face of all that collective, youthful enthusiasm.  No room for cynicism here.  Junior parkrun is my cynicism free zone for the week.  Always joyful, normal (for me) misanthropic cynicism can be resumed subsequently.  Meantime, look at them all go:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And yes, one runner was clutching a balloon, because it was his birthday, and that’s what you should do with your birthday, run round in the snow with a bunch of friends and a purple balloon and a broad smile.  Excellent decision there, excellent.

Not all were enthusiastic about coming out to witness this though, some stayed in bed, or their nearest equivalent, and who can blame them really. They did have a squint out through the windows though.  Taking an interest in their own way.  I do like goats.  Intelligent, and independent.

goats eye view at graves 11 2 18

So, as surely as junior athletes will run around.  They will ultimately finish and enter the finish funnel, all ready to welcome them into its snowy armed embrace.

finish funnel raring to go 11 2 18

So last week, as well as being busy and important with pre-course set up, I had particular shared responsibilities for the finish funnel.  I’ve not been to any other junior parkruns (I know, serious omission) so I’m not sure how it works elsewhere, but at Graves, we have a couple of people in this role. One at the entrance to the funnel to ensure 1) NO ADULTS in the finish funnel (every week they try to muscle in, every week, such is the allure of that cone lined entrance), 2) to try to ensure runners know to do two laps (really hard to tell sometimes how many they’ve done – hope over experience), and this week 3) try to ensure runners slow down so they don’t do a body-slide/ face-plant on the mud as they sprint into the finish.  Quite heady responsibilities. We also have another funnel manager to try to keep everyone moving down through, and, ideally, a third, to chivvy the lines along and encourage young runners to locate their barcodes, or attract the attention of their associated responsible adults who are supposed to be looking after it for them.  You have to multi-task in all these functions, as you must also cheer, congratulate and clap each runner in.  High fiving passing runners is also an option whilst waiting for the first finishers to complete.

finish funnel slide 11 2 18

In my defence, it was a bit of a mud slide.  Inevitably perhaps, I was an epic fail at the ‘preventing junior runners from falling in the finish funnel’ competency. I’m still very much at the ‘working towards’ spectrum there.  However, in my view, you might as well have tried to catch a speeding bullet in your teeth (don’t try that at home people), standing in front of a full pelt junior is likely to result in mutual instant death on contact, better to just shout and wave them down frantically and hope for the best.  I did feel a bit bad about the number of fallers – and not only because I feared being sent to a parkrun junior marshal re-education camp for having so erred in my duties – but then again, it all ended happily.  These young people are way more resilient than you might think.  And let’s keep this in proportion, it was in single figures!  My heart was in my mouth throughout, but if anything, the mud sliders were proud of their whole body mud-casings and wore such a coverage of dirt as a badge of honour.  I suspect those driving them home in the car afterwards would have been less impressed by the quantities of wet earth that transferred from ground to garment and garment to car upholstery.  Another volunteer reported to me (much to my relief) that as he was packing up, he overheard one junior parkrunner report excitedly to their accompanying adult that ‘the absolute best bit was when I did an amazing mud slide right through the finish!  Did you see me?  Did you?  Did you see?‘ judging by his clothing he most certainly did.  So whilst I was shamed by my inability to hold back the tide, it seems all lived to tell the tale.

Hurrah!

So that was last week.  This was this:

18 02 18

Almost balmy comparison… you would think?  Only it wasn’t.  Still epic though.

Today we were back on the grass for the start.  108 runners lined up and came shooting down the ineffectual funnel of human cones in place to channel them onto the tarmac.

off 18 2 18

They break out like beads on a broken necklace hitting a dance floor. Chaotically shooting off in unexpected directions.  You may think watching the Winter Olympics on telly is exciting, but let me tell you, it has nothing on this.  The thrills, the spills.  I looked on in horror, as not one, but two young runners slipped over, creating a sort of domino effect as other young runners tumbled into, and on top of them.  There was quite a human pyramid formed at one point.  Various nearby adults stepped in, scooped up children miscellaneous – any child would do – and plonked them back up on their feet again, and no sooner had the pile up happened, than it was cleared away.  I don’t have children, and it is a complete mystery to me how they survive such apparently powerful collisions.  It’s like they are made of rubber, or teflon coated or something.   They just seem to be, on the whole, a lot more resilient than should be logical or plausible let alone possible.    For my part, I’m getting a little less panicked at witnessing these tumbles now.   Today though, watching the pile up pass without injury but with much excitement, I felt like I’d completed a certain rite of passage, and passed into a new realm of understanding.  I felt the same many, many years ago, when I was in an office working alongside a number of women all of whom had children.  One relatively new mother was completely distraught because she’d dropped her young child the evening before – or more accurately, allowed the infant to roll off a sofa or something, the child was not hurt but she was badly shaken by the incident – the others in the office were ‘comforting her’ in a raucous ‘is that all?’ expressing incredulity sort of way. Cue, long conversation where each colleague in turn recalled far worse accidents and incidents they had experienced,  along the lines of ‘I remember the first time I dropped my child/ left it on the bus‘ kind of tales, and there was much crying with laughter of helpless recognition.  Not that it was good these things had happened, far from it, but in a fraught, sleep-deprived world of doing your best, often on your own, no care-giver rears any child in an incident free cotton-wool encased world.  Just as well, otherwise how would the offspring in their respective charges cope with doing a mudslide at parkrun?  See, sometimes the most unexpected of things can be a boon to our life experience in the long run.  Phew.

Today I was on barcode scanning scribe duties. This is a great role, as you get to carry a clipboard AND wear a hi-viz, so you look properly busy and important.  It all goes in a bit of a whirlwind of activity. By the time you look up from writing down the ‘unknowns’ who didn’t bring a barcode, and the unscannables (barcode didn’t scan) it’s game over, and packing up underway all around you.  Within minutes it is as if we were never even there.  A.Maz.Ing.

We all had cold hands though. The race directors hands were so cold I had to help him unclip some paper from the clip board.  He was properly near having frostbite. Still, like I said to him, if he did lose both hands due to that it would have been but a small price for someone else to pay to spread so much joy in the world.   Any follow-up news article in The Sheffield Star say, could truthfully include the phrase ‘much comfort can be taken from knowing he lost his hands doing what he most loved doing‘, because they often say that don’t they?  Then we could do some crowd-sourcing to get new prosthetic limbs –  or better yet, nominate some juniors to make him some personalised parkrun one’s out of papier-mâché and half chewed sweets.  That would be touching.  I expect he’d get a thank you for your contribution to parkrun/ get well soon card from Mr S-H himself, and that would completely make up for it.  So you see, no great drama, just great opportunities.

Incidentally, papier-mâché might not be fully functional, or water resistant, but they can look pretty cool. This was what google images was made for!  You could have a hand for any occassion. Almost aspirational!

And once again, all run, all done, ’twas as if we were never there.

40201315651_30b9ee3b0c_z

Love Graves park, its micro climate just adds to the sense of adventure 🙂

See you there same time, same place, some Sunday soon.

Go awn, you  know you want to.  After all, there is snow fun like junior parkfun!  Promise, or your money back!  🙂

If you haven’t signed up yet for either parkrun or junior parkrun you can sign up here

Find a junior parkrun event here

For all my parkrun related posts click here, and scroll down for older entries

Categories: parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Graves Junior parkrun’s first Birthday Bash – setting the standard for pop up parkrun partying

Digested read: it was Graves junior parkrun‘s first birthday this weekend.  Hurrah!  Fancy dress, cake and brilliant sunshine – what’s not to like.  A fine time was had by all. Apart from the llamas.  They weren’t too impressed.  Same time next year?  Be there.

apricot tee

It turns out llamas don’t like unicorns.  In my defence, I didn’t previously know this, otherwise I might have chosen a different companion animal to accompany me to Graves junior parkrun’s first birthday celebrations at the weekend, but some things you just don’t know about until you experience them for yourself.  In my defence, most reasonable people would surely agree that is quite niche knowledge, obscure even for winning pub quiz teams, and I will take on board their feedback at future events I promise.

So, let’s start at the very beginning – a very good place to start.  Sunday 19th November 2017 marked the first birthday of Graves junior parkrun, and their fiftieth run.  I am really hoping by know everyone in the whole world knows about junior parkrun, but just in case you don’t, junior parkrun is basically spin-off from the original 5k parkrun phenomenon, which has now evolved as a force to be reckoned with in its own right.  The website blah de blah describes it thus:

junior parkrun is a series of 2k runs for children aged between 4 and 14. They are held in areas of open space around the UK. They are open to all, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. If you are not a junior please come along to one of our weekly Saturday parkrun events instead.

Registered parkrunners do not need to register separately for the junior events. However, if you are not already registered with parkrun you can do so here.

So that’s good.  It even has its own junior parkrun code. This however needs a bit more work because it doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to either the desirability of fancy dress nor the extreme abundance of hilarity at these events, and the superior cake concoctions sported by them at anniversary celebrations say.  Perhaps it is to maintain the element of joyous surprise for those new to the fold?  Who knows.

junior parkrun code

Personally, I originally got involved as a volunteer to ‘give something back’ to parkrun as I enjoy the Saturday 5k events, but the phenomenon we know and love isn’t sustainable unless runners step up and volunteer from time to time.   Getting involved in a new, local junior parkrun seemed to me a great way to salve my conscience and volunteer without forfeiting my Saturday run.  However, now I no longer give a toss about ‘giving back to anything’ I volunteer because it is a weekly fix of joyfulness that acts as an antidote to any stress or unjoyfulness which you might currently be experiencing.  Thus, my volunteering is shallow self-interest with the collateral benefit of chalking up some marshaling credits along the way.  There is no martyrdom required to sign up to volunteer at junior parkrun, more an unseemly scrabble to nab a spot so as not to miss the boat – though to be fair, ‘my’ junior parkrun never turns a volunteer away.  It’s the perfect start to any Sunday I promise.  Nothing is more hilarity inducing than an hour or so at junior parkrun, guaranteed – or your money back!*

Anyways, if there is one thing more fun than a Sunday morning at junior parkrun, it is a Sunday morning at junior parkrun on the occasion of their birthday celebrations!  Specifically, last Sunday was Graves junior parkrun’s first anniversary.   What a year it’s been.  Although I’ve not been involved from the outset, I’ve been turning up for long enough to see it grow and flourish.  A birthday party was bound to be a lot of fun. Really, a LOT.a

Naturally, there was much excitement at the prospect. Anticipation grew as the event date grew closer.  Cake was promised. Fancy dress too!  Strictly speaking, the fancy dress was optional, but in my world that’s ‘optional’ as in, ‘well you don’t have to, but I’ll be so grief-stricken and disappointed if you don’t make some sort of effort a little part of my heart will wilt and die forever‘ which translates as ‘really it is‘.  So just to be absolutely clear, whilst the fancy dress was strictly speaking not compulsory, in my world it was.  Hurrah!

The night before the run, when a reminder post went up on Facebook, eager marshals responded with enthusiastic use of emoticons and gifs by way of expressing excitement.  That was so much fun, the build up was almost (only almost) as good as the celebration itself.  We were reminded again of the promise of cake and encouraged to don fancy dress.  The photo chosen as an ideas generator has some slightly startling components, but I’m confident most people would have got the idea.

fancy dress run

I responded with, I felt, some lateral-thinking genius using a rainbow unicorn gif (thank you Facebook) as a subliminal clue as to my fancy dress intentions for the morning.  Not the most subtle of responses, but then again, perhaps not everyone is familiar with the importance of semiotics in everyday life.  Will my use of imagery be seen and understood I pondered, as I wondered if anyone had correctly interpreted this. However, the next person who did likewise put a